I’m going to depart from my traditional series of Thursday posts on the New Testament to spend a little while on an early Christian document called The Didache. This little document, which I think comes from the period 51-57, but which some will date as late as 120, is a very early guide to churchly practices. We’ll walk through it a bit at a time before returning to actual New Testament texts.
The Didache. (translated by Kirsopp Lake) Loeb Classical Library #24. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1912, reprint 1985, pp. 303-334.
Chapter 7, pp. 318-321.
Having made statements about holy living, the author now discusses baptism. After the person to be baptized has heard the teaching from the earlier chapters, “baptize in the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit in running water” (Didache VII.1, personal translation). If no running water is available, use cool water, though warm is also acceptable. The expected baptism would seem to be by dipping the person into water, as the author goes on to say that in the absence of water you can pour water on the head three times (Didache VII.3). While water is clearly present, the preferred method seems to require a fairly large amount of water. The author finally says that before baptism everyone involved should fast for one or two days (Didache VII.4).