Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Way of Death - The Didache

The Didache, or The Teaching of the Twelve is a very old document dated by most to the early part of the second century, likely not later than 120. The value you it adds to NT studies is beyond dispute. While the document itself is not to be taken as authoritative, it nevertheless, provides a wonderful window through which we may view some of the attitudes of the ancient Church toward matters of Christian living, Christian worship, and the offices of the Church. The section I have enclosed below gives us a glimpse into how the early Church, just after the last apostle passed off the scene, viewed the life of the unbeliever. It is accurately described as "The Way of Death." What I find particularly helpful about this section is how my attitude compares with the attitude of the most ancient Christians. Even though the document is not authoritative, it manages to evoke great conviction in my mind because it certainly reflects the NT teachings regarding godly attitudes toward ungodly mindsets.

Many modern thinkers will take this document, and quite literally spend all their time examining it textually, historically, and grammatically. They will try to determine who may have authored it. They will get lost in literary analysis and all the other scholarly interests that may be associated with studying the document. And in so doing, just as they do the holy Scriptures, they will miss the most valuable contribution the document makes to our Christian walk. How can this document contribute to my Christian way of living, thinking, understanding, and so forth? The intellectual lust that drives most scholarship in modern Christian circles, to include evangelicalism, quite frankly contributes very little to the more important issues of the Christian life. I do not say this to demean scholarship, but rather to put it in its place. When scholarship eclipses sanctification, godliness, Christian praxis, it becomes much less valuable as a Christian practice and in some cases, quite harmful and exceedingly fruitless. What I mean is we spend more time trying to figure out the structure and authorship of John for example than we do trying to understand what he wrote and more importantly, working diligently to apply those teachings to our Christian walk.

The Didache - The Way of Death

And the way of death is this: First of all it is evil and full of curse: murders, adulteries, lusts, fornications, thefts, idolatries, magic arts, witchcrafts, rapines, false witnessings, hypocrisies, double-heartedness, deceit, haughtiness, depravity, self-will, greediness, filthy talking, jealousy, over-confidence, loftiness, boastfulness;  persecutors of the good, hating truth, loving a lie, not knowing a reward for righteousness, not cleaving to good nor to righteous judgment, watching not for that which is good, but for that which is evil; from whom meekness and endurance are far, loving vanities, pursuing requital, not pitying a poor man, not labouring for the afflicted, not knowing Him that made them, murderers of children, destroyers of the handiwork of God, turning away from him that is in want afflicting him that is distressed, advocates of the rich, lawless judges of the poor, utter sinners. Be delivered, children, from all these.

Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds., The Lord’s Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume VII: Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily, and Liturgies (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 379.

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