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The Didache Teaching of the Twelve Apostles

Perhaps no early church document has puzzled scholars more than the Didache.  Some scholars believe it came out of the Jerusalem Council (~50 AD, see Acts 15).  Others place it a decade or two later, or still others date it into the second century.  Many believe it is based upon the teaching of the Apostles, thus the subtitle “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles”, “The Teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles by the Twelve Apostles”, “The Lord's Teaching through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations”, and other variations.

The only known complete Didache in Greek is the Codex Hierosolymitanus, which was first published by Philotheos Byrennios in 1883, although surviving fragments have been dated back to the fourth century.  The Didache (from the Greek didoskolos meaning “teacher”, also related to “doctrine” or “didactic”) is cited in a number of early Christian writing, including Eusebius (~260-341) and Athanasius (293-373).  Portions of the Didache appear in the Epistle of Barnabbas (written 130-131 AD), which could have developed from an independent or common source.

The Jewish Encyclopedia (1906), states that the first six chapters was originally a manual of instruction used for the initiation of proselytes in the Synagogue, and was converted later into a Christian manual and ascribed to Jesus and the Apostles.  The Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) recognizes the obvious Jewish flavor, but notes the many citations from the Gospels in these chapters.  It further argues that the entire document is wholly Christian in origin since the remaining chapters have equally significant agreements with the Jewish Talmud as the first chapters.  This is not surprising, given the Jewish backgrounds of the early Christians.

The Didache is not to be accepted as inspired authority, however it is very valuable as early Christian teaching.  It provides a code of Christian morals, some principles for church order, and instructions concerning baptism, prayer, hospitality, and other aspects of the Christian life.

The following is our modernized version of the Didache.  We've also added additional notes, scripture references and comments in italics, or brackets [ ] within the text.

 The Didache

Chapter One - The Two Ways; The First Commandment; Charity

  1. There are two ways: one of life and one of death; and there is a great difference between the two Ways.
  2. The way of life is this: first, you should love God, who made you; secondly, love your neighbor as yourself; and whatever things you do not want done to you, do not do them to anyone else.
  3. Now the words of this teaching are this: Bless those who curse you and pray for your enemies, and fast for those that persecute you. For what credit is it if you love those who love you? Do not even the Gentiles do the same thing? But love those that hate you, and you will not have an enemy.
  4. Keep yourself from fleshly and bodily lusts. If anyone hits you on the right cheek, turn the other one to him also, and you will be perfect (mature). If anyone compels you to go one mile, go with him two. If someone takes your overcoat, give him your jacket also. If anyone should take from you what is yours, do not ask for it back, for you are not able.
  5. Give to everyone that asks of you and do not refuse, for the Father desires to give to everyone from the gifts He has given us. Blessed is he who gives according to the commandment, for he is innocent, but woe to him that receives. If the one who receives is in need, he is without guilt, but he who receives without need must pay a penalty and give an account of his reason and purpose. Furthermore, he shall be confined and examined concerning what he has done, and shall not be released until he has paid back the last penny.
  6. It has also been said concerning this, “Let your money sweat in your hands until you know to whom you should give.”

Notes:

1.  The two ways (Dt 30:19, Jer 21:8, Mt 7:13-14); stated in the Epistle of Barnabas "one of light and one of darkness" (18:1-2)
2.  Love God and neighbor (Lev19:18, Dt 6:4-5, Mt 22:37-39, Mk 12:29-31, Lk 10:25-28); the reverse Golden Rule (Mt 7:12, Lk 6:31) - Jewish Rabbi Hillel (1st century BC) once said "that which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary".
3.  Mt 5:44-48, Lk 6:27-36, Rom 12:9-21
4.  1Th 4:3-7;  Mt 5:28-38, Lk 6:27-36
5.  Lk 6:30, Ac 20:35
6.  Mt 5:26

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Chapter Two - The Second Commandment

  1. And this is the second commandment of the teaching:
  2. You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not corrupt youth; you shall not practice sexual immorality; you shall not steal; you shall not practice magic, sorcery or witchcraft; you shall not kill a child by abortion, nor practice infanticide on a new-born; you shall not covet your neighbor’s possessions.
  3. You shall not commit perjury, you shall not falsely accuse anyone; you shall not speak evil; you shall not hold a grudge.
  4. You shall not be double minded nor double tongued, for a deceptive tongue is the snare of death.
  5. Your word shall not be false or empty, but fulfilled by your actions.
  6. You shall not be covetous or greedy, or hypocritical, or hateful or proud. You shall not contemplate evil against your neighbor.
  7. You should not hate anyone; but you should rebuke some, and you should pray for some, and you should love some more than your own life.

Notes:

Entire chapter similar to Barnabas 19
2-3.  Ex 20:13-17, Dt 5:17-21, cf Mt 19:18
4.  see Ps 120:2-3, Pr 10:31, 21:6, 1Tim 3:8, Jm 4:8
5-7.  Ex 20:13-17, Dt 5:17-21, cf Mt 19:18

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Chapter Three – Further Advice; Sins to Avoid

  1. My child, flee from evil and from every resemblance of evil.
  2. Do not be inclined to anger, for anger leads to murder. Be neither jealous, quarrelsome, nor hot-tempered, for murders result from all such things.
  3. My child, do not be lustful, for lust leads to sexual immorality. Do not be filthy-mouthed, nor look eagerly with your eyes, for adultery results from all such things.
  4. My child, do not regard omens, for this leads to idolatry. Do not be a sorcerer, nor an astrologer or magician. Do not wish to see these things, for out of these things comes idolatry.
  5. My child, do not be a liar, for lying leads to stealing. Do not be greedy or arrogant, for theft results from all such things.
  6. My child, do not be a complainer, for it leads to blasphemy. Do not be stubborn or a thinker of evil, for out of these things comes blasphemy.
  7. Be meek, because the meek shall inherit the earth.
  8. Be long-suffering (patient), compassionate and honest, kind and good, and trembling continually at the words that you have heard.
  9. Do not exalt yourself or be over-confident in your soul. Your soul (yourself) should not associate with the arrogant, but walk with just and humble men.
  10. Accept all things that happen to you as good, knowing that nothing happens apart from God.

Notes:

Portions similar to Barnabas 19
2.  cf Mt 5:21-22
3.  cf Mt 5:27-28 
7.  Ps 37:11, Mt 5:5
8.  Is 66:2
10.  cf Rom 8:28

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Chapter Four – Further Teachings

  1. My child, you should remember night and day the one who speaks to you the Word of God, and honor him as you would the Lord; for where the Lordship is taught, the Lord is present.
  2. And you should seek every day the presence of the saints, in order that you may rest on their words.
  3. You should not desire division, but make peace between those who argue. Judge righteously; do not show partiality in rebuking transgressions.
  4. You shall not doubt whether anything should or should no be.
  5. Do not be one who stretches out his hand to receive but withdraws it from giving.
  6. If you have anything by your hands, you shall give a ransom for your sins.
  7. Do not hesitate to give, nor complain when giving, for you know who is the good Paymaster of your reward.
  8. You shall not turn away anyone in need, but share all things with your brother, not saying that anything is your own. For if we are sharers in the imperishable (eternal) things, how much more should we be in the perishable (temporal) things?
  9. Do not withhold your hand (heart) from your son or your daughter, but from their youth, teach them the fear of God.
  10. When you are bitter, do not give command your servant or your handmaiden who trust in the same God as yourself, lest they stop fearing God who is over you both; for He does not come to call men according to their outward appearances, but those whom the Spirit has prepared.
  11. But you servants shall be subject to your masters, as to God’s representative in reverence (modesty) and fear.
  12. You should hate all hypocrisy and everything that is not pleasing to the Lord.
  13. You shall not abandon the commandments of the Lord, but keep what (the teachings) you have received, neither adding to them nor taking away from them.
  14. In the congregations (church), you shall confess your transgressions; and you shall not approach prayer with an evil conscience. This is the Way of Life.

Notes:

Portions similar to Barnabas 19
1.  Heb 13:7
3.  Dt 1:16-17, Pr 31:9
9.  Do not neglect your responsibilities to your children, Dt 6:6-7
13.  Dt 4:2, 12:32

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Chapter Five – The Way of Death

  1. But the Way of Death is this: first of all, it is evil and full of curses, murders, adulteries, lusts, fornications, thefts, idolatries, witchcrafts, sorceries, robberies, false-witness, hypocrisies, double-mindedness, deceit, pride, malice, self-will, greediness, foul speech, jealousy, presumption, arrogance, boastfulness,
  2. persecutors of the good, hating truth, loving a lie, not knowing the reward of righteousness, not holding to the good nor to righteous judgment, watching not for good, but for that which is evil; far from whom is gentleness and patience; loving worthless things, seeking rewards, having no compassion for the poor, not helping the oppressed, not recognizing the one who made them, murderers of children, destroyers of God’s creation, turning away from the needy, oppressing the afflicted, favoring the rich, unfair judges of the poor, altogether sinful. May you be delivered, my children, from all of these things?

Notes:

Similar to Barnabas 20:1-2; cf Ps 4:2, Is 1:23, Mt 15:19, Mf 7:21-22, Rom. 1:28–31, Gal 5:19–21

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Chapter Six – False Teachers; Food offered to Idols

  1. See that no one leads you astray from the way of this teaching, since it would be teaching apart from God.
  2. For if you are able to bear the whole yoke of the Lord, you should be perfect (mature). If you are not able, do what you can.
  3. Concerning food (meat), tolerate what you can; but be careful to keep from that which is offered to idols, for it is the worship of dead gods.

Notes:

1.  Mt 24:4
2.  cf Lev 19:2, Mt 5:48
3.  Ac 15:19-20, 28-29, but see 1Cor 8

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Chapter Seven - Baptism

  1. Concerning baptism, baptize in this manner: after you have recited these things, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living (running) water.
  2. If you do not have living (running) water, baptize in other water; and if you can’t baptize in use cold water, do so in warm.
  3. But if you have neither, pour water on the head three times, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
  4. But before the baptism, let the baptizer and the one to be baptized fast, and any others who are able; and you shall command the one being baptized to fast one or two days before.

Notes:

Baptism formula: Mt 28:19, see also Rom 6:3-4

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Chapter Eight – Fasting and Prayer

  1. Let not your fasts be with those of the hypocrites, for they fast on the second day (Monday) and fifth day (Thursday) of the week, but you shall fast on the fourth (Wednesday) and the preparation day (Friday).
  2. And do not pray as the hypocrites, but as the Lord commanded in His gospel, so pray like this: Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us our today our daily bread, and forgive our debts as we also forgive those in debt to us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For the power and the glory is Yours for eternity.
  3. Pray in this manner three times a day.

Notes:

1.  cf Mt 6:16
2.  Mt 6:7-13, cf Lk 11:1-4

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Chapter Nine – The Eucharist (Communion)

  1. Concerning the Eucharist (Communion, Lord’s Supper), give thanks in this manner:
  2. First, concerning the cup: We give thanks to You, our Father, for the holy vine of David, Your servant, which You have made known to us through Jesus, Your Son; to You be the Glory forever.
  3. And concerning the broken bread: We give thanks to You, our Father, for the life and knowledge that You have made known to us through Jesus, Your Son; to You be the Glory forever.
  4. As this broken bread was scattered over the hills and 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 glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever.
  5. But let nobody eat or drink of your Eucharist except the ones who have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for the Lord said concerning this, “do not give that which is holy to the dogs."

Notes:

Interestingly, the order of the cup and the bread is reversed, and there are no direct references to the blood and body of Christ, see 1Cor 11:23-26.
2.  For the Messianic promise of the vine, see Ps 80:8 and Is 11:1
5.  cf Mt 7:6, also Mt 15:21-28 and Mk 7:24-30

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Chapter Ten – Prayer after Eucharist (Communion)

  1. After you are filled, give thanks in this manner:
  2. We thank you, Holy Father, for Your Holy Name which you have made to tabernacle (dwell) in our hearts, and for knowledge and faith and immortality as You have made known to us through Jesus, Your Son; to You be the Glory forever.
  3. You, Lord Almighty, created all things for the sake of Your name; You gave both food and drink for men to enjoy, that they may give thanks to You; but to us, you have freely given spiritual food and drink and everlasting life through Your Son.
  4. Above all, we give thanks to You that You are mighty; to You be the Glory forever.
  5. Remember Lord, Your Church, to deliver her from all evil and perfect (mature) her in Your love; and gather her together from the four winds, sanctified into Your kingdom which You have prepared for her; to You be the Glory forever.
  6. Let grace come and may this world pass away. Hosanna to the God of David! If anyone is holy, let him come. If anyone is not, let him repent. Maranatha. Amen
  7. But permit the prophets to give thanks as much as they wish.

Notes:

2.  cf Neh 1:9
3.  Rev 4:11
5.  Mt 24:31
6.  cf Mt 21:9,15
8.  Marantha is Aramaic for "O Lord Come", "Our Lord will Come", or "Our Lord has Come"; used only in 1Cor 16:22

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Chapter Eleven – Apostles, Teachers and Prophets

  1. Whoever, therefore, comes and teaches you all these things said before, receive him.
  2. But if the teacher himself is perverted and teaches a different doctrine in an attempt to destroy these things, do not listen to him; but if he teaches to add to your righteousness and knowledge of the Lord, receive him as you would the Lord.
  3. But concerning the apostles and prophets, act according to the ordinance of the Gospel.
  4. Let every apostle coming to you be received as you would the Lord.
  5. But he shall not remain more than one day, or two if necessary; but if he remains three days, he is a false prophet.
  6. And when the apostle departs, let him take nothing except a loaf of bread, until he reaches his lodging (shelter for the night); but if he asks for money, he is a false prophet.
  7. And every prophet who speaks in the Spirit, you shall not examine or dispute; for every sin will be forgiven, but this sin shall not be forgiven.
  8. Yet, not everyone who speaks in the Spirit is a prophet, but only if he has the ways (character and behavior) of the Lord. By their ways, therefore, shall a false prophet and a true prophet be known.
  9. And no prophet that orders a table (meal) in the Spirit shall eat of it [for himself]; unless he is a false prophet.
  10. And every prophet who teaches the truth, but does not practice what he teaches, is a false prophet.
  11. And every prophet approved and found genuine, even if he endorses a worldly mystery for the church, but does not teach others to do the same, shall not be judged by you; for his judgment comes from (is in the hands of) God, for so did also the ancient prophets.
  12. But whoever says in the Spirit, “Give me money or anything else”, do not listen to them; but if he tells you to give on behalf of others in need, let no one judge him.

Notes:

1-2.  see 2Jn 9, 3Jn 5-8
3-4.  Mt 10:40-42; If "apostle" is used in the correct sense, this suggests that some of the apostles were still alive at the time this was written.
7.  Referring to Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mt 12:22-32) rather than Ac 17:11
8.  cf Mt 12:33-36, Lk 6:43-45
9.  Exact meaning of the table is not certain
11.  Exact meaning of the mystery of the church is not certain

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Chapter Twelve – Reception of Travelling Christians

  1. Let everyone who comes in the name of the Lord be received; and then when you have proved (tested) him, you shall know him, for you shall have understanding right and left (good and evil, or truth and falsehood).
  2. If he who comes is a wayfarer (traveler), help him as much as you can; but he shall not remain with you more than two or three days, if it is necessary.
  3. But if he wishes to settle among you and is a craftsman, let him work for his meals.
  4. But if he is not a craftsman (has no trade), provide for him according to your own understanding (discretion), so that no Christian shall live in idleness among you.
  5. And if he will not do this, he is making traffic (a trade) of Christ. Beware of such a person.

Notes:

1.  see 1Jn 4:1
3.  see 1Cor 9:4-14
4.  cf 2Th 3:6-12
5.  see Titus 1:11 and 2Pe 2:1-3

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Chapter Thirteen – Support of Prophets, Teachers and the Poor

  1. But every true prophet who wishes to settle among you is worthy of his food (support).
  2. Likewise, a true teacher is worthy, like the workman, of his food.
  3. Therefore, you shall take all the first-fruits produced of the wine press and the threshing floor, and of the oxen and the sheep, and give it to the prophets; for they are your chief-priests.
  4. But if you do not have a prophet, give it (first-fruits) to the poor.
  5. If you prepare bread, take the first-fruits and give according to the commandment.
  6. Likewise, when you open a jar of wine or oil, take the first-fruits and give to the prophets.
  7. And of silver (money) and raiment (clothing), take the first-fruits, as it seems good to you, and give according to the commandment.

Notes:

1-2.  Mt 10:9-10, see also 1Cor 9:4-14
3.  Dt 18:3-5

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Chapter Fourteen - Sunday Worship

  1. And on the Lord’s own day, come together and break bread and give thanks after confessing your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure.
  2. Let not one who has a dispute with a brother (fellow Christian) join with you until they are reconciled (the dispute resolved), that your sacrifice may not be defiled.
  3. For this [command or teaching] is that which was spoken of by the Lord, “In every place and time offer me a pure sacrifice, for I am a great King” says the Lord, “and My name is wonderful among the Gentiles (nations)”.

Notes:

1-2.  Mt 5:23-24
3.  Mal 1:11-14

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Chapter Fifteen – Church Leaders and Reprimands

  1. Therefore, elect for yourselves, bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men who are meek (humble), and not lovers of money, truthful and approved; for they also provide for you the ministry of the prophets and teachers.
  2. Therefore, do not despise them, for they are honorable among you, along with the prophets and teachers.
  3. And do not rebuke one another in anger, but in peace, as you find [the instruction] in the Gospel; and let no one speak with anyone who has done wrong to his neighbor, nor let him hear [a word] from you, until he repents.
  4. But pray and give alms (charity) and perform all your deeds as you find [the instruction] in the Gospel of our Lord.

Notes:

1.  See 1Tim 1:1-13 and Titus 1:5-11 for qualifications of various church leaders
3.  Mt 18:15-17
4.  Mt 6:1-8

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Chapter Sixteen – Watch for the Coming of the Lord

  1. Watch over your life; let not your lamps be extinguished or your loins (body) uncovered, but be ready; for you know not the hour in which our Lord comes.
  2. But you shall assemble yourselves together often, seeking the things that are profitable (beneficial) for your souls; for the entire time of your faith shall not profit you unless you are perfected at the last season.
  3. For in the last days, false prophets and corrupters shall be multiplied (greatly increase), the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall be turned into hate.
  4. For when lawlessness (injustice) increases, they shall hate and persecute and deliver up (betray) one another; and then the deceiver of the world shall appear as [if he were] the Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders, and the earth shall be delivered into his hands; and he shall commit iniquities which have never been [done] since the world began.
  5. And then shall the race of men come into the fire of trial (testing) and many shall be offended (made to stumble) and perish; but those who endure in their faith shall be saved by the Curse Himself.
  6. And then the signs of truth shall appear; first, the sign of an opening (rift) in heaven; then the sign of the voice (sound) of a trumpet; and third, the resurrection of the dead.
  7. Yet, not of all the dead, but as [it] was said, “the Lord shall come and all the saints with Him”.
  8. Then shall the world see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.

Notes:

1.  Mt 24:36-44, Mt 25:1-13, Lk 12:35-40
2.  cf Heb 10:25, Barnabas 4:9
3-4.  Mt 24:24, 1Tim 4:1, 2Th 2:3-10
5.  2Th 3:11-12; Mt 10:22, 24:13; the Curse is Christ on the Cross (Dt 21:22-23, Gal 3:13)
6.  Mt 24:29-31, 1Cor 15:21-52
7.  Zech 14:5, 1Th 3:13, Jude 13-15
8.  Mt 24:30

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