Tag Archives: didache

Belated Greek Wednesday: Didache 9: Is Jesus God’s “Child” or His “Servant”?

Here’s the Eucharist liturgy from the Didache, an early Jewish-Christian text, composed somewhere in Syria or Palestine, between 60-110 CE. It was highly regarded early on, and was considered Scripture by many early Christian groups. (As a sidebar, I’m of the opinion that it was composed relatively early, maybe 60-80 CE, in Palestine.)

Περὶ δὲ τῆς εὐχαριστίας, οὕτω εὐχαριστήσατε.

Πρῶτον περὶ τοῦ ποτηρίου· Εὐχαριστοῦμέν σοι, πάτερ ἡμῶν, ὑπὲρ τῆς ἁγίας ἀμπέλου Δαυὶδ τοῦ παιδός σου, ἧς ἐγνώρισας ἡμῖν διὰ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ παιδός σου· σοὶ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας.

Περὶ δὲ τοῦ κλάσματος· Εὐχαριστοῦμέν σοι, πάτερ ἡμῶν, ὑπὲρ τῆς ζωῆς καὶ γνώσεως, ἧς ἐγνώρισας ἡμῖν διὰ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ παιδός σου· σοὶ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας.

Ὥσπερ ἦν τοῦτο τὸ κλάσμα διεσκορπισμένον ἐπάνω τῶν ὀρέων καὶ συναχθὲν ἐγένετο ἕν, οὕτω συναχθήτω σου ἡ ἐκκλησία ἀπὸ τῶν περάτων τῆς γῆς εἰς τὴν σὴν βασιλείαν· ὅτι σοῦ ἐστιν ἡ δόξα καὶ ἡ δύναμις διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας.


Concerning the Eucharist, give thanks like this.

First, concerning the cup:

“We give thanks to you, our Father, for the holy grapevine of your pais David, which you made known to us through your pais Jesus. May you be glorified forever.”

And concerning the piece of bread:

“We give thanks to you, our Father, for the life and knowledge that you made known to us through your pais Jesus. May you be glorified forever. Just as this broken bread was scattered on the mountainsides, but was gathered together and made one loaf, so let your church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom. For the glory and the power are yours through Jesus Christ forever.”

The problem in this text rests on two points: 1) Pais can mean both “child” and “servant” [why? they come from similar roots that merged into one form]; 2) The author uses pais to describe both David and Jesus. In the LXX, whenever David is explicitly described as God’s pais, it always translates the Hebrew ebed (“servant,” “slave”); in the NT, David is servant-pais twice (Lk 1:69; Acts 4:25), but never a child-pais. In the NT, Jesus is a child-pais once (Lk 2:43) and a servant-pais five times (Mt 12:18; Acts 3:13, 26; 4:27, 30). So, the biblical evidence weighs heavily in favor of reading pais here in Didache 9 as “servant.”

At two other places in the Didache (7:3; 16:4)  Jesus is called God’s huiosa term that unambiguously means “son”; of course, he is called God’s huios all throughout the NT, he is called David’s huios three times in the NT (Mt 1:1; Mk 10:47; Lk 18:38), and he is called Joseph’s huios twice (Jn 1:45; 6:42). However, David is nowhere in the LXX or the NT called God’s huios. In other words, for the authors of the Bible, David’s paternity is strictly human, while for the NT authors, Jesus has both human and divine paternity.

So, the nitty-gritty aside: how should we translate pais in Didache 9? Should David’s role as God’s pais take precedence, meaning that both David and Jesus are called “servant” here (a meaning that seems strange, to say the least, in a Eucharistic liturgy)? Or should Jesus’ sonship take precedence, giving David the strange and somewhat awkward title of child-pais? Or, even less likely, is the author making a pun here, between David as servant-pais and Jesus as child-pais?

Personally, I think the best interpretation is to read pais here as “servant.” Thus, the emphasis in the Didache‘s Eucharist liturgy is primarily on God the Father, with the role of Jesus the Son placed decidedly in the background. This emphasis is profoundly different than that of Paul’s Eucharist liturgy (1 Cor 11:23-32), which focuses solely on Jesus. I’d hesitate to make a full-blown Christology from this one section of the Didache, but I certainly find it telling that, in the celebration of Jesus’ death, Jesus is put in the background and is called God’s servant, not God’s son. In fact, in this prayer before the meal that celebrates Jesus’ death, Jesus’ death is not even mentioned! In his death, then, Jesus is only carrying out God’s commands, and has no choice of his own. Very interesting stuff!


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Greek Wednesday: A Question

Didache 2:7 is an interesting sentence, and it’s puzzling me quite a bit. Here’s the Greek, followed by a published translation and then my own:

οὐ μισήσεις πάντα ἄνθρωπον, ἀλλὰ οὓς μὲν ἐλέγξεις, περὶ δὲ ὧν προσεύξῃ, οὓς δὲ ἀγαπήσεις ὑπὲρ τὴν ψυχήν σου

You shall not hate any one; instead you shall reprove some, and pray for some, and some you shall love more than your own life.

Do not hate any person. Instead: on the one hand, reprove them, and on the other hand, pray for them and love them more than you love your own soul.

I’m pretty sure that the translator, in talking about three different groups, is trying to convey the force of the μὲν . . .  δὲ . . . δὲ (“on the one hand . . . on the other hand . . . and on the other hand”) with the plural pronouns, with the plural pronouns being distinct from the singular ἄνθρωπον (anthrōpon; “man,” “person”). I think it might make better sense to take the plural relative pronouns as depending on the plural πάντα (panta; “all”); in that case, the three pronouns would be referring to the same group, which is “all people.”

Jude 22-23 has a nearly identical construction. Here’s the Greek, followed by the ESV, then my translation:

22 Καὶ οὓς μὲν ἐλεᾶτε διακρινομένους,  23 οὓς δὲ σῴζετε ἐκ πυρὸς ἁρπάζοντες, οὓς δὲ ἐλεᾶτε ἐν φόβῳ μισοῦντες καὶ τὸν ἀπὸ τῆς σαρκὸς ἐσπιλωμένον χιτῶνα.

22 And have mercy on those who doubt;  23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

22 On the one hand, have mercy on those who are in doubt, 23 and on the other hand, deliver them by snatching them from the fire, and have mercy on them with fear, by hating even the garment that has been stained by the flesh.

I looked around this afternoon, and I couldn’t find anything in any grammars (Wallace, Robertson, BDF, Funk, or Smyth) about this construction referring to different groups. I suppose it could be one of those things that’s just generally known, but that’s not a very satisfying category.

What do you think? Do you have an insight into this sort of construction? Do you know where I could read more about it, if someone has written about it?

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Moral Instruction in Didache 3

Inspired by yesterday’s post about γίνομαι with a predicate substantive, here’s a passage with quite a bit of that construction, and with quite a bit of interesting moral instruction:

My child, flee from everything evil — even  flee from everything similar to evil. Do not prove to be quick to anger (since anger is the path that leads to murder), or jealous, or contentious, or hot-tempered, because each and every one of these things gives birth to murder.

My child, do not prove to be lustful (since lust is the path that leads to illicit sex), or foul-mouthed, or someone who lets their eyes roam, because each and every one of these things gives birth to adultery.

My child, do not prove to be a fortune-teller (since it is the path that leads to idolatry), or use charms and incantations to get what you want, or practice astrology, or use magic to try and purify people — or even wish to see such things — because each and every one of these things gives birth to idolatry.

My child, do not prove to be a liar (since untruthfulness is the path that leads to theft), or fond of money, or conceited, because each and every one of these things gives birth to theft.

My child, do not prove to be a grumbler (since it is the path that leads to blasphemy), or be arrogant and stubborn, or evil-minded, because each and every one of these things gives birth to blasphemy.

But be humble, since the meek will inherit the earth. Become patient, and compassionate, and innocent, and quiet, and good, and continually in awe of the things that you heard.

Do not exalt yourself, and do not admit arrogance into your soul. Do not let your soul be united with the arrogant; rather, associate with the righteous and the lowly. Receive the things that happen to you as if they were good things, since you know that nothing happens apart from God.

(A note about this translation: this is from a translation of the Didache that I did a year or so ago. I use italics to represent emphasis in the Greek that is normally lost in English translation; Greek emphasizes words and phrases through changing word order, while in English, we have to change the formatting of the text to achieve the same effect.)

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