Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Didache, Verse 1: A Brief Examination

1 There are two paths, one of Life and one of Death, and there is a great difference between the two paths. The Path of Life is this:
- The Didache, verse 1

The Damascus Document, too, reflects on this concept of "two ways".

And now hearken unto me all ye who have entered into the covenant, and I will disclose to you the ways of the wicked. God loveth wisdom; and counsel He hath set before Him, and plenteousness of forgivenesses to pardon those who repent of transgression. And power and might and great fury with flames of fire (therein are all the angels of destruction) for them who turned aside out of the way, and abhorred the statute, so that there shall be no remnant, nor any to escape them.”1

We also find this concept of dual paths fits well with the testimony of Sacred Scripture.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”- Proverbs 14:12

And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.”                                                                                                                  - Isaiah 35:8

Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”- Luke 13:24

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. But small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a few find it.”- Matthew 7:13-14

Connecting the words of the Didache to Sacred Scripture helps us to understand what the author of the Didache likely had in mind with regard to the ideas of life and death. Some rather unorthodox thinkers want to have us accept that the word destruction means a cessation of existence, or annihilation of the soul. The word "death" used in the Didache is most likely to be understood in light of the Greek word ἀπώλειαν translated "destruction" in Matthew 7:13-14. The word implies waste, or the loss of everything that makes life precious, and that serves to assist humanity in meeting its created end. What is clearly implied by the use of this word is that life is more than mere existence. Therefore, destruction is obviously intended to mean something far more than mere non-existence.

It is also of interest to note that Matthew's gospel refers to few finding the path to life. The way is so narrow, so seemingly small by comparison to the many voices in the world, each claiming to be the way, that it is very easy to completely miss or ignore the true way. Luke tells us to “strive” to enter in by the narrow way. This implies a need for being on guard, as it were; prepared to fight one's way through the gateway. Perseverance, faith, and an indomitable will to live the gospel are all a part of our striving to enter this gate.

The author of the Didache, perhaps realizing the ease with which one can miss the way of Life, seeks to enlighten the reader as to the markers or signposts of each path, so as to better inform us and prepare us to recognize them.

What must ultimately be understood by the disciple of Jesus is that the Way and Life are not simply methodologies or concepts of divine law, but a Person.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”- John 14:6

The Messiah, then, is the way by which humanity approaches the Divine. He is the focal point of humanity's created end (the life), and He is Truth personified.

1The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English, Damascus Document, 2:1-5, R.H. Charles, ed., Vol 2, pp 799-800

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