Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Review: The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship: Sources and Methods for the Study of Early Liturgy
The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship: Sources and Methods for the Study of Early Liturgy by Paul F. Bradshaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
While Bradshaw offers very few definite answers for anything at all, he does offer us a very thorough introduction to the history of Christian worship. One does, I think, feel a bit overwhelmed reading this book as Bradshaw presents one viable theory only to counter it with another mutually contradictory but equally viable theory that displaces the previous again and again. Perhaps what he demonstrates, and what it may be his purpose to demonstrate, in doing this is that there is very little that can be definitely said about the specifics of the development of the liturgies of the Christian Church in their earliest forms.
Unfortunately, Bradshaw disregards his own advice at several points. Perhaps the most obvious example is in his expression of support for the theory that multiplicity becomes unity against the prior presupposition of the reverse. Bradshaw criticizes the prejudice of earlier scholars who, he says, relied upon the evolutionary theories of Darwin and others and saw complexity emerging from simplicity and multiplicity from unity. He then goes on to posit instead the very opposite: that we always begin with complexity and multiplicity which then becomes unity. He ignores, however, that this too has its philosophical origins, this time in Hegel and Marx rather than Darwin, and that to adopt such a theory also, in spite of his protests, attempts to force the historical datum into an ideological framework.
In spite of that and other minor quibbles I might raise, however, this book is, overall, a great introduction to the origins of early Christian worship and especially to the scholarship which has attempted to discover these origins over the last century and beyond. Bradshaw also does an excellent job of introducing the reader to the primary source material and giving a good overview of how these primary sources have been and are being handled by scholars. I recommend and endorse this book for anyone who is interested in the history of Christian liturgical practices.
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