Saturday, September 06, 2014

My Notes on Sirach 27:30-28:7

Quotations are taken from the RSVCE. The [New] Revised Standard Version Bible may be quoted and/or reprinted up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses without express written permission of the publisher, provided the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible or account for fifty percent (50%) of the total work in which they are quoted.   
Notice of copyright must appear on the title or copyright page of the work as follows:  “The Catholic Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1965, 1966 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

Background~Sirach 24:1-32:13 is generally taken as forming a literary unit. The unit opens with a praise of wisdom in two parts (Sir 24:1-22; 23-29). In the first part (Sir 24:1-22) wisdom is personified and speaks about herself. In the second part the authors chimes in with his own praises, identifying wisdom with the Law (Sir 24:23).  He describes the wisdom embodied in the Law in terms of  abundant, life-giving waters: the four rives of Eden, along with the Jordan and Nile (Sir 24:25-27). He then notes that the first man (Adam) did not fully comprehend wisdom, anymore than the last man will succeed in doing, for she is deeper than the sea, the great abyss (Sir 24:28-29).

The praise of wisdom ends and the author then takes up the life-giving water image and applies it to himself as a seeker and holder of wisdom. Just as a channel or irrigation ditch can deliver the life-giving waters of a river to a garden where it is needed, so did Sirach deliver his teaching to his immediate disciples, described as his orchard and garden. But we are dealing with abundant, fruitful wisdom, and so his little canal of wisdom became a torrent, a deep sea, thus enabling him to extend the flood of wisdom further and further (Sir 24:30-34). Thus Sirach 24:1-31constitutes an introduction to the unit. The rest of the unit (Sir 25:1-32:13) is concerned with practical matters concerning how one ought to conduct oneself in family and society.

Since it would be rather lengthy for me to detail the remaining content of the unit, I will here simply direct the readers attention to the various sectional footnotes in the NAB (please note that the NABRE does not contain them): See the footnotes on 25:1-11; 25:12-25; 26:1-19; 26:20-27:15; 27:16-28:11; 28:12-26; 29:1-20; 29:21-28; 30:1-13; 30:14-25; 31:1-11; 31:12-32:13.  

Immediate Context~Sirach 27:16-28:11 forms the immediate context from which today's reading is taken.  The primary concern of these verses is to highlight the dangers to personal integrity and friendship. The betrayal of secrets can ruin a friendship, and very well might make reconciliation with the injured party impossible (Sir 27:16-21). Insincerity of conduct towards those you are having discourse with,  and the twisting of their word into a meaning not intended by them, is reprehended by Sirach, and he insists that the Lord hates such a man (sir 27:22-24). In typical Old Testament fashion Sirach 27:25-29 speaks of the inexorable law of retribution: what goes around comes around. It is at this point that today's reading, Sirach 27:30-28:7 begins.

Sir 27:30. Anger and wrath, these also are abominations, and the sinful man will possess them.
Sir 28:1. He that takes vengeance will suffer vengeance from the Lord, and he will firmly establish his sins.

Anger and wrath are things directed towards other people. In spite of the fact that retribution will come upon the wicked eventually, they continue to maintain their hold on it.   

The sinful man will possess them. The evil man may come to "possess" anger and wrath as a recipient of such things; either from men in this life, or from God at the judgment. The latter (from God) is more likely the meaning here in light of the exiplicit statement in 28:1, and the reference to his not knowing where retribution comes from in Sirach 27:27.

Sir 28:2 Forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray. 
Sir 28:3 Does a man harbor anger against another, and yet seek for healing from the Lord? 
Sir 28:4 Does he have no mercy toward a man like himself, and yet pray for his own sins? 
Sir 28:5 If he himself, being flesh, maintains wrath, who will make expiation for his sins?

Verse 2 should certainly call to mind the sixth petition of the Lord's prayer, and verses 3-5 serve as commentary, while at the same time highlighting the hypocrisy of seeking reconciliation with God when still at enmity with your neighbor. Betrayal of friends (Sir 27:16-21) and insincerity of conduct (Sir 27:22-23) are both examples of such hypocrisy. The end result of the evil man's hypocrisy towards his fellow man is treating God in the same base fashion.

Sir 28:6 Remember the end of your life, and cease from enmity, remember destruction and death, and be true to the commandments.
Sir 28:7 Remember the commandments, and do not be angry with your neighbor; remember the covenant of the Most High, and overlook ignorance

Remember, though you may think you can get away with something during this life, at its end their will be a reckoning: the law of retribution mentioned in Sirach 27:25-29. (see Sir 7:36;

do not be angry with your neighbor...overlook ignorance. Overlook the faults of your neighbor rather than bearing a grudge, for this is enshrined in the law (Lev 19:17-18; Ex 23:4-5).

Sunday, August 31, 2014

My Notes on Luke 4:31-37

Lk 4:31 And he went down into Capharnaum (Capernuam), a city of Galilee: and there he taught them on the sabbath days.
Lk 4:32 And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his speech was with power

We have already seen that the episode in Nazareth, narrated in Lk 4:16-30, was not the first act of Jesus' Galilean ministry, and that he has previously operated in Capernuam  (Lk 4:23). Whether the four events which follow in Lk 4:31-44 are to be dated as preceding the Nazareth visit, or are subsequent to it cannot be determined from Luke. The markan parallel places these events before the Nazareth visit (Mark 1:21-29; 6:1-6).

There he taught them. Literally, "he was teaching them." The imperfect tense of "was" indicates continual action, suggesting that whenever He was in that city on a Sabbath he made it a point of teaching. Jesus spent a great deal of time in Capernuam and it seems that it was a sort of missionary base of operations during his early Galilean ministry (see Mk 2:1; Matt 11:23-24; Lk 10:15).

(He taught them) on the Sabbath days. Literally, "on the Sabbaths." The plural is sometimes used by Luke even when a single Sabbath is in view (Lk 13:10, and Lk 6:2 in one manuscript). As used here the plural may be taken as bolstering the suggestion given above in connection with the imperfect tense of the phrase "he was teaching them,' i.e., that "whenever He was in that city on a Sabbath he made it a point of teaching."

And they were astonished at his doctrine, i.e., his teaching. The reason is given in the remainder of the verse: for his speech was with power. The word here translated as power is exousia, and it is better translated as "authority." The same word is used in the second temptation at Luke 4:6 where Satan promises to give Jesus all the authority and glory of the kingdoms of the world if he will bow down and worship him. But Jesus' authority transcends what Satan has or can claim to have. His authority is through the power of the Spirit  (Lk 4:14, 18). The response of the people to Jesus was a theme introduced in Lk 4:14-15. There nothing was said specifically about what motivated the spread of Jesus fame among the people and the praise of him which accompanied it, though the implication to the reader-as opposed to those in the account-was that it was the result of the spirit's power and Jesus' teaching. Here the crowd begins to understand that something of significance is at work in Jesus. At Nazareth the people were amazed at Jesus' words because they were seemingly at odds with his nondescript existence as the son of Joseph. The people in Capernuam have advanced a little farther.

Lk 4:33 And in the synagogue there was a man who had an unclean devil: and he cried out with a loud voice,
Lk 4:34 Saying: Let us alone. What have we to do with thee, Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the holy one of God

Unlike the people of Nazareth and Capernuam, the unclean devil shows that he knows significantly more about who Jesus is. Why he cried out with a loud voice is not indicated here; what he says however suggests that the level of his voice is motivated by hostility.

Let us alone. These words translate a single word in the Greek text: εα (ea). Most translations take the word as an imperative of ἐάω (eao), meaning, "let be." In reality it is an ejaculatory phrase suggesting displeasure (as here) or surprise.

What have we to do with thee, Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art.  It should here be noted that the possessed man has lost his individuality, while the demon has kept his. Note how he speaks on behalf of both himself and the man as he attempts to distance both himself and his victim from Jesus: "What have we to do with thee..." Note also how the demon seeks to hide behind the man he possesses by implying that what Jesus might do to him (the demon) will adversely affect the man as well: "Art thou come to destroy us? On the other hand his individuality show through when he talks of recognizing Jesus: "I know thee"...

Lk 4:35 And Jesus rebuked him, saying: Hold thy peace and go out of him. And when the devil had thrown him into the midst, he went out of him and hurt him not at all. 

The demon's attempt to associate his victim with his own hostility and lack of common cause with Jesus is all for naught. Though the demon attempted to speak on behalf the the man Jesus rebuked him (the demon), saying: hold thy peace and go out of him. Likewise, the demon's suggestion that whatever Jesus does to him will be done to the victim comes to nothing. It is the demon (not Jesus) who attempts to hurt the man by throwing him, but Jesus' forced separation of demon and man leads to the man being  hurt not at all by the demon

 Lk 4:36 And there came fear upon all; and they talked among themselves, saying: What word is this, for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they go out? 

Once again we recall that Satan had promised Jesus the authority (exosuia) of all the kingdoms of the world if he had bowed down to his will and worshiped him (Lk 4:6). But here we see in the defeat of Satan's minion, the unclean demon, that Jesus' authority is something other than that possessed by the kingdoms of this world.

We were told that after the temptations in the desert that Satan (the Devil) left Jesus "for a time," implying that he would again attempt to thwart Jesus' mission. Even a person reading the gospel for the first time might, however, begin here to have a sense that all will not end well for him, whatever his future machinations might be.

Lk 4:37 And the fame of him was published into every place of the country

Recalls Lk 4:14-15 and helps explain the actions of the people in Lk 4:40 and the pressing of the crowd in Lk 5:1.

My Notes on Luke 4:14-30

Lk 4:14  And Jesus returned in the power of the spirit, into Galilee: and the fame of him went out through the whole country.
Lk 4:15  And he taught in their synagogues and was magnified by all

The conjunctive and provides a link with the previous material.  The purpose then of these two verses is to link with what has preceded and  provide an introduction to Jesus' public ministry in Galilee. 

And Jesus returned (υπεστρεψεν = hypestrepsen) in the power of the spirit, into Galilee. This phrasing recalls Lk 4:1~ And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost, returned (υπεστρεψεν = hypestrepsen)  from the Jordan and was led the by the spirit into the desert. Lk 4:1 itself provided a transition from the genealogy of Jesus to the temptation narrative. The mission of Jesus, the Son of Adam and the Son of God, is thus a continuing assault on that being who ultimately instigated the need for it (see Luke 3:23-38, especially v. 38. See also Gen 3:1-19). He who in the power of the Spirit was confronted by Satan in the desert and bested him, will now in turn confront the power of the demonic in His ministry of teaching, healing, exorcising.  The fact that News spread of Him is probably to be understood as a result of His actions in the Spirit. Certainly His teachings in the synagogues should be seen as done by the Spirit's power. 

And was magnified (glorified) by all. As the episode at Galilee-and especially Jesus' words in Lk 4:24-27-will suggest, much of the fame and acclaim is misguided, but certainly not all of it. The one who was to be glory for Israel (Lk 2:32) was also the one who was set for the fall and the rising of many in Israel, and a sign of contradiction (Lk 2:34). This prophecy of Simeon's will play out throughout the Gospel, and will continue in Acts where the preaching of the Gospel will bring about the fall and rising of many, and contradictions and opposition. Luke has arranged his presentation of Jesus' public ministry so as to make the events at Nazareth a sort of paradigm for what will follow in Luke/Acts.

Lk 4:16 And he came to Nazareth, where he was brought up: and he went into the synagogue, according to his custom, on the sabbath day: and he rose up to read.

The conjunctive and here recalls the introductory verses quoted above with all that they imply. Jesus is here presented as a devout Jew who is loyal to ancestral custom as His parents were (lk 2:42). 

He rose to read. According to the synagogue practice of the day any devout, adult,  Jewish male, could be asked to deliver and exhortation on a reading from the Law or prophets (Acts 13:15). Apparently, at least in some synagogues, such a Jewish male could also be asked to read a text before speaking upon it; such seems to be the case in the current passage. The reading was done while standing, it is unclear if sitting down while commenting on the passage was the standard practice. Note that  in verses 20-21 Jesus sits down after the reading and only then begins to speak about it. In Acts 13:16 St Paul rises in order to address his "word of exhortation" to the people. The practice of sitting or standing may have differed from synagogue to synagogue, or from those in the Holy Land to those outside of it. We know very little about the 1st century synagogue practices.

Lk 4:17 And the book of Isaias the prophet was delivered unto him. And as he unfolded the book, he found the place where it was written:
Lk 4:18 The spirit of the Lord is upon me. Wherefore he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, he hath sent me to heal the contrite of heart,
Lk 4:19 To preach deliverance to the captives and sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised
(oppressed), to preach the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of reward
Lk 4:20 And when he had folded the book, he restored it to the minister and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.
Lk 4:21 And he began to say to them: This day is fulfilled this scripture in your ears

And the book of Isaias (Isaiah) the prophet was delivered unto him. Apparently Jesus didn't chose the book to read from. Did He choose the passage, or was it assigned? We cannot be sure, but the more plausible interpretation of the second part of verse 17 is that He chose the passage.

As he unfolded the book, he found the place where it is written.  "unfolded" reflects the Greek word anoixas. Most scholars prefer those manuscripts that employ the word anaptyxas, meaning "having unrolled."

The passage Jesus read was taken from Isaiah 61:1-2 and conflated with Isaiah 58:6. None of these verses are quoted in full. Technically, the quotation of the parts of the verses runs as follows: Isaiah 61:1a, b, d; 58:6d; 61:2a. Conflation of texts and partial quotes were common (e.g., Mk 1:2-3), serving to keep the listener's minds focused on a key theme or themes which the preacher wanted to emphasize. This practice is often maintained in modern Christian lectionaries.

The most notable omission is Isa 61:2b~(to proclaim)....the day of vengeance of our God. The day of vengeance will come, but it is in the future, not part of that sabbath day of fulfillment in Nazareth (21).  See Lk 21:20-24; also Lk 3:7-9, 17.

The quote from Isa 58:6 (to set at liberty those who are bruised/oppressed) is interesting. That passage forms part of prophet's teaching regarding the point and nature of true fasting and its rewards (Isa 58:1-12). Are we meant to recall Jesus fasting and the first temptation? (Lk 4:1-4). In addition, Isaiah 58:13-14 is concerned with motivating the people to act rightly on the Sabbath, which includes not following their own self-interests; and it is precisely the self-interest of the people of Nazareth which is behind Jesus' words in Lk 4:23-27. (see comments there).

Lk 4:22 And all gave testimony to him. And they wondered at the words of grace that proceeded from his mouth. And they said: Is not this the son of Joseph?
Lk 4:23 And he said to them: Doubtless you will say to me this similitude: Physician, heal thyself. As great things as we have heard done in Capharnaum, do also here in thy own country.
Lk 4:24 And he said: Amen I say to you that no prophet is accepted in his own country. 

Lk 4:25 In truth I say to You, there were many widows in the days of Elias in Israel, when heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there was a great famine throughout all the earth.
Lk 4:26 And to none of them was Elias sent, but to Sarepta of Sidon, to a widow woman.
Lk 4:27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet: and none of them was cleansed but Naaman the Syrian.
Lk 4:28 And all they in the synagogue, hearing these things, were filled with anger.
Lk 4:29 And they rose up and thrust him out of the city: and they brought him to the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong.
Lk 4:30 But he passing through the midst of them, went his way

The people think that Jesus is simply one of them; a native of their town and the son of Joseph. Readers familiar with the preceding chapters know that He is much more. He cannot be confined so narrowly. The words of grace that proceeded from His mouth (22) through His preaching cannot be imprisoned in Nazareth, Capernuam (Lk 4:42-44), or Israel (Lk 2:31-32. Nazareth was, apparently, a town of little prestige (Jn 1:46), and what better way for it to gain respectability than through a hometown boy who has become noteworthy. A physician who cannot heal himself is not much of a doctor (23), and a hometown wonder-worker who wont work wonders in his hometown is not much of an asset; such appears to be their unspoken reasoning which Jesus reveals. Behind the physician proverb is the idea, common in the Near East, that one's own personal well-being is intimately tied up with the well being of those with whom you are most intimately connected. The idea is that of a very narrow, mutual self-interest.

No prophet is accepted in his own country. The one who proclaimed an acceptable year of the Lord (Lk 4:19) is not accepted. Familiarity can breed contempt and a lack of appreciation (24), especially if the one we are familiar with acts in ways we don't agree with. But there is something more at work here than just this. God's people have always had trouble with the prophets sent to them, often because they did not understand the ways of God manifested through the working of the prophets. Elijah and Elisha were active during times when prophecy was little valued by their people. Prophets were silenced, hunted down, killed (1 Kings 19:10; 2 Kings 6:31-33). In these times non-Israelites came to benefit from the prophet. As had been the case in the days of Elijah and Elisha (1 Kings 17:9; 2 Kings 5:14), people outside the boundaries of Israel would once again come to benefit from God through Jesus (Lk 7:1-10; 17:11-19), showing greater openness than His own people (Lk 7:9; 17:17-18) as had been the case in the past (Lk 11:29-32).

In confirmation of His statement that no prophet is without honor accept among his own the people of Nazareth are filled with anger, they rose up and thrust Him out of the city in order to cast Him down headlong from the brow of the hill whereon their city was built. In essence, by seeking to put Him to death they treat Him as a false prophet (Deut 13:1-5); as Jeremiah had been treated centuries before (Jer 12:6, 21).

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Father Callan's Commentary on First Corinthians 4:6-15

The Faithful Should Not Judge Their Teachers
A Summary of First Corinthians 4:1-6 

Thinking themselves capable of judging their spiritual teachers the Corinthians had made distinctions between them, preferring one to another and glorying in their choice.  after having shown that their glorying was human and vain, the Apostle points out the true norm by which the preachers of the Gospel are to be judged, but at the same time he warns that only the Omniscient God is able to make use of that norm.  The faithful, therefore, must refrain from judging their teachers, not putting one above another, but leaving all things for the final manifestation at the Last Judgment. 

1 Cor 4:6  But these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollo, for your sakes; that in us you may learn, that one be not puffed up against the other for another, above that which is written.

The Apostle now observes that what he has been saying about Apollo and himself applies equally to all preachers. 

These things, i.e., what he has just been telling them regarding the preachers of the Gospel.  I have

in a figure transferred, etc., i.e., I have by a change of form (μετασχηματίζω = metaschēmatizō=met-askh-ay-mat-id’-zo), i.e., figuratively, applied only to Apollo and myself, for your sakes, i.e., for your benefit, that through us you may learn how to regard all preachers of the Gospel. 

That no one be puffed up, etc.  The meaning is that no one, or class, of the faithful should be considered better than another on account of any particular leader or teacher.  All should learn to practice humility according to “that which is written” in many passages of Holy Scripture.  The allusion is doubtless to such passages as 1 Cor 1:19, 31; 3:19-20; or perhaps to what is said in verses 1-2 of the present chapter; or, as some authors think, to a rabbinical proverb.  Cornely thinks the reference is to the Old Testament as a whole, where throughout man’s proper relation to God and genuine humility are taught. 

A Summary of 1 Cor 4:7-13 

When recommending humility to all the Corinthians in the preceding verse, the Apostle doubtless had chiefly in mind the leaders of the factions at Corinth. Now he directly attacks them with bitter irony, placing before them the life of real Apostles (Estius, Comely, etc.). St. Thomas, however, and the Fathers generally believe that the present section continues the thought of verse 6, and that the Apostle consequently is here, as there, addressing the faithful rather than their leaders. We see no reason why both in general cannot be meant. 

1 Cor 4:7. For who distinguisheth thee? Or what hast thou that thou hast not received? And if thou hast received, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?

How foolish it was for the Corinthians to glory in those human leaders, in whom there was nothing whereof to glory; or to glory in themselves as if they were better than their neighbors! If they have anything that distinguisheth them, whether in the natural, or in the supernatural order, this is not due to them, but to God from whom they have received all they possess. Therefore they have nothing in themselves whereof to glory.

St. Thomas and most of the Fathers have understood this verse to refer to supernatural, as well as natural gifts; and St. Augustine constantly urged it against the Pelagians and Semipelagians to prove that man cannot accomplish, or even begin, a salutary work without the grace of God (MacR.). Using this verse the Second Council of Orange declared: "If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7), and, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10). [I've here quoted the text of Orange in full, Fr. Callan quoted just the pertinent part in Latin]. 
1 Cor 4:8. You are now full; you are now become rich; you reign without us; and I would to God you did reign, that we also might reign with you.

In their own estimation the Corinthian faithful and leaders of factions are completely sufficient unto themselves. They are full, i.e., they want nothing; they are rich, i.e., they possess all wealth ; they reign, i.e., already arrived at the state of the blessed they reign with Christ triumphantly even in this life,—all this without us, i.e., without the true Apostles, Paul and his companions, who converted them to Christianity and put them on the way to happiness. 

I would to God, etc. Dropping the irony of his remarks, St. Paul says I wish you actually did reign, so that we Apostles, the founders of your Church, might also share in your felicity, being freed from our distresses, trials, labors, and the like.  

1 Cor 4:9. For I think that God hath set forth us apostles, the last, as it were men appointed to death: we are made a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men.  

I think that. “That” (Vulg., quod) is omitted by all the best MSS. How different from the apparently glorious condition of the Corinthians is the state of the true Apostles! Far from already reigning in Christ’s kingdom, the Apostles are like men reserved for the beasts in the grand finale of the games; they are the most abject and the last of men.  

God hath set forth, etc. God has made public display of us Apostles 

Appointed to death, i.e., doomed to die as gladiators or slaves in the public arena; “they were appointed to fight with beasts” (Tertull.).  

A spectacle to the world, etc. Like men exposed to wild beasts in the theatre, the Apostles became a spectacle to good angels and good men who admired their fortitude, mildness and humility in the midst of sufferings and persecutions, and to bad angels and evil men who rejoiced at their trials and sorrows.  

1 Cor 4:10. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ; we arc
weak, but you are strong; you are honourable, but we without honour.

Continuing ironically to take the Corinthians at their own measure the Apostle further contrasts their fancied state with the condition of the Apostles.  

We are fools, etc., i.e., the Apostles who preached Christ crucified in simple language were regarded as fools by the worldly Corinthians who gloried in eloquence and human wisdom. 

We are weak, etc., i.e., the Apostles were regarded as weak, because destitute of human resources; they were without honour, i.e., derided and despised, because wanting in worldly science and eloquence: whereas the Corinthians gloried in their human aids and natural attainments.  

1 Cor 4:11. Even unto this hour we both hunger and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no fixed abode;

The abject and destitute condition of the Apostles was not something of the past that no longer endured; it continued even unto this hour when the Apostle was writing, and throughout his life. At all times Christ’s true Apostles were in want of the things that were necessary for human life, such as food, drink and clothing; and moreover, they were unceasingly pursued by persecutions from one place to another.  

1 Cor 4:12. And we labour, working with our own hands; we are reviled, and we bless; we are persecuted, and we suffer it.

In order not to be dependent on those for whom he labored preaching the Gospel, St. Paul worked at his trade of tent making to earn his daily bread (Acts 18:3; 20:34; 2 Cor 11:7; 1 Thess 2:9; 2 Thess 3:8). For reviling and persecutions on the part of his enemies he returned blessing, sweetness and resignation.  

1 Cor 4:13. We are blasphemed, and we entreat; we are made as the refuse of this world, the offscouring of all even until now.  

The refuse . . . offscouring, etc. The Apostles were treated as outcasts, as scapegoats (περίψωμα) , as unfit to live in human society. Some think the above words refer to the custom at Athens of reserving certain worthless persons to be cast into the sea as a kind of scapegoat sacrifice against plagues, famines, or other public calamities.
Note: the words περικάθαρμα, refuse, filth, and περίψωμα, offscouring, scum, were sometimes used to denote scapegoats. Because St Paul speaks in this verse of being made refuse and offscouring of this world some see a connection with verse 9: “For I think that God hath set forth us apostles, the last, as it were men appointed to death: we are made a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men.” St Paul is expressing a willingness to be a victim on behalf of others, as in 1 Cor 15:31; 2 Cor 4:10-11; Gal 6:17; Phil 2:17 

A Summary of 1 Corinthians 4:14-21 

After severely upbraiding the factionists at Corinth the Apostle now gives expression to the tender love which he really bears toward the faithful there. He is their spiritual father, and as such, ought to be an object of imitation for them. Timothy is coming to them; he himself will come later, and when he arrives he will deal with them according to need. 

1 Cor 4:14  I write not these things to confound you: but I admonish you as my dearest children.
The severe language of the preceding verses had not for its purpose to humiliate and shame the faithful and their leaders, but to admonish and correct them. As a father out of love may use harsh words to his children, so has St. Paul spoken to his dearest children. 

1 Cor 4:15  For if you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet not many fathers. For in Christ Jesus, by the gospel, I have begotten you.

If the Apostle has spoken harshly to the Corinthians it is because, as their father, he has a right to do so. However many instructors and preachers of the Gospel they may have, there is only one who has founded their Church and begotten them spiritually, and that is himself. 

Ten thousand, i.e., a very great number, an indefinite number. 

Instructors, i.e., tutors, pedagogues (παιδαγωγους) . The pedagogue was a trusted slave who looked after a child during his minority, corrected his faults, and took him to those charged with his education. See on Gal 3:24. By tutors and pedagogues the Apostle means here the different preachers of the Gospel at Corinth who had followed him after he had founded the Church there.
For in Christ Jesus, etc., i.e., by the power and authority of Christ St. Paul, in leading the Corinthians to the faith, had given them a new and spiritual life.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

St Augustine On "The Lord Passing By"

The following is excerpted from St Augustine's 349th sermon. At the end I've provided some links to various things by and about St Augustine.


Be of better comfort. Arise, He calleth thee (Mk 10:47)
Image by Eustache Le Sueur: "Christ Healing the Blind Man"
Circa A.D. 1600
THE blind man cried out as Christ was passing by, for he feared that Christ would pass without curing him. And how did he cry? He cried so that he would not be silenced by the crowd. He triumphed over its opposition and won his Saviour. In spite of the crowd who strove to silence the blind man, Jesus stood still, and called to him, and said, What wilt thou that I do? Lord, he said, that I may see. And Our Lord answered, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath made thee whole. Have a love for Christ; desire the light, which is Christ. If that blind man desired the light of the body, how much more should you desire the light in your heart. Let us cry out to Him, not with our voices, but with our works. Let us live holy lives and despise the world; let all transitory things be as no thing to us. Worldly men, when they see us living in this fashion, will give us, as they deem it, a friendly warning. They love the world and the things of dust without a thought of heaven, and take freely what enjoyment they can find. They will surely censure us if they see us despising these things of earth. They will say, "What mad thing are you doing?" They form the censuring crowd who want to prevent the blind man from crying out. There are some Christians who are against a Christian mode of life, for that crowd itself was walking with Christ, and impeding a blind man who was crying out with all his might for Christ^ and wishing for the light from the succour of Christ. There are some Christians of this kind, but let us conquer them by our holy lives,, and let our life itself cry out to Christ. He will stand for us, because He stands for ever (stabit, quia stat).

For there is a great mystery in this. He was passing by when the blind man cried out, but when He healed He stood still. Let this passing by of Christ make us eager to cry to Him. What is the passing by of Christ? Whatever He bore for us in time constitutes His passing. He was born: in this He has passed, for is He still being born? He grew: in this He has passed, for does He still grow? He was at His mother's breast, and does He still suck? When He was weary He slept; does He still sleep? Last of all, He was taken and loaded with chains, scourged, crowned with thorns, struck, and spit upon, hung upon a tree, put to death, pierced by a lance, and He rose again from the sepulchre; He is still passing. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father; that is His permanent place. Cry to Him as much as you can; He will now enlighten you; for inasmuch as the Word was with God, He did not pass by, for He was the unchangeable God. And the Word was God, and the Word was made flesh. In His human passing the flesh did and suffered many things; the Word was immutable. The heart is enlightened in that Word itself, because in that Word itself the flesh which he took upon Himself is honoured. Take away the Word, and what is the flesh? Nothing more than the flesh of any ordinary man. But the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us, that the flesh of Christ might be honoured. Let us therefore cry out to Him and live holy lives. . . .

Pope Benedict on St Augustine:
The City of God. Text at New Advent.
The Confessions of St Augustine. Text at New Advent.
Book 1 & Book 2 of St Augustine's Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount.

A Newer Translation of  On the Sermon on the Mount. Online book. Use the sites zoom feature to increase text size.

Leaves From St Augustine. Online book. Excerpts from his works on many different subjects. Use the site’s zoom feature to increase text size if necessary.

St Augustine, Sex Addict to Saint. By Bishop Alban Goodier, S.J. Excerpted from his book Saints For Sinners. 13 pages.

Explanation of the Rule of St Augustine. By Hugh of St Victor.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

My Notes on Ezekiel 24:15-23

Background~In 603 BC the Kingdom of Judah came under the vassalage of the Babylonian empire.  In 601 BC Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, met Pharaoh  Neco of Egypt in battle; a battle in which both sides suffered heavy losses. Encouraged by this setback to Babylon's military might, the reigning king of Judah, Jehoiakim, decided to rebel. Busy rebuilding his army after the devastating stalemate with Pharaoh Neco the king of Babylon was unable to campaign in 600-599 BC, and throughout much of 598 BC his revitalized forces were busy elsewhere. However, he was able to send small forces of his Babylonian regulars, along with mercenaries, into Judah to harass king and populous. In December 598 he was able to send his army. That same month the rebellious king of Judah, Jehoiakim, died, leaving his 18 year old son, Jehoiachin to deal with the problem. On March 16, 597 BC the young king surrendered and he, along with his family, government official, and leading citizens were taken into exile in Babylon. His uncle, Mattaniah, renamed Zedekiah, was place on the throne as the new vassal king to Babylon (see 1 Kings 23:36-24:17). It was in this deportation that Ezekiel was also taken into Babylon where, on July 31, 593 BC he received his call to prophecy (Ezek 1:1-2). In spite of prophecies to the contrary (i.e., by Jeremiah), the people in exile were under the delusion that Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Judah would continue in existence, and that their exile would soon end. It was one of Ezekiel's primary prophetic duties to disabuse the people of this expectation. Jerusalem would fall; the exile would continue (see Ezek 4:1-11:13; 12:1-28; 15:1-8; 16:1-63, etc.).

On January 15, 587 BC Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, laid siege to Jerusalem (Ezek 24:1-2). On this very day God commanded Ezekiel to declare a parable about a cauldron unto the exiles (see Ezek 24:3-14). To understand the overall point of the passage one has to recall that in Ezek 11:3 the people of Jerusalem had compared their city to a cauldron, and themselves as the meat in it. The point of this comparison seems to be the following: just as a pot protects meat from the fire, so too Jerusalem--the Holy City where God manifested His presence in the Temple--would provide protection for the people.  But because of the blood shed in the city it would not be a protective kettle for the arrogant who placed their hope in its protection (Ezek 11:7-11). The people were unaware that the Divine Presence had already left the Temple and the city, sealing their fate (Ezek 10:18-23).

In the parable of the cauldron (Jerusalem) the people are the choice meat which will be given out indiscriminately, an image of exile (Ezek 24:3-6). But blood has corrupted the cauldron (Jerusalem) and it must be purified. God will heap up a great fire to cook the meat (people) within the pot (Jerusalem), then, with the pot empty, (due to exile) He will heat the pot until its corrupting rust disappears (Ezek 24:9-11). The corrupting rust will not disappear, however (Ezek 24:12). It is implied that a greater cleansing must take place. So too with the people, their willful corruption makes an intense purification by God necessary (Ezek 24:13-14). It is at this point that today's reading begins.

Ezek 24:15  And the word of the Lord came to me, saying:
Ezek 24:16  Son of man, behold I take from thee the desire of thy eyes with a sudden stroke, and thou shall not lament, nor weep; neither shall thy tears run down.
Ezek 24:17  Sigh in silence, make no mourning for the dead: let a fancy covering for thy head be upon thee, and thy shoes on thy feet, and cover not thy lip, nor eat the food of mourners.

On the same day on which Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem, and Ezekiel was told to speak the parable of the cauldron, his wife died. Although she is the desire of his eyes he is not to engage in the usual physical mourning (lament, crying). He is to maintain silence. Then as now in the Middle East loud, public expressions of grief were the norm at the death of a loved one. He is not to divest himself of a head covering-a traditional mourning practice-but rather place an ornate covering upon it. He is not to go barefoot, as was the norm of people mourning. Neither shall he cover his lip (i.e., mustache and beard). He is to abstain from the food of mourners (i. e., food prepared by others since food could not be prepared in the house of a dead person.

Ezek 24:18  So I spoke to the people in the morning, and my wife died in the evening: and I did in the morning as he had commanded me

"The prophet-any prophet-was never a person who could divorce himself from the people to whom the Lord sent him both as a messenger and a representative.  Not even Amos (cf. Am 7:1-6) could do this. It was part of the prophetic vocation and its burden that it had to share in the destiny of its people...So as Ezekiel records, 'I spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died.' Apparently he was simply a causality of divine providence, a sign, a symbol. Some faith is necessary. 'And on the next morning I did as I was commanded'" (Father Bruce Vawter and Father Leslie J. Hoppe,  A NEW HEART, page 115).  

Ezek 24:19  And the people said to me: Why dost thou not tell us what these things mean that thou doest?
Ezek 24:20  And I said to them: The word of the Lord came to me, saying:
Ezek 24:21  Speak to the house of Israel: Thus saith the Lord God: Behold I will profane my sanctuary, the glory of your realm, and the thing that your eyes desire, and for which your soul feareth: your sons, and your daughters, whom you have left, shall fall by the sword.
Ezek 24:22  And you shall do as I have done: you shall not cover your faces, nor shall you eat the meat of mourners.
Ezek 24:23  You shall have crowns on your heads, and shoes on your feet: you shall not lament nor weep, but you shall pine away for your iniquities, and every one shall sigh with his brother

 The question the people put to the prophet is answered by God through the prophet. Just as he lost the "desire of his eyes," so too will they lose what their eyes desire, the sanctuary (Temple), along with their sons and their daughters. No reason is given as to why the people are forbidden to mourn. Some scholars speculate that the enormity of the event would make the normal rites of mourning inadequate. Other scholars think the fact that since it is the people's corruption and sins that have brought such calamity, any kind of mourning would be out of place, hypocritical.

My Notes on Deuteronomy 32:26-28, 30, 35cd-36ab

Note: The first paragraph is identical to the background material that opened yesterday's post on Deuteronomy 32:18-21. The next two paragraphs summarize the song up to the beginning of today's verses. Other verses and the remainder of the song are summarized in the notes that follow the background material.

Bckground~The "Song of Moses", from which today's responsorial verses are taken, is first introduced in Deut 31:16-22. The people are on the Plains of Moab (Deut 1:1-5), on the verge of entering the Promised Land (Deut 4:1; Deut 27:2), but before this takes place Moses will die (Deut 3:24-27). A successor must be chosen (Deut 3:28 Deut 31:14-15), encouragement given (passim), and a reminder that it is ultimately the Lord who leads the people (Deut 31:1-6). The command to write the song is given in the Tent of Meeting and is closely connected with the commissioning of Joshua to succeed Moses, and with the promise of God's continuing presence. A time will come when both people and leaders will forsake the Lord who is with them (Deut 31:16, 20), and he will hide his presence from them as punishment (Deut 31:17-18), and the song will serve as a witness against them (Deut 31:19, 21) .

The song opens with a call to attention formula (Deut 32:1). Moses wishes that his words will be as beneficial on the people as rain upon grass, for it is the name of the Lord that he will proclaim, and his great deeds that he will recount. (Deut 32:2-3). The staunch, rock-like faithfullness of God and his ways is proclaimed (Deut 32:4), and contrasted with the corruption His people will fall into (Deut 32:5-6), forgetting what their God has done for them (Deut 32:7-14).

The people would allow the very prosperity that God bestowed on them (see Deut 31:20) to lead them to become gross and lazy, turning to other gods (Deut 32:15-18). Having spurned their God He will in turn spurn them, leaving them to their own devices.  Because they have provoked Him with their "no-god," [i.e., alien god] He will provoke them with a "no-people" [alien people]  (Deut 32:19-21). His burning wrath, hurled at them like war arrows, will manifest itself in drought, hunger, burning heat, pestilence, ravaging beasts; and invading enemies who will kill indiscriminately (Deut 32:22-25). It is at this point that today's responsorial verses begin. 

Deut 32:26 I said: Where are they? I will make the memory of them to cease from among men.
Deut 32:27 But for the wrath of the enemies I have deferred it: lest perhaps their enemies might be proud, and should say: Our mighty hand, and not the Lord, hath done all these things
Deut 32:28  They are a nation without counsel, and without wisdom

God's complete withdrawal from His people (cf. Deut 32:20) would mean their eventual disappearance. God's enemies (the "no-people in Deut 32:21) would boast that the undoing of the people was the result of their (the "no-people's) own doing. This may sound arrogant and egotistical of God, but one needs to keep in mind God's universal salvific will. It is for their own eventual well-being and salvation that the nations must recognize God's actions. This actions include His bestowing unmerited pity upon His sinful people, as Deut 32:36 will show (see below). A God who will so such pity on a people who have forsaken Him will someday approach the "no-people" nations and make them His own (see Romans 9-11, especially St Paul's quote of Deut 32:21 in Rom 10:19).

At the time of the song's composition however, this "no-people" lacked the wisdom and counsel of God, this being so they lack the insight to see God's doings and its relation to their own end, as Deut 32:29 notes. Because of this they cannot ask the following questions:

Deut 32:30  How should one pursue after a thousand, and two chase ten thousand? Was it not, because their God had sold them, and the Lord had shut them up?

Not only can the "no-people not ask, let alone answer these questions, they cannot come to know that their "rock" (i.e., any false god of their choosing) is not like the Rock of Israel, as Deut 32:31 states. They are like poison grapes from the vineyards of Sodom; like wine made from venom (Deut 32:32-33). Their day of judgement is coming as we read in verses 34-35ab~"Are not these things stored up with me, and sealed up in my treasures? Revenge is mine, and I will repay them in due time, that their foot may slide" Indeed, as verse 35cd states: the day of destruction is at hand, and the time makes haste to come.

Deut 32:36ab  The Lord will judge his people, and will have mercy on his servants

God's punitive judgement is not an end in itself, but leads to mercy and pity, as verse 36cd makes clear this will happen "when he sees that their power is gone, and there is none remaining, bond or free." His punishment and its effects will lead the people who had forsaken Him for false gods to realize that such god's have no power to save (Deut 32:37-39 and recall Deut 32:15-18). God will requite His enemies for the sake of His servants, but he will also purge His people of sin (Deut 32:40-43). Better then to remain faithful to God and enjoy life, which is the basic message of the book (Deut 32:44-47)

Notes on Deuteronomy

The "Song of Moses", from which today's responsorial verses are taken, is first introduced in Deut 31:16-22. The people are on the Plains of Moab (Deut 1:1-5), on the verge of entering the Promised Land (Deut 4:1; Deut 27:2), but before this takes place Moses will die (Deut 3:24-27). A successor must be chosen (Deut 3:28 Deut 31:14-15), encouragement given (passim), and a reminder that it is ultimately the Lord who leads the people (Deut 31:1-6). The command to write the song is given in the Tent of Meeting and is closely connected with the commissioning of Joshua to succeed Moses, and with the promise of God's continuing presence. A time will come when both people and leaders will forsake the Lord who is with them (Deut 31:16, 20), and he will hide his presence from them as punishment (Deut 31:17-18), and the song will serve as a witness against them (Deut 31:19, 21) 

Deut 32:18  Thou hast forsaken the God that begot thee, and hast forgotten the Lord that created thee. 

Thou has forsaken the God that begot thee. The implication that God is Father recalls the words Exodus 4:22-23. See also Hosea 11:1. The songs looks forward to a time when all that the Lord has done for his people has been forgotten, at least in practice if not mentally. His children whom He begot will treat Him perversely: They have sinned against him, and are none of his children in their filth: they are a wicked and perverse generation. Is this the return thou makest to the Lord, O foolish and senseless people? Is not he thy father, that hath possessed thee, and made thee, and created thee? (Deut 32:5-6).The numerous warnings found throughout Deuteronomy have become unheeded (Deut 4; Deut 6:10-19; Deut 8:11-20; Deut 11:26-32; Deut 28:15-68). 

Deut 32:19  The Lord saw, and scorned ( ונאצוני) them: because his own sons and daughters provoked him.

The word scorned connects with the reasons why the song was ordered written: And when they have eaten, and are full and fat, they will turn away after strange gods, and will serve them: and will despise ( ונאצוני) me, and make void my covenant (Deut 31:20). If they scorn God, he will scorn them. 

Deut 32:20  And he said: I will hide my face from them, and will consider what their last end shall be: for it is a perverse generation, and unfaithful children. 

I will hide my face from them. Again pick up on the reasons why the song was ordered written (Deut 31:17-18).  In the Bible the word face is often synonymous with "presence." God's saving presence will disappear, his help and protection (emphasized in Deut 31:-8) will be no more. 

Deut 32:21  They have provoked me with that which was no god, and have angered me with their vanities: and I will provoke them with that which is no people, and will vex them with a foolish nation. 

They provoked me with that which was no god. Another connection to the reasons for the song's composition: this people rising up will go a fornicating after strange gods in the land, to which it goeth in to dwell: there will they forsake me, and will make void the covenant, which I have made with them (31:16). 

And have angered me with their vanities. Parallels the previous part of the verse, i.e., the false gods are their vanities. The Hebrew  בהבליהם refers to something empty, transitory, vacuous. 

I will provoke them with that which is no people. God's chosen people, having provoked God, will in turn be provoked by Him through a no people. God will choose a people not His own to vex the people He chose for His own, because they have forsaken him. The God who in the past preserved His chosen people from enemies (Deut 28:7) will give them over to their enemies, for they have treated their God as if he were an enemy, or at least a stranger (Deut 28:25; Deut 28:29-37; etc.) See also Jeremiah 1:15-16; Isa 10:6; Isa 28:1-4.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Father Callan's Commentary on First Corinthians 4:14-21

A Summary of First Corinthians 4:14-21

A Summary of 1 Cor 4:14-21. After severely upbraiding the factionists at Corinth the Apostle now gives expression to the tender love which he really bears toward the faithful there. He is their spiritual father, and as such, ought to be an object of imitation for them. Timothy is coming to them; he himself will come later, and when he arrives he will deal with them according to need. 

1Co 4:14  I write not these things to confound you: but I admonish you as my dearest children. 

The severe language of the preceding verses had not for its purpose to humiliate and shame the faithful and their leaders, but to admonish and correct them. As a father out of love may use harsh words to his children, so has St. Paul spoken to his dearest children. 

1Co 4:15  For if you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet not many fathers. For in Christ Jesus, by the gospel, I have begotten you. 

If the Apostle has spoken harshly to the Corinthians it is because, as their father, he has a right to do so. However many instructors and preachers of the Gospel they may have, there is only one who has founded their Church and begotten them spiritually, and that is himself. 

Ten thousand, i.e., a very great number, an indefinite number. 

Instructors, i.e., tutors, pedagogues (παιδαγωγους) . The pedagogue was a trusted slave who looked after a child during his minority, corrected his faults, and took him to those charged with his education. See on Gal 3:24. By tutors and pedagogues the Apostle means here the different preachers of the Gospel at Corinth who had followed him after he had founded the Church there. 

For in Christ Jesus, etc., i.e., by the power and authority of Christ St. Paul, in leading the Corinthians to the faith, had given them a new and spiritual life. 

1Co 4:16  Wherefore, I beseech you, be ye followers of me as I also am of Christ. 

As a father loves his children more than any pedagogue does, so should children love and imitate their father more than others. The Apostle, by his humility, modesty and patience imitates the example of Christ; the Corinthians should likewise follow the example of their Apostle and founder.

The words, as I also am of Christ are not found here in the best MSS. and many versions; they are doubtless a gloss from 11:1. Therefore their equivalents in the Vulgate should be omitted.

1Co 4:17  For this cause have I sent to you Timothy, who is my dearest son and faithful in the Lord. Who will put you in mind of my ways, which are in Christ Jesus: as I teach every where in every church. 

For this cause, etc., i.e., in order that they may be able the better to imitate him he has sent to them Timothy, his faithful companion, who will remind them of himself. Apparently Timothy had already been sent into Macedonia with instructions to visit Corinth (Acts 16:10-16). 

My dearest son, etc. Timothy had been converted by St. Paul (1 Tim 1:2, 18; 2 Tim 1:2) and had been the Apostle’s companion on his second missionary journey (Acts 16:1 ff.). 

My ways, i.e., my whole manner of life and action (Cornely). Some authors understand “ways” to refer to the Apostle’s doctrine. It is not, however, his doctrine, but his manner of life that is proposed for imitation. 

As I teach everywhere, etc., i.e., I teach in every Church that we Apostles are to be imitated; hence nothing singular is required of you Corinthians (Estius). Others explain thus: Timothy will remind you of my ways, which are uniformly the same in every Church. 

1Co 4:18  As if I would not come to you, so some are puffed up. 1Co 4:19  But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will: and will know, not the speech of them that are puffed up, but the power. 

It seems that some of the Apostle’s adversaries at Corinth had circulated the report that, on account of the greater reputations there of Apollo and others, he would not dare to visit the city again (2 Cor 10:9-1 1). In view of this rumor he announces his coming. 

The power, i.e., the efficacy and fruit of their preaching for the increase and progress of the Church of Christ. Miracles are perhaps not referred to here. 

1Co 4:20  For the kingdom of God is not in speech, but in power.

The kingdom of God, i.e., the Church of God owes neither its existence nor its growth to human eloquence and other natural means, but to the grace of the Holy Ghost working in the hearts of men. 

1Co 4:21  What will you? Shall I come to you with a rod? Or in charity and in the spirit of meekness?

What will you? etc. It is left to the Corinthians to choose whether the Apostle shall come to them as a teacher to chastise his disciples, or as a father to greet them with mildness and love.

Father Boylan's Introduction to Psalm 107


THIS psalm, though it begins a new Book, forms the natural conclusion to the two preceding psalms. Israel appears here as reconciled with the Lord, and as safely returned from the Exile. The prayer in Ps. 104:47 is taken as granted. The Israelites whom the Lord has brought home are called on to thank their Saviour, Yahweh, for His manifold favours, and in particular, for the graces of redemption from captivity and safe home-bringing (Ps 107:1-3).

In four strophes, which are clearly marked off by a peculiarly constructed refrain, four perils, typical of the dangers of human life generally, and typical, in particular, of the dangers and difficulties of the Exile in Babylon and the Return from that Exile are vividly described: (a) Ps 107:4-9, the perils of travellers lost in the desert; (b) Ps 107:10-16, imprisonment; (c) Ps 107:17-22, grievous illness; Ps 10723-32, the terrors of a storm at sea.

In a final strophe (Ps 10733-43) the psalmist deals, in the manner of a Sapiential Writer, with the methods of God's gracious providence as seen in nature and history—especially in the history of Israel. This strophe differs so much in manner and form from the rest of the poem that it has been often treated by critics (sometimes even by Catholic critics) as a separate psalm. It can be shown, however, that in this final section of Psalm 107 also, the redemption of Israel from the captivity of Babylon is kept in view ; hence this strophe, emphasizing, as it does, the might by which God bends all the powers of nature to His purposes and the loving care which He exercises towards His people, forms a fitting conclusion to a poem on the peculiar dangers of the Exile and return from the Exile.

It would appear from a close study of the psalm that it was not composed immediately after the return from the Babylonian Exile, but considerably later. The psalmist has clearly in view, not merely the difficulties of the home-coming from Babylon, but also the perils of all the later home-comings of pious Jews, returning from the Diaspora to join in the celebration of the great feasts in Jerusalem.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Father MacEvilly's Introduction to Psalm 67


HIS psalm is based on the Priestly Blessing in Numbers 6:24-26 the blessing with which the priests were wont to bless the people gathered for worship in the Temple. The Aaronic Blessing in Numbers 6. runs thus:

May Yahweh bless thee and keep thee!May Yahweh make His face to shine upon thee!
May Yahweh lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace!

It wishes to Israel, and to each individual Israelite, the care and protecting presence of God, and the sense of peace which comes from friendship with God. In many ways Yahweh could reveal His love for His people, and His protecting presence in their midst ; but no revelation of His love and presence could be more obvious to the popular mind than that contained in the blessings of a bounteous harvest. The psalm is a song of thanksgiving for harvest joys. At a harvest festival whether Pasch (Passover), Pentecost or Tabernacles the words of the Aaronic Blessing are thought of as echoed by the multitude, and expanded into a song such as we have here. The Lord has, indeed, been gracious, and therein lies a token that He will be gracious again. The blessing which Yahweh has granted to Israel is a blessing for the heathens also. They will learn thereby what a mighty and what a loving God Yahweh is, and thus, they, too, will be led to know and praise Him. Thus, in the psalm, the natural blessings of harvest are typical of the greater blessings which the Gentiles will enjoy in common with Israel in the Messianic time.

There is no clear indication of date in the Hebrew text of the psalm. The superscription in the Vulgate (following the Greek) ascribes it, in the usual way, to David. It is clear that the psalm is liturgical in character. It is not connected, as far as can be seen, with any definite occasion, and it was, no doubt, used, in a purely formal way, at all kinds of harvest festivals. Modern criticism regards it as postexilic chiefly because of its universalism.