Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Didache on Abortion and Charity - Possible Modern Implications

I blogged on the Didache last year. It is an instruction manual for new Christians (primarily conversions of gentiles) and may be the earliest writings of the Apostles, dating as early as 49 AD. It's too bad that it's not better known by Christians. It has implications for the modern Christian. Specifically, on abortion and the modern welfare state.

First on abortion:

Didache 2:2 -
You shall not murder a child by abortion or commit infanticide.

Pretty clear isn't it? Why is abortion not discussed in the gospels? My guess is that Jesus preached primarily to the 1st century Jews where such practice was not widespread. The Greco-Romans practiced abortion and exposure. Jews believed in the primacy of the fetus in that era. The Jewish historian, Philo of Alexandria discusses Ex. 21:22-23 in context of the LXX. From Philo on Jewish Identity and Culture:

“The LXX transformed these Biblical verses into laws protecting the fetus.”

Now on the modern welfare state where everyone receives (bold emphasis added):

Didache 1.5c - Woe to the one who receives. For if he receives because he has need, he is guiltless, but if he does not have need, he shall stand trial as to why he received and for what, and being put in prison he will be examined about what he has done, and he will not come out of it until he pays the last penny.

Many would disagree, but I believe that so much of the profligate ways of the modern welfare state goes to those not in need. The senior prescription drug plan is just one such example.

Also note that Didache strongly advises Christians to be charitable and defend the poor but adds this:

1.6 But of this it was also said, 'Let your charitable gift sweat in your hands until you know to whom you give'.

Christians must be discerning to who is in need. However, the modern welfare state completely abrogates this aspect of giving. It’s interesting to note the amount of charitable giving between the prosperous blue (and secular) states versus the red states.

Much of the Didache is what I would assume to be a common sense approach to ethics, not just Christian ethics.

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