Milavec, Aaron. The Didache: Faith, Hope, & Life of the Earliest Christian Communities, 50-70 C.E. New York: The Newman Press, 2003.
The Didache has two clearly recurring rites, baptism and eucharist. Milavec sees these as practices designed to unify the community (Milavec 2003, 232). Although some other practices are mentioned in passing, baptism and eucharist are the only rituals bearing substantial teachingBaptism was the transformation of an outsider to an insider. That is the subject of this third chapter of Milavec’s book.
Milavec notes the structure of the discussion of eating, baptism, fasting, praying, and eucharist does not fillow a strong linear and logical sequence (Milavec 2003, 234). He goes on to discuss the common scholarly view of the text “as a kind of literary collage that was composed by cutting and pasting together literary units that were already at hand and which served purposes foreign to the Didache” (Milavec 2003, 235). However, Milavec thinks there is a more deliberate progression here. It follows the steps which a “candidate” would take from the start of training until becoming a communicant (Milavec 2003, 235). This change of practice and allegiance in Judaism and Christianity constituted a rejection of all other religious allegiances. This stood in contrast to the Roman and Greek religions, which were less a process of conversion than of adopting an additional deity among others. Milavec notes this as a tragic form of intolerance (Milavec 2003, 237).
The statements in Didache 6.3 about permitted foods makes it clear that foods dedicated to idols were not to be used. Milavec finds this as rightly after baptism because, “prior to baptism, the candidate could not presume to share the table, much less the echarist, of the community he/she intended to join” (Milavec 2003, 237). Milavec sees fasting prior to baptism as the way to expel food sacrificed to idols and thus purify the person.
The timing of baptism has been different in various ages and locations. The Didache speaks of a two day fast before baptism. It also considers Wednesday and Friday as typical fast days (8.1). For this reason, Milavec suggests that baptism might most normally have been on a Saturday evening (Milavec 2003, 238). The baptism would have been followed by eucharist in a setting when many people could attend (Milavec 2003, 239).
Baptism and other activities of the assembled Christians did receive comment from second century authors. By 150, Justin Martyr identified Sunday as the day Christians would assemble. They would engage in baptism and eucharist on that day (Milavec 2003, 239). The gatherings were originally in the evening but over time moved to the mornings. Milavec notes that the gatherings were before sunrise, as the day was normally a work day (Milavec 2003, 240). By the late second century, as described in Apostolic Traditions and in Tertullian’sOn Baptism, baptism was no longer typically held in a river. It was typically done on Pentecost or Passover (Milavec 2003, 241). It was normal to schedule catechism so as to end at the Easter Vigil. Overall, the rituals became increasingly complex and regimented (Milavec 2003, 242).
The use of the Lord’s Prayer is expected in the Didache (8.2f). Milavec considers that the novices would learn it but not pray it until after baptism (Milavec 2003, 242). It is after baptism that he sees the converts identifying with God.