The Didache’s Use Of The Old And New Testaments -- By: William C. Varner

Journal: Masters Seminary Journal
Volume: TMSJ 16:1 (Spring 2005)
Article: The Didache’s Use Of The Old And New Testaments
Author: William C. Varner

The Didache’s Use Of The Old And New Testaments

William Varner

Professor of Biblical Studies
The Master’s College

The Didache has attracted widespread attention among scholars interested in early Christian writings since being discovered in 1873. Of particular interest has been the way it uses the Old and New Testaments because it reflects the way earliest Christian leaders approached the same issue. The document shows a special familiarity with the Gospel of Matthew and cites passages frequently from that source. Evidence supports the conclusion that the Didachist had access to the canonical Gospel as currently known and not just to oral tradition about Jesus. His use of Matthew often followed very closely to the exact wording of that Gospel. His only use of noncanonical works was in a negative way. He also cited two OT passages and apparently followed the wording of the LXX most closely. He did not endorse an allegorical interpretation of the OT as came to be the practice in other early Christian writings. A personal translation of the Didache is included.

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The discovery of the Didache in 1873 has been acclaimed in many a eulogy, in many a language and by many a scholar. And rightly so. For this work has cast a spell over even the most cautious who, finding its magic irresistible, seek time and again to prise its secrets. For however else can one explain the unending fascination expressed in such an abundance of words for a work written with so few—a bibliography which exceeds any reasonable expectation?1

If Professor Walker was amazed at the size of the bibliography on the Didache in 1981, what amazement would she express today about the continued scholarly interest in this little document that is shorter than Paul’s epistle to the Galatians? In the last decade alone, two major commentaries on the Didache have appeared, the most recent being 800 pages in length.2 Furthermore, three major collections of scholarly articles on the Didache by multiple authors have been issued,

again in the last decade.3 The journal articles continue to appear at a regular pace.4 In April 2004, an international conference at Oxford University was convened to discuss “The New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers.” No less than five of the twenty-five papers presented dealt directly with the Didache and a number dealt indirectly with issues raised by the document.You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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