ICC New Testament Commentary
Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO S. LUKE
THE TITLE OF THE GOSPEL
The title cannot be any part of the original autograph. It is found in different forms in ancient authorities, the earliest being the simplest: κατὰ Λουκᾶν (א B F), εὐαγγέλιον κατὰ Λουκᾶν (A C D Ξ), τὸ κατὰ Λουκᾶν εὐαγγέλιον or τὸ κατὰ Λουκᾶν ἅγιον εὐαγγέλιον (cursives).
The κατά neither affirms nor denies authorship: it implies conformity to a type. But, inasmuch as all four Gospels have the κατά, these uniform titles must be interpreted according to the belief of those who gave the titles, viz. the Christians of the first four centuries; and it was their belief that each Evangelist composed the Gospel which bears his name. Had the κατά meant no more than “drawn up according to the teaching of,” then this Gospel would have been called κατὰ Παῦλον and the second Gospel would have been called κατὰ Πέτρον; for it was the general tradition that Mark wrote according to the teaching of Peter, and Luke (in a different sense) according to the teaching of Paul. The κατά, however is not a mere substitute for the genitive of authorship, but indicates that the same subject has been treated by others. Thus, ἡ παλαιὰ διαθήκη κατὰ τοὺς ὲβδομήκοντα points to the existence of other translations, just as Ὅμηρος κατὰ Ἀρίσταρκον or κατὰ Ἀριστοφάνην points to the existence of other editions. That the κατά does not exclude authorship is shown by such expressions as ἡ κατὰ Μωϋσέα πεντάτευχος (Epiphanius) and ἡ καθʼ Ἠρόδοτον ἱστορια (Diodorus): comp. ἐν τοῖς ὑπομνηματισμοῖς τοῖς κατὰ τὸν Νεεμίαν (2 Malachi 2:13). Strictly speaking, there is only one Gospel, εὐαγγέλιον Θεοῦ, the Gospel of God concerning His Son (Romans 1:1); but it has been given to us in four shapes, εὐαγγέλιον τετράμορφον (Iren. Hær. iii. 11. 8), and the κατά indicates the shape in which the writer named composed it.
1:1-4. THE PROLOGUE OR PREFACE
The classical style of this opening, and its similarity to the. prefaces of Herodotus, Thucydides, and Polybius, hardly amount to proof that Lk. was well read in classical literature, and consciously imitated Greek historians; but there is nothing improbable in this supposition. Among the words which are classical rather than biblical should be noticed ἐπειδήπερ, ἐπιχειρεῖν, ἀνατάσσεσθαι, διήγησις, καθεξῆς. The construction also is classical, and in no way Hebraistic. We have clauses idiomatically interlaced, not simply co-ordinated. The modest position claimed by the writer is evidence of his honesty. A forger would have claimed to be an eye-witness, and would have made no apology for writing. Ewald remarks that “in its utter simplicity, modesty, and brevity, it is the model of a preface to an historical work.” Its grammatical construction should be compared with that of the preface to the synodical epistle in Acts 15:24, Acts 15:25: Ἐπειδὴ ἠκούσαμεν … ἔδοξεν ἡμῖν.
This prologue contains all that we really know respecting the composition of early narratives of the life of Christ, and it is the test by which theories as to the origin of our Gospels must be judged. No hypothesis is likely to be right which does not harmonize with what is told us here. Moreover, it shows that an inspired writer felt that he was bound to use research and care in order to secure accuracy.
1. Ἐπειδήπερ. A stately compound, suitable for a solemn opening: freq. in class. Grk., but not found in LXX, or elsewhere in N.T. Quoniam quidem, “For as much as,” Weil denn einmal.
πολλοί. The context seems to imply that these, like Lk., were not eye-witnesses. That at once would exclude Mt., whose Gospel Lk. does not appear to have known. It is doubtful whether Mk. is included in the πλλοί. The writers of extant apocryphal gospels cannot be meant, for these are all of later origin. Probably all the documents here alluded to were driven out of existence by the manifest superiority of the four Canonical Gospels. The ἐπεχείρησαν cannot imply censure, as some of the Fathers thought, for Lk. brackets himself with these writers (ἔδοξε κἀμοί); what they attempted he may attempt. The word occurs 2 Mac. 2:29, Malachi 2:7:19; Acts 9:29, Acts 9:19:13; and is freq. in class. Grk. in the sense of “put the hand to, take in hand, attempt.” The notion of unlawful or unsuccessful attempting is sometimes implied by the context: it is not contained in the word. Luther renders unter wunden haben, “have ventured.” Lk. must have regarded these attempts as insufficient, or he would not have added another. Meyer quotes Ulpian, p. 159 (in Valckenaer), ἐπειδήπερ περὶ τούτον πολλοὶ ἐπεχείρησαν ἀπολογήσασθαι. It is doubtful whether ἐπιχειρ. necessarily implies a great undertaking.
ἀνατάξασθαι διήγησιν. “To draw up again in order a narrative”; i.e. to arrange afresh so as to show the sequence of events. The verb is a rare one, and occurs elsewhere only Plut. Moral p. 969 C, De sollert. animal. xii. (Reiske, x. p. 36), in the sense of “practise, go over again in order,” Iren. iii. 21 2, and as v.l. Ecclesiastes 2:20. The subst. implies something more than mere notes or anecdotes; “a leading through to the end” (durchführen),“a narrative” (Ecclus. 6:35, 9:15 ; 2 Mac. 2:32, Malachi 2:6:17 ; Plat. Rep. 392 D; Arist. Rhet. iii. 16, 1).
Versions vary greatly: ordinare narrationem (Latt.), componere narrationem (Beza), stellen die Rede (Luth.), “ordeyne the telling” (Wic.), “compyle a treates” (Tyn.), “set forth the words” (Cov.), “set forth the declaration” (Cran.), “write the historie” (Gen.), “compile a narration” (Rhem.), “set forth in order a declaration” (AV.), “draw up a narrative” (RV.), composer une narration suivie (Godet), coordonner en corps de récit (Lasserre), “restore from memory a narrative” (Blass).
τῶν πεπληροφορημένων. “Of the things which have been carried through to the end, of the matters which have been accomplished, fully established.” Here again English Versions differ much; but “surely known” (Tyn.), “surely to be believed” (Cran.), “surely believed” (AV.), cannot be justified. The verb when used of persons may mean “persuade fully, convince,” and in pass. “be fully persuaded” (Romans 4:21, Romans 14:5) ; but of things it means “fulfil” (2 Timothy 4:5, 2 Timothy 4:17). Here we may render “accomplished.” Others less well render “fully proved.” See Lightfoot on Colossians 4:12. The ἐν ἡμῖν probably means “among us Christians.” Christendom is the sphere in which these facts have had their full accomplishment. The ἡμῖν in ver. 2 shows that contemporaries are not meant. If these things were handed down to Lk., then he was not contemporary with them. The verse is evidence that the accomplished facts were already fully established and widely known, for they had already been narrated by many. See Westcott, Intr. to Gosp. p. 190, 7th ed.
2. καθὼς παρέδοσαν ἡμῖν. “Even as they delivered them to us.” The difference between ὡς, “as,” and καθώς, “just as,” should be marked in translation : the correspondence was exact. Lk. implies that he himself was among those who received the tradition. Like the πολλοί, he can only arrange afresh what has been handed down, working at second hand, not as an eye-witness. He gives no hint as to whether the facts were handed down orally or in writing. The difference between the πολλοί and these αὐτόπται is not that the πολλοί wrote their narratives while the αὐτόπται did not, but that the αὐτόπται were primary authorities, which the πολλοί were not.
ὑηρέται γενόμενοι τοῦ λόγου. They not only had personal knowledge of the facts (αὐτόπται) they also had practical experience of the effects. They had preached and taught, and had thus learned what elements in the Gospel were of most efficacy for the winning and saving of souls. That τοῦ λόγου belongs to ὑπηρέται only, not to αὐτόπται and means “the doctrine,” i.e. the Gospel (Acts 6:4, Acts 8:4, Acts 14:25, Acts 16:6, Acts 17:11), is manifest from the context. Origen and Athanasius are wrong in making τοῦ λόγου mean the personal Word, the Son of God, a use which is peculiar to Jn. The ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς refers to the beginning of Christ’s ministry. (John 15:27, John 16:4). For ὑπηρέτης see on 4:20 and comp. Acts 13:5.
3. ἔδοξε κἀμοί. This is the main sentence, the apodosis of ἐπειδήπερ πολλοὶ ἐπεχείρησαν. It neither implies nor excludes inspiration: the ἔδοξε may or may not have been inspired. The wish to include inspiration caused the addition in some Latin MSS. of et spiritui sancto (Acts 15:28), which makes what follows to be incongruous. With ἔδοξε comp. the Muratorian Fragment: Lucas iste medicus … nomine suo ex opinione conscripsit—Dominum tamen nec ipse vidit in carne—et idem, prout assequi potuit, ita et a nativitate Joannis incepit dicere. The κἀμοί shows that Lk. does not blame the πολλοί: he desires to imitate and supplement them. It is their attempts that encourage him to write. What they have done he may do, and perhaps he may be able to improve upon their work. This is his first reason for writing a narrative. See Blass, NT. Gram. p. 274.
παρηκολουθηκότι. This is his second reason for writing, making the argument á fortiori. He has had special advantages and qualifications; and therefore what was allowed to others may be still more allowed to him. These qualifications are fourfold, and are told off with precision. In the literal sense of “following a person closely so as to be always beside him,” παρακολουθεῖν does not occur in N.T. Here it does not mean that Lk. was contemporaneous with the events, but that he had brought himself abreast of them by careful investigation. Comp. the famous passage in Dem. De Cor. cap. liii. p. 285 (344), παρηκολουθηκότα τοῖς πράγμασιν ἐξ ἀρχῆς: also De Fal. Leg. p. 423.
ἄνωθεν. This is the first of the four qualifications: he has gone back to the very beginning, viz. the promise of the birth of the Forerunner. “From the first” is the meaning of ἄνωθεν here, not “thoroughly,” radicitus, as in Acts 26:5, which would make ἄνωθεν almost the same as πᾶσιν. Vulg. has a principio, and d has desusum (comp. the French dessus). It is the πᾶσιν which implies thoroughness; and this is the second point. He has begun at the beginning, and he has investigated everything. The Syriac makes πᾶσιν masc., but there is little doubt that it is neut., and refers to πραγμάτων in ver. 1.
ἀκριβῶς. This is the third point. He has done all this “accurately.” There is no idle boast in any one of the three points. No other Gospel gives us this early history about the Baptist and the Christ. No other is throughout so full, for of 170 sections contained in the synoptic narrative 48 are peculiar to Lk. And, in spite of the severest scrutiny, his accuracy can very rarely be impugned. We cannot be sure whether he means to imply that ἀκριβῶς was not true of the πολλοί, but we may be sure that none of them could claim all three of these points. In any case we have an inspired historian telling us in his inspired writings that he is giving us the results of careful investigation. From this it seems to follow that an inspired historian may fail in accuracy if his investigation is defective.
καθεξῆς. This is the fourth point, resulting from the other three. He does not propose to give a mere collection of anecdotes and detached sayings, but an orderly narrative systematically arranged. Chronological order is not necessarily implied in καθεξῆς, but merely arrangement of some kind. Nevertheless, he probably has chronological order chiefly in view. In N.T. the word is peculiar to Lk. (8:1; Acts 3:24, Acts 11:4, Acts 18:23), as is also the more classical ἑξῆς (7:11, 9:37, etc.); but ἐφεξῆς does not occur.
κράτιστε Θεόφιλε. The epithet κράτιστος, often given to persons of rank (Acts 23:26, Acts 24:3, Acts 26:25), is strongly in favour of the view that Theophilus was a real person. The name Theophilus was common both among Jews (= Jedidiah) and among Gentiles. But it was a name likely to be used to represent any pious reader. See Lft. on “Acts,” D. B.2 pp. 25, 26. The word κράτιστος occurs in N.T. only here and in the Acts, where it is evidently a purely official epithet, for the persons to whom it is applied are of bad character. See Deissmann, Bibelstudien, p. 19 for the name.
4. ἴνα ἐπιγνῷς περὶ ὧν κατηχήθης λόγων τὴν ἀσφάλειαν. “In order that thou mightest fully know the certainty concerning the words wherein thou wast instructed.” The λόγοι are not the πράγματα or historic facts, but the details of the λόγος or Gospel (ver. 2), which “ministers of the word” had communicated to Theophilus. The compound ἐπιγνῷς indicates additional and more thorough knowledge. It is very freq. in Lk. and Paul: see esp. Romans 1:28, Romans 1:32 ; 1 Corinthians 13:12 ; Lft. on Colossians 1:9; Trench, Syn. lxxv. In N.T. κατηχεῖν, “to sound down into the ears, teach orally,” is found only in Lk. and Paul. The position of τὴν ἀσφάλειαν gives it solemn emphasis. Theophilus shall know that the faith which he has embraced has an impregnable historical foundation. Hastings, D.C.G. ii. p. 726.
The idiomatic attraction, περὶ ὧν κατηχήθης λόγων, is best resolved into περὶ τῶν λόγων οὓς κατηχήθης, not περὶ τῶν λόγων περὶ ὧν κατηχήθης. Only of persons does περί τινος stand after κατηχεῖν (Acts 21:21, Acts 21:24): of things we have the acc. (Acts 18:25 ; Galatians 6:6). These attractions are very freq. in Lk. See Blass, Gr. p. 170.
On the superficial resemblance between this preface and Jos. Con. Apion. i. 9, 10, see Godet, i. pp. 92, 93, 3ème ed. 1888. The resemblance hardly amounts to remarkable coincidence, and such similarities are common in literature. It is more interesting to compare this preface with that of the medical writer Dioscorides. The opening words of Dioscorides’ treatise, περὶ ὄλης ἰατρικῆς, run thus: Πολλῶν οὐ μόνον ἀρχαίων, ἀλλὰ καὶ νέων συνταξαμένων περὶ τῆς τῶν φαρμάκων σκευασίας τε καὶ δυνάμεως καὶ δοκιμασίας, φίλτατε Ἀρεῖε, πειράσομαί σοι παραστῆσαι μὴ κενὴν μηδὲ ἄλογον ὁρμὴν ἐσχηκέναι πρὸς τήνδε τὴν πραγματείαν. The date of Dioscorides Pedacius is uncertain; but, as Pliny does not mention him, he is commonly assigned to the first or second century a.d. He is said to have been a native of Anazarbus in Cilicia, about fifty miles from Tarsus; and in that case he would almost certainly obtain his medical knowledge in the great school at Tarsus. That he and S. Luke may have been there at the same time with S. Paul, seems to be a not impossible conjecture. The treatise περὶ ἀρχαίης ἰητρικῆς, commonly attributed to Hippocrates (c. 460-350 b.c.), begins; Ὁκόσοι ἐπεχείρησαν περὶ ἰητρικῆς λέγειν ἢ γράφειν, κ.τ.λ.
1:5-2:52. THE GOSPEL OF THE INFANCY
These chapters have often been attacked as unhistorical. That Marcion omitted them from his mutilated edition of this Gospel is of no moment. He did not do so upon critical grounds, but because their contents did not harmonize with his doctrine. It is more to the point to urge that these early narratives lack apostolic authority; that they cover ground which popular imagination, in the absence of history, would be sure to fill; that they abound in angelic appearances and other marvels; that their form is often highly poetical; and that it is sometimes difficult to reconcile them with the narrative of Mt. or with known facts of history. To this it may be replied that reserve would keep Christ’s Mother from making known these details at first. Even Apostles may have been ignorant of them, or unwilling to make them known until the comparatively late period at which Lk. wrote. The dignity, beauty, and spirituality of these narratives is strong evidence of their authenticity, especially when contrasted with the silly, grotesque, and even immoral details in the apocryphal gospels. They abound in historic features, and are eminently true to life. Their independence of Mt. is evident, and both accounts bear the stamp of truthfulness, which is not destroyed by possible discrepancies in a few minor points. That Lk. is ever at variance with other historians, has still to be proved; and the merit of greater accuracy may still be with him, even if such variance exists.
This Gospel of the Infancy is made up of seven narratives, in two parallel groups of three, followed by a supplement, which connects these two groups with the main body of the Gospel.
I. 1. The Annunciation of the Birth of the Forerunner (5-25); 2. The Annunciation of the Birth of the Saviour (26-38); 3. The Visit of the Mother of the Saviour to the Mother of the Forerunner (39-56).
II. 4. The Birth of the Forerunner (57-80) ; 5. The Birth of the Saviour (2:1-20); 6. The Circumcision and Presentation of the Saviour (2:21-40).
III. 7. The Boyhood of the Saviour (2:41-52).
On the two accounts of our Lord’s infancy see Resch, Das Kindheitsevangelium, pp. 10 ff 1897; Gore, Dissertations on Subjects connected with the Incarnation, pp. 12 ff.: Murray, 1895.
1:5-25. The Annunciation of the Birth of the Forerunner.
“When John the Baptist appeared, not the oldest man in Palestine could remember to have spoken even in his earliest childhood with any man who had seen a prophet. … In these circumstances it was an occurrence of the first magnitude, more important far than war or revolution, when a new prophet actually appeared” (Ecce Homo, ch. 1.). The miracles recorded are in keeping with this. God was making a new departure in dealing with His people. We need not, therefore, be startled if a highly exceptional situation is accompanied by highly exceptional facts. After more than three centuries of silence, Jehovah again speaks by prophecies and signs to Israel. But there is no violent rupture with the past in making this new departure. The announcement of the rise of a new Prophet is made in the temple at Jerusalem, to a priest of the old covenant, who is to be the Prophet’s father. It is strong evidence of the historic truth of the narrative that no miracles are prophesied of the new Prophet, and that after his appearance his disciples attribute none to him.
5. Ἐγένετο ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις. The elegant idiomatic Greek of the preface comes abruptly to an end. Although the marks of Lk.’s style are as abundant here as in any part of the Gospel, yet the form of the narrative is strongly Hebraistic; so much so that one may be confident that he is translating from an Aramaic document These first two chapters seem to consist of a series of such documents, each with a distinct conclusion (1:80, 2:40, 2:52). If they are historical, the Virgin Mary must have been the source of much that is contained in these first two chapters; and she may have been the writer of documents used by Lk. In any case, we have here the earliest documentary evidence respecting the origins of Christianity which has come down to us,—evidence which may justly be called contemporary. Both ἐγένετο and ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις are Hebraistic (see on ver. 39); but there is no need to understand ἦν or any other verb after ἐγένετο, “It came to pass that there was.” Rather, “There arose, came into notice,” or simply “There was.” See on 4:36, and comp. Mark 1:4; John 1:6.
Ἡρῴδου βασιλέως τῆς Ἰουδαίας. Herod “the Great,” a title not given to him by his contemporaries, who during his last years suffered greatly from his cruelty. It is in these last years that the narrative of Lk. begins. The Herods were Idumæans by birth,1 though Jews by religion, and were dependent upon the Romans for their sovereignty. As Tacitus says: Regnum ab Antonio Herodi datum victor Augustus auxit (Hist. v. 9. 3).
The name Ἡρῴδης is contracted from Ἡρωίδης, and should have iota subscript, which is well supported by early inscriptions. Later inscriptions and coins omit the iota. In the Codex Ambrosianus of Josephus the name is written with iota adscript, Ηρωιδης (Ant. xi-xx.). See the numerous instances from inscriptions cited by Schürer in the Theol. Litztg. 1892, No. 21, col. 516. The τοῦ inserted before βασιλέως in A and other texts is in accordance with classical usage. But in LXX the art. is commonly omitted in such cases, because in Hebrew, as in English, “Saul, king of Israel,” “George, king of England,” is the common idiom (Genesis 14:1, Genesis 14:2, Genesis 14:18, Genesis 14:20:2, 26:1, etc. etc.). See Simcox, Lang. of N. T. p. 47.
βασιλέως τῆς Ἰουδαίας. This was the title conferred on him by the Senate at the request of Antony, Messala, and Atratinus (Jos. Ant. xiv. 14. 4). Judæa here may mean “the land of the Jews, Palestine” (7:17, 23:5 ; Acts 2:9, Acts 2:10:37, Acts 2:11:1, Acts 2:29) Besides Judæa in the narrower sense, Herod’s dominions included Samaria, Galilee, a great deal of Peræa, and Cœle-Syria. For the abundant literature on the Herods see D. B.2 i. p. 1341; Herzog, Pro_2 vi. p. 47 ; Schürer, Jewish People in the T. of J. C. i. I, p. 400.
ἱερεύς τις ὀνόματι Ζαχαρίας. In the Protevangelium of James (viii.), Zacharias is called high priest; and this has been adopted by later writers, who have supposed that the incident narrated by Lk. took place on the Day of Atonement in the Holy of Holies. But the high priest would not have been called ἱερεύς τις, and it could not have been by lot (ἔλαχε) that he offered incense on the Day of Atonement. Priestly descent was much esteemed. The name means “Remembered by Jehovah.” For ὀνόματία see on 5:27.
ἐξ ἐφημερίας Ἀβιά. The word ἐφημερία has two meanings: 1. “service for a term of days” (Nehemiah 13:30; 1 Chronicles 25:8; 2 Chronicles 13:10); 2. “a course of priests who were on duty for a term of days,” viz. for a week (1 Chronicles 23:6, 1 Chronicles 23:28:13; 1Ch_1 Esdr. 1:2, 15). These courses were also called διαιρέσεις, and by Josephus πατριαί and ἐφημερίδες (Ant. vii. 14. 7; Vita, i.). Abijah was descended from Eleazar, and gave his name to the eighth of the twenty-four courses into which David divided the priests (1 Chronicles 24:10; 2 Chronicles 8:14). Of these twenty-four only the courses of Jedaiah, Immer, Pashur, and Harim returned from captivity (Ezra 2:36-39); but these four were divided again into twenty four with the old names. So that Zacharias did not belong to the original course of Abijah, for that did not return from exile. Each course was on duty twice during the year; but we know far too little about the details of the arrangement to derive any sure chronology from the statements made by Lk. See on 2:7.
Wieseler places the vision of Zacharias early in October A.U.C. 748 or b.c. 6 (Chron. Syn. ii. 2, Eng. tr. p. 123). With this result Edersheim agrees (L. & T. 1. p. 135), as also does Andrews (L. of our Lord, p. 52, ed. 1892). Lewin prefers May 16th, b.c. 7 (Fasti Sacri, 836). Caspari is for July 18th, b.c. 3, but remarks “how little reliance is to be placed upon conclusions of this kind” (Chron. Einl. § 42, Eng. tr. p. 57). For the courses of priests, see Herzog, Pro_2 art. Priestertum im A.T. ; Schürer, Jewish People in the T. of J. C. ii. 1, pp. 216-220.
γυνὴ αὐτῷ ἐκ τῶν θυγατέρων Ἀαρών. “He had a wife,” not “his wife was” (AV.). Lk. follows LXX in omitting the art. with the gen. after θυγάτηρ: comp. 13:16 and the quotations Matthew 21:5 and John 12:15, and contrast Matthew 14:6. To be a priest and married to a priest’s daughter was a double distinction. It was a common summary of an excellent woman, “She deserves to marry a priest.” In the fullest sense John was of priestly birth. See Wetst.: Sacrosancta præcursoris nobilitas non solum a parentibus, sed etiam a progenitoribus gloriosa descendit (Bede). Aaron’s wife was Elisabeth = Elisheba = “God is my oath.”
6. δίκαιοι. Once a term of high praise, and meaning righteousness in the fullest sense (Ezekiel 18:5, Ezekiel 18:9, Ezekiel 18:11, Ezekiel 18:19, Ezekiel 18:20, Ezekiel 18:22, Ezekiel 18:24, Ezekiel 18:26); but it had come to mean little more than careful observance of legal duties. The addition of the Hebraistic ἐναντίον τοῦ Θεοῦ (Acts 8:21; Genesis 6:8, Genesis 6:11, Genesis 6:13, Genesis 6:7:1, Genesis 6:10:9) gives δίκαιοι its full meaning: Zacharias and Elisabeth were saints of the O.T. type. Symeon is called δίκαιος (2:25), and Joseph (Matthew 1:19). Comp. δίκαιον εἶναί μʼ ὁ νόμος ἡ φύσις θʼ ἅμα παρεῖχε τῷ Θεῷ (Eur. Ion. 643). The Gospel was to restore to δίκαιος its original spiritual meaning. See detached note on the word δίκαιος and its cognates, Romans 1:17. For ἀμφότεροι see on 5:7.
πορευόμενοι ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ἐντολαῖς καὶ δικαιώμασιν τ. κ. Another Hebraism (Deuteronomy 28:9; 1 Samuel 8:3, 1 Samuel 8:5; 1 Kings 3:14, etc.). The distinction often drawn, that ἐντολαί are moral, while δικαιώματα are ceremonial, is baseless; the difference is, that the latter is the vaguer term. Here, although they differ in gender, they have only one article and adjective, because they are so similar in meaning. Comp. Colossians 2:22 ; Revelation 5:12; and see Win. xix. 3 c, p. 157. The two words are found combined Genesis 26:5 and Deuteronomy 4:40. For δικαιώματα, “things declared right, ordinances,” comp. Romans 2:26 and Hebrews 9:1, and see note in Sp. Comm. on 1 Corinthians 5:6 as to the force of the termination -μα. The genitive here, as in Romans 2:26 and 8:4, expresses the authority from which the ordinance springs. The ἄμεμπτοι anticipates what follows, and, of course, does not mean that they were sinless. No one is sinless; but the conduct of some is free from reproach. Comp. Php 3:6. See the quotation Eus. H.E. v. I.9.
7. καὶ οὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τέκνον. This calamity is grievous to all Orientals, and specially grievous to Jews, each of whom is ambitious of being among the progenitors of the Messiah. It was commonly believed to be a punishment for sin (Leviticus 20:20, Leviticus 20:21; Jeremiah 22:30). The story of Glaucus, who tempted the oracle at Delphi, and “at the present time has not a single descendant” (Hdt. vi.86, 16), indicates a similar belief among the Greeks. Zacharias and Elisabeth had the sorrow of being childless, as Anna of being husbandless, and all three had their consolation. Comp. the births of Samson and Samuel, both of whom were Nazirites, and of Isaac.
καθότι. Peculiar to Lk. “Because that” (19:9; Acts 2:24, Acts 17:31), or “according as” (Acts 2:45, Acts 4:35). In class. Grk. editors commonly write καθʼ ὅ τι. The clause καὶ ἀμφότεροι … ἦσαν does not depend upon καθότι, which would be illogical, but is a separate statement. Their age would not explain why they had had no children, but why they were not likely to have any. “They had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren; and they were both advanced in years,” so that they had no hope of children.
προβεβηκότες ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις αὐτῶν. Hebraistic: in class. Grk we should rather have had τῇ ἡλικίᾳ. In LXX we have προβεβ. ἡμέραις, or ἡμερῶν, or τῶν ἡμερῶν (1 Kings 1:1; Genesis 24:1; Joshua 13:1). Levites were superannuated at about sixty, but a priest served as long as he was able.
8. Ἐγένετο … ἔλαχε. On the various constructions with ἐγένετο in Lk. see detached note at the end of this chapter; and on ἐν τῷ ἱερατεύειν αὐτόν, “while he was officiating as priest,” which is another very favourite construction with Lk., see on 3:21. The verb ἱερατεύειν is freq. in LXX, but occurs nowhere else in N.T. It is not found earlier than LXX, but is not rare in later Greek. See Kennedy, Sources of N.T. Grk. p. 119. The phrase κατὰ τὸ ἔθος is peculiar to Lk. in N. T. (2:42, 22:39), but occurs in Theod. Bel 15; and ἔθος occurs ten times in his writings, and only twice elsewhere (John 19:40 ; Hebrews 10:25). Comp. κατὰ τὸ εἰθισμένον (2:27) and κατὰ τὸ εἰωθός (4:16; Acts 27:2). It is for the sake of those who were unfamiliar with the usages of the temple that he says that it was “according to the custom of the priest service” that it was decided by lot which priest should offer incense. To take κατὰ τὸ ἔθος τῆς ἱερατίας with what precedes robs it of all point; it is tautology to say that he was officiating as priest according to the custom of the priest’s service. But the number of cases in which Lk. has a clause or word which is grammatically amphibolous is very large; vv. 25, 27, 2:22, where see note. The word ἱερατεία occurs in N.T. only here and Hebrews 7:5. “In relation to ἱερωσύνη (Hebrews 7:11, Hebrews 7:12, Hebrews 7:24) it expresses the actual service of the priests, and not the office of priesthood” (Wsctt. on Hebrews 7:5).
ἔλαχε τοῦ θυμιᾶσαι. The casting of lots took place twice a day, at the morning and the evening offering of incense. In the morning the drawing lots for offering the incense was the third and chief of a series of drawings, four in all; in the evening it was the only one. We do not know whether this was morning or evening. No priest might have this honour twice; and the number of priests was so great that many never offered the incense. The fortunate lot was a ψῆφος λευκή, to which there is a possible reference Revelation 2:17. The priest who obtained it chose two others to help him; but, when they had done their part, they retired, leaving him alone in the Holy Place. For the very elaborate details see Edersh. The Temple, its Ministry and Services, pp. 129-142.
The gen. τοῦ θυμιᾶσαι is probably governed by ἔλαχε, which in class. Grk. commonly has a gen. when it means “became possessed of,” and an acc. when it means “obtained by lot” (Acts 1:17 ; comp. 2 Peter 1:1). In 1 Samuel 14:47 we have Σαοὺλ ἔλαχε [al. l. κατακληροῦται] τοῦ βασιλεύειν ἐπὶ Ἰσραήλ. The εἰσελθὼν εἰς τὸν ναόν must be taken with θυμιᾶσαι, not with ἔλαχε: “he obtained by lot to go in and burn incense,” not “after entering into the ναός he obtained by lot to burn incense.” The lots were cast before he entered the Holy Place, which was the front part of the ναός.
10. πᾶν τὸ πλῆθος ἦν τοῦ λαοῦ προσευχόμενον. Cod. Am. has the same order, omnis multitudo erat populi orans. The position of τοῦ λαοῦ is against taking ἦν with προσευχόμενον as the analytical tense instead of the imperf., a constr. of which Lk. is very fond (vv. 20, 21, 22, 2:33, 4:17, 31. 38, 44, etc.); ἦν may mean “was there,” or “there was,” and τοῦ λαοῦ be epexegetic of τὸ πλῆθος. But certainty is unattainable and unimportant. We need not infer from πᾶν τὸ πλῆθος that there was a great multitude. As compared with the solitary priest in the ναός, all the worshippers outside were a πλῆθος. The word is a favourite one with Lk., who uses it twenty-five times against seven in the rest of N.T. It is remarkable that prayer is not expressly mentioned in the Law as part of public worship, except in connexion with the offering of the first-fruits (Deuteronomy 26:15). But comp. 1 Kings 8:33-48, 2 Chronicles 6:14-42; Isaiah 56:7. The people were inside the ἱερόν, although outside (ἔξω) the ναός, and the other priests would be between them and the ναός. Syr-Sin. omits ἔξω.
11. ὤφθη δὲ αὐτῷ ἄγγελος Κυρίου. It was the most solemn moment of his life, when he stood alone in that sacred spot to offer the pure and ideal symbol of the imperfect prayer which he and those outside were offering. The unique circumstances contributed to make him conscious of that unseen world which is around all of us (2 Kings 6:17; comp. Luke 15:7, Luke 15:10). For ὤφθη see on 22:43 ; and for an analysis of the psychological facts see Lange, L. of Christ, bk. ii. pt. ii. § 2 ; Eng. tr. 1:264. But must we not choose between admitting an objective appearance and rejecting the whole as a myth? To explain it as a “false perception” or optical delusion, i.e. a purely subjective result of psychological causes, seems to be not admissible. In that case Zacharias, like Lord Herbert of Cherbury,1 would have accepted the sign which he supposed that he had received. To believe in the reality of a subjective appearance and not believe its testimony is a contradiction. Moreover, the psychological explanation leaves the dumbness to be explained. Again, we have similar appearances ver. 26, 2:9, 13, 22:43, 24:4. Can we accept here an explanation which is very difficult (2:9, 13) or inadmissible (24:4) elsewhere? Are all these cases of false perception? See Paley, Evidences of Christianity, prop. 2Ch_1.; Mill, Pantheistic Principles, 2:1, 4, p. 123, 2nd ed. 1861; Edersh. L. & T. 1. p. 142, 2. p. 751.
ἐκ δεξιῶν τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου. The place of honour. It was “the right side of the altar,” not of Zacharias, who was facing it. Comp. Acts 7:55, Acts 7:56. The right side was the south side, and the Angel would be between the altar and the golden candlestick. On the left, or north side, of the altar was the table with the shewbread.
12. φόβος ἐπέπεσεν ἐπʼ αὐτόν. Fear is natural when man becomes suddenly conscious of contact with the unseen: Humanæ fragilitalis est spiritualis creaturæ visione turbari (Bede). Comp. 2:9, 9:34; Jdg 6:22, Jdg 6:13:22; Job 4:15, etc. For the phrase comp. Acts 19:17; Exodus 15:16; Judith 15:2. In class. Grk. the dat. is more usual: Thuc. iii. 87, 1; Xen. Anab. ii:2:19; Eur. Andr. 1042.
13. εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτόν. Both εἶπεν δέ and εἶπεν πρός are very freq. in Lk., who prefers εἶπεν δέ to καὶ εἶπεν even at the beginning of narratives, and uses πρὸς αὐτόν, αὐτούς, κ.τ.λ. in preference to αὐτῷ, αὐτοῖς, κ.τ.λ., after verbs of speaking, answering, etc., to an extent which is quite remarkable (vv. 18, 19, 34, 55, 61, 73, 2:15, 18, 20, 34, 48, 49, etc. etc.). This πρός is so strong a mark of his style that it should be distinguished in translation: εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτόν, “He said unto him,” and εἶπεν αὐτῷ, “He said to him.” But not even RV. does this. See pp. 62, 63.
Μὴ φοβοῦ. This gracious charge is specially common in Lk. (ver. 30, 2:10, 8:50, 12:4, 7, 32; Acts 28:9, Acts 27:24). Bengel says of it, Primum alloquium coeleste in aurora N.T. per Lucam amænissime descripta. Comp. Genesis 15:1; Joshua 8:1; Isaiah 43:1, Isaiah 43:5, 44:2 ; Jeremiah 46:27, Jeremiah 46:28; Daniel 10:12.
διότι. “Because,” as generally in N.T. Comp. 2:7, 21:28. It never means “therefore”; not Romans 1:19 nor 1 Thessalonians 2:18.
εἰσηκούσθη ἡ δέησίς σου. “Thy supplication was heard,” at the time when it was offered. The pass. is used both of the petition (Acts 10:31; Ecclus. 51:11) and of the petitioner (Matthew 6:7 ; Hebrews 5:7). The word δέησις implies personal need; it is a “special petition for the supply of want” (Lft. on Php 4:6 ; Trench, Syn. li.). Unlike προσευχή, it may be used of petitions to men. The word favours, but by no means proves, the view that the prayer of Zacharias was for a son. And the context at first seems to confirm this. But would Zacharias have made his private wishes the main subject of his prayer at so unique an opportunity? Would he have prayed for what he regarded as impossible? As Bede remarks, Nemo orat quod se accepturum desperat. Having prayed for it as possible, would he have refused to believe an Angel who told him that the petition was granted? It is much more probable that he and the people were praying for the redemption of Israel,—for the coming of the Messiah’s kingdom; and it is this supplication which was heard. To make δέησις refer to habitual supplication, and not to the prayer offered with the incense, seems unnatural.
What Didon points out (p. 298) in quite a different connexion seems to have point here. It was an axiom with the Rabbins that a prayer in which there was no mention of the kingdom of God was no prayer at all (Babyl., Beracoth, fol. 40, 2) ; and in the ritual of the temple the response of the people to the prayers of the priests was, “Blessed be the name of the glory of the Kingdom of God for ever” (Babyl., Taanith, fol. 16, 2): Jésus Christ, ed. 1891. See also Edersh. The Temple, p. 127.
καὶ ἡ γυνή σου Ἐλεισάβετ γεννήσει υἱόν σοι. Not ἡ γυνὴ γάρ. “For thy wife shall bear thee a son” would have made it clear that the son was the answer to the δέησις. But “and thy wife shall bear thee a son” may mean that this is an additional boon, which (as ver. 17 shows) is to prepare the way for the blessing prayed for and granted. Thus, like Solomon, Zacharias receives the higher blessing for which he prayed, and also the lower blessing for which he did not pray.
Γεννάω is generally used of the father (Matthew 1:1-16 ; Acts 7:8, Acts 7:29; Genesis 5:3-30, Genesis 11:10-28, etc.) ; but sometimes of the mother (ver. 57, 23:29; John 16:21). The best authorities give Ἰωάνης, with only one ν (WH. 2. App. p. 159). In LXX we have Ἰωάνης (2 Chronicles 28:12); Ἰωάναν 2 Chronicles 17:15; Nehemiah 12:13) ; Ἰωνάν (Nehemiah 6:18) ; Ἰωνά (2 Kings 25:23 ; comp. John 21:15-17). All these forms are abbreviations of Jehohanan, “Jehovah’s gift,” or “God is gracious.” Gotthold is a German name of similar meaning. It was a Rabbinical saying that the names of six were given before they were born—Isaac, Ishmael, Moses, Solomon, Josiah, and Messiah.
14. πολλοὶ ἐπὶ τῇ γενέσει αὐτοῦ χαρήσονται. With the πολλοί here contrast παντὶ τῷ λαῷ in 2:10. The joy at the appearance of a Prophet after centuries of need was immense, although not universal. The Pharisees did not dare to say that John was not a Prophet (Matthew 21:26); and Herod, until driven to it, did not dare to put him to death (Matthew 14:5). The word ἀγαλλίασις means “extreme joy, exultation.” It is not class., but is freq. in LXX. Elsewhere in N.T. only ver. 44; Acts 2:46; Judges 1:24; Hebrews 1:9 (from Psalm 44:8).
In class. Grk. χαίρειν more often has the simple dat., but ἐπί is usual in N.T. (13:17; Acts 15:31; Matthew 18:13, etc.). It marks the basis of the joy. The reading γεννήσει (G C G) for γενέσει (א A B C D) probably comes from γεννήσει in ver. 13.
15. ἔσται γὰρ μέγας ἐνώπιον [τοῦ] Κυρίου. For he shall be great in the truest sense of the term. Whatsoever a character man has before God, of that character he really is.
The adj. ἐνώπιος is found in Theocr. (22:152) and in LXX, but ἐνώπιον as a prep. seems to be confined to LXX and N.T. It is not in Mt. or Mk., but is specially freq. in Lk. (vv. 17, 19, 75, 4:7, 5:18, 25, etc.), as also in Rev. The phrase ἐνώπιον τοῦ κυρίου or Θεοῦ is a Hebraism (12:6, 16:15; Acts 4:19, Acts 4:7:46, Acts 4:10:31, Acts 4:33; Jdg 11:11; 1 Samuel 10:19 ; 2 Samuel 5:3, 2 Samuel 6:5). The preposition retains this meaning in modem Greek.
οἶνον καὶ σίκερα οὐ μὴ πίῃ. He is to drink neither wine nor any intoxicating liquor other than wine. The same Hebrew word is rendered sometimes σίκερα, sometimes μέθυσμα, and sometimes σίκερα μέθυσμα (Leviticus 10:9; Numbers 6:3 ; Jdg 13:4, Jdg 13:7, Jdg 13:14). Wiclif here has “ne wine ne syder.” See D. B.2 art. “Drink, Strong.” John is to be a Nazirite, not only for a time, as was usual, but for all his life, as Samson and Samuel. This is not disproved by the omission of the command not to cut his hair (Edersh. The Temple, p. 322). Eusebius (Præp. Evang. vi:10:8) has gen. σίκερος, and σικέρατος is also quoted; but σικερα is usually undeclined.
πνεύματος ἁγίου πλησθήσεται. This is in obvious contrast to οἶνον καὶ σίκερα. In place of the physical excitement of strong drink he is to have the supernatural inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The whole phrase is peculiar to Lk. (vv. 41, 67; Acts 2:4, Acts 2:4:8, Acts 2:31, Acts 2:9:17, Acts 2:13:9); and the two elements of it are specially characteristic of him. Excepting Matthew 22:10, Matthew 27:48, the verb πίμπλημι occurs only in Lk., who uses it twenty-two times. Mt. has the expression “Holy Spirit” five times, Mk. and Jn. each four times. Lk. has it fifty-three times, of which twelve are in the Gospel. He uses three forms: πνεῦμα ἅγιον (1:15, 35, 41, 67, [2:25,] 3:16, 4:1, 11:13); τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα (12:10, 12); and τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον (2:26, 3:22). According to Schoettgen (i. p 255), “to be filled with the Holy Spirit is” locutio Judæis familiaris. He gives one example. Comp. the contrast in Ephesians 5:18.
ἔτι ἐκ κοιλίας μητρὸς αὐτοῦ. A Hebraism (Psalm 22:11, 71:6; Isaiah 49:1, Isaiah 49:5: comp. Jdg 13:5, Jdg 13:7, Jdg 13:16:17; Job 31:18, etc.); instead of the more classical ἐκ γενετῆς, with or without εὐθύς (Hom. Il. 24:535, Obadiah 1:18:6 ; Arist. Eth. Nic. 6:13. 1, 7:14, 4, 8:12, 6). For the ἔτι comp. ἔτι ἐκ βρέφεος, ἔτι ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς ἔτι καὶ ἐκ παρόντων, where ἔτι seems to mean “even.” The expression does not imply that John was filled with the Spirit before he was born (ver. 41). In LXX κοιλία is often used of the womb (see esp. Jeremiah 1:5); but this is very rare in class. Grk.
16, 17. The two personal characteristics just stated—subjection of the flesh and sovereignty of the spirit—will manifest themselves in two external effects,—a great religious revival and the preparation for the Messianic kingdom. The first of these was the recognized work of every Prophet. Israel, through sin, was constantly being alienated from God; and it was one of the chief functions of a Prophet to convert the people to God again (Jeremiah 3:7, Jeremiah 3:10, Jeremiah 3:14, Jeremiah 3:18:8; Ezekiel 3:19; Daniel 9:13).
καὶ αὐτός The personal pronouns are much more used in N.T. than in class. Grk., esp. in the oblique cases. But even in the nom. the pronoun is sometimes inserted, although there is little or no emphasis. Lk. is very fond of beginning sentences with καὶ αὐτός, even where αὐτός can hardly mean “he on his part,” as distinct from others (3:23, 5:14, 17, 6:20, etc.). In προελεύσεται we have another mark of Lk.’s style. Excepting Mark 6:33 and 2 Corinthians 9:5, the verb is peculiar to Lk. in N.T. (22:47; Acts 12:10, Acts 20:5 ?, 13).
ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ. “Before God,” who comes to His people in the person of the Messiah (Isaiah 40:1-11; Malachi 3:1-5). It is unlikely that αὐτοῦ means the Messiah, who has not yet been mentioned. There is no analogy with αὐτὸς ἔφα, ipse dixit, where the pronoun refers to some one so well known that there is no need to mention him by name. For ἐνώπιον see on ver. 15; and for δύναμις, on 4:14, 36. Elijah is mentioned, not as a worker of miracles, for “John did no sign” (John 10:41), but as a preacher of repentance: it was in this that the Baptist had his spirit and power. For Rabbinic traditions respecting Elijah as the Forerunner see Edersh. L. & T. 2. p. 706. Comp. Justin, Try. xlix.
The omission of the articles before πνεύματι and δυνάμει is probably due to the influence of an Aramaic original, in which the gen. which follows would justify the omission. Proper names in -ας pure commonly have gen. in -ου (Matthew 1:6, Matthew 3:3) ; but here Ἠλεία is the true reading.
ἐπιστρέψαι καρδίας πατέρων ἐπὶ τέκνα. The literal interpretation here makes good sense, and perhaps, on the whole, it is the best. In the moral degradation of the people even parental affection had languished: comp. Ecclus. 48:10. Genuine reform strengthens family ties; whatever weakens them is no true reform. Or the meaning may be that the patriarchs will no longer be ashamed of their offspring: comp. Isaiah 43:16. In any case, ἀπειθεῖς is not to be referred to τέκνα. It is not the disobedience of children to parents that is meant, but that of the Jews to God.
The Vulg. renders ἀπειθεῖς by incredibiles, for which some MSS. have incredulos: comp. dissociabilis, penetrabilis for adjectives in -bilis with this force. Lat. Vet. varies: ineruditos (f), non consentientes (d), contumaces (e).
ἐν φρονήσει δικαίων. The prep. of rest after a verb of motion expresses the result of the motion (7:17 ; Matthew 14:3): “Turn them so as to be in the wisdom of the just.” For φρόνησις see Lft. on Colossians 1:9 : the word occurs only here and Ephesians 1:8 in N.T. De Wette, Bleek, and others maintain that φρόνησις here means simply “disposition,” Gesinnung. In what follows it is better to make ἑτοιμάσαι dependent upon ἐπιστρέψαι, not co-ordinate with it. The preparation is the consequence of the conversion, and the final object of the προελεύσεται: ne Dominus populum imparatum majestate sua obterat (Beng.).
18. κατὰ τί γνώσομαι τοῦτο; The very question asked by Abraham (Genesis 15:8): “In accordance with what shall I obtain knowledge of this?” i.e. What shall be in harmony with it, so as to be a sign of it? Comp. the cases of Gideon (Jdg 6:36-39) and of Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:8), who asked for signs; also of Moses (Exodus 4:2-6) and of Ahaz (Isaiah 7:11), to whom signs were given unasked. The spirit in which such requests are made may vary much, although the form of request may be the same; and the fact that Zacharias had all these instances to instruct him made his unbelief the less excusable. By his ἐγὼ γάρ εἰμι, κ.τ.λ., he almost implies that the Angel must have forgotten the fact.
19. ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ ἄγγελος εἶπεν In Attic ἀποκρίνομαι, in Homeric and Ionic ὑποκρίνομαι, is used in the sense of “answering.” In N.T. ὑποκρίνομαι. occurs only once (20:20), and there of “acting a part,” not “answering”: comp. 2 Mac. 5:25. But ἀποκριθείς for the class. ἀποκρινάμενος (which is rare in N.T.) marks the decay of the middle voice. In bibl. Grk. the middle voice is dying; in mod. Grk. it is dead. Machon, a comic poet about B.C. 250, is perhaps the earliest writer who uses ἀπεκρίθην like ἀπεκρινάμην in the sense of “replied, answered.” In LXX, as in N.T., ἀπεκρινάμην is rare (Jdg 5:29 [A] ; 1 Kings 2:1 ; 1 Chronicles 10:13). See Veitch, Greek Verbs, p. 78.
19. Ἐγώ εἰμι Γαβριήλ. Gabriel answers his ἐγώ εἰμι with another. “Thou art old, and not likely to have children, but I am one whose word is to be believed”: ἀγγέλῳ ἀπιστεῖς, καὶ τῷ ἀποστείλαντι (Eus.). The names of two heavenly beings are given us in Scripture, Gabriel (Daniel 8:16, Daniel 9:21) and Michael (Daniel 10:13, Daniel 10:21, Daniel 10:12:1 ; Judges 1:9 ; Revelation 12:7) ; other names were given in the later Jewish tradition. It is one thing to admit that such names are of foreign origin, quite another to assert that the belief which they represent is an importation. Gabriel, the “Man of God,” seems to be the representative of angelic ministry to man; Michael, “Who is like God,” the representative of angelic opposition to Satan. In Scripture Gabriel is the angel of mercy, Michael the angel of judgment. In Jewish legend the reverse is the case proving that the Bible does not borrow Jewish fables. In the Targums Gabriel destroys Sennacherib’s army; in the O.T. he instructs and comforts Daniel. The Rabbis said that Michael flies in one flight, Gabriel in two, Elijah in four, and Death in eight; i.e. mercy is swifter than judgment, and judgment is swifter than destruction. See Hastings, D.B. i. p. 97; D.C.G. i. p. 55.
ὁ παρεστηκὼς ἐνώπιον τοῦ Θεοῦ. See on ver. 15. Gabriel is “the angel of His presence” (Isaiah 43:9; comp. Matthew 18:10). “Standing before” implies ministering. In LXX the regular phrase is παραστῆναι ἐνώπιον (Job 1:6, which is a close parallel to this; 1 Kings 17:1, 1 Kings 17:18:15 ; 2 Kings 3:14, 2 Kings 5:16). It is also used of service to a king (1 Kings 10:8). But when Gehazi “stood before his master,” we have παρειστήκει πρὸς τὸν κύριον αὐτοῦ (2 Kings 5:25).
Only here and 9:27 does Lk. use the unsyncopated form of the perf. part of ἴστημι and its compounds. Elsewhere he prefers ὲστώς to ὲστηκώς (1:11, 5:1, 2, 18:13; Acts 4:14, Acts 7:55, etc.). In Matthew 27:47 and Mark 9:1 and 11:5, ὲστηκότων is the right reading. In Jn. the unsyncopated form is common.
ἀπεστάλην λαλῆσαι πρὸς σὲ καὶ εὐαγγελίσασθαί σοι ταῦτα. This reminds Zacharias of the extraordinary favour shown to him, and so coldly welcomed by him. It is the first use in the Gospel narrative of the word which was henceforward to be so current, and to mean so much. In LXX it is used of any good tidings (2 Samuel 1:20; 1 Chronicles 10:9), but especially of communications respecting the Messiah (Isaiah 40:9, Isaiah 52:7, Isaiah 60:6, Isaiah 61:1). See on 2:10 and 3:18.
20. καὶ ἰδοὺ ἔσῃ σιωπῶν καὶ μὴ δυνάμενος λαλῆσαι. The ἰδού is Hebraistic, but is not rare in class. Grk. It introduces something new with emphasis. Signum poscenti datur congruum, quamvis non optatum (Beng.). The analytical form of the fut. marks the duration of the silence (comp. 5:10, 6:40 ?, 17:35 ?, 21:17); and μὴ δυνάμενος, κ.τ.λ., is added to show that the silence is not a voluntary act, but the sign which was asked for (comp. Daniel 10:15). Thus his wrong request is granted in a way which is at once a judgment and a blessing; for the unbelief is cured by the punishment. For σιωπάω of dumbness comp. 4 Mac. 10:18.
We have here one of many parallels in expression between Gospel and Acts. Comp. this with Acts 13:11 ; 1:39 with Acts 1:15; 1:66 with Acts 11:21 ; Acts 2:9 with Acts 12:7 ; Acts 15:20 with Acts 20:37 ; Acts 21:18 with Acts 27:34; Acts 24:19 with Acts 7:22.
In N.T. μή with the participle is the common constr., and in mod. Grk. it is the invariable use. In Lk. there is only one instance of οὐ with a participle (6:42). See Win. 4:5. β, pp. 607-610; Lft. Epp. of St. Paul, p. 39, 1895. The combination of the negative with the positive statement of the same thing, although found in class. Grk., is more common in Heb. literature. In Acts 13:11 we have ἔσῃ τυφλὸς μὴ βλέπων; comp. John 1:3, John 1:20, John 1:3:16, John 1:10:5, John 1:18, John 1:18:20, John 1:20:27; Revelation 2:13, Revelation 2:3:9; Psalm 89:30, Psalm 89:31, Psalm 89:48; 2 Samuel 14:5; Isaiah 38:1, etc.
ἄχρι ἦς ἡμέρας Galatians 3:19 is the only certain exception to the rule that ἄχρι, not ἄχρις, usually precedes vowels in N.T. Comp. 17:27, 21:24, and see on 16:16. For the attraction, comp. Acts 1:2 ; Matthew 24:38. Attractions are specially freq. in Lk. See on 3:10; also Blass, Gr. pp. 169, 214.
ἀνθʼ ὧν. Only in this phrase does ἀντί suffer elision in N.T. It is equivalent to ἀντί τούτων ὅτι, “for that, because” (19:44; Acts 12:23 ; 2 Thessalonians 2:10; Leviticus 26:43; 2 Kings 22:17; Ezekiel 5:11). It is found in class. Grk. (Soph. Ant. 1068 ; Aristoph. Plut. 434).
οἵτινες. Stronger than the simple relative: “which are of such a character that.” Comp. 2:10, 7:37, 39, 8:3, 15. Almost always in nom.
εἰς τὸν καιρὸν αὐτῶν. That which takes place in a time may be regarded as entering into that time: the words go on to their fulfilment. Comp. εἰς τὸ μέλλον (13:9) and εἰς τὸ μεταξὺ σάββατον (Acts 13:42).
21. ἦν ὁ λαὸς προσδοκῶν. As in ver. 20, the analytical tense marks the duration of the action. Zacharias was longer than was customary; and the Talmud states that the priests were accustomed to return soon to prevent anxiety. It was feared that in so sacred a place they might incur God’s displeasure, and be slain (Lev. 16:113). Hence ἐθαύμαζον ἐν τῷ ξρονίζειν, “They were wondering while he tarried.” Comp. ver. 8, and see on 3:21. The common rendering, “at his tarrying,” or “because he tarried,” quod tardaret, is improbable even if possible. This would have been otherwise expressed: ἐθαύμαζον ἐπί (2:33, 4:22, 9:43, etc.), which D reads here; or διά (Mark 6:6; John 7:21 ?); or ὅτι (11:38; John 3:7, John 4:27); or περί (2:18).
22. οὐκ ἐδύνατο λαλῆσαι αὐτοῖς. He ought to pronounce the benediction (Numbers 6:24-26) from the steps, either alone or with other priests. His look and his inability to speak told them at once that something extraordinary had taken place; and the sacred circumstances would suggest a supernatural appearance, even if his signs did not make this clear to them.
The compound ἐπέγνωσαν implies clear recognition and full knowledge (5:22, 24:16, 31); and the late form ὀπτασίαν (for ὄψιν) is commonly used of supernatural sights (24:23; Acts 26:19; 2 Corinthians 12:1 ; Daniel 9:23, Daniel 9:10:1, Daniel 9:7, Daniel 9:8, Daniel 9:16). For καὶ αὐτός “he on his part,” as distinct from the congregation, see on ver. 17, and Win. 22:4. b, p. 187. The periphrastic tense ἦν διανεύων again calls attention to the continued action. The verb is found here only in N.T., but occurs twice in LXX (Psalm 34:19; Ecclus. 27:22). In διέμεινε κωφός both the compound and the tense emphasize the fact that it was no mere temporary seizure (22:28; Galatians 2:5; 2 Peter 3:4).
23. ὡς ἐπλήσθησαν αἱ ἡμέραι τῆς λειτουργίας αὐτοῦ. When the week for which the course of Abijah was on duty for public service was at an end. See on vv. 15 and 57. In class. Grk. λειτουργία (λεώς, ἔργον) is freq. of public service undertaken by a citizen at his own expense. In bibl. Grk. it is used of priestly service in the worship of God (Hebrews 8:6, Hebrews 8:9:21; Numbers 8:22, Numbers 8:16:9, Numbers 8:18:4; 2 Chronicles 31:2), and also of service to the needy (2 Corinthians 9:12: Php 2:30). See Deissmann, Bible Studies, p. 140.
ἀπῆλθεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ. This was not in Jerusalem, in the Ophel quarter, where many of the priests resided, but in an unnamed town in the hill-country south of Jerusalem (ver. 39). It is probable that most of the priests who did not live in the city itself resided in the towns and villages in the neighbourhood. Convenience would suggest that they should live inside Judæa. In Nehemiah 11:10-19 we have 1192 priests in Jerusalem; in 1 Chronicles 9:13 we have 1760. Later authorities speak of 24,000; but such figures are very untrustworthy. The whole question of the residences of the priests is an obscure one, and Jos_21. must not be quoted as evidence for more than a projected arrangement. That it was carried into effect and maintained, or that it was revived after the Exile, is a great deal more than we know. Schürer, Jewish People in the T. of J. C. ii. I, p. 229.
24. συνέλαβεν. The word occurs eleven times in Lk. against five times elsewhere. He alone uses it in the sense of conceiving offspring, and only in these first two chapters (vv. 31, 36, 2:21). This sense is common in medical writers and in Aristotle. Hobart remarks that the number of words referring to pregnancy and barrenness used by Lk. is almost as great as that used by Hippocrates: ἐν γαστρὶ ἔχειν (21:23), ἔγκυος (2:5) στεῖρα (1:7) ἄτεκνος (20:28). And, excepting ἐν γαστρὶ ἔχειν, all of these are peculiar to himself in N.T. (Med. Lang. of Lk. p. 91).
περιέκρυβεν ἑαυτὴν μῆνας πέντε. The reflexive pronoun brings out more forcibly than the middle voice would have done that the act was entirely her own (Acts 23:14; 1 Corinthians 11:31; 1 John 1:8); and the compound verb implies all round, complete concealment. Her motive can only be conjectured; but the enigmatical conduct and remark are evidence of historic truth, for they would not be likely to be invented. The five months are the first five months; and at the end of them it would be evident that she had ceased to be ἡ στεῖρα (ver. 36). During these five months she did not wish to risk hearing a reproach, which had ceased to be true, but which she would not care to dispute. She withdrew, therefore, until all must know that the reproach had been removed.
The form ἔκρυβον is late: in class. Grk. ἔκρυψα is used. But a present κρύβω is found, of which this might be the imperfect.
It can hardly be accidental that μήν is scarcely ever used in N.T. in a literal sense by any writer except Lk., who has it five times in his Gospel and five times in the Acts. The chronological details involved in this frequent use are the results of the careful investigation of which he writes in the preface. The other passages are Galatians 4:10; Jam 5:17, and six times in Revelation. So also ἔτος occurs fifteen times in Lk. and six in Mt. Mk. and Jn.
25. ἐπεῖδεν ἀφελεῖν ὄνειδός μου ἐν ἀνθρώποις. The object of ἐπεῖδεν is neither ἐμέ understood (as all English Versions except Wic. and Rhem.) nor τὸ ὄνειδός μου (Hofmann), but ἀφελεῖν: “watched to take away, taken care to remove.” The constr. seems to be unique; but comp. Acts 25:14. Alford and Holtzmann translate “hath deigned, condescended to remove”; but can ἐπεῖδεν mean that? Elsewhere in N.T. it occurs only Acts 4:29; but in class. Grk. it is specially used of the gods regarding human affairs (Aesch. Suppl. 1:1031; Sept. 485). Hdt. 1:124. 2 is not rightly quoted as parallel. Omitting ἐπεῖδεν, Rachel makes the same remark: Ἀφεῖλεν ὁ Θεός μου τὸ ὄνειδος (Genesis 30:23; comp. Psalm 113:9 ; Isaiah 4:1); but the different position of the μου is worth noting. In ἐν ἀνθρώποις we have another amphibolous expression (see on ver. 8). It may be taken with ἀφελεῖν, but more probably it belongs to τὸ ὄνειδός μου (ver. 36).
26-38. The Annunciation of the Birth of the Saviour.1
The birth of the Baptist is parallel to the birth of Isaac; that of the Messiah to the creation of Adam. Jesus is the second Adam. But once more there is no violent breach with the past. Even in its revolutions Providence is conservative. Just as the Prophet who is to renovate Israel is taken from the old priesthood, so the Christ who is to redeem the human race is not created out of nothing, but “born of a woman.”
26. εἰς πόλιν τῆς Γαλιλαίας ᾗ ὄνομα Ναζαρέτ. The description perhaps implies that Lk. is writing for those who are not familiar with the geography of Palestine. There is no reason for believing that he himself was unfamiliar with it. Comp. ver. 39, 4:31, 7:11, 8:26, 9:10, 17:11, 19:29, 37, 41.
Galilee is one of many geographical names which have gradually extended their range. It was originally a little “circuit” of territory round Kadesh Naphtali containing the towns given by Solomon to Hiram (1 Kings 9:11). This was called the “circuit of the Gentiles,” because the inhabitants were strangers (1 Mac. 5:15, Γαλ. ἀλλοφύλων). But it grew, until in the time of Christ it included the territory. of Naphtali, Asher, Zebulon, and Issachar (D. B.2 1. p. 1117). For a description of this region see Jos. B. J. 3:3. 1-3. Nazareth is mentioned neither in O.T. nor in Josephus, but it was probably not a new town in our Lord’s time. The site is an attractive one, in a basin among the south ridges of Lebanon. The sheltered valley is very fruitful, and abounds in flowers. From the hill behind the town the view over Lebanon, Hermon, Carmel, the Mediterranean, Gilead, Tabor, Gilboa, the plain of Esdraelon, and the mountains of Samaria, is very celebrated (Renan, Vie de J. p. 27). It would seem as if Mt. (2:23) was not aware that Nazareth was the original home of Joseph and Mary.
The form of the name of the town varies much, between Nazareth, Nazaret, Nazara, and Nazarath. Keim has twice contended strongly for Nazara (J. of Naz., Eng. tr. 2. p. 16, 4. p. 108) ; but he has not persuaded many of the correctness of his conclusions. WH. consider that “the evidence when tabulated presents little ambiguity” (2. App. p. 160). Ναζαράθ is found frequently (eight out of eleven times) in Codex Δ, but hardly anywhere else. Ναζαρά is used once by Mt. (4:13), and perhaps once by Lk. (4:16). Ναζαρέθ occurs once in Mt. (21:11) and once in Acts (10:38). Everywhere else (Matthew 2:23; Mark 1:9; Luke 1:26, Luke 1:2:4, Luke 1:39, Luke 1:51; John 1:46, John 1:47) we have certainly or probably Ναζαρέτ. Thus Mt. uses the three possible, forms equally; Lk. all three with a decided preference for Nazaret ; while Mk. and Jn. use Nazaret only. This appears to be fairly conclusive for Nazaret. Yet Scrivener holds that “regarding the orthography of this word no reasonable certainty is to be attained” (Int. to Crit. of N.T. 2. p. 316); and Alford seems to be of a similar opinion (1. Prolegom. p. 97). Weiss thinks that Nazara may have been the original form, but that it had already become unusual when the Gospels were written. The modern town is called En Nazirah, and is shunned by Jews. Its population of 5000 is mainly Christian, with a few Mabometans.
27. ἐμνηστευμένην. This is the N.T. form of the word (2:5): in LXX we have μεμνηστευμ. (Deuteronomy 22:23). The interval between betrothal and marriage was commonly a year, during which the bride lived with her friends. But her property was vested in her future husband, and unfaithfulness on her part was punished, like adultery, with death (Deuteronomy 22:23, Deuteronomy 22:24). The case of the woman taken in adultery was probably a case of this kind.
ἐξ οἴκου Δαυείδ. It is unnecessary, and indeed impossible, to decide whether these words go with ἀνδρί, or with παρθένον, or with both. The last is the least probable, but Chrysostom and Wieseler support it. From vv. 32 and 69 we may with probability infer that Lk. regards Mary as descended from David. In 2:4 he states this of Joseph. Independently of the present verse, therefore, we may infer that, just as John was of priestly descent both by Zacharias and Elisabeth, so Jesus was of royal descent both by Mary and Joseph. The title “Son of David” was publicly given to Jesus and never disputed (Matthew 1:1, Matthew 1:9:27, Matthew 1:12:23, Matthew 1:15:22, Matthew 1:20:30, 31; Mark 10:47, Mark 10:48 ; Luke 18:38, Luke 18:39). In the Test. XII. Patr. Christ is said to be descended from Levi and Judah (Simeon 7.); and the same idea is found in a fragment of Irenæus (Frag. 27., Stieren, p. 836). It was no doubt based, as Schleiermacher bases it (St. Luke, Eng. tr. p. 28), on the fact that Elisabeth, who was of Levi, was related to Mary (see on ver. 36). The repetition involved in τῆς παρθένου is in favour of taking ἐξ οἴκου Δαυείδ with ἀνδρί: otherwise we should have expected αὐτῆς. But this is not conclusive.
28. χαῖρε, κεχαριτωμένη.1 Note the alliteration and the connexion between χαῖρε and χάρις The gratia plena of the Vulg. is too indefinite. It is right, if it means “full of grace, which thou hast received”; wrong, if it means “full of grace, which thou hast to bestow.” From Ephesians 1:6 and the analogy of verbs in -όω, κεχαριτωμένη must mean “endued with grace” (Ecclus. 28:17). Non ut mater gratiæ, sed ut filia gratiæ (Beng.). What follows explains κεχαριτωμένη, for with μετὰ σοῦ we understand ἐστι, not ἔστω (comp. Jdg 6:12). It is because the Lord is with her that she is endued with grace. Tyn., Cov., and Cran., no less than Wic. and Rhem., have “full of grace”; Genev. has “freely beloved.” See Resch, Kindheitsev. p. 78.
The familiar εὐλογημένη σὺ ἐν γυναιξίν, although well attested (A C D X Γ Δ Π, Latt. Syrr. Aeth. Goth., Tert. Eus.), probably is an interpolation borrowed from ver. 42: א B L, Aegyptt. Arm. omit.
29. Here also ἰδοῦσα (A), for whteh some Latin texts have cum audisset, is an interpolation borrowed perhaps from ver. 12. It is not stated that Mary saw Gabriel. The pronominal use of the article (ἡ δέ) is rare in N.T. (Acts 1:6 ; Matthew 2:5, Matthew 2:9). It is confined to phrases with μέν and δέ, and mostly to nom. masc. and fem.
διεταράχθη. Here only in N.T. It is stronger than ἐταράχθη in ver. 12. Neither Zacharias nor Mary are accustomed to visions or voices: they are troubled by them. There is no evidence of hysterical excitement or hallucination in either case. The διελογίζετο “reckoned up different reasons,” is in itself against this. The verb is confined to the Synoptic Gospels (5:21, 22; Mark 2:6, Mark 2:8) : John 11:50 the true reading is λογίζεσθε.
ποταπός In N.T. this adj. never has the local signification, “from what country or nation?” cujas? (Aesch. Cho. 575; Soph. O.C. 1160). It is synonymous with ποῖος, a use which is found in Demosthenes ; and it always implies astonishment, with or without admiration (7:39; Matthew 8:27 ; Mark 13:1; 2 Peter 3:11; 1 John 3:1). In LXX it does not occur. The original form is ποδαπός, and may come from ποῦ ἀπό; but -δαπος is perhaps a mere termination.
εἴη. It is only in Lk. in N.T. that we find the opt. in indirect questions. In him it is freq. both without ἄν (3:15, 8:9, 22:9, 22:23; Acts 17:11, Acts 21:33, Acts 25:20) and with ἄν (6:11; Acts 5:24, Acts 10:17). In Acts 8:31 we have opt. with ἄν in a direct question. Simcox, Lang. of N. T. p. 112; Win. 41:4, 100, p. 374
30. Μὴ φοβοῦ Μαριάμ, εὗρες γὰρ χάριν παρὰ τῷ Θεῷ. See on ver. 13. The εὗρες χάριν π.τ. Θ. explains κεχαριτωμένη. The phrase is Hebraic: Νῶε εὗρεν χάριν ἐναντίον Κυρίου τοῦ Θεοῦ (Genesis 6:8; comp. 18:3, 39:4). See on 4:22.
συλλήμψῃ. For the word see on ver. 24, and for the form comp. 2:21, 20:47; Acts 1:8, Acts 1:2:38, Acts 1:23:27; John 5:43, John 5:16:14, John 5:24. In Ionic we have fut. λάμψομαι. Veitch, p. 359; Win. v. 4f, P. 54.
ἐν γαστρὶ καὶ τέξῃ υἱόν, καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὂνομα. The same wording is found Genesis 16:11, of Ishmael, and Isaiah 7:14 of Immanuel. Comp. Genesis 27:19 of Isaac, and Matthew 1:21 of Jesus. In all cases the καλέσεις is not a continuation of the prophecy, but a command, as in most of the Ten Commandments (Matthew 5:21, Matthew 5:27, Matthew 5:33; comp. Luke 4:12; Acts 23:5, etc.). Win. 43:5, 100, p. 396. The name Ἰησοῦς was revealed independently to Joseph also (Matthew 1:21). It appears in the various forms of Oshea, Hoshea, Jehoshua, Joshua, Joshua, and Jesus. Its meaning is “Jehovah is help,” or “God the Saviour.” See Pearson, On the Creed, art. 2. sub init. p. 131; ed. 1849. See also Resch, Kindheitsev. pp. 80, 95.
32. οὗτος ἔσται μέγας. As in ver. 15, this is forthwith explained; and the greatness of Jesus is very different from the greatness of John. The title υἱὸς γ̔ψίστου expresses some very close relation between Jesus and Jehovah, but not the Divine Sonship in the Trinity; comp. 6:35. On the same principle as Θεός and Κύριος Ὕψιστος is anarthrous : there can be only one Highest (Ecclus. 7:15, 27:26, 19:17, 24:2, 23, 29:11, etc.). The κληθήσεται is not a mere substitute for ἔσται: He not only shall be the Son of God, but shall be recognized as such. In the Acta Pauls et Theclæ we have Μακάριοι οἱ σαβόντες Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὅτι αὐτοὶ υἱοὶ ὑψίστου κληθήσονται (Tischendorf, p. 239). For τὸν θρόνον Δαυείδ Comp. 2 Samuel 7:12, 2 Samuel 7:13; Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah 9:7, Isaiah 9:16:5.
Δαυείδ τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ. This is thought to imply the Davidic descent of Mary; but the inference is not quite certain. Jesus was the heir of Joseph, as both genealogies imply. Comp. Psalm 132:11; Hosea 3:5. There is abundant evidence of the belief that the Messiah would spring from David: Mark 12:35, Mark 12:10:47, Mark 12:11:10; Luke 18:38, Luke 18:20:41; Luk_4 Ezra 12:32 (Syr. Arab. Arm.); Ps. Sol. 17:23, 24; Talmud and Targums. See on Romans 1:3.
33. βασιλεύσει … εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας. Comp. “But of the Son he saith, God is Thy throne for ever and ever” (Hebrews 1:8, where see Wsctt.); also Daniel 2:44, Daniel 2:7:14; John 12:34; Revelation 11:15. The eternity of Christ’s kingdom is assured by the fact that it is to be absorbed in the kingdom of the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24-28). These magnificent promises could hardly have been invented by a writer who was a witness of the condition of the Jews during the half century which followed the destruction of Jerusalem. Indeed, we may perhaps go further and say that “it breathes the spirit of the Messianic hope before it had received the rude and crushing blow in the rejection of the Messiah” (Gore, Dissertations, p. 16). Comp. vv. 17, 54, 55, 68-71, 2:38.
The constr. βασιλεύειν ἐπί c. acc. is not classical. We have it again 19:14, 27.
34. Πῶς ἔσται τοῦτο. She does not ask for proof, as Zacharias did (ver. 18); and only in the form of the words does she ask as to the mode of accomplishment. Her utterance is little more than an involuntary expression of amazement: non dubitantis sed admirantis (Grotius). In contrasting her with Zacharias, Ambrose says, Hæc jam de negotio tractat; ille adhuc de nuntio dubitat. It is clear that she does not doubt the fact promised, nor for a moment suppose that her child is to be the child of Joseph.
ἐπεὶ ἄνδρα οὐ γινώσκω Comp. Genesis 19:8; Jdg 11:39; Numbers 31:17. The words are the avowal of a maiden conscious of her own purity; and they are drawn from her by the strange declaration that she is to have a son before she is married. It is very unnatural to understand the words as a vow of perpetual virginity, or as stating that such a vow has already been taken, or is about to be taken. It is difficult to reconcile οὐκ ἐγίνωσκεν (imperf., not aor.) αὐτὴν ἕως (Matthew 1:25) with any such vow.1
35. Πνεῦμα ἄγιον ἐπελεύσεται ἐπὶ σέ. It may be doubted whether the article is omitted “because Holy Spirit is here a proper name”; rather because it is regarded impersonally as the creative power of God. Comp. καὶ πνεῦμα Θεοῦ ἐπεφέρετο ἐπάνω τοῦ τοῦ ὕδατος (Genesis 1:2): the two passages are very parallel. See on ver. 15. Both πνεῦμα and ἅγιον have special point. It is spirit and not flesh, what is holy and not what is sinful, that is to produce this effect in her. With ἐπελεύσεται ἐπὶ σέ Comp. Acts 1:8. Excepting Ephesians 2:7 and Jam 5:1, the verb is peculiar to Lk. (11:22, 21:26; Acts 1:8, Acts 8:24, Acts 13:40, Acts 14:19).
δύναμις γ̔ψίστου ἐπισκιάσει σοι. For δύναμις see on 4:14; for ἐπισκιάσει comp. the account of the Transfiguration (9:34), and for the dat. comp. the account of Peter’s shadow (Acts 5:15). It is the idea of the Shechinah which is suggested here (Exodus 40:38). The cloud of glory signified the Divine presence and power, and it is under such influence that Mary is to become a mother.
διό. This illative particle is rare in the Gospels (7:7 ; Matthew 27:8); not in Mk. or Jn.
τὸ γεννώμενον ἅγιον κληθήσεται υἱὸς Θεοῦ. “The holy thing which shall be born shall be called the Son of God,” or, “That which shall be born shall be called holy, the Son of God.” The latter of these two renderings seems to be preferable. Comp. ἅγιον τῷ κυρίῳ κληθήσεται (2:22); Ναζωραῖος κληθήσεται (Matthew 2:23); υἱοὶ Θεοῦ κληθήσονται (5:9); ἐλάχιστος κληθήσεται and μέγας κλ. (5:19). In all cases the appellation precedes the verb. The unborn child called ἅγιον as being free from all taint of sin. De hoc Sancto idem angelus est locutus, Daniel 9:24 (Beng.). The ἐκ σοῦ, which many authorities insert after γεννώμενον, is probably an ancient gloss, derived perhaps from Matthew 1:16: א A B C3 D and most versions omit.
The title “Son of God,” like “Son of Man,” was a recognized designation of the Messiah. In Enoch, and often in 4 Ezra, the Almighty speaks of the Messiah as His Son. Christ seldom used it of Himself (Matthew 27:43; John 10:36). But we have it in the voice from heaven (3:22, 9:35); in Peter’s confession (Matthew 16:16); in the centurion’s exclamation (Mark 15:39); in the devil’s challenge (4:3, 9); in the cries of demoniacs (Mark 3:11, Mark 5:7). Very early the Christian Church chose it as a concise statement of the divine nature of Christ. See on Romans 1:4, and Swete, Apost. Creed, p. 24. For ἂγιον see on Romans 1:7. The radical meaning is “set apart for God, consecrated.”
36. καὶ ἰδοὺ ἐλεισάβετ ἡ συγγενίς σου. Comp. ver. 20. Mary, who did not ask for one, receives a more gracious sign than Zacharias, who demanded it. The relationship between her and Elisabeth is unknown.
“Cousin,” started by Wiclif, and continued until RV. substituted “kinswoman,” has now become too definite in meaning. The kinship has led artius to represent the two children as being playmates; but John 1:31 seems to be against such Companionship. It has also led to the conjecture that Jesus was descended from both Levi and Judah (see on ver. 27). But Levites might marry with other tribes; and therefore Elisabeth, who was descended from Aaron, might easily be related to one who was descended from David. This verse is not evidence that Mary was not of the house of David.
The late form συγγενίς (comp. εὐγενίς), and the Ion. dat. γήρει for γήρᾳ (Genesis 15:15, Genesis 21:7, Genesis 25:8), should be noticed; also that οὗτος being the subject, the noun has no article. Comp. 21:22. The combination καὶ οὗτος is peculiar to Lk. (8:41 ?, 16:1, 20:28). The relative ages of Jesus and of John are fixed by this statement.
We may take καλουμένῃ as imperf. part., “Used to be called.” This reproach would cease when she reappeared at the end of the five months (ver. 24). καλούμενος with appellations is freq. in Lk.
37. οὐκ ἀδυνατήσει παρὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ πᾶν ῥῆμα. The negative and the verb are to be closely combined and taken as the predicate of πᾶν ῥῆμα. We must not take οὐκ without πᾶν. This is plain from Genesis 18:14: μὴ ἀδυνατεῖ παρὰ τῷ Θεῷ ῥῆμα; i.e. “Hath God said, and can He not do it ?” or, Is anything which God has promised impossible? RV. here has “be void of power” for ἀδυνατεῖν; but it is doubtful whether the verb ever has this signification. Of things, it means “to be impossible” (Matthew 27:20); and of persons, “to be unable”; in which case, like δυνατεῖν (Romans 14:4; 2 Corinthians 9:8), it is followed by the infin. That “be impossible” is the meaning, both here and Genesis 28:14, is probable from Job 42:2 οἶδα ὅτι πάντα δύνασαι, ἀδυνατεῖ δέ σοι οὐθέν; and from Zechariah 8:6, where ἀδυνατήσει is used of a thing being too hard for man but not too hard for God; and from Jeremiah 32:17, where both Aquila and Symmachus have οὐκ ἀδυνατήσει for οὐ μὴ ἀποκρυβῇ of LXX. We render, therefore, “From God no word shall be impossible.” The idiom οὐ … πᾶς, in the sense of “all … not,” i.e. “none,” is probably Hebraic. Comp. Matthew 24:22. It is less common in N.T. than in LXX (Exodus 12:16, Exodus 12:43, Exodus 12:20:16; Daniel 2:10, etc.), Win. 26:1, p. 214; Blass, Gr. p. 174
38. Ἰδού ἡ δούλη κυρίου. That ἰδού is not a verb, but an exclamation, is manifest from the verbless nominative which follows it. Comp. 5:12, 18. “Handmaid” or “servant” is hardly adequate to δούλη. It is rather “bondmaid” or “slave.” In an age in which almost all servants were slaves, the idea which is represented by our word “servant” could scarcely arise. In N.T. the fem. δούλη occurs only here, ver. 48, and Acts 2:18, the last being a quotation.
γένοιτό μοι κατὰ τὸ ῥῆμά σου. This is neither a prayer that what has been foretold may take place, nor an expression of joy at the prospect. Rather it is an expression of submission, —“God’s will be done”: πίναξ εἰμι γράφομενος. ὄ βούλεται ὁ γραφεύς, γραφέτω (Eus.). Mary must have known how her social position and her relations with Joseph would be affected by her being with child before her marriage. There are some who maintain that the revelation made to Joseph (Matthew 1:18-23) is inconsistent with what Lk. records here; for would not Mary have told him of the angelic message? We may reasonably answer that she would not do so. Her own inclination would be towards reserve (2:51); and what likelihood was there that he would believe so amazing a story? She would prefer to leave the issue with regard to Joseph in God’s hands. Hastings, D.C.G. art. “Annunciation.”
ἀπῆλθεν ἀπʼ αὐτῆς ὁ ἄγγελος. Ut peracta legatione. Comp. Acts 12:10; Jdg 6:21.
On the whole of this exquisite narrative Godet justly remarks: “Quells dignité, quelle pureil, quelle simplicité, quelle déliatesse dans tout ce dialogue ! Pas un mot de trop, pas un de trop peu. Une telle narration n’a pu émaner que de la sphère sainte dans laquelle le fait lui-même avait eu lieu” (1. p. 128, 3éme ed. 1888). Contrast the attempts in the apocryphal gospels, the writers of which had our Gospels to imitate, and yet committed such gross offences against taste, decency, and even morality. What would their inventions have been if they had had no historical Gospels to guide them?
Dr. Swete has shown that the doctrine of the Miraculous Conception was from the earliest times part of the Creed. Beginning with Justin Martyr (Apol. 1:21, 31, 32, 33, 63; Try. 23, 48, 100), he traces back through Aristides (J. R. Harris, p. 24; Hennecke, p. 9 ; Barnes, Canon. and Uncanon. Gospp. p. 13), Ignatius (Eph. 19; Trall. 9. ; Smyr. 1.), the Valentinians, and Basilides, to S. Luke, to whom these Gnostics appealed. The silence of S. Mark is of no weight; his record does not profess to go farther back than the ministry of the Baptist. In the Third Gospel we reach not merely the date of the Gospel (a.d. 75-80), but the date of the early traditions incorporated in these first chapters, traditions preserved (possibly in writing) at Jerusalem, and derived from Mary herself.
The testimony of the First Gospel is perhaps even earlier in origin, and is certainly independent. It probably originated with Joseph, as the other with Mary (Gore, Bampton Lectures, p. 78; Dissertations on Subjects connected with the Incarnation, pp. 12-40). Greatly as the two narratives differ, both bear witness to the virgin birth (Swete, The Apostles’ Creed, ch. 4.).
39-56. The Visit of the Mother of the Saviour to the Mother of the Forerunner
This narrative grows naturally out of the two which precede it in this group. The two women, who through Divine interposition are about to become mothers, meet and confer with one another. Not that a desire to talk about her marvellous experience prompts Mary to go, but because the Angel had suggested it (ver. 36). That Joseph’s intention of putting her away caused the journey, is an unnecessary conjecture.
It is not easy to see why the Song of Elisabeth is not given in metrical form either in WH. or in RV. It seems to have the characteristics of Hebrew poetry in a marked degree, if not in so full a manner as the Magnificat, Benedictus, and Nunc Dimittis. It consists of two strophes of four lines each, thus—
Εὐλογημένη σὺ ἐν γυναιξίν,
καὶ εὐλογημένος ὁ καρπὸς τῆς κοιλίας σου.
καὶ πόθεν μοι τοῦτο
ἵνα ἔλθῃ ἡ μήτηρ τοῦ κυρίου μου πρὸς ἐμέ
Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;
It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,
That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.
There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.
And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.
And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course,
According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.
And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.
And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.
And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.
And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.
And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.
And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple.
And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless.
And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.
And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,
Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.
And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
For with God nothing shall be impossible.
And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;
And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.
And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:
And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.
And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.
And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.
Now Elisabeth's full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son.
And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.
And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father.
And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John.
And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name.
And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called.
And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all.
And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.
And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea.
And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.
And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,
And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;
As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:
That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;
To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant;
The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,
That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,
In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.
And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,
Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,
To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.