The Didache, Part 1

Over the next few posts I am going to share my translation of the Didache.

There is some contention over t his document. It is clear that many parts of the early church regarded it as scripture though it was not included when the cannon was finally formalised (it actually had a lot more support than Revelation, for instance). Some authorities consider it a pastiche (a mash-up) of several older bits, though others regard it as a single, whole book. Again, some put its writing in the second century, others in the first, but even those who argue for a later composition tend to agree that it would reflect very early oral tradition. There are clear points of agreement with Matthew’s Gospel, which causes many to date it later, but it seems equally possible that Matthew had a form of the Didache and used it, so that the gospel is the later composition.

In general, then, it represents a very early (perhaps the earliest) bit of Christian writing/tradition that we have. It is fairly clearly a document originating in the Judaic-Christian tradition, and shows no sign of any influence from Paul’s writings. It is a book that more Christians should know as it shows one way in which the very earliest Christians understood the new life they had received.

I am presenting it here as it would have been originally, without chapter and verse numbers that interrupt the flow.



The Start of the Didache, Wikipedia

The Start of the Didache, Wikipedia

The Training of the Twelve Apostles for the Gentiles 

There are two ways:

One of life
and one of death;

and there is a great difference between the two ways.

The way of life is this:

First, you should love God, who made you;
secondly, love your neighbour as yourself;
and whatever things you do not desire to be done to you, do not do them to someone else.

To assimilate these words, the training is this:

Bless those who curse you and pray for your enemies,
fast for those who are persecuting you.
For what credit is it if you love those who love you? Do not the Gentiles do the same thing?
But love those hating you, and you will not have an enemy.
Keep yourself from fleshly and bodily cravings.
If anyone hits you on the right cheek, turn the other one to him also and you will be acting maturely.
If someone should force you to go one mile, go with him two.
If someone takes your coat, give him your shirt also.
If anyone should take from you what is yours, do not demand that he give it back, for you cannot force them.
Give to everyone asking you and do not refuse, for the Father desires to give to everyone from His own gifts.
Blessed is the one who gives according to the commandment, for he is innocent.
But the one who receives without need shall account for his receiving.
Furthermore, being held, he shall be examined concerning what he has done,
and he shall not be released until he has given back the last penny.
It has been said concerning this,
“Let your money sweat in your hands until you know to whom you should give it.”

And this is the second rule of the training:

You shall not kill;
You shall not commit adultery;
you shall not corrupt children,
nor practice sexual deviation;
you shall not steal;
nor practice calling on spiritual guides;
nor use sorcery;
you shall not procure an abortion,
nor practice infanticide;
you shall not covet your neighbour’s goods.
You shall not commit perjury,
nor accuse someone falsely;
you shall not speak evil nor hold a grudge.
You shall not be double minded nor double tongued, for the double tongue is the snare of death.
Your word shall not be false or empty, but do what you say.
You shall not be covetous or extortionate, or hypocritical, or malicious or proud.
You shall not plan evil against your neighbour.
You should not hate anyone;
but you should reprove some,
and you should pray for some,
and you should love some more than your own life.

My child, flee from evil and from every appearance of evil
Do not be ruled by your passions, for this leads to murder. Neither be jealous, quarrelsome, or quick-tempered
For murders are born out of such things
Do not let yourself develop lust, for this leads to sexual immorality
Do not be foul-mouthed, nor raise your eyes, for this leads to adultery.

My child, do not regard omens, for this leads to idolatry
Do not be a sorcerer, nor be involved in astrology or magic purifications
Do not desire to see these things, for that is how idolatry comes.

My child, do not be a liar, for lying leads to thievery
Do not be fond of money and do not try to build up your own image, for that also leads to thievery.

My child, do not be a grumbler, for it leads to blasphemy
Do not be self-willed nor entertain evil thoughts, for that is how blasphemy starts.

Be meek, for the meek shall inherit the earth
Be patient and long-suffering, devoid of evil, gentle, good, and always trembling at the words that you have heard
Do not exalt yourself nor act presumptuously
Do not join yourself with the proud, but walk with righteous and humble men.

Accept everything that happens to you as good, knowing that nothing happens apart from God.

My child, you should remember night and day the one who speaks to you the Word of God,
and honour him as you would the Lord; for where the dominion of the Lord is spoken of, the Lord is there
You should seek every day the presence of the saints, in order that you may be supported by their words

You should not cause dissension, but make peace between those quarrelling
Judge righteously; do not favour anyone in reproving transgressions
Do not be double-minded as to whether something should or should not be.

Do not be one who stretches out his hand to receive but withdraws it in giving
Give a ransom for your sins if you have it to give
Do not hesitate to give, nor give in a grumbling manner, for you know the one who rewards
You should not turn away the needy, but share all things with your brother, not saying that anything is your own
For if we are sharers in the eternal things, how much more should we be in the physical things.

Do not withhold your hand from your son or your daughter, but from their youth teach them the fear of God
lest they stop fearing God who is over you both.
For He does not come to call men according to their social status,
but He calls those whom the Spirit has prepared
And you slaves submit in fear and reverence to your masters as God’s delegated authority over you.

You should hate all hypocrisy and all that is not pleasing to the Lord
Do not forsake the commandments of the Lord, and keep what you have received, not adding and not taking away.
In church, you should confess your faults; and do not go to prayer with an evil conscience.

This is the Way of Life.


In the second part we get to see the other way, that of death.



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4 Responses to “The Didache, Part 1”

  1. The Didache, Part 2 « thoughtfulspirituality Says:

    […] Explorations of Christian Spirituality « The Didache, Part 1 […]

  2. The Didache, Part 3 « thoughtfulspirituality Says:

    […] for the Eucharist, followed by advise about itinerant teachers, apostles, and prophets. Parts 1 and 2 are available if you missed them. Notes follow the […]

  3. The Didache, Part 4 (final) « thoughtfulspirituality Says:

    […] here is the final part of my translation of the Didache. Parts 1, 2, and 3 are also available. The complete Didache, in rtf format, is available […]

  4. Book Review: Christian Beginnings by Geza Vermes « thoughtfulspirituality Says:

    […] other terms to be valid or correct? No, certainly not. That the Didache (a book I admire, see my translation of it) prefers the term servant does not mean that the whole church preferred it, nor that the […]

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