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The Didaché

Text of the Didaché

Didaché tou kuriou
(the Lord's Instruction)
(early 2nd century?)


 

The complete title of this work is The Lord's instruction to the Gentiles through the Twelve Apostles. As its name suggests, the author intends to give a summary of the doctrine of Christ as taught by the apostles. The Didache is "the most important document of the sub-apostolic period, and the oldest source of ecclesiastical law that we possess." (Quasten, Patrology, I, 30).

One might expect a document with this title to be a summary of the Gospel, and to supplement our knowledge of the parables. In fact, it is more a compendium of moral and disciplinary rules, explaining the duties of Christian living (chaps. 1-6); providing a directory for worship (chapters 7-10), and norms for church officers and for the reception of new Christians (chapters 11-13, 15). Finally, it calls for watchfulness in view of the coming of Christ (chapter 16).

The Didache gives us a clear picture of many aspects of Christian practice in the first and second centuries, and was the prototype of all the later collections or regulations and canons from which the ecclesiastical law of both East and West began. Many scholars still locate it in the transition from New-Testament usage to the later more structured church. An increasing minority, however, regard the Didache as even earlier than most of our New Testament writings.

Its text overlaps most often with the Gospel of Matthew (especially Mt. 5-7 and 24;) but some of it also overlaps with verses from Luke. There are some remarkable correspondences also with thoughts found in the Gospel of John, and various echoes of the Pauline Epistles. What is unclear is whether the Didache was dependent on, or was written prior to, our Gospels. In his charming study The Didache, A Window on the Earliest Christians (2010), Thomas O'Loughlin argues for a very early date of composition, possibly some time in the 50s of the first century. While this is still a minority view, the time of its composition must be at least as early as the first half of the second century. Its extreme simplicity points to the sub-apostolic age, before the church polity of the Ignatian Epistles had developed, when inspirational guidance was often received from traveling teachers (“Apostles" and "Prophets," chapter 11.)

Quasten held that it probably originated in Syria, and he noted that in Christian antiquity many considered it as important as the books of the New Testament. (Patrology I, 37)

Chapters 9 and 10 of the Didaché provide the oldest text we have of the eucharistic prayers. In chapter 7,1-4 we learn that while baptism by immersion was the norm, baptism could also be by infusion (pouring), while invoking the names of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Both the candidate and the minister were required to fast before the administration of the sacrament. The Eucharistic service held on Sundays is described in chapter 14, which includes a clear reference to the Eucharist as a sacrifice (thusia), with an appeal to Malachi 1:11 on the "pure sacrifice" that will daily be offered to God's name "from the rising of the sun to its setting." There is also a requirement of Confession of sins prior to the Eucharist, probably something akin to our Confiteor, where it says: "In church confess your sins, and do not come to prayer with a guilty conscience" (4,14).

On ecclesiology, we find the term "Church" used by the Didache with the meaning of universality, of an all-embracing, world-wide church. The ekklesia means not only the congregation of believers assembled in a particular place, but the whole new race of Christians, who will one day be united in God's kingdom. The symbol of this unity is the Eucharistic bread, which from so many grains becomes one bread. This emerges emphatically in 9,4 which prays "Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let your Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom" and in 10,5 "Remember, Lord, your Church, to deliver it from all evil and to make it perfect in your love, and gather it from the four winds, sanctified for your kingdom which you have prepared for it."

The hierarchic concept is less developed in the Didache than in Ignatius of Antioch. The heads of the communities are are called episkopoi and diakonoi (no mention of presbyteroi), but it is not yet a monarchical episcopate. Alongside the formal ministries are the prophets, who played an important role, even in the liturgy. "They are your high priests" (13,3), entitled to celebrate the Eucharist: "Let them give thanks (eucharistein) as much as they desire" (10,7) and entitled to tithes of all offerings (13,3-7). Like St. Paul himself, genuine prophets were not liable to judgment by the community, for "Every prophet that speaks in the Spirit you shall neither try nor judge; for every sin shall be forgiven, but this sin shall not be forgiven." On the other hand, not every claimant was necessarily a true prophet, so that a discernment must be made: "But not everyone who speaks in the Spirit is a prophet; but only if he hold the ways of the Lord. Therefore from their ways shall the false prophet and the [true] prophet be known."

Also interesting for church practice are the principles for charity and social work expressed in the text. While almsgiving is recommended, so also is the duty of earning one's living. The obligation of providing for others is conditional on their inability to work for themselves (12,2-5). Here we find a nice blending of Christian charity and no-nonsense realism: "If he who comes is a transient visitor, assist him as far as you are able; but he shall not remain with you, except for two or three days, if need be. But if he wills to abide with you, let him work and eat; but if he has no trade, according to your understanding see to it that, as a Christian, he shall not live with you idle."

 

Text of the Didache

1. The Two Ways

2. Grosser sins forbidden

3. Lust & other forbidden sins

4. Mildness, sharing and compunction

5. Samples of Sin: the Way of Death

6. Beware of false teachings

7. How to administer Baptism

8. Use of fasting; and the Lord's Prayer

9. How the Eucharist is celebrated

10. Prayer after Communion

11. Welcome good teachers and prophets

12. Welcome of visitors, kind but cautious!

13. Material Support for Prophets

14. Assembly, on the Lord's Day

15. Bishops and Deacons

16. Watchfulness; the Lord's Return


 

1. The Two Ways, one of life and one of death

There are two ways, one of life and one of death; but a great difference between the two ways. The way of life, then, is this: First, you shall love God who made you; second, your neighbour as yourself; and all things whatever you would should not occur to you, you also to another do not do. And of these sayings the teaching is this: Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you. For what thank is there, if you love those who love you? Do not also the Gentiles do the same? But love those who hate you; and you shall not have an enemy.

Abstain from fleshly and worldly lusts. If one give you a blow on your right cheek, turn to him the other also; and you shall be perfect. If one forces you to go for one mile, go with him two. If one take away your cloak, give him also your coat. If one take from you your own, ask it not back? for indeed you are not able. Give to everyone who asks you, and ask it not back; for the Father wills that to all should be given of our own blessings (free gifts). Happy is he that gives according to the commandment; for he is guiltless. Woe to the one who receives; for if one having need receives, he is guiltless; but he that receives not having need, shall pay the penalty, why he received and for what, and, coming into straits (confinement), he shall be examined concerning the things which he has done, and he shall not escape thence until he pay back the last farthing. But also now concerning this it has been said, Let your alms sweat in your hands, until you know to whom you should give.

2. Grosser sins forbidden

The second commandment of the Teaching; you shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit paederasty, you shall not commit fornication, you shall not steal, you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft, you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is begotten. You shall not covet the things of your neighbour, you shall not perjure yourself, you shall not bear false witness, you shall not speak, evil, you shall bear no grudge. You shall not be double-minded nor double-tongued; for to be double-tongued is a snare of death. Your speech shall not be false, nor empty, but fulfilled by deed. You shall not be covetous, nor rapacious, nor a hypocrite, nor evil disposed, nor haughty. You shall not take evil counsel against your neighbour. You shall not hate any man; but some you shall reprove, and concerning some you shall pray, and some you shall love more than your own life.

3. Lust and other forbidden sins

My child, flee from every evil thing, and from every likeness of it. Be not prone to anger, for anger leads the way to murder; neither jealous, nor quarrelsome, nor of hot temper; for out of all these murders are engendered. My child, be not a lustful one; for lust leads the way to fornication; neither a filthy talker, nor of lofty eye; for out of all these adulteries are engendered. My child, be not an observer of omens, since it leads the way to idolatry; neither an enchanter, nor an astrologer, nor a purifier, nor be willing to took at these things; for out of all these idolatry is engendered. My child, be not a liar, since a lie leads the way to theft; neither money-loving, nor vainglorious, for out of all these thefts are engendered. My child, be not a murmurer, since it leads the way to blasphemy; neither self-willed nor evil-minded, for out of all these blasphemies are engendered. But be meek, since the meek shall inherit the earth. Be patient and merciful and honest and gentle and good and always trembling at the words which you have heard. You shall not exalt yourself, nor give over-confidence to your soul. Your soul shall not be joined with lofty ones, but with just and lowly ones shall it have its contact. The events that befall you receive as good, knowing that apart from God nothing comes to pass.

4. Spirit of mildness, sharing and compunction

My child, him that speaks to you the word of God remember night and day; and you shall honour him as the Lord; for in the place from which lordly rule is uttered, there is the Lord. And you shall seek out day by day the faces of the saints, in order that you may rest on their words. You shall not long for division, but shall bring those who contend to peace. You shall judge righteously, you shall not respect persons in reproving for transgressions. You shall not be undecided whether it shall be or no. Be not a stretcher forth of the hands to receive and a drawer of them back to give. If you have anything, through your hands you shall give ransom for your sins. You shall not hesitate to give, nor murmur when you give; for you shall know who is the good repayer of the hire. You shall not turn away from him that is in want, but you shall share all things with your brother, and shall not say that they are your own; for if you are partakers in that which is immortal, how much more in things which are mortal? You shall not remove your hand from your son or from your daughter, but from their youth shall teach them the fear of God. You shall not order anything in your bitterness on your bondman or maidservant, who hope in the same God, for fear that ever they shall fear not God who is over both; for he comes not to call according to the outward appearance, but to them whom the Spirit has prepared. And you bondmen shall be subject to your masters as to a type of God, in modesty and fear. You shall hate all hypocrisy and everything which is not pleasing to the Lord. Let you in no way forsake the commandments of the Lord; but you shall keep what you have received, neither adding to it nor taking away from it. In the Church you shall acknowledge your transgressions, and you shall not come near for your prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of life.

5. Samples of Sin: the Way of Death

The way of death is this: First of all it is evil and full of curse: murders, adulteries, lusts, fornications, thefts, idolatries, magic arts, witchcrafts, rapines, false witnessings, hypocrisies, double-heartedness, deceit, haughtiness, depravity, self-will, greediness, filthy talking, jealousy, over-confidence, loftiness, boastfulness; persecutors of the good, hating truth, loving a lie, not knowing a reward for righteousness, not cleaving to good nor to righteous judgment, watching not for that which is good, but for that which is evil; from whom meekness and endurance are far, loving vanities, pursuing requital, not pitying a poor man, not labouring for the afflicted, not knowing him that made them, murderers of children, destroyers of the handiwork of God, turning away from him that is in want afflicting him that is distressed, advocates of the rich, lawless judges of the poor, utter sinners. Be delivered, children, from all these.

6. Beware of false teachings

See that no one cause you to err from this way of the Teaching, since apart from God it teaches you. For if you can bear all the yoke of the Lord, you will be perfect; but if you are unable, what you are able that do. And concerning food, bear what you are able; but against that which is sacrificed to idols be exceedingly on your guard; for it is the service of dead gods.

7. How to administer Baptism (pouring is allowed)

Concerning baptism, so must you baptise: Having first said all these things, baptise into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have not living water, baptise into other water; and if you cannot in cold, in warm. But if you have not either, pour out water thrice on the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptiser fast, and the baptised, and whatever others can; but you shall order the baptised to fast one or two days before.

8. Use of fasting; and the Lord's Prayer

But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites; for they fast on the second and fifth day of the week; but let you fast on the fourth day and the Preparation (Friday). Neither pray as the hypocrites; but as the Lord commanded in his Gospel, so pray: Our Father who are in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. Give us today our daily (needful) bread, and forgive us our debt as we also forgive our debtors. And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (or, evil); for your is the power and the glory for ever. Thrice in the day so pray.

9. How Eucharist is celebrated

Now concerning the Thanksgiving (Eucharist), so give thanks. First, concerning the cup: We thank you, our Father, for the holy vine of David your servant, which you made known to us through Jesus your Servant; to you be the glory for ever. And concerning the broken bread: We thank you, our Father, for the life and knowledge which you made known to us through Jesus your Servant; to you be the glory for ever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let your Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom; for your is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever. But let no one eat or drink of your Thanksgiving (Eucharist), but they who have been baptised into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, Give not that which is holy to the dogs.

10. Prayer after Communion

But after you are filled, so give thanks: We thank you, holy Father, for your holy name which you did cause to tabernacle in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality, which you made known to us through Jesus your Servant; to you be the glory for ever. You, Master almighty, did create all things for your name's sake; you gave food and drink to men for enjoyment, that they might give thanks to you; but to us you did freely give spiritual food and drink and life eternal through your Servant. Before all things we thank you that you are mighty; to you be the glory for ever. Remember, Lord, your Church, to deliver it from all evil and to make it perfect in your love, and gather it from the four winds, sanctified for your kingdom which you have prepared for it; for your is the power and the glory for ever. Let grace come, and let this world pass away. Hhosanna to the God (Son) of David! If anyone is holy, let him come; if anyone is not so, let him repent. Maranatha. Amen. But permit the prophets to make Thanksgiving as much as they desire.

11. Welcome genuine teachers and prophets

Whosoever, therefore, comes and teaches you all these things that have been said before, receive him. But if the teacher himself turn and teach another doctrine to the destruction of this, hear him not; but if he teach so as to increase righteousness and the knowledge of the Lord, receive him as the Lord. But concerning the apostles and prophets, according to the decree of the Gospel, so do. Let every apostle that comes to you be received as the Lord. But he shall not remain except one day; but if there be need, also the next; but if he remain three days, he is a false prophet. And when the apostle goes away, let him take nothing but bread until he lodges; but if he ask money, he is a false prophet. And every prophet that speaks in the Spirit you shall neither try nor judge; for every sin shall be forgiven, but this sin shall not be forgiven. But not everyone who speaks in the Spirit is a prophet; but only if he hold the ways of the Lord. Therefore from their ways shall the false prophet and the prophet be known. And every prophet who orders a meal in the Spirit eats not from it, except indeed he be a false prophet; and every prophet who teaches the truth, if he do not what he teaches, is a false prophet. And every prophet, proved true, working to the mystery of the Church in the world, yet not teaching others to do what he himself does, shall not be judged among you, for with God he has his judgment; for so did also the ancient prophets. But whoever says in the Spirit, Give me money, or something else, you shall not listen to him; but if he says to you to give for others' sake who are in need, let no one judge him.

12. Reception of visitors, warm, but cautious!

But let everyone who comes in the name of the Lord be received, and afterward you shall prove and know him; for you shall have understanding right and left. If he who comes is a transient visitor, assist him as far as you are able; but he shall not remain with you, except for two or three days, if need be. But if he wills to abide with you, being an artisan, let him work and eat; but if he has no trade, according to your understanding see to it that, as a Christian, he shall not live with you idle. But if he wills not to do, he is a Christ-monger. Watch that you keep aloof from such.

13. Material Support for Prophets

But every true prophet that wills to abide among you is worthy of his support. So also a true teacher is himself worthy, as the workman, of his support. Every first-fruit, therefore, of the products of wine-press and threshing-floor, of oxen and of sheep, you shall take and give to the prophets, for they are your high priests. But if you have not a prophet, give it to the poor. If you make a batch of dough, take the first-fruit and give according to the commandment. So also when you open a jar of wine or of oil, take the first-fruit and give it to the prophets; and of money (silver) and clothing and every possession, take the first-fruit, as it may seem good to you, and give according to the commandment.

14. Assembly, on the Lord's Day

But every Lord's day let you gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one who is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice (qusia); for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations.

15. Bishops and Deacons

Appoint, therefore, for yourselves, bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, and not lovers of money, and truthful and proved; for they also render to you the service of prophets and teachers. Despise them not therefore, for they are your honoured ones, together with the prophets and teachers. And reprove one another, not in anger, but in peace, as you have it in the Gospel; but to everyone who acts amiss against another, let no one speak, nor let him hear anything from you until he repent. But your prayers and alms and all your deeds so do, as you have it in the Gospel of our Lord.

16. Watchfulness; the Lord's Return

Watch for your life's sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ready, for you do not know the hour in 2 which our Lord comes. But often shall you come together, seeking the things which are befitting to your souls: for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if you are not made perfect in the last time. For in the last days false prophets and corrupters shall be multiplied, and the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall be turned into hate; for when lawlessness increases, they shall hate and persecute and betray one another, and then shall appear the world-deceiver as Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders, and the earth shall be delivered into his hands, and he shall do iniquitous things which have never yet come to pass since the beginning. Then shall the creation of men come into the fire of trial, and many shall be made to stumble and shall perish; but those who endure in their faith shall be saved from under the curse itself. And then shall appear the signs of the truth; first, the sign of an out-spreading in heaven; then the sign of the sound of the trumpet; and the third, the resurrection of the dead; yet not of all, but as it is said: The Lord shall come and all his saints with him. Then shall the world see the Lord coming on the clouds of heaven.