The complete title of this third-century work is Didascalia id est doctrina catholica duodecim apostolorum et discipulorum sanctorum Salvatoris nostri (Instructions, That Is, Catholic Doctrine, of the Twelve Apostles and Holy Disciples of Our Savior). Although originally written in Greek, it is currently extant in a Syriac translation and extensive Latin fragments. Portions of the Greek text are found in the fourth-century APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS, for the compiler of that work used the Didascalia extensively in the early part of his work. Connolly has observed that the Didascalia makes considerable use of the Old Testament, especially Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. The Gospels were used as sources, including the episode of the woman taken in adultery, and allusions to apostolic sources are apparent, though there are no references to them as written sources. The Didascalia makes use of both Old and New Testament apocryphal works, in addition to such works as the Sibylline Oracles and the DIDACHE.
The work is usually classified among writings dealing with ecclesiastical offices and orders, and it purports to be a compilation of instructions made by the apostles immediately after the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15. Following a brief opening address to all Christians to give heed to the teaching of the document, the treatise turns to the duties of bishops, including bishops’ courts for lawsuits between believers and the conduct of worship services. There follow instructions on how to deal with widows, how to assign deacons and deaconesses in their responsibilities, and what to do with orphans.
Other subjects included in the Didascalia are martyrdom, fasting and the Easter season, heresies and judgments against heretics, and the relationship of the Old Testament rituals to the New Testament church. Practical advice is given relating to morality, decency in language, dietary freedom, and how to treat visitors. Reference is also made concerning the assignment of the apostles to various provinces, though specific locations are not given.
Because the Didascalia was composed in the east, probably in Syria, its effect on developing church orders and regulations in the churches of the region should not be surprising, and indeed, reference to it in a gloss to a Coptic version of a letter of Athanasius argues for its presence in Egypt. Later references to the Didascalia are surprisingly rare, however, with Epiphanius being perhaps the earliest author to cite the work in his own writings.
- S. P. Brock, ‘Two Syriac papyrus fragments from the Schøyen Collection’, OC 79 (1995), 9–22.
- R. H. Connolly, Didascalia Apostolorum (1929). (ET)
- J.-M. Sauget, ‘Le fragment de papyrus syriaque conservé à Florence’, AION 45 (1985), 1–16 with 2 plates.
- A. Stewart-Sykes, The Didascalia Apostolorum: An English version with introduction and annotation (2009).
- A. Vööbus, The Didascalia Apostolorum in Syriac (CSCO 401–402, 407–8; 1979).
- S. P. Brock, ‘Some aspects of Greek words in Syriac’, Synkretismus im syrisch-persischen Kulturgebiet, ed. A. Dietrich (1975), 80–108.
- A. Camplani, ‘A Coptic fragment from the “Didascalia Apostolorum” (M579 f.1)’, Augustinianum 36 (1996), 47–51.
- C. Fonrobert, ‘The Didascalia apostolorum: a Mishnah for the disciples of Jesus’, JECS 9 (2001), 483–509.
- C. Methuen, ‘Widows, bishops and the struggle for authority in the Didascalia Apostolorum’, JEH 46 (1995), 197–213.
- C. Methuen, ‘For pagans laugh to hear women teach: gender stereotypes in the Didascalia Apostolorum’, in Gender and Christian Religion, ed. R. N. Swanson (1998), 23–35.
- J. G. Mueller, ‘The Ancient Church Order literature: Genre or tradition?’ JECS 15 (2007), 337–80.
- M. Penn, ‘“Bold and having no shame”: ambiguous widows, controlling clergy, and early Syrian communities’, Hugoye 4.2 (2001).
- G. Schöllgen, ‘Die literarische Gattung der Syrischen Didaskalie’, in SymSyr IV, 149–59.
- G. Schöllgen, Die Anfänge der Professionalisierung des Klerus und das kirchliche Amt in der syrischen Didaskalie (JAC Ergänzungsband 26; 1998).
- B. Steimer, Vertex Traditionis. Die Gattung der altchristlichen Kirchenordnungen (1992), 49–59, 222–42, 372.
- K. J. Torjesen, ‘The episcopacy—sacerdotal or monarchical? The appeal to Old Testament institutions by Cyprian and the Didascalia’, StPatr , vol. 36 (2001), 387–406.
- Die Syrische Didaskalia / übersetzt und erklärt von H. Achelis und J. Flemming by Halle (Saale) : Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Sachsen-Anhalt, 2010
- Didascalia apostolorum syriace; by Lagarde, Paul de
- Didascalia et Constitutiones apostolorum by Funk, Franz Xaver von, 1840-1907, ed