Some early Christian writers treated the Didachē as canonical, and Egyptian authors and compilers quoted it extensively in the 4th and 5th centuries. Eusebius of Caesarea quoted it in his Ecclesiastical History (early 4th century), and it formed the basis of chapter 7 of the 4th-century Apostolic Constitutions, a collection of early Christian ecclesiastical law. It was known only through such references in early Christian works until a Greek manuscript of it, written in 1056, was discovered in Istanbul in 1873 by the metropolitan Philotheos Bryennios. He published it in 1883. Two fragments of the work were later discovered: a 4th-century Greek papyrus in Oxyrhynchus, Egypt, and a 5th-century Coptic papyrus in the British Museum.
The Didachē is not a unified and coherent work but a compilation of regulations that had acquired the force of law by usage in scattered Christian communities. Evidently several preexisting written sources were used and compiled.