Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Fourth Sunday after Pentecost - June 12, 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 21:1-10,(11-14),15-21a

1 Kings presents three stories about the downfall of Ahab:

In the first battle story, Ben-hadad has vastly superior forces and so expects to win, yet with Yahweh on his side, Ahab wins. However, in the second battle story, Ahab has superior forces but, abandoned by Yahweh, he loses disastrously. [ NJBC]

20:1-43: Vv. 1-34 come from a source favourable to Ahab, in sharp contrast to vv. 35-43 and to chapters 17-19 and chapter 21. [ NOAB]

20:1-11: Ahab understands Ben-hadad’s first message as a formality, calling for verbal surrender and declaration of vassalage. When Ahab answers in those terms, the Syrian requires more, but Ahab, after consulting his advisers, resolves to resist such demands. Ahab’s last word is a laconic threat (in Hebrew, only four words, which can be translated as boast after battle, not before!). [ NJBC]

20:1: “kings”: This no doubt means, as often in the Bible, rulers of small independent towns. [ NOAB]

20:6: In v. 3, the demands are limited, but in this verse they amount to unlimited looting. [ NOAB]

20:11: Ahab quotes a proverb to the effect that as long as there is a battle to be fought, one should not boast; the battle may go either way. [ NOAB]

20:24: “kings ... commanders”: The “kings” were figureheads, the commanders were experienced men. [ NOAB]

20:29-30: The rout of the Syrians in the battle of Aphek is even more than at Samaria, with loss of infantry over and above the earlier loss of chariot troops. [ NJBC]

20:29: “one hundred thousand”: The figure is not to be taken literally; a large number is meant. [ NOAB]

20:30: “Aphek”: This town was in the coastal hills between Joppa and Shechem. [ CAB]

20:31-34: Ahab, unlike Ben-hadad, shows himself to be magnanimous as well as politically astute – both praiseworthy qualities in a king. Ben-hadad formally offers vassalage (“‘Your servant’”, v. 32); Ahab responds by offering to treat him as an equal (“my brother”). [ NJBC]

20:34: Ben-hadad offers to restore the territory Syria had previously taken from Israel and to grant Israel trading rights in Damascus. A new treaty is agreed on.

20:35-43: Note the change in tone. Ahab is criticized for what seems a noble act (v. 34). [ NOAB]

20:35-37: On Yahweh’s orders, a group of prophets (presumably those under Elijah’s leadership) show the importance of following his orders; God does take life.

20:38-42: A prophet, pretending to be a solider who has failed to do his duty, warns Ahab of the consequences of his failure to have Ben-hadad killed. [ CAB]

20:39: “a talent of silver”: Roughly 35 Kg (75 lbs), this would have been an enormous fine in those days. [ NOAB] It would be 60 to 100 times the price of an ordinary slave; the man who escaped his careless guardian must have been extraordinarily important. [ NJBC]

20:42: “devoted to destruction”: The notion of destruction as a type of religious sacrifice is also found in:

  • Deuteronomy 20:16-18, where, in a holy war, the inhabitants of the towns Yahweh will give Israel must all be killed, and
  • 1 Samuel 15:3, where Yahweh tells Saul (through Samuel) to “utterly destroy” the Amalekites and all their domestic animals. [ NOAB]

21:1: “Samaria”: In 20:2, Ahab is called “King Ahab of Israel”.

21:3: “ancestral inheritance”: Numbers 27:7-11 indicates that land must stay in the family. Other laws (commandments) regarding property are found in Leviticus 25:10, 13-17, 23-24, 34; Deuteronomy 19:14. Jeremiah 32:6-9 tells of the steps in purchasing a piece of land from a cousin. [ NOAB] [ JBC]

21:4: “resentful and sullen”: i.e. because he knew that Naboth was legally and religiously right. [ NOAB] 20:43 tells us of a previous occasion when Ben-hadad is “resentful and sullen”.

21:4: “turned away his face, and would not eat”: Signs that he realized that he had asked Naboth to go against religious custom.

21:5-7: Jezebel has no real respect for the laws and religion of Israel. [ NOAB] She was from Tyre, as 1 Kings 16:31 tells us. She supported some 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah (see 1 Kings 18:19) and sought to suppress the worship of Yahweh (1 Kings 18:4, 13). [ HBD] Jezebel is also mentioned in 1 Kings 19:1, 2; 21:23, 25; 2 Kings 9:7, 10, 22, 30, 36-37.

21:8: “elders”: They were heads of families and part of the council that ruled a village. [ JBC]

21:8: “nobles”: They were men of good birth who were rich and powerful. Together with the elders they held administrative posts in local and national government. [ JBC]

21:9: “fast”: For a fast as part of a solemn assembly when a serious problem was to be considered, see also Judges 20:26 (the Israelites meet to plan strategy on how to reverse the losses they have suffered fighting the Benjaminites); 1 Samuel 7:6; 14:24. [ NOAB] A fast was also held to appease God in a time of calamity.

21:9: Perhaps Naboth presided at the assembly. [ NOAB]

21:10: “two scoundrels”: For the requirement of at least two witnesses for a charge to be laid, and imposition of the death penalty requiring two witnesses to a crime see Deuteronomy 17:5-6; 19:15. [ NOAB] [ JBC]

21:10: “cursed God”: For death by stoning as the punishment for blasphemy, see Leviticus 24:14, 23: there Yahweh tells Moses to “Take the blasphemer outside the camp; and let all who were within hearing lay their hands on his head, and let the whole congregation stone him”. [ JBC]

21:21b-24: These verses are probably an expansion of Elijah’s speech by the Deuteronomic (D) editor: the style is similar to 13:33-34; 14:10-11; 16:1-4; 2 Kings 9:35-36. [ NOAB] Elijah prophesies that Ahab’s line will end and that dogs will eat Jezebel. Ahab’s line ended with his children: see 2 Kings 9-10.

21:25-26: The evaluation by the writer, breaking the connection between v. 24 and v. 27, showing why Ahab was brought under judgement. [ NOAB] [ CAB]

21:26: “Amorites”: The pre-Israelite inhabitants of Palestine are sometimes called Canaanites and sometimes Amorites. [ NOAB]

21:27-30: Because Ahab repents, Yahweh defers his sentence to Ahab’s sons. See 2 Kings 9-10. [ NJBC] [ JBC]

21:29: This verse, in the light of what happened, appraises the situation more realistically than v. 21 and v. 24. Perhaps it was added by a writer during the Exile. [ NOAB]

Psalm 5:1-8

Verse 3: “in the morning ... I plead my case”: Probably a ceremonial plea at the end of a night vigil, as mentioned in 3:5. [ NOAB] The morning as a time to communicate with God, and as a time for his help, is mentioned in 46:5; 59:16; 90:14; 143:8; Lamentations 3:22-23. [ NJBC]

Verses 5-7: See 26:4-5 and 101:3-5 for similar descriptions of those denied entrance to the Temple. [ NJBC]

Verse 10: “their own counsels”: i.e. “speak lies” in v. 6. [ NJBC]

Verse 11: “love your name”: 69:35-36 says: “For God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah; and his servants shall live there and possess it; the children of his servants shall inherit it, and those who love his name shall live in it”. [ JBC]

Galatians 2:15-21

Verses 1-10: This visit is probably the one mentioned in Acts 15:1-2: “Then certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’ And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to discuss this question with the apostles and the elders”. [ NOAB] Paul probably describes the happenings at the Council of Jerusalem.

Verse 1: “Barnabas”: Acts 4:36 tells us that “There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’)”. After Stephen was stoned to death, many Cypriots in Antioch became Christians. When the Church in Jerusalem heard this news, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. Barnabas then sought out Paul in Tarsus and brought him to Antioch: see Acts 11:25-26. Barnabas was with Paul on his first missionary journey: see Acts 13-14. He did not join Paul on his second missionary journey because of their differences over whether John Mark should accompany them; rather Barnabas took John Mark with him to Cyprus: see Acts 15:36-41. [ NOAB]

Verse 1: “Titus”: He was one of Paul’s most trusted helpers: Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 7:6-7: “But God, who consoles the downcast, consoled us by the arrival of Titus, and not only by his coming, but also by the consolation with which he was consoled about you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more”. See also 2 Corinthians 8:6, 16-17. [ NOAB]

Verse 2: “acknowledged leaders”: They are most probably “James and Cephas and John” (see v. 9) [ CAB]

Verse 3: It appears that those Christians who thought it obligatory that Christians adhere to Judaic law ( Judaizers) had demanded that “Titus ... a Greek” be circumcised. The apostles at Jerusalem, by not enforcing that demand, approved of Paul’s work among Gentiles (as v. 9 says). [ NOAB]

Verse 4: “false believers”: Acts 15:1 (quoted above) tells us that some from Judea insisted on converts being circumcised and Acts 15:5 says “But some believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and said, ‘It is necessary for them to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses.’” [ NOAB]

Verse 6: “what they actually were”: The precise wording in the Greek suggests that the apostles’ former standing as disciples of Jesus was a criterion for apostleship. This may have been used against Paul to disqualify him as an apostle. Acts 1:21-22 tells us that in selecting a replacement for Judas Iscariot, a criterion was that this person have been with Jesus throughout Jesus’ life on earth. [ CAB]

Verse 10: “the poor”: To NOAB, this is a reference to either Jerusalem Christians or a group within the Palestinian church: Romans 15:26 says “... Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to share their resources with the poor among the saints at Jerusalem”. For the collection for them, see Acts 11:29-30; 24:17; 1 Corinthians 16:1-3; 2 Corinthians 8:1-15. In 1 Corinthians 16:1, Paul refers to “the directions [for fund-raising ] I gave to the churches of Galatia” but he does not mention Galatia in Romans 15:26, so the Galatian churches may have chosen not to participate in the collection. [ CAB]

Verse 11: “Cephas”: This is the Aramaic equivalent of “Peter”. While, in the story of the Cornelius, Peter recognizes that God makes no distinction between Jews and non-Jews, here, when criticized for table fellowship with converted Gentiles, Peter yields to the narrow prejudices of the Judaizers (“the circumcision faction”, v. 12), and his inconsistency (or back-sliding) is contagious (v. 13) [ NOAB]

Verse 11: “Antioch”: It was the third-largest city in the Roman Empire. The church there consisted of both Jews and Gentiles. [ CAB]

Verse 12: “people ... from James”: i.e. from the Jerusalem church (which appears to have been very conservative). [ NOAB] Acts 15:22-29 speaks of an apostolic letter sent to Antioch releasing Gentiles from the obligation to be circumcised but maintaining the requirement of adherence to certain dietary and moral restrictions. [ CAB]

Verse 14: Per the NRSV footnote, some scholars consider that the quotation continues into the following verses, thus continuing what Paul said to Peter at Antioch. [ NOAB]

Verse 14: “the truth of the gospel”: Paul clearly understands that it is the gospel of Christ that frees people from observance of the laws of the Old Testament. [ CAB]

Verse 16: “through faith in Jesus Christ”: A literal translation is through (the) faith of Christ Jesus. Most scholars consider that the genitive here is to be taken as objective because of the following clause, “we have come to believe in Christ Jesus”. (The issue arises because in Greek, the genitive case can be used in various ways, while in English there is only one way, of . If the use is objective, then in is meant.) See also Romans 3:22, where a similar genitive is found, and in the context of which the faith is that of the believing human: “all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (see 3:28). [ NOAB]

Verse 16: “no one will be justified ...”: Paul implicitly quotes Psalm 143:2: “... no one living is righteous before you.” The Greek word translated “justified” means be put right with God, i.e. into a right relationship with God. [ CAB]

Verse 17: Paul asks, and answers, other rhetorical questions in Romans 3:3-6: “What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true, as it is written, ‘So that you may be justified in your words, and prevail in your judging.’ But if our injustice serves to confirm the justice of God, what should we say? That God is unjust to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world?”. [ NJBC]

Verse 17: “is Christ then a servant of sin?”: Both Christ and pagans are, in a sense, without the law. So: is Christ like pagans? [ NJBC] Alternatively, CAB sees the question as: Peter has engaged in table fellowship with Gentiles; to withdrawn from it would imply that Christ has led him to act wrongfully and therefore to sin.

Verse 18: Two interpretations are possible:

  • Paul would be forced to admit that in restoring the Law as a norm for conduct he had sinned in abandoning it, or
  • In setting up the law as a norm again, Paul would commit himself to a life of continual sin, an inherent problem in Judaism: he writes in Romans 7:21-23: “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members”. See also Romans 4:15.

In both cases, the Judaizer, not Christ, is the real agent of sin. [ NJBC]

Verse 19: “law”: i.e. the Torah or the Old Testament. [ CAB]

Verse 20: See also Romans 3:28; 5:1 (“... since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”). Paul’s union with Christ does not destroy his personality, but rather sustains and moulds his Christian life. See also Jesus’ reference to the vine and the branches in John 15:1-5. [ NOAB]

Verse 21: “justification”: i.e. God’s act in restoring people to a right relationship with God. See also Romans 3:24; 4:2 (“... if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God”). [ CAB]

Luke 7:36-8:3

Comments: Mark 1:33 and 2:2 show that a home was not particularly private : Mark 1:30-33 tells us that when “Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever” and Jesus healed her, “the whole city was gathered around the door”. Mark 2:1-2 says: “When he [Jesus] returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them”.

7:37-50: There is a general similarity between this passage and Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9. Vv. 37-38 and John 12:1-3 are similar in the action of the women though not in the wording. There seems little doubt that here we have the blending of two traditions:

  • From v. 37 to “Jesus spoke up and said to him” (v. 40) plus “‘Do you see this woman?’” (v. 44) to v. 47
  • “Then turning toward the woman” (v. 44) plus v. 48-49 followed by vv. 40-43 and ending with v. 50.

Luke may have already received the two traditions combined but he may have changed the order. This would account for:

  • the weak logic: that he to whom most is forgiven will love most therefore the woman’s sins are forgiven because she loves greatly, and
  • the curious opening of v. 44: Jesus turns to the woman but speaks to Simon.

On the other hand, in vv. 1-11 Luke appears to have combined two traditions with little regard for logical sequence. So perhaps again he has merely been the agent who combined material as he received it.

Two affinities are noted: Mark 14:3-9, where the subject is the same and the host is also Simon, and John 12:1-3. Even though the family of Lazarus and his two sisters are known to Luke and John but not Mark and Matthew (see Luke 10:38-42 and John 12:1-11), Luke does not identify the woman as Mary the sister of Lazarus. The popular identification of the woman in this story as Mary Magdalene, one dating from medieval times, (as may be suggested by this reading including 8:1-3) is without foundation. [ BlkLk]

7:37: Matthew 9:10 tells us about Jesus’ table fellowship with tax collectors and sinners: “... as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples”. See also Luke 5:29-30. [ NOAB]

7:39: Jesus does not share Simon’s concern. In Mark 1:40-41, he cleanses a leper; in Mark 7:3-4, Jesus defends his disciples’ failure to follow the Jewish rule of washing the hands before eating. [ NOAB]

7:39: Anointing was also a matter of personal grooming: in Matthew 6:17, Jesus advises: “when you fast, put oil on your head”. In Luke 5:32, Jesus says: “‘I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.’”

7:40: Note that Simon considers Jesus to be a teacher.

7:41: “denarii”: A denarius was the usual day’s pay for a labourer. [ CAB]

7:47: “her sins ... have been forgiven”: There is no indication that Jesus was the agent of forgiveness.

7:48: Jesus forgives the sins of a paralytic in Mark 2:5. See also Mark 11:23-24 (the lesson from the withered fig tree) and Luke 5:20. [ NOAB]

8:1: “Soon afterwards”: BlkLk offers And it happened on the following day. REB offers After this. The NRSV’s “soon” seems to be an unwarranted link-word with 7:36-50.

8:1: Matthew 4:23 and 9:35 are similar except Matthew adds “teaching in their synagogues” and mention of healing. See also Mark 3:14.

8:2: “as well as some women ...”: 23:49 tells us that those who stood at a distance watching Jesus’ crucifixion included “the women who had followed him from Galilee”. Matthew 27:55 says that “Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him.”. Mark 15:40-41 and John 19:25 also provide lists of the women present. The only one who is common to all four lists is Mary Magdalene: note “and many others” (v. 3).

8:2: “Mary, called Magdalene”: Magdala was a thriving rural community on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, between Capernaum and Tiberias. Mary was among the first witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection:

  • John 19:25 tells us that “standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene”. See also Mark 15:40 and Matthew 27:55-56 (which tells us that she “had followed Jesus from Galilee”)
  • When Joseph of Arimathea laid Jesus in his tomb, “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb” (Matthew 27:61). See also Mark 15:47.
  • John 20:1: “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb”. See also Matthew 28:1 and Mark 16:1.
  • John 20:18: “Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her”. See also Luke 24:10.

8:3: “Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza”: BlkLk notes the mention of “Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler” as a prophet or teacher in the church at Antioch in Acts 13:1. According to Luke, Herod Antipas would have known of Jesus. This would explain why Luke:

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