Comments

Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Second Sunday of Advent - December 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.

Baruch 5:1-9

We should not assume that the author is Jeremiah’s scribe, Baruch. For one thing, Jeremiah’s Baruch would not have made the errors of fact found in the early chapters of the book. [NOAB]

4:11-12 says: “With joy I nurtured them, but I sent them away with weeping and sorrow. Let no one rejoice over me, a widow and bereaved of many; I was left desolate because of the sins of my children, because they turned away from the law of God.”

5:1-2: See also Isaiah 61:3, 10. [NOAB]

5:2: “diadem”: Exodus 28:36-37 speaks thus of Aaron’s diadem: “You shall make a rosette of pure gold, and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, ‘Holy to the Lord.’. You shall fasten it on the turban with a blue cord; it shall be on the front of the turban.”. It is similarly described in Exodus 39:30-31. See also Wisdom of Solomon 18:24. The word in Greek is mitra. [NJBC] It symbolizes the regal splendour of the priest: see Ezekiel 21:26 and Zechariah 3:5.

5:4: “Righteous Peace”: Isaiah 32:17 tells us that “The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever”. [NOAB] For other names of the new Jerusalem, see Isaiah 1:26 (“the city of righteousness, the faithful city”); Jeremiah 33:16 (“The LORD is our righteousness”); Ezekiel 48:35 (“The LORD is There”). [JBC]

5:5-9: These verses are modelled on Deutero-Isaiah, i.e. Isaiah 40:3-5, 9-11; 41:18-19; 49:22-23. The shortest route from Babylon to Palestine is through the Arabian Desert. [NJBC] Babylon is due east of Jerusalem.

5:5: “the Holy One”: This name is also used for God in 4:22. [JBC]

5:6: Isaiah 49:22 says: “Thus says the Lord GOD: I will soon lift up my hand to the nations, and raise my signal to the peoples; and they shall bring your sons in their bosom, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders” and Isaiah 66:20 says: “They shall bring all your kindred from all the nations as an offering to the LORD, on horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and on mules, and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the LORD”. [NOAB]

5:7: Isaiah 42:16-17 says: “I will lead the blind by a road they do not know, by paths they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I will do, and I will not forsake them. They shall be turned back and utterly put to shame – those who trust in carved images, who say to cast images, ‘You are our gods.’”. [NOAB]

5:9: “in the light of his glory”: See also 4:24. The author, a poet, uses the language of nature myth (i.e. the rising of the sun in the east) to emphasize that however in fact the return of the exiles may seem to work historically, it is God alone who is the real explanation of the return. Only God controls the sun, and (from a more ancient view) can appear in it. Only he can lead them home basking in its light. Isaiah 60:1-3 also speaks of God as the light of Israel: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you”. See also Isaiah 58:8-9. [NJBC]

Malachi 3:1-4

Habakkuk 1:2-4 says: “O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you "Violence!" and you will not save? Why do you make me see wrong-doing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails. The wicked surround the righteous – therefore judgment comes forth perverted.”. See also Habakkuk 1:13.

The author has attacked the priests of his day in 1:6-2:4, but he is favourable towards the institution of the priesthood (see 2:4-7) and insists that people honour their obligation to support the Temple financially (see 3:6-12). [NJBC]

Note that v. 1a is in the first person. Then vv. 1b-4 are in the third person. Then v. 5 is again in the first person. While there are several theories as to why the person changes, none seem to be satisfactory explanations.

Verse 1a: This is applied to John the Baptizer by Jesus, in slightly modified form, in Matthew 11:10: “This is the one about whom it is written, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you’”. See also Mark 1:2. [NJBC]

Verse 1: “messenger”: Hebrew: malaki. The book’s name may be due to the use of this word in 1:1. Malaki is translated as angel in Genesis 16:7 (appears to Hagar); 22:11 (to Abraham); Exodus 3:2 (to Moses); Isaiah 63:9. [NOAB]

Verse 1: “prepare the way”: Isaiah 40:3 says “A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’” [CAB]

Verse 1: “the LORD”: NJBC points out that the Hebrew is ha’adon rather than Yahweh, the Israelite national name for God. Adon means lord, master, owner, or controller. [QVHG] Yahweh appears in vv. 4 and 5.

Verse 1: “covenant”: This is either the covenant at Sinai or the covenant with Levi, the priestly tribe (mentioned in 2:4-5). [NJBC] I favour the latter because v. 3 speaks of the purification of the ranks of the sons of Levi, thus ending the abuses of the priesthood mentioned in 1:6-2:9.

Verse 2: “his coming”:. See also Isaiah 40:3 and Matthew 3:10-12 (“I [John the Baptiser] baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me ...”); 11:10-12; Mark 1:2; Luke 1:17, 76; 7:27. [NOAB]

Verse 5: God will appear for judgement against the wicked and godless: see also Zephaniah 1:14-18 (“... I will bring such distress upon people that they shall walk like the blind; because they have sinned against the LORD...”); 3:1-8; Mark 13:14-37 (the Little Apocalypse); 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. [NOAB]

4:5 says “Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes”.

Luke 1:68-79

There are several liturgical translations of this passage, including two in the BAS – one metrical and one not.

NJBC says that Luke has adapted and joined together two Jewish Christian hymns (vv. 68-75; 76-79).

Comments: The tense in Greek shows that they describe how God characteristically acts and what he is inaugurating in Jesus: The tenses are aorist, and are seen to be gnomic and inceptive. [NJBC]

Verse 67: Just as Elizabeth spoke of the greatness of Jesus (in vv. 41-44), so too does Zechariah. [NJBC]

Verse 68: “Blessed ...”: This imitates the style of hymns of praise in Psalms 41:13; 72:18; 103:1; 106:48; 113:2; 1QH (Qumran Hymns) 13:20; 18:14; 19:27-28. [BlkLk] 1QH 13:20 (Vermes 5:20) says: “... Be blessed Lord, because you did not desert the orphan nor have you slighted the wretch.” 1QH 18:14 (Vermes 10:14) says: “Be blessed, Lord, God of compassion and of abundant favour, because you have made me know these things so that I may recount your marvels, and I do not keep silent day and night.” 1QH 19:27-28 (Vermes 11:27-28) says: “... Be blessed Lord, because you have given your servant the insight of knowledge to understand your wonders and your deeds without number through the abundance of your favour.” [Martinez]

Verse 68: “God of Israel”: The entire canticle stays within the orbit of Judaism and God’s dealings with the elect people. [NJBC]

Verse 68: “looked favourably”: The Greek word can also be translated blessed: in the sense that God is present, and not in a neutral way. See Exodus 3:16 (Yahweh’s instructions to Moses after he identifies himself); 4:31 and Isaiah 10:12. [JBC]

Verse 68: “redeemed”: BlkLk says that the Greek literally means made redemption for.

Verse 69: “a mighty saviour”: BlkLk translates the Greek as a horn of salvation (a literal translation) and notes the occurrence of this phrase in 2 Samuel 22:3 and Psalm 18:2 (although not in the NRSV), which he sees as the sources of this song. These are the only places where this phrase occurs.

Verse 69: “saviour”: See also Psalms 92:10-11; 132:17-18 (“... I will cause a horn to sprout up for David ...”); 1 Samuel 2:1 (Hannah’s prayer). [NOAB] [JBC]

Verse 69: “David”: This fleshes out what Gabriel has said in v. 32 (“... the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David”). [NJBC] See also Acts 4:25 (after the Council releases Peter and John).

Verse 71: “saved from our enemies”: Old Testament prophecies that tell of salvation from enemies include Psalms 18:17 and 106:10. [BlkLk] In 2:1-20, Jesus is pacific. God conquers enemies by bringing them peace.

Verse 72: “mercy ... to our ancestors”: See Micah 7:20 and Psalm 106:45. [BlkLk]

Verse 73: “to ... Abraham”: In Genesis 17:7, Yahweh renames Abram Abraham and promises: “I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you”. See also 26:24. [BlkLk]

Verse 74: For a prophecy in similar language, see Jeremiah 30:8. From the 700s on, expectation of spiritual restoration included deliverance from enemies and could hardly be distinguished from it. [BlkLk]

Verse 76: “you will go before the Lord ...”: An echo of Gabriel’s words in vv. 16-17. There is also an echo of Malachi 3:1: “See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight – indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts”. [NJBC] See also Malachi 4:5 (the promise to send Elijah); Isaiah 40:3 and Luke 7:26. [NOAB] [BlkLk]

Verse 77: See 3:1-20 and Mark 1:4. [NOAB] [NJBC]

Verse 77: “by the forgiveness of their sins”: Jeremiah 31:34 had promised that knowledge of God, given via a new covenant of a new kind, would be made possible by the forgiveness of sins. In Acts 5:31, Luke links the Kingdom with the forgiveness of sins. [BlkLk]

Verse 78: See Malachi 4:2 (“the sun of righteousness shall rise”) and Ephesians 5:14. [NOAB] A close parallel is to be found in Tosefta Zebahim 9:8: this verse incorporates two key words in v. 78, anatelei (arise) and eusplanchnia (mercy): “And after these things the Lord himself will arise (anatelei) for you, the light of righteousness, with healing and mercy (eusplanchnia) in his wings.” [NJBC]

Verse 78: “the dawn”: We are familiar with various names for Jesus, but not this one. It seems that it did not catch on in the early Church. NOAB offers another interpretation: “the dawn” will be when God fulfils his purpose to bless mankind. BlkLk offers he who has risen although he does comment on the contrast between “dawn” and “darkness” (v. 79) and suggests that the author may have had Isaiah 42:7 (“to open the eyes that are blind, ... from the prison those who sit in darkness”) and Isaiah 9:1-2 (“... The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness - on them light has shined”) in mind. It is possible that the Greek word is the one the Septuagint translation uses for a Hebrew word meaning sprout or growth and used of a future ruler descended from Jesse in Jeremiah 23:5 (“Branch”); Zechariah 3:8; 6:12.

Verse 79: “sit in darkness and in the shadow of death”: A combination of Isaiah 9:1-2 and 42:7 (in the Septuagint translation). See also Isaiah 59:8; Matthew 4:16; Luke 4:18. [NOAB] [BlkLk]

Philippians 1:3-11

Verses 1-2: This letter opens in the way that Hellenic letters usually did, with some Pauline modifications. [CAB]

Verse 1: “Timothy”: According to 2:19-24, Timothy was Paul’s accredited representative. [NJBC]

Verse 1: “the saints ...”: Christians are “saints” in that they constitute “in Christ” God’s holy people. [NJBC] The Greek word is hagios, meaning holy.

Verse 1: I note that the salutation includes bishops and deacons but not priests, so this letter predates the development of the office of priest as we know it. In the secular Greek-speaking world, episcopos (bishop) denoted oversight or administration and diakonos (deacon) had the sense of minister or attendant. The diakonoi may have seen to the relief of the poor, though Paul also views preaching as a diaconal ministry. While remote from the use of these terms in the later church, their mention here marks the dawn of permanent ministry. [NJBC]

Verse 4: “joy”: A frequent theme in this book; see also 1:18, 25; 2:2, 17, 18, 28, 29; 3:1; 4:1, 4, 10. [NJBC]

Verse 5: “sharing”: The word in the Greek is koinonia. See also 1:7; 2:1; 3:10; 4:15. The Christians at Philippi have shared with Paul through their contributions (4:14-16) and by suffering for the gospel (1:29-30). [NJBC]

Verse 5: “first day”: Acts 16:12-40 tells of the conversion of the first Christians at Philippi. [JBC]

Verse 6: See also 1 Corinthians 1:7 [CAB] (although Paul may be indulging in irony).

Verse 6: “the day of Jesus Christ”: When his task of subduing the world to God’s glory is complete (3:21), Christ will come to hand over the Kingdom to the Father: see 1 Corinthians 15:24-28. [NJBC] See also 1 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 2 Peter 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

Verse 7: “in my imprisonment”: Literally: in my bonds. [JBC] V. 13 makes clear that Paul is in prison for the faith, and not for a crime. Paul being in chains is a special grace rather than an evil: see also 2 Corinthians 4:7-15; 6:3-10. The Christians at Philippi share in this grace not merely through their concern and tangible support for Paul but also because as a community they have similarly suffered for spreading the good news. [NJBC]

Verse 10: “determine what is best”: Literally: assess the things that differ to your advantage. [JBC]

Verse 11: “harvest of righteousness”: i.e. the eschatological right-standing with God already granted to believers: see Romans 5:1. Christian ethical life is entirely the fruit of this new relationship. [NJBC]

Verse 11: “for the glory and praise of God”: See also Romans 15:7; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 2 Corinthians 4:15.

Luke 3:1-6

The parallels are Mark 1:1-4 and Matthew 3:1-3.

John is the inaugurator of the gospel’s new time of grace: God’s gracious word will not allow human perversity the last word in salvation history.

Comments: classical Greek authors: Three Old Testament books are set in history by references to rulers (see Isaiah 1:1; Jeremiah 1:3 and Hosea 1:1), but JBC considers Luke’s style to be closer to that of classical Greek authors, such as Thucydides.

Verse 1: “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius”: Tiberius ruled jointly, and then alone from 14-27 AD. Two methods of counting years were used. Per the Roman method, Jesus began his ministry between 28 and 29 AD and per the Syrian method, between 27 and 28 AD. (The Syrian method counted an initial partial year as a whole year.) [JBC]

Verse 1: “Pilate”: He was prefect or procurator with final authority over Judea and Samaria from 26 to 36 AD. [JBC] He is also mentioned in 13:1; 23:1-6, 11-13, 20-24, 52; Acts 3:13; 4:27; 13:28.

Verse 1: “Herod ... Philip”: When Herod the Great died, his kingdom was divided. His sons then ruled parts of it: Herod Antipas ruled Galilee from 4 BC to 39 AD [JBC] and Philip ruled “Ituraea and Trachonitis”, both north and east of the Sea of Galilee. Luke says much about Herod Antipas, none of it good: see 3:19; 9:7, 9; 13:31; 23:7-15; Acts 4:27. “Abilene” was west of Damascus.

Verse 2: “Annas ... Caiaphas”: The Roman authorities influenced the choice of high priest. Annas was high priest 6-15 AD; Caiaphas (see also Matthew 26:3 and John 11:49) held this office 18-37 AD. For this “high-priestly family”, see Acts 4:6. In 20:5, the high priests reject John’s baptism. Their response to Jesus is even more hostile: see 9:22; 19:47; 20:1-2, 19; 22:2, 4, 52, 66; 23:4, 10, 13-14; 24:20.

Verse 2: “the word of God came ...”: The words used in the Septuagint translation of Jeremiah 1:1 are identical. Luke’s first readers would have recognized the phrase. John resembled Old Testament prophets: see Matthew 3:4; 2 Kings 1:8 (Elijah); Zechariah 13:4. The parallels Luke draws between Jeremiah and John are:

  Jeremiah John
Consecrated before birth 1:5 1:13
Announces judgement at the end of time 1:10 3:9, 16-17
Announces messianic glory 31 3:15ff
Announces a new and final covenant available to even the least important people 31:31-34 7:18-23

Verse 2: “wilderness”: Various groups, including the Qumran Community, expressed their unhappiness with the Jewish religious authorities by moving out into the wild country around Jerusalem. Members of the Qumran community applied Isaiah 40:3 (quoted in v. 4) to themselves, as they prepared the Lord’s way by living in the desert and by separating themselves from outsiders (1QS (Rule of the Community) 8:13-14). It is interesting that the proportions of the ruins at Qumran are the same as those of the Temple; they saw themselves as the true Judaism. The “wilderness” (desert) was also where God led Israel and formed a covenant marriage with them: see Jeremiah 2:2ff; Deuteronomy 2:7; 32:10; Exodus 16. Through the desert experience, they ceased to be slaves and became free. John the Baptist is God’s prophet; he belongs not to the period of promise but to that of fulfilment: see Acts 1:22; 10:37.

Verse 3: Christians understood John the Baptist to fulfill Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1; 4:5 (“Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes”). For John’s influence outside Christianity, see Acts 18:25; 19:1-7. There are still followers of John in Iraq.

Verse 3: “baptism”: At the time, per the Mishnah, it was the practice to baptise converts to Judaism, but John’s call was to Israelites. Ceremonial purification by water has deep biblical roots: 1 Samuel 7:6 says: “... they [the Israelites] gathered at Mizpah, and drew water and poured it out before the LORD”.

Verses 4-5: Mark omits these verses.

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