The New Yorker Fails to Recognize Famous Verse From Sermon on the Mount

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In a literary essay published by the New Yorker, the magazine's former deputy editor appeared to be baffled by an obvious Biblical reference.

Charles McGrath, also the former editor of the New York Times Book Review, wrote a piece on Victorian poet A. E. Housman, his distinctively English style and sensibility, and a new Housman biography written by British author Peter Parker.

McGrath at one point endorsed Parker's theory that not all of Housman's poems are intended to be taken literally, "including the strange one that recommends plucking out your eye and cutting off your hand or foot if it offends you," he noted.

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While it may seem esoteric to the New Yorker, Housman's 1896 poem was a clear allusion to Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.

If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

Conservative journalist Helen Andrews first caught the amusing oversight and posted a screencap to Twitter, prompting a round of Internet ribbing.