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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Second Sunday after Epiphany - January 20, 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.

Isaiah 62:1-5

61:1-7: As promised to the future king descended from David (Isaiah 11:1-2), the ruler of God’s people will receive power to accomplish God’s purpose in the world. Those who benefit most will be those now deprived and oppressed. He will also punish the wicked, while pouring out benefits on his people, their city and their land. The renewed people will serve as intermediaries (“priests”, v. 6) between God and the former outsiders (“strangers”, “foreigners”, v. 5) who will be doubly blessed by God. [CAB]

61:1-3: God sends his prophet to bring encouragement to the exiled and oppressed; he will make them mighty oaks. [NOAB]

61:1-2: For Jesus reading these verses in the synagogue at Nazareth, and thereafter announcing that the messianic era has come, see Luke 4:16-20. See also Matthew 11:5 and Luke 7:22. [NOAB] Originally they referred to one of the leaders of the early post-exilic Isaian school; the targum, in fact, introduces this monologue with Thus says the prophet.

61:1: “spirit”: The role of the spirit of Yahweh is strongly emphasized in exilic and post-exilic writings. See also 42:1; 59:21; Ezekiel 2:2. [NOAB] For the spirit of God intervening in human affairs, see Judges 3:10; 6:34 (Gideon); 11:29 (Jephthah); 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14 (Samson); 1 Samuel 10:5-13 (Saul). In Isaiah 11:1-2, the spirit is promised to the messianic king; later it was assured to all the messianic people: see Joel 3 and Zechariah 12:10. Ezekiel revived thought of the important role of the spirit. [NJBC]

61:1: “anointed”: i.e. a gift to a prophet, as are teaching and preaching, designating an interior enlightenment to know God’s word and a strengthening to follow it. [NJBC]

61:1: “to bring good news”: In 40:9, Yahweh says through the prophet: “Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Here is your God!’”. See also 41:27. [NJBC]

61:1: “release”: The Hebrew can also be translated as light. [NJBC]

61:2: “the year of the Lord’s favour”: In a jubilee year, all land was returned to its ancestral owners and all Israelite slaves were freed. This is commanded in Leviticus 25:8-17, 23-55; 27:16-23; Numbers 36:4. There was a jubilee year every 50 years, but now an extraordinary jubilee has arrived, and all the land reverts to the Creator, who distributes it equally and bountifully. [HBD] See also 49:8. [NJBC]

A jubilee year was after seven cycles of seven years, the seventh year in each cycle being a Sabbatical Year. In such a year, the land was left fallow (because it belongs to God) with fruit that grows on it left for the poor and for wild animals, and debts were forgiven (to redress social inequities). [HBD]

61:2: “vengeance”: NOAB says that rescue is a better translation of the Hebrew. According to NJBC, NOAB is following a Ugaritic root which means to rescue. He offers vindication.

61:3: “oaks of righteousness”: The Israelites’ bond with God will be as strong as oaks. See 44:14 for becoming like an oak as a symbol for spiritual strengthening. [NJBC]

61:3: “the planting of the Lord”: For this image, see also 60:21: “Your people shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land forever. They are the shoot that I planted, the work of my hands, so that I might be glorified”. See also Jeremiah 17:8. [NOAB]

61: 60:10-11 contains the same ideas. [NOAB]

61:6: “priests”: Being “priests”, the Israelites will be intermediaries between God and other nations. In Exodus 19:6, at Mount Sinai, God promises to Moses that Israel “shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation”. [NOAB] Trito-Isaiah is opening the ranks of the priesthood to non-Levites: see also 56:6 and 66:18-21. Though radical, this decision has precedents, e.g. Ezekiel stoutly defends the privileges of the Zadokite priests. [NJBC]

61:7: “double”: Israel has been doubly, greatly, punished: 40:2 says: “Jerusalem ... has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins”. [NOAB]

61:8: “I the LORD”: God’s self identification, especially as a reminder of the Ten Commandments, is found in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:1-21, and indeed in much of the Law. A common phrase in Deutero-Isaiah and Ezekiel.

61:8: “justice”: 5:7 says: “For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!”. See also 5:16. [NOAB]

61:8: “everlasting covenant”: In Genesis 9:16, God tells Noah that the rainbow is a reminder of the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures. In Genesis 17:7, God makes such a covenant with Abraham and his offspring. In Genesis 17:19, God promises a covenant with Isaac and his progeny. David, in his death speech (2 Samuel 23:5) recalls the everlasting covenant God made with him when he wished to build a temple (2 Samuel 7:13, 16, 24-26, 29). See also 54:9-10 (“This is like the days of Noah ...”); 55:3; 59:21; Jeremiah 32:40; 50:5; Psalm 105:10.

61:9: The promises made to Abraham at Haran are in Genesis 12:2-3: “‘I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed’”. [NJBC]

61:10-11: Jerusalem celebrates the fulfilment of love between herself and Yahweh. See also 54:5-8; Jeremiah 33:10-11; Revelation 19:7, 9; John 2:1-11. [NJBC]

62:1-5: Some scholars believe that this passage was written when the Israelites were still in exile.

62:1: “I will not keep silent”: 42:14 says “For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept still and restrained myself; now I will cry out ...”. For Israel’s complaints of divine silence, see 57:11; 64:12; 65:6.

62:1: “vindication”: 41:14 says: “Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you insect Israel! I will help you, says the LORD; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel” and 54:17: “No weapon that is fashioned against you shall prosper, and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and their vindication from me, says the LORD.”. See also 54:14 and 61:2.

62:1: “burning torch”: Jesus spoke at the Feast of Tabernacles, a time when the city was lit with torches: see John 7:37-38. In John 8:12, Jesus says: “‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life’”.

62:2: “new name”: See also 1:26 (“you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city”); Jeremiah 33:16 (“this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness’”); Ezekiel 48:35 (“the name of the city ... shall be, The LORD is There”). Abraham’s name is changed when he accepts God’s commission. [NOAB]

62:3: “crown of beauty”: See also 28:1-6. [NOAB]

62:5: The theme of Yahweh as spouse is not just repeated (see 49:14 and 50:1) but adulterous Israel is restored to that joyful, innocent age long ago when she was the virgin spouse of God. [NJBC]

62:6: “sentinels”: probably prophets (as in 52:8 and Ezekiel 33), to remind Jerusalem of her imminent salvation, the certainty of which Yahweh’s oath (in vv. 8-9) underscores. [NOAB] To NJBC, the prophet is extending his ministry to a circle of followers. They are to be reminders to the people of Yahweh’s merciful promises and deeds. This was an official office: see 36:3 (“recorder”). For “sentinels” or watchmen, see also 21:11-12; 52:8. [NJBC]

62:8: “right hand”: A verse in the Song of Miriam/Moses, sung after delivery from the fleeing Egyptians, credits the escape to God’s might: “Your right hand, O LORD, glorious in power – your right hand, O LORD, shattered the enemy” (Exodus 15:6). See also Exodus 15:12. [NOAB]

62:8: “mighty arm”: 40:10 says: “See, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him”. Deuteronomy 7:19 advises the Israelites to remember “the mighty hand and the outstretched arm by which the LORD your God brought you out [of Egypt]”. [NOAB]

62:8: “foreigners”: i.e. invaders, like the Babylonians, and encroachers, like the Edomites, of whom Obadiah 1-21 speaks. [NOAB]

62:9: There is an allusion here to the harvesting of grapes. This may allude to a perpetual Feast of Tabernacles. [NJBC]

62:10-12: A summary of the eschatological hopes described in chapters 60-62. [NOAB] To NJBC, these verses catch the spirit of the Feast of Tabernacles and especially the joy of the glorious procession on the first day of the feast.

62:10b: 49:22 says: “Thus says the Lord GOD: I will soon lift up my hand to the nations, and raise my signal to the peoples; and they shall bring your sons in their bosom, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders”. [NOAB]

62:11b: See also 40:10 (quoted above). [NOAB]

Psalm 36:5-10

This psalm contrasts the self-deceit of the wicked with the assurance of the faithful that God is active in ordering the universe and in caring for his own people.

Verses 1-4: Perhaps this is a parody of an oracle from Yahweh: Psalm 110:1 says: “The LORD says to my lord, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool’”. The wicked are ruled by sin and heed the voice of evil rather than God’s voice in their lives.

Verses 5-9: The character of God is to be a source of blessing to the godly and to provide them with refuge. [NOAB]

Verse 7: “in the shadow of your wings”: On God’s protection, 17:8 says “Guard me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings”. See also 63:7.

Verses 8-10: In Psalm 63:5-7, a psalmist writes: “My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises you with joyful lips when I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy”. [NJBC]

Verse 9: “fountain of life”: Jeremiah 2:13 speaks of God as “the fountain of living water”. [NOAB]

Verse 9: “in your light”: 4:6 says “ There are many who say, “O that we might see some good! Let the light of your face shine on us, O LORD!’”. See also 31:16 and 89:15.

Verse 9: “we see light”: In Job 3:16, Job, in his distress, wonders: “‘Or why was I not buried like a stillborn child, like an infant that never sees the light?’”. See also Job 33:28 and Psalm 49:19. [NJBC]

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

For more on the gifts of the Spirit, see Chapters 13-14. [NOAB]

This passage tells how the Holy Spirit enables members of the community to fulfil special roles for the benefit of all.

Verse 1: “Now concerning”: This is the first question raised by the Corinthian Christians. For others (also introduced by “now concerning”), see 7:25 (virgins); 8:1 (food sacrificed to idols); 16:1 (collection for the saints); 16:12 (our brother Apollos will come to you). See also 15:1.

Verse 2: “enticed”: Pagan religions in Greece embodied unbridled enthusiasm and emotionalism, even extending to the orgiastic frenzies of the devotees of Dionysios. [JBC]

Verse 2: “idols that could not speak”: i.e. they could not answer prayers. For this thought in the Old Testament, see 1 Kings 18:26-29 (Baal does not answer his prophets) and Psalm 115:4-8. Perhaps Paul contrasts the silence of the idols with the noisy (demon-inspired) outcry of the worshippers. [Blk1Cor]

Verse 3: “Let Jesus be cursed”: There were overtones of contempt in the way the “spirit-people” neglected the lessons of the life of the historical Jesus (see 2 Corinthians 5:15), and Paul probably created this shocking formula to crystallize the implications of their attitude. Other interpretations are possible.

Verse 3: “Jesus is Lord”: For this confession in baptism, see Romans 10:9; Philippians 2:11. See also Galatians 3:13. [NJBC]

Verses 4-7: The real test of gifts is whether they come from God and contribute to the common good and edify the community: see also 8:1. [NOAB] Christians differ from one another, not only in physical make-up but in the spiritual gifts distributed (“varieties”, Greek: diaireseis) to each. Uniformity of experience and service is not to be expected. [Blk1Cor]

Verse 7: The point is that each member of the church has a manifestation of a gift appropriate to his or her self. [Blk1Cor]

Verses 8-10: This list is not exhaustive, and precise definitions of what Paul means are impossible. It is very likely that the Corinthian Christians knew what he meant. See 12:27-30; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11 for different lists of gifts. [NJBC]

Verse 9: “faith”: All Corinthian Christians must have possessed the faith by which one begins the Christian way of life and continues on it, so perhaps the faith in question is that connected with “working of miracles” (v. 10) and “gifts of healing”. [Blk1Cor] In 13:2, Paul writes: “... if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing”.

Verse 10: “miracles”: On apostolic miracles, Paul says in Romans 15:18-19: “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the good news of Christ”. See also Galatians 3:5 and 2 Corinthians 12:12. [NOAB]

Verse 10: “discernment”: 1 John 4:1 warns: “... do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God”. [NOAB]

Verse 10: “various kinds of tongues”: Paul writes in 13:1, only a few verses later: “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal”. See also Chapter 14. Paul is thinking of unintelligible speech. [Blk1Cor]

Verse 10: “interpretation of tongues”: See also 14:9-19, a section that begins “... if in a tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is being said? For you will be speaking into the air”. [NOAB]

Verse 11: “are activated”: i.e. are put into operation. [Blk1Cor]

Verses 12-13: The analogy of the body was frequently employed in the ancient world. [Blk1Cor]

Verse 13: The Church is the manifestation and extension of the Lord’s body in this world. The Church is the body of Christ because it is composed of members who share in the life of the Risen Lord.

Verse 13: “baptised into one body”: See also Romans 12:4-5 (“For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, ...”) and Ephesians 4:14-16.

Verse 13: “made to drink of one Spirit”: In 3:16 Paul asks, perhaps rhetorically: “Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?”. See also 6:19. The tense of the verb mitigates against this being a reference to the Eucharist.

John 2:1-11

In 1:50, Jesus has told Nathanael: “You will see greater things than these”. This prophecy is beginning to be fulfilled. [BlkJn]

Verse 1: “third day”: This is the third day after the calling of Philip (the apostle) and Nathanael (see 1:43-45), counting that day as the first. John tells us of (or, of most of) the seven days of the new creation story.

Verse 1: “wedding”: A symbol in the prophetic tradition for the time of fulfilment of God’s purpose for his people: see Isaiah 54:4; 62:4-5. For a wedding feast as a parable of the messianic kingdom, see also Matthew 22:2-14 (the Parable of the Wedding Feast); 25:1ff (the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids) ; Mark 2:19; Revelation 19:9 (“the marriage supper of the Lamb”). [BlkJn]

Verse 1: “Cana”: A small village 15 km northwest of Nazareth. John distinguishes it from Cana in Phoenicia.

Verse 1: “the mother of Jesus”: John mentions her several times (see 2:12; 6:42; 19:25-28) but never by name. BlkJn says that “mother of Jesus” is a more honourable appellation than Mary.

Verse 2: How many of Jesus’ disciples were present? So far in the book, five have been mentioned but there are twelve in 6:67.

Verse 3: Mary’s concern with the shortage of wine suggests that the wedding was that of a near relative.

Verse 4: “what concern ...”: For this Hebrew idiom, see Judges 11:12; 1 Kings 17:18; 2 Kings 3:13; Hosea 14:8. Persistence after rejection is also found in the other miracle at Cana: see 4:47-50. [NJBC]

Verse 4: “Woman”: Jesus also addresses Mary this way in 19:26 but a son did not normally address his mother thus. However, notes BlkJn, the same form of address is used to the Samaritan woman (in 4:21) and to Mary Magdalene (see 20:13, 15), so it must be compatible with affection and respect.

Verse 4: “My hour ...”: Jesus will do nothing without his Father’s will. In 5:19, Jesus says “the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise”. The miracle is not done for Jesus’ own convenience but to save his host embarrassment. This motive may not have seemed so trivial as it appears to us. Here Mary assumes that Jesus will do something to meet the situation (v. 5). [BlkJn] See also 7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1; 17:1. [NOAB]

Comments: “in totally transforming water into wine, Jesus replaces the old (Judaism) with the new”: BlkJn disagrees with this allegorical interpretation. “six” (v. 6) is not a number that has symbolic significance. But he does consider the event to be a miracle.

Verse 6: “stone”: Stone was used because it was believed that it could not contract ritual uncleanness. That the jars were empty may be symbolic: an indication of the inadequacy of the Jewish rites of purification.

Verse 6: “ the Jewish rites of purification”: Mark 7:1-4 tells us about these rites. [BlkJn]

Verse 8: “chief steward”: At Gentile banquets, to be “steward” was a mark of honour for a guest. Perhaps Jewish weddings followed a similar custom. Today we might call this person a headwaiter or toastmaster. However, BlkJn thinks that a Gentile custom is unlikely to have been followed at a Jewish village wedding. To him, the “chief steward” is probably an old family slave, one accorded the freedom of speech possessed by an old retainer.

Verses 9-11: These verses underscore the reality of the event.

Verse 10: Comments: “the abundance of good wine symbolizes the joy accompanying the arrival of the end of the era”: For the association of plentiful good wine with the eschaton, see Amos 9:11-14; Hosea 14:4-7; Jeremiah 31:12-14. See also Hosea 2:21-22; Joel 3:18; Isaiah 29:17; 1 Enoch 10:19; 2 Baruch 29:5. [NJBC]

Verse 11: “the first of his signs”: The second can be found in 4:46-54: “Then he came again to Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum ...” [NOAB]

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