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Bible Commentaries
Luke 2

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

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Luke 1:5 to Luke 2:52 . Narratives of the Infancy of Jesus.— This section has outstanding peculiarities of style and diction as compared with Luke 1:1-4, and the rest of the Gospel. It has therefore been surmised that the writer has here incorporated an Aramaic (possibly Greek) source-document, or that he consciously wrote in an archaic style imitative of the Septuagint. Either of these suggestions may be combined with a third, that the section is a subsequent insertion, due to some one other than the author of the rest of the book. Harnack favours the archaizing theory, but Moffatt prefers to regard the section as the translation of an early Palestinian Aramaic document in which Luke has inserted items like Luke 1:34 f. and Luke 2:1. Stanton takes an intermediate view: Luke has obtained part of his material, especially the hymns, from some source, and skilfully woven it into his narrative.

Verses 1-20

Luke 2:1-20 . The Birth of Jesus. Lk. only. In obedi ence to a decree of the Emperor Augustus, ordering a general census (the first, during the Syrian governor ship of Quirinius), every man went to his own city. Thus Joseph, being of Davidic lineage, journeys from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and with him Mary his betrothed (according to the Syr. Sin. “ his wife” ), though far advanced in pregnancy. At Bethlehem her son is born, in a stable, for Joseph had been unable to find a better abode. (The word for “ inn” may denote either a khan or a lodging-place— in Luke 22:11 it is translated “ guest chamber.” ) Thus Jesus is connected with the shepherd David. Shepherds in the district are startled by seeing an angel and the Shekinah radiance, but are reassured and told that Messiah has been born in the village, where they will find him in a stable. A choir of angels appears and sings of glory to God and peace among men. The vision disappears, the shepherds find their way to the stable, and after recounting their experiences to the general wonderment, return to their flocks.

The difficulties formerly felt in connexion with Luke 2:1-4 have been largely minimised, if not entirely removed, by the researches of Sir W. M. Ramsay ( Was Christ Born at Bethlehem? and The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, pp. 222– 308). Thus he has established the fact that P. Sulpicius Quirinius was not only legatus of Syria A.D. 6, when the census— including a valuation— consequent on the organisation of Judæ a as a province of the Empire was taken, but also in the lifetime of Herod ( Luke 1:5; Luke 2:1), when he was in charge of the operations against the Homonadenses, a tribe in the Cilician Taurus country, a date which we may now fix as 11– 7 B.C. That Tertullian says Jesus was born when a census was made in Syria by Sentius Saturninus, and that Josephus tells us Sentius governed Syria 8– 6 B.C., does not exclude Quirinius from the same office in the same period. There are various other cases when two legati of the Emperor were in a province at the same time. Lk. does not say that Quirinius conducted the census— he would have his hands full with military work. As to the census itself the fact of periodic universal enrolments is now beyond dispute, and there is no sound reason why wo should discount Lk.’ s statement that the first of these was in 8– 6 B.C. on the ground that Lk. alone records it. The statement of Tertullian is to this extent corroboration of Lk. The objection that Judæ a under Herod was an independent kingdom has little value. Augustus’ order ran in Judæ a when he wished it.

It seems curious that under a practical ruler like Augustus people should have to travel long distances, e.g. from Nazareth to Bethlehem, to fill up a census paper, but evidence is accumulating that the order to return to the original home, though in a sense non-Roman in spirit, was the regular feature of the census in the Eastern provinces.” The regulation was connected with the economic necessity of counteracting the tendency of cultivators to forsake the country for the city. Further, to this original domicile not only the head of the household, but every member of it, had to return for enrolment. To obviate the difficulties that were bound to arise, especially with the extremely small administration staff, the census was not taken on one day or even in one week. It was spread over a year; and at any time during the year, mostly during its later months, people might present themselves at their place of origin and be enrolled. What exactly Lk. means by “ his own city,” and Ramsay by “ original home,” “ place of origin,” we cannot say; presumably it is “ birthplace.” A new inquiry, “ Was Joseph born at Bethlehem?” is thus suggested.

Luke 2:1 . in those days: probably when John was born; possibly, when John was a youth. In this case Mary is not with child when she visits Elisabeth, and the birth of Jesus is A.D. 6 or 7, which postpones the Baptism to 34 A.D., and the Crucifixion to 36 A.D. See p. 654.

Luke 2:7 . her firstborn: the word implies that Mary bore other children afterwards ( Matthew 1:25 *).

Luke 2:8. The season would not be December; our Christmas Day is a comparatively late tradition, found first in the West.

Luke 2:10 . the people: the article denotes the Jewish people.

Luke 2:11 . Christ Lord ( mg.) : perhaps a mistranslation of Aramaic “ the Messiah of Yahweh.”

Luke 2:14 . Note the variant reading. The text gives two clauses to the song, mg. three. Men in whom he is well pleased, may be either the chosen people or those who will accept Jesus as Messiah. If we follow mg. we may take “ good pleasure among men” as a Messianic acclamation. Through Messiah’ s advent God receives honour, earth peace, and men Divine grace. [80]

Luke 2:19 . Cf. Luke 2:51.

Luke 2:20 . glorifying God: Lk. uses this expression eight times in ending a narrative.

[80] J. H. Hopes ( Harvard Theol. Rev., Jan. 1917) thinks the third clause gives the reason for the preceding exultation. God’ s gracious will has at last been given effect for mankind, therefore ampler glory is ascribed to God in heaven, and salvation is the happy lot of earth.

Verses 21-24

Luke 2:21-24 . The Circumcision and Presentation of Jesus.— When the babe is a week old He is circumcised and named, and when He is a month old His parents take Him to the Temple in Jerusalem for the double rite of purifying the mother (Leviticus 12), and “ redeeming” the child as a firstborn ( Exodus 13:2; Exodus 13:12). They are too poor to offer a lamb.

Luke 2:22 . their: Syr. Sin. has “ her,” which is probably right. Neither the father nor the child was unclean according to the Law. The alteration (of “ her” to “ their” ) is due to the difficulty of supposing the Virgin to need Levitical purification. Some MSS. even read “ his.”— to Jerusalem. There was no command about bringing the firstborn to the Temple, though parents living near Jerusalem would do so.

Verses 25-35

Luke 2:25-35 . Simeon.— As the family enters the Temple they are met by Simeon, an aged man whose devout life and expectation of Messiah had been rewarded by a Divine intimation that he should live to see the Christ. He has been guided by the Spirit, and taking the child in his arms thanks God for the fulfilment of his heart’ s desire. He blesses the astonished parents, and tells the mother that the babe is destined to be a stumbling-block ( Isaiah 8:14, Matthew 21:44) to many in Israel, a token ( Isaiah 11:12) that shall be disputed, and a touchstone of hearts. The astonishment of Joseph and Mary, and the mention of them as parents, point to a different source from that of the narrative of the annunciation. With the Nunc Dimittis cf. Psalms 98:2, Isaiah 52:10; Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 46:13. As the Magnificat is charged with personal feeling, and the Benedictus with national aspiration, so the Nunc Dimittis is the expression of hope for the world. The phrase “ and rising up” ( i.e. through repentance and pardon, Luke 2:34) may be a later addition; so also the reference to Mary’ s sorrow ( Luke 2:35), which is in any case a parenthesis.

Verses 36-39

Luke 2:36-39 . Anna.— Simeon has a counterpart in a centenarian widow who spends her whole life in ascetic devotion in the Temple. She adds her prophetic testimony to his, and afterwards speaks of the child to the circle of pious and expectant folk who, like these two representatives, ardently awaited the “ consolation of Israel,” the “ redemption of Jerusalem.” Joseph and Mary fulfil their errand and return to Nazareth (contrast Matthew 2:20 *).

Verses 40-52

Luke 2:40-52 . An Incident in Jesus’ Boyhood.— The lad grows in body and mind and is blessed by God. When He is twelve years old He accompanies His parents to the Passover at Jerusalem, and when the week’ s Feast is over, remains behind unknown to them. They return to seek Him, and after a long search find Him in one of the Temple porticos joining intelligently in the discussions of the scribes. He goes home and Uves obediently with them, and continues His allround development ( cf. Luke 2:40, also Luke 1:80, 1 Samuel 2:26).

Luke 2:42 . Like Samuel’ s parents, those of Jesus go to the central shrine once instead of three times ( Deuteronomy 16:16) a year. There is a close parallel in the story of Buddha.

Luke 2:48 ; Luke 2:50 . The astonishment and obtuseness hardly consort with the earlier narratives of the annunciation and birth. The rebuke to Mary takes the place in Lk. of Mark 3:33.

Luke 2:49 . in my Father’ s house. RV is preferable to AV. Jesus is now conscious of God as His Father, not as against Joseph, but apparently because He was Messiah.

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Luke 2". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/luke-2.html. 1919.
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