Aaron Milavec’s The Didache: Text, Translation, Analysis, and Commentary is my subject again today.
Milavec deals with a few introductory questions about the Didache. I’ve already mentioned that he thinks the work comes from the mid-50s of the first century, about the same time as many of Paul’s letters but before the written gospels. However, he says that the Didache is steeped in orality and clearly existed in an oral form for a while before there was any need to write it down. So I am not sure how he knows when this happened or whether he could really show that the Didache existed in writing before the four gospels did.
One important matter is what he thinks the Greek word “didache” means. The full title is “the Teaching of the Twelve Disciples” or, in a longer version, “the Teaching of the Lord through the Twelve Apostles to the Gentiles”. In each case the initial word is “didache”, which we often translate as “teaching”. The English word “didactic” derives from it.
However, Milavec wants to translate the word to mean “training” or “apprenticeship” instead. Part of this is because he thinks the word gives contemporary people the wrong impression–they think “teaching” involves lecturing in a class room. Instead of that, he believes that what happened in the Didache’s community is that each novice had a single mentor who trained him or her or to whom each was apprenticed.
This is the basis for his gender inclusive treatment of the Didache. Male students would be assigned male mentors and female students would be assigned female mentors. So the teachers and students would be both men and women.
He thinks the work is anonymous and not really from the Twelve. Didache (11:3-6) talks about apostles. In context, these apostles seem to have been passing charismatics who were sometimes unscrupulous. The Twelve are never mentioned in the body of the work.
In this book he does not deal directly with the question of where the community was located. His commentary seems to be compatible with the widely held view that the Didache comes from some place in ancient Syria.
He outlines the main divisions as follows:
I. Training program in the Way of Life (44%) Did. 1:1-6:2
II. Regulations for Eating, Baptizing, Fasting, Praying (22%)Did. 6:3-11:2
III. Regulations for Hospitality/Testing Various Classes of Visitors (15%) Did. 11:3-13:2
IV. Regulations for First Fruits and Offering a Pure Sacrifice (10%) Did. 13:3-15:4
V. Closing Apocalyptic Forewarnings and Hope (9%) Did. 16:1-8
He argues against the proposal that the last section is an apocalypse added on and not an original part of the Didache.
I especially appreciated his pointing out that the idea of the two ways comes first from the Hebrew Bible (for instance, Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 21:18). It was picked up by the New Testament. It seems a very old way of speaking about the Jesus movement was to call it the Way (Acts 9:2 and several other passages in Acts). Milavec seems to view the Didache as a window into “the Way”. He says his commentary’s goal is to “recover the passion, the content, and the methodology” used to transform the lives of some early followers of Jesus.