Milavec, Aaron. The Didache: Faith, Hope, & Life of the Earliest Christian Communities, 50-70 C.E. New York: The Newman Press, 2003.
Didache introduces regular fasting after baptism and before discussion of prayer. It is possible that the topic is a continuation of the pre-baptismal fast (Milavec 2003, 243). Milavec understands the fast before baptism to arise, possibly, from a “revulsion to eating occasioned by the intense grief suffered by t he candidates” (Milavec 2003, 244). An ongoing practice of fasting could be inspired by the same grief, presumably grief at leaving old family and friends.
Some substantial debate has been conducted about variations in the Didache’s use of the singular and plural. Against some scholarship that alleges the work of a clumsy editor, Milavec observes the singulars are addressed to the novice or instructor and the plurals to a group (Milavec 2003, 245). The changes, though sometimes abrupt, are sensible.
Baptism and circumcision are often closely related in our minds. Why, then, Milavec asks, did circumcision not become controversial for years, until the 50s? The entrance of gentiles into Christianity was not immediate. Even when gentiles began converting, they were received through baptism without circumcision (Milavec 2003, 246). Milavec, relying on the work of James D.G. Dunn, finds a series of cultural and religious power struggles between 40 and 66. These may have led to a movement to accentuate similarities and differences. Thus, the issue of circumcision could become more significant (Milavec 2003, 247). The church at Jerusalem affirmed that gentiles did not need to be circumcised or keep the dietary laws.
Milavec lists of a number of instances of converts to Judaism who were not required to be circumcised. The Didache shows “no interest in circumcision” (Milavec 2003, 248). Those who are baptized are considered full participants in the covenants of God.
Though participants in the Didache community w ere not subject to Jewish dietary laws, they did face a prohibition of eating food sacrificed to idols (6.3). Not only were the people to avoid making sarifices, but they were also to avoid eating the food which had been sacrificed (Milavec 2003, 250). Milavec takes us from a starting point that the Homeric epic describes some sacrifices which are followed by festive occasions to the idea that all festive occasions were centered around sacrifices (Milavec 2003, 250). He then assumes that the members of the Didache community would be invited to parties which similarly sprang from sacrifices. Although the Didache considers the gods as “dead” the participant in a meal may have been understood as agreeing with the sacrificial views in the household. The active participation was off limits. Other situations may have been up to the individual’s discretion (Milavec 2003, 251).
The issue of meat offered to idols comes up in 1 Corinthians 8 and 10 as well as Acts 15. Milavec notes that Paul’s attitude in both situations is that Christians can eat food without question but should never participate in any sort of cultic banquet (Milavec 2003, 251).
The prohibition of foods found in Acts 15 is not limited to meat sacrificed to idols. It extends to consuming meat with blood as well. Milavec notes this was a common cultural prohibition. Gentiles living in Jewish territory would be required to change their diets (Milavec 2003, 252). Milavec finds no clear reason fro the omission of this cautionary command.