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Editing God’s Word?

cut bibleThe Revised Common Lectionary (RCL), a revision of the Roman Catholic post-Vatican II three-year lectionary, edits out some words of Jesus.

On the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (11 August 2013, Proper 14), the Roman Catholic Gospel reading is Luke 12:32-48. RCL has removed eight verses and reads Luke 12:32-40.

One of the principles of the lectionary is that if a text is found in a parallel gospel it need not be read in each year. This principle is not being followed. The parallel to Luke 12:41-46 (Matthew 24:45-51) is not read in RCL at all, Luke 12:41-46 is not read in RCL, and Luke 12:47-48 does not have a parallel elsewhere in the Bible and is not read in RCL.

In fact, parallels to Luke 12:32-40 are read in RCL at least one other time in the three years. Parallels to Luke 12:32 are read from Matthew 6:34 in Year A, parallels to Luke 12:33-34 are read from Matthew 6:19-21 every Ash Wednesday. And you can find parallells to Luke 12:35-38 in Matthew 25:1-13 which is read in Year A. Parallel to Luke 12:38-39 is Mark 13:24-37 which is read in Advent in Year B. Luke 12:39-46 is paralleled in Matthew 24:42-51, but only Matthew 24:37-44 is read in RCL Advent Year A. So only Luke 12:32-40 is read in parallel.

I am a very strong supporter of RCL and this flaw does not lessen my support and advocating of RCL. The RCL is the worst form of reading the Bible together except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time (with apologies to Winston Churchill). I see no issue with those who are using the RCL faithfully (three readings and psalm) in expanding the given text from Luke 12:32-40 back to Luke 12:32-48 in your community.

Should there, one day, be a revision of RCL (I am not currently advocating such a revision – the last thing we need is another option to choose from), the restoration of verses 41-48 in this text needs to be seriously considered.

Here is the gospel reading, the RCL omitted verses are in bold:

[Jesus said to his disciples,] 32“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 35“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. 37Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. 38If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. 39“But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

41Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?” 42And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? 43Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. 44Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. 45But if that slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and if he begins to beat the other slaves, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and put him with the unfaithful. 47That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. 48But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.

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15 Responses to Editing God’s Word?

    • Thanks, Jeffrey. That link is to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website. The Ordo 2013 for the Celebration of the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours for the Dioceses of Australia and New Zealand does not allow for that omission. Blessings.

      • The option for the shorter version is not unique to the US. It is found in the Ordo Lectionum Missae, edition typical altera (I just checked the Latin.). As far as I can tell, that option existed in the first edition as well.

        • Thanks, Mary. As I said, that option appears not available for NZ & Ausy RCs. My primary point is that the longer version is not provided in RCL – and IMO should be. Blessings.

  1. I was much more disturbed by the bowdlerizing of Psalm 50: Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23. The result completely misses the point of the psalm. Your burnt offerings are continually before me sounds positive but hardly is if you read the next verse. And like Romans 1-2 both the religious and the religious wicked get the rebuke. BTW I think there should be a question mark on verse 8a: Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you?

  2. Slavery and beating or cutting up people isn’t part of the civilized world. That’s the whole lesson of the Bible- learning to know what is good and reject what is bad.

    No one sat there recording or scribing the words of Jesus…it’s all circumspection hundreds of years after the fact…and frankly it’s hard to imagine the Jesus I know endorsing cruelty.

    This is my whole doubt about religion actually- why bother with it if it does not lead to a better mankind?

    • You appear only ready to accept a whitewashed Jesus, Tracy. For me the story doesn’t endorse cruelty, but uses facts as they existed in that world, in that time, to make a point.

      Do you also believe that Jesus didn’t treat the “woman at the well” with disrespect because in his mind she was racially inferior? Do you not believe that she called him on his prejudice?

      • I absolutely only accept a cleaned-up sermon or any other moral guidance Brother David. I live in 2013, in a free country amongst people who try for the most part to treat each other fairly and with a degree of civilisation and compassion.

        I can’t imagine these omitted verses being an acceptable part of a modern sermon to be honest- they don’t make sense in the context of other of Jesus’ reported teachings.

        There are loads of passages in the Bible which aren’t useful pulpit readings today except in the context of ‘this behaviour was and is unacceptable’.

        I don’t want to listen to ancient atrocity stories or parables drawing on ancient values of atrocity then call it enlightening or uplifting just because someone included it the Bible text and someone else over-interpreted it!

        People say you can’t pick and choose- well, you can’t rewrite history no, but I say that’s exactly what I have to do, pick and choose which things seem the most spiritual and representing of compassion and a just and loving God, if I ever have a hope of becoming more compassionate or intelligent.

        Jesus said the most important thing was loving God and others as oneself…that is a very difficult thing to do consistently if at all in many human circumstances.

        Is that the main goal of Christians, compassion? I would always have said so.

        For me I don’t see any point in drawing on texts or traditions unless it teaches me how to be a better person, by which I mean those described fruits of the spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

        As for the Samaritan woman at the well: ‘God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth’.

        I really appreciate the fact I am a woman in 2013 who cannot be beaten, enslaved or cut up without recourse to justice, and the fact is- anyone who does these things to me is not a follower of Christ, not a decent or loving or good person, not by any standards.

        • Tracy, what you say, I think, is important – and appreciate your energy around that. I think the other side of the same coin is being honest with ourselves and each other about the shadow sides of our spiritual tradition. I, like you, want to encourage compassion, love, and inclusion – but, especially with the young minds I work with, I am straight forward that the tradition in which I stand, and even current manifestations of that, are the opposite of compassion, love, and inclusion. Blessings.

          • Exactly Bosco. There’s a shadow-side to all aspects of human nature, including religion.

            The hardest lesson to learn I think for most of us is forgiveness- of ourselves and others, even of God when the worst of things manifests in life and it becomes unbearable for a time- and in many ways that is the essence of raising people in this faith, teaching and learning how to cope in a humanitarian way with life’s shadow-side…

            But nostalgia can be a form of escapism, and I’m as guilty as the next of enjoying ancient texts and burying myself in analysing them etc.

            It’s like travelling and seeing old dwelling places though- an old stone cottage seems so quaint and what a wonderful simple rural peasant life people must have lead…without remembering the men and women and children who suffered the poverty and hardships, the cold and damp and cramped conditions. It’s not the same cottage now it has double-glazed windows and central heating, and only one or two people live there-by choice…

            It’s a luxury for someone in my position today to say anything about ‘traditional values’ when my own life has been free and I’m not persecuted or starving or unable to care for my loved ones.

            Some years ago I received an email sermon from one of the Billy Graham ministries about the ‘wise woman’ who beheads Sheba in 2 Samuel, after the disemboweling of Amasa by Joab and the lifelong imprisonment of the concubines by David…

            People can say ‘return to traditional values’ or look back at the Old Testament ( or even parts of the New ) with nostalgia, but at the end of the day- I don’t believe in beheading, or taking advantage of enslaved women, or disemboweling or any kind of cruelty as a right way to live or deal with life.

            Even in modern times, the brutality towards Ceausescu, Gadaffi, Hussein etc. whilst explicable even understandable- that’s still not the right way to bring justice to our world.

            And from what I understand of Jesus Christ, it’s not bloodlust and revenge which takes us forward: Matthew 5.

            You suffered in Christchurch an earthquake killing 185 people and affecting many others in 2011. John Wesley, in his natural ignorance, would say ‘Earthquakes are set forth by the inspired writers as God’s proper judicial act, or the punishment of sin: Sin is the cause, earthquakes the effect, of his anger.’

            When modern day ‘Reverend’ Pat Robertson says the same thing about the 2010 Haiti earthquake…well you know. It shows up the worst of Christianity, in the worst of light.

            Lack of compassion.

  3. This is silly. They are “readings,” “lections,” and the Church does this with every single reading and the preacher can add or subtract for the Homily or Sermon for Pete’s sake (or Paul’s, or Christ’s). Besides, the Protestants leave out whole books and publish their volume as The Bible! Why is that not a problem? silly.

    • You are right Joel – we can’t read the whole Bible before bed. At Compline, we read one verse – meant to remind us in a word of all the texts for the day. But the text still needs to be found and read in the community. My unstated question is how does one build the consciousness of such a community which creates the community and its memory for the current season. One has to chose well.

  4. EXPERTS AT SETTING ASIDE THE COMMANDMENT OF GOD!

    The Pharisees and scribes were experts at keeping man-made traditions.

    Mark 7:1-9 ……9 He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to hold to the tradition of men.”

    Do religious men today set aside God’s commandments in order to keep the traditions in their creed books, catechisms, and man-made statements of faith?

    Men say obedience to God is not essential to salvation because we are saved by grace alone.

    Hebrews 5:9 And having been made perfect, He became to all who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,

    Where is the Scripture that says we are saved by grace alone, therefore, obedience is not required for salvation?

    Men say water baptism is not essential for the forgiveness of sins.

    Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

    Where is the Scripture that says water baptism is not for the forgiveness of sins? There is none.

    Men say the purpose of water baptism is simply an act of obedience and an example of faith given for others. Where is the Scriptures that state these doctrines? It is only found in the writings of men. God did not say it.

    Men say water baptism plays no part in salvation.

    1 Peter 3:21 Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    Where is the Scripture that says water baptism does not save you?

    Men say that mankind is saved by faith only. Where is the Scripture that say men are saved by faith only?

    Jesus said men shall be saved if they believe and are baptized. Men say that you are saved without being baptized in water.

    Mark 16:16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.

    Where is the Scripture that states men should be baptized because thy have already been saved?

    EXPERTS AT SETTING ASIDE GOD’S COMMANDMENTS!

    (All Scripture from: NEW AMERICAN STAND BIBLE)

    YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY CHRISTIAN BLOG. Google search>>>steve finnell a christian view

    • “Do religious men today set aside God’s commandments in order to keep the traditions in their creed books, catechisms, and man-made statements of faith?”

      Where sir, are you getting the commandments of God, apart from traditions that are creed books, catechisms and man-made statements of faith. Unless you want to take a page from the LDS and make a claim for the Bible similar to their claim for the Book of Mormon. The Bible is man-made, it didn’t fall out of the heavens whole.

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