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The Didache is one of the earliest Christian writings from the early first century Church outside of the books of the New Testament, describing the moral teachings and ceremonial order of the early Church. While it is not included in the Bible, Eusebius describes it as among the spurious works which some count part of Scripture, true because of its apparently authentic apostolic Christian doctrine, and spurious only in that it was not personally written by the twelve Apostles or by any one of the apostles. It is an early example of a Christian catechism apart from the New Testament.

Based on the simplicity of the ceremonies and ecclesiastical order, most modern scholars (and the Catholic Encyclopedia) date it to the late first century A.D., shortly after the death of the twelve Apostles. Long thought to be lost, the text was rediscovered in 1883 and a number of English language translations now exist.


The Two Ways

The Didache starts by contrasting "the path of life" with "the path of death". In words reminiscent of the Sermon on the Mount, the author exhorts the hearer to "love the God who made thee, thy neighbour as thyself, and all things that thou wouldest not should be done unto thee, do not thou unto another." He continues into greater detail; for example: "Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not corrupt youth; thou shalt not commit fornication; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not use soothsaying; thou shalt not practise sorcery; thou shalt not kill a child by abortion, neither shalt thou slay it when born; thou shalt not covet the goods of thy neighbour..."

In the fourth chapter, he moves on to speak of relationships: "thou shalt not desire schism, but shalt set at peace them that contend... Thou shalt not turn away from him that is in need, but shalt share with thy brother in all things... Thou shalt not remove thine heart from thy son or from thy daughter, but from their youth shalt teach them the fear of God."

He then summarizes "the path of death" with several paraphrases of the letters of Paul, concluding, "From all these, children, may ye be delivered."

Order of Service

Baptism is to be by immersion, after both persons have fasted.

...having first recited all these precepts, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in running water; but if thou hast not running water, baptize in some other water, and if thou canst not baptize in cold, in warm water; but if thou hast neither, pour water three times on the head...

Christians are to fast on Thursday and Saturday, because "the hypocrites" fast on Tuesday and Friday. The Lord's Prayer is to be repeated three times a day.

It proceeds to give prayers to give over the Eucharist, ending in a manner reminiscent of the Passover Sedar:

If any one is holy let him come (to the Eucharist); if any one is not, let him repent. Maranatha. Amen.

Ecclesiastical Order

Individual Christians are charged to "elect, therefore, for yourselves bishops [episkopouv] and deacons worthy of the Lord," and to ostracize Christians who have fallen into unrepentant sin.

The longest section of this part, however, describes how to receive traveling "apostles and prophets". The prophet must remain no more than three days, must take nothing but food, must teach the truth, and must do what he teaches. He must not command in his prophecies that the Christians give him food or anything else. Anyone who does otherwise is a false prophet; they should not listen to him. True prophets, however, should be given the firstfruits just like the priests under the Old Covenant. ("If ye have not a prophet, give it unto the poor.")

Similarly, Christian travelers are to be assisted for up to three days; if someone stays longer, he must work for his living. (If he knows no craft, the church should teach him one.) "If he be not willing to do so, he is a trafficker in Christ. From such keep aloof."


The Didache closes by admonishing Christians:

Watch concerning your life; let not your lamps be quenched or your loins be loosed, but be ye ready, for ye know not the hour at which our Lord cometh. But be ye gathered together frequently, seeking what is suitable for your souls; for the whole time of your faith shall profit you not, unless ye be found perfect in the last time.

For in the last days false prophets and seducers shall be multiplied, and the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall be turned into hate; and because iniquity aboundeth they shall hate each other, and persecute each other, and deliver each other up; and then shall the Deceiver of the world appear as the Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders, and the earth shall be delivered into his hands; and he shall do unlawful things, such as have never happened since the beginning of the world.

Then shall the creation of man come to the fiery trial of proof, and many shall be offended and shall perish; but they who remain in their faith shall be saved by the rock of offence itself. And then shall appear the signs of the truth; first the sign of the appearance in heaven, then the sign of the sound of the trumpet, and thirdly the resurrection of the dead -- not of all, but as it has been said, The Lord shall come and all his saints with him; then shall the world behold the Lord coming on the clouds of heaven.