Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Christmas - Set I - December 25, 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 9:2-7

In the Hebrew (and in some modern translations) Chapter 9 begins at 8:23.

Verse 1: “the way of the sea”: One of the provinces set up by Assyria, around the sea-coast city of Dor, south of Mount Carmel. [ NOAB]

Verse 1: Comments: Megiddo: This was the Assyrian name for Galilee.

Verses 1-4: Zebulun, Naphtali and Issachar were annexed by Assyria in 733 BC. 2 Kings 15:29 says “In the days of King Pekah of Israel, King Tiglath-pileser of Assyria came and captured ... Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali; and he carried the people captive to Assyria.” [ NOAB] [ NJBC] CAB says that the annexation occurred in 738 BC.

Verse 4: “yoke ... bar ... rod”: These were symbols of Assyrian oppression. In 10:27 and 14:25, Isaiah describes the liberation of Israel from Assyrian oppression as breaking of the yoke and lifting of the burden. Enslavement was commonly pictured as being like a harnessed farm animal. A “bar” is still today placed across the shoulders of harnessed oxen. [ NJBC]

Verse 4: “the day of Midian”: Meaning the day when victory comes to Yahweh. [ NOAB] Judges 7:15-25 tells of the defeat of the Midianites by Israelite forces under Gideon’s command. The troops were from northern tribes. Gideon first sent commandos to attack the Midianites at En-dor (in Isaachar). [ HBD]

Verse 6: On the day of a king’s enthronement, it was the custom to proclaim him an adopted son of God (“You are my son; today I have begotten you”, Psalm 2:7), the theological basis for which is found in the dynastic promise to David’s house (“I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me”, 2 Samuel 7:14, God’s prophecy through Nathan). The titles are those given on the day of a king’s accession. [ JBC]

Verse 6: “authority”: a symbol of power, as in 22:21. [ NOAB]

Verse 6: “Wonderful Counsellor”: In 28:29, Yahweh is called this,. The king represents the best qualities of Israel’s heroes. Ezekiel 37:25 prophesies that “my servant David shall be their prince forever”. [ NOAB]

Verse 7: “zeal”: Recall that God’s zeal also punishes! Deuteronomy 5:9 says “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me”. Idolatry is especially punished.

Verse 7: “hosts”: i.e. armies. [ CAB]

Some scholars suggest that this passage is a liturgical piece excerpted from the ceremony of a royal accession. When a Davidic king came to the throne and was hailed as an adopted son of God there was cause for rejoicing. So this oracle does not concern any historical king but an ideal king who would introduce the definitive era of peace and justice, i.e. the “Immanuel” of 7:14. [ JBC]

The tenses are perfects, but they are prophetic perfects, expressing the certainty of a future event. [ JBC]

No historical king of Judah adequately realized this hope attached to the ideal king.

Psalm 96

Note the similarity to 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”); 44:23 (“Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel”) and 49:13 (“Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones”). 1 Chronicles 16:23-33, in the context of David’s bringing the Ark to the Temple, is very similar. [ JBC]

The missionary character of this psalm is unusual.

This is a hymn of praise to the Lord, calling on all peoples to join in acknowledging his sovereignty, to bring offerings to the Temple courts, confident that his rule will be just. All creation is invited to unite in praise of the God who is already ruling the world with righteousness. [ CAB]

Verse 1: “new song”: This commemorates new evidence of God’s rule – divine supremacy is to be acknowledged in liturgical worship. A “new song” is also mentioned in Revelation 14:3. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: “tell of his salvation from day to day”: Continually, day by day, tell of his saving deeds of old. [ JBC]

Verse 5: “idols”: Literally zeroes, a favourite term of Isaiah, also found in 2:8 and 10:10. The ineffectiveness of other gods compared with Yahweh’s power. [ JBC]

Verse 6: Personification of divine attributes in the entourage of the deity is also found in Mesopotamian hymns. [ JBC]

Verse 6: “sanctuary”: probably the Temple. [ JBC]

Verses 7-12: A summons to all nature and to the physical universe to join in God’s praise. [ NOAB]

Verses 7-9: Taken from 29:1-2, but where Psalm 29 refers to gods, this psalm speaks of families of peoples. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “come into his courts”: Probably the Temple courts. In the ancient Near East, subject kings were obliged to present themselves before the suzerain on a regular basis. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “in holy splendour”: i.e. in ceremonial garments. [ NOAB]

Verse 10: “The Lord is king!”: The cry of the enthronement psalms, now proclaimed to the world. See also 93:1 and 97:1. [ NJBC]

Verse 12: A theophany (see 50:3) or cultic rite when the Ark is carried in procession (see 2 Samuel 6:5, 9) and enters the Temple (see 24:7, 9). Such a cultic event would dramatize the ancient myth of divine warrior entering his palace and beginning his world reign after defeating the powers of chaos. 50:3 says “Our God comes and does not keep silence, before him is a devouring fire, and a mighty tempest all around him”. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: See also 98:4-9. [ NOAB]

Titus 2:11-14

2:1-3:8 is a section stating what the true teacher is to teach. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: Qualities listed here that are expected of others in 1 and 2 Timothy:

“temperate” 1 Timothy 3:2 of bishops
1 Timothy 3:11 of women
“serious” 1 Timothy 3:8 of deacons
“prudent” 1 Timothy 3:2 of bishops
“sound in faith, in love, and in endurance” 1 Timothy 6:11 of a “man of God”
2 Timothy 3:10 of Paul [ CAB]

Verse 2: “sound in faith, in love, and in endurance”: “Endurance” replaces “hope” of the traditional triad: in 1 Corinthians 13:13, Paul writes: “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love”. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: 1 Timothy 2:8-10 advises that men should pray “without anger or argument” and women “ should dress themselves ... with good works”. See also 1 Timothy 3:8, 11. [ CAB]

Verse 3: “teach what is good”: The author of the Pastoral Epistles did not, however, want women teaching men or teaching in the context of worship. 1 Timothy 2:11-12 says “Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent.” [ NJBC] The author was a creature of his culture.

Verses 4-5: See 1 Timothy 2:9-15; 5:11-14. See also Colossians 3:18; Ephesians 5:21-23; 1 Peter 3:1. [ CAB]

Verses 4-5: The stress on domestic virtues is not unrelated to the fact that younger women had apparently become involved in spreading false teaching. 1 Timothy 5:13 says that younger widows “learn to be idle, gadding about from house to house; and they are not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not say”. [ NJBC]

Verse 5: “submissive to their husbands”: Ephesians 5:21 says “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ”. The general principle is that of mutual subjection (Paul says, in Philippians 2:3, “... in humility regard others as better than yourselves”). The culture is reflected in the subordination of slaves. [ NOAB] It was a given of ancient social morality that wives were submissive to their husbands. [ NJBC]

Verse 5: “so that the word of God may not be discredited”: A frequent theme in the Pastoral Epistles is good conduct for the sake of non-believers. See also 1:6; 2:8, 10, 11, 14; 3:2, 8, 14; 1 Timothy 2:1-2. See also 1 Peter 2:11-17. [ CAB]

Verse 7: Like Timothy (in 1 Timothy 4:12; 5:1; 2 Timothy 2:22), Titus is depicted as a young man, probably in order to make him a type of the next generation of church leaders after Paul. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters ...”: See also 1 Corinthians 7:21-23; Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:22; 1 Timothy 6:1-2. [ NOAB]

Verse 9: “slaves”: Although 1 Timothy 6:1-2 implies that many slave masters were not Christian, the community of the Pastoral Epistles had wealthier members (see 1 Timothy 2:9; 6:17-19) who presumably owned slaves. [ JBC]

Verse 10: The author mentions a stereotypical slave vice, pilfering, but fails to list the duties of masters. So he seems to have a lurking bias towards slaveholders. [ NJBC]

Verse 11: See also 1 Timothy 2:3-6; 2 Timothy 1:9-10; Colossians 1:15-20; Ephesians 1:15-23. [ CAB]

Verse 11: “the grace of God”: Personified, as it is in the writings of Philo of Alexandria. Elsewhere in the Pastoral Epistles, it is always Christ who appears: see 2:13; 1 Timothy 6:14; 2 Timothy 1:10; 4:1, 8. [ NJBC]

Verse 12: In Romans 1:18, Paul writes: “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth”. See also Galatians 5:16, 24. [ CAB]

Verse 12: “training”: Can also be translated educating . True education counters impiety (the vice opposed to piety/loyalty/devotedness, NRSV: “godly”) and worldly passions and promotes the leading of a fully virtuous life. [ NJBC]

Verse 12: “self-controlled, upright, and godly”: Can be rendered with moderation, justice and piety. These virtues stand for virtues in general. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:7: “so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ”. [ CAB]

Verse 13: “blessed hope ... glory”: The manifestation of God himself (“glory”) that took place in the incarnation and in our participation in it (see also John 1:14-18; 2 Corinthians 4:4, 6; Colossians 1:27). [ JBC]

Verse 13: “manifestation”: This word also appears in 1 Timothy 6:14: “to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ”. The word epiphaneia occurs here, in 2 Thessalonians 2:8 and five times in the Pastoral Epistles, not always with the same meaning. Here it means the parousia of Christ. [ JBC]

Verse 13: “our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ”: The Pastorals see Christ as subordinate to God yet accord him, as a past and yet-to-come manifestation of God, the same titles as God. Here he receives the very name of God. [ NJBC]

Verse 14: Revelation 1:5 says “... Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth”. [ CAB]

Verse 14: “who gave himself”: In Matthew 20:28, Jesus says “just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many”. See also Mark 10:45 and Galatians 1:4. [ NOAB]

Verse 14: “he might ... own”: Biblical promises made by God (see Ezekiel 37:23; Psalm 130:8; Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2) are accomplished through Christ’s self-giving. [ NJBC] The author of Ephesians asserts that Christians are people of the New Covenant whom Christ purified: see Ephesians 5:25-27. See also Hebrews 9:14 and 1 Peter 2:9-10. [ JBC]

Verse 15: In the Pastoral Epistles, the function of ministry is to safeguard the traditions handed down about Jesus and the apostles. In 1 Timothy 6:20, the author advises: “Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you”. See also 2 Timothy 1:13-14; 2:2, 14-15, 24-25; 3:14; 4:2. [ CAB]

Luke 2:1-14,(15-20)

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 (the announcement to Mary), 32-33, 69-71 (Zechariah prophesies). [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “firstborn”: NJBC 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]

Verse 8: “shepherds”: An echo of David’s origins as a shepherd: see 1 Samuel 16:1-13. Shepherds were ritually unclean. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “terrified”: While some scholars tell us that this means held God in awe, I suggest that they were literally terrified. What they saw was beyond their experience; indeed it was beyond the limits of human understanding. See also 1:65; 7:16; Acts 2:43; 5:5, 11; 19:17. [ NOAB]

Verse 10: 1:26 says “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth”. [ JBC]

Verses 11-14: These verses are the key to the meaning of the passage. [ JBC]

Verse 11: “this day”: i.e. today: not in the distant future (as Jews expected), but being inaugurated now! For today as a theme in Luke, see 4:21; 5:36; 12:28; 13:32-33; 19:5, 9; 22:34, 61; 23:43. [ NJBC]

Verse 11: “Saviour”: In Jesus, God is present with sinners (see 19:5, 10; 23:43). Jesus saves from destructive self-isolation to union with the nurturing community.

Verse 11: “Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord”: See also Matthew 1:21; 16:16; John 4:42; Acts 2:36; 5:31; Philippians 2:11. [ NOAB]

Verse 14: See also 3:22 (“‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’”, at Jesus’ baptism) and 19:38 (“‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!’”, Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem). [ NOAB]

Verse 14: In Jesus, God has effected God’s gift of peace expected at the end of the time. [ NJBC]

Verse 14: “peace among those whom he favours”: Lack of a single letter in later Greek manuscripts accounts for the alternative rendering: peace, goodwill among people. [ NOAB]

Verse 14: “those whom he favours”: Those whom God has chosen in accord with his good pleasure. [ NOAB]

Verse 16: “the child lying in the manger”: As foretold by the angel (see v. 12), but this “sign” also bears out and exemplifies the message that Jesus is Saviour (see v. 11). [ NJBC]

Verse 17: “what had been told them about this child”: This is complementary to:

  • The announcement to Mary (see 1:31-33) that Jesus is Saviour (see v. 11)
  • Mary’s statement in the Magnificat (see 1:46-55)
  • Zechariah’s statement, the Benedictus (see 1:68-79) [ NJBC]

Verse 19: Mary tries to find the meaning of these events. She models for believers the necessity of reflecting on, and embodying, peace. 1:45 says “blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord”. [ NJBC]

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