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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Easter Day - April 24, 2011



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 10:34-43

Verse 34: “God shows no partiality”: Literally: God is not one showing favours, an allusion to Deuteronomy 10:17, which denies that God favours particular persons or accepts bribes. [JBC] BlkActs says that the Greek word is found only in Christian writings but is coined from an expression in the Septuagint translation, which translates a Hebrew expression for lift up the face, i.e. favour. It denotes the gracious act of someone who lifts up a person’s face by showing him a favour (see Malachi 1:8). In Romans 2:11, Paul writes “God shows no partiality”. [JBC]

Verse 35: “does what is right”: Literally: practices righteousness. [JBC]

Verses 36-43: This sums up the gospel, beginning with the baptism of John and ending with the statement that Christ is judge: see 3:20-21 (Peter’s second sermon). [NOAB]

Verse 36: “preaching peace”: This traditional eschatological prophecy, based on Isaiah 52:7 and 61:1, was applied to Jesus’ ministry with redoubled emphasis in Luke’s gospel (7:22; 4:17-20) and Jesus’ commissioning of his disciples as “peace” harbingers was prominent in his mission instruction (Luke 10:5-6).

Verse 36: “he is Lord of all”: To be understood in the light of Romans 10:12: “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.”. [NJBC]

Verse 37: “the baptism that John announced”: See also 1:22; Luke 3:2-3. [JBC]

Verse 38: “God anointed Jesus”: See also Luke 3:22 (Jesus’ baptism) and 4:14. [NOAB] An allusion to Isaiah 61:1. Jesus’ investiture with the power of the Holy Spirit. This does not say that Jesus became Messiah at his baptism. Acts 2:36 and 3:12-20 suggest an entirely different understanding of Jesus’ messiahship, as does the Infancy Narrative (see Luke 1:32-33). Jesus is the spirit-filled agent of God’s saving activity. [JBC]

Verse 39: “by hanging him on a tree”: A figurative expression for crucifixion, derived from Deuteronomy 21:23-24: “When someone is convicted of a crime punishable by death and is executed, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse must not remain all night upon the tree; you shall bury him that same day, for anyone hung on a tree is under God's curse ...”. See also 2:23; 5:30; Galatians 3:13. [JBC]

Verse 40: “on the third day”: See also 1 Corinthians 15:4 and Hosea 6:2 (“After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him”). [JBC]

Verse 40: “allowed him to appear”: NJBC offers gave him to be manifested.

Verse 41: “chosen”: Jesus was seen only by those chosen: see Luke 24:48; Acts 1:8, 22. [NOAB]

Verse 42: “commanded”: JBC offers commissioned.

Verse 42: “judge of the living and the dead”: See also 17:31; 1 Peter 4:5; 2 Timothy 4:1. [NOAB]

Verse 43: This verse is a complete reprise of Luke 24:44-48. [NJBC]

Verse 43: “All the prophets testify about him”: See Isaiah 2:2; 40:5; Joel 2:32; however, one scholar wonders to which prophets Peter is referring.

Verses 44-48: In Acts, believers usually receive the Holy Spirit at baptism (2:38; 19:5-6), or before baptism (as here), but in 8:15-16 they receive it after baptism, and only when the apostles visit.

Jeremiah 31:1-6

30:1-31:40 are part of the Book of Reconciliation. This section is made up of poems with one basic theme: salvation after judgement. Scholars hold various opinions as to their authorship and meaning. [NJBC]

Our reading is about the exuberant joy of return. There are parallels in Deutero-Isaiah. Three other poems with the same theme follow: 31:7-14, 15-20, 21-22. [NJBC]

Verse 1: “all the families of Israel”: This poem emphasizes inclusiveness in the term “Israel”, not just the northern kingdom. [NOAB] V. 5 even mentions Samaria. See also 30:22.

Verses 2-6: See Exodus 33:12-17 and Jeremiah 23:7-8. [NOAB]

Verse 2: “grace”: The Hebrew word can also be translated as favour. See also Isaiah 41:17-20; 43:16-21; 48:20-22. [NJBC]

Verse 3: See also Deuteronomy 7:8; 10:15; Hosea 2:21; 11:1-4; Isaiah 43:4; 54:8. [NJBC]

Verse 8: Tells of the ingathering of people from other lands, including the disabled.

Verse 10: God will keep Israel “as a shepherd [does] a flock”, “For the Lord has ransomed Jacob [Israel] ...” (v. 11).

Psalm 118:1-2,14-24

Some scholars see this psalm as not involving a king.

Colossians 3:1-4

Verse 1: “So”: In Colossians, this word often marks the start of a new section. [NJBC]

Verse 1: “have been raised with Christ”: See also 2:12; Ephesians 5:14. [CAB]

Verse 1: “seated at the right hand of God”: Hebrews 1:3 says “... When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high”. [NOAB]

Verse 3: “you have died”: i.e. to the world. [NOAB]

Verse 4: Perhaps this is a paraphrase of 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: “For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever”. See also Mark 13:24-27 (the Little Apocalypse); 1 John 2:28; 3:2. [NOAB]

Verse 5: Lists of sins are common in Hellenic literature of the time, so there is no implication that the Colossian Christians indulged in any of these sins. Similar lists are found in the Qumran literature: see, for example, 1QS (Rule of the Community) 4:3-5 and CD (Damascus Document) 4:17-19. [NJBC]

Verse 5: “fornication”: See also Romans 1:24; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:7. [CAB]

From time to time, Clippings points out that words in the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament are found in particular verses in the translation of the Old Testament in common use when the New Testament was written. But, the Septuagint was written some two to three centuries before the New Testament, so we sometimes need to ask whether the meaning of these words had changed over the centuries. In the case of v. 5 here, we should ask: did the author know of older meanings for some of the words in his list of vices? Consider porneia (“fornication”). In Classical Greek (the language of five to six centuries before Christ), porneia seems to have primarily referred to prostitution. If the author of Colossians was aware of this earlier meaning (which might have still been current when Hosea was translated into Greek), perhaps he tied this passage with Hosea 1:2: “... Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom” ( in the Septuagint, “whoredom” is porneia and “the land commits great whoredom” (in the Septuagint translation: ekporneuousa) . He was probably also aware of Proverbs 5, where good and bad women, representing wisdom and foolishness, and faithfulness and faithlessness, are mentioned. (In the Septuagint translation of Proverbs 5:3, "loose woman" is gynaikos pornes). So it seems that more is at stake than sexual misbehaviour; indeed, the author of Colossians calls on his readers to be faithful (as Hosea called on his to be faithful to the covenant with God). Prostituting oneself in either (and both) senses is the “earthly” part.

In case the reader thinks that suggesting that the author might know earlier meanings of words is reading too much into the text, I point out that he was sufficiently learned to write of the cosmic nature of Christ. That he used this notion in his argument shows that his readers also had a certain background in the history of ideas. In Colossians 2:8, he writes “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe [kosmos], and not according to Christ” On the other hand, these older meanings hung on much longer than scholars sometimes give credit: into New Testament Greek . [Abbott Conway]

Verse 5: “impurity”: The word in the Greek is akatharsian. In Classical Greek, this word means want of cleansing, and hence filth, and metaphorically moral filthiness. There is also the sense of something that is akatharsos being unpurified, or unatoned. So the author may mean, within the general sense of morality, something more specific about behaviour that is consonant with the cleansing and atoning work of Christ. [Abbott Conway]

Verse 5: “passion”: The Greek word, pathos, may specifically relate to sexual passion, but generally it refers to any kind of suffering. In Classical Greek, the primary meaning is pain or distress, and spiritually it refers to any kind of violent feeling, whether of love or of hate. In Plato’s writings, the family of words refers to that which is accidental or changing (as distinct from that which is substantial and immutable). So, again, there may well be two meanings here: one sexual, and one to do with faith. [Abbott Conway]

Verse 5: “evil desire”: The Greek literally means bad (or evil) longings. [Abbott Conway]

Verse 5: “greed ...”: See also Ephesians 5:5. [NOAB]

Verse 5: “greed (which is idolatry)”: Ephesians 5:5 speaks of “one who is greedy (that is, an idolater)”. The equating of this greed with idolatry helps fit the whole set of readings together, for the harlotry to which Hosea refers is none other than the abandonment of the covenant for local idols, as Ezekiel 3:6-11 exemplifies.

In a sense, then, this little passage offers a hinge between the general argument of Hosea that the holy people should avoid the faithlessness of idolatry, and the specific injunction of Jesus to avoid greed of any kind (which is a kind of idolatry, and thus is faithlessness to God). [Abbott Conway]

Verse 8: “anger, wrath”: The Greek word translated “anger”, orge, came to mean, by New Testament times, any violent passion, but especially wrath. Thymon (“wrath”) came to mean the seat of feelings, and then specifically the seat of anger. This may explain why the author uses two terms here, rather than just one: orge refers to the action of puffing oneself up with rage, and thymos refers to the residence of anger. [Abbott Conway]

Verse 8: “anger”: See also Ephesians 4:26. [CAB]

Verse 8: “malice”: The Greek word has a range of meanings from vice, malice, and depravity to ill-repute and dishonour. [Abbott Conway]

Verse 8: “slander”: The Greek word, blasphemian, means slander when it is directed to humans, and blasphemy when it is directed to God. [Abbott Conway]

Verse 8: “abusive language”: See also Ephesians 5:4 and James 3:5-12. [CAB] The Greek means literally foul language. The stem of the word means both shame / disgrace, and ugliness / deformity. [Abbott Conway]

Verses 9-10: See also 2 Corinthians 5:17. [CAB]

Verse 10: “according to the image of its creator”: See Genesis 1:26-27. See also 1 Corinthians 15:45-49 (“... the first Adam ... the last Adam”); Ephesians 2:10; 4:24. [NOAB]

Verse 11: See also Galatians 3:28. [CAB]

Verse 11: “Scythian”: The Scythians were a nomadic people from the Caucasus who threatened the Assyrian and Persian empires from the north. In the Old Testament they are called “Ashkenaz” (Genesis 10:3; 1 Chronicles 1:6; Jeremiah 51:27). The Scythians’ cruelty was proverbial in later antiquity (see 2 Maccabees 4:47; 3 Maccabees 7:5; 4 Maccabees 10:7).

Verse 11: “Christ is all and in all”: The Greek is alla [ta] panta kai en pasin Christos. This clause expresses both the universality of Christ (following from the descriptions of the cosmic Christ in earlier passages), and his presence in everything. The two Greek words (panta and pasin) make absolutely clear a distinction that is not always evident in modem translations. [Abbott Conway]

Verses 12-17: V. 12 tells us the qualities which the baptised are expected to possess, i.e. be “clothed” with. “Compassion” is sympathy for the needs of others. We should be meek in the sense of gentle and considerate towards others. We should be forgiving as God has forgiven us. The primary Christian virtue is “love” (v. 14); it is born out of God’s love. May our thinking and actions be motivated by “the peace of Christ” (v. 15). May we teach each other in the light of the ultimate truth, i.e. God, and be joyful in the Lord. All we do should be done as though Jesus himself is doing it.

Verse 12: See also Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Peter 1:5-7. [CAB]

Verse 12: “compassion”: See also 2 Corinthians 6:6 and Ephesians 2:7.

Verse 12: “humility”: See also 2:18, 23. [CAB]

Verse 12: “meekness”: See also Galatians 6:1 (”gentleness”) and 2 Timothy 2:25. [CAB]

Verse 12: “patience”: See also 2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 4:2; 2 Timothy 3:10; 4:2. [CAB]

Verse 13: See also 2 Corinthians 11:19; Galatians 6:6; Romans 9:19; 15:7; Hebrews 8:8; Matthew 6:14-15; Ephesians 4:32. [CAB]

Verse 15: “the peace of Christ”: See also John 14:27; Ephesians 2:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:16. [CAB]

Verse 15: “rule”: Literally, be umpire.

Verse 17: 1 Corinthians 10:31 says “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God”. [CAB]

John 20:1-18

Verse 1: “while it was still dark”: That the women visit the tomb at dawn is stated in the synoptic gospels. Perhaps the writer has added darkness to incorporate his scene into the light symbolism of the gospel. [NJBC]

Verse 1: Mary must have looked into the tomb to be able to tell “Peter and the other disciple” (v. 2) that the body of Jesus is missing. Only in v. 11 are we told that she “bent over to look in the tomb”. [NJBC]

Verse 2: “we”: This is indeed plural in the Greek, so it is likely that John worked from a source which included other women in these verses. (Mark includes other women.) [BlkJn] [NJBC]

Verse 4: “the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first”: In this gospel, Peter takes second place to “the other disciple”:

  • At the Last Supper, it is the beloved disciple who sits in the place of greater honour: see 13:23
  • Peter asks this disciple the identity of the traitor: see 13:24
  • Peter gains access to the high priest’s courtyard through the beloved disciple: see 18:15
  • The beloved disciple is entrusted with the care of Jesus’ mother: see 19:26
  • When Jesus appears to the disciples in Galilee, it is the beloved disciple who identifies Jesus to Peter: see 21:7
  • After being commissioned, Peter is rebuffed for asking about the beloved disciple’s task: see 21:20-24. [BlkJn]
  • In v. 8, it is the beloved disciple that sees and believes, not Peter.

Verse 6: That Peter goes into the tomb while “the other disciple” stays outside is consistent with Peter’s temperament shown elsewhere in the gospels. See also 6:68 and 18:10. [BlkJn]

Verse 6: “He saw the linen wrappings lying there”: Note the difference from Lazarus: he needed unbinding (11:44); Jesus does not. In the synoptic gospels, the grave clothes are not mentioned, so presumably they were absent: see Mark 16:6; Matthew 28:6; Luke 24:3, 23. [BlkJn]

Verse 9: “the scripture”: There is no specific scriptural reference, so John is probably saying that Jesus’ fulfills salvation history. However, the term scripture may well include the apocrypha to the New Testament and pseudepigrapha. When John wrote, neither the Jewish canon of the Old Testament nor that of the New Testament existed. The Greek word refers to a writing, not necessarily Scripture as we understand it.

BlkJn points out that “scripture” is in the singular, so a specific text is intended. He suggests Psalm 16:10, “For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit”.

Comments: they have not yet received the Holy Spirit: When do the disciples receive the Holy Spirit in John? In 14:16, Jesus says to the disciples: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever”. So, in a sense, the Spirit is active in Jesus during his earthly ministry. However, in 16:7 Jesus says: “it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you”. So the Holy Spirit is with the disciples during Jesus’ earthly ministry, and is more fully with them after his ascension.

Verses 11-18: To BlkJn, this is a separate incident which is mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament only in the spurious longer ending of Mark (Mark 16:9-20), though there are superficial similarities to Matthew 28:8-10. Here Mary is calm when she discovers the angels while in the synoptic gospels, the women are afraid: see Mark 16:5-8; Luke 24:5 and Matthew 28:5, 8. Further, here the angels do not deliver a message while they do in the synoptic gospels. [BlkJn] To NJBC, the evangelist has reworked a traditional story in which the risen Christ appeared to either Mary Magdalene alone or in the company of other women near the tomb. He has recast the resurrection message so that it is clear that Jesus’ return is not to the disciples in the various appearance stories. His return is his exaltation to his place with the Father: see 14:18-19; 16:22; 3:13; 6:62. [NJBC]

Verse 12: Mary sees “two angels in white” but apparently Peter and the other disciple did not (at vv. 6-7).

Verse 14: “she did not know that it was Jesus”: Mary also fails to recognize Jesus in other resurrection stories: see 21:4, 7, 12; Luke 24:16ff; Matthew 28:17. See also Luke 24:37-41. [BlkJn]

Verse 15: “Sir”: The Greek word is kurios also translated as Lord with divine connotations. Kurios is also used in vv. 2, 13, 15, 18, 20 and 25. [BlkJn]

Verse 15: “gardener”: a Jewish cemetery was much like a garden. Mary would be physically unable to “take him away”: this is an expression of her love for Jesus.

Verse 16: “Rabbouni” is a variant form of Rabbi, meaning teacher. Mary wishes to resume the relationship she has previously enjoyed with Jesus. [BlkJn]

Verse 17: One should not think of Jesus’ resurrection as though he had returned to life and then later ascended into heaven. Rather, Jesus has passed into an entirely different reality. 14:22-23 answers the question of how Jesus will manifest himself to the disciples and not to the world in terms of love and the indwelling presence of Father and Son with the disciples. [NJBC]

Verse 17: “Do not hold on to me ...”: In Matthew 28:9-10, the women grasp the risen Lord’s feet in a gesture of worship. [NJBC]

Verse 17: “my Father ... your God”: The Father truly is Jesus’ Father; Christians acquire their relationship to him through Christ. [JBC]

Verses 19-22: Jesus appears to his disciples. As a community, as the Church, they now receive the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 28:1-10

The parallels are Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-11; John 20:1-10.

Mark 16:1-2 tells of Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bringing spices to anoint Jesus, but Matthew has told us that a woman has already anointed Jesus for burial: see 26:6-13.

Verse 1: “was dawning”: One scholar translates this as towards dawn.

Verse 1: “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary”: See also 27:56, 61.

Verse 2: “a great earthquake”: See also 27:51-54.

Verse 2: “angel”: In 1:20, an angel warns Joseph and Mary to flee with Jesus to Egypt. In Mark, a “young man” sits within the tomb.

Verse 3: “lightning”: See also Daniel 10:6 for lightning as a sign of God’s presence.

Verse 3: “his clothing white as snow”: See 17:2 for Jesus’ clothes becoming “dazzling white” at his transfiguration.

Verse 4: “the guards”: See also 27:62-66.

Verse 6: “he has been raised, as he said”: See 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; 27:63. See also 12:40; 26:61; 27:40.

Verse 7: “He has been raised from the dead”: A creedal formula, not found in Mark. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 12,

Verse 7: “he is going ahead of you to Galilee”: See 26:32; 28:16; John 21:21-23.

Verse 7: “This is my message for you”: In other words, I have accomplished my mission.

Verse 8: See also Luke 24:9, 22-23. The sequence of events cannot be worked out. Each account is a separate summary of early Christian testimony to the fact of Jesus’ resurrection.

Verse 8: “with fear and great joy”: One scholar comments that their state is like that of those about to be married!

Verse 9: See also John 20:14-18 (Mary Magdalene meets Jesus near the tomb). It is implied that the women recognized Jesus immediately.

Verse 10: “said to them”: i.e. to the two women.

Verse 10: “my brothers”: Jesus calls his followers brothers in John 20:17 and Matthew 12:46-50. In the latter passage, doing so implies forgiveness.

© 1996-2003 Chris Haslam



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