Skip to comments.Church History: The Didache [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]
Posted on 03/04/2011 8:32:25 PM PST by Salvation
Historical research has spurred the discovery of many documents that are related to Christianity. Several writings of this kind have given precious insights into the epochs before and after the founding of the Catholic Church. One particular writing, part of the Patristic corpus (i.e. writings of the Church Fathers), has shed valuable light on Catholicism: "The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles," better known as The Didache.
A Greek copy of The Didache was first discovered in 1873; a text that was part of an 11th century manuscript entitled Codex Hierosolymitanus (circa 1056). The ecclesiastic of Nicomedia, a gentleman named Bryennios, is credited with finding this codex, published in 1883. Since the initial discovery in the 19th century, The Didache has been found in fragments (Latin, Coptic, Ethiopic, Syriac) and in complete translation (Georgian). Today, The Didache is readily accessible in English, and an integral part of many studies on Church history and theology.
As the case with several writings from antiquity, speculation surrounds some aspects of The Didache. The writer is unknown, as well as its place of composition. This treatise is believed to have originated from the East: candidates have been Syria, Palestine and Egypt. Dating is less speculative: The Didache is believed to have been written between the first and second centuries. Patristic scholars are confident that this work is one of the earliest Christian tomes of the Catholic Faith. Later studies have shown that The Didache has been referenced in other known documents, such as the Apostolic Constitutions, a work dated to the fourth century.
More crucial than any speculation on The Didache is its substance. The title, as indicated, reflects a summary of the doctrines of the Lord Jesus Christ that were taught by the Apostles to the world. The Didache contains 16 chapters, which can be divided into four topical sections: moral catechesis (1-6), liturgical instruction (7-10), disciplinary regulations (11-15), and the doctrine of the Second Coming (16). This work has been utilized by the Magisterium; The Didache is cited in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Nos. 1331, 1403, 1696, 2271, 2760 and 2767). It is hoped that the following brief excerpts from The Didache will encourage further study and reflection.
The Didache 1.1 is clear enough: "There are two Ways, one of Life and one of Death, and there is a great difference between the two Ways." This implies one of the most basic (and necessary) principles of the Christian life: by Gods grace, strive to do good and avoid evil. This fact is rooted in Sacred Scripture (cf. Dt 30:19; Mt 7:21). The opening line in this Patristic work is refreshing, especially useful in our day, when some wish to cloak vice under the mantle of "personal freedom" or "individual rights."
Addressing the duties of parents, The Didache reads: "You shall not withhold your hand from your son or from your daughter, but you shall teach them the fear of God from their youth" (4.9). This mandate, one of instructing children in the truths of the Catholic Faith, reiterates the common theme that the home is the "domestic Church." The Magisterium continues this Patristic concept, stating in the1981 document Familiaris Consortio (Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World) No. 36, the special role of parents as the primary educators for their children.
"But let none eat or drink of your Eucharist," states The Didache 9.5, "except those who have been baptized in the Lords name." It is evident that from the earliest days of the Catholic Church, some restrictions were in place for denying access to the Blessed Sacrament. Even today, the Code of Canon Law still maintains certain regulations for reception of the Sacrament of the Altar (cf. Canons 912-919).
A deeper examination of The Didache is highly profitable for the student of history or theology. This work of the Patristic corpus is certainly one of the most insightful writings dated near the Apostolic era. The document touches upon faith, morals, and discipline; a pattern that would be followed by many Magisterial pronouncements throughout the ages.
Ciresi serves on the faculty at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College.
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1 There are two ways, one of life and one of death; and between the two ways there is a great difference.
2 Now, this is the way of life:
The second commandment of the Teaching: "Do not murder; do not commit adultery"; do not corrupt boys; do not fornicate; "do not steal"; do not practice magic; do not go in for sorcery; do not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn infant. "Do not covet your neighbor's property; do not commit perjury; do not bear false witness"; do not slander; do not bear grudges. Do not be double-minded or double-tongued, for a double tongue is "a deadly snare." Your words shall not be dishonest or hollow, but substantiated by action. Do not be greedy or extortionate or hypocritical or malicious or arrogant. Do not plot against your neighbor. Do not hate anybody; but reprove some, pray for others, and still others love more than your own life.
It’s been a part of Catholic teaching for a long, long , long time.
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Thanks so much, Salvation; I’m keeping you in prayer for your eyesight. Those precious eyes do so much for us!
Thanks for your prayers. You have no idea how much they mean to me.
About the same as yours mean to me, FRiend.
The discourse on the two ways from the Didache can be found in similar form in the Epistle of Barnabas, so it's quite possible that it was a common way of preaching the good news in the first century. I've been working on and off on a way to incorporate the discourse into a RCIA unit.
There is a hymn that is based on the eucharistic prayer from another part of the Didache (some people who study these things say the Didache is actually describing an Agape meal and not a Eucharist). I've been working up this hymn on the guitar lately.
Father we thank Thee who has planted
Thy holy name within our hearts.
Knowledge and faith and life immortal
Jesus Thy son to us imparts.
Thou who didst make all for Thy pleasure
Didst give man food for all his days.
Giving in Christ the bread eternal
Thine is the power be Thine the praise.
Watch o'er Thy Church O Lord in mercy,
Save it from evil guard it still.
Perfect it in Thy love, unite it,
Cleansed and conformed unto Thy will.
As grain, once scattered on the hillsides
Was in this broken bread made one,
So from all lands Thy Church be gathered
Into Thy kingdom by Thy Son.
Thanks, Salvation. Holy Tradition is the true teaching of Christ’s Church and the Didache is a part of Holy Tradition.
The discourse on the two ways from the Didache can be found in similar form in the Epistle of Barnabas, so it's quite possible that it was a common way of preaching the good news in the first century. I've been working on and off on a way to incorporate the discourse into a RCIA unit.Cf. Acts 9:1-2 --
But Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the High Priest and begged him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he should find there any followers of the Way, whether men or women, he could bring them back to Jerusalem as prisoners.(Emphasis added.)
Chapter 7. Concerning Baptism. And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whoever else can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before.
It proves pretty much that the method, means and amount (the kind of water, "living" (presumably a river), cold, warm, pouring...), to the Apostles, was adiaphora, what was important was the name of the holy Trinity, and preparation and meaning behind it.
Christians of all kinds could benefit from this common-sense approach.