Milavec, Aaron. The Didache: Faith, Hope, & Life of the Earliest Christian Communities, 50-70 C.E. New York: The Newman Press, 2003.
Milavec discusses the Didache’s lack of teaching about Sabbath or Jewish food regulations. Christians did not create a revolution as regards the calendar. They allowed work on the Sabbath and on the Lord’s Day according to the cultural norms of the greater society (Milavec 2003, 124. Milavec sees this as a disregard for God’s command in Exodus 20:8. He does not deal with the idea that a Sabbath was fulfilled in Jesus and therefore not binding on the Christian. Rather, he sees the Sabbath as a strong part of Jewish culture which would be fought for by all Jews. Gentile Christians, however, were not encouraged to observe the Sabbath (Gal. 4:10; Col. 2:16) (Milavec 2003, 125). The Didache does prescribe two fast days weekly, but different from those of the Jews. It also gives evidence of weekly Eucharist, which appears to be Sunday evening (Milavec 2003, 125). Milavec finds credible the idea that gentiles would be accepted as Christians with less requirement of cultural change than if they wished to be Jews. Therefore, at least for a time, they were not required to observe the Sabbath and the dietary laws (Milavec 2003, 126). Milavec judges that the demands for Sabbath observance and kosher diet did not arise until about the year 50 (Milavec 2003, 127). The fasts, eucharist, and offerings, Milavec says, “were unique to the Didache and not found in Paul or anywhere else in the Christian Scriptures” (Milavec 2003, 127). He sees this as a way to make Christian communities more acceptable to Jewish communities.
The fifth commandment, to honor parents, is absent from the Didache. Milavec sees a reason for this in the departure of converts from their parents (Milavec 2003, 128). He finds the same radical departure from a life honoring parents in the Synoptic Gospels, where people are called to allegiance to God rather than parents (Milavec 2003, 128).
As he considers the Didache’s prohibition of adultery, he notes that different cultures may have very different views of what adultery is. He cites various Asian cultures with different types of sexual morality (Milavec 2003, 1290. Milavec asserts that in Jewish and early Christian communities there was a double standard as regards sexuality. A wife was considered the property of her husband. However, men could engage in intercourse with unmarried women or prostitutes freely with no allegation of adultery (Milavec 2003, 130). Milavec does conflate Roman and modern Islamic customs with those of Jews and Christians. He reads this view into the Didache’s statements about adultery as well (Milavec 2003, 131).
In listing commands of God, Milavec has noted that some of the earlier commands from Exodus 20 are omitted. He also finds six “new commandments.” First is a pair condemning “pedophilia and illicit sex” (Milavec 2003, 131). Milavec observes that in the Greek world some level of pederasty was not uncommon in the initiation of young men into adult society (Milavec 2003, 132). The sexual prohibitions are consistent with Jewish values. This would set the community apart from the larger gentile world (Milavec 2003, 133). The broader prohibition of porneia could be taken to refer to the many different types of sexual activity prohibited in the Old Testament (Milavec 2003, 134).
In the context of a sexual morality, Milavec considers prostitution. He finds a double standard as regards prostitution. While cultic prostitution was clearly ruled out in the Old Testament, he does not find a prohibition against males using prostitutes. Milavec’s case does appear to be built on secular sources rather than Jewish or Christian sources (Milavec 2003, 135). The exceptions are the case of Abraham, whose relationship with his wife’s maid began as a plan to father an heir, and Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:16, who discouraged sexual relations outside of marriage (Milavec 2003, 136). Milavec dos see that Christianity would discourage extramarital relations. However, he quotes Chrysostom as an example of a pastor having to combat such relationships. From this he concludes that pastors may have had a different moral standard from congregants. He then decides the double standard would have been acceptable (Milavec 2003, 137). Milavec further says that there is no suggestion in the Didache of a norm of celibacy.
A second pair of “additional” commandments is against magic and the use of drugs such as magic potions (Milavec 2003, 138). There is abundant evidence of magic in the Greek world, as well as in the Jewish world, where it was prohibited. As with the commands about sexuality, in the commands about magic, the Didache does not labor with a philosophical argument. It simply make an authoritative statement (Milavec 2003, 138).
A third pair of commands prohibits both abortion and infanticide (Milavec 2003, 139). Milavec observes that abortion and infanticide were not seen as acceptable in Jewish culture but that they were widely practiced in the Hellenistic world. As with the other commands in the Didache, these commands promote the Christian community as clearly set apart from the gentile world (Milavec 2003, 140).
Milavec provides a brief survey of abortion and infanticide practices in antiquity. Because of abortion and infanticide, ]in the Roman population men outnumbered women by 40 percent” (Milavec 2003, 140). Christians, however, showed a higher fertility rate and much greater survival of women. Around the start of the first century a series of legal incentives was developed to encourage Romans to have children. Pagan women, who often married at age 13 or younger, were likely to have fertility problems due to conception at a young age. marriage among Christians tended to be later and less often resulted in infertility (Milavec 2003, 1410. Further, while pagans felt free to abandon unwanted children, Jews and Christians almost never did so.
Milavec does identify a decalog of sorts in four early church manuals, including the Didache. The lists are very similar in their tenets, but not invariable (Milavec 2003, 143). The text of Exodus 20 does not seem to be in play. Milavec asserts that an oral tradition tends to solidify text over time. The differences in the command lists suggests that they did not come from one simple source (Milavec 2003, 144).