And it’s an anonymous treatise the Church Fathers held in the highest esteem.
Both the author and the place where the Didaché was written remain unknown. The original text of the Didaché survived in a single manuscript, known as the Codex Hierosolymitanus. Some scholars argue the text was put together by an editor (instead of an author) who might have also written down some teachings directly from apostolic preaching, either in Syria or Egypt. After the text was lost for years, the Metropolitan of Istanbul, Philoteos Bryennios, found a Greek copy in 1873 and published it in 1883. The copy the Metropolitan found dated to 1056.
This brief treatise provides us with extra-biblical data regarding the institutions and life of the earliest Christian communities. The Didaché codifies the moral, liturgical, and legal dispositions of the early Church that were considered convenient and necessary then. It almost exclusively consists of “practical” teachings, leaving aside any discussion concerning the dogmatic contents of faith, except for a single chapter.
There are hardly any quotations from the Old Testament in the Didaché; instead, the author speaks of the “Gospel of the Lord” (without specifying which of the Synoptics he or she might be referring to), and quotes and alludes to around 20 sayings or statements of Jesus Christ. The author seems to ignore the Gospel of John, and none of St. Paul’s epistles is formally cited.
Read more: The oldest known images of the apostles
The Didaché contains the first known instructions for the celebration of both Baptism and the Eucharist, as well as one of the three earliest known forms of the Lord’s Prayer. Considering the various translations of the work, the geographical dispersion of the fragments found and the list of later works that depend on it, the Didaché should be better known among Christians today.
If you want to read it, here’s a full version, in English.
Since you are here…
…we’d like to have one more word with you. We are excited to report that Aleteia’s readership is growing at a rapid rate, world-wide! Our team proves its mission every day by providing high-quality content that informs and inspires a Christian life. But quality journalism has a cost and it’s more than ads can cover. We want our articles to be accessible to everyone, free of charge, but we need your help. To continue our efforts to nourish and inspire our Catholic family, your support is invaluable. Become an Aleteia Patron today for as little as $3 a month. May we count on you?