The Didache, Part 2

In the first part of my translation of this ancient Christian book the author set out that there are two ways or paths available to us: One of life and one of death. The way of life was then described. In this part the way of death is described, followed by some advise on baptism, fasting, and prayer. A few notes follow the text.


The Start of the Didache, Wikipedia

The Start of the Didache, Wikipedia

But the Way of Death is this:

First of all, it is evil and full of accursedness:

Murders, adulteries, lusts, Illicit sex, thefts, idolatries, magic, potions, robberies, perjuries, hypocrisies, double mindedness, trickery, arrogance, malice, self-pleasing, greed, foul speech, jealousy, audacity, pride, pretension.

They are persecutors of the good, haters of truth, lovers of lies.
They do not know the wages of justice, do not associate with the good nor with justice.
They lie awake at night, not for good but for wickedness.
They are far from being gentle or patient, love frivolous things, and always seek gain.
They do not show mercy to the poor, nor work to help the hard-working person because they do not know the one who made them.
They are child murderers, destroyers of God’s creation, turning away the needy, oppressing the distressed, wrongfully assisting the rich, unjust judges of the poor.
They are altogether sinful.

May you be delivered, my children, from all of these things.

Watch out so that no one leads you from the pathway of this teaching, since it would be contrary to God.

For if you are able to bear the whole yoke of the Lord, you will be mature.
But if you are not able, do what you can.
Concerning food, do what you can but do keep from that which is offered to idols, for it is the worship of dead gods./p>

And concerning baptism, this is how you should baptise:

When you have gone over these teachings, baptise in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in running water.
If you do not have running water, baptise in other water.
If you are not able to use cold water, use warm.
And if you have neither, pour water on the head three times, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

You should instruct the one being baptised to fast one or two days before.

Do not keep your fasts with those of the hypocrites, for they fast on Mondays and Thursdays, but you should fast on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Do not pray like the hypocrites but as the Lord commanded in His gospel.

Pray like this:

Our Father in heaven,
May your name be sanctified,
May your kingdom come,
May your will be done
as in heaven, so on earth.
Give us our daily bread for today,
Forgive our debts as we forgive those who are indebted to us.
Please do not lead us into trial,
but deliver us from the Evil Day.
For Yours is the power and the glory forever.

Pray like this three times a day.



1) It is interesting to note that the way of death gets a lot less space than the way of life. Too often in the years since the Church has focused more on sin than on life.

2) I absolutely love the bit that says “For if you are able to bear the whole yoke of the Lord, you will be mature. But if you are not able, do what you can.” Such a relaxed way of looking at things!  Encouraging, but not off-putting.

3) I have used the bit about baptism in some online discussions about the subject to show that the (very) early church used the word freely about forms other than immersion. No, this is not Scripture, but it does show how the word was used at the time, and to claim that it must mean immersion is just wrong! Again, it shows quite a relaxed attitude.

4) The version of the Lord’s Prayer quoted here is the same as in Matthew (with the addition of the doxology). There are a couple of points worth noting:

a) I prefer “sanctified” to “holy” at the beginning because it maintains the parallelism  of the first three clauses. The meaning of the two is the same.

b) “Do not lead us into trial” is, I think, far preferable to “do not lead me into temptation”. God does not tempt anyone, according to Scripture.

c) “Deliver us from the Evil Day”: The actual final noun is missing, a common thing in Greek when it is obvious. Obvious to them, however, need not be obvious to us! The actual text is “Deliver us from the evil”, so the question is “evil” what? Most suggest “Evil One” i.e. Satan, others leave it just as Evil. However, given the great expectation of the early Christians that Jesus was soon to return and usher in the Day of Judgement (with all its concomitant bad happenings), it makes sense to me to use day here. This is not an original thought with me, but is a suggestion that I read a few years ago.



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5 Responses to “The Didache, Part 2”

  1. treegestalt Says:

    At least the way Walter Wink read the Jewish & Christian scriptures, they did clearly indicate that God does tempt people. At least, his agent Satan does so; this seems to be his assigned task which presumably serves some ultimately good purpose. The fact that Jesus says “Satan always was a liar”, that later Christians consider Satan to be in rebellion — merely means that Satan had gotten too fond of a bad job for his own good.

    There were evidently Persian undercover agents called ‘satans’ who would show up in a bar, buy some lonely person a drink, strike up a conversation about (say) ‘that dirty bastid Cyrus’ and see if the guy would agree. If he did, turning him in & tormenting a confession out of him would follow. Very much like the Devil of our legends…

    • thoughtfulspirituality Says:

      I agree that Satan does get “worse” in later theology. Certainly in Job he is much more a tester than a tempter, one whose job is to prove God’s contention that Job loves him by trying to prove the opposite (mathematically, a “proof by contradiction”). I like the picture of Satan “getting too fond of his job”–wonderful!

      As to whether God tempts us, I am still not sure. I think he tests us, which can look decidedly similar from our perspective, but there is a difference, I think: Testing is done to show that the subject is strong, with the expectation that the subject will pass, tempting is done in the hope he is weak, to cause him to fail. Similar events, different motivations. Does that make sense?

  2. treegestalt Says:

    Walter Wink’s examination of Satan’s appearances in the Bible is excellent; and I think my discussion at is a good short intro to that chapter of _Unmasking the Powers_….

    Briefly, sometimes people really do need to know about weakness. Fail a quiz, maybe do better on The Exam.

  3. The Didache, Part 3 « thoughtfulspirituality Says:

    […] Explorations of Christian Spirituality « The Didache, Part 2 […]

  4. 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 […]

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