Friday's Orality/Rhetoric Lesson
van de Sandt, Huub. "'Do Not Give What Is Holy to the Dogs' (Did 9:5D and Matt 7:6A): The Eucharistic Food of the Didache in Its Jewish Purity Setting." Vigiliae Christianae 56 (2002), 223-246.
Van de Sandt notes that there are significant differences between the descriptions of the eucharist in Scripture and in the Didache. The blessings as used in the Didache are consistent with the idea that all we have is provided by God for our use (van de Sandt 2002, 224). Specifically, the blessings in Didache 9-10 are based on the Birkat Ha-Mazon, which concludes a Jewish ritual meal. The meal in its entirety is referred to in 9:5 as a "eucharist" (van de Sandt 2002, 225). The food is therefore expected to be some special food, only for the members of the community, and to be holy in some way. For this reason, in 9:5d, the prohibition of including the non-baptized is made in terms of giving what is holy to dogs (van de Sandt 2002, 225). This is consistent with strict rules of attendance. Those who are not repentant are not welcome to attend the Christian service.
The reference to holy things and dogs recalls Matthew 7:6. Van de Sandt asks first, which form is the more original statement, and second, what it means. He suggests at the outset that the mentions of Jewish purity in Didache chapters 7 and 14 suggest the food is to be considered in terms of a temple sacrifice (van de Sandt 2002, 226).
The statement in Didache 9:5 is often considered a quotation of Matthew 7:6a. However, van de Sandt observes that the context is entirely different. In Matthew 7 Jesus has warned against judging others according to a stricter standard than we judge ourselves. The statement about giving what is holy to dogs seems slightly intrusive and unconnected from the context (van de Sandt 2002, 227). If the influence goes the other direction, with the Didache influencing Matthew, the preservation of the idea is not unlikely. The theme fits well in its context. Van de Sandt considers the view that Matthew influenced the Didache to be more controversial than the view that the Didache existed independently of Matthew (van de Sandt 2002, 229). Additionally, the statement in Didache 9:5 is very similar to statements in rabbinic literature (van de Sandt 2002, 230).
The concept of holiness and purity must be considered, in order to understand what it means to throw something to dogs, normally considered unclean scavengers which did disgusting things (van de Sandt 2002, 231). In the context of Didache 9:5, van de Sandt considers the "holy" thing to likely refer to something which would be made as a sacrificial offering, particularly sacrificial meat or other food and drink. Generally some memorial portion was destroyed in the offering, while the rest was consumed in a holy setting (van de Sandt 2002, 232). The sacrifice required ritual purity, which dogs do not have. Though dogs were kept sometimes as pets, they were also considered objects of reproach (van de Sandt 2002, 233). Clean animals could be used as sacrifices or for human consumption. That which was unclean would be given to the dogs or buried (van de Sandt 2002, 235). Giving something holy to dogs would be considered a sign of despising what was holy. Van de Sandt gives numerous examples from Jewish writings.
In the Didache, the statement seems to be used metaphorically to describe unbaptized people. The unregenerate Gentiles would not be admitted to take of the holy food (van de Sandt 2002, 238). This concept is further brought to light in Didache 7 and 14. In chapter 7, the baptismal waters are used to wash someone from sin and to make someone holy (van de Sandt 2002, 239). The washing with "living water" was considered the very best way of baptising (van de Sandt 2002, 241). The best washing possible was to be used in baptism. Similarly, in chapter 14, the eucharistic meal was to be taken in holiness (van de Sandt 2002, 242). This included a state of forgiveness as an indicator of moral purity. Again, moral purity is frequently associated with ritual purity throughout Jewish and early Christian literature (van de Sandt 2002, 243). Any sort of moral impurity could separate someone from a ritual meal.
Van de Sandt's conclusion is that the text in the Didache is remarkably close to Jewish ideals and concepts of holy food and offerings. Those who are unclean are separated from the ritual meal because they have not pursued ritual purity. This strongly suggests to van de Sandt that he statement, attributed to Jesus, was used in better context in Didache 9:5 than in Matthew 7:6.