Milavec-baptism and prayer

In his commentary in The Didache, Aaron Milavec seems to skip over the short chapters 5 and 6.  This is partly justified by the words of 7:1:

“And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water (Roberts translation–I find this easier than trying to reproduce Milavec’s translation with its odd arrangement and fonts, and, in my judgment, the difference in meaning is usually slight. If there is much difference, I will point it out.)

The “having first said all these things” refers back to what came before and includes the Way of Death in chapter 5 and the words about false teachers and food in chapter 6.

He says that baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is not a baptismal formula as though these were magic words said over the candidate.  Various New Testament passages talk about healing or appointing leaders in the name of Jesus, but this does not refer to words said in a ceremony.  It refers to the authority behind the act.  The words said at baptisms were the first chapters of the Didache. These words constituted the Way of Life and the Way of Death and emphasized that baptism represented the transfer from one way of life to another.

The mode of baptism is normally by immersion.  Moving and cold water is preferred. But as a last resort even dousing someone with water from a container (I thought of the gator-aide splashes at sporting events) works.

He understands the following to have taken place at baptisms:

1. Community gathers at the place of baptism  (most have been fasting for two days).

2. Candidates are led in by their spiritual mentors (all grow silent).

3. Mentors recite the Way of Life and the Way of Death with appropriate refrains.

4. Each candidate is immersed, dried off, and reclothed in a dry tunic.

5. New members are warmly addressed and kissed (same sex only) by their new family.

6. Lord’s Prayer is prayed together for the first time.

7. All retire to home for a fast-breaking feast (the Eucharist).

Chapter 8 concerns fasting and the Lord’s Prayer.

Milavec disagrees with most interpretations which introduce the words of the Lord’s Prayer as those the “Lord commanded in his Gospel”.  This gives the impression that the prayer is a transcript of the words of Jesus from a written gospel.  Milavec does not think “the Lord” refers to Jesus.  He says that when the title is used in the Didache, it always refers to the Father.

So the words of the Lord’s Prayer are what the Lord (the Father) “ordered in his good news.”

In regards to the wording of Lord’s Prayer, Milavec notes that the early part of the prayer gets interpreted as petitions concerning the future–“thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”  However, the petitions about bread, forgiveness and not being led into trial the get applied to present needs for food, forgiveness and freedom from temptation.

He says that the grammar of the aorist imperative requires that the petition about food refer to the end-time banquet and the petition about forgiveness apply to acquittal at the last judgment. “Lead us not into temptation” refers to the idea of an end-time trial.

The Kingdom will come once.  The loaf will be given once. Our debt will be forgiven once.  We will be preserved from failing “in the trial” once.

I have seen this interpretation before from Raymond E. Brown, whom he cites.  It makes sense of the Greek.  We should remember, though, that the words were probably first in Aramaic.

The idea that the Didache sees the prayer as from the Father rather than Jesus needs more explanation. Does Milavec think it developed independently of words attributed to Jesus?  Or does he think the Father gave it through Jesus?

Using Jewish parallels and the examples of Eucharistic prayers in the Didache, Milavec believes that the Lord’s Prayer was not simply recited verbatim.  Would the community gather to recite something that took 20 seconds?  Rather he thinks the Lord’s Prayer established a “progression of themes” and that mentors would lead longer free-lance prayers that they attached to these themes.


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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