Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: All Saints' Day - November 1, 2013

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.

Daniel 7:1-3,15-18

Verse 1: “the first year”: “Belshazzar” was never actually “king”; he was however viceroy for his father from 554 BC. [NOAB]

Verse 1: “Daniel”: A person called “Daniel” is mentioned in Ezekiel; he is renowned for his piety (see 14:14, 20) and wisdom (see 28:3). 14:14 indicates that “Noah, Daniel and Job” are righteous. I interpret this as including a contemporary figure with figures from the distant past. There are many stories about Daniel originating from the time of the Exile; some are in Chapters 1-6; others are in the Apocrypha: Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon. (In Roman Catholic Bibles, Susanna is Chapter 13 of Daniel, and Bel and the Dragon Chapter 14. Both chapters are in the Septuagint translation but are not in the Masoretic Text.)

Verse 2: “four winds”: From the four cardinal points of the compass, and so universal. [JBC]

Verse 2: “the great sea”: The emergence of beasts from the sea is a common ancient Near East symbol of the chaos out of which ordered creation emerged. See also Genesis 1:2; Isaiah 17:12-14; Nahum 1:3-5. For the sea as the abode of horrendous monsters hostile to God, see Job 7:12; 26:11-12 (“Rahab”); Psalm 74:13-14 (“Leviathan”); Isaiah 27:1; 51:9-10. [NJBC]

Verses 4-7: Most of the imagery is from earlier books of the Bible, particularly from the prophets. In Revelation 13:1-2, where this imagery is applied to the Roman Empire as being hostile to God’s people of the new covenant, a composite beast is presented; it has the principal characteristics of the four beasts presented here. The bear’s feet and the lion’s mouth are stressed. [NJBC]

Various versions of Daniel existed; this is evident from the significant differences between the Septuagint and the Masoretic Text, and from fragments found at Qumran. From Revelation 13:1-2, it appears that John had a text of vv. 4-5 which differed significantly from the Masoretic Text. A scholar offers the following reconstruction of what would seem to be the original:

(4a) The first was like a lion, but with eagle’s wings,
(5b) and among the teeth in its mouth were three fangs. It was given the order: “Up, devour much flesh!”
(4b) While I watched its wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth.
(5a) And behold, there was another beast, a second one, resembling a bear; it raised up on one side;
(4c) and it was made to stand on its feet like a human, and it was given a human heart.

In this restored text, each beast has its symbolic number representing all the kings of each dynasty that were known from the Bible to Jews of the Hellenistic age:

  Beast Kingdom Number Item
1 Lion Babylon 3 fangs Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-merodach (2 Kings 25:27; Jeremiah 52:31), Belshazzar (v. 1)
2. Bear Medes 1 side (paw?) “Darius the Mede” (5:30-6:1)
3. Leopard Persians 4 heads Cyrus, Ahasuerus (Xerxes), Artaxerxes, “Darius the Persian” (Nehemiah 12:22)
4. Not like an animal Seleucids 10 horns ten rulers of the dynasty up to the time of the writer (v. 24). The tenth is Antiochus IV Epiphanes. [NJBC]

The first beast was “lifted up from the ground” (v. 4, taken from the earth) when Darius the Mede captured Babylon. The second beast has the natural upright stance of a bear. Its human heart points to Darius' humane character in benefiting the Jews in destroying the hated Babylonian Empire. [NJBC]

Verse 7: That the Seleucid Empire is western (unlike the other powers) may account for it not being symbolized by an animal. Seleucid horrors were well known at the time of writing. How the rulers were counted in the Near East differs from the western count.

Verse 8: This verse appears to be a later addition, for Antiochus (here “a little one”) is one of the ten horns in v. 7. This editor interprets the horns differently: v. 20 says that three horns “fell out” (REB: “fell”, or were conquered). Antiochus defeated three kings in battle (170-165 BC), so the ten horns represent to this later editor ten kings contemporary with Antiochus. To be “plucked up by the roots” (v. 8) is to die violent deaths (allowing Antiochus to succeed to the throne) but, in fact, Antiochus was not responsible for their deaths. [NJBC]

Verse 8: “a little one”: This symbolism is taken from 8:9, the story of the Ram and the Male Goat. There the little horn is Antiochus and the other horns are Seleucid rulers.

Verse 8: “human”: Used here in derogatory sense to contrast with God. The whole sentence is based on Isaiah 37:23, which is addressed to the king of Babylon. Antiochus tried to make all Jews and other subjects honour him as divine. This led to the Jewish revolt led by Mattathias and his sons. They became known as the Maccabees, meaning hammer, a nickname given by Judah, their leader from 167 to 164 BC. The revolt ended with the defeat of the Seleucids under Antiochus and the purification of the Temple in 164 BC.

Verses 9-14: In divine judgement, God appears on his fiery throne, surrounded by his court: see also 1 Kings 22:19. [NOAB]

Verse 9: “its wheels were burning fire”: See also Ezekiel 1.

Verse 10: “the books were opened”: i.e. the records of the deeds of the kings/kingdoms.

Verse 11a: This sentence is part of the work of the later editor.

Verse 11: “the beast”: i.e. the Seleucid Empire.

Verse 12: “the rest of the beasts”: The lion (Babylon) has already been removed, so the Medes and the Persians remain. They lost their empires but remained as petty kingdoms.

Verse 12: “their lives ...”: They were allowed to linger on indefinitely.

Verse 13: “one like a human being”: 12:1 names Michael as “the protector of your people”. An NRSV footnote says that the Aramaic original is son of man.

Verse 18: “the holy ones of the Most High”: See also v. 21. In 8:13, the holy ones are angels.

Verse 25-28: A catalogue of Antiochus’ enormities, with a prediction of their end after three and a half years. After his end, the expected kingdom will be established.

Verse 25: “shall attempt to change the sacred seasons and the law”: Antiochus attempted to do away with Jewish feasts, the sabbath and Mosaic law: see 1 Maccabees 1:41-64. He also set a statue of Olympian Zeus in the Temple. See 11:31; 12:11; 1 Maccabees 1:54; 2 Maccabees 6:4-5. [JBC]

Antiochus' full name was Antiochus IV Zeus Olympias Epiphanes. In other words, the revelation or incarnation of Olympian Zeus. He thought he was the god. Divinity of kings beats divine right of kings any day!

Verse 25: “a time, two times, and half a time”: That is three and a half, half the perfect number seven, so it symbolizes a period of evil. See also 8:14; 9:27; 12:7; Revelation 12:14 for similar strange ways of reckoning elapsed time. [JBC]

Verse 28: “I kept the matter in my mind”: One scholar offers to myself. Daniel understands the meaning of the vision but keeps the interpretation secret. In 8:26 and 12:4, 9, Daniel is told to keep interpretations of visions secret; 8:27 says that he does not understand the meaning of the vision of the Ram and the Male Goat.

A scholar calls the original text the primary stratum. It was written during the reign of Antiochus, before he began active persecution of Jews towards the end of 167 BC. The secondary stratum was added after his victory over Artaxias of Armenia in the second half of 165 but before the end of his persecution in December 164. [JBC]

Psalm 149

This psalm is considered to be post-exilic by many commentators, but its many parallels to Psalms 96-98 (which may be pre-exilic) counsel caution in assigning this psalm a late date. [NJBC]

NOAB sees this psalm as a liturgical event including a drama which has a war-like theme, suggesting that the audience reclines “on their couches” (v. 5) during the play. JBC sees it as a cultic celebration of victory. I find Micah 2:1-5 to be a compelling argument for the interpretation presented in Comments.

Verse 1: “a new song”: This phrase is used at times in other psalms (e.g. 33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1). [NJBC] It originally referred to an unusual hymn of praise but also to an extraordinary event, as in Isaiah 42:10. In Revelation 14:3, the newness corresponds to the new name given the conqueror (2:17), to the new Jerusalem (3:12; 21:2), to the new heaven and earth (21:1), and to universal renewal (21:5).

Certain rituals specify that “new” objects be used: see 1 Samuel 6:7 (a new cart for the Ark) and 2 Samuel 6:3. Analogously it was proper to offer God a “new song” of praise.

Verse 3: “dancing ... tambourine and lyre”: These forms of music are balanced by three instruments of battle: “two-edged swords” (v. 6), “fetters and ... chains” (v. 8). [NJBC]

Verse 4: “people ... humble”: For the same parallelism, see 72:2 and Isaiah 49:13. [NJBC]

Verse 5: “glory”: Hebrew: kabod. A title of God, as in 62:7. See also 29:2; 24:7, 10. [NJBC]

Verse 5: “on their couches”: i.e. in private. This expression forms a merism with “in the assembly of the faithful” (v. 1), i.e. in public, so includes their whole lives. [NJBC]

Verses 6-7: To be ready to battle the nations. [CAB]

Ephesians 1:11-23

Verse 3: In the style of a traditional Jewish eulogy praising God: see also Genesis 9:26; Psalm 31:21; 72:18-19; 144:1; 1 Kings 1:48; 2 Chronicles 6:4; Tobit 13:1; 1 Maccabees 4:30; 1 Peter 1:3; 1QH (Qumran Hymns) 10:14 [NJBC]

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.” [Martinez]

Verse 3: “with every spiritual blessing”: See also 1QSb (Rule of the Blessings) 1:5 says: “May he bestow upon you all the blessings ... in the congregation of the holy ones.” [Martinez]

Verse 3: “in the heavenly places”: Can also be translated among heavenly beings. An expression found only in this letter (1:20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12), referring to the unseen world behind and above the material universe. [NJBC]

Verse 4: “he”: i.e. God.

Verse 4: “he chose”: Selection was developed extensively in pre-Christian Judaism. See 1QH (Qumran Hymns) 3:10; 15:23; 1QS (Rule of the Community) 1:4; 11:7; 1QSb (Rule of the Community: Blessings) 1:2; 1QM (War Scroll) 10:9. [NJBC]

Verse 4: “in Christ”: This phrase occurs frequently throughout this letter in contexts referring to the unity of Jews and Gentiles (e.g. 2:13 and 3:11).

Verse 6: “to the praise of his glorious grace”: i.e. the Father’s. This is repeated in briefer form referring to Christ (v. 12) and the Holy Spirit (vv. 13-14).

Verse 6: “the Beloved”: The identification of Christ as God’s Beloved recalls the baptism scene in the synoptic gospels, in which a voice from heaven identifies Jesus as “the Beloved” (Mark 1:11 and parallels). Also in these scenes, the voice says “I am well pleased” or I take pleasure: see v. 5. [NJBC]

Verse 7: “redemption through his blood”: See also 1:14; 4:30; Mark 10:45; 14:24; Romans 3:24; 8:23; Colossians 1:14, 20. [NJBC]

Verse 7: “the riches of his grace”: The Hebrew equivalent is common in the Qumran literature in various forms (e.g. 1QH (Hymns) 1:32). [NJBC]

Verse 9: “mystery”: Everywhere in Ephesians (except 5:32) and throughout Colossians, “mystery” refers to God’s age-long purpose, now disclosed to his chosen, to call Gentiles as well as Jews to share in Christ’s redemptive work (3:4-6). In late Judaism, everything is regulated according to God’s mysteries. The God of knowledge is in control of all things because the unalterable course of events was decreed by him before all eternity (1QS (Rule of the Community) 3-4, especially 3:9-10). Not only the human world (1QH (Hymns) 1:15) but also the angelic (1QM (War Scroll) 14:14) and the cosmic (1QH 1:11-15) have been determined by him. These mysteries have been revealed by chosen interpreters (1QH 1:21; 1QpHab (Qumran Pesher on Habakkuk) 7:4-5). [NJBC]

Verse 10: “fullness of time”: In Galatians 4:4, the concern is chronological time, but here it is the gatherings of all times. See also Tobit 4:5; 2 Esdras 4:37; Acts 1:7. [CAB]

Verse 10: “gather up all things in him”: See also 1:20-23; Philippians 2:9-11. [CAB]

Verse 11: See also Numbers 26:55 and Colossians 1:12. [CAB]

Verses 11-14: The position in God’s plan of the recipients of the letter: they are beneficiaries of God’s plan in Christ. [NJBC]

Verse 13: “you also”: You Gentiles, as well as we Jews. [NOAB]

Verse 13: “heard ... believed ... marked with the seal”: A reflection of missionary reports such as those in Acts 8:12-17; 10:34-48; 19:2. [NJBC]

Verse 13: “marked with the seal”: Stamped with ownership (as a slave was). See also 4:30; 2 Corinthians 1:22; Revelation 7:3-4. [CAB]

Verse 14: “pledge”: See also 2 Corinthians 1:22. The Holy Spirit, already given, is an advance installment of what is in store for Christians (2 Corinthians 5:5). God will finish what he has begun (Romans 8:16-17, 23; Philippians 1:6). [CAB] [NOAB]

Verse 15: Colossians 1:4 is very similar: “... we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints”. In Philemon 5, Paul writes: “I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith toward the Lord Jesus”. [CAB]

Verse 16: In Romans 1:9, Paul writes: “God, whom I serve with my spirit by announcing the gospel of his Son, is my witness that without ceasing I remember you always in my prayers”. Colossians 1:3 says: “In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”. See also Philemon 4. [CAB]

Verse 17: “Father of glory”: This phrase occurs only here in the New Testament, but in Acts 7:2 Stephen speaks of the “God of glory” and in 1 Corinthians 2:8 Paul writes of the “ Lord of glory”.

Verse 18: “saints”: This word has various meanings in Ephesians. Here it means angels with whom the earthly congregation has been joined in Christ. This thought has close parallels in the Qumran literature: see 1QSb (Rule of the Community: Blessings) 3:25-4:26; 1QH (Hymns) 11:21-23 (Vermes: 3:21-23). In vv. 1 and 15, it means the earthly congregation. [NJBC]

Verse 19: “greatness of his power”: In the Qumran literature, see 1QH (Hymns) 12:32 (Vermes: 4:32); 1QS (Rule of the Community) 11:19-20. [NJBC]

Verses 20-23: God’s might is revealed in the resurrection and ascension of Christ, and in his exaltation over angelic forces. The author uses early Christian creedal statements that formulate the Christ-event in terms of Psalm 110:1 and 8:6 to impress on readers the glorious position to which they have been called in Christ. [NJBC]

Verse 20: “in Christ”: This phrase occurs frequently throughout this letter in contexts referring to the unity of Jews and Gentiles (e.g. 1:4; 2:13; 3:11). It speaks of Paul’s sense of the Christian community, i.e. the fellowship of those whose fellowship in Christ gives them mutual benefits and sets common standards. See also 1 Corinthians 1:13 (“Has Christ been divided? ...”); 12:12 (“... just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ”); Galatians 3:16. [CAB]

Verse 20: “in the heavenly places”: Can also be translated among heavenly beings. An expression found only in this letter (1:3; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12), referring to the unseen world behind and above the material universe. [NOAB]

Verse 21: In 1 Corinthians 15:24, Pauls writes: “Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power”. Colossians 1:16 says: “... in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him”. See also Philippians 2:9-11. [CAB]

Verse 21: “rule and authority ...”: Created heavenly entities presented as angelic beings subordinate to Christ, perhaps thought of by the first readers as rivals to Christ or beings whose power supplemented that of Christ. Such a belief grew out of the complex and highly developed angelology widespread at the time. [NJBC] See also 3:10; 6:12; Colossians 2:10, 15; Romans 8:38. [CAB]

Verses 22-23: The Church, as the “fullness of Christ”, is the complement of his mystic person; he is the “head”; the Church is “his body”. [NOAB]

Verses 22-23: “head ... body”: This is a development of the Pauline concept of many diverse members forming the body of Christ: see 1 Corinthians 12:12-17. The church is beneficiary of God’s all-embracing plan, and, as beneficiary of his lordship over all things and over all angelic powers, the Church - Christ’s body – shares in the dominion of its head. [NJBC]

Verse 22: “he has put all things under his feet”: This is an allusion to Psalm 8:6: “You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet”. Psalm 8 extols the glory of Adam over creation. Christ is the new Adam, the head of the new humanity, who has brought to virtual completion Adam’s (humanity’s) assignment by God to dominate the universe (see Genesis 1:28 and Hebrews 2:6-9).

Verse 23: 3:19 says: “... to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” and 4:13 “until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ”. [CAB]

Verse 23: “the fullness of him who fills all”: The Greek is difficult. Perhaps Christ is the source and goal of the body’s growth, as described in 4:15-16. “Who fills all” can be translated as “who is being filled with all”. Thus several Patristic authors (Origen, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Chrysostom) read this; they interpreted it as meaning that all things created contribute to the fullness of Christ. However, Old Testament usage would favour the active sense (as in the NRSV) when speaking of God: in Jeremiah 23:24, Yahweh says through the prophet: “Do I not fill heaven and earth?”. See also Ezekiel 43:5. [JBC]

Luke 6:20-31

Verses 17-19: See also Matthew 4:24-25; 12:15-21; Mark 3:7-12. [NOAB]

Verse 17: “Tyre and Sidon”: Perhaps some who came from these cities were Gentiles.

Verse 18: Disease and possession by evil spirits were seen as closely linked. [NOAB]

Verse 19: “power”: 4:36 says: “They were all amazed and kept saying to one another, ‘What kind of utterance is this? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and out they come!’”. See also 5:17. [BlkLk]

Verses 20-23: Matthew presents beatitudes in 5:3-12. See also Luke 4:18-19. The order of the Beatitudes is different in Matthew and Luke, perhaps indicating that the authors drew from different sources (either oral or written). While Matthew has nine beatitudes and no woes, Luke has four of each. The woes are in the same order as the beatitudes. [JBC]

Verse 20: “poor”: Jesus has special love for the unfortunate. The Greek word is ptochoi; in the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, it usually means the lowly who depend desperately on God for help. See Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12. [JBC]

Verse 20: Here and in 4:18, Jesus fulfils the prophecy of Isaiah 61:1: he has been “anointed ... to bring good news to the oppressed” and “to proclaim liberty to the captives”. [BlkLk]

Verses 21-26: In Matthew 5:1-12, Jesus gives the Beatitudes on a mountain, in the Sermon on the Mount. He has fewer teachings here than appear there; he gives others found elsewhere in Matthew. Vv. 24-26 appear only here. [NOAB] CAB notes three other differences:

Matthew Luke
They are in the third person (“they”). They are in the second person (“you”).
Those who live godly lives now will be rewarded by being with God at the end of the era. They are promises for God’s future reversal of the plight of his people.
Only blessings are presented. The blessings are matched by warnings of the deprivations that are coming for those now enjoying power and plenty.

NJBC postulates that vv. 20b-23 are derived from Q (the sayings source) and are therefore found in both Luke and Matthew.

Verse 21: “hungry now”: Amos 8:11ff tells of a time when there will be famine for the word of God. See also Deuteronomy 8:3 and Luke 4:4. [JBC]

Verse 22: “exclude you”: See also John 9:22; 12:42; 16:1-2 for the exclusion of Christians from synagogues. [BlkLk]

Verse 22: “Son of Man”: For the corporate sense of this phrase, see Daniel 7:13ff, 18. There it is used of the persecuted saints in the trial at the end of time. [JBC] The footnote in the NRSV says that the Aramaic words translated “human being” in Daniel 7:13 are son of man.

Verse 23: “in that day”: This expression was launched by Amos (see Amos 2:16 and 5:18) and given firm place by Isaiah in 2:11; 3:18; 4:2; 7:20. [JBC]

Verse 23: “ancestors”: Tradition said that Isaiah was also persecuted. [BlkLk]

Verses 24-26: For more of Jesus’ prophecies of woes, see also 11:38-52; 17:1; 21:23; 22:22. [NOAB]

Verse 24: From v. 18, it is probable that few “rich” people were present. So is Luke writing for his own church (possibly in Antioch)? Note also “their” in vv. 23 and 26.

Verse 25: See also 12:19-20 (Parable of the Rich Fool); 16:25 (Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus); James 5:1-5. [NOAB]

Verse 25a: This thought is akin to that of Jeremiah 31:10ff, in which ransomed Jacob will come to the good things of the Lord and will not hunger anymore. See John 6:35 and Revelation 7:16. In the Septuagint translation of Jeremiah 31:14 (“my people shall be satisfied with my bounty”), the Greek word translated “satisfied” is rendered as “filled” here. [BlkLk]

Verse 26: “false prophets”: See also Jeremiah 14:13ff; 23:9ff, 27-28; Ezekiel 22:23-31. [BlkLk]

Verses 27-30: See also Matthew 5:39-42; Romans 12:17; 13:8-10. [NOAB]

Verse 27: “Love your enemies”: This is a persistent theme in Luke/Acts, for example in stories about Samaritans: see 9:51-56; 10:25-37 (Parable of the Good Samaritan); 17:11-17 (the ten lepers); Acts 8:4-25 (Philip in Samaria). [NJBC]

Verse 28: Jesus gives the greatest example of this on the cross, if 23:34a is authentic. [NOAB] That sentence, per the NRSV footnote, is not in all manuscripts. BlkLk suggests that 23:34a was omitted from some due to the conviction, common in Gentile Christian circles, that God did not forgive the Jews for the crucifixion, but punished them for it by the destruction of Jerusalem.

Verse 29: “offer the other also ...”: This flies in the face of the natural tendency to place self-protection first. [NJBC]

Verse 29: “do not withhold even your shirt”: Only a tunic and coat were worn, so Jesus advises (at least as an image) stripping oneself naked. [NJBC]

Verse 30: Matthew 5:42 says “Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you”, a less radical command. [NJBC]

Verse 30: “begs from you”: BlkLk suggests asks of you. REB offers a similar translation.

Verse 30: “do not ask for them again”: NJBC and REB offer do not demand ... back.

Verse 31: Matthew 7:12 is similar. [NOAB]

Verse 31: Luke’s audience (in the Gentile world) would have known the cultural ethic: if you receive something, reciprocate. Vv. 32-36 provide an interpretation of this verse which makes clear that Jesus expects much more. [NJBC]

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