Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Early Christian class warfare

The Didache is a Christian document from somewhere in the first three centuries, a sort of manual or handbook (an early edition of Christianity for Dummies).

One section of the Didache contrasts "the way of life" (good) with "the way of death" (bad). Here are some of the vices associated with the latter.
"They love vanity," "look for profit," have no pity for the poor, do not exert themselves for the oppressed, ignore their Maker, "murder children," corrupt God's image, turn their backs on the needy, oppress the afflicted, defend the rich, unjustly condemn the poor, and are thoroughly wicked. My children, may you be saved from all this!
There's a lot of stuff about the rich and the poor in there, over and over again. The author(s) in the Didache were apparently highly concerned about emphasizing this point -- almost as if there was a risk that Christians would forget about their obligations to the poor!

And it's evil to even defend the rich. Wow -- possibly the primary meaning there is legal, in which case it seems to be saying that the rich deserve to lose every court case. Or maybe it's being used in a broader sense. It's actually a pretty important word there: "parakletos". This is used in the NT to refer to the Holy Spirit. Now, I think that use of the word might only be found explicitly in John, which might not have been available to the author(s) of the Didache (possibly the Didache predates John). But it sure is fun to think that that part of the Didache was written in light of that connotation of "parakletos".

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