Also known as The Teaching of the (Twelve) Apostles. Surviving from the late first or early second century, the Didache is often regarded as the oldest extant manual of church order. Previously known only by name from passing patristic references, the Greek text was discovered in 1873 by Archbishop Philotheos Bryennios, metropolitan of Nicomedia, in the library of the patriarch at Constantinople and published a decade later. Further fragments of Greek, Coptic, Ethiopic, and Georgian versions have subsequently been found. Examination of the document reveals a close relationship between portions of the Didache and later canonistic works such as the Latin/Syriac Didascalia and the Latin Doctrina apostolorum. The compiler of the seventh book of the Apostolic Constitutions incorporated the entire Didache into his work in a modified recension.
The Didache may be divided into four main sections. These are (1) an opening catechesis on the "two ways" (1:1–6:3); (2) a liturgical section dealing with baptism, fasting, prayer, and the Eucharist (7:1–10:7); (3) regulations for church order, especially the reception of itinerants (11:1–15:4); and (4) an apocalyptic conclusion (16:1–8).
Early scholarship on the "two ways" section focused on the relationship between this passage and its parallel in the Epistle of Barnabas (18–20). The current consensus is that both works depend upon a common (or similar) source, which was incorporated into numerous canonistic works. The liturgical section reproduces a version of the Lord's Prayer (8:2) that resembles its Matthean form (Matt 6:9–13) and includes the later doxological appendix. There are eucharistic prayers for the cup (9:2), the bread (9:3–4), and a concluding thanksgiving prayer (10:2–6). These three prayers follow a common substructure, which reads, "We thank you Father … for the [vine /name /life /knowledge /faith /immortality] which you have made known to us through Jesus your servant; to you be the glory forever." The regulations in 11:1–15:4 reflect a time when itinerant prophets and teachers were still common. Guidelines are simple and pragmatic: anyone who stays more than one or two days, or asks for money, is a false prophet (11:5–6). Others who come "in the name of the Lord" may stay three days at most; if they wish to stay longer they must work (12:1–5). However, genuine prophets and teachers who settle in the community are entitled to communal support (13:1–7). Instructions are given to appoint bishops and deacons, who are to be esteemed on par with the prophets and teachers (15:1–2). One of the more notable features of the apocalyptic conclusion (16:1–8) is that it reserves bodily resurrection for the righteous only, at the Lord's return—an expectation it defends by citing Zech 14:5. The explanation of this event ends abruptly, and many speculate that a description of the judgment of the world has been lost. The Apostolic Constitutions and the Georgian version both supply such an ending, though they diverge significantly.
The provenance of the Didache remains uncertain though both Syria and Egypt have frequently been proposed. Scholars disagree whether the Didachist knew the Gospel of Matthew or used precanonical forms of the Synoptic tradition.
Bibliography: Anchor Bible Dictionary 2.197–98. j. a. draper, The Didache in Modern Research: Arbeiten zur Geschichte des antiken Judentums und des Urchristentums 37 (Leiden 1996). c. n. jefford, ed., The Didache in Context: Essays on Its Text, History, and Transmission Supplements to Novum Testamentum, 77 (Leiden 1995). r. a. kraft, Barnabas and the Didache, vol. 3 of The Apostolic Fathers: A Translation and Commentary (New York 1965). k. niederwimmer, The Didache (Hermeneia; Minneapolis, 1998).
[j. n. rhodes]