Milavec, Aaron. The Didache: Faith, Hope, & Life of the Earliest Christian Communities, 50-70 C.E. New York: The Newman Press, 2003.
Chapter 14 “Whether the ‘Hypocrites’ Were Promoters of Temple Sacrifice” pp. 783-808.
Milavec, citing several statements in the Didache where members of the community were told not to be like the “hypocrites,” asks why fasts and prayers of these people were so objectionable. Milavec’s specific problem in identifying the hypocrites is that the Didache does not seem particularly hostile to the most likely suspects, such as Jews in general or Pharisees in particular (Milavec 2003, 785). However, Milavec does find a purposeful move away from the temple cult and toward the eucharist. Although the idea of sacrifices in temples was common to Jews and Gentiles, Milavec finds five passages in the Didache which seem to pull away from the temple. He discusses 4:6, 8:2, 14:1-3, 13:3, and 16:3-8 in brief (Milavec 2003, 786). He also finds that there may have been a move during the two centuries before Christ toward spiritualization of the temple. This would set the stage of at least ambivalence and possibly some level of hostility toward the temple (Milavec 2003, 787). Milavec adduces practices of the Pharisees, including recited prayers, home observance of holidays, and extensive discussion of the Torah, which together reshaped Jewish life. All these practices tended to move the religious life away from the temple and into the home and community (Milavec 2003, 788).
In addition to the theological reasons, Milavec finds some social and political motivations for people in the first century to distance themselves from the temple cult (Milavec 2003, 790). An increasing sense of heavy-handed political control of Jerusalem and the temple could effectively increase the sense of oppression felt by Jews. Political tensions tended to run high. Violence broke out increasingly as the first century progressed (Milavec 2003, 791).
In contrast, Milavec finds Jesus as resistant to the customs of the temple cult (Milavec 2003, 791). Specifically, Milavec, following E.P. Sanders, sees the allegations that Jesus would destroy the temple to be compelling. Jesus also does not appear to participate in sacrifices. His appearance regularly disrupts the operation of the temple (Milavec 2003, 792). Some scholars see Jesus as setting up an alternative to the temple, especially with his teaching about pursuing justice rather than making sacrifice. Miilavec also notes “Jesus’ intention to create a provisional substitute to the temple cult at his last supper” (Milavec 2003, 793). This i to last until the Lord comes again to rebuild His temple and establish a kingdom.
Milavec traces the possible controversy about the temple to the book of Acts. Following the work of James D.G. Dunn (1991), he finds a disagreement between “Peter Christians” (Milavec 2003, 794), who seemed accepting of worship in and around the temple, and those more like Stephen, who spoke against the temple in Acts 6:11 and 14. Milavec does, however, note “that Luke-Acts fails to distinguish between the Peter Christians, who routinely prayed and preached in the temple, and those, like Stephen, with anti-temple perspectives, who were singled out for persecution” (Milavec 2003, 794). Milavec concludes that those who were more open to the traditions around the temple would be in the minority and would be called “hypocrites” in the Didache (Milavec 2003, 795).
Milavec does find some expectation of a restored temple or temple area in Jewish thought. However, he finds little expectation of a specially restored or consecrated temple (Milavec 2003, 796). On the contrary, there is an expectation of a return and ingathering of Jews. The Didache does not speak of ideas such as the Sabbath or circumcision. Milavec considers it significatn that the idea of the temple does appear (Milavec 2003, 797). Sinc ethe temple had great importance after the mid second century B.C., and since the temple and its area were renovated in the late first century B.C., one would have expected Judaism to be very enthusiastic about the temple (Milavec 2003, 798). Philo particularly tells details of conflicts over the possible desecration of the temple (Milavec 2003, 800).
The opposition in the Didache, regardless of other identification, is referred to as “the hypocrites” (Milavec 2003, 800). Milavec asks how this word is understood. He does not think the identification found in Matthew’s Gospel can hold true. The Didache gives different days for fasting and different prayers. Milavec finds it highly significant that the Lord’s Prayer makes no mention of the temple (Milavec 2003, 800). Milavec does admit that we hae no record of daily prayers from the first century, so the actual content is a matter of speculation. Possibly they included mention of the temple, possibly not. However, Milavec thinks Didache 2:6 and 5:1 may be of value. They both shed light on the kind of behaviors and attitudes which might be found in the hypocrites (Milavec 2003, 801). Milavec immediately ties the character qualities which he mentions to an arrogant trust in the security of the temple. From this standpoint, Milavec asserts that the hypocrisy would consist in a high opinion of the temple and the priesthood, since these are not in the focus of the Didache and its prayers (Milavec 2003, 802).
In conclusion, Milavec finds that the Didache does not emphasize the religious aspects of Judaism which hee would expect. It does not have a focus on the priesthood, temple, sacrifices, or festivals (Milavec 2003, 802). Rather, it sets up an alternative mode of prayer. Milavec finds this to be a very significant move.
Milavec does contrast the Didache’s view of the temple with the view found in Hebrews (Milavec 2003, 803). Milavec denies any sort of Pauline influence on the theology of Hebrews (Milavec 2003, 804). He also notes the unique language of “priest” being applied to Jesus. Milavec finds in Hebrews a Jesus who, by his choices, becomes the acceptable sacrifice. He does not consider this a natural given, but a result of Jesus’ choices (Milavec 2003, 804). Milavec further rejects any claim that Hebrews considers the Last Supper as a sacrifice or as part of the work of a priesthood of Jesus (Milavec 2003, 805). He finds that an idea of a consummation of history involving the temple is absent from Hebrews (Milavec 2003, 806). If Hebrews dates from after the destruction of the temple in 68-70, it makes perfect sense. However, Milavec sees the issue as more important to the writers of the Didache, since the temple was still functioning. It would have been necessary to avoid faith in the temple so as to keep faith in Jesus.
Nevertheless, the temple was instrumental as the unifying force of Judaism during the mid first century. Milavec sees this as the reason that Jesus’ disruption of the temple operation would hve resulted in his condemnation (Milavec 2003, 807). In short, the crucifixion of Christ was the attempt on the part of the priests to protect the status quo, not simply in terms of religion, but in economic and political terms as well (Milavec 2003, 808).