Sanctity of Life in the Didache

In the Apostolic Fathers reading group we are going through the Didache in February. In the passage for today we read 2:1–7 and part of verse 2 caught my eye. It reads “οὐ φονεύσεις τέκνον ἐν φθορᾷ· οὐδὲ γεννηθὲν ἀποκτενεῖς” (do not murder a child by abortion or commit infanticide). The Didache was one of the earliest non-canonical Christian writings written towards the end of the 1st century, which makes this one of the earliest explicit prohibition against abortion. Similarly, The Epistle of Barnabas, another early Christian writing dated after the destruction of the temple but before the rebuilding of the city in AD 132–135[1], says in 19:5 “οὐ φονεύσεῖς τέκνον ἐν φθορᾷ· οὐδὲ πάλιν γεννηθὲν ἀποκτενεῖς” (you shall not murder a child by abortion and again not commit infanticide).

Roman law stated that the embryo was part of the mother so therefore could be aborted by choice[2]. The early Christians would have been going against the norm for the sanctity of human life. Today’s battle for the sanctity of human life is not a new one but one that has been fought since the beginnings of Christianity. Let us continue to stand with our brothers and sisters who have gone before us in the todays fight for the sanctity of life.


  1. Holmes, Michael W. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations. 3 Rev Ed. Baker Academic, 2007, 373.  ↩

  2. Rasmussen, John A. “Abortion : Historical and Biblical Perspectives.” Concordia Theological Quarterly 43, no. 1 (Ja 1979): 19–25, 22.  ↩