A wonderful post yesterday on The Teaching of the Twelve: Believing and Practicing the Primitive Christianity of the Ancient Didache Community, by Mike Todd at Waving or Drowning. They’re tackling Chapter Five, “Sex, Money, and Other Means of Getting Along.”
The Didache speaks often of sex, and of money, and I spend some effort in this chapter of the book laying out the context of both in the ancient world. In order to understand any ancient document, be it the Illiad, the Bible, or the Didache, we’ve got to attempt to understand the world in which it was written. And the Didache was written in a world very unlike our own.
Mike picks up on that, writing about both sex and money in the ancient world. For instance, in the first century, even on the outskirts of the Roman Empire, as the Didache community was, there was quite simply more sexual openness than there is in present-day Western cultures, if for no other reason than that there was far less privacy than there is today. People didn’t live in their own, discrete homes with windows that shut. If your neighbor died, you saw the dead body, if your neighbor gave birth, you heard the screams. When you stepped outdoors, you had to step over your neighbor’s excrement. And when your neighbors had sex, well, you knew that, too.
Mike concludes his post by writing about the primary concern of the Didache: our relationships with other human beings:
Tony wisely uses this chapter to emphasize the “horizontality” of the Didache. He points out that much of the New testament, while also concerned with life together, spends more time on humanity’s relationship with God, which is vertical in nature.
“But the Didache is concerned exclusively with the horizontal, with relationships between human beings, It lacks any overt theologizing about the nature of God or humanity or sin or righteousness—these seem to be understood as explicit.” (p. 86)
For instance, there is no mention of evangelism, at least in our modern meaning of the word. For me, this emphasis on the horizontal is the greatest value of the Didache to the contemporary church. In many ways our Christianity today is more verbal than lifestyle-oriented. Could it be that one of the reasons we feel the need to focus on the verbalization of the Gospel is because our lifestyles do not reflect it? To simply assent verbally to the Gospel allows us to remain comfortably entrenched in the status quo. Conversely to live out our lives in accordance with this Gospel would require us to live as an alternative to that status quo. It seems to me these two stances are antithetical.
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