Isaiah 61:10 – 62:3
10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the LORD God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.
62:1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch.
2 The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give.
3 You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
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 the Judeans who had returned to Jerusalem (which was largely destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BCE) after the Exile had ended.
Today’s reading is from “Third Isaiah” and is a series of joyful verses. In the first two verses, the prophet spoke for the Judeans who rejoiced that they received salvation and righteousness from YHWH (v.10). The people were described as a bridegroom, a bride, and the earth in springtime that brings forth its shoots. These verses are spoken by Zion/Jerusalem.
As is often characteristic of psalm-like verses in the Hebrew Bible (as was also true of ancient Canaanite poetry), the verses are repetitive – the idea in one phrase is repeated in slightly different words in the next phrase. For example, “I will greatly rejoice” (v.10a) is followed by “my whole being will exult.” Similarly, Zion is “clothed with garments of salvation” (v.10b) is repeated as the “robe of righteousness.”
The prophet said that YHWH would cause righteousness to spring up among all the nations (v.11). In the Hebrew Bible, the word that is translated as “the nations” is sometimes – depending on context – translated as “the pagans,” or “the foreigners” or “the Gentiles.”
In the verses beginning “For Zion’s sake” (62:1), the speaker shifted from Zion to the prophet, but the use of repetitive ideas continued: “I will not keep silent” (v.1a) was followed by “I will not rest.” The prophet stated that the “nations” (i.e. Gentiles) shall see your vindication (v.2) and “the kings” (i.e. foreign rulers) shall see your glory. You [Zion] shall wear “a crown of beauty” and “a royal diadem.”
The New Oxford Annotated Bible notes that being “called by a new name” meant Zion/Jerusalem will have a change of fortune and a new identity given by YHWH.
Galatians 3:23-25, 4:4-7
23 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian.
4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. 6 And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God
Galatia was a large Roman province in what is now western Turkey. This letter was likely written by Paul in the early 50’s (CE) and dealt (in part) with controversies between Jewish Jesus Followers and Gentile Jesus Followers regarding the continuing importance of Torah (Law) and whether Gentile Jesus Followers had to be circumcised and follow the Kosher dietary laws. It is a “transitional” letter in that – when compared to Paul’s last letter (Romans) — it shows his views on the relationship between the Torah and the Gentile Jesus Followers continued to evolve.
The Jewish Annotated New Testament points out: “In recent times scholars have softened the polemical edge of this letter by observing that Paul’s attack on the law was addressed to Gentile believers in Christ; his primary concern was to make sure that they did not begin to observe the Torah. Nowhere in his letters, neither in Galatians nor elsewhere, does Paul attempt to convince native Jews to abandon the Torah.”
Today’s reading unfortunately omits verses that would help the reader/hearer better understand Paul’s position on the relationship between the law (Torah) and the faithfulness of (not faith in) Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.
The omitted verses are: 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham ‘s offspring, heirs according to the promise. 4:1 My point is this: heirs, as long as they are minors, are no better than slaves, though they are the owners of all the property; but they remain under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. So with us; while we were minors, we were enslaved to the elemental spirits of the world.
Paul stated that through the grace of the faithfulness of Jesus the Christ/Anointed, Jesus Followers were “no longer subject to a disciplinarian [the Law]” (vv.24-25). What is translated as a “disciplinarian” is the Greek word pedagogue – a household slave charged with keeping the master’s son out of trouble, who accompanied him outside the house, and punished him when necessary. This usage shows Paul’s view that the effect (and benefit) of the Law was intended to be temporary until the coming of salvation/wholeness through the Christ.
The NOAB states that verses 26 to 28 were likely part of an early baptismal formula that Paul was quoting. It goes on to observe that Christ alone is “Abraham’s offspring” (v.29) citing Gal. 3:16. It also observed that “elemental spirits” (also sometimes translated as “rudiments”) were considered the four elements (earth, air, fire and water) which in Paul’s time were seen as controlling human destiny, but that “rudiments” could also be understood as the basic principles of a philosophy or code.
The NOAB observes that minors (v.1,2) like other members of a Roman family (except for the father), had few rights.
In the second part of today’s reading (beginning with “But when the fulness of time had come”), Paul emphasized that Jesus of Nazareth was a human and a Jew (“born of a woman under the law”, v.4) to “redeem those under the law” (v.5) (the Jews).
The Greek word translated here as “redeem” (v.5) means to buy back, as in redeeming something one owns from a pawn shop. All persons, because of the Spirit of the Son, are children of God who can call God “Abba” (Aramaic for father) and are heirs of the Kingdom (v.7).
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'”) 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
The Fourth Gospel is different in many ways from the Synoptic Gospels. The “signs” (miracles) and many stories in the Fourth Gospel are unique to it, such as the Wedding at Cana, Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, and the Raising of Lazarus.
The chronology of events is also different in the Fourth Gospel. For example, the Temple Event (“Cleansing of the Temple”) occurred early in Jesus’ Ministry in the Fourth Gospel, rather than late as in the Synoptic Gospels. In the Synoptic Gospels, the Last Supper was a Passover Seder, but in the Fourth Gospel, the Last Supper occurred the day before the first day of Passover so that Jesus (who was described as “the Lamb of God” in the Fourth Gospel) died at the same time lambs were being sacrificed at the Temple for the Passover Seder to be held the night he died. The Synoptic Gospels are set primarily in the Galilee with a trip to Jerusalem at the end. In the Fourth Gospel, the time of the public ministry is three years, with movement back and forth between the Galilee and Jerusalem.
Most scholars agree that the Gospel was written by an anonymous author around 95 CE, at a time when the “parting of the ways” between the Jesus Follower Movement and Rabbinic Judaism was accelerating. The NAOB says: “The major concerns of the Gospel are engendering faith in the person of Jesus (20.21) and discrediting the Temple-centered, hereditary religious authorities who present a collective obstacle to the acceptance of faith in Jesus.”
Today’s reading is the “Prologue” to the Fourth Gospel. Verses 10-12 give two of the major messages of the Gospel: Jesus of Nazareth was rejected by the “world” and that acceptance of Jesus led to one’s being a child of God. The NAOB understands the meaning of “the world” (v.10) as “the fallible social systems and social relations created by humanity (see 12.31; 16.11) and…physical creation, including humanity.”
Using “Word” to translate the Greek word “Logos” fails to capture the breadth and depth of Logos. The Jewish Annotated New Testament points out that Logos was well known in Greek philosophy as a link between the Transcendent/Divine and humanity/the terrestrial. For the First Century Alexandrian Jewish philosopher Philo, Logos was the first fruit of God’s creation. The NAOB presents the Logos as “God’s preeminent agent in the world in creating and redeeming.”
Logos was particularly important in Stoic philosophy as both a creative principle analogous to Sophia (Holy Wisdom present at Creation in Proverbs 8:22 and 30) and as that which distinguished each created thing from each other thing.
The Prologue is clear that Jesus was fully human (“the Word became flesh”) and was fully involved in human society (“and lived among us”) (v.14).
In an Essay in The JANT, the author presented a case that John 1:1-5 is not a departure in Judaism in its use of Logos theology but is a homily (or midrash) on Genesis 1:1-5 – which also opens “in the beginning.”
The JANT makes a number of important points: (a) there is a contrast between the biologically-based covenant of the Jews and the faith-based covenant presented by the Gospel; (b) stating that the Word/Logos became flesh created a paradox because “flesh” is perishable and Logos is eternal; (c) Jews in the Second Temple period believed in the existence of supernatural beings (such as angels) taking human form at times, and thus the boundaries between the human and the divine were understood in a more porous and less absolute way; and (d) the words translated “lived among us” (v.14) in the original Greek meant “tabernacled” — an allusion to the Tabernacle in the Wilderness that “contained” the presence of YHWH.