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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Saint Peter and Saint Paul - June 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.

Ezekiel 34:11-16

This chapter presents a prophecy.

For misuse of subjects by kings, see Jeremiah 23:13-17; for scattering of the people, see Jeremiah 10:21 (“... the shepherds are stupid, and do not inquire of the Lord; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered”); 23:1-4. [ NOAB] For kings being subject to God’s law, see 2 Samuel 12:1-15 (Nathan’s parable).

From Sumerian kings in the 2000s BC on, rulers of the ancient Near East referred to themselves as shepherds. See also Jeremiah 25:34-36 (“... you shepherds ... you lords of the flock ...”) and Zechariah 11:4-17 (“Thus said the Lord my God: Be a shepherd of the flock doomed to slaughter ...”). [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “wild animals”: i.e. Judah’s attackers, especially the Babylonians. [ NOAB]

Verses 11-16: For God as Israel’s shepherd, see Psalm 23 (“The Lord is my shepherd”), Isaiah 40:11, Jeremiah 31:10 and as the shepherd of the faithful, see Matthew 18:12-14 (the Parable of the Lost Sheep); Luke 15:4-7; John 10:1-18 (Jesus the good shepherd). [ NOAB] [ NJBC] For the covenant of prosperity, see Leviticus 26:3-12 and Jeremiah 33:14-33 (“The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land ...”). A ruler who is a descendant of David is also promised in 2 Samuel 7.

Verses 11-16: God will reverse the evil done by the bad human shepherds. [ NJBC] NOAB sees in this passage a promise of return to theocracy. Hosea 8:4 tells of this evil: “They made kings, but not through me; they set up princes, but without my knowledge. With their silver and gold they made idols for their own destruction”.

Verses 17-24: God will be defender of justice and upholder of the weak. Roles associated with human kings will be maintained by God. Jesus’ Parable of the Sheep and the Goats may depend on this passage: see Matthew 25:31-46. [ NJBC]

Verses 17-22: Sheep, good and bad, are found in the flock; the bad must be separated out and be punished: see Matthew 25:31-32. The figure may have a double meaning and refer also to the nations which oppress Israel. [ NOAB]

Verses 23,24: “my servant David”: God will place his “servant David” (see also 2 Samuel 3:18), i.e. a restored monarchy, over his people. These verses look forward to 37:22-28, Yahweh says through the prophet: “I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all. Never again shall they be two nations, and never again shall they be divided into two kingdoms. They shall never again defile themselves with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. I will save them from all the apostasies into which they have fallen, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be my people, and I will be their God. My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall follow my ordinances and be careful to observe my statutes ...”. See also Jeremiah 23:5-6. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 23: “one shepherd”: Hosea 1:11 says: “The people of Judah and ... of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head ...”. In John 10:16, Jesus says: “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd”. [ NOAB]

Verses 25-31: Using the oldest term for “covenant” making (as also in Jeremiah 31:31-34), the prophet affirms that God will make a “covenant of peace” (a term also found in 37:26 and implied in Hebrews 13:20). God, again resident on Mount Zion (“my hill”, v. 26), will preserve the proper sequence of the seasons (as also in Genesis 8:21-22), assuring his people of continuous prosperity (a promise also recorded in Amos 9:13-14), free from fear of destruction within (for “wild animals”, v. 25, see also Leviticus 26:6) and without (“plunder for the nations”, v. 28). [ NOAB] These verses reflect the vision of a covenant of prosperity in Leviticus 26:3-12 and Jeremiah 31:14-33. [ NJBC]

Verse 25: “banish wild animals”: In Leviticus 26:6, Yahweh says: “... I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and no one shall make you afraid; I will remove dangerous animals from the land, and no sword shall go through your land”.

For Jesus’ use of this passage to express his person and mission, see Matthew 18:12-14; Luke 15:4-7; John 10:1-8.

Psalm 87

Verse 1: The idea that gods founded major cities was common in the Near East. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: The first half of the verse is the first line of a familiar hymn; “city of God” is the title of a book by Augustine on how Christians are to live in this imperfect world. [ NOAB]

Verse 3: “Glorious things are spoken of you”: NJBC says that a more likely translation is He [*Yahweh] speaks glorious things about you.

Verses 3,6: “Selah” 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.

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

Verses 4-6: NJBC says that these verses are obscure.

Verse 4: “Rahab” was the name of the sea monster. The name came to be applied, poetically, to Egypt. [ NOAB]

Verse 5: “the Most High himself will establish it”: This, NJBC says, is a regular theme of the Zion theology.

Verse 6: “as he registers the peoples”: Some scholars also see divine record keeping in vv. 4, 7. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: Dancing was part of the Israelite liturgy. 149:3 says: “Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre”. Dancing is also mentioned in 30:11. [ JBC]

Perhaps this psalm also speaks of the blessed, the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem.

2 Timothy 4:1-8

Copyright is a recent concept. In ancient times, writing in the name and style of a respected authority was common. The author sought to extend, to reinterpret, a sages’ teaching for a different situation or a new generation.

This letter may have been written about a time of general persecution of Christians: possibly during the reign of Domitian (95 AD) or of Trajan (112 AD). It is also possible it was written during or shortly after a more localized persecution.

Verse 1: “appearing”: see Titus 2:11,13 (quoted below). [ NJBC]

Verse 2: “the time”: This clause is unusual because, in the ancient world, one was urged to speak only at the appropriate time; however, for Christians, time is for God to determine, so the speaker should leave the question of timeliness to God (see Titus 1:3; 1 Timothy 2:6,6:15). The word of God is always in season. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “sound doctrine”: Contemporary writers use this term to indicate something wise, prudent and compatible with reason, so here it is doctrine which accords with intellectual and moral soundness. See 3:1-5 and 1 Timothy 4:1-2. [ CAB]

Verse 3: 3:1 says: “You must understand this, that in the last days distressing times will come.” 2 Esdras 6:18-24 (a popular book at the time) describes unnatural, distressing, events which will precede the end of the era.

Verse 4: “myths”: We cannot be sure what these teachings were, but note 1 Timothy 1:4, 14; 4:7. Titus 1:14 urges “not paying attention to Jewish myths or to commandments of those who reject the truth”. [ NJBC]

Verse 5: “evangelist”: Per Ephesians 4:11, one of the gifts God gives is to be an evangelist. Philip the deacon was an evangelist (see Acts 21:8).

Verse 5: “your ministry”: 1 Timothy 1:12 talks about “Paul’s ministry”. Paul himself would never use the phrase “your ministry”: it is Christ’s ministry, of which he is an agent. Here Paul is depicted as handing on the ministry to the next generation. [ NJBC]

Verse 5: “sober”: 3:14 says: “... continue in what you have learned and firmly believed.” [ NJBC]

Verse 5: “suffering”: In 1 Timothy 1:8, Timothy is invited to “join with me [Paul] in suffering for the gospel ...” Responsibility for the Christian message, safeguarded by Paul, is being handed down to the next generation of church leaders.

Verse 6: “being poured out as a libation”: My martyrdom pays homage to God and is of value in the salvation of others whom God has chosen: the author writes in 2:10, in Paul’s name: “I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory”. Paul speaks of "”being poured out as a libation” in Philippians 2:17. A libation was a sacrificial rite in which a liquid, generally wine or oil, was poured out: see Exodus 29:40. For offering of a drink as well as animal and cereal (grain) offerings in the Temple, see Numbers 15:1-12; 28:7, 24; Psalm 16:4. [ CAB] [ JBC]

Verse 6: “time of my departure”: Paul says in Philippians 1:23-24: “I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you”. [ JBC]

Verse 7: “the race”: Paul uses this metaphor in 1 Corinthians 9:24 and Philippians 3:12-14. [ CAB]

Verse 7: “I have kept the faith”: In 1 Timothy 6:12, the author exhorts: “Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life ...”. For Paul in a similar vein, see 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 and Philippians 3:12-14.

Verse 8: “crown of righteousness”: 2:5 points out: “... in the case of an athlete, no one is crowned without competing according to the rules”. In 1 Corinthians 9:25, Paul writes: “Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one”. In Revelation 2:10, John tells those about to suffer persecution: “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life”. If there were Jewish Christians in Timothy’s community, they would be familiar with the wearing of crowns or wreaths of leaves or flowers as symbols of joy and honour at feasts and weddings. [ NOAB]

Verse 8: “that day”: In 1:18, we read: “may the Lord grant that he [Onesiphorus] will find mercy from the Lord on that day”. [ JBC]

Verse 8: “to all”: Titus 2:11, 13 says “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all ... while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ”.

John 21:15-19

It is generally agreed that this gospel ended originally with what we consider Chapter 20. It is likely that Chapter 21 was added to explain the Beloved Disciple’s death. (The beloved disciple is usually thought to be John, the author of the first twenty chapters of this gospel, although some scholars, including NJBC, consider that it was written by the Johannine community.) Some early Christians clung to the hope that he would survive until Christ’s return: see vv. 21-23. V. 23 says “So the rumour spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?’” [ BlkJn]

This story may be related to Mark 16:7: “But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” Note also Luke 5:1-11, also a story of a miraculous catch. There Peter is told by Jesus: “... from now on you will be catching people.” (v. 10) CAB considers the story in Luke to be an expansion of the one in Mark 1:16-20. See also Matthew 4:18-22. Matthew ends with a post-resurrection commissioning scene: see Matthew 28:16-20. It is possible that the story in Luke and the one here are about different occasions. There are several common elements, but the location of the boat, the position of Jesus with respect to the boat, the nature of Peter’s reaction, the actual condition of the net, and the presence of other boats to help with the catch, differ. [ NJBC]

Verse 4: “the disciples did not know that it was Jesus”: As in other appearance stories ( 20:15, to Mary Magdalene, and Luke 24:14-15, on the road to Emmaus) Jesus is not immediately recognized. [ NJBC]

Verse 5: “Children”: A Johannine colloquialism also found in 1 John 2:13, 18; 3:7. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “It is the Lord!”: Mary Magdalene recognizes Jesus when he calls her name: see 20:16. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “put on some clothes, for he was naked”: BlkJn offers put on his outer garment (for he had stripped). JB and REB translate the Greek similarly.

Verse 10: Comments: This verse looks odd, for fish is already on the fire: BlkJn suggests that three strands have been combined in this passage. The point of one is expressed in v. 11; that of the second in v. 14. A third theme is introduced with the “fish” (v. 9) and “bread” supplied by Jesus.

Verse 11: “large fish”: So they are worth catching. [ BlkJn]

Verse 11: “a hundred and fifty-three of them”: Various interpretations have been proposed over the centuries for this number, but none is convincing. [ BlkJn]

Verse 11: “the net was not torn”: It is likely that the fish symbolize those who will come to Christ; there will be many of them. The narrator may emphasize that the net did not break to point to the unity of the believers, in contrast to the divisions over Jesus that occurred in the unbelieving crowds: see, for example, 7:43; 8:16; 10:19. [ NJBC] John may be saying that all are brought safely to land. [ BlkJn]

Verse 12: “none of the disciples dared to ask him ...”: They had to become adjusted to the new situation: raised from the dead, they could still meet him in the Eucharist. A fish occurs along with bread in some early representations of the Eucharist. [ BlkJn] The fish preceded the cross as a symbol of the Church.

Verse 13: In Luke 24:42-43 (Jesus’ post-resurrection commissioning of his disciples), Jesus himself eats some fish to dispel doubts. [ NJBC]

Verse 14: “the third time”: Jesus’ other post-resurrection appearances are mentioned in 20:19-23, 26-29. [ NOAB]

Verses 15-17: Peter’s triple denial of Jesus is in 18:17, 25-27. Peter has also stated that he will not desert Jesus (unlike other disciples) in Mark 14:29. [ NOAB] Loving Jesus must be matched by caring for the flock. For Jesus as the shepherd, see 10:1-16. 1 Peter 5:1-2 tells us “... I exhort the elders among you to tend the flock of God ...”. In Acts 20:28 we read that Paul told the leaders of the church at Ephesus to “Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, ... to shepherd the church of God ...”. [ BlkJn]

Verse 15: “do you love me more than these?”: The Greek word translated “these” can be neuter. If it is, more than all else is a valid translation. [ BlkJn]

Verse 18: A scholar notes that a similar expression to “take you where you do not wish to go” was used by contemporary authors – both Christian and pagan – as a reference to crucifixion. Tradition says that Peter was crucified at Rome about 64-68 AD [ NOAB]; 1 Clement 5:4 says: “Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him”. [ NJBC] Tertullian wrote “Then is Peter girt by another, when he is made fast to the cross”. [ BlkJn]

Verse 19: “‘Follow me”: In 1:43, Jesus addresses these words to Phillip, asking him to become a disciple. [ BlkJn]

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