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 per week throughout the summer. We will be presenting a blog each week previewing some of the commentary of The Way of Life.
Chapter 11 of the Didache begins a new section of material concerned with congregational order and legal rulings. This section continues through chapter 15.
The last line of chapter 10, with its instructions for honoring prophets (and teachers) by allowing them to lead the Grace after Meals, creates a smooth transition to chapter 11, which speaks about teachers, emissaries, and prophets. Chapter 11 also deals with the issue of hospitality toward different types of travelers, as does chapter 12.
Receiving as the Lord
Now receive whoever comes to teach you in all that has just been said. But if this teacher, having turned aside, were to teach a different kind of teaching to undermine this teaching, do not obey him. However, if his teaching serves to promote righteousness and knowledge of the Lord, receive him as the Lord. Concerning the emissaries and prophets, according to the ordinance of the good news, this is what you should do: Let every emissary who comes to you be received as the Lord. (Didache 11.1-4)
This chapter of the Didache offers rules pertaining to three different offices within the apostolic community: teachers, emissaries (that is, apostles), and prophets. The content is generally organized as follows:
- 11.1-2 Teachers
- 11.3-6 Emissaries
- 11.7-12 Prophets
These categories often overlap, however; we do not always find clear distinctions between the three groups. Some of the instructions apply to those filling these offices within the local community, while a good portion of the material deals with visitors and travelers who claim to occupy these offices.
Chapter 11 does not communicate sayings of Yeshua but rather attempts to clarify his instructions on hospitality and respect toward those appointed by God. Yeshua enjoined his followers to receive emissaries, prophets, and teachers with open arms:
Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. (Matthew 10:40-41)
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. (John 13:20)
These sayings of the Master laid down a principle that required disciples to receive agents of Yeshua who came in his name, offer them hospitality and sustenance, and heed their instruction. While hospitality and respect for teachers, prophets, and emissaries were important parts of discipleship, they could not be practiced without discretion and regulation. Hospitality exercised without discernment could quickly be abused. If every teacher, emissary, and prophet were accepted outright and without qualification, they could pose potential problems for the health of the community. Laws, criteria, and instructions had to be put in place to ensure that Christ-mongers, impostors, and frauds were weeded out.
The Didache uses language echoing the Master’s injunction: “Now receive whoever comes to teach you in all that has just been said” (11.1); “Receive him as the Lord” (11.2); and, “Let every emissary who comes to you be received as the Lord” (11.4). The text then comments upon these statements, clarifying them and giving further instructions on them to ensure that the community’s generosity and respect toward leaders and teachers would not be trampled upon. In these chapters (11-15) we clearly see how the Didache treats Yeshua’s words as the Mishnah and creates a Gemara-like commentary upon them.