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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Fourth Sunday in Lent - March 10, 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.

Joshua 5:9-12

Note that the place is “Gibeath-haaraloth” (Hill of Foreskins) in v. 3 [CAB] and “Gilgal” in vv. 9 and 10. It appears probable that two strands of tradition have been combined: vv. 2-8 and vv. 9-12.

Verses 2-9: Exodus 12:44-48 states that only males who are circumcised may celebrate the Passover. At one time, circumcision was a common practice in the ancient Near East: Jeremiah 9:25-26 provides list of countries where it was practised: “... Egypt, Judah, Edom, the Ammonites, Moab, and all those with shaven temples who live in the desert ...”. It became a sign of Israel’s unique relationship to God: God’s covenant with Abraham is sealed by circumcision: see Genesis 17:11-13. [NOAB] Circumcision was obligatory for Israelites by the time Leviticus 12:3, part of the Priestly (P) code, was written. [CAB]

Verse 2: “circumcise ... a second time”: NJBC says that sit down and circumcise is the original wording, and that “a second time” is a gloss: the Hebrew words for sit down and again (literally return) differ only in the vowel (which was not written).

Verse 2: “flint knives”: The use of flint knives recalls Moses’ wife, Zipporah, circumcising her son with a flint knife: see Exodus 4:25-26. By Joshua’s time, the Israelites were in the Iron Age and would generally have used metal instruments. This verse recalls a usage dating back to Stone Age times. [CAB] Obtaining a sharp edge on flint is much easier than on iron.

Verses 4-6: The Septuagint and the Masoretic Text differ considerably; the latter incorporates much phraseology taken from Deuteronomy. [NJBC]

Verse 6: “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. [NJBC]

Verse 9: “Gilgal”: This place appears to be between the Jordan and Jericho. Its exact location is unknown.[CAB]

Verse 9: “disgrace”: NJBC notes that “disgrace” and lack of circumcision are associated in Genesis 34:14, part of the story of the rape of Dinah; however JBC suggests that the word in Hebrew may have been changed slightly in copying. He suggests that the original word may have meant flint knives.

Verse 11: The law governing the Festival of Unleavened Bread is found in two places: Exodus 23:15 and Exodus 34:18. The wording is similar. The latter verse says: “You shall keep the festival of unleavened bread. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month of Abib; for in the month of Abib you came out from Egypt”. [NJBC]

Verse 11: “On the day after the passover”: This phrase is in the Masoretic Text but is not in the Septuagint. This addition was made by an editor after the festivals of Passover and Unleavened Bread were combined. Once combined, the former began on the fourteenth day and the latter on the fifteenth. By adding “On the day after the passover” scribes avoided the inference that Passover began on the fourteenth. [NJBC]

Verse 11: “parched grain”: Or roasted grain. This is the only reference to grain being part of the Festival. It is not found in later practice. [JBC]

Verse 12: Exodus 16:35 contains a similar repetition: “The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a habitable land; they ate manna, until they came to the border of the land of Canaan”. [NJBC]

Psalm 32

Superscription: “Of David”: The Hebrew words can also be interpreted as meaning by, about or for David. [JBC]

Superscription: “Maskil”: Scholars are unsure of the meaning of this term. It may relate to the manner of a psalm’s performance and/or a class of composition. The latter hypothesis is supported by the use of other apparent class names in parallel fashion above other psalms. This term appears above 13 psalms. [HBD]

This is a wisdom psalm. See vv. 1-2 and 8-10 for wisdom features. [NJBC] It is one of the seven traditional penitential psalms. [JBC]

Verse 1: “covered”: For covering sin, where God is the subject, meaning taking sin away, see also Nehemiah 4:5 (“Do not cover their guilt, and do not let their sin be blotted out from your sight”) and 1 Peter 4:8. [NJBC]

Verses 3-5: In antiquity, the admission of sin usually took the form of a recounting of one’s sins in general terms: see Ezra 9:6-15; 10:1; Nehemiah 1:6-11. [NJBC]

Verses 3-4: 18:4-6 also tell of a psalmist’s grave illness: “The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of perdition assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help”. [NOAB]

Verses 4,7: “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 5: Healing from illness came only after acknowledgement of sin. [NOAB]

Verses 6-10: These verses can also be interpreted as the psalmist commending to the congregation similar faith in God (vv. 6-7, 10) and obedience to God’s will (vv. 8, 9). [NOAB]

Verse 11: Psalm 31, another psalm that is mostly on the lips of an individual, also ends with directing attention to the congregation, calling on them to praise God: 31:23-24 says “Love the LORD, all you his saints. The LORD preserves the faithful, but abundantly repays the one who acts haughtily. Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD”. [NJBC]

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Verse 13: “if we are beside ourselves”: If we are insane (as some think). Perhaps Paul’s opponents claimed that religious ecstasy validated their ministry [NJBC] or that they accused him of madness because of his doctrine and zeal. [JBC]

Verse 14: “love of Christ”: On Christ as the model of authentic existence (v. 15), Paul writes in Galatians 2:20: “it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” and in Romans 8:35-38 “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? ... I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, ... nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”. [NJBC]

Verse 14: The prerequisite for being Christian is death to all that is hostile to God. In Romans 8:13, Paul writes: “... if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live”. [NJBC]

Verse 14: “all have died”: i.e. live no longer for themselves but for God. [NOAB]

Verse 15: The new life is described in 4:10-12. See Galatians 2:20 (quoted above). [NJBC]

Verse 16: “from a human point of view”: For the by worldly standards interpretation, see also 1 Corinthians 1:26: “Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth”. Another interpretation is: humanity in its weakness, temporality and inclination for self-seeking: in Romans 8:4-5, 12; Galatians 4:23, 29 (the allegory of Hagar and Sarah). As a Pharisee, Paul had judged Christ falsely because of his uncritical acceptance of current Jewish opinion. [NJBC]

Verse 17: “anyone is in Christ”: On the believing community as Christ, Paul asks, probably rhetorically, in 1 Corinthians 6:15: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?”. See also 1 Corinthians 8:12; 12:12. [NJBC]

Verse 17: “there is”: This is missing from the Greek; “he is” is also possible. This would mean that Christ is the new creation. If Paul intended “there is”, the “new creation” is like the new, transformed Jerusalem described in 1 Enoch 72:1-2 The old order, the relationship to God found in the Old Testament, has been replaced by the new. Lived acceptance of the new way of being human, as exemplified by Christ, is a radical change. [NJBC]

Verse 17: “a new creation”: In apocalyptic Judaism (see 1 Enoch 72:1-2; 2 Baruch 32:6; Jubilees 4:26; 1QS 4:25) the “new creation” inaugurated the end-times. 1QS (Qumran Rule of the Community) 4:25 says: “For God has sorted them into equal parts until the appointed end and the new creation. ...” although one scholar translates new creation as making of the new. [NJBC] Life in Christ is the new sphere of existence, a totally transformed way of looking at life and the world, into which one enters through trusting in Christ. [CAB]

Verse 18: “has given us the ministry of reconciliation”: See Acts 9:4-6 (Paul’s conversion); 22:10 (Paul recalls his conversion to the council in Jerusalem); 26:15-18 (before Agrippa). [JBC]

Verse 18: “reconciled”: Pauls says in Romans 5:10: “For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life”. Colossians 1:20 says: “through him [Christ] God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross”. [NJBC]

Verse 19: “world”: Unlike in John, for Paul “world” does not have a pejorative connotation. [JBC]

Verse 19: “was reconciling”: The use of the imperfect shows that the process of reconciliation is considered as taking place throughout Jesus’ earthly life. See also Romans 5:10-11. On the other hand, “entrusting” is in the aorist, so Paul was entrusted at a particular point in time. [JBC]

Verse 19: “reconciliation”: It restores us to authenticity. [NJBC]

Verse 20: “ambassadors for Christ”: While the word ambassador seems to be a very suitable description of Paul’s role and work, he generally avoids the term in his letters because it suggests a position of privilege and immunity (which he did not enjoy). He uses his authority sparingly: in Philemon 8-9 he writes to the master of the slave Onesimus: “though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love” and in Ephesians 6:20, he (or a follower writing in his name) says “I am an ambassador in chains”. [Blk2Cor] In 1 Corinthians 1:17, he tells the Christians at Corinth that God sent him to “proclaim the gospel” in ways that could be understood by many (“not with eloquent wisdom”) while avoiding over-simplifying the message to the point of distorting it (“that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power”).

Verse 20: “entreat”: Beg is another translation. [NJBC]

Verse 21: This verse expands on vv. 18-19. [NJBC]

Verse 21: “he made ... no sin”: As Messiah (see Isaiah 53:9; Psalms of Solomon 17:40-43; Testament of Judah 24:1; Testament of Levi 18:9), Christ was acknowledged as sinless (see Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22; John 8:46; 1 John 3:5), yet through God’s choice (see Romans 8:3), he came to stand in that relationship to God which normally is the result of sin; he became part of sinful humanity. [NJBC]

Verse 21: “to be sin”: Galatians 3:13 says “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us”. Perhaps “to be sin” means to be sin offering. Romans 8:3 says, in part, “in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin”; Isaiah 53:10 speaks of “an offering for sin”. [NOAB] God took the initiative in “reconciling the world to himself” (v. 19) by placing the wholly obedient Jesus under the power of sin so that through him sinful humans might come into right relationship with God. [CAB]

Verse 21: “knew”: The Greek word, gnonta, means personal experience gained through action, not theoretical knowledge. [JBC]

Verse 21: “in him”: The Greek can also be translated as by him. [JBC]

Verse 21: “the righteousness of God”: It originates in the divine nature (see Romans 3:5) acting to effect pardon or acceptance with God, a relationship that we do not achieve, but which is God’s gift. In Romans 1:17, Paul writes “For in it [the good news] the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, ‘The one who is righteous will live by faith’” (where “righteousness”, Greek dikaiosyne, is better translated uprightness). [NOAB]

Luke 15:1-3,11b-32

The theme of joy is found in vv. 6, 7, 9, 10, 23, 24, 29, 32. [NJBC]

Verses 1-32: God’s mercy is as foolish as a shepherd who abandons 99 sheep to save one, as a woman who turns her house upside down to recover a paltry sum (but see Clipping on v. 8), and as a Jewish father who joyfully welcomes home his wastrel son who has become a Gentile. [NJBC]

Verse 1: “tax collectors and sinners”: 5:30 tells us: “The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’”. See also 7:34. [JBC]

Verses 4-7: The Parable of the Lost Sheep illustrates God’s concern for those who lack the ability to find him: he seeks them. [NOAB] Jesus’ audience knew that a lost sheep simply lies down and will not budge. Matthew 18:12-14 is a possible parallel, but it lacks “he calls together his friends and neighbours”.

Verses 8-10: The Parable of the Lost Coin intensifies the picture of human helplessness and divine concern. [NOAB] A Palestinian house had a door and no windows. The woman “does not light a lamp”; she hopes to hear the coin tinkle.

Verse 8: “silver coins”: The Greek word is drachmas. A drachma was a day’s wage for a labourer. [NOAB]

Verses 12-32: This parable plays on the hearers’ knowledge of two-brother stories, in which the younger brother triumphs over the older brother(s). Two examples are Esau and Jacob (Genesis 25:27-34; 27:1-26) and Joseph and his brothers (Genesis 37:1-4). Jesus doubly reverses expectations:

  • the prodigal son is a parody of the successful younger brother, and
  • the elder brother is not vanquished, but invited to the feast. [NJBC]

Verse 12: A father could abdicate before his death and divide his wealth: see 1 Kings 1-2 (David) and Sirach 33:19-23. [JBC] The elder son received twice as much as the younger: see Deuteronomy 21:17. [NOAB]

Verse 13: “dissolute living”: See v. 30 for the elder son’s story about the younger son’s activities. [JBC]

Verse 15: To feed pigs was the ultimate indignity for a Jew. [NOAB] Pigs symbolized pagan religion and Roman rule. See 8:26-39 (Jesus heals the Gerasene demoniac) tells of demons entering pigs. [NJBC]

Verse 16: “pods”: The fruit of the carob tree. The younger son was too disgusted to eat with the pigs; no one gave him anything else. He must have stolen his food. [JBC]

Verse 18: “I will get up and go to my father”: His remembrance of his father’s goodness revives his hope and compunction. [NJBC]

Verse 18: “heaven”: i.e. God [JBC]

Verse 22: Jesus’ hearers would have recalled the story in Genesis 41, especially v. 42: “Removing his signet ring from his hand, Pharaoh put it on Joseph's hand; he arrayed him in garments of fine linen, and put a gold chain around his neck”. [JBC] A “robe” was a festal garment. A “ring” was a symbol of authority. Only free people (not slaves) wore “sandals”; slaves went bare-foot. [NOAB]

Verse 23: “fatted calf”: Meat was rarely eaten. [NJBC]

Verse 24: “was dead and is alive again”: See also Ephesians 2:1-5 (“... God, ... out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ ...”) and Luke 9:60. [NOAB]

Verses 26-32: Jesus shows the difference between God’s loving kindness and self-centred complacency that not only denies love, but cannot understand it. [NOAB]

Verses 29-30: The elder son omits the polite address, “Father”, which the younger son uses in v. 21. [JBC] Further, he cannot bring himself to acknowledge the younger son as his brother: he calls him “this son of yours”. [NJBC]

Verse 31: “Son”: The Greek word, meaning child, shows the father’s affection for the elder son. [JBC]

Verse 32: “was dead and has come to life”: This makes one think of Jesus’ passion and resurrection. although it may be a reference to Abraham’s (almost) sacrifice of Isaac. Jesus, by his union with human nature, has become the wayward son! [JBC]

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