Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Third Sunday after Epiphany - January 23, 2022

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.

Nehemiah 8:1-3,5-6,8-10

Comments: King Artaxerxes: Artaxerxes II reigned from 404-358 BC. That Ezra travelled to Jerusalem with exiles during his reign suggests that the Israelites returned to Judah in stages over about 150 years. [ CAB] However, which Artaxerxes is meant in Ezra 7:7? Artaxerxes I came to the throne in 465 BC. Scholars vary. [ NJBC]

Verse 1: “Water Gate”: 3:26 makes it clear that this gate was part of the walls of the city. [ NOAB]

Verse 1: “the book of the law of Moses”: To me, the most likely is pre-Leviticus (note that the quotations in vv. 14-15 are not exactly what we now have in Leviticus); however, some scholars consider it to be the whole of the Pentateuch or several books of it.

Verse 2: “seventh month”: Being the seventh contributes to the view that Nehemiah 8 follows Ezra 8:35. Other scholars believe that Nehemiah 8 follows the book of Ezra. This may be the “seventh month” per the calendar which started with the month of Nisan, after return from exile (or after the anniversary of return from exile), or of the currently-used calendar (whichever that may be). NOAB says that this was Tishri (September-October), the “first day” of which was a day of convocation per Numbers 29:1.

Verse 9: “Nehemiah” is not in the list of governors in 1 Chronicles 3:19-24. A scholar points out the division of responsibility between the civil and religious authorities. NOAB says that the name was inserted by a scribe.

Verse 9: “Levites”: It seems as though they translated and interpreted. [ CAB]

Verse 9: “do not mourn or weep”: The people’s sadness may have been occasioned by the news that they would have to divorce their foreign wives: see Chapter 9.

Verses 14-15: V. 14 is Leviticus 23:42; v. 15 is like Leviticus 23:40. See also 2 Chronicles 8:13 and Ezra 3:4. [ NJBC]

Verse 17: “Jeshua”: The Hebrew text almost certainly means Joshua. (The name “Jeshua” also appears in v. 7.) Perhaps during the exile the people had failed to observe some part of the Feast of Booths. Perhaps this was the cause of their sadness.

For the regulations concerning the Feast of Booths, see Leviticus 23:33-43. [ NOAB]

Psalm 19

A hymn to God as creator of nature and giver of the Law. [ NOAB]

This psalm can be divided into:

  • A creation hymn (vv. 2-6)
  • A wisdom hymn: being a Torah hymn (vv. 7-10) and confession of sin and prayer for forgiveness (vv. 11-14) [ NJBC]

NOAB suggests that the original poem was vv. 1-6, and that vv. 7-14, praising the revelation of God in the Law, were added later in order to counterbalance what seemed to be an almost pagan influence upon the revelation of God in nature; however NJBC considers that the thematic connections show that this psalm has always been one poem. He views the Law as one of God’s works. Note the change in divine names at v. 7: from “God” to “Lord ”.

Verses 1-6: The glory of God is shown in the phenomena of the heavens and especially in the might of the sun. [ NOAB] God’s glory is revealed through the splendour and order of creation, especially in the daily cycle of the sun. [ CAB]

Verses 1-4a: The sky and successive days and nights are personified as members of a heavenly choir ceaselessly singing God’s praises. [ NOAB]

Verse 1: “the glory of God”: For the attribution of glory to God (here El in Hebrew), see also 24:7, 10 (“king of glory”) and 29:3 (“God of glory”). “Glory” suggests both the nimbus of light enveloping the deity and the storm cloud: see Exodus 40:34; Psalm 18:12-13. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: Another translation: Day after day, they [the heavens] pour forth his word; night after night it [the firmament] declares his knowledge.

Verse 3: The words cannot be heard by human ears. [ NOAB]

Verses 4b-6: The skies provide a track along which the sun, like an athlete, runs its daily course. [ NOAB]

Verses 7-9: There are six synonyms for the Law in these verses. See also Psalm 119. [ NOAB]

Verse 7: “making wise the simple”: For wisdom and Torah, see also 1:1-2: “Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night”. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “enlightening the eyes”: i.e. providing health and well-being. 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!’”. [ JBC]

Verse 9: “fear”: Many scholars translate the Hebrew as word. 119:11 says: “I treasure your word in my heart, so that I may not sin against you”. [ NOAB] For “clean”, the REB has unsullied.

Verse 10: Observance of the Law is a joy, not a burden. [ NOAB]

Verses 11-12: In the Law, people see that benefits are to be gained and errors are to be avoided. [ CAB]

Verses 11-14: The perfection or blamelessness of the Law is mirrored in the prayer of the psalmist: that he be blameless.

Verse 12: “hidden faults”: Another translation: presumptuous sins

Verse 14: This verse can be paraphrased as: May my speech and thought be acceptable to God, who has made all this possible. [ CAB]

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

12:1-14:40: “Now concerning ...”: As in 7:1; 7:25; 8:1 and 16:1, Paul addresses an issue raised by the Corinthians in an earlier letter to him. [ CAB]

12:12-31: Although widespread in the ancient world, the idea of society as a body is unlikely to have been the source of Paul’s analogy. He saw society as, above all, characterized by divisions (see Galatians 3:28: “There is no longer Jew or Greek ...”), and he predicated “body” of the Christian community to emphasize its organic unity. [ NJBC]

12:13: 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. [ JBC]

12:13: “baptised into one body”: In Romans 12:4-5, Paul writes: “For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another”. See also Ephesians 4:14-16. [ NOAB]

12:13: “made to drink of one Spirit”: In 3:16, Paul asks, probably 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. [ NJBC]

12:23-25: In terms of clothing, the genitals receive more attention than the ears or the nose. The instinct of modesty reveals the divine plan to ensure that the eyes (for example) should not command all consideration. [ NJBC]

12:27-30: An enumeration of the roles essential for the ongoing life of the church and the range of tasks that they are empowered to perform for the benefit of the whole. Each one has a role “appointed” by God. [ CAB]

12:28: “apostles ... prophets ... teachers”: These constitute the fundamental three-fold ministry of the word by which the church is founded and built up. [ NJBC] For the one Church, God provides a variety of leadership. For another list of gifts and of those who have particular functions as a result, see Romans 12:6-8.

12:28: “apostles”: See also 4:9 (“... I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all ...”) and 9:5 (“Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?”). [ NOAB]

12:28: “prophets”: In 14:5, Paul says “those who prophesy speak to other people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation”. [ NOAB] Prophecy is defined by its effect on the community. Revelation, in the sense of a new insight into the mystery of salvation is actualized in pastoral guidance and instruction.

12:28: “teachers”: These may have exercised ministry outside the liturgical assembly, while “prophets” exercised it within. [ NJBC]

12:28: “assistance ... leadership”: Only later linked with deacons and bishops. [ NOAB]

12:28: “tongues”: Perhaps “tongues” are mentioned last to counteract a tendency to overemphasize this gift in the Corinthian church.

12:31a: “greater gifts”: Other interpretations:

  • The first three mentioned in v. 28 – if the verb strive is in the imperative
  • Those gifts especially esteemed by the Corinthian Christians – if the verb is in the indicative [ NJBC]
  • Love: the “still more excellent way” (v. 31b; 13:1ff; 14:1). [ NOAB]

Luke 4:14-21

The events and teachings in 4:14-9:50 are all in Galilee. [ NOAB] Then, in 9:51, Jesus turns towards Jerusalem.

The parallels are Matthew 13:53-54 and Mark 6:1-2.

This passage gives us a glimpse of synagogue worship in the first century, as does Acts 13:15 (in Antioch in Pisidia). [ NOAB]

Verse 14: “filled with the power of the Spirit”: The Spirit descended on Jesus at his baptism: 3:21-22 tells us: “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased’”. His proclamation in word and deed stems from God’s creative Spirit. [ NJBC]

Verse 15: “teach”: The word in Greek is didaskein; it is also used in 4:15; 5:3, 17; 6:6; 11:1; 13:10, 22, 26; 19:47; 20:1, 21; 21:37; 23:5: 14 times, in all. Luke also uses didaskale (teacher) frequently. [ NJBC]

Verse 16: “sabbath”: For Jesus’ activities on the sabbath, see also 4:31-37 (teaching and casting out a demon ); 6:1-5 (his disciples pluck some heads of grain), 6:6-11 (restores a man’s withered hand); 13:10-17 (heals a crippled woman); 14:1-6 (heals a man who had dropsy). [ NJBC]

Verse 16: “as was his custom”: Matthew 4:23 tells us that Jesus taught in synagogues in Galilee. See also Matthew 9:35. [ NOAB]

Verse 17: “the scroll ... was given to him”: i.e. by “the attendant” (v. 20) or chazzan of the synagogue. [ NOAB]

Verses 18-19: This prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus’ ministry: see 13:10-17 (cures a crippled woman) and 23:39-43. (This is the only clear indication that Jesus knew how to read.) The quotation is Isaiah 61:1-2 and 58:6. “To bind up the broken-hearted” ( 61:1c) and “(to announce) the day of vengeance [vindication], to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn in Zion – to give them a garland instead of ashes” ( 61:2b-3a) are omitted – thus extending his mission beyond Israel. [ NJBC]

Verse 18: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me”: The reader already knows that Jesus has the Holy Spirit: in 1:35, an angel tells Mary: “‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God’”. After Jesus is baptised, “the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove” (see 3:22). [ NJBC]

Verse 18: “release”: The Greek word is aphesis. Aphesis appears in the Septuagint translation of Leviticus 25:10 as the translation of the Hebrew for jubilee, and in the same translation of Deuteronomy 15:1-11, aphesis is used to refer to the sabbatical year. In literature roughly contemporary with Luke, the Qumran community associated Isaiah 61:1 with Leviticus 25:10-13 and Deuteronomy 15:1-11 in a text reflecting on the end-time, and identified the “release” as being that of debtors during a jubilee year. But Luke also uses aphesis for forgiveness in 24:47. “Let go free” also translates aphesis. [ NJBC]

Verse 19: “proclaim”: In the then current Greek translation of Isaiah (the Septuagint) the word is call. It appears that Luke has changed this verb to emphasize the proclamation that, in Jesus, God has fulfilled his promises of old. [ NJBC]

Verse 20: “sat down”: The sermon was given sitting. It seems that the first-century synagogue service consisted of: singing a psalm, reciting the Shema and the Eighteen Benedictions, a reading from the Torah, a reading from the prophets, a sermon on the meaning of the readings, and the priestly blessing: see Numbers 6:22-27. [ NJBC]

Verse 23: “‘cure yourself’”: The sense is: cure people in your own home town.

Verses 25-27: Many ordinary people praise Jesus (v. 15) but those present in the synagogue try to cause his death – for reminding them that it was among non-Israelites that Elijah and Elisha were able to heal. [ CAB]

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