Worship in the New Testament

Worship in the New Testament

Worship in the New Testament

Worship in the New Testament

Excerpt

A distinguished Dutch scholar has spoken of "a certain 'panliturgism' which sees everywhere in the Pauline epistles the background of the liturgy whenever a simple parallel in wording between them and the much later liturgies is found";1 and it is certainly true that it is fashionable at present for students of the New Testament to find liturgy everywhere. This is partly the result of a healthy swing of the pendulum away from a narrowly literary approach to the New Testament towards a vivid recognition that here are not "bookish" writings so much as the deposit of community life--and, in particular, the life of worshipping communities. Partly, also, it is due to the liturgical movement, with its reawakened concern for the theology and practice of worship in our own day.

Enthusiastically as these tendencies and movements are to be welcomed, they have brought with them the temptation to detect the reverberations of liturgy in the New Testament even where no liturgical note was originally struck. Granted that it is impossible to overemphasize the importance of worship in any Christian community, ancient or modern, yet it is possible, in one's enthusiasm, to squeeze the evidence beyond its capacity.

An attempt is made, therefore, within the limits of this small book, to provide a sober presentation of the evidence for Christian corporate worship--for no attempt is made to pursue the big subject of individual, private worship--within the New Testament period. It is too much to hope either that such conclusions as are reached will command the assent of all, or that the frequent failure to reach positive conclusions at all will win the approval of many. But the aims of this book are limited, and they will have been achieved if in it the data for a reconstruction of Christian practice in the early days and of the motives behind it have been adequately displayed. And if the writer fails to detect "liturgy" in the more specialized sense everywhere, it remains true--and this is the most significant single fact for the student of liturgical origins--that the Christians of this period saw the worship of God as the whole purpose of life. They did not worship efficiency or security, regarding divine service on Sunday as a means to such ends: the meaning and end of all life was nothing other than the worship of God. An attempt is made in the epilogue to bring this out.

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