free while helping to build churches and support pastors in Uganda.
Click here to learn more!
1. Luke 3:1-2; Luke 3:1-2. In this concise description of the epoch at which John appeared, Luke begins with the largest sphere that of the empire. Then, by a natural transition furnished by his reference to the representative of imperial power in Judaea, he passes to the special domain of the people of Israel; and he shows us the Holy Land divided into four distinct states. After having thus described the political situation, he sketches in a word the ecclesiastical and religious position, which brings him to his subject. It cannot be denied that there is considerable skill in this preamble. Among the evangelists, Luke is the true historian.
And first, the empire. Augustus died on the 19th August of the year 767 U.C., corresponding to the year 14 and 15 of our era. If Jesus was born in 749 or 750 U.C., He must have been at this time about eighteen years of age. At the death of Augustus, Tiberius had already, for two years past, shared his throne. The fifteenth year of his reign may consequently be reckoned, either from the time when he began to share the sovereignty with Augustus, or from the time when he began to reign alone, upon the death of the latter. The Roman historians generally date the reign of Tiberius from the time when he began to reign alone. According to this mode of reckoning, the fifteenth year would be the year of Rome 781 to 782, that is to say, 28 to 29 of our era. But at this time Jesus would be already thirty-two to thirty-three years of age, which would be opposed to the statement Luke 3:23, according to which He was only thirty years old at the time of His baptism, towards the end of John's ministry. According to the other mode of reckoning, the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius would be the year of Rome 779 to 780, 26 to 27 of our era. Jesus would be about twenty-nine years old when John the Baptist appeared; and supposing that the public ministry of the latter lasted six months or a year, He would be “ about thirty years of age ” when He received baptism from him. In this way agreement is established between the two chronological data, Luke 3:1; Luke 3:23. It has long been maintained that this last mode of reckoning, as it is foreign to the Roman writers, could only be attributed to Luke to meet the requirements of harmonists. Wieseler, however, has just proved, by inscriptions and medals, that it prevailed in the East, and particularly at Antioch, whence Luke appears originally to have come, and where he certainly resided for some time.
The circle narrows. We return to the Holy Land. The title of Pontius Pilate was properly ἐπίτροπος , procurator. That of ἡγεμών belonged to his superior, the governor of Syria. But as, in Judaea, the military command was joined to the civil authority, the procurator had a right to the title of ἡγεμών . Upon the deprivation of Archelaus, son of Herod, in the year 6 of our era, Judaea was united to the empire. It formed, with Samaria and Idumea, one of the districts of the province of Syria. Pilate was its fifth governor. He arrived there in the year 26, or sooner, in the autumn of the year 25 of our era; thus, in any case, a very short time before the ministry of John the Baptist. He remained in power ten years.
Herod, in his will, made a division of his kingdom. The first share was given to Archelaus, with the title of ethnarch, an inferior title to that of king, but superior to that of tetrarch. This share soon passed to the Romans. The second, which comprised Galilee and the Peraea, was that of Herod Antipas. The title of tetrarch, given to this prince, signifies properly sovereign of a fourth. It was then employed as a designation for dependent petty princes amongst whom had been shared (originally in fourths) certain territories previously united under a single sceptre. Herod Antipas reigned for forty-two years, until the year 39 of our era. The entire ministry of our Lord was therefore accomplished in his reign. The third share was Philip's, another son of Herod, who had the same title as Antipas. It embraced Ituraea ( Dschedur), a country situated to the south-east of the Libanus, but not mentioned by Josephus amongst the states of Philip, and in addition, Trachonitis and Batanaea. Philip reigned 37 years, until the year 34 of our era. If the title of tetrarch be taken in its etymological sense, this term would imply that Herod had made a fourth share of his states; and this would naturally be that which Luke here designates by the name of Abilene, and which he assigns to Lysanias. Abila was a town situated to the north-west of Damascus, at the foot of the Anti-Libanus. Half a century before the time of which we are writing, there reigned in this country a certain Lysanias, the son and successor of Ptolemy king of Chalcis. This Lysanias was assassinated thirty-six years before our era by Antony, who gave a part of his dominions to Cleopatra. His heritage then passed into various hands. Profane history mentions no Lysanias after that one; and Strauss is eager to accuse Luke of having, by a gross error, made Lysanias live and reign sixty years after his death. Keim forms an equally unfavourable estimate of the statement of Luke. But while we possess no positive proof establishing the existence of a Lysanias posterior to the one of whom Josephus speaks, we ought at least, before accusing Luke of such a serious error, to take into consideration the following facts:
1. The ancient Lysanias bore the title of king, which Antony had given him (Dion Cassius, 49:32), and not the very inferior title of tetrarch.
2. He only reigned from four to five years; and it would be difficult to understand how, after such a short possession, a century afterwards, had Abilene even belonged to him of old, it should still have borne for this sole reason, in all the historians, the name of Abilene of Lysanias (Jos. Antiq. 18.6.10, 19.5.1, etc.; Ptolem. 5.18).
3. A medal and an inscription found by Pococke mention a Lysanias tetrarch and high priest, titles which do not naturally apply to the ancient king Lysanias. From all these facts, therefore, it would be reasonable to conclude, with several interpreters, that there was a younger Lysanias, a descendant, doubtless, of the preceding, who possessed, not, as his ancestor did, the entire kingdom of Chalcis, but simply the tetrarchate of Abilene. This natural supposition may at the present day be asserted as a fact.
Two inscriptions recently deciphered prove:
1. That at the very time when Tiberius was co-regent with Augustus, there actually existed a tetrarch Lysanias. For it was a freedman of this Lysanias, named Nymphaeus ( Νύμφαιος ... Λυσανίου τετράρχου ἀπελεύθερος ), who had executed some considerable works to which one of these inscriptions refers (Boeckh's Corpus inscript. Gr. No. 4521).
2. That this Lysanias was a descendant of the ancient Lysanias. This may be inferred, with a probability verging on certainty, from the terms of the other inscription: “and to the sons of Lysanias” ( ibid. No. 4523).
Augustus took pleasure in restoring to the children what his rivals had formerly taken away from their fathers. Thus the young Jamblichus, king of Emesa, received from him the inheritance of his father of the same name, slain by Antony. In the same way, also, was restored to Archelaus of Cappadocia a part of Cilicia, which had formerly belonged to his father of the same name. Why should not Augustus have done as much for the young Lysanias, whose ancestor had been slain and deprived by Antony? That this country should be here considered by Luke as belonging to the Holy Land, is explained, either by the fact that Abilene had been temporarily subject to Herod, and it is something in favour of this supposition, that when Claudius restored to Agrippa I. all the dominions of his grandfather Herod the Great, he also gave him Abilene, or by this, that the inhabitants of the countries held by the ancient Lysanias had been incorporated into the theocracy by circumcision a century before Christ, and that the ancient Lysanias himself was born of a Jewish mother, an Asmonaean, and thus far a Jew. This people, therefore, in a religious point of view, formed part of the holy people as well as the Idumaeans.
The intention of Luke in describing the dismemberment of the Holy Land at this period, is to make palpable the political dissolution into which the theocracy had fallen at the time when He appeared who was to establish it in its true form, by separating the eternal kingdom from its temporary covering.
Luke passes to the sphere of religion ( Luk 3:2 ). The true reading is doubtless the sing. ἀρχιερέως , the high priest Annas and Caiaphas. How is this strange phrase to be explained? It cannot be accidental, or used without thought. The predecessor of Pilate, Valerius Gratus, had deposed, in the year 14, the high priest Annas. Then, during a period covering some years, four priestly rulers were chosen and deposed in succession. Caiaphas, who had the title, was son-in-law of Annas, and had been appointed by Gratus about the year 17 of our era. He filled this office until 36. It is possible that, in conformity with the law which made the high-priesthood an office for life, the nation continued to regard Annas, notwithstanding his deprivation and the different elections which followed this event, as the true high priest, whilst all those pontiffs who had followed him were only, in the eyes of the best part of the people, titular high priests. In this way Luke's expression admits of a very natural explanation: “Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests,” that is to say, the two high priests, one by right, the other in fact. This expression would have all the better warrant, because, as history proves, Annas in reality continued, as before, to hold the reins of government. This was especially the case under the pontificate of Caiaphas, his son-in-law. John indicates this state of things in a striking way in two passages relating to the trial of Jesus, Luke 18:13; Luke 18:24: “And they bound Jesus, and led Him away to Annas first; for he was father-in-law to Caiaphas....And Annas sent Jesus bound to Caiaphas, the high priest. ” These words furnish in some sort a commentary on Luke's expression. These two persons constituted really one and the same high priest. Add to this, as we are reminded by Wieseler, that the higher administration was then shared officially between two persons whom the Talmud always designates as distinct, the nasi, who presided over the Sanhedrin, and had the direction of public affairs; and the high priest properly so called, who was at the head of the priests, and superintended matters of religion. Now it is very probable that the office of nasi at that time devolved upon Annas. We are led to this conclusion by the powerful influence which he exerted; by the part which, according to John, he played in the trial of Jesus; and by the passage Acts 4:6, where he is found at the head of the Sanhedrin with the title of ἀρχιερεύς , while Caiaphas is only mentioned after him, as a simple member of this body. This separation of the office into two functions, which, united, had constituted, in the regular way, the true and complete theocratic high-priesthood, was the commencement of its dissolution. And this is what Luke intends to express by this gen. sing. ἀρχιερέως , in apposition with two proper names. It is just as if he had written: “ under the high priest Annas-Caiaphas. ” Disorganization had penetrated beneath the surface of the political sphere ( Luk 3:1 ), to the very heart of the theocracy. What a frame for the picture of the appearing of the Restorer!
The expression, the word came to John (lit. came upon), indicates a positive revelation, either by theophany or by vision, similar to that which served as a basis for the ministry of the ancient prophets: Moses, Exodus 3:0; Isaiah 6:0; Jeremiah 1:0; Ezekiel 1-3; comp. John 1:33, and see Luke 1:80. The word in the wilderness expressly connects this portion with that last passage.
First Narrative: The Ministry of John the Baptist, Luke 3:1-20 .
We already know from Luk 1:77 why the Messiah was to have a forerunner. A mistaken notion of salvation had taken possession of Israel. It was necessary that a man clothed with divine authority should restore it to its purity before the Messiah laboured to accomplish it. Perhaps no more stirring character is presented in sacred history than that of John the Baptist. The people are excited at his appearing; their consciences are aroused; multitudes flock to him. The entire nation is filled with solemn expectation; and just at the moment when this man has only to speak the word to make himself the centre of this entire movement, he not only refrains from saying this word, but he pronounces another. He directs all the eager glances that were fixed upon himself to One coming after him, whose sandals he is not worthy to carry. Then, as soon as his successor has appeared, he retires to the background, and gives enthusiastic expression to his joy at seeing himself eclipsed. Criticism is fertile in resources of every kind; but with this unexampled moral phenomenon to account for, it will find it difficult to give any satisfactory explanation of it, without appealing to some factor of a higher order.
Luke begins by framing the fact which he is about to relate in a general outline of the history of the time ( Luk 3:1-2 ). He next describes the personal appearance of John the Baptist ( Luk 3:3-6 ); he gives a summary of his preaching ( Luk 3:7-18 ); and he finishes with an anticipatory account of his imprisonment ( Luk 3:19-20 ).
SECOND PART: THE ADVENT OF THE MESSIAH, Luk 3:1 to Luke 4:13 .
For eighteen years Jesus lived unknown in the seclusion of Nazareth. His fellow townsmen, recalling this period of His life, designate Him the carpenter ( Mar 6:3 ). Justin Martyr deriving the fact, doubtless, from tradition represents Jesus as making ploughs and yokes, and teaching men righteousness by these products of His peaceful toil. Beneath the veil of this life of humble toil, an inward development was accomplished, which resulted in a state of perfect receptivity for the measureless communication of the Divine Spirit. This result was attained just when Jesus reached the climacteric of human life, the age of thirty, when both soul and body enjoy the highest degree of vitality, and are fitted to become the perfect organs of a higher inspiration. The forerunner then having given the signal, Jesus left His obscurity to accomplish the task which had presented itself to Him for the first time in the temple, when He was twelve years of age, as the ideal of His life the establishment of the kingdom of God on the earth. Here begins the second phase of His existence, during which He gave forth what He had received in the first.
This transition from private life to public activity is the subject of the following part, which comprises four sections: 1. The ministry of John the Baptist ( Luk 3:1-20 ); 2. The baptism of Jesus ( Luk 3:21-22 ); 3. The genealogy ( Luk 3:23-38 ); 4. The temptation ( Luk 4:1-13 ). The corresponding part in the two other synoptics embraces only Numbers 1:2, , Numbers 1:4. We shall have no difficulty in perceiving the connection between these three sections, and the reason which induced St. Luke to intercalate the fourth.
2. vers. 3-6.
The country about Jordan, in Luke, doubtless denotes the arid plains near the mouth of this river. The name wilderness of Judea, by which Matthew and Mark designate the scene of John's ministry, applies properly to the mountainous and broken country which forms the western boundary of the plain of the Jordan (towards the mouth of this river), and of the northern part of the basin of the Dead Sea. But as, according to them also, John was baptizing in Jordan, the wilderness of Judea must necessarily have included in their view the lower course of the river. As to the rest, the expression he came into supposes, especially if with the Alex. we erase the τήν , that John did not remain stationary, but went too and fro in the country. This hint of the Syn., especially in the form in which it occurs in Luke, agrees perfectly with John 10:40, where the Peraea is pointed out as the principal theatre of John's ministry.
The rite of baptism, which consisted in the plunging of the body more or less completely into water, was not at this period in use amongst the Jews, neither for the Jews themselves, for whom the law only prescribed lustrations, nor for proselytes from paganism, to whom, according to the testimony of history, baptism was not applied until after the fall of Jerusalem. The very title Baptist, given to John, sufficiently proves that it was he who introduced this rite. This follows also from John 1:25, where the deputation from the Sanhedrin asks him by what right he baptizes, if he is neither the Messiah nor one of the prophets, which implies that this rite was introduced by him; and further, from John 3:26, where the disciples of John make it a charge against Jesus, that He adopted a ceremony of which the institution, and consequently, according to them, the monopoly, belonged to their master. Baptism was a humiliating rite for the Jews. It represented a complete purification; it was, as it were, a lustration carried to the second power, which implied in him who accepted it not a few isolated faults so much as a radical defilement. So Jesus calls it ( Joh 3:5 ) a birth of water. Already the promise of clean water, and of a fountain opened for sin and uncleanness, in Ezekiel ( Eze 36:25 ) and Zechariah ( Zec 13:1 ), had the same meaning.
The complement μετανοίας , of repentance, indicates the moral act which was to accompany the outward rite, and which gave it its value. This term indicates a complete change of mind. The object of this new institution is sin, which appears to the baptized in a new light. According to Matthew and Mark, this change was expressed by a positive act which accompanied the baptism, the confession of their sins ( ἐξομολόγησις ). Baptism, like every divinely instituted ceremony, contained also a grace for him who observed it with the desired disposition. As Strauss puts it: if, on the part of man, it was a declaration of the renunciation of sin, on the part of God it was a declaration of the pardon of sins.
The words for the pardon depend grammatically on the collective notion, baptism of repentance.
According to Luke 3:4, the forerunner of the Messiah had a place in the prophetic picture by the side of the Messiah Himself. It is very generally taken for granted by modern interpreters, that the prophecy Isaiah 40:1-11, applied by the three synoptics to the times of the Messiah and to John the Baptist, refer properly to the return from the exile, and picture the entrance of Jehovah into the Holy Land at the head of His people. But is this interpretation really in accordance with the text of the prophet? Throughout this entire passage of Isaiah the people are nowhere represented as returning to their own country; they are settled in their cities; it is God who comes to them: “ O Zion, get thee up into a high mountain...Lift up thy voice with strength! Say to the cities of Judah, Behold your God! ” ( Luk 3:9 ). So far are the people from following in Jehovah's train, that, on the contrary, they are invited by the divine messenger to prepare, in the country where they dwell, the way by which Jehovah is to come to them: “ Prepare the way of the Lord..., and His glory shall be revealed ” (Luke 3:3; Luk 3:5 ). The desert to which the prophet compares the moral condition of the people is not that of Syria, which had to be crossed in returning from Babylon, a vast plain in which there are neither mountains to level nor valleys to fill up. It is rather the uncultivated and rocky hill-country which surrounds the very city of Jerusalem, into which Jehovah is to make His entry as the Messiah. If, therefore, it is indeed the coming of Jehovah as Messiah which is promised in this passage (Luke 3:11, “He shall feed His flock like a shepherd..., He shall carry the lambs in His arms”), the herald who invites the people to prepare the way of his God is really the forerunner of the Messiah. The image is taken from an oriental custom, according to which the visit of a sovereign was preceded by the arrival of a courier, who called on all the people to make ready the road by which the monarch was to enter.
The text is literally: A voice of one crying!...There is no finishing verb; it is an exclamation. The messenger is not named; his person is of so little consequence, that it is lost in his message. The words in the desert may, in Hebrew as in Greek, be taken either with what precedes: “cries in the desert,” or with what follows: “Prepare in the desert.” It matters little; the order resounds wherever it is to be executed. Must we be satisfied with a general application of the details of the picture? or is it allowable to give a particular application to them, to refer, for instance, the mountains that must be levelled to the pride of the Pharisees; the valleys to be filled up, to the moral and religious indifference of such as the Sadducees; the crooked places to be made straight, to the frauds and lying excuses of the publicans; and lastly, the rough places, to the sinful habits found in all, even the best? However this may be, the general aim of the quotation is to exhibit repentance as the soul of John's baptism.
It is probable that the plur. εὐθείας was early substituted for the sing. εὐθεῖαν , to correspond with the plur. τὰ σκολιά . With this adj. ὁδόν or ὁδούς must be understood.
When once this moral change is accomplished, Jehovah will appear. Καί , and then. The Hebrew text is: “ All flesh shall see the glory of God. ” The LXX. have translated it: “The glory of the Lord shall be seen (by the Jews?), and all flesh (including the heathen?) shall see the salvation of God.” This paraphrase, borrowed from Isaiah 52:10, proceeded perhaps from the repugnance which the translator felt to attribute to the heathen the sight of the glory of God, although he concedes to them a share in the salvation. This term salvation is preserved by Luke; it suits the spirit of his Gospel.
Only the end of the prophecy ( Luk 3:5-6 ) is cited by Luke. The two other synoptics limit themselves to the first part ( Luk 3:4 ). It is remarkable that all three should apply to the Hebrew text and to that of the LXX. the same modification: τὰς τρίβους αὐτοῦ , His paths, instead of τὰς τρίβους τοῦ Θεοῦ ἡμῶν , the paths of our God. This fact has been used to prove the dependence of two of the synoptics on the third. But the proof is not valid. As Weizsäcker remarks, this was one of the texts of which frequent use was made in the preaching of the Messiah; and it was customary, in applying the passage to the person of the Messiah, to quote it in this form. If Luke had, in this section, one of the two other synoptics before him, how could he have omitted all that refers to the dress and mode of life of the forerunner?
Vers. 7-9. “ Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father; for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 9 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees; every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. ”
What a stir would be produced at the present day by the preaching of a man, who, clothed with the authority of holiness, should proclaim with power the speedy coming of the Lord, and His impending judgment! Such was the appearance of John in Israel.
The expression that came forth ( Luk 3:7 ) refers to their leaving inhabited places to go into the desert (comp. Luk 7:24 ). In Matthew it is a number of Pharisees and Sadducees that are thus accosted. In that Gospel, the reference is to a special case, as the aor. εἶπεν , he said to them, shows. But for all this it may have been, as Luke gives us to understand, a topic on which John ordinarily expatiated to his hearers. The reproachful address, generation of vipers, expresses at once their wickedness and craft. John compares these multitudes who come to his baptism, because they regard it as a ceremony that is to ensure their admission into the Messianic kingdom, to successive broods of serpents coming forth alive from the body of their dam. This severe term is opposed to the title children of Abraham, and appears even to allude to another father, whom Jesus expressly names in another place ( Joh 8:37-44 ). Keim observes, with truth, that this figurative language of John (comp. the following images, stones, trees) is altogether the language of the desert. What excites such lively indignation in the forerunner, is to see people trying to evade the duty of repentance by means of its sign, by baptism performed as an opus operatum. In this deception he perceives the suggestion of a more cunning counsellor than the heart of man. ῾Υποδείκνυμι : to address advice to the ear, to suggest. The choice of this term excludes Meyer's sense: “Who has reassured you, persuading you that your title children of Abraham would preserve you from divine wrath?”
The wrath to come is the Messiah's judgment. The Jews made it fall solely on the heathen; John makes it come down on the head of the Jews themselves.
Therefore ( Luk 3:8 ) refers to the necessity of a sincere repentance, resulting from the question in Luke 3:7. The fruits worthy of repentance are not the Christian dispositions flowing from faith; they are those acts of justice, equity, and humanity, enumerated Luke 3:10-14, the conscientious practice of which leads a man to faith ( Act 10:35 ). But John fears that the moment their conscience begins to be aroused, they will immediately soothe it, by reminding themselves that they are children of Abraham. Μὴ ἄρζησθε , literally, “do not begin...,” that is to say: “As soon as my voice awakens you, do not set about saying...” The μὴ δόζητε , do not think, in Matthew, indicates an illusory claim. On the abuse of this title by the Jews, see John 8:33-39, Romans 4:1, James 2:21. It is to the posterity of Abraham, doubtless, that the promises are made, but the resources of God are not limited. Should Israel prove wanting, with a word He can create for Himself a new people. In saying, of these stones, John points with his finger to the stones of the desert or on the river banks. This warning is too solemn to be only an imaginary supposition. John knew the prophecies; he was not ignorant that Moses and Isaiah had announced the rejection of Israel and the calling of the Gentiles. It is by this threatening prospect that he endeavours to stir up the zeal of his contemporaries. This word contained in germ the whole teaching of St. Paul on the contrast between the carnal and the spiritual posterity of Abraham developed in Romans 9:0 and Galatians 3:0. In Deuteronomy the circumcision of the flesh had already been similarly contrasted with the circumcision of the heart ( Deu 30:6 ).
In Luk 3:7-8 Israel is reminded of the incorruptible holiness of the judgment awaiting them; Luk 3:9 proclaims it at hand. ῎Ηδη δὲ καί : “ and now also. ” The image is that of an orchard full of fruit trees. An invisible axe is laid at the trunk of every tree. This figure is connected with that of the fruits ( Luk 3:8 ). At the first signal, the axe will bury itself in the trunks of the barren trees; it will cut them down to the very roots. It is the emblem of the Messianic judgment. It applies at once to the national downfall and the individual condemnation, two notions which are not yet distinct in the mind of John. This fulminating address completely irritated the rulers, who had been willing at one time to come and hear him; from this time they broke all connection with John and his baptism. This explains the passage ( Luk 7:30 ) in which Jesus declares that the rulers refused to be baptized. This rejection of John's ministry by the official authorities is equally clear from Matthew 21:25: “ If we say, Of God; he will say, Why then did ye not believe on him? ” The proceeding of the Sanhedrim, Joh 1:19 et seq., proves the same thing.
3. Vers. 7-17.
The following discourse must not be regarded as a particular specimen of the preaching, the substance of which Luke has transmitted to us. It is a summary of all the discourses of John the Baptist during the period that preceded the baptism of Jesus. The imperf. ἔλεγεν , he used to say, clearly indicates Luke's intention. This summary contains 1. A call to repentance, founded on the impending Messianic judgment ( Luk 3:7-9 ); 2. Special practical directions for each class of hearers ( Luk 3:10-14 ); 3. The announcement of the speedy appearance of the Messiah ( Luk 3:15-17 ).
But what then, the people ask, are those fruits of repentance which should accompany baptism? And, seized with the fear of judgment, different classes of hearers approach John to obtain from him special directions, fitted to their particular social position. It is the confessional after preaching. This characteristic fragment is wanting in Matthew and Mark. Whence has Luke obtained it? From some oral or written source. But this source could not, it is evident, contain simply the five verses which follow; it must have been a narrative of the entire ministry of John. Luke therefore possessed, on this ministry as a whole, a different document from the other two Syn. In this way we can explain the marked differences of detail which we have observed between his writing and Matthew's: he says, instead of he was saying, Luke 3:7; do not begin, instead of think not, Luke 3:8.
The imperf., asked, signifies that those questions of conscience were frequently repeated (comp. ἔλεγεν , Luk 3:7 ). To a similar question St. Peter replied ( Act 2:37 ) very differently. This was because the kingdom of God had come. The forerunner contents himself with requiring the works fitted to prepare his hearers, those works of moral rectitude and benevolence which are in conformity with the law written in the heart, and which attest the sincerity of the horror of evil professed in baptism, and that earnest desire after good which Jesus so often declares to be the true preparation for faith ( Joh 3:21 ). In vain does hypocrisy give itself to the practice of devotion; it is on moral obligation faithfully acknowledged and practised that the blessing depends which leads men to salvation.
There is some hesitation in the form ποιήσωμεν (deliberative subj.); the future ποιήσομεν indicates a decision taken.
Ver. 13. Πράσσειν , exact; the meaning is, no overcharge!
Who are the soldiers, Luk 3:14 ? Certainly not the Roman soldiers of the garrison of Judaea. Perhaps military in the service of Antipas king of Galilee; for they came also from this country to John's baptism. More probably armed men, acting as police in Judaea. Thus the term συκοφαντεῖν admits of a natural interpretation. It signifies etymologically those who denounced the exporters of figs (out of Attica), and is applied generally to those who play the informer. Διασείεν appears to be connected with the Latin word concutere, whence comes also our word concussion. These are unjust extortions on the part of subordinates. The reading of א . H. Pesch., μηδένα , does not deserve the honour Tischendorf has accorded to it of admitting it into his text.
When all the people shall in this way have made ready the way of the Lord, they will be that prepared people of whom the angel spoke to Zacharias ( Luk 1:17 ), and the Lord will be able to bring salvation to them ( Luk 3:6 ).
Vers. 15-17. “ And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ or not; 16 John answered, saying unto them all: I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: 17 Whose fan is in His hand, and He will throughly purge His floor, and will gather the wheat into His garner; but the chaff He will burn with fire unquenchable. ”
This portion is common to the three Syn. But the preamble, Luke 3:15, is peculiar to Luke. It is a brief and striking sketch of the general excitement and lively expectation awakened by John's ministry. The ἅπασιν of the T. R. contains the idea of a solemn gathering; but this scene is not the same as that of Joh 1:19 et seq., which did not take place till after the baptism of Jesus. In his answer John asserts two things: first, that he is not the Messiah; second, that the Messiah is following him close at hand. The art. ὁ before ἰσχυρότερος denotes this personage as expected.
To unloose the sandals of the master when he came in (Luke and Mark), or rather to bring them to him ( βαστάσαι , Matt.) when he was disposed to go out, was the duty of the lowest class of slaves. Mark expresses its menial character in a dramatic way: κύψας λῦσαι , to stoop down and unloose. Each evangelist has thus his own shade of thought. If one of them had copied from the other, these changes, which would be at once purposed and insignificant, would be puerile. ῾Ικανός may be applied either to physical or intellectual capacity, or to moral dignity. It is taken in the latter sense here.
The pronoun αὐτός brings out prominently the personality of the Messiah. The preposition ἐν , which had not been employed before ὕδατι , is added before πνεύματι ; the Spirit cannot be treated as a simple means. One baptizes with water, but not with the Spirit.
If the pardon granted in the baptism of water was not followed by the baptism of the Spirit, sin would soon regain the upper hand, and the pardon would be speedily annulled ( Mat 18:23-25 ). But let the baptism of the Spirit be added to the baptism of water, and then the pardon is confirmed by the renewal of the heart and life.
Almost all modern interpreters apply the term fire to the consuming ardour of the judgment, according to Luke 3:17, the fire which is not quenched. But if there was such a marked contrast between the two expressions Spirit and fire, the preposition ἐν must have been repeated before the latter. Therefore there can only be a shade of difference between these two terms. The Spirit and fire both denote the same divine principle, but in two different relations with human nature: the first, inasmuch as taking possession of all in the natural man that is fitted to enter into the kingdom of God, and consecrating it to this end; the second the image of fire is introduced on account of its contrariness to the water of baptism inasmuch as consuming everything in the old nature that is out of harmony with the divine kingdom, and destined to perish. The Spirit, in this latter relation, is indeed the principle of judgment, but of an altogether internal judgment. It is the fire symbolized on the day of Pentecost. As to the fire of Luke 3:17, it is expressly opposed to that of Luk 3:16 by the epithet ἄσβεστον , which is not quenched. Whoever refuses to be baptized with the fire of holiness, will be exposed to the fire of wrath. Comp. a similar transition, but in an inverse sense, Mark 9:48-49.
John had said, shall baptize you ( Luk 3:16 ). Since this you applied solely to the penitent, it contained the idea of a sifting process going on amongst the people. This sifting is described in the seventeenth verse. The threshing-floor among the ancients was an uncovered place, where the corn, spread out upon the hardened ground, was trodden by oxen, which were sometimes yoked to a sledge. The straw was burnt upon the spot; the corn was gathered into the garner. This garner, in John's thought, represents the Messianic kingdom, the Church in fact, the earliest historical form of this kingdom, into which all believing Israelites will be gathered. Jewish presumption made the line of demarcation which separates the elect from the condemned pass between Israel and the Gentiles; John makes it pass across the theocracy itself, of which the threshing-floor is the symbol. This is the force of the διά in διακαθαριεῖ . Jesus expresses Himself in exactly the same sense, Joh 3:18 et seq. The judgment of the nation and of the individual are here mingled together, as in Luke 3:9; behind the national chastisement of the fall of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the people, is placed in the background the judgment of individuals, under another dispensation. The readings διακαθᾶραι and συναγαγεῖν , in order to purify, in order to gather, cannot be admitted. They rather weaken the force of this striking passage; the authority of א . B. and of the two documents of the Italic are not sufficient; lastly, the future κατακαύσει , which must be in opposition to a preceding future ( δέ ), comes in too abruptly.
The pronoun αὐτοῦ , twice repeated Luke 3:17 ( His threshing-floor, His garner), leaves no doubt about the divine dignity which John attributed to the Messiah. The theocracy belongs to Jehovah. Comp. the expression, His temple, Malachi 3:1.
4. vers. 18-20. We find here one of those general surveys such as we have in Luke 1:66; Luke 1:80, Luke 2:40; Luke 2:52. For the third time the lot of the forerunner becomes the prelude to that of the Saviour. The expression many other things ( Luk 3:18 ) confirms what was already indicated by the imperf. he used to say ( Luk 3:7 ), that Luke only intends to give a summary of John's preaching. The term he evangelized (a literal translation) refers to the Messianic promises which his discourses contained ( Luk 3:16-17 ), and the true translation of this verse appears to me to be this: “ while addressing these and many other exhortations to the people, he announced to them the glad tidings. ”
Ver. 19. Herod Antipas, the sovereign of Galilee, is the person already mentioned in Luke 3:1. The word Φιλίππου , rejected by important authorities, is probably a gloss derived from Matthew. The first husband of Herodias was called Herod. He has no other name in Josephus. He lived as a private individual at Jerusalem. But perhaps he also bore the surname of Philip, to distinguish him from Herod Antipas. The brother of Antipas, who was properly called Philip, is the tetrarch of Ituraea ( Luk 3:1 ). The ambitious Herodias had abandoned her husband to marry Antipas, who for love of her sent away his first wife, a daughter of Aretas king of Arabia; this act drew him into a disastrous war.
Luke's expression indicates concentrated indignation. In order to express the energy of the ἐπὶ πᾶσιν , we must say: to crown all...The form of the phrase προσέθηκε καὶ κατέκλεισε is based on a well-known Hebraism, and proves that this narrative of Luke's is derived from an Aramaean document. This passage furnishes another proof that Luke draws upon an independent source; he separates himself, in fact, from the two other synoptics, by mentioning the imprisonment of John the Baptist here instead of referring it to a later period, as Matthew and Mark do, synchronizing it with the return of Jesus into Galilee after His baptism (Matthew 4:12; Mar 1:14 ). He thereby avoids the chronological error committed by the two other Syn., and rectified by John ( Luk 3:24 ). This notice is brought in here by anticipation, as the similar notices, Luke 1:66 b and 80b. It is intended to explain the sudden end of John's ministry, and serves as a steppingstone to the narrative Luke 7:18, where John sends from his prison two of his disciples to Jesus.
The fact of John the Baptist's ministry is authenticated by the narrative of Josephus. This historian speaks of it at some length when describing the marriage of Herod Antipas with Herodias. After relating the defeat of Herod's army by Aretas, the father of his first wife, Josephus ( Antiq. 18.5. 1, 2) continues thus: “This disaster was attributed by many of the Jews to the displeasure of God, who smote Herod for the murder of John, surnamed the Baptist; for Herod had put to death this good man, who exhorted the Jews to the practice of virtue, inviting them to come to his baptism, and bidding them act with justice towards each other, and with piety towards God; for their baptism would please God if they did not use it to justify themselves from any sin they had committed, but to obtain purity of body after their souls had been previously purified by righteousness. And when a great multitude of people came to him, and were deeply moved by his discourses, Herod, fearing lest he might use his influence to urge them to revolt, for he well knew that they would do whatever he advised them, thought that the best course for him to take was to put him to death before he attempted anything of the kind. So he put him in chains, and sent him to the castle of Machaerus, and there put him to death. The Jews, therefore, were convinced that his army was destroyed as a punishment for this murder, God being incensed against Herod.” This account, while altogether independent of the evangelist's, confirms it in all the essential points: the extraordinary appearance of this person of such remarkable sanctity; the rite of baptism introduced by him; his surname, the Baptist; John's protest against the use of baptism as a mere opus operatum; his energetic exhortations; the general excitement; the imprisonment and murder of John; and further, the criminal marriage of Herod, related in what precedes. By the side of these essential points, common to the two narratives, there are some secondary differences: 1 st. Josephus makes no mention of the Messianic element in the preaching of John. But in this there is nothing surprising. This silence proceeds from the same cause as that which he observes respecting the person of Jesus. He who could allow himself to apply the Messianic prophecies to Vespasian, would necessarily try to avoid everything in contemporaneous history that had reference either to the forerunner, as such, or to Jesus. Weizsäcker rightly observes that the narrative of Josephus, so far from invalidating that of Luke on this point, confirms it. For it is evident that, apart from its connection with the expectation of the Messiah, the baptism of John would not have produced that general excitement which excited the fears of Herod, and which is proved by the account of Josephus. 2 d. According to Luke, the determining cause of John's imprisonment was the resentment of Herod at the rebukes of the Baptist; while, according to Josephus, the motive for this crime was the fear of a political outbreak. But it is easy to conceive that the cause indicated by Luke would not be openly avowed, and that it was unknown in the political circles where Josephus gathered his information. Herod and his counsellors put forward, as is usual in such cases, the reason of State. The previous revolts those which immediately followed the death of Herod, and that which Judas the Gaulonite provoked only justified too well the fears which they affected to feel.
In any case, if, on account of this general agreement, we were willing to admit that one of the two historians made use of the other, it is not Luke that we should regard as the copyist; for the Aramaean forms of his narrative indicate a source independent of that of Josephus.
The higher origin of this ministry of John is proved by the two following characteristics, which are inexplicable from a purely natural point of view: 1 st. His connection, so emphatically announced, with the immediate appearance of the Messiah; 2 d. The abdication of John, when at the height of his popularity, in favour of the poor Galilean, who was as yet unknown to all. As to the originality of John's baptism, the lustrations used in the oriental religions, in Judaism itself, and particularly among the Essenes, have been alleged against it. But this originality consisted less in the outward form of the rite, than 1. In its application to the whole people, thus pronounced defiled, and placed on a level with the heathen; and 2. In the preparatory relation established by the forerunner between this imperfect baptism and that final baptism which the Messiah was about to confer.
We think it useful to give an example here of the way in which Holtzmann tries to explain the composition of our Gospel:
1. Luk 3:1-6 are borrowed from source A. (the original Mark); only Luke leaves out the details respecting the ascetic life of John the Baptist, because he intends to give his discourses at greater length; he compensates for this omission by adding the chronological data ( Luk 3:1-2 ), and by extending the quotation from the LXX. ( Luk 3:5-6 )!
2. Luk 3:7-9 are also taken from A., just as are the parallel verses in Matthew; they were left out by the author of our canonical Mark, whose intention was to give only an abridgment of the discourses.
3. Luk 3:10-14 are taken from a private source, peculiar to Luke.
Are we then to suppose that this source contained only these four verses, since Luke has depended on other sources for all the rest of his matter?
4. Luk 3:15-17 are composed ( a) of a sketch of Luke's invention ( Luk 3:15 ); ( b) of an extract from A., Luke 3:16-17. 5. Luk 3:18-20 have been compiled on the basis of a fragment of A., which is found in Mark 6:17-29, a summary of which Luke thought should be introduced here.
Do we not thus fall into that process of manufacture which Schleiermacher ridiculed so happily in his work on the composition of Luke, à propos of Eichhorn's hypothesis, a method which we thought had disappeared from criticism for ever?
Second Narrative: The Baptism of Jesus, Luke 3:21-22 .
The relation between John and Jesus, as described by St. Luke, resembles that of two stars following each other at a short distance, and both passing through a series of similar circumstances. The announcement of the appearing of the one follows close upon that of the appearing of the other. It is the same with their two births. This relation repeats itself in the commencement of their respective ministries; and lastly, in the catastrophes which terminate their lives. And yet, in the whole course of the career of these two men, there was but one personal meeting at the baptism of Jesus. After this moment, when one of these stars rapidly crossed the orbit of the other, they separated, each to follow the path that was marked out for him. It is this moment of their actual contact that the evangelist is about to describe.
This narrative of the baptism is the sequel, not to Luke 3:18-19 (the imprisonment of John), which are an anticipation, but to the passage Luke 3:15-17, which describes the expectation of the people, and relates the Messianic prophecy of John. The expression ἅπαντα τὸν λαόν , all the people, Luke 3:21, recalls the crowds and popular feeling described in Luke 3:15. But Meyer is evidently wrong in seeing in these words, “When all the people were baptized,” a proof that all this crowd was present at the baptism of Jesus. The term all the people, in such a connection, would be a strange exaggeration. Luke merely means to indicate the general agreement in time between this movement and the baptism of Jesus; and the expression he uses need not in any way prevent our thinking that Jesus was alone, or almost alone, with the forerunner, when the latter baptized Him. Further, it is highly probable that He would choose a time when the transaction might take place in this manner. But the turn of expression, ἐν τῷ βαπτισθῆναι , expresses more than the simultaneousness of the two facts; it places them in moral connection with each other. In being baptized, Jesus surrenders Himself to the movement which at this time was drawing all the people towards God. Had He acted otherwise, would He not have broken the bond of solidarity which He had contracted, by circumcision, with Israel, and by the incarnation, with all mankind? So far from being relaxed, this bond is to be drawn closer, until at last it involve Him who has entered into it in the full participation of our condemnation and death. This relation of the baptism of the nation to that of Jesus explains also the singular turn of expression which Luke makes use of in mentioning the fact of the baptism. This act, which one would have thought would have been the very pith of the narrative, is indicated by means of a simple participle, and in quite an incidental way: “When all the people were baptized, Jesus also being baptized, and praying...” Luke appears to mean that, granted the national baptism, that of Jesus follows as a matter of course. It is the moral consequence of the former. This turn of thought is not without its importance in explaining the fact which we are now considering.
Luke adds here a detail which is peculiar to him, and which serves to place the miraculous phenomena which follow in their true light. At the time when Jesus, having been baptized, went up out of the water, He was in prayer. The extraordinary manifestations about to be related thus become God's answer to the prayer of Jesus, in which the sighs of His people and of mankind found utterance. The earth is thirsty for the rain of heaven. The Spirit will descend on Him who knows how to ask it effectually; and it will be His office to impart it to all the rest. If, afterwards, we hear Him saying ( Luk 11:9 ), “ Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you,” we know from what personal experience He derived this precept: at the Jordan He Himself first asked and received, sought and found, knocked and it was opened to Him.
The heavenly manifestation.
Luke assigns these miraculous facts to the domain of objective reality: the heavens opened, the Spirit descended. Mark makes them a personal intuition of Jesus: And coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit descending ( Luk 1:10 ). Matthew corresponds with Mark; for Bleek is altogether wrong in maintaining that this evangelist makes the whole scene a vision of John the Baptist. The text does not allow of the two verbs, He went up and He saw, which follow each other so closely ( Mat 3:16 ), having two different subjects. Bleek alleges the narrative of the fourth Gospel, where also the forerunner speaks merely of what he saw himself. But that is natural; for in that passage his object was, not to relate the fact, but simply to justify the testimony which he had just borne. For this purpose he could only mention what he had seen himself. No inference can be drawn from this as to the fact itself, and its relation to Jesus, the other witness. Speaking generally, the scene of the baptism does not fall within the horizon of the fourth Gospel, which starts from a point of time six weeks after this event took place. Keim has no better ground than this for asserting that the accounts of the Syn. on this subject are contradictory to that of John, because the former attribute an external reality to these miraculous phenomena, while the latter treats them as a simple vision of the forerunner, and even, according to him, excludes the reality of the baptism. The true relation of these accounts to each other is this: According to the fourth Gospel, John saw; according to the first and second, Jesus saw. Now, as two persons can hardly be under an hallucination at the same time and in the same manner, this double perception supposes a reality, and this reality is affirmed by Luke: And it came to pass, that...
The divine manifestation comprises three internal facts, and three corresponding sensible phenomena. The three former are the divine communication itself; the three latter are the manifestation of this communication to the consciousness of Jesus and of John. Jesus was a true man, consisting, that is, at once of body and soul. In order, therefore, to take complete possession of Him, God had to speak at once to His outward and inward sense. As to John, he shared, as an official witness of the spiritual fact, the sensible impression which accompanied this communication from on high to the mind of Jesus. The first phenomenon is the opening of the heavens. While Jesus is praying, with His eyes fixed on high, the vault of heaven is rent before His gaze, and His glance penetrates the abode of eternal light. The spiritual fact contained under this sensible phenomenon is the perfect understanding accorded to Jesus of God's plan in the work of salvation. The treasures of divine wisdom are opened to Him, and He may thenceforth obtain at any hour the particular enlightenment He may need. The meaning of this first phenomenon is therefore perfect revelation.
From the measureless heights of heaven above, thus laid open to His gaze, Jesus sees descend a luminous appearance, having the form of a dove. This emblem is taken from a natural symbolism. The fertilizing and persevering incubation of the dove is an admirable type of the life-giving energy whereby the Holy Spirit developes in the human soul the germs of a new life. It is in this way that the new creation, deposited with all its powers in the soul of Jesus, is to extend itself around Him, under the influence of this creative principle ( Gen 1:2 ). By the organic form which invests the luminous ray, the Holy Spirit is here presented in its absolute totality. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit appears under the form of divided ( διαμεριζόμεναι ) tongues of fire, emblems of special gifts, of particular χαρίσματα , shared among the disciples. But in the baptism of Jesus it is not a portion only, it is the fulness of the Spirit which is given. This idea could only be expressed by a symbol taken from organic life. John the Baptist understood this emblem: “For God giveth not,” he says ( Joh 3:34 ), “the Spirit by measure unto Him.” The vibration of the luminous ray on the head of Jesus, like the fluttering of the wings of a dove, denotes the permanence of the gift. “I saw,” says John the Baptist ( Joh 1:32 ), “the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon Him. ” This luminous appearance, then, represents an inspiration which is neither partial as that of the faithful, nor intermittent as that of the prophets perfect inspiration.
The third phenomenon, that of the divine voice, represents a still more intimate and personal communication. Nothing is a more direct emanation from the personal life than speech, the voice. The voice of God resounds in the ear and heart of Jesus, and reveals to Him all that He is to God the Being most tenderly beloved, beloved as a father's only son; and consequently all that He is called to be to the world the organ of divine love to men, He whose mission it is to raise His brethren to the dignity of sons.
According to Luke, and probably Mark also (in conformity with the reading admitted by Tischendorf), the divine declaration is addressed to Jesus: “ Thou art my Son...; in Thee I am...” In Matthew it has the form of a testimony addressed to a third party touching Jesus: “ This is my Son... in whom...” The first form is that in which God spoke to Jesus; the second, that in which John became conscious of the divine manifestation. This difference attests that the two accounts are derived from different sources, and that the writings in which they are preserved are independent of each other. What writer would have deliberately changed the form of a saying which he attributed to God Himself?
The pronoun σύ , Thou, as well as the predicate ἀγαπητος , with the article, the well-beloved, invest this filial relation with a character that is altogether unique; comp. Luke 10:22. From this moment Jesus must have felt Himself the supreme object of the love of the infinite God. The unspeakable blessedness with which such an assurance could not fail to fill Him was the source of the witness He bore concerning Himself, a witness borne not for His own glory, but with a view to reveal to the world the love wherewith God loves those to whom He imparts such a gift. From this moment dates the birth of that unique consciousness Jesus had of God as His own Father, the rising of that radiant sun which henceforth illuminates His life, and which since Pentecost has risen upon mankind. Just as, by the instrumentality of His Word and Spirit, God communicates to believers, when the hour has come, the certainty of their adoption, so answering both inwardly and outwardly the prayer of Jesus, He raises Him in His human consciousness to a sense of His dignity as the only-begotten Son. It is on the strength of this revelation that John, who shared it, says afterwards, “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hands” ( Joh 3:35 ). The absence of the title Christ in the divine salutation is remarkable. We see that the principal fact in the development of the consciousness of Jesus was not the feeling of His Messianic dignity, but of His close and personal relation with God (comp. already Luk 2:49 ), and of His divine origin. On that alone was based His conviction of His Messianic mission. The religious fact was first; the official part was only its corollary. M. Renan has reversed this relation, and it is the capital defect of his work.
The quotation of the words of Psalms 2:0, “ To-day have I begotten Thee,” which Justin introduces into the divine salutation, is only supported by D. and some Mss. of the Italic. It contrasts with the simplicity of the narrative. God does not quote Himself textually in this way! The Cantabrigiensis swarms with similar interpolations which have not the slightest critical value. It is easy to understand how this quotation, affixed at an early period as a marginal gloss, should have found its way into the text of some documents; but it would be difficult to account for its suppression in such a large number of others, had it originally formed part of the text. Justin furnishes, besides, in this very narrative of the baptism, several apocryphal additions.
By means of a perfect revelation, Jesus contemplates the plan of God. Perfect inspiration gives Him strength to realize it. From the consciousness of His dignity as Son He derives the assurance of His being the supreme ambassador of God, called to accomplish this task. These were the positive conditions of His ministry.
The Baptism of Jesus.
We shall examine 1 st. The baptism itself; 2 d. The marvellous circumstances which accompanied it; 3 d. The different accounts of this fact.
1 st. The Meaning of the Baptism.
Here two closely connected questions present themselves: What was the object of Jesus in seeking baptism? What took place within Him when the rite was performed?
To the former question Strauss boldly replies: The baptism of Jesus was an avowal on His part of defilement, and a means of obtaining divine pardon. This explanation contradicts all the declarations of Jesus respecting Himself. If there is any one feature that marks His life, and completely separates it from all others, it is the entire absence of remorse and of the need of personal forgiveness.
According to Schleiermacher, Jesus desired to endorse the preaching of John, and obtain from him consecration to His Messianic ministry. But there had been no relation indicated beforehand between the baptism of water and the mission of the Messiah, nor was any such known to the people; and since baptism was generally understood as a confession of defilement, it would rather appear incompatible with this supreme theocratic dignity.
Weizsäcker, Keim, and others see in it a personal engagement on the part of Jesus to consecrate Himself to the service of holiness. This is just the previous opinion shorn of the Messianic notion, since these writers shrink from attributing to Jesus, thus early, a fixed idea of His Messianic dignity. It is certain that baptism was a vow of moral purity on the part of him who submitted to it. But the form of the rite implies not only the notion of progress in holiness, but also that of the removal of actual defilement; which is incompatible with the idea which these authors have themselves formed of the person of Jesus.
Lange sees in this act the indication of Jesus' guiltless participation in the collective defilement of mankind, by virtue of the solidarity of the race, and a voluntary engagement to deliver Himself up to death for the salvation of the world. This idea contains substantially the truth. We would express it thus: In presenting Himself for baptism, Jesus had to make, as others did, His ἐξομολόγησις , His confession of sins. Of what sins, if not of those of His people and of the world in general? He placed before John a striking picture of them, not with that pride and scorn with which the Jews spoke of the sins of the heathen, and the Pharisees of the sins of the publicans, but with the humble and compassionate tones of an Isaiah (Isaiah 63:0), a Daniel (Daniel 9:0), or a Nehemiah (Nehemiah 9:0), when they confessed the miseries of their people, as if the burden were their own. He could not have gone down into the water after such an act of communion with our misery, unless resolved to give Himself up entirely to the work of putting an end to the reign of sin. But He did not content Himself with making a vow. He prayed, the text tells us; He besought God for all that He needed for the accomplishment of this great task, to take away the sin of the world. He asked for wisdom, for spiritual strength, and particularly for the solution of the mystery which family records, the Scriptures, and His own holiness had created about His person. We can under stand how John, after hearing Him confess and pray thus, should say, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!” This is what Jesus did by presenting Himself for baptism.
What took place within Him during the performance of the rite? According to Schleiermacher, nothing at all. He knew that He was the Messiah, and, by virtue of His previous development, He already possessed every qualification for His work. John, His forerunner, was merely apprised of his vocation, and rendered capable of proclaiming it. Weizsäcker, Keim, and others admit something more. Jesus became at this time conscious of His redemptive mission. It was on the banks of the Jordan that the grand resolve was formed; there Jesus felt Himself at once the man of God and the man of His age; there John silently shared in His solemn vow; and there the “God wills it” sounded through these two elect souls. Lastly, Gess and several others think they must admit, besides a communication of strength from above, the gift of the Holy Spirit, but solely as a spirit of ministry, in view of the charge He was about to fulfil. These ideas, although just, are insufficient. The texts are clear. If Jesus was revealed to John, it was because He was revealed to Himself; and this revelation could not have taken place without being accompanied by a new gift. This gift could not refer to His work simply; for in an existence such as His, in which all was spirit and life, it was impossible to make a mechanical separation between work and life. The exercise of the functions of His office was an emanation from His life, and in some respects the atmosphere of His very personality. His entrance upon the duties of His office must therefore have coincided with an advance in the development of His personal life. Does not the power of giving imply possession in a different sense from that which holds when this power is as yet unexercised? Further, our documents, accepting the humanity of Jesus more thoroughly than our boldest theologians, overstep the bounds at which they stop. According to them, Jesus really received, not certainly as Certinthus, going beyond the limits of truth, taught, a heavenly Christ who came and united Himself to him for a time, but the Holy Spirit, in the full meaning of the term, by which Jesus became the Lord's anointed, the Christ, the perfect man, the second Adam, capable of begetting a new spiritual humanity. This Spirit no longer acted on Him simply, on His will, as it had done from the beginning; it became His proper nature, His personal life. No mention is ever made of the action of the Holy Spirit on Jesus during the course of His ministry. Jesus was more and better than inspired. Through the Spirit, whose life became His life, God was in Him, and He in God. In order to His being completely glorified as man, there remained but one thing more, that His earthly existence be transformed into the divine state. His transfiguration was the prelude to this transformation. In the development of Jesus, the baptism is therefore the intermediate point between the miraculous birth and the ascension.
But objections are raised against this biblical notion of the baptism of Jesus. Keim maintains that, since Jesus already possessed the Spirit through the divine influence which sanctified His birth, He could not receive it in His baptism. But would he deny that, if there is one act in human life which is free, it is the acquisition of the Spirit? The Spirit's influence is too much of the nature of fellowship to force itself on any one. It must be desired and sought in order to be received; and for it to be desired and sought, it must be in some measure known. Jesus declares ( Joh 14:17 ), “that the world cannot receive the Holy Spirit, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him.” The possession of the Spirit cannot therefore be the starting-point of moral life; it can only be the term of a more or less lengthened development of the soul's life. The human soul was created as the betrothed of the Spirit; and for the marriage to be consummated, the soul must have beheld her heavenly spouse, and learnt to love Him and accept Him freely. This state of energetic and active receptivity, the condition of every Pentecost, was that of Jesus at His baptism. It was the fruit of His previous pure development, which had simply been rendered possible by the interposition of the Holy Spirit in His birth (p. 94).
Again, it is said that it lessens the moral greatness of Jesus to substitute a sudden and magical illumination, like that of the baptism, for that free acquisition of the Spirit, that spontaneous discovery and conquest of self which are due solely to personal endeavour.
But when God gives a soul the inward assurance of adoption, and reveals to it, as to Jesus at His baptism, the love He has for it, does this gift exclude previous endeavour, moral struggles, even anguish often bordering on despair? No; so far from grace excluding human preparatory labour, it would remain barren without it, just as the human labour would issue in nothing apart from the divine gift. Every schoolmaster has observed marked stages in the development of children, crises in which past growth has found an end, and from which an entirely new era has taken its date. There is nothing, therefore, out of harmony with the laws of psychology in this apparently abrupt leap which the baptism makes in the life of Jesus.
2 d. The Miraculous Circumstances.
Keim denies them altogether. Everything in the baptism, according to him, resolves itself into a heroic decision on the part of Jesus to undertake the salvation of the world. He alleges 1. The numerous differences between the narratives, particularly between that of John and those of the Syn. This objection rests on misapprehensions (see above). 2. The legendary character of the prodigies related. But here one of two things must be true. Either our narratives of the baptism are the reproduction of the original evangelical tradition circulated by the apostles ( Luk 1:2 ), and repeated during many years under their eyes; and in this case, how could they contain statements positively false? Or these accounts are legends of later invention; but if so, how is their all but literal agreement to be accounted for, and the well-defined and fixed type which they exhibit? 3. The internal struggles of Jesus and the doubts of John the Baptist, mentioned in the subsequent history, are not reconcilable with this supernatural revelation, which, according to these accounts, both must have received at the time of the baptism. But it is impossible to instance a single struggle in the ministry of Jesus respecting the reality of His mission; it is to pervert the meaning of the conversation at Caesarea Philippi (see Luk 9:18 et seq.), and of the prayer in Gethsemane, to find such a meaning in them. And as to the doubts of John the Baptist, they certainly did not respect the origin of the mission of Jesus, since it is to none other than Jesus Himself that John applies for their solution, but solely to the nature of this mission. The unostentatious and peaceful pro gress of the work of Jesus, His miracles purely of mercy (“ having heard of the works of Christ,” Mat 11:2 ), contrasted so forcibly with the terrible Messianic judgment which he had announced as imminent (Luke 3:9; Luk 3:17 ), that he was led to ask himself whether, in accordance with a prevalent opinion of Jewish theology, Jesus was not the messenger of grace, the instrument of salvation; whilst another, a second ( ἕτερος , Mat 11:3 ), to come after Him, would be the agent of divine judgment, and the temporal restorer of the people purified from every corruption. John's doubt therefore respects, not the divinity of Jesus' mission, but the exclusive character of His Messianic dignity. 4. It is asked why John, if he believed in Jesus, did not from the hour of the baptism immediately take his place among His adherents? But had he not a permanent duty to fulfil in regard to Israel? Was he not to continue to act as a mediating agent between this people and Jesus? To abandon his special position, distinct as it was from that of Jesus, in order to rank himself amongst His disciples, would have been to desert his official post, and to cease to be a mediator for Israel between them and their King.
We cannot imagine for a moment, especially looking at the matter from a Jewish point of view, according to which every holy mission proceeds from above, that Jesus would determine to undertake the unheard-of task of the salvation of the world and of the destruction of sin and death, and that John could share this determination, and proclaim it in God's name a heavenly mission, without some positive sign, some sensible manifestation of the divine will. Jesus, says Keim, is not a man of visions; He needs no such signs; there is no need of a dove between God and Him. Has Keim, then, forgotten the real humanity of Jesus? That there were no visions during the course of His ministry, we concede; there was no room for ecstasy in a man whose inward life was henceforth that of the Spirit Himself. But that there had been none in His preceding life up to the very threshold of this new state, is more than any one can assert. Jesus lived over again, if we may venture to say so, the whole life of humanity and the whole life of Israel, so far as these two lives were of a normal character; and this was how it was that He so well understood them. Why should not the preparatory educational method of which God made such frequent use under the old covenant, the vision, have had its place in His inward development, before He reached, physically and spiritually, the stature of complete manhood?
3 d. The Narratives of the Baptism.
Before we pronounce an opinion on the origin of our synoptical narratives, it is important to compare the apocryphal narrations. In the Gospel of the Nazarenes, which Jerome had translated, the mother and brethren of Jesus invite Him to go and be baptized by John. He answers: “Wherein have I sinned, and why should I go to be baptized by him, unless, perhaps, this speech which I have just uttered be [a sin of] ignorance?” Afterwards, a heavenly voice addresses these words to Him: “My Son, in all the prophets I have waited for Thy coming, in order to take my rest in Thee: for it is Thou who art my rest; Thou art my first-born Son, and Thou shalt reign eternally.”
In the Preaching of Paul, Jesus actually confesses His sins to John the Baptist, just as all the others.
In the Ebionitish recension of the Gospel of the Hebrews, cited by Epiphanius, a great light surrounds the place where Jesus has just been baptized: then the plenitude of the Holy Spirit enters into Jesus under the form of a dove, and a divine voice says to Him: “Thou art my well-beloved Son; on Thee I have bestowed my good pleasure.” It resumes: “To-day have I begotten Thee.” In this Gospel also, the dialogue between Jesus and John, which Matthew relates before the baptism, is placed after it. John, after having seen the miraculous signs, says to Jesus, “Who then art Thou?” The divine voice replies, “This is my beloved Son, on whom I have bestowed my good pleasure.” John falls at His feet, and says to Him, “Baptize me!” and Jesus answers him, “Cease from that.”
Justin Martyr relates, that when Jesus had gone down into the water, a fire blazed up in the Jordan; next, that when He came out of the water, the Holy Spirit, like a dove, descended upon Him; lastly, that when He had ascended from the river, the voice said to Him, “Thou art my Son; to-day have I begotten Thee.”
Who cannot feel the difference between prodigies of this kind between these theological and amplified discourses attributed to God and the holy sobriety of our biblical narratives? The latter are the text; the apocryphal writings give the human paraphrase.
The comparison of these two kinds of narrative proves that the type of the apostolic tradition has been preserved pure, as the impress of a medal, in the common tenor of our synoptical narratives.
As to the difference between these narratives, they are not without importance. The principal differences are these: Matthew has, over and above the two others, the dialogue between Jesus and John which preceded the baptism, and which was only a continuation of the act of confession which Jesus had just made. The Ebionite Gospel places it after, because it did not understand this connection. The prayer of Jesus is peculiar to Luke, and he differs from the other two in the remarkable turn of the participle applied to the fact of the baptism of Jesus, and in the more objective form in which the miraculous facts are mentioned. Mark differs from the others only in the form of certain phrases, and in the expression, “He saw the heavens open. ” Holtzmann derives the accounts of Matthew and Luke from that of the alleged original Mark, which was very nearly an exact fac-simile of our canonical Mark. But whence did the other two derive what is peculiar to them? Not from their imagination, for an earnest writer does not treat a subject which he regards as sacred in this way. Either, then, from a document or from tradition? But this document or tradition could not contain merely the detail peculiar to each evangelist; the detail implies the complete narrative. If the evangelist drew the detail from it, he most probably took from it the narrative also. Whence it seems to us to follow, that at the basis of our Syn. we must place certain documents or oral narrations, emanating from the primitive tradition (in this way their common general tenor is explained), but differing in some details, either because in the oral tradition the secondary features of the narrative naturally underwent some modification, or because the private documents underwent some alterations, owing to additional oral information, or to writings which might be accessible.
Third Narrative: The Genealogy of Jesus, Luke 3:23-38 .
In the first Gospel the genealogy of Jesus is placed at the very beginning of the narrative. This is easily explained. From the point of view indicated by theocratic forms, scriptural antecedents, and, if we may so express it, Jewish etiquette, the Messiah was to be a descendant of David and Abraham ( Mat 1:1 ). This relationship was the sine quâ non of His civil status. It is not so easy to understand why Luke thought he must give the genealogy of Jesus, and why he places it just here, between the baptism and the temptation. Perhaps, if we bear in mind the obscurity in which, to the Greeks, the origin of mankind was hidden, and the absurd fables current among them about autochthonic nations, we shall see how interesting any document would be to them, which, following the track of actual names, went back to the first father of the race. Luke's intention would thus be very nearly the same as Paul's when he said at Athens ( Act 17:26 ), “ God hath made of one blood the whole human race. ” But from a strictly religious point of view, this genealogy possessed still greater importance. In carrying it back not only, as Matthew does, as far as Abraham, but even to Adam, Luke lays the foundation of that universality of redemption which is to be one of the characteristic features of the picture he is about to draw. In this way he places in close and indissoluble connection the imperfect image of God created in Adam, which reappears in every man, and His perfect image realized in Christ, which is to be reproduced in all men.
But why does Luke place this document here? Holtzmann replies (p. 112), “because hitherto there had been no suitable place for it.” This answer harmonizes very well with the process of fabrication, by means of which this scholar thinks the composition of the Syn. may be accounted for. But why did this particular place appear more suitable to the evangelist than another? This is what has to be explained. Luke himself puts us on the right track by the first words of Luke 3:23. By giving prominence to the person of Jesus in the use of the pronoun αὐτός , He, which opens the sentence, by the addition of the name Jesus, and above all, by the verb ἦν which separates this pronoun and this substantive, and sets them both in relief (“ and Himself was, He, Jesus...”), Luke indicates this as the moment when Jesus enters personally on the scene to commence His proper work. With the baptism, the obscurity in which He has lived until now passes away; He now appears detached from the circle of persons who have hitherto surrounded Him and acted as His patrons; namely, His parents and the forerunner. He henceforth becomes the He, the principal personage of the narrative. This is the moment which very properly appears to the author most suitable for giving His genealogy. The genealogy of Moses, in the Exodus, is placed in the same way, not at the opening of his biography, but at the moment when he appears on the stage of history, when he presents himself before Pharaoh ( Luk 6:14 et seq.).
In crossing the threshold of this new era, the sacred historian casts a general glance over the period which thus reaches its close, and sums it up in this document, which might be called the mortuary register of the earlier humanity.
There is further a difference of form between the two genealogies. Matthew comes down, whilst Luke ascends the stream of generations. Perhaps this difference of method depends on the difference of religious position between the Jews and the Greeks. The Jew, finding the basis of his thought in a revelation, proceeds synthetically from cause to effect; the Greek, possessing nothing beyond the fact, analyzes it, that he may proceed from effect to cause. But this difference depends more probably still on another circumstance. Every official genealogical register must present the descending form; for individuals are only inscribed in it as they are born. The ascending form of genealogy can only be that of a private instrument, drawn up from the public document with a view to the particular individual whose name serves as the starting-point of the whole list. It follows that in Matthew we have the exact copy of the official register; while Luke gives us a document extracted from the public records, and compiled with a view to the person with whom the genealogy commences.
Ver. 23 is at once the transition and preamble; Luk 3:24-38 contain the genealogy itself. 1 st. Luke 3:23.
The exact translation of this important and difficult verse is this: “ And Himself, Jesus, was [aged] about thirty years when He began [or, if the term may be employed here, made His début ], being a son, as was believed, of Joseph. ”
The expression to begin can only refer in this passage to the entrance of Jesus upon His Messianic work. This idea is in direct connection with the context (baptism, temptation), and particularly with the first words of the verse. Having fully become He, Jesus begins. We must take care not to connect ἀρχόμενος and ἦν as parts of a single verb ( was beginning for began). For ἦν has a complement of its own, of thirty years; it therefore signifies here, was of the age of. Some have tried to make τριάκοντα ἔτων depend on ἀρχόμενος , He began His thirtieth year; and it is perhaps owing to this interpretation that we find this participle placed first in the Alex. But for this sense, τριακοστοῦ ἔτους would have been necessary; and the limitation about cannot have reference to the commencement of the year. (On the agreement of this chronological fact with the date, Luke 3:1, see p. 166.)
We have already observed that the age of thirty is that of the greatest physical and psychical strength, the ἀκμη of natural life. It was the age at which, among the Jews, the Levites entered upon their duties (Numbers 4:3; Num 4:23 ), and when, among the Greeks, a young man began to take part in public affairs.
The participle ὤν , being, makes a strange impression, not only because it is purely and simply in juxtaposition with ἀρχόμενος ( beginning, being), and depends on ἦν , the very verb of which it is a part, but still more because its connection with the latter verb cannot be explained by any of the three logical relations by which a participle is connected with a completed verb, when, because, or although. What relation of simultaneousness, causality, or opposition, could there be between the filiation of Jesus and the age at which He had arrived? This incoherence is a clear indication that the evangelist has with some difficulty effected a soldering of two documents, that which he has hitherto followed, and which for the moment he abandons, and the genealogical register which he wishes to insert in this place.
With the participle ὤν , being, there begins then a transition which we owe to the pen of Luke. How far does it extend, and where does the genealogical register properly begin? This is a nice and important question. We have only a hint for its solution. This is the absence of the article τοῦ , the, before the name Joseph. This word is found before all the names belonging to the genealogical series. In the genealogy of Matthew, the article τόν is put in the same way before each proper name, which clearly proves that it was the ordinary form in vogue in this kind of document. The two MSS. H. and I. read, it is true, τοῦ before ᾿Ιωσήφ . But since these unimportant MSS. are unsupported by their ally the Vatican, to which formerly the same reading was erroneously attributed (see Tischend. 8th ed.), this various reading has no longer any weight. On the one hand, it is easily explained as an imitation of the following terms of the genealogy; on the other, we could not conceive of the suppression of the article in all the most ancient documents, if it had originally belonged to the text. This want of the article puts the name Joseph outside the genealogical series properly so called, and assigns to it a peculiar position. We must conclude from it 1 st. That this name belongs rather to the sentence introduced by Luke 2:0 d. That the genealogical document which he consulted began with the name of Heli; 3 d. And consequently, that this piece was not originally the genealogy of Jesus or of Joseph, but of Heli.
There is a second question to determine: whether we should prefer the Alexandrine reading, “ being a son, as it was believed, of Joseph; ” or the Byzantine text, “ being, us it was believed, a son of Joseph. ” There is internal probability that the copyists would rather have been drawn to connect the words son and Joseph, in order to restore the phrase frequently employed in the Gospels, son of Joseph, than to separate them. This observation appears to decide for the Alexandrine text.
It is of importance next to determine the exact meaning of the τοῦ which precedes each of the genealogical names. Thus far we have supposed this word to be the article, and this is the natural interpretation. But we might give it the force of a pronoun, he, the one, and translate: “Joseph, he [the son] of Heli; Heli, he [the son] of Matthat,” etc. Thus understood, the τοῦ would each time be in apposition with the preceding name, and would have the following name for its complement. But this explanation cannot be maintained; for 1 st. It cannot be applied to the last term τοῦ Θεοῦ , in which τοῦ is evidently an article; 2 d. The recurrence of τόν in the genealogy of Matthew proves that the article belonged to the terminology of these documents; 3 d. The τοῦ thus understood would imply an intention to distinguish the individual to which it refers from some other person bearing the same name, but not having the same father, “Heli, the one of Matthat, [and not one of another father];” which could not be the design of the genealogist. The τοῦ is therefore undoubtedly an article. But, admitting this, we may still hesitate between two interpretations, we may subordinate each genitive to the preceding name, as is ordinarily done: “Heli, son of Matthat, [which Matthat was a son] of Levi, [which Levi was a son] of...;” or, as Wieseler proposed, we may co-ordinate all the genitives, so as to make each of them depend directly on the word son placed at the head of the entire series: “Jesus, son of Heli; [Jesus, son] of Matthat...” So that, according to the Jewish usage, which permitted a grandson to be called the son of his grandfather, Jesus would be called the son of each of His ancestors in succession. This interpretation would not be, in itself, so forced as Bleek maintains. But nevertheless the former is preferable, for it alone really expresses the notion of a succession of generations, which is the ruling idea of every genealogy. The genitives in Luke merely supply the place of ἐγέννησε , as repeated in the original document, of which Matthew gives us the text.
Besides, we do not think that it would be necessary to supply, between each link in the genealogical chain, the term υἱοῦ , son of, as an apposition of the preceding name. Each genitive is also the complement of the name which precedes it. The idea of filiation resides in the grammatical case. We have the genitive here in its essence.
There remains, lastly, the still more important question: On what does the genitive τοῦ ῾Ηλί ( of Heli) precisely depend? On the name ᾿Ιωσήφ which immediately precedes it? This would be in conformity with the analogy of all the other genitives, which, as we have just proved, depend each on the preceding name. Thus Heli would have been the father of Joseph, and the genealogy of Luke, as well as that of Matthew, would be the genealogy of Jesus through Joseph. In that case we should have to explain how the two documents could be so totally different. But this view is incompatible with the absence of the article before Joseph. If the name ᾿Ιωσήφ had been intended by Luke to be the basis of the entire genealogical series, it would have been fixed and determined by the article with much greater reason certainly than the names that follow. The genitive τοῦ ῾Ηλί , of Heli, depends therefore not on Joseph, but on the word son. This construction is not possible, it is true, with the received reading, in which the words son and Joseph form a single phrase, son of Joseph. The word son cannot be separated from the word it immediately governs: Joseph, to receive a second and more distant complement. With this reading, the only thing left to us is to make τοῦ ῾Ηλί depend on the participle ὤν : “Jesus... being...[born] of Heli. ” An antithesis might be found between the real fact ( ὤν , being) and the apparent ( ἐνομίζετο , as was thought): “being, as was thought, a son of Joseph, [in reality] born of Heli.” But can the word ὤν signify both to be (in the sense of the verb substantive) and to be born of? Everything becomes much more simple if we assume the Alex. reading, which on other grounds has already appeared to us the more probable. The word son, separated as it is from its first complement, of Joseph, by the words as was thought, may very well have a second, of Heli. The first is only noticed in passing, and in order to be denied in the very mention of it: “Son, as was thought, of Joseph.” The official information being thus disavowed, Luke, by means of the second complement, substitutes for it the truth, of Heli; and this name he distinguishes, by means of the article, as the first link of the genealogical chain properly so called. The text, therefore, to express the author's meaning clearly, should be written thus: “being a son as was thought, of Joseph of Heli, of Matthat...” Bleek has put the words ὡς ἐνομίζετο into a parenthesis, and rightly; only he should have added to them the word ᾿Ιωσήφ .
This study of the text in detail leads us in this way to admit 1. That the genealogical register of Luke is that of Heli, the grandfather of Jesus; 2. That, this affiliation of Jesus by Heli being expressly opposed to His affiliation by Joseph, the document which he has preserved for us can be nothing else in his view than the genealogy of Jesus through Mary. But why does not Luke name Mary, and why pass immediately from Jesus to His grandfather? Ancient sentiment did not comport with the mention of the mother as the genealogical link. Among the Greeks a man was the son of his father, not of his mother; and among the Jews the adage was: “ Genus matris non vocatur genus ” ( Baba bathra, 110, a). In lieu of this, it is not uncommon to find in the O. T. the grandson called the son of his grandfather.
If there were any circumstances in which this usage was applicable, would not the wholly exceptional case with which Luke was dealing be such? There was only one way of filling up the hiatus, resulting from the absence of the father, between the grandfather and his grandson; namely, to introduce the name of the presumed father, noting at the same time the falseness of this opinion. It is remarkable that, in the Talmud, Mary the mother of Jesus is called the daughter of Heli ( Chagig. 77. 4). From whence have Jewish scholars derived this information? If from the text of Luke, this proves that they understood it as we do; if they received it from tradition, it confirms the truth of the genealogical document Luke made use of.
If this explanation be rejected, it must be admitted that Luke as well as Matthew gives us the genealogy of Joseph. The difficulties to be encountered in this direction are these: 1. The absence of τοῦ before the name ᾿Ιωσήφ , and before this name alone, is not accounted for. 2. We are met by an all but insoluble contradiction between the two evangelists, the one indicating Heli as the father of Joseph, the other Jacob, which leads to two series of names wholly different. We might, it is true, have recourse to the following hypothesis proposed by Julius Africanus (third century): Heli and Jacob were brothers; one of them died without children; the survivor, in conformity with the law, married his widow, and the first-born of this union, Joseph, was registered as a son of the deceased. In this way Joseph would have had two fathers, one real, the other legal. But this hypothesis is not sufficient; a second is needed. For if Heli and Jacob were brothers, they must have had the same father; and the two genealogies should coincide on reaching the name of the grandfather of Joseph, which is not the case. It is supposed, therefore, that they were brothers on the mother's side only, which explains both the difference of the fathers and that of the entire genealogies. This superstructure of coincidences is not absolutely inadmissible, but no one can think it natural. We should be reduced, then, to admit an absolute contradiction between the two evangelists. But can it be supposed that both or either of them could have been capable of fabricating such a register, heaping name upon name quite arbitrarily, and at the mere pleasure of their caprice? Who could credit a proceeding so absurd, and that in two genealogies, one of which sets out from Abraham, the venerated ancestor of the people, the other terminating in God Himself! All these names must have been taken from documents. But is it possible in this case to admit, in one or both of these writers, an entire mistake? 3. It is not only with Matthew that Luke would be in contradiction, but with himself. He admits the miraculous birth (chap. 1 and 2). It is conceivable that, from the theocratic point of view which Matthew takes, a certain interest might, even on this supposition, be assigned to the genealogy of Joseph, as the adoptive, legal father of the Messiah. But that Luke, to whom this official point of view was altogether foreign, should have handed down with so much care this series of seventy-three names, after having severed the chain at the first link, as he does by the remark, as it was thought; that, further, he should give himself the trouble, after this, to develope the entire series, and finish at last with God Himself; this is a moral impossibility. What sensible man, Gfrörer has very properly asked (with a different design, it is true), could take pleasure in drawing up such a list of ancestors, after having declared that the relationship is destitute of all reality? Modern criticism has, last of all, been driven to the following hypothesis:
Matthew and Luke each found a genealogy of Jesus written from the Jewish-Christian standpoint: they were both different genealogies of Joseph; for amongst this party (which was no other than the primitive Church) he was without hesitation regarded as the father of Jesus. But at the time when these documents were published by the evangelists another theory already prevailed, that of the miraculous birth, which these two authors embraced. They published, therefore, their documents, adapting them as best they could to the new belief, just as Luke does by his as it was thought, and Matthew by the periphrasis Luke 1:16.
But, 1. We have pointed out that the opinion which attributes to the primitive apostolic Church the idea of the natural birth of Jesus rests upon no solid foundation. 2. A writer who speaks of apostolic tradition as Luke speaks of it, Luke 1:2, could not have knowingly put himself in opposition to it on a point of this importance. 3. If we advance no claim on behalf of the sacred writers to inspiration, we protest against whatever impeaches their good sense. The first evangelist, M. Reville maintains, did not even perceive the incompatibility between the theory of the miraculous birth and his genealogical document. As to Luke, this same author says: “The third perceives very clearly the contradiction; nevertheless he writes his history as if it did not exist. ” In other words, Matthew is more foolish than false, Luke more false than foolish. Criticism which is obliged to support itself by attributing to the sacred writers absurd methods, such as are found in no sensible writer, is self-condemned. There is not the smallest proof that the documents used by Matthew and Luke were of Jewish- Christian origin. On the contrary, it is very probable, since the facts all go to establish it, that they were simply copies of the official registers of the public tables (see below), referring, one to Joseph, the other to Heli, both consequently of Jewish origin. So far from there being any ground to regard them as monuments of a Christian conception differing from that of the evangelists, it is these authors, or those who transmitted them to them, who set upon them for the first time the Christian seal, by adding to them the part which refers to Jesus. 4. Lastly, after all, these two series of completely different names have in any case to be explained. Are they fictitious? Who can maintain this, when writers so evidently in earnest are concerned? Are they founded upon documents? How then could they differ so completely? This difficulty becomes greater still if it is maintained that these two different genealogies of Joseph proceed from the same ecclesiastical quarter from the Jewish-Christian party.
But have we sufficient proofs of the existence of genealogical registers among the Jews at this epoch? We have already referred to the public tables ( δέλτοι δημόσιαι ) from which Josephus had extracted his own genealogy: “I relate my genealogy as I find it recorded in the public tables.” The same Josephus, in his work, Contra Apion ( Luk 1:7 ), says: “From all the countries in which our priests are scattered abroad, they send to Jerusalem (in order to have their children entered) documents containing the names of their parents and ancestors, and countersigned by witnesses.” What was done for the priestly families could not fail to have been done with regard to the royal family, from which it was known that the Messiah was to spring. The same conclusion results also from the following facts. The famous Rabbi Hillel, who lived in the time of Jesus, succeeded in proving, by means of a genealogical table in existence at Jerusalem, that, although a poor man, he was a descendant of David. The line of descent in the different branches of the royal family was so well known, that even at the end of the first century of the Church, the grandsons of Jude, the brother of the Lord, had to appear at Rome as descendants of David, and undergo examination in the presence of Domitian. According to these facts, the existence of two genealogical documents relating, one to Joseph, the other to Heli, and preserved in their respective families, offers absolutely nothing at all improbable.
In comparing the two narratives of the infancy, we have been led to assign them to two different sources: that of Matthew appeared to us to emanate from the relations of Joseph; that of Luke from the circle of which Mary was the centre (p. 163). Something similar occurs again in regard to the two genealogies. That of Matthew, which has Joseph in view, must have proceeded from his family; that which Luke has transmitted to us, being that of Mary's father, must have come from this latter quarter. But it is manifest that this difference of production is connected with a moral cause. The meaning of one of the genealogies is certainly hereditary, Messianic; the meaning of the other is universal redemption. Hence, in the one, the relationship is through Joseph, the representative of the civil, national, theocratic side; in the other, the descent is through Mary, the organ of the real human relationship.
Was not Jesus at once to appear and to be the son of David? to appear such, through him whom the people regarded as His father; to be such, through her from whom He really derived His human existence? The two affiliations answered to these two requirements.
2 d. Luke 3:24-38.
And first, Luke 3:24-27: from Heli to the captivity. In this period Luke mentions 21 generations (up to Neri); only 19, if the various reading of Africanus be admitted; Matthew , 14. This last number is evidently too small for the length of the period. As Matthew omits in the period of the kings four well-known names of the O. T., it is probable that he takes the same course here, either through an involuntary omission, or for the sake of keeping to the number 14 ( Luk 1:17 ). This comparison should make us appreciate the exactness of Luke's register.
But how is it that the names Zorobabel and Salathiel occur, connected with each other in the same way, in both the genealogies? And how can Salathiel have Neri for his father in Luke, and in Matthew King Jechonias? Should these names be regarded as standing for different persons, as Wieseler thinks? This is not impossible. The Zorobabel and the Salathiel of Luke might be two unknown persons of the obscurer branch of the royal family descended from Nathan; the Zorobabel and the Salathiel of Matthew, the two well-known persons of the O. T. history, belonging to the reigning branch, the first a son, the second a grandson of King Jechonias (1 Chronicles 3:17; Ezra 3:2; Hag 1:1 ). This is the view which, after all, appears to Bleek most probable. It is open, however, to a serious objection from the fact that these two names, in the two lists, refer so exactly to the same period, since in both of them they are very nearly halfway between Jesus and David. If the identity of these persons in the two genealogies is admitted, the explanation must be found in 2 Kings 24:12, which proves that King Jechonias had no son at the time when he was carried into captivity. It is scarcely probable that he had one while in prison, where he remained shut up for thirty-eight years. He or they whom the passage 1Ch 3:17 assigns to him (which, besides, may be translated in three different ways) must be regarded as adopted sons or as sons-in-law; they would be spoken of as sons, because they would be unwilling to allow the reigning branch of the royal family to become extinct. Salathiel, the first of them, would thus have some other father than Jechonias; and this father would be Neri, of the Nathan branch, indicated by Luke. An alternative hypothesis has been proposed, founded on the Levirate law. Neri, as a relative of Jechonias, might have married one of the wives of the imprisoned king, in order to perpetuate the royal family; and the son of this union, Salathiel, would have been legally a son of Jechonias, but really a son of Neri. In any case, the numerous differences that are found in the statements of our historical books at this period prove that the catastrophe of the captivity brought considerable confusion into the registers or family traditions. Rhesa and Abiud, put down, the one by Luke, the other by Matthew, as sons of Zorobabel, are not mentioned in the O. T., according to which the sons of this restorer of Israel should have been Meshullam and Hananiah ( 1Ch 3:19 ). Bleek observes, that if the evangelists had fabricated their lists, they would naturally have made use of these two names that are furnished by the sacred text; therefore they have followed their documents.
From the captivity to David, 20 names. Matthew for the same period has only 14. But it is proved by the O. T. that he omits four; the number 20, in Luke, is a fresh proof of the accuracy of his document. On Nathan, son of David, comp. 2 Samuel 5:14, Zechariah 12:12. The passage in Zechariah proves that this branch was still flourishing after the return from the captivity. If Neri, the descendant of Nathan, was the real father of Salathiel, the adopted son or son-in-law of Jechonias, we should find here once more the characteristic of the two genealogies: in Matthew, the legal, official point of view; in Luke, the real, human point of view.
Vers. 32-34 a.
From David to Abraham. The two genealogies agree with each other, and with the O. T.
From Abraham to Adam. This part is peculiar to Luke. It is compiled evidently from the O. T., and according to the text of the LXX., with which it exactly coincides. The name Cainan, Luke 3:36, is only found in the LXX., and is wanting in the Heb. text (Genesis 10:24; Gen 11:12 ). This must be a very ancient variation.
The words, of God, with which it ends, are intended to inform us that it is not through ignorance that the genealogist stops at Adam, but because he has reached the end of the chain, perhaps also to remind us of the truth expressed by Paul at Athens: “We are the offspring of God.” The last word of the genealogy is connected with its starting-point ( Luk 3:22-23 ). If man were not the offspring of God, the incarnation ( Luk 3:22 ) would be impossible. God cannot say to a man: “Thou art my beloved son,” save on this ground, that humanity itself is His issue ( Luk 3:38 ).
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on Luke 3". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany