As your father.

An early Christian catechismal catena.


This catena is one of two apostolic catechisms that I am studying together as a window of insight into the transmission of early Christian teaching.

Didache 1.2b-5a, Matthew 5.38-48; 7.12a, and Luke 6.27-36 are the central texts for this catechism applied in two different ways. Matthew and Luke both place this catena in their great sermons (Matthew 5-7 and Luke 6.17-7.1a). The Didache, on the other hand, inserts it into its teaching on the two ways in 1.1-6.1. The catechism consists of eight or nine statements, each of which, interpreted literally, pursues a radical course of pacifism and nonretaliation. Interpreted hyperbolically, the injunctions are still radical in perspective, but not quite so difficult to implement.

The close concatenation of these balanced statements in the Didache, Matthew, and Luke is evidence of the circulation of such a catena in early Christian circles. The latter two present these injunctions explicitly as the teaching of Jesus...:

  • Matthew presents them as the teaching (διδαχη) of Jesus in his sermon on the mount in 5.1-2; 7.28-29.
  • Luke likewise places them in his sermon on the plain in 6.17-20a; 7.1.

The Didache simply calls them διδαχη, or teaching (the namesake of the book), without attributing them to Jesus in particular. This catena, then, is in all cases catechismal. I call this chain of statements as your father, the name that John Dominic Crossan gives what appears to be the main injunction of the group in his inventory in The Historical Jesus (complex 141).

The gospel of Mark has no real parallels to any of the items in this catechismal catena.

I offer below an analysis of both the contents of the catena and the order of the items within it.

Contents.

Didache.
Matthew.
Luke.

As your father in the Didache.

Let us start with Didache 1.2b-5a, the first of two sets of teachings within the two ways section of that document. The second set, in 2.1-7, is an intrinsic part of the two ways tradition. This first set, however, is not usually a part of that Jewish tradition:

  • Παντα δε οσα εαν θελησης μη γινηεσθαι σοι, και συ αλλω μη ποιει.
    And as many things, if you should wish not to happen to you, also you do not do to another.
     
  • Τουτων δε των λογων η διδαχη εστιν αυτη....
    And of these words the teaching is this....
The first statement above is also known as the Golden Rule.
  1. Ευλογειτε τους καταρωμενους υμιν και προσευχεσθε υπερ των εχθρων υμων, νηστευετε δε υπερ των διωκοντων υμας.
    Bless those who curse you and pray on behalf of your enemies, and fast on behalf of those who persecute you.
     
  2. Ποια γαρ χαρις εαν αγαπατε τους αγαπωντας υμας; ουχι και τα εθνη το αυτο ποιουσιν;
    For what kind of grace is it if you love those who love you? Do not even the gentiles do the same?
     
  3. Υμεις δε αγαπατε τους μισουντας υμας, και ουχ εξετε εχθρον.
    But you, love those who hate you, and you will not have an enemy.
     
  4. Απεχου των σαρκικων και σωματικων επιθυμιων.
    Abstain from fleshly and bodily desires.
     
  5. Εαν τις σοι δω ραπισμα εις την δεξιαν σιαγονα, στρεψον αυτω και την αλλην, και εση τελειος.
    If someone should give you a slap upon the right cheek, turn to him also the other, and you will be perfect.
     
  6. Εαν αγγαρευση σε τις μιλιον εν, υπαγε μετ αυτου δυο.
    If someone should press you for one mile, go with him two.
     
  7. Εαν αρη τις το ιματιον σου, δος αυτω και τον χιτωνα.
    If someone should take your cloak, give him also your tunic.
     
  8. Εαν λαβη τις απο σου το σον, μη απαιτει, ουδε γαρ δυνασαι. παντι τω αιτουντι σε διδου και μη απαιτει.
    If someone should take what is yours away from you, do not take it away, for you are unable. To him who asks you give and do not take back.
     
  9. Πασι γαρ θελει διδοσθαι ο πατηρ εκ των ιδιων χαρισματων.
    For the father wishes that to all should be given from your own graces.
As your father in Matthew.

I continue with Matthew 5.38-48; 7.12a, from the sermon on the mount. This passage (except for 7.12a) comprises the last two full slots in the Matthean sequence of you heard that it was said statements in 5.21-48:

  • Ηκουσατε οτι ερρεθη· Οφθαλμον αντι οφθαλμου και οδοντα αντι οδοντος. εγω δε λεγω υμιν μη αντιστηναι τω πονηρω.
    You heard that it was said: An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you not to stand against the evil one.
  1. Αλλ οστις σε ραπιζει εις την δεξιαν σιαγονα σου, στρεψον αυτω και την αλλην.
    But, whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him also the other.
     
  2. Και τω θελοντι σοι κριθηναι και τον χιτωνα σου λαβειν, αφες αυτω και το ιματιον.
    And, to him who wishes to judge you and take your tunic, give him also your cloak.
     
  3. Και οστις σε αγγαρευσει μιλιον εν, υπαγε μετ αυτου δυο.
    And, whoever will press you for one mile, go with him two.
     
  4. Τω αιτουντι σε δος, και τον θελοντα απο σου δανισασθαι μη αποστραφης.
    Give to him who asks, and do not turn away him who wishes to borrow from you.
  • Ηκουσατε οτι ερρεθη· Αγαπησεις τον πλησιον σου και μισησεις τον εχθρον σου. εγω δε λεγω υμιν·
    You heard that it was said: You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you:
  1. Αγαπατε τους εχθρους υμων και προσευχεσθε υπερ των διωκοντων υμας, οπως γενησθε υιοι του πατρος υμων του εν ουρανοις, οτι τον ηλιον αυτου ανατελλει επι πονηρους και αγαθους, και βρεχει επι δικαιους και αδικους.
    Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you might be sons of your father who is in heaven, since he causes his sun to rise upon the evil and the good, and it rains upon the just and the unjust.
     
  2. Εαν γαρ αγαπησητε τους αγαπωντας υμας, τινα μισθον εχετε; ουχι και οι τελωναι το αυτο ποιουσιν; και εαν ασπασησθε τους αδελφους υμων μονον, τι περισσον ποιειτε; ουχι και οι εθνικοι το αυτο ποιουσιν;
    For, if you love those who love you, what wage do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And, if you greet only your brethren, what more are you doing? Do not even the gentiles do the same?
     
  3. Εσεσθε ουν υμεις τελειοι ως ο πατηρ υμων ο ουρανιος τελειος εστιν.
    You shall therefore be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.
     
  4. Παντα ουν οσα εαν θελητε ινα ποιωσιν υμιν οι ανθρωποι, ουτως και υμεις ποιειτε αυτοις.
    As many things, therefore, if you should wish men to do them for you, so also you do for them.
Number 8 is also known as the Golden Rule.
As your father in Luke.

Finally, Luke 6.27-36 overlaps with another catena in the sermon on the plain:

  • Αλλα υμιν λεγω τοις ακουουσιν·
    But to you who hear I say:
  1. Αγαπατε τους εχθρους υμων, καλως ποιειτε τοις μισουσιν υμας, ευλογειτε τους καταρωμενους υμας, προσευχεσθε περι των επηρεαζοντων υμας.
    Love your enemies, do well with those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who revile you.
     
  2. Τω τυπτοντι σε επι την σιαγονα παρεχε και την αλλην.
    To him who strikes you upon the cheek hold out also the other.
     
  3. Και απο του αιροντος σου το ιματιον και τον χιτωνα μη κωλυσης.
    And from him who takes your cloak do not withhold your tunic also.
     
  4. Παντι αιτουντι σε διδου, και απο του αιροντος τα σα μη απαιτει.
    Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask back from him who takes what is yours.
     
  5. Και καθως θελετε ινα ποιωσιν υμιν οι ανθρωποι, ποιειτε αυτοις ομοιως.
    And just as you wish men to do for you, do for them likewise.
     
  6. Και ει αγαπατε τους αγαπωντας υμας, ποια υμιν χαρις εστιν; και γαρ οι αμαρτωλοι τους αγαπωντας αυτους αγαπωσιν. και γαρ εαν αγαθοποιητε τους αγαθοποιουντας υμας, ποια υμιν χαρις εστιν; και οι αμαρτωλοι το αυτο ποιουσιν. και εαν δανισητε παρ ων ελπιζετε λαβειν, ποια υμιν χαρις εστιν; και αμαρτωλοι αμαρτωλοις δανιζουσιν ινα απολαβωσιν τα ισα.
    And if you love those who love you, what kind of grace is it to you? For even the sinners love those that love them. For if also you do good for those who do good for you, what kind of grace is it to you? Even the sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what kind of grace is it to you? Even the sinners lend to sinners so that they might receive back in kind.
     
  7. Πλην αγαπατε τους εχθρους υμων και αγαθοποιειτε και δανιζετε μηδεν απελπιζοντες, και εσται ο μισθος υμων πολυς, και εσεσθε υιοι υψιστου, οτι αυτος χρηστος εστιν επι τους αχαριστους και πονηρους.
    Rather love your enemies and do good and lend, hoping for nothing back, and great will be your wage, and you will be sons of the most high, since he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.
     
  8. Γινεσθε οικτιρμονες καθως και ο πατηρ υμων οικτιρμων εστιν.
    Become compassionate, just as your father is compassionate.
Number 5 is also known as the Golden Rule.

Order.

Below is a table comparing and contrasting the sequence of sayings in all three sources. I have italicized the one saying that is not adjacent with the rest, and therefore not actually part of the main catena in Matthew and the Didache.

The references, again, are Didache 1.2b-5a, Matthew 5.38-48; 7.12a, and Luke 6.27-36.

Didache. Matthew. Luke.
Do not also do. - -
Pray for your enemies. Turn the other cheek. Love your enemies.
Even the gentiles. Give your cloak also. Hold out the other cheek.
Love those who hate you. Go the extra mile. Do not withhold your tunic.
Abstain from desires. - -
Turn the other cheek. Give to him who asks. Give to him who asks.
Go the extra mile. Love your enemies. Do likewise.
Give your cloak also. Even the tax-collectors and gentiles. Even the sinners.
Give to him who asks. Be therefore perfect. Love your enemies.
Of your own graces. So also do. Become compassionate.

A few observations:

  • The Golden Rule bears three different applications in these three texts. In Matthew it is not part of the catena at all. In Luke it is centrally located within the catena. In the Didache it is not part of the catena, but is rather the basis for the entire catechism. The catechismal series comprises the very content of the teaching of the Golden Rule.
     
  • Each of these three instances of this catechism divides rather neatly into two halves. One half is comprised entirely of radical injunctions, vividly conveyed instructions requiring a pacifistic stance of nonretaliation. These are turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, giving the cloak also, and giving to him who asks. The other half is a command to love enemies, and a contrast between this kind of stance and the kind taken by sinners.
     
  • The Didache and Luke distinguish between these two halves by inserting a statement of a different kind between them. The former inserts abstain from desires; the latter inserts the Golden Rule, do likewise. Matthew is even more forceful in this distinction, making each of the halves the separate topic of one of the Matthean you heard that it was said statements. The radical injunctions fill the slot in 5.38-42, while loving enemies fills the slot in 5.43-48.
     
  • Luke, however, doubles up his statement on loving enemies, including it both in 6.27-28 and in 6.35, as a sort of frame around the other statements (except, of course, the climactic statement on being compassionate as the father is compassionate).
     
  • The final position in the Didache is reserved for of your own graces, that in Matthew (discounting the dislocated Golden Rule) is given to be therefore perfect, and that in Luke is filled by become compassionate. All three of these sayings mention the father. Furthermore, Matthew tells us to be perfect, while the Didache tells us that if we follow the first radical injunction, to turn the other cheek, we will be perfect. Luke glosses perfection with compassion.
     
  • It is the common position of most scholars that both Matthew and the Didache were written primarily for Jews, while Luke was written primarily for gentiles. This catechism would support that view. The former two, seeking pawns for a minimal standard of behavior, state that even the gentiles love those who love them (Matthew throws in tax-collectors for good measure). Luke, on the other hand, thrice says that it is the sinners who lower the ethical bar.

These observations will be important to keep in mind in my discussion of the transmission of apostolic catechismal materials.