Monday, May 21, 2007

Is it censorship?

Yesterday (the Seventh Sunday of Easter) the proscribed epistle reading was Revelation 22:12-14,16-17,20. Here is the passage with the missing verses added in bold type:

"Behold, I am coming quickly, and my reward is with me, to render to every man according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." 14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying. 16 "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you these things for the churches I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star." 17 The Spirit and the bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost. 18 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. 20 He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming quickly " Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

The most interesting part about the editing is that one of the verses which is omitted is a condemnation of those who remove passages from the book. The context would seem to indicate that John has in mind removing passages from being read out loud in church.

It is not simply a '79 Prayer Book issue. As you can see from Textweek, it is simply the same selection taken from the original three year lectionary developed by the Roman Catholics for the Missal of Paul VI, which was adopted without substantial change by other western liturgical churches. The difference is that the Prayer Book expressly allows omitted verses to be read or readings to be otherwise lengthened (see BCP, p 888).

The question to ask is why the passages were omitted. Admittedly, the list of the damned and the condemnations don't fit nicely into a rosy Easter selection. But is this ample reason to censor them? I would say no. But I would also suggest that if such passages are not read in church, they simply will not be heard by most people in the pew who simply do not read the bible regularly on their own. With one passage, it may not make that big of a difference. But with all the edited passages in the lectionary, it could have a cumulative effect of distorting the perception of the faith among many in the pew. Even those aware of such passages need to be reminded periodically of their existence.

Titusonenine is having a discussion
about whether the omissions represent a move toward a universalist theology. It is worth taking a look.


Jon said...

It may be censorship but at least this example can't really be used as an excuse to rail against TEC.


Fr Timothy Matkin said...

I wish I knew of any book or essay that goes into detail on why certain pericopes were chosen for the new 3-year lectionary and why certain edits were made. Anyone know of a good resource?

I remember once in my homiletics class at Nashotah House, the late Fr Reginald Fuller was commenting on why a certain pericope ended where it did and skipped the verses it did. He was involved in the production of the American BCP adaptation. I wish he would have collected these things together into a commentary.