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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Trinity Sunday - May 26, 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.

Proverbs 8:1-4,22-31

The poem can be divided into seven stanzas of five couplets each (except the second, which has six couplets):

  • vv. 1-5: Wisdom’s universal call
  • vv. 6-11: her truth, integrity, and inestimable value
  • vv. 12-16: her intellectual gifts
  • vv. 17-21: her favours
  • vv. 22-26: her existence before all created things,
  • vv. 27-31: her presence at creation, and
  • vv. 32-36: her appeal to be heeded. [NJBC]

Verses 1-4: In 1:20-21, Lady Wisdom pronounces a public address, but there she speaks only to the people of the city: “Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice. At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks”. [NOAB]

Verses 12-16: Wisdom is the source of political wisdom and power that are just. Her attributes are the same as those belonging to the messianic king (“The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD”, Isaiah 11:2) and belonging to God (“wisdom and strength; ... counsel and understanding”, Job 12:13, “strength and wisdom”, Job 12:16). [NJBC]

Verses 17-21: Psalm 112:3 says that material prosperity is a gift of Yahweh to those who love him: “Wealth and riches are in their houses, and their righteousness endures forever”. [JBC]

Verses 20-21: There is no incompatibility between loving Wisdom and enjoying material prosperity. [NJBC]

Verses 22-31: 3:19-20 says “The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; by his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew.”

Verse 22: “created”: The Hebrew verb is qanani (begot, brought forth, formed). Sirach 1:4 says “Wisdom was created before all other things, and prudent understanding from eternity” and Sirach 1:8 “There is but one who is wise, greatly to be feared, seated upon his throne – the Lord”. In Sirach 24:9, Wisdom says “Before the ages, in the beginning, he created me, and for all the ages I shall not cease to be”. The Arians understood Wisdom to be the first being God created (because they ignored vv. 23-31). This belief about Wisdom led them to assert the created nature of the Logos, i.e. that Jesus was only human. The Arian heresy was condemned at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD but Arianism survived for several centuries, especially among the Germanic tribes.

Verse 23: “I was set up”: NJBC translates the Hebrew as I was poured forth and says that this is an image of birth. Job 10:10 says “Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese?”.

Verses 27-31: Proverbs tells us that Wisdom was present at Creation, and vaguely suggests that she was active in it. Her role in creation is further developed in:

  • Sirach 24:1-22: “Wisdom praises herself, and tells of her glory in the midst of her people ... ‘I came forth from the mouth of the Most High and covered the earth like a mist ... I dwelt in the highest heavens, and my throne was in a pillar of cloud ... Over [all] ... I have held sway. ... my Creator ... chose ... Israel [as my dwelling place] ... Before all ages ... he created me, and for all ages I shall not cease to be. Come to me, you who desire me, and eat your fill of my fruits. ... Those who eat of me will hunger for more ... those who work with me will not sin’”, and
  • Wisdom of Solomon 7:21-8:1: “I learned both what is secret and what is manifest, for wisdom, the fashioner of all things, taught me. There is in her a spirit that is intelligent, holy, unique, manifold, subtle, mobile, clear, unpolluted, distinct, invulnerable, loving the good, keen, irresistible, beneficent, humane, steadfast, sure, free from anxiety, all-powerful, overseeing all ... . For she is the breath of the power of God. ... [She enters] holy souls and makes them friends of God”. [JBC]

Verse 30: “master worker”: Translated as little child, John 1:18 may reflect this. The consonants of the words translated “master worker” and little child are the same; the vowels were not written. The latter fits the birth imagery of vv. 24-25. The former sense is found in Wisdom of Solomon 7:22-8:1. [NJBC]

Verses 32-36: Wisdom’s appeal is to be heeded. Vv. 32b and 34 are beatitudes. [NJBC] An offer of life to replace death. [NOAB]

Psalm 8

Verse 2: “Out of the mouths of babes and infants”: A more literalist interpretation is that the glory of God is manifest in the songs of children and in the night sky (v. 3). [NOAB]

Verses 2b-3: NJBC says that scholars’ efforts to elucidate these difficult lines have not met with success.

Verses 4-7: These verses are quoted in Hebrews 2:5-9. There they are applied to Christ. [NOAB] [NJBC]

Verse 4: “what are human beings ... ?”: Psalm 144:3 and Job 7:1-17 also ask this question but there the sense of it is different. [NOAB]

Verse 4: “mortals”: The Hebrew, ben ‘adam, literally son of proto-human, is a Jewish idiom meaning mortal or human being. Some scholars consider Son of Man, as used in the New Testament, to be a Christian technical term. [NOAB]

Ben ‘adam can also be translated as children of earth. Before Eve was created Adam was of no gender; he was simply earth-creature, a literal translation; after the rib was removed they became man and woman. So ben ‘adam is more inclusive, referring back to the pre-gendered humanity. [Chris Malcolm, email]

Verses 5-8: See also Genesis 1:26-30 (the first Creation Story, the sixth day). [NOAB]

Verse 5: See also 90:1-3 (“... Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God ...”). [NJBC]

Verse 5: “God”: The Hebrew word here is plural: note that in Genesis 1:26 God says: “‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; ...’”. (God is plural there too.)

Verse 5: “crowned them with glory and honour”: This may point to a king: blessed with glory and honour, he is almost a god. [NJBC]

Verse 9: A repeat of the opening verse, as a refrain. [NOAB]

Romans 5:1-5

Paul develops these ideas further in 8:1-39: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death ...”. [NJBC]

Verse 1: “justified by faith”: This is the theme of 3:21-31. [CAB]

Verse 1: “peace”: In Hebrew, this is shalom, the state of being in which one enjoys all the benefits of a right relationship with God, namely partnership in reconciliation, eternal well-being and wholeness of life. Being justified is very similar, although it implies action.

Verse 1: “through our Lord Jesus Christ”: Christ is active as the mediator, the interface between the Father and humans, in carrying out God’s plan of/for salvation. In some form or other, Paul makes frequent use of this phrase in this chapter: see also vv. 2, 9, 11, 17, 21. [JBC] He writes in 1:5: “through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name”; see also 2:16. “Through” means mediated by, in the Father’s plan of salvation. [NJBC]

Verse 2: “obtained access”: JBC offers secured an introduction. We have been introduced into the sphere of divine favour through Christ. He has, as it were, led Christians into the royal audience chamber and into the divine presence.

Verse 2: “we boast in our hope ...”: In contrast to the boasting by Jews of their relationship to God mentioned in 2:17: “But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relation to God”. [CAB]

Verses 2,3,11: “boast”: In Paul’s writings, this word is sometimes meant in the obvious sense, but not here. Basking in glory is what he means here. [NJBC]

Verse 3: “boast in our sufferings”: Paul also uses the word “boast” in 2 Corinthians 11:30; 12:9 and also 1 Corinthians 1:31; 3:21; 2 Corinthians 10:17; Galatians 6:13; Philippians 3:3. [CAB]

Verse 3: “endurance”: The Greek word is hupomone. See also 8:25 (where the Greek word is translated as “patience”) and 15:4-5. [CAB]

Verse 4: “character”: The Greek word is dokime, from a verb meaning to test, so the sense is proven-ness under testing. [CAB]

Verse 5: “and hope”: The sense is easier to see if we insert such between and and hope. A human may disappoint one by not doing what he or she commits to do, but God is not like this. [NJBC]

Verses 5,8: “God’s love has been poured ... through the Holy Spirit”, “Christ”: In v. 5, God is the Father. These verses lead later to the doctrine of the Trinity.

Verse 5: “poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit”: In the Old Testament and in the Apocrypha, pouring out of a divine attribute is commonplace: for example, mercy in Sirach 18:11, wisdom in Sirach 1:9, grace in Psalm 45:2, and wrath in Hosea 5:10 and Psalm 79:6. See especially Joel 2:28 for the outpouring of the Spirit. [NJBC]

Verses 6-11: Christ, in his death, has borne the consequences of our sin, and thus has reconciled us to God. This reconciliation is the result of God’s action; it is something we were too “weak” (v. 6) to bring about.

Verse 6: “For while we were still weak”: i.e. before we knew Christ. [NOAB]

Verse 6: “weak”: NJBC offers helpless.

Verse 6: “Christ died for the ungodly”: Paul writes in 4:5: “But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness”. [CAB]

Verses 7-8: It would be rare enough for anyone to die for a pious (“righteous”, v. 7) person, and perhaps a bit more likely for a particularly “good person” to do so, but Christ sacrificed his life for us when we were neither: we were sinners without hope then!

Verse 8: God’s love is unconditional, spontaneous, not dependent on human love for him.

Verse 9: “justified by his blood”: This is a restatement of 3:24-25: “they [those who have fallen short of true godliness] are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith ...”. [CAB] In 4:25, justification is the result of Christ’s resurrection, but here it is the result of his death. [NOAB]

Verse 10: In Galatians 2:20, Paul writes: “... the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”. [CAB]

Verse 10: “while we were enemies”: Perhaps Paul thinks partly of himself here, as a former persecutor of Christians.

Verse 11: In 1 Corinthians 1:30-31, Paul writes: “He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’”. [CAB]

Verse 11: “we have now received reconciliation”: In 3:21-22, Paul writes: “But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe”. [NOAB]

John 16:12-15

15:26-27: “the Advocate ... the Spirit of truth”: In Mark 13:11 Jesus describes the function of the Holy Spirit in these terms: “When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit”. Matthew 10:20 is similar. [NJBC]

15:26: “the Advocate”: BlkJn offers the Champion. The Greek word translated Advocate is parakletos, sometimes transliterated as Paraclete. While in 1 John 2:1 it refers to Christ, in John it refers to the Holy Spirit: see also 14:26 and 16:7. The Greek word is derived from a verb meaning call to one’s side. The Latin word advocatus has the same meaning, but there is a distinction to be made between the Greek and Roman judicial systems. In a Roman court, an advocatus pleaded a person’s case for him, but a Greek parakletos did not: in the Greek system, a person had to plead his own case, but he brought along his friends as parakletoi to influence the court by their moral support and testimony to his value as a citizen. BlkJn argues that the sense in John is of giving help – as is usually the sense in the New Testament, e.g. “console” in 2 Corinthians 1:4 and “exhort” in Romans 12:8. A Champion is one who supports by his presence and his words.

15:27: In Acts 1:8, Jesus says “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you ...”. The Church too is to witness, to work with the Holy Spirit, by living the life that Christ made possible, continuing Christ’s work in the world.

16:1-4a: A forewarning of conflict. It is to be expected that the world, even the religious world, will persecute the followers of Christ. See also Acts 22:3-5 (Paul’s defence in Jerusalem) and 26:9-11 (Paul before Agrippa II). [NOAB]

16:1: “from stumbling”: BlkJn offers be made to fall away (from the Faith).

16:2: “put you out of the synagogues ... those who kill you”: Charges of blasphemy and impiety have been laid against Jesus earlier by those thinking that “they are offering worship to God”: see 5:37b-38; 7:28; 8:27, 55. While some scholars see this as evidence that John was written in the last quarter of the first century, when the synagogue liturgy was changed to include a prayer that made participation by Jewish Christians impossible, an earlier date for John is reasonable on the following grounds:

  • Mark, Matthew and Luke all contain predictions of persecutions and of death for the faith (see, for example, Matthew 5:10; Mark 13:9; Luke 12:4, 11)
  • Jesus can be expected to forewarn his followers of persecution after his death
  • While the final breach between the Church and the synagogue should probably be dated after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, relations between the two were by no means cordial before that: see, for example, Paul’s exit from the synagogue in Corinth in Acts 18:5-17 and the martyrdom of James the Lord’s brother in Acts 12:2-3. [BlkJn]

Other scholars point to the persecution by Jews in Asia Minor found in Revelation 2:3 (Ephesus), 2:9 (Smyrna) and 3:9 (Philadelphia) as a context for a second episode of persecution that affected the Johannine community. Whatever the particulars, 15:18-16:4a presumes the hostility from the unbelieving world will be a permanent facet of Christian life. [NJBC]

16:2 “worship”: BlkJn offers service. He says that the Greek word conveys also the idea of worship. Many Christians today call their worship services.

16:3: “they have not known the Father or me”: For failure to know Christ or the Father, see also 1:10; 8:55; 17:25. Such people have an inadequate apprehension of the true nature and activity of the Father and of Jesus, with an inability to obey God’s will. [BlkJn]

Comments : Jesus’ statement “yet none of you asks me, ‘where are you going?’” (v. 5) seems strange because the disciples have asked the question earlier: It is possible that two alternative accounts of Jesus’ teaching at the Last Supper have been included, v. 5 being part of one account, and 13:36 and 14:5 being part of the other, and that the two accounts were reversed during editing.

16:6: This verse is the reverse of 15:11: “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete”. [NJBC]

16:6-7: “sorrow” at Jesus’ departure is transformed by “the truth” that his death and resurrection make possible the Spirit’s work. [NOAB]

16:7: “it is to your advantage that I go away”: This repeats the notion in 14:27b-28. [NJBC]

16:7: “if I do not go away ...”: 7:39 says “Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified” and in 14:16 he says “... I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever”. [JBC]

16:8: “prove the world wrong about sin ...”: BlkJn offers convict the world of sin. The Greek word he translates as convict is also found in 3:20, where the deeds of an evil person will be exposed for what they are. This is the activity of a judge and prosecuting attorney in one. Others argue that the word carries the connotation of educative discipline here, as in convince someone about something. The word is also found in 8:46; there the NRSV translates it as “convicts”. [NJBC]

16:8: “prove the world wrong about ... righteousness”: How will Christ convict unbelievers of righteousness? BlkJn says that the word translated “righteousness” (dikaiosune) is used only here in John, and may mean justification or acquittal. This is how Paul uses the word, as meaning moral uprightness. If this is what John intended, v. 10 speaks of those who come to belief in Christ: they will be acquitted because of Jesus’ resurrection. By this argument, the “judgement” is the condemnation which is the alterative to acquittal; unbelievers are condemned based on the devil already being condemned.

16:9: In 3:19-21, Jesus says “‘... this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed’”. In 1 Corinthians 2:8, Paul says “None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory”. Colossians 2:15 says that God “disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it [the cross].” [NOAB]

16:11: “ruler of this world”: In 12:31, Jesus says “‘Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out’” and in 14:30 he says “‘I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me’”. [NOAB] 8:42-47 tells us that those who seek to kill Jesus are doing the works of their father, the Devil. [NJBC]

16:12-15: As in 14:25-26, the Advocate plays an important role within the community; there Jesus says “‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you’”. [NJBC]

16:12: 13:7 tells us that the disciples are not ready to receive further teaching from Jesus: Peter has asked with surprise: “‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’”; Jesus answers: “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand’”. [BlkJn]

16:13: “Spirit of truth”: In 14:17, Jesus says “‘This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.’” and in 15:26 he says “‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf’”. [JBC]

16:13: “the Spirit of truth ... will guide you into all the truth”: Philo, in Life of Moses 2.265, speaks of a divine spirit guiding the mind to truth. Psalm 25:5 asks that God “lead me in your truth, and teach me ...”. The term “Spirit of truth” is also found in 14:17 and 15:26. 1 John 4:6 contrasts “the spirt of truth” with “the spirit of error”. 1 John 5:6 says that “the Spirit is the truth”. This terminology was current when John wrote; it is also found in 1QS (Qumran Rule of the Community) 3-4 and Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (even to using the same verbs for “testify” (15:26) and “guide”). There are differences in the theology, but there are sufficient parallels for it to be likely that John’s term “Spirit of truth” is a development from the usage in contemporary Judaism. [BlkJn]

16:13: “all the truth”: To NJBC, “truth” must have the same meaning here as in the rest of this gospel, i.e. belief in Jesus as the sole revelation of God and the one who speaks the words of God. In 8:40, Jesus describes himself as “a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God”. In 8:47, he tells some Pharisees: “Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God”. See also 3:20 and 3:33.

16:13: “declare to you”: The Greek verb is anangellein. In 4:25, the Samaritan woman speaks of the coming prophet in similar terms: “‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim [anangellein] all things to us’”. [NJBC]

16:13: “things that are to come”: The reference is not simply to prophecy but also to the interpretation of the life and death of Christ and the declaration of the new order which follows his departure to the Father. [BlkJn]

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