Comments

Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost - October 14, 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.

Job 23:1-9,16-17

The third cycle of speeches (and rebuttals) begins in Chapter 22.

Comments: must have behaved badly towards other people: Amongst these supposed sins is what amounts to fraud: see today’s gospel. Certainly they are, in Judaic terms, the kinds of sins which Jesus saw that the rich man in the gospel committed. The sins of which Job is accused in 22:6-9: “For you have exacted pledges from your family for no reason, and stripped the naked of their clothing. You have given no water to the weary to drink, and you have withheld bread from the hungry. The powerful possess the land, and the favoured live in it. You have sent widows away empty-handed, and the arms of the orphans you have crushed”.

Verse 4: “I would lay my case before him”: Earlier, Job has decided not to lay his case before God because “there is no umpire between us” (9:33) and because he wants to be left alone by God, to be free from dread of him (13:20-21). Job is no longer afraid that God would crush hin or refuse to hear him. Rather, God would listen with words of consolation. [NJBC]

Verses 8-9: In Psalm 139:7-10, a psalmist has the opposite problem: “Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast”. [NJBC]

Verse 11: Job denies the sins listed in 22:6-9.

Verse 12: “I have treasured ...”: Eliphaz has advised this in 22:22, but Job has been doing it throughout his life. Eliphaz’s words are unnecessary. [NJBC]

Verse 13: “he stands alone”: Literally: he is one, so the clause is monotheistic and speaks of divine sovereignty. Deuteronomy 6:4 says: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.” [NOAB]

Verse 14: In 10:13, Job says to God: “Yet these things you hid in your heart; I know that this was your purpose”. [NJBC]

Verse 17: NJBC says that the text is corrupt and obscure. He suggests Because of him I am hidden by darkness, and my face is veiled in thick gloom.

Psalm 22:1-15

Ill health and suffering are often linked in the Bible. Job suffered in health but also in being stripped of his wealth and progeny, and in feeling deserted by God.

Verse 1: “helping”: Saving is another possible translation. [NJBC]

Verse 1a: Jesus quoted this half verse on the cross: see Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34. [NJBC]

Verse 2: In 18:41, a psalmist says of his enemies: “They cried for help, but there was no one to save them; they cried to the LORD, but he did not answer them”. [NJBC]

Verse 3: NJBC suggests either You sit enthroned among the holy ones [the divine council] or in the holy place [the divine council].

Verse 12: “bulls of Bashan”: Bashan was a fertile area, northeast of the Sea of Galilee, famous for its fine livestock. “Cows of Bashan” are mentioned in Amos 4:1. [NOAB]

Verse 16: “dogs”: i.e. enemies. They are called “lion” and “wild oxen” in v. 21. [NOAB]

Verse 16b: The meaning, in the context of the psalm, is unknown. NJBC says that the Hebrew literally means like a lion my hands and feet. He suggests either they have pierced my hands and my feet or they have picked clean my hands and my feet or the NRSV translation.

Verse 18: The psalmist is so near death that his neighbours have already begun to divide his property. [NOAB]

Verses 19-21: A prayer for healing and deliverance from slanderers. [NOAB]

Verse 21: Note that the animals whom the detractors emulate in vv. 12-13 are those from which God saves the psalmist in this verse – in reverse order.

Verse 22: For formal thanksgiving in the liturgical assembly, see also v. 25 and 7:17. The psalmist’s thanksgiving will probably include a sacrifice. [NOAB]

Verses 23-31: The hymn that will be sung in the Temple on this occasion. [NOAB]

Verses 29-31: The psalmist’s call to all Israelites to join him in praising God now widens to include all humankind. [NJBC]

Hebrews 4:12-16

2:14-15: The eternal Son added being a human being (“flesh and blood”) in order to overcome the devil and to free humanity from death. In Romans 6:23, Paul writes: “... the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”. [NOAB] The conception that death was no part of God’s plan for human beings and that it had been brought into the world by the devil was held in Hellenistic Judaism: see Wisdom 1:13; 2:23-24. Because of that connection between sin and death, the power of death was broken when Christ, through his high-priestly work, removed sin (v. 17). The paradox that death was nullified by Christ’s death is similar to Paul’s statement in Romans 8:3 that God condemned sin by sending his Son “in the likeness of sinful flesh”. [NJBC]

Wisdom of Solomon 1:13 says: “because God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living” and 2:23-24: “and made us in the image of his own eternity, but through the devil's envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it”.

2:15: “fear of death”: The fear here is of severance of one’s relationship with God, and that death, being connected with sin, is more than a physical evil. Psalm 115:17 says “The dead do not praise the LORD, nor do any that go down into silence”. See also Isaiah 38:18 (the “Pit” being Sheol). In 1 Corinthians 15:26, Paul says: “The last enemy to be destroyed [by Christ] is death”. The fear that Jesus felt at the prospect of his death can be explained only by his realizing that death is more than a physical evil. By his death, the way to unending life with God was opened to all who obey him. [NJBC]

2:16: “did not come to help”: The Greek is in the present tense, so the help is continuing, rather than just in the single event of incarnation. [NJBC]

2:16: “descendants of Abraham”: i.e. those who follow Christ. [NJBC]

2:17: As high priest, the Son is both sympathetic (“merciful”) and trustworthy (“faithful”) “to make a sacrifice of atonement” continually for the “sins” that bring death and the fear of it to God’s “people”. [NOAB]

2:17: “merciful and faithful”: Tradition demanded that a high priest be “faithful”: see 1 Samuel 2:35. However, being “merciful” is not part of the high priestly tradition; it is unique to Hebrews. It is based on his solidarity with human beings, probably as seen in Jesus’ earthly life, suffering and death. [NJBC]

2:17: “to make a sacrifice of atonement”: The word in the Greek is ‘ilaskesthai. NJBC offers expiate. In the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, ‘ilaskesthai translates kipper, which means removal of sin by God or by a priest through the means set up by God for that purpose. [NJBC]

2:18: At Gethsemane, and throughout his life, Jesus was “tested” by death on the cross; therefore he can help those who “are being tested” by apostasy. [NOAB] See 4:15. After the Last Supper, Jesus tells his disciples: “You are those who have stood by me in my trials” (Luke 22:28). [NJBC]

4:12: “word of God”: The Greek word logos, borrowed from Stoic philosophy, has a number of meanings, including accountability as in v. 13, “render an account”. There may be a reference here to v. 7: “... Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (a quotation from Psalm 95:7-8). The Word invites humans to belief and perseverance. It saves, yet it judges, since it condemns those who refuse to hear it. [NJBC]

4:12: “the word of God is living and active”: i.e. it produces life (Deuteronomy 32:46-47) and achieves its purpose (Isaiah 55:10-11). The word has great penetrating power. Some would see here a reference to the Word of God incarnate in Jesus, but NJBC sees no more than a personification of the Word.

4:12: “two-edged sword”: This recalls the angel placed by God at the entrance to the Garden of Eden to keep out evildoers (Genesis 3:24), and especially the word of God as a sword bringing death, from which there is no escape, to all disobedient humanity (Wisdom of Solomon 18:14-18: “... the sharp sword of your authentic command ...”). [CAB] See also Isaiah 49:2 and Proverbs 5:4. The Word is so sharp that it can penetrate anything. [NJBC]

4:13: These are properties only God has. See also Acts 1:24 (the selection of Matthias); and 15:8 (the Council of Jerusalem). [NJBC]

4:13: “to whom we must render an account”: Another possible translation is about whom we are speaking, but the NRSV translation is better suited to the context. A further possible rendering is with whom the Logos (Word) is present, on our behalf. It then fits with John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. [NJBC]

4:14: “great”: The author may use this adjective to show his superiority to a Jewish high priest. Philo calls the Logos the great high priest. [NJBC]

4:14: “high priest”: Jesus has two qualifications required of a priest: he is divinely appointed (see 5:4) and he is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses”. See also 2:17-18.

4:14: “heavens”: There appears to be here the concept of several heavens, as in 2 Corinthians 12:2 (“the third heaven”); Testament of Levi 3:1-9; 2 Enoch 3-20. [NJBC]

4:14: “confession”: 3:1 speaks of Jesus as “the apostle and high priest of our confession”. 10:22-23 suggests that the author is thinking of baptism: “let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful”.

4:16: “throne of grace”: See also 8:1 (“the throne of the Majesty in the heavens”) and 12:2 (“the throne of God”). 1:8 speaks of Jesus’ throne, but the similarity of v. 16 and 10:19-22 show that the author is thinking of the confident access to God that is assured by the redemptive work of Jesus. A scholar has written: “through Jesus Christ, the true high priest, God’s throne has become the throne of grace”. [NJBC]

Mark 10:17-31

The parallels are Matthew 19:16-30 and Luke 18:18-30. [NOAB]

Why Mark waits until v. 22 to tell us that the man is rich is unclear.

Verse 17: “eternal life”: This is a synonym for the kingdom of God. See 9:43-47. See also Luke 10:25. [NOAB]

Verse 18: “No one is good but God alone”: For God as good, see also Psalm 118:1-4 (Septuagint translation); 1 Chronicles 16:34; 2 Chronicles 5:13; Ezra 3:11. This is a strange statement, given the relationship between Jesus and God. This may be a testy reaction on Jesus’ part or a pedagogical device on Mark’s part regarding the identify of the Son of God. [NJBC] Only God is absolute goodness. [BlkMk]

Verse 19: The commandments are in Exodus 20:12-16 and Deuteronomy 5:16-20. [NOAB]

Verse 19: “You shall not defraud”: NJBC makes two suggestions:

  • This may be a summary of the ninth and tenth commandments, or
  • It may be a reference to the Korban controversy (7:9-13).

A child could, per the aural torah, declare possessions to be korban, i.e. an offering to God. He still enjoyed the use of them. At that time, the Commandment to “Honour your father and mother” was interpreted as giving parents a right to a child’s possessions. Making possessions korban circumvented a child’s obligations to his parents under the Law. Some later Jewish teachers agreed with Jesus.

BlkMk suggests that “do not defraud” is based on Leviticus 19:11, 13: “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another ...”. The citations of the commandments are not from the Septuagint, and therefore the tradition probably goes back to a Semitic original or the gospel as orally transmitted.

Verse 20: “I have kept all these since my youth”: BlkMk offers as to all these things I have been careful since my youth. The man’s answer is modest and proper. The idea is not sinless perfection.

Verse 21: BlkMk offers was attracted to him even though the Greek literally means “loved him”. The man is all that he claims to be.

Verse 21: “sell what you own ...”: See also Matthew 6:19-21; Luke 12:33-34; 18:22; Acts 2:45; 4:32-35. Jesus spoke against abuse, not possession, of property. (In Luke 12:15, he condemns greed.) True life is not having possessions! [NOAB]

In Luke 12:33-34, Jesus says: “Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

To NJBC, this is better taken as a challenge to this particular man than as a general principle of Christian life or even as the basis for a superior religious state. What was so hard in this case was the invitation to forego even the privilege of almsgiving for the sake of sharing in Jesus’ life-style of dependence on God while proclaiming the coming of his kingdom.

BlkMk suggests that this may have been an invitation to join the intimate group of disciples, who could not be burdened by possessions. Mark no doubt thinks of it as a general rule for Christians, since he appends the following verses, particularly vv. 29-30.

Verse 23: As earlier, when Jesus has been speaking publicly, he further instructs the disciples in private. 4:10-20 begins: “When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables” and 4:34 says: “he did not speak to them [the crowds] except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples”. [NJBC]

Verse 24: It was supposed that wealth made possible the performance of religious duties. Jesus’ point is that by nature people do not submit to God’s rule. Note v. 15: “Whoever does not receive the kingdom as a little child will never enter it.” But sincere submission is essential to salvation. [NOAB]

Verse 24: “the disciples were perplexed”: Their bafflement stems from Jesus’ reversal of the idea that riches are a sign of divine favour. [NJBC] In Job 42:10, Yahweh restores Job’s fortunes as a sign of his return to favour.

Verse 25: A proverbial expression denoting a human impossibility. [NOAB] There is a similar rabbinic proverbial expression involving an elephant.

Verse 26: “saved”: To be saved is to enter the kingdom of God. [NOAB]

Verse 27: “for God all things are possible”: God expresses the same idea in Genesis 18:14, when Abraham asks how Sarah is to bear a child late in life. [JBC]

Verse 28: See also 1:16-20 (Simon and Andrew respond immediately to Jesus’ call to follow him). [NOAB] Note the contrast between the disciples and the rich man.

Verse 30: “in this age”: Only here is discipleship said to offer rewards in this life. To some scholars, “with persecutions” indicates that the church for which Mark was writing was being persecuted. If so, it must have been a local (rather than empire-wide) persecution.

Verse 31: See also Matthew 20:16 and Luke 13:30. NJBC sees this as saying: the rewards of discipleship greatly surpass its sacrifices, both now and in the future.

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