Monday, 8 February 2010

the missing bits – the Message (2)

Still on track with reading through the Bible in a year as part of our parish Bible challenge. As previously mentioned I have been using The Message translation/paraphrase which has given a fresh perspective on familiar and not so familiar passages. The first thing that has struck me is how certain passages of scripture seem to have been excised from the canon. Not that these passages have been removed from the Bible, but they might as well not be there for all the attention they are given. Joseph logo

The story of Judah, Tamar and Onan (Genesis 38) pops up in the middle of the story of Joseph and his brothers, just before Joseph is taken off to Egypt and sold to Potiphar. I know the story but had forgotten that this is where it is placed and I am struggling to remember the last time I read it; I’ve certainly never heard it read in church or mentioned in a sermon. Most people will know the story of Joseph courtesy of Messrs Rice and Lloyd Webber. Joseph and his ATD was the first show I drummed for at school and I’ve lost count of the number of versions of Joseph that I’ve sat through since. I have yet to see a version of Joseph which has an interlude featuring Judah, Tamar and Onan. The only modern cultural reference of note is from Dorothy Parker who named her parrot Onan (google it if you can’t work it out).

Of more serious concern is the deliberate excising of sections of scripture that the compilers of the Common Worship Lectionary have indulged in. Peter Ould has highlighted this problem in Cutting Out Scripture. Last week during Morning Prayer Peter noticed that a significant section of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19) had been left out. Here’s the bit:

Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”

Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

“Get out of our way,” they replied. And they said, “This fellow came here as an alien, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door.

But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door. (Genesis 19:4-11)

lot Now I’m at a loss to work out why this passage has been removed as the redaction renders the rest of the text meaningless. I’m not concerned here about arguments over how we are to interpret the story, or what the sin might be that leads to judgement on the cities, I just don’t see how we can reflect meaningfully without reading the whole story. The comments following Peter’s blog begin to discuss how the story may be understood but they presuppose knowledge of the missing passage. I'd be interested to know if anyone has compiled a list of all the Bible passages the Common Worship lectionary has omitted.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to rediscovering and reflecting on other parts of the Bible that don’t get much of a look in or have been deliberately ignored, including the nasty bits and the passages that make for uncomfortable reading.

No comments: