Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Third Sunday of Advent - December 13, 2020

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 61:1-4,8-11

This poem recalls the Servant Songs of chapters 42-53, especially 50:4-11. [ NOAB]

Verses 1-7: As promised to the future king descended from David (Isaiah 11:1-2), the ruler of God’s people will receive power to accomplish God’s purpose in the world. Those who benefit most will be those now deprived and oppressed. He will also punish the wicked, while pouring out benefits on his people, their city and their land. The renewed people will serve as intermediaries (“priests”, v. 6) between God and the former outsiders (“strangers”, “foreigners”, v. 5) who will be doubly blessed by God. [ CAB]

Verses 1-3: God sends his prophet to bring encouragement to the exiled and oppressed; he will make them mighty oaks. [ NOAB]

Verses 1-2: For Jesus reading these verses in the synagogue at Nazareth, and thereafter announcing that the messianic era has come, see Luke 4:16-20. See also Matthew 11:5 and Luke 7:22. [ NOAB] Originally they referred to one of the leaders of the early post-exilic school of followers of Isaiah; the targum, in fact, introduces this monologue with Thus says the prophet.

Verse 1: “spirit”: The role of the spirit of Yahweh is strongly emphasized in exilic and post-exilic writings. See also 42:1; 59:21; Ezekiel 2:2. [ NOAB] For the spirit of God intervening in human affairs, see Judges 3:10; 6:34 (Gideon); 11:29 (Jephthah); 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14 (Samson); 1 Samuel 10:5-13. In Isaiah 11:1-2, the spirit is promised to the messianic king; later it was assured to all the messianic people: see Joel 3 and Zechariah 12:10. Ezekiel revived thought of the important role of the spirit. [ NJBC]

Verse 1: “anointed”: i.e. a gift to a prophet, as are teaching and preaching, designating an interior enlightenment to know God’s word and a strengthening to follow it. [ NJBC]

Verse 1: “to bring good news”: 40:9 says “Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Here is your God!’”. See also 41:27. [ NJBC]

Verse 1: “release”: The Hebrew can also be translated as light. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: “the year of the Lord’s favour”: 49:8 says “Thus says the Lord : In a time of favour I have answered you, on a day of salvation I have helped you; I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages”.

Verse 2: Comments: The word translated as “vengeance” can be rendered as rescue: NOAB says that rescue is a better translation of the Hebrew. According to NJBC, NOAB is following a Ugaritic root which means to rescue. He offers vindication.

Verse 3: “oaks of righteousness”: See 44:14 for becoming like an oak as a symbol for spiritual strengthening.

Verse 3: “the planting of the Lord”: For this image, see also 60:21 and Jeremiah 17:8 (“They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit”). [ NOAB]

Verses 4-5: 60:10-11 contains the same ideas. [ NOAB]

Verse 6: “priests”: In Exodus 19:6, at Mount Sinai, God promises to Moses that Israel “shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation”. [ NOAB] Trito-Isaiah is opening the ranks of the priesthood to non-Levites: see also 56:6 and 66:21. Though radical, this decision has precedents, e.g Ezekiel stoutly defends the privileges of the Zadokite priests. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “double”: Israel has been doubly, greatly, punished: 40:2 says “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins”. [ NOAB]

Verse 8: “I the Lord ”: God’s self identification, especially as a reminder of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:1-21, and indeed of much of the Law. A common phrase in Deutero-Isaiah and Ezekiel.

Verse 8: “justice”: See also 5:7, 16. [ NOAB]

Verse 8: “everlasting covenant”: In Genesis 9:16, God tells Noah that the rainbow is a reminder of the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures. In Genesis 17:7, God makes such a covenant with Abraham and his offspring. In Genesis 17:19, God promises a covenant with Isaac and his progeny. David. in his death speech (2 Samuel 23:5) recalls the everlasting covenant God made with him when he wished to build a temple (2 Samuel 7:13, 16, 24-26, 29). See also 54:9-10; 55:3; 59:21; Jeremiah 32:40; 50:5; Psalm 105:10.

Verse 9: The promises made to Abraham at Haran are in Genesis 12:2. [ NJBC]

Verses 10-11: Jerusalem celebrates the fulfilment of love between herself and Yahweh. See also 54:5-8; Jeremiah 33:10-11; Revelation 19:7, 9; John 2:1-11. [ NJBC]

Psalm 126

Superscription: “A Song of Ascents”: “Ascents” may indicate that this psalm was sung by pilgrims going up to Jerusalem.

See also Psalm 44.

Verse 1: “the fortunes of Zion”: See also 14:7; 53:6; 85:1. NJBC offers captives of Zion. The alternative translation in Comments is from the NRSV footnote.

Verse 1: “like those who dream”: REB offers like people renewed in health, which is also possible.

Verse 4: “Negeb”: The arid region to the south of Palestine. [ NOAB] There the creek-beds only rush with water following the seasonal rains. [ CAB]

Verse 5: This may be a proverb which is amplified in v. 6. [ NJBC]

Luke 1:47-55

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.

Verses 41,44: “leaped”: The leaping of Esau and Jacob in Rebekah’s womb (Genesis 25:22, Septuagint translation) presents a parallel to the leaping of John. It is a foreshadowing of future relationships. The context, especially this verse, makes clear that by leaping, John recognizes his Lord, Jesus. Through the gift of the “Holy Spirit” (v. 41) Elizabeth is empowered to interpret the leaping of John. [ NJBC]

Verse 42: Elizabeth’s words recall Sisera’s words to Jael (before she killed him): “Most blessed of women be Jael” (Judges 5:24). They also recall Uzziah’s words to Judith after she decapitated Holofernes: “you are blessed by the Most High God above all other women” (Judith 13:18). In both cases, women liberated Israel. [ NJBC]

Verse 43: “my Lord”: Note that Elizabeth acclaims Mary’s unborn child as “my Lord”. [ CAB]

Verse 45: “blessed”: In Luke, Mary is the model believer. In 2:19, after the shepherds have told Mary and Joseph what they have heard, “Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart”. [ NJBC]

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: See also 1 Timothy 2:3; Titus 3:4; Jude 25. [ NOAB]

Verses 48-49: 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 might in the Old Testament, see Exodus 6:6; Deuteronomy 4:34; Jeremiah 27:5; 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; 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 ( 3:22; 5:35; 9:22) and the very early church thought of him in these terms (Acts 3:13). [ 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]

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Verses 12-13: See also Romans 12:8; 16:2; Galatians 6:6; 1 Timothy 3:4; Titus 3:8, 14; 1 Timothy 5:17. [ CAB]

Verse 13: “love”: The Greek word is philadelphia, love of fellow Christians. Paul has spoken of it in 4:9-11. [ NJBC]

Verse 14: “idlers”: i.e. undisciplined and disorderly people who neglect their daily duties. See also 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12. [ CAB]

Verse 14: “patient”: Patience is a fruit of the Spirit: Paul writes in Galatians 5:22-23: “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control ...”. [ NJBC]

Verse 15: Jesus gives a similar exhortation in Matthew 5:44-48 (also in the parallel, Luke 6:27-36). See also Romans 12:17. [ CAB] Put philadelphia into practice! [ NJBC]

Verses 16-18: General exhortations on the Christian way of life. [ NJBC]

Verse 16: See also Philippians 4:4 and Romans 14:17. Joy, too, is a fruit of the Spirit. [ CAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 17: Luke 18:1 says “Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always ...” [ CAB] Prayer proceeds from the Spirit: see Romans 8:15-16. See also Ephesians 6:18. [ NJBC]

Verse 18: See also Philippians 4:6 and Colossians 2:7; 3:15-17. [ CAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 19: See also Jeremiah 20:9; Matthew 3:11; Acts 2:3; Romans 12:11; 2 Timothy 1:6. [ NOAB] [ CAB]

Verse 20: “words of prophets”: See also 1 Corinthians 14:1. Prophets were numerous in the early church: see Acts 11:27; 13:1; 1 Corinthians 12:28-29. Their utterances, while including the foretelling of events, were mainly exhortations to godliness. They were next in authority to the apostles: see Ephesians 2:20; 4:11. [ NOAB]

Verses 21-22: “good ... evil”: While some scholars see these words as referring to true and false prophecy, others see them as referring to moral discernment, as in Isaiah 1:16-17. [ NJBC]

Verse 21: “test everything”: See also 1 John 4:1-3: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world ...”. [ NOAB]

Verse 23: “the God of peace”: See also Romans 15:33; 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Philippians 4:9; Hebrews 13:20. [ CAB] To NJBC, this is a traditional epithet taken over by Paul: see Judges 6:24; Romans 15:33; 1 Corinthians 14:33.

Verse 23: “spirit and soul and body”: Paul does not think of a person as having three parts, but as a unity – consistent with typical Jewish anthropology. [ NOAB] However, some scholars suggest that Paul expresses a tripartite form of anthropology. [ NJBC]

Verse 24: “this”: i.e. v. 23. [ NOAB]

Verse 25: “pray for us”: Earlier ( 1:2; 3:11-13; 5:23), Paul has prayed for the Christians at Thessalonica. Now he seeks their prayers. See also Romans 15:30-32; Philippians 1:19; Philemon 22. [ NJBC]

Verse 26: “holy kiss”: Such a kiss became a symbol of communal love among Christians. It became a regular part of worship in the Church. See also Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14. [ NOAB] [ CAB]

Verse 27: It seems that reading of a Christian text was a new practice in the Christian assembly. [ NJBC] See also Colossians 4:16 and Revelation 1:3. [ CAB]

Verse 28: A solemn greeting concludes all of the authentic Pauline letters. [ NJBC]

John 1:6-8,19-28

Verses 1-2: The “Word” (Greek: logos) of God is speech, but also God in action, creating (Genesis 1:3; Psalm 33:6), revealing (Amos 3:7-8), redeeming (Psalm 107:19-20). Jesus is this “Word” (v. 14). He was eternal (“in the beginning” – see Genesis 1:1); personal (“with God”); divine (“was God”). Note “the Word was God”: then v. 14: “the Word became flesh”. [ NOAB]

Verse 1: “In the beginning”: An echo of Genesis 1:1 in the Septuagint version. [ CAB]

Verse 1: “In the beginning ... was with God”: Also recalls the traditions of Wisdom being with God at creation (Proverbs 8:30; Wisdom of Solomon 7:25), but John goes beyond the stance of wisdom literature, which carefully avoids showing Wisdom as equal with God. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: He was the sole agent of creation (Genesis 1:1; Proverbs 8:27-30; Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:2). [ NOAB]

Verse 4: Apart from him, both physical and spiritual life would recede into nothingness ( 5:39-40; 8:12). [ NOAB]

Verse 5: “The light shines in the darkness”: Wisdom of Solomon 7:29-30 speaks of a beauty that surpasses the sun and stars; sin cannot prevail over Wisdom. [ NJBC]

Verse 5: “darkness”: Total evil in conflict with God – it cannot overcome God. [ NOAB]

Verses 6-8: John the Baptist was commissioned by God (Malachi 3:1) to point to Jesus (vv. 9-34). [ NOAB] John the Baptist is a witness. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “The true light”: The real (authentic, divinely given reality), underived light contrasted not with false light but with those such as John the Baptist: he was a lamp ( 5:35). [ NOAB]

Verse 19: “the Jews”: i.e. the religious authorities. [ NOAB] Later, John (the evangelist) uses this expression for those who instigate opposition to Jesus, especially Pharisees and high priests: see 5:10, 15-16, 18; 7:1; 8:48, 52, 57; 9:18, 22; 10:24, 31, 33; 11:8; 18:12, 14, 31, 33; 19:7, 12, 14, 31, 38; 20:19. [ NJBC]

Verse 20: “Messiah”: This term first appears for a future anointed agent of God in Daniel 9:25 (NRSV: “anointed”). The Qumran literature further developed this idea. See 1QS (Rule of the Community) 9:11; 1QSa (Rule of the Community, Appendix A) 2:14, 20; CD (Damascus Document) 20:1; 4QFlor (Florilegium) 1:11-13. [ NJBC]

Verse 21: “Elijah”: 2 Kings 2:11 says that “Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven”. In Malachi 3:1, Yahweh says: “See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight – indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.”. In Malachi 4:5, Yahweh identifies the messenger as Elijah: “I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes”, i.e. before the end of the era. John is unaware of this role, but later Jesus ascribes it to him: see Matthew 11:14 and Mark 9:13. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 21: “the prophet”: In Deuteronomy 18:15, Moses says: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people” so the prophet like Moses was expected as a forerunner of the Messiah. See also 6:14 and 7:40. [ NOAB]

Verse 23: “the voice”: As a “voice” John fulfills a prophetic role announcing the Messiah’s coming. [ NOAB] The form of the quotation here is different from the one in the Synoptic gospels and from the Septuagint translation. [ NJBC]

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