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Did the Jewish People have Liturgy?

Chagall's Praying Jew

I recently received the question, “Did the Jewish people have liturgy?”

Firstly, in replying, I noted the use of the past tense. Do some people think the Jewish people are no more? Or do other people think the Jews have liturgy now – but didn’t used to? Or never have had liturgy?

I wonder if the question is a sign that the Old Testament, the First Testament, is little or not read in many churches – that is certainly a reality in some places I know (this was a question from an Anglican). Except for the Easter Season, the Sunday lectionary we agree to use has a First Testament reading to be proclaimed in the community (in the Easter Season that is replaced by reading through the Acts of the Apostles). If one reads the First Testament, there are vast swathes of descriptions and rules (rubrics!) of Jewish liturgy.

Jesus, the Jew, participated in Jewish liturgy, is recorded in the New Testament as participating in Jewish liturgy, and Christianity continues this heritage.

The Eucharist begins, essentially, with a synagogue-type liturgical rite of readings, address, and prayers; and continues with the Jewish home liturgy of a significant meal. Every significant meal began with a short prayer and shared broken bread and concluded with a lengthy prayer and a shared cup of wine. The meal has dropped out, and the home bread-and-wine ritual has been glued onto the synagogue rite. Jesus knew that his disciples would continue this and said, from now on, when they did this they should do it to bring His reality to their present.

There are even theories that the Gospel stories are told in response to the fixed Jewish lectionary. As they heard the readings from the First Testament, the earliest Christians told stories of Jesus connecting with those readings. The collection of these stories, in this viewpoint, became Gospels.

That is enough to start reflecting on “Did the Jewish people have liturgy?”

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Image: Chagall’s Praying Jew

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3 thoughts on “Did the Jewish People have Liturgy?”

  1. In reply to David Allen’s rather caustic comment on the other thread:

    It is painfully evident that many Christians have never read the OT or the Talmud and have a very poor understanding of the Jewish faith tradition. Christians are mostly functionally bionically illiterate.

    Many Blessings.

    1. I’m sorry Chris, I’m unsure which of my caustic comments on the other thread that this comment’s rather damning indictment is meant to answer or refute.

      Sadly, I’m beginning to detect a level of religious/theological arrogance that we don’t usually encounter on Father Bosco’s more-light-than-smoke blog.

      I have no idea who you are other than Chris. You don’t use your last name. I don’t know your denominational affiliation or standing in the denomination. Nor where in the world you are located.

      I’m David Allen. I live in Seattle WA, but I’m actually Mexican. I’m a member of a local Episcopal Parish, but previously the Anglican Church of Mexico. I have a Licentiate in Human Behavior from Mexico and a four year Master of Theology from the USA. I’m a licensed industrial psychologist in Mexico, where I had a Human Resources business with an older sister and a cousin. I’m basically retired now and keep my nephew on the straight and narrow as he attends the U of WA.

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