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Apparent "low church" in New Testament


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#1 Iustin C.

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Posted 05 February 2015 - 01:16 AM

In the New Testament (Acts of the Apostles and other books) it appears that there is more of a "low church" feel, as opposed to "high church." To use a specific verse, we may look at 1 Cor. 14.26:

 

What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. (NIV)

 

This seemingly low church feel may be explained, I think, as follows. 

 

1. This was temporary. We should not look at the New Testament as being necessarily normative to ecclesiology. For example, there were different manifestations, like prophecies that were more common during the early church that slowly gave way to less spontaneous and more formal worship. This includes elements of worship such as 1 Cor. 14:26. Without as much formality, the laity was able to contribute in various ways, through song or a word. However, with the formalization of the service, these elements of worship gave way to the liturgy, etc. 

 

2. This was normative. We should look at the New Testament as being normative to ecclesiology. This includes elements of worship such as 1 Cor. 14:26. The church was always intended to be informal. 

 

My concern is as follows. Even if we take view #1, there is still the laity participating in the service through a hymn, a word of instruction, etc. Even if this was not normative, why did the Apostle's/early church allow this and not establish a more formal service? I am aware that these things cannot come about spontaneously, and we must allow room for growth (the analogy I have seen is that of the acorn –> tree). 



#2 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 05 February 2015 - 08:03 AM

I am not knowledgeable about these things but I think we have to remember that early Christian worship in houses was not an innovation or an alternative to the Jewish forms of worship in the Temple and in synagogues but reflected the Jewish custom of having a family meal which had a sacramental dimension, notably the Sabbath meal on Friday evenings with its blessing of bread and wine, this being a complement to Temple and synagogue worship. In addition to quotations from Acts given above, we may also should have regard to Acts 2:46 - 'And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart' - and Acts 3:1 - 'Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour', indicating that the Apostles did not leave behind or neglect the full liturgical forms of Jewish worship with its cycle of prayers, the altar, incense, vestments, and so forth,  Thus, we see that the Apostles and the early Church were not separated from their Jewish context, and the Orthodox Divine Liturgy has its roots in the revealed worship of the OT and Jewish worship of the first century which seems to have been very far from what we would call 'low church' and much more like Orthodox Christian forms of worship.

 

As an aside, I recall a Jewish former colleague who told me he went on holiday to Bulgaria (as some English people do) and happened to go on an excursion to the monastery of St John of Rila. The Divine Liturgy was in progress and my colleague told me that he felt transported to the days of the Temple, thinking to himself that this was what worship must have been like there.


Edited by Reader Andreas, 05 February 2015 - 08:05 AM.


#3 Kosta

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Posted 05 February 2015 - 08:59 AM

Low church and high church terms are foreign to Orthodoxy. As the church grew and spread from a tiny fringe jewish sect to a mainstream religion mostly of gentiles, canons, rules and customs were formalized. Some traditions fell out of usage, others arose. Some churches used gospels that other churches rejected, as time went on conformity gave us a common canon of scripture, etc.

Personal hymns were prohibited in the canons of the council of Laodicea in 360ad, as most tend to be inaccurate, chaotic, and was prone to lead to wrong belief. Prophecy must conform to the already established beliefs of the church. Prophets were very popular in the Asia Minor churches unfortunately most were also charlatans. Most were either flat out wrong or taught things that were difficult to decipher. They only create hysteria so after the Montanist heresy their role diminished in the church.

Now as I said there is no such thing as high or low church in Orthodoxy. Whether its a fancy patriarchal Liturgy in an ornate cathedral in Moscow using the best chanters and choir with voices like angels or whether its a lowly tiny church in a poor village in Africa, its all the same.

Edited by Kosta, 05 February 2015 - 09:02 AM.


#4 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 05 February 2015 - 09:16 AM

We should keep in mind the very meaning of the word 'liturgy': it is not possible to serve the Divine Liturgy without the people (however few) who are a congregation, not an audience. The laity have a full part to play.



#5 Father David Moser

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Posted 05 February 2015 - 03:00 PM

Claudiu's post is an example of the dangers of proof-texting.  It does not take into account the pastoral nature of Paul's epistle (which is to correct errors and impropriety) nor does it give the complete meaning of the text (for that one must at least reference the final verse the chapter "Let all things be done decently and in order" (vs40). Paul is not laying out here a liturgical norm, but rather assuming the liturgical standard (which remains unexpressed because everybody already knew what it was).  He simply points out a departure from the norm, expresses the need for those departures to be brought under the discipline of the Church and finally to be incorporated into the liturgical standard that already existed.

 

Did the liturgical life of the church (which was and is modeled on the revealed order of Hebrew worship) change over the years - of course it did (and does).  Do the liturgical principles upon which our liturgical life rests change?  No they do not.  The worship of the Church has always been "liturgical" and that liturgical life has continued to be guided by the revealed (in the OT) principles of worship manifested by the Hebrew people.  Christ did not come to do away with the Law (which included the forms of worship) but to fulfill them (make them perfect).  Thus the worship of the Church is a continuous liturgical tradition which is neither "high" nor "low" but which simply is.

 

A final note of caution on using the NIV for the English translation of the scripture.  The NIV has a very strong agenda of reinforcing the protestant chaos and miniminzing the liturgical order and sacramental authority of the more "catholic" traditions. While there are no outright errors, the phrasing and word choice of the translators (e.g. "elders" rather than "bishop" or "priest") tends to reflect the protestant bias of the translators.

 

Fr David



#6 Iustin C.

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Posted 05 February 2015 - 11:42 PM

Thank you all for the responses. 

 

I am familiar with some of the background history of the early church, but not in this case. Therefore, I asked the question that I did. In my move to Orthodoxy, friends have presented verses like the one above that seem to point to a "low church" (to use a Protestant term, for lack of better words). I appreciate you guys filling in some of my historical ignorance, as that helps me make better sense of holy scripture and tradition. 

 

Re the proof-texting bit, I had to use one verse to get across what I'm dealing with. Father David, I appreciate your response. I had a feeling there was more to this passage in scripture. I think this was particularly helpful:

 

Paul is not laying out here a liturgical norm, but rather assuming the liturgical standard (which remains unexpressed because everybody already knew what it was).  He simply points out a departure from the norm, expresses the need for those departures to be brought under the discipline of the Church and finally to be incorporated into the liturgical standard that already existed.

 

Re the use of the NIV, I was going to use the KJV, or NKJV. However, any version I use can be cautioned against as being a "product of Protestantism." Thus, I had to just go with one. 



#7 Anna Stickles

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Posted 06 February 2015 - 01:13 AM

As others have said there was more structure in the early church's worship then appears in the Scripture. The Didache is one of the earliers documents we have and is contemporary with some of the later writings we find in the NT. (70-100 AD)

Here is the structure of the Thanksgiving (Eucharist) service that we see in the Didache, which parallels very closely with what is given in St. Luke's gospel (Luke 22 in red, quotes from the Didache in blue) But reading the Didache we get more of a feel for what the service actually looked like, and the content of the prayers.

(From the Didache) 14. 1. But every Lord's day do ye gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. 2. But let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned.

(Luke 22) "14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”


(Didiache) First, about the cup: "We thank you, our Father, for the holy vine of your servant David which you made known to us through your servant Jesus. Glory be to you for the age.


19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

Now about the broken loaf: "We thank you, our Father, for the life and the knowledge that you made known to us through your servant Jesus."
"Glory be to you for the age."

"Just as this broken loaf was scattered on top of the hills and as it was gathered together and became one, in the same way let your assembly be gathered together from the remotest parts of the land into your kingdom."
"For yours is the glory and the power through Anointed Jesus for the age." (Notice how this is set up as a conversation, a prayer and a response just as we still currently have in our services. The doctrinal content of our prayers surrounding the consecration are more involved, but the basic structure has not changed )
 

Now no one should either eat or drink from your thanksgiving meal, but those who have been baptized into the Lord's name. For about this also the Lord said, "Do not give what is holy to the dogs." (We no longer have this first cup nor do we take the bread as part of a meal, these were dropped  gradually in the 2nd- 3rd century)

20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you"

Now after you have been filled, give thanks this way:
"We thank you, holy Father, for your holy name, which you made to live in our hearts, and for the knowledge and trust and immortality which you made known to us through Jesus your servant." "Glory be to you for the age."


"Almighty master, it was you who created all for the sake of your name. You gave both food and drink to people for enjoyment, so that they might give thanks to you. But to us you have freely given spiritual food and drink and eternal life through your servant. Before all things, we are thankful to you that you are powerful." "Glory be to you for the age."

"O Lord, remember your assembly (church), remember to rescue it from every evil and to make it complete in your love, and to gather it from the four winds into your kingdom which you prepared for it — it, which has been made holy." "For yours is the power and the glory for the age."

"Let generosity come, and let this universe pass away. Hosanna to David's son!"

If someone is holy, let him come. If someone is not, he should change his mind (ie repent) Marana-tha. A-mein." (We still say, “Holy things for the Holy". At this point then they would have come to partake of the cup.

“Now permit the prophets to give thanks as much as they want.”
After the cup it seems there was a time for the traveling prophets to preach as is mentioned in Corinthians. This very much makes the Gospels and Acts come alive.

We can also see in the Didache that the charistmatically gifted prophets and teachers existed alongside regular clergy, both were to be respected and had ministries in the church. the same thing exists in Orthodoxy today. We see spiritually gifted people like Elder Paisios teaching people (they are usually coming to him rather than him traveling around like the early prophets did) and we also have clergy.

Didache) 15. 1. Appoint, therefore, for yourselves, bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, and not lovers of money, (1 Timothy 3:4) and truthful and proved; for they also render to you the service of prophets and teachers. 2. Despise them not therefore, for they are your honoured ones, together with the prophets and teachers.

Another first century document, the letter of the Romans to the Corinthians makes a direct correspondence between the ordained orders in the Jewish society and what existed in the church, and uses this as a starting place to tell the Corinthians that they ought to follow the proper hierarchical and liturgical order of ministry according to how each was appointed.

ch 40-41
"These things therefore being manifest to us, and since we look into the depths of the divine knowledge, it behooves us to do all things in [their proper] order, which the Lord has commanded us to perform at stated times. He has enjoined offerings [to be presented] and service to be performed [to Him], and that not thoughtlessly or irregularly, but at the appointed times and hours. Where and by whom He desires these things to be done, He Himself has fixed by His own supreme will, in order that all things being piously done according to His good pleasure, may be acceptable to Him. Those, therefore, who present their offerings at the appointed times, are accepted and blessed; for inasmuch as they follow the laws of the Lord, they sin not. For his own peculiar services are assigned to the high priest, and their own proper place is prescribed to the priests, and their own special ministrations devolve on the Levites. The layman is bound by the laws that pertain to laymen.
Let every one of you, brethren, give thanks* to God in his own order, living in all good conscience, with becoming gravity, and not going beyond the rule of the ministry prescribed to him."

 

*probably a reference to the Eucharist (the Greek word Eucharist simply means thanksgiving)


Edited by Anna Stickles, 06 February 2015 - 01:28 AM.


#8 Father David Moser

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Posted 06 February 2015 - 02:23 PM

Re the use of the NIV, I was going to use the KJV, or NKJV. However, any version I use can be cautioned against as being a "product of Protestantism." Thus, I had to just go with one.

Yes, I suppose that is true, however the NIV is probably one of the most blatant of the bunch. The KJV (and its variations, e.g. the NKJV) is actually closer than any other simply because it uses the "Received Text" rather than the "Nestle/Aland" text to translate from the Greek. The "Received Text" is pretty much the same as the actual Greek text used by the Orthodox Church while the Nestle Aland text is a much later compilation of ancient Greek manuscripts by western textual scholars. There is a discussion elsewhere on this forum that addresses these issues in much more detail.

Fr David

#9 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 06 February 2015 - 06:04 PM

A final note of caution on using the NIV for the English translation of the scripture.  The NIV has a very strong agenda of reinforcing the protestant chaos and miniminzing the liturgical order and sacramental authority of the more "catholic" traditions. While there are no outright errors, the phrasing and word choice of the translators (e.g. "elders" rather than "bishop" or "priest") tends to reflect the protestant bias of the translators

 

What Fr David says about the NIV is, of course, true, as it is for some other translations from the NT Greek.  We may note, though, that the Greek word ἐπίσκοπος is translated in the NIV and other Protestant translations as ‘overseer’. This is a literal rendering, no doubt simply to avoid the word ‘bishop’, but ‘bishop’ has been used in English since the time of King Alfred (except that Tyndale used ‘overseer’). As to the word ‘priest’, the OED has this which is interesting:

 

Etymologically priest represents Greek πρεσβύτερος  , Latin presbyter  , elder n.1; but by the late 2nd or early 3rd cent. A.D. (Tertullian), and thus long before the Latin or Romance word was taken into English, the Latin word sacerdos, originally, like Greek ἱερεύς, applied to the sacrificing priests of the heathen gods, and also, in the translations of the Scriptures, to the Jewish priests, had come to be applied to the Christian ministers also, and thus to be a synonym of presbyter.

 

It may be that the use in Acts and the Pauline Epistles of πρεσβύτερος rather than ἱερεύς was deliberate to distinguish Christian priests from heathen and Jewish priests.



#10 Seraphim of the Midwest

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Posted 07 February 2015 - 03:15 AM

May I point out that within the first generation between the resurrection (about the year 30) and the sack of Jerusalem/destruction of the temple (about the year 70) was about 1 generation (in the scriptures, a generation is about 40 years).  That generation was a transition period between the Old Covenant and New Covenant practices.  

 

See in Acts 21:17-26 where Paul is going up to Jerusalem and meeting the James the Brother of the Lord.  It says he went with 4 brothers and they took a vow, purified themselves, and sacrifices were offered in the Temple.  That sounds pretty "High Church."  Protestants often overlook details like this, which are very hard to explain given Protestant approaches to worship, especially given that Christ is a sacrifice for all.  Just as they tend to forget details like the Theotokos being present at the miracle of Pentecost (Acts 1:12-2:41) in their quest to deprecate her.

 

In the passage in 1 Cor 14, the context is keeping order in a culture that has ecstatic paganism and oracles.  It is during the time period before the temple has been destroyed.  I have no doubt that the Apostles had liturgical practice, especially James as the first Bishop (episkopos, ἐπίσκοπος) of Jerusalem.  Father David addressed excellent points.


Edited by Seraphim of the Midwest, 07 February 2015 - 03:23 AM.


#11 Iustin C.

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Posted 07 February 2015 - 04:13 AM

Seraphim of the Midwest, thank you for pointing out those biblical texts. 



#12 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 07 February 2015 - 08:35 AM

An important NT passage is Hebrews 8:1-6 –

 

1 Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; 2 A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. 3 For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. 4 For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: 5 Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount. 6 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.

 

Here, as in places in the Book of Revelation, we see that the worship of those in earth is – or should be – not only modelled on the heavenly worship seen by Isaiah (6:1-7) and St John (in Revelation) but the worship on earth literally joining the worship in heaven since the Church is One, existing on earth and in heaven. We may note that in v 2 of the passage quoted, the Greek word translated as ‘minister’ is λειτουργς and in v 6 ‘ministry’ is λειτουργίας. Whilst the Divine Liturgy took its full form later, we see that in Apostolic times worship had its liturgical and mystical dimension, accomplished by the three major orders of clergy, bishop, priest and deacon, worship not of this world.


Edited by Reader Andreas, 07 February 2015 - 08:39 AM.


#13 Iustin C.

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Posted 07 February 2015 - 09:12 PM

Reader Andreas, you bring up a very good point. This struck me in the past as well. Protestant worship, for the most part, seems lacking when compared to biblical passages that show what heavenly worship is like. Reading those passages as a Protestant always made me feel uneasy because the heavenly worship looked more Orthodox than Protestant.  



#14 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 07 February 2015 - 09:17 PM

Remember that the Orthodox Church is not a religion, not a denomination, nor even the best of ways to attain to heaven. It is the Truth, it is Christ, it is the Kingdom of Heaven; it is the state of things on earth, in heaven, within time and beyond time.






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