Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Second Sunday after Epiphany - January 14, 2024

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.

1 Samuel 3:1-10,(11-20)

Jewish tradition is that Samuel was 12 years old at the time, the age at which Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. Mary and Joseph “found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” See Luke 2:40-52. Luke clearly had these beautiful stories in mind as he began writing his Gospel. [ NOAB]

2:12-3:18: Two stories are presented: one concerning the end of the line of Eli, and the other telling of Samuel’s growth both physically and in favour with Yahweh. They intersect in 3:1-18. God’s sentence of Eli in 2:31 is that “no one in your family will live to old age”. [ NJBC]

3:1: “word ... visions”: Both mean revelation from God . [ NOAB]

3:3: “lamp of God”: Its earliest form was simple, but in later conception, it became highly ornate: see Exodus 25:10-22; 37:1-9. [ NOAB]

3:11-14: Deuteronomy 10:8-9 tells us that descendants of Levi, son of Jacob, had a right to the priesthood. The families of Eli (at Shiloh, see 1 Samuel 14:3), of Zadok (at Jerusalem, see Ezekiel 40:46) and of Amaziah (at Bethel, see Amos 7:10-17) were descended from Levi. The Ark came to rest at Shiloh, giving prominence to this worship site. In the time of Josiah (ca. 639-609 BC, see 2 Kings 23:8) all the priests were brought to serve in the Jerusalem Temple and the other temples and worship sites were abolished. Thus Israelite religion came under the complete control of Zadokite priests. [ HBD]

Comments: Eli: his sons were a bad lot: They appropriated for themselves portions of the priestly offerings in defiance of the detailed regulations about proper priestly procedure, and the designating of the beneficiaries of these sacrifices, in Leviticus 7:11-18 and Deuteronomy 18. [ CAB]

3:13: “he did not restrain them”: This directly contradicts 2:22-25. Clearly the author is working from multiple sources. [ NJBC]

4:1: “word”: Probably means reputation: Samuel became known and trusted throughout all the land as a leader who spoke for God. [ NOAB]

Psalm 139:1-6,13-18

Verse 6: The psalmist is unable to comprehend God: such knowledge is “so high”. Note also v. 16: God’s thoughts are so profound.

Verse 8: In early Israel, people in Sheol were thought to be separated from God, but here they too are God’s. [ NOAB]

Verse 15: Genesis 2:7 says: “... the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground ...”. [ JBC]

Verse 19ff: A prayer for vindication and deliverance. [ NOAB] The psalmist identifies his enemies as enemies of God: as sinners, enemies of God are worthy of rejection. This is a (strange!) declaration of his loyalty to God. Finally he says: God, punish the wicked! Examine my deeds and thoughts! They are pure, but if I stray, “bring me back”, so that I may enjoy a long life.

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Paul has just written (in vv. 9-10): “Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers – none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.” This brings him back to the problem dealt with in 5:1-8: “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father's wife. ... 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. ... Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. ...” [ NJBC]

Verses 12-19: The proper stance of the community toward moral responsibility is not a matter of individual behaviour (“All things are lawful for me”), but must be based on an awareness of the new community as the body of Christ, which is the new “temple” (v. 19) where God has chosen to dwell. In light of this, quarrelling over dietary laws is of no consequence, but abstinence from sexual misdeeds is a serious issue. The Lord is concerned about bodily behaviour, because all members of the community share as “members” (v. 15) in the [risen] body “of Christ”. Since creation (see Genesis 2:24) sexual activity has involved bodily union, so it is essential for members of the community to avoid sexual activity that is contrary to the law, and thus to preserve the purity of the bodily “temple of the Holy Spirit” (v. 19), and thereby to “glorify God” (v. 20). [ CAB]

Verse 12: For some “things” destroying, rather than building up, the community, see also Galatians 4:9. [ NJBC]

Verse 13a: This Corinthian slogan was designed to prove that physical actions have no moral value. [ NJBC]

Verse 13b: “The body ...”: The libertines argued that satisfying sexual desire was like taking food to satisfy one’s hunger. Paul rejects this analogy. [ NOAB] The Greek word, soma, always means physical body. [ NJBC]

Verse 15: “Christ”: As in 12:12, “Christ” means the Christian community, the physical presence of him in the world. [ NJBC]

Verse 16: Immorality involves the whole “body”, which for Paul means one’s entire personal life: see also Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5; Ephesians 5:31. [ NOAB] Transitory pleasure without real communication denies the full union which is the Creator’s intention for the physical act in Genesis 2:24. [ NJBC]

Verse 17: Paul appeals to those in the Corinthian community who especially value the “spirit”. Spirit-people thought that themselves superior to others: an aberration in faith. [ NJBC]

Verse 19: “your body”: i.e. the body of each Christian. However, note 3:16 where the “temple” is the community. (There “your” is plural.) [ NOAB]

Verse 19: “temple of the Holy Spirit”: The holiness of the community (see 3:16-17) must be reflected in the comportment of each member. [ NJBC]

Verse 20: See also 7:23. [ NOAB]

Verse 20: “you were bought”: As was a slave or prisoner. In Galatians 5:1, Paul writes: “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery”. [ NJBC]

Verse 20: “glorify God”: Galatians 5:13 says “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.” [ NJBC]

Additional Notes

The NRSV shows parts of vv. 12-13 in quotes. The quote marks are not in the Greek, so even if one added them to the Greek one would be interpreting. Scholars agree that they are quotations from a faction in the church at Corinth. In the previous chapter, Paul has warned in vv. 9-10 that “Fornicators, ... adulterers, male prostitutes [and others] – none of these will inherit the kingdom of God”. A little earlier (in 5:1-8) he has mentioned that gross sexual immorality is being practiced by members of the church.

In v. 12a, he agrees that we are not governed by the Law, so we can do anything we wish; however, some actions may not contribute, personally and in community, to gaining admission to the Kingdom. Further, he will not become enslaved to any indulgence,

The quotation in v. 13 is taken to be a quotation from the faction. It is true, but neither the stomach nor food have lasting value, i.e. food lasts only until it is eaten, and the stomach ceases to be when we die. To Paul, God destroys both.

In v. 13b, Paul changes the subject; he turns to the “body”, meaning all-that-we-are, including our flesh. He asserts that the “body” is intended for Christ’s purposes, not for sexual immorality. Further, Christ’s resurrection (v. 14) benefits all-that-we-are.

Now v. 15: surely you sexually immoral people realize (or have forgotten) that you are, in effect, “one flesh” (v. 16) with (in union with) Christ? (See v. 17.) So how can you take something sacred, entering into union with a prostitute?

Now v. 18: avoid sexual immorality! While members of the faction claim that “Every sin that a person commits is outside the body”, i.e. that actions of the flesh have no relationship to the spirit (“body”), there is an exception: sexual immorality impacts all-that-we are; it is dedicated to Christ, so “ not your own” (v. 19).

The “price” in v. 20 is Jesus’ death on the Cross. You should honour God by living in a godly way, using the body for its intended purpose sexually.

John 1:43-51

Verse 43: “Follow me”: Jesus’ call to discipleship here is the call recorded in the Synoptic gospels: see Matthew 9:9 (Jesus calls Matthew); Mark 2:14 (he calls Levi); Luke 5:27. [ NJBC]

Verse 45: “Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote”: Moses was thought to be the author of the first five books of the Bible. In Jesus’ day, the Old Testament consisted of the law and the prophets. Later the writings were also included in the canon. In Luke 24:27 (part of a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus), we read: “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he [Jesus] interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures”.

Verse 47: “truly an Israelite”: Others who invoke the Law and the prophets reject Jesus, but not Nathanael: see 7:15 (“‘How does this man have such learning, when he has never been taught?’”), 27, 41; 9:29. [ NJBC]

Verse 47: “no deceit”: For Jacob’s deceitful practices before being named Israel, see Genesis 27:35 (Isaac blesses Jacob rather than Esau). Jacob is named Israel in Genesis 32:28. [ NOAB] In the Old Testament, the Greek word translated “deceit” ( dolos) has negative religious overtones (e.g. Psalms 17:1; 43:1; Proverbs 12:6); in the prophetic books it can imply unfaithfulness to God: see Jeremiah 9:5 and Zephaniah 3:13. In the fourth Servant Song, it is said of the servant that “there was no deceit in his mouth” (Isaiah 53:9). [ NJBC]

Verses 48-49: Whether the “fig tree” is significant is not known. We do know that, per a later tradition, rabbis studied the Law under a fig tree: see Midrash Rabba Ecclesiastes 5:11. [ NJBC]

Verse 49: “Son of God ... King of Israel”: In the Old Testament (e.g. 2 Samuel 7:14; Psalms 89:27; 2:6-7) the king is referred to as “son of God”. Pilate’s inscription “King of the Jews” on the cross (e.g. 19:19) may have led to the early Christian portrayal of Jesus as Messiah/King. This gospel returns later to the theme of Jesus’ kingship in the trial before Pilate. [ NJBC]

Verse 51: “Very truly”: The Greek is amen, amen. This and the shift from “you” singular in v. 50 to “you” plural here suggests that an editor added this verse later. 3:12-15 makes a similar move from earthly to heavenly things by allusion to the Son of Man. 3:13 is particularly close to this verse (quoted below). Note the Johannine christology: no one could have seen God except the Son. So Jacob’s vision is here transformed into a future vision promised to believers in which Jesus is the medium of communication between the Father and humans. Note that the farewell discourses in this gospel never apply “Son of Man” to the expectation of Jesus’ return. In this gospel, no mention is made of the Son of Man suffering; the emphasis is on his pre-existence, descent and ascent. [ NJBC]

Verse 51: What Jacob saw in a vision (see Genesis 28:12) is now a reality in Jesus. [ NOAB] Jesus is the founder of the new Israel. [ CAB]

Verse 51: “Son of Man”: In 3:13, Jesus tells Nicodemus “No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man” so “the Son of Man” is a messenger from heaven to make God known. “The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son ... he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man” ( 5:22, 27). [ NOAB] In a vision, Daniel sees “one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven” (Daniel 7:13). The Aramaic original translated in the NRSV as “human being” is son of man. [ CAB]

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