Saturday, July 4, 2009

Lectionary Notes

Some Notes for Proper 14, Year B
The Sunday between 3 and 9 July
Being in the Year of Grace 2009 Sunday the 5th of July
the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost and Fourth after Trinity
The first Reading, 2 Samuel 5.1-5, 9-10 continues the highlights from the story of King David by narrating his acceptance as King of both Israel and Judah. Two different accounts of this even have been combined. (Two sources have been identified in the books of Samuel, the Early Source, from the time of Solomon, and the Late Source, from the latter days of the monarchy: on this see the introduction to 1 Samuel in NOAB). Verses 1-2 seem to be the work of the Late Source, which was concerned to show that God had promised the kingdom to David, while verse 3 is “the unembellished story of what was done” (NOAB),
Note that verses 6-8, which tell of David’s capture of Jerusalem from the Jebusites, are omitted. There is a different account of this event in 1 Chronicles 11.4-9. The conquest of Jerusalem provided a capital which had been part of neither the northern nor the southern territory. It was common for a conqueror to rename a city.
The Millo is translated in the Judaica Press version as “the mound”, and described as “A low walled enclosure which is filled with earth and [where] the top of the mound is in the center with a gradual decline in all directions.” It is usually understood to have been an earthwork south of the temple area.

Psalm 48 is a hymn of praise in honour of Jerusalem.
In the BAS psalter part of verse 2 refers to the hill of Zion as “the very centre of the world”. The Judaica Press has “by the north side”, while the RSV has “Mount Zion, in the extreme North”. This seems to be more accurate. The NOAB notes that this is “a curious phrase which apparently identifies the Israelite holy mountain wiuth the Canaanite mountain of the gods”. For “ships of Tarshish, NOAB also gives the ever so helpful note, “ships capable of making long voyages”. Tarshish is a place, far from Israel, which has never been identified. When I was young I always read that it was Spain, but this doesn’t seem to be true.
If you will forgive a personal reminiscence, verses 11-12 of this Psalm (the the Prayer Book version came to me when I was walking on the walls of Jerusalem in 1997.
Walk about Sion, and go round about her; / and count the towers thereof
Mark well her bulwarks, consider her citadels, / that ye may tell them that come after.

The Epistle, 2 Corinthians 12.2-10, is the last selection from this letter that we read in this part of the lectionary. Next week we begin a selection from the Letter to the Ephesians which will run to the end of August. Might I suggest that reading the whole of Ephesians through in advance might make it easier to see the passages selected for the Sundays in context?
As to this week's passage, I hope that a note adapted from the New St Joseph Sunday Missal might suffice. "Paul encounted problems similar to those of .... Jesus himself. 'False preachers' have confused the congregation of Corinth. They have bragged about ... extraordinary revelations from God. Paul, on the contrary, will boast of nothing except his physical condition, which is miserable: "I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me..... for when I am weak, then I am strong." He thus invites his converts to see in him Christ whom he represents.
It is also worth noting that Paul asked three times that the 'thorn' whatever it was, might be removed, but was refused. This must always be remembered in considering prayer answered and apparently unanswered.

The Holy Gospel, Mark 6.1-13, falls into two sections. In the Roman lectionary these two parts are read this Sunday and next. There is, however, a connection between the two parts, as is noted below.
The first section, verses 1-6, tells of Jesus’ rejection in his home town; the second, 7-13, narrates the mission of the Twelve on a tour of preaching and healing. A number of interesting and important points come up in these verses.
The synoptic parallels to verses 1-13 are Matthew 13.53-58 and Luke 4.16-30. Textual questions arise in these verses that are beyond the scope of these notes, so I suggest that you consult a good commentary (or more than one!).
The NRSV gives “hometown”, but the word patris can equally well mean “own country”, as we read in the RSV and other versions. It has been pointed out that this double sense is important, since the rejection by his home town foreshadows is rejection by his nation. See John 1.10-11. Here we find a link between this first section and the second in the theme of rejection. Jesus, by telling the disciples what to do when folk refuse to welcome them or hear their word (v. 11) is warning them that they will sometimes be rejected, as he was.
Much has been written on the natural disinclination of the people of Nazareth to accept that a “local boy” they know well could be something special. Likewise, much has been written about the faith as a requirement for miracles. Note that in Matthew 13.58 “he could do no mighty work” is softened to “he did not do many mighty works”. The people of Nazareth are tupical of those who “see and do not perceive, hear and do not understand”.
The unbelief of his own people, which caused Jesus to marvel, is the central point of this passage.
Some other points that ask for comment.
Is not this the carpenter, the Son of Mary? is the likely reading, but there is a respectable alternative reading, “Is not this the son of the Carpenter and Mary?”, which agrees with Matthew and Luke. Carpenter is better understood as ‘builder’ than ‘joiner’ or ‘cabinet maker’. This was the meaning of 'carpenter' in older English. Indeed, the original word, tekton, is an element in our ‘architect’ (understood as ‘master builder’). It has been suggested that since buildings were more often of stone in that part of the world, that "mason" might be used, and the many Gospel references to rocks and stones and cornerstones support this. The Vulgate renders it as faber, which one might read as "smith". This appears to be the way the Venerable Bede took it: "For although human things are not to be compared with divine, still the type is complete, because the Father of Christ works by fire and spirit" (from the Catena Aurea).
On the identification of Jesus as “son of Mary” and its possible implications, see R. E. Brown, Birth of the Messiah, Appendix V: ‘The Charge of Illegitimacy”, esp. pp 537ff. It is possible that it means nothing stronger than, "We know his mother", with the inference that the father is dead.
The mention of the brothers and sisters of Jesus raises many questions, and is complicated by the very ancient belief in the perpetual virginity of our Lady. A few points may be in order”
1. From Old Testament usage (for example, Genesis 13.8) it is clear that the word translated “brother” can also mean “kinsman”.
2. As the old Catholic Encyclopaedia points out, “Mary's annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem (Luke 2:41) is quite incredible, except on the supposition that she bore no other children besides Jesus. Is it likely that she could have made the journey regularly, at a time when the burden of child-bearing and the care of an increasing number of small children (she would be the mother of at least four other sons and of several daughters, cf Matthew 13:56) would be pressing heavily upon her?”
3. William Temple notes of the mention of Jesus’ brothers in John 7 that they were
“were (no doubt) the sons of Joseph by an earlier marriage. They attempt to exercise the authority commonly claimed by older brothers. They are sceptical, as elder brothers might be expected to be. They are not hostile, but are puzzled by their younger brother’s reputation in Galilee, and would like it and its grounds to be subjected to the test of the more sphisticated minds in Jerusalem.”
3. There is the question of why Jesus on the Cross committed his mother into the care of the Beloved Disciple (John 19.25-27) if she had other sons who could care for her.
C. B.Moss notes these last two points as well: “The ‘brethren of the Lord’ treated Him as a younger rather than as an elder brother (St. Mark 3:31: St. John 7:3), and it was to St. John, her nephew, that our Lord entrusted His Mother, which would have been strange if she had had sons of her own (St. John 19:26). For this reason it seems highly probable that the tradition of the Church is true, that our Lord was the only son of His Mother, and that His "brethren" were the sons of St. Joseph by a former wife (pp 73-4).”
Moss also notes that, while the belief in our Lady’s perpetual Virginity is “a very ancient and almost universally held tradition … the historical evidence for the Perpetual Virginity is not sufficient for us to be able to regard it as a dogma. We cannot say: ‘It must have been so, therefore it was so’; belief must be based on positive evidence.”
Those inadequate notes will have to suffice for now.
The synoptic parallels to the second section are Matthew 10. 1, 9-11, 14 and Luke 9.1-6.
We may note that the instructions Jesus gave to the Twelve to travel lightly vary in the different Gospels (see Matthew 10.9, Luke 10.4). Alec Vidler notes: “No doubt account was taken of the fact that what was feasible in Palestine was not so elsewhere. These are not to be regarded, nor were they from the first regarded. as timeless laws for missionary activity, though in many respects they have an enduring point, e.g. travelling light and not fussing about superfluous accessories. ‘The young Church understood that the instructions of Jesus which were suited to that time do not remain literally obligatory, as is shown bu the divergence in Matthew and Luke. What counts is the spirit of apostolic simplicity’.
One should not interpret “take nothing … except a staff” as the biblical foundation of ecclesiastical bureaucracy.


Geoff said...

Surely the St John who was Our Lady's nephew was already deceased then? Son-in-law is the mythology one hears now.

William Craig said...

What St John was our Lady's nephew? Please give chapter and verse, and nothing apocryhal.