Markus Vinzent's Blog

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Didache and the early dating of Matthew (and the other later canonical Gospels)

The fundamental problem, as I see it with the Didache, is given by the fact that we are still missing a major critical edition. All that we have got (SC, FC ...) are editiones minores.
These pretend to give a text which, in fact, is only mirroring fourth century recensions of a text. As all editors admit, the existing recensions that we have are so divergent that an editio maior would need to put side by side the various recensions so that one can recognise the differences and variations (much as we have it now with Aristides). So to the question of origin and date of the Didache one would first need to establish the relation between the various recensions to dating and locating of them, before one moves into hypotheseis about the potential earlier versions. The strong differences between the recensions underline, indeed, that this text was heavily revised, being a non-authored, partly catechetical, liturgical, practical, juridicial document which, as one can see from the reuse in the Apostolic Constitutions, has been seen as a building block for further use.
The question of the right text has an enormous bearing, for example, on the discussion I have with many New Testament scholars. When they point to the use of Matthew in the Didache, they refer amongst others to what scholarship calls the 'gospel insertion' (SC Did 1,3-6) which is almost entirely taken from Matthew 5 (Luke 6 par.) - yet this first 'Christian' part is present in H,CA,O,G, but is missing in KO,E and L, neither is there a parallel in Barn. 18-20, and therefore left out of the edition of the Did. by Klaus Wengst, for example. B. Layton has already pointed out that the Didache, as we have it (also with this insertion), is a harmonised version, where Matthew and Luke have contaminated the text of the Didache. The main argument against this text passage as part of the earlier version of the Didache is that there cannot be given a reason why the KO would have left out from the Didache this passage which sounds most Christian.
Now, on such difficult grounds, a careful dating (locating not yet possible in my eyes) is given by Wengst: Terminus post quem is Matthew, terminus ante quem is Clement of Alexandria. As Wengst assumes an early dating of Matthew, he opts for the beginning of the 2nd century - but here comes the circular argument, as the Didache is being taken by the same scholars as the hook for the early dating of Matthew. As a result, we only know of a relative dating (which is even more dubious, as we do not know to what extent our versions that all date from the fourth century and later, are harmonised versions): Didache after Matthew and before Clement. In addition, as the Didache assumes already a certain separation between Jews and Christians and seems to be prior to Justin (all with huge caveats reg. text basis), it seems that anything that claims a date earlier than the mid second century is loaded with the burden of a heavy hypothesis. The Didache can certainly not provide the basis for a first century dating of Matthew and the other Gospels.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Meister Eckhart joking

Working on a new monograph Eckhart's Bible which is based on the finished first fascicle (the Bible-index, created and annotated by Loris Sturlese and me, one of the reasons why over the past weeks I could not post any blog) of the Indices to Meister Eckhart's critical edition (Kohlhammer, Stuttgart) (to be published early 2015), I came across a wonderful joke which shows Eckhart criticising an abbot who had little knowledge of the Old and the New Testament:

... The two corns of the abbot’s mitre represent the two testaments which the abbot should know in his head, while the two lappets that hang down on the shoulders signify the fulfilment of both testaments by following the mandates. A certain person [Eckhart himself, it seems], however, who was asked about the meaning by a certain officer of the kings who saw somebody with little knowledge in both testaments celebrating under a pontifical mitre, answered that the two corns signified, as stated before, the two testaments, but that the lappets of the mitre signified that he knew neither of them, according to that verse from Jer. 12: ‘You are close to their mouth, but far away from their kidneys’.[1]

[1] Eckhart, In Ex. n. 258 (LW II 207,3-11): ‘Quod autem hic dicitur de pectusculo et armo dextro, congruit quod in mitra pontificali duo cornua significant duo testamenta in capite per cognitionem, duae vero dependentiae descendentes ad scapulas significant utriusque testamenti impletionem per mandatorum operationem. Quidam tamen, requisitus a quodam ex regibus, `qui´ cum videret quendam celebrantem sub mitra pontificali parum scientem in utroque testamento, respondit quod duo cornua significabant quidem, ut prius, duo testamenta, dependentiae vero a mitra significabant quod neutra sciebat, secundum illud Ier. 12: 'prope es tu ori eorum, et longe a renibus eorum'’; see Innocentius III, De sacro altaris mysterio I c. 60 (PL 217,796: ‘mitra pontificis scientiam utriusque testamenti significat, nam duo cornua sunt testamenta, duae fimbriae spiritus et littera.’