The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, Commonly called the Didache

The Lord’s Teaching to the Heathen by the Twelve Apostles: Chapter 1

1. There are two ways, one of life and one of death; and between the two ways there is a great difference.

2. Now, this is the way of life: “First, you must love God who made you, and second, your neighbour as yourself.” [473] And whatever you want people to refrain from doing to you, you must not do to them. [474]

3. What these maxims teach is this: “Bless those who curse you,” and “pray for your enemies.” Moreover, fast “for those who persecute you.” For “what credit is it to you if you love those who love you? Is that not the way the heathen act?” But “you must love those who hate you,” [475] and then you will make no enemies.

4. Abstain from carnal passions.” [476] If someone strikes you “on the right cheek, turn to him the other too, and you will be perfect.” [477] If someone “forces you to go one mile with him, go along with him for two”; if someone robs you “of your overcoat, give him your suit as well.” [478] If someone deprives you of “your property, do not ask for it back.” [479] (You could not get it back anyway!)

5. “Give to everybody who begs from you, and ask for no return.” [480] For the Father wants his own gifts to be universally shared. Happy is the man who gives as the commandment bids him, for he is guiltless! But alas for the man who receives! If he receives because he is in need, he will be guiltless. But if he is not in need he will have to stand trial why he received and for what purpose. He will be thrown into prison and have his action investigated; and “he will not get out until he has paid back the last cent.” [481]

6. Indeed, there is a further saying that relates to this: “Let your donation sweat in your hands until you know to whom to give it.” [482]

Chapter 2

1. The second commandment of the Teaching:

2. “Do not murder; do not commit adultery”; do not corrupt boys; do not fornicate; “do not steal”; do not practice magic; do not go in for sorcery; do not murder a child by abortion or kill a new-born infant. “Do not covet your neighbour’s property;

3. do not commit perjury; do not bear false witness”; [483] do not slander; do not bear grudges.

4. Do not be double-minded or double-tongued, for a double tongue is “a deadly snare.” [484]

5.Your words shall not be dishonest or hollow, but substantiated by action.

6. Do not be greedy or extortionate or hypocritical or malicious or arrogant. Do not plot against your neighbour.

7. Do not hate anybody; but reprove some, pray for others, and still others love more than your own life.

Chapter 3

1. My child, flee from all wickedness and from everything of that sort.

2. Do not be irritable, for anger leads to murder. Do not be jealous or contentious or impetuous, for all this breeds murder.

3. My child, do not be lustful, for lust leads to fornication. Do not use foul language or leer, for all this breeds adultery.

4. My child, do not be a diviner, for that leads to idolatry. Do not be an enchanter or an astrologer or a magician. Moreover, have no wish to observe or heed such practices, for all this breeds idolatry.

5. My child, do not be a liar, for lying leads to theft. Do not be avaricious or vain, for all this breeds thievery.

6. My child, do not be a grumbler, for grumbling leads to blasphemy. Do not be stubborn or evil-minded, for all this breeds blasphemy.

7. But be humble since “the humble will inherit the earth.” [485]

8. Be patient, merciful, harmless, quiet, and good; and always “have respect for the teaching” [486] you have been given. Do not put on airs or give yourself up to presumptuousness.

9. Do not associate with the high and mighty; but be with the upright and humble.

10. Accept whatever happens to you as good, in the realization that nothing occurs apart from God.

Chapter 4

1. My child, day and night “you should remember him who preaches God’s word to you,” [487] and honor him as you would the Lord. For where the Lord’s nature is discussed, there the Lord is.

2. Every day you should seek the company of saints to enjoy their refreshing conversation.

3. You must not start a schism, but reconcile those at strife. “Your judgments must be fair.” [488] You must not play favorites when reproving transgressions.

4. You must not be of two minds about your decision. [489]

5. Do not be one who holds his hand out to take, but shuts it when it comes to giving.

6. If your labor has brought you earnings, pay a ransom for your sins.

7. Do not hesitate to give and do not give with a bad grace; for you will discover who He is that pays you back a reward with a good grace.

8. Do not turn your back on the needy, but share everything with your brother and call nothing your own. For if you have what is eternal in common, how much more should you have what is transient!

9. Do not neglect your responsibility [490] to your son or your daughter, but from their youth you shall teach them to revere God.

10. Do not be harsh in giving orders to your slaves and slave girls. They hope in the same God as you, and the result may be that they cease to revere the God over you both. For when he comes to call us, he will not respect our station, but will call those whom the Spirit has made ready.

11. You slaves, for your part, must obey your masters with reverence and fear, as if they represented God.

12. You must hate all hypocrisy and everything which fails to please the Lord.

13. You must not forsake “the Lord’s commandments,” but “observe” the ones you have been given, “neither adding nor subtracting anything.” [491]

14. At the church meeting you must confess your sins, and not approach prayer with a bad conscience. That is the way of life.

Chapter 5

1. But the way of death is this: First of all, it is wicked and thoroughly blasphemous: murders, adulteries, lusts, fornications, thefts, idolatries, magic arts, sorceries, robberies, false witness, hypocrisies, duplicity, deceit, arrogance, malice, stubbornness, greediness, filthy talk, jealousy, audacity, haughtiness, boastfulness. [492]

2. Those who persecute good people, who hate truth, who love lies, who are ignorant of the reward of uprightness, who do not “abide by goodness” [493] or justice, and are on the alert not for goodness but for evil: gentleness and patience are remote from them. “They love vanity,” [494] “look for profit,” [495] have no pity for the poor, do not exert themselves for the oppressed, ignore their Maker, “murder children,” [496] corrupt God’s image, turn their backs on the needy, oppress the afflicted, defend the rich, unjustly condemn the poor, and are thoroughly wicked. My children, may you be saved from all this!

Chapter 6

1. See “that no one leads you astray” [497] from this way of the teaching, since such a one’s teaching is godless.

2. If you can bear the Lord’s full yoke, you will be perfect. But if you cannot, then do what you can.

3. Now about food: undertake what you can. But keep strictly away from what is offered to idols, for that implies worshiping dead gods.

Chapter 7

1. Now about baptism: this is how to baptise. Give public instruction on all these points, and then “baptise” in running water, “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” [498]

2. If you do not have running water, baptise in some other.

3. If you cannot in cold, then in warm. If you have neither, then pour water on the head three times “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” [499]

4. Before the baptism, moreover, the one who baptises and the one being baptized must fast, and any others who can. And you must tell the one being baptized to fast for one or two days beforehand.

Chapter 8

1. Your fasts must not be identical with those of the hypocrites. [500] They fast on Mondays and Thursdays; but you should fast on Wednesdays and Fridays.

2. You must not pray like the hypocrites, [501] but “pray as follows” [502] as the Lord bid us in his gospel: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name; your Kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven; give us today our bread for the morrow; and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but save us from the evil one, for yours is the power and the glory forever.”

3. You should pray in this way three times a day.

Chapter 9

1. Now about the Eucharist: [503] This is how to give thanks:

2. First in connection with the cup: [504] “We thank you, our Father, for the holy vine [505] of David, your child, which you have revealed through Jesus, your child. To you be glory forever.”

3. Then in connection with the piece [506] [broken off the loaf]: “We thank you, our Father, for the life and knowledge which you have revealed through Jesus, your child. To you be glory forever.

4. “As this piece [of bread] was scattered over the hills [507] and then was brought together and made one, so let your Church be brought together from the ends of the earth into your Kingdom. For yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever.”

5. You must not let anyone eat or drink of your Eucharist except those baptized in the Lord’s name. For in reference to this the Lord said, “Do not give what is sacred to dogs.” [508]

Chapter 10

1. After you have finished your meal, say grace [509] in this way:

2. “We thank you, holy Father, for your sacred name which you have lodged [510] in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality which you have revealed through Jesus, your child. To you be glory forever.

3. “Almighty Master, ‘you have created everything’ [511] for the sake of your name, and have given men food and drink to enjoy that they may thank you. But to us you have given spiritual food and drink and eternal life through Jesus, your child.

4. “Above all, we thank you that you are mighty. To you be glory forever.

5. “Remember, Lord, your Church, to save it from all evil and to make it perfect by your love. Make it holy, ‘and gather’ it ‘together from the four winds’ [512] into your Kingdom which you have made ready for it. For yours is the power and the glory forever.”

6. “Let Grace [513] come and let this world pass away.” “Hosanna to the God of David!” [514] “If anyone is holy, let him come. If not, let him repent.” [515] “Our Lord, come!” [516] “Amen.” [517]

7. In the case of prophets, however, you should let them give thanks in their own way. [518]

Chapter 11

1. Now, you should welcome anyone who comes your way and teaches you all we have been saying.

2. But if the teacher proves himself a renegade and by teaching otherwise contradicts all this, pay no attention to him. But if his teaching furthers the Lord’s righteousness and knowledge, welcome him as the Lord.

3. Now about the apostles and prophets: Act in line with the gospel precept. [519]

4. Welcome every apostle on arriving, as if he were the Lord.

5. But he must not stay beyond one day. In case of necessity, however, the next day too. If he stays three days, he is a false prophet.

6. On departing, an apostle must not accept anything save sufficient food to carry him till his next lodging. If he asks for money, he is a false prophet.

7. While a prophet is making ecstatic utterances, [520] you must not test or examine him. For “every sin will be forgiven,” but this sin “will not be forgiven.” [521]

8. However, not everybody making ecstatic utterances is a prophet, but only if he behaves like the Lord. It is by their conduct that the false prophet and the [true] prophet can be distinguished.

9. For instance, if a prophet marks out a table in the Spirit, [522] he must not eat from it. If he does, he is a false prophet.

10. Again, every prophet who teaches the truth but fails to practice what he preaches is a false prophet.

11. But every attested and genuine prophet who acts with a view to symbolizing the mystery of the Church, [523] and does not teach you to do all he does, must not be judged by you. His judgment rests with God. For the ancient prophets too acted in this way.

12But if someone says in the Spirit, “Give me money, or something else,” you must not heed him. However, if he tells you to give for others in need, no one must condemn him.

Chapter 12.

1. Everyone “who comes” to you “in the name of the Lord” [524] must be welcomed. Afterward, when you have tested him, you will find out about him, for you have insight into right and wrong.

2. If it is a traveler who arrives, help him all you can. But he must not stay with you more than two days, or, if necessary, three.

3. If he wants to settle with you and is an artisan, he must work for his living.

4. If, however, he has no trade, use your judgment in taking steps for him to live with you as a Christian without being idle.

5. If he refuses to do this, he is trading on Christ. You must be on your guard against such people.

Chapter 13

1. Every genuine prophet who wants to settle with you “has a right to his support.”

2. Similarly, a genuine teacher himself, just like a “workman, has a right to his support.” [525]

3. Hence take all the first fruits of vintage and harvest, and of cattle and sheep, and give these first fruits to the prophets. For they are your high priests.

4. If, however, you have no prophet, give them to the poor.

5. If you make bread, take the first fruits and give in accordance with the precept. [526]

6. Similarly, when you open a jar of wine or oil, take the first fruits and give them to the prophets.

7. Indeed, of money, clothes, and of all your possessions, take such first fruits as you think right, and give in accordance with the precept.

Chapter 14

1. On every Lord’s Day–his special day [527] –come together and break bread and give thanks, first confessing your sins so that your sacrifice may be pure.

2. Anyone at variance with his neighbor must not join you, until they are reconciled, lest your sacrifice be defiled.

3. For it was of this sacrifice that the Lord said, “Always and everywhere offer me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is marveled at by the nations.” [528]

Chapter 15

1. You must, then, elect for yourselves bishops and deacons who are a credit to the Lord, men who are gentle, generous, faithful, and well tried. For their ministry to you is identical with that of the prophets and teachers.

2. You must not, therefore, despise them, for along with the prophets and teachers they enjoy a place of honor among you.

3. Furthermore, do not reprove each other angrily, but quietly, as you find it in the gospel. Moreover, if anyone has wronged his neighbor, nobody must speak to him, and he must not hear a word from you, until he repents.

4. Say your prayers, give your charity, and do everything just as you find it in the gospel of our Lord.

Chapter 16

1. “Watch” over your life: do not let “your lamps” go out, and do not keep “your loins ungirded”; but “be ready,” for “you do not know the hour when our Lord is coming.” [529]

2. Meet together frequently in your search for what is good for your souls, since “a lifetime of faith will be of no advantage” [530] to you unless you prove perfect at the very last.

3. For in the final days multitudes of false prophets and seducers will appear.

4. Sheep will turn into wolves, and love into hatred. For with the increase of iniquity men will hate, persecute, and betray each other. And then the world deceiver will appear in the guise of God’s Son. He will work “signs and wonders” [531] and the earth will fall into his hands and he will commit outrages such as have never occurred before.

5. Then mankind will come to the fiery trial “and many will fall away” [532] and perish, “but those who persevere” in their faith “will be saved” [533] by the Curse himself. [534]

6. Then “there will appear the signs” [535] of the Truth: first the sign of stretched-out [hands] in heaven, [536] then the sign of “a trumpet’s blast,” [537] and thirdly the resurrection of the dead, though not of all the dead,

7. but as it has been said: “The Lord will come and all his saints with him. Then the world will see the Lord coming on the clouds of the sky.” [538]


[473] Matt. 22:37-39; Lev. 19:18.

[474] Cf. Matt. 7:12.

[475] Matt. 5:44, 46, 47; Luke 6:27, 28, 32, 33.

[476] I Peter 2:11.

[477] Matt. 5:39, 48; Luke 6:29.

[478] Matt. 5:40, 41.

[479] Luke 6:30.

[480] Ibid.

[481] Matt. 5:26. This whole section 5 should be compared with Hermas, Mand. 2:4-7, on which it is apparently dependent.

[482] Source unknown.

[483] Ex. 20:13-17; cf. Matt. 19:18; 5:33.

[484] Prov. 21:6.

[485] Ps. 37:11; Matt. 5:5.

[486] Isa. 66:2.

[487] Heb. 13:7.

[488] Deut. 1:16, 17; Prov. 31:9.

[489] Meaning uncertain.

[490] Literally, “Do not withold your hand from . . .”

[491] Deut. 4:2; 12:32.

[492] Cf. Matt. 15:19; Mark 7:21, 22; Rom. 1:29-31; Gal. 5:19-21.

[493] Rom. 12:9.

[494] Ps. 4:2.

[495] Isa. 1:23.

[496] Wis. 12:6.

[497] Matt. 24:4.

[498] Matt. 28:19.

[499] Ibid.

[500] I.e., the Jews. Cf. Matt. 6:16.

[501] Matt. 6:5.

[502] Cf. Matt. 6:9-13.

[503] I.e., “the Thanksgiving.” The term, however, had become a technical one in Christianity for the special giving of thanks at the Lord’s Supper. One might render the verbal form (“give thanks”), which immediately follows, as “say grace,” for it was out of the Jewish forms for grace before and after meals (accompanied in the one instance by the breaking of bread and in the other by sharing a common cup of wine) that the Christian thanksgivings of the Lord’s Supper developed.

[504] It is a curious feature of the Didache that the cup has been displaced from the end of the meal to the very beginning. Equally curious is the absence of any direct reference to the body and blood of Christ.

[505] This may be a metaphorical reference to the divine life and knowledge revealed through Jesus (cf. ch. 9:3). It may also refer to the Messianic promise (cf, Isa. 11:1), or to the Messianic community (cf. Ps. 80:8), i.e., the Church.

[506] An odd phrase, but one that refers to the Jewish custom (taken over in the Christian Lord’s Supper) of grace before meals. The head of the house would distribute to each of the guests a piece of bread broken off a loaf, after uttering the appropriate thanksgiving to God.

[507] The reference is likely to the sowing of wheat on the hillsides of Judea.

[508] Matt. 7:6.

[509] Or “give thanks.” See note 47.

[510] For the phrase cf. Neh. 1:9.

[511] Wis. 1:14; Sir. 18:1; Rev. 4:11.

[512] Matt. 24:31.

[513] A title for Christ.

[514] Cf. Matt. 21:9, 15.

[515] Or perhaps “be converted.”

[516] Cf. I Cor. 16:22.

[517] These terse exclamations may be versicles and responses. More likely they derive from the Jewish custom of reading verses concerning Israel’s future redemption and glory, after the final benediction.

[518] I.e., they are not bound by the texts given.

[519] Matt. 10:40, 41.

[520] Literally, “speaking in a spirit,” i.e., speaking while possessed by a divine or demonic spirit. This whole passage (ch. 11:7-12) is a sort of parallel to Matt. 12:31 ff. There is an interpretation of the sin against the Holy Ghost, followed by a comment on good and evil conduct (cf. Matt. 12:33-37), and concluded by the prophets’ signs which are suggested by the sign of the Son of Man (Matt. 22:38 ff.).

[521] Matt. 12:31.

[522] The sense is not clear, but suggests a dramatic portrayal of the Messianic banquet. It was characteristic of the Biblical prophets to drive home their teaching by dramatic and symbolic actions (cf. Jer., ch. 19; Acts 21:11; etc.) .

[523] Literally, “acts with a view to a worldly mystery of the Church.” The meaning is not certain, but some dramatic action, symbolizing the mystical marriage of the Church to Christ, is probably intended. The reference may, indeed, be to the prophet’s being accompanied by a spiritual sister (cf. I Cor 7:36 ff.).

[524] Matt. 21:9; Ps. 118:26; cf. John 5:43.

[525] Matt. 10:10. The provision for the prophet or teacher to settle and to be supported by the congregation implies the birth of the monarchical episcopate. Note the connection of this with the high priesthood (cf. Hippolytus, Apost. Trad. 3:4) and tithing. No provision is made for the support of the local clergy in ch. 15.

[526] Deut. 18:3-5.

[527] Literally, “On every Lord’s Day of the Lord.”

[528] Mal. 1:11, 14.

[529] Matt. 24:42, 44; Luke 12:35.

[530] Barn. 4:9.

[531] Matt. 24:24.

[532] Matt. 24:10.

[533] Matt. 10:22; 24:13.

[534] An obscure reference, but possibly meaning the Christ who suffered the death of one accursed (Gal. 3:13; Barn. 7:9). Cf. two other titles for the Christ: Grace (ch. 10:6) and Truth (v. 6).

[535] Matt. 24:30.

[536] Another obscure reference, possibly to the belief that the Christ would appear on a glorified cross. Cf Barn. 12:2-4.

[537] Matt. 24:31.

[538] Zech. 14:5; I Thess. 3:13; Matt. 24:30.