Vincent's Word Studies
The Gospel According to Luke
Introduction to the Writings of Luke
Legend has been busy with the name of Luke. The Greek Church, in which painting is regarded as a religious art, readily accepted the tradition which represented him as a painter, and the Greek painters carried it into Western Europe. A rude drawing of the Virgin, discovered in the Catacombs, with an inscription to the effect that it was one of seven painted by Luca, confirmed the popular belief that Luke the Evangelist was meant. According to the legend, he carried with him two portraits painted by himself - the one of the Saviour and the other of the Virgin - and by means of these he converted many of the heathen.
When we apply to historical sources, however, we find very little about this evangelist. He never mentions himself by name in the Gospel or in the Acts, and his name occurs in only three passages of the New Testament: Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11, Plm 1:24.
That he was an Asiatic-Greek convert of Antioch, though resting upon no conclusive evidence, is supported by the fact that he gives much information about the church there (Acts 11:19, Acts 11:30; Acts 13:1-3; Acts 15:1-3, Acts 15:22, Acts 15:35); that he traces the origin of the name "Christian" to that city, and that, in enumerating the seven deacons of Jerusalem, he informs us of the Antiochian origin of Nicholas (Acts 6:5) without reference to the nationality of any of the others. That he was a physician and the companion of Paul are facts attested by Scripture, though his connection with Paul does not definitely appear before Acts 16:10, where he uses the first person plural. He accompanied Paul from Caesarea, through the shipwreck at Malta, to Rome, and remained there until his liberation. Tradition makes him to have died in Greece, and it was believed that his remains were transferred to Constantinople.
It has been assumed that he was a freedman, from the large number of physicians who belonged to that class, the Greeks and Romans being accustomed to educate some of their domestics in the science of medicine, and to grant them freedom in requital of services. Physicians often held no higher rank than slaves, and it has been noticed that contractions in as, like Lucas for Lucanus, were peculiarly common in the names of slaves.
His connection with Paul gave rise in the church, at a very early period, to the opinion that he wrote his Gospel under the superintendence of that apostle. While his preface says nothing about the Pauline sanction of his Gospel, the work, nevertheless, presents remarkable coincidences with Paul's epistles, both in language, ideas, and spirit. The Gospel itself sets forth that conception of Christ's life and work which was the basis of Paul's teaching. He represents the views of Paul, as Mark does of Peter. "There is a striking resemblance between the style of Luke and of Paul, which corresponds to their spiritual sympathy and long intimacy." Some two hundred expressions or phrases may be found which are common to Luke and Paul, and more or less foreign to other New Testament writers. Such, for instance, are:
Luke Paul ἀθετεῖν, reject, Luke 7:30; Luke 10:16. Galatians 2:21; Galatians 3:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:8 αἰχμαλωτίζειν, lead captive, Luke 21:24. Romans 7:23; 2 Corinthians 10:5 ἀνάγκη, Luke 14:18; in the phrase ἔχω ἀνάγκην, I must needs. 1 Corinthians 7:37 In the sense of distress, Luke 21:23. 1 Corinthians 7:26; 2 Corinthians 6:4 :; 2 Corinthians 12:10; 1 Thessalonians 3:7, and not elsewhere. ἀνακρίνειν, to examine judicially, Luke 23:14; Acts 12:19; Acts 28:18. 1 Corinthians 2:15; 1 Corinthians 4:3; 1 Corinthians 9:3; ten times in all in that epistle. ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν, from henceforth, Luke 1:48; Luke 5:10; Luke 12:52; Luke 22:69. 2 Corinthians 5:16. ἀπ' αἰῶνος, since the world began, Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21; Acts 15:18. Colossians 1:26; Ephesians 3:9. ἐγκακεῖν, to faint, Luke 18:1. 2 Corinthians 4:1, 2 Corinthians 4:16; Galatians 6:9; Ephesians 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:13. διερμηνεύειν, expound or interpret, Luke 24:27; Acts 9:36. 1 Corinthians 12:30; 1 Corinthians 14:5, 1 Corinthians 14:13, 1 Corinthians 14:27. ἐνδύσασθαι, endue, clothe, Luke 24:49, in the moral sense. Romans 13:12, Romans 13:14 :; 1 Corinthians 15:53; 2 Corinthians 5:3, etc. εἰ μήτι, except, Luke 9:13. 1 Corinthians 7:5; 2 Corinthians 13:5. ἐπιφαίνειν, to give light, shine, Luke 1:79; Acts 27:20. Titus 2:11; Titus 3:4. καταργεῖν, cumber, Luke 13:7. Romans 3:3, make without effect; make void; destroy; do away; bring to naught; twenty-six times in Paul. μεγαλύνειν, exalt, magnify, Luke 1:46, Luke 1:58; Acts 5:13; Acts 10:46; Acts 19:17. 2 Corinthians 10:15; Philippians 1:20. Both are fond of words characterizing the freedom and universality of gospel salvation. For example, χάρις, grace, favor, occurs eight times in the Gospel, sixteen in the Acts, and ninety-five in Paul. Ἔλεος mercy, six times in the Gospel and ten in Paul. Πίστις faith, twenty-seven times in the Gospel and Acts, and everywhere in Paul. Compare, also, δικαιοσύνἠ, righteousness ; δίκαιος, righteous; πνεῦμα ἅγιον, Holy Spirit; γνῶσις, knowledge.
They agree in their report of the institution of the Lord's Supper, both giving "This cup is the new covenant in my blood," for "This is my blood of the new covenant," and both adding, "in remembrance of me."
A few of the numerous instances of parallelism of thought and expression may also be cited:
Luke Paul Luke 4:22 Colossians 4:6; Ephesians 4:29 Luke 4:32 1 Corinthians 2:4 Luke 6:36 2 Corinthians 1:3; Romans 12:1 Luke 6:39 Romans 2:19 Luke 6:48 1 Corinthians 3:10 Luke 8:15 Colossians 1:10, Colossians 1:11 Luke 9:56 2 Corinthians 10:8 Luke 10:8 1 Corinthians 10:27 Luke 10:20 Philippians 4:3 Luke 10:21 1 Corinthians 1:19, 1 Corinthians 1:27 Luke 11:41 Titus 1:15 Luke 12:35 Ephesians 6:14 Luke 20:17, Luke 20:18 Romans 9:33 Luke's long residence in Greece makes it probable that he had Greek readers especially in mind. The same humanitarian and Gentile character of his writings, as distinguished from Jewish writings, appears in the Acts as in the Gospel. Of the Acts, although attempts have been made to assign its composition to Timothy and to Silas, and to identify Silas with Luke, the universal testimony of the ancient church, no less than the identity of style, declare Luke to be the author. About fifty words not found elsewhere in the New Testament are common to both books.
From a purely literary point of view Luke's Gospel has been pronounced, even by Renan, to be the most beautiful book ever written. He says: "The Gospel of Luke is the most literary of the gospels. Everywhere there is revealed a spirit large and sweet; wise, temperate, sober, and reasonable in the irrational. Its exaggerations, its inconsistencies, its improbabilities, are true to the very nature of parable, and constitute its charm. Matthew rounds a little the rough outlines of Mark. Luke does better: he writes. He displays a genuine skill in composition. His book is a beautiful narrative, well contrived, at once Hebraic and Hellenic, uniting the emotion of the drama with the serenity of the idyl....A spirit of holy infancy, of joy, of fervor, the gospel feeling in its primitive freshness, diffuse all over the legend an incomparably sweet coloring."
Luke is the best writer of Greek among the evangelists. His construction is rhythmical, his vocabulary rich and well selected, considerably exceeding that of the other evangelists. He uses over seven hundred words which occur nowhere else in the New Testament. He substitutes classical words for many which are used by Matthew and Mark, as λίμνη, lake, for θάλασσα, sea, when describing the lake of Galilee. He uses three distinct words for bed in the description of the healing of the paralytic (Luke 5:18), avoiding the vulgar κράββατος of Mark. The latter word, it is true, occurs in two passages in the Acts (Acts 5:15; Acts 9:33), but both these passages are Petrine. So, too, we find ἐπιστάτης master, instead of Rabbi; νομικοί, lawyers, for γραμματεῖς, scribes; ναὶ ἀληθῶς, ἐπ' ἀληθείας yea, truly, of a truth, for ἀμήν, verily; φόρος, tribute, for the Latin form, κῆνσος census. He uses several Latin words, as δηνάριον, denarius λεγεών, legion; σουδάριον, napkin; ἀσσάριον, farthing, though he avoids κοδράντης, farthing, in Luke 21:2 (compare Mark 12:42); μόδιος, bushel. He is less Hebraic than the other evangelists, except in the first two chapters - the history of the infancy - which he derived probably from Aramaic traditions or documents, and where his language has a stronger Hebrew coloring than any other portion of the New Testament. "The songs of Zacharias, Elizabeth, Mary, and Simeon, and the anthem of the angelic host, are the last of Hebrew psalms, as well as the first of Christian hymns. They can be literally translated back into the Hebrew without losing their beauty" (Schaff).
His style is clear, animated, picturesque, and unpretentious. Where he describes events on the authority of others, his manner is purely historical; events which have come under his own observation he treats in the minute and circumstantial style of an eye-witness. Compare, for instance, the detailed narrative of the events at Philippi with that of the occurrences at Thessalonica. The change of style at Acts 16:10, from the historical to the personal narrative, coincides with the time of his joining Paul at the first visit to Macedonia, and a similar change may be noted at Acts 20:4-6.
But the style of Luke also acquires a peculiar flavor from his profession. His language, both in the Gospel and in the Acts, indicates a familiarity with the terms used by the Greek medical schools, and furnishes an incidental confirmation of the common authorship of the two books. As we have seen, Luke was probably a Greek of Asia Minor; and, with the exception of Hippocrates, all the extant Greek medical writers were Asiatic Greeks. Hippocrates, indeed, can hardly be called an exception, as he was born and lived in the island of Cos, off the coast of Caria. Galen was of Pergamus in Mysia; Dioscorides, of Anazarba in Cilicia; and Aretaeus, of Cappadocia.
The medical peculiarities of Luke's style appear, first, in words and phrases used in descriptions of diseases or of miracles of healing. His terms are of the technical character peculiar to a medical man. Thus, in the account of the healing of Simon's wife's mother (Luke 4:38, Luke 4:39), we read that she was taken (συνεχομένη) with a great fever (πυρετῷ μεγάλῳ). The word taken is used nine times by Luke, and only three times in the rest of the New Testament. It occurs frequently in this sense in the medical writers, as does also the simple verb ἔχω, to have or hold. Moreover, according to Galen, the ancient physicians were accustomed to distinguish between great and little fevers. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-26), we find εἱλκωμένος, full of sores, the regular medical term for to be ulcerated: ὀδυνῶμαι, to be in pain, occurs four times in Luke's writings, and nowhere else in the New Testament, but frequently in Galen, Aretaeus, and Hippocrates. Ἐξέψυξε, gave up the ghost (Acts 5:5, Acts 5:10), is a rare word, used by Luke only, and occurring only three times in the New Testament. It seems to be almost confined to medical writers, and to be used rarely even by them. In the proverb of "the camel and the needle's eye," Matthew and Mark use for needle the vulgar word ῥαφίς, while Luke alone uses βελόνη, the surgical needle.
These terms will be pointed out in the notes as they occur. Second, the ordinary diction of the evangelist, when dealing with unprofessional subjects, has often a medical flavor, which asserts itself in words peculiar to him, or more common in his writings than elsewhere in the New Testament, and all of which were in common use among the Greek physicians. Thus Matthew (Matthew 23:4) says that the scribes and Pharisees will not move (κινῆσαι) the burdens they impose, with one of their fingers. Luke, recording a similar saying (Luke 11:46), says, "ye yourselves touch (προσψαύετε) not the burdens," using a technical term for gently feeling the pulse, or a sore or tender part of the body. The word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. "No mean city" (ἄσημος, Acts 21:39). The word mean, peculiar to this passage, is the professional term for a disease without distinctive symptoms, and is applied by Hippocrates to a city. "Delivered the letter" (ἀναδόντες, Acts 23:33). The verb occurs only here in the New Testament, and is a medical term for the distribution of blood through the veins, or of nourishment through the body. Hippocrates uses it of a messenger delivering a letter. In the parable of the sower, Matthew and Mark have ῥίζαν, "they have no root." Luke (Luke 8:6) has ίκμάδα, moisture, the medical term for the juices of the body, of plants, and of the earth. In the same parable, for sprung up Matthew and Mark have ἐξανέτειλε, while Luke has φυὲν - συμφυεῖσαι (Luke 8:6, Luke 8:7), it grew - grew with it (Rev.). These latter words are used by medical writers to describe the growth of parts of the body, of diseases, of vegetation, etc. Hippocrates uses together ἱκμάς, moisture, and φύεσθαι, to grow, comparing the juices of the body with those of the earth. Συμφύεσθαι, to grow together, was the professional word for the closing of wounds and ulcers, the uniting of nerves and of bones, and is used by Dioscorides precisely as here, of plants growing together in the same place.
Such peculiarities, so far from being strange or anomalous, are only what might naturally be expected. It is an every-day fact that the talk of specialists, whether in the professions or in mechanics, when it turns upon ordinary topics, unconsciously takes form and color from their familiar calling.
The attempt has been made to show that Paul's style was influenced by Luke in this same direction; so that his intercourse with his companion and physician showed itself in his use of certain words having a medical flavor. Dean Plumptre cites as illustrations of this, ὑγιαίνειν, to be healthy, in its figurative application to doctrine as wholesome or sound (1 Timothy 1:10; 1 Timothy 6:3; 2 Timothy 1:13): γάγγραινα, canker (2 Timothy 2:17): τυφωθεὶς, lifted up with pride; Rev., puffed up (1 Timothy 3:6; 1 Timothy 6:4): κεκαυτηριασμένων, seared; Rev., branded (1 Timothy 4:2): κνηθόμενοι, itching (2 Timothy 4:3): ἀποκόψονται, cut themselves off (Galatians 5:12).
Luke is also circumstantial, as well as technical, in his descriptions of diseases; noting their duration and symptoms, and the stages of the patient's recovery, etc. See Acts 3:1-8; Acts 9:40, Acts 9:41. The successive stages of Elymas' blindness are noted at Acts 13:11; and the process of Saul's restoration to sight at Acts 9:18. He also exhibits traces of professional sensitiveness, as in his omission of Mark's implied reflection upon the physicians who had treated the woman with the issue of blood (Luke 8:43; Mark 5:26).
Luke's accurate observation and memory appear especially in the Acts, in his allusions, and in his descriptions of nautical and political matters. With nautical details, he exhibits the acquaintance often displayed by a landsman who has been much at sea and in frequent intercourse with seamen. It has been conjectured that at some period of his professional life he may have served as a surgeon on shipboard. In his political allusions he is precise in the use of terms. Thus, in Acts 13:7, his accuracy in naming the civil magistrates is noteworthy. He speaks of Sergius Paulus as the proconsul of Cyprus. Consuls were called by the Greeks ὕπατοι; and hence a proconsul was ἀνθύπατος, one who acts instead of (ἀντὶ) a consul. Roman provinces were of two classes, senatorial and imperial; and the proper title of the governor of a senatorial province was ἀνθύπατος. The governor of an imperial province was called ἀντιστράτηγος, propraetor. Evidently, therefore, Luke regarded Cyprus as a senatorial province, governed by a proconsul; and we find that Augustus, though at first he reserved Cyprus for himself, and consequently governed it by a propraetor, afterward restored it to the senate and governed it by a proconsul - a fact confirmed by coins of the very time of Paul's visit to Cyprus, bearing the name of the emperor Claudius, and of the provincial governor, with the title ἀνθύπατος. So Luke speaks of Gallio (Acts 18:12)as proconsul (A. V., deputy) of Achaia, which was a senatorial province. When he comes to Felix or Festus, who were only deputy-governors of the propraetor of Syria, he calls them by the general term ἡγεμών, governor (Acts 23:24; Acts 26:30). Similarly accurate is his designation of Philippi as a colonia (Acts 16:12), and his calling its magistrates στρατηγοί or praetors, a title which they were fond of giving themselves. So the city authorities of Thessalonica are styled πολιτάρχαι, rulers of the city (Acts 17:8); for Thessalonica was a free city, having the right of self-government, and where the local magistrates had the power of life and death over the citizens. Luke's accuracy on this point is borne out by an inscription on an archway in Thessalonica, which gives this title to the magistrates of the place, together with their number - seven - and the very names of some who held the office not long before Paul's time. This short inscription contains six names which are mentioned in the New Testament. We may also note the Asiarchs, chiefs of, Asia, at Ephesus (Acts 19:31), who, like the aediles at Rome, defrayed the charge of public amusements, and were, as presidents of the games, invested with the character of priests.
A similar accuracy appears in the Gospel in the dates of more important events, and in local descriptions, as of the Lord's coming to Jerusalem across the Mount of Olives (Luke 19:37-41). Here he brings out the two distinct views of Jerusalem on this route, an irregularity in the ground hiding it for a time after one has just caught sight of it. Verse Luke 19:37 marks the first sight, and Luke 19:41 the second.
In the narrative of the voyage and shipwreck, the precision of detail is remarkable. Thus there are fourteen verbs denoting the progression of a ship, with a distinction indicating the peculiar circumstances of the ship at the time. Seven of these are compounds of πλέω, to sail. Thus we have ἀπέπλευσαν, sailed away (Acts 13:4); βραδυπλοοῦντες, sailing slowly (Acts 27:7); ὑπεπλεύσαμεν, sailed under (the lee). So, also, παραλεγόμενοι, hardly passing (Acts 27:8); εὐθυδρομήσαμεν, ran with a straight course (Acts 16:11), etc. Note also the technical terms for lightening the ship by throwing overboard the cargo: ἐκβολὴν ἐποιοῦντὄ; literally, made a casting out (Acts 27:19); ἐκούφιζον, lightened (Acts 27:38); and the names of various parts of the vessel.
Luke's Gospel is the gospel of contrasts. Thus Satan is constantly emphasized over against Jesus, as binding a daughter of Abraham; as cast down from heaven in Jesus' vision; as entering into Judas; as sifting Peter. The evangelist portrays the doubting Zacharias and the trusting Mary; the churlish Simon and the loving sinner; the bustling Martha and the quiet, adoring Mary; the thankful and the thankless lepers; the woes added to the blessings in the Sermon on the Mount; the rich man and Lazarus; the Pharisee and the Publican; the good Samaritan and the priest and Levite; the prodigal and his elder brother; the penitent and impenitent thieves.
Luke's is the universal gospel. His frequent use of words expressing the freedom and universality of the Gospel has already been noted. His Gospel is for the Gentiles. The genealogy of Christ is traced back to the common father of the race, Adam, instead of to Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, as by Matthew. He records the enrolment of Christ as a citizen of the Roman empire. Simeon greets him as a light for revelation to the Gentiles. The Baptist cites concerning him Isaiah's prophecy that all flesh shall see the salvation of God. Luke alone records the mission of the seventy, who represent the seventy Gentile nations, as the twelve represent the twelve tribes of Israel. He alone mentions the mission of Elijah to the heathen widow, and Naaman's cleansing by Elisha. He contrasts the gratitude of the one Samaritan leper with the thanklessness of the nine Jewish lepers. He alone records the refusal to call down fire on the inhospitable Samaritans, and the parable of the Good Samaritan is peculiar to him. He notes the commendation of the humble Publican in contrast with the self- righteous Pharisee, and relates how Jesus abode with Zacchaeus. He omits all reference to the law in the Sermon on the Mount. Luke's is the gospel of the poor and outcast. As a phase of its universality, the humblest and most sinful are shown as not excluded from Jesus. The highest heavenly honor is conferred on the humble Mary of Nazareth. Only in Luke's story do we hear the angels' song of "Peace and good-will," and see the simple shepherds repairing to the manger at Bethlehem. It is Luke who gives the keynote of Keble's lovely strain:
"The pastoral spirits first
Approach thee, Babe divine,
For they in lowly thoughts are nurs'd,
Meet for thy lowly shrine:
Sooner than they should miss where thou dost dwell,
Angels from heaven will stoop to guide them to thy cell."
He pictures poor Lazarus in Abraham's bosom, and the calling of the poor and maimed and halt and blind to the great supper. It is the gospel of the publican, the harlot, the prodigal, the penitent thief.
Luke's is the gospel of womanhood. Woman comes prominently into view as discerning God's promises. The songs of Mary and Elizabeth, and the testimony of Anna, are full of a clear spiritual perception, no less than of a living and simple faith. She appears as ministering to the Lord and as the subject of his ministries. Mary of Magdala, Joanna, Susanna, Mary and Martha, with others, lavish upon him their tender care; while the daughter of Abraham whom Satan had bound, the sorrowful mother at Nain, she who touched the heat of his garment, and the weeping daughters of Jerusalem on the road to Calvary knew the comfort of his words and the healing and life-giving virtue of his touch. The word γυνὴ, woman, occurs in Matthew and Mark together forty-nine times, and in Luke alone forty-three. "He alone," says Canon Farrar, "preserves the narratives, treasured with delicate reserve and holy reticence in the hearts of the blessed Virgin and of the saintly Elizabeth - narratives which show in every line the pure and tender coloring of a woman's thoughts."
Luke's is the prayer-gospel. To him we are indebted for the record of our Lord's prayers at his baptism; after the cleansing of the leper; before the call of the twelve; at his transfiguration; and on the cross for his enemies. To him alone belong the prayer-parables of the Friend at Midnight, and the Unjust Judge.
Luke's is the gospel of song. He has been justly styled "the first Christian hymnologist." To him we owe the Benedictus, the song of Zacharias; the Magnificat, the song of Mary; the Nunc Dimittis, the song of Simeon; the Ave Maria, or the angel's salutation; and the Gloria in Excelsis, the song of the angels.
And, finally, Luke's is the gospel of infancy. He alone tells the story of the birth of John the Baptist; he gives the minuter details of the birth of Christ, and the accounts of his circumcision and presentation in the temple, his subjection to his parents and the questioning with the doctors. His Gospel "sheds a sacred halo and celestial charm over infancy, as perpetuating the paradise of innocence in a sinful world. The first two chapters will always be the favorite chapters for children, and all who delight to gather around the manger of Bethlehem, and to rejoice with shepherds in the field and angels in heaven" (Schaff).
List of Greek Words Used by Luke Only
Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,
Forasmuch as (ἐπειδὴπερ)
Only here in New Testament. A compound conjunction: ἐπεί, since, δή, as is well known, and περ, giving the sense of certainty.
Have taken in hand (ἐπεχείρησαν)
Used by Luke only. A literal translation. The word carries the sense of a difficult undertaking (see Acts 19:13), and implies that previous attempts have not been successful. It occurs frequently in medical language. Hippocrates begins one of his medical treatises very much as Luke begins his gospel. "As many as have taken in hand (ἐπεχείρησαν) to speak or to write concerning the healing art."
To set forth in order (ἀνατάξασθαι)
Only here in New Testament. The A. V. is true to the core of the word, which is τάσσω, to put in order, or arrange. Rev. happily gives the force of the preposition ἀνὰ, up, by the rendering draw up.
A declaration (διήγησιν)
Only here in New Testament. From διά, through, and ἡγέομαι, to lead the way. Hence something which leads the reader through the mass of facts: a narrative, as A. V., with the accompanying idea of thoroughness. Note the singular number. Many took in hand to draw up, not narratives, but a narrative, embracing the whole of the evangelic matter. The word was particularly applied to a medical treatise. Galen applies it at least seventy-three times to the writings of Hippocrates.
Which are most surely believed (τῶν πεπληροφορημένων)
From πλήρης, full, and φορέω, the frequentative form of φέρω, to bring, meaning to bring frequently or habitually. Hence, to bring full measure; to fulfil. Compare 2 Timothy 4:5, 2 Timothy 4:17. Also of full assurance. Applied to persons. Romans 4:21; Hebrews 10:22. As applied to things, therefore, the sense of the A. V. is inadmissible. Render as Rev., have been fulfilled. The word is chosen to indicate that these events happened in accordance with a preconceived design. Wyc., been filled in us.
Explained by the words in the next sentence, who were eye-witnesses and ministers.
Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;
Referring to the composition of the narrative.
Not necessarily excluding written traditions, but referring mainly to oral tradition. Note the distinction between the many who attempted to draw up a narrative and the eye-witnesses and ministers who handed down the facts.
From the beginning (ἀπ' ἀρχῆς)
Eye-witnesses and ministers
Personal knowledge and practical experience were necessary elements of an apostle. Eye-witnesses (εὐτόπται). Only here in New Testament. Peter uses another word, ἐπόπται (2 Peter 1:16). Frequent in medical writers, of a personal examination of disease or of the parts of the body. Compare the modern medical term autopsy. Ministers (ὑπηρέται). See on Matthew 5:25. In medical language denoting the attendants or assistants of the principal physician.
It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,
Having had perfect understanding (παρηκολουθηκότι)
Incorrect. The verb means to follow closely, and hence to trace accurately. See 2 Timothy 3:10, where Rev. reads thou didst follow for thou hast fully known. Rev. renders here having traced the course. The word occurs frequently in medical writings, and sometimes, as here, with ἀκριβῶς, accurately. Tynd., having searched out diligently.
From the very first (ἄνωθεν)
Lit., from above; the events being conceived in a descending series.
From ἄκρον, the highest or farthest point. Hence to trace down to the last and minutest detail.
In order (καθεξῆς)
Used by Luke only.
That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.
Mightest know (ἐπιγνῷς)
See on Matthew 7:16. With the idea of full knowledge; or, as regards Theophilus, of more accurate knowledge than is possible from the many who have undertaken the narration.
From ἀ, not, and σφάλλομαι, to fall. Hence steadfastness, stability, security against error.
Wast instructed (κατήχηθης)
From κατηχέω, to resound; to teach by word of mouth; and so, in Christian writers, to instruct orally in the elements of religion. It would imply that Theophilus had, thus far, been orally instructed. See on delivered, Luke 1:2. The word catechumen is derived from it.
Properly words (so Wyc.), which Rev. gives in margin. If the word can mean thing at all, it is only in the sense of the thing spoken of; the subject or matter of discourse, in which sense it occurs often in classical Greek. Some render it accounts, histories; others, doctrines of the faith. Godet translates instruction, and claims that not only the facts of the gospel, but the exposition of the facts with a view to show their evangelical meaning and to their appropriation by faith, are included in the word. There is force in this idea; and if we hold to the meaning histories, or even words, this sense will be implied in the context. Luke has drawn up his account in order that Theophilus may have fuller knowledge concerning the accounts which he has heard by word of mouth. That his knowledge may go on from the facts, to embrace their doctrinal and evangelical import; that he may see the facts of Jesus' life and ministry as the true basis of the Gospel of salvation.
There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.
A title decreed to Herod by the Roman Senate on the recommendation of Antony and Octavius. The Greek style now gives place to the Hebraized style. See Introduction.
Lit., daily service. The college of priests was divided into twenty-four courses. Each of these did duty for eight days, from one Sabbath to another, once every six months. The service of the week was subdivided among the various families which constituted a course. On Sabbaths the whole course was on duty. On feast-days any priest might come up and join in the ministrations of the sanctuary; and at the Feast of Tabernacles all the twenty-four courses were bound to be present and officiate. The course of Abijah was the eighth of the twenty-four. See 1 Chronicles 24:10.
And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.
Well stricken (προβεβηκότες)
Lit., advanced. Wyc., had gone far in their days.
And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course,
According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.
His lot was (ἔλαχε)
Four lots were drawn to determine the order of the ministry of the day: the first, before daybreak, to designate the priests who were to cleanse the altar and prepare its fires; the second for the priest who was to offer the sacrifice and cleanse the candlestick and the altar of incense; the third for the priest who should burn incense; and the fourth appointing those who were to lay the sacrifice and meat-offering on the altar, and pour out the drink-offering. There are said to have been twenty thousand priests in Christ's time, so that no priest would ever offer incense more than once.
The sanctuary. See on Matthew 4:5.
Burn incense (θυμιᾶσαι)
Only here in New Testament. The incensing priest and his assistants went first to the altar of burnt-offering, and filled a golden censer with incense, and placed burning coals from the altar in a golden bowl. As they passed into the court from the Holy Place they struck a large instrument called the Magrephah, which summoned all the ministers to their places. Ascending the steps to the holy place, the priests spread the coals on the golden altar, and arranged the incense, and the chief officiating priest was then left alone within the Holy Place to await the signal of the president to burn the incense. It was probably at this time that the angel appeared to Zacharias. When the signal was given, the whole multitude withdrew from the inner court, and fell down before the Lord. Silence pervaded the temple, while within, the clouds of incense rose up before Jehovah. (For a more detailed account see Edersheim, "The Temple, its Ministry," etc.).
And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.
And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
Is heard (εἰσηκούσθη)
If we render the aorist literally, was heard, we avoid the question as to what prayer is referred to. The reference is to the prayer for offspring, which, owing to His extreme years, Zacharias had probably ceased to offer, and which he certainly would not be preferring in that public and solemn service. Hence the aorist is appropriate, referring back to the past acts of prayer. "That prayer, which thou no longer offerest, was heard."
Meaning God is favorable, or Jehovah showeth grace.
And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
Joy and gladness (καρά καὶ ἀγαλλίασις̔͂̀Language:English}})
The latter word expresses exultant joy. See on 1 Peter 1:6.
For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.
Strong drink (σίκερα)
A Hebrew word, meaning any kind of intoxicating liquor not made from grapes. Wyc., sydir.
Even from his mother's womb
Ἔτι, yet, still, means while yet unborn. Tynd., even in his mother's womb. Compare Luke 1:41.
And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.
And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
Wyc., prudence. This is a lower word than σοφία, wisdom (see on James 3:13). It is an attribute or result of wisdom, and not necessarily in a good sense, though mostly so in the New Testament. Compare, however, the use of the kindred word φρόνιμος in Romans 11:25; Romans 12:16 : wise in your own conceits; and the adverb φρονίμως, wisely, of the unjust steward, Luke 16:8. It is practical intelligence, which may or may not be applied to good ends. Appropriate here as a practical term corresponding to disobedient.
Adjusted, disposed, placed in the right moral state.
And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.
Whereby (κατὰ τί)
Lit., according to what? It demands a standard of knowledge, a sign.
I require a sign, for I am old.
And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.
Meaning man of God. In Jewish tradition the guardian of the sacred treasury. Michael (see on Jde 1:9) is the destroyer, the champion of God against evil, the minister of wrath. Gabriel is the messenger of peace and restoration. See Daniel 8:16, Daniel 9:21. "The former is the forerunner of Jehovah the Judge; the latter of Jehovah the Saviour" (Godet).
And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
Thou shalt be silent (ἔσῃ σιωπῶν)
Lit., thou shalt be being silent. The finite verb and participle denote continuance.
Not able to speak
Showing that the silence would not be voluntary.
My words which (οἵτινες)
The pronoun is qualitative, denoting a class. "My words, which, incredible as they seem to you, are of a kind which shall be fulfilled.
In their season (εἰς τὸν καιρὸν)
The preposition implies exactness: at the completion of the appointed time. The process of fulfilment, beginning now, will go on, εἰς, up to, the appointed time, and at the time will be consummated. Καιρὸν, season, is more specific than χρόνος, time. It is an a appointed, fitting time: the right point of time when circumstances shall concur.
And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple.
Waited (ἦν προσδοκῶν)
The finite verb and participle, denoting protracted waiting. Hence, better as Rev., were waiting. Wyc., was abiding.
According to the Talmud, the priests, especially the chief priests, were accustomed to spend only a short time in the sanctuary, otherwise it was feared that they had been Main by God for unworthiness or transgression.
And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless.
They perceived (ἐπέγνωσαν)
He beckoned (ἦν διανεύων)
Better Rev., continued making signs. Again the participle with the finite verb, denoting frequent repetition of the same signs. Wyc., was beckoning.
And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.
From λεῖτος, belonging to the people, public, and ἔργον, a work. Hence service of the state in a public office. Trench observes that "when the Christian Church was forming its terminology, which it did partly by shaping new words, and partly by elevating old ones to higher than their previous uses, of the latter it more readily adopted those before employed in civil and political life, than such as had played their part in religious matters." Hence it adopted this word, already in use in the Septuagint, as the constant word for performing priestly and ministerial functions; and so in the New Testament of the ministry of the apostles, prophets, and teachers.
And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,
Mr. Hobart ("Medical Language of Luke") says that the number of words referring to pregnancy, barrenness, etc., used by Luke, is almost as large as that used by Hippocrates. Compare Luke 1:31; Luke 1:24; Luke 2:5; Luke 1:7; Luke 20:28. All of these, except Luke 1:24, are peculiar to himself, and all, of course, in common use among medical writers.
Only here in New Testament. Περί signifies completely; entire seclusion.
Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.
Neither A. V. nor Rev. render ὅτι; taking it, as frequently, merely as recitative or equivalent to quotation marks. But it means because. Elizabeth assigns the reason for her peculiar seclusion. Her pregnancy was God's work, and she would leave it to him also to announce it and openly to take away her reproach. Hence the specification of five months, after which her condition would become apparent. Fully expressed, the sense would be: She hid herself, saying (I have hid myself) because, etc.
Looked upon (ἐπεῖδεν)
Used by Luke only.
And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
The annunciation and the angel Gabriel are favorite themes with Dante, and he pictures them with exquisite beauty. Thus both appear on the sculptured wall which flanks the inner side of the purgatorial ascent.
"The angel who came down to earth with tidings
Of peace that had been wept for many a year,
And opened heaven from its long interdict,
In front of us appeared so truthfully
There sculptured in a gracious attitude,
He did not seem an image that is silent.
One would have sworn that he was saying Ave!
For she was there in effigy portrayed
Who turned the key to ope the exalted love,
And in her mien this language had impressed,
Ecce ancilla Dei! as distinctly
As any figure stamps itself in wax."
Purgatory, x., 34-35
In Paradise Gabriel appears as a light circling round the Virgin and singing:
"I am angelic love, that circle round
The joy sublime which breathes out from the womb
That was the hostelry of our desire;
And I shall circle, Lady of heaven, while
Thou followest thy Son, and mak'st diviner
The sphere supreme, because thou enterest there."
Paradise, xxiii., 103-108.
"And the same love that first descended then,
Ave Maria gratia plena singing,
In front of her his wings expanded wide."
Paradise, xxxii., 94-96.
To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
Thou that art highly favored (κεχαριτωμένη)
Lit., as Rev. in margin, endued with grace. Only here and Ephesians 1:6. The rendering full of grace, Vulgate, Wyc., and Tynd., is therefore wrong.
All the best texts omit blessed art thou among women.
Cast in her mind (διελογίζετο)
See on James 2:4. The imperfect tense, "began to reason."
And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
From the same root as χαίρω, to rejoice. I. Primarily that which gives joy or pleasure; and hence outward beauty, loveliness, something which delights the beholder. Thus Homer, of Ulysses going to the assembly: "Athene shed down manly grace or beauty upon him" ("Odyssey," ii., 12); and Septuagint, Psalm 45:3, "grace is poured into thy liPsalms" See also Proverbs 1:9; Proverbs 3:22. Substantially the same idea, agreeableness, is conveyed in Luke 4:22, respecting the gracious words, lit., words of grace, uttered by Christ. So Ephesians 4:29. II. As a beautiful or agreeable sentiment felt and expressed toward another; kindness, favor, good-will. 2 Corinthians 8:6, 2 Corinthians 8:7, 2 Corinthians 8:9; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Luke 1:30; Luke 2:40; Acts 2:47. So of the responsive sentiment of thankfulness. See Luke 6:32, Luke 6:33, Luke 6:34 :; Luke 17:9; but mostly in the formula thanks to God; Romans 6:17; 1 Corinthians 15:57; 2 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Timothy 1:3. III. The substantial expression of good-will; a boon, a favor, a gift; but not in New Testament. See Romans 5:15, where the distinction is made between χάρις, grace, and δωρεὰ ἐν χάριτι, a gift in grace. So a gratification or delight, in classical Greek only; as the delight in battle, in sleep, etc. IV. The higher Christian signification, based on the emphasis of freeness in the gift or favor, and, as commonly in New Testament, denoting the free, spontaneous, absolute loving-kindness of God toward men, and so contrasted with debt, law, works, sin. The word does not occur either in Matthew or Mark.
And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
"Denoting the mildest and most gentle operation of divine power, that the divine fire should not consume Mary, but make her fruitful" (Bengel). Compare Exodus 33:22; Mark 9:7. Compare the classical legend of Semele, who, being beloved of Jove, besought him to appear to her as he appeared in heaven, in all the terrors of the thunderer, and was consumed by his lightning. The metaphor in the word is taken from a cloud, in which God had appeared (Exodus 40:34; 1 Kings 8:10).
And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
The nature of the relationship, however, is unknown. The word is a general term, meaning of the same family. The best texts substitute for it a feminine form, συγγενίς, which is condemned by the grammarians as unclassical, but rightly rendered by Rev., kinswoman. Wyc., cosyness, i.e., cousiness.
For with God nothing shall be impossible.
With God nothing shall be impossible (σὐκ ἀδυνατήσει παρὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ πᾶν ῥῆμα)
Ῥῆμα, word, as distinguished from λόγος, word, in classical Greek, signifies a constituent part of a speech or writing, as distinguished from the contents as a whole. Thus it may be either a word or a saying. Sometimes a phrase, as opposed to ὄνομα, a single word. The distinction in the New Testament is not sharp throughout. It is maintained that ῥῆμα in the New Testament, like the Hebrew gabar, stands sometimes for the subject-matter of the word; the thing, as in this passage. But there are only two other passages in the New Testament where this meaning is at all admissible, though the word occurs seventy times. These are Luke 2:15; Acts 5:32. "Kept all these things" (Luke 2:19), should clearly be sayings, as the A. V. itself has rendered it in the almost identical passage, Luke 2:51. In Acts 5:32, Rev. gives sayings in margin. In Luke 2:15, though A. V. and Rev. render thing, the sense is evidently saying, as appears both from the connection with the angelic message and from the following words, which has come to pass: the saying which has become a fact. The Rev. rendering of this passage is, therefore, right, though a little stilted: No word of God shall be void of power; for the A. V. errs in joining οὐκ and πᾶν, not every, and translating nothing. The two do not belong together. The statement is, Every (πᾶν) word of God shall not (οὐκ) be powerless. The A. V. also follows the reading, παρὰ τῷ Θεῷ, with God; but all the later texts read παρὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ, from God, which fixes the meaning beyond question.
And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;
And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.
Entered into the house
"This detail," says Godet, "serves to put the reader in sympathy with the emotion of Mary at the moment of her arrival. With her first glance at Elizabeth she recognized the truth of the sign that had been given her by the angel, and at this sight the promise she had herself received acquired a startling reality."
And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:
The babe (τὸ βρέφος)
See on 1 Peter 2:2.
And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
She spake out with a loud voice (ἀνεφώνησε φωνῇ μεγάλῃ)
For φωνῇ, voice, read κραυγῇ, cry: inarticulate, though φωνή may also be used of inarticulate utterance. Rev., rightly, She lifted up her voice with a loud cry; thus rendering in the verb the force of ἀνὰ, up, besides picturing the fact more naturally. Elizabeth's sudden and violent emotion at the appearance of Mary, and the movement of the child, prompted an exclamation which was followed by words (εἶπερ, said). The verb The verb ἀναφωνέω occurs only here in the New Testament. It was a medical term for a certain exercise of the voice.
And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
For joy (ἐν ἀγαλλιάσει)
Lit., in joy. See on Luke 1:14.
And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.
Many, however, prefer that, referring to the substance of her belief: "She believed that there shall be a fulfilment," etc. It is urged that the conception, which was the principal point of faith, had already taken place, so that the fulfilment was no longer future. On the other hand, the angel's announcement to Mary included more than the fact of conception; and Elizabeth, in the spirit of prophecy, may have alluded to what is predicted in Luke 1:32, Luke 1:33.
And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
Simply. Compare Luke 1:42. "Elizabeth's salutation was full of excitement, but Mary's hymn breathes a sentiment of deep inward repose" (Godet). Compare the song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2). Hannah's song differs from Mary's in its sense of indignation and personal triumph compared with Mary's humility and calmness.
My soul - spirit (ψυχή - πνεῦμα)
See on Mark 12:30. The soul is the principle of individuality, the seat of personal impressions, having a side in contact with the material element of humanity, as well as with the spiritual element. It is thus the mediating organ between the spirit and the body, receiving impressions from without and from within, and transmitting them by word or sign. Spirit is the highest, deepest, noblest part of our humanity, the point of contact between God and man.
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
God my Saviour (τῷ θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου)
For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
The word emphasizes the misery with which grace (see on Luke 1:30) deals; hence, peculiarly the sense of human wretchedness coupled with the impulse to relieve it, which issues in gracious ministry. Bengel remarks, "Grace takes away the fault, mercy the misery."
From generation to generation (εἰς γενεὰς καὶ γενεὰς)
Lit., as Rev., unto generations and generations.
The word is used in both a good and a bad sense in the New Testament. For the latter, see Matthew 21:46; Mark 6:20; Mark 11:32; Luke 12:4 :. For the former, as here, in the sense of godly reverence, Acts 10:2, Acts 10:22, Acts 10:35; Colossians 3:22; Revelation 14:7; Revelation 15:4.
He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
Shewed strength (ἐποίησεν)
Lit., made strength. So Wyc., made might. A Hebrew form of expression. Compare Psalm 118:15, Sept.: "The right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly" (ἐποίησε δύναμιν, made strength).
In the imagination (διανοίᾳ)
The faculty of thought, understanding, especially moral understanding. Wyc. refers the word here to God: with mind of his heart. Some prefer to render "by the imagination," thus making the proud the instrument of their own destruction. Compare 2 Corinthians 10:5.
He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
Hath holpen (ἀντελαβέτο)
The verb means to lay hold on: thence to grasp helpfully or to help. To lay hold in the sense of partaking (1 Timothy 6:2), carries us back to the primitive meaning of the word according to its composition: to receive instead of, or in return (ἀντὶ), and suggests the old phrase to take up for, espouse the cause of. Wyc., has took up, but probably not in this sense.
Often child, son or daughter, but here servant, in allusion to Isaiah 41:8. Meyer truthfully says that the theocratic notion of sonship is never expressed by παῖς. See Rev., Acts 3:13, Acts 3:26; Acts 4:27, Acts 4:30.
As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.
And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.
Now Elisabeth's full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son.
And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.
Had shewed great mercy upon her (ἐμεγάλυνεν τὸ ἔλεος αὐτοῦ μετ' αὐτῆς)
Lit., magnified his mercy with her. So Wyc. A Hebrew expression. See 1 Samuel 12:24, Sept.
And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father.
They called (ἐκάλουν)
The imperfect tense signifies, as Rev., they would have called: they were about to call: or, as Bishop Lightfoot has happily suggested, they were for calling.
And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John.
And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name.
And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called.
They made signs (ἐνένευον)
Imperfect tense. While the colloquy between Elizabeth and her friends was going on, they were consulting Zacharias by signs.
And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all.
Table was formerly used in the sense of tablet. Thus Shakspeare:
"Yea, from the table of my memory,
I'll wipe away all trivial fond records."
Hamlet, i., 5.
Tynd., writing-tables. The meaning is a little writing-tablet, probably covered with wax. Only here in the New Testament. Used by medical writers of a physician's note-book. Wyc. has poyntel, i.e., a style for writing.
A Hebrew form of expression. See 2 Kings 10:6.
And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.
Occurring nineteen times in the New Testament, and seventeen of these in Luke. Thirteen of the seventeen are in connection with miracles of healing, or the infliction of disease or death. Used in a similar way by medical writers.
And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea.
Were noised abroad (διαλελεῖτο)
Were mutually (διά) talked of.
And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.
And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,
And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;
Compare Psalm 132:17.
As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:
That have been since the world began (ἀπ' αἰῶνος)
A needlessly verbose rendering, retained by Rev. The American Rev. insists on of old.
That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;
To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant;
The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,
That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,
Originally to serve for hire, from λάτρον, hire. Plato uses it of the service of God.
In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.
Holiness and righteousness (ὁσιότητι καὶ δικαιοσύνῃ)
The adjective ὅσιος, holy, is properly what is confirmed by ancient sanction and precept. Ὁσία is used in classical Greek to denote the everlasting principles of right, not constituted by the laws or customs of men, but antedating them; such as the paying of the proper rites of sepulture. Compare the fine passage in the "Antigone" of Sophocles (453-55):
"Nor did I deem thy edicts strong enough,
That thou, a mortal man, shouldst overpass
The unwritten laws of God that know not change,
They are not of to-day nor yesterday,
But live forever, nor can man assign
When first they sprang to being."
Hence ὁσιότης is concerned primarily with the eternal laws of God. It is "the divine consecration and inner truth of righteousness" (Meyer). Throughout the New Testament its look is godward. In no case is it used of moral excellence as related to men, though it is to be carefully noted that δικαιοσύνη, righteousness, is not restricted to rightness toward men. Compare Ephesians 4:24; true holiness; literally, holiness of the truth.
And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,
Knowledge of salvation
Wyc. has the science of health.
Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,
Tender mercy (σπλάγχνα ἐλέους)
The day-spring from on high (ἀνατολὴ ἐξ ὕψους)
Lit., the rising. The word occurs in the Septuagint as a rendering of branch, as something rising or springing up, by which the Messiah is denoted (Jeremiah 23:5; Zechariah 6:12). Also of the rising of a heavenly body (Isaiah 60:19, Sept.). Compare the kindred verb arise (ἀνατέλλω) in Isaiah 60:1; Malachi 4:2. This latter is the sense here. See on Matthew 2:2. Wyc. has he springing up from on high.
Hath visited (ἐπεσκέψατο)
To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
To guide (κατευθῦναι)
From εὐθύς, straight. Wyc. has dress, which is formed through the old French dresser, to arrange, from the Latin dirigere, to set in a straight line, draw up. Hence the military term dress for arranging a line.
And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.
The deserts (ταῖς ἐρήμοις)
The article indicating a well-known place.
The word was used of the public announcement of an official nomination; hence of the public inauguration of John's ministry.