Boehme, Armand J. Reviews in Religion and Theology (2010). Blackwell Publishing, pp. 480-482. Review of Schwiebert, Jonathan. Knowledge and the Coming Kingdom: The Didache’s Meal Ritual and Its Place in Early Christianity. T&T Clark, 2008, xiii + 278 pp.
Boehme’s review of Schwiebert’s book notes a diversity of practice in early Christianity. Schwiebert assumes that there were multiple streams of thought in “the Jesus movement” and that they were relatively independent. Based on that concept of independence, Schwiebert compares “two meal traditions - the Didache’sritual tradition and that of the Pauline Jesus meal expounded in the New Testament” (Boehme 2010, 480). Schwiebert finds that different interpreters moved form an eschatological view of “the Jesus meal” toward more of a memorial view which eventually developed into the Christian Eucharist (Boehme 2010, 481). He sees the Didache’s meal as very different than the meal described in the New Testament. Schwiebert assumes the Didache’ meal to be drawn from oral sources, from Q, and from the Gospel of Thomas, which do not emphasize Jesus’ suffering and his vincation. Of course, the only of those sources we actually hae is the Gospel of Thomas (Boehme 2010, 481). The ritual in Didache 7-10 is considered to be based on models for prayer, sayings of Jesus, and Jewish ethics. The focus is on Jesus’ teachings and his promised future coming, rather than on his death.
Schwiebert sees the Didache as having little influence in places where Paul was well known, but that it was well received, especially in Egypt, before being replaced by a Pauline eucharist (Boehme 2010, 482). He considers that liturgical reforms in the fourth century led to uniformity of practice, but that there was more diversity in earlier periods.