Comments

Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Sixth Sunday after Epiphany - February 11, 2007



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.

Jeremiah 17:5-10

Verses 5-8: The opposition between trust in God and trust in human power is common. Psalm 146:3-5 says “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help ... Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God”; however the closest is Psalm 1 (read today) – where the opposition is expressed with the very same comparisons. This opposition is also found in the writings of Amenemope, an Egyptian sage. [NJBC]

Verse 6: “shall not see ...”: Note that the ungodly will not even realize that God rescues people.

Verse 7: The (almost) repetition may be an attempt to balance this verse with v. 5.

Verse 8: “tree”: Godly humans being like a green trees is common: see also Psalms 1:3; 52:8; 104:17; 11:30; Sirach 24:13ff. [NJBC] Proverbs 3:18 says: “She [Lady Wisdom] is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called happy”.

Verse 9: “heart”: The heart and conscience were closely connected: to ask for a pure heart was to desire a new and more perfect conscience.

Verse 10: “I the LORD test the mind and search the heart”: Jeremiah constantly upheld the primacy of the interior sentiments in religious life. In 11:20, he says “But you, O LORD of hosts, who judge righteously, who try the heart and the mind, let me see your retribution upon them [the wayward], for to you I have committed my cause”. See also 20:12; Psalms 7:9; 64:6. [NJBC]

Verse 10: Paul writes in Romans 7:18-19: “... I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do”. Only God can really understand humans (see Romans 7:18-19); only he can therefore properly judge them: see 1 Samuel 16:7. [NOAB] CAB sees this verse as showing the perversity of the human mind: it relies on its own acquisitions and achievements (“wealth”, v. 11) and turns away from God.

Verse 11: Like a partridge that lays its eggs but does not stay around to hatch them (because the nest may be prey to many dangers), so it is with treasure acquired unjustly: a person will not benefit from it: it will not extend his life. [NJBC]

Psalm 1

This is a wisdom psalm, serving as a preface to the whole collection of psalms [NJBC]. It seems to be an expansion of Jeremiah 17:5-8, read today. [NOAB]

Acts 13:33 says “... as also it is written in the second psalm, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you.’”. The quotation is Psalm 2:7; however a variant of this verse says first psalm [JBC]. A scholar claims that Psalms 1 and 2 were originally one psalm (at a time long before Acts was written).

Verse 1: “Happy”: Literally the happiness of. [NOAB] This is typical of wisdom literature. Proverbs 3:13 says “Happy are those who find wisdom, and those who get understanding”. See also Proverbs 8:32-33; Psalms 32:1; 34:9. [NJBC]

Verse 2: Psalm 119 emphasizes the “delight ... in the law of the LORD”. [NOAB] The identification of wisdom with the Torah suggests that this psalm is late post-exilic. See also Sirach 24. [NJBC]

Verse 3: “yield their fruit”: See also Jeremiah 17:7-8 and Psalm 92:13-15. [NJBC]

Verse 4: “chaff that the wind drives away”: Zephaniah 2:1-2 advises: “Gather together, gather, O shameless nation, before you are driven away like the drifting chaff, before there comes upon you the fierce anger of the LORD, before there comes upon you the day of the Lord's wrath”. See also Job 21:18 and Isaiah 17:13. [NJBC]

Verse 5a: Note the implication that the godly will, at the end of time, judge the “wicked”.

Verse 6: “way ... way”: For the two ways, see also Deuteronomy 30:15-20. The “way of the wicked” forms an inclusio with the “path that sinners tread” in v. 1. [NJBC] The Didache (mid second century AD, or later) and the Epistle of Barnabas (circa 130 AD) also speak of the “two ways”.

1 Corinthians 15:12-20

The idea of bodily resurrection was denied by many in the wider Greco-Roman world, not only in Corinth, because they believed that the soul alone was immortal. [CAB] Jesus is the model for our own resurrection; John 20:26-28 tells us that in his resurrected state he was able to pass through doors. It is likely that Thomas’s confession of Jesus as “my Lord and my God” was a consequence of touching Jesus. So resurrection is bodily, but in a somewhat different body from the one we have now.

Verse 14: “in vain”: The Greek word, a technical term for Paul, is kenos, meaning unproductive. In v. 17, mataia, “futile” is even stronger. Paul also uses kenos in 15:10, 58; 2 Corinthians 6:1; Philippians 2:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:1; 3:5. [NJBC]

Verse 17: This is the key argument, and the one most likely to hit home with the Corinthian Christians. They thought themselves wisdom-filled (in 1:30, Paul writes that Christ “became for us wisdom from God”) precisely as Christians. Through conversion to Christ they had been changed, raised to a new level of being, but if Christ was not as Paul said, then nothing had altered: they were like other humans. [NJBC]

Verse 18: In 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, Paul writes: “... this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel's call and with the sound of God's trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever”. [NOAB]

Verse 19: Scholars differ as to how to interpret this verse; several consider that the meaning is obscure.

Verses 20-28: Human logic here gives way to the passion of the prophet proclaiming a conviction that transcends reason and experience. [NJBC]

Verse 20: “first fruits”: The Old Testament origins are in Exodus 23:19 (“The choicest of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the LORD your God”); Leviticus 23:10; Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Numbers 18:16-18; Ezekiel 44:30. [CAB]

Verses 21-28: Jesus’ resurrection is the first step in a series of God’s actions which will culminate in the final triumph of his purpose for the whole of creation.

Verses 21-23: Jesus is the prototype of the new creation as Adam was of the old: see also Romans 5:12-21: “... just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned ...”.

  Adam Christ
belonging to the world by nature by decision
causality/effect infected humans with sin and death gives life [NJBC]

Verse 23: “first fruits”: Elsewhere Paul carries the metaphor of first fruits further than he does here. [CAB]

Verse 23: “at his coming”: i.e. at the glorious return of Christ (see 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 4:13-17, quoted above), at the time of the general resurrection. [NJBC]

Verses 24-27: Christ’s “enemies” are the demonic powers dominating the present age; one of these is “death”. [NOAB]

Verse 24: “every ruler ...”: i.e. powers hostile to authentic humanity: in Romans 8:38-39, Paul writes: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”. See also Colossians 1:16; 2:10; Ephesians 1:21. [NJBC]

Verse 25: Paul quotes Psalm 110:1b (“Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool”) implicitly. [NJBC]

Verse 25: “his enemies”: i.e. demonic powers dominating the present age, one of which is death.

Verse 26: “death”: For the personification of death in the Old Testament, see Psalms 33:19; 49:14; Jeremiah 9:20-22; Habakkuk 2:5. [NJBC]

Verse 27: Psalm 8:6 (“... you have put all things under their feet ...”) is also associated with Psalm 110:1 in Ephesians 1:20-22 and Hebrews 2:8-10. [CAB] The emphasis is on “all”, including Death, but to avoid a misunderstanding, Paul explains: those in subjection do not include “the one” (God) who subjected all things to “him”, Christ. [NJBC]

Verse 27: “his feet”: i.e. Christ’s. [NOAB]

Verse 28: At the end of time, there will be no more struggle so Christ, who now exercises the sovereignty of God, will remit into the hands of the Father the authority given to him for his mission of salvation. [NJBC]

Verse 29: “those people ... who receive baptism on behalf of the dead”: A practice otherwise unknown. Presumably Christians accepted baptism on behalf of loved ones who had died without being baptised, in order that the latter might share in the final resurrection. Without advocating this practice, Paul makes it a point in his argument. [NOAB] CAB thinks that Paul is taking a hypothetical case.

Verse 31: The Corinthians are Paul’s boast. In 9:2, he writes “you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord”, and in 2 Corinthians 3:2: “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all”. [NJBC]

Verse 32: It is unknown whether the fighting “with wild animals” is to be taken literally or is merely a strong metaphor. In 4:9, Paul writes: “... I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, as though sentenced to death ...”. In any case, Paul had bitter and dangerous enemies. [NOAB] CAB thinks that this is a hypothetical example. He notes that this letter was written from “Ephesus”. By translating the first words of the verse differently, NJBC argues that fighting with the animals at Ephesus should be taken figuratively.

Verse 32: The citation, which is from Isaiah 22:13, would have evoked Epicurean sayings; those who denied physical resurrection would not have wanted to be associated with such materialists. [NJBC]

Verse 33: Quoting a proverb from a play by the Athenian poet Menander, Paul warns the Corinthians not to associate with those who deny the resurrection. [NOAB] [CAB] Here “bad company” means those who deny physical resurrection. [NJBC]

Luke 6:17-26

Verses 17-19: See also Matthew 4:24-25; 12:15-21; Mark 3:7-12. [NOAB]

Verse 17: “Tyre and Sidon”: Perhaps some who came from these cities were Gentiles.

Verse 18: Disease and possession by evil spirits were seen as closely linked. [NOAB]

Verse 19: “power”: 4:33-36 tells us: “In the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon ... They were all amazed and kept saying to one another, ‘What kind of utterance is this? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and out they come!’”, and 5:17 says: “One day, while he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting near by (they had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem); and the power of the Lord was with him to heal”. [BlkLk]

Verses 20-23: Matthew presents beatitudes in 5:3-12. In Luke 4:18-19 Jesus reads from Isaiah in the synagogue: “‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour’”. The order of the Beatitudes is different in Matthew and Luke, perhaps indicating that the authors drew from different sources (either oral or written). While Matthew has nine beatitudes and no woes, Luke has four of each. The woes are in the reverse order of the beatitudes. [JBC]

Verse 20: “poor”: Jesus has special love for the unfortunate. The Greek word is ptochoi; in the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, it usually means the lowly who depend desperately on God for help. See Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12. [JBC]

Verse 20: Here, and in 4:18, Jesus fulfils the prophecy of Isaiah 61:1: he has been “anointed ... to bring good news to the oppressed” and “to proclaim liberty to the captives”. [BlkLk]

Verses 21-26: In Matthew 5:1-12, Jesus gives the Beatitudes on a mountain, in the Sermon on the Mount. He has fewer teachings here than appear there; he includes others found elsewhere in Matthew. Vv. 24-26 appear only here. [NOAB] CAB notes three other differences from the story in Matthew:

Matthew Luke
They are in the third person (“they”). They are in the second person (“you”).
Those who live godly lives now will be rewarded by being with God at the end of the era. They are promises for God’s future reversal of the plight of his people.
Only blessings are presented. The blessings are matched by warnings of the deprivations that are coming for those now enjoying power and plenty.

NJBC postulates that vv. 20b-23 are derived from Q (the sayings source) and are therefore found in both Luke and Matthew.

Verse 21: “hungry now”: Amos 8:11ff tells of a time when there will be famine of a different kind: “The time is surely coming, says the Lord GOD, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD”. Deuteronomy 8:3 says: “He [Yahweh] humbled you [people of Israel] by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD”. See also and Luke 4:4. [JBC]

Verse 22: John 9:22 refers to the exclusion of Christians from synagogues: “the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue”. John 12:42 says: “... many, even of the authorities, believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue”. See also 16:1-2. [BlkLk]

Verse 22: “Son of Man”: For the corporate sense of this phrase, see Daniel 7:13ff, 18 (“... the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever ...”). There it is used of the persecuted saints in the trial at the end of time. [JBC] The footnote in the NRSV says that the Aramaic words translated “human being” in Daniel 7:13 are son of man.

Verse 23: “in that day”: This expression was launched by Amos (2:16 and 5:18) and given firm place by Isaiah in 2:11; 3:18; 4:2; 7:20. [JBC]

Verse 23: “ancestors”: Tradition said that Isaiah was also persecuted. [BlkLk]

Verses 24-26: For more of Jesus’ prophecies of woes, see also 11:38-52; 17:1; 21:23; 22:22. [NOAB]

Verse 24: From v. 18, it is probable that few “rich” people were present. So is Luke writing for his own church (possibly in Antioch)? Note also “their ancestors” in vv. 23, 26.

Verse 25: See also 12:19-20 (the Parable of the Rich Fool); 16:25 (the rich man and Lazarus); James 5:1-5. [NOAB]

Verse 25a: This thought is akin to that of Jeremiah 31:10ff, in which ransomed Jacob will come to the good things of the Lord and will not hunger anymore. See John 6:35 and Revelation 7:16. The Septuagint translation of Jeremiah 31:14 is (translated into English) “my people shall be satisfied with my bounty”. The same Greek word appears in the Septuagint and here in Luke: there rendered as “satisfied” and here as “full”. [BlkLk]

Verse 26: “false prophets”: See also Jeremiah 14:13ff; 23:9ff, 27-28; Ezekiel 22:23ff. [BlkLk]

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