Milavec-a preference for the difficult reading

Aaron Milavec, in The Didache: Text, Translation, Analysis, and Commentary, devotes several pages to his rendition of the Greek text. He follows this with his English translation.

Textual criticism comes into play in understanding the Didache. The text discovered in Istanbul dates to 1056 CE. The transcriber of that text calls himself Leon, scribe and sinner. Leon’s text uses some abbreviations and shorthand typical of the middle ages. So a translator is not just translating words, but interpreting more cryptic signs.

Some scholars have assumed a connection with second century church practice. So they have felt justified in modifying some difficult readings in light of known liturgies and writings. An example is the use of a word that means fragment in reference to the bread of the Lord’s Supper. Since this word in the singular is hard to understand (after the breaking of the bread there are fragments), some have changed it to loaf in the light of second century Egyptian Christian liturgies.

Milavec does not assume that second century material has any relevance. More importantly, he adopts the principle that the more difficult reading is preferable. He says that he does not try to harmonize what the Didache says with other practices or writings.

On the other hand, he sees some 20th and 21st century ideas as relevant. He defends making his translation gender inclusive. He says that every other translation assumes the Didache is about men addressing men about manly things, thus misrepresenting it’s intent.

I have no problem with this so long as his version really does express the intent of the original. However, I should point out that Milavec lives in a world where he felt it was necessary to use part of his “Acknowledgements” to apologize to forests and wildlife for the making of books.  So, should we trust that his Progressive ideology will not impinge on his historical work?

His translation looks a little odd. He uses an outline format to show how he thinks the argument develops. Also he tries to make up for the deficiencies of English over against Greek. For instance, he puts an umlaut over the “y” in you and your to show when these pronouns are plural. He uses parenthesis and brackets to show words and phrases that are understood, but not actually in the Greek text.

I have read part of his translation alongside the Roberts translation. Here is how they each begin, just to give you a flavor.


 There are two ways, one of life and one of death, but a great difference between the two ways. The way of life, then, is this: First, you shall love God who made you; second, love your neighbor as yourself, and do not do to another what you would not want done to you.


There are two ways: one of life and one of death! (And) {there is) a great difference between the two ways.

{A.} On_the_one_hand, then, the way of life is this:

{1} first, you will love the God who made you

{2} second: {you will love} your neighbor as yourself.

{B.} On_the_other_hand {the way of life is this}:

as many {things} as you might wish not to happen to you,

likewise, do not do to another.

Notice how Milavec tries to approximate the Greek reading experience by showing what is one word in Greek but has needed multiple words to translate into English.

Anyway, I am grateful to Milavec for his effort in working out the text and contributing a new and interesting translation.

About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
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