Friday, April 2, 2010

Passion Gospels

I was curious about exactly how much material was covered in the twelve Passion Gospel readings. The passages are:
  1. John 13:31--18:1
  2. John 18:1-28
  3. Matt 26:57-75
  4. John 18:28--19:16
  5. Matt 27:3-32
  6. Mark 15:16-32
  7. Matt 27:33-54
  8. Luke 23:32-49
  9. John 19:25-37
  10. Mark 15:43-47
  11. John 19:38-42
  12. Matt 27:62-66
Now, the first obvious observation is that these readings do not include the full text of all four Gospels; nor, for that matter, do they contain the full text of any of the four Gospels. John dominates in terms of overall length, mostly because of the first reading, which consists of exclusive material--Jesus's teachings from the Last Supper. But even setting aside that reading, John still ties with Matthew for the most repeat visits. Indeed, it is hard to avoid the impression that the selection mostly revolves around John and Matthew, with Luke and Mark brought in for more thorough coverage of the crucifixion, death, and burial. This is a sensible strategy, given that Matthew is one of the more comprehensive of the Synoptic Gospels, while John's material regularly departs from that of the other three.

Even so, it should be expected that some of the material unique to Luke will be omitted, and that is in fact the case. Particularly, Luke's longer account of the walk to Golgotha is missing, and more notably, the entire hearing before Herod. The Synoptic account of Jesus's prayers in the Garden also fails to make the cut, but it does turn up in the composite reading from the preceding vespers.

The overall flow of the twelve readings is chronological, with a good deal of overlap:
  1. Johannine Last Supper teachings
  2. arrest, Jewish trial, denial (John)
  3. Jewish trial, denial (Matthew)
  4. Roman trial, mockery (John)
  5. Judas, Roman trial, mockery (Matthew)
  6. mockery, crucifixion (Mark)
  7. crucifixion, death (Matthew)
  8. crucifixion, death (Luke)
  9. crucifixion, death (John)
  10. burial (Mark)
  11. burial (John)
  12. guard (Matthew)
Again, it seems that emphasis is placed (as one would expect) on the actual crucifixion. This is the only section covered by all four Gospels, including the sole reading from Luke. The mockery is covered in three Gospels, as is the death. Indeed, there is a loose rise-and-fall to the whole series, from single coverage of the Johannine teachings to double coverage of each trial and Peter's denials, to the core events of the mockery, crucifixion, and death, then back to double coverage of the burial, and Matthew's account of the Jews requesting a guard.

I'm still a bit puzzled as to the omission of the hearing before Herod. Was it incidental, merely a by-product of the overall preference for John and Matthew? Or was it intentional, and if so, why? I'm probably just forgetting something, but I can't recall Herod being mentioned in the liturgical texts of Holy Week. That wouldn't necessarily explain the omission, but it would be consistent. Perhaps it was enough to show both the Jewish side and the Roman side in Jesus's death. Is Herod superfluous in that sense? He seems to have a unique perspective, being mostly interested in Jesus as a wonder-worker. It's an obsession that can preach, but perhaps in the overall message of Jesus's death, it's just not that important.

1 comment:

  1. Christ has Risen

    On 1/19/09 in your blog:
    Letter #50:

    For you to meditate on the Divine attributes and activities on your own may be a little difficult. It seems, however, that you have the writings of Bishop Tikhon. You will find his Letters from the Cell to be a most helpful aid. Bishop Tikhon clearly contemplates each Divine attribute and activity, and writes of each one with such warmth and conviction that, if you read attentively, they will permeate your heart.
    As noted above (#33), I know of only one book available in English with any of St. Tikhon's writings. There doesn't seem to be a section comparable to the contemplation he mentions here.

    I am looking for books by St. Tikon. I have not found any. Please email me
    I would like to find some books.

    Yours in Christ,
    SubDeacon James