15 minute read

The Didache

Chapter I – The Two Ways; The First Commandment

There are two ways,1 one of life and one of death;2 but a great difference between the two ways. The way of life, then, is this: First, thou shalt love God who made thee; second, thy neighbour as thyself;3 and all things whatsoever thou wouldst should not occur to thee, thou also to another do not do.4

And of these sayings the teaching is this: “Bless them that curse you”, and “pray for your enemies, and fast for them that persecute you”.5 For “what thank is there, if ye love them that love you? Do not also the Gentiles do the same?”6 But “do ye love them that hate you”;7 and ye shall not have an enemy. “Abstain thou from fleshly and worldly lusts”.8 If one give thee a “blow upon thy right cheek, turn to him the other also”; and thou shalt be perfect.9 If one “impress thee for one mile, go with him two”. If one “take away thy cloak, give him also thy coat”.10 If one “take from thee thine own, ask it not back”,11 for indeed thou art not able.

“Give to every one that asketh thee, and ask it not back”;12 for the Father willeth that to all should be given of our own blessings. Happy is he that giveth according to the commandment; for he is guiltless. Woe to him that receiveth; for if one having need receiveth, he is guiltless; but he that receiveth not having need, shall pay the penalty, why he received and for what, and, coming into straits (confinement), he shall be examined concerning the things which he hath done, and “he shall not escape thence until he pay back the last farthing”.13 But also now concerning this, it hath been said, “Let thine alms sweat in thy hands, until thou know to whom thou shouldst give”.14

Chapter II – The Second Commandment: Grave Sin Forbidden

And the second commandment of the Teaching; You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery,15 you shall not commit pederasty, you shall not commit fornication, you shall not steal,16 you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft, you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is begotten. You shall not covet the things of your neighbour,17 you shall not forswear yourself,18 you shall not bear false witness,19 you shall not speak evil, you shall bear no grudge. You shall not be double-minded nor double-tongued; for to be double-tongued is a snare of death. Your speech shall not be false, nor empty, but fulfilled by deed. You shall not be covetous, nor rapacious, nor a hypocrite, nor evil disposed, nor haughty. You shall not take evil counsel against your neighbour. You shall not hate any man; but some you shall reprove, and concerning some you shall pray, and some you shall love more than your own life.

Chapter III – Other Sins Forbidden

My child, flee from every evil thing, and from every likeness of it. Be not prone to anger, for anger leads the way to murder; neither jealous, nor quarrelsome, nor of hot temper; for out of all these murders are engendered. My child, be not a lustful one; for lust leads the way to fornication; neither a filthy talker, nor of lofty eye; for out of all these adulteries are engendered.

My child, be not an observer of omens, since it leads the way to idolatry; neither an enchanter, nor an astrologer, nor a purifier, nor be willing to look at these things; for out of all these idolatry is engendered. My child, be not a liar, since a lie leads the way to theft; neither money-loving, nor vainglorious, for out of all these thefts are engendered.

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My child, be not a murmurer, since it leads the way to blasphemy; neither self-willed nor evil-minded, for out of all these blasphemies are engendered. But be meek, since the meek shall inherit the earth.20 Be long-suffering and pitiful and guileless and gentle and good and always trembling at the words which you have heard. You shall not exalt yourself,21 nor give over-confidence to your soul. Your soul shall not be joined with lofty ones, but with just and lowly ones shall it have its intercourse. The workings that befall you receive as good, knowing that apart from God nothing comes to pass.

Chapter IV – Various Precepts

My child, him that speaks to you the word of God remember night and day;22 and you shall honour him as the Lord; for in the place whence lordly rule is uttered, there is the Lord. And you shall seek out day by day the faces of the saints, in order that you may rest upon their words. You shall not long for division, but shall bring those who contend to peace. You shall judge righteously, you shall not respect persons in reproving for transgressions. You shall not be undecided whether it shall be or not.

Be not a stretcher forth of the hands to receive and a drawer of them back to give. If you have anything, through your hands you shall give ransom for your sins. You shall not hesitate to give, nor murmur when you give; for you shall know who is the good repayer of the hire. You shall not turn away from him that is in want, but you shall share all things with your brother, and shall not say that they are your own; for if you are partakers in that which is immortal, how much more in things which are mortal?

You shall not remove your hand from your son or from your daughter, but from their youth shall teach them the fear of God.23 You shall not enjoin anything in your bitterness upon your bondman or maidservant, who hope in the same God, lest ever they shall fear not God who is over both;24 for he comes not to call according to the outward appearance, but unto them whom the Spirit has prepared. And you bondmen shall be subject to your masters as to a type of God, in modesty and fear.25 You shall hate all hypocrisy and everything which is not pleasing to the Lord. Forsake in no way the commandments of the Lord; but you shall keep what you have received, neither adding thereto nor taking away therefrom.26 In the church you shall acknowledge your transgressions, and you shall not come near for your prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of life.

Chapter V – The Way of Death

And the way of death is this: First of all it is evil and accursed: murders, adultery, lust, fornication, thefts, idolatries, magic arts, witchcrafts, rape, false witness, hypocrisy, double-heartedness, deceit, haughtiness, depravity, self-will, greediness, filthy talking, jealousy, over-confidence, loftiness, boastfulness; persecutors of the good, hating truth, loving a lie, not knowing a reward for righteousness, not cleaving to good nor to righteous judgement, watching not for that which is good, but for that which is evil; from whom meekness and endurance are far, loving vanities, pursuing revenge, not pitying a poor man, not labouring for the afflicted, not knowing Him Who made them, murderers of children, destroyers of the handiwork of God, turning away from him who is in want, afflicting him who is distressed, advocates of the rich, lawless judges of the poor, utter sinners. Be delivered, children, from all these.

Chapter VI – Against False Teachers, and Food Offered to Idols

See that no one causes you to err from this way of the Teaching, since apart from God it teaches you. For if you are able to bear the entire yoke of the Lord, you will be perfect; but if you are not able to do this, do what you are able. And concerning food, bear what you are able; but against that which is sacrificed to idols be exceedingly careful; for it is the service of dead gods.

Chapter VII – Concerning Baptism

And concerning baptism, baptise this way: Having first said all these things, baptise into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,27 in living water. But if you have no living water, baptise into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptiser fast, and the baptised, and whoever else can; but you shall order the baptised to fast one or two days before.

Chapter VIII – Fasting and Prayer (the Lord's Prayer)

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But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites;28 for they fast on the second and fifth day of the week; but fast on the fourth day and the Preparation (Friday). Neither pray as the hypocrites; but as the Lord commanded in His Gospel29, thus pray:

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. Give us today our daily (needful) bread, and forgive us our debt as we also forgive our debtors. And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (or, evil); for Yours is the power and the glory forever.30

Thrice in the day thus pray.

Chapter IX – The Thanksgiving (Eucharist)

Now concerning the Thanksgiving31, thus give thanks. First, concerning the cup:

We thank you, our Father, for the holy vine of David Your servant, which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory forever.

And concerning the broken bread:

We thank You, our Father, for the life and knowledge which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory forever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Your Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Your kingdom; for Yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever.

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But let no one eat or drink of your Thanksgiving, but they who have been baptised into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, “Give not that which is holy to the dogs”.32

Chapter X – Prayer after Communion

But after you are filled, thus give thanks:

We thank You, holy Father, for Your holy name which You caused to tabernacle in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality, which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory forever. You, Master almighty, created all things for Your name's sake; You gave food and drink to men for enjoyment, that they might give thanks to You; but to us You freely gave spiritual food and drink and life eternal through Your Servant. Before all things we thank You that You are mighty; to You be the glory forever. Remember, Lord, Your Church, to deliver it from all evil and to make it perfect in Your love, and gather it from the four winds, sanctified for Your kingdom which You have prepared for it; for Yours is the power and the glory forever. Let grace come, and let this world pass away. Hosanna33 to the God (Son) of David! If any one is holy, let him come; if any one is not so, let him repent. Maranatha.34 Amen.

But permit the prophets to make Thanksgiving as much as they desire.

Chapter XI – Concerning Teachers, Apostles, and Prophets

Whosoever, therefore, comes and teaches you all these things that have been said before, receive him. But if the teacher himself turn and teach another doctrine to the destruction of this, hear him not; but if he teach so as to increase righteousness and the knowledge of the Lord, receive him as the Lord. But concerning the apostles and prophets, according to the decree of the Gospel, thus do.

Let every apostle that comes to you be received as the Lord. But he shall not remain except one day; but if there be need, also the next; but if he remain three days, he is a false prophet. And when the apostle goes away, let him take nothing but bread until he lodges; but if he ask money, he is a false prophet. And every prophet that speaks in the Spirit you shall neither try nor judge; for every sin shall be forgiven, but this sin shall not be forgiven. But not every one that speaks in the Spirit is a prophet; but only if he hold the ways of the Lord.

Therefore from their ways shall the false prophet and the prophet be known. And every prophet who orders a meal in the Spirit eats not from it, except indeed he be a false prophet; and every prophet who teaches the truth, if he do not what he teaches, is a false prophet. And every prophet, proved true, working unto the mystery of the Church in the world, yet not teaching others to do what he himself does, shall not be judged among you, for with God he has his judgement; for so did also the ancient prophets. But whoever says in the Spirit, Give me money, or something else, you shall not listen to him; but if he says to you to give for others' sake who are in need, let no one judge him.

Chapter XII – Reception of Christians

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But let every one that comes in the name of the Lord be received, and afterwards you shall prove and know him; for you shall have understanding right and left. If he who comes is a wayfarer, assist him as far as you are able; but he shall not remain with you, except for two or three days, if need be. But if he wills to abide with you, being an artisan, let him work and eat;35 but if he has no trade, according to your understanding see to it that, as a Christian, he shall not live with you idle. But if he wills not to do, he is a Christ-monger. Watch that you keep aloof from such.

Chapter XIII – Support of Prophets

But every true prophet that wills to abide among you is worthy of his support. So also a true teacher is himself worthy, as the workman, of his support.36 Every first-fruit, therefore, of the products of wine-press and threshing-floor, of oxen and of sheep, you shall take and give to the prophets, for they are your high priests. But if you have not a prophet, give it to the poor. If you make a batch of dough, take the first-fruit and give according to the commandment. So also when you open a jar of wine or of oil, take the first-fruit and give it to the prophets; and of money (silver) and clothing and every possession, take the first-fruit, as it may seem good to you, and give according to the commandment.

Chapter XIV – Christian Assembly on the Lord's Day

But every Lord's day37 gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: “In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations”.38

Chapter XV – Bishops and Deacons; Christian Reproof

Therefore, appoint for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, and not lovers of money,39 and truthful and proven; for they also render to you the service of prophets and teachers. Despise them not therefore, for they are your honoured ones, together with the prophets and teachers. And reprove one another, not in anger, but in peace, as you have it in the Gospel;40 but to every one that acts amiss against another, let no one speak, nor let him hear anything from you until he repents. But your prayers and alms and all your deeds so do, as you have it in the Gospel of our Lord.

Chapter XVI – Watchfulness; the Coming of the Lord

Watch for your life's sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ready, for you know not the hour in which our Lord comes.41 But often shall you come together, seeking the things which are befitting to your souls: for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if you be not made perfect in the last time.

For in the last days false prophets and corrupters shall be multiplied, and the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall be turned into hate;42 for when lawlessness increases, they shall hate and persecute and betray one another,43 and then shall appear the world-deceiver as the Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders, and the earth shall be delivered into his hands, and he shall do iniquitous things which have never yet come to pass since the beginning.44

Then shall the creation of men come into the fire of trial, and many shall be made to stumble and shall perish; but they that endure in their faith shall be saved from under the curse itself. And then shall appear the signs of the truth; first, the sign of an outspreading in heaven; then the sign of the sound of the trumpet; and the third, the resurrection of the dead; yet not of all, but as it is said: “The Lord shall come and all His saints with Him”.45 Then shall the world see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.46

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1A similar expression is used in the Epistle of Barnabas (~AD 100), ch. 18: “There are two ways of doctrine and authority, the one of light, and the other of darkness.”.

2cf. Deut. 30:15, 19; Jer. 21:8; Matt. 7:13, 14

3cf. Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:37, 39; Mark 12: 30, 31

4cf. Tobit 4:15; Matt. 7:12; Luke 6:31

5cf. Matt. 5:44

6cf. Matt 5:46

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7cf. Luke 6:27

8cf. 1 Peter 2:11

9cf. Matt. 5:39, 48; Luke 6:29.

10cf. Matt. 5:40, 41

11cf. Luke 6:30


13cf. Matt. 5:26 – This last section should be compared with Hermas, Mandate. 2:4-7, as it appears to mirror it or be dependant upon it:

4. “But clothe thyself in reverence, wherein is no evil stumbling-block, but all things are smooth and gladsome. Work that which is good, and of thy labours, which God giveth thee, give to all that are in want freely, not questioning to whom thou shalt give, and to whom thou shalt not give. Give to all; for to all God desireth that there should be given of His own bounties.

5.They then that receive shall render an account to God why they received it, and to what end; for they that receive in distress shall not be judged, but they that receive by false pretence shall pay the penalty.

6. He then that giveth is guiltless; for as he received from the Lord the ministration to perform it, he hath performed it in sincerity, by making no distinction to whom to give or not to give. This ministration then, when sincerely performed, becomes glorious in the sight of God. He therefore that ministereth thus sincerely shall live unto God.

7. Therefore keep this commandment, as I have told thee, that thine own repentance and that of thy household may be found to be sincere, and [thy] heart pure and undefiled.”

14The quote itself appears to be a local expression that is possibly based on Paul's second epistle to the Corinthians: “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:7)

15cf. Exodus 20:13-14

16cf. Exodus 20:15

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17cf. Exodus 20:17

18cf. Matthew 5:34

19cf. Exodus 20:16

20cf. Ps. 37:11; Matthew 5:5

21cf. Luke 18:14

22cf. Heb. 13:7

23cf. Ephesians 6:4

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24cf. Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1

25cf. Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22

26cf. Deuteronomy 12:32

27cf. Matthew 28:19

28cf. Matthew 6:16

29cf. Matthew 6:9-13

30“ for Yours is...” This closing line is found in some ancient manuscripts in some form, sometimes adding “For the kingdom...” to it as well.

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31From the Greek ευχαριστια (Eucharist), meaning thanksgiving.

32cf. Matthew 7:6

33From the Hebrew meaning “to save, rescue” or “saviour”, but was/is used as an expression of joy. The word is found in Psalm 118:25 and is what the crowd cheered at Jesus as he entered Jerusalem; cf. Matt 21:9; Mark 11:9; and John 12:13

34An Aramaic word meaning “our Lord come”, or “come, Lord!”. This word is also found once in the New Testament in its Greek form in 1 Cor. 16:22

35cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:10

36cf. Matthew 10:10; Luke 10:7

37Sunday was referred to as “the Lord's day” because it is the day Jesus rose from the dead. cf. Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; Rev 1:10

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38cf. Malachi 1:11 – the Church Fathers (Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Augustine et al.) saw the Eucharist as a fulfilment of this prophecy about the Gentile nations glorying God with their sacrifices.

39cf. 1 Timothy 3:4

40cf. Matthew 18:15-17

41cf. Matthew 24:42

42cf. Matthew 24:11-12

43cf. Matthew 24:10

44cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:3–10

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45cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

46cf. Matthew 24:30

Keywords: didache apostolic fathers two ways charity false teachers idols false prophets baptism fasting and prayer Lord's Prayer Thanksgiving Eucharist Communion Liturgy Apostles Prophets Teachers Lord's Day Bishops deacons apocalypse Abortion pederasty Golden rule