Didache chapter 14 and Sunday Observance


(Koot van Wyk, Kyungpook National University, Sangju Campus, South Korea, Conjoint lecturer of Avondale College. Australia)


Didache 14 is cardinal for Sunday keepers to rationalize their switching from Saturday to Sunday as a day of worship. As we will see below, famous scholars in Sunday keeping denominations of Christianity has read "into the text" much of what is not supported in the Greek. Below we will take a serious investigation into the translation of the original. We will translate their translations back into Greek in order to demonstrate what it should look like to be translated the way they prefer it. Sunday keeping scholars' translation of this section of the Didache reveals their preferential bias rather than the contours of the text.


Sunday keeping rationalization starts with a movement of meaning in the second century after the Bible in the Gospel of Peter 35,50 that is carried back in time into Irenaeus Letter to Magnesians 9:1 and subsequently carried further back into Didache 14:1 and bravely, superimposed upon Revelation 1:10. All the other references are outside the Bible and later. Didache is the closest after the time of the Bible, according to scholars.


One must warn that the textual critical and transmissional history of these texts, except the Bible, are cans of worms. The texts are extremely late, sometimes centuries into the Middle Ages and even after.


In this writing, we look literally and fundamentally at Didache 14 and ask ourselves whether there is any intention to talk about Sunday or the First day of the Weekkk in this section of the "Teaching of the Twelve Apostles" = Didache.


The translation is our own and it will become clear below why a retranslation was necessary.

Greek as a language for the Didache, has grammatical rules that has to be followed. What is surprising is to see famous Greek scholars translating very "paraphrastic" of what is not supported in the text.


Original reading:


Chapter 14

1 Κατ κυριακν δ κυρίου συναχθέντες

But according to the Lordliness of the Lord come you together


κλάσατε ρτον κα εχαριστήσατε,

break bread and give thanks,


προεξομολογησάμενοι τ παραπτώματα μν,

first confessing your transgressions,


πως καθαρ θυσία μν .

so that pure your offering may be.


2 πς δ χων τν μφιβολίαν

But everyone that have a dispute


μετ το ταίρου ατο

with his fellow,


μ συνελθέτω μν,

let him not come together with you


ως ο διαλλαγσιν,

until they be reconciled


να μ κοινωθ θυσία μν.

so that your offering may not be defiled.


3 ατη γάρ στιν ηθεσα π κυρίου·

For this is what was spoken through the Lord:


ν παντ τόπ κα χρόν προσφέρειν μοι θυσίαν καθαράν.

"In every place and time offer me a pure offering.


τι βασιλες μέγας εμί,

For I am a great king,"


λέγει κύριος,

says the Lord,


κα τ νομά μου θαυμαστν ν τος θνεσι.

"and my name is wonderful among the nations".


van wyk notes:

1. Samuel Bacchiocchi listed five different approaches by scholars to the expression Κατ κυριακν δ κυρίου supra in 14:1:

a. Weekly Sunday theory

b. Yearly Annual Easter Sunday theory

c. Resurrection Sunday theory

d. Eschatological Day of the Lord theory

e. The Lords Doctrine theory (S. Bacchiocchi and J. B. Thibaut) (S. Bacchiocchi in From Sabbath to Sunday: A Historical Investigation of the Rise of Sunday Observance in Early Christianity (Rome: The Pontificial Gregorian University Press, 1977), 113-131.


2. Many Sunday keeping scholars want to supermimpose Didache 14:1 over Revelation 1:10 to say that the "day of the Lord" in Revelation 1:10 refers to Sunday.


3. The dates of the compilation and writings of Revelation and Didache is different: Revelation was completed by John in 92-97 CE while Didache is after 150 CE although scholars are trying to push the date down to close to 110 CE. Some even try to push it within the Biblical period.


4. Whether scholars are romantic or skeptical about this work, the following facts are clear:


4.1. None of the early manuscripts dates before the 4th century CE.


4.2. Not only is the content at variance with the Old and New Testaments at times, but also the textcritical stance of the text is difficult.


4.3. Textcritical issues of the Didache were lamented by a number of scholars:


a. E. Peterson, "Über einige Probleme der Didache-Überlieferung," in Frühkirche, Judentum und Gnosis. Studien und Untersuchungen (1959): 146ff.


b. A. Adam, "Erwägungen zur Herkunft der Didache," ZKG 68 (1957): 1ff.


c. B. Layton, "The Sources, Date and Transmission of Didache 1.3b-2.1," HThR 61 (1968): 37ff.


d. Peterson said: "Dass man die Didache in der Form des Br.-Textes an den Anfang der altkirchlichen Literatur stelt, scheint mir historisch nicht gerechtfertigt zu sein. Es ist wohl sicher, dass es eine ältere Form gegeben hat, aber diese auf Grund der Br.-Handschrift rekonstruieren zu wollen, scheint mir eine unlösbare Aufgabe zu sein. Wir können nur Aporien feststellen, aber nicht den ursprünglichen Text ermitteln" (Peterson, 1959: 181f.; contra is Kurt Niederwimmer 1982: 114 but with no substantive evidence).


My translation:

"That a person can place the Didache in the form of the Br.-Text at the beginning of the old-church literature, seems to me to be historically not justified. It is certain that it had an ancient form, but to reconstruct it on the basis of the Br.-Manuscript, seems to me an impossible task. We can only determine postulates, but we cannot come up with the original text."


4.4. Not only is the Didache late in its extent form, it is diversified between the manuscripts (that is what Niederwimmer 1982's article is all about).


4.5. There are shorter verses and longer verses.


4.6. Scholars agree that there are glosses which were additions to the Didache and which were not part of the original text, whatever its form may have been.


4.7. Either parts were added or parts were omitted.


4.8. Scholars can argue that the situation is no different with the Greek manuscripts of the LXX but that is not true. The LXX has a good template to compare it with, a standard that shows at Qumran to be almost 99% the same [between 4QDana and Codex Alleppo or Leningradensis of the Hebrew]. There is no such "standard" available to test the Didache on. Scholars are trying to use "early patrology content" to measure the Didache by but that is circular reasoning, since the very texts that are used to measure it by are all late or later than the Didache and thus subject to the same dilemmas as the Didache is standing under.


4.9. The reconstruction of the Didache is done on the basis of texts that are later than the fourth century CE. They are according to Niederwimmer 1982: 129:


H                        Codex Hierosolymitanus 54, fol. 76a-80b

                   Reproduced: J. R. Harris, The Teaching of the Apostles (1887).


P                        Papyrus Oxyrh. 1782, two fragments of a pergament codex. 400 CE.

                   Content: Didache 1,3c-4a; 2,7b-3,2a;

                   Reproduced: editor B. P. Grenfell - A. S. Hunt, The Oxyrh. Papyri XV                            (1922):             14.


Copt                  Papyrus Or. 9271, one page. London, British Museum.

                   Content: Didache 10,3b-12,2a in Coptic.

                           Reproduced: editor L.-Th. Lefort, Les pères apostoliques en copte                (CSCO 135) (1952): 32ff. and CSCO 136 (1952): 25ff.

                           St. Gero, "The socalled Ointment Prayer in the Coptic Version of the                            Didache: A Re-Evalutation," HThR 70 (1977): 67ff.


Eth                    Canones ecclessiastici 52, Ethiopic version.

                           Content: Didache 11,3-5; 11,7-12; 13,1; 13,3-7; 8,1f.

                           Reproduced: G. Horner, The Statutes of the Apostles or Canones                 ecclessiastici (1904): 193f.


Georg                Problematic is the Georgian Version. What we have is the collation of                      a copy               of a lost Vorlage from the first half of the 19th century with                 the Greek text              according to Harnack's edition.

                   Reproduced: G. Peradse, ZNW 31 (1932): 115f.

                           The Georgian Version is a modern late translation (Niederwimmer                            1982: 129).

                   W. Rordorf-A. Tuilier (1978): 115, note 2 claimed that this version              was made directly from Bryenn. Manuscript but Niederwimmer 1982:                     129 do              not accept it.

                   He maintains a skeptical view regarding this version.


Indirect witnesses are:


Const.               Constitutiones Apostolorum 7, 1-32.

                   Reproduced: F. X. Funk, Didascalia et Constitutiones Apostolorum I                            (1906): 386f.

                                 The Didache was written out and paraphrased in this work                            (Niederwimmer          1982: 129).


Doctr.                Barnabas 18-20.

                           Doctr. apost. (Codex Monac. lat. 6264: folio 102 verso -103 verso;

                                 11th century CE.

                           München State Library

                           Reproduced: editor J. Schlecht, Doctrina XII apostolorum. Die                                   Apostellehre in der Liturgie der katholischen Kirche (1901): 101ff.

                           Codex Mellic. 597 folio 115 verso

                   9th century CE.

                   Melk. Stifs library

                           Doctr. 1,1-3a; 2,2-6;

                           Reproduced: K. Niederwimmer, "Theol. scientia eminens practica,"                            Festschrift Zerbst (1979): 270f.


Can.                  Canones. eccl. "Apostolische Kirchenordnung" 4,1-13,4

                           Reproduced: editor Th. Schermann, Die allgemeine Kirchenordnung                            frühchristliche Liturgien und kirchliche Überlieferung I (1914): 15ff.


Epit.                  Epitome

                           Reproduced: editor Th. Schermann, Eine Elfapostelmoral oder die                                         X-Rezension der beiden Wege (1903): 16ff.


Arab.                 Vita Schenute, "Eine bisher unbekannte Version des ersten Teiles der                    'Apostellehre', gefunden und besprochen von L. E. Iselin, and

                           translated by A. Heusler TU 13,1b (1895): 6ff.


Synt. doctr.     Ps. athanas. Syntagma doctrinae

                           MPG 28, 836A-845B

                           Reproduced: A. M. H. Hyvernat Studia Patristica II (1890): 121ff.


Fides patr.       Fides CCCXVIII patrum

                      MPG 28, 1637A-1644B


5. The authors of the two works are different: John and an unknown author.


6. The phrases they are using is different in Revelation 1:10 and the Didache 14:1:


Revelation 1:10     εν τη κυριακη ημερα

Didache 14:1       κατα κυριακην δε κυριου


7. The word "day" = ημερα does not appear in Didache 14:1 but is superimposed semantically with a long stretch by Sunday keeping scholars.


8. In Didache 14:1 there is an extra name of the "Lord" added, almost a double "lord lord". We will go into the exact rendering as in our translation supra.


9. A literal reading from the Greek of Didache cannot support a translation "on the day of the Lord". There is no connection between "on the day of the Lord" and κατα κυριακην δε κυριου.


10. The Gospel of Peter used κυριακη presumably for "Sunday" and Irenaeus earlier used it in the Letter to the Magnesians for "they live according to the Lord" while Revelation 1:10 used it for the eschatological day of the Lord or Yom Yahweh of the Old Testament in books like Amos.


11. Three arguments can be raised about the Greek Grammatical discussion of Didache 14:1:

A: Adjective argument:


Wilfred Stott remarked that κυριακη "Lords" is an adjective used by early church fathers until 450 CE with the meaning of: "belonging to" and "given by" Christ.


Jean Baptiste Thibaut shows that the adjective is used and not the subtantive.


B: Not TIME but MANNER argument:

Thibaut remarked that: If it was a question of time, in that case the genus of the Greek language would have simply required the use of the dative: τη κυριακη. Here the accusative is used.


C: KATA not EN argument:

i) The preposition KATA marks here a relation of conformity. Consequently the word which is implied and to which the qualifying κυριακην applies, is not ημεραν = (day) but another term which can be supplied.


ii)            κατα κυριακην ______________  δε κυριου

translated:  according to the Lord's ________________ of the Lord


iii) Translators have translated differently:

Calvinist N. Pretorius: "Op die dag van die Here..." (On the day of the Lord...)

K. Lake: "On the Lord's day of the Lord..."

J. B. Audet: "On the day of the Lord..."

C. W. Dugmore: " On Easter Sunday..."

Jean Baptiste Thibaut: "According to the sovereign doctrine of the Lord"

S. Bacchiocchi: "According to the Lord's doctrine/commandment of the Lord"

R. Brannan (2007): "Upon the coming together on the Lord's day of the Lord"

van wyk: "But according to the Lordliness of the Lord come you together..."


(iv) Since the virtual space created in the text supra can be: doctrine, life, teachings (definitely not 'day') therefore put -ness inside the square and translate "Lordliness".


(v) When the noun is genitive there is an emphasis on that noun. The focus swings over to the noun: "according to the Lordliness OF THE LORD" maybe as opposed to some other Lordliness that may exist.


12. Chapter 14 deals not with the question of time but with the prerequisites to accede to the Lords Supper, namely, confession of sin (14:1) and reconciliation with fellow beings (14:2).


13. The quotation from Maleachi 1:10 emphasize not the specific time ("In every place and time") but the manner of the sacrifize ("offer me a pure sacrifize") 14:3.


14. The Didache contains numerous exhortations to act "according to = kata" the commandment or doctrine: (1:5; 2:1; 4:13; 6:1; 11; 13:6).


15. In view of the fact that the Didachist wishes to justify his instruction with the authority of the Lord, kata with the accusative establishes a relation of conformity and not of time.


16. Didache 14:1 is linked by the conjunction "but- de" to the previous chapter, which closes with the exhortation to "give according to the commandment" (13:7). The repetition of "according to = kata" could have caused the omission of the word "commandment" or "doctrine" (according to S. Bacchiocchi and J. Baptiste Thibaut).


17. The Didachist exhorts to" be frequently gathered together" (16:2). This cannot suggest exclusive Sunday gatherings (Bacchiocchi).