Milavec, Aaron. The Didache: Faith, Hope, & Life of the Earliest Christian Communities, 50-70 C.E. New York: The Newman Press, 2003.
Milavec questions a possible inconsistency in the Didache’s use of the divine name. Baptism is to be in the triune name. However, reference is made to people baptized “in the name of the Lord” (9:5) (Milavec 2003, 270). Milavec wishes to resist “harmonizing Didache usage with that of the Christian Scriptures” (Milavec 2003, 271). However, use of “the name of the Lord” would typically refer to God the Father. Milavec does not believe the concept of the Trinity would be indicated by the baptismal formula, nor would he say the concept was developed until the fourth century (Milavec 2003, 371). He therefore assumes that the formula in 7:1 may have been added later, as he suggests happening in Matthew 28:19. Another possible solution is that in the two strands of thought, Gentile and Hebraic, the terminology could have been used differently and that both are present in Didache (Milavec 2003, 272).
Baptism was not only a Christian rite in the first century. Milavec describes the process by which a gentile convert to Judaism would present himself, receive instruction, and be baptized (Milavec 2003, 273). He concludes that the actual setting and the manner of instruction would be similar in the Didache communities. The instructor and baptizer would be the same sex as the convert to tailor instruction and guard modesty.
Milavec shows a fundamental presupposition when he discusses the theology of baptism. “Theology grows out of graced experience. As such, therefore, the theology of baptism originates in the experience of baptism” (Milavec 2003, 274). While the theology will then influence preceptions of the act of baptism, Milavec sees the act itself as the mover of opinion. Baptism can serve to create a social bond with others who are baptized. This may well replace the old bonds to the pagan society, broken by conversion. Therefore, Milavec sees the corporate identity factors as the essential element in baptism (Milavec 2003, 275). The convert’s social identity was transformed in the training and would be affirmed by baptism (Milavec 2003, 276). The baptism, in turn, led to what Milavec considers the new right to pray and receive the eucharist with other baptized people (Milavec 2003, 276). Baptism, according to Milavec, was later considered unrepeatable and somthing which conferred a transformation upon the believer (Milavec 2003, 277).
Milavec concludes that baptism was not clearly tied to the historical Jesus, but was practiced in Acts and later was associated with Jesus’ command (Milavec 2003, 277). He takes Matthew 28:19 as a concept from a later time period. Milavec also takes the idea of baptism in Acts to be a continuation of John’s baptism and the preaching of repentance. The idea of a specific Christian and trinitarian baptism could have been read into the Gospels at a later time, after a theology of baptism was developed (Milavec 2003, 278).
Conversion and commitment, rather than an act of baptism, as seen by Milavec, lead to forgiveness. He ties this doctrine to the parable of the Prodigal, among other places in Scripture. In all that Milavec cites, there is confession and commitment to life change prior to baptism (Milavec 2003, 280). This is similar to the pattern of the Didache, where extensive training takes place first, then baptism and admission to the Eucharist (Milavec 2003, 281).