Michael Barber has an interesting post up, which also links to another interesting post on the status of the Book of Sirach within Ancient Judaism. Possibly this is inspired by the fact that the first readings in our lectionary are currently being taken from the Book of Sirach.
The post that Michael links to is written by Dr. Jeff Morrow of Seton Hall University. It’s not really an apologetic post for the inclusion of deuterocanonicals as a part of the canon. It simply serves to muddy the waters a bit. Here’s a snippet:
What complicates matters further is that different groups within Second Temple Judaism apparently considered different books canonical. Although the biblical books used by the Pharisees is likely identical to Josephus’, which looks like the Old Testament of most Protestants, and, it should be noted, the Hebrew Bible (Tanak) of the majority of contemporary Judaism, this is not for certain. Sadducees, on the other hand, had a much smaller list of biblical books (only including the Penateuch, according to New Testament evidence). It is difficult to determine what canon was in use among the Jews at Qumran—where Esther has not been discovered but Tobit and Sirach from the deuterocanon have been found (in Aramaic and Hebrew no less)—but it appears they likely considered some of their own community’s texts as canonical. The question of canon at such an early stage, however, is complicated by the fact that we are not even sure what a canon would mean at that point within Judaism. Would they have understood those texts as divinely revealed, as inspired? And what would inspiration mean for them? Would there have been a canon-within-a-canon? These questions remain unresolved.
Anyway, I’d recommend you check it out.
Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12 is today’s Old Testament lectionary reading. HERE is a link to the International Critical Commentary’s section on this passage. You just have to zoom in to read. I’ve linked to this commentary set on Archives.org once before because it is available for free download. I plan on linking to it for the lectionary readings from time to time. The series is dated, but is still a good resource with some good information.
We’ve all heard about Jospeh’s coat of many colors, right? Well, it looks like you may need to throw that fond childhood memory out. Today’s lectionary reading is from Genesis 37. Here are a few translations in comparison with regard to “Joseph’s coat of many colors” (translation comparisons on this site are done in BibleWorks 8 using Parallels):
Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age; and he had made him a long tunic. (Gen 37:3 NAB)
Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic. (Gen 37:3 NASB)
Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons because he was a son born to him late in life, and he made a special tunic for him. (Gen 37:3 NET)
Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age. So one day Jacob had a special gift made for Joseph– a beautiful robe. (Gen 37:3 NLT)
Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. (Gen 37:3 NRS)
I don’t know a lot about this particular translation issue, nor do I think it makes enough difference to me in terms of overall understanding to go search out an answer. I just wanted to tear away from you your childhood belief in Joseph’s coat of many colors. At any rate, it seems like translators simply do not know what this word translated “long,” “varicolored,” “special,” or “beautiful” actually means. In fact, the Lexham interlinear (LOGOS – for which my supervising professor is the editor) simply lists the word as “uncertain meaning.” Lexicons seem to lean toward “long.”
So, are you going to still teach children about Joseph’s coat of many colors? Probably. But, just know inwardly that you may be lying to children ;-).
“Eat or be eaten” that’s what the prophet tells Israel their choice is in today’s lectionary reading from Isaiah 1, though I’m not using this idiom in the same way it is often used in English. It is more of obey or disobey and experience completely opposite results. This message comes in the form of a word play in verses 19-20; however, the translations obscure the word play somewhat. Compare the following translations:
If you are willing, and obey, you shall eat the good things of the land; 20 But if you refuse and resist, the sword shall consume you: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken! (Isa 1:19 NAB)
“If you consent and obey, You will eat the best of the land; 20 “But if you refuse and rebel, You will be devoured by the sword.” Truly, the mouth of the LORD has spoken. (Isa 1:19 NAU)
If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; 20 but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken. (Isa 1:19 NRS)
There is a parallel between “eating good things” and “being consumed/devoured by the sword.” This is where I’m pointing out the contrast “eat or be eaten.” Regardless of the translation, whether “consumed” or “devoured,” the underlying Hebrew word is the same one that is translated “eat” in verse 19.
And here again is one of the trade-offs in deciding how to translate. Do you translate the word in verse 20 as “be eaten,” so that the word play “eat or be eaten” comes across more clearly, even though that phraseology is a bit awkward? Or, do you translate the word differently in verse 20 as “consume” or “devour” in order to avoid the awkwardness?
“Love Your Neighbor” that’s what your supposed to do, right? Well, at least that is what Jesus said in in Matthew 22:38 repeating a line from Leviticus 19:18. But, what about those other voices in scripture? You know the ones that say not so nice things about neighbors or wish not so nice things upon them. We can see a little bit of what happens in the context of liturgy in today’s lectionary reading from Psalm 79.
Click on over and check out the verses that are used … 8, 9, 11 and 13. Okay. So, what are we missing? Verses 10 and 12, right? (This is almost always a fun exercise -for me at least, looking at what’s missing.) Is there any reason why they might be missing? I don’t know let’s read them:
10 Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Let the avenging of the outpoured blood of your servants
be known among the nations before our eyes. (NRSV)
12 Return sevenfold into the bosom of our neighbors
the taunts with which they taunted you, O Lord!
I think here we have a less than forgiving attitude toward one’s neighbor for whatever reason. That reason is not important here in the context of talking about lectionary.
What does the lectionary then do when there is something contrary to the idea of “Love Your Neighbor”? Here at least it appears that the reading is sanitized by removing those parts. What can this tell us? I think when we look at what is used and what is missing we see what the modern church values. We value forgiveness and we value love of neighbor. Thus, rather than give worshipers an example of someone who does not feel this way and reflects this in their prayer, we choose from those words of theirs that may be more edifying.
Now, I don’t think that this works out so well as an overall strategy. If we simply ignore difficult passages or passages that don’t agree with those attitudes from scripture that become accepted within the community, this can lead to a great deal of dissonance when people do finally encounter those passages. It can also lead to dishonesty with God (i.e. a person saying in a prayer that they love someone when they really don’t feel that way). But, perhaps this is okay if the matters are dealt with elsewhere … say in the homily.
At any rate, I think that if we read between the lines of the lectionary today, we might come away with the message “love your neighbor” even if it is in contrast to when the Psalmist wrote.
Psalm 72 – Shame on the Lectionary
Today’s responsorial reading is from Psalm 40, which gives me the great pleasure to embed the absolute best modern version of one of the Psalms, U2’s “40.” The lyrics are here. Today’s reading actually doesn’t include most of the verses used for this song, but it does make use of verse 2, and that was enough reason to post this. Please enjoy.
U2 – “40” (Live)
Psalm 137 – Rivers of Babylon (Sublime version)
in yesterday’s lectionary reading. I thought this was a pretty neat bit of imagery in Psalm 147:15.
He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly. (Psa 147:15 NRSV)
Psalm 72 in the Lectionary
72:1-2, 3-4, 7-8
R. (see 11) Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.
O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
He shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.
R. Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.
The mountains shall yield peace for the people,
and the hills justice.
He shall defend the afflicted among the people,
save the children of the poor.
R. Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.
Justice shall flower in his days,
and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
R. Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.
You’ll notice from the numbering that verses 5 and 6 are omitted between verses 4 and 7. But, this absolutely ruins beautiful imagery between verses 6 and 7. Notice that justice shall “flower” in the days of the king. But, why is it flowering?
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth. (Psa 72:6 NRSV)
“Justice” … or “the righteous” … or “abundance” dependent on your translation is flowers/flourishes if the king is like a refreshing shower that waters the earth. How can he be like a refreshing shower? Maybe we go back to verses 1 and 4 … when he has received the gift of right judgment from the Lord (vs. 1) … when he defends the oppressed, delivers the poor and crushes the oppressor.
I usually love having a lectionary to read from, but I think today it obliterates some of the connections and beauty in the imagery.