Didache Background and why excluded from Canon

1.0 The Development of the Canon of the New Testament: Didache[1]http://www.ntcanon.org/Didache.shtml

(~70 CE)

The Didache (“The Teaching”) is one of the most fascinating yet perplexing documents to emerge from the early church. The title (in ancient times “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles”) was known from references to it by Athanasius, Didymus, and Eusebius, and Serapion of Thmuis (4th century) has a quotation from it in his Eucharistic prayer [Richardson] p. 163. But no copy was known until 1873, when Bryennios discovered the codex Hierosolymitanus, which contained the full text of the Didache which he published in 1883. Since then it has been the focus of scholarly attention to an extent quite out of proportion to its modest length. Yet such basic information as who wrote and where and when remain as much as mystery as when it was first discovered.

The document is composed of two parts: (1) instruction about the “Two Ways”, and (2) a manual of church order and practice. The “Two Ways” material appears to have been intended as a summary of basic instruction about the Christian life to be taught to those who were preparing for baptism and church membership. In its present form it represents the Christianization of a common Jewish form of moral instruction. Similar material is found in a number of other Christian writings from the 1st to the 5th centuries, e.g. the Epistle of Barnabas, the Didascalia, the Apostolic Church Ordinances, the Summary of Doctrine, the Apostolic Constitutions, the Life of Schnudi, and On the Teaching of the Apostles (or Doctrina), some of which are dependent on the Didache. The interrelationships between these documents has not been completely worked out.

The second part consists of instructions about food, baptism, fasting, prayer, the Eucharist, and various offices and positions of leadership. In addition to providing the earliest evidence of a mode of baptism other than immersion, it records the oldest known Christian Eucharist prayers and a form of the Lord’s Prayer quite similar to that found in the Gospel according to Matthew.

The document closes with a brief apocalyptic section that has much in common with the so-called Synoptic Apocalypse (Mark 13; Matthew 24-25; Luke 24).

Dating the Didache is difficult because there is a lack of hard evidence and it is a composite document. It may have been put into its present form as late as 150 CE, though a date considerably closer to the end of the 1st century seems more probable. The materials from which it was composed, however, reflect the state of the church at an even earlier time. A very thorough commentary, [Audet], suggests about 70 CE and he is not likely to be off by more than a decade.

Egypt or Syria are mentioned most often as possible places of origin, but the evidence is indirect and circumstantial. The reference to “mountains” (9.4) would appear to suggest a Syrian (or Palestinian) provenance. The final editing, however, may have occurred elsewhere.

The English translation in [LHH] pp. 149-158 is taken from these witnesses:

codex Hierosolymitanus 1056 CE (Greek) complete
translation, 5th century MS (Coptic) 10.3b-12.2a
a papyrus fragment of 9.1-6 (Georgian) complete
translation, 3rd century? MS (Latin) Two Ways

2.0 The Didache (Koine Greek: διδαχή)[2]http://www.ancient.eu/Didache/

Timeline: The early Christian document the Didache is composed. . c. 50 CE – c. 70 CE

didache-01Definition: The Didache (Koine Greek: διδαχή), also known as “The Teaching,” or, “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,” is an enigmatic primitive Church document describing early Christian ethics, practices, and order.

Discovery & Dating: The existence of the Didache was unknown until its discovery by Philotheos Bryennios—a Greek Orthodox  metropolitan bishop of Nicomedia—inside a monastery in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) in 1873 CE and later published in 1883 CE. The document was located inside of the Codex Hierosolymitanus, has no date itself, and lacks any mention of external events that could indicate a timeframe. Additionally, there are no prescribed authors. Therefore, the dating of the Didache is difficult, and since its emergence has caused controversy. There is, however, a consensus for a mid to late first-century dating (50-70 CE), while others contend for as late as the 3rd or 4th century CE.

Original manuscripts were written in Koine Greek, but have also been found in Syriac, Latin, and Coptic. The point of its origin remains speculative, but given the language and place of discovery, Northern Egypt, Southern Anatolia (modern day Turkey), and other various Ancient Near East locations seem likely.

The Text: The manuscript is a composite document suggesting a multistage redaction (undergoing multiple editing processes over a period of time). The variance of style and content suggest composition from numerous preredactional manuscripts (texts that were previously unedited) that eventually came to be the present text.

The document is structured into four primary parts. The first part, “The Two Ways”—either the way of life or the way of death—(Chapters 1-6) are moral instructions for the Christian life in order to prepare converts to receive the initial rite of baptism, and as the precursor to the continual rite of the Eucharist. Its stylistic approach reflect both ancient Greek philosophical literature and a classical Jewish wisdom-literature fashion.

The second part consists of instructions on ritual practices concerning baptism, food, and the Eucharist (Chapters 7-10). The teachings about the appropriate days to fast, how to conduct a proper baptism, and the prayer of thanksgiving are some of the earliest—if not the first—recorded liturgical manuals.

The third part (Chapters 11-15) gives instructions regarding leaders in the early Christian Community—apostles, prophets, and teachers. This section represents a particular protocol for accepting authorities in an assumed preexisting Christian community.

The fourth and final part (Chapter 16) is eschatological in nature, containing exhortations of perseverance, warnings of end times and tribulation, as well as to the “Second Coming” of Jesus Christ. These apocalyptic overtones parallel similar language found in the gospels Matthew, Mark, 1 Thessalonians, and Revelation.

External references to the Didache were as early as the Jewish historian Eusebius of Caesarea, as well as some of the Church Fathers such as Athanasius, Origen, and Rufinus.

3.0 Didache, The Teaching of the Apostles 

Interlinear English – G.T. Emery.

Διδαχη Των Δωδεκα Αποστολων

Διδαχὴ κυρίου διὰ τῶν δώδεκα ἀποστόλων τοῖς ἔθνεσιν.


1.0) Source: http://www.ntcanon.org/Didache.shtml

2.0) Source: http://www.ancient.eu/Didache/

3.0) Source: http://fourcornerministries.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Didache-greek-eng.pdf

4.0) Source: http://www.oocities.org/rik_turner/on_the_didache.html

5.0) Source: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-roberts.html

6.0) Source: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-lightfoot.html

7.0) Source: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-hoole.html

8.0) Source: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-lake.html

Related: Non Canonical Text

Apocryphal New Testament Writings List

Related: Early Christian Writings


1 http://www.ntcanon.org/Didache.shtml
2 http://www.ancient.eu/Didache/

One Comment

  1. Most insightful…seems to provide data from the ancient’s perception and understanding…is there any preGreek data in transition from original Hebrew/Aramaic to koine (Hebraic Greek)

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