Milavec, Aaron. The Didache: Faith, Hope, & Life of the Earliest Christian Communities, 50-70 C.E. New York: The Newman Press, 2003.
The Didache opens with a discussion of “the Way of Life” (Milavec 2003, 60). After a brief definition there is a description (1:3b-4:14a) which Milavec sees as primarily a training program. The actual training is in the imperative mood, not the indicative (Milavec 2003, 60). Milavec asserts that the idea of two paths would have been known to Jews. The same idea is adapted into Christianity. However, Milavec considers it significant that the New Testament does not suggest any dependence on the Didache for its ideas (Milavec 2003, 61).milavec goes on to list a number of non-canonical Jewish and Christian sources showing a pattern of two “ways” (Milavec 2003, 62-65).
“The Didache defines the Way of Life using two functional definitions. The first definition summarizes positively what must be done; the second definition summarizes negatively what must be avoided. The first definition summarizes one’s relationship with God; the second, with one’s neighbor (Milavec 2003, 65). Milavec sees this as very consistent with Jewish understanding at the time. The idea of loving God and loving neighbor was common. Likewise, the idea of doing good and avoiding evil w as well known (Milavec 2003, 66). Milavec argues that the negative formulation would be perceived as stronger (Milavec 2003, 66-67). Since the Didache would train people in correct practice, Milavec sees it as natural that it would mainly list prohibitions (Milavec 2003, 67).
Milavec attempts to connect the Didache’s idea of showing honor t o early 2nd century Stoicism and to a Jewish view articulated by Ben Sira in the 3rd century B.C. The Stoic heirarchy proved to be “the gods first, fatherland and parents next, then wife, children, friends” (Milavec 2003, 68). We pay honor by showing gratitude. The view of Ben Sira was that honor to God is shown by way of honor to parents (Milavec 2003, 69). Josephus, in the 1st century, also emphasized love of God as expressed through honor to parents. Milavec goes on to say that the Didache omits a command to honr parents or one’s fatherland. The spiritual mentor, however, is honored (4:1) (Milavec 2003, 69). The New Testament, Milavec observes, views honor to the government as essential (Romans 13) and the power of the government as the power of the devil (Revelation 12-13) (Milavec 2003, 69). Other Christian documents view the ralationships o f christians as more important than our roles in the family or state (Milavec 2003, 70). Milavec sees the Fourth Commandment (honor your father and mother) as missing from the New Testament until Christianity became dominant. By the fourth century, the Apostolic Constitutions could make a correction by requiring honor to family and state (Milavec 2003, 70).
Milavec sees the “Way of Life” as training. He notes that the word didache was often used for an appreticeship rather than f or a brief teaching session. He bases this view on TDNT 3:135 (Milavec 2003, 71). Milavec cis clear that apprenticeship is often challenging and precise training. This is the model showin in the Synoptic Gospels, where Jesus i s the didaskalos for the apostles (Milavec 2003, 73).
The issue of conversion is closely tied to the (subsequent?) discipleship laid out in the Didache. A conversion is often thought of as a process of discovery (Milavec 2003, 74). Didache 4:10 calls masters to allow slaves to be called to the Lord when ready (Milavec 2003, 75). A close relationship with a person or group can be important to conversion (Milavec 2003, 75). The Didache’s language about spiritual mentors serving as parents strongly suggests that the community had many converts, first generation Christians (Milavec 2003, 76).
In consonance with Milavec’s view of discipleship as an apprenticeship, it is fair to ask whether each novice would have his or her unique master. Milavec observes that, except for 1:3, the addresses to learners are singular. This suggest that the training was not in a gruop setting (Milavec 2003, 76). Likewise, the master is regularly referred to by a singular. In 9:5 the gatherings of the Christian community appear “closed to outsiders” (Milavec 2003, 76). Milavec, however, may misconstrue this. The prohibition in 9:5 is against those not baptized receiving communion, a substantial difference.