Wednesday, January 9, 2013


In his Introduction to Christian Liturgy Senn has a quick, but fascinating summary of the development of lectionary readings:
No complete lectionary systems exist before the seventh century, althought there are references in the writings of the church fathers to certain readings being read on certain days. For example, we learn from Augustine's commentary on John that dhe book of Genesis was read duriing Lent, the books of Job and Jonah during Holy Week, the Gospel Passion narratives on Good Friday, the resurrection narratives on Easter, and the book of Acts during Easter season.
Nothing too surprising here.  But then there's this:
In fact, only with the development of a church-year calendar with specific days and seasons would a lectionary with pericopes even be needed; otherwise biblical books were read continuously. The earliest extant lectionaries are Bibles with marginal markings indicating the beginnings and endings of readings (p. 65).
Now just because the lectio continua is earlier than the pericope system doesn't necessarily make it right.  Once the church started multiplying memorial events in the life of Jesus and then adding saints days the pericope system became inevitable.  I believe that some combination of the two is best.  Use the pericope system during Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, and Easter, but between these read through whole books of the Bible.  It may even be advantageous to take a year off of the pericope system now and then.


The Plaid Fog said...

My apologies since this is quite a bit off topic, but after reading your bibliographic essay in The Lord's Service, I was wondering if you have found any histories of biblical worship that cover from tabernacle to early church that you would recommend. If so, I would greatly appreciate the info. Thanks and cheers!

Jeff Meyers said...

If you haven't already done so, you should definitely read James B. Jordan's Through New Eyes. There's nothing as good as that. It will give you a great biblical theology of the OT as well as focus in on worship in the tabernacle and temple. Peter Leithart deals with the transition from the tabernacle to the temple in his little book Name From Silence to Song. Start there. If you've already read those, then get a hold of Jordan's audio tapes on Leviticus. I think you can find them at Hope that helps!