Harnack, Adolf. “Prolegomena, § 5. “Die Gemeindezustände. Zeit und Ont der Διδαχή.” pp. 88-170. Die Quellen der Schrift.” Lehre der Zwölf Apostel. Leipzig, J.C. Hinrichs, 1884.
“I. Die Organisation der Gesammtkirche und der Gemeinde nach der Διδαχή unter Vergleichung der anderen Urkunden.” “2. Die Geehrten in der Christenheit: Apostel, Propheten und Lehrer.” pp. 93-137.
Harnack notes that aside from the role of the bishop and deacon, the other roles which have been widely researched are the apostle, prophet, and teacher (Harnack 1884, 93). The role of bishop and deacon, because of ongoing church polity, have received more attention. In contrast, the Didache describes the apostles, prophets, and teachers in action, with little attention given to bishops and deacons (Harnack 1884, 94). Harnack observes that in the time of the Lutheran Reformation the heirarchy of the Church was an important issue. The Augsburg Confession allowed for flexibility in modes of governance. This seems consistent with the fact that the Didache could be an example of considerable diversity in organizational structure (Harnack 1884, 96). Harnack further sees that the three “offices” of apostle, prophet, and teacher are divided into two classes, with the prophet and teacher together (Harnack 1884, 97).
Harnack points out that the bishops and deacons are never said to be elected, but that they are appointed by laying on of hands. The New Testament speaks of apostles, prophets, [evangelists,] pastors and teachers as gifts from God (1 Cor. 12:28, Eph. 4:11). Harnack further observes that some prophets are identified by name in Acts, and that Saul and Barnabas are identified among the apostles (Harnack 1884, 97). The work of prophet or teacher may have been considered uunder one general category, keeping too many from engaging in the preaching office and urging people to engage especially in teaching.
In the text of the Didache it becomes apparent that there are apostles, prophets, and teachers, working in an itinerant manner in at least Greece and Asia Minor (Harnack 1884, 98). While Harnack recognizes that there were significantly fewer people known as apostles than as prophets or teachers, he does not particularly speculate at this point about an end to the apostolic office (Harnack 1884, 99). Harnack considers that the Didache may have been written about 100 years after the time of Paul, but that the role of an apostle was still a present reality, although he admits we don’t know what may have happened in the intervening years (Harnack 1884, 99). The roles of apostle, prophet, and teacher, according to Harnack, are given in a ranked order, with apostle being the office of greatest respect (Harnack 1884, 100).
Harnack briefly entertains the possibility that the Didache is very old, even composed before Ephesians (which he considers to be not Pauline), but such a proposition he considers too hasty (Harnack 1884, 101). Yet the Didache recognizes both apostles and prophets, while Hermas has only prophets. This could suggest a very early date. Yet Harnack admits we simply don’t know enough about the step by step development of the Church to say (Harnack 1884, 102).
An attempt to recapture apostolic practice in Christianity tends to return the Church to an idea of the appointed office. This most often is manifested in a high view of the preaching office, or that of the pastor, but rarely in the apostle, prophet, and teacher. Harnack doesn’t find this threefold office in the Fathers (Harnack 1884, 103). Though they are given great honor in the New Testament and in the Didache, they largely disappear from discussion rather early. Harnack considers it possible that, as church order and a knowledge of catholicity spread, the work of apostles and prophets would become less important (Harnack 1884, 105). We have clearer information about the organization of Christianity in the third century and beyond, when it seems an episcopacy is governing matters (Harnack 1884, 109).
Apostles and prophets, in Didache 12, are to be examined according to their doctrine (Harnack 1884, 111). Harnack observes that in the later chapters, prophets and teachers are treated together. Harnack observes that the prophets are said to wander without possessions. This may also be the case with the apostles (Harnack 1884, 113). Harnack suggests this is not necessarily the Christian custom such as a Franciscan view of poverty for spiritually serious people, but more as a qualification for those called to the preaching ministry. The expectation Harnack finds in Eusebius is that an apostle would work tirelessly for the Gospel, even if it cost him all he had (Harnack 1884, 114). The idea in the Didache of providing hospitality for just two days may point to the idea of a true apostle, doing his work and moving on without thought of enduring comfort (Harnack 1884, 114). If he wanted money rather than bread, he was a false apostle or a false prophet. Harnack observes this would prevent people from seeking apostleship out of any sort of covetousness. The apostles were devoted to the mission (Harnack 1884, 115). In defense of the idea of a multiplicity of apostles, Harnack notes that Paul was not one of the twelve and that he refers to “all the apostles,” as well as recognizing there are “other” apostles referred to (Harnack 1884, 116). The extrapolation Harnack makes is that there are some special apostles, called “the twelve” to distinguish them from the rest of the apostles. He suggests that the Seventy sent by Jesus in Luke’s Gospel may well be considered apostles (Harnack 1884, 117).
The prophets are considered after the apostles in the Didache. Like the apostles, these are itinerant people who seem to be lacking in possessions (Harnack 1884, 119). Prophets are spoken of more than apostles or teachers in the Didache, with 15 mentions as opposed to three mentions of apostles. They are compared in their role to high priests. Unfortunately, Harnack notes that their function is not described (Harnack 1884, 120). We do see that the prophets, like the apostles, did not settle in the community, but visited it for a short time. While in the community, however, the prophets were given gifts of the firstfruits. Yet, rather than drawing a profit, the prophets were to give to the poor (Harnack 1884, 121). Harnack sees that false prophets may be recognized and rejected based on a refusal to live according to the rules in the Didache or based on false teaching, which would be evaluated in the community (Harnack 1884, 122). Harnack reviews the likely views of the prophets’ work and background, then concludes that the roles described in the Didache are not unlike those described in other early Christian literature (Harnack 1884, 125). For that matter, these prophets bear a striking resemblance to the canonical accounts of John the Baptizer and Jesus (Harnack 1884, 126). Harnack also notes that many of the church Fathers used terms such as prophet freely to speak of people in similar functions, whether or not it was an office of the church.