FROM THE RECTOR: HISTORICAL CRITICISM IN BIBLICAL STUDIES
The focus of the three-month sabbatical I took in the winter of 2009 was to relearn New Testament Greek. It was a good call for me at a good time. It reawakened my interest in New Testament studies. When I got home, the recommendations of Father Peter Powell led me to three commentaries that are really useful, Ulrich Luz on Matthew, Joel Marcus on Mark, and François Bovon on Luke. They all take, it turns out, what is called a “historical-critical” approach to Bible study.
Raymond Brown lists eleven different scholarly approaches in biblical studies in his 1997 book An Introduction to the New Testament (pages 20–28). Each approach has contributed to the field. Historical criticism is about, among other things, trying to understand, “what the author literally meant to say” (page 21). It turns out that the historical-critical approach itself is a matter of significant debate. Brown, himself a historical-critical scholar wrote, “Historical Criticism is concerned with the commonsense observation that readers of any book of Scripture will want to know what the author was trying to convey” (page 35). It is this approach, getting a sense, to the extent one can, of each evangelist’s perspective that has helped me as a preacher.
That said, last year, when we were in Year B of the Prayer Book Lectionary for Sundays and principal feasts (gospel readings mostly from Mark), I began to be aware that a sensitivity to Mark’s theological point of view had not shaped the decision to include certain passages in the Lectionary. I’m finding the same thing is true in this year of Luke (Year C)—and I expect to find the same issue when we next get to Matthew (Year A). It was working through Joel Marcus’s 2000 commentary Mark 1–8 for the second time that put me on to this issue. But now that I myself have become more aware of each evangelist’s theological viewpoint, I have begun to wonder why the Lectionary includes certain passages but not others.
The exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5:1–20) is a case in point. Marcus entitles his comments on Mark 1:21–28, “The Opening Battle.” Jesus is in Capernaum. He goes to the synagogue on the Sabbath. There was a man “in” an unclean spirit (“in” is Marcus using the literal, ordinary translation of the Greek preposition). He cries out Jesus’ name, asking whether Jesus has come “to destroy us.” The answer is yes, as the rest of this gospel will clearly show. In Mark, Jesus is all about eliminating Satan from among humankind. If that is true, I wonder why Mark’s story of the exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac has been downgraded in the lectionary, where it is listed as an optional passage, which makes it permissible to omit it (BCP, p. 908). For the record, in the new lectionary (the Revised Common Lectionary), the passage is not listed at all.
Mark’s story of Jesus’ healing of an epileptic boy (Mark 9:14–29) is an option (which we take) in the 1979 lectionary. (This option is omitted from the new lectionary.) A father brings his son to Jesus and says, “ ‘If you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.’ And Jesus said to him ‘If you can! All things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out, ‘I believe; help my unbelief.’” (9:22b–24). This powerful theological exchange occurs only in Mark, and it would be a shame, I think, not to hear it at Mass.
Because there was no Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany this year, we didn’t get to hear Luke’s version of the Beatitudes. Unlike Matthew, where there are nine blessings (Matthew 5:1–12), in Luke there are four blessings and four woes (Luke 6:17–26). I think that’s a distinctively different perspective. The 1979 lectionary does make Luke’s beatitudes and woes an option for All Saints’ Day. So we might get to hear Luke’s beatitudes this year after all, and I am glad of that.
I hope if I keep at this I will gain a better understanding of the gospels and an understanding of the choice of lessons the church has given us in the new or the old lectionary. But if you and I keep at it, I expect we will gain a better understanding of the entire gospel message, continuing to learn new things that matter. —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Margaret, Jean, David, Julie, Sandy, Walter, Sharon, Penny, Carol, Eileen, Heidi, Catherine, Sally, Donald, Sam, Burton, Toussaint, Dennis, Arpene, Takeem, Sidney, deacon, Paulette, priest, Gaylord, priest, Harry, priest, and Louis, priest, and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark and Nicholas . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . June 12: 1926 William G. McQuckin; 1981 Clementina V. Harnett; 1986 James P. Gregory.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Saturday, June 11, Saint Barnabas, Apostle, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Mass 12:10 PM . . . On Wednesdays, the daily 12:10 PM Eucharist is a Sung Mass; on Thursdays the daily 12:10 Eucharist is a Mass with Healing Service.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Altar Flowers are needed for the Sundays of July and August. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office . . . Dr. David Hurd, organist and music director, will be away from the parish attending the convention of the Association of Anglican Musicians from Monday, June 13, until Thursday, June 16. He will be attending the convention of the American Guild of Organists from Monday, June 20, until Friday, June 24 . . . Father Gerth will be away from the office, on vacation, from Wednesday, June 15, through Friday, June 24. He returns on Saturday, June 25 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday: 167.
SAINT MARY’S IN CENTRAL PARK . . . The Annual Saint Mary’s Field Trip to hear the New York Philharmonic in Central Park will take place in two parts this year. There are two concerts, one on June 15 and another on June 16. Grace Bruni has kindly volunteered to attend both and to help organize a field trip on both evenings. The concerts are held on the Great Lawn and begin at 8:00 PM. Grace plans to be “by the front-most speaker on the west side, just behind the VIP fence” from 5:00 PM until the concert begins. It’s a potluck picnic. All are welcome. Please e-mail Grace for more information or to let her know you are coming (the latter is helpful but not necessary). You can also call or message her at 267-303-1604.
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . The choir season ended on Sunday, May 29, the Feast of Corpus Christi. We are very grateful to all of our talented musicians, who sang so beautifully on Sundays and holy days beginning last fall. We look forward to the choir’s return on the Feast of the Assumption, Sunday, August 15, and then on the first Sunday of October, when the choir season begins once again. During the summer months, the Mass ordinary is sung by the Congregation, led by the music director and a cantor. On Sunday the Mass setting is New Plainsong by David Hurd, who also plays the service at the Solemn Mass. The cantor will be Ruth Cunningham. During the administration of Communion, Ms. Cunningham will sing a chant of Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1197), O virtus Sapientie.
VISUAL ARTS PROGRAM . . . There is a new exhibition in the Gallery in Saint Joseph’s Hall, “Underwater Emotions,” paintings by Lola de Miguel. For more information about the artist and her work, please contact curator José Vidal.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS . . . Friday, June 24, Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, Mass 12:10 PM and Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . Wednesday, June 29, Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Apostles, Sung Mass 12:00 PM and 6:00 PM . . . Monday, July 4, Independence Day, Federal holiday schedule: the church opens at 10:00 AM and closes at 2:00 PM. Only the noonday services are offered. The parish offices are closed . . . Friday, July 22, Saint Mary Magdalene, Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Monday, July 25, Saint James the Apostle, Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . In anticipation of the inevitable arrival of colder weather, we are collecting warm clothing (coats, jackets, scarves, hats, and gloves). We are also collecting packets of socks and underwear, jeans and T-shirts (useful all-year round), and dress shirts (useful for job interviews). All of these will be distributed here at the parish to those in need. Please bring donations to the parish kitchen on Sunday or contact Father Jay Smith or Sister Monica Clare, C.S.J.B. Sister Monica and parishioner Clint Best have been organizing the clothing in recent weeks in order to expedite distribution . . . We continue to collect nonperishable food items for our outreach partner, the Food Pantry at Saint Clement’s Church, 423 West Forty-sixth Street. —Jay Smith
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . At the Metropolitan Museum: Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World (through July 17) and Turner’s Whaling Pictures, late works by English artist, Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) (through August 7) . . . At the Rubin Museum: Nepalese Seasons: Rain and Ritual (through March 27, 2017).