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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Fifth Sunday of Easter - May 18, 2014



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 7:55-60

6:1: “the Hellenists”: Either Greek-speaking Jews (from the Diaspora) or Jews who had adopted Greek customs. They are also mentioned in 9:29. [ NJBC] [ NOAB]

6:1: “the Hebrews”: They appear to have been more conservative: see 21:20 (where the NRSV translates the Greek word as Jews). Perhaps they spoke Aramaic. There was an ethnic and possibly a language difference between them and “the Hellenists”. [ NOAB]

6:1: “distribution”: The Greek word is diakonia, later a term for deacons: Paul writes in Philippians 1:1 “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons” and 1 Timothy 3:8-13 states the conduct expected of deacons. [ NJBC]

6:2: “wait on tables”: The Greek is diakonein trapezais . “Wait” translates diakonein, the infinitive of the verb form of the noun diakonia. Trapezais, “tables” can mean either a table for food or one for counting money (as in a bank), so the seven may have done the bookkeeping or administered finances. [ NJBC]

6:4: “serving the word”: Again “serving” is diakonia. Philip the evangelist, another of the seven, also teaches: see 21:8. [ NJBC]

6:5: Note that the names of all seven are Greek. [ NJBC] [ NOAB]

6:5: “proselyte”: A Gentile convert to Judaism. [ NOAB]

6:6: “laid their hands on them”: In Numbers 27:18-23, in commissioning Joshua, Moses lays hands on him as a symbol of the transfer of some of his authority, in the presence of the Israelites. Laying-on of hands symbolizes the donation and reception of a gift, e.g. Jesus blesses children (see Mark 10:16); he heals with a touch (see Mark 6:5); the baptised receive the Holy Spirit (see Acts 8:17 and 19:6); believers are set aside for special tasks in the Church (see Acts 13:3). For other instances of the laying-on of hands in the Church, see 1 Timothy 4:14; 5:22 (where the NRSV gives lays hands on as an alternative translation to ordained); 2 Timothy 1:6. [ NJBC]

6:7: This is a short summary.

6:7: “a great many of the priests”: i.e. members of priestly Jewish families, descendants from Aaaron. Cohens [ JBC]

6:7: “became obedient to the faith”: i.e. embraced the faith. [ JBC]

6:9: “the synagogue of the Freedmen”: i.e. of former slaves, either Jews, or Gentiles who had converted to Judaism. An inscription has been found in Jerusalem which is thought to refer to this synagogue.

6:9: “Cyrenians”: i.e. people who came from Cyrene, a town in present-day Libya.

6:9: “Cilicia”: The northeastern part of Asia Minor. [ NOAB]

6:9: “Asia”: The Roman province of that name, in western Asia Minor (modern Turkey). [ NOAB]

6:12: “the council”: As well as the national Sanhedrin, there were also sanhedrins in each town.

6:13-14: See Mark 14:57-58 for false witnesses at Jesus’ trial. Luke omits them from his Passion narrative. Like Jesus, Stephen is charged with prophesying against the Temple. [ NJBC]

6:14: “will change the customs ...”: See also Mark 7:18-19; Matthew 23:25-26; Luke 11:39-41. [ NOAB] For similar accusations made against Paul, see 15:1, 3; 21:21-28; 25:8; 28:11.

6:15: “his face was like the face of an angel”: Stephen is aided by the Holy Spirit. His transfiguration is a prelude to his vision ( 7:55-56). For Jesus’ transfiguration, see Luke 9:29. [ NJBC]

7:2-50: Early Christian preaching often included the stories of “Abraham” (v. 2), “Joseph” (v. 9). “Moses” (v. 20) and others: see also 13:16-24 and Hebrews 11:4-40. In the Old Testament, analogous passages are found in Nehemiah 9:6-31 and Psalm 105, which also speak of God’s gracious acts as against his people’s obstinate resistance, including Israel’s murderous rejection of her prophets (Nehemiah 9:26 and Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 9.13.2 paragraph 265). [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

7:2-8: God’s way with Abraham. There are intriguing divergences from both the Septuagint and the Masoretic Text, some (but not all) of which can be explained as Stephen supporting his argument. [ NJBC]

7:4: “the Chaldeans”: Babylonia, modern Iraq.

7:6: “four hundred years”: Thus says Genesis 15:13; however Exodus 12:40 (which Paul quotes in Galatians 3:17) says, more precisely, 430 years. [ NOAB]

7:9-16: God’s way with Joseph. [ NJBC]

7:14: “seventy-five in all”: Thus the Septuagint translations of Genesis 46:27 and Exodus 1:5; however the Masoretic Text (which the NRSV follows) says “seventy”. [ NJBC]

7:17-43: God’s way with Moses. [ NJBC]

7:17b-34: Vv. 17b-19 closely report Exodus 1:7-10 (in the Septuagint translation). The following verses freely summarize the Septuagint translation of Exodus 2:2-10 (vv. 20-22), Exodus 2:11-22 (vv. 23-29) and Exodus 3:1-10 (vv. 30-34). [ NJBC]

7:22: “powerful in his words and deeds”: Moses is portrayed as a forerunner of Stephen: 6:8 says “Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people” and 6:10 tells us: “... they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke”. [ NJBC]

7:23: “When he was forty years old”: Moses’ 120-year lifespan is divided into three 40-year phases: see also vv. 30 and 36. The narrative shows God’s close direction of all three phases. [ NJBC]

7:25: “but they did not understand”: A theme dear to Luke. See Luke 2:50; 8:10; 18:34; 24:25; Acts 28:26-27 for non-understanding of the message of salvation. [ NJBC]

7:29: “Moses fled”: Here he flees due to Israelite opposition but in Exodus 2:15 he flees because of the pharaoh’s wrath. [ NJBC]

7:29: “Midian”: In northwestern Arabia. [ NOAB]

7:37: “God will raise up a prophet for you ...”: In Deuteronomy 18:15, 19 the following is put on Moses’ lips: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet ... Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable”. These verses are also referred to in 3:22-26. The verses in Deuteronomy contributed to the Jewish expectation of a Messiah. [ NJBC]

7:42: “the host of heaven”: i.e. the stars, astrology. 2 Kings 17:16 says of the Israelites: “They rejected all the commandments of the Lord their God and made for themselves cast images of two calves; they made a sacred pole, worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal”. [ NOAB]

7:42: “the book of the prophets”: Stephen quotes Amos 5:25-27 (in vv. 43-44) to suggest that the Israelites had always been idolaters. The books of the twelve Minor Prophets were thought of as a unit. [ NJBC]

7:43: “Moloch”: A god of the Ammonites to whom children were offered as sacrifices. [ NOAB]

7:43: “Rephan”: The planet Saturn. [ NOAB]

7:43: “so I will remove you beyond Babylon”: Both the Septuagint and the Masoretic Text of Amos 5:27 refer to exile being beyond Damascus rather than beyond Babylon. In making the change, Stephen makes absolutely clear that Amos was foretelling the Exile as punishment for Israel’s waywardness. [ NJBC]

7:44-50: Stephen now argues, based on Isaiah 66:1-2 (quoted in vv. 49-50), that it was wrong for Solomon to build a house for God (the Temple). God willed the “tent of testimony” but even though David “found favour with God” (v. 46), he was not permitted to build a permanent “house” for God. Hebrews 8-9 also regard the “tent” (tabernacle) as the true type of worship and ignore the Temple. [ NOAB]

7:51: “You stiff-necked people”: In Exodus 33:3, God tells Moses (and the Israelites): “Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, or I would consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people”. See also Exodus 33:5. [ NOAB]

7:51: “uncircumcised in heart and ears”: In Jeremiah 9:25-26, God says through Jeremiah: “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will attend to all those who are circumcised only in the foreskin: Egypt, Judah, Edom, the Ammonites, Moab, and all those with shaven temples who live in the desert. For all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart”. Paul tells us in Romans 2:29: “a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart – it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God”. [ NOAB]

7:52: “the Righteous One”: Jesus is also called this in 3:14; 22:14; Luke 23:47 (where the NRSV translates a Greek word meaning righteous as “innocent”). [ NJBC]

7:53: Stephen considers the Law as valid (at least for a Jewish audience) but Paul uses the Jewish tradition (not in the Bible) that the Law was given by angels as an argument for considering it secondary: see Galatians 3:19. [ NOAB]

7:56: “the Son of Man”: In the gospels, this title is usually used of Jesus as the glorified heavenly judge. Elsewhere in the New Testament it is rare: it is found only here and in Revelation 1:13. [ NOAB]

7:56: “standing”: Luke 22:69 says that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God. There are various interpretations of the difference. [ NJBC]

7:58: “to stone him”: Leviticus 24:14 contains the ordinance that a blasphemer be stoned to death “outside the camp”. See also Numbers 15:35-36.

7:58: Comments: “The witnesses” were legally required to cast the first stones. Deuteronomy 17:7 commands: “The hands of the witnesses shall be the first raised against the person to execute the death penalty, and afterward the hands of all the people”. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

8:1ff: The persecution of the Church is sufficiently severe that all except the apostles flee to the rural areas of Judea and to Samaria. Persecution shows its first glimmerings in 4:17, 21 (Peter and John). Mere threats are followed by scourging (in 5:40, all the apostles) and the resolution to kill (in 5:33).

Psalm 31:1-5,15-16

The concepts of honour and disgrace (losing face) played an important part in Israel’s consciousness. [ NJBC]

Vv. 1-8 and 9-24 are parallel in form, both containing the principal elements of a lament:

Cry for help vv. 1-5 v. 9
The psalmist’s situation v. 4 vv. 10-13
His expression of confidence in God v. 5 vv. 14, 19-24
His grateful recognition of God’s help vv. 7-8 vv. 21-24 [ NOAB]

Verse 3: “my rock and my fortress”: In 18:2, a psalmist writes: “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold”.

Verse 4: “take me out of the net”: A common motif. 9:16 says “The Lord has made himself known, he has executed judgment; the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands” See also 10:9 and 25:15. [ NJBC]

Verse 5: “Into your hand I commit my spirit”: or breath of life: see Genesis 2:7 and Psalm 104:29-30. Jesus utters this expression of serene confidence just before he dies: see Luke 23:46. [ NJBC]

Verse 6: A protestation of innocence: I deserve God’s protection because I am loyal to him. In 17:3-5, a psalmist tells Yahweh: “If you try my heart, if you visit me by night, if you test me, you will find no wickedness in me; my mouth does not transgress. ... My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped”. [ NOAB]

Verse 12: “broken vessel”: Ecclesiastes 12:6 speaks of death as being when “the silver cord is snapped, and the golden bowl is broken, and the pitcher is broken at the fountain, and the wheel broken at the cistern”. [ NOAB]

Verse 13: “terror all around!”: In Jeremiah 20:10, the prophet says at a time when he has, on Yahweh’s behalf, prophesied the doom of his people: “I hear many whispering: ‘Terror is all around! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’ All my close friends are watching for me to stumble. ‘Perhaps he can be enticed, and we can prevail against him, and take our revenge on him’”. [ CAB]

Verse 15: “My times are in your hand”: In ancient Near East cultures, the major events of life were seen as being in the hands of the god(s). [ NJBC]

Verses 21-24: The change to praising God is characteristic of a lament . See also 6:9-11.

Verse 22: “‘I am driven far from your sight’”: This probably means: I am excluded from God’s life-giving presence in the Temple. [ NJBC]

1 Peter 2:2-10

Verse 1: “Rid”: The Greek word, apotithemi, is a technical term connected with baptism. See also Romans 13:12 (“lay aside”); Ephesians 4:22 (“put away”), 25; Colossians 3:8; James 1:21. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: “newborn infants”: In 1:3, the author writes “By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” and in 1:23 “You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God”. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: “pure”: i.e. without deceit. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: “spiritual milk”: This metaphor is also found in 1 Corinthians 3:1-12, Hebrews 5:12-13 and Philo, On Husbandry. Perhaps the first readers are to conclude that the exhortation contained in this letter constitutes such “pure, spiritual milk”. [ IntPet]

Verse 2: “spiritual”: The Greek word is logikos. John 1:1 begins: “In the beginning was the Word”, Greek: logos. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “tasted that the Lord is good”: This is from Psalm 34:8: “O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him”. Here “Lord” is taken as a reference to Christ. This psalm is much used in 1 Peter, e.g. in 3:10-12. [ IntPet] [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 4: In Matthew 21:42, Jesus answers the chief priests and elders (who are questioning the source of his authority): “‘Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’’”. [ NOAB]

Verse 4: “rejected by mortals”: IntPet says that unlike in Mark 12:10 and Acts 4:11, this is not a reference to Jews. Those who reject are simply human beings.

Verse 5: See also Romans 12:1; Ephesians 5:2; Philippians 4:18. [ NJBC]

Verse 6: The quotation is adapted from the Septuagint translation of Isaiah 28:16, with the same deviation as in Romans 9:33: “... See, I am laying in Zion a stone that will make people stumble, a rock that will make them fall, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame”. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 7: The quotation is Psalm 118:22: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone”. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 8: The quotation is from Isaiah 8:14-15: “He will become a sanctuary, a stone one strikes against; for both houses of Israel he will become a rock one stumbles over – a trap and a snare for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble; they shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken”. [ NOAB]

Verse 8: “they”: The author says more on the pagan persecutors in 4:5 (“they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead”) and 4:17-18 (“For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, what will be the end for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And ‘If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinners?’”). [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “chosen race”: Deuteronomy 7:6 says of the Israelites: “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession”. In 1 Peter 1:1 the author speaks of his first readers as “the exiles of the Dispersion” and speaks in 5:13 of “Your sister church in Babylon, chosen together with you” (where “Babylon” is a cryptogram for Rome, as it is in Revelation). [ NJBC] IntPet says that “chosen race” is a quotation from the Septuagint translation of Isaiah 43:20.

Verse 9: “royal priesthood, a holy nation”: See Exodus 19:6 ( Septuagint translation) and Isaiah 61:6 . NOAB suggests that “royal” and “priesthood” are both nouns: see also Revelation 1:6; 5:10.

Verse 9: “God’s own people”: A combination of the Septuagint translation of Isaiah 43:21 and Malachi 3:17 (“They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, my special possession on the day when I act, and I will spare them as parents spare their children who serve them”). [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “him”: i.e. God. See also 1:15 (“he who called you is holy”); 2:21; 5:10 (“the God of all grace, who has called you”). [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “out of darkness into ... light”: This is a quotation from Isaiah 9:2. [ IntPet]

Verse 10: “you were not a people ...”: The following verses are applied to the Church:

  • Hosea 1:6: “She conceived again and bore a daughter. Then the Lord said to him, "Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have pity on the house of Israel or forgive them”
  • Hosea 1:9: “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not my people and I am not your God”
  • Hosea 1: 10: “in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ it shall be said to them, ‘Children of the living God’”, and
  • Hosea 2:23: “And I will have pity on Lo-ruhamah, and I will say to Lo-ammi, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God’”. [ NJBC]

John 14:1-14

Verse 2: “my Father’s house”: Jesus has already spoken of this in 8:34-38 (“... The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever ...”). [ BlkJn]

Verse 2: “‘many dwelling places’”: 1 Kings 6:5 describes the Temple in similar terms. [ BlkJn]

Verse 3: Previously Jesus has only hinted at the possibility of the disciples following him: in 12:26, he says: “‘Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also’”. See also 13:36. Because the disciples follow his example, particularly in mutual love, they can eventually be with him, whereas the Pharisees cannot: see 7:33-36; 8:21; 13:33. [ BlkJn]

Verse 5: “Thomas”: Thomas expresses their bewilderment with characteristic bluntness: see also 11:16 (“‘Let us also go, that we may die with him’”) and 20:24-25. [ BlkJn]

Verse 6: “‘I am the way’”: He is the sole means of access to the Father: Jesus says in Matthew 11:27: “All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him”. See also Luke 10:22; John 1:18; 3:3 (to Nicodemus); 6:46; Acts 4:12 (Peter’s speech before the Council) Romans 5:2; Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 10:20. [ BlkJn] [ NOAB]

Verse 6: “‘I am ... the truth, and the life’”: Jesus is all-sufficient because he is both God and human. [ BlkJn]

Verse 6: “the truth”: 1:14 says “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth”.

Verse 6: “the life”: See also 1:4; 6:35 (“‘I am the bread of life’”), 6:48; 11:25 (“‘I am the resurrection and the life’”).

Verse 7: On Jesus being God, 1:1 says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. In 10:30, Jesus says “‘The Father and I are one’”.

Verse 7: “‘If you know me’”: They can know him since he is a human.

Verse 7: “you do know him”: BlkJn offers you are getting to know him. Because they know Jesus, they are getting to know the Father.

Verse 8: Moses makes a similar reasonable request in Exodus 33:18: “‘Show me your glory, I pray’”. Philip's misunderstanding, like Thomas’, helps Jesus to make his meaning clear. [ BlkJn]

Verse 10: For Jesus as agent of the Father, see also, for example, 3:34; 7:17-18; 8:28, 47; 12:47-49. [ NJBC]

Verse 10: “Do you not believe that ...”: BlkJn translates the Greek in a more understandable way: You believe, do you not, ...

Verse 10: “on my own”: The Greek literally means from myself . BlkJn translates it as on my own authority.

Verse 11: “I am in the Father and the Father is in me”: The unity of the Father and the Son is a recurrent theme in this part of the book: see also vv. 7, 9, 20 and 16:15; 17:21-23. [ BlkJn]

Verse 12: See also Luke 17:6 (“‘faith the size of a mustard seed”) and Matthew 17:20. [ NJBC]

Verse 12: “‘Very truly, I tell you”: In the Greek, “Very truly” is Amen, Amen. This double amen is characteristic of, and peculiar to, this gospel and is used to introduce solemn, almost oracular, declarations. See also 1:51; 3:3, 5, 11; 5:19, 24, 25; 6:26, 32, 47, 53; 8:34, 51, 58; 10:1, 7; 12:24; 13:16, 20, 21, 38; 16:20, 23; 21:18. [ BlkJn]

Verse 12: “works”: i.e. miracles. [ BlkJn]

Verse 13: For variants, see Matthew 7:7-8; 18:19; 21:22; and in Johannine writings, see John 15:7, 16; 16:23, 24, 26; 1 John 3:21-22; 5:14-15. Sometimes Jesus will answer the request, and sometimes the Father will answer when asked in Jesus’ name. At times the Father is addressed directly, and at times neither Father nor Son is specified (but one presumes that the Father is meant). [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “in my name”: This means ask as Jesus’ representative, while on his business, rather than invoking Jesus as a kind of magic spell. The meaning here is the same as when Jesus speaks of having come in his Father’s name in 5:43 and 10:25, and when Acts tells us that the apostles performed miracles in Jesus’ name: see Acts 3:6 (healing of a man lame from birth), 16; 4:10; 16:18 (a slave girl is cured). [ BlkJn]

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