Comments

Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: First Sunday in Lent - February 26, 2012



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 9:8-17

Verses 1-17: These verses are from the Priestly (P) tradition. [NJBC]

Verses 1-3: The blessing establishes Noah as a kind of second Adam. Note that chronologically Noah is the first man born after Adam dies. It repeats the basic formulation of the blessing in 1:28-30, with an important exception: meat-eating is now allowed, as God’s concession to human nature. [FoxMoses]

Verse 4-5: But willful bloodshed must be accounted for – for humans are made in God’s image (v. 6). [FoxMoses]

Verse 4: The principle is reverence for life, God’s gift, symbolized by “blood”. Leviticus 17:11 says “... the life of the flesh is in the blood ...”. [NOAB]

Verse 6: The laws given to Noah are binding not only on Israel but on all humanity. See also Acts 15:20 (the Council at Jerusalem) and 21:25 (Paul visits James at Jerusalem). [NOAB]

Verses 8-11: “covenant”: This key concept appears for the first time in the Bible. As is usual in the Bible, it is accompanied by a symbol or “sign”. [FoxMoses] “Covenant” is a term of relationship between a superior and an inferior party, the former “establishing” the bond; however this covenant is really a promise (by God). Unlike later covenants, in Chapter 17 (with Abraham) and Exodus 24 (Mosaic Law), the covenant with Noah is universal in scope, for Noah’s three sons (see 6:10 and vv. 18-19) are regarded as the ancestors of all the nations. Chapter 10 is a genealogical table of the nations descended from Noah. This covenant is ecological in that it includes “every living creature” (v. 10), including birds and animals [NOAB] Humans are responsible for other forms of life. [CAB]

Verse 13: “bow”: Psalm 7:12-13 says “If one does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and strung his bow; he has prepared his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts”. See also Habakkuk 3:9-11. [NOAB]

Psalm 25:1-10

This psalm is in acrostic form, except for the last verse (an indication that this verse was added): each verse (in Hebrew) begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The last verse is spoken on behalf of a group (probably a congregation) while the rest of the psalm is in the first person. Perhaps the last verse was added to adapt the psalm to liturgical use. [NOAB]

The acrostic form gives the psalm an artificial pattern, making it challenging to find a logical structure. The psalm, however, does contain most of the elements of a lament:

  • A cry for help (vv. 1-3)
  • The psalmist’s situation in life (vv. 18-19)
  • His profession of present innocence in spite of sins in the past (v. 21, see also vv. 7, 11, 18)
  • His expression of trust (vv. 8-15)
  • A prayer for vindication (vv. 16-20). [NOAB]

The emphases in this psalm on:

  • teaching,
  • knowing God’s ways,
  • keeping the covenant, and
  • prosperity through holding in God in awe,

are characteristic of wisdom literature.

Verse 12a: Literally: Who is the man that fears the Lord? Similar questions are found in the entrance torah of 15:1 and 24:3. [JBC]

Verse 13: “possess the land”: See also 37:9, 11, 29; Deuteronomy 1:35-36; 11:8-9. [NOAB] [NJBC]

Verse 19: “how many are my foes”: In 3:1, a psalmist asks Yahweh the same question. [NJBC]

Verse 21: Note the shift from the psalmist to Israel: another indication that this verse was added. [JBC]

1 Peter 3:18-22

Verses 13-17: Patience under persecution. See also Matthew 5:10-11 (part of the Beatitudes). For other references to persecution in this book, see 1:6-7; 2:12, 15, 19-20; 4:12-19. For persecution of Christians elsewhere in the New Testament, see James 1:12; Revelation 6:9; 14:13. [CAB]

Verse 13: “harm”: Here, weaken you in the Christian faith. [NJBC]

Verse 14: “if”: This does not imply that the possibility of suffering is remote, but rather is a gentle introduction to a painful subject. In effect, the author means “when”. [NJBC]

Verse 14: This verse indicates that the readers have suffered for no other reason than that they are Christians. [CAB]

Verses 14-15: “Do not fear ... Lord”: This seems to be patterned after Isaiah 8:12-13. [CAB]

Verse 15: “sanctify Christ as Lord”: In Isaiah 8:13, God is to be sanctified (reverenced); here it is Christ. [NJBC]

Verses 15-16: “Always be ready to make your defence ... with gentleness ...”: See also 1 Corinthians 4:12-13.

Verse 15: “the hope that is in you”: i.e. your faith. See also 1:13 (“set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed”), 1:21 (“Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God”); 3:5. [CAB]

Verse 16: “may be put to shame”: i.e. and stop harassing Christians. [NJBC]

Verse 17: “better”: In this context, more suitable or morally better. [NJBC]

Verses 18-22: Two scholarly views:

Verses 18-19: The example of Christ’s suffering. See also 2:21-25. [CAB]

Verse 18: “the righteous”: A description often used of Jesus. See also Acts 7:52 (where Stephen speaks of Jesus as “the Righteous One”); 1 John 2:1; 3:7. [CAB]

Verse 18: “in order to bring you to God”: See also Romans 5:2 and Ephesians 2:18; 3:12. [CAB]

Verse 18: “He was put to death in the flesh”: The Apostles’ Creed says either (in traditional language) “He descended into hell” or (in modern language) “He descended to the dead”. Jesus went to the abode of the dead. See also Romans 10:6-7; Hebrews 13:20; Acts 2:24, 31 (Peter’s sermon); Matthew 12:40. For death not holding him, see 1 Corinthians 15:35-50. [CAB] [NJBC]

Verses 19-20: Who are “the spirits in prison”? From these verses, they appear to be those who were on earth before the Flood, with the exception of Noah and his family (“eight persons”, i.e. Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives).

But note 4:6: “For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does.” So the author may also have all those who are dead in view. [NOAB]

Further, note mention of subjugation of heavenly beings to Christ in v. 22. So the author may include fallen angels in the group to whom Christ proclaimed the good news. Jude 6 (like 1 Peter, considered by many to be a relatively late book) says: “And the angels who did not keep their own position, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains in deepest darkness for the judgment of the great Day”.

Also 2 Peter 2:4-5 says “For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of deepest darkness to be kept until the judgment; and if he did not spare the ancient world, even though he saved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood on a world of the ungodly”. (One should not assume that the author of 2 Peter is the same as that of 1 Peter.)

Further again, we should remember that 1 Enoch and 2 Enoch were popular books in the time of the early Church. Although not canonical, Christians assigned some value to these books. 1 Enoch picks up on Genesis 6:1-4: the “sons of God” (see Genesis 6:2) had intercourse with human women, and thus became fallen angels. Their offspring were the Nephilim: now “The Nephilim, sons of divine beings and humans, were around at the time of the Flood” (Genesis 6:4).

In 1 Enoch 6-11, Enoch, on a mission from God, goes and announces to these rebellious angels that they are condemned to prison. This tradition specifically links the rebellion of the angels to the Flood. Then, in 2 Enoch 7:1-3; 18:3-6, Enoch passes through the heavens and meets the rebellious angels imprisoned in the second heaven. [NJBC]

Now some quotations from the New Testament:

  • Ephesians 4:8-10 (and similar ideas elsewhere): “Therefore it is said, ‘When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.’ (When it says, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.)”
  • Hebrews 4:14: “Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession.”
  • Ephesians 1:20-22: “God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.”
  • 1 Timothy 3:16: “Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is great: He was revealed in flesh, vindicated in spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among Gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up in glory.”

Perhaps the story of Enoch is applied to Christ.

So the author may have in view all who have been condemned to adverse judgement: humans, fallen angels and Nephilim drowned (in judgement) at the time of the Flood, and all who since have died without turning to God’s ways. All have the opportunity to be redeemed through Christ. While it is not entirely clear who the “spirits” are, in the end, the key issue is the availability of reversal of condemnation.

These verses have been interpreted in various ways over the centuries. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 - c. 215) wrote that during Jesus’ three days in the grave he proclaimed the good news to those who died in the Flood. Augustine of Hippo (354-450) said that Christ, in his pre-existence, preached through Noah to the sinners of his generation, not in Hades but on earth. [NOAB] [CAB] [NJBC]

Verse 19: “he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison”: Orthodox Christians believe that, during his three days in the grave, Jesus visited the dead and proclaimed the good news to them.

Verse 20: “God waited patiently”: An allusion to the interval in the Genesis account between God’s resolve (see Genesis 6:7) and the execution of it (see Genesis 7:11). [NJBC]

Verse 20: “Noah”: The story of Noah and the Flood is in Genesis 6-8. Noah frequently appears as a great hero of the past in both Jewish and Christian literature. See Ezekiel 14:14, 20; Wisdom of Solomon 10:4; Sirach 44:17; Matthew 24:37-38; Hebrews 11:7; 2 Peter 2:5. In 2 Peter 2:5, we read that Noah warned his contemporaries of the coming punishment, that they might repent. [CAB] [NJBC]

Verse 20: “saved through water”: See also 1 Corinthians 10:1-2, where “our ancestors”, the Israelites, “passed through the sea and ... were baptized into Moses ... in the cloud and in the sea”, the “cloud” being God’s presence. See also Midrash Genesis Rabba 7:7. [NJBC]

Verse 21: “prefigured”: In 1 Corinthians 10:1-2 the passage through the Red Sea prefigures baptism; here the Flood prefigures it. God’s saving acts in the past occur again in the present, and in baptism God’s salvation is available to all. For the connection between Jesus’ resurrection and baptism, see Romans 6:1-11. [CAB]

Verse 21: “not as a removal of dirt from the body”: Literally not putting aside of the dirt of the body. This would be a strange way of referring to the act of mere washing. The language is better suited to the Jewish rite of circumcision. [NJBC]

Verse 21: “resurrection”: In 1:3, the author writes: “... By his [the Father’s] great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”. See also 3:18. [NJBC]

Verse 22: In Romans 8:38, Paul writes in terms of the orders of angelic beings accepted in his day: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”. See also 1 Corinthians 15:24-25 (“every ruler and every authority and power”); Galatians 4:3 (“elemental spirits of the world”), 4:9; Colossians 2:8; Philippians 3:21. [CAB]

Verse 22: “at the right hand of God”: This is an application of Psalm 110:1 (“The LORD says to my lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool’”) to Christ. Jesus quotes this verse in Matthew 22:44. In Acts 2:33-35, Peter interprets and quotes it: “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he [Jesus] has poured out this that you both see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool’'”. See also Romans 8:34; Hebrews 8:1. This phrase reflects the ancient Near East (especially Egyptian) custom of depicting the king seated at the right hand of god, thus denoting his divinity as god’s viceregent to whom all authority and power are entrusted. [NOAB]

Verse 22: “with angels ...”: Christians, with Christ, share victory over hostile spirits, over all who represent disobedience, rebellion and persecution. “Authorities” and “powers” are also heavenly beings. See also Philippians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 15:24, 27; Ephesians 1:21; Colossians 2:10, 15. [NOAB]

Mark 1:9-15

The parallels are:

  Matthew Luke John
vv. 9-11 3:13-17 3:21-22 1:29-34
vv. 12-15 4:1-17 4:1-15  

Verse 9: “Nazareth”: A small village near Sepphoris, the capital of the province of “Galilee”. [NOAB]

Verse 10: The opening of the heavens symbolizes the start of a new mode of communication between God and humankind: see also Isaiah 64:1 and 2 Baruch 22:1. [NJBC]

Verse 11: Here the voice is addressed to Jesus but in Matthew and Luke the voice addresses those present. However NJBC suggests that Mark may not have intended this as a private vision.

Verse 11: “Beloved”: The meaning of the Greek word is similar to our word chosen: Isaiah 42:1 says “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”. See also Psalm 2:7 (“’You are my son; today I have begotten you’”); Luke 9:35 (the Transfiguration); 2 Peter 1:17. [NOAB] “Beloved” echoes Genesis 22:2 (the near-sacrifice of Isaac) and Isaiah 44:2. [NJBC]

Verse 11: “with you I am well pleased”: This echoes Isaiah 42:1 (the opening of the first Servant Song), suggesting a connection between the Son of God and the Servant of God. [NJBC]

Verse 13: “Satan”: 1 Chronicles 21:1 shows him as David’s adversary; Zechariah 3:1-3 depicts him as the “accuser”, the prosecuting attorney, in God’s court. [CAB] See also Job 1-2. [NJBC]

Verse 13: “with the wild beasts”: The Judean wilderness was the habitat of various wild animals. The link between these animals and ministering “angels” suggests an echo of Psalm 91:11-13: “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot”. [NJBC]

Verse 14: “good news”: The Greek word euangelion echoes the terminology of the Septuagint translation of Deutero-Isaiah: Isaiah 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 Isaiah 41:27; 52:7; 52:7; 60:6; 61:1-2. [NJBC]

Verse 14: “of God”: The Greek means both from God and action by God. [NJBC]

Verse 15: The whole of Mark is an expansion of this verse. [NOAB]

Verse 15: “The time is fulfilled”: Apocalyptic books usually divide human history into periods: see 1 Enoch 93:1-10; 91:12-17; Assumption of Moses 10. When the timetable reached its goal, then God’s kingdom was to appear. Jesus warns that this milestone is now occurring. [NJBC]

Verse 15: “kingdom of God”: This is equivalent to Matthew’s “the kingdom of heaven”. Jesus means that all God’s past dealings with his creation are coming to climax and fruition. Jesus taught both the present reality of God’s rule and its future realization. [NOAB]

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