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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: The Reign of Christ - November 20, 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.

Ezekiel 34:11-16,20-24

This chapter presents a prophecy.

For misuse of subjects by kings, see Jeremiah 23:13-17; for scattering of the people, see Jeremiah 10:21 (“... the shepherds are stupid, and do not inquire of the LORD; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered”); 23:1-4. [NOAB] For kings being subject to God’s law, see 2 Samuel 12:1-15 (Nathan’s parable).

From Sumerian kings in the 2000s BC on, rulers of the ancient Near East referred to themselves as shepherds. See also Jeremiah 25:34-36 (“... you shepherds ... you lords of the flock ...”) and Zechariah 11:4-17 (“Thus said the LORD my God: Be a shepherd of the flock doomed to slaughter ...”). [NJBC]

Verse 8: “wild animals”: i.e. Judah’s attackers, especially the Babylonians. [NOAB]

Verses 11-16: For God as Israel’s shepherd, see Psalm 23 (“The LORD is my shepherd”), Isaiah 40:11, Jeremiah 31:10 and as the shepherd of the faithful, see Matthew 18:12-14 (the Parable of the Lost Sheep); Luke 15:4-7; John 10:1-18 (Jesus the good shepherd). [NOAB] [NJBC] For the covenant of prosperity, see Leviticus 26:3-12 and Jeremiah 33:14-33 (“The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land ...”). A ruler who is a descendant of David is also promised in 2 Samuel 7.

Verses 11-16: God will reverse the evil done by the bad human shepherds. [NJBC] NOAB sees in this passage a promise of return to theocracy. Hosea 8:4 tells of this evil: “They made kings, but not through me; they set up princes, but without my knowledge. With their silver and gold they made idols for their own destruction”.

Verses 17-24: God will be defender of justice and upholder of the weak. Roles associated with human kings will be maintained by God. Jesus’ Parable of the Sheep and the Goats may depend on this passage: see Matthew 25:31-46. [NJBC]

Verses 17-22: Sheep, good and bad, are found in the flock; the bad must be separated out and be punished: see Matthew 25:31-32. The figure may have a double meaning and refer also to the nations which oppress Israel. [NOAB]

Verses 23,24: “my servant David”: God will place his “servant David” (see also 2 Samuel 3:18), i.e. a restored monarchy, over his people. These verses look forward to 37:22-28, Yahweh says through the prophet: “I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all. Never again shall they be two nations, and never again shall they be divided into two kingdoms. They shall never again defile themselves with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. I will save them from all the apostasies into which they have fallen, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be my people, and I will be their GOD. My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall follow my ordinances and be careful to observe my statutes ...”. See also Jeremiah 23:5-6. [NOAB] [NJBC]

Verse 23: “one shepherd”: Hosea 1:11 says: “The people of Judah and ... of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head ...”. In John 10:16, Jesus says: “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd”. [NOAB]

Verses 25-31: Using the oldest term for “covenant” making (as also in Jeremiah 31:31-34), the prophet affirms that God will make a “covenant of peace” (a term also found in 37:26 and implied in Hebrews 13:20). God, again resident on Mount Zion (“my hill”, v. 26), will preserve the proper sequence of the seasons (as also in Genesis 8:21-22), assuring his people of continuous prosperity (a promise also recorded in Amos 9:13-14), free from fear of destruction within (for “wild animals”, v. 25, see also Leviticus 26:6) and without (“plunder for the nations”, v. 28). [NOAB] These verses reflect the vision of a covenant of prosperity in Leviticus 26:3-12 and Jeremiah 31:14-33. [NJBC]

Verse 25: “banish wild animals”: In Leviticus 26:6, Yahweh says: “... I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and no one shall make you afraid; I will remove dangerous animals from the land, and no sword shall go through your land”.

For Jesus’ use of this passage to express his person and mission, see Matthew 18:12-14; Luke 15:4-7; John 10:1-8.

Psalm 100

This psalm is known as the Jubilate Deo, its first words in Latin.

While the psalm does not specifically refer to God as king, its mood is similar to that of the preceding kingship psalms (95-99), all of which deal with the kingly rule of the God of Israel. This psalm is a doxology to these psalms. [NOAB] This theme was especially emphasized during the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles). Psalms 96; 98; 99 also call on Israel and other nations to join in the worship of Yahweh; they seek acknowledgement of his divine rule.

This psalm is two hymns: vv. 1-3 and vv. 4-5. The first hymn calls on people to worship God as the only god; the second calls on them to praise him for his faithful beneficence towards them. [NJBC]

Verse 1: 98:4a is identical. [NJBC]

Verse 3: “the LORD is God”: See also Deuteronomy 4:35 (“... the LORD is God; there is no other besides him”), 39. [JBC]

Verse 3: “It is he that made us, and we are his”: The Masoretic Text actually says: He made us and not we ourselves. [NJBC]

Verse 3: “we are his”: A footnote in the NRSV says that another reading is not we ourselves, which, says NJBC, is per the Masoretic Text. The Septuagint translation also has not we ourselves, so it is unknown what the NRSV is following. here.

Verse 5: “good”: Here, God’s concrete acts of covenant love (Hebrew: hesed) shown to Israel. [NJBC]

Verse 5: “his steadfast love endures forever”: Love per his covenants with Israel (Hebrew: hesed) is in view. These words are a refrain in Psalm 136 and occur in each of the first four verses of Psalm 118.

Ephesians 1:15-23

Verse 13: “you also”: You Gentiles, as well as we Jews. [NOAB]

Verse 15: Colossians 1:4 is very similar: “... we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints”. In Philemon 5, Paul writes: “I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith toward the Lord Jesus”. [CAB]

Verse 16: In Romans 1:9, Paul writes: “God, whom I serve with my spirit by announcing the gospel of his Son, is my witness that without ceasing I remember you always in my prayers”. Colossians 1:3 says: “In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”. See also Philemon 4. [CAB]

Verse 17: “Father of glory”: This phrase occurs only here in the New Testament, but in Acts 7:2 Stephen speaks of the “God of glory” and in 1 Corinthians 2:8 Paul writes of the “ Lord of glory”.

Verse 18: “saints”: This word has various meanings in Ephesians. Here it means angels with whom the earthly congregation has been joined in Christ. This thought has close parallels in the Qumran literature: see 1QSb (Rule of the Community: Blessings) 3:25-4:26; 1QH (Hymns) 11:21-23 (Vermes: 3:21-23). In vv. 1 and 15, it means the earthly congregation. [NJBC]

Verse 19: “greatness of his power”: In the Qumran literature, see 1QH (Hymns) 12:32 (Vermes: 4:32); 1QS (Rule of the Community) 11:19-20. [NJBC]

Verses 20-23: God’s might is revealed in the resurrection and ascension of Christ, and in his exaltation over angelic forces. The author uses early Christian creedal statements that formulate the Christ-event in terms of Psalm 110:1 and 8:6 to impress on readers the glorious position to which they have been called in Christ. [NJBC]

Verse 20: “in Christ”: This phrase occurs frequently throughout this letter in contexts referring to the unity of Jews and Gentiles (e.g. 1:4; 2:13; 3:11). It speaks of Paul’s sense of the Christian community, i.e. the fellowship of those whose fellowship in Christ gives them mutual benefits and sets common standards. See also 1 Corinthians 1:13 (“Has Christ been divided? ...”); 12:12 (“... just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ”); Galatians 3:16. [CAB]

Verse 20: “in the heavenly places”: Can also be translated among heavenly beings. An expression found only in this letter (1:3; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12), referring to the unseen world behind and above the material universe. [NOAB]

Verse 21: In 1 Corinthians 15:24, Pauls writes: “Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power”. Colossians 1:16 says: “... in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him”. See also Philippians 2:9-11. [CAB]

Verse 21: “rule and authority ...”: Created heavenly entities presented as angelic beings subordinate to Christ, perhaps thought of by the first readers as rivals to Christ or beings whose power supplemented that of Christ. Such a belief grew out of the complex and highly developed angelology widespread at the time. [NJBC] See also 3:10; 6:12; Colossians 2:10, 15; Romans 8:38. [CAB]

Verses 22-23: The Church, as the “fulness of Christ”, is the complement of his mystic person; he is the “head”; the Church is “his body”. [NOAB]

Verse 22: “he has put all things under his feet”: This is an allusion to Psalm 8:6: “You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet”. Psalm 8 extols the glory of Adam over creation. Christ is the new Adam, the head of the new humanity, who has brought to virtual completion Adam’s (humanity’s) assignment by God to dominate the universe (see Genesis 1:28 and Hebrews 2:6-9).

Verses 22-23: “head ... body”: This is a development of the Pauline concept of many diverse members forming the body of Christ: see 1 Corinthians 12:12-17. The church is beneficiary of God’s all-embracing plan, and, as beneficiary of his lordship over all things and over all angelic powers, the Church - Christ’s body – shares in the dominion of its head. [NJBC]

Verse 22: “the church”: i.e. the church throughout the world, the universal church, rather than a local congregation. [CAB]

Verse 23: 3:19 says: “... to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” and 4:13 “until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ”. [CAB]

Verse 23: “the fullness of him who fills all”: The Greek is difficult. Perhaps Christ is the source and goal of the body’s growth, as described in 4:15-16. “Who fills all” can be translated as “who is being filled with all”. Thus several Patristic authors (Origen, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Chrysostom) read this; they interpreted it as meaning that all things created contribute to the fullness of Christ. However, Old Testament usage would favour the active sense (as in the NRSV) when speaking of God: in Jeremiah 23:24, Yahweh says through the prophet: “Do I not fill heaven and earth?”. See also Ezekiel 43:5. [JBC]

Matthew 25:31-46

In this passage, Jesus says that discipleship is identical with caring for the needy. [NJBC]

Verse 31: In 16:27, Jesus foretells: “‘... the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done’” and in 19:28 “‘Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel’”. [NOAB]

Verse 31: “the Son of Man”: See also Daniel 7:9, 13-14 (“a human being” translating the Aramaic son of man) and Zechariah 14:5 (“you shall flee by the valley of the Lord's mountain, ... as you fled from the earthquake in the days of King Uzziah of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him”). Here in Matthew the “Son of Man” acts in place of God. [NJBC]

Verse 32: In Ezekiel 34:17, Yahweh says through the prophet: “As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord GOD: I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats”. [NOAB]

Verse 32: “the nations”: Scholars identify them with various groups. NOAB says that they are probably those who do not know the God of Israel (see Romans 2:13-16). To NJBC, it includes Israel and not just Gentiles. See also 24:9, 14; 28:19. BlkMt says that while “nations” usually means Gentiles in Matthew, “all nations” seems to mean all humankind.

Verse 32: “will be gathered”: NJBC says that this is a theological passive, so God will gather.

Verse 33: “goats”: The Greek, eriphos, normally means kid, so perhaps they are animals of lower value. [NJBC]

Verse 34: In Luke 12:32 Jesus says: “‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom’” and in Matthew 5:3 “‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’”. See also Revelation 13:8; 17:8. [NOAB]

Verse 34: “king”: The Son of Man as king executes his Father’s will. With a blessing he invites the saved to enter the Kingdom, which always exists but which they enter when he decides to bring it and admit them to it. [NJBC]

Verses 35-36: The list includes six of the seven corporal works of mercy in the catechetical tradition. [NJBC] Various of these works are also mentioned in Isaiah 58:7; James 1:27; 2:15-16; Hebrews 13:2; 2 Timothy 1:16. [NOAB]

Verse 37: Note that “the righteous” are surprised, for they were not trying to gain God’s favour.

Verse 40: In 10:42, Jesus says: “‘whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple – truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward’” and in Mark 9:41 “‘whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward’”. See also Hebrews 6:10 and Proverbs 19:17. [NOAB]

Verse 41: In Mark 9:48, Jesus speaks of hell as : “‘where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched’”. In Revelation 20:10, John sees as part of a vision: “the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever”. [NOAB]

Verses 41-43: Here there are only two ways: either one serves the disadvantaged, or one does not; there is no middle way. This, says NJBC, stems from the deuteronomic theology of a covenant conditioned by human obligation (vs. the covenant of unconditional divine commitment represented in the New Testament by Paul’s theology.) It presupposes human moral responsibility and conscience and God taking human actions seriously. [NJBC]

Verse 46: In Daniel 12:2, speaking of the end-times, says: “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt”. In John 5:29, Jesus says: “‘the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation’”. [NOAB]

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