Comments

Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost - October 27, 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.

Joel 2:23-32

A minority of scholars see Joel as living during the reign of Joash (837-800 BC). The majority see the book as post-exilic but vary as to whether it is early or late. Some of the arguments for dating this book are:

  • Many classes of people are mentioned in the book but nowhere is a king or royal court mentioned. In a time of emergency, the king represented the people before God. So Joel was written when there was no longer a monarchy.
  • Despite the fact that the Babylonians ended the kingdom of David and destroyed the Temple (in 587 BC), they and their rulers are not mentioned. So Judah had already been conquered by the Persians (539 BC) at the time of writing.
  • The Temple plays an important role in the book. So, if there was no longer a king, the book must have been written after the Temple was rebuilt, i.e. after 515 BC.
  • Both Tyre and Sidon are mentioned as existing. Tyre was destroyed in 332 BC and Sidon in 343 BC. So the book was written before 343 BC. [NJBC]

Joel takes the characteristic forms of classical prophecy and expands their apocalyptic and liturgical dimensions. [NOAB]

Joel uses the catastrophe of the plague of locusts as a dire warning. He goes on to depict the advent of the day of Yahweh and its final judgements and blessings (see 2:28-3:21)

A large swarm of locusts in the area in 1915 came from the northeast. [NJBC] Plagues of locusts do occur today in West Africa and Ethiopia. In Exodus 10:13, the locusts come to Egypt from the east. [CAB]

1:1: The prophet’s inspiration and authority are not self-generated, but come from God, whose will is disclosed through the prophet, whose personal agent he is and whom alone he must obey. See also Hosea 1:1; Micah 1:1; Zephaniah 1:1; Haggai 1:1; Zechariah 1:1 for other such declarations. [NOAB]

1:8ff: The priests are to mourn like young widows – implying that God has been husband to Judah. [NJBC]

1:10: “the ground mourns”: The earth itself mourns. [NJBC]

1:12: “people”: The Hebrew word is adam. [NJBC]

1:13: “sackcloth”: A traditional sign of mourning. [NJBC]

1:13: “Grain offering and drink offering are withheld from the house of your God”: The main point of contact with God has been eliminated.

1:15-20: The approach of the day of Yahweh is often pictured as God’s anger against his opponents. At times, it is his anger against Israel’s enemies, but it comes to be directed against Israel. See also Isaiah 2:5-22; Amos 5:18-25; Lamentations 1:12; Jeremiah 46:10 (“That day is the day of the Lord GOD of hosts, a day of retribution, to gain vindication from his foes ...”); Ezekiel 39:8. [CAB]

1:19: “fire ... flames”: Signs of the destruction being from God: see Zephaniah 1:14-18.

2:1: “trumpet”: See also Hosea 5:8; Amos 3:6; Zephaniah 1:16; Revelation 8:6-13. [NOAB]

2:2: “blackness”: The Hebrew is obscure. Some scholars argue for the Hebrew word being one which translates as dawn. [NJBC]

2:3: “Before them ...”: Joel reverses the imagery of Isaiah 51:3: “For the LORD will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places, and will make her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song”. [NJBC]

2:4-9: The locusts approach with the relentless and devastating force of a powerful army. See also 2:25 and Revelation 9:7-10. [NOAB]

2:6: Foretelling the destruction of Nineveh, Nahum 2:10 says “Devastation, desolation, and destruction! Hearts faint and knees tremble, all loins quake, all faces grow pale!”. [NOAB]

2:10: At the time of divine visitation, the sun, moon and stars will refuse to shine: Amos 8:9 says: “On that day, says the Lord GOD, I will make the sun go down at noon, and darken the earth in broad daylight”. [NOAB]

2:12: “fasting ... weeping ... mourning”: Acts of penance. [CAB]

2:13: “rend your hearts”: The heart was thought to be the seat of intelligence and will. This verse is rooted in Israel’s ancient formulations of faith: see Exodus 34:6; Nehemiah 9:17, 31; Psalm 86:15. [NJBC]

2:14: “blessing”: To Joel, temple offerings are a blessing. [NOAB]

2:16: “Let the bridegroom ...”: Even delay the marriage ceremony so as to be able to attend the “solemn assembly” (v. 15). [NJBC]

2:17: “Between the vestibule and the altar”: i.e. in the inner court of the Temple. The “altar” is that of burnt offering: see 2 Chronicles 4:1. [NOAB]

2:18: “jealous”: The Hebrew word includes the notion of zealous. Deuteronomy 4:24 says: “... the LORD your God is a devouring fire, a jealous God”. [NOAB]

2:20: “northern army”: The north was the traditional direction for trouble, so much so that to be called a northerner was to be considered a troublemaker. [NJBC] There may also be an allusion to the invading armies of Babylon and Assyria. [CAB] See also Jeremiah 1:13-16; 4:6 (“... I am bringing evil from the north, and a great destruction”). [NJBC]

2:20: “eastern sea”: Most likely the Dead Sea [NOAB], but possibly the Persian Gulf.

2:20: “western sea”: The Mediterranean. [NOAB]

2:20: “its stench and foul smell”: The smell of the rotting carcases was noted in the 1915 plague. [NJBC]

2:23: “early rain”: The text is obscure. One scholar says that “early rain” could be teacher: the words in Hebrew are sufficiently similar. Whether or not this is the case, rain, justice and teaching are connected in Isaiah 30:19-26; 1 Kings 8:35-36; 2 Chronicles 6:26-27. [NJBC]

In the Qumran literature, there is a figure called the Teacher of Righteousness: see, for example, CD (Damascus Document) 1:5-12; 1QpHab (*Pesher on Habakkuk) 1:13; 5:10. But the expression here is not exactly the same as at Qumran. (The word translated “vindication” can also be translated as righteousness.)

The light Palestinian plow was unable to penetrate the hard, parched earth, so the early rains were critical to agriculture.

2:27: By God’s gift of abundance, the Lord’s people will know that he alone is their god (see Isaiah 45:4, 5, 18; Ezekiel 36:11; 39:28) and dwells in their midst (see 3:17, 21). [NOAB]

2:28: “all flesh”: To Joel, this means primarily Jews, including those who have returned from exile: see 3:2, 17, 19-20; Ezekiel 39:29. For Peter at Pentecost, it includes all nations: see Acts 2:17. [NOAB]

2:31: “blood”: i.e. red. [NOAB]

2:31: “the great and terrible day”: In the New Testament, see Mark 13:24 (where Jesus says: “ in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light”) and Revelation 6:12. [NOAB]

2:32: Those who worship the Lord (see Genesis 4:26; 12:8; Psalm 116:13) will be delivered (see Acts 2:21 and Romans 10:13). [NOAB]

2:32: “for in Mount Zion ... escape”: The same phrase is found in Obadiah 17.

Psalm 65

Jeremiah 5:22-25 says: “Do you not fear me? says the LORD; Do you not tremble before me? I placed the sand as a boundary for the sea, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass; though the waves toss, they cannot prevail, though they roar, they cannot pass over it. But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and gone away. They do not say in their hearts, ‘Let us fear the LORDour God, who gives the rain in its season, the autumn rain and the spring rain, and keeps for us the weeks appointed for the harvest.’ Your iniquities have turned these away, and your sins have deprived you of good.”

NJBC sees this psalm as a prayer for rain at the beginning of the agricultural year. He points out that sin can prevent the coming of rain: see 1 Kings 8:35-36; Amos 4:7-8.

In God, all humanity has a resource for forgiveness (v. 3), for deliverance from enemies (v. 5), for stability and order in nature, and for the productivity of the earth (vv. 6-13) [CAB]

Verses 1-5: It is good to gather at the Temple to sing God’s praises. [NOAB]

Verse 1: “in Zion”: This reference and mention of the Temple in v. 4 may indicate that the setting is the Feast of Tabernacles, a harvest thanksgiving. [NJBC]

Verse 4: “goodness”: i.e. the presence of God, but also the benefits he provides, abundant rain and food. [NJBC]

Verse 7: God keeps chaos at bay. Psalm 89:10-11 says of Yahweh: “You crushed Rahab like a carcass; you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm. The heavens are yours, the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it – you have founded them”.

Verses 8-11: The establishment of God’s kingdom will bring peace to the earth. Isaiah 2:4 foretells of Yahweh: “He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. [NOAB]

Verse 9: In 104:13, a psalmist writes: “From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work”.

Verse 9: “the river of God”: Rivers are associated with God, and flow from him, in 46:4; Isaiah 33:21; Ezekiel 47:1-12; Zechariah 14:8; Revelation 22:1-2 (“the river of the water of life”).

Verse 9: “you have prepared it”:”It” refers to the soft ground. The meaning of the clause is you prepared the earth for the planting of grain (with the coming of the winter rains). [NJBC]

Verse 11: “your wagon tracks”: The ancient idea of God being like a rain god who brought rain in a rain-cloud chariot is in view. [NJBC]

Verse 12: “wilderness”: Perhaps steppe is a better translation. It is countryside that looks most infertile during the dry season but comes to life when the rains arrive. [NJBC]

Verse 12: “the hills gird themselves with joy”: Actually it is the wine made from grapes grown on the hillsides that bring joy: a little poetic license. [NJBC] See also Judges 9:12-13.

Verse 13: “they shout and sing together for joy”: Not just the people blessed with God’s bounty but all nature as well. See also Psalms 96:11-12; 98:7-8; Isaiah 42:11-12; 44:23. [NJBC]

2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18

Copyright is a recent invention. In ancient times, writing in the name and style of a respected authority was common, and was considered an honour to the authority. Sometimes an author sought to extend, to reinterpret, a sage’s teaching for a different situation or a new generation.

This letter may have been written about a time of general persecution of Christians: possibly during the reign of Domitian (95 AD) or of Trajan (112 AD). It is also possible it was written during or shortly after a more localized persecution.

Verse 6: “being poured out as a libation”: Paul speaks of "”being poured out as a libation” in Philippians 2:17. For offering of a drink as well as animal and cereal (grain) offerings in the Temple, see Numbers 15:1-12; 28:7, 24; Exodus 29:40; Psalm 16:4. [CAB] [JBC]

Verse 6: “the time of my departure”: Paul writes in Philippians 1:23: “I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better”. [JBC]

Verse 7: “the race”: Paul uses this metaphor in 1 Corinthians 9:24 and Philippians 3:12-14. [CAB] See also 2:5 and 1 Timothy 6:12. [CAB]

Verse 8: “crown of righteousness”: See also 2:5; 1 Corinthians 9:25; Revelation 2:10. [CAB] If there were Jewish Christians in Timothy’s community, they would be familiar with the wearing of crowns or wreaths of leaves or flowers as symbols of joy and honour at feasts and weddings. [NOAB]

Verse 8: “on that day”: i.e. the Day of Judgement. 1:18 says “... may the Lord grant that he [Onesiphorus] will find mercy from the Lord on that day!”. [NOAB]

Verses 10-12: Comments: As Jesus was deserted as death approached ...: See Matthew 26:56 (“Then all the disciples deserted him and fled”) and Mark 14:50.

Verses 10-11: “Demas ... Luke”: They are also mentioned in Colossians 4:14 and Philemon 24. In both books, they are co-workers with Paul, but in Acts of Paul and Thecla, Demas and Hermogenes teach that the resurrection (which they see as purely spiritual) has already taken place! Here Demas, Crescens and Titus are off on missionary journeys. For “Galatia” some manuscripts read Gaul. [CAB]

Verse 10: “Dalmatia”: The coastal region of ancient Illyricum, now in Yugoslavia and Albania. [CAB]

Verse 11: “Mark”: Colossians 4:10 mentions the activities of Mark in Asia Minor and says that he is “the cousin of Barnabas”. Philemon 24 says that he is one of Paul’s co-workers. [CAB] It is probable that John Mark, a colleague of Barnabas (see Acts 12:12, 25; 15:37-39), is the same person, though he is said to have abandoned Paul at one point (see Acts 13:13 and 15:38). [NJBC]

Verse 12: “Tychicus”: He is also mentioned in Titus 3:12; Colossians 4:7; Ephesians 6:21-22. Acts 20:4 tells us that he was one of Paul’s companions when he visited Greece for the last time. [CAB]

Verse 13: “cloak”: Winter is coming: see also v. 21.[CAB]

Verse 13: “Troas”: An Aegean port city on the west coast of Asia Minor. [CAB]

Verse 13: “books ... parchments”: The “books” are papyrus scrolls, the then current writing material. The “parchments” are scrolls made out of animal skin, usually from sheep or goats. [CAB] Paul exercises the philosophic virtue of self-sufficiency: 1 Timothy 6:6-8 says: “Of course, 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; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these”. [NJBC]

Verse 13: “Carpus”: He is mentioned only here in the New Testament. [CAB]

Verse 14: “Alexander”: This may be the same person as in Acts 19:33 (in Ephesus). 1 Timothy 1:19-20 says: “By rejecting conscience, certain persons have suffered shipwreck in the faith; among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have turned over to Satan, so that they may learn not to blaspheme”. In Acts of Paul and Thecla, Hermogenes “the coppersmith” opposes Paul. [NJBC]

Verse 14: “the Lord will pay him back for his deeds”: See also Psalm 28:4; 62:12; Proverbs 24:12. In Romans 2:6, Paul writes: “... For he [God] will repay according to each one's deeds”. [CAB]

Verse 15: “message”: A scholar suggests that the Greek word is a legal term, so legal arguments would be a suitable translation.

Verse 16: “At my first defence”: If this indeed means his first trial, Paul wrote (or is imagined as writing) 2 Timothy between his first and second trial. [JBC]

Verse 17: “the lion’s mouth”: A common Old Testament metaphor for violent death: see Psalms 7:2; 17:12; 22:21. [NOAB] Psalm 22 tells how God vindicates the just person who suffers persecution. [NJBC] In Psalm 22:19, a psalmist calls on Yahweh: “But you, O LORD, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid!”.

However, is this figurative or literal? We know, for example, that Ignatius of Antioch died literally in the lion's mouth, around 107-115 AD. This was around the time when 2 Timothy was written, assuming that it was written in Paul's name. By that time people were regularly being thrown to the wild beasts, and doubtless earlier. So it is possible, even assuming that the letter is Pauline, that the phrase is meant literally.

Verse 18: “To him be the glory forever and ever”: For other doxologies, see 1 Timothy 1:17; 6:16; Philippians 4:20. [CAB]

Verse 18: “will rescue me”: 3:11 says: “... What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them”

Verse 19: “Prisca and Aquila”: Acts 18:2-3 says of them: “There [in Corinth] he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together – by trade they were tentmakers”. They are also mentioned in Acts 18:18, 26; Romans 16:3; 1 Corinthians 16:19. A house-church met in their home. [NOAB] [CAB]

Verse 19: “Onesiphorus”: 1:16-17 says “May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chain; when he arrived in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me”. [NOAB] His household is also mentioned in 4:19. In that his “household” is mentioned, he may be deceased. [CAB]

Verse 20: “Erastus”: Romans 16:23 tells us that he was “city treasurer” (possibly of Corinth). Acts 19:22 tells us that Paul sent “two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus” to Macedonia. [CAB]

Verse 20: “Trophimus”: “Trophimus from Asia” was also one of Paul’s companions when he was in Greece for the last time: see Acts 20:4. Acts 21:29 tells us that he was from Ephesus. [NOAB]

Verse 20: “Miletus”: A port city on the Aegean Sea, south of Ephesus. Acts 20:17 tells us that “From Miletus he [Paul] sent a message to Ephesus, asking the elders of the church to meet him”. [CAB]

Verse 21: Those named in this verse are mentioned only here in the New Testament. [CAB]

Verse 21: “before winter”: i.e. before the end of the navigation season. [NOAB]

Verse 21: “Pudens”: By tradition, a Roman senator converted by Peter.

Verse 21: “Linus”: Traditionally identified as Paul’s successor as bishop of Rome – but the identification is not certain.

Verse 21: “Claudia”: Apostolic Constitutions 7:46, 17-19 says that Claudia was Linus’ mother.

Verse 22: “Your” is in the singular and “you” is plural, so the author addresses both Timothy and the community. Philemon ends with “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit”. [NJBC] 1 Timothy also ends with “Grace be with you”. [CAB]

Luke 18:9-14

For Jesus’ commentary on this parable, see 6:20-26 (the Beatitudes), part of the Sermon on the Plain. [Blomberg] In the story of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:20), Jesus says “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”.

Luke and Paul differ as to who is righteous. While Paul relates righteousness to faith, the law and the cross, Luke emphasizes three points:

  • self-confident boasting of one’s own good deeds will not achieve acquittal at God’s judgement;
  • like Jesus, one must engage in deeds of righteousness, e.g. almsgiving;
  • God has vindicated his innocently suffering righteous one, Jesus the Christ: see 23:47; Acts 3:14; 7:52; 22:14. [NJBC]

Verse 10: The hours of prayer were 9 am and 3 pm. [JBC]

Verse 10: “tax collector”: Publicani were tax-farmers who bid on contracts to collect taxes in the provinces. “These publicani paid the stipulated sum-total of the impost directly into the Roman treasury and recouped themselves in the provinces by means of their trained staffs of collectors." [M. Cary and H. H. Scullard, A History of Rome Third Edition, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1975, 1979]. In essence, having paid the tax up front, they subsequently extorted what they could from the populace, keeping the difference as profit.

Verse 11: “standing by himself”: Jeremias, the great interpreter of the parables, wrote, based on its Aramaic background, that this phrase can be translated: took up a prominent position. [JBC]

Verse 11: In Matthew 6:5, Jesus says: “... whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others...”. See also Mark 11:25. [NOAB] The Law permitted a righteous Jew to disdain the unrighteous. In a standard prayer, then and now, a pious Jewish man thanks God that he is not a slave, a Gentile or a woman (Babylonian Talmud: Menahot Tractate 43b). Paul’s reaction to this prayer is “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” (see Galatians 3:28). [Blomberg]

Verse 12: “I give a tenth ...”: See also 11:42. Didache 8:1 says “But as for your fasts, let them not be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second and fifth days of the week, but fast on the fourth and sixth days”. Christians are bidden to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. [BlkLk]

Verse 13: “beating his breast”: After Jesus dies, the crowd “returned home, beating their breasts” (23:48). Normally only women beat their breasts; in times of extreme emotion, men did it too. [NJBC]

Verse 14a: “justified”: This saying of Jesus led to Paul’s doctrine of justification. [JBC]

Verse 14b: After telling the Parable of the Lost Sheep, in 15:7 Jesus says: “... there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance”.

Verses 15-17: In contrast to the boasting Pharisee of vv. 9-14, disciples (followers) should approach God as a little child: with spontaneity, a spirit of dependence, a sense of wonderment, with no plaques of achievement. The doors of the Kingdom do not swing open to those who comport themselves differently. [NJBC]

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