Gospel Book

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The Book of Kells, c. 800, showing the lavishly decorated text that opens the Gospel of John. KellsFol292rIncipJohn.jpg
The Book of Kells, c. 800, showing the lavishly decorated text that opens the Gospel of John.

The Gospel Book, Evangelion, or Book of the Gospels (Greek: Εὐαγγέλιον, Evangélion) is a codex or bound volume containing one or more of the four Gospels of the Christian New Testament – normally all four – centering on the life of Jesus of Nazareth and the roots of the Christian faith. The term is also used of the liturgical book, also called the Evangeliary, from which are read the portions of the Gospels used in the Mass and other services, arranged according to the order of the liturgical calendar. [1]

Greek language language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Codex book with handwritten content

A codex, plural codices, is a book constructed of a number of sheets of paper, vellum, papyrus, or similar materials. The term is now usually only used of manuscript books, with hand-written contents, but describes the format that is now near-universal for printed books in the Western world. The book is usually bound by stacking the pages and fixing one edge to a bookbinding, which may just be thicker paper, or with stiff boards, called a hardback, or in elaborate historical examples a treasure binding.

Gospel description of the life of Jesus, canonical or apocryphal

Gospel originally meant the Christian message itself, but in the 2nd century it came to be used for the books in which the message was set out. The four canonical gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — were probably written between AD 66 and 110, building on older sources and traditions, and each gospel has its own distinctive understanding of Jesus and his divine role. All four are anonymous, and it is almost certain that none were written by an eyewitness. They are the main source of information on the life of Jesus as searched for in the quest for the historical Jesus. Modern scholars are cautious of relying on them unquestioningly, but critical study attempts to distinguish the original ideas of Jesus from those of the later authors. Many non-canonical gospels were also written, all later than the four, and all, like them, advocating the particular theological views of their authors.

Contents

Liturgical use in churches of a distinct Gospel book remains normal, often compulsory, in Eastern Christianity, and very common in Roman Catholicism and some parts of Anglicanism and Lutheranism. Other Protestant churches normally just use a complete Bible.

Eastern Christianity Christian traditions originating from Greek- and Syriac-speaking populations

Eastern Christianity comprises church families that developed outside the Occident, with major bodies including the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox churches, the Eastern Catholic Churches, and the denominations descended from the Church of the East. The Ukrainian Lutheran Church is also an Eastern Christian church that uses the Byzantine Rite. The term is used in contrast with Western Christianity, although its scope has been one of continual discussion. Eastern Christianity consists of the Christian traditions and churches that developed distinctively over several centuries in the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Malabar coast of South India, and parts of the Far East. The term does not describe a single communion or religious denomination. Some Eastern churches have more in common historically and theologically with Western Christianity than with one another. The various Eastern churches do not normally refer to themselves as "Eastern", with the exception of the Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Church of the East.

Anglicanism The practices, liturgy and identity of the Church of England

Anglicanism is a Western Christian tradition which has developed from the practices, liturgy and identity of the Church of England following the English Reformation.

Lutheranism branch of Protestantism based on the teachings of Martin Luther

Lutheranism is a major branch of western Christianity that identifies with the teaching of Martin Luther, a 16th century German reformer. Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the church launched the Protestant Reformation. The reaction of the government and church authorities to the international spread of his writings, beginning with the 95 Theses, divided Western Christianity.

History

Folio 72 verso of the Codex Aureus of Lorsch . Christ in Majesty LorschGospelsFolio72vChristInMajesty.jpg
Folio 72 verso of the Codex Aureus of Lorsch . Christ in Majesty

In the early Middle Ages, the production of copies of the Bible in its entirety was rare, if only because of the huge expense of the parchment required. Individual books or collections of books were produced for specific purposes. From the 4th century Gospel Books were produced for liturgical use, as well as private study and as "display books" for ceremonial and ornamental purposes. [2] The Codex Washingtonianus (Freer gospels) is an early example of a book containing only the four gospels, in Greek, written in the 4th or 5th century. By the 7th century particular gospel texts were allocated to days in the liturgical calendar; previously gospel readings had often worked through the books in sequence. [3] Many of these volumes were elaborate; the Gospel Book was the most common form of heavily illuminated manuscript until about the 11th century, when the Romanesque Bible and Psalter largely superseded it in the West. In the East they remained a significant subject for illumination until the arrival of printing. The Evangelist portrait was a particular feature of their decoration. [4] Most of the masterpieces of both Insular and Ottonian illumination are Gospel Books, [5] and there are very many Byzantine and Carolingian examples.

Middle Ages Period of European history from the 5th through the 15th centuries

In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and merged into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages is the middle period of the three traditional divisions of Western history: classical antiquity, the medieval period, and the modern period. The medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages.

Bible collection of sacred books in Judaism and Christianity

The Bible is a collection of sacred texts or scriptures. Varying parts of the Bible are considered to be a product of divine inspiration and a record of the relationship between God and humans by Christians, Jews, Samaritans, and Rastafarians.

Parchment animal skin processed for writing or painting on

Parchment is a writing material made from specially prepared untanned skins of animals—primarily sheep, calves, and goats. It has been used as a writing medium for over two millennia. Vellum is a finer quality parchment made from the skins of young animals such as lambs and young calves.

But most Gospel Books were never illuminated at all, or only with decorated initials and other touches. They often contained, in addition to the text of the Gospels themselves, supporting texts including Canon Tables, summaries, glossaries, and other explanatory material. Latin books often include the Letter of Jerome to Pope Damasus where Jerome set out to the Pope the reasoning behind his new Vulgate translation and arrangement of the texts, and many Greek ones the Epistula ad Carpianum (Letter to Carpian) of Eusebius of Caesarea explaining the Eusebian Canons he had devised. [6]

Initial letter at the beginning of a word, a chapter, or a paragraph that is larger than the rest of the text

In a written or published work, an initial or drop cap is a letter at the beginning of a word, a chapter, or a paragraph that is larger than the rest of the text. The word is derived from the Latin initialis, which means standing at the beginning. An initial is often several lines in height and in older books or manuscripts, sometimes ornately decorated.

Letter of Jerome to Pope Damasus

The Epistle of Jerome to Pope Damasus I, written in 376 or 377 AD, is a response of Jerome to an epistle from Damasus, who had urged him to make a new translational work of the Holy Scripture. The letter was written before Jerome started his translation work (382–405).

Jerome 4th and 5th-century Catholic priest, theologian, and saint

Saint Jerome was a Christian priest, confessor, theologian, and historian. He was born at Stridon, a village near Emona on the border of Dalmatia and Pannonia. He is best known for his translation of most of the Bible into Latin, and his commentaries on the Gospels. His list of writings is extensive.

Luxury illuminated gospel books were mainly a feature of the Early Middle Ages, as the evangeliary or a general lectionary gradually became more common for liturgical use, and other texts became most favoured for elaborate decoration. [7]

Early Middle Ages Period of European history lasting from the 5th century to the 10th century

The Early Middle Ages or Early Medieval Period, sometimes referred to as the Dark Ages, are typically regarded as lasting from the 5th or 6th century to the 10th century CE. They marked the start of the Middle Ages of European history. The term "Late Antiquity" is used to emphasize elements of continuity with the Roman Empire, while "Early Middle Ages" is used to emphasize developments characteristic of the earlier medieval period. As such it overlaps with Late Antiquity, following the decline of the Western Roman Empire, and precedes the High Middle Ages.

Lectionary book of scripture readings for a particular day or occasion

A lectionary is a book or listing that contains a collection of scripture readings appointed for Christian or Judaic worship on a given day or occasion. There are sub-types such as a "gospel lectionary" or evangeliary, and an epistolary with the readings from the New Testament Epistles.

Western use

In current Roman Catholic usage, the Book of the Gospels or Evangeliary [1] contains the full text of the passages from all four gospels that the deacon or priest is to read or chant at Mass in the course of the liturgical year. However, use of the Book of the Gospels is not mandatory, and the gospel readings are also included in the standard Lectionary. [8] [9]

The Evangeliary or Book of the Gospels is a liturgical book containing only those portions of the four gospels which are read during Mass or in other public offices of the Church. The corresponding terms in Latin are Evangeliarium and Liber evangeliorum.

Deacon ministry in the Christian Church

A deacon is a member of the diaconate, an office in Christian churches that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions. Some Christian churches, such as the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican church, view the diaconate as part of the clerical state; in others, the deacon remains a layperson.

Priest person authorized to lead the sacred rituals of a religion (for a minister use Q1423891)

A priest or priestess is a religious leader authorized to perform the sacred rituals of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and one or more deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities. Their office or position is the priesthood, a term which also may apply to such persons collectively.

The Book of the Gospels, if used, is brought to the altar in the entrance procession, while the Lectionary may not. [10] When carried in procession, the Book of the Gospels is held slightly elevated, though not over the head. It is particularly proper for the deacon to carry the Book of the Gospels in procession, as the reading of the gospel is his particular province. When there is no deacon, the Book may be carried by a lector. [11]

2008 Midnight Mass at The Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle in Jackson, MS FatherBrian01.jpg
2008 Midnight Mass at The Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle in Jackson, MS

Upon reaching the altar, the deacon or lector bows in veneration of the altar, then places the Book upon the altar, where it remains until the Alleluia. [12]

During the singing of the Alleluia, the deacon (who before proclaiming the gospel receives the presiding priest's blessing), or in his absence, a priest, removes the Book from the altar and processes with it to the ambo. If incense is used, the Book of the Gospels is censed by the deacon before the reading or chanting. An altar server or acolyte will swing the censer slowly during the reading or chanting. [13] The Book of the Gospels remains on the ambo until the Mass concludes, unless it is taken to a bishop to be kissed, after which it may be placed on the credence table or another appropriate and dignified place. [14]

If the Rite of Dismissal of catechumens is celebrated, the Book of the Gospels is carried in procession in front of the catechumens as they leave the church.

Episcopal Church in America

The Gospel Book at St. Mary's Episcopal Church. The Gospel Book.JPG
The Gospel Book at St. Mary's Episcopal Church.

In the Episcopal Church in the United States of America the practice of using a Gospel Book was recovered with the 1979 US Book of Common Prayer, which suggests that the lessons and gospel "be read from a book or books of appropriate size and dignity". [15] Following this several publishers have produced gospel books for use in the Episcopal Church, and other books have been privately compiled. A deacon, server or acolyte usually carries the gospel book in the entrance procession, holding the book as high as possible with arms fully extended, and places it on the altar until time for the gospel proclamation. Afterward, it may be returned to the altar or placed on a side table or a stand.

Eastern use

Eastern Orthodox

Jewelled and enamelled Gospel book belonging to Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich (Trinity Monastery, Aleksandrov). Gorskii 03989u.jpg
Jewelled and enamelled Gospel book belonging to Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich (Trinity Monastery, Aleksandrov).

Among Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholics the Gospel Book (Greek: Εὐαγγέλιον, Evangélion) is very important liturgically. It is considered to be an icon of Christ, and is venerated in the same manner as an icon.

The Gospel Book contains the readings that are used at Matins, the Divine Liturgy, Molebens, and other services. Among the Greeks the modern liturgical Gospel Book is laid out in order of the cycle of readings as they occur in the ecclesiastical year, with a section in the back providing the Gospel readings for Matins, Feasts and special occasions, and is thus strictly an evangeliary rather than a gospel book. In the Slavic usage, the Gospel Book contains the full text of the four Gospels in canonical order (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), with annotations in the margins to indicate the beginning and ending of each reading, and a table of readings in the back. Occasionally it will contain pre-arranged texts of the more complex composite readings, such as the Twelve Gospels read at Matins on Good Friday.

Traditionally, the Orthodox will never cover the Gospel Book in leatherthe skin of a dead animalbecause the words of Christ are considered to be life-giving. Animal skins are also reminiscent of the Fall of Man, when God fashioned garments of skin for Adam and Eve after their disobedience (Genesis 3:21). The Apostle Paul speaks of Christ being the "New Adam" (1 Corinthians 15:22,47-49), and the Orthodox understand Christ as coming to clothe mankind in the original "garments of light" which Adam and Eve lost in Paradise. Traditionally, the Gospel is covered in gold, the earthly element which is best symbolizes the glory of Heaven. If gold is unavailable, the Gospel may be covered in cloth.

The Gospel Book rests on the center of the Holy Table (Altar), as the Cross of Christ was planted in the center of the earth. This placement of the Gospel Book also represents the activity of Christ at the Creation (the square Altar representing the created world). The Gospel rests upon the antimension, which remains on the Altar at all times, as Christ will remain with the Church until the end of the world (Matthew 28:20). Even when the antimension is unfolded to receive the chalice and diskos, the Gospel Book is not removed from the Holy Table, but is stood upright in front of the Tabernacle.

Reading the Gospel during the Divine Liturgy. Dues2Sept21 2009.jpg
Reading the Gospel during the Divine Liturgy.

The Divine Liturgy begins with the priest lifting the Gospel Book high and making the sign of the cross with it over the Altar. The Gospel Book is carried in procession at specific times, accompanied by candles. The most frequent occurrence is during the Divine Liturgy when it is carried in the Little Entrance [16] which precedes the Epistle and Gospel readings. It is also carried in the Crucessions at Pascha and Theophany. After reading from the Gospel, the priest will bless the faithful with it. At Sunday Matins, after the Gospel reading, all come forward to venerate the Gospel Book and receive the blessing of the priest or bishop.

Whenever an Eastern Christian goes to Confession he or she will confess before a Gospel Book and the Cross. In traditional Orthodox countries, when a person takes a vow or oath, he usually does so before a Gospel Book and Cross. Near the end of the Sacred Mystery of Holy Unction, the person or persons that were anointed will kneel and the Gospel Book is opened and placed on their heads, with the writing down. While the chief priest says a special Prayer of the Gospel.

When a Bishop is Consecrated, he kneels, touching his forehead to the Altar, and the Gospel Book is opened and placed with the text down over his neck, while the consecrating bishops place their hands on the Gospel and say the Prayer of Consecration. When a Synod of bishops meets, a Gospel Book is often enthroned in a prominent place to show that Christ Himself presides over the meeting. When a priest or bishop is buried, he is buried with a Gospel Book resting on his chest, as an indication of his vocation to preach the Gospel to all men. The funeral service for a priest and bishop will have several readings from the Gospels, to indicate the importance of the Gospel to his ministry.

Armenian use

In the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Armenian Catholic Church, during the reading of the Gospel, the deacon holds a piece of fine fabric in his hands, and with that he holds the Gospel Book. It is considered improper to touch the Gospel Book with bare hands. No lectern is provided for the Gospel reading in the Armenian sanctuary.

Significant gospel books

Illuminated page from the 6th century Rossano Gospels, one of the oldest extant Gospel Books. RossanoGospelsChristBeforePilate.jpg
Illuminated page from the 6th century Rossano Gospels, one of the oldest extant Gospel Books.

See also the categories at bottom.

Notes

  1. 1 2 "General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 44" (PDF). Catholic Bishops' Conference of England & Wales. Catholic Truth Society . Retrieved 2 February 2015. Among gestures included are also actions and processions: of the priest going with the deacon and ministers to the altar; of the deacon carrying the Evangeliary or Book of the Gospels to the ambo before the proclamation of the Gospel ...
  2. Calkins, 31
  3. Calkins, 18-19
  4. Calkins, 23-29, and chapters 1 and 3
  5. Calkins, chapters 1 and 3 deals with these in turn
  6. Calkins, 25
  7. Calkins, 148-150
  8. Deiss, 36-37
  9. "The Proclamation of the Gospel at Mass" (The Catholic Liturgical Library)
  10. General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 120
  11. Deiss, 38-39
  12. Commentary, 128
  13. Paul Turner, "The Book of the Gospels"
  14. Edward McNamara, "A Place for the Book of the Gospels"
  15. 1979 US Book of Common Prayer, p. 406
  16. In the Greek usage, the processional cross and fans are used in the Little Entrance as well. With the Russians, the fans are usually only used when a Bishop is celebrating.

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References