Kurek-Chomycz, Dominika A. “The Sweet Scent of the Gospel in the Didache and in Second Corinthians: Some Comments of Two Recent Interpretations of the Stinoufi Prayer in the Coptic Did. 10:8.” Vigilae Christianae 63 (2009), 323-344. Leiden:Brill
The Coptic fragment of the Didache contains an anointing prayer (Coptic stinoufi) in 10:8, where the Greek manuscript moves without pause from 10:7-11:1. The fragment apparently dates to the fifth century and seems to be a translation from Greek into a Coptic dialect (Kurek-Chomycz 2009, 324). Though it is not the main point of this article, a related question is whether the text of 10:8 was originally part of the Didache or was added. Kurek-Chomycz provides a helpful footnote showing the discovery of the fragment in 1923 and its catalog in the British Museum as OR. 9271. It has been published in Journal of Theological Studies 25 (1924) 225-231 and in Zeitschrift fur die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 24(1925), 81-99 (Kurek-Chomycz 2009, 324). Assessment of the authenticity of either text is a challenge as there is relatively little material that can be used for comparison.
A similar prayer does appear in Const. Ap. 7:27.1-2, presented for us by Kurek-Chomycz in parallel with the Coptic and a Greek version of 10.8 (Kurek-Chomycz 2009, 325). While the Coptic fragment gives thanks “for the sweet scent” the prayer in Apostolic Constitutions makes it a thanksgiving for “the sweet scent of the ointment” and for the “age of immortality” through Jesus (Kurek-Chomycz 2009, 326). There is a further challenge in the actual translation of “ointment” as it could be some other substance with a pleasant scent. Several sources for further evaluation follow (Kurek-Chomycz 2009, 327). Kurek-Chomycz also notes the efforts to interpret the prayer in a metaphorical sense similar to 2 Corinthians 2:14-16, where “the fragrance of God” is considered a sweet smell to some, but the fragrance of death to others (Kurek-Chomycz 2009, 328). Some have gone so far as to propose additional interpolations in the Didache as well as Apostolic Constitutions and even the text of 2 Corinthians 2 so as to clarify the idea. It is further certainly plausible to associate prayer, scent, and God’s wisdom (Kurek-Chomycz 2009, 329). In that context, the word of God which is the smell of God’s wisdom, is the object of thanksgiving. It is altogether possible that the author saw the mealtime prayers of the Didache as, in part, a confession that God is the personification of wisdom, as well as being the one who nourishes people with his wisdom (Kurek-Chomycz 2009, 330). In this context, Kurek-Chomycz questions whether the boundaries between the adherents to the Temple rituals and the wisdom cults were actually clearly drawn. To examine the issue, she reviews Sirach 24 and compares some of the instructions for worship preparations found in Exodus 30. The anointing and the associated smells all are overwhelmintly used in the contxt of the temple or tabernacle cult (Kurek-Chomycz 2009, 332). The idea of wisdom and a sweet smell is closely associated with temple ritual and sacrifice. For this reason, Kurek-Chomycz concludes that “good smell was a sign of divine presence and life” (Kurek-Chomycz 2009, 334). So the prayer, while associated with a meal, very likely bears liturgical significance as well.