web analytics
New Testament

No Old Testament in the Easter Season?

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.

If you appreciated this post, do remember to like the liturgy facebook page, use the RSS feed, and sign up for a not-very-often email, …

Similar Posts:

8 thoughts on “No Old Testament in the Easter Season?”

  1. I love this short summation, Bosco, from the article you present here:

    “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.”

    If ‘The Reign of Christ’ means anything, it must mean the reality of the ‘earnest looking forward’ to the redemption that Jesus brought, delivering us from ‘The Law of Sin and Death’

    Christ IS risen, Alleluia. He IS risen indeed!

  2. Scott Knitter

    Our USA BCP (1979) lectionary provides an OT lesson as an alternative, and I believe this is intended for parishes that have Morning Prayer as the principal Sunday service. Then the Acts, Revelation/Epistle, or Gospel lesson can be the 2nd lesson. There aren’t many parishes that have MP as the main service anymore.

    I learned about this the hard way one Pentecost when I was the lector for the first reading at Mass, and someone had the lectionary open to the Ezekiel alternative instead of Acts. In my confusion, I figured someone wanted Ezekiel read, so I read it. Turns out Pentecost is a bad Sunday to read the OT instead of Acts! The preacher read the Acts lesson just before starting his sermon so it would make sense. Mea culpa!

  3. Frances Novillo

    Still plenty of Psalms read, sung, proclaimed, and prayed publicly and communally in Christian worship during Eastertide.

    1. Bosco Peters

      Thanks, Frances. A really good point! Your comment can be used for useful community reflection: is (are) the psalm(s) understood as readings, prayers, or hymns/songs – and is that reflected in the way a community uses them? Easter Season Blessings.

  4. I don’t mind them not reading the OT, but it always drives me crazy that we read the entire Book of Acts BEFORE Pentecost, and then jump back to Chapter 2.

    1. Thanks, Ignatz. Does it help if these 50 days are regarded as the Season of Pentecost? That was the understanding of the early church. So we, in that understanding, are not reading Acts before Pentecost but during it. Blessings.

  5. It seems that in the early Byzantine rite, the OT reading was replaced by the Acts on Eastertide; in time, the OT reading was removed altogether, and during the Eastertide, the epistle was removed. The reasons are those which you mention. Also the Byzantine rite reads John entirely during the Eastertide. The modern Western lectionaries copy the Byzantine example.

    But in the non-Roman Western traditional rites, there is an OT reading, as usual, and an epistle, as usual.
    The Roman rite (traditional) has a reading of the general epistles, not from the Pauline.

    In spite of my respect for the Byzantine rite, I believe the Acts should better follow Whitsunday. Reading Acts before the Pentecost is anachronistic.

    1. Thanks, George. I understand what you mean in your last paragraph, but I think new issues arise when we try and make the Church Year fit into an almost-replicating chronology. Easter Blessings.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.