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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
Luke 3



Verse 1

1. ἐν ἔτει δὲ πεντεκαιδεκάτῳ τῆς ἡγεμονίας Τιβερίου Καίσαρος. St Luke here gives a sixfold intimation of the date,—a method characteristic of his learned and careful research. If the accession of Tiberius be dated from the death of Augustus, Aug. 19, A.U.C. 767, this would make our Lord thirty-two at His baptism. St Luke, however, follows a common practice in dating the reign of Tiberius from the period of his association with Augustus as joint Emperor A.U.C. 765. (Tac. Ann. I. 3; Suet. Aug. 97; Vell. Paterc. 103.) Our Lord’s baptism thus took place in a.u.c. 780. By thus giving precise dates St Luke becomes, as Ewald says, “the first writer who frames the Gospel History into the great history of the world.”

τῆς ἡγεμονίας. Wieseler (Beiträge 191) is perhaps hypercritical in seeing in this word an indication that only the regency of Tiberius is implied; but he shews from coins and medals that at Antioch (the probable home of St Luke) it was customary to date the accession of Tiberius from A.U.C. 765.

Τιβερίου Καίσαρος. Winer takes Καίσαρος to be an appellative—“of Tiberius as Emperor” (Winer, p. 173). Tiberius was the stepson and successor of Augustus. At this period of his reign he retired to the island of Capreae (Tac. Ann. IV. 74), where he plunged into horrible private excesses, while his public administration was most oppressive and sanguinary. The recent attempts to defend his character break down under the accumulated and unanimous weight of ancient testimony.

Ποντίου Πιλάτου. He was Procurator for ten years, A.D. 25–36). His predecessors had been Coponius (A.D. 6–10), M. Ambivius, Annius Rufus, and Valerius Gratus (A.D. 14–25). He was succeeded by Marcellus, Fadus, Tiberius Alexander, Cumanus, Felix, Festus, Albinus and Florus. For an account of him see on Luke 23:1.

ἡγεμονεύοντος. His strict title was ἐπίτροπος or Procurator (Jos. Antt. xx. 6, § 2), which does not however occur in the N. T. except in the sense of ‘steward’ (Luke 8:3). Ἠγεμών was a more general term. (Matthew 10:18; 1 Peter 2:14.) His relation to the Herods was much the same as that of the Viceroy of India to the subject Maharajahs.

Ἡρώδου. Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great and the Samaritan lady Malthace. He retained his kingdom for more than 40 years, at the end of which he was banished (A.D. 39) to Lugdunum (probably St Bertrand de Comminges), chiefly through the machinations of his nephew Herod Agrippa I. (the Herod of Acts 12:1). See the Stemma Herodum on p. li, and for further particulars of his character see on Luke 13:32.

τετραρχοῦντος. The word properly means the ruler of a fourth part of a country, but afterwards was used for any tributary prince or ethnarch. At this time Judaea, Samaria and Galilee were the provinces of Palestine. Antipas, Philip and Lysanias are the only three to whom the word ‘tetrarch’ is applied in the N. T. Antipas also had the courtesy-title of ‘king’ (Mark 6:14, &c.), and it was in the attempt to get this title officially confirmed to him that he paid the visit to Rome which ended in his banishment. He was tetrarch from B.C. 4 to A.D. 39. Herod the Great, in his will, divided his kingdom between Archelaus as ethnarch, and Antipas and Philip as tetrarchs.

τῆς Γαλιλαίας. This province is about 25 miles from North to South, and 27 from East to West,—about the size of Bedfordshire. Lower Galilee included the district from the plain of Akka to the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and was mainly composed of the rich plain of Esdraelon (or Jezreel). Upper Galilee included the mountain range between the upper Jordan and Phoenicia. Galilee was thus the main scene of our Lord’s ministry. It was surpassingly rich and fertile (Jos. B. J. I. 15, 5, III. 10, §§ 7, 8). See on Luke 1:26. Herod’s dominions included the larger though less populous district of Peraea; but the flourishing towns of Decapolis (Gerasa, Gadara, Damascus, Hippos, Pella, &c.) were independent.

Φιλίππου δὲ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ. Herod Philip, son of Herod the Great and Cleopatra, who afterwards married his niece Salome, daughter of the other Herod Philip (who lived in a private capacity at Rome) and of his half-sister-in-law Herodias. This tetrarch seems to have been the best of the Herods (Jos. Antt. XVII. 2, § 4), and the town of Caesarea Philippi which he beautified was named from him. He also changed the name of the northern Bethsaida into Julias after the miserable daughter of Augustus. He was a devoted adherent of the Caesars but so just and generous that “in his person it is possible to become reconciled to the House of Herod.” (See Jos. B. J. II. 9, 1. 6; Antt. XVIII. 4, § 6; Ewald, Gesch. Isr. v. 46; Keim, Gesch. Jesu, I. 206.) He reigned 37 years.

Ἰτουραίας καὶ Τραχωνίτιδος χώρας. His tetrarchate also included Batanaea (Bashan), Auranitis (the Hauran), Gaulanitis (Golân), and some parts about Jamnia (Jos. B. J. II. 6, § 3). Ituraea (now Jedûr) was at the foot of Mount Hermon, and was named from Jetur, son of Ishmael (Genesis 25:15-16). The Ituraeans were marauders, famous for the use of the bow, and protected by their mountain fastnesses. (Strabo, XVI. 2; Lucan, Phars. VII. 230.) Trachonitis, also a country of robbers (Jos. Antt. XVI. 9, §§ 1, 2), is the Greek rendering of the Aramaic Argob (a region about 22 miles from N. to S. by 14 from W. to E.), and means ‘a rough or stony tract.’ It is the modern province of el-Lejâh, and the ancient kingdom of Og—“an ocean of basaltic rocks and boulders, tossed about in the wildest confusion, and intermingled with fissures and crevices in every direction.” Herod Philip received this tetrarchate by bequest from his father (Jos. B. J. II. 6, § 3).

Λυσανίου τῆς Ἀβιληνῆς τετραρχοῦντος. The mention of this minute particular is somewhat singular, but shews St Luke’s desire for at least one rigid chronological datum. It used to be asserted that St Luke had here fallen into another chronological error, but his probable accuracy has, in this point also, been completely vindicated. There was a Lysanias king of Chalcis under Mount Lebanon, and therefore in all probability tetrarch of Abilene, in the days of Antony and Cleopatra, 60 years before this period (Jos. Antt. XV. 4, § 1, B. J. I. 13, § 1); and there was another Lysanias, probably a grandson of the former, in the reigns of Caligula and Claudius, 20 years after this period (Jos. Antt. XV. 4, § 1). No intermediate Lysanias is recorded in history, but there is not a shadow of proof that the Lysanias here mentioned may not be the second of these two, or more probably some Lysanias who came between them, perhaps the son of the first and the father of the second. Even M. Renan admits that after reading at Baalbek the inscription of Zenodorus (Boeckh, Corp. Inscr. Graec. no. 4521, Jos. B. J. II. 6, § 31) he infers the correctness of the Evangelist (Vie de Jésus, p. xiii.; Les Évangiles, p. 263). It is indeed, on the lowest grounds, inconceivable that so careful a writer as St Luke should have deliberately gone out of his way to introduce so apparently superfluous an allusion at the risk of falling into a needless error. Lysanias is perhaps mentioned because he had Jewish connexions (Jos. Antt. XIV. 7, § 4). The minuteness of the effort to fix the date marks St Luke as a true historian, and Keim only shews the prejudice of hostile criticism when he asserts (Gesch. Jesu, I. 619) that “there never was but one historical Lysanias.” Augustus was fond of restoring kingdoms to young princes, whose fathers Antony had murdered, as he did to the young Iamblichus of Emesa (Godet). It may however be doubted whether St Luke meant to draw attention to the dismemberment of the Holy Land.

τῆς Ἀβιληνῆς. Abila was a town 18 miles from Damascus and 38 from Baalbek. The district of which it was the capital is probably here mentioned because it subsequently formed part of the Jewish territory, having been assigned by Caligula to his favourite Herod Agrippa I. in A.D. 36. The name is derived from Abel ‘a meadow.’

Verses 1-9


Verse 2

2. ἐπὶ ἀρχιερέως Ἅννα καὶ Καϊάφα. ‘In the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,’ for the true reading is undoubtedly ἀρχιερέως (אABCDE, &c.). A similar expression occurs in Acts 4:6. But here St Luke is charged (on grounds as untenable as in the former instances) with yet another mistake. Annas or Hanan the son of Seth had been High Priest from A.D. 7–14, and had therefore, by this time, been deposed for many years; and his son-in-law Joseph Caiaphas, the fourth High Priest since his deposition, had been appointed about A.D. 24. The order had been as follows:—

Annas or Ananus (Hanan), A.D. 7.

Ishmael Ben Phabi, A.D. 15.

Eleazar son of Annas, A.D. 15.

Simon son of Kamhith, A.D. 16.

Joseph Caiaphas, A.D. 24 or 25.

How then can Annas be called High Priest in A.D. 27? The answer is (i.) that by the Mosaic Law the High Priesthood was held for life (Numbers 35:25), and since Annas had only been deposed by the arbitrary caprice of the Roman procurator Valerius Gratus he would still be legally and religiously regarded as High Priest by the Jews (Numbers 35:25); (ii.) that he held in all probability the high office of Sagan haccohanim ‘deputy’ or ‘chief’ of the Priests (2 Kings 25:18), or of Nasi ‘President of the Sanhedrin,’ or at least of the Ab Beth Dîn, who was second in the Sanhedrin; (iii.) that the nominal, official, High Priests of this time were mere puppets of the civil power, which appointed and deposed them at will in rapid succession, so that the title was used in a looser sense than in earlier days; (iv.) that Annas was personally a man whose age, wealth, and connexions gave him a preponderant influence. The real sacerdotal power was his. The High Priesthood was in fact at this time in the hands of a clique of some half-dozen Herodian, Sadducaean and alien families, whose ambition it was to bear the title for a time without facing the burden of the necessary duties. Hence any one who was unusually prominent among them would naturally bear the title of ‘High Priest’ in a popular way, especially in such a case as that of Hanan, who, besides having been High Priest, was a man of vast wealth and influence, so that five also of his sons, as well as his son-in-law, became High Priests after him. The language of St Luke and the Evangelists (John 11:49) is therefore in strict accordance with the facts of the case in attributing the High Priesthood at this epoch rather to a caste than to a person. Josephus (B. J. II. 20, § 4) who talks of “one of the High Priests” and the Talmud which speaks of “the sons of the High Priests” use the same sort of language. There had been no less than 28 of these phantom High Priests in 107 years (Jos. Antt. XX. 10, § 1), and there must have been at least five living High Priests and ex-High Priests at the Council that condemned our Lord. The Jews, even in the days of David, had been familiar with the sort of co-ordinate High Priesthood of Zadok and Abiathar. For the greed, rapacity and luxury of this degenerate hierarchy, see Life of Christ, II. 329, 330, 342.

ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ. Mainly, as appears from the next verse, the Arabah, the sunken valley north of the Dead Sea—el Ghôr—“the deepest and hottest chasm in the world” (Humboldt, Cosmos, I. 150), where the sirocco blows almost without intermission. “A more frightful desert it had hardly been our lot to behold” (Robinson, Researches, II. 121). See it described by Mr Grove in Smith’s Bibl. Dict. s.v. Arabah. The stern aspect and terrible associations of the spot had doubtless exercised their influence on the mind of John. See on Luke 1:80.

Verse 3

3. ἦλθεν. St Luke alone mentions the mission journeys of John the Baptist; the other Evangelists, whose narratives (Matthew 3:1-12; Mark 1:1-8; John 1:15; John 1:28) should be carefully compared with that of St Luke, describe how the multitudes “came streaming forth” to him.

πᾶσαν τὴν περίχωρον τοῦ Ἰορδάνου. The other Synoptists use exactly the same phrase, but in a different connexion (Matthew 3:5; Mark 1:5). The Arabah is some 150 miles in extent; the actual river-valley, specified in the O. T. by the curious words Kikkar and Geliloth (see Stanley, Sin. and Pal. p. 284), is not so extensive.

βάπτισμα μετανοίας εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν. Comp. Acts 2:38; Acts 3:15; Acts 5:31; Acts 22:16; where the two expressions are also united. ΄ετανοία involves “amendment of life” (A. V[78] marg.) The baptism of John was “a baptism of repentance,” not yet “a laver of regeneration” (Titus 3:5). It was intended first as a symbol of purification—“Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean,” Ezekiel 36:25; (comp. Isaiah 1:16; Zechariah 13:1); and then as an initiation into the kingdom which was at hand. The Jews had been familiar with the symbolism of baptism from the earliest days, as a consecration (Exodus 29:4), and a purification (Leviticus 14:8). It was one of the forms by which proselytes were admitted into Judaism. John’s adoption of this rite proved (i) his authority (John 1:25); and (ii) his opinion that even Jews needed to be thus washed from sins.

Verse 4

4. Ἡσαΐου τοῦ προφήτου. Isaiah 40:3.

[λέγοντος.] This word should be omitted with אBDL, &c.

φωνή. ‘A voice.’ The Hebrew original may be rendered “Hark, one crieth.” St Luke does not follow the other Synoptists in the identification of John with the promised Elias (Matthew 17:13; Mark 9:13).

βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ. Hence comes the common expression for hopeless warnings, vox clamantis in deserto. Probably, however, the “in the wilderness” should be attached to the words uttered by the voice, as is required by the parallelism of Hebrew poetry:

“Prepare ye in the wilderness a way for Jehovah,

Level in the desert a highway for our God.”

The wilderness is metaphorically the barren waste of the Jewish life in that day (Isaiah 35:1).

ὁδὸν κυρίου. Comp. Isaiah 35:8-10, “And a highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called the way of holiness: the unclean shall not pass over it … And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion.”

Verse 5

5. πᾶσα φάραγξ. Isaiah 40:4. The word occurs in Judith 2:8 but not again in the N. T. The metaphor is derived from pioneers who go before the march of a king. There is a remarkable parallel in Josephus (B. J. III. 6, § 2), where he is describing the march of Vespasian, and says that among his vanguard were “such as were to make the road even and straight, and if it were anywhere rough and hard to be passed over, to plane it, and to cut down the woods that hindered their march (comp. προκόπτειν = ‘to advance’ in Luke 2:52), that the army might not be tired.” The Jews fabled that the Pillar of Cloud and Fire in the desert smoothed the mountains and filled the valleys before them. Tanchuma, f. 70, 3 on Numbers 20:22.

πᾶσα φάραγξ πληρωθήσεται. Isaiah 40:4-5. i.e. the humble and meek shall be exalted, and the mighty put down. Compare Isaiah 2:12-15, “The day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up, and he shall be brought low … And upon all the high mountains, &c.” Zechariah 4:7, “Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain.”

βουνός. The word in the N. T. occurs only here and in Luke 23:30. It is a Cyrenaic word, first naturalised by Aeschylus who had learnt it in Sicily. It became common in Hellenistic Greek, see Valcknaer on Herod. IV. 158. Bähr on Herod. IV. 199.

ἔσται τὰ σκολιὰ εἰς εὐθείας. The words in the Hebrew recall the names Jacob and Jeshurun; as though it were “then the Supplanter shall be turned into Prince with God” or “the beloved” (Isaiah 44:2; Isaiah 11:4). The general meaning of the prophecy is that no obstacles, whether they arose from depression, or power, or pride, or cunning perversity, or menacing difficulties, should be able to resist the labours of the Pioneers and Heralds of the Kingdom of God. The feeble instrumentality of Galilaeans should be strengthened; the power of the Romans and Herods should be shattered; the duplicity and plots of Pharisees and worldlings should be defeated; the apparently insuperable opposition of Judaism and Heathenism be swept away.

Verse 6

6. ὄψεται πᾶσα σὰρξ τὸ σωτήριον τοῦ θεοῦ. St Luke alone adds these words to the quotation, and his doing so is characteristic of his object, which was to bring out the universality of the Gospel. See Luke 2:10, Luke 24:47, and Introd. p. xxiv. “The salvation” is τὸ σωτήριον, as in Luke 2:30. When the mountains of earthly tyranny and spiritual pride are levelled, the view of God’s saving power becomes clear to all flesh.

Verse 7

7. τοῖς ὄχλοις, ‘to the multitudes.’ Different crowds came from different directions, Matthew 3:5; Mark 1:5. This discourse falls into three sections [1] the warning (7–9); [2] the practical exhortation (10–14); [3] the Announcement of the Messiah (15–17).

γεννήματα ἐχιδνῶν, ‘broods of vipers.’ They were like “serpents born of serpents.” The comparison was familiar to Hebrew poetry (Psalms 68:4; Isaiah 14:9), and we learn from Matthew 3:7 that it was specially pointed at the Pharisees and Sadducees, to whom it was addressed no less sternly by our Lord (Matthew 23:33). It described the venomous hypocrisy which turned religion itself into a vice, and hid a deadly malice under the glittering semblance of a zeal for orthodoxy. St John saw that, without any real belief in his message and ministry, they were coming to his baptism as to a mere external official act. His question shews his disbelief in their sincerity (Matthew 21:25). But let it be borne in mind that only teachers of transcendent holiness, and immediately inspired by God with fervency and insight, may dare to use such language. The metaphor was one of those desert symbols which would be suggested to St John both by the scene of his preaching and by the language of Isaiah with which he shews special familiarity.

ἀπὸ τῆς μελλούσης ὀργῆς. i.e. the approaching Messianic judgment. Romans 2:5. Apart from this expression of the Baptist, the word ὀργή only occurs three times in the four Gospels. The Jews had been taught by prophecy that the Advent of their Deliverer should be preceded by a time of anguish which they called “the Woes of the Messiah;” comp. Malachi 3:2, “Who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap.” Id. Luke 4:1 “Behold I send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” Such prophecies received their primary fulfilment at the Destruction of Jerusalem (see Matthew 24:28; Mark 13:19-20); and await their final fulfilment hereafter. Revelation 6:16.

Verse 8

8. ποιήσατε. The verb implies instant effort. “Produce at once.”

μὴ ἄρξησθε λέγειν. He cuts off even all attempt at self-excuse. ‘Do not allow yourselves to say.’ The ἄρξησθε is almost like ‘Do not harp on the old boast’ (Das alte Lied anfangen). St Matthew has μὴ δόξητε, ‘do not deceive yourselves on the subject by a mere illusion.’

πατέρα ἔχομεν τὸν Ἀβραάμ. ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ The Jews had so exalted a conception of this privilege (John 8:39) that they could scarcely believe it possible that any son of Abraham should ever be lost. This is seen in many passages of the Talmud, which maintain that a “single Israelite is of more worth in God’s sight than all the nations of the world.” “Thou madest the world for our sakes. As for the other people … Thou hast said … that they are nothing but be like unto spittle, and hast likened the abundance of them unto a drop that falleth from a vessel … But we Thy people whom Thou hast called Thy firstborn, Thy only begotten, and Thy fervent lover, &c.” 2 Esdras 6:56-58. The Prophets had long ago warned them that privileges without duties were no protection (Jeremiah 7:3-4; Micah 3:11; Isaiah 48:2, &c.). Christ taught them that Abraham’s seed had no exclusive offer of salvation (Matthew 8:11-12; John 8:33-39), and it was a special part of the mission of St Paul to bring home to them that “they are not all Israel which are of Israel,” Romans 4:1; Romans 9:6-7; Galatians 3:29; Galatians 6:15.

ἐκ τῶν λίθων τούτων. He pointed to the rocky boulders, or the flints on the strand of Jordan, around him. He who had made Adam from the clay could make sons of Abraham from those stones (Bengel). St John’s imagery is that of the wilderness,—the rock, the serpent, the barren tree.

Verse 9

9. ἤδηκεῖται. Literally, ‘already lies.’ The notion is that of a woodman touching a tree (πρὸς) with the edge of his axe to measure his blow before he lifts his arm for the sweep which fells it.

μὴ ποιοῦν, if it produce not. The μὴ points to a condition.

ἐκκόπτεται καὶ εἰς πῦρ βάλλεται. Literally, “is being hewn down, and being cast.” It is almost impossible to reproduce in English the force of this use of the present. It is called the ‘praesens futurascens’ (see note on Luke 2:29), and is used in cases when the doom has been long uttered, and is, by the evolution of the natural laws of God’s dealings, in course of inevitable accomplishment. But we see from prophetic imagery that even when the tree has been felled and burned “the watchers and holy ones” may still have charge to leave the stump of it in the tender grass of the field that it may grow again, Daniel 4:25 : and we see from the express language of St Paul that the olive tree of Jewish life was not to be cut down and burned for ever (Romans 9, 10). A barren fig-tree was also our Lord’s symbol of the Jewish nation. Luke 13:6.

Verse 10

10. τί οὖν ποιήσωμεν; ‘What then are we to do?’ (Deliberative subjunctive). Compare the question of the multitude to Peter on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:37) and that of the Philippian jailor (Luke 16:30).

Verses 10-14


Verse 11

11. ὁ ἔχων δύο χιτῶνας. St Luke alone preserves for us the details in this interesting section. Beyond the single upper garment (χιτών, ketoneth), and garment (ἱμάτιον) and girdle, no other article of dress was necessary. A second ‘tunic’ or ketoneth was a mere luxury, so long as thousands were too poor to own even one.

μεταδότω τῷ μὴ ἔχοντι. St Paul gave similar advice (2 Corinthians 8:13-15), and St James (Luke 2:15-17), and St John (1 John 3:17), because they had learnt this spirit from Christ. A literal fulfilment of it has often been represented by Christian Art in the “Charity of St Martin.”

βρώματα, ‘food.’ The word ‘meat’ has now acquired the specific sense of ‘flesh,’ which it never has in our E. V. For instance the “meat-offering” was generally an offering of flour and oil.

We may notice the following particulars respecting the preaching of the Baptist:

[1] It was stern, as was natural to an ascetic whose very aspect and mission were modelled on the example of Elijah. The particulars of his life, and dress, and food—the leathern girdle, the mantle of camel’s hair, the living on locusts and wild honey—are preserved for us by the other Evangelists, and they gave him that power of mastery over others which always springs from perfect self-control, and absolute self-abnegation. Hence “in his manifestation and agency he was like a burning torch; his whole life was a very earthquake; the whole man was a sermon.”

[2] It was absolutely dauntless. The unlettered Prophet of the Desert has not a particle of respect for the powerful Sadducees and long-robed luxurious Rabbis, and disdains to be flattered by their coming to listen to his teaching. Having nothing to hope from man’s favour, he has nothing to fear from man’s dislike.

[3] It shews remarkable insight into human nature, and into the needs and temptations of every class which came to him,—shewing that his ascetic seclusion did not arise from any contempt of, or a version to, his fellow men.

[4] It was intensely practical. Not only does it exclude all abstract and theological terms such as ‘justification,’ &c., but it says nothing directly of even faith, or love. In this respect it recalls the Old Testament, and might be summed up in the words of Balaam preserved in the prophet Micah, “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” Micah 6:8.

[5] Yet though it still belongs to the dispensation of the shadow it prophesies of the dawn. His first message was “Repent;” his second was “The kingdom of heaven is at hand:” and this message culminated in the words “Behold the Lamb of God,” which shewed that the Olam habba or ‘future age’ had already begun. These two great utterances “contain the two capital revelations to which all the preparation of the Gospel has been tending.” “Law and prophecy; denunciation of sin and promise of pardon; the flame which consumes and the light which consoles—is not this the whole of the covenant?” Lange.

[6] It does not claim the credentials of a single miracle. The glory and greatness of John the Baptist, combined with the fact that not a single wonder is attributed to him, is the strongest argument for the truth of the Gospels against the ‘mythical theory’ of Strauss, who reduces the Gospel miracles to a circle of imaginative legends devised to glorify the Founder of Christianity. At the same time this acknowledged absence of miraculous powers enhances our conception of the enormous moral force which sufficed, without a sign, to stir to its very depths the heart of a sign-demanding age.

[7] It had only a partial and temporary popularity. Rejected by the Pharisees who said that “he had a devil,” the Baptist failed to produce a permanent influence on more than a chosen few (John 5:35; Luke 7:30; Matthew 11:18; Matthew 21:23-27; Acts 18:25; Acts 19:3-4). After his imprisonment he seems to have fallen into neglect, and he himself felt from the first that his main mission was to prepare the way for another, and to decrease before him. He was “the lamp kindled and shining” (John 5:35) which becomes needless and ceases to be noticed when the sun has dawned.

Verse 12

12. τελῶναι, ‘tax-gatherers’ (without the article). The English word ‘publican’ is a corruption of the Latin publicani ‘farmers of the taxes.’ The Roman government did not collect its own taxes, but leased them out to speculators of the equestrian order, who were called publicani, and who made their own profit out of the transaction. These knights appointed subordinates, who from the unpleasant character of the task could only be secured from the lowest of the people. These officials were not only detested as the agents of an odious system, but also for their notorious malpractices. It is true that by an edict of Gaius (Caligula) the Jews were allowed, as perhaps they were allowed even at this earlier date, to pay a regular tribute which was not farmed out to the equestrian publicani (Jos. Antt. XIV. 10, § 5). But even then the actual collection of the tax had to be entrusted to underlings (see Wieseler, Beiträge, p. 78). A strict Jew could hardly force himself even to pay taxes, and therefore naturally looked with scorn and hatred on any Jew who could sink so low as to collect them. Hence in our Lord’s time the word “publican” had become proverbial, as expressive of the worst opprobrium (Matthew 18:17). The Jews were not however peculiar in their dislike of publicans. The Greeks too regarded the word as a synonym of ‘plunderer,’ and an ‘innocent publican’ was looked upon as a marvellous phenomenon (Suet. Vesp. I.). Suidas defines the life of a publican as “unrestrained plunder, unblushing greed, unreasonable pettifogging, shameless business.” The relation of the publicans to John is referred to in Matthew 21:32. See Luke 7:29.

διδάσκαλε, teacher. In Luke 8:24 we have Ἐπιστάτα, Master.

τί ποιήσωμεν; See Luke 3:10. We have the same question, but with the answer which was only possible after the Resurrection, in Acts 2:37; Acts 16:30; Acts 22:10.

Verse 13

13. μηδὲν πλέονπράσσετε. The verb πράσσω (like πρᾶξις, see Luke 23:51; Colossians 3:9, &c.) is often used in a bad sense (Luke 23:41; John 3:2, &c.). The immodestia (i.e. the extravagant greed) of the publicans was their habitual sin, and later historians often allude to their cruel exactions (Caes. Bell. Civ. III. 32). The cheating and meddling for which Zacchaeus promised fourfold restoration (Luke 19:8) were universal among them.

Verse 14

14. ἐπηρώτων δὲ αὐτόν, ‘asked him.’ The imperfect tense however (as before in Luke 3:10) implies that such questions were put to him by bodies of soldiers in succession.

στρατευόμενοι, ‘soldiers on the march’ or on service. On what expedition these soldiers were engaged it is impossible to say. They cannot have been Roman soldiers, and were certainly not any detachment of the army of Antipas marching against his injured father-in-law Hareth (Aretas), ethnarch of Arabia, for their quarrel was long subsequent to this. The word στρατευόμενοι is less definite than στρατιῶται. Ewald supposes that they were a sort of police (gendarmerie) engaged in custom-house duties.

μηδένα διασείσητε. ‘Extort money by threats from no one.’ Διασείω, like the Latin concutio, is a technical word. It implies robbery and violence, and something of this sense is retained in the French ‘concussion’ (Littré s. v.). See 3 Maccabees 7:21.

συκοφαντήσητε. ‘Cheat by false accusation.’ The Greek word implies pettifogging charges on trivial grounds, and is the word from which sycophant is derived. The temptation of soldiers, strong in their solidarity, was to terrify the poor by violence, and undermine the rich by acting as informers. The best comment on the Baptist’s advice to them is the XVIth Satire of Juvenal, which is aimed at their brutality and threats.

ἀρκεῖσθε τοῖς ὀψωνίοις ὑμῶν. Be content with your pay. This is a late meaning of the word ὀψώνια (Romans 6:23), which means in the first instance ‘boiled fish (ἕψω) eaten as a relish with meat.’ It is remarkable that the Baptist does not bid even soldiers to abandon their profession, but to serve God in it. This is important as shewing that he did not hold up the life of the hermit or the ascetic as a model or ideal for all. He evidently held, like the good St Hugo of Avalon, that “God meant us to be good men, not monks and hermits.” Josephus, when (Antt. XVIII. Luke 3:2) he sums up the teaching of the Baptist by saying that “he commanded the Jews to practise virtue both in righteousness to one another and piety to God,” rightly estimates the practical, but omits the prophetic side of his teaching.

Verse 15

15. προσδοκῶντος. The Messianic expectations of the day had reached the Gentiles, many of whom even at Rome and in high society were proselytes, or half proselytes, to Judaism.

διαλογιζομένων. ‘While they were reasoning.’ Vulg[79] cogitantibus omnibus.

μήποτε αὐτὸς εἴ ὁ Χριστός. ‘Whether haply he were not himself the Christ.’

Verses 15-20


Verse 16

16. ἀπεκρίνατο. The answer, as we find from John 1:19-28, was given in its most definite form to a Pharisaic deputation of Priests and Levites, who were despatched by the Sanhedrin expressly to ask him to define his claims.

ὁ ἰσχυρότερός μου. ‘The stronger than I’ (comp. Luke 8:27).

λῦσαι. St Mark adds the graphic touch κύψας, ‘to stoop and untie.’ In Matthew 3:11 it is ‘to carry (βαστάσαι) his sandals;’ i.e. I am not adequate to be his humblest slave.

τὸν ἱμάντα, i.e. the thong. The word ‘latchet’ now obsolete in this sense, is from the same root perhaps as the Latin laqueus (Ital. laccio, Portug. lazzo, old French lacs, Fr. lacet, Engl. lace).

τῶν ὑποδημάτων αὐτοῦ. Of his sandals. The αὐτοῦ after οὗ is a pleonasm. Comp. οἷ τῷ μώλωπι αὐτοῦ, 1 Peter 2:24. The idiom is common in Hellenistic Greek, but is also classical, as in Herod. IV. 44, &c. “Christ which that is to every wound triacle.” Chaucer. See Brief Greek Syntax, § 102.

ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ καὶ πυρί. ‘In the Holy Spirit and fire.’ The preposition ἐν distinguishes between the mere instrumentality of the water, and the spiritual element whereby and wherein the child of the kingdom is baptized. This baptism by the Spirit had been foretold in Isaiah 44:3; Joel 2:28. Its first obvious fulfilment was at Pentecost (Acts 1:5; Acts 2:3) and in subsequent outpourings after baptism (Acts 11:15-16). But it is fulfilled without visible supernatural signs to all Christians (1 Corinthians 6:11); “by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body,” 1 Corinthians 12:13). At the same time Acts 19:2 shews that we must not attribute to the Baptist any clear view of the Holy Ghost as a Person.

καὶ πυρί. In its first and most literal sense the allusion is to the fiery tongues of Pentecost (Acts 2:3); but the secondary and metaphoric allusion is to the burning zeal and illuminating light of the Spirit. St Jerome sees a further allusion to fiery trials (Luke 12:49; Mark 9:49; 1 Peter 4:12) and to the fire of judgment (1 Corinthians 3:13); but these allusions cannot be regarded as certain.

Verse 17

17. τὸ πτύον. ‘Winnowing-fan.’ The Latin vannus, a great shovel with which corn was thrown up against the wind to separate it from the chaff.

ἅλωνα. ‘Threshing-floor.’ The word is the same as that from which our halo is derived, since the threshing-floors of the ancients were circular.

εἰς τὴν ἀποθήκην αὐτοῦ. Compare Matthew 13:30, “gather the wheat into my barn.”

τὸ δὲ ἄχυρον. The word includes straw and stubble. We find similar metaphors in Psalms 1:4, “the ungodly … are like the chaff;” Malachi 4:1, “all that do wickedly shall be stubble;” Jeremiah 15:7, “I will fan them with a fan in the gates of the land.” So far as the allusion is to the separation of good from evil elements in the Church we find similar passages in Matthew 13:30; 1 John 2:19, &c. But it may refer also to the destruction of the evil elements in a mixed character, as in Luke 22:31, “Simon … Satan hath desired to have you (ὑμᾶς), that he may sift you as wheat.”

κατακαύσει. He shall burn up.

Verse 18

18. πολλὰ μὲν οὖν καὶ ἕτερα. Literally, ‘Many things too, different from these;’ of which some are recorded by St John alone (Luke 1:29; Luke 1:34, Luke 3:27-36).

εὐηγγελίζετο. Literally, ‘he was preaching the Good Tidings.’ With the phrase εὐηγγελίζετο τὸν λαόν compare Acts 8:25; Acts 8:40; Acts 16:10. The verb has two accusatives (one being the cognate accusative) in Acts 13:22. It is found with the dative in Luke 4:18; Romans 1:15, &c. The accusative indicates the direction of the verbal action, and is involved in the notion of teaching.

Verse 19

19. ὁ δὲ Ἡρώδης ὁ τετράρχης. The incident which follows is here introduced by anticipation, that the subsequent narrative may not be disturbed. We find similar anticipatory notices in Luke 1:66; Luke 1:80. It should be compared with the fuller notice in Mark 6:17-20; Matthew 14:3-5. From these passages we learn that John had reproved Antipas for many crimes, and that Antipas was so convinced of his holiness and justice as habitually to listen to him with pleasure (ἡδέως αὐτοῦ ἤκουεν), and after paying earnest heed to him was greatly at a loss about him. We learn further that he resisted the constant urgency of Herodias to put him to death.

ἐλεγχόμενος. The reproof was of course based on Leviticus 18:16; Leviticus 20:21, and was perfectly uncompromising (Matthew 14:4). In this respect the dauntless courage of John, under circumstances of far greater peril, contrasts most favourably with the timid and unworthy concessions of the Reformers in the matter of the marriage of Philip of Hesse.

τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ. These words are omitted by some of the best uncials, and “Philip’s” by most of them. On this Herod Philip—who was not the tetrarch of that name—see on Luke 3:1.

Verse 20

20. προσέθηκεν καὶ τοῦτο ἐπὶ πᾶσιν. ‘Added this also to all his crimes.’ The Jews as well as St Luke regarded the treatment of the Baptist by Antipas as the worst of his crimes, and the cause of his subsequent defeat and disgrace (Jos. Antt. XVIII. 5, 1–4).

κατέκλεισεν. The sentences are simply paratactic. In a more classical passage this clause would have been made subordinate, by ὥστε with the infinitive or some similar construction.

ἐν φυλακῇ. If the reading ἐν τῇ φυλακῇ were correct it would mean “in his prison.” Comp. Luke 7:18. This prison, as we learn from Josephus (Antt. XVIII. 5, § 2), was the stern and gloomy fortress of Makor or Machaerus, on the borders of Arabia to the north of the Dead Sea. It is situated among black basaltic rocks and was believed to be haunted by evil demons. Its ruins have been visited in recent years by Canon Tristram (Land of Moab, p. 259) and other travellers, and dungeons are still visible of which one may have witnessed the great prophet’s tragic end.

Verse 21

21. ἐν τῷ βαπτισθῆναι ἅπαντα τὸν λαόν. ‘When all the people had been baptized,’ not ‘were being baptized’ as Meyer renders it. Or we may explain the baptism of all the people as one circumstance, and render ‘on the baptism of all the people.’ The expression (which is peculiar to St Luke) seems to imply that on this day Jesus was baptized last; and from the absence of any allusion to the multitude in this and the other narratives we are almost forced to conjecture that His baptism was in a measure private. St Luke’s narrative must be supplemented by particulars derived from St Matthew (Matthew 3:13-17), who alone narrates the unwillingness of the Baptist, and the memorable conversation between him and Jesus. St Mark (Mark 1:9-11) mentions that Jesus went into the river, and that it was He who first saw the cleaving heavens, and the Spirit descending.

καὶ Ἰησοῦ βαπτισθέντος. Our Lord Himself, in reply to the objection of the Baptist, stated it as a reason for His Baptism that “thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness;” i.e. that it was His will to observe all the requirements of the Mosaic law, which He came “not to destroy but to fulfil.” Other reasons have also been suggested, as (i) that He baptized (as it were) the water—“to sanctify water to the mystical washing away of sin” (Ignat. ad Eph. 18; Maxim. Serm. 7, de Epiphan.; Ps. Aug. Serm. 135. 4); or (ii) that He was baptized as it were vicariously, as Head of His body, the Church (Just. Mart. c. Tryph. 88); or (iii) as a consecration of Himself to His work, followed by the special consecration from the Father; or (iv) as a great act of humility (St Bernard, Serm. 47, in Cant.). See my Life of Christ, I. 117 n. This aorist participle of the single act is followed by the pres. participle of the continuous act.

καὶ προσευχομένου. This deeply interesting touch is peculiar to St Luke, who similarly on eight other occasions calls attention to the Prayers of Jesus—after severe labours (Luke 5:16); before the choosing of the Apostles (Luke 6:12); before Peter’s great confession (Luke 9:18); at His transfiguration (Luke 9:28-29); for Peter (Luke 22:32); in Gethsemane (Luke 22:41); for His murderers (Luke 23:34); and at the moment of death (Luke 23:46). St Luke also represents the duty and blessing of urgent prayer by the record of two peculiar parables—the Importunate Friend (Luke 11:5-13) and the Unjust Judge (Luke 18:2). See Introd. p. xxxii.

Verses 21-38


Verse 22

22. καταβῆναι. This was seen by John the Baptist (John 1:34) and by Jesus (Mark 1:10), but not (apparently) by others.

σωματικῷ εἴδει. This addition is peculiar to St Luke, and is probably added to shew the distinctness and reality of what Theodoret calls the ‘spiritual vision’ (πνευματικὴ θεωρία).

ὡς περιστεράν. The expression ὡς or ὡσεὶ used by each of the Evangelists, and St John’s “and it abode upon Him” (John 1:32), sufficiently prove that no actual dove is intended. The Holy Spirit is symbolised by a dove from early times. The Talmudic comment on Genesis 1:2 is that “the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters like a dove”—

“And with mighty wings outspread

Dovelike sat’st brooding on the vast abyss.”

MILTON (Par. Lost, I. 20).

Comp. 2 Esdras 5:26, “of all the fowls that are created thou hast named thee one dove.” Matthew 10:16. A mystical reason was assigned for this in some fathers, because the numerical value of the letters of the Greek word peristera, ‘a dove,’ amounts to 801, which is also the value of Alpha Omega. We are probably intended to understand a dovelike, hovering, lambent flame descending on the head of Jesus; and this may account for the unanimous early legend that a fire or light was kindled in Jordan (Just. Mart. c. Tryph. 88, and the Gospel of the Hebrews; see Epiphan. Haer. xxx. 13). Other Apocryphal Gospels (the Gospel of the Nazarenes, &c.) added other incidents obviously fictitious.

ἐξ οὐρανοῦ. ‘Out of heaven.’ St Matthew has ἐξ οὐρανῶν because he follows the common Hebraism of using ‘the heavens’ (with reference to the seven heavens of the Rabbis) except when he alludes to heaven as a mere physical region. When he speaks of heaven as God’s abode (“Our Father which art in the heavens,” “The kingdom of the heavens,” “our Father from the heavens,” &c.) he uses the plural. St Luke only uses “heavens” four times, and St John not at all. See an excellent note in Humphry Rev. Version, p. 7. This Bath Kôl or Voice from heaven also occurred at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:5) and in the closing week of Christ’s life (John 12:28-30). This is one of the passages which so distinctly imply the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity.

εὐδόκησα. ‘I was well pleased.’ The word εὐδοκέω is a late and ill-formed word. Like καραδοκεῖν it violates the rule (“regium praeceptum Scaligeri”) that δυς and εὖ and the privative cannot be joined to verbs except through an intermediate substantive. See the rule explained in Brief Greek Syntax §§ 107, 108. Justin Martyr adds “This day have I begotten thee,” which is also found in D and the Itala, but is a mere gloss from Psalms 2:7.

Verse 23

23. αὐτός. For another instance of this distinctive and emphatic αὐτὸς see Luke 1:22; Matthew 3:4.

ἦν ἀρχόμενος ὡσεὶ ἐτῶν τριάκοντα. ‘Was about thirty years of age on beginning (His work).’ So it was understood by Tyndale, but the A.V[80] followed Cranmer, and the Geneva. The translation of our A. V[81] is, however, ungrammatical, and a strange expression to which no parallel can be adduced. The word ἀρχόμενος standing absolutely for ‘when He began His ministry,’ is explained by the extreme prominency of this beginning in the thought of St Luke (see Acts 1:1; Acts 1:22), and his desire to fix it with accuracy. The age of 30 was that at which a Levite might enter on his full services (Numbers 4:3; Numbers 4:47), and the age at which Joseph had stood before Pharaoh (Genesis 41:46), and at which David had begun to reign (2 Samuel 5:4), and at which scribes were allowed to teach. It is the physical ἀκμὴ of life (Xen. Mem. I. Dion. Halicarn. IV. 6, Wieseler, Beiträge, p. 165).

ὡς ἐνομίζετο. “Is not this the carpenter’s son?” Matthew 13:55; John 6:42.

On the genealogy which follows, and its relations to that in the Gospel of St Matthew, many volumes have been written, but in the Excursus I have endeavoured to condense all that is most important on the subject, and to give those conclusions which are now accepted by the most careful scholars. See Excursus II., The genealogies of Jesus in St Matthew and St Luke.

τοῦ Ἡλεί. It is a curious circumstance that in the Talmud (Chagig. 77) Mary is called the daughter of Eli; but it is a distortion of plain grammar to make this verse mean “being as was supposed, the son of Joseph [but in reality the son of Mary, daughter] of Eli.”

Verses 23-38



The general facts are these:

(i) The genealogy of our Lord in St Matthew descends from Abraham to Jesus, in accordance with his object in writing mainly for the Jews.

The genealogy in St Luke ascends from Jesus to Adam, and to God, in accordance with his object in writing for the world in general. He spans the generations of mankind from the first Adam to the Second Adam, who was the Lord from heaven (1 Corinthians 15:20; 1 Corinthians 15:45; 1 Corinthians 15:47).

(ii) The generations are introduced in St Matthew by the word “begat;” in St Luke by the genitive with the ellipse of “son.” Thus in St Matthew we have

Abraham begat Isaac,

And Isaac begat Jacob, &c.;

but in St Luke

Being the son (as was reputed) of Joseph,

(The son) of Eli

of Matthat, &c.

(iii) St Matthew says that

St Luke (merely reversing the order) traces the line through

David begat Solomon










Jehoram [Ahaziah, Joash, Amaziah omitted]
















Jeconiah and his brethren


















































(in 1 Chronicles 3:19 we find Pedaiah, who was perhaps the actual father; Shealtiel may have adopted his nephew1#1 Some authorities maintain that Zerubbabel was the grandson of Shealtiel, and that we have six sons of Shealtiel in 1 Chronicles 3:18.#)

Thus St Luke gives 21 names between David and Zerubbabel where St Matthew only gives 15, and all the names except that of Shealtiel (Salathiel) are different.

(iv) St Matthew says that

St Luke traces the line through

Zerubbabel begat Abihud





















Johanan (Hananiah, 1 Chronicles 3:19).


Judah (Abihud of Matthew, Hodaiah of 1 Chronicles 3:24).

































Thus it will be seen that St Luke gives 17 generations between Zerubbabel and Joseph, where St Matthew only gives 9, and all the names are different.

The two main difficulties then which we have to meet are

A. The difference in the number of the generations;

B. The difficulties in the dissimilarity of the names.

A. The difficulty as to the number of the generations is not serious, because [1] it is a matter of daily experience that the number of generations in one line often increases far more rapidly than that in another; but also because [2] St Matthew has arranged his genealogies in an arbitrary numerical division of three tesseradecads[427]. Nothing was more common among the Jews than the adoption of this symmetrical method, at which they arrived by the free omission of generations, provided that the fact of the succession remained undoubted. Thus in 2 Chronicles 22:9 “son” stands for “grandson,” and Ezra (in Ezra 7:1-5) omits no less than seven steps in his own pedigree, and among them his own father,—which steps are preserved in 1 Chronicles 6:3-15. St Luke’s genealogy is tacitly arranged in eleven sevens.

B. The difficulty as to the dissimilarity of names will of course only affect the two steps of the genealogies at which they begin to diverge, before they again coalesce in the names of Shealtiel and of Joseph.

One of the commonest ways of meeting the difficulty has been to suppose that St Luke is giving the genealogy not of Joseph but of Mary—the genealogy of Christ by actual birth, not by legal claim.

This solution (first suggested by Annius of Viterbo at the close of the 15th century), though still adopted by some learned men, must be rejected, [1] because there is no trace that the Jews recognised the genealogies of women as constituting a legal right for their sons; and [2] because it would do the strongest violence to the language of St Luke to make it mean ‘Being, as was reputed, the son of Joseph [but really the son of Mary, who was the daughter] of Eli, &c.

We must therefore regard it as certain that both genealogies are genealogies of Joseph adduced to prove that in the eye of the Jewish law Jesus was of the House of David. The question is not what we should have expected about the matter, but what is actually the case.

1. First then, how can Joseph be called in St Matthew the son of Jacob, in St Luke the son of Eli?

(α) An ancient explanation was that Matthan, a descendant of David in the line of Solomon (as given by St Matthew) was the husband of a woman named Estha, and became the father of Jacob; on his death his widow Estha married Melchi, a descendant of David in the line of Nathan (as given by St Luke), and had a son named Eli. Eli, it is said, died childless, and Jacob, his half-brother, in accordance with the law of levirate[428] marriages (Deuteronomy 25:5-6; Matthew 22:23-27), took his widow to wife, and became the father of Joseph. Thus

St Luke might naturally give the latter genealogy because it would be the one recognised by Romans, with whom the notion of legal as distinguished from natural sonship was peculiarly strong. This solution derives very great authority from the fact that it is preserved for us by Eusebius (H. E. I. 7) from a letter of Julius Africanus, a Christian writer who lived in Palestine in the third century, and who professed to derive it from private memoranda preserved by ‘the Desposyni’ or kindred of the Lord.

(β) But the difficulty about this view—not to mention the strange omission of Levi and Matthat, which may be possibly due to some transposition—is that St Matthew’s genealogy will then be partly legal (as in calling Shealtiel the son of Jeconiah) and partly natural (in calling Joseph the son of Jacob). But perhaps (since Jul. Africanus does not vouch for the exact details) there was so far a confusion that it was Jacob who was childless, and Eli who became by a levirate marriage the father of Joseph. If this be so, then St Matthew’s is throughout the legal, and St Luke’s throughout the natural genealogy. Even without the supposition of a levirate marriage, if Jacob were childless then Joseph, the son of his younger brother Eli, would become heir to his claims. The tradition mentioned may point in the direction of the true solution even if the details are inexact.

(γ) We may here add that though the Virgin’s genealogy is not given (οὐκ ἐγενεαλογήθη ἡ παρθένος, S. Chrys.), yet her Davidic descent is assumed by the sacred writers (Luke 1:32; Acts 2:30; Acts 13:23; Romans 1:3, &c.), and was in all probability involved in that of her husband. How this was we cannot say with certainty, but if we accept the tradition which has just been mentioned it is not impossible that Mary may have been a daughter of Eli (as is stated in an obscure Jewish legend, Lightfoot, Hor. Hebr. ad loc.) or of Jacob, and may have married her cousin Joseph jure agnationis. At any rate we have decisive and independent proof that the Davidic descent of our Lord was recognised by the Jews. They never attempted to avert the jealousy of the Romans about the royal descent of the Desposyni (Euseb. H. E. I. 7), and Rabbi Ulla (circ. 210) says that “Jesus was exceptionally treated because of royal descent” (T. B. Sanhedr. 43 a, Amsterdam ed., see Derenbourg, Palest. p. 349. But it is possible that the words mean ‘influential with the (Roman) government’).

2. We have now to explain why St Matthew says that Shealtiel (Salathiel) was the son of Jeconiah, while St Luke says that he was the son of Neriah.

The old suggestion that the Zerubbabel and Shealtiel of St Luke are different persons from those of St Matthew may be set aside at once. But the true answer seems to be that Jehoiachin (Jeconiah) was either actually childless, as was so emphatically prophesied by Jeremiah 22:24-30, or that, at any rate, his children (if he ever had any, as seems possible from Luke 3:28; 1 Chronicles 3:17-19; and Jos. Antt. X. 11, § 2) died childless in Babylon. It is true that the word rendered ‘childless’ (עֲרִירִי) may mean ‘forlorn’ or ‘naked;’ but the other is the more natural meaning of the word, and so it was understood by the Jews, who however supposed that, after a long captivity, he repented and the curse was removed. Setting aside this mere conjecture, it seems probable that Jeconiah was, or became, absolutely childless, and that therefore in the 37th year of his captivity he adopted a son to preserve his race from extinction. His choice however was limited. Daniel and others of the seed royal were eunuchs in the palace of the King of Babylon (Daniel 1:3; 2 Kings 20:16), and Ishmael and others were excluded by their murder of Gedaliah; to say nothing of the fact that the royal line had been remorselessly mown down by Jehu and by Athaliah. He therefore adopted the seven sons of Neri, the twentieth from David in the line of Nathan. We seem to have an actual intimation of this in Zechariah 12:12, where “the family of Nathan apart” is commemorated as well as “the family of David apart” because of the splendid Messianic prerogative which they thus obtained. And this is remarkably confirmed by Rabbi Shimeon Ben Jochai in the Zohar, where he speaks of Nathan, the son of David, as the father of Messiah the Comforter (because Menachem, ‘comforter,’ stands numerically for 138, which is the numerical value of the letters of Tsemach, ‘the Branch’). Hence too Hephzibah, the wife of Nathan, is called the mother of the Messiah. (See Schöttgen, Hor. Hebr. on Luke 1:31.)

The failure of the Messianic promise in the direct natural line of Solomon is no difficulty in the way of this hypothesis, since while the promise to David was absolute (2 Samuel 7:12) that to Solomon was conditional (1 Kings 9:4-5).

If these very simple and probable hypotheses be accepted no difficulty remains; and this at least is certain—that no error can be demonstrated. A single adoption, and a single levirate marriage, account for the apparent discrepancies. St Matthew gives the legal descent through a line of Kings descended from Solomon—the jus successionis; St Luke the natural descent—the jus sanguinis. St Matthew’s is a royal, St Luke’s a natural pedigree. It is a confirmation of this view that in Joseph’s private and real genealogy we find the names Joseph and Nathan recurring (with slight modifications like Matthat, &c.) no less than seven times. That there must be some solution of this kind is indeed self-evident, for if the desire had been to invent a genealogy no one would have neglected a genealogy deduced through a line of Kings.

3. i. We need only further notice that in Luke 3:27 the true translation probably is “the son of the Rhesa Zerubbabel.” Rhesa is not a proper name, but a Chaldee title meaning ‘Prince.’ Thus the head of the Captivity is always known by Jewish writers as the Resh Galootha.

ii. In Luke 3:32 we have only three generations—Boaz, Obed, Jesse—between Salmon and David; a decisive proof that the common chronology is wrong in supposing that more than four hundred years elapsed between the conquest of Canaan and David.

iii. In Luke 3:24 the Matthat is perhaps identical with the Matthan of Matthew 1:15; if so the line recorded by St Matthew may have failed at Eliezer, and Matthan, the lineal descendant of a younger branch, would then be his heir.

iv. In Luke 3:36 the Cainan (who must be distinguished from the Cainan of Luke 3:37) is possibly introduced by mistake. The name, though found in this place of the genealogy in the LXX[429], is not found in any Hebrew MS. of the O.T., nor in the Samaritan, Chaldee, and Syriac versions (Genesis 11:12; 1 Chronicles 1:24). It is omitted in the Codex Bezae (D), and there is some evidence that it was unknown to Irenaeus.

v. The difference between the two genealogies thus given without a word of explanation furnishes a strong probability that neither Evangelist had seen the work of the other.

The conclusions arrived at as probable may be thus summarized.

David’s line through Solomon failed in Jeconiah, who therefore adopted Shealtiel, the descendant of David’s line through Nathan.

(Shealtiel being also childless adopted Zerubbabel, son of his brother Pedaiah, 1 Chronicles 3:17-19.)

Zerubbabel’s grandson, Abihud (Matt.), Judah (Lk.), or Hodaiah (1 Chr.)—for the three names are only modifications of one another—had two sons, Eliakim (Matt.) and Joseph (Lk.).

Eliakim’s line failed in Eliezer; and thus Matthan or Matthat became his legal heir.

This Matthan had two sons, Jacob the father of Mary, and Eli the father of Joseph; and Jacob having no son adopted Joseph his heir and nephew.

It is true that these suggestions are not capable of rigid demonstration, but (α) they are entirely in accordance with Jewish customs; (β) there are independent reasons which shew that they are probable; (γ) no other hypotheses are adequate to account for the early existence of a double genealogy in Christian circles.

Verse 32

32. τοῦ Ἰωβήδ. א, La[73] Ti[74]

Verse 33

33. τοῦ Ἀμιναδάβ. Omitted by D and by W.H[75]

τοῦ Ἀρνεί. א reads Ἀδάμ. BL, Ti[76] W.[77]. read τοῦ Ἀδμεὶν τοῦ Ἀρνεί.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Luke 3:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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