Why should one study and perhaps seek to resurrect the DIDACHE at this late date?
For a would-be follower of the True Gospel of Christ, this is an all-important question. In fact, nothing is, I believe, more important.
This post is merely introductory to what could become a lengthy essay setting-forth reasons why the DIDACHE is of supreme interest and value.
Authenticity and Origins: three possibilities
Firstly, the answer obviously hinges upon another very simple question which must be settled. Is the DIDACHE what it purports to be, and represents itself to be in minute detail, namely, an apostolic text? (Written, actually, by the apostles).
Or, alternatively, is the DIDACHE a kind of pious conceit written in, say, the early second century, not by apostles but by well-meaning sectarians who thought they were doing the right thing, but were stretching the truth a bit, using a permissible poetic license (perhaps even imagining that they ‘channeled’ the apostles’ words in their souls)?
Or, thirdly, is the DIDACHE a wicked heresy committed by men who may have unwittingly, by their dishonesty, channeled a demonic voice?
These are, I think, three positions representing a spectrum of possibilities.
The specific question of origins and authenticity and dating, etc., and pertinent scholarship, will be explored in the ‘Authenticity’ category. For now, suffice it to say that I am (obviously) convinced that the DIDACHE is apostolic and dates from the mid-1st century.
Assuming this is correct, then of course the importance of the DIDACHE goes skyrocketing upward into the heavens, like a great comet among the stars. For the DIDACHE becomes not only the source-code, as it were, of the True Gospel, but is a decoder, if you will, by which one can actually decipher and understand much of the trajectory of subsequent Christianity (arriving, I dare say, at some unflattering conclusions).
The DIDACHE as real (and revisionist) history
Now, a related and also obvious question is, did God really raise Jesus from the dead? Of course, if this resurrection is a lie, then the DIDACHE is an accessory to fraud. On the other hand if the Lord truly lives, then the DIDACHE is almost certainly both the earliest and the most authentic and most reliable ‘witness’ of this!
Given the canonical Gospels, this claim for the DIDACHE may not strike you as so obvious. My argument is that there is relatively strong likelihood (but by no means certainty) that some corruption and polemical ‘spin’ exists in the most authentic and reliable gospels, those of Matthew and John. In other words, as powerfully true and inspired as they are, they may well represent a secondary and latter development of the message (albeit still wholly or almost wholly bearing the witness of the eponymous apostles). In any case the gospels are stylized literary works, reflecting theological and apologetic concerns.
Above all, we have the claim of men who obviously represent themselves as the Lord’s intimate apostles, telling us sincerely and credibly what the Lord taught.
The DIDACHE as a ‘sequestered witness’ to discredit much of the New Testament and of post-Nicene Christianity!
And thus comes one of the most jarring possible implications; namely, if the DIDACHE is history contrasting with the polemical nature of much of the New Testament, the we have the basis for questioning and seriously re-evaluating texts which seem to oppose or contradict the DIDACHE
—as surprising much of the New Testament does.
Equally remarkable and earth-shaking: If one will stipulate that the DIDACHE is valid and historical, then logically, whatever ‘speaks against’ the DIDACHE in any way, whether naively or nefariously, is gravely erroneous. Theologically one would even have to say that, if the DIDACHE represents the Lord God and His authentic Word, then the men who have hidden and suppressed the DIDACHE should, one might suppose, be taken to task. God does not give us leave to judge, grumble or blaspheme; but there is a certain logic and wisdom to note. I do not know the mind of God on this. He may have a higher purpose in having allowed the enemy to sow a false gospel and many erroneous teachings, while allowing the DIDACHE to be sequestered, as it were (along with a number of other remarkable textual and historical ‘witnesses’) held away from public view for many centuries; and now the DIDACHE and many many other texts are tumbling out. It is like the denouement of a crime novel. The clever prosecutor hides witnesses in the wings, and only at the climax of the case
What higher purpose does God present to us in all of this? Has God been biding His time, setting a trap
The DIDACHE as the True Way to Salvation
Lastly, supposing the DIDACHE is authentic and God has not changed His Message, what then, for each person who wants to obey and be saved? Nothing could be more important than to renounce the false ‘Christianoids,’ pretenders and corrupters, and to repent and return. This is why the DIDACHE is so vital (if true): It is the Word of Life.
1Pe 1:22-25 Purifying your souls in the obedience of the truth through the Spirit to unfeigned love of the brothers, love one another fervently out of a pure heart, (23) having been born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the living Word of God, and abiding forever. (24) For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of men as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls out, (25) but the Word of the Lord endures forever. And this is the Word preached as gospel to you.
The DIDACHE Raising the Question of True Soterology (and the Valid vs. Invalid Meaning of the Atoning Sacrifice)
In the same vein regarding the True Gospel, we have weightiest of all issues for Christianity, which is, the validity (or invalidity) of Paul’s extreme dichotomy between salvation by ‘faith alone’ in the Cross
This is a remarkable and stark contrast. Who is right
So in the end our most crucial question raised here concerns the Cross and how to understand it rightly. Is the Cross a kind of talismanic ‘sin eraser / blank check of grace?’ If so, is it possible that this might be being systematically abused and misunderstood to the point that in some way Christians are deceived and seduced into following the ‘broad way [of carefree disobedience and self-indulgence] that leads to destruction?
It is true that the image of the Lamb slain for our sins, resonates throughout the gospels. It is part of the True Gospel. But the more difficult and troubling question about it is, again: how does this Atonement and sacrifice really operate vis-a-vis the teachings and commandments of the Lord?
Are we to follow Paul’s advice and reliquish the law entirely, because the Law and Grace are incompatible? Or, does the True Gospel actually give us a True and Divine Law
Unfortunately, the abandonment of the DIDACHE by the Church (in around A.D. 4000) resulted in two things: First the removal of salvific elements taught in the DIDACHE, especially concerning sharing of possessions and a very high moral and spiritual standard, fasting, etc.; and second, in their stead, a supplanting of these with rituals and regimens which were not originally taught.
May God teach us the truth in all things and preserves us from error, corruption, lies and deceptions. Amen.