The poetry of worship. Chanting and singing were prominent in the meetings of the early Christians, as in most religious occasions in antiquity. The gospel of Mark tells us that at the end of the Last Supper Jesus' disciples 'sang a hymn' before they departed to the Mount of Olives (Mark 14:26). In the Pauline churches, 'psalms, hymns and spiritual odes' were customary (Col3:16-17; Eph 5:18-20). The 'psalms' would have included some from the biblical psalter, as well as new compositions in the same style (cf. 1 Cor 14:26); both practices are attested also in the texts from Qumran and were probably common in many circles of Judaism, as were 'hymns' and 'odes' - insofar as any distinction can be made.44 It was not only Jews, of course, who chanted their praises to their gods; similar forms were often used by different ethnic groups in the Roman empire. Scholars have detected early Christian liturgical poetry or fragments thereof in many passages of the New Testament and other early literature (e.g. Phil 2:6-11; John 1:1-5, 9-14).
Prayers, too, combined the free and the formulaic.45 Even the Lord's Prayer, which was on its way to becoming the statutory daily prayer for Christians by the end of the first century, appears in three different forms in the earliest attestations: a short version in Luke 11:1-4, a longer version with somewhat different wording in Matt 6:7-13, and a variant of the Matthean version, with a doxology added, in Didache. 8.2. The Didache further directs that the prayer be said three times a day (8:3), thus making it the Christian replacement (or supplement) for the Jewish daily prayer.46 Several positions for prayer were in use. Standing with arms raised and palms forward, the orans attitude so often represented in Hellenistic funeral art to signify piety, was certainly common in Jewish and early Christian circles. Later Christian interpreters explained it as representing crucifixion.47 Kneeling (Acts 7:60; 9:40; 20:36; 21:5; Eph 3:14; cf. Phil 2:10) and bowing or prostrating oneself (1 Cor 14:25; cf. Rev 4:10; 7:11; 11:16; 19:4,10; 22:9) were also common, often while speaking some confessional formula - 'The Lord is Jesus!' - or doxology - 'Glory to God!'
Reading, interpreting, exhorting. For new converts, becoming acquainted with the Jewish scriptures and the ways those texts were interpreted by the followers of Messiah Jesus was evidently an essential part of resocialisation as
44 E.g. iiQPsa; iQHa; 4QShirShaba; 4QDibHama; see further the 'poetic texts' translated in Garcia Martinez, Dead Sea scrolls, 303-404; among the many studies, see Kittel, Hymns of Qumran; Sanders, Dead Sea Psalms scroll.
46 Aune, 'Worship, early Christian', 980-1.
47 Odes Sol. 27; Tert. Or. 14; Min. Fel. Oct. 29.8.
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