Do Not Be Led Astray

The community must seek to preserve the Torah and traditions as handed down by the apostles and must not fall away.


DidacheJul 2, 2017

DidacheJul 2, 2017


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First Fruits of Zion is proud to announce the completion of a Messianic Jewish translation and commentary on the Didache entitled The Way of Life: The Rediscovered Teachings of the Twelve Jewish Apostles to the Gentiles. You can order this now. The Didache is sixteen chapters long and there are exactly sixteen Sabbaths between Shavu’ot and Rosh HaShanah. In turn, it presents a perfect opportunity to study one chapter of the Didache a week throughout the summer. We will be presenting a blog each week previewing some of the commentary of The Way of Life.

Chapter 6 is the shortest chapter of the Didache. It serves as a bridge and a segue from the Two Ways section to the ritual and community instructions that make up the rest of the work.

A clear change in the Didache’s grammar is seen beginning in this chapter. In chapters 1 through 5, the words “you shall” appear in the second-personal singular form, but in chapter 6 the Didache switches primarily to the second-person plural. This switch seems to indicate a shift in focus from individualized instruction to more community-oriented teaching, which we find in the remaining chapters.

Do Not Be Led Astray

See that no one leads you astray from this way of teaching because he does not teach you according to God. (Didache 6.1)

The Didache begins chapter 6 with a warning against false teachers who lead people away from God and the Way of Life. This is a continuation of the exhortation at the end of 5.2: “Children, may you be rescued from all of these!” All that has been taught so far is to be carefully guarded, and new Gentile disciples are to watch out for those who would lead them astray from the Way of Life.

This warning is reminiscent of Deuteronomy 11:

Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them … I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: … the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known. (Deuteronomy 11:16, 26, 28)

Deuteronomy speaks of being deceived to the point that one worships “other gods.” Similarly to this Deuteronomy passage, Didache 6 begins with a warning about being led astray and ends with strong warnings against food offered to idols (idolatry).

Jonathan Draper sees in Didache 6.1 two distinct groups that could have threatened to lead members of the Didache communities “astray from this way of teaching.” On one side he observes “Christians depicted as sheep turned to wolves, led astray by the anti-Christ, who wish to lead the community away from its traditional way of teaching which ‘breaks down [Torah],’” and on the opposite side Judaizers who believed that Gentiles could not be a part of the kingdom unless they converted to become legally Jewish.” [1]

Several parallel sayings to 6.1 can be found in the New Testament: “Little children, let no one deceive you” (1 John 3:7), and, “Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray” (2 Peter 2:15). Didache 6.1 is very close to Yeshua’s saying, “See that no one leads you astray”; as such, it may be that the Didache is drawing from a no-longer-extant teaching of the Master.

Conclusion

The Didache urges the Messianic community to seek to preserve the Torah and traditions as handed down by the apostles and must not fall prey to those who said it had been done away with or who sought to impose their own interpretations and variant halachah. In the mind of the Apostle Peter, it would have been better never to have “known the way of righteousness” than to come to the truth and then be led astray (2 Peter 2:21).

Endnotes

[1] Jonathan A. Draper, “Do the Didache and Matthew Reflect an ‘Irrevocable Parting of the Ways’ with Judaism?” in Matthew and the Didache: Two Documents from the Same Jewish-Christian Milieu? (ed. Huub van de Sandt; Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2005), 219.

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About the Author: Toby Janicki is the director of the 12-21 youth initiative, as well as a teacher and writer for First Fruits of Zion. He contributes regularly to Messiah Journal and has authored several books including God-Fearers and a comprehensive commentary on the Didache titled: The Way of Life. More articles by Toby Janicki

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