Milavec, Aaron. The Didache: Faith, Hope, & Life of the Earliest Christian Communities, 50-70 C.E. New York: The Newman Press, 2003.Chapter 8 “The Confession of Failings and Eucharistic Sacrifice” pp. 527-577 (continued)
In Milavec’s view, correction is very important to the ordered society. One of the ways to love one’s neighbor (Leviticus 19) is through fair and just treatment, including correction (Milavec 2003, 550). The correction we receive comes ultimately from God and is for our good. Caring reproof and prayers thus contributed to the good of the community and to the joy and well-being of each individual (Milavec 2003, 552).
If reproof were not effective in the Didache community, they would move to what Milavec sees as “shunning” (Milavec 2003, 553). He persists in considering that passages such as Didache 15:3 refer not only to what many would consider sin but also to social infractions such as caring poorly for tools. If matters went far enough, the community might separate members until reconciliation was completed. This reconciliation would take place through the time of confession (Milavec 2003, 554).
The Didache makes a citation of Malachi 1:11. This is, in fact, the one place where the text refers specifically to something written. The passage in Malachi says that God’s name is glorified in the nations but profaned by the priests. For this reason, God has no pleasure in the priests. Milavec notes the difficulty in interpreting the way the gentiles glorify God’s name (Milavec 2003, 555). His conclusion is that this, as allegedly one of very few passages welcoming gentiles, would be of great interest to the Didache’s authors, who “were quick to bend it to suit their particular purposes” (Milavec 2003, 555). Other passages, because they assumed acceptance of gentiles who converted, would possibly not be as compelling. In Malachi, the gentiles, apart from God’s commands, are honoring God purely. Of course, we have no other evidence that the people in Malachi were not acting in obedience to God’s commands. This reader thinks Milavec is placing his presupposition of hostility to and discontinuity from Judaism in charge of the interpretation. He finds in the slight paraphrase a deliberate attempt to reject Judaism centered around the temple (Milavec 2003, 556).
Milavec does consider rabbinic interpretations of Malachi 1:11. The passage gained significance after the destruction of the temple when it seemed clear the sacrificial system was in crisis (Milavec 2003, 557). Since Malachi was written during a time of exile, many rabbis concluded that the pure sacrifices would consist of holding to at least an evening prayer (Milavec 2003, 558). This same tactic could say that “the nations” were any place where the Jews were living, rather than being a specific reference to Gentiles.
By the second century, Milavec observes, Malachi 1:11 was used by Justin Martyr to say that Christian dedication was superior to Jewish sacrifice (Milavec 2003, 559). In Justin (Dialogue 41) the Christian sacrifice is the eucharist. Milavec notes that Justin specifically rejects the argument that Jewish prayers in all nations are the referent in Malachi 1:11. Yet his argument has its weaknesses. It is better seen as a sign that he knew the rabbinic position (Milavec 2003, 560).
Irenaeus also uses Malachi 1:11, now to demonstrate that material sacrifices are not accepted by God. He allows for an offering of first fruits but not of a sacrifice (Milavec 2003, 561). Milavec does not, however, consider negative statements about Judaism as an anti-Jewish bias. The Old Testament prophets frequently lodge complaints against the priests, temple, and others. However, at issue to Milavec, is the fact that here Christians were critiquing Jews and vice versa. Milavec sees this as the start of oppressive behavior which he sees as dominating history. “Only in the last forty years has there been a concerted effort on the part of Christian pastors and theologians to reverse this smear campaign and to enter into dialogue with Jews” (Milavec 2003, 561). In contrast, Milavec sees in the Didache a Christianity which does not exemplify “anti-Judaism” (Milavec 2003, 562) so is helpful in our time.
Milavec further considers the relationship of Malachi 1:11 to the confession of failings. He assumes that this was done either due to resistence from within or challenge from without. He takes it to be a polemic, not merely a descriptive illustration (Milavec 2003, 562). In his opinion, this confession was an innovation which cannot be found elsewhere in the first century. Furthermore, because the confession and reconciliation of the Didache roughly parallels the text in Matthew 5:23f, which also speaks of reconciliation, Milavec concludes that the framers of the Didache could not have known of such a statement of Jesus or they would not have spoken of the idea (Milavec 2003, 563). In arguing this way, Milavec says both that there were and were not traditions of confession and reconciliation in the first century.
In relation to Malachi 1:11 in the Didache, Milavec again makes a clear distinction between what he calls “the Lord God” and “the Lord Jesus.” He asserts that references to “the Lord” have not been to Jesus and that the Didache communities would consider Malachi 1:11 as coming only from “the Lord God.” He views recognition of Jesus as “Lord” to be a departure from monotheism (Milavec 2003, 564).
The confession of failings in Didache 4:14 and 14:1 has a fairly close parallel in Apostolic Constitutions, from the late 4th century. Milavec notes that the confession seems absent from Apostolic Constitutions (Milavec 2003, 564). He views that text as a free and wholesale revision of Didache with an emphasis on the late 4th century needs (Milavec 2003, 564). By that time there is a clear custom that reconciliation needs to be complete before communion (Milavec 2003, 565).
In addition to any removal of those refusing reconciliation, the unbaptized were removed from the assembly before the eucharist in the Didache. Again, Milavec is focused on whether “the Lord” refers to Jesus or not. He concludes it refers to “the Lord God” (Milavec 2003, 566). He also concludes that those who would be removed were considered unclean, as “dogs.”
As Milavec has been speaking of the eucharist in terms of a sacrifice which must be kept pure, he continues to consider sacrifices, now in the Qumran community (Milavec 2003, 566). Here, the only way of making an acceptable sacrifice is through righteous living. This, according to Milavec, is the “equivalent to offering atoning sacrifices” (Milavec 2003, 567). The Qumran Manual of Discipline states how to live a holy life as well as the offenses which could result in exclusion. In the Didache communities, moral purity of the baptized may have been associated with participation in community life, especially in the meals (Milavec 2003, 569). Milavec considers the required training before baptism to be very brief, so he expects many times when people would fail to keep the laws. The only remedy he finds in the Didache is moral reform or exclusion from the community. The sacrifice must be pure (Milavec 2003, 570).
Milavec notes that in female-dominated religions, food rituals are common and generally involve large amounts of food. On the contrary, in male dominated religions, a sacrifice and a small symbolic portion of food is more typical (Milavec 2003, 571). Milavec’s conclusion is that there is a world of difference between the theology of Hebrews and that of the Didache. In Hebrews, Jesus ascends to the Father and offers himself. In the Didache the scrifice is nearly absent but God provides food which is received together (Milavec 2003, 573). This could indicate an emphasis on the women in the community, rather than men.
The timing of the eucharist is an ongoing question. Acts 20:7f records a gathering on the first day of the week and at night. Because of the Jewish influence, many will conclude the day begins at sundown. Therefore, the evening of the first day of the week would be a Saturday evening (Milavec 2003, 573). The Didache also relates an observance on the first day.
Didache 14 resumes discussion of the confession of failings although there is a description of the eucharist earlier in chapters 9-10. Milavec considers whether chapter 14 was misplaced or may have been an afterthought (Milavec 2003, 574). He concludes that the confession is placed where it is due to the fact that the earlier passage brings the newly baptized to the eucharist. In their baptism they are confessing their sins. It is only later that they have the opportunity to confess (Milavec 2003, 575). The sequence of teachings, then, may reflect reality. It would be normal for the penitent to be baptized and then enter into a community life of repentance (Milavec 2003, 576).