Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting location:Boston, MA date:21-25 November 2008
The Didache has often been the subject of scholarly discussions surrounding the issues of early Jewish-Christian relations insofar as this document clearly points at early forms of Jesus movement that transmitted Jewish traditions both in practice and belief. Affinity with Judaism has been highlighted especially with regard to the liturgical portions of the Didache, which seem to reflect contemporary Jewish institutions. In particular, many scholars tend to see a direct link between the eucharistic prayers of the Didache (9-10) and the Birkat Ha-Mazon, suggesting that the former evolved out of the latter. At the same time, the distinctive features of the Didache prayers are interpreted for the most part as Christian modifications of the Jewish original. This presentation will test this view by focusing on Did. 9.4 and 10.5, which refer to the eschatological gathering of the Church into God’s Kingdom. While displaying some similarity with the traditional Jewish motif of the ingathering of the diaspora, these verses do not express the idea of Israel’s restoration, which seems to be closely connected with the gathering motif in Jewish literature. In view of this the following questions may be raised: does the lack of any explicit reference to Israel (as well as Jerusalem and/or the Temple) here indicate that the Didache attempts to substitute the Jewish hope for the political reconstitution of Israel as nation by the notion of the eschatological assembly of the Church, stripped of any political connotation? And if so, is the Didache community attempting to define thus its own identity in opposition to Judaism? Answers to these questions will allow us to determine to what extent, if at all, verses 9.4 and 10.5 can be seen as specifically Christian, and whether they imply the parting of the ways with Judaism.