What do you think about the Didache?

Tarheel Baptist

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Do you think it's profitable to us today as study, teach and preach?
 

illinoisguy

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I have never heard a sermon on the Didache (date unknown, maybe about 150 AD). Much of it is based on the Sermon on the Mount. The Lord's Prayer is quoted and is to be prayed 3 times a day. The Didache is profitable as an example of Christian devotional piety and practice in the 2nd Century AD, but not as an inspired writing. Here's part of what we are missing:

1. Baptism is to be in running water (or if not available, "ordinary water" is okay, cold if possible, otherwise warm is okay). It is to be in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If immersion is not practicable, then sprinkle water 3 times on the head. Both baptizer and baptized should fast before the baptism.

2. Only baptized persons can partake of the Lord's Supper.

3. Traveling missionaries are not to stay more than 2 days and should not ask for money. If they want to stay longer than 3 days, they should get a job and earn their own bread. Prophets are frauds if they eat food or ask for money while in a trance state.

4. Section on Eschatology warns of the coming of "the deceiver of the world" who will pretend to be "a Son of God" with signs and wonders, and after that, there will be a fiery trial for mankind and then the Lord will come.
 

Ransom

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It's a useful document for understanding how second-generation (probably Palestinian) Christians organized the churches, practiced the ordinances, and taught.

Note, for example, that the Apostolic Fathers seemed, unlike many of our contemporary Baptist brethren, less concerned about the exact form, than the fact, of a baptism. We can debate whether they were correct about that, but it seems they were more in favour of what was expedient at the time than the exact words and volume of water that was used.
 

Binaca Chugger

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I don't believe it to be inspired. I don't believe it to be the writings of the apostles, but of their descendants in the faith. It is my understanding that it is an accumulation of teachings over a period of time. It definitely opened the door for sprinkling as a form of baptism and included "pouring" for the ill who wished to be baptized. This is one of my biggest problems with it.

There are some who view this as equal to Scripture. There are some who view this as the ultimate guidebook for how church should be done. I have heard many people state that we should consult this work in all manner of worship for it was written by people who were not so far removed from the actual life of Christ. Yet, in the same expanse of time removed from the US Constitutional writers, we have come a long way removed from the actual teachings of the Constitutional writers. My point: Just because someone lived only 150 years from the teaching of a person does not mean they have the ultimate knowledge of that person's intent. A better illustration might be the church at Corinth, who, in just a few years, had drastically changed the intent and meaning of the evangelist who helped plant the church.

I view the work as historical. It gives us a very good understanding of what was happening in those churches at that time.
 

illinoisguy

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Clement of Alexandria (died about 215 AD) is said to have regarded Didache as Scripture. I didn't know that anyone took that position today. If they do, I hope they can explain what it means for a "charismatist" to go into a "trance." Personally, I still hold to immersion as the only Scriptural form of baptism, regardless of what the Didache says. The Greek Orthodox Church still practices baptism by immersion, as accurately portrayed in the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." The Orthodox understand the Greek language well enough to know that "baptizo" means to immerse, not to pour or sprinkle. The Church Fathers are profitable to read for historical insights, but not necessarily for sound doctrine - as Martin Luther pointed out at the Diet of Worms, the Church Fathers contradict each other all over the place.
 

Agent P

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To me, the Didache is a historical document, nothing more. As such, it does support the Baptist teaching on the ordinances, with alternate modes of baptism being a matter of "if you absolutely have to". The fact that they are addressed in that fashion seems to indicate the importance and prevalence of immersion. I also note that it appears to indicate that the baptizee was to be conscious of the preparation, as I can't see an infant "fasting" without major protest!
 

illinoisguy

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Now that you mention it, that's a good point - no mention of infant baptism in the Didache - the practice did not yet exist. The Didache says, "Both baptizer and baptized ought to fast before the baptism, as well as any others who can do so; but the candidate himself should be told to keep a fast for a day or two beforehand." Imagine telling a baby not to eat anything for a whole day!
 

Ransom

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Now that you mention it, that's a good point - no mention of infant baptism in the Didache - the practice did not yet exist.
To be fair, it might have, just not where the Didache was originally written and circulated (probably Palestine). The early church wasn't monolithic in its practices, and local customs varied. I do tend to agree that paedobaptism was probably a tradition that developed later, but I wouldn't take its lack of mention in one ancient source as evidence of absence.
 

Tarheel Baptist

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I find it very interesting. I believe it gives a good historical perspective on early believers.
I too was surprised at their being a tad nonchalant about the mode of baptism...and also noted infant baptism was not mentioned.
 

Ransom

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I too was surprised at their being a tad nonchalant about the mode of baptism...

Not sure if "nonchalant' is the right word. They were definitely not indifferent or latitudinarian about the mode of baptism (having a clear preference for baptism by immersion in cool, running water). The difference between them and a modern-day fundy Baptist, clearly, is that even if not performed by the book in every respect (e.g. due to lack of a sufficiently deep river), a baptism is nonetheless a baptism.

We could also speculate that since no mention is made of baptizing infants (and the words about baptism seem to presuppose an adult convert), they might consider an infant baptism, which lacks the proper subject, not to be a baptism.
 
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