Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Third Sunday after Pentecost - June 5, 2016

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.

1 Kings 17:8-16,(17-24)

Chapter 17 is the beginning of the story of Elijah. All the stories about him took place in the northern kingdom, but as the use of the southern name for God, “ Lord” (Hebrew: Yahweh) shows, the source material was edited in Judah. Perhaps the stories were brought to Judah by refugees from Israel. [ NOAB]

The element of the miraculous in the stories is an integral part of the writer’s intent to dramatize the power of God through the prophet’s words and actions. [ NOAB]

Both NOAB and NJBC note that the story starts abruptly. We are not told of Elijah being commissioned, as Isaiah and Jeremiah were: see Isaiah 6 and Jeremiah 1 NOAB suggests that the proper introduction of Elijah has been lost; on the other hand, NJBC thinks that a biography of Elijah was not part of the editor’s game plan.

Other stories of Elijah are found in 1 Kings 18; 19; 21; 2 Kings 1-2. [ NJBC]

Comments: his wife Jezebel: Jezebel was the daughter of the king of Sidon. She introduced Ahab to the Baalist religion and sought to suppress worship of Yahweh: see 18:4, 13.

Verse 1: That a spokesman for Israel’s God claims to control rainfall constitutes a direct assault on Baalist religion. Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews 8.13,2 tells us about this drought in a quotation from the dramatist Menander of Ephesus. [ JBC]

Verse 1: “Elijah”: His name means my god is Yahweh. [ CAB]

Verse 1: “Gilead”: This region was east of the Jordan. [ CAB]

Verse 3: “Wadi Cherith”: A seasonal stream that flows into the Jordan from the east. [ CAB] It is probably Wadi Yabis, north of “Tishbe” (v. 1).

Verse 4: “ravens”: Leviticus 11:15 states that the raven is an unclean bird, not to be eaten. See also Deuteronomy 14:14 [ HBD]

Verse 6: For God providing manna to the Israelites during the Exodus, see Exodus 16:8, 12. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “Zarephath”: The town was on the Phoenician coast, between Tyre and Sidon. [ CAB] It is now called Sarafend. [ JBC]

Verses 13-14: “a little cake ... oil”: Numbers 11:8 says: “The people went around and gathered it [the manna], ground it in mills or beat it in mortars, then boiled it in pots and made cakes of it; and the taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil”. [ JBC]

Verses 17-24: Yahweh’s power in Baal’s territory even extends to life and death. [ NJBC]

Verse 18: Illness and premature death being seen as a punishment for sins extended into New Testament times: in John 9:2, Jesus’ disciples ask: “... who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”. [ JBC]

Verse 21: “he stretched himself upon the child three times”: In Acts 20:9-10, Paul bends over Eutychus to revive him. The young man had fallen three stories out of a window. [ JBC]

Verse 22: Yahweh’s response is very like obedience. In Joshua 10, there is an incident which also seems to be a case of Yahweh obeying a human being. “Joshua spoke to the Lord ; and he said in the sight of Israel, ‘Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and Moon, in the valley of Aijalon.’ ...The sun stopped in mid-heaven, and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. There has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded a human voice; for the Lord fought for Israel”.

Psalm 146

The last five psalms in the Psalter are hallelujah (Praise the Lord) psalms. [ NOAB] It is fitting that the Psalter end with psalms praising God. On linguistic grounds, several scholars consider this psalm to be post-exilic. [ NJBC]

Verses 1-2: A personal expression of praise. See also 104:1, 33; 145:1-3. [ NOAB]

Verses 3-4: The inadequacy of humans. In 144:3-4, the psalmist wonders: “O Lord, what are human beings that you regard them, or mortals that you think of them? They are like a breath; their days are like a passing shadow”. [ NOAB]

Verses 3-6: The wisdom character of these verses, contrasting human mortality and God as creator, is also found in 90:2-3: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You turn us back to dust, and say, ‘Turn back, you mortals’”. Wisdom language is also found in vv. 8-9. [ NJBC]

Verses 4-8: Yahweh gives help to those who need it. [ NOAB]

Verses 5-6: See 121:2-3 for the same sequence of describing God as the source of help, creator of heaven and earth and everlastingly faithful. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: In 82:2-5, the absence of justice is responsible for shaking the foundations of the earth. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “gives food ... sets the prisoners free”: Echoes of the Exodus. See also Isaiah 61:1. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “opens the eyes of the blind”: In Isaiah 42:7, God, speaking through the prophet, says “ I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness” See also Isaiah 61:1. [ NJBC]

Verses 8-9: “the Lord loves the righteous ... but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin”: The same wisdom thought as in 1:6. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “strangers ... orphan ... widow”: For the obligation of all people not to abuse the defenceless, see also Exodus 22:21-22 and Deuteronomy 10:18. For royal responsibility to protect the alien, the fatherless and the widow, see Jeremiah 22:1-4. [ NJBC]

Verse 10: The concluding expression of praise, addressed to the community. [ NOAB]

Verse 10: “The Lord will reign forever”: See also Exodus 15:18 (Moses’ or Miriam’s song after the crossing of the Reed, or Red, Sea). [ NJBC]

Galatians 1:11-24

Comments generally follows the interpretation in BlkGal. Clippings includes vv. 1-10 as background because Year C Proper 9 seldom occurs after Trinity Sunday.

1:1-5: The salutation emphasizes both Paul’s divinely given authority as an “apostle” and, in his message, the atoning death of “Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins”: see Mark 10:45 and 1 Timothy 2:5-6. [ NOAB]

1:1: “apostle”: The Greek word apostolos developed a specific Christian nuance under the contemporary Jewish institution of the seliah , one sent: a commissioned agent with full powers to carry out a definite (legal, prophetic or missionary) charge. [ NJBC]

1:1: “sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities”: BlkGal offers not from human beings nor through a human being. Paul was commissioned as a missionary by the church at Antioch: see Acts 13:1-3. The critique of Paul’s apostleship was on two grounds:

  • that his apostleship originated with the leaders of the church at Antioch, and/or
  • it was mediated through an individual – presumably Peter (see v. 18), or possibly Barnabas.

1:2: “Galatia”: The name derives from Gallic tribes (the Gauls, or Celts) who migrated to Asia Minor and settled in the heartland in the 200s BC. Galatia can refer to:

  • the territory occupied by descendants of these ethnically Gallic tribes and
  • the Roman province established in 25 BC, and its inhabitants.

The ethnic area was to the north; however the Roman province extended southwards, almost to the Mediterranean. Paul, on his first missionary journey, established churches in the southern part, at (Pisidian) Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. [ BlkGal] NOAB says that the area around Ancyra (modern Ankara), in the ethnic area, is meant.

1:3: “Grace ... peace”: See also Romans 1:7 and 2 Thessalonians 1:2 [ NOAB]

1:4: “who gave himself for our sins”: Jesus says in Mark 10:45 “... the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many”. See also 1 Timothy 2:6. [ NOAB] The letter’s dominant chord is sounded: salvation through Christ according to the Father’s plan or will. [ NJBC]

1:4: “the present evil age”: Judaism commonly made the distinction between the present age and the age to come. John says in Revelation 21:1 “I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more”. See also 2 Peter 3:11-13. [ CAB] Paul echoes this distinction and sees the present age as dominated by Satan. In 2 Corinthians 4:4, Paul writes: “... the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ ...”. Christ’s giving of himself has brought about the meeting of the two ages and freed human beings from this “age”. See 1 Corinthians 10:11. [ NJBC]

1:6-7: Instead of his customary thanksgiving, Paul voices his surprise and shock at Galatian fickleness.

1:6: “so quickly”: Either in the sense of so soon after your conversion (and my evangelisation) or so easily.

1:6: “the one who called you”: It was Paul’s preaching that called the Galatians to faith: see 4:13-14 [ CAB] To NOAB, it is God, through Christ: see v. 15. The Father’s plan is executed through the benevolence of Christ. [ NJBC]

1:6: “a different gospel”: i.e. different from the gospel that Paul proclaimed: see also 3:3 and 4:12-20. [ CAB] Since the gospel is “the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16), emanating from Christ, who is not divided (1 Corinthians 1:13), there can only be one gospel. This Paul has already proclaimed to them. [ NJBC]

1:8,9: “accursed”: The Greek word is anathema, with the sense of being cut off from God forever. In Romans 9:3, Paul writes: “I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh”. [ CAB] In Romans 9:3, Paul says “For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people [Jews], my kindred according to the flesh”. See also 1 Corinthians 12:3. [ NOAB]

1:8: “an angel from heaven”: In 3:19-20, Paul refers to the Jewish belief that Mosaic law was enacted by angels. Even if one of them were to appear again with a modified gospel, he is not to be heard – in fact, Paul curses such a being. [ NJBC]

1:10: “... please people ...”: These words indicate that Paul has been accused of being a people-pleaser, most likely because he has not mandated circumcision for his Gentile converts ( 6:24-25). [ CAB] Paul denies an opponent’s charge that he conciliates people to win converts. In 1 Thessalonians 2:4, he writes: “... we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts”. [ NOAB]

1:10: “a servant of Christ”: His conversion has freed him from the “yoke of slavery” (see 5:1), which was Mosaic law, with its emphasis on human achievement. He has become a slave of Christ, prompt to obey him: see Romans 6:16-20. There may also be a further nuance. In Philippians 1:1 and Romans 1:1, Paul calls himself a slave (NRSV: “servant(s)”), possibly like great Old Testament figures who served Yahweh faithfully (e.g. Moses in the Septuagint translation of 2 Kings 18:12). If he were courting human favour, he would not be true to such a calling. [ NJBC]

1:11: Despite his severity, Paul addresses the Galatians as “brothers and sisters”. A message merely “of human origin” would be no “gospel of Christ” (v. 7) or “revelation” (v. 12). [ NOAB]

1:11: “the gospel that was proclaimed by me”: The essence of this gospel is that salvation is possible for all human beings alike through faith in Christ. [ NJBC]

1:11-12: In 1 Corinthians 1:17, Paul says that he was sent by Christ. [ CAB]

1:12-2:14: The Judaizers apparently had accused Paul of having derived his message not from Christ, because he had never witnessed the ministry of Jesus, but from other preachers, and having watered it down for Gentiles by eliminating the obligation of Jewish practices. He replies by citing his historic commission and by explaining his relation with the mother church in Jerusalem. [ NJBC]

1:12: “through a revelation of Jesus Christ”: The “of” can mean either his vision revealed Christ (see v. 16) or that Christ (not human beings) revealed the gospel. The revelation near Damascus told Paul about Christ and his meaning for humanity. It gave him the essential character of the gospel, not necessarily its form (details). For the facts about Jesus’ life, Paul depended on an early tradition emanating from the Jerusalem church. [ NJBC]

Comments: his vision on the road to Damascus: See Acts 9:3-8.

1:13: “my earlier life in Judaism”: In Philippians 3:4-6, Paul lists his credentials as a Jew. See also Acts 22:3. [ CAB] NJBC offers “my former conduct as a Jew”. He says that Paul’s former way of life hardly provided the psychological background from which his gospel would naturally have developed. As a Pharisee (see Philippians 3:5-6), he would have rejected resolutely everything opposed to Mosaic law and traditions (Pharisaic interpretations of the Torah: see Mark 7:1-13). [ NJBC]

1:13: “violently persecuting the church ...”: See also 1 Corinthians 15:9; Acts 9:1-2; 22:4-5, 9-11. [ CAB] Acts 8:3 tells us: “... Saul [Paul] was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison”. See also Acts 9:21 and 22:4-5. [ NOAB]

1:13: “church”: It is the people of God called into fellowship with the Lord through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. The word may refer to:

  • the total number of believers in the world,
  • to those in a particular region (see v. 2), or
  • to those in one locality,

whether gathered for worship and instruction, engaged in mission, or scattered by persecution. [ NOAB]

1:14: “zealous for the traditions of my ancestors”: The targets of his persecution were Jewish Christians who, in his mind, had fallen away from those traditions. [ CAB] Paul also tells of his zeal in Philippians 3:4-6 and Acts 22:3. [ NOAB]

1:15-17: Paul’s conversion and commission as an apostle were due to the sovereign plan of God, not to human teachers: see v. 1. [ NOAB]

1:15: “set me apart before I was born”: NJBC offers from my mother’s womb, a phrase used in the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament. Jeremiah and the Suffering Servant of Isaiah were also destined for the call by God before they even existed: see Jeremiah 1:5 and Isaiah 49:1. One wonders whether Paul saw himself as another Suffering Servant (as Jesus was). [ NJBC]

1:15: Paul understood himself as a theologian in Judaism, set apart before he was born and called through God’s “grace”. See Isaiah 49:1-6 and Jeremiah 1:5 (Jeremiah’s commissioning). [ CAB]

1:16: Paul understands the moment of his God’s revelation to be the moment of his calling as an apostle to the Gentiles. [ CAB]

1:16: “that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles”: Paul connects his apostolic commission with the revelation of Christ, but the words may or may not indicate that the revelation and the commissioning occurred simultaneously. [ NJBC]

1:16: “confer with any human being”: Luke’s presentation, written decades after Paul, indicates Paul’s baptism by Ananias: see Acts 9:10-19. [ CAB] NJBC offers consult. The words translated “human being” literally mean flesh and blood, an expression used in Sirach 14:18 and 17:31, which Paul uses again in 1 Corinthians 15:50. The emphatic denial of the human origin of his commission is explained by the chronological and geographical details that follow. [ NJBC]

1:17: Luke tells a different story in Acts 9:26-30. [ CAB]

1:17: “to Jerusalem”: His basic insight into Christ did not stem from the traditional centre from which the word of God went forth. Isaiah 2:3 says: “... out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem”. [ NJBC]

1:17: “already apostles before me”: Paul was conscious that he was the least important of the apostles (see 1 Corinthians 15:9), but that does not mean that he was an apostle only of the second rank. [ NJBC]

1:17: “Arabia”: The Nabataean kingdom that surrounded Damascus and stretched southward. [ CAB] Acts does not mention this sojourn. [ NJBC]

1:17: “Damascus”: Under Roman rule, it was one of the cities of the Decapolis and was administered by Nabataean governors. Paul’s return was to the areas of his persecuting activity. [ CAB] Paul’s time there after his conversion is mentioned in Acts 9:19-25 and 2 Corinthians 11:32-33. [ NOAB]

1:18: “Then after three years”: To be reckoned from Paul’s return from Arabia.

1:18: “to visit Cephas”: NJBC offers to get information from Cephas. The meaning of historesai is to inquire about, into (a person or thing), to go and examine (a thing). Many ancient interpreters understood it simply as to see (as did Jerome in the Vulgate) often interpreted as to pay a (social) visit. The preferable interpretation is that Paul visited Cephas for the purpose of inquiry, to get information from him about Jesus’ ministry. During the 15 days spent with Cephas, Paul probably learned “traditions” of the Jerusalem church: see 1 Corinthians 11:2, 23-25; 15:3-7.[NJBC]

1:18: “Cephas”: The Aramaic equivalent of the name Peter , the leading figure among the Jerusalem apostles. [ CAB] See also Matthew 16:18.

1:18: “except James”: The Greek words ei me can mean either “except” or but only. If but only is meant, James is said to be an apostle, so he has been added to the twelve; if except is meant, he may or may not be an apostle. Eusebius, in Ecclesiastical History 2.23.1 tells us that James, the brother of our Lord was the one to whom the episcopal seat at Jerusalem had been entrusted by the apostles.

1:19: “James the Lord’s brother”: Jesus’ brother James is mentioned in Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55. 1 Corinthians 15:7 lists him among those to whom the risen Jesus appeared. In Acts 1:14 Jesus’ brothers are among the first Christian community, where James was a leader (see Acts 15:13-21 and 21:18). Paul seems to list “James” among the “apostles”, a word which is not yet limited to the twelve. [ CAB] It is possible that “brother” refers to cousins. Four brothers, including “James” are listed in Matthew 13:55. [ NOAB]

1:20: Paul’s other oaths are found in 1 Thessalonians 2:5; 2 Corinthians 1:23; 11:31; Philippians 1:8. [ CAB]

1:21: “Cilicia”: Tarsus, Paul’s birthplace according to Acts 22:3, was the capital of Cilicia. [ CAB]

2:15-21: In propositional and personal terms, Paul outlines his gospel of justification by faith. [ NOAB]

Luke 7:11-17

Verses 11-17: This story is only in Luke. It prepares for 7:20-22: men sent by John the Baptizer ask Jesus: “‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’’”; Jesus answers them: “‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them.’”. [ NJBC] This story is connected with the one in 4:25-30. It is also based on 1 Kings 17:8-37. [ BlkLk]

Comments: near where Elisha raised the son of a wealthy woman: 2 Kings 4:8-37 tells of Elisha brought the boy back to life. [ CAB]

Verse 11: “Nain”: About 25 miles (40 kilometres) southwest of Capernaum. [ NOAB]

Verse 11: “a large crowd”: This is evidence of deep sympathy for the loss of the widow’s only son. [ NOAB]

Verse 12: “his mother's only son”: Luke tells us other stories about only children: see 8:41-42 (Jairus’ only daughter, who is dying) and 9:38 (a man’s only son, who has epilepsy). [ NJBC]

Verses 13-14: Jesus’ compassion for someone in dire need causes him to bypass the laws of ritual purity. The law against touching a corpse is in Numbers 19:11, 16. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “Lord”: Luke frequently uses this title for Jesus. [ NOAB] 4:25

Verse 15: “gave him to his mother”: The same Greek words appear in the Septuagint translation of 1 Kings 17:23, in the story of Elijah restoring to life the son of the widow in Zarephath . [ NJBC] The dead man prefigures the death of Jesus himself and Mary’s bereavement. If Luke was thinking of Jesus’ own death and resurrection, John 19:26-27 relates: “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.”

Verse 16: The crowd calls the mighty deeds of Elijah. Jesus is shown to be a prophet in three ways in Luke/Acts:

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