Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost - September 25, 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 32:1-3a,6-15

Placing this passage here emphasizes the validity of the preceding oracles. [ NOAB] 39:1-14 tells of the siege of Jerusalem which began in January 588: “In the ninth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, in the tenth month, King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon and all his army came against Jerusalem and besieged it ...”. It was interrupted during the summer when Egyptians armies, sent by Pharaoh Hophra (Apries), marched against those of Babylon. [ NJBC] [ NOAB]

Verse 1: “Nebuchadrezzar”: While in English this king is known as Nebuchadnezzar, “Nebuchadrezzar” is a transliteration of the name in Babylonian.

Verses 2-5: A later editor has summarized the events recorded in Chapters 34, 37 and 38 to show the historical context. [ JBC]

Verse 4: “Chaldeans”: i.e. Babylonians

Verse 7: “Anathoth”: About 5 km (3 miles) northeast of Jerusalem. 1:1 tells us that Jeremiah was “son of Hilkiah, of the priests who were in Anathoth”. The village is also mentioned in 11:21-23

Verse 8: “the right of possession ...”: The law is found in Leviticus 25:25-31. [ NOAB] In Ruth 4:1-4, Boaz meets a kinsman of Elimelech who has an obligation to buy the land which Elimelech has left Naomi, and which she wishes to sell. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “seventeen shekels”: Here the shekel is a unit of weight. Seventeen shekels is about 195 grams (7 ounces). The value is unknown. [ NOAB]

Verse 10: “the deed”: It would be written on papyrus. [ NOAB]

Verse 12: “Baruch”: 36:4 says: “Then Jeremiah called Baruch son of Neriah, and Baruch wrote on a scroll at Jeremiah's dictation all the words of the Lord that he had spoken to him”. [ NOAB]

Psalm 91:1-6,14-16

This appears to be a wisdom psalm. Note the “punishment of the wicked” in v. 8. This psalm is unusual in that it speaks of God’s protection not against enemies (as many do) but against “the deadly pestilence” (vv. 3, 6) and “scourge” (v. 10, meaning plague). [ NJBC]

Verses 1-13: For those who trust in Yahweh not needing to fear any peril, see also 121:2-8. Some of the dangers mentioned are human foes; others are demonic forces. [ NOAB]

Verse 4: “he will cover you with his pinions”: For this figure as a reference to God’s motherly protection of his faithful, see also 17:8; 36:7; 57:1; 61:4; 63:7. Some deities in the ancient Near East were pictured as winged. [ NJBC]

Verses 5-6: “the terror of the night ... by day ... in darkness ... at noonday”: These four times of danger are balanced by the four animals in v. 13. [ JBC]

Verse 9: Repetition of the divine titles “ Lord” and “Most High” from vv. 1-2 summarize the thrust of the psalm so far: the one who dwells in God’s presence will suffer no harm. [ NJBC]

Verse 11: The idea that Yahweh provided his followers with guardian spirits only became common in late Old Testament times (see Tobit 5:1-12); however, it is found occasionally in earlier times. 34:7 says “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them” [ NJBC] and Abraham tells his servant whom he sends to find a wife for Isaac that God “will send his angel before you” (see Genesis 24:7). [ JBC]

Verses 11-12: These verses are quoted in Matthew 4:6 and Luke 4:10-11, by Satan in his temptation of Jesus. [ NOAB]

1 Timothy 6:6-19

It is all too easy to take the warning in vv. 3-5 as only applying to the behaviour of slaves towards their masters (vv. 1-2), but the division into chapters (made many centuries later) is unfortunate in this case. Vv. 1-2 is the last of the author’s instructions for various groups of members of the Church. This section begins at 4:11: “These are the things you [Timothy] must insist on and teach”. 6:3-10 concerns false teachers; 6:11-16 are instructions to Timothy as to how he is to act; 6:17-19 is a supplementary reflection on the rich. [ NJBC]

Verses 3-10: Much of the language of this section, especially the charge of money-grubbing, is borrowed from the polemic of Greek philosophers against their opponents. In the dialogues of Plato, the opponents are depicted as Sophists who teach for pay and seek to please, rather than presenting the truth. [ NJBC]

Verses 3-5: The author has harsh words for the false teachers; they are conceited, contentious, and greedy. [ NOAB]

Verse 3: “sound words”: i.e. apostolic testimony. [ NOAB] See also Titus 1:13 (“That testimony is true”) and 2:1 (“teach what is consistent with sound doctrine”). A scholar suggests that the author is referring to the second quotation in 5:18 (i.e. “‘The labourer deserves to be paid’”), a saying of Jesus (see Luke 10:7 and Matthew 10:10) which is also alluded to in 1 Corinthians 9:14. NJBC offers healthy words. The true philosopher was often looked on as a physician of the soul. The Pastoral Letters all hold that falsehood is a disease that only the truth can remedy.

Verse 4: For similar lists of vices, see 1 Corinthians 5:10-11; 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:1-5; Colossians 3:5; 1 Peter 2:1; 4:1-3. [ CAB]

Verse 4: “conceited”: In 3:6, the author says that a bishop “must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil”. [ CAB]

Verse 4: “controversy and ... disputes about words”: In 1:4, the author cautions Timothy about “certain people” ( 1:3) – that members of the community not to occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies that promote speculations rather than the divine training that is known by faith”. A similar caution is found in Titus 3:9. [ CAB] “Envy” and “wrangling” show a state of affairs directly opposed to the love produced by the true “instruction” of 1:5: “the aim of such instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith”. [ NJBC]

Verse 4: “slander”: 2 Timothy 3:2-5 says: “You must understand this, that in the last days distressing times will come. For people will be ... slanderers ...”. Titus 3:2-3 advises “Remind them ... to speak evil of no one”. In Mark 7:21-23, Jesus says: “... it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: ... slander ... All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person”. See also Colossians 3:8 and Ephesians 4:31. [ CAB]

Verse 5: In 2:3-4, the author writes that “God our Saviour ... desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”. See also 4:3; 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:7-8. [ CAB]

Verse 5: “imagining that godliness is a means of gain”: Platonists charged so-called Sophists with teaching for profit ideas that would please, rather than presenting the truth.

Verse 6: “contentment”: The Greek word autarkeia was current from the time of Aristotle to the time of the Stoics. It was used to describe the virtue that makes a person content with what he has. [ NJBC] In 2 Corinthians 9:8, Paul writes “God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work”. [ NOAB]

Verse 7: “for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it”: This sentiment is found in many ancient sources: see Job 1:21; Wisdom of Solomon 7:6, Philo, and Seneca. [ CAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 8: See also Genesis 28:20 (Jacob’s dream at Bethel); Deuteronomy 10:17-18; Sirach 29:21; 1 Corinthians 9:15-17; Philippians 4:11; James 2:15-16. [ CAB] 2 Timothy 4:13 depicts Paul as exemplifying simplicity in his clothing needs. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: In Mark 10:25, Jesus tells his disciples: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God”. See also 1 John 2:15-17 and James 1:13-18. [ CAB]

Verse 10: “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil”: A common proverb in Greek philosophical writings – frequently misquoted today. [ CAB]

Verse 10: “some have wandered away from the faith”: The author writes in 4:1-2: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will renounce the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared with a hot iron”. See also 5:8. [ CAB]

Verse 11: “you”: In Greek the word is in the singular, so it clearly refers to Timothy.

Verse 11: “man of God”: An appellation often applied to Old Testament prophets, e.g. Deuteronomy 33:1 (Moses); 1 Samuel 2:27; 1 Kings 12:22 (Shemaiah); 13:1, calling attention to the spiritual power and responsibility of church leaders. [ NJBC]

Verse 11: “pursue righteousness”: For other list of virtues, see Galatians 5:22-23; Colossians 3:12; 2 Peter 1:5-7. [ CAB]

Verse 12: “Fight the good fight ...”: Timothy is also instructed to “fight the good fight” in 1:18. Paul uses another figure, that of a foot-race: see 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 and Philippians 3:12-15. Paul’s own life exemplified how this fight should be carried out: see 2 Timothy 4:7. [ CAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 12: “made the good confession”: From the language of worship: adoration and praise of God. In baptism and before a Roman court the believer praises God by confessing that Jesus is Lord. CAB holds that this is a reference to Timothy’s ordination: 4:14 advises “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”; see also 2 Timothy 2:2. The “commandment” (v. 14) is then the charge given to Timothy on this occasion.

Verse 13: “his testimony”: For Jesus’ testimony before Pilate, see Mark 15:1-5. [ CAB] Jesus’ own conduct in facing his passion and death when “Pilate” was governor exemplifies proper fidelity. [ NJBC]

Verse 14: “commandment”: This word is here probably synonymous with the Christian way of life. [ NOAB] Often the Greek word refers to a specific commandment from God (divine revelation), but here it refers to the entire divine mandate given to Timothy. [ NJBC]

Verse 14: “until the manifestation ...”: Titus 2:11 says “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all” and Titus 2:13: “while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ”. [ NJBC]

Verses 15-16: A doxology in praise of God somewhat parallel to that in 1:17 (quoted below). It is Hellenistic Jewish in inspiration; it stresses God’s transcendence and his superiority to all earthly rulers. [ NJBC] These verses are probably from an ancient Christian hymn.

Verse 15: “King of kings”: A phrase picked up from Ezekiel 26:7 and Daniel 2:37, and also found in Revelation 19:16. [ CAB]

Verse 15: “Lord of lords”: A phrase also found in Deuteronomy 10:17; Psalm 136:3; Revelation 17:14. [ CAB]

Verse 16: 1 John 1:5 says “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all”. [ CAB]

Verse 16: “he alone who has immortality”: In 1:17, the author writes “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen”. See also John 5:26. [ NOAB]

Verse 16: “unapproachable light”: Psalm 104:2 speaks of God as “wrapped in light as with a garment”. [ NOAB]

Verse 16: “whom no one has ever seen”: John 1:18 says “No one has ever seen God”. See also John 6:46 and 1 John 4:12. But the Son can and will reveal him (see Matthew 11:27; 1 John 3:2; Revelation 22:4), [ NOAB] but with the aid of grace, some vision of God is (or will be) available to humans. A beatitude in Matthew 5:8 says: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God”.

Verses 17-19: Perhaps raising the issue of money in vv. 6-10 led the author to adding this piece of instruction to the more prosperous members of the community. It seems that there were a significant number of them: see 2:9 (women were dressing expensively); 6:2 (slave owners); Titus 2:9-10 (slaves and masters). [ NJBC]

Verse 18: “do good”: 2:10 says that women who hold God in awe should be known for their “good works”. 5:10 says that a widow of great age should be put on the list (presumably of those to be assisted by the community) if, amongst other things, she is known for her good works. 5:10, 25; 6:18; 2 Timothy 2:21; 3:17; Titus 1:16; 2:7; 3:1, 8, 14 also emphasize the importance of “good works”. [ CAB]

Verse 19: Jesus told the Parable of the Rich Fool: see Luke 12:16-21. [ CAB]

Verse 20: “guard what has been entrusted to you”: In the Pastoral Letters, the function of ministry is to safeguard the traditions handed down about Jesus and the apostles. See also 1:3, 18; 2 Timothy 1:13-14; 2:2, 14-15, 24-25; 3:14; 4:2; Titus 1:13; 2:1. [ CAB] The Greek word paratheke (“entrusted”) can refer to a deposit, e.g. of money, which a person is to hand back exactly as received. The emphasis here is on preservation of a trust. [ NJBC]

Verse 20: “profane chatter”: This is also mentioned in 2 Timothy 2:16, as to be avoided. [ CAB]

Verse 20: “what is falsely called knowledge”: The Greek word translated “knowledge” here is gnosis. The false teachers called their teachings gnosis, so they may be forerunners of those we today call Gnostics. On the other hand true Christianity is epignosis, clear knowledge . See Titus 1:1; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Timothy 2:25; 3:7. [ NJBC]

Verse 21: “you”: The Greek word is in the plural, so this blessing is intended for a wider group of readers. [ NJBC]

Luke 16:19-31

This story may illustrate vv. 10-15 [ NOAB], but note that while Jesus has been speaking to Pharisees “who were lovers of money” (v. 14), they sought to find justification in their own punctilious observance of the Law ( 11:37-44).

Will the “five brothers” (v. 28) and Luke’s readers follow the example of the rich man or heed Jesus’ teaching and that of the Old Testament regarding care of the needy, like Lazarus, and thus be children of Abraham? If they do not, they will not have places at the messianic banquet. [ NJBC]

There are parallels to this story in Egyptian folklore and in the Jewish story of the rich tax collector, Bar Ma’yan, but the parallels do not include the dialogue between the rich man and Abraham. Also, in the parallels, Lazarus gloats over the punishment of the rich man. See also 1 Enoch 92-105 and Apocalypse of Peter 13. [ NJBC] In the Jewish story, Bar Ma’yan is a rich tax collector. He dies, and is given a well-attended ostentatious funeral. About the same time, a poor scholar dies and is buried without pomp or attention. Yet the scholar finds himself in Paradise, by flowing streams, while Bar May’an finds himself near the bank of a stream unable to reach the water. [ Blomberg]

This is the only parable that has a transcendental element, and in which the characters have names. [ Blomberg]

Verses 19-20: Some hold that the text gives no indication that the rich man was guilty of moral wrong or that Lazarus was morally right. Using 1:51-53 (the Magnificat) and 6:20-26 (the Beatitudes) to support their argument, they say that these verses condemn the rich just because they are rich, and bless the poor because they are poor. NJBC disagrees.

Verse 19: “rich man”: He is commonly called Dives, the Latin for rich man. [ NOAB]

Verse 19: “purple”: The dye came from a type of sea snail found along the coast of Syria and Palestine. [ NOAB]

Verse 19: “fine linen”: In the Allegory of the Unfaithful Wife (Ezekiel 16), based on a folktale, Yahweh speaks, through the prophet, of Jerusalem. In Ezekiel 16:11-13, he says that he adorned her with ornaments, that he “adorned [her] with gold and silver, while ... [her] clothing was of fine linen, rich fabric, and embroidered cloth. [She] ... had choice flour and honey and oil for food. She ... grew exceedingly beautiful, fit to be a queen”, but she “trusted in [her] ... beauty, and played the whore because of [her] ... fame, and lavished [her] ... whorings on any passer-by”. See also Revelation 18:11-13. [ JBC]

Verse 20: “Lazarus”: He is not the same Lazarus as in John 11:1-44; 12:1, 9. [ NOAB] Lazarus is a shortened form of Eleazar. Aaron, the priest, had a son by this name: see Exodus 6:23. [ CAB] Perhaps his name is given because it means God helps; he is probably meant to be seen as one who has faith in God. [ Blomberg]

Verses 22-26: Being developed from folklore, we should probably not use this story to deduce the detailed post mortem state of believers and unbelievers. [ Blomberg]

Verses 21-22: The moral quality of Lazarus is passed over to illustrate the fatal deficiency in the life of the rich man, and the impossibility of changing the latter’s condemnation. [ NOAB]

Verse 22: “to be with Abraham”: In 13:28-29, Jesus says “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God”. [ NJBC] Abraham’s bosom was a contemporary Jewish term for the lodging place of the godly dead prior to the expected general resurrection. [ NOAB]

Verse 23: “Hades”: Chapter 22 of 1 Enoch, a popular book in Jesus’ time, speaks of adjoining quarters for the ungodly and the godly in this abode of the dead, and seems to imply that they will be there until the general resurrection. Rabbinic teaching was that, after the apocalyptic battles of the messianic age, an age to come would dawn. [ JBC]

Verse 25: Your request is futile!

Verses 27-31: The Old Testament speaks an urgent and sufficient call to repentance. [ NOAB] The rich man’s failure to care for Lazarus is not in accord with the Old Testament (vv. 29-31) and with Jesus’ teaching in v. 9: “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes”. [ NJBC] Every Jew knew the Old Testament laws commanding the compassionate use of riches, so the rich man had no excuse for his wanton neglect of one whom he saw regularly (vv. 20-21) and could have helped easily. [ Blomberg]

Verse 29: See also John 5:45-47 and Acts 15:21. In John 5:46, Jesus says: “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me”. [ NOAB]

Verse 30: In 3:8, Jesus says: “Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham”. See also 19:9 for his words to Zacchaeus. [ NOAB] Mere words do not make one a child of Abraham, and therefore a member of reconstituted Israel. The rich man’s claim that Abraham is his father is of no effect, for he has not done the deeds which would have signified repentance from his self-centred, callous way of life. [ NJBC]

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