5.27.2009

The Didache: The Way of Death

While the first section is dominated by an extended discussion on the way of life, it closes with a brief vice list illustrating the way of death.

Now the way of death is this: First of all, [it] is evil and full of cursing, murders, adulteries, lusts, thefts, idolatries, magic arts, sorceries, extortions, false witnesses, hypocrisies, fickle (lit. double-hearted), deceit, pride, evil, stubborn, greed, filthy speech, jealousy, audacity, pride, boasting, persecutors of good, haters of truth, lovers of a lie, those who do not know the reward of justice, those who do not cleave to good nor a just judgment, those who are not on alert for the good but for the wicked, those who are far from gentleness and endurance, lovers of vanity, pursuers of repayment, those who do not show mercy to the poor, those who do not labor for the oppressed, those who do not know the one who made them, murderers of children, corruptors of what is formed by God, those who turn away the needy, those who oppress the afflicted, advocates for rich [men], lawless judges of the poor, thoroughly sinful; may you be delivered, children, from all of these [things]. (Did 5:1-2, BAB)

As was said in a previous post, this is a vice list in similar form to many found in other ancient ethical texts. The content of this list does not parallel any one NT example, but it is clearly a compilation of vices found through the NT. It is interesting to compare this list with those found in Matt 5:19, Luke 6, Romans 1, Galatians 5, Ephesians 4, Colossians 3, 1 Peter 2, and 2 Peter 1.

What is also interesting is that the beginning of this list begins: “First of all it is evil [poneros].” It concludes with a prayer for new members: “may you be delivered [rhuomai] from all these things.” Anything come to mind? “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us [rhuomai] from evil [poneros].”

This first section (i.e., the two ways) leads into the meat of the manual, but this beginning section spells out the values of the community. New members would have likely accepted and learned (possibly memorized) this section before they were baptized. The rules on baptism (in ch. 7) begin with: “after [they] have previously spoken all of these [things], baptize…”

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