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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Sixth Sunday of Easter - May 5, 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 16:9-15

Comments: Timothy: Timothy is usually thought to have joined Paul in Lystra, in south-central Asia Minor; however, Origen considered that “there” in v. 1 refers to Derbe, a town about 100 Km (60 miles) east of Lystra. [BlkActs]

Verse 1: “the son of ...”: Mixed marriages were against Mosaic law (per Deuteronomy 7:3), but if the mother was Jewish, her offspring was considered Jewish. 2 Timothy 1:5 tells us that Timothy’s mother was called Eunice. [NJBC]

Verse 3: “had him circumcised”: Perhaps Paul has Timothy circumcised in order for Paul to demonstrate Mosaic law as binding upon Jews; however 21:21 says of Jewish converts to Christianity “They have been told about you that you teach all the Jews living among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, and that you tell them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs” and in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 Paul says “... To the Jews I became as a Jew ...” .

On the other hand, when Paul appears before Festus, the Roman procurator over Judea, he says in his defence “‘I have in no way committed an offense against the law of the Jews’” (25:8) and, at the Council of Jerusalem (in the chapter just before our reading), Paul argues for there being “no distinction between them and us” in God’s eyes (see 15:5-11). Most commentators question the reliability of the report of Timothy’s circumcision. [NJBC]

Verse 6: “Asia”: While the Roman province of “Asia” covered roughly the western third of Asia Minor, Luke probably means the Aegean coast near Ephesus. [BlkActs]

Verses 7-8: As they travelled northwest, “Mysia” would be to their left and “Bithynia” to their right, so it may be intended that we understand that the “Spirit of Jesus” urged them to go straight ahead to “Troas”. Bithynia and Pontus was the region along the Black Sea extending east three-quarters of the length of Asia Minor from the Bosporus.

Verse 7: “Spirit of Jesus”: This phrase is found only here in Lucan writings. There are three possibilities regarding what is meant:

  • a prophet speaking in Jesus’ name
  • a vision of the Risen Christ himself
  • a blinding flash of inward illumination

Paul was not a person to change his plans constantly, except under divine guidance. [BlkActs]

Verse 8: “Troas” was near the site of Homer’s Troy. [CAB]

Verse 9: “Macedonia”: Included Philippi, Thessalonica and Beroea. [NOAB]

Verse 10: “vision”: This is the first of Paul’s visions in Acts. The others are in 18:9-10; 22:17-21; 23:11; 27:23-24. All but one of them are at night. [NJBC]

Verse 10: “we”: This is the first of the “we” passages. There are two views of Luke’s use of “we”:

  • The obvious one, i.e. that Luke joined Paul’s party at this time; however, Paul as portrayed by Luke is somewhat unlike Paul in his epistles, and
  • That Luke is using “we” as did contemporary authors: to insist that the events recorded really happened. Supporters of this view note that Luke only uses “we” at decision points in Paul’s missionary path. [NOAB]

Verse 11: “Samothrace”: Rising to some 1,500 metres (5000 feet), this island would be an unforgettable landmark. [BlkActs]

Verse 11: “Neapolis”: This port was the eastern terminus of the Via Egnetia, the major Roman road to the Adriatic Sea. [CAB]

Verse 12: “Philippi”: This city was developed by Philip, father of Alexander the Great, in the 300s BC. [CAB] It was not the capital, but a “leading city”. [NOAB]

Verse 12: “a Roman colony”: As such, Philippi enjoyed special civic rights. It became a Roman colony after the great battle in 42 BC in which Antony and Octavian routed republican forces. [NJBC]

Verse 13: “the river”: Some scholars think this was the Gangites, but being 2 km (over a mile) from Philippi, it was too far away for a Sabbath day’s journey. Another possibility is the Crenides creek.

Verse 13: Comments: Gentile women were attracted to Judaism by its ethical standards: 13:49-50 tells us: “Thus the word of the Lord spread throughout the region. But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, and stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their region”. Josephus, Jewish Wars 2.20.2 tells us that the wives of the people of Damascus ... were almost all of them addicted to the Jewish religion.

Verse 13: “we supposed”: If we accept the Greek of the Western text (which has a different final syllable from other manuscripts), a possible translation is it was usual, i.e. prayer was usually made there. [BlkActs]

Verse 13: “place of prayer”: The Greek word is proseuche. Luke uses synagoge for synagogue. [BlkActs] NJBC says that proseuche can mean synagogue but that the “place of prayer” is probably an outdoor meeting place used by Jews for want of a synagogue building.

Verse 14: “Lydia”: Thyatira was in the province of Lydia; a Lydian woman is a possible translation if “named” is an interpolation. The province of Lydia was long known for its purple-dyers. [BlkActs]

Verse 14: “a worshipper of God”: This suggests that she was loosely attached to the local synagogue. [BlkActs] She may have been a Gentile patron of Jewish worship. [NJBC]

Verse 14: “The Lord opened her heart”: This expression also occurs in 2 Maccabees 1:4: the author prays for his readers: “May he [God] open your heart to his law ...”. [BlkActs]

Verse 14: “Thyatira”: One of the churches to whom John wrote was that at Thyatira: see Revelation 2:18-29. [NOAB] The city was renowned for its trade guilds.

Verse 14: “purple cloth”: The dye came from a type of sea snail found along the coast of Syria and Palestine. [CAB]

Verse 15: “she and her household”: Lydia is an example of the early Christian household mission. For other household baptisms, see vv. 31-34 (the jailer); 11:14 (Cornelius); 18:8 (some Corinthians); 1 Corinthians 1:16 (Stephanus). [NJBC]

Psalm 67

Verses 1,4: “Selah”: This is probably a liturgical direction, added to the original text of the psalm. It may mean lift up, either to indicate the lifting up of the voices of the singers in a doxology, or to call for lifted-up instrumental music in an interlude in the singing. [NOAB]

Selah is one of the greatest puzzles of the Old Testament. Its meaning seems to be connected with rising or lifting. But it is not clear whether the congregation rises or lifts up its hands, head, or eyes, or whether the music rises at the indicated points. The word probably indicates that the singing should stop to allow the congregation an interlude for presenting its homage to God by some gesture or act of worship. [ICCPs]

Selah is also found 74 times in 39 psalms in the book of Psalms and three times in Habakkuk 3 (part of a psalm preserved there).

Verse 1: See Numbers 6:24-26 for the Aaronic blessing (“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.“), which is similar. [CAB]

Verse 6: In Leviticus 26:4, Yahweh says: “I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit”. See also Psalm 85:12. [CAB]

Comments: another rendering: NJBC quotes Dahood. This fits well with the petitionary prayer in earlier verses.

Revelation 21:10,22-22:5

21:9: “seven bowls”: See Chapter 16, where the contents of seven bowls are poured on the earth, with dire consequences, in divine judgement of the earth and evildoers. [NOAB]

21:10: “in the spirit”: John uses the same phrase in 1:10. John is in a state of prophetic illumination. [NOAB]

21:10: “he carried me away”: In 17:3, an angel carries John into the desert to view a whore. [NJBC]

21:10: “high mountain”: In Ezekiel 40:2, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Exile, Ezekiel is transported, in a vision, to see the restored Jerusalem, which is also on a high mountain. [NOAB]

21:11: “the glory of God”: Isaiah 60:1-2 says: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you”. See also Isaiah 60:19; Ezekiel 43:5; Luke 2:9 (the Shepherds). [CAB]

21:11: “like a very rare jewel”: See Clipping below on 21:19-21.

21:11: “jasper”: In 4:3, we read that God, “the one seated there looks like jasper and carnelian”. [NOAB]

21:11: “clear as crystal”: Note “clear as glass” in 21:18 and “transparent as glass” in 21:21. Both God and the city are valuable, and transparent. “Jasper” is also transparent. [CAB]

21:12: “angels”: Being from God, the city has celestial guards. [JBC]

21:12ff: The glory of the Church is compared with that of its source, the glory of God. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:6: “... it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”. [JBC]

21:13: Ezekiel 48:30-34 tells of twelve gates of the city, three per side. [NOAB]

Comments: The numbers in the vision are 3, 12 and multiples of 12: There are three gates on each side, adding up to twelve.

21:14: The preaching of the apostles is the foundation of the Church. Ephesians 2:19-20 says that “the household of God” is “built upon the foundation of the apostles ...”. [NOAB]

21:16: Comments: The city’s cubic shape: After the Holy of Holies, which also had equal length, width and height: see 1 Kings 6:19-20. [JBC] See also Ezekiel 43:16; 48:16-22. (John sees an infinitely larger city than Ezekiel.)

21:16: “rod”: See also Ezekiel 40:3-7, where the “rod” is a “measuring reed”. [JBC]

21:16, 17: “fifteen hundred miles ... one hundred and forty-four cubits”: These measurements work out to 2,200 km and 66 metres (220 feet). Ezekiel 48:35 says that the circumference of the city shall be “eighteen thousand cubits”. While the city is a cube, it has relatively low walls. [NOAB]

21:19-21: Isaiah 54:11-12 says “O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, I am about to set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires. I will make your pinnacles of rubies, your gates of jewels, and all your wall of precious stones”. [NOAB] The precious stones listed here are not the same as those on the high priest’s breastplate in Exodus 28:17-21, but are those associated with the Signs of the Zodiac in John’s time. He lists them in reverse order, perhaps signifying that they must be reinterpreted.

21:21: “the street”: i.e. the paving of the streets. [NOAB]

21:22: For the Temple being superfluous because the presence and glory of God permeate the entire community, Isaiah 24:23 says that on the Day of Yahweh: “... the moon will be abashed, and the sun ashamed; for the Lord of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before his elders he will manifest his glory”; [NOAB] however, 3:12 hints that a physical earthly temple is not of ultimate importance in itself, but continues to have significance as a symbol of the hoped-for close relationship between God and humans.

21:22: “the Lamb”: In 5:9, a “new song” is sung to “the Lamb”: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation; you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth”. [CAB]

21:23: “ the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it”: See Isaiah 24:23, quoted above. 1 John 1:5 tells us that “... God is light and in him there is no darkness at all”. See also Revelation 22:5; Isaiah 60:1-5, 19-20. [JBC]

21:23: “its lamp is the Lamb”: In John 8:12, Jesus says “I am the light of the world”. [NOAB] In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul writes: “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”.

21:25-26: Isaiah 60:11 says “Your gates shall always be open; day and night they shall not be shut, so that nations shall bring you their wealth, with their kings led in procession”. [NOAB]

21:27: Those who come to the city will be one with those who dwell there. The realm of the holy was confined to the Temple and those who entered it; now the entire city is holy. Zechariah 14:20-21 says, in essence, “On that day” the whole city will be holy. [CAB]

21:27: “unclean”: The Greek word is koinon, usually meaning common. [NJBC]

21:27: “book of life”: i.e. the register of God containing the names of the redeemed. Such a book is also mentioned in 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; Exodus 32:32 (Moses to God); Psalm 69:28; Isaiah 4:3; Daniel 12:1 (Michael rises at the end of time); Malachi 3:16; Luke 10:20 (where Jesus tells the seventy emissaries upon their return “rejoice that your names are written in heaven”). [NOAB]

22:1: “river”: For the river of blessings from God, see also Genesis 2:10 (second creation story); Psalm 46:4; Ezekiel 47:1; Joel 3:18; Zechariah 14:8; John 4:10, 14 (the Samaritan woman at the well). [NOAB] A sacred river is also known from Ugaritic (Canaanite) and Mesopotamian sources.

22:2: “On either side of the river ...”: Ezekiel 47:12 says “On the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing”. [NOAB]

22:2: “tree of life”: JBC says that because this verse is chiefly inspired by Ezekiel 47:7, 12, xylon, tree, should be taken as a generic singular. Instead of the single tree of life (Genesis 2:9; 3:22), the eschatological city contains many trees, offering plentitude of life, and all its citizens will have free access to them.

22:3: “Nothing accursed will be found ...”: Several interpretations (which are not mutually exclusive) are possible:

  • The curses of Genesis 3:14-19 (in the Garden of Eden) will be reversed. [NJBC]
  • There will no longer be occasion for sin (see Daniel 7:26). [JBC]
  • No one will be threatened with destruction for idolatry, as in Zechariah 14:11. See also Exodus 22:20 and Deuteronomy 13:12-18. [NJBC]
  • God will be reconciled with the nations rather than cursing them and dooming them to destruction: see Isaiah 34:2, 5. [NJBC]

22:3: “the throne of God and of the Lamb”: There will be one throne. In John 10:30, Jesus says “‘The Father and I are one’”. [NOAB] Note that “his” and “him” are singular.

22:4: “they will see his face”: The old warning of death on seeing God (see Exodus 33:20 and Isaiah 6:5) is repealed. [CAB] See also 1 Corinthians 13:12; Matthew 5:8 (the Beatitudes); 1 John 3:2; Hebrews 12:14. John 1:18 says that this is unattainable in this world. 1 John 3:2 says “Beloved, we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.” [NOAB]

22:4: “his name will be on their foreheads”: See also 3:12 and 7:3. In 7:3, the servants of God will be marked with a seal on their foreheads. In Ezekiel 9:4-6, the seal marks those under God’s protection. On the other hand, in Revelation 13:16-17, sealing has a different connotation: there sealing shows those with whom trade can be conducted. Christians are not sealed, so are under economic boycott – probably on the orders of Nero.

22:5: “they will reign forever”: In Daniel 7:27, the “Ancient One” says “The kingship and dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the holy ones of the Most High; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them.”

John 14:23-29

Verse 22: “Judas (not Iscariot)”: Traditionally Judas son of James is the person called “Thaddeus” in Mark 3:18 and Matthew 10:3. However BlkJn notes that a Judas “of James” appears in the lists of apostles in Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13, replacing Thaddeus in Mark’s list and either Thaddeus, Lebbaeus or Lebbaeus called Thaddeus in Matthew’s list (depending on which manuscript is read). In Luke and Acts, the Greek phrase is literally Judas of James. The NRSV (and other translations) make the natural assumption that “Judas son of James” is intended. It is unlikely, although not impossible, that “Judas” in our reading is the one named in Mark 6:3: “‘Is not this the carpenter, ... brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon ...?’”, one of Jesus’ brothers.

It is noteworthy that Judas’ question here recalls the challenge made to Jesus by his brothers in 7:4 to show himself to the world, and also has behind it the presumption: if you are the Messiah, surely you want to vindicate yourself to your enemies. [BlkJn]

Verse 22: Judas may be asking, in confusion: What then of the glorious coming of the Son of Man?, as foretold in, for example, Mark 13:26. [JBC]

Verse 23: Jesus repeats his statement in v. 21 with two changes:

  1. from “commandments” to “word”: thus generalizing the meaning to his message as a whole, and
  2. Jesus will be shown to the disciples by dwelling in them (“home” is literally place to stay in).

Thus the Old Testament prophetic hope of God dwelling among people will be fully realized: In Isaiah 57:15, God says through the prophet: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite”. Judas’ question is answered, indirectly: Jesus’ messiahship does not mean that he will force himself on his enemies. [BlkJn]

Verse 24: Jesus repeats what he has just said, in a negative form. [BlkJn]

Verse 26: The “Advocate” does not bring teaching independent of the revelation found in Jesus’ words and actions. [NJBC] For “Advocate”, BlkJn offers Champion. Per 16:13-15, the Holy Spirit will not add any new revelation of his own, since that given by Jesus is complete (see 14:9).

Verse 26: “remind”: 2:22 says: “After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.” and 12:16 says: “His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him.” [JBC]

Verse 27: “peace”: More than the conventional meaning of shalom is intended. To give “peace” is a royal and a divine prerogative (see Numbers 6:26; Psalm 147:14; Isaiah 26:12; 45:7) which Jesus bequeaths as God’s Messiah, the Prince of Peace (see Isaiah 9:6 and Ezekiel 37:26). Worldly peace comes through coercion. [BlkJn] Isaiah 9:6 says: “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”.

Verse 28: “the Father is greater than I”: During the Arian controversy, this clause was used to support subortionist Christology. [NJBC]

Verses 30-31: Some believe that these verses were originally at the end of the Last Supper discourse. [JBC]

Verse 30: “the ruler of this world is coming”: The battle with the Devil now begins. It will end in his apparent victory, but his actual defeat: 12:31 says: “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out”. [JBC]

John 5:1-9

While the reader is left in doubt as to whether the man in this story became a follower of Jesus, the man cured in the next healing story (see 9:1-12) becomes a prototype for Christians persecuted by the authorities.

Our reading describes the third of John’s Signs.

Comments: The Copper Scroll: This scroll was found in Cave 3 at Qumran. It dates from 35-60 AD.

Verse 1: “After this”: The Greek implies an interval of unspecified length. [BlkJn]

Verse 2: “the Sheep Gate”: This gate is mentioned in Nehemiah 3:1 and 12:39. [CAB] However, BlkJn says that by the sheep pool is also found in some manuscripts, and the pool is referred to by this name by Origen and other early patristic authors.

Verse 2: “Beth-zatha”: BlkJn says that the majority of manuscripts read Bethesda. Other alternatives found in manuscripts are Bethsaida and Belzetha. John usually gives Greek equivalents for Semitic names, but not here. “Beth-zatha” is the transcription for the Hebrew meaning House of Sheep. According to Origen, this was the building surrounding the Sheep Pool, so called because sheep for sacrifice were collected there, and their entrails were washed in the Pool after the sacrifice. It was not far from the “Sheep Gate”. Excavations at the Pool of St. Anne have revealed such a building with “five porticoes”. This seems to be an example of the accuracy of John’s topography.

Verse 4: This verse, found in Codex Alexandrinus (and in others of later date), says (starting with an addition to v. 3): “for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred up the water; whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was made well from whatever disease the person had”. Because it is not found in the earliest, most reliable manuscripts, it is omitted from most modern translations of the Bible. The Pool of “Beth-zatha” has been found to be a double pool, so it is possible that water was stirred up when water was transferred from one pool to the other. It is also possible that John has confused the Pool of “Beth-zatha” with the Spring of Siloam, where water flow was intermittent. [CAB] [NJBC]

Verse 8: Although there are no parallels to this story in the synoptic gospels, Jesus’ words in Mark 2:9 are similar: “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’?”. Also, Mark 2:5-10 is similar to vv. 9c-15.

Verse 10: “it is not lawful ...”: Carrying burdens on the Sabbath was not specifically forbidden in the Pentateuch, but the Mishnah classified it as work, with some precedent in Numbers 15:32-36; Jeremiah 17:21 and Nehemiah 13:15-19. [BlkJn]

Verse 14: “‘Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you’”: Sin, in John, is not believing in Jesus. 16:8-9 says: “And when he [the Advocate] comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me”. In John’s view, this man is condemned (see 3:36) because he has sinned in reporting Jesus. In 3:16, Jesus says: “‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.’”

Verse 15: In Chapter 9, the man who was blind defends Jesus. Here the man does not. [NJBC]

Verses 16,18: “started persecuting ... was doing ... were seeking ... breaking ...”: BlkJn says that the verbs are in the imperfect, and can be taken to imply that this is a typical example of something that had already happened on other occasions, though John mentions it here for the first time. Recall 20:30: “Now Jesus did many other signs ... which are not written in this book”.

Verse 17: “My Father is still working, and I also am working.”: Rabbis argued that God resting on the seventh day of creation did not mean that he ceased creative activity, without which the world would cease to exist, i.e. he still worked, and works – on the Sabbath. Just as the Father is not inhibited by the Father, neither is the Son. [JBC] To those whose monotheism was Judaic, Jesus was making himself “equal to God” (v. 18), and so was blaspheming against God. However, to John the assertion that God is Jesus’ “Father”, a claim to equality with God, is fully justified: in 1:1 he says: “the Word [Christ] was God [Father]”. [BlkJn]

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