Milavec, Aaron. The Didache: Faith, Hope, & Life of the Earliest Christian Communities, 50-70 C.E. New York: The Newman Press, 2003.
Chapter 12, “Whether the Didache Reveals the Social Setting for ‘Turning the Other Cheek’ and ‘Loving One’s Enemies’,” pp. 741-768.
Milavec notes that the very definition of loving one’s enemies may be different depending on who is asked and when. Therefore, he sets out to study the meaning of the concept in various communities (Milavec 2003, 743). To do this, Milavec analyzes the work of Gerd Theissen, who has written extensively.
Thiessen sees Jesus’ command to love one’s enemies as a very forceful statement, which would have spoken radically to the wandering prophets of the Didache (Milavec 2003, 743).
Milavec considers whether the idea of family values is undercut in the early Christian period. Following Crosson, he finds the Gospel of Thomas demanding a hatred of family members (Milavec 2003, 756).He considers this to continue in Mark 3:31-35. “Jesus shames and disowns his family by looking at those sitting around him and saying, ‘Here are my mother and brothers!’” (Milavec 2003, 757). Milavec sees this and the other statements which crequire a decision between family and God to be hostile and disrespectful toward family. He continues by asserting that a conversion to Judaism or to Christianity requires a much more significant change of life than a conversion within the bounds of paganism (Milavec 2003, 758).
The Didache, with its apparent emphasis on conversion of gentiles, should be expected to demand a substantial life change. Milavec asserts a similarity betwen the conversion in the Didache and into the Cynic philosophy of Epictetus (Milavec 2003, 758). The radical reorientation could be expected to lead toward shame, shunning, and assault. This Milavec compares to the hostility endorsed by modern people who join a cult (Milavec 2003, 759).
In Didache 1:4 the convert is taught to expect physical abuse and humiliation in the form of a blow on the right cheek (Milavec 2003, 761). This would indicate either being struck with the back of the hand or with the left hand, which would be humiliating. The person struck would not be in a position to retaliate. The younger or less powerful submits to the penalty, holds to his religious conversion, and shows himself loyal to the family (Milavec 2003, 763). We notice this is different from the arrogant abandonment of family described recently. The Didache also, along with Luke’s Gospel, pictures a follower of Jesus having some of his clothing confiscated. Again, this would be seen as a forceful insult (Milavec 2003, 765). Milavec sees this as the kind of penalty a parent might impose. Having one’s clothes impounded would discourage going to be with Christians (Milavec 2003, 765). The convert was not even allowed to demand the return of his clothes (Milavec 2003, 767).
In conclusion, Milavec sees a culture in which parents whose children departed from their former faith to a place of hostility (Milavec 2003, 767). The parent would eventually try to cast out their children.