Tour of Christian History
van de Sandt, Huub, & David Flusser. "Chapter 1: Introduction: History and Text of the Didache." The Didache: Its Jewish Sources and Its Place in Early Judaism and Christianity. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002, 1-52.
For the purposes of this first chapter, van de Sandt and Flusser treat the Didache as a unity, rather than a composite (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 1). They will add considerations of redactional layers in subsequent chapters.
The Didache went through a time of popularity in early Christianity, but van de Sandt and Flusser note that its reputation declined by the start of the fourth century (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 1). There is some evidence for a Latin version by about 300 C.E. Augustine, in the late 4th and early 5th century, was aware of the Didache, and introduces an idea from 1:6 as "Scripture" (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 2).
The differences in eucharistic practice between the Didache and the New Testament are significant. This may have contributed to the decline in influence of the Didache (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 3). It is also possible that the attribution to the apostles was considered less authoritative as time went by. The Twelve do not appear in the content, making it difficult to consider the apostles as the source (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 4).
Van de Sandt and Flusser emphasize that it is not easy to trace influence and use of the Didache, in part due to the indistinct references to "teaching of the Apostles," which, without a quotation, could refer to many different traditions.
Van de Sandt and Flusser next present a translation of the Didache prepared by A. Cody, based on the Rordorf and Tuilier edition of the Greek text (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 6-16). The Greek text itself is considered almost complete, existing in one eleventh century manuscript. There are a few other partial witnesses to the text (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 16). The main witness, the Jerusalem manuscript (H), was discovered in 1873, published in 1883, and has remained a subject of study since that time.
Van de Sandt and Flusser note that the manuscript can be assumed to have undergone various stages of redaction and interpolation, based on the date of composition as compared to the date given on the manuscript (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 17). However, we don't have an earlier manuscript, so it is impossible to make much meaningful comparison to earlier ideas (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 18). The codex in which the manuscript is found shows signs of careful evaluation of historic sources. This suggests reliability (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 19).
Chronoloigically, van de Sandt and Flusser place the Didache in its current form before the middle of the second century, roughly at the same time as Barnabas and 1 & 2 Clement (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 21). Some portion at the end is likely missing, evidenced by the blank lines after the end of our text (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 23).
Van de Sandt and Flusser note there are two additional direct witnesses to the text. Two fragments (POxx 1782) which contain 64 words from 1.3c-4a and 2:7b-3:2a show some variants in the text, probably indicating the existence of a divergent tradition (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 24). There is also a Coptic fragment containing 10:3b-12:2a (P Lond Or. 9271). This text is significantly different from the Jerusalem manuscript, including an expansion of the Eucharistic prayers (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 25). Didache 11:3-13:7 and 8:1-2a is also preserved in the Ethiopic Church Order in one version, though not all (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 26).
Indirect textual sources include texts such as the Apostolic Constitutions, which contain adaptations of material in the Didache, particularly the Two Ways material (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 26). It is important to note that these are adaptations and not quoted text.
Van de Sandt and Flusser consider the Didache to be a composite of several blocks of traditional material, each of which could stand on its own (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 28). They consider these blocks from a form-critical perspective in an attempt to identify the redactional layers. The basic degments they identify are chapters 1-6, 7-10, 11-15, and 16. The different parts are considered in the subsequent chapters of the book.
The Didache, despite having clear divisions into various topics, is one document, intended to work as a coherent whol (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 31). The teaching moves from pre-baptismal instruction to baptism, prayer, community life, and eschatology. Van de Sandt and Flusser express uncertainty about the reason for the instruction (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 33), though they acknowledge that such training traditions can be found elsewhere in Judaism and Christianity of similar times. They speculate at length that the text emerged as Christianity differentiated from Judaism, descriging a relatively late, though unspecified, time (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 34). They suggest, particularly in regard to chapter 16, a dependence on Matthew 24, but the actual relationship is unclear(van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 39). The passage of 1:3b-2:1 shows a strong similarity to Matthew and Luke. Van de Sandt and Flusser consider it "a later addition to the basic tradition of the Jewish Two Ways" (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 40).
Van de Sandt and Flusser engage in some interesting comparison of passages from the Didache and the Synoptic Gospels as they evaluate possible dependence. Though their findings are inconclusive, their method may be of value to inform further studies (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 41-47 passim).
The date and provenance of the Didache are, admittedly, a matter of guesswork (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 48). Van de Sandt and Flusser summarize the popular opinions, which are gradually moving to the end of the first century, around Antioch (van de Sandt & Flusser 2002, 49).