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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost - September 16, 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 1:20-33

Verse 1: “The proverbs of Solomon”: Solomon’s name lends authority to this collection of proverbs. 1 Kings 4:29-32 says: “God gave Solomon very great wisdom ... He composed three thousand proverbs”. [NJBC]

Verse 1: “Solomon ... David ... Israel”: A scholar has pointed out that the numerical value of the Hebrew letters in these names adds up to the number of lines in the book. [NJBC]

Verse 12: “Sheol”: The realm of the dead is pictured as being below the earth. As Isaiah 5:14 and Habakkuk 2:5 say, “Sheol” is an insatiable mouth swallowing the dead. A premature death was considered punishment for sin. [NJBC]

Verse 15: The two ways or paths are a fundamental theme of the book. See 2:12-22, and also Psalm 1. [NJBC]

Verse 19: 15:27 says of the principle of retribution: “Those who are greedy for unjust gain make trouble for their households, but those who hate bribes will live”. See also 28:16. [NJBC]

Verses 20-33: In the light of New Testament revelation (see Luke 11:31; John 1:1-18; Colossians 1:15-20), it is not difficult for the Christian to see here a foreshadowing of the revelation of the second person of the Trinity and the coming of the divine Logos into the world; although the authors of Proverbs never affirm the second person in God. [JBC]

Verses 20-21: Jeremiah urged the people to proclaim God’s word: see Jeremiah 7:2; 17:19-20; 19:1-2. [NJBC]

Verse 23: “words”: Rendered as precepts in the REB.

Verses 24-27: These verses echo the prophets’ condemnation of Israel: see Isaiah 65:2, 12; 66:4; Jeremiah 7:13-15, 24-27. [NOAB]

Verses 26-27: Wisdom’s mocking laughter will repay the disdain of the wayward (see also Psalms 2:4 and 59:9); the refusal to hear them (see also Micah 3:4; Isaiah 1:15; Jeremiah 11:11; Hosea 5:6) will repay their stubbornness.

Verses 28-32: Recall that the rich man, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, also waited too long before seeking help. [JBC]

Verse 31: “eat the fruit of their way”: In Galatians 6:7, Paul warns: “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow”. [JBC]

Verse 33: What Wisdom offers her faithful echoes the theology of Deuteronomy 28:1-14: “If you will only obey the LORD your God, by diligently observing all his commandments that I am commanding you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth ...”. [JBC]

Psalm 19

A hymn to God as creator of nature and giver of the Law. [NOAB]

NOAB suggests that the original poem was vv. 1-6, and that vv. 7-14 praise of the revelation of God in the Law, were added later in order to counterbalance what seemed to be an almost pagan influence upon the revelation of God in nature; however NJBC considers that the thematic connections show that this psalm has always been one poem. He views the Law as one of God’s works.

Verses 1-6: The glory of God is shown in the phenomena of the heavens and especially in the might of the sun. [NOAB] God’s glory is revealed through the splendour and order of creation, especially in the daily cycle of the sun. [CAB]

Verses 1-4a: The sky and successive days and nights are personified as members of a heavenly choir ceaselessly singing God’s praises. [NOAB]

Verse 1: “the glory of God”: For the attribution of glory to God (here El in Hebrew), see also 24:7, 10 (“king of glory”) and 29:3 (“God of glory”). “Glory” suggests both the nimbus of light enveloping the deity and the storm cloud: see Exodus 40:34; Psalm 18:12-13. [NJBC]

Verse 3: The words cannot be heard by human ears. [NOAB]

Verses 4b-6: The skies provide a track along which the sun, like an athlete, runs its daily course. [NOAB]

Verses 7-9: There are six synonyms for the Law in these verses. See also Psalm 119. [NOAB]

Verse 7: “making wise the simple”: For wisdom and Torah, see also 1:1-2. [NJBC]

Verse 10: Observance of the Law is a joy, not a burden. [NOAB]

Wisdom of Solomon 7:26-8:1

The theological development in the book of Wisdom is:

  • Immortality of the soul;
  • Death and other evils as the work of the devil;
  • Wisdom in a genuinely metaphysical sense (as opposed to the poetic sense in Proverbs), acting as an agent of God in the world.

A scholar writes: “The consequences of these developments for New Testament Christology can hardly be exaggerated.”.

7:22-23: Much of the terminology is borrowed from Greek philosophy and religion, where the qualities are ascribed to Isis, pagan goddess of wisdom, and to a world soul or Logos. The author aims to show that divine wisdom is Isis, world soul, and Logos – and more. The philosophy is mostly Stoic. [NJBC]

Wisdom is also personified in Proverbs 1:20-23; 8:1-36; Job 28; Baruch 3:9-4:4; Sirach 24:1-21. Wisdom is not a person separate from Yahweh, but a personification of functions of Yahweh. Such personification is common in the Old Testament (e.g. Spirit, Word, Justice). In earlier wisdom literature, wisdom was an effect of the Spirit of God; in these verses, 1:5-7 and 9:17, Wisdom is identified with the Spirit of the Lord and becomes an immanent (in-dwelling) cosmological principle of physical and moral life. [NJBC]

7:22: “manifold”: She is manifold in her manifestations and activity, the ways and places she shows herself, even though she is one (unique). [NJBC]

7:22: “subtle”: i.e. spiritual, without physical being.

7:23: “all-powerful, overseeing all”: A notion expanded on in 7:26-8:1.

7:23: “steadfast, sure, free from anxiety”: Because she is unchanging in her plans, unerring, and unable to be hindered. [NJBC]

7:24: “her pureness”: It is metaphysical rather than moral. There is nothing in her that is gross or of the earth – as the following verses show. [NJBC]

7:24: Mobility is one of the characteristics of Wisdom in vv. 22-23. She is mobile because of her purity and divine origin. [NJBC]

7:25-26: These verses enlarge on Proverbs 8 and Sirach 24. The images are as immaterial (non-physical) as possible, to describe the origin and divinity of Wisdom. [NJBC] Note the parallels in Hebrews 1:1-3: “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word...”.

7:27: “renews all things”: In Psalm 104:30, a psalmist says of Yahweh: “When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground”. See also Psalm 102:26-27. [NJBC]

7:29: “superior”: i.e. brighter, more brilliant.

7:30: “against wisdom evil does not prevail”: An idea also expressed in v. 25c: “nothing defiled gains entrance into her”.

8:1: “the earth”: NJBC offers the universe.

James 3:1-12

The author rebukes two besetting sins of the teacher: intemperate speech (vv. 1-12) and arrogance (vv. 13-18). [NOAB] The office of teacher was a position of great honour in the early church. Paul ranks them third in his list of those whom “God has appointed in the church” (in 1 Corinthians 12:28), and says that teaching is a gift (in Romans 12:6-8). Acts 13:1 mentions those who were teachers at Antioch. See also Ephesians 4:11-13. The author echoes the warnings of Jesus in Matthew 5:19; 23:6-8. [NJBC] The tongue is the instrument of the teacher. It is also the strongest muscle in the body.

Verse 1: “judged with greater strictness”: See Matthew 12:26-27; 15:11-18.

Verse 2: Admonitions regarding a loose tongue were common in Judaism and early Christianity. See Psalm 120:2; Proverbs 10:19; 21:23; Sirach 19:16; 25:8; 2 Corinthians 12:20; 1 Timothy 5:13. [CAB] Admonitions are also found in Greek writings, e.g. Dionysius the Elder wrote: “Let thy speech be better than silence, or be silent.”

Verse 2: “all of us make many mistakes”: A well-known theme in Scripture: see also Ecclesiastes 7:20; Sirach 19:16; 1 John 1:8, 10; 2 Esdras 8:35. [NJBC] Counsel regarding the right and wrong use of speech is common in wisdom literature: see Proverbs 15:1-4, 7, 23, 26, 28; Sirach 5:11-6:1; 28:13-26. It is also found in 1QS (Rule of the Qumran Community) 7:4-5; 10:21-24. [NJBC]

Verse 2: “perfect”: The word in the Greek is teleios, meaning morally perfect (or complete) as a Christian. It is also found in Matthew 5:48 (“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”); Colossians 1:28 (NRSV: “mature”); 4:12. [NJBC]

Verse 5: “boasts”: Sirach 20:7 advises: “The wise remain silent until the right moment”. [CAB]

Verse 5b: The idea of a great conflagration coming from a small fire was common in Greek moralizing.

Verse 6: “the tongue is a fire”: Sirach 28:22-23 says: “It [the tongue] has no power over the godly; they will not be burned in its flame. Those who forsake the Lord will fall into its power; it will burn among them and will not be put out. It will be sent out against them like a lion; like a leopard it will mangle them.”

Verse 6: “a world of iniquity”: The Greek may mean the sum total of iniquity. [NJBC]

Verse 6: “sets on fire the cycle of nature”: NJBC offers setting on fire the wheel of birth but notes that the meaning is uncertain. Similar phrases are found in Hellenistic literature, especially in connection with Orphic rites.

Verse 7: In Genesis 1:26, God gives humans dominion over fish, reptiles, birds, and animals. [CAB] The animals are in the same order here as in Genesis 9:2 (God to Noah); Deuteronomy 4:17-18 (do not make idols) and 1 Kings 4:33 (Solomon). [NJBC]

Verse 8: “deadly poison”: Psalm 140:3 says that evildoers “... make their tongue sharp as a snake's, and under their lips is the venom of vipers”. See also Romans 3:13. [CAB]

Verse 9: “those who are made in the likeness of God”: See Genesis 1:26; 9:6 (“ in his own image God made humankind”); Sirach 17:3; Wisdom of Solomon 2:23. [CAB] [NJBC]

Verse 11: The imagery is characteristic of Palestine, where springs are of great importance in the dry season. We seem to have moved from Hellenistic ways of speaking (in v. 6) to Jewish ones. [NJBC]

Verse 11: “fresh and brackish water”: In 2 Esdras 5:9, the combination of sweet and brackish water is seen as a sign of the coming of the end-times: “Salt waters shall be found with the sweet, and all friends shall conquer one another; then shall reason hide itself, and wisdom shall withdraw into its chamber”. [NJBC]

Verse 12: This is similar to Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:16: he says that you shall identify false prophets “by their fruits”. He asks: “Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?”. See also Luke 6:44-45. [CAB]

Mark 8:27-38

The parallels are Matthew 16:13-27 and Luke 9:18-26.

The identification of Jesus is acceptable as far as it goes, but it needs amplification/explanation: people need to know how the passion and death of Jesus fit with the identification as the Jewish messiah. [NJBC]

Verse 27: “Caesarea Philippi”: Modern Baniyas. [JBC]

Verse 28: The same list of possibilities as at the execution of John the Baptist: see 6:14-16. [NOAB]

Verse 29: In John 6:67-69, Peter tells Jesus: “We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God”. [NOAB] Both Messiah and Christ mean anointed one. Though various figures were anointed in ancient Israel, the term messiah came to be applied to kings. Some contemporary writings (especially Psalms of Solomon 17) used it to describe Israel’s future leader in the period before the eschaton (end-times) and during it; he would fulfill Israel’s hopes based on God’s promises. [NJBC]

Verse 31: This is the first prediction of the Passion in Mark. For other predictions, see 9:30-32 and 10:33-34. [CAB]

Verse 31: “Son of Man”: This term seems to have had two meanings to Jesus’ listeners:

  • Jesus calls himself a typical human being in accordance with the common meaning of son of, i.e. patterned after
  • Jesus linked himself with the prophesied figure of Daniel 7:13-14 – hence Jesus as the glorified heavenly judge. (In the NRSV, Daniel 7:13 speaks of “one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven”; in the Aramaic original, it is one like a son of man who comes: see NRSV footnote.)

Jesus often speaks at two levels simultaneously.

Jesus nowhere discloses fully his understanding of the term. He could intend both meanings to apply to him. His way was to oblige his hearers to determine their own personal attitudes to him, as part of the process of understanding his words.

Verse 31: “undergo great suffering”: Jesus identifies himself with the suffering Servant of Isaiah. Isaiah 53:3 says “He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account”.

Verse 31: “rejected”: The sense is repudiated religiously. Jeremiah 8:9 says that fools who rely on human wisdom repudiate God. God repudiates Israel for her folly or infidelity: see Jeremiah 6:30; 7:29; 14:19. Here Jesus is repudiated by people. Note that in Mark, the Pharisees play no explicit part in Jesus’ condemnation and death. [JBC]

Verse 31: “three days”: Hosea 6:1-2 says that the third day is the decisive turning point: “Come, let us return to the LORD ... After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him”. Jonah 1:17 tells us that Yahweh saves Jonah by having him spend time in the belly of a fish; 2:10 tells us that after three days Yahweh has the fish spew him out.

Verse 33: “Get behind me, Satan!”: Jesus sees in Peter’s words a continuation of Satan’s temptation. [NOAB] Jesus indicates that the false view of his messiahship is a temptation: see Job 1-2. Having grasped that Jesus is the Messiah, Peter sees messiahship in a contemporary Jewish way: the Messiah was not expected to suffer. [NJBC]

Verse 34: “cross”: Jesus sees acceptance of his message with its promise as also bringing destruction. Only those who in faith accept the threat of destruction will find life. In Matthew 10:38-39, Jesus says: “... whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it”. See also Matthew 5:11-12; 16:24; Mark 10:29-31; Luke 9:24-25; 14:27; 17:33; John 12:25.

Verse 35: “life”: Greek: psyche; one’s very being, true self. [JBC] The value of the true self is described in vv. 36-37.

Verse 38: “adulterous”: A term used by Old Testament prophets to describe Israel’s turning away from God: see Jeremiah 3:8; Ezekiel 23:37; Hosea 2:2-10. [JBC]

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