Milavec, Aaron. The Didache: Faith, Hope, & Life of the Earliest Christian Communities, 50-70 C.E. New York: The Newman Press, 2003.
Chapter 10 “Purifying Fire, Selective Resurrection, and God’s Coming” pp. 619-690, part 2.
Milavec gives a review of the linguistics of Didache 16. The chapter opens with use of the imperative mood and a good deal of future tnse. This points to an urgency and future fulfillment of the prophecy (Milavec 2003, 632). There are five distinct phases of the end mentioned. Each is followed bythree statements of what will happen in the stage (Milavec 2003, 634). The audience is called to remain watchful. Because the commands are that the audience should not stop being watchful, Milavec concludes the people were already in a state of watchful obedience. The idea of tending to lamps in the first century implies an ongoing concern, with refueling and adjustments (Milavec 2003, 635). This would seem to be a metaphor for guarding one’s life. Milavec compares this to the metaphoric usage of lamps as a sign of care for the soul, found in The Apocalypse of Baruch, dated around 100 A.D. (Milavec 2003, 635). Here, lamps are compared to the faithful teaching o tthe Torah (Milavec 2003, 636).
The metaphor of keeping lamps tended and remaining dressed for service appears in Luke 12, which Milaec visits. Here we do not find a clear eschatological banquet but we do have a master delayed for some hours at a wedding feast (Milavec 2003, 637). Those found faithful do enter into rest and find themselves served by the master. Matthew 24 describes another situation. However, here some of the servants are disorderly, the master comes with harsh vengeance, and there is no mention of a lamp (Milavec 2003, 638). Matthew 25 also has a parable involving torches, indicating a need to be appropriately prepared. The failure to do so results in rejection (Milavec 2003, 638).
Milavec suggests that the “girding of loins” would refer only to men, but that the “lamp” metaphor would generally be assumed to belong to the realm of women. Therefore, the concept in Didache 16 is assumed to be gender inclusive (Milavec 2003, 640).
Milavec notes that Didache 16:1 speaks of an unknown time for the coming of the Lord. He then continues to identify the earlier Christian expectation of “the Lord God” as opposed to a later expectation of “the Lord Jesus” who would come at a more distant, future time (Milavec 2003, 640). In the meanitime, it is important for the Christian community to live out their Christianity together.
According to Didache 16:3 there will be a rise of false prophets, as well as “corrupters.” Milavec observes that the term used (φθορεις) often indicates those who are sexually immoral. However, here they seem to bring dissension and hatred (Milavec 2003, 641). The last days, or time of the end described in Didache 16 is less dramatic than the time as described elsewhere. It will be a time when faithfulness will decline and the community will be endangered by the corruptors from outside the community (Milavec 2003, 642). “What is unusual about the Didache is that it is entirely silent regarding both natural and cosmic disruptions” (Milavec 2003, 643). The disruption is all within the community.
Milavec does ask whether the mention of “persecutors” in Didache 16:4 would refer to Christians who departed from the faith (Milavec 2003, 643). First, he notes that the persecution described in the Didache does not seem to compare with that described in Matthew 24. In the Didache the persecution does not seem to come from outside (Milavec 2003, 644).
To consider other accounts of strife, Milavec turns to the Ascension of Isaiah dating from the late second entury (Milavec 2003, 644). The text takes on a decidedly Christian turn, speaking of the apostles and Jesus’ death and resurrection (Milavec 2003, 645). The text describes a period of peace followed by strife before the time of the end.