Doxology, derived from the Greek δοξολογία (giving glory), is a prayer of praise and gratitude. The ordinary form most frequently appearing in the OT is that of an expression of blessing, introduced by the Hebrew word bārûk (blessed), for example, "Blessed be Yahweh" (2 Chr 9.8). The subject of the blessing may be expressed also by "God" or the "Lord God" [Ps 28 (29).11; 40 (41).14; 67 (68).20, 36] or "the Name of God" [Gn 14.20; 24.27; Ps 17 (18).47;71 (72).19]. The introductory word of praise is often followed by reasons why God is blessed [1 Sm 25.39; 2 Sm 18.28; 1 Kgs 1.48;8.56; 10.9; Ps 27 (28).6; 123 (124).6].
In the NT, the traditional OT form appears, but the subject is not only God as such, but God as Father and as Christ. However, no doxology to God as Holy Spirit appears. The traditional form is found in Lk 1.68; 2 Cor1.3; Eph 1.3; 1 Pt 1.3, but the order is often changed (2 Cor 11.31; Rom 1.25; 9.5; 16.27), and the words "forever," a common Hebraism (Tb 13.23), and amen are added (Gal 1.5; 1 Tm 1.17; Heb 13.21; 1 Pt 4.11). The OT form of doxology expressed as an invitation to "give glory" to God (Dt 32.43) occurs also in the NT (Lk 2.14; Phil 4.20; Jude 24–25; Rv 4.8, 11; 7.12).
Abbreviated hymns in the OT addressed in praise of God are usually referred in the NT to God the Father (Gal1.3; Phil 4.20); but when the thought is fixed on Christ, the praise is directed to Him (Rom 9.5; 2 Pt 3.18; Rv 1.6;5.9–13; 7.10). Again, in other passages it is Christ as Head of the Church and the mediator through whom honor, glory, and thanksgiving are given to the Father (Eph 3.21). St. Paul provides a norm for such hymns in the words: "Whatsoever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Col 3.17). In the original Greek of 1 Pt 4.11, the verb "to be" occurs in the indicative mood in the doxology, "to him belong [ἐστίν] glory and dominion forever," a more fitting expression than the optative mood expressing a wish or desire.
The solemn command to praise God was probably addressed to the Israelites in their early history only in the flush of victory (Jgs 5.2, 9). With development of Temple liturgy, however, such hymns were sung when the ark of the covenant was carried in solemn procession while God's merciful acts of intervention in the history of the Israelites as the Chosen People of God were recounted [Psalm 67 (68)] and climaxed in recital by a glorious, "Blessed be God" [Ps 67 (68).36]. In such liturgical celebrations, the Israelites were summoned by priests and Levites to bless the Lord [Ps 134 (135).1–4, 19–20] with an exhortation to glorify God who is the almighty Lord of creation and defender of His People [Ps 135 (136); 146 (147B); etc.].
The great hymn of praise, the Hallel [Ps 112 (113)–117 (118)], that came to be embodied in the Jewish liturgy of the postexilic period, might also be considered an extended doxology. Especially significant are Ps 112 (113).1–113 (114).8, sung during the Paschal meal; Ps 113 (114).9–117 (118), sung after the meal; and Ps 117 (118), the great processional hymn, chanted antiphonally by priests, people, and proselytes entering the Temple to thank God for victory and renewal of national life. Another of the magnificent extended doxologies is that of the canticle Benedicite Dominum (Dn 3.52–90). While not following the compressed form of doxology, these hymns of praise are redolent of the spirit of jubilant gratitude that marked the prayer life of the Israelites. Such songs came to be the common practice not only in their Temple worship, but also in their private lives [Ps 17 (18).47; 33 (34).2; 143 (144).1–11; 145 (146).2]. [see prayer (in the bible)].
With such expressions of praise familiar to Jewish converts, fittingly similar ones were introduced into the primitive worship of the Christian community. In Eph4.20–21, for instance, the doxology, after invoking the boundless generosity of God, praises the twofold instrument of God's glory, Christ and the Church. Hymns of praise to Christ stressed His divinity (Rom 9.5; 16.26; 1 Tm 3.16; 2 Tm 4.18; Eph 5.14). Perhaps the most elaborate is that of Rom 16.25–27, where the entire message of the epistle is gathered into one finale of jubilant praise of the power of God unto salvation, of the revelation of His plan of salvation in the Gospel, of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, of the universality of salvation, of the Apostles' divine mission, and of the continuity with the OT—all reasons for glorifying God through Christ.
Bibliography: j. k. elliot, "The Language and Style of the Concluding Doxology to the Epistle to the Romans," in Zeitschrift für die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der Älteren Kirche 72 no. 1/2 (1981) 124–130. l.w. hurtado, "The Doxology at the End of Romans," in New Testament Textual Criticism; its Significance for Exegesis (Oxford 1981) 185–199. h. c. schmidtlauber, "Die Verchristlichung der Psalmen durch das Gloria Patri," in Zur Aktualität des Alten Testaments (Frankfurt 1992) 317–329.
[m. r. e. masterman/eds.]