Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Fourth Sunday of Advent - December 24, 2023

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.

2 Samuel 7:1-11,16

Like 1 Samuel 2:27-36, this chapter is a late theological commentary inserted into an early source. Based partly on Psalm 89 (read in part today, see also Psalm 132:11-12), the writer explains why David did not build the first Temple, and shows the importance of David’s dynasty to the religious meaning of ancient Israel. [ NOAB] To NJBC, this chapter is early (rather than late); however, its present position in the Bible may be due to deuteronomic or post-Davidic editors.

Comments: the word “house” ... has three different meanings here: The word house also occurs elsewhere in this chapter: in v. 13 meaning temple, in vv. 16, 19, 25-27, 29 meaning dynasty, and in v. 18 meaning family status. [ NOAB]

In fact, the dynasty of David fell in 587 BC (to the Babylonians), probably before this chapter was written. [ NOAB]

Verse 2: For God’s command to put the Ark in the sacred tent, see Exodus 26:34. For the Ark being carried into the Promised Land, across the Jordan, see Joshua 4:1-13. For the Ark at Mount Ebal, during the settlement of the Land, see Joshua 8:30-35. See also Judges 20:27. The bringing of the Ark to Jerusalem is described in 2 Samuel 6. It was probably destroyed or captured by the Babylonians in 587 BC. [ CAB]

Verse 3: “Nathan”: For other stories involving this prophet, see 2 Samuel 11 (David and Bathsheba); 12; 1 Kings 1 (the succession of Solomon to the throne). His name is a play on the Hebrew word for house. [ CAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 6: The writer ignores the fact that there was a temple at Shiloh: see 1 Samuel 1:7; 3:3. Shiloh, after the kingdom divided, was in the north, so the writer is probably a southerner, a resident of Judah. [ NOAB]

Verses 10-17: NJBC considers that building of a temple would lead to social stratification and political centralization.

Luke 1:47-55

There is a strange anomaly in vv. 46-47: the NOAB, CAB and QVNR have “My soul magnifies the Lord,” in v. 46 while Nlsn has these words in v. 47. The REB is like the NOAB, CAB and QVNR.

Verse 43: “my Lord”: Note that Elizabeth acclaims Mary’s unborn child as “my Lord”. [ CAB]

Verses 41,44: “leaped”: The leaping of Esau and Jacob in Rebekah’s womb (Genesis 25:22, Septuagint translation) presents a parallel to the leaping of John. It is a foreshadowing of future relationships. The context, especially this verse, makes clear that by leaping, John recognizes his Lord, Jesus. Through the gift of the “Holy Spirit” (v. 41) Elizabeth is empowered to interpret the leaping of John. [ NJBC]

Verse 42: Elizabeth’s words recall Sisera’s words to Jael (before she killed him): “Most blessed of women be Jael” (Judges 5:24). They also recall Uzziah’s words to Judith after she decapitated Holofernes: “you are blessed by the Most High God above all other women” (Judith 13:18). In both cases, women liberated Israel. [ NJBC]

Verse 45: “blessed”: In Luke, Mary is the model believer. See also 2:17. [ NJBC]

The Magnificat is based largely on Hannah’s prayer: see 1 Samuel 2:1-10. [ NOAB] Both Elizabeth and Hannah were childless for a long time and dedicated their children as Nazirites. [ JBC] Vv. 46-50 deal with Mary and vv. 51-55 universalize from Mary’s experience to reflect God’s dealing with all who hold God in awe (v. 50). [ NJBC]

Some copies of the Old Latin version say that Elizabeth is the speaker, but all Greek manuscripts say that the speaker is Mary. [ NJBC]

Verse 47: “God my Saviour”: This phrase also occurs in 1 Timothy 2:3; Titus 3:4; Jude 25. [ NOAB]

Verses 48-49: An allusion to Malachi 3:12: “Then all nations will count you happy, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts”. See also Psalm 111:9. [ JBC]

Verse 49: “Mighty”: The might of God, for whom nothing is impossible (see v. 37) is contrasted with the “lowliness” (v. 48) of Mary. [ NJBC]

Verses 51-53: The verbs in the Greek are in the aorist (past) tense. Because the aorist can indicate various times of action, scholars differ as to the precise meaning because they do not see how God has accomplished (past tense) all this in the mere conception of Jesus. NJBC prefers the interpretation that these actions are what God characteristically does ( gnomic aorist) and is beginning to do now in the conception of Jesus. [ NJBC]

Verses 51-53: Who are the rich, arrogant, mighty, powerful, proud and the lowly, hungry? Scholars vary in their opinions. The poor seem to be those best able to receive God’s grace, without wealth, etc. getting in the way. [ NJBC]

Verse 51: For redemption through might in the Old Testament, see Exodus 6:6; Deuteronomy 4:34; Jeremiah 27:5; Isaiah 40:10; 51:9. [ JBC]

Verse 53: For the notion that those in need will be saved and that the blind will be given light by God, see Isaiah 40:29-31; 41:8-10, 17-20; 42:7; 57:15; 61:1-3. [ JBC]

Verses 54-55: These verses gather up the ideas of the Magnificat in terms of the servant theology of the Old Testament, and particularly of Deutero-Isaiah. See also Genesis 17:7; 18:18; 22:17; Micah 7:20; Isaiah 42:1-4; 49:1-7; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12. Jesus applied this theology to himself ( 3:22; 5:35; 9:22) and the very early church thought of him in these terms: Acts 3:13 says “God of Abraham ... of Isaac ... of Jacob ...of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus”. [ NOAB]

Verse 55: “Abraham”: A common theme in Luke. See also 1:54-55, 72-73; 3:34; 13:16, 28-29; 19:9; 20:37; Acts 3:13, 25; 7:17, 32; 13:26; 26:6; 28:20; John 8:33, 39; Romans 2:28-29. [ NJBC]

God builds the new in salvation history upon promises made to Abraham, but membership in the reconstituted Israel is God’s gift. It elicits a response of appropriate conduct, and is not solely contingent on one’s ethnic heritage. [ NJBC]

Psalm 89:1-4,19-26

The spirit of the psalm is like Isaiah 6:1-6, Isaiah’s commissioning.

Verses 3-4: 2 Samuel 7:16 says: “Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever”. See also Psalm 132:11-12. [ NJBC]

Verses 4,37,45,48: “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]

“Selah” is one of the greatest puzzles of the Old Testament. Its meaning seems to be connected with rising or lifting. But it is not clear whether the congregation rises or lifts up its hands, head, or eyes, or whether the music rises at the indicated points. The word probably indicates that the singing should stop to allow the congregation an interlude for presenting its homage to God by some gesture or act of worship. [ ICCPs]

“Selah” is also found 74 times in 39 psalms in the book of Psalms and three times in Habakkuk 3 (part of a psalm preserved there).

Verses 5-7: “holy ones”: i.e. members of the heavenly council. In other ancient Near East religions, they were gods. These gods ruled the world.

Verse 9: Battle with, and conquest over, the unruly forces of the sea are common in ancient Near East mythology. [ NJBC]

Verse 10: “Rahab”: i.e. Egypt. [ NOAB]

Verse 12: “Tabor ... Hermon”: Both are mountains in the north, Tabor being in Palestine and Hermon being the highest mountain in Syria. [ NOAB]

Verses 15-18: Praise from the people on earth. [ NJBC]

Verse 19: “your faithful one”: Either Nathan or David may be intended. The quotation is found only here in the Old Testament.

Verses 20-29: Note the marks of royal prerogative: anointing (v. 20), divine protection (vv. 21-22), victory (vv. 23-25), adoptive sonship (v. 27), personal dynasty (v. 28) and security (v. 29).

Verse 25: As God controlled the unruly waters (v. 9 and Genesis 1) so also will David. [ NJBC]

Verse 26: For adoption as a son of God, see also 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14: “... he [David] shall be a son to me”. [ NJBC]

Verse 27: “firstborn”: 2:7 says “I will tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to me, "You are my son; today I have begotten you”. [ NOAB]

Verses 30-33: If the people deviate from God’s ways, he will punish them but will not abrogate his pact with David and his descendants.

Verse 37: “in the skies”: Or in heaven. Established there, the dynasty will exercise supreme dominion, unaffected by earthly adversities. [ NJBC]

Verse 38: “anointed”: See also v. 20 and 2:2 (“the Lord and his anointed”). The Hebrew word is literally messiah, one of the titles of an Israelite king. After the end of the monarchy, messiah became the name of the ideal king expected, in the future, to restore the fortunes of Israel. Christians reinterpret this as a reference to Christ: see Acts 4:24-26 (Peter and John, after their arrest, their appearance before a sanhedrin and their release). [ NOAB]

Verse 43: The king has been defeated in battle: it seems that God has forsaken his covenant. [ NOAB]

Verses 46-51: A prayer that God will remember his promises and give victory to David’s descendant. [ NOAB]

Verse 48: “Sheol”: The place of the dead, where people retained only a faint semblance of life and where they were separated from God. In 6:5, a psalmist asks: “For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who can give you praise?”. See also 49:15. [ NOAB]

Verse 52: A doxology (not part of the psalm) marking the end of Book 3 (of 5) of Psalms. The psalter was divided in imitation of the Pentateuch. [ NOAB] The other books end with similar verses.

Romans 16:25-27

Per NRSV footnotes,

  • Some Greek manuscripts place these verses after 14:22; others place them after 15:33; still another lacks these verses.
  • Some manuscripts precede these verses with a v. 24: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you. Amen”.
  • Some manuscripts lack “to whom” in v. 27.
  • Some manuscripts put v. 24 after v. 27.

NOAB says that, based on the first point above, the liturgical style, and themes (e.g. “mystery”, v. 25) not found elsewhere in Romans, some scholars consider these verses to be a fragment inserted variously by later scribes and editors.

In the P46 papyrus, the oldest text of Romans we have, these verses are after 15:33. The notion of mystery, applied to the salvation of Gentiles, is found in the epistles which many scholars consider not to be Pauline but not in those generally accepted as being from Paul. So, while we cannot be sure, these verses seem to have been added later. [ NJBC]

Verse 25: “God”: The Greek means literally the one. [ NOAB]

Verse 25: “to God who is able to strengthen you”: The author blesses God, who assures the gospel of Christ to human beings and also constancy in Christian life. [ NOAB]

Verse 25: “my gospel”: i.e. The good news which Paul made known. [ NOAB]

Verse 25: “proclamation”: Another word for gospel. [ NOAB]

Verse 25: “the proclamation of Jesus Christ”: NJBC offers the preaching of Jesus Christ. i.e. the proclamation that announces Jesus Christ.

Verse 25: “the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret”: This notion is also found in Colossians 1:26-27; Ephesians 1:9-10; 3:9-11; 2 Timothy 1:9-10; Titus 1:2-3; 1 Peter 1:20. [ CAB]

Verse 26: “according to the command of the eternal God”: Paul may be alluding to his commission as an apostle to the Gentiles so that he could make this mystery, now revealed, known to all peoples. [ NJBC]

Verse 26: “obedience of faith”: i.e. obedience which leads to faith. [ NJBC] This phrase also occurs in 1:5. [ CAB]

Verse 27: “the only wise God”: The uniqueness of God and his wisdom are also mentioned in 11:33-36; 1 Timothy 1:17; Jude 25; Revelation 15:4. Praise is once again paid to God the Father, through his Son, Jesus Christ. [ CAB] [ NJBC]

Luke 1:26-38

Verse 26: “In the sixth month”: Daniel 9:24-27 can be read as saying that 70 weeks (490 days) will elapse between the beginning of people repenting to the arrival of the new era. Luke probably intended the following arithmetic: “six months” (180 days) + Mary’s pregnancy (270 days) + the time from Jesus’ birth to his presentation in the Temple (40 days) = 490 days. Gabriel links the annunciation of Jesus’ birth with John’s birth, i.e. John is six months old when Gabriel appears to Mary. Luke invites reflection on the significance of Jesus’ birth as fulfilment of the verses in Daniel. [ NJBC]

Verse 26: “Nazareth”: An insignificant village, neither mentioned in the Old Testament, Josephus nor rabbinic writings, of some two thousand people. [ HBD]

Verse 27: “Joseph”: Meaning May Yahweh add. [ NJBC]

Verse 28: “favoured one”: NJBC offers O Graced One!. Mary naturally asks: in what way am I graced or favoured?

Verses 31-35: In Romans 1:3-4, Paul writes what is probably a creed from before 50 AD: Jesus was humanly descended from David and designated as Son of God through the Holy Spirit at his resurrection. Vv. 31-35 go beyond this: Jesus was designated as Son of God at his conception. So Mary’s conception is virginal and through the power of the Holy Spirit. [ NJBC]

Verse 31: “Jesus”: This is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua. The Hebrew and Aramaic forms of Jesus and he will save are similar. [ NOAB] To NJBC, the name means God saves.

Verses 32-33: The rest of this book spells out how Jesus is king, especially how he embodies God’s kingdom, which has come for outcasts. Jesus is often called king in the Passion story (e.g. in 23:2-3, 37-38), a time when his power is apparently at an all-time low. [ NJBC]

Verse 33: See also Matthew 28:18 and Daniel 2:44 (“... in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, ... it shall stand forever”: a verse in Daniel’s prophecy to Nebuchadnezzar). [ NOAB]

Verse 34: “How can this be?”: Mary’s question parallels Zechariah’s in v. 18. [ NJBC]

Verse 36: “the sixth month”: Luke again reminds us of the prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27. [ NJBC]

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