Friday, March 13, 2009

Lectionary Notes

Some Notes for the Third Sunday in Lent
15 March, AD 2009

The BAS provides two Collects for each of the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays in Lent: one for Year A and one for Years B and C. Although no other Sundays are treated in this way, the anomaly is not explained in the book. The Collects provided for Year A seem fit the Gospels appointed for that year, while those of the other Years do not seem to have been chosen for this reason. It would be useful to have a note in this point.

The first reading unavoidably reminds me of the woman who is supposed to have remarked, “I don’t think the Ten Commandments should be read in Church: it just puts ideas in people’s heads. This reading continues the theme of the covenants the theophany at Mount Sinai at which the Lord himself spoke the Decalogue [Exodus 20.1-17].
Our modern versions obscure the fact that the Commandments were given in the second person singular, thereby laying the responsibility not only on the community but squarely on each individual.
The first commandment as traditionally translated is Thou shalt have none other gods but me; the RSV and NRSV give before or besides me. However, the Jewish translation I refer to online and the Vulgate give “You shall not have the gods of others [deos alienos] in my presence.” Another possible translation is “strange gods” The Septuagint has θεοὶ ἕτεροι, which can be other, a neighbours, strange, or foreign. The mediaeval rabbinic commentator Rashi says of this:
The gods of others, which are not gods, but that others have made them for gods over themselves. It is impossible to interpret this passage to mean: gods other than I, since it is a disgrace for Heaven to call them gods along with Him. Alternatively: strange gods, for they are strange to their worshippers. They cry out to them, but they do not answer them, and it appears as if it [the god] were a stranger, who never knew him [the worshipper].
Some English Puritans used the fourth commandment as an argument against having holy days other than Sunday, taking “six days shalt thou labour” as forbidding rest on those days.
On the different ways the Commandments are numbered, see the Clippings on this passage at the Revised Common Lectionary Site, where there are also useful comments on the other commandments.

The second half of Psalm 19, a hymn of praise for the Law of the Lord which balances the hymn of praise for God’s handiwork in nature, is very similar to Psalm 119, likewise using six terms for law. In verse 9 it is possible many scholars think that “word” would be a better reading than “fear” (see Psalm 119.11 in the RSV).

In regard to the Epistle, 1 Corinthians 1.18-25, I will not make any extensive comment now, since I have just found an interesting article that comments on Paul’s use of the ideas of wisdom and folly in light of the Old Testament use of those words and have not digested it well enough to pass on. The notes at the RCL site should be of use. In my own notes I found an interesting comment by Kenneth Leach in We preach Christ crucified: the proclamation of the cross in a dark age (1994) that twice in recent years Good Friday had fallen on April Fool's Day; it is the feast of Divine Folly.

My notes and thoughts on the Gospel passage [John 2.13-22] are as yet too undigested to be presented usefully here before Sunday. For technical comments see the RCL site. I will only make two comments here. The first is that it might be useful —at least for personal reading —to take it in an anagogical way and refer the cleansing of the temple to the cleansing of one’s own person (meaning body and soul, one’s whole life). This is something one cannot ever really do for oneself. Another image is Aslan’s removing of the dragon's skin from Eustace in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
The other comment is that in Jesus’s answer to the demand for a sign, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,” the layers of meaning become clearer if it is known that the Greek verb rendered "raise up” [in the original ἐγερῶ, ἐγερεῖς] was also used to refer to erecting building, and it would have been quite natural for the Jewish authorities to have understood him to mean, “I will rebuild it in three days”, with absolutely no hope of understanding the deeper meaning.
It’s twenty to five on Friday afternoon and I have no idea what the sermon will be on Sunday, so I had better stop now: while this work ia often a helpful part of the homiletical process, it can't replace getting one's nose to the grindstone. Amici mei, Orate pro me!

1 comment:

Felicity Pickup said...

1. I miss hearing the Decalogue read regularly, and each precept responded to, as part of Sunday worship.

"... nor his manservant nor his maidservant nor his ox nor his ass nor anything else that is his."

Love that language! [Well, that's the wording that's stuck in my mind] But yes it does give thoughts of double-entendres.

2. I always sympathize with the imagined first audience of that pronouncement about rebuilding the temple in three days. The evangelist(s)sound so smug about them not getting the message.

3. Orate pro? Yes. Thanks for reminder (out of sight ...)!