The Didache (1)

The leader ship of the Church of the late first century and the early second century had to confront the issues associated with an expanding organization. Similar to the problems of growing business. As it enlarges and spreads across the Greco-Roman world, the bishops and leaders of the Church, which is in itself a new term, have to try to control problems arising in all of the different communities. They do so by establishing leaders in each parish that try to enforce the rules and life style of Christianity. The communal followings stay in contact with the larger Church by exchange of letters too.

In the excerpt of the Didache that we read, it seems that one of the larger problems that the Church is facing is the attempts of people to take advantages of communities by imitating prophets. People come into the village, pretend to be inspired by God, do false preaching, and then ask for money or other goods in return. To conflict this problem, the Church sent out letter to its followers trying to give advice in order to tell a false prophet from true prophet, and how to treat each accordingly. One example was that if the prophet asks for money upon leaving, he probably was just a thief. The problem with this type of recognition was that you could only discern a phony from a real prophet after you opened up your house or village to them, and treated them well. They basically already got what they wanted. In order to confront this, I believe the Church may have needed to place more bishops or deacons in proportion to the growing number of followers in order to help maintain order as the Church grew and became more organized over the centuries. 

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3 thoughts on “The Didache (1)

  1. The Didache belongs to a category of early Christian writings known as “church orders”–which basically amount to sets of instructions for organizing an early Christian community. One of the debates surrounding these documents is to what extent these writings reflect ACTUAL church practice and to what extent they reflect how someone wishes churches were run (perhaps based on some bad experiences, like local communities being taken advantage of by false prophets). These documents set out guidelines, and the fact that documents like the Didache seem to have been copied and widely circulated suggest that some communities at least seem to have found the advice useful.

  2. Your solution that the church should have elected more bishops or deacons to counteract the work of false prophets is definitely in line with the theory that the Didache was written to guide small communities rather than large ones which is what the church grew to become. By electing more leaders, the church is recognizing its full breadth and adjusting to maintain order.

  3. I find it interesting how the early Church was so concerned with the teachings of false prophets, and I agree with you that the guidelines that the Didache lays out would basically give these false prophets what they desired for the time that they were in each community. I wonder if any church teaching that we still have today may have come about from those “prophets.”

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