Comments

Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Second Sunday of Easter - April 7, 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.

Acts 5:27-32

Verses 12-16: This is one of Luke’s summary accounts in Acts. For other multi-verse summaries, see 2:42-47 and 4:32-35. For single-verse summaries, see 1:14; 6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 16:5; 19:20; 28:30-31. They fill the gaps between freestanding episodes. [NJBC]

Verse 12: “Solomon’s Portico”: This was probably in the outer courtyard of the Temple, on the east side. [NOAB]

Verse 13: “None of the rest”: To NOAB, unbelievers, but BlkActs is unsure of the meaning.

Verses 14-16: These verses invites comparison with Mark 6:53-56, the welcome Jesus received when he and his disciples land at Gennesaret. [NJBC] The word krabbatos, “mats”, is used in v. 15; it occurs in Mark (including in 6:55) and John, but not in the other gospels. [BlkActs] “Peter’s shadow” has the same role as “the fringe of his [Jesus’] cloak” in Mark 6:55-56. [NJBC] In 19:12, Paul’s “the handkerchiefs or aprons” have a similar healing effect. The word translated “fall” occurs elsewhere in the New Testament, always with reference to the divine cloud of glory, the divine presence and power. [BlkActs]

Verse 16: The disciples continue what Jesus has begun: Mark 1:32-34 tells us: “That evening, at sundown, they brought to ... [Jesus] all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons ...” [NOAB]

Verse 17: “Sadducees”: They did not believe in life after death.

Verses 19-20: 12:1-19 tells of Herod Agrippa’s persecution. While James, son of Zebedee, is martyred (with a sword), Peter is imprisoned but escapes: during the night “... an angel of the Lord appeared ... He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ And the chains fell off his wrists.” This is part of the Peter tradition. In 16:25-26, Paul and Silas are freed when an earthquake hits. [NOAB]

Verse 20: “life”: In Semitic speech, “life” is the same as salvation. [BlkActs]

Verse 21: “the council and the whole body of the elders of Israel”: An expression for the council or Sanhedrin. [NOAB]

Verse 25: “the people”: The Greek words, ho laos, refer to the people of Israel. [NJBC] Later in Acts, the emphasis will shift to Gentiles.

Verse 28: “you are determined ...”: Deuteronomy 21:23 says “... anyone hung on a tree is under God's curse ...”. The high priest says that the apostles are determined to have the curse rest on the members of the Sanhedrin, rather than on Jesus.

Verses 29-31: These verses illustrate Luke 21:12-13: Jesus tells his followers: “... they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify.” [NJBC]

Verse 29: “We must obey God rather than any human authority”: This echoes Socrates’ words in Plato’s Apology 29d: “I shall obey God rather than you”. [NJBC]

Verse 30: “whom you had killed ...”: Part of the early Christian homiletic treasury: see also 2:23; 10:39; Galatians 3:13. [JBC] The Jewish penalty was stoning and then gibbeting. The Roman penalty was execution by crucifixion. Though the Romans carried out the sentence of execution, here Peter places the responsibility clearly at the feet of the Jewish leaders. The pole of the cross was indeed “a tree”. [NOAB]

Verse 31: “Leader”: The Greek word is translated as “Author” in 3:15. [NOAB] BlkActs offers Pioneer. The same Greek word appears in Hebrews 2:10 and 12:2, where it is translated as “pioneer”.

Verse 31: “Saviour”: In the ancient world, this was the name given to one who saved a city, rescued, or healed. [NOAB]

Verse 32: “witnesses”: Before his ascension, Jesus tells those gathered in Jerusalem: “... you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (see 1:8). See also 2:32 (Peter’s sermon at Pentecost). [NJBC]

Verse 34: “Gamaliel”: Gamaliel I, “the Elder”, descendant of the great Hillel, was a respected Jewish scholar in Jerusalem 25-50 AD. The little we have of his writings show him to be a Pharisee. Paul was his student: he tells us in 22:3: “‘I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated strictly according to our ancestral law, being zealous for God, just as all of you are today’”. [NJBC]

Verses 36-39: Gamaliel makes the point that while other movements ended when their leaders perished, such is not the case with followers of Jesus. [NJBC]

Verse 36: “Theudas”: According to the contemporary historian Josephus, in Antiquities of the Jews 20.5.1, Theudas raised a revolt later than this; [NOAB] however BlkActs notes that Josephus was, at times, inaccurate.

Verse 37: “Judas the Galilean”: A revolutionary leader who in 6-7 AD opposed imposition of new taxes, following “the census”. [NOAB] However, BlkActs says that Judas’ revolt arose because of fear of slavery being imposed after the census.

Verse 37: “were scattered”: However, Josephus tells us that the Zealots emerged from Judas’ followers. [BlkActs]

Verse 40: “had them flogged”: Probably with 39 stripes: Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 11:24: “Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one”, i.e. many. [NOAB] It appears that all the apostles were flogged, not just Peter and John.

Psalm 118:14-29

In Jewish liturgical tradition, Psalms 113-118 were used in connection with the great festivals. At the Passover, Psalms 113-14 were sung before the meal, and Psalms 115-118 were sung after it. [NOAB]

JBC sees this psalm as not involving a king.

Verse 1: See also 106:1; 107:1; 136:1. Note that v. 29 repeats this verse, forming an envelope round the psalm. [NJBC]

Verses 2-4: “Let Israel say ... Let the house of Aaron say ... Let those who fear the LORD say ...”: These are probably actual directions to the various groups in the congregation. [NOAB] The same sequence is found in 115:9-11. A similar sequence appears in 135:19-20. [NJBC]

Verse 3: “house of Aaron”: i.e. the priests. [NOAB]

Verse 4: “those who fear the LORD”: To CAB, Gentile converts.

Verse 6: This verse is quoted in Hebrews 13:6. [NOAB]

Verses 10-14: While it is difficult to be sure whether the language in these verses is literal or figurative, it is tenable that the speaker is a king who has come to the Temple to offer thanks for a victory. [NOAB]

Verses 10-13: The desperateness of the king’s situation. [NOAB]

Verse 19: “gates of righteousness”: This may have been the actual name of a gate of the Temple. [NJBC]

Verse 20: A voice from within replies that only the qualified may enter the Temple. Psalms 15 and 24:3-6 state who may enter the Temple. [NOAB]

Verses 21-22: The king answers that God has borne witness to his character by delivering him (see also 18:20-24) when others have given him up. [NOAB]

Verses 22-29: To CAB, these verses tell of the people’s acclaim of the one who earlier had been rejected by the ruling monarch. This was David’s experience at the hand of Saul: see 1 Samuel 19:31. He is now installed as God’s chosen ruler over his people.

Verses 23-24: These verses are frequently quoted in the New Testament, e.g. Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:11; 1 Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:7-8. They were very important for the early Church in their attempt to understand the rejection and execution of Jesus by his people. [NOAB] [NJBC]

Verses 23-25: The choir joyously acknowledges what God has done. [NOAB]

Verse 24: “made”: NJBC offers acted. He points out that the Hebrew word is the same one as is translated as “does” in vv. 15-16. The reference is to some act of Yahweh to save his people or to punish the wicked. See also 119:126.

Verses 25-26: These verses are alluded to in Matthew 21:9 and the parallel passages. [NOAB]

Verse 25: “Save us”: The Hebrew word is Hoshianna (Hosanna). [NOAB]

Verses 26-27: The suppliant is admitted with a choral blessing. [NOAB]

Verse 26: To NJBC, these words were probably spoken by the priests, welcoming the righteous into the Temple.

Verse 26: “in the name of the LORD”: This recalls the battle context of vv. 10-14. [NJBC]

Verse 27a: There is an allusion here to the priestly blessing of Numbers 6:22-27. [NJBC]

Verse 27b: This may be a liturgical direction. [NOAB] To CAB, the branches touching the altar symbolise the worshippers sharing in the power and blessing of God, who is enthroned there. To NJBC, the mention of “procession” and “branches” brings to mind the Feast of Tabernacles, in which olive branches were used.

Verse 28: The king makes his act of thanksgiving. [NOAB] This verse paraphrases Exodus 15:2b. [NJBC]

Verse 29: The choir begins a hymn of praise. Psalm 136:26 is similar. [NOAB]

Psalm 150

Psalms 146-150 all begin and end with “Praise the LORD!” (Hallelujah!). [NOAB]

Verse 3: “lute”: A stringed instrument. [NOAB]

See also 41:13. “Praise him” appears ten times!

Revelation 1:4-8

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] There are six modes of operation of the Spirit in Isaiah 11:2, an oracle of an ideal king from David’s line, but the Septuagint translation has a seventh, piety in 11:3. 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 (see 1 Corinthians 15:3 and Galatians 1:4), this liberation is often expressed in terms of purchase (as in 1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23; Galatians 4:5) by the blood of Christ (see 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 says 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 20:19-31

Verses 19-23: Apart from in the longer ending of Mark (Mark 16:14-18), which a number of important manuscripts lack, and the mention of an appearance “to the twelve” (see 1 Corinthians 15:5), the only parallel to this story is Luke 24:36-51 (after the walk to Emmaus), where Jesus shows himself to “the eleven and their companions”. The following contacts with the Lucan story are noted:

John   Luke  
v. 19 “stood among them” 24:36 “stood among them”
v. 20 “then the disciples rejoiced” 24:41 “while in their joy they were disbelieving”
v. 20 “he showed them his hands and his side” 24:39 “Look at my hands and my feet” [BlkJn]

Verse 19: “evening”: In John’s time, Sunday was a normal day of work, so the community would meet for Eucharist during the evening. So this passage would have a special resonance for the worshipping community, as they met for their weekly commemoration of Jesus’ resurrection. When Paul visited Troas (in northwestern Asia Minor), Christians celebrated the Eucharist in the evening: see Acts 20:7-11. [BlkJn]

Verse 19: The “disciples” may have been a larger group than the remaining eleven (less Thomas). [JBC]

Verse 19: “the doors ... were locked”: For “fear of the Jews”; this fear is also mentioned in 7:13 and 19:38. It is not clear why at this time Jesus’ followers should fear them; perhaps they thought that the authorities might arrest them, as they had Jesus.

Verse 19: “Jesus came and stood among them”: For the spiritual qualities of Jesus’ resurrected body, see 1 Corinthians 15:35-41.

Verse 19: “Peace be with you”: Exchanging the peace was a usual Jewish greeting (see Judges 6:23; 19:20; Tobit 12:17) but the repetition of the words in vv. 21 and 26 suggests a reference back to 14:27 (“ ... my peace I give to you”) and 16:33 (“... in me you may have peace”). [BlkJn]

Verse 20: “hands ... side”: Identifying marks. See also Luke 24:25-26 (Emmaus). [NOAB]

Verse 20: “rejoiced”: This fulfils the promises of renewed joy: see 14:19 and 16:16-24. [NJBC] This contrasts with Luke 24:37: there the stress is on terror and amazement. [JBC]

Verse 21: “Peace”: Also a promised gift, as Jesus says in 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives ...”. [NJBC]

Verse 21: “‘so I send you’”: In 13:20, Jesus says: ‘Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me’”. See also 5:23 and 17:18. [NJBC]

Verse 22: The commissioning of the disciples also appears in other post-resurrection appearances: see Luke 24:47-48; Matthew 28:19-20a. Jesus confers on the disciples the mission of which he has spoken: in 17:18, as he prays to the Father, Jesus says “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world”. See also 4:38 and 13:16. [NJBC]

Verse 22: “he breathed on them”: The same image is used to describe the communication of natural life in Genesis 2:7 (the second creation story). Here it is used to express the communication of the new, spiritual, life of re-created humanity. [NOAB] In Greek, pneuma means both breath and spirit. In Genesis 2:7, God breathes into the nostrils of Adam, giving him earthly life; [JBC] the Septuagint translation uses pneuma here. See also Ezekiel 37:9 (the valley of dry bones) and Wisdom of Solomon 15:11.

Verse 22: “‘Receive the Holy Spirit’”: In 15:26 and 16:7, Jesus says that when he has returned to the Father, he will send the Holy Spirit. In v. 17 he has told Mary Magdalene that he has not yet ascended, so in that he now gives the disciples the Holy Spirit, the ascension has now happened. So in John, Jesus’ resurrection, his ascension, and the coming of the Holy Spirit all happen in the same day. But to John (and other New Testament authors) chronology is of secondary importance. In common with the authors of the synoptic gospels, John insists on the connection between the resurrection and the animation of the Church by the Holy Spirit. [JBC] Note the connection between the granting of authority and receipt of the Holy Spirit. See 16:7 for the continuation of Jesus’ ministry by the Holy Spirit.

In 7:39 Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will only be given after Jesus’ glorification and in 16:7 he says that he will send the Holy Spirit after he has returned to the Father; however here Jesus appears to grant the Holy Spirit before he has been exalted. Scholars have puzzled over this for centuries. The most likely explanation is that early Christians were less concerned with chronological sequence than we are – they saw Jesus’ resurrection, his appearances, his exaltation, and the gift of the Holy Spirit as one event. Only later did they begin to be described as separate events. As support for this apparent lack of chronological sense, note that while Luke describes the Ascension as occurring at Pentecost in Acts 1:3-10, he describes Jesus’ decisive parting from the world on Easter Day in Luke 24:51.

Verse 23: Through the Holy Spirit, the Church continues the judicial role of Christ (see 3:19; 5:27; 9:39) in the matter of sin (see Matthew 16:19; 18:18; Luke 24:47). (In Matthew 16:19, “bind” and “loose” are technical rabbinic terms: “bind” means forbid; “loose” means permit.) [JBC]

Verse 23: “forgive ... retain”: BlkJn notes that these expressions are not used elsewhere in John and not at all in the Matthean parallels (Matthew 18:18; 16:19). He notes that Matthew 16:19 (“whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven ...”) recalls Isaiah 22:22, so he suggests that both this verse in John and the parallels in Matthew may be variants of a common original. This original, which might well have been in Aramaic, may have followed Isaiah in speaking of the conferral of authority as opening and shutting. In this case, John and Matthew provide different interpretations of what Jesus said, with John’s version arising out of the ambiguity in the Aramaic words, for there the word to shut also means to seize or to hold. Given hold for shut, loose (release, set free) for open follows naturally. In support of this hypothesis, BlkJn notes that the Greek verb translated retain is not used here in any of its normal senses, so it may be a Semitism.

Verse 24: In the synoptic gospels, incredulity is shared by the other disciples. [JBC]

Verse 25: This verse reminds us of 4:48: “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” Criminals were usually tied to the cross, rather than being nailed through the palms of the hands.

Verse 25: “nails”: The usual custom was to tie the criminal to the cross, but Jesus was nailed to it.

Verse 27: Jesus’ invitation to Thomas contrasts with his prohibition to Mary Magdalene in v. 17. [JBC]

Verse 28: We are not told whether Thomas actually touched Jesus. Before Jesus’ ascension, he forbade Mary Magdalene to touch him. [JBC]

Verse 28: Thomas’ words became a common confession of faith in the early Church. [JBC]

Verse 28: “Lord and ... God”: In the Septuagint translation, theos kyrios translates the name of the God of Israel (Hebrew: Yahweh Elohim). theos kyrios was also a name used as a designation of a god in the Hellenic world. It became a common Christian confession of faith. [JBC]

Verse 29: 1 Peter 1:8-9 tells readers: “Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls”. [CAB]

Verse 30: “signs”: John tells us of six signs in chapters 2-12. The seventh is Jesus’ resurrection. [NJBC]

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