Luke 2
Expositor's Greek Testament


And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
Luke 2:1-5. Joseph and Mary go up to Bethlehem. In these verses Luke makes a historical statement, which one might have been inclined to regard as an illustration of the ἀκρίβεια (Luke 1:1), at which he aimed, as well as of his desire, in the spirit of Pauline universalism, to connect the birth of Jesus with the general history of the world. In the former respect the experience of the exegete is very disappointing. The passage has given rise to a host of questions which have been discussed, with bewildering conflict of opinion, in an extensive critical and apologetic literature. The difficulty is not so much as to the meaning of the evangelist’s words, but rather as to their truth. As, however, the apologetic and the exegetical interests have been very much mixed up in the discussions, it may be well at the outset to indicate briefly the chief objections that have been taken to the passage on the score of historicity. On the face of it, Lk.’s statement is that the Roman Emperor at the time of Christ’s birth ordered a universal census, that this order was carried out by Quirinius, governor of Syria, and that the execution of it was the occasion of Joseph and Mary going to Bethlehem. To this it has been objected:—

1. Apart from the Gospel, history knows nothing of a general imperial census in the time of Augustus.

2. There could have been no Roman census in Palestine during the time of Herod the Great, a rex socius.

3. Such a census at such a time could not have been carried out by Quirinius, for he was not governor in Syria then, nor till ten years later, when he did make a census which gave rise to a revolt under Judas of Galilee.

4. Under a Roman census it would not have been necessary for Joseph to go to Bethlehem, or for Mary to accompany him.—With these objections in our view we proceed with the exposition, noting their influence, as we go along, on the details of interpretation.

Luke 2:1. ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις: the days of Herod (Luke 1:5), and of the events related in the previous chapter: the birth of John, etc.—δόγμα (δοκέω) = δεδογμένον, an opinion as of philosophers; here a decree, as in Acts 17:7.—ἀπογράφεσθαι (here and in Hebrews 12:23): the decree concerned enrolment or registration of the population (the verb might be either middle or passive—enrol itself, or be enrolled; the latter the more probable). For what purpose—taxation, or general statistical objects—not indicated, and not to be taken for granted as in the rendering “taxed” in A. V[20], but the former most probably intended. The hypothesis that the registration had reference to statistics meets objections 1 and 2, because Augustus did make or complete a descriptio orbis of that sort, and such a census would give no offence to the Jews or their king. Vide Hahn, ad loc. The Greek word for taxing is ἀποτίμησις.—πᾶσαν τὴν οἰκουμένην: the whole habitable world, orbis terrarum = the Roman empire, not merely the provinces (Italy excluded), or Palestine, as has been suggested in an apologetic interest to get rid of the difficulties connected with a universal census. The usual meaning of the phrase, and the reference to Augustus as the source of the order, favour the larger sense. Augustus reigned from 30 B.C. to 14 A.D.

[20] Authorised Version.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
Luke 2:2. This verse looks like a parenthetical explanation, and is actually bracketed in W.H[21] One could almost wish it had been omitted, or that there were reason to believe, as has been suggested by several writers, that it is a gloss that has found its way into the text, and that Lk. is not responsible for it—so much trouble has it given to commentators. Text and sense have alike been disputed.—αυτη has been taken as αὐτή = self, not αὕτη = illa, the same, to make room for a distinction between the decree and its execution or completion ten years after by Quirinius, so meeting difficulty No. 3. This device is now generally discarded. πρώτη has been taken as = προτέρα, meaning: this census took place before Quirinius was governor, a possible but very improbable rendering, not to say that one fails to see the object of such a statement. The true text is αὕτη ἀπογ. πρώτη ἐγέν., and the meaning: that census took place, as a first, when, etc. But why as a first? Because, reply many, there was a second, under the same Quirinius, ten years later, known to Lk. (Acts 5:37), disastrous in its consequence, and which he was anxious his readers should not confound with this one (so Hahn and others).—ἡγεμονεύοντος: this raises a question of fact. Was Quirinius governor then? He was, admittedly, governor of Syria ten years later, when he made the census referred to in Acts 5:37. Either there is a mistake here, or Quirinius was governor twice (so A. W. Zumpt, strenuously supported by Farrar, C. G. T., ad loc.), or at least present in Syria, at the time of Christ’s birth, in some capacity, say as a commissioner in connection with the census.

[21] Westcott and Hort.

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
Luke 2:3. πάντες: not all throughout the world, but all in Palestine—the execution of the decree there being what the evangelist is interested in.—εἰς τὴν ἰδίαν πόλιν (or ἑαυτοῦ π., W.H[22]). Does this mean to the city of his people, or to the city of his abode? If the former, what a stir in Palestine, or in the world if πάντες be taken widely! A regular “Völkerwanderung” (Holtzmann in H. C.). Sensible of this, some (Hahn, e.g.) take the reference to be to the place of residence (Wohnort not Stammort), implying that Bethlehem was for Lk. as for Mt. Joseph’s home, and that they merely happened to have been living in Nazareth just before. But Luke 2:7 implies that Joseph and Mary had no house in Bethlehem. Feine quotes, with a certain amount of approval, the view of Schneller (Kennst du das Land) that Joseph was not a carpenter but a mason, and that Bethlehem was therefore his natural home, being the headquarters of that craft then as now. On this view, Joseph had simply been in Nazareth building a house, not at home, but away from home for a time as an artisan.

[22] Westcott and Hort.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
Luke 2:4-5. Joseph and Mary and Nazareth are here referred to, as if they had not been mentioned before (Luke 1:26-27), implying that Lk. is here using an independent document (Holtz., H. C.).—ἀπὸ τ. Γ αλ., ἐκ πόλ.: used with classical accuracy: ἀπὸ = direction from, ἐκ from within (C. G. T.).—ἐξ οἴκου καὶ πατριᾶς, “of the house and family,” R. V[23]—οἶκοι, πατριαί, φυλαί represent a series of widening circles.—ἀπογράψασθαι, to be enrolled. If Bethlehem was Joseph’s home, he would have gone to Bethlehem sooner or later in any case. Because of the census he went just then (Hahn).—σὺν Μαριὰμ, coming after ἀπογράψ., naturally suggests that she had to be enrolled too. Was this necessary? Even if not, reasons might be suggested for her going with her husband: her condition, the intention to settle there as their real home, she an heiress, etc.—ἰγκύῳ (here only in N. T.), preparing for what follows.

[23] Revised Version.

With reference to the foregoing statement, it is generally agreed that a census of some kind must have taken place. Meyer and Weiss, following Schleiermacher and Olshausen, think that the event was something internal to Judaea, and concerned the revision of family genealogical registers, and that Lk. was misled into transforming this petty transaction into an affair of world-historical significance. This is not satisfactory. It would be much more satisfactory if it could be shown that Lk.’s historic framing of the birth of Jesus is strictly accurate. But most satisfactory of all is it to know that such a demonstration, however desirable, is not vital to faith.

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
Luke 2:6-7. The birth.—ἐπλήσθησαν αἱ ἡ., as in Luke 1:57. In this case, as in that of John, the natural course was run.—ἐσπαργάνωσεν (here and Luke 2:12), ἀνέκλινεν: the narrative runs as if Mary did these things herself, whence the patristic inference of painless birth.—φάτνῃ, in a manger (in a stall, Grotius, et al.).—καταλύματι, in the inn, not probably a πανδοχεῖον (Luke 10:34), with a host, but simply a khan, an enclosure with open recesses. The meaning may be, not that there was absolutely no room for Joseph and Mary there, but that the place was too crowded for a birth, and that therefore they retired to a stall or cave, where there was room for the mother, and a crib for the babe (vide ch. Luke 22:11).

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
Luke 2:8-13. The shepherds and the angels.

Luke 2:8. ποιμένες, shepherds, without article; no connection between them and the birthplace.—ἀγραυλοῦντες (ἀγρός, αὐλή, here only), bivouacking, passing the night in the open air; implying naturally a mild time of the year between March and November. In winter the flocks were in fold.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
Luke 2:9. ἐπέστη, used elsewhere by Lk. in reference to angelic appearances, eighteen times in his writings in all = stood beside; one more than their number, suddenly.—περιέλαμψεν: here and in Acts 26:13, only, in N. T. = shone around.—ἐφοβήθησαν, they feared greatly; yet they were not utterly unprepared, their thoughts had been of a Divine gracious visitation—waiting for the consolation of Israel; subjective and objective corresponding.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
Luke 2:10. εὐαγγελίζομαι, etc., I bring good news in the form of a great joy (cf. Luke 1:19).—παντὶ τῷ λαῷ, not merely to you, but to the whole people (of Israel, vide Luke 1:68).

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:11.—σωτήρ: a word occurring (with σωτηρία) often in Lk. and in St. Paul, not often elsewhere in N. T.—Κύριος: also often in Lk.’s Gospel, where the other evangelists use Jesus. The angel uses the dialect of the apostolic age.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
Luke 2:12. σημεῖον, the sign just that which might, but for forewarning, have been a stumbling block; the Saviour and Lord lying in a crib, in a cattle stall, or cave! So Hahn, but Godet and Schanz take “sign” merely in the sense of means of identification.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Luke 2:14. The angels’ song.—If we regard the announcement of the angel to the shepherds (Luke 2:10-12) as a song, then we may view the gloria in excelsis as a refrain sung by a celestial choir (πλῆθος στρατιᾶς οὐρανίου, Luke 2:13). With the reading εὐδοκίας, the refrain is in two lines:—

1. “Glory to God in the highest.”

2. “And on earth peace among men, in whom He is well pleased.” εἰρήνη in 2 answering to δόξα in 1; ἐπὶ γῆς to ἐν ὑψίστοις; ἀνθρώποις to Θεῷ. With the reading εὐδοκία (T.R.), it falls into three:—

1. Glory to God in the highest.

2. And on earth peace (between man and man).

3. Good will (of God) among men. ἐν ὑψίστοις, in the highest places, proper abode of Him who is repeatedly in these early chapters called “the Highest”. The thought in 1 echoes a sentiment in the Psalter of Solomon (Luke 18:11), μέγας ὁ Θεὸς ἡμῶν καὶ ἔνδοξος ἐν ὑψίστοις.—εὐδοκίας is a gen. of quality, limiting ἀνθρώποις = those men who are the objects of the Divine εὐδοκία. They may or may not be all men, but the intention is not to assert that God’s good pleasure rests on all. J. Weiss in Meyer says = τοῖς ἐκλεκτοῖς.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
Luke 2:15-20. The shepherds go to Bethlehem.—διέλθωμεν δή, come! let us go. The force of δή, a highly emotional particle (the second time we have met with it, vide at Matthew 13:23), can hardly be expressed in English. The rendering in A. V[24] (and R. V[25]), “Let us now go,” based on the assumption that δὴ has affinity with ἤδη, is very tame, giving no idea of the mental excitement of the shepherds, and the demonstrative energy with which they communicated to each other, comrade-fashion, the idea which had seized their minds. “The δὴ gives a pressing character to the invitation,” Godet. Similarly Hahn = “agedum, wohlan, doch”. Cf. δὴ in Acts 13:2. The διὰ in διέλθωμεν suggests the idea of passing through the fields.—ἕως (conjunction used as a preposition) may imply that it was a considerable distance to Bethlehem (Schanz).—ῥῆμα, here = “thing” rather than “word”.

[24] Authorised Version.

[25] Revised Version.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
Luke 2:16. σπεύσαντες, hasting; movement answering to mood revealed by δή.—τήν τε Μαριὰμ, etc., mother, father, child, recognised in this order, all united together in one group by τε. The position of the babe, in the manger, noted as corresponding to the angelic announcement; hence in Luke 2:17 the statement that the shepherds recognised the correspondence.

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
Luke 2:18-19. The shepherds of course told what they had seen in Bethlehem, and how they had been led to go there, and these verses state the effect produced by their story. All wondered, but Mary thought on all the wonderful things that had happened to herself and to the shepherds; keeping them well in mind (συνετήρει), and putting them together (συμβάλλουσα, conferens, Vulg[26]), so as to see what they all meant. The wonder of the many was a transient emotion (aorist); this recollecting and brooding of Mary was an abiding habit (συνετήρει, imperfect).

[26] Vulgate (Jerome’s revision of old Latin version).

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
Luke 2:21-24. Circumcision and presentation in the temple.

Luke 2:21. ἐπλήσθησαν, as in Luke 1:57, Luke 2:6, and again in Luke 2:22; in the first two places the reference is to the course of nature, in the second two to the course prescribed by the law.—τοῦ περιτεμεῖν, the genitive not so much of purpose (Meyer, J. Weiss), but of more exact definition (Schanz; vide Burton, M. and T., § 400, on the use of τοῦ with infinitive to limit nouns).—καὶ ἐκλήθη: the καὶ may be taken as “also” = He was circumcised (understood), and at the same time His name was called Jesus, or as introducing the apodosis: and = then (so Godet and Hahn). It might have been dispensed with (superfluit. Grotius).

And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;
Luke 2:22. κατὰ τὸν νόμον Μ. The law relating to women after confinement is contained in Leviticus 12—ἀνήγαγον: at the close of these forty days of purification His parents took Jesus up to Jerusalem from Bethlehem. The Greek form of the name for Jerusalem, Ἰερο σόλυμα, occurs here and in a few other places in Lk. Ἱερουσαλήμ is the more common form.—παραστῆσαι, a word used by Lk. and St. Paul (Romans 12:1), in the sense of dedication. This act was performed in accordance with the legal conception that the first-born belonged to God, His priestly servants before the institution of the Levitical order (Numbers 8:18-19). J. Weiss suggests that the narrative is modelled on the story of the dedication of Samuel (1 Samuel 1:21-28).

(As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)
Luke 2:23. γέγραπται: the reference is to Exodus 13:2, and the statement implies that every first-born male child, as belonging to God, must be ransomed (Exodus 34:19, Numbers 18:15-16).

And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.
Luke 2:24. τοῦ δοῦναι: parallel to παραστῆσαι, indicating another of the purposes connected with the visit to Jerusalem. The mother went to offer her gift of thanksgiving after the days of purification were ended.—τὸ εἰρημένον, in Leviticus 12, where alternative offerings are specified: a lamb, and a turtle dove or a young pigeon; and in case of the poor two turtle doves, or two young pigeons, the one for a burnt offering, the other for a sin offering. Mary brought the poor woman’s offering. The question has been asked, why any purification in this case? and the fact has been adduced in proof that the original document used by Lk. knew nothing of the virgin birth.—γονεῖς, Luke 2:27, has been used for the same purpose (vide Hillmann, Jahrb. f. pr. Theol., 1891).

And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.
Luke 2:25-28. Simeon.—Συμεών, introduced as a stranger (ἄνθρωπος ἦν). The legendary spirit which loves definite particulars about celebrities of Scripture has tried to fill up the blank. The father of Gamaliel the son of Hillel, one of the seventy translators of the Hebrew Bible, are among the suggestions. A bracketed passage in Euthy. Zig. says, in reference to the latter suggestion, that Simeon alone of the company objected to the rendering of Isaiah 7:14 : “the virgin shall conceive,” and that an angel told him he should live to take the virgin’s son into his arms.—δίκαιος καὶ εὐλαβής. The evangelist is careful to make known what this man was, while giving no indication who he was (“who they were no man knows, what they were all men know,” inscription on a tombstone in a soldiers’ graveyard in Virginia), just and God-fearing, a saint of the O. T. type.—προσδεχόμενος παράκλησιν τ. .: an earnest believer in the Messianic hope, and fervently desiring its early fulfilment. Its fulfilment would be Israel’s consolation. The Messianic hope, the ideal of a good time coming, was the child of present sorrow—sin and misery prevalent, all things out of joint. The keynote of this view is struck in Isaiah 40:1 : “comfort ye”.—παρακαλεῖτε. The Rabbis called Messiah the Comforter, Menahem. Cf. προσδεχ. λύτρωσιν. in Luke 2:38.

And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
Luke 2:26. ἦν κεχρηματισμένον, it had been revealed (for the verb vide Matthew 2:12), how long before not indicated.—μὴ ἰδεῖν: we have here an instance of the aorist infinitive referring to what is future in relation to the principal verb. In such a case the aorist is really timeless, as it can be in dependent moods, vide Burton, M. and T., § 114.—πρὶν ἢ ἂν ἴδῃ: πρὶν here and in Acts 25:16 with a finite verb, usually with the infinitive, vide Matthew 1:18; Matthew 26:34.

And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,
Luke 2:27. ἐν τῷ Πνεύματι: observe the frequent reference to the Spirit in connection with Simeon, vide Luke 2:25-26.—εἰθισμένον (ἐθίζω), here only in N. T.: according to the established custom of the law.

Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,
Luke 2:28. καὶ, as in Luke 2:21, before ἐκλήθη, introducing the apodosis “then” in A. V[27] and R. V[28]—αὐτὸς, not necessarily emphatic (Keil, Farrar), vide Luke 1:22.

[27] Authorised Version.

[28] Revised Version.

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
Luke 2:29-32. Nunc dimittis.

Luke 2:29. νῦν, now, at last, of a hope long cherished by one who is full of years, and content to die.—ἀπολύεις, Thou releasest me, present for the future, death near, and welcome.—δοῦλον, δέσποτα: slave, master; terms appropriate at all times to express the relation between God and men, yet savouring of legal piety.—ἐν εἰρήνῃ, in peace; he has had enough of life and its service, and the purpose of life has been fulfilled by the crowning mercy of a sight of the Christ: death will be as a sleep to a labouring man.

For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Luke 2:30 gives the reason for this tranquil attitude towards death.—τὸ σωτήριον = τὴν σωτηρίαν, often in Sept[29] [29] Septuagint.

Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
Luke 2:31. πάντων τῶν λαῶν: all peoples concerned in the salvation, at least as spectators.

A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
Luke 2:32. φῶς εἰς ἀ. .: the Gentiles are to be more than spectators, even sharers in the salvation, which is represented under the twofold aspect of a light and a glory.—φῶς and δόξαν may be taken in apposition with as objects of ἡτοίμασας: salvation prepared or provided in the form of a light for the Gentiles, and a glory for Israel. Universalism here, but not of the pronounced type of Lk. (Holtz., H. C.), rather such as is found even in O. T. prophets.

And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.
Luke 2:33. ἦν: the construction is peculiar, the verb singular, and the participle, forming with it a periphrastic imperfect, plural = was the father, and was the mother, together wondering. Vide Winer, § 58, p. 651. The writer thinks of the two parents first as isolated and then as united in their wonder.

And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;
Luke 2:34. εὐλόγησεν: “the less is blessed of the better”. Age, however humble, may bless youth. Jacob blessed Pharaoh.—κεῖται, is appointed—εἰς πτῶσιν, etc.: generally, this child will influence His time in a decided manner, and to opposite effects, and with painful consequences to Himself; a forecast not necessarily beyond prophetic ken, based on insight into the career of epoch-making men. It is so more or less always. The blessing of being father or mother of such a child is great, but not unmixed with sorrow.

(Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
Luke 2:35. καὶ σοῦ, singles out the mother for a special share in the sorrow connected with the tragic career of one destined to be much spoken against (ἀντιλεγόμενον); this inevitable because of a mother’s intense love. Mary’s sorrow is compared vividly to a sword (ῥομφαία here and in Revelation 1:16, and in Sept[30], Zechariah 13:7) passing through her soul. It is a figure strong enough to cover the bitterest experiences of the Mater Dolorosa, but it does not necessarily imply prevision of the cross. There is therefore no reason, on this account at least, for the suggestion that Luke 2:35 a is an editorial addition to his source by the evangelist (J. Weiss).—ὅπως introduces a final clause which can hardly refer to the immediately preceding statement about the sword piercing Mary’s soul, but must rather indicate the purpose and result of the whole future career of the child, whereof the mother’s sorrow is to be an incidental effect. The connection is: κεῖται εἰς πτ., etc.… ὅπως ἂν ἀποκαλ. The general result, and one of the Divine aims, will be the revelation of men’s inmost thoughts, showing, e.g., that the reputedly godly were not really godly. Observe the ἂν in this pure final clause. It does not affect the meaning. Godet says that it indicates without doubt that the manifestation of hidden thoughts will take place every time occasion presents itself, in contact with the Saviour.

[30] Septuagint.

And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;
Luke 2:36-38. Anna.—Another aged saint of the O. T. type comes on the stage speaking thankful prophetic words concerning the Holy Child.

Luke 2:36. ἦν: either there was there, aderat (Meyer, Godet, Weizsäcker), or there was, there lived (De Wette, J. Weiss, Schanz, Hahn).—Ἅννα = חַנָּה, 1 Samuel 1:20 (Ἄννα in Sept[31]) = grace. Of this woman some particulars are given, e.g., her father and her tribe, which makes the absence of such details in Simeon’s case more noteworthy. The two placed side by side give an aspect of historicity to the narrative.—αὕτη (or αὐτή, the sense much the same) introduces some further details in a loosely constructed sentence, which looks like biographic notes, with verbs left out = she advanced in years, having lived with a husband, seven years from virginity, the same a widow till eighty-four years—all which may be regarded, if we will, as a parenthesis, followed by a relative clause containing a statement of more importance, describing her way of life = who departed not from the temple, serving (God) by fasts and prayers, night and day.

[31] Septuagint.

And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.
Luke 2:37. ἕως: either a widow for eighty-four years (Godet), or, as most think, a widow till the eighty-fourth year of her life. The former rendering would make her very old: married, say, at sixteen, seven years a wife, eighty-four years a widow = 107; not impossible, and borne out by the πολλαῖς after ἡμέραις (Luke 2:36, advanced in days—many).—νηστείαις: the fasting might be due to poverty, or on system, which would suggest a Judaistic type of piety.—νύκτα κ. .: did she sleep within the temple precincts?

And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
Luke 2:38. The T.R. has yet another αυτη here (the third), before αὐτῇ, which really seems wanted as nominative to the verb following, but which one can imagine scribes omitting to relieve the heaviness and monotony of the style.—ἀνθωμολογεῖτο (here only in N. T.): perhaps no stress should be laid on the preposition ἀντὶ, as the compound verb occurs in the sense of the simple verb in Sept[32] (Psalm 79:13). The suggestion of an antiphony between Anna and Simeon (Godet; vicissim, Bengel) is tempting = began in turn to give thanks. The ἀντὶ may refer to spectators = be an to praise God openly before all (Hahn). The subject of her praise of course was Jesus (περὶ αὐτοῦ), and its burden that He was the Saviour.—ἐλάλει points to an activity not confined to a single utterance; she spoke again and again on the theme to all receptive spirits. The omission of ἐν before Ἱερ. in [33] [34], etc., gives us a peculiar designation for the circle to whom the prophetess addressed herself = those waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem (instead of Israel in Luke 2:25). Yet Isaiah 40:2—“speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem”—makes such a turn of thought intelligible. And there might be discerning ones who knew that there was no place more needing redemption than that holy, unholy city.

[32] Septuagint.

[33] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[34] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.
Luke 2:39-40. Return to Nazareth.—πόλιν ἑαυτῶν, their own city, certainly suggesting that Nazareth, not Bethlehem, had been the true home of Joseph and Mary.

And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.
Luke 2:40. ηὔξανε καὶ ἐκραταιοῦτο, grew, and waxed strong, both in reference to the physical nature.—πνεύματι in T.R. is borrowed from Luke 1:80; a healthy, vigorous child, an important thing to note in reference to Jesus.—πληρούμενον: present participle, not = plenus, Vulg[35], full, but in course of being filled with wisdom—mind as well as body subject to the law of growth.—χάρις: a great word of St. Paul’s, also more used by Lk. than by either of the other two synoptists (vide Luke 1:30, Luke 4:22, Luke 6:32-34); here to be taken broadly = favour, good pleasure. The child Jesus dear to God, and the object of His paternal care.

[35] Vulgate (Jerome’s revision of old Latin version).

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.
Luke 2:41-52. When twelve years old. Lk. here relates one solitary, significant incident from the early years of Jesus, as if to say: from this, learn all. The one story shows the wish to collect anecdotes of those silent years. There would have been more had the evangelist had more to tell. The paucity of information favours the historicity of the tradition.

Luke 2:41. κατʼ ἔτος: law-observing people, piously observant of the annual feasts, especially that of the passover.

And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.
Luke 2:42. ἐτῶν δώδεκα: this mention of the age of Jesus is meant to suggest, though it is not directly stated, that this year He went up to Jerusalem with His parents; ἀναβαινόντων includes Him. At twelve a Jewish boy became a son of the law, with the responsibility of a man, putting on the phylacteries which reminded of the obligation to keep the law (vide Wünsche, Beiträge, ad loc.).

And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.
Luke 2:43. τελειωσάντων τ. . This naturally means that they stayed all the time of the feast, seven days. This was not absolutely incumbent; some went home after the first two days, but such people as Joseph and Mary would do their duty thoroughly.—ὑπέμεινεν, tarried behind, not so much intentionally (Hahn) as by involuntary preoccupation—His nature rather than His will the cause (Acts 17:14).

But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.
Luke 2:44. ἐν τῇ συνοδίᾳ, in the company journeying together (σύν, ὁδός, here only in N. T.), a journeying together, then those who so journey. A company would be made up of people from the same neighbourhood, well acquainted with one another.—ἡμέρας ὁδὸν, a day’s journey. It is quite conceivable how they should have gone on so long without missing the boy, without much or any blame to the parents; not negligence, but human infirmity at worst.—συγγενέσι, γνωστοῖς: kinsfolk and acquaintances. Had there been less acquaintance and intimacy there had been less risk of losing the child. Friends take up each other’s attention, and members of the same family do not stick so dose together, and the absence of one excites no surprise.

And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.
Luke 2:45. ἀναζητοῦντες: the present participle, expressing the purpose of the journey back to Jerusalem, where (not on the road) the search took place (cf. Acts 11:25). The ἀνά here (as in ἀνεζήτουν, Luke 2:44) implies careful, anxious search.

And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
Luke 2:46. ἡμέρας τρεῖς, three days, measured from the time they had last seen Him, not implying three days’ search in Jerusalem. The place where they had lodged and the temple would be among the first places visited in the search.—ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ: probably in a chamber in the temple court used for teaching and kindred purposes. Some think it was in a synagogue beside the temple.

Luke 2:46. καθεζόμενον, sitting; therefore, it has been inferred, as a teacher, not as a scholar, among (ἐν μέσῳ) the doctors, for scholars stood, teachers only sitting. An unwelcome conclusion, to which, happily, we are not shut up by the evidence, the posture-rule on which it rests being more than doubtful (vide Vitringa, Synag., p. 167).—ἐπερωτῶντα: nothing unusual, and nothing unbecoming a thoughtful boy.

And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
Luke 2:47. ἐξίσταντο, were amazed, not at His position among the doctors, or at His asking questions, but at the intelligence (συνέσει) shown in His answers to the questions of the teachers; something of the rare insight and felicity which astonished all in after years appearing in these boyish replies.

And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
Luke 2:48. ἰδόντες refers to the parents. This astonishment points to some contrast between a previous quiet, reserved manner of Jesus and His present bearing; sudden flashing out of the inner life.—ἡ μήτηρ: the mother spoke, naturally; a woman, and the mother’s heart more keenly touched. This apart from the peculiar relation referred to in Bengel’s major erat necessitudo matris.

And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?
Luke 2:49. ἐν τοῖς τοῦ πατρός μον, in the things of my Father (“about my Father’s business,” A. V[36]); therefore in the place or house of my Father (R. V[37]); the former may be the verbal translation, but the latter is the real meaning Jesus wished to suggest. In this latter rendering patristic and modern interpreters in the main concur. Note the new name for God compared with the “Highest” and the “Despotes” in the foregoing narrative. The dawn of a new era is here.

[36] Authorised Version.

[37] Revised Version.

And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.
Luke 2:50. οὐ συνῆκαν, they did not understand; no wonder! Even we do not yet fully understand.

And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.
Luke 2:51. κατέβη, He went down with them, gentle, affectionate, habitually obedient (ὑποτασσόμενος), yet tar away in thought, and solitary.—διετήρει: she did not forget, though she did not understand.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
Luke 2:52. προέκοπτε, steadily grew, used intransitively in later Greek.—ἐν τῇ σοφίᾳ και ἡλικίᾳ, in wisdom and (also as, the one the measure of the other) in stature, both growths alike real. Real in body, apparent in the mind: growth in manifestation of the wisdom within, complete from the first—such is the docetic gloss of ecclesiastical interpreters, making the childhood of Jesus a monstrum, and His humanity a phantom.—χάριτι π. Θ. καὶ ἀ., in favour with God and men: beloved of all; no division even among men while the new wisdom and the new religion lay a slumbering germ in the soul of the heaven-born boy.

The Expositor's Greek Testament - Nicoll

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