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Showing posts with label Didache. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Didache. Show all posts

Friday 22 June 2018

We Have an Altar: The Call to Eucharistic Worship in Hebrews 13:9-16

Hebrews 13:10 reads, "We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat" (NABRE). The purpose of this article is to argue that this verse, understood in context, functions as a call to Eucharistic worship, i.e. to partake of the Lord's Supper. Here is the statement within its immediate context:
9 Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teaching. It is good to have our hearts strengthened by grace and not by foods, which do not benefit those who live by them. 10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. 11 The bodies of the animals whose blood the high priest brings into the sanctuary as a sin offering are burned outside the camp. 12 Therefore, Jesus also suffered outside the gate, to consecrate the people by his own blood. 13 Let us then go to him outside the camp, bearing the reproach that he bore. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the one that is to come. 15 Through him [then] let us continually offer God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have; God is pleased by sacrifices of that kind. (Hebrews 13:9-16 NABRE)
One leading New Testament scholar, Helmut Koester, began his study of Hebrews 13:9-14 by calling it "among the most difficult passages of the entire New Testament."1 Another scholar, James W. Thompson, described this as "one of the most complex passages in Hebrews, if not in the entire New Testament," one containing "many exegetical enigmas".2 We should therefore adopt a measure of humility as we attempt to understand the significance of the Christian "altar," which as Thompson noted is one of the areas of scholarly debate.

The central contention of this article is that the "altar" mentioned in Heb. 13:10 refers to the Eucharistic table. In fact, it is my belief that Hebrews 13:9-16 is a call to Eucharistic worship. I would paraphrase the broad sweep of this call as follows:
We would not be strengthened by mere "foods" but by "grace"—heavenly, life-giving grace. How can we access this grace? "We have an altar" that gives us the "right to eat" the "body" of our sin-offering, Jesus, whose blood was brought into the heavenly sanctuary (to which we have access through him). "Let us go to him," in liturgical procession. Where? "Outside the camp," where he suffered—to Golgotha, to the foot of the cross, to our altar; "let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God" in the liturgy. Then, let us go forth and "do good and share what we have," bringing the life and goodness we have received to the world.
Now, I would not suggest that this Eucharistic reading of the passage is obvious, or uncontroversial. While "many commentators" have concluded that the "altar" of Heb. 13:10 is the Eucharistic table,3 many others have opposed this interpretation. The New American Bible (Revised Edition), a Catholic translation, states in a footnote on Heb. 13:10 that the altar "does not refer to the Eucharist, which is never mentioned in Hebrews, but to the sacrifice of Christ." Making the same point in greater detail is Baptist theologian Thomas R. Schreiner:
Clearly the author isn’t thinking of a literal altar. The altar where sacrifices were offered points to a better altar where Christ was sacrificed to atone for sins. The author doesn’t think of a literal altar in heaven, for the imagery shouldn’t be pressed to suggest that there is a literal altar in the heavenly sanctuary. Hebrews never mentions a heavenly altar…Those who attend to the earthly tabernacle have no ‘right to eat’ from the altar of Christ, for they are ‘behind the times’ and are still attending to the old altar. Believers, on the other hand, ‘eat’ from this better altar. He refers to Christ’s sacrifice here, the nature of which was explicated previously in the letter. The ‘eating’ again isn’t literal. It is a colorful way of describing the grace believers enjoy through the sacrifice of Christ.4
Norman H. Young calls it "misleading to relate the altar [of Heb. 13:10] to the heavenly sanctuary" and "equally perverse to attempt to find the Eucharist in this reference to an altar".5 In the face of such stringent opposition, we have our work cut out for us in attempting to show that there is an allusion to the Eucharist here.

Before considering arguments for a Eucharistic interpretation of Heb. 13:10, let us consider some arguments against. One argument is that the Eucharist plays no other role in the Letter to the Hebrews. This is a valid point, but it is not decisive. It can be reasonably inferred, on the evidence of the Gospels' Last Supper narratives, as well as John 6, 1 Corinthians 10-11, and the Didache (a first-century church manual that is not in the biblical canon) that the Eucharist was a central part of the spiritual life of early Christian communities, so that an early Christian writer could allude to it abruptly and without explanation.6 Moreover, the last chapter of Hebrews touches on a number of complex theological issues in somewhat rapid-fire fashion, so a passing but rich allusion to the Eucharist would not be out of place.7

A second argument against a Eucharistic interpretation is Schreiner's observation that "Hebrews never mentions a heavenly altar." This is an argument from silence, but it is conceivable that the writer of Hebrews envisions the heavenly "holy places...the true tent" (Heb. 8:1-2) as restricted to the tabernacle proper and not the courtyard that contained the altar.8 The altar on which Jesus offered himself could be understood as the cross of Calvary, whereupon Jesus entered with his blood into the heavenly sanctuary (Heb. 9:11-12). However, an identification of the "true" altar with the cross in no way conflicts with a Eucharistic interpretation, particularly if the Eucharist is understood as a memorial and an extension of the sacrifice of Jesus.

A third argument against a Eucharistic interpretation is Schreiner's claim that the altar of Hebrews 13:10, as well as the "eating" mentioned there, are "not literal" but are colourful ways of describing the sacrifice of Christ and the grace it conveys to believers. This insistence on a "non-literal" interpretation seems to cloud an important distinction between the transcendent and the symbolic. For the author of Hebrews, the various features of the Levitical cult are but shadows of a greater, transcendent reality. The heavenly tabernacle is not non-literal but super-literal, more real than its earthly counterpart. The same goes for the transcendent high priest, Jesus. That talk of a transcendent "tabernacle" and "altar" is in some sense analogical does not mean they are mere abstractions. As for non-literal "eating," if the altar symbolises Christ's sacrifice then it seems needlessly oblique to describe the associated grace in terms of eating from the altar. Surely a more natural extension of the metaphor would express the right to approach the altar: compare Hebrews 4:15-16, which emphasises that Christians have the right to "draw near to the throne of grace," and 10:19, which emphasises "confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus". The specific emphasis on the right to "eat" from the altar requires us to seek a connection to a Christian form of religious "eating"—of which the Eucharist is the obvious example.9

From a reader-response perspective, a Catholic or Orthodox Christian today who encounters the words "We have an altar" is likely to picture the Eucharistic altar in the sanctuary at their local church. If such an altar was a typical feature in the house churches known to the author and recipients of Hebrews—admittedly a big "if"—then the declaration "We have an altar" might intentionally draw the readers' attention to these physical altars as the locus of their access to Christ's sacrifice via the Eucharist.

From a historical point of view this argument remains somewhat speculative in that we have no archaeological evidence of what first-century Christian house churches looked like. However, one of the two earliest house churches that has been excavated, from Megiddo and generally dated to the third century A.D., had a worship room described thus:
In the centre of the floor stand two raised stones, which probably served as the base for the podium of the Eucharistic table referred to in one of the inscriptions.10
The floor of the Megiddo house church with Eucharistic table base and inscription

The inscription mentioned is on a floor mosaic in the same room, and reads, "The God-loving Akeptous has offered the table to God Jesus Christ as a memorial." Granted, this church dates from long after Hebrews was written, but it is, after the Dura-Europos house church in Syria, the oldest church that has been excavated. We should thus at least allow the possibility that the earliest readers of Hebrews worshipped in a house church in which an altar-like Eucharistic table featured prominently.

Koester remarks that the Greek formulation of the words translated "We have an altar" is stylistically formal and "reflects the style of credal statements."11 In his view, this is more likely a literary device than a quotation from a creed.12 Nevertheless, the stylistic formality suggests that this declaration is intended to bear great significance and thus merits close study. Since Hebrews nowhere else refers to a Christian altar of sacrifice,13 we may look to other early Christian literature for evidence that the Eucharistic table was understood as an altar.

1 Corinthians

In 1 Corinthians 10:21, Paul refers to the Eucharist as partaking of "the table of the Lord" (trapeza kyriou). This phrase trapeza kyriou occurs in only one passage in the Greek Scriptures known to Paul, the Septuagint, where it refers to the altar of the Levitical cult (Mal. 1:7-12).14 Moreover, Paul has just drawn a parallel between participation in the "altar" by eating the sacrifices in "Israel according to the flesh" (1 Cor. 10:18) and Christian participation in the body and blood of Christ by partaking of "the table of the Lord."15


The Didache  describes the Eucharist as an "offering" and a "sacrifice" (14.1-2). This makes it plausible that, in keeping with such cultic language, the unmentioned place where this "sacrifice" was offered took place was regarded as an altar.

1 Clement

The first-century letter 1 Clement is particularly relevant to this study due to its conceptual similarity to Hebrews. These are the only two first-century Christian documents that describe Jesus as a "high priest" (1 Clem. 36.1; 61.3; 64.1). 1 Clement 36.2-5 contains numerous striking parallels to Hebrews 1, implying either the author's direct knowledge of Hebrews or the use of common traditional material by both authors. Both authors' theologies are deeply influenced by Hellenistic Judaism and the Septuagint and both authors quote from or paraphrase the Wisdom of Solomon, a Jewish text that was received into the Christian biblical canon (as is evident already in the late-second-century Muratorian Fragment). Undoubtedly, Hebrews and 1 Clement represent a similar early Christian theological milieu.

Edmund W. Fisher concludes in a detailed study of 1 Clement 7.4 ("We should gaze intently on the blood of Christ") that "The church united in its liturgy sees the blood-of-Christ poured out in the eucharist."16 The letter uses similar cultic language for both Levitical and Christian worship in close proximity. In chapters 40-41, the author stresses the importance of keeping the Master's commandments "in an orderly way and at appointed times," "keeping to our special assignments with a good conscience, not violating the established rule of his ministry" (1 Clem. 40.1; 41.1). These instructions are interspersed with references to the Levitical cult, where the writer emphasises that "the sacrificial offerings and liturgical rites" were performed "according to set times and hours," with God having "set forth both where and through whom he wished them to be performed" (1 Clem. 40.2-3). The writer subsequently goes into greater detail on the "where" aspect, observing that the Levitical sacrifices "are not offered everywhere...but in Jerusalem alone," and even there not "in just any place, but before the sanctuary on the altar" (1 Clem. 41.2). The author does not elaborate on the Christian analogue to this "where" aspect (he is more concerned with the "whom"), but he does refer to the bishops as "offering the gifts," which elsewhere in 1 Clement—as well as in Hebrews—is equivalent to offering sacrifices.17 This "offering" of "the gifts" most likely refers to the Eucharist.18 That it matters to the author "where" the offerings take place (otherwise there was no need to emphasise the altar as the necessary locus of Levitical offerings) suggests that there is a place analogous to the Levitical altar where the Eucharist should be offered—in other words, a Christian altar. This can reasonably be inferred even though the author does not mention such a place explicitly, due to his focus being on the "whom" aspect of Christian worship (which was contested in the Corinthian church, giving rise to his letter).

The Letters of Ignatius

The most striking references to a Eucharistic altar in the Apostolic Fathers are in the letters of Ignatius (early second century). In his Letter to the Philadelphians, the bishop of Antioch writes:
And so be eager to celebrate just one eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ and one cup that brings the unity of his blood, and one altar, as there is one bishop together with the presbytery and the deacons, my fellow slaves. Thus, whatever you do, do according to God. (Ign. Phld. 4.4)
Here, Ignatius unmistakably identifies the Eucharist with a Christian altar. That is not all: another passage where Ignatius mentions the Eucharistic altar contains striking parallels to Hebrews 13:9-10:
9 Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teaching. It is good to have our hearts strengthened by grace and not by foods, which do not benefit those who live by them. 10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat.  (Heb. 13:9-10)
7.2 Let all of you run together as to one temple of God, as to one altar, to one Jesus Christ, who came forth from one Father and remained with the One and returned to the One. 8.1 Do not be deceived by strange doctrines or antiquated myths, since they are worthless. For if we continue to live in accordance with Judaism, we admit that we have not received grace. (Magnesians 7.2-8.1)19
In both passages, a Christian "altar" associated with "grace" is contrasted with a warning against strange doctrines associated with continued observance of the Jewish law. This parallel seems too striking to be coincidental. However, since there is little evidence that Ignatius knew or used Hebrews,20  it seems likely that Hebrews and Ignatius drew on common traditional material. Ceteris paribus, that Ignatius understood the grace-conveying Christian "altar" in Eucharistic terms makes it likely that the writer of Hebrews did too.

There appear to be several nuanced ways in this passage by which the author of Hebrews compares the Levitical altar and the Christian altar. We should bear in mind that already under the Levitical cult, the altar is a sacred place: "There, at the altar, I will meet the Israelites; hence it will be made sacred by my glory" (Ex. 29:43). The immediate purpose of the altar was of course to have animal sacrifices offered upon it. However, the main interest of the author of Hebrews here is in what happens to the sacrificed animal after it is offered. The Torah mentions numerous ordinances concerning consumption of the meat of animal sacrifices (or bread made from grain offerings), which was "holy" food (Lev. 6:17-18; 10:12-13; 21:6; 22:1-12). Depending on the type of offering, there are stipulations as to who can and cannot eat the meat, what parts of the animal they can and cannot eat, when they can and cannot eat it, and where they can and cannot eat it. There were certain persons who were forbidden from eating such holy food (e.g., foreigners, or priests in a state of uncleanness—see Lev. 22).

In Hebrews 13:11, the writer observes that the meat of Levitical sin offerings could not be eaten by anyone but had to be burned outside the camp (Lev. 4:12, 4:21, 6:11, 8:17, 9:11, 16:27-28). Scholars regard this stipulation concerning the Day of Atonement sin offering (Leviticus 16) as particularly relevant,21 given the prior comparison of Christ's sacrifice with this ritual in Hebrews (9:7-12; 9:25-28). However, whereas Leviticus refers to the animals themselves or their "hide" and "flesh" being burned,22 Hebrews refers to "the bodies (Greek: sōmata) of the animals." What is remarkable about this is that Leviticus LXX never uses the word "body" (sōma) for the flesh or carcass of a sacrificed animal. Leviticus uses sōma only for human bodies, and in the Day of Atonement regulations the word is used for body of the high priest as well as the body of the person who goes outside the camp to burn (or release, in the case of the "scapegoat") the animal (Lev. 16:24-28). In Hebrews, Jesus is the high priest, the person who goes outside the camp, and the one whose "body" was specially prepared by God as the once-for-all sin offering (Heb. 10:5, 10). Thus, by stating that the "bodies" of the Levitical sin offerings could not be eaten, the writer is drawing our attention to the "body" of Jesus, our definitive sin offering, which can be eaten from the Christian altar in the Eucharist. The word "body" has powerful Eucharistic connotations, playing a central role in the early Eucharistic liturgy as preserved by Paul (1 Cor. 10:16, 11:24-29) and the Synoptic Gospels (Mark 14:22 par.). Thus, the writer's decision to use this word in his discussion of Levitical sin offerings signals his Eucharistic understanding of the Christian "altar." The other key word in the Eucharistic liturgy is, of course, "blood," and this aspect of the sin offering (both Levitical and Christ's) is also emphasised in Heb. 13:11-12.

Against this background, the following comparisons seem to be implicit in Heb. 13:9-13. (1) Under Levitical worship, the bodies of the sin offerings offered on the altar could not be eaten, but had to be burned outside the camp. Christ, our sin offering, also suffered outside the camp, but his body can be eaten, in the Eucharist. Thus Christians—all Christians ("we")—have a "right to eat" from their altar that not even the priests ("those who serve the tabernacle," cf. Heb. 7:13; 8:5) had under the Levitical religion. (2) In cases where the holy food from the Levitical altars could be eaten, it was still only natural food and thus of no eternal benefit. By contrast, the food from the Christian altar conveys "grace," i.e. brings eternal benefit. (3) The Jewish Christians addressed in Hebrews may be "outside the camp," marginalised from mainstream Jewish worship and suffering persecution, but this brings solidarity with Jesus, who likewise suffered "outside the gate" (of Jerusalem). Collectively, this is a powerful argument for sticking with Christianity and not reverting to non-Christian, mainstream Jewish religion, which seems to be a primary thrust of Hebrews.

The reading suggested above finds further support in other early Christian literature that make points similar to those in Hebrews 13:9-10 while discussing the Eucharist. We have already noted the striking parallel between Hebrews 13:9-10 and Ignatius, Magnesians 7.2-8.1. We now note some texts that highlight (a) the exclusivity of Christian access to the Eucharist (just as Hebrews states that those serving the tabernacle "have no right to eat" of the Christian altar), and (b) the contrast between ordinary food and Eucharistic food (just as Hebrews contrasts "foods" that "do not benefit" with the "grace" of the Christian "altar").

The exclusivity of access to holy food features in the Didache, a first-century church manual (roughly contemporaneous with Hebrews), which stipulates, "But let no one eat or drink from your thanksgiving meal [Greek: eucharistias] unless they have been baptized in the name of the Lord. For also the Lord has said about this, 'Do not give what is holy to the dogs.'" (Did. 9.5). Paul warns Christians against eating Eucharistic food in an unworthy manner (1 Cor. 11:27), just as the Torah warns against eating flesh from sacrifices while unclean (Lev. 7:20-21; 22:3-7).

The contrast between holy, grace-bearing Eucharistic food (which brings eternal life) and ordinary food (which has no eternal benefit) also features in multiple other texts. At the close of the Didache's Eucharistic liturgy, the following thanksgiving is offered: "You, O Master Almighty, created all things for the sake of your name, and gave both food and drink to humans for their refreshment, that they might give you thanks. And you graciously provided us with spiritual food and drink, and eternal life through your child" (Did. 10.3). More famously, in John chapter 6 Jesus repeatedly contrasts the manna in the wilderness (itself angelic food: Ps. 78:25; Wis. 16:10), whose eaters still die (John 6:49) with the "true bread from heaven," namely his flesh, of which "Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever" (John 6:58).

My own conviction is that Hebrews 13:9-16 functions as a call to Eucharistic worship in the face of temptations that the readers faced to return (or turn) to non-Christian Jewish forms of worship. Probably few Christians today yearn for Levitical religion, but there are other temptations that can draw us away from the Eucharist: apathy, or forms of Christian worship that neglect the Eucharist. Thus, the writer of Hebrews' emphatic statement, "We have an altar" is as important today as it was to his original readers.

My prayer is that the reader may be moved by the beautiful words of Hebrews 13:9-16 to heed this call, or at least to reflect on whether there might be more significance to the table of the Lord than previously supposed.


  • 1 Helmut Koester, "'Outside the Camp': Hebrews 13:9-14," The Harvard Theological Review, 55 (1962): 299.
  • 2 James W. Thompson, "Outside the Camp: A study of Heb 13:9-14," The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 40 (1978): 53.
  • 3 L. Paul Trudinger, "The Gospel Meaning of the Secular: Reflections on Hebrews 13:10-13," Evangelical Quarterly, 54 (1982): 236. Trudinger himself rejects this position.
  • 4 Thomas R. Schreiner, Commentary on Hebrews (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2015), 420.
  • 5 Norman H. Young, "‘Bearing his reproach’ (Heb 13.9–14)," New Testament Studies, 48 (2002): 248-49.
  • 6 This can be seen in other instances in early Christian literature. "Your love feasts" in Jude 12 undoubtedly alludes to the Eucharist, despite the lack of explanation or prior reference to the Eucharist in this short letter. The letters of Ignatius of Antioch (early second century) contain several oblique references to the Eucharist as "the altar." Consider Magnesians 7.2 ("You should all run together, as into one temple of God, as upon one altar, upon one Jesus Christ") and Romans 2.2 ("But grant me nothing more than to be poured out as a libation to God while there is still an altar at hand"). Indeed, these references are so oblique that it might be doubted whether they refer to the Eucharist, were it not for Philadelphians 4.4 (discussed below), which makes clear Ignatius's Eucharistic understanding of the "altar." Note: translations from the Apostolic Fathers, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from Bart D. Ehrman, The Apostolic Fathers, 2 vols. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003).
  • 7 Thompson notes that Hebrews 13:9-14 in particular contains "an extraordinary number of references that seem to stand alone in Hebrews, and are thus difficult to interpret in the context of the rest of the epistle" (Thompson, "Outside the Camp," 53).
  • 8 The Book of Revelation envisions a heavenly altar but this corresponds to the golden altar of incense within the tabernacle, not the altar of sacrifice in the courtyard.
  • 9 In both places where Paul mentions the Levitical practice of eating the sacrificial meat, he has a specific reason for stressing the "eating". In 1 Cor. 9:13 he uses it as an argument for the right of Christian ministers to earn a living through their service (since the Levitical priests literally earned their bread and meat through their offerings), and in 1 Cor. 10:18 he mentions the practice specifically to draw a parallel with the Eucharist—precisely as I argue the writer of Hebrews is doing in Heb. 13:10.
  • 10 Edward Adams, "The Ancient Church at Megiddo: The Discovery and an Assessment of its Significance," The Expository Times, 120 (2008): 64-65.
  • 11 Koester, "Outside the Camp," 312.
  • 12 Compare the similar formulation in Hebrews 8:1: "We have such a high priest..."
  • 13 There is a passing reference to the Levitical altar of sacrifice in Hebrews 7:13. The golden altar of incense, which is distinct from the altar of sacrifice, is mentioned in Hebrews 9:4.
  • 14 Similarly, Ezekiel 41:22 LXX refers to the altar in the temple vision as "the table which is before the face of the Lord," while Ezekiel 44:16 foretells that in the future temple the Levitical priests "shall enter into my sanctuary, and these shall approach my table, to minister to me" (i.e., "to offer sacrifice to me, the fat and the blood," v. 15). Elsewhere in the OT, the "table" associated with the Levitical cult is always the table of the showbread, but this is never called the "table of the Lord."
  • 15 The reference to "Israel according to the flesh" in 1 Cor. 10:18 implies that Paul understands the Church as "Israel according to the Spirit" (cf. Gal. 6:16). The kata sarka/pneuma (according to flesh/spirit) contrast is prominent in Paul's letters—especially relevant to 1 Cor. 10:18 is Gal. 4:29, which allegorically identifies unbelieving Israel, enslaved by the law, with Ishmael ("he who was born according to the flesh") and the Church, freed from slavery, with Isaac ("he who was born according to the spirit"). This flesh/Spirit Israelological parallel strengthens the implicit parallel between eating the sacrifices of the Levitical altar and eating the Eucharistic food from the table of the Lord.
  • 16 Edmund W. Fisher, "'Let us look upon the Blood-of-Christ' (1 Clement 7:4)," Vigiliae Christianae, 34 (1980): 234.
  • 17 In 1 Clem. 4.1-2, Abel is said to have offered "a sacrifice from the firstborn of the sheep and from their fat," which is then referred to as "his gifts," showing that "gifts" and "sacrifices" are synonymous terms for this author. 1 Clement also calls Jesus "the high priest of our offerings" (36.1). The same is true in Hebrews, which refers thrice to "gifts and sacrifices" (5:1; 8:3; 9:9).
  • 18 R. P. C. Hanson states, "it is obvious that τά δῶρα refers to the bread and wine in the eucharist, and that the presbyters are thought of as presenting them to God in the eucharist for him to bless them" ("Eucharistic Offering in the Pre-Nicene Fathers," Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy: Archaeology, Culture, History, Literature, 76 (1976): 79.).
  • 19 Trans. Michael W. Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999), 155.
  • 20 The classic work The New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers places the relationship between Hebrews and Ignatius in its "D" category, meaning that the book "may possibly be referred to, but...the evidence appeared too uncertain to allow any reliance to be placed upon it" (A Committee of the Oxford Society of Historical Theology, The New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905], iii.)
  • 21 Trudinger argues that the author of Hebrews "is making as much a comparison as a contrast between the Christian and Jewish altars," by specifying "the particular kind of sacrificial altar" he is speaking of to be an "'Atonement Day' sacrifice," which under the Torah the priest had no right to eat. ("Gospel Meaning of the Secular," 236).
  • 22 "The calf," Lev. 4:12, 21; "the offering," 6:11; "the calf, and his hide, and his flesh, and his dung," 8:17; "the flesh and the hide," 9:11; "the calf...and the goat...even their skins and their flesh and their dung," 16:27.

Wednesday 6 September 2017

The Apostolicity of the Post-Apostolic Church (Part 3 of 3): Historical evidence for apostolic succession

In the first part of this series, I outlined the three aspects in which the post-apostolic Church is apostolic, according to Catholic teaching: it has apostolic origins, apostolic teaching (both written and oral) and apostolic succession. In the second part of the series, I clarified what the Catholic Church claims—and does not claim—regarding the early history of apostolic succession. The Church does claim that the apostles themselves, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, instituted apostolic succession, and that today's bishops continue this unbroken line of succession. However, this does not necessarily entail that apostles' earliest successors were monarchical bishops as that office is understood and executed today.

In this third installment, we finally get into historical evidence relevant to the doctrine of apostolic succession.

1. 2 Timothy and Titus
2. Pseudepigraphy in the New Testament
3. 1 Clement
4. Didache
5. Ascension of Isaiah
6. Ignatius and Polycarp
7. Ptolemy's Letter to Flora
8. The succession lists of Hegesippus and Irenaeus
9. Conclusion

1. Timothy and Titus1

Within the New Testament, Paul's Second Letter to Timothy reads very much like the efforts of an apostle (2 Tim. 1:1) who regards his own death as imminent (2 Tim. 4:6-9) to groom a successor for the challenge of carrying on the ministry after he is gone. This successor, Timothy, has been ordained through a formal, public rite of laying on of hands (1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6) and has the authority to lay hands on others (1 Tim. 5:22). He is, accordingly, charged with the task of preserving the "pattern of the sound words" he heard from the apostle; "By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you"—the apostolic tradition, which Paul believes the Lord is capable of preserving until "that Day," i.e. the day of the Lord's coming (2 Tim. 1:12-14).2 2 Timothy depicts Timothy as an apostolic delegate on his way to becoming an apostolic successor. (Indeed, an apostolic successor is chronologically what an apostolic delegate is spatially.)

The case of Titus is similar. Paul has left Titus in Crete "to complete what still needed to be done and to appoint elders in every city, as I myself commanded you" (Tit. 1:5), with these elders either equivalent to or including the "overseer" of v. 7. Clearly, Titus is functioning as an apostolic assistant and protégé.3 In light of what we have seen in 2 Timothy, is there any doubt that Paul would have expected Titus to succeed him in shepherding the churches in Crete in the event of his own death? Moreover, Paul addresses both Timothy and Titus as "true child in the faith" (1 Tim. 1:2; Tit. 1:4). Since a son is his father's successor in many ways, this filial imagery adds weight to the idea that Timothy and Titus are heirs to Paul's ministerial responsibilities.

Most contemporary New Testament scholars reject the traditional view that the Pastoral Epistles (1-2 Timothy and Titus) were written by Paul. They regard them instead as pseudepigrapha written after Paul's death, perhaps in the early second century, by members of the Pauline circle. If this is correct, we cannot cite 2 Timothy and Titus as firsthand evidence (that is, evidence from an apostle) of apostolic succession. However, if the Pastoral Epistles are pseudepigrapha then we have early (and still canonical) evidence from within the Pauline circle that Timothy and Titus were understood as Paul's hand-picked successors. We also have evidence that someone within the Pauline circle believed they had sufficient apostolic authority to write a letter in Paul's name. The same argument can be made regarding the Petrine Epistles (especially 2 Peter), which most scholars likewise regard as pseudepigraphic. We have an author or authors writing in the late first or early second century claiming the authority to write in Peter's name. Such a person must regard himself as a legitimate successor to Peter's ministry!

The letter known as 1 Clement was written from the church of Rome to the church of Corinth, probably near the end of the first century, to address an internal dispute in the latter church. During the patristic period the letter was very highly esteemed; in the important fifth-century biblical manuscript Codex Alexandrinus it is bound together with the New Testament! The author does not identify himself but has traditionally been identified as Clement, an early bishop of Rome. The letter narrates the martyrdom of Peter and Paul (5.1-7), whom the author obviously holds in very high regard. It is possible that he knew them personally (Irenaeus and Tertullian claimed as much—see below), since both are believed to have been martyred under Nero about three decades prior. Although the author's intention is not to provide a theory of church leadership, he makes some comments in this respect that are very significant, especially in chapters 40-44. The reader is encouraged to read these in their entirety; I will provide some excerpts, following Bart D. Ehrman's translation (which can hardly be accused of a Catholic bias!)4

In chapter 40, the author refers to the ministerial orders of the old covenant (high priest, priests, Levites and laity) to show that the Master desires "the sacrificial offerings and liturgical rites" to be performed in an orderly fashion. He continues by exhorting the brothers, "let each of us be pleasing to God by keeping to our special assignments with a good conscience, not violating the established rule of his ministry" (41.1). Within the Church, then, there are specially assigned orders, just as under the old covenant. He continues:
The apostles were given the gospel for us by the Lord Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ was sent forth from God. Thus Christ came from God and the apostles from Christ. Both things happened, then, in an orderly way according to the will of God. When, therefore, the apostles received his commands and were fully convinced through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and persuaded by the word of God, they went forth proclaiming the good news that the Kingdom of God was about to come, brimming with confidence through the Holy Spirit. And as they preached through the countryside and in the cities, they appointed the first fruits of their ministries as bishops and deacons of those who were about to believe, testing them by the Spirit. And this was no recent development. For indeed, bishops and deacons had been mentioned in writings long before. For thus the Scripture says in one place, 'I will appoint their bishops in righteousness and their deacons in faith.' (1 Clement 42.1-5) 
It would be anachronistic to read "bishops" here in its later technical sense; as discussed in the previous article, it took time for ecclesiological terminology to become standardised. Nevertheless, there is evidently some kind of implied correspondence between the "special assignments" under the old covenant and those within the Church, which include not only apostles but also bishops and deacons. By adducing Scriptural support (in the first-person voice of God, no less) for "bishops and deacons," the author implies that these are not man-made offices but that they were appointed by the apostles as part of "the established rule of [God's] ministry." This writer obviously holds these ecclesiastical offices in very high regard. He continues with the rhetorical question, "And why should it be amazing if those who were in Christ and entrusted by God with such a work [i.e. the apostles] appointed the leaders mentioned earlier [i.e. bishops and deacons]?" (1 Clement 43.1) He proceeds by again drawing on the old covenant as a template for the rule of Christian ministry. He argues that, just as Moses had anticipated strife over the office of priesthood and so offered divine proof (Aaron's blossoming rod) of the Levites' authority,
So too our apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that strife would arise over the office of the bishop. For this reason, since they understood perfectly well in advance what would happen, they appointed those we have already mentioned; and afterwards they added a codicil, to the effect that if these should die, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. Thus we do not think it right to remove from the ministry those who were appointed by them or, afterwards, by other reputable men, with the entire church giving its approval. For they have ministered over the flock of Christ blamelessly and with humility, gently and unselfishly, receiving a good witness by all, many times over. Indeed, we commit no little sin if we remove from the bishop's office those who offer the gifts in a blameless and holy way. (1 Clem. 44.1-4)5
This passage is so important to the Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession that it is quoted almost verbatim in the discussion of apostolic succession in Lumen Gentium (III.20). What does it tell us about apostolic succession? Firstly, note that the entire passage focuses on bishops, not deacons, suggesting (as do the words episkopos and diakonos) that overseer/bishop is the higher office. Secondly, note that bishop is an "office," just as was the Levitical priesthood according to 1 Clem. 43.2 (cf. also 1 Tim. 3:1). Thirdly, the apostles did not merely create and fill this office as a once-off measure; they legislated for the perpetuity of the office by succession (just as Moses had done for the priesthood). Fourthly, the means by which a vacancy in the office of bishop was to be filled was that, just as the apostles had appointed bishops, so should bishops be appointed by "other reputable men." The writer adds that the bishops who had been deposed in Corinth had been appointed "with the entire church giving its approval."

What we find in 1 Clement coheres well with what we find in 2 Timothy and Titus: the apostles appointed bishops who had the delegated authority to appoint other ministers, including other bishops, thereby ensuring the survival of the apostolic ministry through succession.

Within the Didache, the three most important kinds of ministerial functionaries are apostles, prophets and teachers. Every apostle who comes is to "be welcomed as if he were the Lord" (11.4). Prophets too are very highly regarded: they can give thanks at the close of the Eucharistic meal however they wish; they are not bound by the prescribed liturgy (Did. 10.7). Prophets who speak in the spirit may not be tested; this is an unforgivable sin (11.7). The prophets are to be given the firstfruits of wine, wheat and livestock, "for they are your high priests" (Did. 13.3)! Teachers, too, are to be welcomed as one would welcome the Lord (Did. 11.1-2) and are worthy of their food (Did. 13.2). All three of these ministries seem to be itinerant rather than resident.6 Like the office of bishop in 1 Clement, the role of the prophets and teachers in the Didache seems to be understood by analogy to the Levitical priesthood. Given this and the close link between the prophets and teachers and the apostles, it is possible to understand the prophets and teachers as among, or including, early apostolic successors. Timothy and especially Titus also seem to have been itinerant rather than resident in one local congregation (see Tit. 1:5), and so could easily be classified as "teachers" (or "prophets," if they had a prophetic gift) in Didache terminology.

The Didache also contains a passing reference to bishops and deacons, who are apparently resident as opposed to itinerant:
1 And so, elect for yourselves bishops and deacons who are worthy of the Lord, gentle men who are not fond of money, who are true and approved. For these also conduct the ministry of the prophets and teachers among you. 2 And so, do not disregard them. For these are the ones who have found honor among you, along with the prophets and teachers. (Did. 15.1-2, trans. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, 1:441).
This passage might give the impression of an autonomous, congregational, democratic leadership structure for the local church, since the congregation is told to "elect for yourselves bishops and deacons." However, the matter is not as simple as that. Firstly, we must remember the voice of the Didachist here: "elect for yourselves" is an imperative from an external authority.7 Secondly, the statement that the bishops and deacons "conduct the ministry of the prophets and teachers" may imply the subordination of bishops and deacons to prophets and teachers (similar to the bishops' and deacons' subordination to the apostles in 1 Clement 42).8 Thirdly, the text is very light on detail concerning how this election process was meant to work: were the bishops and deacons "elected" by vote, by lot or some other means? De Halleux assumes that "the bishops are elected democratically, by a vote of hands raised in assembly," but the text does not say this. Nevertheless, de Halleux helpfully observes that such a democratic process would "not exclude however a consecration of the newly elected by the laying on of hands by their peers."9 One would not necessarily expect to find instructions about ordination or consecration in the Didache, especially if this were understood to be the prerogative of external ministers such as prophets and teachers.10 All told, while the Didache does not contain the kind of unambiguous evidence for apostolic succession that we find in the Pastoral Epistles and 1 Clement, it is consistent with that evidence (after allowances are made for the non-standardised terminology in use in this early period).

The Ascension of Isaiah is an apocalypse that is now understood by scholarly consensus to be a Christian composition, with chapters 6-11 most likely written in the late first century and chapters 1-5 added in the early second century. There is material relevant to ecclesiastical orders in Asc. Isa. 3.13-4.2. The key passage is as follows:
21 And afterwards, at his approach, his disciples will abandon the teaching of the twelve apostles, and their faith, and their love, and their purity. 22 And there will be much contention as his coming and at his approach. 23 And in those days (there will be) many who will love office, although lacking wisdom. 24 And there will be many wicked elders and shepherds who wrong their sheep, [and they will be rapacious because they do not have holy shepherds].(Asc. Isa. 3.21-24)11
The words translated "elders" and "shepherds" are respectively presbuteroi and poimenes.12 Norelli states that the Ascension presupposes a time when the twelve apostles are no more and prophets are regrettably scarce (3.27).13 Moreover, notwithstanding the author's negative perception of the "elders and shepherds," the community structure presupposed by the text is a college of presbyters, among whom the shepherds or bishops seem to be distinguished by particular authority.14 By condemning the presbyters and shepherds for loving office but lacking wisdom, the author may be drawing attention to their lack of charismatic gifts.15

As Knight points out, the situation reflected in Ascension of Isaiah 3-4 is that of "a dispute about authority," centering on "the question of whether the prophets or the institutional leaders should hold authority in the church."16 "The Ascension of Isaiah was written by a group of prophets, perhaps a small group (cf. 2.7-11), who had seen their authority eroded and who found themselves without power in their dealings with the church leaders (3.31)."17 Knight sees the situation in Ascension of Isaiah as a reversal of that in the Didache. In the Didache, the prophets are dominant and the bishops and deacons need to be legitimated in relation to the prophets and teachers. In the Ascension of Isaiah, however, the institutional leaders are dominant and the prophets are in decline. In this sense, the Ascension of Isaiah anticipates the Montanist controversy that would arise a few decades later.18

Seven letters of Ignatius are generally accepted as authentic (in the so-called "middle recension"). Most scholars maintain the traditional dating of the letters to the reign of Trajan (98-117 A.D.) in line with Eusebius's dating of Ignatius's martyrdom (Eccl. Hist. 3.36),19 though some would allow for a slightly later date, c. 125-150.20 Ignatius wrote these letters while en route from Antioch (where he was bishop; cf. Rom. 2.2) to his martyrdom in Rome.

Ignatius has surprisingly little to say about apostolic succession per se, but provides crucial evidence for the monarchical episcopate in the early second century. In the Letter to the Ephesians, Ignatius refers to "the bishops who have been appointed throughout the world [who] share the mind of Jesus Christ" (Eph. 3.2; cf. Smyrn. 10.2).21 The honour that is due the bishop recalls the honour due the prophets and teachers in the Didache: "And so we are clearly obliged to look upon the bishop as the Lord himself" (Eph. 6.1). Even a youthful bishop should receive "all due respect according to the power of God the Father," because to defer to the bishop is to defer to "the Father of Jesus Christ, the bishop of all" (Magn. 3.1). Ignatius presupposes a three-tiered ministerial order, "the harmony of God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God and the presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles, and the deacons, who are especially dear to me, entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ" (Magn. 6.1). The bishop and presbyters are repeatedly related to the apostles by analogy or association (cf. Magn. 7.1; 13.1-2; Trall. 3.1; 7.1; 12.2; Smyrn. 12.1), though Ignatius never explicitly states that the bishops (or presbyters) are the apostles' successors. Nevertheless, the bishops' ministry is divinely ordained. The bishop of Philadelphia, according to Ignatius, "did not obtain his ministry to the community from himself, nor through humans, nor according to pure vanity, but by the love of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Philad. 1.1). The monarchical character of the episcopate is made clear in passages such as Philad. 4.1: "For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ and one cup that brings the unity of his blood, and one altar, as there is one bishop together with the presbytery and the deacons, my fellow slaves." The "council of the bishop" (Philad. 8.1) should be understood by analogy to the Jewish Sanhedrin (with the bishop presumably presiding), for which the same Greek word sunedrion is used.

Ignatius's understanding of episcopacy is corroborated by the testimony of his contemporary, Polycarp of Smyrna. One of Ignatius's letters was addressed to Polycarp and another to his church, and Ignatius refers to Polycarp as "the bishop of the Smyrnaeans" (Magn. 15.1; Polyc. prescript). In Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians we have the earliest reception-history of Ignatius's letters. Polycarp tells the Philippians that he has received Ignatius's letters, that he is forwarding them along with his own letter, because the Philippians "will be able to profit greatly from them" (Phil. 13.1-2). We have here a ringing endorsement of Ignatius's letters, including their characterisation of Polycarp himself as bishop of Smyrna and their monarchical understanding of the episcopal office.22

Polycarp's implicit support for Ignatius's view of the episcopate is highly significant because of Polycarp's importance in early Christian history. Irenaeus, writing a few decades later, likewise refers to Polycarp as the bishop of Smyrna (Against Heresies 3.3.4), reports that he was appointed to this office by the apostles, and mentions his successors. The Martyrdom of Polycarp, which is widely regarded as having a historically accurate core, states that at the time of Polycarp's death (c. 155 A.D.) he had been in Christ's service for 86 years (M. Polyc. 9.3). This corroborates that he was a contemporary of the apostles and could have been appointed by them as a bishop. Thus Polycarp provides a direct link between second-century, monarchical episcopacy and the apostles, which supports the claim that the monarchical bishops of the second century were in fact successors of the apostles.

The Letter to Flora is one of the few surviving examples of literature from the early days of the school of Valentinus, who was a leading Gnostic thinker in Rome during the mid-second century. The fourth-century Church Father Epiphanius preserved the Letter to Flora in full in his heresiological work Panarion. The author of this letter was Ptolemy, a disciple of Valentinus. Irenaeus also discusses and condemns Ptolemy's teachings in Book I of his work Against Heresies (written c. 180 A.D.)

Many scholars believe the Ptolemy who wrote the Letter to Flora is the same Ptolemy martyred in Rome under the prefect Urbicus as discussed by Justin Martyr in his Second Apology (chapter 2).23 This would allow us to date the Letter to Flora to c. 150 A.D. (since Justin's Apologies are generally dated to the early 150s); if the two cannot be identified, it may be a decade or two later.24

The Letter to Flora is basically an argument for the existence of the Demiurge, a divine being who created the world and gave the Law of Moses but who is not "the perfect God." Toward the end of the letter, Ptolemy makes an important claim about the authority behind his teachings:
For, if God permits, you will receive further enlightenment about their principle and their generation, when you are judged worthy of the apostolic tradition that we too have received by succession, and once again you will measure all of our teachings against the words of the Saviour. (Letter to Flora 7.9, my translation)25 
Ptolemy here refers explicitly to a concept of apostolic tradition (tēs apostolikēs paradoseōs) transmitted by succession (diadochē), and claims that "we" (his school) have such a tradition and succession. What is particularly interesting is that he says we too. Throughout the letter Ptolemy has been attempting to refute Christians who disagree with his position on the Demiurge. Thus, by referring to "the apostolic tradition that we too have received by succession," he is effectively conceding that his proto-orthodox opponents have received apostolic tradition via succession. Indeed, it is precisely because his proto-orthodox opponents have a strong claim to have received apostolic tradition via succession that Ptolemy needs to make the same claim.26 Thus, Ptolemy is a hostile witness showing that the notion of apostolic tradition transmitted by succession was well-established in the mid-second century proto-orthodox Church. The mid-second century is precisely when we would expect the theological importance of apostolic succession to have become pronounced, since living memory of the apostles was fading.

In the second half of the second century, we find the first detailed explanation of the doctrine of apostolic succession. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, writing c. 180-185, argues that the catholic Church's ability to trace its doctrines back to the apostles via succession vindicates their validity. This is similar to Ptolemy's earlier claim, but unlike Ptolemy, Irenaeus produces concrete historical data in support: a succession list for the church at Rome going back to the apostles Peter and Paul, whom he names as its founders:27
After founding and building up the church, the blessed apostles delivered the ministry of the episcopate to Linus; Paul mentions this Linus in the letters to Timothy [2 Tim. 4:21]. Anacletus succeeded him, and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement received the lot of the episcopate; he had seen the apostles and met with them and still had the apostolic preaching in his ears and the tradition before his eyes. He was not alone, for many were then still alive who had been taught by the apostles… Evaristus succeeded this Clement; Alexander [followed] Evaristus; then Xystus was appointed, sixth from the apostles; from him, Telesphorus, who achieved martyrdom most gloriously; then Hyginus; then Pius, whose successor was Anicetus. After Soter had succeeded Anicetus, now in the twelfth place from the apostles Eleutherus holds the episcopate. With the same sequence and doctrine the tradition from the apostles in the church, and the preaching of truth, has come down to us. This is a complete proof that the life-giving faith is one and the same, preserved and transmitted in truth in the church from the apostles up till now.28
How historically reliable is Irenaeus's succession list? Contemporary critical historians offer various judgments. Hall asserts that "[Irenaeus's] list is probably valid from Sixtus (also called Xystos) onwards" but that the earlier names were deduced by "inventive manipulation."29  Lampe avers that Irenaeus's list is "with highest probability a historical construction from the 180s...a fictive construction,"30 while emphasizing (in contrast to Hall) that "The names that were woven into the construction were certainly not freely invented but were borrowed from the tradition of the city of Rome... They had belonged to the presbyters of Roman church history." Strand suspects that Irenaeus probably relied on Hegesippus's work (see below) but also "may very well have consulted records at Rome when he visited there ca. 178."31 The upshot is that we should neither uncritically accept this as an authentic list of monarchical bishops going back to the apostles, nor should we dismiss it via a "hermeneutic of suspicion." It is quite probable, given other information about early church order in Rome, that some of the individuals in Irenaeus's list functioned more like leading presbyters than monarchical bishops. This is still sufficient for the doctrine of apostolic succession.

Irenaeus was actually not the first to compile a Roman succession list. This distinction belongs to Hegesippus, c. 160 A.D. Hegesippus's writings do not survive, but fourth-century church historian Eusebius of Caesarea tells us:
Hegesippus has left a full record of his beliefs in five books that have come down to us. In them he tells of traveling to Rome and finding the same doctrine among all the bishops there. After some comments about Clement’s Letter to the Corinthians, he writes: 'The Corinthian church remained in the true doctrine until Primus became bishop. I conversed with the Corinthians on my voyage to Rome, and we were refreshed by the true doctrine. After arriving in Rome I compiled the succession down to Anicetus, whose deacon was Eleutherus. Anicetus was succeeded by Soter and he by Eleutherus. In each succession and in every city, preaching corresponds with the Law, the Prophets, and the Lord.'32
Scholars have proposed two models for the origin of the concept of episcopal succession, one being the succession of philosophers in a philosophical school and the other being "Jewish, Maccabean sacerdotal succession lists."33 The fourth-century writer Epiphanius (Panarion 27.6.1-7) also provides a Roman succession list that he claims to have taken from "certain historical works," widely regarded as a reference to Hegesippus's works.34 Epiphanius's list is identical with Irenaeus's except that Anicletus is called Cletus and that Epiphanius's list ends with Anicetus. Lampe argues that Hegesippus's comments show no concern with "a succession of monarchical bishops from the apostles to the present," but rather with "chain bearers of correct belief."35. I think Lampe's statement is correct up to a point. Hegesippus is explicitly concerned with the succession chain at the level of local churches, and he explicitly ends his list with an individual, Anicetus, who was his contemporary and whom he regarded as holding an individual office (monarchical bishop?), since he "was succeeded by Soter." Though one must concede that Hegesippus is not explicitly interested in a monarchical episcopate here, it does appear that he understood his list to consist of individual leaders in the church at Rome.

At the beginning of the third century, Tertullian makes an argument similar to that of Irenaeus, though he does not provide full succession lists:
But if any heresies venture to plant themselves in the apostolic age, so that they may be thought to have been handed down by the apostles because they existed in their time, we can say, Let them exhibit the origins of their churches, let them unroll the list of their bishops, coming down from the beginning by succession in such a way that their first bishop had for his originator and predecessor one of the apostles or apostolic men; one, I mean, who continued with the apostles. For this is how the apostolic churches record their origins. The church of Smyrna, for example, reports that Polycarp was placed there by John, the church of Rome that Clement was ordained by Peter.36
Tertullian's statement that Clement was ordained by Peter appears to conflict with the list of Irenaeus and Epiphanius, in which Clement is the third successor from the apostles. Epiphanius is already aware of this problem and discusses possible solutions. Bévenot has also suggested a solution under which Linus and Anencletus are mentioned parenthetically in Irenaeus's list.37

Thus we have reasonably early and reliable historical testimony from several writers concerning a succession of individual bearers of apostolic tradition going back to the apostles. The succession lists appear in the historical record right where we would expect them to, because by the mid- to late second century living memory of the apostles had faded, and competing Gnostic claims to have true apostolic doctrine had to be countered.

This article has served to introduce the reader to some of the most important historical evidence related to the doctrine of apostolic succession. The Pastoral Epistles and 1 Clement provide strong evidence that the apostles appointed other individuals to succeed them in their ministry, made provision for this succession to continue beyond the lifetime of their direct successors, and understood this office of "bishop" to be divinely ordained. The phenomenon of apostolic pseudepigraphy (represented, according to many scholars, in New Testament epistles such as 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Ephesians and 1 and 2 Peter), suggests that there were individuals in the early post-apostolic period who understood themselves as having apostolic authority to the extent that they could write under an apostle's name. In the Didache and the Ascension of Isaiah, we find some tension between the itinerant leadership of prophets and teachers and the resident leadership of bishops and/or presbyters and deacons. The ministry of the itinerant prophets and teachers is linked closely to that of the apostles, while the ministry of the resident bishops and deacons is identified with that of the itinerant prophets and teachers. In Ignatius of Antioch's letters we find for the first time a strong notion of monarchical episcopacy, a notion that receives the implicit endorsement of no less a figure than Polycarp of Smyrna in his Letter to the Philippians. In his mid-second century Letter to Flora, the Valentinian Gnostic Ptolemy tacitly concedes his proto-orthodox opponents' claim to have received apostolic tradition by succession. By the late second century, we have a well-developed doctrine of apostolic succession substantiated by succession lists for the church at Rome. By contrast, as Jones states, "In no case [in the first and second centuries] do we have any evidence of a loose egalitarian, wholly collegial form of government".38 All of this evidence is consistent with the Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession, as defined in the previous two articles.


  • 1 I hope Catholic readers will not take offence at my decision not to use the prefix "St." with the names of apostles and other saints in this article. I do so to avoid the appearance of anachronism in what is primarily an historical study.
  • 2 Towner states that "the command 'guard the deposit' involves both preserving and proclaiming the apostolic gospel", adding that "Within the flow of thought, succession is very much in mind" (The Letters to Timothy and Titus [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006], 476). He adds that "at v. 12 it becomes clear that Paul is not simply calling Timothy to a renewal of previous duties; he is rather preparing Timothy to be his successor in the mission" (ibid., 476-477). Again, "The continuity between Paul's ministry and Timothy's (and of those who will follow; cf. 2:1-2, which uses the same language) is underscored in the phrase 'what you heard from me.' It is precisely this apostolic continuity that ensures the purity of the message on into the next generation" (ibid., 477).
  • 3 Concerning Titus's task of appointing elders in every town, Towner writes, "Paul uses a verb that signifies official appointment, but he does not indicate much more about the procedure and how it is to be carried out. Most of the discussion in the commentaries concerns the degree to which the task is Titus's or to be shared by the church. At a minimum, given the Cretan churches' early state, probably the candidates would have been selected by the communities that knew them best, with Titus's delegated apostolic authority being applied as the final seal of recognition and appointment to leadership (signified publicly by the laying on of hands; cf. 1 Tim 4:14; 5:22; 2 Tim 1:6)" (ibid., 680).
  • 4 translations of Apostolic Fathers texts are taken, unless otherwise indicated, from Bart D. Ehrman, The Apostolic Fathers, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003).
  • 5 Note the vexing text-critical problem surrounding the Greek phrase that Ehrman translates, "added a codicil." Holmes translates, "they gave the offices a permanent character," and comments, "lit. (reading epimonēn, the emendation printed by Lightfoot) have given permanence, i.e., to the offices of bishop and deacon. The witnesses vary widely, with the most likely reading being that of A, epinomēn. But it is difficult to make sense of the word unless one either assumes the existence of a secondary meaning such as 'injunction' (a meaning otherwise unattested) or gives it the same meaning as the cognate word epinomis, a 'codicil' or 'supplement'. The translation would then run something like 'added a codicil' or 'made a decree'" (Michael W. Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007], 78 n. 108). The possibility of an apostolic decree is supported by the decree on requirements of Gentile converts found in Acts 15:22-29.
  • 6 Cf. Stephen J. Patterson, "Didache 11-13: The Legacy of Radical Itinerancy in Early Christianity," in Clayton N. Jefford, ed., The Didache in Context: Essays on its Text, History, and Transmission (Leiden: Brill, 1995), 315-318.
  • 7 See Towner's comment in note 3 above about Titus's modus operandi in appointing elders in every town: this may have involved a process where the local congregation elected a candidate whom Titus then approved and ratified. Note also how Ignatius urges Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, to "call a council that is pleasing to God and to elect someone whom you hold most dear and resolved" to travel as a messenger to Syria (Polyc. 7.2). This illustrates how a communal "election" was not necessarily a wholly egalitarian process but could occur under the instructions and supervision of authority figures. Note also de Halleux's comment on the Didachist's voice: "as soon as the compiler emerges timidly from the traditions which he transmits and betrays something of his identity, it is in order to appear as the messenger of a ‘teaching’, in other words as a teacher 1:3; 2:1; 6:1; 11:1-2). However, unlike the prophet, an inspired teacher who receives revelations from on high and penetrates the secrets of the heart, the humble teacher is a man of tradition, of halakah, only concerned with faithfulness in the transmission of the past. That our Didachist fits into this last category, stands out clearly from the content and style of all he has written, and the appeal to the prophet as guardian of the traditional doctrine of the church, sanctioned by the Spirit, would not here be an abuse of language." (André de Halleux, "Ministers in the Didache," in Jonathan A. Draper (ed.), The Didache in Modern Research [Leiden: Brill, 1996], 319).
  • 8 "It is clear that, whenever this instruction was added to the Didache, such persons were not routinely being given high honours—and perhaps never had been. The prophets, not surprisingly, emerge as highly honored persons (see, e.g., Did. 13.3), and together with the teachers their treatment sets the example for the honour to be given these others.” (Jonathan Schwiebert, Knowledge and the Coming Kingdom: The Didache's Meal Ritual and its Place in Early Christianity [London: T&T Clark, 2008], 95).
  • 9 De Halleux, op. cit., 313.
  • 10 Sullivan states, "Would the community have asked a prophet to lay hands on those whom they chose as overseers and deacons? There is no mention of this, but it does not seem unlikely, as this was a gesture of prayer, calling down the Spirit on those chosen for ministry. One can recall that at Antioch, the other prophets laid hands on Barnabas and Saul when they were sent out as missionaries (Acts 13:3)" (Francis Aloysius Sullivan, From Apostles to Bishops: The Development of the Episcopacy in the Early Church [Mahwah: Newman, 2001], 90). Similarly, Carrington: "The local churches had a ministry of bishops and deacons which they were directed to appoint for themselves, the first and indeed the only case in which appointments are said to be made by the congregation. In the Acts, seven ‘deacons’ were nominated by the congregation for ordination by the apostles, and possibly the Didache visualized a similar procedure, but it says nothing about the manner of ordination" (Philip Carrington, The Early Christian Church, 2 vols. [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1957], 1:495). Milavec, too, although he is critical of another scholar for discovering "episcopal ordinations hidden behind the silence of the text," himself states: "While the Didache makes no mention of ordination, one can allow that, given the Jewish roots of the framers of the Didache, the laying on of hands may have been used as the normal means whereby bishops admitted an elected candidate into their circle of bishops" (Aaron E. Milavec, The Didache: Faith, Hope, and Life of the Earliest Christian Communities, 50-70 C.E. [Mahwah: Newman, 2003], 609, 613).
  • 11 Trans. M. A. Knibb, "Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah: A New Translation and Introduction," in James H. Charlesworth (ed)., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2 vols. [Peabody: Hendrickson, 1983/2011], 2:161.
  • 12 Paolo Bettiolo, Alda Giambelluca Kossova, Claudio Leonardi, Enrico Norelli, and Lorenzo Perrone, Ascensio Isaiae: Textus (Brepols: Turnhout, 1995), 45. This passage is, fortunately, part of the fragment of the Ascension that is preserved in a Greek manuscript.
  • 13 Enrico Norelli, Ascensio Isaiae: Commentarius (Brepols: Turnhout, 1995), 194-95.
  • 14 This is a loose translation of Norelli's comment, which in Italian reads thus: "La struttura della comunità supposta da AI 1-5 pare fondarsi su di una direzione collegiale di presbiteri, tra i quali sembrano distinguersi i pastori / episcopi dotati di particolare autorità" (Norelli, op. cit., 219).
  • 15 Norelli, op. cit., 195.
  • 16 Jonathan Knight, Disciples of the Beloved One: The Christology, Social Setting and Theological Context of the Ascension of Isaiah (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1996), 198.
  • 17 Knight, op. cit., 202.
  • 18 Knight, op. cit., 202-204.
  • 19 Ehrman, op. cit., 1:205-207.
  • 20 Paul Foster, "The Epistles of Ignatius of Antioch, part 1," Expository Times 117 (2006): 492.
  • 21 Trans. Ehrman, op. cit., 1:223.
  • 22 Polycarp's letter is from "Polycarp and the presbyters who are with him" (Phil. prescript), which implies his own preeminence and is consistent with a self-understanding as a monarchical bishop with presbyters subordinate to him.
  • 23 Three points favour this identification. First, both men were Christian teachers named Ptolemy living in Rome in the mid-second century. Justin's Ptolemy was denounced and eventually martyred for teaching Christianity to a certain unnamed woman, while Ptolemy's Letter to Flora contains elementary Christian teaching (of a Gnostic variety) addressed to a woman, Flora. The woman mentioned by Justin was involved in a difficult marriage situation but was implored by her Christian advisers to remain in the marriage; the Letter to Flora mentions and reinforces Jesus's teachings against divorce. These parallels seem too great to be coincidental. The main argument against identifying the two Ptolemies is that Justin paints a very favourable portrait of Ptolemy, whereas the Ptolemy who wrote the Letter to Flora is condemned as a heretic from the Valentinian school by Irenaeus and later authors. What is more, Justin himself, in another work, names the Valentinians among the heretics whom he calls "impious atheists and wicked sinners, men who profess Jesus in name only, but do not really worship" (Dialogue with Trypho 35.5-6, Thomas P. Halton, St. Justin Martyr: Dialogue with Trypho, ed. Michael Slusser, trans. Thomas B. Falls [Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 2003], 55). This difficulty is not insurmountable, however. Justin's Dialogue with Trypho is generally believed to have been written a few years later than the Apologies (the Dialogue mentions an Apology), so it is possible that Justin was not yet familiar with the Valentinians' teachings when he wrote about Ptolemy. Alternatively, Justin may have been familiar with the Valentinians already but may not have known that Ptolemy was a Valentinian. Thus, while we cannot be certain, it appears likely that Ptolemy the author was also Ptolemy the martyr.
  • 24 In Irenaeus's Against Heresies, he refers twice to Ptolemy's followers and only once to Ptolemy directly, which may suggest Ptolemy himself was no longer active by 180 A.D.
  • 25 Quispel's French translation of the verse is as follows: "Car, si Dieu le permet, vous recevrez plus tard des éclaircissements plus précis sur leur principe et leur naissance, quand vous aurez été jugée digne de connaître la tradition des apôtres, tradition que, nous aussi, nous avons reçue par voie de succession. En ce cas aussi, nous confirmerons nos conceptions par les paroles du Sauveur." (Gilles Quispel, Ptolémée, Lettre à Flora: Texte, Traduction et Introduction [Paris: Cerf, 1949], 69).
  • 26 Quispel notes Clement of Alexandria's observation that the heretics claimed that Valentinus was a hearer of Theudas, a pupil of Paul (Strom. 7.106; Clement rejects this and claims that the heretics arose after the apostles' time, during the reign of Hadrian). Perhaps this is what Ptolemy is referring to in his assertion to Flora about apostolic succession. However, the proliferation of "secret gospels" and the like suggests that the Gnostics did not have a reliable claim to apostolic succession, in contrast to the proto-orthodox Church where the apostles' successors held public ecclesiastical office.
  • 27 He claims that such succession could be proven for every church, but that to avoid tedium he is reproducing the list only for Rome, which he considers the preeminent church.
  • 28 Against Heresies 3.3.3, trans. Robert M. Grant, Irenaeus of Lyons (New York: Routledge, 1997), 7-8.
  • 29 Stuart G. Hall, Doctrine and Practice in the Early Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 60-61.
  • 30 Peter Lampe, Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries: From Paul to Valentinus, trans. Michael Steinhauser, ed. Marshall D. Johnson (London: T&T Clark, 2003), 404-406.
  • 31 Kenneth A. Strand, "Peter and Paul in Relationship to the Episcopal Succession in the Church at Rome," Andrews University Seminary Studies 3 (1992): 221.
  • 32 Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 4.22, trans. Paul L. Maier, Eusebius: The Church History: Translation and Commentary (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2007), 139.
  • 33 Allen Brent, Hippolytus and the Roman Church in the Third Century: Communities in tension before the emergence of a monarch-bishop (Leiden: Brill, 1995), 446.
  • 34 So Strand, op. cit., 221.
  • 35 Lampe, op. cit., 404.
  • 36 Tertullian, Prescriptions against the Heretics 32, trans. Stanley L. Greenslade, Early Latin Theology: Selections from Tertullian, Cyprian, Ambrose, and Jerome (Philadelphia: Westminster John Knox, 1956), 52-53.
  • 37 "Now Clement is ‘in the third place from the apostles’. For us, with this context, 'from the apostles' is equivalent to ‘after the apostles’, and we instinctively think of Linus and Anencletus as being the first two. But ‘after the apostles’ would have been μετὰ τοὺς ἀποστόλους, and not, as Irenaeus wrote, από των αποστόλων. In his mind, the first two were Peter and Paul, the founders of the Roman Church, whom he had just named, and not Linus and Anencletus, in spite of his mentioning them. Had Irenaeus been merely giving the order of those who followed the apostles and had meant to include Linus and Anencletus among them, there was no reason for him to add τρίτῳ τόπῳ ἀπὸ τῶν ἀποστόλων when introducing Clement. He showed by this that he was by-passing those two, putting them in a kind of parenthesis, and linking Clement directly with the apostles. This is a necessary conclusion from the correct use of από in connexion with some ordinal number; it meant 'beginning with, inclusively', and not ‘from’ in the sense of ‘after’… Irenaeus no doubt found Linus and Anencletus mentioned in his source—the first especially, as having been a companion of St. Paul—but he knew that the one to whom had been transferred the full apostolic authority was Clement and no other. That is why he felt it necessary to add ἀπὸ τῶν ἀποστόλων, which otherwise seems so superfluous, and he repeated the phrase twice more (for Sixtus and for Eleutherus), to remove all doubt that it was indeed from and including the apostles that he was making his enumeration. When he wanted to say ‘after’, he used μετά, which occurs three times in the course of his list. He little realized what problems he was raising; even Eusebius mistook his meaning. But Tertullian did not…" (Maurice Bévenot, “Clement of Rome in Irenaeus’s Succession-List,” Journal of Theological Studies 17 [1966]: 102-105.)
  • 38 David Albert Jones, "Was there a Bishop of Rome in the First Century?", New Blackfriars 80 (1999): 138.

Thursday 5 November 2015

Supernatural Evil in the Apostolic Fathers (8): The Didache

The Didache is a document which most scholars date "sometime around the year 100, possibly a decade or so later."1 A minority of scholars date the text much earlier, to the mid-first century.2 As to the place of origin, "it is now widely accepted that the text originates in the general area of Syria, or more narrowly in Antioch."3

The Didache is a compilation of different source materials and therefore a "generically mixed composition"4 which "cannot be considered a homogeneous text."5 As a whole its genre is usually described as a church manual or something similar. Concerning the theology of the work, Niederwimmer (one of the world's foremost Didache experts) offers some important caveats:
[The Didache] is aimed practical needs and lacks any theoretical or even speculative exposition of Christian belief…The Didache is not a ‘theological’ work but a rule for ecclesiastical praxis, a handbook of church morals, ritual, and discipline.6
Later, Niederwimmer adds:
His book tells us little or nothing of his ‘theology,’ if he had one at all. It is written without any theoretical claims and is entirely focused on the praxis and order of community life. Individual theological motifs are evident, but only in passing and without systematic reflection. A reconstruction of the ‘theology of the Didache’ would therefore be a foolish enterprise. All we can say is that attention should be paid to the author’s fundamentally conservative stance.7
Bearing these caveats in mind, our aim here is not to reconstruct the theological beliefs of the Didachist concerning supernatural evil. Rather, we will investigate whether there are any indications within the text that it reflects a tradition or a community which believed in supernatural evil.

There are a number of relevant passages which require close exegesis. Due to the space constraints of a blog post, the exegesis will be abbreviated here, but most of the material is covered in more detail in a previous work.8

The 'de-angelization' of the Two Ways tradition

The Didache opens with an ethical teaching which contrasts right and wrong ways of living.
There are two paths, one of life and one of death, and the difference between the two paths is great. (Didache 1.1)9
It is one of a number of early Christian works to make use of a traditional Two Ways teaching. The Epistle of Barnabas and the Doctrina Apostolorum explicitly contain cosmic dualism in their Two Ways material: in Barnabas 18.1-2 the light-bringing angels of God are juxtaposed with the angels of Satan, while in Doctrina 1.1 one reads of two angels, one of righteousness, the other of iniquity. By contrast, the Didache's Two Ways material makes no reference to angels, good or bad. What are we to make of this?

First of all, in their reconstruction of the hypothetical Jewish Two Ways source on which these Christian texts ultimately depend, van de Sandt and Flusser conclude that the Doctrina follows the original wording.10 Similarly, Draper argues that the reference to Satan has been added by Barnabas rather than being taken over from his source.11 What this means is that the Didachist has not removed a reference to Satan (because his source did not contain any reference to Satan), but he has removed the reference to the two angels.12

The question is, why was the reference to the two angels removed? This is, of course, not something we can know for certain. Van de Sandt and Flusser mention two possibilities:
The absence of these elements from the Didache might have occurred by accident in the course of transmission or might have been the result of a deliberate attempt to ethicize the tradition.13
It appears that the majority of scholars favour the second view, that the removal of the angels represents a deliberate ethicizing or demythologizing move.14 Of these scholars, Milavec goes into the most detail on the suggested motive. He suggests novice Christians who had abandoned idolatry might have feared retribution from the gods had their power been equated with supernatural power. Hence the Didache's diminution of supernatural evil in this passage is due to its pastoral, or more specifically catechetical, purpose.

It should be noted, however, that others who see the removal of the angels as deliberate propose quite different motives. Both Chester and Jenks think the motive is to make the apocalyptic ending of the Didache (chapter 16) more climactic.15 Niederwimmer states that the two angels motif may have been omitted simply "because it plays no part in the exposition that follows."16

Reconstructions of the Didachist's motives in the apparent excision of the two angels motif are ultimately conjectural. They may suggest a relative lack of interest in cosmic dualism or in the spirit world on the part of this author in comparison to the author of Barnabas, for instance. What it does not suggest, however, is that the Didachist denied the existence of supernatural evil. (To my knowledge, no scholar has defended such a claim in print). If one were to argue this from the omission of the two angels motif here and the Didache's alleged silence elsewhere on supernatural evil (on which see below), one might as well argue that the Didachist did not believe in angels at all. The evidence is the same: the Didachist has removed a reference to an angel of righteousness from the Two Ways tradition, and the extant text of the Didache makes no mention of angels.17

tou ponērou in the Lord's Prayer

Didache 8.2 contains a version of the Lord's Prayer which "agrees strongly with the one handed on by Matthew, with some characteristic deviations from the latter."18
Nor should you pray like the hypocrites, but as the Lord commanded in his gospel, you should pray as follows: 'Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy, may your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread [Or: the bread that we need; or: our bread for tomorrow]. And forgive us our debt, as we forgive our debtors. And do not bring us into temptation but deliver us from the evil one [Or: from evil]. For the power and the glory are yours forever. (Didache 8.2)19
While it was previously assumed that the Didache is dependent on Matthew, the scholarly consensus is now that the two writers drew on shared tradition but have no literary dependence on one another.20 Accordingly the similarities in the Lord's Prayer are held to "rest on a common liturgical tradition."21

The petition that interests us is identical in Matt. 6:13 and Didache 8.2 (but absent from Luke 11:2-4): alla rhusai hēmas apo tou ponērou. It is grammatically ambiguous whether tou ponērou is masculine or neuter, and the meaning of this term in the Matthean prayer is a famous exegetical problem which has been debated since the patristic period. The majority of contemporary scholars regard tou ponērou as masculine in Matt. 6:13, meaning 'the evil one' par excellence, i.e. Satan,22 while a minority take it to mean 'evil' abstractly.23 In the case of Didache 8.2, it is unclear which reading enjoys majority support, with a roughly equal number (according to this author's survey) rendering 'evil'.24 and 'the evil one.'25

The incongruity in scholarly opinion concerning tou ponērou in Didache versus Matthew is surprising since the literature cited above contains virtually no exegetical arguments on the phrase's meaning in the Didache specifically. Presumably the incongruity is because there is no contextual basis in the Didache for Satanological use of this term, whereas Matthew clearly uses the masculine ho ponēros for Satan (Matt. 13:19; cf. 5:37; 13:38). However, since the petition is identical in both documents and is believed to pre-date both documents, it is more likely than not that the same understanding of the petition prevailed in both Matthew's and the Didachist's community. Thus 'the evil one' is the more likely meaning in Didache 8.2 as in Matt. 6:13. ho ponēros seems to have been the third most widely used Satanological designation in the early church, after ho diabolos and ho satanas.26 Certainly the probability of a reference to Satan here is high enough to render dubious any argument from silence for the Didache community's non-belief in supernatural evil.

The spirit in which false prophets speak

The Didache makes no explicit reference to demons or exorcism. This silence is most notable in Didache 6.3, where the rejection of idol food is enjoined without reference to demons. We have already referred to Milavec's suggestion that this silence is part of a pastoral strategy for the Gentile initiates for whom the Two Ways teaching is intended. It does not necessarily represent a comprehensive polemic against idolatry. Indeed, the claim that idols are dead gods is similar to the claim of Justin Martyr that idols are "lifeless and dead." Justin, however, still proceeds to link idols to demons (1 Apology 9). Hence, the Didache's brief polemic against idolatry here does not prove that the writer disbelieved in demons.

One passage which may implicitly presuppose the existence of demons is the warning against false prophets in Didache 11.7-12.
7 Also, do not test or evaluate any prophet who speaks in the spirit, for every sin will be forgiven, but this sin will not be forgiven. 8 However, not everyone who speaks in the spirit is a prophet, but only if he exhibits the Lord's ways. By his conduct, therefore, will the false prophet and the prophet be recognized. 9 Furthermore, any prophet who orders a meal in the spirit shall not partake of it; if he does, he is a false prophet. 10 If any prophet teaches the truth, yet does not practice what he teaches, he is a false prophet. 11 But any prophet proven to be genuine who does something with a view to portraying in a worldly manner the symbolic meaning of the church (provided that he does not teach you to do all that he himself does) is not to be judged by you, for his judgment is with God. Besides, the ancient prophets also acted in a similar manner. 12 But if anyone should say in the spirit, 'Give me money' or anything else, do not listen to him. But if he tells you to give on behalf of others who are in need, let no one judge him. (Didache 11.7-12)27
The passage refers to prophets speaking en pneumati. Some translations render this 'in the Spirit' or 'in the spirit',28 while others render it 'in a spirit'.29 Since en pneumati is used of both genuine and false prophets, there are no grounds for translating it 'in the [Holy] Spirit' when applied to the genuine prophets and 'in a [demonic?] spirit' when applied to false prophets.30 As Tibbs states, "All of the statements [in Didache 11.7-12] are uttered by a prophet en pneumati, indicating that a foreign spirit is speaking through the prophet."31 The key point here is that the text neither explicitly differentiates between the kind of spirit inspiring the two types of prophets, nor does it imply that they are possessed by the same spirit.32 It simply states that they speak under inspiration of a spirit.33

Tibbs appears to favour Richardson's view that in the Didache, lalounta en pneumati means "literally, speaking in a spirit, i.e. speaking while possessed by a divine or demonic spirit."34 Thompson similarly describes the false prophets of Didache 11.8, 12 as "spirit possessed."35 Other scholars who regard it as likely that en pneumati, as applied to false prophets here, refers to demonic inspiration, include De Halleux36 and Draper.37

That the Didache envisions false prophets as inspired by an evil spirit is enhanced by comparison with other early Christian texts. The first comparison is with Paul. Both the Didache and Paul give an example of something bad a spirit-inspired person might hypothetically say: in the Didache's case, "Give me money" (Didache 11.12) and in Paul's case, "Jesus is accursed" (1 Cor. 12:3). However, while the Didache asserts that someone speaking en pneumati might say such a thing, Paul asserts that someone speaking en pneumati theou could never say such a thing. It is clear that Paul is referring to the Holy Spirit (or at least a holy spirit) since he supplies the qualifier theou. If the Didache's en pneumati refers to the Holy Spirit (or a holy spirit) then it contradicts Paul's statement. If, however, the Didache envisions a false prophet as inspired by a demonic spirit, then Didache 11.12 and 1 Cor. 12:3 are harmonious. No one speaking in a/the spirit of God can say bad things, but a person speaking in evil spirit might.

The second comparison is with the Shepherd of Hermas.38 In Mandates 11.1-3, Hermas asserts that false prophets are filled with the devil's spirit.39 This passage otherwise contains parallels with Didache 11.7-12; for instance, both writings advise using a prophet's behaviour as a criterion by which to discern true and false prophets.40

Other early Christian texts which appear to presuppose that false prophets and teachers can be inspired or possessed by spirits other than a/the Holy Spirit include 1 John 4:1-3,41 1 Cor. 12:10,42 and 1 Tim. 4:1.43

The world-deceiver

The world-deceiver (Greek: ho kosmoplanēs) is a figure who appears in the Didache's brief apocalyptic ending:
For when lawlessness increases they will hate, persecute and betray one another. Then the world-deceiver will be manifest as a son of God. He will perform signs and wonders, and the earth will be delivered over into his hands. He will perform lawless deeds, unlike anything done from eternity. (Didache 16.4)44
This is the only extant occurrence of the noun kosmoplanēs in early Christian literature.45 Is the world-deceiver a supernatural figure? One encounters three different answers to this question in the scholarly literature. (1) Some scholars regard the world-deceiver as a human persecutor with no supernatural empowerment.46 (2) Some scholars regard the world-deceiver as a human persecutor who has diabolical or demonic connections.47 (3) Some scholars think the world-deceiver is Satan.48

There is no explicit indication in Didache 16 that the world-deceiver is Satan or is associated with satanic or demonic power. However, two lines of evidence point to at least an association, if not identification, of the world-deceiver with Satan. The first line of evidence consists of tradition-historical parallels. The closest early Christian parallel to the term 'world-deceiver' is ho planōn tēn oikoumenēn holēn ('the one deceiving the whole world') in Rev. 12:9, which is a description of Satan. Niederwimmer notes numerous parallels to the idea of "The devil who alters his appearance" (just as the world-deceiver is "manifest as (hōs) a son of God"),49 and also to the idea of an evil eschatological figure who deceives the world50 and uses signs and wonders.51 Other important parallels include Ascension of Isaiah 4 and Apocalypse of Peter 2. Draper adds that eschatological opponent traditions in the Qumran literature provide valuable background to Didache 16, and that in these texts, "The underlying conception is that the Sons of Darkness are marshaled and inspired by a particular representative of Belial."52

The second line of evidence is that the language used of the world-deceiver has supernatural connotations. He is manifest (phanēsetai) as a son of God, and he performs signs and wonders (sēmeia kai terata). The verb phainō is frequently used of appearances by transcendent figures such as angels and Jesus.53 Meanwhile, sēmeia kai terata is a hendiadys which in the New Testament denotes "miracles worked by Jesus or his followers, on the one hand, and by those opposed them, on the other."54 This phrase has its biblical background in the LXX, where it is frequently used of divine miracles.55 Twelftree states that
among educated Greeks of the period the phrase was used of purported marvels, such as lightning strikes, showers of stones, stars shining for seven days, dreams, an eclipse of the sun, monstrous births and a statue moving.56
There is a widespread early Christian tradition of "signs and wonders" being performed by eschatological evil figures, including in the NT.57 The most likely biblical background to this idea is Deut. 13:1-5,58 which legislates concerning false prophets or dreamers who are nonetheless capable of announcing signs and wonders which take place.

Numerous scholars regard the signs and wonders in Didache 16.4 and other similar texts as real manifestations of supernatural power which are deceitful in their intent, rather than merely feigned signs and wonders which lack any power.59

Hence, while it is impossible to be certain about the precise relationship between Satan and the world-deceiver of the tradition preserved in Didache 16.4, there is ample evidence to conclude that this figure, even if merely human himself, is regarded as having access to supernatural power (like the 'man of lawlessness' of 2 Thess. 2).

The Didache's lost ending

Most scholars agree that the Didache's ending in the only full manuscript (the Bryennios manuscript) is incomplete.60 This is based on physical evidence in the manuscript, as well as the abruptness of the extant ending, which does not deal with the demise of the world-deceiver or the destiny of the saints. A fourth-century document known as the Apostolic Constitutions contains a paraphrase of the Didache. Its version of Didache 16.8 (where the Bryennios manuscript breaks off) reads and continues as follows:
Then the world will see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven with the angels of His power, in the throne of His kingdom, to condemn the devil, the deceiver of the world, and to render to every one according to his deeds. Then shall the wicked go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous shall enter eternal life, to inherit those things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, such things as God hath prepared for them that love Him. And they shall rejoice in the kingdom of God, which is in Christ Jesus. (Apostolic Constitutions 7.32.2f)61
This passage "has been widely accepted as proof for a ‘lost ending’ of the Didache which can or must be accepted as that text which fits into the last seven lines of the Bryennios manuscript."62

Aldridge, who offers a detailed analysis of the matter of the Didache's lost ending, concludes concerning the above passage from Apostolic Constitutions, "There is good evidence that this is the Didache's true ending (approximately)."63 His best effort at a reconstruction of the Didache's lost ending consists of this passage, verbatim.64 Draper similarly states that it seems likely that Apostolic Constitutions has "preserved the ending faithfully."65 Others are more cautious. Niederwimmer allows that the lost ending of the Didache might have been similar either to what we find in Apostolic Constitutions or the ending of the Georgian version of the Didache (which reads quite differently), but prudently states, "I shall not be bold enough to attempt to reconstitute the lost conclusion of the Didache by conjecture."66 Verheyden and van de Sandt and Flusser also regard the Apostolic Constitutions as being of some value but only as a paraphrase of the Didache and hence insufficient for reconstruction of the lost ending.67 Milavec denies that Apostolic Constitutions preserves the lost ending to any degree and expresses doubt that there ever was a lost ending!68

The importance of this Apostolic Constitutions passage to our topic is that, if it preserves the Didache's lost ending word-for-word, then the original text of the Didache contained an explicit reference to the devil, and confirms the satanic identity of the world-deceiver. Scholars who have commented on this point specifically doubt that the Didache itself mentioned the devil explicitly at this point.69 Stylistically, it seems more likely that the Didache would identify the eschatological opponent as the devil immediately in 16.4 rather than using the term world-deceiver without qualification and only subsequently identifying this figure as the devil. Accordingly, we can conclude that it is improbable (but not impossible) that the original ending to the Didache explicitly mentioned the devil. Even so, Apostolic Constitutions is still of value for exegesis of Didache 16.4 because it means that the earliest extant interpretation of this text identifies the world-deceiver as the devil.


The passages from the Didache which are relevant to our topic contain significant exegetical difficulties so that it is impossible to draw any definitive conclusions about the presence of supernatural evil in this text. This document apparently shows a certain reticence to discuss transcendent beings (good and evil), at least in its catechetical material (Didache 1.1). The Didache may contain two distinct references to Satan and/or an eschatological figure with satanic associations (Didache 8.2; 16.4 and lost ending), although in neither case can the satanic referent be established beyond doubt. A fairly strong circumstantial case can be built that Didache 11.7-12 presupposes that false prophets are inspired by a diabolical or demonic spirit. All told, Niederwimmer is right that it would be foolish to try to dogmatically reconstruct the Didachist's theology. However, there is nothing in the Didache that is out of sorts with the worldview that emerges from the other Apostolic Fathers writings we have considered, which collectively witness to a belief in supernatural evil beings.


  • 1 Ehrman, B. (2003). (Ed. & trans.). The Apostolic Fathers (Vol. 1). Cambridge: Harvard University Press, p. 411.
  • 2 Draper, J. A. (2006). The Apostolic Fathers: The Didache. The Expository Times, 117(5), 177-181. Here p. 178.
  • 3 ibid.
  • 4 Niederwimmer, K. (1998). The Didache: A Commentary. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, p. 1.
  • 5 Van De Sandt, H. & Flusser, D. (2002). The Didache: Its Jewish Sources and its Place in Early Judaism and Christianity. Assen: Royal Van Gorcum, p. 28.
  • 6 Niederwimmer, op. cit., p. 2; van de Sandt & Flusser, op. cit., p. xv make a similar observation
  • 7 Niederwimmer, op. cit., p. 228.
  • 8 Farrar, T.J. (2015). Satan and Demons in the Apostolic Fathers: A Response to J. Burke. Retrieved 05/11/2015 from http://www.dianoigo.com/publications/Satan_and_Demons_in_the_Apostolic_Fathers_-_A_Response_to_%E2%80%98Then_the_Devil_Left%E2%80%99_by_J._Burke.pdf, pp. 7-20.
  • 9 Ehrman, op. cit., p. 417.
  • 10 van de Sandt & Flusser, op. cit., p. 128.
  • 11 Draper, J.A. (1995). Barnabas and the Riddle of the Didache Revisited. Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 17(58), 89-113. Here pp. 98, 102.
  • 12 Niederwimmer, op. cit., p. 63; Kloppenborg, J.S. (1995). The Transformation of Moral Exhortation in Didache 1-5. In C.N. Jefford (Ed.), The Didache in Context: Essays on its Text, History, and Transmission (pp. 88-109). Leiden: Brill, pp. 93, 97; Suggs, M.J. (1972). The Christian Two Ways Tradition: Its Antiquity, Form and Function. In A.P. Wikgren & D.E. Aune (Eds.), Studies in New Testament in Early Christian Literature: Essays in Honor of Allen P. Wikgren (pp. 60-74). Leiden: Brill, p. 71; Milavec, A.E. (2003). The Didache: Faith, Hope and Life of the Earliest Christian Communities. Mahwah: Paulist Press, p. 65; Jefford, C.N. (1989). The Sayings of Jesus in the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. Leiden: Brill, p. 27; van de Sandt & Flusser, op. cit., p. 119. It is also possible that the angels were removed at an intermediate stage between the original Two Ways source and the Didache, as noted by Niederwimmer.
  • 13 van de Sandt & Flusser, op. cit., p. 63; similarly Jefford, op. cit., p. 27.
  • 14 van de Sandt & Flusser, op. cit., p. 119; Suggs, op. cit., p. 71; Draper, J.A. (1983). A Commentary on the Didache in the light of the Dead Sea Scrolls and related documents. PhD Dissertation, St. John’s College, University of Cambridge, p. 19; Kloppenborg, op. cit., pp. 99f; Milavec, op. cit., p. 65.
  • 15 Chester, A. (1992). The Parting of the Ways: Eschatology and Messianic Hope. In J.D.G. Dunn (Ed.), Jews and Christians: The Parting of the Ways, A.D. 70 to 135 (pp. 239-314). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 287; Jenks, G.C. (1990). The Origins and Early Development of the Antichrist Myth. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, pp. 308-310.
  • 16 Niederwimmer, op. cit., p. 63.
  • 17 The hagioi of Didache 16.7, a quotation from Zech. 14:5 LXX, are agreed by most scholars to be the resurrected saints (Bauckham, R. (1990/2004). Jude and the Relatives of Jesus in the Early Church. London: T&T Clark, p. 291; Varner, W. (2007). The Way of the Didache: The First Christian Handbook. Lanham: University Press of America, p. 44; Peerbolte, L.J.L. (1996). The Antecedents of Antichrist: A Traditio-Historical Study of the Earliest Christian Views on Eschatological Opponents. Leiden: Brill, p. 179; Strecker, G. (2000). Theology of the New Testament. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, p. 646; Milavec, A.E. (1995).The Saving Efficacy of the Burning Process in Did. 16.5. In C.N. Jefford (Ed.), The Didache in Context: Essays on its Text, History, and Transmission (pp. 131-155). Leiden: Brill, p. 152 n. 51; Verheyden, J. (2005). Eschatology in the Didache and the Gospel of Matthew. In H. van de Sandt (Ed.), Matthew and the Didache: Two Documents from the Same Jewish-Christian Milieu? (pp. 193- 216). Assen: Royal Van Gorcum, p. 211.). It is possible that the Didache's lost ending (on which see below) mentioned angels, since the Apostolic Constitutions and the Georgian version of the Didache do at this point in the text. However, this is far from certain. For instance, Garrow's reconstruction of the Didache's ending makes no mention of angels (Garrow, A.J.P. (2009). The Eschatological Tradition behind 1 Thessalonians: Didache 16. Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 32(2), 191-215. Here pp. 203-204.)
  • 18 Niederwimmer, op. cit., pp. 135-136.
  • 19 Ehrman, op. cit., pp. 429-430.
  • 20 Milavec, A. (2005). A Rejoinder. Journal of Early Christian Studies, 13(4), 519-523; Young, S.E. (2011). Jesus Tradition in the Apostolic Fathers: Their Explicit Appeals to the Words of Jesus in Light of Orality Studies. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, pp. 209-210; Van De Sandt, H. (2008). Matthew and the Didache. In D.C. Sim & B. Repschinski (Eds.), Matthew and his Christian Contemporaries (pp. 123-138). London: T&T Clark, p. 124.
  • 21 Niederwimmer, op. cit., p. 136; so also van de Sandt & Flusser, op. cit., p. 295.
  • 22 E.g. Ayo, N. (2002). The Lord's Prayer: A Survey Theological and Literary. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, p. 95; Goulder, M.D. (1963). The Composition of the Lord’s Prayer. Journal of Theological Studies, 14(1), 32-45. Here p. 42; Kistemaker, S.J. (1978). The Lord’s Prayer in the First Century. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 21(4), 323-328. Here p. 324; Van Tilborg, S. (1972). Form-criticism of the Lord’s Prayer. Novum Testamentum, 14(2), 94-105. Here p. 104; Garland, D.E. (1992). The Lord’s Prayer in the Gospel of Matthew. Review & Expositor, 89(2), 215-228. Here p. 226; Bruner, F.D. (2012). Matthew: The Christbook, Vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 314; Carson, D.A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D.E. Garland (Eds.), Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 9 (pp. 23-670). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, p. 269; Davies, W.D. & Allison, D.C., Jr. (1988/2004). Matthew 1-7. London: T&T Clark, p. 614; De Bruin, T. (2014). The great controversy: The individual’s struggle between good and evil in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs and in their Jewish and Christian contexts. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, p. 166 n. 11; Evans, C.A. (2012). Matthew. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 148; Grimshaw, J.P. (2008). The Matthean Community and the World: An Analysis of Matthew’s Food Exchange. Bern: Peter Lang, p. 208 n. 52; Gundry, R.H. (1994). Matthew: A Commentary on his Handbook for a Mixed Church under Persecution. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 109; Keener, C.S. (1999). A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 223; Talbert, C.H. (2010). Matthew. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, p. 89; Turner, D.L. (2008). Matthew. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, p. 189; Tournay, R.J. (1998). Ne nous laisse pas entrer en tentation. Nouvelle Revue Théologique, 120(3), 440-443; Branden, R.C. (2006). Satanic Conflict and the Plot of Matthew. Bern: Peter Lang, p. 111; Page, S.H.T. (1995). Powers of Evil: A Biblical Study of Satan and Demons. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, p. 114; Garrow, A.P. (2003). The Gospel of Matthew’s Dependence on the Didache. London: Bloomsbury, p. 172; Witherington, B., III. (2009). The Indelible Image: The Theological and Ethical Thought World of the New Testament (Vol. 1). Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, p. 149; Wold, B. (forthcoming). Apotropaic Prayer and the Matthean Lord’s Prayer. In B. Wold, J. Dochhorn & S. Rudnig-Zelt (Eds.), The Devil, Demons, and Dualism. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck; Lanier, D.E. (1992). The Lord’s Prayer: A Thematic and Semantic-Structural Analysis. Criswell Theological Review, 6(1), 57-72. Here p. 61. Space does not permit a discussion of the exegetical points relating to Matt. 6:13 here.
  • 23 Grayston, K. (1993). The Decline of Temptation—and the Lord's Prayer. Scottish Journal of Theology, 46(03), 279-296. Here p. 294; O’Neill, J.C. (1993). The Lord’s Prayer. Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 16(51), 3-25. Here pp. 18-19; Subramanian, J.S. (2009). The Lord’s Prayer in the Gospel of Matthew. In A.J. McNicol, D.B. Peabody & J.S. Subramanian (Eds.), Resourcing New Testament Studies: Literary, Historical, and Theological Essays in Honor of David L. Dungan (pp. 107-122). London: T&T Clark, p. 122; Vögtle, A. (1978). The Lord’s Prayer: A Prayer for Jews and Christians? In J.J. Petuchowski & M. Brocke (Eds.), The Lord’s Prayer and Jewish Liturgy (pp. 93-118). London: Burns & Oates, p. 101.
  • 24 Scholars who read 'evil' include: Bigg, C. (1905). Notes on the Didache. Journal of Theological Studies, 23, 411-415. Here p. 412; Glimm, F.X., Marique, J., & Walsh, G.G. (trans). (1947). The Fathers of the Church (Vol. 1). Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, p. 178; Milavec, 2003, op. cit., p. 312; Johnson, L.J. (2009). Worship in the Early Church: An Anthology of Historical Sources (Vol. 1). Collegeville: Liturgical Press, p. 37; Cody, A. (1995). The Didache: An English Translation. In C.N. Jefford (Ed.), The Didache in Context: Essays on its Text, History, and Transmission (pp. 3-14). Leiden: Brill, p. 9 (who includes ‘the evil one’ as a parenthetical alternative); Niederwimmer, op. cit., p. 134 (who includes ‘the evil one’ as a parenthetical alternative); O’Neill, op. cit., pp. 18-19 (who argues concerning the prayer in both Matthew and the Didache that the petition covers “the widest possible range of the evils from which a worshipper would ask God’s help in deliverance”, inclusive of both internal sources of temptation and external such as the devil); Draper, J.A. (2000). Ritual Process and Ritual Symbol in Didache 7-10. Vigiliae Christianae, 54(2), 121-158. Here p. 137 (who refers to “the petition not to be subjected to trial but to be snatched from the evil (one)”, allowing the ambiguity to stand).
  • 25 Scholars who read 'the evil one' include Lake, K. (1912). The Apostolic Fathers with an English Translation. London: William Heinemann, p. 321; Ehrman, op. cit., p. 429 (who includes ‘evil’ as a parenthetical alternative), Holmes, M.W. (2007). The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, p. 357; Sorensen, E. (2002). Possession and Exorcism in the New Testament and early Christianity. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, p. 199 n. 82 (who notes the ambiguity); Varner, W. (2005). The Didache’s Use of the Old and New Testaments. The Master’s Seminary Journal, 16(1), 127-151. Here p. 147; Lietzmann, H. (1979). Mass and the Lord’s Supper: A Study in the History of the Liturgy (Vol. 1). Leiden: Brill, p. 374; Brown, R.E. (1961). The Pater Noster as an Eschatological Prayer. Theological Studies, 22(2), 175-208. Here pp. 206-208 (who is referring to the prayer in both Matthew and the Didache); Richardson, C. (1953). Early Christian Fathers. New York: Simon & Schuster, p. 175; Arndt, W., Danker, F.W. & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature, 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 851 (who note however the possibility of an abstract referent); Collins, R.F. (2002). 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: A Commentary. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, p. 287 (who is referring to both Matthew and the Didache).
  • 26 Other than the four Matthean texts mentioned and Didache 8.2, see Eph 6:16; 2Thess 3:3; John 17:15; 1 John 2:13-14; 3:12; 5:18-19; Barnabas 2.10; 21.3; Martyrdom of Polycarp 17.1.
  • 27 Holmes, op. cit., p. 363.
  • 28 'in the Spirit': Richardson, op. cit., p. 177; Ehrman, op. cit., pp. 435-436; 'in the spirit': Holmes, op. cit., p. 363.
  • 29 E.g. Lake, op. cit., p. 327; Tibbs, C. (2007). Religious Experience of the Pneuma: Communication with the Spirit World in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, p. 318.
  • 30 Tibbs, op. cit., pp. 317-318, makes this point.
  • 31 ibid., p. 222.
  • 32 Callan states, "it seems clear that NT prophecy is a matter of spirit possession" (Callan, T. (1985). Prophecy and Ecstasy in Greco-Roman Religion and in 1 Corinthians. Novum Testamentum, 27(2), 125-139. Here p. 126).
  • 33 Milavec describes this as 'speaking in spirit/Spirit' and observes, "The exact nature of such speaking is not defined; hence, it can be assumed that this was well known to the hearers of the Didache" (Milavec, A. (1994). Distinguishing True and False Prophets: The Protective Wisdom of the Didache. Journal of Early Christian Studies, 2(2), 117-136. Here p. 129).
  • 34 Tibbs, op. cit., p. 222 n. 26. The citation is from Richardson, op. cit., p. 176 n. 64.
  • 35 Thompson, L.L. (2004). Spirit Possession: Revelation in Religious Studies. In D.L. Barr (Ed.), Reading the Book of Revelation: A Resource for Students (pp. 137-150). Leiden: Brill, p. 147 n. 35
  • 36 De Halleux writes, "But what is meant by speaking en pneumati (11:7-12)? It is apparently not the Holy Spirit, warranted by the tradition, that he designates by this formula, since he also affirms that the false prophet speaks in a spirit in the same way (11:8; 11:12), perhaps under the inspiration of demons who knew the future and the hidden things; hence the caution of the translators, who write here ‘esprit’ (‘spirit’) without a capital" (De Halleux, A. (1995). Ministers in the Didache. In J.A. Draper (Ed.), The Didache in Modern Research (pp. 300-320). Leiden: Brill, p. 309).
  • 37 Draper writes, "CD 12:2f envisages a man speaking under the dominion (משל) of Belial, the Spirit of Darkness, and the true prophet would no doubt speak under the dominion of the Spirit of Light. All mankind is under the dominion of one or the other. This understanding may well be what lies behind the expression in Did." (Draper, 1983, op. cit., pp. 244-245).
  • 38 This document will be covered in a subsequent post in this series.
  • 39 The same idea is found in Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 82.2-3.
  • 40 Osiek notes two criteria mentioned by Hermas to identify false prophets. The first is that they “give oracles to consulters,” i.e. only after they have been solicited by other people. She adds, "But there is yet another, time-honored criterion by which to test or discern (dokimazein) the true prophet, the criterion that places this discussion firmly within the early Christian tradition of discernment of prophecy: from the prophet’s way of life" (Osiek, C. (1999). Shepherd of Hermas. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, p. 143).
  • 41 Goulder writes, "John commends applying a criterion to distinguish divine from demonic spirits, ‘for many false prophets have gone out into the world’. The demonic spirits lie behind the false prophets, visiting holy men who are not part of the community" (Goulder, M. (1999). A Poor Man’s Christology. New Testament Studies, 45(3), 332-348., p. 342).
  • 42 Tibbs notes, “In the commentaries, the phrase ‘discernment of spirits’ is usually explained as a discernment between the Holy Spirit and other demonic spirits or human spirits.” Tibbs himself disputes that a single ‘Holy Spirit’ is in view here, but argues that Paul is referring to “a discernment of holy spirits apart from unholy spirits” (Tibbs, C. (2008). The Spirit (World) and the (Holy) Spirits among the earliest Christians: 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 as a test case. Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 70(2), 313-330. Here pp. 322-323). Lienhard notes that patristic exegesis of 1 Cor. 12:10 was dominated by the idea that demonic spirits had to be identified and distinguished from good spirits (Lienhard, J.T. (1980). On discernment of spirits in the early church. Theological Studies, 41(3), 505-528).
  • 43 Kelly writes that this text refers to demons which "employ human agents" (Kelly, J.N.D. (1963). The Pastoral Epistles. London: A&C Black, p. 94). Towner explains, "'Deceiving spirits,' a part of the eschatological paradigm, are demonic influences or forces believed to be actively at work promoting the falsehood of the heresy. The internalization of this activity in the opponents can be seen in 2 Tim 3:13... where the cognate verb is central in Paul's caricature of the false teachers... 'things taught by demons'... [indicates] the source of the doctrines as being the demonic realm." (Towner, P.H. (2006). The Letters to Timothy and Titus. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 290).
  • 44 Ehrman, op. cit., pp. 441-442.
  • 45 So Lampe, G.W.H. (1961). A Patristic Greek Lexicon, Vol. 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 770.
  • 46 Milavec asserts that in the Didache, "the events associated with the Lord’s coming unfold without any angelic or demonic forces playing any role whatsoever" (Milavec, 2003, op. cit., p. 63). He further claims that "The end-times scenario of the Didache deliberately removes any reference to Satan" (ibid., pp. 332, 648). Garrow refers to the world-deceiver as a "human persecutor" who is to be distinguished from the devil (Garrow, 2003, op. cit., p. 57), without discussing the possibility that this human persecutor might be in league with the devil. Sorensen regards it as "ambiguous" whether or not the world-deceiver is demonic (op. cit., p. 199 n. 82).
  • 47 Niederwimmer refers to the world-deceiver as a "diabolical" and "demonic" figure (op. cit., p. 219). Jenks refers to the "satanic connections" of this figure (Jenks, op. cit., p. 310), while Verheyden asserts that he has satanic "associations" (op. cit., p. 204). Draper regards the world-deceiver as having been sent by Satan (Draper, 1983, op. cit., p. 308 n. 28). Garrett lists Didache 16.4 among texts "in which associations between false prophets and magic, false prophets and Satan, or Satan and magic are presupposed" (Garrett, S.R. (1989). Light on a Dark Subject and Vice Versa: Magic and Magicians in the New Testament. In J. Neusner et al (Eds.), Religion, Science and Magic: In Concert and in Conflict (pp. 142-165). Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 154).
  • 48 Making this point explicitly are Peerbolte, op. cit., p. 181; Kierspel, L. (2006). The Jews and the World in the Fourth Gospel: Parallelism, Function, and Context. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, p. 210 n. 230. Also apparently sympathetic to this view are Del Verme, M. (2004). Didache and Judaism: Jewish Roots of an Ancient Christian-Jewish Work. London: T&T Clark, p. 260; Thomas, R.L. (2010). Magical Motifs in the Book of Revelation. London: T&T Clark International, p. 47; Paget, J.C. (2011). Miracles in early Christianity. In G.H. Twelftree (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Miracles (pp. 131-148). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 134; and Glover, R. (1958). The Didache’s Quotations and the Synoptic Gospels. New Testament Studies, 5(1), 12- 29. Here p. 24.
  • 49 Life of Adam and Eve 9; 2 Cor. 11:14; Testament of Job 6.4; Apocalypse of Elijah 3.16-18; Hippolytus, On the Antichrist 6. These are noted in Niederwimmer, op. cit., p. 219 n. 6.
  • 50 2 John 7; 2 Thess. 2:3-4; Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 110.2; Sibylline Oracles 3.68; noted in Niederwimmer, op. cit., p. 219 n. 7.
  • 51 2 Thess. 2:9; Rev. 13:13; 19:20; Sibylline Oracles 2.167-68; 3.66-67; Mark 13:22; Matt. 24:24; noted in Niederwimmer, op. cit., p. 211 n. 2.
  • 52 Draper, 1983, op. cit., p. 308.
  • 53 Arndt et al, op. cit., p. 1047.
  • 54 Remus, H. (1982). Does Terminology Distinguish Early Christian from Pagan Miracles? Journal of Biblical Literature, 101(4), 531-551. Here p. 547.
  • 55 Ex. 7:3; 7:9; 11:9; 11:10; Deut. 4:34; 6:22; 7:19; 11:3; 26:8; 29:2; 34:11; Ps. 77:43; 104:27; 134:9; Jer. 39:20-21; Dan. 4:37 OG. Texts where the term does not refer to divine miracles include Deut. 13:2-3; 28:46; Isa. 8:18; 20:3.
  • 56 Twelftree, G.H. (1999). Jesus the Miracle Worker: A Historical and Theological Study. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, p. 228. Most of these events are not regarded as supernatural from a modern point of view. However, this was not necessarily the case for the ancients; and on any score it would require supernatural power to be able to 'perform' them as the Didache's world-deceiver does.
  • 57 See n. 51 above; in the NT, Mark 13:22/Matt. 24:24; 2 Thess. 2:9; cf. Rev. 13:13; 16:14; 19:20, which refer only to "signs".
  • 58 So Painter, J. (2008). 1, 2, and 3 John. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, p. 211.
  • 59 Evans, C.E. (2005). The Bible Knowledge Background Commentary: John's Gospel, Hebrews-Revelation. Colorado Springs: Cook, p. 381; Smith, M. (1996). The Account of Simon Magus in Acts 8. In New Testament, Early Christianity, and Magic (pp. 140-151). Leiden: Brill, p. 148; Lampe, G.W.H. (1973). ‘Grievous Wolves (Acts 20:29).’ In B. Lindars & S.S. Smalley, Christ and the Spirit in the New Testament: Studies in Honour of Charles Francis Digby Moule (pp. 253-268). Cambridge University Press, pp. 253-254; Twelftree, op. cit., p. 256; Remus, op. cit., p. 547; Arndt et al, op. cit., p. 920.
  • 60 E.g. Draper, 1983, op. cit., p. 328; van de Sandt & Flusser, op. cit., p. 36; Niederwimmer, op. cit., p. 227; Aldridge, R.E. (1999). The Lost Ending of the Didache. Vigiliae Christianae, 53(1), 1-15.
  • 61 Aldridge, op. cit., p. 5, trans.
  • 62 Milavec, 1995, op. cit., p. 153.
  • 63 Aldridge, op. cit., p. 5.
  • 64 ibid., pp. 12-13.
  • 65 Draper, 1983, op. cit., p. 326. He quotes a portion of the Apostolic Constitutions passage including the reference to the devil and comments, "This scenario is broadly supported by Asc. Isa. 4:14, 18, which seems to be closely related to Did. 16, and also by Ba. 4:12."
  • 66 Niederwimmer, op. cit., p. 227.
  • 67 Verheyden, op. cit., p. 207; van de Sandt & Flusser, op. cit., p. 27.
  • 68 Milavec, op. cit., p. 153.
  • 69 Garrow, 2003, op. cit., pp. 56-57; Peerbolte, op. cit., p. 181.