Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene,Chap. 3:1-22.] Preaching and Baptism of John. Divine testimony to Jesus at His Baptism. Matthew 3:1-17. Mark 1:4-11.
1.] These dates are consistent with the ἀκριβῶς παρακολουθεῖν which Luke predicates of himself, ch. 1:3. In Matthew 3:1 we have the same events indicated as to time by only ἐν ταῖς ἡμ. ἐκείναις.
The fifteenth year of the sole principate of Tiberius began Aug. 19, u.c. 781, and reckoning backwards thirty years from that time (see ver. 23), we should have the birth of our Lord in u.c. 751 or about then; for ὡσεὶ τριάκ. will admit of some latitude. But Herod the Great died in the beginning of the year 750, and our Lord’s birth must be fixed some months at least before the death of Herod. If then it be placed in 749, He would have been at least thirty-two at the time of His baptism, seeing that it took place some time after the beginning of John’s ministry. This difficulty has led to the supposition that this fifteenth year is not to be dated from the sole but from the associated principate of Tiberius, which commenced most probably at the end of u.c. 764. According to this, the fifteenth of Tiberius will begin at the end of u.c. 779—and our Lord’s birth would be u.c. 749 or 50: which will agree with the death of Herod. This latter explanation has usually been adopted. Our present æra was fixed by Dionysius Exiguus, in the sixth century, and places the birth of our Lord in 754 u.c. It may be doubted, however, whether in all these reckonings more accuracy has not been sought than the Gospel narrative warrants any expectation of our finding. The ὡσεὶ ἐτῶν τρ. is a wide expression, and might cover any age from thirty (see note on ver. 23) to thirty-two or thirty-three.
See on Matthew 2:2, where it appears probable from astronomical considerations, that our Lord was born as early as u.c. 747. Mr. Greswell has devoted several Dissertations to this enquiry: see his vol. i. p. 189 ff.
ἡγεμ. Π. Πιλ.] Pilate was only Procurator of Judæa: the words cognate to ἡγεμών being used promiscuously of the leading officers of the Roman government. Pontius Pilate was the sixth procurator from the deposition of Archelaus, and came to Judæa about u.c. 779. He held the province ten years, and was sent to Rome to answer for his conduct by Vitellius, prefect of Syria, u.c. 789, the year of the death of Tiberius. See chronological table in Prolegg. Vol. II.
Ἡρώδσυ] See note on Matthew 14:1. Herod Antipas became tetrarch of Galilee after the death of his father Herod, u.c. 750, and continued till he was deposed in 792.
Φιλίππου] Son of Herod the Great by Cleopatra, a woman of Jerusalem, Jos. Antt. xvii. 1. 3. He was brought up at Rome, and after his father’s death in u.c. 750 was made tetrarch of Batanæa, Gaulonitis, Trachonitis, Panias, Auranitis (Batanæa + Auranitis = Ituræa), and continued till his death in u.c. 786 or 787. He built Cæsarea Philippi. He was by far the best of Herod’s sons, and ruled his portion mildly and well. He must not be confounded with his half-brother Philip, whose wife Herodias Herod Antipas seduced. This latter was disinherited by his father, and lived in privacy. See note on Matthew 14:1.
Λυσαν. τ. Ἀβ. τετρ.] Abilene, the district round Abila, a town eighteen miles north of Damascus, now, according to Pococke, Nebi Abel. It must not be confounded with Abila in Decapolis, Josephus, Antt. xix. 5. 1, mentions it as among the districts which Claudius gave to king Agrippa I. under the name of Ἄβιλα ἡ Λυσανίου, and in B. J. ii. 11. 5, as ἑτέρα βασιλεία ἡ Λυσανίου καλουμένη.
In Antt. xx. 7. 1, he has Ἀβίλᾳ. Λυσανίᾳ δὲ αὕτη ἐγεγόνει τετραρχία: cf. also Ptolem. v. 15, Ἄβιλα ἐπικληθεῖσα Λυσανίου (making it, however, one of the cities of Decapolis). This Lysanias however was son of Ptolemy, the son of Minnæus (B. J. i. 13. 1), and was killed by Antony, at Cleopatra’s instigation (b.c. 34). The Lysanias here mentioned may be some descendant of the other, since we find him here only ruling Abilene, whereas the other is called by Dio (xlix. 32), king of Ituræa. Now at his death we learn that the οἶκος τοῦ Λυσ. was farmed by one Zenodorus (Antt. xv. 10. 1), whom (ib. § 3) Augustus deprived of his ἐπαρχία, and at his death, which immediately followed, gave the principal of his districts, Trachonitis, Auranitis (Antt. xvii. 11. 4), &c., to Herod, b.c. 23. Among these Abilene is not named, and it therefore is possible that it may have been granted to a descendant of the former possessor. The silence of Josephus is no reason against this supposition, as he does not minutely relate the fortunes of districts which do not lie in the path of his history. The appellation of Ἄβιλα ἡ Λυσανίου again in the time of Claudius, after this appellation has disappeared so long, looks as if there had been another Λυσανίας between. See Wieseler, i. 175 ff. Meyer, Comm. in loc. Bleek, Synoptische Erkl. in loc.
2.] Annas (= Ananus, Jos. Antt. xviii. 2. 2) the high-priest, was deposed by Valerius Gratus (u.c. 779), and after several changes, Joseph or Caiaphas (Joseph. as above), his son-in-law (John 18:13), was made high-priest. It would appear from this verse (and the use of the singular, -εως, renders the inference more stringent. Cf. also St. Luke’s own phrase, Acts 4:6) that Annas, as ex-high-priest, and possibly retaining in the view of the Jews the legitimate high-priesthood, was counted still as having the office: he certainly (John 18:13) exercised the power,—and had influence enough to procure the actual high-priesthood for five of his sons, after his own deposition, Jos. Antt. xx. 9. 1.
A substitute, or deputy to the high-priest (called by the Talmudists סְנַן כֹּהֲנַיָּא), appears to have been usual,—see 2Kings 25:18; and Annas would thus be able to evade the Roman appointment and keep the authority.
ῥῆμα θ.] See John 1:33.
3-6.] Matthew 3:1.Mar 1:4Mar 1:4, where see note on βάπ. μετ.
Vv. 5, 6 are peculiar to Luke. They are nearly verbatim from the LXX Alex., not , who for ὁδοὺς λείας has πεδία. After this there is omitted καὶ ὀφθήσεται ἡ δόξα κυρίου, and then καὶ ὄψ.… κ.τ.λ. as LXX.
7-9.] Matt. vv. 7-10. John’s speech is verbatim as Matt., except that καρπ. ἀξ. is singular, and δόξητε Matt. = ἄρξησθε Luke. This indicates a common origin of this portion, which however is still thus slightly deflected; and let it be borne in mind that the slighter the deflection, the more striking the independence of the Evangelists.
μὴ ἄρξησθε λ.] ‘Omnem excusationis etiam conatum præcidit.’ Bengel.
10-14.] Peculiar to Luke.
10.] Olshausen refers to the answer to a similar question under the N.T. dispensation, Acts 2:37. See also Acts 16:30; Acts 22:10. Deeds of justice and charity are the very first fruits of repentance: see Micah 6:8.
12. τελῶναι] See on Matthew 5:46.
13.] πράσσετε, exact: see examples in .
14.] στρατευόμενοι—properly, men on march: see Lexx.: but this need not be pressed, only that they were soldiers, serving in an army. Who these were, we have no means of determining. Certainly not soldiers of the army which Herod Antipas sent against Aretas, his father-in-law: see notes on Matthew 14:1 ff.
διασείειν prim., to shake violently. So Plato, τὰς ἶνας εἰς ἀταξίαν διέσεισε, p. 85: also met., to confound, διασείσειν τὰ Ἀθηναίων φρονήματα ὥστε μηδίσαι, Herod. vi. 109. The meaning here, to oppress or vex, corresponding to the Lat. concutere, seems to be confined to ecclesiastical use. Macarius, Hom. xliii. p. 139, ed. Migne, has it in this sense: ὥσπερ εἰσὶν οἱ τελῶναι καθεζόμενοι εἰς τὰς στενὰς ὁδούς, καὶ κατέχοντες τοὺς παριόντας καὶ διασείοντες.
συκοφ.] The way in which soldiers would be likely to act the part of informers, would be by laying vexatious charges of disaffection against persons. In assigning a derivation for this verb, notice Liddell and Scott’s remark (after Passow): “The literal signif. is not found in any ancient writer, and is perhaps altogether an invention.”
15-17.] Ver. 15 peculiar to Luke, but = John 1:19-25.
προσδοκῶντος, not lingering about (Bretschneider), but being in expectation,—i.e. that John would declare himself (Meyer).
16, 17.] Matthew 3:11, Matthew 3:12: Mark 1:7, Mark 1:8: John 1:26, John 1:27. The four accounts are cognate, but vary in expression and arrangement: ver. 17 is verbatim (except that αὐτοῦ is after σῖτον and ἀποθήκην in Matt.) as Matthew.
18-20.] Luke only: containing the corroboration of the account in Mark 6:20 of John’s boldness in rebuking Herod, with this slight variation, that whereas in Mark Herod heard him gladly, and did many things in consequence, here the rebuke for general profligacy seems to have contributed to his imprisonment. These accounts however, though perfectly distinct, are by no means inconsistent. The same rebukes which stung Herod’s conscience and aided the desire to imprison John, might work on that conscience, and cause the wish to hear more from the man of God. Vv. 19, 20 are in anticipation of what follows; which is in Luke’s manner: see ch. 1:80.
21, 22.] Matthew 3:13-17: Mark 1:9-11. Luke’s account is much more concise than usual, and wholly independent of the others; see note on Mark 1:10: we have here however three additional particulars—1. that all the people had been baptized before the Lord’s baptism: 2. that He was praying at the time of the descent of the Spirit: 3. that the Spirit appeared in a bodily form. On (1) we may remark that this is necessarily the meaning of ἐν τῷ βαπ.—for Luke when he means ‘during,’ &c. invariably uses the present; see for the past tense with ἐν τῷ reff. and ch. 14:1; 19:15; 24:30—for the present, ch. 5:1; 8:5, &c., and for a comparison of the two, ch. 8:40 and 42.
On (3), see note at Matthew 3:16, § 2,
23-38.] Genealogy of our Lord. Peculiar to Luke.
23.] Jesus was about thirty years old when He began (His ministry); not, ‘began to be about,’ &c., which is ungrammatical, ἀρχόμενος τῆς εἰς τὸν λαὸν ἀναδείξεως αὐτοῦ, ἤτοι τῆς διδασκαλίας, , so also , Bengel, Kuin., De Wette, Meyer, Wieseler: see also Acts 1:1.
This ὡσεὶ τρ. admits of considerable latitude, but only in one direction; viz. over thirty years. He could not well be under, seeing that this was the appointed age for the commencement of public service of God by the Levites: see Numbers 4:3, Numbers 4:23, Numbers 4:43, Numbers 4:47.
If no other proof were in existence of the total independence of the present Gospels of Matthew and Luke, their genealogies would furnish what I conceive to be an undeniable one. Is it possible that either of these Evangelists could have set down his genealogy with that of the other before him? Would no remark have been made on their many and (on such a supposition) unaccountable variations? It is quite beside the purpose of the present commentary to attempt to reconcile the two. It has never yet been accomplished; and every endeavour to do it has violated either ingenuousness or common sense. I shall, as in similar cases, only indicate the landmarks which may serve to guide us to all that is possible for us to discover concerning them. (1) The two genealogies are both the line of Joseph, and not of Mary. Whether Mary were an heiress or not, Luke’s words here preclude the idea of the genealogy being hers; for the descent of the Lord is transferred putatively to Joseph by the ὡς ἐνομίζετο, before the genealogy begins; and it would be unnatural to suppose that the reckoning, which began with the real mother, would, after such transference, pass back through her to her father again, as it must do, if the genealogy be hers.
The attempts of many, and recently of Wieseler, to make it appear that the genealogy is that of Mary, reading νἱὸς (ὡς ἐνομ. τοῦ Ἰωσὴφ) τοῦ Ἡλί, ‘the son (as supposed of Joseph, but in reality) of Heli, &c.’ are, as Meyer (Comm. in loc.) has shewn, quite unsuccessful: see Dr. Mill’s vindication of the Genealogies, p. 180 ff. for the history of this opinion. (2) Luke appears to have taken this genealogy entire from some authority before him, in which the expression υἱὸς θεοῦ as applied to Christ, was made good by tracing it up as here, through a regular ascent of progenitors till we come to Adam, who was, but here again inexactly, the son of God. This seems much more probable than that Luke should for his gentile readers have gone up to the origin of the human race instead of to Abraham. I cannot imagine any such purpose definitely present in the mind of the Evangelist.
This view is confirmed by the entirely insulated situation of the genealogy here, between ver. 23 and ch. 4:1. (3) The points of divergence between the genealogies are,—in Matt. the father of Joseph is Jacob—in Luke, Heli; this gives rise to different lists (except two common names, Zorobabel and Salathiel) up to David, where the accounts coincide again, and remain nearly identical up to Abraham, where Matt. ceases. (4) Here, as elsewhere, I believe that the accounts might be reconciled, or at all events good reason might be assigned for their differing, if we were in possession of data on which to proceed; but here as elsewhere, we are not. For who shall reproduce the endless combinations of elements of confusion, which might creep into a genealogy of this kind? Matthew’s, we know, is squared so as to form three tesseradecads, by the omission of several generations; how can we tell that some similar step unknown to us may not have been taken with the one before us? It was common among the Jews for the same man to bear different names; how do we know how often this may occur among the immediate progenitors of Joseph? The levirate marriage (of a brother with a brother’s wife to raise up seed, which then might be accounted to either husband) was common; how do we know how often this may have contributed to produce variations in the terms of a genealogy?
With all these elements of confusion, it is quite as presumptuous to pronounce the genealogies discrepant, as it is over-curious and uncritical to attempt to reconcile them. It may suffice us that they are inserted in the Gospels as authentic documents, and both of them merely to clear the Davidical descent of the putative father of the Lord. His own real Davidical descent does not depend on either of them, but must be solely derived through his mother. See much interesting investigation of the various solutions and traditions, in Dr. Mill’s tract referred to above; and in Lord A. Hervey’s work on the Genealogies of our Lord.
27. τ. Σαλαθ., τ. Νηρεί] In Matthew 1:12, Ἰεχονίας γεννᾷ τ. Σαλαθ.
36. Καϊνάμ] This name does not exist in our present Hebrew text, but in the LXX, Genesis 10:24; Genesis 11:12, Genesis 11:13, and furnishes a curious instance of one of two things—either (1) the corruption of our present Hebrew text in these chronological passages; or (2) the incorrectness of the LXX, and notwithstanding that, the high reputation which it had obtained in so short a time. Lightfoot holds the latter alternative: but I own I think the former more probable. See on the whole question of the appearance of this second Cainam(n) among the ancestors of our Lord, Lord A. Hervey’s work above cited, ch. 8, in which, with much research and acuteness, he has endeavoured to shew that the name was probably interpolated here, and got from hence into the LXX. Certainly it appears not to have existed in the earliest copies of that version.