Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Saint Mary the Virgin - August 15, 2021

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 7:10-15

This passage is set during the Syro-Ephraimite War (734-733 BC). For the historical background, see 2 Kings 16:1-20. [ NOAB] Judah, under Ahaz, appealed to Assyria for help. When Assyrian forces captured Damascus, they deported its people and killed King Rezin of Syria. Judah ended up a vassal of Assyria, paying a heavy tribute. Assyria made Galilee and Gilead Assyrian provinces.

Verse 1: “Ahaz”: King of Judah 735-715 BC. [ CAB]

Verse 1: “Aram”: i.e. Syria. [ NOAB]

Verse 3: “Shear-jashub”: The name means A remnant shall return; it is probably symbolic. God has a future purpose for his people that will not be thwarted by two kings. [ CAB] At worst, God’s promises to David, made via Nathan (see 2 Samuel 7:8-16) will be preserved in the remnant; this is supported by 10:20-23: “On that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on the one who struck them, but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.”. On the other hand, the remnant may be Isaiah and his disciples. [ NOAB]

Verse 3: “the upper pool”: The reservoir south of the Pool of Siloam. [ NOAB]

Verse 4: “do not fear”: This also fits in with Israel’s holy-war tradition. Deuteronomy 20:2-4 says: “Before you engage in battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the troops, and shall say to them: ‘Hear, O Israel! Today you are drawing near to do battle against your enemies. Do not lose heart, or be afraid, or panic, or be in dread of them; for it is the Lord your God who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to give you victory.’”. [ NJBC]

Verse 6: “Tabeel”: The name means God is good. [ CAB] Tabeel was a region in northern Transjordan. [ JBC]

Verse 8: “Within sixty-five years”: Samaria actually fell in 721 BC, only 13 years later. [ CAB]

Verse 9: “firm in faith”: Calls to faith are characteristic of Isaiah; sometimes they are in other terminology. In 8:17, Isaiah says: “ will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him” and in 28:16 “thus says the Lord God , See, I am laying in Zion a foundation stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation: ‘One who trusts will not panic’”. See also 30:15. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “you shall not stand at all”: 8:10 says that human counsel will come to “naught” – whereas Yahweh has his own purpose which he will surely carry out: see also 5:12, 19; 14:24 (“... as I have designed, so it shall be; as I have planned, so shall it come to pass”).

Verse 14: “young woman”: The Hebrew word is almah. This word also appears in Genesis 24:43 (“young woman”, Rebekah at the well); Exodus 2:8 (“girl”, Moses’ sister); Psalm 68:25 and elsewhere – where it is translated young woman, girl or maiden. [ NOAB] The Hebrew word for virgin is betula. [ NJBC] The Septuagint translates almah as parthenos. Matthew 1:23 follows suit.

Verse 15: “curds and honey”: NOAB suggests that this is simple food for a child being weaned.

Verse 15: “by the time he knows”: NJBC sees so that he may know as a superior translation.

Verse 17: “the king of Assyria”: An explanatory note added by a later editor. [ NJBC]

Psalm 132:6-10,12-13

This psalm is similar to 89:20-38 except that in Psalm 89 God’s promise to David (vv. 31-34) is unconditional. [ NJBC]

Verses 1-5: These verses elaborate 2 Samuel 7:1-2: “Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, ‘See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent’”. [ JBC]

Verse 1: “hardships”: NJBC suggests that piety is a better translation, although most modern English translations have “hardships”. Kings in the ancient Near East often proclaimed their piety by building temples for their gods.

Verses 6-10: See also 2 Samuel 6:2-15. [ NOAB]

Verse 6: “Jaar”: The Hebrew is ja’ar, meaning woodland or forest. The Ark was kept at Kiriath-Jearim (meaning town of the woodlands) from Samuel’s time until David became king in Jerusalem: see 1 Samuel 7:1-2 and 2 Chronicles 1:4. [ NOAB] 2 Samuel 6:2 says that the Ark was kept at Baale-judah, not Kiriath-Jearim. Either this is an error, or Baale-judah is another name for Kiriath-Jearim.

Verses 8-10: These verses are quoted in 2 Chronicles 6:41-42. [ CAB]

Verse 8: “Rise up, O Lord ”: Perhaps part of an ancient prayer associated with the Ark (see Numbers 10:35). Here the phrase looks forward to v. 14 (i.e. Zion). [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “might”: God’s glory, as experienced in the Temple. In 63:2, the prophet says: “... I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory”. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “priests be clothed”: Note the parallel in v. 16.

Verses 11-18: A priest or temple prophet recites God’s promises regarding Jerusalem and the dynasty. [ NOAB]

Verse 11: “oath”: For Yahweh’s covenant with David, see 2 Samuel 7. [ NJBC]

Verse 12: Yahweh’s eternal presence in Zion makes the eternity of David’s dynasty possible.

Galatians 4:4-7

Galatians was written to Jewish Christians who were tempted to return to Judaism.

Verse 1: “minors”: Paul uses the word nepios, meaning an infant, one who does not speak. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: “guardians and trustees”: According to CAB, a “guardian” was entrusted with the general care of a child up to the age of 14, and a “trustee” with the financial affairs of a young man up to the age of 25; however NJBC sees this as Palestinian usage, not Roman. As minors, they are in an interim state; such is being under the Law.

Verse 2: “until the date set by the father”: In Roman law, a father could set limits on the time of trusteeship. [ CAB]

Verse 3: “the elemental spirits of the world”: There are four possible meanings:

  • based on the translation quoted above:
    • the cosmic powers controlling the universe, as in v. 8 [ NOAB]
    • the elemental signs of the zodiac [ NJBC]
  • based on the alternative translation “rudimentary spirits of the world” given in the NRSV footnote:
    • the rudiments of the world, i.e. earth, air, fire and water [ NOAB]
    • rudimentary rules and religious observances: see also vv. 9-10 and Colossians 2:8, 20 [ NOAB]

Verses 4-5: Christ was sent at a time determined by God in order to ransom those who were in bondage. “under the law”. [ NOAB]

Verse 4: “born of a woman”: See also Matthew 11:11 and Luke 7:28. This phrase is also found in the Old Testament: see Job 14:1; 15:14; 25:4. It is also found in the Qumran Hymns. Some patristic writers read genomenon with an omega (long O) rather than an omicron (short O) and so saw here a reference to Mary’s virginal conception, but this is an anachronism. [ NJBC] BlkGal says that “born of a woman” was a typical Jewish circumlocution for the human person. So it refers not to the process by which God’s Son became a man (his birth), nor does it contain any reference to the virgin-birth tradition, but simply describes his human condition – as one “born of a woman”. The sequence of thought and the balance of clauses in vv. 4-5 is as follows: “born of a woman” finds its answering echo in the second purpose clause of v. 5: “so that we might receive adoption”.

Verse 5: “in order to redeem”: In the sense that Christ secured release of those retained in the Law: Paul says in 3:12: “the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, ‘Whoever does the works of the law will live by them.’”. [ CAB]

Verse 5: “adoption”: Under Greco-Roman law, an adopted child received the full legal status of a natural child. Perhaps Paul’s analogy is influenced by Israel’s release from bondage in Egypt in Hosea 11:1: “Out of Egypt I have called my son”. See also Matthew 2:15 and Romans 15:8. [ CAB]

Verse 6: “because you are children”: NJBC translates this differently: the proof that you are sons is that God sent ...”.

Verse 6: “sent”: The Greek word, apostellein developed a specific meaning: to send someone in the service of the Kingdom with authority fully grounded in God. [ NJBC]

Verse 6: “Abba! Father!”: In Romans 8:15-17, Paul writes: “you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him”.

Luke 1:46-55

There is a strange anomaly in vv. 46-47: the NOAB, CAB and QVNR have “My soul magnifies the Lord” in v. 46 while Nlsn has these words in v. 47. The REB is like the NOAB, CAB and QVNR.

Comments: Mary is visiting Elizabeth and Zechariah: He is called Zacharias in the King James Version. The Hebrew name appears frequently in the Old Testament; there the King James Version uses Zachariah.

Verse 45: “blessed”: In Luke, Mary is the model believer. 2:17-19 tells us that “... Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart”. [ NJBC]

The Magnificat is based largely on Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1-10. [ NOAB] Both Elizabeth and Hannah were childless for a long time and dedicated their children as Nazirites. [ JBC] Vv. 46-50 deal with Mary and vv. 51-55 universalize from Mary’s experience to reflect God’s dealing with all who hold God in awe (v. 50). [ NJBC]

Some copies of the Old Latin version say that Elizabeth is the speaker, but all Greek manuscripts say the speaker is Mary. [ NJBC]

Verse 47: See also 1 Timothy 2:3 (“God our Saviour”); Titus 3:4; Jude 25. [ NOAB]

Verses 48-49: An allusion to Malachi 3:12 (“Then all nations will count you happy, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts”) and Psalm 111:9 (“He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name”). [ JBC]

Verse 49: “Mighty”: The might of God, for whom nothing is impossible (v. 37) is contrasted with the “lowliness” (v. 48) of Mary. [ NJBC]

Verses 51-53: The verbs in the Greek are in the aorist (past) tense. Because the aorist can indicate various times of action, scholars differ as to the precise meaning because they do not see how God has accomplished (past tense) all this in the mere conception of Jesus. NJBC prefers the interpretation that these actions are what God characteristically does ( gnomic aorist) and is beginning to do now in the conception of Jesus ( inceptive aorist).

Verses 51-53: Who are the rich, arrogant, mighty, powerful, proud and the lowly, hungry? Scholars vary in their opinions. The poor seem to be those best able to receive God’s grace, without wealth, etc. getting in the way. [ NJBC]

Verse 51: For redemption through might in the Old Testament, see Exodus 6:6; Deuteronomy 4:34; Jeremiah 27:5; Isaiah 40:10 (“See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him”); 51:9. [ JBC]

Verse 53: For the notion that those in need will be saved and that the blind will be given light by God, see Isaiah 40:29-31; 41:8-10, 17-20; 42:7; 57:15; 61:1-3. [ JBC]

Verses 54-55: These verses gather up the ideas of the Magnificat in terms of the servant theology of the Old Testament, and particularly of Deutero-Isaiah: see Genesis 17:7; 18:18; 22:17; Micah 7:20; Isaiah 42:1-4; 49:1-7; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12. Jesus applied this theology to himself (see 3:22; 5:35; 9:22) and the very early church thought of him in these terms (see Acts 3:13, Peter in Solomon’s portico). [ NOAB] [ JBC]

Verse 55: “Abraham”: A common theme in Luke-Acts: see also 1:54-55, 72-73 (the Benedictus); 3:34 (as Jesus’ ancestor); 13:16 (Jesus refers to a crippled woman as “a daughter of Abraham”), 13:28-29; 19:9; 20:37; Acts 3:13, 25; 7:17, 32; 13:26; 26:6; 28:20; John 8:33, 39; Romans 2:28-29. [ NJBC]

God builds the new in salvation history upon promises made to Abraham, but membership in the reconstituted Israel is God’s gift. It elicits a response of appropriate conduct, and is not solely contingent on one’s ethnic heritage. [ NJBC]

Luke 2:1-7

The parallel is Matthew 1:18-2:23. [ NOAB]

Verse 1: “all the world”: The Roman Empire. [ NOAB]

Verse 2: “Quirinius”: He was a special legate or commissioner from Augustus, sent to carry on a war against a rebellious tribe, the Homonadenses. As such, he was military governor of Syria. There was also a civil governor. [ NOAB]

Verse 4: “descended from ... David”: See also 1:27 (“to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David”), 1:32-33 (“ the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David”), 1:69-71 (“He has raised up a mighty saviour for us in the house of his servant David ...”). [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “firstborn”: NJBC scholar wonders whether the meaning here is firstborn of God.

Verse 7: “bands of cloth”: Wisdom of Solomon 7:4 says “I [Solomon] was nursed with care in swaddling cloths”. Like Solomon, his predecessor on the throne of David, Jesus wears the trappings of humility. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: The imperial cult celebrated Augustus as the bringer of peace. While Augustus brought some peace through military might, in the powerlessness of his babyhood, Jesus is Saviour and bringer of peace to all. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “inn”: A two-story building, typically 13 metres by 20 metres (40 feet by 65 feet). Animals stayed in the lower courtyard. Kitchens and other facilities were on the lower floor, and bedrooms on the upper floor. The Greek word katalyma used here also appears in 22:11 as the site of the Last Supper. [ NJBC]

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