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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost - September 11, 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.

Jeremiah 4:11-12,22-28

4:1-4: A mixture of threat and promise tells Israel and Judah of God’s favour if there is a genuine commitment to Yahweh, which is here symbolized by circumcision “of your hearts”; [ CAB] however, NJBC sees 4:3-31 as addressed only to the “people of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem” (v. 4).

4:3-6:30: These verses are one poem with one subject: Judah must be punished for her sins; the punishment will be realized by swift invasion. Chapters 4 and 6 both end with the anguish of a woman in childbirth, a symbol of great suffering (see 4:31 and 6:24-26). The idea of destructive fire opens and closes the poem. 4:3-31 describe the invasion. [ NJBC]

4:3-31: A new step is taken in the religion of Israel by this proclamation of the primacy of the interior dispositions over the exterior ones, for the heart was seen as the seat of both intelligence and will. [ NJBC]

4:3: In Hosea 10:12, God commands through the prophet “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you”. [ NOAB]

4:4: “Circumcise yourselves ...”: Clearly, this is not meant literally; a commitment to Yahweh is meant. Deuteronomy 10:16 says “Circumcise, then, the foreskin of your heart, and do not be stubborn any longer”. [ NOAB] See also 9:25 and Deuteronomy 30:6. [ NJBC]

4:5-31: The foe from the north is a recurring theme of Jeremiah: see also 1:13-14; 5:15-17; 6:1-5, 22-23; 10:22; 13:20; 15:11-14. [ NOAB]

4:5-10: Sound the alarm! Muster for defence! (see also 6:1-8) Like a beast of prey, the foe approaches (see also 5:6)! Courage will fail the leaders of the people, who have ignored all warnings of impending doom ( 6:13-15; 14:13-16; 23:16-17). God’s judgement will sweep over the land like the “hot wind” (the sirocco), desiccating everything before it. [ NOAB]

4:5: “proclaim”: A similar cry, echoing the same alarm of Hosea a century earlier at the time of the Syro-Ephraimite war (735-734 BC), is found in 6:1: see 2 Kings 16:5ff and Hosea 5:8. Later Joel will proclaim the eschatological day of Yahweh, in analogous terms: see Joel 2:1. [ NJBC]

4:5: “Blow the trumpet ... fortified cities”: When attacked, people fled to the relative safely of walled cities. [ NJBC]

4:6: “standard”: or signal, a fire lighted on a height of land, for transmission of news: see also Isaiah 13:2; 18:3; Lachish Letters 4:10-13. [ NJBC]

4:7: “destroyer”: NJBC translates the Hebrew as mauler, thus respecting the symbol of the “lion”, although the literal translation is “destroyer”. The Hebrew word also occurs in Exodus 12:23 with reference to the demonic force that spared the Israelites during the night of the Passover, but now there is no escaping it.

4:8: “sackcloth”: Rough linen, a garment of mourning: see also 6:26; 49:3; Isaiah 15:3; 22:12. [ NJBC]

4:9-10: All the leaders of the people will be “astounded” when, in spite of assurances of safety from false prophets, disaster strikes. [ CAB]

4:10: “‘It shall be well with you’”: The Hebrew word is shalom. It appears it is Yahweh’s well being that the prophets proclaim, but the present events show that they were false prophets, that they lied. 23:16-17 says “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you; they are deluding you. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They keep saying to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to all who stubbornly follow their own stubborn hearts, they say, ‘No calamity shall come upon you.’”. See also 6:14 and 14:13. [ NJBC]

4:11: “hot wind”: In 18:17, Yahweh says through the prophet: “Like the wind from the east, I will scatter them before the enemy” [ NOAB] and in Hosea 13:15: “... the east wind shall come, a blast from the Lord, rising from the wilderness; and his fountain shall dry up, his spring shall be parched”. [ CAB]

4:15-16: Communiqués tell of the coming invasion from “Dan” (see 8:16, at the source of the Jordan, on the northern edge of Palestine, so the first town to suffer) through “Mount Ephraim” (the mountainous region to the north of Jerusalem, between Shechem and Bethel). [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

4:19-21: A similar expression of Jeremiah’s emotions is found in 10:19-21. [ NOAB] His life is a paradox. [ NJBC]

4:22: This verse is Yahweh’s own lament. [ NJBC]

4:22: “foolish ... stupid”: 5:2-3 says “You have struck them, but they felt no anguish; you have consumed them, but they refused to take correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to turn back”. [ NOAB]

4:23-28: In a vision, Jeremiah sees the terrifying results of God’s seemingly irrevocable judgement: see also 7:16 and 15:1-4. [ NOAB] Almost identical descriptions, also in the context of invasion, are found in Joel 2:1-11; Amos 8:9-10; Zephaniah 1:2-3; 14-18; Nahum 1:2-8. The scene is entirely apocalyptic in Isaiah 24, foreshadowing the eschatological discourses of the synoptic gospels. [ NJBC]

4:23: “waste and void”: Of earth’s primeval state, Genesis 1:2 says: “the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters”. [ NOAB]

4:27-31: Mourning will replace the religious ostentation of the past. [ CAB]

4:27: “yet I will not make a full end”: One scholar says that the Hebrew word in the Masoretic text translated “not” (lo) is certainly a later attenuation of lah, meaning it. [ NJBC]

4:29-31: Like a rejected prostitute (see also 3:2-3), like a woman in the anguish of childbirth, like a victim helpless before her murderer, Jerusalem, the “daughter Zion”, stretches out her hands in futile appeal and suffers her death throes – alone. [ NOAB] This first section of the poem ends with the shrieks and the contortions of a woman in travail, symbolizing an extreme anguish. See also 13:21 and 22:23. [ NJBC]

Psalm 14

Psalm 53 is almost identical. Psalm 14 uses both “God” and “ Lord” ( Yahweh); Psalm 53 uses “God” exclusively – so Psalm 14 appears to be the southern ( Yahwist) version and Psalm 53 the northern ( Elohist) version. [ NOAB]

12:1-4 also speaks of total moral decay in the world.

Verse 1: “Fools”: Fool and its cognates has a moral implication in Wisdom literature. The wise person is not just smart, but morally correct. But the fool fails to cultivate wisdom, and thus fails morally. To NOAB, “fools” ignore the sovereignty of God.

Verse 3: Paul quotes this verse in Romans 3:10-12 in saying that all people, both Jews and Gentiles, are sinners. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: Perhaps this verse was written after the Exile. Some scholars think the rest of the psalm may be earlier. [ NJBC]

1 Timothy 1:12-17

A few scholars still maintain that the author is indeed Paul, using a different scribe; however the vocabulary, style and thought are different from those of letters generally accepted as being by Paul.

Verse 1: “Paul, an apostle”: Paul’s letters often begin with his claim of apostleship (see Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1, and see also Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:1), a claim some questioned: see 1 Corinthians 9:2 and 2 Corinthians 13:3. [ CAB]

Verse 1: “by the command of God ...”: The Greek is kat ‘epitagen meaning by divine revelation (as opposed to human ordinance). Paul speaks of being “called” and “set apart” in Romans 1:1 and Galatians 1:15. The “command” of God is also mentioned in 1 Corinthians 7:6, 25; Romans 16:26. [ CAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 1: “God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope ...”: Titus also emphasizes the salvation theme: see Titus 1:1-4. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: “Timothy”: Acts tells us that Timothy was from Lystra in Asia Minor and was the son of a Hellenic father and a Jewish mother who had become a Christian: see Acts 16:1. In Acts, Timothy is mentioned as a companion of Paul in his travels. 2 Timothy 1:5 tell us that he had become a Christian, under his mother’s and grandmother’s influence, before Paul’s arrival. 2 Timothy 3:15 says that he had known the Hebrew Scriptures since childhood. [ NOAB] On the other hand, in calling him “my beloved and faithful child in the Lord” in 1 Corinthians 4:17, Paul may be saying that he brought Timothy to the faith. Later church tradition says that he became bishop of Ephesus. In this letter, he is shown to be a teacher: see 4:6, 11; 5:7. [ CAB]

Verse 2: “loyal”: Can also be translated as legitimate , and hence Paul’s heir. Titus 1:4 is very similar. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: “mercy”: Only “grace ... and peace” are wished to addressees in letters generally accepted as Pauline. 2 Timothy 1:2 also wishes “grace, mercy and peace”. “Grace” was the customary Hellenic salutation, and “peace” the Jewish one, but here (and in other New Testament letters) they go beyond the writer’s good wishes to the “grace” and “peace” given by God. [ NOAB] 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 1:2; Revelation 1:4 wish “grace and peace”; Jude 1:2 wishes “mercy, peace and love”; and 2 John 3 has the same wish as 1 and 2 Timothy. [ CAB]

Verses 3-20: Paul’s letters usually offer thanksgiving following the salutation, but this section here warns against false teaching. [ CAB]

Verse 3: “Macedonia”: A Roman province roughly corresponding to northern Greece. Its capital was at Thessalonica. [ CAB] Perhaps Luke was “the man of Macedonia” whom Paul saw in a vision in Acts 16:9-10: “During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them”.

Verse 3: “Ephesus”: The capital city of the Roman province of Asia, the westernmost province in Asia Minor. Paul mentions his intent to stay in the city in 1 Corinthians 16:8. [ CAB] Paul visited the city on both his second and third missionary journeys.

Verse 3: “that you may instruct ...”: Timothy is to teach the true faith, safeguarding the deposit of faith, where some teach deviant beliefs. The verb, parangello, means teach, instruct or admonish . It, and the related noun, are key words in 1 Timothy but do not appear in 2 Timothy or Titus. See also, for example, 4:11; 5:7; 1:5, 18. [ NJBC]

Verse 4: “myths and endless genealogies”: They are also mentioned in 4:7 (“profane myths and old wives' tales”); 2 Timothy 4:4; Titus 1:14; 3:9; 2 Peter 1:16 (“cleverly devised myths”). [ NOAB] Perhaps the author is referring to speculations ( midrashim, etc.) of a Jewish nature; however, “endless genealogies” may refer to the families of divine aeons believed by Gnostics to be within the fullness of the divinity. The former reference is supported by mention of the Law in vv. 7-11. Perhaps the author is speaking of both, or of heresy in general. CAB says that various ancient texts, recently discovered, indicate fascination with the genealogies of Genesis, in order to promote esoteric cosmological and anthropological teaching. NJBC says that falsehood is a disease that only truth can remedy. He says that teaching myths and fables was a stock charge levelled by philosophers against poets.

Verse 4: “divine training”: The literal translation is way of managing the household of God. [ NJBC] This term speaks of Christian life as the discipline of servants in a large household. Faith in action! Another possible translation is God’s plan of salvation. [ NOAB]

Verse 4: “faith”: In the Pastoral Epistles, this word means the Christian religion, with its doctrines , while in letters generally accepted as being Pauline, it means the believer’s relationship to Christ.

Verse 5: The “aim” is not romantic sentiment, but sharing God’s generosity with one’s neighbour. [ NOAB]

Verse 5: “comes from”: or deriving from.

Verse 5: “a pure heart”: The author may be thinking of Psalm 51:10, where it viewed as a gift from God. [ NJBC] This idea is also found in Hebrews 10:22: “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”. [ CAB]

Verse 5: “a good conscience”: Or a clear conscience . The need for such a conscience is also found in 4:2; 2 Timothy 1:3; Romans 2:15; 9:1; 1 Corinthians 8:7; 2 Corinthians 4:2; Acts 24:16 (Paul’s defence before Felix); 1 Peter 3:16. [ CAB] Conscience and godliness are kin.

Verse 6: Neglect of love leads to empty talk. [ NOAB]

Verse 6: “these”: i.e. the triad mentioned in v. 5. [ CAB]

Verse 7: “teachers of the law”: The opponents envisioned here have evidently presented themselves as experts on Mosaic law. [ CAB] They are (from the context) Jewish Christians, but are not true to the faith. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: A conflation of Romans 7:14 (“For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin”) and Romans 7:16 (“Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good”). [ NJBC] See also Romans 7:12. [ CAB] The good do not need a law to guide their conscience. Only evildoers need one. [ NJBC]

Verses 9-10: This list is probably based on the Ten Commandments, although some extreme instances serve as examples. [ NJBC] The attention given to lists of vices in the Pastoral Letters indicates a special emphasis on morality; the lists are broadened beyond the lists Paul offers. See 6:4-5; 2 Timothy 3:2-5; Titus 3:3; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 6:9-10; Galatians 5:18-21; Romans 1:29-31. [ CAB]

Verse 9: Paul has written in Galatians 5:18: “... if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law”. Since “love” is the fulfilling of the Law (as Paul says in Romans 13:10; Galatians 5:6, 14), and those in Christ are no longer under it (see Romans 10:4 and Galatians 3:24-25), the Law is meant only for those who do not know the love of Christ. [ CAB]

Verse 11: “which he entrusted to me”: Paul has unique responsibility for transmitting the gospel, as also in Titus 1:3: “in due time he [God] revealed his word through the proclamation with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Saviour”. [ NJBC]

Verses 12-17: Paul makes brief mention of his calling to be an apostle (see 1 Corinthians 15:8-11 and Galatians 1:13-16); however there are many more references to it in the post-Pauline letters: see also Colossians 1:13-29; Ephesians 3:1-11; 1 Timothy 2:7; 3:14-15; 2 Timothy 1:3-4, 11, 15-18. There are three versions of it in Acts (in various contexts): Acts 9:1-22; 22:1-6; 26:9-18. [ CAB]

Verses 12-14: In Acts 9:4, we read of Paul: “He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’”. See also 1 Corinthians 15:9 (“I am the least of the apostles ...”); Galatians 1:13 (“... I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it”); Philippians 3:6 (“as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless”). [ NOAB]

Verse 13: “blasphemer”: i.e. what the heretics are now; but Paul had the excuse of ignorance. V. 20 expresses hope for their conversion (“so that they may learn not to blaspheme”). [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “I had acted ignorantly in unbelief”: See also Acts 3:17 (Peter speaks in Solomon’s portico); 17:30 (Paul speaks in Athens). [ NJBC]

Verse 14: “faith ... love”: In the Pastoral Letters, “love” and “faith” are almost synonyms. See also 2:15; 4:12; 6:11; 2 Timothy 1:13; 2:22; Titus 2:2. [ CAB]

Verse 15: Paul never depicted his conversion in quite such stark terms: see Galatians 1:11-16 and Philippians 3:4-8. [ NJBC] In Luke 5:32, Jesus says “‘I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance’”, and in Luke 19:10 “‘the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’”. [ CAB]

Verse 15: “The saying is sure”: A formula characteristic of the letters to Timothy and Titus: see also 3:1; 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:11; Titus 3:8. [ NOAB]

Verse 15: “Christ Jesus ...”: Variants in the gospels are: John 3:17 ( “‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him’”) and Matthew 9:13 (“... I have come to call not the righteous but sinners”) (and parallels). [ NJBC]

Verse 15: “the foremost”: In Ephesians 3:8, Paul is said to be “the very least of all the saints”. [ NJBC]

Verse 16: “an example”: NJBC offers prototype. In 2 Timothy 1:13, Timothy is enjoined to “Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus”. [ NJBC]

Verse 17: “the King of the ages”: This is the language of Jewish post-exilic congregational prayer and praise. [ NOAB] Another scholar suggests that this verse may be from an early Christian hymn.

Verse 18: “I am giving you these instructions”: NJBC says that the Greek verb, paratithemai, has the sense of entrust . Its related noun is rendered as “deposit” in various translations of 6:20; 2 Timothy 1:12, 14. Thus the term deposit of faith.

Verse 18: “the prophecies made earlier about you”: This is probably a reference to the homilies made at Timothy’s ordination. 4:14 says “Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders”. 6:12 says “Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses”. [ CAB]

Verse 20: “Hymenaeus”: He is also mentioned in 2 Timothy 2:17. [ NOAB]

Verse 20: “Alexander”: Perhaps this is the same person as Alexander the coppersmith mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:14: he “did me great harm; the Lord will pay him back for his deeds”. [ NOAB]

Verse 20: “Satan”: He was considered as the source of suffering and disease as well as of moral evil: see Luke 13:16 and 2 Corinthians 12:7. Under the power of Satan, the sufferer may be moved to repentance. In 1 Corinthians 5:5, Paul says to his first readers that they “are to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord”. The man was reportedly living “with his father’s wife” (1 Corinthians 5:1). CAB sees being “turned over to Satan” as being expelled from the Christian fellowship.

Luke 15:1-10

Verse 1: “tax collectors and sinners”: In 5:30, “the Pharisees and their scribes” ask Jesus “‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: “grumbling”: Or murmuring. A midrash on 2 Chronicles 20:37 counsels against associating with the godless. The whole chapter opposes this rule. [ BlkLk]

Verses 3-7: A possible parallel is Matthew 18:12-14, but there Jesus says “‘if he finds it’” rather than “‘until he finds it’”. Luke does emphasize all-inclusiveness. [ NOAB]

Verses 4-7: In John 10, Jesus also teaches using the sheep metaphor. In Ezekiel 34:11-16, sheep are a symbol for God’s people; he is the shepherd (as here). [ NJBC]

Verse 4: Comments: first-century shepherds were considered lawless and dishonest: unlike Old Testament shepherds.

Verse 5: “rejoices”: The theme of joy suffuses this chapter: see also vv. 7, 9, 10, 23, 29, 32. Joy in this chapter has four emphases:

  • The motifs of universality, community and soteriology (systematic interpretation of Christ’s saving work for humans and the world) are inextricably commingled.
  • Conversion is a prerequisite for finding joy.
  • Happiness consists in a willingness to share in God’s own joy in dispensing salvation.
  • The call to participate in God’s love and joy is issued through Jesus.
  • Verse 8: “coins”: The Hebrew word (and perhaps the Aramaic) for coins, zuzim, can also mean those who have moved away, departed . Perhaps Jesus uses a play on words; perhaps the lost coin is representative of those who have lost faith but can still be reached.

    Verse 8: “light a lamp”: A Palestinian house had a door and no windows. The woman would “sweep the house” hoping to hear a tinkle. [ NJBC]

    Verses 11-32: A third parable on God’s joy at recovery of the lost, the parable of the Prodigal Son. In this case, the father’s rejoicing at the return of his errant son has to be explained to the son who followed tradition (as the religious establishment did) and stayed at home. [ CAB]

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