Comments

Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost - November 10, 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.

Haggai 2:1-9

The Revised Common Lectionary gives the reading as 1:15b-2:9; however, this appears to be an error.

1:1: “the second year”: mid-August to mid-September 520 BC. [NOAB] NJBC says that the date is August 29, 520.

1:1: “Haggai”: The word means festal. [NOAB] Ezra 5:1-2 says that Haggai and Zechariah prophesied, and that Zerubbabel and Joshua set out to rebuild the Temple with the help of the prophets. Ezra 6:14 says that the Jews prospered “through the prophesying of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah”.

1:1: “Zerubbabel”: The name is Babylonian, meaning offspring of Babylon. He was son of one of Jehoiachin's sons: either of Pedaiah (see 1 Chronicles 3:17-19) or of “Shealtiel” (as here and in Ezra 3:2). [HBD] He was a royal descendant from David, so continuity in leadership with the pre-exilic community is maintained (see also Clipping on “Joshua”). Zerubbabel’s return from exile is mentioned in Ezra 2:1-2. [CAB] He is also mentioned in Ezra 3:8; 4:2-3; 5:2; Nehemiah 7:6-7; 12:1, 47; Haggai 2:21, 23; Zechariah 4:6-7, 9-10; Matthew 1:12-13 (the genealogy of Jesus); Luke 3:27.

1:1: “Shealtiel”: He was taken with his family to Babylon in 597 BC: see 2 Kings 24:12. He was of Davidic lineage. [NJBC]

1:1: “governor”: The Hebrew word only indicates that he was some kind of administrative officer. [NJBC]

1:1: “Joshua”: He was also descended from David. [NOAB] 2 Kings 25:18-21 tells us that Seraiah was the last chief priest before the Exile. Per 1 Chronicles 6:12-15 “Joshua” was a grandson of Seraiah. Both he and Zerubbabel came from Babylon. There is no evidence that Haggai also did. [NJBC]

1:2: “rebuild the LORD’s house”: The Temple built in Solomon’s time was plundered and destroyed in 587 BC: see 2 Kings 25:8-17. [NOAB]

1:6: Because armies lived off the land, the passage of the Persian army through Judah to conquer Egypt probably contributed to the shortage of food.

1:6: “a bag with holes”: Possibly the first biblical reference to coins. Coinage was practised in Asia Minor in the 600s BC. It spread through the ancient Near East due to Persian influence.

1:8: “hills”: At the time, the hills were still covered with trees. As Nehemiah prepares to move back to Judah, he asks King Artaxerxes for “a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king's forest, directing him to give me timber to make beams for the gates of the temple fortress, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy” (see Nehemiah 2:8). See also Nehemiah 2:8; 8:15. Note that there is no mention of cutting stones for the new Temple. The city was probably filled with the stone remains of Solomon’s Temple.

1:12: “the remnant of the people”: In Jeremiah 23:3 and 31:7 this term refers to those who were deported, but here it probably includes those who stayed in Judah, because any old enough to have seen Solomon’s Temple would be too old to make the trek back from Babylon: see 2:3. [NJBC]

1:14: “worked”: or set to work. They began on September 21, 520, only three weeks after the oracle of rebuke and calling; however, this date may well have been that of the oracle of 2:15-19 which was probably between 1:15 and 2:1. (Dates usually precede oracles in Haggai.) [NJBC]

2:1-9: Encouragement about the future splendour of the Temple. As construction begins, those who had seen the glory of the earlier Temple seem to be disappointed with the modest new beginnings, but are assured that the gifts that will come from all over creation and from “all the nations” (v. 7) will result in a temple that will surpass in beauty that of Solomon. [CAB]

2:1: The date is October 17, 520. [NJBC] This would be during the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles), a feast closely associated with the Temple and messianic fulfilment: see 1 Kings 8:2; John 7:2, 37-39; 8:12-59. Perhaps for this reason, some scholars see 2:6-10 as being messianic.

2:3: “glory”: The Hebrew word is kabod. It can mean splendour or riches (as in Isaiah 10:3; 61:6; 66:11-12) but can also mean glory in relation to the Temple. Here it suggests the glory through which God in his transcendence dwells in the Temple, the glory that the visionary Ezekiel saw returning to the post-exilic Temple: see Ezekiel 43:1-4. See also v. 9. [NJBC]

2:4: The words of this verse are very like those addressed to Joshua son of Nun: see Joshua 1:6-7, 9, 18. [JBC]

2:6-7: A poetic expression of divine intervention in the functioning of the universe. [NJBC] Vv. 21-22 says “... I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms; I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders; and the horses and their riders shall fall, every one by the sword of a comrade. On that day ...”

2:6: Referred to, and partially quoted, in Hebrews 12:26. [NOAB]

2:7: “the treasure of all nations shall come”: Isaiah 60:6 foretells: “A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD”. See also Isaiah 61:6. [NOAB]

Psalm 145:1-5,17-21

Note that vv. 1-2 and v. 21 form an envelope (inclusio) around this psalm. [NJBC]

Verse 3: From a time before Israel was strictly monotheistic, 96:4 says “For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be revered above all gods”.

Verses 8-9: Exodus 34:6 speaks of Yahweh as “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness”. Psalms 86:15 and 103:8 also speak of him in these terms. [NJBC] See also Numbers 14:18. [CAB]

Verses 20-21: Psalm 1:5-6 is similar: “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish”. [NJBC]

Note the following pattern of pronouns applied to God: vv. 1-2 “you”, “your”; v. 3 “his”; vv. 4-7 “your”; v. 9 “his”; vv. 10-13a “your”; v. 13b “his”; vv. 15-16 “you”, “your”; vv. 17-21 “he”, “his”. The psalmist alternates between addressing God and speaking of God, probably to the congregation.

V. 13b is missing from the Masoretic text but is found in the Qumran literature, the Septuagint, and the Syriac version of the Old Testament. [NJBC]

Psalm 98

The language of this psalm and of other kingship psalms is strikingly similar to that of many passages in Isaiah 40-55, e.g. 44:23; 52:10; 55:12. [NOAB]

Verse 1: “arm”: Isaiah 51:9 says “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD! ...”

Verse 1: “victory”: NJBC translates the Hebrew word as salvation.

Verses 2-3: A call to God’s people to praise him for his saving deeds to Israel, for God’s triumph over all the powers that oppose him. The verbs are in the past tense, but the reference is to a future event. [NOAB]

Verse 3: “remembered ... house of Israel”: i.e. God’s covenant commitment. “Remembered”: as in Exodus 20:24: “in every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you”.

Verse 3: “have seen the victory”: God has acted (will act) to save Israel.

Verses 4-9: 96:7-13 also summons all nations and the physical universe to join in praising God. [NOAB]

Verses 4-5: All nations: come to Jerusalem to worship Yahweh! See also Isaiah 2:1-4. [NJBC]

Verse 5: “with the lyre and the sound of melody”: The inclusion of musical instruments shows that the setting of the psalm is the Temple. [NJBC]

Verse 6: “before”: i.e. in the presence of.

Verses 7-8: The alternation of watery and dry places emphasizes that all creation should join in the chorus of joy. [NJBC]

Verse 9: Israel’s missionary outlook, though never a major motif in the Old Testament, saw nations coming to Zion to worship God. Isaiah 2:1-4 says “... In days to come the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 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.”. [NJBC]

Verse 9: “he is coming to judge the earth”: messianic.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-5,13-17

While Comments takes the position, with CAB and NJBC, that Paul did not write 2 Thessalonians, some scholars insist that he was the author. Perhaps he wrote the early part of Chapter 1.

In the early days of the Church, many expected Christ to come again in their own lifetimes. Jesus’ words found in the gospels can be read this way, but other interpretations were and are possible (and likely).

Verse 1: Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17: “But we do not want you to be uninformed ... about those who have died ... through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. ... 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 ... 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”.

Verse 2: “not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed”: NJBC offers not suddenly to be shaken from your wits or be upset.

Verse 2: “spirit”: See also 1 Corinthians 14:12, 32 (“the spirits of prophets”); 1 John 4:1-3 (“do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world”); 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20. [CAB]

Verse 2: “that the day of the Lord is already here”: Ideas about when the return of Christ and the consequent resurrection of the dead would happen, in the future or already in the present, evidently circulated in the Church. In 2 Timothy 2:18, false teachers claim that the resurrection has already happened. [CAB]

Verses 3-12: Apocalyptic writing often gives a sequence of events. Paul gives such a sequence in 1 Corinthians 15:23-28. [CAB]

Verses 3-4: See also Daniel 9:20-27 (70 weeks of years); 11:31; 12:11; Matthew 24; Mark 13 (the Little Apocalypse); Luke 21:5-36. In Mark 13:14, Jesus says: “‘But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains’”. [NOAB]

Verse 3: “that day”: In 1 Thessalonians 5:2, Paul says “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night”. [CAB] 2 Peter 3:10 says “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed”. [NOAB]

Verse 3: “the rebellion”: Inter-testamental Jewish apocryphal literature (e.g. Jubilees 23:14-23) uses this word to refer to the general revolt of Israel against God’s law. The Protestant Reformers saw the lawless one as the Pope. Premillenialists down through the years have identified the lawless one with the political or religious opponent of the moment.

Historical-critical study of this passage, however, insists that it be read together with all apocalyptic literature. It should be regarded as a distinctive theological interpretation of God, the cosmos, and Christ. This makes it unnecessary to ask whether the author meant the restrainer (“the lawless one”) to be the Roman Empire, as many think – or even Paul's mission to the Gentiles, as a few hold.

This passage is not an apocalyptic allegory of a historical moment in the life of Paul or the early church. Rather it is a theological interpretation of the problem of history seen in the light of Christ's lordship and the oneness of God. [ICCTh]

Verse 3: “the lawless one”: The Septuagint translation of the Old Testament has the Greek word used here, along with the word for rebellion to translate the Hebrew word Belial, a figure associated with the forces of darkness and often the name for the Devil. In the Qumran literature, Beliar is the chief of the powers of darkness; he is mentioned in 2 Corinthians 6:15. Note v. 9: “The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan”. [CAB] 2 Esdras says that the evil in the world will become very widespread as the end times approach.

Verse 3: “the one destined for destruction”: See Revelation 20:7-10: “... When the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations ... the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur ...”. That the Devil will be destroyed after being allowed free rein for a period is found in various apocalyptic writings. [CAB]

Verse 4: Apocalyptic texts tell of a period before the God’s final victory when demonic forces will attempt to usurp God’s authority. The godly will resist that attempt and be vindicated. [CAB]

Verse 4: “temple of God”: Possibly the Christian community. [NJBC]

Verse 4: There are allusions here to the times of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 BC), who desecrated the Temple and set up a statue of himself (as Olympian Zeus) in the Temple. See 1 Maccabees 2:15 and Daniel 9:14. This verse leaves unstated that the Day of the Lord is not at hand. [NJBC]

Verse 5: NJBC sees “these things” to be basic Christian instruction: not details of a given apocalyptic scenario, but a warning of what the faithful must be prepared to face, especially the threat to their faith. See also Mark 13 (the little apocalypse); Matthew 24-25; Luke 21:5-36.

Verses 6-7: The author speaks of both the then-current threat, a false prophet in the midst of the Thessalonian church, and the future appearance of many false prophets before the elimination of evil forces in the world.

Verse 6: NJBC offers a rather different translation: You know the seizing power, so that the rebel himself will be manifested at his own proper time. He says that the Greek word he translates as seizing power means possessing and holding fast but not restraining. He sees the current power as being (close to) manic possession by a kind of demon or spirit which has shaken the readers out of their wits: see v. 2 (as he translates it).

Verse 6: “you know what is now restraining him”: The first readers of this letter knew (i.e. experienced) what was “restraining him”, we do not. There are three main conjectures, none of which is entirely satisfactory:

  • the Roman empire and emperor
  • a supernatural power
  • the Devil himself. [NOAB]

Comments assumes that it is the Devil, as does CAB.

Verse 7: “the mystery of lawlessness”: The counterfeit and opponent of the mystery of godliness. Colossians 1:26 speaks of “ the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints”. See also 1 Timothy 3:16. [NOAB] For “lawlessness”, NJBC offers rebellion.

Verse 7: “is ... at work”: The Greek word, energeia, meaning is active, also occurs in v. 9 (“working”) and v. 11 (“powerful”). The present threat to stability in faith is a foretaste of the much worse future one, which the Lord will triumphantly resolve.

Verse 7: “but only until the one who now restrains it is removed”: NJBC offers but the seizer must be for the present, until ousted. The seizer must be (or try to) seize, possess, for the present until he is put out of the way (or otherwise disappears).

Verse 8c: Christ will eliminate the lawless one by coming again.

Verse 8: “breath of his mouth”: Isaiah 11:1-4 says “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse [whom we believe to be Jesus] ... with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked”. See also Job 4:9 and Revelation 19:15. [CAB]

Verse 9: “power, signs, lying wonders”: In Mark 13:22, Jesus says “‘False messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, the elect”. Matthew 24:24 is very similar. See also Acts 2:22 (Peter’s speech on the Day of Pentecost). [CAB]

Verse 11: See also Romans 1:24, 26, 28. [NOAB] [CAB]

Verse 13: See also 1:3; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:2. [NOAB]

Verse 13: “chose you as the first fruits”: NJBC says that called from the beginning (offered in a footnote in the NRSV and found in various manuscripts) is preferable. It stresses God’s initiative in calling us.

Verse 13: “first fruits”: James 1:18 says “In fulfilment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures”. See also Revelation 14:4. [CAB]

Verse 13: “sanctification”: The process of becoming holy, set apart for God. See also 1 Thessalonians 4:3. [CAB]

Verse 14: “he called you”: The notion of God calling those whom he chooses is also found in 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 4:7; 5:24. [CAB]

Verse 15: “stand firm and hold fast ...”: See also 1 Thessalonians 3:8; 1 Corinthians 11:2; 15:1-2. [CAB]

Verse 15: “traditions”: Doctrinal, moral and liturgical teachings, as 1 Corinthians shows. [NOAB]

Verse 15: Note that communication by a “spirit” (v. 2) seems to be purposely omitted. [NJBC]

Verse 15: “our letter”: NJBC says that the Greek word, epistole, is generic here so the author supposes more than one letter.

Verse 16: See also 1 Thessalonians 3:11 and 1 Peter 1:3. [NOAB]

Verse 16: “good hope”: While this was a term used in Greek mystery religions for bliss after death, in this Christian context the “good hope” is refocused on the Lord’s second coming. [NJBC]

Verse 17: See also 2 Corinthians 1:4. [CAB]

Luke 20:27-38

The parallels are Matthew 22:23-33 and Mark 12:18-27. [NOAB]

Verse 27: Acts 4:1-2 tells us “While Peter and John were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came to them, much annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming that in Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead.”. [NOAB] In Acts 23:6-10, Paul says, at his trial before the Sanhedrin, that Jesus’ teaching in the Temple was in continuity with that of the Pharisees. They did believe in life after death. [NJBC]

Verse 28: Deuteronomy 25:5-6 commands regarding levirate marriage: “When brothers reside together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband's brother shall go in to her, taking her in marriage, and performing the duty of a husband's brother to her, and the firstborn whom she bears shall succeed to the name of the deceased brother, so that his name may not be blotted out of Israel”. For examples of levirate marriage, see Genesis 38:8. [NOAB]

Verse 35: Jesus seems to imply that only the dead who are godly will be resurrected. [BlkLk]

Verse 36: “angels”: The Sadducees did not believe in angels. Jesus makes the risen godly equivalent to the heavenly beings who wait upon God. Acts 6:15 tells us that the members of the council “saw that his [Stephen’s] face was like the face of an angel”. See also Matthew 18:10.

Verse 38: “for to him all of them are alive”: For a very close parallel to this expression, see 4 Maccabees 7:19. [NJBC] 4 Maccabees 16:25 says “They knew also that those who die for the sake of God live to God, as do Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the patriarchs”. [BlkLk]

Verse 39: In Mark 12:28, a scribe also commends Jesus for his answer. [NOAB] Scribes were official interpreters of the Law. [CAB]

Verse 40: Mark 12:34 says that “After that no one dared to ask him any question”. Matthew 22:46 is similar. [NOAB]

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