Tour of Christian History
van de Sandt, Huub, & David Flusser. "Chapter 8: The Didache's Ritual: Jewish and Early Christian Tradition (Did 7-10)." The Didache: Its Jewish Sources and Its Place in Early Judaism and Christianity. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002, 271-329.
Van de Sandt and Flusser recognize that customs of early Christian worship including those described in Didache 7-10 showed a strong influence from Judaism. However, recent research has shown that Jewish liturgical practices in the first century A.D. were not as fixed as was previously believed. Particularly, prayers as recorded were possibly normally examples based on oral traditions (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 271). However, recent research of the Dead Sea Scrolls indicates that the prayers may have been more fixed across time and location than was previously thought (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 272). Within Christianity as well, it is quite possible that liturgical descriptions and prayers were taken with some level of flexibility.
Didache 7 describes baptism in some detail. Van de Sandt and Flusser note that Jewish immersion practices are closely related to early Christian views of baptism (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 273). They do not think the trinitarian concept of baptism from Matthew 28:18-20 is an authentic representation of Jesus' sayings. Therefore, they look elsewhere for an origin of baptism.
Josephus considered baptism among Chrsitians to serve as a sign that their correct behavior had already cleansed their souls (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 274). This is very similar to the view of John's baptism described in Matthew 3:2 and Mark 1:4. The Qumran sect, approximately 10 km away from where John was baptising, practiced immersion as a sign of repentance (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 275). However, baptism was also practiced as an initiation in cases of conversion to Judaism. Van de Sandt and Flusser debate whether it was viewed as one or the other, or perhaps as both, within early Christianity (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 276).
The Didache (7:4) describes a pre-baptismal fast, of both the person officiating and the person receiving baptism. This is also a feature of Justin Martyr's description around 150 A.D. There was also a period of instruction expected (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 280). This is similar to the practice when people would convert to Judaism (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 281).
The specifications of the water used for baptism "are clearly borrowed from Judaism" (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 281). In Didache 7:1c-3a it is to be running water, but if that is not available, cold water may be used, or warm, and if there is no adequate supply it is permissible to pour water on the head. Van de Sandt and Flusser observe that running ("living") water was considered the right medium for purification (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 282). However, there are Mishanic sources which allow for other types of water supply. Van de Sandt and Flusser observe that by the end of the second century A.D. the water used was not considered to be of great importance.
The Trinitarian formula in Didache 7:1, identical to that in Mattew 28:19, is significant. Van de Sandt and Flusser consider the "in the name of the Lord" to be an older formulation than the Trinitarian statement (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 284). They debate whether the formula was borrowed from Jewish sources or may have come from Greek originals, based on variations in the prepositional phrase used in different Greek texts. Van de Sandt and Flusser do consider the relation between Didache 7:1 and Matthew 28:18-20 due to the trinitarian formula. However, they do not htink we can make a safe case for dependence on Matthew or the authenticity of the formula in Matthew (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 286). They further question the solidity of a Trinitarian concept in the first century. However, their debate is based on the fact that the formula is not consistently used, rather than any conclusive evidence of its later development. It remains significant, however, that in Hippolytus the tradition, foreshadowed by Didache 7:3, is to immerse three times in baptism (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 290). Curiously, van de Sandt and Flusser also recognize a Jewish custom of threefold baptism.
Didache 8 addresses fasting and prayer, specifically the use of the Lord's prayer (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 291). The fasting is not to be on the same days when "the hypocrites" fast (8:1). In Matthew's Gospel, the hypocrites were the Pharisees (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 292). However, van de Sandt and Flusser consider it most likely that in the Didache the pious Jews are referred to as hypocrites (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 292). The prayers are prescribed in a fairly specific way in Didache 8:2-3 (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 294). Thsi formula departs from the customary Jewish prayers, effectively replacing a Jewish thrice daily prayer with a Christian one.
Didache 9-10 moves on to the eucharist (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 296). The text uses the verb εὐχαριστεῖν to describe the prayers over the cup and the bread, which are recognized as holy. Van de Sandt and Flusser do not tind the text to serve as a parallel to the New Testament accounts, though. There are no words of institution. The actual body and blood of Jesus are not spoken of. Counter to typical practice, the cup preceds the bread. For these reasons the meal has often been taken as something other than the eucharistic meal. Van de Sandt and Flusser consider what kind of meal is described so as then to interpret the prayers surrounding the meal (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 297).
After presenting a parallel version of the prayers of Didache 9 and 10, van de Sandt and Flusser observe that the parallelism of the two passages strongly indicates a parallel occasion, with similar prayers (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 300). The prayers also suggest a meal which is satisfying, not a ceremonial morsel (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 301. One possible interpretation is that 9:2-10:5 refer to a communal meal, but that in 10:6 the text begins referring to a eucharist proper, as it makes a call to repentance and invites the holy to come. The invitation may be to those who are baptized or those who are considered appropriately repentant (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 302). The interpretation which van de Sandt and Flusser reach is that the entire meal is seen as eucharist and that it contains a number of elements. The words of institution are lacking, but may not have been considered necessary in the eucharistic meals of the time (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 303).
Van de Sandt and Flusser do suggest that eucharist may have taken different forms in different time and places, and thus the description given in the Didache may well constitute a eucharistic celebration which would fit in with the liturgy of early Christianity (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 304). Therefore, they consider whether these forms could have become spread more widely in time and place as part of eucharistic practice. A key to this consideration is identifying the practice of receiving the cup first, then the bread (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 305). Van de Sandt and Flusser are able to find evidence of communal meals in which a blessing over wine came before a blessing of bread, both in Jewish and Christian communities. They identify these communities as places where the Didache and Luke's Gospel were used (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 306). They extrapolate that the "bread-wine" order "supplanted the former non-sectarian type in many Chrsitian communities" (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 306).
Van de Sandt and Flusser move on to consider Jewish antecedents of the two different orders of presentation, and extrapolate from their existence that the gospel acocunts do not describe an actual event but are created by Christian communities which read their customs back into the actions of Jesus (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 307). Van de Sandt and Flusser suggest that in 1 Corinthians Paul is doing the same when in 1 Cor. 10 he has the cup first but in 1 Cor. 11 he has the bread first (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 308).
Another tack to take in the invesetigation is the possible source of prayers adapted for use in Didache 9-10. Van de Sandt and Flusser find considerable similarity to Jewish table prayers (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 310). They particularly note Finkelstein's work to connect Didache 10 with the Birkat Ha-Mazon (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 312). The structure of themes is similar, though the contents of the prayers are not so similar. Van de Sandt and Flusser describe their concept of gradual alterations of the texts over time. In the end they conclude that the elements were almost all present in Jewish tradition and were borrowed by a Christian community for liturgical use (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 325).
In conclusion, van de Sandt and Flusser take the Eucharistic prayer of Didache 9-10 to consist of multiple layers of tradition. It borrows a basic structure from the currently evolving Jewish table prayers, which were reorganized and translated into Greek, then taken for Christian purposes. The prayers kept their Jewish background, and were adjusted only slightly to fit Christian purposes (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 329).