Category Archives: Anglican

Conversations with Scripture: Blunt, 3

Conversations on Scripture: Blunt, 3

Having dealt with New Testament dating stuff in a previous post, I’ll head into Blunt’s third chapter on the New Testament.

His opening paragraphs introduce an interesting set of stats:

The books of the New Testament are twenty-seven, the writers eight, in number; the greater part being written by St. Paul, St. Luke, and St. John, who are the authors of three-fourths of the whole. The writings of St. Mark and St. Matthew to nearly one-fifth, and those of St. Peter, St. James, and St. Jude to one twenty-third part of the whole. Or, more exactly, supposing the whole New Testament to consist of 186 pages,

St. Peter, St. James, and St. Jude wrote 8 pages,

St. Matthew and St. Mark wrote 38 pages,

St. Paul, St. Luke, and St. John wrote 140 pages.

Blunt, 54.

Or, in pictures:

Blunt’s bird’s-eye view of the NT page counts thrown into an Excel chart

The point he’s making here is that there are five major authors (at least as measured by page count) and three minor. (Of course, as he’ll explain, he’s lumping Hebrews with Paul and Revelation with John the Evangelist.) What he doesn’t say, but clearly implies, is that these eight men represent our fundamental conduit of Christian truth. Furthermore, of those eight, three provide the bulk of the material. This is an interesting fact that I’ll say he leaves at the level of an assumption. But—I want us to notice what he’s doing here. We’ll come back to this in a post or two…

Then, Blunt provides a paragraph explaining the ordering principles of the NT. I didn’t want to quote this one in full, but after wrestling with it, I think we do need to see this two sentence paragraph in its entirety so that we can tease out a couple of observations with the assistance of some bracketed numbers inserted for later reference:

The several books of the New Testament are not arranged in [1] chronological order; for the the whole of them [2] having been written within the space of half a century, and nearly the whole within less than twenty years, [3] such an arrangement would have no particular advantage. The Gospels and Acts are [4] indeed thus arranged, but the Epistles are placed in the order of their length under each author; that to the Hebrews coming at the end of St. Paul’s and out of order, on account of some doubt whether it was or was not written by that Apostle.

Blunt, 54-55.

Whenever I teach an Intro to Bible/Exegesis class (and quite frequently when doing a forum or similar sort of biblical talk), a central source of confusion for the students/participants is around order and chronology. Here are two key things to remember:

  • Order implies chronology especially when disparate texts are assembled beginning with a chronological order.
    • In the OT, Genesis begins with creation, and the following books of the Bible maintain a narrative historical order through Esther (with a recapitulation for 1 and 2 Chronicles)
    • In the NT, Matthew begins the story of Jesus (which the other gospels recapitulate), Acts picks up the narrative thread, letters to churches follow, then time and history conclude with the end of the Book of Revelation
  • A distinction is necessary between “time in the text” and “time of the text”
    • “Time in the text” refers to the time period that the text is about.
    • “Time of the text” refers to the time period when the text was written/achieved the form in which we have received it.

When I talk about this stuff, I frequently refer to “the time referred to in the text” or simply “time-in” versus “the time when the text was written” or simply “time-of.” Keeping these two concepts distinct is especially important when talking about narrative material. Yes, the Gospel of Mark is describing the events of the year A.D. 33 or whatever year we decide Jesus conducted his main ministry in. But Mark was written in A.D. 65 or so. These are two different dates that represent two different things: when events happened vs. when the version of the events recorded achieved the form in which we encounter them.

Why does this matter?

Without any external cues, we tend to collapse these two mentally. Matthew is first; Revelation is last. If Paul mentions something about Jesus, we can just look earlier in the book to what he was referring to. Ah—but wait… In a single-author book you can totally do that… In a collection, it’s a totally different story (so to speak).

Thus, for one example, even though Paul is located after the gospels and is writing to churches established after the events of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, Paul’s writings were written before the gospels as we have them. Indeed, if we want to look at what Paul’s reference to Jesus might mean, we should look to Luke as—if we take the Acts narrative as reliable (which I think it largely is)—Luke himself was Paul’s student and the Gospel he leaves us, written a decade or two after Paul’s letters, gives us the Jesus-content of Paul’s proclamation.

While Paul was chronologically later than Jesus, his letters were written before the gospels were. 1

For another, I’ll throw in an OT example. When working with students wrestling with Psalm 8, they will often point to the fact that it references the creation story. Specifically, Psalm 8 has some parallels to the Genesis 1 account. (I’d say strong thematic parallels; the verbal parallels are actually less strong in the Hebrew than most English versions make it appear). They fail to appreciate that saying “the psalm quotes Genesis…” has some serious dating implications! The Torah as we have received it appears to have come together in and around the Babylonian Exile, and the Genesis 1 section appears to be from a Priestly source writing around that general time and possibly in deliberate contrast to a Babylonian/broader Ancient Near East creation-through-conflict narrative (which pops up in some of the older psalms!). To then say that “the psalm quotes Genesis” is not just an intertextual statement but also a dating argument that must place the composition of the psalm after the composition of Genesis (or at least that part of it which appears pretty late in the book’s history overall). This gets even more tangled if David (who lived roughly around 1000-960 BC) is identified as the author of the psalm!

[For more on all of this OT stuff, I refer you to the most excellent find by long-time friend Barbara in a comment below, the free full and complete open source text of John J. Collin’s Introduction To The Hebrew Bible And Deutero-Canonical Books, Third Edition (2018)]

Ok… Having said all of that, let’s pick up the Blunt thread again. Rather than forcing you to scroll up, I’ll put Blunt’s paragraph here one more time:

The several books of the New Testament are not arranged in [1] chronological order; for the the whole of them [2] having been written within the space of half a century, and nearly the whole within less than twenty years, [3] such an arrangement would have no particular advantage. The Gospels and Acts are [4] indeed thus arranged, but the Epistles are placed in the order of their length under each author; that to the Hebrews coming at the end of St. Paul’s and out of order, on account of some doubt whether it was or was not written by that Apostle.

Blunt, 54-55.

With regard to [1], Blunt does not clarify between time-in and time-of; however, [2] makes it clear that he is talking about time-of—at least, as he sees it. Therefore [3] refers to placing the various NT books in strict time-of chronological order which—given his dating scheme—would intermix Epistles and Gospels in a most confusing combination. [4] presents his thesis on gospel order, but fails to note the time-in/time-of hiccup represented by Acts. Thus, following the order of composition popularized by Eusebius and Augustine, Blunt will date Matthew at 61, Mark later in 61, Luke (and Acts) in 63, and John in 97. The reason for the canonical gospel order, then, is the chronology of their writing. (But—don’t forget—this is not the only order possible; the pre-Vulgate Old Latin Gospels that circulated in the fourth through seventh century followed the order Matthew-John-Luke-Mark which reflected the frequency of use in the lectionaries of the day.)

Following this introductory material, Blunt follows the pattern established in his OT chapter, providing a marginal date notation, then giving a quick summary of the content of each work. The notes on the gospels are largely about the evangelists, passing on the traditional material from Eusebius that was collected into the standardized prefaces that appeared in the medieval manuscript gospel books. Thus we’re told of Matthew’s Hebrew gospel, Mark being the deacon of both Peter and Paul but preserving Peter’s remembrances, and Luke being the disciple of Paul. His John section is different. Following Augustine’s lead he tells his readers that it:

…is chiefly a theological, and not a historical work, only so much narrative being introduced as is necessary for setting forth the particular truths to be proved and illustrated, and the whole of it being comprehended within broken periods, amounting altogether to only thirty-one days. His purpose was not to teach the history of our Lord, but the mysteries arising out of that history.

Blunt, 57-58.

Unlike the preceding Synoptics (and, no he certainly does not use that term!), he provides a brief guide for John:

Chapter 2Divine Nature of the Man Christ Jesus.
Chapter 3Sacrament of Holy Baptism.
Chapter 6Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
Chapter 8Eternal existence of the Son. His equality with the Father. Doctrine of Plurality in Unity.
Chapter 10Pastoral work of Christ in the visible Church.
Chapter 11Power of Christ in the invisible world.
Chapters 14-17Various mysteries connected with Christ’s perpetual presence.
Blunt’s drive-by of John (Blunt, 58)

After noting the limited focus of Acts on Peter and Paul, Blunt heads into the Epistles and provides brief summaries of each, identifying the location from which it was written, the addressees, and—in a sentence or two—the chief arcs. He does attribute Hebrews to Paul. He places James in A.D. 61 (same year as Matthew and Mark) basing his date on the death of James following (here explicitly name-checking) Eusebius and Josephus. 1 Peter is dated to 49, becoming the earliest of all the NT writings. The writing of the Johannine epistles is correlated with the destruction of the Temple, but he places Revelation either in 67 (Nero) or 96 (Domitian), preferring the earlier date (pleading confusion based on the longer name “Nero Domitianus”).

As in the previous chapter, this one ends with the summary of Revelation with no concluding verbiage.

Again—despite my issues with his dates and some authorship matters, I think Blunt does provide a solid overview of the content of the NT, suitable for providing readers used to encountering the Scripture in pericope-length chunks (whether from the Eucharistic lectionary or the Daily Office one) a big picture view of the NT. I do find his opening paragraphs intriguing, less for what he actually says and more for what I think he is assuming and will build on in the next chapter.

Because…the next chapter is one of the key reasons I’m interested in working through this book: “The Revelation of the Holy Bible and the Inspiration of its Writers.” But that’s for next time…

  1. I was tempted to talk about the Jesus vs. Paul narrative you sometimes find in the church at this point, but that would have taken me completely of course! Another post, perhaps… [back]

Conversations on Scripture: Blunt, 2

Blunt’s second chapter entitled “Old Testament Writers and Writings” contains just that: a survey of each of the Old Testament books after an initial discussion on the shape of the whole.

The introductory paragraph begins with the opening words of Hebrews to remind his readers that the the multiplicity of books are guided by a single mind and purpose: “these many writers were inspired by One Divine Mind to write with one purpose, that of setting forth the work of redemption and salvation by Christ” (Blunt, 30). The principle of the Unity of Holy Scripture is very important to him. He will not, however, trace the through-line in all cases which is good as identifying and bolstering this single purpose does get challenging in certain of the Minor Prophets.

Organizationally, Blunt notes the Jewish division of the Law and the Prophets, but denies that this division denotes a sacred character—certainly not one the English Bible recognizes. That is, the Law has no preference or precedence over the Prophets from a Christian perspective.

He can’t resist a potshot at Colenso and the German schools when he asserts the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch: “…and although elaborate guesses at a different authorship have been made by a few writers in recent times, such guesses are worth nothing in comparison with the weight which must belong to the testimony of so many nations and so many ages” (Blunt, 31). Following the 1650-4 dating scheme of James Ussher, Anglican Archbishop of Armaugh, Blunt places the composition of the Pentateuch between 1450 to 1490 B.C.

Blunt’s pattern going forward is to briefly introduce the author, assign a date of composition, then to describe the main theme of the book in a paragraph-sized synopsis. When necessary, he will provide a brief narrative outline like the one offers for Genesis:

The contents of Genesis are (1) [Chap. i. ii. (marginal notation)] an account of Creation, given, not as a full History of Creation, but with reference to the fall of man: (2) [Chap iii.] an account of the Fall: (3) [Chap. iv.-vi.] some few particulars respecting the history of the world between the Fall and the Deluge: (4) [Chap. vii.-viii.] an account of the Deluge: (5) [Chap. ix.-xi.] a few particulars of the history of the world between the Deluge and Abraham: (6) [Chap. xii.-xxv.] a rather full history of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, with which particulars of many other persons are interwoven. The last event recorded is the death of Joseph, which occurred about 1700 years before Christ, about 2300 years after the creation of Adam, and thus more than 3500 years from the present century.

Blunt, 32.

(Sharp-eyed readers will note that Blunt’s outline was summarily curtailed. I would guess he intended to break out the patriarchs separately since Genesis 25 wraps up the Abraham narrative, but either he or his editors decided to mash them all together and neglected to fix the margin notation! )

As seen at the conclusion of the quote above, Blunt concluded each synopsis with a description of the time elapsed within the events of each book and where that places them with respect to the timeline. For example, the summary of Leviticus emphasizes the brief timespan: “These laws were delivered by God to Moses during the first months after the dedication of the Tabernacle, at the beginning of the second year from the departure of the Israelites out of Egypt. To this month, therefore, the whole of the Book of Leviticus belongs” (Blunt, 34).

I really like his pattern here. The basic scheme looks like this:

  • Brief comment on the name of the book
  • Identification of the author (if needed)
  • Brief outline of the major movements/sections of the book
  • Relation of the book to the overall temporal narrative and the length of time encompassed

I attempted a video form of something like this in my now-defunct “Liturgical Look Forward” series, hoping to provide context for the Daily Office readings through Years 1 and 2, but was never satisfied with the results.

Before leaving the Pentateuch, I must call out his words on the conclusion of Deuteronomy; section 5 describes “the account of the death and burial of Moses, added by an inspired person at some time later, probably by Ezra” (Blunt, 35). This is him grappling with one of complications of Mosaic authorship: did God inspire Moses to write of his own death and burial, or did a later writer add it? Blunt goes with “addition” but assures his readers that it was an inspired author, likely one from a short, well-known, list.

The pattern above holds through the Histories, at least up through 2 Samuel. Blunt apparently despairs of offering a sufficient synopsis of 1-2 Kings, appropriately given its 400 year span, and summarizes each in a sentence (“in the first book the reign of Solomon and the building of the Temple are the most prominent subjects: in the second book the prophetic history of Elijah and Elisha, with the reign of Hezekiah, and the final destruction of both kingdoms” [Blunt, 38]). With regard to authorship, Blunt follows Talmudic tradition in assigning 1-2 Samuel to Samuel, Nathan and Gad; 1-2 Kings go to Nathan, the prophet Jeremiah, and Ezra. (And if the inclusion of Jeremiah makes you think of modern discussions around the editor of the Deuteronomistic History, well, you’re probably not wrong!)

Moving to the Wisdom portion, Blunt transmits the tradition assigning the Book of Job to Moses, suggesting that he might have learned of it or met the participants during his 40 years in Midian.

By far the longest section apportioned to any book of the Old Testament is that of the Psalms. Blunt describes the many authors, issues a caution on the accuracy of the superscriptions, describes the five books within the Psalter, addresses the numbering differences between the Hebrew/English text tradition and the Greek/Latin, explains the two chief English versions (the 1540 Coverdale in the BCP and the 1611 from the KJV), then enumerates four classifications: The Great Hallelujah (113-118), The Psalms of Degrees (120-134), The Passion Psalms (2, 22, 38, 59, 69, 88), and The Penitential Psalms (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143). Finally, he concludes with a paragraph-length encomium on the Psalms worth quoting in full:

The Psalms, as a whole, form the central portion of Divine Revelation. They contain the words in which the Church of God has spoken to Him in public offices of praise day by day for 3000 years without intermission. They have formed the devotional utterances of individual saints innumerable during the same 90 generations—half the age of the human race; and they are supposed by some to be embodied in the praises which are being offered in Heaven.

Blunt, 45.

Moving to the prophets, Blunt connects the Major Prophets with sections of the Historical Books where they properly appear or to which their words pertain. By the time we get to the Minor Prophets each receives basically a paragraph. These sometimes mention Christological themes that can be found in these books or where they are used in Prayer Book services.

At the conclusion of Malachi, the chapter abruptly ends with nary a summary statement.

For my own conclusion, while I disagree with his assignments of authors and dates, the intention behind this chapter is both good and necessary. A quick, at-a-glance, summary of the OT books locating them in time and in the narrative/historical sequence remains a really good idea. Based on my reading of Blunt’s text, I can envision a spiral-bound guide of a similar fashion with bright color-coding to group thematic relationships, and including a variety of timelines and maps. Especially for those of us who encounter the Bible chiefly at the level of the pericope in liturgical services, this kind of overview is very helpful. I’d be shocked if such things don’t already exist—my only question is whether such things reflect the current state of biblical scholarship; Bible helps of this sort that I’m familiar with tend to be dominated by very conservative perspectives. A key difference in the kind of thing I’m envisioning vs. Blunt is that rather than one timeline at least two would be needed (and profitably superimposed at points): one to track the historic through-line, the other the track our best guesses on the composition of various sections of various books and editorial efforts.

(And if you are aware of a decent Mainline resource of which I speak, please add a shout-out in the comments!)

Scripture: Blunt and Colenso

In the previous post, an initial foray into J. H. Blunt’s basic introduction to Scripture, I noted that his book had come out shortly after the Colenso affair—the travails surrounding the Bishop of Natal, his translation of the Scriptures into Zulu, and his presuppositions around the Bible and its inspired character that kicked off the Lambeth Conferences. I wondered if Blunt had said or written anything directly around the controversy in order to give me a clear fix on his take. Thanks to his prolific writing, I was able to find just such a thing!

In 1874, Blunt edited a fascinating—and lengthy—work entitled Dictionary of Sects, Heresies, Ecclesiastical Parties, and Schools of Religious Thought. (No contributors are mentioned and the various dictionary entries are unsigned; as such, I’m going to assume that its articles present the positions of Blunt himself.) Colenso appears in the index under two entries, “Colenso, Bishop, writings of” and “Colenso, Bishop, excommunication of”, both of which point to the article entitled “Broad Churchmen.”

The initial paragraph of this entry serves as a very clear introduction to Blunt’s perspectives on the Broad Church movement as a whole and is worth quoting in its entirety:

A modern school of Latitudinarians, composed of those clergy and laity of the Church of England who dissent from the principles developed during the revival of exact theological learning. The designation “Broad” has been assumed as expressive of the comprehensiveness which the theology of this school offers to men of various opinions; but it is scarcely a fitting designation, as well defined opinions of a positive kind are not included. The most distinctive characteristic of the Broad Church School is, in reality, its rejection of traditional beliefs, and the substitution in their place of what has been aptly called a “Negative Theology,” in which much is doubted and rejected, and very little believed.

Blunt, Dictionary of Sects, 85

Blunt identifies F. D. Maurice as a central star of the party and refers derisively to his Theological Essays of 1853 as a work expressive of the party’s principles. The key quote here is this classic line: “In these [essays] the doctrines of the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, Inspiration, and Eternal Punishment, among others, were dealt with in language remarkable for its beauty, and for its inconsistency with the opinions of orthodox Churchmen” (ibid.). Apart from this, Blunt identifies the “greatest literary success” of the the Broad Churchmen as “a composite work of third-rate merit”, the Essays and Reviews published in 1860. Blunt explores each of the seven essays in the volume, presenting a paragraph-length synopsis of each.

The pertinent essays are the second, fourth, fifth, and seventh. Broadly, these indicate the influence of the German academic tradition and the efforts of scholars like Baur and Strauss. I see Strauss coming through in the description of the fourth: ” [Williams] considers many of the ‘traits in the Scriptural Person of Jesus’ to belong to an ideal rather than an historical person; e.g., the Temptation did not really happen, but is an imaginary scene put into the Gospels to complete the picture. The Annuciation ‘may be of ideal origin’ also, the writer says, and much more to the same purpose” (Blunt, Dictionary of Sects, 86). The fifth raises his ire regarding Creation: “…[Goodwin] considers the Book of Genesis to have been written by some Hebrew man of science, who invented a theoretical account of creation, but living in a time when he had no geological discoveries to guide him, simply wrote down what proves to be full of mistakes” (ibid.). The last essay by Benjamin Jowett is seen as a collection and amplification of the rest of the volume’s themes: “…its chief object appears to be to lower the authority of the Holy Scripture by showing that very little of it was inspired in any ordinary sense of inspiration.” (ibid.). For a clarifying view of this essay, a modern assessment of it in the Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation states that it “urged that the Bible be read ‘like any other book'” (Pals, “Jowett, Benjamin, DBI, 1.632).

(For what it’s worth, this tack—that the Bible be read as and subject to the same canons of interpretation and investigation as any other work from antiquity—is one of the essential characteristics for the emergence of modern academic Biblical Studies. Within the Guild, Jowett is seen as a hero rather than a villain.)

Describing the aftermath of this publication, Blunt notes that High and Low Churchmen were in agreement on its total condemnation. Williams and Wilson were condemned by the (ecclesiastical) Court of Arches, but were acquitted on appeal by the Queen’s Judicial Committee. This reversal, then, leads Blunt to his account of Bishop Colenso.

It was probably under the encouragement of this supposed victory that Dr. Colenso, Bishop of Natal in South-eastern Africa, published his speculations on the Pentateuch, by means of which he endeavoured to make the high-road of Biblical interpretation so very broad that the most arrogant sceptic would find no difficulty in walking along it. The purpose of this work was to minimize to the utmost the authority of the Pentateuch, and with it of all Holy Scripture; the first principle of the author being indicated by the words, ‘There is not the slightest reason to suppose that the first writer of the story in the Pentateuch ever professed to be recording infallible truth, or even actual historical truth. He wrote certainly a narrative. But what indications are there that he published it at large, even to the people of his own time, as a record of matter of fact, veracious history?'”

Blunt, Dictionary of Sects, 87.

Blunt then cites the work of Ernst Hengstenberg, a German Lutheran much opposed to the emerging Biblical Studies faculties, criticizing Essays and Reviews including the key passages, “‘The authors of the Essays have been trained in a German school. It is only the echo of German infidelity which we hear from the midst of the English Church. . . . All of these Essays ten toward atheism. Their subordinate value is seen in the inability of their authors to recognise their goal clearly, and in their want of courage to declare this knowledge.” (ibid.).

In conclusion, Blunt is of the same mind as Hengstenberg and concludes the article with a final salvo against the Broad Churcmen:

This school is of a distinctly rationalist type, carrying Broad Church views about inspiration to the length of practical disbelief in Scripture; Broad Church views about our Lord to the length of Unitarianism; Broad Church views about everlasting punishment to Universalism; and Broad Church views about the priesthood and Sacraments to an utter denial of their reality. Such is the natural terminus of the original school, and such must be the logical outcome of its opinions when they are taken up by men who are not satisfied to rest in negations and generalities.

Blunt, Dictionary of Sects, 87-88.

So—it’s pretty safe to say that Blunt was not a fan… He is relentless in his attacks on the Broad Church theological agenda and upon their perspective on the Bible. If I had to summarize the Broad Church take present in the Essays and Colenso, it would be a focus on historical context—that the Bible has to be read with attention to each author’s historical and cultural context, not from the post-facto perspective of Holy Scripture that Blunt and others take. And, as a modern biblical scholar, I’d agree with them rather than Blunt…

Ok. Having said all of this, what is it that Blunt does believe, then? The simplest and clearest presentation of Blunt’s view appears in two lists that preface his larger books on the Old and New Testament:

Blunt, Companion to the Old Testament, 1872
Blunt, Companion to the New Testament, 1881

The first principle establishes continuity: our Isaiah was their Isaiah. I have no substantial issues with this idea generally. My specific issue is that it elides away differences between the Hebrew Texts and those transmitted in the Septuagint—the variation here varies by book. However, this principle also artificially fixes a canon, implying that what is in our Old Testament/New Testament also constituted what the NT authors thought of as “canon.” This is a much more dubious principle. There were many writings of the Second Temple period that influenced New Testament thought than are contained in our OT, and a number of contemporaneous writings—thinking of texts like the Shepherd of Hermas and the Didache—that influenced the Early Church but do not appear in the NT.

The second principle introduces a host of terms that are left undefined and thus not terribly clear. The italicized emphasis on “authentic”, though, seems to be of first place. If I’m reading it as intended, this principle is foregrounding the idea that the books we have were truly written by the men identified as their authors who are also inspired. This is precisely the view I’m interested in defining more carefully and will engae at length.

The third principle states that the original writings contained true statements, histories, and doctrines. Furthermore, that the books even as we have received them have not been substantially altered by any additions or alterations. Additionally, I believe that this article is implying that any additions and alterations (unless otherwise specified—I’m thinking of a couple of carve-out exceptions) are inherently uninspired.

The fourth principle states that, essentially, Scripture itself serves as the standard of truth. Any historical, scientific, or doctrinal statements to the apparent contrary must either be reconciled or discarded.

On the whole, then, when it comes to the emerging field of Biblical Studies, Blunt sides with those who reject it. He, alongside other critics, saw atheism as its inevitable end and responded by retrenching assertions as to the genuine, authentic, and trustworthy witness of the Scriptures in all respects. This—ultimately—is what is at stake for him: Can Scripture be trusted? To affirm this in the positive, for Blunt, all of Scripture must be seen and shown to be trustworthy.

Now—back to the primary text…

Conversations on Scripture: Blunt, 1

I’m entering into a conversation of sorts with a companion with whom I share a number of interests and convictions, John Henry Blunt (1823-1884). A priest of the Church of England and a scholar of Scripture, theology, and the medieval Church, Blunt was a voluminous author passionate about communicating his knowledge to a popular audience. As such, Blunt represents a serious scholar from the latter half of the nineteenth century interested in conveying to “the churchman” of his day what should be thought, known, and believed about a wide variety of topics. Theologically, he was of the High Church party and saw its great work as “preserving the substantial catholicity of the the Church of England…and also that of renewing its life and vigour.” (Dictionary of Heresies, p. 200).

The text I’m interested in at the moment is A Key to the Knowledge and Use of the Holy Bible published by Rivingtons in 1868. It’s laid out in a set of nine chapters along with an appendix and an index:

Blunt’s Table of Contents

To move through it logically, I’ll begin with the first chapter…

Blunt’s initial chapter, “Literary History of the Holy Bible” is an investigation of the authorship of the biblical books and how they passed through a succession of translations to the reading public of his day. He breaks this discussion into 5 major topics:

  1. Universal Interest in the Bible (I.e., why is it that modern people care about an old book)
  2. General Structure of the Bible
  3. Gradual Growth of the Holy Bible
  4. Ancient Copies [and translations] of the Holy Bible
  5. The English Bible

On the whole, I find his writing clear and informed. It is the strongest in his discussions of the historical material in sections 4 and 5. He does, to my mind, exaggerate a bit the breadth of the circulation of the sections of the Scriptures in Old English, but does appropriately convey the presence of the vernacular Scriptures during the medieval period. He and I part ways in two major places: first, in his initial discussions of the intent and worth of the Scriptures; second, in the authorship and dating of the various biblical books.

In Section 1, Blunt identifies three principal reasons why the Bible deserves to be the subject of universal interest:

[1.] The Bible has always been received as the original source of all our knowledge respecting God’s dealings with mankind in respect to spiritual things. [2.] It contains the only reliable account of man’s future beyond this life. [3.] It offers itself as a guide to the attainment of happiness for ever in the world to come.

(Blunt, 2-3)

I have few quibbles with the first point and quite like the emphasis on reception–I think that’s key in a way that he doesn’t explore. I have more issues with his points 2 and 3. I am probably more of a Christian humanist than Blunt, and think his focus on the future life after death overly narrow. Surely the Christian message, the biblical message, is about the relationships between God and humanity that start on this side of death–the virtues of Christ and the life of salvation are birthed in the sacraments and not at our graves. If I were to rewrite point 3 it would simply state: “…it offers itself as a guide to the attainment of happiness in the presence of God…” a formulation that encompasses both the present and what is to come.

In terms of authorship and dating, Blunt follows a strictly traditional scheme based in patristic and medieval writings that flatly attribute the various books of the Bible with the authors in their titles as displayed in a chronological table:

Beginning of the Chronological Table (Blunt, 5)

On the formation of the Old Testament itself, he explains that:

…before the captivity, Hezekiah caused other sacred writings [apart from the Pentateuch] to be collected together, though not to be added to the “Law;” and after the [Babylonian] Captivity, Ezra and Nehemiah, under Divine direction, collected all those which are now reckoned by the Church of England among the number of the Canonical books of the Old Testament, re-copied them uniformly in the Chaldaic character (that now known as Hebrew), and arranged them in three divisions…

Blunt, 8

Thus, while he admits the framework of an editorial process, he sees it operative only at the level of collecting whole books

At this point in biblical scholarship, the Synoptic Problem—the project of untangling the literary relationships between Matthew, Mark, and Luke—had been underway since the turn of the century in German circles, and questions regarding the unity of the Pentateuch were active but not as developed. It’s worth noting that five years before the publication of Blunt’s book, The first missionary bishop of Natal, John Colenso, had been censured by his brother bishops because—in his research around translating the Bible into Zulu—he had questioned the historical accuracy and literary unity of the Pentateuch and Joshua. Insisting that his fellow bishops had no jurisdiction over him, Colenso continued in his work and was, in large measure, the occasion of the calling of the first Lambeth Conference in 1867.

It’s equally notable that the High Church party was vocally opposed to Colenso and his biblical thought.

[At some point I really should dig deeper into Colenso’s own writings; I know of them chiefly through later summaries.]

Blunt’s final paragraph of this chapter conveys his final word on all matters canonical, textual, and linguistic:

The conclusion, then, for those who are not very conversant indeed with the learned languages, is this:– that the Authorized [i.e. King James] Version of the Holy Bible is a just and faithful representative of the Hebrew Old Testament, the Greek Apocrypha, and the Greek New Testament; and that in using it for his instruction or his devotion, the plain man may use it with a firm confidence that he is using that which will give him substantially true impressions of what has come down to us under the name of Holy Scripture.

Blunt, 29.

The goal here is to give confidence to the ordinary person that the text they are hearing in church and reading at home is a faithful witness of the original. The motive is sound; the content, generally so, given the amount of hedging in “substantially true impressions.”

I can’t agree with the paragraph before this one where Blunt avers that “[the KJV] has been severely criticized in past (and especially in recent) years; but really learned theologians are agreed that whatever faults may exist in our English Bible, it is so nearly perfect, that it is almost hopeless to try and improve it; while all attempts at improving it have confirmed this verdict.” (Blunt, 29). Yes, the sound and meter of it have never been matched in subsequent English translations. The quality of its base texts and the limited knowledge of Ancient Near Eastern philology possessed by its translators, however, remain a whole other story.

Update: Following up on a hunch, I found some very interesting material from Blunt on Colenso and contemporary German scholarship. I’ll post on that next before continuing on…

All Souls Thoughts

I do have a draft of On Memorizing Scripture, III written but it’s not finished yet; ought to be up in the next day or two as nothing else is going on…

Today, however, it’s worth saying a few things about All Souls…

If we talk about a Baptismal Ecclesiology and take it seriously, than All Souls—alongside All Saints—ought to be a huge day in our church. Because this is a celebration of baptismal ecclesiology on display. The vast majority of the baptized sleep in the earth. But, as our Proper Preface says, “For to your faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended…” As fellow witness with us, closer to the resurrection than we, this is our day to celebrate that while we miss their physical absence, we remember their spiritual presence alongside us. This is a core part of our faith: that the whole company of the baptized is joined together in the Body of Christ, hid with Christ in God.

One of the things that makes celebrating this day hard is, ironically, the appropriation of All Saints’ Day. Since Vatican II, I suppose, Protestant churches like the Lutheran one I grew up in marked All Saints Sunday by reading the necrology—the list of those who had died in the previous year. In a Lutheran context, I suppose that makes sense with Luther’s emphasis on simul iustus et peccator (simultaneously justified and sinner) and the Augsburg Confessions rejection of Saint as a category outside of the general meaning of “baptized believer.”

The proto-catechism in the BCP doesn’t make it any easier either, noting that “The communion of saints is the whole family of God, the living and the dead, those whom we love and those whom we hurt, bound together in Christ by sacrament, prayer, and praise.” (BCP 862)

Classically, liturgically, there has been a distinction between “saints” and “souls.” All Saints got white vestments; All Souls got black. The saints are rejoicing in the nearer presence of God now; the souls are sleeping in the earth or else on a path to purification since Matthew—relaying Christ’s words—records “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God…” The saints are the already; the souls are the not yet.

And yet who wants to see their family’s dead as the not yet? Commemorated on the day for sinners rather than saints? The emotional weight makes this a challenging topic to handle with both pastoral and theological integrity. (And, no, “pastoral” is not cover for “bad theology” despite its usual deployment…)

I know I’m not a saint; bring on the black vestments! Put me on the All Souls’ list! (Speaking rhetorically—hopefully it’ll be a while before that’ll be necessary, deo volente.) But—remember me as one of the baptized.

There’s a scramble each year by most clergy and parish administrators to pull together the list of names to be read in the parish necrology. And this makes we wish for a recovery of the concept of a Guild of All Souls, a group of intercessors at the parish level who pray for the baptized of the parish before the sacrament. Who pray for the whole parish—those above ground as well as those below.

We honor the baptismal ecclesiology of our church and prayer book when we enact it in our practices, rather than giving it lip-service for causes.

Especially these things weigh on me this year amongst the Covid pandemic and the protests against souls lost because of racism. So, I invite you to remember the baptized, the living and the dead.

Here are the forms for the Office for the Dead that I put up before.

Here is a book I discovered the other day on Project Canterbury that also contains Anglican resources for burial and remembering the whole company of the baptized which also contains Anglican-style Offices for the Dead.

Lesser Feasts & Fasts, 2018 as a CSV

I’m working up several things to show you all, but none of them are quite ready yet… I keep writing things, but they’re not quite finished yet, and then life happens, so several things are in the queue.

This is an easy one, though… I was asked about a csv file with the current contents of Lesser Feasts & Fasts, 2018. I do have such a file and am sharing it here. Naturally, it meets my needs, providing the month, day, title, and collects  (Rite I and II) for each liturgical observance of Optional Observance. (I.e., it contains no Sundays or Holy Days, only those observances falling within section 5 of the BCP’s Calendar breakdown.) Nor does it contain biographies or biblical lections as the latter are intended for Eucharists, not as replacements for the Daily Office in-course lections which only give way to Holy Days.

As is well known by anyone who has read these pages for any amount of time, the current Episcopal concept of sanctity is rootless, fragmented, and ultimately incoherent. I literally laughed-out-loud  when last I ran across the flavor text at Church Publishing for LLF2018 which informs the buyer that: “Lesser Feasts and Fasts has not been updated since 2006. This new edition, adopted at the 79th General Convention (resolution A065), fills that need.” Both of these lines are quite incorrect.

In the first line, LFF has received a lot of work since 2006—it’s just that none of the items produced has satisfied the complex and contradictory demands of both houses of  General Convention. And Liza and I have the files and correspondence to prove it!

In the second, LFF2018 was not “adopted” flatly as the text suggests but is in a period of trial use. Furthermore, the current text is not what was proposed, but is a mash-up up several offerings that actually miss the point of what Liza and the sanctoral team was trying to accomplish with what they did submit.

What is an improvement here is the overall quality of the collects. Not all of them received the treatment they needed, but a few of us did manage to do some solid work on several of them that needed some serious repair. In particular, I tackled many of the saints in the first millennium when I was overhauling things for Great Cloud of Witnesses, and then addressed several more as final drafts of LFF2018 were going before the Legislative Committee at GC. So—I’d like to see more attention paid to the collects here.

Enough chatter—here’s the file: Episcopal_LFF2018_DAO

Revised Trial Offices for the Dead

The trial Offices for the Dead that I posted have been seeing some use, and I have received feedback on them. I’ve finally incorporated that feedback into a new pdf version which I’m calling Revision 1.1.

Here are the changes contained in this version:

  • Venite antiphon changed from “O come, let us worship” to “: Come let us adore him.” as in prayer book MP
  • “Rest eternal * grant unto them, O LORD/And let light perpetual * shine upon them.” changed from two bicola to one: “Rest eternal grant unto them, O LORD: */And let light perpetual shine upon them.”
  • Lord’s Prayer offered in Traditional language alongside Contemporary.
  • Minor punctuation corrections
  • In MP2/EP2 “soul of your servant” for “soul of thy servant” in Collect for Recent Dead
  • All occurrences of “LORD” regularized as “LORD”
  • MP2/EP2 Prayer for the Church “eternal” regularized as “ETERNAL”
  • Rite I versions added by request

The major item is the last (Rite I versions added by request). While I prefer to use Rite I when I pray, I recognize that it is not currently the norm across the Episcopal Church. My initial concern was that If I released these in Rite I, they might be seen as by and for a niche community rather than the church at large. 

However, one of the priests who was providing me with feedback said that she and her community would prefer to have them in Rite I. So–it made sense to include them in the revised form.

This PDF groups the contemporary language offices first–Morning & Evening Prayer-Form 1, then Morning & Evening Prayer-Form 2, then the traditional language offices: Morning & Evening Prayer-Form 1, then Morning & Evening Prayer-Form 2

If you do use these, please do give me some feedback on your experience of using them—what works, what doesn’t, what could be added or deleted.

PDF of the trial Offices for the Dead

At the request of some folks who had seen the previous post on my Offices for the Dead, I have compiled them in a PDF.

This contains an introduction that briefly introduces the history and purpose of the devotion (largely adapted from the blog post below)  and also offers some suggestions for how individuals and communities might use them.

Then follow Morning and Evening Prayer for Form 1, then Morning and Evening Prayer for Form 2.

After being asked about it, I decided to remove the rubricized note at the beginning regarding the doubling of antiphons. In a nutshell, in a chockful multi-Office environment,  antiphons were not said in full before and after every psalm. If it wasn’t a fancy day, only the first few notes of the antiphon were sung so the rest of the choir would know what note to start singing the psalm on. (Yes, this goes back to the period of sung Offices and limited books.) Because I left the daggers in for the sake of the liturgical purists amongst us—you know who you are—I included the note in the web versions. For a standalone general-use document for Episcopalians, it is probably unnecessary.

The PDF is located here.

Sanctoral Table of 1963

Why, you ask, does it take so much time to digitize a resource like the Prayer Book Studies Series? Well, one of the reasons is that the SLM of the time was fond of tables…

Tables are a pain.

But—it is quite interesting to see the things that the tables contain. For instance, here is the PBS XVI update of the comparative table of saints across the Anglican Communion in 1963 and incorporating the Roman Calendar changes of 1960. Frankly, we could use to do a lot more of this. I constructed one of these while thinking about changes/additions for Great Cloud, but I don’t believe it ever saw the light of day… In any case, here it is:


Day Feast Proposed English 1928 Scottish 1929 South African 1954 Japanese 1959 Indian 1961 Canadian 1962 Sarum Roman 1960
1 HOLY NAME OF JESUS X       X        
  OCTAVE OF CHRISTMAS             X    
2 Holy name of Jesus[1]                 X
4 Titus [2]       X          
8 Lucian               X  
10 William Laud X     X     X    
11 David of Scotland     X            
12 Benedict Biscop       X     X    
  John Horden             X    
13 Octave of Epiphany             X    
  Institution of Baptism [3]           X     X
  Kentigern     X            
  Hilary   X X X     X X  
14 Hilary X       X       X
17 Antony X X X X X X   X X
19 Wulfstan X X X X       X  
  Henry (of Finland)             X    
20 Fabian [4] X X X X X     X X
21 Agnes X X X X X X X X X
22 Vincent X X X X     X X X
23 Phillips Brooks X                
24 Saint Timothy [5] X   X X X X X   X
26 Polycarp X X X X X X X   X
27 John Chrysostom X X X X X X X   X
30 King Charles I     X       X    

1. Roman on 2nd Sunday after Christmas or Jan. 2.

2. See Jan. 24 and Feb. 6

3. Roman observes Baptism of Our Lord.

4. With Sebastian, in Roman, Sarum, and South African.

5. With Titus in Canadian.

Day Feast Proposed English 1928 Scottish 1929 South African 1954 Japanese 1959 Indian 1961 Canadian 1962 Sarum Roman 1960
1 Bride     X         X  
2 Ignatius of Antioch [1] X X     X       X
4 Ansgarius X X   X     X    
  Cornelius X                
  Gilbert of Sempringham       X          
5 Agatha       X       X X
6 Saint Titus [2] X   X     X     X
11 Finnian     X            
  Caedmon             X    
  Organization Nippon Sei Ko Kai         X        
14 Valentine       X     X X X
15 Thomas Bray X                
17 Finan     X            
18 Colman     X            
20 African Missionaries and Martyrs       X          
23 Lindel Tsen; Paul Sasaki             X    
27 George Herbert X     X     X    

1. See December 17.

2. See Jan. 4 and 24.

Day Feast Proposed English 1928 Scottish 1929 South African 1954 Japanese 1959 Indian 1961 Canadian 1962 Sarum Roman 1960
1 David X X X X   X X X  
2 Chad X X X X     X X  
  John and Charles Wesley             X    
3 John and Charles Wesley X                
6 Baldred     X            
  Perpetua and Felicitas             X   X
7 Perpetua and Felicitas X X X X X X   X  
  Thomas Aquinas             X   X
8 Thomas Aquinas X   X X X X      
9 Gregory of Nyssa X                
10 Kessog     X            
12 Gregory the Great X X X X X X X X X
17 Patrick X X X X X X X X X
18 Cyril of Jerusalem X   X X X X     X
19 Saint Joseph X   X X X X X   X
  Thomas Ken [1]       X     X    
20 Cuthbert X X X X     X X  
21 Benedict [2]   X X X X X X X X
  Thomas Cranmer [3]             X    
  Thomas Ken [1] X                
22 James DeKoven X                
23 Gregory the Illuminator X                
27 John of Damascus [4]                 X
29 John Keble X     X     X    
31 John Donne X                

1. Cf. March 19 and 21.

2. See July 11.

3. See Proposed for June 10.

4. See Dec. 5.

Day Feast Proposed English 1928 Scottish 1929 South African 1954 Japanese 1959 Indian 1961 Canadian 1962 Sarum Roman 1960
1 Gilbert     X            
  J. F. D. Maurice X                
2 Henry Budd             X    
3 Richard X X   X X   X X  
  Reginald Heber             X    
4 Ambrose [1] X X X X X X X X  
6 William Law [2]       X          
8 William Augustus Muhlenberg X                
9 William Law [2] X                
11 Leo the Great [3] X X X X X X X   X
12 G. A. Selwyn [4] X     X          
14 Justin Martyr [5] X   X X X X     X
16 Magnus     X            
17 Donnan     X            
19 Alphege X X X X     X X  
20 Serf     X            
21 Anselm X X X X X X X   X
  Maelrubha     X            
23 George   X X X X X X X X
24 Wilfrid       X          
30 Catherine of Siena X X X X X X     X

1. Roman lists on December 7.

2. Cf. April 6 and 9.

3. Sarum on June 28.

4. S. African on the 11th.

5. Scottish on the 13th; Canadian on June 1.

Day Feast Proposed English 1928 Scottish 1929 South African 1954 Japanese 1959 Indian 1961 Canadian 1962 Sarum Roman 1960
  JAMES OF JERUSALEM [2]             X    
2 Athanasius X X X X X X X   X
4 Monnica X X X X X X X   X
6 St. John at Latin Gate   X X X X X   X X
9 Gregory of Nazianzus X   X X X   X   X
11 Cyril and Methodius [3] X           X    
12 Florence Nightingale             X    
13 Martyrs of Uganda [4]       X          
19 Dunstan X X X X     X X  
20 Alcuin X                
  Council of Nicaea             X    
24 Jackson Kemper X                
25 Aldhelm   X X X     X X  
26 Augustine of Canterbury [5] X X X X X X X X X
27 Venerable Bede X X X X X X X   X
30 Joan of Arc       X     X    

1. Roman on May 11.

2. See Oct. 23.

3. Roman on July 7.

4. See Oct. 29.

5. Roman on the 28th.

Day Feast Proposed English 1928 Scottish 1929 South African 1954 Japanese 1959 Indian 1961 Canadian 1962 Sarum Roman 1960
1 Justin Martyr [1]             X    
2 The Martyrs of Lyons X     X          
5 Boniface X X X X X X X X X
9 Columba X X X X X X X    
10 First Prayer Book [2] X                
  Margaret [3]     X           X
12 Ternan     X            
14 Basil of Caesarea X X X X X X X X X
16 Joseph Butler X                
18 Ephrem of Edessa X               X
  Bernard Mizeki       X          
20 Fillan     X            
22 Alban X X X X X X X X  
25 Moluag     X            
28 Irenaeus [4] X X X X X X X   X
29 PETER   X X     X      
30 PAUL           X      

1. See April 14.

2. See Canadian on March 21.

3. See Nov. 16.

4. Romans on July 3.

Day Feast Proposed English 1928 Scottish 1929 South African 1954 Japanese 1959 Indian 1961 Canadian 1962 Sarum Roman 1960
1 Octave of John Baptist             X X  
  Dominion Day             X    
2 Visitation X X X X X X X X X
4 INDEPENDENCE DAY X                
6 Octave Peter and Paul             X X  
  Thomas More             X    
  Palladius     X            
9 Stephen Langton             X    
11 Benedict of Nursia [1] X             X  
13 Silas       X   X      
15 Swithun   X X X     X X  
16 Osmund       X       X  
17 William White X                
20 Margaret of Antioch   X X X X   X X X
22 Mary Magdalene X X X X X X X X X
24 Thomas a Kempis X                
26 Parents
B.V.M. [2]
26 Anne   X X X X   X X X
27 W. R. Huntington X                
29 Olaf     X       X    
  Mary and Martha [2] X     X   X     X
  William Wilberforce       X     X    
30 William Wilberforce X                
31 Joseph of Arimathaea X                
  Germanus and Lupus       X       X  

1. See March 21.

2. Roman observes Joachim on Aug. 16.

3. Roman and Indian observe Martha only; S. African on the 30th.

Day Feast Proposed English 1928 Scottish 1929 South African 1954 Japanese 1959 Indian 1961 Canadian 1962 Sarum Roman 1960
1 Lammas   X X       X    
  St. Peter’s Chains       X X X   X  
  Maccabean Martyrs             X   X
4 Dominic X     X X X     X
5 Oswald   X X       X X  
7 Name of Jesus   X X X   X X X  
10 Laurence X X X X X X X X X
12 Clare X       X       X
  Charles Inglis             X    
13 Hippolytus X           X X X
  Jeremy Taylor             X    
14 Jeremy Taylor X                
15 Repose of B. V. M. X   X X X X X X X
18 Helena         X        
20 Bernard of Clairvaux X X X X X X X   X
25 Louis X               X
  Ebba     X            
28 Augustine of Hippo X X X X X X X X X
  Robert McDonald             X    
29 Beheading of John the Baptist   X X X X X X X X
31 Aidan X X X X   X X    
Day Feast Proposed English 1928 Scottish 1929 South African 1954 Japanese 1959 Indian 1961 Canadian 1962 Sarum Roman 1960
1 Giles   X X X X X X X X
  Robert Gray       X          
2 Robert Wolfall             X    
8 Nativity of B. V. M.   X X X X X X X X
9 Boisel; Kiaran     X            
10 E. J. Peck             X    
12 John Henry Hobart X                
13 Cyprian of Carthage [1] X X X X   X X   X
  First General Synod, Canadian Church             X    
14 Holy Cross X X X X X X X X X
16 Ninian X X X X     X    
17 Lambert       X       X  
19 Theodore of Tarsus X X X X X   X    
20 John C. Patteson X     X     X    
23 Adamnan     X            
25 Sergius X                
  Finnbar     X            
  Lancelot Andrewes       X     X    
26 Lancelot Andrewes X                
  Cyprian of Carthage [1]         X     X  
30 Jerome X X X X X X X X X

1. Roman on the 16th (with Cornelius); see also the 26th.

Day Feast Proposed English 1928 Scottish 1929 South African 1954 Japanese 1959 Indian 1961 Canadian 1962 Sarum Roman 1960
1 Remigius X X X X     X X X
4 Francis of Assisi X X X X X X X   X
6 Faith   X   X       X  
  Thomas of India           X      
  William Tyndale X           X    
9 Denys   X X X X   X X X
  Grosseteste             X    
10 Paulinus       X     X    
11 Kenneth     X            
  Philip the Deacon       X     X    
13 Edward the Confessor   X X X X   X X X
  Congan     X            
15 Schereschewsky X                
16 Latimer
and Ridley
X           X    
  Henry Martyn       X          
17 Henry Martyn X                
  Etheldreda   X X X     X X  
18 LUKE X X X X   X X X X
19 Frideswide       X       X  
21 James Hannington [1]             X    
23 James, Brother of the Lord X     X   X      
25 Crispin and Crispinian   X   X     X X  
26 King Alfred the Great X X   X     X    
  Cedd             X    
29 James Hannington X     X          

1. See the 29th.

Note: Last Sunday, Feast of Christ the King in Roman and Indian

Day Feast Proposed English 1928 Scottish 1929 South African 1954 Japanese 1959 Indian 1961 Canadian 1962 Sarum Roman 1960
2 All Souls   X X X X X X X X
  Richard Hooker             X    
3 Richard Hooker X                
6 Leonard   X X X       X  
7 Willibrord X     X     X    
8 Octave; Anglican Saints   X X X   X X    
  Gervadius     X            
11 Martin of Tours X X X X X X X X X
12 Machar     X            
  Charles Simeon X     X          
13 Charles Simeon             X    
  Devenic     X            
14 Consecration of Samuel Seabury X                
15 Fergus     X            
16 Edmund       X       X  
  Queen Margaret X   X       X    
16 Hugh of Lincoln   X         X    
17 Hugh of Lincoln X   X X       X  
  Hilda   X     X   X    
18 Hilda X   X X          
19 Elizabeth of Hungary X     X         X
20 King Edmund   X X X     X X  
21 Columban                  
22 Cecilia   X X X X   X X X
23 Clement of Rome X X X X X X X X X
25 Catherine of Alexandria   X X X X   X X X
Day Feast Proposed English 1928 Scottish 1929 South African 1954 Japanese 1959 Indian 1961 Canadian 1962 Sarum Roman 1960
1 Nicholas Ferrar       X          
2 Channing More Williams X       X        
3 Birinus       X          
  Francis Xavier           X     X
4 Clement of Alexandria X X X X X X X    
5 John of Damascus [1] X                
6 Nicholas of Myra X X X X X X X X X
7 Ambrose [2]                 X
8 Conception of B. V. M.   X X X     X X X
13 Lucy       X X     X X
14 Drostan     X            
16 O Sapientia   X X X     X X  
17 Ignatius of Antioch [3]   X X X   X X    
29 Thomas Becket       X X   X X X
30 John Wycliffe             X    
31 John West             X    

1. Roman on March 27.

2. See April 4.

3. See Feb. 1.


The end of the school year for two different schools has happened for me. That’s been rough, but we’re through it now…

Here’s a quick update on where the Prayer Book Studies digitization project goes. I have now finished Prayer Book Studies volumes I through XV. (Well, almost—there’s still a bit to do on XII, but I’m ignoring that for now.)

This is an important point to stop and make on observation on this collection.

Looking back, it’s clear that PBS I-XIV form a fairly coherent theological and liturgical unit. This body of material goes through all of the main rites and sections of the prayer book and reflects work done since the 1940’s but published in the span between 1950 (with PBS I) and 1959 (with PBS XIV) following the authorization of the series at General Convention in 1949. One of the clear signals of the coherence is that every single one of these volumes begins with an identical preface laying out the premise of the work. Furthermore, that preface makes clear that the work incorporated here did not begin in the 1940’s but, rather, consists on unresolved work and discussions that began in the 19-teens and that did not fully make it into the 1928 BCP:

The last revision of our Prayer Book was brought to a rather abrupt conclusion in 1928. Consideration of it had preoccupied the time of General Convention ever since 1913. Everyone was weary of the long and ponderous legislative process, and desired to make the new Prayer Book available as soon as possible for the use of the Church.

But the work of revision, which sometimes has seemed difficult to start, in this case proved hard to stop. The years of debate had aroused widespread interest in the whole subject: and the mind of the Church was more receptive of suggestions for revision when the work was brought to an end than when it began. Moreover, the revision was actually closed to new action in 1925, in order that it might receive final adoption in 1928: so that it was not possible to give due consideration to a number of very desirable features in the English and Scottish revisions, which appeared simultaneously with our own. It was further realized that there were some rough edges in what had been done, as well as an unsatisfied demand for still further alterations.

The materials we find in PBS I-XIV center around the work of three men, the liturgy professors of the central Episcopal seminaries of the day: Bayard Jones, Morton Stone, and Massey Shepherd, Jr. While Jones died in 1957, the work he had done in the decades prior was still fully incorporated up through PBS XIV.

The overwhelming impression that I get while I go through these documents is of a committee, anchored by these three, that does its work in a careful and thorough fashion. A great deal of thought, discussion, and argument has gone into this work. There are references to earlier liturgical tomes—often those written by one or more of the three—as well as great attention to the sources of antiquity, with a tremendous amount of weight placed on the Apostolic Constitutions (as one might expect in this period of liturgical history).

Nowhere does this stand out more than in the two heftiest and most involved volumes of the collection, PBS IV (On the Eucharist) and PBS IX (On the Calendar). Both of these studies involve searching looks at the past, and an extremely careful survey of the current situation in the Anglican family. I see frequent off-handed and usually silent references to the great minds of the English revision efforts just after the turn of the 20th century. Indeed, it is impossible to read the volume on the Calendar without feeling the tremendous influence of Walter H. Frere’s writing.

The work is careful, thorough, fairly conservative, and completely in touch with sources. I believe I’ve remarked on this before on this blog, but it is worth repeating again: virtually all of the sanctoral collects in PBS XII (Propers for Minor Holy Days) are based on pre-existing collects that have been adapted, tweaked, and modified to be appropriate. Nobody is making stuff up off the top of their heads. Furthermore, this judicious source-based approach was taken up after a test and failure of a “biographical collect” trial run. [As should be well-known to students of our Calendar, this approach and body of work was complete scrapped in 1980 with the triumphal (?) return of the “biographical collect”…]

Furthermore, after PBS XIV we see a shift in the contents of the series. PBS XV is not, actually—despite the name—a volume of study on the prayer book. Instead, coming in 1961 in anticipation of that year’s General Convention, it is a plea. Having established that prayer book revision has been at work in many of the other churches of the Anglican Communion, it has proceeded in those places on the principle of “trial use”: testing stuff out rather than legislative line-editing. Shepherd writes:

For the past three General Conventions (1952, 1955, and 1958) the Standing Liturgical Commission has offered with its report to the Convention a resolution seeking an amendment to Article X of the Constitution that would set up the possibility of trial use in any forthcoming revision of the Prayer Book. This resolution has been defeated in all three Conventions.

The volume is, essentially, a direct appeal to the broad body of General Convention, especially the House of Deputies, for passing a measure that would make trial use possible.

After the publication of PBS XV (which came out 3 years after PBS XIV), PBS XVI would not be published until two years later (1963) and PBS XVII does not appear until 1967. Beginning with these two publications and continuing through the rest, two things happen with the Prayer Book Studies series as a whole. First, the PBS publications begin reworking earlier material (PBS XVI is a re-working of the Calendar material; PBS XVII is a reworking of the Eucharistic material from PBS IV). Second, the studies begin engaging with changes coming from the Roman Catholic world. While the earlier volumes showed influence from the Ecumenical Movement , the great sea-change had not yet occurred. As you’ll note from the date span (1950-1959), this early body of work occurs before the single biggest bombshell of twentieth century liturgics: the reforms of Vatican II.

There is a definite shift in character between the First Series—those denoted with Roman numerals, comprising PBS I-XVII—and the Second Series—those denoted with Arabic numerals, comprising 18-29. I’ll say more about that as I get into them. However, I did want to note this moment, this turn, with a simple observation.

One way to think about the movement we see in the Prayer Book Studies volumes is that this First Series represents a view of prayer book revision that seeks to complete work left undone in the 1928 revision. Although it draws in ecumenical sources and is influenced by the Ecumenical Movement and work by Roman Catholic scholars, it comes from a profoundly and intentionally Anglican perspective.

And I think that’s where I’ll leave it for now: Prayer Book Studies volumes I through XIV represent an Anglican extension of revisions not yet completed for the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.