The Didache Part 1
Welcome Back! It’s been a couple of weeks, but I wanted to do this podcast when the rewrite of the Didache in Modern English hits Amazon, which it has. So, if you don’t know what the Didache is or you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a little recap.
So what is the Didache?
The Didache is an early church document, also referred to as The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. It is thought to have been written in the early to mid-second century. However, with the title The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, some feel it may be an even earlier work and some church fathers thought it should be included in the biblical canon, so it held a lot of weight in the early church. I was surprised when our men’s lunch group read it last summer that most copies are just reprints of 19th century books and not modern texts. I want to make sure everyone understands, I'm not translating from the original Greek, I have three public domain copies from the 19th century I am using to come up with a modern take on the document.
It was mentioned by several early church fathers in their writings, but no copy of it had been found until a Greek Bishop named Philotheos Bryennios found it in a stack of other 11th century copies of early church documents in a monastery in Constantinople (Yes that’s still what the Orthodox Church calls Istanbul) in 1883.
The finding of the Didache is the completion of a circle for some scholars. It’s not on a level with the Dead Sea Scrolls, or the Gnostic Gospels found in Egypt, but it's a document that scholars knew was out there, but no one had found a copy. The funny thing is that two teams of scholars passed this copy over a few years before Bishop Bryennios found and published it.
Why Does it matter to us today?
The Didache is important to us because it gives us a glimpse into the early church. One of the biggest takeaways I have from the Didache is that it was written to a group of people who were living a life separate from the world. It wasn’t written to a country or a state or a city. It was written to a group of people who were separated from the world. The Roman world was a harsh and unforgiving place for Christians, and the Didache was written to teach them how to live lives separate from that world.
Today we live for the world and go to church. These people lived in the church and participated in the world, but knew the world was not for them. They didn’t try to change the world; they let Christ change them. This is a lesson I think the church of today could learn from.
Here is a short overview of the first five chapters, which are an early catechism of the church
There Are Two Ways!
The First Part of the Didache starts with the teaching of the two ways, one of life and the other of death. And there is a great difference in the two.
“This is the way of life: First Love the Lord your God who made you, second Love your neighbor as yourself, third do nothing to anyone else that you wouldn’t like to happen to you. To keep these teachings, bless people who talk bad about you, pray for your enemies, and fast for people who persecute you. What credit is it to you if you only love people who love you? Sinners can do that.”
This first part is very familiar to most people who have been in church for any length of time. The Great commandment and the Golden Rule. It’s not twelve ways to be a better Christian or 45 days to a more Godly life. It’s love God, Love your neighbor, and pray for your enemies. Isn’t it amazing that 20 centuries later this is still the hardest teaching we as Christians have? We can’t figure these three things out and our best writers and scholars think we are...