Daily Archives: June 20, 2012

Pedantic Lectionary Note on Romans 1

As your official source for pedantic lectionary minutae, I must call attention to the appearance (or lack) of Romans 1:26-7 in the Daily Office lectionary. These two verses appear to contain Paul’s clearest statement on same-sex sexual relations and, as such, have been greatly and hotly debated in recent years. Thus, the absence of these two verses is usually taken as a sign of the co-opting of the ’79 prayer book by the “gay agenda.”

As today’s Speaking to the Soul points out, however, these same two verses were specifically avoided in the Daily Office lectionary of the 1928 prayer book as well, suggesting that the creeping “gay agenda” may not be the only consideration here. However, there is one pitfall and one minor technicality concerning the aforelinked article’s method that I feel compelled to bring to your attention.

The article successfully navigates the pitfall and it is this: you can’t pick up just any 1928 prayer book and expect to see the lectionary dating from 1928. There was a revision to the lectionary tables in 1943 (the nature and character of which I have neither the time, space, nor desire to delve into at the moment…). Thus, ’28 prayer books printed after that point may or may not have the original 1928 Daily Office lectionary. As I said, they dodged this and did indeed refer to a 1928 lectionary.

What the article misses, however, is the relation or lack thereof between the Sunday Daily Office readings and the full-on readings in course. Allow me to clarify… Since the 1559 book, prayer books have, functionally speaking, had three lectionary cycles superimposed on one another throughout the year: the continuous reading in-course (this is the base layer), the appointed Sunday lessons (which are selections from what was “edifying” as defined by the editors), and the Holy Day readings (which are lightly sprinkled on top of the other two).

Yes, the 1928 Daily Office lectionary does omit Romans 1:26-27 during the Sunday reading (Romans 1:17-21, 28-32) and that’s a significant point to note. However, more significant is to look at the state of Romans in its reading in-course where Scriptural coverage rather than “edification” is in the fore-ground. Looking for it there, we note that Romans is being read in-course at Evening Prayer from the Ninth Sunday after Trinity to the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity.  Monday after the 9th Sunday after Trinity appoints Romans 1:1-17; the next day goes directly to Romans 2:1-16. The whole section from Rom 1:18 to the end of the chapter is omitted. This evidence actually makes the omission even stronger. The 2 verses are omitted where the rest of the latter half of the chapter appears in the Sunday cycle and the in-course cycle fails to remedy the lack.

For comparison purposes, the American 1896 lectionary appointed all of Romans 1 for the Thursday after Ash Wednesday, the 16th of February, and the 7th of August.