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Wrestling with the Word, episode 4: Second Sunday after Epiphany, Year B (Jan. 18, 2009) January 4, 2009

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Second Sunday after Epiphany

Episode 4 of the Wrestling with the Word podcast discusses the biblical passages assigned in the Revised Common Lectionary for January 18, 2009. The Gospel from John 1:43-51 continues Jesus’ call of disciples, first Philip and then Nathaniel. Based on Jesus’ calling him “truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit,” Nathaniel confesses that Jesus is Son of God and King of Israel. The disciple’s realization of Jesus’ divinity might be related to Psalm 139 in which the psalmist speaks of God as one who is everywhere and who knows everything. The “epiphany moment” occurs at the end of this passage where Jesus promises to Nathaniel a vision about where and how God connects with humanity. The first lesson from 1 Sam 3 reports not merely the growth in stature of the young Samuel but, above all, the faithfulness of God in coming to people in the divine word. In the second lesson from 1 Corinthians 6, the apostle Paul addresses the role and use of our human bodies to glorify God who bought our freedom at a high cost.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 4: Second Sunday after Epiphany, Year B.


1 Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20)
When the word of God is rare in the land, God raises up a prophet through whom the Lord speaks.

1 Samuel 1 reports the birth of Samuel to the barren Hannah.  As a response to the Lord’s gift, Hannah gave the child (after weaning him)to the priest Eli at the temple at Shiloh.  There the boy ministered to the Lord (2:11, 18 ) while the sons of Eli themselves are described as sinful. An unknown man of God prophesied God’s judgment upon the priestly house of Eli for the sins of the sons and the raising up of a faithful priest to go in and out before the Lord’s anointed (2:27-36).

Key Words
V. 1.  ûdebar-YHWH hāyâ yāqār = “and the word of God was rare”:  the word yāqār usually refers to “precious” stones  (Isa. 13:12; Zech. 14:6)..

V. 3.  “where the ark of God was”:  the presence of the ark indicates the temple at Shiloh was the primary sanctuary for the tribal organization prior to the transport of the ark to Jerusalem via Kiriath-jearim (2 Sam.6).

Vv. 4, 10. “Samuel! Samuel!”:  God sometimes uses the double address with the purpose of a call; see also Exod. 3:4.

V. 13.  kî-meqallîm lāhem (probably read elōhîm) banāw = “for his sons curse for themselves” (probably “God”):  the law expressly forbids cursing God (Exod. 22:28 ) and prescribes the punishment for such cursing and for blaspheming the Name as death (Lev. 24:13-16).

V. 19.  waYHWH hāyâ `immô = “and the Lord was with him”:  used of certain individuals to indicate their lives and their work prospered through the presence of God:  see Gen. 39:3, 23 (Joseph); 1 Sam. 18:12, 14 (David); 2 Kings 18:7 (Hezekiah); 1 Chron. 9:20 (Phineas).


Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17
Combining elements of a hymn and a prayer, the psalm creates an atmosphere of trust and awe as the worshiper ponders the omnipresence of God. Aware that God has been intimately involved in his entire life, even from the time he was in the womb, the worshiper reflects on the unfathomable nature of God, on God’s ability to see into and beyond a person’s exterior, and on God’s knowledge of the inner workings of all creation. Since the multitude of God’s thoughts is without number, the worshiper realizes God’s awesomeness as he submits to a divine trial for his innocence. For similar themes in the psalms, see  Psalm 7:5-9; 17:3; 26:2; 44:21 and Jer 12:1-4. Nathaniel must have had this divine wisdom and insight in mind when Jesus identified as a true Israelite without guile.


1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Having bought us at a high price, God calls us not to defile our bodies but to regard them as temples of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God now and in the time to come.

The pericope brings to an end the first part of the epistle that has been dealing with disorders in the Christian community at Corinth since 1:10. Paul first dealt with factions within the church and Christian wisdom (1:10–4:21), then with the incestuous man and sexual sins (5:1-13), and litigation in pagan courts (6:1-11).

Key Words
V. 15. pornos melē = “members of a prostitute”: Corinth was often called the city of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and sexuality. It is assumed that reverence for her involved a cult of prostitutes. Whether religious or not, the prevalent life style in the city led to the coining of new words and expressions: “to corinthize” or “to go Corinth” described a wild and loose life, and “a Corinth girl” was a euphemism for a prostitute.

V. 16. “The two shall become one flesh”: direct quotation of Genesis 2:24 where the first couple’s intimacy establishes their marital commitment to each other (“clings”). See the use of the same passage at Matt. 19:5; Mark 7:8; Eph. 5:31.

V. 20. doxasate dē ton theon en tō sōmati hymōn = “So glorify God in your bodies”: the emphasis on incarnational involvement in the world as the means to glorify God will become a critical theme in Paul’s later letter to the Romans (see Romans 12:1).


John 1:43-51
In response to Nathaniel’s confession that Jesus is Son of God and King of Israel, Jesus announces his identity as the one in whom the divine and the earthly connect.

In and following the Prologue to John’s Gospel (1:1-18 ) we were introduced to John the Baptist.  There follows the calling of Andrew and his brother Simon Peter whom Jesus has just named Cephas (1:35-42).

Key Words
V. 46.  “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  The town is not mentioned in the Old Testament, in Josephus‘ writings, or in the writings of the rabbis.  In the time of Jesus, the town occupied a total of 40,000 square meters with a population of about two thousand .

V. 47. dolos = “guile”:  word appears as “guile” at 2 Cor. 12:16; 1 Thess. 2:3; 1 Peter 2:1, 22; 3:10; “stealth” (Matt. 26:4 = Mark 14:1), “deceit” (Mark 7:22; Acts 13:10; Rom. 1:29), and as “lie” (Rev. 14:5).  At 1 Peter 2:22 it is a characteristic inappropriate for a Christian (2:22).

V. 51.  ton ouranon aneōgota = “the heaven opened”:  as a prelude to a vision see Mark 1:10 (to Jesus); Acts 7:56 (to Stephen); 10:11 (to Peter); Rev. 19:11 (to John the Seer).

V. 51.  kai tous aggelous tou theou anabainontas kai katabainontas = “the angels of God ascending and descending”:  cf. Gen. 28:12.   The location at which such travel occurs is usually regarded as the “navel of the earth,” that is, the place where heaven and earth connect. Here Bethel (Gen. 28:12) and Jerusalem (Ezek. 38:12) are desacralized in favor of Jesus.

V. 51.  epi ton huion tou anthropou = “on the Son of man”:  in John’s Gospel the title is an exalted one (see 3:13, 14; 5:27; 6:27, 53, 62; 8:28; 9:35; 12:23; 13:31, not the despised one as at Mark 8:31 and elsewhere.