Jefford, Clayton. "Chapter One: Introduction." The Sayings of Jesus in the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. Leiden: Brill, 1989, 1-21.
Jefford describes the time of the discovery of the Didache as a time when biblical scholarship was moving into new and exciting fields of inquiry (Jefford 1989, 1). The Didache represented a document which tied the inquiries into biblical texts and patristic history together. In the rush of studies, Jefford observes that dating and origin of the text has not been resolved adequately, leaving students to build further theories about the Didache on a foundation which is not stable (Jefford 1989, 2).
Assumptions of date and origin have centered around the sayings found in Didache chapters 1-5 and 16 (Jefford 1989, 3). The content of the sayings is normally assumed to be found in Didache 7-15, which may represent the last stage of the composition process. Jefford says of the methodology, "Rarely are the sayings examined and then dated according to their own merits, and rarely is the nature of that community which produced the Didache judged according to the traditio-historical and sociological parameters under which these sayings materials appeared" (Jefford 1989, 4). In other words, the sayings are not considered as important in their own right.
Jefford goes on to discuss the three main schools of thought about the text of the Didache. In the French school, Sabatier (1885) took it to be a church manual which shows extensive signs of early Judaic Christianity and which antedated Paul's epistles (Jefford 1989, 4). Massaux (1950) suggested an influence of Matthew upon the Didache. Audet (1958), on the other hand, rejected an influence of the Synoptic Gospels and argued for an earlier date, while identifying three stages of redaction (Jefford 1989, 5). Since that time, Stanislas Giet, Willy Rordorf, and André Tuilier have further emphasized an early date and a Syrian origin, possibly in Antioch (Jefford 1989, 6).
The German school, represented first by Harnack (1884), sees the text as influenced by four sources, including "the Old Testament; . . . the Gospel of the Egyptians; the Epistle of Barnabas; and, the Shepherd of Hermas" (Jefford 1989, 7). Harnack placed the text after 120, originating in Egypt. Others substituted other sources of "gospel" information. Some have suggested a knowledge of various New Testament texts (Jefford 1989, 8). The sources postulated have led German scholars to a date in the second century, though in 1957 Helmut Köster made a persuasive argument for dependence on oral, rather than written, tradition. This could push the date somewhat earlier as the emergence of written sources would not be necessary (Jefford 1989, 10).
British and American scholarship has been mixed as regards date and origin of the Didache (Jefford 1989, 11). They have largely agreed that there is a strong Jewish element and, for the most part, have suggested a relationship with Barnabas, Hermas, and Matthew (Jefford 1989, 12). Many have taken the work to be early second century and to have drawn on some sort of a Gospel harmony. The polity which could lead to the community described seems archaic in nature, particularly the view of the episcopacy (Jefford 1989, 13). Dating was a matter of discussion through the first half of the 20th century, with scholars searching out possible influences which could be dated. This has resulted in suggestions ranging from the late first century to the fourth century (Jefford 1989, 15).
Jefford notes that recent studies of newly discovered manuscript traditions, such as the the Nag Hammadi and Qumran materials, have urged investigation into the interaction of ideas in the world of the first century. The Didache may belong among this material, but scholars have made assumptions about date and provenance without adequate background information (Jefford 1989, 18). He suggests that a number of the assumptions deserve careful questioning and clarification. Specifically, Jefford intends to survey the different "sayings" material so as to attempt to understand a source and how these materials fit into the Didache and the early church.