I have known about the Didache (the Greek word meaning “teaching”) for some time, but have never really taken the time to consider it in depth. Recently, I have come to admire the Didache greatly. The Didache is a practical and liturgical document addressed from the apostles (the 12 apostles to the Jews) to the nations (or the Gentiles). While there is no way to trace the explicit authorship of the autograph, estimates as to its date of origin range from AD 40-200. The most convincing arguments place the writing of the autograph in either the 100s AD or in the 60s AD because the document must have been written either before the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD or long enough after that its destruction would not have been mentioned in the eschatological portion of the document. Those who place the origin of the Didache in the 60s AD do so because they presuppose a preteristic eschatological view (i.e. most Bible prophecy concerning end times has been and is currently being fulfilled). Those who place the origin of the Didache in the 100s AD do so because they presuppose a futuristic eschatological view (i.e. all prophecy concerning the end times will be fulfilled in the future).
The language of the Didache suggests apostolic influence if not outright authorship. Since authorship cannot be traced and since a possible date for the autograph postdates the death of the apostles, it will suffice to say that it is likely of apostolic influence. Considering these details, the Didache actually becomes a very important document for the church because it sheds some light, perhaps the most direct light, on the specific way that the apostles and the apostolic fathers did church and encouraged Christians to live. Of course, we have the instructions of Scripture as our authority for Christian living and church liturgy. The Didache was meant as a starting point for believers who were newly converted or who were not familiar with Biblical instruction because of their circumstances. So, the Didache is useful today as a starting point for how to do church and how to live as a Christian. It is not an explanation of the Gospel. It is an application of the apostle’s teaching for those who have already accepted the Gospel and have been clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
This is what makes the Didache important for our study. For those who have received the free gift of eternal life by grace alone, the Didache summarizes and applies practical Biblical truth for Christian living and moral practice. It instructs us in the basics on how to do church Biblically. It instructs us in the basics on how to participate in the body of Christ. And, it encourages believers concerning the future coming of the Lord. So, I want to study the Didache with our elders while comparing it with the instructions of Scripture.
What the Didache cannot do…
The Didache does not provide an explanation of the Gospel. It is a practical, methodological, and liturgical document. So, as we read and study its content and apply it wisely and Biblically to the way that we do church, we do so with the understanding that the Gospel is not a merit or works-based system. While the Didache can enlighten us on the methods of the church body under the authority of the apostles, it cannot provide for salvation. It is also not Scripture, so it, in itself, is not authoritative for life and ministry. This is a document meant only for believers. It is an introduction to Christian living and church method and liturgy. Only insofar as it is a correct summary and representation of the Scriptures, it is authoritative for the Christian life and for the methods and liturgy of the church body. We will be comparing these things together.
One of the most difficult things to do is organize the church meeting and teach people how to live the Christian life in a way that is truly sanctifying and really honors God. Our consideration of the Didache will help us to do exactly that. Where Scriptures are vague about methodology or liturgy, the Didache can help to clarify for us how to do church according to the instructions of the apostles, whom God gave authority to organize the church He is building for Himself. In other words, this document can help us to interpret the Bible well. Our vision is simply to continue growing in the sanctification of our church body and to become, more and more, a God honoring community of believers. Semper Reformanda.