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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Good Friday - April 14, 2017



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.

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

The term “servant” occurs many times in Deutero-Isaiah with many different meanings. So why do scholars pick out the Servant Songs as special? Outside these Songs, much is said about the servant that is negative, e.g. he is a worm (see 41:14), despised, rebellious, blind and deaf. He feels that God has forgotten him or deserted him (see 40:27 and 49:14). But in the Servant Songs he is passive (see 42:2-3) and has a mission to Israel, and possibly to other nations (see 49:6).

The Servant Songs interrupt the larger development of Deutero-Isaiah. Chapters 40-55 have been much edited, with adjacent lines misplaced and other lines appearing as comments. When scholars remove the Servant Songs and these fragments, Deutero-Isaiah reads smoothly and the Servant Songs show theological development. For example, the trial scene begun in 41:21-29 continues in 42:8-9.

Who is the servant in the Servant Songs? In 49:3, he is identified as “Israel” but three verses later he is to “raise up Jacob”, i.e. Israel, so “Israel” must be a comment added by a later editor. The servant is definitely one or more people faithful to God, unlike others. One scholarly view is that he is the prophet himself and that the Songs describe his ministry. Other scholars suggest that the servant is a faithful remnant of Israelites or the ideal Israelite.

For Christians, the servant is the key to understanding Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection as redemption for all nations. The faith to see the connection between the servant and Jesus was given to the disciples.

Pre-Christian Jewish tradition interpreted this song as being messianic, but expiatory suffering does not seem to have been part of official Judaism’s messianic doctrine. Jesus uniquely combined the suffering servant theme with the messianic concept of the Son of Man. The New Testament identifies Jesus as the suffering servant at his baptism (see Mark 1:11 and John 1:34), in his miracles (see Matthew 8:17) and in his humility (see Matthew 12:16-21). John 12:37-43 sums up Jesus’ public ministry in the words of the servant. The servant theme is attributed to Jesus in Acts 3:13, 36; 4:27, 30; 8:32 and in the hymns of the early Church (see Philippians 2:7 and 1 Peter 2:21-25). Paul, however, adapts it to himself in Acts 13:47; Galatians 1:15; Romans 15:21. [ Boadt] [ NJBC] [ CCB]

The other three Servant Songs are 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-11. [ NOAB]

52:13-15: God will exalt his crucified disfigured Servant (taken here to be Israel) to the numbed astonishment of the world’s rulers. 49:7 says: “Thus says the Lord , the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers, ‘Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you’”. See also 49:23. [ NOAB]

52:13: “exalted and lifted up”: The same Hebrew words appear in 6:1, Isaiah’s commissioning: “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty ...”. [ NIVSB]

52:14: “many”: The Hebrew word means beyond all counting , “in number like the sand on the seashore” (see Joshua 11:4). The same Hebrew word is used there. It appears in our reading five times. [ NJBC]

52:14: “beyond human semblance”: In Psalm 22:6, a psalmist speaks of himself as “not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people”. [ NIVSB]

52:15: “startle”: This is a translation of the word used in the Septuagint. The Masoretic Text translates it as sprinkle. This may either be the sprinkling of cleansing (see Leviticus 14:17) or that of consecration (see Leviticus 8:11). [ NIVSB]

52:15: “kings shall shut their mouths ...”: Even though they have not heard the prophesy, kings will understand the mission of the servant when they see his humiliation and exaltation. This contrasts with what Yahweh commands Isaiah to do in 6:9-10: “Go and say to this people: ‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.’ Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed”. [ NIVSB] Paul quotes the end of this verse in Romans 15:21. [ NOAB]

53:1-3: A report starting with rhetorical (or paradoxical) questions, a device also used in 40:12 and 50:8-10. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

53:1a: Paul quotes this half verse in Romans 10:16. [ NIVSB] John the evangelist tells us in John 12:38: “This [the lack of belief of those who heard Jesus and saw his signs] was to fulfill the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah: ‘Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’”. [ NOAB]

53:1: John the evangelist tells us in John 12:38: “This [the lack of belief of those who heard Jesus and saw his signs] was to fulfill the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah: ‘Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’”. [ NOAB]

53:1: “what we have heard”: This may be (or include) the good news in 52:7-10. [ NIVSB]

53:2: “young plant ... root”: These are sometimes considered to be messianic illusions. 11:1-2 says “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 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” and 11:10 “On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious”. Jeremiah 23:5 says: “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land”. [ NOAB]

53:2: “form”: The Hebrew word can mean beauty or comeliness. It is used of David in 1 Samuel 16:18 (Jesse presents his three sons to Samuel). [ NIVSB]

53:3: Job speaks of his loneliness and isolation from the community in somewhat similar terms in Job 19:13-19. [ NOAB] The servant relives the persecuted role of Jeremiah. See Jeremiah 15:17. [ NJBC]

53:4: “we”: Some Israelites, won over by the servant, repent of their persecution of him. He bears their infirmities and even becomes their sin-offering. [ NJBC]

53:4a: By the servant’s vicarious sufferings, he restores all people to God. In Matthew 8:17, the evangelist tells us that Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law “... was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah”, specifically this half verse. See also 1 Peter 2:24-25. [ NOAB]

53:4: “stricken”: Genesis 12:17 tells us of Yahweh afflicting the Pharaoh and his household with plagues. The Hebrew word translated “afflicted” is the same as here, and in 2 Kings 15:5 (Jeroboam).

53:5: “wounded”: NJBC says that the Hebrew word is strong, and offers thrust through as a translation. John 19:34 tells us that, when the soldiers saw that Jesus was dead, “one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out”. [ NIVSB]

53:5: “transgressions”: NJBC offers offenses, meaning rebellion against God’s personal concern.

53:5: “the punishment”: NJBC offers chastisement and says that the sense is of the disciplinary or educative power of suffering. For God teaching repentance through calamity evoked by sin, see Jeremiah 2:19, 30; Ezekiel 5:15; Isaiah 3:2, 7.

53:6: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way”: Isaiah 40:11 foretells of God: “He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep”. See also Jeremiah 50:6 and Ezekiel 34:5. [ NJBC]

53:6: “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all”: As the high priest laid the sins of the people on the scapegoat on the annual Day of Atonement: see Leviticus 16:21. [ NIVSB]

53:6: “laid on him”: The word used in the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew, paradidomi, became a technical term. It was used in Christian kerygma to designate God’s handling over of his Son to death. It is translated as “betrayed” in Matthew 17:22 and as “delivered” in John 8:30, 35, Acts 3:13, 1 Corinthians 11:23. [ NJBC]

53:7-8: These are the verses that the Ethiopian eunuch reads: see Acts 8:32-33. [ NOAB]

53:7: “did not open his mouth”: The servant’s silence is most unusual, for people in agony usually cry aloud. [ NJBC]

53:8: “future”: NJBC says that the Hebrew word literally means state or change of fortune ; however JB points out that the Hebrew word means generation, so the meaning is unclear. Acts 8:33 translates this question as “Who can describe his generation?”.

53:9: “wicked ... rich”: There is word-play here in the Hebrew. The parallelism makes clear that the prophet associates the rich with the wicked (as did other Old Testament writers) because they acquired their wealth by wicked means or trusted in wealth rather than in God. [ NIVSB]

53:10: “his life an offering for sin”: The usual offering for sin, prescribed in Leviticus 5:5-16, was a ram. [ NIVSB] For “offering”, the Septuagint has ransom, the word found in Mark 10:45. Note that the servant’s offering is not just for sins inadvertently committed (the only kind that could be forgiven per Mosaic law: see Leviticus 4-5) but even for willfully committed sin. [ NJBC]

53:11: “make many righteous”: NJBC offers share his own goodness with many.

53:12: “was numbered with the transgressors”: This is quoted by Jesus in Luke 22:37: “ For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted among the lawless’; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled”. [ NIVSB]

Psalm 22

Verses 1-2: Cry for help. [ NOAB]

Verse 1a: Jesus quoted this half verse on the cross: see Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: In 18:41, a psalmist says of his enemies: “They cried for help, but there was no one to save them; they cried to the Lord, but he did not answer them”. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: NJBC suggests either You sit enthroned among the holy ones [the divine council] or in the holy place [the divine council].

Verses 12-18: A description of the psalmist’s condition.[NOAB]

Verses 12-13: The detractors behave like savage wild animals. [ NOAB]

Verse 12: “bulls of Bashan”: Bashan was a fertile area, northeast of the Sea of Galilee, famous for its fine livestock. “Cows of Bashan” are mentioned in Amos 4:1. [ NOAB]

Verses 14-15,17-18: A vivid account of the poet’s fever and resulting weakness. [ NOAB]

Verse 16: “dogs”: i.e. enemies. They are called “lion” and “wild oxen” in v. 21. [ NOAB]

Verse 16b: The meaning, in the context of the psalm, is unknown. NJBC says that the Hebrew literally means like a lion my hands and feet . He suggests either they have pierced my hands and my feet or they have picked clean my hands and my feet or the NRSV translation.

Verse 18: The psalmist is so near death that his neighbours have already begun to divide his property. [ NOAB]

Verses 19-21: A prayer for healing and deliverance from slanderers. [ NOAB]

Verse 21: Note that the animals whom the detractors emulate in vv. 12-13 are those from which God saves the psalmist in this verse – in reverse order.

Verse 22: For formal thanksgiving in the liturgical assembly, see also v. 25 and 7:17. The psalmist’s thanksgiving will probably include a sacrifice. [ NOAB]

Verses 23-31: The hymn that will be sung in the Temple on this occasion. [ NOAB]

Verses 29-31: God will not only rescue the psalmist but also all nations and those who have died. [ CAB] The psalmist’s call to all Israelites to join him in praising God now widens to include all humankind. [ NJBC]

Hebrews 10:16-25

Verse 1: “shadow”: The sense here is foreshadow, rather than the Platonic heavenly-earthly contrast in 8:5 (“a sanctuary that is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly one”). The “good things to come” will come through Christ. Colossians 2:17 says: “These [dietary laws, Jewish feasts, etc.] are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ”. The annual sacrifices on the Day of Atonement were not able to remove sin; they simply foreshadowed the sacrifice of Jesus. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: The author’s argument is weak: even though past sins were taken away, there were still the sins committed since a year ago. But it is merely an overstatement of what the author’s faith assures him to be true. [ NJBC]

Verses 3-4: The Day of Atonement rituals reminded worshippers of their sins, but did not erase them. This statement of the inefficacy of the annual sacrifices contradicts the belief expressed in Jubilees 5:17-18. But is not clear whether it is God or the worshipper who remembers the sins. That it is God who remembers is suggested by 8:12; there God says “‘I will remember their sins no more’”; however, the author would then be saying that the sacrifices served only to remind God of sin (and thus call forth punishment on the offerer). [ NJBC]

Verses 5-7: The quotation is Psalm 40:6-7. The text roughly follows the Septuagint translation. In Psalms, “me” is the psalmist (or possibly Israel in exile); here “me” is Christ at his incarnation. The psalm speaks of ritual being inferior to obedience, rather than repudiation of sacrifice (as here). The majority of manuscripts of the Septuagint have for v. 6b: a body you prepared for me rather than “you have given me an open ear” (which is from the Masoretic text). The Septuagint translation is particularly applicable to Jesus, whose obedience was expressed by his willingness to give his body, himself. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “ sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings”: These terms are probably meant to cover the four main types of sacrifice: respectively peace offerings, cereal offerings, holocausts, and sin offerings (including guilt offerings). [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “the first”: i.e. the sacrifices prescribed in “the law” (v. 8). [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “the second”: i.e. the self-offering of Jesus. [ NJBC]

Verse 10: “God’s will”, carried out by Christ, is his offering of his body, which God “prepared” (v. 5) for him. [ NJBC]

Verse 11: “every priest stands day after day”: This indicates that the author has switched from considering the high priest’s sacrifice to that of every priest in the Old Testament. [ NJBC]

Verses 12-13: The quotation is Psalm 110:1, a verse also quoted in 1:3; 8:1; 12:2. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “wait ...”: Thus the author explains the period of time between Christ’s enthronement and his second coming. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “enemies”: The author does not tell us who they are, unlike Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:24-26: “ after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power” and “death”. [ NJBC]

Verse 14: “sanctified”: Through the cleansing of the consciences that they may worship the living God ( 9:14), Jesus has given his followers access to the Father; they share in his priestly consecration. [ NJBC] The priesthood of all believers is in view.

Verses 16-17: The quotation is Jeremiah 31:33-34. These verses are also quoted in 8:8-12. [ NJBC]

Verse 19: “confidence to enter the sanctuary”: In 3:6, the author writes: “we are his [Christ’s] house if we hold firm the confidence and the pride that belong to hope”. See also 4:16; 6:19-20. [ NJBC]

Verse 20: “opened”: The Greek word, enkainizo, can also mean inaugurate or dedicate. It is translated as inaugurate in 9:18.

Verse 20: As the “curtain” before the Holy of Holies was an obstacle to entering it, so too was Christ’s “flesh” (Greek: sarx). Perhaps the author is thinking of the rending of the Temple veil at the death of Jesus: see Mark 15:38. [ NJBC]

Verses 22-24: “faith ... hope ... love”: The triad may be intended. [ NJBC]

Verse 22: “sprinkled clean”: A metaphor for the purifying power of Christ (see 9:13). Jewish ritual sprinkling only produced external purity, but those washed with the blood of Christ are cleansed in their consciences. [ NJBC]

Verse 22: “washed with pure water”: Probably a reference to baptism. See also 1 Corinthians 6:11 and Titus 3:5. [ NJBC]

Verse 25: While reticence to gather for worship may have been for fear of persecution, it is more likely that it was due to lack of enthusiasm for the faith, bordering on apostasy: part of the reason Hebrews was written. [ NJBC]

Verse 25: “the Day”: of Christ’s second coming. See also Acts 1:10-11 (the Ascension); Philippians 2:16; Romans 13:12; 1 Corinthians 3:13. [ NJBC]

Verses 26-31: These verses tell of the fate of the person who willfully sins. He has a “fearful prospect of judgement”: if you know about Christ and willfully reject him, you will be punished by God!

Verse 26: “willfully ... sin”: The sin is that of turning away from Christ, as v. 29 shows. [ NJBC]

Verse 28: Idolatry is probably the violation of the Law. Deuteronomy 17:2-7 prescribes the death penalty for this sin if confirmed by “two or three witnesses”. [ NJBC]

Hebrews 4:14-16;5:7-9

2:14-15: The eternal Son added being a human being (“flesh and blood”) in order to overcome the devil and to free humanity from death. In Romans 6:23, Paul writes: “... the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”. [ NOAB] The conception that death was no part of God’s plan for human beings and that it had been brought into the world by the devil was held in Hellenistic Judaism: see Wisdom 1:13; 2:23-24. Because of that connection between sin and death, the power of death was broken when Christ, through his high-priestly work, removed sin (v. 17). The paradox that death was nullified by Christ’s death is similar to Paul’s statement in Romans 8:3 that God condemned sin by sending his Son “in the likeness of sinful flesh”. [ NJBC]

Wisdom of Solomon 1:13 says: “because God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living” and 2:23-24: he “and made us in the image of his own eternity, but through the devil's envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it ”.

2:15: “fear of death”: The fear here is of severance of one’s relationship with God, and that death, being connected with sin, is more than a physical evil. Psalm 115:17 says “The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any that go down into silence”. See also Isaiah 38:18 (the “Pit” being Sheol). In 1 Corinthians 15:26, Paul says: “The last enemy to be destroyed [by Christ] is death”. The fear that Jesus felt at the prospect of his death can be explained only by his realizing that death is more than a physical evil. By his death, the way to unending life with God was opened to all who obey him. [ NJBC]

2:16: “did not come to help”: The Greek is in the present tense, so the help is continuing, rather than just in the single event of incarnation. [ NJBC]

2:16: “descendants of Abraham”: i.e. those who follow Christ. [ NJBC]

2:17: As high priest, the Son is both sympathetic (“merciful”) and trustworthy (“faithful”) “to make a sacrifice of atonement” continually for the “sins” that bring death and the fear of it to God’s “people”. [ NOAB]

2:17: “merciful and faithful”: Tradition demanded that a high priest be “faithful”: see 1 Samuel 2:35. However, being “merciful” is not part of the high priestly tradition; it is unique to Hebrews. It is based on his solidarity with human beings, probably as seen in Jesus’ earthly life, suffering and death. [ NJBC]

2:17: “to make a sacrifice of atonement”: The word in the Greek is ‘ilaskesthai. NJBC offers expiate. In the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, ‘ilaskesthai translates kipper, which means removal of sin by God or by a priest through the means set up by God for that purpose. [ NJBC]

2:18: At Gethsemane, and throughout his life, Jesus was “tested” by death on the cross; therefore he can help those who “are being tested” by apostasy. [ NOAB] See 4:15. After the Last Supper, Jesus tells his disciples: “You are those who have stood by me in my trials” (Luke 22:28). [ NJBC]

4:12: “word of God”: The Greek word logos, borrowed from Stoic philosophy, has a number of meanings, including accountability as in v. 13, “render an account”. There may be a reference here to v. 7: “... Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (a quotation from Psalm 95:7-8). The Word invites humans to belief and perseverance. It saves, yet it judges, since it condemns those who refuse to hear it. [ NJBC]

4:12: “the word of God is living and active”: i.e. it produces life (Deuteronomy 32:46-47) and achieves its purpose (Isaiah 55:10-11). The Word has great penetrating power. Some would see here a reference to the Word of God incarnate in Jesus, but NJBC sees no more than a personification of the Word.

4:12: “two-edged sword”: The Word is able to differentiate between the faithful and the errant. It has properties only God has: it can judge our innermost beings (“intentions of the heart”) This recalls the angel placed by God at the entrance to the Garden of Eden to keep out evildoers (Genesis 3:24), and especially the word of God as a sword bringing death, from which there is no escape, to all disobedient humanity (Wisdom of Solomon 18:14-18: “... the sharp sword of your authentic command ...”). [ CAB] See also Isaiah 49:2 and Proverbs 5:4. The Word is so sharp that it can penetrate anything. [ NJBC]

4:13: These are properties only God has. See also Acts 1:24 (the selection of Matthias); and 15:8 (the Council of Jerusalem). [ NJBC]

4:13: “to whom we must render an account”: Another possible translation is about whom we are speaking, but the NRSV translation is better suited to the context. A further possible rendering is with whom the Logos (Word) is present, on our behalf. It then fits with John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. [ NJBC]

4:14: “great high priest”: Philo uses this designation for the Logos (the “Word” of John 1:1-14) in his writings. Elsewhere in Hebrews, Christ is simply the “high priest”. The author may include “great” here because he is making a comparison. [ NJBC]

4:14: “heavens”: There appears to be here the concept of several heavens, as in 2 Corinthians 12:2 (“the third heaven”); Testament of Levi 3:1-9; 2 Enoch 3-20. [ NJBC]

4:14: “confession”: 3:1 speaks of Jesus as “the apostle and high priest of our confession”. 10:22-23 suggests that the author is thinking of baptism: “let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful”.

4:16: “throne of grace”: See also 8:1 (“the throne of the Majesty in the heavens”) and 12:2 (“the throne of God”). 1:8 speaks of Jesus’ throne, but the similarity of v. 16 and 10:19-22 show that the author is thinking of the confident access to God that is assured by the redemptive work of Jesus. A scholar has written: through Jesus Christ, the true high priest, God’s throne has become the throne of grace . [ NJBC]

5:1: “gifts and sacrifices”: To NOAB, grain and animal sacrifices; however NJBC thinks that no such distinction is intended. As Chapter 9 shows, the author is principally concerned with the Day of Atonement rite as the Old Testament type. [ NJBC]

5:2: The Old Testament provides no way of atoning for deliberate and defiant (high-handed) sins. Numbers 15:30 says “... whoever acts high-handedly ... affronts the Lord, and shall be cut off from among the people”, i.e. receive the death penalty. Deuteronomy 17:12 is even stronger: “As for anyone who presumes to disobey the priest appointed to minister there to the LORD your God, or the judge, that person shall die. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.” [ NOAB]

5:2: “deal gently”: The Greek word corresponds to a term of Stoic philosophy signifying the right mean between passion and lack of feeling . [ NJBC]

5:2: “ignorant and wayward”: The way of atoning for unwitting sins (those committed unintentionally) is given in Leviticus 4. [ NOAB]

5:4: “Aaron”: In Exodus 28:1 God chooses Aaron and his sons as priests. [ NOAB]

5:5: “‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’”: This is also found in Psalm 2:7, so the author may be reinterpreting this psalm in Christian terms, as was often done with Psalm 110:4. It is also found in some manuscripts of Luke 3:22. [ CAB]

5:6,10: Psalm 110 begins: “The Lord [ Yahweh] says to my lord ...”. In Judaism, “my lord” is David, but early Christians reinterpreted it as Christ; thus God the Father says to God the Son, the Lord. So “you” here is Christ. Then in v. 4 it speaks of Yahweh swearing “‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek’”. In Hebrews 7:1-10, the author deduces from Genesis 14:17-20 (where King Melchizedek of Salem, a “priest of God Most High”, brings out “bread and wine” and blesses Abram, and in return receives a tithe from him) that this mysterious priest-king was greater than both Abraham and his descendant Levi. Psalm 110:4 is also quoted in 7:17, 21. [ NOAB]

5:6: “the order of Melchizedek”: i.e. According to the rank which Melchizedek held. [ NOAB]

5:7-8: Note that one trait Jesus does not share with the Judaic high priest is being “subject to weakness” (v. 2). In 7:28, the author specifically contrasts Jesus with the Jewish high priest in this respect. It is important, however, to note that the contrast applies to the present exalted state of Christ. While on earth, Jesus experienced the weakness of human nature, especially its fear of death. Exalted, he can sympathize with those who are weak. Paul’s concept is similar: “he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God” (2 Corinthians 13:4). [ NJBC]

At Gethsemane, Jesus “prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him ... He said, ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want’” (Mark 14:35-36). [ NOAB] So the question arises: in what way was Jesus heard? God was able to save him from dying, to rescue him, but he did not. So perhaps there is a double meaning here – or does the author see the resurrection as God’s answer to the prayer of Gethsemane?

5:8: “Although he was a Son”: The author of Hebrews considers Jesus’ sonship in two different ways:

  • He became Son when exalted, and
  • He was always Son because he existed with the Father even before he appeared on earth.

Later theology said that the resurrection-exaltation gave Jesus’ human nature full participation in his divine nature. The two concepts are entirely compatible. [ NJBC]

5:8: “learned ... through what he suffered”: Learning through suffering is common in contemporary Hellenic literature, but the idea occurs only three times in the New Testament: here, in Romans 5:19, and in Philippians 2:8. [ NJBC]

5:9: “made perfect”: Jesus completed his divinely appointed discipline for priesthood. This phrase is characteristic of this letter (see also 2:10; 7:19, 28; 9:9; 10:1, 14; 11:40; 12:23) and means made complete, brought to maturity. [ NOAB] The Greek word, teleosis, is used in the Septuagint translation of priestly consecration, translating a Hebrew phrase to fill [the hands]: see Exodus 29:9, 29, 33, 35; Leviticus 16:32; 21:10; Numbers 3:3. This cultic notion of perfection is certainly present in Hebrews. [ NJBC] NOAB says: Jesus completed his divinely appointed discipline for the priesthood.

5:9: “eternal salvation”: Our salvation is “once, for all”, not salvation from our sins until next time we sin (and again present ourselves on the annual Day of Atonement). 9:12 says: “he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption”. [ NOAB]

The author uses the word “eternal” here and in 9:12, 14, 15; 13:20 (but not in 6:2) to speak of realities that endure because they belong to the heavenly sphere, which is characterized by permanence, as opposed to the transitory realities of earth. [ NJBC]

John 18:1-19:42

18:1: “garden”: NOAB says that this is Gethsemane; however BlkJn says that the word kepos means a private garden, perhaps of one of Jesus’ followers.

18:2: “Judas”: Judas has ceased to be a follower in 13:27. There Jesus asks him to leave. [ NJBC]

18:3: “detachment”: It would be difficult to tell how many soldiers were in the garden in the dark. [ BlkJn]

18:3: “with lanterns and torches”: 13:30 says that “it was night” when Jesus left the supper room. [ BlkJn]

18:4: “Whom are you looking for?”: Jesus’ fate is chosen by him. Neither Judas nor the soldiers determine his death. [ BlkJn]

18:5,7;19:19: “Nazareth”: BlkJn says that the Greek word Nazoraios cannot be derived from Nazareth ; however JBC points out that Matthew 2:23 says of Joseph “made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He will be called a Nazorean’”. This makes “Nazareth” an interpretation, not a translation.

Comments: he has promised safety for those entrusted to him: Jesus also promises this in 6:39 and 10:28.

18:11: “cup”: For the “cup” as a blessing, see Psalm 16:5; 116:13. For the “cup” as judgement, see Isaiah 51:17; Lamentations 4:21. Here the “cup” is Jesus’ suffering and death: in Matthew 20:22, Jesus asks James and John the sons of Zebedee: “‘... Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?”. See also Mark 10:38. [ NOAB]

18:12: “officer”: The Greek word means tribune. [ NJBC]

18:13: “Annas”: He had been deposed by the Romans in 15 AD, but was still influential, through his son-in-law Caiaphas and four sons who had succeeded him.[NOAB]

18:15: “another disciple”: Note that he is not called the Beloved Disciple, so he probably isn’t. [ NJBC]

18:15: “the high priest”: Annas was apparently still accorded this title in Jewish circles. See Luke 3:2 and Acts 4:6. [ JBC]

18:16: Peter is courageous in entering the courtyard. We don’t know why. [ BlkJn]

18:19: Annas tries to show Jesus as a false prophet who leads people astray, as is charged in 7:40-52. [ NJBC]

18:20: Jesus appeals to the great controversies which made up his public ministry. [ NJBC]

18:22: “struck Jesus on the face”: This is also reported in Acts 22:3 [ BlkJn]

18:23: John may have known more of what occurred than he tells in his gospel. He selects an incident that reveals Jesus dealing boldly with his enemies, and in so doing indicates the significance of that took place. [ BlkJn]

18:28: The Roman capital of Palestine was Caesarea, not Jerusalem, as is indicated in Acts 23:33-35. Especially at times of Jewish festivals, the prefect moved to Jerusalem to be on hand to quell possible rebellions. [ JBC]

18:28: “early in the morning”: Roman courts usually started business at dawn. [ BlkJn]

18:28: “to avoid ritual defilement”: Scholars differ as to whether entering the praetorium would defile Jews ritually. Some hold that any defilement could be removed by a bath before evening. Others say that a seven-day period of impurity would be incurred. [ BlkJn]

18:31: “We are not permitted to put anyone to death”: This could mean that by their own law, the Jews could not put Jesus to death as they intended him to die, as a crucified criminal whose death would focus Roman attention away from the people and the nation. [ JBC]

18:35: “nation”: i.e. ethnic group.

18:36: “from”: BlkJn offers “anything to do with this world”.

18:36: “followers”: The Greek word is hyperetai, which has the sense of minions. Jesus has minions, as any other king has. The same word is used of the Temple police in 18:3. [ JBC] Jesus uses terminology that Pilate understands.

18:37: “belongs to the truth”: BlkJn offers is on the side of truth.

18:40: The verse in Greek begins with palin meaning again . If again is original, John may have rearranged the material to give an effective climax to the scene with the apostasy of the Jews at 19:15. They again shouted logically follows the series of shouts in 19:6, 12, 15. [ BlkJn]

18:40: “bandit”: The Greek word lestes was sometimes used for Zealots who formed the Jewish underground opposing Roman rule. [ JBC]

19:1: Pilate considers Jesus to be innocent. Perhaps punishing Jesus by flogging will satisfy the Jewish mob and dissuade them from seeking the death penalty. [ JBC]

19:2-3: To the soldiers, Jesus is just another Jewish rebel with kingly pretensions with whom they have to deal. [ JBC]

19:7: “Son of God”: See 10:31-39 (attempt to stone Jesus for blasphemy). [ NJBC]

19:11: In Romans 13:1-5, Paul tells us that “here is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God”. Jesus has power over this own life (see 10:18); it is given to him by God. [ BlkJn]

19:12: “friend of the emperor”: In later times, friend of Caesar was an honorific title bestowed on persons in recognition of their special service to the emperor. The circle around a Hellenistic king, known as friends of the king was usually made up of persons of special influence. Coins of Herod Agrippa I bear the inscription philokaisar , friend of Caesar. [ NJBC]

19:13: “judge’s bench”: This is the judgement seat. [ BlkJn]

19:13: “The Stone Pavement”: The praetorium may have been the Tower of Antonia (north of the Temple, on the eastern side of the city) or the Old Palace of Herod (on the western side). While Roman prefects would normally have used the Old Palace of Herod, the former residence of Judea’s kings during their visits to Jerusalem, excavation below the Tower of Antonia has revealed a large stone pavement. So it is likely that the Tower of Antonia was the praetorium of the passion. [ JBC]

19:13,17,20: “Hebrew”: The NRSV says that Aramaic is meant.

19:14: Pilate leaves the death sentence to be pronounced by the Jewish authorities. In fact, they have already done so: 11:51-53 says that Caiaphas “... prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to put him to death. [ NJBC]

19:14: “about noon”: John wishes to remind the reader of the typology of the Passover lamb. It was slaughtered soon after noon on the day of preparation. [ JBC]

19:15: “your King”: The crowd earlier wanted to make Jesus king: see 6:15. [ NJBC]

19:17: “The Place of the Skull”: Skull Hill, north of the Damascus Gate, has a rocky outcrop which even today looks much like a skull. Being limestone, it has weathered over the centuries. 2000 years ago, its skull-like appearance would have been even more evident.

19:23: “his clothes”: He wore head-dress, cloak, belt, shoes, and tunic. [ NOAB]

19:24: “the scripture”: John quotes Psalm 22:18. [ NOAB]

19:25: “Magdalene”: The Greek literally means of Magdala . The town was probably in Galilee. [ BlkJn]

19:27: “mother”: See also 2:3-5, 12 (the wedding at Cana). [ NJBC]

19:28: “to fulfill the scripture”: At the first level, this means that Jesus has completed, in his life and death, all the prophecies about him. At the second level, the quotation is probably Psalm 69:21, but may be a reference to Psalm 22:15. [ BlkJn]

19:29: “hyssop”: Hyssop is not a plant that would be at all suitable for holding a wet sponge to the lips of a crucified man. The Greek word for hyssop, yssopo, is the word for javelin, ysso, plus two letters: pi and omega. An early manuscript has words with no spaces between them; in copying such manuscripts, pi and omega may have been inserted without anyone noticing. [ BlkJn]

19:30: “‘It is finished’”: In 17:4, Jesus tells the Father: “I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do”. [ NOAB]

19:30: “gave up his spirit”: 10:17-18, Jesus says: “‘ For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father’”. [ NJBC]

19:32: “the soldiers ... broke the legs”: This was done with a heavy mallet. [ NOAB]

19:33: “he was already dead”: Crucified people sometimes lived for days if the legs were not broken to hasten suffocation. [ BlkJn]

19:34: “water”: In 7:38, Jesus says “‘... let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water’” and in the next verse John explains: “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”. [ NJBC] See also 4:14; 3:5; 13:5. This could be an allusion to baptism but, given the order of the words, a reference to the Holy Spirit, given in the crucified Christ to his Church, is more probable. [ BlkJn]

19:35: BlkJn offers: And he who saw is the witness of this, and his witness is reliable, and he knows that he speaks the truth, that you may believe. The Greek translated as his witness is reliable is substantially the same as in 21:24, where “his” is clearly the Beloved Disciple. 19:25-26 show this disciple as standing at the foot of the cross. So “he” in 19:35 is probably this disciple. [ BlkJn]

19:36: ‘None of his bones shall be broken”: Exodus 12:46 commands that the Pascal lamb “... shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the animal outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones”. In 1 Corinthians 5:7, Paul advises: “Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed”. [ NOAB] For the Pascal lamb, see also Exodus 12:10 (in the Septuagint translation) and Numbers 9:10-12. [ NJBC]

19:37: The quotation is Zechariah 12:10, in a version that is more like a translation of the Masoretic text than the Septuagint translation. [ BlkJn]

19:39: “Nicodemus”: The story of his coming to Jesus after dark is found in 3:1-15. He is also mentioned in 7:50-51. [ NJBC]

19:39: “aloes”: “Aloes” here is not the bitter, medicinal plant with which we are familiar, but a fragrant wood of either an eaglewood or sandalwood tree used for perfume. [ HBD]

19:40: “in linen cloths”: This differs from the tradition in Mark 15:46, where Jesus’ body is placed in one linen “cloth”, a shroud. [ BlkJn]

These Clippings are a work in progress. Due to time restraints, they omit comparison with, and for the most part references to, the accounts of the Passion in the other gospels.

© 1996-2016 Chris Haslam



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