An Analysis of Runge's Distinction between ἀλλά and εἰ μή in the Didache

Steven Runge has had some recent posts on the distinction between ἀλλά and εἰ μή. I thought it might be interesting to do a quick study through the Didache and see if his theory also holds up in extra biblical literature.

First a quick summary of his argument. The use of the adversative ἀλλά provides a corrective to the phrase that came before it. In this case the corrective was not part of the original set.

The below analysis will show that the Didache does follow Runge’s thesis about the distinction between ἀλλά and εἰ μή. There is one except where ἀλλά occurs in 1:6 but it is also combined with καί. The two terms combined bring across a but also” element without negating that previous clause.


Didache 2:5 - οὐκ ἔσται ὁ λόγος σου ψευδής, οὐ κενός, ἀλλὰ μεμεστωμένος πράξει (Your word must not be false or meaningless, but confirmed by action)

In this case the writer could have just written Your word must be confirmed by action” but for rhetorical punch he adds to elements that someone’s word should not be and then throws them out and says confirm your words by your deeds.

Didache 2:7 οὐ μισήσεις πάντα ἄνθρώπον, ἀλλὰ οὓς μὲν ἐλέγξεις, περὶ δὲ ὧν προσεύξῃ, οὓς δὲ ἀγαπήσεις ὑπὲρ τὴν ψυχήν σου. (You shall not hate anyone but you shall reprove some, and pray for some, and some you shall love more than your own life.)

By adding you shall not hate anyone” the writer helps clarify the phrase after the ἀλλὰ while at the same time throwing it out and saying this is what you should do.

Didache 3:9b οὐ κολληθήσεται ἡ ψυχή σου μετὰ ὑψηλῶν, ἀλλὰ μετὰ δικαίων καὶ ταπεινῶν ἀναστραφήσῃ (Your soul shall not associate with the lofty, but live with the righteous and the humble.)

The writer emphasizes that associating with the lofty is the opposite of living with the righteous and humble. Once again the use of ἀλλὰ helps give a more complete picture in the readers thought.

Didache 4:9 Οὐκ ἀρεῖς τὴν χεῖρα σου ἀπὸ τοῦ υἱοῦ σου ἢ ἀπὸ τῆς θυγατρός σου, ἀλλὰ ἀπὸ νεότητος διδάξεις τὸν φόβον τοῦ θεοῦ. (You shall not withhold your hand from your son or your daughter, but from their youth you shall teach them the fear of God.)

The writers focus is on teaching your children to fear God and by using ἀλλὰ he shows us that by not doing that you are withholding from them.

Didache 4:10 οὐ γὰρ ἔρχεται κατὰ πρόσωπον καλέσαι, ἀλλʼ ἐφʼ οὓς τὸ πνεῦμα ἡτοίμασεν (For he comes to call not with regard to your reputation but those whom the Spirit has prepared.)

The writer emphasizes that God calls only those whom the Holy Spirit has prepared. Our reputation with others has no bearing on this.

Didache 5:2 …ἀγρυπνοῦντες οὐκ εἰς τὸ ἀγαθόν, ἀλλʼ εἰς τὸ πονηρόν… (who are vigilant not for what is good but for what is evil)

The writer is telling us the way of the persecutors and in his argument he makes it clear that they are passionate for evil.

Didache 8:2 μηδὲ προσεύχεσθε ὡς οἱ ὑποκριταί, ἀλλʼ ὡς ἐκέλευσεν ὁ κύριος ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ αὐτοῦ (Do not pray like the hypocrites but like the Lord commanded in his Gospel)

Instead of just telling us how we should pray the writer compares how we should pray not like the hypocrites.

Didache 8:2 μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν, ἀλλὰ ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ (Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.)

The use of ἀλλὰ here negates leading into temptation and replaces that with deliver us from the evil one.”

Didache 9:5 μηδεὶς δὲ φαγέτω μηδὲ πιέτω ἀπὸ τῆς εὐχαριστίας ὑμῶν, ἀλλʼ οἱ βαπτισθέντες εἰς ὄνομα κυρίου (Let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist but (except) the ones who have been baptized into the name of the Lord.)

The use of ἀλλʼ here clearly marks out that only those who have been baptized should partake of the Lord’s Supper. He could have just said only those who have been baptized but for effect it has a greater punch to say let no one…execpt”

Didache 11:8 οὐ πᾶς δὲ ὁ λαλῶν ἐν πνεύματι προφήτης ἐστίν, ἀλλʼ ἐὰν ἔχῃ τοὺς τρόπους κυρίου (Not everyone who speaks in the spirit is a prophet, but only if he exhibits the Lord’s ways.)

This clarifies that only those who exhibit the Lord’s ways may be a prophet.

Didache 15:3 Ἐλέγχετε δὲ ἀλλήλους μὴ ἐν ὀργῇ, ἀλλʼ ἐν εἰρήνῃ ὡς ἔχετε ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ (Correct one another not in anger but in peace, as you find in the Gospel)

The use here signifies that often correction comes in anger but by using the ἀλλʼ the author negates this as an option.

Didache 16:1 μὴ ἐκλυέσθωσαν, ἀλλὰ γίνεσθε ἕτοιμοι (Do not be unprepared but be ready)

This is pretty self-explanatory, being ready has no room for being unprepared.

Conclusion Ἀλλὰ

The above analysis shows that Runge’s treatment of ἀλλὰ in the Bible is also true in the Didache.

Below I will analyze the use of εἰ μὴ and see if it follows Runge’s rule that the statement before the εἰ μὴ was a potential member of the set”, which differs from ἀλλὰ because it was not a potential member.

Εἰ Μὴ

Didache 11:4–5 πᾶς δὲ ἀπόστολος ἐρχόμενος πρὸς ὑμᾶς δεχθήτω ὡς κύριος 5 οὐ μενεῖ δὲ εἰ μὴ ἡμέραν μίαν (Let every apostle who come to you be welcome as if he were the Lord but he not to stay for more than one day)

In this case there will be an apostle coming to stay but the writers qualifies it saying he should not stay more than a day.

Didache 11:6 ἐξερχόμενος δὲ ὁ ἀπόστολος μηδὲν λαμβανέτω εἰ μὴ ἄρτον (and when the apostle leaves he is to take nothing except bread)

Bread is a potential member of the set and the writer just clarifies it with εἰ μὴ

Didache 12:2 εἰ μὲν παρόδιός ἐστιν ὁ ἐρχόμενος, βοηθεῖτε αὐτῷ ὅσον δύνασθε· οὐ μενεῖ δὲ πρὸς ὑμᾶς εἰ μὴ δύο ἢ τρεῖς ἡμέρας, ἐὰν ᾖ ἀνάγκη (If the one who comes is merely passing through, assist him as much as you can. But he must not stay with you for more than two or, if necessary three days)

This is similar to 11:4–5 in that the writer says that a man is coming but then limits his stay.


The above analysis shows that Runge’s distinction of εἰ μὴ also stands the test in the Didache. These small aspects of the Greek language help give us a better understanding of the text. Often times we naturally recognize these distinctions when reading because of the context but knowing there are discourse explanation it makes us slow down to analyze the text.

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February 11, 2013

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