The Didache, rediscovered in a Constantinopolitan monastery in 1873, is one of the earliest surviving accounts of Christianity. Written sometime in the first century A.D., it discusses Church practices regarding baptism, communion, and the selection of Bishops. It also includes a brief apocalypse at the end, and a pastoral epistle that echoes nearly word-for-word Jesusâ€™ Sermon on the Mount. Although the Didache does include some teachings that are not found in the Bible, nearly all of them can be reconciled with biblical teachings.
The first chapter of the Didache is found in itâ€™s entirety in the gospel of Matthew, with the exception of a few verses at the beginning and the end. The second chapter is a continuation of the first, but it includes more detail than Matthew. It expressly forbids pederasty and abortion: â€œâ€¦thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not corrupt boysâ€¦thou shalt not murder a child by abortion nor kill them when bornâ€¦â€ [22:2] The end of the chapter also includes a beautiful admonition to love others: â€œThou shalt not hate any man, but some thou shalt reprove, and for others thou shalt pray, and others thou shalt love more than thy life.â€ [2:7] This is similar to Jesusâ€™ command to â€œLove your enemies,â€ [Matt. 5:44] but more than anything else, one is reminded of Jesusâ€™ own example on the Cross.
Chapter four admonishes early Christians to respect their elders and masters: â€œMy child, thou shalt remember him that speaketh unto thee the word of God night and day, and shalt honor him as the Lord; for where the teaching of the Lord is given, there is the Lord.â€[4:1] Also, at the end of the chapter, the author writes, â€œBut ye, servants, shall be subject unto your masters, as to a type of God, in shame and fear.â€ [4:15] These commandments at first sight may appear to be authorizing the worship of mere men as gods, but on closer examination, they appear to be given simply as examples. St. Paul, in his epistle to the Ephesians, gives a similar commandment: â€œServants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ.â€ [Ephesians 6:5]
The eighth chapter discusses something not found in Paulâ€™s letters at all; namely, fasting: â€œAnd let not your fasting be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second and fifth day of the week; but do ye keep your fast on the fourth and on the preparation (the sixth) day.â€ These two days represent the day Jesus was betrayed, and the day he was crucified, respectively. Although Paul never mentions fasting, it is one of the primary the mes of Acts, and Jesus himself foretells it in the book of Matthew, saying, â€œBut the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.â€ [Matt. 9:15] The custom of fasting on these two days probably arose at the same time as the custom of worshipping on Sunday, as opposed to Saturday.
Chapter fourteen contains one of the first known references to Sunday as the day of worship for early Christians: â€œAnd on the Lordâ€™s own day gather yourselves together and break bread and give thanks, first confessing your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure.â€ Although the Bible never explicitly commands Sunday worship, at the Last Supper, Jesus says, â€œThis is my blood of the New Covenant which is shed for many, for the remission of sins.â€ The new covenant thus abolished the old, and Christ sealed this covenant by his Resurrection on the first day of the week.
In conclusion, the Didache offers valuable insight into early church practices, and although it is not the divinely inspired Word of God, it remains a great resource for Christians throughout the world.