The teaching of the twelve apostles.

Also known as the Didache.


Attributed author(s).
The twelve apostles.

Text(s) available.
On site: Didache 1-16 (Greek only).
Skeptik (Greek only).
CCEL: Didache (Greek only).
Early Christian Writings: Didache (English only).

Useful links.
Didache at Early Christian Writings.
Didache in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Didache 16.1-8 and the Olivet discourse.
As your father (Didache 1.2b-5a).

This Greek work is usually classified amongst the apostolic fathers; its true author, however, is unknown, its date a rough estimate, and its point of origin a matter of educated guessing. I list these attributes in ascending order of ascertainability. No scholar of whom I am aware has ever ventured to name the author (or authors) by name. Peter Kirby offers a rather wide dating range of 50-120 on Early Christian Writings (though he notes that dates as late as the third century have been posited). And by far the most common hypothesis as to point of origin is Syria, based in no small part on similarities between the Didache, the gospel of Matthew, and the epistles of Ignatius.

Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 1.20:

Εμπαλιν ουν αδικει ο σφετερισαμενος τα βαρβαρων και ως ιδιαν αυχων την εαυτου δοξαν αυξων, και ψευδομενος την αληθιαν· ουτος κλεπτης υπο της γραφης ειρεται. φησι γουν· Υιε, μη γινου ψευστης· οδηγει γαρ το ψευσμα προς την κλοπην.

Again, therefore, the one who has adopted the things of the barbarians, and vaunts them as his own, does unjustly, and has falsified the truth. This man is said to be a thief by the scripture. It says therefore: Son, do not become false; for falsehood is the road to thievery.*

Refer to Didache 3.5.

Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 7.12:

Οιδεν αυτος και της νηστειας τα αινιγματα των ημερων τουτων, της τετραδος και της παρασκευης λεγω. επιφημιζονται γαρ η μεν Ερμου, η δε Αφροδιτης. ....

[The gnostic] himself knows also the enigmas of the fasting of those days, I mean the fourth [day] and the [day of] preparation.* For the one is so called from Hermes, but the other from Aphrodite. ....

* The fourth day is Wednesday; the day of preparation is Friday. Refer to Didache 8.1.

Ουτος εντολην την κατα το ευαγγελιον διαπραξαμενος κυριακην εκεινην την ημεραν ποιει οτ αν αποβαλλη φαυλον νοημα και γνωστικον προσλαβη, την εν αυτω του κυριου αναστασιν δοξαζων.

This man, practicing the commandment according to the gospel, keeps that lordly day* whenever he should cast away the wrong mindset and takes hold of the gnostic [mindset], glorifying the resurrection of the Lord within himself.

* Evidently the first day of the week, or Sunday, the Christian day of worship. Refer to Didache 13.7; 14.1.

Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man 29:

Ουτος {ο} τον οινον, το αιμα της αμπελου της Δαβιδ, εκχεας ημων επι τας τετρωμενας ψυχας.

This is the one who has poured out the wine, the blood of the vine of David, upon our wounded souls.*

* Refer to Didache 9.2.

One of the least utilized witnesses to the Didache is the so-called Renunciation of Boniface from century VIII. This brief text is sermon 15 from his collection, and is available in Latin in Migne, Patrologia Latina 64, columns 870-872. I present here this text (also available in .pdf from the site on the Didache maintained by Alan Garrow) and my own translation (another of which is available from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library):

Audite, fratres, et attentius cogitetis quid in baptismo renuntiastis. abrenuntiastis enim diabolo et omnibus operibus eius et omnibus pompis eius. quid sunt ergo opera diaboli? haec sunt superbia, idololatria, invidia, homicidium, detractio, mendacium, periurium, odium, fornicatio, adulterium, omnis pollutio, furta, falsum testimonium, rapina, gula, ebrietas, turpiloquia, contentiones, ira, veneficia, incantationes et sortilegos exquirere, strigas et fictos lupos credere, abortum facere, dominis inobedientes esse, phylacteria habere. haec et his similia mala opera sunt diaboli, et his omnibus in baptismo renuntiastis, et, sicut apostolus dicit: Qui talia agunt digni sunt morte et regnum dei non consequentur. sed quia credimus per dei misericordiam ut his omnibus superius dictis corde et opere renuntietis, ut veniam consequi mereamini, admoneo vos, fratres charissimi, ut reminiscamini quod omnipotenti deo promisistis.

Listen, brethren, and consider attentively what you renounced in your baptism. For you renounced the devil and all his works and all his pomp. What then are the works of the devil? They are pride, idolatry, envy, murder, defamation, lying, perjury, hatred, fornication, adultery, all pollution, theft, false testimony, robbery, gluttony, drunkenness, slander, contention, ire, potions, incantations and the seeking out of lots, believing in witches and fictive werewolves, performing an abortion, being disobedient to lords, having phylacteries. These and similar evil things are the works of the devil, and you have renounced all of them in your baptism, and, as the apostle says: Whatever men do such things are worthy of death and shall not attain the kingdom of God. But, because we have faith by the mercy of God that you will renounce all these things that were said earlier, by heart and work, in order to become deserving of favor, I admonish you, dearest brethren, to remember what you promised the omnipotent God.

Primitus enim promisistis credere in deum omnipotentem, et in Iesum Christum filium eius, et in spiritum sanctum, unum omnipotentem deum in trinitate perfecta.

For, first, you promised to have faith in the omnipotent God, and in Jesus Christ his son, and in the holy spirit, one omnipotent God in perfect trinity.

Haec sunt mandata dei quae facere et conservare debetis, ut deum, quem confessi estis, diligatis ex toto corde, ex tota mente, et ex tota virtute, deinde proximos vestros tanquam vosmetipsos. in his omnibus mandatis tota lex pendet et prophetae. estote patientes, estote misericordes, benigni, casti, impolluti. filios docete ut deum timeant, familiam similiter. discordes pacate. qui causas audit, iuste iudicet; munera non accipiat, quia munera obcaecant etiam sapientes.

These are the commandments which you ought to do and keep, to love God, whom you confessed, from all your heart, from all your mind, and from all your strength, then to love your neighbors just as yourselves; the whole law and the prophets depend on these commandments. Be patient, be merciful, benign, chaste, unpolluted. Teach your sons to fear God, your family likewise. Pacify those who are in discord. He who hears cases, let him judge justly; let him receive no bribes, because bribes make even the wise blind.

Diem dominicum observate; ad ecclesiam convenite, ibi orantes et non verbositantes. eleemosynas date iuxta vires, quia sicut aqua exstinguit ignem, ita eleemosyna exstinguit peccatum. hospitales invicem peregrinos suscipite, infirmos visitate, viduis et pupillis ministrate, decimas reddite ecclesiis, et quod tibi non vis, alii ne facias. deum solum ubique timete. servi subditi estote dominis, et domini iustitiam conservate servis. orationem dominicam et symbolum tenete, et filiis vestris tradite et filiolis vestris, quorum in baptismo fideiussores exstitistis. ieiunium amate, iustitiam diligite, diabolo resistite, eucharistiam per tempora sumite. haec sunt opera quae deus iussit facere et conservare, et his similia.

Observe the day of the Lord; convene in church, praying there and not chattering. Give alms according to your power, because as water extinguishes fire so alms extinguish sins. Receive pilgrims hospitably in turn, visit the sick, minister to widows and orphans, give tithes to the churches, and what you do not wish done to you do not do to another. Everywhere fear God only. Let servants be submissive to lords, and let lords keep justice for their servants. Maintain the dominical prayer and the symbol, and transmit them to your sons and to your godsons, whose sponsors in baptism you happen to be. Adore the fast, love justice, resist the devil, take the eucharist from time to time. These and similar things are the works which God orders you to do and keep.

Venturum Christum credite, et carnis resurrectionem, et iudicium omnium hominum. ibi discernuntur impii in ignem aeternum, iusti autem in vitam aeternam. ibi est vita cum deo sine morte, lux sine tenebris, salus sine aegritudine, satietas sine fame, felicitas sine timore, gaudium sine tristitia. ibi aeterna gloria, ibi fulgebunt iusti sicut sol, quoniam oculus non vidit, nec auris audivit, nec in cor hominis ascendit quantum praeparavit deus diligentibus se.

Have faith that Christ will come, and in the resurrection of the flesh, and in the judgment of all men. For then will the impious be separated into eternal fire, the just, however, into the eternal life. Then there is a life with God without death, light without shadows, health without sickness, satiety without hunger, blessedness without fear, joy without sorrow. Then there is eternal glory, then shall the just shine like the sun, since no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor has it ascended in the heart of a man how much God has prepared for those who love him.

Hoc etiam vos moneo, fratres charissimi, quia natalis domini imminet, ut abstineatis vos ab omni luxuria et ab omni fornicatione, et ab omni immunditia, et ab omnibus operibus malis. iracundiam et odium et invidiam velut venenum de vestris cordibus respuite. castitatem etiam cum propriis uxoribus conservate. ornate vos bonis operibus. eleemosynas pauperibus Christi erogate; ad convivia lautiora pauperes frequenter revocate. pacem cum omnibus custodite; discordes pacate. hoc si fideliter, Christo adiuvante, volueritis adimplere, et in hoc saeculo ad altare domini securiter potestis accedere, et in futuro ad aeternam beatitudinem feliciter pervenire.

I yet admonish you in this, dearest brethren, that the birthday of the Lord is imminent, in order that you may abstain from every luxury and from all fornication, and from all uncleanness, and from all evil works. Spit all malice and hate and envy from your hearts as poison. Keep chaste even with your own wives. Adorn yourselves with good works. Distribute alms to the poor of Christ; call them frequently to your joyous feasts. Maintain peace with all men; pacify those who are in discord. If, with Christ helping, you are willing to implement this faithfully, then you will be able to securely approach the alter of the Lord in this age, and in the future you will obtain everlasting bliss.

Manuscripts.

According to Bart Ehrman (on pages 413-414 of volume 1 of the Loeb edition of the apostolic fathers) and Michael Holmes (on page 147 of The Apostolic Fathers) the following manuscripts are extant for the teaching of the twelve:

Hierosolymitanus (H), year 1056, Greek.
Oxyrhynchus papyrus 1782 (P), century IV, Greek (contains 1.3c-1.4a; 2.7b-3.2a).
Coptic version, century V (contains 10.3b-12.2a).
Ethiopic church order (contains 8.1-2; 11.3-13.7).
Latin Doctrine of the Apostles (L), century III (contains the two ways section).
Apostolic Constitutions, book 7, century IV.
Georgian version, now lost, but probably modern at any rate.