Alesso, Marta. “Bautismo y Eucaristia Antes Del Christianismo: Raices Judias de la Didache” Circe de Clasicos y Modernos (13) (2009). Editorial de la Universidad Nacional de La Pampa, pp. 11-27.
Alesso considers the Didache and the features of Judaism which may underlie the text. The Didache, as an important book in early centuries of Christianity set the stage for catechesis and churchly order (Alesso 2009, 11). Though largely forgotten in the Middle Ages it was rediscovered and published in the late 19th century. Alesso then describes some of the publication history, as well as noting parallels of portions in “la carta del Pseudo Bernabe” (Alesso 2009, 12). The book is divided into moral teachings (ch. 1-6), liturgies (ch. 6-10), discipline (ch. 11-15), and eschatology (ch. 16).
Alesso considers the actual thematic content of the work as more important than the redactional history (Alesso 2009, 13). The manuscript tradition also contributes to this conclusion, as the text is represented in a single Christian manuscript in Latin of part of the text, which compares generally well with the one Greek manuscript. Alesso believes the text to be from the first or second century and to have had at least some roots in an oral tradition before becoming a written work (Alesso 2009, 13). She discusses in some detail the fact that there are essentially two titles, one referring to “the Lord” and the other to “the [twelve] apostles.” The setting seems to be an isolated rural community, which she takes to be “in Egypt, Ethiopia, Asia Minor, or Syria” (Alesso 2009, 14, my translation). Though there is some early tradition that the work was originally written by Peter, Alesso thinks the work has a more “Jewish” character.
The work, starting with the “two ways,” seems consistent with moral views of the Old Testament. Again, Alesso finds some parallels with the Epistle of Barnabas 20:1-2 when the Didache speaks of the “way of death” in 5:1-2 (Alesso 2009, 15). Many of the elements can be found in the Decalog, though some, such as “pederasty, abortion, or exposure of newborns” are not present in the Septuagint. Some are present in Philo of Alexandria, so the ideas were present in Jewish ethics (Alesso 2009, 15). There are certainly commonalities between the Jewish ethic and early Christian ethics as well.
Alesso also considers the Christology of the Didache. She finds it to be strongly dependent on the Pentateuch and specifically on the structure of the commandments from Exodus 2- and Deuteronomy 5, as well as the restatements of commands in Mark 10:19 and Luke 18:20 (Alesso 2009, 16). The overall picture Alesso gets is that the moral views of the Two Ways come from relatively old Jewish traditions.
Baptism is the topic of Didache 7 (Alesso 2009, 17). While Alesso finds Paul’s concern to be the death to sin and raising to new life, the Didache seems more concerned with baptism as an initiation ritual which prepares someone for communion. The trinitarian formulation is given in chapter 7, but is not clearly reported. However, Alesso notes that as the trinity is also stated in Matthew 28:19, the other instances of baptism in the New Testament do not speak as clearly (Alesso 2009, 18). She sees the passages which are not so clearly trinitarian as likely abbreviated. Again, Alesso finds in baptism a Jewish ceremony by which one would enter the community (Alesso 2009, 19).
The Eucharist, in the Didache, is reserved for those who have been baptized. This is described in Didache chapters 9-10. Alesso finds no comparison made to the last supper of Jesus. It appears more like a communal meal. Therefore, she sees if it is more like a Jewish ritual meal or a Greek symposium (Alesso 2009, 19). The parallels to Jewish celebratory meals are easily found. The specific Christology of the institution in the Gospels and 1 Corinthians is not present in the Didache (Alesso 2009, 20).
Alesso also considers the Greek syposium as a source of the meal in Didache 9-10. However, since there is thanksgiving involved, she thinks it bears more similarity to a Christian celebration (Alesso 2009, 21). The New Testament presents the Eucharist in different terms and different places, which suggests the same may be happening in the Didache. This is similar to Irenaeus’ slightly oblique references to the Eucharist (Alesso 2009, 22).
Chapter 14 of the Didache speaks of a sacred day of the Lord. This seems to have been the common reference to the first day, not the Sabbath, prior to at least the second century (Alesso 2009, 23). On this day, members of the community are to confess their sins, in a way similar to that described in the New Testament. It seems to be done fairly publicly (Alesso 2009, 24), possibly in a manner similar to that of Numbers 15:30. These are, according to Alesso, rather like traditional juridical practice, where confession and penalty may belong in the context of the community (Alesso 2009, 25).
The article ends with a fairly comprehensive bibliography intended to allow the reader to begin further investigation. Alesso’s article does not delve very deeply into the content, but does provide a brief overview. She does not discuss the multiple chapters which deal with the relationships of the community and prophets or other travelers.