Archive for the ‘Didache’ Category


Monday, January 19th, 2009

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 Jesus’ 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 it’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: “…thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not corrupt boys…thou shalt not murder a child by abortion nor kill them when born…” [22:2] The end of the chapter also includes a beautiful admonition to love others: “Thou 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.” [2:7] This is similar to Jesus’ command to “Love your enemies,” [Matt. 5:44] but more than anything else, one is reminded of Jesus’ own example on the Cross.

Chapter four admonishes early Christians to respect their elders and masters: “My 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.”[4:1] Also, at the end of the chapter, the author writes, “But ye, servants, shall be subject unto your masters, as to a type of God, in shame and fear.” [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: “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ.” [Ephesians 6:5]

The eighth chapter discusses something not found in Paul’s letters at all; namely, fasting: “And 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.” 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, “But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.” [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: “And on the Lord’s own day gather yourselves together and break bread and give thanks, first confessing your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure.” Although the Bible never explicitly commands Sunday worship, at the Last Supper, Jesus says, “This is my blood of the New Covenant which is shed for many, for the remission of sins.” 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.


Friday, January 16th, 2009

The Didache has fascinated scholars ever since it’s discovery in 1873. Perhaps the earliest piece of Christian literature outside of the New Testament, it offers valuable insight into early church teachings. The last chapter includes a brief apocalypse, in which is found what is probably the most controversial verse: “Then all created mankind shall come to the fire of testing, and many shall be offended and perish, but they that endure in their faith shall be saved by the curse itself.”[16:12] The last two words of this verse have attracted particular attention from scholars.

The first, and probably most common view, is that the `curse’ refers to Christ. This is based on St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians, in which he writes: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.”[3:13] There are many problems with this view, however, the first being that each author used a different Greek word for `curse.’ In St. Paul’s epistle, he uses the word katara, which is found many times throughout the Bible. The author of the Didache uses the word katathema, which is only found once in the Bible, in Revelations: “And there shall be no more curse (katathema): but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him.” In this passage, katathema clearly refers to an evil kind of curse, not Christ. Also, the author of the Didache writes this passage as if it were obvious to the readers what he meant by `curse.’ It is unlikely that the Christians he was writing to regularly associated Christ with “The Curse,” especially given the early authorship date of the Didache.

Another less commonly held view is that the “curse” refers to the “fire of testing,” mentioned in the previous verse. The word “testing” indicates that good and bad results would be the result of the curse, and this is consistent with Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, in which he writes: “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” [1 Corinthians, 3:13] The main problem with this interpretation is found by reading the next two verses in the Didache: “And then shall the signs of the truth appear; first a sign of a rift in the heaven, then a sign of a voice of a trumpet, and thirdly a resurrection of the dead.” [16:13] As one can see, in this passage, the “fire of testing” comes before the resurrection of the dead, unlike Paul’s epistle, where the fire is a part of the final judgment.

What, then, does the fire of testing refer to? The Greek word used for “fire” in this passage is perosis, and once again, this word is only found once in the entire New Testament: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial (perosis) which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” [1 Peter 4:12] This passage in first Peter refers to martyrdom, and examining the passage in question in the Didache, it appears that the “curse” also refers to martyrdom. This interpretation avoids the contradiction in Revelations mentioned above, and it makes sense chronologically, as the fire of martyrdom comes before the resurrection of the dead. By martyrdom, countless Christians have endured in their faith and been saved. Many others, unfortunately, are “offended and perish,” as the Didache foretells.

In conclusion, while the author may have intended to include many different interpretations of this verse, it appears he was primarily referring to the martyrdoms and tribulations of Christians before the second coming of Christ. (Jonathan)