Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: First Sunday after Christmas - December 30, 2018

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.

1 Samuel 2:18-20,26

In this passage, there is counter-play between the progress of Samuel and the sins of Eli’s sons. Other counter-plays in the Bible are:

  • between Saul and David (2 Samuel 3:1: “There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David; David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker.”), and
  • between Jesus and John the Baptist (see John 3:30: “He must increase; I must decrease”). [ JBC]

Verse 18: “linen ephod”: Later, priests wore a more elaborate ephod. See Exodus 28:4-14. [ NOAB]

Verse 19: “yearly sacrifice”: The Day of Atonement liturgy is described in Leviticus 16. Elsewhere, the Law required men to make three pilgrimages each year. Exodus 23:14-17 says: “Three times in the year you shall hold a festival for me. You shall observe the festival of unleavened bread; as I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. ... You shall observe the festival of harvest, of the first fruits of your labour, of what you sow in the field. You shall observe the festival of ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labour. Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord GOD”. See also Exodus 34:23. [ CAB]

Verse 22: “tent of meeting”: The wording here may recall Exodus 38:8: “He [Bezalel] made the basin of bronze with its stand of bronze, from the mirrors of the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting”. In fact, by this time the temple at Shiloh was a building rather than a tent.

Verse 25: “for it was the will of the Lord to kill them”: Theological way of saying that God had to punish them. [ NOAB]

The sons of Eli were evil with respect to sacrificial meat in three ways:

  • They did not care which parts of the meat should go to the priests – they took what they pleased. (Leviticus 7:30 reserves “the breast” for the priests and Deuteronomy 18:3 “the shoulder, the two jowls, and the stomach” of sheep and oxen)
  • They were greedy: they took meat while it was still cooking.
  • They were arrogant: they demanded the meat raw, being unwilling to wait until God was honoured by the rite of burning the fat. [ JBC]

Psalm 148

This is a late communal hymn of praise to the Creator. Antecedents are the tradition of hymnody common to Israel and Mesopotamia: see Isaiah 44:23 and Psalm 103:20-22. [ NJBC] This psalm is related to the Benedicite (Song of the Three Children) in Daniel 3:52-90, Septuagint translation. [ JBC] (The NRSV presents these verses in the Apocrypha as Prayer of Azariah 29-68.)

Note the parallels between two sections, vv. 1-5 and 7-13: both sections begin with “Praise the Lord from the heavens/earth” and end with “Let them praise the name of the Lord”.

Verses 1-2: 103:20 is somewhat similar: “Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, obedient to his spoken word”. [ NJBC]

Verses 9-10: These verses consist of examples of merism: of each pair, one is cultivated and the other is uncultivated. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “above earth and heaven”: i.e. above everything. See also Genesis 1:1 (the beginning of the first creation story) and Genesis 2:4 (the second creation story). [ NJBC]

Verse 14: “horn”: This is perhaps a ram’s horn (Hebrew: shophar). It was used in worship (see 2 Chronicles 15:14) as well as in war (see Joshua 6:4-13, the taking of Jericho). To CAB, it is God’s special presence and effective purpose for and through his people: a psalmist writes in 89:17: “For you are the glory of their strength; by your favour our horn is exalted”. See also 132:17.

Colossians 3:12-17

Verses 1-17: This 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).

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

Verse 1: “have been raised with Christ”: i.e. in baptism. In 2:12, the author says “when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead”. See also Ephesians 5:14. [ CAB]

Verse 1: “seated at the right hand of God”: This creedal statement, based on Psalm 110:1 (“The Lord says to my lord ...”), was used in the early church to show that the messianic promises had been fulfilled in Christ. [ NJBC] Christ being at God’s right hand is also mentioned in Hebrews 1:3.

Verses 3-4: Although the resurrection has already taken place, all the conditions of the end-time are not present. There is still a gap between what is on earth and what is in heaven, and the fulfilment of the body of Christ is “hidden with Christ in God”; but, finally, Christ and the believers will appear in glory. [ NJBC] The close fellowship which exists between Christians and their Lord is not yet fully revealed, but will be only when Christ’s glory is fully revealed at the end of time. The author says in 3:4: “When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory”. See also 1 Corinthians 1:8-9. [ CAB]

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

Verse 4: 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 says: “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. [ CAB]

Verse 5: Lists of sins are common in Hellenic literature of the time, so there is no implication that the Colossian Christians 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; CD (Damascus Document) 4:17-19. There are several lists of vices and virtues in the New Testament (which are general and are not intended to offer instructions that are specific to the context in which they occur).

V. 5 enumerates sins of the body and passions, while v. 8 includes sins that would arise in the intellect. [ NJBC]

Verse 5: “fornication”: The Greek word porneia is used to refer to all forms of sexual immorality. It is also found in 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; 1 Thessalonians 4:7. [ CAB]

Verse 5: “impurity”: In the context, sexual impurity is meant. [ CAB]

Verse 5: “passion”: i.e. lust. [ CAB]

Verse 5: “evil desire”: i.e. self-centred covetousness, which is the basis of all sins. [ CAB]

Verse 5: “greed (which is idolatry)”: Ephesians 5:5 also connects the two words. [ CAB]

Verse 6: See also Romans 1:18-32: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth ...”. [ CAB]

Verse 7: Ephesians 2:1-2 says: “You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient”. [ CAB]

Verse 8: “anger”: Ephesians 4:26 advises: “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger”. See also Psalm 4:4 (where the word rendered as “disturbed” can be translated as angry). [ CAB]

Verse 8: “abusive language”: See also James 3:5-12 (“... the tongue is a small member ...”). [ CAB]

Verses 9-10: In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul writes: “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”: See Genesis 1:26-27 (“... Let us make humankind in our image ...”). See also 1 Corinthians 15:45-49; Ephesians 2:10; 4:24.

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 inter-testamental literature: 3 Maccabees 7:5 speaks of “cruelty more savage than that of Scythian custom”. See also 2 Maccabees 4:47 and 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. In renewal in Christ, ethnic and other divisive differences do not exist.

Verse 12: “compassion ... patience”: Lists of virtues (and of vices) are common in Greek philosophical writings, and are also found in the Dead Sea Scrolls: see 1QS (Rule of the Community) 4:3-5; CD (Damascus Document) 4:17-19.

1QS 4:2-11 says:

“These are their [the spirits of truth] paths in the world: to enlighten the heart of man, straighten out in front of him all the paths of justice and truth, establish in his heart respect for the precepts of God; it is a spirit of meekness, of patience, generous compassion, eternal goodness, intelligence, understanding, potent wisdom which trusts in all the deeds of God and depends on his abundant mercy; a spirit of knowledge in all the plans of action, of enthusiasm for the decrees of justice, of holy plans with firm purpose, of generous compassion with all the sons of truth, of magnificent purity which detests all unclean idols, of unpretentious behaviour with moderation in everything, of prudence in respect of the truth concerning the mysteries of knowledge. ... However, to the spirit of deceit belong greed, frailty of hands in the service of justice, irreverence, deceit, pride and haughtiness of heart, dishonesty, trickery, cruelty, much insincerity, impatience, much insanity, zealousness about wrong things, appalling acts performed in a lustful passion, filthy paths for indecent purposes, blasphemous tongue, blindness of eyes, hardness of hearing, stiffness of neck, hardness of heart in order to walk in all the paths of darkness and evil cunning. ...” [ Martinez]

CD 4:15-19 says:

“These are Belial’s [Satan’s] three nets ... in which he catches Israel and makes them appear before them like three types of justice. The first is fornication; the second, wealth; the third, defilement of the temple. He who eludes one is caught in another and he who is freed from that, is caught in another ...” [ Martinez]

Verse 12: “compassion”: See also 2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 2:7; Mark 8:2. [ CAB]

Verse 12: “kindness”: See also Galatians 5:22-23, 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Peter 1:5-7, 2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 2:7. [ CAB]

Verse 12: “humility”: See also 2:18, 23; Philippians 2:3. [ CAB]

Verse 12: “meekness”: See also Galatians 6:1; 2 Timothy 2:25. [ CAB]

Verse 12: “patience”: See also 2 Corinthians 6:6; Galatians 5:22; 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 14: “love”: Born out of God’s love. See also Romans 13:8-10; 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13; 1 John 4:19. [ CAB]

Verse 15: “the peace of Christ”: In John 14:27, Jesus tells his 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”. See also Ephesians 2:14 and 2 Thessalonians 3:16. [ CAB]

Verse 16: “word”: The word in Greek is logos, as in John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”.

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

Luke 2:41-52

There may be a parallel in this story with one in Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews. While 1 Samuel 3 does not tell us the age at which Samuel began to prophesy, Josephus says that it was at age 12. [ NJBC]

Verses 41-43: See 1 Samuel 1:3, 21; 2:19 for allusions to Elkanah and Hannah, who also made annual pilgrimages (to the temple at Shiloh). [ NJBC]

Verse 41: “Passover”: The regulations for Passover are in Exodus 23:17ff; 34:22-23; Leviticus 23:4-14; Deuteronomy 16 [ NJBC]. Leaven (yeast) was seen as associated with fermentation and thus corruption (1 Corinthians 5:8). The Festival of Unleavened Bread, seven days in length, originally followed the one-day Passover celebration. Leavened bread was forbidden during this festival to mark the beginning of the grain harvest. In their haste to leave Egypt, the Israelites could not wait for the dough to rise: see Exodus 12:14-20; 34-39. By the time of Jesus, the two festivals had been combined. See also 22:1.

Jews were required to make three pilgrimages to Jerusalem each year: Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. Rabbis were divided on whether women and children were required to participate. Those who lived far from Jerusalem were customarily excused from the pilgrimages at Pentecost and Tabernacles. [ JBC]

Verse 46: “three days”: A possible symbolic reference to the three days Jesus was in the tomb. “Three days” also occurs in 9:22 (between Jesus’ death and his resurrection); 13:32 (Jesus says: “on the third day I finish my work”); 18:33; 24:7, 21; 1 Corinthians 15:4. [ JBC]

Verse 47: Recall v. 40: “The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him.”. See also v. 52 and 1:80; 2:40; 1 Samuel 2:26. [ NJBC]

Verses 48-51: See also Mark 3:31-35, where Jesus says: “‘Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother’”. [ CAB]

Verse 49: “must”: The Greek word is dei. Dei is used 18 times in Luke and 22 times in Acts. [ NJBC]

Verse 49: “be in my Father’s house”: The Greek is difficult. Other possible translations are be involved in my Father’s affairs and be among those belonging to my Father. [ NJBC] One scholar says that be involved ... is favoured by the Greek construction in such texts as Matthew 16:23; John 8:29; 9:4; 14:31. [ JBC]

Verses 50-51: 2:19 says: “But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart”. [ CAB]

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