Publishers Weekly Reviews The Teaching of the Twelve

PW has posted their review of my new book:

The Teaching of the Twelve: Believing and Practicing the Primitive Christianity of the Ancient Didache Community Tony Jones. Paraclete, $14.99 paper (144p) ISBN 978-1-55725-590-7

Calling the Didache “the most important book you’ve never heard of,” Emergent leader Jones (The New Christians) briefly unpacks the theological and practical lessons to be gleaned from one of early Christianity’s most overlooked texts. Less than half the length of the shortest New Testament gospel, the Didache (“teaching”) informed new Christians about spiritual practices like baptism, prayer, hospitality, fasting, Eucharist, generosity, and basic morality. Dated between 50 and 130 C.E., it is one of the oldest extant Christian texts not found in the New Testament. Jones writes engagingly, explaining the Didache’s meaning and importance while also introducing a surprising interlocutor called “Trucker Frank,” a Missouri truck driver whose house church has based its life together on the Didache. The great and unique value of this book is its vision of how Christians today might put the Didache in practice, rather than as a contribution to early Christian studies; in fact, biblical scholars and historians may raise eyebrows at a few of the book’s assumptions, particularly its oversimplifications about Gnosticism. Jones, however, has done a great service by recovering and interpreting this neglected classic for the ancient-future church. (Feb.)

Where Are My Critics Now?

If only my critics were as honest as Waldorf and Statler

If only my critics were as honest as Waldorf and Statler

In his contribution to the Didache blog tour, Mike King wrote something that piqued my interest,

Those who have tried to “label” and “dismiss” Tony Jones will have a hard time believing that Tony would be so interested in a text that starts out, “There are two ways, one of life and one of death! and there is a great difference between the two ways.”  But, he is, and so we reap the benefit.

As anyone should who’s in the public eye (including most pastors), I have a couple “vanity” searches set up in Google to automatically search my name along with a couple keywords.  This allows me to keep an ear to the ground about what’s being said about me in the blogosphere.

And here’s something that hasn’t surprised me at all: There’s been nary a word by any critics about my new book, The Teaching of the Twelve.

[Read more...]

Didache Blog Tour – Day Nine: The Creeds

Didache Copyright Page - 1886Dwight Friesen has attempted to answer the compelling and important question,

Does the Didache teach or advise anything that substantively differs from what was decided at the earliest ecumenical church councils (such as Nicaea)?

In The Teaching of the Twelve: Beleiving and Practicing the Primitive Christianity of the Ancient Didache Community, I make a lot of how much the Didache is like the synoptic Gospels, and how little it resembles the Fourth Gospel, Paul, even more so, those who established the ecclecial hierarchy, like Ignatius.  I date the Didache early (AD 50-70) — we can talk about that more here if we need to.  But the point is that the Didache was seemingly unfamiliar with the writings of Paul.

So, the question this raises for me is, if the Didache portrays a different version of Christian faith than the early church councils, were the Councils overly Pauline in their perspective?

Dwight writes,

While the Didache is a one of our earliest glimpses into the practical life of primitive Christians; a glimpse into how the people gathering together in Christ and seeking to live in the way of Jesus actually engaged culture, economics, community, and ritual etc. it is striking at how little doctrine it presents.  While just the opposite could be said of the Creed born of our First Church Council at Nicæa (325) . . . in the document out of Nicæa we have a fairly clear confession of beliefs with no practices or rituals.

This to me is the primary difference between the two documents.  One is concerned with how we should live, the other what we confess.

You can go to Dwight’s blog to read his conclusion.

Online Resources:

Previously: Adam, Thomas, and me on chapter one. Amy, Ted, and me on chapter three.  Holly, Tripp, and me on chapter four.  Mike and me on chapter five.  Brother Maynard and me on chapter six.  Mike, Greg, and me on chapter seven.  Luke and me on the epilogue.  Jonathan and me on the importance of the Didache.

Didache Blog Tour – Day Eight: A Special Question

Facsimilie of the Didache Titulous

Facsimilie of the Didache Titulous

The inimitable Carol Showalter, marketing guru at Paraclete Press, put this blog tour together, and she had the good sense to ask Jonathan Brink to ponder a special question: Is this text – The Didache – really so important? Why? Do we know that it was important to the earliest communities of Christians?

Jonathan answers that question in the affirmative, and in two parts.  First,

The Didache focuses on what it means to be a follower through action, as opposed to a stricter western focus of simply belief.  The emphasis is on love, which reveals life.

And second,

We can’t ignore a book that focuses on love, which also existed before any Christian theology is developed.  In other words, the absence of a Christian theology means its raw.  It’s the first exposure we have to what the early followers of Jesus were wrestling with.  And it just happened to be on the practice of love.  They didn’t seem to get bogged down into doctrinal issues…They focused on love. This has to inform the conversation.

Of course, I agree with Jonathan.  I think the Didache is going to catch on, in a big way, and especially with those of us who are scouting out new and primitive and “authentic” (overused, I know) ways to follow Jesus.  And, if you read the book you’ll see, the best way for us to do that is to really get inside the heads of the earliest Christians who put the Didache together.

Online Resources:

Previously: Adam, Thomas, and me on chapter one. Amy, Ted, and me on chapter three.  Holly, Tripp, and me on chapter four.  Mike and me on chapter five.  Brother Maynard and me on chapter six.  Mike, Greg, and me on chapter seven.  Luke and me on the epilogue.


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