The Didache is probably the oldest patristic document. Its full title
originally was, "The Lord's Instruction to the
Gentiles Through the Twelve
Apostles." The author and place of origin are unknown. In fact the work
itself was discovered
only at the end of the last century. The place of
origin of the little book was probably Syria, though Egypt is not entirely
of question because of its popularity there. It was written some years
before the end of the first century. This is indicated
by the makeup of
the Church when it was written. It is not impossible that some of the
materials of the work derive
from the apostles and that several older
pieces were brought together in its composition. There are four sections
the little work: a moral catechesis on "The Two Ways," a liturgical
instruction on baptism, fasting, prayer, and the Eucharist,
on bishops and
deacons (priests are not mentioned), on Sunday worship, and an
on "The Two Ways" sets forth Christian ideals of life and
the evils of paganism. Baptism is by immersion although infusion
in case of necessity. The form of baptism is trinitarian. Wednesday and
Friday are days to fast and the Lord's
prayer is to be said thrice daily.
A Eucharistic prayer is reproduced, though the actual celebration of the
is not described because of the "discipline of the secret." Some
have referred this prayer to the Agape but without compelling
recently discovered fragment of doubtful authenticity adds a prayer for
the consecration of oil used
in baptism and confirmation after the
Eucharistic prayer. The Eucharist is a sacrifice and is to be preceded by
of sins, as is Sunday worship.
The disciplinary section deals with the regulation of charismatic gifts,
and charitable works, prophets, teachers apostles, and other
details that give a good insight into the life of the primitive
community. The whole work is concluded by a short eschatological
discourse. The "Didache" contains the oldest
collection of canon law and
served as a basis for later disciplinary works such as the "Didascalia"
and Book VII of
the "Apostolic Constitutions."
PART 1. THE TWO WAYS
THE WAY OF LIFE
1. There are two Ways: a Way of Life and a Way of Death, and the
difference between these two Ways
The Way of Life is this: "Thou shalt love first the Lord thy Creator, and
secondly thy neighbour as thyself;
and thou shalt do nothing to any man
that thou wouldst not wish to be done to thyself."
What you may learn from
these words is to bless them that curse you, to
pray for your enemies, and to fast for your persecutors. For where
merit in loving only those who return your love? Even the heathens do as
much as that. But if you love
those who hate you, you will have nobody to
be your enemy.
Beware of the carnal appetites of the body. If someone
strikes you on the
right cheek, turn the other one to him as well, and perfection will be
yours. Should anyone compel
you to go a mile, go another one with him. If
someone takes away your coat, let him have your shirt too. If someone
anything belonging to you, do not ask for it back again (you could
not get it, anyway). Give to everyone that asks,
without looking for any
repayment, for it is the Father's pleasure that we should share His
gracious bounty with all
men. A giver who gives freely, as the commandment
directs, is blessed; no fault can be found with him. But woe to the taker;
though he cannot be blamed for taking if he was in need, yet if he was
not, an account will be required of him as to why
he took it, and for what
purpose, and he will be taken into custody and examined about his action,
and he will not get
out until he has paid the last penny. The old saying
is in point here: "Let your alms grow damp with sweat in your hand,
you know who it is you are giving them to.
2. The second commandment in the Teaching means: Commit no murder,
sodomy, fornication, or theft. Practise no magic, sorcery,
abortion, or infanticide. See that you do not covet anything
neighbour possesses, and never be guilty of perjury, false witness,
slander, or malice. Do not equivocate in thought
or speech, for a double
tongue is a deadly snare; the words you speak should not be false or empty
phrases, but fraught
with purposeful action. You are not to be avaricious
or extortionate, and you must resist any temptation to hypocrisy,
or superiority. You are to have no malicious designs on a
neighbour. You are to cherish no feelings of hatred for anybody;
are to reprove, some to pray for, and some again to love more than your
3. Keep away from
every bad man, my son, and from all his kind. Never
give way to anger, for anger leads to homicide. Likewise refrain
fanaticism, quarrelling, and hot-temperedness, for these too can breed
Beware of lust, my son,
for lust leads to fornication. Likewise refrain
from unclean talk and the roving eye, for these too can breed adultery.
not be always looking for omens, my son, for this leads to idolatry.
Likewise have nothing to do with witchcraft, astrology,
or magic; do not
even consent to be a witness of such practices, for they too can all breed
lies, my son, for lying leads to theft. Likewise do not be
over-anxious to be rich or to be admired, for these too can
Do not be a grumbler, my son, for this leads to blasphemy. Likewise do
not be too opinionated,
and do not harbour thoughts of wickedness, for
these too can breed blasphemy.
Learn to be meek, for the meek are
to inherit the earth. School yourself
to forbearance, compassion, guilelessness, calmness, and goodness; and
to respect the teaching you have had.
Do not parade your own merits, or allow yourself to behave presumptuously,
do not make a point of associating with persons of eminence, but
choose the companionship of honest and humble folk.
as good whatever experience comes your way, in the knowledge that
nothing can happen without God.
4. By day and
by night, my son, remember him who speaks the word of God to
you. Give him the honour you would give the Lord; for wherever
attributes are the subject of discourse, there the Lord is present.
Frequent the company of the saints daily,
so as to be edified by their
conversation. Never encourage dissensions, but try to make peace between
those who are
at variance. Judge with justice, reprove without fear or
favour, and never be in two minds about your decisions.
not be like those who reach out to take, but draw back when the time
comes for giving. If the labour of your hands has
been productive, your
giving will be a ransom for sins. Give without hesitating and without
grumbling, and you will
see Whose generosity will requite you. Never turn
away the needy; share all your possessions with your brother, and do
claim that anything is your own. If you and he are joint participators in
things immortal, how much more so in things
that are mortal?
You are not to withhold your hand from your son or daughter, but to bring
them up in the fear of
God from their childhood.
Never speak sharply when giving orders to male or female domestics whose
trust is in the
same God as yours; otherwise they may cease to fear Him
who is over you both. He has not come to call men according to
but those for whom He has prepared the Spirit. And you, servants, obey
your masters with respectfulness
and fear, as the representatives of God.
Hate all impiety and everything that does not please the Lord. See that
do not neglect the commandments of the Lord, but keep them just as you
received them, without any additions or subtractions
of your own.
In church, make confession of your faults, and do not come to your prayers
with a bad conscience.
is the Way of Life.
The Way of Death
5 . The Way of Death is this. To begin with, it is evil, and in every way
fraught with damnation.
In it are murders, adulteries, lusts,
fornications, thefts, idolatries, witchcraft, sorceries, robberies,
hypocrisies, duplicities, deceit, pride, malice, self-will,
avarice, foul language, jealousy, insolence, arrogance, and
Here are those who persecute good men, hold truth in abhorrence, and love
falsehood; who do not know of
the rewards of righteousness, nor adhere to
what is good, nor to just judgement; who lie awake planning wickedness
than well- doing. Gentleness and patience are beyond their
conception; they care for nothing good or useful, and are bent
their own advantage, without pity for the poor or feeling for the
distressed. Knowledge of their Creator
is not in them; they make away
with their infants and deface God's image; they turn away the needy and
oppress the afflicted;
they aid and abet the rich but arbitrarily condemn
the poor; they are utterly and altogether sunk in iniquity. Flee, my
from all this!
6. Take care that nobody tempts you away from the path of this Teaching,
for such a man's tuition can
have nothing to do with God. If you can
shoulder the Lord's yoke in its entirety, then you will be perfect; but if
is too much for you, do as much as you can.
As regards diet, keep the rules so far as you are able; only be careful
refuse anything that has been offered to an idol, for that is the worship
of dead gods.
PART 2. A CHURCH MANUAL
7. The procedure for baptizing is as follows. After repeating all that has
been said, immerse in running
water "In the Name of the Father, and of the
Son, and of the Holy Ghost". If no running water is available, immerse in
water. This should be cold if possible; otherwise warm. If
neither is practicable, then pour water three times on the head
Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost". Both baptizer
and baptized ought to fast before
the baptism, as well as any others who
can do so; but the candidate himself should be told to keep a fast for a
or two beforehand.
Of Fast-Days and Prayer
8. Do not keep the same fast-days as the hypocrites. Mondays and Thursdays
are their days
for fasting, so yours should be Wednesdays and Fridays.
Your prayers, too, should be different from theirs. Pray as
enjoined in His Gospel, thus: Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be
thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will
be done, As in heaven, so on earth;
Give us this day our daily bread, And forgive us our debt as we forgive
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from the Evil
One, For thine is the power and the glory for ever and ever.
this prayer three times every day.
Of the Eucharist
9. At the Eucharist, offer the eucharistic prayer in this way. Begin with
the chalice: "We give
thanks to thee, our Father, for the holy Vine of thy
servant David, which thou hast made known to us through thy servant
"Glory be to thee, world without end ."
Then over the broken bread: "We give thanks to thee, our Father,
life and knowledge thou hast made known to us through thy servant Jesus."
"Glory be to thee, world without
"As this broken bread, once dispersed over the hills, was brought together
and became one loaf, so may thy
Church be brought together from the ends
of the earth into thy kingdom."
"Thine is the glory and the power, through
Jesus Christ, for ever and
No one is to eat or drink of your Eucharist but those who have been
in the Name of the Lord; for the Lord's own saying applies here,
"Give not that which is holy unto dogs."
all have partaken sufficiently, give thanks in these words:
"Thanks be to thee, holy Father, for thy sacred Name which
caused to dwell in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and
immortality which thou hast revealed to
us through thy servant Jesus."
"Glory be to thee for ever and ever."
"Thou, O Almighty Lord, hast created all
things for thine own Name's sake;
to all men thou hast given meat and drink to enjoy, that they may give
thanks to thee,
but to us thou hast graciously given spiritual meat and
drink, together with life eternal, through thy Servant. Especially,
above all, do we give thanks to thee for the mightiness of thy power."
"Glory be to thee for ever and ever."
mindful of thy Church, O Lord; deliver it from all evil, perfect it in
thy love, sanctify it, and gather it from the four
winds into the kingdom
which thou hast prepared for it."
"Thine is the power and the glory for ever and ever."
Grace come, and this present world pass away."
"Hosanna to the God of David."
"Whosoever is holy, let him approach.
Whoso is not, let him repent."
(Prophets, however, should be free to give thanks as they
Of Apostles and Prophets
11. If anyone comes and instructs you on the foregoing lines, make him
welcome. But should
the instructor himself then turn round and introduce
teaching of a different and subversive nature, pay no attention to
it aims at promoting righteousness and knowledge of the Lord, though,
welcome him as you would the Lord.
regards apostles and prophets, according to the Gospel directions this
is how you are to act. Every apostle who comes to
you should be welcomed
as the Lord, but he is not to stay more than a day, or two days if it is
really necessary. If
he stays for three days, he is a false prophet. And
an apostle at his departure should accept nothing but as much provisions
will last him to his next night's lodging. If he asks for money, he is
a false prophet.
While a prophet is uttering
words in the spirit, you are on no account to
subject him to any tests or verifications; every sin shall be forgiven,
this sin shall not be forgiven. Nevertheless, not all who speak in the
spirit are prophets, unless they also exhibit the
manners and conduct of
the Lord. It is by their behaviour that you can tell the impostor from the
true. Thus, if a prophet
should happen to call out for something to eat
while he is in the spirit, he will not actually eat of it; if he does, he
a fraud. Also, even supposing a prophet is sound enough in his
teaching, yet if his deeds do not correspond with his words
he is an
impostor. Or again, a prophet, thoroughly accredited and genuine, living
the mystery of the Church in the world,
may yet fail to teach others to
copy his example. In that case, you are not to judge the man yourselves;
lies with God. The prophets of old used to do things of a
If any prophet, speaking in the spirit,
says, "Give me money (or anything
else)", do not listen to him. On the other hand, if he bids you give it to
else who is in need, nobody should criticize him.
12. Everyone who comes "in the Name of the Lord" is to be made welcome,
later on you must test him and find out about him. You will be able
to distinguish the true from the false. If the newcomer
is only passing
through, give him all the help you can - though he is not to stay more
than a couple of days with you,
or three if it is unavoidable. But if he
wants to settle down among you, and is a skilled worker, let him find
and earn his bread. If he knows no trade, use your discretion
to make sure that he does not live in idleness simply on
the strength of
being a Christian. Unless he agrees to this, he is only trying to exploit
Christ. You must be on your
guard against men of that sort.
13. A genuine prophet, however, who wishes to make his home with you has a
to a livelihood. (Similarly, a genuine teacher is as much entitled
to his keep as a manual labourer.) You are therefore
to take the first
products of your winepress, your threshing-floor, your oxen and your
sheep, and give them as first-
fruits to the prophets, for nowadays it is
they who are your "High Priests". If there is no prophet among you, give
to the poor. And when you bake a batch of loaves, take the first of
them and give it away, as the commandment directs.
Similarly when you
broach a jar of wine or oil, take the first portion to give to the
prophets. So, too, with your money,
and your clothing, and all your
possessions; take a tithe of them in whatever way you think best, and make
a gift of
it, as the commandment bids you.
Of Sunday Worship
14. Assemble on the Lord's Day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist;
but first make confession
of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a
pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part
you until they have been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation
of your sacrifice. For this is the offering of which
the Lord has said,
"Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a
great king, says the Lord,
and my name is the wonder of nations."
Of Local Officials
15 . You must choose for yourselves bishops and deacons who are worthy of
the Lord: men who are
humble and not eager for money, but sincere and
approved; for they are carrying out the ministry of the prophets and the
for you. Do not esteem them lightly, for they take an honourable
rank among you along with the prophets and teachers.
one another, but peaceably and not in hot blood, as you are told
in the Gospel. But have no converse with anyone who has
done his neighbour
an injury; let that man not hear a single word from you until he repents.
In your prayers, your
almsgiving, and everything you do, be guided by what
you read in the Gospel of our Lord.
16. Be watchful over your life; never let your lamps go out or your loins
be ungirt, but keep yourselves
always in readiness, for you can never be
sure of the hour when our Lord may be coming. Come often together for
improvement; because all the past years of your faith will be no
good to you at the end, unless you have made yourselves
perfect. In the
last days of the world false prophets and deceivers will abound, sheep
will be perverted and turn into
wolves, and love will change to hate, for
with the growth of lawlessness men will begin to hate their fellows and
them and betray them. Then the Deceiver of the World will show
himself, pretending to be a Son of God and doing signs and
the earth will be delivered into his hands, and he will work such
wickedness as there has never been since
the beginning. After that, all
humankind will come up for their fiery trial; multitudes of them will
stumble and perish,
but such as remain steadfast in the faith will be
saved by the Curse. And then the signs of the truth will appear: first
sign of the opening heavens, next the sign of the trumpet's voice, and
thirdly the rising of the dead - not of all
the dead, but, as it says,
"the Lord win come, and with him all his holy ones." And then the whole
world will see the
Lord as He comes riding on the clouds of heaven . . .