Given the amount of weight that “correct” beliefs have with so many churches today it is hard to understand just how little weight the early church put on such things.
In the early years Christianity Bibles weren’t available to local congregations because it would be several hundred years before it was formulated by a council of then current day church leaders. But there were several other important documents that were used used by local congregations. One of the most important was what is now called the Didache. You could consider it an instruction book to teach someone who wanted to join the group known as the Way how to put their faith into practice. For the most part there was nothing in the Didache about the beliefs that we deem so important today.
One thing we must realize about the early Christians was that joining their group was not about taking an altar call. It required several years of “internship” and showing that you were up to the task of “being” part of the Way. The Didache was the manual that many used to insure that you were properly prepared to be a Christian. Here is what Wikipedia says about the Didache:
Most scholars place the Didache at some point during the mid to late first century. It is an anonymous work, a pastoral manual “that reveals more about how Jewish-Christians saw themselves and how they adapted their Judaism for gentilesthan any other book in the Christian Scriptures.”……
(Talking about the use of the Didache by the early church) …
There can also be seen many similarities to the Epistles of both Polycarp and Ignatius of Antioch [a couple of other epistles not included in the Bible]. The Shepherd of Hermas seems to reflect it, and Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen of Alexandria also seem to use the work, and so in the West do Optatus and the Gesta apud Zenophilum. The Didascalia Apostolorum are founded upon the Didache. The Apostolic Church-Ordinances has used a part, the Apostolic Constitutions have embodied the Didascalia. There are echoes in Justin Martyr, Tatian, Theophilus of Antioch, Cyprian, andLactantius.
As you can see from this quote the Didache was a very thoroughly used document in the early church. We can only speculate as to why it wasn’t included with the Bible. I will talk about that more in coming posts.