Greetings in Christ!
I have recently begun a independent study of the history of the Divine Liturgy, something I wanted to do while studying the history of Eastern Orthodoxy in college but did not have time for.
I have been looking primarily at the works of Paul F. Bradshaw and Robert Taft, with a bit of Gregory Dix.
One thing modern liturgical scholars certainly agree on is that the liturgies of the earliest centuries, both in structure and in content, were highly diverse. The scholars demonstrate in their writings that as Christianity spread and became more socially prominent (and especially once Christianity became sanctioned by imperial authorities), a process of conformity occured. This narrative, the shcolars say, is contrary to the "traditional" teaching that diversity arose out of an original uniformity as Christianity encounered and was embraced by new cultures. The latent idea seems to be that diversity is "good" and later uniformity was somehow a loss for Christianity.
So, my first question is: Are there any modern scholars or writers who disagree with or who have been critical of Bradshaw, Taft, etc. ?
My second question is: What are we to make of the idea that the uniform structure of the divine liturgy is a culturally-situated product of late Roman (Byzantine) imperial society, not an organic evolution from the practice of the Apostles? (Why is is necessary that modern European or American Orthodox Christians maintain a Byzantine imperial liturgical structure?) I ask this not in a sense of criticism or doubt concerning the Church (as I find the Liturgy to be incredibly beautiful), but because I have been asked the question by others who are not Orthodox and could not really give an answer.