Comments

Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Fifth Sunday after Pentecost - July 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.

2 Samuel 1:1,17-27

1 Samuel 30:26-31:13 and 2 Samuel 1:2-27: The usual interpretation of these passages sees them as being from the same source: so the Amalekite is a fugitive, seeking to ingratiate himself (2 Samuel 1:10), and expects patronage and protection in return for bringing the crown; so he is lying when he says that he has killed Saul at his request. This justifies his killing at the hands of one of David’s soldiers. [NJBC]

On the other hand, knowing that the books of Samuel are drawn from various sources and that the editor has not completely harmonized them, I hypothesize that the two passages are from different sources: that they are two stories of Saul’s death. There is other evidence in the texts to support this theory:

  • David’s return to Ziklag is mentioned in 1 Samuel 30:26 and 2 Samuel 1:1.
  • In 1 Samuel 31:8, the Philistines find “Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa”, but 2 Samuel 1:20 implies that the Philistines do not yet know of Saul’s death. In this scenario, the Amalekite is trustworthy: he has carried the crown and armlet from Mount Gilboa to Ziklag, a distance of some 150 km (as the crow flies).

So what about the killing of the Amalekite? I see four possibilities:

  • Justice must be seen to be done. David will soon be “the Lord’s anointed”, so killing the king must be known to be sinful.
  • An Amalekite (even if he is the son of a resident alien) who has carried the crown, could stir up trouble, giving the Amalekites cause to usurp the throne of Israel.
  • What is David to do about this man? If he appoints him to high office, he will be a potential threat to David’s sovereignty.
  • It may be a high-handed act of barbarism. David later descended into being a despot; perhaps he began by having the Amalekite killed.

JBC sees vv. 1-4 (“a man came from Saul’s camp”) and vv. 5-10 (“the Amalekite”) as being from different sources. I see no reason for this view: the Philistines had overrun the Israelite army, so it is likely that the battlefield included Saul’s camp.

Verse 13: “resident alien”: a person who enjoyed certain rights but was not a citizen of Israel. [JBC]

Verses 14,16: “the Lord’s anointed”: David has secretly been anointed king (see 1 Samuel 16:1-13) but Saul has still been “the Lord’s anointed”. David calls him this in the two stories in which David spares his life (see 1 Samuel 24:1-8 and 26:1-12).

Verse 18: “The Song of the Bow”: Some consider the author to be David: he was a patron of the arts; he played the lyre (as 1 Samuel 16:23 tells us) and was considered the author of Psalms. [NOAB]

Verse 20: “uncircumcised”: Other Semitic people (to the east) practised circumcision. [NOAB] The Philistines were probably invaders from Asia Minor; they did not.

Verse 27: “weapons of war perished”: Israel has lost its armour and weaponry to the Philistines.

Psalm 130

The next psalm also includes both personal and community-oriented verses. Psalm 22 also starts as an individual lament and ends in counselling the nation.

Verse 1: “depths”: The Hebrew word is only found in four other Old Testament texts: Isaiah 51:10 (“Was it not you who ... made the depths of the sea a way for the redeemed to cross over?”); Ezekiel 27:34 and Psalm 69:2, 14. [NJBC]

Verse 2: See also 1 Kings 8:39-40. [NJBC]

Verse 3: “who could stand”: The Hebrew is similar in sound to “out of the depths”. In Amos 7:2, the prophet tells us “When they [the locusts] had finished eating the grass of the land, I said, ‘O Lord GOD, forgive, I beg you! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!’”. [NJBC]

Verse 5: “in his word I hope”: 119:74, 81, 114, 147 also express this hope. [NJBC]

Verses 7-8: Psalm 22 also turns from the personal to the general in vv. 23-28. [NJBC]

2 Corinthians 8:7-15

8:1-2 says that the Macedonians endured “a severe ordeal of affliction ... and ... extreme poverty”. Paul’s mission to them is described in Acts 16:9-40.

Verses 1-5: While here it is the Corinthians who are lagging in contributing to the collection for the Jerusalem church, in 9:2 they are an example for the churches in Macedonia. This is one of the grounds on which scholars argue for Chapter 9 being the start of a separate letter. [NJBC]

Verse 1: “We”: In 1 Corinthians 3:9, Paul writes “we are God's servants, working together” and in 1 Thessalonians 3:2 “we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker for God “. So while here Paul may be referring to himself, “we” includes those who work with him as leaders of the missionary effort. See also Acts 19:1.

Verse 1: “the grace of God”: Given the situation outlined in vv. 2-3, only divine power could explain the response of the Macedonians. [NJBC]

Verse 5: “they gave themselves”: In theological terms, their gift had value as an expression of “love” (v. 8). [NJBC]

Verse 6: Titus must have brought up the matter of the collection when he saw the response of the Corinthians. See 7:15. [NJBC]

Verse 7: “our love for you”: 6:11-13 says that some Corinthian Christians lack love for Paul. Many manuscripts have your love for us. The NRSV (and other translations) offer a translation of the more difficult (less expected) Greek phrase. A principle of modern biblical criticism is that the more difficult text is more likely to be original: copyists tended to smooth out text rather than to make it more difficult. [NJBC]

Verse 8: “I do not say this as a command”: NJBC offers understand rather than “say”. Paul gives his theological rationale in 9:7: “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”. For Paul making strong suggestions, see also Philemon 8-9, 13-14 and 1 Corinthians 7:6. [NJBC]

Verse 8: “I am testing the genuineness of your love”: Paul has his doubts. [NJBC]

Verse 9: Paul enunciates the theological principle of 5:21 (“For our sake he [the Father] made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”), of which the practical meaning is given in 5:15: “so that those who live might live no longer for themselves”. [NJBC]

Verse 9: “poor”: For giving on the basis of one’s conscience, see also Philippians 2:5-11. [JBC]

Verse 10: “it is appropriate for you”: NJBC offers it is expedient for you – to preserve the honour of the community. Paul avoids direct criticism of the community. [NJBC]

Verse 10: “not only to do something but even to desire to do something”: The Corinthians seem to have lost even the will (or intent) to collect funds.

Verses 12-14: In 9:7, Paul says: “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”.

Verse 14: “so that their abundance may be for your need”: While the Jerusalem church is in need now, it may be the Corinthians who seek Jerusalem’s help in the future. [NJBC]

For the nature of the collection and the initial plan for it, see 1 Corinthians 16:1-4. Romans 15:26 mentions Macedonia and Achaia sharing their resources with “the saints at Jerusalem”. The Christians of Jerusalem sought financial aid from the Gentile churches at the First Council of the Church, held in Jerusalem, probably in 51 AD (see Galatians 2:1-10). Paul hopes that this gift will bridge the growing gap between Jerusalem and the other churches: in Romans 15:30-32, he writes: “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in earnest prayer to God on my behalf, that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my ministry to Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company”. [NJBC]

Mark 5:21-43

The parallel passages are Matthew 9:18-26 and Luke 8:40-50. [NOAB] Mark is unusual here: his version is more detailed than the others. Matthew appears to skip vv. 23-24.

The miracles in 4:35-5:43 are largely done for the instruction of the disciples. [JBC]

Note the common points in these stories: both those cured are female; Jairus’ daughter is 12 years old and the woman has been ill for 12 years; Jesus calls the woman “Daughter” (v. 34). [NJBC]

The differences in grammatical construction of the two stories indicates that Mark drew them from separate sources.

Verse 23: “made well” and “live”: In early Christian circles, the words sozo (“make well”) and zao (“live”) were technical terms for salvation and resurrected life, so early Christians may have taken the raising of Jairus’ daughter as a preview or anticipation of the resurrected life of Jesus and those who believe in him. [NJBC] Sozo also appears in v. 28, in the future tense. In v. 34, sosken, translated here as “has healed” can also be translated as has saved or has brought you salvation. “Get up” (v. 41) is a translation of egeirein, a word often used in the New Testament for Jesus’ resurrection. This suggests that the story has symbolic meaning. Aneste, translated “got up”, is also part of the New Testament vocabulary of resurrection (see Mark 8:31, 9:9, 31; 10:34; Acts 1:22, 2:24, 31, 32; 4:33, 10:41, 13:33, 34; 17:3, 31; Romans 1:4).

A scholar says that sozo can carry two meanings: salvation from natural dangers (death, disease, mortal danger) or salvation from eternal death. To him, Mark 5:34 is in the former category. So he sees no need to take this as capital ‘s’ Salvation. He also point out that sometimes the word carries both meanings simultaneously, although he does not mention Mark in this context; one might ask why not.

The connection with resurrection is plain. Clearly we have here a foreshadowing of the resurrection, and I believe not merely the resurrection of Jesus, but the resurrection of the faithful. That's why the woman with the haemorrhage is inserted in the story. For her, faith had led to her salvation (sozo) from the disease. And then we have the connection of faith and resurrection in the raising of the girl. So, there is a progression: faith leads to salvation from natural death, from eternal death, and to a sharing in the resurrection of Jesus, as foreshadowed by the resurrection of the girl. [Alan Perry]

Verse 23: “lay your hands on her”: Laying on hands was a common symbol of healing, of a healer’s power, in ancient times in a number of Middle Eastern cultures. It is mentioned neither in the Old Testament nor in rabbinic writings, but the Genesis Apocryphon found in the Qumran caves mentions it in 20:28-29. This work did not necessarily originate in the Qumran community; it dates from the first century BC: so it appears that laying on of hands was performed in some divergent sects of Judaism. [JBC]

Verse 27: “touched his cloak”: The laws in Leviticus 12:2-8 and 15:19-30 declare that she is unclean, and so anything she touches is also unclean. See also my comment on v. 33. [CAB]

Verse 30: Luke 5:17 says: “... the power of the Lord was with him to heal ...”. [NOAB]

Verse 30: Jesus needs to know who has touched him, because having faith is necessary at least in order for the healing to have the deeper meaning of being saved.

Verse 34: In 10:52, Jesus tells Bartimaeus: “Go; your faith has made you well.” [NJBC]

Verse 34: “be healed of your disease”: Jesus promises her a permanent cure from her disease. The word translated “disease” (mastix) has a connotation of punishment for sin: it also means scourge or whip. Mastix is also found in the Septuagint translations of Psalm 38:11 and 2 Maccabees 7:37, and in Mark 3:10 (including Gentiles), 5:29, 34 (a woman, of menstrual haemorrhages). The NRSV translates it in various ways. [JBC] [Lorinda Hoover]

Verse 37: “Peter, James, and John”: They are also present at the Transfiguration (see 9:2) and at Gethsemane (see 14:33). [NJBC]

Verse 39: “not dead but sleeping”: The question arises: was she in a coma or unconscious? Today, we would be sceptical; we would expect a physician to be present as an expert witness; however, in the context of Jesus’ time, this was not necessary (or even considerable): a miracle (something beyond human understanding) is happening. Even today, for someone to come out of a coma, or to become conscious, is (at best) uncommon. (Hypnosis is an exception, but there the person who hypnotized her would also command her to wake up.) Jesus has superior insight; he does what is super-natural; he heals against all (or, at least, most) odds, and against the wisdom of those present. The disciples learn that he is able to work miracles – to perform superhuman acts. In my own experience, God still does this today. [NJBC]

Verse 39: Professional mourners, hired to weep, would only be present if the family was convinced that the daughter is dead. [NOAB]

Verse 40: In taking Jairus’ daughter (a corpse) by the hand, Jesus makes himself ritually unclean. Numbers 19:11-13 states: “Those who touch the dead body of any human being shall be unclean seven days ... All who touch a corpse, the body of a human being who has died, and do not purify themselves, defile the tabernacle of the LORD; such persons shall be cut off from Israel ...”. [CAB]

Verse 41: “Talitha cum”: NJBC notes that the written form of Jesus’ words would be Talitha qoumi. He says that by Jesus’ time the final i might not have been pronounced. For other quotations in Aramaic in Mark see 3:17, 7:11, 34, 11:9-10, 14:36 and 15:22, 34.

Verse 43: “overcome with amazement”: The key Greek words here are existemi (“overcome”) and ekstasis (“amazement”). The word existemi is also used in 3:21, where Jesus’ family accuses him of insanity: “he has gone out of his mind”. [JBC] The two Greek words are related, as the King James Version shows. Ekstasis is qualified by an adjective: megale, meaning great. [Lorinda Hoover]

Verse 43b: To tell her family to give her something to eat is a practical thing to do, but why so soon? I suggest that there is a foreshadowing here of the Risen Christ eating: she is really alive, as he will be.

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