Saturday, January 29, 2011

Lectionary Notes

Some Notes for Proper 4 in Year A
30 JANUARY 2011

MICAH 6:1-8
The LORD’s Lawsuit against Israel

From the superscription (1.1) it appears that the prophet Micah was a younger contemporary of Isaiah; like Isaiah and Hosea he prophesied at the time of the Assyrian threat against Israel and Judah in the late eighth century BC. Unlike Isaiah, who was of noble descent and a man of Jerusalem, Micah was born in the village of Moresheth in the foothills s-w of Jerusalem. The introduction to the NOAB suggests that for this reason he ‘looked on the corruptions and pretensions of the southern capital through different eyes’, and that this difference accounts for his prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem (3.9-12), something his contemporaries never did (see Jeremiah 26.18).
The sixth chapter of Micah contains a series of oracles directed against Israelites of all classes and opens with a dramatic lawsuit that brings the people to face the greatness of their sin.
1-2. Address. The Lord summons Israel to plead its case (see also Isaiah 3:13; Hosea 4:1-3; 12:2.); he is both accuser and judge; the whole of nature (mountains, hills, foundations of the earth) witness the action.
3-5: The Mighty Deeds of the LORD. This text has been used in Christian liturgy, especially on Good Friday. It resumes Israel’s confession of faith, such as Joshua 24.2-13. “Past events are recalled in order to bring the listener to repent” and properly consider “the promised faithfulness. The mighty deeds of God are recounted from the exodus … to the conquest and the entry into the land.” What more could the LORD have done? [NJBC]
For the story of Balak and Balaam son of Beor, see chapters 22-24 of Numbers. For Shittim see Numbers 25.1-5, 27.23 and 33.48-49, on Gilgal, see Joshua 5.2-12.
6-7: True Religion: the Question. The remembrance of these mighty acts of redemption evoke the questions: how shall I come before the LORD? That is, what is the religion expected of me? There are four questions here, one general, three specific building up to the climax of a terrible offering in the hope of wiping away great sin:
With what shall I come before the LORD ….?
Shall I come with burnt offerings ….?
Will the LORD be pleased with repeated offerings (thousands of rams) or streams of the oil used in worship and anointing?
Shall I give my firstborn?
The climax the abomination of the Canaanites (see Leviticus 20.2-3; Deuteronomy 12.31; Ezekiel 20.26) which the LORD has rejected (see 1 Kings 16.34; Jer 7.31, 19.5; cf Genesis 22, Exodus 11, 13). Such a dreadful question shows that the gravity of the sin is realized. But the Lord‘s answer is definitely negative: he demands inward conversion and a right spirit. This was called for by the law and all the prophets (see Isaiah 1.10-17; 7.9; 30.15; Amos 5.21-27; Hosea 2.19-20; 6.4-6; Jeremiah 6.16-20; 7.21-24).
8. True Religion: the Answer. So Micah says, He has told you : the right answer is to do justice. Kindness or mercy translates the Hebrew hesed, חֶסֶד, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, favour, among people or grace, as shown by God to people, also, human piety towards God. What the Lord demands is an expression of love in response to his love. It is all summed up in the image of walking humbly with your God. The themes here are also echoed in Christ’s Beatitudes.

Domine quis habitabit?
It is thought that this psalm was used in the temple liturgy. It is a question, posed by worshippers (v. 1) and the answer of a temple minister, or perhaps a choir (vv 2-5). It serves in this Sunday’s liturgy as a reflection on the words of Micah: as true religion is to act justly and love kindness, so to be blameless and to do what is right is the requirement for true worship.
On the prohibition of interest (v. 5), see Exodus 22.25; Leviticus 25.35-37.
Epistle: 1 CORINTHIANS 1. 18-31
The power of the Cross
Last week’s passage from the first letter to the Corinthians ends with Paul’s assertion that God sent him to preach, not baptize. In this section he expounds on the contrast between the way of the Cross, which seems like foolishness to the world, but is God’s wisdom and power, and the wisdom of the world, which is foolishness before God.
In reading for this Sunday, take vv 27 and 28, But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, and compare those who are called ‘blessed’ in the Gospel reading. How the Gospel of God would turn the world upside down is we only embraced it with all our hearts!

Parallel: Luke 6.20-23
Chapters 5 to 7 of Matthew’s Gospel contain the Sermon on the Mount, the first of five major discourses in the Gospel. The Discourses are identified by NJBC as:
Chapters 5-7: Blessings, Entering the Kingdom
Chapter 10: Mission Discourse
Chapter 13 Parables of the Kingdom
Chapter 18: Communuity Discourse
Chapters 24-25: Woes; Coming of the Kingdom
Luke\s Gospel conatins a parallel discourse known as the Sermon on the Plain It is not necessary to think that this ‘sermon’ was delivered at one time as it stands in the text of the Gospel; a comparison shows that the Gospel according to Luke has used much of the material in different ways and at different points in the narrative.
The dominant themes of the Sermon are the kingdom of God and justice. It opens with the series of declarations ccalled the Beatitudes, from the opening words of each verse, in Latin Beati, ‘blessed’. Matthew’s Gospel gives eight beatitudes; in Luke four beatitudes are accompanied by four ‘woes’ (6.24-26). Our purposes do not require us to take a position on the relations between the two versions, or whether one is more authentic; it is enough to note that the questions exist and may be pursued in many good studies and commentaries. We hear in these verse as they stand in scripture the voice of our Lord showing us the character and condition of person that is blessed by God. They challenge us to examine our lives and character.
Verses 1 and 2 are a brief introduction. The mountain is not identified; from 1.23 we gather it is in Galilee. A gently-sloping hillside on the north shore of the sea, not far from Capernaum is pointed out as the site of the sermon; a chapel was built there in 1939. See
The mountain stands for Mt Sinai where the law was given to Moses; on this mountain the Law is restated. Although it seems from v.1 that only the disciples are with Jesus, at the end of the sermon (7.28) we hear of the ‘crowds’. We must remember that there were more ‘disciples’ than just the twelve.
3. Blessed (Gk makarios) has been rendered by ‘happy’ in some modern versions; and there are some senses of the word ‘happy’ that are appropriate here. However, at the root of the word ‘happy’ is the idea of chance or luck (‘hap’), which invites the objection that ‘happiness’ is an emotion often dependant on outward circumstances but ‘blessed’ refers to the well-being and joy which belongs to those who share in the kingdom. Furthermore, ‘blessed’ involves the idea of approval by God. Thus the poor and all the others are ‘blessed’ not because they are better than others but because of God’s speracial care for them. The poor in spirit: Luke simpy has the ‘poor’. At the time of Jesus the poor of the land were those who preferred divine service to any financial gain. By adding ‘in spirit’ the moral dimension of voluntary detachment from wealth comes into the picture. In truth everyone is poor, for no one has anything that is not from God, not even self; the blessed are the ones who know this.
4. Those who mourn; we think of mourners at a funeral, but the word is wider; it originally mean to be anxious, but came to mean to sorrow, grieve, lament. Here the major sense is sorrow for sin and for the trials and difficulties of this life.
5. The meek. See Psalm 37.11; the word means ‘slow to anger’, ‘gentle with others’. The earth; in both Hebrew and Greek the word can also mean ‘the land’.
6. For thirst as spiritual longing, see Psalm 42.2, Isa. Iv. i.
7. The merciful: Slater notes: lit. shall experience mercy not only now, but in the final triumph of the kingdom, Jas. 2. 13 (cf. Heb. 4. 16, ‘receive mercy’). Matthew frequently refers to mercy: 9.13, 12.7, 18. 33, 25.35. The higher righteousness which justifies forgiveness can only be attained by those who submit to be governed by this supreme law of the universe, i. e. love. This is taught in the parable of the ungrateful servant, 18.23 ; and in the Lord s Prayer, 6.12. Mercy characterizes the true High Priest, Heb. 2.17 ; its absence condemned the Pharisees, Matt. 23.23.
10. persecuted for righteousness’ sake, ‘The cause, not the pain, makes the martyr’ (Augustine). See 1 Peter 3.14, 4.14.
11. falsely, or, because they are speakers of falsehood.
12. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven is perhaps the most difficult saying in the whole passage. Christian joy abounds in adversity ; so the apostles sang in prison, Acts 16 25 : cf. Rom. 5.3.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Lectionay Notes

Some Notes for Proper 2 in Year A
The Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Between the Epiphany and the beginning of Lent we are in the first of two periods in the Calendar sometimes referred to as ‘Sundays of the Year’ or ‘Ordinary Time’. They are also known as Sundays after Epiphany and after Pentecost, but they are not seasons in the same way that Advent, Lent and Eastertide are, and it doubtful that referring to them as ‘Epiphanytide’ or Pentecost is correct. The number of Sundays ‘of the year’ depends on the date of Easter, as may be seen in the provisions in the lectionary on pages 348 to 360 of the BAS. In 2011, because Easter falls on April 24th, the second latest day it can fall, there are nine Sundays between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday. The first of these is kept as the Feast of the Baptism of Christ; on the last the Transfiguration may be celebrated. Epiphany themes continue in the readings until the Second Sunday, but after that, they choice seems not to be thematic. In some cases the readings from the Hebrew Scriptures do complement the Gospel passages, but that still leaves us with two tracks of consecutive readings from the Epistles and the Gospels.
At this point another version of these Notes contained a chart showing the readings for the Sundays after Epiphany, but if it is not impossible to reproducen that here, it is too difficult, and we apologize if it makes the earlier comments any more difficuilt to understand.

The Readings of Proper 2
The First Reading: Isaiah 49.1-7
This is the second of Isaiah’s Servant Songs (please see last week’s notes). 1-3: The servant [Israel] speaks. He calls to the peoples far off—identified by the RCL notes as Israelites scattered around the Mediterranean, and declares himself to have been called by the Lord from before his birth. We meet this theme of the prophet called before birth in Jeremiah 1.5 (read recently on Proper 21 of Year C) and Galatians 1.5; note how in addressing the Church at Corinth Paul describes himself as ‘called to be an Apostle’. The Lord gave him power of speech (v. 2; see Ephesians 6.17; Hebrews 4.1) but hid him away, presumably for his protection.
The word ‘coastlands’ in v. 1 is also translated ‘isles’ it properly means habitable land as opposed to water; but note that it is coupled with ‘you peoples from far away’; this pairing is a device of Hebrew poetry and in fact the terms should be taken as synonyms.
In v. 3 the Servant is identified as a personification of Israel. This has been interpreted to mean that the servant is the faithful remnant of Israel whose task is to renew God’s people who have been crushed by the Babylonian exile, “to bring back Jacob to him” (v. 5), but even more to be ‘a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth’ (v. 6); Christians here understand the Servant to be a prophecy of Christ (see for example the Nunc Dimittis, Luke 2.29f.
Psalm 40.1-12
Exspectans exspectavi
Psalm 40 may originally have been two psalms (vv. 1-11, a thanksgiving, and 12-17, a lament) later joined together for use in worship. In verses 1-3 the Psalmist relates his experience: he was in some unspecified trouble, but the Lord saved him and gave him new hope and joy—a new song (vv.4-10). Better than a sacrifice of thanksgiving is to do God’s will (6-8, quoted in Hebrews 10.5-7). The section we use this week ends with a prayer for the Lord’s continuing favour (12).
The Epistle: 1 Corinthians 1.1-9
In all three years the Epistle readings for the Sundays after Epiphany are largely taken from the first letter to the Corinthians, so that it; the readings in Year A cover most of caps 1-4, those of Year B up to cap 11, those of Year C the rest. Since there are nine Sundays between the Epiphany and Ash Wednesday in 2011, all the passages appointed will in fact be read in order. Some passages not read on these Sundays are read in Lent, on Easter Day and on Pentecost
Corinth is a city in Greece about 78 km (48 mi) southwest of Athens. on the Isthmus of Corinth, which joins the Peloponnesus to the mainland of Greece. It had been destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC; Julius Caesar refounded it in 44 BC. It was near the centre of the Roman province of Achaia and may have been its administrative capital. It was a cosmopolitan port city noted for its wealth, and for the luxurious, immoral and vicious habits of the people. Like most reputations, this one was much exaggerated; Jerome Murphy-O’Connor says in NJBC that ‘in terms of sexual morality, Corinth was no worse than any other Mediterranean port’. It had a large mixed population of Romans, Greeks, and Jews. St Paul himself preached the gospel and established the Church in Corinth (see Acts 18.1-11).
Two letters to the Church in Corinth are preserved in the New Testament, scholars suspect that there were more, and possibly that 2 Corinthians is made up of several letters.
The first letter to the Corinthians seems to have been occasioned by a letter from the Christians there bringing several problems to Paul’s attention (7.1) and by gossip brought to him by ‘Chloe’s people’ (1.11) which ‘revealed to Paul certain basic flaws in the Corinthians’ understanding of Christian community’. The readings in Year A are from the first section of the letter (1.1-4.21), which is concerned with divisions in the Community.
We will turn to the difficulties in Corinth in next week’s reading; Our passage today gives the Salutation (1-3) and opening Thanksgiving (4-9). As we have noted before, in his letters to the churches Paul expands the normal form of letter-writing of his day and adapts it as a vehicle for the Christian message
Note that Paul sends greetings to the church of God which is at Corinth, ‘together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (2), a reminder to the Corinthians that they are not the only Christians. The universal church has an existence (is ‘realized’) in the local community; but no one should identify the local community as the universal Church; we are more than just members of St Columba and All Hallows—indeed that is not our real membership or allegiance. Sosthenes may be the ruler of the synagogue referred to in Acts 18.17.
Paul gives thanks in this passage for God’s gifts to the Corinthian church, a theme which somes to be of importance later in the letter.
The Holy Gospel According to St John 1.29-42
After the Prologue (1.1-18) St John`s Gospel begins with the witness of St John Baptist, who testifies to the authorities from Jerusalem why he baptizes, even though he does not claim to be the Messiah or Elijah or one of the prophets. He answers that he is the one crying in the wilderness ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’; and speaks of the mightier one to come (19-28; compare Mark 1.1-8 and parallels). After this follows today’s reading, which relates John’s witness of Jesus to his own disciples and their response, which is to follow Jesus. The passage has far more detail than we can comment on in these notes, but for a few very important points.
Part I (1.19-34): The Testimony of John.
The Baptism of Jesus is not described in the Fourth Gospel, but the words of John Baptist in verses 30-33 refer to it.
It is the next day, that is the day after the events related in 19-28. The narrative in John 1.19 to 2.1 covers a week, which has been described as ‘the first week of the new creation’ (see 1. 29, 35, 43; 2.1). John sees Jesus and declares: Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
John knows that Jesus is God’s chosen because of what happened at the Baptism (32-33). It is worth noting that the Greek word for ‘know’ here is, as Temple put it, the word ‘which stands for knowledge of a truth—eidenai—not knowledge of a person— gnonai.’ John had known Jesus, but had not known this about him—that he was the Lamb of God. The image of the Lamb of God comes from many roots in the Old Testament, especially Isaiah 53.7. The Lamb is a familiar type of an offering to God, but it is more. In Genesis 22 we read of the ram that God provided as a sacrifice in place of Isaac, and indeed may note that Isaac`s question, `Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?` is the first mention of a lamb in scripture. The Lamb of God is the victim whom God provides. This lamb Himself takes the sin of the world. In the coming of Christ, God Himself is active; He not only accepts an offering made by human beings, be He provides (for indeed He himself is) the offering, and He Himself makes it. All that we have to do is to participate in this divine action, which is a bearing which has the effect of taking away the sin of the world. The word airon means both bearing and taking away, and there is no need to choose. By bearing it he removes it. Note that it is the sin of the world. Temple wrote:
How utterly modern is this conception! It is not ‘sins’, as by a natural early corruption of the text men were led to suppose, but ‘sin’. For there is only one sin, and it is characteristic of the whole world. It is the self-will which prefers `my`way to God`s —which puts `me` in the centre where only God is in place. It pervades the universe. … It becomes conscious, and thereby tenfold more virulent in man—a veritable Fall indeed. And no individual is responsible for it. It is an ‘infection of nature’ (Article IX among the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion), and we cannot cure it. We are not ‘responsible’ for it; but it sets us at enmity with God; it is the ‘sin of the world’.
This verse is set in Handel’s Messiah:
32. I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. Where Mark (1.10-11) implies that only Jesus saw this, John makes it clear that the Baptist beheld the vision as well. We can do no more here than draw attention to the word ‘remained’, which is a favourite word in John’s Gospel (see 3.5, 34; 7.38-9; 20.22; see also Isaiah 52.1). In verse 38 the same word is translated as ‘stay’ in the disciples’ question, "Where are you staying?".

Part II (1.35-42): John, Andrew, and Peter.
The next day John again bears witness to Jesus; two of his disciples hear him and follow after Jesus.; One of the two is identified in v. 41 as Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother; the other, not named, is traditionally said to have been St John. Note that these disciples follow Jesus because of what they have heard John Baptist say; just so, most of us have come to be Christians because of the word of someone else. But because they are following him, he turns (38) and asks them what they are looking for. In this he ‘welcomes them and gives them the opportunity to come to know Him and form their own impressions’ (Temple). He says to them Come and see (39; this is better translated by Come and you will see), which is the only answer we can really give to one who seeks.
About four o’clock in the afternoon is literally ‘the tenth hour’ counted from dawn in the ancient manner, in which an hour was a twelfth part of the daytime. To be precise what o’clock it means would depend on the time of year, and a possibly better translation would be ‘about two hours before sunset’. The disciples remain with Jesus the rest of the day; then (was it the next day?—the text does not say so, but seems to imply it) Andrew went to find his brother Simon and bring him to Jesus; thus he became the first missionary. That is all we have time for this week.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Lectionary Notes

Sunday, 2 January AD 2011

Of course the first thing to do is to wish you all a Happy New Year!

The Epiphany or Manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ is celebrated on January 6. Because of the importance of this feast both in itself and as the culmination of the festival of the Nativity, it is permitted to be kept on the Sunday preceding the 6th in place of the Second Sunday after Christmas Day. One might ask why this festival may be thus anticipated, since the usual way is to commemorate a feast on the Sunday following the day itself (as, for example, All Saints` Day—see the rubric on p. 427 of the BAS). The answer lies in the history of the feast.
Although the Western or Latin Churches keep the Epiphany as a commemoration of the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus (Matthew 2.1-12), it is not so in the Eastern or Greek Church, where the feast originated. There, the primary theme was the Baptism of Christ, although it also commemorated his Nativity and other manifestations of his divinity such as the miracle at Cana of Galilee. Christmas developed as a feast of the Nativity in the Western Church and when the Epiphany was adopted there, a particular focus was placed in the magi, though other epiphanies are reflected in the liturgies.
In recent years, the Western Churches had wanted to mark the Lord`s baptism at Epiphany, as well. It is for this reason that we keep the Sunday after Epiphany as the Lord`s Baptism and when it is desired to celebrate the Epiphany with fitting solemnity, to do in on the Sunday before.
The Book of Common Prayer gives the feast a subtitle which explains the importance of commemorating the visit of the Magi: it is the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. The meaning is expressed in a sermon preached by John Cosin on Epiphany 1621 at Cambridge:
“We are still at the feast of Christmas, and this is the last and great day of the feast, as St. John said of another. A feast of joy it has been all this while, but this day was given us that our joy might be full. They were tidings of joy that the Angels brought, a while since, to the shepherds, Jews, hard at hand; but when the glad tidings of the Gospel came abroad once to all the people, as this day they came so, then were they no more tidings of ordinary, but of great joy. 'Behold, I bring you tidings,' saith the Angel, but not to you alone; though to you, yet to others as well as you, 'which shall be to all people: Hitherto, then, it was Evangelizo vobis, vobis Judæis [I bring good tidings to you, to you Jews]. but to-day it was omni populo [to all people]; that now a Saviour was born unto us all, Which was Christ the Lord. And indeed this is our Christmas-day, that were Gentiles; for though Christ was born twelve days since in Jury [Judea], yet he came not abroad the world while now, and to us He seemed as yet unborn being but like a rich treasure in man's field, at this time not known to be so, till He was this day manifested unto us in the persons of these Wise Men, the first fruits of the Gentiles” [Sermon I, Cosin’s Works, volume 1; see].

Isaiah 60.1–6:
The Glory of the New Zion

Isaiah 60.1-62.2 contains a series of songs on the glory of Jerusalem and of the Lord’s people which are reminiscent of chapters 40-55. 60.1-22 is a song of The Glory of the New Zion
1-3: Introduction. Zion (Jerusalem) is bidden to arise, shine and reflect the glory of the Lord (6.3, compare Ezekiel 1.4-28; 10.4), which will attract all nations (6.18). Note rising in verses 1 and 3, and compare the Gospel account of the magi.
v 2-3. For the setting in Messiah see:
4-5: Risen Zion welcomes her children home
6-7: Arabia`s riches are brought by camel caravan.
6. The people of Midian were the descendants of Midian, a son of Abraham by Keturah (see Genesis 25. 2) Ephah was a son of Midian (Gen 25.4). Moses` father-in-law was a priest of Midian (Exodus 2.15). These descendants of Abraham now participate in their patrimony, as some day all nations will become God`s children through faith (see Romans 4.17). This theme is found again in the Gospel account of visit of the magi with their gifts, representatives of the best of the Gentiles coming to worship the Christ. Sheba may be modern Yemen, Gold and frankincense: see the Gospel. The nations come to Zion, not only to receive instruction, as in Isaiah 2:2-4 and Micah 4:1-3, but to rebuild and glorify the city.

Psalm 72.1–7, 10–14
Refrain All nations shall serve him.
In this prophecy of the future Davidic King, verses 10 and 11 have been seen as fulfilled in the visit of the magi, and had also influenced Christians’ understandings of that story.

The Epistle: Ephesians 3.1–12
The truth, that the gentiles are fellow-heirs with the Jews, was hidden from former generations, but has now been revealed to the apostles and prophets; and unworthy though he am, yet to Paul has been given the privilege of making it known, and of preaching Christ to the Gentiles. The Epiphany theme is found in verse 6.

The Holy Gospel: Matthew 2.1–12
As with Luke’s account of the Nativity, I recommend the commentary by Raymond Brown in The Birth of the Messiah for the account of the visit of the Magi in St Matthew. It is impossible to deal in any adequate way in these notes with important questions about the historicity of the passage or of the nature of the star.
The storhy is obviously influenced by the account in Numbers 22-24 of the prophet Balaam; see especially Numbers 24.17.
1. Wise men translates the Greek magoi, magi: in ancient literature this term referred to those engaged in occult arts and covered a wide range of astronomers, fortune tellers, priestly augurs, and magicians of varying plausibility. That Matthew describes them as interpreting the rising of a star suggests we should think of them as astrologers. They are Gentiles, representing the wisdom of natural learning, not of special revelation. The traditional number of three magi comes from the three gifts; John Cosin notes in another sermon that “for their number; there is an imperfect author, whom they have printed under St. Chrysostom's name, (but it is none of his, nor nothing like him,) who delivers it for a tradition in his time, though no man can yet tell whenever that time was, that they were twelve in number, and neither more nor less, to wait upon Christ's person, than there are now days to wait upon his nativity.” One wishes Cosin had given a footnote see
From the east: that there is nothing in the text to show just where these Magi were from has not kept interpreters from making suggestions. Since there is no way to know for certain I will not discuss the point, on which you should refer to R. Brown. Cosin: “Not from the next door, or a town hard by, but à longe, even from far, even as the Ethiopian in the Acts (whom some think they sent afterwards) came from the ends of the earth to worship at Jerusalem. A hard journey sure they had, saith St. Chrysostom, for besides the long way old, there were huge mountains and horrid deserts, great floods and rivers to pass, wild beasts and (what is more) beastly and wild men to pass by. And yet by all these difficulties they came, even from the East to Jerusalem.”
2. Where is he that is born King of the Jews? Born king, that is already King at his birth, not to become king later. Slater in the Century Commentary, notes that “Herod had not been born king, nor indeed had one been born King of the Jews for six centuries.” We have seen his star at its rising. On the star itself, see Brown or some other good commentary; I find all the suggestions lacking. At its rising is to be preferred to in the East; the word anatolē means ‘rising’; it is from ‘rising of the sun’ that it comes to mean ‘East’. The reasons for preferring ‘rising’ here are due to the Greek idiom involved. What we are to understand is not necessarily that this was some wondrous bright object in the sky, but that these wise men saw a star rise at a point in the sky which by their art signified Israel or the land of Judah; “having seen the rise of the star which they associate with the King of the Jews, they have come to the capital city of the Jews for more information” [Brown]. There is also nothing in the text until v. 9 that suggests that the star moved. To pay him homage: better, to worship him; I have said before that I think ‘pay homage’ is too weak a translation, since it is at root a contractual relationship between a king or noble and his ‘man’ and not the abandonment of adoration; the Greek verb is principally used to mean fall down and worship, to do reverence.
3. Herod was frightened: Oh, dear, after complaining that homage was too weak I have to complain that frightened might be too strong, though as Slater notes, Herod had come to the throne by fraud and violence, and would dread a rival who might appeal to the superstitious multitude. Brown gives startled.
4. calling together …. translates a verb frequently used by Matthew in the Passion narrative to describe the assembling of Jesus’ enemies, especially the chief priests, the scribes and the elders, against him (26.3, 57; 27.17, 27,. 62) see also Psalm 2.2; chief priests includes the high priest in office, former high priests now deposed, and members of the families from which the high priests were chosen. Where the Messiah was to be born: note that the Magi had asked for ‘the King of the Jews’. The titles seem to be used interchangeably.
6. Their quotation combines Micah 5.1 (5.2 in the RSV) and 2 Samuel 5.2. There are differences between the Hebrew text and the version given here for which see Brown
7. when the star had appeared refers to the same event as 'in its rising' in v. 2, the year, month and day. Herod’s concern for the exact time is preparing us for his order of the slaughter of the innocents in 2.16.
8. Bring me word: The Greek verb means to report, announce, but does not make it clear whether the magi were to send word or bring the news themselves. 2.12 implies the latter.
9. … there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising seems unnecessarily convoluted; the word order in the original, as in RSV is ‘and lo, the star which they had seen in its rising went before them’. This is quite clear English. That a star might lead people is known in ancient literature; that it would lead them to a particular house is unusual. … over the place where the child was: literally, ‘over where the child was’.
11. going into the house. Although Luke does not say what building the manger was in, it appears that it was not a house. The two Gospel accounts cannot easily be harmonized; see Brown. Gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. It would be hard to improve on the hymn We Three Kings as a commentary on the meaning of the three gifts. However, a brief comment of G. K. Chesterton might inspire thought:
There were three things prefigured and promised by the gifts in the cave of Bethlehem concerning the Child who received them; that He should be crowned like a King: that He should be worshipped like a God; and that he should die like a man. And these things would sound like Eastern flattery, were it not for the third.

The Calendar
January 2011
Saturday 1 The Naming Of Jesus; New Year’s Day
Sunday 2 The Second Sunday after Christmas Day; The Epiphany is celebrated.
Monday 3 The Tenth Day of Christmas
The Memorial of Basil the Great, 379, and Gregory of Nazianzus, 389, Bishops and Teachers of the Faith, transferred from Sunday
Tuesday 4 The Eleventh Day of Christmas
Wednesday 5 The Twelfth Day of Christmas: Eve of the Epiphany
Thursday 6 The Epiphany of the Lord
Some reckonings, counting days after Christmas, make this the twelfth day. The idea that Christmas greenery must come down this day is modern; it may remain until Candlemas. It is likely unlucky to take it down before Epiphany
Friday 7 Feria
Saturday 8 Feria
Sunday 9 The First Sunday after Epiphany: The Baptism of Christ