An Imaginary Failed Book Proposal Conversation About The Didache

I’m glad you were interested in talking with me about
the book proposal my congregation’s leadership team
had come up with.  I understand that you’re a busy
publisher and I did not want to waste your time with a
book proposal that wasn’t going to sell well.  Well, we are
hoping that this book is used as a liturgical guide and as
an aid to congregational discipline in other Christian
congregations in the area.  The writing of this book was
a collaborative efforts.  We had some leadership advice
provided by Diotrophes, who you may have heard about
if you read 3 John, and we used part of a dualist writing
about the way of light and the way of darkness that is not
too dissimilar from the writings of the Apostle John, but
this was not the work of any one person but rather was a
shared work from the leadership of our congregation.  I’m
a bit puzzled as to what you mean.  Could you explain what
you’re going after here?  Our congregation is definitely
proto-orthodox.  We have no interests in any sort of
heretical belief systems, so I’m not sure why you seem so
suspicious of the motives of our writing.  Oh, you’re a bit
upset about the way we are writing about Jews, in calling
their fast days fast days of hypocrites.  I didn’t realize that
such a thing would be considered anti-Semitic.  That’s not
an audience our congregation was concerned about.  Oh, I
agree that the reference to the Lord’s Day is a bit ambiguous
but I was hoping that the ambiguity would be a good thing in
that people could assume that it was written about what some
call the Lord’s Day as the eighth day of the week while the rest
of the Bible refers to the Day of the Lord as being the prophetic
timing that the Apostle John saw.  I think our relations with John
were good, except for the fact that we followed the example of
Diotrophes, and John and the more Jewish side of our local
church assembly might disagree with that assessment.  Do you
think that it is really essential that we appeal to an audience of
Judaizers in selling a Christian book?  If that is the case then our
book will likely be viewed with some suspicion.  We were aiming
at an audience that would be less friendly to the Sabbath and
more friendly to Greek philosophy, yes.  I’m sorry that’s not an
area of interest for your publishing house.


From time to time I like to imagine conversations [1] in poetic form.  As someone who reads a lot of books relating to Christian publishing, sometimes I find it worthwhile to picture myself at least in my imagination in a conversation where I am making a book proposal to a publisher, which is not an unusual area of interest for someone who writes as much as I do.  In this case I took as my imaginary background a case where a congregational representative sought to sell the Didache as a church guide in a world not unlike our own.  The Didache is, it should be noted, one of the better known examples of the writings of the Apostolic Fathers and a work that some people consider very close to biblical.  My own feelings about the book are far less sanguine because I view the book as being written by people associated with the Bible’s “bad guys” rather than the Apostles and their supporters.  This obviously colors my own interpretation of the book, for it seems reasonable to assume that there is some complex relationship between the Didache and the Apostle John, although it may not be as straightforward as that assumed by many readers.

It seems unlikely that a contemporary publishing house would think highly of the Didache if it was not a work of antiquity with a great deal of prestige on those grounds.  The imaginary conversation itself gives several reasons.  For one, the book lacks a strong authorial position, aside from the fact that it can be associated with the audience of the late writings of John.  Like Revelation there is an ambiguous reference to the “Lord’s Day,” like 3 John there are concerns about taking care of godly leaders, and like 2 John there is a concern about not wanting to be associated with supporting false preachers.  Besides the lack of a strong authorial hook, the Didache is also a somewhat mosaic work that is divided into different parts with a different focus in each one.  Without the cachet of being an early book, it is unlikely that the volume would have the celebrity status it needs in order to be a popular or well-known book, but all the same age does account for it being a worthwhile book to write about and think about, even if I find myself to be a far less sanguine reader of the book than many others I have read about.

Of course, there is a bit of irony, I suppose, in this particular imaginary conversation.  This poem is a part of two books (at present) that I am writing, the first as a poetic introduction to the section for the Didache in my nearly complete project on the Apostolic Fathers, and the second as a poem in my nearly complete volume of poetry of Staffordesque poems and their associated commentaries.  As someone who writes a lot, it is not an unrealistic thing for me to imagine having conversations with people about books.  In fact, I have conversations with people about books all the time, usually as a reader and reviewer of books.  It is not difficult, though, for me to imagine being involved in a conversation about a book I have written, though, with a literary agent or a publisher who I am hoping will take an interest in my writing, and that gives me a sense of empathy, I would hope, with the situation I am imagining here.  Of course, in the ancient world publishing was not the same sort of business it is today–although some writers like Juvenal did making a living as writers in the Roman Empire–and this conversation must be considered as apocryphal as the book the conversation is about, sadly.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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