Milavec, Aaron. The Didache: Faith, Hope, & Life of the Earliest Christian Communities, 50-70 C.E. New York: The Newman Press, 2003.
Milavec does recognize a certain level of continuity between Didache and the Old Testament. For instance, he points out the prophetic charges against those who would abuse the poor (Milavec 2003, 204). In rabbinic literature we also begin to see almsgiving as an alternative to making sacrifice. This is especially the case after the destruction of the temple (Milavec 2003, 205). The teaching cited, though, quickly approaches a karmic view, rather than a deeply biblical view of grace and mercy (Milavec 2003, 206). Regardless of the extrapolations made, the consensus seems clear. Charitable giving, by the start of the Middle Ages, was considered by many Jews as a means of making sacrifice and receiving forgiveness. This concept may have existed as early as the third century B.C. (Milavec 2003, 207).
The idea of giving is often associated with reception of a reward. Milavec draws Luke 12:35-48 into his argument. Here, the servant who is ready for his master’s return receives a reward, while the unprepared servant is punished (Milavec 2003, 209).
Didache 4:8 does require the member of the community to share in an unlimited way with other members of the community. Those who have been initiated into the communion are to care for one another regardless (Milavec 2003, 210). The term used, koinonia, implies a sharing in all its particulars. The relationship described is that of a very generous and dedicated family, not a more casual business arrangement (Milavec 2003, 211). Milavec distinguishes the relationship both from charity and from communism. It was a collective economic community, but did make distinctions among different abilities.
Acts 2:32 and following speaks of the group financial culture of the earliest Christians in Jerusalem. Milavec considers whether this is a literal and complete sharing. He does not think it is an arrangement in which people lose control of their property until they actually give it away voluntarily (Milavec 2003, 213).
Milavec observes that opportunities for upward mobility in antiquity were limited. With no governmental loan assistance or the kind of help programs he associates with modern life, financing projects was dependent on personal relationships and the relation of a patron to a client (Milavec 2003, 214). Debt slavery was a real threat to people of limited means.
The business of lending money was generally considered only marginally acceptable at best, often criminal (Milavec 2003, 214). There were some protections against high interest rates for citizens, but not for non citizens. Jewish law also carried some protections for Jews, but fewer in case of lending to foreigners (Milavec 2003, 215). In the Old and New Testaments alike, indebtedness is seen as both a failure and an entry into bondage. The slavery of debt is contrasted with the forgiving nature of God (Milavec 2003, 216).