Skip to comments.The Time Capsule
Posted on 05/24/2006 5:51:09 AM PDT by siunevada
Its a commonplace notion of the Catholic faith that revelation closed with the death of the last apostle. To us, its commonplace. But to the early Christians, it was a most urgent matter.
As the apostles went to their martyrdom, one by one, the flock they left behind saw vanishing the only eyewitnesses to Jesus teaching the only guarantors of Christian orthodoxy.
It was then, in the first century, that the Christian community produced what we might call its first catechism, a book that bears the title The Teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles Through the Twelve Apostles or, in Greek, simply the Didache, the teaching.
The Didache (pronounced DID-uh-kay) is actually more than a catechism. Its a church order (to use the technical term), a book that combines doctrinal summary with liturgical instruction and a little bit of moral exhortation. Its like a missal, a manual, and a catechism rolled into one. We possess several church orders from Christian antiquity, but the Didache is almost certainly the oldest, and most of the later ones depend upon the Didache.
How old is the Didache? Most scholars place its composition between A.D. 60 and 110. However, one of the top scholars alive, Enrico Mazza, argues very persuasively that the liturgical portions of the document were composed no later than 48 A.D. If hes correct, that means that our oldest liturgical texts pre-date most of the books of the New Testament.
The Didache, which was rediscovered at the end of the 19th century, reads like a time capsule from the apostolic generation.
Twenty-first century Christians tend to romanticize those founding years of the Church as a golden age of unity, when believers absorbed sound doctrine by osmosis, and when Christians couldnt help but love one another, and bless their persecutors, and feed the poor.
But thats not how it was. Early on, the Church faced serious threats from self-proclaimed Christians who denied, for example, that the eternal Word truly became flesh (see 1 Jn 4:2 and 2 Jn 1:7). They also denied the reality of the Eucharist and the necessity of the Church. Quite early in the game, there were even some teachers who held that revelation was a private affair between God and the individual believer. They spun wildly creative religious systems (see 1 Tim 1:4) and gave a green-light to unbridled lust (see Jd 7). To legitimize their revelations, such heretics often attributed oracles to the apostles (see Gal 1:7 and 2 Thess 2:2).
Amid this confusion came order and orthodoxy in the Didache. It is, perhaps, the earliest ancestor of todays Catechism of the Catholic Church. And, indeed, the new Catechism quotes that first one several times (details below).
Many scholars believe that the Didache was compiled, from various oral and written sources, in Antioch of Syria, the place where the disciples of Jesus were first called Christians (Acts 11:26).
Tradition holds that St. Peter, the first pope, was the founding bishop of Antioch, and one of the earliest titles given to the Didache was The Judgments of Peter.
The document is small, just 16 brief chapters, but it manages to cover a wide area, from morals to sacraments, from prophecy to liturgy. The opening sections (chapters 1-7) offer an exposition of Christian life, emphasizing Christianitys distinctiveness from pagan ways.
Two ways there are, one of life and one of death, and there is a great difference between the two ways, the Didache begins. Now the way of life is this: first, love the God who made you; secondly, love your neighbor as yourself.
What follows, then, is a remarkable synopsis of Jesus teachings in a series of quotations and paraphrases. Strung together in a continuous narrative are the Golden Rule, excerpts from the Sermon on the Mount, and commentary on the Ten Commandments. Then, in contrast, the way of death appears as a catalog of vices.
The second section (chapters 7-9) is stunning in its picture of Catholic life. It begins with detailed instructions on baptism: the sacrament should be conferred in running water, it says, and by immersion, if possible. But the Didache also makes allowance for our current custom of pouring water over the head of the candidate.
The early Church, like the Church in recent years, fasted on Fridays, but also on Wednesdays. The traditional day for celebration of the Eucharist was Sunday. Christians, counsels the Didache, should pray the Our Father three times every day.
Three chapters of the Didache deal specifically with the liturgy, advising the faithful how to prepare and conduct themselves, and prescribing prayers for the clergy. The unknown author makes clear that, even at this early date, the Church reserved Holy Communion only for those who were baptized and free of any grave sin. Let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist unless they have been baptized If any one is holy, let him come; if any one is not so, let him repent. Repentance normally involved confession of ones sins: receive the Eucharist after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure.
The Eucharistic Prayer of the Didache emphasizes the Masss power to unify the Church: 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 forever. 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 Yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever.
After Communion, those early Christians were urged to give thanks in this way: We thank You, holy Father, for Your holy name which You caused to dwell 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 forever. Almighty Master, You created all things for Your names sake; You gave food and drink to men for enjoyment, that they might give thanks to You; but to us You freely gave 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 forever. 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 Yours is the power and the glory forever. Let grace come, and let this world pass away. Hosanna to the God (Son) of David! If any one is holy, let him come; if any one is not so, let him repent. Maranatha. Amen.
The text appears to be published as canonical, official rites, but with room for inspired charismatic expression: Permit the prophets to give thanks as much as they desire.
The modern Catholic will see much that is familiar in the Didache and little that is alien to his or her experience. Perhaps the most striking differences are in attitude. The first Christians lived with a strong sense of the imminence of Jesus return as He is really present in the Eucharist. Let grace come, and let this world pass away Maranatha. Some scholars believe that Maranatha was the primitive Churchs prayer of consecration in the liturgy.
The Didache shows that, in structure, the early Chruch resembled the modern in many ways, with bishops and deacons set apart for ministry to the rest of the community. Those who held teaching offices taught with authority, and we can see that their teaching has remained constantly with the Church. Thus the Didache shows that, from the beginning, the apostles condemned abortion: You shall not kill the embryo by abortion, and shall not cause the newborn to perish.
Since the Didache was considered to have originated with the apostles, tis authority was mighty throughout the first millennium of the Church. Many of the early Church Fathers quote the document, and some counted it as part of the New Testament.
But while the quotations remained on the record, the documents itself faded from view by the end of the era of the Fathers. Scholars until recently could only speculate about its composition, piecing it together from the various quotations.
Then, in 1873, an orthodox bishop, Metropolitan Philotheos Bryennios, discovered a manuscript of the Didache in a library in Constantinople. It was published immediately, to much notice among Christians.
Now, 2,000 years after it was written, this ancient catechism has become an important part of the Churchs most modern one. And todays Catholics can look into the life and teaching of their first-century forebears, as if in a mirror.
Online resources on the Didache are plentiful. Here are just a few.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, numbers 1696 (on the two ways, 2271 (on abortion), 2760 and 2767 (on the Our Father), 1331 (on the Eucharist) and 1403 (on the Maranatha).
Kevin at Biblicalia offers an interesting discussion of the two ways teaching. Hes also posted a growing supply of ancient church orders.
Youll find the Didache in the original Greek at Christian Classics Ethereal Library, along with several English translations.
The Early Christian Writings site has conveniently placed several English translations in one handy package.
An evangelical blogger, Rick Brannan, is hosting an ongoing online discussion of the Didache here.
Enrico Mazzas most fascinating work on the Didache will be found here and here.
How does Mazza come to the date of 48ad?
His argument is extensive and not reducible to the following, but this is part of his conclusion:
The express conception of the eucharist in Didache 9.2 supposes a Judeo-Christian Church with a primitive Christology, one that considers itself to be part of Judaism and its messianic expectations. This situation is no longer present at the time of the Council of Jerusalem [48-9 A.D.] Therefore I suggest that the two eucharists of the Didache were composed before this date 1 Corinthians is familiar with and uses the Eucharistic Liturgy of the Didache and bases itself on these texts of the Didache in order to express the Eucharistic theology that Paul shares with the community at Corinth Paul evangelized Corinth between 50 and 52.
"The Early Christian Writings site has conveniently placed several English translations in one handy package."
The Lord's Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations.
Chapter 1. The Two Ways and the First Commandment. 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, love your neighbor as yourself, and do not do to another what you would not want done to you. 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 reward is there for loving those who love you? Do not 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 someone strikes your right cheek, turn to him the other also, and you shall be perfect. If someone impresses you for one mile, go with him two. If someone takes your cloak, give him also your coat. If someone takes from you what is yours, ask it not back, for indeed you are not able. Give to every one 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 who gives according to the commandment, for he is guiltless. Woe to him who receives; for if one receives who has need, he is guiltless; but he who receives not having need shall pay the penalty, why he received and for what. And coming into confinement, he shall be examined concerning the things which he has done, and he shall not escape from there until he pays back the last penny. And also concerning this, it has been said, Let your alms sweat in your hands, until you know to whom you should give.
Chapter 2. The Second Commandment: Grave Sin Forbidden. And the second commandment of the Teaching; You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit pederasty, 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 born. You shall not covet the things of your neighbor, you shall not swear, 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 neighbor. 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.
Chapter 3. Other Sins Forbidden. My child, flee from every evil thing, and from every likeness of it. Be not prone to anger, for anger leads to murder. Be 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 to fornication. Be 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 to idolatry. Be 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 to theft. Be 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. Be neither self-willed nor evil-minded, for out of all these blasphemies are engendered.
Rather, be meek, since the meek shall inherit the earth. Be long-suffering and pitiful and guileless 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 intercourse. Accept whatever happens to you as good, knowing that apart from God nothing comes to pass.
Chapter 4. Various Precepts. My child, remember night and day him who speaks the word of God to you, and honor him as you do the Lord. For wherever the lordly rule is uttered, there is the Lord. And seek out day by day the faces of the saints, in order that you may rest upon their words. Do not long for division, but rather bring those who contend to peace. Judge righteously, and do not respect persons in reproving for transgressions. You shall not be undecided whether or not it shall be. 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. Do not hesitate to give, nor complain when you give; for you shall know who is the good repayer of the hire. Do not turn away from him who is in want; rather, share all things with your brother, and do 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? Do not remove your hand from your son or daughter; rather, teach them the fear of God from their youth. Do not enjoin anything in your bitterness upon your bondman or maidservant, who hope in the same God, lest 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. Do not in any way forsake the commandments of the Lord; but keep what you have received, neither adding thereto nor taking away therefrom. 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.
Chapter 5. The Way of Death. And the way of death is this: First of all it is evil and accursed: murders, adultery, lust, fornication, thefts, idolatries, magic arts, witchcrafts, rape, false witness, hypocrisy, 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 revenge, not pitying a poor man, not laboring for the afflicted, not knowing Him Who made them, murderers of children, destroyers of the handiwork of God, turning away from him who is in want, afflicting him who is distressed, advocates of the rich, lawless judges of the poor, utter sinners. Be delivered, children, from all these.
Chapter 6. Against False Teachers, and Food Offered to Idols. See that no one causes you to err from this way of the Teaching, since apart from God it teaches you. For if you are able to bear the entire yoke of the Lord, you will be perfect; but if you are not able to do this, do what you are able. And concerning food, bear what you are able; but against that which is sacrificed to idols be exceedingly careful; for it is the service of dead gods.
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.
Chapter 8. Fasting and Prayer (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. Rather, fast on the fourth day and the Preparation (Friday). Do not pray like the hypocrites, but rather as the Lord commanded in His Gospel, like this:
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. 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 Thine is the power and the glory for ever..
Pray this three times each day.
Chapter 9. The Eucharist. Now concerning the Eucharist, give thanks this way. First, concerning the cup:
We thank thee, our Father, for the holy vine of David Thy servant, which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever..
And concerning the broken bread:
We thank Thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy kingdom; for Thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever..
But let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist, unless they have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, "Give not that which is holy to the dogs."
Chapter 10. Prayer after Communion. But after you are filled, give thanks this way:
We thank Thee, holy Father, for Thy holy name which You didst cause to tabernacle in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality, which You modest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. Thou, Master almighty, didst create all things for Thy name's sake; You gavest food and drink to men for enjoyment, that they might give thanks to Thee; but to us You didst freely give spiritual food and drink and life eternal through Thy Servant. Before all things we thank Thee that You are mighty; to Thee be the glory for ever. Remember, Lord, Thy Church, to deliver it from all evil and to make it perfect in Thy love, and gather it from the four winds, sanctified for Thy kingdom which Thou have prepared for it; for Thine is the power and the glory for ever. Let grace come, and let this world pass away. Hosanna to the God (Son) of David! If any one is holy, let him come; if any one is not so, let him repent. Maranatha. Amen.
But permit the prophets to make Thanksgiving as much as they desire.
Chapter 11. Concerning Teachers, Apostles, and Prophets. Whosoever, therefore, comes and teaches you all these things that have been said before, receive him. But if the teacher himself turns and teaches another doctrine to the destruction of this, hear him not. But if he teaches so as to increase righteousness and the knowledge of the Lord, receive him as the Lord. But concerning the apostles and prophets, act according to the decree of the Gospel. Let every apostle who comes to you be received as the Lord. But he shall not remain more than one day; or two days, if there's a need. But if he remains three days, he is a false prophet. And when the apostle goes away, let him take nothing but bread until he lodges. If he asks for money, he is a false prophet. And every prophet who 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 every one who speaks in the Spirit is a prophet; but only if he holds 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 does not eat it, unless he is indeed a false prophet. And every prophet who teaches the truth, but does not do what he teaches, is a false prophet. And every prophet, proved true, working unto 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 tells you to give for others' sake who are in need, let no one judge him.
Chapter 12. Reception of Christians. But receive everyone who comes in the name of the Lord, and prove and know him afterward; for you shall have understanding right and left. If he who comes is a wayfarer, assist him as far as you are able; but he shall not remain with you more than two or three days, if need be. But if he wants to stay with you, and is 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 away from such.
Chapter 13. Support of Prophets. But every true prophet who wants to live 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 no 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.
Chapter 14. Christian Assembly on the Lord's Day. But every Lord's day 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 odds 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; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations."
Chapter 15. Bishops and Deacons; Christian Reproof. 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. Therefore do not despise them, for they are your honored 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 anyone that acts amiss against another, let no one speak, nor let him hear anything from you until he repents. But your prayers and alms and all your deeds so do, as you have it in the Gospel of our Lord.
Chapter 16. Watchfulness; the Coming of the Lord. Watch for your life's sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ready, for you know not the hour in which our Lord will come. But come together often, 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 outspreading in heaven, then the sign of the sound of the trumpet. And 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 upon the clouds of heaven.
I see he also links a recent article by an Evangelical, William Varner, in Christianity Today:
Great article and thanks for posting this thread. Bookmarked!
Ping to read later
I need to save this to read later!
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