The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great

By Henry Chadwick | Go to book overview

10 Didache 1

'Honour the pastor who teaches you the word of God as if he were the Lord himself.' 'Give high priority to the unity of the Church and to reconciling those groups which are inclined to schism.' These sentiments are found not only in Ignatius of Antioch but in a contemporary milieu presupposed by an even more unusual early Christian document, the Didaché or 'Teaching of the Twelve Apostles'. The full Greek text of this document was first recovered at Istanbul in 1873 and printed ten years later. The manuscript is now at the Greek patriarchate in Jerusalem. Its interpretation, date and region of origin are not simple to determine; Syria is a probable milieu, the city of Antioch not impossible.

The compiler of the Didache wished to write in the name of the apostles for the Church of his own day. With the conviction that the Church of the apostolic age embodied a purity of belief and practice that was coming under threat in his own time, the Didachist put together older pieces probably originating a generation before. The compiler's central concerns were for the proper morality of Christian behaviour, for due apostolic order in prayer, baptism, and eucharist, and for respect towards the resident local ministry now mainly being exercised by bishops and deacons but still finding rivalry in itinerant charismatics. The Didachist was much aware that among the wandering prophets and teachers there were numerous frauds battening on gullible congregations to raise funds to feather their own nests.

Morality is put in the first and most urgent place. The Didache incorporates a version of the originally Jewish catechism 'The Two Ways', lightly christianized (more so than the version in the epistle of Barnabas). Abstention from meat that had been offered in pagan sacrifice is an unqualified requirement in all circumstances—an edict which differs from the Pauline position stated in 1 Corinthians 8, of which the author may have been ignorant. Aphorisms from the Sermon on the Mount are joined with exhortations to avoid pride, lust, divination, magic, astrology, lying, theft,

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