Fortress Press

Saving Images: The Presence of the Bible in Christian Liturgy

Saving Images

The Presence of the Bible in Christian Liturgy

Gordon W. Lathrop (Author)


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The Protestant Reformation emphasized the centrality of Scripture to Christian life; the twentieth-century liturgical movement emphasized the Bible’s place at the heart of liturgy. But we have not yet explored the place of the Bible as the subject of critical exegesis in contemporary liturgy, argues Gordon W. Lathrop. He seeks to remedy that lack because it is critical historical scholarship that has shown us the grounding of the text in the life of the assembly and the role of intertextuality in its creation. “Saving” and revitalizing images of the past are at the heart of Scripture and are the work of the gathered community. Lathrop finds patterns in biblical narratives that suggest revising our models of the “shape” of liturgy (after Dix and Schmemann) and our understanding of baptism, preaching, Eucharist, and congregational prayer. He lifts up the visual imagery at the Dura Europos house church and elsewhere as a corrective to the supersessionist impulse in much Christian typology. He identifies the liturgical imperative as seriousness about the present rather than an effort to dwell in an imagined past. Saving Images is a call for a new, reconceived biblical-liturgical movement that takes seriously both biblical scholarship and the mystery at the heart of worship.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781506406336
  • eBook ISBN 9781506406343
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 224
  • Publication Date November 15, 2017



1. Introduction: Liturgy, Bible, Images

Part One: Scripture in the Christian Meeting

2. The Rebirth of Images: Hebrew Scriptures in Christian Liturgical Use

3. Images for Reform: Paul, the Gospels, and Liturgical Renewal

4. Saving Images: The New Testament and the Purposes of Christian Worship

Part Two: The Order of the Meeting and the Scriptures

5. Ordo: The Bible, the Shape of the Liturgy, and the Classic Liturgical Texts

6. Word: Lectionary, Preaching, Hymnody

7. Meal: Biblical Shape and Biblical Images in Thanksgiving and Blessing

Part Three: Saving Images

8. Conclusion: The Bible in the Assembly 


Gordon Lathrop’s new work urges the faithful to comprehend the scriptures in multi-sensual ways.

“Gordon Lathrop’s new work urges the faithful to comprehend the scriptures in multi-sensual ways. The Bible is a text we read and we hear, but also one we enact, experience, engage, and envision in the actions of communal worship. Lathrop invites us to see and take delight with our eyes as well as our minds, and prompts us to notice and relish the sacred images in our written texts as well as those on wall and windows.”  

Robin Jensen | University of Notre Dame

A rich discussion that will greatly enhance the actual practice of the Christian assembly

“Gordon Lathrop has written a wise and remarkable book from which I have learned a great deal. He compellingly reflects on the shared work and dynamism of scripture and liturgy and sees how they converge in practical ways in the actual life of the Christian assembly. Lathrop’s deep appreciation of the generative power of images frees scripture from our excessive “historical” preoccupation. The generative work of images, fully operative in the life of the Christian congregation, resists both our thirst for certitude and our yearning for reasonableness, and opens for us transformative power that defies our “low ceilings” of certitude and reasonableness. Good Lutheran that he is, Lathrop sees that “word and sacrament” are the rich processing pad that moves from “gathering” to “sending.” This is a rich discussion that will greatly enhance the actual practice of the Christian assembly in its prayer, its singing, and its preaching.” 

Walter Brueggemann | Emeritus, Columbia Theological Seminary

Reading this book is truly an experience of mystagogy of word and table. 

“If we wish to climb inside the richness of what Gordon Lathrop does in his latest book, we cannot simply read the text. To savor not only the images of Bible and liturgy that Lathrop writes about, we best approach the text as lectio divina. The very reading of his beautiful, inspirit, informative words is prayer, is a liturgical immersion. Indeed, it takes great skill and love of Bible and liturgy to marry scholarship with prayer. Lathrop is eminently so skilled. This book has so many strengths: at once thoroughly Lutheran, yet ecumenically sensitive; at once competently scholarly, yet pastorally rich; at once converts our imaginations, yet challenges us to live each day what we receive in word and at table. Reading this book is truly an experience of mystagogy of word and table."

Joyce Ann Zimmerman, C.PP.S. | Director, Institute for Liturgical Ministry

Very few scholars are as qualified to speak to both the Bible and liturgy as Gordon Lathrop.

“Very few scholars are as qualified to speak to both the Bible and liturgy as Gordon Lathrop. Some will be surprised here to find how biblical the liturgy is. Others will be surprised to find how the Bible is so profoundly born of the liturgy. All readers will be inspired by Lathrop’s careful and instructive appraisal of the image in both Bible and liturgy. This book is a wonderful testimony to Lathrop’s passion for the Bible, for liturgy, for ecumenical engagement and for our Christian assemblies – all of this with creative attention to images and the imagination.”  

John F. Baldovin, S.J. | Boston College, School of Theology and Ministry

An enlivening, spiritual journey for all readers

 “A tour de force of biblical and patristic scholarship, Gordon Lathrop offers an original, fundamental liturgical and biblical theology that develops how the encounter of God is given in the worshipping assembly as a way of life the reaches ecumenically across churches, cultures, and mission fields. This is a must-read for scholars across theological disciplines and an enlivening, spiritual journey for all readers.” 

Timothy F. Sedgwick | Virginia Theological Seminary