Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Candid Analysis of the Didache

By Max Strange 8/29/2009

In 1883, a historical document was found called ‘The Didache.’ It has been heralded wrongly as the greatest document find for the Church in the past 100 years, for obvious reason. It is a church manual that for historical purposes has some value. On the whole, it is a document that is non-canonical, spurious, and reveals the church’s inclination towards moralism. The following will be a short and candid analysis of the Didache document, the people behind it, the internal evidence against it, and the cons for its use as a template for today.

It is important to state that this document was never recognized by the early Church as a commonly used document by the Churches. It was recognized as a spurious book and furthermore, it was not written by an apostle or a close associate of one of the apostles, nor does it have any hallmarks of canonicity and lacks in a Theocentric and Christological core. Though it has historic value, it cannot be said the practices listed in Didache manual was common for the churches. It does however give a glimpse into a solitary church or perhaps even a circuit of churches, in which the person/people behind the document and/or perhaps the leaders therein, tended away from grace living to moralistic and legalistic religious activity.

Disturbingly more, the Didache document, with its spurious label by Eusebius, and void of a Christocentric character, has a flawed section called “The Two Ways.” The two ways as described in the Didache are: A Way of Life and a Way of Death. First to note, it is merely “A Way,” and absent is the definitiveness of Christ as “The Way” (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Next, “A Way of Life” is moralistic. This is a colossal clue to the strangeness of this document. It does not mirror Scripture because if it did, the document would tell its people what to believe first! However, this historical footnote in Christianity simply describes a list of do’s and don’t of a merry moral way. If this document was added to the Church, a milk carton would have to be issued that said, “Missing: The Gospel. The Christ. The Indicatives. What God has done.” The whole internal witness of the document, with its very minute historically value, ignores all the texts in Philippians 2, Galatians 3, Romans 1-3, Colossian 2-3, Ephesians 1-4, that reveal an irreversible and immutable connection between the what we believe and how we are to live. This document pulls what we believe right out from under our feet and gives us merely “a way” to live.

Statements in the document are silly. They tell the Christian to make the baptism water “cold if possible; if neither is practical, then pour three times on the head…” and that they should “fast” before baptism, which adds to Scripture. In addition, the text is formulaic (Prayer of Jabez error) suggesting that prayers be offered three times a day of the Eucharist and one should fast on Wednesdays and Fridays since the hypocrites do so on Mondays and Thursdays. Shall the moral juvenile methods go on? In one section, a false prophet is recognized if he “does not stay more than a day, or two days if it is really necessary. If he stays for three days, he is a false prophet.” Paul often stayed for more than 1-2 days when he traveled and established the Churches. Scripture makes certain that a false prophet will be known by the accuracy of his prophecies (1 John 4:1; Deut. 13; 2 Peter 2:1). Painfully more, the Way of Death does not describe man in his natural condition, without God and in need of an alien righteousness. The Didache fences in sin by a list of actions such as murder, adulteries, lusts, malice, pride, foul language, witchcraft etc. Sadly, it does not pinpoint that unbelief in Jesus Christ is what truly sends one to hell nor does it speak of the root evil of mankind, his fallen, corrupted, depraved, blackened heart, and Godless nature! (Eph. 2:1-3; Rom. 3; Jer. 17:9).

Even more alarming, the Didache is a transported Jewish document. It is the Judiazing attempt to corrupt or even bridge the purity of the Gospel to the Law. This document corrupts and taints the Gospel clarity. The Judiazers and the moralizers are of the same camp and the Church must always be on the alert throughout history for their intrusion upon the Gospel of grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Further investigation on your own will yield the same historical discovery.

Lastly, to consider this as a template for a church manual would be disastrous. To have believers with a list of rules and to give ethical instruction a prominent place, will lead the next generation of the Church and all its ministries down the slippery slope of moralism. It will create religious moralist whose focus will shift from grace (by the work of the Spirit) to a works-oriented self-help society (Gal. 3:3). The Church would not be God dependent but self-determined, self-motivated, self-centered, and develop a system that has no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh (Col. 2:23). Christians will become carnally minded, deceived, thinking that they are growing upward in the faith, but in reality small toadstools, weak, infantile, and self-reliant. They will rely on their own efforts and focus on the inversed trinity of “Me, Myself, and I.” Evangelism, God’s Sovereignty, preaching, the Spirit’s role in transformation, will all be whittled down to a little stump. I do not recommend that the Didache be used as a blueprint or as a schematic for Church order, for impacting the culture, for “getting” Christians in alignment, nor as an ecclesiastical grid by which to maneuver the 21st Century Church.

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