Lest Perhaps we die… The Curious Irony of the USCCB Mass Reading That Has No Perhaps

I thought I was crazy at first… the reading at Mass was different than what my bible said. Have you ever had that happen? There I am sitting at Mass this past weekend, and the reading for the First Sunday of Lent comes up. You know, it is the story of the fall of Adam and Eve, An appropriate selection so that we could study how this all happened, right?

I’m listening and I never hear the word “perhaps.” WHAT? Maybe I misheard it. I even pulled my phone out and got the USCCB daily mass reading site up… no… it’s not there!

How the Word “Perhaps” Killed Us

A few months ago, I was looking something up for a little project here. I came across Rev. E.F. Garesche S.J.’s book on the Rosary, but he has two titles on the rosary. This one was short meditations to use as meditations for the mysteries. I page through it and come across the scene of the serpent tempting Eve. Eve replied to the serpent that that are not to eat the fruit or touch it, “lest perhaps we shall die.” I had not really thought of that exchange in this way before. Immediately, I was thinking of the problems today. Eve had already lied about what God commanded. She did it ahead of time to justify eating the fruit. It could have also said “maybe we’d die” and mean the same thing. Eve was changing reality with a lie by dissembling God’s word.

The Mass Reading Lacked the word “Perhaps.”

Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals that the LORD God had made. The serpent asked the woman, “Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?”

The woman answered the serpent: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.’”

Mass Reading for First Sunday of Lent (March 1, 2019) on USCCB

That’s not right. So I checked the USCCB site’s report of the N.A.B. version of the bible… it has it wrong, too!

The woman answered the snake: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden;

3 it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, or else you will die.’”

N.A.B. translation of Genesis 3 on USCCB site.

I was surprised that the Mass reading was actually a little better than the N.A.B. translation.

Eve’s Actual Words Tell the Story of Sin and Error

Here’s what Church fathers and saints, and even Fr. Garesche S.J. were commenting upon as Eve’s discourse… she twists God’s words. From the Douay Rheims and Latin Vulgate:

And the woman answered him, saying: Of the fruit of the trees that are in paradise we do eat: 

But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of paradise, God hath commanded us that we should not eat; and that we should not touch it, lest perhaps we die. 

Douay-Rheims translation of Genesis 3.

The latin vulgate has the phrase “ne forte moriamur“. The whole of verse 3 is “de fructu vero ligni quod est in medio paradisi, praecepit nobis Deus ne comederemus, et ne tangeremus illud, ne forte moriamur.

Forte is an adverb that means “perhaps, maybe, etc.”

Do you see what Eve did there? She changed God’s words in order to get rid of the punishment. She was already becoming a god to herself (how else can one change God unless one becomes god?). That’s the irony within this.

Once you realize what Eve did, you see it all over the place today

How often do people do this today? Do you remember all the discussion of Amoris Laetitia? Cardinal Marx exclaiming that Christianity is “just too hard” and that divorced and remarrieds should be admitted to communion. How often do people today change what God has said? Need I mention Sodom and Gomorra? We don’t even need to mention that because they claim that hell isn’t even permanent!

Holy cow… it’s bad enough that people change God’s words (in the style of Eve), but it’s even worse when you don’t even hear it to begin with!

I realize that the King James Versions online also remove the “perhaps”… maybe that’s what the USCCB was after when making the NAB — they certainly wanted an ecumenical text version. But the price appears to be what Eve did.

I could go on and on about Adam’s idiocy in this… he was standing right there watching Eve do this. He had to be in shock, but what he appeared to see – Eve did not drop dead – didn’t match what God said… Adam bought the mirage. In fact, they both died immediately as evidenced when they ran off to hide in the bushes.

There’s a much large discussion here, but I think you can see the problem, right?

Here’s another hot take on this passage by St. Alphonsus Ligouri, from his homilies on the Four Gates of Hell:

Sinners Will Not Believe in the Divine Threats Until the Chastisement Has Come Upon Them, Part 1

"Except you do penance, you shall all likewise perish."  — Luke 13:5

After our Lord had commanded our first parents not to eat of the forbidden fruit, unhappy Eve approached the tree and was addressed from it by the serpent who said to her: Why has God forbidden you to eat of this delightful fruit? Why hath God commanded you? 

Eve replies: God hath commanded us that we should not eat, and that we should not touch it, lest perhaps we die. – Gen. iii, 3. 

Behold the weakness of Eve! The Lord had absolutely threatened them with death, and she now begins to speak of it as doubtful: Lest perhaps we die.  If I eat of it, she said, I shall perhaps die. 

But the devil, seeing that Eve was little in fear of the Divine threat, proceeded to encourage her by saying: No, you shall not die the death –Gen. 3:4; and thus he deceived her, and caused her to prevaricate and eat the apple. 

Thus, even now, does the enemy continue to deceive so many poor sinners. God threatens: Stop, sinners, and do penance, because if not you shall damn yourselves, as so many others have done: “Except you do penance, you shall all likewise perish.” 

The devil says to them: “No, you shall not die the death.” Fear nothing, sin on, continue to enjoy yourselves, because God is merciful; He will pardon you by and by, and you shall be saved. “God,” says St. Procopius, “inspires one with fear, the devil takes it away.” God only desires to terrify them by His threats, in order that they may depart from sin, and thus be saved. 

The devil wishes to destroy that fear, in order that they may persevere in sin, and thus be lost. Many are the wretches who believe the devil in preference to God, and are thus miserably damned. At present, behold the Lord displays His anger and threatens us with chastisement. Who knows how many there may be in this country who have no thought of changing their lives, in the hope that God will be appeased, and that it will be nothing. 


My brethren, if we do not amend, the chastisement will come; if we do not put an end to our crimes, God will.

When Lot was warned by the Lord that he was about to destroy Sodom, Lot at once in formed his sons-in-law: Arise! get you out of this place, because the Lord will destroy this city. –Gen. 19:14. 

But they would not believe him: And He seemed to them to speak as it were in jest. They imagined that he wished to sport with their fears, by terrifying them with such a threat. But the punishment overtook them, and they remained to be the sport of the flames. My brethren, what do we expect? God warns us that chastisement hangs over us; let us put a period to our sins, or shall we wait for God to do it? 

Hear, O sinner! what St. Paul says to you: See, then, the severity and goodness of God towards them, indeed, that are fallen, the severity; but towards thee the goodness of God, if thou abide in goodness, otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. –Romans 11:22. 

Consider, says the Apostle, the justice which the Lord has exercised towards so many whom He has punished, and condemned to Hell; towards them, indeed, that are fallen, the severity, consider the mercy with which He has treated you; but towards thee the goodness of God. You must abandon sin; if you change your ways, avoid the occasions of sin, frequent the Sacraments, and continue to lead a Christian life, the Lord will remit your punishment, if you abide in goodness; if not, you shall perish, otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.  God has already borne with you too long, He can bear with you no longer. God is merciful, but He is just also; He deals mercifully with those who fear Him; He cannot act thus towards the obstinate.


Lord, have mercy on us!

This article, Lest Perhaps we die… The Curious Irony of the USCCB Mass Reading That Has No Perhaps is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
Do not repost the entire article without written permission. Reasonable excerpts may be reposted so long as it is linked to this page.

John B. Manos

John B. Manos, Esq. is an attorney and chemical engineer. He has a dog, Fyo, and likes photography, astronomy, and dusty old books published by Benziger Brothers. He is the President of the Bellarmine Forum.
  • Joan Pernicano says:

    The first problem is that you’re still attending the Mass of the Feel Good. This was not the reading at my TLM this last Sunday. (It was Matt. 4 , 1-11) VII turned the Mass and most everything else Catholic upside down. You will know them (it) by their (its) fruits. Bad tree, bad fruit. The Church has been losing Catholics for the past 60 years. Many of those who’ve stayed have been dumbed down. We need a counter revolution.

  • Liz O Leary says:

    I contacted Robert Sungenis. He said the original Hebrew text does not have perhaps. That’s Old English. The bishops are correct.

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