Why German Sources?

In the early days of The Lutheran Missal project, when we first began to catalogue the contents of the late-medieval missals, we choose to limit our scope to the German dioceses. These sources, show in blue below, roughly correspond with the territory of present-day Germany (outlined in green).

Several months ago, as we began editing the temporal calendar for The Lutheran Missal, we concluded that it was necessary to expand our sources into some of the surrounding areas. Though not within the borders of modern Germany, these dioceses were part of the German cultural sphere of influence, a.k.a. the Holy Roman Empire. We also added the arch-dioceses of Scandinavia and the English diocese of Salisbury (Sarum) for the sake of reference. The “expansion” sources are shown below in light brown. The map also includes four ancient lectionaries (bottom left), the earliest of which is believed to have been compiled in 471 AD, and the Lutheran sources (bottom right).

This map, which happens to show the division between our original German sources and the expansion sources, was not actually intended for that purpose. It is a representation of the Gospel reading for Epiphany 4. There are only two options, and each is widely attested: Matthew 8 (blue) and Luke 8 (light brown).

At first glance it might appear as though there are two conflicting lectionary traditions for this day, but a closer look would reveal that these passages are parallel accounts of the same event: the Calming of the Sea. This typifies that, though regional variations do exist, the attestation of the historic lectionary is surprisingly harmonious.

There is no doubt that the Calming of the Sea is the Gospel reading for Epiphany 4, but from which gospel? Matthew’s account is clearly to be preferred, as it has the witness of the most ancient sources (bottom left), the unanimous consensus of the late-medieval German dioceses, and the added witness of the early and late Lutherans.

Although not every case is as clear cut as the example above, it does illustrate and support our rationale for giving preference to the German-area dioceses: they are generally more aligned with both the ancient manuscripts and the post-Reformation Lutheran sources.

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