I have been reading through the Didache slowly while taking notes. Last week I mentioned how itinerant Apostles and Prophets were rejected as impostors if they stayed for more than a few days and asked for anything more than food and water (see “Notes on the Didache”, Part 2″). Also, if someone teaches something, but doesn’t live it, then this person is to be rejected as an imposture. These are the words from 11:1-12 regarding itinerate Apostles and Prophets (taken from here):
Welcome the teacher when he comes to instruct you in all that has been said.
But if he turns and trains you in another tradition to the destruction of this teaching, do not listen. If he teaches so as to increase righteousness and the knowledge of the Lord, receive him as the Lord.
Act according to the precepts of the gospel concerning all apostles and prophets:
Let every apostle who comes to you be received as the Lord.
But he must not remain more than one day, or two, if there’s a need. If he stays three days, he is a false prophet.
And when the apostle goes away, let him take nothing but bread to last him until his next night of lodging. If he asks for money, he is a false prophet.
In addition, if any prophet speaks in the Spirit, you shall not try or judge him; for every sin will be forgiven, but this sin cannot be forgiven.
But not everyone who speaks in the Spirit is a prophet; only he is a prophet who has the ways of the Lord about him. By their ways will the false prophet and the prophet be known.
Any prophet who orders a meal in the Spirit does not eat it; if he does, he is indeed a false prophet.
And any prophet who teaches the truth, but does not do what he teaches, is a false prophet.
When a prophet, proved true, works for the mystery of the church in the world but does not teach others to do what he himself does, he will not be judged among you, for his judgment is already before God. The ancient prophets acted in this way, also.
But whoever says in the Spirit, “Give me money,”or something else like this, you must not listen to him. But if he tells you to give for the sake of others who are in need, let no one judge him.
Some of the restrictions seemed a bit harsh. Paul may have been willing to earn his own wages, but he supported the idea that those who preach the Gospel should be supported in doing that as their work. The Didache seems to be a reaction against those who are abusing the “right”. In other words, it was apparent that Christians were generous, and if one could pretend to be a traveling Apostle or Prophet one could make good money.
Then I was reading Irenaeus of Lyons’ Against Heresies and I was provided with the example of a gnostic “prophet” in the tradition of the Valentinians who Irenaeus accuses of gross immortality. He says this in 1.13.1-7 that this Marcus was very charismatic and he seduced women into having sex with him as part of his religious teachings. He deceived the wife of a deacon who traveled with him for some time before being brought to her senses and Irenaeus writes, “At last, when, with no small difficulty, the brethren had converted her, she spent her whole time in the exercise of public confession, weeping over and lamenting the defilement which she had received from this magician.” Many other women faced the scorn of their mistakes with Marcus and similar teachers in the region where he was a Bishop. Irenaeus writes of their current state-of-being:
“…they have deluded many women, who have their consciences seared as with a hot iron. Some of them, indeed, make a public confession of their sins; but others of them are ashamed to do this, and in a tacit kind of way, despairing of [attaining to] the life of God, have, some of them, apostatized altogether; while others hesitate between the two courses, and incur that which is implied in the proverb, “neither without nor within;” possessing this as the fruit from the seed of the children of knowledge.”
From Irenaeus’ writings it is evident that not all itinerate religious leaders were able to be put into a place of accountability and it wreaked havoc on the lives of many. I wonder if this is something foreseen by the author(s) of the Didache?