Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Fourth Sunday of Easter - May 3, 2020

Saint Dominic contemplating the Scriptures Saint Dominic contemplating the Scriptures
Author's note:
Sometimes I have material left over when I edit Comments down to fit the available space. This page presents notes that landed on the clipping room floor. Some may be useful to you. While I avoid technical language in the Comments (or explain special terms), Clippings may have unexplained jargon from time to time.

A hypertext Glossary of Terms is integrated with Clippings. Simply click on any highlighted word in the text and a pop-up window will appear with a definition. Bibliographic references are also integrated in the same way.

Acts 2:42-47

In this summary (as in other summaries), incidents in adjacent narratives are shown to be usual, typical and continued. Other summaries are found in 4:32-35 and 5:12-15. The parallels between this summary and others are:

2:43a 5:11 (see also 5:5b)
2:43b 5:12a
2:44-45 4:32, 34-35
2:47a 4:33b 5:13b
2:47b 5:14 [ JBC]

Verse 42: “fellowship”: The Greek word is koinonia. See also 2 Corinthians 8:4; 9:13; Galatians 2:9-10. [ NJBC]

Verse 42: “the breaking of bread”: Apparently a common meal including the Eucharist. See 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. The risen Jesus broke bread with Cleopas and another disciple at Emmaus (see Luke 24:35). This practice recalls Jesus’ practice during his lifetime with respect to breaking bread: see Luke 9:11-27 (the Feeding of the Five Thousand) and 22:14-38 (the Last Supper). In Acts, see also v. 46; 20:7, 11; 27:35. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verses 43-47: We know that the Essenes and the Qumran community also shared everything in common. Later members of the Jerusalem church were so impoverished that Paul made a collection for them.

Verse 43: “many wonders and signs were being done”: This shows that the messianic kingdom is breaking through from the age to come into the present age. Peter quotes from Joel in v. 19. [ NJBC]

Comments: a little later such sharing was not the universal rule : 5:1-5 tells of Ananias who, with his wife’s consent, sold a piece of property. Rather than contributing all the proceeds to the common purse, he withheld part.

Verse 46: “they spent much time together in the temple”: For Jesus in the Temple, see Luke 2:27, 49; 19:45; 22:53; 24:53. [ NJBC]

Verse 47: “having the goodwill of all the people”: By the time of the stoning of Stephen, the people of Jerusalem had turned against the Christian community: see 7:51-52. [ NJBC]

Verse 47: “the Lord added to their number ...”: In Acts, each literary unit ends with such a growth notice: see also 2:41; 4:4; 6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 19:20. [ NJBC]

Psalm 23

A song of trust, probably a royal prayer reinterpreted after the Exile. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: Revelation 7:17 applies these words to the “Lamb” (Christ). [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “soul”: i.e. the vitality, the individualized principle of life. [ NOAB]

Verse 4: “darkest valley”: NOAB says that shadow of death is an ancient, but probably fanciful, rendering. See also 44:19; 107:10; Job 3:5; Isaiah 9:2 where the same Hebrew expression occurs and is translated in terms of darkness. [ NOAB] NJBC disagrees; he says that shadow of death is possible.

Verse 5: Kings in the ancient Near East would give lavish banquets on special occasions; hence this image continues the theme of the provident shepherd-king. See 1 Kings 8:65-66 for a “festival” given by Solomon for all the people. [ NJBC]

Verse 6a: The psalmist prays that only the good effects of the covenant now pursue him throughout his life. [ NJBC]

Verse 6: “I shall dwell”: NJBC offers may I dwell. The Hebrew verb can mean return or dwell; the ambivalence is probably deliberate, alluding to the exiles’ hope of returning home. See also 27:4.

Verse 6: “the house of the Lord”: The Hebrew term can also mean the land of Israel in general. [ NJBC]

Verse 6: “my whole life long”: The Hebrew literally means for length of days. [ NOAB]

For Yahweh as shepherd, see also Psalm 79:13, Isaiah 40:11, and Ezekiel 34:15ff.

1 Peter 2:19-25

2:11-12: How Christians are seen outside the Church. See also 3:16; Titus 2:7-8; 3:1-2. [ CAB] Stoic wisdom of the time exalted persons who were not driven by passions, but here such conduct is to the glory of God. [ IntPet]

2:11: “aliens and exiles”: One scholar offers visiting strangers and resident aliens. By becoming Christians, they were demoted to a lower social class: see Hebrews 10:32-34. In 1 Peter, the true home of the Christian is not so much the world to come (as in Hebrews) as the Christian community: see, for example, v. 17: “Love the family of believers”. [ NJBC]

2:11: “wage war”: In Romans 7:23, Paul says of himself: “I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members”. [ NOAB]

2:12: “Conduct”: A favourite word in 1 Peter: see also 1:15, 17; 2:12; 3:1, 2:16. [ NJBC]

2:12: “they malign you”: Christians were accused of immoralities during their secret meetings. [ NOAB]

2:12: “when he comes to judge”: When God makes the innocence of the suffering faithful known. [ NOAB]

2:13-17: Respect for civil authority. See also Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-3; Titus 3:1-8. All civil institutions, whether good or bad, are ordained by God. [ CAB] [ NOAB]

2:14: “governors”: i.e. of Roman provinces. [ NOAB]

2:15: In 3:15-16, the author writes: “Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence”. [ NJBC]

2:16: NOAB suggests that the following insertions are helpful to understanding: “[Live] as servants of God, [so you can] live as free people ...” Christians should even honour those who malign them.

2:16: “live as free people”: In John 8:32, Jesus says: “the truth will make you free”. See also Matthew 17:26; Luke 4:18-31; Romans 8:2; 1 Corinthians 7:22; 2 Corinthians 3:17; Galatians 5:1. [ NJBC]

2:17: “Fear God. ...”: An adaptation of Proverbs 24:21. In Matthew 22:21, Jesus tells some Pharisees: “‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s’”. In Romans 13:6-7, Paul writes: “For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, busy with this very thing. Pay to all what is due them – taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honour to whom honour is due”. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

2:18-3:7: A section on the obligations of Christians. Guidelines are given for the behaviour of three groups: slaves ( 2:18-25), wives ( 3:1-6) and husbands ( 3:7). For other similar household codes, see Ephesians 5:22-6:9; Colossians 3:18-4:1; 1 Timothy 6:1-2; Titus 2:9-10. While the passages in Ephesians and Colossians contain instructions to both the inferior and superior members of the household, here masters are not addressed at all and husbands are addressed with the short form typical of household codes (in 3:7). [ NOAB] [ NJBC] [ CAB] IntPet notes that only those who are dependent on superiors (slaves and women) are addressed; he suggests that the masters and husbands here were pagans.

2:18: “accept the authority ... with all deference”: IntPet suggests that in all fear is a better translation, that this describes the slaves’ individual relationships to God rather than to their masters.

2:19: “a credit”: The Greek word, charis, elsewhere in 1 Peter means “grace” (in 1:2) and “salvation” (in 1:10, 13). Charis is connected with God’s gift of salvation. [ IntPet]

2:19: “aware of”: i.e. conscious of. [ NJBC]

2:20: “approval”: Again the Greek word is charis. [ IntPet]

2:21-25: This seems to be part of an early Christian hymn. [ NJBC]

2:21: The quotation is from the Septuagint translation of Isaiah 53:9b. “Sin” has been substituted for lawlessness, thus tying this quotation with the allusion to Isaiah 53:4, 12b in v. 24, “he ... bore our sins”. [ IntPet]

2:23: See Mark 15:29-32 (Jesus on the Cross); 14:65; Luke 23:11, 36-37; John 19:1-5. [ CAB] This verse reformulates Isaiah 53:9 so that the example can be applied directly to the experiences of persecuted Christians. [ IntPet]

2:24: “bore our sins”: In Isaiah 53:4, a verse in the fourth Servant Song, we read “Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted”. See also Hebrews 9:28. [ CAB] [ NJBC]

2:24: “cross”: Literally tree. Tree or wood is a very early Christian term for the cross: see Acts 5:30 (“Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree”); 10:39; 13:29; Galatians 3:13. [ NJBC]

2:24: “free from sins ...”: The REB offers “we might cease to live for sin and begin to live for righteousness”

2:25: The suffering servant, vindicated by God in the Resurrection, becomes the Good Shepherd. Ezekiel 34:5-16, a passage that promises that God will shepherd the neglected sheep underlies the transition from straying sheep to the injunction to return to the shepherd. [ IntPet]

2:25: “guardian”: The Greek word, episkopos, also occurs in 5:2-4 and Acts 20:28, where it is translated as “oversight” and “overseers” respectively. [ NJBC]

John 10:1-10

The division between Chapter 9 and Chapter 10 is unfortunate. (Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, who died in 1208, is credited with dividing the Bible into chapters.)

This chapter is difficult to understand partly because Jesus switches metaphor several times, a practice which was common in his time and for centuries after, but which is frowned on (to say the least!) today.

Verses 1-10: There is a selection of shepherds (leaders) here and also one of sheep (followers).

Verse 1: “climbs in”: No metaphor is perfect!

Verse 2: “shepherd”: Jesus may mean either the leader of the community or himself. If the latter, he shifts metaphor between v. 2 and v. 3. Both the shepherd and the gatekeeper/gate protect. The metaphor definitely shifts in v. 11ff to Jesus as the shepherd.

Verse 6: “figure of speech”: The Greek word is paroimia , meaning metaphor, parable, proverb, or enigmatic or fictitious illustration. The REB translates the word as parable. In spite of Jesus’ explanation (vv. 7-8), it is hard to understand, and has been interpreted in various ways.

Verses 7-10: A quotation from BlkJn (adapted to the NRSV translation) is an attempt to help in understanding this passage:

If the “gate of the sheep” here represents accurately what Jesus said, then ... [vv. 7-10] are in an almost intolerable state of confusion. But if the suggestion is adopted that in an Aramaic original the accidental repetition of one letter (a tau) has caused the shepherd to be read as “the gate”, then verses 7 and 8 give an interpretation consistent with the original parable, and the allegory does not begin until verse 9.

This suggestion does depend on a lot of conjecture. It assumes first that there was an Aramaic original, second that it got corrupted, third that it was translated into Greek from one who was working from text and not oral tradition, fourth that the translator did not pick up on the error and fifth that there is still an allegory about an entrance further down. Note that, as we have the text, “I am the gate” occurs twice: in v. 7 and v. 9. We have no fragments of the gospels in Aramaic other than translations from the Greek.

Verse 7: “I am the gate”: i.e. I determine who is admitted to the community.

Verse 8: “All who came before me”: Some scholars understand this to mean messianic pretenders; however, for this to be the case, Chapter 10 would need to be a separate unit from Chapter 9.

BlkJn sees the “thieves and bandits” as pseudo-Messiahs. He says “this is indicated by the absolute use of came, i.e. claiming to be the coming one”. Grouping thieves and bandits with pseudo-Messiahs fits with the first-century Jewish historian Josephus’ view that there are four philosophies of which this group, which includes revolutionaries, is the fourth. (The other three are the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Essenes.) Recall that Jesus was crucified with thieves and bandits.

But I think that this does not take the context into account. How can we account both for the previous discussion with the Pharisees, and their subsequent reaction? They are not thieves and bandits, nor are they false Messiahs. Rather they are good, upstanding, moral, respectable religious leaders. Why would they be so upset at Jesus for this Good Shepherd metaphor/allegory? Or are the Pharisees the hired hands of v. 12?

Verse 9: “will be saved”: i.e. will escape from the perils of having gone against God’s ways.

Jesus fulfils Old Testament promises that God will himself come to shepherd his people: see Isaiah 40:11 (“He will feed his flock like a shepherd”); Jeremiah 23:1-6; Ezekiel 34 (especially v. 11: “thus says the Lord God : I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out”).

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