Re the Daily Office Readings July 31 Anno Domini 2020

Photo by Leon LIu

The Readings: Judges 5:1-18; Acts 2:1-21; Matthew 28:1-10

The Lectionary splits Deborah’s song in two; we’ll get the second half tomorrow. Meanwhile the middle of v.11? The KJV reads:

there shall they rehearse the righteous acts of the LORD,
even the righteous acts toward the inhabitants of his villages in Israel:

In later translations the underlined phrases are replaced by “triumphs” (NRSV), “victories” (CEB), “blessings” and “saving acts” (NJB), or “bounties” (Alter). The challenge the translators are addressing: the Hebrew text is using tsidqot (literally “righteousnesses”) as shorthand for actions motivated by righteousness, with ‘righteousness’ itself often denoting, as someone put it, doing right to those to whom one is obligated. The LORD has made promises to Israel; here the LORD is doing right by Israel, keeping those promises, giving victories.

The KJV helpfully puts words or phrases the translators supply in italics. In this verse their additions limit the “righteous acts” to the LORD. A more straightforward translation might distribute these acts—so NRSV and CEB:

there they repeat the LORD’s victories,
his villagers’ victories in Israel. (CEB)

The LORD’s righteousness is mirrored by the righteousness of those who respond to Deborah and Barak’s muster (with positive and negative examples enumerated in vv.12-18). With Romans still ringing in our ears, we might recall “For in it [the Gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from [divine] faithfulness to [human] faithfulness” (1:17a, my translation).

And that righteousness, on full display in the remaining two readings.

Parenthetically, we might title the Matthew reading “The LORD who couldn’t stay on script.” After the carefully scripted angelic appearance, complete with special effects, in which the angel explains What Needs to Come Next, Jesus tosses the script and comes onstage to greet Mary and Mary. Paul nailed it: “And the life that I now live in my body, I live by faith, indeed, by the faithfulness of God’s Son, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20 CEB).

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