Reading the Bible

We had been discussing the importance to Christians of reading the Bible. The opposition was arguing that Catholics have no need to personally read the Scriptures, since the Book was routinely read to them in the course of their regular worship. A Catholic participant posted this argument:

The Daily Roman Missal contains Scripture readings (one each from the prophets or histories, the Psalms, the Epistles, and the Gospels) covering the entire Bible for each Mass of every day of the calendar year over three-year cycles. Moreover, just about everything said in the various parts of the Mass is lifted verbatim straight out of the Bible. Same is true of the various Masses (or "Divine Liturgies," as non-Roman/Latin Rite Catholics prefer to call them) used in all other branches of the Catholic Church, e.g., the Byzantine, Syriac, Armenian, Malakite, Coptic, etc. --at least one of them dating back to the Apostle James, and quite possibly created by him. [My emphasis]

I responded that I have had a number of RCC apologists assure me that, by attending Mass every day of the year for three years, they would have read to them the entire Bible. In every instance when I challenged them on this, using examples from the Lectionary approved by the U.S. Bishops and counts taken from the Oxford Companion to the Bible, there was no meaningful response forthcoming. I challenged his claim on this issue.

According to [Thomas Hartwell] Horne's computations, the Old Testament of the Authorized or King James Version of the Bible is comprised of:

39 books, divided into 929 chapters with 33,214 verses containing 593,493 words composed of 2,728,100 letters.

The New Testament has 27 Books, 260 Chapters, 7,959 verses containing 181,251 words of 838,380 letters

The complete KJV totals 66 books, 1,189 chapters, 41,173 verses, 774,746 words using 3,566,480 letters -- Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, Editors, The Oxford Companion to the Bible, (c) 1993 Oxford University Press, p. 80

Let's do the math, based on the 66-book KJV rather than the 73-book Vulgate or Douay-Rheims, which have a greater number of books, chapters, verses and words:

Three years of Masses, allowing for Leap Year, works out to be 1096 days. For the purposes of this exercise, and to make the math easier, I shall assume that the readings for every Mass are identical in length. That would mean that, in every Mass throughout the three-year period, the faithful Catholic would have read to him (All figures rounded to nearest whole number):

- the equivalent of 1.85 chapters of combined O.T. and N.T. text.

- an aggregate of 38 verses; 30 O.T. and 8 N.T.

- an aggregate of 707 words; 542 O.T. and 165 N.T.

Perhaps that doesn't seem like a lot, but let's put the numbers into perspective by comparing them with the words of Scripture as transmitted in the KJV:

In the KJV, one would have to read from Matthew 1:1 through 1:9, plus the first seven words of verse 10 to get the required 165 N.T. words; and Genesis from 1:1 through 24, plus the first three words of verse 25 to get the necessary 542 O.T. words.

Let's home in on the readings as they actually are scheduled in Roman Catholic practice in the United States. Catholics who read here may be aware that the selection of readings for the Mass was rather a haphazard affair prior to Vatican II. That general council resulted in a new Ordo Lectionum Missae and a three year lectionary. The lectionary has been modified/revised a number of times since it first appeared. The current edition of the Lectionary for Mass for use in the Dioceses of the United States is available online.

To get some idea of how likely a Roman Catholic who faithfully attends Mass every day for three years would be to have read to him the entire Bible, I worked out the math for just a few representative days. I then ran the listed passages against my KJV. Catholics, of course, would be more likely to use one of the Bibles approved for liturgical use.

For my study, I went first to the Year C Sunday Lectionary, from which I selected the readings for the 1st and 9th Sundays in Ordinary Time. This is what I came up with:

The Baptism of the Lord - C [1st Sunday in Ordinary Time]

1st Reading: optional: Isa 40:1-5, 9-11 or use reading from Year A

Responsorial Psalm: optional: Ps 104:1b-2, 3-4, 24-25, 27-28, 29b-30 or use reading from Year A

2nd Readiing: optional: Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7 or use reading from Year A

Gospel: Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

That worked out to be: 30 verses 18 O.T./12 N.T.; and 607 words - 344 O.T./263 N.T.

The readings for the 9th Sunday in Ordinary Time worked out to be: 22 verses 5 O.T./17 N.T.; and 528 words 126 O.T./402 N.T.

I then went to for Weekdays in the Season of the Year (Ordinary Time), where I worked up the 1st day of Week 1 and the 4th day of Week 2 of Year I:

Week 1 Mon:

1st Reading: Heb. 1:1-6

Psalm: Ps 97:1-2, 6-7, 9

Gospel: Mark 1:14-20

Which worked out to be: 18 verses - 5 O.T./13 N.T.; and 390 words - 77 O.T./313 N.T.

The readings for Week 2 Thursday worked out to be: 21 verses - 5 O.T./16 N.T.; and 511 words - 107 O.T./404 N.T.

That's just an example of how the readings work out. Anyone who is interested in a more complete study is encouraged to visit Jesuit Felix Just's web page on the Loyola Marymount University site. I don't believe that the entire Bible is covered in the 1096 days of a three-year cycle, though I haven't checked every single day of listings for the cycle. However, I did do a quick machine search for the Matthew genealogy and it didn't show up; nor did the Genesis 4 'begats.' Also, there are very few readings from Proverbs. I could go on, but I believe it can be established from the Roman Catholic Lectionary itself that even though a faithful Catholic never misses a single daily Mass during a three-year period, he will not have had read to him the entire Bible.

As an aside, I should like to point out, for the benefit of those who claim that the cult headquartered in the Vatican has never been known as the Roman Catholic Church, that the official RCC document Professor Just used as his source document is entitled The Roman Catholic Lectionary for Mass. Just another example to demonstrate that even some high RCC offices continue using the label that so many Catholic apologists claim is incorrect.

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