Here we have an early, first century reference either more generally to the teachings of Jesus or to the text of one or more of the canonical Gospels themselves, which were recognized in either case as the words of Jesus.
Ignatius, writing seven epistles around AD 110–115 on his way to Rome to suffer martyrdom, quoted the statement found in Luke 24:39 as the words of Jesus (Smyrnaeans3). Polycarp wrote his Epistle to the Philippiansabout AD 115, shortly after Ignatius’ letters, to which he makes reference (13). Polycarp also cites sayings found in all of the synoptic Gospels and, again, identifies them as the words of the Lord (2, 7).
The Didache, an ancient Christian manual, is usually dated somewhere between the end of the first century and the early second century AD. It frequently cites the words of Jesus as being authoritative, sometimes without reference to whose comments they are (1, 3, 16), once as the words of the Lord (9), and twice as the
25 The division citations in our text follow J.B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers(Grand Rapids: Baker, 1971).
Gospel of the Lord (8, 15). In almost every case, the text contains teachings found in the synoptic Gospels (8, 15–16).
One interesting note is that several words from the Book of Acts are quoted in the Didache(4; cf. Acts 4:32), as are several examples from Paul’s teachings (see below). The point in the former instance is that such would not be accounted for by any collection of Jesus’ sayings. The most likely source is Acts itself.
The epistle of Barnabas, perhaps dated about AD 135, refers to Jesus’ saying in Matthew 22:14 as “scripture” (4). This is followed by a reference to Jesus’ “Gospel” and a quotation of His words which is found in the synoptics (5).