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What is the Didache?

The Didache reveals more about how Christians saw themselves and how they operated on a day-to-day level than any book in the Christian Scriptures. It is not a gospel and, accordingly, it does not attempt to offer guidance by narrating a life of Jesus. In fact, the internal logic, theological orientation, and pastoral practice of the Didache runs decisively counter to what one finds within the received gospels. Thus the way is open for an early dating of the Didache.

The Didache represents the first concerted attempt by householders (Crossan 1998) to live the way of Jesus adapted to the exigencies of family, of occupation, of home--the very things which Jesus and his wandering apostles had left behind (Theissen). The senior mentors of this community had formulated the Didache over a period of years based upon their own successful practice in initiating gentiles to become full participants in their shared life. One overhears a candidate being trained from scratch by a mentor who becomes his or her beloved "father" or "mother" . . . . Finally, one discovers how a community poised on the threshold of the end times fashioned its daily life sharing the passionate expectation of the Kingdom of God preached by Jesus.

Professor Aaron Milavec was inspired to undertake this study following a NEH summer grant with Jacob Neusner some fourteen years ago. His articles on the Didache have appeared in BTB, Journal of Early Christian Studies, Proceedings of the EGLBS.

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