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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost - August 4, 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.

Hosea 11:1-11

The theme of Israel’s attempt to shatter the parent-child relationship with God extends to 12:13.

Verses 1-7: Yahweh as a loving and patient parent must now chastise disobedient and wilful children with exile (v. 5). [NOAB]

Verse 1: See also Exodus 4:22 (where God instructs Moses to tell Pharaoh that “Israel is my firstborn son”) and Matthew 2:15. [NOAB]

Verse 2: “I called”: This is a translation of the Septuagint. If “they called” (which is found in the Masoretic text) is correct, it alludes to the attractions of the Baal cult of Canaan’s superior culture. [NJBC]

Verse 3: In Jeremiah 31:1-3, Yahweh says through the prophet: “At that time, says the LORD, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. Thus says the LORD: The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you”. [NOAB]

Verse 3: “Ephraim”: The principal worship centres of the north – Bethel, Shiloh and Shechem – were all in Ephraim.

Verse 3: NJBC says that this refers to saving from slavery in Egypt.

Verse 6: “oracle-priests”: Perhaps priests who were prophets.

Verses 8-9: In this striking soliloquy, “compassion” restrains the divine anger; such is the nature of superhuman love. [NOAB]

Verse 8: “Admah ... Zeboiim”: For the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, see Genesis 19. For Admah and Zeboiim, see Deuteronomy 29:23. [NOAB]

Verse 9: God’s total otherness leads him to have mercy here, rather than the more usual awe and terror. His love is constant, unlike human love. [JBC]

Augustine is probably not alone among Patristic writers in pointing out that when Scripture uses the word “wrath” of God, it does not mean the same as it would for humans, in as much as God is not stirred by passion as we are. So the word “wrath” in this context is an analogy, rather than an equivalent. [Abbott Conway]

Verse 10: This verse contrasts with 5:14: “For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I myself will tear and go away; I will carry off, and no one shall rescue”. [NOAB] There is an evident reversal of Yahweh’s attitude; however, the use of the third person (“he”), in contrast with the divine “I” of vv. 8-9 and 11, makes v. 10 appear to be an insertion interpreting the “trembling” (in awe rather than in mere fear) of v. 11. V. 10 introduces a return “from the west” while in v. 11 the return is only from Egypt and Assyria, corresponding to v. 5. [NJBC]

Verse 11: “Egypt”, “Assyria”: This is in contrast with 9:3: “They shall not remain in the land of the Lord; but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and in Assyria they shall eat unclean food”, [NOAB] in other words, salvation history will be reversed. [NJBC]

Verse 11: “doves”: 7:11 says: “Ephraim has become like a dove, silly and without sense; they call upon Egypt, they go to Assyria.” While 11:11 speaks of the future, 7:11 speaks of the current situation: Israel seeks a defence pact with Egypt, to avoid invasion by Assyria. [NOAB]

Verse 12b: It is likely that this was added later by a Judean editor, as probably was 1:7. There Yahweh says: “But I will have pity on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the LORD their God; I will not save them by bow, or by sword, or by war, or by horses, or by horsemen”. [NOAB]

Psalm 107:1-9,43

A call to the community to be grateful to God for the support and the forgiveness he has offered over the centuries of the life of his people. The “wise” (v. 43) will recall his works of “steadfast love”. [CAB]

Verse 1: The same words are also found in 1 Chronicles 16:34; Psalms 106:1; 118:1. [JBC]

Verse 4: At least figuratively, those who returned from Exile wandered in the desert and were supported by God. [NJBC]

Verses 6-7: See also vv. 13-14, 19-20, 28-29. In each stanza, the second verse is varied to fit the context. [NOAB]

Verses 8-9: See also vv. 15-16, 21-22, 31-32. In each stanza, the second verse is varied to fit the context.

Verses 10-16: Thanksgiving of those who had been freed from prison. [NOAB] They had been imprisoned because of their rebellion against the commands of God. But when they cry out, he releases them. [NJBC]

Verses 17-22: Thanksgiving of those healed from sickness. [NOAB]

Verses 23-32: Thanksgiving of those who had travelled by sea. [NOAB]

Verses 23-27: The danger of the sea equals that of the desert. Both of these places of danger have their roots in Canaanite mythology, where Baal’s opponents are not only Sea but Death, who rules over the arid, lifeless desert. Recall the threatening, chaotic sea in Genesis 1:2 and the lifeless desert in Genesis 2:4-5, both overcome by Yahweh. [NJBC]

Verses 28-29: Here God’s power subdues the unruly sea. So Jesus’ calming of the sea (Mark 4:35-41) is a sign of his divine authority. [NJBC]

Verses 33-43: These verses are reminiscent of Deutero-Isaiah: Isaiah 35:6b-7 foretells: “waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes”. See also Isaiah 50:2. While probably composed for other purposes, these verses provide a suitable unison conclusion for the thanksgiving liturgy. [NOAB] Note that this stanza does not contain the two-fold refrain found in the earlier stanzas. [NJBC]

Verses 33-36: For God’s transformation of river into desert for the wicked and of desert into a well-watered place, see also Isaiah 41:18-19; 43:19-20. [NJBC]

Verses 42-43: These verses have a wisdom flavour. Without them, this psalm would end with a simile of the people being like a flock of sheep, as do Psalms 77 and 78. [NJBC]

Colossians 3:1-11

Verse 1: “So”: In Colossians, this word often marks the start of a new section. [NJBC]

Verse 1: “have been raised with Christ”: In 2:12, the author writes: “when you were buried with him [Christ] in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead”. In Ephesians 5:14, an author quotes what may be a portion of an early baptismal hymn: “‘Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you’”. [CAB]

Verse 1: “seated at the right hand of God”: Hebrews 1:3 says “... When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high”. [NOAB]

Verse 3: “you have died”: i.e. to the world. [NOAB]

Verse 4: Perhaps this is a paraphrase of 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: “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”. See also Mark 13:24-27 (the Little Apocalypse); 1 John 2:28; 3:2. [NOAB]

Verse 5: Lists of sins are common in Hellenic literature of the time, so there is no implication that the Christians at Colossae indulged in any of these sins. Similar lists are found in the Qumran literature: see, for example, 1QS (Rule of the Community) 4:3-5 and CD (Damascus Document) 4:17-19. [NJBC]

Verse 5: “fornication”: The Greek word also occurs in Romans 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:1 (“sexual immorality ... a man is living with his father's wife”), 1 Corinthians 6:13; 7:2; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Revelation 2:21. [CAB]

From time to time, Clippings points out that words in the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament are found in particular verses in the translation of the Old Testament in common use when the New Testament was written. But, the Septuagint was written some two to three centuries before the New Testament, so we sometimes need to ask whether the meaning of these words had changed over the centuries. In the case of v. 5 here, we should ask: did the author know of older meanings for some of the words in his list of vices? Consider porneia (“fornication”). In Classical Greek (the language of five to six centuries before Christ), porneia seems to have primarily referred to prostitution. If the author of Colossians was aware of this earlier meaning (which might have still been current when Hosea was translated into Greek), perhaps he tied this passage with Hosea 1:2: “... Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom”. In the Septuagint translation, “whoredom” is porneia and “the land commits great whoredom “ (Septuagint: ekporneuousa) . He was probably also aware of Proverbs 5, where good and bad women, representing wisdom and foolishness, and faithfulness and faithlessness, are mentioned. (In the Septuagint translation of Proverbs 5:3, “loose woman” is gynaikos pornes.) So it seems that more is at stake than sexual misbehaviour; indeed, the author of Colossians calls on his readers to be faithful (as Hosea called on his to be faithful to the covenant with God). Prostituting oneself in either (and both) senses is the “earthly” part. [Abbott Conway]

In case the reader thinks that suggesting that the author might know earlier meanings of words is reading too much into the text, I point out that he was sufficiently learned to write of the cosmic nature of Christ. That he used this notion in his argument shows that his readers also had a certain background in the history of ideas. In Colossians 2:8, he writes “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe [kosmos], and not according to Christ” On the other hand, these older meanings hung on much longer than into New Testament Greek than scholars sometimes give credit. [Abbott Conway]

Verse 5: “impurity”: The word in the Greek is akatharsian. In Classical Greek, this word means want of cleansing, and hence filth, and metaphorically moral filthiness. There is also the sense of something that is akatharsos being unpurified, or unatoned. So the author may mean, within the general sense of morality, something more specific about behaviour that is consonant with the cleansing and atoning work of Christ. [Abbott Conway]

Verse 5: “passion”: The Greek word, pathos, may specifically relate to sexual passion, but generally it refers to any kind of suffering. In Classical Greek, the primary meaning is pain or distress, and spiritually it refers to any kind of violent feeling, whether of love or of hate. In Plato’s writings, the family of words refers to that which is accidental or changing (as distinct from that which is substantial and immutable). So, again, there may well be two meanings here: one sexual, and one to do with faith. [Abbott Conway]

Verse 5: “evil desire”: The Greek literally means bad (or evil) longings. [Abbott Conway]

Verse 5: “greed (which is idolatry)”: Ephesians 5:5 speaks of “one who is greedy (that is, an idolater)”. [NOAB] The word translated “greed” also occurs in today’s gospel passage (Luke 12:15). The equating of this greed with idolatry helps fit the whole set of readings together, for the harlotry to which Hosea refers is none other than the abandonment of the covenant for local idols, as Ezekiel 3:6-11 exemplifies.

In a sense, then, this little passage offers a hinge between the general argument of Hosea that the holy people should avoid the faithlessness of idolatry, and the specific injunction of Jesus to avoid greed of any kind (which is a kind of idolatry, and thus is faithlessness to God). [Abbott Conway]

Verse 8: “anger, wrath”: The Greek word translated “anger”, orge, came to mean, by New Testament times, any violent passion, but especially wrath. Thymon (“wrath”) came to mean the seat of feelings, and then specifically the seat of anger. This may explain why the author uses two terms here, rather than just one: orge refers to the action of puffing oneself up with rage, and thymos refers to the residence of anger. [Abbott Conway]

Verse 8: “anger”: Ephesians 4:26-27 advises: “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil”. [CAB]

Verse 8: “malice”: The Greek word has a range of meanings from vice, malice, and depravity to ill-repute and dishonour. [Abbott Conway]

Verse 8: “slander”: The Greek word, blasphemian, means slander when it is directed to humans, and blasphemy when it is directed to God. [Abbott Conway]

Verse 8: “abusive language”: See also Ephesians 5:4 and James 3:5-12. [CAB] The Greek means literally foul language. The stem of the word means both shame / disgrace, and ugliness / deformity. [Abbott Conway]

Verses 9-10: Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”. [CAB]

Verse 10: “according to the image of its creator”: Genesis 1:26-27 begins: “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness ...’”. See also 1 Corinthians 15:45-49 (“... the first Adam ... the last Adam”); Ephesians 2:10; 4:24. [NOAB]

Verse 11: In Galatians 3:28, Paul writes: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus”. [CAB]

Verse 11: “Scythian”: The Scythians were a nomadic people from the Caucasus who threatened the Assyrian and Persian empires from the north. In the Old Testament they are called “Ashkenaz” (see Genesis 10:3; 1 Chronicles 1:6; Jeremiah 51:27). The Scythians’ cruelty was proverbial in later antiquity (see 2 Maccabees 4:47; 3 Maccabees 7:5; 4 Maccabees 10:7).

Verse 11: “Christ is all and in all”: The Greek is alla [ta] panta kai en pasin Christos. This clause expresses both the universality of Christ (following from the descriptions of the cosmic Christ in earlier passages), and his presence in everything. The two Greek words (panta and pasin) make absolutely clear a distinction that is not always evident in modem translations. [Abbott Conway]

Verses 12-17: V. 12 tells us the qualities which the baptised are expected to possess, i.e. be “clothed” with. “Compassion” is sympathy for the needs of others. We should be meek in the sense of gentle and considerate towards others. We should be forgiving as God has forgiven us. The primary Christian virtue is “love” (v. 14); it is born out of God’s love. May our thinking and actions be motivated by “the peace of Christ” (v. 15). May we teach each other in the light of the ultimate truth, i.e. God, and be joyful in the Lord. All we do should be done as though Jesus himself is doing it.

Verse 12: In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul says: “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things”. See also 1 Timothy 6:11 and 2 Peter 1:5-7. [CAB]

Verse 12: “compassion”: See also 2 Corinthians 6:6 and Ephesians 2:7.

Verse 12: “humility”: In 2:18, the author counsels: “Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking”. See also 2:23. [CAB]

Verse 12: “meekness”: It is also mentioned in Galatians 6:1 (“gentleness”) and 2 Timothy 2:25. [CAB]

Verse 12: “patience”: See also 2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 4:2; 2 Timothy 3:10; 4:2. [CAB]

Verse 13: See also 2 Corinthians 11:19; Galatians 6:6; Romans 9:19; 15:7; Hebrews 8:8; Matthew 6:14-15; Ephesians 4:32. [CAB]

Verse 15: “the peace of Christ”: In John 14:27, Jesus tells his disciples (and perhaps other followers): “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid”. Ephesians 2:14 says that “... he [Christ Jesus] is our peace ...”. See also 2 Thessalonians 3:16. [CAB]

Verse 15: “rule”: Literally, be umpire.

Verse 17: In 1 Corinthians 10:31, Paul advises something similar: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God”. [CAB]

Luke 12:13-21

This parable is found only in Luke. It exemplifies the meaning of the Cross: in 9:23-25, Jesus tells his disciples: “ ... ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?’” . The highly systematic way in which the farmer goes about protecting his harvest shows how absurd such selfishness is. See also Galatians 6:8-9.

Avoid the fate of the fool, whose reliance is on his possessions rather than on God!

This reading is the start of a long section on the deleterious effect possessions can have on discipleship. It ends at 12:34. [NJBC]

It’s too bad that some modern translations miss what is undoubtedly some of the story-telling technique in the parable: So I’ll say to my soul, ‘Soul!...’. For that is what is in the Greek: the REB (for example) seems rather tame by comparison. The next part of the narrative, in which God shouts ‘Hey, dummy!...’ (NRSV: “‘You fool’”, v. 20) (which is actually what the Greek aphrón can carry, since it means senseless, and was used to refer to statues) ... statues, idols, the idolatry of greed: somehow it all fits in very nicely! But Our Lord, in packing in crowds of thousands (12:1) certainly knew how to tell a good story. Following from the encounter with the man in the crowd, this tale must have had them rolling on the grass. Can you imagine Our Lord acting out the story as he went? I can. One of my teachers always presented Jesus as a rollicking good story-teller. He used to say that one of the phrases probably missing from the Gospels is and the people fell about laughing! [Abbott Conway]

Verse 13: “inheritance”: For the eldest son receiving a “double portion”, see Deuteronomy 21:17. For inheritance laws, see Numbers 27:1-11. [JBC]

Verse 14: “Friend”: The Greek word is anthrope, the generic for human being. (Andros means a male.) Interestingly, Jesus uses the word again in the parable (v. 16); one would expect him to use andros. [Abbott Conway]

Verse 14: “who set me”: Jesus explicitly rejects the position of a second Moses, which the man’s request seems to imply. In Exodus 2:13-14, Moses sees two Israelites fighting. He asks “‘Why do you strike your fellow Hebrew?”, and the man replies “Who made you a ruler and judge over us? ...”. [BlkLk]

Verse 15: “one’s life ...”: See also 1 Timothy 6:6-10 (“there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it ...”). The Greek carries the sense that real and meaningful life cannot come from abundance of possessions. [JBC]

Verses 16-19: The farmer is so egotistical that he eliminates both God and his neighbour from his sight.

Verse 18: Jesus’ audience would probably have known Sirach 11:18-19: “One becomes rich through diligence and self-denial, and the reward allotted to him is this: when he says, ‘I have found rest, and now I shall feast on my goods!’ he does not know how long it will be until he leaves them to others and dies”. [BlkLk]

Verse 19: “eat, drink”: This is echoed in 12:45. [NJBC]

Verse 20: Jeremiah 17:11 says: “Like the partridge hatching what it did not lay, so are all who amass wealth unjustly; in mid-life it will leave them, and at their end they will prove to be fools”. See also Job 27:8; Psalm 39:6; Luke 12:33-34. [CAB]

Verse 20: “fool”: Foolishness often has overtones of immorality in the Old Testament and intertestamental literature. It is not just an epithet for stupidity. See Job 31:24-28; Psalms 14:1; 49; Ecclesiastes 2:1-11. The word Jesus uses for “fool” is not the same as the one he forbids us to use with reference to our fellow human beings in Matthew 5:22. [Blomberg]

Verse 20: “life”: BlkLk offers soul. He also uses this word in vv. 22 and 23. However, he says that the Greek word, psyche, combines both life (as animating principle in a living creature, i.e. very being) and soul as contrasted with body. Psyche also occurs in v. 19, where it is translated as “soul”.

Verse 20: “is being demanded”: The Greek literally means they demand. This is a rabbinic circumlocution for God demands. This construction also occurs in v. 48 and 6:38.

Verse 20: “‘whose will they be?’”: This is the punch line of the example story, and forces readers to ask the basic question: What is life all about? [NJBC]

Verse 21: Luke gives his own answer to the question in v. 20: find the meaning of life by acknowledging God and giving alms to the needy. [NJBC]

Verse 21: “not rich”: The REB translates these words as a pauper.

Verses 22-34: The parallel is Matthew 6:25-33, 19-21. [NOAB]

Verses 22-31: God’s providential care of his people makes unnecessary anxiety about appearance or daily needs, since a share in the life of God’s kingdom cannot be gained by human merit, but only as the Father’s gift.

Verse 24: “ravens”: They were considered unclean: see Leviticus 11:13-15 and Deuteronomy 14:11-14. They were known in antiquity as careless creatures who even fail to return to their nests. [NJBC]

Verse 25: See also 10:41 (Martha and Mary); 12:11 (“When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say”); Philippians 4:6. [NOAB]

Verses 27-28: Jesus draws the attention of members of his audience to situations in which their existence seems as helpless and as short-lived as that of ravens and lilies. One such situation is that of opposition to the good news which they preach. See 8:11-15 (the Parable of the Sower). In such situations, Jesus authoritatively assures his disciples with “little faith” of God’s gracious care for them. [NJBC]

Verse 27: See also 1 Kings 10:1-10 (the Queen of Sheba visits Solomon). [NOAB]

Verse 28: “you of little faith”: NJBC offers “little flock”. Jesus’ followers are few in number, struggling, and opposed.

Verse 29: “do not keep worrying”: BlkLk offers do not be in suspense. While the Greek word appears only here in the New Testament, contemporary usage suggests the meaning: to swing between heaven and earth, thus to have no sure footing, and so be anxious.

Verse 30: “nations of the world”: BlkLk offers all the nations of the world. He says that this is one of the most common rabbinic designations of the non-Israelite section of humankind. The words are those of a Jew to Jews whom he is recalling to their divine mission. Hence the emphatic And do not you search ... (NRSV: “And do not keep striving”) at the beginning of v. 29, and the beginning of v. 30b in the genitive but you have a Father who (NRSV: “and your Father”) See also Matthew 6:8: “... your Father knows what you need before you ask him”. [NOAB]

© 1996-2003 Chris Haslam



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