Didascalia Apostolorum

A book of church order probably of Syrian origin. Apart from fragments of the original Greek, it has survived complete only in Syriac, partially in Latin. Various oriental adaptations are known, and it was included in the later Apostolic Constitutions in a revised form. It is to be dated in the third century. It deals with six main topics: (a) standards of the Christian life: the Decalogue binds the Christian, but the ritual commands are a second law (deuterosis) imposed as punishment; (b) the bishop, who is supreme leader and teacher of his church: usually he should be over fifty, husband of one wife, generous and merciful to his flock; presbyters are mentioned only incidentally; (c) widows, evidently numerous and troublesome, who ought to attend to duties of mercy; (d) orphans, who should if possible be adopted by other childless Christians; (e) martyrs and confessors, who should be cared for by the church, and who are upheld by the resurrection hope and the example of Christ; (f) heresy and schism, both Judaizing and Gnostic interpretations. The book is significant for the history of penitential discipline. Apart from canonical Scriptures, widely used, the unknown author uses some apocryphal Christian writings and works of the Apostolic Fathers.