Liturgy and Biblical Interpretation
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149 pages

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What happens to the Bible when it is used in worship? What does music, choreography, the stringing together of texts, and the architectural setting itself, do to our sense of what the Bible means—and how does that influence our reading of it outside of worship? In Liturgy and Biblical Interpretation, Sebastian Selvén answers questions concerning how the Hebrew Bible is used in Jewish and Christian liturgical traditions and the impact this then has on biblical studies. This work addresses the neglect of liturgy and ritual in reception studies and makes the case that liturgy is one of the major influential forms of biblical reception. The case text is Isaiah 6:3 and its journey through the history of worship.

By looking at the Qedushah liturgies in Ashkenazi Judaism and the Sanctus in three church traditions—(pre-1969) Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism (the Church of England), and Lutheranism (Martin Luther, and the Church of Sweden)—influential lines of reception are followed through history. Because the focus is on lived liturgy, not only are worship manuals and prayer books investigated but also architecture, music, and choreography. With an eye to modern-day uses, Selvén traces the historical developments of liturgical traditions. To do this, he has used methodological frameworks from the realm of anthropology. Liturgy, this study argues, plays a significant role in how scholars, clergy, and lay people receive the Bible, and how we understand the way it is to be read and sometimes even edited.

Liturgy and Biblical Interpretation will interest scholars of the Bible, liturgy, and church history, as well as Jewish and Christian clergy.



Publié par
Date de parution 15 janvier 2021
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780268200022
Langue English

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Gary A. Anderson, Matthew Levering, and Robert Louis Wilken, series editors

The Sanctus and the Qedushah
University of Notre Dame Press
Notre Dame, Indiana
Copyright © 2021 by the University of Notre Dame
University of Notre Dame Press
Notre Dame, Indiana 46556
All Rights Reserved
Published in the United States of America
Library of Congress Control Number: 2020947040
ISBN: 978-0-268-20001-5 (Hardback)
ISBN: 978-0-268-20003-9 (WebPDF)
ISBN: 978-0-268-20002-2 (Epub)
This e-Book was converted from the original source file by a third-party vendor. Readers who notice any formatting, textual, or readability issues are encouraged to contact the publisher at
CONTENTS Acknowledgments Introduction, Part I: Performance Matters Introduction, Part II: Liturgical Material— Qedushah and Sanctus CHAPTER 1 Holy the Hideous Human Angels: The Identity of the Seraphim CHAPTER 2 Hymning the Eternal Father: The Function of Isaiah 6:3 CHAPTER 3 The God Approached: Divine Presence in the Liturgy Conclusions Notes Bibliography Index
The interdisciplinary reach of this investigation has meant that for a long time I felt like until I get there, I will not know what to use to (study the) worship (of) the Lord . It would have been an impossible endeavor were it not for the many friends and colleagues I have received help from during the course of my writing. At Cambridge, I would like to single out the help of Bruno Clifton, Christine Corton, Katharine Dell, Theodor Dunkelgrün, Philip Jenson, Sam Kennerley, Reuven Leigh, Victoria Raymer, Stefan Reif, and Richard Rex. I am grateful to the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible Grad Seminar for comments on this work and others, and especially so to my co-chair, Rosalie Ní Mhaoldomhnaigh.
I would also like to thank Judith Newman at the University of Toronto, Eliezer Kaunfer and all the wonderful people at Yeshivat Hadar, New York City, and also Walter Moberly, Shimon Steinmetz, Martin Berntson, and Maria Liljas.
Thanks are also due to Uppsala University and the Old Testament Higher Seminar, from which I have received such generous support. This project would not have been possible without Göran Eidevall, Lina Sjöberg, and Mikael Larsson there, who have helped me in the course of my writing. I would also like to especially thank Simon Hedlund for the insightful comments he made to an earlier draft of this work.
Many have helped this work on the way: Helene Egnell at the Centre for Interreligious Dialogue, Stockholm; Morton Narrowe at the Great Synagogue, Stockholm; Yael Fried, The Jewish Museum, Stockholm; Jonas Tovi and Andreas Ottosson; but none more so than Mikael Mogren, who has been an indispensable support, friend, and intellectual sparring partner.
Throughout this work, I have depended on the kindness of strangers through funding for the project. Various funding bodies have helped me, but I would especially like to thank Sixten Gemzéus Stiftelse, the Spalding Trust, the Sir Richard Stapley Trust, and Helge Ax:son Johnsons Stiftelse.
But there has also been steady friend support, where I would like to especially thank Meghna Nag Chowdhuri, Varun Khanna, and Akshyeta Suryanarayan, a true remover of obstacles. Also many thanks for the support and input from the Allstig-Lamos family: Gunilla, Peter, and especially Katarina, a great proofreader and an even greater friend.
A crucial colleague has of course been Nathan MacDonald, whose wit and wits have helped me through the different stages of writing. Without you, it would have been an entirely different text, and certainly not for the better.
And going from doctoral parents to actual parents I would like to thank my two wonderful parent sets: Carina Selvén and Björn Rönnerholm, and Pers Göran och Catherine Selvén, who have been such a stable support.
Thank you also, Ostwald, for Ostwald.
Last, I give thanks to the Holy Blessed One, המתגאה על חיות הקדש, for the privilege of having received both bread and Torah during the course of this project.
Introduction, Part I
Performance Matters
Every time Jews or Christians worship is an instantiation of biblical interpretation. And when the Bible comes to life through music, movement, and setting, it changes character. Psalm 23, sung to the somber tone of a Christian funeral, is a rather different text then when sung (usually after some schnapps) by Jews around a Shabbat dinner table. The word “interpretation” itself hints at this, as French-American polymath George Steiner writes in Real Presences :
An interpreter is a decipherer and communicator of meanings. He is a translator between languages, between cultures and between performative conventions. He is, in essence, an executant, one who “acts out” the material before him so as to give it intelligible life. . . . An actor interprets Agamemnon or Ophelia. A dancer interprets Balanchine’s choreography. A violinist a Bach partita. In each of these instances, interpretation is understanding in action; it is the immediacy of translation. 1
Interpretation is a highly practical issue. And let us keep in mind: the interpretation of a text (in Steiner’s sense) can have quite a dramatic influence on how one later interprets it. Liturgical experiences activate or neglect certain readings of a text, and evoke certain emotive responses that can galvanize an interpretation. Jews can chuckle their way through the book of Esther even when not reading it on Purim, when the topsy-turvy nature of the liturgy reinforces the carnivalesque aspects of the text. 2 Mirth, sorrow, solemnity, anger—all these emotions and more can grow out of one’s reading, and especially so if those are the emotions that are encouraged liturgically. Liturgy involves us not just intellectually but also emotionally and somatically. The space in which worship takes place, the choreography according to which one moves one’s body, the sounds and sights, tastes and scents that one registers, all work to shape one’s experience of the text. Liturgy is, among other things, an experienced biblical interpretation. Like a concert, or a play, it is a performed act: liturgy is not a book, just as a concert is not its sheet music, but a moment, an action in time and space. But there is, as with a classical concert or a play, a particular text that is performed again and again.
My argument in this book is that the study of the Bible, as refracted through its ritual or liturgical reception, has been neglected by liturgical scholars but all the more so by biblical scholars. 3 Liturgy is one of the many cultural activities that influence one’s understanding of the biblical text, and the study of the interrelation between the Bible and its use in liturgy deserves thorough study. I will take Isaiah 6:1–5 as my case study, and already by choosing this text, some of the factors I would like to draw attention to come into play. This is a passage that has garnered a tremendous amount of attention by biblical scholars. Why is that? Why have so many articles, monographs, and so on been written on Isaiah 6 and not, say, Isaiah 4? Why have so many given this passage new contexts in music, fiction, and poetry, from Dante to Anne Carson, Edmund Spenser to William Empson, John Donne to Allen Ginsberg, Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Leonard Cohen? I would venture to say that this interest—including my own—comes from the liturgical use of this text. Just as some other liturgical texts, such as Deuteronomy 6:4, have been prioritized in biblical research because of their liturgical use, so, I would argue, has Isaiah 6 been prioritized because of the familiarity with it that liturgy breeds. A telling example could be how, when discussing my research, most Jews I have spoken to have said, “Oh, you’re writing about the qedushah ?” and most Christians have said, “Oh, you’re writing about the Sanctus ?” For both, the liturgical reference was what first came to mind—even in speaking about this text, people do so through their liturgies.
This perspective ought to be much more represented in research. Surprisingly, this has not been the case, and until quite recently, it was not the case for almost any non- or extratextual genre of reception. Not only has there been a privileging of content over form when looking at the history of biblical texts, there has also been a privileging of abstract text over other forms of cultural activities: commentaries have been unpacked for their readings, but the study of other engagements with the biblical texts is still underdeveloped. Art, film, theater, music, and pop culture phenomena are all part of this history, and some of them have had a far greater influence on how people approach the biblical texts than even the most influential commentary. There have been attempts at remedying this by broadening the field by, for example, Cheryl Exum looking into the Bible in art history 4 and Adele Reinhartz examining the role of the Bible in Hollywood productions. 5 This is, to my mind, a very welcome endeavor that needs further strengthening. 6 Timothy Beal’s call for a broadening of the field “to include not only academic and theological readings but also biblical appearances in visual art, literature, music, politics, and other works of culture, from ‘high’ to ‘low’ ” appears to be underwa

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