Comments

Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: The Reign of Christ - November 24, 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.

Jeremiah 23:1-6

The following was written for Comments but was dropped for lack of space:

Josiah’s ascent to the throne of Judah was the start of religious reform. He removed all traces of foreign worship, centralized worship in Jerusalem, and renewed the spirit of the Sinai covenant. But by 612 BC, two great powers, Egypt and Babylon, vied for dominance over the Near East. From Josiah’s death in 609 to the end of the Kingdom of Judah, kings, rather than being guardians of God’s justice, bent to foreign influence. Chapters 21 and 22 include prophecies about these bad times; there Jeremiah predicts the fate of kings Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim and Jehoiakin. In 597, the Babylonians took Jerusalem and installed a puppet king, Zedekiah, but when he rebelled, they destroyed the city, deporting many to Babylon and causing others to emigrate to other lands.

Josiah died from a wound received fighting the Egyptians at the Battle of Megiddo, in 609 BC. 2 Kings 23:29-30 says: “In his days Pharaoh Neco king of Egypt went up to the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates. King Josiah went to meet him; but when Pharaoh Neco met him at Megiddo, he killed him”.

21:1ff: Probably written before the siege of 588 BC. [NJBC]

21:11-22:30: To the last five kings of Judah.

21:11-12: A general address to kings. [NJBC]

21:13-14: To Jerusalem: the inviolability of the city, due to the presence of God, is no longer!

22:1-5: Kings have a duty to provide justice.

22:3: “And do no wrong ...”: Covenantal duties.

22:3: “shed innocent blood”: Probably child sacrifice.

22:6-7: To Jerusalem.

22:8-9: Idolatry is rupture of the covenant. [NJBC]

22:10-12: On Jehoahaz, called “Shallum” in v. 11. He was anti-Egyptian. His reign lasted only three months. [NJBC]

22:13-19: On Jehoiakim. Chosen by Pharaoh Neco, he was pro-Egyptian. [NJBC]

22:13: “work for nothing, and does not give them their wages”: This was against the Law: see Leviticus 19:13 and Deuteronomy 24:14-15. [NJBC]

22:14: “I will build myself”: i.e. luxurious buildings, built at the people’s expense. [NJBC]

22:15: Jehoiakim was unlike his father Josiah, who was a fine example of a covenant king. [NJBC]

22:18-19: Divine judgement. [NJBC]

22:19: So far as is known, Jehoiakim died a natural death.

22:20-30: On Jehoiakin. [NJBC]

22:20-23: The verbs are in the feminine, so Jeremiah speaks to Jerusalem and her people. [NJBC]

22:20: Consider your ruin from all the surrounding heights. [NJBC]

22:24-26: The first address to Jehoiakin, in 597 BC. [NJBC]

22:24: “Coniah”: An abbreviation for Jeconiah, another name for Jehoiakin, as 37:1 indicates: “Zedekiah son of Josiah, whom King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon made king in the land of Judah, succeeded Coniah son of Jehoiakim”. [NJBC]

22:24: “the signet ring”: It was the king’s official stamp, so it was safeguarded. God abandons him to his own fate. [NJBC]

22:26: “mother”: i.e. the queen mother. It seems that a queen mother enjoyed an official role at court; however, we do not know what it was. An indication of this role is found in 1 Kings 15:13: “He [King Asa, son of David] also removed his mother Maacah from being queen mother, because she had made an abominable image for Asherah; Asa cut down her image and burned it at the Wadi Kidron”. See also 2 Kings 10:13; 2 Chronicles 15:16; Jeremiah 13:18; 29:2. [NJBC]

22:26: “there you shall die”: i.e. in Babylon. He was released by Evil-Merodach, king of Babylon, but chose to remain there, as 2 Kings 25:27-30 and Jeremiah 52:31-34 tell us. [NJBC]

22:27-30: To Jehoiakin, as though already in exile.

22:30: “childless”: 1 Chronicles 3:17-18 says that Jehoiakin fathered sons, but none of his descendants became king; however, Zerubbabel (see 1 Chronicles 3:19) , his grandson, returned as high commissioner. [NJBC]

23:3-4: These verses are similar to 3:14-18. [NJBC]

23:3: “be fruitful and multiply”: Genesis 1:28 says: “God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth’”.

23:5: “The days are surely coming”: Another formal announcement introduced in this way; 7:32 says:”Therefore, the days are surely coming, says the LORD, when it will no more be called [the pagan altar at] Topheth, or the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of Slaughter: for they will bury in Topheth until there is no more room”. [NJBC]

23:5: “righteous”: The Hebrew can also mean legitimate heir. [NJBC]

23:5: “Branch”: Isaiah 11:1 foretells: “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots”. Later this was a term for the Messiah: Zechariah 3:8 tells us: “they are an omen of things to come: I am going to bring my servant the Branch”. [NJBC]

23:5: “reign as king and deal wisely”: See also Isaiah 9:2-7 (“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light ...”). [NOAB]

23:7-8: These verses are loosely connected with the foregoing. They also occur in 16:14-15, where they are out of context. A prediction of return from exile. [NJBC]

Messianism is the absolute fulfilment of sacred kingship, as the means chosen by Yahweh to realize the blessings of the covenant. This had been defined in Nathan’s prophecy (see 2 Samuel 7) and was repeated in the royal psalms (see Psalms 2; 45; 72; 89; 110). For prophets recalling this ideal in terms found in this passage, see Isaiah 9:5-6 (“For a child has been born for us, a son given to us ...”); 11:9; Micah 5:1-5 (“... from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel ...”); Amos 9:11; Hosea 3:5. Jeremiah predicts the restoration of David’s dynasty not so much politically as on the level of the religious and moral obligations of the Sinai covenant. [NJBC]

Luke 1:68-79

There are several liturgical translations of this passage, including two in the BAS – one metrical and one not.

NJBC says that Luke has adapted and joined together two Jewish Christian hymns (vv. 68-75; 76-79).

Comments: The tense in Greek shows that they describe how God characteristically acts and what he is inaugurating in Jesus: The tenses are aorist, and are seen to be gnomic and inceptive. [NJBC]

Verse 67: Just as Elizabeth spoke of the greatness of Jesus (in vv. 41-44), so too does Zechariah. [NJBC]

Verse 68: “Blessed ...”: This imitates the style of hymns of praise in Psalms 41:13; 72:18; 103:1; 106:48; 113:2; 1QH (Qumran Hymns) 13:20; 18:14; 19:27-28. [BlkLk] 1QH 13:20 (Vermes 5:20) says: “... Be blessed Lord, because you did not desert the orphan nor have you slighted the wretch.” 1QH 18:14 (Vermes 10:14) says: “Be blessed, Lord, God of compassion and of abundant favour, because you have made me know these things so that I may recount your marvels, and I do not keep silent day and night.” 1QH 19:27-28 (Vermes 11:27-28) says: “... Be blessed Lord, because you have given your servant the insight of knowledge to understand your wonders and your deeds without number through the abundance of your favour.” [Martinez]

Verse 68: “God of Israel”: The entire canticle stays within the orbit of Judaism and God’s dealings with the elect people. [NJBC]

Verse 68: “looked favourably”: The Greek word can also be translated blessed: in the sense that God is present, and not in a neutral way. See Exodus 3:16 (Yahweh’s instructions to Moses after he identifies himself); 4:31 and Isaiah 10:12. [JBC]

Verse 68: “redeemed”: BlkLk says that the Greek literally means made redemption for.

Verse 69: “a mighty saviour”: BlkLk translates the Greek as a horn of salvation (a literal translation) and notes the occurrence of this phrase in 2 Samuel 22:3 and Psalm 18:2 (although not in the NRSV), which he sees as the sources of this song. These are the only places where this phrase occurs.

Verse 69: “saviour”: See also Psalms 92:10-11; 132:17-18 (“... I will cause a horn to sprout up for David ...”); 1 Samuel 2:1 (Hannah’s prayer). [NOAB] [JBC]

Verse 69: “David”: This fleshes out what Gabriel has said in v. 32. [NJBC] See also Acts 4:25 (after the Council releases Peter and John).

Verse 71: “saved from our enemies”: Old Testament prophecies that tell of salvation from enemies include Psalms 18:17 and 106:10. [BlkLk] In 2:1-20, Jesus is pacific. God conquers enemies by bringing them peace.

Verse 72: “mercy ... to our ancestors”: See Micah 7:20 and Psalm 106:45. [BlkLk]

Verse 73: “to ... Abraham”: In Genesis 17:7, Yahweh renames Abram Abraham and promises: “I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you”. See also 26:24. [BlkLk]

Verse 74: For a prophecy in similar language, see Jeremiah 30:8. From the 700s on, expectation of spiritual restoration included deliverance from enemies and could hardly be distinguished from it. [BlkLk]

Verse 76: “you will go before the Lord ...”: An echo of Gabriel’s words in vv. 16-17. There is also an echo of Malachi 3:1: “See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight - indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts”. [NJBC] See also Malachi 4:5 (the promise to send Elijah); Isaiah 40:3 and Luke 7:26. [NOAB] [BlkLk]

Verse 77: Mark 1:4 says: “John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”. See also Luke 3:1-20. [NOAB] [NJBC]

Verse 77: “by the forgiveness of their sins”: Jeremiah 31:34 had promised that knowledge of God, given via a new covenant of a new kind, would be made possible by the forgiveness of sins. In Acts 5:31, Luke links the Kingdom with the forgiveness of sins. [BlkLk]

Verse 78: See Malachi 4:2 (“the sun of righteousness shall rise”) and Ephesians 5:14. [NOAB] A close parallel is to be found in Tosefta Zebahim 9:8: this verse incorporates two key words in v. 78, anatelei (arise) and eusplanchnia (mercy): “And after these things the Lord himself will arise (anatelei) for you, the light of righteousness, with healing and mercy (eusplanchnia) in his wings.” [NJBC]

Verse 78: “the dawn”: We are familiar with various names for Jesus, but not this one. It seems that it did not catch on in the early Church. NOAB offers another interpretation: “the dawn” will be when God fulfils his purpose to bless mankind. BlkLk offers he who has risen although he does comment on the contrast between “dawn” and “darkness” (v. 79) and suggests that the author may have had Isaiah 42:7 (“to open the eyes that are blind, ... from the prison those who sit in darkness”) and Isaiah 9:1-2 (“... The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined”) in mind. It is possible that the Greek word is the one the Septuagint translation uses for a Hebrew word meaning sprout or growth and used of a future ruler descended from Jesse in Jeremiah 23:5 (“Branch”); Zechariah 3:8; 6:12.

Verse 79: “sit in darkness and in the shadow of death”: A combination of Isaiah 9:1-2 and 42:7 (in the Septuagint translation). See also Isaiah 59:8; Matthew 4:16; Luke 4:18. [NOAB] [BlkLk]

Colossians 1:11-20

NJBC considers that Colossians was composed after Paul’s lifetime about 70-80 AD by someone who knew the Pauline tradition. NOAB and CAB discuss the problem of authorship but do not, in their introductions to the book, state whether they consider Paul to have been the author or not. See the Clipping below on vv. 26-28 for a hint of CAB’s view.

Verse 9: “knowledge”: Greeks were keen on knowledge, of a speculative nature rather than practical. [NJBC]

Verse 9: “knowledge ... wisdom ... understanding”: The corresponding Greek terms are found frequently in the Qumran literature, e.g.

  • 1QH (Hymns) 9:19-21 (Vermes: 1:19-21), where the three are connected with the revelation of mysteries (see also Colossians 1:27-28; 2:2-3)
  • 1QS (Rule of the Community) 4:2-8, a passage which recounts the way of the Spirit of Truth. and includes humility and forbearance, understanding, knowledge, wisdom, zeal for ordinances, firm inclination and discretion regarding revelation of the mysteries. [NJBC]

Verse 10: Ephesians 4:1 says “I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called”. In 1 Thessalonians 2:12, Paul writes that he is “urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory”. [CAB]

Verse 11: “made strong”: i.e. by God’s power.

Verses 12-13: Ephesians 1:11 contains some of the same terminology: “In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will”. [CAB]

Verse 12: “inheritance”: In the Old Testament, the Promised Land: see Joshua 14-19.

Verse 12: “saints”: Humans as well as heavenly beings may be included. [NJBC]

Verses 12-13: “share in the inheritance of the saints in the light ... darkness”: This calls to mind teachings in the Qumran literature, for example the ethical dualism of light and darkness and of portion or lot (NRSV: “inheritance”): see 1QM (War Scroll) 13:9-10; 1QH (Hymns) 11:22-23; 14:12-13; 19:11-12 (Vermes: 3:22-23; 6:12-13; 11:11-12). There the portion is the predetermined destiny meted out to humans. [NJBC]

Verse 13: “rescued us”: i.e. from Satan’s power. [NOAB]

Verse 14: “the forgiveness of sins”: The Greek, aphesis hamartion, is not found in undisputedly Pauline letters; it is however found in Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:22; 10:18. [NJBC]

Verses 15-20: This hymn alludes to the wisdom motifs of the Old Testament and the Apocrypha:

  • In Proverbs 3:19, Wisdom is God’s agent in his creative act
  • In Proverbs 8:22-31, Wisdom was generated before God created, and was his partner in creating (see also Wisdom of Solomon 7:22; 9:2-4). [NJBC]

For other Christological hymns, see Philippians 2:6-11; Ephesians 2:14-16; 1 Peter 3:18-19; Hebrews 1:3; 1 Timothy 3:16. This hymn may be compared with the Qumran hymns. These verses differ from the rest of Colossians in language, style and thought so they appear that the author adapted to the purposes of his letter. [NJBC]

Verse 15: “image”: The image perfectly reveals the invisible God: John 1:18 tells us: “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known”. See also Hebrews 1:3. [NOAB] For Paul on humans as being in the image of God or of Christ, see Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 11:7; 15:49 (“Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust [Adam], we will also bear the image of the man of heaven”); 2 Corinthians 3:18. In one place, 2 Corinthians 4:4, he speaks of Christ as being the image of God. [NJBC]

Verse 15: “the firstborn of all creation”: See also Psalm 89:27 (“I will make him [David] the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth”); Proverbs 8:22-31; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:6-7; Hebrews 1:2 (“... in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds”); 10:5-9; Revelation 1:17; 2:8; 22:13, 16. [CAB]

Verse 16: “all things ... were created”: John 1:3 says “All things came into being through him [“the Word”, the Logos], and without him not one thing came into being”. See also 1 Corinthians 8:6 and Hebrews 1:2. [CAB]

Verse 16: “thrones ... powers”: At Colossae, angelic beings may have been thought of as being rivals of, or supplementary to, Christ. See also 2:10, 15. [NOAB] [NJBC] These are categories of lesser supernatural beings present in creation. See Romans 8:38; 1 Corinthians 15:24; Ephesians 1:21; 3:10; 6:12 for similar lists. [CAB] NJBC notes that the Greek word here translated as “dominions” also appears in 1 Peter 3:22 (NRSV: “authorities”) and Jude 8; in those verses it refer to earthly powers. Only here in the New Testament is “thrones” a category of angelic beings.

Verse 17: “before all things”: Note John 8:58: “Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am’”. The phrase may mean first in rank.

Verse 17: “all things hold together”: Wisdom of Solomon 1:7 says “Because the spirit of the Lord has filled the world, and that which holds all things together knows what is said”. [JBC] See also Hebrews 1:3. [NOAB]

Verse 18: “head of the body, the church”: Christ as head of the church is important in Colossians: see also 2:17, 19; 3:15. The community as the body is also found in the undisputably Pauline writings (see 1 Corinthians 6:15; 10:16-17; 12:12-27; Romans 12:4-5) but the image of Christ as head of the body is a development found only in Colossians and Ephesians (see also Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:15-16; 5:23). [NOAB] [NJBC]

Verse 18: “the beginning”: i.e. the origin or source of the Church’s life. See also Revelation 3:14 (“... The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin of God's creation”); Galatians 6:15 (“... a new creation is everything!”); 2 Corinthians 5:17. [NOAB] [JBC]

Verse 18: “firstborn from the dead”: See also Acts 26:23 (“being the first to rise from the dead”, Paul before Agrippa); Romans 14:9; 1 Corinthians 15:20 (“... Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died”). [NOAB] [NJBC] Christ’s resurrection is the first of a succession of others: see Revelation 1:5. [CAB]

Verse 19: “the fullness of God”: Another translation is: For it pleased God that in him [the Son] all the fullness of the deity should dwell. “Fullness” translates the Greek word pleroma. The pleroma would have had special significance if gnostic ideas formed part of the false teaching at Colossae. In Gnosticism, the pleroma was the whole body of heavenly powers and spiritual emanations that came forth from God. [NOAB] [NJBC] In this context, as can be seen from v. 20, the term “fullness of God” refers to the full power of divine grace which offers full reconciliation through Christ’s cross. John 1:16 tells us: “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace”. See also Colossians 2:10. [CAB] NJBC notes that “of God” is not in the Greek., but note 2:9: “in him [Christ] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily”.

Verse 20: “reconcile”: The Greek word is apokatallasso; it is used only in Colossians and Ephesians. In the undisputedly Pauline writings, the word katallasso is used, with the same meaning: see Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18, 19. [NJBC] Prevalent Jewish belief was that the world had fallen into the captivity of the ruling powers through the sin of humans. Christ overcame these angelic powers by taking away their control over believers. [JBC]

Luke 23:33-43

The parallels of vv. 26-43 are Matthew 27:32-34; Mark 15:21-32; John 19:16b-24.

Verse 34: See also Numbers 15:27-31 and Acts 7:60. Psalm 22:17-18 says : “I can count all my bones. They stare and gloat over me; they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.”

Verses 35-39: Note the downward progression of those who humiliate Jesus: the religious leaders, soldiers, a criminal. [NJBC]

Verse 35: Psalm 22:7-8 says: “All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads; ‘Commit your cause to the LORD; let him deliver – let him rescue the one in whom he delights!’”. See also Psalm 80:6 and Wisdom of Solomon 2:18. [BlkLk]

Verse 35: “his chosen one”: At the Transfiguration, a voice “from the cloud” identifies Jesus as “my Chosen”: see 9:35. Jesus is the new chosen Moses. The Israelites grumbled about Moses, as do the onlookers here. [BlkLk]

Verse 36: See also Matthew 27:28. Psalm 69:21 says “They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink”. [BlkLk]

Verse 36: “sour wine”: The wine would have been what the Romans called acetum, the origin of our name acetic acid, i.e. vinegar (which itself comes from vin aigre, French for “sour wine”). This would have been the normal drink at the time, though usually mixed with water. Wine was still difficult to store in what we would consider drinkable condition.

Interestingly enough, Mark has Jesus offered wine and myrrh mixed, while Matthew, Luke and John omit the myrrh. The purpose of the mixture in Mark would have been to dull the pain, and thus was a humanitarian gesture, which Jesus refuses. Matthew and Luke are ambiguous as to whether Jesus receives the wine, while John says he did (see Mark 15:23; see also Matthew 27:48; John 19:28-30)

Verse 39: While Luke seems generally to have used Mark as his source, here he offers more, i.e. the words of the criminal. Mark 15:32b has only “Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.”. [BlkLk]

Verse 39: “hanged”: In Galatians 3:13, Paul writes: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’”. He quotes Deuteronomy 21:22-23: “When someone is convicted of a crime punishable by death and is executed, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse must not remain all night upon the tree; you shall bury him that same day, for anyone hung on a tree is under God's curse”. [BlkLk]

Verse 39: BlkLk sees the criminal’s words as being gently ironic, a courageous jest which Jesus takes up seriously. To see them as implying complete faith on the part of this man is to go to far.

Verse 43: “Paradise”: This can also be interpreted as a return to the original sin-free creation. The gates of Paradise have been re-opened by the obedience and faith of the new Adam. Jesus promises the criminal much more than he has asked, intimating also that God’s kingly power is a present reality, not merely in the future. See also 2 Corinthians 12:3-4 and Revelation 2:7. “Paradise” is a loan word from old Persian, where it first meant an enclosing wall and then a park. By the 200s BC it was used in Greek for a park. The Septuagint translation uses it for the garden of (planted by) God in Genesis 2:15; 3:23ff; 13:10; Ezekiel 28:13; etc. It is in Testament of Levi 18:10 that “Paradise” first appears as the technical term for the part of Sheol reserved for the righteous; there the priestly Messiah shall open the gates of Paradise. [BlkLk]

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