Tuesday, April 17, 2012

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

Available very soon from Fifth Estate Publishing (http://www.fifthestatepub.com)
The Didache: The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles: A Different Faith – A Different Salvation 

History and Introduction

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 appears to be an “evolved” document, meaning it has been edited, altered, or expanded over time as the early church grew and changed. There are style changes indicating the document was the creation of more than one person

The Didache was discovered in 1873 by Philotheos Bryennios, Metropolitan of Nicomedia, in a small eleventh century codex of 120 pages. He published the text toward the end of 1883. The Didache has been the center of much academic interest and controversy since its discovery. Prior to this time its existence was known only through references by early writers. It was thought the text was lost to history. 

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.

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.

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.
The upcoming book will have the Didache in English and Greek, along with the Q document in English. What they reveal about the first Christians will astonish you.