Lectionary Reflection for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

From 1 Samuel (BTCB) by Francesca Aran Murphy, commenting on 1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49:

Of course the story is about Christ vanquishing Satan. Caesarius of Arles recognizes that the new thing Christ did, the leap into a new state of affairs achieved in Christ’s conquest of Satan, lies behind this story. David’s unprecedented courage is a shadow of an event yet to come.

“Why,” asks Caesarius, did the Israelites “not dare to” fight “against their adversaries”? “Because David who typified Christ had not yet arrived. . . . Who was able to fight against the devil before Christ our Lord freed the human race from his power? Now the word David is interpreted as strong in hand; and what is stronger, brothers, than he who conquered the whole world, armed with a cross but not a sword” (Sermon 121.5, in Franke 2005: 268-69).

The duel between David and Goliath . . . is not just reinterpreted by Christians to mean Christ’s defeat of death. The combat between an apparently weaker hero and his overweening opponent becomes something new, because of Christ’s conquest of the evil won.

Caesarius’s love of the doctrine of Christ’s descent into hell is reputed to have led to the insertion of the line descendit ad inferos into the Apostles’ Creed. This victory, no less historical and no less a triumph of apparent weakness over apparent dominion than David’s defeat of Goliath, was, Caesarius says, “prefigured in David” but “accomplished by our Lord Jesus Christ; for he strangled the lion and the bear when he descended into hell to free all the saints from their jaws” (Sermon 121.4, in Franke 2005: 271).


©2010 by Francesca Aran Murphy. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.