The Early History of The Chaplaincy
Liberty University Theological Seminary
Presented to Dr. Steve Smith
In partial fulfillment for the course
Introduction to Chaplaincy ministry
May 17th, 2011
Although it is still open for debate, there are suggestions that chaplaincy, as a function in the military, can be traced in the Old Testament. Consider the battle of the Israelites and the Amalekites. The children of Israel experienced victory as long Moses held his hands up in Prayer to God. Another example that is discussed in the book deals with the Priests who carried the Ark of the Covenant in some of the battles the Israelites were engaged in. Gideon is also looked at as playing the roles of a prophet, priest, and general.
Doris Bergen is of the opinion that, “pointing to ancient precedents lends legitimacy and prestige to modern military chaplaincies, but it does not always accurately always reflect development in the past.” The word chaplain as we know it today was coined from the Latin word capellanus which was derived from what Doris Bergen says was “the great royal relic of the patron saint of the Franks, the cappa.”
But evidence of chaplains accompanying soldiers in battle was first noted with the Romans army in fifth century. Some of the duties that they performed involved caring for them by offering prayers and conducting mass. But an important aspect in the duties of the chaplain in those early days is best understood by a term Doris Bergen credits to Michael McCormick, which is, “liturgy of war.” In liturgy of war, the chaplains “were not only part of an effort to achieve victory, they also represented a promise to warriors that their actions were just as good.”
Some liturgical texts contain words uttered by soldiers in battle suggesting the influence of “religion.” The Roman soldiers were known to cry out loud,...
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