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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Last Sunday after Epiphany - February 19, 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.

2 Kings 2:1-12

For earlier association of Elisha with Elijah, see 1 Kings 19-21. [CAB]

Verses 1-25: As always, the power and greatness of Elijah are expressed by the ancient writer in terms of legend and miracle. [NOAB]

Verse 1: “Gilgal”: Several Israelite cities bore this name; most likely this is the one north (rather than south-east) of Bethel. [NJBC]

Verse 11: “of fire”: This continues the symbol of fire as being associated of Elijah. In 1 Kings 18:38, we read of his (God’s) victory over the prophets of Baal: “Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench”. In, 2 Kings 1:9-16, when messengers from King Azariah ask that Elijah attend to the injured king, Elijah tells “the captain of fifty”: “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty”. [NOAB]

Verse 12: “Father ... horsemen!”: Elisha means perhaps that Elijah is more important and more powerful than “chariots” and “horsemen” In 13:14, when Elisha is about to die, he receives the same compliment. “Father” as the title of a man of religion is a very old usage: see also Judges 17:10. [NOAB] The words are expressive of Elijah’s role as Israel’s guide and source of security. [NJBC]

Verses 13-14: 1 Kings 19:19, from a different source, says “Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle over him”. [NOAB]

Verse 15: Elisha is acknowledged as leader by “the company of prophets”. [NOAB]

Verses 16-18: These verses confirm that Elisha did indeed see what happened to Elijah. [NJBC]

Verses 19-25: Two short miracle stories demonstrate both the new man of God’s control over various natural phenomena and the diverse responses his appearance evokes. [NJBC]

Verses 19-22: The God-given power of Elisha is attested by a miracle. Today, the finest spring in Jericho is sometimes called Elisha’s Fountain. [NOAB]

Verse 20: “new”: An object that will serve as a carrier of divine power must not have been put to profane purposes previously. [NJBC]

Verses 23-25: Not all ancient writers, to say nothing of modern ones, would have told a story like this to inculcate respect for a prophet. On “forty-two” as an ill omen, see also 10:14 (King Jehu of Israel has “forty-two” members of the Judean royal family slaughtered); Revelation 11:2 (“the nations ... will trample over the holy city for forty-two months”); 13:5 (“The beast ... was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months”). [NOAB]

Verse 25: “Mount Carmel ... Samaria”: These two sites appear as the prophet’s places of residence throughout the Elisha cycle. 4:25 speaks of “the man of God at Mount Carmel” and 5:3 of “the prophet who is in Samaria”. [NJBC] “Samaria” was the capital city of the northern kingdom. [CAB]

Psalm 50:1-6

This psalm appears to be part of a covenant-renewal liturgy and may have close ties to prophetic circles. God, the overlord, raises charges against his vassal, Israel, for violating the covenant. [NJBC]

Superscription: “A Psalm of Asaph”: Asaph was appointed by David to share in leading worship, and sang and/or played at the dedication of the Temple Solomon built. See 1 Chronicles 6:31-48.

Verses 1-6: For God taking Israel to court, see also Jeremiah 2:9-13: “Therefore once more I accuse you, says the LORD, and I accuse your children's children ...”. [NJBC]

Verses 1,4: “the earth ... the heavens”: They are often witnesses to God’s trial of his covenant people in the Old Testament: see, for example, Isaiah 1:2. To ancient people, the firmament was a giant pudding bowl over the earth; beyond it was a hierarchy of “heavens”.

Verse 3: 18:8 says of Yahweh: “Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him”. See also Habakkuk 3:4. [NOAB]

Verse 5: “sacrifice”: For sacrifice in a covenant context, see also Genesis 31:51-54 (Laban and Jacob enter into a covenant with Yahweh which is sealed with meals and sacrifice).

Verse 6: “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]

Verses 7-23: Yahweh’s arraignment of the nation. [NOAB]

Verses 8-13: They have brought animal sacrifices in abundance, but this is not what God wants. In 40:6, a psalmist says of Yahweh: “Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, but you have given me an open ear”. This idea is also found in 51:16, 17; Amos 5:21-24; Hosea 6:6. [NOAB]

Verses 14-15: God’s demand is rather for thanksgiving and prayer. [NOAB]

Verse 14: “thanksgiving ... vows”: Two types of communion sacrifice which established union between God and the offerer. [NJBC]

Verse 15: “Call on me”: Calling on the Lord’s name often accompanied sacrifice: see also 1 Kings 18:26 (the prophets of Baal call on Baal’s name) and 1 Chronicles 21:26 (David calls on Yahweh’s name). [NJBC]

Verses 16-21: The heart of the case Yahweh brings against the people: failure to keep the laws of the covenant. [NJBC]

Verse 16: “the wicked”: Probably the accused, i.e. Israel. [NJBC]

Verses 18-21: Some of the charges are based on the Ten Commandments.

2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Verses 1-2: Paul develops the point he introduced in 3:12: “Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness”. [NJBC]

Verse 1: “by God’s mercy”: Before his conversion (see 3:5-6), Paul had persecuted Christians: in 1 Corinthians 15:9 he writes: “I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God”. See also Galatians 1:13, 23. [NJBC]

Verse 1: “we do not lose heart”: NJBC offers we are not fainthearted. Paul’s opponents “say, ‘His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.’” (10:10). [NJBC]

Verse 2: This is probably an oblique reference to the methods of the “false apostles” of 11:4, 13. Paul has called them “peddlers of God’s word” in 2:17. [NOAB] He has renounced practising cunning and falsifying the good news, while the “false apostles” continue these “shameful things”. To NJBC, “shameful hidden things” are things one hopes will never be brought to light.

Verse 2: “practice cunning”: NJBC offers operating without scruple. By writing 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, Paul has laid himself open to the charge of unscrupulous readiness to adopt any means to achieve his end.

Verse 2: “falsify God’s word”: NJBC offers adulterating the word of God.

Verse 3: “veiled”: In 3:18, Paul uses the same term of followers of Christ: “... all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord ...”. See also 2:15. [NOAB] A concession that his preaching has been partly ineffective implies an accusation, possibly that he failed to make many Jewish converts: in 3:14-16, he says of the Jews of his day: “... when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed”. [NJBC]

Verse 4: “the god of this world”: Paul refers to Satan or Beliar; he says in 6:15: “What agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share with an unbeliever?”. (Beliar is an evil spirit mentioned in intertestamental literature; he was under, or identified with, Satan.) [NOAB] See also 1 Corinthians 1:20; 2:6, 8; 3:18; Romans 12:2; Ephesians 2:2; John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11. [CAB] NJBC thinks it likely that the genitive here is one of content, so the god who in this world is a good translation. In Philippians 3:19, Paul says of such people: “Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things”. Sin plays the same role in Romans 3:9; 6:6-23.

Verse 5: “Jesus Christ as Lord”: Paul appropriates a confessional formula which was probably common in his time. A similar phrase occurs in 1 Corinthians 12:3; Philippians 2:10-11; Romans 10:9. [NJBC]

Verse 5: “your slaves”: Elsewhere, Paul calls himself a “servant of Jesus Christ”: see Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 3:5; 4:1; 2 Corinthians 6:4; Galatians 1:10; Philippians 1:1. See also Titus 1:1. [CAB]

Verse 6: “‘Let light shine out of darkness’”: Paul may also be thinking of Isaiah 9:2; 42:6-7; 49:6 and 60:1-2, a passage which tells of the light going forth to the Gentile nations. [CAB]

Verse 6: “who has shone in our hearts”: Recalls Paul’s own conversion experience on the road to Damascus: see Acts 9. [CAB]

Verse 7: “clay jars”: A reference to the weakness of the body, and indeed to all human limitations. Recall Genesis 2:7: “the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being”. [NOAB]

Verses 10-11: In his sufferings and perils, Paul shares in Jesus’ death; but it is given to him also to share in the life of the risen, victorious Christ. [NOAB]

Verse 12: Paul dies, i.e. suffers, that the Corinthians and others may know the life in Christ. [NOAB]

Verse 13: Paul quotes Psalm 116:10. The psalmist has faith in the midst of troubles. Our faith leads to confession of it. [NOAB]

Verse 15: As the gospel of God’s grace (see 6:1) advances, “more and more people” respond in faith with thankfulness. [NOAB]

Mark 9:2-9

The first incident, vv. 1-8, establishes Jesus’ glorious identity as the beloved Son of God , and the second (vv. 9-13) he places his divine sonship in the context of Jewish expectations about the kingdom and resurrection. [NJBC]

Verse 1: The most convincing explanation of the Transfiguration is that Mark presents it as a preview or anticipation of the final coming of God’s kingdom, and thus as a commentary on this verse. [NJBC]

Verses 2-8: The parallels are Matthew 17:1-8 and Luke 9:28-36.

Verses 2-8: By this narrative the author means to describe a vision of Jesus as the Messiah. The version in Luke says that the purpose of ascending the mountain was to pray. The exact nature of this intense religious experience is uncertain. In Matthew, it is described as a “vision”. The aura of unnatural brilliance is associated with mystical experiences elsewhere: see Exodus 34:29-35 (after descending Mount Sinai, “Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God”) and Acts 9:3 (Paul’s vision). [NOAB]

Verses 2-8: Like the transforming experiences of Moses and Elijah, Jesus receives heavenly confirmation of his special role in God’s purpose for his people. [CAB]

Verse 2: “Six days later”: Peter’s confession of Jesus as Messiah is in 8:29: “‘You are the Messiah’”. [NOAB] NJBC suggests that this may be linked to Israel’s preparation and purification at Sinai (see Exodus 24:15-16) or, since the seventh day occurs after six days, this may be an anticipation of the passion week in Jerusalem.

Verse 2: “a high mountain”: Some traditional identifications are Mount Tabor and Mount Hermon. Mountains are the usual settings for supernatural revelations and theophanies. [NJBC]

Verse 2: “transfigured”: i.e. having a non-earthly appearance. [NOAB] The Greek word indicates that the form of Jesus was changed. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that the glorious state in which the three disciples see him is to be his eternal state after death and resurrection. [NJBC]

Verse 4: “Elijah with Moses”: If these two Old Testament figures are meant to represent the Law and the Prophets, the order is strange. Matthew 17:3 has them in the reverse order. There may some reference to their being taken up into heaven or their expected roles in the coming of the kingdom. [NJBC] Deuteronomy 18:15 says “the LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet”.

Verse 4: “Elijah”: He was expected to appear on earth before the Messiah appeared: Malachi 4:5-6 says : “Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse”. [NOAB]

Verse 5: “Rabbi”: Addressing Jesus in this way is strange. Matthew has “Lord” and Luke has “Master”. [NJBC]

Verse 5: “Moses”: Then thought to be the author of the Pentateuch. These five books formed the basic authority in Judaism. [NOAB]

Comments: Feast of Tabernacles: For the commandment regarding this feast, also known as the Feast of Booths, see Leviticus 23:39-43. [NJBC]

Verse 7: Matthew 3:17 says: “... a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased’”. See also John 12:28-29 and 2 Peter 1:17-18.

Verse 7: “a cloud overshadowed them”: Given the allusions to Exodus in this account, it is best to take the cloud as a vehicle of God’s presence as in Exodus 16:10; 19:9; 24:15-16; 33:9. The “voice” is the divine voice. [NJBC]

Verse 7: “‘This is my Son, the Beloved”: To NJBC, the heavenly voice corrects Peter’s confession (see 8:29) and alludes to the identification of Jesus at his baptism (see 1:11).

Verse 7: “listen to him!”: The command to hear Jesus may point to his passion predictions: see 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34. [NJBC]

Verses 9-13: The parallel is Matthew 17:9-13.

Verse 9: “he ordered them ...”: Unlike other commands to silence, this one has a good chance of being obeyed (because only three disciples are involved) and has a definite time limit. [NJBC]

Verse 10: The disciples were unable to associate resurrection with the Son of Man. [NOAB] The issue for the disciples was how Jesus could be raised from the dead before the general resurrection (which in contemporary thought was to occur at the coming of God’s kingdom). [NJBC]

Verse 11: In Malachi 4:5, Elijah’s return will precede the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. The disciples ask: how can you be raised from the dead unless Elijah comes first? [NJBC] In Matthew 11:14, Jesus says that if John the Baptist’s message were accepted, his activity would be that foretold in Elijah’s name. John was treated much as Elijah had been treated: see 1 Kings 19:2, 10. Jesus seems not to have expected the literal return of Elijah. [NOAB] Luke 1:17 predicts that John the Baptist will go before Jesus “with the spirit and power of Elijah ... to make ready a people prepared for the Lord”.

Verse 12: “he is to go through many sufferings and be treated with contempt”: Jesus concedes that Elijah must come first; he also insists that his own passion and death will precede his resurrection. [NJBC]

Verse 13: “Elijah has come”: This statement indirectly identifies Elijah as John the Baptist. The fate he met prefigures that of Jesus, Son of Man. [NJBC]

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