The Way of the Didache: The First Christian Handbook

By William Varner
Lanham, Md. : University Press (2007). 148 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Richard Mayhue
18.2 (Fall 2007) : 267-267

Two early Christian documents supercede all others, except Scripture, by providing the earliest compendiums of the apostolic church’s preaching and practices. First, in regard to doctrine, is Irenaeus’ Proof of the Apostolic Preaching (ca. A.D. 180) which provides an exposition of the biblical basis on which the apostolic preaching rested. Second, in regard to practice, is the anonymously authored Didache (ca. A.D. 90), which delivers the first Christian handbook. William Varner, Ed.D. (professor of biblical studies, The Master’s College), has devoted his considerable scholastic energies to the latter during a recent sabbatical, in order to produce this veritable goldmine.

Varner has written in such a way that serious laymen, pastors, and scholars alike will profit from engaging this work, which is at once provocative, deep, and readable. This piece of first-rate scholarship provides an extensive bibliography of Didache research (139–45), plus lexical (109–26), topical (127–30), and authorial (147) indexes.

Of particular value are two chapters which provide the Greek text (chap. 3) and the author’s translation (chap. 4). Three of the most interesting essays include “The Scriptures of the Didache” (chap. 5), “The Ministers of the Didache” (chap. 8), and “The Theology of the Didache” (chap. 9).

While reflecting his own personal “take away,” the author does lead the reader to some of the most practical lessons emphasized by this ancient document in “The Lessons of the Didache” (chap. 10).

All in all, this reviewer highly recommends this fresh study of such a critically important historical document. This is a must read for every pastor.