Monday, May 22, 2006

The Teaching

A neat piece on the Didache. What the Teaching Can Teach Us - Christianity Today Magazine.
The Teaching also can guide us regarding false teachers, and it does so in a surprising way. While it commends strongly the ministry of hospitality, it uses equally strong language for those teachers who prey upon the kindness of believers. It sets the limit on traveling teachers' stays in believers' homes at one or two nights. Also, in accord with Jesus' teaching, such traveling itinerants were to be compensated by meeting their physical needs. With a refreshing straightforwardness, however, the Didachist admonishes concerning guest teachers: "But if he asks for money, he is a false prophet." One wonders what the Didachist would say today if he could witness the tearful requests for monetary gifts that come from some of our modern day "prophets." And what would early Christians think of preachers today who demand a certain fee for preaching at a church or conference?
The author's locus standi reveals itself subtly, however:
Many writers have noticed a "primitive simplicity" in the way that the Teaching describes the pastoral ministry in local assemblies. One finds in it no elaborate hierarchy of "bishops, priests, and deacons" such as developed in the second century.
Umm, that "elaborate hierarchy" is found in the New Testament itself. And even if one goes with those who would consign 1 Timothy and Titus to pseudonymity (claims that rest on very slender evidence, I'd say), the Letter to the Philippians mentions bishops. And, no matter, these are all canonical, authoritative scripture.

Quibbles aside, a neat piece!


Todd said...

I'd say that "elaborate" is an unclear adjective. What we probably can say is that Christians of the Didache lacked an institutional hierarchy. There were bishops, presbyters, and deacons: the New Testament makes that clear. But there were no curia, no diocesan chanceries, local churches were led by bishops, assisted in ministry by deacons, and presbyters were restricted in their ability to preside at sacramental celebrations.

Gashwin said...

Thanks for stopping by, Todd. And yes, I agree (though I'm a little fuzzy on what the historical record has established about the role of presbyters in the late 1st/early 2nd century). I was responding to this idea that hierarchy itself is a later development, which, to me, seemed a subtle implication in the article. As I said, it was a quibble.