Rordorf, Willy. “An Aspect of the Judeo-Christian Ethic: The Two Ways” pp. 148-164 in Draper, Jonathan (editor). The Didache in Modern Research. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1996.
Rordorf sets out to address the provenance, the sitz im Leben, and the Nachleben of the Duae Viae passage from the Didache. The first two matters have been the subject of much study, while the third has not been studied very much (Rordorf 1996, 148).
The provenance has always been the subject of debate. The similarity between the first five chapters of the Didache and chapters 18-20 of the Epistle of Barnabas was recognized from the first modern edition, leading scholars to conclude one depended on the other (Rordorf 1996, 149). Analysis of the Doctrina apostolorum, with its similar content, led to further debate about dependence, as well as questions regarding a possible separate documentary source. For a time, scholars assumed the content was developed in the Epistle of Barnabas, prior to the discovery of the Manual of Discipline 3:13-4:26, a text which largely parallels the content (Rordorf 1996, 150). Rordorf considers that the content was common in the Jewish Essene tradition, of which elements were adopted into the Christian tradition. He finds that the dualism of the Essenes does not appear in the Didache (Rordorf 1996, 151). Rordorf also notes that the catechesis of Jewish and Christian converts is different, so adoption of a text seems slightly unlikely (Rordorf 1996, 152). It is also apparent that there are Old Testament forerunners of the Two Ways material. These three issues are all worth considering as we weight the inspiration of the teaching.
Rordorf moves on to the Sitz im Leben, noting that the Two Ways teaching was to be done prior to baptism. For this reason, the early editors took the teachings as a catechesis which would lead to baptism (Rordorf 1996, 154). However, Rordorf observes that the causal transition, ταῦτα πάντα προειπόντες (having taught all these things), does not appear in the Apostolic Constitutions, thus suggesting to Audet that it was added to the Didache prior to the manuscript from 1056 (Rordorf 1996, 154). Rordorf considers Audet’s theory to be weak, but regardless of the truth of the issue, he finds no reason to assume the material would not be used for catechesis prior to baptism. The teaching is used before baptism in the Didache but after baptism in the Epistle of Barnabas (Rordorf 1996, 155). To find the Sitz im Leben, essentially the cultural context, of the work, Rordorf observes that the Didache appears to address formerly pagan converts to Christianity. The Two Ways speaks particularly to issues which related to practices of paganism. Rordorf sees this, along with the concept of pre-baptismal instruction, as a likely distinctive feature of the Gentile church as opposed to those converting from Judaism, the more frequent expectation of the New Testament (Rordorf 1996, 156). Rordorf goes on to cite Irenaeus and Pliny the Younger, along with Hippolytus, to suggest catechesis of Gentile converts (Rordorf 1996, 157). The Pseudo-Clementine Preaching of Peter, in Homily VII, further illustrates the concept of catechesis of Gentile converts prior to baptism (Rordorf 1996, 158). This process likely included a renunciation of Satan which Rordorf states would assume some sort of detailed previous catechesis (Rordorf 1996, 158).
Rordorf’s third question deals with the Nachleben of the Two Ways teaching. At the risk of impugning myself, I will admit to looking up the unfamiliar term and translating it roughly as “resultant views.” Early scholarship searched out references to “two ways” or to the salient ethical treatments through the third century. In 1907 and 1914, texts for analysis were added to the canonical list: “the Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching of St. Irenaeus and the Sermon De centesima, de sexagesima, de tricesima” (Rordorf 1996, 160). Rordorf recognizes that one’s view of what is allusive and what is not may be highly subjective. Yet, considering history of the 4th through 6th centuries, he would add several texts, which he thinks were influenced by the Didache. First, in the Epitome of the Divine Institutions by Lactantius, ch. 53-62, there is a strong influence of the Duae Viae (Rordorf 1996, 160), particularly in its structure. Second, in Canon 38 of the Canons of Hippolytus, a sermon apparently intended for the Paschal Vigil, the baptismal liturgy is repeated, along with a list of prohibited behaviors (Rordorf 1996, 161). This recalls the list in the Duae Viae. Additionally, Rordorf reminds the reader of “the Syntagma doctrinae and the Pseudo-Athanasian Faith of the 318 Fathers” which include the duae viae in summary (Rordorf 1996, 162). Further, Rordorf reminds us of a sermon De centesima, de sexagesima, de tricesima, which, in its exposition of Matthew 13, refers to the Didache. “The beginning is an almost literal citation of Didache 6:2a; the end is a valuable commentary on the very obscure phrase of Did 6:26: ‘but if not, do what you can’” (Rordorf 1996, 163). In the sixth century, Rordorf refers to the Life of Shenade from Egypt and the Western Regula Benedicti (Rordorf 1996, 163). Both include lists of what to do and not do, and the Regula Benedicti repeats the double love command and the Golden Rule (Rordorf 1996, 163).
Rordorf closes by asking whether the Two Ways should regain a place of prominence in the catechetical work of the Church, since it had an apparently prominent role in past history (Rordorf 1996, 164). The teaching makes a clear criterion for the convert - follow life or follow death. It seems, for this reason, an important issue.