Day One: the Didache (in full)
Who: Written by an anonymous author, possibly multiple sources compiled into one book at a later date. The title translates as “the teaching”, or in its full tithe: Teaching of the Twelve Apostles.
What: The Didache is basically a church handbook with a summarised collection of the basic teachings of the Church and Gospel, aimed at local church leaders and new converts.
Why: Tradition has it as being a collection of the apostles teachings, so it was probably written to preserve this information as they grew older or died, or moved away from the communities they planted.
When: Between 70-100 AD
The Didache is one of my favourite extra-biblical books I've read, so this is probably the fourth or fifth time I've been through it. I highly recommend taking the time to sit down and really digest it. The book has 16 chapters, but don't let that put you off as they are pretty short and only about a couple of paragraphs each since the whole point of this book is to be a quick overview or reference guide to various topics within early Christianity. As you read through it, you'll find many familiar sayings and instructions from the New Testament, which makes sense if this is the contents of what the apostles continued to teach their new faith communities.
The book opens with a strong and definitive start: The Two Ways, one of life and one of death. This is reminiscent of the various lists of vices which Paul writes to avoid in his epistles, contrasted with the right way to conduct yourself to enter the Kingdom.
Some of the other things that are quite striking about the Didache, are the practices described that demonstrate that certain things which the Church (via different denominations/branches) has taught through the centuries actually originated at the very start, well within the first century. Such as baptism not always being full immersion, but sprinkling being permitted where water was scarce or not available to dunk in, and the gathering together on Sundays (the Lord's Day) to worship and break bread.
There's also a great deal of information and teaching of how to recognise false prophets and apostles contrasted with true ones within a New Testament context.
I hope you enjoyed reading the Didache as much as I did.