Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Seventh Sunday after Epiphany - February 19, 2006

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.

Isaiah 43:18-25

Verses 14-21: The liberation process is already under way through the God who rules the nations, wildlife, and even the surface of the earth in order to accomplish his will for his people. [CAB]

Verses 14-15: “Redeemer ... Holy One”: The apposition of “Redeemer” and “Holy One” is noteworthy. Deutero-Isaiah refers to God as Redeemer more often than do other Old Testament writers. God redeems Israel not for its merits but because of his covenant relationship with Israel. For “Redeemer”, see also v. 1 and 54:5; 59:20; Jeremiah 50:34; for “Holy One”, see also 40:25; 41:14; 47:4; 48:17. [NOAB] [NJBC]

NJBC considers vv. 14-15 to be a fragmentary oracle with v. 14b corrupt beyond restoration. Nothing is so mysterious and distant about God – as the word “holy” connotes – as the extent of his redeeming love.

Verses 15-17: These verses answer the question: who is Yahweh? [NJBC]

Verse 15: For God as Israel’s “King” see also 1 Samuel 8:4-9 (the elders of Israel ask for a king). [NOAB]

Verses 16-17: For Israel’s passage through the Reed Sea, see Exodus 14-15. The new (and greater) Exodus is an important theme in Deutero-Isaiah. [NOAB]

Verse 19: “new thing”: i.e. the return of Israel to Palestine. [NOAB]

Verse 19: “a way in the wilderness”: This theme is a part of the Exodus story; it is also found in 40:3: “A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God’”. [NOAB]

Verse 20: “water in the wilderness”: At Rephidim. See Exodus 17:1-7. [NOAB]

Verses 22-28: Although his people have been disobedient and negligent in worship, God will forgive their failures. But they are reminded that it was their misdeeds that led to what seemed “utter destruction” (v. 28) for Israel. [CAB]

To NJBC, these verses are difficult to interpret, precisely because the prophet shifts from pre-exilic days, when sacrifices were offered as though they were the essence of religion (see Isaiah 11:11-15), into the exilic period when sacrifices were impossible.

Verse 24: “sweet cane”: Per Exodus 30:23-25, “aromatic” cane was used in “an anointing oil”, along with myrrh, cinnamon and cassia. Per Jeremiah 6:20, “sweet cane” came from “a distant land”. [NOAB]

Verses 25-26: The imagery of a lawcourt also occurs in 41:1: “Listen to me in silence, O coastlands; let the peoples renew their strength; let them approach, then let them speak; let us together draw near for judgment”. [NOAB]

Verses 27-28: The future is seen to exist already in the forebears; ancient blessings and curses explain the present situation.

Verse 27: “first ancestor”: NOAB and NJBC consider this to be a reference to Jacob. They give Genesis 27 (Isaac’s blessing of Jacob) and Hosea 12:2-4 as references. Hosea 12:2-4 says: “The LORD has an indictment against Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways, and repay him according to his deeds. In the womb he tried to supplant his brother, and in his manhood he strove with God. He strove with the angel and prevailed, he wept and sought his favour; he met him at Bethel, and there he spoke with him”.

Verse 27: “interpreters”: Per NOAB, these are other patriarchal figures or prophets.

Psalm 41

Affirmation of joy that God cares for the poor and the sick bracket a confession of sin and a deploring of the traitorous action of a friend. [CAB]

Verses 1-3: A didactic (teaching) section in the style of the wisdom literature. Proverbs 14:21 says: “Those who despise their neighbours are sinners, but happy are those who are kind to the poor”. See also Proverbs 19:17 and 22:9. [NJBC]

Verse 3b: The meaning of this half-verse is uncertain. [NJBC]

Verse 8: “a deadly thing”: The Hebrew words have been variously interpreted: a malignant disease, a lethal substance, and the place from which there is no coming back. NJBC favours the last interpretation.

Verse 9: For Jesus quoting this verse with reference to Judas, see John 13:18. [NJBC]

Verse 12: “set me in your presence forever”: 61:8 says in a similar vein: “... I will always sing praises to your name, as I pay my vows day after day”.

Verse 13: The psalter was divided into five books in imitation of the Pentateuch. Other books also end with doxologies: see 72:18-20; 89:52 and 106:48. [NOAB]

2 Corinthians 1:18-22

Verses 12-14: Paul appeals for a fair hearing, even if, while writing in the first person (“we”, “I”), Paul “boasts”. [NOAB]

Verse 12: “the testimony of our conscience”: Paul has nothing with which to reproach himself. [NJBC]

Verse 12: “conscience ... godly sincerity”: These terms are from Stoic philosophy. Paul claims that his awareness of God’s purpose for his people led him to write so sharply to the Corinthians in order to correct their misunderstandings. [CAB]

Verse 13: The Corinthians are to pay attention to what Paul actually says and not misread him. [NJBC]

Verse 14: “we are your boast even as you are our boast”: Without Paul the church would not have come into being (see 1 Corinthians 3:5; 4:15); its existence authenticates his ministry (see 1 Corinthians 9:2; 2 Corinthians 3:2-3). [NJBC]

Verse 14: “our boast”: This is a key theme in 2 Corinthians, along with “our confidence”: see 3:4; 8:22; 10:2. [NOAB]

Verse 15: “double favour”: In 1 Corinthians 16:5-7, Paul writes: “I will visit you after passing through Macedonia – for I intend to pass through Macedonia – and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may send me on my way, wherever I go. I do not want to see you now just in passing, for I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits.”

Verse 16: One reason that Paul “wanted” to visit both Macedonia and Corinth was to receive their contributions to the collection for the church in “Judea” which he would then take to that church. [NOAB] Paul had gone by sea to Corinth from Ephesus and, while there, had informed the community of his plan to return after a visit to Macedonia (a Roman province in northern Greece), where there were churches at Thessalonica (the capital) and Philippi. He did not carry out this project (see v. 23), which was already a modification of the plan announced in 1 Corinthians 16:5-6. [NJBC]

Verse 17: The changes in Paul’s plans would have been reported by Titus.[NJBC]

Verse 17: “vacillating”: Paul’s critics accused him of vacillating. [NOAB]

Verse 18: “our word”: Paul’s preaching (see v. 19) is primarily in view, but in this context his travel plans in the service of the gospel are also in view. The former participated in the dependability of the latter. [NJBC]

Verse 19: “Son of God”: Only here is this traditional title (see Romans 1:4l and Galatians 2:20) combined with “Jesus Christ”. It facilitates the transition from v. 18 to v. 21. [NJBC]

Verse 19: “Silvanus”: A Latinized form of Silas. That he was at Corinth is attested by 1 Thessalonians 1:1 and Acts 18:1-5.

Verse 19: “Timothy”: See also 1 Corinthians 4:17 (“I sent you Timothy ...”) and 1 Thessalonians 3:2 (Paul has sent Timothy from Athens). [NJBC]

Verse 20: “For in him every one of God’s promises is a ‘Yes.’”: Christ is the seed of Abraham (see Galatians 3:16), the Davidic Messiah (see Romans 1:4), the last Adam (see 1 Corinthians 15:45), life, wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification (see 1 Corinthians 1:30). [NJBC]

Verse 20: “‘Amen’”: The liturgical assent of the community prolongs the ascent of the Son that proclaims the fidelity of the Father. [NJBC]

Verse 21: “it is God who establishes us with you in Christ”: NJBC offers the one confirming us with you for Christ. God’s ongoing communication of his fidelity conforms both Paul and the Corinthians to the faithful Christ. [NJBC]

Verse 22: “seal”: In Romans 4:11, Paul says that Abraham “received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith”. See also Romans 15:28 and 1 Corinthians 9:2. [CAB]

Verse 22: “giving us his Spirit ... as a first installment”: In 5:5, Paul tells us that God “has given us the Spirit as a guarantee”. See also Ephesians 1:13. God will finish what he has begun: see Romans 8:16-17, 23; Philippians 1:6. [NOAB] The Greek here translated as “first installment” can also be rendered as down-payment. [CAB] The language of commerce is used to express the effect of baptism (see also Ephesians 1:13-14), which marks believers publicly as belonging to Christ (see also 1 Corinthians 3:23; 6:19) and gives the Spirit (see also 5:5) as a promise of future fulfilment. [NJBC]

Mark 2:1-12

The parallels are Matthew 9:1-8 and Luke 5:17-26. [NOAB]

This is the first of five stories which introduce various opponents of Jesus: scribes, scribes of the Pharisees, John the Baptist’s disciples and Pharisees, Pharisees, and Pharisees and Herodians. The opponents move from admiration (in v. 12) to active hostility (in 3:6, “The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him”). [NJBC]

Verse 1: “at home”: 1:29 says “As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John”, so this appears to be Peter’s house. [NJBC]

Verse 2: “there was no longer room for them”: A scene similar to that in 1:33: “... the whole city was gathered around the door” when Jesus cures Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever. [NJBC]

Verse 2: “word”: The Greek is logos, as it is in 1:45 (where a man cured of leprosy “spread[s] the word”). So “he” in 1:45 is Jesus, and not the healed paralytic. [NJBC]

Verse 3: “four of them”: NJBC wonders whether they were Peter, Andrew, James and John – the first four disciples: see 1:16-20, 29, 36.

Verse 5: “Son”: The Greek is teknon meaning child. It is a term of affection. The authoritative declaration of forgiveness of sins may not be what he and his friends wanted to hear! Here illness and sin are linked; elsewhere Jesus rejects this link (see Luke 13:1-5 and John 9:2-3) but, as Comments points out, Jesus (and Mark) have reason to link them here. Jesus makes use of the contemporary thinking that the two are linked. [NJBC]

Verse 7: The Jewish leaders sense in Jesus’ words in v. 5 either some claim of his own or the assertion of a way of forgiveness different from that taught by the scribes. [NOAB]

Verse 7: “It is blasphemy!”: Several Old Testament passages that state that the one who forgives sins is God: see Exodus 34:6-7; Isaiah 43:25; 44:22. So Jesus’ claim to forgive sins would qualify as blasphemy. [NJBC] However, it is possibly significant that Jesus does not say I forgive you your sins.

Verse 10: “Son of Man”: The phrase “son of man” usually meant a typical human being. While Christian scholars have long thought that Jesus’ use of the term reflected a generally held belief that the prophesied figure of Daniel 7:13-14 (son of man in the Septuagint translation, “human being” in the NRSV) is the Messiah, recent Jewish scholarship has shown that no such belief existed. Jesus’ use of the term remains enigmatic; nowhere does Jesus fully disclose his own understanding of the term. NOAB says that “Son of Man” in the gospels usually denotes Jesus as the glorified heavenly judge. The phrase “Son of Man” occurs often in Mark (see also 2:28; 8:31, 38; 9:9; 12:31; 10:33, 45; 13:26; 14:21, 41, 62), but each occurrence must be taken separately. Here it refers to the earthly Jesus as God’s representative. It is only found elsewhere in the New Testament in Acts 7:56 (Stephen’s vision) and Revelation 1:13 (“one like the Son of Man” tells John to write the book). [NJBC]

Verse 12: “they were all amazed”: “All” here includes the scribes. [NJBC]

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