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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: The Reign of Christ - November 25, 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 23:1-7

This passage is a poem. Certain writers and editors inserted poems into prose books for artistic and religious effect (e.g. 1 Samuel 2:1-10, Hannah’s thanksgiving song for Samuel). This is the second poem in the appendices to Samuel. It is of late composition, in the style of Psalm 1 and Proverbs 4:10-19 (particularly vv. 5-7), with an introduction suggestive of the oracles of Balaam (Numbers 24:3-4, 15-16). Note the similarity in style to the last words of Jacob (Genesis 49) and of Moses (Deuteronomy 33). [NOAB]

Proverbs 4:5-7 says: “Is not my house like this with God? For he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure. Will he not cause to prosper all my help and my desire? But the godless are all like thorns that are thrown away; for they cannot be picked up with the hand; to touch them one uses an iron bar or the shaft of a spear. And they are entirely consumed in fire on the spot”.

To NJBC, this poem extends the psalm in the preceding section, 22:1-51. To him, it is of ancient origin.

Verse 1: “the anointed of the God of Jacob”: In 1 Samuel 2:10, as part of her song, Hannah says: “The LORD! His adversaries shall be shattered; the Most High will thunder in heaven. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed”. [NOAB] This may refer to the historical monarchy, but it is possible that it looks forward to the ideal king of the future (whom people expected). Kings were always anointed with olive oil, although priests and prophets sometimes were also. “anointed one” = messiah (Hebrew) = christos (Greek).

Verses 6-7: These verses are very difficult to decipher in the Hebrew original. The poem may not be complete. [NOAB]

Psalm 132:1-12,(13-18)

This psalm is similar to 89:20-38 except that in Psalm 89 God’s promise to David (vv. 31-34) is unconditional. [NJBC]

Verses 1-5: These verses elaborate 2 Samuel 7:1-2: “Now when the king was settled in his house, and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, ‘See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent’”. [JBC]

Verse 1: “hardships”: NJBC suggests that piety is a better translation, although most modern English translations have “hardships”. Kings in the ancient Near East often proclaimed their piety by building temples for their gods.

Verses 6-10: See also 2 Samuel 6:2-15. [NOAB]

Verse 6: “Jaar”: The Hebrew is ja’ar, meaning woodland or forest. The Ark was kept at Kiriath-Jearim (meaning town of the woodlands) from Samuel’s time until David became king in Jerusalem: see 1 Samuel 7:1-2 and 2 Chronicles 1:4. [NOAB] 2 Samuel 6:2 says that the Ark was kept at Baale-judah, not Kiriath-Jearim. Either this is an error, or Baale-judah is another name for Kiriath-Jearim.

Verses 8-10: These verses are quoted in 2 Chronicles 6:41-42. [CAB]

Verse 8: “Rise up, O LORD”: Perhaps part of an ancient prayer associated with the Ark (see Numbers 10:35). Here the phrase looks forward to v. 14 (i.e. Zion). [NJBC]

Verse 8: “might”: God’s glory, as experienced in the Temple. In 63:2, the prophet says: “... I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory”. [NJBC]

Verse 9: “priests be clothed”: Note the parallel in v. 16.

Verses 11-18: A priest or temple prophet recites God’s promises regarding Jerusalem and the dynasty. [NOAB]

Verse 11: “oath”: For Yahweh’s covenant with David, see 2 Samuel 7. [NJBC]

Verse 12: Yahweh’s eternal presence in Zion makes the eternity of David’s dynasty possible.

Revelation 1:4b-8

Verse 1: “revelation”: Greek: apokalypsis. Hence the other name of this book, The Apocalypse. “Revelation” is used interchangeably with “prophecy” (v. 3). [CAB]

Verse 4: “the seven churches”: JBC, who considers a late date for Revelation to be most likely, i.e. 90-96 AD, says that other churches also existed in the proconsular province of Asia at the time, among which were Colossae, Troas, Hierapolis, and Magnesia. Through “the seven churches”, John wished to reach all the churches of Asia, and perhaps the universal Church.

Verse 4: “Grace to you and peace ...”: A salutation used in all Pauline letters, and by the time this book was written, a traditional greeting among Christians, Both 1 Peter 1:2 and 2 Peter 1:2 wish readers “grace and peace”. [NOAB]

Verse 4: “who is and who was and who is to come”: This phrase is also in v. 8. 4:8 contains a very similar phrase. In 11:17, the twenty-four elders sing: “you [Christ] have taken your great power and begun to reign”. 16:5 speaks of Christ as the one “who are and were”. The name of God, as is his person, is unchangeable. The description of God proceeds from a long tradition which goes back to Exodus 3:14 (“God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’”). It tries to express the eternity of God by means of the human category of time. Such a title suits perfectly the beginning of a book revealing the meaning of the present in the light of the past and the future. [JBC]

Verse 4: “seven spirits”: Both 3:1 and 4:5 speak of “the seven spirits of God”. [CAB] In some modern translations, Isaiah 11:2, an oracle of an ideal king from David’s line, speaks of six modes of operation of the Spirit, but repeats fear; in the Septuagint translation, one of the occurrences of fear is replaced with piety. Tobit 12:15 says: “I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand ready and enter before the glory of God”; 1 Enoch 90:21 says “...the Lord [of the sheep] called those men the seven first white ones ...”. It is also possible that the seven spirits are the seven (then known) planets, which were considered to be heavenly beings.

Comments: the seven angels (Michael, Raphael, etc) closest to God: Michael is mentioned in Daniel 10:13, 21; 12:1; Jude 9; Revelation 12:7. He is prominent in non-biblical works of the inter-testamental period. [HBD] The seven archangels are named in the Greek version of 1 Enoch 20 as Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Sariel, Gabriel and Remiel. [OCB] In the Old Testament, Gabriel is mentioned in Daniel 8:15-26 and 9:21-27. In Luke 1:11-20, 26-38 it is Gabriel who announces the births of John the Baptiser and of Jesus. It is tradition that associates this angel with the archangel whose trumpet blast will announce the return of Christ: see 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and Matthew 24:31. [HBD]

Verse 4: “before his throne”: This is a Hebraism for servants of God. [JBC]

Verse 5: “faithful witness”: In John 18:37, Jesus testifies to the truth. See also 1 Timothy 6:13. [CAB] For Jesus as perfectly revealing the Father, see John 3:11, 32. [JBC]

Verse 5: “firstborn of the dead”: See also 1 Corinthians 15:20 (“the first fruits of those who have died”) and Colossians 1:18. [JBC]

Verse 5: “ruler of the kings ...”: Christ’s resurrection is equivalent to his installation as universal king: see 1 Corinthians 15:20-28. See also 11:15; 19:16; Psalm 89:27. The glorification of Jesus, the consequence of his resurrection, confers on him all powers over those created: see Matthew 28:19; Romans 14:9; Philippians 2:11; Ephesians 1:20-23. [JBC]

Verse 5: “To him who loves us”: See also John 13:1; 15:9; Romans 3:21-26; 8:37; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:2, 25. Note the present tense: Christ’s love is perpetual and goes beyond the historical event of the redemption. [JBC]

Verse 5: “freed us ...”: See also 6:9; 7:14; 12:11; 17:14; 19:13; Romans 5:10, 16; 6:10; Hebrews 7:27; 1 John 1:7; Galatians 2:20. Affirmed as an essential fact by the Christian creed (1 Corinthians 15:3; Galatians 1:4), this liberation is often expressed in terms of purchase (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23; Galatians 4:5) by the blood of Christ (Romans 3:25; Ephesians 1:7; 2:13; Colossians 1:20; 1 Peter 1:18ff). [JBC]

Verse 6: “kingdom, priests”: See also 5:10; 20:6; Isaiah 61:1-6, 1 Peter 2:9. Jesus’ work fulfills the promise of Exodus 19:6. Being a kingdom means being under God’s rule rather than Satan’s. All those who hear and obey God’s word are priests: mediators between God and the rest of humanity. [NJBC]

Verse 7: This verse combines and adapts Daniel 7:13 and Zechariah 12:10, and interprets them as prophecies of the return of the risen Jesus as judge: see Matthew 24:30. See also Exodus 13:21; 16:10; Acts 1:9 (Jesus’ Ascension); Matthew 26:64. [NJBC]

Daniel 7:13 says, in part, “As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven”; Zechariah 12:10 says “And I will pour out a spirit of compassion and supplication on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that, when they look on the one whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.”

Verse 7: “those who pierced him”: i.e. those Jews who put Jesus to death. [JBC]

Verse 7: “all the tribes of the earth ...”: All unbelieving nations are equally guilty; for in persecuting the Church they show their hostility toward Christ. Suffering sorrow, all will wail. [JBC]

Verse 7: “So it is to be. Amen”: The repetition, in Greek and Hebrew, underlines the solemnity of the prophecy, in which the Christian community believes. [JBC]

Verse 8: This is one of only two passages in Revelation in which God is explicitly identified as the speaker, the other being 21:5-8. [NJBC]

Verse 8: “the Alpha and the Omega”: This expression also appears (concerning God) in 21:6. Equivalent expressions concerning Christ are found in 1:17 (“the first and the last”); 2:8 (“the first and the last”) and 22:13 (“the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end”). Isaiah 44:6 has said of God that he is “the first and ... the last”. Isaiah 41:4 and 48:12 also make this point: he is the initiator and the end of everything. [JBC]

Verse 8: “Almighty”: The Septuagint translation speaks of the Lord God Almighty in Hosea 12:5, Amos 4:13; 9:5. God’s power is supreme. God began history, and he will terminate it, for all power resides permanently with him. [JBC]

John 18:33-37

18:28-19:16: John’s account of the hearing before Pilate is unique, among the gospel accounts, in the following ways:

  • mention of the Jewish leader’s avoidance of ritual impurity, and
  • their denial that they have the right to execute Jesus. [CAB]

18:28: “early in the morning”: Dawn would have been a common time for the Roman governor to conduct a hearing; however, the condemnation of Jesus several hours later (“about noon”, 19:14) seems out of order. Some scholars suggest a symbolic reference to the Passover lambs. [NJBC]

18:28: “ritual defilement”: Entering a Gentile’s house would make them ritually unclean. [NOAB] However, NJBC says that merely entering the praetorium in a legal setting would not have made them unclean. BlkJn agrees with NOAB.

18:28: “the Passover”: It began that evening – at the start of the next Jewish day. [BlkJn]

18:29-31: The Jews tried religious cases, but could not administer the death penalty. [NOAB]

18:29: “Pilate went out ...”: A Roman governor could conduct a trial according to his own rules, but a more formal charge than Jesus’ accusers give would be required. [NJBC] However, Pilate’s words are the correct formal opening of a Roman trial. [BlkJn]

18:30: Jesus’ death is to be brought about through the Romans, but on the basis of a prior understanding with Pilate rather than as the result of a direct accusation now. It is only when this attempt fails that accusations are laid. [BlkJn]

18:31: “Take him yourselves ...”: Pilate tries to get out of his understanding with the Jews. Perhaps a subsidiary motive of the Jews was to discredit him as Messiah in view of Deuteronomy 21:23: “ anyone hung on a tree is under God's curse”. Jesus was so popular that they needed Pilate’s help if they were to dispose of Jesus. Jesus is discredited with his supporters (because he is not the sort of king they want) and is also misrepresented before Pilate, who becomes profoundly suspicious of the Jews’ motives and decides to interrogate Jesus away from his accusers. [BlkJn]

18:32: “the kind of death he was to die”: i.e. crucifixion, rather than the Jewish method of stoning. John reminds his readers that Jesus has predicted how he would die: see 3:14 (“And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up”) and 12:32 (“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth ...”). [NOAB] Jews were permitted to execute Gentiles who violated the temple precincts. Some Roman historians think it unlikely that they would be permitted to carry out any other capital sentences, especially in Judea. Irony is at play here: in 8:34-37 Jesus has already charged “the Jews” with acting against their own law in seeking to kill him, and in 7:51 Nicodemus accuses them of condemning Jesus illegally, but now they show sudden concern for “your law” (v. 31). [NJBC]

18:33: “Pilate”: Pilate was prefect of Judea from 26 to 36 AD.

18:33: “Are you the King of the Jews?”: Pilate cannot believe this claim could be made by, on behalf of, the man before him. (He has presumably been told of Jesus’ messianic claims before his arrest.)

18:35: Pilate’s suspicion of the high priests is already apparent. [BlkJn]

18:36: Jesus puts into words the dilemma he has been in throughout his ministry: though conscious of an absolute authority, and of Davidic descent, he has known that to assert his authority by force would ruin the purpose for which he has come. [BlkJn]

18:37: “‘You say that I am a king’”: Pilate and Jesus mean different things by kingship, so a direct answer is not possible. [BlkJn]

18:37: “the truth”: For Jesus’ testimony to “the truth”, see 5:32; 8:40, 45, 46. 8:44 tells us that the Jews have rejected “the truth”. The disciples have received it from Jesus: see 14:6; 17:17, 19. [NJBC] Here, it means reality. [BlkJn]

18:37: “listens to my voice”: See also 10:3, 4, 16, 27 (Jesus the shepherd who gives his life). [BlkJn]

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