The Didache and the Jerusalem Council

Here is an argument that proposes that part of the Didache is in fact the Apostolic Decree from the Jerusalem Council (!)

The 'Apostolic Decree' commonly describes the letter reputedly composed by James and the Jerusalem apostles in c. AD 49 and sent to Gentile converts in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. The meeting that gave rise to this document (described in Acts 15.1-22) discussed the question of whether circumcision should be required of Gentiles wishing to convert to the (Jewish) Jesus movement. Luke's record of this 'decree' (Acts 15:23-29) emphasises that the requirements laid on these Gentile converts did not include circumcision.

Paul, in Galatians 2.1-10, appears to refer to the same meeting. Crucially, however, Paul omits mention of any 'decree'. This is surprising if Luke's account is accurate, since an appeal to the apostles' authoritative ruling should have silenced Paul's critics; those demanding the circumcision of Gentile converts. Scholars have generally explained this anomoly by suggesting that, although a Jerusalem meeting took place, no 'decree' was ever issued. Rather, Luke came across some rules for Gentile admission without circumcision, devised elsewhere, and imported them into his account of the Jerusalem meeting to give them added authority.

Another option, not previously considered, is that the Jerusalem meeting did produce a decree but that its contents were sufficiently ambiguous to support both pro- and anti-circumcision interpretations. This would explain Luke's reading of events as well as Paul's unwillingness to quote a document whose contents might have been turned to opposite effect. [...]


Rob said…
I am not sure if you have answered it in one of your posts already, but I have always been curious:

Given the good-standing of the Didache in the eyes of the Church, and the apparent belief that it was indeed a product of the apostles (and you have noted here the possibility that it even is a result of the Jerusalem Synod), why was it not included in the Canon? I have heard that in the early centuries, before the Bibble existed, many included it among whatever inspired writings they possessed but, by the fifith or sixth century, just like the Shepherd of Hermas and the Apocalypse of Peter, the Didache is excluded.

I am not protesting the move, just curious as to the reasoning.
FrGregACCA said…
It is doubtful, I think, that the Didache is a direct product of the Apostles, and even less likely that it represents the "decree" of the meeting in Jerusalem, the results of which are recorded in Acts. Why St. Paul didn't refer to this decree in his later polemics is another question. Perhaps, for whatever reason, he simply didn't feel the need to.

While there is documentation relating to what was included, and what was excluded, from the canon of the New Testament at various points in its formation, there is little direct evidence for the reasoning employed, so attempts to discern said reasoning are, at best, reconstructions. As it happens, however, each document mentioned, in its own way, deviates at one or more points from the Tradition as a whole as it develops over time. The directive to "appoint for yourselves bishops and deacons" without provision for ordination in apostolic succession is one example of this from the Didache.
Abu Daoud said…
Thanks for the comments. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church (which is Oriental Orthodox, that is non-Chalcedonian) does accept it as part of the "broader" NT, whatever that means.

Why didn't it get in? Like Fr Greg said, it is just guess work. But a few things come to mind: it is largely procedural, which makes it unlike most of the NT. There is no indication of who wrote it at all, which was important for the Nicene Fathers when the NT canon was defined.

A stronger candidate would have been 1 Clement, who, like Mark, does have a clear connection to the Apostles, is writing very early, and is, of course, the fourth bishop of Europe's main Apostolic see. I really have no idea why 1 Clement didn't get in, historically speaking.
Rob said…
I do understand why 1 Clement didn't make it - because it's authenticity is certain! I.e., it was written by Clement and not by an apostle. The Bible is not simply a compilation of "early Christian documents". A document was to be included only if it was written by an apostle (or someone writing at his behest).

1 Clement was possibly contemporary with the lives of the apostles (wasn't St. John allegedly still alive?), but that doesn't matter. He was NOT an apostle, so his writings were NOT scripture.

Which doesn't mean that his words aren't to be treasured and studied: just not treated with the same care that the words of an apostle might be.

I thank Fr. Greg for his reply, but I wonder if "deviation from Tradition" can be sufficient reason. Early christian tradition contains much not found in the scriptures, why would that be held against the Didache? For instance, the election of bishops was still pretty common duriig the period when the canon was developing. St. Ambrose (d. 397)was allegedly elected by acclamation, but also ordained by one in the apostolic succession (can't remember who).
Abu Daoud said…
Rob: Mark and Luke were not Apostles, but they had apostolic backing. I am saying that the same thing is true for Clement. Mark knew and worked with Peter, Luke knew and worked with Paul. So did Clement.
Rob said…
-Mark and Luke were not Apostles-

Good point. BUt Maybe the reason for Clement's exclusion is that, while he may have been contemporary with the very last apostle(s), he was not their secretary or close companion, such as Mark and Luke?

Obviously I don't know, but you've really got me thinking now. I always considered Clement out because of his not being an apostle, but your point about Mark and Luke have really got me curious now.

This is going to keep me up at night! LOL

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