An Interesting Series on Worship in the Early Church

Darrell Pursiful, a retired pastor and author of the blog Disert Paths, has been writing an interesting series on worship in the early church entitled "The Earliest Christian Worship, Part I" and "Part II" (Part III is apparently upcoming).

What is interesting about the two parts is that it provides a context for understanding the early Eucharist and how it derived from a Greco-Roman eating feasts. As the author notes:

Christian liturgy ultimately developed from the Greco-Roman symposium as filtered through the banquet customs of Second Temple Judaism. The Passover Seder is of particular importance, although other communal Jewish meals, including the weekly Sabbath banquets, would have certainly exerted an influence on Christian patterns. The Seder provides an important benchmark precisely because there is sufficient information to reconstruct the broad outlines of Christian observance of Pascha (Easter) in the mid-second century.

What is important, in my view, about understanding the history of the development of the Christian practice is that it gives a suitable starting point for discussing the whys and hows of the Lord's Supper with our unchurched friends. Often, a skeptic is not willing to talk about what Jesus taught because they see the entire basis of Christianity as fabrications with no basis in fact. However, if you can start by talking about how the Greco-Roman world engaged in their feasts, to the skeptic you are now talking history -- something tangible that can be accepted. Being able to take history and show how it applies to Christianity (which is also history, but in the eyes of the skeptic is mere myth) is often a good springboard for deeper discussion.

One word of caution, Pastor Pursiful says in Part II: "In the Epistle of the Apostles 15 (ca. 150), we read Jesus’ own imagined instructions to the disciples regarding how to celebrate the Pascha." I assume that he means that the instructions laid out in the Epistle of the Apostles (a non-canonical book) are imagined and not that Jesus didn't give instructions for the celebration of the Eucharist (as recorded in the Gospels). I just thought I'd mention it so that no one gets confused in a quick read-through.


D. P. said…
Thanks for the shout-out, BK. Part III is now posted, and I have edited the sentence about the Epistle to the Apostles to (hopefully) alleviate possible confusion. EA depicts discussions between Jesus and the apostles that are nowhere attested in the canonical Gospels. They tell us much about what believers were thinking and doing in the second century, but exceedingly little about the earthly ministry of Jesus.

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