Milavec, Aaron. "Chapter Four: When, Why, and for Whom Was the Didache Created? Insights into the Social and Historical Setting of the Didache Communities." in Van de Sandt, Huub (editor). Matthew and the Didache: Two Documents from the Same Jewish-Christian Milieu? Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005, 63-84.
Milavec observes that his view of the Didache evolved in the period since about 1990. He sees more of an "intentional unity" in the text than he had before. He also finds less reason to take the Didache as dependent on a canonical gospel than he had previously (Milavec 2005, 63). The oral character suggests a teaching which would have been stable for some time in an oral form. For this reason, the rigidity of textual studies based on literary dependence seem out of place in regards to the Didache (Milavec 2005, 64).
Milavec's studies of orality moved him to memorize the work as an oral "performance piece." He reports being surprised at the ease with which he did so, as well as the grasp he gained of the overall logic and organization of the Didache (Milavec 2005, 65). He finds it to be a fruitful piece of teaching with a strong pastoral concern for transforming the lives of its hearers.
Milavec takes the "Way of Life" in the Didache as a signal of the training a master would provide for his apprentices (Milavec 2005, 66). He emphasizes that the apprenticeship process is a lengthy type of learning, not only information but life values. In the Didache the mentor is speaking from God, so is to be accepted with a certain reverence (Didache 4.1) (Milavec 2005, 67). The mentoring was quite possibly individual in nature. Milavec notes the use of the second person singular to address the disciple (Milavec 2005, 68). One would expect that men would teach men and women would teach women. Milavec considers the relatively nonsexist language (addresses to "child" rather than "son," for instance) to indicate that it was expected that both men and women would be disciples (Milavec 2005, 69).
Milavec moves on to walk through several topics of the Didache, describing the logical order and connections. It is of primary importance that a convert pray for his enemies expecting that there will be opposition to conversion. The convert's family and friends may, in this way, become at enmity (Milavec 2005, 70). It is important to pray for those people and seek peace despite the conflict.
The Didache speaks of giving first in 1:4-5, then in 4:5-8. While at first, the novice is to give freely, Milavec sees this as an initial surrender upon conversion. Later, in chapter four, he sees an ongoing sharing in the community (Milavec 2005, 71). Milavec notes that a Roman attitude toward private property would normally take no concern for sharing with the poor. The giving in the Didache cares for the poor while making no attempt at self-promotion (Milavec 2005, 72).
Milavec next observes that the training presents prohibitions first, then positive virtues, and that this is done in progressive layers, dealing with the simplest directives before increasing difficulty (Milavec 2005, 72). The program is thus organized for the greatest success. The most difficult conflict resolution situations are reserved for the end of the teaching, in chapters 14 and 15 (Milavec 2005, 73).
Obedience to the Jewish Law is a matter of important discussion as regards the Didache. Milavec notes that both Flusser and Draper, seemingly independently, concluded that converts would be expected to adhere to the Torah as much as possible (Milavec 2005, 73). Milavec, however, takes Didache 4:13 to exhort obedience to the teaching of the Didache, rather than the Torah (Milavec 2005, 74). Though strong demands are made, Milavec observes flexibility, but not in the standard. "When it comes to achieving these things, however, allowance is made for failure and for gradualism" (Milavec 2005, 75). Confession of failings moves people to shame and urges them to diligence in correcting the failings.
Milavec understands a prohibition against food sacrificed to idols to have been placed very shortly before the time of baptism because family meals and celebrations in pagan circles would routinely involve an offering to a deity. To avoid this would be virtually impossible in society before being welcomed, as Milavec sees it, to the communal Christian meals. Therefore, the prohibition is delayed until the immediate pre-baptismal period (Milavec 2005, 76). After the fast, during which any nourishment which had been sacrificed to idols was expelled from the body, the convert and others would fast, in solidarity with one another (Milavec 2005, 77). The eucharistic meal would then be received. Milavec observes that while Didache 9-10 speaks of eucharist, so does chapter 14. After surveying disparate views of the reason, he concludes that while the eucharist is in essence the same, the earlier context is that of baptism and the later version is what regularly occurred in the life of the congregation (Milavec 2005, 79).
Milavec observes that the Didache and Matthew's Gospel both deal with many similar situations (Milavec 2005, 80). This is common to Christianity. When dealing with instance of sin, he sees the two texts as taking different approaches. The Didache has a culture of confessing, with a shunning of members who will not change their ways (14:1, 15:3). Matthew sees the offending member as confronted with a need for repentance numerous times before any sort of shunning (Matt. 18:15-18). Milavec sees the model in Matthew, which bears Jesus' endorsement, as persuasive enough that the Didache community would have certainly adopted it if they had been aware of Matthew (Milavec 2005, 81).
Milavec briefly surveys opinions about provenance and date of the Didache (Milavec 2005, 81-83). He concludes that the Didache was composed with no awareness of the canonical gospels, thus probably at an early date.