What's ahead in the Bible readings for this week?
October 18 to 24, 2018
The Twenty-first Week After Pentecost
The Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Bible Review: The Inclusive Bible
There are two important things for you to know about The Inclusive Bible. First, it is a serious, and mostly successful, attempt to render the scriptures in ways that are more gender-balanced without losing the meaning of the text. Second, it is designed to be read aloud.
The authors didn't simply replace male pronouns, but created a new translation into modern English. Most importantly, they crafted it to let the power and poetry of the language shine forth (from the introduction to the first edition of The Inclusive New Testament).
Both male and female sexist language was examined. An example given in the introduction is the way in which the render the Whore of Babylon in Revelation 17:1-18 (which is our Friday New Testament lesson). The Greek word in the original text was more closely related to idolatrous defilement (for example worship of the emperor) than with sex for money, as the words whore and prostitute in our culture imply. Instead of whore or prostitute, the Inclusive Bible uses "Great Idolater."
The authors obviously gave careful consideration to the words used. For example, when Lord is a form of address, they use Adonai in the Hebrew Scriptures and Rabbi or Teacher in the Christian Scriptures. Abba and Loving God are substitutes for Father. Substitutes for Son of God include Only Begotten, God's Own and Eternally Begotten. These, to me, maintain the sense without the sexism.
One of the things I appreciate is that the Hebrew Scriptures are divided into The Torah, The Prophets, and The Writings. In the typical Christian Bible, the early prophets—which we refer to as the former prophets (Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings) are separated from the latter prophets by Ezra, Nehemiah, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, and five other books, all of which the Hebrew Bible considers part of The Writings. The Inclusive Bible keeps all the writings together, which is very sensible.
The Inclusive Bible also explicitly refers to The Twelve, the so-called minor prophets whose writings were less extensive than Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Of course, they are called The Twelve because there are twelve of them. (If you can't find a book in your Bible, it's probably one of the twelve.) This way of referring to them (as is also done in some Hebrew Bibles) seems more respectful.
It also does not include section headings. An example of a section heading in the NRSV is "The Request of James and John" for Mark 10:35-45. Although some people find the section headings helpful in getting a sense of what's ahead, others find them intrusive. We often use them in the summary that appears in What's Ahead each week, but we don't include them in the daily readings.
Here is the Sunday Gospel lesson, as rendered in The Inclusive Bible:
New Testament Gospel Lesson: Mark 10:35-45
Zebedee's children James and John approached Jesus. “Teacher,” they said, ”we want you to grant our request.”
“What is it?” Jesus asked.
They replied, “See to it that we are next to you, one at your right hand and one at your left, when you come into your glory.”
Jesus told them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptised in the same baptism as I?”
“We can,” they replied. Jesus said in response, “From the cup I drink of, you will drink; the baptism I am immersed in you will share. But as for sitting at my right or my left, that is not mine to give; it is for those to whom it has been reserved.”
The other ten, on hearing this, became indignant at James and John.
Jesus called them together and said, “You know how among the Gentiles those who exercise authority are domineering and arrogant; those ‘great ones’ know how to make their own importance felt. But it can't be like that with you. Anyone among you who aspires to greatness must serve the rest; whoever wants to rank first among you must serve the needs of all. The Promised One has not come to be serve, but to serve—to give one life in ransom for the many.”(The Inclusive Bible)
If you decide to buy this Bible, please use this link, so that your purchase will help us in our work of spreading God's word to all God's people: The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation The prices on Thursday, October 11 were $20.99 for the Kindle Edition and $24.61 for paperback.
This week's image
As the text above shows us, God expects us to be servants, which requires our humility. There have been times in my life when humility was difficult, but it is less so now. The image shows humility even in its form: it is an object that represents a person, and it is rusted. May we all go about God's work with the humility to know that it is not we, but God, who lets us see where we can be of service.
Our Gospels this week are all lessons in humility. On Saturday, the disciples are arguing among themselves about who is to be the greatest. Jesus says to them “For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.” On Sunday it is James and John, the children of Zebedee, who are asking to sit at Jesus' left and right hands. When the rest of the Apostles become indignant, Jesus says to them “whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.” And on Wednesday Jesus washes the disciple's feet and tells them “I have set you an example, that you should also do as I have done to you.” This is an example of Jesus acting out the first being last, the greatest being the least of all. May we all find ways to do as Jesus did this week.
In our time of preparation, we read a series of Hebrew Scripture quotations about Gentiles in Paul's letter to the Romans. During the time of reflection, we read from the letter to the Hebrews. On Monday, the author uses an image of us as ground that soaks up the word of God and either produces a useful crop or thorns and thistles. On Tuesday we are reminded that Jesus has entered the holy of holies, the inner shrine behind the curtain in the Jerusalem temple, to give us hope and a steadfast anchor for our souls. It is probably the symbol of an ideal priest-king (discussed in the Complementary Series Hebrew Scripture below) that the author of Hebrews is referring to in our Sunday Epistle lesson, and again on Tuesday.
Complementary Series Hebrew Scripture
In our first reading this week, Abram meets Melchizedek. Abram was Abraham's name before God changed it in Genesis 17. Melchizedek appears several times in this week's readings. Here's what Who's Who in the Bible has to say about him:
King of Salem. When Abraham returned from rescuing his nephew Lot from the four kings who carried him off, Melchizedek welcomed them with bread and wine. Abraham gave him a tenth of the spoil.
Scholars think that Salem might well have been Jerusalem, which is called Salem in Psalm 76:2 and in the 14th century BC Tel el-Amarna tablets called it Uru-salim.
In Psalm 110:4 Melchizedek is a symbol of an ideal priest-king.
Our other Hebrew Scripture readings are from Isaiah and Samuel. Isaiah declares God's word that Israel deserved the punishment that Babylon (also referred to as Chaldea) meted out, but that Babylon overstepped her bounds. Babylon will be punished for her misdeeds. The Babylonians had highly developed divination rituals and relied on astrologers, but they will do her no good.
Our readings from Samuel concern the appointment of the first king, Saul. Samuel declares that the Israelites were unwise to seek a king, and that in fact God was their king.
In the complementary series, our Psalm of preparation is from the ninety-first. It contains these lines
For [the Most High] will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the adder,
the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.
During Jesus' temptation the first few lines come out of the devil's mouth, but Jesus replies, quoting from Deuteronomy 6:16, Do not put the Lord your God to the test. The last few lines quoted here have led some people to put their faith to the test by handling snakes. I think we are better advised to take Jesus' advice and not put God to the test.
Semi-continuous Hebrew Scriptures
We continue our reading in Job this week. Next week we will finish up. Here is a portion of the introduction to The Book of Job in the The Oxford Study Bible: Revised English Bible with the Apocrypha:
The poet boldly challenges the Deuteronomistic theology that goodness is rewarded with material prosperity and wickedness is punished with temporal suffering. While the merit of this position is acknowledged, the poet creates a dialogue in which Job maintains that integrity in the face of disaster must not be sacrificed to social convention, nor even to established concepts of the deity as upheld by his friends. In the end, Job discovers that his own God as well as that of his friends is too small. Nevertheless, because of his integrity, Job is exonerated and stands before God as intercessor for his friends. And perhaps the key to the book is the view that the suffering of the righteous individual stands in the presence of God. (p.510)
In the Monday reading from Job, God mentions the Behemoth. According to the Oxford Dictionary of the Bible, it is usually thought to be either a hippopotamus or some creature from primordial times.
I hope this week's readings bring a blessing into your life. Thank you for all that you do to bring God's reign into being.
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Summary and links for the week ahead
Thursday to Sunday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 91:9-16 Assurance of God's protection
Semi-continuous Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35b Bless God and God's majesty.
Thursday: Preparation for the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Genesis 14:17-24 Abram meets Melchizedek.
Semi-continuous Job 36:1-16 Elihu exalts God's goodness.
Both Romans 15:7-13 Paul quotes Hebrew Scripture about Gentiles.
Friday: Preparation for the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Isaiah 47:1-9 Isaiah taunts Babylon.
Semi-continuous Job 37 Elihu's exaltation of God continues.
Both Revelation 17:1-18 The Great Idolater of Babylon
Saturday: Preparation for the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Isaiah 47:10-15 Isaiah condemns enchantment.
Semi-continuous Job 39 The second part of God's answer to Job.
Both Luke 22:24-30 Jesus asks, "Who is greater, the one at the table or the one who serves? But I am among you as one who serves."
The Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Isaiah 53:4-12 A Servant Song
Semi-continuous Job 38:1-7, 34-41 God's answer to Job
Both Hebrews 5:1-10 Christ, a priest in the order of Melchizedek
Both Mark 10:35-45 James and John asked to be seated at Jesus' right and left hands. Jesus says, "Whoever wishes to be first among you must be a slave of all."
Monday to Wednesday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 37:23-40 God rescues the righteous, who take refuge in him.
Semi-continuous Psalm 75 Thanksgiving for God's wonderous deeds.
Monday: Reflection on the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary 1 Samuel 8:1-18 Samuel becomes old.
Semi-continuous Job 40 Job and God speak to one another.
Both Hebrews 6:1-12 We are either useful crops or thorns.
Tuesday: Reflection on the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary 1 Samuel 10:17-25 Samuel anoints Saul as king.
Semi-continuous Job 41:1-11 God's answer to Job continues.
Both Hebrews 6:13-20 We have this hope in Jesus, a sure and steadfast anchor.
Wednesday: Reflection on the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary 1 Samuel 12:1-25 Samuel is angry with the people.
Semi-continuous Job 41:12-34 God answer to Job is completed.
Both John 13:1-17 Jesus washes the disciples' feet.
The links become active at 3:05 a.m. eastern time on the designated day.
*Denominations have different ways of designating the weeks during the year, so your church may refer to this week by a different name or number or both. Regardless of the name or number, the readings are the same. Here is an explanation: Calendar Explanation
Selections from Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings copyright © 1995 by the Consultation on Common Texts.
Unless otherwise indicated, Bible text is from Holy Bible New Revised Standard Version with the Apocryphal / Deuterocanonical Books (NRSV) copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All right reserved.
Passages ending in (The Inclusive Bible) are from The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation by Priests for Equality, Published by Sheed and Ward. Copyright ©2007 by Priests for Equality.
Note: The links in the titles above take you to Amazon, where you can purchase them and benefit The Lectionary Company.
Image credit: Humility by an unidentified photographer via Max Pixel. This is a public domain image.