The Didache (1)

“Didachē, (Greek: “Teaching”) also called Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, the oldest surviving Christian church order, probably written in Egypt or Syria in the 2nd century. In 16 short chapters it deals with morals and ethics, church practice, and the eschatological hope of Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time and presents a general program for instruction and initiation into the primitive church. It is considered to be a work of patristic literature from an unknown Apostolic Father. Some early Christian writers treated the Didachē as canonical, and Egyptian authors and compilers quoted it extensively in the 4th and 5th centuries.”


In anticipation of being part of a Greek Reading Group, I’m rereading and translating the Didache. Here’s my own, very literal, translation of chapter 1 (of 16):

Chapter 1

1. Two ways there are, one of the life and one of the death, but a great difference [there is] between the two ways.

2. So then the way of life is this; first, you will love God, the one made you; second, [you will love] your neighbour as yourself; and all things whatsoever you might wish not to happen to you, also you, to another, do not do.

3. The teaching of these words is this; bless those who curse you and pray on behalf of your enemies, and fast on behalf of your persecutors, for what grace [is there] if you love those who love you; are not even the Gentiles doing the same? But love those who hate you and you will have no enemy.

4. Abstain from fleshly and bodily desires. If someone to you gives a slap, turn to him and the other, and you will be complete. If someone compels you to go one mile, go with him two; if someone takes your cloak, give to him also your tunic. If someone takes from you [what is] yours, do not ask for [it back]. For you are not able.

5. To all who ask you, give, and do not ask for [it back], for the Father wishes to give to all from his own gifts. Blessed is the one who gives according to the command, for he is guiltless. Cursed the one who receives, [but] if, on the one hand, someone having a need receives, he will be guiltless. But the one not having a need must give an account why he received and for what, and in prison he will be questioned concerning what he has done and he will not be released from there, until which he has paid back the last quadran.

6. But also now concerning this it has been said, your alms sweat in your hands until such a time as you know to whom you give [it].

Brief Comments:

We hear in these words the teaching of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels. Christians are called to not only love God and to love their neighbours, but to love their enemies. Love is to be demonstrated in actions such as: (1) blessing and praying for their persecutors; (2) submission and non-retaliation toward those who abuse, and; (3) to give to those who have need, but to not take from those who give if they have no need. The latter is an imprisonable offence and requires repayment of whatever they received.

As you can probably tell, much of this first chapter is a rewording of parts of the so-called “Sermon on the Mount.” Life is found/experienced by living a life of love, demonstrated in specific actions, toward our neighbours, our enemies, and those in need. What about you? What about me? Are we choosing the way of life or the way of death?

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