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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost - November 18, 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.

1 Samuel 1:4-20

Polygamy was not common, but was permitted: Deuteronomy 21:15-17 commands “If a man has two wives, one of them loved and the other disliked, and if both the loved and the disliked have borne him sons, the firstborn being the son of the one who is disliked, then on the day when he wills his possessions to his sons, he is not permitted to treat the son of the loved as the firstborn in preference to the son of the disliked, who is the firstborn”. [NOAB]

Other formerly barren women who bore unusual offspring late in life as a special favour from God are: Sarah (Genesis 17:16-19), Rebekah (Genesis 25:21-26), Rachel (Genesis 29:31; 30:22-24), the mother of Samson (Judges 13:2-5), and Elizabeth (Luke 1:5-17). An unusual birth was thought to be symbolic of the importance of the person in later life. [NOAB] See also the nativity narratives of Jesus! (There are also miraculous nativity narratives of the emperor Augustus, and of other secular figures in the Greco-Roman world.)

Verse 3: “Shiloh”: This town is also mentioned as a centre of worship in Joshua 18:1; Judges 21:19; Jeremiah 7:12; Psalm 78:60. At this time, there also were temples in Bethel and Mizpah. Shiloh, 25 miles north of Jerusalem, was where the Ark was kept, as 3:3 tells us.

Verse 11: “Lord of hosts”: Hosts may mean armies; if so, the phrase speaks of God’s might. [NOAB]

Verse 11: “male”: It was especially important in a Near East culture that the child be male.

Verse 11: “nazirite”: See Numbers 6:1-21 and Judges 13:1-7. Being a nazirite was open to men and women. A person entered this holy state on their own or a parent’s vow. Actually, there was a third condition: not to go near a dead body, even one’s mother or father. After a term of membership, the prohibition of drink was relaxed. Joseph is called a nazir in Genesis 49:26 and Deuteronomy 33:16 (“set apart” and “separated” in the NRSV). Samson, according to the Septuagint translation, was a nazirite. [HBD]

Verse 13: “drunk”: Drinking was part of the ritual: see also v. 18, Isaiah 22:13; Amos 2:8. [JBC]

Verse 20: “I have asked him of the Lord”: Actually, Samuel means name of God or, more fully, he over whom the name of God is pronounced, or possibly the name of God is El; Saul the one who was asked for. [CAB]

Verse 20: “asked”: In Hebrew, the word for asked also means borrowed, so perhaps the word should be connected with lent in v. 28: Hannah has begged or borrowed (the same word in Hebrew) her son from God, so she lends him back to God, by whose grace he has been granted. [NOAB]

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Biblical editors inserted poems into prose to increase the artistic and religious appeal. The poems may be older or newer than the prose. This poem is the literary model for the Magnificat, Mary’s song of thanksgiving (Luke 1:46-55). [NOAB]

A liturgical translation of Hannah’s song appears as Canticle 2 in Celebrating Common Prayer (London: Mowbray, 1992). It should be noted that it omits vv. 3a, 6, 9 and 10. For copyright reasons, I am not able to offer it.

Verse 1: “heart”: Literally “horn”: an image of an animal tossing its head. [NOAB]

Verse 2: “Rock”: For Yahweh as my rock, see 2 Samuel 22:2-3; Psalms 18:2; 28:1; 62:2, 6. [NOAB]

Verse 3: This verse is surely in the wisdom tradition.

Verses 4, 5, 7, 8: For reversal of fortunes, see also Psalm 113:7-9. [NOAB]

Verse 5: “seven”: Per v. 21, Hannah bore no more than six children. [NOAB]

Verse 6: “Sheol”: The realm of the dead is often pictured as being below the earth. [NOAB]

Verse 10: “thunder in heaven”: An allusion to the catastrophic natural events at the end of the era.

Hebrews 10:11-14,(15-18),19-25

Verse 1: “shadow”: The sense here is foreshadow, rather than the Platonic heavenly-earthly contrast in 8:5 (“a sanctuary that is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly one”). The “good things to come” will come through Christ. Colossians 2:17 says: “These [dietary laws, Jewish feasts, etc.] are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ”. The annual sacrifices on the Day of Atonement were not able to remove sin; they simply foreshadowed the sacrifice of Jesus. [NJBC]

Verse 2: The author’s argument is weak: even though past sins were taken away, there were still the sins committed since a year ago. But it is merely an overstatement of what the author’s faith assures him to be true. [NJBC]

Verses 3-4: The Day of Atonement rituals reminded worshippers of their sins, but did not erase them. This statement of the inefficacy of the annual sacrifices contradicts the belief expressed in Jubilees 5:17-18. But is not clear whether it is God or the worshipper who remembers the sins. That it is God who remembers is suggested by 8:12; there God says “‘I will remember their sins no more’”; however, the author would then be saying that the sacrifices served only to remind God of sin (and thus call forth punishment on the offerer). [NJBC]

Verses 5-7: The quotation is Psalm 40:6-7. The text roughly follows the Septuagint translation. In Psalms, “me” is the psalmist (or possibly Israel in exile); here “me” is Christ at his incarnation. The psalm speaks of ritual being inferior to obedience, rather than repudiation of sacrifice (as here). The majority of manuscripts of the Septuagint have for v. 6b: a body you prepared for me rather than “you have given me an open ear” (which is from the Masoretic text). The Septuagint translation is particularly applicable to Jesus, whose obedience was expressed by his willingness to give his body, himself. [NJBC]

Verse 8: “ sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings”: These terms are probably meant to cover the four main types of sacrifice: respectively peace offerings, cereal offerings, holocausts, and sin offerings (including guilt offerings). [NJBC]

Verse 9: “the first”: i.e. the sacrifices prescribed in “the law” (v. 8). [NJBC]

Verse 9: “the second”: i.e. the self-offering of Jesus. [NJBC]

Verse 10: “God’s will”, carried out by Christ, is his offering of his body, which God “prepared” (v. 5) for him. [NJBC]

Verse 11: “every priest stands day after day”: This indicates that the author has switched from considering the high priest’s sacrifice to that of every priest in the Old Testament. [NJBC]

Verses 12-13: The quotation is Psalm 110:1, a verse also quoted in 1:3; 8:1; 12:2. [NJBC]

Verse 13: “wait ...”: Thus the author explains the period of time between Christ’s enthronement and his second coming. [NJBC]

Verse 13: “enemies”: The author does not tell us who they are, unlike Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:24-26: “ after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power” and “death”. [NJBC]

Verse 14: “sanctified”: Through the cleansing of the consciences that they may worship the living God (9:14), Jesus has given his followers access to the Father; they share in his priestly consecration. [NJBC] The priesthood of all believers is in view.

Verses 16-17: The quotation is Jeremiah 31:33-34. These verses are also quoted in 8:8-12. [NJBC]

Verse 19: “confidence to enter the sanctuary”: In 3:6, the author writes: “we are his [Christ’s] house if we hold firm the confidence and the pride that belong to hope”. See also 4:16; 6:19-20. [NJBC]

Verse 20: “opened”: The Greek word, enkainizo, can also mean inaugurate or dedicate. It is translated as inaugurate in 9:18.

Verse 20: As the “curtain” before the Holy of Holies was an obstacle to entering it, so too was Christ’s “flesh” (Greek: sarx). Perhaps the author is thinking of the rending of the Temple veil at the death of Jesus: see Mark 15:38. [NJBC]

Verses 22-24: “faith ... hope ... love”: The triad may be intended. [NJBC]

Verse 22: “sprinkled clean”: A metaphor for the purifying power of Christ (see 9:13). Jewish ritual sprinkling only produced external purity, but those washed with the blood of Christ are cleansed in their consciences. [NJBC]

Verse 22: “washed with pure water”: Probably a reference to baptism. See also 1 Corinthians 6:11 and Titus 3:5. [NJBC]

Verse 25: While reticence to gather for worship may have been for fear of persecution, it is more likely that it was due to lack of enthusiasm for the faith, bordering on apostasy: part of the reason Hebrews was written. [NJBC]

Verse 25: “the Day”: of Christ’s second coming. See also Acts 1:10-11 (the Ascension); Philippians 2:16; Romans 13:12; 1 Corinthians 3:13. [NJBC]

Verses 26-31: These verses tell of the fate of the person who willfully sins. He has a “fearful prospect of judgement”: if you know about Christ and willfully reject him, you will be punished by God!

Verse 26: “willfully ... sin”: The sin is that of turning away from Christ, as v. 29 shows. [NJBC]

Verse 28: Idolatry is probably the violation of the Law. Deuteronomy 17:2-7 prescribes the death penalty for this sin if confirmed by “two or three witnesses”. [NJBC]

Mark 13:1-8

The parallels are Matthew 24:1-8 and Luke 21:5-11. [NOAB]

Verse 1: The impression is given that this is the first time that the disciples have seen the Temple. This fits with Mark’s chronology of Jesus’ earthly life, in which he visits Jerusalem only once. [NJBC]

Verse 1: “large stones”: The second Temple was begun after the return from exile (c. 520 BC), and was modest. Herod the Great began construction of the third Temple in 20 BC; it was finished in 63 AD, and destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD at the end of the Jewish revolt. It was still under construction in Jesus’ day. The stones were some 11 m (35 feet) long by 5.5 m (18 feet) wide x 3.6 m (12 feet) high. The destruction of the Temple had already been foretold in Micah 3:12 and Jeremiah 26:18. [NOAB] [CAB]

Jesus’ prediction of its destruction is also found in 14:57-58; 15:29; Matthew 26:61; Luke 19:43-44; John 2:19; Acts 6:14. [NOAB] Jesus stands in the tradition of Old Testament prophets who had predicted this event: see Micah 3:12 and Jeremiah 26:18. However, in that other events mentioned in this passage seem to be meant symbolically, so may this event. [NJBC]

Micah 3:12 says: “... Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height”. Jeremiah 26:18 quotes Micah with one variant. Early Christians saw the destruction of the Temple as fulfilling Jesus’ prediction. [NJBC] Note that Jerusalem was completely flattened in the 130s AD.

Verse 2: Jesus indulges in (Jewish) hyperbole. Jesus’ statement is the basis for the accusations in 14:58 and 15:29. Early Christians saw Jesus as predicting the physical destruction of the Temple. [JBC]

Verses 3-37: On the end of the era. These verses are known as the little apocalypse.

Verse 3: “on the Mount of Olives”: The Mount of Olives is to the east of Jerusalem, across the Kidron valley. It is spoken of in eschatological terms in Zechariah 14:4. Zechariah 14:1-6 says: “See, a day is coming for the LORD, when the plunder taken from you will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses looted and the women raped; half the city shall go into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives, which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley; so that one half of the Mount shall withdraw northward, and the other half southward. And you shall flee by the valley of the LORD's mountain, for the valley between the mountains shall reach to Azal; and you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of King Uzziah of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.”

In 11:1, Mark points out that “Bethphage and Bethany” were “near the Mount of Olives”. From there Jesus sends two of his disciples to find the colt on which he is to enter Jerusalem.

Verse 3: “Peter, James, John, and Andrew”: These were the first disciples Jesus called (1:16, 19). Peter, James and John were the inner circle, and were present at the Transfiguration (9:2) and in the Garden of Gethsemane (14:33). [JBC]

Verse 4: In Luke 17:20, Jesus says: “‘The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you’”. [NOAB]

Verses 5-14: To NOAB, the audience was wider than the first four disciples, named in v. 13.

Verse 6: In John 8:24, Jesus tells some Jews “‘I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he’”. 1 John 2:18 warns: “As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come”. [NOAB]

Verse 6: “will come in my name”: More than Jewish messianic pretenders (e.g. “Theudas” and “Judas the Galilean”, in Acts 5:36-37) seem to be in view here, for they will come in Christ’s name. See also vv. 21-23. [NJBC]

Verse 6: “I am he!”: This phrase must allude to the Old Testament revelation formula applied to Yahweh, thus contributing the implicit christological message of the text. (In Exodus 3:14, God tells Moses “‘I AM WHO I AM’”; in Deuteronomy 32:39 he says “See now that I, even I, am he; there is no god beside me.” and in Isaiah 41:4, “I, the LORD, am first, and will be with the last”). [NJBC]

Verse 7: “the end is still to come”: For descriptions of the end time, see Daniel 8:17; 9:25; 11:35, 40; 12:4, 9, 13. [JBC] See also 2 Esdras.

Verse 8: “kingdom against kingdom”: See also Isaiah 19:2; Ezra 5:12; 1QM (Qumran War Scroll) 1:2.

1QM 1:2 says: “The sons of Levi, the sons of Judah and the sons of Benjamin, the exiled of the desert, will wage war against them.” [Martinez]

Verse 8: “birthpangs”: At the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, he said that the new era “has come near” (1:15 and Matthew 4:17); however, per v. 10, it will arrive only after a time of witness to his message. [NOAB] As pain precedes (and portends) birth of a child, so suffering will precede the arrival of the new era. The figure of a woman in labour is often used to describe the prelude to the Day of Judgement or the messianic era. See also Isaiah 13:8; 26:17; Jeremiah 6:24; Hosea 13:13; Micah 4:9-10; 1QH (Qumran Hymns) 11:6-10.

1QH 11:6-10 (Vermes: 3:6-10) says:

Now, my soul ... they have counted me, and have put the soul like a boat in the depths of the sea, like a besieged city positioned opposite its enemies. I was in distress like a woman giving birth the first time when her birth-pangs come on her and a pain racks her womb to begin in the crucible of the pregnant woman. Since sons reach the frontiers of death she gives birth to a male, and there emerges from the pains of Sheol, from the crucible of the pregnant woman a splendid counsellor of strength, and the man is freed from the womb. [Martinez]

It is recommended that vv. 24-27 be read with vv. 3-8; together they give perspective beyond Jerusalem and the contemporary generation.

Verses 9-13: See also Matthew 10:17-22. [NOAB]

Verse 9: “hand you over”: The Greek verb is paradidomi, a term used later of Jesus’ betrayal. The mention of the sufferings of Jesus’ disciples looks forward to Jesus’ own sufferings. [NJBC]

Verse 9: “councils”: The Greek word, synedria, refers to local Jewish courts empowered to punish Jewish offenders. In 2 Corinthians 11:24, Paul tells of receiving lashes “from the Jews”. [NJBC]

Verse 9: “governors and kings”: Pilate and Herod Antipas would be good examples. [NJBC]

Verse 10: V. 11 naturally flows from v. 9, so NJBC’s observation that the vocabulary is typical of Mark suggests that this verse is an insertion by the author. Further, if Jesus was so explicit about the mission to Gentiles, why was there a debate in the early Church over this mission? See Galatians 2 and Acts 15 (the Council of Jerusalem).

Verse 11: Jesus forbids anxious care (“worry”), not thought or preparation. [NJBC] In John 14:26, Jesus says: “‘... the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you”. See also John 16:7-11 and Luke 12:11-12. [NOAB]

Verse 12: “Brother will betray brother”: The idea of the end-times as a time of societal breakdown is common in contemporary Jewish apocalyptic writings: see, for example, 2 Esdras 5:9; 6:24; Jubilees 23:19; 2 Baruch 70:3. [NJBC] 2 Esdras 5:9-10 says: “Salt waters shall be found in the sweet, and all friends shall conquer one another; then shall reason hide itself, and wisdom shall withdraw into its chamber, and it shall be sought by many but shall not be found, and unrighteousness and unrestraint shall increase on earth.”

Verse 13: In John 15:18-21, Jesus says to the disciples: “‘If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world – therefore the world hates you. ... If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me’”. [NOAB]

Verse 13: “the one who endures to the end will be saved”: In Mark, the message is one of patient endurance. [NJBC]

Verses 14-23: By foretelling the events described in these verses, Jesus prepares his followers for what they will encounter. [NJBC]

Verse 14: “the desolating sacrilege”: This would remind Jesus’ hearers of the desecration of the Temple: in 168 BC, Antiochus IV Epiphanes set up a statue of Olympian Zeus in the Temple; indeed, he tried to wipe out Judaism. Jesus’ inclusion of reference to a second such sacrilege leads me to think that the other signs of the end of the era should not be taken literally. Jesus is probably speaking symbolically of the elevation of the Roman emperor to being a god and the destruction of the Temple (and with it, the termination of the Judaic sacrificial system) or of general desertion of God’s ways. Note also that the Roman governor Caligula gave a similar order in 40 AD for a statue of himself as Jupiter to be placed in the Temple. [CAB] See 1 Maccabees 1:59; Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11.

Verse 14: “(let the reader understand)”: This comment may refer to the events leading up to the destruction of the Temple or of Caligula’s abortive plan. Perhaps the phrase is a code intended to avoid Roman hostility. [JBC]

Verses 14-15: When this happens, the faithful must flee to the countryside immediately. There will be no time to collect one’s belongings.

Verse 17: In Luke 23:29, Jesus says: “For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed’”. [NOAB] 2 Esdras 6:21 says: “Children a year old shall speak with their voices, and pregnant women shall give birth to premature children at three and four months, and these shall live and leap about”. [HenMk]

Verse 18: The cold and rainy winters in Palestine would make rural tracks almost impassable. There would be no crops then from which the refugees might be fed. [NJBC]

Verse 19: “suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the creation”: So Jesus speaks not of warfare, but of something much more serious. This alludes to Daniel 12:1: “There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence.” [NJBC]

Verse 20: “if the Lord had not cut short those days”: Daniel 12:7 suggests that God has established a time schedule for the coming of the Kingdom. For the idea of shortening the time, see two contemporary apocalyptic books: 1 Enoch 80:2; 2 Baruch 20:1-2; 83:1, 6. [NJBC]

Verse 22: In Matthew 7:15, Jesus warns: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves”. See also John 4:48. [NOAB]

Verse 23: “I have already told you everything”: NJBC offers I have foretold to you all these things.

Verses 24-27: The images of cosmic signs, the Son of Man, and the gathering of the chosen are all found in the Old Testament, but here they are brought together, with the second coming of Jesus, “the Son of Man”, as the key event. His glorious arrival will be the final proof of God’s victory over the forces of evil. The Old Testament texts echoed are Isaiah 13:10; 34:4; Ezekiel 32:7; Amos 8:9; Joel 2:10, 31; 3:15; Haggai 2:6, 21, but in no instance does such an image precede the coming of the Son of Man. The list of portents is a way of saying that all creation will signal his coming. [NJBC]

Verse 24: Darkness day and night was considered a sign of the coming of divine judgement: Isaiah 13:10 says: “the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light”. [JBC]

Verse 26: “they will see 'the Son of Man coming ...”: Daniel 7:13 says “As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him.” An NRSV footnote says that “human being” is son of man in the Aramaic original. See also 8:38; Matthew 10:23; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. [NOAB] To Mark, “the Son of Man” is clearly Jesus, not the human figure in angelic form of Daniel 7:13. Whether Jesus spoke of himself as “the Son of Man” is debated, but see 14:61-62. [NJBC]

Verse 27: “he will ... gather his elect from the four winds”: In Zechariah 2:6, Yahweh disperses the chosen. God’s gathering of the chosen is found in Deuteronomy 30:4; Isaiah 11:11, 16; 27:12; Ezekiel 39:27 and elsewhere in the Old Testament and in contemporary Jewish writings. [NJBC]

Verse 27: “the four winds”: Winds were thought to originate at the four corners of the earth.

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