Milavec, Aaron. The Didache: Faith, Hope, & Life of the Earliest Christian Communities, 50-70 C.E. New York: The Newman Press, 2003.
Milavec questions whether women received formal training as well as men. It would have been unusual for a man to train a woman not related to him (Milavec 2003, 77). Depending on the work of Deborah Rose-Gaier (1996), Milavec concludes that there was specific training for women. The prohibition of abortion is fairly direct in 2:2. Trainees are typically addressed as τέκνα, a gender neutral term. 4:9 suggests training of both males and females in the same community (Milavec 2003, 77).
Milavec notes that there was a great deal of social inequality based on sex in the ancient world. However, some areas saw more diverse roles for women than others (Milavec 2003, 78), In general, women and men had substantial differences in their role in society. Milavec’s analysis of the situation in antiquity and in modernity depends on ancient non-Christian sources and modern Islamic culture (Milavec 2003, 79). He does not seem to consider whether the relative equality of training in the Didache was unique to one community or whether it may have extended to much of early Christianity.
Milavec does note the equal training of female and male converts in the Didache. He then draws a sharp contrast with the Pastoral Epistles, such as the instructions specific to women in Titus 2:3f (Milavec 2003, 80). Milavec’s supposition is that women had departed from certain virtues during the Pauline period and that a later author of the Pastoral Epistles was trying to “bring back an separate and unequal training” (Milavec 2003, 80).
The view Milavec finds in the Didache is that of a well trainied woman who “was not required to depend on her husband in order to learn from him whatever he thinks it is important for her to know” (Milavec 2003, 81). It is apparent that Milavec sees in the New Testament a climate which does not value or respect women. Yet Milavec persists in making his comparison primarily to Judaism and the Greek world, rather than Christian or Roman sources, with the exception of the Pastoral Epistles, which he reads as oppressive to women.
Milavec’s analysis does continue with some observations about “training women in the Synoptic communities” (Milavec 2003, 82-86). In Mathew’s incident of Jesus with Martha and Mary, both women are allowed to follow their inclinations, though Martha is told to allow Mary her preference. However, he fancifully describes Mary as liberated! “Once Mary begins to hear Torah for herself ‘at the feet of Jesus’ and then begins to acquire the art of applying it to her own life, she establishes herself as a disciple equal with the men. She can never go back to her former position of trusting that the men in her life entirely know and understand all those things that were formerly beyond her grasp” (Milavec 2003, 83). Milavec also observes that some parables speak of experiences which would be very much in the world of men. Then again, some parables are set in the world of women (Milavec 2003, 84). The conclusion is that Jesus and the early Christians wanted the Gospel to be intelligible to women (Milavec 2003, 85). Milavec does draw a significantly diverse picture of the views of the authors of Matthew and Luke. He sees Luke as attentive to women’s issues and more open to women receiving training than Matthew. The view of the Didache is presumably one of even greater equality and access to training (Milavec 2003, 86).
Milavec questions how women in early Christianity could flourish. Citing the work of Rodney Stark he observes that in the general population men outnumbered women by about 40%. The opposite imbalance was the case in Christianity (Milavec 2003, 87). It is not clear if Stark controlled for Judaism or for other differences of cultural groups. Stark concluded that women in a community here they outnumber men find power and freedom from what he could consider repression (Milavec 2003, 87). The greater freedom to engage in visiting different households may have encouraged women to convert to Christianity (Milavec 2003, 88). Milavec sees this phenomenon as including a freedom to be considered an extended family in the Didache communities.