Didache

The apocalyptic XVIth chapter of the Didache – Part four

The apocalyptic XVIth chapter of the Didache – Part four

Didache XVI:5 

Then shall the creation of mankind come to the fiery trial and many shall be offended and be lost, but they who endure in their faith shall be saved by the curse itself.

Fiery trial

Didache XVI

Josephus

NT

Verse 5

War book VI:232-235 and 250-284

Mt 24:29

“Then shall the creation of mankind come to the fiery trial …”

232-235 Burning of the porticoes of the Temple

250-280 Burning of the Temple itself

281-284 Burning of the surrounding area

407, the final day of ancient Jerusalem: “They ceased their slaughter at dusk, but fire gained the mastery in the night, and the dawn of the eighth of the month of Gorpiaeus rose over Jerusalem in flames.”

“Immediately after the catastrophe of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light …”

(Didache) ‘Then shall the creation of mankind come to the fiery trial’ sounds quite enigmatic. But the Greek κτισις has the meaning of not only ‘creation’ but also ‘foundation’, ‘authority system’, and combined with των ανθρωπων it could mean something akin to ‘the authoritative (or leading) part of mankind’. It is interesting to compare with 1 Enoch 20:5 “Michael, one of the holy angels, namely the one put in charge of the best part of humankind, in charge of the nation.”, and also with Daniel 12:1 “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people.” Enoch as well as Daniel refer to the Jewish people. Κτισις των ανθρωπων might be seen as hinting at the Jewish people.

(Josephus) In War V:469 and VI:178 Josephus mentions the use of a combination of wood, pitch and bitumen to set a Roman ramp and the western portico of the Temple compound on fire, respectively. Pitch and bitumen produce a thick black smoke when burning.

(New Testament) In its disguised description of the then events the Synoptic Apocalypse does not mention the fire but the enormous column of black smoke shrouding Jerusalem and its neighborhood while the Temple was burning. ‘Immediately after the catastrophe’ points to the catastrophe as the cause of the darkening.

Many die, some are saved

Didache XVI

Josephus

NT

Verse 5

War book VI:420

Mt 24:22

“Many shall be offended and be lost, but they who endure in their faith shall be saved by the curse itself.”

 

Josephus mentions 97,000 prisoners of war and 1,100,000 dead. These amounts are considered a gross exaggeration. Between 250,000 and 500,000 victims is a more realistic estimate.

“And if those days had not been shortened, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.”

“By the curse itself” of Didache XVI:5 is quite enigmatic. A great deal has been written about this fragment. Its discussion is beyond the scope of this article. I will return to this phrase in part 9 of this series.