The Didache is, in all probability, the oldest surviving extant piece of non-canonical literature. It is not so much a letter as a handbook for new Christian converts, consisting of instructions derived directly from the teachings of Jesus. The Greek word didache means "teaching." The Didache is the short title of an ancient document that contains some very early Christian doctrines. Although a document of that name is referred to by several ancient writers, it apparently was lost. It was re-discovered in Constantinople in 1875, in a manuscript dated 1056 that also included several other documents either known or referred to as having been written before AD 150.
The Didache claims to have been authored by the twelve apostles. While this is unlikely, the work could be a direct result of the first Apostolic Council, c.50 C.E. (Acts 15:28). Similarities to the Apostolic Decree are apparent, and the given structure of the church is quite primitive. Also, the description of the Eucharist carefully avoids mention of the "body and blood of Christ," obviously being regarded as one of the secret mysteries of eary Christianity. Most scholars agree that the work, in its earliest form, may have circulated as early as the 60's C.E., though additions and modifications may have taken place well into the third century. The work was never officially rejected by the Church, but was excluded from the canon for its lack of literary value.
The Didache seems to consist of five parts, here shown as Sections although these divisions are not in the document. The first part shows what a genuine teacher of Christian righteousness will say and how he or she will go about teaching. The second part deals with the question of clean and unclean foods, and outlines procedures for baptism, fasting, prayer, the Eucharist and the love-feast. The third sets policies on the treatment of apostles and prophets by members of the congregation. The fourth organizes the church, and the fifth briefly summarizes teachings concerning the second coming of Christ at end of the age.
As translated by Ben. H. Swett
Section I -- On Righteousness
1:1 There are two ways, one of life and one of death, and the difference between the two ways is great.
1:2 The way of life is this: first, you shall love the God who made you; second, your neighbor as yourself, and whatever you would not have done to you, do not do to another.
1:3 And the teaching of these maxims is this: bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast on behalf of those who persecute you; for what thanks is there, if you love them that love you? Do not even Gentiles do the same? But love those who hate you, and you will not have an enemy.
1:4 Abstain from fleshly and bodily lusts. If anyone gives you a blow on your right cheek, turn to him the other also, and you will be perfect [full-grown, fully-mature]. If anyone compels you to go a mile, go with him two; if anyone takes your cloak, give him your coat also; if anyone takes from you what is yours, do not ask for it back nor try to use force.
1:5 Give to everyone who asks of you, and do not demand it back; for the Father wants something from his own free gifts to be given to all. Blessed is he who gives according to the commandment, for he is guiltless; but woe to him who receives; for if one who receives is actually in need, he is guiltless; but whoever receives when not in need will have to explain why he received and for what purpose; in prison he will be interrogated concerning the things he has done, and he will not depart from there until he has paid the last penny.
1:6 Yes, truly it has been said about this: "Let your alms sweat in your hands until you know to whom to give."
2:1 And the teaching of the second commandment is this: 2 You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery; you shall not seduce boys; you shall not fornicate. You shall not steal. You shall not be a fortune-teller; you shall not practice sorcery. You shall not kill a child by abortion nor slay it when born. You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor. 3 You shall not commit perjury; you shall not give false testimony; you shall not speak evil; you shall not bear malice; 4 you shall not be double-minded or double-tongued, for a double-tongue is a snare of death. 5 Your word shall not be false or empty, but confirmed by deeds. 6 You shall not be greedy or rapacious or hypocritical or malicious or arrogant. You shall not take up an evil plot against your neighbor. 7 You shall not hate anyone, but some you shall rebuke, and some you shall pray for, and some you shall love more than your own soul.
3:1 My child, flee from everything that is evil and everything that is like it. 2 Do not be wrathful, for wrath leads to murder, nor jealous nor contentious nor quarrelsome, for from all these murder ensues. 3 My child, do not be lustful, for lust leads to fornication, nor a filthy-talker nor a lewd-looker, for from all these adulteries ensue. 4 My child, do not be an interpreter of omens, since it leads to idolatry, nor an enchanter nor an astrologer nor a magical purifier, nor wish to see them, for from all these idolatry arises. 5 My child, do not be a liar, for lying leads to theft, nor avaricious nor conceited, for from all these thefts are produced. 6 My child, do not be a complainer, since it leads to blasphemy, nor self-willed nor evil-minded, for from all these blasphemies are produced. 7 Be meek, for the meek will inherit the earth. 8 Be long-suffering and merciful and guileless and peaceable and good, and revere always the words you have heard.
3: 9 You shall not exalt yourself, nor let your soul be presumptuous. Your soul shall not be joined with the lofty, but with the righteous and humble you shall walk. 10 You shall accept what befalls you as good, knowing that without God nothing happens.
4:1 My child, remember night and day him who speaks the word of God to you; honor him as the Lord, for where his lordship is proclaimed, there is the Lord. 2 Seek out daily the faces of the saints, that you may rest in their words.
4:3 You shall not desire schism, but shall set at peace those who contend. You shall judge righteously; you shall not show partiality when rebuking for transgressions. 4 You shall not vacillate about whether a thing will be or will not be. 5 You shall not be one who stretches out his hands to receive but one who draws them back when someone is giving.
4:6 If you have anything in your hands, give a ransom for your sins. 7 You shall not hesitate to give; neither shall you grumble when giving, for you know who is the fair paymaster of your reward. 8 You shall not turn away from him who is actually in need, but share with your brother in all things and not say things are your own, for if you are partners in what is imperishable, how much more so in perishable things?
4:9 You shall not remove your hand from your son or your daughter, but from their youth teach them the fear of God.
4:10 You shall not command in your bitterness your slave or your maid who hope in the same God as yourself, lest they cease to fear the God who is over you both; for he comes not with regard for reputation, but to those whom the Spirit has prepared. 11 And you slaves, subordinate yourselves to your masters in shame and fear, as to an image of God.
4:12 You shall hate all hypocrisy, and everything that is not pleasing to the Lord. 13 You shall not abandon the commandments of the Lord, but guard what you have received, neither adding nor subtracting anything. 14 You shall confess your transgressions in the congregation; and you shall not come to prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of life.
5:1 But this is the way of death: first of all, it is evil and full of curses, murders, adulteries, lusts, fornications, thefts, idolatries, fortune-tellings, sorceries, robberies; false testimony, hypocrisy, duplicity, deception, arrogance, malice, stubbornness, greed, filthy-talking, jealousy, audacity, pride, boastfulness;
5:2 persecuting good men, hating truth, loving falsehood, not knowing the reward of righteousness, not adhering to what is good nor to righteous judgment; watching not for that which is good but for that which is evil; far from gentleness and patience, loving worthless things, pursuing recompense, having no mercy for the needy, not working for him that is distressed, not recognizing him who made them; murderers of children, corrupters of the image of God, turning away from him that is in need, oppressing him that is distressed, advocates of the rich, unjust judges of the poor, utterly sinful. May you be delivered, my children, from all these!
6:1 Take heed lest anyone lead you astray from this way of teaching, for he who does so teaches you away from God.
6:2 If you can carry the whole yoke of the Lord, you will be perfect [full-grown, fully-mature]; but if you cannot, then do what you can.
6:3 Concerning food, bear what you can, but carefully keep away from food sacrificed to idols, for it is a worship-service to gods from the realm of the dead.
Section 2 -- On Piety
7:1 Concerning baptism, baptize thus: having first recited all these precepts, baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, in running water. 2 But if you have no running water, baptize in other water, and if you cannot baptize in cold water, then warm water; 3 but if you have neither, pour water on the head three times in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. 4 Before a baptism, let him who baptizes and him who is baptized fast, and any others who may be able to do so. And command him who is baptized to fast one or two days beforehand.
8:1 Do not let your fasting be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second day and the fifth day of the week [Monday and Thursday], but you shall fast on the fourth day and the day of preparation [Wednesday and Friday].
8:2 Neither pray as the hypocrites, but as the Lord commanded in his gospel: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, as in heaven, so also on earth. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debt, as we also forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for yours is the power and the glory, forever." 3 Pray this way three times a day.
9:1 And concerning the thanks-giving [Eucharist], give thanks thus: 2 first, concerning the cup: "We thank you, our Father, for the holy vine of your son David, which you have made known to us through your son Jesus; to you be the glory forever."
9:3 And concerning the broken bread: "We thank you, our Father, for the life and knowledge which you have made known to us through your son Jesus; to you be the glory forever. 4 As this broken bread was once scattered on the mountains, and gathered together became one, so may your congregation be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom; for yours is the glory and the power, through Jesus Christ, forever." 5 But let no one eat or drink of your thanks-giving except those who have been baptized in the name of the Lord, for the Lord has said, "Do not give that which is holy to the dogs."
10:1 And after you are filled, give thanks thus: 2 "We thank you, holy Father, for your holy name, which you have caused to dwell in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality which you have made known to us through your son Jesus; to you be the glory forever. 3 You, Almighty Master, created all things for the sake of your name, and give men food and drink to enjoy, that they might give thanks to you, but to us you give spiritual food and drink and eternal life through your son. 4 Above all, we give thanks that you are powerful; to you be the glory forever. 5 Remember your congregation, Lord, to redeem it from all evil and perfect it in your love; and gather it together, the one that has been sanctified, from the four winds into your kingdom which you have prepared for it; for yours is the kingdom and the glory forever. 6 May grace come, and may this world pass away. Hosanna to the God of David! If anyone is holy let him come; if anyone is not, let him repent. Maranatha. Amen." 7 But let the prophets give thanks however they wish.
Section 3 -- On Apostles and Prophets
11:1 Therefore, whoever comes and teaches you all these things aforesaid, receive him. 2 If the teacher himself is perverted and teaches a different doctrine to the subversion thereof, do not listen to him; but if he increases your righteousness and knowledge of the Lord, receive him as you would the Lord. 3 And concerning the apostles and prophets, do according to the command of the Gospel. 4 Let every apostle who comes to you be received as you would the Lord. 5 He will stay one day, and if necessary, a second day, but if he stays three days, he is a false prophet. 6 Let the apostle when departing take nothing except bread until he arrives at his next lodging. But if he asks for money, he is a false prophet.
11:7 Do not tempt or dispute with any prophet who speaks in spirit, for every sin will be forgiven, but this sin will not be forgiven. 8 However, not every one who speaks in spirit is a prophet, but only he who has the disposition of the Lord; therefore, by their dispositions the false prophet and the prophet shall be known.
11:9 Any prophet who orders a meal in spirit shall not eat of it; if he does, he is a false prophet. 10 If any prophet who teaches the truth does not do what he teaches, he is a false prophet. 11 And any prophet, true and approved, who performs rites to a secret cosmic assembly, but does not teach others to perform what he performs, shall not be judged by you, for his judgment is with God; for likewise also did the prophets of old. 12 If anyone says in spirit, "Give me silver," or whatever else, do not listen to him; but if he tells you about others in need, that you should give to them, let no one condemn him.
12:1 Let every one who comes in the name of the Lord be received, and then examine him judiciously -- right and left -- for the opinions he holds. 2 If the one who comes is a traveler, assist him as much as you can, but he shall not stay with you more than two or three days, unless there is a necessity. 3 If he wishes to settle with you and is a craftsman, let him work for his living. 4 If he is not a craftsman, decide according to your own judgment how he shall live as a Christian among you, but not in idleness. 5 If he will not do this, he is one who makes gain from Christ. From such keep aloof.
Section 4 -- On Organization
13:1 Every true prophet who desires to settle among you is worthy of his food. 2 Likewise, a true teacher also is worthy, but like the craftsman, he works for his living. 3 Therefore, take the first-fruits of every product of the wine-press and threshing-floor, of oxen and sheep, and give it to the prophets, for they are your chief priests. 4 And if you have no prophet, give it to the poor. 5 If you make bread, take the first-fruits and give according to the commandment. 6 In like manner, when you open a jar of wine or oil, take the first-fruits and give it to the prophets. 7 Yes, and of money and clothing and every possession, take the first-fruits, as seems good to you, and give according to the commandment.
14:1 Gather together on the Lord's day, break bread and give thanks, having first confessed your sins so that your sacrifice may be pure. 2 But do not let anyone who has a quarrel with a companion join with you until they have been reconciled, so that your sacrifice may not be polluted; 3 for this was spoken by the Lord: "In every place and time offer me a pure sacrifice, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the Gentiles."
15:1 Therefore, elect for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men who are meek and not lovers of money, true and approved, for they also perform for you the ministry of the prophets and teachers. 2 Therefore, do not despise them, for they are your honorable men, along with the prophets and teachers.
15:3 And reprove one another, not in anger but peaceably, as you have it in the Gospel, and let no one speak to any one who wrongs his brother, neither listen to him, until he repents. 4 And your prayers and almsgiving and all your deeds, do as you find it in the Gospel of our Lord.
Section 5 -- On the Future
16:1 Be watchful for your life; do not let your lamps be quenched or your loins be ungirded, but be ready, for you do not know the hour in which our Lord comes. 2 Be often gathered together, seeking what is fit for your souls, for the whole time of your faith will not profit you if you are not perfect [full-grown, fully-mature] at the end of the season. 3 For in the last days false prophets and seducers will be multiplied, and the sheep will be turned into wolves, and love will be turned into hate. 4 For as lawlessness increases, they will hate and persecute and betray one another. And then the deceiver of the world will appear as a son of God, and he will do signs and wonders, and the earth will be delivered into his hands, and he will do unlawful things such as never happened since the world began. 5 Then the creation of man will come to the fiery trial of testing, and many will stumble and perish, but those who endure in the faith will be saved alive from under the curse. 6 And then will appear the signs of the truth: first the sign of an opening in the heavens, then the sign of the sound of the trumpet, and thirdly a resurrection of the dead: 7 not of all, but as it is said: "The Lord will come and all his saints with him." 8 Then the world will see the Lord coming on the clouds of heaven.