Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Tuesday in Holy Week - March 27, 2018

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 49:1-7

In one view, Deutero-Isaiah writes chapters 49-55 from Babylon after Cyrus signed the edict allowing Jews to return home: see Ezra 1:1-4. Their new state is barely large enough to support the Jerusalem sanctuary, and in this poor tract of land, 32 x 40 km (20 x 25 miles), the people quickly succumb to discouragement, avarice and cruelty: see Haggai, Nehemiah 5 and Ezra 9-10. Not until 515, upon the insistence of Haggai and Zechariah, did they complete the Temple, the foundation of which had been laid in 536: see Ezra 3:7-4:5; 5:1. [ NJBC]

Verses 1-7: CAB writes: the prophet speaks for the faithful component of historic Israel, to describe the role of that remnant as my servant, whose task is to renew God’s people, “to bring back Jacob to him” (v. 5). Not only will the “survivors of Israel” (v. 6) experience freedom and renewal, but they will also become instruments through whom “light” will reach out to all nations, “to the end of the earth”. Though other nations now despise Israel and her God, the rulers will one day “prostrate themselves” (v. 7) before “the Holy One of Israel”.

For the other three Servant Songs, see: 42:1-7; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12.

Verse 1: “called me before I was born ...”: In Jeremiah 1:5, Yahweh tells the prophet: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations”. In Galatians 1:15, Paul says that he believes that he was called before birth. See also Psalm 139:13-15, Luke 1:15 (John the Baptist), Luke 1:31 (Jesus). [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 2: “a sharp sword”: A military image is also used for God’s actions in Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12; Jeremiah 1:9; Hebrews 4:12; Revelation 1:16. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: “he hid me”: For protection as a possible reason, see Psalms 17:8 (“hide me in the shadow of your wings”) and 27:15; for provision of time to appreciate Israel’s mission, see 51:14-16; 52:13-15. [ NJBC]

Verses 3-4: In serving God, Israel will be glorified. Though his ministry appears to be futile, his reward is with God. See also 1 Kings 19:4-18; Jeremiah 15:15-21.

Verses 4-6: As do other Servant Songs, these verses move in the style of Jeremiah’s confessions (see Jeremiah 11:18-12:6; 15:10-21; 17:14-18; 18:18-23; 20:7-18). They are the personal soliloquy of a sorrowing person of faith.

Verse 4: “in vain”: Also translated for nothing. The Hebrew word, tohu, is used in Genesis 1:2 for the chaotic state of the earth before God created. Isaiah 41:29 says: “... they are all a delusion; their works are nothing; their images are empty (tohu) wind”. [ NJBC]

Verse 4: “reward”: Recompense is another translation. The Hebrew word is mispat. [ NJBC]

Verses 5-6: A contrast between the old and new Israel. Paul and Barnabas quote these verses at Antioch in Pisidia: see Acts 13:47. See also Acts 26:23 (Paul appears before Festus). [ NOAB]

Verse 5: “that Israel might be gathered to him”: God (or possibly Cyrus) leads the new exodus, not Deutero-Isaiah. See also 40:1-11; 45:2-3, 13. [ NJBC]

Verse 6: “a light to the nations”: In 42:6, God says through the prophet: “I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations”. [ NOAB]

Verse 7: This verse leads us to the fourth Song. [ NJBC]

Verses 8-9b: Though in bondage as in Egypt ( 48:10), they will be released and restored: see also 2 Corinthians 6:2. See also 40:1, 11; 41:18; 43:5-6; 45:14; 49:4, 6, 21; 61:2. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “kept”: Formed is another translation. 48:10 says: “... I have refined you, but not like silver; I have tested you in the furnace of adversity”. The Hebrew of this verse is difficult. The “furnace of adversity” is the Exile; this metaphor was earlier used to refer to bondage in Egypt: see Deuteronomy 4:20; 45:2-3, 13.

Verses 9c-11: The imagery of the Exodus (see 48:20-22) is combined with that of Israel’s deliverance. [ NOAB]

Verse 12: “Syene”: In upper Egypt.

Psalm 71:1-14

JBC suggests that the psalmist was ill as well as persecuted.

Verses 2-3: 31:2-4 is similar. [ JBC]

Verses 5-6: The same idea is found in 22:10-11. [ JBC]

Verses 12-13: 70:2-3 says “Let those be put to shame and confusion who seek my life. Let those be turned back and brought to dishonor who desire to hurt Let those who say, ‘Aha, Aha!’ turn back because of their shame”. [ NJBC]

Verses 14-24: NOAB sees the psalmist as making a vow: if his prayer is answered, he will use his talent for music (v. 22), to celebrate God’s saving acts, so that future generations will know them.

Verse 18: “to all the generations”: The Hebrew is difficult. Another possible translation is in the Temple, in which case “reach the high heavens” (v. 19) is rendered in your holy place. [ JBC]

Verse 20: “from the depths of the earth”: i.e. from Sheol (after he dies). The same idea is expressed in 9:13 and 30:3.

Verse 24: “have been”: Another possible translation is would be. [ NJBC]

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Believers must detach themselves from the standards of fallen humanity – the cause of the divisions at Corinth – if they are to understand the way God relates to them. [ NJBC]

Verse 18: The fact of acceptance or rejection of humanity is the basis of division of humanity into two groups. God has not predestined some to salvation and others to condemnation. In the future, the status of a member of either group may change. In 5:5, writing of a sexually immoral man, Paul says “you are to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord”. Note also 10:12: “So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall”. [ NJBC]

Verse 18: “the cross”: Paul writes in 2:1-2: “When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

Verse 19: The quotation is Isaiah 29:14 in the Septuagint translation. There Yahweh, through the prophet, counsels King Ahaz to accept the advice of “wise” counsellors: to trust in God to deliver Judah from the Assyrians. [ NOAB]

Verses 20-25: Proud, self-centred humans want God to be at their disposal, but God’s way of dealing with human sin through the cross of Christ stands in contrast to human power and wisdom. Those who have been “called” (v. 24) by the message of the cross find in it God’s “power” and “wisdom”. [ CAB]

Verse 20: The questions are inspired by Isaiah 19:11; 33:18; 44:25; Job 12:17. [ NJBC]

Verse 21: “the wisdom of God”: Not a divine plan, but the organization and beauty of creation. In Romans 1:19-20, Paul writes: “For what can be known about God is plain to them [those who suppress the truth], because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made”. [ NJBC]

Verse 21: “the world did not know God through wisdom”: Rational speculation, which in the world passes for wisdom, had failed to perceive that God has acted through a suffering saviour. [ NJBC]

Verse 22: “demand signs”: i.e. demand miracles. In so doing, Jews refuse to trust in God, thus camouflaging their contentment with the status quo. [ NJBC]

Verse 22: “Greeks”: The Greek word is ethnoi, the same word translated as “Gentiles” in v. 23, so Paul means non-Jews in general. In Galatians 3:28 he writes: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus”. [ NJBC]

Verse 23: “stumbling block to Jews”: Because of their particular messianic expectations. [ NJBC]

Verse 23: “foolishness to Gentiles”: Because of their rationalism. [ NJBC]

Verse 24: “those who are the called”: Even though Paul uses kletoi, the called ones, he speaks of those who hear and accept the good news. Paul often calls members of the Church the called ones. In Romans 8:28, he writes: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose”. See also 2:2 and Romans 1:6-7. [ NJBC]

Verse 24: “Christ ...”: The authentic humanity of Jesus makes visible God’s intention for humans and radiates an attractive force that enables response. [ NJBC]

Verse 28: See also Romans 9:24-26.

Verse 31: Paul cites Jeremiah 9:23-24 rather freely, as he does in 2 Corinthians 10:17. See also Galatians 6:14. [ NOAB]

John 12:20-36

After two contrasting scenes of the anointing of Jesus and his entry into Jerusalem, there follows an episode which deals with the contrasting reactions of Gentiles (vv. 20-36) and of Jews (vv. 44-50) to the impact of Christ on Jerusalem. [ BlkJn] This section is the conclusion of Jesus’ public ministry. [ NOAB]

Verse 20: “some Greeks”: Josephus, in Jewish Wars 6.9.3, reports that God-fearing Gentiles came to Jerusalem to worship at Passover. [ NJBC]

Verse 21: “Philip”: Meaning lover of horses. [ NOAB] He responds to Jesus’ command “Follow me” in 1:43-48. Jesus tests Philip in 6:5-7. [ NJBC]

Verse 22: Philip’s hesitation is natural enough. He must have known that Jesus had little to do with Gentiles, and no vocation to any ministry towards them. In Matthew 15:24, when a Canaanite woman comes to Jesus seeking a cure for her daughter, Jesus responds “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. [ BlkJn]

Verse 22: “Andrew”: Meaning manly. He was also from “Bethsaida” (v. 21). [ NOAB]

Verse 23: “The hour has come”: So far we have been told that Jesus’ time has not yet come. [ BlkJn] His final manifestation was at the cross: see 7:30 (“no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come”); 8:20; 13:1; 17:1. [ NOAB] Jesus speaks to the disciples. [ NJBC]

Verse 24: By means of a parable, Jesus explains how his death will enable the Gentiles to see him. In 1 Corinthians 15:36 Paul writes: “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies”. See also Mark 4:8, the parable of the sower. [ BlkJn] This saying was probably a common proverb, which John has probably shaped to the situation by emphasizing the fact that the seed remains alone above ground. [ NJBC]

Verse 25: In Mark 8:35, Jesus foretells that “‘those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it’”. See also Matthew 10:39; Luke 9:24; 14:26. [ BlkJn]

Verse 25: “love their life ... hate their life”: The Greek word translated “life”, psuche, means the essence of being . BlkJn considers that the plain contrast of “loves” and “hates” sounds more probably authentic than Mark’s want to save their life” and “lose”.

Verse 26a: Service to Christ means sharing his lot, whatever that may entail. A similar thought is found in Mark 8:34: “‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’”. [ BlkJn] The identity of Jesus and his followers will be emphasized in the farewell discourse: see 13:13, 16; 15:20. [ NJBC]

Verse 26b: The follower who shares Jesus’ suffering will also share the honour that God gives him. In 17:24, Jesus prays: “‘Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world’”. [ BlkJn] This idea reappears in the love language of the farewell discourses: see 14:23 and 16:27. [ NJBC]

Verses 27-30: These verses remind us of the Gethsemane story in the Synoptic gospels: see, for example, Mark 14:34-36. [ NJBC]

Verse 28: “Father, glorify your name”: Jesus prays that he may completely accept his Father’s will. In the Old Testament, both the glory of God and his “name” are means whereby God is made known to be what he is. (See, for example, Exodus 33:18-22.) God will thus make himself known through the death of Christ. [ BlkJn]

Verse 28: “a voice came from heaven”: As at Jesus’ baptism (see Mark 1:11; Matthew 3:17; Luke 3:22) and at his transfiguration (see Mark 9:7; Matthew 17:5; Luke 9:35), and at Paul’s conversion (see Acts 9:4). [ BlkJn]

Verse 29: “thunder”: The Greek word is bronte, a noun. In the Old Testament, thunder is recognized as the voice of God. [ BlkJn] Psalm 29:3 says: “The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over mighty waters”. In the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew, “thunders” is brontaw , a verb derived from the same root. For bronte, see also the Septuagint translation of Psalms 77:18; 104:7; Job 26:14; Isaiah 29:6. For brontaw, see also 1 Samuel 2:10; 7:10; 2 Samuel 22:14; Psalms 18:14; 29:3; Job 37:4-5; 40:9. [Lorinda Hoover] Gentiles would also recognize thunder as an omen. [ BlkJn]

Verse 31: “the ruler of this world”: He rules de facto because people have delivered themselves into his power by becoming slaves to sin. Elsewhere he is called “the evil one” (in 1 John 5:19), “the devil” (in John 8:44), and “Satan” (in John 13:27; Revelation 12:9; 20:2). In 1 Corinthians 2:6, 8, Paul calls him “the rulers of this age”. [ BlkJn] Satan as ruler of the world in its opposition to God is a frequent figure in the Qumran literature: see 1QM (War Scroll) 1:1, 5, 13; 4:2; 11:8; 1QS (Rule of the Community) 1:18; 2:29; 3:20-21. [ NJBC]

Verses 34-36a: All the evidence is in; it is time to act! [ NOAB]

Verse 34: “the law”: JANT says that this may be a reference to Psalm 89:35-36, verses that say that David’s line “shall continue forever”. This psalm is interpreted as referring to the Messiah in Acts 13:22-23, based Jesus being descended from David. BlkJn points out that this gospel also uses “the law” to refer to the whole of Scripture (then only the Old Testament) in 10:34 and 15:25. He says that the questioners may be thinking of 2 Samuel 7:16; Psalm 45:6 and/or Isaiah 9:7.

Verse 36: “children of light”: i.e. people who exhibit the same qualities as he does. 1:12 says “... to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God”. [ BlkJn] Luke 16:8 (the parable of the dishonest manager) says: “... the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light”. [ NOAB]

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