Essays on the Function of Scripture in Early Judaism and Christianity
Edited By Jan Dochhorn
The Interplay between Sacred Text and Liturgical Rite in Early Christianity Paul F. Bradshaw
The interplay between liturgical practices and scriptural texts in the first few centuries of Christianity’s history is a quite complex matter, and not simply, as one might imagine, a one-way street in which a variety of biblical images, events, and rituals were imitated and reproduced in various ecclesiastical rites. Perhaps the clearest way of demonstrating this complexity is to set out a series of examples that illustrate the varied relationships between Bible and worship that existed among Christians in the first few centuries. You might expect me to begin with the association that I have already mentioned – the common tendency for liturgical ceremonies to be created as deliberate imitations of events and actions described in scriptural texts. But I am not going to do so, not in order to be deliberately perverse but because I believe that this was not the earliest form of the relationship. One of the so- called “laws” in reference to liturgical texts articulated by Anton Baumstark in his classic work, Comparative Liturgy, but actually formulated by one his students, Fritz Hamm, was that “the older a text is the less is it influenced by the Bible”,1 and the evidence certainly seems to bear out that contention. But I believe it also to be true with regard to liturgical rites as a whole and not just the spoken texts: that it is only as time progressed that rites conformed more and more literally to what is described in the Bible and that prior to this...
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