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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Last Sunday after Epiphany - February 10, 2013



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.

Exodus 34:29-35

Verse 21: “even in plowing time and in harvest time you shall rest”: The agricultural references seem to indicate that this passage was edited when the Israelites were no longer nomads.

Verse 26b: “You shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk”: This law is also found in 23:19 and Deuteronomy 14:21. Most dietary laws can be seen as being sensible for the preservation of good health in a warm country long before refrigeration, but not this one. The preceding half verse in Deuteronomy says: “For you are a people holy to the LORDyour God”. This commandment is the basis for the Jewish prohibition against mixing dairy and meat foods. The context is how feasts should be kept. In Genesis 18:1, 8, when Yahweh appears to Abraham, he serves the “three men” “curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared”, thus mixing the two kinds of food. The most likely explanation is the reverence for life with the separation of it from death:

  • the prohibition against sacrifice of a newborn when it is suckling – at least for the first week: see Leviticus 22:27
  • the prohibition against slaying the mother and its young at the same time: see Leviticus 22:28
  • the life-sustaining mother’s milk should never be associated with the death of the kid.

Verse 27: While this time Moses writes “these words”, in 31:18 and 32:16 we read that God wrote them on the original tablets. [NJBC]

Verse 28: “ten commandments”: Literally ten words. [NJBC]

Verses 29-35: These verses are from the P (Priestly) source. [NJBC]

Verses 29-30: “shone ... shining”: Hebrew, until after the time of Christ, was written without vowels, so a written word could several meanings – depending on what the vowels were. There are cases where this ambiguity lent itself to layers of meanings. A case in point is krn. Vowels can be added in two ways:

  • karan, meaning shining, and
  • keren, meaning horn.

The next Hebrew words mean skin (or skin of) and his face, so we have either Moses’ face shining or some association between horn(s) and Moses’ skin and face.

V. 29, written from the perspective of God, says that the face of Moses was shining because he has spoken with God: karan. On the other hand, v. 30, written from the perspective of the Israelites, speaks of the fear engendered in them by the strange appearance of Moses' face: they saw it as threatening, like that of a bull! Remember God’s response to the making of the Golden Calf; it had horns! Both meanings are appropriate – and intended. Both light and horns, in a sense, radiate, dart out.

Jerome, in the Vulgate, translated the Hebrew of v. 29 into Latin with the meaning horned was his face; he translated v. 30 analogously. It is hardly surprising that Michelangelo, and many other medieval artists, portrayed this clause graphically! The Septuagint and most English translations choose the first meaning. Neither Greek nor English is capable of expressing both meanings.

Verse 30: “shining”: In Psalm 69:31, karan (see above) is used in the second sense; that verse speaks of “an ox or a bull with horns”.

Verse 33: See also 2 Corinthians 3:7-18. [NOAB]

Psalm 99

Psalms 96-99 are enthronement hymns. Psalm 95 may also be one. [NJBC]

Although all “peoples” are enjoined to worship him, it is among his special people Israel and through his special agents (“Moses”, v. 6, “Aaron” and “Samuel”) that his Law is conveyed and that Israel obtains forgiveness. [CAB]

Verses 1-3: Yahweh is ruler over the whole earth. [NOAB]

Verse 2: “The LORD is great in Zion”: Literally Yahweh-in-Zion, a common type of ancient Near East divine epithet. See also 65:1; Acts 19:28, 34. [NJBC]

Verses 3,5: “Holy is he!”: See also 22:3 (“you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.”); Isaiah 6:3 (“And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory’”, Isaiah’s commissioning); Revelation 4:8 (“... the four living creatures ... sing, ‘Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come’”). [NJBC]

Verses 4-5: God’s concern for justice. [NOAB]

Verses 6-9: God’s fidelity to his people. [NOAB] These verses expand on v. 4c: “you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob”. Yahweh shows these qualities by answering his people in need (vv. 6, 8), giving them just laws (v. 7), and forgiving them or punishing them when necessary (v. 8). [NJBC]

Verse 6: “Moses and Aaron ... Samuel”: Mentioned here as great intercessors with God. Jeremiah 15:1 says: “Then the LORD said to me: Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my heart would not turn toward this people. Send them out of my sight, and let them go!”. [NJBC]

Verse 8: “a forgiving God”: The Hebrew translated as “God” is El, the name of the supreme Canaanite god. Here he is identified with Yahweh in Israel. He was pictured as a kindly, fatherly god. Exodus 34:6-7 says: “The LORD passed before him [Moses on Mount Sinai], and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God [El] merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation’”. [NJBC]

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

3:1: Apparently Paul had been accused of commending himself. [NOAB] He does do so in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12: (“You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain ...”) in order to distinguish himself from other itinerant preachers. [NJBC]

3:1: “letters of recommendation”: Illustrated by Romans 16:1-2 (Phoebe) and mentioned in Acts 9:2 (Saul to the synagogues at Damascus); 18:27 (to the disciples in Achaia). [NJBC]

3:2: “written on our hearts”: While “our” is better attested, your makes more sense. The heart is the source of all human activity. [NJBC]

3:3: “prepared by us”: The church at Corinth (Paul’s letter of recommendation) was the work of God; Paul was only the instrument (v. 5). [NOAB]

3:3: “on tablets of human hearts”: Like the covenant announced by Jeremiah: Jeremiah 31:31-33 announces: “The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt – a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people”. See also Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26; Proverbs 3:3; 7:3. [CAB] [NJBC]

3:3: “tablets of stone”: For the tablets of stone on which Moses received the covenant, see Exodus 24:12; 31:18; Deuteronomy 9:10-11. In Romans 2:29, Paul writes: “... a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart – it is spiritual and not literal ...”. [NOAB] [CAB]

3:5: God empowers Paul to carry out his mission, which is beyond the capacity of fallen human nature. [NJBC]. Paul says in 4:7: “we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us”.

3:6: Paul is forced to distinguish between the two types of covenant because his opponents were using the new covenant theme to insist on the Law. To this extent the new covenant participated in the destructive power of the old covenant: see v. 14. [NJBC]

3:6: “kills”: For Paul’s view of the purpose and effect of the Law, see Galatians 3:19-29 (“Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring would come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained through angels by a mediator ...”) and Romans 7:7-13 (“What then should we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet...”). Though the Law could not make people righteous (Galatians 3:21), it revealed God’s will so that they might recognize their sins. [NOAB]

3:6: “the spirit gives life”: Christ gives the new life (see 2:16) of authentic humanity. [NJBC]. In 1 Corinthians 15:45, Paul quotes Genesis 2:7b freely: “‘The first man, Adam, became a living being’; the last Adam [Christ] became a life-giving spirit”.

3:7-4:6: The prominence given to Moses is probably due to an emphasis of his adversaries. [NJBC]

3:7-11: In unusually impersonal language, Paul contrasts the splendour (Greek: doxa) of his ministry, not his person, with that represented by Moses in Exodus 34:27-35. [NJBC]

3:7: “ministry of death”: i.e. existence under Mosaic law. It is called “the ministry of condemnation” in v. 9. In Romans 7:10, Paul writes “... the very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.” [NOAB]

3:9: “the ministry of justification”: Being permeated by the Spirit, it sets humans in a right relationship with God. [NJBC]

3:10: In comparison with the glory of the ministry of the Spirit, the glory of Moses’ ministry is so minuscule as to be non-existent. [NJBC]

3:12: “boldness”: The Greek word, parrhesia, can also be translated as authoritative plainness. [NJBC] This word is also translated as “openly” and “plainly” elsewhere in the New Testament.

3:13: Paul interprets Moses’ “veil” as his effort to hide from the people how temporary the old covenant was to be. [NOAB] Moses’ face shone only for a time. Either Paul read the Hebrew in context or followed the Septuagint translation of Exodus 34: it translates karan contextually as glorified. [BLXX] See Comments.

3:14-18: Corresponding to the difference between Paul and Moses, there is a difference in their followers; the first group is open, but the second closed. [NJBC]

3:14: “their minds were hardened”: See Isaiah 6:9-10 (“Keep listening, but do not comprehend ...”); 29:10; Deuteronomy 29:4; Romans 11:7. [NJBC]

3:14: “set aside”: NJBC offers annulled.

3:15: “whenever Moses is read”: As in Acts 15:21, this is a way of speaking of the books of Moses, i.e. the Law. See also 2 Chronicles 25:4; Nehemiah 13:1; Mark 12:26. [NJBC]

3:16: This is an adaptation of Exodus 34:34. In Exodus, the subject is Moses. Here Paul probably intends “one” to be Moses, not as a person but as the personification of the Jewish people of whom he is the founder. [JBC]

3:16: “when one turns to the Lord”: i.e. to God as revealed in Christ: see 4:6. See also 1 Thessalonians 1:9; Deuteronomy 4:30; Sirach 5:7; Isaiah 19:22. [NJBC]

3:17: “the Lord is the Spirit”: It is probable that Paul has God directly in view, although opinion is divided. God is identified with the Spirit in order to deny that he still operates through the “letter” (v. 6) of the Law. [NJBC] JBC offers a different interpretation: in the Septuagint, ho kyrios (the Lord) translates Yahweh; the God of Israel is spirit, indeed the spirit, for God is most perfect. Throughout this section, “spirit” refers to the spiritual nature of the new covenant, which it has from Christ, who is the personification of the new dispensation, and therefore its spirit.

3:17: “freedom”: We are no longer under the Law. Paul says in Galatians 5:18: “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law”. [NJBC]

3:18: “reflected”: NJBC argues, on linguistic evidence, that beholding as is a preferable translation.

3:18: “the glory of the Lord”: As the “last Adam” (see 1 Corinthians 15:45), Christ is the image and glory of God: see also 1 Corinthians 11:7. God is mirrored in Christ: in 4:6, Paul writes: “... it is the God who said, “‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”. [NJBC]

3:18: “from one degree of glory to another”: The meaning of doxa shifts from splendour to giving glory. [NJBC]

3:18: “the same image”: Of God, i.e. Christ. 4:4 says: “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God”. [NOAB]

3:18: “transformed”: In Romans 12:2, Paul advises: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect”. See also Romans 8:17, 29. [NOAB] We are transformed into conformity with Christ; this is salvation.

4:1: Comments: In 10:9-11: Scholars tell us that Chapter 10 is earlier than Chapter 3.

4:1: This verse expands on v. 12 above. [NJBC]

4:1: “by God’s mercy”: Paul writes of his persecution of Christians in 1 Corinthians 15:9 (“... I persecuted the church of God”); Galatians 1:13, 23. [NJBC]

4:2: “practice cunning or falsify God’s word”: This is probably a reference to the “false apostles” mentioned in 11:13: “... such boasters are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ”. See also 2:17. [NOAB] In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, Paul has laid himself open to the charge of being willing to adopt any means of achieving his end. [NJBC]

4:2: “conscience”: This is the faculty of authentic discernment. It is perhaps equivalent to the love of truth in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10: “The coming of the lawless one [the devil] is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved”. [NJBC]

4:3: “even if our gospel is veiled”: Paul concedes that his preaching was not totally effective. He brought few Jews to Christ. [NJBC]

4:4: “the god of this world”: NOAB says that this is a reference to either Satan or “Beliar” (see 6:15); however, NJBC suggests that the god who is this world is a better translation. In Philippians 3:19, Paul writes “their god is the belly”.

4:5: “we do not proclaim ourselves”: Perhaps this is a hint that false apostles gave more prominence to themselves than to Christ. [NJBC]

4:5: “Jesus Christ as Lord”: This is a confessional formula. It is also found in 1 Corinthians 12:3; Philippians 2:10-11; Romans 10:9. [NJBC]

4:6: “‘Let light shine out of darkness’”: This is a free citation of Genesis 1:3, applied to the “new creation” (5:17) through Christ. [NOAB] The Creator remains active to illuminate: see Isaiah 9:2 (“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light ...”). [NJBC] Recall John 1:4-5: “in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness ...” [JBC]

4:6: “in the face of Christ”: Note the contrast with Moses in 3:7. Paul tells his opponents that they should be comparing Christ, and not him, with Moses. [NJBC]

Luke 9:28-36,(37-43a)

The Revised Common Lectionary says that the reading extends to the end of v. 43; however, it would then end in the middle of a sentence.

The parallels are:

Luke Matthew Mark
vv. 28-36 17:1-8 9:2-8
vv. 37-43a 17:14-21 9:14-29 [NOAB]

Comments: An aura of unnatural brightness is linked with mystical appearances in Exodus and Acts: The references are Exodus 34:29-35 and Acts 9:3 (Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus). Other references are Nahum 3:3; Ezekiel 1:4, 7; Daniel 10:6 (particularly in the Septuagint translation). [BlkLk]

Verse 28: “about eight days after”: Luke may be intending the octave day of the Feast of Tabernacles. During this feast, the whole city was brightly illuminated. [JBC]

Verse 28: “these sayings”: i.e. those in vv. 23-27. Luke intends to link Jesus’ prediction of the coming of the Kingdom with the Transfiguration. [NJBC]

Verse 28: “went up on the mountain to pray”: For prayer as part of many recorded momentous events in Jesus’ life, see, for example, Mark 1:35; Luke 3:21 (the baptism of Jesus); 6:12 (Jesus Chooses the Twelve Apostles); 9:18 (Peter’s recognition that Jesus is the Messiah); 11:1 (the Lord’s Prayer); 22:21-46 (Jesus Predicts Peter's Denial). [NOAB]

Verse 29: “the appearance of his face was changed”: Mark 9:2 has “transfigured”. BlkLk suggests that Luke avoids the apparent metamorphosis lest his Hellenic readers think in terms of human deities.

Verses 30-31: On the road to Emmaus, in 24:26-27, Jesus asks: “‘Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’. Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures”. “Glory” is associated with the risen and heavenly life. [NJBC]

Verse 30: “Two men”: There are two similar appearances:

  • at the Resurrection, in 24:4: “While they [the women who had come from Galilee] were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them”
  • after the Ascension, in Acts 1:10: “While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them”. [JBC]

Verse 31: “departure”: God’s secret burial of Moses (per the Septuagint translation of Deuteronomy 34:6) led to the tradition that Moses did not die, but rather ascended. Elijah’s taking up into heaven is mentioned in 2 Kings 2:1-12. [CAB] Joshua and Jesus are the same name. As Joshua succeeded Moses, so Jesus does now. [BlkLk]

Verse 32: “weighed down with sleep”: This suggests that the Transfiguration took place at night. [NOAB] However, BlkLk offers a second alternative: Luke may be seeking a way of excusing Peter’s strange suggestion in v. 33 (although it can also be seen as an attempt to delay the departure of Moses and Elijah).

Verse 33: “three dwellings”: For the Feast of Tabernacles (“booths”), see Zechariah 14:16. [JBC]

Verse 35: “This is my Son ...”: The words at Jesus’ baptism, in 3:21-22, are “‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased’”. [NJBC]

Verse 35: “Chosen”: The Greek word has much the same meaning as that translated Beloved, found in the parallel passages. See also John 12:28-30. [NOAB] Both titles indicate an act of will rather than of feeling. CAB suggests that “my Chosen” refers to the concept of Israel in Isaiah 42:1: “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.” The voice identifies Jesus as the agent of the new-covenant people.

In Psalm 106:20, Moses is spoken of as “his chosen one”. The scoffers at the cross refer to Jesus as God’s “chosen one”: see 23:35. [BlkLk]

Verse 35: “listen to him”: Perhaps a reference to the prophet like Moses of Deuteronomy 18:15, whom the Israelites are to heed. Here the meaning is that the disciples are commanded to be attentive to this new phase in God’s revelation of who the Son is: one who returns to God via the cross. The implications for the disciples of Jesus’ journey to the cross will be spelt out in 9:51-19:27. [NJBC]

Verse 38: “I beg you to look at my son”: See also 1 Samuel 1:11 (Hannah’s vow) and Luke 1:48 (the Magnificat). [NJBC]

Verse 38: “only child”: Luke picks up on “only” elsewhere: see 7:12 and 8:42. [NJBC]

Verses 39,42: Epilepsy was thought to be due to the influence of the moon, a demonic force: Psalm 121:6 comforts: “The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night”. [NOAB]

Verse 41: Jesus’ words are drawn from Deuteronomy 32:5, 20. [JBC]

Verse 41: “faithless and perverse generation”: Whom does Jesus address? Neither the boy’s father nor the disciples have shown lack of faith, and neither have turned against him, so it seems that Jesus speaks of general human infidelity and, in particular, that of his contemporaries. Reading ahead, we know that Jesus’ deeds of mercy will be greeted with disbelief, and that this will eventually lead to the cross. [NJBC]

Verses 43-44: All Jesus’ mighty deeds must be seen from the vantage point of the cross. [NJBC]

Verse 44: “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands”: Jesus has predicted this in the verses preceding our reading: see v. 22. At the empty tomb, the two men remind the women of this prophecy. [NJBC]

Verse 45: Only after Jesus’ resurrection and his gift of insight (his interpretation given on the road to Emmaus) will the disciples understand the meaning of his cross. [NJBC]

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