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The Teaching of the Twelve: Believing & Practicing the Primitive Christianity of the Ancient Didache Community [Paperback]

By Tony Jones (Author)
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Item description for The Teaching of the Twelve: Believing & Practicing the Primitive Christianity of the Ancient Didache Community by Tony Jones...

Introduces readers to a first century Christian treatise written to give instructions to the fledging churches, exploring what the original apostles had to say about the ways Christians should worship, live, and care for each other. Original.

Publishers Description

"What can we know about the practices of the early church? " "The Didache is the most important book you've never read," begins Tony Jones, in this engaging study. The Didache is an early handbook of an anonymous Christian community, likely written before some of the New Testament books were written. It spells out a way of life for Jesus-followers that includes instruction on how to treat one another, how to practice the Eucharist, and how to take in wandering prophets. In "The Teaching of the Twelve," Jones unpacks the ancient document, and he traces the life of a small house church in Missouri that is trying to live according to its precepts. Readers will find "The Teaching of the Twelve" inspirational and challenging, and they will discover a unique window into the life of the very earliest followers of Jesus the Christ. A new, contemporary English translation of the Didache is included.

From Publishers Weekly
Calling the Didache the most important book youve never heard of, Emergent leader Jones (The New Christians) briefly unpacks the theological and practical lessons to be gleaned from one of early Christianitys most overlooked texts. Less than half the length of the shortest New Testament gospel, the Didache (teaching) informed new Christians about spiritual practices like baptism, prayer, hospitality, fasting, Eucharist, generosity, and basic morality. Dated between 50 and 130 C.E., it is one of the oldest extant Christian texts not found in the New Testament. Jones writes engagingly, explaining the Didaches meaning and importance while also introducing a surprising interlocutor called Trucker Frank, a Missouri truck driver whose house church has based its life together on the Didache. The great and unique value of this book is its vision of how Christians today might put the Didache in practice, rather than as a contribution to early Christian studies; in fact, biblical scholars and historians may raise eyebrows at a few of the books assumptions, particularly its oversimplifications about Gnosticism. Jones, however, has done a great service by recovering and interpreting this neglected classic for the ancient-future church. (Feb.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

Citations And Professional Reviews
The Teaching of the Twelve: Believing & Practicing the Primitive Christianity of the Ancient Didache Community by Tony Jones has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -

  • Publishers Weekly - 12/14/2009 page 54

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Paraclete Press
Pages   125
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7.9" Width: 5.3" Height: 0.4"
Weight:   0.32 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Dec 1, 2009
Publisher   Paraclete Press (MA)
ISBN  1557255903  
ISBN13  9781557255907  

Availability  3 units.
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More About Tony Jones

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Tony Jones is the author of "The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier," and the theologian-in-residence at Solomon's Porch in Minnesota. He is the author of many books, including "The Sacred Way," and is a sought-after speaker in the areas of emerging church, postmodernism, and Christian spirituality. Tony lives in Minnesota.

Tony Jones has published or released items in the following series...

  1. Living Theology
  2. Youth Specialties S

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Bible & Other Sacred Texts > Bible > New Testament
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > General
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > General
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference

Christian Product Categories
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Reviews - What do customers think about The Teaching of the Twelve: Believing & Practicing the Primitive Christianity of the Ancient Didache Community?

Infant Manual of the Church  Apr 19, 2010
Having read through the New Testament many times, I've been looking for other documents that can give the modern-day Christian a better understanding of the early Church. The Didache is just what I've been looking for: a document likely written in the 1st century, conforming with orthodox beliefs, and giving a good basis for how Christians should live. Jones gives the appropriate context for understanding this book, as some features may seem odd to current believers. For instance, he explains the nature of traveling preachers, which is why the Didache has a seemingly large emphasis on how to recieve travelers and what the community should expect from them. Intertwined in the textual criticism of the Didache is his experience with a small home church, who has embraced the Didache as a practical guide for how Christians should live. A great book for those wanting to know more about the early church from a primary source!
Compelling, but not without problems.  Apr 10, 2010
Over the years, I've developed a bit of a love-hate relationship with Tony Jones' work. On the up side, I've found his advocacy for emerging church topics to be intelligent, and he has helped develop a good bit of energy around some topics that North American evangelicalism needs to engage and re-engage. I loved his book The Sacred Way, and found it to be a helpful, historically based way of approaching some spiritual practices that good evangelicals have typically found to be "too Catholic." On the other hand, I've found that while he's made efforts at congeniality, he seems to enjoy being a lightning rod for controversy . . . even when controversy isn't helpful (mind you, it IS helpful at times). Also, I've found his use of language to be elitist. His book The New Christians is a good example of that, not to mention that it's an inaccurate, and possibly self-centered, portrayal of the emerging church movement.

I write all of the above as an introduction to this review mainly because this book encapsulates a good bit of my love-hate feelings. Jones tells the story of the Didache, which is an ancient document describing a sort of rule of life that was practiced by the earliest Christians. It is a compelling look into the ways that people were rearranging their lives around following Jesus, even while the gospels were being written. This book contains the Didache, and then a good bit of Jones' commentary, which I found to be well-balanced, for the most part. In an attempt to bring the Didache into a 21st century context, Jones describes how it is being used in the life of a faith community in the U.S. midwest. This is where I think things don't go so well. I admire the attempt to demonstrate how this old document that clearly has some value, can be relevant in today's culture. But he dwells very heavily on his friend, Trucker Frank, the reluctant pastor of this faith community. Frank seems like an incredibly intelligent, genuine soul, and it is certainly interesting to see the way he applies himself to this text, but I just didn't need "thoughts from Trucker Frank" at the end of every chapter of the book.

Additionally, I'm not sure Jones successfully navigated some tricky ground when it comes to textual criticism. Having taken a classic postmodern textual approach to the Bible in the past (one that I think is valid, by the way), Jones takes on the task of elevating a clearly non-scriptural text to a level of importance that it ought to be taken seriously and even practiced in contemporary times. But then he stops short of doing the same kind of textual criticism that he's previously done on Scripture itself. I realize this was a tall order, and I give him kudos for trying. I just don't think he navigated the tension effectively.
The Early Church for the Average Christian  Feb 25, 2010
Other reviewers have done a fine job of reviewing the content, so I will simply point out the fact that this book does an excellent job of making an obscure, ancient Christian document immensely accessible and relevant to even the average non-scholarly Christian reader. Tony takes the Didache and shows how it still contains wisdom that can inform our faith and faith communities even today. As an aspiring academic historian, I personally could have wished for more in-depth discussion of some of the controversies and questions surrounding the Didache, but I'm not the kind of person Tony is writing for. He is writing for the ordinary Christian who is interested in expanding their knowledge of the early church and being inspired by those closest to the authors of the New Testament, but who aren't interested in technical discussions or academic debates. For these folks, Tony provide an excellent, short little book that could be used in any variety of small-group discussion formats or for personal devotional reading. It's short enough to be read in one sitting, but meaty enough to provide fodder for a whole series of small-group conversations or sermon topics. I highly recommend it.
Bad news for haters  Feb 6, 2010
I've got bad news for Tony Jones haters. There's nothing to hate about his latest book, The Teaching of the Twelve. In fact, you may love it.

Last week, I finished reading his little book about the little book, the Didache. The didache is a book that dates back to the ancient church but didn't quite make it into the cannon of Scripture. Unlike some of its contemporaries, it didn't make it in because it was steeped in gnosticism... instead the didache likely didn't make it in because it didn't provide deep theological teachings, warnings, or narrative about Jesus. It's not really a letter or narrative at all. Authorship is also unclear. Instead, it's a group of teachings- probably from various authors- that baptismal candidates likely studied before being accepted as Christians in a small town in the first century.

In other words, the Didache (greek word meaning teaching) is a practical guide for living in community with other believers. That's an area I am growing. I've spent the last 10 years teaching on and focusing on individualistic growth in relationship to God. All the while, I've been fascinated by books about first century Christians, Essenes, the Qumran community, and early church history. There was a contradiction there between the individualistic faith of American believers and the community faith I read about in the first century. I have long been trying to figure out how to rectify the two as there is a gulf of difference between what we do today and what was practiced then. Deep down, the Holy Spirit has stirred in me a desire to figure out how we can do life together. I don't have it figured out... but I'm on a journey of discovery towards figuring it out.

Like a lot of conservative Evangelicals, I tend to approach books by Tony Jones with my ears finely tuned to look for a twist to something traditional about his hermeneutic. For some reason I'm left looking for the agenda behind his words. I don't know where this started... but it was something I carried into buying and reading this book. My radar was finely tuned!

So, for those haters, here is the bad news. Tony's latest book approaches Scripture in a thoughtful, academically pure way. It reads the same as many of the scholarly texts places like Dallas Theological Seminary, Wheaton Graduate School, or Trinity Evangelical Divinity School would require of New Testament students. He doesn't lift the didache up as Scriptural, rather uses this groups application of Apostolic teachings to explain how that culture was applying early Christian teachings. Even when the text permits him to hypothesize to tear away at traditional Christian values, he instead affirms them. When the text talks about a pre-millenial view of the community in the first century, he doesn't try to spin it to another viewpoint... instead affirms what the text makes clear, that community looked forward to the imminent return of the risen Christ.

Conservative haters are left with nothing to hate. In fact, I think a lot of my friends need to read this book as we all figure out... "What does it mean to live in community as believers?" Yeah, we need to learn. Yeah, we may just be doing community wrong. Gasp! The horror!

I will leave you with the same encouragement that lead to me buying this book in the first place. Before you hate, before you criticize, before you call names, take the time to read for yourself. Read it, like I did, with a critical eye. Then, when you go to critique, you can do so intelligently. But my feeling is that if you actually read the Teaching of the Twelve, you'll be as impressed as I have been with the treatment.
"A Rich, Organic and Conversational Vision of the Local Church Community"  Jan 23, 2010
[This review originally appeared in
Vol. 3, #2 - 22 January 2010 ]

The Didache was one of the first texts that sparked my interest in the life of the earliest church communities. In the wake of 9/11 and the many signs of the church's domestication to American culture, the Didache as a powerful reminder that another way was possible, a way that is not rooted in returning evil for evil, a way that leads to life. Over the last decade, I have read a number of books on the Didache, but none has been so vibrant and accessible as Tony Jones' new book The Teaching of the Twelve: Believing and Practicing the Primitive Christianity of the Ancient Didache Community. Jones not only seeks to introduce the Didache to a broad audience - an excellent task by itself - but also to make a case for the significance of its message in these postmodern times that in many ways resemble the era in which the Didache was written. He says in the book's introduction:

The Didache offers something of an alternative to what many know of Christianity. The real power of the Didache is its ability to remind us of what is truly important in Christianity: showing the love of Jesus to the world. (11)

In addition to the full text of the Didache (in English translation) , which is roughly similar in length to one of Paul's Epistles, Jones offers his own reflections on the text illustrated with stories from a church community in Missouri that calls themselves the Cymbrogi (pronounced koom-BRO-gee), a Celtic word meaning "Companions of the Heart." Jones engages this community primarily through conversations with one of their more scholarly members. The Cymbrogi, Jones argues, are a community not unlike the original Didache community whose members are striving together to understand and shape their lives around Jesus' teachings.

For churches in the pre-Ignatian era of Christianity - i.e. before Ignatius argued for a systematic hierarchy of church leadership and before the canonization of Scripture - the church's work of discernment was crucial in interpreting what it meant to follow in the way of Jesus. Similarly, the Cymbrogi today offers us a compelling vision of the life of a church community in conversation. Jones says: "[The Cymbrogi] don't talk about how to grow their church! Instead they study Greek together. They don't worry about paying someone to lead them and teach them. Instead, they all pitch in to the conversations about how to live faithfully" (44).

Jones begins the book by setting the Didache in its context, briefly describing its relatively recent discovery, and what is known about the community out of which it was written. He establishes here some parallels - to which he will return over the course of the book - between the world in which this original Didache community existed and the world of today. Following the introduction is the full text of the Didache, and after that Jones reflects on four key themes developed over the course of the text:

1) Training in the Way of Life

2) Sex, Money and Human Relationships (a surprisingly brief chapter)

3) Living Together in Community

4) The End is Nigh (Thankfully, a brief chapter!)

The chapter on "Living Together in Community" struck me as the heart of the book. Here Jones explores what the Didache says about idolatry, baptism, Eucharist, fasting, hospitality and leadership. He summarizes these facets of life in the Church community:

Live reconciled with one another;
Confess and forgive one another;
Appoint some among you to preside over the community and others to serve;
And treat those you've appointed with respect (111)

As one who has a deep appreciation and who has written about the life of the early church communities, I am excited to see the Didache explored in fresh and exciting ways as Jones does here. However, what is even more enthralling about The Teaching of the Twelve is the rich, organic and conversational vision of the church community that it offers.

In recent conversations with a number of churches, I have found that there is a growing hunger for churches to be more than merely religious communities, but rather real, holistic communities, the gathered life of which extends throughout the week. This distinction was a key facet of a missional church gathering at which I spoke recently. It seems that what Jones offers us here is an historical and theological grounding for deeper, conversational church communities - like the one of the Cymbrogi that he describes. Without the textual authority of the Canon or the guiding authority of institutional church hierarchies, the original Didache community had to labor together to discern the shape of their obedience to Christ. In these postmodern times, when the authorities of texts and institutions are - for good reasons - suspect, we find ourselves in a situation not unlike that of the Didache community. As Jones so wonderfully expounds here, we would do well to reflect on their example and discern together the shape of our faithfulness in today's world.

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