Q. What is the ancient book called the Didache, and why is it significant?
A. The Didache, or The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, is a short treatise on morals and Church practice written in Greek by an early unknown Christian author. The book is significant both because some of the early Church Fathers highly esteemed it and because of its early composition. Though scholars have disputed the exact date, many believe that it was written in the first century, perhaps even as early as A.D. 60, while the books of the New Testament were still being written. If so, it provides a fascinating look into a local Christian community of that time, though the place of origin is uncertain—perhaps an isolated area of Syria.
The book’s sixteen brief chapters describe “The Two Ways”: the “the Way of Life,” and “the Way of Death.” It draws from Jewish sources and quotes Jesus’ preaching in the Sermon on the Mount, including the words of the Our Father in full. Also included are instructions on baptism, prayer, fasting, the Eucharist, and how to treat the clergy and traveling prophets. The last chapter is a prophecy about the Antichrist and Christ’s second coming.