Friday, November 6, 2009

Lectionary Notes

Some Notes for the Sunday between 6 and 12 November
Proper 32, Year B
Sunday, 8 November AD 2009

The Collect and Sentence
The BAS Collect is slightly adapted from the Prayer Book Collect for the Second Sunday of Advent, which was an aoriginal composition for the first book of 1549; it reflects the theme of the Epistle, Romans 15. 4-18, part of which is still read on that Sunday in Year A. There is no readily apparent reason why it is used this week.
The Sentence is the same as the Alleluia verse for this Sunday in the Roman Missal, and is clearly intended to be an interpretative comment on the second part of the Gospel Reading
The Readings
The First Reading: Ruth 3.1-5; 4.13-17
The Book of Ruth is a short story set in the period before 1000 BC, in the time of the Judges. This gentle story has little in common with the history of warfare narrated in the Book of Judges. It is a book about love and fidelity, of how Ruth, a Moabite widow in a Jewish family brings her widowed mother-in-law back to enjoying life. Near the end of the book, Ruth bears a son who becomes David's grandfather. Because Ruth is a foreigner, the book’s effect, if not its intention “is to create a symathetic feeling towardss foreigners who put themselves nder the protection of Israel’s God,” and to show that marriage with foreigners is acceptable. This theme has sugested that it was “a post-exilic composition, based on an older tale, intended to counter the hearsg decrees of Ezra and Nehemiah” requiring Israelites to divorce foreing wives and marry only Israelite women (Era 10.1-5; Neh 13.23-27.
Christian readers will note that as great-grandmother of King David, the Moabite Ruth is an ancestor according to human reckoning of the Lord Jesus; see the genealogy in Mt 1.1-16. It is notable that apart from the mother of Jesus, four women are mentioned in this genealogy: Tamar (see Gen 38); Rahab (see Jos 2, 6); Ruth; Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah (1 Samuel 11-12). The reader or hearer will also connect this passage with the concern for widows, especially poor widows in the Gospel passage for today. In the Roman Mass a passage from 1 Kings 17 about Elijah and the poor widow of Zarephath is read today, with Psalm 146.
The first reading for Proper 31, Ruth 1.1-18, which we did not read last week because of the celebration of All Saints, sets the scene; the story of Ruth and Boaz begins at 2.1. We now come to the conclusion of the tale. At harvest time, when the reapers are required to leave some grain for the poor (including widows) to glean; Ruth chooses to glean in Boaz’s field (2:3). As a kinsman of Naomi (2:20) Boaz he has some obligation to look after her and Ruth. More than that, he notices Ruth and favours her; he has learnt of her fidelity to Naomi. Naomi sees Boaz’ kindness as a gift from God, and desiring to provide for Ruther, she teaches her how to show her love for him.
In verse 1 “security” seems to explain rather than translate the original, as does the RSV’s “a home”. It appears that Naomi literally said, I must seek rest for you, that it may be well with you”: this is supported by the ancient Greek and Latin versions as well as the English version of he Judaica Press.
In verse 4 “feet” is said to be a euphemism for the private parts.

Psalm 127
A psalm of wisdom, 127 teaches that a safe home and a large faily are the Lord’s gift. It declares two truths: first, that without God’s help, all human activity is futile (1-2); second, of the security that comes from a stroing family (3-5)\
1 “House” may mean household as well as a dwelling-place, though the reference to labourers suggests that a building is meant. Because the superscription of this Psalm is “of Solomon”, it has also been suggested that the reference is to the temple. A broader interpretation is that the nation is intended, whose security and confidence rest in God who founded Jerusalem and continues to provide new generations.
2. Worry is vain and has no place in the life of the faithful because the Lord does build he house and defend the city. See Mt 6.25-34. The second half of this verse seems to pose a problem for translators: most English versions more or less agree with the liturgical psalter, but the Judaica Press version is “so will the Lord give to one who banishes sleep from himself,” and the RCL notes cite “honour” and “prosperity” as alternative translations.
5-6. I have only just discovered, while looking for something else that a movement among conservative evangelical Christian couples has adopted the name “Quiverful”, on which see One should also remember how Mr Quiverful, the vicar of Puddingdale in Trollopes’s Barsetshire Chronicles, a poor clergyman with a very large family.

For general comments on the Epistle, Hebrews 9.24-28 see and the link to the clippings there.
The same epistle is read in the Roman Mass today.
In verse 24, the word “copy” translates the Greek antitypon. Since the categories of type and antitype are of some importance in Biblical interpretation and theology in general, it is useful to comment on the words involved. The root of these words is the verb typtein, which means “to beat, press, strike”, from which is typos, “a blow, print, mark”, which comes to mean "a figure, type, model or pattern”. It is helpful to think of the English ‘type” as in “typewriter” (untl this device has been forgotten) and “typography”, Hence a “type” is the model and the antitype the copy struck from it.
By the way, the English “typewriting” and the French dactylographie show a difference in the way the act is considered: the latter means “finger-writing”,

The Holy Gospel: Mark 12.38-44
The same Gospel passage is read in the Roman Mass today, but a shorter reading is provided by the omission of verses 38-40The parallels in Matthew and Luke are, for the warning about the scribes, Mt 23.1, 5-7, 14; Lk 1.20-46 and for the widow’s mite, Lk 21.1-4.
Since two weeks ago, the readings from Mark’s Gospel have jumped over Chapter 11, which relates the palm Sunday Entry into Jerusalem and its sequels, and the first part of Chapter 12, We missed 12.28-37, which is read on Proper 31 B, because of All Saints. That passage ends with a dispute between Jesus and the scribes in which Jesus had the upper hand, and at which “the throng heard him gladly”. It was likely because of the mention of the scribes that the Gospel-writers put the pericope 38-40 here, and the mention of widows in verse 40 that attracted the incident of the widow’s mite
Beware the scribes!
The scribes were certainly not all as evil as they are depicted here, nonetheless, these faults are common to religious leaders, The charge that they “devour widow’s houses” (v. 40) is one that resonates in all ages, for the unscrupulous man of God who takes large sums from credulous old women is well-known. Of course old women are not their only credulous victims.
v. 38. Long robes probably refers to the outer garment with tassels prescribed in the Law (Num 15.38-9, Deut 22.130. The scribes apparently wore a longer version of these. They were proper for times of prayer and other duties: here it seems that the scribes liked to wear them at other times to parade their piety. Note Matthew’s version, “they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long”. I have seen reference to a suggested correction of the text that would read stoais, (porticoes), for stolais (robes); this would give the more elegantly balanced phrases, “walk in the porticoes and be greeted in the market-place” but does not seem to be supported by the manuscript evidence.
Greeted: According to Nineham’s commentary on Mark, the custom was that one should pay greetings to a person more learned in the Law, but “that some of the greatest rabbis are known to have waived their right and been eager to make their salutations first.
v. 39. best seats, literally first seats. The custom was growing at this time that in the synagogues the elders sat in front of and facing the congregation. First, then, would probably catch the image better than best. On seeking places of honour at banquets, see Lk 14.7-11 and Mk 10.37.
The widow’s coins
The devouring of widow’s houses brings the next pericope to mind, the well-known story of the widow’s mite. Jesus, while watching the people casting their offerings into the temple treasury, sees a widow cast in two mites declares that she is giving more than all the others, because she only is making a real sacrifice to provide her gift. There is a danger of missing the point, and teaching ourselves to think that this incident simply praises those who give little.
We do not need to concern ourselves too much with the exact meaning of treasury; it translates a word which in some passages means a room, but it here is seems to refer to a number of chests in the women’s court of the temple that were earmarked for specific purposes.
The small copper coin is a lepton, the smallest coin of the day worth 128th of a denarius, which was the standard day’s pay. Mark explains that two are worth a quadrans, transliterating the Latin name of a coin which the NRSV calls a “penny”, although the sense might be better caught by “farthing”. One lepton was the smallest acceptable (or indeed possible) offering.
Since a number of quite similar stories are told in both pagan and Jewish literature, it has been suggested that this pericope originated as a story Jesus told and which was later transformed into an incident in his life, Nineham cites a famous example from the Rabbinic literature, the story of priest who scorned a woman’s offering of a handful of flour; overnight he received in a vision this rebuke: “Despise her not; it is as though she offered her life”.
Another reading of this passage should also be noted, one which takes the two parts of today’s reading as a unit, Byron Smith of Edinburgh sees the widow’s mite as
" illustration of how the scribes who run the temple are devouring the house of a widow, all she had to live on, indeed literally, 'her entire life'. Whether or not this was a 'freewill' offering or a compulsory payment, this temple system has eaten another widow. She has not just given until it hurts, but the temple has taken away her very life. There is no criticism of the widow, but neither is there simple commendation of her as an example of generosity. She is an innocent bystander, a casualty of the temple, pointlessly sacrificed by the very scribes who will soon go on to devour Jesus' life too." [See:}
Of course, we do not need to choose one reading or the other. The example of giving all one’s life to God in Christ is important whether the scribes were fleecing this poor woman or not: for this story really isn’t about money. You’ll have to think about that, or discuss it among yourselves; I’m getting too close to 2,00 words for comfort.

1 comment:

Felicity Pickup said...

Ruth not "a nice girl" and "no better than she should be?"