Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Didache -The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles: A Different Faith – A Different Salvation

Coming very soon - Published by Fifth Estate and available within the month!

Here are a few points covered in the book:

Didache" (pronounced "dih-dah-KAY" or “didah-KEY”) is the Greek word for "teaching" or "doctrine".
The book, “The Didache” is also called “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles.” It is a treatise,consisting of sixteen short chapters, that dates back to the earliest time of the Christian Church and was considered by some of the Church Fathers as next to Holy Scriptures.

The Didache reveals how the Christians of the first century operated on a day-to-day basis. It is not a gospel and it does not attempt to offer guidance by narrating the life of Jesus. In fact, some of the theology it contains runs counter to the modern interpretation of the theology in the received gospels.

The Didache represents the first concerted effort put forth by church leaders to teach the common person of the early church how to live and worship in the way that the apostles of Jesus had presented to their followers. This was the way of a Jewish Christian.

The Didache describes a way in which gentiles and pagans could be converted, initiated, and brought into the fold to become full participants in a shared Christian life. This unity of process and teaching allowed a community, which believed itself to be poised on the threshold of the end times, to fashion its daily life in order to share the passion of the awaited return of the Kingdom of God as preached by Jesus. In fact, it is the first known instruction manual for Christian converts.

There is evidence of its use specifically by Nazarene synagogues to define and standardize the most important points of the new faith. The Nazarenes were Jews who converted to a sect following Jesus. They were Hellenized Jews on the Syrian border close to Antioch.

Certainly, the Didache was used by Jewish Christians but as Paul influenced the Nazarenes (a sect of which he was thought to be a leader), his followers diverged from the theology in the Didache. The “Pauline Christians” evolved into a separate sect leaving behind the Didache.
The Didache has raised great controversy regarding its date and possible origin. Some scholars dated the text between approximately 49-79 AD. Although this is widely debated it could place the Didache as one of the oldest Christian writings in history and written before three of the Gospels, if not all of the Gospels.

Even though the Didache has been changed and added to over time there is strong evidence to suggest that the earliest section of it may have been penned during the time of the Jerusalem Council, around 50 AD. This would have it playing a role in the early church’s controversy surrounding salvation of the Gentiles as described in the Book of Acts (ca. 50 – 100 C.E with many saying 62-64 C.E.) chapter 15.
Didache may have been written before Matthew, and certainly before Acts (62 – 100 C.E.). When one looks at the discussion between the apostles regarding the law and the gentiles in Acts it appears James, the leader, either changed his mind about keeping the Laws of Moses or was faced with the mass conversion of Gentiles as a new phenomenon. This evolution of insight due to the fact God saved gentiles who were not keeping the laws did not change the message from the Jewish leaders as to who Jesus was and what his mission was, to the Jews and now to the Gentiles. Even though the Gentiles need not keep the law, they must express their faith through a set of actions.

The placement of the Didache in history can be based on the following facts:
• When it was written, churches were still being led by traveling teachers and prophets.
• In its instructions on the appointment of church leaders, it mentions only two classes: bishops and deacons.

• Baptisms are still normally performed in rivers and streams.

• Prophets still preside at the Eucharist.

• The Eucharist or communion is still celebrated in conjunction with the agape or love feast.

• The absence of any theological dogma or discussion.

The ranges is wide in the speculation of the dates for the Didache, between 50 and 100 C.E.

There are clues that the author (or authors) of the Didache were close to either Jesus, or possibly the understudy of an Apostle. The author clearly shared in Jesus’ opinion of the Pharisees as hypocrites (8:1). The author also had intimate knowledge of the Gospel of Matthew, or the “Q” source.

No intact copy of “Q” has ever been found. No reference to the document in early Christian writings has survived. Its existence is inferred from an analysis of the text of Matthew and Luke. Much of the content of Matthew and Luke was derived from the Gospel of Mark. But there were also many passages which appear to have come from another source document called the “Q” document.

Theologians and religious historians believe that Q's text can be reconstructed by analyzing passages that Matthew and Luke have in common. “Q” had to be written much earlier than the four canonical gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John since there are identical passages in Mathew and Luke. It may have been in the first of the 40 or so Gospels that were written and used by the early Christian movements before the controlling faction established what was to be orthodoxy and selected the books which were to become canon.

The Gospel of Q is different from the canonical gospels in that it does not extensively describe events in the life of Jesus. Rather, it is largely a collection of sayings -- similar to the Gospel of Thomas (see “the Gospel of Thomas by Joseph Lumpkin, published by Fifth Estate). Q does not mention the events of Jesus' virgin birth, his selection of 12 disciples, crucifixion, resurrection, or ascension to heaven. It represents those parts of Jesus' teachings that his followers remembered and recorded about 20 years after his death. Jesus is presented as a charismatic teacher, a healer, a simple man filled with the spirit of God. Jesus is also a sage, the personification of Wisdom, and the servant of God.

By putting together the Didache and “Q” we have the gospel, the teaching, and the doctrine of the young church. We have a view into the heart of the first Christians.