Milavec, Aaron. The Didache: Faith, Hope, & Life of the Earliest Christian Communities, 50-70 C.E. New York: The Newman Press, 2003.
“Section III: Particular Aspects of This Apprenticeship”
Milavec provides an outline of the “Two Ways” portion of the Didache (Milavec 2003, 102). The section encompasses 1:2-6:1f. Details of the Way of Life are much more intricate than those for the Way of Death. The training in the Way of Life moves from dealing with abusive outsiders to dealing with those you love, within the community. Milavec asserts that “the abusive outsiders are members of one’s biological family (see ch. 12 below)” (Milavec 2003, 102), though the text in chapter 1 makes no such indication. In chapter 3, after the training appears to be about halfway over, the disciple is first referred to as the “child” of the spiritual parent (Milavec 2003, 103). Milavec sees this as evidence of a new “family.” “One will soon discover that the Didache deliberately leaves out the commandment in the Decalogue calling for honoring father and mother; hence, by implication, the spiritual mentor becomes the new ‘father’ or ‘mother’ who will be honored” (Milavec 2003, 103). After 3:9 the future indicative is used rather than a present imperative. Milavec sees this as a description of the future state after baptism (Milavec 2003, 103). Milavec notes that some portions of the text are broken into lists of four, five, and three, but that a significance of the numbers is not clear. However, he does think the list of 22 condemned acts in chapter 5 may be related to a custom of 22 confessions of sin made on Yom Kippur (Milavec 2003, 104).
Milavec makes a number of comments on the way pagan religions may have appealed to people. Making extensive quotes of Thomas Finn, and particularly using secondary references by quoting Finn’s quotations of inscriptions, Milavec describes a vital and moral world of Roman and Greek paganism (Milavec 2003, 104ff). His references are problematic, as he conflates statements and situations from authors as early as Cato and as late as Augustine, some 500 years later (Milavec 2003, 106). He then suggests a parallel to the polytheism of modern India or to the recognition of many roles of saints in Roman Catholicism (Milavec 2003, 107). His point is that the religions other than Christianity did have a coherent place in society.
The superiority of the Way of Life is assumed by the author of the Didache (Milavec 2003, 108). The pragmatics of living out the Way of Life are the content of the training. Milavec observes that the text is not a series of logical propositions about God. Rather, it is a method of living in light of God’s superiority. The idea is that God, the maker of humans, is molding people. Milavec, referring to Psalm 139 and a number of other texts, seems to think of this as a quanit, pre-scientific view (Milavec 2003, 108). Service to the neighbor is a yielding to God, rather than anything else (Milavec 2003, 109). Giving is done because of the care of the Father. “The doctrine of God is introduced in order to orient or correct action” (Milavec 2003, 109).
In the interest of finding context for the pragmatic theology described in the Didache, Milavec asks if the “Two Ways” originated in the context of a synagogue. This is the way it has been viewed by many (Milavec 2003, 109). The idea is that it was a Jewish document which underwent some superficial Christianization. Milavec is hesitant about this idea. The entirety of the text points to God’s revelation in Jesus, rather than in Moses (Milavec 2003, 110). It sees Jesus as rooted in Judaism, so functioning for Jew and Gentile alike. No Jewish text seems to represent the “Way of Life” in terms similar to the Didache (Milavec 2003, 111). Therefore it seems to be a genuinely Christian document.
The beginning of the Didache’s training pertains to dealing with harsh words and treatment. Milavec observes that Matthew and Luke make similar statements (Milavec 2003, 112). There does not appear to be much evidence of generalized persecution in the Didache. Milavec also does not see a pattern of robbery and assault in the text. Didache 1:4 shows abuse directed at new members of the community. The abuse appears intended to bring shame (Milavec 2003, 113). Because many of these conflicts could be imagined in the context of a family, Milavec assumes this to be the norm and the cause for statements in the Didache.
Citing Crossan’s work, Milavec sees early Christianity as radically rejecting family values. Jesus frequently told people their biological families were not as important as their relationship with God (Milavec 2003, 115). People are to take radical action, including rejecting parents, to follow Jesus. Milavec finds this as central to understanding the opening of the Didache (Milavec 2003, 116).