[Didache ton dodeka apostolon]
An Instruction of the Lord given to the Heathen by the Twelve Apostles(1)
[Didache kyriou dia ton dodeka apostolon ethesin]
Lesson III

Beloved Lord,
We thank You, Lord, that from the time of the Apostles the Church has not ceased in her efforts to devote her energy to the task of helping people to believe that Jesus is Your divine Son, so that believing in Him they might have life in His name. Down through the centuries, Mother Church has been vigilant in her efforts to educate and instruct her children in this life and in building up the Body of Christ. Help us to remember that it is our obligation, as the Church's children, to make use of her instruction and to pass that instruction on to our children. Send Your Spirit to guide us, eternal Father, in our study of the Church's first catechism of instruction for the faithful of the New Covenant Church Universal. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

+ + +

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all God's holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with their presiding elders [episkopos] and the deacons [diakonos].
Philippians 1:1

Here is a saying that you can rely on: to want to be a presiding elder [episcope] is to desire a noble task. That is why the presiding elder [episcope] must have an impeccable character.
1 Timothy 3:1-2

Didache Part III: Ministry
Teachers, Apostles and Prophets

11. 1 Accordingly, when an itinerant teaches you all that has just been said, welcome him. 2 But should the teacher himself be a turncoat and teach a different doctrine so as to undermine [this teaching], do not listen to him. But if he promotes holiness and knowledge of the Lord, welcome him as the Lord.
3 Now, as regards the apostles and prophets, act strictly according to the precept of the Gospel. Upon his arrival every apostle must be welcomed as the Lord; 5 but he must not stay except one day. In case of necessity, however, he may stay the next day also; but if he stays three days, he is a false prophet. 6 At his departure the apostle must receive nothing except food to last till the next night's lodging, but if he asks for money, he is a false prophet.
7 Moreover, if any prophet speaks in ecstasy [in the Spirit], do not test him or entertain any doubts; for any sin may be forgiven, but this sin cannot be forgiven (Mt 12:31-32). 8 However, not everyone speaking in ecstasy [in the Spirit] is a prophet, except he has the ways of the Lord about him. So by their ways must the true and the false prophet (Dt 13:1-2; Mt 24:24; 2 Pt 2:1-3) be distinguished. 9 No prophet who is in an ecstasy [in the Spirit] orders the table spread, must partake of it; otherwise he is a false prophet. 10 Any prophet that teaches the truth, yet does not live up to his teaching, is a false prophet. 11 When a prophet, once approved as genuine, does something by way of symbolizing the Church in an earthly manner, yet does not instruct others to do all that he himself is doing, he is not liable to your judgment, for his judgment rests with God. After all, the Prophets of old acted in the same manner. 12 But if anyone says in ecstasy, "Give me money," or something else, you must not listen to him. However, should he tell you to give something for others who are in need, let no one condemn him.

____________Commentary and Questions____________

This section of the instruction addresses the ministry of traveling evangelical ministers and prophets. Like the Old Testament prophets, the New Testament prophets were charismatics who spoke in God's name. Together with the Apostles, they are the witnesses to whom the Divine Plan was first revealed, and they were also the first to preach the good news of the Gospel of salvation:

Prophets do not simply foretell future events; they also edify, exhort, console, and explain the prophecies of the Old Testament prophets fulfilled in Jesus Christ by supernatural revelation (Rom 16:25; 1 Cor 13:2; Eph 3:5;1 Pt 1:10-12). The prophets normally are in the second position of authority after the apostles in the order of charisms (Rom 12:6; 1 Cor 12:10, 28-29; Eph 4:11) because they are the anointed witnesses of the Holy Spirit (1 Thes 5:19-20; Rev 2:7) and communicate His revelations to the faithful (1 Cor 14:6, 26, 30; Eph 3:5; Rev 1:1), just as the Apostles are the witnesses of the Risen Christ who proclaim His Gospel message of salvation (Acts 1:8; 2:22; Rom 1:1). New Testament prophets are named with the apostles as the foundation of the Church: You are built upon the foundations of the apostles and prophets, and Christ Jesus himself is the cornerstone (Eph 2:20, NJB). The gift of prophecy was not limited to men, Philip the Deacon (Acts 6:1-6) had had four virgin daughters gifted with prophecy (Acts 21:8-9).

Question: What should the congregation observe in the teaching of traveling ministers? Sts. Paul and Barnabas were in this category, missionaries both founding faith communities and visiting and preaching in others.
Answer: Traveling apostles, visiting and teaching the faith community, must teach in agreement with what has been recorded in the Didache and those teachings must promote holiness and faith according to the Gospels.

The warning in this section speaks to the authority of the document as having been issued by the hierarchy of the Church founded by Jesus Christ through His Twelve Apostles. The letters of Sts. Peter, Paul, James, Jude, John the Apostle are not mentioned, perhaps because these letters had not been yet been widely circulated.

Question: Why do you think the visit was to be limited to one or two days?
Answer: There are two possible reasons. If the visiting minister stayed too long, he might attract a following and cause a schism within the congregation. Then too, early Christian communities tended to be poor and providing for another minister of the Church for a prolonged visit might stress the resources of the community.

Question: How can the community determine that he is a false prophet if he stays beyond two days?
Answer: If he stays three days, they can determine that he is a false prophet because if he is a legitimate representative of the Church he would know and be obedient to the prohibition about staying beyond two days.

Didache 11:7 provides instruction in determining a true prophet from a false prophet. A prophet speaking in "ecstasy," literally "in the Spirit," may refer to the spiritual gift of prophetically "speaking in tongues," or to an inspirited preaching of the Gospel (see 1 Cor 12:3; 14:2-33; Rev 1:10). Please read St. Paul's teaching on false prophets in 1 Timothy 6:3-10 and St. Peter's teaching on false prophets in 2 Pt 2:1-3.

Question: Why are the faithful instructed not to test one who is speaking "in the Spirit" in Didache 11:7?" See Mt 12:31-32 and 1 Thes 5:19-22
Answer: The people must be open to Holy Spirit inspired prophetic speech and must not "quench" the Spirit through their unbelief. There is also a reference to the unforgiveable sin Jesus spoke of in the Gospel of Matthew, which the Didache appears to be interpreting as a sin against the Holy Spirit.

There follows a list of unrighteous behavior by which the community will know that a prophet is false.

Question: A visiting minister is not to ask for money for himself, but under what conditions is he permitted to ask for donations?
Answer: He is permitted to ask for alms for the poor.

Christians Visiting the Community

12. 1 Anyone coming in the name of the Lord (Ps 118:25; Mt 21:9; Mk 11:9; Lk 19:38; Jn 12:13) must be welcomed; but after that test him and find out; you will of course use your discretion either for or against him. 2 If the arrival is a transient visitor, assist him as much as you can, but he may not stay with you more than two days, or, if necessary, three. 3 But if he intends to settle among you, then, in case he is a craftsman, let him work for his living; 4 if he has no trade or craft, use your judgment in providing for him, so that a follower of Christ will not live idle in your midst. 5 But if he is not satisfied with this arrangement, he is a Christmonger. Be on your guard against such people.

____________Commentary and Questions____________

Didache 11:1-12 concerned visiting clergy, but this section addresses Christians visiting the community.

Question: On what conditions will a visiting Christian be invited to join the community?
Answer: He has to accept membership in the community and he has to work for his living. He will not be allowed to live off the generosity of the community.

"Christmonger" means "a trader in Christ;" this is someone who tried to make a living/profit by using the name of Christ and professing, with no real conviction, to being a Christian. In his letter to St. Timothy, St. Paul warns him of those who make a profit off religion (1 Tim 6:6-10).

Support of the Clergy

13. 1Every genuine prophet who is willing to settle among you is entitled to his support (Mt 10:10; 1 Tim 5:18; 1 Cor 9:13-14). 2 Likewise, every genuine teacher is, like a laborer, entitled to his support (Mt 10:10; 1 Tim 5:18; 1 Cor 9:13-14). 3 Therefore, take all first fruits of vintage and harvest, of cattle and sheep (Num 15:19-21; Dt 18:1-4), and give these first fruits to the prophets; for they are your high priests. 4 But if you have no prophet, give them to the poor (Dt 15:4; 26:12). 5 When you bake bread, take the first loaf and give it according to the commandment. 6 Likewise, when you open a fresh jar of wine or oil, take the first draught and give it to the prophets. 7 Of money and cloth and any other possession, first set aside a portion according to your discretion and give it according to the commandment.

____________Commentary and Questions____________

In this section, the Didache address support for the clergy. The designation for "priest" (presbyteros) is absent; although the prophets are to be treated like a Jewish "High Priest," probably because the old covenant High Priest was God's representative to the people and the prophet, who speaks to the community as led the Holy Spirit, is the representative of Jesus Christ who is our eternal High Priest (Heb 4:14-16; 7:26-8:3). As in Ephesians 4:11 and 1 Corinthians 12:28, charismatic leaders of the community are prominent and the presbyterate is not mentioned as an office distinct from the office of bishops (episkopos) or deacons (diakonos). Later, New Covenant priests who were the shepherds the communities will be called presbyters. The earliest mention of three distinct offices is found in the Letter of St. Clement of Rome to the Corinthians (c. 68-96 AD). In the Didache there seems to be three groups of Church leaders:

  1. Teachers and prophets within the local Church
  2. Missionary apostles and prophets
  3. Bishops and deacons

In the New Testament the elders (presbyteros) and presiding elder(s) (episkope/episkopos) fulfilled the same function as elders in the Old Testament in leading the Israelites prior to the covenant ratification at Sinai and in the hierarchy of the Old Covenant Church after the covenant formation at Sinai:

Question: How is the command to give material support to the community's prophets and teachers similar to the Old Covenant system? See Num 15:19-21; Dt 18:1-4.
Answer: The Jews were commanded to provide for their priests and the lesser ministers of the Levites. The Levites and priests received a tenth of the annual tithe and the first-fruits of the produce and animals.

Question: What were the Christian communities without a resident prophet to do with their surplus?
Answer: They were to give it to the poor.

In the Christian communities, as in the Law of the Sinai Covenant, there were to be no poor within the faith communities (Dt 14:28-29; 15:11; Mt 26:11; Jn 12:7-8).

The Assembly Commanded on the Lord's Day

14. 1 On the Lord's own day (Acts 20:7; Rev 1:10), assemble in common to break bread and offer thanks; but first confess your sins (1 Cor 11:28-29; Jm 5:16), so that your sacrifice may be pure. 2 However, no one quarreling with his brother may join your meeting until they are reconciled (Mt 5:23); your sacrifice must not be defiled. 3 For here we have the saying of the Lord: In every place and time offer me a pure sacrifice; for I am a mighty King, says the Lord; and my name spreads terror among the nations (Mal 1:11).

__________Commentary and Questions__________

The Biblical quotation is probably a reference to Malachi 1:11. The day of Jesus' Resurrection, on the first day of the week (Mt 28:1; Mk 16:1-2; Lk 24:1; Jn 20:1), became the day the New Covenant faithful met for worship. A New Covenant required a new Sabbath, which came to be known as "The Lord's Day" (Rev 1:10). St Ignatius of Antioch wrote that Christians no longer observe the Sabbath, but regulate their calendar by the Lord's Day (Magn. 9.1), and in the second century AD, Bishop Mileto of Sardis wrote a treatise on "The Lord's Day" (Eusebius, Church History, 4.26). The book of Acts records that the first day of the week (Sunday) was the usual gathering day for Christian worship (Acts 20:7).

Question: As in previous passages, what does "breaking of the bread"/ "to break bread" refer to? See Acts 20:7.
Answer: It refers to Christian worship and the Eucharist.

Question: Before receiving the Eucharist, what must the Christian do and why? See Didache 14:1; 1 Cor 11:27-32 and Jm 5:16.
Answer: He must confess his sins so that he can eat the holy food of the Eucharist in a state of grace.

Question: If the Christian has not confessed his sins and is in a dispute with his fellow Christians, what is the danger according to Didache 14:2? See Mt 5:23; 1 Cor 11:27-32.
Answer: He will be defiling the sacrifice of the Eucharist and will be under divine judgment since he received the Eucharist in an unholy manner and was not in a state of grace.

St. Paul wrote to the faith community at Corinth (Greece) that the tradition that he received from the Lord is what he handed on to them concerning the institution of the Eucharist. He warned them: For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself (1 Cor 11:26-29; emphasis added). A person who receives the Eucharist without believing he is receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus or who receives in a state of sin, profanes the sacrifice and brings condemnation of Divine judgment upon himself. Venial sins are forgiven in the Penitential Rite of the Mass, but anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to receive the Lord in Holy Communion (CCC 1385).

It is significant that the Didache refers to "your sacrifice" and then quotes from Scripture about the necessity of offering a "pure sacrifice." This passage undoubtedly identifies the Eucharistic celebration as the sacrifice of Jesus Christ-the New Covenant High Priest who continually offers His one perfect sacrifice in the Heavenly Sanctuary (Heb 8:1-3; Rev 5:6). St. Paul writes of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the sacred feast of the New Covenant Church: Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough, inasmuch as you are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Cor 5:7-8). In this passage St. Paul is referring to the Old Covenant Passover sacrifice and the sacred meal that followed on the first night of the Feast of Unleavened Bread where the Old Covenant community only ate unleavened bread (a sign of the people's sanctity) for a week (Ex 12:1-20; Lev 23:5-8). St. Paul identifies Jesus' sacrificial death as that of the true Passover victim which is followed by the life of the Christian community bound up with a perpetual feast of Christ's Body and Blood in the transformed sacrificial offering of (unleavened) bread and wine in the Eucharist.

Question: Why is the Eucharist the true sacrifice of Jesus Christ made present on the altar of the New Covenant Church in the past and in the present? See Mt 26:26-28; CCC 1366-78.

Answer: In the Eucharist, Christ gives us His very Body which He gave up in sacrifice on the altar of the Cross and His very blood is made present on the Eucharistic altar as He promised when He said: for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins (Mt 26:28 NJB). The Eucharist, in the ancient Church and today, is a sacrifice because time is suspended when Christ's representative (the ordained priest) speaks the words Jesus spoke at the Last Supper and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross in the spring of 30 AD is made present on the altar (CCC 1366). The sacrifice of Jesus and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice.

The Council of Trent (1562) summarized the Catholic faith by affirming that since Jesus said it was truly His body and blood that He offered His disciples at the Last Supper, and what He had previously promised in His "Bread of Life" discourse in the Gospel of John 6:32-66, that the community's offering of bread and wine literally becomes Christ's Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity: The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different ... And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and offered in an unbloody manner ... this sacrifice is truly propitiatory (Council of Trent, Doctrina de ss. Missae sacrificio).

The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of the New Covenant Church as "the Body of Christ" who participates in the offering of her Head. With him, she herself is offered whole and entire (CCC 1368). St. Augustine wrote: The Church continues to reproduce this sacrifice in the sacrament of the altar so well-known to believers wherein it is evident to them that in which she offers she herself is offered (Augustine, De civitate Dei, 10:6). The faithful of all generations, on earth and in heaven, unite themselves to His "pure sacrifice" in receiving the Eucharist (Rom 12:1; CCC 1370-71). In the celebration of the Mass, we share this unity of the Body of Christ with those Christian converts of long ago who were instructed in faith and righteousness by the teaching of the twelve Apostles in the Didache.

Church Hierarchy

15. 1 Accordingly, elect for yourselves bishops (episkopoi = "presiding elder" 1 Tim 3:2) and deacons diakonoi, Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 3:1-13) men who are an honor to the Lord, of gentle disposition, not attached to money, honest and well-tried; for they, too, render you the sacred service of the prophets and teachers. 2 Do not, then, despise them; after all, they are your dignitaries together with the prophets and teachers.

3 Furthermore, correct one another, not in anger, but in composure, as you have it in the Gospel; and when anyone offends his neighbor. Let no one speak with him-in fact, he should not even be talked about by you-until he has made amends. 4 As regards your prayers and alms and your whole conduct, do exactly as you have it in the Gospel of Our Lord.

____________Commentary and Questions____________

Both bishops (episkopoi ) and deacons (diakonoi) are mentioned in the New Testament along with elders (presbyteros). The episkopoi, or "presiding elders," were probably not quite yet "bishops" as we understand the office and are mentioned in association with deacons, diakonoi, "servants" or "attendants." In the earliest days of the Church, each Christian community was governed by a body of elders, in Greek presbyter/presbyteros. Presbyters are mentioned together with Apostles at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:2, 4, 22 and 23).

The office of "elder" or "presiding elder" was not a newly defined office since it continued both the ancient practice of the Old Covenant (Ex 18:13ff; Num 11:16; Josh 8:10; 1 Sam 16:4; Is 9:14; Is 9:14; Ws 8:1, 11-12) and the practice of the Jews after their return from the Babylonian exile into the era of the New Testament (Ezra 5:5; 10:14; Judith 6:16; Lk 7:3; 22:66; Acts 4:5). The Greek word episkopos was probably an equivalent for the Hebrew title mebaqqer (Num 4:16; 31:14; Judg 9:28; 2 Kng 11:15, 18; 12:11), which indicated the duty of a head officer of the covenant people, while presbyteros indicated the status or dignity of the same officer. 1 Timothy 5:17 suggests that the episkopoi in the college of presbyteroi may have taken turns in carrying out their duties.

The Christian presbyteroi (elders) or episkopoi (head elders) were not only administrators; they were also teachers (1 Tim 3:2; 5:17; Tit 1:9) and had the responsibility to govern (Ti 1:7; 1 Tim 3:5). They were appointed by the Apostles (Acts 14:23) or their representatives (Tit 1:5) and were ordained by the laying on of hands (1 Tim 5:22), which gave them powers derived from God (1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6; Acts 20:28). As the Church grew, these leaders of the local church developed into our priests (presbyteroi) and bishops (episkopoi) who were aided by lesser ministers called deacons (diakonoi). The transition of the local assembly ruled by a body of elders into the rule of a single bishop over a number of priests in local faith communities was a stage reached some time in the early second century AD by the time St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote his seven last letters to churches he governed as their bishop before his martyrdom in 107 AD.

At the time the Didache was written, Christian communities could elect their own bishops and deacons, but those men also needed ordination by the Church hierarchy (1 Tim 4:14; 5:22; 2 Tim 1:6). It is assumed the bishop had jurisdiction over several faith communities while the deacons served in their home communities. Writing at sometime between 69-96 AD, St. Clement of Rome included among bishops and deacons the presbyters who offer the gifts of the people (Letter to the Corinthians, 44.4). The office of presbyter came between bishops and deacons.(6) That St. Clement spoke frequently of presbyters and the Didache makes no mention of them might have some bearing on dating the document. However, it is also possible that what the Didache identifies as "prophets" "who are like High Priests" (Didache 13:3) later came to be designated "priests" (presbyters). Some scholars have also suggested since the word "bishop" is plural in Didache 15:1 that the plural "bishops" refers to a bishop and his presbyters.

St. Clement's letter to the Corinthians may support this theory. St. Clement mentions all three offices in his letter to the Corinthians in 44.4; however in chapter 42, in referring to the Church's Apostolic authority in appointing leaders, as in Didache 15:1 he only mentions bishops and deacons: The Apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ was sent from God. Christ, therefore is from God and the Apostles are from Christ. Both, accordingly, came in proper order by the will of God. Receiving their orders, therefore, and being filled with confidence because of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and confirmed in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Spirit, they went forth preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God that was about to come. Preaching, accordingly, throughout the country and the cities, they appointed their first-fruits, after testing them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should believe (emphasis added).

That Didache 15:1 mentions the election of leaders of the faith community may be an indication of the early Church period when the letter was written. In the early years of the Church, it was common for leaders to be elected from within the community and then ordained by the laying on of hands by the Apostles or their representatives (Acts 6:6; 13:3; 1 Tim 1:18; 4:14; 5:22; 2 Tim 1:6). In St. Paul's letters to Timothy and Titus he instructs these bishops to appoint presbyters in every town over which they preside as bishop (head elder). St. Paul listed the qualifications one must have to serve as a bishop (1 Tim 3:1-7), a presbyter (Titus 1:5-16), and a deacon (1 Tim 3:8-13). The Church was not able to completely eliminate the custom of electing candidates for ministerial offices in some regions until the Middle Ages.

Question: How does St. Paul describe the necessary attributes of a Church leader to St. Timothy and to St. Titus? See 1 Tim 3:8-13; 6:11-14 and Titus 1:5-9.

Answer: Such men (and also women in the case of deaconesses) must be dedicated to God and of good reputation. He must be honest, upright, filled with faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. He must be willing to fight to protect his faith. Titus, who was the Church's bishop of Crete, was instructed to appoint elders in every Christian community who were men of irreproachable character, the husband of one wife, and who has children who are also Christians. The head elder must be irreproachable as God's representative, never arrogant or hot-tempered, nor heavily prone to fermented liquor, not violent, nor avaricious. He must be hospitable and a lover of goodness; sensible, upright, devout and self-controlled. He must have firm grasp of the unchanging message of the [Church's] tradition (Titus 1:9), so he can be counted on to teach sound doctrine and to be able to refute those who attempt to attack the Church's teaching.

In the early Church, deaconesses played an important role. In many cases their homes were the meeting places of the first Christian communities. St. Paul probably entrusted the delivery of his Letter to the Romans to Phoebe, the deaconess of the church at Cenchreae, Greece. (Rom 16:1). The Didache's successor, the Apostolic Constitutions (also called Constitutions of the Holy Apostles and written in the 4th century AD but which presents writings that profess to be from the Apostles) has prayers for the ordination of deacons and deaconesses: Concerning a deaconess, I Bartholomew make this constitution: O bishop, thou shalt lay thy hands upon her in the presence of the presbytery, and of the deacons and deaconesses, and shalt say ... (Apostolic Constitutions, XIX).(7)

Part IV: The Final Exhortation

Comparison between Matthew 24:11-31 and Didache 16:3-6
Matthew 24:11-31 Didache 16:3-6
Verse 11: Many false prophets will arise and deceive many Verse 3: For in the last days the false prophets and corrupters will come in swarms
Verse 12: and because of the increase of evildoing ... Verses 3-4: 4 When lawlessness is on the increase, men will hate and persecute and betray one another...
Verse 12: the love of many will grow cold. Verse 4: and love will turn into hate.
Verse 30: And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven ... Verse 6: And then proofs of the truth will appear; the first proof, an opening in the heavens ...
Verse 31: and he will send out his angels with a trumpet blast ... Verse 6: the next proof, the sounding of the trumpet ...
Verse 31: and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. Verse 6: and the third, the resurrection of the dead ...
Verse 30: and they will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven... Verse 8: Finally, the world will behold the Lord riding the clouds in the sky

16. 1 Watch over your life; your lamps must not go out (Mt 25:1-13), nor your loins be ungirded; on the contrary, be ready. You do not know the hour in which Our Lord is coming (Mt 24:42, 44; 25:13; Lk 12:35; Eph 6:14; 1 Pt 1:13). Assemble in great numbers, intent upon what concerns your souls. Surely, of no use will your lifelong faith be to you if you are not perfected at the end of time. 3 For in the last days the false prophets and corrupters will come in swarms (Mt 24:4-5, 11, 23-25); the sheep will turn into wolves (Mt 7:15), and love will turn into hate. 4 When lawlessness is on the increase, men will hate and persecute and betray one another; and then the Deceiver of this world will appear, claiming to be the Son of God (Mt 24:24; 2 Thes 2:2-4; 1 Jn 2:22; 4:3), and give striking exhibitions of power (2 Thes 2:9); the earth will be given over into his hands, and he will perpetrate outrages such as have never taken place since the world began. 5 Then humankind will undergo the fiery test (Nah 1:6; Mt 24:10, 13; 1 Pt 4:12; Rev 6:17; 18:5), and many will lose their faith (Mt 24:10) and perish; but those who stand firm in their faith will be saved (Mt 24:13) by none other than the Accursed (Dt 21:22-23; Gal 3:13). 6 And then proofs of the truth will appear; the first proof, an opening in the heavens (Mt 24:30); the next proof, the sounding of the trumpet (Mt 24:31; 1 Thes 4:16); and the third, the resurrection of the dead (1 Thes 4:16-17)-7 not of all indeed, but in accordance with the saying: The Lord will come and all the saints with Him (1 Thes 3:13). 8 Finally, the world will behold the Lord riding the clouds in the sky (Dan 7:13; Mt 24:30; 26:64; Mk 14:62).

____________Commentary and Questions____________

The "lamps" refer to Jesus' parable of the ten virgins-a warning to be ready for Jesus' promised return to claim the Church as His Bride. In the parable there were the five foolish virgins who let their lamps go out and were not prepared when the Bridegroom arrived. There were also five wise virgins who kept their lamps lit so that when the Bridegroom (Jesus) arrived they were ready to be received into the wedding banquet of the Lamb and His Bride (Mt 25:1-13; Rev 19:5-9).

Question: Why must the Christian be in a constant state of readiness? See Mt 24:42-44; 25:13; Mk 13:33-37.
Answer: Because he does not know when the Lord Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead. He must be careful to maintain a state of grace so he can be welcomed into the heavenly Sanctuary and to live in the presence of the Most Holy Trinity.

This section of the Didache is reminiscent of Jesus' discourse in Matthew chapters 24-25.

Question: Who is the Deceiver of this world?
Answer: The Antichrist.

St. John wrote that anyone who claims that Jesus is not the Christ is the "Antichrist" (1 Jn 2:22; also see 5:3). In 2 Thessalonians 2:4 St. Paul wrote that the Day of the Lord would not come until the Great Revolt has taken place and there has appeared the wicked One, the lost One, the Enemy who raises himself above every so-called God or object of worship to enthrone himself in God's sanctuary and flaunts the claim that he is God. Just prior to the Jewish Revolt in 66 AD, the Roman Emperor Nero, who insisted upon being worshipped as a god, was planning to build a statue of himself in the Jerusalem Temple to receive the worship of the Jews. His announcement helped to initiate the Jew's revolt against the Roman Empire. Nero was a "type" of the Antichrist, but another who is the final Antichrist will come prior to Christ's return (see CCC 675-77).

Question: What is the "fiery test"?
Answer: The great tribulation.

If this document was written prior to the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, the fiery test might be the Roman response to the Jewish Revolt, the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, and the disbursing of nearly a million Jews into slavery throughout the Roman Empire. That there will be those who survive the "fiery test" seems to suggest this may not be the Last Judgment. The "faithful remnant" who survived the destruction of Judea was the Jewish-Christian community.

However, Didache 16:5-8 clearly refers to the Second Advent of Christ and the Resurrection of the dead: those who stand firm in their faith will be saved (Mt 24:13) by none other than the Accursed (Dt 21:22-23; Gal 3:13). 6 And then proofs of the truth will appear; the first proof, an opening in the heavens (Mt 24:30); the next proof, the sounding of the trumpet (Mt 24:31; 1 Thes 4:16); and the third, the resurrection of the dead (1 Thes 4:16-17)-7 not of all indeed, but in accordance with the saying: The Lord will come and all the saints with Him (1 Thes 3:13). 8 Finally, the world will behold the Lord riding the clouds in the sky (Dan 7:13; Mt 24:30; 26:64; Mk 14:62). Like Jesus' warnings in Matthew 24-26, the Didache combines the historical fall of Jerusalem with the future Final Judgment.

Question: Who is the "Accursed" who will save those who stand firm in their faith? See Dt 21:22-23 and Gal 3:13.
Answer: The reference must be to Jesus Christ who took on the covenant curse of His people's covenant failures when He was hung on the Cross.

The final Scripture quotes are from 1 Thessalonians 3:13 and 4:16, prophecies of the Second Advent of the Christ and from Daniel's prophecy of the divine Messiah in Daniel 7:13-the same passage Jesus quoted to the elders of Judea in His trial (Mt 26:64; Mk 14:62).

This dramatic ending to the Didache is a reminder to the faithful that they do not know the day or hour of the Lord's Parousia (see Mt 24:36-44 and Didache 16:1), and therefore they must be ever vigilant. Until that time, the divine gifts of Baptism, the Eucharist, and the other Sacraments instituted by Christ will sustain the Christian community today as in the past in faith and hope on their journey to salvation.

The one who attests these things says: I am indeed coming soon. Amen; come, Lord Jesus [Marana tha]! May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all. Amen.
Revelation 22:20-21

Endnotes: (continued from Lesson 2)

  1. For references to "deacons" in the New Testament see Acts 6:1-7; Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 3:8, 10, 12, 13. Apostles and other leaders are grouped together in 1 Cor 3:5; Col 1:7; 4:7; 1 Thes 3:2; 1 Tim 4:6; etc.
  2. The Didache is contained within chapter seven of the Apostolic Constitutions.


  1. Ancient Christian Writers, vol. 6, translations by James A. Kleist, S.J., PhD, "The Didache," pages 3-25, 151-66, The Newman Press, 1948.
  2. Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 7, "Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions," pages 371-508, Hendrickson Publishers, second edition 1995.
  3. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, "Church History," Eusebius, Hendrickson Publishers, second edition 1995.
  4. The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. 1, William A. Jurgens, Liturgical Press, 1970.
  5. Catechism of the Catholic Church, United States Catholic Conference, Inc., Liberia Editrice Vaticana, second edition, 1997.
  6. Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 7, Hendrickson Publishers, 1995 edition.
  7. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, Hendrickson Publishers, 1995 edition.
  8. The Teachings of the Church Fathers, edited by John R. Willis, S.J., Ignatius Press, 2002 edition.

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