Ysebaert, Joseph. “The So-Called Coptic Ointment Prayer of Didache 10,8 Once More” Vigiliae Christianae 56 (2002), pp. 1-10. Leiden: Brill.
Ysebaert had previously written a lengthy footnote on the Coptic Ointment Prayer in Didache 10, 8 (In Greek Baptismal Terminology). Here he expands his argument, partly in response to other scholars. The Coptic text, published by G. Horner in 1924, uses the word stinoufi, which Horner translates as “aroma (ointment).” Yesbaert notes that the Greek of the Coptic fragment appears also in Apostolic Constitutions 7, and that the text is largely a reworking of the Didache (Yesbaert 2002, 1). The thrust of the passage is thanksgiving to God for the ointment or myrrh given. The similarity of the passages to descriptions of an anointing for the sick has led many commentators to take the word to mean a fragrant ointment (Yesbaert 2002, 2). Yet some have observed that the Coptic word is more commonly used to describe a perfume for anointing, not something which would be applied to the sick (Yesbaert 2002, 3). The more common parallel Greek word is εὐωδία, a smell, as in 2 Corinthians 2:15.
Ysebaert considers whether the word could have taken on concrete meaning as the substance creating the good smell. He finds that this is a valid possibility (Yesbaert 2002, 4). This is fairly common in Coptic versions of the Old Testament. However, it is not used with any frequency as an anointing substance. Coptic dictionaries bear this out, as they do not classify it as an ointment but as a perfume (Yesbaert 2002, 5). Ysebaert takes Horner’s translation, then, to be based on the context which suggested to him an anointing even though the word really refers to a smell (Yesbaert 2002, 6).
Yesebaert says, however, that when he originally commented in 1962, he did not observe the different meanings of εὐχαριστέω in different constructions (Yesbaert 2002, 6). With a dative object, the dative indicates the person receiving thanks. There may be a prepositional phrase indicating the reason as well. However, with an accusative object it indicates blessing or consecrating the accusative object. In this case, we give thanks to God for the good smelling object or substance. If that is the case, the author of Apostolic Constitutions is likely inserting τοῡ μύρου as an explanation of what the substance is, thus referring to oil used after baptism (Yesbaert 2002, 7). Ysebaert finds parallels for this in 2 Corinthians 2:15 (cf. 2:14 & 16), Ephesians 5:2, and Philippians 4:18. The outcome of that comparison is that the Coptic fragment has a prayer which gives thanks for the good aroma of Christ in the Christian gatherings.
Ysebaert closes with some comments about the dating of the Didache (Yesbaert 2002, 8). Harnack assumed the date to be around 130 due to the catholicity he found in the text. However, “it is generally agreed that at least many sections of the Didache are archaic, even if the final redaction should be dated after 100 AD” (Yesbaert 2002, 8). Particularly the references to the current activity of apostles suggests an early period. It seems to fit better in the period immediately after the stoning of Stephen and flight of most Christians from Jerusaelm. If this is the case, the εὐώδια statement probably predates 2 Corinthians (Yesbaert 2002, 9). Ysebaert therefore takes the text to belong to a very early period, a concept he intends to comment on in the context of the description of the Eucharist in the Didache.