New Testament

Many will be wondering, on Sundays (and even on weekdays at the Daily Eucharist), why is there no reading from the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible? This tradition can be traced back to Augustine of Hippo, and through him back to Cyril of Jerusalem. I reblog Mike Hayes’ information about this:

The Old Testament has (almost) never been read at the Eucharist during Easter season. St. Augustine of Hippo in the 4th Century started this based on earlier practices by Cyril of Jerusalem.

While there are no readings from the Hebrew Scriptures during the Easter season, there are several readings from here at the Easter Vigil. Here we draw out the history of our salvation in one night…from creation, through Abraham, through Moses, etc.

During the Easter season, the Hebrew Scriptures are replaced by the Acts of the Apostles. The logic draws upon the practice of looking forward from the resurrection to balance the Easter Vigil’s looking back on our salvation history.

On weekdays in the Easter season in fact, the Acts of the Apostles are read in pretty much a continuous way, with the whole book completed by the end of the season. The Second Readings on Sundays come from I Peter, I John, and the unusual Book of Revelation, during Years A, B, and C, respectively. The Gospel readings are almost exclusively from John.

All of this is to center us on the celebration of the resurrection and to keep us looking forward from that event into today’s time.

Some more information is available on the wonderful site Recognising Jewish Roots in the Lectionary which is particularly (rightly IMO) concerned with overcoming anti-Jewish attitudes in our worship. The author there also highlights that

The Old Testament has (almost) never been read at the Eucharist during Eastertide for as far back as records go – the 4th century, commanded by St. Augustine of Hippo based on earlier practice by Cyril of Jerusalem (possibly even earlier – the liturgy of Addai and Mari omitted the OT during Easter) , there having been several OT readings at the Easter Vigil.

The recent exception, noted there, is the brief 13-year life of the Church of England Alternative Services Book lectionary.

A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa has a home-grown two-year-cycle Sunday lectionary that is still a formulary of our church. I would be surprised if there are still many if any churches using this. I would be pleasantly surprised if the compilers of this two-year cycle had any eye on historic lectionaries – it is essentially compiled by finding Bible readings that fit to its list of themes. Bible readings are repeated, and important ones omitted. Unfortunately, its (mistaken) idea that readings fit together as a tight “theme” is its enduring legacy in the culture of our church.

The book, Christianity in Roman Africa: The Development of Its Practices and Beliefs (page 269), acknowledges that efforts to reconstruct the lectionary used by St Augustine has had limited success. Here is one such attempt.

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