- The Genre and Development of the Didache: A Text-Linguistic Analysis by Nancy Pardee
This volume is the final revision of Pardee’s 2002 doctoral dissertation offered under the same title for the University of Chicago. The decade-long interval between defense and publication hints at the author’s attention to detail and desire to incorporate contemporary discussion. The final product serves to justify the reader’s patience during this interval.
Pardee approaches the Didache through text-linguistic enquiry (= American discourse analysis), employing the methodology of David Hellholm and his inquiry into the Shepherd of Hermas. As she correctly remarks about the circumstances of both texts, “An imprecise understanding of their ancient genres appeared to be impeding a clear understanding of their meaning and function in the early Church” (v). It is with this concern for genre in mind that she divides her study along three categories: A clear definition of genre as it applies to the text (5–64), the application of text-linguistic analysis (64–140), and a proposed compositional history (141–91). This approach keeps the reader oriented and does not permit the study to stray from its basic premise that correctly identified genre determines valid understanding. (Readers with no experience in text-linguistic methodology are advised to begin with Pardee’s introduction to the method on 65–74.)
Even for scholars steeply invested in Didache research, the text offers a puzzle with respect to composition that begs resolution. As Pardee observes, “The smallest units of material are, for the most part, understandable, but their relationship to each other and the overall portrait presented of the community are blurred and uncertain and, in some places, even contradictory” (6). This naturally leads to a variety of conclusions about the work and the background of its originating community. Yet while researchers often note this dilemma, they typically pursue their study without systematic resolution of fundamental discrepancies. Pardee finds such efforts troubling and seeks to address the puzzle through careful analysis of the structural elements specifically. In this respect she clashes with [End Page 297] approaches that seek synchronic unity while dismissing ostensible incongruities (52–58), giving full recognition to the presence of such elements and explaining the logic behind their presence.
Central to the volume is Pardee’s technical analysis of the only known Greek text of the Didache (H54), which she divides into demarcated classes of structure along progressively smaller categories (84–96). The conclusion is an organizational overview of the entire work. Without offering commentary, she expounds the nature of each unit in clear and discerning style. Especially noteworthy is her analysis of the work’s two titles (101–25!), which finds no comparable discussion elsewhere in secondary literature. During the course of her investigation, Pardee observes “that on some levels of the text the delimitation markers are found only at the close of sections and consequently only in retrospect can those text-parts be discerned” (132). This is important, since such post-unit marking is often missed by scholars in their elucidations of the text. Ultimately, Pardee concludes that the largest structure of the work (Text Level 1) may be divided between chapters 1–15 and 16, and on the next level (Text Level 2) one may arguably divide chapters 1–10 from 11.3–15.4, with 11.1–2 as an editorial addition. Beyond this at the final level (Text Level 3), units are identified via source traditions and editorial alterations.
This text-linguistic examination ultimately leads Pardee to conclude that the Didache reflects four separate compositional and editorial layers, each of which is represented by the various units identified throughout the text. Individual passages are assigned to distinct layers of development, yet she is careful not to allocate specific years of origination to those strata and thus avoids the controversial practice of providing dates for the evolution of their formation. Readers are left instead to ascribe dates as seem appropriate according to individual choice.
This volume comes...