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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: All Saints' Day - November 1, 2012



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.

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9

The Roman Catholic Church considers Wisdom to be an Old Testament book; other Christians place it in the Apocrypha.

Our passage is part of a section, 3:1-4:19. The author begins by stating that immortality is the reward of the just (godly). Then, in the light of that assertion, he comments in three paragraphs of 14 verses each on three points:

  • Why do some godly people suffer? (3:4-12)
  • Why are some godly people childless? (3:13-4:6)
  • Why do some godly people live less than a full life? (4:7-19)

In each paragraph, he contrasts the fate of the just and of the wicked (ungodly). [NJBC]

Note the inclusios:

  • “foolish” (v. 2) with “foolish” (v. 12)
  • “thought” (v. 2) with “reasoning” (v. 10)
  • “hope” (v. 4) with “hope” (v. 11) [NJBC]

Verse 1: “in the hand of God”: i.e. under his protection. This expression also occurs in Isaiah 62:3. [NJBC]

Verse 1: “torment”: i.e. after death. 4:18-19 says “The unrighteous ... will become dishonoured corpses, ... because he will dash them to the ground, and shake them from the foundations; they will be left utterly dry and barren, and they will suffer anguish, and the memory of them will punish”. [NJBC]

Verse 3: “peace”: Isaiah 57:1-2 says :”The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, while no one understands. For the righteous are taken away from calamity, and they enter into peace; those who walk uprightly will rest on their couches”. The author does not tell us the state of the souls of the just immediately after death. They are probably thought to be with God and the angelic court. [NJBC]

Verse 4: “punished”: That suffering is a punishment is a common Old Testament assumption. [NJBC]

Verse 4: “hope”: i.e. during their earthly life. [NJBC]

Verse 4: “immortality”: The first use of this noun in the Bible. [NJBC]

Verses 5-6: “disciplined ... tried”: The author picks up on Deuteronomy 8:2-5; Proverbs 3:11-12; Sirach 2:1-6; 4:17-19. [NJBC]

Verse 6: “sacrificial burnt offering”: An idea suggested by Isaiah 53:7-10, part of a Servant Song. [NJBC]

Verse 7: “visitation”: A biblical term for a divine intervention, probably referring here to divine judgement immediately after death. [NJBC]

Verse 7: “shine ... sparks”: Daniel 12:3 says “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever”. See also Obadiah 18. [NJBC]

Verse 9: “truth”: Probably the knowledge of God and of heavenly wisdom. See also 1QS (Rule of the Qumran Community) 4:22 says: “... the upright will understand knowledge of the Most High, and the wisdom of the sons of heaven will teach those of perfect behaviour. For these are those selected by God for an everlasting covenant”. [Martinez]

Verses 10-12: On the other hand, the wicked have no hope for the future; their misery is punishment.

Verse 10: “punished as their reasoning deserves”: NJBC offers punishment to match their thoughts. Their thoughts are given in 2:1-5.

Verse 11a: Proverbs 1:7 says “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction”.

Verses 11b-12: The ideas of lack of offspring, less-than-full lifetime and lack of results from their efforts seems to be from Isaiah 53:10-11. See also Isaiah 65:23. Application of these ideas to the wicked is traditional; it is found in Proverbs 10-11 and Sirach 41:5-10. [NJBC]

Verse 12: “foolish”: In wisdom literature, folly is the equivalent of wickedness. 1:3 says “For perverse thoughts separate people from God, and when his power is tested, it exposes the foolish”. [NJBC]

Verse 12: “their children evil”: Because of the example of their parents. [NJBC]

Isaiah 25:6-9

The punishment of cosmic powers, the end of death, and the resurrection of the dead show a late date for Chapters 24-27 and link them with apocalyptic writings. [NJBC]

24:21: “the host of heaven”: i.e. the sun, the moon and the stars [NJBC] or rebellious astral deities (Zephaniah 1:5 and Jeremiah 19:13) imprisoned in the “pit” (see v. 22, Isaiah 14:15 and Revelation 20:1-3). [NOAB]

24:23: “the moon abashed, and the sun ashamed”: i.e. after losing their divine status [NOAB] or by the glory of the divine king. Creation is rolled back: after the earth disappears beneath the waters, the heavenly host is imprisoned and the brilliance of sun and moon dimmed. Only the light from the divine king shines, as at the first moment of creation. [NJBC] See also Jeremiah 8:2 and Deuteronomy 17:3.

24:23: “on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem”: The image of Yahweh’s mountain, succeeding that of the waters into which the earth has sunk, recalls the old tradition, perhaps going back to pre-Israelite Jerusalem, that Zion’s God repels the raging waters which assault the city: see 17:12-14. In the Flood, the waters covered the highest mountains (see Genesis 7:19-20), and, according to 30:25, the waters will again “on a day of the great slaughter”. But Zion withstands the flood-waters (see 28:16). It will be higher than any other mountain in the future (see 2:2) and will be surrounded by water to protect it (see 33:21).

24:23: “before the elders he will manifest his glory”: As did “Moses, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel” on Mount Sinai (see Exodus 24:9). [NOAB] The banquet in 25:6-8 is an anti-type of the liturgical banquet in Exodus 24:9-16. [NJBC] See also Revelation 4:4, 10-11.

25:1-5: A hymn to Yahweh, the safe refuge. [NJBC]

25:6: See also Revelation 7:17; 21:4. Jesus’ words at the Last Supper referring to the Messianic Banquet (see Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18) look forward to the definitive triumph of Christ’s kingdom. (The quotation in Comments is from Mark.)

25:7: “the shroud”: Possibly the surface of the earth covering the dead. See 26:21: “ ... the earth will no longer cover its slain” [NJBC]

25:9-10a: A short hymn to Yahweh’s power. [NJBC]

Psalm 24

The spirit of the psalm is like Isaiah 6:1-6, Isaiah’s commissioning. See also Psalm 15. [NOAB]

Verse 2: “seas” and “rivers” are both related to Canaanite mythology. [NJBC] God divided the waters on, below and above the earth. See also Genesis 1:6-13. [CAB]

Verse 3: “stand”: The marvel of the created world is its firmness, although it rests on the seas “of the deep”, i.e. chaos. God tamed these seas in his creative act. The earth was seen as resting on pillars in the abyss, chaos: Psalm 75:3 says “When the earth totters, with all its inhabitants, it is I who keep its pillars steady”.

Verse 3: This verse asks for instruction, torah. The instruction is in the next verse. To “stand” in the Temple, one needs:

  • to be free from bribery;
  • purity of heart, i.e. a clear conscience, especially with respect to neighbours;
  • aversion to idols; and
  • not to have harmed others by lying conduct.

The reward for such moral conduct is in v. 5. [JBC]

Verses 6,10: “Selah”: This 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 7-10: Both the pilgrims and God enter the Temple. [NJBC]

Verses 8,10: Again, torah is sought and is given.

In one Canaanite myth, the gods, with “heads” (v. 7) bowed, cower at the challenge of the powers of chaos. When the creator god returns from battling these forces, the assembled gods hear his triumphant cry, “Lift up your heads ...”, and acclaim him king. In the Israelite version, the gods are replaced by the gates of Jerusalem (or the Temple). [NJBC]

Revelation 21:1-6a

Chapters 17-18: A description of the old corrupt city. Babylon’s (Rome’s) fate is foretold in 18:21-23.

Verse 1: See also Romans 8:19-21. [NOAB]

Verse 1: “I saw a new heaven and a new earth”: Isaiah 65:17 says “For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind”. See also Isaiah 66:22. Creation will be renewed or refurbished in order to befit redeemed humanity. [JBC]

Verse 1: “sea”: Evil oppressors have come from the sea (13:1). [CAB] God conquered mythical monsters ruling over primeval chaos when he ordered the universe: Rahab or Leviathan in the Bible, Tiamat in Babylonia (Job 26:12ff; Psalm 89:10; Isaiah 51:9). He will annihilate them at the time of the new creation (Isaiah 27:1). Brutal power and violence are incompatible with the peace of the world to come. [JBC]

Verse 2: This verse is inspired by Isaiah 54. As in 2 Esdras 9:38-10:59, a historical restoration of Jerusalem is not expected. [NJBC]

Verse 2: “holy city”: See also 3:12 and 22:19. God is the architect and builder of the city (Hebrews 11:10). It is “holy” because it is definitively consecrated to God, a notion already found in the Old Testament: see Isaiah 54; 60; Ezekiel 48:30-35. [JBC]

Verse 2: “new Jerusalem”: See also Galatians 4:26; Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 11:10; 12:22. [CAB] [JBC]

Verse 2: “coming down out of heaven”: See also James 1:17. [JBC]

Verse 2: “adorned for her husband”: In contrast to the old city, which is described in terms of harlotry and drunkenness (17:1-2). [CAB]

Verse 2: “bride adorned for her husband”: See also 19:7-9. [NOAB]

Verse 3: This is the fulfilment of prophecies foretelling the intimate union of God with the chosen people in the era of salvation. See Ezekiel 36:26-28; 37:27; Jeremiah 31:33ff; Zechariah 2:4ff; 8:8; Leviticus 26:12; 2 Samuel 7:13 and also 2 Corinthians 6:16. The intimacy proto-human enjoyed in the Garden of Eden is now granted to all members of the people of God forever (7:15-17). [JBC]

Verse 3: “loud voice”: JBC suggests that the speaker is one of the four fantastic living creatures described in earlier chapters.

Verse 3: “dwell”: The Greek word is the same as that in John 1:14: “... the Word became incarnate and lived [dwelled] among us.” The literal translation is tabernacled. [CAB]

Verse 4: See also 7:16-17; Isaiah 25:8; 35:10. [NOAB] The old city brought pain and death to its victims (18:24), but God’s new city will provide healing for the nations (22:2). [CAB]

Verse 4: “wipe every tear”: See also 7:16ff and Jeremiah 31:16. [JBC]

Verse 4: “Death will be no more”: See also 20:13. [NJBC]

Verse 4: “mourning and crying and pain”: See also Isaiah 35:10; 65:19. This condition is the exact opposite of Babylon’s (Rome’s) fate: see 18:22-23. [JBC]

Verse 5: the one who was seated on the throne”: See also 1:8; 4:2, 9; 5:1, 7, 13; 6:16; 7:10, 15; 19:4; Romans 14:10.

Verse 5: “‘I am making all things new’”: See also Isaiah 43:18ff (”... I am about to do a new thing ...”); 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15. This is the only passage in Revelation where God himself speaks. [JBC]

Verse 5: “trustworthy and true”: See also 3:14 (“... the faithful and true witness ...”); 19:11 (“... Its rider is called Faithful and True”) and 22:6 (“... These words are trustworthy and true ...”) [JBC]

Verse 6: “the Alpha and the Omega”: See also 1:8. [CAB]

Verse 6: “water of life”: See also Isaiah 55:1; John 4:10, 13; 7:37-39; Psalm 42:1; Jeremiah 2:13; Zechariah 14:8. [NOAB] [JBC]

Verse 7: “Those who conquer”: Note the endings of the seven letters to specific churches. All include “Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches” and also:

  • 2:7: “... To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God”
  • 2:11: “... Whoever conquers will not be harmed by the second death”
  • 2:28: “... To the one who conquers I will also give the morning star”
  • 3:5: “If you conquer, you will be clothed like them in white robes, and I will not blot your name out of the book of life ...”
  • 3:12: “If you conquer, I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God; you will never go out of it. ...”
  • 3:21: “To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne”. [NOAB]

This military phrase takes for granted that the Christian life is a battle. In Revelation, this phrase is applied to the faithful Christian soldier (see also 12:11 and 15:2) and to Christ (see 3:21b; 5:5; 17:14). [JBC]

Verse 7: “I will be their God and they will be my children”: In Genesis 17:7, God tells Abraham: “I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, ... to be God to you and to your offspring after you”. See also God’s covenant with David in 2 Samuel 7:14. [CAB] Note that Revelation, unlike the gospel of John, looks primarily to the future for the fulfilment of eschatological hopes: here “I will be”. [JBC]

Verse 8: The “cowardly”, the “faithless”, etc. do not have faith enough to endure trials, and so will fall away in time of persecution. [NOAB] JBC notes that John gives first place to those who have sinned against the faith. He sees the “cowardly” as those whose superficial and unstable faith has succumbed to persecution.

Verse 8: “sorcerers”: Literally poisoners, i.e. those dealing in philters and poisons. Acts 19:19 tells us of such people who, coming to the faith, burned their valuable books publicly. [NOAB]

Verse 8: “the lake”: See also 19:20. The “lake” is Gehenna. In Matthew 18:9, Jesus says “‘And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into the hell of fire’”. The Greek word translated “hell of fire” is Gehenna. [NOAB] This was literally the valley of Hinnon (ge’Hinnon) outside Jerusalem where garbage (rubbish) was gathered and burned. Per 2 Kings 23:10, Hinnon had been the site of child sacrifice: see also Jeremiah 7:31; 19:5-6. It provided a physical reminder of the place of eternal punishment. See 1 Enoch 27:2; 90:24-26; 2 Esdras 7:36. [JBC]

Verse 8: “the second death”: i.e. the final condemnation of sinners. See also 2:11. In Matthew 10:28, Jesus says “‘Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell’”. Gain, “hell” translates Gehenna. Note the contrast with the “water of life” (v. 6). [NOAB] “The second death” is probably a reference to the fact that those who are banished to eternal punishment are temporarily resurrected from their first death. [CAB]

John 11:32-44

Verse 24: Note that Martha speaks only of resurrection, and not of judging and judgement. Popular belief (especially among Pharisees) was that all Jews (and, for some, Gentiles as well) would be raised. [JBC] Their fate would depend on their state of integrity from God’s viewpoint.

Verse 25: “on the last day”: This phrase occurs in the New Testament only in John: see also 6:39-40, 44, 54; 12:48.

Verse 25: Jesus modifies Pharisaic doctrine. His words are not only about resurrection but also about the fate of those faithful to him. Jesus is not only the agent of final resurrection but also gives life now: see also Romans 6:4-5; Colossians 2:12; 3:1. Mere physical death can have no hold over the believer.

Verse 26: The believer has passed from the death of sin into life: see also Revelation 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8.

Verse 27: “‘I believe’”: A scholar translates this as I am convinced.

Verse 27: “‘the Messiah’”: An affirmation made by Andrew in 1:41.

Verse 27: “‘the Son of God’”: An affirmation made by Nathanael in 1:49.

Verse 27: “‘the one coming into the world’”: An affirmation made by those present at the Feeding of the Five Thousand in 6:14.

Verse 28: We aren’t told that Jesus has committed to raising Lazarus. In faith that he will, Martha simply goes to fetch Mary: [CAB] as does Andrew, in fetching his brother to Jesus (1:41) and as does the Samaritan woman in fetching men from her city (4:28ff). Martha, the organizer, assumes that Jesus wishes Mary to be present.

Verse 33: “moved”: Another translation is troubled. Jesus is stirred with indignation, probably at the power of death: see 12:27. [NOAB]

Verse 34: “laid”: i.e. buried. [NOAB]

Verse 35: Jesus realizes that the miracle he is about to perform will precipitate a final clash with the authorities, and so bring about his own death – a prospect from which he instinctively recoils.

Verse 35: A sign of Jesus’ humanity.

Verse 38: “cave”: Tombs were carved out of the limestone rock, either out of the ground or out of a rock face. A stone formed a slab or door to cover the entrance. The NRSV translation assumes that Lazarus was placed in a tomb in a rock face.

In Israel, spices were used to arrest the odour caused by decay but not, as in Egypt, to arrest decay.

Verse 40: Actually, Jesus has told the disciples, but not Martha, that they “would see the glory of God”; however revelation of his glory is implied in Jesus’ conversation with her in vv. 23-26. God will act to reveal his power as life-giver.

Verse 42: “I knew”: It is helpful to make an insertion here, so the reading becomes I, for my part, knew.

Verse 42: “always”: A scholar translates this as every time.

Verse 42: Comments: to help the crowd understand that his power is from God, and not magic: See also 3:17; 5:36, etc.

Verse 43: “cried with a loud voice”: 5:28-29 says that the hour is coming when all in the tombs (as Lazarus is) will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done what is good to resurrection life. The raising of Lazarus is a fulfilment of Jesus’ words in Chapter 5. [NJBC]

Verse 44: The resurrection of the body is not the same as resuscitation of corpses, as Paul shows: see 1 Corinthians 15:42ff. This is not the resurrection and not a resurrection – it is resuscitation, a foretaste of the resurrection.

Verse 44: Corpses were completely bound up, with the feet bound at the ankles, so Lazarus could not possibly walk. He might have been able to shuffle to the entrance – so he would need to be unbound.

Verses 46ff: Members of the Sanhedrin meet, fearing that the Jesus movement may provoke Roman intervention, which could lead to the destruction of the temple and of the Jewish state.

The stories in the Synoptic Gospels in which Jesus restores life to a person concern one who has just died, but this miracle is a sign that Jesus really is the power of life evident in resurrection: he calls to life a person already buried in a tomb.

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