Comments

Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Third Sunday of Advent - December 15, 2013



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 35:1-10

The imagery is like that of Deutero--Isaiah: see 40:3-5 and 43:19. It evokes a picture of a second exodus. [ JBC]

With its theme of the restoration of Zion, this chapter was probably originally part of Deutero--Isaiah (Chapters 40-66). [ NOAB]

Verse 2: Not only Judah is in view, but also “Carmel and Sharon”, where the northern tribes lived, and even Lebanon. [ CAB]

Verse 3: “feeble knees”: i.e. of exhausted exiles. [ NOAB]

Verses 5-6: The overcoming of basic human limitations and all infirmity will truly be a renewal of the world. [ CAB]

Verse 5: “the eyes of the blind shall be opened”: The most unfortunate among the exiled will be among the first to share these blessings. In Matthew 11:5, this is a sign of the messianic age. [ JBC]

Verse 6: The manuscript of Isaiah found at Qumran reads “streams in the desert shall flow.”

Verse 7: “swamp”: One scholar says this should read “cattle range” or “pasture”.

Verse 8-9: These verses are reminiscent of paradise regained. 11:6-9 says “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder's den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea”. [ NOAB]

Verses 9-10: “the redeemed ... the ransomed”: The exiles are to be ransomed from bondage, as were their ancestors at the time of the Exodus. (The New Testament understands the coming of Christ in terms of a new and definitive Exodus: see John 6:48-51; 1 Corinthians 10:1-4; Hebrews 12:18-24. So the Exodus is a type for the return from the Exile and for salvation through Christ.) [ JBC]

Verse 10: NJBC says that this ending was taken from 51:9-11, part of Deutero--Isaiah. 51:1-52:12 speaks of God’s deliverance of his people.

Psalm 146:5-10

It is fitting that the Psalter end with psalms praising God. On linguistic grounds, several scholars consider this psalm to be post--exilic. [ NJBC]

Verses 1-2: A personal expression of praise. See also 104:1, 33; 145:1-3. [ NOAB]

Verses 3-4: The inadequacy of humans. In 144:3-4, the psalmist wonders: “O LORD, what are human beings that you regard them, or mortals that you think of them? They are like a breath; their days are like a passing shadow”. [ NOAB]

Verses 3-6: The wisdom character of these verses, contrasting human mortality and God as creator, is also found in 90:2-3: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You turn us back to dust, and say, ‘Turn back, you mortals’”. Wisdom language is also found in vv. 8-9. [ NJBC]

Verses 4-8: Yahweh gives help to those who need it.[NOAB]

Verses 5-6: See 121:2-3 for the same sequence of describing God as the source of help, creator of heaven and earth and everlastingly faithful. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: In 82:2-5, the absence of justice is responsible for shaking the foundations of the earth. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “gives food ... sets the prisoners free”: Echoes of the Exodus. See also Isaiah 61:1. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “opens the eyes of the blind”: See Isaiah 42:7; 61:1. A scholar says that this phrase is an idiom for freeing captives. [ NJBC]

Verses 8-9: “the Lord loves the righteous ... but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin”: The same wisdom thought as in 1:6. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “strangers ... orphan ... widow”: For the obligation of all people not to abuse the defenceless, see also Exodus 22:21-22 and Deuteronomy 10:18. For royal responsibility to protect the alien, the fatherless and the widow, see Jeremiah 22:1-4. [ NJBC]

Verse 10: The concluding expression of praise, addressed to the community. [ NOAB]

Verse 10: “The Lord will reign forever”: See also Exodus 15:18 (Moses’ or Miram’s song after the crossing of the Reed, or Red, Sea). [ NJBC]

Luke 1:46b-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.

The Magnificat is based largely on Hannah’s prayer: see 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: “God our Saviour”: God is also referred to as Saviour in 1 Timothy 2:3; Titus 3:4; Jude 25. [ NOAB]

Verses 48-49: “all generations will call me blessed ...”: 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”. See also Psalm 111:9. [ 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.

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 God’s might in the Old Testament, see Exodus 6:6 (delivery from slavery in Egypt); Deuteronomy 4:34 (“by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by terrifying displays of power, as the LORD your God did for you in Egypt”); Jeremiah 27:5 (“It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth”); Isaiah 40:10; 51:9. [ JBC]

Verse 52: 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 also Genesis 17:7 (to Abraham); Genesis 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: “... his servant Jesus ...”). [ NOAB]

Verse 55: “Abraham”: A common theme in Luke. See also 1:54-55, 72-73; 3:34; 13:16, 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]

James 5:7-10

Comment: “The delay ... caused some difficulties ...”: see Matthew 24:3-6 (false messiahs); 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12.

Verses 7-9: Three references to the coming of Christ stand in contrast to the preceding passage on seeking riches in vain. [ NOAB]

Verse 7: “Be patient”: The verb indicates self--restraint, which enables the sufferer to refrain from retaliation or precipitous action. This phrase summarizes the whole section. Be patient not only when faced by outrageous injustice (vv. 4-6) but in the ordinary trials of life (vv. 9, 12-14, 19). [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “the coming of the Lord”: For the second coming of the Lord, see also 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 8-9; Matthew 24:3; 2 Peter 1:16; 3:4, 12; 1 John 2:28. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “the early and the late rains”: Deuteronomy 11:14 and Joel 2:23 mention both rainy seasons. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “Strengthen your hearts”: 1 Thessalonians 3:13 says :”... may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints”. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “the coming of the Lord is near”: See also Philippians 4:5 (“... The Lord is near”); Hebrews 10:25 (“as you see the Day approaching”), 37 (“... in a very little while, the one who is coming will come and will not delay”); 1 John 2:18 (“... it is the last hour! ...”); Revelation 22:10 (“... the time is near ...”), 12 (“I am coming soon”), 20. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: Note the abrupt change to seeing the coming of the Lord as that of a judge. [ NJBC]

Verse 10: “As an example ... take the prophets”: The prophets are represented as martyrs: see also Matthew 23:29-31. In Acts 7:42, Stephen quotes Amos: “‘Did you offer to me slain victims and sacrifices forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?’”. [ NJBC]

Verse 11: See also Job 1:21-22; 2:10 (“... In all this Job did not sin with his lips ...”); Psalm 111:4. [ NOAB]

Verse 12: “do not swear ... by”: See also Matthew 5:34-37. [ NJBC]

Verse 12: “let your ‘Yes’ be yes and your ‘No’ be no”: i.e be truthful. [ NJBC]

Matthew 11:2-11

The parallel is Luke 7:18-28. See also Luke 16:16. [ NOAB]

Verse 2: “in prison”: At Machaerus, a fortress about 8 km (5 miles) east of the Dead Sea. [ NOAB]

Verses 4-5: Jesus invites John to answer his own question: does Jesus fulfil Isaiah’s prophecies?

Verse 5: “the blind receive their sight ...”: These notions of rescue are also found in Isaiah 29:18-19; 35:5-6; 61:1. Jesus reads Isaiah 61:1 in the synagogue at Nazareth and interprets it as being fulfilled in him: see Luke 4:18-21. [ NOAB]

Verse 6: “takes no offence at me”: The Greek word really means scandalized.

Verse 7: “a reed shaken by the wind?”: These crowds knew that John was a sturdy, fearless man, who sacrificed personal comfort to be loyal to God and to speak the prophetic word people needed. [ BlkMt] On the other hand, note Isaiah 42:1-4, a Servant Song: “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. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.”

Verse 10: Malachi 3:1 says: “See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me ...”; however Jesus’ quotation agrees precisely with neither the Hebrew text nor the Septuagint translation. 2 Kings 2:11 tells us that “Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven”. Malachi 4:5 foretells his return: “Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes”. [ BlkMt]

Verse 11: Great as John the Baptiser is, because Jesus, unlike John, is in the Kingdom. John announced the imminence of the Kingdom, but he himself still stood within the old order. [ BlkMt]

Verse 12: BlkMt says that this verse is difficult. The final struggle has begun; God’s power is at work through Jesus to establish his reign, but his Kingdom is suffering violence; violent people are trying to seize or snatch away this blessing and keep people from accepting God’s rule. In this time of crisis, great with opportunity but full of danger for those not alert to respond at once, Jesus says with stern emphasis: “Let anyone with ears listen!” (v. 15).

© Chris Haslam

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