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Liturgy: Etymology. A. Leitourge ō / Leitourgia in non-biblical Greek. Leitourgein = l ēitos (“concerning the people or national community”) + ergon (“action”, “activity”)

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Liturgy: Etymology

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a leitourge leitourgia in non biblical greek
A. Leitourgeō / Leitourgia in non-biblical Greek
  • Leitourgein = lēitos (“concerning the people or national community”) + ergon (“action”, “activity”)
  • Basic meaning: “to do things which are related, not to private concerns, but to the national community as a political unity, or the ‘body politic’.”
  • More precisely: “to render service to the people as a common political entity by discharging a true task for society”
technical political usage
Technical Political Usage

Citizens with an income above a fixed level had by law to accept specific services at their own expense, although the could also do so voluntarily for motives of patriotism, vainglory, or both.

  • Regular solemn liturgies feeing the phyla
  • Extraordinary liturgies for extraordinary needs (e.g., paying military taxes)
  • Special liturgies involving the metoikoi
political usage extended
Political Usage Extended
  • Public and constitutionally regulated services in the discharge of all kinds of compulsory tasks and the execution of all possible offices
    • Questions of obligation, limitation, appointment
    • Complaints about the burdens imposed
    • Request for exemption
weaker popular use
Weaker Popular Use
  • From a wider technical use there develops a general and non-technical use in which the words simply denote rendering a service and the significance of lēitos is lost
    • Private services of slaves/workers to their masters/taskmasters
    • Suckling of young by mother animals
    • Services friends render to one another
    • Services rendered by father to a son
    • Services rendered by organs to the body
specialized cultic use
Specialized Cultic Use
  • The idea is not that one can render service to the nation through the cultus
  • Rather the very general idea of service is applied to the cultic relation to the gods, and it is applied in such a way that there is an approximation to a new technical usage
b leitourge leitourgia in lxx and hellenistic judaism
B. Leitourgeō / Leitourgia in LXX and Hellenistic Judaism
  • Leitourgeō occurs c. 100x in LXX, first in Ex 28:35. Most of the instances are found in Exodus 28-39 (13); Numbers (25); Chronicles (20); and Ezechiel 40-46 (16)
  • Translates sheret when the reference is cultic
  • Also applies to the worship of idols and Astarte (Ez 44:12; 2 Ch 15:16)
Leitourgia occurs c. 40x in LXX
  • Translates abodah when the reference is cultic
  • With the exception of 2 Kings 19:19 where there is a reference to a leitourgia to the king, the term is always used of the ministry of the priests and levites in and at the sanctuary, especially the ministry of the priests at the altar
Relation of LXX use to non-biblical Greek:
    • The object of leitourgia is neither the city, state, people, citizens, nor specific individuals
    • The object of leitourgia is the tent, the house, the altar, God Himself, or the Name of God
    • The recipient of the service is God, not the people, though the service promotes the national welfare, which depends on the gracious disposition of God.
    • The people receives the sacrifice merely to the degree that it can offer its sacrifices only through the mediation of the priest, a cultus that is official, legally prescribed, and solemn.
leitouge leitourgia in the new testament
Leitougeō / Leitourgia in the New Testament
  • Leitourgein occurs 3x: Acts 13:2; Romans 15:27; Hebrews 10:11
  • Leitourgia occurs 6x: Luke 1:23; 2 Corinthians 9:12; Philippians 2:17, 30; Hebrews 8:6; 9:21
  • Leitourgos occurs 5x: Romans 13:6; 15:16; Philippians 2:25; Hebrews 1:7; 8:2
  • Leitourgikos occurs 1x: Hebrews 1:14
  • Civic service
    • Romans 13:6: “For the same reason, you should also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers [leitourgoi] of God, attending to this very thing.”
Heavenly service
    • Hebrews 1:7: “Of the angels he says: ‘Who makes his angels winds, and his servants [leitourgous] flames of fire.”
    • Hebrews 1:14: “Are [angels] not all ministering [leitourgika] spirits sent forth to serve, for the skae of those who are to obtain salvation?”
    • Hebrews 8:2: “[Christ is] a minister [leitourgos] in the sanctuary and the true tent which is set up not by man but by the Lord.”
Christian community service:
    • Romans 15:27b: “For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service [leitourgēsai] to them in material blessings.”
    • 2 Corinthians 9:12: “For the rendering of this service [leitourgias] not only supplies the wants of the saints but also overflows in many thanksgivings to God.”
    • Philippians 2:25: “I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister [leitourgon] to my need…”
    • Philippians 2:30: “For [Epaphroditus] nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete your service [leitourgias] to me.”
Jewish cultic worship:
    • Hebrews 9:21: “And in the same way [Moses] sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship [leitourgias].”
    • Hebrews 10:11: “And every priest stands daily at his service [leitourgōn], offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.”
    • Luke 1:23: “And when his time of service [leitourgias] was ended, [Zechariah] went to his home.”
“Spiritualized” Jewish cultic worship:
    • Philippians 2:17: “Even if I am to be poured as a libation upon the sacrificial offering [leitourgia] of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.”
    • Hebrews 8:6: “But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry [leitourgias] which is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better…”
    • Romans 15:16: “To be a minister [leitourgon] of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”
Distinctively Christian communal prayer:
    • Acts 13:2 “While they were worshiping [leitourgein] the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said: ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’”