Telfer lays out an argument for the composition of the Didache later than about the year 130. His thesis follows. “The Didachist was a leader in the church of Antioch, and an elder contemporary of Theophilus. In his days Docetism was moribund, and Antioch had not yet felt the impact of Marcionism and Montanism” (Telfer 1939, 133). Telfer’s argument begins with the observation that the harmful effects of the Montanistic prophecy was not widely discussed in literature prior to about 180. The Didachist, however, was concerned with the erosion of standards of holiness and was calling for a return to primitive Christianity, while also identifying with rather strict asceticism. Telfer sees this developing in the third century. In fact, he even considers it to be a more serious development early in the fourth century (Telfer 1939, 134).
Telfer considers the Didache to have self-consciously spoken, drawing on Peer’s authority as the apostle to the Gentiles, addressed to Gentiles in Syria and Cilicia, “parallel with and superseding the Jerusalem encyclical of Acts XV” (Telfer 1939, 134). Because of the failure of Judaizers, the Gentile church needed to establish its own church order. For this reason, Telfer sees the author as instituting the table prayers and some other liturgical practices (Telfer 1939, 135). Telfer sees this as an example of pseudipigraphy typical of writings from the late third or early fourth centuries.
Telfer considers the Didache to be strongly dependent on the Epistle of Barnabas. He is not clear on its location of origin, but he recognizes Barnabas as being from no earlier than 130, and thinks it was in circulation for some time before inspiring the Didache (Telfer 1939, 135). This leads Telfer to conclude that the Didache could not have been composed before 140, and probably more like 170 (Telfer 1939, 136).
Barnabas as a character is not terribly important in the New Testament. It is not surprising, then, that his letter would not become immediately and widely known. However, in Antioch, the community was interested in Barnabas. They seem to have considered their church to be established based on apostolic directives, and to be ordered by writings which go beyond Scripture (Telfer 1939, 138). Church orders are first seen in Antioch. Telfer sees this as support for his thesis.
The title of the Didache, identifying the Twelve, could be misunderstood. Telfer considers the number twelve to be a later addition (Telfer 1939, 139). It is unclear exactly how Telfer considers this observation to further his thesis.
Telfer draws a sharp distinction between a Pauline emphasis on free grace and a Petrine emphasis on obedience to the Law. Because of the Two Ways material, he takes the Didache to be from the Petrine school (Telfer 1939, 139). This idea, according to Telfer, was common in Syria and Cilicia, hence the acceptance both of Barnabas and of the Didache. The ideal was to call the Gentiles back to the commands of the apostles (Telfer 1939, 140). Again, Telfer considers the Didache, particularly the Two Ways portion, to depend on Barnabas. He goes on to find numerous additional parallel expressions with Barnabas (Telfer 1939, 141-142).
Telfer makes much of the Didache’s idea that the Christian really should pursue the whole law (ch. 6). He sees this as a different law than the Mosaic Law, as it is “the law of the Lord” (Telfer 1939, 143). This, again, would be a way of rejecting the Judaizers, who would have Christians bound to Moses.
Telfer considers the rite of baptism provided, observing that it is not an actual instruction about the rite but about water and the surrounding gatherings (Telfer 1939, 143). This fits a context in which baptism itself is already familiar to the readers. Telfer does think the instructions about the water suggest a Syrian context, as the Syrians had wide access to warm baths (Telfer 1939, 144).
Finally, the Didache’s mention of the fasts of the “hypocrites” suggests to Telfer that the hypocrites are Judaizers, not merely the Jewish Christians. He draws on Galatians 2:13 for this view. Monday and Thursday were market days and not typically used as fast days except by Jews who wished to make a grand show of their piety (Telfer 1939, 145).
Though Telfer’s argument does not conclusively date the Didache, it shows that a later date is not an impossibility. He will continue his argument in a second article, to be reviewed later.