Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Thursday 28 January |
Saint of the Day: St. Thomas Aquinas
home iconArt & Culture
line break icon

The oldest catechism in Christian history dates from the 1st century

TWELVE,APOSTLES

Public Domain

Daniel Esparza - published on 08/14/19

And it’s an anonymous treatise the Church Fathers held in the highest esteem.

According to most scholars, The Didaché (a brief, anonymous Christian treatise, considered to be the oldest Christian catechism in history) was written between the years 65 and 80. Also known as “the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,” or simply “The Teaching” (Didaché means “teaching” in Greek), the Didaché is a letter belonging to the very first Christian corpus of literary production. It is considered the first and oldest written catechism, and as such has been respected and preserved to this day.

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.


NEWLY DISCOVERED BIBLICAL SITE

Read more:
Archaeologists believe they have found the Church of the Apostles by Sea of Galilee

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.


CATACOMBE

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.

Tags:
BibleCatholic historyChurch HistoryHistory
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in eight languages: English, French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
LUXOR FILM FESTIVAL
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful 1-minute film about...
2
Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP
The 4 Ways to read Scripture every Catholic should know
3
saint Joseph
Philip Kosloski
Why St. Joseph is called the "Terror of Demons"
4
DAD, HOW DO I?
Cerith Gardiner
Meet the dad who's teaching basic skills on YouTube for kids with...
5
Aksum Ethiopia; CHURCH
Fionn Shiner-ACN
As many as 750 killed in massacre at Ethiopian church
6
ŚWIĘTY JÓZEF
Kathleen N. Hattrup
The Litany of St. Joseph
7
LUPKOW CEMETERY
J-P Mauro
Polish statue of Christ found peeking out of a growing tree
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.