Obey your father, comfort your mother, obey the Lord

Obey your father, comfort your mother, obey the Lord

We had a bit of a discussion over a conundrum today regarding the first reading at Mass. On the Feast of the Holy Family, we read Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14, which expounds on the duty to honor your mother and father. In verse 6, in the version we heard from the Lectionary, it says, “Whoever reveres his father will live a long life; he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.” [My emphasis]

Seems straightforward enough. However, the New American Bible, upon which the Lectionary is based, renders this verse as saying, “He who reveres his father will live a long life; he obeys the Lord who brings comfort to his mother.”

That’s not just a different word choice (father/Lord), but a different sentiment. In the former, the mother is comforted when her children obey their father. But in the second, comforting the mother is the laudable act required by God.

As best as I can tell using only online sources—being so far away from my library—this is the result of two different textual traditions in the Septuagint, the Greek language translation of Old Testament Scriptures which is our primary source for the book of Sirach. (A fun tangent would be discussing textual traditions and how there isn’t really a single “Bible” but 5,000 complete and partial books, scrolls, and scraps of papyrus, right down to single verses, that don’t always agree with one another. But that’s a discussion for another day.)

What’s most interesting is the choice that was made to include a different version in the Lectionary than was found in the NAB, from which the Lectionary ostensibly is drawn. I wonder how and why that decision was made.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
2 comments
  • Well, the 1998 revised Lectionary departs in many places from the NAB, for a variety of reasons, including input from Rome.

  • That would be a really fun tangent.  I didn’t know
    there were different versions of the Septuagint.

    I’d be especially curious to see what our sola scriptura brethren have to say about it.

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