The Didache and the Olivet discourse.

Didache 16.1-8.


The Didache, or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, is classified with the apostolic fathers. It is a manual for Christian instruction, but it concludes with an apocalyptic passage parallel to the apocalypse of Olivet.

Didache 16.1-8:

Γρηγορειτε υπερ της ζωης υμων· οι λυχνοι υμων μη σβεσθητωσαν, και αι οσφυες υμων μη εκλυεσθωσαν, αλλα γινεσθε ετοιμοι, ου γαρ οιδατε την ωραν εν η ο κυριος ημων ερχεται. πυκνως δε συναχθησεσθε ζητουντες τα ανηκοντα ταις ψυχαις υμων, ου γαρ ωφελησει υμας ο πας χρονος της πιστεως υμων εαν μη εν τω εσχατω καιρω τελειωθητε. εν γαρ ταις εσχαταις ημεραις πληθυνθησονται οι ψευδοπροφηται και οι φθορεις, και στραφησονται τα προβατα εις λυκους, και η αγαπη στραφησεται εις μισος. αυξανουσης γαρ της ανομιας μισησουσιν αλληλους και παραδωσουσι, και τοτε φανησεται ο κοσμοπλανης ως υιος θεου και ποιησει σημεια και τερατα, και η γη παραδοθησεται εις χειρας αυτου, και ποιησει αθεμιτα, α ουδεποτε γεγονεν εξ αιωνος. τοτε ηξει η κτισις των ανθρωπων εις την πυρωσιν της δοκιμασιας, και σκανδαλισθησονται πολλοι και απολουνται, οι δε υπομειναντες εν τη πιστει αυτων σωθησονται υπ αυτου του καταθεματος. και τοτε φανησεται τα σημεια της αληθειας, πρωτον σημειον εκπετασεως εν ουρανω, ειτα σημειον φωνης σαλπιγγος, και το τριτον αναστασις νεκρων, ου παντων δε, αλλ ως ερρεθη· Ηξει ο κυριος και παντες οι αγιοι μετ αυτου. τοτε οψεται ο κοσμος τον κυριον ερχομενον επανω των νεφελων του ουρανου.

Be awake for the sake of your life. Let not your lamps be quenched, and your loins ungirded, but be ready, for you do not know the hour in which our Lord will come. But come together often, seeking the things that are fitting for your souls, for the whole time of your faith will not profit you unless you are perfected in the last season. For in the last days the false prophets and corrupters will be multiplied, and the sheep will be changed into wolves, and love will be changed into hatred. For when lawlessness is increased they will hate one another and deliver one another up, and then shall appear the deceiver of the world as a son of God, and he will do signs and wonders, and the earth will be delivered into his hands, and he will do iniquities which have not yet happened from the age. Then the creation of men will come into the fire of testing, and many will be scandalized and will perish, but those who endure in their faith shall be saved by the curse itself. And then shall appear the signs of the truth, first the sign of a stretching out in heaven, then the sign of the voice of a trumpet, and the third the resurrection of the dead, but not of all, but as it is said: The Lord shall come and all his saints with him. Then the world will see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.

Not every parallel in this passage comes from Olivet, of course, but it can hardly be denied that the picture as a whole is similar to that found on Olivet. I shall run through this passage a bit at a time, highlighting the most notable parallels.

Didache 16.1.
Didache 16.2.
Didache 16.3.
Didache 16.4.
Didache 16.5.
Didache 16.6-7.
Didache 16.8.

Didache 16.1:

Γρηγορειτε υπερ της ζωης υμων· οι λυχνοι υμων μη σβεσθητωσαν, και αι οσφυες υμων μη εκλυεσθωσαν, αλλα γινεσθε ετοιμοι, ου γαρ οιδατε την ωραν εν η ο κυριος ημων ερχεται.

Be awake for the sake of your life. Let not your lamps be quenched, and your loins ungirded, but be ready, for you do not know the hour in which our Lord will come.

The injunction to be awake finds its parallels in Matthew 24.42 and Mark 13.35a. The unknown hour is parallel to Matthew 24.36a and Mark 13.32a, with a distant relationship to Luke 12.39. The lamps and loins find no parallel on Olivet, but do find one in the central section of Luke, at 12.35:

Matthew 24.36a, 42. Mark 13.32a, 35a. Luke 12.39, 35.
 
 
Περι δε της ημερας
εκεινης και ωρας
 
ουδεις οιδεν.
 
 
Γρηγορειτε ουν,
οτι ουκ οιδατε
ποια ημερα ο κυριος
υμων ερχεται.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
But about that day
and hour
 
no one knows.
 
 
So be awake,
because you do not know
which day your Lord
is coming.
 
 
Περι δε της ημερας
εκεινης η της ωρας
 
ουδεις οιδεν.
 
 
Γρηγορειτε ουν,
ουκ οιδατε γαρ
ποτε ο κυριος
της οικιας ερχεται.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
But about that day
or hour
 
no one knows.
 
 
So be awake,
for you do not know
when the lord
of the house is coming.
Τουτο δε γινωσκετε,
οτι ει ηδει
ο οικοδεσποτης
ποια ωρα
ο κλεπτης ερχεται,
ουκ αν αφηκεν
διορυχθηναι
τον οικον αυτου.
 
 
 
 
Εστωσαν υμων
αι οσφυες
περιεζωσμεναι και
οι λυχνοι καιομενοι.
 
But know this,
that if
the housemaster knew
what hour
the thief was coming,
he would not allow
his house
to be penetrated.
 
 
 
 
Let your loins be
dressed and
your lamps burning.

Didache 16.2:

Πυκνως δε συναχθησεσθε ζητουντες τα ανηκοντα ταις ψυχαις υμων, ου γαρ ωφελησει υμας ο πας χρονος της πιστεως υμων εαν μη εν τω εσχατω καιρω τελειωθητε.

But come together often, seeking the things that are fitting for your souls, for the whole time of your faith will not profit you unless you are perfected in the last season.

The closest parallel seems to be Hebrews 10.25, which likewise links the gathering of the saints with the approaching day:

...μη εγκαταλειποντες την επισυναγωγην εαυτων, καθως εθος τισιν, αλλα παρακαλουντες, και τοσουτω μαλλον οσω βλεπετε εγγιζουσαν την ημεραν.

...not leaving behind our gathering together, as it the custom of some, but encouraging one another, and especially such as you see the day coming to hand.

Didache 16.3:

Εν γαρ ταις εσχαταις ημεραις πληθυνθησονται οι ψευδοπροφηται και οι φθορεις, και στραφησονται τα προβατα εις λυκους, και η αγαπη στραφησεται εις μισος.

For in the last days the false prophets and corrupters will be multiplied, and the sheep will be changed into wolves, and love will be changed into hatred.

All three synoptics warn against false prophets (Matthew 24.11, 24; Mark 13.22; Luke 6.26; confer Acts 13.6), as do a couple of the epistles (2 Peter 2.1; 1 John 4.1). A stretch of the apocalypse of John also speaks of a singular false prophet in association with the beast (Revelation 13.11-14; 16.13; 19.20; 20.10). But only the gospel of Matthew explicitly links the false prophets with wolves preying on sheep. Matthew 7.15b, from the sermon on the mount:

Προσεχετε απο των ψευδοπροφητων, οιτινες ερχονται προς υμας εν ενδυμασιν προβατων, εσωθεν δε εισιν λυκοι αρπαγες.

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly are fierce wolves.

It is also Matthew alone that writes of love and hate in close connection with the false prophets, this time on Olivet. Matthew 24.10-12:

Και τοτε σκανδαλισθησονται πολλοι και αλληλους παραδωσουσιν και μισησουσιν αλληλους, και πολλοι ψευδοπροφηται εγερθησονται και πλανησουσιν πολλους, και δια το πληθυνθηναι την ανομιαν ψυγησεται η αγαπη των πολλων.

And then many will be scandalized and will deliver each other and will hate each other, and many false prophets will rise up and deceive many, and on account of the increase of lawlessness the love of many will go cold.

Didache 16.3, in other words, is intimately linked with either the written gospel of Matthew or an oral Matthean tradition. And it is this linking of material both from Olivet and from other locations in the gospel (such as the sermon on the mount) that we see most clearly the wisdom of constantly checking with the peripheral, yet clearly related, parallels to Olivet.

Didache 16.4:

Αυξανουσης γαρ της ανομιας μισησουσιν αλληλους και παραδωσουσι, και τοτε φανησεται ο κοσμοπλανης ως υιος θεου και ποιησει σημεια και τερατα, και η γη παραδοθησεται εις χειρας αυτου, και ποιησει αθεμιτα, α ουδεποτε γεγονεν εξ αιωνος.

For when lawlessness is increased they will hate one another and deliver one another up, and then shall appear the deceiver of the world as a son of God, and he will do signs and wonders, and the earth will be delivered into his hands, and he will do iniquities which have not yet happened from the age.

The motif of the increase of lawlessness is distinctly Matthean, from Matthew 24.12 again. The delivering up, or betrayal, of one another is found in all three synoptic versions of Olivet (Matthew 24.9-14; Mark 13.9-13; Luke 21.12-19). But it is again Matthew alone, in 24.10, who predicts both the delivering up and the hatred, like Didache 16.4, in one breath. Both Mark and Luke separate these elements.

Furthermore, it is Matthew alone that repeats, and thus emphasizes, the warning of betrayal, as well as that of hatred, in the mission instructions of 10.17-25. Neither Mark nor Luke repeat the pericope.

The deceiver of the world, however, is a different matter. Nothing in any of the synoptics closely matches such a figure, although, as we shall see, the synoptics do present material from the same fount of Jewish tradition. It might be helpful at this point to list his principal characteristics, as presented in our present source. According to the Didache, then, this figure...:

  1. ...is a deceiver of the cosmos, or world.
  2. ...claims divinity in some way, as a son of God.
  3. ...performs signs and wonders.
  4. ...subdues the earth.
  5. ...is iniquitious in ways as yet unheard of.

John in the apocalypse, the apostle Paul in his second epistle to the Thessalonians, and the Didache here in its apocalyptic conclusion all mention this great personage who is to reveal himself in the last days. In each case, the archetype for this singularly despicable figure is none other than Antiochus IV Epiphanes from the book of Daniel.

Daniel 11.21-35 (at least, and also perhaps 11.36-45) describes the career of Antiochus Epiphanes, one of the kings of the north, that is, of Syria. Our most relevant passages are 11.31, 36-37:

וזרעים ממנו יעמדו וחללו המקדש המעוז והסירו התמיד ונתנו השקוץ משומם׃
....
ועשה כרצונו המלך ויתרומם ויתגדל על־כל־אל ועל אל אלים ידבר נפלאות והצליח עד־כלה׃
זעם כי נחרצה נעשתה ועל־אלהי אבתיו לא יבין ועל־חמדת נשים ועל־כל־אלוה לא יבין כי על־כל יתגדל׃

Και βραχιονες παρ αυτου στησονται και μιανουσι το αγιον του φοβου και αποστησουσι την θυσιαν και δωσουσι βδελυγμα ερημωσεως.
....
Και ποιησει κατα το θελημα αυτου ο βασιλευς και παροργισθησεται και υψωθησεται επι παντα θεον και επι τον θεον των θεων εξαλλα λαλησει και ευοδωθησεται εως αν συντελεσθη η οργη, εις αυτον γαρ συντελεια γινεται. και επι τους θεους των πατερων αυτου ου μη προνοηθη και εν επιθυμια γυναικος ου μη προνοηθη οτι εν παντι υψωθησεται και υποταγησεται αυτω εθνη ισχυρα.

And armies from him shall arise and profane the sanctuary fortress and set aside the perpetual sacrifice and set up the abomination of desolation.
....
And the king will do according to his will, and will exalt himself and magnify himself over every god, and will speak marvels against the God of gods, and he will prosper until the wrath is finished, for the consummation will happen. And he will not mind the gods of his fathers, nor mind the desire of women, since in everything he will exalt himself, and mighty nations will be subjected to him.

Comparing this description with our list of characteristics from the Didache, then, we find the following:

  1. Antiochus is not specifically called a deceiver, but his claim to godhood in Daniel 11.36 might well qualify as a particularly grievous form of deception.
  2. Antiochus exalts himself over the gods, and speaks against the God of Israel.
  3. Antiochus is not recorded as having performed signs and wonders.
  4. Antiochus subjected mighty nations, according to the Septuagint version, though not the Hebrew.
  5. Antiochus in all ways qualifies as enormously iniquitous, even speaking against the God of gods.

In all ways but the third, therefore, Antiochus serves as the model for the deceiver of the world in Didache 16.4. This portrait of the deceiver agrees substantially with that of the man of lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians 2.3-4, 9-10a:

Μη τις υμας εξαπατηση κατα μηδενα τροπον· οτι εαν μη ελθη η αποστασια πρωτον και αποκαλυφθη ο ανθρωπος της ανομιας, ο υιος της απωλειας, ο αντικειμενος και υπεραιρομενος επι παντα λεγομενον θεον η σεβασμα, ωστε αυτον εις τον ναον του θεου καθισαι, αποδεικνυντα εαυτον οτι εστιν θεος.
....
...ου εστιν η παρουσια κατ ενεργειαν του Σατανα εν παση δυναμει και σημειοις και τερασιν ψευδους και εν παση απατη αδικιας τοις απολλυμενοις....

Let no one mislead you in any way, since [it will not happen] unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who resists and lifts himself up over everything called god or object of worship, so that he seats himself in the temple of God, displaying himself, that he is God.
....
...whose advent is according to the working of Satan in all power and signs and false wonders, and with every misleading [influence] of wickedness for those being destroyed....

Interestingly, Didache 16.4 states that the deceiver will arise at a time of increased ανομια, or lawlessness, thus matching the Pauline title for this personage, ο ανθρωπος της ανομιας, or the man of lawlessness. Let us run this Pauline figure through our five-point outline:

  1. The man of lawlessness misleads the wicked.
  2. The man of lawlessness exalts himself over everything called god.
  3. The man of lawlessness performs (false) signs and wonders.
  4. The man of lawlessness is not said to subdue the earth.
  5. The man of lawlessness in all ways qualifies as iniquitous, his coming being linked intimately with the working of Satan.

Once again we find an agreement in four out of five points. Furthermore, Paul states that the man of lawlessness will seat himself in the temple of God, corresponding to the Danielic picture of Antiochus desecrating the temple.

John in his apocalypse portrays two great end-time figures, the beast and the false prophet, which together match the portrait thus far rendered of the blasphemous king, the man of lawlessness, and the deceiver of the world. Revelation 13.6, 12b-14a:

Και ηνοιξεν το στομα αυτου εις βλασφημιας προς τον θεον, βλασφημησαι το ονομα αυτου και την σκηνην αυτου, τους εν τω ουρανω σκηνουντας.
....
Και ποιει την γην και τους εν αυτη κατοικουντας ινα προσκυνησουσιν το θηριον το πρωτον, ου εθεραπευθη η πληγη του θανατου αυτου, και ποιει σημεια μεγαλα, ινα και πυρ ποιη εκ του ουρανου καταβαινειν εις την γην ενωπιον των ανθρωπων. και πλανα τους κατοικουντας επι της γης δια τα σημεια α εδοθη αυτω ποιησαι ενωπιον του θηριου.

And [the beast] opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme his name and his tabernacle, those who tabernacle in heaven.
....
And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose wound of death was healed. And [the false prophet] makes great signs, so as to even make fire descend from heaven onto the earth before men. And he deceives those who dwell upon the earth through the signs given him to make before the beast.

Our same five-points applied to both the beast and the false prophet:

  1. The false prophet deceives those who dwell on the earth.
  2. The beast is worshiped as a god, and this worship is encouraged by the false prophet.
  3. The false prophet performs great signs.
  4. The influence of the beast and the false prophet extends over the earth and those who dwell in it.
  5. Both the beast and the false prophet are iniquitious; they are blasphemers of God.

The only development in all our New Testament sources above and beyond the stylized description of Antiochus Epiphanes in Daniel is that the New Testament version of the wicked one works signs and wonders.

As an aside, the belief that an intensely evil individual would arise in the last days and gain great influence is to be found also at Qumran, in the Dead Sea scrolls. Line 9 of fragments 4-6 of 4Q385-389, a document based on the prophet Ezekiel, speaks of this wicked ruler (Hebrew text from Robert Eisenman and Michael Wise, The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered, page 62):

[...] ההמה יקום מלך לנוים נדפן ועשה רעיח....

[...] there shall arise a blasphemous king among the gentiles, and he shall do evil things....

There is one more connection, of course, to be made, one which brings us back to Olivet. Paul and John both refer, in very different ways, to the desecration of the temple. (John calls it the tabernacle, and is actually referring to true believers, but this modification is plainly a take-off from the motif of profaning the temple.) The Didache does not, at least not in so many words. But the synoptic gospels do, as one of the centerpieces of Olivet:

Matthew 24.15-16. Mark 13.14. Luke 21.20.
Οταν ουν ιδητε
το βδελυγμα
της ερημωσεως

το ρηθεν
δια Δανιηλ
του προφητου
εστος εν τοπω αγιω,
ο αναγινωσκων
νοειτω, τοτε οι εν
τη Ιουδαια
φευγετωσαν
εις τα ορη.
 
So when you see
the abomination
of desolation

spoken of
through Daniel
the prophet
standing in the holy place
(let the reader
understand), then let
those in Judea
flee to the mountains.
Οταν δε ιδητε
το βδελυγμα
της ερημωσεως

 
 
 
εστηκοτα οπου ου δει,
ο αναγινωσκων
νοειτω, τοτε οι εν
τη Ιουδαια
φευγετωσαν
εις τα ορη.
 
But when you see
the abomination
of desolation

 
 
 
standing where it ought not
(let the reader
understand), then let
those in Judea
flee to the mountains.
Οταν δε ιδητε
κυκλουμενην
υπο στρατοπεδων
Ιερουσαλημ,
 
 
 
 
τοτε γνωτε
οτι ηγγικεν
η ερημωσις
αυτης.
 
But when you see
Jerusalem encircled
by armies,
 
 
 
 
 
then know
that its
desolation is near.

This abomination of desolation, of course, finds its inspiration on the pages of Daniel, as we have seen, as does the man of lawlessness in Paul, along with both the beast and the false prophet in the apocalypse of John, as well as the deceiver of the world in the Didache.

Didache 16.5:

Τοτε ηξει η κτισις των ανθρωπων εις την πυρωσιν της δοκιμασιας, και σκανδαλισθησονται πολλοι και απολουνται, οι δε υπομειναντες εν τη πιστει αυτων σωθησονται υπ αυτου του καταθεματος.

Then the creation of men will come into the fire of testing, and many will be scandalized and will perish, but those who endure in their faith shall be saved by the curse itself.

The fire of testing is not a terribly uncommon motif in the Hebrew scriptures. It is found in psalms such as Psalm 12.6; 17.3; 26.2; 66.10, and at Proverbs 27.21. Most interesting, I think, is Sirach 2.5...:

...οτι εν πυρι δοκιμαζεται χρυσος και ανθρωποι δεκτοι εν καμινω ταπεινωσεως.

...since in fire is gold tested, and acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.

...not least because of how that passage seems to have influenced 1 Corinthians 3.13b:

...οτι εν πυρι αποκαλυπτεται, και εκαστου το εργον οποιον εστιν το πυρ δοκιμασει.

...since in fire it shall be revealed, and the fire will test of what kind the work of each man is.

The scandalization parallels Matthew 24.10:

Και τοτε σκανδαλισθησονται πολλοι και αλληλους παραδωσουσιν και μισησουσιν αλληλους.

And then many will be scandalized and will deliver each other up and will hate each other.

Enduring unto salvation is found in both Matthew 24.13 and Mark 13.13b, which are identical to one another:

Ο δε υπομεινας εις τελος ουτος σωθησεται.

But he who endures to the end, this one will be saved.

Didache 16.6-7:

Και τοτε φανησεται τα σημεια της αληθειας, πρωτον σημειον εκπετασεως εν ουρανω, ειτα σημειον φωνης σαλπιγγος, και το τριτον αναστασις νεκρων, ου παντων δε, αλλ ως ερρεθη· Ηξει ο κυριος και παντες οι αγιοι μετ αυτου.

And then shall appear the signs of the truth, first the sign of a stretching out in heaven, then the sign of the voice of a trumpet, and the third the resurrection of the dead, but not of all, but as it is said: The Lord shall come and all his saints with him.

I am as yet uncertain what exactly the stretching out in heaven is supposed to mean, but once again our closest parallels are with the Matthean material. Matthew 24.30a, 31:

Και τοτε φανησεται το σημειον του υιου του ανθρωπου εν ουρανω....

And then shall appear the sign of the son of man in heaven....

Και αποστελει τους αγγελους αυτου μετα σαλπιγγος μεγαλης, και επισυναξουσιν τους εκλεκτους αυτου εκ των τεσσαρων ανεμων απ ακρων ουρανων εως ακρων αυτων.

And he will send out his angels with a great trumpet, and they shall gather his elect from the four winds, from the limits of the heavens until their limits.

The trumpet, then, announces the gathering of the elect. Elsewhere, in 9.4; 10.5, the Didache itself is very aware of a gathering from the four winds:

Ωσπερ ην τουτο κλασμα διεσκορπισμενον επανω των ορεων και συναχθεν εγενετο εν, ουτω συναχθητω σου η εκκλησια απο των περατων της γης εις την σην βασιλειαν, οτι σου εστιν η δοξα και η δυναμις δια Ιησου Χριστου εις τους αιωνας.

Just as this loaf was scattered over the mountains and was collected and became one, so let your church be collected from the ends of the earth into your kingdom, since yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ unto the ages.

Μνησθητι, κυριε, της εκκλησιας σου του ρυσασθαι αυτην απο παντος πονηρου και τελειωσαι αυτην εν τη αγαπη σου, και συναξον αυτην απο των τεσσαρων ανεμων, την αγιασθεισαν εις την σην βασιλειαν ην ητοιμασας αυτη, οτι σου εστιν η δυναμις και η δοξα εις τους αιωνας.

Remember, Lord, your church, to rescue it from all evil and perfect it in your love, and collect it from the four winds, sanctified for your kingdom which you made ready for it, since yours is the power and the glory unto the ages.

The Didache, it may be noted, has not just a trumpet but the voice (or sound) of a trumpet, which provides a link with another passage deeply influenced by Olivet, this time a Pauline one, the resurrection in 1 Thessalonians 4.13-5.11. Paul writes in 4.16 of the Lord descending from heaven εν φωνη αρχαγγελου και εν σαλπιγγι θεου (with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God), manifestly echoing Olivet, and tying the voice and the trumpet together a bit differently than the Didache.

Didache 16.8:

Τοτε οψεται ο κοσμος τον κυριον ερχομενον επανω των νεφελων του ουρανου.

Then the world will see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.

All three synoptic versions of Olivet have something like this line (Matthew 24.31; Mark 13.26; Luke 21.27). But, while Luke has a cloud (singular), and Mark has the clouds (plural), it is only Matthew that has the full phrase, the clouds of heaven. Matthew 24.31b:

...και οψονται τον υιον του ανθρωπου ερχομενον επι των νεφελων του ουρανου μετα δυναμεως και δοξης πολλης.

...and they shall see the son of man coming upon the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

The ultimate source for the coming on the clouds is Daniel 7.13 (Masoretic and LXX):

חזה הוית בחזוי ליליא וארו עם־ענני שמיא כבר אנש אתה הוה ועד־עתיק יומיא מטה וקדמוהי הקרבוהי׃

Εθεωρουν εν οραματι της νυκτος και ιδου μετα των νεφελων του ουρανου ως υιος ανθρωπου ερξομενος ην, και εως του παλαιου των ημερων εφθασεν και ενωπιον αυτου προσηνεξθη.

I was looking in the visions of the night and behold, with the clouds of heaven one was coming as a son of man, and he came unto the ancient of days and was presented before him.