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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Last Sunday after Epiphany - March 2, 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.

Exodus 24:12-18

In Chapter 24, scholars identify three oral traditions:

Yahwist (J) vv. 1-2, 9-11
Elohist (E) vv. 3-8, 12-15a, 18b
Priestly (P) vv. 15b-18a [ NJBC]

Vv. 3-8 naturally follow 20:22-23:33. [ NJBC]

Verses 1,9: “Nadab, and Abihu”: Aaron’s sons: see 6:23. In Leviticus 10:1-2, they are killed by fire for offering “unholy fire”, i.e. fire that God had not commanded them to offer. [ CAB]

Verses 3-8: The first version of the covenant ceremony stresses the people’s participation. [ NOAB]

Verse 3: “ordinances”: The case law is similar to that used among other peoples in the ancient Near East, but the Ten Commandments are unique to Israel.

Verse 4: “altar”: FoxMoses translates the Hebrew as slaughter--site.

Verse 5: For the ordinances regarding “burnt offerings”, see Leviticus 1; for grain (cereal) offerings, see Leviticus 2; for peace offerings, see Leviticus 3. The peace offering (thank, free--will or votive, see Leviticus 7:11-18) was a covenantal meal in which the worshipper was sacramentally related to Yahweh and to the community of Israelites. [ NOAB] [ HBD]

Verse 5: “young men”: FoxMoses translates the Hebrew as apprentices.

Verse 5: “well--being”: Hebrew: shalom.

Verse 6: For the use of halves in a covenant ceremony, see also Genesis 15:8-21 (ratification of God’s covenant with Abram). [ NOAB]

Verse 7: “the book of the covenant”: Possibly the word that defines the rite. [ NOAB]

Verse 8: “the blood of the covenant”: In the New Testament, see Matthew 26:28 (the Last Supper) and 1 Corinthians 11:25. For the ancient view that blood is efficacious in establishing community between God and humans, see Leviticus 1:5. [ NOAB] Blood was seen as the seat of the mystery of life (see Leviticus 17:11; Deuteronomy 12:23; Genesis 9:4); it was held as being particularly sacred to God; however, on the principle of sacrifice of life for life, shedding of blood was particularly efficacious in forgiving sin and reconciling people to God.

Verses 9-11: In this tradition, the elders take part, but not the people. [ NOAB]

Verses 10-11: “they saw the God of Israel ... God did not lay his hand on the chief men ...”: i.e. they did not die when they saw God; however some scholars suggest that they only saw what was under his feet.

Verse 10: “a pavement of sapphire stone ...”: i.e. of sky--blue tiles. This phrase is like Ugaritic texts.

Verse 11: “they beheld God”: As in a prophetic vision: see Isaiah 1:1.

Verse 11: “they ate and drank”: Sealing of an agreement was customarily marked by a meal. See also 18:12. They were protected by the rules of hospitality; they were united with God as their patron. [ NOAB]

Verses 12-15a,18b: Moses goes up alone. See also 32:15 (Moses descends the mountain alone); 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9, 11, 15. [ NOAB]

Verse 12: “stone”: That stone was a usual material on which to write such ordinances is clear from the Code of Hammurabi and the stele on which the Decree of Harenhab was inscribed.

Verse 14: For Moses as administrator of justice, see 18:16. [ NOAB]

Verse 14: “Hur”: He is also mentioned in 17:10, 12; 31:2; 1 Chronicles 2:19. Hur’s grandson was master mason on the building of the Tabernacle: see 2 Chronicles 1:5 and Nehemiah 3:9. [ NOAB]

Verse 17: “the appearance ...”: Humans could not see God, but they could see the symbol of his presence. See also 40:34; Numbers 14:22; 16:19; Ezekiel 11:23.

Verse 18: “forty days ...”: For the story of Elijah on Mount Sinai, see 1 Kings 19 (where “Horeb” is the northern name for Sinai). [ FoxMoses]

Psalm 2

Verses 1-3: See also Jeremiah 27:1-11 (King Zedekiah plans a revolt against Babylonian rule but does not carry it out). [ NJBC]

Verses 4-9: The newly--enthroned king quotes God’s promise of universal rule. [ NOAB]

Verse 4: 59:8 says: “... you laugh at them, O Lord; you hold all the nations in derision”. [ NJBC]

Verse 6: 132:11-14 says: “The Lord swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: ‘One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne. If your sons keep my covenant and my decrees that I shall teach them, their sons also, forevermore, shall sit on your throne ...’”. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “‘You are my son’”: See also 2 Samuel 7:14 (of David) and Psalm 89:26-27. In Acts 13:33, Paul tells of the fulfilment of this prophecy in the Father’s raising of Jesus. [ NOAB]

Comments: Peter, John and others apply this title to Jesus: See Acts 4:25-29.

Verses 10-12: The revolt has been quelled. Now the King of Judah addresses the subdued kings. [ NJBC]

Psalm 99

Psalms 96-99 are enthronement hymns. Psalm 95 may also be one. [ NJBC]

Although all “peoples” are enjoined to worship him, it is among his special people Israel and through his special agents (“Moses”, v. 6, “Aaron” and “Samuel”) that his Law is conveyed and that Israel obtains forgiveness. [ CAB]

Verses 1-3: Yahweh is ruler over the whole earth. [ NOAB]

Verse 2: “The Lord is great in Zion”: Literally Yahweh--in--Zion, a common type of ancient Near East divine epithet. See also 65:1; Acts 19:28, 34. [ NJBC]

Verses 3,5: “Holy is he!”: See also 22:3 (“you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.”); Isaiah 6:3 (“And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory’”, Isaiah’s commissioning); Revelation 4:8 (“... the four living creatures ... sing, ‘Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come’”). [ NJBC]

Verses 4-5: God’s concern for justice. [ NOAB]

Verses 6-9: God’s fidelity to his people. [ NOAB] These verses expand on v. 4c: “you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob”. Yahweh shows these qualities by answering his people in need (vv. 6, 8), giving them just laws (v. 7), and forgiving them or punishing them when necessary (v. 8). [ NJBC]

Verse 6: Moses and Aaron ... Samuel”: Mentioned here as great intercessors with God. Jeremiah 15:1 records: “Then the Lord said to me: Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my heart would not turn toward this people”. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “a forgiving God”: The Hebrew translated as “God” is El, the name of the supreme Canaanite god. Here he is identified with Yahweh in Israel. He was pictured as a kindly, fatherly god. See also Exodus 34:6-7. [ NJBC]

2 Peter 1:16-21

Verses 5-7: Faith should lead to Christian virtues: see also Romans 5:2-5 and 1 Corinthians 13:13. Note the progression: “faith” to “goodness” ( REB: virtue) to “knowledge” to “self--control” to “endurance” ( REB: fortitude) to “godliness” ( REB: piety) to “mutual affection” ( REB: brotherly affection) to “love”. [ NOAB]

For:

See also:

“knowledge”

2 Corinthians 6:6; 8:7

“self--control”

1 Corinthians 7:9; 9:25; Galatians 5:23

“endurance”

1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 3:10; Titus 2:2; Revelation 2:19

“godliness”

1 Timothy 6:11

“mutual affection”

Romans 12:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; Hebrews 13:1; 1 Peter 1:22; 3:8

“love”

1 Corinthians 13; 2 Corinthians 6:6; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:14; 1 Timothy 4:12; 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22; 3:10; Titus 2:2; Revelation 2:19 [ CAB]

Verse 5: “faith”: To NJBC, true doctrine is meant.

Verses 8-11: The author contrasts those who act in accord with true faith and those who do not. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “the cleansing of past sins”: See also Acts 22:16 (Ananias counsels Paul to “get up, be baptized, and have your sins washed away”); 1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5. [ CAB]

Verse 10: “be all the more eager to confirm your call and election”: See also 1 Corinthians 1:26-27. 1 Peter 2:9 says: “... you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light”. [ CAB]

Verse 11: “the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”: Colossians 1:13 says: “He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son”. This is given expression in the Creed of Nicea--Constantinople (known as the Nicene Creed, 381 AD) in the words We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ ... his kingdom will have no end . Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God: see Mark 10:15 (“whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it”) and John 3:3 (“no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above”). [ NOAB] [ JBC]

Comments: This letter is written as Peter's last testament: Both Jews and Greeks knew of a testament genre: for example, Socrates’ statement in Plato’s Apology , Moses (Deuteronomy 32-34), Joshua (Joshua 24), Jesus (John 13-17 and Luke 22:14-36), Paul (Acts 20:17-35). [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “body”: Literally, tent: a temporary dwelling. [ JBC]

Verse 14: “as indeed our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me”: Perhaps a reference to John 21:18-19. [ CAB]

Verses 16-18: Apostolic tradition is not a collection of myths, but is based on the experience of eyewitnesses. The Transfiguration confirms the tradition that Christ will return in glory: see Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36. [ NOAB]

Verse 16: See also 1 Timothy 1:4 (“myths and endless genealogies”); 4:7 (“profane myths and old wives' tales”); 2 Timothy 4:4; Titus 1:14. [ CAB]

Verse 16: “cleverly devised myths”: 2:1-3 says: “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive opinions. They will even deny the Master who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves. Even so, many will follow their licentious ways, and because of these teachers the way of truth will be maligned. And in their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words. Their condemnation, pronounced against them long ago, has not been idle, and their destruction is not asleep”.

Verse 17: “Majestic Glory”: Majesty and glory are both common epithets for God: see also Hebrews 1:3 (Christ is “the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being”); 8:1; Testament of Levi 3:4. God’s voice also has these attributes: see Psalm 29:4 and Sirach 17:13.

Verse 17: “‘This is my Son ...’”: This quotation is from Mark 9:7 (Jesus’ transfiguration); Matthew 17:5; Luke 9:35. [ CAB]

Verse 18: “the holy mountain”: See also Mark 9:2-8; Matthew 17:1-8; Luke 9:28-36, all of which speak of Jesus leading Peter, James and John up a mountain. [ CAB]

Verse 19: The Patristic writers see Jesus’ prediction that some would not taste death until they saw the coming of God’s kingdom as fulfilled in the vision of Jesus’ power and glory at the Transfiguration; however some almost contemporary writings, such as the Apocalypse of Peter, see the Transfiguration itself as a prophecy of Jesus’ second coming, not a fulfilment of an earlier prophecy. It is in the sense of prophecy of the Second Coming that the author of 2 Peter speaks of “the prophetic message”. [ NJBC]

Verse 19: “more”: Hellenistic Greek often uses a word meaning “more” to mean very . Vv. 17-18 represent the very best prophecy of Jesus’ Second Coming. [ NJBC]

Verse 19: “ a lamp shining in a dark place”: See also Mark 4:21 and John 5:35 (said by Jesus, of John the Baptiser). [ CAB]

Verse 19: “until the day dawns”: In Luke 1:78, Zechariah, John the Baptizer’s father, says: “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace”.

Verse 19: “the morning star”: In Balaam’s oracle (for Balak, Numbers 24:17), we read: “a star shall come out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel”. See also Revelation 2:28. Revelation 22:16 says: “‘It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star’”. [ NJBC]

Verses 20-21: In the Old Testament, prophecies when rightly understood were uncomfortable, even threatening: see Jeremiah 6:14 and Ezekiel 13:10. The false teachers whom the author censures are like Israel’s false prophets (see 2:1), who have neither received God’s challenging word nor understood it; for example, they twist Paul’s words on the topic under discussion (see 3:15-16). [ NJBC] See also 1 Corinthians 14:29.

Verse 21: “from God”: Unlike the false teachers, the author claims inspiration from God both in his receipt of the prophecy concerning the Second Coming and his exposition of it. [ NJBC]

Matthew 17:1-9

The parallels are Mark 9:2-8 and Luke 9:28-36. [ NOAB]

This passage reaffirms the messiahship of Jesus and of the messianic glory in which he will be revealed. [ NJBC]

Verse 1: “Peter and James and his brother John”: The same inner circle is mentioned in 26:37 and Mark 5:37. [ NJBC]

Verse 1: “a high mountain”: This may be symbolic; if a particular mountain is meant, it is probably Mount Hermon, near Caesarea Philippi. It rises to about 2,750 metres (9,000 feet). Other possibilities are Mount Carmel and Mount Tabor.

Comments: An aura of unnatural brightness is linked with mystical appearances in Exodus and Acts: See, for example, Exodus 34:29 (Moses’ face shines after he has been talking with God on Mount Sinai), 35; Acts 9:3 (Paul’s conversion). [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “Moses and Elijah”: The Law and the prophets often stand for the whole of the Old Testament. The presence of these two men symbolises the fullness of God’s revelation to Israel. Deuteronomy 34:6 tells us that “no one knows his [Moses’] burial place to this day”. Jewish tradition therefore said that Moses was taken directly into heaven without dying. 2 Kings 2:17 tells us of Elijah: “fifty men who searched for three days but did not find him”. Jewish tradition stretched this verse and the story in the preceding verses to saying that Elijah was taken into heaven without dying. [ HBD]

Verse 4: “dwellings”: For the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths), see Leviticus 23:42 and Nehemiah 8:14-18. [ NJBC]

Verse 5: “cloud”: In a cloud, God comes to declare the Law to Moses; he speaks from a cloud as he does here. See Exodus 19:9; 24:15-16.

Verse 5: “‘This is my Son ...’”: For the words the voice from heaven speaks at Jesus’ baptism, see 3:17. Here the words spoken are based on three verses:

  • Psalm 2:7: “I will tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to me, ‘You are my son; today I have begotten you’”
  • Isaiah 42:1: “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.”
  • Deuteronomy 18:15, where Moses says: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet”. [ NJBC]

Verses 6-7: Daniel is the only apocalyptic book in the Old Testament. Daniel 8:17 says: “So he came near where I stood; and when he came, I became frightened and fell prostrate. But he said to me, ‘Understand, O mortal, that the vision is for the time of the end.’”. Daniel 10:9-10 says: “Then I heard the sound of his words; and when I heard the sound of his words, I fell into a trance, face to the ground. But then a hand touched me and roused me to my hands and knees.”

Verse 9: For applications of this event to the destiny of Christians, see Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18. See also 2 Peter 1:16-18; 2 Timothy 1:8, 10. [ NJBC]

Verses 10-13: Based on Malachi 4:5, coupled with Malachi 3:1, “the scribes”, the scholars of the Pharisaic sect, taught that Elijah must return to prepare for Yahweh’s final judgement. But Peter has now identified Jesus as the messiah (Christ); Jesus is about to suffer, die, rise (see 21:21) and carry out the final judgment (see 16:27). So, if the end times are so near, is it not too late for Elijah’s preparatory ministry? [ BlkMt]

Verse 10: “Elijah”: See Malachi 4:5-6 (3:23--24 in some bibles) for the expectation that God would send Elijah before Judgement Day, “the terrible day of the Lord”. [ NJBC]

Verse 10: “come first”: Daniel 12:2 tells of the general resurrection of the deceased: “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt”. More probably, the question is about the raising of the Son of Man from the dead.

Verse 11: Jesus quotes the expectation of the scribes, and states his position in v. 12. He affirms their expectation and says (in v. 12) that they (or people in general) have failed to recognize that “Elijah has already come”: “John the Baptist” (v. 13) is Elijah. [ BlkMt]

Verse 12: See 1 Kings 19:2, 10; Psalm 22:6; Isaiah 53:3. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: John the Baptist has already been identified with Elijah: Jesus says in 11:14 “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John came; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come”. [ NJBC]

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