Didache Blog Tour – Day One, Chapter One

Didache Blog Tour – Day One, Chapter One December 1, 2009

Facsimilie of the Didache Titulous

Today, my new book, The Teaching of the Twelve: Believing and Practicing the Primitive Christianity of the Ancient Didache Community starts shipping (details for purchase are at the end of this post).  And Paraclete Press has been kind enough to arrange a blog tour over the next ten days.  I’ll be interacting with the posts by these bloggers as we go along.

Over at Pomomusings, Adam has written an overview of the first chapter and asked,

What was it like to live in a pre-Pauline time? How did followers of the Way of Jesus make sense of their faith and their call to live in a kingdom way before Paul? Perhaps the Didache is one of the documents that can help give us a sense of what that kind of faith-filled life might have looked like.

That, in fact, is one of my strongest points in the book: That the Didache gives us a glimpse of a pre-Pauline Christianity.  Some Didache scholars dispute this, but, try as I might, I can find no knowledge of Paul betrayed anywhere in the text of the Didache.  Many contemporary Christians struggle with Paul’s writings, and, while we don’t want to discard them, it’s nice to get another version of early Christian life that jibes more with James than Paul.

At Everyday Liturgy, Thomas Turner writes,

The Didache was written at a very early time in the faith when the canon hadn’t been set in stone, the Way of Jesus was illegal, subversive, and underground, and the orthodox theology of the Church was in its infancy. It was an exciting time when people were not really sure what exactly was happening but they knew full well that something had happened: Christ was alive and his Way was good.

As he notes a bit later, I surmise in the book that those first readers of the Didache were not only excited, they were likely very scared.  It’s hard for us to even imagine what following Jesus must have meant in those very early days of the faith, but, if the Didache is any indication, it consisted mainly of right living, gathering for meals, listening to visiting preachers and prophets, and sharing in baptisms and communion.

Thanks to Adam and Thomas for their posts.  Anyone else have any thoughts on the first chapter?

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  • What I notice most is that proto-Catholicism is there; Deacons and Bishops. And that from the very start, illicit sex (sex not for procreation or union in marriage) was considered a part of the culture of death, not the culture of life.

    It makes me wonder how much the rediscovery of the Didache influenced the end of the Counter-Reformation in Vatican II. I need to look into that- I’m too young by a couple of decades to know firsthand.

  • Dan Hauge

    The book looks great–I’ve read a bit of the Didache before but looking forward to seeing the whole thing. I wonder–when you talk about the Didache ‘helping us out of Western cultural captivity’ do you mean ‘Paul captivity’. There seems to be an subtext in your writing about this so far that the Didache can kind of get the church out from under Paul. You say you don’t want to ‘discard’ Paul’s writings, but would you like to see texts like the Didache provide a kind of equal counter-way of being Christian, a kind of ‘alternative canon’ more amenable to post-modern-social-justice oriented Christians than Paul’s writings? Am I reading the subtext right here?

  • Tyler

    The way Turner describes the time period in which the didache was written could very well describe the milieu in which every New Testament letter was written.

    Yes, I can see why some persons find Paul so hard to deal with, what with texts like Gal 5.14 & Rom 12.9-21 and such. James is the easy-going, laid-back dude, with texts such as 2.10 & 4.4 [ http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=126703764 ]. This explains why Luther called Romans an ‘epistle of straw’ because it held Christians to such a high standard, whereas it was James who proclaimed grace for those who can’t live up to Paul’s standards.

  • Oh, great Tyler. Now I’ve got to go look up WHICH epistle Luther called the ‘epistle of straw’…and sure enough, I find it was JAMES that was considered the epistle of straw, not Romans. Luther in fact suffered from scrupulosity- a mental illness that is related to OCD and has as one of it’s symptoms a need for rules and following of those rules, sometimes to ridiculous excess.

    Also, some would say James, who put forth works as proof of faith, as being harder to live by than Paul, for whom faith alone justified.

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