The Early Christian Church - Vol. 1

By Philip Carrington | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 26
CATECHISM AND SACRAMENT

Jewish proselyte catechisms, p.481. The Two Ways, p.483. The Books of Testimonies, p.485. The Epistle of Barnabas, p.486. The Jewish background, p.487. Manifestation in flesh, p.488. The new covenant, p.488. The mystical exegesis, p.490. The Didache, p.491. Origin of the Didache, p.494. The prophets in the Didache, p.496. The primitive eucharist, p.498. The evangelical context, p.499.


JEWISH PROSELYTE CATECHISMS

We can now proceed to supplement our study of the early second century by the consideration of certain documents which are thought to belong to this period, though they come down to us without any author's name attached. They seem to contain the work of the teachers. We are not surprised to find that they concern the instruction of converts, catechism and baptism, continuation courses for the baptized, and participation in the prayers and eucharist.

Among the documents which originated in the apostolic period, and yet failed to get into the New Testament, except so far as they have been incorporated into some of the Epistles, were the catechisms. The Jews of the dispersion had been obliged to provide instruction in elementary piety for their converts and God-fearers; and when the church came to deal with its converts, who were often taken from this very class, it seems to have turned to the existing Jewish catechisms, which had already proved their usefulness. What these converts needed was a course in elementary Jewish piety, that is to say 'my duty towards God and my duty towards my neighbour'.

The proselyte catechisms were based on older forms of religious instruction, which were derived in their turn from the Hebrew scriptures. There was the fundamental commandment, for instance, called the Shema, which was to be repeated twice every day.

Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God; the Lord is One; and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy strength. (Deuteronomy vi. 4-5.)

And next in importance to this came the Ten Words or Ten Commandments, which were then a normal part of the synagogue service. There

-481-

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