The earliest use of the scriptures in Christian worship was from the Old Testament. Much of the New Testament had not yet been written. The ordered readings of the synagogue, from the law, the prophets and the writings, were taken for granted when Christians gathered for prayer.

As the church began to grow, readings from the apostles and evangelists were added. Five or more lections became the norm, interspersed with psalmody. By the fourth century readings from the Acts of the Apostles were selected for Paschaltide. Short readings from both Testaments were read at the daily offices. In the eucharist the number of readings was reduced, and in both east and west two readings from the New Testament became the norm.

At the Reformation attention to the scriptures was a priority. Not only were they to be read in the tongue of the people, but also the complete bible would be covered. The daily office of the mediaeval church was modified to form two services of morning and evening prayer. Each included readings from the Old and New Testaments, so selected that the whole bible might be read at least once during the year.

The reformed liturgies of Martin Luther and Thomas Cranmer follow this model, but with their eucharistic readings retaining the mediaeval choice of Epistle and Gospel. It was certainly the intention of Cranmer that the morning office would precede the eucharist, and even when the sacrament was not to be celebrated, the service of ante-communion would be read. This was the pattern of worship for the next few centuries, and even in traditions which did not have a set liturgy, the practice of readings from both Testaments was accepted as the norm.

>The move to make the Sunday Eucharist the principle service of the day, well meant in every way, had the effect of depriving congregations of the Psalms, Canticles and the Hebrew scriptures. This was recognised at the Lambeth Conference of 1958, which suggested that ‘a lesson from the Old Testament might form part of the delivery of God’s Word … and that the three lessons might be separated by psalms or portions of psalms’.1

The Revised Common Lectionary of 1992, following the Common Lectionary, provides readings from Acts for Paschaltide, but the Hebrew scripture portions are given only for Easter Day and Pentecost. The only justification for this omission of the Old Testament is that this was the tradition of certain ancient rites, both east and west.2 Our understanding of the resurrection and of the whole purpose of Paschaltide in the New Testament is based on the teaching of both creation and redemption as it comes to us from the Old. The particular contribution of the literature from the exilic and post-exilic periods is of great value.

Of the available sets of Paschaltide readings, that of the Church of Scotland is the recommended choice.3 Each lection is typologically related to its accompanying gospel reading, thus providing the most appropriate selection for the season, while avoiding any fragmentation of passages. Linked Psalms are also included. The obligatory use of the Acts readings is not recommended. The value of Acts has already been affirmed, but the Revised Common Lectionary selection is somewhat repetitive. In a future revision, the post-Pentecost season would be the more appropriate place for Acts.

For the present, this table of lessons covering the three-year cycle is an attempt to provide a balance of readings from both the Old and New Testaments which will be fitting and will enrich the season of Paschaltide.

THE ALTERNATIVE TEXTS FOR PASCHALTIDE – for use with the Revised Common Lectionary


Year A

Easter Day Jeremiah 31:1-6* 118:1-2, 14-24*
Easter 2 Exodus 15:1-11 111
Easter 3 Isaiah 51:1-6 34:1-10
Easter 4 Ezekiel 34:7-15 100
Easter 5 Proverbs 4:10-18 119:9-32
Easter 6 Ezekiel 34:1-7a 115
Ascension Daniel 7:9-14 24:7-10
Easter 7 Isaiah 45:1-7 21:1-7
Pentecost Numbers11:24 -30* 104:26-34, 35b*


Year B

Easter Day Isaiah 25:6-9* 118:1-2, 14-24*
Easter 2 Isaiah 65:17-25 3
Easter 3 Isaiah 6:1-9a 40:1-5
Easter 4 Zechariah 10 80:1-7
Easter 5 Exodus 19:1-6 118:19-25
Easter 6 Genesis 35:9-15 101
Ascension Day Daniel 7:9-14 68:15-20, 32-35
Easter 7 Jeremiah 10:1-10a 108
Day of Pentecost Ezekiel 37:1-14* 104:24-34, 35b*


Year C

Easter Day Isaiah 65:17-25* 118:1-2, 14-24*
Easter 2 2 Kings 7:1-16 2
Easter 3 Isaiah 61:1-3 90:13-17
Easter 4 Isaiah 53:1-6 114
Easter 5 Leviticus 19:9-18 24:1-6
Easter 6 Deuteronomy 34:1-12 109:21-31
Ascension Day Daniel 7:9-14 113
Easter 7 2 Kings 2:1-15 2
Day of Pentecost Genesis 11:1-9* 104:24-34, 35b*


*For the sake of completeness, the Revised Common Lectionary Hebrew passages for Easter and Pentecost are included.

Alternative Texts for Paschaltide: Questions for Study, Evaluation and Response

1. Purpose, Intent
     1.1. How do you respond to the rationale provided in the description of the project provided in the Introductory essay? Is it reasonable? Is it in harmony with your received liturgical and theological traditions?
     1.2. What objections does your Church have to the proposal, if any? In what are they based (liturgical, biblical, theological traditions, practical considerations)?
     1.3. Does the proposed table of Alternative Readings measure up to the intent of the proposal? If not, please specify.
     1.4. Further comments relating to Purpose, Intent

2. Transitions – External
     2.1. How well would you describe the ways in which these readings mark the transitions…
          2.1.1. From Holy Week into Paschaltide
          2.1.2. From Paschaltide into Pentecost
     2.2 Further comments relating to transitions – external

3. Transitions – Internal (Please be specific in your responses)
     3.1. How well would you describe the ways in which these readings make the transitions from one Sunday to the next?
     3.2. How well do the Alternative texts relate to the existing Gospel and Epistle readings for each Sunday?
     3.3. How well do these Alternative texts relate to your Daily Lectionaries (if applicable)?
     3.4. Further comments relating to transitions – internal

4. Note any particular difficulties, critique of particular textual proposals

5. Note any particular strengths that you see in the particular textual proposals

6. What is the likelihood that your Church will be able to support the use of these texts
     6.1. As a set of alternatives to be promoted?
     6.2. As a set of possible new texts, to be adopted?

7. Further Comments
The English Language Liturgical Consultation encourages the study and evaluation of its Alternative Texts for Paschaltide, and relies on the responses from your constituency in order to shape its work.

By 1 July 2010, please remit your responses to: The Venerable Keith L. Griffiths, Christ Church, P.O. Box 162, Constantia 7848, South Africa E-Mail: kgriffs(a)

1 - Lambeth Conference, 1958, SPCK, 2.82 [back]

2 - Revised Common Lectionary, 1992, Canterbury Press, p 13 [back]

3 - Book of Common Order, 1994, St Andrew Press, pp 627ff [back]

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