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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Second Sunday after Christmas - January 5, 2014



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 31:7-14

Verse 7: A solemn call to joy, for Yahweh has bestowed salvation on his people. Isaiah 12:6 says: “Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel”. See also 40:9-10; 44:23; 55:11; Psalms 47:2, 9-10; 68:33-36. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “remnant”: The small number of people who escaped the conquest of Israel (the north), and who have been purified through the exile, to constitute the new Israel, faithful to her God. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “the land of the north”: This is a reference to Assyria. In Isaiah 43:5-6, Yahweh says through the prophet: “Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you; I will say to the north, ‘Give them up,’ and to the south, ‘Do not withhold; bring my sons from far away and my daughters from the end of the earth’”. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “the lame”: A sign of the miracle: Isaiah 35:5-6 prophesies: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy”.

Verse 9: “brooks of water”: See Numbers 20:1-13 (in the wilderness, God provides water from a rock). But now it not an occasional spring, but continuously flowing water. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “straight path”: Unlike the one of the Exodus. Isaiah 40:3-4 says: “A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain’”.

Verse 9: “father to Israel”: The theme of the fatherhood of Yahweh to Israel (the northern kingdom) is sporadic in the Old Testament. It is first found to define the covenant relationship (see Exodus 4:22 and Deuteronomy 32:6). As Ephraim (part of the northern kingdom) is restored, so is all Israel. [ NJBC]

Verse 10a: Isaiah 42:10 says “Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth! Let the sea roar and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants.”. See also 49:1 and Jeremiah 2:10. [ NJBC]

Verse 10: “coastlands”: Or islands. Isaiah 41:1-5 begins: “Listen to me in silence, O coastlands; let the peoples renew their strength; let them approach, then let them speak; let us together draw near for judgment ...”. See also Psalm 72:10-11. [ NOAB]

Verse 10: “shepherd”: Isaiah 40:11 says “He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep”. See also Jeremiah 23:1-5. This is later developed: see Ezekiel 34 and John 10:1-18 (Jesus the good shepherd). [ NOAB]

Verse 11: “redeemed”: Isaiah 48:20 says: “Go out from Babylon, flee from Chaldea, declare this with a shout of joy, proclaim it, send it forth to the end of the earth; say, ‘The Lord has redeemed his servant Jacob!’”. [ NOAB]

Verse 14: Isaiah 58:11 foretells: “The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail”. [ NOAB]

Verse 14: “fatness”: A symbol of life and prosperity (see Psalm 36:9 and Isaiah 55:2). The fat of sacrificial offerings was reserved for God. The priests will share in the people’s prosperity. [ NJBC]

Verse 14: “bounty”: i.e. the goods listed in v. 12.

Sirach 24:1-12

The Jewish translation of Genesis quoted in Comments is FoxMoses.

Verse 1: Ben Sira derived the idea of personified Wisdom from Proverbs 1:20-33; 8:4-36; 9:1-6, 11.

Verse 2: “assembly of the Most High”: Psalm 82:1 says “God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment”.

Verse 3: “from the mouth of the Most High”: Like all else created by the Word of God (see Genesis 1:3-31: “Then God said ...”). [ NJBC]

Verse 4: “pillar of cloud”: See also Exodus 13:21-22: “The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way ...”. [ JBC]

Verses 5 -6: The imagery and ideas are from Proverbs 8:15-16, 24, 27-30. [ NJBC]

Verse 11: “the beloved city”: i.e. Jerusalem. Psalm 50:2 says Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth”.

Verses 8-12: Jacob/Israel, by God’s command, is Wisdom’s special dwelling place. See also 1:1, 4, 9, 15; Proverbs 8:22-23. [ NJBC]

Verses 13-17: Jerusalem’s majesty is compared to trees, plants, and exotic aromatics.

Psalm 147:12-20

A Hallelujah psalm. (Hallelujah means Praise the Lord: see vv. 1, 20.)

A communal hymn generally dated to the post-exilic era. Support for this dating is provided especially by vv. 2-3 which contain such late themes as the rebuilding of Jerusalem by Yahweh (see Ezekiel 40-48) and the gathering of exiles (see Isaiah 56:8 and Nehemiah 1:9). [ NJBC]

Verse 4: See also Isaiah 40:26. [ NOAB]

Verses 13-14: The themes in these verses also occur in Psalms 127 and Psalm 128:

security of the city

127:1

blessing of children

127:3-4; 128:3-4, 6

prosperity and peace of the city

128:5-6

provision of food

127:2; 128:2 [ NJBC]

Verses 15-18: 33:6 says: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth”. [ NJBC]

Verses 15a,18a: Parallel to the creative word in the natural world is God’s word to Israel. [ NJBC]

Verses 16-18: Job 37:9-11 contains similar ideas. [ NOAB]

Wisdom of Solomon 10:15-21

The passage extends to 11:4.

Comments: through Moses: In 11:1 he is called “a holy prophet”. Through him, Wisdom delivered Israel from Egypt (see Exodus 1:1-15:21, especially chapters Exodus 14-15), leading the people “through an uninhabited wilderness” ( 11:2: see Exodus 15:22-17:6). [ NOAB]

Verse 17: “reward of their labours”: The precious objects carried from Egypt (see Exodus 3:21-22; 11:2-3; 12:35-36) and liberty itself (recompense for slave labour). [ NJBC]

Verse 17: “shelter”: Regarding God’s protection from heat, Psalm 105:39 says “He spread a cloud for a covering”. See also Isaiah 4:5-6. [ NJBC]

Verse 20: “plundered”: Despoiling of dead Egyptians at the Red Sea is not in the Exodus account, but is a tradition recorded by Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews 2.16.6; 3.1.4. [ NJBC]

Verse 20: “sang hymns”: An allusion to the Song of Miriam (see Exodus 15). [ NJBC]

Ephesians 1:3-14

Verse 3: This is in the style of a traditional Jewish eulogy praising God. See Genesis 9:26; Psalm 31:21; 72:18-19; 144:1; 1 Kings 1:48; 2 Chronicles 6:4; Tobit 13:1; 1 Maccabees 4:30; 1 Peter 1:3; 1QH (Qumran Hymns) 18:14.

1QH 18:14 ( Vermes: 10:14) says: “Be blessed, Lord, God of compassion and of abundant favour, because you have made me know these things so that I may recount your marvels, and I do not keep silent day and night.” [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “with every spiritual blessing”: 1QSb (Qumran Rule of the Blessings) 1:5 says: “May he bestow upon you all the blessings ... in the congregation of the holy ones.” [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “in the heavenly places”: Can also be translated among heavenly beings. This expression is found only in this letter (see also 1:20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12); it refers to the unseen world behind and above the material universe. [ NOAB]

Verse 4: “he”: i.e. God.

Verse 4: “he chose”: The notion of selection was developed extensively in pre-Christian Judaism. See 1QH (Qumran Hymns) 13:10; 15:23; 1QS (Rule of the Community) 1:4; 11:7; 1QSb (Qumran Rule of the Blessings) 1:2; 1QM (War Scroll) 10:9. [ NJBC]

Verse 4: “in Christ”: This phrase occurs frequently throughout this letter in contexts referring to the unity of Jews and Gentiles (e.g. 2:13; 3:11).

Verse 6: “to the praise of his glorious grace”: i.e. the Father’s. This is repeated in briefer form referring to Christ (in v. 12) and to the Holy Spirit (in vv. 13-14). [ NOAB]

Verse 6: “the Beloved”: The identification of Christ as God’s Beloved recalls the baptism scene in the synoptic gospels, in which a voice from heaven identifies Jesus as “the Beloved” (see Mark 1:11 and parallels). Also in these scenes, the voice says “I am well pleased” or I take pleasure: see v. 5. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “redemption through his blood”: See also 1:14; 4:30; Mark 10:45; 14:24; Romans 3:24; 8:23; Colossians 1:14, 20. [ NOAB]

Verse 7: “the riches of his grace”: The Hebrew equivalent is common in the Qumran literature in various forms (e.g. 1QH (Hymns) 9:32, Vermes: 1:32)

Verse 9: “mystery”: Everywhere in Ephesians (except 5:32) and throughout Colossians, “mystery” refers to God’s age-long purpose, now disclosed to his chosen, to call Gentiles as well as Jews to share in Christ’s redemptive work ( 3:4-6). [ NOAB] In late Judaism, everything is regulated according to God’s mysteries. The God of knowledge is in control of all things because the unalterable course of events was decreed by him before all eternity (see 1QS (Qumran Rule of the Community) 3-4, especially -3:9-10). Not only the human world (see 1QH (Hymns) 9:15) but also the angelic (1QM (War Scroll) 14:14) and the cosmic (see 1QH (Hymns) 9:11-15) have been determined by him. These mysteries have been revealed by chosen interpreters (see 1QH (Hymns) 9:21 and 1QpHab (Habakkuk Pesher) 7:4-5). [ NJBC]

Verse 10: “fullness of time”: In Galatians 4:4, the concern is chronological time, but here it is the gatherings of all times. In 2 Esdras 4:37, when the seer asks how long it will be before the souls of the righteous dead are raised, the archangel Jeremiel replies: “‘When the number ... is completed; for he [God] has weighed the age in the balance, and measured the times by measure, ... and will not move or arouse then until that measure is fulfilled.”. In Acts 1:7, after the apostles ask “‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’”, Jesus replies “‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority’”. [ NOAB] [ CAB]

Verse 10: “gather up all things in him”: See also 1:20-23; Philippians 2:9-11. [ CAB]

Verse 11: See also Numbers 26:55 (the apportioning of the Promised Land to the tribes) and Colossians 1:12 (“giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light”). [ CAB]

Verses 11-14: The position in God’s plan of the recipients of the letter: they are beneficiaries of God’s plan in Christ. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “you also”: You Gentiles, as well as we Jews.

Verse 13: “heard ... believed ... marked with the seal”: A reflection of missionary reports such as those in Acts 8:12-17 (Philip baptises); Acts 10:34-48 (Peter speaks at Cornelius’ house); Acts 19:2 (followers of John the Baptizer at Ephesus are baptised). [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “marked with the seal”: Stamped with ownership (as a slave was). The author says in 4:30: “... do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption”. See also 2 Corinthians 1:22 and Revelation 7:3-4.

Verse 14: “pledge”: In 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, Paul writes: “But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us, by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first installment”. The Holy Spirit, already given, is an advance installment of what is in store for Christians (see also 2 Corinthians 5:5). God will finish what he has begun (see Romans 8:16-17, 23 and Philippians 1:6). [ CAB]

John 1:(1-9),10-18

Verses 1-2: The “Word” (Greek: logos) of God is speech, but also God in action, creating (see Genesis 1:3 and Psalm 33:6). revealing (see Amos 3:7-8), redeeming (see Psalm 107:19-20). Jesus is this “Word” (v. 14). He was eternal (“in the beginning” – see Genesis 1:1); personal (“with God”); divine (“was God”). Note “was”: not “became” (in v. 14). [ NOAB]

Verse 1: “In the beginning ... was with God”: This also recalls the traditions of Wisdom being with God at creation (see Proverbs 8:30 and Wisdom of Solomon 7:25), but John goes beyond the stance of wisdom literature, which carefully avoids showing Wisdom as equal with God.

Verse 3: He was the sole agent of creation: see Genesis 1:1; Proverbs 8:27-30; Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:2. [ BlkJn]

Verse 4: Apart from him, both physical and spiritual life would recede into nothingness. In 5:39-40, Jesus says “‘You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life’” and in 8:12 “‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life’”.

Verse 5: “The light shines in the darkness”: Wisdom of Solomon 7:29-30 speaks of a beauty that surpasses the sun and stars; sin cannot prevail over Wisdom. [ NJBC]

Verse 5: “darkness”: i.e. total evil in conflict with God – it cannot overcome God.

Verses 6-8: John the Baptist was commissioned by God (he is the “messenger of the covenant” in Malachi 3:1) to point to Jesus (vv. 19-34). John the Baptist is a witness. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “The true light”: The real (authentic, divinely given reality), underived light contrasted not with false light but with those such as John the Baptist: he was a lamp. In 5:35, Jesus says “‘He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light’”. [ NOAB]

Verse 11: “his own people”: The Jews. Recalls the rejection of Wisdom in 1 Enoch 42:2: “Wisdom went out to dwell with the children of the people, but she found no dwelling place; (so) Wisdom returned to her place and she established herself among the angels.” [ NJBC]

Verse 12: “he gave power ...”: This may have originally referred to Wisdom finding a dwelling in the souls of the righteous (see Sirach 1:9-10), and has been recast to reflect the soteriology of the Gospel. 2:23 says “When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing” and 3:18 says “Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God”. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “born ... of God”: 3:3-8 attributes divine rebirth to the activity of the Holy Spirit. [ NJBC]

Verse 14: “the Word became flesh”: This goes beyond the Old Testament images of divine glory and Wisdom dwelling in Israel (Exodus 25:8-9; Joel 3:17; Zechariah 2:10; Ezekiel 43:7; Sirach 24:4, 8, 10). The word translated here as flesh” is sarx. [ NJBC]

Verse 14: “we have seen”: The witness of John and the Johannine community. [ NJBC]

Verse 14: “glory”: This is God’s glory as seen in Jesus and Jesus’ pre-existent glory with the Father. AS Jesus looks up to heaven, he says to the Father: “So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed”, and a little later: “Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” ( 17:5, 24). [ NJBC]

Verse 14: “grace”: Redeeming love.

Verse 14: “truth”: Faithfulness to his promises.

Verse 15: This verse alludes to John the Baptizer’s words in v. 30: “This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”. [ NJBC]

Verse 16: “fullness”: Of God’s grace (“compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love”, Psalm 106:45) or mercy (“your abundant mercy”, Psalm 51:1). [ NJBC]

Verse 16: “grace upon grace”: This either means exhaustless or infinite, or that the grace of the old covenant replaced by that of the new. [ NOAB]

Verse 17: This verse supports the interpretation of v. 16 that sees the old grace replaced by the new.

Verse 18: In this gospel, the claims of others to knowledge of God are consistently rejected. [ NJBC]

Verse 18: “seen”: 14:9 speaks of seeing and knowing God: “Jesus said to him [Philip], ‘Have I been with you all this time, ... and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?’”. [ NOAB]

Verse 18: “close to the Father’s heart”: Complete communion (see vv. 1-2). [ NOAB]

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