Comments

Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Second Sunday of Easter - April 15, 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.

Acts 4:32-35

Chapters 2-9 tell us about the growth of the church in Jerusalem. All the summaries are in the first five chapters: the others are in 2:42-47 and 5:12-16. [NJBC]

Luke is not alone in idealizing the apostolic era. There are Hellenistic visions of primal days and political utopias. [NJBC]

In Romans 12:8, Paul says that being a “giver” is a gift from God. In 1 Corinthians 13:3, he writes: “If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing”. In Hebrews 13:2, we read: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it”. [NOAB]

For other references to the poverty of the Jerusalem church, see Galatians 2:10 (the Council of Jerusalem) and Acts 6:1 (neglect of widows in the distribution of food).

4:31: “the place in which they were gathered together was shaken”: This may be a divine affirmative in response to prayer, rather than an earthquake. [BlkActs] NJBC suggests that an earthquake did indeed occur.

4:33: See 3:12-16 for “their testimony to the resurrection”. [NJBC] The story of the arrest of Peter and John, and their appearance before the Sanhedrin, is in 4:1-22. They were arrested when they appealed for the conversion of Israel. Luke, the author of Acts, later shows that a tide of opposition to the Church arose, and eventually led to the dispersal of the community (8:1, 3). The good news was then proclaimed to Gentiles (Chapters 10-28).

4:34: “There was not a needy person among them”: Deuteronomy 15:4 says “There will be no one in need among you, because the Lord is sure to bless you ...” [NJBC]

4:35: “as any had need”: Jesus’ command to renounce/sell possessions is found in Luke 12:33; 14:33; 18:22. Jesus’ command seems to be absolute, while that of the Church is relative. [NJBC] However, Jesus speaks to itinerant evangelists while Luke (also the author of Acts) speaks of a settled community.

4:36: “Barnabas”: He later appears as a supporter and associate of Paul: see 9:27 (he brings Paul to the apostles after Paul’s conversion) and 11:25-26 (Barnabas joins Paul in the mission in Antioch). [NOAB]

5:1-10: The guilt of Ananias and Sapphira was no less than denying the Holy Spirit’s presence in the church by lying to it. [NJBC]

5:3: “the Holy Spirit”: The apostles, or perhaps the Church, represent the Holy Spirit. [NOAB]

5:3: “keep back”: BlkActs offers embezzled as an alternative translation and notes that the same word appears in the Septuagint translation of Joshua 7:1, the first verse of a story in which Achan takes (embezzles) some sacred things and the Israelites suffer casualties in their attempt to take the town of Ai – as God’s judgement. BlkActs sees the story of Ananias and Sapphira as an antitype of the Achan story, but NJBC suggests that a later editor has been active, i.e. that we have the expansion of an old Palestinian Christian story. This would explain for him the inconsistencies in the text: as to where the sin lies (in the withholding or in the lying) and how v. 7 can follow from v. 5. (I do not agree with his second point.)

5:4: “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own?”: It does seem that contributions to the finances of the Church were voluntary.

5:5: “he fell down and died”: The apostles had the power to destroy as well as to heal and make alive. In 1 Corinthians 5:4-5, Paul states what is to happen to the “man [who] is living with his father's wife”: “When you are assembled, and my spirit is present with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord”. [NOAB]

5:6: “wrapped up his body”: While one naturally thinks of a burial shroud, BlkActs suggests that the Greek may mean no more than removed the body from sight.

5:9-10: “put the Spirit of the Lord to the test ... fell down at his feet”: BlkActs notes that these are Semitic notions, so he sees a Semitic source – either written or oral.

5:11: “church”: This is the first of 23 appearances of the Greek word ekklesia meaning the local assembly of believers in Acts. [NJBC]

Psalm 133

NOAB sees this as a wisdom psalm although NJBC says that it may well be a song of pilgrimage with connections to the wisdom psalms.

Verse 1: “good and pleasant”: To NJBC, these are qualities of the place where worshippers are gathered for a festival, namely Zion.

Verse 1: “kindred”: Literally brothers. [NOAB]

Comments: Deuteronomy 25:5: This was known as levirate marriage. Here such marriage is said to be God’s wish.

Comments: A high priest was ordained with copious quantities of “oil”: As mentioned in the description of the ordination ceremony in Exodus 29:7. [NOAB]

Verse 3: The dew that comes from “Zion” is more refreshing than that from “Hermon”, for Zion’s dew is life itself. [NJBC] See also Isaiah 26:19. In ancient Near East thinking, the temple was the place from which the god’s benefits flowed into human life (see also Psalm 132:14-15), the chief benefits being “life”, which is “eternal” in the sense that it comes from God, the inexhaustible source of life.

Some scholars point out that, meteorologically, rain storms which fall on Mount Hermon continue eastwards, rather than southwards to Jerusalem. True as this is (see Psalm 29), I note that the Jordan River depends on Mount Hermon for water, and the Jordan was a valuable source of water for Israel.

Verse 3: “the mountains of Zion”: Several manuscripts have Mount Zion – which NJBC considers to be preferable.

1 John 1:1-2:2

1 John is an exhortation rather than a letter. Scholars debate whether 1 John was written before or after the gospel according to John. 1 John rejects any gnostic interpretation of John.

1:1-2:2: “We”: The author uses “we” when associating himself with the guardians of the tradition (including eyewitnesses of Jesus) and handing on the tradition to others or when identifying himself with his readers in terms of their basic Christian experience. He often uses "I" in direct address or exhortation. [NJBC]

To NJBC, the original setting seems to have been for initiation into the community. Although the New Testament does not contain a description of such a ceremony, he suggests a parallel with the initiation into the Qumran community described in 1QS (Rule of the Community) 1:18-3:22.

1:1: “ what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands”: As in the Gospel, testimony interrupts what “was from the beginning”. 1 John stresses the physical character of the revelation received by the community. [NJBC]

1:1: “word of life”: The Greek translated “word” is logos, as in John 1:1. For Christ as the word and source of life, see John 1:14; 11:25; 14:6. [NOAB] Note 1 John 5:13: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life”. [NJBC]

1:3: The “fellowship” is reciprocal as with each other.

1:4: “our joy may be complete”: An echo of (or is echoed in) John 15:11 and 16:24, where Jesus' discourses are to complete the joy of the disciples. John 17:13 makes this joy that of Jesus. [NJBC]

1:5-7: “light ... darkness”: Those who live in the “light” are those who live according to God's commandments; those who live in “darkness” do not. The ethical distinction between “light” and “darkness” is often found in the Qumran literature: see, for example, 1QS (Rule of the Community) 3:13-4:26. [NJBC]

1:5: “message”: The Greek word, angelia, occurs here and in 3:11. The verb form of the word is used for Mary's announcement of “I have seen the Lord” in John 20:18. It refers to the gospel preached by the Johannine teachers and reminds the readers of what they have heard when they became Christians. [NJBC]

1:6: “walking in darkness” means habitual and intentional misconduct. John 3:19 says that before Christ came “... people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil” and 1 John 2:11 “whoever hates another believer is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has brought on blindness”. [NOAB]

1:10: “we make him a liar”: The secessionists are liars, as 2:22 suggests in a rhetorical question: “Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ?”. See also 2:4; 4:20; Psalms 14:1-2; 53:1-3. [NOAB]

2:1: On not sinning as the ultimate goal of Christian living, Paul writes in Romans 6:11: “... you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus”. [NOAB]

2:1: “advocate”: John 14:16-27 begins: “... I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.” [NOAB] This verse represents a more primitive stage of the tradition: that Jesus is the advocate. [NJBC]

2:2: “atoning sacrifice”: Christ as the atoning sacrifice for our sins, as 4:10 also states: “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins”. [NOAB]

2:3-5: Obedience to God’s commandments tests whether we know God, and measures the perfection/completeness of our love of God. In John 14:15, Jesus says: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments”. See also 14:21, 23; 15:10. [NOAB]

2:6: Jesus is the model for our obedience. [NOAB]

John 20:19-31

Verses 19-23: Apart from in the longer ending of Mark (Mark 16:14-18), which a number of important manuscripts lack, and the mention of an appearance “to the twelve” (see1 Corinthians 15:5), the only parallel to this story is Luke 24:36-51, where Jesus shows himself to “the eleven and their companions”. The following contacts with the Lucan story are noted:

John   Luke  
v. 19 “stood among them” 24:36 “stood among them”
v. 20 “then the disciples rejoiced” 24:41 “while in their joy they were disbelieving”
v. 20 “he showed them his hands and his side” 24:39 “Look at my hands and my feet” [BlkJn]

Verse 19: “evening”: In John’s time, Sunday was a normal day of work, so the community would meet for Eucharist during the evening. So this passage would have a special resonance for the worshipping community, as they met for their weekly commemoration of Jesus’ resurrection. When Paul visited Greece, Christians celebrated the Eucharist in the evening: see Acts 20:7-11. [BlkJn]

Verse 19: The “disciples” may have been a larger group than the remaining eleven (less Thomas). [JBC]

Verse 19: “the doors ... were locked”: For “fear of the Jews”; this fear is also mentioned in 7:13 and 19:38. It is not clear why at this time Jesus’ followers should fear them.

Verse 19: “Jesus came and stood among them”: For the spiritual qualities of Jesus’ resurrected body, see 1 Corinthians 15:35-56.

Verse 19: “Peace be with you”: Exchanging the peace was a usual Jewish greeting (see Judges 6:23; 19:20; Tobit 12:17) but the repetition of the words in vv. 21 and 26 suggests a reference back to 14:27 (“ ... my peace I give to you”) and 16:33 (“... in me you may have peace”). [BlkJn]

Verse 20: “hands ... side”: Identifying marks. See also Luke 24:25-26 (Emmaus). [NOAB]

Verse 20: “rejoiced”: This fulfils the promises of renewed joy: see 14:19 and 16:16-24. [NJBC] This contrasts with Luke 24:37: there the stress is on terror and amazement. [JBC]

Verse 21: “Peace”: Also a promised gift, as Jesus says in 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives ...”. [NJBC]

Verse 21: “‘so I send you’”: In 13:20, Jesus says: ‘Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me’”. See also 5:23 and 17:18. [NJBC]

Verse 22: The commissioning of the disciples also appears in other post-resurrection appearances: see Luke 24:47-48; Matthew 28:19-20a. Jesus confers on the disciples the mission of which he has spoken: in 17:18, as he prays to the Father, Jesus says “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world”. See also 4:38 and 13:16. [NJBC]

According to BlkJn, 7:39 says that the Holy Spirit would be received after Jesus’ glorification; 15:26 and 16:7 say that the Holy Spirit would be received after Jesus returned to the Father. The ascension has now happened.

Verse 22: “he breathed on them”: The same image is used to describe the communication of natural life in Genesis 2:7 (the second creation story). Here it is used to express the communication of the new, spiritual, life of re-created humanity. [NOAB] In Greek, pneuma means both breath and spirit. In Genesis 2:7, God breathes into the nostrils of Adam, giving him earthly life; [JBC] the Septuagint translation uses pneuma here. See also Ezekiel 37:9 (the valley of dry bones) and Wisdom of Solomon 15:11.

Verse 22: “‘Receive the Holy Spirit’”: In 15:26 and 16:7, Jesus says that when he has returned to the Father, he will send the Holy Spirit. In v. 17 he has told Mary Magdalene that he has not yet ascended, so in that he now gives the disciples the Holy Spirit, the ascension has now happened. So in John, Jesus’ resurrection, his ascension, and the coming of the Holy Spirit all happen in the same day. But to John (and other New Testament authors) chronology is of secondary importance. In common with the authors of the synoptic gospels, John insists on the connection between the resurrection and the animation of the Church by the Holy Spirit. [JBC] Note the connection between the granting of authority and receipt of the Holy Spirit. See 16:7 for the continuation of Jesus’ ministry by the Holy Spirit.

In 7:39 Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will only be given after Jesus’ glorification and in 16:7 he says that he will send the Holy Spirit after he has returned to the Father; however here Jesus appears to grant the Holy Spirit before he has been exalted. Scholars have puzzled over this for centuries. The most likely explanation is that early Christians were less concerned with chronological sequence than we are – they saw Jesus’ resurrection, he appearances, his exaltation, and the gift of the Holy Spirit as one event. Only later did they begin to be described as separate events. As support for this apparent lack of chronological sense, note that while Luke describes the Ascension as occurring at Pentecost in Acts 1:3-10, he describes Jesus’ decisive parting from the world on Easter Day in Luke 24:51.

Verse 23: Through the Holy Spirit, the Church continues the judicial role of Christ (see 3:19; 5:27; 9:39) in the matter of sin (see Matthew 16:19; 18:18; Luke 24:47). (In Matthew 16:19, “bind” and “loose” are technical rabbinic terms: “bind” means forbid; “loose” means permit.) [JBC]

Verse 23: “forgive ... retain”: BlkJn notes that these expressions are not used elsewhere in John and not at all in the Matthean parallels (Matthew 18:18; 16:19). He notes that Matthew 16:19 (“whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven ...”) recalls Isaiah 22:22, so he suggests that both this verse in John and the parallels in Matthew may be variants of a common original. This original, which might well have been in Aramaic, may have followed Isaiah in speaking of the conferral of authority as opening and shutting. In this case, John and Matthew provide different interpretations of what Jesus said, with John’s version arising out of the ambiguity in the Aramaic words, for there the word to shut also means to seize or to hold. Given hold for shut, loose (release, set free) for open follows naturally. In support of this hypothesis, BlkJn notes that the Greek verb translated retain is not used here in any of its normal senses, so it may be a Semitism.

Verse 24: In the synoptic gospels, incredulity is shared by the other disciples. [JBC]

Verse 25: This verse reminds us of 4:48: “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”

Verse 25: “nails”: Criminals were usually tied to the cross, rather than being nailed through the palms of the hands.

Verse 25: “nails”: The usual custom was to tie the criminal to the cross, but Jesus was nailed to it.

Verse 27: Jesus’ invitation to Thomas contrasts with his prohibition to Mary Magdalene in v. 17. [JBC]

Verse 28: We are not told whether Thomas actually touched Jesus. Before Jesus’ ascension, he forbade Mary Magdalen to touch him. [JBC]

Verse 28: Thomas’ words became a common confession of faith in the early Church. [JBC]

Verse 28: “Lord and ... God”: In the Septuagint translation, theos kyrios translates the name of the God of Israel (Hebrew: Yahweh Elohim). theos kyrios was also a name used as a designation of a god in the Hellenic world. It became a common Christian confession of faith. [JBC]

Verse 29: 1 Peter 1:8-9 tells readers: “Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls”. [CAB]

Verse 30: “signs”: John tells us of six signs in chapters 2-12. The seventh is Jesus’ resurrection. [NJBC]

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