Which came first the Didache or the Gospels?


I am just interest in this question. What follows is not the work of a scholar!

The Didache definitely has common material with the gospel of Matthew. The Didache presents this as the teaching of the apostles; Matthew presents this as the teaching of Jesus. Is this a significant difference? Surely the followers of Jesus would follow Jesus, and his teaching, if they are faithful. The Didache does say the teaching of the Lord through the apostles. It also talks about the Lord giving commands such as “Do not give what is holy to the dogs (9:5).”

One point – he does mention Bishops and Deacons (15:1). That surely is not earliest Christianity, as these positions come later.

What about Christology – Matthew presents Jesus as Emmanuel, God with us. The Didache also says “For where his lordship is discussed, there the Lord himself is (4:1).” Similar to “where two or three are gathered in my name… “. It is also interesting that commands from the Torah and from Jesus are put all together and called the commandments of the Lord. Sometimes it is clear that the teaching of the Lord refers to Jesus, but sometimes it seems to be from the Old Testament, e.g. the quotation of Malachi in 14:3.


The Didache


I have just recently come across the Didache. I had vaguely heard of it before but have now listened to it and read it.

The first striking similarities are with Deuteronomy – two paths, life and death. And with the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew (turn the other cheek, refrain from lust etc). As well as other material from Matthew such as the baptism formula… In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. There is one unusual command whose source is unknown: “Let your gifts rest in in your sweaty hands, until you know to can discern to whom you should give (1:6).”

Chapters 1-4 deal with the path to life and Chapter 5 with the way to death. Chapter 6 deals with being careful concerning false teachers. Chapter 7 talks about Baptism which should ideally take place in “living” (running) water. The applicant should have heard the earlier instructions. Then they are baptised in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Chapter 8 talks about fasting. Strangely it says that the hypocrites fast on Mondays and Thursdays but good people on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Chapter 9 mentions the “Vine of David” and then talks about communion. It happens in the context of a meal, with the wine given first. Interestingly the command “do not give dogs what is sacred” is used to refer to giving communion to those who have not been baptised.

Chapter 10 – thank God for food.
Chapter 11 – A good teacher teaches the things in this book.
The sin against the Holy Spirit is connected with judging a prophet speaking in the Spirit. A prophet will be known through his conduct.
Chapter 12 – Apostles should not stay long or take money.
Chapter 13 – A true prophet deserves food.
Chapter 14 – on the Lord’s day, repent, give thanks, break bread.

Chapter 15 – mention of Bishops and Deacons. They conduct the ministry of prophets and teachers.

Chapter 16 – Be prepared. You don’t know when the Lord is coming. The world will be deceived by the coming of a false Son of God. There will be the fire of testing, a sign of a trumpet, then the third resurrection. Then the Lord will come on the clouds of the sky.


Pliny on Jesus


Taken  from http://faculty.georgetown.edu/jod/texts/pliny.html

Pliny the Younger was governor of Pontus/Bithynia from 111-113 AD. We have a whole set of exchanges of his letters with the emperor Trajan on a variety of administrative political matters. These two letters are the most famous, in which P. encounters Christianity for the first time.

Pliny, Letters 10.96-97

Pliny to the Emperor Trajan

It is my practice, my lord, to refer to you all matters concerning which I am in doubt. For who can better give guidance to my hesitation or inform my ignorance? I have never participated in trials of Christians. I therefore do not know what offenses it is the practice to punish or investigate, and to what extent. And I have been not a little hesitant as to whether there should be any distinction on account of age or no difference between the very young and the more mature; whether pardon is to be granted for repentance, or, if a man has once been a Christian, it does him no good to have ceased to be one; whether the name itself, even without offenses, or only the offenses associated with the name are to be punished.

Meanwhile, in the case of those who were denounced to me as Christians, I have observed the following procedure: I interrogated these as to whether they were Christians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment; those who persisted I ordered executed. For I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished. There were others possessed of the same folly; but because they were Roman citizens, I signed an order for them to be transferred to Rome.

Soon accusations spread, as usually happens, because of the proceedings going on, and several incidents occurred. An anonymous document was published containing the names of many persons. Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ–none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do–these I thought should be discharged. Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshipped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ.

They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food–but ordinary and innocent food. Even this, they affirmed, they had ceased to do after my edict by which, in accordance with your instructions, I had forbidden political associations. Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition.

I therefore postponed the investigation and hastened to consult you. For the matter seemed to me to warrant consulting you, especially because of the number involved. For many persons of every age, every rank, and also of both sexes are and will be endangered. For the contagion of this superstition has spread not only to the cities but also to the villages and farms. But it seems possible to check and cure it. It is certainly quite clear that the temples, which had been almost deserted, have begun to be frequented, that the established religious rites, long neglected, are being resumed, and that from everywhere sacrificial animals are coming, for which until now very few purchasers could be found. Hence it is easy to imagine what a multitude of people can be reformed if an opportunity for repentance is afforded.

Trajan to Pliny

You observed proper procedure, my dear Pliny, in sifting the cases of those who had been denounced to you as Christians. For it is not possible to lay down any general rule to serve as a kind of fixed standard. They are not to be sought out; if they are denounced and proved guilty, they are to be punished, with this reservation, that whoever denies that he is a Christian and really proves it–that is, by worshiping our gods–even though he was under suspicion in the past, shall obtain pardon through repentance. But anonymously posted accusations ought to have no place in any prosecution. For this is both a dangerous kind of precedent and out of keeping with the spirit of our age.



Seutonius on Jesus


In Claudius 25 Suetonius refers to the expulsion of Jews by Claudius and states (in Edwards’ translation):

“Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome.”

In Acts of the Apostles (18:2) the writer makes the following parallel commentary

“And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, a man of Pontus by race, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome: and he came unto them”

And about Nero’s laws.

Punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition.



Tacitus on Jesus


Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.

(In Latin: ergo abolendo rumori Nero subdidit reos et quaesitissimis poenis adfecit, quos per flagitia invisos vulgus Chrestianos appellabat. auctor nominis eius Christus Tibero imperitante per procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio adfectus erat; repressaque in praesens exitiablilis superstitio rursum erumpebat, non modo per Iudaeam, originem eius mali, sed per urbem etiam, quo cuncta undique atrocia aut pudenda confluunt celebranturque. igitur primum correpti qui fatebantur, deinde indicio eorum multitudo ingens haud proinde in crimine incendii quam odio humani generis convicti sunt.)

From Wikipedia.



Brief Summary of Apocrypha



Carried away captive to Nineveh. Had a political post with Shalmanesar. Tobit mentions his own righteousness, his givings to the poor, and particularly his burying of Jewish corpses left out. This annoyed the king. He says that those who give to the poor are blessed. He has a son called Tobias. One day Tobit is sleeping outside and bird droppings go into his eyes giving him cataracts and leaving him blind. His son goes on a journey with a young man who is really the Angel Raphael (calls himself Azariah son of Hananiah) in disguise to get money Tobit left with Gabael at Rages. He marries Sarah. She lived in Ecbatana. She had a demon that followed here and that killed seven of her husbands on their wedding nights. Gabriel tells Tobias how to scare the demon away with a fish – and prayer. They return and heal Tobit with the Fish.


A town in Israel called Bethulia is besieged by the Assyrian army. They take control of the water supply. After 34 days the people want to surrender. Judith is a beautiful intelligent widow. She goes down with her maid – dressed up beautifully with fine clothes and jewellery. She pretends to be a deserter. The commander, Holofernes, fancies her and wants to seduce her. At a party after a few days she gets the commander drunk and then cuts off his head. She returns to Bethulia with his head. Israel’s men go out armed – the Assyrians seek out their commander and find him dead. Then their army is in disarray and is defeated by Israel. Judith was honoured in Israel- many want to marry her but she never marries again.

Wisdom of Solomon

Wisdom at creation of world (Chapter 9). Female. Barren women that are wise are well off. A list of deeds that the patriarchs did by wisdom is given similar to Hebrews 11 (Chapter 10). The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God (Chapter 3).


Sirach is a long wisdom book that was very influential with Jews and later Christians. There is an introduction that introduces the author. A particular section of interest is Chapters 44-50 which summarise a large portion of Biblical history and refer to nearly every Biblical book except Esther, … . It mentions Enoch, Elijah, Abraham, Noah, Moses – loved by God, Aaron adorned with beautiful things, Joshua, Caleb – given a long life, Ezekiel – who had the great vision, David and the prophet Nathan, Solomon had peace and was able to build the temple. Solomon led astray by women and idolatry. Rehoboam was foolish and split Israel. Hezekiah was good. Isaiah made the shadow go back and the king live longer. In that time God smote the Assyrians. Josiah is like sweet perfume. David, Hezekiah and Josiah were the good kings, the rest were bad. It also mentions that three groups are not a people – the Samaritans, those among the Philistines and those in Shechem.

Of interest to studies of Galations, it mentions the zeal of Phineas.


Brief Notes on 1 and 2 Maccabees


1 Maccabees

Alexander the Great son of Philip of Macedonia wins against Darius of the Medes and Persians. Kills many kings. When he dies  he splits his empire up among 4 generals who grew up with him.

A bit further on Antiochus Epiphanes defeats Egypt. Then wants all his lands to give up their religions and sacrifice the Greek way, and follow Greek customs to break the law and propane the sabbath. 

A gymnasium is built in Jerusalem. Some rebel and are killed. Some are attacked on the sabbath and refuse to fight back and are slaughtered.

Mattathias was a priest who rebelled against the decree to sacrifice. In medion. He was filled with zeal and killed a Jew who was sacrificing on a Greek alter. He is compared with Phineas who killed an Israelite sleeping with a Moabite. Matthias wins some victories. Then he dies and Judas his son takes over as commander; Simeon also his son is said by him to be wise and will be a father to them.

Judas beats Appolonius, defeats and kills him and uses his sword always after that. Also beats Seron and Georgias, and Lysias. Then they go and cleanse the temple and the sanctuary and strengthen the walls and towers. They then celebrated the feast of dedication for 8 days.  

A Seleucid King comes from Rome and takes over. It seems as if Jerusalem is taken over during this period.

There is a long section concerning the rise of Rome and their treaties. Judas sends an envoy to Rome to make an alliance.

There is a big battle and Judas is killed. The lament is similar to that for Saul and Jonathon. Simon and Jonathan take over. Their brother John is killed and they take revenge during a wedding.

They make peace with Bacchidus and the land has peace. 

The Maccabees family become priests rather than kings.

They have good relations with Rome and the Spartans. They send a golden shield to Rome.

The political climate is complicated. The descendants of Antiochus Epiphanes and also Demetrius are still around.

Ptolemy King of Egypt gets involved. He gives his daughter to Alexander son of Ant. Epi. Eventually he attacks Palestine and is too powerful for Alexander.

There is a lot of deceit which often leads to a Maccabee being killed.

Jonathon is killed late on and Simon takes over. Right near the end Simon and two of his sons are killed and another son John is the new high priest.

There is quite a lot of emphasis on being the friend of many kings 

2 Maccabees

Quite long introduction. Writer says Jonathon has written five books about the events. He will abbreviate. 

No Mattathias. Story starts off in Jerusalem. Judas is alive the whole time.

There is a greater emphasis on Martyrdom. The mother and seven sons in chapter 7 are tortured and killed. They rebuke their torturers, say that they are suffering for “our sins” and look forward to the resurrection. 

Seven sons seen as a great blessing and losing seven sons as an absolute disaster.

Also in Chapter 14 a man is being pursued and commits suicide looking forward to his body being remade by God.

Judas wins victory against nicanor.

There is more emphasis on being oppressed than in 1 Maccabees, where there is more emphasis on wining battles. 

A lot of the time in both books – people who are discontent go to the King or oppressor and report the Jews for doing this or that, hoping to get a position in a new order. 

Strange story about raising money for a sub offering for the dead in chapter 12.


The Early Christians


Thoughts from a short book I read published by Day One.

The conditions were good for the start of Christianity. The Greeks had spread their culture, and consequently language, far and wide throughout the Mediterranean. This meant only one language was really needed to communicate with people everywhere the early Christians went. The Romans had clamped down on Piracy (Pompeii in particular) and bandits, and made a vast network of good straight roads. This enabled relatively safe and speedy travel. Finally, the Jewish Diaspora had resulted in many Jewish communities in all the main towns and cities. There were also many God Fearers – those from pagan background interested in a religion with superior morals and one God. This meant those that spread Christianity had communities to preach to throughout the Roman world.

Morality in the Roman empire was dreadful with orgies, drunkenness, temple prostitutes etc. Christianity, and Judaism too, offered a fresh moral direction.

The early Christians were committed to helping the poor, those in prison, and held hostage. Money was often given by selling possessions or selling church silver or gold plates etc.


Echoes of Scripture in Mark


In the baptism narrative Mark uses the word “torn” to describe the opening of the heavens, and the spirit coming down. The combination of “torn” and “down” echoes Isaiah 63:15-64:4. This implies that the coming story is God’s intervention in Israel’s current situation.

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down
(Isaiah 64:1).

The coming of Jesus is not just about restoration but also judgement. This is not alluded to but was part of the background worldview.

Alas for you who desire the day of the Lord!
    Why do you want the day of the Lord?
It is darkness, not light.
(Amos 5:18)


 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
    “Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight”’,

The first part about sending a messenger is not in Isaiah, this is closest to Exodus, but also Malachi. There the themes are coming into the promised land, and judgement and God coming to his temple.

20 I am going to send an angel in front of you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared.
Exodus 23:20


 See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.
Malachi 3:1


Initial Thoughts on Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels


I loved this book. It gives wonderfully refreshing ways of looking at how the Gospels are interlinked with scriptures.

Basically, the gospels say that the scriptures speak about Jesus. In Luke on the road to Emmaus, Jesus says that what has happened was in accordance with what was written in the law, prophets and psalms. In John, Jesus  says that Moses wrote about him. In Matthew there is a strong emphasis on fulfilment.

I was surprised  to see the number of echoes of the Psalms, and that in the crucifixion narrative there is a link made with Psalm 22, and no strong link made with Isaiah 53.

There are different types of connections. There are verbal connections where the wording is very similar to parts of the Septuagint. The reader who is well acquainted with the relevant passage will learn something extra. For example with the Isaiah passage alongside John the Baptist (in Mark and Matthew), there is a strong hint towards the divinity  of Jesus. The triumphal entry similarly hints back to the coming King.

As well as verbal connections there are visual connections. For example in John there is almost no verbal correspondence between the passage about the bronze snake being lifted up on a stick and Jesus being raised up from the earth, but there is an obvious strong verbal connection.