Comments

Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Second Sunday of Advent - December 4, 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.

Isaiah 40:1-11

CAB sees this as prophecy to all peoples, not just Israel. Note “all people” in v. 5.

This passage combines:

  • the scene of God’s heavenly council: see also 1 Kings 22:19-23 and Isaiah 6
  • the literary style of commissioning of prophets as in Isaiah 6 and Jeremiah 1
  • the religious motif of the new exodus
  • preparation for the Babylonian new year with the paving of the holy way and triumphant possessions to the capital, and
  • the message genre and the motif of God as shepherd (vv. 9-11). [NJBC]

Verses 1-2: God speaks to the heavenly assembly, court. Some scholars see God as addressing a group of prophets in whose ranks stands the author. [NJBC]

Verse 1: “Comfort”: Repeated for emphasis. Similar repetitions are found in 51:9; 52:1; 57:14. [NOAB]

Verse 1: “my people ... your God”: An echo of the bonding of Israel to God in the covenant: see also Exodus 19:4-6 and Jeremiah 11:5; 31:1, 33. [NOAB] [NJBC]

Verse 2: “Speak tenderly”: God attempts to convince the chosen people in exile (“Jerusalem”) of his concern. See also Genesis 34:3 (Shechem to Dinah); 50:21 (Joseph to his brothers); Hosea 2:14 (Yahweh will be husband to Israel). [NJBC] (Hosea 2:14 is 2:16 in some Roman Catholic bibles.)

Verse 2: “double”: This may reflect Exodus 22:7-8 (the punishment for stealing is to repay double what was taken) or may suggest that God exacted more from his people than was to be expected. [NOAB]

Verses 3-5: God comes to restore his people: see 35:1-10. John the Baptist heralds the fulfilment of this prophecy: see Luke 3:4-6: “‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight ...’”. These verses are also quoted in Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; John 1:23. [NOAB]

Verse 3: As in Isaiah 6, someone in the celestial assembly speaks up.

Verse 3: “‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD’”: The Septuagint and Vulgate translations of the Old Testament, and the New Testament (Mark 1:3 and parallels), divide the phrases differently so as to read a voice cries out in the wilderness. [NJBC]

Verse 3: “the way of the LORD”: A common figure in Deutero-Isaiah: see also 42:16; 43:16, 19; 48:17; 49:11; 51:10. [NOAB] See also Genesis 6:12; Isaiah 55:7; Deuteronomy 32:4; Exodus 18:25. In John 14:6, Jesus proclaims that he is the way. See also Hebrews 10:20. [NJBC]

Comments: Christianity was later known as The Way: See Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23. [NJBC]

Verse 5: “the glory of the LORD”: i.e. the wondrous manifestation of God’s redeeming presence (see Exodus 14:4, 18; 16:7; Isaiah 58:8) particularly in the Temple (see Exodus 40:34-35; 1 Kings 8:10-12). Ezekiel 43:1-2 sees this as returning to a new messianic temple, but Deutero-Isaiah sees this as a world-wide theophany. See also Psalms 96:3, 7-8; 97:6. [NJBC] See also Ezekiel 1:28; 10:18-19. [NOAB]

Verses 6-8: For the immutability of God’s word, see also 55:8-11. This verse is quoted in 1 Peter 24-25. [NOAB]

Verse 6a: Perhaps for the only time (note 48:16c: “now the Lord GOD has sent me and his spirit”) the prophet speaks in his own name. [NJBC] See also Jeremiah’s call in Jeremiah 1:4-8. [NOAB]

Verse 6: “All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field”: In 51:12, the prophet asks: “I, I am he who comforts you; why then are you afraid of a mere mortal who must die, a human being who fades like grass?”. [NOAB]

Verse 7: “breath”: Wind is associated with judgement in Jeremiah 4:11. [NOAB] The Hebrew word ru’ah can be translated as “breath”, wind or spirit.

Verses 9-11: “‘Here is your God!’ ...”: He comes in celestial grandeur, yet is compassionate: see also Ezekiel 34; Acts 10:36 (Peter speaks at Cornelius’ house); Romans 10:15; Revelation 22:7. [NOAB]

Verse 9: “Jerusalem”: Used to indicate not just the city but also Judah over 30 times in Deutero-Isaiah. [NOAB]

Verse 10: “arm”: A symbol of power: see also 33:2; 48:14 (“he shall perform his purpose on Babylon, and his arm shall be against the Chaldeans”); 51:5 (“my arms will rule the peoples”), 9; 52:10; 53:1. [NOAB]

Psalm 85:1-2,8-13

Superscription: “Of the Korahites”: The Korahites were the Levitical group responsible for singing in the Temple (2 Chronicles 20:19). They are also mentioned in the superscriptions of Psalms 42; 44-49; 84; 87-88.

Verse 2: “Selah”: This word is probably a liturgical direction, added to the original text of the psalm. It may mean lift up, either to indicate the lifting up of the voices of the singers in a doxology, or to call for lifted-up instrumental music in an interlude in the singing. [NOAB]

Verses 5-6: See also Isaiah 59:9ff and Haggai 1:5ff. [JBC]

Verse 6: “revive us again”: i.e. restore us to life. In 104:29-30, a psalmist says: “When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground”. [NJBC]

Verses 7,9: “salvation”: In the original context: prosperity, good crops. People saw material prosperity as an outcome of spiritual well-being, of living in favour with God.

Verse 8: “Let me hear”: 81:5-7 says: “... I hear a voice I had not known: ‘I relieved your shoulder of the burden; your hands were freed from the basket. In distress you called, and I rescued you; I answered you ...’”.

Verses 8-13: A priest or temple prophet delivers an oracle of assurance. [NOAB]

Verses 8-9: See also 25:12-13 and 145:18-19. [NJBC]

Verse 8: “Let me hear”: NJBC says that let me declare is a preferable translation.

Verse 10: “Steadfast love”: The Hebrew is hesed. It is now granted to the faithful. [NJBC]

Verses 11,13: The blessings are personified, so the reference is probably eschatological. See also Isaiah 58:8; 59:14-15. [JBC]

Verse 12: “what is good”: Perhaps God gives the autumn rains. See Leviticus 26:4; Deuteronomy 11:14-17; Ezekiel 34:25-27; Zechariah 8:12. [NJBC]

2 Peter 3:8-15a

For the author’s purpose in writing this letter, see 1:13-16. Here too he seeks to focus his readers on correct interpretation (“sincere intention”, Greek: eilikrene dianoia, v. 1) of the eschatological tradition. It is in accord with the Old Testament prophets and what Jesus said. [NJBC]

Verse 1: “the second letter”: This author knows that 1 Peter has been circulated in the church. [CAB]

Verse 2: “holy prophets”: As in 1:19, Old Testament prophets are probably meant. Amos 9:10 warns that those who think that their evil ways will not overtake them will “die by the sword”. See also the warning in Malachi 2:17 and Zephaniah 1:12. [CAB]

Verse 2: “the commandment ... spoken through your apostles”: Jude 17 says “But you, beloved, must remember the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ”. [CAB]

Verse 2: “your apostles”: “Your” suggests that Peter did not write this letter, for he puts space between himself and the apostles who witnessed the earthly ministry of Jesus. [NJBC]

Verses 3-4: It appears that the “scoffers” claimed that the universe is immutable, so it would never end.

Verse 3: “scoffers”: These are the “false prophets” mentioned in 2:1; they scoff at the group’s traditions (1:16). This word is also used in Jude 18. It was commonly accepted that the Day of Judgement will be preceded by the appearance of false prophets. See also Matthew 7:15; 24:11, 24; Mark 13:22; Acts 20:29-30; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:1-9; 4:3-4; John 2:8; 4:1-3. [CAB]

Verse 4: “Where is the promise of his coming?”: The author has been defending the promise of the second coming: see 1:4 and 3:9. This is a typical query calling into question the power and intention of either a pagan god (see Deuteronomy 32:37 and 2 Kings 18:34) or of Israel’s God (see Judges 6:13; Psalm 42:4, 11). [NJBC]

Verse 4: “our ancestors”: Perhaps a reference to the first generation of Christians. [CAB]

Verses 5-7: They fail to see that the world began, that it was brought into existence by God’s “word”. See Genesis 1:6-10 (the first creation story). In fact, the world has been destroyed once already – in the Flood. See 2:5 and Genesis 7:11 (the Flood). So it will be destroyed again, the second time by “fire”, which will destroy the “godless” on the Day of Judgement. God’s ability to destroy by fire has already been proved by his action against Sodom and Gomorrah: see Genesis 19:24. [NJBC]

Verse 5: “They deliberately ignore this fact ...”: The “scoffers” are guilty of culpable ignorance, unlike the author, who remembers (1:13) and reminds (v. 1). [NJBC]

Contemporary Jewish speculative religious thinking was that the flood was a type for the coming destruction of the world by fire. [CAB]

Verse 7: As God by a word created heaven and earth, so by a word he will exercise executive power on the scoffers. [NJBC]

Verse 7: “reserved”: While Deuteronomy 28:12 speaks of God’s stores of rain and fertility, Philo speaks of God’s treasury of judgement. [NJBC]

Verse 8: “one day is like a thousand years”: God’s measure of time is indicated in Psalm 90:4: “For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night”. [NOAB] In Genesis 2:17, Adam is told by God “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die” but Adam lives for nearly a thousand years see Genesis 5:5. His long life was explained by the rabbis as God’s gift of time to repent: see Midrash Rabba Genesis 22:1. See also Jubilees 4:29-30. [NJBC]

Verse 9: In Joel 2:12-13, Yahweh says through the prophet: “Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing”. In Romans 2:4, Paul asks: “... do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”. See also Ezra 3:30; 7:14, 33; 9:21. [CAB]

Verse 10: “the day of the Lord”: In the Old Testament, the day when God will vindicate his cause and execute judgement: see Amos 5:18-20; Joel 2:28-32; Malachi 4:5; Zephaniah 1:7. [CAB] In the New Testament, see also Acts 2:20 (Peter quotes Joel on the Day of Pentecost); 1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; Revelation 3:3. [NJBC]

Verse 10: “like a thief”: See also Matthew 24:43 (the necessity for watchfulness) and Luke 12:39. [NOAB]

Verse 10: “heavens ... earth”: When Christ comes again, all creation – “heavens”, intermediate “elements”, and “earth” – will pass away with a “loud noise”, possibly the trumpet and cry of 1 Thessalonians 4:16 or the roar of the consuming fire. [NJBC]

Verse 10: “elements”: In Greek philosophy, the elements were water, air, earth and fire.

Verse 10: “disclosed”: or found, in a forensic sense. [NJBC]

Verse 11: Paul writes of the need for moral behaviour consistent with belief in God’s final judgement:

  • in 1 Thessalonians 3:13: “... may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints”, and
  • in Philippians 2:15-16: “... It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labour in vain”.

Verse 12: In apocalyptic writings, “fire” plays a prominent role in the destruction of the world. [NOAB]

Verse 12: “day of God”: This phrase emphasises a different point from that in v. 10 about “the day of the Lord” (Jesus): God has power to be active in creation and to judge. The description here resembles the biblical descriptions of God’s day (see Isaiah 34:4; Mark 13:24-25; Revelation 16:8-9), where the heavens are predicted to fail and fire to come upon the world. [NJBC]

Verses 13-14: These verses quote freely from Isaiah 66:22. In Isaiah and Revelation 22, the thought is not (as here) the destruction but the renewal and transformation of the universe. [NOAB] See also Isaiah 65:17; Revelation 21:1. [NJBC]

Verses 15b-16: The author knows several of Paul’s letters; he considers them to be “scriptures”. Paul also wrote of the need to live ethically and spiritually perfect lives. [NOAB] The tradition about the second coming of Christ rests on the word of two inspired witnesses, Peter and Paul. [NJBC]

Mark 1:1-8

The parallels are Matthew 3:1-12 and Luke 3:1-20. See also John 1:6, 15, 19-28. [NOAB]

Verse 1: “beginning”: John the Baptist marks the transition from the epoch of the old covenant to that of the new, which Jesus brings. [CAB]

Verse 1: “good news”: This term, or gospel, functions as the title of this book, and later (probably about 150 AD, in the writings of Justin Martyr) became the name for this genre. The term is common in Paul’s letters where it means the message itself. [CAB] [BlkMk] [NJBC]

Verse 1: “Son of God”: See also v. 11 and 3:11; 5:7; 14:61; 15:39. [CAB] In the Old Testament this term is used to describe angels or divine beings (see Genesis 6:2 and Job 37:7), the Israelite nation (see Hosea 11:1) and an anointed king (see Psalm 2:7). There it usually has moral force: God loves Israel, so Israel should in turn love and obey her Father: see Deuteronomy 32:6. Two of the late apocalyptic books seem to use it of the Messiah (see 1 Enoch 105:2; 2 Esdras 7:28-29; 13:32, 27, 52), as does Mark in 14:61. The Greco-Roman world knew of gods and heroes, usually saviours and healers, who were called sons of god. So it is understandable that the centurion at the foot of the cross remarks: “Truly this man was God's Son” (in 15:39). [BlkMk]

Verse 2: “the prophet Isaiah”: A reading found in some manuscripts is the prophets. This is easily explained: the quotation is actually not from Isaiah. Mark may have used a collection of Old Testament quotations and so attributed it to Isaiah. The quotation is a combination of Exodus 23:20 (in the Septuagint translation) and Malachi 3:1 (the Masoretic Text). Malachi used phrases from Exodus 23:20; there (per the Septuagint) God promises to send his messenger before Israel and guide it to the Promised Land. See also Matthew 11:10 and Luke 7:27. [NOAB] [NJBC] BlkMk considers that it is likely that this quotation was added by a later editor. It is not found in the parallel passages.

An alternative view, presented by BlkMk, is that the quotation is Malachi 3:1 with my changed to your. In Greek, this change is only one letter: from mou to sou. In antiquity, unlike today, making such changes was fully acceptable. In Isaiah, “the Lord” is Yahweh; here it is Jesus.

Verse 3: The quotation is Isaiah 40:3 in the Septuagint translation except that near the end he replaces our God’s with his. [NOAB] [CAB] [NJBC]

Verse 4: See also Acts 13:24 (Paul speaks in the synagogue at Antioch in Persidia). [NOAB]

Verse 4: “John the baptizer”: He is later called John the Baptist. He was imprisoned (v. 14) and executed (6:17-29) by Herod Antipas. For the story of his birth, see Luke 3:10-18; for his preaching, see Luke 3:10-18. John is in Israel’s prophetic tradition. [CAB]

Verse 5: “people from ...”: The historian Josephus, in his Antiquities of the Jews, also describes John as a preacher of repentance who used baptism and attracted large crowds. [NJBC]

Verse 5: “baptized”: Baptism was a Jewish practice, but only for non-Jews who adopted Judaism.

Verse 6: John’s clothing recalls that of Elijah: “‘A hairy man, with a leather belt around his waist’” (see 2 Kings 1:8). In Matthew 11:14, Elijah is identified with John. [CAB] Whether John was making the point that he stood in the line of Israel’s prophets or was presenting himself as the new Elijah (or both) is unclear. In Malachi 3:1, Yahweh says through the prophet: “See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight – indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts”, and in Malachi 4:5 “Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes”. [NJBC]

Verse 7: “The one who is more powerful than I”: John may well have been speaking of God’s arrival in power at the end of time but in this book it undoubtedly refers to Jesus. [NJBC]

Verse 8: See also Acts 2:17-21 (Peter speaks to the crowd on the Day of Pentecost) and Joel 2:28-29 (“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] The Greek means Holy Spirit not “the Holy Spirit”. Mark elsewhere always uses the definite article. Matthew and Luke append with fire.

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