Comments

Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: First Sunday in Lent - February 17, 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.

Deuteronomy 26:1-11

Exodus suggests that the offering of the first fruits is only in gratitude for crops (see Exodus 23:19); however, Deuteronomy adds a link to the escape from slavery in Egypt and the entrance into the Promised Land. [CAB] The occasion may be either the Feast of Weeks (16:9-12, the Spring harvest festival) or Passover. These feasts were later amalgamated. [JBC]

Verse 1: For similar openings, see 6:10; 7:1; 11:29; 17:14; 18:9. [NJBC]

Verse 2: 12:5 commands: “you shall seek the place that the LORD your God will choose out of all your tribes as his habitation to put his name there. You shall go there, bringing there your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and your donations, your votive gifts, your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and flocks. And you shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your households together, rejoicing in all the undertakings in which the LORD your God has blessed you”. See also 12:11, 14.

Verse 3: “the priest who is in office at that time”: 17:9 says “the levitical priests and the judge who is in office in those days ... shall announce to you the decision in the [legal] case”. See also 19:17. [NJBC]

Verses 5-10: NOAB says that this is a basic confession of faith in the form of a story; however NJBC says that this interpretation is no longer generally accepted.

Verses 5-7: The pattern of oppression, cry for help, followed by divine action in response to prayer is typically deuteronomic. It is also found in Judges 3:7-11. [NJBC]

Verse 5: “Aramean”: The Israelites were chiefly, but not exclusively, Aramean in origin. Ezekiel 16:3 tells us that they had Amorite and Hittite blood. [JBC]

Verses 6-9: The use of the first person plural suggests that the response was made by the worshipping community. [NOAB]

Verse 9: “milk and honey”: The “milk” was from sheep or goats; the “honey” was grape juice reduced to a molasses-like syrup. It was usually fermented.

Verses 10-11: Note that the “priest” (v. 3) has no role here, as also in 14:22-27. This suggests a different source for these verses. [NJBC]

Verse 12-13: The same commandment is given in 14:28-29. [NJBC]

Verse 12: The “Levites” are mentioned as recipients of “the tithe”, for they have no land allotted to them; however, while they participate in the ceremony, they do not share in the leadership of it (with “the priest”, v. 3). [CAB]

Verse 14: “I have not offered any of it to the dead”: Perhaps “the dead” is the vegetation deity, in whose honour funerary meals were eaten. 14:1 says “... You must not lacerate yourselves or shave your forelocks for the dead”. Incisions and shaving of hair were mourning rites. See also Jeremiah 16:6; 41:5. [NJBC]

Psalm 91:1-2,9-16

This appears to be a wisdom psalm. Note the “punishment of the wicked” in v. 8. This psalm is unusual in that it speaks of God’s protection not against enemies (as many do) but against “the deadly pestilence” (vv. 3, 6) and “scourge” (v. 10, meaning plague). [NJBC]

Verses 1-13: For those who trust in Yahweh not needing to fear any peril, see also 121:2-8. Some of the dangers mentioned are human foes; others are demonic forces. [NOAB]

Verse 4: “he will cover you with his pinions”: For this figure as a reference to God’s motherly protection of his faithful, see also 17:8; 36:7; 57:1; 61:4; 63:7. Some deities in the ancient Near East were pictured as winged. [NJBC]

Verses 5-6: “the terror of the night ... by day ... in darkness ... at noonday”: These four times of danger are balanced by the four animals in v. 13. [JBC]

Verse 9: Repetition of the divine titles “ LORD” and “Most High” from vv. 1-2 summarize the thrust of the psalm so far: the one who dwells in God’s presence will suffer no harm. [NJBC]

Verses 11-12: These verses are quoted in Matthew 4:6 and Luke 4:10-11, by Satan in his temptation of Jesus. [NOAB]

Verse 11: The idea that Yahweh provided his followers with guardian spirits only became common in late Old Testament times (see Tobit 5:1-12); however, it is found occasionally in earlier times. 34:7 says “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them” [NJBC] and Abraham tells his servant whom he sends to find a wife for Isaac that God “will send his angel before you” (see Genesis 24:7). [JBC]

Verses 14-16: This divine oracle of assurance was probably spoken by a priest or temple prophet. [NOAB]

Romans 10:8b-13

9:30: See also 3:22; 10:6, 20; Galatians 2:16; 3:24; Philippians 3:9; Hebrews 11:7. [NOAB]

9:32-33: Paul’s conflation of Isaiah 28:16 and 8:14 has the effect of making the Old Testament say almost the opposite of what it actually says! [NJBC]

Isaiah 8:14-15 says: “He [the Lord of hosts] will become a sanctuary, a stone one strikes against; ... he will become a rock one stumbles over – a trap and a snare for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble; they shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken”.

Isaiah 28:16 says: “thus says the Lord GOD, See, I am laying in Zion a foundation stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation: ‘One who trusts [in it] will not panic’”.

In Isaiah 8:14-15, the “rock” is an impediment to Israel, but in Isaiah 28:16, the “stone” is a symbol of salvation; here in Romans “rock” and “stone” are interpreted as Christ. See also Matthew 21:42. Belief (or trust) in Christ brings salvation: in 10:10-11, Paul writes: “... one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.’”. [NOAB] Paul really mangles the verses from Isaiah!

The same conflation is found in 1 Peter 2:6-8, Mark 12:10 (parallels: Matthew 21:42 and Luke 20:17) and Acts 4:11.

10:1: Paul also prays that Jews may be included in salvation in Romans 1:16. [NJBC]

10:2: “zeal for God”: See also Acts 21:20; 22:3; Galatians 1:14 (Paul’s zealousness as a Jew); Philippians 3:6 (Paul’s credentials as a Jew); John 2:17; 1 Maccabees 2:26-27. [NJBC]

10:3: They try to establish righteousness with respect to the Law – their own righteousness – but not directly God’s, leaving their fate in his hands.

10:4: There are three possible meanings:

  • The law of Moses, with its demands and consequences, is no longer in effect: Christ is the termination of the law. (See also Galatians 3:23-26.)
  • In Christ, the Law is brought to its proper conclusion and fulfilment. (See also Matthew 5:17.)
  • The Law functions to drive people to ask for deliverance; this is available in Christ

Paul may intend all three meanings. NJBC sees the third meaning as the most likely: the final and purposive goal of the Law is Christ. He notes that in 9:31-33 there is pursuit of oneness with God; one pursues a goal.

10:5: The quotation is from Leviticus 18:5. Paul also quotes it in Galatians 3:12. Paul emphasizes “does”. One must actually practise the Law completely to find life through it – which Paul has shown is impossible: see 3:9-10. [NOAB] Note that Paul accepts a common understanding of his time: that Moses wrote Leviticus.

10:6: “Do not say in your heart”: From Deuteronomy 8:17 and 9:4 (Septuagint translation). Both passages issue a warning against trust in one’s own achievements. [CAB] Paul takes the speaker as being the righteousness of God [BlkRom]; in Deuteronomy, the speaker is Moses; he tells what God has commanded him to say.

10:6-8: “Who will ascend into heaven?”: This is a quotation from Deuteronomy 30:12. In these verses, Paul generally quotes Deuteronomy 30:11-14; however, “Who will descend into the abyss” is probably based on Psalm 107:26 while Deuteronomy 30:13 asks: “Who will cross to the other side of the sea ...?”.

10:6-7: “(that is, to bring Christ down) ... (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)”: In fact, Christ has gone all the way for you Israelites: he has come “down” (v. 6, been born into the world) and has been raised from “the dead” (v. 7).

10:6: “(that is, to bring Christ down)”: CAB offers another interpretation: to bring into effect God’s salvation.

10:7: “Who will descend into the abyss?”: Based on Psalm 107:26. The “abyss” was the place of the dead, where disobedient spirits awaited judgement. Revelation 9:1 says: “... the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit”.

10:7: “(that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)”: CAB offers another interpretation: to bring about the final stage of God’s salvation. Perhaps 1 Peter 3:19 tells us what Jesus did between his crucifixion and his resurrection: “... he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison”, i.e. to those who had died.

10:8: The quotation is Deuteronomy 30:14. Faith-based grace was (and is) available to the Israelites. In the original context, Moses says that God’s word of love and justification is God’s gift, not something humans can achieve or do. In 2:29, Paul writes: “... real circumcision is a matter of the heart – it is spiritual and not literal ...”. See also 6:17.

10:9: “Jesus is Lord”: Also found in 2 Corinthians 4:5; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Philippians 2:11; Romans 2:29; 6:17, this is probably a statement of faith. [NJBC]

10:9: In 2 Corinthians 4:5, Paul writes: “For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake”. [NJBC]

10:9: “God”: i.e. the Father.

10:10: “justified”: The Greek word is translated as “righteousness” in 9:30 and 10:3-6. [NOAB]

10:11: Again the quotation is from Isaiah 28:16. [NOAB]

10:12: “the same Lord is Lord of all”: Jesus is the risen Lord of Jew and Greek: in 9:5, Paul writes: “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen”. See also 1 Corinthians 8:6 and Philippians 2:9-11. [NJBC]

10:13: In the Old Testament, those who call “on the name of the Lord” are sincere and pious Israelites: see Joel 2:32. Early Christians often applied Old Testament references to “Lord” to Jesus. In the original context, they refer to God.

10:14-21: Paul says that Israel did not take advantage of the opportunity offered to it by the prophets and the gospel; so the fault lies with Israel. The opportunity to believe in Christ was offered to all, but especially to Israel; it cannot claim that it did not hear the gospel. Paul proposes for himself four difficulties or objections, perhaps echoing comments from missionary sermons among Jews, and to each he proposes a brief answer by quoting the Old Testament:

  • How can people believe the gospel unless it has been fully preached? (vv. 14-15)
  • But it has not been fully accepted by everyone! (vv. 16-17)
  • But perhaps the Jews did not hear it! (v. 18)
  • Perhaps they did not understand! (vv. 19-21) [NJBC]

10:15: The quotation is Isaiah 52:7, a text originally referring to the good news announced to Jews left in ruined Jerusalem that deliverance from Babylonian captivity was coming and that Jerusalem’s restoration was close at hand. In Paul’s hands, the “good news” has overtones of his good news, the gospel. So to him, the goods news has indeed been preached to Israel. [NJBC]

10:16: The quotation is Isaiah 53:1, in which Isaiah saw a refusal to believe comparable to the one in Paul’s time. In Isaiah’s time, despite the prophet’s preaching, not all Jews accepted his message. [NJBC]

10:18: The quotation is Psalm 19:4, in which the psalmist sings of nature proclaiming the glory of God everywhere. Paul accommodates the words to the preaching of the gospel: properly authorized preachers have done their job, so Israel has had the opportunity to believe in Christ. [NJBC]

10:19: The quotation is Deuteronomy 32:21, in which Yahweh, through Moses, tries to educate Israel and announces that it will be humiliated by unbelievers (the Babylonians). In quoting this verse, Paul implies a comparison of Israel’s situation in his time with what it was at the time of the Exile. How much greater should Israel’s humiliation be now than then. Gentiles understand the good news, but Jews generally do not. [NJBC]

10:20-21: The quotations are Isaiah 65:1 and 65:2. In the original context, the same people are envisaged by both verses, but Paul, influenced by the Septuagint translation (which has ethnos, nation in v. 1 and laos, people, in v. 2) splits the two verses such that they apply to different peoples: in v. 1 he applies “nation” to Gentiles and in v. 2 “people” to Jews. [NJBC] (The NRSV follows the Septuagint in Isaiah 65:1-2.) So, to Paul, authentic preachers did speak in an intelligible way, so Israel had a proper opportunity to understand. [NJBC]

10:20: “who did not seek me”: Recall that in 9:30 the Gentiles “did not strive” for godliness.

Luke 4:1-13

The parallels are Matthew 4:1-11 and Mark 1:12-13. In Matthew, the temptations are in a different order. [NOAB]

Jesus habitually refuses to allow his sense of mission to be influenced by concern for his safety or for merely practical interests. For the temptations Jesus faces on the cross, see 23:34b-39. Speculation about the end-time included the mythological element of the overthrow of the devil: see Assumption of Moses 10:1 and 1 Enoch 69:29. Did these events literally happen? Perhaps Jesus himself used the eschatological thought patterns of his day to tell his disciples about the testings of his faith he faced as he preached the good news. [NJBC]

Verse 1: “full of the Holy Spirit”: A Christian phrase: see also Acts 2:4 (the Day of Pentecost); 6:3, 5 (the election of the first deacons); 7:55 (Stephen); 11:24 (Barnabas). Jesus is the model for Christians under duress. The work of Jesus and of the Church begins as God acts through individuals. [NOAB] [NJBC]

Verse 1: “wilderness”: The Judean wilderness was considered to be the place of demons: see also 8:29 and 11:24. [NJBC]

Verse 2: “forty days”: In Exodus 34:38, Moses was on Mount Sinai for forty days; In 1 Kings 19:8, Elijah spent forty days on the journey to Mount Horeb. According to the northern tradition (in Deuteronomy 9) , Moses received the Law there, rather than on Mount Sinai, the location in the southern tradition. In Deuteronomy 9:9, Moses says “I remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water”. [NOAB] “Forty days” appears many times in the Old Testament meaning a significant period of time. Recall also that Jonah predicted that Nineveh would be destroyed after “forty days” if the citizens did not repent. [NJBC]

Verse 2: “devil”: The devil (diabolos in Greek) is God’s prosecuting attorney. He is presented in this role in Zechariah 3:1: “Then he showed me the high priest Joshua standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him”. “An accuser” is also mentioned in Psalm 109:6. [BlkLk] Luke consistently uses diabolos while Matthew mingles “Satan” and “devil” in his version of the story. Evil was conceived as a personal will actively hostile to God: see Luke 13:16. The devil was in conflict with God’s purpose of salvation; he is the concern of Jesus’ saving activity: see Matthew 8:14-17. [NJBC]

Verse 3: “this stone”: Luke is more realistic than Matthew: he does not envisage turning the desert into a bakery! [NJBC]

Verse 4: “One”: i.e. a human being. The quotation is Deuteronomy 8:3. [NOAB] Jesus is recalling that God taught the Israelites humility by allowing them to endure hunger. They learnt that “one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”

Verse 5: “showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world”: Presumably this is meant figuratively rather than literally. Jesus’ transportation to the pinnacle of the Temple also seems to be figurative.

Verse 6: “authority”: The Greek word, exousia, is found in the New Testament only in Luke: see 20:20; 23:7 (“jurisdiction”). [NJBC]

Verse 6: “for it has been given over to me”: “It” is “all this authority”. 1 John 5:19 says “We know that ... the whole world lies under the power of the evil one”. [NOAB]

Verse 8: The quotation is Deuteronomy 6:13: “The LORD your God you shall fear; him you shall serve, and by his name alone you shall swear”. In 22:24-27, Jesus commands his disciples not to seek political power. [NJBC]

Verse 9: It is noteworthy that in Luke the final temptation is in Jerusalem. Later in his gospel, Luke clearly marks the point at which Jesus “set[s] his face to go to Jerusalem”. There, “Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot” (22:3); there too the powers of darkness are mightily at work. [NJBC] To interpret this temptation as to self-advertisement is to miss the point. [BlkLk]

Verses 10 -11: The devil quotes Psalm 91:11-12. The devil takes up Jesus’ armament. [NJBC]

Verse 12: That Jesus considers the devil’s quotations as applying to himself is the way the early Church used them. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:16: “Do not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah”. [NOAB]

Verse 13: “until an opportune time”: See Mark 8:33 (Jesus rebukes Peter) and Luke 22:28 (during the Last Supper). [NOAB] For the temptation on the cross, see Luke 23:34b-39.

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