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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost - September 9, 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.

Proverbs 22:1-2,8-9,22-23

Some proverbs which typify the wisdom tradition:

  • “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (9:10)
  • “The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility goes before honour” (15:33)
  • “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (1:7)

In Chapter 8, personified Wisdom invites all to partake of the benefits she offers: prudence, intelligence, truth, discretion, and hatred of arrogance and evil. She leads those who heed her to honour and justice.

Per 3:19-20, Wisdom was God’s agent in creating the universe: controlling the waters to bring order to the cosmos, separating land from sea and heaven from earth, controlling precipitation for the growth of life on earth. Per John 1:1-4, the role of Wisdom in creation is echoed in the function of the “Word”.

These are proverbs dealing with social and economic status: integrity and generosity are esteemed above wealth.

The first two pairs of verses are from the first Solomonic collection of proverbs; the last pair is from the Sayings of the Wise. Vv. 17ff appear to be based on Amenemope’s Instructions. He was an Egyptian scribe of about 1500 BC: wise sayings are ageless and universal. The author has rethought and reworked the Instructions to fit Judaic tradition. Note “thirty” in v. 20: Instructions has thirty chapters. The parallel to v. 17 in the Instructions is: “Give thy ears, hear what is said, give thy heart to understand them. To put them in your heart is worthwhile.” [JBC]

Verse 2: Our common bond as creatures of God supercedes all distinctions. [NJBC] Note 29:13: “The poor and the oppressor have this in common: the LORD gives light to the eyes of both”. [NOAB]

Verse 4: The clearest and classic statement of the wise person’s concept of happiness. [JBC]

Verse 5: There are two ways: that of the “perverse” and that of the “cautious”. Training in wisdom helps one to stay on the right way. [NJBC]

Verse 7: Warnings about the power of money. See also vv. 26-27 and 6:1-5. Deuteronomy 15:2-4 requires that debts owed by fellow Israelites be forgiven every seven years. [NJBC] [JBC]

Verse 10: “a scoffer”: The REB has the insolent.

Verse 11: A “pure heart” and gracious speech are qualities that attract a king’s attention. The translation is uncertain. [NJBC]

Verse 12: God’s providence vindicates truth and destroys lies. God is omniscient. 15:3 says: “The eyes of the LORDare in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good”. [NJBC]

Verse 13: The lazy person takes refuge in the slightest excuse and exaggerates all difficulty. [JBC]

Verse 14: Once enslaved by seductive speech, it is almost impossible to escape a woman’s grasp (“deep pit”, a possible allusion to Sheol). [NJBC] To JBC, the “mouth of a loose woman” is flattery.

Verse 16: The Masoretic Text is ambiguous. This is possibly an oxymoron: the amassing of wealth leads to poverty. 11:24 says “Some give freely, yet grow all the richer; others withhold what is due, and only suffer want”. See also 28:8. [NJBC] JBC suggests: the person who oppresses the poor does so to enrich himself; the person who gives to the rich is only impoverishing himself.

22:17-24:22: The teacher speaks to his “son” or student. “The words of the wise” is the title of a new collection of proverbs. To this point, the text is isolated couplets and impersonal observations. This section is given in strophes of four to eight lines each. [JBC]

Verses 19-20: Admonition and knowledge calls for trust in the Lord. [JBC]

Psalm 125

There are fifteen ascent psalms: 120-134.

NOAB sees this as a prayer for deliverance from national enemies.

Verse 1: The stability of “Mount Zion” is a central theme of the Zion psalms. 46:5 says: “God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns”. The motifs of trusting in Yahweh and possessing the land (v. 3) also occur together in 37:3. [NJBC]

Verse 3: “land allotted”: The land was apportioned by lot: see Joshua 15:1; 17:1; 21:38. For the possession of the land by the godly, see also 25:12-14 and 37:29. [NJBC]

Verse 5: “Peace be upon Israel”: This phrase is also found at the end of another ascent psalm, 128:6, and is echoed in 122:6-8. [NJBC]

James 2:1-10,(11-13),14-17

Verse 1: “brothers and sisters”: Literally brothers. This term is used often in this letter. Adopted from Judaism, this was a normal form of Christian address. [NJBC]

Verse 1: “favouritism”: Partiality is a translation of the same Greek word, prosopolempsia. Romans 2:11 says: “For God knows no partiality.” Prosopolempsia is the gracious act by which someone lifts up a person’s face by showing him a favour; it is not found in God. See also Job 32:21; Luke 20:21; Mark 12:14; Matthew 22:16; Acts 10:34 (Peter’s speech at Cornelius’ house); Ephesians 6:9. [CAB]

Verse 1: “glorious Lord”: Literally: our Lord of glory. [JBC]

Verses 2-4: This example may not allude to a particular incident. Such examples are characteristic of the rhetorical style of the diatribe. [NJBC]

Verse 2: “assembly”: literally synagogue. [NOAB] The author begins his exhortation (1:1) with “... To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion”. Yet this is clearly a Christian document as can be seen by the allusions to Jesus’ teachings. Perhaps his first readers were Jewish Christians. [NJBC] This may be the only place in the New Testament where the word synagogue is used with reference to the Christian assembly.

Verse 3: “seat”: In Matthew 23:6, Jesus says of scribes and Pharisees: “They love to have the place of honour at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues”. See also Mark 12:39; Luke 11:43; 20:46. [NJBC]

Verse 4: “distinctions”: In Romans 3:22-25, Paul says that there is no distinction between Jewish and Gentile Christians. [CAB]

Verse 4: “become judges”: Paul cautions against judging others in Romans 14:4, 10-13.

Verses 5-13: These verses present arguments against partiality.

Verse 5: Jesus states God’s preference for the poor in Luke 6:20 (the first Beatitude). See also 1 Corinthians 1:26-29. [NOAB]

Verse 5: “chosen the poor in the world”: This may refer to God’s choice of Israel, an idea suggested by Job 30:25; Psalm 34:6 and Isaiah 25:4. [CAB] The Old Testament idea that God specially cares for the poor (see Psalm 35:10) and gives them messianic blessings (see Isaiah 61:1) is also prominent in the Qumran literature: see 1QM (Qumran War Scroll) 13:14: “Your mighty hand is with the poor! ...” [NJBC]

Verse 5: “promised”: The concept of divine promise, with the ideas of election and inheritance, as well as the response of being live towards God, are the very basis of Old Testament and New Testament theology.

Verse 6: The author seems to address both the rich and poor. The oppressive rich are considered as a class, characterized not only by wealth but also by oppressiveness and impiety, in terms reminiscent of the Old Testament prophets: Amos 8:4 says “Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land”. See also Wisdom of Solomon 2:10.

Verse 6: In view of v. 7, the author is probably thinking of religious persecution, as well as social and economic. [NJBC]

Verse 7: “excellent name”: Christ’s character and fame. See also Philippians 2:9 (“the name that is above every name”) and 1 Peter 4:14. [NOAB] Or it may mean God’s name: see Deuteronomy 16:2. [CAB] To have someone’s name “invoked” over one is to be designated as belonging to that person. It dishonours Jesus’ name to persecute Christians baptised into his name. See Acts 2:38 (Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost). [NJBC]

Verse 8: The quotation is from Leviticus 19:18. [NOAB] Jesus quotes this verse in preaching about the kingdom: see Matthew 22:39. Jesus said that this is the “greatest and first” commandment: see also Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27. Paul wrote that loving one’s neighbour as oneself is the fulfilling of the law: see Galatians 5:14 and Romans 13:9. [NJBC]

Verse 8: “royal law”: Because it comes from God, the ultimate sovereign, it is royal. [NJBC]

Verse 9: The balance between sin, the law and transgression seems to be in harmony with Paul’s more elaborate development: see Romans 4:15; 5:13-14; 7:7-21; Galatians 3:19. [NJBC]

Verse 10: This is implied in Matthew 5:18-19 (the Sermon on the Mount) and Galatians 3:10: “... all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law’”. It is also found in rabbinic and Stoic traditions. [NJBC]

Verse 11: The quotations are from Exodus 20:13-14. [CAB]

Verse 12: “judged”: Judgement linked with love of one’s neighbour is also found in Matthew 5:22, 25; 7:1-2; 25:31-46. [NJBC]

Verse 12: “law of liberty”: See Romans 8:2 (“law of the Spirit”); 1 Corinthians 9:21 (“God’s law ... Christ’s law”); Galatians 5:13-14; 6:2 (“the law of Christ”). A spirit of joyful dedication to God’s law is also expressed in Psalms 1:2; 40:8 and in the Qumran literature. James lacks the distinction between the law and the gospel, showing rather than affinity with the spirit of Matthew 5:17-19 (part of the Sermon on the Mount): “‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.’” That he does not refer to the Mosaic law seems indicated by the qualifications “perfect”(see 1:25) and “of liberty” (see also 1:25), as well as any emphasis on the fulfilment of ritual prescriptions. [NJBC]

Verse 13: “mercy triumphs over judgement”: This echoes the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 6:15; 18:23-25 (the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant); 25:41-46. This teaching is also found in the Old Testament and in the apocryphal wisdom literature. [NJBC]

Verse 14: “faith but do not have works”: Faith without works is a sham, and cannot save one from judgement: see Matthew 25:31-46. [NOAB] In Galatians 2:16, Paul writes “we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ”, where “the law” is Mosaic law (e.g. being circumcised and eating kosher food), while here “works” are caring for the disadvantaged. Paul would agree with James, for Paul wrote: “the only thing that counts is faith working through love”, i.e. we should have a working faith, one that does.

From Galatians 2:11-12, “James” appears to have insisted on Christians keeping the Law. Further, James 1:1 says that this letter is written by “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (i.e. by analogy with various Old Testament religious leaders called servants, someone in authority in the Church) “to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion” (i.e. from Jerusalem). So it appears that this letter was written by the head of the Church at Jerusalem, usually thought to be James the Lord’s brother, a Christian who insisted on Christians keeping Mosaic law. Either the author of James is not the Lord’s brother (for, while the term “the law” appears in this letter, it nowhere means Mosaic law) or James of Jerusalem was not as strict as Paul presents him as being.

Verse 14: To judge by this passage and by 1:3, 6; 2:1, 5 and 5:15, James means by “faith” the free acceptance of God’s saving revelation. [NJBC]

Verse 14: “works”: i.e. the obedient implementation of God’s revealed will in every aspect of life. [NJBC]

Verses 15-16: 1 John 3:17 asks: “How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?”. See also and Galatians 5:13. [CAB]

Verse 17: In Galatians 5:6, Paul writes: “... in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love”. [CAB] James opposes living faith with dead faith. [NJBC]

Mark 7:24-37

The parallel is Matthew 15:21-31.

3:8 says that some of the crowd who followed Jesus were from “the region around Tyre and Sidon”. [NJBC]

Verse 25: “bowed down at his feet”: A posture of supplication. See also 3:11 and 5:22-23 (a leader of the synagogue, before Jesus). [NJBC]

Verse 27: Paul writes that “the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith” came “to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (see Romans 1:16). [NJBC]

Verse 27: “dogs”: The Greek word is actually a diminutive meaning puppies. Perhaps Jesus softened the derogatory designation. [NJBC]

Verse 28: The woman’s answer amounts to the dogs get their due. For the image of eating scraps beneath a table, see Judges 1:7. [NJBC]

Verse 29c: Either Jesus healed at a distance or he knew she had already been cured. For Jesus’ other healings of Gentiles, see Matthew 8:5-13 (a centurion’s servant); Luke 7:1-10; John 4:46-54 (an official’s son). These healings also appear to happen at a distance.

Verse 31: “Decapolis”: A federation of ten Greco-Roman (Gentile) cities, most of which were east of the Jordan, including Damascus. Geographically, Jesus’ route makes no sense: he goes north from Tyre to Sidon (some 40 km or 25 miles), then heads east. The Decapolis stretched from Damascus in the north (90 km, 55 miles, east of Sidon) to Philadelphia in the south (180 km, 110 miles, south of Sidon). A cluster of cities of the Decapolis were south and east of the Sea of Galilee, some 90 km (55 miles) south of Sidon. So in going to Sidon, he would be retracing his path if he were going to any city of the Decapolis other than Damascus. So why is his journey reported like this? This is a mystery. A scholar suggests that Mark locates Jesus in Gentile territory as much as possible, because the church for which he is writing is Gentile. It is also possible that Mark did not know the geography of the area.

Verse 32: In v. 35, the man speaks “plainly”, so I suspect that he had a speech impediment (as the NRSV says) rather than being dumb. This would imply that he was not totally deaf. Jesus takes him “aside in private”: while this may be part of the messianic secret (see vv. 24, 36), I believe it is more likely connected with the man’s impediment: one with such a condition becomes extremely nervous when he or she is the centre of attention in a gathering. Jesus did not usually heal “in private”, for fear of being accused of working magic. On this interpretation, the prophecy quoted in v. 37 is fulfilled, but not precisely.

Verse 32: “hand”: Strangely, the Greek word is in the singular. Mark usually uses hands: see 5:23; 6:5; 8:23. [NJBC]

Verse 33: “spat”: One usually spat to curse someone: see Numbers 12:14-15; Deuteronomy 25:9; Job 17:6. CAB says that Jesus action violated ritual purity laws (but he does not explain how).

Verse 34: “Ephphatha”: As elsewhere, it appears that Mark preserves the words Jesus actually spoke. The word is Semitic, possibly Aramaic. [NJBC]

Verse 37: Isaiah 35:5 says that at the end of time “ the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped”. [CAB]

© 1996-2003 Chris Haslam



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