During Pentecost Season 2022, the Revised Common Lectionary offers two “tracks” of readings from the Hebrew Bible. Congregations may choose either track.
The first track of readings follows major stories and themes, read mostly continuously from week to week. The second track of readings thematically pairs the reading from the Hebrew Bible with the Gospel reading.
The readings from the Epistles are the same in both tracks.
27 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of humans and the seed of animals. 28 And just as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the LORD. 29 In those days they shall no longer say: “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.”
30 But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge.
31 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt– a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
After the righteous and reforming King Josiah was killed in battle at Megiddo (from which we get the Greek word Armageddon) in 609 BCE, the fortunes of Judea took a sharp downward turn. Babylon threatened Judea’s existence, and Judea had a series of hapless kings from 609 until Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. The Babylonians deported many Judean leaders to Babylon in 597 and a larger number in 586 (the Babylonian Exile). Jeremiah’s prophesy (i.e., speaking for YHWH) began around 609 and continued until 586 BCE when he died in Egypt.
Most Bible scholars agree that the Book of Jeremiah underwent substantial revisions between the time of Jeremiah (627 to 586 BCE) and the First Century. In the Dead Sea Scrolls, there were different versions of the Book of Jeremiah. The Greek Septuagint Translation (the LXX – dating from 300 to 200 BCE) has some chapters that are not in the Hebrew versions.
Sections in the book that are in “poetry style” are generally attributed to the prophet, and parts in “prose style” were added later by writers whose theological outlook was closely aligned with the Deuteronomists. (In fact, Chapter 52 in Jeremiah is virtually word-for-word with 2 Kings 24:18 to 25:30 written by the Deuteronomists after the Exile.)
Today’s reading is in prose and was a late insertion. It has an “eschatological” (end times) tone (“the days are surely coming” in v.27) and affirmed the restoration of the houses of both Judah (the south) and Israel (the north). In the verse preceding today’s reading, Jeremiah was said to be sleeping, and his “vision” is recounted in this reading.
The reference to “sour grapes” (vv.29 and 30) was a statement that there should be personal responsibility for one’s actions and that the “sins of the fathers” will not be borne by the children. This is consistent with the theology found in Ezekiel, another prophet of the Exile, particularly in Ezekiel 18:2-4. In Jeremiah, this personal responsibility will be true in the future (“in those days”) but in Ezekiel it is seen as true in his own time (the Exile). The shift from collective responsibility to individual responsibility was an important change in the theology of Ancient Israel.
The writer went on to say that in the “end times” YHWH would make a “new covenant” with Judah and Israel (v.31), the law would be written on their hearts (v.33), and YHWH would forgive their iniquity (v.34). Many Christians have taken the reference to a new covenant as prophesying the New Covenant through Jesus the Christ.
22 The same night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. 24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” 27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” 31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.
Genesis is the first book of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). The Torah also called the Pentateuch (“five books”) in Greek. Genesis covers the period from Creation to the deaths of Jacob and his 11th son, Joseph, in about 1650 BCE, if the accounts are historical.
The Book of Genesis (like the Torah as a whole) is an amalgam of religious traditions, some of which are dated to about 950 BCE and some of which were developed as late as 450 BCE. Since the late 19th Century, Biblical scholars have recognized four major “strands” or sources in the Torah, and these sources are identified (among other ways) by their different theological emphases, names for God, names for the holy mountain, and portrayals of God’s characteristics.
The first 11 Chapters of Genesis are called the “primeval history” which ends with the Tower of Babel story — an “etiology” (story of origins) relating to the scattering of humankind and the multiplicity of languages. The last chapter of the primeval history also traces Abram’s lineage back to Noah’s son, Shem (which means “name” in Hebrew and from which we get the word “Semites”).
The background to today’s reading includes Jacob’s supplanting his fraternal twin (but older) brother, Esau, by tricking Isaac into giving him the blessing that properly belonged to Esau.
Jacob sought to find his wife Rachel in Haran (the land from which Abraham came) and was tricked into working for his uncle, Laban, for 14 years. Jacob had 12 sons (six by Leah, Rachel’s older sister; two by Bilhah, Rachel’s maid; two by Zilpah, Leah’s maid; and two by Rachel). Ten of these sons (along with Joseph’s two sons), became the 12 tribes of Israel. (Levi and Joseph were not included in the 12 tribes when the lands were later divided.)
Many years passed, and Jacob was very wealthy. Jacob and his wives, children and flocks traveled from Haran toward Canaan, but had to pass near Edom, the land of his twin brother, Esau.
Jacob learned that Esau was coming toward him with 400 men, so he divided all that he had into two groups so that one group might escape and be preserved if Esau attacked him. He prayed to YHWH and sent Esau a substantial gift of livestock in hopes of appeasing him.
Today’s reading was set in the night before Jacob and Esau met. It recounted Jacob’s wrestling with someone identified variously as a man (v.24), a spirit/angel (which would disappear at daybreak, v.26), and as God (v.28). Jacob’s tried to obtain the wrestler’s name (v.29) which would have given him “control” over the wrestler, but this was refused. Instead, God gave Jacob a new name so that he was no longer known as Jacob (“supplanter”) but as “Israel,” which originally meant “El rules” — but the text says it means “one who strives with God and humans” (v.28).
At the end of the story, Jacob changed the name of this place to Peniel (“face of El”) because he had seen God face to face (v.30). “El” is the most ancient name for God in the Middle East. In Hebrew, the suffix “el” appears in many other names that have meanings “of God” such as
Gabriel (God is my strength), Daniel (God is my judge), Beth-el (House of God), “Peniel” (Face of God), Samuel (Name of God), and the like.
In the remaining chapters of Genesis, the name used for this patriarch will sometimes be “Jacob” and sometimes be “Israel” depending on the source of the story.
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
14 As for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, 15 and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
4:1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: 2 proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. 5 As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.
The Letters to Timothy and Titus are called “Pastoral Letters” because they concerned the internal life, governance and behavior of the early Christian churches and their members. Most scholars agree they were written in the early Second Century in Paul’s name by some of his followers (Paul died in 63 CE). Writing a document in someone else’s name was a common practice in the First and Second Centuries. By then, the Jesus Follower Community had become more institutionalized and concerns about “heresy” had arisen.
The Pastoral letters were written to Paul’s “co-workers” but have a broader audience. By the time they were written, Paul was regarded as an authoritative figure of the past. The Jewish Annotated New Testament points out that unlike Paul’s genuine letters, the opponents are seen as false teachers within the Jesus Follower Movement rather than non-messianic pagans or Jews.
2 Timothy is more personal than 1 Timothy. The author, writing as Paul, treated Timothy as his “beloved child,” loyal disciple and his spiritual heir. In the letter, Paul was portrayed as near death.
Today’s reading continues the author’s exhortation to follow the teachings of Paul (v.14).
In the early Second Century, there was no codification of the Christian Scriptures, even though some of Paul’s authentic letters were likely in circulation and Jesus Followers may have known of some of the four Gospels that were later included in the Christian Bible. The reference to “the sacred writings” (v.15) was to the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, known as the Septuagint (LXX).
The statement that “all scripture is inspired by God” is an expansion of the Greek term “theopneutos” (“pneuma” means “wind” or “breath”) so the phrase literally is that scripture is “God-inspirited” – the spirit of God is makes the scripture useful (v.16).
The reference in 4:1 to Jesus’ appearing does not seem to be a reference to the life of Jesus of Nazareth on earth, but instead is in connection with his judging the living and the dead.
The author warns about the danger of turning away from “sound doctrine” (v. 3) and wandering away to “myths” (v.4).
1 Jesus told his disciples a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, `Grant me justice against my opponent.’ 4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, `Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'” 6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8 I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
The Gospel According to Luke is generally regarded as having been written around 85 CE. Its author also wrote the Acts of the Apostles. Both books were written in elegant and deliberatively crafted Greek and presented Jesus of Nazareth as the universal savior of humanity. Both emphasized the Holy Spirit as the “driving force” for events.
The Gospel followed the same general chronology of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as the Gospel of Mark, and more than 40% of Luke’s Gospel was based on Mark. The other portions of Luke include (a) sayings shared with the Gospel According to Matthew but not found in Mark and (b) stories that are unique to Luke such as the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Presentation in the Temple, the Prodigal Son, and the Good Samaritan.
Today’s reading appears only in Luke. The New Oxford Annotated Bible suggests that the aim of the story about the need to pray (v.1) is carefully stated because the details are incongruous, just as in the story of the master and the unjust steward (16:1-9). Prayer is important in Luke and is emphasized in many of the stories.
The plea of the widow to be granted justice (v.3) is grounded in Deut. 27:19 (“Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice.”) – a saying that would have been known to Jesus’ audience. The Jewish Annotated New Testament points out that the words translated as “grant me justice” (v.3) are literally “avenge me” and the words “wear me out” (v.5) can also be translated as “slap me in the face.”
The thrust of the story is that if even an unjust judge will grant justice, how much more certain one can be that a just judge (God) will grant justice (v.7).
The last part of the concluding verse ties in two thoughts: the Son of Man’s coming is anticipated by Dan. 7:13 (“As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a human being [bar adam — Son of Man] coming with the clouds of heaven.”). The question “will he find faith on earth?” ties back to the apostles’ request for an increase in “faith” in 17:5.