Re the Daily Office Readings August 18 Anno Domini 2020

The Well in Samaria by Sadao Watanabe

The Lessons: Judges 18:1-15; Acts 8:1-13; John 5:30-47

Re Judges, Zorah and Eshtaol (vv.2, 8, 11) may sound familiar: they’re where Samson began causing good trouble (13:25) and where he was buried (16:31). In retrospect, “It is he [Samson] who shall begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines” (13:5) sounds like overstatement: the Danites in that area decided that they’d be happier elsewhere, and so send out spies, the spies who encounter the young Levite at Micah’s house.

Re Acts, since the apostles are not scattered (v.1), the Philip who evangelizes in Samaria is the deacon, named after Stephen in the roster (6:5). The Holy Spirit was, again, not limited by the apostles’ vision of the deacons’ role (6:2-4). Simon the magician, who also figures in tomorrow’s reading, gives us, together with the Judges readings, opportunity to reflect on “You shall not covet” (Exod 20:17; see the August 8 post).

Re John, Jesus’ argument with the Jewish authorities continues. As various commentators have noticed, this Gospel periodically conflates two settings: Jesus’ setting and the author’s setting toward the end of the first century, when the heirs of the Pharisees are working to exclude groups like Jesus’ followers from Judaism. So taking Jesus’ words as a reliable description of all Jews in all times and places would be an egregious misreading. One helpful reading might start with v.44 (CEB): “How can you believe when you receive praise from each other but don’t seek the praise that comes from the only God?” We tend to think that believing and status-seeking are separate issues; Jesus sees a connection. That might be something to wonder about.

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