These are some notes on the Didache:
The Meeting of the Apostles
The Didache presents two “ways” or “paths” (δύο ὁδῶν) from which one can choose. The early Christian movement called itself “the Way” at the beginning, so this appears to be juxtaposing Christianity with non-Christianity. In other words, there is not a third, fourth, or fifth option for the author. The first way is “Life” and the second way is “Death” (1:1).
The Way of Life is based on Jesus’ teaching that to love God is the greatest commandment and to love neighbor is the second greatest commandment (1:3-4).
Jesus’ teachings about loving one’s enemy is the first thing the author discusses as relates to loving one’s neighbor. Christians are to engage in the positive actions of praying and fasting for enemies, turning the other cheek, going the “second miles”, giving away one’s coat, and refusing to require interest on loans (1:7-17).
The Way of Life exalts the one who gives and humbles the one who takes. This shouldn’t be interpreted as humbling the one who takes in need, but the one who seeks to amass possessions for one’s self (1:18-23).
To love one’s neighbor means to avoid things like murder, adultery, corrupting youth, fornication, stealing, magic, sorcery, abortion, infanticide, coveting, false witness, speaking evil, holding a grudge, being double-minded, being double-tongued, using empty word not supported by subsequent action, plundering, hypocrisy, having an ill-temper, being proud, planning evil things against another, and even hating a single person (οὐ μισήσεις πάντα ἄνθρώπον). One can reprove their neighbor, pray for their neighbor, and one must love their neighbor more than one loves one’s self/life (οὓς δὲ ἀγαπήσεις ὑπὲρ τὴν ψυχήν σου) (2:1-7).
The Johannine-like address “my child” appears (τέκνον μου) on several occasions. Christians (or, those on the Way of Life) must avoid every evil and everything that resembles evil including anger, murder, jealousy, wrath, lust, fornication, foul-speaking, pride, omens, idolatry, enchanting, astrology, magic, lying, theft, vainglory, murmuring, blasphemy, selfishness, or thinking evil thoughts. All of these actions are categorized under things that produce murder, adultery, idolatry, theft, and blasphemy. Christians must be meek, long-suffering, full of pity toward others, guileless, quiet, kind, cautious with words, free of self-exaltation, righteous, humble, and able to receive all things as good from God, even negative things (3:1-16).
Christians must honor those who speak the words of the Lord. The other saints must be honored as well. Schism and schismatics must be avoided. Righteous and equal judgment must be administrated. There must be a posture of giving rather than receiving. There must be a willingness to share one’s possessions. This willingness to give must be shown to all people. There should be no respect of persons because Christ will return not for people of a particular social standing, but for those “whom the Spirit has prepared” (ἐφ’ οὓς τὸ πνεῦμα ἡτοίμασεν). Nevertheless, servants are to be subject to Masters as to God (as stated in the canonical epistles). There is this sense in which the Gospel transcends the social structures, yet the Church does not attack the social structures directly, aiming to address those of lower classes with dignity, directing them to do their work as to God (4:1-16).
Christians cannot ignore the Lord’s commandments, or live as hypocrites, passing along the received teachings without addition or subtraction. Christians should confess transgressions to each other, praying without evil on their conscious (4:17-19).
These things mentioned above are the Way of Life (4:20). The Way of Death includes evil, murder, adultery, lust, fornication, theft, idolatry, magic, witchcraft, plundering, false witness, hypocrisy, double heartedness, treachery, pride, malice, stubbornness, coveting, foul-speaking, jealousy, and bold and boastful attitude, self-exaltation, persecuting good people, hating truth, loving lies, not understanding the rewards of righteousness, not “cleaving” to the good, not judging righteously, and attentiveness to evil rather than good. Those who walk in this way are not gentle or forbearing, but love vain things, pursue recompense, show no pity to the poor person, avoid helping those who have hard tasks before them, ignore the Creator of humanity, murder children, corrupt “creatures of God” or “things formed by God” (φθορεῖς πλάσματος θεοῦ), advocate for the wealthy, mistreat the poor, sinful (5:1-5).
This list of do’s and don’ts can be overwhelming. The author says that if one can do these things, one will be perfect. If not, “do what you are able.” One can eat what one wishes to eat, but meat offered to idols should be avoided. Idols are “dead gods” (θεῶν νεκρῶν) (6:2-6).
Baptism begins with a recital of all the things to which the baptized is committed to doing and not doing (those things listed above). Then the one being baptized should be baptized “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” in running (“living”, ζῶν) water. The water should be cold as well. If there is no running water, other bodies of water will work, and if there is no cold water, warm water is permitted. If there is nothing like this available then water can be poured on the head of the person being baptized three times “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”. Candidates for baptism and the one to do the baptizing should fast prior to the event. If others can join, then others should fast as well. This should be done a day or two prior to the event (7:1-7).
Fasting (prior to baptism, but likely for other occasions as well) should not be done “like the hypocrites”. Whoever might be the “hypocrites” they are described as fasting on the second and fifth day of the week. Maybe this is a day when people expected religious folk to fast, and those who appear to be fasting are easily noticed because they look and act a certain way on a given day. Christians should fast on other days to avoid this association, namely the fourth and sixth days of the week (8:1-2).
Prayer ought to follow the pattern of the “Lord’s Prayer”: Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be your name, your Kingdom come, your will be done, as in heaven, so as on earth. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us of our debt as we forgive our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For your’s is the power, and the glory, forever and ever, amen.” This is to be prayed three times, daily (8:3-11). This version of the Lord’s Prayer alongside the baptismal formula would seem to indicate reliance on the Gospel of Matthew.