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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament
Luke 1

 

 

Verse 1

Luke 1:1. ἐπειδήπερ: three particles, ἐπεί, δή, περ, blended into one word, implying that the fact to be stated is well known ( δή), important ( περ), and important as a reason for the undertaking on hand ( ἐπεί) = seeing, as is well known. Hahn thinks the word before us is merely a temporal not a causal particle, and that Luke means only to say that he is not the first to take such a task on hand. But why mention this unless because it entered somehow into his motives for writing? It might do so in various ways: as revealing a widespread impulse to preserve in writing the evangelic memorabilia, stimulating him to do the same; as meeting an extensive demand for such writings on the part of Christians, which appealed to him also; as showing by the number of such writings that no one of them adequately met the demand, or performed the task in a final manner, and that therefore one more attempt was not superfluous. ἐπειδήπερ, a good Greek word, occurs here only in N. T.— πολλοὶ: not an exaggeration, but to be taken strictly as implying extensive activity in the production of rudimentary “Gospels”. The older exegetes understood the word as referring to heretical or apocryphal gospels, of course by way of censure. This view is abandoned by recent commentators, for whom the question of interest rather is: were Mt.’s Logia and Mk.’s Gospel among the earlier contributions which Lk. had in his eye? This question cannot be decided by exegesis, and answers vary according to the critical theories of those who discuss the topic. All that need be said here is that there is no apparent urgent reason for excluding Mt. and Mk. from the crowd of early essayists.— ἐπεχείρησαν, took in hand; here and in Acts 9:29; Acts 19:13. It is a vox ambigua, and might or might not imply blame = attempted and did not succeed, or attempted and accomplished their task. It is not probable that emphatic blame is intended. On the other hand, it is not likely that ἐπεχ. is a mere expletive, and that ἐπεχ. ἀνατάξασθαι is simply = ἀνετάξαντο, as, after Casaubon, Palairet, Raphel, etc., maintained. The verb contains a gentle hint that in some respects finality had not yet been reached, which might be said with all due respect even of Mt.’s Logia and Mk.’s Gospel.— ἀνατάξασθαι διήγησιν, to set forth in order a narrative; the expression points to a connected series of narratives arranged in some order ( τάξις), topical or chronological, rather than to isolated narratives, the meaning put on διήγησις by Schleiermacher. Both verb and noun occur here only in N. T.— περὶπραγμάτων indicates the subject of these narratives. The leading term in this phrase is πεπληροφορημένων, about the meaning of which interpreters are much divided. The radical idea of πληροφορέω ( πλήρης, φέρω) is to bring or make full. The special sense will depend on the matter in reference to which the fulness takes place. It might be in the region of fact, in which case the word under consideration would mean “become a completed series,” and the whole phrase “concerning events which now lie before us as a complete whole”. This view is adopted by an increasing number of modern commentators (vide R. V.(1)). Or the fulness may be in conviction, in which case the word would mean “most surely believed” (A. V(2)). This sense of complete conviction occurs several times in N. T. (Romans 4:21, Hebrews 6:11; Hebrews 10:22), but with reference to persons not to things. A very large number of interpreters, ancient and modern, take the word here in this sense (“bei uns beglaubigten,” Weizsäcker). Holtz., H. C., gives both without deciding between them (“vollgeglaubten oder vollbrachten”). Neither meaning seems quite what is wanted. The first is too vague, and does not indicate what the subject-matter is. The second is explicit enough as to that = the matters which form the subject of Christian belief; but one hardly expects these matters to be represented as the subject of sure belief by one whose very aim in writing is to give further certainty concerning them ( ἀσφάλειαν, Luke 1:4). What if the sphere of the fulness be knowledge, and the meaning of the clause: “concerning the things which have become widely known among us Christians”? Then it would be plain enough what was referred to. Then also the phrase would point out the natural effect of the many evangelic narratives—the universal diffusion of a fair acquaintance with the leading facts of Christ’s life. But have we any instance of such use of the word?— πληροφορία is used in reference to understanding and knowledge in Colossians 2:2. Then in modern Greek πληροφορῶ means to inform, and as the word is mainly Hellenistic in usage, and may belong to the popular speech preserved throughout the centuries, τῶν πεπλ. may mean, “those things of which information has been given” (Geldart, The Modern Greek Language, p. 186), or those things generally known among Christians as such.


Verses 1-4

Luke 1:1-4. The preface.


Verse 2

Luke 1:2. καθὼς implies that the basis of these many written narratives was the παράδοσις of the Apostles, which, by contrast, and by the usual meaning of the word, would be mainly though not necessarily exclusively oral (might include, e.g., the Logia of Mt.).— οἱτοῦ λόγου describes the Apostles, the ultimate source of information, as men “who had become, or been made, eye-witnesses and ministers of the word”. Both αὐτόπτ. and ὑπηρ. may be connected with τοῦ λόγου, understood to mean the burden of apostolic preaching = the facts of Christ’s earthly history. Eye-witnesses of the facts from the beginning ( ἀπʼ- ἀρχῆς), therefore competent to state them with authority; servants of the word including the facts (= “all that Jesus began both to do and to teach”), whose very business it was to relate words and facts, and who therefore did it with some measure of fulness. Note that the ἡμῖν after παρέδοσαν implies that Lk. belonged to the second generation (Meyer, Schanz). Hahn infers from the ἡμῖν in Luke 1:1 that Lk. was himself an eye-witness of Christ’s public ministry, at least in its later stage.


Verse 3

Luke 1:3. ἔδοξε κἀμοὶ: modestly introducing the writer’s purpose. He puts himself on a level with the πολλοὶ, and makes no pretensions to superiority, except in so far as coming after them, and more comprehensive inquiries give him naturally an advantage which makes his work not superfluous.— παρηκολουθηκότι ἄν. π.: having followed (in my inquiries) all things from the beginning, i.e., not of the public life of Jesus ( ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς, Luke 1:2), but of His life in this world. The sequel shows that the starting point was the birth of John. This process of research was probably gone into antecedent to the formation of his plan, and one of the reasons for its adoption (Meyer, also Grimm, Das Proömium des Lukasevangelium in Jahrbücher f. deutsche Theologie, 1871, p. 48. Likewise Calvin: omnibus exacte pervestigatis), not merely undertaken after the plan had been formed (Hahn).— ἀκριβῶς, καθεξῆς σ. γρ. explain how he desired to carry out his plan: he wishes to be exact, and to write in an orderly manner ( καθεξῆς here only in N. T., ἐφεξῆς in earlier Greek). Chronological order aimed at (whether successfully or not) according to many (Meyer, Godet, Weiss, Hahn). Schanz maintains that the chronological aim applies only to the great turning points of the history, and not to all details; a very reasonable view. These two adverbs, ἀκρ., καθ., may imply a gentle criticism of the work of predecessors. Observe the historical spirit implied in all Lk. tells about his literary plan and methods: inquiry, accuracy, order, aimed at at least; vouchers desired for all statements. Lk. is no religious romancer, who will invent at will, and say anything that suits his purpose. It is quite compatible with this historic spirit that Lk. should be influenced in his narrations by religious feelings of decorum and reverence, and by regard to the edification of his first readers. That his treatment of materials bearing on the characters of Jesus and the Apostles reveals many traces of such influence will become apparent in the course of the exposition.— κράτιστε θεόφιλε. The work is to be written for an individual who may perhaps have played the part of patronus libri, and paid the expenses of its production. The epithet κράτιστε may imply high official position (Acts 23:26; Acts 26:25). On this see Grotius. Grimm thinks it expresses only love and friendship.


Verse 4

Luke 1:4. Indicates the practical aim: to give certainty in regard to matters of Christian belief.— περὶ ὧν κ. λόγων: an attraction, to be thus resolved: περὶ τῶν λόγων οὓς κατηχήθης. λόγων is best taken = matters ( πραγμάτων, Luke 1:1), histories (Weizsäcker), not doctrines. Doubtless this is a Hebraistic sense, but that is no objection, for after all Lk. is a Hellenist and no pure Greek, and even in this preface, whose pure Greek has been so often praised, he is a Hellenist to a large extent. (So Hahn, Einleitung, p. 6.) The subject of instruction for young Christians in those early years was the teaching, the acts, and the experience of Jesus: their “catechism” historic not doctrinal.— κατηχήθης: is this word used here in a technical sense = formally and systematically instructed, or in the general sense of “have been informed more or less correctly”? (So Kypke.) The former is more probable. The verb (from κατὰ, ἠχέω) is mainly Hellenistic in usage, rare in profane authors, not found in O. T. The N. T. usage, confined to Lk. and Paul, points to regular instruction (vide Romans 2:18).

This preface gives a lively picture of the intense, universal interest felt by the early Church in the story of the Lord Jesus: Apostles constantly telling what they had seen and heard; many of their hearers taking notes of what they said for the benefit of tnemselves and others: through these gospelets acquaintance with the evangelic history circulating among believers, creating a thirst for more and yet more; imposing on such a man as Luke the task of preparing a Gospel as full, correct, and well arranged as possible through the use of all available means—previous writings or oral testimony of surviving eye-witnesses.


Verses 5-7

Luke 1:5-7. The parents of John.— ἐγένετο, there was, or there lived.— ἐν ταῖς ., etc.: in the days, the reign, of Herod, king of Judaea. Herod died 750 A.C., and the Christian era begins with 753 A.C. This date is too late by three or four years.— ἐξ ἐφημερίας ἀβιά: ἐφημερία (a noun formed from ἐφημέριος - ον, daily, lasting for a day), not in profane authors, here and in Luke 1:8 in N. T., in Sept(3), in Chron. and Nehemiah, = (1) a service lasting for a day, or for days—a week; (2) a class of priests performing that service. The priests were divided into twenty-four classes, the organisation dating according to the tradition in Chronicles (1 Chronicles 24) from the time of David. The order of Abia was the eighth (1 Chronicles 24:10). Josephus (Ant., vii., 14, 7) uses ἐφημερίς and πατρία to denote a class. On the priesthood and the temple worship and the daily service, consult Schürer’s History, Div. ii., vol. i., pp. 207–298.— γυνὴ· a daughter of Aaron; John descended from priestly parents on both sides.


Verses 5-25

Luke 1:5-25. The birth of the Baptist announced. From the long prefatory sentence, constructed according to the rules of Greek syntax, and with some pretensions to classic purity of style, we pass abruptly to the Protevangelium, the prelude to the birth of Christ, consisting of the remainder of this chapter, written in Greek which is Hebraistic in phrase and structure, and Jewish in its tone of piety. The evangelist here seems to have at command an Aramaic, Jewish-Christian source, which he, as a faithful collector of evangelic memorabilia, allows to speak for itself, with here and there an editorial touch.


Verse 6

Luke 1:6. δίκαιοι: an O. T. term, and expressing an O. T. idea of piety and goodness, as unfolded in the following clause, which is Hebrew in speech as in sentiment: walking in all the commandments and ordinances (equivalent terms, not to be distinguished, with Calvin, Bengel, and Godet, as moral and ceremonial) blameless (relatively to human judgment).


Verse 7

Luke 1:7. καὶ οὐκ ἦν, etc.: childless, a calamity from the Jewish point of view, and also a fact hard to reconcile with the character of the pair, for the Lord loveth the righteous, and, according to O. T. views, He showed His love by granting prosperity, and, among other blessings, children (Psalms 128).— καθότι: a good Attic word: in Lk.’s writings only in N. T. = seeing, inasmuch as.— προβεβηκότες ἐν τ. ἡμ.: “advanced in days,” Hebraistic for the classic “advanced in age” ( τὴν ἡλικίαν) or years ( τοῖς ἔτεσιν): childless, and now no hope of children.


Verses 8-10

Luke 1:8-10. Hope preternaturally revived.— ἐν τῷ ἱερατεύειν: Zechariah was serving his week in due course, and it fell to his lot on a certain day to perform the very special service of burning incense in the holy place. A great occasion in a priest’s life, as it might never come to him but once (priests said to be as many as 20,000 in our Lord’s time). “The most memorable day in the life of Zechariah” (Farrar, C. G. T.).


Verse 9

Luke 1:9. κατὰ τὸ ἔθος is to be connected with ἔλαχε: casting lots, the customary manner of settling who was to have the honour.— εἰσελθὼν is to be connected with θυμιάσαι, not with ἔλαχε. The meaning is that entering the sanctuary was the necessary preliminary to offering incense: in one sense a superfluous remark (Hahn), yet worth making in view of the sacredness of the place. A great affair to get entrance into the ναός.


Verse 10

Luke 1:10. πλῆθος: there might be a crowd within the temple precincts at the hour of prayer any day of the week, not merely on Sabbath or on a feast day (“dies solennis, et fortasse sabbatum,” Bengel).


Verse 11

Luke 1:11. ὤφθη: the appearance very particularly described, the very position of the angel indicated: on the right side of the altar of incense; the south side, the propitious side say some, the place of honour say others. The altar of incense is called, with reference to its function, θυμιατήριον in Hebrews 9:3.


Verses 11-17

Luke 1:11-17. A celestial visitant.


Verse 12

Luke 1:12. ἐταράχθη describes the state of mind generally = perturbed, φόβος specifically. Yet why afraid, seeing in this case, as always, the objective appearance answers to the inward state of mind? This fear of the divine belongs to O. T. piety.


Verse 13

Luke 1:13. δέησις: all prayed at that hour, therefore of course the officiating priest. The prayer of Zechariah was very special— δέησις implies this as compared with προσευχή, vide Trench, Synonyms—and very realistic: for offspring. Beneath the dignity of the occasion, say some interpreters; a very superficial criticism. True to human nature and to O. T. piety, and not unacceptable to God. That the prayer was for offspring appears from the angelic message, objective and subjective corresponding.— γεννήσει, shall bear; originally to beget.— ἰωάννην: the name already mentioned to inspire faith in the reality of the promise: meaning, God is gracious.


Verse 14

Luke 1:14. χαρά, ἀγαλλίασις, a joy, an exultation; joy in higher, highest degree: joy over a son late born, and such a son as he will turn out to be.— πολλοὶ: a joy not merely to parents as a child, but to many as a man.


Verse 15

Luke 1:15. μέγας, a great man before the Lord; not merely in God’s sight = true greatness, but indicating the sphere or type of greatness: in the region of ethics and religion.— καὶ οἶνον, etc., points to the external badge of the moral and religious greatness: abstinence as a mark of consecration and separation—a devotee.— σίκερα = שֵׁכָר (not Greek), strong drink, extracted from any kind of fruit but grapes (here only in N. T.).— πνεύματος ἁγίου: in opposition to wine and strong drink, as in Ephesians 5:18. But the conception of the Holy Spirit, formed from the Johannine type of piety, is very different from that of St. Paul, or suggested by the life of our Lord.


Verse 16

Luke 1:16 describes the function of the Baptist.— ἐπιστρέψει: repentance, conversion, his great aim and watchword.


Verse 17

Luke 1:17. προελεύσεται ἐν. α.: not a reference to John’s function as forerunner of Messiah, but simply a description of his prophetic character. He shall go before God (and men) = be, in his career, an Elijah in spirit and power, and function; described in terms recalling Malachi 4:6.


Verses 18-20

Luke 1:18-20. Zechariah doubts. The angel’s dazzling promise of a son, and even of a son with such a career, might be but a reflection of Zechariah’s own secret desire and hope; yet when his day-dream is objectified it seems too good and great to be true. This also is true to human nature, which alternates between high hope and deep despair, according as faith or sense has the upper hand.


Verse 19

Luke 1:19. ἀποκριθεὶς: the very natural scepticism of Zechariah is treated as a fault.— γαβριὴλ: the naming of angels is characteristic of the later stage of Judaism (vide Daniel 8:16; Daniel 10:21).


Verse 20

Luke 1:20. σιωπῶν καὶ μὴ δ. λ., silent and not able to speak; a temporary dumbness the sign asked, a slight penalty; not arbitrary, however, rather the almost natural effect of his state of mind—a kind of prolonged stupefaction resulting from a promise too great to be believed, yet pointing to a boon passionately desired.— ἀνθʼ ὧν: a phrase of Lk. = תַּחַת אֲשֶׁר, because. (Also in 2 Thessalonians 2:10.)


Verse 21-22

Luke 1:21-22. The people without.— προσδοκῶν, waiting; they had to wait. The priest was an unusually long time within, something uncommon must have happened. The thought likely to occur was that God had slain the priest as unworthy. The Levitical religion a religion of distance from God and of fear. So viewed in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Illustrative quotations from Talmud in Wünsche, Beiträge, p. 413.


Verse 22

Luke 1:22. ὀπτασίαν: from his dazed look they inferred that the priest had seen a vision (chap. Luke 24:23, 2 Corinthians 12:1).— διανεύων: making signs all he could do; he could not bless them, e.g., if that was part of his duty for the day, or explain his absence (here only).


Verses 23-25

Luke 1:23-25. Returns home. The week of service over, Zechariah went back to his own house.— λειτουργίας: in Biblical Greek used in reference to priestly service; elsewhere of public service rendered by a citizen at his own expense or of any sort of service.


Verse 24

Luke 1:24. περιέκρυβεν: hid herself entirely ( περὶ), here only; ἔκρυβον: a late form of 2nd aorist. Why, not said, nor whether her husband told her what had happened to him.— μῆνας πέντε: after which another remarkable event happened. Whether she appeared openly thereafter is not indicated. Possibly not (J. Weiss).— ἐπεῖδεν: here and in Acts 4:29 = took care, the object being ἀφελεῖν τὸ ὄν. μ. = to remove my reproach: keenly felt by a Jewish woman. ἐν is understood before αἷς (Bornemann, Scholia).


Verse 26

Luke 1:26. ναζαρέτ: the original home of Joseph and Mary, not merely the adopted home as we might infer from Matthew 2:23.


Verses 26-38

Luke 1:26-38. The announcement to Mary.


Verse 27

Luke 1:27. ἐξ οἴκου δ.: Mary, Joseph, or both? Impossible to be sure, though the repetition of παρθένου in next clause (instead of αὐτῆς) favours the reference to Joseph.


Verse 28

Luke 1:28. χαῖρε, κεχαριτωμένη: ave plena gratiâ, Vulg(4), on which Farrar (C. G. T.) comments: “not gratiâ plena, but gratiâ cumulata”; much graced or favoured by God.— χαριτόω is Hellenistic, and is found, besides here, only in Ephesians 1:6 in N. T.— κύριος μετὰ σοῦ, the Lord (Jehovah) is or be with thee, ἐστί or ἔστω understood; the two renderings come practically to the same thing.


Verse 29

Luke 1:29. διεταράχθη: assuming that ιδοῦσα (T.R.) is no part of the true text, Godet thinks that Mary saw nothing, and that it was only the word of the angel that disturbed her. It is certainly the latter that is specified as the cause of trouble. The salutation troubled her because she felt that it meant something important, the precise nature of which ( ποταπὸς) did not appear. And yet on the principle that in supernatural experiences the subjective and the objective correspond, she must have had a guess.


Verse 31

Luke 1:31. ἰησοῦν: no interpretation of the name here as in Matthew 1:21; a common Jewish name, not necessarily implying Messianic functions. There may have been ordinary family reasons for its use.


Verse 32

Luke 1:32 foreshadows the future of the child.— μέγας, applied also to John, Luke 1:15.— κληθήσεται, shall be called = shall be.— τὸν θρόνον δ. τ. πατρὸς α.: the Messiah is here conceived in the spirit of Jewish expectation: a son of David, and destined to restore his kingdom.


Verse 34

Verse 35

Luke 1:35. πνεῦμα αγιον: without the article because a proper name = the well-known Holy Spirit, say some (Meyer, Farrar), but more probably because the purpose is not to indicate the person by whom, etc., but the kind of influence: spirit as opposed to flesh, holy in the sense of separation from all fleshly defilement (Hofmann, J. Weiss, Hahn).— δύναμις ὑψίστου: the power of the Most High, also without article, an equivalent for π. ., and more definite indication of the cause, the power of God. Note the use of ὕψιστος as the name of God in Luke 1:32, here, and in Luke 1:76. Feine (Vorkanonische Überlieferung des Lukas, p. 17) includes ὕψιστος, δυνατός (Luke 1:49), δεσπότης (Luke 2:29), κύριος (Luke 1:6; Luke 1:9; Luke 1:11, etc.), all designations of God, among the instances of a Hebraistic vocabulary characteristic of chaps. 1 and 2. The first epithet recurs in Luke 6:35 in the expression “sons of the Highest,” applied to those who live heroically, where Mt. has “children of your Father in heaven”.— ἐπελεύσεται, ἐπισκιάσει: two synonyms delicately selected to express the divine substitute for sexual intercourse. Observe the parallelism here: “sign of the exaltation of feeling. The language becomes a chant,” Godet. Some find poetry throughout these two first chapters of Lk. “These songs … doubtless represent reflection upon these events by Christian poets, who put in the mouths of the angels, the mothers and the fathers, the poems which they composed” (Briggs, The Messiah of the Gospels, p. 42. Even the address of Gabriel to Zechariah in the temple, Luke 1:13-17, is, he thinks, such a poem).— τὸ γεννώμενον ἄγιον, the holy thing—holy product of a holy agency—which is being, or about to be, generated = the embryo, therefore appropriately neuter.— υἱὸς θεοῦ, Son of God; not merely because holy, but because brought into being by the power of the Highest.


Verse 36

Luke 1:36. καὶ ἰδού, introducing a reference to Elizabeth’s case to help Mary’s faith.— συγγενίς, late form for συγγενής (T.R.), a blood relation, but of what degree not indicated, suggesting that Mary perhaps belonged to the tribe of Levi.— γήρει: Ionic form of dative for γήρᾳ (T.R.). Hellenistic Greek was an eclectic language, drawing from all dialects as from the poets, turning their poetic expressions to the uses of prose.— καλουμένη: Elizabeth is described as one who is still being called barren, though six months gone in pregnancy, because people have had no means of knowing her state.


Verse 37

Luke 1:37. ἀδυνατήσει: the verb means, in classic Greek, to be weak, of persons. In Sept(5) and N. T. (here and in Matthew 17:20) it means to be impossible, of things. Commentators differ as to whether we should render: no word of God shall be weak, inoperative, or no thing, with, on the part of, God, shall be impossible.— ῥῆμα = דָּבָר may be rendered either word or thing. The reading παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ ((6) (7) (8)) seems to demand the former of the two translations. Field, Otium Nor., discusses this passage. Adopting the above reading, and adhering to the sense of ἀδυνατ. in reference to things, he translates: “for from God no word (or no thing) shall be impossible”.

Some recent critics find in this section two different views of the birth of Jesus, one implying natural paternity, the other supernatural causality, the former being the view in the original document, the other introduced by the evangelist, the former Jewish in its tendency of thought, the latter heathen-Christian. The subject is discussed by Hillmann in Jahrb. für prot. Theol., 1891, and Usener, Religions-geschictliche Untersuchungen, 1888. J. Weiss, in his ed. of Meyer, p. 303, note, seems inclined to favour this view, and to see in Luke 1:31-33 the one version, and in Luke 1:34-35 the other, due to Lk. Against this view vide Feine, Vork. Überlief.


Verse 39

Luke 1:39. ἐν τ. . ταὑταις in these (not those = ἐκείναις, A. V(9)) days = at the time of the angelic visit.— μετὰ σπουδῆς: no time lost, a most natural visit from one woman with a high hope, to another, a friend, in a similar state of mind.— εἰς τὴν ὀρεινὴν ( χώραν, again Luke 1:65): into the hill country, referring to the southern hill country of Judah, Benjamin and Ephraim. Galilee had a hill country too. The expression has been supposed to point to the origin of Lk.’s document in Judaea (Hillmann).— εἰς πόλιν ἰούδα, to a city of Judah, not particularly named. Reland (Palaestina) conjectures that we should read Jutta, the name of a priestly city mentioned twice in Joshua (Joshua 15:55, Luke 21:16).


Verses 39-45

Luke 1:39-45. Mary visits Elizabeth.


Verse 41

Luke 1:41. ἐσκίρτησε: commentators discuss the connection between the maternal excitement and the quickening of the child—which was cause and which effect. Let this and all other questions in reference to the movement denoted be passed over in respectful silence.


Verse 42

Luke 1:42. ἀνεφώνησεν: here only in N. T. The verb, with the following words, κραυγῇ μεγάλῃ, point to an unrestrained utterance under the influence of irrepressible feeling, thoroughly true to feminine nature: “blessed thou among women (a Hebrew superlative), and blessed the fruit of thy womb,” poetic parallelism again, answering to the exalted state of feeling. The reference to the Holy Spirit (in Luke 1:41) implies that Elizabeth spoke by prophetic inspiration.


Verse 43

Luke 1:43. ἵνα ἔλθῃ: subjunctive instead of infin. with art., the beginning of a tendency, which ended in the substitution of να with the subjunctive for the infinitive in modern Greek.


Verse 44

Luke 1:44. γὰρ: implies that from the movement of her child Elizabeth inferred that the mother of the Lord stood before her.


Verse 45

Luke 1:45. μακαρία, here, as elsewhere, points to rare and high felicity connected with heroic moods and achievements.— ὅτι, because or that, which? great conflict of opinion among commentators. The former sense would make ὅτι give the reason for calling Mary blessed = blessed because the things she hopes for will surely come to pass. The latter makes ὅτι indicate the object of faith = blessed she who believes that what God has said will come to pass, with possible allusion to her own husband’s failure in faith.


Verses 46-56

Luke 1:46-56. Mary’s song.— μεγαλύνει: magnificat, Vulg(10), whence the ecclesiastical name for this hymn, which has close affinities with the song of Hanna in 1 Samuel 2:1-10; variously regarded by critics: by some, e.g., Godet and Hahn, as an extemporised utterance under inspiration by Mary, by others as a remnant of old Jewish-Christian Hymnology (J. Weiss, etc.), by others still as a purely Jewish Psalm, lacking distinctively Christian features (Hillmann). There are certainly difficulties connected with the first view, e.g., the conventional phraseology and the presence of elements which do not seem to fit the special situation.— ψυχή, πνεῦμα: synonyms in parallel clauses.


Verse 48

Luke 1:48. This verse and the two preceding form the first of four strophes, into which the song naturally divides. The first strophe expresses simply the singer’s gladness. The second (Luke 1:49-50) states its cause. The third (Luke 1:51-53) describes in gnomic aorists the moral order of the world, for the establishment of which God ever works in His holy and wise Providence, overturning the conventional order, scattering the proud, upsetting thrones, and exalting them of low degree, filling the hungry, and sending the rich away empty. It is this third part of the hymn which on first view seems least in keeping with the occasion. And yet on a large view this strophe exactly describes the constant tendency of Christ’s influence in the world: to turn things upside down, reverse judgments, and alter positions. The last strophe (Luke 1:54-55) sets forth the birth about to happen as a deed of divine grace to Israel.


Verse 54

Luke 1:54. ἀντελάβετο: laid hold: of with a view to help, as in Isaiah 41:8-9, Acts 20:35, 1 Timothy 6:2. cf. ἰπιλαμβάνεται, Hebrews 2:16.— μνησθῆναι ἐλέους, καθὼς ἐλάλησεν: what is about to happen is presented as fulfilling a promise made to the Fathers long, long ago, but not forgotten by God, to whom 1000 years, so far as remembering and being interested in promises are concerned, are as one day.— τῷ ἁβραὰμ καὶ τ. σ. α The construction is a little doubtful, and has been differently understood. It is perhaps simplest to take αβ., etc., as the dative of advantage = to remember mercy for the benefit of Abraham and his seed. The passage is an echo of Micah 7:20.


Verse 56

Luke 1:56. Mary returns to her home.— ἔμεινε: the time of Mary’s sojourn with her kinswoman is given as “about three months”. This would bring her departure near to the time of Elizabeth’s confinement. Did she remain till the event was over? That is left doubtful.


Verse 57

Luke 1:57. ἐπλήσθη, was fulfilled, the time for giving birth arrived in due course of nature.


Verses 57-66

Luke 1:57-66. Birth of John.


Verse 58

Luke 1:58. περίοικοι ( περί, οἶκος), dwellers around, neighbours, here only in N. T., several times in Sept(11) Named first because nearest; some of the relatives would be farther away and would arrive later. This gathering of neighbours and kinsfolk ( συγγενεῖς) presents a “gracious tableau of Israelite life,” Godet.— μετʼ αὐτῆς: a Hebraism = πρὸς αὐτήν.— συνέχαιρον α., they congratulated her: congratulabantur ei, Vulg(12); or, better, they rejoiced with her (Luke 1:14).


Verse 59

Luke 1:59. ἦλθον, on the eighth, the legal day, they came, to circumcise the child; i.e., those who were concerned in the function—the person who performed the operation, and the relatives of the family.— ἐκάλουν may be the imperfect of repeated action = they took for granted by repeated expressions that the name was to be Zechariah, or the conative imperfect indicating a wish which was frustrated.


Verse 60

Luke 1:60. ἰωάννης, John; presumably the mother had learned this from the father, by writing on a tablet as on the present occasion. The older commentators (Meyer also) supposed a Divine revelation.


Verse 61

Luke 1:61. συγγενείας, kinsmanship. In Lk. only in N. T. Cf. Acts 7:3; Acts 7:14.


Verse 62

Luke 1:62. ἐνένευον (here only in N. T.): they made signs, which seems to imply that Zechariah is supposed to be deaf as well as dumb. Various suggestions have been made to evade this conclusion; e.g., that men are very apt to treat a dumb person as if he were also deaf (Bengel, De Wette, Godet); that they communicated by signs instead of by speech to spare the feelings of Elizabeth, whose judgment was being appealed from (Meyer); that a sign was all that was needed, Zechariah having heard all that was said (Bleek, J. Weiss, Hahn).— τὸ before the clause following— τί ἂν θέλοι, viewed as a substantive, is very appropriate in a case where the question was not spoken but signalled.— ἂν θέλοι: the optative with ἂν, implies diverse possibilities; found in Lk.’s writings only in N. T.


Verse 63

Luke 1:63. πινακίδιον (dim. from πίναξ), here only in N. T.: a little tablet probably covered with wax, used like a slate; pugillarem in Vulg(13)λέγων is used here, Hebrew fashion = to the effect.— ἔγραψε λέγων: hypallage pro γράφων ἔλεγε (Pricaeus) = he said by writing.— ἐθαύμασαν: they wondered, at this consent of the parents in giving a strange name, and felt there must be something under it—an omen.


Verse 64

Luke 1:64. στόμα, γλῶσσα: both connected with ἀνεῴχθη, though the idea of opening is applicable only to the former—a case of zeugma. The return of speech a second marvel or rather a third: (1) a child of old parents; (2) the singular name; (3) the recovery of speech, much marked, and commented on among the denizens of the hill country of Judah ( διελαλεῖτο).— φόβος, not terror, but religious awe in presence of the supernatural—characteristic of all simple people.


Verse 66

Luke 1:66. τί ἄρα, etc.: what, in view of all these unusual circumstances, will this child come to? A most natural question. They felt sure all things portended an uncommon future for this child: “omina principiis inesse solent”.— καὶ γὰρ, etc.: a reflection of the evangelist justifying the wistful questioning of the hill folk = they might well ask, for indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.


Verse 67

Luke 1:67. ἐπροφήτευσεν, prophesied, when? At the circumcision, one naturally assumes. Hahn, however, connects the prophesying with the immediately preceding words concerning the hand of the Lord being with the boy. That is, Zechariah prophesied when it began to appear that his son was to have a remarkable career.


Verses 67-79

Luke 1:67-79. The song of Zechariah, called from the first word of it in the Vulgate the Benedictus. It is usually divided into five strophes, but it is more obviously divisible into two main parts, Luke 1:67-75, Luke 1:76-79. (Briggs, The Messiah of the Gospels, calls these divisions strophes, thus recognising only two.) Hillmann (Jahrb. f. prot. Theol., 1891) regards the first part as a purely Jewish Psalm, having no reference to the birth of the Baptist; furnished with a preface, Luke 1:67, and an epilogue referring to the Baptist as the forerunner of Jesus by the evangelist. J. Weiss (in Meyer) seems to accept this conclusion, only suggesting that the second part (Luke 1:76-79) might be in the source used by Lk., appended to the Psalm by the Jewish-Christian redactor.


Verse 68

Luke 1:68. ἐπεσκέψατο, visited graciously (vide on Matthew 25:36), occasionally used in Sept(14) in the sense of judicial visitation (Psalms 89:33). Note the use of the aorist there, which runs through Luke 1:68-75, in Luke 1:76-79 futures occur. The object of ἐπεσκέψατο is latent in τῷ λαῷ ( τὸν λαὸν, cf. Luke 7:16; λαός applied to Israel as the chosen people, ἔθνος to the other nations).


Verse 69

Luke 1:69. κέρας σ. = βασιλείαν, because kings were anointed with a horn of oil, or = δύναμιν, because in their horn all horned animals have their power (Euthy. Zig.); a thoroughly Hebrew symbol.— ἐν οἴκῳ δ., pointing to a descendant of David, who has wrought signal deliverance for Israel.


Verse 70

Luke 1:70. ἁγίων: a predicate applied in reverence to the prophets, as to the apostles in Ephesians 3:5.


Verse 71

Luke 1:71. σωτηρίαν, in apposition with κέρας σ., resuming and developing the thought interrupted by Luke 1:70, which is parenthetical.— ἐχθρῶν, τῶν μισούντων: not to be anxiously distinguished; poetic synonyms.


Verse 72

Luke 1:72. ποιῆσαι: in effect epexegetical of salvation, though formally indicating the aim of the salvation.— μετὰ τ. π., as in Luke 1:58, to make mercy with, for to show mercy to.— ἁγίας, holy, applied to another of Israel’s sacred inheritances: the covenant.


Verse 73

Luke 1:73. ὅρκον for ὅρκου, depending on μνησθῆναι, a case of inverse attraction, the noun by the relative ( ὃν, object of ὤμοσεν) instead of the relative by the noun. Cf. Luke 20:17. Examples from Greek authors in Bornemann, Scholia.


Verse 75

Luke 1:75. ὁσιότητι: the Godward, religious aspect of conduct (Ephesians 4:24).— δικαιοσύνῃ: the manward, ethical aspect.


Verses 76-79

Luke 1:76-79. From the general thanksgiving for Divine mercy the song turns to the special cause of gladness afforded by the birth of John.— σὺ, παιδίον: this address supposes the Baptist to be still a child, and all that is said of him is a prophetic forecast of the future, in literary form.— ὑψίστου: once more, for God. In the circle which produced this hymn, and these early records, the idea of Divine transcendency characteristic of later Judaism seems to have prevailed.


Verse 77

Luke 1:77. τοῦ δοῦναι, the infinitive of purpose, to be connected with προπορεύσῃ in Luke 1:76 = John will go before the Lord (Jehovah), with the view of giving the knowledge of salvation in the forgiveness of sins. This is a very general description of John’s ministry, hardly differentiating it from that of Christ. The knowledge of salvation in forgiveness is salvation = Christ’s gift.


Verse 78

Luke 1:78. διὰ σπλάγχνα, etc., on account of, etc., indicating the fountain-head of salvation—the mercy of God, described in Hebrew phrase as the bowels of mercy of our God.— ἐπισκέψεται: the future (aorist in T.R.), though in few MSS. ((15) (16) (17)), is doubtless the true reading. In the second great strophe the verbs are all future, and describe what is to be.— ἀνατολὴ: happily rendered “dayspring” in A. V(18) The reference is undoubtedly to a light, star, or sun, not to a branch from Jesse’s stem, as it might be so far as usage in Sept(19) is concerned (vide Jeremiah 23:5, Zechar. Luke 3:8, Luke 6:12), for its function is ἐπιφᾶναι, to appear as a light to those in darkness ( σκότει).— σκιᾷ θανάτου: vide on Matthew 4:16.

The Benedictus is steeped in O. T. language; “an anthology from Psalms and Prophets,” Holtz., H. C.


Verse 80

Luke 1:80. Conclusion: being a summary statement on John’s history from childhood to manhood.— πνεύματι: the growing strength of John’s spirit, the development of a remarkable moral individuality, the main point in the view of the evangelist.— ἐν ταῖς ἐρήμοις, in the desert places: not far to go from his home to find them; visits to them frequent in early boyhood; constant abode when youth had passed into manhood; love of solitude grown into a passion. Meet foster-mother for one who is to be the censor of his time. Essenes not far off, but no indication of contact, either outwardly or inwardly, with them.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Luke 1:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/luke-1.html. 1897-1910.

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