Milavec, Aaron. The Didache: Faith, Hope, & Life of the Earliest Christian Communities, 50-70 C.E. New York: The Newman Press, 2003.
The means of training is an area which deserves attention. Milavec observes that “as late as the Middle Ages” scholars would emphasize the necessity of learning through activity with a master (Milavec 2003, 88-89). Milavec illustrates the inadequacy of relying on written instructions alone to learn a new task, especially such as pottery or complex interpersonal skills (Milavec 2003, 90). A lengthy apprenticeship is normally required. Milavec emphasizes that it must begin with admiration and continue with warm trust. The master always intends to prepare disciples to be on their own (Milavec 2003, 91).
Milavec’s view of the training implicit in the Didache is that it was a lengthy process. The disciple would have to hear the various points repeatedly and assimilate them gradually, step by step (Milavec 2003, 92). the master and novice would ultimately be able to recite the training outline together. The existence of such a mentoring outline indicates that the process was very important (Milavec 2003, 93).
Even as mentors trained disciples, the attitude of the Didache is that the training received was that of God’s Word (Didache 4;1) (Milavec 2003, 93). The disciples were learning something of great importance. They would tremble in anticipation of receiving this insight (Didache 3:8) (Milavec 2003, 94).
Milavec questions whether the idea of disciples trembling might be trivialized. He compares this to a modern case of Malcolm X and his conversion to the Nation of Islam (Milavec 2003, 95). The emotive aspects of the conversion are very plain. Milavec concludes that “[E]very deep initiation involves a ‘sacred disintegration’” (Milavec 2003, 96). Here our old notions of life are challenged and many disappear. We rebuild our life entirely. This is what the Didache may be indicating.
The life assumptions particularly in play in the “Way of Life” training make a natural progression from the beginning to the end of the training. Milavec sees a prominent theme at the outset in teaching of how to love our enemies (Milavec 2003, 98). Rather than taking this opening as a way for the author to put a “Jesus stamp of approval” on the text, Milavec takes it as a logical start for people departing from a majority pagan Gentile culture into a community that routinely experiences discrimination. Converts would be forced to deal with enemies.
Milavec also finds the teaching introduces giving in a progressive manner. It moves from a sort of routine giving to a selfless care for the reset of the community. The progression of the teaching is clear (Milavec 2003, 99).
Finally, the prohibition against food offered to idols (Didache 6:3) is at the end of the training. Milavec sees this as the point where the disciple would leave family meals with pagan customs, then enter a period of fasting before baptism. Afterward, meals would be within the Christian community with its unique customs.