Milavec, Aaron. The Didache: Faith, Hope, & Life of the Earliest Christian Communities, 50-70 C.E. New York: The Newman Press, 2003.
In his preface, Milavec addresses the i dea of an origination hypothesis. In short, this is the idea a commentator has about how a document came to be. Milavec discusses five considerations. First, is the Didache “a unified production”(Milavec 2003, xvii)? We would expect more of an overall logical process and flow to a unified work than to an assembly of other material. Second, can a unifying key be found? Milavec does think he has found a key which accounts for the bulk of the text (Milavec 2003, xviii). Third, “[an} orination hypothesis cannot be directly falsified” (Milavec 2003, xxi). Rejectionof one generally leads to acceptance of another. Fourth, the person who develops a superior organization theory has a scholarly responsibility to share it with the academic community (Milavec 2003, xxi). Finally, within the scholarly community, when there are divisions, responsible scholars encourage discussion of all views in order to find a new consensus (Milavec 2003, xxii).
Milavec is clear that different scholars will reach different conclusions about the same text. As an example, he considers the interpreations made about water for baptism. The provision of “warm” water could refer to a text from a cold climate. However, it could refer to numerous other conditions. The interpreter’s preconceptions will flavor the analysis (Milavec 2003, xxiii). Milavec’s stated goal is to view the text fairly, as a whole unit, and identify the kind of community from which it came (Milavec 2003, xxv).
Milavec’s early experience w ith the Didache was varied yet fragmentary. “In each of these instances . . . the Didache was cut up and laid open in order to answer pressing questions other than those for which it was originally designed” (Milavec 2003, xxvi). The scholarship at the time was not based on treating a whole document.
In cooperation with Rabbi Jacob Neusner in 1989, Milavec began identifying the Didache’s own logic, structure, and voice (Milavec 2003, xxvii). Gradually, over the course of several years, Milavec’s views of different aspects were refined and corrected (Milavec 2003, xxviii). One of the critical elements in Milavec’s exploration, inspired by Neusner, is that, “[T]here were many Christianities during the first century just as there were many Judaisms”(Milavec 2003, xxix). To back up this claim,Milavec adduces Hebrews, which he sees as completely independent of the Gospels or Epistles (Milavec 2003, xxx). For further reserach, he recommends James D.G. Dunn Unity and Diversity in the New Testament (1977) (Milavec 2003, xxx). Milavec intends to demonstrate that the text emerged from a distinct kind of Christianity which was Jewish, primarily consisted of women, and which sought a distinctive lifestyle in community (Milavec 2003, xxx).
Milavec also details a relationship with Willy Rordorf, whose work with the Didache in the 1970s was considered a uthoritative (Milavec 2003, xxxi). Rordorf a nd Milavec collaborated on some seminars. Milavec says, “Rordorf’s most significant contribution to me was his notion that the framers of the Didache did not use any known written Gospel” (Milavec 2003, xxxi). Milavec goes on to discuss the theories, used since the 1880s, that the Didache was dependent on different parts of the New Testament. Rordorf’s ideas o f independence allow for a significantly earlier date than was previously assumed. Milavec argues “that the theology and structure of Matthew’s community are incompatible with those of the Didache” (Milavec 2003, xxxii).
Milavec emphasizes the oral nature of the Didache (Milavec 2003, xxxii). He notes especially the various instructions to attend to spoken words (4:1; 1:3; 7:1; 11:1; 16:2; 4:2). Milavec further finds oral structure patterns which are repeated within the text, leading a speaker through in a logical manner. He suggests that, to truly understand this work, one must listen to it and speak it, rather than reading it (Milavec 2003, xxxiii).