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Bible Commentaries
Luke 3

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

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Verses 1-38

III I-IV 13 The Investiture of Jesus as Messias —It was fitting that there should be a public manifestation of Jesus as the promised Messias, Son of David, King of Israel. But in the secret designs of God the Messias was to be also God’s only begotten Son, and this too had to be officially declared. In accordance with the ideas of the time it was fitting that Christ should be preceded by a herald, especially as it was expected that Elias should perform in some sort that office by anointing the Messias. We are already prepared by Lk to see John in that character. Here Lk begins what is held to be the primitive form of the Gospel catechesis, and up to 9:50 he follows Mk faithfully while making such omissions and additions as suit his purpose.

III 1-20 Preaching of John the Baptist —(Mark 1:1-8; Mark 6:17-29; Matthew 3:1-12; Matthew 14:3-12). Lucan additions are the detailed chronological indications, 1-2, examples of John’s advice to the people and their questioning about his character, 10-15; he anticipates after his fashion by completing the story of John without mentioning his death, 18-20. He omits things unsuitable for Gentile readers: details of John’s food and clothing, and the confession of sins by those baptized.

The latter omission is dictated by the fact that all this is merely preparatory for Christ’s baptism, and there can be no question of confessed sin there.

The’ 15th year of Tiberius’ may be taken as a.d. 27-8. ’ Augustus died 19 Aug. a.d. 14 and was succeeded by Tiberius. The remaining months of that year would count as the first year of Tiberius; and if, as seems likely, Lk reckons according to the Seleucid calendar which was current in Syria, the new year would begin on 1 Oct. Thus October of 27 to October of 28 is the 15th year of Tiberius. John began his ministry after 1 Oct. of 27 and the baptism of Jesus took place before the Pasch of 28. Allowing for three Paschs in the ministry of Jesus, this would date the Crucifixion at the Pasch of the year 30. If the birth of our Lord was in 6 b.c., and many think it could not have been later, he would have been 33 at the time of his baptism. Lk says ’about thirty’. He has been accused of error in the historical details he here gives: first by including Ituraea in the dominions of Philip, son of Herod the Great; secondly, by making Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene; thirdly, by joining Annas with Caiaphas in the office of the high-priesthood. But it is now proved (cf. Lagr. Lk101-2) that, although Ituraea proper was outside the dominions of Philip, the country of the Ituraeans included the district of Panias which was formerly part of Herod’s kingdom and passed to Philip, who there built Caesarea Philippi. With regard to Lysanias, the critics formerly held that the only person of this name connected with the district of which Lk speaks had been dead for sixty years. But later research has found a Lysanias of Abilene who corresponds exactly with Lk’s Lysanias; cf. CE St Luke, and Scripture, vol. iii.

35. There is also good reason for Lk’s inclusion of Annas along with Caiaphas (read ’high-priest’ with Gk, not plural as in Vg and DV). Annas was deposed by the Roman authority in 15, Caiaphas, his son-in-law, appointed in 18; but such was the repute of Annas, added to the fact’ that by Mosaic Law the high-priesthood was for life, that many Jews still acknowledged him as the real religious chief; cf.Acts 4:6; John 18:13.

4-6. By extending the quotation from Is 40 further than Mk and Mt, Lk includes words useful for his universalizing theme.

10-14. These specimens of John’s advice considerably modify the uncompromising character of him we gather from Mt and Mk. Lk points out, 18, that John’s preaching was the authentic Gospel good tidings, evangelizabat, e????e???et?. The counsels of John are thoroughly in accord with the spirit of Jesus, 6:30 ff, and explain the character of that penance which is demanded in Mk as a preparation for the kingdom, µ?ta???a a thorough change of disposition, signified by a baptism of total immersion which symbolized not only a washing but a rebirth, i.e. a new life. John’s kindness to the despised publicans and soldiers (probably the soldiers used by the tax-gatherers to enforce their demands, and therefore Jews) anticipates the attitude of Jesus.

21-22 Baptism of Jesus —(Mark 1:9-11; Matthew 3:13-17). As in Mk with the following differences: ’Jesus prays and Lk seems to connect the marvellous events with this prayer; the Spirit descends ’in bodily form’ which might seem to make Lk agree with Mt in showing the events as a public demonstration from heaven of the character of Jesus, while Mk is interested in the scene only as it concerns Jesus, though he does not exclude others explicitly. Acts 10:38 may be a reference to this incident. Some non-Catholic critics show great attachment to the reading of Codex Bezae and a few later MSS in 22, ’thou art my beloved son, this day have I begotten thee’; it favours their contention that originally it was believed that only at the Baptism did Jesus become Son of God, i.e. Messias, or that only now does he become conscious of his vocation and mission. Consequently he is not the Son of God in the proper sense. But the reading has no support in the older Greek MSS and is found only in Lk, where it is a clear gloss from Psalms 2:7. The reader is referred here and later to the commentaries on Mt and Mk for the parts common to them and Lk. The appearance of the Spirit above the waters recalls Gen: 1:1 ff. This is the pa????e?es?aMt 19:28; Titus 3:5, the beginning of a new world, which is the Kingdom of God.

23-38 The Genealogy —(cf.Matthew 1:1-17). Having given a clear indication of Jesus’ divine origin Lk proceeds to describe his human descent. Difficulties of reconciliation arise from the comparison of Lk’s genealogy with that of Mt. There are two chief differences first to be noted: Mt is content with showing his Jewish readers that Jesus is a true Son of Abraham; Lk traces his origin back to Adam, intent on presenting Jesus as the universal Saviour. Secondly Mt traces his descent through Solomon, Lk through David’s son Nathan. The two lists of names then meet again at Salathiel the father of Zorobabel, parting once more until they reach Joseph, the foster father of Jesus. Mt’s list contains 42 names divided into three groups of 14, Matthew 1:17; Lk’s contains 77 in the Gk text, 76 in the Vg. The difference of number need cause no great difficulty, as it is not necessary to suppose that either evangelist has wished to include all the ancestors of Jesus. A comparison of the two genealogies of Esdras, 1 Esd 7:1 ff. and 1 Par 6:1 ff., shows that several names are omitted in the former. The dissimilarities of Mt and Lk led many schclars to suggest that the former traces the descent of Jesus through Joseph, the latter through Mary who was also of the house of David. But this is rejected by the majority of scholars on the ground that it does not accord with the words of Luke 3:23, and that it is contrary to the ancient and traditional interpretation. Lk, then, having declared that Joseph was only the reputed father of Jesus, proceeds to trace the descent of Joseph, as does Mt, though each gives a different name for the father of Joseph. It is necessary to observe that no reasonable understanding of the genealogies is possible without taking into consideration two facts: first, that ancient Semitic ideas of kinship differed greatly from our own; secondly, that both Mt and Lk are concerned to show that Jesus was a son of David in the eyes of the Jewish law. But according to Jewish ideas there was no objection to the inclusion of adoptive or legal parents in a genealogical tree. Thus Julius Africanus, a Christian who lived in Palestine during the 3rd cent., has left it on record that he gathered the following facts from the memories of the kindred of our Lord. Mathan, Matthew 1:15, married Estha and begot a son Jacob. Estha, left a widow, was married by Melchi, Luke 3:24, who thus became the father of Heli. Heli died childless, and in accordance with the law of the levirate (cf.Deuteronomy 25:5-6 and Matthew 22:23-27) his widow was taken to wife by his half-brother Jacob. Their son was Joseph who, according to Jewish law, was reckoned as the legal son of Heli (cf. Eus., HE 1, 7). This explanation is unacceptable to those who wish to explain divergences between the two genealogies by the proposal to regard that of Mt as following the legal line of royal succession and inheritance of the Davidic promises, and that of Lk as following natural descent. For a fuller discussion of the problem and suggested solutions, cf. GE Genealogy in the Bible and Genealogy of Christ, also Lusseau et Collomb , Manuel d’Etudes bibliques, IV Cap 10, Paris 1938. We may conclude by drawing attention to the fact that the Jewish adversaries of our Lord never denied his Davidic descent.

23. ’beginning about the age of thirty’, i.e. beginning his mission of teaching; thus falling in with traditional Jewish ideas according to which it was unfitting that a man should come forward as a religious master before the age of thirty.

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on Luke 3". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/luke-3.html. 1951.
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