Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
February 18th, 2014 by Joel Watts

Review of @Logos’s Worship in the Early Church: An Anthology of Historical Sources (4 vols.)

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Lawrence J. Johnson has brought to us a divine collection of worship artefacts from the early Church. He has meticulously researched ancient documents, not for some historical critical purpose or even a manifestly theological purpose, but for the purpose of presenting to us the ways the early Christians sought to order their lives in worship. This is, quite simply, the liturgical thought as it developed in Christianity.

Before I speak to the use of it on the Logos Software platform, I want to first speak to the depth of the material. The goal, as stated in the introduction, is to help Christian denominations who are reforming their worship to have access to “the great literary heritage that witnesses the way Christians lived their liturgical life during the early ages of Christianity.” Thus, he seeks to provide a comprehensive resource for those who are seeking to return to the ancient ways. He does this quite well.

Johnson’s work is found in four volumes, each with a particular temporal focus. The first volume begins with pre-Christian times, drawing from synagogue prayers as well as Jewish tradition. Unfortunately, the Dead Sea Scrolls are not used — although I recognize this may be more of a matter of space than a pointed exclusion.  Also included in this first volume is the “sub-apostolic” era as well as the second and third centuries. Here, Johnson pulls from the Didache, Melito of Sardis, and the Apostolic Church Order, respectively. The second volume covers the fourth century, with one half devoted to the East and one to the West. Here, you can contrast Hilary of Poitiers (West) to Gregory of Nyssa (East). The third and fourth volumes follow this pattern with the fifth and sixth century, respectively. A specific highlight to this set is the use of unknown, or relatively unknown works, such as the Manchester Papyrus (Vol. 6, East). In total, Johnson provides over 1500 pages and over 700 years worship of material to devour.

I want to now give an example of a section. In Vol. 1, Johnson displays before us Pseudo-Cyprian’s On Rebaptism. He gives a short biographical sketch and summary of the document. Following this is a short bibliography. Then the document itself is given, or rather, the pertinent part of the document. There is no interpretation or other commentary provided.

This is where having the volumes on the Logos Bible Software platform comes in handy. Rather than having to flip back and forth to the abbreviations and the indexes, everything is now included on the page before you. Further, it is easily searchable and having the electronic versions means I can add whatever notes I like, erase them, and start over. Having an extensive set like this in hardback does look nice, but having it on the same software system that will always access it in order to help your study will enjoy that it moves from the shelf into your hands, from your hands into your mind, and from you mind to your mouth so that you can use it to help either renew your community through a liturgical reform or even as a daily study.

I’ve included some pictures of the set (Vol. 1) on the iPad app.

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Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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