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Bible Commentaries

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Luke 3

Verse 1

Luke 3:1 . Ἐν ἔτει , in the year ) The most important of all epochs of the Church: Mark 1:1 (Comp. 1Ki 6:1 as to the epoch of the temple); with which also the thirtieth year of Christ is associated, Luke 3:23 . Here as it were the whole scene of the New Testament is thrown open. [The year 27 of the common era, verging towards autumn, was then in course of progress. Three years before the beginning of that era, Christ was born, and Herod died. V. g.] Not even the nativity of Christ, or His death, resurrection, and ascension, have their dates so precisely and definitively marked as this: ch. Luke 2:1 . Moreover the mode of marking the date is not taken from the Roman consuls, but from the emperors. Scripture is wont accurately to define the epochs of great events: this, in the case of the New Testament, is done in the present passage alone; and even for this reason alone, this book of Luke is a necessary part of the Scriptures of the New Testament. See Ord. Temp. , p. 219, etc. [Ed. ii. p. 191, etc.] Καίσαρος , Cæsar ) The Church has its existence [manifests itself externally] in the state [the commonwealth]: on this account, the epoch receives its denomination from the empire. [The first year of Tiberius , as Luke counts it, begins with the month Tisri of that Jewish year, in which Augustus died. It was in the same year as John that Jesus BEGAN, i.e. made a beginning of His public proceedings. Not. Crit .] καὶ , and ) Ituræa and the region of Trachonitis , beyond Jordan, form two tetrarchies. Αβιληνῆς , Abilene ) beyond the region of Trachonitis towards the north.

Verse 2

Luke 3:2 . Ἐπὶ ἀρχιερέως , under the High priesthood of, etc.) The singular number; which does not however prevent Caiaphas being included: see Acts 4:6 . Just as in genealogies the usual Hebrew mode of expression is Sons in the plural number, even though only one son follows, viz. because often there are wont to be more than one: ex. gr. 1 Chronicles 23:17 , “The sons of Eliezer were Rehabiah And Eliezer had none other Sons ,” etc.: So here High Priest is said in the singular number, although two men, Annas and Caiaphas , are named: (It is owing to this that the Gothic Version reads ἀρχιέρεων , which is also printed in some editions), for there was bound to be but one High priest, and the very ears were averse from the plural number. [34] [ ῬΗΜΑ ΘΕΟῦ , the word of God ) It was to this that the great effectiveness of John’s ministry was due. V. g.] ἐπὶ , upon John [Engl. Vers. not so well, unto John ]) immediately and directly [not through the mediation and instrumentality of others]. The same phrase occurs LXX. Jeremiah 1:1 [ τὸ ῥῆμα τοῦ Θεοῦἐγένετο ἐπὶ Ἱερεμίαν , “The word of God which came upon Jeremiah.”]

[34] Rec. Text has ἐπʼ ἀρχιερέων with ac Vulg. But ABCD b have ἐπὶ ἀρχιερέως ; and the canon, “Præstat ardua lectio procliviori,” favours the latter. ED. and TRANSL.

Verse 3

Luke 3:3 . Ἰορδάνου , Jordan ) a river suited for baptizing in. The kingdom of God in its onward course adapts itself to the place and the time.

Verse 4

Luke 3:4 . Ὡς , even as ) Repentance is described in Luke 3:4-5 , remission of sins is implied in Luke 3:6 . ἐν βιβλίῳ λόγων , in the book of the words ) The book of Isaiah consists of certain portions and sentences [orationibus], and as these were joined together, none could slip out and be lost. So the book of the Psalms , ch. Luke 20:4-6 . φωνὴ τρίβους αὐτοῦ τὰ σκολιὰ αἱ τραχεῖαι καὶ ὄψέται , κ . τ . λ .) Isaiah 40:3-5 ; The passage stands thus in the LXX. φωνὴ τρίβους τοῦ Θεοῦ ἡμῶν πάντα τὰ σκολιὰτραχεῖα εἰς πέδια καὶ ὀφθήσεταιδόξα Κυρίου , καἰ ὄψεται πᾶσα σὰρξ τὸ σωτήριον τοῦ Θεοῦ , ὅτι Κύριος ἐλάλησε , the voice the paths of our God all the crooked things the rough way made into plains and the glory of the Lord shall be seen, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God, because [or that ] the Lord hath spoken it .

Verse 5

Luke 3:5 . Φάραγξ , valley ) Where there is a hollow and void, which is for removed from true righteousness, as in the case of the publicans and soldiers: Luke 3:12 ; Luke 3:14 . ὄρος , mountain ) where there is a swelling [a tumid elevation] of human righteousness, or power, as in the case of Herod. βουνὸς , σκολιὰ , τραχεῖαι , a hill, the crooked places, the rough ways) Those things which are distorted [which have lost their due proportions and so are perverted]: I. as to depth and height, II. lengthwise, III. broadwise, shall be restored to their right places and proportions, and shall be made level. εἰς εὐθεῖαν , into a straight way ) Ὁδὸν , way , has been left to be understood in the LXX. and so presently after, and the rough , viz. ways .

Verse 6

Luke 3:6 . Καὶ ) and so. The Hebrew has, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see together, that the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it . ὄψεται , shall see ) now that there is no longer any inequality to keep a shadow still on the way, all parts alike being exposed to the light. τὸ σωτήριον τοῦ Θεοῦ , the way of salvation provided by God [ salutare Dei ]) i.e. the Messiah: ch. Luke 2:30 .

Verse 8

Luke 3:8 . Μὴ ἄρξησθε λέγειν , do not begin to say ) He cuts off by anticipation every even attempt at self-excuse.

Verse 10

Luke 3:10 . Τί οὖν ποιήσομεν ; what then shall we do? ) This is a characteristic mark of a soul, which is being converted, Acts 2:37 ; Acts 16:30 .

Verse 11

Luke 3:11 . Ὁ ἔχων , he who hath ) The people were inclined to avarice above all other faults. Therefore John gives them injunctions directly opposed to this sin, viz. injunctions respecting meat and raiment. The fruit of a thoroughly inward repentance [which, as well as the general testimony of John concerning the Christ, is taken for granted here. V. g.] passes forth to the outermost parts of the life: Luke 3:13-14 : and does not consist in mere specious works, but in such as become us as citizens, and yet are real good works: ch. Luke 10:34 ; Matthew 25:35 ; Isaiah 58:6-7 . δύο χιτῶνας , two coats [rather tunics or inner vests ]) and so as regards other articles of which we possess duplicates. μεταδότω , let him impart ) Liberality is wider in its range of comprehension, than generosity merely in money matters.

Verse 12

Luke 3:12 . Διδάσκαλε , master ) The publicans treat Him with greater reverence than any of the others.

Verse 14

Luke 3:14 . Στρατευόμενοι ) Those serving as soldiers ; we come to these after the publicans in successive gradation. μηδένα διασείσητε ) shake no one violently [Do violence to no man]. μηδὲ συκοφαντήσητε ) with calumnies, as though proceeding by right of law: Genesis 43:18 [LXX. εἰσαγόμεθα τοῦ συκοφαντήσαι ἡμᾶς , “we are brought in that he may falsely accuse us.” Hebr. “that he may roll himself upon us.” Engl. “that he may seek occasion against us.”]

Verse 15

Luke 3:15 . Προσδοκῶντος , being in expectation ) They were waiting in expectation that proofs [of Messiahship] should come from John or from some other quarter. But John, being son of the priest Zacharias, was not of the tribe of Judah, of which it was certain that the Messiah was to spring. ὁ Χριστὸς , the Christ ) As yet they had not so gross a conception concerning the Christ [as subsequently]: for John had no external splendour to recommend him, and yet they were musing such thoughts concerning him.

Verse 16

Luke 3:16 . Ἀπεκρίνατο , answered ) To those who were desiring to question him. Comp. Acts 13:25 , τίνα με ὑπονοεῖτε εῖναι , “As John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? [implying that they were desiring to ask him the question ]. ἔρχεται ) Castellio renders it ‘adventat,’ approacheth . ὁ ἰσχυρότερός μου , who is mightier than I ) John was powerful: Luke 3:4-5 ; Luke 3:10-11 , ch. Luke 1:17 [He shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias]: but Christ was much more so. καὶ πυρὶ , and with fire ) That fire in respect to believers denotes the fiery power of the Holy Spirit: with which comp. Isaiah 4:4 . And indeed they were actually bathed and baptized in fire: Acts 2:3 ; Acts 1:5 . Yet nevertheless it is not here as in John 3:5 , where material water is meant; for in this passage material fire is not signified; since in John the water is named before the mention of the Spirit, whereas here the Spirit and fire are named together. In respect to the impenitent the fire denotes the fire of wrath spoken of in Luke 3:17 . In a similar manner fire has a double signification in Mark 9:49 , compared with the preceding verses. [35]

[35] “Every one shall be salted with fire :” believers with the purifactory fire of trials, unbelievers with the fire that “is not quenched.” ED. and TRANSL.

Verses 18-19

Luke 3:18-19 . Παρακαλῶν , exhorting ) The function of John was to exhort , and to announce the coming Gospel; to rebuke and to preach , Comp. Luke 3:3 ; Luke 3:19 . εὐηγγελίζετο , he preached the coming Gospel ) as he did in Luke 3:16 .

Verse 19

Luke 3:19 . [ Ἐλεγχόμενος ὑπʼ αὐτοῦ , being reproved by him ) Although it was a considerable time after when Herod consigned John to prison: yet for convenience the fact is recorded here. In fact it is implied that John spake the truth to Herod no less, than to the people and to the publicans and soldiers. Harm. , p. 145]. καὶ περὶ πάντων , and concerning all ) It is not a full discharge of a minister’s duty for him to reprove sinners, even though they be kings, for merely one fault.

Verse 20

Luke 3:20 . Προσέθηκε , added ) Persecution is an additional aggravation of sins. [By it in fact the full measure of one’s sins is filled up, when salutary warnings are despised or are repaid by absolutely evil deeds against the monitor. V. g.] κατέκλεισε , he shut up ) This is mentioned here before the baptism of Christ; and therefore seems to have reproved Herod at the first possible opportunity. Afterwards follows immediately the uninterrupted history of Jesus Christ.

Verse 21

Luke 3:21 . Προσευχομένου , whilst praying ) after His baptism. Luke often mentions the prayers of Jesus, as among the most important events: ch. Luke 6:12 , Luke 9:18 ; Luke 9:29 , Luke 22:32 ; Luke 22:41 , Luke 23:46 . ἀνεῳχθῆναι ) In bringing it from ἠνεῴχθην , the indicative, as compared with the infinitive, has an augment: the infinitive has, not so much an augment, as an ἔκτασις [an intensification of the meaning].

Verse 22

Luke 3:22 . Σωματικῷ εἴδει , in a bodily appearance ) On the other hand there also are seen at times from the kingdom of darkness bodily appearances . σὺ , thou ) This is a reply to His prayers, mentioned in Luke 3:21 .

Verse 23

Luke 3:23 . Καὶ αὐτὸς ἦνἸησοῦς ὠσεὶ ἐτῶν τριάκοντα ἀρχόμενος , and Jesus was Himself about thirty years, when beginning ) The beginning meant in this passage is not that of His thirtieth year , which neither the cardinal number XXX . years , nor the particle about admit of, but the beginning of His doing and teaching in public, or His going in , Acts 1:1 ; Acts 1:21 , [ ἐν παντὶ Χρόνῳεἰσῆλθεν καὶ ἐξῆλθεν , “all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out.”] 22 ( ἀρξάμενος ἀπὸ τοῦ βαπτίσματος Ἰωάννου , “Beginning from the baptism of John;” where also the word beginning , as here, is put absolutely), ch. Luke 13:24 [When John had first preached before His coming the baptism of repentance]. This beginning Luke implies took place in the very act of baptism: with this comp. Matthew 3:15 . [Nevertheless that entrance on His office had various successive steps , of which the First was, the manifestation of the Christ to Israel which took place in His baptism, Luke 3:22 ; Luke 3:38 ; John 1:31 ; John 1:34 ; Matthew 3:15 . There followed Secondly, the beginning of His miracles, John 2:11 . And Thirdly, the beginning of His doings in the house of His Father at Jerusalem, John 2:14 (with which comp. Mal 3:1 ). And also Fourthly, the beginning of His continued course of preaching in Galilee after the imprisonment of John, Matthew 4:17 ; Luke 4:15 ; Acts 10:37 : and indeed these steps followed one another in so brief a space of time, that one may count all of them as one, and combine (connect) that one step or beginning with the thirtieth year of the Saviour. They therefore are mistaken who suppose that John commenced the discharge of his office at an interval of six months, nay, even of a year or even more, before his baptism of Christ. Harm. , p. 71, 72.] Wherefore it is only incidentally in passing that he notices in this verse that beginning, but what he particularly marks is the age of Jesus: [36] and this too, in such a way as to mark the entrance of John on his ministry, and shortly after, the entrance of Jesus on His, which took place in one and the same year [Certainly it was not the object of Luke to mark exactly the entrance of the Forerunner, and to touch only incidentally upon the beginning that was made by our Lord Himself, but what he chiefly cared for recording was the latter. However the joining of John with Him is appropriate and seasonable; that he may not be supposed to have preceded Jesus by a longer interval. Harm. , p. 69]. Luke speaks becomingly; and whereas he had said, that the word of God came unto the Forerunner, Luke 3:2 ; with which comp. John 10:35 : he says that the Lord began , namely, not as a servant, but as the Son. The name, Jesus , is added, because a new scene and a new series of events are thrown open. The emphatic pronoun αὐτὸς , Himself , put in the commencement, forms an antithesis to John : also John has his time of office noted by external marks, taken from Tiberius , etc., but the time of the beginning made by the Lord is defined by the years of the Lord Himself The Lord had now attained, after the remarkable advances and progress which marked His previous life, the regular and lawful age suited for His public ministry [ Num 4:3 ]. ὡς ἐνομίζετο , as He was duly accounted ) The interpretation, As He was supposed [Engl. Vers.], is rather a weakening of the force: νομίζεσθαι has certainly a stronger import than this: it denotes the feeling and wonted custom generally and also justly entertained and received: Acts 16:13 [ ΟὟ ἘΝΟΜΊΖΕΤΟ ΠΡΟΣΕΥΧῊ ΕἾΝΑΙ , where prayer was wont to be made ]. Furthermore Luke does not say, ὢν , υἱὸς Ἰωσὴφ , ὡς ἐνομίζετο , but ὪΝ , Ὠς ἘΝΟΜΊΖΕΤΟ , ΥἹῸς ἸΩΣΉΦ . Therefore this clause, Ὡς ἘΝΟΜΊΖΕΤΟ , no less than that one to which it is immediately attached, ὪΝ ΥἹῸς , extends its force to the whole genealogical scale; and that too, in such a way as that the several steps are to be understood according to what the case and relation of each require and demand. Jesus was, as He was accounted , son of Joseph: for not merely the opinion of men regarded Him as the son of Joseph, but even Joseph rendered to Him all the offices of a father, although he had not begotten Jesus. He was, as He was accounted , Son of Heli; and He was so truly. For His mother Mary had Heli for her father: and so also as to Heli being son of Matthat and of the rest of the fathers. So in Luk 3:36 it was said, Sala was, as he was accounted , son of Cainan; whereas the Hellenistic Jews, following the LXX. interpretation reckoned him among the series of fathers after the flood. Therefore as far as concerns Joseph and Cainan, Luke, by the figure πσοθεραπεία [See Append.] or anticipatory precaution , thus counteracts the popular opinion , as Franc. Junius long ago saw, with which comp. Usher’s Chronol. Sacr., part i., ch. vi. f. 34: but in all the other parts of the genealogy he leaves all things inviolate and unaltered, inasmuch as agreeing with the Old Testament and the rest of the public documents and the truth itself, and as being acknowledged authentic by all, nay, he even stamps them with approval. τοῦ Ἡλεὶ , Eli ) He was father of Mary, and father-in-law of Joseph. See note, Matthew 1:16 . As to the article τοῦ here so often repeated, it makes no matter whether you construe it with each antecedent proper name or with that which follows it. For in either construction Jesus is the son of each more remote father, the nearer father intervening. The LXX. interpretation render the Hebrew corresponding words, which are for the most part equivocal (capable of either construction), in either of the two ways: Ezra 7:1 ; Nehemiah 11:4 , etc. But it is more simple to take ΤΟῦ as cohering with each noun [proper name] following: in the way in which, Matthew 1:1 , Jesus Christ is said to be the Son ( ΙΟ ͂ Υ ) of David, SON ( ὙΙΟῦ ) of Abraham. And although in the first step of the series, ὙΙῸς ἸΩΣῊΦ is the expression used without the article, yet subsequently the words ὪΝ ὙΙῸς are conveniently construed with each of the fathers immediately and directly [without the intervention of the names coming between], Comp. LXX. Genesis 36:2 .

[36] We may observe in this place, that the thirty years were not full years, and past, but wanting a little of completion : a fact which is proved in the Harm. of Beng. pp. 70, 71, and Ord. Temp. p. 222 (Ed. ii. p. 194). Comp. meine Beleuchtung, etc, p. 126, 127, etc. E. B.

Verse 31

Luke 3:31 . Τοῦ Ναθὰν , Nathan ) [Luke substitutes him for Solomon, who is put down by Matthew here in this series, because that Mary drew her descent from Nathan, or else because Joseph derived his genealogy alike from Solomon and from Nathan; for it was a common practice of the Jews to adopt some one of their nearest relatives in the place of a son. Harm. , p. 148] This Nathan, the son of David, is a man very memorable. Zechariah 12:12 [where in the future repentance of the Jews, “the families of the house of David,” and those of the “house of Nathan mourn apart”]. Sohar Num. on Isaiah 40:8 , Cheph Zibah wife of Nathan son of David is mother of the Messiah . Schœttgen on this passage.

Verse 36

Luke 3:36 . Τοῦ Καϊνὰν , Kainan ) Let some, as best they can, furnish out a plausible array of some MSS. which are without the name Cainan : one is without it, viz. Cantabrigiensis , called also Stephani β , and also codex Bezæ [ [37] ]; which, as being a MS. containing the Latin as well as the Greek, deserves the title, not so much of a codex, as of a rhapsody comprising various readings of fathers. [38] “Even supposing that in countless copies of the New and Old Testaments,” as Voss rightly remarks, “the name of this Cainan were wanting, which however is not the case, yet no argument could be derived from that circumstance. For the reason of the omission would be evident from the fact that the Church approved of and followed the calculation of Africanus and Eusebius; and therefore I wonder that more copies are not found, in which the name of Cainan is expunged.” c. Horn., p. 13. Nevertheless so many in our time disapprove of the Cainan here, that there is a risk of its being ere long thrust out from Luke; a judgment which betrays great rashness , as Rich. Simon on this passage properly remarks, and so also Gomarus. Besides Cainan is retained in Luke by J. E. Grabius, John Hardouin, Jac. Hasæus, G. C. Hosmann, to whom are to be added thes. phil. p. 174 of Hottinger, Glassius, etc. Among the ancients is Ambrose , who, on Luke 7:0 , says, “The Lord was born of Mary in the seventy-seventh generation.” That this Cainan was mentioned in the LXX. Version made before the nativity of Christ (See Genesis 10:24 ; Genesis 11:12 ; 1 Chronicles 1:18 , [in which passages Cainan’s name is passed over]) the Chronicon of Demetrius in Eusebius, B. ix. præp. Ev. page 425, proves. Moreover many documents attest that Theophilus, to whom Luke wrote, was at Alexandria. There is no doubt but that ‘Cainan’ was read at least in the LXX. version at Alexandria, that I may not say that it was in that city the insertion of his name took place. Wherefore it was not suitable that ‘Cainan’ should already at that early time [the first sending of the Gospel to Alexandria] be either omitted by Luke or marked openly with the brand of spuriousness. Elsewhere also Luke made that concession to the Hellenistic Jews, that he followed the LXX. translators in preference to the Hebrew text. Acts 7:14 . And so here he did not expunge ‘Cainan,’ whose name was inserted in their version. And yet he did not thereby do any violence to truth; for the fact of the descent of Jesus Christ from David, though some fathers have been passed over in Matthew, and similarly on the other hand Cainan has been retained in Luke, still remains uninjured. Nay, even he took precaution for the exactness of the main truth by that prefatory observation, as was accounted , Luke 3:23 , where see the note. In fine, it is not the province of those who discuss the New Testament to warrant the infallible accuracy of readings of the LXX. translators. In the chronology the question concerning Cainan is of especial moment. Therefore we have said something concerning that person in the Ordo Temporum , p. 52 (Ed. ii., p. 44, 45), Lightfoot read Cainan in the Accusative form (‘Cainanem’). [39]

[37] Bezæ, or Cantabrig.: Univ. libr., Cambridge: fifth cent.: publ. by Kipling, 1793: Gospels, Acts, and some Epp. def.

[38] A very unjust judgment. D was presented to Cambridge University by Beza in 1531. Its readings are very peculiar, and belong to a different class from the Alexandrine MSS. Tischend. thinks it can be irrefragably proved to be as old as the sixth century. ED. and TRANSL.

[39] Tischend. reads Καϊνὰμ with BL. Lachm. with A abc Vulg. Rec. Text, Καϊνάν . ED. and TRANSL.

Verse 38

Luke 3:38 . [ Τοῦ Ἀδὰμ , of Adam ) All the posterity of Adam have a natural tie of connection with Jesus Christ. V. g.] Luke wisely adds this clause. Adam was the first man. He was not sprung of himself, nor of a father and mother; but from God, not only as the sons of Adam are, but in a way altogether peculiar to his case: for whatever the sons of Adam owe to their parents by the bounty of their Creator, this Adam himself received from God. On this account Luke does not stop short with Adam, but adds that crowning point of the series, the Son of God . And here, at last, there is a terminus, beyond which there is none. Luke carries up his genealogy, from the second Adam to the first, in the same way as Moses himself describes “the generations of man,” Genesis 5:1 , etc. Man was altogether a creation made by God, not merely as all creatures are, but in a peculiar manner so; Genesis 1:26 [Let us make man in our image]. If the genealogy had stopped at Adam it would have been abrupt, and not completed. As it is, it is carried up from Jesus Christ to God. The birth (descent) of Jesus from Mary is beautifully compared with the descent (origination) of Adam from God. The origination of Jesus from God has some likeness to both, but yet far exceeds both; it is in some measure mediate, or coming through the intervention of the intermediate fathers, but is much rather immediate and direct, as He is the Son of God. All things are of God through Christ: all things are brought back to God through Christ. Scripture, even in what belongs to the origin of the human race, fixes our knowledge on a firm footing, and makes it sufficiently complete: they who despise or ignore it are in utter doubt and error as to the boundaries between the ante-mundane and the post-mundane times.

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Bibliographical Information
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Luke 3". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.