Lesson 3B Preview: Selections from “The Didache”; Blog Posting from Prof. Derek Thomas on “The Didache”; Selection from “The Shepherd of Hermas”; Selections from Polycarp’s “Epistle to the Phillipians”; Selections from Ignatius’ “Epistle to the Ephesians”; videos on Papias, Polycarp, and Ignatius
Selections below from the work known as The Didache (click for excerpts from various scholars on the origins of the Didache):
The Lord’s Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations
Chapter 1. The Two Ways and the First Commandment. There are two ways, one of life and one of death, but a great difference between the two ways. The way of life, then, is this: First, you shall love God who made you; second, love your neighbor as yourself, and do not do to another what you would not want done to you. And of these sayings the teaching is this: Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you. For what reward is there for loving those who love you? Do not the Gentiles do the same? But love those who hate you, and you shall not have an enemy. Abstain from fleshly and worldly lusts. If someone strikes your right cheek, turn to him the other also, and you shall be perfect. If someone impresses you for one mile, go with him two. If someone takes your cloak, give him also your coat. If someone takes from you what is yours, ask it not back, for indeed you are not able. Give to every one who asks you, and ask it not back; for the Father wills that to all should be given of our own blessings (free gifts). Happy is he who gives according to the commandment, for he is guiltless. Woe to him who receives; for if one receives who has need, he is guiltless; but he who receives not having need shall pay the penalty, why he received and for what. And coming into confinement, he shall be examined concerning the things which he has done, and he shall not escape from there until he pays back the last penny. And also concerning this, it has been said, Let your alms sweat in your hands, until you know to whom you should give.
Chapter 2. The Second Commandment: Grave Sin Forbidden. And the second commandment of the Teaching; You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit pederasty, you shall not commit fornication, you shall not steal, you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft, you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is born. You shall not covet the things of your neighbor, you shall not swear, you shall not bear false witness, you shall not speak evil, you shall bear no grudge. You shall not be double-minded nor double-tongued, for to be double-tongued is a snare of death. Your speech shall not be false, nor empty, but fulfilled by deed. You shall not be covetous, nor rapacious, nor a hypocrite, nor evil disposed, nor haughty. You shall not take evil counsel against your neighbor. You shall not hate any man; but some you shall reprove, and concerning some you shall pray, and some you shall love more than your own life.
Chapter 3. Other Sins Forbidden. My child, flee from every evil thing, and from every likeness of it. Be not prone to anger, for anger leads to murder. Be neither jealous, nor quarrelsome, nor of hot temper, for out of all these murders are engendered. My child, be not a lustful one. for lust leads to fornication. Be neither a filthy talker, nor of lofty eye, for out of all these adulteries are engendered. My child, be not an observer of omens, since it leads to idolatry. Be neither an enchanter, nor an astrologer, nor a purifier, nor be willing to took at these things, for out of all these idolatry is engendered. My child, be not a liar, since a lie leads to theft. Be neither money-loving, nor vainglorious, for out of all these thefts are engendered. My child, be not a murmurer, since it leads the way to blasphemy. Be neither self-willed nor evil-minded, for out of all these blasphemies are engendered.
Rather, be meek, since the meek shall inherit the earth. Be long-suffering and pitiful and guileless and gentle and good and always trembling at the words which you have heard. You shall not exalt yourself, nor give over-confidence to your soul. Your soul shall not be joined with lofty ones, but with just and lowly ones shall it have its intercourse. Accept whatever happens to you as good, knowing that apart from God nothing comes to pass.
Chapter 7. Concerning Baptism. And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whoever else can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before.
Chapter 9. The Eucharist. Now concerning the Eucharist, give thanks this way. First, concerning the cup:
We thank thee, our Father, for the holy vine of David Thy servant, which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever..
And concerning the broken bread:
We thank Thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy kingdom; for Thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever..
But let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist, unless they have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, “Give not that which is holy to the dogs.”
And the Didache continues…
Wayne Grudem notes in his Systematic Theology, after pointing out numerous heterodox teachings in The Didache, “such a document, of unknown authorship, is hardly a reliable guide for the teachings and practices of the early church” (67).
Selection from The Shepherd of Hermas:
Against Filthy and Proud Thoughts, and the Carelessness of Hermas in Chastising His Sons.
…A short time after this, as I was walking on my road to the villages, and magnifying the creatures of God, and thinking how magnificent, and beautiful, and powerful they are, I fell asleep. And the Spirit carried me away, and took me through a pathless place, through which a man could not travel, for it was situated in the midst of rocks; it was rugged and impassible on account of water. Having passed over this river, I came to a plain. I then bent down on my knees, and began to pray to the Lord and to confess my sins, and as I prayed, the heavens were opened, and I see the woman whom I had desired saluting me from the sky, and saying, “Hail, Hermas!” And looking up to her, I said, “Lady, what doest thou here?” And she answered me, “I have been taken up here to accuse you of your sins before the Lord.” “Lady,” said I, “are you to be the subject of my accusation?”. “No,” said she; “but hear the words which I am going to speak to you. God, who dwells in the heavens, and made out of nothing the things that exist, and multiplied and increased them on account of His holy Church, is angry with you for having sinned against me.” I answered her, “Lady, have I sinned against you? How? Or when spoke I an unseemly word to you? Did I not always think of you as a lady? Did I not always respect you as a sister? Why do you falsely accuse me of this wickedness and impurity?” With a smile she replied to me, “The desire of wickedness arose within your heart. Is it not your opinion that a righteous man commits sin when an evil desire arises in his heart? There is sin in such a case, and the sin is great,” said she; “for the thoughts of a righteous man should be righteous. For by thinking righteously his character is established in the heavens, and he has the Lord merciful to him in every business. But such as entertain wicked thoughts in their minds are bringing upon themselves death and captivity; and especially is this the case with those who set their affections on this world, and glory in their riches, and look not forward to the blessings of the life to come. For many will their regrets be; for they have no hope, but have despaired of themselves and their life. But do thou pray to God, and He will heal thy sins, and the sins of thy whole house, and of all the saints.”
Selection from Polycarp’s Epistle to the Phillipians
Chapter VII.—Avoid the Docetæ, and persevere in fasting and prayer
“For whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is antichrist, and whosoever does not confess the testimony of the cross, is of the devil; and whosoever perverts the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts, and says that there is neither a resurrection nor a judgment, he is the first-born of Satan. Wherefore, forsaking the vanity of many, and their false doctrines, let us return to the word which has been handed down to us from the beginning; “watching unto prayer,” and persevering in fasting; beseeching in our supplications the all-seeing God “not to lead us into temptation,” as the Lord has said: “The spirit truly is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Selections from Ignatius’ Epistle to the Ephesians
Chapter VII.—Beware of false teachers
For some are in the habit of carrying about the name [of Jesus Christ] in wicked guile, while yet they practice things unworthy of God, whom ye must flee as ye would wild beasts. For they are ravening dogs, who bite secretly, against whom ye must be on your guard, inasmuch as they are men who can scarcely be cured. There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first passible and then impassible,— even Jesus Christ our Lord.
But some most worthless persons are in the habit of carrying about the name [of Jesus Christ] in wicked guile, while yet they practice things unworthy of God, and hold opinions contrary to the doctrine of Christ, to their own destruction, and that of those who give credit to them, whom you must avoid as ye would wild beasts. For “the righteous man who avoids them is saved for ever; but the destruction of the ungodly is sudden, and a subject of rejoicing.” For “they are dumb dogs, that cannot bark,” raving mad, and biting secretly, against whom ye must be on your guard, since they labour under an incurable disease. But our Physician is the only true God, the unbegotten and unapproachable, the Lord of all, the Father and Begetter of the only-begotten Son. We have also as a Physician the Lord our God, Jesus the Christ, the only-begotten Son and Word, before time began, but who afterwards became also man, of Mary the virgin. For “the Word was made flesh.” Being incorporeal, He was in the body; being impassible, He was in a passible body; being immortal, He was in a mortal body; being life, He became subject to corruption, that He might free our souls from death and corruption, and heal them, and might restore them to health, when they were diseased with ungodliness and wicked lusts.
Chapter XVII.—Beware of false doctrines.
For this end did the Lord suffer the ointment to be poured upon His head, that He might breathe immortality into His Church. Be not ye anointed with the bad odour of the doctrine of the prince of this world; let him not lead you away captive from the life which is set before you. And why are we not all prudent, since we have received the knowledge of God, which is Jesus Christ? Why do we foolishly perish, not recognizing the gift which the Lord has of a truth sent to us?
For this end did the Lord suffer the ointment to be poured upon His head, that His Church might breathe forth immortality. For saith [the Scripture], “Thy name is as ointment poured forth; therefore have the virgins loved Thee; they have drawn Thee; at the odour of Thine ointments we will run after Thee.” Let no one be anointed with the bad odour of the doctrine of [the prince of] this world; let not the holy Church of God be led captive by his subtlety, as was the first woman. Why do we not, as gifted with reason, act wisely? When we had received from Christ, and had grafted in us the faculty of judging concerning God, why do we fall headlong into ignorance? and why, through a careless neglect of acknowledging the gift which we have received, do we foolishly perish?
N.T. Wright on Papias and the early Church Fathers:
A brief onsite biography Polycarp:
A concluding look, from a Catholic perspective, at Ignatius of Antioch:
A Quote for Your Consideration: “Though God is in no way the cause of actual sin, or of evil deeds, yet He is the author of evil in the sense of tribulation or affliction…This truth Holy Scripture sets forth for the comfort of all believers who endure trials and chastisements in this life…”(John Theodore Mueller, Christian Dogmatics, p. 226).
Questions for discussion:
1. What do we know about the origin of the Didache? What was the major controversy that broke out when a copy was discovered?
2. What are the issues we must consider when we consider presenting the Didache in a class for adult Christian laypersons? In this regard, note Chapter 9, a portion of the liturgical manual section. Does anything strike you as inconsistent with what we might expect in instructions for the Eucharist?
3. The Didache states (ANF.VII.381) that “every Lord’s day” the Christians gather themselves together and “break bread”. As both a Sunday School teacher and aspiring Christian apologist, how might this statement be employed in your teaching?
4. Another modern controversy is indirectly addressed in the Didache. If you were to read the full-length Didache in Greek, you would note a reference to the episkopoi and diakonoi performing the religious services which prophets and teachers had once provided. What light does this shed on the past and, therefore, may prove useful in the present?
5. In your Sunday School class, a new Christian asks, “You have had us read these excerpts from the Shepherd of Hermas and other early church fathers…are you suggesting we worship these writings as we worship the Bible?” How do you respond?
6. In this class another student asks, “Polycarp tells us to ‘avoid the Docetae’. Nobody I’ve ever run into admits being among the Docetae. Why are Polycarp’s writings relevant today?”
7. In Chapter 2 we read Olson’s discussion of The Shepherd of Hermas (p. 51-52) and Athanasius’ reaction to its Spirit Christology. What is Spirit Christology? Why would it be considered a heresy today?
8. How do the lives and deaths of Ignatius and Polycarp help us better understand the conflicts between Christians and the Roman Empire?
9. Using Prof. Haykin’s insights, how did the literacy levels in the 1st century influence catechesis and the early church services often held in “house churches”? How did the typical Roman architecture of a residence influence the Christian congregations?