1 There will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shined.
3 You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder.
4 For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.
The Book of Isaiah is a composite of writings from three distinct periods in Ancient Israel’s history. The writings were compiled from about 700 BCE to about 300 BCE.
Chapters 1-39 are called “First Isaiah” and are the words of a prophet (one who speaks for YHWH – translated as “LORD” in all capital letters in the NRSV) who called for Jerusalem to repent in the 30 years before Jerusalem came under siege by the Assyrians in 701 BCE. “Second Isaiah” is Chapters 40 to 55. In these chapters, a prophet brought hope to the Judeans during the Exile in Babylon (587 to 539 BCE) by telling them they had suffered enough and would return to Jerusalem. “Third Isaiah” is Chapters 56 to 66 in which a prophet gave encouragement to Judeans who had returned to Jerusalem (which was largely destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BCE) after the Exile ended.
Today’s reading is part of a seven-verse “insert” that doesn’t fit well with the chapters and verses before and after it. These verses described a new king (likely Hezekiah who resisted the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem in 701 BCE) who would restore lands of two of the Tribes of Israel (Naphtali and Zebulun) taken by the Assyrians in 733.
In verse 4, the author recalled the unlikely victory of Gideon and 300 men with trumpets over the Midianites (Judges 7:15-25) and said the king will remove the yoke of military oppression imposed on Israel.
In The Jewish Study Bible and The New Jerusalem Bible, verse 9:1 is shown as the last verse of Chapter 8. The JSB describes the verse as “unusually obscure” and The NJB describes it as a “misplaced prophetic fragment.”
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
10 Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. 12 What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.
18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Corinth, a large port city in Greece, was the heart of Roman imperial culture in Greece. It was among the early Jesus Follower communities that Paul founded. Its culture was diverse and Hellenistic, and Corinthians emphasized reason and secular wisdom. In addition to Paul, other Jesus Followers also taught in Corinth, sometimes in ways inconsistent with Paul’s understandings of what it meant to be a Jesus Follower. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was written in the mid-50’s (CE) (likely while Paul was in Ephesus) and presented his views on several issues.
It is one of Paul’s most important letters because it is one of the earliest proclamations of Jesus’ death on behalf of sinners (“for our sins” 15:3) and his resurrection (15:4-5). The letter also contains the basic formula for celebrating the Lord’s Supper (11:23-26).
Today’s reading follows last week’s reading. In today’s reading, Paul called for unity among the Corinthian Jesus Followers. He emphasized that loyalty to a single teacher or to one’s baptizer is not proper and noted that the Christ is not divisible (v.13).
Paul appeared to believe that the primary divisions among the Corinthians were among persons who claimed to be followers of Apollos, followers of Cephas (Peter) and his own followers (vv.12 and 3:22). Apollos was from Alexandria in Egypt and was, according to Acts 18:24-19:1, sent to Corinth by Paul. Apollos was known for his eloquence and knowledge of the scriptures.
The New Oxford Annotated Bible points out that in Paul’s saying “Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel” (v.17), Paul was not attacking baptism itself, but rather the Corinthians’ attachment to baptism by a particular person and the notion that there were numerous gospels – one for each baptizer. Paul identified “eloquent wisdom” (v.17) as the cause of the divisions among the Corinthians, a threat to the power of the cross of the Christ, and inconsistent with Paul’s understanding of the gospel.
12 When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15 “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles — 16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.”
17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea — for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.
The Gospel of Matthew highlights Jesus’ origins and identity. Written around 85 CE by an anonymous author, the Gospel began Jesus’s genealogy with Abraham and depicted Jesus as a teacher of the Law like Moses. More than any other Gospel, Matthew quoted from the Hebrew Scriptures (using the Greek Septuagint translation) to illustrate that Jesus was the Messiah.
Having been written after the Destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, the Gospel reflected the controversies between the Jesus Followers and the Pharisees for control of Judaism going forward. Accordingly, the Gospel contains many harsh sayings about the Pharisees. The Gospel is aimed primarily at the late First Century Jewish Jesus Follower community.
The Gospel relied heavily on the Gospel of Mark and included all but 60 verses from Mark. Like Luke, Matthew also used a “Sayings Source” (called “Q” by scholars) which are found in Matthew and Luke but not in Mark and John. There are also a substantial number of stories that are unique to Matthew: the Annunciation of Jesus’ conception was revealed to Joseph in a dream (rather than by an angel to Mary as in Luke); the Visit of the Magi; the Slaughter of the Innocents by Herod; the Flight to Egypt; the Laborers in the Vineyard; and the earthquake on Easter Morning, among others.
Today’s reading follows after Matthew’s account of Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness.
In Matthew and in Mark, the arrest of John the Baptist was presented as the stimulus for Jesus to begin his public ministry (v.12). Although Jesus and his disciples spent time in Capernaum, a town on the northwest coast of the Sea of Galilee, it is only in Matthew that Jesus “made his home” (v.13) there.
The New Jerome Biblical Commentary suggests that Jesus moved from Nazareth to Capernaum because Nazareth was too centrally located and close to the Roman garrison at Sepphoris. Jesus needed to be near the sea so that he could escape if necessary. The NJBC also points out that the tribal name in Ancient Israel of Capharnaum was Naphtali, even though it was not used in the 1st century. The NJBC also notes that the Galilee in Matthew’s time was at least half Gentile in population and this may have influenced the spread of the Jesus Follower Movement to Gentiles.
Matthew presented Jesus’ settling in Capernaum as fulfilling Isaiah 9:1, which is part of today’s reading from the Jewish Scriptures. In verse 9:1a, YHWH “brought into contempt” Zebulun and Naphtali by having them conquered by the Assyrians in 733 BCE. Verse 9:1b suggested that a later king would redeem these lands.
Jesus’ proclamation that the kingdom of heaven has come near (v.17) is identical to Matthew’s rendition of JTB’s proclamation (3:2). In Mark 1:15, Jesus said the kingdom of God has come near. Because Matthew was writing for a Jewish Jesus Follower audience, he avoided using “God” because Jews use circumlocutions to avoid saying “God.” The NJBC notes that Matthew’s use of the kingdom of heaven had the unfortunate consequence of making the kingdom seem remote to later believers rather than a kingdom that might be realized on earth, even as part of the end times.
The call of Peter, Andrew, James, and John is the same as the account in Mark 1:16-21, but in the call of disciples in John 1:15-51, the first two (Peter and Andrew) are described as disciples of JTB and the next two to be called are Phillip and Nathaniel. The NJBC points out that the fishing industry in the Galilee was very prosperous in the First Century and fish were a major export. The Commentator surmises that “the story of the call may have undergone extreme compression” and that “nets” may have symbolically represented earthly entanglements.
“Jesus went throughout Galilee teaching in their synagogues” (v.23) likely reflects a perception in Matthew’s time (85 CE) rather than Jesus’ time (30 CE). The verse used the Greek word autōn which means “of them” or “their.” In Jesus’ time, synagogues were public gathering places where the town’s business, politics and religious discourse took place. Jesus and his disciples would have enjoyed full access to them and there are numerous accounts in the gospels of Jesus’ teaching in synagogues. But by the time of Matthew’s gospel, synagogues were often seen by Jesus Followers as “belonging” to the Pharisees – the group which whom the Jesus Followers were contending for control of the future of Judaism. According to James 2:2, however, there were some “assemblies” (literally, synagogues) that were used by Jewish Jesus Followers late in the First Century.