Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Luke 2

Verse 1

1. It is said ‘that there is no trace of such a decree in secular history.’ The answer is that (α) the argumentum e silentio is here specially invalid because there happens to be a singular deficiency of minute records respecting this epoch in the ‘profane’ historians. The history of Nicolaus of Damascus, the flatterer of Herod, is not extant. Tacitus barely touches on this period (Ann. I. 1, “pauca de Augusto”). There is a hiatus in Dion Cassius from A.U.C. 748–752. Josephus does not enter upon the history of these years. (β) There are distinct traces that such a census took place. Augustus with his own hand drew up a Rationarium of the Empire (a sort of Roman Doomsday Book, afterwards epitomised into a Breviarium), which included the allied kingdoms (Tac. Ann. I. 11; Suet. Aug. 28), and appointed twenty Commissioners to draw up the necessary lists (Suidas s.v. ἀπογραφή).

Verses 1-7


In this chapter as in the last there is a prevailing triplicity of arrangement. In the first section we have—α. The Nativity, 1–7. β. The Angelic Announcement, 8–14. γ. The Visit of the Shepherds, 15–20.

Verse 2

2. αὕτη ἀπογραφὴ πρώτη ἐγένετο ἡγεμονεύοντος τῆς Συρίας Κυρηνίου. ‘This first enrolment took place’ (literally ‘took place as the first’) ‘when Quirinus was governor of Syria.’ We are here met by an apparent error on which whole volumes have been written. Quirinus (or Quirinus, for the form of his name is not absolutely certain) was governor (Praeses, Legatus) of Syria in A.D. 6, ten years after this time, and he then carried out a census which led to the revolt of Judas of Galilee, as St Luke himself was aware (Acts 5:37). Hence it is asserted that St Luke made an error of ten years in the governorship of Quirinus, and the date of the census, which vitiates his historic authority. Two ways of obviating this difficulty may finally be rejected.

(α) One is to render the words ‘took place before (πρώτη) Quirinus was governor.’ The translation is entirely untenable, and is not supported by πρῶτός μου ‘before me’ in John 1:30. And if this were the meaning the remark would be most unnecessary. The worst of all possible ways of avoiding a difficulty, real or imaginary, doctrinal or historical, is the too common method of suggesting some impossible translation or emendation.

(β) Others would render the verb ἐγένετο by ‘took effect:’—this enrolment was begun at this period (B.C. 4 of our vulgar era) by P. Sentius Saturninus, but not completed till the Procuratorship of Quirinus A.D. 6. But this is to give a strained meaning to the verb, as well as to take the ordinal (πρώτη) as though it were an adverb (πρῶτον).

(γ) A third, and more tenable, view is to extend the meaning of ἡγεμονεύοντος ‘was governor’ to imply that Quirinus, though not actually Governor of Syria, yet might be called ἡγεμών, either (i) as one of the twenty taxers or commissioners of Augustus, or (ii) as holding some procuratorial office (as Epitropos or joint Epitropos with Herod; comp. Jos. Antt. XV. 10. 3; B.J. I. 20. 4). It is, however, a strong objection to this solution (i) that the commissioners were ἄριστοι, optimates or nobles, whereas Quirinus was a novus homo: and to (ii) that St Luke is remarkably accurate in his use of titles.

(δ) A fourth view, and one which I still hold to be the right solution, is that first developed by A. W. Zumpt (Das Geburtsjahr Christi, 1870), and never seriously refuted, though often sneered at. It is that Quirinus was twice Governor of Syria, once in B.C. 4 when he began the census (which may have been ordered, as Tertullian says, by Varus, or by P. Sentius Saturninus); and once in A.D. 6 when he carried it to completion. It is certain that in A.U.C. 753 Quirinus conquered the Homonadenses in Cilicia, and was rector to Gaius Caesar. Now it is highly probable that these Homonadenses were at that time under the jurisdiction of the propraetor of the Imperial Province of Syria, an office which must in that case have been held by Quirinus between B.C. 4—B.C. 1. The indolence of Varus and his friendship with Archelaus may have furnished strong reasons for superseding him, and putting the diligent and trustworthy Quirinus in his place. Whichever of these latter views be accepted, one thing is certain, that no error is demonstrable, and that on independent historical grounds, as well as from his own proved accuracy in other instances, we have the strongest reason to admit the probability of St Luke’s reference.

Κυρηνίου. This is the Greek form of the name Quirinus, Orelli ad Tac. Ann. II. 30. B however reads Κυρείνου. All that we know of him is that he was of obscure and provincial origin, and rose to the consulship by activity and military skill, afterwards earning a triumph for his successes in Cilicia. He was harsh, and avaricious, but a loyal soldier; and he was honoured with a public funeral in A.D. 21 (Tac. Ann. II. 30, III. 22, 48; Suet. Tib. 49, &c.).

Verse 3

3. ἕκαστος εἰς τὴν ἑαυτοῦ πόλιν. This method of enrolment was a concession to Jewish prejudices. The Roman method was to enrol each person at his own place of residence. Incidentally this unexplained notice proves that St Luke is dealing with an historical enrolment.

Verse 4

4. ἀπὸἐκ. The prepositions are here used with classical accuracy. ἀπὸ means ‘direction from’ (ab); ἐκ means ‘from within’ (ex).

πόλιν Δαυείδ. 1 Samuel 17:12, “David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem-Judah whose name was Jesse.”

ἥτις. In Hellenistic Greek many relative pronouns (properly used in indirect sentences, repetitions, &c.) being mere luxuries of language tend to disappear, as in modern Greek, or are used without distinction. ἥτις is here used correctly (like “the which” in Shakespeare and in Genesis 1:29). In the N. T. ὅστις is more common than ὅς.

Βηθλεὲμ. Thus was fulfilled the prophecy of Micah 5:2, “Thou, Bethlehem-Ephratah … out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel.” Cf. Luke 4:8, “And thou, O tower of the flock” (Migdol Eder, Genesis 35:21), “unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion.”

Bethlehem (‘House of Bread,’ to which the mystical method of Scriptural interpretation refers such passages as Isaiah 33:16, LXX[57]; John 6:51; John 6:58) is the very ancient Ephrath (‘fruitful’) of Genesis 35:16; Genesis 48:7; Psalms 132:6. It is a small town six miles from Jerusalem. It was the scene of the death of Rachel (Genesis 35:19); of the story of Ruth; and of the early years of the life of David (1 Samuel 16:1; 2 Samuel 23:15). Our Lord does not seem to have ever visited it again. The name is now corrupted into Beitlahm, ‘house of flesh.’

ἐξ οἴκου καὶ πατριᾶς Δαυείδ, of the house and family (Ephesians 3:15) of David. The humble condition of Joseph as a provincial carpenter in no way militates against this. Hillel, the great contemporary Rabbi, who also claimed to be a descendant of David, began life as a half-starved porter; and numbers of beggars in the East wear the green turban which shews them to be undisputed descendants of Mohammed.

Verse 5

5. ἀπογράψασθαι, ‘to enrol himself.’

σὺν ΄αριάμ. If these words be taken with ἀπογράψασθαι they would imply either that the presence of women was obligatory, as Ulpian says (De Censibus), or that Mary had some possession at Bethlehem. It is uncertain whether her presence was obligatory (Dion. Hal. IV. 5; Lact. De Mort. Persec. 23) or voluntary; but it is obvious that at so trying a time, and after what she had suffered (Matthew 1:19), she would cling to the presence and protection of her husband. Nor is it wholly impossible that she saw in the providential circumstances a fulfilment of prophecy.

τῇ ἐμνηστευμένῃ αὐτῷ, who was betrothed to him; ‘wife’ is omitted in BDL.

Verse 6

6. ἐπλήσθησαν αἱ ἡμέραι. There is a reasonable certainty that our Lord was born B.C. 4 of our era, and it is probable that He was born (according to the unanimous tradition of the Christian Church) in winter. There is nothing to guide us as to the actual day of His birth. It was unknown to the ancient Christians (Clem. Alex. Strom. l. 21). Some thought that it took place on May 20 or April 20. There is no trace of the date Dec. 25 earlier than the fourth century, but it is accepted by Athanasius, Jerome, Ambrose, &c.

Verse 7

7. καὶ ἔτεκεν. See note on Luke 1:9. The belief in a painless birth, clauso utero, and similar miracles, which are found in some Fathers, are apocryphal fictions which derive no countenance from the Gospels. See Luke 2:23.

πρωτότοκον. The word has no decisive bearing on the controversy as to the ‘brethren of Jesus,’ as it does not necessarily imply that the Virgin had other children. See Hebrews 1:6, where first-born = only-begotten.

ἐσπαργάνωσεν αὐτόν. Ezekiel 16:4. In her poverty she had none to help her, but (in the common fashion of the East) wound the babe round and round with swathes with her own hands.

ἐν φάτνῃ. If the Received Text were correct it would be ‘in the manger,’ but the article is omitted by ABDL. φάτνη is sometimes rendered ‘stall’ (as in Luke 13:15; 2 Chronicles 32:28, LXX[58]); but ‘manger’ is probably right here. It is derived from πατέομαι, ‘I eat’ (Curtius, Griech. Et. II. 84), and is used by the LXX[59] for the Hebrew אֵבוּם ‘crib,’ in Proverbs 14:4. Mangers are very ancient, and are to this day sometimes used as cradles in the East (Thomson, Land and Book, II. 533). The ox and the ass which are traditionally represented in pictures are only mentioned in the apocryphal Gospel of Matthew 14, and were suggested by Isaiah 1:3, and Habakkuk 3:2, which in the LXX[60] and the ancient Latin Version (Itala) was mistranslated “Between two animals thou shalt be made known.”

οὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τόπος ἐν τῷ καταλύματι. Κατάλυμα may also mean guest-chamber as in Luke 22:11, but inn seems to be here the right rendering. There is another word for inn, πανδοχεῖον (Luke 10:34), which implies an inn with a host. Bethlehem was a poor place, and its inn was probably a mere khan or caravanserai, which is an enclosed space surrounded by open recesses of which the paved floor (leewan) is raised a little above the ground. There is often no host, and the use of any vacant leewan is free, but the traveller pays a trifle for food, water, &c. If the khan be crowded the traveller must be content with a corner of the courtyard or enclosed place among the cattle, or else in the stable. The stable is often a limestone cave or grotto, and there is a very ancient tradition that this was the case in the khan of Bethlehem. (Just. Martyr, Dial. c. Tryph. c. 78, and the Apocryphal Gospels, Protev. xix., Evang. Infant. iii. &c.) If, as is most probable, the traditional site of the Nativity is the real one, it took place in one of the caves where St Jerome spent so many years (Ep. 24, ad Marcell.) as a hermit, and translated the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate). This fact must not, however, be connected with Isaiah 33:16, which has nothing to do with it. The khan perhaps dated back as far as the days of David under the name of the House or Hotel (Gérooth) of Chimham (2 Samuel 19:37-38; Jeremiah 41:17).

The tender grace and perfect simplicity of the narrative is one of the marks of its truthfulness, and is again in striking contrast with the endlessly multiplied miracles of the Apocryphal Gospels. “The unfathomable depths of the divine counsels were moved; the fountains of the great deep were broken up; the healing of the nations was issuing forth; but nothing was seen on the surface of human society but this slight rippling of the water.” Isaac Williams, The Nativity.

Verse 8

8. ποιμένες. Shepherds at this time were a despised class, so that in this instance first πτωχοὶ εὐαγγελίζονται. Luke 7:22 (Meyer). Why these were the first to whom was revealed the birth of Him who was called the Lamb of God we are not told. The sheep used for the daily sacrifice were pastured in the fields of Bethlehem.

ἀγραυλοῦντες. This does not prove, as some have supposed, that the Nativity took place in spring, for in some pastures of Palestine the shepherds to this day bivouac with their flocks in winter. See, however, Robinson, Bibl. Res. II. 505, who thinks that this would not be possible at Bethlehem in the rainy season of December. On the other hand, we cannot estimate the extent to which the climate may have altered.

ἐν τῇ χώρᾳ τῇ αὐτῇ. Tradition says that they were natives of the little village Beth-zur (Joshua 15:58; Nehemiah 3:16). They were feeding their flocks in the same fields from which David had been summoned to feed Jacob, God’s people, and Israel His inheritance.

Verses 8-20


Verse 9

9. καί. The phrase ἰδοὺ often introduces some strange or memorable event; but is here omitted by אBL and some versions.

ἐπέστη. A common word in St Luke, who uses it eighteen times, Luke 24:4; Acts 12:7, &c. It may mean stood by them.

δόξα κυρίου. The Shechinah, or cloud of brightness which symbolised the Divine Presence, as in Exodus 24:16; 1 Kings 8:10; Isaiah 6:1-3; Acts 7:55. See on Luke 1:35. The presence of the Shechinah was reckoned as one of the most precious blessings of Israel, Romans 9:4.

Verse 10

10. εὐαγγελίζομαι. See on Luke 1:19.

χαρὰν μεγάλην. See Isaiah 52:7; Isaiah 61:1; Romans 5:11; 1 Peter 1:8. The contrast of the condition of despair and sorrow into which the heathen world had sunk and the joy of Christians even in the deepest adversity—as when we find “joy” to be the key-note of the letter written to Philippi by the suffering prisoner St Paul—is a striking comment on this promise. Even the pictures and epitaphs of the gloomy catacombs are full of joy and brightness.

ἥτις. The relative is emphatic—‘such that it shall be.’

παντὶ τῷ λαῷ. ‘To all the people’ sc. of Israel.

Verse 11

11. ἐτέχθη. A form not found in classical Attic.

σωτήρ. It is a curious fact that ‘Saviour’ and ‘Salvation,’ so common in St Luke and St Paul (in whose writings they occur forty-four times), are comparatively rare in the rest of the New Testament. ‘Saviour’ only occurs in John 4:42; 1 John 4:14; and six times in 2 Pet. and Jude; ‘salvation’ only in John 4:22, and thirteen times in the rest of the N.T.

Χριστὸς κύριος. “God hath made that same Jesus whom ye crucified both Lord and Christ,” Acts 2:36; Philippians 2:11. ‘Christ’ or ‘Anointed’ is the Greek equivalent of Messiah. In the Gospels it is almost invariably an appellative, ‘the Christ.’ But as time advanced it was more and more used without the article as a proper name. Our Lord was ‘anointed’ with the Holy Spirit as Prophet, Priest and King.

κύριος. In the lower sense the word is used as a title of distinction; in the higher sense it is (as in the LXX[61]) the equivalent of the Hebrew ‘Jehovah’—the ineffable name. “We preach Christ Jesus the Lord,” 2 Corinthians 4:5 (see Philippians 2:11; Romans 14:9; 1 Corinthians 8:6; “No one can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost,” 1 Corinthians 12:3).

Verse 12

12. τὸ σημεῖον, ‘the sign.’ Comp. Isaiah 7:14.

βρέφος, ‘a babe.’

ἐσπαργανωμένον. The participle is here regarded as an adjective, and is followed by κείμενον.

Verse 13

13. πλῆθος στρατιᾶς οὐρανίον. The Sabaoth, or Tseba hashamayîm. 1 Kings 22:19; Psalms 103:21; Matthew 26:53; Romans 9:29; James 5:4. “Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him,” Daniel 7:10; Revelation 5:11-12. The word is also used of the stars as objects of heathen worship, Acts 7:42.

Verse 14

14. ἐν ὑψίστοις. i.e., in highest heaven, Job 16:19; Psalms 148:1; comp. “the heavenlies” in Ephesians 1:3, &c.; Sirach 43:9.

ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη.

“No war or battle’s sound

Was heard the world around;

The idle spear and shield were high uphung:

The hookèd chariot stood

Unstained with hostile blood,

The trumpet spake not to the armèd throng;

And kings sat still with awful eye

As if they surely knew their sovran Lord was by.”

MILTON, Ode on the Nativity.

This however is only an ideal aspect of affairs, and the closing at this time of the Temple of Janus had little or no meaning. It was not in this sense that the birth of Christ brought Peace. If we understood the expression thus we might well say with Coleridge:

“Strange Prophecy! if all the screams

Of all the men that since have died

To realize war’s kingly dreams

Had risen at once in one vast tide,

The choral song of that vast multitude

Had been o’erpowered and lost amid the uproar rude.”

The Angels sang indeed of such an ultimate Peace; but also of “the peace which passeth understanding;” of that peace whereof Christ said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth give I unto you.” See Proverbs 3:17; on which the Book of Zohar remarks that it means peace in heaven and on earth, and in this world and the next. As regards earthly peace He himself said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword,” Matthew 10:34; Luke 12:51. See this contrast magnificently shadowed forth in Isaiah 9:5-6.

ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας. The reading εὐδοκία ‘goodwill,’ is found in B3; but אABD read εὐδοκίας, and if this be the right reading the meaning is “on earth peace among men of good will” (hominibus bonae voluntatis, Vulg[62]), i.e. those with whom God is well pleased. “The Lord taketh pleasure in them that hope in His mercy,” Psalms 147:11; comp. Luke 12:32, “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” The construction “men of good will” would be rare in this sense, but the triple parallelism of the verse,


to God

in the highest


to men whom God loves

on earth

seems to favour it. In either case the verse implies that “being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” Romans 5:1. The adoption of the reading εὐδοκίας by the R.V[63] (“peace among men in whom He is well pleased”) has been fiercely attacked, but has always been the accepted reading of the Western Church, and is found in a passage of Origen. It may be doubted whether the Angels meant to contrast the future privileges of Man with their own (Hebrews 2:15). The meaning is “God’s peace among all to whom these tidings shall come, and who in accepting them become His dear children, the objects of His good pleasure,” (Humphry). The “towards” of the A. V[64] is wrong, and must be altered into “among” (ἐν).

“Glory to God on high, on earth be peace,

And love towards men of love—salvation and release.”—KEBLE.

Verse 15

15. καὶ ἐγένετο.… In Hellenistic Greek ἐγένετο sometimes becomes little more than a particle of transition in coordinated sentences. See Luke 1:59.

διέλθωμεν δή. ‘Come now! let us go.’

Verse 16

16. ἀνεῦραν ‘discovered after search.’ These forms of the 2nd aorist in αν are due to false analogy. They have been restored by modern editors from the best MSS., but it is perhaps impossible to decide how far they may have been due to the copyists. This verb is only found again in Acts 21:4 in the N. T.

Verse 17

17. ἐγνώρισαν. Thus the shepherds were the first Christian preachers. The reading διεγν. may have sprung from the previous δὲ by homoeoteleuton.

Verse 19

19. πάντα τὰ ῥήματα ταῦτα ‘all these things’ or ‘words.’

συνετήρει. The imperfect follows the aorist as in Luke 1:64 (where see note). The verb is used in Daniel 7:28; Mark 6:20.

συνβάλλουσα. Literally, “casting together,” i.e. comparing and considering; like our ‘casting in mind.’ Comp. Genesis 37:11, “his father observed the saying.” She did not at once understand the full significance of all these events.

Verse 20

20. δοξάζοντες καὶ αἰνοῦντες. Glorifying God for the greatness of the event, and praising Him for its mercy (Godet).

Verse 21

21. τοῦ περιτεμεῖν αὐτόν. The genitive of the purpose. The old way of explaining it was to understand ἕνεκα or χάριν, but it is neither an ellipse nor an Hebraism, but a classic idiom resulting from the original force of the genitive, see Winer p. 408. This construction is specially common in St Luke (Luke 2:22, Luke 5:7, Luke 21:22, Luke 22:31; Acts 3:2, &c.) It must be distinguished from the genitives in Luke 1:57, Luke 2:6, which depend on the substantives. Genesis 17:12. Doubtless the rite was performed by Joseph. “Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision” (i.e. went to the Jew first) “for the truth of God to confirm the promises made unto the fathers,” Romans 15:8; Galatians 4:4. Thus it became Him ‘to be made like unto His brethren, and to fulfil all righteousness,’ Matthew 3:15. Christ suffered pain thus early for our sake to teach us that, though He ordained for us the painless rite of baptism, we must practise the spiritual circumcision—the circumcision of the heart. He came “not to destroy the Law but to fulfil,” Matthew 5:17; γενόμενος ὑπὸ νόμον, Galatians 4:4.

“He, who with all heaven’s heraldry whilere

Entered the world, now bleeds to give us ease.

Alas, how soon our sin

Sore doth begin

His infancy to seize!”

MILTON, The Circumcision.

καί. There is a mixture of two constructions, namely ἐπλήσθησανκαὶ and ὅτε ἐπλἐκλήθη (comp. Luke 7:12).

ἐκλήθη τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦς. See on Luke 1:31. The name of the child was bestowed at circumcision, as with us at baptism. Among Greeks and Romans also the genethlia and nominalia were on the eighth or ninth day. Observe the brief notice of Christ’s circumcision compared with the fuller and more elaborate account of John’s. “In the person of John the rite of circumcision solemnised its last glories.”

Verse 22

22. τοῖ καθαρισμοῦ αὐτῶν, ‘their purification.’ The reading αὐτῆς, ‘her,’ of the Received Text is almost unsupported. All the Uncials read αὐτῶν, ‘their,’ except D, which probably by an oversight read αὐτοῦ, ‘His.’ Strictly speaking, the child was never purified, but only the mother (Leviticus 12:1-8). The purification took place on the fortieth day after the Nativity, and till then a mother was not permitted to leave her house. The feast of the Presentation was known in the Eastern Church as the Ὑπαπαντή.

κατὰ τὸν νόμον ΄ωϋσέως. See this Law in Leviticus 12:2-4. Jesus was “made of a woman, made under the Law, to redeem those that were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons,” Galatians 4:4-5.

ἀνήγαγον. The road from Bethlehem to Jerusalem is a descent, but ἀνάγειν is naturally used of the Capital, and especially of the Temple which is on a hill (often called by the Rabbis “the hill of the House”).

Verses 22-24


Verse 23

23. καθὼς γέγραπται ἐν νόμῳ κυρίου. The term γέγραπται implies the permanence of the Law (Luther, stehet geschrieben). The tribe of Levi were sanctified to the Lord in lieu of the firstborn, and originally all the firstborn in excess of the number of the Levites had to be redeemed with five shekels of the sanctuary (about 15 shillings), a rule afterwards extended to all the firstborn. Exodus 13:2; Exodus 22:29; Exodus 34:19; Numbers 3:13; Numbers 18:15-16.

Verse 24

24. ζεῦγος τρυγόνων ἢ δύο νεοσσούς. Leviticus 12:8. The offering appointed was a yearling lamb for a burnt-offering, and a young pigeon or turtledove for a sin-offering, which were to be brought to the door of the tabernacle and with which “the priest shall make an atonement for her and she shall be clean.” But the Law of Moses, with that thoughtful tenderness which characterises many of its provisions, allowed a poor mother to bring two turtledoves instead; and since turtledoves (being migratory) are not always procurable, and old pigeons are not easily caught, offered the alternative of “two young pigeons.” Leviticus 12:6-8. (Tristram.)

Verse 25

25. ἄνθρωποςᾧ ὄνομα Συμεών. This cannot be Rabban Shimeon the son of Hillel (whom the Talmud is on this account supposed to pass over almost unnoticed), because he would hardly have been spoken of so slightly as ἄνθρωπος, ‘a person.’ The Apocryphal Gospels call him “the great teacher” (James xxvi., Nicod. xvi.).

εὐλαβής used only by St Luke. Acts 2:5; Acts 8:2; Acts 22:12 (properly “holding well.”)

προσδεχόμενος παράκλησιν τοῦ Ἰσραήλ. See Genesis 49:18. “They shall not be ashamed that wait for me,” Isaiah 49:23. “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God,” Isaiah 40:1. Joseph of Arimathea is also described as one who “waited for the Kingdom of God,” Mark 15:43. “May I see the consolation of Israel!” was a common Jewish formula, and a prayer for the Advent of the Messiah was daily used; and Menachem ‘the Consoler’ was recognised as one of the names of the Messiah. παράκλησιν is anarthrous, because the word had become technical.

Verses 25-35


Verse 26

26. ἦν αὐτῷ κεχρηματισμένον. For the use of this word to imply a divine communication see Acts 10:22; Matthew 2:12. χρηματισμὸς an oracle Romans 11:4. Christian legend says that he had stumbled at Isaiah 7:14, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive,” and had received a divine intimation that he should not die till he had seen it fulfilled (Nicephorus, A.D. 1450). The notion of his extreme age is not derived from Scripture but from the ‘Gospel of the Nativity of Mary,’ which says that he was 113.

τὸν Χριστὸν κυρίου. The anointed of Jehovah.

Verse 27

27. ἐν τῷ πνεύματι. ‘In the (Holy) Spirit.’

ἐν τῷ εἰσαγαγεῖντὸ παιδίον. The Arabic Gospel of the Infancy (vi.) says that he saw Him shining like a pillar of light in His mother’s arms, which is probably derived from Luke 2:32.

Verse 28

28. αὐτός. The word is emphatic. He took the child into his own arms.

εἰς τὰς ἀγκάλας. Hence he is sometimes called Theodokos, ‘the receiver of God,’ as Ignatius is sometimes called Theophoros, ‘borne of God,’ from the fancy that he was one of the children whom Christ took in His arms (see on Luke 9:47).

Verse 29

29. Νῦν ἀπολύεις τὸν δοῦλόν σου, δέσποτα. ‘Now art Thou setting free Thy slave, O Master, according to Thy word, in peace.’ Νῦν ‘now, at last!’ The present tense is the so-called praesens futurascens where an action still future is spoken of in the present because it is unalterably determined, and the result is already in course of accomplishment. See instances of it in Matthew 26:2 ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου παραδίδοται; John 14:3 πάλιν ἔρχομαι; Colossians 3:6; Hebrews 4:3. See Winer p. 331. This rapturous Psalm—the Nunc Dimittis—has formed a part of Christian evening worship certainly since the fifth century. Δεσπότης is not often used of God (Acts 4:24; Revelation 6:10); but Simeon here regards himself as a servant to be dismissed by the word of his Lord.

ἐν εἰρήνῃ. On leaving a dying person the Jews said, ‘Go in peace (Beshalôm), Genesis 15:15. Otherwise they said, ‘Go to peace’ (Leshalôm) as Jethro did to Moses. See on Luke 7:50.

Verse 30

30. τὸ σωτήριον. This seems to have a wider meaning than τὴν σωτηρίαν.

Verse 32

32. εἰς ἀποκάλυψιν ἐθνῶν ‘for revelation to.’ A memorable prophecy, considering that even the Apostles found it hard to grasp the full admission of the Gentiles, clearly as it had been indicated in older prophecy, e.g. in Psalms 98:2-3, “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God,” Isaiah 52:10. “I will give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles,” Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6. Godet after pointing out the depth and energy of the Nunc Dimittis excellently remarks “La banalité légendaire n’a pas plus de part à la composition de ce joyau lyrique que la préoccupation dogmatique.”

Verse 33

33. ὁ πατὴρ αὐτοῦ. This is the undoubted reading, אBDL, &c.

περὶ αὐτοῦ. ‘About Him.’

Verse 34

34. κεῖται. Compare Philippians 1:17. Literally, “lies.” The metaphor is taken from a stone which may either become ‘a stone of stumbling’ and ‘a rock of offence’ (Isaiah 8:14; Romans 9:32-33; 1 Corinthians 1:23), or ‘a precious corner-stone’ (1 Peter 2:7-8; Acts 4:11; 1 Corinthians 3:11).

εἰς πτῶσιν καὶ ἀνάστασιν. ‘For the falling and rising.’ For the fall of many Pharisees, Herodians, Sadducees, Nazarenes, Gadarenes; and for the rising of all that believed on Him. In some cases—as that of Peter and the dying robber—they who fell afterwards rose. In all these cases the presence of Christ involved a moral judgment. It became ‘a savour of life unto life, or of death unto death.’ πτῶσις only occurs again in Matthew 7:27.

ἀντιλεγόμενον. ‘Which is spoken against.’ “As concerning this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against,” Acts 28:22. Jesus was called “this deceiver,” “a Samaritan,” “a demoniac,” and in the Talmud He is only alluded to as ‘So and So’ (Peloni), ‘that man’ (Otho haîsh), ‘Absalom,’ ‘the hung’ (Thalooi), ‘the son of Pandera,’ &c. To this day Nuzrâni, ‘Christian,’ is—after ‘Jew’—the most stinging term of reproach throughout Palestine. Among Pagans the Christians were charged with cannibalism, incest, and every conceivable atrocity, and Suetonius, Pliny, Tacitus have no gentler words for Christianity than ‘an execrable, extravagant, or malefic superstition.’ To holy men like Zacharias and Simeon God had revealed that the Glory of the Messiah was to be perfected by suffering (Hebrews 2:10). They, at least, did not expect an earthly conqueror—

“Armed in flame, all glorious from afar,

Of hosts the captain, and the Lord of War.”

Verse 35

35. ῥομφαία. Probably a broad Thracian lance (framea). The word only occurs elsewhere in the New Testament in Revelation 1:16, &c., but it is used in the LXX[65], as in Zechariah 13:7, “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd.” Almost from the very birth of Christ the sword began to pierce the soul of the ‘Mater Dolorosa;’ and what tongue can describe the weight of mysterious anguish which she felt as she watched the hatred and persecution which followed Jesus and saw Him die on the cross amid the execrations of all classes of those whom He came to save?

ὅπως ἂν, ut forte. The result is regarded as depending on circumstances. The idiom is rare in the N.T., only occurring in Acts 3:19; Acts 15:17; Romans 3:4.

ἀποκαλυφθῶσιν ἐκ πολλῶν καρδιῶν διαλογισμοί. ‘That reasonings out of many hearts may be revealed.’ The word διαλογισμοὶ generally has a bad sense as in Luke 5:22; Matthew 15:19; Romans 1:21. Hence there is no reason for the addition of πονηροὶ in א. By way of comment see the reasonings of the Jews in John 9:16 : 1 Corinthians 9:19; 1 John 2:19.

Verse 36

36. Ἄννα. The same name as Hannah (1 Samuel 1:20), from the root Chânan, ‘he was gracious.’

προφῆτις. The predicate in apposition usually has the article, as in Ἰωάννην τὸν βαπτιστήν, Ἄγριππα ὁ βασιλεύς. But it is sometimes omitted where there is no desire to distinguish a person from others, as in Σίμων βυρσεύς, Acts 10:32. Comp. Luke 8:3. Anna was ‘a prophetess’ like Miriam, Deborah, Huldah (2 Chronicles 34:22).

Φανουήλ. ‘The Face of God;’ the same word as Peniel, Genesis 32:30.

Ἀσήρ. Though the Ten Tribes were lost, individual Jews who belonged to them had preserved their genealogies. Thus Tobit was of the tribe of Naphtali (Tobit 1:1). Comp. “our twelve tribes,” Acts 26:7; James 1:1.

ζήσασα. This 1. aor. of ζάω is only found in Hippocrates, and later writers, and in Hellenistic Greek.

ἀπὸ τῆς παρθενίας αὐτῆς. I.e. she had been married only seven years, and was now 84 years old. אABL read ἔως (for ὡς) which is best taken with “of great age,” the intervening words being parenthetic.

Verses 36-40


Verse 37

37. οὐκ ἀφίστατο. She was present (that is) at all the stated hours of prayer; unless we suppose that her position as a prophetess had secured her the right of living in one of the Temple chambers, and perhaps of doing some work for it like trimming the lamps (as is the Rabbinic notion about Deborah, derived from the word Lapidoth ‘splendours’).

νηστείαις. The Law of Moses had only appointed one yearly fast, on the Great Day of Atonement. But the Pharisees had adopted the practice of ‘fasting twice in the week,’ viz. on Monday and Thursday, when Moses is supposed to have ascended, and descended from, Sinai (see on Luke 18:12). In other respects also they had multiplied and extended the simple original injunction (Luke 5:33).

δεήσεσι. Supplications (a more special word than προσευχαῖς).

λατρεύουσα νύκτα καὶ ἡμέραν. Worshipping night and day. ‘Night’ is put first by the ordinary Hebrew idiom (as in the Greek word νυχθήμερον) which arose from their notion that ‘God made the world in six days and seven nights.’ Comp. Acts 26:7, “unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God night and day (Greek), hope to come.” 1 Timothy 5:5, “she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.” Meyer thinks that this order of the words implies more fervency of service.

Verse 38

38. καὶ αὐτῇ τῇ ὥρᾳ ἐπιστᾶσα. And at that very hour (not ‘instant’ as in A. V[66]) she, suddenly coming in.

ἀνθωμολογεῖτο, began in turn to give thanks. The ἀντὶ might seem to point to a sort of antiphony between Anna and Simeon, but the compound verb is used in the LX[67] in the simple sense. It does not occur elsewhere in the N.T.

προσδεχομένοις λύτρωσιν. See Luke 2:25, Luke 24:21; Mark 15:43; 1 Corinthians 1:7; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 9:28. See Excursus VII.

Ἱερουσαλήμ. The readings vary. Perhaps the rendering should be ‘waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.’

Verse 39

39. Between this verse and the last come the events narrated by St Matthew only—namely the Visit of the Magi; the Flight into Egypt; and the Massacre of the Innocents. It is difficult to believe that either of the Evangelists had seen the narrative of the other, because the primâ facie inference from either singly would be imperfectly correct. They supplement each other, because they each narrate the truth, though probably neither of them was aware of all that has been delivered to us.

Verse 40

40. ἐκραταιοῦτο. The ἐν πνεύματι of our Received Text is omitted in אBDL.

πληρούμενον. ‘Being or becoming filled.’ The growth of our Lord is here described as a natural human growth. The nature of the ‘Hypostatic Union’ of His Divine and Human nature—what is called the Perichoresis or Communicatio idiomatum—is one of the subtlest and least practical of mysteries. The attempt to define and enter into it was only forced upon the Church by the speculations of Oriental heretics who vainly tried “to soar into the secrets of the Deity on the waxen wings of the senses.” This verse (and still more Luke 2:52) is a stronghold against the Apollinarian heresy which held that in Jesus the Divine Logos took the place of the human soul. Against the four conflicting heresies of Arius, Apollinarius, Nestorius and Eutyches, which respectively denied the true Godhead, the perfect manhood, the indivisible union, and the entire distinctness of the Godhead and manhood in Christ, the Church, in the four great Councils of Nicaea (A.D. 325), Constantinople (A.D. 381), Ephesus (A.D. 431), and Chalcedon (A.D. 451), established the four words which declare her view of the nature of Christ—ἀληθῶς, τελέως, ἀδιαιρέτως, ἀσυγχύτως—‘truly’ God; ‘perfectly’ man; ‘indivisibly’ Godman, ‘distinctly’ God and Man. See Hooker, Eccl. Pol. V. Leviticus 10.

χάρις θεοῦ ἦν ἐπ' αὐτό. Isaiah 11:2-3. “Full of grace and truth,” John 1:14. “Take notice here that His doing nothing wonderful was itself a kind of wonder.… As there was power in His actions, so is there power in His silence, in His inactivity, in His retirement.” Bonaventura. The worthless legends and inventions of many of the Apocryphal Gospels deal almost exclusively with the details of the Virginity of Mary, and the Infancy of Christ, which are passed over in the Gospels in these few words.

Verse 41

41. οἱ γονεῖς αὐτοῦ. The great Rabbi Hillel had recommended women to attend the Passover. It was not enjoined by the Law, but the Jews admired it as a pious practice. (Mechilta, f. 17. 2 in Schöttgen.) Doubtless one of the reasons why Marcion exscinded these chapters in his mutilated St Luke was the respect shewn for Levitic ordinances in Luke 1:6, Luke 2:22-24, &c.

τῇ ἑορτῇ τοῦ πάσχα. At the feast (Luth. auf das Osterfest). This is the dative of time. Comp. Luke 8:29, Luke 12:20, Luke 13:14-16. St Luke sometimes inserts the preposition, Luke 1:26, Luke 3:1. Winer, p. 273 sq. Exodus 23:15-17; Deuteronomy 16:1-16. The custom of going up three times a year seems long to have fallen into abeyance with most Jews. 1 Samuel 1:21, “the yearly sacrifice.”

Verses 41-52


Verse 42

42. ἐτῶν δώδεκα. No single word breaks the silence of the Gospels respecting the childhood of Jesus from the return to Nazareth till this time. We infer indeed from scattered hints in Scripture that He “began to do” His work before He “began to teach,” and being “tempted in all points like as we are” won the victory from His earliest years, alike over positive and negative temptations. (Hebrews 5:8. See Ullmann, Sinlessness of Jesus, E. Tr. p. 140.) Up to this time He had grown as other children grow, only in a childhood of stainless and sinless beauty—“as the flower of roses in the spring of the year, and as lilies by the waters,” Sirach 39:13-14. This incident of His ‘confirmation,’ as in modern language we might call it, is the “solitary floweret out of the wonderful enclosed garden of the thirty years, plucked precisely there where the swollen but at a distinctive crisis bursts into flower.” Stier, Words of Jesus, I. 18.

This silence of the Evangelists is a proof of their simple faithfulness, and is in striking contrast with the blaze of foolish and dishonouring miracles with which the Apocryphal Gospels degrade the Divine Boyhood. Meanwhile we are permitted to see (i) That our Lord never attended the schools of the Rabbis (Mark 6:2; John 6:42; John 7:15). His teaching was absolutely original, and He would therefore be regarded by the Rabbis as a ‘man of the people,’ or ‘unlearned person.’ (See Acts 4:13; T. B. Berachôth, f. 47. 2; Sirach 38:24 fg.) (ii) That He had learnt to write (John 8:6). (iii) That He was acquainted not only with Aramaic, but with Hebrew, Greek, and perhaps Latin (Life of Christ, I. 91); and (iv) That He had been deeply impressed by the lessons of nature (id. I.93).

δώδεκα. Up to this age a Jewish boy was called ‘little,’ afterwards he was called ‘grown up,’ and became a ‘Son of the Law,’ or ‘Son of the Precepts.’ At this age he was presented on the Sabbath called the ‘Sabbath of Phylacteries’ in the Synagogue, and began to wear the phylacteries with which his father presented him. According to the Jews twelve was the age at which Moses left the house of Pharaoh’s daughter, and Samuel was called, and Solomon gave his judgment, and Josiah carried out his reform. (Jos. Antt. II. 9. 6, v. 10. 4.)

Verse 43

43. τελειωσάντων τὰς ἡμέρας. Seven days. Exodus 12:15.

Ἰησοῦς ὁ παῖς. The boy Jesus, or Jesus, now a boy. There is an obvious contrast with the παιδίον of Luke 2:40. St Luke seems purposely to have narrated something about the Saviour at every stage of His earthly existence, as babe (Luke 2:16), little child (Luke 2:40), boy, and man.

ὑπέμεινεν. Among the countless throngs of Jews who flocked to the Passover—nearly three millions according to Josephus (Antt. VI. 9, 3)—nothing would be easier than to lose sight of one young boy in the thronged streets, or among the thousands of booths outside the city walls. Indeed it is an incident which to this day often occurs at Jerusalem in similar cases. It should be also remembered that at the age of 12 an Eastern boy is far more mature than is the case in Northern nations, and that at that age a far wider liberty was allowed him.

οἱ γονεῖς αὐτοῦ. ‘His parents,’ אBDL. The reading of Elz. is “Joseph and his mother.”

οὐκ ἔγνωσαν, ‘did not observe it.’ The fact is very interesting as shewing the naturalness and unconstraint in which our Lord was trained.

Verse 44

44. ἦλθον ἡμέρας ὁδόν. Probably to Beeroth, six miles north of Jerusalem. In the numerous and rejoicing caravans of kinsmen and fellow-countrymen relations are often separated without feeling any anxiety.

ἀνεζήτουν, ‘continued looking for him.’ The word implies anxious and careful search.

Verse 45

45. μὴ εὑρόντες. The μὴ is causal. ‘Since they did not find Him,’ they returned.

ἀναζητοῦντες αὐτόν, ‘diligently searching for Him.’

Verse 46

46. μετὰ ἡμέρας τρεῖς. This, in the Jewish idiom, probably means ‘on the third day.’ One day was occupied by the journey to Beeroth; on the second, they sought Him in the caravans and at Jerusalem; the next day they found Him in the Temple. The unsettled state of the country would add to their alarm.

ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ. Probably in one of the numerous chambers which ran round the Court, and abutted on the actual building; or in one of the three Temple-synagogues of which the Talmud speaks.

καθεζόμενον. Doubtless at the feet of the Rabbis, as was the custom of Jewish boys when sitting began to be permitted.

ἐν μέσῳ τῶν διδασκάλων, ‘in the midst of the teachers.’ The most eminent Rabbis of this period—some of whom may have been present as youths, and some as aged men—were Hillel, his rival Shammai, and his son Rabban Shimeon, Bava ben Butah, Nicodemus, Jochanan ben Zakkai.

ἀκούοντα αὐτῶν καὶ ἐπερωτῶντα αὐτούς. Obviously with all modest humility. The Apocryphal Gospels characteristically degrade this scene, and represent the boy Christ as behaving with a forwardness which most flagrantly contradicts the whole tenor of the narrative, and would have been specially displeasing to Jewish elders (Pirke Avôth, v. 12. 15). Such inventions, which are only too common in all commentators, from the days of the Fathers downward, spring from an irreverent reverence which has its real root in Apollinarianism.

Verse 47

47. ἐξίσταντο. Similar instances are narrated of Rabbi Eliezer Ben Azariah; of Rabbi Ashi, the compiler of the Babylonian Talmud; and (by himself) of Josephus (Vit. 2). See Excursus VII.

Verse 48

48. ἐξεπλάγησαν. The “people of the land,” such as were the simple peasants of Galilee, held their great teachers in the deepest awe, and hitherto the silent, sweet, obedient childhood of Jesus had not prepared them for such a scene.

τέκνον, τί ἐποίησας ἡμῖν οὕτως; ‘My child, why didst thou treat us thus?’

ὀδυνώμενοι ἐζητοῦμέν σε, ‘were searching for thee with aching hearts.’

Verse 49

49. ἐν τοῖς τοῦ πατρός μου, ‘in my Father’s house.’ The Syriac, Origen, Epiphanius, Theodoret, Theophylact, and Euthymius agree in this rendering. The Vulg[68] (like the Arabic and Aethiopic) leaves the meaning vague in his quae Patris mei sunt, and Wyclif follows the Vulgate “in those things that be of my Father.” See Excursus I. These words are very memorable as being the first recorded words of Jesus. They bear upon them the stamp of authenticity in their half-vexed astonishment, and perfect mixture of dignity and humility. It is remarkable too, that He does not accept the phrase “Thy father” which Mary had employed. “Did ye not know?” recalls their fading memory of Who He was; and the “I must” lays down the law of devotion to His Father by which He was to walk even to the Cross. Psalms 40:7-9. “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me and to finish His work,” John 4:34. For His last recorded words, see Acts 1:7-8.

τοῦ πατρός μου. This is the first germ of our Lord’s special revelation of the fatherhood of God. It is remarkable that Christ always says ὁ πατήρ μου (with the article) but teaches us to say πατὴρ ἡμῶν (without the article): e.g. in John 20:17 it is. “I ascend unto the Father of me and Father of you.” God is His Father in a different way from that in which He is ours. He is our Father only because He is His Father. See Pearson On the Creed, Art. i.



In my Life of Christ (I. 78) I deliberately adopted the rendering of the English Version, but my view of the meaning has since been changed by a monograph kindly sent me by the Rev. Dr Field of Norwich, from which I here borrow some illustrations.

It might seem that the words lose something of their force and beauty by the adoption of the rendering “in my Father’s house;” but we must remember [1] that they are the words of a young and guileless Boy who was “subject unto His parents;” [2] that they must be interpreted with reference to their context. Joseph and His mother might have known that He would be “about His Father’s business” without knowing where He was. The answer had reference to His mother’s gentle reproach about their agonising search for Him. His answer is “Why this search? might you not have conjectured that I was in my Father’s House?” The other meaning would therefore be less appropriate. It is also less supported. We have no exact instance of ἐν τοῖς τινος εἶναι meaning “to be about a person’s business,” though we have something like it, e.g. 1 Timothy 4:15 ἐν τούτοις ἴσθι, and the Latin “totus in illis.” This idiom seems however to imply an absolute absorption which is not here intended. If the word ὅλος had been added the sense and the idiom would indeed have been clear, and there would have been a distant analogy to the phrase employed in the story that when the young Alexander talked with the Persian Ambassadors he did not ask about the Golden Vine, the king’s dress, &c. but “was entirely occupied with the most important matters of the government” (ὅλος ἐν τοῖς κυριωτάτοις ἧν τῆς ἡγεμονίας) so that the strangers were amazed (ἐκπεπλῆχθαι), Plut. II. 342. But had our Lord meant to say ‘Know ye not that I must be absorbed in my Father’s work?’ He would have expressed His meaning less ambiguously, and if He spoke in Aramaic those who recorded the sentence in Greek would hardly have left the meaning doubtful.—On the other hand “in my Father’s House” is the ordinary and natural meaning of the words.—Οἰκήμασι or δώμασι might be understood, but in fact the article alone—τὰ, ‘the things or belongings of’—was colloquially used in this sense; e. g. ᾆ τὰ Λύκωνος (Theocr. II. 76), ‘where Lycon’s house is;’ εἰς τὰ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ, ‘into my brother’s’ (Lysias c. Eratosth. p. 195), ἐν τοῖς τοῦ δεσπότου ἑαυτοῦ εἶναι αὐτὸν ἀνάγκη (Chrysost. Hom. LII. in Gen.), ‘wherever he may chance to go he must be in his Master’s house.’ Esther 7:9, ἐν τοῖς Ἀμὰν, ‘in Haman’s house’ (LXX[425]); Job 18:20, ἐν τοῖς αὐτοῦ ζήσονται ἕτεροι, ‘others shall live in his house.’ See too Genesis 41:51, LXX[426] In this interpretation the Vulgate, Arabic, Ethiopic, and Peshito Syriac concur, as do Origen, Theophylact, Euthymius, Epiphanius, and Theodoret.

But it may be asked ‘may we not admit both meanings, one as primary and one as secondary?’ This is the view adopted by Alford and others; but I agree with Dr Field in the remark that “it is certain that only one of the meanings was in the mind of the artless Child from whose lips they fell, and that that meaning” (so far as the mere significance of the words was concerned) “was rightly apprehended by those who heard them.”

Verse 50

50. οὐ συνῆκαν. Words which might stand as the epitome of much of His ministry, Luke 9:45, Luke 18:34; Mark 9:32; John 10:6; John 1:10-11. The meaning however is not that they had any doubt as to what the grammatical construction of His words implied; but only as to their bearing and appropriateness to the circumstances of so young a child.

Verse 51

51. μετ' αὐτῶν. We may infer from the subsequent omission of Joseph’s name, and from the traditional belief about his age, that he died shortly after this event, as the Apocryphal Gospels assert.

εἰς Ναζαρέθ. In many respects there was a divine fitness in this spot for the human growth of Jesus—“as a tender plant and a root out of the dry ground.” Apart from the obscurity and evil fame of Nazareth which were meant to teach lessons similar to those of which we have just spoken, we may notice (i) Its seclusion. It lies in a narrow cleft in the limestone hills which form the boundary of Zabulon entirely out of the ordinary roads of commerce, so that none could say that our Lord had learnt either from Gentiles or from Rabbis. (ii) Its beauty and peacefulness. The flowers of Nazareth are famous, and the appearance of its inhabitants shews its healthiness. It was a home of humble peace and plenty. The fields of its green valley are fruitful, and the view from the hill which overshadows it is one of the loveliest and most historically striking in all Palestine.

ἦν ὑποτασσόμενος αὐτοῖς. See note on Luke 1:10. “He made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant,” Philippians 2:7; Isaiah 53:2. With the exception of these two verses, the Gospels preserve but one single word to throw light on the Life of our Lord, between His infancy and His baptism. That word is “the carpenter” in Mark 6:3, altered in some MSS. out of irreverent and mistaken reverence into “the son of the carpenter.” They shew that (i) our Lord’s life was spent in poverty but not in pauperism; (ii) that He sanctified labour as a pure and noble thing; (iii) that God looks on the heart, and that the dignity or humility, the fame or obscurity, of the outer lot is of no moment in His eyes. Romans 14:17-18.

Verse 52

52. προέκοπτεν, ‘advanced.’ (Galatians 1:14; 2 Timothy 2:16, &c.) The word is derived from pioneers cutting down trees in the path of an advancing army. Comp. 1 Samuel 2:26, and the description of an ideal youth in Proverbs 3:3-4.

σοφίᾳ. In spite of the attempts, from the days of Athanasius downwards, to explain this word away, it remains one of the great Scriptural bulwarks against the Apollinarian heresy which denies the perfect manhood of Christ.

ἡλικίᾳ. Perhaps ‘age’ (as in Luke 12:25?), though the word sometimes means stature (Luke 19:3; Ephesians 4:13), and it is so understood in this place by Beza, Grotius, Bengel, Ewald, Bleek, Meyer, &c. The Vulg[69] has aetate.

ἀνθρώποις, ‘men.’ Proverbs 3:4, “So shalt thou find favour and good success (marg.) in the sight of God and man.” Pirke Avôth, III. 10, “In whomsoever the mind of men delights, in him also the Spirit of God delights.” It is not said of St John that he grew in favour with men, because even from childhood he shewed the stern and reserved spirit which took him to the wilderness.

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"Commentary on Luke 2". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.