NOBODY reading the New Testament with a grain of imaginative insight could fail to recognize that considerable blocks of its material glow with the fervour of worship. But in comparatively recent years the glow has (seemingly, at least) been blown into a flame by reason of a special concern with worship which has pervaded all departments of Christian practice and research. In England the liturgical revival and the practical experiments associated with the 'Parish and People* movementhave gone hand in hand with a new appraisal of the setting of much biblical literature, especially the Psalms, along lines already pioneered in Scandinavia by such scholars as Sigmund Mowinckel, and elsewhere on the Continent by others. As a result, the tendency today is to assume a liturgical context wherever it is in the faintest degree possible, rather than to start from other assumptions.
This has brought a great deal of fresh understanding, and thrown a vivid awareness of corporate life and movement and poetry into passages which had been treated far too statically and individualistically and prosaically: the words have begun to sing themselves, the mind's eye to see the rhythm of processions and the swing of censers. If anything, this fashion has overreached itself a trifle, and our professors are in danger of crying worship, worship where there is no worship. The liturgical clue is a useful guide but it can become a snare; and a distinguished Dutch scholar has rightly complained of a certain 'panliturgism' invading New Testament scholarship.
But all this is only a caveat against abuse of the new insight: it remains perfectly true that many of the component parts of the New Testament were forged in the flame of devotion and that worship has left its stamp on its whole vocabulary; and it is to the Christians at worship that we now turn, as an important part of our study of the birth and growth of the New Testament. Or rather, we must start with the Jewish Church at worship.
Christian worship,like Christian literature, was continuous with, and yet in marked contrast to, Jewish worship. Like the Christian scriptures, it grew out of words borrowed, out of traditions remembered, and out of inspired utterances; and, as with the scriptures, so in worship, the Jesus who was remembered was found to be the same Jesus who was experienced and who was present wherever two or three were assembled in his name. Christian worship was continuous with Jewish worship and yet, even from the first, distinctive.
As is well known, the Temple at Jerusalem continued, until its destruction in AD 70, if indeed it was completely destroyed even then,to be the focus of Jewish worship. The Jewish synagogue (an institution of obscure origin, but perhaps dating virtually from the time of the exile) was in essence simply a 'gathering together' (which is what the Greek, synagoge, means) of a local group to hear the scriptures read aloud, to praise God and pray to him together, and to be instructed. In theory at any rate, the synagogue system was not an alternative to the Temple cultus. Religion on the level of its national consciousness and in its official form still found expression in the sacrificial cultus at the single Temple, the one centre of world Judaism.
Indeed, even when a worshipper was not himself offering a sacrifice, his prayers seem often to have been offered actually in the Temple, or at least linked with the hours at which sacrifice was offered. In Lk.i.10 the whole congregation pray in the court while Zecharias offers the incense in the Holy Place (cf. Rev.viii.3 f.); in Acts iii.1 Peter and John go up to the Temple at the hour of prayer which was also the hour of the evening sacrifice (see Exod. xxix.39, etc.); and in Acts x.30 a God- fearing Gentile prays at the same evening hour. So in the Old Testament, in 1 Kings xviii.36 Elijah's prayer and offering on Mount Carmel are at the time of the offering of the oblation (cf. Ezra ix.5); and in Dan.vi.10 Daniel prays towards Jerusalem three times a day (cf. Ps.Iv.17). (Incidentally one may ask whether it is significant for the provenance of the traditions behind Matthew and Luke respectively that in Matt.vi.2 ostentatious prayer is in the synagogue, but in Lk.xviii.10 in the Temple. In Matt.v.23 f., however, there is no doubt about the Temple being in view.)
'In theory', then, the synagogue was secondary to the Temple. But it has to be admitted that' in whose theory?' would be a legitimate question. For it is probably a mistake to imagine that there was any one Jewish 'orthodoxy' in the New Testament period. Rather, we have to imagine various types of thought and practice existing side by side.No doubt the priestly aristocracy, mainly Sadducean, maintained that the Temple cult was essential, and alone essential. But equally, we have some idea, through the accounts of the Essenes in Philo and Josephus, and, recently, through the Qumran writings of how differently a sectarian, but still priestly, group might be behaving at the same time. Evidently the Qumran sect maintained a priesthood and a ritual organization, but one which was independent and sharply critical of the Temple hierarchy. Although not in principle opposed to animal sacrifice as such, they seem to have regarded the Jerusalem hierarchy as so corrupt that they must for the time being dissociate themselves from the system; and in the meantime, making a virtue of necessity, they were able to console themselves with the reflection that praise and prayer, 'the offering of the lips', was equal in value to the traditional sacrifice. In addition to groups which held such an attitude, it is just possible that there were extreme movements within Judaism which were opposed to the Temple cultus on principle, and were content with a synagogue type of worship alone – a kind of 'Quaker' Judaism. (Isa.Ixvi.1-4 may represent something of the sort in the Old Testament.) Dr Marcel Simon has published interesting speculations about this in connexion with the Christian martyr Stephen and the so-called 'Hellenists' of Acts; and it is possibly relevant to note that no lamb is mentioned in the accounts of the Last Supper itself (as distinct from its preparation, Mk xiv.12 and parallels). It is possible that this is only because the accounts of the Last Supper are influenced by later Eucharistic practice; or it might be because the meal was no Passover; or, again, it might be (as Ethelbert Stauffer has suggested) because Jesus had already been banned as a false-teacher by the officials of Judaism, and a heretic was not permitted a lamb. But might it, alternatively, be that Jesus was a non-sacrificing Jew? Or may it even be that Jesus, prescient in his anticipation of the fall of Jerusalem and the de-judaizing of the Gospel, deliberately attached his teaching not to the lamb (whether there was lamb on the table or not) but to those ele- ments of the food and drink which would always be available?
But that was a digression about varieties of attitude within Judaism. The important point for the present purpose is that the Christian Church was born within a context of Temple and synagogue; indeed, it has always been tempting to find already there the two components of Christian worship – the Sacraments, corresponding to the Temple, and 'the Word', corresponding to the non-sacrificial, non-sacramental synagogue, with its strong element of reading and instruction. Accordingly, there have been times when, for example, what is now represented in the Anglican Church by Matins and Evensong and by the 'Ante-Communion' has been traced to the synagogue service, while 'the Liturgy', the Holy Communion or Eucharist proper, has been treated as a kind of counterpart to the sacrificial and the cultic in Judaism. But in fact neither Judaism nor Christianity is so simple as to be fairly stylized in this manner; and it is better simply to note the Jewish setting and to see what picture of Christian worship emerges from such evidence as we possess, before we try to make rash generalizations or formulate principles.
It is impossible to doubt that Jesus worshipped in the Temple. All four Gospels preserve allusions to this. According to Luke, he is found in the Temple as an infant when his parents bring him to be presented as their first male child, in accordance with the Law; and again when he goes up to Jerusalem as a boy for his first Passover. According to the unanimous witness of all four Gospels, it was when he had come to Jerusalem for the Passover that he was arrested and put to death. The Fourth Gospel expressly mentions his presence in the Temple also for the 'feast of tabernacles' (Jn vii.2 f.) and for the winter festival of Hannukkah or Dedication (Jn x.22).
What is not expressly evidenced is that Jesus himself ever offered an animal sacrifice. The nearest that the Gospels come to it is in sayings which might suggest approval of the sacrificial system (Mk i.44 and parallels and Matt.v.23 f.). But such sayings .can hardly be pressed to mean positive approval of sacrifice. The meaning of Matt.v.23 f.,' First go and make your peace with your brother, and only then come back and offer your gift', is, in fact, almost identical with that of Christ's quotation from Hosea, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice' (Matt.ix.13, xii.7); and although that only means that mercy is more important than sacrifice, one cannot help wondering whether (as has already been suggested) Jesus himself possibly worshipped without sacrificing.
However, that Jesus cared about the Temple worship, whether or not he actually joined in sacrifice, is evident enough, if only from the story of the expulsion of the dealers from its outer court. Whether this was an attack upon mercenary mindedness or a gesture towards the Gentiles, in either case it betokens a reckless zeal for the reform of the Temple. It is difficult to see it as an attack upon the Temple system as such.
Equally clearly, however, Jesus also saw that the Temple was doomed. The charge that he had said 'I will destroy this Temple ...' was not, according to Mk xiv.57-59, substantiated. But that he had indeed said something that might have been so interpreted, emerges from the taunts levelled at him in Mk xv.29 (parallel to Matt.xxvii.40). And in the introduction to the apocalyptic discourse (Mk xiii.2 and parallels) he foretells the destruction of the Temple; while Jn ii.19 has the saying ' Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it'; and Matt.xii.6, 'something greater than the Temple is here'. There is enough in these traditions to explain the attitude of Stephen (Acts vi.14) who is accused of saying that Jesus is going to destroy 'this place'.
If there is no doubt that, despite these reservations, Jesus worshipped in the Temple, it is equally clear that .he regularly went to synagogue on the Sabbath (cf. Acts xvii.2, of Paul). In Lk.iv.16 it is expressly described as his custom to do so; and even if we were to discount this as evidence, there is, all over the Gospels, a sufficient number of references to Jesus' teaching and healing in synagogues to leave us in no doubt on this score.
It is sometimes alleged that in synagogue Jesus would necessarily have recited the entire Psalter in the course of public worship. Of this there is no clear evidence. That the Psalter was at some period divided into sections corresponding with the lectionary cycles for other parts of the scripturesneither proves that this held good for the time of Christ nor that, even if it did, all the Psalms in the sections were publicly used. That Jesus was steeped in the scriptures, including the Psalter, is suggested by the sayings attributed to him in the Gospels. But the same evidence seems to suggest also a very considerable freedom in selection.
In sum, then, it may be said that, while Jesus used at least some of the Jewish institutions of worship, and apparently did so with ardour and great devotion, he refused to shut his eyes to the nemesis which was to overtake a Temple which had been made mercenary and exclusive; he saw in his ministry and in his own self the focal point of the 'new Temple'; and he was satisfied with nothing but the absolute sincerity and spirituality of which the Temple was meant, but too often failed, to be the medium: 'the time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain [in Samaria], nor in Jerusalem ... those who are real worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth' (Jn iv. 21, 23).
Coming now to the Acts, we find at once that the apostles in Jerusalem seem, as a matter of course, to have gone to prayer, at first, at any rate, in the Temple (Acts iii.1; cf. Lk.xviii.10, xxiv.53, Acts ii.46); and there are references to Paul not only worshipping in the Temple (Acts xxii.17) but being ready to pay the expenses of sacrifice for a group of men, presumably poor men, as an act of Jewish piety (Acts xxi.23-26). In the same way, contact is scrupulously maintained with the synagogue by such as Stephen (Acts vi.9) and Paul (Acts passim), both in Jerusalem and outside Judaea in the dispersion, until they are expelled from it. Expulsion from the synagogue inevitably took place sooner or later (as Jn xvi.2, cf. ix.22, implies, and Acts xviii.6 f. bears witness);and it is likely that the final recognition that Christianity was incompatible with non-Christian Judaism had far-reaching influence on the shaping of Christian ways of worship.
But that was not immediately; and in the meantime not only were the Jewish places of worship frequented by the Christian Jews but doubtless also the Jewish religious calendar was observed. Many, at least, of the early Christians are to be assumed to have gone on observing the Sabbath (Saturday) even if the next day of the week (Sunday) eventually came to occupy a dominant position as the day of the resurrection (Ignatius, Magn. ix. i, Barnabas xv.9, etc.; cf. Rev.i.10 and the vision which follows). In any case, the Sabbath (Saturday) remained in Jewish societies the only day free for worship (in Gentile societies there was no weekly free day, only the pagan festivals at irregular intervals); and it is likely enough, as H. Riesenfeld suggests,that the Christians began simply by prolonging the Sabbath during the night of Saturday-Sunday, by way of observing the accomplishment in Christ of the Jewish Sabbath. The rationalization of an eighth day – the day after the seventh – as marking the beginning of a new creation seems to be an idea brought in from Jewish apocalyptic (see Barnabas xv.8 f.). Rom.xiv.5 f. bears witness to the existence, within the Christian community, of a diversity of views on the observance of holy days. Of the great festivals, the Jewish Passover probably continued to be kept by Christians long after they had found an existence of their own, especially as it lent itself so naturally to a Christian connotation and was bound up with the traditions of the death of Christ (cf. Acts xx.6, 1 Cor.v.7). Other Jewish festivals too must have persisted. In Acts xx.6 it is implied that Paul observed the Passover (so far as that was possible outside Jerusalem) before leaving Philippi; then, in Acts xx.16, we find him hurrying so as to reach Jerusalem by Pentecost. Is this in order to celebrate with fellow Christians the Birthday of the Christian Church? Even if it was, it would of necessity have meant also celebrating the festival publicly with the non-Christian Jews: how could that be avoided if one was actually at Jerusalem? There must have been a great deal of overlapping of Jewish feasts and Christian connotations, the one merging into and tending to colour the other. Passover and Pentecost, in their Christian forms as Easter and Whitsunday, were destined to form the basis of the 'Christian Year'. Only when the observance of a certain calendar became bound up with views incompatible with the freedom of the Christian Gospel and the Christian estimate of Christ do we find Paul protesting against it, as in Gal.iv.10 f.. Col.ii.16.
The same is true of circumcision. The practice of it alongside of Christian baptism by a judaizing party within the Church only becomes a matter of contention when it encroaches upon the essential Gospel and challenges the uniqueness and finality of Christ (Acts xv, etc.). Paul is prepared to circumcise Timothy so that he may be acceptable to the Jews (Acts xvi.3); but he will not yield for an instant to those who want to treat circumcision as a necessary condition of membership in 'God's Israel', over and above incorporation in Christ (Gal.ii.5, vi.11-16).
Thus, whatever distinctive forms of Christian worship there were, sprang up side by side with Jewish worship or even within it. Take an instance. The cry 'Blessed is [? or be] the Lord!' is at the heart of Jewish adoration. As recent research has emphasized, there is something deeper here than even thanksgiving. Thanking God for specific mercies is only a special (and to some extent a man-regarding) expression of that deeper and even more extrovert adoration of God for his own sake, expressed by the Hebrew 'baruch Adonai', 'blessed [is or be] the Lord!'; and the Old Testament furnishes plenty of stately examples of liturgies of adoration based upon this phrase – not, of course, confining themselves to this unspecified adoration, still less to this single word, but shot through with this attitude of adoration of God for his own sake, for his being, for his creation, and for his mighty works, as well as, in particular, for his work of rescuing his People. J.-P. Audet cites, as a good instance of this attitude (although here the actual phrase 'Blessed ...' is reserved to the end), the great liturgy of 1 Chron.xvi.8-36, which comprises parts of the Psalter:
O give thanks to the LORD,
call on his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him,
tell of all his wonderful works!
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!
Seek the LORD and his strength,
seek his presence continually!
Remember the wonderful works that he has done,
the wonders he wrought, the judgments he uttered,
O offspring of Abraham his servant,
sons of Jacob, his chosen ones!
Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting!
Then all the people said 'Amen!' and praised the LORD.
This attitude of 'benediction' is at the heart, then, of Jewish worship; and the rabbinic ejaculation, 'blessed be [or is] he!', still finds its way, here and there, into the phrases of Paul the converted Pharisee: Rom.i.25, ix.5, 2 Cor.xi.31. But what is distinctively new about Christian expressions of worship is, of course, the reference to Jesus.
There were certain Jewish benedictions and prayers which made allusion to David the Servant of Yahweh. For instance, the prayer of a Passover haggada (exposition) contains the phrase 'David the son of Jesse thy servant, thine anointed'.A Christianizing of this is strikingly illustrated in the Didache (ix) where next to thanks for 'the holy vine of David thy Servant', comes 'which thou madest known to us through Jesus thy Servant'. Here the replacement of 'thy Servant (παῖς) David', by 'thy Servant (παῖς) Jesus' can be seen actually in process of taking place: the non-Christian thanksgiving for King David, the Servant of the Lord, and for all the blessings promised for his messianic line, becomes, on Christian lips, a thanksgiving for the fulfilment of that messianic promise in David's greater Son. Whatever the chronological position of the Didache, this represents a logically primitive stage in the Christian consciousness. In the New Testament itself παῖς is applied to Jesus only in two chapters. Acts iii and iv, and it seems probable that at any rate in Acts iv.25 it is intended in just the same sense as when it was applied to David, and means not so much the suffering as the royal Servant of God. Acts iv.24 ff. is undoubtedly liturgical. True, it is anything but formal. Quite apart from the fact that the Greek is chaotic and possibly corrupt, the occasion is represented as one of exultant spontaneity – an outburst of praise in the group of Jerusalem Christians, after the clash with the hierarchy in which the inflexible confidence and boldness of the apostles have been signally vindicated. But the interesting thing is that – whether (as seems quite possible) the writer has this from early oral tradition, or whether he is simply writing the kind of prayer that might have been used – the phrases fall into typically Jewish form:
Address to God as Creator, and as the inspirer of prophecy:
maker of heaven and earth and sea
and of everything in them,
who by the Holy Spirit,
through the mouth of David thy servant,
Quotation from Psalm ii about God's vindication of the Messiah:
Why did the Gentiles rage and the peoples lay their plots in vain?
The kings of the earth took their stand and the rulers made common cause
Against the Lord and against his Messiah.
Allusion to God's dedicated Servant Jesus as the anointed King, and as vindicated against his enemies:
They did indeed make common cause in this very city against thy holy servant Jesus whom thou didst anoint as Messiah. Herod and Pontius Pilate conspired with the Gentiles and peoples of Israel to do all the things which, under thy hand and by thy decree, were foreordained.
Prayer for continued help and championing, through the Name of God's Servant Jesus:
And now, O Lord, mark their threats, and enable thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness.
Stretch out thy hand to heal and cause signs and wonders to be done through the name of thy holy servant Jesus.
Here are praise and prayer according to a familiar pattern, only with the difference that the centre of God's championing is identified – identified in Jesus, who is hailed as the anointed King, and as the medium of God's continued triumph.
Thus we are watching here, as we did in the words of the Didache, the bending of Jewish liturgy to the distinctively Christain standpoint. Where παῖς is used of Jesus in the preceding chapter (iii.13) it is in explanation rather than in worship; and it seems, on the whole, more probable that there the reference is to the suffering Servant of Isa.liii. It is in the liturgical context of chapter iv that the royal note is dominant.'
Other examples in the New Testament of what purport to be spontaneous extemporizations of praise and worship are the Lucan canticles – the Benedictus, the Magnificat, and the Nunc Dimittis; but all these are, in the strict sense, pre-Christian.In the Benedictus, indeed, it is difficult to resist the impression that John the Baptist is being hailed as the forerunner, par excellence, not of Jesus but of the Lord God – as the Elijah who was to precede the dawning of the final day, or (though this is not the term here used) as himself the Messiah. At any rate, here again we have the allusion to David the Servant (παῖς) of God (Lk.i.69), to the blessing of God, to God's work in actual history (the birth of the child), and to the aspiration and hope of a good time coming. Christians were able to assimilate this by interpreting κύριος of the Lord Jesus instead of God; and, since John preceded Jesus, if John is Elijah, then the coming of Jesus stands in the position of the final Day itself." Thus extempore pre-Christian liturgy is taken up and given a Christian direction, exactly as happened also to so many of the Psalms. Since the Magnificat is not a strictly messianic Psalm, but is mainly praise of God for his mighty deed in transposing the fortunes of low and high, Christians could use this, too, unaltered. Like the other fragments just examined, the Magnificat contains its allusion to God's παῖς, but this time it is his Servant Israel (Lk.i.54).
The next most Psalm-like pieces among the New Testament ejaculations of worship are the songs of the Apocalypse. It is a familiar fact that students of the Psalter recognize certain 'enthronement Psalms' – Psalms such as xlvii, xciii, xcvi, xcvii, xcviii, xcix, which may have been used at an annual festival of the enthronement of Yahweh as divine King. There is no need here to debate the pros and cons of this theory,but the Apocalypse certainly presents some splendid Christian enthronement Psalms:
The sovereignty of the world has passed to our Lord and his Christ,
and he shall reign for ever and ever! (Rev.xi.15.)
The Lord our God, sovereign over all, has entered on his reign!
Exult and shout for joy and do him homage,
for the wedding-day of the Lamb has come!
His bride has made herself ready,
and for her dress she has been given fine linen,
clean and shining.
Even if these, and the other Christian Psalms and ejaculations in this extraordinary work, were composed by the seer expressly for the occasion or given him in ecstasy, it is hard to doubt that they represent the kind of poetry which Christians actually used in corporate worship. Again, therefore, it is to liturgy that we are able to trace the genesis of such parts of the New Testament – and to liturgy deeply influenced by Jewish forms.
Considerably further, in language and form, from any known Jewish antecedents are the little snatches of distinctively Christian hymnody (for such they are most naturally accounted) in Eph.v.14 and 1 Tim.iii.16. They therefore seem to take us one step further inside purely Christian worship: these, it would appear, are not mere adaptations of Jewish formulae but fresh creations of the Christian genius of worship, 1 Tim.iii.16 provides, in this respect, an interesting parallel and contrast to the more Jewish enthronement-psalms of Revelation:
He who was manifested in the body,
vindicated in the spirit,
seen by angels;
who was proclaimed among the nations,
believed in throughout the world,
glorified in high heaven.
Its pattern, however – according, at least, to Jeremias' interpretation– still links it with the ancient East, and it too is an 'enthronement-hymn'. Ancient oriental enthronement ceremonial (e.g. in Egypt) comprised elevation, presentation, and finally the actual installation on the throne. To these three movements, according to Jeremias, the three couplets of our hymn may be referred: (i) the vindication of the One who appeared in flesh; (ii) the presentation of his credentials to angels and men; (iii) his installation in the faith of the world and in the glory of heaven. A similar three-fold pattern is detected in Phil.ii.9-11 – elevation, proclamation, acclamation; and Matt.xxviii.18-20 and Heb.i.5-14 are invoked in the interests of the same theory. It requires, however, some degree of stretching to extract this particular pattern from 1 Tim.iii.16, where, after all, the only explicit reference to elevation is at the end, not the beginning! It is, as a matter of fact, notoriously difficult to squeeze these six lines at all convincingly into conformity with any logical pattern, whether one takes them as a couple of triplets or a triplet of couplets; and perhaps we shall have to admit that the ardour of adoration is not always logical or even symmetrical. But, however it may be analysed or arranged, it remains highly probable that this really is a very early Christian hymn: the very fact that it starts abruptly with a relative pronoun unattached (apparently) to any antecedent suggests a quotation from something that the reader already knew and would recognize; and, like many of the greatest Christian hymns, it is essentially credal – a great adorative confession, like the Te Deum after it.
As for Eph.v.14, this is, if possible, even more elusive. In Acts xii, in the dramatic story of Peter's rescue from prison by an angel, we read (v.6) that Peter was sleeping (κοιμώμεωος) in chains between two soldiers; then (v.7) 'behold an angel of the Lord came upon him and a light shone in the building; and striking Peter's side the angel aroused (ἤγειρεν) him saying "Get up (ὰνάστα) quickly!"' And here is Eph.v.14:
Awake, (ἔγειρε) sleeper,
Rise (ἀνάστα) from the dead,
And Christ will shine upon you.
Is this an ancient hymn built round the Peter-story? (Nowhere else in the New Testament, but only in these two passages, does the rare form ἀνάστα occur.) And was the hymn connected with the Passover (Easter) season, as the story certainly is (Acts xii.3)?And does this mean that it belongs to the greatest of baptismal settings – the great paschal baptisms after the scrutinies and the fasting of Lent? There is no doubt that baptism is closely associated with light – it soon came to be called 'enlightenment'; or that it meant life from death. We may have stumbled, then, on a fragment of the Church's most ancient baptismal hymn: indeed, the whole of Ephesians may be baptismal. These are common enough assumptions. But they remain speculation. All we can say with tolerable certainty is that, like 1 Tim.iii.16, Eph.v.14 is hymnic, and that 1 Tim.iii.16 comprises an early Christian creed.
Many other passages have been claimed as hymns: Phil.ii.6-11, Col.i.15-20, 1 Pet.i.3 ff., to mention only a few.But in actual fact the criteria are inconclusive. These passages may or may not be strophic – i.e. symmetrical and balanced in their lines or their rhythms: nobody has conclusively demonstrated that they are. Even if they are not, as a matter of fact, they might still have been sung, just as Psalms and other irregular or metreless pieces in English can be sung. But who is to prove that they were hymns? Prose and poetry, adoration and statement, quotations from recognized liturgical forms and free, original composition, mingle and follow one another so easily in the mind of a Christian thinker that, without some external criterion, one can never be certain how much or how little of 'common prayer' one is overhearing. But we can be sure that parts of what a Paul or a Peter wrote or dictated for a letter he might equally well ejaculate in public worship; and the stately eulogies, beginning with the word εὐλογητός, 'blessed', in Eph.i.3 and 1 Pet.i.3 are undoubtedly liturgical in type, whether or not either is, in fact, a fresh composition not previously used.
Besides such snatches of actual hymns as can be recovered with more or less certainty, there are several allusions, in the New Testament, to the singing of psalms and hymns by Christians. There seems to be very little practical distinction, at this period or in this literature, between hymn ὕμνος (ὑμνεῖν), psalm ψαλμός (ψάλλειν), and song ὠδή. So far as it is possible to test, the Old Testament Psalms are never described by any other noun than ψαλμός, though the verb vftvew is certainly used of singing the hallel Psalms at the Last Supper (Matt.xxvi.30, Mk xiv.26). But it certainly does not follow that ψαλμός and ψάλλειν never refer to Christian compositions or, conversely, that ὕμνος necessarily means a Christian hymn. In 1 Cor.xiv.26, Paul says that when the Christians come together for a meeting, each one has a psalm or a teaching or a revelation or a 'tongue' or an interpretation; and it seems unlikely that ψαλμός here, in the com- pany of the other ad hoc items, means a Psalm from the Jewish Psalter which the worshipper comes ready to sing: it is more likely to be a Christian extemporization. Conversely, it is conceivable that Jewish Psalms are intended in Acts xvi.25 where Paul and Silas προσευχόμενοι ὕμνουν τὸν θεόν – ' prayed and sang [in praise of] God'. The only passages where anything like a clear distinction might be presumed are those in which all three words come together, in Eph.v.19, Col.iii.16; Christians are to sing (ἄδοντες) with psalms and hymns and odes. But both passages are enthusiastic and effusive in style and it would be prosaic to insist that a conscious distinction is intended between (say) Jewish Psalms, Christian hymns, and perhaps more formal poems of praise. In any case, in both these passages the singing and psalming is to be done τῆ καρδίαι or ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις – that is, perhaps, silently and in the secret of the heart. The direct reference is thus conceivably not to audible, corporate worship but to the constant secret recollection of corporate praise which the Christians are to cherish – all unknown to their heathen masters or companions – as they go about their work (cf. especially Col. iii. 17).
At any rate, there is no doubt that the more jubilant moments of primitive Christian worship were marked by outbursts of song – generally, one assumes, unaccompanied, though one never knows whether a harper, or zither-player, κιθαριστής, might not sometimes smuggle in his instrument to the secret place of assembly. Incidentally, it is interesting that a'vision of heavenly worship in the Revelation is accompanied (xiv.2) by the sound of κιθαρωιδοί, which should strictly mean not mere instrumentalists (κιθαρισταί) who play the zither, but bards like the Homeric rhapsodists who also use their voices, and sing to their own accompaniment. Was the ὠιδή or song, perhaps, a solo performance of this sort?
But are there fragments of Christian liturgy in the New Testament besides the songs and psalms? Many scholars answer with a confident yes; and it has even been maintained that i Peter is virtually a Baptism Service (minus the ' rubrics', so to speak), complete with its exhortations and homilies, its hymns and prayers. This latter theory does not actually come out very well from scrutiny. The evidence, examined point by point, is rickety and must rely upon cumulative effect for whatever weight it carries; and – still more significant – it is not really easy to imagine a situation in which the substance of a baptism rite would naturally be dressed up in letter-form and sent to remote non-participants. It is far simpler to think of 1 Peter as a noble recall to former baptismal vows and promises, addressed to Christians who, facing the threat of persecution or actually undergoing it, needed just this bracing comfort. It is full of baptismal allusion, but need not be other than genuinely epistolary.In any case, the language of Christian preaching and exhortation is virtually indistinguishable from what may be assumed to have been used at the administration of the sacraments; so that what we may describe as baptismal or eucharistic language is not necessarily to be associated with the moment of liturgical performance. The sacraments are evangelic and the gospel is sacramental: word and sacrament are in that sense one.
This is not, however, to imply that when, in 1 Cor.xi.23 ff., Paul alludes to the words spoken by Jesus at the Last Supper, he is not quoting from traditions which were actually repeated at the eucharist; or, indeed, that the synoptic accounts of the Institution had not themselves been transmitted through repetition at the eucharist, long before they came to be written into the Gospels. Indeed, it is a familiar observation that the institution narratives in Mk xiv.22-25 and Matt.xxvi.26-28 show signs of accommodation to liturgical use. For, quite apart from details, there is a clear difference between the Pauline account and those others. In 1 Cor.xi.25 Paul explicitly separates the cup from the bread by the phrase 'after supper'; and he presents the words over the cup in a form which is not parallel to those over the bread: over the bread 'This is my body ...'; but over the cup, not 'This is my blood ...', but 'This cup is the new covenant in [? i.e. sealed by] my blood'. In contrast to this, both Mark and Matthew indicate no interval between bread and cup, and both use the parallel phrases, 'this is my body ...', 'this is my blood ...' It is hard to resist the conclusion that – to this extent at least – Paul's version is the more historical, while the other two represent a modification arising from the sacramental use of the two sayings from the Last Supper in close juxtaposition. In all probability, the facts are not really so simple as that. A microscopic examination of the language and struc- ture of the relevant passages by H. Schürmannhas led to the conclusion that in certain respects the Synoptists may be in closer touch than even Paul with original or very early forms of the tradition; and in any case, the Lucan institution narrative presents peculiar problems of its own. But it is enough here simply to illustrate the influence of liturgy on the formation of the New Testament by the undoubted signs of this process in the various forms of the words of institution, however delicate and complex a full statement might need to be.
A plausible case can be made, similarly, for detecting the echoes of the liturgy (perhaps in the Roman congregations) behind both Hebrews and 1 Clement, whose writers show certain significant traits in common.Again, the guess has been hazarded that the 'farewell discourses' of Jn xiii-xvii owe their phrasing and form in considerable measure to the president's prayer at the Eucharist in the Ephesian tradition.
Thus, much that we know about the words, and even deeds, of Jesus must owe its preservation to assemblies for worship. Even if only a scrap here and a scrap there can be recovered of the actual formulae of worship, this does not alter the fact that very much of what now constitutes the New Testament owes its existence to the requirements of worship. It will be argued, later in this book, that the Gospels were not primarily intended for use in worship, so much as for instruction and explanation and (in some cases) even for apologetic; but that is not to deny that the words and deeds of Jesus must have been recalled at worship, and that worship was a very important factor in the preservation and transmission of the traditions. D. Daube has suggested, indeed, that the Gospel-form may have grown out of the Chris- tian Passover, as an extension and development of the Jewish practice of the Paschal haggada – the recitation of the story of salvation.But on the whole, although we later have Justin's evidence for the reading of apostolic reminiscences (i.e. no doubt. Gospels) at worship (see p. 198), and although no Christian worship could have substance without some knowledge of the facts behind the faith, yet the written Gospels, from Mark onwards, seem to fit more naturally into the setting of instruction, explanation, and defence. Baptism and the Eucharist no doubt invited the recitation of certain words and deeds. Baptism is the most natural setting for early Christian Creeds whether the briefest of confessions, 'Jesus is Lord', or the slightly extended one, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God' (Acts viii.37D); and the Eucharist was the setting in which the Institution words and narrative lived on. But creeds, as we have just seen, are really hymns of praise; and it is for adoration, praise, and petition that one more reasonably looks to worship, rather than for narrative.
It is possible, however, that worship early provided a matrix for the formation of Christian exhortation and ethical direction in the shape of the homily or sermon. Not that the primary kerygma need have been repeated in Christian sermons any less often than today; only, the assumption being that the congregation, by definition, knew and had accepted the kerygma, the speaker is more likely to have devoted himself to drawing out its ethical consequences. The kerygma is the right basis for praise and the ground of prayer; the homily would most naturally follow the line of exhortation to the congregation to become what, thanks to the Gospel-proclamation, they essentially were. It has been guessed that the Epistle of James may represent substantially some kind of Christian (or at least Christianized) synagogue sermon;the homiletic quality of parts of 1 Peter have been observed; and the rules for domestic and family life which the Germans neatly call 'household tables' (Haustafein) in Colossians and Ephesians and (to some extent) in Romans and in other epistles, may owe much to sermons as well as to the more private instruction of catechumens.
The fact that apostolic letters were certainly designed to be read to an assembled house-church leads naturally to the assumption that they would, on such occasions, fulfil the function of a homily; and the closing words of 1 Cor.xvi.20b-24:
Greet one another with the kiss of peace.
This greeting is in my own hand. – PAUL.
If anyone does not love the Lord,
let him be outcast.
Marana tha – Come, O Lord!
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
My love to you all in Christ Jesus.
have ingeniously been linked with the Eucharist, and the con- clusion has been drawn that Paul had actually designed this letter to lead into that act of worship, with its ban upon the excommunicate (anathema), its invocation (maranatha), its kiss of peace, and its salutation. But this latter refinement is less convincing, on closer examination, than at first sight, and is certainly not firmly established. The maranatha may reinforce the ban rather than open the Eucharist. There is remarkably little trace of anything clearly eucharistic at the end of any other New Testament epistles.
This anathema-maranatha is, on any showing, however, a reminder of the remarkable legacy of Aramaic words and phrases which worship, in particular, rendered current among Greek-speaking Christians. Besides the (apparent) invocation maranatha ('Our Lord, come!'), there is the frequent amen, evidently used in worship in preference to such Greek alternatives as ναί, ἀληθῶς, γένοιτο, which sometimes occur outside worship; there is alleluia, hosanna (though in the New Testament this latter is not clearly used in Christian worship as it is in Didache x.6), and Abba (which seems to be the opening word of the Lord's Prayer as still recalled in Greek communities, Rom.viii.15, Gal.iv.6).
Whether worship has in other directions greatly influenced the choice of words in the New Testament is more questionable. But the striking way in which what we might describe as 'secular' words such as λειτουργεῖν (to render civic service) are applied also to 'divine service' provides a deeply Christian and very salutary reminder that worship is the be all and end all of Christian work; and that if worship and work are distinguished, that is only because of the frailty of human nature which cannot do more than one thing at a time. The necessary alternation between lifting up holy hands in prayer and swinging an axe in strong, dedicated hands for the glory of God is the human make- shift for that single, simultaneous, divine life in which work is worship and worship is the highest possible activity. And the single word 'liturgy' in the New Testament, like 'abodah, 'work' or 'service' in the Old Testament, covers both.
The Christian community at worship, then, must always stand in the very front of our search for the settings in which the component parts of the New Testament came into existence. Only, together with an enthusiastic recognition of this illuminating fact, it is important to bear in mind that there was necessarily an alternation between times of conscious worship and other activities; and it is even possible, in keeping with this distinction, that certain terms which were applied to Jesus in early Christian thought belong rather exclusively to these other contexts. The apparent location of the suffering servant idea in the context of explanation rather than of worship (hinted at in passing on p. 22 above) is an instance of this.We turn next, therefore, from adoration and worship to examine the more consciously rational activity of explanation.