Milavec, Aaron. The Didache: Faith, Hope, & Life of the Earliest Christian Communities, 50-70 C.E. New York: The Newman Press, 2003.
The issue of the eucharistic meal and its participants urges Milavec to comment on the social setting, especially as it relates to presence of women, children, and slaves. Milavec notes that in some family settings men and women would dine together, but slaves were never included (Milavec 2003, 407). We might, of course, ask whether there were non-slave but lower class settings which were excepted. However, Milavec notes that in the Eucharist everyone was seen to be equally “a ‘servant’ of the Lord (as were Jesus and David)” (Milavec 2003, 407). Therefore, the humility and care for one another would remove the social distinctions normally observed during a regular meal. Milavec compares this to the funeral societies, in which people of different ranks would have some level of equality (Milavec 2003, 408). The levelling of the relationship did not apply outside of the eucharist. Slaves were still slaves (Didache 4:11). In a community of skilled manual trade, slaves may have been valued for their artistry. This would tend to level the social playing field as well. Milavec concludes that this would have been responsible for the lack of emancipation movements, as an accepted level of social regard could exist (Milavec 2003, 409).
Milavec considers treatment of women to be analogous to that of slaves (Milavec 2003, 410). In some instances wives were highly valued and respected. In the lower classes the wife was economically important. Milavec takes this as an indication that the relatively high regard for women shown in the Didache would not have been completely foreign to the communities. Milavec frequently uses Petronius’ Trimalchio to illustrate the relationships of slaves and women. It appears at times that he does not observe it is a satirical comedy. Spotts questions the validity of Milavec’s examples as they may well have been depictions of an aberrant household.
The Didache, in the end, shows no social heirarchy. There are distinctions of roles and abilities, but they are not based on a social rank (Milavec 2003, 411). Milavec notes that the biblical record makes numerous statements about abuses of the equality in the eucharist. He assume there to be instances, though not recorded, in the Didache communities (Milavec 2003, 412).
In his conclusion to the chapter on baptism and eucharist, Milavec describes the convert being brought into something very vivid, presided over by mentors who are deeply convinced of the reality of an eschatological hope (Milavec 2003, 414). Here he pictures people, alienated from all they knew of life and society, embracing the fellowship and prayers as a unifying message (Milavec 2003, 415).
As an appendix to his chapter on baptism and eucharist, Milavec spends several pages considering the origin of the eucharistic prayers. Most modern scholars see the eucharistic prayers as a variant on the after dinner table prayer (Milavec 2003, 416).
As an appendix to his chapter on baptism and eucharist, Milavec spends several pages considering the origin of the eucharistic prayers. Most modern scholars see the eucharistic prayers as a variant on the after dinner table prayer (Milavec 2003, 416). This opinion stems from 20th century research in which Louis Finkelstein was a prominent character. Milavec admits a possibility that the eucharistic prayers were adapted from either rabbinic or household prayers. They may not have had an agreed-upon source text (Milavec 2003, 417). Milavec’s opinion is that the prayers as written in any Jewish context, and thus in any early Christian context, were merely examples, not fixed liturgical works (Milavec 2003, 418). Milavec considers it impossible that there were fixed liturgical statements. His stated reason is that this would be anachronistic due to the strong oral tradition of the period (Milavec 2003, 418). Spotts considers that a genuine oral tradition tends to preserve, rather than modify, theological statements. On pages 419-420 Milavec discusses five reasons he would disagree with Finkelstein. He concludes that he does not consider Finkelstein a credible source, though some years earlier he would have used him with caution (Milavec 2003, 221).