The Accuser and the Advocate in Jewish Liturgy -- By: Charles Lee Feinberg

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 116:463 (Jul 1959)
Article: The Accuser and the Advocate in Jewish Liturgy
Author: Charles Lee Feinberg

The Accuser and the Advocate in Jewish Liturgy

Charles Lee Feinberg

[Charles L. Feinberg is Director of Talbot Theological Seminary, Los Angeles, California, and Professor of Semitics and Old Testament Literature.]

The liturgy of the synagogue is contained in two main sources, the daily prayer book (the Siddur) and a series of prayer books (Machzor) for the chief festivals of the Jewish calendar, that is, the New Year, the Day of Atonement, and the pilgrim festivals of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. What the Machzor has to say on so important a subject as atonement is stated by Gabe: “As it is, much has been written on the Christian dogma of the Atonement, for instance, and various views have been expounded carefully and systematically on that subject; but very little exhaustive research has been done by Christian theologians into the idea of Atonement in Judaism, although a Machzor of over 350 pages of medium size (8 in. x 5¼ in.) containing a considerable amount of matter in very small print is required for the proper observance of that most solemn of Jewish fasts. The contents of this document—although not hidden in any particular cave—are, to the Church, almost terra incognita. If the Church became intimately acquainted with the Machzor, her Gospel would acquire additional meanings even for herself.”1

The contents of the prayers of Israel are significant for the student of the Word of God, because they express the religious sentiments and the aspirations of the nation.2 The religious leaders in Israel worked diligently on the liturgy, for there are no less than seventy-three commentators on difficult portions of the prayer book.3 Oesterley and Box, non-Jewish scholars who have made an exhaustive study of the primary sources of Jewish liturgy, have expressed themselves in this manner: “The importance and interest of the Jewish

Liturgy—especially, of course, in its earlier elements-for the study of Christian origins is not generally recognised…there is an immense deal in the Jewish Liturgy which is of profound importance and interest for the student of Christian origins…In the primitive Church Order contained in the Didache, chaps. vii-xv., the prayers are distinctly Jewish in character and reveal many phrases and ideas which are to be found in the Jewish Liturgy.”4

The first development of the liturgy was, doubtless, a spontaneous one of prayers and thanksgivings, at times incorporating historical events ...

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