Lectionary Reading Introduction

Isaiah 40:1-11

Isaiah chapters 40 to 55 forms a very coherent unit, normally referred to as "Second Isaiah", "Deutero-Isaiah", or "the Book of Consolation". It addresses the people living in exile in Babylon. Cyrus (44:28; 45:1) has dethroned Astyages (550BCE) and possibly already defeated Croesus (547BCE). Today's reading has been seen as a cantata for several voices echoing the call of the eighth century Isaiah (Isaiah 6). The second exodus about to occur also echoes the one from Egypt. The images presuppose the cragged, mountainous deserts of the Middle East. The text is dated between 545 and 539BCE.

2 Peter 3:8-15a

This letter has much in common with Jude. It may be the last book of the scriptures to be written. It was certainly the last to be accepted into the New Testament canon. Its dating after the death of Peter is made probable by the delay of the Day of the Lord - a realisation which grew after the destruction of Jerusalem (70CE). Most date this letter to around the turn of the century. The practice of writing pseudonymously (in the name of a great figure already dead) was accepted practice. The style is that of a farewell address, a last will and testament.

Mark 1:1-8

Today we begin the gospel which will be the primary thread in this liturgical year. Eusebius in Historia Ecclesiae II 16 quotes Papias (c 116CE):

"And John the presbyter also said this, Mark being the interpreter of Peter, whatsoever he recorded he wrote with great accuracy, but not, however, in the order in which it was spoken or done by our Lord, for he neither heard nor followed our Lord, but, as before said, was in company with Peter, who gave him such instruction as was necessary, but not to give a history of our Lord's discourses. Wherefore Mark has not erred in any thing, by writing some things as he has recorded them; for he was carefully attentive to one thing, not to pass by any thing that he heard, or to state any thing falsely in these accounts."

Papias was the bishop of Hierapolis (close to Laodicea and Colossae; in the valley of the Lycus in Phrygia). St. Irenæus has Papias "a hearer of John, and companion of Polycarp, a man of old time."

In verse 2-3 the author conflates Isaiah 40:3, Exodus 23:20 and Malachi 3:1. Debt was a serious problem in first century Judea. 35-40% of agricultural production went in tax and if you did not pay, you lost your land. The landless would trie their hand at being artisans. Remission of debts is, hence, clearly good news. When one was referred to as a "son", there was the sense that one had the qualities, the attributes of the father.

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