Book review: The Teaching of the Twelve

by Tony Jones


Every Christian should read the Didache (DID-ah-kay). Every one. You can read the whole thing in twenty minutes, so you have no excuse.

Didache simply means teachings. By our best guess, this is the earliest Christian literature not in the Bible. It probably predates one or more Gospels, and may be made up of about four separate writings. The opening portion appears taken directly from the Q source. So early are the teachings of this Didache community that they show no indication of familiarity with any Pauline writings.

The Didache is not a book about believing, but about living. It’s not about evangelizing, but about being a neighbor. It’s a guidebook about how to share the Eucharist, how to give alms, how to baptize, how to appoint elders and treat prophets, and more. You won’t read anything about miracles, the twelve disciples, the crucifixion, or the resurrection. It’s just about how to be a Christian.

Jones relates the words of the Didache, provides a short, inspirational analysis, and relates how a group of Christians he knows has taken its teachings and humbly formed a community determined to return to the simple, compassionate teachings of the early church.

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