Doxologies are an expression of praise to God. In the Christian church, we often hear them sung or chanted. They are a tradition that has meaning and importance for all Christians. Since the early church, doxologies have been a way for Christians to express their love and thankfulness for what God has done in their lives.
What Is a Doxology?
Merriam-Webster defines the word doxology as an expression of praise to God, usually liturgical. This word is comprised of the Greek words doxa and logos. In the Greek language, doxa means glory, splendor, or grandeur while the Greek word logos means word or speaking. The word itself goes back to the 4th century and is most known today as the term used for the last paragraph of the Lord’s Supper.
A doxology will be heard at the end of canticles, psalms, and hymns. They are a short hymn of praise one will find in various Christian and Jewish worship services today.
Is the Word Doxology in the Bible?
The word itself is not found in the Bible. The doxology practice was passed into English from the medieval Latin word “doxologia” and the Greek language. It is used to clarify certain scriptures. Essentially, the word doxology helped Christian leaders to group psalms, hymns, and Scripture verses just as books of the Bible are grouped into the Old and New Testaments, poetic books, the Gospels, and prophetic books.
This group of doxologies is believed to be important to how early Christians worshipped. As time passed, composers wrote hymns that became doxologies in the church. The belief that music was a critical part of worship has led to the use of doxologies in churches around the world.
Examples of doxologies are bountiful in the Bible. One such example is the most well-known. It is the last paragraph of the Lord’s Supper. Matthew 26:30 says “After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” We may not know what hymn they sang, but we do know they felt that it was important to praise God and what He had done for them. God was allowing His son to die on a cross to save all people. The disciples and Jesus knew praise was important.
Other biblical examples of doxologies include:
Ephesians 1:3 – “Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ.”
Ephesians 5:14 – “Get up sleeper, and rise up from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Romans 11:36 – “From Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.”
1 Timothy 3:16 – “He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.”
This is not an exclusive list, but one can see that the prominence of doxology praises and hymns in the Bible make them important in our worship today.
How Are Doxologies Connected to Scripture?
Doxologies and Scripture are interconnected by a bond that cannot be broken. They are prominent in many facets of the Christian faith. Because Jesus grew up in the Jewish culture, we know that He would have heard doxologies sung. Jews used doxologies then and still do today. These have been passed down and adopted by the Christian church we have today.
Doxologies in Other Faiths and Denominations
A Jewish doxology most known today is the “Yigdal,” explained here by the Jewish Virtual Library. This doxology is comprised of thirteen stanzas and is often heard at the conclusion of the Friday evening service in Sephardic congregations. The inspiration for the words of the Yigdal comes from the first two of the Ten Commandments. The importance of this doxology stems from the inspiration it gave Thomas Olivers when he wrote “The God of Abraham Praise.” Olivers adapted this Jewish doxology into a Christian hymn that is sung as a doxology today.
Catholicism has embraced the use of a doxology in many parts of their worship services as well. During Mass, a doxology can be heard. Other times a doxology can be heard are when the clergy enters the sanctuary, communion, and the presentation of oblations. One such doxology is the Gloria Excelsis, explained more here by Father Daniel Callam. Known as the greater doxology, it has and continues to be prominent in the Roman Catholic and Anglican church. It is sung in Latin but used in a contemporary translation in Roman Catholic liturgy. It may also be heard in Lutheran and Protestant churches.
The Gloria Patri, or lesser doxology, is thought to have been written in the 2nd century while the author is unknown. It is believed to have been based upon the trinitarian baptismal formula found in Matthew 28:19. This doxology is always sung at the completion of the entire portion of the Psalter. It is also sung at the morning, noonday, and evening prayer. Traditionally, Gloria Patri was used to climax or conclude psalms related to liturgical actions.
Likely the most well-known doxology was written in 1674 by Thomas Ken. He entitled it “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.” Thomas has been called “England’s first hymnist.” The beginnings of the words came from a hymn he wrote for the boys living at the school he worked at. He wanted to build up their devotional habits. All songs ended with the same stanza that we now know to be a doxology. It is often sung at the conclusion of communion and time of tithes and offerings. The connection to scripture comes from Ephesians 1:3.
All doxologies have some connection to Scripture. The words of the Bible give inspiration to composers and writers. This inspiration leads people as they worship to remember the greatness of God and praise Him for what He has and will do in their lives.
What is the Importance of Doxologies?
The importance of a doxology can be summed up in Paul’s word of Ephesians 5:19-20. They state “speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing, and making music with your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.”
These words spell out the purpose of singing praises to God and submitting to one another. We are to gather and worship in song and speech. Our theology cannot be separated from our doxology. An article by Ken Easly, a Biblical Studies Professor at Union University, states “when we experience something or someone good or true or beautiful, we can’t help but offer admiration and appreciation. It’s built into the nature of who we are. We naturally overflow with expressions of praise.”
Throughout Scripture, we encounter stories of those who have experienced the greatness of God. They sing out praises to Him. Speaking or singing the words of a doxology is copying what they did. The people who lived and worshipped in the early church felt the importance of giving praise where it is deserved. They knew God deserved all their praise and gave us this great example to follow.
Bringing it All Together
Essentially the meaning of the word doxology is to speak glory and praise. As we do this each day in our quiet time or corporate worship, we cannot help but to want to know more about the awesome God we serve. It is an instinctive feeling within us.
As Christians, we are called upon to worship in a way that brings glory to God. The use of a doxology is a beautiful way to say to God and others that you know where your blessings come from. You love a God that has it all under control and will never leave your side. It is a powerful and important part of worship and serves to fuel our hunger to know more about our Lord.