There’s a discussion I came across on Facebook on the Liturgy of the Hours and how Psalms 58 and 137 had been removed from some recent lectionary.
To tell you the truth, I did not even notice until this year that Psalm 58 was missing from the 1962 Canadian Book of Common Prayer. When I first noticed the numbering skipped from 57 to 59, I thought, well, maybe it has something to do with how Psalms are numbered. This is why I am a terrible proofreader, in case you haven’t noticed.
Oh, and I just looked up Psalm 137 and see the Canadian Prayer Book only includes vs. 1-6.
I personally do not like having an Bowdlerized Psalter. I really, really do not like it. I even less like a Bowdlerized Bible. I do not like removing passages merely because people find them offensive, or because the people of today think they are so superior in having the benefit of today’s insight to judge the past. I am sure there were many powers that be throughout Jewish history that wanted parts of the Jewish Scripture left out and thankfully there was a stronger desire to preserve sacred writings intact.
Yes, these Psalms, which I paste below, seem bloodthirsty, even genocidal, as do many passages in Scripture. Rather than cut holes in Scripture—imagine what we would have left if every generation decided to cut out the bits they found offensive—be a pretty small, book—how about we make more effort to see how the Early Church Fathers interpreted these difficult passages, how they describe our inward spiritual battles.
So, what do you think of Bowdlerized Psalters, or of the habit of lectionaries to skip the problematic parts of the Bible. I always find I tend to read them anyway, wondering, why is the story of Tamar omitted, and so on. Your thoughts?
Okay, so let’s take a look at the “offending” Psalms (from the 1928 US Prayer Book):
Psalm 58. Si vere utique.
ARE your minds set upon righteousness, O ye congregation? * and do ye judge the thing that is right, O ye sons of men?
|1 people until 1928|
| 6 Break their teeth, O God, in their mouths; * smite the jaw-bones of the lions, O LORD.
7 Let them fall away like water that runneth apace; * when they shoot their arrows, let them be rooted out.
8 Let them consume away like a snail, and be like the untimely fruit of a woman; * and let them not see the sun.
9 Or ever your pots be made hot with thorns, * he shall take them away with a whirlwind, the green and the burning alike.
10 The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance; * he shall wash his footsteps in the blood of the ungodly.
11 So that a man shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous; * doubtless there is a God that judgeth the earth.