The Dance Goes On

I have been following the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible series with great interest since the publication of its first volume over ten years ago.  The central premise of the series is that “the Nicene tradition, in all of its diversity and controversy, provides the proper basis for the interpretation of the Bible as Christian scripture.” 1 Alongside of this foundational commitment, the series is also set apart by its enlistment (for the most part) of theologians, as opposed to scholars within the guild of biblical studies, to serve as commentators on each book of the Bible.  Contributors have included Jaroslav Pelikan, Stanley Hauerwas, Robert Jenson, Joseph Mangina and Ephraim Radner.  The aim has been to produce a commentary series that could “serve the church and demonstrate the continuing intellectual and practical viability of theological interpretation of the Bible.” 2  While there has been great diversity in the way the various theologians have approached their task, which has admittedly contributed to a certain unevenness across the different volumes, in my opinion, the series has largely been successful in meeting its stated goals.

I’m currently reading one of the most recently published volumes – Robert Barron’s commentary on 2 Samuel.  Barron, a Roman Catholic priest and auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, is the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.  He is somewhat of a celebrity on account of his popular YouTube videos in which he addresses contemporary issues and explains aspects of the Christian faith in a concise and accessible manner for the Internet generation.  Barron has included some commentary on the story of King David’s dancing before the ark of the covenant (2 Sam. 6), which ties in with theme of the dance of the resurrection from my previous post.

“Only in light of the connection to Adam can we fully understand the energetic dance of the king before the ark of Yahweh.  Before the fall, Adam walked in easy fellowship with Yahweh, thinking his thoughts, feeling his feelings, moving as he moved.  He danced in unison with Yahweh.  Sin is nothing but a falling out of step with God, an insistence upon dancing to one’s own rhythm.  The whole of the history of salvation might be characterized as Yahweh’s attempt to restore the sacred dance, to get his human creatures to move with him.  Accordingly David, dancing with energy before the ark, is humanity dancing with Yahweh, recovering the effortless harmony of Eden.  Some argue that the gestures and movements of the priests in the Jerusalem temple were intended to mimic, in a stylized way, the exuberant dance of King David.  And since the ritual moves of the Byzantine and Catholic Masses trace their origins to the temple, the conclusion could be made that the processions, gestures, and bows of Christian priests today participate in the priesthood of the kind who wore the ephod as he danced before the ark.” 3

Barron’s employment of the metaphor of the sacred dance is illuminating.  I would be inclined though to push back a little bit on his final sentence through recourse to the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers.  Perhaps the worship of a contemporary Pentecostal congregation in the Global South might even more clearly participate in David’s dancing “with all his might” before the ark.

  1. R.R. Reno, series preface in Robert Barron, 2 Samuel (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2015), xiv.
  2. Barron, 2 Samuel, back cover.
  3. Ibid., 59.

2 thoughts on “The Dance Goes On”

  1. As much as I appreciate the ritual gestures of Orthodox and Roman Catholic priests, I think they could use a few lessons on how to ‘let their backbones slide.’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *