Milavec, Aaron. The Didache: Faith, Hope, & Life of the Earliest Christian Communities, 50-70 C.E. New York: The Newman Press, 2003.
In Didache 2:2-6 Milavec finds a form of a “decalogue adapted to gentiles” (Milavec 2003, 117). There are prohibitions of five types of speech and five dispositions The structure of the list of ten is similar to the language of Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. It does not take the form of a rebuke. The person converting would not have known the expectation of the community, so would not be rebuked for failure. Milavec compares the commands of Didache 2:2 to Exodus 20:1-7. Most of the commands are different. He does not find a compelling reason for these differences (Milavec 2003, 118).
A discussion of commandments in the context of an oral discipleship community rather naturally evokes questions. Here the question of the recitation of the Decalogue in Christian communities. Milavec brings up a rabbinic tradition which says Christians had adopted the Decalogue as the entirety of Torah. At that time, Jews may have stopped their regular recitation. Did the first century Christians have a tradition of reciting the Decalogue? Milavec notes that Paul never refers to the Decalogue but that he does refer to the Golden Rule from Leviticus 19:18b. Milavec also seems to divide the commandments into five and five. He notes that Paul, in Romans 13, and the Didache as well, only ever uses some of the last five commandments (Milavec 2003, 120). jesus also does not give the commandments in the way Milavec would have expected, for instance, in Mark 10:17. Milavec concludes from this that first century Jewish communities felt free to select and rearrange the commandments at will (Milavec 2003, 121).
Milavec does ask specifically about the Didache’s apparent purposeful omission of the first five commandments (Milavec 2003, 121). He questions whether it shows anything about a social situation. He then goes on to show that the Didache is clear that the convert must be positively associated only with the true God (Milavec 2003, 121). Possibly a direct quote of the first commandment would be omitted because a gentile community was not rescued from Egypt. Gentiles were generally not held responsible for their former life of idolatry, committed in ignorance (Milavec 2003, 122). For this reason, the Way of Life is focused on creation, not on Exodus. Milavec concludes the novices were from Gentile families and were not admitted to meals with Christians prior to baptism. Therefore, they would also have been surrounded by polytheism and food sacrificed to idols during their training. He extrapolates that having multiple gods would have been acceptable prior to baptism (Milavec 2003, 123).
As regards the second commandment, Milavec says it would be impossible to avoid having and using “graven images” (Milavec 2003, 123). The gentile world is full of such images. My observation is that Milavec does not adequately consider that the prohibition is against making images for worship. Merely using money with a pagan deity engraved on it did not necessarily violate the command.
The third commandment, that of swearing an oath while calling on God, is dealt with in the Didache. The novices are taught not to swear falsely (2:3). Milavec sees this as a statement in agreement with Exodus 20 (Milavec 2003, 123).
We do notice that Milavec is pursuing a Protestant numbering of the commands. The fourth is therefore that of the Sabbath. Again, Milavec says this would have been impossible for gentiles due to the structure of the Roman calendar (Milavec 2003, 123). For this reason, the author of the Didache would not have cited the command.