The Moral Teaching of the Twelve Apostles

From The Didache.

"The common view is that which puts the Didache before 100. Bartlet agrees with Ehrhard that 80-90 is the most probable decade.[Others] have preferred a date even before 70. " Ency. [This makes the text contemporary with Matthew and Luke. This short text is thought to be next to the Gospel in time and value.]

"A very ancient, possibly First Century, Christian document. Describes the ethical paths to life and death in general terms, then focuses on church life in an age when evangelists and prophets still roamed from town to town." St. Pachomius Library.

 

"1:1 There are two paths, one of life and one of death, and the difference is great between the two paths.

1:2 Now the path of life is this -- first, you shall love the God who made you, your neighbor as yourself, and all things that you would not want done to you, do not you to another.

1:3 And the doctrine of these maxims is as follows. Bless them that curse you, and pray for your enemies. Fast on behalf of those that persecute you; for what thank [merit] is there if you love them that love you? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? But do you love them that hate you, and you will not have an enemy.

1:4 Abstain from fleshly and worldly lusts. If any one give you a blow on your right cheek, turn unto him the other also, and you shall be perfect; if any one compel you to go a mile, go with him two; if a man take away your cloak, give him your coat also; if a man take from you what is yours, ask not for it again, for neither are you able to do so.

1:5 Give to every one that asks of you, and ask not again; for the Father wishes that from his own gifts there should be given to all. Blessed is he who gives according to the commandment, for he is free from guilt; but woe unto him that receive. For if a man receive being in need, he shall be free from guilt; but he who receives when not in need, shall pay a penalty as to why he received and for what purpose; and when he is in tribulation he shall be examined concerning the things that he has done, and shall not depart thence [ from that place] until he has paid the last [penny].

1:6 For [truly] it has been said on these matters, let your almsgiving abide in your hands until you know to whom you have given.

 

CHAPTER 2

 

2:1 But the second commandment of the teaching is this.

2:2 you shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not corrupt youth; you shall not commit fornication; you shall not steal; you shall not use soothsaying [foretelling the future, divination]; you shall not practice sorcery [conjuration, magic]; you shall not kill a child by abortion, neither shall you slay it when born; you shall not covet the goods of your neighbor;

2:3 you shall not commit perjury; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not speak evil; you shall not bear malice [A desire to harm others or to see others suffer];

2:4 you shall not be double-minded or double-tongued, for to be double tongued is the snare of death.

2:5 your speech shall not be false or empty, but concerned with action.

2:6 you shall not be covetous, or rapacious [ taking by force; plundering, greedy; ravenous], or hypocritical, or malicious, or proud; you shall not take up an evil design against your neighbor;

2:7 you shall not hate any man, but some you shall confute, concerning some you shall pray, and some you shall love beyond yours own soul.

 

CHAPTER 3

 

3:1 My child, fly from everything that is evil, and from everything that is like to it.

3:2 Be not wrathful, for wrath leads to slaughter; be not jealous, or contentious, or quarrelsome, for from all these things slaughter ensues.

3:3 My child, be not lustful, for lust leads to fornication; be not a filthy talker; be not a lifter up of the eye, for from all these things come adulteries.

3:4 My child, be not an observer of omens, since it leads to idolatry [worship of idols, therefore the worship of a false god], nor a user of spells, nor an astrologer, nor a traveling purifier, nor wish to see these things, for from all these things idolatry arises.

3:5 My child, be not a liar, for lying lead to theft; be not covetous or conceited, for from all these things thefts arise.

3:6 My child, be not a murmurer [complainer], since it leads unto blasphemy; be not self-willed or evil-minded, for from all these things blasphemies are produced;

3:7 but be you meek, for the meek shall inherit the earth;

3:8 be you long-suffering, and compassionate, and harmless, and peaceable, and good, and fearing always the words that you have heard.

3:9 you shall not exalt yourself, neither shall you put boldness into your soul. Your soul shall not be joined to the lofty, but you shall walk with the just and humble.

3:10 Accept the things that happen to you as good, knowing that without God nothing happens.

 

CHAPTER 4

 

4:1 My child, you shall remember both night and day him that speaks to you the Word of God; you shall honor him as you do the Lord, for where the teaching of the Lord is given, there is the Lord;

4:2 you shall seek out day by day the favor of the saints, that you may rest in their words;

4:3 you shall not desire schism [A formal breach of union within a Christian church; disunion; discord.], but shall set at peace them that contend; you shall judge righteously; you shall not accept the person of any one to convict him of transgression;

4:4 you shall not doubt whether a thing shall be or not.

4:5 Be not a stretcher out of your hand to receive, and a drawer of it back in giving.

4:6 If you have, give by means of your hands a redemption for your sins.

4:7 you shall not doubt to give, neither shall you murmur when giving; for you should know who is the fair recompenser of the reward [the one who compensates, i.e. God].

4:8 you shall not turn away from him that is in need, but shall share with your brother in all things, and shall not say that things are your own; for if you are partners in what is immortal, how much more in what is mortal?

4:9 you shall not remove yours heart from your son or from your daughter, but from their youth shall teach them the fear of God.

4:10 you shall not command with bitterness your servant or your handmaid, who hope in the same God as yourself, lest they fear not in consequence the God who is over both; for he comes not to call with respect of persons, but those whom the Spirit has prepared. [For "respecter of persons" see Romans 2:11. In the RSV this phrase is translated as: " For God shows no partiality. " ]

4:11 And do you servants submit yourselves to your masters with reverence and fear, as being the type of God.

4:12 you shall hate all hypocrisy and everything that is not pleasing to God;

4:13 you shall not abandon the commandments of the Lord, but shall guard that which you have received, neither adding thereto nor taking therefrom;

4:14 you shall confess your transgressions in the Church, and shall not come to prayer with an evil conscience. This is the path of life.

 

CHAPTER 5

 

5:1 But the path of death is this. First of all, it is evil, and full of cursing; there are found murders, adulteries, lusts, fornication, thefts, idolatries, soothsaying, sorceries, robberies, false witnessings, hypocrisies, double-mindedness, craft, pride, malice, self-will, covetousness, filthy talking, jealousy, audacity, pride, arrogance;

5:2 there are they who persecute the good -- lovers of a lie, not knowing the reward of righteousness, not cleaving to the good nor to righteous judgment, watching not for the good but for the bad, from whom meekness and patience are afar off, loving things that are vain, following after recompense, having no compassion on the needy, nor laboring for him that is in trouble, not knowing him that made them, murderers of children, corrupters of the image of God, who turn away from him that is in need, who oppress him that is in trouble, unjust judges of the poor, erring in all things. From all these, children, may you be delivered.

 

CHAPTER 6

 

6:1 See that no one make you to err from this path of doctrine, since he who does so teaches you apart from God.

6:2 If you are able to bear the whole yoke of the Lord, you will be perfect; but if you are not able, what you are able, that do.

6:3 But concerning meat, bear that which you are able to do. But keep with care from things sacrificed to idols, for it is the worship of the infernal deities." [Vegetarianism is not required by the modern church, although Roman Catholics in the United States are asked to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent as a penance.]


The image is of Rembrandt's Prodigal Son, from Mark Harden's Artchive, used with permission as part of the patron program.

The full text of the Didiche can be found at The St. Pachomius Orthodox Library, and at The Church Fathers: Didache. The text above is only part of the total work, and has been edited to remove archaic words and provide some definitions.


Gospel Morality: What the New Testament Says

An Examination of Conscience (traditional Catholic).

 
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