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The text, parts of which constitute the oldest extant written catechism, has three main sections dealing with Christian ethics, rituals such as baptism and Eucharist, and Church organization.
The interrelationships between these various documents, however, are quite complex and much remains to be worked out.The Didache may have been compiled in its present form as late as 150, although a date closer to the end of the first century seems more probable to many.It is an anonymous work, a pastoral manual that Aaron Milavec states "reveals more about how Jewish-Christians saw themselves and how they adapted their Judaism for gentiles than any other book in the Christian Scriptures." The community that produced the Didache could have been based in Syria, as it addressed the Gentiles but from a Judaic perspective, at some remove from Jerusalem, and shows no evidence of Pauline influence.Chapter 2 contains the commandments against murder, adultery, corrupting boys, sexual promiscuity, theft, magic, sorcery, abortion, infanticide, coveting, perjury, false testimony, speaking evil, holding grudges, being double-minded, not acting as you speak, greed, avarice, hypocrisy, maliciousness, arrogance, plotting evil against neighbors, hate, narcissism and expansions on these generally, with references to the words of Jesus.Chapter 3 attempts to explain how one vice leads to another: anger to murder, concupiscence to adultery, and so forth. A number of precepts are added in chapter 4, which ends: "This is the Way of Life." Verse 13 states you must not forsake the Lord's commandments, neither adding nor subtracting (see also Deut 4:2,).In the end, it was not accepted into the New Testament canon.
However, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church "broader canon" includes the Didascalia, a work which draws on the Didache.
There are echoes in Justin Martyr, Tatian, Theophilus of Antioch, Cyprian, and Lactantius.
The contents may be divided into four parts, which most scholars agree were combined from separate sources by a later redactor: the first is the Two Ways, the Way of Life and the Way of Death (chapters 1–6); the second part is a ritual dealing with baptism, fasting, and Communion (chapters 7–10); the third speaks of the ministry and how to treat apostles, prophets, bishops, and deacons (chapters 11–15); and the final section (chapter 16) is a prophecy of the Antichrist and the Second Coming.
The closest parallels in the use of the Two Ways doctrine is found among the Essene Jews at the Dead Sea Scrolls community.
The Qumran community included a Two Ways teaching in its founding Charter, The Community Rule.
Then comes short extracts in common with the Sermon on the Mount, together with a curious passage on giving and receiving, which is also cited with variations in Shepherd of Hermas (Mand., ii, 4–6).