The Didache is a Greek Christian literary work dated from the late first century to second century. The word didache comes from the Greek word for teaching or doctrine. The Didache is included in the writings of the early church fathers. The contents include church orders and ethical teachings as relevant to the second generation of Christians.
Does the Didache give biblical instruction? What is the Didache?
The early church leader Eusebius mentioned the Didache by the name of the Teachings of the Apostles and included it as one of the "spurious" works that was not to be included among the New Testament writings. In his time (early fourth century) some still considered it one of the canonical writings, though others rejected it.
The Didache's contents are divided into four sections comprised of 16 chapters. Chapters 1—6 cover a teaching called the Two Ways based on its opening phrase, "There are two ways, one of life and one of death, and there is a great difference between these two ways." Chapters 7—10 cover church practices, including baptism, fasting, and Communion. Chapters 11—15 include ministry practices and instructions related to traveling teachers. Chapter 16 includes prophecy or apocalyptic teachings.
Though most of its teachings are consistent with what is found in the New Testament writings, some interesting additions are found in the Didache. For example, Christians are taught to fast (abstain from food) on Wednesdays and Fridays in contrast with the "hypocrites" (non-Christian Jews) who fasted on Mondays and Thursdays. In addition, Christians are instructed to pray the Lord's Prayer three times each day.
In terms of baptism, the Didache speaks of baptizing in "living water" or flowing water. Where there was not enough water for immersion, pouring water on the head three times was deemed sufficient. Those involved were also instructed to fast for one or two days before the baptism.
Communion (or Eucharist or the Lord's Supper) is discussed in some detail in Chapter 9. One major difference is the order of the ritual involved the cup first prior to the bread. The chapter also seems to focus on the association of Communion with a meal (similar to the practice found in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34).
The final verses of the Didache speak directly to the return of Christ for His children, saying, "and thirdly a resurrection of the dead; yet not of all, but as it was said: The Lord shall come and all His saints with Him. Then shall the world see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven" (16:14-17). These words closely resemble Paul's teachings in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
The Didache was not affirmed as part of the inspired writings of the New Testament. However, it serves as one of the earliest Christian writings outside of the Bible and offers many interesting insights into church life among the second generation of Christians.
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