Milavec, Aaron. The Didache: Faith, Hope, & Life of the Earliest Christian Communities, 50-70 C.E. New York: The Newman Press, 2003.
Chapter 11 “Whether the Didache Made Use of Any Known Gospel” pp. 693-739, part 2.
Since verbal similarity is not a reliable measure of dependence, Milavec asks whether the similarity of ideas could indicate the Didache’s dependence on a written gospel (Milavec 2003, 704). The reference of Didache 9:5 to avoid giving “what is holy to dogs” finds a strong verbal parallel in Matthew 7:6 (Milavec 2003, 704). However, the context and implications of the statements are significantly different (Milavec 2003, 705). Likewise, Didache 8:1-2 warns against fasting like hypocrites. Matthew 6:5 has a similar warning against praying like hypocrites (Milavec 2003, 706). The idea is similar but the setting is considerably different. Didache 14:1 and 15:3 speak of confessing sins and shunning those who have gone astray. This is very different from the process described in Matthew 18:15-18. So again, the ideas are similar but the accounts are clearly different. Didache 3:1-6 gives a series of commands, then shows how to keep the commands (Milavec 2003, 707). Matthew, however, states a number of divine commands then strengthens them. Again, the texts show no awareness of one another. Again, in Didache 6:2, the yoke of God is used very differently than in Matthew 11:29. Didache 6:3 speaks of meat offered to idols but shows no awareness of Matthew 15:10 where God’s people eat what they need to eat. Finally, Matthew 12:32 sees the speaking against the Holy Spirit as unforgiveable. However, in Didache the unforgiveable sin is to judge a prophet who is speaking rightly (Milavec 2003, 707). Another important concept is that of the “double love” commandment, in which we are to love God and our neighbor (Milavec 2003, 708). Matthew 22:37 states it clearly. Milavec finds only a partial parallel in Didache 1:2, where we are told to love God (Milavec 2003, 709). The ideas are vaguely similar but certainly not identical.
Milavec continues making comparison of the Didache and Matthew’s Gospel by considering the idea of turning the other cheek (Milavec 2003, 710). The discussion assumes that there were contemporary collections of Jesus’ sayings and that these may have supplied the material. It is unclear, in Milavec’s opinion, whether the portions of the Two Ways which strongly evoke the Sermon on the Mount are later insertions (Milavec 2003, 711). However, the basic consideration of dependence on a Gospel is not influenced by the date of inclusion of ideas (Milavec 2003, 712). To evaluate the similarities, Milavec places Didache 1:4-5a and Matthew 5:38-42 parallel to each other (Milavec 2003, 712). The sayings are similar but they are used to demonstrate different ideas (Milavec 2003, 713). The comparison continues with Luke 6:27-32 (Milavec 2003, 714). The texts are similar in their ideas but do not have the marks of direct dependence (Milavec 2003, 715).
One of the difficulties which Milavec finds when evaluating arguments of dependence is a bias toward purely textual sources (Milavec 2003, 716). In a culture which values oral sources as highly as or even more highly than written sources, one could expect that oral sources would be used freely, even with some verbal fluidity. This would be a perfectly reasonable way of making quotations. An adequate view of orality can also explain the fluidity of apparent source material used for the canonical Gospels. It would allow the evangelists to “quote” sayings of Jesus but with verbal freedom (Milavec 2003, 717). Milavec observes that an oral tradition could well explain the appearance of a Way of Life narrative generally following the same organization in many different documents (Milavec 2003, 718). Milavec further note that the Didache shows signs of being an oral composition, intended for oral transmission. It repeatedly refers to speaking and hearing, not writing and reading (Milavec 2003, 719). However, unlike the work of Jesus in the Gospels, where the disciples gradually take on their master’s values, the Didache has a clear progression of sayings which would be mastered (Milavec 2003, 720). The syaings do not need to be statements of Jesus. It is sufficient that they speak of godly conduct. The term “gospel” also appears nt to refer to a text, but to the message of Jesus. Milavec pursues this concept more, by analyzing the four times the word euaggelion is used (Milavec 2003, 721). Much of his argument is predicated on the idea that “gospel” is not used for a written source prior to about 150.
Milavec concludes that the authors of the Didache either had no written gospel account or considered the written sources unneeded. Otherwise, we would expect to see much more in paralllel with a canonical gospel (Milavec 2003, 724).
The possible exception to the rule of the Didache being largely independent of the canonical gospels is Didache 16 which seems to have many parallels in Matthew 24 (Milavec 2003, 725). However, when Milavec puts the two texts in parallel columns, it becomes apparent that there is relatively little actual dependence (Milavec 2003, 726-728). The conclusion Milavec reache is that the texts treat similar topics but in their own ays and for their own reasons (Milavec 2003, 729). In a similar way, Matthew 24:30 and Revelation 1:7 appear similar in content but not directly related to one another (Milavec 2003, 730).
Milavec describes the work of Vicky Balabanski at some length. Balabanski maintains that Didache 16 “was written ‘to clarify and specify’” elements of Matthew (Milavec 2003, 731). Her view is that though Matthew’s Gospel is relatively comprehensive, Didache 16 intended to summarize the eschatology (Milavec 2003, 732). However, Milavec observes, she tends to presume a unity of purpose which cannot be found explicitly in either text. Milavec gives numerous examples of Balabanski’s assertions. In the given examples, Balabanski demonstrates points of difference between Matthew and Didache 16. This does not, therefore, appear to be a work for the purpose of clarification.
Another scholar, John S. Kloppenborg, finds that Didache 16 focuses on material for which the content is present in Matthew but not in Mark. This suggests to him that Matthew and the Didache had access to some traditions unknown to Mark (Milavec 2003, 735). He suggests the contents of the source, but possibly assumes all the source’s contents were used.
In conclusion, Milavec finds textual similarity between the Didache and Matthew’s Gospel. However, the similarities do not demonstrate dependence (Milavec 2003, 738). Similarly, though some cntent elemtns are similar, they are not consistently used in the same ways and cannot demonstrate dependence in either direction. Milavec sees them as representatives of two divergent and independent religious systems (Milavec 2003, 739).