singing up the kergyma
- Bob and all,
Finally to get to the kergymatic messaging about Jesus as the
crucified and risen Christ and a note about Psalm/ hymn singing and
poetic verse recitation "at table" as a key element in how this came
to be. Before I offer my approach to this, however, I want to simply
point out that more broadly, the kerygmatic messaging **about Jesus**
after his death was as broad and diverse as is the TANAK. After
Jesus' death various of his friends and associates dug into the
scriptures and hailed him by a great breadth of descriptions and
titles. Paul will talk about his as "the first Adam." (Romans 5)
The author of Hebrews will describe him as "the pioneer and perfecter
or our faith" (Hebrews 12) and "the High Priest after the order of
Melchizedek." (Hebrews 7, and see Psalm 110) There are the many "I
am's" of John's Gospel but also Mary Magdalene's simple "my teacher"
and Thomas' "my Lord and my God" and John's opening "the WORD made
flesh." There is Matthew's "Emmanuel" drawn from Isaiah. And with
Luke's angel song there is association with Jesus being "the Prince
of Peace" from Isaiah. All of these (and more) descriptions and
titles were utilized and are properly a part of the broad messaging
that eventually was drawn together in written works and later in the
collected written works that we call the New Testament.
Having noted that, it should come as no surprise that it was
specifically the title, "Messiah/ Christ" that came to preeminence.
Jesus' prime metaphor for talking about God's rule was the Kingdom of
God. The Lord's prayer begins with "Thy Kingdom come." In TANAK it
is the Royal Covenant of God with David to promise an everlasting
throne that held together all the promises of the God of Israel. And
finally, the Roman theology extant on Temple plaques and coin
messages promoted the Roman emperor as the anointed son of the gods.
As a summing title of all the titles and descriptions, Jesus became
to be heralded as Jesus Christ the Son of God.
Now to "singing and versing this up." Bob, the place I prefer to
look to find core post- Jesus messaging is in the baptismal formula.
You looked to the preaching of Peter as Luke records it in Acts. My
preference is to look at the core affirmational language that we find
used for teaching the entrants into the movement and used as the
confession of faith at the time of baptism. For a smile:)!...
preachers say all kinds of things and listeners doze, and think about
the football game, and take all kinds of things away from sermons:)!
But baptismal profession of faith language is language that each one
makes or is made for babies/ children as promise language (to raise
them in "the nurture and admonition of the Lord). This language is
what is truly shared and the practice of saying creeds in worship has
its roots not in abstract disputations, but rather in terms of faith
sharing in community. So you looked to Acts to find your core
messaging language from Peter, I look to Matthew and the language
that is upon the Risen Lord's lips in the Great Commission. There,
as you know, the Risen Jesus says, "Go therefore and make disciples
of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the
Son and of the Holy Spirit...." (Matthew 28:19). Likewise the
Didache uses this Baptismal formula. It is from this core language
that longer credos/ creeds were developed to teach the faith. The
earliest from the 2nd century goes like this:
"I believe in God the Father Almighty and in Jesus Christ his only
Son our Lord, and in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Church, the
forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection of the flesh."
By second century's end we find both Ireneus and Tertullian talking
about the Old Roman Symbol that fills this out. It is that Symbol
that became the base both for the Nicene Fathers in the 4th century
and for Charlemagne's bishop, Alcuin, who promoted the Apostle's
Creed as we know after he became Emperor in 800. But again, before
later systematic theological disputation, the credo/ Symbol language
was educational and sacramental. It was the claim language that was
shared by all who took part in community. So it is that language I
want to focus on as the post Jesus' death "core messaging." And from
whence does this language come?
Quite simply it comes from the songs and poems of Israelite
Scripture. Below I'll point out key Psalms/ other poetic texts and
simply list out core phrases that stand behind or a part of the
Baptismal formula. Herein I'll note key phrases and line.
Let me start with the simplest three part formula (Father/ Son/
Spirit) and then go on to show the references for the later editions.
God as Father: Psalm 103:13 "As a father has compassion for his
children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him."
Jesus as anointed son of God: Psalm 2:7 "[God] said to me, 'You are
The Holy Spirit: Psalm 104:30 "When you [God] send forth your
spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground."
Moving on to the later additions to the simple three fold formula:
Almighty: Psalm 103:19 "The Lord has established his throne in the
heavens, and his kingdom rules over all."
Maker [Creator] of heaven and earth: Psalm 148:6 (speaking of the
heavens, angels, sun, moon, shining stars, waters under the
heavens... and on to all features and creatures on earth" "He
established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which
cannot be passed." And so our creator: Psalm 100:3 "Know that the
Lord is God. It is he that made us and we are his..."
Jesus as the anointed/ begotten one: Psalm 2:6 and onto the rest of
v. 7: "I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill... today I have
begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage
and the ends of the earth your possession. Verse two uses the
expression, "the Lord and his anointed."
born of "a virgin" from Isaiah 7:14 "Therefore the Lord himself
will give us a sign. Look a young woman (virgin) is with child and
shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel."
sufferings, redemptive death, burial: Psalm 22:13-18, here just
noting v. 15 "... my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my
tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of the earth." And
of course, see Isaiah 52:13-53:12... here noting v. 9-10 "They made
his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had
done no violence and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet is was
the will of the Lord to crush him with pain. When you make an
offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his
days; through him the will of the Lord shall prosper."
vindication, triumph, resurrection, glorification: Psalm 22:21b-31
has the triumph/ vindication words v.21 b noted here: "From the
horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me." Psalm 118:17 "I shall
not die, but shall live and recount the deeds of the Lord." Job
19:25-26 "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last
he will stand upon the earth, and after my skin has thus been
destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God."
eternal rule: Psalm 146:10 "The Lord will reign forever, your God,
O Zion for all generations. Praise the Lord!"
the judge. Psalm 9:8 "He judges the world with righteousness, he
judges the people with equity."
the holy assembly: Psalm 89:5 "Let the heavens' praise your
wonders, O Lord, you faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones."
the communion of the saints: Psalm 89:4 "I will establish your
descendants forever and build your throne for all generations."
the forgiveness of sins: Psalm 103:10-12 "He does not deal with us
according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities...."
resurrection of the body: Ezekiel 37:12-14 "...Thus says the Lord:
I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O
the life everlasting: Psalm 23:6 "...and I shall dwell in the
house of the Lord forever."
In the songs and poetic verses of Israelite scriptures we find all of
this language of affirmation and in the catechetical/ baptismal
formulas it is this kind of poetics that was gathered. My simple
point is, that it was singing "at table" that was foundational to
this gathering of words/ poetics. The youngest children learn to
sing. Illiterate folks learn to sing orally from others. Poetic
verse memorization and recitation does not take the gift of reading
or writing. In the ancient world... and still with children to this
day, it is rhymes and songs that teach. In short I think the kerygma
was "sung up" most especially from the Psalms.
And finally, we do have evidences of both new song writing and
poetic/ metaphorical creativity in the materials we have. Most think
the opening of John's Gospel was a hymn. It's scriptural roots are
from Genesis 1 and Proverbs 8:22 ff. We have the kenotic hymn that
Paul cites in Philippians 2 which has roots in Isaiah 52/3. And
Paul's 13th chapter of I Cor. is a highly poetic piece. If one keeps
in mind the free creativity that goes with singing, then it is easy
to follow the poetic creativity that flows from the ancient
traditions of singing and verse recital that the followers "the Way."
Per Hal Taussing's title: "In the beginning was the meal." And at
those tables they sang... about God's rule, about the Way and after
he was gone, about Jesus who in many and various ways embodied "the