Letter &Spirit 1 (2005): 101-136 W W ORSHIP IN THE ORD Toward a Liturgical Hermeneutic • Scott W. Hahn • St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology Twentieth-century biblical scholarship was dominated by historical and critical theories and methodologies. This development marked the full flowering of seeds sown in Europe more than three centuries earlier, in the aftermath of the wars of religion and the rise of the Enlightenment project.1 As a result of this movement in scholarship, today in large segments of the academy and even the Christian community, the Bible tends no longer to be read and studied as Scripture—a “word” spoken by God to a community that acknowledges this word as authoritative and normative for its life and worship. Instead it is read as a “text,” a literary and historical artifact bearing no more or less meaning or legitimacy than any other product of ancient civilization. The consequences of this shift in biblical understanding and interpretation have been felt in every area of Catholic and Protestant faith and life—from doctrinal formulations and organizational structures to disciplines and worship. Much has been written in recent years on the implications of historical-critical methods and the philosophical assumptions that underwrite them. That broader conversation, which aims at reforming the use of these methods, is crucial and must be continued. However, I want to focus in this paper on what I believe to be the most significant achievement of historical and literary scholarship—namely, the recovery of the liturgical sense of sacred Scripture. By this I mean the living relationship between Scripture, the inclusive canon of the apostolic churches, east and west, and liturgy, the ritual public worship of God’s covenant people, especially the eucharistic and sacramental liturgies of the Church. The recovery of this liturgical sense of Scripture is now only beginning to be recognized. I hope in this paper to make some small contribution to our appreciation of the significance of this recovery and the potential it holds for biblical scholarship in the century ahead. ____________________ 1 See generally, Hans Frei, The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative: AStudy of Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Hermeneutics(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974); Hans Reventlow, The Authority of the Bible and the Rise of the Modern World(London: SCM Press, 1985); Klaus Scholder, The Birth of Modern Critical Theology: Origins and Problems of Biblical Criticism in the Seventeenth Century(Philadelphia: Trinity International Press, 1990); Richard John Neuhaus, ed. Biblical Interpretation in Crisis: The Ratzinger Conference on Bible and Church(Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishers, 1989); Jon D. Levenson, The Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament and Historical Criticism (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1993), especially Chapter 3: “Historical Criticism and the Fate of the Enlightenment Project”; William T. Cavanaugh, “ ‘AFire Strong Enough to Consume the House’: The Wars of Religion and the Rise of the State,” Modern Theology11 (1995): 397-420. .
102 Scott W. Hahn I will begin by first discussing the liturgical content and context of the Scriptures, which modern scholarship has helped us to see. I will discuss this in terms of what I call the material and formal unity of Scripture and liturgy. This unity, I argue, invites us to make a liturgical reading of the entire canonical text. The heart of this paper will outline this approach to a canonical reading, focusing on what I describe as the Bible’s liturgical trajectoryand teleology. Finally, I will discuss three exegetical principles that emerge from this liturgical reading of the canonical text—the notions of divine economy, typology, and mystagogy. My aim is to advance the consideration of a new, liturgical hermeneutic. I contend that such a hermeneutic has superior interpretive and explanatory power and is capable of integrating the contributions of historical and literary research while at the same time respecting the traditional meanings given to the Bible by the faith community from which it originates.
Worship in the Word 103 when the community gathered for worship, and the books included in the canon were those that were already being read in the Church’s liturgy.3 The scriptural canon, then, was enacted primarily as a “rule” for the liturgy (the Greek word kanw&n, meaning rule or measuring stick; see Gal.
106 Scott W. Hahn Davidic monarchy, and the new covenant—I believe we will see the familiar biblical outlines in a new light. Further, from this liturgical reading, certain hermeneutical implications will emerge. These we will consider at the conclusion of this paper. Reading the Canon ‘Liturgically’ I must begin by anticipating my conclusion: Aliturgical reading of the canon- ical text discloses the Bible’s liturgical trajectory and liturgical teleology. As we will see, this is the unspoken conclusion that much of today’s best exegesis points us toward. Put another way: as presented in the canonical narrative, there is a liturgical reason and purpose for the creation of the world and the human person, and there is a liturgical “destiny” for creation and the human person. Man, as presented in the canonical text, is homo liturgicus, liturgical man, created to glorify God through service, expressed as a sacrifice of praise.
Worship in the Word 107 of the Temple.14For our liturgical reading, the most important parallels are those that describe the terms of the relationship between God and man in the garden and in the sanctuary. Klh God is described “walking up and down” or “to and fro” ( ) in the garden (Gen. 3:8). The same Hebrew verb is used to characterize God’s presence in the tabernacle (Lev. 26:12; Deut. 23:15; 2 Sam. 7:6-7). The first db( man is described as placed in the garden to “serve” ( ) and to “keep” or rm#$ “guard” ( ) it. These verbs are only found together again in the Pentateuch to describe the liturgical service of the priests and Levites in the sanctuary (Num. 3:7-8; 8:26; 18:5-6).15These literary clues suggest the biblical authors’ intent to describe creation as a royal temple building by a heavenly king. The human person in these pages is intentionally portrayed as a kind of priest- king set to rule as vice-regent over the temple-kingdom of creation.16 The Priestly King of Genesis This reading of Genesis is confirmed intertextually in the Old Testament and throughout the intertestamental and rabbinic literature.17 Perhaps the clearest inner-biblical reflection on the nature of the primal human is found ____________________ 14 See, for instance, Gordan J. Wenham, “Sanctuary Symbolism in the Garden of Eden Story,” in Proceedings of the Ninth Congress of Jewish Studies(Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies, 1986), 19-25; Lawrence E. Stager, “Jerusalem and the Garden of Eden,” in Eretz-Israel: Archaeological, Historical and Geographical Studies 26, eds. Baruch A. Levine et al. (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society/Hebrew Union College, 1999), 183-194.
Worship in the Word 109 further on in the Pentateuch with Moses’ building of the tabernacle and God’s giving of the sabbath ordinances. The literary parallels with the creation account suggest a close connection between sabbath, creation, covenant, and the dwelling that Israel is instructed to build.21The plans for the dwelling are given by God immediately after the liturgical ratification of the Sinai covenant in Exodus 24. Moses’time on the mountain can be seen as a kind of “new creation”—the cloud of divine presence covers the mountain for six days and on the seventh Moses is called to enter the cloud and receive the divine blueprint for the dwelling. God’s instructions consist of a series of seven commands that continue for seven chapters and conclude with the ordinances for the seventh day, the sabbath (Exod. 31:12-17). The making of the priestly vestments and the building of the tabernacle again recall the creation narrative. In both, the work is also done in seven stages, each punctuated with the words, “as the LORDcommanded Moses.” As God did, Moses beholds his handiwork, and blesses it (Exod.
110 Scott W. Hahn of the earth’s fruits to God. Through their worship on the sabbath, God bestows his blessings on his people and makes them holy (Exod. 31:13).24 The Priestly People of the Exodus These creation themes—man as made for worship in a covenant relationship as God’s royal and priestly firstborn—are made explicit in the canonical account of the Exodus. As Adam was made in God’s image and likeness, God identifies Israel as “my own people” (Exod. 3:7,10,12; 5:1; 6:5,7) and “my son, my firstborn” (Exod. 4:22-23). And as Adam was made to worship, God’s chosen people are liberated expressly for worship. db( The early chapters of Exodus involve a play on the word , (“serve” or “work”), the word that described the primeval vocation given to man (Gen. 2:15). The word is used four times to stress the cruel slavery (“hard service”) inflicted upon the Israelites by the new Pharaoh (Exod. 1:13- 14; see also 5:18; 14:5,12). But the same word is also used to describe what God wants of the Israelites (Exod. 3:12; 4:22; 7:16; 9:1,13; 10:3, 24-26). They are to serve, not as slave laborers but as a people that serves him in prayer.25 xbz They are to “offer sacrifice” ( Exod. 3:18, 5:3). Moses and Aaron are instructed to tell Pharaoh that God wants Israel to hold a religious “feast” or gx “festival” ( Exod. 5:1; compare Exod. 12:14; 23:16; 34:25).