The Didache, Lesson 2: The Two Ways

Lesson 2: The Two Ways (Chapter 1)

“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching [didache] and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”  Acts 2:42

–          What could (not is) St Luke be saying about the Didache?



When we make our way through the Didache, we will find it lacking much doctrine.  In fact, most doctrinal information contained in the New Testament will not be there.  Why?  We can’t say for certain, for the Didache never asks, nor answers, that question!

Later Church Fathers would write that what they would say on a topic was simply what the Church has always taught.  So this leaves us with a problem.  Either the later Church Fathers were lying–or they were teaching what the Church had always taught.  Yet, this still leaves us with a puzzle: Why did the Didache leave out so much doctrine?

Even more, how then was that doctrine–the teaching that makes the practice of such doctrine–taught?  Perhaps, taking note of these facts may help.

Christianity was a persecuted religion.  At first, it was fierce opposition from the Jewish establishment.  Later, Roman authorities persecuted Christianity, at times, most severely.  As opposition and persecution was the “norm” for the early Christian Church, she adapted her instruction.  For adult converts–instead of baptizing almost immediately after receiving and believing in Jesus (such as 3,000 on Pentecost day [Acts 2:41]; the jailer during his night of instruction [Acts 16:33])–baptism became delayed.

This delaying of baptism was to protect Christians from people “faking” their Christianity and then telling authorities, so believers could be identified, imprisoned, or killed.  This led to a training (catechesis) period that extended for a year or longer before an adult was baptized.

This also protected the Church from having outsiders taking Christian doctrine and twisting it to their own ends.  Despite this guarding of doctrine, especially the mysteries of the faith, rumors and gossip still abounded about Christians, such as they drowned their babies and ate their flesh (obviously tying into infant baptism and the Lord’s Supper).

So how did the first Christians react?  They used a basic outline for catechesis.  The vagueness of the outline would not give away too much of the Church’s “secrets” if an instructional manual found its way into the wrong hands.  This could account for the doctrinal void in a document such as the Didache.

How then was instruction done?  It was probably done in the Jewish, synagogue style.  The instructor would read a small portion of the Didache and then expound on it.  He would teach the doctrinal underpinnings and “connect the dots” to explain why a Christian lived the way he lived.  He would teach the Gospel.  Of course, knowing what we know of history, much of the greatest mystery (Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper) was kept under wraps until after baptism.


The Two Ways

Note [p] = plural; [s] = singular

1:1 There are two ways: one of life and one of death!  And a great difference exists between the two ways.

  • 1:2 Now, the way of life is this:
    • First, you[p] will love the God who made you.
    • And second, love your neighbor as yourself.
  • But whatever you wish not to happen to you, likewise, do not do to another.

Deuteronomy 30:15: “I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.”

Proverbs 12:28: “The path of righteousness is life, but another path leads to death.”

Jeremiah 21:8: “This is what the LORD says: ‘Look, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death.’”

Sirach 15:17: “Life and death are in front of people; and whichever one chooses will be given to him.”

John 14:6: [Jesus says,] “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me”


–          How does the Didache correct us of the notion that “all paths lead to heaven”?



Matthew 7:12: [Jesus says,] “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also the same for them.”

For the “golden rule,” the Didache is similar to what Jesus says in Matthew, but the Didache states it in the negative (whatever you wish not to happen to you …).  Jesus may have said it both ways.  If so, then the Didache was teaching what Jesus taught, but the four Gospels did not include that quotation.  If Jesus stated the golden rule in the negative, He was simply following the lead of Tobit 4:15, “And what you hate, do not do to anyone.”

Matthew 22:37-39: Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and most-important commandment.  The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

–          What do Jesus and the Didache do with the Ten Commandments?



Catechesis Begins

1:3 The teaching of these words is this:

  • Bless[p] those who curse you,
  • and pray for your enemies,
  • and fast for those who persecute you.
    • For what credit is if you love those who love you?  Don’t the Gentiles even do the same?
  • But love those who hate you, and you will have no enemy.

Matthew 5:44, 46-47: [Jesus says,] “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you… If you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Don’t even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary?  Don’t even the Gentiles do the same?”

–          The Didache teaches these truths as from Jesus.  What does the Didache teach that is not in the Gospels?



Acts 14:23 reads. “Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.”

–          Discuss the tie-in between prayer and fasting.



–          How are we to understand the Didache’s “fast for those who persecute you?”



–          Should we see the Didache’s statement, “But love those who hate you, and you will have no enemy” as an absolute or as a principle?  Compare this with Paul’s statement, “A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7).



1:4 Abstain from fleshly and bodily lusts:

  • If someone strikes you[s] on the right cheek, turn the other toward him also, and then you will be complete.
  • If someone forces you to go one mile, go two.
  • If someone takes your shirt, give also your coat.
  • If someone takes from you what is yours, don’t ask for it back, for you are not even able.


1 Peter 2:11: “Abstain from fleshly lusts that wage war against your soul.”

Matthew 5:39-40: [Jesus says,] “If anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.  And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.”

Matthew 5:48: [Jesus says,] “So also be complete [in showing love] as your heavenly Father is complete.”

–          What’s the point of the Didache’s statement, “for you are not even able”?



1:5 Give to every one who asks of you[s], and don’t ask for it back, for the Father wants His gifts to be shared with everyone.

  • Blessed is the one who gives according to the commandment, for he is without guilt.
  • Beware to the one who takes.
    • Now, if someone receives who is in need, he is without guilt.
    • But to the one who has no need,
      • he will have to give an account as to why he took and for what purpose;
      • and being in prison, he will be questioned about what he has done,
      • and he will not be released until he has paid the last penny.


Luke 6:30: “Give to everyone who asks from you, and whoever takes away what is yours, don’t ask for it back.”

–          What is the point of these teachings?



–          What does “the Father wants His gifts to be shared with everyone,” tell us about stewardship?



Matthew 5:26: “Settle matters quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court.  Otherwise, your accuser may hand you over to the judge, the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison.  I assure you: You will not get out until you have paid the last penny!”

–          Look at both Didache 1:5 and Matthew 5:26.  How serious is Jesus’ call to holiness?



1:6 But on this, it has also been said: “Let your gift sweat in your hands until you know to whom to give it.”

Sirach 12:1: “If you do a kindness, know to whom you do it, and there will be thanks for your good deeds.”

–          What is the point of “until you know to whom to give it”?



Where’s the Gospel?

The Didache is packed with Law–what to do and what not to do.  The text itself presupposes the Gospel will also be taught.

How to live the Christian life is information on what to do.  However, the information of the Law does not give one the ability to do what is demanded.  This the Gospel does.  This we need to keep in mind while we study the uses of the Law in its full force within the Didache.


To go to Lesson 3, click here.