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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Sixth Sunday after Pentecost - July 8, 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 5:1-5,9-10

Verse 1: “Hebron” is 40 km (25 miles) south of Jerusalem – where Abraham first settled in Palestine.

Verse 3: “king”: This title had diverse meanings in antiquity. Here, he is little more than the leader of the tribal chiefs.

Comments: Abner: 1 Samuel 14:50-51 tells us that Abner was eligible to succeed Saul, through a collateral line of descent.

In 3:6-10, Ishbaal accuses Abner of having sexual intercourse with one of Saul’s concubines. This leads Abner to desert Ishbaal.

Comments, Paragraph 2: there being no acceptable successor to Saul: One of Saul’s grandsons still survived: Mephibosheth; because he was crippled (see 4:4-5), he was not considered a suitable successor. (That even two sons were alive at the beginning of 2 Samuel appears to contradict 1 Samuel 31:7; perhaps those sons of Saul who fought the Philistines were killed – or perhaps the two stories are from different sources.)

It is likely that Saul’s kingdom was limited to the east central part of Palestine.

Verses 6-9: 1 Chronicles 11:4-9 gives another account of the capture of Jerusalem. From Judges 1:8-9, it appears that Jerusalem was captured much earlier. [NOAB]

Verse 6: “the blind and the lame”: The Jebusites may have said that they would defend the city to the last man.

Verse 8: “Jebusites”: Actually, the Canaanites were “the inhabitants of the land” when the Israelites crossed the Jordan under Joshua’s leadership. The Jebusites were in Jerusalem.

Verse 9: “Millo”: The Millo is also mentioned in 1 Chronicles 11:8: “He [David] built the city all around, from the Millo in complete circuit; and Joab repaired the rest of the city”. In 1 Kings 9:15, Solomon used forced labour to build “his own house, the Millo and the wall of Jerusalem, Hazor, Megiddo, Gezer”. [NOAB]

Psalm 48

Verse 1: “His holy mountain”: Zion is referred to as God’s “holy hill” in Psalms 2:6 and 3:4. [JBC]

Verse 2: “great King”: This was a title of the Persian kings (in an earlier century).

Verse 7: “east wind ... ships of Tarshish”: The Phoenicians were the seafarers of the time; probably they alone had ships which would make it to Tarshish (possibly in southern Spain). The prevailing wind on the Phoenician coast was from the west, so an east wind only blew during a storm. Israel’s only port was on the Gulf of Aqaba. [JBC] It is also possible that Tarshish is Tarsus, where Paul was later born.

Three other interpretations of this psalm are possible; two of which depend on Ezekiel 38:13; “Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish and all its young warriors will say to you, ‘Have you come to seize spoil? Have you assembled your horde to carry off plunder, to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to seize a great amount of booty?’”. Both say that God is inheriting the territory of other gods. Tarshish is mentioned both here and in Ezekiel.

The three interpretations are:

  • A historical one: One scholar links “in the far north” (v. 2) to Mons Casius; however, while he claims it is in Syria, the OBA says that it is on a narrow land-bridge east of the mouth of the Nile. Exodus 14:21 says that, during the escape from the Egyptians, a “strong east wind” blew all night. In an area where the prevailing wind is from the west, such a wind might have closed a gap in the land-bridge temporarily. The land-bridge is narrow enough that a few hundred Israelites might well have escaped from an element of the Egyptian army. This would explain why historians cannot account for the Exodus: they are looking for several thousand Israelites migrating from Egypt to Israel, when only hundreds were involved. For today’s psalm, the message is one of deliverance, rescue, and refuge.
  • Another historical one: The kings of the earth assemble (v. 4). They come from Egypt (Mons Casius), Persia (“great King”, v. 2) and Phoenicia (“Tarshish”, v. 7): all the known world. The “ LORD of hosts” (v. 8) is the universal god. “Zion” (v. 12), of which God makes a circuit, includes all the known world.
  • An apocalyptic one: Ezekiel 38 is a vision of the end times. In the last days, when the heathen attack God’s city, they will be routed. God will be acknowledged by all as victor before David’s kingdom is re-established. This makes Psalm 48 also apocalyptic.

The next psalm also includes both personal and community-oriented verses.

2 Corinthians 12:2-10

Verses 1,7: “revelations”: For revelations (plural), see also Luke 1:22; for revelation (singular), see Acts 26:19; Romans 2:5; 8:19, 1 Corinthians 1:7, 14:6, 26; Galatians 1:12; 2:2; 1 Peter 1:7; Revelation 1:1, 15:4. [CAB]

Verse 1: “of the Lord”: Probably a genitive of origin, so granted by the Lord. [NJBC]

Verse 2: “I know a person in Christ”: Paul speaks of himself in the third person because he is unwilling to claim a private religious experience as proof of an apostolic mandate. [NJBC]

Verse 2: “fourteen years ago”: NJBC believes that Letter B of 2 Corinthians (Chapters 10-13) was written in 55 AD. On this basis, the revelation to Paul occurred in 41 AD, i.e. roughly mid way between his conversion and his arrival in Corinth. The precision is intended to underline the reality of the experience.

Verse 2: “third heaven”: In Jewish cosmology the number of heavens varied: three and seven are common. For the three-heaven cosmology, they are the earth’s atmosphere, the region of the stars, and where God dwells and is seen as he truly is.

Verses 2,4: “caught up”: Such experiences mentioned in:

  • 1 Thessalonians 4:17: “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever”,
  • Wisdom of Solomon 4:11: “They were caught up so that evil might not change their understandings”
  • 1 Enoch 39:3-4: “And in those days a whirlwind carried me off from the earth, And set me down at the end of the heavens. And there I saw another vision, the dwelling-places of the holy, And the resting-places of the righteous”.

The agent is God. The journey to another world is a common theme in apocalyptic literature. [NJBC]

Verses 3-4: Nothing else is known of this experience, unless it is that referred to in Galatians 1:15-16 (“God ... was pleased to reveal his Son to me”) and 1 Corinthians 15:8 (“Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”). [NOAB] To me, both of these verses refer to Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus: see Acts 9:1-20.

Verse 4: “Paradise”: The heavenly realm; often mentioned in Jewish apocalyptic literature. There are many references to paradise in the Apocalypse of Moses.

Verse 4: “things that are not to be told”: The Greek is arreta remata: a technical term for the formularies and teachings in Greek mystery cults, which were not to be revealed to the uninitiated. Daniel 12:4 says, in a translation of the Septuagint translation: “And thou, Daniel, close the words, and seal the book, to the time of the end; until many are taught, and knowledge is increased”. [BLXX] Revelation 10:4 says: “I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down’”.

Verse 4: Paul was forbidden to express the unutterable. This could simply be in conformity to the conventions of sealed revelation (see Daniel 12:4; Revelation 10:4; 13:2-3), but it could also be a way of showing the irrelevance of the experience in apostolic terms. In 1 Corinthians 14:18-19, he writes: “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you; nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue”. [NJBC] Several books, including some in the Old Testament, speak of sealing a document until the end-times. See, for example, Revelation 5:1.

Verse 5: “on my own behalf I will not boast”: See also 1 Corinthians 1:22-2:2: “For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, ...”. Paul deserves no credit for these “revelations” so he will not speak of them as his own. [NOAB]

Verse 6: “what is seen in me or heard from me”: The only authentic test of an apostle is the extent to which he manifests Christ, primarily in comportment (4:10-11) and secondarily in speech (2:17; 12:19; 13:3). [NJBC]

Verse 7: “thorn was given me in the flesh”: The verb is in the present subjunctive, so the condition is chronic. Some possibilities are a chronic physical ailment (Galatians 4:13-14), bouts of anxiety (11:28), and harassment and persecution (Galatians 5:11). The possibility which to me joins all of these is stuttering. NJBC says that this is widely interpreted as a psychic or physical aliment, which, in Jewish tradition, was caused by a demon or by “Satan”. The two phrases, however, are not causally related but stand in apposition, suggesting an external personal source of affliction – which is confirmed by the use of “thorns” in the Old Testament (for example, in Numbers 33:55) to mean enemies. The allusion could be to the type of persecution evoked by the catalogues of sufferings, but the link with 11:14-15 (“... it is not strange if his [Satan’s] ministers also disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness ...”) suggests that Paul has in mind hostility coming from within his own communities. [NJBC]

Verse 8: “I appealed”: the tense of the verb in Greek indicates that he no longer appeals to God. [NJBC]

Verse 9: “is made perfect”: i.e. becomes effectively present. 1 John 4:12 says “... if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us”. [NJBC]

Verse 9: “dwell”: The Greek word, episkenoun, is also used in John 1:14: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us”. [NJBC]

Verse 10: “whenever I am weak, then I am strong”: NJBC offers powerful for “strong”. Paul means that his apostolic weaknesses disclose the power accorded to him for his ministry. In 3:5-6, he says: “Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant ...”.

Verses 11-13: Paul’s fool’s speech has begun in 11:1: “I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me!”. He repeats his justification for boasting. [NJBC]

Verse 11: “these super-apostles”: i.e. Paul’s critics, his rivals, who claim to be superior to him., who “desire proof that Christ is speaking in me” (13:3).

Verse 12: “signs and wonders and mighty works”: It seems that, in order to judge between Paul and his rivals, the Christians of Corinth have set up several criteria, one of which is the ability to work miracles. Paul takes no personal credit for those he has performed: they “were performed” (by God). “Signs and wonders” are often combined in the Old Testament (see Exodus 7:3; Deuteronomy 34:11; Isaiah 8:18); the three appear together in Acts 2:22; 2 Thessalonians 2:9 and Hebrews 2:4. [NJBC]

Verse 12: A reference to apostolic miracles: in Romans 15:19, Paul speaks of a way Christ works through him: “by the power of signs and wonders”. See also Galatians 3:5. [NOAB]

Verse 13: Recall 1 Corinthians 1:2, where in greeting the Christians at Corinth Paul is careful to remind them that they are not the only Christian community! Paul’s comportment in Corinth was the same as in all other churches – except that he did not place financial demands on them. [NJBC]

Mark 6:1-13

The parallels are:

Verses Matthew Luke
1-6a 13:53-58 4:16-30
6b-13 10:1, 9-11, 14 9:1-6

Verses 1-6a: These verses summarize some of the themes developed thus far: discipleship and faith, Jesus as teacher and miracle worker, and the misunderstanding and rejection of Jesus. In Luke, this incident occurs at the outset of Jesus’ public ministry. [NJBC]

Verse 1: “that place”: i.e. near the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. See 5:21: “... to the other side ...”. [NJBC]

Verse 1: “hometown”: 3:19 says “he went home”. Is this Nazareth or “Capernaum” (see 2:1)? Attempting to track Jesus’ movements is interesting. 3:7 says “Jesus departed with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude ... followed him ...”

  • If this is Nazareth, he (and the multitude) walk at least 25 km (15 miles) to the sea. He then walks 25 km “home” (3:19), and back to the sea in 4:1.
  • If this is Capernaum, they walk a short distance to the sea, the “mountain” (3:13) is near Capernaum, and 3:20-35 takes place there. Capernaum is on the “sea” (Galilee) so he teaches near Capernaum. If “home” is Capernaum, “his family” (see 3:21) either travels from Nazareth (as part of the crowd?) or has moved to Capernaum.

Verse 2: “synagogue”: This may be the same synagogue as in 1:21-28 (“... A new teaching - with authority!”) and 3:1-6 (Jesus heals a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath).

Verse 2: “‘Where did this man get all this? ...”: Jesus’ astonishing teaching and the reports of his “deeds of power” (healings and exorcisms) do not fit with his humble occupation as a “carpenter” (v. 3). [CAB]

Verse 3: “carpenter”: The Greek word, tekton, can mean carpenter, woodworker, and also one who builds with stone. Both techniques would be required for building in the highlands of Galilee and Judea. [BlkMk] In the Septuagint translations of 1 Samuel 13:19 and Isaiah 44:12, it refers to an ironworker or craftsman in iron. [Lorinda Hoover] One commentator says that Origen, writing in the third century, says that nowhere in the New Testament is Jesus referred to as a carpenter, so “the carpenter, son of Mary” may be not be original.

Verse 3: “son of Mary”: This may be an insult: people were known by their father’s name, not their mother’s. [NJBC]

Verse 3: For Jesus’ brothers and sisters, see also Matthew 12:46-50, Luke 8:19-20, John 2:12, 7:3, 5; Acts 1:14; 1 Corinthians 9:5. It is possible that the reference may be to relatives other than siblings. [NOAB]

Verse 3: “James” was later leader of the Jerusalem church . This James is also mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:7; Acts 12:17; Galatians 1:19; 2:9.

Verse 3: “offence”: The Greek word is skandalizw, a verb. The related noun is skandalon. JBC says that by the time this was written, these words had become technical terms for the effect of Christ’s death on Israel: see Romans 9:33; 1 Corinthians 1:23; Galatians 5:11. However, Paul also uses skandalon to warn against those who create stumbling blocks to the faith, for example in Romans 14:13; 16:17. In Matthew, this is always the sense: see Matthew 13:41 (“causes of sin”); 16:23; 18:7. [Lorinda Hoover]

Verse 4: A similar proverb is also in Gospel of Thomas 31: “Jesus said, ‘No prophet is welcome on his home turf; doctors don't cure those who know them’”. Jesus implies his place in the tradition of the “prophets”, whose message from God is rejected by their own people. See also Matthew 13:53-58 (Jesus teaches in the synagogue in his “hometown”). [CAB]

Verses 5-6: Jesus requires faith on the part of those who seek healing for themselves or for others (although there seem to be a few exceptions, e.g John 5:13). [NOAB]

Verse 6: “unbelief”: By the time this was written, apistia had come to symbolize the disbelief of Israel. Paul uses this technical term in this sense in Romans 3:3 (“faithlessness”) and Romans 11:30.

Verse 6: “Then he went about among the villages teaching”: This can be taken with v. 6a or with v. 7. If read with the former, Mark is telling us that Jesus’ rejection in his “hometown” caused him to teach elsewhere; if read with vv. 7-13, it marks a new period in Jesus’ Galilean ministry - one in which he shared his preaching and healing with his disciples. [NJBC]

This dramatic and tragic end of Jesus’ Galilean ministry foreshadows the greater rejection of Israel. From now on, the twelve will play a more active role, in anticipation of the mission to the Gentiles.

Verses 7-15: Jesus invites the disciples to live intimately with him, adopting his way of life, as well as his message. Spiritual strength comes from the community. He invites the disciples share in:

  • his “authority” over malign, destructive forces (vv. 7-9),
  • in his refusal to engage in self-seeking (v. 10) and violence (v. 11),
  • his message (vv. 12, 14-15), and
  • in his sympathy for human suffering (v. 13). [NOAB]

Verse 7: “two by two”: There are three examples in Acts:

Verse 7: Note 9:18, where the disciples are unable to cast out a demon. [NJBC]

Verse 8: “take nothing for their journey ...”: Because the disciples’ task is urgent, and requires trust in God. [NJBC] [CAB]

Verse 8: “except a staff”: The versions in Matthew and Luke prohibit taking a staff. Either Mark shows a moderating tendency (something uncharacteristic of Mark) or Mark has misread the Aramaic original: the Aramaic words for except and not are much alike. [NJBC]

Verse 8: “no bread”: Jesus himself is spiritually the source of bread: see also 6:35-44 (Feeding of the Five Thousand) and 8:1-9 (Feeding of the Four Thousand).

Verse 8: “no bag, no money in their belts”: Financial security is not permitted. A bag held much more money than a belt. [NJBC] The bag may be the knapsack, the beggar’s bag, that Cynic preachers carried, but such a bag was also carried by shepherds. [BlkMk]

Verse 9: “wear sandals”: Matthew 10:10 and Luke 10:4 prohibit taking shoes. Perhaps an extra pair is meant, for walking barefoot in rocky Palestine would be difficult. [NJBC] An extra tunic is prohibited (v. 9). BlkMk suggests that Mark’s version indicates that a long journey is in mind while in Luke, it is short journeys.

Verse 9: “tunics”: chiton: a short-sleeved inner garment of knee length, held in at the waist by a girdle. [NOAB]

Verse 10: Do not waste time seeking better accommodation than you initially find. Travelling missionaries depended on local hospitality. They presented problems for local communities, as Didache 11:4-9 shows: “But concerning the apostles and prophets, so do ye according to the ordinance of the Gospel. Let every apostle, when he cometh to you, be received as the Lord; but he shall not abide more than a single day, or if there be need, a second likewise; but if he abide three days, he is a false prophet. And when he departeth let the apostle receive nothing save bread, until he findeth shelter; but if he ask money, he is a false prophet.” [Lightfoot ] [NJBC]

Verse 11: When local hospitality is not offered, take symbolic action, not violent reprisal; in so doing, you will provoke thought among the townspeople. (Inns were a rarity.) [NJBC] BlkMk sees this verse as saying do not waste time evangelizing those who are not receptive. When you have done your duty in giving warning, you are free from further responsibility for the fate of your hearers. See also Luke 10:10-16 (“... whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you...”); Acts 13:51 (Paul and Barnabas are persecuted in Antioch of Pisidia); Ezekiel 38:1-9.

Verse 12: 1:14-15 says: “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’” [NOAB] Mark’s summary of the disciples’ preaching echoes his earlier summary of Jesus’ preaching.

Verse 13: Anointing with oil was commonly associated with healing in antiquity. [NJBC] See also James 5:14; Isaiah 1:6; Luke 10:34 (the good Samaritan). [NOAB] Olive oil was regularly used as a remedy in the ancient world. In Luke 10:34, it is used in treating the wounds of the man who fell among bandits. James 5:14 says that “the elders of the church” (Greek: presbuterioi) to pray over the sick person and anoint him or her. Mark may already think of this act as having a sacramental character. [BlkMk]

Before the days of mass media (and Internet), religious and philosophical ideas were principally propagated by travelling missionaries. [NJBC]

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