The Didache is one of the earliest Christian writings after the Apostolic period (i.e. the first century) that we possess, and it gives us a glimpse into early Christianity–what was emphasized and taught–immediately after the Apostolic period came to a close. To read the first four chapters of the Didache, click here.
Here, in chapters 5-16, we find glimpses into the early Church’s practices regarding things like baptism, communion, fasting and prayer.
Chapter 5: The Way of Death
This, though, is the way of death: it is everything that is evil and accursed: murder, adultery, lust, fornication, stealing, any kind of idolatry, the occult, witchcraft, rape, lying under oath, hypocrisy, letting your heart be devoted to two opposite things, deceit, pride, depravity, self-centeredness and stubbornness, greed, filthy talk, jealousy, arrogance, having a big head, and boasting about yourself all the time.
The way of death is filled with those who persecute good people, those who hate the truth, who love lies, who know nothing of the rewards of righteousness, so that they do not cling to what is either good or righteous. They do not look for what is good, but rather they actually look for evil. Meekness and patience are far from those people. They love empty and vain things, they only want revenge, they don’t show any pity to the poor, and they don’t lift a finger to help those who are afflicted.
They do not know the God who made them, and so they murder children, the very handiwork of God. They turn away from the one who is in need and afflict the one in distress. They advocate only for the interests of the rich, and they actually find ways around the law in order to avoid the poor from getting justice. They are absolute sinners.
May you be delivered from all of these types of people.
Chapter 6: Against False Teachers, and Food Offered to Idols
Make sure that you don’t let anyone cause you to stray from this way of the Teaching, for it is by this Teaching that God teaches you. If you are able to bear the entire yoke of the Lord, then you will be fully mature and Christ-like. But if it turns out that you can’t bear the entire yoke, then just do what you are able to do. That’s okay. This also applies to issues regarding food. But when it comes to eating food that has been actually sacrificed to idols, be very careful, for that food has been used in the service of dead gods.
Chapter 7: Concerning Baptism
When it comes to baptism, you should baptize in this way: After you have said all these things, then baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Preferably, do it in living, flowing water, like a stream or river. But if you don’t have access to living water, then it is okay to baptize in other water; and if you can’t baptize in cold water, it is okay to baptize in warm water. But if you don’t have access to either, then you should pour water three times on the head in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But before you baptize anyone, make sure that both the one baptizing and the one getting baptized fast, as well as anyone else who can. But be sure to order the one being baptized to fast for one or two days before the baptism.
Chapter 8: Fasting and Prayer (the Lord’s Prayer)
Make sure, though, that you don’t fast at the same times the hypocrite Jews fast. They fast on the second and fifth day of the week, so you be sure to fast on the fourth day and on Preparation Friday.
And don’t pray like those hypocrites do. Instead, pray like the Lord Himself commanded in His Gospel, like this:
Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May your kingdom come, and may your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us of our debt, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the power and the glory forever.
Pray this prayer three times each day.
Chapter 9: The Eucharist
In regard to the Eucharist, give thanks this way. First, when you offer the cup, say this:
We thank you, our Father, for the holy vine of David, your servant, which you made known to us through Jesus your Servant. To you be the glory forever.
Then, when you break the bread, say this:
We thank you, our Father, for the life and knowledge that you made known to us through Jesus your servant. To you be the glory forever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and then was gathered and became one, so let your Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom. For yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever.
But don’t let anyone eat or drink of your Eucharist, unless they have been baptized in the name of the Lord. After all, it was the Lord Himself who said, “Don’t give what is holy to the dogs.”
Chapter 10: Prayer after Communion
Then, once you finish the Eucharist and are filled, give thanks in this way:
We thank you, Holy Father, for your Holy Name that you let tabernacle in our hearts, and for the knowledge, faith, and immortality that you made known to us through Jesus your Servant. To you be the glory forever.
You, O Almighty Master, created all things for the sake of your Name. You gave food and drink to men for their enjoyment, and so they could give thanks to you. But you also freely gave us spiritual food and drink, and eternal life through your Servant. So before anything, we thank you that you are mighty. To you be the glory forever.
Remember, O Lord, your Church. Deliver it from all evil, and make it perfect in your love. Gather it from the four winds, sanctified for your kingdom that you have prepared for it. For yours is the power and the glory forever. Let grace come, and let this world pass away. Hosanna to the God of David! If anyone is holy, let him come! If anyone is not, let him repent! Maranatha! Amen!
But be sure to let the prophets make Thanksgiving as much as they desire.
Chapter 11: Concerning Teachers, Apostles, and Prophets
Receive whoever comes to teach you regarding all the things that have been said before. But if a teacher ever veers off of the accepted teaching, and starts to advance another doctrine that would effectively destroy this teaching, don’t listen to him. If his teaching increases righteousness and advances the knowledge of the Lord, though, receive him as if you were receiving the Lord Himself.
When it comes to apostles and prophets, do everything according to the decree of the Gospel. Let every apostle who comes to you be received as you would receive the Lord. But he should not stay with you more than one day, maybe two, if there is a need for him to stay. But if he ends up staying three days or more, he is a false prophet.
And when the apostle leaves, he should take nothing but food to sustain him until he reaches his next place. If he asks for money, he is a false prophet. And no prophet who speaks in the Spirit should ever try or judge anyone—indeed, every sin will be forgiven, but this sin will not be forgiven.
That being said, not everyone who speaks in the Spirit is an actual prophet. An actual prophet will hold fast to the ways of the Lord. In this respect, from their own ways, will you be able to tell the difference between a false prophet and a true prophet. Any prophet who orders a meal in the Spirit but doesn’t eat it is a false prophet. Any prophet who teaches the truth, but does not do what he teaches, is a false prophet.
And if any prophet who proves to be a true prophet who works for the mystery of the Church in the world—if he doesn’t teach others to do what he is doing, don’t judge him, for God will be the one who renders judgment on him. This is exactly what God did with the ancient prophets. That being said, anyone who says in the Spirit, “Give me money!” or something like that—don’t listen to him. But if he tells you to give to other people in need, don’t let anyone judge him.
Chapter 12: Reception of Christians
Receive anyone who comes to you in the name of the Lord, no questions asked. You will be able to get a good assessment about him later, for you will have understanding, whether you look to the right or to the left. If the person who comes to you is a wayfarer, help him as much as you can, but don’t let him stay with you for more than two or three days. If he wants to stay with you, and if he is a craftsman of some sort, let him stay, as long as he works for his food. But if he doesn’t have any trade that you can tell of, make sure that, as a Christian, he doesn’t live with you as long as he is idle. If he doesn’t want to work, he is clearly a Christ-monger. Watch out for people like that, and stay away from them.
Chapter 13: Support of Prophets
Every true prophet who wants to live among you is worthy of the support you provide him, and a true teacher is worthy of your support as well, just as a workman would be. For this reason, be sure to give the prophets the first-fruit of any product that comes from the wine-press, threshing-floor, the oxen or the sheep—for they are your high priests.
But if you don’t have any prophet among you, give your first-fruit to the poor. If you make a batch of dough, take the first-fruit and give it according to the commandment. And when you open a jar of either wine or oil, take the first-fruit and give it to the prophets. Indeed, whether it be money, clothing, or any possession, take the first-fruit, however much seems good to you, and give it according to the commandment.
Chapter 14: Christian Assembly on the Lord’s Day
Be sure to gather yourselves together every Lord’s day, in order to break bread and give thanksgiving after you have confessed your transgressions—that way, your sacrifice can be pure. But don’t let anyone who is at odds with another Christian come together with you until those two can be reconciled—make sure that your sacrifice is not profaned. For this is what the Lord Himself said: “Wherever and whenever you offer a sacrifice to me, make sure it is a pure sacrifice, for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name fills the nations with wonder.”
Chapter 15: Bishops and Deacons; Christian Reproof
Appoint bishops and deacons for yourselves who are worthy of the Lord. Make sure they are meek, not in love with money, and are truthful and proven. They will be serving you in the way prophets and teachers do, so don’t despise them—you are to honor them, along with the prophets and teachers.
And when you reprove one another, be sure it is not done in anger, but rather in peace, just as it says in the Gospel. But if anyone acts badly toward another, no one is to speak to him, and he should not be allowed to hear anything from you until he repents.
But be sure to continue doing your prayers, your alms, and all your deeds, just as it is found in the Gospel of our Lord.
Chapter 16: Watchfulness; the Coming of the Lord
Keep watch, as if your lives are at stake. Don’t let your lamps be quenched, and don’t let yourselves be unprepared. Be ready, because you don’t know when the Lord will come. Come together as often as you can, and seek the things that are beneficial to your souls. For your entire life of faith will not be of any benefit to you if you fail to be made perfect in the last time.
In the last days, false prophets and corrupters will multiply, sheep will turn into wolves, and love will be turned into hate. Whenever lawlessness increases, people will hate, persecute, and betray each other. And then, the world-deceiver will appear as the Son of God, and he will do signs and wonders. The earth will be delivered into his hands, and he will do wicked things that have never been done before in history.
That is when the creation of men will be brought into the fiery trial. Many will stumble and perish, but those who endure in their faith will be saved from under the curse itself. And then the signs of the truth will appear: first, the heavens will be outstretched, and then there will be the sound of the trumpet. And finally, there will be the resurrection of the dead—not everyone, though, for as it is said: “The Lord will come, and all His saints with Him.”
Then, at that time, the world will see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.