Published in Church and Life (1822) 8.9.2011-27.9.2011 No 14
I presume you may never have heard of this document. Learned people say that it was written by the 12 apostles. It was probably a result of the first meeting of the 12 apostles about the year 50 AD and it was written in Greek.
There were attempts to put the Didache into the New Testament but the bishops of the time decided against it. It is nonetheless a very valuable document as it described early Christian life. It is not very big as it has only 16 chapters – about 6 pages long in modern print. It was lost for about 1400 years. In 1873 it was found and was translated into English in 1883. Look it up on the internet.
As small as it is, it is an important document because of its content. The first six chapters consist of Christian lessons. It says “there are two ways, one of life and one of death. It also says that “the way of life is indeed this. First you will love the God who made you; secondly, you will love your neighbour as yourself”. We see these words in the Gospels, but that’s the point of the document; in a way it is the very first catechism book. It teaches us the truth about living in order to meet God in the afterlife.
The second part of the “two ways” talks about the way to death. This section, more or less, goes through the “thou shalt nots” of the 10 Commandments i.e. do not murder, commit adultery, practice witchcraft, lie, talk dirty etc. This is common teaching.
The next four chapters describe Christian ceremonies i.e. baptism, fasting, Holy Communion. The last six chapters describe church organisation, for example priests, deacons and bishops. It talks about receiving converts into the church, rules about Holy Communion, about the necessity of going to church on Sunday and ends with a warning that Jesus Christ is going to come back to judge the living and the dead.
The Didache as you can see is a very important document mainly in that it traces all present church teaching back to the apostles, themselves. It tells us what the church should be like.
So often I hear the cynical criticism that all church rules are only man-made and that you don’t have to follow them; the Bible is more important. Well, the Bible is important, but here is a document which is over 200 years older than the Bible, which was written after a meeting of the apostles of Jesus Christ. Surely the document should have some weight!
I can hear you asking, are there more documents which also teach with the same authority as the Didache? Well, they are many. They are called the writing of the Church Fathers and Mothers. The combined volume of written material from the early Fathers would fill a wall in a library. Understanding all this is a bit easier, it helps us to understand our church much better.
It is very interesting to me that the whole Catholic Church in recent years has been turing a lot of attention to the founders of our Christian faith.