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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Second Sunday in Lent - February 21, 2016



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.

Genesis 15:1-12,17-18

Some verses in this reading are from the Yahwist (J) source; others may be from the Elohist (E) tradition. The Priestly (P) account of these promises is in 17:1-27. Abram’s name is changed to Abraham in 17:5: “No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations”.

Verse 1: “After these things”: This phrase merely marks the start of a new episode, without any necessary connection to the foregoing. For other examples, see 22:1 (the near-sacrifice of Isaac), 22:20; 39:7 (Joseph and the Pharaoh’s wife). [ NJBC]

Verse 1: “the word of the Lord came to ...”: A phrase common in later books but only in Genesis in this passage: see 1 Samuel 15:10 (to Samuel); 2 Samuel 7:4 (to Nathan); 1 Kings 12:22 (to Shemaiah). NJBC sees this as later editing.

Verse 1: “shield”: i.e. Abram’s divine protector. A psalmist says in Psalm 28:7: “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts; so I am helped, and my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him”. See also Psalm 33:20. [ NOAB]

Verse 2: “the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus”: The Hebrew is difficult, so the translation is somewhat speculative.

Verse 3: This verse repeats v. 2, so scholars believe that it is from a different source. Abraham’s complaint is like that in a Ugaritic text. [ JBC]

Verse 5: “Look toward heaven”: God’s promise is as firm as the heavens: Psalm 89:2-5 begins “I declare that your steadfast love is established forever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens”.

Verse 5: “descendants”: See 13:14-17, especially 13:16: “I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth; so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted”. In 17:2, God says “‘... I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous’”. [ NOAB]

Verse 6: “believed”: Abram puts trust in divine promise even though he lacks concrete evidence to support his trust. [ NOAB]

Verse 6: “righteousness”: 6:9 says “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God” and in 7:1, Yahweh says to Noah: “I have seen that you alone are righteous before me in this generation”. [ NOAB] A particular attitude is declared acceptable to God: Deuteronomy 6:25 says “If we diligently observe this entire commandment before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, we will be in the right”. See also Deuteronomy 24:13. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “he”: i.e. God

Verse 7: “I am the Lord ...”: This is like Exodus 20:2 and Deuteronomy 5:6, both introductions to the Ten Commandments. See also Leviticus 25:38, where God has delivered Israel from Egypt. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: This verse might be prefaced by in order for me to show you . [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “three years old”: i.e. mature, and ritually fit for sacrifice. [ FoxMoses]

Verse 10: Such a ceremony is described in Jeremiah 34:18-20: “And those who transgressed my covenant and did not keep the terms of the covenant that they made before me, I [ Yahweh] will make like the calf when they cut it in two and passed between its parts: the officials of Judah, ... and all the people of the land who passed between the parts of the calf shall be handed over to their enemies and to those who seek their lives. Their corpses shall become food for the birds of the air and the wild animals of the earth”. [ NJBC]

Verse 11: “birds of prey”: They are either a bad omen [ NJBC], or they symbolize the rocky path keeping the covenant will take.

Verse 12: “deep sleep”: This is not conventional sleep; it is brought by God. 2:21 tells of the deep sleep that God caused proto-man to fall into before proto-woman was created. [ NJBC] Job also receives revelations from God in deep sleep: see Job 4:13; 33:15. [ NOAB]

Verses 13-16: Scholars suggest that these verses were inserted later to explain the delay in the fulfilment of the promise of land. They do give a timetable for the possession of the land: after 400 years of servitude, Abram’s descendants will actually possess the Land in the fourth generation. [ NJBC] Exodus 12:40 says: “The time that the Israelites had lived in Egypt was four hundred thirty years.” [ NOAB]

Verse 16: “the fourth generation”: It seems that a patriarchal generation was reckoned as 100 years. [ NJBC]

Verse 16: “the iniquity of the Amorites”: While NJBC and FoxMoses maintain that the Amorites are meant literally, NOAB says that the Canaanites are intended. The native people forfeit the right to the land by their immorality, which has not yet become sufficiently grievous. See Leviticus 18:24-30. Noah’s curse on Canaan (in 9:25) implies that Canaan’s subjugation to the Israelites was the result of Canaanite sexual practices. [ NOAB]

Verse 17: “smoking fire pot and a flaming torch”: For fire as a form of divine appearance, see also Exodus 3:2 (“the bush was blazing”); 13:21 (“a pillar of fire by night”); Psalm 104:3-4 (you make ... fire and flame your ministers”); Ezekiel 1:27 (“something that looked like fire”). [ NOAB]

Verse 18: “from the river of Egypt to the great river ...”: These are the ideal boundaries of the Promised Land. [ NOAB] See also Deuteronomy 11:24; 2 Samuel 8:3; 1 Kings 4:21; 8:65.

Verses 19-21: These are Canaanite tribes. Here there are ten, a round number. [ FoxMoses]

Psalm 27

This psalm has similarities to Psalm 23. [ NJBC]

Verse 1: “light ... life”: 13:3 implies that in answering our pleas, God brings “light”, i.e. enlightenment. [ NJBC]

Verse 4: 23:6 expresses the same desire: “Surely ... I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long”. [ JBC]

Verse 4: “live in the house of the Lord”: NOAB suggests that the author is a temple functionary, a Levite.

Verse 4: “to inquire in his temple”: The Hebrew is difficult, so the translation is uncertain. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “‘Come ...’”: 11:7 says “... the upright shall behold his face”. [ NJBC]

Verse 12: “false witnesses”: Proverbs 14:5 says “A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness breathes out lies”. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “in the land of the living”: For this expression seeming to refer to the Temple, see 52:5; 116:9; Isaiah 38:11. The psalm ends as it began, the Temple also being a dominant motif in vv. 1-6. [ NJBC] However, JBC sees this as meaning in this present life, before reaching Sheol.

Verse 14c: “wait”: The REB translates this put your hope in.

Philippians 3:17-4:1

The abrupt change of tone and content at 3:1b suggests that this segment is from a later communication of Paul. [ NJBC]

3:12-14: Though righteousness is God’s gift, Christians are not relieved of the obligation of serious effort towards being godly. [ NOAB]

3:12-14: “goal ... prize ... heavenly”: Paul is thinking of Greek foot races; the “goal” is their finishing post. The word translated “heavenly” literally means upward. Winners were called to ascend a podium to receive a “prize”, i.e. a “crown” ( 4:1). [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

3:13: “Beloved”: literally brothers.

3:13: “forgetting what lies behind”: i.e. leaving behind past achievements. [ NJBC]

3:14: “heavenly call”: Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: “... the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel's call and with the sound of God's trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever”, and in Romans 5:2: “... we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God”.

3:15: “mature”: In 1 Corinthians, Paul distinguishes between immature and mature Christians. In 1 Corinthians 2:6 he writes: “... among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age ...”. In 1 Corinthians 14:20, he urges members of the community to grow spiritually: “... do not be children in your thinking; rather, be infants in evil, but in thinking be adults”. See also Hebrews 5:13-14. [ JBC]

3:17: “join in imitating me”: Paul also invites imitation of him in 4:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:7, 9; 1 Corinthians 4:16. He is able to do this because he himself is an imitator of Christ: he advises in 1 Corinthians 11:1: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ”. [ JBC]

3:18: “enemies of the cross of Christ”: Comments uses the interpretation in NJBC. By preaching the necessity of circumcision, the “enemies” deny the efficacy of the Cross, thus voiding Christ’s costly self-sacrifice: Paul writes in Galatians 2:21: “I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing”. However, NOAB does not consider these people to be those who expect Christians to adopt Judaic practices by being circumcised, “those who mutilate the flesh” ( 3:2). CAB says that the “enemies” are likely those who do not wish to make the Cross the centre of the Christian message. See also 1 Corinthians 1:18; 2:2; 11:26.

3:19: “destruction”: In 1 Corinthians 1:18, Paul presents the paradox of the Cross: “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God”. [ JBC]

3:19: “belly”: This refers to zeal for Jewish food laws or to selfishness in general. In Romans 16:18, Paul writes: “... such people do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites”. [ NJBC]

3:19: “their glory is in their shame”: To boast in circumcision (vv. 2-3) is to glory in something which one modestly covers: Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:23: “those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect”. [ NJBC]

3:19: “earthly things”: In Galatians 4:9, Paul asks those who are tempted to desert the faith and the Way: “Now, however, that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits? How can you want to be enslaved to them again?”. [ JBC]

3:19: It is also possible that the “many” see Paul’s imprisonment as a setback in their social status – in the context of the residents of Philippi. [ CAB]

3:20: “our citizenship is in heaven”: We already have it! The Greek word translated “citizenship” carries with it the notion of being active as a citizen. See also Galatians 4:24-27 (the allegory of Hagar and Sarah) and Ephesians 2:19 (“... citizens with the saints ...”). [ NJBC] To CAB, Paul’s use of the word “citizenship” indicates that his opponents see his imprisonment as a setback in terms of their status in society.

3:20: “it is from there ...”: In Acts 1:11, after the Ascension two messengers from God tell the disciples: “This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven”. See also Acts 3:21; 2 Timothy 4:1. [ CAB]

3:21: “that it may be ... glory”: In Romans 8:23, Paul speaks of waiting for “adoption, the redemption of our bodies”. 1 Corinthians 15:49 says “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven” and 15:51 “... we will all be changed”. See also Romans 8:19-21, 29-30; 2 Corinthians 5:1-5; Colossians 3:1-4. [ NOAB]

3:21: “make all things subject to himself”: An allusion to Psalm 8:6 (“You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet”), a verse that to Paul tells of the messianic reign of Christ. See also Ephesians 1:22; Hebrews 2:6-9; 1 Peter 3:22. [ NJBC]

4:1: “joy and crown”: Paul asks rhetorically in 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20: “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? Yes, you are our glory and joy!”. [ NOAB]

Luke 13:31-35

Verses 31-32: “Herod ... that fox”: Herod Antipas is also mentioned in 3:1, 19-20 (the imprisonment of John the Baptizer); 9:7-9; 23:6-10 (Pilate sends Jesus to Herod and is questioned by him). He had already had John the Baptist put to death. Luke contains criticism of Roman social order. [ NJBC]

Verse 32: “today and tomorrow, and on the third day”: NOAB says that Jesus did not mean “third” literally; rather, he means a short and limited time. The NRSV translates the Greek literally, but BlkLk translates it as day by day, and one day soon. He says that there is an Aramaic idiom behind the Greek which does not refer to two actual days but to an indefinite short period followed by a still indefinite, but certain, event. This idiom is also at work in Hosea 6:2: “After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him”.

Verse 32: “finish”: The same Greek word is found in John 5:36 (“complete”); 17:4, 23; 19:28; Hebrews 2:10; 5:9. It signifies the perfection of Christ’s redemptive mission. [ JBC]

Verse 33: “today, tomorrow, and the next day”: As a sequel to his interpretation given for v. 32, BlkLk suggests that the meaning may be every day.

Verse 33: “it is impossible ...”: NOAB says that this is bitter irony. For the motif of the rejected prophet, see Nehemiah 9:26-31. [ NJBC]

Verse 33: “prophet”: In 4:24-27, Jesus says “... no prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown ...”. In 7:16, when Jesus restores a man to life, those gathered proclaim: “‘A great prophet has risen among us!’”. In 7:39, a Pharisee argues that Jesus is not a prophet. In 24:19, on the road to Emmaus, Cleopas speaks of Jesus as “a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people”. [ JBC]

Verses 34-35: The parallel is Matthew 23:37-39. [ NOAB]

Verse 34b: Comments: of efforts not recorded in the gospels : Luke 4:44 says: “So he continued proclaiming the message in the synagogues of Judea”; however, the text is uncertain. In some manuscripts and in the parallels (Matthew 4:23 and Mark 1:39), Galilee appears rather than Judea. If “Judea” is correct, this is the only express mention of Jesus’ early ministry in Judea outside the Gospel according to John. [ NOAB]

Verse 34: “hen”: An image of loving care and protection. [ NJBC]

Verse 35: “your house”: The Old Testament background seems to be Jeremiah 22:1-9 where house means the king’s household of leaders. [ NJBC]

Verse 35: “Blessed ...”: See 19:38 (Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem) and Psalm 118:26 (“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord ...”). At the time, this psalm was ascribed messianic significance. [ JBC] Zechariah 9:9 says: “ Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey”.

Luke 9:28-36

The parallels are Matthew 17:1-8 and Mark 9:2-8. [ NOAB]

Comments: An aura of unnatural brightness is linked with mystical appearances in Exodus and Acts: The references are Exodus 34:29-35 and Acts 9:3 (Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus). Other references are Nahum 3:3; Ezekiel 1:4, 7; Daniel 10:6 (particularly in the Septuagint translation). [ BlkLk]

Verse 28: “about eight days after”: Luke may be intending the octave day of the Feast of Tabernacles. During this feast, the whole city was brightly illuminated. [ JBC]

Verse 28: “these sayings”: i.e. those in vv. 23-27. Luke intends to link Jesus’ prediction of the coming of the Kingdom with the Transfiguration. [ NJBC]

Verse 28: “went up on the mountain to pray”: For prayer as part of many recorded momentous events in Jesus’ life, see, for example, Mark 1:35; Luke 3:21 (the baptism of Jesus); 6:12 (Jesus chooses the twelve apostles); 9:18 (Peter’s recognition that Jesus is the Messiah); 11:1 (the Lord’s Prayer); 22:21-46 (Jesus predicts Peter's denial of him). [ NOAB]

Verse 29: “the appearance of his face was changed”: Mark 9:2 has “transfigured”. BlkLk suggests that Luke avoids the apparent metamorphosis lest his Hellenic readers think in terms of human deities.

Verses 30-31: On the road to Emmaus, in 24:26-27, Jesus asks: “‘Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’. Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures”. “Glory” is associated with the risen and heavenly life. [ NJBC]

Verse 30: “Two men”: There are two similar appearances:

  • at the Resurrection, in 24:4: “While they [the women who had come from Galilee] were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them”
  • after the Ascension, in Acts 1:10: “While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them”. [ JBC]

Verse 31: “departure”: God’s secret burial of Moses (per the Septuagint translation of Deuteronomy 34:6) led to the tradition that Moses did not die, but rather ascended. Elijah’s taking up into heaven is mentioned in 2 Kings 2:1-12. [ CAB] Joshua and Jesus are the same name. As Joshua succeeded Moses, so Jesus does now. [ BlkLk]

Verse 32: “weighed down with sleep”: This suggests that the Transfiguration took place at night. [ NOAB] However, BlkLk offers a second alternative: Luke may be seeking a way of excusing Peter’s strange suggestion in v. 33 (although it can also be seen as an attempt to delay the departure of Moses and Elijah).

Verse 33: “three dwellings”: For the Feast of Tabernacles (“booths”), see Zechariah 14:16. [ JBC]

Verse 34: “Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!”: The parallel to this verse is Matthew 23:37-39. Going back to the previous verses, Matthew 23:29-36, Jesus says that previous generations have killed from A to Z, “from ... Abel to ... Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar”. HBD says that this Zechariah was probably the son of Jehoida, a priest; “the son of Barachiah” being a scribal error. The parallel, Luke 11:51, does not identify his father. 2 Chronicles 24:20-21 tells us that this Zechariah was stoned to death for his unpopular preaching, which was prophetic; it says in part: “they stoned him to death in the court of the house of the Lord”. Clearly, “house” here means Temple.

Zechariah was one prophet who was murdered in Jerusalem. Jesus may be thinking of himself as another prophet to be killed there.

Verse 35: “This is my Son ...”: The words at Jesus’ baptism, in 3:21-22, are “‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased’”. [ NJBC]

Verse 35: “Chosen”: The Greek word has much the same meaning as that translated Beloved, found in the parallel passages. See also John 12:28-30. [ NOAB] Both titles indicate an act of will rather than of feeling. CAB suggests that “my Chosen” refers to the concept of Israel in Isaiah 42:1: “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.” The voice identifies Jesus as the agent of the new-covenant people.

In Psalm 106:20, Moses is spoken of as “his chosen one”. The scoffers at the cross refer to Jesus as God’s “chosen one”: see 23:35. [ BlkLk]

Verse 35: “listen to him”: Perhaps a reference to the prophet like Moses of Deuteronomy 18:15, whom the Israelites are to heed. Here the meaning is that the disciples are commanded to be attentive to this new phase in God’s revelation of who the Son is: one who returns to God via the cross. The implications for the disciples of Jesus’ journey to the cross will be spelt out in 9:51-19:27. [ NJBC]

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