Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Rites of Ordination: Their History and Theology

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Rites of Ordination: Their History and Theology

Article excerpt

Rites of Ordination: Their History and Theology. By Paul F. Bradshaw. A Pueblo Book. Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 2013. ix + 218 pp. $29.95 (paper).

In 1990, Pueblo published Paul Bradshaws Ordination Rites of the Ancient Churches of East and West, which became a standard source for students in liturgical studies and whose value continues today. In a sense, Rites of Ordination is a sequel to the earlier work, and the many references to ritual texts published in Ordination Rites will no doubt prompt readers to keep a copy of that earlier book at hand.

The subject is, of course, enormous. The author acknowledges in the preface that severe limits were required in order to produce a book of reasonable size. This is a particularly demanding expectation for a work which sets out to give a comprehensive survey of a subject which is complex both historically and theologically. The breadth of that comprehensiveness is evident in the sequence of chapters.

Although the author affirms at the outset that "Christian ministers are not the direct historical successors of any of the ministries mentioned in the Old Testament," he demonstrates in his analysis of the evolution of ordination prayers how later generations-that is, of the generally anonymous people who created these texts-turned to the Hebrew scriptures for images of pastoral and ritual leadership which were claimed as "types" of the later Christian ministries. These types in turn influenced how ordination came to be generally understood. In the first chapter-"Historical and Typological Background"-Bradshaw gives an insightful analysis of what we can know of the Old Testament background in order to clear the way for his primary focus on the evolution of patterns of ministry in the Christian tradition.

Beginning in the second chapter-"Ministry in the Earliest Christian Communities"-the author leads readers through the historical evolution, including the important distinctions which emerged between the Eastern and Western liturgical traditions in that evolution. One of the great gifts which Bradshaw has brought to liturgical scholarship in recent decades is his sharp eye regarding what we know and what we do not know. Our understanding of ordination in the Christian tradition has been deeply affected by a tendency to read history backward, that is, to interpret earlier sacramental practice in terms of familiar contemporary norms. …

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