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.
The fifty-day wait for the Holy Spirit is only found in Luke/Acts. In John 20:22, Jesus breathes on the disciples, and says “‘Receive the Holy Spirit’”. This raises the question: is Pentecost the same as Jesus’ gift of the Spirit? I present two possible answers:
Pentecost is the point where the true Israel starts to separate itself from unbelieving Jewry, to become the Church. Jews from greater Israel (the Diaspora) witness the event.
This story is reminiscent of Isaiah 66:15-20, especially the Septuagint translation. Isaiah 66:18-20 (NRSV) says, in part: “I am coming to gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and shall see my glory, and I will set a sign among them. ... They shall bring all your kindred from all the nations ... just as the Israelites bring a grain offering ...”
Verse 1: The Feast of Weeks, celebrating the wheat harvest, was fifty days after the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover; hence the name Pentecost. Only from the second century AD on (notes JBC) was the giving of the law to Moses also celebrated as part of the Feast of Weeks. Leviticus 23:15-21 commands that this festival be celebrated, and how.
Verse 1: “had come”: NJBC has was fulfilled.
Verse 1: “all together”: These may be the 120 people of 1:15: “In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons) ...”.
Verse 1: “in one place”: perhaps the house of 1:13: “When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying ...”. The scene changes to an arena or other public area in v. 5.
Comments: His arrival is in fulfilment of Christ's promise, recorded in 1:8. 1:8 says “... you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”.
Verses 9-11: The list is generally from east to west, but Judea is out of place. This list is unlikely to be of Lucan origin, for Luke tells of missionary work in Syria, Cilicia, Macedonia and Achaia. Also, "Cretans and Arabs” (people of Jewish descent, from Arabia) seems to have been tacked on by a later hand. [JBC]
Verses 12-13: This prefigures Israel’s general rejection of Jesus’ teaching, later in the book.
Verses 17-21: The citation from Joel 2:28-32 follows the Septuagint translation. A most important guide to Luke’s intentions is the series of alterations he (or his source) has made in the quoted text to produce a pertinent testimony:
Up to this point, Numbers has told of a God who commands, of leaders who lead, and of a people who obey. But now we witness a bitter triangle of constant complaining, questioning of leadership, and divine punishment. [FoxMoses]
In vv. 4-35, there are two stories: one about the gift of quail, which appears to be Yahwist (J), and one about the seventy elders, which appears to be Elohist (because of the interest in prophecy). [NJBC]
Verse 4: “rabble”: FoxMoses suggests that the rebellion starts among the fringes of the community. See also Exodus 12:38. JBC states that the Hebrews who left Egypt did not comprise a homogeneous body. The Old Testament preserves a tradition of mixed origins. Yahwism was, at the time, a missionary religion.
Verse 6: “manna”: In correct Hebrew, man-hu, but in folk etymology, manna. The bedouin of the Sinai call it mann. Manna is the honey-like dropping from the tamarisk tree of Palestine and Sinai. The droppings are secretions from two kinds of scale lice, which suck large quantities of liquid from the twigs in spring in order to collect nitrogen for their grubs. It contains glucose and fructose but no protein and cannot be harvested in quantity. The Bible portrays manna as miraculous; it is not an everyday occurrence. [HBD] JBC says that it is found in the central valleys of Sinai, especially in June and July. The bedouin spread it on bread.
Verse 8: “ground it in mills”: Upper and lower millstones, usually made of black basalt, were mounted on a vertical shaft. [JBC]
Verse 8: “beat”: The Hebrew can also be translated as crush.
Verse 10: “throughout their families”: It seems that somehow their rebellious weeping was orderly. FoxMoses translates this phrase as by their clans.
Verse 12: “nurse”: The Hebrew literally means foster-father. The image of a foster-father carrying the child is an especially tender one. [JBC]
Verse 17: Moses is the charismatic leader with the divine spirit: see also 24:2 (the coming of the spirit on Balaam); Judges 11:29 (the transfer of the spirit from Jephthah to Mizpah, and on to the Ammonites); 2 Kings 2:9-10 (the transfer of the spirit from Elijah to Elisha). Here the elders are subordinate to Moses, who stands in closer relationship with God: see Exodus 33:11. [NOAB]
Verses 18-23: The continuation of the food (quail) tradition. [NOAB]
Verse 20: “loathsome”: FoxMoses translates the Hebrew as disgusting or nauseating.
Verse 21: This verse shows God’s miraculous power to support a large population in the wilderness. [NOAB]
Verse 22: Meaning: are there “enough” for you to find them sufficient?
Verse 25: “prophesied”: The form of the Hebrew word means acted like prophets. Mantic or ecstatic prophecy was known all over the ancient world. The prophet would go into a trance, or roll about, or shriek (or a combination of all of these); such behaviour was considered inspired by the gods. While famous prophets of the Old Testament, such as Isaiah and Jeremiah, are largely (but not exclusively) men of the word who report God’s messages to his people, they retain in their actions some of the characteristics of the enthusiastic kind of prophecy. [FoxMoses] NOAB says that such ecstatic prophecy, familiar on Israel’s early prophetic movement (see 1 Samuel 10:6, 10-13; 19:20-24; 1 Kings 22:6, 10-12) probably shows Canaanite influence.
Verse 25: “they did not do so again”: FoxMoses says that the Hebrew can mean they did not stop. Quite a difference!
Verse 26: “they had not gone out to the tent”: This assumes that the Tent of Meeting is outside the camp, as does Exodus 33:7; however Numbers 2:2 portrays the tribes as camped around the Tent. The older tradition is that the Tent was outside the camp. [NOAB]
Verse 29: Prophets can be outside institutional control. [NJBC]
Verse 31: “wind”: The Hebrew word is ru’ah, which also means spirit. [FoxMoses] Exodus 14:21 says that it was sent by God The quail, like the manna, are a natural phenomenon of the desert. After breeding in Europe and western Asia, they migrate to their winter quarters in Africa. While good flyers over short distances, changes in wind direction force them to land, exhausted. The wind brings the quail westwards, from the “sea”, the Gulf of Aqaba. [NOAB] [JBC]
Verse 31: “two cubits”: About one metre (three feet).
Verse 32: “they spread them out”: In order to dry them. [FoxMoses]
Verse 33: “plague”: Sickness from eating quail is interpreted as divine judgement upon the people’s faithlessness. A plague was an act of God: see also Leviticus 26:21; Deuteronomy 28:27; 1 Samuel 4:8.
Verse 35: “Hazeroth” may be modern Ain Khudra, a small oasis northeast of Sinai. [JBC]
Verse 29: “breath”: The Hebrew word is ru’ah. It is also translated as spirit and as wind. [JBC]
Verse 30: “spirit”: Again ru’ah. Wind is also intended. The west wind brought rain; it renews the earth with vegetation. [NJBC]
Verse 35: This verse is a prayer for the restoration of the original, intended harmony of creation. [NOAB] The presence of sinners might cause God not to send the fall (autumn) rains as a punishment; hence the wish that they be eliminated. [NJBC] Characteristically, the Revised Common Lectionary omits this half verse.
1 Corinthians 12:3b-13
This passage tells how the Holy Spirit enables members of the community to fulfil special roles for the benefit of all.
Verse 1: “Now concerning”: This is the first question raised by the Corinthian Christians. For others (also introduced by “now concerning”), see 7:25 (virgins); 8:1 (food which had been sacrificed to idols); 16:1 (collection for fellow Christians); 16:12 (our brother Apollos will come to you). See also 15:1.
Verse 2: “enticed”: Pagan religions in Greece embodied unbridled enthusiasm and emotionalism, even extending to the orgiastic frenzies of the devotees of Dionysios. [JBC]
Verse 2: “idols that could not speak”: i.e. they could not answer prayers. For this thought in the Old Testament, see 1 Kings 18:26-29 (Baal does not answer his prophets) and Psalm 115:4-8. Perhaps Paul contrasts the silence of the idols with the noisy (demon-inspired) outcry of the worshippers. [Blk1Cor]
Verse 3: “Let Jesus be cursed”: There were overtones of contempt in the way the “spirit-people” neglected the lessons of the life of the historical Jesus (see 2 Corinthians 5:15), and Paul probably created this shocking formula to crystallize the implications of their attitude. Other interpretations are possible.
Verses 4-7: The real test of gifts is whether they come from God and contribute to the common good and edify the community: see also 8:1. [NOAB] Christians differ from one another, not only in physical make-up but in the spiritual gifts distributed (“varieties”, Greek: diaireseis) to each. Uniformity of experience and service is not to be expected. [Blk1Cor]
Verse 7: The point is that each member of the church has a manifestation of a gift appropriate to his or her self. [Blk1Cor]
Verses 8-10: This list is not exhaustive, and precise definitions of what Paul means are impossible. It is very likely that the Corinthian Christians knew what he meant. See 12:27-30; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11 for different lists of gifts. [NJBC]
Verse 9: “faith”: All Corinthian Christians must have possessed the faith by which one begins the Christian way of life and continues on it, so perhaps the faith in question is that connected with “working of miracles” (v. 10) and “gifts of healing”. [Blk1Cor] In 13:2, Paul writes: “... if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing”.
Verse 10: “miracles”: On apostolic miracles, Paul says in Romans 15:18-19: “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the good news of Christ”. See also Galatians 3:5 and 2 Corinthians 12:12. [NOAB]
Verse 10: “various kinds of tongues”: Paul writes in 13:1, only a few verses later: “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal”. See also Chapter 14. Paul is thinking of unintelligible speech. [Blk1Cor]
Verse 10: “interpretation of tongues”: See also 14:9-19, a section that begins “... if in a tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is being said? For you will be speaking into the air”. [NOAB]
Verse 11: “are activated”: i.e. are put into operation. [Blk1Cor]
Verses 12-13: The analogy of the body was frequently employed in the ancient world. [Blk1Cor]
Verse 13: The Church is the manifestation and extension of the Lord’s body in this world. The Church is the body of Christ because it is composed of members who share in the life of the Risen Lord.
Verse 13: “made to drink of one Spirit”: In 3:16 Paul asks, perhaps rhetorically: “Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?”. See also 6:19. The tense of the verb mitigates against this being a reference to the Eucharist.
Verses 19-23: Apart from in the longer ending of Mark (see Mark 16:14-18), which a number of important manuscripts lack, and the mention of an appearance “to the twelve” (see 1 Corinthians 15:5), the only parallel to this story is Luke 24:36ff, where Jesus shows himself to “the eleven and their companions”. The following contacts with the Lucan story are noted:
Verse 19: “evening”: In John’s time, Sunday was a normal day of work, so the community would meet for Eucharist during the evening. So this passage would have a special resonance for the worshipping community, as they met for their weekly commemoration of Jesus’ resurrection. When Paul visited Greece, Christians celebrated the Eucharist in the evening: Acts 20:7 says “On the first day of the week, when we met to break bread, Paul was holding a discussion with them; since he [Paul] intended to leave the next day, he continued speaking until midnight” [BlkJn]
Verse 19: The “disciples” may have been a larger group than the remaining eleven (less Thomas). [JBC]
Verse 19: “Jesus came and stood among them”: In 1 Corinthians 15:35-56, Paul asks a rhetorical question, and answers it: “... someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?’ Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies”.
Verse 19: “Peace be with you”: Exchanging the peace was a usual Jewish greeting (see Judges 6:23; 19:20; Tobit 12:17) but the repetition of the words in vv. 21 and 26 suggests a reference back to 14:27 (“ ... my peace I give to you”) and 16:33 (“... in me you may have peace”). [BlkJn]
Verse 22: The commissioning of the disciples also appears in other post-resurrection appearances: see Luke 24:47-48; Matthew 28:19-20a. Jesus confers on the disciples the mission of which he has spoken: see 17:18. See also 4:38 and 13:16. [NJBC]
According to BlkJn, 7:39 says that the Holy Spirit would be received after Jesus’ glorification; 15:26 and 16:7 say that the Holy Spirit would be received after Jesus returned to the Father. The ascension has now happened.
Verse 22: “he breathed on them”: The same image is used to describe the communication of natural life in Genesis 2:7. Here it is used to express the communication of the new, spiritual, life of re-created humanity. [NOAB] In Greek, pneuma means both breath and spirit. In Genesis 2:7, God breathes into the nostrils of Adam, giving him earthly life; [JBC] the Septuagint translation uses pneuma there. See also Ezekiel 37:9 (the valley of dry bones) and Wisdom of Solomon 15:11.
Verse 22: “‘Receive the Holy Spirit’”: In 15:26 and 16:7 Jesus says that when he has returned to the Father, he will send the Holy Spirit. In v. 17 he has told Mary Magdalene that he has not yet ascended, so in that he now gives the disciples the Holy Spirit, the ascension has now happened. So in John, Jesus’ resurrection, his ascension, and the coming of the Holy Spirit all happen in the same day. But to John (and other New Testament authors) chronology is of secondary importance. In common with the authors of the synoptic gospels, John insists on the connection between the resurrection and the animation of the Church by the Holy Spirit. [JBC] Note the connection between the granting of authority and receipt of the Holy Spirit. See 16:7 for the continuation of Jesus’ ministry by the Holy Spirit.
While in 7:39 Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will only be given after Jesus’ glorification and in 16:7 he says that he will send the Holy Spirit after he has returned to the Father, here Jesus appears to grant the Holy Spirit before he has been exalted. Scholars have puzzled over this for centuries. The most likely explanation is that early Christians were less concerned with chronological sequence than we are – they saw Jesus’ resurrection, he appearances, his exaltation, and the gift of the Holy Spirit as one event. Only later did they begin to be described as separate events. As support for this apparent lack of chronological sense, note that while Luke describes the Ascension as occurring at Pentecost in Acts 1:3-10, he describes Jesus’ decisive parting from the world on Easter Day in Luke 24:51: “While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven”.
Verse 23: Through the Holy Spirit, the Church continues the judicial role of Christ (see 3:19; 5:27; 9:39) in the matter of sin (see Matthew 16:19; 18:18; Luke 24:47). (In Matthew 16:19, “bind” and “loose” are technical rabbinic terms: “bind” means forbid; “loose” means permit.) [JBC]
Verse 23: “forgive ... retain”: BlkJn notes that these expressions are not used elsewhere in John and not at all in the Matthean parallels (see Matthew 18:18; 16:19). He notes that Matthew 16:19 (“whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven ...”) recalls Isaiah 22:22, so he suggests that both this verse in John and the parallels in Matthew may be variants of a common original. This original, which might well have been in Aramaic, may have followed Isaiah in speaking of the conferral of authority as opening and shutting. In this case, John and Matthew provide different interpretations of what Jesus said, with the Johannine version arising out of the ambiguity in the Aramaic words, for there the word to shut also means to seize or to hold. Given hold for shut, loose (release, set free) for open follows naturally. In support of this hypothesis, BlkJn notes that the Greek verb translated retain is not used here in any of its normal senses, so it may be a Semitism.
Verse 37: “the festival”: The whole festival commemorated the desert wanderings (see Leviticus 23:29-43 and Deuteronomy 16:13-15) and was a symbol of hope for the expected messianic deliverance (see Isaiah 12:3). For the water springing from the rock, see Numbers 20:2-13. Jesus is the true water of life who turns the symbol into reality (see Isaiah 44:3; 55:1). The gift of the Spirit is a mark of the messianic age: see Joel 2:28-29 and Acts 2:14-21. [NOAB]
Verse 37: “the great day”: The last day was the occasion of special ceremonies in the Temple. It was a very solemn occasion. On this day, Jesus makes a very solemn pronouncement.
Verse 37: “me”: Jesus is the true Temple (see 2:21). The waters he offers are much more effectual than those in the ritual of Tabernacles.
Verses 37b-38: The saying of Jesus contains three interrelated problems:
There is no punctuation in the Greek. There are three ways of punctuating these verses:
When John writes the scripture he refers to a particular passage, except here: there is no passage in the Old Testament which obviously suggests that rivers of living water shall flow from the believer (Option 1 above). The nearest is Isaiah 58:11, but this can also be interpreted as Christ being the source.
For Option 2, the scripture must be a passage which speaks of the invitation to the thirsty to come and drink given in v. 37b. Jesus is then alluding to a passage such as Isaiah 44:3 (“... I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my spirit upon your descendants, and my blessing on your offspring”) and 55:1. Rivers of water then applies to the believer; it does not allude to the Old Testament. (It does not apply to Jesus because he would have said Rivers ... shall flow from my very being.) But note the explanation given in v. 39 that this watery stuff is “about the Spirit”, i.e. not about the believer. The only option left is 3. Jesus may have in mind that he will send the Spirit to continue his mission: that during his early life Jesus has been the source and that the Spirit will have this role after Jesus’ departure. [BlkJn]
Under Option 3, we are back to searching for a scripture. One possibility is that typology is at work: that Christ is the type of Moses: that Jesus is the new Moses, who produced water from the rock in the wilderness (Exodus 17:6). Paul uses this typology in 1 Corinthians 10:4: “... For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.” In the early Church, any verse in the Old Testament could be interpreted as prefiguring Christ.
Another possibility is that there is a contrast here between Moses and Jesus as givers of drink. (John has already contrasted the two as givers of food: see 6:32-33, 48-51, 58). The scripture may then be Isaiah 48:21 (“They did not thirst when he led them through the deserts; he made water flow for them from the rock; he split open the rock and the water gushed out”) especially in the Septuagint translation, where all the verbs are in the future tense. Alternatively, recall that Christ is the real Temple (see 2:21), so Old Testament passages referring to water flowing from the Temple may be in view: See Psalm 46:4; Ezekiel 47:1-11; Joel 3:18; Zechariah 14:8 (“On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem ...”). [NJBC] [JBC]
Verse 39: The gift of the “Spirit” is a mark of the Messianic age. Joel 2:28-29 says “Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. ...”. [NOAB]
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