Thoughts on the Didache

The struggle for authority in the early church is palpable throughout the writings of the New Testament, as well as in the apocrypha. The Didache (or “teaching”) is a short but fascinating text that is intended to outline how early Christian people should behave in this new religion, “the way of life.” It was written in Koine Greek. The text is an attempt to harmonize the laws of Moses in Exodus, with the new Christian teaching of Jesus. It looks to instruct the new Jewish-Christians as well as the Gentile Christians in how to appropriately act. The Didache draws parallels with the Gospel of Matthew. Eusebius listed the Didache among his group of non-canonical great books of early Christianity.

The first chapter reiterates tenets of the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew, by praising people who turn the other cheek, give without qualification, and who receive gifts only based on need, not on want. The second and third chapters outline the forbidden acts, like lust, adultery, murder (or “killing”) as outlined in the Hebrew Bible in Exodus. Chapter four is a plea for righteousness with citations from the New Testament epistles. Chapters five and six argue against evil and false idol worship. Chapter seven is a look at baptism, baptizing in the name of the “father, son, and holy spirit.” Baptism requires fasting for one or two days prior. Chapter eight instructs people to fast not with hypocrites and to pray three times per day the Lord’s Prayer. Chapter nine discusses “thanksgiving” and the Eucharist, Chapter discusses prayers after receiving communion – prayers of thanks for the revelation of immortality through Jesus. Chapter eleven concerns teachers and false prophets – a popular concern among early church authorities. The remaining chapters through sixteen deal with public perceptions of Christians, prophets, assemblies, bishops and authorities, and a reminder of the return of Jesus one day.

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