Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Fourth Sunday after Epiphany - January 31, 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.

Deuteronomy 18:15-20

Comments: the Israelites’ request after God gave Moses the Ten Commandments at Sinai: See 5:23-31. [ NOAB]

Verses 9-14: The people of Israel are to rely only on Yahweh for predictions concerning the future, protection from harm, and how to face death. [ CAB]

Verse 10: “pass through fire”: Probably a reference to the ordeal of passing through fire as a test of devotion to Molech, the god of Ammon: 12:31 commands the Israelites not to do as other peoples do: “They would even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods”. This pagan rite is also mentioned in Leviticus 18:21; 2 Kings 16:3; 21:6 (the rule of Manasseh); Jeremiah 7:31; 19:5; 32:35 and elsewhere in the Old Testament. [ NOAB] To CAB, this is child sacrifice.

Verses 15-22: NJBC suggests that these verses are post-exilic.

Verse 15: “prophet”: This term is used distributively, i.e. prophets will be raised up as the occasion requires. Each true prophet will be in continuity with the prophetic office of Moses. See also Exodus 33:11; Numbers 12:1-8; Hosea 12:13. This important verse was interpreted eschatologically:

  • in Judaism: see Malachi 4:5-6 (“I will send you the prophet Elijah [again]”); 1QS (*Qumran Rule of the Community) 9, and
  • in early Christianity, e.g. John 1:21 (John the Baptist); 6:14; Acts 3:22-23 (Peter’s sermon in the precincts of the Temple); 7:37 (Stephen’s defence before a sanhedrin). [ NJBC]

Verse 15: “like me”: Moses is regarded as the fountainhead of prophecy and the prototype of the true prophet: after telling of Moses’ death in 34:1-7, the author of Deuteronomy tells us: “Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face” ( 34:10). [ NOAB]

Verse 18: “I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet”: This is reminiscent of the prophetic call of Moses (Exodus 4; 12; 15-16) and of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:9) but “my words” may also include commandments. In the history there is a close connection between prophecy and law (e.g. 2 Kings 17:13-15). [ NJBC]

Verses 20-22: See also 13:1-5 (prophets whose predictions come true but advocate following other gods shall not be followed and shall be put to death); 1 Kings 22:26-28 (court prophets counsel Ahab to fight a battle but Micaiah says that he will be proven correct in opposing them by the disastrous result); Jeremiah 28. [ NOAB] Prophets have roles besides predicting the future, including interpreting past and present events.

Verse 20: See also Jeremiah 23:9-32. In Jeremiah 28:16-17 the prophet Hananiah “made this people trust in a lie”. Yahweh tells him through Jeremiah “Within this year you will be dead, because you have spoken rebellion against the Lord ”. [ NJBC]

Verses 21-22: As in 13:1-5, the criteria for the discernment of prophetic spirits reflect the crisis of prophecy under the late monarchy. Correct prediction is insufficient by itself and is not necessarily helpful to the prophet’s contemporaries! [ NJBC]

Psalm 111

Most scholars consider this psalm to be post-exilic. [ NJBC]

In this psalm, salvation history has been appropriated and inculcated by wisdom teachers.

Verse 1: “Praise the Lord !”: The following two psalms open with the same words. [ NOAB]

Verses 3-10: These verses emphasize work, action: “deeds” in v. 2, “work(s)” in vv. 3, 6 and 7, “gained” in v. 4, and “act” in v. 10. In all but one instance, the same Hebrew word, asa is used. Works are the events of salvation history. [ NJBC]

Verse 4: V. 4b explicitly refers to Exodus 34:6 (although this is not clear in the NRSV), so v. 4a probably refers to Exodus 34:10. (Exodus 34:10, speaks of “marvels”, i.e. “marvellous works”.) [ NJBC]

Verse 5: “food”: See Exodus 16 (the gift of manna). See also Psalm 105:40 (quail) and 106:14. [ NJBC]

Verse 9 is a summary of salvation and covenant.

Verse 10: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”: These words also appear in Proverbs 9:10. This is a wisdom saying. [ NJBC]

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

The questions Paul answers are found in 7:25 (“Now concerning virgins ...”); 8:1 (“Now concerning food sacrificed to idols ...”); 12:1 (“Now concerning spiritual gifts ...”); 16:1 (“Now concerning the collection for the saints ...”), 12 (“ Now concerning our brother Apollos ...”). [ NOAB]

Here he tackles problems associated with living in a pagan environment. [ NJBC]

Comments: the strong and the weak: This terminology comes from Romans 15:1: “We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves”). [ NJBC]

Verse 1: “love builds up”: Authentic Christian knowledge must be rooted in love. In Philippians 1:9-10, Paul says: “And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best ...” [ NJBC]

Verses 2-3: The true blessedness consists, not in knowing, but being known by, God, and it is in love that one is thus known. [ NOAB]

Verse 4: “eating of food offered to idols”: Meat purchased in Greco-Roman cities was nearly always linked in some way with pagan religious practices, such as having been offered to an idol. [ CAB] Normally meat was available in the ancient world only after great festivals when the priests sold the surplus of the meat of sacrificial victims that was their share. The problem is also dealt with in Romans 14:1-15:13. [ NJBC]

Verse 6: Paul expands basic Old Testament (“The Lord is our God, the Lord alone”, Deuteronomy 6:4) and early Christian (“every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”, Philippians 2:11) confessions: see also Malachi 2:10 and Romans 11:36. They are combined to speak of God and Christ, each with regard to creation. See also 10:26. [ NOAB] God and “Jesus Christ” are unique – so other gods do not exist. [ CAB] To NJBC, this verse is probably from a baptismal liturgy.

Verse 7: “conscience”: The Greek word is syneidesis . It means awareness that one has sinned. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “Food will not bring us close to God”: i.e. food is morally neutral. In 6:13, Paul says: “‘Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,’ and God will destroy both one and the other.” [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “We are no worse off it we do not eat, and no better off if we do”: NJBC says that the preferable translation is we are neither better off if we do not eat, nor worse off if we do eat.

Verse 10: The fact that the strong participated in temple banquets put the weak in an impossible position as regards invitations, e.g to family reunions at which idol-meat would be served. [ NJBC]

Verse 11: “believers”: The Greek is adelphos, meaning brother. [ NJBC]

Verse 12: “Christ”: Meaning, here, the community. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: Renunciation of one’s rights for the sake of others. [ NOAB] Paul does not impose a course of action on the strong; he simply tells them what he would do. [ NJBC]

Mark 1:21-28

NJBC notes that vv. 21-45 are all set on one day in Capernaum:

  • vv. 21-28: Teaching and healing at Capernaum
  • vv. 29-31: Healing of Peter’s mother-in-law
  • vv. 32-34: Healings during the evening
  • vv. 35-39: Jesus’ temporary withdrawal to a deserted place
  • vv. 40-45: Healing of the leper

Verses 21-22: See also Matthew 7:28-29 (“Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes”) and Luke 4:31-32 (“He went down to Capernaum, a city in Galilee, and was teaching them on the sabbath. They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority”). [ NOAB]

Verse 21: “Capernaum”: A prosperous town on the main trade route from eastern Syria to Palestine and its port cities. [ CAB]

Verse 22: “having authority”: BlkMk translates this as as one possessing authority and notes that the Greek word, exousia, is used elsewhere in Mark for Jesus' power to work miracles. “Scribes” however based their teaching on tradition.

Comments: The Greek word is like the one in the Nicene Creed which is translated as being or substance The Greek word, here and in v. 27, is exousia. The Canadian Anglican Book of Alternative Services says in the Creed of Nicea-Constantinople: “... Jesus Christ, ... of one being [ homoousion] with the Father”. An older translation is substance.

Verses 23-28: The parallel is Luke 4:33-37. [ NOAB]

Verse 24: “Have you come to destroy us?”: NJBC says that this is better taken as a statement than as a question.

Verses 25-27: Jesus’ exorcisms were viewed as victorious moments in the ongoing struggle with Satan. [ NJBC]

Verse 27: “with authority! He commands ...”: NJBC suggests that a better translation may be With authority he commands ...

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