Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Didache

I actually finished this a few days ago, but I've been trying to decide what to write.

On the one hand, the text of the Didache itself is fairly short. It takes up 18 pages of the book, and many of those pages are maybe half to three-quarters full of text. So, it's by no means a huge work. In fact, here's a link that Ahavah gave me to the entire text online. And it's an interesting work. It's nice to get a glimpse into the life of the church in the first century, to see what they thought was important, what they wrote down, a bit of what they were passing on and teaching to the new converts.

On the other hand, it's a translation, with commentary. The author does keep all his commentary in a separate section, so it's not footnoted all over the text. However, in reading his commentary, you do get the strong sense of his own bias. Let me just say that any author that uses the term, 'the Jesus movement' kind of gets tarred with a suspicious brush in my mind from the beginning. And, the author did not improve my opinion of him. I understand that all authors have a bias, his just happens to run counter to my faith, and, as far as I'm concerned, he's been seriously misled. Which does, at least to me, also throw shadows on his translation itself. It is possible to translate to ones own bias. I've seen it done with versions of the Qur'an, and the Bible. I know this is why it's recommended to read the original languages, but that's not always possible, so I try to read multiple translations. It's the best I can do for myself.

I did find it interesting that some of the 'dont's' listed seem to be specific to the training of Gentiles. For instance, in a list of things that one 'will not' do, 'murder offspring by means of abortion' is mentioned. The impression being that it needed to be spelled out, because in the time this was written, it was a common form of 'family planning' (and I'm using the phrase ironically) to use abortificants, or even to commit infanticide, if the child was born deformed, or unwanted. Another 'you will not' was 'corrupt boys'. We all know pederasty (I know, Wikipedia, but I glanced over the article, and it's accurate to what I learned as far as I can see) was an accepted thing back in the day, don't we? If we didn't we do now. The ancient Christians felt the need to spell this stuff out to their converts, because given their cultural backgrounds, not coming from Jewish society, it might not have been obvious, to them, that these were prohibited acts.

Another thing is the instructions on how to perform Baptisms:

7:1 But concerning baptism, thus shall ye baptize.
7:2 Having first recited all these things, baptize {in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit} in living (running) water.
7:3 But if thou hast not living water, then baptize in other water;
7:4 and if thou art not able in cold, then in warm.
7:5 But if thou hast neither, then pour water on the head thrice in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
7:6 But before the baptism let him that baptizeth and him that is baptized fast, and any others also who are able;
7:7 and thou shalt order him that is baptized to fast a day or two before.

Sound familiar to anyone? Eh?

I do like the rundown, too. First choice, baptize in running water. So, a river or a stream, like Christ's Baptism in the Jordan. If you can't do that, then cold, standing water. If you can't get cold standing water, then warm (not heated, I assume, but just standing water, like a tub, perhaps). And if you can't do that, *then* you can pour. But *immersion* baptism is the first, second, and third choice.

So, really, that's all I have to say about that. I'm reading The Face Behind the Veil, now, which is a collection of brief stories about the lives of American Muslim women. So far, an enjoyable read. Most of the stories are 2 - 4 pages each, it seems.


  1. Our church does its baptisms in a mountain stream down the road. Which is why we are waiting until after Pascha to do it. :-)

  2. This sounds interesting, I might have to read it :)

  3. Enjoyed this. So you don't agree with baptism by immersion? :)

    The book you are reading now sounds like a good one. You read lots of good stuff.

  4. Veiled Glory,

    *glances at temperature gauge* I can't imagine why you'd wait... :)

    That actually sounds very nice, getting baptized in the stream...

  5. LK,

    Seriously, just go to the link I have in there. The entire text is there.

  6. Susanne,

    *quirks eyebrow at you in Spock-like fashion*

    I know you're having me on. :p

    It is a good book. I'll likely finish it tonight and do a little review.

  7. So can you explain why you don't like baptism by immersion? You don't get the impression this is what Jesus and the disciples did? Tell me yours or the Church's opinion whichever you prefer.

    Please. :)

  8. Susanne,

    I thought you were joking! :)

    I totally agree with baptism by immersion. That's what I was trying to point out, was that it was the practice of the Church from the beginning, following the example of Christ, but that, practically, provisions were made for when it wasn't possible.

  9. Ahhhhh, I see. I see. I thought you were against it and really wanted to know why. Thanks for the explanation. It's great having Catholic friends so I can learn from them directly. :)

  10. Happy to be of help. :)

    The Catholic Church teaches that for a baptism to be valid it must use water (immersion or pouring is considered valid, though most Catholic baptisms happen through pouring) and use the Trinitarian Formula - 'I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.' So they'll 'take' any converts baptism if it's done properly, since the belief is that you can only be baptized once. Any convert who wasn't baptized thusly, or where there's a question, has to be baptized before being received into the Church.

  11. That's so interesting. I wrongly assumed all these years they *didn't agree with* baptism by immersion so I'm glad to be set straight on that. :)

    All the baptisms that I'm familiar with are with the Trinitarian Formula that you mentioned. There is at least one group - Brethren, I think - that actually dunks people three times -- one for each (Father, Son, Holy Spirit.)

    Thanks for the info!


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