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Sunday, March 04, 2007

By the Secrets

In anticipation of the first Sunday in Lent, which was last Sunday, my Bible group was reading Deuteronomy 26. It is a lovely piece about appreciation for God and how we need to offer our first fruits to God, which one could look up, in several versions, here. Deuteronomy, BTW, means "second law". But scanning the page, I saw in the Bible something I'd never seen before.

I've read the Bible all the way through twice. Once was in 1977, seven months with the King James Version. The other was 1996-1997, 13 months with the New International Version or maybe the Revised Standard Version.

Anyway, here's Deuteronomy 25:
(11)When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets:
(12)Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her.
(11)If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, (12) you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.
New American Standard Bible
(11)"If two men, a man and his countryman, are struggling together, and the wife of one comes near to deliver her husband from the hand of the one who is striking him, and puts out her hand and seizes his genitals,
(12)then you shall cut off her hand; you shall not show pity."

OK, forgetting the creepy payoff: yes, I had never seen "genitals" in the Bible, and it's the fault of the lectionary. The lectionary is a mechanism by which the Scripture is read over a three-year period, each year featuring one of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke). If you go here, then click on the Index of Lectionary Readings by Biblical Books, you'll see that Deuteronomy 24 and 25, which are full of all sorts of arcane laws, are not included. So, it's unlikely that most church attendees will hear a sermon on this Scripture (though you'll see it illustrated in LegosTM here), or that lovely story about a man refusing to marry his dead brother's widow, so she gets to spit in his face, also in Deuteronomy 25 (and illustrated in Legos here).

So just how much of the Bible IS in the lectionary? I don't have a definitive answer, but this report on the Catholic version of the Bible suggests that it's most of the New Testament, but a very small portion (less than 15%) of the Old Testament, except for the Psalms.

Of course, ministers do vary from the lectionary at times, but I'll be shocked the first time I hear this text as a basis for a sermon. I'll be certain to be intrigued by how one could take that message and apply it to today's world.

Also, this means that one of these days, I'm going to need yet another translation of the Bible all the way through.
And since I seem to be on the topic, I'm loving the controversy about the Newbery Award-winning book 'The Higher Power of Lucky' over the use of the word scrotum, referring to a canine's private parts, which has propelled the book's sales.
According to a new book, Americans are the most religiously ignorant people in the West.

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