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Bible Commentaries
Luke 4

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

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Verses 1-44

IV 1-13 The Temptation —(Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13). Before dealing with this incident it will be well to recall the development of Lk. In 1:17 the mission of John is announced in the terms of Malachi 3:1, ’he shall go before him (i.e. Yahweh) in the spirit and power of Elias’. In 2:49 the child Jesus is shown to be conscious of his divine Sonship. In 3:16 we find the application of 1:17, identifying Jesus in some way with Yahweh. All this is crowned by 3:21-22 where the divine Sonship of Jesus is declared from heaven and he is shown as one possessed by the Spirit of God who henceforth conducts him in the work of his Messianic mission, 4:1, 14, 18; 5:17. The work of the Messias is to establish the Kingdom or Reign of God, and in consequence to destroy the reign of the devil, cf. 1 John 3:8. Hence the dramatic effect of this meeting between the two opposite champions at the beginning of the ministry, when Jesus goes out to meet his adversary in the desert, the place popularly considered as the special preserve of the evil spirits. The incident was held to be of importance in the early catechesis of the Gospel (the disciples could have learned it only from Jesus) and Lk not only incorporates it, but neglects Mk’s brief summary in favour of the detailed source followed by Mt. But he differs from Mt both in order and by notable additions. He emphasizes that Jesus comes from baptism ’full of the Holy Ghost’ but, omitting Mk’s strong expression ’the Spirit drove him out’, he says ’Jesus was led by the Spirit in. the desert for the space of forty days, what time he was tempted’, etc. Like Mt he seems to show that Satan had heard the words from heaven at the Baptism, though Satan does not understand ’Son of God’ in its proper sense; this he could do only by faith or revelation. St Augustine tells us that the devils knew only so much about our Lord as he willed them to know by means of his operations; hence their conclusions were at best conjectural. But Satan, convinced that Jesus was the Messias, attacks him on the point which is the Messias’s chief concern, the establishment of the Reign of God of which he is to be the living embodiment. Hence the temptations take the form of persuasion to use his miraculous powers unduly i.e. not subject to God’s will; to seek the aid of human power and glory like a false Jewish Messias. Lk characteristically omits Mk’s reference to the beasts, 1:13, according to his manner of omitting things derogatory of the dignity of Christ; but he omits the angels also. He concludes by the warning that Satan has not given up the contest: having completed every kind of temptation the devil departed from him till a favourable opportunity’, or perhaps ’till the time appointed’, i.e. by God, who determines the course of events in the career of Jesus, a notion of frequent occurrence in Lk. There will be further attacks; cf. 22:3, 28, 40-44, 53.

IV 14-IX 50 Manifestation of the Saviour in Galilee —In most of this section Lk runs parallel with the Galilean ministry in Mk, making such additions and omissions as his plan and aim require. His most notable additions are such as emphasize the character of Jesus as the Saviour of all men, especially of those most in need. In Mt and Mk the person of Jesus is hidden behind the proclamation of the Kingdom of God. Lk represents (though written shortly after Mk) a later stage in the growth of the Christian mind, when attention became much more fixed upon the person of our Lord (note the early Christological controversies). Thus this part opens with the sermon at Nazareth, found later in Mt and Mk, where Jesus draws the minds of the hearers to himself and his relation to God. In doing this Lk postpones the preaching at Capharnaum and the call of the disciples, Mark 1:14 ff., and so creates difficulties of reconciliation.

14-30 Preaching at Nazareth —cf.Matthew 13:53-58; Mark 6:1-6 which are not strict parallels; Lk passes over the visit to Nazareth mentioned there by Mt and Mk. But there are indications, 23, that he has here anticipated the chronological order, and it is hardly likely that there were two different visits to Nazareth followed by two rejections. Augustine is for the identity of 4:16-30 with Mark 6:1-6. Why has Lk anticipated? Perhaps (1) to make Jesus speak for himself and declare what his mission is; (2) to give an example of the treatment Christ will receive; cf.John 1:11; (3) to demonstrate the Pauline thesis (Lk being a disciple of Paul) that salvation shall pass. from the Jews to the Gentiles. The two examples given, 26-27, are of Gentile . origin, and the effect of these examples was similar to that so often produced by Paul’s declaration of his thesis in Ac. The incident may be meant here as an early fulfilment of the threat in 13, though perhaps the connexion between 14 and 18 is the best explanation of the insertion of this incident. 15 sums up Mark 1:14 ff. until Lk is ready to rejoin Mk at 31. 16-17 show familiarity with the customs of the synagogue, where men of reputation for learning and piety were invited to read and expound the Scriptures on the Sabbath. The repute of Jesus is already established, 14-15. Despite the apparent meaning of 17b it is possible that Lk means the passage read was the Haphtarah or part of the Prophets assigned to that day, though it is questionable whether set pieces were at that date appointed for each day. The quotation in 18-19 seems drawn from various places in Isaias; cf. 61:1-2; 58:6; 42:7. Is Lk quoting freely from memory or does the quotation contain parts of our Lord’s exposition of the passage read? Omit from DV ’to heat the contrite of heart’ and ’the day of reward’, which are not in the Greek. Isaiah 61:2 speaks of ’day of vengeance’; characteristic of Lk to omit this.

21. The text from Isaias is a proclamation (in 61:1 it is the servant of Yahweh who speaks, in the other places it is Yahweh himself) and the words of Jesus mean that the proclamation predicted by Isaiah 61:1 ff. is now being made, and the maker of it is himself. He thus establishes the character of his Messiahship, one in genuine accord with the OT; he is no Messias after the vulgar notions of popular rabbinic tradition. In fact he has a very different sort of work to do. Later on, 7:19 ff., he will have occasion to remind John the Baptist of this same truth, when he will quote the same thoughts from Isaias. Note that the Hebrew word for ’anointed’ is Meši?a’; for ’anointed by the Spirit’, cf.Acts 10:38, a possible reference to the Baptism. As the ceremony of anointing in the OT signified divine choice and endowment with power or authority from above, the word Messias came to bear this meaning rather than the fact of being anointed. There is a further veiled reference to the fact that the time of Messianic divine favour is inaugurated in the person of Jesus by ’the acceptable year of the Lord’, 19.

23. Here, as in Mk 6, the Nazarenes cannot reconcile this aspect of Jesus with the obscurity of his origin. He makes them say ironically: ’You had better begin to uplift yourself before you begin to uplift others’, then answers one proverb with another, proceeding with examples from the OT which point the moral that the fact of being a Jew does not necessarily bring God’s favour. As St Paul has said already, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision count any longer, but the faith exemplified in these two examples; cf. 3:8; Acts 7:51-54; Acts 22:21-22. 31-34 Ministry in Capharnaum —(Mark 1:21-39). The parallels in Mt are scattered; 4:13-14, 23; 7:28-29; 8:14-16. It will be noted that Lk and Mt never agree together against Mk where all three narrate the same incidents. The following peculiarities may be observed: in 38 Lk brings in Simon without introduction (an anomaly for so careful a writer) having omitted the call of the disciples already given by Mk. But Theophilus has already received the primitive catcchesis, so Lk allows himself some latitude, In 40 there is the interesting addition that Jesus cures by the imposition of hands, a detail of importance in view of the ceremony in use by the Church from earliest times; cf.Acts 6:6, Acts 9:12; Acts 9:17, Acts 13:3, and Luke 13:13. There is a characteristic variation in 43; ’I must bring the good tidings (evangelizare,e?a??e??sas?a? not ????ss? of Mark 1:38).

44. The weight of MSS evidence is in favour of ’Judaca’; ’Galilee’ is doubtless due to a copyist’s correction; cf.Mark 1:39; Matthew 4:23. Judaca creates no real difficulty since Lk uses it in 1:5 to signify the province containing ancient Juda with Samaria and Galilee. Moreover he may have additional information about the extent of the ministry such as is seen in Jn.

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on Luke 4". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/luke-4.html. 1951.
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