Friday's Orality/Rhetoric Lesson
Draper, Jonathan A. "Ritual Process and Ritual Symbol in Didache 7-10." Vigiliae Christianae 54 (2000), 121-158.
Draper considers the difficulty in interpreting the Didache to be based on its nature as a ritual text, but the scholarly approaches to it being primarily theological or historical (Draper 2000, 121). His suggestion is that the title indicates a transmission of the teaching from the Jews (the apostles) to Gentiles. Because the Jews and Gentiles had significantly different rituals, the text may have been geared more toward ritual actions than toward doctrinal concepts (Draper 2000, 122). Therefore, Draper here considers the anthropology of rituals. Understanding the anthropology inherent in the rituals may facilitate a better understanding of the text.
Analysis of rituals consists of two foci - "ritual process and ritual symbol" (Draper 2000, 123). Draper considers these two foci in turn. In terms of the process, many rituals such as rites of passage include elements of separation, of liminality (being on the border of the community), and aggregation, a return to the soceity in a new guise (Draper 2000, 123). In the process of these rituals, the eventual goal is to bring the subject into a community, such as a religious or social group. To do so, the subject normally has to depart from some former associations or ways of thought and life.
The Didache describes the permanent removal of the convert from the Gentile society and his subsequent integration in the Jewish Christian community (Draper 2000,124). The teaching given describes a change from what the text would recognize as the way of death into the way of life. In the way of life the convert finds a community. Draper even suggests that the community would include adoption of new dietary customs as well as those of other parts of life (Didache 6.3) (Draper 2000, 124). The actions around the conversion include fasting, prayer, a sacred meal, and baptism.
All this work of aggregation into the new community is acompanied by ritual symbols. The symbols often survive through history and as described in texts. However, some elements are lost in texts. For instance, gestures are rarely recorded (Draper 2000, 125). The rituals, however, can often be reconstructed, at least to some extent. They serve as means of identifying important and meaningfulu elements of the change being implemented (Draper 2000, 126).
In Didache 7-10, Draper considers that ritual theory will find a continuity in the matters of baptism, fasting, prayer, and eucharist. They are not isolated from one another (Draper 2000, 126). For this reason, Draper considers the entire section needs to be taken together. They may or may not be a necessary conclusion of the material in chapters 1-6. But the rituals very likely deserve to be considered as a whole rather than as isolated elements.(Draper 2000, 127). The overall arch of ritual, then, becomes a fast, a washing, a prayer, and a meal which breaks the fast. Draper finds instructions "followed by baptism, prayer and eucharist" in Justin Martyr's Apology I.65-66 (Draper 2000, 127). The Apostolic Tradition 21-23 also has "baptism followed by prayer, peace and a special baptismal eucharist" (Draper 2000, 127-128). Similar patterns can be found in Tertullian's de baptismo and de corona (Draper 2000, 128).
After presenting some material from Didache 7-10 in parallel columns, Draper observes that the text shows signs of editorial changes. This suggests to him that the material is liturgical rather than literary. Liturgical texts tend to have more redaction than do literary texts, as they are considered functional instruction (Draper 2000, 131).
The ritual actions described in Didache 7-10 include, as we have noted, fasting, a washing, a prayer, and a meal. The redactional layers may include changes between singular and plural, as well as the conceptual difference between baptism in the name of the Lord and in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Draper considers it important to realize that the converts, whom he frequently refers to as "the initiated," are permanently separated to the boundaries of Greco-Roman society. In effect they die to their old society and are placed into the new society, which he identifies as a Jewish community (Draper 2000, 133). The washing of baptism separates the converts from their old society. The eating and drinking together expresses the attachment to the new community (Draper 2000, 134). Draper notes that the meal described here would be unfamilar to the non-Christian context, as normally outsiders would be able to come and bet at meals. Here, however, the meal is limited to only those persons who have been baptised and identified as part of the community (Draper 2000, 134). Draper suggests that this may be related to a Jewish concern for boundaries, thus seeing the ritual as a means by which other boundaries are implied (Draper 2000, 135).
The fast before baptism creates separation from the prior community. The individual is differentiated by the feelings of hunger, which are feelings that cannot be shared with others. It also symbolizes the hunger for the fellowship of the new community (Draper 2000, 135). The fact that the fast is communal creates bonds between the convert and the existing community. After baptism, the custom of fasting continues, again, creating a sense of community (Draper 2000, 136).
The use of the prayer also serves as a ritual element. Though it is a prayer which is continued throughout the convert's life as a Christian, it is important to Draper that the Lord's Prayer in Didache 8:2 is unified in its structure and symbolism with the eucharistic prayers (Draper 2000, 136). The prayer affirms the "Name into which the novices have been baptized" (Draper 2000, 137). There is a clear element of gathering in the kingdom. There are prayers for bread, which may have a clear relationship to the eucharistic ideas elsewhere in the Didache. There is a prayer having to do with debts and slavery, which is consistent with the departure from the life of the Gentile community and being set free in the new community. The fact that the prayer is continued three times a day throughout the life of the Christian further serves to build community (Draper 2000, 138).
Draper observes that there has been a great deal of discussion of the eucharistic prayers of Didache 9, 10, and 14. Much has attempted to analyze the prayers in light of Rabbinic rules (Draper 2000, 138). Draper sees this as problematic, since most of those rules of interpretation were formulated after the late first century, but he considers the Didache to have "reached its final form by the end of the first century and most scholars agree that the eucharistic prayers were incorporated from very early tradition, whatever the date of the final redaction of the whole" (Draper 2000, 139). Therefore, Draper thinks the best route to follow is analysis of the prayers in terms of their internal logic.
The prayers before and after the eucharistic meal have a parallel structure, forming a coherent whole. Draper finds "three formal units before and three after the meal, each concluded by a doxology" (Draper 2000, 140). Draper here refers to articles by Mazza in 1994 and 1995, which may be of assistance in my analysis. It strikes this reader as interesting that, rather than having a chiastic structure, the prayers are parallel to one another, in the same order. They do, however, have internal chiasms (Draper 2000, 141). Of additional interest for further research is a comment by Draper that the term "sacrament" would not be appropriate to describe something in the first century. Here again he refers to a 1996 article by Mazza (Draper 2000, 142). The discussion here pertains to the lack of the Words of Institution. Draper's suggestion is that those words "were not known or not in use in the community of the Didache" (Draper 2000, 142).
Draper turns his attention to the particular ritual symbols found in this passage. Ritual washing regularly describes purification. However, water is also used symbolically for refreshment, sustaining of life, or taking life through drowning (Draper 2000, 143). Water described as "living" is further not merely a symbol of water which is running. Literature within and outside of the Jewish and Christian tradition more frequently refers to it in terms of water which brings cleansing or renewal (Draper 2000, 144).
A body of taught information, such as the Two Ways, also serves an important function in initiation rituals. The knowledge itself is a ritual symbol. In the context of the Didache it is taken in very much like the bread is taken in. The Lord's Prayer serves as the knowledge output, confirming that the knowledge has been retained (Draper 2000, 145).
The concept of a name appears six times in Didache 7-10, but only twice outside of those chapters (Draper 2000, 145). The symbolism of the name is that of an identity. It is significant to Draper that the name used is the Name of God. The convert is placed under the protection of God through his name (Draper 2000, 146).
The food and drink, and the denial of them during the period of fasting, serve a ritual purpose of the putting down of an old life and reception of a new life (Draper 2000, 146). Here, because the participants eat and drink together, they are joined as one. They are also said to be "eating God," which binds them further into a unity under God's identity. At the very least there is a spiritual participant in the eating and drinking of some sort of spiricual food and drink. In some understandings, it is a literal eating of God, which makes the symbolism even more clear (Draper 2000, 147).
The symbolism of the cup is also an important part of the ritual (Draper 2000, 148). Not only is wine associated with celebration, but the appearance and behavior of vines is significant, as they intertwine with one another and are also pruned back to grow more vigorously. This may symbolize death and rebirth. Draper again mentions the parallels between the Lord's Prayer, the concept of bread, and the idea of God's kingdom coming (Draper 2000, 151).
Bread, as the basic food of life, serves an important ritual purpose. It was common for the single loaf to be broken. It is also easy to grasp the uniting of grains into one loaf. When we eat, our food becomes part of our indivisible, whole body (Draper 2000, 151). This, then can serve as a ritual element of the unification of separate individuals, as well as the provision of life for those who become hungry.
In conclusion, Draper sees a coherent ritual symbolism throughout Didache 7-10. This would extend to chapters 1-10, when the function of teaching for initiation is taken into account (Draper 2000, 153).