Didache

Discovered in a Constantinople monastery by P. Bryennios in 1883. Highly disputed and strongly Catholic, it is a very important early Christian teaching document.

Contents

The Didache, which means “The Teaching” is an early catechetical document instructing its readers about Christian morals and Church Order. The first half, chapters 1-5, is known as the “Two Ways” which are the two material ends of man, being the choice to go the way of death, or the way of life.

The rest of the book contains instruction for Church Order concerning the Lord Supper, itinerant prophets, baptism, rules for the congregation and the roles of bishops and deacons. The final chapter (16) is an stern warning about the coming of the Lord and the end of the world.

The contents are very Jewish and do not contradict the Talmud. Included are exhortations regarding Jewish “hot topics”. Likely written for Jewish converts to assist in the transition and eventually formed into a catechetical resource.

Origins

The Didache is certainly and early, if not the earliest, document composed and edited specifically for instruction and order. It does not date itself or make any reference to events or persons to compare it with. Scholars do not agree to its exact dating and decades ago would have placed it in the late first century, A.D. 70 or 90, but now assume a second century composition. These scholars also believe that it was originally two separate works: the Two Ways, and the Church Orders. The first part has distinct similarities to the end of the Letter of Barnabas (A.D. 100-130) and has also been found as an independent document in Latin. Parts  have turned up on later documents like the fourth century Apostolic Church Order and also the Life of Schnudi. Other than the latter two sources, scholars again do not agree about “which came first”, the Didache or the document with the inclusions.

Scholars place its origin in Alexandria and know that it was popular in Egypt. Accepted by Athanasius for use in catechetical reading he writes, “Appointed by the Fathers to be read by those who newly join us, and who wish for instruction in the word of goodness” (Festival Letter, 39) and later by Serapion of Thmuis (4th century) in a Eucharistic prayer.

Extant Remains

Discovered in a Constantinople monastery by P. Bryennios in 1883. Manuscripts were found at Oxyrhyncus, Egypt in 1782 in a Coptic translation.

Importance for Today

  • From the earliest days of the Church, we have gleaned a lot from the heritage of our Jewish Roots – we have a lot to thank our Jewish brothers and sisters for.
  • The Church has condemned abortion and homosexuality since its early days
  • The Baptismal formula from Matthew was in use in the early Church
  • False prophets and frauds were a problem back in the day, just as much as they are today (If there are those claiming to be of the Holy Spirit, but all they ask for is money, then they are not of God).

Read the Didache at New Advent.
Commentary and scholarship on the Didache at Early Christian Writings.