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.

8 Replies to “Pedantic Lectionary Note on Romans 1”

  1. Curious, I took a look at the indeces of the Liturgia Horarum, and I did not find the latter part of the first chapter of Romans in any of the readings, short or long. Nor is the passage read at Sunday mass over the three-year cycle of the Catholic lectionary. Daily mass I don’t know about.

    So I think one should be reluctant to draw conspiratorial conclusions. The passage is scriptural and can’t be ignored. But the focus of the daily office and Sunday mass is elsewhere.

  2. Derek, I think it’s fair to say that the lectionary readings for the daily offices have been steadily reduced since 1549, and that this process accelerated during the twentieth century. That this correlates with a wider acceptance of the historical-critical method is interesting, if not significant.

    The one general exception to this was the English 1922 lectionary, but even that has omissions although I don’t know if the passage in question is one of them.

  3. Checking ‘the Brick’ referred to by Scott in the previous post…

    The 1871 lectionary in the 1662 BCP, Romans 1 appears in full on Feb 16th and July 31st, and not at all on Sundays (which only varied in the OT).

    The 1928 revision of the 1922 lectionary (which, like the move from the Amrican 1896 to 1928 went from days of the calendar year to following the Temporal cycle) puts Romans 1 in full on the Monday after Septuagesima, Friday after the 11th Sunday after Trinity for the readings in-course and it appears as an alternate on the 1st Sunday after Trinity in the Sunday cycle.

    I don’t know if the reduction of the readings were a function of biblical criticism or trying to provide a more realistic chunk for actual use. Remember, the concept of reading a full chapter for each lesson was itself an innovation in 1549—Cranmer did that for convenience and uniformity so I hardly see that as a universal standard from which subsequent ages have regressed.

  4. I would note, as someone who has done a lot of work on old canon law texts (for other reasons than this topic), that the Latin tradition of canon law interprets these verses as referring to anal intercourse, whether with a man or a woman, and not as referring to homosexuality per se. Lev. 18.22 and 20.13 are similarly cited as prohibitions against anal sex. Homosexuality (of other kinds) is dealt with under different kinds of “immunditia” for which there is (strangely) no scriptural reference.

  5. Well, if we are going to read Romans 1 in toto, we’d better continue on to Romans 2 in toto….without that the full punch in the face goes missing for the self-righteous.

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