Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol VII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles: Section 4.—Authenticity
By this is meant, in this case, the substantial identity of the recently discovered document with the work known and referred to by early Christian writers under the same (or a similar) title. Of apostolic origin no one should presume to speak, since the text of the document makes no such claim, and internal evidence is obviously against such a suggestion. On the other hand, there is no reason for doubting the age of the Codex, or the accuracy of the edition published by Bryennios.
Eusebius (d. 340) of Cæsarea, in the famous passage of his history (iii. 25) which treats of the canonical books of the New Testament, names among the “spurious” works (νόθοι) “the so-called Teachings of the Apostles” (τω̑ν ἀποστόλων αἱ λεγόμεναι διδαχαί). The plural form does p. 374 not forbid a reference to the work under discussion, since Athanasius (d. 373) has a notice clearly pointing to the same writing, in which he uses the singular (Festal Epistle, 39). Rufinus (d. 410) speaks of a brief work called The Two Ways, or The Judgment of Peter; and this fact, in view of the contents of the Teaching, furnishes one of the most important data for the critical discussion. The last notice of the Teaching was made by Nicephorus (d. 828) more than two hundred years before Leon made this copy. Clement of Alexandria (d. circa 216) and Irenæus (mart. 202) use expressions that may indicate an acquaintance with this writing. The more extended correspondences with Barnabas and later disciplinary works are noticed above (sec. 3). The existence of an old Latin translation of the Teaching, of the tenth century, a fragment of which has been preserved, furnishes general evidence to the authenticity of the Greek copy, but by its variations suggests the presence of many textual corruptions. Its closer correspondence with Barnabas has led to the theory that the translator used both documents. Others suppose that its form points to a document which was the common source of the Greek form of the Teaching and of Barnabas.
The various theories based on the above facts cannot even be stated. The following positions seem, on the whole, most tenable:—
1. The Greek Codex presents substantially the writing referred to by Eusebius and Athanasius.
2. Owing to an absence of other copies, we cannot determine the purity of the text; but there is every probability of many minor corruptions.
3. This probability calls for care that we do not infer too much from verbal resemblances.
4. The resemblances to book vii., Apostolic Constitutions, are, however, of such a character as establish, not only a literary connection between the two works, but also the priority of the Teaching
5. In the case of Barnabas, the resemblances can be accounted for (a) by accepting the priority of the Teaching, or (b) by assuming a common (earlier and unknown) source, or (c) by accepting the priority of Barnabas, and assuming such corruptions in the Greek copy of the Teaching as will account for the supposed marks of its priority. Despite the general adoption of (a), there remains a strong probability that (b) is the correct solution of the problem.
6. The Duæ Viæ, spoken of by Rufinus, may be the common source. We have no positive evidence, but the “two ways” form so prominent a topic in most of these documents which indicate literary relationship, as to encourage this theory. If there was a common source, it probably contained only matter similar to chaps. i.-v., which was variously used by the subsequent compilers. Here a number of theories have been suggested. 2362 None of them, however, necessarily call for a very late date of the Teaching, or compel us to deny that Eusebius and Athanasius referred to substantially the same work as that now existing in the Codex at Constantinople. Many resemblances have been noticed in other works. Probably in the course of a few years all the data will have been collected, and a well-defined result based upon them. But, even in this period of discussion, there is remarkable agreement among critics in regard to the main question of authenticity.
Compare the detailed discussions of Harnack, Holtzmann, Warfield, and most recently McGiffert, Andover Review, vol. v. pp. 430–442.
Next: Section 5.—Time and place of composition
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