The Didache

The Greek word Didache means Teaching, or better yet, Training. This Training was their instruction so as to enter the Way of Life and avoid the Way of Death. In its earliest known form, the document is referred to as,

The Training of the Lord through the Twelve Apostles for the Gentiles.

The Didache is what we might refer to as a training manual for raising up a Gentile believer to an acceptable code of conduct through a one on one relationship with a master teacher. Previously a pagan Gentile, this new convert being now accepted into the fellowship, he or she needed to be instructed as to the minimum standards acceptable by the Christian community. After their training was complete, then they would be water baptized and welcomed as a permanent member of the Church.

Who wrote this manual and when and where it was written is unknown. Dating has been guessed at between A.D. 50 to beyond the third century. There seems much within the manuscript to suggest a date somewhere prior to A.D. 70. Consider some of the following passages with refer to the Return of Christ.

Just as this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains and then was gathered together and became one, so may your church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom; for yours is the power through Jesus Christ forever. [9:4]

Remember your church, Lord, to deliver it from all evil and to make it perfect in your love; and gather it, the one that has been sanctified, from the four winds into your kingdom, which you have prepared for it; for yours is the power and the glory forever. [10:5]

"Watch" over your life: "do not let your lamps go out, and do not be unprepared, but be ready, for you do not know the hour when our Lord is coming." [16:1]

And "then there will appear the signs" of the truth: first the sign of an opening in heaven, then the sign of the sound of a trumpet, and third, the resurrection of the dead- but not of all; rather, as it has been said, "The Lord will come, and all his saints with him." Then the world "will see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven." [16:6-8]

That the document was written early is testified to by its continued reference to Jesus as GOD's servant rather than Jesus as part of the later developed Trinity conjecture. Consider the following.

And concerning the broken bread: We give thanks, our Father, for the life and knowledge which you have made known to us through Jesus, your servant; to you be the glory forever. [9:3]

We give you thanks, Holy Father, for your holy name which you have caused to dwell in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality which you have made known to us through Jesus your servant; to you be glory forever. [10:2]

It is also of interest that quite a lot of space is given to whether prophets were true or false and how to differentiate between them (11:3-11). This tells us that sufficient time had elapsed in the Church's history that some prophecies had been proven to be false as they failed to come to pass. Perhaps a false prophet had declared that Christ's return was to be on some particular day and that day passed without its fulfillment.

Reminds one of the apostle Paul's warning in his letter to the Thessalonians concerning some who were troubling the believers by declaring that the Day of Christ was at hand (2 THESSALONIANS 2:2).

Another inner testimony concerning the Didache's early date is the subject of bishops. Originally, in the first century a bishop (episkopos) was an individual who often was an overseer, usually in some secular sense. The idea that he was solely a priest only came into play in the second century. Thus, in the Didache the bishops were lowly servants, not prestigious and lofty heads of Church hierarchies as in the second and third centuries.

Therefore appoint for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men who are humble and not avaricious and true and approved, for they too carry out for you the ministry of the prophets and teachers. You must not, therefore, despise them, for they are your honored men, along with the prophets and teachers. [15:1-2]

Thus, they were not prophets nor teachers, but otherwise served the needs of the community. The idea that they might be despised signals to us that they no doubt performed menial tasks.

The Didache closes [16:1-8] with a warning and rallying cry to endurance and steadfastness, paralleling not a few apocalyptic passages from the Christian Scriptures.

"Watch" over your life: "do not let your lamps go out [LUKE 12:35], and do not be unprepared, but be ready, for you do not know the hour when our Lord is coming." [MARK 13:35, 40] Gather together frequently [HEBREWS 10:25], seeking the things that benefit your souls, for all the time you have believed will be of no use to you if you are not found perfect in the last time [HEBREWS 10:38-39].

For in the last days the false prophets and corrupters will abound, and the sheep will be turned into wolves, and love will be turned into hate. For as lawlessness increases, they will hate and persecute and betray one another. [MATTHEW 24:10-12]

And then the deceiver of the world will appear as a son of God and "will perform signs and wonders," [MARK 13:22] and the earth [ge, land] will be delivered into his hands, and he will commit abominations the likes of which have never happened before [MATTHEW 24:21].

Then all humankind will come to the fiery test, and "many will fall away" and perish; but "those who endure" in their faith "will be saved" [MATTHEW 24:10,13] by the accursed one himself.

And "then will appear the signs" [MATTHEW 24:30] of the truth: first the sign of an opening in heaven, then the sign of the sound of a trumpet [1 THESSALONIANS 4:16], and third, the resurrection of the dead- but not of all; rather, as it has been said, "The Lord will come, and all his saints with him." [1 THESSALONIANS 3:13] Then the world "will see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven." [MATTHEW 24:30]

We are well within reason to deduce from its inner testimony that the document was written somewhere around the middle of the first century.