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THE HISTORIOGRAPHICAL PREFACE
1Forasmuch1 as many have taken in hand2 to set forth in order [to draw up] a declaration [narration]3 of those things which are most surely believed [concerning the things2[fulfilled]4 among us, Even5 as they [those] delivered them [handed them down, παρέδωσαν] unto us, which [who] from the beginning were eye-witnesses [οἱ ̓ ἀρχῆςαὐτόπται],and ministers of the word; 3It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first [having accurately traced down all things from the first, παρηκολουθηκότι ἄνωθεν πᾶσιν ],6 to write unto thee in order,7 mostexcellent [most noble, κράτιστε]8 Theophilus, 4That thou mightest know [know accurately, ἐπ ίγνῷς] the certainty of those things [words, or doctrines, λόγων]9 wherein thou hast been instructed [catechized].10
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Luke 1:1. Have taken in hand.—The expression is happily chosen, to enhance the importance and difficulty of the work, which many (πολλοί) had undertaken. It seems almost adventurous, in Luke’s eyes, to take up the pen for such a composition. Yet does he by no means intend to commence his work by blaming his predecessors, but rather, by the word κά μοί, to me also (Luke 1:3), he places himself in their ranks. It is nevertheless obvious, that if he had considered their labors perfectly satisfactory, he would not have felt impelled to attempt his present composition. With reason, therefore, does Origen write (see Hieronymus, Homilia I. in Lucam): “Hoc quod ait: ‘conati sunt,’ latentem habet accusationem eorum, qui absque gratia Spiritus sancti ad scribenda Evangelia prosilierunt. Matthœus quippe et Marcus et Johannes et Lucas non sunt conati scribere, sed scripserunt.”
Many.—It is perfectly arbitrary to refer this to the apocryphal Gospels, which were the product of later times. Luke had in view rather the very earliest literary attempts, made by persons more or less authorized, at the commencement of the apostolic age; and it may be reasonably concluded from this preface, that, during the composition of his Gospel, he had before him many written documents and records (διηγήσεις), which, when they seemed worthy of acceptation, he incorporated in its pages. The relative coincidence between this and the two former Gospels is certainly most simply accounted for, by supposing them to have been freely drawn from common sources. The very comparison of this literary preface (Luke 1:1-4), written in pure Greek, with the immediately succeeding history of events before Christ’s birth (Luke 1:5-80), abounding in Hebraisms, would lead to the supposition, that the latter was derived from some more ancient record. Concluding expressions, which seem originally to have stood at the end of shorter narratives, are also found in various places; e.g., Luke 1:80; Luke 2:20; Luke 2:52; Luke 4:13, etc. It was Schleiermacher who first directed attention to these facts; but he pushed his conclusion from them too far, when he considered Luke as almost exclusively a compiler and arranger, and allowed too little for the influence of his individuality in the selection and treatment of his materials.
Luke 1:2. As they delivered them to us.—This delivering (παράδοσις) is here certainly the oral tradition, which formed the basis of the written Gospels, and contained the matter of the ἀνάταξις, which had already been attempted, with various degrees of success. It began with the baptism of John, and the public ministry of Jesus (Acts 1:21 and John 15:27), and did not originally include the narratives either of His birth or childhood; though Matthew and Luke could have found no difficulty in obtaining accounts of these from authentic sources. The eye-witnesses and ministers here mentioned, are the same persons, viz., the original Apostles; and the word here spoken of is by no means the personal Logos—for no interpreter can be justified in thus confusing the respective senses in which Luke and John employ the same term—but the word of the Gospel, delivered by them to Luke and his fellow-laborers.
Luke 1:3. It seemed good to me also.—The addition of some old translators, mihi et Spiritui sancto, the product of a theory of mechanical inspiration, is not needed, to make us conscious that we have, in the Gospel of Luke, a striking revelation of the true Spirit of Christ.
Having accurately traced down all things from the very first.—This very first (ἄνωθεν)reaches farther back, as may be seen by the first two chapters, than the from the beginning (ἀρχῆς) of Luke 1:2. Paul uses the same word in Acts 26:5 to designate the beginning of his life among the Jews, before his conversion. Luke, who, according to Acts 21:17, saw James at Jerusalem, might have become acquainted, through him, with Mary or the so-called brothers of the Lord, and have learned much from them. The conjecture of a Dutch divine (Dresselhuis), that Luke, in writing the history of the Nativity, made use of an original written narrative, by James the brother of our Lord, which was afterward lost, and replaced by the apocryphal Gospel of James (Protevangelium Jacobi), deserves mention.
Most noble (or honorable) Theophilus.—For the various conjectures that have been made concerning the pedigree, dwelling-place, and rank of this Christian, see Winer, art. Theophilus. We feel most inclined to favor the supposition which fixes his residence in Italy, and perhaps in Rome. For why is Luke so increasingly precise (Acts 27:28) in topographical hints, as his narrative is hastening to its close, unless this locality were better known to his friend and first reader, than any other? from Acts 23:8, we may conclude that Theophilus was not of Jewish extraction. Whether he had already made a profession of Christianity, in which he had at first been instructed, must remain uncertain. Κράτιστος was probably a civil official title.
In order.—It does not appear from the word itself, whether by καθεξῆς is to be understood the order of time, or of things. It may denote both; see Acts 3:24; Acts 11:4. Since, however, the καθεξῆς γράφειν is spoken of as a result of the ἄνωθεν παρακολουθεῖν, and Luke often shows that he is aiming at chronological exactness, we are inclined to prefer the former meaning. This does not, however, necessarily imply that he always had this exactness equally in view, nor that he was always equally successful in attaining it.
Luke 1:4. Wherein thou hast been catechized.—One of the earliest historical traces of ancient Christian catechizing, of which, according to Luke 1:1-2, the history of our Lord formed the basis. Thereon, however, were built specific Christian λόγοι, whose doctrinal θεμέλιον, or foundation, is pointed out, Hebrews 6:1-2. These λόγοι could not remain unshaken, unless the most important facts of the gospel history were distinctly understood, and their truth recognized as beyond all doubt. The various, and, perhaps, often contradictory, accounts of these facts, which came to the ears of Theophilus, furnished Luke with a motive for strict historical research, that his friend might know the ἀσφάλεια of the Christian ἀλήθεια.
[This historiographic preface, Luke 1:1-4, is a model of brevity, simplicity, and modesty, as well as of purity and dignity of style. Alford remarks: “The peculiar style of this preface—which is purer Greek than the contents of the Gospel, and also more labored and formal—may be accounted for, partly because it is the composition of the Evangelist himself, and not translated from the Hebrew sources like the rest, and partly because prefaces, especially when also dedicatory, are usually in a rounded and artificial style.” The difference of the periodic Greek style of the preface and the simple Hebraizing language of the following narrative is very striking, and shows the conscientious use of the Hebrew traditions or writings on the history of the infancy. Yet these sources were not slavishly translated, but fully appropriated by Luke and interwoven with the peculiarities of his own style which are found even in the first two chapters. Comp. Credner: Einleitung, i. p. 132 ff.; Wilke: Rhetorik, p. 451; Ewald: Bibl. Jahrbücher, ii. p. 183; Meyer in loc., and Doctrinal Note 5 below.—P. S.]
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. We see that, even in the first decades of the apostolic age, many felt themselves authorized, or rather compelled, to take up the pen, to instruct their contemporaries and successors with respect to the things that had happened concerning Jesus of Nazareth; and this in an age and country in which the modern passion for writing was entirely unknown. How can this enthusiasm be accounted for, unless the history of the crucified Jesus were the most remarkable and most glorious of all histories? It is perfectly inexplicable how Christ could have set so many tongues, hearts, and pens in motion, if He had not been something more than the modern criticism of a Strauss, or of the Tübingen school, [or Renan] would make Him. Comp. Act 4:20; 2 Corinthians 4:13.
2. Even during the lifetime of the Apostles, the need of an accurate, well-arranged life of Jesus, which should be the work of some competent and duly authorized agent, was felt. And if oral tradition was thus early in danger of becoming corrupted (comp. John 21:22-23), how little certainty concerning the Christian revelation should we now possess without the written testimony! Oral tradition is undoubtedly more ancient than the written gospel; nor was the Church exclusively founded upon the latter. But who could instruct us with any certainty, with respect to the contents of the apostolic παράδοσις, without access to the λραφή? Luke, indeed, wrote his Gospel only for Theophilus and his immediate circle; but the question is not concerning the intentions of Luke, but concerning the design of his glorified Lord, under whose special guidance this Gospel was at first composed, and has since been preserved, for the edification of all succeeding ages.
3. Luke speaks of his study of the human sources of information; he says nothing of his divine inspiration. Are we then to conclude that he was unconscious of the latter, or that it was rendered superfluous by the former? By no means; but rather, in this case, the maxim: subordinate non pugnant holds good. The Holy Spirit, through whose operation he first became a believer in Christ, and afterward a fellow-laborer with Paul, did surely not forsake him, but descended upon him in far more abundant measure, when he took up the pen to bear testimony for his Lord in this more permanent form for all ages to come. Paul has not said in vain: “God is not the author of confusion, but of order;” and the possession of supernatural power, by no means supersedes the use of natural assistance.11
4. The grand distinction between Christianity and all systems of philosophy, and all other religions, so called, consists in this, that it is not a mere system of notions, but a series of facts. Its first promulgators could all adopt, as their own, the words of John: “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you” (1 John 1:1-3). It is this that makes it everlasting; for deeds once done can never be altered: it is this that makes it universal; for duly accredited facts fall within the reach of those also who could not follow a chain of abstract reasoning: it is this that makes it so mighty; for simple facts are stronger than the most elaborate arguments. That a thorough investigation of these facts is a duty, may be taught us by Luke; but their reality being once ascertained, it results, from his words to Theophilus, that the ἀσφάλεια of the faith can no longer be called in question. Would that they who, in reading the Gospel narratives, have continually in their mouths the words, myth, tradition, legend, might enter into the spirit of Luke’s prologue, and, after due research, might feel and experience that here, if anywhere, they are treading on the firm ground of the most unquestionable reality!
[5. Luke is the only one of the Synoptists who begins his Gospel with a Preface. His preface is historico-critical, while the Introduction of John is historico-doctrinal. The prominent points in this short Preface are: (1) It cautions us against erroneous or defective statements of facts; (2) it directs us to the apostles as eye-witnesses of the life of Christ; (3) it proves the faithfulness of the Evangelist in tracing the facts to the primitive source; (4) it brings out the human side in the origin of the sacred writings; showing that the Evangelists were not passive instruments, but free, conscious, intelligent, and co-operative agents of the Holy Spirit in producing these books; (5) it teaches that “faith cometh by hearing,” and that the gospel was first taught by catechetical instruction or oral tradition, but then written down by reliable witnesses for all ages to come. This written gospel is essentially the same with the preached gospel of Christ and the Apostles, and together with the Epistles is to us the only pure and infallible source of primitive Christianity.—P. S.]
[6. Ambrose: Scriptum est Evangelium ad Theophilum, hoc est, ad eum quem Deus diligit. Si Deum diligis, ad te scriptum est. If you are a lover of God, a Theophilus, it is written to thee. James Ford: The name Theophilus imports the temper of mind which God will bless in the Scripture student; “charity edifieth” (1 Corinthians 8:1); and who are the most excellent of the earth, but they whose minds are most imbued with this divine love, with this knowledge of the Lord?—P. S.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Luke a physician, like the few; Theophilus a patient, like the many.—Historical belief in the divine truth of Christianity: 1. Its necessity; 2. its certainty; 3. its insufficiency, when unaccompanied by a living faith.—Luke: 1. The predecessor of believing searchers; 2. the condemner of unbelieving searchers of Scripture.—The history of the Son of Man, the beginning and foundation of a new world of literature.—The highest aim which a Christian author can propose to himself: to correct what is faulty, to strengthen what is weak, to arrange what is confused.—The spoken word, the first testimony and announcement of the truths of salvation, and the foundation of all future testimony to the Lord and His kingdom.—Assured faith indispensably necessary to those who would bring others to the knowledge of faith.—Assured faith the aim of Christian instruction.—From faith to knowledge, from knowledge to still firmer faith.12—Civil dignities and honors not destroyed, but ennobled, by citizenship in the kingdom of God.—Luke a pattern of profitable trading with intellectual gifts and power in the Christian cause.—The criticism of faith, and the faith of criticism.—“Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy” (2 Corinthians 1:24).
Starke:—In a good cause, imitation is a good work.—Nothing should be undertaken inconsiderately, especially in important matters (Proverbs 19:2).—Full assurance and conviction are necessary for writing or speaking with comfort.—The fear of God makes men truly great and excellent.
Heubner:—The providence of God in raising up sincere, earnest, and credible men, for the task of writing the history of Jesus Christ.—The end of Christian authors should be the promotion of Christianity. The real value of an author proportionate to his attainment of this end.
Luke 1:1; Luke 1:1.—Forasmuch, antique but not antiquated form for inasmuch, in consideration of, since, well corresponds to ἐπειδήπερ (only here in the N. T.), which is more full-sounding and grave than ἐπειδή, like quoniam quidem and the German sintemal in Luther’s and de Wette’s versions, which van Oosterzee exchanged for nachdem.
Luke 1:1; Luke 1:1.—Or undertaken, attempted, ἐπεχείρησαν, which, not of itself (Origen, Ambrose, Theophylact), but in connection with Luke 1:3 (Meyer), implies the insufficiency of the older διηγήσεις.
Luke 1:1; Luke 1:1.—Ἀνατάξασθαι διήγησιν, to draw up, to arrange, to compose a narration (Rheims Version, Alford), or narrative, history (Genevan B.). The improper version: declaration, is from Cranmer’s Bible.
Luke 1:1; Luke 1:1.—Διήγησιν περὶ τῶν πεπληροφορημένων εν ἡμῖν πραγμάτων. Dr. van Oosterzee (following de Wette, in the third ed. of his Commentary on Luke): eine Erzählung von den unter uns (Christen) vollständig gewordenen Geschichten; Vulgate: quæ in nobis completa sunt; Meyer: welche vollendet sind unter uns. So also Luther, Hammond, Bretschneider, Ebrard, etc. But the Peschito, Theophylact, Beza, Grotius, Kuinoel, Olshausen, Ewald, Alford explain with all the older English Versions, except those of Wiclif and Rheims: quæ satis atque abunde nobis probata sunt, quæ sunt compertissima, certainly, or fully believed, or certified. The verb πληροφορέω means: (1) to bring out fully, to complete, to fulfil (like πληρόω, which is the word used in this sense very often in the N. T.); (2) in the passive: to be fully assured or persuaded; so Romans 4:21; Romans 14:5 (comp. also the noun πληροφορία, full assurance; Colossians 2:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; Hebrews 6:11; Hebrews 10:22). But in this second sense the verb is used of persons only, and not of things, πράγματα, as would be the case here according to the Authorized E. V. It is improper to speak of things fully persuaded. Another objection to the Authorized Version is, that the full assurance, or πληροφορία, of the gospel history could not be taken for granted at the outset, but was to be effected in the mind of Theophilus by the narrative of Luke, comp. Luke 1:4. Meyer brings the expression into pragmatic connection with the following ἀ π’ ἀρχῆς, Luke 1:2. The accomplished facts of the gospel history are regarded as standing in close contact with the events of the apostolic age, so that they were completed among those who, like Luke and Timothy, were no more immediate witnesses of the life of Christ.
Luke 1:2; Luke 1:2.—Even, which dates from Tyndale, is not required by the Greek καθώς, and is omitted by Wiclif, the Rheims Version, and the N. T. of the Am. B. U.
Luke 1:3; Luke 1:3.—Παρακολουθεῖν, to follow up, to trace down (by research), and so to know fully, is used in precisely the same sense by Demosthenes, Pro corona, p. Luke 285: παρηκολουθηκότα τοῖς πράγμασιν ἐξ , κ.τ.λ. Comp. Alford in loc., Tyndale, and Cranmer: as I had searched out diligently all things from the beginning; Genevan B.: learned perfectly all things from the beginning. I prefer to retain from the first (or from the very first in the C. V.), ἄνωθεν, to distinguish it from ἀ π’ ἀρχῆς, Luke 1:2. See Exegetical and Critical Notes.
Luke 1:3; Luke 1:3.—Or consecutively, καθεξῆς. Genevan B.: from point to point.
Luke 1:3; Luke 1:3.—Κράτιστος is here and often an official title, like our honorable. Hence honorable, or most noble (Genevan B.), is preferable to excellent, which is apt to be applied to moral character. The E. V. renders the word twice most excellent, here and Acts 23:6, and twice most noble, Acts 24:3; Acts 26:25.
Luke 1:4; Luke 1:4.—Van Oosterzee, Luther, de Wette, Meyer, etc., render λόγοι here doctrines; the Latin Vulgate, Wiclif, Rheims Version, van Ess: words; Beza, Kuinoel, and all the older Protestant English versions: res, things; Alford: histories, accounts. The living words and doctrines of Christ are meant, which rest upon the great facts of the gospel history and derive from them their ἀσφάλεια. For Christianity is not simply a system of doctrines, but first of all a system of divine human facts of salvation, God manifest in the flesh, living, dying, rising, and ever living for us.
Luke 1:4; Luke 1:4.—Lit.: catechized, catechetically taught, κατηχήθης. The specific word should have been retained here and elsewhere instead of the more indefinite instruct or teach. Catechizing is a primitive and most important institution of the Church, and a preparatory school for full membership. Archbishop Usher says: “The neglect of catechizing is the frustrating of the whole work of the ministry.”—P. S.]
[“Nature and the supernatural together constitute the one system of God.” This sentence, which Dr. Horace Bushnell has chosen as the title of his book on Nature and the Supernatural, may be applied also to the doctrine of inspiration. The Bible is the result of divine inspiration and of human labor, and is theanthropic, like the person of Christ. See the Preface to the Am. ed. of Lange, vol. i. p. 5. Matthew Henry remarks on Luke’s Preface: “It is certain that Luke was moved by the Holy Ghost not only to the writing, but in the writing of it [his Gospel]; but in both he was moved as a reasonable creature, and not as a mere machine.”—P. S.]
[The author has in mind, no doubt, the famous maxim of Augustine, Anselm, and Schleiermacher: Fides precedit intellectum, faith precedes knowledge, and supplies it by the equally correct principle, that true Christian knowledge confirms and increases faith. There is a reciprocal friendly relation between πίστις and γνῶσις. Anselm recognized the latter truth also. For while he said, on the one hand: Neque enim quæro intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam, he laid down the principle, on the other hand: Negligentiæ mihi videtur si quæ credimus, non studemus intelligere. Such study, far from leading away from faith, confirms and strengthens it.—P. S.]
The Miraculous Birth and Normal Development of the son of Man
EVENTS PREPARATORY TO THE BIRTH OF CHRIST
A. Annunciation of the Birth of His Forerunner Luke 1:5-25
5There was, in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias,13 of the course of Abia: and his wife was [he had a wife]14 of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. 6And they were both righteous before God, walkingin all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren; and they both were now well stricken [far advanced] in years. 8And it came to pass, that, while he executed the priest’s office [ἐν τῷ ἱερατεύειν] before God in the order of his course, 9According to the custom of the priest’s office [of the priesthood, τῆς ἱερατείας],15 his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time 11[the hour, τῇ ὥρᾳ] of incense. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. 13But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thoushalt call his name John 14:0 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoiceat his birth. 15For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. 16And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. 17And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias [Elijah], to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
18And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken [far advanced] in years. 19And the angel answering, said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to show [bring] thee these glad tidings. 20And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not [didst not believe, οὐκ ἐπίστευσας] my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
21And the people waited [were waiting, ἦν ὁ λαὸς προσδοκῶν] for Zacharias, and marvelled 22[wondered, ἐθαύμαζον] that he tarried so long in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple; for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless. 23And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished [completed], he departed to his own house. 24And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, 25Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein He looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Luke 1:5. In the days of Herod.—See remarks on Matthew 2:1.
A certain priest.—Zachariah has been supposed, on insufficient grounds, to have been the high-priest. It is worthy of remark, how the meaning of both the names (Zachariah, i.e., the Lord remembers; and Elisabeth, i.e., God’s oath) was explained and fulfilled by what happened to those who bore them.
Of the course (class) of Abijah.—The descendants of Eleazar and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron, were exclusively called to the service of the sanctuary, and divided into four and twenty classes or orders (1 Chronicles 24:0), each of which ministered in the temple during a week. The descendants of Eleazar, the elder son, formed sixteen of these classes or courses; those of Ithamar, the younger, only eight,—that of Abijah being (1 Chronicles 24:10) the eighth. From the days of Solomon, these four and twenty courses relieved each other weekly in the temple-service; it is, therefore, not to be wondered at, that attempts have frequently been made to ascertain the exact time of the year at which the Lord was born, by means of the chronological date of the week of the course of Abijah. The result of these researches, made chiefly by Scaliger, Solomon van Til, and Bengel, is communicated and criticised by Wieseler (Chronologische Synopse, pp. 140–148). It is, however, self-evident, that all such calculations must be uncertain and rash, until it can first be proved that the pregnancy of Elisabeth commenced immediately on the return of Zachariah, and that the several courses continued, each suo loco et tempore, to perform their services in unintermitted succession.
Luke 1:6. Righteous before God.—A declaration not only of their truly Israelitish and theocratic character, but also that they were persons to whom the divine approval pronounced upon Noah, Genesis 7:1, might rightly be applied, and who knew, from their own experience, the “blessedness” of which David sung in Psalms 32:0. When the promise made to Abraham is on the point of fulfilment, we suddenly find that the true Abrahamic character (Genesis 15:6; Genesis 17:1), however rare, has by no means utterly disappeared in Israel.
Luke 1:9. According to the custom of the priesthood.—In the service of the sanctuary, nothing was left to accident, or to human arrangement. The lot determined who was to perform each separate portion of the sacred service, and, especially, who was each morning and evening to burn incense before the Lord. This office was considered exceedingly important and honorable. According to Josephus (Antiq. Jud. xiii. 10), a heavenly vision was also vouchsafed to John Hyrcanus during its performance. It seems impossible, however, to determine whether the vision of Zachariah took place at the time of the morning or evening offering.
Luke 1:10. Were praying.—The pious were accustomed to unite in the outer court (ἔξω) in silent supplication, while the priest in the sanctuary offered the incense, which was ever regarded as the symbol of acceptable prayer. Comp. Psalms 141:2; Revelation 5:8; Revelation 8:3-4.
Luke 1:11. There appeared unto him.—It may be taken for granted, that the quiet and solitary sojourn of Zachariah in the Holy Place had both quickened and elevated his susceptibility for beholding the angelic appearance; yet the narrative certainly bears no traces of any ecstatic state, properly so called. Indeed, the fact which he must have told himself, that he saw the angel, “standing at the right side of the altar of incense” (which he may have considered a good omen), vouches for his clearness of perception, and sobriety of mind.
Luke 1:13. Thy prayer is heard.—It is generally thought, that the secret prayer of Zachariah for a son, known to God, and long uttered in vain, is here intended. But would the aged Zachariah have limited himself to this request? Did no higher aspiration, than a merely personal one, arise from the heart of a priest in the Holy Place? Must not Zachariah have been among the προσδεχόμενοι λύτρωσιν ἐν Ἰερουσαλήμ, spoken of Luke 2:38? And is it not therefore probable, that the chief matter of his prayer might be expressed by the words of the Psalmist (Psalms 14:7): “Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Sion?” For all these reasons, we conclude, with Meyer, that the prayer of the priest had special reference to the coming of Messiah. A twofold answer to this prayer is promised: first, that Messiah shall indeed appear in his days; and secondly, that he shall himself be the father of the forerunner, who was to prepare His way (Malachi 4:0)—an honor he could not have ventured to anticipate. Zachariah sought first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all other things—earthly joy of a father, etc.—are added to him (Matthew 6:33).
John.—Hebr.: Jochanan (i.e., God is gracious; equivalent to the German Gotthold). According to an old Greek glossary: Ἰωάννης, ἐν ᾧ ἐστιν ἡ χάρις. The name of the forerunner, as well as that of Jesus (Matthew 1:21), was prescribed before his birth. Was this distinction vouchsafed also to the mother of our Lord, whose name has since been so idolized?
Luke 1:15. He shall be great in the sight of the Lord.—Truly great, then; for just what a man is in God’s eyes, that is he indeed, neither more nor less. A silent hint also, that no earthly greatness is to be expected; for “that which is highly esteemed before men is an abomination in the sight of the Lord.”
He shall drink neither wine nor strong drink.—Plainly referring to the condition of the Nazarites, for the origin and laws concerning whom, see Numbers 4:0.Acts 21:24; Acts 21:24 shows that such vows were not unusual in Israel in New Testament times. This appointment places the forerunner, in this respect also, on a level with Samson and Samuel, who, as well as himself, were born to their parents contrary to all natural hopes and expectations.
From his mother’s womb;—i.e., not merely inde a puero, according to Kuinoel’s lax interpretation, but before he shall have seen the light of life (comp. Luke 1:41), from his earliest origin.
Luke 1:17. In the spirit and power of Elijah.—An evident reference to the last of the prophets, Malachi 3:1; Malachi 4:5-6, whose words are thus endorsed by the angel. The expression, “the Lord their God,” Luke 1:16, alludes not exclusively to the Messiah, but to the Jehovah of Israel, of whom it is said, that He Himself should appear in glory when the divinely commissioned Messiah should come into the world. The true subjects of Messiah are also the “people prepared for the Lord” the God of Israel.
To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children.—The feeling of the paternal relationship had grown cold in many hearts, in the midst of the moral corruption of Israel: when the forerunner lifts up his voice, the ties of family affection shall be strengthened. Others interpret this, to restore to the children the devout disposition of their fathers.
Luke 1:18. For I am an old man.—According to the law of Moses the Levites were not permitted to serve beyond their fiftieth year, Numbers 4:3; Numbers 8:24. But this law did not apply to the priests, and Zachariah was probably much older than fifty. His objection seems, in itself, as natural as that of Mary, Luke 1:34; but the Lord, who sees the heart, knows how to distinguish between the objections of unbelief, and the natural questionings of innocence.
Luke 1:19. I am Gabriel.—An answer full of dignity, and at the same time perfectly intelligible to a priest well instructed in the Holy Scriptures, who would recognize, by this name, the heavenly messenger, revealed to Daniel (Luke 8:16; Luke 9:21) as one admitted to very intimate relations with the Godhead. The belief in different classes of angels, though a development of later days, was the fruit of direct revelation. They who look on the Book of Daniel as the invention of a later age, cannot credit his angelology; and the angelic world, which was opened to Zachariah and to Mary, is closed to them, as a punishment of their unbelief.
Luke 1:20. Thou shalt he dumb, and not able to speak.—This is no mere repetition, but the first member of the sentence is the consequence of the second. The notion, that a natural dumbness, arising from an apoplectic stroke, is here meant, is one of those curiosities of Rationalism, which have only an antiquarian interest.
Luke 1:21. And the people were waiting for Zachariah.—According to many interpreters, they were waiting to receive the blessing. It does not, however, appear that this was always the office of the priest who offered incense. It seems more probable, that, not being accustomed to find the priest remain longer in the sanctuary than was strictly necessary, some might have feared, when Zachariah had been some time expected in vain, that some misfortune, or sign of the divine displeasure, had befallen him.
Luke 1:22. They perceived that he had seen a vision.—Dumbness having fallen upon him in the temple, it was a natural supposition, that this might be the result of an angelic appearance. Zachariah makes signs that the supposition is correct. Interpreters have given due prominence to the symbolic signification of this moment in the sacred history. Bengel says: “Zacharias, mutus, excludebatur tantisper ab actionibus sacerdotalibus. Prœludium legis ceremonialis finiendœ, Christo veniente.”—Chemnitz: “When the voice of the preacher (Isaiah 40:0) is announced, the priesthood of the Old Testament becomes silent. The Levitical blessing is silenced, when the Seed comes, in whom ‘all the families of the earth are blessed.’ ”
Luke 1:24. And she hid herself five months.—Neither, as it seems to us, from shame on account of her advanced age, nor to secure rest, nor from unbelief, nor for the sake of observing an ascetic retirement, and then suddenly making her situation known; but to leave to God, through whose extraordinary intervention she found herself in this condition, the care of making it manifest, and of taking away her reproach among men (comp. Luke 1:25). There is a remarkable coincidence in the frame of mind of Elisabeth and Mary, under similar circumstances. Elisabeth was συγγενής to Mary, not merely κατὰ σάρκα, but also κατὰ πυεῦμα.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. “Introite, et hic Dii sunt,” seems to resound in the ear of the believer, as Luke leads him into the sanctuary of the gospel history. We are indebted to the fact, that he begins his previous narrative at an earlier period than Matthew, for the advantage of recognizing fresh proofs of the “manifold wisdom of God,” in the course of events which preceded the birth of the Lord. The new revelation of salvation begins in the days of Herod, when sin and misery had reached their climax, and when the yearning for Messiah’s appearance was more intensely felt than ever. The temple, so often the scene of the manifestation of the glory of the Lord, becomes again the centre, whence the first rays of light secretly break through the darkness. Every circumstance, preceding the birth of John, testifies to a special providence of God. He is born of pious parents, and of priestly blood, that the genuine theocratic spirit may be awakened and produced in the forerunner of the Lord. He is trained for his high destination, not in corrupt Jerusalem, but in the retirement of a remote city of the priests (Luke 1:39). It is not revealed to all, that the voice of “him that crieth” shall soon resound over hill and valley. The first witness to this is only the pious old man, who greets the prophet as his child. An angel assures Zachariah of the distinction conferred upon him. What human tongue could have foretold, it to him; or how could he have ventured to hearken to the voice of his own heart, without direct revelation? The angel appears to him in the retirement of the sanctuary, while he is employed in the faithful discharge of his priestly office, and standing on the right side of the altar, he intimates that the days are past in which the appearance of beings from another world betokened death and destruction to mankind. To enhance his enjoyment of it, the blessing is announced as an answer to prayer; and the very name given to the child, speaks to him of the graciousness of his God. As a son begotten in old age, John ranks with Isaac; as granted to the barren in answer to prayer, with Samson and Samuel. His office and mission are stated in words which must have recalled to Zachariah the prophecy of Malachi; while the description of his habits, as those of a Nazarite, and of his character, as in the spirit of Elijah, must have pointed out to his father a life of sorrow and strife. And when the astonished priest desires a sign, his want of faith is visited with a proof of the severity, but at the same time of the goodness, of God. As faith is to be the chief condition of the new covenant, it was needful that the first manifestation of unbelief should be emphatically punished; but the wound inflicted becomes a healing medicine for the soul. Zachariah is constrained to much silent reflection, and, according to the counsel of God, the secret is still kept for a time. The sight of the priest struck dumb, awakens among the people an expectation of some great and heavenly event; and soon will “the things” done in the priest’s house be “noised abroad throughout all the hill-country of Judæa” (Luke 1:65).
2. So many traces of divine wisdom are apparent in the narrative, that scepticism itself has no exceptions to make, but to its miraculous character. In this case the appearance of an angel is especially offensive to the tastes and notions of modern criticism. This being the first account of the kind, which we meet with in Luke’s Gospel, we may be allowed the following remarks. The existence of a higher world of spirits, can as little be proved, as denied, by any a priori reasoning; experience and history can alone decide the point. Now it is certain, on purely historical and critical grounds, that angels have been both seen and heard by well known and credible individuals; and if this be so, a higher world of spirits must exist. It has, indeed, been said (by Schleiermacher), that belief in the existence of angels has no necessary basis and support in the religious self-consciousness (or subjective experience) of the believer;16 but the question here is merely concerning the historical truth of biblical angelology, and not concerning the subjective experience it produces. Angels are not merely “transient emanations and effulgences of the divine essence” (Olshausen); but personal, conscious, holy beings, related, like men, to the Father of spirits. God, being the supreme and absolute Spirit, is able to employ such λειτουργικὰ πνεύματα in His service; and man, having received a spiritual element from God, cannot lack the ability of perceiving, with an enlightened eye, the appearance of beings so nearly related to himself. It is not when the bodily eye has been directed to the material world, but when a higher and more spiritual organ has been developed, and the ear opened to the voice of God, in the hours of prayer and solitude, that angelic appearances have been perceived. This power of perception, produced by God Himself, must be distinguished from the trance or vision, properly so called, wherein angels have sometimes, but by no means always, been perceived. Comp. Act 10:10; 2 Corinthians 12:1 ff. The angelic apparitions were by no means the fruit of an overstrained imagination, but objective revelations of God, by means of personal spirits; yet only capable of being received under certain subjective conditions. With respect to the angel who appeared to Zachariah, if unbelief, on hearing his name, should cavil, and doubt whether such definite names are borne in heaven, this conclusion cannot be escaped under the pretext, that Gabriel (the hero of God) is no nomen proprium, but merely an appellativum; and we have only to answer, neganti incumbit probatio.
3. There is a remarkable coincidence between Zachariah and Abraham on the one side, and Elisabeth and Sarah on the other; not only in the fact of their unfruitfulness during so many years, but also in the frame of mind in which they at length received the glad tidings. But in these parallel histories, it is, in the Old Testament, the man who is strong, the woman weak, in faith (Genesis 18:12); while here, on the contrary, it is the man whose faith falters. Even in the very first chapter of Luke, woman, who had so long been thrown into obscurity in the shadow of man, begins, in the persons of Mary and Elisabeth, to take her place in the foreground, by the heroism of a living faith; as if to show that she is no longer the slave of man, but a fellow-heir with him of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7). It is, however, quite in keeping with divine wisdom that in this case unbelief in view of the rising sun of the gospel salvation is much more severely punished than under the old dispensation. The clearer the light, the more intolerable the shade in the eyes of God. On the psychological ground of the doubt of Zachariah, compare the fine remarks of Dr. Lange, Leben Jesu, ii. 1, p. 65 (German ed.).
4. It is a striking proof of the divine wisdom, that John is announced as the second Elijah. This name gives the earliest indication of his mission, as reformer, in an extremely corrupt nation; of his struggle, in resisting single-handed the false gods of his age, as Elijah did Ahab and Jezebel; of his fate, in being first persecuted and rejected, but afterward honored. The likeness of John the Baptist to Elijah, strikes us not only in his outward appearance, his clothing, and way of living, but in his spirit and character, as a preacher of repentance. The difference between them—consisting chiefly in the fact, that the second Elijah performed no miracles—is explained by the peculiarity of his relation to the Messiah. If the latter were to appear as a prophet mighty in word and deed, His forerunner could do no miracles, without dividing the attention, and provoking a comparison, which must have been to the prejudice of one or the other. He who would cavil because the head of the greatest of the Old Testament prophets is encircled by no halo of miracles, will find his answer, John 10:41.
5. On the formerly often-questioned genuineness of the two first chapters of Luke, comp. Credner, “Einleitung in das N. T. ” p. 131; on the whole of Luke’s narrative of events preceding the birth of Christ, J. P. Lange, “On the Historical Character of the Canonical Gospels, especially on the History of the Childhood of Jesus,” Duisburg, 1836; and (though with critical discrimination) “Die Jugendgeschichte des Herrn,” by Dr. E. J. Gelpke, Bern, Chur (Coire), and Leipzig, 1842.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
The announcement of the birth of John the Baptist, appointed by divine wisdom, received in human weakness, confirmed by striking signs, crowned with surprising results.—God’s way in the sanctuary: 1. The dark sanctuary, or dwelling-place of the Infinite; 2. the divine, where His glory is manifested.—The answer to the prayer of Zachariah was: 1. Earnestly desired, 2. long delayed, 3. promised in a surprising manner, 4. incredulously waited for, and 5. gloriously vouchsafed.—The happiness of pious couples, even when the blessing of children is denied.—The high value of tried fear of God in the eyes of the Lord.—The life of faith a continual priesthood.—A lonely old age cheered up and made serene by the light of the Lord.—God’s revelation hidden from the eye of the world.—The holy angels present, even now, in the Lord’s house.—The fear with which the revelation of great joy fills the heart of a sinner.—John a gift of God.—The birth of John still a matter of rejoicing to many.—John, the second Elijah: their similarity and dissimilarity.—John, great in the sight of the Lord: his superiority to all the Old Testament prophets, his inferiority to our Lord.—The gift of abstinence even under the new covenant.—No meetness for the kingdom of heaven, without sincere repentance.—The desire to see signs and wonders: 1. Easily explicable; 2. very reprehensible; 3. entirely superfluous, where a greater sign has already been vouchsafed.—The angel who stands in the presence of God: his mysterious name, exalted work, and hidden origin.—Zachariah dumb, yet preaching to believers and unbelievers.—The announcement of the birth of John the Baptist, a proof of the truth of the prophetic word (Isaiah 45:15): 1. God, a God that hideth Himself; 2. the God of Israel; 3. the Saviour.—Elisabeth, a type of the faith which receives God’s blessing, enjoys God’s peace, and waits God’s time.—When the reproach of his people is taken away, the Lord has been looking down on them favorably.—The Lord’s second coming is, like His first, openly announced, incredulously doubted, patiently expected.—The Lord will give more to His people than He withholds from them.—Does Zachariah tremble at the sight of an angel? Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear, when the Lord cometh with ten thousand of His saints?—The punishment of unbelief is in the end a blessing.—The less, the preparation for the greater.—Who hath despised the day of small things? Zechariah 4:10.—“Children are an heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is His reward.”—Gabriel standing in the presence of God in heaven, and John great in the sight of the Lord on earth.—The interest of the angels in the coming of God’s kingdom on earth.—Even in times of the greatest corruption, there are still houses which are temples of God.—“The vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” Habakkuk 2:3.
Starke:—In prayer, we should remember the presence of angels.—Even one of the holiest of men cannot stand before an angel.—Even the true servants of God are not without infirmities.—Nothing is great, but what is great before God.—God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, Ephesians 3:20.—The more intimate the communion of a Christian with his God, the more certain his chastisement when he offends Him.—He who sins with his mouth, is punished in his mouth.—God has an eye upon His people, though no one else should see them.—There are times when the children of God bear reproach; there are also times when God takes away their reproach before men: in both His grace is shown.
Luke 1:5; Luke 1:5.—As a question of principle, I would advocate a uniform spelling of Scripture names, conforming Hebrew names as much as possible to the Hebrew, and Greek names to the Greek original. This would require an alteration of Zacharias into Zachariah, Abia into Abijah, Elias into Elijah, Jeremy into Jeremiah, etc. But as Zacharias occurs so often in this chapter, I left it undisturbed. Comp. my Critical Note to Commentary on Matthew, 1:16, vol. i. p. 48.
Luke 1:5; Luke 1:5.—The E. V. follows the textus rec. and Cod. A.: ἡ γυνὴ αὐτοῦ (uxor illius). But the best uncial MSS. (Sinait., B., C.*, D., L., X.), and the modern critical editions of Lachmann, Tischendorf, Alford, and Tregelles, read γυνὴ (without the article) αὐτῶ, uxor illi, he had a wife; and so also van Oosterzee in his German Version: er hatte ein Weib. The received text is a correction for perspicuity sake. The other differences of reading in this section are still less insignificant and not worth mentioning in this Commentary, as they are also passed by in the original. See the Critical Apparatus in Tischendorf’s Greek Testament, editio septima of 1859, and Tregelles’ Greek Testament, Part ii., containing Luke and John.
Luke 1:9; Luke 1:9.—Van Oosterzee likewise observes the (unessential) distinction between ἱερατεύειν, Luke 1:8, and ἱερατεία, Luke 1:9, and renders (with Luther) the first Priesteramt, the second Priesterthum. The Latin Vulgate, however, has in both cases sacerdotium, and de Wette Priesteramt. The E. V. renders ἱερατεία, which occurs twice in the Greek Testament, the priest’s office, Luke 1:9, and the office of the priesthood, Hebrews 7:5, and ἱεράτευμα, priesthood, 1 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 2:9.—P. S.]
[It should not be inferred from the text that Schleiermacher denied the existence of angels altogether. He only denied the existence of Satan and the evil angels.—P. S.]
B. Annunciation of the Birth of the Messiah. Luke 1:26-38
(The Gospel for the day of the Annunciation of Mary.)
26And in the sixth month17 the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee,named Nazareth, 27To a virgin espoused [betrothed] to a man, whose name wasJoseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28And the angel [he]18 came in unto [to] her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured [thou highly favoured!κεχαριτωμένη],19 the Lord is [be] with thee: blessed art thou among women.20 29And when she saw him,21 she was troubled at his [the] saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should [might] be. 30And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call His name JESUS. 32He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: 33And He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end.
34Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing, which shall be born of thee,22 shall be called the Son of God. 36And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was [is] called barren. 37For with God nothing shall be impossible.38And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Luke 1:26. Nazareth.—See remarks on Matthew 2:23.
Luke 1:27. To a virgin.—Joseph is the most prominent person in Matthew’s narrative of events preceding the birth of Christ, Mary in Luke’s; an indication that in all probability she was, whether mediately or immediately, the source whence he derived the account of these facts. (Comp. Acts 21:17.)
Of the house of David.—These words, relating solely to Joseph, show that he was also of the blood-royal. That they by no means deny the descent of Mary from David, will appear hereafter.
Luke 1:28. And [the angel] came in unto her.—Here is no mere apparition of an angel in a dream, as to Joseph; but a visit in open day, although, of course, in a quiet hour of retirement, as more befitting and satisfactory under the circumstances.—The words, the angel, although wanting in the best manuscripts, is intended. The substitution of any human being is inadmissible.
Highly favored.—It is apparent from Luke 1:30 that this is not spoken of the external beauty of Mary, but of the favor or grace she had found in God’s sight. The same epithet is bestowed upon all believers, Ephesians 1:6, orig.
[The greeting of the angel in Luke 1:28 is called the Angelic Salutation or Ave Maria, and forms the first part of the famous Roman Catholic prayer to the Virgin Mary:
“Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.”
The second part of this prayer is taken from the address of Elisabeth to Mary, Luke 1:42 :
“Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.”
To this was added, in the beginning of the sixteenth century (1508), a third part, which contains the objectionable invocation of the Virgin:
“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
The concluding words, however, nunc et in hora mortis, are a still later addition of the Franciscans. Even the first two parts of the Ave Maria were not used as a standing form of prayer before the thirteenth century.—P. S.]
Luke 1:29. She cast in her mind.—A proof of her serenity and presence of mind at a critical hour. How different were Zachariah, and many before him!
Luke 1:32. Shall be called;—i.e., not only shall be, but shall one day be publicly recognized as what He really is.
The Son of the Highest.—This name seems here used by the angel, not in a metaphysical, but a theocratic sense. It points to the anointed King, so long foretold by the prophets, and to whom the words, 2 Samuel 7:14; Psalms 2:7; Psalms 89:28, so fully applied. Very deserving our consideration is the following observation of O. von Gerlach: “It is worthy of remark, that the proper divinity of her son was not definitely revealed to Mary: otherwise, neither she nor Joseph could have been in a position to bring up the child; for the submission, which was a necessary condition of His humanity, would have been submission only in appearance. But this promise, while it by no means abolished the parental relationship, would yet direct the reverential attention of the parents toward the child. From the very beginning of our Lord’s incarnation, we see that the knowledge of His divinity was not to be communicated in an external and awe-inspiring manner, but to be gradually manifested by His humanity and His work of redemption.”—For Mary, who was so intimately acquainted with the Old Testament, this prophecy would contain the essence of the most remarkable Messianic promises: 2 Samuel 7:0; Isaiah 9:0; Micah 5:0, etc.
Luke 1:33. Over the house of Jacob.—The announcement of His universal spiritual reign would have been, at this time, even more incomprehensible to Mary. It lies hidden, however, in the promise: “Of His kingdom there shall be no end.” We must not regard these words of the angel as an accommodation merely to the exclusively Jewish expectations then prevailing, concerning the kingdom of Messiah. Salvation is really of the Jews, and will one day return to Israel.
Luke 1:34. How shall this be? etc.—A natural objection, and a question as much allowed by the angel, as that of Zachariah (Luke 1:18) was arbitrary and blamable. Comp. Numbers 31:17; Judges 11:39; Matthew 1:18.
Luke 1:35. The Holy Ghost—the power of the Highest.—The parallel between these two expressions, exacts that the one should be interpreted by the other; and their mutual light teaches, that the Holy Spirit has verily a life-producing power, but by no means, that He is only power, without personality.
Shall come upon thee—shall overshadow thee.—Again two phrases reflecting light upon each other. Both point to the supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit, in bringing to pass that which ordinarily occurs only through conjugal intercourse. The word ἐπισκιάσει can no more be understood to denote a special divine protection (Kuinoel), than a cohabitation (Paulus, the rationalist).
Therefore also.—His miraculous birth is here spoken of as the natural, but by no means the only reason, why He, who had no human father, should receive the name of the Son of God.
Luke 1:36. Thy cousin, or: kinswoman (ἡ συγγενής σον).—It does not quite appear what was the relationship between Mary and Elisabeth, the daughter of Aaron (Luke 1:5). This relationship, however, whatever it might be, proves nothing against Mary’s descent from David, as different tribes might be united by marriage. (Numbers 36:6 offers no difficulty, as it relates only to heiresses, whose family was in danger of becoming extinct.) There is, therefore, no reason to conclude that Mary, by reason of her relationship to Elisabeth, was of the tribe of Levi (as in the Testam. XII Patriarcharum, p. 542, and Schleiermacher’s Lukas, p. 26).
Luke 1:37. . With God nothing shall be impossible.—Nothing, i.e., no word (ῥῆμα) of promise. A powerful support for Mary’s faith, who might infer from the mirabile the possibility of the miraculum. It is at the same time the last, and indeed the only sufficient, answer to the horror of the miraculous, which characterizes modern criticism.
Luke 1:38. Be it unto me.—Not only the utterance of obedient submission, but also of patient, longing expectation. The heart of Mary is now filled with the Holy Spirit, who can also prepare her body to be the temple of the God-Man.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. Concerning the person of Mary, her youth, and legends of her after history, see Winer in voce “Mary.” The beauty of her character, as “the handmaid of the Lord,” and the chosen instrument of the Holy Spirit, strikes us at the first glimpse at her. (A. H. Niemeyer gives a short but beautiful description of her, in his Characteristik der Bibel, i. pp. 40–42.)
2. Two views, which have obtained in the Christian world, concerning the person and character of Mary, are condemned by these early pages of Luke’s Gospel. The first is that of the Roman and Greek Church, which transforms the handmaid of the Lord into the queen of heaven; the mother of Jesus into the mother of God; the redeemed sinner into the mediatrix and intercessor. The other is that of Rationalismus vulgaris, which deprives the humble bride of the carpenter of the chastity and purity which were her richest dowry, and necessarily rejects the miracle of the supernatural birth; there being no reason for concluding that Jesus was the son of Joseph. The first idea was chiefly supported by the apocryphal Gospels, which surrounded the head of her, upon whom the light of the divine favor had indeed richly fallen, by a halo of celestial glory. Its result was an almost heathen apotheosis of the virgin-mother, producing all the follies of an unlimited Mariolatry. The second notion was first conceived in the brain of the heathen Celsus, who derides the mother of Jesus, as the victim of seduction; while the Jewish version of this fable names one Panthera or Pandira as her seducer. To the shame of Christendom, we have seen this blasphemy revived, in various forms, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Bahrdt, and, in some degree, Paulus and others). Its own intrinsic beauty, truth, and sublimity commend the Gospel narrative, in opposition to both these products of a diseased imagination.
3. With respect to the descent of Mary from David, it is undeniable that the words, ἐξ οἴκου Δαβίδ, Luke 1:27, refer exclusively to Joseph; yet they by no means assert, that our Lord did not descend from David on His mother’s side. We shall soon see that Luke 3:0. presents us with the genealogy of Mary, as Matthew 1:0. does with that of Joseph. The angel, too, who announces to her that she shall conceive a son, through the power of the Holy Spirit, could not possibly have added: “The Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David,” had not Mary herself been a daughter of David. Her song of praise, also, clearly shows what expectations she cherished for the house of David, and can only be fully understood, psychologically, when it is regarded as uttered by the daughter of a royal house, who, though that house was then in the depths of degradation, was yet looking forward to the elevation of the rightful dynasty, and the abasement of the foreign tyrant who then usurped the throne. The Magnificat (as Mary’s Psalm is called) is as unambiguous a proof of Mary’s royal descent as the genealogy, Luke 3:0.
4. The miraculous conception of our Lord, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is related by Luke, as a fact which cannot be doubted, and leaves no room for the hypothesis that we have here a myth or legend. It has often been said, but never proved, that the Jews of those days were expecting that Messiah would be born of a virgin, in some miraculous manner; but even then, it would not follow that the narrative was composed merely in obedience to the dictates of such an expectation. The analogy of certain heathen theogonies may perhaps prove the possibility of inventing such a narrative, in a polytheistic or pantheistic sense; but its reality, in a Christian and theistic sense, can by no means be thus accounted for. A comparison with the accounts in certain apocryphal Gospels on this point speaks more for, than against, the historical fidelity of Luke. Our Lord Himself, indeed, so far as we know, never spoke of this miracle; but His silence may be satisfactorily accounted for. His mother’s honor, the nature of the circumstance, the enmity of the Jews, all forbade Him to bring to light a mystery, for the truth of which He had only His own or Mary’s word to offer. Nor need it astonish us, that His contemporaries speak of Him as the son of Joseph (John 1:45); nor that Mary, speaking of her husband to Jesus, then twelve years of age, should say, “Thy father” (Luke 2:48); nor, least of all, that His brothers should not believe in Him (John 7:5); for, from all in the domestic circle, except Mary and Joseph, the affair was concealed with profound secrecy. We have already seen that Matthew also speaks of a miraculous birth; while Mark passes over in silence the history of Christ previous to His entry upon His public ministry, although he presents the person of our Lord in so divine a light, as naturally to lead to the supposition of His heavenly origin. John is also silent on the subject, though, in his description of the children of God, as born οὐκ ἐξ αἱμάτων, οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος σαρκὸς, οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος , immediately before the words, ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο, there seems contained a latent reminiscence of what he must have undoubtedly heard from Mary during his long and intimate intercourse with her. For if he says, that “that which is born of the flesh is flesh,” and that the λόγος δς ἦν ἐν , became flesh, we must, according to this Evangelist also, believe that this took place in some other way than through the θέλημα σαρκός. Nevertheless, though the conception by the power of the Holy Spirit may be deduced from his doctrine concerning the Logos, he certainly does not expressly declare it. Paul also contents himself with the general statement, that the Lord was born of a woman, and of the seed of David (Romans 1:4; Galatians 4:4); and it seems clear that this miracle, though an indispensable element of gospel history, did not originally belong to the apostolic κήρυγμα, which, according to Acts 1:21, began with the baptism of John.
5. This does not, however, interfere with the fact, that the miraculous conception stands on a firm historical foundation, and is of great dogmatic importance. For the first assertion, they who deny it, a priori, as absolutely impossible, deserve no other answer than: πλανᾶσθε μὴ εἰδότες τὰς γραφὰς μηδὲ τὴν δύναμιν τοῦ Θεοῦ [Matthew 22:29]. Yet, far rather than say, with a modern theologian (Karl Hase), that “birth of a virgin cannot be proved to be impossible,” would we comfort ourselves with the words of the angel [to Mary, Luke 1:37]: ὅτι οὐκ . The laws of nature are not chains, wherewith the Supreme Lawgiver has bound Himself; but cords, which He holds in His own hand, and which He can lengthen or shorten as His good pleasure and wisdom dictate. And surely, in the present case, an end worthy of divine interference justified the deviation. When the Eternal Word was, in “the fulness of the time,” to take upon Him the form of a servant, the new member could only be introduced into the human series in an extraordinary manner. He, who was in the beginning with God, and who came of His own will to sojourn in this our world, could hardly enter it as one of ourselves would. He, who was the light and life of men, must surely see the light of day, not by carnal procreation, but by an immediate exercise of omnipotent power. Besides, how could He be free from every taint of original sin, and redeem us from the power of sin, if He had been born by the fleshly intercourse of sinful parents? The strong and healthy graft which was to bring new life into the diseased stock, must not originate from this stock, but be grafted into it from without. To deduce hence the need also of an immaculata conceptio, in the case of Mary, would be to lose sight of the fact, that we do not lay the chief stress upon the article “natus e virgine M.,” but upon the preceding “conceptus e Sp. S.” From the moment of our Lord’s conception, the Holy Spirit certainly continued to influence and penetrate the mind and spirit of Mary, to suppress the power of sin, and to make her body His consecrated temple. If it be said (by Schleiermacher) that Christian consciousness is perfectly satisfied by accepting the fact, that God removed from the normal development of the Son of Man all the pernicious influences and consequences attending an ordinary human birth, the question here is not, What can the Christian consciousness of an individual bear? but, What saith the Scripture? We believe, on the authority of Luke, who took all pains and had the best means of reliable information (comp. Luke 1:1-4), that the power of the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary in a mysterious manner. The moment of conception is simply hinted at by the words, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord,” and seems to coincide with the departure of the angel.23 Moreover, the true humanity of the Son of Man is by no means abolished, but rather explained by this miracle; for was Adam no real man, because he also, in a physical view, was a υἱὸς Θεοῦ? In short, the miraculous conception is a σκάνδαλον to those alone who will see in our Lord nothing more than His pure humanity, and who put the sinlessness of the perfect man Christ Jesus in the place of the real incarnation of God in Him. To us, who believe in the latter, His miraculous conception is the natural consequence of His superhuman dignity, the basis of His normal development, and a symbol of the ἄνωθεν γεννηθῆναι, which must take place in every member of the kingdom of God. Compare J. J. van Oosterzee: Disputatio Theologica de Jesu e virgine Maria nato. Traj. ad Rh. 1840.
6. The conception of the Son of God, by the Holy Spirit, is the beginning of the intimate union between the λόγος ἔνσαρκος and the πνεῦμα οὐκ ἐκμέτρου, John 3:34. Thirty years later, the Spirit descended upon Him in a bodily shape; and after He was glorified, He sent the Spirit upon all that believed on Him. The same Spirit who formed the body of Christ, forms also the corpus Christi mysticum, the Church.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
The calm, unostentatious entrance of the Divine into the world of man.—God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.—The true veneration of Mary: 1. Exhibited; 2. justified; 3. carried out.—The present worship of Mary [in the Roman and Greek Churches] judged before the tribunal of Gabriel: 1. Mary is called by him, highly favored; by her worshippers, the dispenser of favors; 2. by him, blessed among women; by them, raised above women; 3. by him, the handmaid of the Lord, a sinful daughter of Adam; by them, the Queen of angels [and saints]; 4. in his eyes, a sinful daughter of Adam [nowhere exempt in the Bible from the general depravity of Adam’s posterity]; now [according to the papal dogma proclaimed in 1854], conceived without sin (immaculate concepta).—Mary a type of faith; in her just astonishment, natural fear, gentle boldness, quiet reflection, and unlimited obedience.—The blessed among women: 1. Poor, yet rich; 2. “troubled,” yet meditative; 3. proud as a virgin, yet obedient as a wife; 4. first doubtful, then believing.—The angelic appearances to Zachariah and Mary compared.—Jesus a gracious gift: 1. To Mary; 2. to Israel; 3. to the world.—The greatness of Jesus, and the greatness of John, compared (Luke 1:15; Luke 1:32): 1. Jesus greater than John in Himself; 2. a greater gift of God; 3. therefore worthy of our greater appreciation.—The throne of David: 1. Raised up after deep abasement; 2. raised up amongst Israel; 3. raised up amongst us; 4. raised up to fall no more.—The question: “How shall this be?” may be asked: 1. In a sense lawful for man, and reverential toward God; or 2. in a sense unlawful for man, and dishonoring God.—The operation of the Holy Spirit in creation (Genesis 1:2), and in redemption or the new creation (Luke 1:35), compared: 1. In both, a long and silent preparation; 2. in both, a life-giving and fructifying operation; 3. in both, a new world created.—The support which those, who are “highly favored,” find from contemplating others also highly favored: This support perfectly lawful, often indispensable, always limited, and the highest, and often the only, support of faith, in a power to which nothing is impossible.—With God nothing shall be impossible, an answer by which: 1. Unbelief is put to shame; 2. weak faith strengthened; 3. and faith excited to thankful adoration and unlimited obedience.—Behold the handmaid of the Lord! 1. Her hidden conflict; 2. her complete victory; 3. her full reward; 4. her happy peace.—The messenger of Heaven and the child of earth united, to perform the counsel and good pleasure of God.—The greatest miracle in the world’s history, encompassed with the thickest veil of obscurity.
Starke:—God knows where to find His children, however hidden they may be (2 Timothy 2:19).—God is wont to bestow His favors in times of quiet and retirement, Isa. 30:50.—All believers are the “blessed” of the Lord (Ephesians 1:3).—The holier, the humbler.—The “troubles” of holy minds always end in comfort.—The members of Christ’s kingdom have in Him an everlasting King, an everlasting support, and an everlasting joy.—Let even thy nearest and dearest forsake thee, so thou make sure the Lord Jesus be with thee, and abide in thee.
Heubner:—Mary and Eve: their similarity and dissimilarity, their relation to the human race.—Mary the happiest, but also the most sorely tried, of women.—Christians born of the house of Jacob, according to the Spirit.—Humility the best frame of mind for the reception of grace.—Our birth is also a work of God.—The miraculous birth of Jesus, a glorification of the whole human race.
Wallin:—The angel’s salutation of Mary may be applied to Christians in all the holy seasons of life: baptism, confirmation, the time of chastening, the day of death.
Fr. Arndt:—How does the time of regeneration begin in the world, and in the heart? By an announcement of the grace of God, which is: 1. Heard in humility; 2. received with patience and entire self-resignation.
Van Oosterzee [in sermons previously published]:—Mary the handmaid of the Lord. This saying the inscription of the history of Mary, as maid, wife, and widow.—Her character presents a rare combination of: 1. Genuine humility, with joyful faith; 2. of quiet resignation, with active zeal; 3. of faithful love, with unwavering heroism.—That the Word was made flesh, is: 1. An undoubted fact; this proved by: (a) the life, (b) the words, (c) the works of the Lord; 2. an unfathomable miracle; (a) the unprecedented, (b) the intimate, (c) the voluntary, nature of the union of the Divine Word with flesh; 3. an ever-memorable benefit; for this incarnation is: (a) the glory, (b) the light, (c) the life of mankind. To conclude, the questions: Do you believe in the fact? adore the miracle? highly esteem the benefit?
Luke 1:26; Luke 1:26.—“In the sixth month,” i.e., of the pregnancy of Elisabeth.
Luke 1:28; Luke 1:28.—The ὁ ἄγγελος of the text. rec., though sustained by Codd. A., C., D., and the Latin Vulgate (angelus), is omitted by the Vatican and other uncial Codd. and thrown out by Tischendorf and Alford, but retained by Lachmann, and Tregelles who includes it in brackets. The Sinaitic MS. comes to its aid, and reads: προς αυτην ο αγγελος ειπεν (the text. rec. places ἄγγελος before αὐτήν, so also Lachmann and Tregelles). It is easier to account for its insertion than for its omission.
Luke 1:28; Luke 1:28.—Highly favored, Begnadigte (Luther less literally: Holdselige), is the proper translation of the passive participle κεχαριτωμένη, and not full of grace, gratia plena, gnadenvolle, as the Latin Vulgate and the Romish versions render it in the service of Mariolatry. Alford: “Though χαριτόω is not found in classical writers, the analogy of all verbs in -όω must rule it to mean, the passing of the action implied in the radical substantive [χάρις] on the object of the verb—the conferring of grace or favor upon.” The word occurs besides here once in the N. T., viz., Ephesians 1:6 : τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ, ἐν ᾗ ἐχαρίτωσεν ἡμᾶς ἐν τῷ ἠγαπημένῷ, which the Vulgate renders: “in qua gratificavit nos,” etc., the E. V.: “wherein he hath made us accepted,” lit.: has graced us.
Luke 1:28; Luke 1:28.—The words of the text. rec., εὐλογημένη σὺ ἐν γυναιξίν, blessed thou among women, are generally regarded as a later insertion from Luke 1:42, and thrown out of the text by the recent critical editors. Tregelles retains the words, but in brackets. Cod. Sinait. likewise omits them. The original reading of the angelic salutation then is simply: “Hail, highly favoured one, the Lord [be] with you!” The reading here in connection with the proper translation of κεχαριτωμένη has some bearing upon the question of the worship of Mary.
Luke 1:29; Luke 1:29.—The word ἰδοῦσα, when she saw him, for which the Vulgate reads cum audisset, is wanting in Codd. Sin., Vatican., and other ancient authorities, and thrown out of the text by Griesbach, Tischendorf, Alford, and Tregelles, while Lachmann retains it. The correct reading is: η̊ σὲ ἐπὶ τῷ λόγῳ διεταράχθη, and she was troubled at the saying. Meyer, and after him Alford, suppose that the original mistake was, passing from ΔΕ to ΔΙΕαράχθη (hence Cod. D. reads only the verb. simplex), which gave rise to the glosses, transpositions, and reinsertions of ἐπὶ τῷ λόγῳ.
Luke 1:35; Luke 1:35.—Or: The Holy One that is born, τὸ γεννώμενον ἅγιον; Vulgate: quod nascetur (other Latin authorities: nascitrur) sanctum. The particularizing addition, ἐκ σου, ex te, of thee, of the received text, is without sufficient authority and thrown out or put in brackets by the critical editors.—P. S.]
[Older divines generally date the supernatural conception from the words of the angel, Luke 1:35, which were the medium of the mysterious operation of the Holy Spirit.—P. S.]
C. Hymns of Praise, with which the expectation of the Messiah’s Birth, and the actual Birth of the Baptist, were greeted. Ch.Luke 1:39-80
(Luke 1:57-80, the Lesson for the day of John the Baptist, 24th of June.
Luke 1:67-79, the Gospel for the first day of Advent in the Grand-Duchy of Hesse and elsewhere.)
39And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill-country with haste, into a city of Juda; 40And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. 41And it came to pass, that, when24 Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost [Spirit]: 42And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. 43And whence is this to me,25 that the mother of my Lord should44come to me? For, lo [behold], as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mineears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.26 45And blessed is she that believed: for [believed that]27 there shall be a performance [fulfilment, τελείωσις] of those things which were told her from the Lord.
46 And Mary said,
My soul doth magnify the Lord,
47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. [,]
48 For [In that] He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden; [handmaid.]28
for [For], behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
49 For He that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is His name. [,]
50 And His mercy is on them that fear Him from generation to generation.29
51 He hath showed [wrought] strength with His arm:
He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats [princes from thrones],
and exalted [raised up] them of low degree.
53 He hath filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich He hath sent empty away.
54 He hath holpen [helped] His servant Israel [Is., His servant],
in remembrance of His mercy; [,]
55 As He spake to our fathers, [(As He spake to our fathers)]30
to Abraham, and his seed for ever [to A. and his seed, for ever].31
56And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.
57Now Elisabeth’s full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought fortha Song of Solomon 5:0; Song of Solomon 5:08And her neighbours and her cousins [kindred, συγγενεῖς] heard how the Lord, had showed great mercy upon [toward] her; and they rejoiced with her.
59And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. 60And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John 6:0; John 6:01And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. 62And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. 63And he asked for a writing-table [tablet, πινακίδιον], and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all [they all wondered]. 64And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised65[blessing, εὐλογῶν] God. And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill-country of Judea. 66And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! [What then will this child, be?]32 And [For]33 the hand of the Lord was with him.
67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost,, and prophesied, saying,
68 Blessed be the Lord [, the, ὁ ] God of Israel;34 [,]
for [that] He hath visited and redeemed His people,
69 And hath raised up an [a] horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David [of David, His servant, Δαβὶδ τοῦ παιδὸς, αὐτοῦ];
70 As He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been since the world began [of His holy prophets of old];35
71 That we should be saved [salvation, σωτηρίαν]36 from our enemies,
and from the hand of all that hate us;
72 To perform the mercy promised [to show mercy, ποιῆσαι ἔλεος] to our fathers,
and to remember His holy covenant,
73 The oath which He sware to our father Abraham [to Abraham, our father],
74 That He would grant [to grant] unto us,
that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear,
75 In holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life [all our days].37
76 And [also] thou,38 [O] child, shalt be called the Prophet of the Highest:
for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways;
77 To give knowledge of salvation unto His people,
by [in, ἐν] the remission of their sins,39
78 Through the tender mercy [mercies, διὰ σπλάγχνα ἐλέους] of our God;
whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited us,
79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.
80 And the child grew, and waxed [became] strong in spirit, and was in the deserts
till the day of his showing [manifestation, ἀναδείξεως] unto Israel.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Luke 1:39. Into a city of Juda.—It does not seem probable that these enigmatical words denote so much as a city of the tribe of Judah, much less that they point out Jerusalem or Hebron. The supposition, that Ἰούδα has been substituted for Ἰούτα (mentioned Josh. 15:65), is far more credible; nor is it unlikely that this less strictly correct orthography is derived from Luke himself. Juta is to this day a considerable village, inhabited by Mohammedans. See Röhr’s Palestine, p. 187.
Luke 1:39-40. Mary arose—and entered.—According to Jewish customs, it was improper, or at least unusual, for single or betrothed females to travel alone. Mary, however, may have undertaken this journey with Joseph’s consent, and, perhaps, partly in the company of others. Extraordinary circumstances justify extraordinary measures, and Lange correctly remarks: “the obedience of the cross makes truly free.”—The supposition, that Joseph had taken his betrothed bride to his home, after a public solemnization of their nuptials, before this journey (Hug, Ebrard), seems improbable; but still more so, that Mary had already apprised him of the fact of the angelic visitation. Her part throughout was to announce nothing, but simply to wait till He, who had destined her to the highest honor ever bestowed, should, in His own good time, also make clear her innocence to the eyes of her husband and the world. By this state of affairs only, can Luke’s account be reconciled with Matthew’s, who, after the wordsεὑρέθη ἐν γ. ἔχ., describes the discovery of Mary’s state as an unexpected, and hence a disquieting, discovery to Joseph. Mary leaves it simply to God to enlighten Joseph, as He had enlightened her. Nor does she undertake a journey to Elisabeth to consult with her, or to avoid her husband, but to seek that confirmation of her faith pointed out to her by the angel.
Luke 1:41. And it came to pass.—The salutation of Mary, the ecstasy of Elisabeth, and the leaping of the babe in her womb, are three circumstances occurring at the same moment. At Mary’s arrival, Elisabeth is filled with joy, and her babe moves. Luke mentions the latter circumstance first, as being the most extraordinary, although, in itself, it was rather the consequence than the cause of the emotion felt by Elisabeth at Mary’s salutation. The aged woman, filled with the Holy Spirit, recognizes, by the extraordinary movement of the child, the presence of the future mother of her Lord; and thus the yet unborn John already offers involuntary homage to the καρπὸς τῆς κοιλίας of Mary.
Luke 1:42. Blessed art thou—and blessed is the fruit, etc.—The first beatitude of the New Testament, and, in a certain sense, the root of all the rest. Elisabeth, while extolling the blessedness of Mary on account of her faith and obedience, was undoubtedly reflecting with compassion on the condition of Zachariah, whose unbelief had been reproved with loss of speech, while the believing Mary was entering her house with joyful salutations.
Luke 1:45. For there shall he a fulfilment, etc.—It is grammatically possible, yet not logically necessary, to refer the ὅτι to the object of Mary’s faith (“which believed that there,” marg.). The assurance, that verily the things promised should be fulfilled without exception, though not indispensable in Mary’s case, must yet have been a confirmation of her faith, which she would most gladly welcome. It is self-evident how much the abruptness of the sentences in which Elisabeth pours out the fulness of her heart, enhances the beauty of this passage. A psalm-like tone, better felt than expressed, seems to resound in her words, forming a prelude to Mary’s “Magnificat.”
[Luke 1:46-55. The Magnificat of the Virgin Mary (so called from the old Latin version of Μεγαλύνει, Luke 1:46 : Magnificat anima mea Dominum), and the Benedictus of Zachariah, Luke 1:68-79 (so called from its beginning: Εὐλογητός, Luke 1:68, Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel), are the Psalms of the New Testament, and worthily introduce the history of Christian hymnology. They prove the harmony of poetry and religion. They are the noblest flowers of Hebrew lyric poetry sending their fragrance to the approaching Messiah. They are full of reminiscences of the Old Testament, entirely Hebrew in tone and language, and can be rendered almost word for word. Thus μεγαλεῖα corresponds to גְּדֹלֹות (Psalms 71:19; Psalms 106:21; Psalms 136:4); ὁ δυνατός to גִּבּוֹר (Psalms 24:8); εἰς γενεὰν καὶ γενεάν (as Cod. Sin. reads) to לְדֹר וָדֹר. It is worth while to read the first two chapters of Luke in the Hebrew translation of the New Testament. These hymns form a part of the regular morning service in the Anglican liturgy, and resound from Sabbath to Sabbath in Christian lands. Dr. Barrow says of the Magnificat: “This most excellent hymn is dedicated by a spirit ravished with the most sprightly devotion imaginable; devotion full of ardent love and thankfulness, hearty joy, tempered with submiss reverence.” Wordsworth: “This speech, full of Hebraisms, has a native air of originality, and connects the eucharistic poetry of the gospel with that of the Hebrew dispensation. … Thus the voices of the Law and the Gospel sound in concert with each other; and utter a protest against those who would make the one to jar against the other.”—The Magnificat is divided into four stanzas, each of which contains three verses, viz.: (1) Luke 1:46-48 (to αὐτοῦ); (2) Luke 1:48 (from ἰδού) to Luke 1:50; (3) Luke 1:51-53; (4) Luke 1:54-55. The Benedictus of Zachariah contains five stanzas, each with three verses. So Meyer and Ewald. See Ewald’s translation in his: Die drei ersten Evangelien, pp. 98 and 99, where he divides the Magnificat into 12, the Benedictus into 15 lines.—P. S.]
Luke 1:46. And Mary said.—The angel’s visit was vouchsafed to Mary later than to Zachariah, yet her song of thanksgiving is uttered long before his: faith is already singing for joy, while unbelief is compelled to be silent. The Magnificat is evidently no carefully composed ode, but the unpremeditated outpouring of deep emotion, the improvisation of a happy faith. It was easy for Mary, a daughter of David’s royal race, well acquainted with the lyrics of the Old Testament, favored by God and filled with the Holy Spirit, to become in an instant both poetess and prophetess. The fulfilment of the angel’s words with respect to Elisabeth, in which she saw a pledge and token of the full performance of his other promises, and of the realization of her most cherished hopes, seems to have been the immediate cause of this song of praise.
My soul doth magnify the Lord.—Mary’s hymn recalls, besides the song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1), several passages in the Psalms, especially in Psalms 113:0. and 126. The beginning plainly refers to Psalms 31:8, according to the Septuagint. The whole may be divided into three or four strophes, forming an animated doxology. The grace of God (Luke 1:48), His omnipotence (Luke 1:49-51), His holiness (Luke 1:49; Luke 1:51; Luke 1:54), His justice (Luke 1:52-53), and especially His faithfulness (Luke 1:54-55), are here celebrated. It sounds like an echo, not only of David’s and Hannah’s, but also of Miriam’s and of Deborah’s harps; yet independently reproduced in the mind of a woman, who had laid up and kept in her heart what she had read in Holy Scripture.
Luke 1:47. God my Saviour.—Undoubtedly Mary was looking for civil and political blessings, through the birth of the Messiah; but we overlook the clearness of her views, and the depth of her mind, by thinking that her expectations were only, or chiefly, fixed upon these. The temporal salvation which she expected, was in her eye only the type and symbol of that higher salvation, which she desired above all things.
Luke 1:48. The low estate.—Not humility, or lowliness of mind, but of condition, humilis conditio.
From henceforth.—The first beatitude, uttered by Elisabeth, is a token of an unutterable number, of which one at least is recorded, Luke 11:27 : “Blessed is the womb that bare Thee, and the paps which Thou hast sucked.”40
Luke 1:49. And holy is His name—No mere apposition to δυνατός (Kuinoel), but a new and independent sentence (comp. 1 Samuel 2:2).
Luke 1:52. The mighty (δυνάστας).—Mary would have been no true daughter of David, if she could have spoken these words without primary reference to Herod; but no believing Israelite, if she had thought of Herod alone. The overthrow of all anti-Messianic power seems, in her imagination, to begin with the fall of the Idumæan usurper.
Luke 1:53. He hath filled the hungry with good things.—The supposition, that only the good things of this world are here alluded to (Meyer), is as little to be entertained, as that the satisfying of a spiritual hunger is exclusively intended (de Wette). Such an alternative is certainly unnecessary in the case of Mary, whose earthly hunger and nourishment were both the type and resemblance of a higher need and a higher satisfaction, and who had certainly felt what Goethe afterward sung: “Alles Vergängliche ist nur ein Gleichniss.”41 At this time, the spiritual craving was most powerfully felt among the outwardly needy. How exclusively materialistic, or how exclusively spiritualistic, would Mary have been, if she could have wholly confined her meaning to either of these ideas!
Luke 1:55. Abraham and his seed.—A remarkable proof that Mary’s expectations concerning the Messiah’s appearance were not of a particularistic and exclusive, but of a universal nature. For the seed promised to Abraham was to be a blessing to the whole world.
Luke 1:56. And returned to her own house.—To keep silence before Joseph, as she had broken silence before Elisabeth. Even the distasteful manner in which what passed between the betrothed pair is embellished in apocryphal literature (Protevang. Jac. Luke 11:12; see Thilo’s Codex Apocr. N. Ti, p. 215), is better than the opinion that Mary made a sort of confessio auricularis to her husband. To suppose it psychologically and morally impossible that Mary kept silence and waited, even after her visit to Elisabeth, betrays a very superficial appreciation of her frame of mind. Hers was no transient kindling of mere enthusiasm, but a constant and steadily burning flame of divine inspiration.
Luke 1:59. To circumcise the child.—On the origin, intention, and sacredness of circumcision, see de Wette, Archœologie, § 150 [also Jahn’s Archœology, and the Bibl. Cyclopædias of Winer, Kitto, Smith, Herzog, etc., sub voce]. According to Genesis 21:3-4, the performance of circumcision, and the bestowing of a name, had been simultaneous from the very origin of the rite. It is remarkable how much the custom of giving the name on the seventh or on the eighth day after a child’s birth has been practised in the East, even where the rite of circumcision has been unknown. According to Ewald, Israel. Allerthümer, p. 110, the first of these practices is found to exist among the Khandi in India, and the second among the Negroes; he also connects their use with the ancient sacred division of time into weeks. Among the Greeks and Romans also it was customary to name the child on the day of purification.
Luke 1:60. And his mother answered.—Ex revelatione, according to Theophylact, Euthym. Zigabenus, Bengel, and Meyer. But it is not said here, that she was filled with the Holy Spirit; and it is highly improbable that Zachariah should have kept the matter concealed from her during so many months. Needless multiplication of the miraculous is quite as censurable as arbitrary denial.
Luke 1:62. And they made signs.—Certainly not because he was also deaf, as Ewald and many ancient writers have supposed; for the very fact that a sign was considered sufficient for Zachariah, shows that he had already silently heard the friendly contention.
Luke 1:63. A writing-tablet.—Tertullian well says: “Zacharias loquitur in stylo, auditur in cera;” and Bengel: “Prima hœc scriptura N. T. incipit a gratia.” [ΙΙ ινακίδιον was “a tablet smeared with wax, on which they wrote with a style.”—P. S.]
Luke 1:64. And his mouth was opened immediately.—Neither by the force of joyful emotion (Kuinoel), nor by his breaking a voluntary silence (Paulus), but by a miracle, whereby the word of the angel (Luke 1:20) was fulfilled at exactly the right time. Now that his soul is fully released from the chains of unbelief, his tongue is released from the chains of dumbness. His first use of his recovered faculty is not to utter a complaint, but a doxology: a proof that the cure had taken place in his soul also.
Luke 1:65. And fear came on all.—Not a remark in anticipation of the history (de Wette), but the first immediate impression produced by what occurred at the birth and naming of the child. The Evangelist does not say that Zachariah uttered his song of praise on this eighth day. In the whole of Luke’s previous history, as well as in other parts of Holy Scripture, fear has always been the first effect produced upon man by the consciousness that heavenly beings are entering into nearer and unusual intercourse with him (Luke 1:12; Luke 1:29; Luke 2:9). This fear, which now spread only through the hill-country of Judæa, afterward’ filled the heart of all Jerusalem. It was undoubtedly kept up, as well as the expectation of some greater thing to follow, by the unusual manner in which the child John was brought up.
Luke 1:66. For the hand of the Lord was with him.—An evident reference to the prophecy of the angel (Luke 1:15), and a summing up of the whole history of John’s childhood. With Lachmann and Tischendorf, we prefer the reading καὶ γὰρ χείρ to καὶ χεὶρ of the Recepta. The question of surprise is thus modified, and the surprise indirectly expressed as constantly increasing.
Luke 1:67. And prophesied.—This word, both here and in many other places, must not be understood in the sense of vaticinium edere, but of uttering inspired words of praise to God. The last prophecy concerning Christ before His birth, by the mouth of Zachariah, has the character, not of an oracle of Delphi, but of a psalm of David. It can scarcely be better described than in the words of Lange, Leben Jesu, ii. p. Luke 90: “The song of praise now uttered by Zachariah, had so gradually and completely ripened in his soul, that he could never forget it in future. This song depicts the form and stature of his faith; it is the expression of the gospel, as his heart had received it. It is with a truly priestly intuition that Zachariah sees the reconciliation and transformation of the world in the advent of the Messiah. The coming Christ appears to him the true altar of salvation for His people, who henceforth, delivered from their enemies, shall perform true, real worship, celebrating the service of God in perpetual freedom. It is this that is his heart’s delight as a priest. His heart’s delight as a father is, that his son John shall be the herald of the Lord, to give the knowledge of His salvation, even to them who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.”
Luke 1:68. For He hath visited and redeemed.—Here, as also in Mary’s song, the aorist is most properly used to express the prophetic consciousness, to which the salvation, still partly hidden in the future, appears already present. In the eyes of Zachariah, all the benefits to be bestowed by the Messiah are summed up in the one word λύτρωσις; and this λύτρωσις is the fruit of the gracious look, which God has just cast (ἐπεσκέψατο) upon Israel. Zachariah passes over from speaking of Israel only, in Luke 1:68, to describe these benefits as bestowed generally (Luke 1:79) on all those who sit “in darkness and the shadow of death:” a beautiful climax, and worthy of notice.
Luke 1:69. A horn of salvation.—The well-known Biblical meaning of קֶרֶן (1 Samuel 2:10; Psalms 132:17, and elsewhere) must be here understood, and not the horns of helmets, nor the horns of the altar. A strong, powerful defender is pointed out; nor does Zachariah forget that this horn is to spring from David’s race, though it is remarkable how much less the Davidic element prevails in his song than in Mary’s.
Luke 1:70. As He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets.—Zachariah is here taking up the golden thread which had dropped from Mary, Luke 1:55.
Luke 1:71. Salvation (σωτηρίαν) from our enemies.—Undoubtedly the political element was chiefly present to Zachariah. The priest is at the same time the patriot in the best sense of the term, deeply moved by the sight of Roman tyranny. But he chiefly prizes this political liberation as the means to a higher end, the reformation of divine worship: Luke 1:74-75.
Luke 1:72. The mercy promised to our fathers.—The fulfilment of the promises concerning Messiah, is not only a matter of rejoicing for the present, and a source of hope for the future, but also a healing balm for past sorrows. The fathers had, for generations, wept over the decay of their nation, and were now living with God to look down from heaven upon the fulness of the time. Comp. Luke 20:37-38; John 8:56.
Luke 1:74. That He would grant unto us.—We are not to understand here the matter of the oath, but the púrpose for which God once swore it, and was now about to fulfil it. For the oath itself, see Genesis 22:16-18.
Without fear.—Not the fear of God, which is rather the Old Testament token of piety, but the fear of enemies, which had often made Israel incapable of serving the Lord with joy. “How many times had the Macedonians, especially Antiochus Epiphanes, and the Romans, hindered the Jews in the exercise of their worship!” (De Wette.)
Luke 1:75. In holiness and righteousness before Him.—Ὁσιό της and δικαιοσύνη are so far different, that the former refers more to piety considered in itself, the latter to piety with respect to God. [This expression sufficiently proves that the song of Zachariah looks by no means simply to the temporal greatness of the Messianic kingdom, but to the spiritual also.—P. S.]
All the days of our life, or rather all our days.—Both the number and weight of critical authorities justify us in expunging the words τῆς ζωῆς from the Greek text. Zachariah, then, is here speaking, not of the lives of individuals, but of the continuous national existence of highly favored Israel. Uninterrupted national prosperity, based upon true religion, is the ideal of his aspirations.
Luke 1:76. And also thou, O child—Zachariah, as a prophet of God, now begins to foretell the career of the last and greatest of the prophets. A striking proof of the prevalence of the theocratic over the paternal feeling in his song, is seen in the fact, that the Messiah is always placed in a more prominent position than His forerunner. Zachariah, however, at last, cannot forbear speaking of the latter, and with evident reference to Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 4:0. He is to go before the face of the Lord (Jehovah), whose glory appears in the advent of the Messiah. The foundation of the salvation which he proclaims is forgiveness, and the conditio sine qua non of this forgiveness is the knowledge of salvation: comp. Hebrews 8:11-12.
Luke 1:78. The day-spring from on high.—An emblematic allusion to Messiah and His salvation, again referring to Malachi 4:2. There is a remarkable coincidence between the last Messianic prophecy of the Old Testament, and the very last before the incarnation of the Divine Word.
Luke 1:79. Those sitting in darkness and the shadow of death.—The glance of the prophet here takes a far wider range than Israel. He beholds very many, deprived of the light of truth and life, sitting in darkness and the shadow of death, but sees in spirit the Sun of Righteousness rising upon them all: Isaiah 9:2; Isaiah 60:1.
To guide our feet.—The end for which the day-spring should “give light” as this again was the end for which it “visited” our dark world. The hymn concludes with a boundless prospect into the still partly hidden future.
[Alford: “Care must be taken, on the one hand, not to degrade the expression of this song of praise into mere anticipations of temporal prosperity, nor, on the other, to find in it (except in so far as they are involved in the inner and deeper sense of the words, unknown save to the Spirit who prompted them) the minute doctrinal distinctions of the writings of St. Paul. It is the expression of the aspirations and hopes of a pious Jew, waiting for the salvation of the Lord, finding that salvation brought near, and uttering his thankfulness in Old Testament language, with which he was familiar, and at the same time under prophetic influence of the Holy Spirit. That such a song should be inconsistent with dogmatic truth, is impossible: that it should unfold it minutely, is in the highest degree improbable.”—Augustine (Medit.): “O blessed hymn of joy and praise! Divinely inspired by the Holy Ghost, and divinely pronounced by the venerable priest, and daily sung in the church of God; Oh, may thy words be often in my mouth, and the sweetness of them always in my heart! The expressions, thou usest, are the comfort of my life; and the subject, thou treatest of, the hope of all the world.”—P. S.]
Luke 1:80. And the child grew.—A summary description of the twofold development of the youthful Nazarite, both in mind and body. Thirty years passed before the “fear” which arose at his birth (Luke 1:65), was replaced by the universal agitation caused by his powerful voice. It is certainly possible, but neither certain nor probable, that during his sojourn “in the wilderness,” he came in contact with the Essenes who dwelled in the neighborhood of the Dead Sea (Plinius: Hist. Nat. v. 17). [Comp. the similar conclusion on the physical and spiritual development of the child Jesus in Luke 2:40.—P. S.]
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The new covenant is greeted, at its first appearance, with hymns of joyful praise. What a contrast to the fear and terror accompanying the introduction of the Old! These songs present a happy interfusion of the letter of the Old, with the spirit of the New Testament. That of Mary is more individual, that of Zachariah more national, in its character. The former is more nearly akin to David’s thanksgiving after the promise made to him, 2 Samuel 7:18; the latter, to his hymn of praise at Solomon’s anointing, 1 Kings 1:48. It is worthy of remark, how entirely in the spirit of the Old Testament are the Messianic expectations expressed in both songs, and how pure and free they are from narrow and exclusively Jewish notions.
2. The three songs of Elisabeth, Mary, and Zachariah contain important contributions to the right understanding of their Christology. Each is thoroughly persuaded that the Messiah is to be the head of the prophetic brotherhood, the source of temporal as well as spiritual prosperity to Israel, the highest blessing to the world, the highest gift of grace, the supreme manifestation of the glory of God. We may easily disregard the absence of metaphysical speculations in the compositions of those whose views are so purely theocratic. Their hopes are just as material as might be expected from pious Israelites of their times, but at the same time so indefinite, that they could only belong to the period of the beginning of the sacred narrative. The relative want of originality in the song of Mary, which is full of reminiscences, offers a psychological proof of its authenticity. Such songs as these would never have been composed so many years after the appearance of Jesus. Indeed, they may be considered as representative of the state of Messianic expectation just before the “rising of the Sun of Righteousness;” and are, in tone, form, and spirit, much older than the apostolic preaching of Christ’s spiritual kingdom. At what other time could such lays have gushed forth, than just at that happy season, when the most exalted poetry became reality, and reality surpassed the ideal of poetry?
3. It is striking, that while it is said of both Elisabeth and Zachariah, before they uttered their songs, that they were filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41; Luke 1:46), the same is not said of Mary. The Spirit seems no longer to have come upon her, after the Old Testament manner, for a few moments, but to have dwelt in and acted upon her in the gospel manner. The royal spirit is. more expressed in her song; the priestly character, in that of Zachariah. In his, the Old Testament type, in hers the New, prevails.
4. The enthusiasm of faith attains its highest point just before the time of vision begins (Luke 10:23-24). It makes the aged Elisabeth young; transforms the youthful bride of the carpenter into the inspired prophetess of her future Son; renders the priest the herald who announces the coming of the forerunner; and even communicates its rapture to the child unborn. The dogmatizer has as little right to build upon this latter circumstance a doctrine of fides infantium (as Calovius, a strict Lutheran divine of the seventeenth century, did), and thus make the exception the rule, as the neologian has, to deride a phenomenon of a history, whose religious importance and world-wide influence he is utterly unable to appreciate. Comp. also Aristot. Hist. Anim. vii. 3, 4.
5. The song of Zachariah is a proof how much his spiritual life, and his insight into the divine plan of salvation, had increased, during the months of silence which succeeded his reception of the angelic message.
6. Theologians who deny the existence of Messianic prophecies so called—i.e., of special promises given by God Himself, with respect to the coming of Christ—should take a lesson from Mary and Zachariah. In their view, “God spake by the mouth of His holy prophets;” spake for centuries past; spake to Abraham and to his seed, of the coming Christ; spake so, that all future ages should believe, and expect, that all that was yet unfulfilled, would surely come to pass in due season. We have here a complete outline of Old Testament Christology, to be remembered by the divines and preachers for all time to come.
[7. “And (John) was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation unto Israel,” Luke 1:80. Here we see combined the wisdom of temporary retirement (the truth underlying the monastic system), and the duty of public usefulness in society (which the system of Protestant ethics makes most prominent). The former is a preparation for the latter. “Es bildet ein Talent sich in der Stille, sich ein Character in dem Strom der Welt” (Goethe). On temporary retirement Bishop Horne (On the Life and Death of John the Baptist) remarks: “He who desires to undertake the office of guiding others in the ways of wisdom and holiness, will best qualify himself for that purpose by first passing some time in a state of sequestration from the world; where anxious cares and delusive pleasures may not break in upon him, to dissipate his attention; where no skeptical nor sectarian spirit may blind his understanding, and nothing may obstruct the illumination from above; where every vicious inclination may be mortified through grace, by a prudent application of the proper means, and every fresh bud of virtue, sheltered from noxious blasts, may be gradually reared up into strength, beauty, and fragrance; where, in a word, he may grow and wax strong in spirit until the day of his showing unto Israel. Exodus 3:1; Ezekiel 1:1-3; Daniel 9:3; Daniel 9:23; Revelation 1:9; Acts 7:23.” On the other hand, Milton (Areopagitica) justly censures the permanent monastic retirement of idleness or selfish piety in these words: “I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race, where the immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat. Assuredly, we bring not innocence into the world; we bring impurity much rather: that which purifies us is trial; and trial is by what is contrary.”—P. S.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
The silence of faith and the silence of unbelief contrasted in the cases of Mary and Zachariah.—Meeting of Elisabeth and Mary, emblematic of that of the Old and New Covenant at their respective limits.—Mary’s greeting a comfort to Elisabeth in her sorrow, at her husband’s loss of speech.—The Holy Spirit in the yet unborn John glorifying the Divine Word, before His birth in the flesh.—The great hymn of praise of the dispensation of grace begun.—Humility perplexed at the ineffable manifestations of grace.—The blessing pronounced: 1. Upon her who first believed; 2. in her, upon all believers of the New Covenant.—Faith leads to sight; sight to increase of faith.—Mary’s song of praise: 1. The climax of all the hymns of the Old, 2. the beginning of all the hymns of the New, Covenant.—Deep conviction of the reception of the highest favors combined with personal humility.—The manifestation of righteous retribution combined with unlimited grace.—All the perfections of God glorified in the gift of the Saviour: 1. Grace. 2. power, 3. holiness, 4. mercy, 5. justice, 6. faithfulness.—The new day of salvation, the fruit of ancient promises.—The fruit of faith in Christ’s salvation is joy; which is: 1. A thankful joy; 2. an humble joy; 3. a hopeful joy; 4. a God-glorifying joy.—A heart devoted to God, the best psalter.—Mary and Eve: Faith in God’s word the source of supreme joy; unbelief of God’s word the source of deepest sorrow.—Mary, the Hannah of the New Testament, and, like her, despised, exalted, rejoicing.—The coming of Jesus is: 1. The exaltation of the lowly; 2. the putting down of the mighty; 3. the satisfying of the hungry; 4. the leaving empty of those who regard themselves as spiritually rich.—God’s faithfulness and Israel’s unfaithfulness.—The mercy of God shown: 1. To Mary; 2. through Mary to Israel; 3. through Israel to the world.
The three months of Mary’s sojourn with Elisabeth, an emblem: 1. Of the communion of saints on earth; 2. of the intercourse of the blessed in heaven.—The birth of John, a sign of God’s faithfulness and truth.—The silence of Heaven at the birth of John, and the rejoicing of the angels at the birth of Jesus.—The import of bestowing a name: 1. In the case of the forerunner; 2. generally.—Every child a gift of God.—The obedience of faith, in the case of Zachariah: 1. Tried, 2. shown, 3. rewarded.—The Hallelujah of man succeeds the Ephatha of God.—The “report” of God attentively received, at first awakens a just fear, and afterward drives away all fear.—A question and answer at the birth of a child: 1. The natural question, What manner of child shall this be? 2. the satisfactory answer, The hand of the Lord will be with him.
The true father also a priest: the true priest filled with the Holy Spirit; the true fulness of the Holy Spirit manifested in words of praise to God.—Redemption, a visit made by God to His people, by Heaven to earth.—Novum Testamentum in Vetere latet, Vetus in Novo patet [St. Augustine].—No national prosperity without the fear of God; no fear of God unaccompanied with beneficial effects upon national prosperity.—Redemption, God remembering His God-forgetting people.—The true service of God is a service without fear: 1. Without timid fear of man; 2. without slavish fear of God.—No salvation without forgiveness of sins; no forgiveness of sins without knowledge of the truth; no knowledge of the truth without divine revelation; no divine revelation without divine mercy, grace, and faithfulness.—The rising sun an emblem of Christ: 1. The darkness preceding both; 2. the light spread by both; 3. the warmth given by both; 4. the fruitfulness caused by both; 5. the joy with which both are hailed.—Darkness and the shadow of death: 1. cast down, 2. enlightened, 3. dissipated.—The Prince of Peace, the guide into the way of peace.
The threefold hymns of praise.—Variety and oneness in the minds of those who here glorify the grace of God in Christ.—Mary begins with what is individual, and ascends to what is general; Zachariah begins with what is general, and descends to what is individual; Elisabeth must precede, before Mary can follow.—In the case of Zachariah, the silence of unbelief is exchanged for the song of praise; in that of Mary, the song of praise is exchanged for the silence and expectation of faith.—All three sing on earth the first notes of a song which shall perfectly and eternally resound in heaven, the one song of an innumerable multitude of voices.
The hidden growth of one designed for a great work in the kingdom of God.—Solitude the school of the second Elijah.—The last silence of God, before the first words of the desert preacher.
Starke:—Christians should not travel from sinful curiosity, but for some good purpose.—The loving salutation of the children of God.—When the heart is full, the mouth overflows.—We may well be filled with grateful astonishment, that the Lord should come unto us in His incarnation, in His Supper, through His word, and through faith.—As we believe, so it happens to us.—Mary says, My Saviour: the is then a sinner, needing a Saviour like any other child of Adam.
Quesnel:—The more God exalts an individual, the more should he humble himself.—Langii Op. Bibl.:—Pride of heart the greatest sin before God.—Zeisius:—Christians should give their children names which tend to edification.—Brentii Op.:—God makes the speaker dumb, and the dumb man to speak.—Osiander:—Hymns of praise, from sanctified hearts, are the most acceptable sacrifice to God.—Compare Luther’s exposition of the Magnificat, for Prince John Frederick of Saxony (Werke, vii. 1220–1317), wherein he well says: “It is the nature of God to make something out of nothing; therefore, when any one is nothing, God may yet make something of him.”
Heubner:—The faith of the less (Elisabeth) may strengthen the stronger (Mary).—Mary the happiest of all mothers.—Religion the foundation of true friendship.—Pious mothers a blessing to the whole race of man.—The Spirit must open a man’s lips, or he is spiritually dumb.—John a guide into the way of peace, because a guide to Christ.—God carries on His work in secret.—Mature preparation for public work, especially for the work of the preacher.
Arndt:—Mary’s visit to Elisabeth: 1. How it strengthens her faith; 2. how it called forth her praise.
Palmer:—To the art of praising God (Luke 1:46-55) belong: 1. A clear eye to estimate the works of God; 2. a joyful heart to rejoice in them; 3. a loosened tongue to express this joy aright. (The first might also be exemplified in Elisabeth, the second in Mary, the third in Zachariah, and thus the theme and parts be applied to the whole pericope, Luke 1:39-80.)
Schroter (in a baptismal sermon on Luke 1:66):—In what sense was this question asked? How ought it to be asked?—F. W. Krummacher:—The dayspring from on high.—The festival at Hebron.—The Benedictus of Zachariah. (Adventsbuch, Bielefeld, 1847, pp. 140–172.)
Luke 1:41; Luke 1:41.—Better: And it came to pass, as Elisabeth … that the babe … So the Revised N. T. of the Am. B. U. The best authorities place ἡ Ἐλισ. after τῆς Μαρ., while the Elzevir text reads: ἡ Ἐλ. τὸν . (an intentional transposition).
Luke 1:43; Luke 1:43.—This is the shortest rendering of πόθεν μοι τοῦτο, sc. γέγονεν, and preferable to what would be otherwise more in keeping with the modern usus loquendi: How hath this happened to me. Comp. the Vulgate: Unde hoc mihi; Luther and van Oosterzee: Woher (kommt) mir das.
Luke 1:44; Luke 1:44.—An immaterial difference in the order of words in the Greek text. Griesbach, Scholz, Tischendorf read: to τὸ βρέφος ἐν , for the text. rec.: ἐν . τὸ βρ. The latter is supported by B., C., D., F., L., and Cod. Sin., and should be retained with Lachmann, Alford, and Meyer.
Luke 1:45; Luke 1:45.—There is a difference of opinion as to the meaning of ὅτι. Van Oosterzee agrees with Luther, the old Latin and the English Versions, and translates: denn. See his Exegetical Note. But Grotius, Bengel, de Wette, Ewald, Meyer, etc., render it that, making it depend upon πιρτεύσασα, as in Acts 27:25 : πιστεύων γὰρ τῷ θεῷ ὅτι οὗτος ἔσται. I prefer the latter, because the supernatural conception foretold by the angel, Luke 1:31; Luke 1:35, had then already taken place.
Luke 1:48; Luke 1:48.—Ἐπὶ τὴν ταπείνωσιν τῆς δούλης αὐτοῦ, the lowliness, humility, humble condition of his handmaid. Ταπείνωσις refers not to the humility of mind, but the humility of station or external condition. Luther and van Oosterzee: Niedrigkeit.
Luke 1:50; Luke 1:50.—Better with the Latin Vulgate, Luther, van Oosterzee, the Revised N. T. of the Am. B. U., etc.: His mercy is from generation to generation, to them that fear Him, τὸ ἔλεος αὐτοῦ εἰς γενεὰς γενεῶν (or with the older MSS.: εἰς γενεὰς καὶ γενεὰς, or with Cod. Sin.: εἰς γενεὰν καὶ γενεὰν, which corresponds literally to the Hebrew לְדֹר וָדֹר, and is preferable to the other readings) τοῖς φοβουμένοις αὐτόν. The C. V. favors the connection of from generation to generation with φοβουμένοις instead of ἔλεος.
Luke 1:55; Luke 1:55.—The clause: As He spake to our Fathers, should be inclosed in parenthesis, and the punctuation changed thus: In remembrance of His mercy (as He spake to our fathers) to Abraham, etc. For μνησθῆναι ἐλέους and τῷ Ἀβραάμ belong together; while the E. V. connects to Abraham with spake, which is inadmissible in the Greek (ἐλάλησεν πρὸς τοὺς πατέρας ἡμῶν, not τοῖς); comp. Psalms 98:3 and Micah 7:20, to which our passage alludes. In any case the words for ever must be connected, not with spake, nor with seed, but with in remembrance of his mercy, and should therefore be separated from seed by a comma.
Luke 1:55; Luke 1:55.—The Codd. are divided between εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα and ἕως αἰῶνος. Lachmann, Tischendorf, Meyer, and Tregelles adopt the former.
Luke 1:66; Luke 1:66.—Τί ἄρα (quid igitur) τὸ παιδίον τοῦτο ἔσται; The force of the ratiocinative ἄρα should not be lost; it refers to the peculiar circumstances and auspices of the birth of John; comp. Luke 8:25; Acts 12:18, where the ἄρα is likewise overlooked in the E. V.
Luke 1:66; Luke 1:66.—The Sin. and Vatic. MSS. and other ancient authorities read καὶ γάρ, etenim, denn auch; while the Elzevir text omits γάρ, which could easily be missed by a transcriber on account of the following χείρ. The words: “For the hand of the Lord was with him,” are a remark of Luke in justification of the preceding question of astonishment, as if to say: The people had good reason to expect great things from such a child.
Luke 1:68; Luke 1:68.—Εὐλογητὸς Κύριος ὁ Θεὸς τοῦ Ἰσραήλ is the literal version of the Hebrew בָּרוּךְ יְהוָֹה אֱלּהֵי יּשְׂרָאֵל, Psalms 72:18; Psalms 106:48 (see Septuag.). The sentence: the God of Israel, is explanatory and should be separated by a comma, and the article retained (with Norton, Kendrick, Sharpe, Wakefield, Campbell, Whiting, the N. T. of Am. B. U., and the German versions).
Luke 1:70; Luke 1:70.—Διὰ στόματος τῶν ἁγίων (τῶν) ἀπ’ αἰῶνος αὐτοῦ προφητῶν. The second τῶν after ἁγίων in the text. rec. is omitted in Codd. Sin., B., L., etc., and by Tregelles and Alford, but retained by Lachmann and Tischendorf (ed. septima), and defended by Meyer. Ἀπ’ αἰῶνος is not to be understood here in the absolute sense, ab orbe condilo, as the E. V. implies (also Calov: imo per os Adami), but relatively, like the Hebrew מֵעוֹלָם. Comp. ἀπ’ αἰῶνος, Genesis 6:4 (where the E. V. renders: of old); Psalms 25:6 (likewise: of old). Meyer (and Alford) quotes Longin. Luke 34: τοὺς ’ αἰῶνος ἐήτορας. Luther translates the word: vor Zeiten; van Oosterzee: vor Jahrhunderten; Stier better: von Alters her; Ewald: seiner heiligen uralten Propheten; Norton: from the beginning; Kendrick, Whiting, the N. T. of the Am. B. U.: of old.
Luke 1:71; Luke 1:71.—Σωτηρίαν, etc., is anaphora and further explanation of κέρας σωτηρίας, a horn of salvation, Luke 1:69, i.e., a mighty, strong salvation; horn being a metaphorical expression with reference, not to the horns of the altar, which served as an asylum merely (1 Kings 1:50; 1 Kings 2:28 ff.), but to horned beasts, which are weak and defenceless without, but strong and formidable with, their horns; comp. the Hebrew קֵרֶז, 1 Samuel 2:10; Psalms 89:18, etc.
Luke 1:75; Luke 1:75.—The true reading of the oldest authorities, including Cod. Sin., is: πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας ἡμῶν (without τῆς ζωῆς of the Elzevir text), all our days.
Luke 1:76; Luke 1:76.—The oldest reading, confirmed by Cod. Sin., is: καὶ σὺ δέ, instead of καὶ σύ. Meyer: “Κα ὶ—δ ward gewöhnlich von den unfeinen Abschreibern verstümmelt.”
Luke 1:77; Luke 1:77.—Van Oosterzee: “Erkenntniss des Heils zu geben [bestehend] in Vergebung ihrer Sünden.” Ἐν belongs not to σωτηρίας alone, but to γνῶσιν σωτηρίας; that they might know that Messianic salvation comes in and through the remission of their sins. Alford: “The remission of sin is the first opening for the γνῶσις σωτηρίας: see Luke 3:7. The preposition ἐν has its literal meaning, ‘in.’ ” There should be no comma after ‘people.’—P. S.]
[Christ did not rebuke the woman for this exclamation, but foreseeing the future excesses of Mariolatry, He significantly replied, Luke 1:28 : “Yea rather (μεν οῦν γε is both confirming and correcting = utique and imo vero), blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it.—P. S.]
[“Every thing transient is only a parable.” From the Conclusion of the second part of Goethe’s Faust.—P. S.]
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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Luke 1". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16