Comments

Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Fifth Sunday after Pentecost - June 15, 2008



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.

Genesis 18:1-15,(21:1-7)

Chapter 18 is from the Yahwist (J) tradition. [NJBC] [CAB]

18:1-8: Eastern Orthodox Christians traditionally interpret this passage as a revelation of the Trinity. It is the basis for the traditional icon of the Trinity, which depicts the three angels seated at a table. Originally, Abraham and Sarah were depicted serving the angels. Andrei Rublev, a fifteenth century Russian iconographer, transformed this standard by removing Abraham and Sarah from the scene, leaving the angels around the table.

18:1: “at the entrance of his tent”: This is a sacred spot in subsequent books of the Old Testament, e.g. in Exodus 29:4, 11 (Aaron and his sons are to be ordained priests). [FoxMoses]

18:2: “three men”: Per Hebrews 13:2, Abraham did not recognizes them as divine beings. All three angels may represent Yahweh. The relationship of the three visitors to Yahweh is difficult. V. 22 says that “the men ... went toward Sodom”; some verses later, in 19:1, “The two angels came to Sodom”. Angels, messengers from God, do appear in human form in Genesis. In 16:7-12, Sarai converses with “the angel of the LORD”, and in the next verse she “named the LORD who spoke to her”. So the angel is God himself. So it appears that the “three men” in 18:2 are also God. Further, the “one” in 18:10 may show that the three become one, as also in 18:13. On the other hand, 18:22 and 19:1 taken together may indicate that two are attendants of the other, Yahweh. [NOAB]

18:8: “curds and milk and the calf”: Later, when the Law had been given, the meal would not be kosher. “You shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk” in Exodus 23:19 is now interpreted as not permitting milk and meat to be served at the same meal.

18:10,14: “in due season”: Literally when time revives. An idiom for next year. [FoxMoses]

18:15: Although not in the text, it is helpful to insert laughing after “denied”. [NOAB]

18:16-33: Before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (19:1-38), that Abraham tries to intercede for the residents of the cities shows his importance: he is taken into Yahweh’s counsel. [NOAB]

21:1-7: NJBC considers the sources of the material to be: vv. 1b-5: Priestly (P), v. 6: Elohist (E), v. 7: Yahwist (J); however the various traditions have been combined into one story by an ancient editor. The parallelism between v. 1a and v. 1b suggest that the two half-verses are from different sources.

21:4: The pact that God makes with Abraham is in 17:1-14. This passage includes the instructions for circumcision. [NJBC] [NOAB]

21:4: “Isaac”: NJBC says that the name means May God laugh in delight, smile upon. It recalls and reverses the skepticism expressed by both Abraham and Sarah when they first heard that a child would be born to them.

21:8: Isaac’s weaning at the age of three shows that he has survived the threat of infant mortality – and is to survive to adulthood. [NJBC]

21:9-21: Isaac is designated to continue Abraham’s line but Ishmael too is promised a future. He and his mother, Hagar, are cast out into the wilderness after Abraham gives them provisions. God sends an angel to them, who tells Hagar that God will “make a great nation” of Ishmael. He is the ancestor of the bedouin tribes. Muslims trace their ancestry to Abraham through Ishmael. For the birth of Ishmael, see Chapter 16. [NOAB]

Psalm 116:1,12-19

Psalms 113-118 are called the hallelujah psalms because they all include “Praise the Lord” (Hebrew: hallelujah). In the Jewish liturgical tradition, they were used in connection with the great festivals. At Passover, Psalms 113-114 were sung before the meal and Psalms 115-118 after it.

In the Septuagint translation, this is two psalms: vv. 1-9 are Psalm 114 and vv. 10-19 Psalm 115. (Psalms 9-10 are one psalm in the Septuagint.) The Vulgate followed the Septuagint, and modern Roman Catholic bibles follow the Vulgate. [NJBC]

Several Aramaic features in this psalm (vv. 7, 12, 16) suggest it was composed during the last several centuries before Christ. [NJBC]

The psalmist calls on the Lord three times: vv. 2, 4 and 17.

Verses 1-4: These verses resemble 18:2-7a. [NJBC]

Verse 3: “Sheol”: See also 6:5; 88:5-6; 115:17; Job 3:13-19; Genesis 37:35; 2 Samuel 12:23. [NOAB]

Verses 5-6: An instruction to those present.

Verse 7: “Return, O my soul”: When someone was faint (from hunger or thirst), it was thought that the soul/spirit had departed from him. When the person revived, the soul returned. The psalmist reassures his soul that it is safe to return after his terrifying experience (vv. 3-4). See also Genesis 35:18; 1 Samuel 30:12; Psalm 23:3; Daniel 10:17. [NJBC]

Verses 8-9: Description of the psalmist’s recovery. [NOAB]

Verse 8: “my soul”: i.e. my very being.

Verse 10: “I kept my faith”: In the Lord, implied. The second part of the psalm starts with a theme similar to that with which the first part began.

Verses 12-19: The vow, and its fulfilment, described. A psalmist says in 7:17: “I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High”. [NOAB]

Verses 13,17: “call on the name of the LORD”: While in v. 2 the psalmist has called on Yahweh’s name in fear, here he calls on it in praise in the Temple. [NJBC]

Verse 13: “cup of salvation”: For drink offering, libation, see Exodus 29:40. Here the cup is one that saves rather than a cup of God’s wrath: see Isaiah 57:17ff. [NOAB]

Verse 15: Why the death of God’s “faithful ones” should be precious to him is not clear. [NJBC]

Verse 16: “child of your serving girl”: In 86:16, a psalmist says: “Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant; save the child of your serving girl”. [NOAB]

Romans 5:1-8

Paul develops these ideas further in 8:1-39: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death ...”. [NJBC]

Verse 1: “justified by faith”: This is the theme of 3:21-31. [CAB]

Verse 1: “peace”: In Hebrew, this is shalom, the state of being in which one enjoys all the benefits of a right relationship with God, namely partnership in reconciliation, eternal well-being and wholeness of life. Being justified is very similar, although it implies action.

Verse 1: “through our Lord Jesus Christ”: Christ is active as the mediator, the interface between the Father and humans, in carrying out God’s plan of/for salvation. In some form or other, Paul makes frequent use of this phrase in this chapter: see also vv. 2, 9, 11, 17, 21. [JBC] He writes in 1:5: “through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name”; see also 2:16. “Through” means mediated by, in the Father’s plan of salvation. [NJBC]

Verse 2: “obtained access”: JBC offers secured an introduction. We have been introduced into the sphere of divine favour through Christ. He has, as it were, led Christians into the royal audience chamber and into the divine presence.

Verse 2: “we boast in our hope ...”: In contrast to the boasting by Jews of their relationship to God mentioned in 2:17: “But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relation to God”. [CAB]

Verses 2,3,11: “boast”: In Paul’s writings, this word is sometimes meant in the obvious sense, but not here. Basking in glory is what he means here. [NJBC]

Verse 3: “boast in our sufferings”: Paul also uses the word “boast” in 2 Corinthians 11:30; 12:9 and also 1 Corinthians 1:31; 3:21; 2 Corinthians 10:17; Galatians 6:13; Philippians 3:3. [CAB]

Verse 3: “endurance”: See also 8:25 (where the Greek word is translated as “patience”) and 15:4-5. [CAB]

Verse 4: “character”: The Greek word is dokime, from a verb meaning to test, so the sense is proven-ness under testing. [CAB]

Verse 4: “hope”: Openness to God’s future. [CAB]

Verse 5: “and hope”: The sense is easier to see if we insert such between and and hope. A human may disappoint one by not doing what he or she commits to do, but God is not like this. [NJBC]

Verses 5,8: “God’s love has been poured ... through the Holy Spirit”, “Christ”: In v. 5, God is the Father. These verses lead later to the doctrine of the Trinity.

Verse 5: “poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit”: In the Old Testament and Apocrypha, pouring out of a divine attribute is commonplace: for example, mercy in Sirach 18:11, wisdom in Sirach 1:9, grace in Psalm 45:2, and wrath in Hosea 5:10 and Psalm 79:6. See especially Joel 2:28 for the outpouring of the Spirit. [NJBC]

Verses 6-11: Christ, in his death, has borne the consequences of our sin and thus has reconciled us to God. [NOAB]

Verse 6: “weak”: NJBC offers helpless.

Verse 6: “Christ died for the ungodly”: Paul writes in 4:5: “But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness”. [CAB]

Verse 8: God’s love is unconditional, spontaneous, not dependent on human love for him.

Verse 9: “justified by his blood”: This is a restatement of 3:24-25: “they [those who have fallen short of true godliness] are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith ...”. [CAB] In 4:25, justification is the result of Christ’s resurrection, but here it is the result of his death. [NOAB]

Verse 10: In Galatians 2:20, Paul writes: “... the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”. [CAB]

Verse 10: “while we were enemies”: Perhaps Paul thinks partly of himself here, as a former persecutor of Christians.

Verse 11: In 1 Corinthians 1:30-31, Paul writes: “He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’”. [CAB]

Verse 11: “we have now received reconciliation”: In 3:21-22, Paul writes: “But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe”. [NOAB]

Matthew 9:35-10:8,(9-23)

9:35-38: Very similar words are found in 4:23-25. [NOAB]

9:36: Jesus’ compassion for the crowds, who are disadvantaged, is also found in Mark 6:34; Matthew 14:14; 15:32. [NOAB]

9:36: “compassion”: The Greek word shows that the abdomen was seen as the seat of emotions. [NJBC]

9:36: “like sheep without a shepherd”: Shepherd imagery is common throughout the Old Testament, where it is used for political and religious leadership: see Numbers 27:17; Ezekiel 34:5; 1 Kings 22:17; 2 Chronicles 18:16; Zechariah 10:2; 13:7. In Matthew, it recurs in 10:6; 15:24; 18:12; 26:31. [NJBC]

9:38: “ask”: NJBC offers pray to.

10:1-4: The parallels are Mark 6:7; 3:13-19; Luke 9:1; 6:12-16. [NOAB]

10:1: “his twelve disciples”: Normally in Matthew Jesus’ followers are a wider group. Matthew presupposes that they have been called earlier, though he only describes the calling of four: see 4:18-22. The number of disciples corresponds to the number of the tribes of Israel: a point brought out by Jesus in 19:28. The number symbolises the restoration of all Israel. [NJBC]

10:2-4: The names listed here are the same as in the basic core of other lists: see Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16; Acts 1:13. However, there are differences in some of the less well-known figures. [NJBC]

10:2: “first, Simon, ...”: For Peter’s primacy, see also 16:17-19. [NJBC]

10:3: “Matthew the tax collector”: 9:9 tells of Matthew’s calling: “As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him”. [NJBC]

10:4: “Simon the Cananaean”: i.e. a nationalist. In Luke 6:15, he is called a zealot.

10:4: “Judas Iscariot”: Iscariot may refer to Judas’ origin in Kerioth, a town west of the Dead Sea. On the other hand, the word may mean liar. [NJBC]

10:4-15: The parallels are Mark 6:8-11. Luke 9:2-5; 10:3-12. [NOAB]

10:5: “sent out”: In the Greek, this verb has the same root as the noun apostle. [BlkMt]

10:5: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles”: In 15:24, Jesus says: “‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’”. [NJBC]

10:6: “the lost sheep of the house of Israel”: Per Ezekiel 34:2-6, this includes those who have strayed and those who have been marginalised. In Matthew, besides 28:19, an openness to non-Jews is also perceptible in 10:18; 3:9; 8:11ff; 21:43; 22:1-14; 23:38-39. V. 18 seems to imply the existence of a mission to non-Jews. [NJBC]

10:7-8: The primary message: through accepting the nearness of the Kingdom (or at least being open to the possibility of its nearness), healing will follow. See also 4:17, 23; 9:21, 35. [NOAB]

10:7: Comments: as Jesus and John the Baptist have taught: In 4:17, Jesus advises: “‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near’”; in 3:2 tells us that John the Baptist proclaimed: “‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near’”. [NJBC]

10:8: “You received without payment”: This is a surprisingly Pauline phrase: see Romans 3:24 and 2 Corinthians 11:7. Ability to pay must never be a condition of hearing the good news. The rabbis shared this idea: Hillel, the great first century rabbinic scholar, said: He that makes worldly use of the crown shall perish (Mishna ’Abot 1.13; 2.20; 3.18; 4.5). [NJBC]

10:9-10: See also Luke 22:35-36, verses that suggest the wariness Jesus advises here in vv. 16-18. Gold, silver or copper (coins) were carried in the belt when travelling. The Marcan parallel permits sandals and a staff (for beating off thieves and wild animals). A connection with Mishna Berakot 9.5 may be intended: one may not enter the Temple in this gear. [NOAB] [NJBC]

10:10: “tunics”: A short-sleeved garment of knee length, held in at the waist with a girdle. [NOAB]

10:12: “greet”: The usual (Jewish) form of greeting was: Peace be on this house. [NOAB]

10:15: “Sodom and Gomorrah”: For the story of these cities, see Genesis 18:16-33; 19. [NOAB]

10:16: In 24:9, Jesus warns “‘Then they will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name’”. See also 24:13.

10:16: “wise as serpents”: The REB offers wary. See also Romans 16:19 and 1 Corinthians 14:20. Note also Midrash Canticles 2.14: God says of the Israelites, towards me they are sincere as doves, but towards the Gentiles they are prudent as serpents. This is a late text – which may show that Matthew was known to the author, or that the saying was proverbial. See also Luke 16:8 (The parable of the Dishonest Manager). [NJBC]

10:18-25: The parallels are Mark 13:9-13 and Luke 21:12-17, 19.

10:17: “their synagogues”: Perhaps in contrast to Jewish-Christian synagogues (see James 2:2, where “assembly” is literally synagogue) but perhaps indicating that Matthew’s community has already been banned from synagogues. Mishna Sanhedrin contains the rules for judging in synagogues; Mishna Makkot tells of flogging.

10:18: “governors”: NJBC offers prefects.

10:19: This verse should not be taken as an excuse for not preparing sermons! [NJBC]

10:20: See also John 16:7-11. In contrast with the Marcan parallel, Matthew stresses that the Holy Spirit is the spirit of the Father. [NOAB] [NJBC]

10:21: In 10:35-36, Jesus says: “‘For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one's foes will be members of one's own household’”. See also Luke 12:52-53. [NOAB]

10:21: “children will rise against parents ...”: In Micah 7:5-6 sees the sorry state of society in his time, and advises: “Put no trust in a friend, ... for the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; your enemies are members of your own household”. [NJBC]

10:23: The simplest (but not very satisfactory) interpretation is that Jesus expected to return after an interval which he left undetermined in detail. In Mark 13:32, Jesus says that he does not know when the end-times will come. Perhaps Jesus is saying that the Church will never reach all who are willing to listen to the good news. [NJBC]

10:24-25: The “disciple” here is the learner or student. Jesus is the only teacher and abiding lord. One should see oneself as a life-long student of God’s ways and not set oneself up as an authority. (The Gnostics saw Jesus as one of many teachers: see Gospel of Thomas 1.3.) [NJBC]

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