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Didache: A Treasure From the Early Church

The Didache, orThe Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, is an early Christian text that most scholars date to the first or early second century.

The Didache was highly regarded by many early Christian authors and theologians. Athanasius of Alexandria (†373) recommended it to converts, and it had a great influence on theApostolic Constitutions(375). Before the New Testament canon was formally settled in 692, a number of Biblical canons included theDidache; John of Damascus (†749) was also a noted supporter.

The text disappeared and was lost for centuries until it was rediscovered in 1873 by Philotheos Bryennios, Metropolitan of Nicomedia. Today it is usually included among the second-generation Christian writings known as theApostolic Fathers.

TheDidache’sfirst 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, the Eucharist (holy communion), and anointing with oil.

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: familiar institutions such as the episcopacy (bishops) and the diaconate (deacons), as well as those which fell out of use early on, such as prophets (those who spoke in tongues).

It should be noted that at this time in Christian history, there was no distinct class of clergy who were presbyters (priests). The Christian community was small, and there was not yet a need to delegate a bishop’s priestly duties to lower clergy; bishops personally lead the church in worship in each Christian community.

The final section is a briefapocalypse, or revelation of the end times. This is notable, as theDidachewas likely written even before the book of Revelation, which was not universally accepted into the New Testament until the 7th century.

Even though theDidacheitself 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 Didacheis 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.

Apr 12th 2024 Legacy Icons

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