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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: The Ascension of our Lord - May 29, 2014



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.

Acts 1:1-11

Verses 1-2: In Luke 1:2-4, Luke writes: “Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed”. [ NOAB]

Verse 2: “the apostles whom he had chosen”: This parallels Luke 6:13, the selection of the Twelve, yet it also looks back to Luke 24:44-49, Jesus’ followers receive the risen Lord’s final instructions. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “many convincing proofs”: Some are in Luke 24:13-53. [ NOAB]

Verse 3: “forty days”: The Septuagint translation furnishes precedents for such a rounded period of preparation, e.g. Exodus 24:18; 34:28 (Moses); 1 Kings 19:8 (Elijah); Numbers 13:25; 14:34 (preparation for crossing into the Promised Land) – and closer at hand, Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, an event that precedes his first preaching. So the number represents sufficient time for the witnesses’ preparation. Fifty, as forty plus the “not many days from now” (v. 5) is the number of days from Passover to Jewish Pentecost and from Easter to Christian Pentecost. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “speaking about the kingdom of God”: A constant theme of Jesus’ teaching. See, for example, Luke 4:43; 8:1; 9:11. It also a theme of the first missionaries, the Seventy, in Luke 10:1-9. [ NJBC]

Verse 4: “staying”: NJBC points out that the Greek word can also be translated as eating. He says that this meaning is more probable, given Luke 24:43 and Acts 10:41.

Verse 4: “not to leave Jerusalem”: Jesus also commands this in Luke 24:49. Jerusalem is the spiritual symbol of continuity between the times of Jesus and that of the Church. [ NJBC]

Verse 4: “the promise of the Father”: This fills out, and varies, the reprise of Luke 24:49. The promise will be announced in 2:33; it is mentioned as fulfilled in Galatians 3:14 and Ephesians 1:13. [ NJBC]

Verse 5: For John the Baptizer’s prediction that the Messiah would baptise people with the Holy Spirit, see Mark 1:8; Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16; John 1:33. The notion is also found in the Qumran literature. The conjunction of water baptism and outpouring of the Spirit (see Ezekiel 36:25-26 and John 7:37-39) will recur in 2:38; 8:14-16; 10:47-48; 19:5-6. [ NJBC]

Verses 6-11: These verses follow Luke 24:50-51. [ NOAB]

Verse 6: “they”: This is probably more than the Eleven.

Verse 6: “restore the kingdom”: Comments quotes Luke 1:32. Prophecies are found in Jeremiah 33:7; Psalms 14:7; 85:1; Hosea 6:11; Sirach 48:10. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “times or periods”: See also 1 Thessalonians 5:1 (“the times and the seasons”). Acts 3:20-21 expands these words: “so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus, who must remain in heaven until the time of universal restoration that God announced long ago through his holy prophets”. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “you will be my witnesses”: Of the restoration of the Kingdom. For the apostles as witnesses, see also Luke 24:46-48; Acts 1:22; 2:32. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “in Jerusalem, ... to the ends of the earth”:This is the movement of Acts – to Rome, so Rome is at the end in a religious sense. [ BlkActs]

Verse 8: “to the ends of the earth”: Isaiah 49:6, a verse in the second Servant Song, says “... I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth”. See also Acts 13:47. [ NJBC]

Verses 9-11: For direct verbal echoes, see 2 Kings 2:9-13 (Elijah’s ascension) and Sirach 48:9, 12. While only Luke tells us the story of the Ascension, there are other possible traces of the tradition of the Ascension in Ephesians 4:8-10; 1 Timothy 3:16; John 20:17; Epistle of Barnabas 15:9. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “a cloud”: See also Exodus 33:7-11 (Moses meets with God) and Mark 9:7 (the Transfiguration).

Verse 10: “two men in white”: See also Luke 9:30, 34 (the Transfiguration, “Moses and Elijah”); 24:4-9 (the empty tomb). Such figures are semi-divine and are especially associated with the Last Days: see also Mark 9:3 and 1 Enoch 62:15ff. [ NJBC]

Verse 11: “will come in the same way”: This suggests that the Ascension and the second coming bound the present era. Jesus says in Luke 21:27: “‘Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory’”. [ NJBC]

Verse 12: “Olivet”: i.e. the Mount of Olives. [ NOAB] It is the site of Yahweh’s victory at the end of time: Zechariah 14:4 says “On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives, which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley; so that one half of the Mount shall withdraw northward, and the other half southward”. [ BlkActs]

Verse 12: “a sabbath day’s journey”: i.e. 1 km (half a mile). [ NOAB]

Verse 13: The list of disciples is the same as in Luke 6:14-16 (less Judas), but in a different order. [ NOAB] The first three (Peter, John and James) are those about whom we hear more in Acts: see 3:1-11; 4:13, 19; 8:14; 12:2. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “the room upstairs”: This may be the one in which the Last Supper was held. 12:12 tells us that the house of Mark’s mother was “where many had gathered and were praying”, so perhaps this house was where Jesus’ followers gathered. [ BlkActs]

Verse 14: This is the first of the summaries in Acts, and probably idealizes, as do the others. It seems that the NRSV translates homothymadon as together , but it really means with one accord. REB offers All these with one accord were constantly at prayer, together with a group of women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. Homothymadon is also found in other summaries: at 2:46; 4:24; 5:12. [ NJBC]

Verse 14: “All”: The wider group around the Eleven harks back to Luke. After Jesus dies, Luke tells us that “all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things” (Luke 23:49). It is to “the eleven and to all the rest” that Mary Magdalene and other women tell the news about the empty tomb (Luke 24:9). When Cleopas and the other two followers return to Jerusalem, they find “the eleven and their companions gathered together” (Luke 24:33). [ NJBC]

Verse 14: “Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers”: They have been mentioned in Luke 8:19-21. This is the only mention of them in Acts except for Jesus’ brother James (who is not identified as such) in Acts 15:13 (the Council of Jerusalem). We know that this James is Jesus’ brother from Paul, in Galatians 1:19; 2:1-12. [ NJBC] [ HBD]

Verse 14: “his brothers”: Matthew 13:55 tells us that, when Jesus taught in the synagogue in Nazareth, one of the questions people asked was: And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?”. [ NOAB] Jesus’ brothers had not believed in him during his earthly ministry but are now members of the Church. [ BlkActs]

Psalm 47

Superscription: “Of the Korahites”: The Korahites were the Levitical group responsible for singing in the Temple (2 Chronicles 20:19). They are also mentioned in the superscriptions of Psalms 42; 44-46; 48-49; 84; 85; 87-88. [ CAB]

Verse 2: “the Most High”: The Hebrew is elyon. El Elyon was the chief Canaanite deity. 97:9 says: “For you, O Lord , are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.”. [ NJBC] The Israelites did pick up and adapt material from the Canaanites.

Verse 4: “Selah”: This is probably a liturgical direction, added to the original text of the psalm. It may mean lift up, either to indicate the lifting up of the voices of the singers in a doxology, or to call for lifted-up instrumental music in an interlude in the singing. [ NOAB]

Selah is one of the greatest puzzles of the Old Testament. Its meaning seems to be connected with rising or lifting. But it is not clear whether the congregation rises or lifts up its hands, head, or eyes, or whether the music rises at the indicated points. The word probably indicates that the singing should stop to allow the congregation an interlude for presenting its homage to God by some gesture or act of worship. [ ICCPs]

Selah is also found 74 times in 39 psalms in the book of Psalms and three times in Habakkuk 3 (part of a psalm preserved there).

Verses 3-4: These verses recall the event of the conquest of the Promised Land as well as the more recent imperial expansion under David. [ NJBC]

Verse 5: “has gone up”: The Hebrew word, ‘ala , strongly suggests a cultic rite in which the Ark would have been carried in procession. In 2 Samuel 6:15, when the Ark was returned by the Philistines. “... David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet”.

Verse 7: “a psalm”: The Hebrew word is maskil, perhaps indicating a particular kind of psalm. [ NOAB]

Verse 9: “gather as”: JBC says that it is possible that representatives of other nations could have shared in the liturgical celebration. On gather to (see Comments), 2 Samuel 8:2 tells us: “He [David] ... defeated the Moabites ... the Moabites became servants to David and brought tribute”. See also 2 Samuel 8:6, 10-12; Isaiah 2:2-3. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “shields”: This word also occurs in 84:9 (“Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed”) and in 89:18 (“For our shield belongs to the Lord, our king to the Holy One of Israel”). These verses support the idea that “shields” means rulers. [ JBC]

Psalm 93

This is the first of enthronement psalms, the others being 94-99. [ NJBC]

Comments: the Festival of Booths, a time when the Law was read to the people: For the commandment, see Deuteronomy 31:10-13. [ NOAB]

Verse 4: For God’s rule being based on his control over the powers of chaos, symbolized by the waters of the sea, see also 74:12-17; 104:7-9; Job 38:8-11. [ NOAB]

Verse 5: “holiness befits your house”: NOAB says that this means your Temple is holy. NJBC says that this clause is difficult. He suggests that it may mean In Yahweh’s house [Temple] the holy ones [the gods] will laud you.

Ephesians 1:15-23

Verse 13: “you also”: You Gentiles, as well as we Jews. [ NOAB]

Verse 15: Colossians 1:4 is very similar: “... we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints”. In Philemon 5, Paul writes: “I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith toward the Lord Jesus”. [ CAB]

Verse 16: In Romans 1:9, Paul writes: “God, whom I serve with my spirit by announcing the gospel of his Son, is my witness that without ceasing I remember you always in my prayers”. Colossians 1:3 says: “In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”. See also Philemon 4. [ CAB]

Verse 17: “Father of glory”: This phrase occurs only here in the New Testament, but in Acts 7:2 Stephen speaks of the “God of glory” and in 1 Corinthians 2:8 Paul writes of the “ Lord of glory”.

Verse 18: “saints”: This word has various meanings in Ephesians. Here it means angels with whom the earthly congregation has been joined in Christ. This thought has close parallels in the Qumran literature: see 1QSb (Rule of the Community: Blessings) 3:25-4:26; 1QH (Hymns) 11:21-23 ( Vermes: 3:21-23). In vv. 1 and 15, it means the earthly congregation. [ NJBC]

Verse 19: “greatness of his power”: In the Qumran literature, see 1QH (Hymns) 12:32 ( Vermes: 4:32); 1QS (Rule of the Community) 11:19-20. [ NJBC]

Verses 20-23: God’s might is revealed in the resurrection and ascension of Christ, and in his exaltation over angelic forces. The author uses early Christian creedal statements that formulate the Christ-event in terms of Psalm 110:1 and 8:6 to impress on readers the glorious position to which they have been called in Christ. [ NJBC]

Verse 20: “in Christ”: This phrase occurs frequently throughout this letter in contexts referring to the unity of Jews and Gentiles (e.g. 1:4; 2:13; 3:11). It speaks of Paul’s sense of the Christian community, i.e. the fellowship of those whose fellowship in Christ gives them mutual benefits and sets common standards. See also 1 Corinthians 1:13 (“Has Christ been divided? ...”); 12:12 (“... just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ”); Galatians 3:16. [CAB]

Verse 20: “in the heavenly places”: Can also be translated among heavenly beings. An expression found only in this letter ( 1:3; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12), referring to the unseen world behind and above the material universe. [ NOAB]

Verse 21: In 1 Corinthians 15:24, Pauls writes: “Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power”. Colossians 1:16 says: “... in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him”. See also Philippians 2:9-11. [ CAB]

Verse 21: “rule and authority ...”: Created heavenly entities presented as angelic beings subordinate to Christ, perhaps thought of by the first readers as rivals to Christ or beings whose power supplemented that of Christ. Such a belief grew out of the complex and highly developed angelology widespread at the time. [ NJBC] See also 3:10; 6:12; Colossians 2:10, 15; Romans 8:38. [ CAB]

Verses 22-23: The Church, as the “fulness of Christ”, is the complement of his mystic person; he is the “head”; the Church is “his body”. [ NOAB]

Verse 22: “he has put all things under his feet”: This is an allusion to Psalm 8:6: “You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet”. Psalm 8 extols the glory of Adam over creation. Christ is the new Adam, the head of the new humanity, who has brought to virtual completion Adam’s (humanity’s) assignment by God to dominate the universe (see Genesis 1:28 and Hebrews 2:6-9).

Verses 22-23: “head ... body”: This is a development of the Pauline concept of many diverse members forming the body of Christ: see 1 Corinthians 12:12-17. The church is beneficiary of God’s all-embracing plan, and, as beneficiary of his lordship over all things and over all angelic powers, the Church – Christ’s body – shares in the dominion of its head. [ NJBC]

Verse 22: “the church”: i.e. the church throughout the world, the universal church, rather than a local congregation. [ CAB]

Verse 23: 3:19 says: “... to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” and 4:13 “until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ”. [ CAB]

Verse 23: “the fullness of him who fills all”: The Greek is difficult. Perhaps Christ is the source and goal of the body’s growth, as described in 4:15-16. “Who fills all” can be translated as “who is being filled with all”. Thus several Patristic authors ( Origen, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Chrysostom) read this; they interpreted it as meaning that all things created contribute to the fullness of Christ. However, Old Testament usage would favour the active sense (as in the NRSV) when speaking of God: in Jeremiah 23:24, Yahweh says through the prophet: “Do I not fill heaven and earth?”. See also Ezekiel 43:5. [ JBC]

Luke 24:44-53

It is possibly still Easter Day. V. 13 begins “On that same day ...”

Verse 44: Jesus has also interpreted the scriptures to Cleopas and the two other followers on the road to Emmaus: see vv. 26-27. In Acts 28:23, we read that Paul tried to convince the Jews of Rome “about Jesus both from the law of Moses and from the prophets” (but note that the psalms are not mentioned). [ NOAB]

Verse 44: “while I was still with you”: This clause shows that Jesus’ presence now is different from that before the resurrection. [ JBC]

Verse 45: In v. 32, those who had seen Jesus on the road to Emmaus say to each other: “‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’”. [ NOAB] Luke tells us what he means by understanding in two verses: “But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying” (Luke 9:45) and “But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said” (Luke 18:34).

Verses 46-47: “Thus it is written ...”: Here are some passages of which Jesus may have been thinking:

  • “the Messiah is to suffer”: Isaiah 50:6 (in the third Servant Song) says: “I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting”. Isaiah 53:7 (in the fourth Servant Song) says “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted ... like a lamb that is led to the slaughter”. See also Psalm 22 (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? ...”).
  • “rise from the dead on the third day”: Hosea 6:2 says “After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him”.
  • “forgiveness”: Isaiah 53:6 says “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all”.
  • “to all nations”: In Isaiah 49:6 (in the second Servant Song), Yahweh says through the prophet: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth”. [ CCB] [ NOAB]

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 speaks of Jesus dying, being buried, and being “raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures”. [ NOAB]

Verse 47: In Matthew 28:19, Jesus commissions his disciples to seek the conversion of all peoples, and to baptise them. [ NOAB] Jesus the Messiah preaches to “all nations” through Paul and the Church: see Acts 26:23. [ NJBC]

Verse 47: “beginning from Jerusalem”: This phrase may belong to v. 48. [ NOAB] The Bible was divided into verses many centuries after it was written.

Verse 48: In 1:2, Luke states that he writes based on the testimony of eyewitnesses. “You” here in Luke is “the eleven and their companions” (v. 33) and, considering that we are reading Luke, includes women. [ NJBC]

Verses 49-51: “Bethany”: This is the village near Jerusalem from which Jesus began his triumphal entry: see 19:28-38.

Verse 49: “what my Father promised ... clothed with power from on high”. Acts 2:1-4 tell of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In John 14:26, Jesus promises that the Father will send the Holy Spirit. In John 20:21-23, Jesus sends out the disciples, confers the Holy Spirit on them, and gives them authority to forgive sins. The new age has begun but its power is not yet freely felt. Joel 2:28-32 foretells that God will “pour out my spirit” “on the day of the Lord”. [ NOAB]

Verse 50: “led them out”: The verb Luke uses is the same as appears in the Septuagint translation to describe God's leading the people from Egyptian slavery in the Exodus. Jesus is about to complete his exodus to his Father. [ NJBC]

Verses 52-53: Luke gives us more details in Acts 1:12-14: “Then [after Jesus’ ascension] they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day's journey away. When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers”. [ NOAB]

Verse 52: “they worshipped him”: The christological high point of vv. 36-53, indeed of the entire Gospel, has been reached, for this is the first and only time that Luke says that the disciples worship Jesus. Luke's christology is close to that of John 20:28. [ NJBC]

Verse 53: “in the temple”: For Luke, the Temple is the bond of continuity between old and new. The primitive community of Acts is found worshipping in the Temple: see Acts 2:46; 3. [ NJBC]

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