Deuterosis in Didascalia Apostolorum I

The following is a section from the Introduction by R. Hugh Connolly in his Didascalia Apostolorum: The Syriac Version Translated and Accompanied by the Verona Latin Fragments (Oxford, 1929), pp lvii-lxii. I have previously posted the full text of Connolly’s translation of the Syriac here. This selection from the introduction covers in particular the unusual usage of deuterosis in the Didascalia, a term which elsewhere in Patristic writings denotes the Mishnah and/or Oral Torah of Rabbinic Judaism. Considering the timing of the writing of the Didascalia, early to mid third century, and the appearance in the same time period of the Mishnah of Rabbinic fame, one would be hard put to recognize in the Didascalia a connection of some sort, whether of polemic (more likely) or miscomprehension (less likely). In light of this, it’s also interesting to note that the author of the Didascalia does place the origin of the deuterosis as Sinai, though in a less than flattering context (see below). This could be the earliest attestation, external to Rabbinic Judaism, of the belief that the Oral Torah originated at Sinai, though polemically distorted.

The reader will meet many times in these pages with the terms “Second Legislation” and, in the Latin version, secundatio or secundatio legis. The Greek word of which these are renderings was δευτερωσις, as is shown by passages retained in the Apostolic Constitutions. This Deuterosis was something about which our author had cause to be deeply concerned, and about which also he has much to say. An attempt must be made therefore to trace the use of the term, to explain in what sense it is here employed and to indicate the part it plays in the author’s exegesis of the Old Testament. For its Hebrew or Aramaic background I can do little more than follow what Schürer and other writers have to tell us, as I have no direct acquaintance with the Rabbinic literature. [Note: For this I make use especially of Schürer, Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes in Zeitalter Jesu Christi; H. Hody, De bibliorum textibus originalibus (1705); Schechter’s article ‘Talmud’ in the extra volume of Hastings’s Dictionary of the Bible; and Stephanus’s Thesaurus under δευτερωσις, δευτεροω, δευτερωτης.]

We are familiar with the word Mishna (properly mishnāh, fem.) as the general title of certain post-biblical Jewish treatises of a legal character. It is formed from the verb shānāh, to do something a second time, repeat. But the kind of repetition commonly implied by this verb (at least in the Aramaic form tĕnā) was the oral repetition employed in teaching or learning; and hence it came to mean simply to teach or to learn.

The substantive mishnāh correspondingly denoted oral teaching, and particularly that of the traditional law as distinguished from the miķrā, that which was read, the Scripture text. But it also denoted the tradition itself, or what is called in the Gospel “the tradition of the elders”. This tradition, codified and reduced to writing somewhere between 160 and 220 A.D., is the Mishna. “The Mishna”, says Dr. Schechter, “meaning a ‘teaching’, a ‘repetition’, is a designation most appropriate for the work generally looked upon as the main depository of the contents of the Oral Law, which (in contradistinction to מקרא, reading matter, or the Scriptures) could be acquired only by means of constant repetition”. [Note: Op. cit. p. 60.] He tells us, however, in a footnote that there is another explanation of the name, also represented in Rabbinic literature, which connects it wih the masculine noun mishneh, a double or second, and that according to this the Mishna is “second to the Torah”—in other words, as I understand it, a second or secondary Law. And this explanation, he says, is supported by the patristic rendering δευτερωσις.

The Greek verb answering to shānāh was δευτεροω, which also means to do or say a seond time, to repeat. And in technical Jewish language it meant particularly to teach the traditions. The substantive corresponding to mishnāh was δευτερωσις (more often found in the plur.) which likewise denoted especially an oral teaching of the traditions, or the traditions themselves. And a teacher of the traditions was a δευτερωτης. These meanings were fixed and clear before the end of the fourth century A.D. They admit of abundant illustration, chiefly from the writings of SS. Jerome and Epiphanius, but the following examples may suffice for the present purpose.

1. Δευτεροω.— “Uidetur igitur obseruationes Iudaicae apud imperitos et uilem plebeculam imaginem habere rationis humanaeque sapientiae. Unde et doctores eorum σοφοι, hoc est sapientes, uocantur. Et siquando certis diebus traditiones suas exponunt discipulis suis, solent dicere οι σοφοι δευτερουσι, id est, Sapientes docent traditiones” (Jerome). [Note: Ep. cxxi 10, ad Algasiam.]

2. Δευτερωσις.— “Quantae traditiones Phariseorum sint, quas hodie vocant δευτερωσεις, et quam aniles fabulae, euoluere nequeo” (Jerome). [Note: Ibid.]

“Hic (Papias) dicitur mille annorum Iudaicam edidesse δευτερωσιν” (Jerome). [Note: De uiris illustr. xviii.]

Αι γαρ παραδοσεις των πρεσβυτερων δευτερωσεις παρα τοις Ιουδαιοις λεγονται (Epiphanius). [Note: Haer. xxxiii. 9.]

“Nescit (sc. adversarius) habere praeter scripturas legitimas et propheticas Iudaeos quasdam traditiones suas, quas non scriptas habent sed memoriter tenent et alter in alterum transfundit, quas deuterosin uocant” (Augustine). [Note: Contra adversarium Legis et Prophetarum lib. ii c. 1 § 2.]

3. Δευτερωτης.— Ναι μην και των πρωτων μαθηματων δευτερωται τινες ησαν αυτοις (Eusebius). [Note: Praep. evang. xi 5.]

Ιουδαιων αιρεσεις επτα· γραμματεις, οιτινες νομικοι μεν ησαν και δευτερωται παραδοσεων των παρ’ αυτοις πρεσβυτερων, κτλ. (Epiphanius). [Note: Rescript. ad Acacium et Paulum, Migne P. Gr. xli 172 A.]

“Audiui Liddae quemdam de Hebraeis, qui sapiens apud illos et δευτεροτης uocabatur, narrantem huiusmodi fabulam” (Jerome). [Note: In Habac. ii 15.]

Many more passages are cited by Hody (pp. 233 ff.), Schürer and Stephanus, but no reference is given to any writer earlier than Eusebius. In Rufinus’s translation of Origen’s Commentary on the Canticle, however, I find the following:
“Sed et illud ab eis accepimus custodiri, quoniamquidem moris est apus eos omnes scripturas a doctoribus et sapientibus tradi pueris, simul et eas quast δευτερωσεις apellant, ad ultimum quattuor ista reseruari” (sc. the beginning of Genesis, the beginning and end of Ezekiel, and the Canticle). [Note: Berlin ed. vol. viii p. 62.]

It seems improbably that the use of δευτερωσις to denote the oral traditions of the Jews was only a development of the fourth century; and hence there can be little doubt that the author of the Didascalia was familiar with that sense of the term. It is surprising therefore to find that he gives it an entirely different content. He does not employ it to describe any “tradition of the elders”, whether written or oral, but comprises under it the whole ceremonial legislation of the Pentateuch—as to sacrifices, the Sabbath, circumcision, clean and unclean animals, ceremonial defilement and purification.

Moreover, the Deuterosis of which he speaks is distinctly a “second legislation”: it is not the Law, but was added after the Law. The Law “is that which the Lord God spoke before the People had made the calf and served idols, which consists of the Ten Words and the Judgements. But after they had served idols, He justly laid upon them the bonds, as they were worthy.” [Note: p. 14; cf. 224.] The Deuterosis was added as a punishment for sin, and laid as a grievous yoke upon those who had shown themselves unfaithful. It was not this that Christ came to fulfil, but only the moral Law enshrined in the Decalogue, in which He had set His own Name: for Iota stands for ten, and is also the first letter of the Name of Jesus. [Note: pp. 216-19.] “For in the Gospel He renewed and fulfilled and affirmed the Law; but the Second Legislation He did away and abolished. For indeed it was to this end that He came, that He might affirm the Law and abolish the Second Legislation.” [Note: p. 224.] The abrogation of the Deuterosis was foretold by the prophets: “If, then, even before His coming He made known and revealed His coming, and the disobedience of the People, and spoke of the abolition of the Second Legislation, much more, being come, did He fully and completely abolish the Second Legislation.” [p. 226; cf. 224-5.]

It was for a punishment, then, that the Deuterosis was laid upon the People, as a bondage and a burden and a hard yoke: “Therefore the Lord was angry; and in His hot anger—(yet) with the mercy of His goodness—He bound them with the Second Legislation, and laid heavy burdens upon them, and a hard yoke upon their neck”. [Note: p. 222.] But not even so were they brought to obedience, and there was added to them further a blindness and hardening of their heart: “For because of manifold sins there were laid upon them customs unspeakable; but by none of them did they abide, abut they again provoked the Lord. Wherefore He yet added unto them by the Second Legislation a blindness worthy of their works, and spoke thus: If there be found in a man sins worthy of death, and he die, and ye hang him upon a tree; his body shall not remain the night upon the tree, but ye shall surely bury him the same day: for cursed is every one that is hanged upon a tree; that when Christ should come they might not be able to help (?) Him, but might suppose that He was guilty of a curse. For their blinding therefore was this spoken.” [Note: Ibid.] And again: “Hence also the word aforesaid in the Second Legislation was for the blinding of a blind people, to wit: Cursed is every one that is hanged upon a tree…. Wherefore…that word was set down for the blinding of the People; and it was a bar that they might not believe and be saved…. For by this word, because of their works, their eyes were blinded, and their ears made deaf like Pharaoh’s.” [Note: p. 230.] To this text of Deuteronomy (xxi 23: cf. Gal. iii 13) the author returns again and again. A Christian who meddles with the Deuterosis, imagining himself to be bound by any of its ordinances, is said to “affirm the curse against our Saviour”, that is to deny Christ, and to take upon himself the idolatry for which the Second Legislation was imposed: “for if thou take upon thee the Second Legislation, take (or thou takest, Lat.) also idolatry, for because of idolatry the Second Legislation was imposed.” [Note: p. 250.]

The author’s treatment of the problem of the Old Law is doubtless influenced by St. Paul, and especially the Epistle to the Galatians. But he is more daring and explicit in his formulation of it. St. Paul would not indeed have included the moral precepts of the Decalogue in “the Law” which he rebukes the Galatians for clinging to: by “the Law” or “the works of the Law” he means the ceremonial ordinances; but he does not expressly draw the distinction. The author of the Didascalia, on the other hand, sharply divides the ceremonial from the moral law, and brands it with a distinctive and ominous name. But he differs more widely from St. Paul in his estimate of the purpose and value of the ceremonial law. It would probably be unjust to him to say that he had no conception of the formative purpose of that legislation, as a factor and stage in the spiritual education of the race; but this aspect of it is not developed, and is barely even indicated, in the Didascalia. Moreover, the emphasis on the punitive and repressive character of the Deuterosis is here so strong that it hardly leaves place for the thought that the Law, even in its ceremonial ordinances, was “our tutor unto Christ”, or par of a progressive revelation which was to reach its goal in the Gospel and the Church. It may almost be said that in the author’s mind the Didascalia was nothing more than an interim measure, forced as it were on the Divine Legislator, and no part of His own plan. It admitted of no fulfillment or perfection, and waited only to be clean swept away. A praeparatio evangelica is to be sought only in the Law properly so called and in the Prophets.

(to be continued)

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