The primary differences between Didache’s writings on the nature of God and St. Hildegard’s writings on the holy trinity are in their practical value. While Didache described a Christian way to live, St. Hildegard described visions of the Holy Trinity as it was revealed to her. Therefore, it can be concluded that while Didache attempted to apply the concept of God to everyday life (Didache, 1919), St. Hildegard was more interested in a supernatural manifestation of the Trinity, without much regard to how this manifestation applied to the daily lives of the people who heard it and received inspiration from it (Oden, 1994). The thesis of this assignment is that Didache’s interpretation of the nature of God was meant to provide the people who learned from it with a program for living, while St. Hildegard’s interpretation was meant merely to glorify the Trinity as it was revealed to her, revealing God’s wonder without limiting it to what it meant to people living on Earth.
While the words of Didache and St. Hildegard can be found in religious writings, Didache chose to focus more strongly on the teachings of Jesus (Didache, 1919). Such lessons as “Love They Neighbor as Thyself,” “Turn the Other Cheek,” and “Do unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You” can be considered practical aspects of any religion, including Christianity, and were all lessons taught by Jesus the son during his time on Earth (Didache, 1919). St. Hildegard’s visions of the Holy Trinity, by contrast, had little practical application—they were seen and recorded simply to glorify God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit as they existed in Trinity form throughout the Christian doctrine (Oden, 1994). St. Hildegard did not apply any practical applications to the Trinity; she merely described them and explained their importance as they were understood by her through her visions (Oden, 1994). Therefore, the difference between how Didache interpreted the nature of God and how St. Hildegard interpreted it can be seen as very different. To Didache, the rule of God was very much a part of everyday life for people on Earth, and they were held to abide by it. To St. Hildegard, God was first and foremost a transcendent Being who could not be definitively tied to the day-to-day rules and behavior of people on Earth (Didache, 1919; Oden, 1994).
It is important for Christians today to believe that the God that they worship has some relevance in the everyday goings-on of life. St. Hildegard’s view of the Trinity as being largely disconnected from the people of Earth might therefore be considered disconcerting. While it is fine to worship God in all His forms for His glory, it is also important to the majority of people to believe that He is somehow involved in their lives. To obtain this feeling, the writings of Didache are much more helpful than those of St. Hildegard. Yes, God is great and worthy of praise; yes, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are all transcendent and Holy, but are they involved in our lives? This is a question that is important to the majority of Christians who feel the need for their creator to have a personal involvement with them.
For Christians who are looking for an indication that their God is present and active in their lives, Didache is a more helpful source (Didache, 1919). Didache’s writing provide specific rules laid down by Jesus Christ to the apostles that are still valuable today (Didache, 1919). These are practical lessons in how Christians should live their lives in order to fully honor their creator; they do not simply imply that the creator demands honor, as do the writings of St. Hildegard (Oden, 1994). Didache’s writings (1919) serve as a guide to how people should live a Christian life; not just how they should worship their creator. Didache (1919) focuses more in his writings on the teachings that Jesus Christ gave to the apostles about how to treat their fellow men here on Earth, rather than focusing on the importance of offering praise and worship to God, as was the focus of St. Hildegard (Oden, 1994).
In choosing to follow the writings of either St. Hildegard or Didache, the choice is this: should Christians focus solely on the glory of God the Trinity, or should they use His teachings in their encounters with the people they deal with on Earth? St. Hildegard herself refers to God the Father as being “vain” (Oden, 1994, 109). This is certainly not an isolated concept in the Bible—God refers to Himself on several occasions as being jealous, vain, and proprietary. He demands that His people have no other gods before Him, an obvious reference that before the idea of the “one true God” was ever introduced, civilizations for centuries had believed in and worshipped multiple gods. The God of the Old Testament also refers to Himself as “vengeful,” meaning that He was more than willing to punish His people for not following His rules. However, until the New Testament, these rules as they applied to how people were to treat one another were not really laid out. It was Jesus the Son, not God the Father, that first introduced the concepts that would allow Christians to treat one another with kindness and respect. Up until that point, God the Father seemed to be primarily focused on ensuring that He got the respect He deserved and was worshipped by His people.
The difference in how God’s nature is described by St. Hildegard and by Didache is fairly vast—it is the difference between the words of God the Father and Jesus the Son. While God the Father seemed to be a fairly egocentric being who was focused more on how His people related to Him than to one another, Jesus the Son focused on how people should treat each other. While this is often categorized as an Old Testament/New Testament change, it is more definitively a God the Father and a Jesus the Son change. And as Jesus the Son is a part of God the Father, it can be determined that God Himself decided to alter His personality, or at least His teachings, to become more involved with His people on Earth, rather than focusing solely on being worshipped. While most current Christians are comfortable believing in a God who is involved in their lives and cares about them, this would definitely not have been supported by St. Hildegard’s writings. Not only did the God she envisioned not care particularly about His children, He didn’t care how they treated one another, as long as He was worshipped. The writings of Didache are much more applicable to how modern-day Christians choose to view God. Didache’s God is a caring Father who not only loves His Earthly children but wants them to treat one another well. This is a view of God that most modern-day Christians are comfortable with and that if given the chance they will choose to believe.
- Didache. (1919). The Didache, or teaching of the twelve apostles. In: The Apostolic Fathers (Vol. 1). New York, NY: G. P. Putnam & Sons.
- Oden, A. (ed.). (1994). Hildegard of Bingen, the visions of St. Hildegard (1141). In: In Her Words: Women’s Writing in the History of Christian Thought. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.