Comments

Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Third Sunday of Easter - April 10, 2016



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.

Acts 9:1-6,(7-20)

Slightly different versions of this story can be found in 22:3-21 and 26:2-28, Paul’s speeches of self-defence. Paul’s own account, which is closest to 26:2-28, is in Galatians 1:11-17. [ NOAB] NJBC considers that the speeches give us a rare opportunity to gauge Luke’s editorial interests over against his source material. While the author uses the speeches to show development over time, the pre-Lucan Saul story is more likely to be seen in its first telling. The replays in the speeches are likely Luke’s rewriting of the same tale under viewpoints of his own. While 22:3-21 mentions Ananias, his role is less than here; he is omitted from the account in 26:2-28, where Saul receives his vocation directly from Christ.

The year is probably 36 AD.

Comments: A scholar says that the Empire granted Jews the right to extradite their own from beyond Palestine: I refer to NOAB. See 1 Maccabees 15:16-21 for such an extradition agreement; however, Josephus in Jewish Wars 1:24.2 suggests that only Herod had such privileges.

Verse 1: “still breathing threats ...”: For Paul’s own testimony of his persecution of Christians, see 1 Corinthians 15:9 (“... I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God”); Galatians 1:13-14, 23; Philippians 3:6. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: “letters to the synagogues at Damascus”: There is no evidence of such authority of the high priest over the Diaspora communities in the usual sources, so these may be letters of introduction, rather than the granting of authority. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: “Damascus”: is on the western edge of the Syrian desert. It was at the intersection of important caravan routes. The contemporary historian, Josephus, says that there were either 10,000 or 18,000 Jews living in the city. [ JBC]

Verse 2: “the Way”: This name for Christianity also appears in 18:25-26; 19:23; 24:14, 22. Those who belonged to “the Way” “at Damascus” were probably from Jerusalem. [ NOAB]

Verse 3: “light”: Paul describes the glory of God (or Christ) as “light” in 2 Corinthians 3:18 (“... all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit”) and 4:6. [ NOAB]

Verses 4-5: In persecuting Christians, Paul also persecuted Christ : Jesus says in Matthew 10:40-42: “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me ...”. See also 25:40. [ NOAB]

Verse 4: “fell to the ground”: An Old Testament motif: the prophet says in Ezekiel 43:3: “The vision I saw was like the vision that I had seen when he [ Yahweh] came to destroy the city, ... and I fell upon my face”. See also Ezekiel 44:4; Daniel 8:17; 2 Maccabees 3:27. [ JBC]

Verse 5: “Lord”: JBC translates this as Sir. [ JBC]

Verse 7: “they heard ...”: John 12:29 says “The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’”. [ NOAB]

Verse 10: “Ananias”: From 22:12, apparently one of the leaders of the believers in Damascus. [ NOAB]

Verse 11: Note the parallel between Saul-Ananias and Cornelius-Peter (in Chapter 10).

Verse 11: “the street called Straight”: This may be Darb el-Mostakim, which runs east-west in Damascus. [ NOAB]

Verse 12: “lay his hands on him”: Within the Judao-Christian tradition, this seems to be an (almost) uniquely Christian gesture. It is found in neither the Old Testament nor in rabbinic literature; however 1QapGn (Qumran Genesis Apocryphon) 20:28-29 says:

“... But now pray for me and for my household so that this evil spirit will be banished from us. I prayed for ... and laid my hands on his head. The plague was removed from him; [the evil spirit] was banished [from him] and he lived.”

Verse 13: “your saints”: In v. 32, we read “Now as Peter went here and there among all the believers, he came down also to the saints living in Lydda”. See also 9:41 and 26:10. [ JBC]

Verse 14: “who invoke your name”: In 2:21, in his speech on the Day of Pentecost, Peter uses the same Greek word when he says: “‘Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved’”. See also 2:38; 3:6, 16; 4:7, 10, 12, 17-18, 30; 5:40; 8:12, 16; 9:27-29; 10:48; 16:18; 19:5, 13, 17; 21:13; 22:16; 26:9. [ JBC]

Verse 15: Saul, like the prophets, was chosen for a special purpose: in Jeremiah 1:5, Yahweh tells Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations”. See also Galatians 1:15. [ NOAB]

Verse 15: “instrument”: Literally vessel (as in Romans 9:22-23 and 2 Corinthians 4:7) – emphasizing his domination by Christ. [ NOAB] In Romans, the potter simile employs vessels in the sense of objects of divine wrath or mercy. [ NJBC] This is a Semitism. [ BlkActs]

Verse 15: “bring my name”: In the sense of confess the name publicly. [ NJBC]

Verse 15: “before Gentiles ...”:

Paul will appear before: In:
Jews 13:5, 14; 14:1; 16:13; 17:1-4, 10, 17; 19:8
Gentiles 17:22; 18:6-11; 19:10
King Herod Agrippa II 26:1-29 [ JBC]

Verse 16: “he must suffer”: This was forecast for all Jesus’ disciples: Jesus says in Luke 21:12-19: “... before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you ...”. [ NJBC]

Verse 18: “something like scales fell from his eyes”: In Tobit 11:13, when Tobias and Raphael heal Tobit’s blindness, after applying medicine to his eyes, Tobias “peeled off the white films from the corners of his eyes”. [ NJBC]

Verse 18: “was baptised”: Paul does not mention his baptism in his epistles. [ NJBC]

Verse 19: While the followers at Damascus accepted Paul, those at Jerusalem “were all afraid of him” (see v. 26).

Verses 20-21: Paul tells of his post-conversion time in Damascus in Galatians 1:13-24, but while in those verses Paul tells of his sojourn in Arabia before returning to Damascus, it is not mentioned here. [ NJBC]

Verse 20: From Old Testament passages, Paul shows Jews that Jesus is “Son of God”. This term occurs only here in Acts, although Luke quotes Paul in 13:33 as citing Psalm 1 (“the second psalm”): “‘You are my Son ...’”. So NJBC postulates that Luke is dependent on Pauline tradition here, as he is in v. 21 in using porthesas (“made havoc”). This Greek word is also found in Galatians 1:13, 23. Note also “the saints” in v. 13: Paul’s usual term for Christians. [ BlkActs]

Verses 23-25: 2 Corinthians 11:32-33 says “In Damascus, the governor under King Aretas guarded the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped from his hands.” Acts reflects Luke’s systematic view of the Jews as being the foremost enemy of the spread of Christianity. [ NJBC]

Psalm 30

This psalm was probably sung in fulfilment of a vow. [ NOAB]

Verse 1: “extol”: Literally raise up. The psalmist raises up praise to God, who has raised him up from near death. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “Sheol ... the Pit”: It is also mentioned in 88:5-6; Job 14:13-19; Genesis 37:35 (Jacob when Joseph is missing from the cistern); 2 Samuel 22:6 (David’s song of thanksgiving when delivered from the hands of Saul). [ NOAB]

Verse 5: The joyful reintegration into the community of one who had been at the point of death. See also 22:23-24. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “Will the dust praise you?”: See also 6:5 (“For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who can give you praise?”) and 115:17 (“The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any that go down into silence”). [ NJBC]

Verse 12: “so that my soul may praise you and not be silent”: a psalmist writes in 115:17: “The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any that go down into silence”. [ NJBC]

Revelation 5:11-14

Because I feel that it is important to understand the whole of John’s vision and space in Comments is limited, a fuller commentary on 4:1-5:14 follows:

This book is an inspired picture-book, intended to make a powerful appeal to the reader’s imagination. Using a literary genre known as an apocalypse, John gives us an insight into what will occur at the end of the current era. A voice has told him to record what he observes ( 1:10-11).

In his vision, he sees God’s throne and the heavenly scene around it and hears the praises sung there. He describes the glory of God in terms of precious gems ( 4:3). Around God’s throne, there are “twenty-four elders” (perhaps the twelve Old Testament patriarchs and the twelve apostles), so an image of the ideal Church. As in a Roman court, God’s counsellors are “seated” ( 4:4): they share in ruling and judging. “Flashes of lightning” ( 4:5) and “thunder” express God’s majesty. The “seven spirits” before the throne may be the seven angels of high rank, as in 1 Enoch, a non-biblical apocalyptic book. Tobit 12:15 speaks of Raphael as “one of the seven angels who ... enter before ... the glory of the Lord”. Human language is inadequate for describing the divine (“something like”, 4:6). The “sea of glass”, a valuable commodity in John’s day, suggests the distance between humans and God, even in heaven. The “four living creatures” around the throne are angelic beings representing the whole of creation (see Ezekiel 1:5, 10); they are God’s agents in unceasingly watching over all of nature (Ezekiel 1:18, 10:12). They symbolize what is most splendid about animals: the lion – nobility, the ox – strength, the human – wisdom, and the eagle – oversight. (A century after John, the creatures were equated with the four evangelists: Mark, the lion; Luke, the ox, Matthew, the human face; and John, the eagle.) Perhaps their “six wings” ( 4:8) express the swiftness of the execution of God’s will: see Isaiah 6:2-3 and Ezekiel 1:6. Representing earthly beings, they continually praise God as ruler of history (or time). He will restore (or liberate) creation (“is to come”). They are joined by the “elders” ( 4:10), representing heavenly beings, who acknowledge God’s superior power by placing their crowns “before the throne” – that all power comes from God. Perhaps 4:11 tells us that all things existed in God’s will, and then he created them.

The “scroll” ( 5:1) is a record of God’s plans for the end-time: see Daniel 10:21. Official documents were written “on the inside and on the back”, so the scroll is such a document. It is perfectly sealed (“seven seals”) so it is unalterable and known only to its author, God. 5:2 asks, in effect, who can initiate the events of the end-time? No one in all creation (“in heaven or earth”, 5:3) can be found to do it. The dilemma causes John to “weep” ( 5:4), for the faithful wish to know the events planned for the end of the current era, and to see them put into effect – thus giving meaning to human suffering. (When Revelation was written, Christians were being persecuted for their faith.)

But there is one in heaven who “can open the scroll” ( 5:5): he is the Messiah (as the titles “Lion of ... Judah” and “Root of David” show); he has “conquered” death. He is “a Lamb ... as if ... slaughtered”; he holds the fulness of power and insight (“seven horns and seven eyes”, 5:6) of the Spirit, sent into the world. He bears the marks of his sacrificial death: he is Christ. The heavenly beings present the prayers of the “saints” ( 5:8, the faithful on earth) before the Lamb. (The “harp” traditionally accompanied the singing of psalms.) The song they sing is “new” ( 5:9) because Christ has inaugurated a new era: he is “worthy” because he has rescued all Christians everywhere. God made Israel a “kingdom” ( 5:10) with “priests”: now he extends his promise to all the faithful.

In a scene reminiscent of the honours given to a Roman emperor, large numbers sing of Christ’s worthiness to disclose God’s plans. There are seven honours he is worthy to receive (v. 12): the first four (“power ... might”) concern his dominion; the others express the adoration of those present. The “Lamb” and the Creator (“the one”, v. 13) are equal in majesty. All creatures in heaven and on earth certify this to be true (“Amen”, v. 14).

4:1-11: Important analogies are 1 Enoch 14; 71; 2 Enoch 20-21; Apocalypse of Abraham 18. [ NJBC]

4:1: “in heaven a door stood open”: In a Jewish apocalypse, an angel escorts the visionary/traveller to the firmament and through a large door (or doors) into the first heaven: see 3 Baruch 2:2. Heavenly gates are also mentioned in Genesis 28:17 (Jacob’s vision at Bethel) and 3 Maccabees 6:18. [ NJBC]

4:1: “after this”: In Chapter 1, John describes the first scene of his vision. This passage partially resumes 1:19, where God commands John: “Now write what you have seen, what is, and what is to take place after this”. [ NJBC]

4:1: “Come up here ...”: Some books that contain visions of the enthroned deity are heavenly journeys (e.g. 1 Enoch 1-36 and 37-71) but Revelation may or may not describe such a journey. [ NJBC]

4:2: The Old Testament represents God as making a throne of the heavens (see Isaiah 66:1; see also Matthew 5:34ff; 23:22), sitting on a throne (see 1 Kings 22:19; Isaiah 6:1; Ezekiel 1:26, 1 Enoch 14:18-19) and holding court in heaven (see Psalm 11:4).

4:3: “jasper and carnelian”: In Ezekiel 28:13, Yahweh commands the prophet to tell the king of Tyre: “You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, carnelian, ... and jasper ...”. See also Exodus 28:17-21, where the priestly vestments are to be adorned with “carnelian” and “jasper” stones. [ CAB]

4:3: “rainbow”: A halo or nimbus traditionally thought to encircle divine beings. It indicates God’s mercy towards humanity: see Genesis 9:16-17, where God tells Noah that the rainbow will be an aide-mémoire of “the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature”. [ CAB]

4:4: “seated”: In Jewish apocalypses, the heavenly beings stand; hence the thought that here their posture is influenced by the Roman court. [ NJBC]

4:4: “twenty-four elders”: Another interpretation is that this recalls the idea of the heavenly council: see Job 1-2 and Psalm 82 (“the divine council”). [ CAB]

4:5: “lightning ... thunder”: Psalm 18:12-15 speaks of God sending lightning and thunder. See also Revelation 8:5; 11:19; 16:18.

4:5: “seven spirits of God”: Comments refers to 1 Enoch 90:21. 1 Enoch 20 gives their names: Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Sariel, Gabriel and Remiel. The Bible mentions four of them: Raphael (in Tobit 12:15), Michael (In 1 Chronicles; 2 Chronicles; Ezra 8:8; Daniel 10:13, 21; Jude 9; Revelation 12:7), Gabriel (in Daniel 8:16; 9:21; Luke 1:19, 26), and probably Remiel (as “Jeremiel” in 4 Esdras 4:36). They are also mentioned in 1:4 (“the seven spirits who are before his [God’s] throne”) and 3:1 (“the seven spirits of God and the seven stars”). [ CAB] Another interpretation is that they are the seven ways in which the Spirit works in the world, according to Isaiah 11:2-3. The NRSV lists six: wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and fear (awe) of God. The Septuagint translation mentions a seventh one: piety. [ NOAB]

4:6: “something like”: 8:8 speaks of “something like a great mountain, burning with fire” being “thrown into the sea”.

4:6: “sea of glass, like crystal”: The glass possessed the clarity of crystal: highly unusual until many centuries later. [ JBC] In 1 Enoch 14, a great house (a palace or temple) in heaven is described as having a floor of crystal and being surrounded by flaming fire, so the background of the image here is Ezekiel 1 and subsequent elaboration and interpretation of that vision. [ NJBC]

Another interpretation follows. Late Judaism accepted the image of a heavenly sea between the first and second heavens based on Genesis 1:6ff. Above this sea was represented God’s palace: Psalm 104:3 speaks of Yahweh: “you set the beams of your chambers on the waters, you make the clouds your chariot, you ride on the wings of the wind”. See also 148:4. [ JBC]

Comments refers to several verses in Ezekiel:

  • 1:5: “In the middle of it was something like four living creatures ...”
  • 1:10: “As for the appearance of their faces: the four had the face of a human being, the face of a lion on the right side, the face of an ox on the left side, and the face of an eagle”
  • 1:18: “Their rims were tall and awesome, for the rims of all four were full of eyes all around”
  • 10:12: “Their entire body, their rims, their spokes, their wings, and the wheels – the wheels of the four of them – were full of eyes all around”

4:7: The assignment of the four living creatures to the evangelists appears to have been made per the following reasoning:

  • the lion to Mark: the gospel according to Mark dwells most fully on the resurrection of Christ and proclaims with great emphasis the royal dignity of Christ
  • the ox to Luke: in Judaism, the ox was a sacrificial animal. The gospel according to Luke emphasizes the sacrificial aspects of Christ's atonement, as well as his divine priesthood.
  • the eagle to John: in his gospel, John soars upward in his contemplation of the divine nature of the Saviour. The eagle was thought to fly very high.
  • the human face to Matthew: Matthew records the human ancestry of Christ. [SSCA]

4:8: “six wings”: Isaiah 6:2-3, part of Isaiah’s commissioning, says: “Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory’”, but we read in Ezekiel 1:6 “Each had four faces, and each of them had four wings”. John’s vision seems to have features of the visions of Isaiah and Ezekiel.

4:8: “Holy, holy, holy”: In Isaiah 6:3, the song is to God who fills heaven and earth with his glory, but here it is to God who rules history. [ JBC]

4:8: “who was and is and is to come”: This phrase also appears in 1:4 and 1:8. In Exodus 3:14-15 (God’s revelation of himself to Moses), God says: “This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations”.

4:10: “fall before ...”: This act of reverence originated in Persia. It became part of the ceremony of the ruler cult in Hellenistic kingdoms, and eventually of the Roman imperial cult. [ NJBC]

5:1: “scroll”: It is a record of God’s plans for the end-time: see also 1 Enoch 81:1-3. This verse is like Ezekiel 2:9-10: “I looked, and a hand was stretched out to me, and a written scroll was in it. He [ Yahweh] spread it before me; it had writing on the front and on the back, and written on it were words of lamentation and mourning and woe”. [ NOAB] All of world history is subject to the will and power of God. [ CAB]

5:1: “written on the inside and on the back”: In Mesopotamia, a document was written on a tablet. It was then placed in a small clay casket on which the identical text was copied. The idea was to discourage fraud. This practice continued even after papyrus came into use. So what John sees is an official document. [ JBC]

5:3: “in heaven or on earth or under the earth”: The then current division of creation: Exodus 20:4 commands: “You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth”. In Philippians 2:10, Paul writes: “... at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth”. [ JBC]

5:5: “the Lion of the tribe of Judah”: See Genesis 49:9-10 (“Judah is a lion's whelp ...”). [ CAB]

5:5: “the Root of David”: Isaiah 11:1 foretells: “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots”. See also Isaiah 11:10. [ CAB] The Lamb fulfils Old Testament prophecies.

5:5: “[he] has conquered”: In 1 Corinthians 15:54-57, Paul writes: “When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: "Death has been swallowed up in victory ...”. By his death, Christ has conquered, thus showing Christians the road to victory: see also 2:11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12. [ JBC]

5:5: “he can open the scroll”: Only the Lamb is worthy to possess the scroll and open it. In other words, the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the reconstitution of the redeemed people of God, are essential to the unfolding of eschatological events.

5:6: “Lamb”: For the theme of Christ sacrificed as a lamb, see John 1:29, 36; Acts 8:32; 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19. This theme plays on those of the Servant of Yahweh (see Isaiah 53:7, part of a Servant Song) and of the paschal lamb (see Exodus 12), but Revelation considers the Lamb to be a conqueror who after his sacrifice holds universal dominion. This victorious sight would permit comparison of the Lamb with a ram, an ancient symbol of power and dominion: see Daniel 8:3.

5:6: “seven horns”: “Seven” is the number for perfection. A horned sheep or ram was an apocalyptic symbol: see Daniel 8:20-21; 1 Enoch 89:42; 90:9. [ JBC]

5:6: “seven eyes”: The Lamb watches and supervises all that takes place on earth. In Zechariah 4:10, an angel interprets a vision the prophet has: “‘These seven [lamps on a lampstand] are the eyes of the Lord, which range through the whole earth’”.

5:8-9: “the Lamb ... [who was] slaughtered”: This title is used 28 times in Revelation (e.g. in 5:6, 12; 13:8). [ CAB] The same verb is used of the sacrifice of Christians who, following Christ, suffer death out of loyalty to their Lord (see 6:9 and 18:24). Isaiah 53:7, part of the fourth Servant Song, says: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth”.

5:8: “harp”: In 14:2-3, John tells us: “I heard a voice from heaven ... the voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, and they sing a new song before the throne ...”. 15:2 speaks of “those who had conquered the beast” having “harps of God in their hands”. [ JBC]

5:8: “the prayers of the saints”: See also 8:3ff; 11:18; 13:7; Daniel 7:18ff; Psalm 141:2 (in the Septuagint translation). The prayers express the Christians’ hope the God’s mysterious decree will be carried out soon (see 5:10).

5:9-13: The three doxologies (vv. 9-10, 12, 13) correspond to the acclamations that usually followed enthronement of a king.

5:9-10: The Lamb is adored in terms similar to the adoration rendered to God in 4:11: “‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created’”. [ NOAB]

5:9: See also 5:12. In John 1:29, we read of John the Baptizer: “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’”

5:9: “a new song”: This phrase is used several times in Psalms (e.g. in 33:3; 40:3; 98:1). It originally referred to an unusual hymn of praise but also to an extraordinary event, as in Isaiah 42:10. The newness corresponds to the new name given to the conqueror (see 2:17 and 3:12), to the new Jerusalem (see 3:12 and 21:2), to the new heaven and earth (see 21:1), and to universal renewal (see 21:5).

5:10: “kingdom and priests”: In 1:5-6, the author writes: “To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen”. The vocation promised to Israel in Exodus 19:6 (“you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation”, see also Isaiah 61:6) is extended to the Church. 1 Peter 2:9 says: “... you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light”. [ NOAB]

5:12: “power”: In 1 Corinthians 1:24, Paul says that “Christ crucified” is “the power of God and the wisdom of God”. [ CAB]

5:12: “wealth”: In 2 Corinthians 8:9, Paul writes: “... you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich”. See also Ephesians 3:8. [ CAB]

5:12: “wisdom”: See 1 Corinthians 1:24 (quoted above). [ CAB]

5:12: “might”: In Luke 11:22, Jesus speaks of God’s power versus the Devil’s power: “... when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armour in which he trusted and divides his plunder”. [ CAB]

5:12: “honour”: See Philippians 2:10. “God also highly exalted him [Christ] and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth”. [ CAB]

5:12: “glory”: John 1:14 says: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth”. [ CAB]

5:12: “blessing”: See Romans 15:29. [ CAB]

5:13-14: All creation exults with joy, for the moment is at hand when it will be freed from the curse of sin and death, in order to be completely renewed. See also 20:11; 21:1, 4-7; 22:2. Paul writes in Romans 8:18-21: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God”.

5:14: “Amen”: Literally: it is true! [ CAB]

John 21:1-19

It is generally agreed that this gospel ended originally with what we consider Chapter 20. It is likely that Chapter 21 was added to explain the Beloved Disciple’s death. (The beloved disciple is usually thought to be John, the author of the first twenty chapters of this gospel, although some scholars, including NJBC, consider that it was written by the Johannine community.) Some early Christians clung to the hope that he would survive until Christ’s return: see vv. 21-23. V. 23 says “So the rumour spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?’” [ BlkJn]

This story may be related to Mark 16:7: “But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” Note also Luke 5:1-11, also a story of a miraculous catch. There Peter is told by Jesus: “... from now on you will be catching people.” (v. 10) CAB considers the story in Luke to be an expansion of the one in Mark 1:16-20. See also Matthew 4:18-22. Matthew ends with a post-resurrection commissioning scene: see Matthew 28:16-20. It is possible that the story in Luke and the one here are about different occasions. There are several common elements, but the location of the boat, the position of Jesus with respect to the boat, the nature of Peter’s reaction, the actual condition of the net, and the presence of other boats to help with the catch, differ. [ NJBC]

Verse 4: “the disciples did not know that it was Jesus”: As in other appearance stories ( 20:15, to Mary Magdalene, and Luke 24:14-15, on the road to Emmaus) Jesus is not immediately recognized. [ NJBC]

Verse 5: “Children”: A Johannine colloquialism also found in 1 John 2:13, 18; 3:7. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “It is the Lord!”: Mary Magdalene recognizes Jesus when he calls her name: see 20:16. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “put on some clothes, for he was naked”: BlkJn offers put on his outer garment (for he had stripped). JB and REB translate the Greek similarly.

Verse 10: Comments: This verse looks odd, for some fish is already on the fire: BlkJn suggests that three strands have been combined in this passage. The point of one is expressed in v. 11; that of the second in v. 14. A third theme is introduced with the “fish” (v. 9) and “bread” supplied by Jesus.

Verse 11: “large fish”: So they are worth catching. [ BlkJn]

Verse 11: “a hundred [and] fifty-three of them”: Various interpretations have been proposed over the centuries for this number, but none is convincing. [ BlkJn]

Verse 11: “the net was not torn”: It is likely that the fish symbolize those who will come to Christ; there will be many of them. The narrator may emphasize that the net did not break to point to the unity of the believers, in contrast to the divisions over Jesus that occurred in the unbelieving crowds: see, for example, 7:43; 8:16; 10:19. [ NJBC] John may be saying that all are brought safely to land. [ BlkJn]

Verse 12: “none of the disciples dared to ask him ...”: They had to become adjusted to the new situation: raised from the dead, they could still meet him in the Eucharist. A fish occurs along with bread in some early representations of the Eucharist. [ BlkJn] The fish preceded the cross as a symbol of the Church.

Verse 13: In Luke 24:42-43 (Jesus’ post-resurrection commissioning of his disciples), Jesus himself eats some fish to dispel doubts. [ NJBC]

Comments: In John 6, the Feeding of the Five Thousand, Jesus has blessed a meal of bread and fish: Another point-of-contact between this story and the one in John 6 is that only in these stories does “Sea of Tiberias” appear. [ NJBC]

Verse 14: “the third time”: Jesus’ other post-resurrection appearances are mentioned in 20:19-23, 26-29. [ NOAB]

Verses 15-17: Peter’s triple denial of Jesus is in 18:17, 25-27. Peter has also stated that he will not desert Jesus (unlike other disciples) in Mark 14:29. [ NOAB] Loving Jesus must be matched by caring for the flock. For Jesus as the shepherd, see 10:1-16. 1 Peter 5:1-2 tells us “... I exhort the elders among you to tend the flock of God ...”. In Acts 20:28 we read that Paul told the leaders of the church at Ephesus to “Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, ... to shepherd the church of God ...”. [ BlkJn]

Verse 15: “do you love me more than these?”: The Greek word translated “these” can be neuter. If it is, more than all else is a valid translation. [ BlkJn]

Verse 18: A scholar notes that a similar expression to “take you where you do not wish to go” was used by contemporary authors – both Christian and pagan – as a reference to crucifixion. Tradition says that Peter was crucified at Rome about 64-68 AD [ NOAB]; 1 Clement 5:4 says: “Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him”. [ NJBC] Tertullian wrote: Then is Peter girt by another, when he is made fast to the cross. [ BlkJn]

Verse 19: “‘Follow me”: In 1:43, Jesus addresses these words to Phillip, asking him to become a disciple. In 13:36, Jesus tells Peter “‘Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward’”, thus predicting the manner of Peter’s death. [ BlkJn]

© 1996-2016 Chris Haslam



Web page maintained by

Christ Church Cathedral
© 1996-2016
Last Updated: 20160329

Click on a button below to move to another page in the site.
If you are already on that page, you will be taken to the top.

November 19
Harvest Thanksgiving
November 26
December 3