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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Trinity Sunday - June 15, 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.

Genesis 1:1-2:4a

This creation story is from the Priestly (P) tradition: it uses the formulae “let there be ...” and “God created/made ...” as does the story of the building of the Tabernacle: see Exodus 25-31 for God’s commands and Exodus 35-40 for the execution of these commands. [ NJBC]

1:1: Another translation: At the beginning of God’s creating of the heavens and the earth. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth has been the traditional translation since at least the third century BC, when the Hebrew was so translated in the Septuagint but, says FoxMoses, it is an unlikely translation because the first two Hebrew words cannot be translated in this way. Other ancient Near East cosmologies use a “when ... then” construction as does Enuma Elish. [ NJBC]

1:1: “the heavens and the earth”: Probably a merism – an inclusive idiom meaning everything or everywhere . [ FoxMoses]

1:2: Genesis 1 describes God’s bringing order out of chaos, not creation from nothingness. God does not destroy darkness, a chaotic force, but relegates it to the nighttime, where it too becomes part of the good world. [ FoxMoses]

1:2: “formless void”: The Hebrew is tohu wabohu. Tohu occurs twenty times in the Old Testament; it means without shape or form, so uninhabitable by humans. [ NJBC]

1:2: “the deep”: The Hebrew, tehom, suggests that the earth was completely covered by water, as Psalm 104:6, a psalm that resembles Genesis 1, says. [ NJBC]

1:2: “while a wind from God ...”: Chaos was never beyond God’s control. Psalm 33:7 says: “He gathered the waters of the sea as in a bottle; he put the deeps in storehouses”. [ NJBC]

1:2: “swept”: FoxMoses offers hovering or flitting. He says that the image is one of an eagle protecting its young. Deuteronomy 32:11-12 says “As an eagle stirs up its nest, and hovers over its young; as it spreads its wings, takes them up, and bears them aloft on its pinions, the Lord alone guided him”.

Days 4, 5 and 6 match Days 1, 2 and 3:

Day Verses Day Verses
1 3-5 Light (day/night) 4 14-19 Lights in heaven
2 6-8 Separation of upper and lower water 5 20-23 Fish and birds from water
3 9-13 a. Dry land (earth, seas)

b. Plants

6 24-31 a. Animals

b. Humans [ NJBC]

1:4: “God saw that the light was good”: This phrase is reminiscent of an ancient Near East craftsman being satisfied with his work. [ FoxMoses]

1:5: “there was evening and there was morning”: Jewish feast days begin in the evening. [ NOAB] The words translated “evening” and “morning” are specific: they mean sunset and daybreak. [ FoxMoses] Creation is very orderly. [ CAB]

1:6: “dome”: The Hebrew, raki’a , literally means a beaten sheet of metal, hammered out of the flat – suggesting God as a craftsman. The KJV translates the word as firmament. It was so translated in the Septuagint and later in the Vulgate. So translated, it lacks some of the meaning of the Hebrew. [ FoxMoses]

1:11: “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, ...”: FoxMoses says that there are sound-doublets here in the Hebrew which are hard to translate as such into English. He suggests Let the earth sprout forth with sprouting-growth, plants that seed forth seeds ... V. 12 contains no such doublets.

1:14: “lights”: In the sense of lamps. [ FoxMoses]

1:21: Birds seem to be thought to come from the water. [ NJBC]

1:22: “blessed”: This is the first occurrence of this key motif in Genesis. [ FoxMoses]

1:25: “wild”: i.e. undomesticated.

1:26-27: “humankind”: The Hebrew word is adam. [ FoxMoses]

1:26: In the ancient Near East, a king was often called an image of the deity and was vested with the god’s authority. In this area, humans were usually considered to be slaves of the gods, but here royal language is used for humans. [ NJBC]

Another interpretation is that “us” is an echo of the divine assembly. In ancient Near East literature, gods decided the fate of humankind. The Old Testament accepts the picture of the assembly, but Yahweh alone makes the decisions: see also Deuteronomy 32:8-9; 1 Kings 22:19-22; Isaiah 6; 40:1-11; Job 1-2. [ NJBC]

1:28: “Be fruitful and multiply ...”: Imperatives are a biblical way of defining essence, as also in 8:17 (to Noah); 9:1, 7; Exodus 20:2-7, Leviticus 19:2; 35:11 (to Jacob); Deuteronomy 16:18-20; Jeremiah 23:3; Ezekiel 36:10-11. [ NJBC]

1:28: “subdue it”: i.e. master it, bring it forcibly under control; however, note vv. 29-30: humans are to respect the environment; they are not to kill for food but to treat all life with respect. (In the renewal after the Flood, God permits humans to eat meat.) [ NJBC]

1:29: “you”: The word is plural. [ FoxMoses]

1:31: “very good”: Either an indication that the creative activity on the sixth day is special or a summary of the whole process. [ FoxMoses]

2:1-3: A tightly structured poem in which:

  • “God”, “seventh day”, “work” and “done” appear three times
  • “finished”, “rested” and “all” appear twice, and
  • “done in creation” echoes 1:1, rounding out the narrative.

2:4a: Some scholars consider that this half verse introduces 2:4b-4:26 rather than ending the first creation story. FoxMoses suggests begettings rather than “generations”.

A comparison of Genesis 1 and Enuma Elish:

Day Genesis 1 Enuma Elish
Divine spirit creates by word all matter, but is independent of it. Divine spirit and cosmic matter coexist and are co-eternal
Earth is desolate, with darkness over the deep Primeval chaos; war of gods against Tiamat, the sea
1 Light created Light emanates from the gods
2 Sky dome created Creation of firmament (dome)
3 Creation of dry land Creation of dry land
4 Creation of heavenly lights Creation of heavenly lights
6 Creation of humankind Creation of humankind
7 God rests and sanctifies the Sabbath The gods rest and celebrate with a banquet

Genesis 1 does not accept the theology of Enuma Elish. Genesis 1 says that:

  • There is only one God. (vs. many)
  • God created a world order from his goodness and wise plan
  • Matter is good (vs. the result of a whim or magic)
  • God’s word decrees what is to be and establishes limits.
  • Humans share the divine gift of procreating life and know God personally. [ Boadt]

Psalm 8

Verse 2: “Out of the mouths of babes and infants”: A more literalist interpretation is that the glory of God is manifest in the songs of children and in the night sky (v. 3). [ NOAB]

Verses 2b-3: NJBC says that scholars’ efforts to elucidate these difficult lines have not met with success.

Verses 4-7: These verses are quoted in Hebrews 2:5-9. There they are applied to Christ. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 4: “what are human beings ... ?”: Psalm 144:3 and Job 7:1-17 also ask this question but there the sense of it is different. [ NOAB]

Verse 4: “mortals”: The Hebrew, ben ‘adam, literally son of proto-human, is a Jewish idiom meaning mortal or human being. Some scholars consider Son of Man, as used in the New Testament, to be a Christian technical term. [ NOAB]

Ben ‘adam can also be translated as children of earth. Before Eve was created Adam was of no gender; he was simply earth-creature, a literal translation; after the rib was removed they became man and woman. So ben ‘adam is more inclusive, referring back to the pre-gendered humanity. [Chris Malcolm, email]

Verses 5-8: See also Genesis 1:26-30 (the first Creation Story, the sixth day). [ NOAB]

Verse 5: See also 90:1-3 (“... Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God ...”). [ NJBC]

Verse 5: “God”: The Hebrew word here is plural: note that in Genesis 1:26 God says: “‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; ...’”. (God is plural there too.)

Verse 5: “crowned them with glory and honour”: This may point to a king: blessed with glory and honour, he is almost a god. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: A repeat of the opening verse, as a refrain. [ NOAB]

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

Verse 12: “a holy kiss”: See also Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 12: “saints”: Christians in western Macedonia or Illyricum (Albania and Montenegro). [ NJBC]

Verse 13: Ephesians 5:23 is comparable with this triadic tradition, which is not a trinitarian formula in the dogmatic sense. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ”: See also Romans 16:20; 1 Corinthians 16:23; Philippians 4:23; 1 Thessalonians 5:28; Philemon 25. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “the love of God”: In Romans 8:39, Paul says: “nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

Verse 13: “the communion of the Holy Spirit”: In Philippians 2:1, Paul says: “If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete” meaning there definitely are these qualities in God. [ NJBC]

Matthew 28:16-20

See also Mark 16:14-18; Luke 24:36-39; John 20:19-23; Acts 1:9-11. In Luke, Jesus appears to his disciples in Jerusalem and vicinity. [ NJBC]

Verse 16: “the mountain”: As in 5:1, 15:29 and 17:1, 7 (the Transfiguration), Jesus reveals his purpose to his followers on a mountain.

Verse 17: “worshipped him”: Literally prostrated themselves in worship. [ NOAB]

Verse 18: “authority”: This notion is also found in 11:27 (“All things have been handed over to me by my Father ...”); Luke 10:22; Philippians 2:9 (“... God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name”); Ephesians 1:20-22. “authority”: See also Daniel 7:14 (“To him was given dominion and glory and kingship ...”); 2 Chronicles 36:23; Matthew 6:10 (the Lord’s Prayer). [ NJBC]

Verse 19: “all nations”: Not just in Israel, as in 10:5-6 and 15:24. The Gentile mission has been hinted at in 2:1-2; 4:15; 8:5-13; 10:18; 15:21-28; 22:1-10; 24:14; 25:32; 26:13. For the mission to all nations, see also Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 19: “in the name of”: Based on Psalm 124, the meaning is in the possession of and under the protection of.

Verse 19: “the Father ... Son ... and ... Holy Spirit”: This triadic formula may have its roots in the apocalyptic triad of God, the Son of Man (or Elect One) and Angel found in Daniel 7 and Ezekiel 1. See also 1 Enoch 14. [ NJBC]

Verse 20: “obey”: NJBC translates the Greek as observe.

Verse 20: “I am with you”: In 18:20, Jesus says “‘For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them’”. While Paul is in Corinth, God tells him in a vision: “‘I am with you, and no one will lay a hand on you to harm you ...’”: see Acts 18:10. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

The gift of the Holy Spirit is not specifically mentioned as it is in John 20:22 (“When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit”) and Acts 2:1-4 (Pentecost), but in Paul the Holy Spirit is at times the presence of Jesus among us. In 2 Corinthians 3:17, Paul writes: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”. [ NJBC]

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