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Bible Commentaries
Luke 1

Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy ScriptureOrchard's Catholic Commentary

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Verse 1


Author —’Thirdly, Luke the Physician, by nation a Syrian of Antioch, whose praise is in the gospel, and who himself was a disciple of the Apostle Paul wrote (volumen condidit) in the districts of Achaia and Boeotia, seeking material from the ancients (quaedam allius repetens) and, as he admits in his preface, writing rather from hearsay than from eye-witness’. Thus St Jerome in his commentary on Matthew sums up the unvarying tradition traceable as far back as the Muratorian Fragment and the Adv. Haer. of St Irenaeus which date from the 2nd cent. Firm tradition, backed by internal evidence, shows that Luke was also the author of Acts. His name—Lucas, ????a+0302?—is in all probability an abbreviation of Lucanus or of ???????? the latter being the Greek form of the Latin Lucius, which is the sort of praenomen that would be assumed by a Greek on the acquisition of Roman citizenship. He may have been a freedman if not a full Roman citizen. Some wish to identify him with Lucius of Cyrene, Acts 13:1, in view especially of Cyrene’s repute as a centre of medical study. ’Luke the most dear physician’, Colossians 4:14, was St Paul’s companion during the Roman imprisonment (61-3), and there is much to be said for Harnack’s suggested translation, ’the beloved Luke, my doctor’. There is good reason for thinking that the Apostle stood in need of medical attention, and it may have been in such capacity that Luke accompanied him. The attribution of Syrian nationality to Luke should not be exaggerated; it probably indicates no more than the enjoyment of citizen rights at Antioch, the Syrian capital. To all intents and purposes Antioch was a Greek city, owing its foundation to the Alexandrine conquest of the East. Josephus speaks of ’the Macedonians and Greeks who were the inhabitants’ of the city (Ant. 12, 3, 1), and it became the main channel for Greek culture flowing eastwards. Thus its situation and character were ideal for the spread of the Gospel westwards, for the introduction to a Greek world of a faith which had such origins as the faith of Christ. It was there that the disciples lost their national character and appellation, and under the new Greek title of ???st?a??I+? were recognized as a group distinct from the Jews; Acts 11:26. This is in complete accord with the character and spirit of the third Gospel, and it seems likely that its author was one of numerous Greeks who first accepted faith in Christ at Antioch; Acts 11:20. We incline to the opinion that Luke was of European origin, perhaps descended from Greek or Macedonian colonists settled in Antioch. He was very familiar with Antiochian events; Acts 11:19-27; Acts 13:1; Acts 14:18-21, Acts 14:25; Acts 15:22-35; Acts 18:22. Confirmation is added by the manner in which Paul groups him with his Greek disciples (Colossians 4:14, Phm 24), and by the irreproachable Greek style of Lk and Ac which marks off their author clearly from the other NT writers, all of Hebrew origin (except perhaps the writer of Heb). Luke’s association with Paul and the Apostles is affirmed by Scripture and tradition. Jerome’s words ’ whose praise is in the gospel’ are taken from 2 Corinthians 8:18, and the nameless preacher (there is no question of a written gospel) is traditionally identified with Luke, who remained Paul’s constant companion from about so to the Apostle’s death in 67. Their first recorded meeting was at Troas when Paul as about to begin his first mission to Europe, Acts 16:10. Luke goes to Philippi, remains there to carry on the work at Paul’s departure, and is there collected by him on the last return to Jerusalem, c 58; Acts 16:10-40; 20:5 ff. Remaining in Palestine during Paul’s imprisonment at Caesarea, 58-60 (some hold that the Gospel was written at this time) he accompanies him to Rome for the appeal to the imperial law-courts, staying there for the two years while the case awaits trial. On the successful outcome of the appeal it may be surmised that Luke joined him during his few remaining years of apostolic work, for we find him still with Paul during the latter’s second imprisonment at Rome, 2 Timothy 4:11, which ended with the Apostle’s martyrdom. A tradition traceable to c 200 states that Luke wrote his Gospel in Achaia, where he had preached, and that he died in Bithynia (probably a mistake for Boeotia). Later traditions make him a painter and one of the Seventy-two, the latter most unlikely.

Date —This may be fixed with reasonable certitude from the evidence provided by Luke himself. He wrote Ac after the Gospel, therefore if we can fix the date of Ac this gives the latest limit for Lk. Now the evidence of Ac forces us to the conclusion that it was written in or shortly before 63. For the chronology of St Paul we base our conclusions on the work of Brassac (Une Inscription de Delphes et la Chronologie de St Paul, RB [ 1913] 36-53, 207-17) who fixes the first Roman imprisonment 61-3. Now it is against all likelihood, and at variance with the known character and style of Lk, that he would have left his reader in doubt about the outcome of Paul’s appeal to Caesar, had he known it when he finished Ac. The arbitrary suggestion that he left the question pending because he had in mind to write a’third treatise ’has no foundation. On the contrary, the decision of the Biblical Commission (cf. § 51i) directing Catholic scholars to the ’evidence in favour of dating Ac towards the end of the first Roman imprisonment has all the reason on its side. Added confirmation is provided by the fact that Ac throughout shows the Roman authorities in an accommodating attitude towards the Church; there is no suggestion of the violent persecution which began under Nero after the fire of Rome, July 64, a persecution which put the faith under the imperial ban and brought St Peter to martyrdom. There are two objections to consider, the first hardly meriting serious attention, viz. that Lk shows dependence on Josephus and therefore must have been written not earlier than the end of the Ist cent, but the asserted dependence is unproven. The second, more grave, is Irenaeus’ assertion ( Adv. Haer. 3, 1, 1) that Mk did not write his Gospel until after the deaths of Peter and Paul. But as Lk is the third and shows a clear dependence

on Mk, it follows that Lk would have to be dated in or after 67, the date of Paul’s martyrdom. Efforts have been made to interpret the words of Irenaeus in a manner more favourable to an earlier date (cf. Chap man , JTS [ 1905] 563 ff.); but with Lagrange we prefer to doubt the unsupported assertion of Irenaeus. Rationalist critics on a priori grounds demand a late date because of Lk’s more detailed description of the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70. Our conclusion is that Lk was composed before the end of 63; Harnack said c 60.

Contents and Plan —Lk completes the trio of the Synoptic Gospels and as such follows the general scheme of Mt and Mk: the preaching of John the Baptist, the Baptism and Temptation of Jesus, the ministry in Galilee and the Transfiguration, the journey up to Jerusalem, the ministry in and around the Holy City followed by the Passion, concluding with the Resurrection and Ascension. Such appear to have been the lines of the primitive catechesis of the Gospel indicated by Peter at the first meeting of the Apostles after the Ascension, Acts 1:21-22. Thus most of Mk is contained in Lk; in addition Lk contains much of that which distinguishes Mt from Mk. But further, Lk contains a good deal wholly proper to itself that we owe to Luke’s diligent researches into the origins of the Gospel story; it is twice as long as Mk and considerably longer than Mt. Of its twenty miracles six are proper, as are eighteen of its parables. The long Infancy Narrative, which forms one-eighth of Lk, is completely proper save for a word or two in Mt. Finally the long Journey Narrative, 9:51-18:30, erroneously called the Peraean Ministry, is to a large extent Lk’s own. Like Mt and unlike Mk, he gives a number of the discourses of Jesus; but while Mt prefers to gather the discourses and sayings into a unity, Lk follows a different kind of order, distributing them throughout his narrative and placing them in their suitable settings. ’In Mk (and in Mt if he knew the whole of it) Lk would find proof of a considerable gap. Mk is not unaware of the fact that Jesus had preached in Judaea, but he chooses to restrict himself to Galilee. . . . Lk discovered what had happened during a mission of Jesus in Judaea covering several months, and he has given an account of it, but place, occasions, characters; no longer stand out as they would in an account by St Peter . . . Hence in this whole section, peculiar to Lk and of priceless worth, we do not get the details that characterize the story I of the lake-side’ ( Lagr., GJC15). The purpose of the Gospel is defined in its opening words which recall John 20:30-31; Lk has gone to great pains in searching out the exact origins of the Gospel history and in setting everything down ’in order’, so that his reader may know the security of the truths in which he has already been ’catechizea’, i.e. instructed by word of mouth; the word plainly suggests the primitive catechesis of the Gospel and, according to Harnack, should here be taken in its strict sense: ’The third Gospel is, in the full force of the term, an evangelium e?a???????,i.e. the announcement of good tidings. These good tidings tell of the Messiah’s coming and of his work, which is to offer salvation to mankind. In Ac Luke has told how these good tidings spread from Jerusalem and, after various wanderings, reach Rome itself. In the Gospel he has shown how the good tidings came down from heaven to Jerusalem first of all, then to Nazareth and eventually to Bethlehem. The word then spreads over all Israel and finally comes back to Jerusalem, where the work of salvation is brought to its fitting completion’ ( Lagr. Lkxxxiv). Lk falls easily into six clearly defined parts which we follow Lagrange in entitling thus:

1. The Infancy Narrative, the dawn of salvation, 1:5-2:52. 2. The investiture of Jesus with his Messianic office, 3:1-4:13. 3. The manifestation of the Saviour in Galilee, 4:14-9:50. 4. Insistent preaching on salvation, 9:51-18:30. 744i

5. Arrival at Jerusalem and the Passion, 18:3123:56.

6. The Resurrection and Ascension, 24:1-53. Sources —Luke indicates them himself: first many written accounts of the Gospel history, and secondly those persons ’who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word’, 1:1-2. Ancient commentators were inclined to interpret ’word’ as the proper name of the Son of God after the fashion of Jn’s prologue, but Lk and Ac commonly use it to mean the teaching of doctrine. We need not conclude (though some have done so) that Lk disapproves of the written documents to which he refers, hence we need not exclude Mt and Mk from among them. It is antecedently probable that there were a great many written accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus, in whole or in part, during the early years of the Church; it would be surprising if there were not. Knowing Luke as we do from his writings, it is also antecedently probable that such a careful writer and exact historian would neglect no opportunity of familiarising himself with what had been written on a subject he had so much at heart. He tells us, 1:3, that he had been a diligent inquirer ’from the beginning’ ???Te?—not to be confused with the ’from the beginning’ ?p+? ?v??+^? of 1:2. Origen says that ???Te? should be translated now for a long time’, i.e. the matter had been a preoccupation of Lk since the time of his conversion years before. His opportunities of consulting those who had com into contact with Jesus may be gathered from a consideration of Luke’s own history. He spent long periods in Palestine, Antioch and Rome. It will be observed that whenever St Paul mentions him, Mark is always in the company; Colossians 4:10, Colossians 4:14, Phm 24, 2 Timothy 4:11. Luke mentions others who could have furnished him with information: Joanna, wife of Chusa, Herod’s steward, Susanna, and ’many other (women) who ministered unto (Jesus) of their substance’, 8:3. With regard to the Infancy Narrative it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the repeated remark of 2:19 and 2:51 is intended to indicate that the Mother of Jesus herself is the direct or indirect source of his information. Some modern scholars maintain that the Semitic character of the Infancy Narrative shows that Luke used an Aramaic written source; it is possible but there are other explanations of Lk’s Semitisms. As Plummer so well says, Lk is the most versatile of all the NT writers. He can be Hebraistic in describing Hebrew society and Greek when describing Greek society. His relationship to Mt and Mk in the parts common to him and them is disputed among scholars of the greatest authority. In our opinion the following brief conclusions seem best to account for the facts. First that Lk shows dependence on Mk for much material and order of events, though without any slavish copying. Where the Synoptists march together Lk prefers the order of Mk, omitting however and transposing where his purpose requires. His aim is chiefly to present Jesus the Jewish Messias to his Gentile readers as the divine Saviour of all mankind, and to resent him in a manner calculated to inspire confience in those hitherto considered by the Jews as outside the pale, sinners and objects of divine wrath by their very birth; cf.Ephesians 2:3; Galatians 2:15. This stands out in the sections peculiar to Lk; in parts common to Lk and Mk his omissions create the same impression. He passes over details which tend to leave an impression of severity towards non-Jews, e.g. the incident of the Gentile woman of Syro-Phoenicia, Mark 7:25 ff. For a similar reason he omits things too characteristically Jewish to be of interest to Gentile readers. Again it is characteristic of him to pass over details unbecoming to the dignity of Christ, e.g. the attribution of madness by his relatives, manifestations of human emotion (though not always); he omits remarks derogatory of the dignity of the Apostles; he dislikes repetitions and abundance of detail, and finally he leaves out larger passages which would no doubt hinder him from including those proper parts which he intends to add to the narrative of Mt and Mk. His relation to Greek Mt is harder to define, but again, considering the antecedent probabilities, it is hard to believe that a man of Luke’s disposition and opportunities could have remained ignorant of such an important document as Aramaic Mt, the only account at that time known to have been written by an Apostle. Official Catholic teaching (cf. § 50e) is that our Gk-Mt is substantially identical with Ar-Mt, but who translated the latter and when is a matter of conjecture. It may not have existed in Greek at the time of Luke’s writing, but there could have been no great difficulty in the way of his learning the contents. As he would have known that its chief advantage over Mk was the fact that it contained a long collection of the discourses of Jesus, there is nothing improbable in the supposition that he may well have obtained or found a Greek translation of these discourses. In the large sections of Mt and Lk devoted to the sayings of Jesus (reckoned as one sixth of each Gospel, though the sayings are scattered through Lk) the similarities are so obvious that there seems to be either interdependence or else a common source for both. In reply to those who maintain that Gk-Mt seems rather dependent on Lk than vice-versa, it may be said that this can be explained by the possibility that the Greek translator made use of Lk in those parts common to Lk and Ar-Mt. For fuller discussion of the relations between Mt, Mk and Lk see article on The Synoptic Problem, §§ 610-5.

Character of the Gospel —Bearing in mind who the author is—not merely a healer of men’s bodily ills but a ’beloved physician’; a convert from Gentile paganism to faith in a Christ who is a divine healer of men’s spiritual maladies; a devoted follower of St Paul, the preacher of universal salvation in Christ Jesus—this Gospel manifests precisely the character to be expected of it. Plummer points out that its first words recall those with which Hippocrates begins his treatise On Ancient Medicine, and we may note that the benign spirit of Lk calls to mind the old Hippocratic oath taken by medical students. They swore that they would honour and obey their teacher, care for his children in need, help their patients to the best of their ability, never supply them with poison or erform unlawful operations, never abuse their position but always enter a house as a friend and helper. Biblical critics, orthodox and unorthodox, join in praising Lk as the most touching and beautiful book ever written, outstanding for its note of joy at the lovingkindness of God and for its deep sympathy with the sorrows of suffering humanity. But Luke is no mere sentimentalist. He insists with repeated emphasis also on the necessity of absolute self-surrender for all who would profit by the goodness of God and the tenderness of the Saviour. It is a Gospel of renunciation of a most stark character, and the chief example of that is the Saviour himself. Attention may be drawn to the following salient points: (1) Luke’s qualities as a genuine historian and literary artist of great merit; (2) his insistence on the joyful character of the good tidings of the Gospel, the solution of both the moral and social evils of the world; (3) his emphasis on the necessity of prayer, exemplified by additional instances in the life of Christ; (4) the important place he assigns to those women who were associated with Christ, to his Mother first of all. Tradition has made Luke the patron of Christian art, and even if he never wielded the painter’s brush, without question he has used his pen with an art that has furnished the chief inspiration of Christian painters all down the ages, providing them with the subjects of which they are fondest: the childhood of Jesus at Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem, the widow’s son, the prodigal, the disciples at Emmaus. In like manner the liturgy of the Church draws largely from Lk: the Gloria in excelsis,Benedictus, Mognificat, Xunc Dimittis, while the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary give us the Infancy Narrative in the form of prayer. Few writers have stood such severe tests of historical accuracy as Luke, yet he comes out triumphant under every test. Adverse critics have repeatedly attacked him as unreliable and even dishonest, but in every case it is the critics who are eventually put to shame. Even Harnack has to blush for ’the truly pitiful history’ of their criticisms and the party prejudice which blinds them to the facts that tell against them. Today every biblical scholar worthy of repute accepts with little reserve the verdict of Ramsay that Luke is a great and accurate historian. Every advance in scholarly research has so far completely justified the claim with which Luke begins his Gospel, that like a good historian he has verified his facts before setting them in order. That order is not a chronological stringing together of unrelated facts, a procedure which would have offended both the canons adopted by the classical historical models which he consciously imitates, and also the spirit of rational philosophy characteristic of the Greek world in which he had received his education. Not that Luke lightly neglects chronological sequence; but what he chiefly seeks is the logical concatenation of events out of which grows the object he always keep’ in view, ’that thou mayest know the security of those things in which thou hast been catechized’, 1:4. This introduces us to the second point above noted, the joyful character of Lk. It is not mere human history but the divine history of man’s salvation, summed up here in the word evangelium e?a??????? a word he never uses, but its verbal form e?a??e???e?? is found in such significant places as 1:19; 2:10; 3:18; 4:18, 43; 7:22. e?a??e???es?a? is the LXX rendering of the Hebrew bissar ’to gladden with good tidings’, a favourite word of St Paul, Luke’s master. No one can read Lk without realizing that this is the key-note of his Gospel, the gladness that God’s loving-kindness stirs up not only on earth but in heaven also. At the birth of Christ the whole celestial court turns out to celebrate the event; when a sinner turns back to God with repentance there is public holiday in heaven; cf. 15:7, 10. The special note of joy in Lk is due to the fact that the good tidings of salvation are offered to all who are well-disposed, without distinction of race, sex or social standing, to Gentile as to Jew, to slave as to free. It is what we should expect from a disciple of St Paul, for in certain respects Luke stands in relation to Paul as Mark, interpres Petri, stands to the chief of the Apostles. It might be said that Lk is the gospel of Paul with all the asperities taken out of it. In Lk as in St Paul the disposition required in those who wish to profit by the Gospel,which is the power of God unto salvation’, Romans 1:16, is that complete self-surrender to Christ which Paul calls faith. Lk continues the development of this theme in his own beautiful fashion; cf. the repetition of ’thy faith hath saved thee’, 7:50; 8:48; 17:19; 18:42. In heaping up demonstrations of how deep is the love of God’s merciful heart he seeks to give sinners that confidence in approaching God, as the publicans and sinners gladly draw near Jesus, which is essential for their happiness. His Gospel is a long drawn out example of that phrase which appears in the splendid passage from Titus 3:3-7 used in the liturgy of Christmas Day, ’when the goodness and kindness F??a???Op?a of God our Saviour appeared’. But the goodwill of God demands a corresponding goodwill on man’s part, and Luke therefore insists even more strongly than his fellow evangelists on the necessity of renunciation of all things to follow Christ’s example. There is no enervating softness here; cf. 9:51-62. In Luke’s teaching ’there is no room for the flabbyminded in the Kingdom of God’; let each one reckon up the cost beforehand. No other Gospel, for example, insists with such emphasis on the duty of the rich towards the poor; the rich are urged to use their wealth to make friends and patrons among the poor, God’s special friends. Friends are what God desires, and friends naturally turn to one another with confidence in their needs. Thus Lk returns continually to the subject of prayer, the soul’s communion with God. The model of prayer, as of all else, is our Lord; Lk adds to the examples provided by the other Gospels, showing how Christ turned to his Father with prayer at all the great crises of his life: at the Baptism, before the call of the Apostles and the founding of the Church, before Peter’s confession, at the Transfiguration and the Crucifixion. Joined to those two proper parables the Importunate Friend and the Pharisee and Publican, we have a regular treatise on prayer, showing that it must be a confident and persevering cry for God’s mercy from the depths of our need, not a declaration of our own self-sufficiency. In speaking of prayer we may note that, though no Jew, Luke shows great appreciation of the purpose and meaning of the temple liturgy with which he shows a remarkable familiarity. Indeed his Gospel begins in the temple and ends there with the characteristic words, ’they went back into Jerusalem with great joy, and were always in the temple (praising and) blessing God’. In a word Luke betrays a leterary art and a sensitive delicacy of feeling which is perhaps demonstrated by nothing so much as the place he assigns to women in the Gospel: Elizabeth and Anna the prophetess, the woman who was a sinner, the women from Galilee who followed Jesus and ministered to his needs, the women of Jerusalem who wept over him at the Passion, and most of all the Mother of Jesus. With sublime art he conveys the truth of the virgin motherhood of Mary, telling us more by his silence and delicate reserve than by his words. In accordance with his insistence on the universality of salvation, Luke gives his Gentile readers to understand that from now on women are to receive a new dignity such as the ancient world refused to accord them; a world in which Jewish Rabbis could still seriously discuss the problem of whether women had souls; a world in which the pagan attitude to womanhood bore fatal fruit in that list of anti-social evils drawn up by St Paul, Romans 1:26-32, a passage which ends on a terrifying note: ’hateful to God, without affection, without fidelity, without mercy’. Ofall this the Gospel of Luke the disciple of Paul, is the complete antithesis.

Doctrinal Witness —We must recall Luke’s standpoint: he intends to write a well-ordered history of the origins of the Christian faith for one who is probably already a Christian disciple, a convert from paganism like himself. His aim therefore is not to teach the truths of the faith, but to confirm the credibility of the truths his reader has already learned. ’The sacred text’, writes Cardinal Newman in the Apologia, ’was never intended to teach doctrine but only to prove it, and if we would learn doctrine we must have recourse to the formularies of the Church, e.g. to the Catechisms and the Creeds’. Lk ought, therefore, to contain clear indications of the faith of the first generation of Christians. Now the central point of the Christian faith is the belief that in the person of Jesus God has become man to save the world by the cross from the consequences of sin, and further to establish on earth the means by which those who accept him as their Saviour may enter with him into God’s kingdom of eternal life. Luke therefore makes an appeal to the prophecies of the OT and to the miracles and supernatural events of the Gospel history as a guarantee of the truth that the coming of Christ was a divine intervention in the world for the good of mankind; ’God hath visited his people’ is the characteristic note, 1:68, 78; 7:16. Plummer, strangely enough, thinks that Luke is not interested in the fulfilment of prophecy, writing as he does for Gentiles; nothing could be further from the truth. Continually Luke insists, in the words of Jesus, that Christ is fulfilling a preordained role clearly foretold by the Scriptures; that is the note on which the Gospel ends with greatest emphasis; 24:20-21, 25-27, 44-46. In that last chapter Luke shows how our Lord had disappointed his disciples in their hopes, hopes which they believed were founded on the prophecies. But he has disappointed them not because he has not fulfilled the prophecies but because he has fulfilled them so perfectly. In other words the Messias they were looking for was not the Messias foretold by the Scriptures; hence ’he opened their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures’, 24:45-48. If that is how Luke ends, it is also how he begins. The first two chapters draw largely on the OT in all its parts; but the book of Malachias, the last of the prophets, is most used. Indeed Lk might almost be called the continuator of Malachias: ’the Old Dispensation runs gently into the New as a river runs into the sea, so gently that one fails to notice where the one ends and the other begins’; cf.Malachi 4:5-6 and Luke 1:16-17. In a striking way he shows the continuity of God’s saving work, as though ’to link the present with the past and future, as with a golden chain of promises that bound the Holy City to the Jerusalem that was above, which in type had already descended and in reality would soon descend from heaven’ (Edersheim). (1) Jesus the Son of God —It may be said that while agreeing with Mt and Mk in recording the proofs of Christ’s divinity, Lk provides us with further indications of early Christian usage in expressing belief of this truth. He has the habit of giving Jesus the title of ’the Lord’, reserved to God alone in the LXX. It is common enough in St Paul and is found in Jn several times; but its special significance in Lk is seen with reference to the declaration of the angel in 1:34-35, a declaration understood so clearly by rationalist critics that they wish to eliminate it as a gloss or later addition to the original Gospel. There is no doubt that Lk means Son of God in the proper sense of the word, i.e. having one nature with the Father. Indeed he has omitted many details of Mt and Mk which might tend to arouse difficulties about this central truth in the mind of a Gentile reader, e.g. signs of human emotion in Christ, the declaration of his inability to work miracles at Nazareth because of the unbelief of his fellow-townsmen, the ignorance of the Son about the last day, his cry of dereliction on the cross. The critics accuse Lk here of a dishonest attempt to create a false impression, but the accusation takes little account of the fact that the same Lk has allowed his divine hero to be tempted by Satan, to weep over Jerusalem, to sweat blood in human agony, to die on a cross. (2) Moreover in Lk, as in Mt and Mk, Jesus is the Son of Man. The reader is referred to the commentaries on Mt and Mk for the discussion of the origin and Messianic meaning of this mysterious title, still a subject of much divergence of opinion (§§ 690a, 740h). Of the eighty times it appears in the gospels Lk comes second to Mt (31 in Mt, 24 in Lk, 14 in Mk, 11 in Jn). In Lk as in the others, the expression is used only by Jesus of himself, never of anyone else. The NT writers do not use the title when referring to our Lord, nor does it seem to have been in use among the first Christians (one exception in Acts 7:55). A comparison of parallel texts in the Synoptists shows that in the mouth of Jesus it is taken as a synonym of ’I’, though it is on comparatively rare occasions that he employs it. In Lk, as in Mt and Mk, it is found on the occasions where our Lord wishes to lay emphasis on what he is about to say of himself, e.g. that he has authority to pardon sin, 5:24, his authority is higher than that of the Mosaic Law, 6:5, but that he is preordained by his Father to suffer the humiliation of the Passion, 9:22, as a condition of entering into the glory of his Resurrection, 24:7. A good study of its usage will be found in The Study of the Gospels by * J. A. Robinson, pp 49 ff. It is evident then that our Lord uses the title with a Messianic significance, though it cannot be said to have been a traditional Messianic title. ’When he calls himself Son of Man Jesus simply means "the man that I am" so as to draw attention to his person without assuming the title Messias openly, and so to say officially. It is evident that the most glorious of the Messianic prerogatives are consistent with this title; but, in addition, its unassuming character, which so well lays emphasis on his human nature . . . agrees admirably with his predictions of the sorrowful Passion . . . And when he wishes to allude to his triumph, very naturally he may remind his hearers of the words of Daniel 7:13 and Ps 109, two texts which indicate a person who is associated with the glory or God’ (Lagrange). The title therefore contains the whole secret of the Incarnation. It is as though Jesus says that he, man as they see him to be, exercises powers which are the prerogative of God himself; but at the same time he is in subjection to God who wills him to suffer and die for the redemption of the world, and so to be glorified. (3) The Kingdom of God and the Church —As Luke is also author of Ac where the formation of the infant Church is so evident, we should expect him to keep that in view in the Gospel. With special emphasis he develops the hotion of the Kingdom of God as the reign of God’s will over the lives and actions of men here, with a view to their entrance into the perfect Kingdom of God in the hereafter, where complete happiness is found in the restoration of that ideal condition in which God’s benevolent designs are fulfilled without any contrariety of man’s will. Hence the establishment of God’s Kingdom means the destruction of Satan’s kingdom. That is also the work of the Church, which by its organization and supernatural help brings all things into subjection to God through Christ, a theme Luke had so often heard developed by St Paul. He emphasizes the truth that the Kingdom of God is a newly established order in the world, begun in the person of Jesus and completed by his Passion and Resurrection. Among men the Kingdom embraces all those who voluntarily surrender themselves to the will of God as revealed through the life and teachings of Christ. These men, as Luke shows here and in Ac, are not a haphazard group who do not recognize one another, but a visible, organized society with duly appointed leaders whose office it is to rule in the newly established Kingdom as the ministers of Christ. He insists more than Mt and Mk on the deliberate will of Jesus in the choice of the Apostles, an act preceded by a night of prayer, 6:12-13. He adds to Mt and Mk by foreshadowing the development of the hierarchy in recording the appointment of seventy-two additional ministers of Christ, 10:1-24. Regarding the question of Peter’s primacy, if he omits the witness of Matthew 16:17-19, he provides equally strong evidence of his own, 5:10; 22:31-32. The latter text is as strong as that of Mt in affirming the infallibility of Peter, and is all the more significant in that it immediately precedes the prediction of Peter’s fall, thus furnishing the reader with no excuse’ for misunderstanding the precise nature and purpose of infallibility. It carries us back to the opening words of Lk, who writes in order to provide Theophilus with security of faith, which is the purpose of infallibility. (4) The Catholicity of the Church —No reputable scholar now seriously calls into question the fact, well-established by sound tradition and internal evidence, that the author of Lk and Ac was Luke the companion of St Paul. It would be strange if there were no reflexion in the Gospel of Luke’s relation to his master. Those who still maintain that the essence of Paul’s doctrine is that the righteousness which comes to man from the sacrifice of Christ is not a real gift, but the mere legal imputation of righteousness which leaves the sinner still buried in his sins, will of course find it hard to see a reflexion of such a doctrine in Lk. On the contrary Lk leaves us in no doubt about the real mind of St Paul: that Jesus, Son of David according to the Flesh and Son of God according to the Spirit, Romans 1:3-4, died for the salvation of every man, Jew and Gentile, Greek and barbarian, slave and free, Galatians 3:26-29; that his Passion is the source of pardon for sin and the cause of reconciliation with God for everyone who believes in Christ with a faith that implies total surrender of self to his influence and guidance. This is the faith that saves; Luke 5:20, Luke 7:50, Luke 8:48, etc. Everyone agrees that Lk, much more than Mt and Mk, echoes the teaching of St Paul concerning the universal character of the redemptive work of Christ. Such additions as 3:6 and the omission of incidents like those found in Matthew 15:21-28, Mark 7:24-30 which might create a contrary impression on his Gentile readers, serve to emphasize the point. Indeed one might almost say that the impression given by Lk is that if there is any privilege at all it is in favour of the Gentile, the sinner, and the outcast. It must have been after reading Lk that Celsus wrote so bitterly atttacking the faith of Christians, whom according to Origen’s Contra Celsum he makes to say: ’Let no educated person come, none wise, none senisible. . . . Whoever is a sinner, or ignorant, or a fool or under malign influence, him the Kingdom of God will accept. . . . Why was Christ not sent to the innocent as well as to sinners? What harm is there in not having sinned?’ Some critics have refused to believe that Luke was the author of the Gospel because it makes no reference to the Judaizing controversy so prominent in Ac, a quarrel that touched so closely this question of the universality of the Church. But Lk is a careful historian who in the Gospel writes ’in order’ of the origins of the Gospel history; the fact that he omits to speak of a thing that is of much later date merely supports his claim to be an objective historian. Moreover the Judaizing controversy, though of importance for a convert Jew and for convert Gentiles under Jewish influence, was of no importance for Theophilus and his fellow Greeks, the more so in view of the fact that the quarrel had been authoritatively settled at St Paul’s instance a dozen years before Lk wrote his Gospel.

Verses 2-80

1 1-4 The Prologue —The opening words furnish a good indication of the author’s character, style and aim: he is a careful writer, he possesses an excellent Greek style, his aim is to furnish his reader with reliable information that will guarantee the credibility of things already learned by word of mouth. This probably refers to instructions in the Christian faith—doubtless the primitive gospel catechesis (cf.?at?????? in 4) which Theophilus had already received. It may well be that Luke is writing not for a single person, but adopts the current fashion of dedicating literary works to some distinguished personage. There are unverifiable traditions about Theophilus; all that can be gathered here is that he seems to be already a Christian, and that his title (???t?st?? ’most excellent’) indicates an imperial official of the Roman administration; cf.Acts 23:26, Acts 24:3, Acts 26:25. Lk’s second ’treatise’ is also addressed to him, Acts 1:1. His name means ’the beloved of God’ and some have held that Theophilus is a fictitious personage symbolizing the Gentile Christian. In his prologue Luke shows him the reason why he can rely upon the truth of what he is about to read: the writer has ’from the beginning’ (????e?, 3) of his Christian life investigated carefully the whole history of the Gospel handed down by those who assisted at its fulfilment ’from the beginning’ (?p? ????+^? 2). Ancient commentators saw in ’the word’ of 2 a reference to the Word, i.e. the Son of God; but it seems more probable that Lk means the life, miracles and doctrine of Christ (cf.Acts 2:21-22). That is Lk’s usual meaning of ’word’.

1 5-11 52 The Infancy Narrative —The importance attached to this part by the author may be gathered from the fact that it comprises more than a tenth part of the whole Gospel. It is entirely peculiar to Lk save for a few words in Mt’s Infancy Narrative. Some critics maintain that it did not form part of the original Lk because it differs in language and style from the rest; others hold that Luke has incorporated with little change an Aramaic source discovered in his investigations. But evidences of Lucan authorship are as frequent here as in the rest of Lk and in Ac. The alleged Aramaisms are rather Hebraisms, accounted for by the deliberate imitation of the style of the LXX which Lk everywhere betrays (cf. Plummer’s remark above, 745b). It is one of the marks of his great literary and artistic ability. A special reason for the Hebraic style here is the fact that in these introductory chapters Lk links up the New Dispensation with the Old, the New Law with the Mosaic Law, intending thus to show the continuity of God’s saving work. He draws largely on the thoughts and words of the OT and carries the mind back to the beginning of Genesis. There may have been written sources such as that suggested above, but the only positive indication of any source at all is the repeated remark about Mary’s remembrance of events, 2:19, 51. Why has Lk made this great addition to what appears from Mt and Mk to have been the accepted form of the primitive catechesis of the Gospel? First, for the reason indicated; secondly, because it was inevitable that uestions should have been asked among Christian isciples about the early history of the Saviour; thirdly, because Lk insists throughout on the character of the Gospel as the good tidings of salvation, and the Infancy Narrative emphasizes that point, cf. 1:19; 2:10-4. Hostile critics see here an obvious attempt to find a marvellous origin for the hero of the Gospel, after the manner of the pagan mythologies. Lk answers them himself by the simplicity and sobriety with which he surrounds the cradle of the child Jesus, who shows no signs of precocity or abnormality in himself and, apart from the modest incident of 2:41-52, remains in obscurity till about his thirtieth year; nothing mythological there. The chief lesson is the reality of the Incarnation, i.e. that a person, divine by origin and nature, becomes a child like other children. The marvels and supernatural interventions here narrated are not for his sake but for the sake of others. He works no miracles, for miracles are meant to confirm the truth of teaching, and it is not yet time for him to teach.

1 5-25 Annunciation of John the Baptist’s Birth —The Gospel good tidings are revealed within the framework of the Mosaic dispensation. As of old an angel appears. The message is to a Levitical priest, at Jerusalem, in the temple, during the offering of the daily sacrifice of the lamb. Lk begins as he ends in the temple, and here he shows great familiarity with the temple ceremonial. The names of Zachary (Yahweh hath remembered) Elizabeth (God hath sworn), John (Yahweh is gracious), all bear out the idea of continuity, linking present events with the past. The thoughts suggested by these names are repeated again and again in the Magnificat, Benedictus and Nunc Dimittis, canticles made up of a mosaic of phrases from the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms, cf. 24:27, 44. The words of the angel to Zachary, 1:16-17, pick up the thread dropped in the final words of Malachias, 4:5-6, the last of the Prophets of the Old Law. That prophet was not concerned with the Jewish Messianic hope of a coming King, the Son of David; he foresaw the coming of God in person, 3:1 ff., the passing of the temple worship and priesthood, the spread of a purer worship among the Gentiles, 1:10-11; inveighing against a’corrupt priesthood and people, he foretold the coming of a better state of affairs, 1:6 ff.; 2:8-11; 3:3-4, and concluded with an exhortation to remember the Law of Moses, 4:4.

5-7. Lk re-echoes all this, beginning by presenting us with an ideal Jewish couple, a Jewish priest and his wife, the antithesis of the priests and people censured by Malachias; of blameless life, exact in the observance of the Mosaic Law, but deprived of the blessing of offspring.

8-10. The great number of priests (Josephus boasts that there were 20,000) necessitated their division into groups for the purpose of temple ministry (cf. 1 Par 24:1-19), each group serving for a week at a time; even so the number was still so large that the chief offices were assigned by the drawing of lots. On the day of the Gospel’s beginning Zachary had drawn the lot of offering incense in the sanctuary before the sacrifice of the lamb, an office held so honourable that no priest exercised it twice. Zachary had waited till old age for the privilege.

11-17. Having strewn incense on the fire in the Holy Place it was his duty to bow towards the Holy of Holies and retire; he is arrested by the vision of an angel who announces that his prayer is granted. What prayer? During the offering of incense both priest and people (10b) prayed in a set form for the coming of the Messias and the redemption of Israel. But Lk certainly seems also to indicate a prayer expressive of the desire of offspring, despite the advanced age of Zachary and his later doubts, 18. In fact the birth of John was an answer to both prayers (cf. 14), which sets the note of joy running all through the Gospel. John, though a priest by birthright, is not to claim his privilege: he will follow the example of the Sons of Rechab who of old recalled Israel to the example of the patriarchs by refusing to forsake the nomadic life of the desert; Jeremiah 35:1 ff. He shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, a specially Lucan phrase (53 times in Lk and Ac). Ecclesiastical tradition interprets this of John’s cleansing from original sin. The influence of the Spirit of God continually recurs in the Infancy Narrative, 1:35, 41, 67; 2:25, 26, 27. In the work for which God has designed him John is to be another Elias, like Elias another ’converter or ’restorer’ of the people; cf. 1:17; 3 Kg 18:37; Malachi 4:5-6. He will be like Elias in fiery zeal, in rebuking princes, in calling Israel to repentance (µeta???a change of mind), in living in the desert on what God sends him. Jewish tradition held that Elias would come to anoint the Messias; cf.Matthew 17:10 ff.; Mark 9:10 ff. But the main idea of the angel’s words is that of Malachi 3:1; John is the forerunner of God himself. 18-22. For doubting the word of an angel, and such an angel, 19, Zachary is stricken dumb, deaf too in view of 1:62. The punishment is also to serve as a sign of the reality of the vision and guarantee of its fulfilment. ’To bring these good tidings’, lit. to announce the evangelium or gospel, ??a??e???es?a?, a favourite word of Lk and Paul, not in Mk and Mt (except Matthew 11:5). 23-25. There is no suggestion that the child is conceived in any but the normal way, though the special intervention of God is indicated in 1:36-37. Why does Elizabeth hide? Not for shame, because her shame is taken away, 25. Partly, perhaps, because her condition at her advanced age would have aroused comment. There are divine secrets here, and Mary is to be the first sharer of them (39 ff.).

26-38 Annunciation of Christ’s Birth—By this second announcement that just recorded is now given its proper place an explanation. John’s mission is to prepare Israel for the coming of God. As the same angel is sent to Mary we are led to anticipate that the message concerns the same object, viz. that the one now announced is he for whose coming John is to prepare. After due preparation of Mary’s mind the angel affirms this in clear terms, 35.

The objections raised by rationalist critics against this verse lend emphasis to its significance. Some hold that Lk has borrowed the idea from pagan sources: others that the words are a tendentious interpolation by a later hand, though there is no MS authority for the suggestion. By the latter it is argued that the idea and terminology are completely un-Hebraic, since Spirit in Hebrew is feminine and therefore could not have been used to express the active principle in conception; that the words contradict the reading of 3:22 in Codex Bezae, ’thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee’; and finally, even if 35 is authentic, it means no more than that a child, conceived in the normal way, is to receive the sanctification of the Spirit like John, 15.

To the first of these criticisms it may be answered that the instances adduced from pagan literature are not in fact parallel. There is many a story of unions between gods and human beings, but there is none relating a virgin birth. The contrast moreover between the sublime description of St Luke and the gross legends of paganism should not be overlooked; cf. Douglas Edwards, The Virgin Birth in History and Faith, London 1943. The second criticism is answered above; to the third it may be said that Luke is writing in Greek, not Hebrew, and there is no proof that he used a Semitic written source; to the fourth, that the critics have yet to prove that Codex Bezae merits the importance they attribute to it; to the last, that a mere reading of Lk is sufficient contradiction.

26-28 The time is fixed with reference to John’s conception. Note the contrasts, a literary device of which Lk is a past master. The annunciation of the Forerunner is made in circumstances of great splendour and dignity: to a priest, at Jerusalem, in the temple, at the hour of solemn sacrifice: that of the Master in circumstances of poverty and obscurity: to a poor girl, 2:7, 24, in a wretched village of no account, John 1:46, with no external accompaniments of splendour and dignity. ’Simplicity is the condition that befits the advent of the Incarnate Word to mankind, whom he comes to serve’ ( Lagr. GJC 1, 16), cf.1 Corinthians 1:17-31. Current Jewish ideas of Messiasnism are contradicted from the outset: a Messias springing from among the Galileans, regarded with contempt among the Judaean Rabbis even for their very patois; his birth announced in a village never mentioned in the OT, or the Talmudic writings, or even in Josephus. Lk does not indicate why Mary and Joseph had settled there: in fact he gives us no history of them at all, for he does not allow mere human interest to overshadow the great central fact to which he directs our attention. The Gospel is not a biography of Jesus but a history of the establishment of the Kingdom of God upon earth. He sees the importance of noting that Joseph is of Davidic origin, as be is to become the legal father of Jesus. But Joseph has not yet assumed the legal paternity of Jesus, and Mary is therefore of Davidic origin too, in view of 1:32 and 69, confirmed by Romans 1:3; 2 Timothy 2:8, and the ancient tradition which makes Joseph and Mary related. 28. The contrast is now reversed: the angel’s attitude to Mary differs greatly from that to Zachary. ’Full of grace’, ?e?a??t?µ???, a word (replacing Mary’s name in the salutation) meaning one endowed with favour or grace, ????? in permanent fashion. It is God’s favour which is indicated’ here. St Paul had already developed the idea of the divine graciousness of God which endows men with a supernatural quality making them pleasing in his sight as his children. The doctrine of the Church is that Mary, after her Son, is the most completely endowed with divine grace, through her divine maternity becoming the channel of all the graces received by others. ’Blessed art thou among women’ is probably a gloss here from 42.

29. Mary is troubled, not, like Zachary, by the vision but by the unaccustomed salutation: cum esset humilis non tam alta de se sapiebat (Aquin).

31. Lk with artistic reserve abstains from saying that Mary, like Zachary and the other actors in the Infancy Narrative, is a pious Israelite looking for the redemption of Israel, or that she is filled with the Holy Ghost. That is all taken for granted. We may be sure that the words of 31 must have recalled to her Isaiah 7:14 and thus plepared her for what follows. The description of the child goes by ascending degrees, and could leave no doubt in the mind of a Jew that the Messias was in question; Son of David was his most common title.

33. ’Kingdom,’ ßas??e?a ’kingship’ or ’reign’ in an active sense.

34. Here again Mary differs from Zachary. Her question indicates not doubt but belief, and the reason she gives for her question would be meaningless unless it supposes, as Catholic tradition holds, that she had a previous compact with Joseph about the observance of virginity. If it be objected that such a thing would be at complete variance with accepted Jewish thought, we answer first that the Incarnation and all its circumstances were also at variance with prevailing Jewish Messianism and thought. The whole Gospel shows this. Secondly, it is false to assert that the observance of virginity was utterly foreign to Jewish ideas of the time. Such sentiments as here manifested by Mary (and it is to be concluded that Joseph was of the same mind) were shared by other Jews, such as the well-known sect of the Essenes as Josephus makes plain, Ant 18, 1. Some object that, in such a case, why had she allowed herself to be betrothed to Joseph? We may reply that she may have been left with little choice in the matter owing to the tyranny of established custom, even though she had made her vow before the betrothal. Moreover, knowing Joseph as she did, she may have acted with all the more confidence of finding in him a guardian of her virginity. In the divine design, as Mt indicates more expressly, the betrothal and subsequent marriage of Mary and Joseph were to serve as a protection for mother and Child. Her question, therefore, demands how God’s design in her regard stands with respect to her proposal of virginity. The purpose of her vow was the pleasure of God and she will not observe it against his will. The reply of the angel is that God’s design will not affect her vow, since the Child is to have no father but God.

35. In the OT the Spirit of God appears on the scene when things are to be brought to life or a special power from God is to be given for the fulfilment of divine purposes; cf.Genesis 1:2; Numbers 24:2; Jg 3:10; 6:34; 1 Kg 10:6, 10; Psalms 103:30; Isaiah 11:2, etc. An overshadowing cloud is the traditional symbol of the divine presence and mysterious action; Exodus 19:9, Exodus 19:16; Exodus 13:21, etc.; 3 Kg 8:10-12; Isaiah 6:4; Luke 9:34; Acts 1:9. Three possible readings of 35b; omit ’of thee’: (1) ’the holy one to be engendered shall be called the Son of God’; (2) ’the one to be engendered shall be holy, he shall be called the Son of God’; (3) ’the one to be engendered shall be called holy, he shall be the Son of God’. The force of ’therefore’ falls only on the first phrase; Jesus is the Son of God not because of his temporal but because of his eternal generation.

38. Lk shows Mary as the first example of that total surrender to the will of God which is the essential characteristic of the Kingdom of God.

39-45 The Visitation —Unlike Zachary Mary has asked for no sign though she receives a sign. When Lk emphasized the haste with which she goes to Elizabeth, those critics are very obtuse who make’ Lk say that she ’proceeds to verify the sign’. St Ambrose understands him better: non quasi incredula de oraculo, nee quasi incerta de nuntio, nee quasi dubitans de exemplo, sed quasi lceta pro voto, religiosa pro officio, festina pro gaudio. Mary’s charity provides an occasion for the meeting of the chief actors in the drama and for the supernatural intervention by which Elizabeth and her son are moved to acknowledge and pay homage to Mary’s Child. Ain Karim, 5 m. west of Jerusalem, has the best claim to be the site of Zachary’s home.

41-45. Just as Mary is miraculously informed about Elizabeth, so Lk seems to indicate that the latter learns Mary’s secret by the revelation of the Holy Ghost. ’Blessed (e?????µ???) art thou among women’, a Hebraism for ’more blessed art thou than all women’. In saluting Mary as ’the mother of my lord’ Elizabeth is at least recognizing the child’s Messianic dignity.

45. ’Happy (µa?a??a) is she that hath believed that these things shall be accomplished’, etc. Elizabeth seems here to be comparing the faith of Mary with the hesitation of Zachary, rather than assuring her that the angel’s words shall be fulfilled.

46-56 The Magnificat —Many recent attempts have been made to prove that this canticle really belongs to Elizabeth, because three Latin MSS attribute it to her and because of its similarity to the canticle of Anna, 1 Kg 2:1-10; Elizabeth is held to be much more in the situation of Anna than our Lady. The weight of evidence (all the Greek MSS) in favour of the attribution to Mary is overwhelming, and to put the Magnificat on Elizabeth’s lips would be, as Lagrange says, to falsify the whole context of Lk. The canticle is Mary’s quiet answer to Elizabeth’s congratulations; it is as though she says: ’There is no reason to congratulate me. It is all the work of the Lord. My good fortune consists in the fact that he has deigned to notice one so small as I am’. 48 is an echo of 38.

If the Magnificat owes its inspiration to the canticle of Anna, its ideas and their expression are drawn from the OT generally, especially the Psalms: cf.Psalms 23:8; Psalms 30:8; Psalms 33:4, Psalms 33:11; Psalms 68:31; Psalms 70:18; Psalms 88:11, etc. The speaker is saturated with the thoughts of the ancient Scriptures. The keynote is that God is gracious especially to the poor and lowly, and Mary, who has called herself’ the slave of the Lord’, insists on keeping that place; because he hath regarded the lowliness (not, humility) of his slave, therefore all generations will call me happy’. She confesses that since God is her Saviour, 47, she needs salvation; that is the doctrine of the Church: as a child of Adam she needed her Son’s redemption which gained her the preventive grace saving her from incurring the stain of all sin, original and actual. 50. The fear of God in OT phraseology means what we should call the service of God.

51-53. A faithful echo of the canticle of Anna; if that canticle is Messianic in outlook, much more so is the Magnificat which carries us back to the promise made to Abraham, Genesis 12:3; Genesis 17:7; Genesis 18:18, a promise foreshadowing the universalism of the Gospel. Note that Mary refrains from any prophecy about the role of her Son the Messias. In 55b ’to Abraham and his seed for ever’ are not governed by ’spoke’; the words follow on from ’mindful of his mercy’ with 55a as a parenthesis.

57-67 Birth of John the Baptist —In a few words Lk conveys realistically the religious joy with which the Jews clebrated a boy’s circumcision, the ceremony admitting him to spiritual communion with Israel and a share in the promises to the patriarchs; it was a deed of contract between him and God; cf.Gen 17. ’No domestic solemnity’, says Edersheim, ’was so important or so joyous as that in which the child had laid upon it the yoke of the Law, with all of duty and privilege which this implied’.

68-79 The Benedictus —Like the Magnificat, a chain of the principal thoughts running through the OT, a canticle completely in harmony with the character of Zachary as painted by Lk, as the Magnificat harmonizes with the character of Mary. It marks the recovery of his speech last used to pronounce the ritual prayers offered by priest and people at the sacrifice of incense nine months before. These prayers included the Eighteen Benedictions which sum up the hopes of Israel, and Edersheim points out (op. cit, 1 158 f.) how the Benedictus echoes the main thoughts of the the Jewish prayer. It is worth noticing how it further turns round the ideas signified by the names of Zachary, Elizabeth and John. The canticle falls into two distinct parts divided in sense: 68-75 repeat the general theme of the Magnificat without referring to what belongs to Mary; 76-79 are addressed to John and his vocation. 68-69. The visiting of his people by God is Lk’s theme; cf. 7:16. It is a common OT phrase; God visits to help, save, judge, pardon, show mercy. The same is true of ’horn of salvation’, a symbol (borrowed from the bull) of strength and power. Here Zachary joins Elizabeth, 42-45, in paying homage to the child of Mary, the Son of David, whose name Jesus (Jehoshua, Yahweh is salvation) is thus clearly indicated. The testament of 72 is the covenant between God and Abraham, between God and Israel on Sinai (cf.Leviticus 26:42), as the oath of 73 is that made to Abraham at the time of the famous promise, Genesis 22:16-18. Our English translation seems to leave 71-75 hanging, but they are consecutively dependent on the verbs of the preceding vv, being explicative of their content. 76-78 echo Malachi 3:1; 2:6-7 and 4:2, and foreshadow the preaching of John, Luke 3:3 ff. 78. ’The Orient’, ??at??? is used for the rising of the sun or a star (cf. Isaiah 9:2; Isaiah 60:1-2; Zach 3:8; 6:12) and recalls Malachi 4:2, ’unto you that fear my name the sun of justice shall arise with healing in his wings’, a text that would appeal to a physician. 79 naturally flows from this and is suggested by Isaiah 9:2. Only with light can the wayfarer guide his steps straight; cf. 3:4. The chief feature of the Benedictus is that the Messias, born in the house of David, appears in the character of a Divine Being, and thus serves to confirm 1:35. 80. Lk, after his fashion, sums up a long history in a few well-chosen words; cf. 2:52; 3:19-20. The ’spirit’ is the Divine Spirit which filled John from the womb and now leads him into the desert (cf. 3:2; 4:1) to be prepared for his mission. John lays no claim to his priestly rights; the passing of the temple and the Law is foreshadowed.

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on Luke 1". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/luke-1.html. 1951.
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