Someone pointed out to me that there was some confusion about the Gospel Reading in the Roman Rite Lectionary for Mass for yesterday (Thursday of the Second Week of Easter).
Part of the advantage of the Lectionary (as opposed to from reading from the Bible itself), is that small introductions are given that contextualize the readings. For many years the Gospel readings in the Roman Rite started with “in illo tempore” a generic “in that time” to introduce the reading. This introduction has the technical name of “incipit” (beginning). Here is how number 124 of the 1981 Second edition of the General Introduction to the Lectionary explains their function and use:
In this Order of Readings the first element of the incipit is the customary introductory phrase: “At that time,” “In those days,” “Brothers and Sisters,” “Beloved,” “Dearly Beloved,” “Dearest Brothers and Sisters,” or “Thus says the Lord,” “Thus says the Lord God.” These words are not given when the text itself provides sufficient indication of the time or the persons involved or where such phrases would not fit in with the very nature of the text. For the individual languages, such phrases may be changed or omitted by decree of the competent Authorities.
After the first words of the incipit the Order of Readings gives the proper beginning of the reading, with some words deleted or supplied for intelligibility, inasmuch as the text is separated from its context. When the text for a reading is made up of non-consecutive verses and this has required changes in wording, these are appropriately indicated.
Yesterday’s Gospel was John 3: 31-36. The speaker is John the Baptist. Yet some editions of the Lectionary give the speaker as Jesus or do not list the speaker at all. I checked the three English editions on my own bookshelf and I saw that the reading started in three different ways.
In my Jerusalem Bible Lectionary (the current Lectionary for Ireland), the reading correctly provides an incipit and starts:
John the Baptist said to his disciples:
“He who comes from above
is above all others.
In my New American Bible Lectionary (current US Lectionary) no context is given and the reading starts:
The one who comes from above is above all.
In the Revised Standard Version Second Catholic Edition Lectionary (the Ignatius Press edition that is used in the Antilles, the Ordinariates and most of English-speaking Africa), the reading provides a mistaken incipit and starts:
Jesus said to Nicodemus,
‘he who comes from above is above all:
he who is of the earth belongs to the earth.
I imagine that the mistake comes from the day before, where the Gospel reading is also from chapter 3 of John, but where Jesus indeed is speaking to Nicodemus. Indeed, when I checked a Latin I found the root of the confusion. The Latin also gives a mistaken incipit:
In illo tempore: Dixit lesus Nicodemo:
I have not checked the current edition typica as I don’t have the current one to hand. So it may well have been corrected in later printings. I took the Latin from a pdf version of the Latin Lectionary I found on the Corpus Christi Watershed website. Here it provides a complete scan of the Missale Romanum cum Lectionibus. Ex Decreto Sacrosancti Oecumenici Concilii Vaticani II Instauratum. Auctoritate Pauli PP. VI Promulgatum. Rome: Libreria Editirice Vaticana, 1977.
The person who alerted me to this confusion told me that he checked many versions and that the Italian, German, Canadian, Ukrainian lectionaries were wrong and attributed the words to Jesus, and that the French, Polish and Portuguese, like the current US edition give no attribution. I have not been able to verify which particular editions of the Lectionary he consulted, but it is undoubtedly a problem.
It is not a surprise that a few typos creeped in to the thousands of pages of official liturgical texts in Latin. However, it reinforces the necessity for those who prepare translations into the vernacular ought to keep an eye to what they are doing and to correct any obvious mistakes in an editio typica, as well as respectfully notifying the Congregation of Divine Worship of any typos they find.