The Didache: Teaching of The Twelve Apostles

Also called ‘The Teaching of The Twelve Apostles,’ The Didache is a short treatise that dates back to the early Christian Church and was accounted by some of the early church fathers as next to Holy Scripture.

Note: This is not claiming to be canonical, it is an instruction manual on early Christian practices, it’s authorship is unknown but test the fruits of it; you will see it does not contradict the Bible and it’s value as a secondary work of guidance is significant for all Christians to profit in, even to the early church fathers that so loved it.

Even more immense, it affirms the same teachings and practices done by the Orthodox Church to this day.

History/Origin of The Didache

Scholars dispute the dating of The Didache, anywhere from 55 A.D. – 300/400 A.D. although the majority of these scholars attest it originates from the 1st century (Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church – Oxford University Press 2005). How can we know this is correct?

Origen of Alexandria mentioned The Didache in 253 A.D. although does not include it as canon but a secondary work (W.G. Kummel, Introduction to the New Testament – London SCM 1978). Eusebius of Caesarea in his “Church History” written in 303 A.D. classes The Didache as antilegomena. The word antilegomena literally means “spoken against” and was applied to those writings that were accepted by the majority of the early church but had more detractors than other books. St. Athanasius also recommended The Didache to new converts to the Christian faith and was mentioned in his 39th Easter Festal Letter in 367 A.D. So we know from just these church fathers, that it was around before the dates cited by each of them, it was most likely written sometime around 80-100 A.D.

The text seemingly disappeared for centuries until a copy was discovered in 1873 by Philotheos Bry-ennios, Metropolitan of Nicomedia. Today it is included among the second-generation Christian writings known as the Apostolic Fathers.

Significant similarities between the Didache and the Gospel of Matthew have been found as these writings share words, phrases, and motifs. There is also an increasing reluctance of modern scholars to support the thesis that the Didache used Matthew. This close relationship between these two writings might suggest that both documents were created in the same historical and geographical setting. One argument that suggests a common environment is that the community of both the Didache and the gospel of Matthew was probably composed of Jewish Christians from the beginning.

Taken from (H. Van de Sandt (ed), Matthew and the Didache, (Assen: Royal van Gorcum; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2005);

“The Two Ways teaching (Did. 1–6) may have served as a pre-baptismal instruction within the community of the Didache and Matthew. Furthermore, the correspondence of the Trinitarian baptismal formula in the Didache and Matthew (Did. 7 and Matt 28:19) as well as the similar shape of the Lord’s Prayer (Did. 8 and Matt 6:5–13) appear to reflect the use of similar oral traditions. Finally, both the community of the Didache (Did. 11–13) and Matthew (Matt 7:15–23; 10:5–15, 40–42; 24:11,24) were visited by itinerant apostles and prophets, some of whom were heterodox.”

Content of The Didache

Among other things, The Didache (1) preserves our earliest account of how the early Christians practiced their rituals of baptism and the Eucharist, (2) discloses the kinds of prayers that early Christians said, (3) indicates the days on which they fasted, and (4) demonstrates the existence of itinerant Christian apostles, prophets, and teachers who roved from town to town, addressing the spiritual needs of the Christian communities in exchange for daily food and shelter. All of which are done in the same way today by the Eastern Orthodox church.

The Didache’s first section, “The Two Ways,” is a treatise on basic Christian theology, morality, and conduct. Catechumens (converts in training) were instructed in its teachings before they were baptized. The second section deals with the administration of several sacraments: baptism (triple immersion), the Eucharist (holy communion), and anointing with oil done today by the Orthodox Church.

  • Baptism was done by triple immersion, and the pouring of water over the head three times was an adequate substitution if a body of water was not available. All of this done in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
  • Fasting was done every Wednesday and Friday in remembrance of Jesus’s betrayal on Wednesday and his crucifixion on a Friday. Fasting was encouraged one or two days before one’s baptism as well.

The third section discusses relations among Christians, offering practical instruction in different types of hospitality. It also gives insight into the clerical hierarchy of the early Church, which included familiar institutions like the episcopacy (bishops) and the deaconate (deacons).

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The final section is a brief apocalypse, or revelation of the end times. This is notable, as the Didache was likely written even before the book of Revelation, which was not universally accepted into the New Testament until the 7th century. Even though the Didache itself did not find its way into the final canon of the New Testament, it is nevertheless a useful manual for Christian living, even today. The basic teachings of the Gospel are condensed into easily-understood pieces of wisdom and instruction, and insight is gained into first-century Christian liturgy and worship. The Didache is a book that all Christians can find profit in. Scripture weaves through the text’s clear teachings, demonstrating why the book was so well-loved and appreciated by the early Church.

Below is the entire script of The Didache to read for yourself: may God be with you, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of The Holy Spirit. Unto the ages of ages, amen.

Click to access didache.pdf

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