FINDLAY One of the earliest Christian documents, The Didache (Greek for Teaching ), served as a manual for 1st-century converts and its principles helped shape the Christian church as we know it today, according to a lecture delivered here this week.
Brandon Withrow, professor of historical and theological studies at Winebrenner Theological Seminary, provided a look at the impact of the landmark document in a lecture titled The Path of Discipleship from the Time of The Didache.
Speaking to a group of about 75 seminary students, faculty, and guests, Mr. Withrow explained that The Didache (pronounced DID-uh-kay) is one of the ancient documents that transfers over to our lives today.
While its author or authors are unknown, it was written as a generic training manual for use by all, Mr. Withrow said.
The original manuscript dates to the mid to late 1st century, making it one of the earliest known Christian writings, Mr. Withrow said. It was widely used and cited in the first four centuries but fell into relative obscurity around the fifth century.
The document was later given a subtitle, The Teaching of the 12 Apostles, probably when it was being considered (and ultimately rejected) for inclusion in the New Testament, according to Mr. Withrow.
Richard Gaillardetz, professor of Catholic studies at the University of Toledo, said in an interview this week that The Didache is an important document that gives us some very interesting information about the early church.
Among the topics The Didache covers that are not found in the New Testament, he said, are instructions on the structure of church leadership and early accounts of Christian worship.
The Didache provided training for what it called The Way of Life, giving guidelines on eating, fasting, baptizing, and praying, among other topics, Mr. Withrow said.
It was intended for Gentiles, both male and female, who were new converts to Christianity.
The text was written to train disciples of Christ in a culture not familiar with Christianity, Mr. Withrow said.
Some of its verses closely parallel scriptures in the Gospel of Matthew, particularly Jesus Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. Scholars attribute the similarities to either the authors sharing a common oral tradition, or The Didache author(s) borrowing from Matthew s writings, Mr. Withrow said.
The text includes five of the Ten Commandments, omitting the first five.
Written in an era when the doctrines of Christianity were still being shaped, The Didache was more epistolary than ecclesiastical, he said.
The text also contained an eschatological element, predicting Jesus return. It was one of the first Christian books to not only address church history, but also the church s future.
The disciplines taught in The Didache were adapted by early monastics, and the specialized teachings of monasticism then played a role in the development of the university system, Mr. Withrow said.
In that way, the repercussions of The Didache have influenced Christian discipleship and education through the centuries, he said.
The earliest copy of The Didache was discovered in 1883 by Philotheos Bryennios, a Greek Orthodox metropolitan, in the Jerusalem Monastery of the Holy Sepulchre, where it had been stored and mislabeled.
Mr. Withrow s lecture was part of Winebrenner s year-long emphasis on discipleship.