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Lightfoot's Apostolic Fathers In English - J. B. Lightfoot, D. D., D.C. L., LL. D.

THE Didache is a church-manual of primitive Christianity or of some section of it. It is called ‘The Teaching of the Apostles’ or ‘The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles.’ The latter appears in the manuscript; but the former is the designation in several ancient writers who refer to it. It is therefore adopted as the title here. The manual consists of two parts: (1) a moral treatise founded on an ancient work called ‘The Two Ways,’ and setting forth the paths of righteousness and unrighteousness, of life and death respectively. This first part is not necessarily altogether of Christian origin; indeed there is reason to believe that some portions of it were known to the Jews, and perhaps also to the Greeks, though it has undoubtedly gathered by accretions. (2) The second part gives directions affecting church rites and orders. It treats of baptism, prayer and fasting, the eucharist and agape, the treatment of apostles and prophets, of bishops and deacons, the whole closing with a solemn warning to watchfulness in view of the second coming of Christ.

The work is obviously of very early date, as is shown by the internal evidence of language and subject-matter. Thus for instance the itinerant prophetic order has not yet been displaced by the permanent localized ministry, but exists side by side with it as in the lifetime of S. Paul (Eph. 4:11, 1 Cor. 12:28). Secondly, episcopacy has apparently not yet become universal; the word ‘bishop’ is still used as synonymous with ‘presbyter,’ and the writer therefore couples ‘bishops’ with ‘deacons’ (§ 15) as S. Paul does (1 Tim. 3:1–8, Phil. 1:1) under similar circumstances. Thirdly, from the expression in § 10 ‘after ye have been filled’ it appears that the agape still remains part of the Lord’s Supper. Lastly, the archaic simplicity of its practical suggestions is only consistent with the early infancy of a church. These indications point to the first or the beginning of the second century as the date of the work in its present form.

As regards the place of writing, opinion in the first instance had been strongly in favour of Egypt, because the Teaching was early quoted by Egyptian writers; but from the casual allusion in § 9 to the ‘corn scattered upon the mountains’ it will appear to have been written either in Syria or Palestine.








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