Milavec, Aaron. The Didache: Faith, Hope, & Life of the Earliest Christian Communities, 50-70 C.E. New York: The Newman Press, 2003.
Didache 4 lays out three rules for households. This suggests to Milavec “that the typical candidate had children and slaves” (Milavec 2003, 163). He explains that this does not necessarily imply great wealth or high social standing. Ownership of slaves may have been very widespread. According to 4:9, children were to be trained to fear God. Milavec says this could not have been an introduction to the Christian community, which would always be an adult decision. Slaves, however, would be expected to take on the same allegiance as their masters (Milavec 2003, 163). Masters may not be harsh to their slaves, as the slaves would hope to be called into the Christian faith at some point (Milavec 2003, 164). Milavec sees the mentorship as necessarily springing from an adult decision to become a Christian, then always to be performed by someone who would seem to be essentially a professional mentor. The relationship of those who have been mentored and baptized and are now partakers of the Eucharist is one of peers, not of masters and slaves (Milavec 2003, 165).
Milavec does note that slaves in antiquity were not necessariily considered inferior in education or other skills. People were often enslaved as a result of military or political conflicts (Milavec 2003, 165). Though slaves were personal property and lacking in freedom, their abilities were often recognized.
After being told to care for children and to avoid anger with slaves, novices are told to reject hypocrisy and to guard their training as from the Lord (4:12). The training received, which Milavec sees as the precise program laid out in Didache, is to be guarded exactly. Nothing may be added or taken away (Milavec 2003, 167). The novice is warned that confession of sin will be expected. Milavec ties this directly to reception of the Eucharist.
Milavec concludes that the first four chapters of the Didache are a prelude to a training program used for people who wish to be baptized nd received as communicants. The program was intended to provide mentorship and admission to the very particular ommunity (Milavec 2003, 168).
Milavec considers whether the Didache community was aware of Acts 15. His conclusion seems very firm. “Since the Didache takes its own unique stand on this issue without any knowledge and without any reference to the Jerusalem agreement, it must be surmised that the Didache was formed either prior to or in ignorance of the food laws” (Milavec 2003, 169). Milavec asserts that the Didache is completely ignorant of the details of the decree in Acts 15:28ff. His assertion is based on the fact that the prohibitions in Acts 15 are based on well recognized principles within Judaism. Though Acts 15 has four specific prohibitions, the Didache is only specific about two of them (Milavec 2003, 170). Because Milavec sees Paul as not accepting the decree, he is also free to suggest that the narrative from Acts is later than Paul’s work and would also be unknown to the Didache community.