1. Preliminary Remarks
Antiquities of the Christian Church
CHAPTER XI. Use of the Holy Scriptures in religious worship.
1. Preliminary Remarks
The christian church at first adopted, without essential variation, the Jewish form of worship in the reading of the Scriptures, which, after the Babylonish captivity, constituted an important part of religious service. The books of Moses were divided into fifty-four sections, corresponding to the sabbaths in a year, one being allowed for their intercalated years, jn which there might be fifty-four sabbaths. These sections were read successively, one on each sabbath. When a less number of sabbaths occurred in a year, two sections were read together as one on the last sabbath, so that the reading of the whole might be completed every year.
Selections were also made from the historical and prophetical books, which were denominated the Prophets, One of these selections was read every sabbath day in connection with the corresponding portion of the law. This custom originated from the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes, who forbade the Jews the reading of their law on the sabbath. They accordingly selected from the prophets certain portions which they read successively, in the place of like portions of the law. And after the persecution, they continued to read both in connection. Paul, at Antioch in Pisidia, stood up to preach after the reading of the law and the prophets. Acts 13:15.
The Psalms and other devotional parts of the Scriptures, which with the Jews constituted a third division, were probably not read at all on the sabbath. They were the Psalter of the Jewish synagogue, and were sung or chanted whenever introduced into religious worship.
Justin Martyr is the first who mentions the reading of the Gospels and of the Acts together with the Scriptures of the Old Testament. According to this author, they were read in public assembly on the sabbath, by a reader appointed for the purpose; and after the reading, an exhortation and exposition was delivered by the minister.
Tertullian also insists upon the reading of the Scriptures both of the Old and New Testament as an important part of public worship.
Both Tertullian and Cyprian speak of the Reader, as an officer in the church, the latter of whom particularly describes the ordination of two Readers to this office.
The Apostolical Constitutions enjoin the reading of the Scriptures as the most important part of public worship. And Origen and Chrysostom insist upon this as the foundation of all correct religious service. To these authorities, again, may be added those of various councils, on the same subject.
As a general rule none but the books which were received as canonical were allowed to be read in public worship. The reading of other books in private was recommended for personal edification, but not, like the Scriptures, as being of divine authority. As in different provinces the church was divided in opinion respecting the true character of certain books, so they differed in regard to the propriety of permitting the same to be read in religious worship. The apocryphal books of the Old Testament, and the Antilegomena of the New, were chiefly the subject of dispute. The diligent perusal of the apocryphal books was recommended to catechumens, but their authority was seldom or never allowed in doctrinal discussions. These books were held in higher repute by the church in Africa than by any other.
The controversy relating to the Antilegomena, in a great measure ceased in the fourth century. The authority of the Apocalypse was, however, still controverted; and the churches of Constantinople, Antioch, and others, continued to refuse it a place in the sacred canon. Ephraim of Syria, Athanasius, Cyril of Alexandria, Pseudo-Dionysius, and Leontius of Byzantium, were apparently the first to remove the prejudice against this book.
No distinction was made between the books of the Old and New Testament, but both were regarded as of equal authority, and in religious worship selections from each were read in connection. On sacramental occasions, however, the Romish church, in the primitive ages of Christianity, omitted the lessons from the Old Testament and the Psalms, and confined themselves to the Gospels and the Epistles. Whilst both the Jewish and the christian sabbath continued to be observed, it was customary on the former occasion to read the Old Testament; and on the latter, the New.
The controverted portions of Scripture above mentioned, and other religious works, were frequently read in public on certain occasions; such as the Epistles of Peter, the Apocalypse, the Doctrines of the Apostles, the Shepherd of Hermas, the first epistle of Clemens Romanus to the Corinthians, the Homilies of the celebrated fathers, Public Symbols and Rules of Faith, and Memoirs of Martyrs and Saints.
Chr. Fr. Walch's kritische Untersuchung vom. Gebrauche der heligen Schrift unter den alten Christen in den drey ersten Jahrhunderten. Leipzig, 1779. 8; J. A. Cramer, vom Gebrauch der heil. Schrift im xii. Jahrhundert. S. Fortsetzung von Bossuet's Einleitung. Th. vi S. 81 ff: K. A. Credner, Ansehen u. Gebrauch der neutestam. Schriften en den beyden ersten Jahrhunderten. S. Beytr. zur Einleitung in die biblirchen Schriften. B. L 1832. 8. S. 1–92: Jac. Usserii Historia dogmatica controversiae inter Orthodoxos et Ponlificios de scripturis et sacris vernaculis. Ed. Henr. Wharton. Londini, 1690. 4: Chr. Kortholt Comment, de lectione bibllorum in linguis vulgo cognitisiieque sacris publicis idiomate popular! peragnendis. Lips. 1692. 4: Tob. Gottfr. Hegelmair'sGeschichte des Bibelverbots. UIrn, 1783. 4: Nic. le Maire Sanctuarium profanis occlusum s. de sacrorum bibliorurn prohihitione in lingua vernacula tractatus. Herbipoi. 1662. 4: Jo. Fr. Mayer, Disput. contra Nic. le Maire sanctuarium profanis occlusum, lectionem S. S. Laicis concedendam esse. Gryphisw. 1667. edit. 2.1713. 4: Leand. van Ess, Ausxiige aus den heil. Vatern und anderen Lehrern der kathol. Kirche über das northwendige und niitzliche Bibellesen – zur Aufmunterung der Katholiken. Leipzig, 1808. 8. Zweyte Ausgabe. Sulzbacb, 1816. 8: Guil. Ern. Tentzel: de ritu Lectionum sacrarum. Viteb. 1685. 4: Jo. Andr. Scbmid, de primitivae ecclesiae lectionibus. Helmst. 1697. 4: de Lectionariis utriusque ecclesiae. Ibid. 1703. 4.
Apolog. i. c. 67. p. 222. ed. Oberth.
Apologet. c. 39: Ad Uxorem. lib. ii. c. 6: De Anima. c. 9.
Tertuliian de Praescript. haeret. c. 41: Cyprian Epist. 34, 33.
Apost. Constitut. lib. ii. c. 25. c. 57: Origen Contr. Gels. iii. 45, 50: Huetii Comment. Orig. in S. S. p. 8. 108: Chrysost. Hom. in John: Hom. viii. in Ep. ad Heb.: Hom. in Pentac. torn. iii. p. 85–88.
Apost. Constitut. lib. ii. c. 59. lib. viii c. 5. lib. v. c. 19: Theodoret. h. e. lib. i. c. 7: Concil. Laod. c. 59: Carthag. iii. c. 47: Chalcedon, c. 13, 14; Tolet. i. c. 2: Vasense, ii. c. 3: Valentin, c. 1. etc.
Laodic. c. 59: Concil. Carthag. iii. c. 47: Cyril of Jerusalem, Cateches. iv. c. 33: Rufini. Exposit. Symbol. Ap. c. 37, 38.
Euseb. h. e. lib. ii. c. 23: Hieron. ep. ad Dardan. Opp. torn. iii. p. 46: Gregor. Nyss. Orat. in suum ordin.
J. Miincher's Handbuch der christl. Dogmenesch Th. iii. S. 75.fF.
Mabillon de Liturg. Gal. lib. ii. p. 137 seq.
Euseb. h. e. vi. 14. iii. 25. iii. 3. iii. 16. iv. 23. iv 15: August. Serm. xii. De Sanctis: De Divers. 45,63, 101–3, 109.