one gospelThomas O'Loughlin

The 1969 lectionary is one of the greatest fruits of the Second Vatican Council - and one that has affected the worship of countless Christians outside the Catholic Church. But do we appreciate the lectionary? Do we value all its possibilities? Do we even think about it? Thomas O'Loughlin is Professor of Historical Theology at the University of Nottingham, and President of the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain.

The opening lines of Luke's account of the central events of Christian faith do not strike one as being of great interest - certainly it would get a low score if submitted in a modern class in creative writing as neither grabbing the reader's attention nor conveying the kernel of the message in a sound-bite! But if we look closely at it, it may give us a key to understanding how we are to use his text, as well as those of Mark, Matthew, and John. Here it is:

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us ... ... it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you ... . (Lk. 1.1-3)

There are two points to note in this. First, Luke does not use the word 'gospel' to describe his work - he calls it 'an orderly account.' Second, he takes it for granted that many have compiled such accounts. Now we know that Luke saw Mark's book, but had never seen Matthew's nor John's account (it was either written later or circulated in a different network to those Luke knew). Therefore, the accounts he mentions must include many works in addition to those that have survived in our bibles. Why is this important?

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