Friday, October 19, 2007

The Amillennialism of the Didache [60-200 AD]


The Didache, otherwise called “The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles”, is said to support premillennialism. As we shall see, this claim is totally unwarranted.

Chap. 16 - Watchfulness; the Coming of the Lord.
Watch for your life's sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ready, for you know not the hour in which our Lord will come. But come together often, seeking the things which are befitting to your souls: for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if you are not made perfect in the last time. For in the last days false prophets and corrupters shall be multiplied, and the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall be turned into hate; for when lawlessness increases, they shall hate and persecute and betray one another, and then shall appear the world-deceiver as Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders, and the earth shall be delivered into his hands, and he shall do iniquitous things which have never yet come to pass since the beginning. Then shall the creation of men come into the fire of trial, and many shall be made to stumble and shall perish; but those who endure in their faith shall be saved from under the curse itself. And then shall appear the signs of the truth: first, the sign of an outspreading in heaven, then the sign of the sound of the trumpet. And third, the resurrection of the dead -- yet not of all, but as it is said: "The Lord shall come and all His saints with Him." Then shall the world see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.”

It is clear that the writers of the Didache held to a futurist view of the Lord’s Coming at the time this work was written. As with Clement of Rome and the Shepherd of Hermas, dating is the key. Scholars have suggested dates ranging from the time of the Apostles to the third Century.

“The Didache ("The Teaching") is one of the most fascinating yet perplexing documents to emerge from the early church. The title (in ancient times "The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles") was known from references to it by Athanasius, Didymus, and Eusebius, and Serapion of Thmuis (4th century) has a quotation from it in his Eucharistic prayer [Richardson] p. 163. But no copy was known until 1873, when Bryennios discovered the codex Hierosolymitanus, which contained the full text of the Didache which he published in 1883. Since then it has been the focus of scholarly attention to an extent quite out of proportion to its modest length. Yet such basic information as who wrote and where and when remain as much as mystery as when it was first discovered… Dating the Didache is difficult because there is a lack of hard evidence and it is a composite document. It may have been put into its present form as late as 150 CE, though a date considerably closer to the end of the 1st century seems more probable. The materials from which it was composed, however, reflect the state of the church at an even earlier time. A very thorough commentary, [Audet], suggests about 70 CE and he is not likely to be off by more than a decade.” (From The Development of the Canon of the New Testament).

Here are some dates proposed by scholars.

Jean-P. Audet: “50-70 AD.”
Stephen J. Patterson: “end of the first century or the beginning of the second.”
Stevan Davies: “written sometime in the late first or early second century.”

If, in fact, the Didache was written prior to AD 70, then we have possible evidence for preterism. Otherwise, a reader of the Didache would have to conclude that it supports either amillennial or postmillennial futurism. The Didache teaches that the resurrection of the dead precedes the coming of the Lord, but mentions absolutely nothing about a millennium.

6 comments:

Alan said...

I'm amillennial, but I've read all you posts and I don't believe there is any preterism in the church until after the Reformation. You use the term "preterism" very loosely. Also, there are different kinds of premillennialism and preterism. You speak as if pre-trib was the only type of premillennialism.

Puritan Lad said...

Alan,

You may want to start at the very beginning.

http://christianityinhistory.blogspot.com/2007/10/eschatology-of-early-church.html

I acknowledged that premillennialism did exist in the early church, but was very rare, and incompatible with any modern version. You find a few in this blog that I acknowledged as premillennial.

Puritan Lad said...

BTW: I downloaded a few of your books. Looks like interesting reads...

Anonymous said...

The Didache makes the same distinction as Polycarp; the resurrection, but not of all.

JaredMithrandir said...

Fact is, if it's written before 70 AD it can't be used to support or oppose a Preterist view of Prophecy. Just like how you respond to latter emphasizes on Imminence. Them believing it would happen in their lifetime simply makes them wrong.

Puritan Lad said...

Like I wrote in another post, the point about the church fathers is what they actually believed. Whether or not they were right in what they believed is another debate. Clearly, there were very few premills.