Luke 4
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,
C. In the Wilderness. LUKE 4:1–13

1And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from [the] Jordan, and was led by [in] the Spirit into, the wilderness, 2Being forty days tempted of [by] the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward1 hungered.3And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stonethat it be made bread. 4And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shallnot live by bread alone, but by every word of God2 [Deut. 8:3]. 5And the devil, taking him up into a high mountain,3 shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world ina moment [instant] of time. 6And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them [i.e., of the kingdoms]: for that [it] is delivered unto me [has been committed or entrusted to me by God]; and to whomsoever I will, I give it.7If thou therefore wilt worship [fall down before] me, all shall [it shall all] be thine.8And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan:4 for it is written,Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. 9And he brought him to [into] Jerusalem, and set him on a [the] pinnacle of the temple, and said untohim, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: 10For it is written, He11shall give his angels charge over [concerning] thee, to keep thee [safe]: And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone [Ps. 91:12]. 12And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt theLord thy God. 13And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a [until a convenient] season.


The narrative of the temptation has in Luke a peculiar character. While Mark contents himself with relating the event in a brief mention (Luke 1:12–13), Luke is almost as detailed as Matthew, but deviates in his order of arranging the different temptations from this his predecessor in narration. The third temptation, with Matthew, is with Luke the second, and the reverse. We give the preference to the arrangement of the first Evangelist. Matthew keeps the order of time more in mind (Luke 4:1, 5, 8) than Luke, who speaks quite indefinitely (Luke 4:1, 2). In the arrangement of the former, moreover, there is a more natural climax, and it is in itself improbable that the Lord, after He had repulsed the demand of the tempter that He should worship him, would have tolerated still a third attempt from this side or would have entered into any intercourse with him. On this account, Ambrosius and also other fathers of the church, even in commenting upon the narrative of Luke, have preferred the arrangement of Matthew. In another respect, also, the praise of greater exactness belongs to the first of the Evangelists. Matthew makes the temptation proper only begin after the fortieth day; Luke represents this whole space of time as a period of inward temptations, nevertheless it is evident that at least the temptation to turn stones into bread, represented as the first of all, could only begin at the end of the period of time, after long fasting. Perhaps the two narratives may be, without violence, reconciled in this way; that the forty days, also, were, in a more general sense, a time of inward temptations (Mark and Luke), while immediately thereafter (Matthew) the more concrete cases of temptation which are adduced in the first and third Gospels, present themselves.

Luke 4:1. In the Spirit, ἐν τῷ πνεύμ.; in Matthew, ὑπὸ τοῦ πνεύμ.—There appears to be no doubt that this signifies the Holy Spirit, which had just been poured out in all its fulness upon the baptized Jesus. Full of the Holy Spirit, that now more than ever penetrated and inspired Him, He was driven with irresistible might not only toward (εις) the wilderness, but into (εν) the wilderness, where He abides awhile, not only with the unexpected consequence, but with the definite purpose (πειρασθῆναι, Matthew), that He there, according to God’s supreme providence and under His especial permission, should be tempted of the devil.

Luke 4:2. Forty days tempted by the devil.—If we read with Lachmann, ἐν τῆ ἐρήμῳ, which appears to deserve the preference, we may perhaps refer the designation of time, viz., forty days, to the immediately preceding words, ἤγετο εἰς τὴν ἔρημον, and translate: “He was led in the Spirit into the wilderness forty days, and tempted by the devil.” In this way even the appearance of a discrepancy between Matthew and Luke, in regard to the actual point when the temptation began, is avoided.

Into the wilderness.—We are to understand the word “wilderness” not with some of the older expositors in a figurative, but in a literal, sense, and probably (agreeably to tradition) to refer it to the wilderness of Quarantania, between Jericho and Jerusalem. As to the locality, see the Gospel of Matthew by Lange, p. 81. There is still shown the mountain upon which the tempter is said to have taken the Lord, lying over against Abarim, from whose summit Moses overlooked the promised land. Trustworthy travellers relate, that in the neighborhood of this mountain there are found many stones whose form and whose color even agrees with that of bread, so that they could easily deceive the hasty observer. See SEPP, Leben Jesu, ii p. 92.

By the devil.—We come here to the natural question, what we are to think as to the agent of the temptation and the manner in which the tempter approached the Lord. As to the former, the views may properly be divided into two classes. Some will acknowledge here no working of the devil whatever, and understand it either of one or of several human tempters, or, of tempting thoughts and conceptions, which are supposed to have arisen in the mind of Jesus Himself in view of His Messianic work. Others assume an actual temptation of the devil, whether in visible form as the Gospels relate, or through the working of the invisible evil spirit upon the pure ψυχή of the Lord, capable as it nevertheless was of temptation. The different advocates of these explanations may be found named in Hase, Meyer, and De Wette. It cannot be difficult for us to make a choice among these different explanations. That the narrative can scarcely be understood literally appears hardly to need an intimation. A corporal appearance of the devil, a temporary ἐνσάρκωσις of the evil principle, is without any analogy in the Holy Scriptures. How should the devil have had power over the body of the Lord to carry Him through air and clouds whither he would? If the Lord did not know him, what should we have to think of His all-surpassing knowledge? And if He did know him, how could He consent to hold discourse with such a tempter? Where lies the mountain from which all the kingdoms of the earth can be viewed with a glance, and how could the Lord during the forty days in which He abides in the silent wilderness all at once stand upon the pinnacle of the temple? But this impossibity of understanding the narrative κατὰ ῥητόν does not for all this give us a right to find here an historical or philosophical myth. If even the previous history exhibits a purely historical character, still less do we move in a nebulous, mythical sphere at the beginning of the public life of Jesus. Analogies which are presented with the history of the temptations of Job, David, and others, would at most only prove the possibility, but by no means the probability or certainty of the invention of a narrative of a temptation of the Messiah. We see plainly that the Evangelists are persuaded that they are relating an historical fact, and we have no right, upon philosophical grounds, to bring in doubt the possibility of the chief fact here related.—Quite as unsatisfactory is the interpretation of it as a dream, vision, or parable. If the Lord had wished to teach His apostles in a similitude from what fundamental principles He started in His Messianic activity, and to what temptations they also were exposed, He would certainly have availed Himself of another form of instruction. Moreover, it is hard to see how such a parable could with any ground have been understood as history. The difficulty does not lessen but increases, if we assume that the parable in this form does not come from Jesus Himself, but from one of His disciples, who invented it in order to warn the first believers against sensuous Messianic expectations; and if we understand it as a dream or a vision, the narrative then really loses all significance. What value has a conflict that has arisen from self-deceit, and does he deserve the name of a victor who strives against spectres of the night? If this vision was effected by the devil in the soul of Jesus (Olshausen), we do not then comprehend what significance is to be attributed to a temptation that was not combated with rational self-consciousness. Or if this dream was a product of the fantasy of Jesus Himself (Paulus), we could then no longer ascribe any perfect sinlessness to Him whose imagination could, sponte sua, defile itself with such odious conceptions.

As respects the opinion that we have here to understand a human tempter, this, in its older form, has been already too often combated for us to lose now even a word in disputing it. The only form in which it deserves consideration is that in which Lange (Leben Jesu, p. 218) brings it up. He is far from denying the diabolical ground of the temptation, but maintains that the medium of it was a visit of the Sanhedrim, who, after John—subsequently to their interview with him—had referred them (John 1:19–28) to Jesus, had, in Lange’s view, approached Him with the full pomp and impetuousness of their Messianic expectations, and laid before Him a plan of Messianic activity wholly different from that which had originally come to maturity in His own mind. We cannot possibly read the brilliant exposition of this view in its details without recognizing the author’s gift of intuition and combination. If we saw ourselves necessitated to look for historical foundation of this kind for our present narrative, we should undoubtedly seek in vain to project a better. But, on the other hand, it must not be overlooked that the Evangelists themselves do not make the least mention of so early a meeting of the Lord with the Sanhedrim; that there is as little proof of John’s having designated the Messiah to the Sanhedrim as there is probability of any such interview with the yet unknown Nazarene; that, finally, the offence speedily taken by the Sanhedrim against the Lord after His public appearance admits of a sufficient explanation even without assuming so secret a back-ground. All these reasons now give weight to the question whether we should not do better (Ullmann) to understand here tempting thoughts, which had come up in the soul of the Lord from the worldly form of the Messianic expectations among the Jews, which, however, He at once, through the might of His holy will, repelled from Him, and which, when He afterward communicated these inner experiences of His to His disciples, He ascribed, in oriental style, to the devil the prince of this world. However, on considering the matter more closely, this interpretation also offers difficulties, so that Strauss for once did not say untruly that the Lord in this case would have communicated to His disciples “a confused mixture of truth and fiction.” Why He should have related to His friends this history of His inward conflict in such a form, can scarcely be understood. As to the first and second temptations at least, we do not see how they could proceed from the worldly-minded expectation of the contemporaries of the Lord. This, at all events, would have sprung more from the consciousness of His own miraculous power and the certainty of the protection of God than from the corrupt notions of the spirit of the times. “If Jesus had had even in the most fleeting manner such thoughts, He would not have been Christ, and this explanation appears to me as the most wretched neoteric outrage that has been committed against His person” (Schleiermacher). If these tempting thoughts were purely theoretical and objective, occasioned by conceptions having nothing attractive for the Lord, where is the temptation? and if these evil thoughts proceeded actually from the heart of the Son of Man (Matt. 15:19), where is His sinlessness? We, for our part, believe that we can only explain the origin of the temptation by assuming the direct operation of the (invisible) evil spirit upon the mind and the sensibility of the Redeemer. In this case, 1. the credibility of the narrative is recognized, and we are as little necessitated to understand the devil at the beginning as the angels at the end of the narrative, in a merely figurative sense; 2. the sinlessness of the Lord is preserved: the tempting thoughts originate not from within, but are brought upon Him from without; 3. and, finally, the abandonment of a spiritless literal interpretation is vindicated. But if the Evil One worked directly, although invisibly, upon the God-man, the temptation must have taken place ἐν πνεύματι, alone, and we are justified in representing to ourselves the Lord upon the pinnacle of the temple without His having left the wilderness. There is no other conception which, like this, holds fast to what is essential in the purely historical interpretation without falling into the absurdities that necessarily spring from the assumption of a bodily appearance of the devil.

We feel conscious that this opinion can find no favor in the eyes of those who despise the doctrine of a personality of the Evil One as a superstition of the middle ages. But we cannot join with them, since we are thoroughly persuaded that very many scruples against the biblical demonology proceed from exaggeration or misunderstanding. That Jesus and the apostles did speak of a personal evil spirit and of his operations, is subject to no doubt, and that in this they accommodated themselves to a superstitious popular fancy, is wholly without proof. If any one, philosophically reasoning, persists in seeing in their expressions only the personification of an abstract idea, let him look to it how he can answer for it; but let him not at all events impose this conception on Jesus and the apostles. Never is Rationalism weaker than when it seeks to vindicate itself exegetically. That the old demonology did not receive its fuller development among the Jews until after the Babylonian captivity, we must no doubt concede; but so far is it from being of Chaldean and Persian origin, that, on the other hand, it distinguishes itself in essence and character from this and every dualistic theory, intended to explain the riddle of sin. That even in higher regions of the spiritual world freedom has been misused to sin, is as far from being unreasonable as is the conception that the fallen angels unite with a high degree of intellectual development a deep moral degeneracy. Both facts are daily to be seen among men, and whoever is willing to believe in personal good angels, but not in a personal Satan, is thoroughly inconsistent. The possibility of a direct working of the Evil One upon the spirit of the Lord, admits of being opposed neither with psychological nor with scriptural arguments. Its intention could be no other than to bring Him to a fall, and thus to frustrate the work of Redemption, and its permission by the Father can seem strange to no one who understands what this means: “Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered!”

And He did eat nothing in those days.—A comparison with Matt. 11:18 shows, that it is not indispensably necessary to understand such an expression of an entire abstinence from all food. “He might have been able, as well as John, to partake of locusts and wild honey without essentially annulling the fast.” (Lange.) On the other hand, however, nothing hinders us from understanding this fasting of the Lord in its strictest sense. If there are examples of an uncommonly long fasting, even in men whose physical and psychical development has been disturbed by sin, how much more conceivable is it with Him whose bodily organism had been weakened by no sin, whose soul, more than that of any one, could control the flesh and constrain it to obedience. Immediately after such a fast, hunger must necessarily have made itself felt with unexampled power; and undoubtedly by the abstinence from bodily nourishment, the susceptibility of the soul to the influence of the Prince of Darkness, and the combat with him, was not a little heightened. According to Matthew and Luke, the hunger makes itself felt not in the course of the forty lays, but only at the end of them.

Luke 4:3. If Thou be the Son of God command.—The voice of the evil spirit evidently links itself with the remembrances of the heavenly voice at the Jordan. Here also, is the devil a Simia Dei, since he permits an echo of the word of truth to be heard.—This stone, τῷ λίθῳ τούτῳ, more δεικτικῶς, than in Matthew, who retains his ordinary plural, οἱ λίθοι οὗτοι, in an oratio indirecta. The point of attachment for the temptation is partly the exalted self-consciousness, partly the painful necessity of the Lord; the purpose of the temptation, to have Him use His miraculous power for the satisfaction of His own necessity.

Luke 4:4. That man shall not live by bread alone.—In Matthew the citation, Deut. 8:3, is quoted more fully, and moreover from the LXX. We need not deny that the Lord uses the declaration in a somewhat different sense from that in which Moses means it; nor is there any reason for referring the appellation “Man” exclusively or principally to the Messiah. In a divinely free manner He uses the word of Scripture to indicate that man, even without the use of bread, may behold his life lengthened and sustained by any means whatever of which God may avail Himself to strengthen his bodily energies. In other words: God does not need His miraculous power in order to allay painful hunger. For that He possesses innumerable means, and the Son will await the way which the Father may please to use.

Luke 4:5. Taking Him up into a high mountain.—As already remarked, Luke assigns to the third and severest temptation the middle place. “Matthœus eo temporis ordine describit assultus, quo facti sunt, Lucas gradationem observat in locis, it describit desertum, montem, templum. Quœ ordinis non modo innoxia sed etiam salubris varietas, argumento est, non alterum Evangelistam ab altero scripsisse” (Bengel). The difficulty, however, which the narrative of Luke 5:8 offers, according to the Recepta, namely, that the Lord, after He had recognized and unmasked the Evil One, can yet admit for the third time discourse with him; this difficulty vanishes if we assume, with Tischendorf and others, that the words, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” are here spurious, and have been transferred from the parallel passage in Matthew.

Showed unto Him.—Of course, ἐν πνεύματι, not one after the other, but all together, ἐν ῥιπῆ ὀφθαλμοῦ, 1 Cor. 15:52.

All the kingdoms of the world.—Not the Jewish land, but the heathen world surrounding it and extending beyond the sight, which is several times spoken of in the New Testament as subject to the prince of this world, while Jehovah is the head of the theocratic state. Besides this, it deserves consideration that the address of Satan to the Lord on this occasion is communicated by Luke somewhat more at length than by Matthew.

For it has been committed to me, etc.—A paraphrase of the preceding words for the benefit and edification of Theophilus and other readers, who were unacquainted or little acquainted with the demonology of the Jews.

Luke 4:7. If Thou, therefore, wilt fall down before me.—We need not here understand an actually idolatrous adoration. It is sufficient if we understand it of an Oriental homage which is often rendered to mighty monarchs, Matt. 2:2. As the first temptation is addressed to sensual appetite, this is addressed to the craving for the possession of kingly dignity, upon which the Messiah is conscious of being assuredly able to reckon. The temptation lies in the alternative; dominion without conflict on the one hand, bloody strife on the other, against the might of darkness, if its alluring voice should be repelled. The lie which is at the bottom of the arrogant promise of the tempter (“to me is it committed,” etc.), is truly Satanic; but it is this very arrogance of demand which enables the Lord (Matt.) to know with whom He is striving in this moment, and He has at once the “ὕπαγε ὀπίσω μου” ready against Satan, in that He yet again hurls upon him a decisive word of the Scripture.

Luke 4:8. Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, Deut. 6:13.—According to the LXX., with a variation of προσκυνήσεις instead of φοβηθήση, on account of the preceding words of Satan. The Lord does not only publicly express the monotheistic principle, but shows at the same time that He will rather dispense with all the kingdoms of the world, however by right they belong to Him, than obtain them in an unlawful way. His answer is a declaration of war; His rejection of the homage He paid for with His life; and so repulsed, Satan could not return the third time. Before it came to this pass, however, that he retreated, still another temptation took place previously; according to Matthew’s accurate account, the second, which, however, Luke relates as the third.

Luke 4:9. And he brought Him to Jerusalem.—Although in itself it is very probable that the Lord, during this period, spent a single day, κατὰσάρκα, at Jerusalem (Lange), it nevertheless appears more probable to us that He did not in body leave the wilderness at all before the combat was quite ended. Before the inner consciousness of the Lord, it was, without doubt, as if He stood upon the πτερύγιον, and as respects the ability of the Evil One to transport Him in spirit to a place so entirely different, we may well call to mind the expression of Gregory: “Nil mirum est, si Christus a Diabolo se permisit circumduci, qui a membris illius se perrhisit crucifigi.”

On the pinnacle of the temple, not ναοῦ, but ̔εροῦ.—The access to the κορυφή was apparently permitted to no one but the priests and Levites alone, but nothing hinders us from understanding one of the accessory buildings, whose pinnacle constituted a sort of cornice (ἀκρωτήριον), and of which Josephus also relates that from it one could throw a look that made him dizzy, into an incalculable depth (Ant. Jud. xv. 15, 11). It is true, if any one cast himself down there he would not descend before the eyes of the citizens of the city, but in the obscure vale of Kedron. But the promise, moreover, is precisely this, that in falling He should not reach the bottom, but in His fall should be held up by the angels, and doubtless be brought into the midst of the astonished inhabitants of the city and frequenters of the temple, who a moment before had seen him, with shuddering terror, upon the eminence.

Luke 4:10. For it is written, He shall give.—“The devil can quote Scripture for his purpose.” And this time he combats the Lord with His own weapons. The passage, Ps. 91:11, 12, is not Messianic (Usteri), but speaks of the saints in general, and the devil leaves the Lord to draw a conclusion a minori ad majus from the safety of the saints to that of the Messiah, the chief favorite of God. By a literal interpretation of the figurative utterance he tempts the Lord to work a miracle of display, not upon the heart and conscience but upon the imagination of the people, and thus in a few moments to bring about an extraordinary success. This time he works not upon the desire of enjoyment or possession, but of honor and elevation. Now it will undoubtedly have to be shown, whether the Lord really believes the word of the Scripture with which He has already repeatedly defended Himself. He is tempted on the side of that same believing confidence which has just held Him back from turning stones into bread, and the greatness of His triumph consists in this, that He at once discovers the just limit that separates confidence and presumption.

Luke 4:12. And Jesus answering.—The Lord answers a third time with a word of Scripture, out of Deut. (6:16), still more striking in Matt., πάλιν γέγραπται, rursus. The word of the law which He mentions contains no contradiction of the devil’s quotation from the Psalm, but a rectification of the misuse which the Evil One had made of it. Apart from the special signification of the utterance for the Israelitish people (on occasion of the strife at Marah, Ex. 17:2) the Lord gives him to feel that whoever throws himself uncalled into danger in the hope that God will deliver him, displays no heroic courage of faith, but commits an act of presumptuous folly.

Luke 4:13. And when the devil had ended all the temptation.—The coming and ministration of the angels is to be supplied from Matthew and Mark. See, as to this, LANGE, Matthew, p. 86. Without doubt, it is in the spirit of the narration if we conceive to ourselves these as invisible witnesses of the combat and triumph of Jesus. (Comp. 1 Cor. 4:9.) While they, soon after the departing of Satan from Him, serve Him whether spiritually or bodily. (Comp. 1 Kings 19:5.)

Until a season.—It is a very significant intimation for the apprehension of the whole history of the temptation which Luke gives us in these concluding words. Unwittingly he gives us occasion in these forty days to see not only the beginning but also the type of the different temptations which were perpetually returning for the God-man. Without doubt he has regard, moreover, particularly to the time when Satan entered into Judas (Luke 22:3) and the whole power of darkness rose against the Suffering One. Yet he may also have thought on the activity of the Evil One in opposing the Lord previously to this. Comp. Luke 10:18; 13:16; 22:31.


1. The history of the temptation in the wilderness constitutes partly the end of the history of the hidden, partly the beginning of the history of the public life of Jesus. The silence of John respecting this event, proves nothing against the truth of the narrative of the Synoptics. Had none of those uttered a word of a tentatio a Diabolo, the believer himself, who sees in Christ the God-man, and assumes the reality of a kingdom of darkness over against the kingdom of Heaven, would of himself have come to the supposition that a life and working such as that of the Lord could not possibly have begun without such a preceding inward conflict. Of what kind this conflict was is now communicated to us by his witnesses in a way which leaves us no other choice, than here either to understand it as one of the σεσοφισμέοοι μῦθοι, whose origin, on historical Christian ground, an apostle of the Lord denies (2 Pet. 1:16), or to believe that Jesus Himself instructed His disciples in reference to this remarkable event of His inner life. For us the latter admits of no controversy, and thus is the inquiry as to the source of the historical narrative answered in a satisfactory manner. But at the same time it is self-evident that the Lord could not communicate to His friends in reference to what took place in the wilderness more than they were in a condition to bear. John 16:12. Without doubt, therefore, He clothed His narrative in a form which was calculated for their receptivity and their necessity, and there remains to us the privilege of distinguishing carefully between the fact itself and the peculiar way in which it was represented by Him and has been described by them. Here, also, does the utterance, John 6:63, hold good.

2. The fact now, which can be derived with sufficient certainty from the different narrations, is apparently this: 1. At the beginning of His course, the Saviour was exposed to temptations to act in direct opposition to the high principles to which He showed Himself faithful through life. 2. These temptations were directly occasioned by the Prince of this world, who wished to bring the second Adam, like the first, to apostasy, in order thus to destroy the work of redemption. 3. The Lord, with clear consciousness and steadfastness, combatted these temptations with the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17), and left the field of conflict without a single wound. 4. The Victor, as a sign of the Father’s approbation, was served by the angels of heaven and received their homage.—Every explanation of the history of the temptation which acknowledges what is essential in these great elements of it, deserves from the Christian point of view to be admitted and weighed. In respect to the external side of the fact (the condition of the Lord, the manner of the temptation, the locality, etc.), it will, perhaps, never be possible to find an explanation which satisfactorily resolves all difficulties. Yet this is of less consequence if only the inner significance of the above named facts remains acknowledged, and these, themselves, are not assailed.

3. The history of the temptation throws the brightest light upon the person of the Lord. On the one hand, we learn to know Him here from His own word (Luke 4:4) as a man like His brethren in all things (Heb. 2:17); on the other hand, Satan himself proclaims Him as God’s Son (Luke 4:3), and this time, at least, has the father of lies become a witness of the truth. The true humanity of the Lord reveals itself not less in the hunger which He feels than in His capacity of being tempted. His divine majesty shows itself in the manner in which He combats, in the victory which He achieves, in the crown which He wins.

4. Dogmatics has in the treatment of the history of the temptation, the difficult problem, on the one hand, to regard the Lord as truly tempted, so that the temptations do not glide from Him as something merely external, as water from a rock, without making any impression upon His sensibility; on the other hand, to vindicate the word of the apostolic writer, χωρὶς ἁμαρτίας (Heb. 4:15). That both the one and the other, are impossible, if an absolute non potuit peccare is asserted of the Lord, is self-evident. The ἀναμαρτησία of the Lord by no means excluded the possibility of sinning; but on the other hand consisted in this, that He, filled with boundless abhorrence of sin, combatted and overcame it under whatever form it might show itself. Only the Father is ἀπεὶραστος κακῶν (James 1:13), but the Logos, once entered within the bounds of finite humanity, comes through his ὁμοίωμα σαρκὸς ἀμαρτίας (Rom. 8:13) into personal contact with sin. Like every true man, the Lord had a sensuous perception of the pleasant and the unpleasant. For this feeling natural enjoyment must have been preferable to want, honor to shame, riches to poverty, life to death. Upon this feeling the might of temptation works, and whoever in this of itself could already find something sinful, would have to prefer an accusation against God, who originally so constituted our human nature. He would, moreover, be obliged to consider the first man as a sinner born, for in the very commandment of probation and in the added threatening (Gen. 2:16, 17) the existence of this feeling is presupposed. Every representation by which there is ascribed to the Lord even a minimum of the peccatum originale (Irving) is condemned by the Christian consciousness in the most decided manner.

5. On the other hand, the potuit non peccare, can and must, be vindicated here as vigorously as the realiter non peccavit. He did not awaken the conception of what was evil, of Himself within Himself, but it came from without to Him through the operation of another spirit upon His own. This would have amounted to an inward sin only in the case that the Lord’s will had inclined a moment to practise that which He had learned to know as morally evil. That the three thoughts: to work a miracle for Himself; to work upon the people through outward display; and to attain earthly dominion—considered altogether for itself and as yet without reference to God’s will—had something attractive for His delicate and pure moral sense, is so little to be denied that the opposite, in a true man, would scarcely be conceivable. It lay in the very nature of the case that such conceptions at this moment must produce upon the spirit and sensibility of the Lord a double impression. Why should He otherwise have at once reached out for a weapon with which to combat the enemy? But here we could speak of sin, only in case that the desire for evil had really been awakened, that the wish to be able to give an ear to the Evil One had come up in His sensibility. But of this we perceive no trace. The temptation comes before His eyes in its most alluring colors; He has a living sense of all that it possesses which is attractive; He reflects that He might be able to succumb, yet instantaneously He repels it from Him as something foreign and unhallowed. It places itself before His imagination, but finds no point of attachment in His will; it works upon the ψυχή, yet before this can be stained the tempter is already conquered through the πνεῦμα.

Two examples for a more particular elucidation. There was as yet no sin when Eve saw that the forbidden tree had its attraction, nor yet when the permission to eat of this tree appeared to her desirable, so long, that is, as she was considering this act without any relation to the prohibition that had been received; only when in unconscious and conscious conflict with the commandment the actual desire rose in her mind, and she was filled with dissatisfaction at the commandment, did sin then creep into her heart, even before she had stretched out her hand after the apple.—It was as yet no sin that the Lord in Gethsemane exhibited a natural dread of death, a natural longing for life; no sin as yet that He in the immediate presence of death, and in the consciousness of being able to escape it, had a double sense of the worth of life, nor was it even as yet any sin that He prayed and wished that the cup might pass from Him: only if He had allowed this wish to prevail contrary to the will of God, after He had clearly perceived this will; if the resolution to submit Himself to God’s recognized will had been preceded by reluctance and conflict; if, in a word, not His deed but His will even had then moved in another direction from God’s will, then would the Man of Sorrows have been also a child of sin.

6. The temptations here vanquished perpetually returned in the public life of the Lord. The first, e.g., Matt. 27:40; the second, John 7:3, 4; the third, John 6:14. It cannot surprise us that the Lord, therefore, saw in the entreaty of Peter, Matt. 16:22, a Satanic back-ground. To whichever of these temptations He had given a hearing, still either His perfect obedience or His perfect love of man would have been stained, and herewith His perfect capability of being a Redeemer of sinners would have been annihilated.

7. The history of the temptation throws light upon the work of the Lord. We learn here to recognize this as a work that was given Him by the Father Himself to do, which He entered upon with clear self-consciousness, which was preceded by severe conflict, and which was directed entirely to destroying the works of the devil. 1 John 3:9. In His perfect obedience, the second Adam, He here stands over against the first as the Restorer of the Paradise which Adam lost by his sin. “Adam fell in Paradise and made it a wilderness; Christ conquered in a wilderness and made it a paradise, where the beasts lost their savageness and the angels abode.” (Olshausen.)

8. The threefold temptation of Jesus is the symbol and type of the temptations against which every Christian has to strive. 1 John 2:16. First temptation =the lust of the flesh; the second =the lust of the eye; the third =pride, of which John says: “It is not of the Father, but of the world.”

9. The temptation of Jesus as it repeats itself, as well in His own life as in the lives of His people, was, on the other hand, in a certain sense adumbrated in the temptations and trials of the most eminent men of God under the ancient covenant. (Joseph, Job, David, and others.) It lies in the nature of the case, that in proportion as one is placed on a higher eminence in the kingdom of God, he is also exposed to severer temptations. It is remarkable that almost at the same time with this temptation of the Lord a similar temptation encountered His Forerunner. See LANGE, Leben Jesu, p. 451 ff.

10. The origin of all these temptations, and very especially of the temptation of Jesus, was the working of the devil. The history of His temptation may be called a striking revelation of the existence, the might, the laws, and the working of the kingdom of darkness. The existence of this kingdom of the personal Evil One, is not revealed by the Holy God. It reveals itself in facts like these. It is here shown that there is an Evil Spirit, an enemy of God, and of His kingdom. He knows Christ and hates Him. He uses the Scripture and perverts it; to lead astray is his joy, and lying is his power; God’s word the only weapon that vanquishes him. It is noticeable how the most exalted moments of development for the kingdom of God have been at all times accompanied by an intenser reaction of the kingdom of darkness. Where the history of mankind begins, there the father of lies shows himself. When Israel is about to become a theocratic people, he imitates the miracles of Moses through the Egyptian sorcerers; when the Son of God appears in the flesh, He increases the number of the δαιμονι ζόμενοι, and seeks to bring Him Himself to apostasy; and when the last development of the kingdom of God approaches, there does he rage most vehemently because his time is short. Rev. 20:7.

11. With the best right, at all times, has the Saviour’s “It is written” been considered as one of the strongest proofs for the divine authority of the Holy Scripture. The Christian who regards the whole Bible with the eye with which the Lord viewed the Old Testament, cannot possibly restrict the rule which He gave on another occasion, ὅτι οὐ δύναται λνθῆναι ἡ γραφὴ. John 10:35. It is remarkable, moreover, of what high importance even those parts of Scripture can be, which to us, superficially considered, appear less important for Christian life and faith. All three citations of the Lord are taken from one book (Deuteronomy), and yet the word of God, out of this one book, is for Him enough to put the Devil and his power to flight. 1 Cor. 12:22, 23, holds good, also, of the organic whole of the Scripture.

12. In the inquiry respecting the historical reality of the angelophanies in the life of the Lord, we must above all not overlook their infrequeney, which affords the strongest argument against an invention. From the settlement of the child in Nazareth we have met no angels on His way, and after this appearance we shall not see them in visible form again before the night of Gethsemane falls. Would a writer of myths have been able to content himself with so little? But if now, after the decisive ὕπαγε ὀπίσω μου had been addressed to Satan, no angels had appeared, we should almost have had occasion to doubt the reality of their existence. Comp. LANGE, Gospel of Matthew, p. 86: Jésus tenté au desert, trois méditations par Ad. Monod, Paris, 1854.

13. An eminent work of art, setting forth the history of the temptation in a genuine Protestant spirit, has proceeded from Ary Scheffer.


The history of the temptation offers for homiletical treatment peculiar difficulties, which are easier to feel than to avoid. It is certainly easier to point out how it must not, than how it must be, handled suitably for the edification of the church. On the whole, a sharp separation of the exegetico-critical and the practico-ascetical element is to be commended, and the counsel of the apostle, 2 Tim. 2:23, must not be lost out of mind. Superficial criticism of opposing opinions is in the pulpit as superfluous as an extended defence of personal views. Where there is strife the Devil comes into the midst of the children of God. Job 1:6. It will be best to leave the disputable points in a sacred obscurity and to keep to that which is clear and evident. To those who, in reference to the New Testament demonology, stand on a sceptical or negative position, the treatment of this material is least of all to be commended. They have, if they cannot withhold themselves from it, at least to take heed that they advance no principles by which the expression of the Christian self-consciousness in reference to the absolute sinlessness and purity of the Lord shall be in the least wounded. On the whole, if one is disposed to treat the entire narrative altogether, it will perhaps be best to consider it either as an image of the conflict which the Lord had to sustain His life long, or as a type of the spiritual conflict to which every believer in His name is called. That, nevertheless, both in the whole narrative, as well as in its particular parts, there lies a rich treasure of thoughts homiletically serviceable, may be seen from the following hints.

From the Jordan of glorification to the wilderness of temptation. This is the way of God; as with Christ, so with the Christian; and, moreover: 1. An old, and yet an ever new; 2. a hard, and yet a good; 3. a dark, and yet a light; 4. a lonesome, and yet a blessed way.—The temptations which follow a Christian, even into solitude.—Christian fasting in its opposition: 1. To Judaizing fasting, which sees in abstinence from food something in itself meritorious; 2. to heathenish wantonness, which says: “Let us eat and drink, for,” etc.; again, 3. to the ultramontane: “Touch not, taste not, handle not;” 4. to the ultra-Protestant: πάντα ἔξεστιν, but without the limiting οὐ πάντα συμφέρει.—Doubt of the truth of God’s word the first way to sin; so, 1. In Paradise, Gen. 3:2; so here, Luke 4:3; 3. so always.—The temptation to misuse, ever united with the possession of peculiar power.—The unpermitted ways of providing one’s bread.—“It is written” (γέγραπται), the sword of the Spirit: 1. How beautifully it glitters; 2. how deeply it wounds; 3. how decisively it triumphs.—Man lives not by bread alone; he cannot, he may not, he need not.—God can in all manner of ways remove the need of His own.—The dangerous mountain heights in the spiritual life.—The Evil One, the prince of this world: 1. Extent; 2. limits of his might.—Never does Satan lie more outrageously than when he promises.—The worship of the Devil in its more refined forms: 1. How old it is; 2. how richly it appears to reward; 3. how miserably it ends.—To worship the Lord and serve Him alone: 1. A difficult; 2. a holy; 3. a blessed requirement.—Even the sanctuary is no asylum against severe and renewed temptation.—The Lord of the temple upon the pinnacle of the temple and—upon the brink of the abyss.—The highest standpoints border on the deepest abysses.—The Devil also a Doctor of Divinity.—The misuse of Holy Scripture: 1. In many ways the letter used as a weapon to combat the spirit; a poetical word as a weapon to contest the requirement of the law; an Old Testament declaration as a weapon to combat a declaration of the New Testament; 2. dangerous, because the word of Scripture, in and of itself, is holy, finds an echo in the spirit, and is used with so much craft; to be vanquished only by a right, that is, an intelligent, persevering searching of the Scriptures, prompted by the longing for salvation.—No angels’ help to be expected for him that would tempt God.—The ministration of angels to the saints: 1. How far to be expected; 2. how far not.—What is it to tempt God? Why is this sin so great? How is this sin best avoided?—When the Scripture is used believingly, wisely, and perseveringly, there must the Devil at last give way.—When the Devil gives way, it is still always “for a season;” every time he comes back in order: 1. To mislead; but also, 2. to be combatted; and, 3. to be conquered anew.—The angels come to serve Him who has refused their help when it would tempt God.—The noblest triumphs over the kingdom of darkness are celebrated in secret.—Heaven is a sympathizing witness of the conflict carried on on earth.—God permits no one to be tempted above his power of resistance, but gives with the temptation the way of escape. 1 Cor. 10:13.

STARKE:—Whoever gives himself to be guided by God’s spirit, like Christ, comes, it is true, into temptation; but yet he also comes out again.—Satan seeks in particular to make God’s children doubtful of their being his children.—The weapons of Christ and His Christians are not carnal, but yet mighty before God.—The glory and joy of the world is brief and momentary:—When the Devil is not ashamed to lie to Christ’s face, of what, then, is he to be ashamed?—OSIANDER:—Whoever, to obtain honor and happiness, professes a strange religion, worships the Devil.—Nova Bibl. Wirt.:—The Devil is a lofty-seeming spirit; let us, in the might of God, destroy all high things, and in the low valleys of humility be quiet and still.—The Devil can, it is true, strongly draw saints toward sin, but not constrain them by force; persuadere potest, precipitare non potest.—JEROME:—The Scripture is the only rule and standard of our faith and life; to that let us cleave. Ps. 119:105.—As Satan continually comes back, so does God come ever back to help us.

STIER:—How the threefold tempter of the wilderness repeats himself with added strength in the passion.—RAUTENBERG:—Christ is tempted even as we, yet without sin. This word is: 1. A light for our blindness; 2. a spur for our slackness; 3. a staff for our weakness.—BACHMANN:—The temptation of Jesus was a temptation: 1. To doubt of God; 2. to presuming upon God; 3. to apostasy from God’s word.—OETTINGER:—In the kingdom of God there is: 1. No spiritual consecration without spiritual trials; 2. no spiritual trials without spiritual weapons; 3. no spiritual weapons without spiritual victory.—ARNDT:—The temptation of the Lord: 1. Its character; 2. its importance so far as it is set forth, (a) representatively, (b) figuratively, for us.—FUCHS:—The means to a victory over the temptations of the Devil: 1. Watch continually, in every place; 2. watch and pray evermore; 3. use diligently God’s word.—VAN OOSTERZEE:—The temptation in the wilderness the image of the conflict of the Christian life: 1. The temptation; 2. the enemy, 3. the attack; 4. the weapon; 5. the victory; 6. the crown. Finally, the question: If you fight against Christ, how can you still have courage, if you fight under Christ, how can you still be anxious?—The three temptations of the Lord: that in the morning, the noon, the evening of life. Sensuality especially the sin of the youth, ambition especially that of the man, avarice especially that of the old man. Whoever has overcome the first of these three temptations must count upon the second, whoever sees the second behind him will soon be covertly approached by the third. But in these all, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. Over against forty days’ temptation in the first stand the forty days’ peace and joy in the second life of the Lord.


[1]Luke 4:2.—The adverb is wanting in Codd. B., D., L., [Cod. Sin.], etc., and probably is to be expunged as by Lachmann, Tischendorf and Meyer, because apparently inserted from the parallel passage, Matt. 4:2.

[2]Luke 4:4.—Van Oosterzee omits the clause, ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ παντὶ ῥήματι Θεοῦ, supported by Tischendorf, but against Lachmann and Meyer. Meyer remarks that “it is supported by almost all the old versions and fathers, and that, if it had been inserted from Matt. 4:4, would as a vox solennis have doubtless been more precisely like that passage.” Alford omits it, Tregelles brackets it. Cod. B. and Cod. Sin. both omit it.—C. C. S.]

[3]Luke 4:5.—Text. rec.: εἰς ὅρος ὑψηλόν. The genuineness of this reading is at least doubtful [omitted by Codd. B., L., Cod. Sin.], and to be regarded as a paraphrastic emendation from Matt. 4:8, and is therefore omitted by Tischendorf, [Tregelles, Alford, and defended by Meyer, with reason, as absolutely necessary in the text.—C. C. S.]

[4]Luke 4:8.—Text. rec.: Ὕπαγε ὀπίσω μου, σατανᾶ. Apparently an interpolation from Matt. 4:10. At least it is wanting in Codd. B., D., L., [Cod. Sin.], most versions, and in fathers of authority, and is moreover a serious (and, at the same time, critically suspicious) obstacle to the harmony of the evangelical narratives.

And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.


A. Nazareth.—The First Rejection of the Holy Son of Man by the Sinful Children of Men. LUKE 4:14–30

14And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out afame of him through all the region round about. 15And he taught in their synagogues,being glorified [receiving honor] of all. 16And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was,5 he went into the synagogue on the Sabbathday and stood up for to read [stood up to read]. 17And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened [unrolled] the book,he found the place where it was written, 18The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel [or to bring good tidings] to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted,6 to preach deliverance to the captives, andrecovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19To preach theacceptable year of the Lord. 20And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister [attendant] and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagoguewere fastened upon him. 21And he began to say unto them, This day is thisScripture fulfilled in your ears. 22And all bare him [honorable] witness, and wondered at the gracious words [words of grace7] which proceeded out of his mouth. And theysaid, Is not this Joseph’s son? 23And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country [native place]. 24And he said, Verily I say unto you, Noprophet is accepted in his own country. 25But I tell you of a truth, many widows were [there were many widows] in Israel in the days of Elias [Elijah], when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when [a] great famine was throughout [came upon] all the land; 26But unto none [no one] of them was Elias [Elijah] sent, save untoSarepta [Zarephath], a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. 27And many lepers were [there were many lepers] in Israel in the time of Eliseus [Elisha] the prophet; and none [no one] of them was cleansed, saving [save] Naaman the Syrian.28And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath,29And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow [or, a cliff]30of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he, passing through the midst of them, went his way.


Luke 4:14. And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee.—With these words Luke begins to portray the public activity of the Lord in Galilee. Respecting this activity in general, see LANGE’S Matthew, p. 91. That Luke speaks of a return of the Lord to Galilee, while Mark only speaks in general of a coming (1:14), is easily explicable from the fact that he had already spoken of a longer abode of Jesus in Galilee (Luke 2:39–52). And in saying that this took place in the power of the Spirit, he indicates not obscurely that the Spirit which was poured out at His baptism upon the Saviour, far from being suppressed or departing from Him in consequence of the temptation in the wilderness, on the other hand, exhibited itself for the first time in full power in Him after the triumph there achieved. As Bengel also has it: Post victoriam corroboratus.

A fame.—Not a “fame of the return of the man that had been so marked out at His baptism and then hidden more than forty days” (Meyer); for it is quite as destitute of proof that the testimony given to the Lord at His baptism took place coram populo congregato as that John should have spoken of the miracle at the baptism to any one. Luke 4:14 plainly anticipates Luke 4:15, in which latter the actual cause of this fame is first stated. The doctrine which He preaches draws astonished attention, and finds at the beginning acceptance. This account of Luke deserves attention the more, from the fact that hitherto he has mentioned no miracles as the cause of this φήμη. The word of the Saviour in and of itself, independently even of the way in which He afterwards confirmed it, appears at once to have come home to many.

Luke 4:15. And He taught.—Luke in this expression gives only a general account of the earliest activity of the Lord in Galilee, and moreover passes over all that preceded His appearance in Nazareth (Luke 4:16 seq.) in silence. It is not here the place to adventure ourselves in the labyrinth of the New Testament harmony and chronology. If any one, however, wishes to know how we believe that after the forty days’ temptation the different events are to be arranged, they appear to us to have followed one another in the following order:

1. The first friends (John 1:35–52);

2. The first miracle (John 2:1–12);

3. The first passover (John 2:13–22);

4. Jesus and Nicodemus (John 2:23–3:21);

5. The Messiah in Samaria (John 4:1 seq.);

6. The second miracle in Cana (John 4:43 seq.);

7. The first sermon in Nazareth (Luke 4:16–30).

Luke 4:14, therefore, according to our opinion, proceeds parallel with John 4:43. The first sermon at Nazareth was immediately preceded by the second miracle of Cana, John 4:43 seq., and was followed immediately by the removal to Capernaum, Matt. 4:13.

Luke 4:16. And He came to Nazareth.—The question is, whether this visit to Nazareth was the same as that related in Matt. 13:55–58, and if this is the case, which of the Synoptics has communicated this circumstance in its most exact historic connection. The first question we believe, with others and with Lange (Matthew, p. 255), that we must answer affirmatively; and in respect to the second inquiry, that we must give the preference to Luke. The opinion that the Lord preached twice in this way at Nazareth encounters, according to our view, insurmountable difficulties. That Jesus, after such treatment as is related by Luke, Luke 4:30, should have returned yet again; that He should have preached there again, should again have heard the same reproach, should again have given the same answer, is a supposition that perhaps no one would have defended had not his harmony been guided by doctrinal considerations and interests. Luke, it is true, does not speak of the miracles which are reported Matt. 13:58. But nothing hinders us from assuming that He had already performed these before the sermon in the synagogue, since (Luke 4:27–29) immediately after that the attack upon His life followed, although Matthew and Mark end their account respecting Nazareth with the mention of these miracles. It appears that the Lord even before the sermon communicated by Luke had thought in this way to dispose their hearts in His favor,—and let it not be said that this is an artificial interpretation (Stier). Is it not improbable that the Lord should only have remained one day at Nazareth and should only have come into the town on the same Sabbath on which He entered the synagogue? Even the Jewish Sabbath laws, which restricted travelling on this day, forbade this, and, on the supposition that the Lord had already wrought some miracles at Nazareth, His severe discourse acquires double force, and the comparison with the miracles of Elijah and Elisha, moreover, is fully in place. We do not admit the objection that then the words which the Lord puts in their mouths, Luke 4:23, would no longer be applicable. On the contrary, they were not content with the miracles wrought among themselves, but, on the other hand, desired miracles like those at Capernaum (John 4:45), miracles such as awaken astonishment at a distance. Why should not the report of that which had been done for the βασιλικός at Capernaum have made its way to Nazareth? and is there indeed anything that is harder to appease than the craving for marvels? If any one, however, believes that all the difficulties are not in this way, either, removed out of the way, he will yet have to acknowledge that the difficulties which spring from the repetition of all these events are at any rate somewhat more numerous.

Where He had been brought up.—Evidently this account points back to the history of His childhood. A holy moment in the life of the Lord, when He for the first time should teach in the synagogue of the town in which He has spent so many years in silence. Respecting Nazareth, see LANGE on Matt. 2:23.

As His custom was.Videmus, quid egerit adolescens Jesus Nazarethœ, ante baptismum. Bengel. Apparently (see above) this Sabbath was the first after His return to Nazareth, where the Lord, before this public appearance, had already wrought some miracles in a smaller circle, and appears to have remarked the first traces of unbelief (Matt. 13:58; Mark 6:5), the rebuke of which, in His first discourse, would otherwise not have been immediately necessary.

And stood up to read.—Hitherto He had always been accustomed to sit among the hearers. The public reading in the synagogue consisted of a portion of the Law, which, in regular order, was followed by a section of the Prophets. Besides this, opportunity was sometimes given to respectable strangers to give a free word of exhortation or consolation (Acts 13:15), and the Saviour’s rising served as a token that He also wished to make use of this liberty. The public reading of the Law had already taken place, and that of the Prophets was about to begin. He, therefore, receives from the hand of the attendant the roll, out of which on that day, according to the customary sequence, the lesson was to be read. It was that of Isaiah, and after He had unrolled this holy book, He finds, certainly without seeking, yet not without special higher guidance, the prophetic passage referred to.

Luke 4:17. The place where it was written.—Strictly speaking, this passage (Isaiah 61:1) was the haphthara appointed for the morning of the great Day of Atonement (the 10th Tishri), and on this account Bengel, in his Ordo Temporum, p. 220, believed himself to have here come upon an infallible chronological datum; yet, even if it were assumed that this division of the lessons was already in use in the Saviour’s time, it would then be surprising that Luke has not said a word here of His seeking an appointed prophecy: exactly the opposite.

Luke 4:18. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.—Isaiah 61, freely quoted after the Septuagint. Jesus probably read the passage aloud in Hebrew, but Luke appears to communicate it from memory according to the Alexandrian version. From this arises the difference between the original text and the citation, which is more particularly stated by De Wette (ad locum). He has even taken the words: ἀποστεῖλαι τεθραυσμέν. ἐν ἀφ. from Isaiah 58:6, so that accordingly he gives not so much the letter as the main thought of the text of this sermon. This text appears, however, to have been designedly ended at the words: The acceptable year of the Lord (that is, the definite time in which the Lord is gracious), although commonly not less than 21 verses were read from the Prophets. The freedom was used, according to later authors also, of often deviating from this usage, and then 3, 5, or 7 verses were sometimes read aloud. See SEPP, Leben Jesu, ii. p. 123. As respects the passage in itself, the prophet undoubtedly speaks primarily of his own vocation and dignity, but as the servant of Jehovah he was in his work and destiny the type and image of the Messiah, the perfect servant of the Father. What at the time of Isaiah was only relatively true for himself, could hold good in its full significance only of the Messiah, who had brought in an eternal redemption. Therefore Jesus can with the fullest right begin: ὅτι σήμερον, κ.τ.λ. Comp. Hoffmann, Weissag., and Erf. ii. p. 96.

Luke 4:20. And when He had rolled up the book.—It is, of course, to be understood that the words: “To-day is this Scripture fulfilled,” &c., constituted not properly the contents but the beginning of this discourse. The text chosen gives the Lord occasion to set forth the work to be accomplished by Him on its most amiable side; no wonder, therefore, that the eyes of all are directed upon Him. With this one picturesque stroke, Luke (Pictor) gives to his narrative the greatest distinctness, and places us, as it were, in the midst of the citizens of Nazareth. What here took place he probably learned from Mary, or one of the ἀδελφοί, who were certainly present at this first discourse of Jesus of Nazareth, and therefore, he is able to go more into detail than Matthew and Mark, and even to communicate the prophetic text. Respecting the fulfilment of a prophecy, comp., moreover, the remark in O. von Gerlach, N. T. on Matt. 2:16.

Luke 4:22. And all bare Him witness.—To the gracious words of the Saviour is this testimony given, and from this it becomes very soon evident that it does not respect the contents but the form of the discourse of the Lord. They admired not what but the way in which the Saviour spoke, especially when they remembered His humble origin, which would have given occasion to no such expectation; for it is, of course, certain that the inhabitants of Nazareth could not have known of the mystery of His conception by the Holy Ghost. This passage, as well as John 7:46, is noteworthy, since it gives an unimpeachable evidence of the irresistible impression which the graciousness of the manner of Jesus in His discourse and preaching, produced even in the case of imperfectly developed or hostilely disposed persons.

Luke 4:23. Surely, πάντως.—The Lord has the certain expectation of that which they will allege against Him, since He sees the captiousness of prejudice arising already in their hearts, and He makes use of the proverbial expression: “Physician, heal thyself,” not only in order to express His meaning more plainly, but also to give them an intimation in respect to the blessed purpose of His appearance as Israel’s physician. From comparison of Matt. 13:57 and Mark 6:4 with Luke 4:24 it appears that the Synoptics deviate in some measure from each other in the report of the words in which the Lord expressed the idea that a prophet usually has nowhere less authority than in his own country. It is very possible that He used this apophthegm often, and that with slight variations; the most original and simple form of the proverb, however, we believe that we find in this passage of Luke. As to the causes why the prophet in his own immediate circle receives less honor than elsewhere, Neander deserves to be compared in his Leben Jesu, at this passage.—Heal thyself, not: “Undertake the remedy of thine own poverty before the world,” or, “Take better care than hitherto of thy prophetic dignity;” but: “Help thine own countrymen, who are naturally the nearest to thee.” The figurative words are sufficiently explained by the literal words immediately following them: “What we have heard,” &c. To the craving for the marvellous, which of itself, indeed, knows no bounds, there is added now, moreover, the reckoning how great a fame their despised village would attain if He should make it the centre of a brilliant miraculous activity. On this account they indirectly reproach Him with having already bestowed an honor on Capernaum, to which they properly had the nearest claim. Of the many miracles which the Lord had already at an earlier point of time performed in Jerusalem (John 2:23), they appear as yet to have learned nothing.

Luke 4:25. Many widows were in Israel.—With the greatest humility He, who was so much more than a prophet, places Himself so far on an equality with the prophets in the Old Testament as this, that He together with them must be content to suffer an unbelieving rejection, which, it is true, is most severely requited by God. This we see from two examples taken from the life of Elijah and Elisha, which are doubly noteworthy for this reason, that here at the beginning of the public life of Jesus in somewhat covert wise the same thing is announced which the Saviour at the end with explicit words threatens the Jews with, as punishment for their unbelief. See Matt. 21:43.

As repects now the first of these examples, comp. 1 Kings 17:18. There has some difficulty arisen, from the fact that the duration of the drought here (as well as in James 5:17) is stated as three years and six months, while from 1 Kings 18 it appears to result that Elijah in the 3d year returned to Ahab, and very soon after his return the rain commenced. We cannot agree with De Wette, who here, by comparison with Dan. 12:7, maintains that he has deduced the fact, that it was a Jewish custom to give to a period of calamity the average duration of three and a half years, and as little can we assume with others (e.g., GEBSER, Commentary on James), that in the New Testament another reckoning of time has been followed from that in the Old. We prefer supposing, with Olshausen, that the third year, 1 Kings 18:1, must be reckoned from the arrival of Elijah at Sarepta, 1 Kings 17:9, which, however, had been already preceded by a year of drought, during which the prophet had abode at the brook Cherith, Luke 4:7.—That Elijah was actually sent only to this one and to no one of the many widows in Israel besides, we should not be absolutely obliged to conclude from the Old Testament, but we assume it upon the infallible word of the Saviour. [As our Lord here evidently proceeds upon the common ground of the history, which both parties were alike acquainted with, this last remark appears superfluous.—C. C. S.]

Luke 4:27. Many lepers.—Comp. 2 Kings 7:3.—In the time of Elijah, ἐπί. Comp. Luke 3:2; Mark 2:26; Acts 11:28.—Naaman. See 2, Kings 6:1–19. “Then might,” the Lord means to say, “the Jews also have been able to say to Elijah and Elisha: Do the same also here in your country.” But it was not possible, because the Jews did not seek the help which they had at the door, and closed their hearts against the Lord. “Theophilus, doubtless, when he read this, rejoiced in the God who is truly also the God of the Gentiles.” Besser. The mention of the history of Naaman was the more humiliating since he had first been unbelieving, but afterwards, on the representations of his simple-minded servants, had become believing.

It would be most unjust to accuse this turn, which the Saviour gave His discourse, of excessive harshness (Hase, De Wette), since we must not forget what an unloving judgment (Luke 4:22, 23), respecting His person and His work had preceded it, and how here everything depends on the tone and the voice of the speaker. Moreover, since Luke communicates to us only the main substance of the whole address, we must be very careful of rendering here a precipitate judgment; we have rather here to admire the wise Physician who does not shrink from heroic methods in order to attack the very heart of the chief moral disease of His contemporaries, namely, sensuousness and earthly-minded expectations, and who will rather set at stake His own safety than spare their perverseness. And ought not He who had spent so many years of retirement at Nazareth, and had carefully observed the moral condition of its inhabitants, to have been better able to judge how sternly and severely He was obliged to rebuke, than modern criticism, which here also is very far from being without pre-suppositions?

Luke 4:28. And all they in the synagogue … were filled with wrath.—The veritas odium parit never belied itself less than in respect to the Saviour, in whom the ἀλήθεια itself was personally manifested upon earth. How little do the embittered hearers apprehend that precisely by this they give the proof of the justice of the rebuke which they had heard! The reception which Jesus here found, agrees remarkably with that which afterwards Stephen found (Acts 7:51). And if this rise of bitterness is compared with the earlier enthusiasm, Luke 4:22, it shows in a striking manner the inconstancy of human honor as well as the untrustworthiness of human passions. Not at Rome alone did the Capitoline border hard on the Tarpeian rock.

Luke 4:29. A cliff of the hill.—Nazareth still lies at the present day on a mountain precipice of from 400 to 500 ft. high, which lifts itself above a valley of about a half a league in circumference; see RÖHR, Palestine, pp. 126–129, and the other eminent narratives of travel. Near the Maronite church they still show the rocky wall on the west side of the town, from 40 to 50 ft. high, where the event of the text is said to have happened, and from which He could easily escape them through the narrow and crowded streets of the town (Robinson, p. 423). That the monks show at a distance of two English miles from Nazareth another Mount of Precipitation, where there are yet two stones against which (they say) the Lord leaned in defending Himself, and which yet show traces of His hands and feet, is doubtless one of the grossest errors which tradition has committed in the sphere of the Saviour’s life.

Luke 4:30. But He.—It will hardly be necessary to vindicate the historic reality of this fact against critics who are throughout disposed to place the Jews somewhat higher, and the Lord, indeed, somewhat lower than the Gospel does. Proofs of the turbulence, the cruelty, and the revengefulness of the Galileans can be found in abundance in Josephus, even in the history of his own life. As respects the escape of the Lord, we can here no more assume, with Olshausen, De Wette, and Strauss, something mysterious, than we can subscribe to the prosaic explanation: That He owed His deliverance only to the courage and the resoluteness with which He warded them off from Him (!!) and voluntarily expelled Himself from the synagogue, John 16:2 (Von Ammon). With Hase, Stier, and Lange, we ascribe Jesus’ escape to the composure with which He made a way for Himself, strong in the consciousness that His hour was not yet come. He goes thus, not in order to escape His Passion, but in order actively to await the agony of His Passion appointed for Him hereafter. Examples of the daunting influence which composure and self-control have often exercised, on raging crowds are too numerous to be all mentioned here. Let the reader only call to mind the effect of the crushing word: “Slave, wilt thou slay Marius?” and better than this, John 18:6. It is, then, unnecessary also to understand here a particular protection of God (in the sense of a miracle, Meyer), but it is better to bring all mirabilia of the kind, in the wider sense of the word, into connection with the elevated and wholly unique personality of the Lord—the absolute miraculum—to which, in a certain sense, it was innate to make such an impression on the rude rabble surrounding Him. “Not in any such sense as that they were struck with blindness does He go forth, invisible and with an outward miracle, for this is precisely what the Evangelist by διελθὼν διὰ μέσου means to deny; but He only beholds them with a look of His hitherto restrained majesty, reserved for this last need, and they, receiving yet another sign of His spiritual might as a parting token, are bound and incapable of touching Him. Nay, they are compelled on the right and left to make place reverently for His going forth. They stood, stumbled, sought, grew ashamed, fled, and went apart, as Pfenninger with striking pencil paints the close of the scene.” R. Stier.


1. The Saviour comes forward in the might of the same Spirit with which He was baptized and with which He overcame Satan. The account of His preaching at Nazareth is especially noteworthy, because it shows how His personality and His word, even without doing miracles, made an irresistible impression so long as the sensibility was not closed up through hostility and prejudice. We remark the same in Samaria, John 4:41, 42. The history of the Saviour’s first preaching in the town of His bringing up, may also serve as a proof how fully applicable to Him is the word of the Psalm, Ps. 45:3.

2. Jesus’ discourse at Nazareth may be named at the same time an opening sermon of His whole activity in Galilee. Impossible, indeed, would it be to find a more admirable text than the Saviour found in turning over the prophetic roll; it is a gospel in brief, the best description of the Christus Consolator. The poor, the prisoners, the blind are indeed the best representatives of the whole mass of suffering mankind. Their names present before our eyes misery and sin in their whole compass. Freedom, light, healing—what noble images of the salvation given in Christ! “Christ finds all those to whom He comes blind, without knowledge of God, bound of Satan, and kept prisoners under death, sin, and the law. For out of the Gospel there is nothing but utter darkness and captivity, so that even if we have some little knowledge, yet can we not follow the same, because we are bound.” Luther.

3. This sermon is of moment, because from it it appears in what relation Christ as Prophet placed Himself to the Old Testament. He grounds His proclamation of the Gospel upon the Scripture, cleaves not merely to its letter, but presses through to its spirit and proclaims Himself as the end of the Law and the Prophets. The Prophetic Scripture is the mirror in which He beholds His own image and shows it to His contemporaries. The genuine evangelical spirit comes to manifestation in an Old Testament form. Even the parallelismus membrorum, to be observed in the diction of the Old Testament, is not wanting in the way in which He opposes the widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, to the lepers in those of Elisha, and repeatedly declares: “To none of them,” &c. After such remarks the inquiry may well be called superfluous whether the Saviour, in the place where He was brought up, received into His soul the inmost spirit of the Scriptures of the Old Testament.

4. The Saviour at Nazareth reveals at once His double character as Physician and Prophet: as physician, who is treated with scorn when he wishes to prepare help for others and at once is bidden to heal himself; as prophet, who deserves the highest honor and does not receive the least. Upon the miracles wrought by the Lord in Nazareth, see LANGE, Matthew, p. 255.

5. The first discourse of the Saviour at Nazareth bears so far as this a typico-symbolic character, that, on the one hand, it serves as a prototype of every true preaching of the gospel as to substance, ground, and tenor, and, on the other hand, as in a mirror brings to sight the cliffs on which the effects of a discourse commonly suffer shipwreck—earthly-mindedness, prejudice, pride. Of the four classes of persons who are designated in the parable of the Sower, we find here particularly the second and the third.

6. The manner in which the Saviour begins His sermon at Nazareth deserves, in form as well as matter, to be called a model for every true preacher of the gospel. Comp. the chapter: “Jésus Christ, modèle du prédicateur,” in the admirable tractate of Nap. Roussel, Comment il ne faut pas prêcher, Paris and London, 1857.

7. Nazareth’s synagogue is an image of unbelieving Israel, Nazareth’s rock an image of the unshakable composure and inward tranquillity of Jesus.


The triumphal return from the wilderness of temptation.—Whither Jesus comes, the fame of Him always precedes Him.—The beginning of His pilgrimage takes place under the most favoring presages.—Jesus returns to Nazareth, the place of His bringing up, as a prophet mighty in word and deed.—The heart-winning art of Jesus.—The visit to the synagogue on the Sabbath a settled custom of the Lord.—The public reading of the word of God an important part of the joint worship of God.—The high value of the prophetical word: 1. Before, 2. during, 3. after the time of the Saviour.—All mourners are comforted when Christ appears.—The true preacher of the gospel one anointed with the Holy Spirit.—The time of the New Covenant an acceptable year of the Lord; as such, the day of salvation is: 1. Announced, 2. manifested, 3. confirmed in the case of all believers.—The gracious year of the Lord precedes the day of vengeance of our God, yet the latter follows immediately.—Christ: 1. The consolation of the poor, 2. the freedom of the prisoners, 3. the light of the blind.—How admiration for the preacher may be united with the rejection of the preaching.—The might of prejudice against the truth.—The unbelief of earlier and later days at all times self-consistent: 1. Manifested, 2. punished, in the same way.—God’s greatest exhibitions of grace are lost on those who give ear only to the voice of flesh and blood.—The history of the Old Testament a testis temporum, lux veritatis, magistra vitœ.—A believing Gentile more acceptable to God than an unbelieving Jew.—No respect of persons with God.—Craving for miracles easily excited, never contented, severely rebuked.—“Unless ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.”—The poor of this world hath God chosen, &c., 1 Cor. 1:26 seq.—The inconstancy of human laudations and emotions, Luke 4:22–28; comp. Acts 14:18, 19.—Jesus rejected in Nazareth an argument for the truth of the declaration John 1:11. It is striking that unbelieving rejection of the Saviour: 1. Still shows the same character, 2. still betrays the same origin, 3. still deserves the same judgment as the behavior of the inhabitants of Nazareth.—Christ the Vanquisher of His enemies even when He appears to give way to them.—The immovable composure of the Lord over against the blind rage of His enemies.—The servant of the Lord inviolable so long as his hour is not yet come.—What a distinction between the mountain in the wilderness where the Lord surveys the kingdoms of the earth, and the rock at Nazareth where He beholds His own life threatened! And yet upon both is He victorious, and even the Mount of Precipitation is a step to His enthronement and dominion over all.

STARKE:—True preachers have to go through good and evil report, 2 Cor. 6:8.—New preachers of the gospel are wont to be praised, but not long, for the people get tired and their ears itch again for new doctrines, 2 Tim. 4:3.—To visit the public assembly on the Sabbath is all Christians’ duty, Heb. 10:25.—HEDINGER:—The ground of all divine truth and its means of proof must be Scripture.—When men first begin with despising the person of a teacher, they are wont also commonly to despise his words and office.—ZEISIUS:—So long as the gospel is preached with sweet words, the godless also put up with it, but so soon as the application is made, the best appearing are often ready to burst with anger.—OSIANDER:—It is a folly of men to esteem highly what is strange, but to account as nothing what has come up among themselves.—QUESNEL:—Truth embitters those whom it does not enlighten and convert (the gospel a cause of tumult, Luther).—Men are often worse than the devil, who did not do what the Jews wanted to do, Luke 4:29.—CANSTEIN:—There is no might nor counsel against the Lord.—It is often prudence and magnanimity to give way to inflamed dispositions.

HEUBNER on Luke 4:18 and 19:—The order of salvation is given in these verses as in 1 Cor. 1:30: 1. Wisdom =to preach the gospel to the poor; 2. righteousness =to heal the broken hearts (these words are, however, spurious. See above); 3. sanctification =to proclaim deliverance to the captive, &c.; 4. redemption =preaching the acceptable year of the Lord; in other words: 1. The prophetical, 2. the high-priestly, 3. and 4. the kingly office of the Lord. (Ingeniose magis quam vere! Van Oosterzee.)—ARNDT:—The first sermon of Jesus at Nazareth: 1. How rich in matter it must have been; 2. what an impression must have been made!—PALMER:—How the people are astonished at the speech of the Lord! [Vere sed insipidissime.—C. C. S.]—DRÆSEKE:—The acceptable year of the Lord.—VAN OOSTERZEE (inaugural discourse in his native town Rotterdam upon Luke 4:16–22):—The first sermon of Jesus at Nazareth a standard for the minister of the gospel at the beginning of his work. The narrative imparts to the minister of the gospel pregnant suggestions: 1. In reference to the point of view from which he is to consider his work: a. origin, b. matter, c. object, of preaching (Luke 4:18, 19). 2. In relation to the manner in which he must perform his work: as here the preaching must be: a. Grounded on Scripture, b. accommodated to the necessity of the hearers, c. presented in an attractive manner. 3. In relation to the fruit upon which he can reckon in this labor. Nazareth shows us: a. That blossoms are as yet no certain sign of fruit; b. that this fruit may be blasted by the most unhappy causes; c. that the harvest may turn out yet better than at the beginning it appears (there in the synagogue were Mary, and also the ἀδελφοί, who afterwards believed, and if the Saviour did not work many miracles at Nazareth, He yet wrought some, Matt. 13:58). 4. In relation to the temper in which he is to begin a new work: a. With thankful recollections of the past (Luke 4:16); b. with holy spiritual might for the present (Luke 4:18); c. with joyful hope for the future (Luke 4:21). Happy the teacher who is permitted to begin his preaching under more favorable presages than Jesus began His in the city where He was brought up.


[5]Luke 4:16.—From the position of this clause it might appear as if His custom had been not only to visit the synagogue on the Sabbath, but also to read in the public service, but the position of κατὰ τὸ εἰωθὸς in the Greek, makes it best to confine the reference to His habitual attendance in the synagogue.—C. C. S.]

[6]Luke 4:18.—The Rec. inserts ἰάσασθαι τοὺς συντετριμμένους τὴν καρδίαν, which, however, appears to be an interpolation from the LXX., Is. 61:1, rightly put in brackets by Lachmann, and rejected by De Wette and Meyer. [Wanting in B., D., L., and Sin.—C. C. S.]

[7]Luke 4:22.—Χάριτος does not refer to the ethical character of His words, but to their persuasive beauty. Anmuth, not Gnade.—C. C. S.]

And came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days.
B. Capernaum.—The Prophet mighty in Works and Words before God and all the People.

LUKE 4:31–7:50

1. The first Settlement, the first miraculous Acts, the first Choice of Apostles at Capernaum.


31And [he] came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught8 them on the sabbath days. 32And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was withpower. 33And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil,34and cried out with a loud voice, Saying,9 Let us alone [or, Ha!]; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee whothou art; the Holy One of God. 35And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came outof him, and hurt him not. 36And they were all amazed [there came an awe upon all], and [they] spake among themselves, saying, What a word is this! for with authorityand power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out. 37And the fame [a rumor or report, ἦχος] of him went out into every place of the country round about.38And he arose out of the synagogue, and entered into Simon’s house. And Simon’s wife’s mother was taken with [suffering under] a great [severe] fever; and they besought him for her. 39And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her:and immediately she arose and ministered unto them. 40Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any [friends] sick with divers [various] diseases brought them untohim; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them. 41And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ10 the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for11 they knew that he was Christ.42And when it was day, he departed and went into a desert place: and the people sought him, and came unto him, and stayed him, that he should not depart from 43them. And [But] he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to [the] other cities also: for therefore [thereto] am I sent. 44And he preached in the synagogues of Galilee.


Luke 4:31. And He came down to Capernaum.—Comp. the remarks on Matt. 4:13. Plainly enough Luke brings the removal of the Saviour to Capernaum into connection with the unfavorable reception which He finds at Nazareth. Herein he is indirectly supported by Matthew (Luke 4:13), while Mark (Luke 1:21) does not contradict it. John, it is true, gives no account of this settlement of Jesus at Capernaum, but it is known how incomplete his Galilean reports are. That he also knows of an abode of the Saviour at Capernaum, appears from Luke 2:12; 6:59. The suitableness of this dwelling-place for Jesus, nevertheless, strikes the eye at once: He finds Himself here in the centre of a very active traffic, between Tyre, Sidon, Arabia, and Damascus, upon the great road to the Mediterranean, where continually great throngs were streaming together. From here He could easily travel to Judæa, Ituræa, and Upper Galilee, in order to preach the gospel. Here the influence of the sacerdotal party was not so strong as in Jerusalem; here He found, moreover, the dwelling of Simon Peter, a friend’s house, whose hospitable rooms He was doubtless glad to use as His shelter during His sojourn there, even if He did not exactly live in this house, especially as His brothers at Nazareth did not yet believe on Him. If He wished for rest He could find this nowhere better than on the shore of the lake, of whose exquisite environs Rabbinical scholars write: “Seven seas have I created in the Holy Land of Canaan, saith the Lord, but only one of all these have I chosen, namely the Sea of Gennesareth,” and if danger threatened Him, He could at once betake Himself to the opposite jurisdiction of the tetrarch Philip. That the moral wretchedness of the town above many others, might recommend it only the more to the great Physician of sinners, is easily intelligible.

And taught them.—What He preached there is given in Mark 1:15. Particularly in the beginning of His public life does He attach Himself to John the Baptist, yet He distinguishes Himself at once from Him in this, that with the requirement of μετάνοια He connects that of faith on the gospel, and explicitly declares, that the time is not only come near, but is fulfilled.

Luke 4:32. And they were astonished.—The preaching of the Saviour produces, therefore, at Capernaum at once a much deeper impression than at Nazareth (Luke 4:22). A similar explanation to that here, in relation to the might of the word of Jesus in opposition to that of the spiritually dead doctrine of the scribes and Pharisees, is also given by Matthew, Luke 7:28, 29.

Luke 4:33. Which had a spirit of an unclean devil—According to Mark 1:21, compared with Luke 4:16–20, this healing took place not before but after the calling of the first four apostles, which Luke does not mention until Luke 5:1–11. Matthew passes over this miracle entirely in silence. As respects the possessed, of whom we here meet one, it will hardly be necessary here again to refute the rationalistic assertion, that the Saviour and His Evangelists, when they speak of demoniacal infirmities, accommodated themselves only to a superstitious popular conception. With everything figurative which they contain, yet expressions such as Luke 11:24–27; Matt. 17:21, and other passages, appear to lead to the presupposition that these unhappy ones were actually tormented by demoniacal influence. Modern science has as yet by no means proved that on actual possession, even nowadays, is unheard of and impossible. How much less is it inconceivable in the fulness of time, when the kingdom of darkness concentrated its full power against the kingdom of light!

Here indeed the ontological objection has been brought forward that there are no demons, and that, if there were, the possession of men by them would be utterly impossible. But a modest science would indeed have to take the word “impossible” not quite so quickly upon its lips, and not in its self-conceit to decide in a sphere of which, outside of historic revelation, it knows nothing. The whole connection of our bodily and spiritual nature, as well as the operation of spirit upon spirit, remains for us still, in part, a terra incognita. This we know, however: the soul operates through the nervous system upon the body and receives by the medium of these nerves its impressions from the outer world. Not less certain is it, that the natural connection between the nervous life and consciousness may be relaxed for a shorter or longer time; the magnetic sleep and insanity are witnesses for this. If, therefore, as the Lord Himself declares, demons exist, why should they not be able so to work on the nervous system that the soul subjected to this strange influence is fettered and rendered inactive? Why should we not be able to experience the operation of the world of spirits upon us most strongly just at the time when the regular operation of the world of sense upon us is restrained? Undoubtedly, if we understand such an indwelling of the demons that by it two or three subjects are united in one material organism, we fall into psychological monstrosities. But if we assume a personal operation of evil spirits upon their victims which takes place in a psychical way and does not expel the human spirit but suppresses it, there are then no insurmountable difficulties remaining, even if the demoniacally infirm are not precisely to be called greater sinners than others. Yet there may have been in their own physical or psychical condition a peculiarly great receptivity for the operation of the demons. The accounts which we have of these infirm in the Synoptics give us warrant for such a conception. But as respects the silence of John upon this, we can by no means infer too much from the argument e silentio. Perhaps the Saviour healed fewer possessed in Judæa than in Galilee. Perhaps John considered it unnecessary to amplify the few miracles related by him with reports of this particular character. Perhaps, also, he was disposed to consider the combat between darkness and light more on its ethical than on its metaphysical side. In brief, there is just as little reason for the assumption that he himself was unbelieving in the matter of demonology, as for the assumption that he preferred to pass this Jewish superstition over in silence before his readers in Asia Minor. In order to maintain this assumption, we should be obliged to overlook entirely such passages as 1 John 3:8; John 13:27; 10:20. In the last named passage the word καὶ μαίνεται is by no means synonymous with the preceding δαιμόνιον ἔχει, but this latter is in the opinion of the Jews the ground of the former. In a similar way they connect, John 8:48, the charge that Jesus was possessed, with the injurious epithet Samaritan, Comp., moreover, respecting the demoniacs, LANGE, Matthew, p. 96; IDELER, Geschichte des religiösen Wahnsinns, I, and the weighty article of Ebrard in HERZOG’S Real Encyklopädie, 3. pp. 240–255.

Luke 4:34. What have we.—The demoniac, therefore, knows Jesus in His high dignity, although He had just appeared publicly for the first time in Capernaum. If we have once recognized the possession, there is nothing in this extraordinary. Analogies in abundance are presented by natural presentiments, the gift of second sight, &c. The mystery concealed from the human world of the origin of Jesus and the purpose of His incarnation, is already known to the world of spirits, which almost instinctively is compelled to tremble when it recognizes its future conqueror. Noticeable is the plural in which the demon makes itself heard, although Luke has spoken in the singular of a πνεῦμα δαιμ. ἀκαθ. It is possible that he speaks, as it were, in the name of the whole demon-world, which he feels threatened in himself, or also that he makes himself heard in the name of the whole throng assembled in the synagogue, in the definite purpose of arousing a bitterness against Jesus and bringing His life into danger. Certainly this would have been a worthy attempt for the vassal of the Prince of Hell, since the latter had been so brilliantly beaten back in the wilderness, and was now bent upon vengeance and new assaults. Comp. the Satanology of Boss in RUDELB. and GUERIKE’S Zeitschrift, 1851, 4, and the prælection of Sartorius upon the Doctrine of Satan in HENGSTENBERG’S Evang. Kirchenzeitung, 1858, 1.

Luke 4:35. And Jesus rebuked him.—Here also we see at once that in the therapeutics of the heavenly Physician threatening takes a far more important place than sympathizing lamentation. He passes over for a moment the sufferer Himself in order to direct at once His word of might against the evil spirit controlling him. The word of might with which He commands the demon has a noticeable agreement with that with which He afterwards bridles the seas and the winds.

And when the devil had thrown him.—Here also, as often, the most violent paroxysm precedes the healing of the sufferer. To undertake fully to explain such phenomena in sickness is perhaps as foolish as to call them wholly inconceivable. Whoever has understanding will call no philosophical presuppositions to his help in order to judge a priori of facts, but will rather observe facts, in order upon them to build his theories, and, moreover, especially in cases like the present, will be mindful of the word of the English poet-king: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”—Threw him, ῥίψαν; somewhat stronger Mark: σπαράξαν, quum discerpsisset eum. “Mitiore verbo usus est Lucas, in sensu tamen optime conveniunt, quia uterque docere voluit, violentum fuisse Dœmonis exitum. Sic ergo miserum hominem prostravit, quasi discerpere vellet: irritum tamen fuisse conatum dicit Lucas, non quod impetus ille prorsus absque lœsione fuerit, vel saltem obsque ullo doloris sensu, sed quia integer postea fuit homo a diabolo liberatus.” Calvin.—As to the rest, the ground on which the Saviour imposed silence on the demon strikes us at once. He would not have His Messianic dignity prematurely declared before the ears of all, and repulsed every homage which was offered Him from impure lips or in an equivocal intent. In this last respect, we see Paul following the footsteps of His great Master, Acts 16:18. Here also the declaration, Psalm 50:16, holds good.

Luke 4:36. What a word is this!—Mark: What sort of new doctrine, καινὴ διδαχή. The newness in this case is found not so much in the matter as in the effect of the words of Jesus.—With authority and power. Authority which endures no contradiction, power which endures no resistance.

Luke 4:38. And He arose.—Comp. Mark 1:29–31. The position of the miracle wrought upon Peter’s mother-in-law in Mark and Luke, immediately after the first casting out of a devil in the synagogue at Capernaum, appears to deserve the preference to that in Matthew (Luke 8:14–17), who mentions this event after the Sermon on the Mount. According to Mark, Andrew also dwelt in this house, who, however, does not, like Simon, appear to have been married. That the sickness of the πενθερὰ was of a serious nature appears not only from the technical expression used by the physician Luke πυρετῷ μεγάλῳ (ses Galen, De diff. febr., I., cited by Wetstein), but also especially from the fact that it hindered her even from entertaining, in a manner somewhat befitting Him, the so greatly desired guest. The εὐθέως of Mark, in his mentioning their prayer for help to the Saviour, belongs again to the pictorial peculiarities of this evangelist.

Luke 4:39. Rebuked the fever.—As just before the demon. According to Matthew and Mark, who omit this circumstance, He lays hold of her hand in order to lift her up. That the one does not exclude the other is easily understood; apparently the Saviour considered this contact as necessary in order to awaken the faith of the sick woman, who was too severely attacked by the fever herself to entreat His help. That she is able at once to rise, bears witness to the completeness of her recovery; that she at once girds herself for serving, shows that the bodily benefit was also sanctified to her heart. As to the rest, this miracle is related by all the Synoptics, not so much because it was remarkable above others, but especially because it belongs to the first period of the Saviour’s activity in Capernaum, and increased enthusiasm to ecstasy. At the same time, also, because it was followed by a series of other miracles in the town and region round about, concerning which there is not more particular mention. Especially was it important as a proof of the particular care which the Saviour devoted to the fashioning and training of Peter for an apostle. Among the twelve there was none whose house, person, boat, in short, whose whole circle of life was so made the theatre of remarkable miracles as that of Peter, who on this day also was bound with new bonds to the Master.

Luke 4:40. Now when the sun was setting.—According to Matthew and Mark: when it had already become late. It is almost as if the Synoptics, even by the choice of their words, wished to put their readers in the position to follow almost step by step the Saviour on the first day of His unwearied and blessed activity at Capernaum. While the sun is going down, the report of two astonishing miracles has caused the light of a new hope for the sick in the town and its vicinity to rise. Among the various infirm of whom Luke gives account, Matthew and Mark mention also many possessed. The former He appears to have healed especially by laying on of hands, the other through His words (Matthew). The graphic trait which Mark adds to this whole representation, Luke 4:33, namely, that the whole city assembled before the door, betrays evidently the influence of Peter, the eye-witness.

Luke 4:42. And when it was day.—According to Mark 1:35, so early that it might well have been called still night. From his account it also appears that the Saviour withdraws Himself into solitude in order in prayer to seek rest for some few moments of the night. Here also, as elsewhere (Matt. 14:23), is there the same alternation of prayer and labor in the life of the Saviour, such as in truth might be called a praying without ceasing. This short repose, however, is disturbed by the disciples following Him even here (κατεδίωξαν, Mark), with Peter at their head (Mark 1:36), who do not rest until they have found Him, in order to make known to Him the entreaty of the inhabitants who were waiting for His return.

Luke 4:43. I must preach … to the other cities also.—Δεῖ, of course, not in the sense of an absolute necessity, but of a Divine decorum, of a moral obligation which springs from His very relation as the Messiah of Israel, and not of Capernaum alone. Elsewhere also must He preach the gospel: upon this, not upon doing miracles, does the Saviour here lay the greatest emphasis—For thereto am I sent. That is: “Thereto have I publicly come forward, have been manifested as Divine teacher among My contemporaries,” equivalent to the expression in Mark: “For that have I come out,” ἐξελήλυθα. Here we have no more to understand a proceeding forth from the Father, as in John 16:28 (Euthymius, Stier), than a mere going forth from Capernaum. The latter gives an insipid sense—the former, the apostles would now perhaps have understood least of all. The Saviour speaks simply of the purpose for which He now appeared publicly as a teacher.

Luke 4:44. And He preached—According to Mark 1:39, He at the same time casts out devils and traverses all Galilee. This journey appears to have been very extended and to have wound up with the ἑορτὴ τῶν Ἰουδαίων (John 5:1).


1. Like the wilderness of Quarantania, so does also the synagogue at Capernaum show the combat of the Lord against the might of hell. Now, when the prince of this world had been repulsed, his satellites assay the assault. At both points Christ triumphs through the might of His word, and the demons’ cries of terror are so many voices to His honor as well as the acclamations of praise of the enthusiastic people. In a striking manner does this narrative already confirm what James (Luke 2:19) says of the faith of devils; but at the same time also by the side of their power, their powerlessness here becomes manifest. Where the demon cannot drive back the Lord, he still seeks to do mischief to the poor man, but he succeeds as little in one as in the other.

2. Word and deed are here, as everywhere, united in Christ. With justice, therefore, says Augustine, Tract. 24 in Joh.:Interrogamus ipsa miracula, quid nobis loquantur de Christo; habent enim, si intelligamus, linguam suam. Nam quia ipse Christus Verbum est, etiam factum Verbi verbum nobis est.”

3. For the first time in the Gospel of Luke we meet in this passage with a report of miracles. Of course, we cannot here go into any particular investigation respecting these works of the Lord and His apostles, which, indeed, is much the less necessary after the fruitful hints of Lange. Only in general we must recollect in respect to these and all subsequent accounts of miracles: 1. That the impossibility of miracles admits of no proof whatever, either from the empirical, or from the logical, or from the metaphysical side. 2. That the conception: “laws of nature,” which are presumed to be infringed by miracles, is in the nature of the case elastic, so that Goethe is right when he says (Zur Farbenlehre); “As on one side experience is limitless, because ever new and yet newer things can be discovered, so are maxims also, which, if they are not to grow petrified, must not lose the capability of extending themselves and of receiving what is greater, nay, of consuming and losing themselves in a higher view.” 3. That the distinction between miracula and mirabilia will become clearly evident only if we consider the fact not in and of itself, but connected with the moral character of the wonder-worker and of the purpose of his activity. 4. That the miracles of the Saviour are worthily esteemed only as they are in a certain sense regarded as the natural revelations of His divinely human personality, which itself might be called the greatest, the absolute, nay, if one will, the sole miracle. 5. That miracles were in no sense given in order to constrain to faith, but rather in order to take away from unbelief every excuse, John 15:24. The direct intention of miracles was to serve as a proof of the Divine mission of the Saviour, John 5:36, and so far also to awaken confidence towards His person and His words. That the miracle in and of itself, without any reference to the personality of the doer, is no decisive proof of the inner truth of his preaching, is something which modem Apologetics may frankly concede without losing anything. She may the rather agree with the beautiful expression of Jean Paul: “Miracles on earth are nature in heaven.”

4. The miracle in his dwelling is of special moment for the history of Peter’s apostolic development. Through the first word of the Saviour (John 1:43), he becomes His friend; through the miracle of the draught of fishes (Luke 5:1–11), he becomes His apostle; finally, by the miracle wrought on his mother-in-law, the apostle is bound to the Master in thankful affection. That, moreover, the apostle was married, and is not required wholly to break this bond, is evident also from 1 Cor. 9:5. As to the manner in which the Romish Church seeks to wrest the argument against the celibacy of the clergy deduced from these passages, the reader can find much that is interesting in SEPP, Leben Jesu, ii. p. 154. This question itself, however, must not detain us here.

5. Even though Peter had carried away no other remembrances from the life of the Lord than those of this first sojourn at Capernaum and the first visit in the region round about, he would already have had a right to introduce his first preaching to the Gentiles with a ὃς διῆλθεν εὐεργετῶν. The door of his dwelling, besieged by all manner of sick, who offered the Lord not even an hour of praying night-rest, is the worthy theatre of the Christus Consolator, and the citation of Isaiah 53:4 in Matthew is in this connection one of the most felicitous of the whole sacred history. Comp. LANGE on Matt. 8:16, 17.

6. From the comparison with Matt. 4:23–25 it appears how great the impression was which the Saviour already made at His public appearance in Galilee and the region round about. It is so much the more remarkable that He makes no use for Himself of this enthusiasm, and does not so much foster as avoid it, and so soon leaves Capernaum, where yet so many hearts beat for Him. This also is a proof of the truth of John 2:23–25, and at the same time a proof of the wisdom of the Saviour in the fashioning of His first disciples. He wishes to call them to self-denial, to accustom them to a life of journeying, and to bridle awakening earthly expectations.


Jesus’ arrival at Capernaum the fulfilment of the prophetic word, comp. Matt. 4:15.—The King of God’s kingdom a preacher of the gospel.—The deep impression of the word of the Lord: 1. Astonishing, 2. explicable, 3. important; a. for faith (apologetically), b. for life (practically).—The One anointed with the Holy Spirit and the one plagued by the evil spirit in the same synagogue together.—The synagogue at Capernaum glorified by the visit of the Lord of the temple.—Capernaum by the coming of the Lord raised even to heaven.—The people that sat in darkness have seen a great light.—The early enthusiasm for the Saviour at Capernaum compared with the subsequent lukewarmness.—Where Jesus comes, the devil cannot possibly abide.—The Son of God appeared that He might destroy the works of the devil.—The power and powerlessness of the kingdom of darkness: 1. Its power: a. to have dominion over men, b. to cast scorn on the Son of Man; 2. its powerlessness: a. to withstand the Lord’s word of command, b. mortally to wound His redeemed; 3. the last revelations of the power of the Evil One precede the exhibitions of his powerlessness.—How the Evil One stands over against Christ and Christ over against the Evil One: 1. The Evil One stands over against Christ with hypocritical homage, irreconcilable hate, and anxious fear; 2. Christ stands over against the Evil One with immovable peace, compassionate love, and triumphant might.—Heaven, hell, and earth meet one another on the same place.—The Stronger who disarms the strong.—The demons wish to have nothing to do with Jesus, but Jesus has all the more, therefore, to do with the demons.—The Saviour’s word of might: 1. Unique in majesty; 2. unique in power.—Before the Lord goes anywhere, the report of Him goes already before Him.—The house of Simon: 1. Chosen by the Messiah, 2. visited by sickness, 3. made glad by Omnipotence, 4. changed by thankfulness into a house of the Lord.—The dwelling of Peter the theatre of great unhappiness, great redemption, great thankfulness.—Grace and gratitude: 1. In order to be able to serve the Lord, we must first have been healed by Him; 2. in order to manifest genuine thanks for His healing love, we must serve Him. No service without a foregoing healing, no healing without subsequent service.—Τhe busy Sabbath rest of the Saviour.—The bright evening after a beautiful day of His life.—Sick ones of many kinds, only one Physician; healings of many kinds, only one miraculous might; voices of many kinds, only one key-note: He has done all things well.—The demons knew Christ even before men knew Him, but what good does this knowing do them?—The solitary prayer of the Saviour: 1. His refreshment after labor, 2. His balsam amid pains, 3. His shield in temptations, 4. His staff for the further journey of life.—Seeking Jesus: 1. In order to find, 2. without finding, 3. till found.—Obedience-the key-note of the Saviour’s free manifestations of love.—John remains long in one place, Jesus must go forth as widely as possible in order to preach the gospel.—The first journey of the Lord a triumphal journey.

STARKE:—Whoever has a soul possessed by uncleanness, is much more wretched than he whose body is possessed of the devil.—Bibl. Wirt.:—The devils themselves shame the unbelief of men, Luke 4:34.—The heaviest temptations are sometimes the last ragings of Satan.—CRAMER:—The works of Christ are meant to create in us wonder; wonder, inquiry; inquiry, a good report; the report, the knowledge of Christ; the knowledge of Christ, eternal life, John 17:3.—Christ does not draw back from going to the sick and visiting them for our reminder and imitation, Matt. 25:43.—QUESNEL:—A single individual that stands well with God may bring a blessing upon his whole family.—HEDINGER:—For health recovered, the best thanks are: with new obedience to serve God.—OSIANDER:—We should not be angry if now and then some desire our help at inconvenient time, but ascribe it to necessity, or excuse their simplicity.—BRENTIUS:—Christ brings with His word for towns and villages no harm, but pure grace and blessing.—QUESNEL:—It is praiseworthy for preachers of the gospel often to betake themselves to solitude (comp. the beautiful meditation of VINET: La solitude recommandée au pasteur).—MAJUS:—Jesus, when He hides Himself and appears to be lost, must with all diligence be sought.—Christ is to be preached as well in the schools as in churches, yet when will Christendom be with earnestness intent thereon?

LISCO on Luke 4:31–36:—The might of the Saviour: 1. It is acknowledged even by the kingdom of darkness; 2. it manifests itself in gracious redemption; 3. it reveals to us the Divine origin and the Divine power of His doctrine.—On Luke 4:38 and 39:—Jesus truly our Saviour: 1. He heals of all manner of sickness, 2. He bestows new powers for activity.—VAN OOSTERZEE:—Christ, the Divine physician of souls, how He ever yet: 1. Discovers the same wretchedness, 2. feels the same compassion, 3. desires the same temper of heart, 4. follows the same method of healing, 5. excites the same opposition, 6. deserves the same homage as here at the healing of bodily ills.


[8]Luke 4:31.—Ἦν διδάσκων, expressing His doing it habitually.—C. C. S.]

[9]Luke 4:34.—Rec.: λέγων before Ἕα. Critically dubious. See Lachmann, ad loc. [Om. inter al. B., L., Sin.—C. C. S.]

[10]Luke 4:41.—Rec.: Ὁ Χριστὸς ὁ υἱὸς, κ.τ.λ.; a somewhat superfluous paraphrase, which is omitted by B., C., [Sin.], D., L., F., X., Vulgata, Origenes, Griesbach, De Wette, Meyer, &c.

[11]Luke 4:41.—Not: “to say that they knew,” &c., λαλεῖν is never to say, but to speak, to discourse. Alford.—C. C. S.]

Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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