Wednesday, May 24, 2006

What the Teaching Can Teach Us - Christianity Today Magazine

What the Teaching Can Teach Us - Christianity Today Magazine:
by William Varner

The telephone call came just after we had finished our evening meal at the Knight's Palace Hotel in the Old City of Jerusalem in May 2005. The message instructed me to come now to the library of the Greek Orthodox patriarch if I wanted to see the manuscript. I changed my clothes quickly and scurried through the labyrinthine lanes of the Old City. After entering the Greek Orthodox monastery, I made my way to the library. Soon, the librarian delivered what I had waited years to see—a 950-year-old, 200-page manuscript containing, along with a dozen other early writings, a little work only 10 pages long. Its name is the Didache (the "Teaching," pronounced "didakhay"), short for The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. While no one believes that any of the twelve apostles wrote it, scholars agree that the work is a faithful transmission of the apostles' teaching, intended primarily for the training of Gentile believers.
It is useful to remember that not all the apocryphal writings were rejected from the canon because of false doctrine. The Didache is among the writings that were not held to be canonical, yet it provides a glimpse of what was going through the minds of late first century Christians. Other such writings include The Shepherd of Hermas and the Epistles of Clement, which were held in fairly high repute by the early Church leaders, but were not made a part of the canon. These writings were generally included under the "Apostolic Fathers", and dated from the first and second centuries. Their theology was similar to that which is reflected in the canonical books of the New Testament.

This story in Christianity Today summarizes a few of the teachings, among which is a passage on baptism which lists immersion or pouring among the methods. From the short quote provided, it does not resolve the question whether infants ought to be baptised.

Those who are interested can obtain a translation of the Didache (among other texts) in a book title The Apostolic Fathers in English (Baker, 2006) by Michael W. Holmes.

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