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702BOOK REVIEWS Sacred Games: A History of Christian Worship. By Bernhard Lang. (New Haven:Yale University Press. 1997. Pp. xiii, 527. $40.00.) This is no ordinary history of Christian worship. Lang, professor of religion at the University of Paderborn, is not so much a liturgical historian as an historian of religions. His background affords him a fresh view of the history of Christian worship, unencumbered by the debates characteristic of the profession. Lang divides the subject into six "games" or basic components in which he finds "the essential meaning of Christian worship" (p. xi). These games are: praise, prayer, sermon, sacrifice, sacrament, and ecstasy. The book thus provides six interpretive essays in an attempt to uncover theological meaning through an investigation of historical and contemporary forms of worship. In the process Lang is most attentive to popular culture as well as to the general philosophical milieu in which forms of worship developed. An example of the former can be found in a number of illustrations that are interspersed through the book and especially the book jacket which portrays an early twentieth-century street procession ofyoung girls approaching their first holy communion. An example of the latter is the extensive use that Lang makes of neo-Platonic philosophy in analyzing the theurgic aspects of the development of Christian worship forms. The result is a series of vignettes of both the origins, historical instances, and contemporary realizations of Christian worship tied together by a clear argument. Certainly the most intriguing and provocative parts of this study are to be found in the chapters on "sacrifice" and "sacrament." Lang's professed aim is to recover a much more "ritual" portrait ofJesus than is normally drawn. For him the origins of the Last Supper are to be found in Jesus' attempt to replace Temple Sacrifice with a new sacrifice of bread and wine, representing self-offering and more available to the poor. In suggesting that the Last Supper represents a replacement ofTemple Sacrifice Lang is in agreement with contemporary New Testament scholars like E. P. Sanders, Bruce Chilton, and N. T. Wright. I find Wright's approach, namely, that Jesus' institution of the Eucharist provides a new meal of the kingdom and representation ofJesus' own forthcoming sacrifice on the Cross, more persuasive than Lang's new sacrifice for the poor. Moreover , Lang's argument that the words "This is my body" and "This is my blood" (pp. 216-218) were spoken over animal sacrifices in the Temple is highly conjectural and rests upon a hunch more than upon evidence. In addition Lang argues, on the basis of a picture ofJesus as "magician," that his followers turned his sacrificial gesture at the Last Supper into a sacrament by transforming it into a theurgic or magical celebration of making God present to worshipers (p. 357). I suspect that the rehabilitation ofthe concept ofmagic in the ancient world will be an important endeavor for liturgical historians in the future. Lang does not present enough evidence, however, to warrant such a radical discontinuity between the meal ofJesus and the meal of the early Christians . BOOK REVIEWS703 Finally, one wonders if Lang's attribution ofthe Lord's Prayer toJohn the Baptist and his movement (pp. 78-80) is more provocation than history. He seems correct in underlining the political nature of this prayer, but offers no convincing evidence that it should have come from the circle of the Baptist rather than from Jesus. This history of Christian worship contains a number of other features that are often lacking in standard liturgical histories. By providing essays on sermon and ecstasy the author draws a fuller picture of the experience of worship than can normally be found in such standard studies. In doing so Lang has written a book that will have to be dealt with by historians for a long time to come. John F. Baldovin, SJ. Jesuit School ofTheology Berkeley, California The Death Penalty. An Historical and Theological Survey. By James T. Megivern. (Mahwah, NewJersey: Paulist Press. 1997. Pp. xiii, 641. $29-95.) Capital punishment, like slavery, was one of those institutions of Roman law that the early Christians accepted as an ordinary mechanism of civil society. Occasionally...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-0708
Print ISSN
0008-8080
Pages
pp. 702-701
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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