The Way of the Didache: The First Christian Handbook. A Brief Reveiw

“The Way of the Didache: The First Christian Handbook,” Dr. William Varner’s new book, is an exciting and engaging look at one of the oldest non-canonical writings. Dr. Varner, professor of Bible and Greek at the Master’s College, has spent the a number of years working through the Greek text of the Didache, both on his own and also with his intermediate Greek students at the Master’s College. From the beginning of chapter one all the way until the end, the reader is brought along with Dr. Varner as he enthusiastically discusses the importance and relevance of the Didache for present day Christian studies.
Probably the greatest strength of Dr. Varner’s book is its accessibility to both seasoned scholars as well as to those who have never even heard the word Didache. In chapter one, Varner shares his exciting story of how he was able to get into the library of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch and secure a viewing of the 950-year-old codex Hierosolymitanus (or Codex H) that contained the only complete Greek copy of the Didache. Also, Dr. Varner explains how he came to writing this present book and why he felt that another book on the Didache was needed.
In subsequent chapters Dr. Varner deals with issues concerning the rediscovering of the Didache (2), the text of the Didache (3), the translation of the Didache (4), the Scriptures of the Didache (5), The two ways of the Didache (6), the sacraments of the Didache (7), the ministers of the Didache (8), the theology of the Didache (9), and the lessons of the Didache (10).
Some highlights of the book would include the Greek text of the Didache, which follows the critical text of Rordorf and Tuilier, as well as Dr. Varner’s own analytical, yet “formal equivalent” translation of the text. Also, in what may be of interest to one studying the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament, the chapter on the Scriptures of the Didache is a fascinating study. Probably the most controversial section of the book is contained in chapter five. Dr. Varner, after discussing the various views of the use of Matthew in the Didache, and picking up the theory of Andre Tuilier, proposes that instead of utilizing the Gospel of Matthew as we now have it, instead is using what Tuilier refers to as “The Gospel of the Lord.” This theory is based on the words of Papias regarding Matthew’s composition of his gospel. An advocate of the mysterious Q document would find an ally in Tuilier theory.
The practical, as well as theological value of chapters six through cannot be fully stated in this review. But nonetheless, topics like baptism, the Eucharist, and eschatology are given considerable amount of discussion and thought.
In all, Dr. Varner has succeeded in publishing a book that both the scholar and the layman can profit from. His writing style is engaging and informative, without dumbing down or using technical jargon that only Didache specialists can understand.


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