Skip to comments.A Call to the Faithful: The Didache and Human Life
Posted on 06/16/2006 6:58:18 AM PDT by Mr. Silverback
If I were to tell you about an ancient document that sheds fresh light on Christianity, your first reaction might be to run for the hills. Most of us have had just about all we can handle of the spurious Gospel of Judas and The Da Vinci Code, right?
Well, Im not talking about The Da Vinci Code. Unlike the Gnostic gospels that inspired the novel, the ancient document Im talking about sheds some real light on Christianity. Its called the Didache, and its one of the earliest non-scriptural Christian writings, written toward the end of the first century. As Christianity Today explains in an excellent article last month, While no one believes that any of the twelve apostles wrote it, scholars agree that the work is a faithful transmission of the apostles teaching, intended primarily for the training of Gentile believers.
So this is no mysterious subject of an ancient conspiracy, just a practical guide to discipleship and obediencemaybe not as thrilling to many readers and moviegoers, but a lot more important.
The Didache came to my attention at the last meeting of the group Evangelicals and Catholics Together. As some of you know, I am one of the founders of the group, which is dedicated to finding common ground in our Christian faith and mission, and standing together in the culture war. Specifically, I came across the following passage:
There are two ways, a way of life and a way of death; there is a great difference between them . . . in accordance with the precept of the teaching You shall not kill, you shall not put a child to death by abortion nor kill it once it is born. . . . The way of death is this; they show no compassion for the poor. They do not suffer with the suffering. They do not acknowledge their Creator, they kill their children and by abortion cause Gods creatures to perish; they drive away the needy, oppress the suffering; they are advocates of the rich and unjust judges of the poor; they are filled with every sin. May you be ever guiltless of all these sins!
Thats pretty powerful language, condemning the brutal practices of the Romans and of the pagan societies. But what really caught my attention is that this demonstrates so clearly that the sanctity of all human life is an issue that goes back to the very beginnings of the Church. That ought to be news to those who slam the so-called religious right as if abortion were some issue we just recently latched onto for political power. To the contrary, this struggle against the culture of death is an ancient one, going back two thousand years. The Didache wisely identifies the unborn with the poor, and condemns the rich and unjust judges who oppress them.
Fascinating, isnt it? All the hoopla over the Gospel of Judas, which was discredited in the second century. The world, you see, wants to believe all kinds of deep dark secrets that might shake the foundations of the faith. But here comes a genuine documentno attention paid to itbut what it proves is the validity of the biblical account.
The Didache, the Churchs first written guide for discipleship, may not contain ear-tingling, earth-shattering revelations like all the other recent sensational disclosures, but it contains something much more important: a reminder of the Churchs great heritage and a call to our generation to be as faithful as our ancestors were in protecting life and the weak and the defenseless.
There are links to further information at the source document.
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This should be read from the pulpit of every Christian Church every Sunday.
It is also referred to as the Two Ways: The way of light and the way of darkness.
The first version was written about the time of the first gospels. However, it was not until about 1880s that a complete copy of the Didache was recovered.
Basically, the Didache was combined with church teaching after the one of the early church councils.
It basically stated that Homosexuality, Infanticide, and abortion were all wrong - which had to be clarified for the cultures of pagan peoples entering the church (abortion, homosexuality, and infanticide was always an evil and a sin according to the Law of Moses).
A baptist list ping may be in order.
Text of the Didache (in English) is available online at other links. This article has a link to the original Greek text of the Didache...
I guess we'll be seeing coverage of this "important religious document" on cBS,nbc,abc, time, newsweek, etc...
You forgot all the documentaries on it that will air on the History Channel, where they will surely have a number of conservative scholara comment on its contents and importance, and on how important orthodoxy is to Christian practice.
Catholic Ping - Please freepmail me if you want on/off this list
I look forward to the History Channel broadcast!
Thanks for the info and links.
From what I understand of the early Church, some Christians learned the Apostles Creed as a way of teaching (writing was scarce).
So the Didache was a way to instruct the new Christians (who were generally not always Jewish by background) in the faith - a teaching tool...
That is my understanding...
Thanks...not how I was pronouncing it in my head. :)
Priests For Life has an excellent compilation of quotes from the Church Fathers against abortion.
These can be found at
It should also be of interest that birth control was known and condemned. This condemntion remained a teaching of both Catholic and Protestant churches until the Anglican church in 1930 allowed it for married couples.
Careful passing that Didache on... It makes plain that what St. Paul was describing as a "prayer meeting" is pretty similar to Catholicism. In fact, if anything, the Catholic Church has gone all soft and mushy in the last 2,000 years. Confession, abstaining on Fridays (AND Wednesdays), fasting before Eucharist: all those Catholic "inventions" are all there.
>> So the Didache was a way to instruct the new Christians (who were generally not always Jewish by background) in the faith - a teaching tool... <<
Actually, it seems to be more written to gentile pastors, instructing them how to lead a flock. That is the best guess for why it was rejected for the bible: the bible is universal and timeless; the Didache was for pastors in a particular age.
Frankly, it also might be useful for how to properly do a charismatic mass...
And to be fair, a partial score for the Protestants: The earliest bible to include the verse, "For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory, now and forever," is from the ninth century. While the Didache does not contain this in the entirety, it does include a substantial portion, "For thine is the power and the glory" after the Our Father.
(The Catholic church does not include this at the end of every recitation of the "Our Father," (Lord's Prayer); it is considered a pious addition, but nonetheless an addition to sacred scripture.)
What I heard as the reason for the Didache not being incorporated into the Bible was not this not TOTALLY inspired by the Holy Spirit.
I believe that Jesus does refer to the The Two Ways in the Gospel of Matthew, but I would have to research that. Basically, the Didache uses that theme from the Gospel but points out SPECIFIC policies to follow - much like some of the Old Testament books on laws given to Moses (the eating of pork, etc).
The average Christian may not have had access to the teachings.
Some of the Web Links in this article would give much more detail.
And the bottom line is that if Christians go back to the early Church, we can find common ground between Evangelicals, Baptists, Methodists, Orthodox and Roman Catholic. Something we can all agree on but in different ways... I think that was the original point of this web article on the Didache...
"So this is no mysterious subject of an ancient conspiracy, just a practical guide to discipleship and obediencemaybe not as thrilling to many readers and moviegoers, but a lot more important."
Well I'm sure glad they found this "practical guide to discipleship and obedience". That has been so lacking in the Holy Bible.
Thanks Colson, for now creating more doubt in the body of Christ about what else might be lacking in the Bible. Just like the gospel of Judas and the Da Vinci Code did. Where would Christianity be without you?
Isn't that exactly how Satan works - create a little doubt, then let it fester.
Chuck Colson does not fear God. He mocks Him.
There is no endorsement of the didache as a substitute or supplement to the Bible in this article. I defy you to find it.
You have completely missed the point of this article.
You have completely missed the point of Colson's entire life for the last three decades.
Advise you keep that accusing finger in its holster next time.
Thanks, I've been pronouncing it wrong in my head and in conversation with my wife.
It must have been when I was reading about the point of Jesus' life in the Holy Bible. I expect to be reading it the rest of my left, and not really ever having finished it.
"You have completely missed the point of this article."
The point of the article is obvious. There is now something else that Christians should be reading about God. When Christians aren't even reading their Bibles. If Christians were reading their Bibles, they would know their complete lack of need for any other book but the Holy Bible - the preserved, inerrant, infallible and complete word of God. This Didache just gives them another convenient excuse for not reading their Bibles. Satan loves when that happens. Christians who don't spend time with the word of God are weak. And are easy pickings for Satan and the seductions of the world.
I know plenty about Chuck Colson. But not to worry. I will leave you in peace with your Chuck Colson thread. He really doesn't interest me. He is just a man. Think I'll go read some Scripture.
I bid you a good night.
Wht do you think that all works by early Christians not in the canon are evil? No one thinks that the Didache was actually written by the Apostles, but it contains enough doctrine consistent with the canonical works that it was highly thought of.
Is that what you say every time you denigrate a fellow Christian's life with no real evidence, "Sorry, I was too busy being into Jesus to actually act like a Christian?"
Colson has spent over thirty years proclaiming the Gospel and promoting orthodoxy. Your accusations against him are as ludicrous as someone calling Madalyn Murray O'Hair a Bible thumper.
The point of the article is obvious. There is now something else that Christians should be reading about God.
WRONG! The point of the article is that many of the political positions the conservative church has taken are in fact positions that the church fathers considered Christian doctrine. The positions match the doctrine because the doctrine is Bible-based, and there is no endorsement of extra-biblical teaching.
I challenge you to show me any place in this article where Colson implies that the Bible is not complete or that we need a supplement to it.
If Christians were reading their Bibles, they would know their complete lack of need for any other book but the Holy Bible - the preserved, inerrant, infallible and complete word of God.
Fine, put your Scripture where your mouth is. Give me a Biblical reference that says we are only supposed to read the Bible, and we are not to read any other document even if it is an expression of proper Christian doctrine.
Think I'll go read some Scripture.
Please do. You haven't been reading it nearly enough if you think your behavior in this thread is remotely Christlike. Back your bile up with Scripture or go home.
I'm a Protestant, and I've experienced the pain of being the only person still standing and talking in a church when the Catholics came to a screeching halt at "deliver us from evil" and I kept going. And the worst part was, I had (for reasons too involved to go into here) worn jeans and a Detroit Lions jersey. Four hundred people in suits and dresses looking at the dipstick Protestant who's standing up with Barry Sanders number on his back. Not a stellar moment in church history.
I'm sure there was a lesson in it, on both sides. It would certainly have been a temptation to pride for the four hundred, and they might have profitably reflected on their (understandable) reaction.
From my POV it's not a disgrace to go to church in informal attire when circumstances cause you not to have a suit. Even if you had the suit and instead wore golf clothes but repented and went to church instead of to the course . . .
But I wouldn't recommend it every week. IMHO.
Take a walk or something.
I wont be wasting my time reading the Didache. As a matter for fact, I've already wasted too much time on this thread, and on Free Republic as of late. It is time for me to get back to some meaningful reading of my KJV Bible - the Bible of my forefathers.
Here is a link for those who do not want to remain egregiously ignorant about Chuck Colson and New Evangelicalism.
Request noted, appreciated, and denied.
I'm not "piling on." I have asked this person to back up their bizarre accusations. In deference to you and your commendable attittude of peacemaking, I will not ask him to back up his bile again.
You know, I have tried to be tough but reasonable. Tough because you made big accusations, reasonable because that is what we should be doing, reasoning togewther. But now I go to that link and find out I should have laughed at you from the beginning.
You are lumping Colson in with Shelby Spong? You are lumping one of the foremost defenders of Biblical authority in with the Jesus Seminar?
What are you going to do tomorrow, come by and compare Billy Sunday to Larry Flynnt? BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Stop, before you give someone an asthma attack!
Sometimes even orthodox doctrine can't keep some people from deciding they have the authority to throw the first stone. And tragically, sometimes they even believe they get to throw the first stone at people for a sin the victim never committed. And then they decide the thees and thous in their Bible make that mess into righteous behavior.
You're a perfect case study of that syndrome. Class dismissed.
"A more recent illustration of modernism comes from the pen of John Shelby Spong, a bishop in the Episcopal Church in America. Consider an excerpt from this mans writings: Am I suggesting that these stories of the virgin birth are not literally true? The answer is a simple and direct 'Yes.' Of course these narratives are not literally true. Stars do not wander, angels do not sing, virgins do not give birth, magi do not travel to a distant land to present gifts to a baby, and shepherds do not go in search of a newborn savior. ... To talk of a Father God who has a divine-human son by a virgin woman is a mythology that our generation would never have created, and obviously, could not use. To speak of a Father God so enraged by human evil that he requires propitiation for our sins that we cannot pay and thus demands the death of the divine-human son as a guilt offering is a ludicrous idea to our century. The sacrificial concept that focuses on the saving blood of Jesus that somehow washes me clean, so popular in Evangelical and Fundamentalist circles, is by and large repugnant to us today (John Spong, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture, Harper, 1991, pp. 215,234)."
"Martin Luther ignited the Reformation of the 16th century by nailing to the door of the church in Wittenberg in 1517 the 95 Theses that he wished to debate. I will publish this challenge to Christianity in The Voice. I will post my theses on the Internet and send copies with invitations to debate them to the recognized Christian leaders of the world. My theses are far smaller in number than were those of Martin Luther, but they are far more threatening theologically. The issues to which I now call the Christians of the world to debate are these:
1. Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. So most theological God-talk is today meaningless. A new way to speak of God must be found.
2. Since God can no longer be conceived in theistic terms, it becomes nonsensical to seek to understand Jesus as the incarnation of the theistic deity. So the Christology of the ages is bankrupt.
3. The biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which human beings fell into sin is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense.
4. The virgin birth, understood as literal biology, makes Christ's divinity, as traditionally understood, impossible.
5. The miracle stories of the New Testament can no longer be interpreted in a post-Newtonian world as supernatural events performed by an incarnate deity.
6. The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed.
7. Resurrection is an action of God. Jesus was raised into the meaning of God. It therefore cannot be a physical resuscitation occurring inside human history.
8. The story of the Ascension assumed a three-tiered universe and is therefore not capable of being translated into the concepts of a post-Copernican space age.
9. There is no external, objective, revealed standard writ in scripture or on tablets of stone that will govern our ethical behavior for all time.
10. Prayer cannot be a request made to a theistic deity to act in human history in a particular way.
11. The hope for life after death must be separated forever from the behavior control mentality of reward and punishment. The Church must abandon, therefore, its reliance on guilt as a motivator of behavior.
12. All human beings bear God's image and must be respected for what each person is. Therefore, no external description of one's being, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, can properly be used as the basis for either rejection or discrimination."
Thank you. And thanks for the link to a discussion of the Didache
Here is a link that zot provided in his post #28 (If this doesn't work as an active link)
Here is a translation of the Didache with commentary, cross-references, and content-context analysis:
The Didache (The Teaching)
I recommend you use the link in post 28 or 45 and read the Didache and the commentary. It goes well with established Christian scriptures and was long called 'gospel of Barnabas'.
Do you not read any of the other early church fathers? And I'm not talking about the gnostic literature that is much in vogue today, and was written by those who wanted to lead the faithful astray.
Actually, Athenagoras' "Plea for the Christians," apparently addressed to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, is usually dated in the 170's, probably 177 A.D.
Other "Apostolic Fathers" worth checking out (from the first centruy after Christ's death and Resurrection) are Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, the anonymous letter to Diognetus, Barnabas, and the fragments of Papias.
The Didache is especially worthy of note given that the early dating ranges for it would actually put its composition before much of the New Testament canon. Hard to get back much further than that. Someone should send a copy to Dan Brown.
Just by getting one to read the "ancient document that sheds fresh light on Christianity" one's faith has already been weakened. That's what New Evangelicals do, they weaken the faith. They proceed on the assumption that Christ needs a fresh light.
Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, is the word of God made flesh. To doubt the sufficiency of His word, is to doubt the sufficiency of Him.
Next thing you know, they'll start advocating reading other documents from Patristic Christianity.
(If anybody was interested, there's a marvelous collection at http://www.ccel.org or http:www.newadvent.org/fathers)