James Jordan's "Litergical Nestorianism and the Regulative Principle"

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Dan....

Puritan Board Sophomore
I am reading James Jordan's criticle review of Worship in the Presence of God, in which he says the following:

Girardeau asserts that God specifically prescribed all the details of worship for Israel. What we know about the synagogue is that Leviticus 23:3 says that every sabbath day there was to be a holy convocation. Nowhere does God say what is to be going on during that convocation. There is no command to read the Scripture, so was it forbidden? I don't think Girardeau would say yes to either of these, though his principle would force him to. So we may ask this: There is no command to sing psalms in the synogogue with accompaniment on the harp, so was it forbidden? Girardeau suddenly switches ground here, and says that it was forbidden. This is not sound reasoning. On Girardeau's premises, the holy convocation on the sabbath would have been a silent gathering. Anything else would have been forbidden, because nothing else was commanded. The fact that synagogue worship was "unregulated" destroys by itself the strict form of the Regulative Principle...

Was there nothing else sola scriptura that determined what was to be done in synogogue worship?

As I'm thinking about it now, it seems to me that an argument from history (concerning what the Jews actually did and did not do in the synogogue) would not suffice here, because the Regulative Principle is sola scriptura, hence extra-biblical sources are not allowed. In other words, arguing from history that the Jews sang unaccompanied psalms, read the scriptures aloud, and prayed during synogogue worship does not mean that they were doing so in accordance to the Regulative Principle. They may have been violating the regulative principle in so doing, because there was no command.

How does the Confessioanl position answer Jordan here?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks.
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
One must first accept Jordan's position that Lev 23:3 refers to the synagogue, something which I believe no Reformed theologian of note has ever acknowledged.
 

Dan....

Puritan Board Sophomore
Fred,

Count it to my ignorance, but where else did the Israelites meet for holy convocation on the Lord's Day, and what did they do during those meetings? How did the Regulative Principle govern those meetings (wherever they were held)?

By the way, Here is Matthew Henry concerning the holy convocation. He incorporates synogogue into holy convocation:

It is a holy convocation; that is, "If it lie within your reach, you shall sanctify it in a religious assembly: let as many as can come to the door of the tabernacle, and let others meet elsewhere for prayer, and praise, and the reading of the law,´´ as in the schools of the prophets, while prophecy continued, and afterwards in the synagogues.
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
If Jordan is arguing that anything in the Pentateuch is aimed at the synagogue, he has an historical problem.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but as I recall, the synagogue developed during the exile and after. As I understand the dating of the Penteteuch there's about a 1000 years difference.

He's not saying it's a prophecy is he?

rsc

Originally posted by fredtgreco
One must first accept Jordan's position that Lev 23:3 refers to the synagogue, something which I believe no Reformed theologian of note has ever acknowledged.
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
Originally posted by Dan....
Fred,

Count it to my ignorance, but where else did the Israelites meet for holy convocation on the Lord's Day, and what did they do during those meetings? How did the Regulative Principle govern those meetings (wherever they were held)?

By the way, Here is Matthew Henry concerning the holy convocation. He incorporates synagogue into holy convocation:

It is a holy convocation; that is, "If it lie within your reach, you shall sanctify it in a religious assembly: let as many as can come to the door of the tabernacle, and let others meet elsewhere for prayer, and praise, and the reading of the law,´´ as in the schools of the prophets, while prophecy continued, and afterwards in the synagogues.

Scott,

If I understand it right (and I don't have Jordan's book in front of me), his argument is that the synagogue was in effect throughout the history of Israel - because of Lev. 23:3.

I disagree, and that is why I think that the convocation mentioned in Leviticus is not the synagogue, but something else. The best explanation is that the Sabbath itself is a holy convocation and that what Henry is referring to is not Jordan's point, but that the Sabbath should be sanctified (practically) by a gathering of God's people (which at times included the school of the prophets and the synagogue).
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
A brief outline of a case for the early establishment and divine appointment of the synagogue is here.
The extract is taken from Dr. Richard Bacon's dissertation A Pattern in the Heveans Part 1: Ecclesiology. In full under FPCR free ebooks here.
 

Dan....

Puritan Board Sophomore
Thanks for the info about synagogue. So far into the book don't see him necessarily limiting the "holy convocation" to the synagogue alone, only applying it to synogogue. In other words, maybe he is treating synogogue as a subset of how the holy convocations were fulfilled. He says he will return to the topic, so maybe I should hold comment the end of the book.

Was the synogogue a place of assembly on the Sabbath during the post-exilic period? And if so, then by assembling in synogogue, were the Jews fulfilling the requirement of holy convocation?

Also: Concerning the "holy convocations" in particular: In what way did the RPW apply to these meetings during the Old Covenant dispensation? Where are there any specific commands concerning these "holy convocations?"


[Edited on 8-29-2006 by Dan....]

[Edited on 8-29-2006 by Dan....]
 

Dan....

Puritan Board Sophomore
I'll narrow my question down (leaving the synogogue issue behind for the moment).

1. What was elemental, in sacris, to the "holy convocation" of the Israelites as they met locally for corporate worship on the Sabbath?

2. Referencing the answers to question 1, where did they get authorization to perform these elemental functions?

More help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks.
 

Dan....

Puritan Board Sophomore
:candle:

Calling all Confessional Presbyterians...

This does hit at the root of the RPW. If it cannot be demonstrated that the Israelites performed certain required elements in their weekly convocations, then RPW was not applicable, and if not applicable then....

Help....
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Dan,
For what it's worth, I think Lev. 23:3 is speaking of something on the order of synagogue, or proto-synagogue worship, in conjunction with the prescribed Sabbath. Jordan may agree with it, I'm not sure, but he is trying to argue against the RPW on said basis. In the 20th century the church lost its grip on arguments for regulated worship that as late as the 19th century were considered quite sound and convincing. NP's excerpt (link above) should shed some light.

I think the critical theories on the "development" of Israelite religion greatly impacted thought in this area. From "high places" and diffuse "primitive" worship practices, to successful "centralization" by the priestly caste (JEDP theory and all), to exile and the "creation" of synagogue as a national identity rallying point. Bosh. Why isn't it equally creditable (especially if the history of religions approach is incompatible with Mosaic authorship, Tabernacle antiqutiy, etc) that the roots of synagogue (in the later form) go much deeper into history than the exile?

As for what Jordan says, he is flat wrong, because he is not using a Confessional definition of the RPW, which includes biblical inference. I know Joey Pipa argued that a reasonable conclusion would be--convocational-worship would be any prescribed worship (this is coming right out of the middle of the whole Levitical prescription) that was NOT restricted to the Tabernacle. So now, in order to figure out what was OK, just start eliminating: Sacrifice, incense, ritual washings, showbread, etc. We get down to pretty simple stuff like teaching, singing, etc.

For another piece of evidence, consider what I think is a good translation of Ps. 74:8 "They have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land" (ASV). What were these "meeting places" (NKJV)? They sure predate the exile.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
It seems to me that an undermining of the RPW in the OT can only be established upon one of the false assumption of the Graf/Wellhausen theory -- that the command to worship where God placed His name is exclusive. Certainly it is on the national level, and we can see why from the defection later made in the days of Jeroboam. But that would not exclude local convocations, which, as Bruce has pointed out, would have been synagogue-like.
 

Dan....

Puritan Board Sophomore
Pastor Buchanan,

Thanks for the response.

Just to make sure I am understanding:
1. First, list out everything that was commanded in Old Testament worship.
2. Then, scratch off the list everything that can only be performed in the Tabernacle/Temple worship.
3. Whatever is left is acceptable in convocation worship.

Actually, thinking about it, that makes a lot of sense when compared to New Testament worship, in determining what is limited to corporate worship alone, and what is acceptable in family and private worship. I.e.:
1. List everything that is commanded in New Testament worship.
2. Scratch off the elements that are limited to corporate worship (including those elements to be adminstered by the lawfully ordained minister).
3. Whatever is left is acceptable in family and private worship.

Is that a fair analogy?

Thanks. That was very helpful.
 
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