Harnack, Adolf. “Prolegomena, § 3. Die Disposition und der Inhalt der Schrift” Lehre der Zwölf Apostel. Leipzig, J.C. Hinrichs, 1884, pp. 37-63.
Harnack sets out in section three to evaluate the structure of the Didache. He finds it to have a strong and orderly arrangement, comparable to other documents from early Christianity (Harnack 1884, 38). Harnack provides a detailed outline without elaboration (Harnack 1884, 38-40). This he follows with some comments about the content. Harnack observes that major sections typically begin with a prepositional phrase, such as, “about baptism” or “about the eucharist” (Harnack 1884, 41). Harnack also notes that the concern for catechesis is very serious. The convert is called without question to take on “the whole yoke of the Lord” (Harnack 1884, 43). The tone may change at some point, as Harnack observes that there is a shift between the “two ways” or chapters 1-6 and writing more akin to a church order in chapters 7-15. Although there could be other ways of dividing the text, Harnack finds this division the most natural (Harnack 1884, 44). He then comments on the different parts of the text in more detail.
The first main portion, chapters 1-6, speaks of the way of life and the way of death. This seemed clear to Harnack (Harnack 1884, 45). The way of life is characterized as a way of loving one’s neighbor, rooted, according to Harnack, in love for God. It is further the love of God which enables one even to love his enemy (Harnack 1884, 46). Harnack finds this same idea in other early Christian writings, particularly in the openings of 2 Clement and Hermas. Care for the neighbor regularly seems to spring from love for God (Harnack 1884, 47). Harnack elaborates on this idea at length, concluding that love for one’s neighbor is a fundamental societal good. This is how we can live in society with those who disagree with us (Harnack 1884, 50). Further, Harnack takes the “whole yoke of the Lord” from 6:2 to be a natural deduction from the idea of loving our neighbor. Much of the material in the “way of Death” can be linked easily to the second table of the Decalog (Harnack 1884, 51). Therefore, love for neighbor includes avoiding the actions in the Way of Death. Harnack even suggests that the commands in this portion of the Didache may have been seen by some as a Christian replacement for the Decalog (Harnack 1884, 52). However, since the ability to speak authoritatively to the issue is not clear, the matter of any replacement list of commands is left open to discussion. It is clear that the Didache assumes the current existence of apostles, bishops, deacons, and prophets tho can give guidance (Harnack 1884, 55).
Harnack considers chapters 7-10 as a second division of the first part of the book. Here, the Way of Life is seen applied through reception of the convert by means of baptism (Harnack 1884, 57). After receiving instruction then participating in fasting and prayer, the convert is baptized and participates in the life of prayer. This is followed, in chapters 9-10, by the eucharist (Harnack 1884, 58). Harnack notes that the instructions given for the eucharist differ at points from the emphasis in the accounts of the New Testament. Particularly Harnack observes that the death of Christ is not adduced, but there is thanksgiving for the “offspring of David.” Harnack thinks this reflects a very early view of the eucharist (Harnack 1884, 60).
Harnack identifies chapters 11-15 as the second part of the Didache. Here we read about wandering prophets and other Christians who come in contact with the community (Harnack 1884, 61). It is clear that there are bishops and deacons. They speak God’s Word to the people and are to be respected, but they don’t seem to have the magisterial role which develops later (Harnack 1884, 62).
The third, and last, part of the Didache is chapter 16, in which there is a brief eschatological exhortation. Harnack finds similarities to the eschatological passages in Matthew but also in other, non-Christian works. He makes few comments on this passage (Harnack 1884, 63).