I’m writing a paper on ‘What is the pattern of church life and church meetings in the New Testament’. As part of that I’m reading Banks’ book ‘Paul’s idea of community’.

There’s a fair bit I disagree with in this book, but something I just read got me thinking. If you can’t be bothered to read the whole quote he essentially says that the Protestant practice of having a book at the centre of our meetings is actually something taken over from the Synagogue, and not Paul’s idea of church…

Interested? Read on and please comment – I’d really like to know what people think…

‘According to Paul’s understanding, participation in the community centred primarily around fellowship, expressed in word and deed, of the members with God and one another. It demonstrates concretely the already-experienced reconciliation between the individual and God and the the individual and his fellow-men: the gifts and fruit of the Spirit being the instruments through which this is expressed and deepened.

This means that the focal point of reference was neither a book nor a rite but a set of relationships, and tha God communicated himself to them not primarily through the written word and tradition, or mystical experience and cultic activity, but through one another. Certainly fellowship is not altogether lacking in these other groups, ranging as they do from the comparative individualism of the mysteries to the strong community at Qumran, nor are the Old Testament scriptures and various corporate activities absent from the Pauline churches. But a real difference lies at the heart of their respective gatherings. This makes it impossible for Paul’s approach as to what happens in church to have been driven in any fundamental way from the practice of the synagogue or of the cults. For him something quite new has broken into human experience, and this is nothing less than the ‘first fruits’ or anticipation of that community between GOd and his people that will be ushered in at the Last Day. Paul’s view arises from his understanding of the gospel and the Spirit and has only secondary points of overlap with either the synagogue or the cults, though more with the former than with the latter. But since even the synagogue’s worship has its basis in an order that is ‘passing away’ (2 Cor. 3:4-11), Paul does not begin with the synagogue and ‘Christianise’ it. Nothing in his writings suggests that the order of the synagogue service, which was clearly defined, or the central features of its worships, i.e. the Shema, Eighteen Benedictions, Old Testament readings, translation and exposition or Priestly Blessing, played a part in the meetings of his communities. Instead he develops his own views out of Christ’s sacrificial serve to mankind on the Cross and impartation of his resurrected life through the Spirit, integrating elements of synagogue practice only insofar as it is appropriate to do so and frequently altering their emphasis and presentation.

Paul’s approach is really a quite revolutionary phenomenon in the ancient world. In view of subesquent developments – in which Catholicism increasingly followed the path of the cults and made a rite the centre of its activities, and in which Protestantism followed the path of the synagogue and placed a book at the centre of its services – it would be true to say that in most respects it remains no less revolutionary today.’

Hmmm…

Advertisements