Friday, June 19, 2015

What about the doxology?

Dear Rev. Know-it-all,

You forgot to explain the final doxology of the Our Father, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen” How is that dangerous? 

Yours ever, 

Dr. Reinhold Saulogey PhD. DDT. FYI.
(Most people just call me “Doc”)

Dear “Doc” Saulogey,

The doxology at the end of the Our Father is not dangerous because it isn’t part of the original prayer. It isn’t found in Luke's version of the Our Father, and it isn’t found in the earliest manuscripts of the Gospel of Matthew. Remember that at the time of Christ and in the subsequent centuries there were no Xerox machines, not even faxes! Things were written out by hand by underfed, freezing monks who spent their lives copying out books by hand. They might take a break and go to vespers then to the refectory for a hearty bowl of gruel and the pint of wine that St. Benedict allowed in his monastic rule and then return to the scriptorium to do a little more copying work before night prayer and a five-hour sleep on a pallet of straw on the unheated dirt or stone floor of their cozy cells. Then it was up for the service of readings at 2 or 3 AM and then off to another day of copying.  Sometimes monks made a mistake, or added something that wasn’t there, or put something in the wrong place in the text. 

If Duke Squiselbert or some such wealthy medieval nobleman commissioned 10 or 20 copies of the Bible to give as nice St. Swiven’s Day presents to people he wanted to impress with his piety, and those copies had a mistake in them, such instead of “To wit, Libyans and troglodytes.” (2 Chronicles 12:13) some exhausted monk, woozy with oil lamp fumes, wrote, “To wit Libyans and hermaphrodites” then the wrong word appeared in 20 copies. When those 20 copies were again copied, the text was discussing hermaphrodites instead of troglodytes. Meanwhile, another monk who had gotten a little more sleep but had been commissioned to write only one copy of the text, properly wrote, “To wit, Libyans and troglodytes.” 

The majority text, with its interest in hermaphrodites, became accepted as the authentic version. Then many years later, in for instance the wacky 20th century, when people hadn’t the sense that God gave geese, scholars might point out that the scripture condoned sex change operations using the reference to hermaphrodites in 2 Chronicles 12:13, as a proof text. Their whole theology would have been based on the error of a drowsy monk in a dark medieval scriptorium. Herein lays the problem with sola scriptura, (Bible only) theology. The common text is not always the right text. 

There is a whole science called papyrology in which very smart, very squirrely professors try to figure these things out. They don’t get out much, but at least it’s a living. So, the simple answer is that, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory” appears in a lot of later manuscripts, but not in the earlier manuscripts. It appears in a similar wording (“for yours is the power and the glory forever”), as a conclusion for the Our Father in the Didache, 8:2, a late 1st century or early 2nd century text written in Syria. It was probably used in the liturgy as an addition to the prayer, and thus was ultimately included in certain manuscripts especially in the Eastern Church. We Latins have never used it in the Mass that is until the changes after second Vatican Council when we tried to make nice with the Protestants but, not wishing to offend more traditional Catholics, we didn’t add it directly to the Our Father, but threw it in a little further on in the Mass, thus making nobody happy.

So there you have it. It’s probably not part of the Our Father as the first Christians received it from the Lord and prayed it, but it’s still true and not a bad thing to say. And besides it is a little bit dangerous. Remember that we are saying “thine” not mine.
Yours Ever,

Rev. Know-it-all

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