Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: First Sunday of Advent - November 29, 2015

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.

Jeremiah 33:14-16

23:5-6 says “‘The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.’”

Chapters 32 and 33 predict the restoration of Judah’s fortunes. While 32:1-33:13 clearly date from the sixth century BC, there are clues in 33:14-26 which show later editing and even writing, perhaps between 450 and 400 BC (after the return from exile). The restoration of the city is mentioned in vv. 6-9: “... this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all nations ... who shall hear of all the good that I do for them ...” God will rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. And then v. 11: “... I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first, says the Lord.”

NOAB notes that vv. 14-16 are not found in the Septuagint translation. He therefore argues that these verses are of late composition; they probably date from 450-400 BC.

Verse 15: “a righteous Branch”: There will not be one, but a succession of, Davidic rulers. In 2 Samuel 7:16 Yahweh tells the prophet Nathan to tell David “Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever”. In 1 Kings 9:5, Yahweh tells Solomon: “I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised your father David, saying, ‘There shall not fail you a successor on the throne of Israel’”. [ NOAB]

Psalm 25:1-10

This psalm is in acrostic form, except for the last verse (an indication that this verse was added): each verse (in Hebrew) begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The last verse is spoken on behalf of a group (probably a congregation) while the rest of the psalm is in the first person. Perhaps the last verse was added to adapt the psalm to liturgical use. [ NOAB]

The acrostic form gives the psalm an artificial pattern, making it challenging to find a logical structure. The psalm, however, does contain most of the elements of a lament:

  • A cry for help (vv. 1-3)
  • The psalmist’s situation in life (vv. 18-19)
  • His profession of present innocence in spite of sins in the past (v. 21, see also vv. 7, 11, 18)
  • His expression of trust (vv. 8-15)
  • A prayer for vindication (vv. 16-20). [ NOAB]

The emphases in this psalm on:

  • teaching,
  • knowing God’s ways,
  • keeping the covenant, and
  • prosperity through holding in God in awe,
  • prosperity through holding in God in awe,

Verse 12a: Literally: Who is the man that fears the Lord? Similar questions are found in the entrance torah of 15:1 and 24:3. [ JBC]

Verse 13: “possess the land”: Inheriting, possessing, and being give the land are also mentioned in 37:9, 11, 29; Deuteronomy 1:35-36; 11:8-9. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 19: “how many are my foes”: In 3:1, a psalmist asks Yahweh the same question. [ NJBC]

Verse 21: Note the shift from the psalmist to Israel: another indication that this verse was added. [ JBC]

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

Verse 1: “Athens”: For Paul’s visit to Athens, see Acts 17:16-34. [ CAB]

Verse 5: “the tempter”: As Satan has prevented Paul from visiting the Christian community at Thessalonika (see 2:18), he fears that the devil may have caused members of it to fall away from the faith. For Satan as the adversary of God’s kingly rule, see Matthew 4:1 (Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness); Romans 16:20; 2 Corinthians 11:14; 1 Timothy 1:20. “The tempter” and Satan are names for evil conceived as a personal will actively hostile to God. [ NOAB] See also 2 Corinthians 2:11. [ CAB]

Verse 5: “labour”: The Greek word, kopos, is almost a technical term to describe apostolic activity (also found in 1:3; 2:9; 1 Corinthians 3:8; 2 Corinthians 6:5) – which ought not be to without fruit, not in vain (see 2:1 and Philippians 2:16) . [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “our distress and persecution”: See Acts 18:6, 12 (Paul in Corinth). [ NOAB] See also Acts 16:11-17:15 (at Philippi). 1 Thessalonians 2:14 indicates that the Christians at Thessalonika suffered at the hands of both Jews and Gentiles. [ CAB] But is Paul talking about earthly distress and persecution? To NJBC, the accumulation of terms is typical of apocalyptic language.

Verse 8: “stand firm”: Paul frequently writes about standing firm in the faith: see also 1 Corinthians 16:13; Galatians 5:1; Philippians 1:27. [ NJBC]

Verses 9-10: “before our God ... Night and day”: For the continual nature of Paul’s relationship with God, see also 1:2; 2:13; 5:17. See also 2 Thessalonians 1:3, 11; 2:13; Luke 18:1 (“Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart”). [NJBC]

Verse 10: “pray”: This prayer was answered some years later: Acts 20:1-2 tells us: “Paul sent for the disciples; and after ... saying farewell, he left for Macedonia. When he had gone through those regions ... he came to Greece, where he stayed for three months”. Thessalonika was the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia. [ NOAB]

Verse 10: “whatever is lacking in your faith”: Chapters 4 and 5 make up for this in writing, perhaps partly. [ NJBC]

Verses 11-13: The ancient style of writing did not permit including a prayer in a letter, so Paul couches his prayer in the form of a blessing. [ NJBC]

Verse 11: This petition is addressed to “our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus”. The verb is in the singular, as if the Father and Jesus are to act as one. [ NJBC]

Verse 12: This petition is addressed to Christ, the risen and eschatological “Lord”. For Paul and his co-workers (“co-worker for God”, v. 2) see also 1:5-6 (“... you became imitators of us and of the Lord ...”). [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “coming”: The Greek word is parousia, literally meaning presence. It is a technical term used by Paul (in 2:19 and 4:15) and in some later New Testament writings (2 Thessalonians 2:1, 8, 9; Matthew 24:3, 27, 37, 39; James 5:7, 8; 2 Peter 1:16). [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “hearts”: In Paul’s day the heart was considered to be the controlling centre of personality, not the organ of feeling and emotion as it is today. [ NOAB]

Verse 13: “holiness ... blameless”: Both are qualities of fully realized eschatological existence. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “saints”: or holy ones, those who belong to God. See also 4:17 and the Septuagint translation of Zechariah 14:5. [ NJBC]

Timothy was a co-worker on whom Paul relied heavily at times: see also 1 Corinthians 4:17; 16:10; Philippians 2:19-22. Per Acts 16:1, Timothy was the son of a Jewish Christian woman and a Gentile father from Lystra, and evidently became a Christian under Paul’s influence (1 Corinthians 4:17). He is joint sender of 1 Thessalonians, Philippians, 2 Corinthians, Philemon, Colossians and 2 Thessalonians. Church tradition says that he became Bishop of Ephesus.

Luke 21:25-36

Verses 5-38: This section opens up two windows:

  • Through one, the reader may look back on 19:47-21:4 and see the consequences of the religious leaders’ rejection of Jesus and his teaching in the Temple.
  • Through the other window, the reader looks beyond the events of Luke 22-23 and sees God’s vindication of the rejected Son of Man and Jesus’ strengthening of his disciples, who will be rejected because of their allegiance to him. [ NJBC]

Verses 5-36: The parallels are Mark 13:1-37 and Matthew 24:1-36. [ NOAB]

Many of the events to occur at the end of the age are to be found in 2 Esdras, but 2 Esdras is probably partly Jewish and partly Christian, and parts may have been written after Jesus spoke these words.

Verse 5: “adorned with beautiful stones”: The second Temple was begun after the return from exile (c. 520 BC), and was modest. Herod 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 x 5.5 m (18 feet) wide x 3.6 m (12 feet) high. The Temple was begun by Herod the Great. [ NOAB] [ CAB]

Jesus’ prediction of its destruction is also found in Mark 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 7: See also 17:20 (where the Pharisees ask this question) and Acts 1:6 (“Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”). [ NOAB]

Verse 8: In 17:23, Jesus warns: “They will say to you, ‘Look there!’ or ‘Look here!’ Do not go, do not set off in pursuit”. See also John 8:24. [ NOAB]

Verse 8: “I am he!”: This alludes to the Old Testament revelation formula: see Exodus 3:14 (to Moses); Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 41:4; 43:10. See Mark 13:21-23 and 1 John 2:18 for prediction of false christs/messiahs.

Verse 9: “the end will not follow immediately”: For descriptions of the end time, see Daniel 8:17; 9:25; 11:35, 40; 12:4, 9, 13. [ JBC]

Verse 10: “kingdom against kingdom”: See also Isaiah 19:2; Ezra 5:12; 1QM (Qumran War Scroll) 1:2. Similar language is found in 2 Chronicles 15:6. [ NOAB]

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 11: “great earthquakes”: Joel 2:10 says that on the day of Yahweh there will be earthquakes and other signs. See also Revelation 6:12.

Verses 12-19: See also 10:17-22 (the return of the Seventy). [ NOAB]

Verse 12: “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] In John 16:2, Jesus foretells: “They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God”. [ NOAB]

Verse 12: “kings and governors”: Pilate and Herod Antipas would be good examples. [ NJBC] See also Acts 25:24 (Festus consults Agrippa about Paul). [ NOAB]

Verse 13: In Philippians 1:12-13, Paul says “I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ”. [ NOAB]

Verse 15: “words and a wisdom”: 12:11-12 ascribes this inspiration to the Holy Spirit; [ NOAB] John 16:13-15 enlarges on the same thought.

Verse 16: “You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers ...”: The idea of the end-times as a time of personal divisions was commonplace in Jewish apocalyptic writings: see 2 Esdras 5:9; 6:24; Jubilees 23:19; 2 Baruch 70:3. [ NJBC] See 12:52-53: there Jesus gives a similar prediction. [ NOAB]

Verse 17: In John 15:18-21, Jesus says: “... they will do all these things to you [i.e. hate you and persecute you] on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. [ NOAB]

Verse 18: Jesus says, in 12:7: “even the hairs of your head are all counted”. [ NOAB]

Verse 19: “gain your souls”: In Matthew 10:22, Jesus says “the one who endures to the end will be saved”. See also Revelation 2:7. [ NOAB]

Verses 20-22: See also 19:41-44; 23:28-31; 17:31. [ NOAB]

Verses 20-21: The destruction of the city is predicted in Daniel 9:27; 12:11; 1 Maccabees 1:57. [ JBC]

Verses 20,25: “surrounded by armies ... signs in the sun, ...”: See also Zephaniah 1:15. The “armies” are Roman legions. [ NOAB]

Verse 22: “vengeance”: This is God’s vengeance. It is the same vengeance that produces the vindication of God’s faithfulness at the expense of an unfaithful people. It also produces the vindication of the people called in God’s name in the presence of the Gentiles. For an example of the theological pattern involved here, see Deuteronomy 32:20, 35, 36, 39. [ NJBC]

Verse 23: See also John 15:18-21. [ NOAB]

Verse 24: See also Isaiah 63:18; Daniel 8:13; Revelation 11:2. [ NOAB]

Verse 24: “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled”: In Matthew 20:16, Jesus says: “‘the last will be first, and the first will be last’”. See also Romans 11:25. [ NOAB] We can only guess at what is meant here. One possibility is: the spiritual opportunity God had previously given to Jews is now extended to non-Jews. See also Mark 13:10.

Verses 25-26: Images of cosmic signs, and of the Son of Man are 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; Jeremiah 4:23-26; 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] See also 2 Esdras 7:39 and Revelation 6:12-13. [ NOAB]

Verse 25: Darkness day and night was considered a sign of the coming of divine judgement: see Isaiah 13:10. [ JBC]

Verse 25: “roaring of the sea”: See the Septuagint translation of Psalm 64:8. [ BlkLk]

Verse 26: “faint from fear”: See also Deuteronomy 28:28 and 2 Baruch 72:2. [ BlkLk]

Verses 26,29: “the powers of the heavens will be shaken. ... the fig tree”: See also Revelation 6:13. The fig tree is a symbol of life out of death.

Verse 27: “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 Mark 8:38; Matthew 10:23; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. [ NOAB] Whether Jesus spoke of himself as “the Son of Man” is debated, but see Mark 14:61-62. [ NJBC] See also Micah 1:3ff.

Verse 28: “redemption”: The Greek word is apolytrosis . It is also used in 2:38; Ephesians 1:7, 14; 4:30; Romans 3:24; 8:23; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Colossians 1:14. Apolytrosis literally means buying back, but it is rooted in the Old Testament idea of redemption, God’s powerful act of freeing his chosen people in need. [ JBC]

Verse 29: “fig tree”: Joel 2:22 uses the image of fig tree’s blossoming to signify divine blessing. No tree looks as dead as a fig tree in the Palestinian winter. [ JBC]

Verse 32: The delay of Christ’s second coming troubled early Christians, because::

  • Matthew 10:23 says that the Son of Man will come before the Twelve have finished their initial preaching.
  • From Mark 9:1; 13:30, we gather that at least some of Jesus’ contemporaries should have lived to see Christ’s second coming.
  • John 21:20-23 (part of the appendix to the gospel) awkwardly tries to account for the fact that, contrary to expectation, the “beloved disciple” did die before Christ’s coming.

As time progressed, many Christians died and people doubted whether the resurrection of the dead would really happen: see 1 Corinthians 15:12-19. Paul explained that Christ was the “first fruits” of the resurrection and at his second coming the dead would be made alive: see 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 and 1 Thessalonians 3:13.

2 Peter proposes several reasons for the apparent delay (see 3:3-9), but insists that the Day of the Lord may still come at any time: see 3:10. See also Ezekiel 12:21-28.

The writer of Revelation likewise believed and promised that Jesus would come “soon”: see, for example, 1:1, 3; 22:6-7, 10, 20.

No New Testament passage refers to Jesus’ second coming as such. In John 14:3, Jesus says he will come again, and the writer of Hebrews ( 9:28) says that Christ will appear a second time. Usually, however, the reference is simply to the coming of the Son of Man or Christ as Lord which, like the coming of the Kingdom of God, the Day of Judgement, and the resurrection of the dead, was expected in the not too far distant future, at the end of the present era.

Verse 32: “all things”: i.e. the whole process of salvation history.

Verse 33: See also 16:17. Jesus, to meet a violent death in Jerusalem, utters words of eternal significance.

Verses 34-36: For parallels to these exhortations, see 8:11-15 (the explanation of the Parable of the Sower); 11:5-8; 12:22-31, 45; 18:1-8 (the Parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge). [ NJBC] The terminology is so akin to Paul’s that perhaps Luke is using a fragment from some lost epistle written by Paul or one of his disciples: for v. 34, see 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3; for v. 34a, see 1 Thessalonians 5:7; for v. 36, see 1 Thessalonians 5:8-10, 18. Even the rare Greek word agrypneo appears here and in 1 Thessalonians.

Verse 34: See also Mark 4:19. [ NOAB]

Verse 36: See also Matthew 7:21-23; Mark 13:33 (“‘Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come’”); 2 Corinthians 5:10 (“... all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil”). [ NOAB]

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