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Notes on the Didache, or The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles 1:1-2

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 5, 2008

The text of the Didache is in bold-type.
Title:
“The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” seems to have been a shortened title for the work, based upon a fuller title in the first line of the text: “The Teaching of the Lord through the Twelve Apostles.”  In an article published in 1934, J. A. Robinson suggested that the first line/fuller title of the work reflects the thought at the end of Matthew’s gospel: “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”” (Mt 28:18-20)  No doubt the Matthew reference to the nations was suggested by the word “Gentiles” (i.e., people of the nations) in the Didache text.  The text could also suggest that Christ continued to work through the Apostles, as the literal translation of Acts1:1 implies: “In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach…” implying that he continues to do and teach through the Church.  See Luke 10:16; John 13:20 for similar ideas.

Didache 1:1.  Two Ways there are: one which leads to life, and one which leads to death; and there is much difference between the Two Ways. 

Two Ways teaching is commonplace in both the Old and New Testament, the Church Fathers, and Pagan writers as well.  “Way” reflects the Greek word Hodos (Hebrew: derek), and is an old English word meaning “road” or “path.”  In the Bible it is used in several different ways besides the literal.  It can, for example, refer to man’s life (or a part of that life) in general (Job 31:4; Prov 20:24).  “Way” can have an ethical sense and designates moral conduct, either good or bad (1 King 15:34;  Prov 6:23).   “Way” can also refer to the revealed will of God, the moral direction God wants man to follow (Ex 32:8).  Two Ways teaching can be found in Deut 30:15:

 “See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil. 16 If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you this day, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to take possession of it. 17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you this day, that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land which you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, 20 loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him; for that means life to you and length of days, that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

Jeremiah 7:23:   But this command I gave them, `Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’  But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.

Matt 7:13:  13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

1:1 Cont. There is much difference between the Two Way:  Well, obviously.  This reminds me of the alphabetic structure of Psalm 1; a Two Ways teaching psalm.  The first word of the Hebrew text is “happy”, while the last word is “perish.”  The contrast is obvious.

1:2  The Way of Life then is this: First, you shall love God who has made you; second, (you shall  love) your neighbor as yourself; and all things you would not have done to you, do not to another. 

The reference to “the God who made you” may reflect early Christian polemics, rooted in Judaism’s rejection of polytheism.  The OT prophets often attacked pagan “theology” by emphasizing that there was “one” God who made everything.  He is a living God, as opposed to the dead, lifeless gods of the pagans.  He is the creator God as opposed to a god who is created.  A pertinent passage is Isaiah 17:7-8:

   7 In that day men will regard their Maker, and their eyes will look to the Holy One of Israel; 8 they will not have regard for the altars, the work of their hands, and they will not look to what their own fingers have made, either the Asherim or the altars of incense.

Another is Jeremiah 10:8-12:  8 They are both stupid and foolish; the instruction of idols is but wood! 9 Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz. They are the work of the craftsman and of the hands of the goldsmith; their clothing is violet and purple; they are all the work of skilled men. 10 But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation. 11 Thus shall you say to them: “The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.” 12 It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.

  Another pass from Isaiah is this: Idol makers all amount to nothing, and their precious works are of no avail, as they themselves give witness. To their shame, they neither see nor know anything; and they are more deaf than men are.  Indeed, all the associates of anyone who forms a god, or casts an idol to no purpose, will be put to shame; they will all assemble and stand forth, to be reduced to fear and shame. The smith fashions an iron image, works it over the coals, shapes it with hammers, and forges it with his strong arm. He is hungry and weak, drinks no water and becomes exhausted. The carpenter stretches a line and marks with a stylus the outline of an idol. He shapes it with a plane and measures it off with a compass, making it like a man in appearance and dignity, to occupy a shrine. He cuts down cedars, takes a holm or an oak, and lays hold of other trees of the forest, which the Lord had planted and the rain made grow to serve man for fuel. With a part of their wood he warms himself, or makes a fire for baking bread; but with another part he makes a god which he adores, an idol which he worships. Half of it he burns in the fire, and on its embers he roasts his meat; he eats what he has roasted until he is full, and then warms himself and says, “Ah! I am warm, I feel the fire.” Of what remains he makes a god, his idol, and prostrate before it in worship, he implores it, “Rescue me, for you are my god.” The idols have neither knowledge nor reason; their eyes are coated so that they cannot see, and their hearts so that they cannot understand. Yet he does not reflect, nor have the intelligence and sense to say, “Half of the wood I burned in the fire, and on its embers I baked bread and roasted meat which I ate. Shall I then make an abomination out of the rest, or worship a block of wood?” He is chasing ashes-a thing that cannot save itself when the flame consumes it; yet he does not say, “Is not this thing in my right hand a fraud?” (isaiah 44:9-20)

1:2 cont.   (You shall love) your neighbor as yourself: The statement about loving God and neighbor is a reference to Matt 22:37-39, which is in itself based upon Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.

1:2 cont.  and all things you would not have done to you, do not to another:  This is the golden rule in negative form (see Matt 7:12).

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