Sunday, January 03, 2016

The Loss of Innocents

If you are a Sunday churchgoer and you heard Matthew 2:13-15,19-23 as the Gospel lesson this Sunday, you missed hearing about the slaughter of the innocents as verses 16-18 were expurgated. This may have been done because there was supposed to be a service on December 29 (this fell on Tueday this year) in which the Holy Innocents are remembered. This is one of the problems with the lectionary used in many churches: unless you read the whole Bible on a regular basis, the average churchgoer receives sub-optimal religious instruction from the very institution that the pewsitter believes is supposed to be in the business of teaching and preaching all of God's word.

Never one to let an opportunity go by where the bits that go unsaid during a Sunday service are lost, I have added in the missing verses (in red).
Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’... 
When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
   wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
   she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’
...When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He will be called a Nazorean.’ 

This is the world that God chose to be born into. We should not fall into the delusion that the present world is any less cruel. Leaving part of the story out may lead to such a delusion.

Unfortunately, sanitized readings from the Bible as often heard in many churches, while sounding nice, are pablum that may cause more harm than good and may make many an average Sunday churchgoer more susceptible to heretical teachings or more likely to simply drift away altogether. These churchgoers are the innocents of today who might be subject to slaughter. 


  1. Anonymous6:07 PM

    Thanks for this!

    As you probably know, I heard Epiphany readings on January 3.

    I am astounded that those verses for the Holy Innocents were omitted. The omission completely obliterates the point of the remembrance. Most people probably left church having heard the Gospel and thought, 'Who are the Holy Innocents?' Most, I reckon, thought they were the Holy Family.

    You are entirely correct in your warning about the removal of essential Bible verses. Your site was the inspiration for my Forbidden Bible Verses. (They might as well be, mightn't they?)

    For that, I thank you.

    May you and your family have a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.


  2. Your commentaries on Forbidden Bible Verses are a helpful reminder to travelers along the internet religion pages that there is more to the story. As I commented elsewhere, we who travel in the underground of the Church have at least learned to "Mind the Gaps".