Harnack, Adolf. “Prolegomena, § 5. “Die Gemeindezustände. Zeit und Ont der Διδαχή.” pp. 88-170. Die Quellen der Schrift.” Lehre der Zwölf Apostel. Leipzig, J.C. Hinrichs, 1884.
“II. Zeit und Ort der Διδαχή” pp. 158-170.
Harnack freely admits that dating the Didache is controversial, to say the least. Speculations may be based on Clement of Alexandria, Barnabas, and Hermas. He suggests the text comes from the end of the first century to the middle of the second (Harnack 1884, 158).
The place of composition is also difficult to identify. The text seems to have been known first in Egypt (Harnack 1884, 159). However, there is also some evidence that suggests it circulated widely in Syria. Harnack considers the similarities to be greater with some Egyptian works.
As to internal evidence, Harnack finds the dating very complex. He finds elements which reflect very early time periods and some which he thinks may have been added later (Harnack 1884, 160). There is, however, no suggestion of a knowledge of a New Testament canon, no clear idea of a rule of faith or “symbol” guiding its doctrine, no idea of a monarchical view of bishops or elders, and no clear order of worship rocognized (Harnack 1884, 161). The instructions about communion, the divine service, and the prayers are not always clear (Harnack 1884, 162). The symbolic actions around baptism are not present, and there is no account for baptism of children. The chief festivals of the year are absent. The ban on eating blood and strangled things is included, as well as teaching on both giving and excommunication. There is teaching on prophets but no evidence of the existence of Montanism (Harnack 1884, 163). The false teachers are mentioned but there are few details of their teaching. Because of the elements included and missing, Harnack takes the text certainly to be prior to the second half of the second century. When asking whether the Didache is of greater antiquity, Harnack says he finds no internal evidence which places it extremely early. He does suggest that based on form and content the text may fit better between 80-120 than 120-165 (Harnack 1884, 165). But there is no direct and definitive internal evidence which requires such a date.
The suggestions of an earlier date include the apparent presence of apostles and prophets, the judgment of prophets based on actions, the suggestions of different levels of morality among Christians rather than a blanket assessment as Christian or not, a description of some Jews as “hypocrites” rather than a sharp distinction between Jews and Christians, and an eschatology which makes no reference to Matthew 24 (Harnack 1884, 166).
Because there are no suggestions within the Didache of locality, Harnack recognizes we are entirely dependent on external evidence (Harnack 1884, 167). While Harnack observes that Asia Minor is clear as a location in the works of Polycarp and Ignatius, yet Irenaeus does not assign Asia Minor to the Didache, Harnack’s conclusion that Asia Minor is ruled out may be an overstatement. Likewise, because Lucian does not recognize itinerant prophes in Syria, Harnack assumes the Didache cannot comes from tha region, a conclusion he recognizes as somewhat speculative. Palestine would be a candidate, but the text seems to point strongly toward a Gentile audience, which seems unlikely (Harnack 1884, 168). Harnack thinks there are two primary arguments for the text to come from Egypt. First, the recognition of teachers as “apostle” continued for a relatively long time in Egypt (Harnack 1884, 168). Second, the use of the Lord’s Prayer with the doxology at the end is more common in Egyptian manuscript tradition than elsewhere (Harnack 1884, 169).
While Harnack does not find definitive answers to the problem of time and location of composition, he does think Egypt is a probable source.