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Calligraphic rendering of text from the Didache

From the Didache

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There are two ways, one of life and one of death, and there is a great difference between these two ways.

The Way of Life

Now this is the way of life: First, you shall love God, who made you. Second, you shall love your neighbor as yourself; but whatever you do not wish to happen to you, do not do to another. The teaching of these words is this: Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you. For what credit is it if you love those who love you? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? But you must love those who hate you, and you will not have an enemy. Abstain from fleshly and bodily cravings. If someone gives you a blow on your right cheek, turn to him the other as well and you will be perfect. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles; if someone takes your cloak, give him your tunic also; if someone takes from you what belongs to you, do not demand it back, for you cannot do so.

Give to everyone who asks you, and do not demand it back, for the Father wants something from his own gifts to be given to everyone. Blessed is the one who gives according to the command, for such a person is innocent. Woe to the one who receives: if, on the one hand, someone who is in need receives, this person is innocent, but the one who does not have need will have to explain why and for what purpose he received, and upon being imprisoned will be interrogated about what he has done, and will not be released from there until he has repaid every last cent. But it has also been said concerning this: “Let your gift sweat in your hands until you know to whom to give it.”

The second commandment of the teaching is: You shall not murder; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not corrupt children; you shall not be sexually immoral; you shall not steal; you shall not practice magic; you shall not engage in sorcery; you shall not abort a child or commit infanticide. You shall not covet your neighbor’s possessions; you shall not commit perjury; you shall not give false testimony; you shall not speak evil; you shall not hold a grudge.… You shall not hate anyone; instead you shall reprove some, and pray for some, and some you shall love more than your own life.

The Way of Death

But the way of death is this: First of all, it is evil and completely cursed; murders, adulteries, lusts, sexual immoralities, thefts, idolatries, magic arts, sorceries, robberies, false testimonies, hypocrisies, duplicity, deceit, pride, malice, stubbornness, greed, abusive language, jealousy, audacity, arrogance, boastfulness. It is the way of persecutors of good people, of those who hate truth, love a lie… have no mercy for the poor, do not work on behalf of the oppressed, do not know the one who made them, are murderers of children, corrupters of God’s creation, who turn away from someone in need, who oppress the afflicted, are advocates of the wealthy, lawless judges of the poor, utterly sinful. May you be delivered, children, from all these things!

Daily Discipleship

See that no one leads you astray from this way of the teaching, for such a person teaches you without regard for God. For if you are able to bear the whole yoke of the Lord, you will be perfect. But if you are not able, then do what you can.


The Didache (ca. AD 60–110) is an anonymous teaching for baptismal preparation from an early church community, possibly in Syria. From Didache 1, 2, 5, and 6 in The Apostolic Fathers, ed. Michael Holmes (Baker, 2007).

Calligraphic rendering of text from the Didache
The Two Ways by Randall M. Hasson. View larger.
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Calligraphic rendering of text from the Didache

Note from the artist Randall M. Hasson

The Didache’s opening lines speak starkly of two opposites: “the way of life” and “the way of death.” This work of calligraphy illustrates the text’s symbolic contrast between light and dark, life and death, the kingdom of man versus the kingdom of heaven.

The “way of death” column uses a style of writing linked with the “kingdom of this world”: imperial Rome. In the first and second centuries, the Roman Square Capital style of letters was recognizable as the “hand of empire” throughout the Mediterranean world. It was used for public inscriptions such as Trajan’s Column in Rome as well as for literary texts associated with empire such as Virgil’s poems.

The “way of life” column uses the style now known as Uncial, which has its origin in the early church. After Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity, he and the church fathers wanted to develop a style of writing that would set apart the holy writings from secular texts. For this, they adopted a more rounded hand based on the early Greek scripts. The “way of life” column is written in this hand.

In the artwork, the death column is wide and becomes increasingly chaotic as it disappears into darkness; the life column is narrow and stays straight and orderly, with clearer word spacing. Moving from left to right, the artwork begins with a unified tone that yields to an ever sharper contrast, signifying how human beings, starting at a common origin, go in different directions: the paths of life and death diverge, and there becomes “a great difference between the two.”

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