The Didache, the Interpretation of “Gospel” and the Meaning of Christian Life (dating to the 1st century C.E.)

When approaching an understanding of the interpretation of the “gospel” as imparted in the Didache, it is essential to, first, contextualize its perspective of the “gospel” in terms specified teachings of tradition. Accordingly, the “gospel” extrapolated in the Didache is chiefly substantiated in what Christians should do by virtue of appropriate actions and attitudes and the specific way of life they should live to be considered righteous, honorable, and holy.

The Didache defines this ideal Christian lifestyle in three very distinct categories: ethics and standards, rituals and liturgy, and ministry and false prophets –by turns, the ethics involve simple doctrines beginning with “bless them that curse you, and pray for your enemies,”[1] then in terms of rituals regarding fasting and baptismal practices, then in the election of bishops and deacons as church community leaders, and then, finally, framing the importance of recognizing the teachings of false prophets conflicting those of authentic apostles. Each of these categories confronts Christian issues from four distinct societal fronts and, on the whole, seemingly point out that these four fronts must be actively engaged unambiguously in order to give the necessary balance a Christian needs to fulfill a Christian lifestyle.

Therefore, the “gospel” mostly represented in the Didache is contingent on all the followers of the Christian faith maintaining certain ethical standards within their communities outside the church in addition to  participating in certain ritualized habits within the community of the Christian church itself. Together, according to the teachings of the Didache, it can be surmised that a certain type of Christian can be crafted, upheld, and traditionalized over subsequent Christian generations. To lead such a specified lifestyle regulated by restrictions and regulations is to acknowledge the notion in the Didache of “there [being] two paths, one of life and one of death,”[2] whereby the optimal Christian lifestyle gives tangible evidence of having followed the first path: the path of life. Essentially, the Didache ascertains Christianity’s “gospel” as, perhaps, the fundamental goal of living a path of life dependent, in part, on how well “thou shall love the God who made thee, thy neighbour as thyself, and all things that thou wouldest not should be done unto thee, do not thou unto another.”[3]

To accept the interpretation in the Didache of Christianity’s “gospel” as the personal receipt of a specified communitarian lifestyle as the path of life is to, in essence, enjoy the benefits of the Christian faith knowing that a life lived well results in a well-lived life.

[1] Didache, trans. Hoole, 1:3.

[2] Ibid., 1:1.

[3] Ibid., 1:2.

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