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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Praise


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1. Ideal of praise.-‘He knows little of himself who is not much in prayer, and he knows little of God who is not much in praise.’ These words express the habitual thought and practice of the Apostolic Church. We must distinguish between praise and thanksgiving. We praise God for what He is, we thank Him for what He has done. It is possible that a strain of selfishness may creep into our thanksgivings-the Pharisee spirit is not easy to eradicate. But a sincere heart is lifted by praise to the highest level of adoration. With angels and archangels we land and magnify, saying ‘Holy, Holy, Holy.’ If we cannot trace the Sanctus of the Eucharist back to the 1st cent., we can affirm that it was based on the teaching of the Apocalypse, and may be said to perpetuate in the highest degree the doxologies so often heard on the lips of apostolic writers.

There are two points to be remembered: (1) the rich inheritance of the traditions of praise derived from the Temple services, and (2) the teaching of the Synagogue that, when one is cut off from participation in sacrifices, praise should take their place. The few scattered hints in the Acts support the paradox that least is said in the NT about that which is most familiar in thought and practice. The preparation of the apostles for Pentecost was to be continually in the Temple praising God (Luke 24:53). Afterwards we read that the apostles ‘did take their food with gladness, … praising God’ (Acts 2:46 f.). Peter and John going to the Temple at the hour of prayer were certainly in accord with the Psalmist: ‘Seven times a day will I praise thee’ (Psalms 119:164); and the lame man, whom Peter healed, instinctively praised God (Acts 3:8). When Peter reported to the apostles and brethren the gift of the Holy Ghost to the Gentile Cornelius and his friends they glorified God (Acts 11:18).

St. Paul goes very deeply into the thought of praise as an essential part of devotion when he speaks of the degradation of the heathen world as in a great measure due to their neglect of praise. ‘Knowing God, they glorified him not as God’ (Romans 1:21)._ His own practice may be illustrated by the fact that when he and Silas had been beaten with rods at Philippi they sang hymns to God (Acts 16:25). And in Romans 1:25 he turns from the loathsome subject of heathen immorality to give glory to God, as if to guard himself from contamination, just as he prepares himself for his impassioned argument on backsliding Israel by an ascription of praise to ‘God blessed for ever’ (Romans 9:5), and passes into another doxology at the end of his argument (Romans 11:35-36). As he pictures Abraham when he received God’s promise of a son giving glory to God (Romans 4:21), so he desires that Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy (Romans 15:9, quoting Psalms 18:49; Psalms 117:1 LXX_).

The Epistle to the Ephesians opens (Ephesians 1:1-14) with a great ascription of praise to God for the blessing of the Church. We are chosen in Christ that we should be ‘holy to the praise of the glory of his grace.’ Again and again he repeats the cadence ‘to the praise of his glory.’

This level is worthily sustained in Hebrews 2:12 : ‘in the midst of the congregation will I sing praise unto thee,’ when the writer quotes Psalms 22:22. As the typical king David comes to his own despite Saul’s persecution, so does Christ the true King in the hour of His victory over pain acknowledge His people as brethren, and the citizens of His Kingdom take the song of praise from the lips of their King.

Again in Hebrews 13:15 it is suggested that our praises are only worthily offered through our great High Priest: ‘Through him let us offer up a sacrifice of praise.’ The phrase is quoted from Leviticus 7:12, where it is used for the highest form of peace offering. B. F. Westcott (ad loc.) adds that the word ‘sacrifice’ in Malachi 1:11 ‘appears to have been understood in the early Church of the prayers and thanksgivings connected with the Eucharist.’ From praise for ‘the revelation of God in Christ (His Name)’ the writer goes on naturally to speak (v. 16) of kindly service and almsgiving, for ‘praise to God is service to men.’

St. Peter also has a characteristic passage on praise (1 Peter 2:9): ‘That ye may tell forth the excellencies of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.’ He is quoting 2 Isaiah 43:21, and his word ‘excellencies,’ standing for Hebrew ‘my praise,’ means an eminent quality in any person or thing, and the idea is blended with that of the impression which it makes on others; ‘the one sense involves the other, for all praises of God must be praises either of His excellencies or of His acts as manifestations of His excellencies’ (F. J. A. Hort, ad loc.). St. Peter does not say how the Asiatic Christians are to tell them forth, but he implies that their lives must correspond to their worship.

There is a fine saying of Rabindranath Tagore to the effect that the future Saviour of India will be known not so much by the light which streams from Him as by the light which is reflected to Him from His people. ‘This calling into God’s light … is thus fitly chosen as the characteristic act of Him whose excellencies the Christians were to tell forth, because it was on their use of the realm of vision thus opened to them that their power of exhibiting Him to men in grateful praise would depend’ (Hort, ad loc.).

The reference to ‘marvellous light’ suggests a reminiscence of the Transfiguration, and the idea is paraphrased in Clement of Rome (36): ‘Through Him [Jesus Christ] let us gaze into the heights of the heavens; through Him we behold as in a mirror His spotless and supernal countenance; through Him the eyes of our heart were opened; through Him our dull and darkened mind burgeons anew into the light’ (quoted by Hort, ib.; cf. 2 Peter 1:16).

It may be of interest to classify (after Westcott) the various doxologies found in the Epistles and the Apocalypse.

(1) Galatians 1:5. To whom [our God and Father] be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

(2) Romans 11:36. To him [the Lord] be the glory for ever. Amen.

(3) Romans 16:27. To the only wise God through Jesus Christ [to whom] be the glory for ever. Amen.

(4) Philippians 4:20. Unto our God and Father be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

(5) Ephesians 3:21. Unto him [that is able to do exceeding abundantly] be the glory, in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever. Amen.

(6) 1 Timothy 1:17. Unto the King eternal … the only God be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

(7) 1 Timothy 6:16. To whom [the blessed and only Potentate …] be honour and power eternal. Amen.

(8) 2 Timothy 4:18. To whom [the Lord] be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

(9) Hebrews 13:21. To whom [the God of peace or possibly Jesus Christ] be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

(10) 1 Peter 4:11. To whom [God or, possibly, Jesus Christ] is the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

(11) 1 Peter 5:11. To him [God] be the dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

(12) 2 Peter 3:18. To him [our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ] be the glory both now and for ever. Amen.

(13) Judges 1:25. To the only God our Saviour through Jesus Christ our Lord be glory, majesty, dominion and power before all time, and now, and for evermore. Amen.

(14) Revelation 1:8. Unto him [that loveth us and loosed us from our sins] be the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

(15) Revelation 5:13. Unto him that sitteth on the throne and unto the Lamb be the blessing and the honour and the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. And the four living creatures said, Amen.

(16) Revelation 7:12. Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.

Westcott notes that all except (12) and perhaps (16) are closed by Amen. They vary greatly in detail. We may consider first the address, which in most cases is made to the Father, in two-(3) and (13)-through Christ, and in three to Christ-(8) (12), and (14), possibly also (9) and (10). The richness and variety of the titles in St. Paul’s doxologies contrast with the simplicity of his ascription of ‘glory.’ In one instance he adds ‘honour,’ in another substitutes ‘honour and dominion.’ Enlargement of the ascription is found in Jude, and above all in the central vision of the Apocalypse when the sevenfold theme marks the highest range of praise.

It seemed best to incorporate in the foregoing the formal doxologies of this type in the Apocalypse, but others claim mention. In Revelation 4:8 the living creatures say: ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God, the Almighty, which was and which is and which is to come.’ In Swete’s words (ad loc.): ‘This ceaseless activity of Nature under the Hand of God is a ceaseless tribute of praise.’ The elders also lay down their crowns of victory before the Throne with their tribute of praise (Revelation 4:11): ‘Worthy art thou, our Lord and our God, to receive the glory and the honour and the power: for thou didst create all things, and because of thy will they were, and were created.’

It is interesting to note how much fuller is the doxology which the angels in Revelation 5:12 offer to the Lamb, adding ‘riches, wisdom, strength, and blessing,’ and showing how ‘they recognize both the grandeur of the Lord’s sacrificial act, and its infinite merit’ (Swete, ad loc.).

A four-fold doxology follows from all creation (no. (15) above), ‘dominion’ taking the place of the angels’ word ‘strength,’ ‘active power being here in view rather than a reserve of secret strength’ (Swete, ad loc.).

The seven-fold doxology of the angels in Revelation 7:12 (no. (16) above) again follows a short doxology of the Church (Revelation 7:10): ‘Salvation unto our God which sitteth on the throne and unto the Lamb.’ But they do not include the Lamb as in Revelation 5:11.

2. Music.-Our study of the ideal of praise in the Apostolic Church would be incomplete without some reference to the music both vocal and instrumental in which pious hearts desired to express it. The earliest Christian hymns were sung, no doubt, like the psalms, but we know very little if anything about the vocal method of the Hebrews. A. Edersheim, however, thinks that some of the music still used in the Synagogue must date back to the time when the Temple was still standing, and traces ‘in the so-called Gregorian tones … a close approximation to the ancient hymnody of the Temple’ (The Temple, p. 81). References to musical instruments are few in number. St. Paul refers to pipes, harps, trumpets, and cymbals. The pipe was a cane pierced with holes for notes, or a bit of wood bored out and played like a flageolet.

The harp (κιθάρα) was an instrument of seven strings akin to a lyre. St. Paul argues (1 Corinthians 14:7) that, unless pipe or harp gives a distinction in the sounds, no clear thought will be conveyed to the hearer, just as a trumpet must give no uncertain sound in a call to arms. He refers also to cymbals, half-globes generally of bronze, giving out a clanging sound which cannot be tuned to accord with other instruments. They are symbolic of a character which makes professions in words but is lacking in love, or, as Edersheim puts it, ‘he compares the gift of “tongues” to the sign or signal by which the real music of the Temple was introduced’ (op. cit. p. 78). Edersheim (ib. p. 75) also draws an ‘analogy between the time when these “harpers” are introduced’ in the heavenly services (Revelation 5:8; Revelation 14:2-3) ‘and the period in the Temple-service when the music began-just as the joyous drink-offering was poured out.’ And again in Revelation 15:2 ‘the “harps of God” ’ are sounded ‘with pointed allusion … to the Sabbath services in the Temple,’ when special canticles (Deuteronomy 32, Exodus 15) were sung, to which the Song of Moses and of the Lamb corresponds when sung by the Church at rest. There was a certain prejudice against the music of flutes, but they seem to have been used at Alexandria to accompany the hymns at the Agape until Clement of Alexandria substituted harps about a.d. 190.

The references to praise in the Apostolic Fathers bring out the same underlying ideas. We find in Clem. Rom. Ep. ad Cor. i. 61: ‘O Thou, who alone art able to do these things, and things far more exceeding good than these for us, we praise Thee through the High Priest and Guardian of our souls, Jesus Christ, through whom be the glory and the majesty unto Thee both now and for all generations and for ever and ever. Amen.’

The ancient homily known as 2 Clement exhorts to give God ‘eternal praise not from our lips only but from our heart’ (ii. 9).

The Epistle of Barnabas (7) bids ‘the children of gladness understand that the good Lord manifested all things to us beforehand, that we might know to whom we ought in all things to render thanksgiving and praise.’ The author of the Odes of Solomon (Ode 6) compares a soul at praise to a harp, as both Philo (i. 374) and Plato (PhCEdo, 86A) had done: ‘As the hand moves over the harp and the strings speak, so speaks in my members the Spirit of the Lord, and I speak of His love.’

Ignatius also writes to the Philadelphians (ad Philippians 1) of their bishop as ‘attuned in harmony with the commandments, as a lyre with its strings.’

Delight in self-surrender quickens adoration. In the beautiful words of J. F. D. Maurice: ‘What we desire for ourselves and for our race, the greatest redemption we can dream of, is gathered up in the words, “Thine is the glory” ’ (The Lord’s Prayer, London, 1848, p. 130).

Literature.-In addition to the Commentaries referred to in the text, see A. J. Worlledge, Prayer, London, 1902; W. Milligan, The Ascension and Heavenly Priesthood of our Lord2, do., 1894, p. 299 f.; A. Edersheim, The Temple: its Ministry and Services as they were at the Time of Jesus Christ, do., n.d.; E. Leyrer, art._ ‘Musik bei den Hebräern’ in PRE_2; J. Stainer, The Music of the Bible, new ed., London, 1914.

A. E. Burn.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Praise'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/p/praise.html. 1906-1918.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 24th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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