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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Maundy Thursday - April 17, 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.

Exodus 12:1-4,(5-10),11-14

Instead of proceeding from warning (see 11:1, 4-8) to plague (see 12:29-30), the tenth plague account has been embedded in a setting of the lengthy description of a festival, thus shifting the time sense of the narrative. [ FoxMoses]

Scholars see the festival depicted in this chapter as the combination of two ancient holy days:

  • One of nomadic people, of herders, to propitiate the gods when they moved from the well--watered winter pastures to the arid summer ones: one in which a lamb was sacrificed to the deity in gratitude and for protection of the flock, and
  • One of agricultural people, of farmers, at the time of the barley harvest, at which time the previous year’s yeast was destroyed and a new yeast culture was started.

Each has parallels in other cultures. Here the two days have been fused together and imbued with historical meaning. Whatever its origin, Passover as described in our text bespeaks a strong sense of Israelite tribal community and of distinctiveness. And it is distinctiveness, which played such an important role in Israelite religion, that is singled out here, with the striking penalty for transgressing the boundaries of the festival – being “cut off” (v. 19, probably death). [ FoxMoses] [ NJBC]

Verses 1-20: Scholars say that these verses are from the Priestly (P) tradition. Vv. 21-39 repeat the story and are from the Yahwist (J) tradition.

Verse 1: “in the land of Egypt”: The text establishes that Passover dates back to the days in Egypt. [ FoxMoses]

Verses 2-3: “month ... months”: Literally new moon(s) . [ FoxMoses]

Verse 2: “This month”: i.e. Nisan (March to April). At least one form of the ancient Hebrew calendar began in the Spring; the birth of the year of nature and that of Israel coincide. [ FoxMoses] In the post--exilic ecclesiastical calendar Nisan was the “beginning of months”: see Leviticus 23:5, 23-25. According to the older agricultural calendar, the year began in the Fall/Autumn: see Exodus 23:16; 34:22. [ NOAB] According to CAB, the new year was in the Fall among nomadic people, but was moved to the Spring when Israel became a settled people.

Verse 3: “congregation”: Both REB and FoxMoses offer community.

Verse 3: “on the tenth of this month”: A parallel important day in the Fall, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is celebrated on the tenth day of the seventh month: see Leviticus 16:29. [ FoxMoses]

Verse 4: “household”: See Numbers 1:2-4: each tribe included a number of clans, and a clan included several “ancestral houses”, family groups, or “households”. [ NOAB] Mention of the household (rather than the individual) shows that the benefits are to the group, and one participates to express commitment to the group. [ CAB]

Verse 5: “without blemish”: FoxMoses offers wholly sound. Later, priests were expected to be “without blemish”.

Verse 6: “at twilight”: This time of day is mentioned elsewhere in connection with sacrifices made by priests (e.g. 16:12; 29:39, 41). Perhaps there is an implication here that the situation is the unusual one in which the head of the household performs a priestly function. [ FoxMoses]

Verse 7: “blood”: The blood was God’s portion of the sacrifice: see Leviticus 1:5. [ NOAB]

Verse 7: “on the two doorposts and the lintel”: The door was the holy place of the house: see 21:6 and Deuteronomy 6:4-9. [ NOAB] Sprinkling the blood symbolizes both dedicating the household to God and the blood protecting the inhabitants from evil powers, “the destroyer” (v. 23), the angel of death: see also 2 Samuel 24:16 and Isaiah 37:36. [ CAB] [ NOAB]

Verse 8: “unleavened bread”: The Hebrew is matzot, the plural form of matza. [ FoxMoses] Served with “bitter herbs”, it is a typical nomadic diet, and thus reminds Israelites of their origins as a land--less people. [ CAB] Later Jewish tradition speaks of bitter herbs as a symbol of the bitterness of slavery in Egypt.

Verse 11: Passover is still observed in this way by some Jews originating in Arab lands. [ FoxMoses]

Verse 13: “pass over”: The meaning of the Hebrew, paso’ah , is disputed. Some interpret it as protect, but others relate it to the word for limp – suggesting a halting dance performed as part of the ancient festival, perhaps in imitation of the skipping of newborn lambs: God skips over Israelite homes. It is possible that both meanings are intended. [ FoxMoses]

Verse 14: “This day”: Passover is celebrated on the fourteenth day of Nisan, so “this day” is the fifteenth. See Leviticus 23:6 and Numbers 28:17. [ NOAB]

Verse 15: “Seven days”: Of the same duration as Sukkoth, the great Fall festival. See Leviticus 23:24 for the commandment. The festival of unleavened bread is considered as a continuation of the Passover. [ NOAB] [ FoxMoses]

Verse 15: “remove leaven”: The absence of leaven (yeast) is interpreted as due to the hasty preparations for exodus: see vv. 34, 39 and Deuteronomy 16:3. Originally leaven, because of its fermenting or corrupting power (see 23:18; Matthew 16:6; 1 Corinthians 5:7) was regarded as a ritually unclean substance not to be offered to God (see Leviticus 2:11) which contaminates the whole harvest. [ NOAB] In a rural kitchen today, where yoghurt is made, the yeast stock does become contaminated and is replaced from time to time.

Verse 16: The same rules apply to Sukkoth. FoxMoses says that “solemn assembly” should perhaps be translated as proclamation of holiness.

Verse 17: “the festival of unleavened bread”: Probably a separate festival from that of lambs. [ FoxMoses]

Verse 17: “as a perpetual ordinance”: Israelites are to observe the festival forever.

Verse 18: So closely is the festival combined with Passover that it begins on the night of Passover. [ NOAB]

Passover was later reinterpreted as a memorial of Yahweh’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt: see Deuteronomy 16:1-8; Numbers 9:1-14; Ezekiel 45:21-25.

Psalm 116:1,12-19

Psalms 113-118 are called the hallelujah psalms because they all include “Praise the Lord” (Hebrew: hallelujah). In the Jewish liturgical tradition, they were used in connection with the great festivals. At Passover, Psalms 113-114 were sung before the meal and Psalms 115-118 after it.

In the Septuagint translation, this is two psalms: vv. 1-9 are Psalm 114 and vv. 10-19 Psalm 115. (Psalms 9 and 10 are one psalm in the Septuagint.) The Vulgate followed the Septuagint, and modern Roman Catholic bibles follow the Vulgate.

The psalmist calls on the Lord three times: vv. 2, 4 and 17.

Verses 1-4: These verses resemble 18:2-7a. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “Sheol”: This word also occurs in 6:5; 88:3-5; Genesis 37:35. The notion of Sheol also occurs in Job 3:13-19 and 2 Samuel 12:23. [ NJBC]

Verses 5-6: An instruction to those present.

Verse 7: “Return, O my soul”: When someone was faint (from hunger or thirst), it was thought that the soul/spirit had departed from him. When the person revived, the soul returned. The psalmist reassures his soul that it is safe to return after his terrifying experience (vv. 3-4). See also Genesis 35:18 (Rachel’s death); 1 Samuel 30:12; Psalm 23:3; Daniel 10:17. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “my soul”: i.e. my very being.

Verse 10: “I kept my faith”: In the Lord, implied. The second part of the psalm starts with a theme similar to that with which the first part began.

Verses 12-19: The vow, and its fulfilment, described. In 7:17, a psalmist vows: “I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High”. [ NOAB]

Verse 13: “cup of salvation”: For drink offering, libation, see Exodus 29:40. Here the cup is one that saves rather than a cup of God’s wrath: see Isaiah 57:17ff. [ NOAB]

Verse 16: “child of your serving girl”: The same phrase occurs in 86:16. [ NOAB]

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Verse 17: “in the following instructions”: Blk1Cor says that, based on the words used in the Greek, Paul is speaking of the foregoing problem rather than the one in the verses that follow, so he translates the Greek as in giving you this charge.

Verse 17: “I do not commend you”: Blk1Cor offers have no praise for you.

Verse 18: Paul takes a particular (important) example. In v. 34 he says that there are “other things” to be discussed, when he visits Corinth. [ Blk1Cor]

Verse 18: “church”: Blk1Cor, while recognizing that the Greek word, ekklesia, is usually translated as “church” considers that assembly, the people of God assembled, is a better translation here, as is the case in Chapter 14.

Verse 18: “I hear that”: Perhaps Paul has heard of the problem from “Chloe’s people” (see 1:11) or from “Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus” (see 16:17). [ Blk1Cor]

Verse 18: “to some extent I believe it”: Paul accepts the news unwillingly. [ NJBC] Paul is only partly willing to believe such a scandalous story, yet his informants are credible.

Verse 19: “factions”: NOAB points out that the Christians at Corinth are also divided along other lines: in 1:11-12, Paul tells us of factions, each of which claims to “belong to” a different leader in the community.

Verse 19: “for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine”: Only in there being factions will the genuine members be distinguishable from the false members. [ Blk1Cor]

Verse 20: “it is not really”: NJBC offers it is not, in reality.

Verse 21: “your own supper”: i.e. not the Lord’s. [ Blk1Cor] Romans 16:23 indicates that the meal was celebrated in a private house. Rooms were often small, too small to contain the whole community. There was a Roman custom of classifying guests socially and giving little or nothing to those considered inferior. Eating, of necessity, in separate rooms and the Roman custom may have led to the problem. [ NJBC]

Verse 21: “one goes hungry and another becomes drunk”: On these occasions some were displaying their affluence and over--indulging. [ CAB]

Comments: love--feasts: This term is found in Jude 12. The Greek word translated love is agape. [ NOAB]

Verse 22a: In other words, If all you are interested in is eating and drinking, stay at home – don’t mock the common meal. [ NJBC]

Verse 22: “What should I say to you”: Paul is at a loss, but not for long: see v. 23. [ Blk1Cor]

Verse 22: “show contempt for ... humiliate”: Blk1Cor offers despise ... shame.

Verse 22: “commend”: Blk1Cor offers praise.

Verses 23-25: Paul’s version of the words of institution of the Eucharist are closest to those in Luke 22:15-20. While Luke mentions remembrance only with reference to the bread, Paul also mentions remembrance with reference to the cup. What do we remember? Paul explains in v. 26. [ NJBC]

Verse 23: “received ... handed on”: These are technical terms for transmission of an oral tradition. [ NOAB] Blk1Cor suggests that Paul may have received the factual tradition by human means but received the interpretation of it directly “from the Lord”.

Verse 24: “‘This is my body that is for you’”: While we might say is given, there is no verb in the Greek. Many manuscripts do add broken. Luke 22:19 includes both “broke” and “gave”. [ Blk1Cor]

Verse 25: “after supper”: At a Jewish festive meal, the cup of blessing was drunk after the meal. Mark’s account lacks these words, so Paul’s account is earlier than Mark’s. [ Blk1Cor]

Verse 25: “‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood’”: Paul’s wording differs significantly from that found in the gospels:

  • Matthew 26:27-28: “... ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’”
  • Mark 14:24: “‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many’”
  • Luke 22:20: “‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood’”

The Pauline form does not mention the wine; thus it avoids direct identification of the wine in the cup with blood, and the notion, particularly revolting to a Jew, of drinking blood. So what did Jesus actually say? Being a Jew, he might well have avoided the notion of drinking blood.

Verse 25: “the new covenant”: In Jeremiah 31:31-34, God says through the prophet: “The days are surely coming ... when I will make a new covenant ... I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, ... for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more”. [ NOAB] It is implied that the new covenant has now been inaugurated, as the old one was, by means of sacrifice. For the old the sacrifice was of oxen (see Exodus 24:5); the new, it is of Jesus. Entering the covenant is by drinking the cup. It is a covenant in which believers enter into a pact with the Lord and, simultaneously, with each other. [ Blk1Cor]

Verse 25: “in my blood”: The Sinai covenant was also confirmed with blood: Exodus 24:8 says “Moses took the blood and dashed it on the people, and said, ‘See the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words’”. [ NOAB]

Verse 26: “you proclaim the Lord’s death”: The death of Jesus, which is an act of love (see Galatians 2:20), is proclaimed existentially in and through eating and drinking. In 10:16, Paul asks rhetorically: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?”. Authentic remembering is imitation of Christ, whereby God’s saving love is made present effectively in the world. [ NJBC]

Verse 26: “proclaim”: Blk1Cor sees this word as having its plain meaning, announce by word of mouth , i.e. when Christians held a common meal they recalled aloud the event on which their existence was based. This recalling, he says, must have had some narrative content.

The historic meal in the night in which Jesus was betrayed was an anticipation, held in the shadow of the cross, of the glorious banquet of the kingdom of God; the resurrection (incorporated in later liturgies, e.g. that of Hippolytus) did not essentially alter the situation, though it confirmed the hope and faith of the disciples participating in the meal. [ Blk1Cor]

Verse 27: “Whoever, therefore”: Blk1Cor makes this clearer, based on the Greek: It follows that. The partakers must understand and affirm the meaning of the events that the Eucharist celebrates, and so “unworthy” participants must be excluded. [ CAB]

Verse 27: “answerable for”: Blk1Cor and NJBC offer guilty of. Those who participate in the sacrament unworthily place themselves among those responsible for the crucifixion, and not among those who by faith receive the fruits of it. Paul says in 8:12: “... when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ”. See also Deuteronomy 19:10 and Hebrews 6:4-6.

Verses 28-32: Paul uses many legal terms in these verses which cannot be adequately translated into English, e.g “answerable”, “examine”, “judgment”, “discerning”, “condemned”. [ Blk1Cor]

Verses 28-30: Self--examination, moral scrutiny, leading to reconciliation, is important as preparation for participating in the Eucharist. See also Matthew 5:23-24. Otherwise, God’s judgment may fall on the community in the form of sickness or even of death. Abusing the Lord’s table exposed oneself to the power of demons (who were then taken to be the cause of physical disease). [ NJBC] [ Blk1Cor]

Verse 29: “the body”: i.e. the Lord’s body (although other interpretations of this difficult verse are possible). [ Blk1Cor] NJBC sees this as a reference to relationships within the community, the body of Christ. Paul has already written of this in 6:15 and 10:17.

Verse 30: Paul would appear to be describing an epidemic in Corinth. For the association of sin and sickness in Jewish circles, see Mark 2:1-12 (Jesus heals a paralysed man) and John 9:1-2 (Jesus heals a man born blind). Paul interprets the epidemic as divine punishment. [ NJBC]

Verse 31: “if we judged”: NJBC offers if we made a practice of assessing ourselves. Blk1Cor offers examined.

Verse 32: Acceptance of unpleasant experiences as educative warnings is an incentive to avoid the type of behaviour that merits condemnation. The Lord does discipline those he loves, giving them the opportunity and incentive to repent and amend their ways. In Hebrews 12:5-6, the author says to his first readers: “... you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children – ‘My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, or lose heart when you are punished by him; for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child whom he accepts’”. (He quotes Proverbs 3:11-12). [ NJBC]

Verse 32: “the world”: To Paul, “the world” is those who oppose the good news. He devoted much energy, and was prepared to suffer, to “save some” (see 9:22). [ Blk1Cor]

Verse 33: “wait for one another”: NOAB says that it seems that those who came early left little for others. To NJBC, this is a practical way of “discerning the body” (v. 29) and avoiding the selfishness (v. 21) that destroyed the sharing that should characterize the Eucharist. Blk1Cor says Paul may well not write wait for the presider because there was no such person (although Paul does tell us of “members of the household of Stephanas” who were leading and responsible members of the Church: see 16:15). The food should be distributed properly, and then all should eat together.

Verse 34a: You who are wealthy, if you cannot control your hunger when you come to the common meal, have something to eat at home before you come. This will help in making the assembly orderly. [ Blk1Cor]

Verse 34b: There are other, minor, problems with the way you celebrate the Lord’s supper. Their resolution can wait until Paul visits Corinth.

John 13:1-17,31b-35

This chapter is a preparation for the teaching in Chapters 14-17 and the events in Chapters 18-21. [ NOAB]

Verses 1-20: NJBC says that this section falls into three parts: Jesus’ action (vv. 1-5) and two interpretations (vv. 6-11, 12-20). The second interpretation generalizes the action so that it teaches a lesson to all of Jesus’ later disciples.

Verses 1-3: The Father handed over all to the Son--agent (see 3:35; 7:30, 44; 10:28-29), so that the Son might bring salvation to the disciples in dying on their behalf and thus showing his love (see 10:17). The reference to Judas’ betrayal may have been introduced from v. 27 in a later editing. [ NJBC]

Verse 1: “to the end”: NOAB says that this means to the utmost.

Verses 5-10: BlkJn sees in these verses an allusion to baptism: that the washing of the disciples’ feet is a symbol of baptism; however:

  • the Greek verbs John uses for “wash” and “bathe” (nipto and luo) are purely secular terms, and
  • the technical term he uses elsewhere for baptise does not appear in this passage.

While there do seem to be parallels with the Christian idea of baptism, it also seems that John is deliberately avoiding words that have ritual meaning.

Verse 5: “wash the disciples’ feet”: For washing of feet as a sign of hospitality, see Genesis 18:4 (Abraham’s servant washes the feet of his visitors at Mamre); 1 Samuel 25:41; Luke 7:44; 22:27. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “later you will understand”: NOAB says that this is a reference to Jesus’ crucifixion. Elsewhere in John, Jesus tells the disciples things that they will not understand until they recall them after his death and resurrection: about the destruction of the Temple (see 2:14-22) and his entry into Jerusalem (see 12:12-16). [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me’”: In 14:3, Jesus says “‘... if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also”. In 17:24, he prays “‘Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory’”. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: Such literalism is typical of Johannine misunderstandings. Jesus’ action represents his coming sacrifice on behalf of his disciples. He is the means of salvation. [ NJBC]

Verse 11: Outward washing alone does not cleanse: see also Luke 11:39-41 and Hebrews 10:22. [ NOAB]

Verse 14: “you also ought to wash one another's feet”: Instructions that the disciples must follow in the path shown by Jesus also occur in the synoptic gospels, for example, in Mark 10:42-45. Luke 22:24-30 links the disciples’ share in the eschatological banquet with their share in the trial of Jesus and their willingness to follow his example of being a servant. [ NJBC]

Verse 15: “I have set you an example”: In 1 Peter 2:21, the author writes: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps”. [ NOAB]

Verse 16: In Luke 6:40, Jesus says “‘A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher’”. In Matthew 10:24, he says “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master”. [ NOAB]

Verse 17: Jesus adds these words to stress the seriousness of his exhortation. [ NJBC] In Luke 11:28, Jesus says “‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!’”. James 1:25 says: “... those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act – they will be blessed in their doing”.

Verse 18: The quotation is Psalm 41:9. [ NOAB] As is God’s plan, Judas will “fulfil the scripture”. [ CAB]

Verse 19: This verse cannot mean that the betrayal itself will show Jesus divine essence. It must refer to the fulfilment of Jesus’ word in the crucifixion. [ NJBC]

Verse 20: “‘whoever receives one whom I send receives me’”: The equivalent in the synoptic gospels is Matthew 10:40: “‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me”. [ NJBC]

Verses 21-30: The betrayer must be dissuaded, or dismissed. Jesus honours him by seating him next to himself, handing him a “piece of bread” (see also Ruth 2:14, Boaz to Ruth); concealing his treachery from all but the beloved disciple. [ NOAB]

Verses 21-22: The announcement of the betrayal is very similar to that in the synoptic gospels: see Mark 14:18 and Matthew 26:21. [ NJBC]

Verse 26: Ironically, Jesus giving Judas bread is not communion, but rather the opportunity for Satan to enter into him. In Mark 14:20, Jesus identifies the betrayer: “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me”. Luke 22:3 tells us that Satan is also responsible for Judas’ action. Only in John does Jesus actually hand Judas the piece of bread. [ NJBC]

Verse 30: “it was night”: The first readers of this gospel would surely see the symbolism of these words. [ NJBC]

Verses 31-34: The basic structure of this discourse is repeated in the third discourse ( 16:4b-33). [ NJBC]

Verse 32: The first sentence is textually uncertain. [ NJBC]

Verse 33: “Little children”: This expression for Jesus’ followers is unique to John and 1 John. In the NRSV, the Greek word teknia is also translated as little children in 1 John 2:1, 12, 28; 3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21. [ NOAB] Tekna is translated as children in John 1:12; 11:52; 1 John 3:1, 2. Teknia is a diminutive form of tekna. [ NJBC]

Verse 33: “as I said to the Jews”: See 7:33-34 (to Pharisees) and 8:21 (to scribes and Pharisees).

Verse 34: “love one another”: These words are also found in 15:12, 17. See also Luke 10:29-37 and 1QS (Qumran Rule of the Community) 1:9-11. Loving one another is identified as a criterion for salvation and for knowledge of God in 1 John 2:7-8; 3:11, 23. Loving Jesus and keeping his commandments are referred to in 14:15, 21. The newness of the commandment lies in the self--offering of Jesus.

Comments: Judaism required one to love one’s neighbour as oneself : The ordinance is in Leviticus 19:18.

More Clippings on this reading appear in Clippings for the Fifth Sunday after Easter in Year C.

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