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 pre-order this now. The Didache is sixteen chapters long, and there are exactly sixteen Sabbaths between Shavu’ot and Rosh HaShanah. 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 2 of the Didache continues to expound on the Way of Life. However, there is a switch from focusing on the injunction to “love your fellow as yourself” in chapter 1 to covering injunctions that fall under “the second commandment of the teaching”: “Whatever you do not want to happen to you, do not do to one another.”
The chapter opens with content similar to the Ten Commandments and then brings forth some instructions regarding proper speech. It closes with verse 7, which functions as a kind of summary of the chapter:
Do not hate any human being; but some you are to rebuke, and some you are to pray for, yet some you are to love even more than your own life. (Didache 2.7)
The passage reminds us of the passage in Jude: “Have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 22‒23). It reflects the message of love that our Master Yeshua taught: a love that results in challenging some, praying for others, and giving up our lives for still others.
This Didache passage sets forth three different types of people.
Those to Rebuke
Some you are to rebuke.
First are those we should rebuke for their transgressions. This section is constructed largely upon Leviticus 19:17, although one notable difference is that the biblical “brother” is replaced by the universal “any human being,” emphasizing once again the non-Jewish audience of the Didache. In rabbinic exegesis this passage from Leviticus represents the positive commandment to rebuke one’s fellow when he is in sin. In turn, not to rebuke someone when one can become an accomplice in that person’s sin. The Master expounds on Leviticus 19:17, explaining the proper steps for rebuking in Matthew 18:15-18.
Those to Prayer For
Some you are to pray for.
The second group—those we “are to pray for”— seems to indicate people who have not confessed their sins yet cannot be reprimanded for one reason or another. Rabbi Steinsaltz writes that in rebuking “one should only reprimand someone who will accept the reprimand, and one must not reprimand someone who has vehemently expressed unwillingness to be reprimanded.”  In such cases the Didache instructs us to pray for a person rather than rebuke him. Through our prayers, we hope to bring the person to repentance.
Those to Love More than Yourself
Some you are to love even more than your own life.
Finally, to the third group, the Didache instructs, “Yet some you are to love even more than your own life,” which most commentaries see as applying to members of one’s own community—those who have repented and are walking in the Way of Life. The commandment to love applies to all mankind, of course, but different measures apply for each of the three groups of people. For some—those in this third group—we need to be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. The Master himself tells us: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). In a non-canonical saying that echoes the Didache’s language, Yeshua says, “Love your brother like your soul, guard him like the pupil of your eye” (Gospel of Thomas 25).
The Greek word psuche (“life”) corresponds in the Septuagint primarily to the Hebrew word nefesh (“soul”). This then connects to “You shall love the LORD … with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 6:5), and naturally so, because, in the Didache and the teachings of the Master, our love for God is displayed in our love for our fellow. Indeed, the sages interpret “with all your soul” as a willingness to give up our lives (m.Brachot 9:5). In the Didache, “love your neighbor as yourself” becomes “love your neighbor more than yourself.”
This verse can be said to not only be a summary of the contents of the chapter but the cornerstone verse of the entire Didache.  It teaches us to view our fellow as God views us, realizing that each situation requires us to react differently toward our fellow man—putting their needs before ours and seek their well-being. This is the core of discipleship to Yeshua.
- Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, The Talmud Steinsaltz Edition: A Reference Guide (New York, NY: Random, 1989), 271.
- Tony Jones, The Teaching of the Twelve: Believing & Practicing the Primitive Christianity of the Ancient Didache Community (Brewster, MA: Paraclete, 2009), 75.