Tour of Christian History
Harris, J. Rendel. "Obscure Passages of the Teaching." The Teaching of the Apostles, newly edited, with facsimile text and a commentary, for the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, from the MS. of the Holy Sepulchre (Convent of the Greek Church) Jerusalem. Baltimore: Publication Agency of the Johns Hopkins University, 1887, 62-77.
Harris views the text we have of the Didache to be a very clean and accurate text. However, there are several passages which scholars consider very difficult to interpret (Harris 1887, 62).
Possibly the most difficult statement is translated by Harris as, "but they that endure in their faith shall be saved by the very curse" (Harris 1887, 62). Harris suggests this represents a view of soteriology common in the early church. "It is not merely that the antidote grows near the poison, it grows on the same stem with the poison; that which damns turns into that which saves" (Harris 1887, 62). This was a common view in early Christian exegesis. Harris illustrates the concept using the role of the serpent in the early chapters of Genesis, becoming the sign lifted up to bring healing. The validity of the argument is attested by numerous Fathers (Harris 1887, 63-65). Similar types of exegesis are used to describe the pain and hope found in childbirth, as well as the woman's role in the Fall and in giving birth to the Redeemer (Harris 1887, 66-67). The bleeding of Christ and the drowning of the world in a flood are additional concepts for which this model of exegesis can be used well (Harris 1887, 67-68).
Didache 1.6 refers to allowing alms to "sweat" in your hands. Harris considers this to be a very cryptic statement (Harris 1887, 69). If, in fact, a curse can be turned to a blessing, this passage makes sense. Sweat is the curse of labor, but alms are the harvest. The giver is to be knowing about what (a gift of God) or to whom (a needy person) the gift is given (Harris 1887, 71).
Didache 11 makes a challenging statement about prophets and cosmic mysteries. Harris' question is just what "the cosmic mystery of the church" might be (Harris 1887, 72). Harris considers this to be explained by the fact that prophets did some things which otherwise would be prohibited. Perhaps they were participating in a cosmic mystery. This is the way Justin Martyr explains some prophetic actions to Trypho (Harris 1887, 72). Irenaeus also explains some of Moses' actions in this way (Harris 1887, 73).
Didache 16 speaks of an ἐκπέτασις (spreading out) in heaven (Harris 1887, 74). If the "spreading out" is seen as a spreading of a sign of a cross, the passage makes a great deal of sense. Matthew 24:30-31 as well as the Apostolical Constitutions book 7 use the term this way. Harris finds multiple instances in patristic literature for the "spreading out" to imply arms or wings spread in the shape of the cross (Harris 1887, 75-77).