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With One Voice: Elements of Acclamation in Early Jewish Liturgical Poetry

  • Laura S. Lieber (a1)

In this essay, the Rosh Hashanah Shofar service poems by the Jewish poet Yose ben Yose (fourth or fifth century CE, Land of Israel) are read through the lens of the Late Antique practice of acclamation. Yose's surviving body of works is limited, but he was influential within the Jewish tradition, and his poems have long been noted for their use of formal features such as fixed-word repetitions and refrains—features which align not only with poetic norms from the biblical period to Late Antiquity but also with the practice of acclamation. Jews attended (and performed in) the theater and games; they were familiar with rhetorical and oratorical training and related literary norms; and they were integrated socially, commercially, and politically into diverse and varied communities. The affinity of Jewish liturgical poetry from antiquity for other forms of poetic composition reflects Jews’ general embeddedness in Late Ancient culture. Reading Yose's poetry as shaped by the conventions of acclamation highlights how Yose and his congregants were not only distinctly Jewish but also thoroughly Roman.

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1 Salaminius Hermias Sozomen, Historia Ecclesiastica 8.8 (PG 67:1536–1537).

2 Shaw, Brent D., Sacred Violence: African Christians and Sectarian Hatred in the Age of Augustine (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011) 449, 455. Chapter 10 of this volume, “Sing a New Song,” deals extensively with acclamations in the African church of the late-4th and early-5th centuries (pp. 441–89).

3 Shaw, Sacred Violence, 452.

4 See Roueché, Charlotte, Performers and Partisans at Aphrodisias in the Roman and Late Roman Periods (London: Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, 1993); also, eadem, “Acclamations in the Later Roman Empire: New Evidence from Aphrodisias,” Journal of Roman Studies 74 (1984): 181–99.

5 Fagan, Garrett G., The Lure of the Arena: Social Psychology and the Crowd at the Roman Games (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011); Popular Culture in the Ancient World (ed. Lucy Grig; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016); and, with reference to Jewish contexts, see Weiss, Zeev, Public Spectacles in Roman and Late Antique Palestine (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014), and Loren R. Spielman, “Sitting with Scorners: Jewish Attitudes toward Roman Spectacle Entertainment from the Herodian Period through the Muslim Conquest” (Ph.D. diss., Jewish Theological Seminary, 2010).

6 Aldrete, Gregory S., Gestures and Acclamation in Ancient Rome (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999); Ando, Clifford, Imperial Ideology and Provincial Loyalty in the Roman Empire (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000); Cameron, Alan, Circus Factions: Blues and Greens at Rome and Byzantium (Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1976); and Williams, Michael Stuart, “Hymns as Acclamations: The Case of Ambrose of Milan,” Journal of Late Antiquity 6 (2013): 108–34.

7 On Chrysostom, see Sozomen, Historia Ecclesiastica 8.8 (PG 67:1536–1537); and Socrates Scholasticus, Historia Ecclesiastica 6.8 (PG 67:687–692). Speaking to the earlier period, Jeffrey, Peter thoroughly explores “Philo's Impact on Christian Psalmody,” in Psalms in Community: Jewish and Christian Textual, Liturgical, and Artistic Traditions (ed. Attridge, Harold and Fassler, Margot; Leiden: Brill, 2004) 147–88.

8 See, for example, Fleischer, Ezra, “The Influence of Choral Elements on the Formation and Development of Piyyut Genres,” Yuval 3 (1974): 1848 [Hebrew]. Relying largely on internal Jewish sources, he asserts that Jewish congregations were largely passive until the 6th century, when professional choirs were possibly added to assist the cantor in liturgical transitions. While Fleischer credits Andalusian poets with the innovative desire fully to involve the congregation in piyyuṭ, scholarship since the 1970s has taken a more contextual approach to the study of early hymnography, and these contextual sources argue strongly in favor of some form of participation. Note the discussion in Shiloah, Amnon, Jewish Musical Traditions (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1992) 111–29. As these studies delineate, professional choirs, lay choirs, and full congregational participation were all known models available in this period, and in addition to aesthetics, factors such as finances and population size likely influenced norms of liturgical performance in every setting. However, the urban-rural divide remains significantly understudied. For an innovative initial analysis of this basic element of synagogue worship, see Spigel, Chad, Ancient Synagogue Seating Capacities: Methodology, Analysis and Limits (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012). Even scholars who minimize congregational activity recognize that the Holy Days—Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the month of Elul that precedes these holy days—differed in terms of inviting more community involvement. The penitential litanies of the seliḥot prayers, for example, obviously invite congregational participation through their highly repetitive formulations. See Lieber, Laura S., “Confessing from A–Z: Penitential Forms in Early Synagogue Poetry,” in Penitential Prayer: Origins, Development, and Impact (ed. Boda, Mark J., Falk, Daniel K., and Werline, Rodney; 3 vols.; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2008) 3:99125. The texts I examined in that article are often litanies rather than poetry, but could easily serve as examples of (non-poetic) acclamations. It is significant that the poetry of Yose examined here was composed for this particularly participatory liturgical season.

9 Within the Jewish context, where the idea of “congregational refrain” has become more commonly accepted, see Novick, Michael Tzvi, “The Poetics of Yannai's Sixth: Between Scripture, God, and Congregation,” in Giving a Diamond: Essays in Honor of Joseph Yahalom on the Occasion of His Seventieth Birthday (ed. van Bekkum, Wout and Katsumata, Naoya; Leiden: Brill, 2011) 6981; Lieber, Laura S., “The Rhetoric of Participation: The Experiential Elements of Early Hebrew Liturgical Poetry,” Journal of Religion 90 (2010): 119–47; and Schleifer, Eliyahu, “Jewish Liturgical Music from the Bible to Hasidism,” in Sacred Sound and Social Change: Liturgical Music in Jewish and Christian Experience (ed. Hoffman, Lawrence and Walton, Janet; Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1992) 1358. In regard to refrains in Greek and Syriac hymnography, see Arentzen, Thomas’s recent study of refrains in Romanos, “Voices Interwoven: Refrains and Vocal Participation in the Kontakia,” in Jahrbuch der Österreichischen Byzantinistik 66 (2016): 111; and Margot Fassler and Peter Jeffrey, “Christian Liturgical Music from the Bible to the Renaissance,” in Sacred Sound and Social Change, 84–123. On the general context of Hellenistic and later antiquity, see Furley, William D. and Bremer, Jan Maarten, Greek Hymns: Selected Cult Songs from the Archaic to the Hellenistic Period (Studies and Texts in Antiquity and Christianity 9–10; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001), esp. 1:2034; and Alexiou, Margaret, After Antiquity: Greek Language, Myth and Metaphor (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002), esp. 52–65. Among the Syriac terms Alexiou regards as relevant to the study of the early Greek kontakia is ma'mitha (refrain).

10 The bibliography on Jews as members and active participants in the culture of Late Antiquity has increased significantly in recent years, and a number of such works are cited below. In addition to works cited elsewhere in this essay, notable volumes include Sivertsev, Alexei, Judaism and Imperial Ideology in Late Antiquity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011); Schremer, Adiel, Brothers Estranged: Heresy, Christianity and Jewish Identity in Late Antiquity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010); Schwartz, Seth, Were the Jews a Mediterranean Society? Reciprocity and Solidarity in Ancient Judaism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010); Levine, Lee I., The Ancient Synagogue: The First Thousand Years (2nd ed.; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005); Fine, Steven, Art and Judaism in the Greco-Roman World: Towards a New Jewish Archaeology (2nd ed.; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), and the anthology edited by Fine, Jews, Christians, and Polytheists in the Ancient Synagogue (London: Routledge, 1999). Material culture and physical space are increasingly recognized as an important source for understanding the Roman-ness of Jewry in Late Antiquity; see, for example, Klein, Gil, “Torah in triclinia: The Rabbinic Banquet and the Significance of Architecture,” Jewish Quarterly Review 102 (2012): 325370, and Fonrobert, Charlotte, “Neighborhood as Ritual Space: The Case of the Rabbinic Eruv,” Archiv für Religionsgeschichte 10 (2008): 239–58.

11 See Yahalom, Joseph, Poetry and Society in the Galilee in Late Antiquity (Tel Aviv: Kibbutz Hame'uchad, 1999). Through Yahalom's work, the work of Roberts, Michael (The Jeweled Style: Poetry and Poetics in Late Antiquity [Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989]) has become a touchstone. It is increasingly common to see hymnography studied comparatively; see Münz-Manor, Ophir, “Liturgical Poetry in the Late Antique Near East: A Comparative Approach,” Journal of Ancient Judaism 1 (2010): 336–61; and Lieber, Laura S., “Theater of the Holy: Jewish Piyyut, Christian Hymnography, and the Rhetoric of the Late Ancient Stage,” Harvard Theological Review 108 (2015): 327–55. Jewish, Christian, and Samaritan poetry should be approached as distinctive instantiations of a common practice.

12 The Oxford Latin Dictionary offers the following definition of acclamatio: “1. Shouting, bawling. 2. A shout of comment (spec.) b. of disapproval. c. of approval.”

13 Roueché, “Acclamation in the Later Roman Empire,” 181.

14 Liebeschuetz, J.H.W.G., Antioch: City and Imperial Administration in the Late Roman Empire (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972) 209. Also note Maxwell, Jaclyn, Christianization and Communication in Late Antiquity: John Chrysostom and His Congregation in Antioch (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), esp. 42–64; and Bell, Peter N., Social Conflict in the Age of Justinian: Its Nature, Management, and Mediation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), who uses the term “acclamation culture” to describe Late Antiquity.

15 Aldrete, Gestures and Acclamations in Ancient Rome, 101.

16 Roueché, “Acclamation in the Later Roman Empire,” 181.

17 Williams, “Hymns as Acclamations,” 109.

18 Acclamations survive from an array of periods and locations, from Rome proper to Constantinople to the provinces; see Aldrete, Gestures and Acclamations in Ancient Rome, 101–27; Alan Cameron, Circus Factions, 262–70; and Williams, “Hymns as Acclamations,” 116.

19 For example, Derek Krueger explains how acclamations could be translated into the congregational context in his analysis of a poem by the great hymnographer of 6th-century Constantinople, Romanos the Melodist. He writes, “When the congregation joins in the refrain, they too yearn to participate appropriately in praising God, to take the acclamation of the innocent children [of the stanza's refrain] occurring in a conflated past and present—as their cue for celebration” (Liturgical Subjects: Christian Ritual, Biblical Narrative, and the Formation of the Self in Byzantium [Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014] 88). Also see Arentzen's recent study of refrains in Romanos, “Voices Interwoven: Refrains and Vocal Participation in the Kontakia.”

20 Aldrete, Gestures and Acclamations in Ancient Rome, 129–30.

21 On “speech at volume,” see Harvey, Susan Ashbrook, “Patristic Worlds,” in Patristic Studies in the Twenty-First Century: Proceedings of an International Conference to Mark the 50th Anniversary of the International Association for Patristic Studies (ed. Bitton-Ashkelony, Brouria, et al.; Belgium: Brepols, 2015) 2553.

22 See Cameron, Averil, The Later Roman Empire, AD 284–430 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993) 176; Alan Cameron, Circus Factions, 157–229; and Fagan, The Lure of the Arena, 121–54.

23 On call-and-response singing and chanting, see Gioia, Ted, Work Songs (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006); Sylvan, Robin, Traces of the Spirit: The Religious Dimensions of Popular Song (New York: NYU Press, 2002); Manabe, Noriko, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Protest Music After Fukushima (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015); and Crawford, Evans E. and Troeger, Thomas H., The Hum: Call and Response in African American Preaching (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995).

24 Tacitus describes a group of rural Italians compelled at sword-point to attend, and appreciate, a theatrical performance by Nero; these rustics, unlike the Roman plebs, were unfamiliar with the norms of urban acclamation (“not competent to their degrading task [labori inhonesto]”) and failed to participate in the complex acclamations of the customary audience. As Tacitus describes them, “They flagged with inexperienced hands; they deranged the experts” (Ann. 16:5 [trans. John Jackson; Loeb Classical Library 322; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1937], 342–45). The inexperience of these rustics stands in contrast to the skill of the urban plebs who, as Aldrete notes, “became particularly adept at learning and using complex rhythmic formulas, both those that were verbal and those that involved clapping” (146).

25 Shaw, Sacred Violence, 441–89, offers the texts of a number of representative acclamations. See also Roueché, Performers and Partisans, for examples of epigraphic acclamatory texts from Aphrodisias.

26 See Ando, Imperial Ideology, 202; Cameron, Circus Factions, 219–40; Roueché, “Acclamations in the Later Roman Empire,” 184–87; and Williams, “Hymns as Acclamations,” 116. As these sources explain, during the Roman Republic, there were four racing factions: Reds, Whites, Blues, and Greens. By the 6th century, only two factions (Blues and Greens) remained, but they constituted powerful social forces in the Eastern Empire. Their activities at races often precipitated riots, including the Nika riots against Justinian in 532 CE. In the course of the Nika riots, nearly half of Constantinople was burned or destroyed and 30,000 people were killed. The cry of “victory, victory!” (nika, nika) was conventionally shouted at the racing charioteers; here it was shouted at the Emperor Justinian, transforming the cheer into an acclamation of sorts. Jews were regarded as supporters of the Greens in contrast to the “Orthodox” supporters of the Blues (see Theophanes, 1:181:35–182:25, in The Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor: Byzantine and Near Eastern History AD 284–813 [ed. and trans. C. Mango and R. Scott; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997] 276–77). While Blues and Greens were once regarded as nascent political parties, Cameron's Circus Factions argued that such assumptions overstate the importance of politics and underestimate that of sports and entertainment in antiquity (see esp. pp. 149–52 and 318–33). In addition to Cameron's pivotal study, see Geoffrey Greatrex, “The Nika Revolt: A Reappraisal,” in the Journal of Hellenic Studies 117 (1997): 60–86; and van der Horst, Pieter, “Jews and Blues in Late Antiquity,” Jews and Christians in the Graeco-Roman Context (ed. Greatrex, Geoffrey; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006) 5358.

27 The Chrysostom passage appears above as the epigraph; see Liebeschuetz, J. H. W. G., Ambrose and John Chrysostom: Clerics Between Desert and Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011) 232–33.

28 Williams, “Hymns as Acclamations,” 118.

29 Roueché, “Acclamations in the Later Roman Empire,” 186–87.

30 Harvey, “Patristic Worlds,” 42. This applies to the examples of both Ambrose and Chrysostom, as well.

31 For overviews of Jewish and Christian liturgical poetry in Late Antiquity from a comparative perspective, see Münz-Manor, “Liturgical Poetry in the Late Antique Near East: A Comparative Approach” and Laura S. Lieber, “Theater of the Holy: Jewish Piyyut, Christian Hymnography, and the Rhetoric of the Late Ancient Stage.” For a concise introduction to the poetry of Ephrem (who was Yose's contemporary), see McVey, Kathleen’s translation of selected works, Ephrem the Syrian: Hymns (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1989) as well as Brock, Sebastian P., “Poetry and Hymnography (3): Syriac” in The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies (ed. Harvey, Susan Ashbrook and Hunter, David G.; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008) 657–71.

32 A survey of this material can be found in Weiss, Public Spectacles in Roman and Late Antique Palestine; see also Spielman, “Sitting with Scorners,” and Chancey, Mark A., Greco-Roman Culture and the Galilee of Jesus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), esp. 100–21.

33 Panayotov, Alexander, “Jews and Jewish Communities in the Balkans and Aegean,” in The Jewish-Greek Tradition in Antiquity and the Byzantine Empire (ed. Aitken, James K. and Paget, James Carleton; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014) 61. Lehmann, Clayton M. and Holum, Kenneth G., The Greek and Latin Inscriptions of Caesarea Maritima (Boston: ASOR, 2000) 6567, catalogues four literary acclamations in Greek from the mid-4th to 7th centuries CE, but none are identifiably Jewish. More generally, see van der Horst, Pieter Willem, Ancient Jewish Epitaphs: An Introductory Survey of a Millennium of Jewish Funerary Epigraphy, 300 BCE–700 CE (Kampen: Pharos, 1991).

34 1 Sam 10:24: “And Samuel said to the people, ‘Do you see the one whom the Lord has chosen? There is none like him among all the people!’ And all the people shouted (), saying, ‘Long live the king!’”; 1 Kgs 1:39: “The priest Zadok took the horn of oil from the Tent and anointed Solomon. They sounded the shofar and all the people shouted, ‘Long live King Solomon!’” (Translations are the author's.)

35 On the innovative elements of piyyuṭ compared to biblical poetry and biblicizing genres such as the Hodayyot of Qumran, see Lieber, Laura S., Yannai on Genesis: An Invitation to Piyyut (Cincinnati, OH: Hebrew Union College Press, 2010) 712.

36 For an analysis of Jewish, Christian, and Samaritan poetry written in Aramaic, see Pereira, A. S. Rodrigues, Studies in Aramaic Poetry (c. 100 B.C.E.–c. 600 C.E.): Selected Jewish, Christian and Samaritan Poems (Leiden: Brill, 1997). Augustine recounts the importance of hymn-singing among Manicheans in his youth (Contra Faust. 13.18 and 15.5–6).

37 For an analysis of how other structural features of biblical poetry—acrostics and rhythm—become central in poetry in the time of Yose ben Yose, see Münz-Manor, Ophir, “Figurative Language in Pre-Classical Piyyut: Between Biblical Models and Poetic Innovations,” Jerusalem Studies in Hebrew Literature 24 (2011): 1–22 [Hebrew].

38 On the practice of responsorial psalmody in Late Antiquity, see Frank, Georgia, “Sensing Ascension in Early Byzantium,” in Experiencing Byzantium: Papers from the 44th Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies (ed. Nesbitt, Claire and Jackson, Mark P. C.; Surrey, U.K.: Ashgate Publishing, 2013) 293309.

39 See the Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael on Exod. 15:1, as well as t. Pesachim 10:7 and t. Sotah 6:2–3. As Stefan Reif notes in regards to the tradition in the Mekhilta: “Three teachers from the tannaitic period compared its declamation [viz., that of the Hallel psalms] to that of the Song at the Sea (Exodus 15), namely, antiphonally by a prayer-leader and community, but each had a different concept of the precise form taken by such an exchange” (Problems with Prayers: Studies in the Textual History of Early Rabbinic Liturgy [Berlin: DeGruyter, 2006] 85). The fluidity of performance noted by the Mekhilta accords with the dynamic nature of acclamation.

40 On biblical texts in Jewish liturgy, see Langer, Ruth, “Biblical Texts in Jewish Prayers: Their History and Function,” in Jewish and Christian Liturgy and Worship: New Insights into its History and Interaction (ed. Gerhards, Albert and Leonhard, Clemens; Leiden: Brill, 2007) 6390; Newman, Judith H., Praying by the Book: The Scripturalization of Prayer in Second Temple Judaism (Atlanta: Society for Biblical Literature, 1999); and Prayers that Cite Scripture (ed. James Kugel; Cambridge: Harvard University Center for Jewish Studies, 2006).

41 See Novick, “The Poetics of Yannai's Sixth,” and Lieber, “The Rhetoric of Participation.”

42 The complete body of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic poetry was published by Yahalom, Joseph and Sokoloff, Michael, Shirat Bene Ma'arava: Jewish Palestinian Poetry from Late Antiquity (Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1999).

43 See, for example, Poem #8 (for Passover) which has a fourfold refrain: “The Lord reigns . . . the Lord has reigned . . . the Lord will reign. . . . In His great house He will reign over us forever and ever!” (Yahalom and Sokoloff, Shirat Bene Ma'arava, 98–101). Similarly, several laments for the Ninth of Av are written as “braided chains,” with fixed word incipits and refrains; for example, Poem #19 has a structure in which every unit begins “Oh how . . .” and ends with “until the Lord will look down and see from heaven” (Yahalom and Sokoloff, Shirat Bene Ma'arava, 152–55). JPA hymns cannot be precisely dated, however. Therefore we do not know if these works predate Yose, are contemporary with him, or post-date him; nor do we know how they functioned in the synagogue.

44 A bilingual edition of early Avodah poetry by Yose ben Yose and others is Swartz, Michael D. and Yahalom, Joseph, Avodah: Ancient Poems for Yom Kippur (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2005). Yose's shofar service poems remain in the liturgy of Ashkenazi Jews as part of the traditional second day of Rosh Hashanah; see Maḥzor for the Days of Awe: According to Ashkenazi Custom, (ed. Daniel Goldshmidt; 2 vols.; Jerusalem: Koren, 1970) 238–42 (malkhiyyot), 251–56 (zikhronot), and 265–70 (šopharot) [Hebrew].

45 The best synopsis of the convoluted history of Yose's dating remains the introduction to the critical edition of his works by Mirsky, Aharon, Yosse ben Yosse: Poems (2nd ed.; Jerusalem: Bialik, 1991) 1216 [Hebrew].

46 It is most likely that Yose's refrains were performed communally. Jewish choirs are not definitively attested until the 10th century in Babylonia, in the ceremony celebrating the installation of the Exilarch recorded by Nathan ha-Bavli (full text in: Stillman, N., The Jews in Arab Lands [Philadelphia: JPS, 1979] 171–75), although Fleischer (“The Influence of Choral Elements on the Formation and Development of Piyyut Genres”) hypothesizes their existence as early as the 6th century, in response to the elaborate compositions by Qallir. The popularity of choirs in church services suggests their presence in some synagogues, but at present the discussion remains speculative. Furthermore, it is plausible that performance varied by community or congregation, influenced by multiple factors (population density, communal wealth, etc.).

47 For the texts of these three poems, see Mirsky, Yosse ben Yosse, 93–117. It is important to note that the precise connotation of the repeated word varies throughout the poem; for example, “kingship” can refer to God's divine majesty or the false power of earthly rulers. In this, Yose's fixed-word refrains resemble those of other poets, such as Romanos, whose artistry involves placing the same key word into the mouths of various speakers (see Arentzen, “Voices Interwoven: Refrains and Vocal Participation in the Kontakia”). This multivocality of the fixed-words does not undercut their acclamatory element, as it is still entirely possible and plausible to envision communal participation in the performance of these hymns; at the same time, the element of fluidity of meaning suggests that the fixed words also serve to draw the audience into the dramatic elements of the poems, and serve to remind us that while acclamation may have shaped elements of these hymns and their performance, these works cannot be reduced to acclamations in and of themselves.

48 For the text of this poem, of which only the initial 16 lines are extant, see Mirsky, Yosse ben Yosse, 219–21. It is possible that the word “we sinned” is a cue indicating a longer refrain, e.g., “we have sinned, we have transgressed, we have been wicked” (from 1 Kgs 8:47 and its parallel in 2 Chr 6:37), a common litany in the late biblical period (see Ps 106:6 and Dan 9:5).

49 For the text, see Mirsky, Yosse ben Yosse, 118–26.

50 On rhetorical-structural elements of memorization in antiquity, see Carruthers, Mary, The Craft of Thought: Meditation, Rhetoric, and the Making of Images, 400-1200 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), esp. 135–70.

51 Harvey, “Patristic Worlds,” 43. Even now, it is common for public speakers, seeking to engage an audience, to ask listeners to say something collectively and then have them repeat it, with a rhetorically-scripted encouragement, e.g., “I can't hear you!”

52 In addition to literary sources, epigraphic evidence indicates the repetitive nature of acclamation; see Balance, Michael and Roueché, Charlotte, “Appendix 2: Three Inscriptions from Ovacik,” in Harrison, Martin, Mountain and Plain: From the Lycian Coast to the Phrygian Plateau in the Late Roman and Early Byzantine Period (ed. Young, Wendy; Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001), 87112. (Ovacik is in modern Turkey.) This acclamatory text (dated to the 3rd century CE and in praise of Hermaios, who is untitled but lauded as a “brigand chaser”) reproduces the repetitions expected of performed acclamation and has not apparently been edited or abbreviated for inscribing.

53 In the latter part of each of the three Shofar service poems, quotations of biblical texts are interspersed in a specific pattern; for a translation of a complete composition and an analysis of the role of the biblical intertexts, see Laura S. Lieber, “Let Me Flee to My Helper: A Rosh Hashanah Love Poem”:

54 The primary biblical subtext for this poem is Exod 15, which both asserts God's sovereignty and lends itself to responsive performance in the synagogue, as noted above.

55 Acclamation of Roman emperors often consisted simply of titles, e.g., imperator and augustus; see Aldrete, Gestures and Acclamations in Ancient Rome, 131–33.

56 See Lieber, “Rhetoric of Participation.”

57 The “Helper” of the opening phrase refers to God (as in Ps 46:2), but the phrase could well have been heard, more colloquially, as meaning, “I will run for help.”

58 E.g., “He passed by and fled from me / like a stag upon the mountains of spice” (line 6, evoking Song 2:17); and, “This One turned from me; I will go about and seek Him” (line 13, evoking Song 5:6).

59 This echoes the common Latin acclamation: Exaudi (Listen!); see Shaw, Sacred Violence, 452–55.

60 As this example makes clear, each line also elaborates on a part of the body (head, ear, etc.). See the analysis of this poem in contrast to midrashic parallels in Lieber, “Confessing from A–Z.”

61 The phrasing alludes to Deut 28:13.

62 That is, return to Egypt; see Num 14:4 (“Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt”).

63 That is, before the Temple was built atop Mount Zion (see Mic 4:1, Isa 2:2).

64 This line is a dense and clever reworking of a number of biblical passages: Deut 28:13, Num 14:4, Mic 4:1, Isa 2:2, and Jer 8:14. In Jer 8:14, the word “bitter” (also translated as “gall” and “poison”) is a homonym for “head.”

65 See Lieber, “Rhetoric of Participation.”

66 Viewed within a liturgical setting, communal unity constitutes something positive, but in other contexts may well be perceived as a mob. See Georgia Frank, “Crowds and Collective Affect in Romanos's Biblical Retellings” (forthcoming).

67 Enimvero quam commune quam ex aequo, quod felices nos felicem illum praedicamus, alternisque votis “Haec faciat, haec audiat” quasi non dicturi nisi fecerit comprecamur. From Pliny the Younger, Panegyricus 2.8; translation adapted from Pliny the Younger, Letters, Volume II: Books 8–10 and Panegyricus (trans. Betty Radice; Loeb Classical Library 59; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1969) 326–27.

68 Williams, “Hymns as Acclamations,” 120.

69 Ehrlich, Uri, The Nonverbal Language of Prayer: A New Approach to Jewish Liturgy (trans. Ordan, Dena; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004) 87. Note the implications for physicality in prayer as addressed in the materially- and spatially-attuned writings of Gil Klein, “Torah in the Triclinium,” and Neis, Rachel, “Religious Lives of Image-Things, Avodah Zarah, and Rabbis in Late Antique Palestine,” Archiv für Religionsgeschichte 17 (2014): 91122.

70 Ambrose, Exp. Psalm. XII 1.9.

71 And, in some cases, questioned; see Lieber, Laura S., “There is None like You among the Mute: The Theology of Ein Kamokha Ba-Illemim in Context, with a New Edition and Translation,” Crusades 6 (2007): 1535.

72 The dueling processions of the Arians and Chrysostom represent this manifestation of religious unity in the context of public conflict.

73 The passage continues, “This [singing of hymns and psalms in the Eastern mode] became established, a custom maintained from then until now among many—indeed almost all—of your congregations, and those who followed their example throughout the world” (From Augustine, Confessions, Volume II: Books 9–13[ed. and trans. Carolyn J.B. Hammond; Loeb Classical Library 27 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2016) 29–32].

74 Paulinus of Milan, Vita Ambrosii 13.3: Hoc in tempore primum antiphonae hymni ac vigiliae in ecclesia Mediolanensi celebrari coeperunt. On the performance and power of vigils in early Byzantine Christianity, and the role liturgical poetry played in the ritual, see Frank, Georgia, “Romanos and the Night Vigil in the Sixth Century,” in A People's History of Christianity, vol. 3; Byzantine Christianity (ed. Krueger, Derek; Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 2006) 5978. As Shaw notes, hymn singing was also central to Manichaen devotions, important for both Augustine and Ephrem (Sacred Violence, 444–45). It is worth highlighting the Late Antique poem with the greatest density of explicit acclamation-like material, known as the Akathist hymn (5th or 6th century; see Alexiou, After Antiquity, 55–56). A critical edition of the Greek can be found in Fourteen Early Byzantine Cantica (ed. C.A. Trypanis; Vienna: Hermann Böhlaus, 1968), 17–39. The finest translation of this kontakion is by Ephrem Lash, published only online: It opens:

A prince of the angels

was sent from heaven,

to say to the Mother of God, ‘Hail!’ [Three times]

And as, at his bodiless voice,

he saw you, Lord, embodied,

he was astounded and stood still,

crying out to her like this:

Hail, you through whom — joy — will shine out,

Hail, you through whom — the curse — will cease.

Hail, recalling — of fallen Adam,

Hail, redemption — of the tears of Eve.

Hail, height hard to climb —for human thoughts,

Hail, depth hard to scan — even for angels’ eyes.

Hail, for you are — a throne for the King,

Hail, for you carry — the One who carries all.

Hail, star — that makes visible the Sun,

Hail, womb — of divine incarnation.

Hail, you through whom — creation — is renewed.

Hail, you through whom — the Creator — becomes a babe.

Hail, Bride without bridegroom.

The term translated by Lash as “Hail!” (Χαῖρε) is a greeting roughly equivalent to the Latin “Ave” and the Hebrew “Shalom!”

75 The custom of public acclamation in synagogues continued well beyond Late Antiquity; see Ben-Sasson, Menahem, “Appeal to the Congregation in Islamic Countries in the Early Middle Ages,” in Knesset Ezra: Literature and Life in the Synagogue: Studies Presented to Ezra Fleischer (ed. Elizur, S., Herr, M.D. and Shinan, A.; Jerusalem: Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi and the Ben-Zvi Institute, 1994) 327–50 [Hebrew].

*I would like to thank Georgia Frank, Susan Ashbrook Harvey, and Charlotte Roueché for their attentive readings of early drafts of this essay, as well as the insightful comments of the anonymous readers.

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Harvard Theological Review
  • ISSN: 0017-8160
  • EISSN: 1475-4517
  • URL: /core/journals/harvard-theological-review
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