Comments

Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Ninth Sunday after Pentecost - July 29, 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 11:1-15

This is the start of an intimate portrait of the domestic and political troubles of the royal family and the court, with all their sordidness and tragic consequences. The military history serves only as a framework in which to place personal episodes in the private and public life of the king. The writer does not omit the sin of David with Bathsheba (as does 1 Chronicles 20:1-3) or gloss over it (as in 1 Samuel 13:14). Its consequences are so much a part of the story that follows that the cause must be clearly established. [NOAB]

The superscription of Psalm 51 says: “... A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” [NOAB]

Verse 3: “Eliam” and “Uriah” are listed as warriors of David in 23:8-39. Uriah is called “a hero” in 23:39. A Hittite in Saul’s service, Ahimelech, is mentioned in 1 Samuel 26:6. In Genesis 23:7, Abraham bows to “the Hittites, the people of the land”. Joshua 1:4 says that part of the Promised Land is “the land of the Hittites”. The Hittite Empire lasted until about 1200 BC. When it broke up, its subjects were scattered around the Middle East. The few who remained in the time of David adopted Hebrew names, as did Uriah. His name, which is Hebrew, means Yahweh is a light. [NOAB] [CAB]

Verse 4: “purifying herself”: See Leviticus 15:19-24 for the law. If a man lay with her during this period, he too would be rendered ritually unclean. [NOAB]

Verses 6-13: These verses would amuse ancient audiences. [NJBC]

Verse 8: “wash your feet”: In Genesis 18:4, when three divine messengers (men) appear to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, he invites them to wash their feet, as did Lot to the two angels at Sodom (see Genesis 19:2). See also Genesis 24:32 (Abraham’s servant is welcomed by the patriarch’s kinsfolk). [NOAB] In our reading, the broad meaning of David’s words are made clear by Uriah’s words in v. 11: “to lie with my wife.” [JBC]

Verse 9: In 1 Samuel 21:4-5, David’s warriors are ritually clean (“holy”) so for them to eat holy bread is acceptable; they “have kept themselves from women.” Continence was required of soldiers consecrated for war by religious sanction. [NOAB]

Psalm 14

Psalm 53 is almost identical. Psalm 14 uses both “God” and “ LORD” (Yahweh); Psalm 53 uses “God” exclusively - so Psalm 14 appears to be the southern (Yahwist) version and Psalm 53 the northern (Elohist) version. [NOAB]

12:1-4 also speaks of total moral decay in the world.

Verse 1: “Fools”: Fool and its cognates has a moral implication in Wisdom literature. The wise person is not just smart, but morally correct. But the fool fails to cultivate wisdom, and thus fails morally. To NOAB, “fools” ignore the sovereignty of God.

Verse 3: Paul quotes this verse in Romans 3:10-12 in saying that all people, both Jews and Gentiles, are sinners. [NJBC]

Verse 7: Perhaps this verse was written after the Exile. Some scholars think the rest of the psalm may be earlier. [NJBC]

Ephesians 3:14-21

Verses 1-21: A prayer for wisdom, interrupted by a parenthesis on Paul’s mission to the Gentiles (vv. 2-13). [NOAB]

After v. 1, Paul digresses (v. 2-12). He continues with his intended thinking in v. 14. This passage depends on Colossians 1:23-29. [NJBC]

Verse 1: “Paul” was a “prisoner” because he had aroused the hostility of the Jews by advocating the equality of the “Gentiles” in the Church. See Acts 21:21, 28 for hostility towards him in Jerusalem. See also Acts 22:21-22. [NOAB]

Verses 2-13 are a parenthesis on Paul’s role in the revelation of the mystery. [NJBC]

Verse 2: “for surely you have already heard”: Literally if indeed you have heard, but in the sense that they have surely already heard. [NJBC]

Verse 3: “the mystery was made known to me by revelation ... the mystery of Christ”: This notion is also found in Colossians 1:25-26: “I became its [the Church’s] servant according to God's commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints”. The word “mystery” here (but not in 5:23) refers to God’s age-long purpose, now disclosed to his chosen, to call Gentiles as well as Jews to share in Christ’s redemptive work. [NOAB] See also 1QpHab (Qumran Habakkuk Pesher) 7:4-5; 1QH (Hymns) 9:21 (Vermes: 1:21). [NJBC]

Verse 3: “by revelation”: The author writes in 1:17: “ pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him”. See also Acts 9:3-4 (Christ appears to Paul on the road to Damascus). In Galatians 1:12, Paul writes that he “did not receive it [the gospel] from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ”. [NOAB]

Verse 3: “as I wrote above ...”: i.e. in reference to the mystery of Christ mentioned in 1:9 and 2:13-17; however, some scholars see this as a reference to all the letters of Paul, so to them Ephesians was written by Paul. [NJBC]

Verse 3: “in a few words”: The “words” are 1:8b-10: “With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth”. [NOAB]

Verse 4: “understanding”: As stated in v. 6. [NJBC]

Verse 5: “In former generations”: i.e. in Old Testament times.

Verse 5: “holy apostles”: In Colossians 1:26 says “the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints”. The author wishes to recall the solid foundation on which the church is built (see 2:20), and therefore underscores the role of apostles and prophets. [NJBC]

Verse 8: “the very least”: In 1 Corinthians 15:9, Paul writes “I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God”. [CAB]

Verse 9: “God who created”: At creation, God established his providential control of the cosmos, and only in the present era are his designs becoming known. [NJBC]

Verse 10: “rulers and authorities”: God’s wisdom put an end to their control (see 1QS (Qumran Rule of the Community) 4:18-23) through subjugation of all things to Christ.

Verse 14: “bow my knees”: The normal Jewish posture for prayer was standing (see Mark 11:25 and Luke 18:11, 13). See also Romans 11:4; 14:11, Philippians 2:10. In Isaiah 45:23, bowing the knee is a token of homage to the universal king.

The prayer completes the circle: from God as the source of life to God as the goal of humanity.

Verse 15: “family in heaven”: One scholar sees a Gnostic influence here. They believed that families or generations in heaven controlled the universe.

Verse 15: “name”: God, the creator of all the families of beings, established his power and control over all creation in the act of naming them: see Psalm 147:4, Isaiah 40:26, Genesis 2:19-20. [NJBC]

Verse 18: “height and depth”: Paul uses these words in Romans 8:39. Some think that use of dimensions is as in Ezekiel 42; 47; 48, where dimensions of the Temple, and of Jerusalem, are spoken of at length. Similar dimensional data is given in Revelation 21:9-27. However, in the context of Ephesians, they may describe God’s plan of salvation or, more likely, the love of Christ – mentioned in the preceding and following verses. [NJBC]

Verse 17: “Christ may dwell”: Usually Paul refers to the Holy Spirit as dwelling in people, but to him, the Risen Christ and the Holy Spirit are interchangeable in Romans 8:9-11 – because the Risen Jesus is the source of the Spirit (Acts 2:23).

Verse 21: “the church” and “Christ Jesus” are necessary complements of each other. [NOAB]

John 6:1-21

The parallels are Matthew 14:13-27, Mark 6:32-51 and Luke 9:10-17. Jesus walking on the water is not found in Luke.

Some scholars question the order of chapters 4, 5 and 6 as we have them. Geographically, the sequence should be 4 then 6, then 5.

In 2 Kings 4:42-44, Elisha performs a similar feeding miracle. The gift of manna is recorded in Exodus 16 and Numbers 11. [CAB]

Verse 1: “After this” and the fact that the verbs in v. 2 are in the imperfect imply that there had been an interval during which Jesus had performed many “signs” (v. 2) not recorded in this gospel. [BlkJn]

Verse 1: “Sea of Tiberias”: Herod Antipas founded the city of Tiberias about 20 AD, to honour Tiberias Caesar; the lake was renamed after the city. [NOAB]

Verse 3: Unlike Mark, John does not tell us that the hour is late and the people are distressed. [NJBC] These details are not pertinent to his purpose of writing the gospel.

Verse 3: “the mountain”: BlkJn offers hill country.

Verse 4: “the Passover, the festival of the Jews”: Either John is writing for a Gentile audience unfamiliar with Judaism, or the word Passover was also used in Christian circles. This is the second Passover mentioned in this gospel. The first is mentioned in 2:13. [BlkJn]

Verses 5-7: Moses’ question to God and God’s answer are in Numbers 11:13-23.

Verse 7: “Philip”: He is also mentioned in 1:43-51 (his calling); 12:20-22 (“Greeks”, Gentiles, wish to see Jesus); 14:1-11 (Jesus is the way to the Father). [BlkJn]

Verse 7: “Six months’ wages”: Literally two hundred denarii. The normal pay for a labourer was one denarius per day. [JBC]

Verse 9: Andrew’s resourcefulness is only found in John. It is a rare insight into the personality of a disciple. [JBC]

Verse 11: A scholar suggests that John omits the breaking of the bread because Jesus’ legs were not broken on the cross. 19:32-33 tells us: “Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs”.

Verse 11: “took ... given thanks ... distributed”: This is the eucharistic language of the Church. [NOAB] The word eucharistesas occurs in the stories of the Last Supper: see Mark 14:23; Matthew 26:26; Luke 22:17, 19. See also 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Matthew 15:36; Didache 9. [BlkJn]

Verse 12: “were satisfied”: Literally were filled. [BlkJn]

Verse 12: “so that nothing may be lost”: The careful avoidance of any waste of the bread was natural for a Jew, but also characteristic of the Eucharist. Only Gentiles would let dogs eat from the table: see Mark 7:28 (the Syrophoenician or Canaanite woman) and Matthew 15:27. [BlkJn]

Verse 13: “they gathered them up”: An act of reverential economy towards a gift from God. [NOAB] In Didache 9:4, the same word is used for gathering the eucharistic bread. This is a symbol of the gathering of the church.

Didache 9:4 says “As this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains and being gathered together became one, so may Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy kingdom; for Thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever and ever.”

Verse 13: “twelve baskets”: One for each disciple (assuming all were present). [NOAB] [JBC]

Verse 14: “the prophet”: Deuteronomy 18:18 actually refers to an order of prophets. People believed that the line of prophets that had ended with Malachi in the 400s BC would be restored before the end of the era.

1QS (Rule of the Qumran Community) 9:10-11 says: “They [the men of the Community] should not depart from any counsel of the law ... until the prophet comes...” [Martinez]

CD (Damascus Document) 6:8-11 says: “And the nobles of the people are those who have arrived to dig the well with the staves that the sceptre decreed, to walk in them throughout the whole age of wickedness ... until there arises he who teaches justice at the end of days. ...” [Martinez]

Verse 14: “the prophet”: The crowd may have been thinking of Elijah, whose return had been prophesied in Malachi 4:5, but we cannot expect theological precision from an excited crowd. [BlkJn]

Verse 15: “make him king”: The true nature of Jesus’ kingship is only revealed at his trial. [NJBC] The devil offers to make him king during his temptation in the wilderness: see Luke 4:1-13 and Matthew 4:1-11. See also 18:33-37 (Pilate questions Jesus) and 19:12-15.

Verse 15: “he withdrew”: The fourth sign ends like the third (see 5:13), with Jesus quietly leaving the scene, conscious that he had failed to produce the effect he intended. [BlkJn]

Verse 15: “by himself”: Did the disciples share in the people’s enthusiasm? Matthew 14:22 and Mark 6:45 both imply that Jesus forced the disciples to cross the lake again immediately.

To BlkJn, the misunderstanding of Jesus’ action marks the end of his attempt to lead a mass movement into the Kingdom of God. The alternative course which he now begins to follow, and which led to the Cross, will be foreshadowed in the discourse, 6:26ff.

Verse 17: “dark”: This symbolizes the lost and bewildered state of the disciples, “when Jesus had not come to them”. Recall 1:5: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it”. Nicodemus comes “by night” (3:2). In 8:12, Jesus says: “‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life’”. See also 11:10; 12:35-36; 13:30 (Judas goes out into the night). [BlkJn]

Verse 18: The topography of the land around the Sea of Galilee renders it subject to sudden storms. [JBC]

Verse 19: “Jesus walking on the sea”: This recalls God’s control of the waters in the act of creation (see Genesis 1:1-10) and the deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt by the miraculous crossing of the sea. For God’s power over the sea, see also Psalms 74:12-15; 93:3-4. It was through God’s control over the sea that the first Israel emerged (see Exodus 14:19-15:21; Psalms 77:16-20; 107; Isaiah 51:10-11). John implies that Jesus is the new Moses; in the following verses, he is seen to be greater than Moses, for he has the power to bring forth the new Israel. [JBC] The synoptic gospels emphasize the disciples’ lack of faith; John does not.

Verse 19: “on the sea”: BlkJn offers by the lake on the basis that the same preposition and construction is found in v. 21 (where he translates “reached the land” as got by the land) – so to him this is not a miracle: Jesus returns towards Capernaum by land while the disciples travel by boat. He argues that John used a source independent from Mark (where in 6:48 this construction does mean on the lake - NRSV: “on the sea”). BlkJn sees a pattern to this gospel in which the sign at Cana, a miracle, corresponds to the Feeding of the Five Thousand while the Cleansing of the Temple, not a miracle, corresponds to this story.

Verse 19: “terrified”: BlkJn offers sailed for “rowed”. The disciples are “terrified” because they are off a lee shore, and likely to be driven on to it.

Verse 20: “It is I”: It being dark, Jesus may be merely identifying himself: the disciples would know his voice. But it is never safe to assume that John does not intend a deeper meaning, so perhaps we should see here another instance of Jesus identifying himself theologically, as the Logos. [BlkJn]

Verse 21: The disciples are lost at sea, and probably far off course (per the other gospels) but after Jesus appears, the boat “immediately” reaches “the land to which they were going”. Probably this is another miracle. [JBC]

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