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Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures
Luke 1

 

 

Verses 1-4

Prologue to Luke's Gospel- Identifying the Purpose and Theme- Luke 1:1-4 serves as a preface, or prologue, to the Gospel, setting forth Luke"s purpose in writing his Gospel. The theme of any book in the Holy Bible can be found in the first verse or passage of the book. For example, the opening verse of the Gospel of Mark reflects the preaching ministry of Jesus Christ as He proclaims the arrival of the Kingdom of God, which reflects the secondary theme of the Gospel of Mark: the testimony of the miracles of Jesus Christ through the preaching of the Gospel that Jesus is the Son of God. The opening verse of the Gospel of Matthew reveals the genealogy of Jesus Christ, which is takes the form of a chronological fulfillment of Old Testament Scriptures of the coming of the Messiah, and this verse reflects the secondary theme of Matthew: the testimony of the Old Testament Scriptures that Jesus is the Son of God. The opening verses of Luke's Gospel ( Luke 1:1-4) make the claim that this book is a collection of eye-witness accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, which reflects the secondary theme of Luke: the testimony of John the Baptist and other eye witnesses through prophetic utterances that Jesus is the Son of God. The theme of a collection of many testimonies is declared in the closing verse of the Gospel of Luke as well, saying, "And ye are witnesses of these things." ( Luke 24:48)

The Purpose of The Gospel of Luke - We find a clear remark by Eusebius (A.D 260 to 340) as to why Luke wrote his Gospel. We are told in this most ancient record of church history that Luke felt the need to give an accurate account of the life of Christ because other accounts were bringing into question issues concerning Christ Jesus. 130] Luke was qualified to do this because he was closely acquainted with Paul and his co-workers.

130] Eusebius writes, "But as for Luke , in the beginning of his Gospel, he states that since many others had more rashly undertaken to compose a narrative of the events of which he had acquired perfect knowledge, he himself, feeling the necessity of freeing us from their uncertain opinions, delivered in his own Gospel an accurate account of those events in regard to which he had learned the full truth, being aided by his intimacy and his stay with Paul and by his acquaintance with the rest of the apostles. So much for our own account of these things. But in a more fitting place we shall attempt to show by quotations from the ancients, what others have said concerning them." (Ecclesiastical History 32415-16)

In addition, some commentators have suggested that Luke wrote Luke -Acts as a legal brief to be presented at Paul's trial in Rome before Nero. The prologue of Luke ( Luke 1:1-4) mentions Luke's efforts to compile accurate eye-witness accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, as well as witnesses of the apostles in the book of Acts.

The Inspiration of the Gospel of Luke - Paul told Timothy that "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness," ( 2 Timothy 3:16). Luke's opening statement in his Gospel reveals its divine inspiration when he says, "It seemed good to me also," indicating that he felt led by the Holy Spirit to write his Gospel. He uses the Greek word δοκέ ω (G 1380), which means, "to think, to seem" (Strong) in this verse. Luke had no divine visitation telling him to write it, no dream or vision. He simply felt in his heart that this was the right thing for him to do. We have Luke using this same Greek word again in Acts 15:25-28 in conjunction with being led by the Holy Spirit.

Acts 15:25-28, "It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;"

Luke says in Luke 1:3 that he felt the peace, the inspiration to write an orderly account of Christ's life. This was something that the Holy Spirit placed within his heart. He would not have said to Theophilos that God told him to write this account, since he is believed to be a Roman official. Rather, Luke uses laymen's terms to explain why he wrote.

In contrast to this statement of inspiration, Luke's opening words to this Gospel say, "Forasmuch as many have taken in hand…" ( Luke 1:1) In other words, many other people took it upon themselves to write a Gospel account of the life and events of Jesus' earthly ministry. It was their own decision that they took into their own hands. But because they were not inspired by God to write, they wrote from their own will. This is why 2 Peter 1:21 says, "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."

There are other examples in inspiration in the Scriptures. Jude 1:3 reflects the "compulsion" that the author felt in writing this short epistle by saying, "when I gave all diligence to write unto you." Another example is when Paul said, "I am convinced in the Lord" ( Philippians 2:24). Paul says to the Romans that he "longed to see them" ( Romans 1:11), which suggests an inner work of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 23:6 Paul "perceived" that part of the Sanhedrin council were Sadducees and part Pharisees, and switched his message of defense. In Acts 27:10 Paul says, "Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt."

The Gospel of Luke's Relationship with Acts - This preface to Luke may also serve as an introduction for the book of Acts. It should not necessarily be limited to Luke's Gospel. Edgar J. Goodspeed, in his introduction to this Gospel, refers to the remarkable comparison of the two prefaces of Luke -Acts and to those of Josephus in his dual writings Against Apion, books 1,2.

"I suppose that by my books of the Antiquity of the Jews, most excellent Epaphroditus, have made it evident to those who peruse them, that our Jewish nation is of very great antiquity, and had a distinct subsistence of its own originally; as also, I have therein declared how we came to inhabit this country wherein we now live… I therefore have thought myself under an obligation to write somewhat briefly about these subjects, in order to convict those that reproach us of spite and voluntary falsehood, and to correct the ignorance of others, and withal to instruct all those who are desirous of knowing the truth of what great antiquity we really are. As for the witnesses whom I shall produce for the proof of what I say, they shall be such as are esteemed to be of the greatest reputation for truth, and the most skillful in the knowledge of all antiquity by the Greeks themselves." (Against Apion 11)

"In the former book, most honored Epaphroditus, I have demonstrated our antiquity, and confirmed the truth of what I have said, from the writings of the Phoenicians, and Chaldeans, and Egyptians. I have, moreover, produced many of the Grecian writers as witnesses thereto." (Against Apion 21)

Both the histories of Luke -Act and Against Apion (books 1,2) set in order witnesses in order to prove the certainly of a particular issue. Luke proves the certainly of the life of Christ and the spread of the Gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit. Josephus sets out to prove the antiquity of the Jewish nation and challenge those who contradict this fact.

The Author's Rhetorical Use of Alliteration in the Prologue of Luke - Alliteration is a rhetorical device that repeats the beginning sound of a word. Luke and the author of Hebrews employ alliteration in the prologues of their writings by using words that begin with the Greek letter " π." Within the opening sentences of Luke's prologue to his Gospel and to the book of Acts and in the epistle of Hebrews are found five words whose lexical form begins with the letter " π." David Allen cites this "signature" in Luke -Acts to argue for Lucan authorship to the epistle of Hebrews as well. 131]

131] David L. Allen, "Class Lecture," Doctor of Ministry Seminar, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 25 July to 5 August 2011.

Luke 1:1 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,

Luke 1:1 — "Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration" - Comments- God could have included dozens of Gospels into the Holy Bible, but He only chose four. Why is this so? One reason is that a matter is confirmed in the mouth of two or three witnesses.

2 Corinthians 13:1, "This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established."

Two or three Gospels were enough to establish the validity of God"s Word. Skeptics would not believe anyway, even if there were dozens of Gospels. Therefore, there was no need for more Gospels.

The reason that the early Church fathers did not accept other Gospels into the canon of the New Testament is because of the strict requirements to judge "inspired" writings. The major requirement for all of these writings was apostolic authority. They had to have been either written by one of the twelve apostles, or either declared by these apostles to be an "instrument" of the Church, to be read and obeyed by all. Just as the Old Testament canon closed when the prophets ceased, the canon of the New Testament officially closed when the twelve apostles died.

It is interesting to note that the third and fourth centuries saw many "gospels" forged by various Christian sects. They were given titles to suggest apostolic authorship. However, the early Church never accepted this group of writings as being authentic nor were they considered accurate because of their late date of writing.

In reference to the idea that Luke prepared his writings as a legal brief for Paul's impending trial in the Roman court system, the comment made by Luke in the opening verse of his Gospel that many people have attempted to write an account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ could then serve as a source of available testimonies that could be called upon if needed during a legal trial to support Luke's written account.

Luke 1:1 — "of those things which are most surely believed among us" - Comments- The Greek word translated "believed" in Luke 1:1 is πληροφορέω (G 4135), which means, "to carry out fully, completely assure (or convince), entirely accomplish" (Strong). The Enhanced Strong says this Greek word is used five times in the New Testament, being translated in the KJV as "be fully persuaded 2, be most surely believed 1, be fully known 1, make full proof of 1." This phrase can easily be translated "concerning those matters which have been fulfilled among us" (ASV). It introduces Luke's Gospel as a record of prophetic fulfillment. The first three chapters of the Gospel open with prophecies from the angel Gabriel, one being addressed to Zechariah ( Luke 1:5-25), and the other to Mary ( Luke 1:26-38), a prophecy from Elisabeth ( Luke 1:39-45), Mary's prophetic song of praise ( Luke 1:46-56), Zechariah's prophecy of the Messiah ( Luke 1:57-79), the angels' prophetic announcement of the Saviour's birth to the shepherds ( Luke 2:1-20), the prophecies of Simeon and Anna in the temple ( Luke 2:21-39), Jesus prophesying to His parents of His earthly ministry, and John the Baptist's prophetic preaching of the coming Messiah ( Luke 3:1-22). The Gospel of Luke closes with Jesus revealing His prophetic fulfillment to the two on the road to Emmaus ( Luke 24:13-35, esp. Luke 24:27).

Many of these prophecies were made as people were filled with the Holy Spirit.

In addition, the phrase "concerning those matters which have been fulfilled among us" could mean that he is reporting the events from the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ up to the events fulfilled at the time of his writing near the end of Paul's missionary journeys. This would mean that Luke is making a reference to both his Gospel and the book of Acts.

"among us" - The phrase "among us" in the opening verse of the Gospel of Luke refers to the Church in Luke's time, which was made up of Jewish and Gentile converts.

Luke 1:2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;

Luke 1:2 — "which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word" - Comments- Within Luke 1:2 we find an indication as to how Luke is about to structure his Gospel. The outline of Luke's Gospel shows that Jesus' Galilean ministry ( Luke 4:14 to Luke 9:50) emphasizes Jesus demonstrating to His disciples that He was the Saviour of the World as He revealed His authority over all of life and creation. This section of narrative material culminates with three disciples being eyewitnesses of His majesty on the Mount of Transfiguration. In the Travel Narrative to Jerusalem ( Luke 9:51 to Luke 21:38) the emphasis shifts to Jesus teaching and training His disciples to become ministers of the Word. This emphasis culminates at His ascension when He tells them "that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem and they are to become witnesses of these things," ( Luke 24:47-48).

We find a similar reference to the structure of Luke's Gospel in the opening verse of Acts when it refers to Luke as the "former treatise…of all that Jesus began both to do and teach." The "doing and teaching" is synonymous to "eyewitnesses and ministers of the word" in that while Jesus was doing and teaching, the disciples placed the role as eyewitnesses to His doing and ministers by His teaching.

Acts 1:1, "The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,"

Luke's Gospel tells us about "which from the beginning were eyewitnesses" to Jesus' ministry, while the book of Acts tells us about the "ministers of the word."

Luke 1:2Comments- The author of Luke's Gospel was clearly a second-generation Christian, having received direct testimonies from those who directly encountered the Saviour. There are several verses and passages that indicate Mary, the mother of Jesus, was one of the key sources of Luke's eyewitness accounts. First, the fact that Mary was involved in each of the early accounts of Jesus' birth and childhood indicates her as a source. Also, there are several verses that say Mary kept these things in her heart, something only Mary would have know about herself.

Luke 2:19, "But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart."

Luke 2:51, "And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart."

Luke 1:3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,

Luke 1:3 — "to write unto thee in order" - Word Study on "in order" - Strong says the Greek word καθεξῆς (G 2517) means, "thereafter, i.e. consecutively," and it comes from κατά (G 2596), which means, "according to," and( ἑξῆς (G 1836), which means "successive, or taking hold of, i.e. adjoining." The word ἑξῆς probably comes from ἔχω (G 2192), which means, "to hold (possession, ability, contiguity, relation, condition)." Donald Guthrie says that the word means "successively," and in the context of Luke 1:3 it seems to mean "in chronological and historical order." 132] The Enhanced Strong says it is used five times in the New Testament, being translated in the KJV as, "in order 2, afterward 1, after 1, by order 1."

132] Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction (Downers Grover, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1990), 106.

Comments- This word is unique to Luke -, Acts , being used nowhere else in the New Testament. Note the other four uses of this word:

Luke 8:1, "And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him,"

Acts 3:24, "Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days."

Acts 11:4, "But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying,"

Acts 18:23, "And after he had spent some time there, he departed, and went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples."

Luke 1:3 — "most excellent Theophilus" - Comments- "most excellent" - Daniel Wallace says the Greek word κρά τιστος (most excellent) is used in the vocative case here. He says, "The vocative is used almost universally in the papyri only in ‘petitions,' as far as my own cursory research reveals (an examination of the first two volumes on the papyri in LCL [Loeb Classical Library]). If this is the case here, then a petition is implied in Luke -, Acts , even though none is stated." Wallace uses this argument to support his belief that Luke -Acts is primarily written as an apologetic work addressed to a Roman official in defense of the Christian faith. 133] Luke uses the same Greek title for addresses to dignitaries in the book of Acts. The Greek word κρά τιστος is used only four times in the New Testament, being found also in the following three verses:

133] Daniel B. Wallace, Acts: Introduction, Argument, and Outline (Biblical Studies Foundation, Richardson, Texas, 1998) [on-line]; accessed 6 July 2010; available from; Internet, 11.

Acts 23:26, "Claudius Lysias unto the most excellent governor Felix sendeth greeting."

Acts 24:3, "We accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness."

Acts 26:25, "But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness."

From this comparison, it is assumed that Theophilus was a person of leadership or great stature among the Jews or Romans.

"Theophilus" - The name of Theophilus is unique to the New Testament. However, it was used frequently by the Jews and Greeks since the third century B.C. 134] Church history also records a number of bishops named Theophilus. The sixth bishop of Antioch was called by this name (2nd century) (Eusebius, Ecclesistical History 4201), as well as a bishop of Caesarea in Palestine (A.D 175-185) (Eusebius, Ecclesistical History 522). There was also a patriarch of Alexandria by this name (A.D 384-412) (Socrates, Ecclesiastical History 77).

134] John Nolland, Luke 1:1-9:20, in Word Biblical Commentary, vol 35A (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002), in Libronix Digital Library System, v 21c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp, 2000-2004), comments on Luke 1:3.

Regarding the identity of Luke's Theophilus, the answer may be found in The Apostolic Constitutions, a collection of ecclesiastical law that is believed to have been compiled during the latter half of the fourth century. This ancient document states that a man named Theophilus became the third bishop of the church at Caesarea.

"Now concerning those bishops which have been ordained in our lifetime, we let you know that they are these:--James the bishop of Jerusalem, the brother of our Lord;(5) upon whose death the second was Simeon the son of Cleopas; after whom the third was Judas the son of James. Of Caesarea of Palestine, the first was Zacchaeus, who was once a publican; after whom was Cornelius, and the third Theophilus." (Constitutions of the Holy Apostles 7446)

This Theophilus may not have been the same person recorded in the books of Luke and Acts. However, when the names of Zacchaeus and Cornelius are found alongside the name of Theophilus in the same sentence, and when all three names are found to be unique to Luke's writings, one has to face some persuasion that it was possibly the same Theophilus. In other words, Luke's Gospel and Acts were a compilation of testimonies of the life and works of Lord Jesus Christ. For Luke to use the testimonies of Zacchaeus and Cornelius, the living bishops of Caesarea at the time of his writing, would have fit the way in which Luke was gathering his testimonies. Theophilus, as a local bishop of a key city in Palestine, could have easily been an influence in Luke's ministry. However, we have no record of the title κρά τιστος (most excellent) being used by a Christian towards a fellow Christian in the first two centuries of Church history. 135]

135] F. J. Foakes Jackson and Kirsopp Lake, The Beginnings of Christianity: Part 1The Acts of the Apostles, vol 2 (London: Macmillan and Co, Ltd, 1922), 178.

Perhaps a more likely candidate is found in the writings of Josephus, who tells us that there was a Jewish high priest in Jeruaslem named Theophilus ben Ananus (A.D 37-41 ) (Antiquities 1853), who was ousted from office by King Agrippa I (A.D 37-44) (Antiquities 1962). It is very possible that Luke dedicated his work to this individual.

Why would Luke have chosen to dedicate his writings to such a man? St. Thomas Aquinas, writing in his Catena Aurea on Matthew , quotes Remigius of Auzerre (c. A.D 841to c 908) as saying that Luke wrote his Gospel while residing in the parts of Achaia and Baeotia, at the request of Theophilus. Thus, Theophilus would have placed an important role in the writing of Luke's Gospel.

Some modern scholars suggest that a probable occasion for the writing of Luke -Acts was his need to prepare a defense for Paul's Roman trial and that Theophilus was a Roman citizen who could influence the outcome of such a trial. The impending trial of Paul would be a proper time for Luke to write to a Roman official in order to justify the Christian message as being worthy of acceptance in the Roman world. The early Church tradition that Theophilus was a Roman of importance living in Italy finds some support within the text of Luke -Acts.

Luke 1:3Comments- As Albert Barnes notes, Luke 1:3 implies that other written testimonies about Jesus" ministry were incomplete. 136] Thus, Luke endeavors to write his Gospel as a complete and orderly account of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.

136] Albert Barnes, The Gospel According to Luke , in Barnes" Notes, Electronic Database (Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc, 1997), in P.C. Study Bible, v 31 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc, 1993-2000), comments on Luke 1:1-3.

Luke 1:4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.

Luke 1:4Comments- In reference to the idea that Luke prepared his writings as a legal brief for Paul's impending trial in the Roman court system, we can see how Luke 1:4 suggests that Theophilos has been given an informal introduction to the Christian faith and that Luke is now preparing for him a formal written presentation of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and of the early disciples in the form of Luke -Acts.


Verses 5-25

The Vision of Zacharias Regarding the Birth of John the Baptist - In Luke 1:5-25 we have the testimony of Zacharias regarding the birth of John the Baptist. The testimonies that Luke compiles in these first two chapters regarding Jesus' birth and childhood very likely came from the lips of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Thus, Luke reaches as far back in time to record the earliest eye-witness testimonies of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Outline: Here is a proposed outline:

1. A Description of Zacharias and Elisabeth — Luke 1:5-7

2. The Angelic Prophecy Given to Zacharias — Luke 1:8-20

3. The Fulfillment of the Divine Prophecy — Luke 1:21-25

Luke's Emphasis on Jewish Customs- Luke , a Gentile, in writing to Theophilos, a Roman leader, places a tremendous emphasis upon the customs of the Jews in the story Zacharias and the angel in the Temple predicting the birth of John the Baptist ( Luke 1:5-25). Luke's description of these customs in this passage of Scripture is presented in a way that shows that the Jews held tremendous respect for God. Luke seems to be making an effort to present the Jews as a devout people and not as a cult.

Luke 1:5-7 — A Description of Zacharias and Elisabeth - Luke 1:5-7 provides the context of the eye-witness account of the angel appearing to Zacharias to announce the birth of his son John the Baptist. These opening verses describe the two main characters involved in this narrative, and the setting in which the vision took place.

Luke 1:5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.

Luke 1:5 — "There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea" - Comments- Luke is the only Evangelist that calls King Herod by his full title as "the king of Judaea." Matthew and Mark simply call him King Herod. Luke was placing this title in perspective of the Roman politics of his day. In fact, Luke -Acts is dated and framed around the Roman political system, unlike the other evangelists. Luke asks his reader, Theophilus, to enter his story from a political view, thus alluding to the possibility that Luke wrote his Gospel and Acts as a legal brief.

Luke , a Gentile convert, is probably writing to a Roman government official. Therefore, he begins his narrative by describing the time and setting in a way that an educated Roman would understand. This Roman official would have been familiar with King Herod and the approximate period of his reign over the Jews. He would have some working knowledge of Jewish customs and temple worship.

Smith tells us that Herod the Great, whose name means, "son of a hero," "was the second son of Antipater," an Idumean, "who was appointed as procurator of Judea by Julius Caesar" in 47 B.C. Josephus tells us that Antipater appointed his Song of Solomon , Herod, over Galilee shortly thereafter at the age of fifteen (15), and later over Coele-Syria (Antiquities 1492). However, scholars suggest he was slightly older, since Herod the Great died in 4 B.C. at the age of 69 or 70. In 41 B.C. Mark Antony appointed Herod as tetrarch of Judea. After being forced to flee from Judea the following year, Herod made his way to Rome where he then received the title as king of Judaea (Antiquities 1444). This is the title that is used in Luke 1:5. With the aid of Roman soldiers Herod the Great took control of Jerusalem in 37 B.C. where he reigned with corruption and cruelty until he died of a terrible illness of body and mind at Jericho, in April, B.C 4, at the age of sixty-nine (69), after reigning thirty-seven (37) years over Judaea. He is believed to have died the year of Jesus' birth and to have slaughtered the babies in Bethlehem shortly before his death. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment is the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, called Herod's Temple. This work began in 20 B.C. and continued after his death.

Luke 1:5 — "a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia" - Comments- The name Abia is a variant reading of the Hebrew name "Abijah," which name is used twenty times in the Old Testament to refer to at least six men and two women. We find in 1 Chronicles 24:1-19 how King David organized the priesthood by dividing it into twenty-four courses among the sons of Aaron. The order of Abia was given the eighth having been divided by lot. Thus, Zacharias would have been a descendent of Abia in order to serve under his order.

Luke 1:5 — "and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth" - Comments- Although a Levite priest could marry from any tribe of Israel, Zechariah's marriage to a woman of the tribe of Levi, and particularly, from the family of Aaron, reflects his deep devotion to his office as a priest unto the Lord.

The fact that Elisabeth's genealogy can accurately be traced back fifteen centuries to Aaron, who was the brother of Moses, is supported by the genealogies found in Matthew ( Luke 1:1-17) and Luke ( Luke 3:23-38). In addition, Josephus tells us that there were indeed public tablets of Jewish ancestry (The Life of Flavius Josephus 1). Josephus also tells us of the painstaking care that the Jews have taken to keep records as old as two thousand years of their ancestry. All Jews of the Diaspora kept accurate records, which were sent to Jerusalem for safekeeping (Against Apion 17). Eusebius (A.D 260 to 340), the ancient church historian, testifies to the Jewish tradition of keeping accurate records of their ancestry (Ecclesiastical History 1713-14).

Luke 1:6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

Luke 1:7 And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.

Luke 1:6-7Comments - Barrenness Under the Law- Under the Mosaic Law, barrenness was considered a curse, so that a woman without children often felt the reproach of her family and friends, as is mentioned in Luke 1:25. However, Luke 1:6 proclaims her and her husband's righteousness immediately before describing her barrenness in Luke 1:7, which serves to foreshadow a divine intervention in this couple's life. Two examples of Old Testament narrative material that begins with similar statements are found in the life of Samson ( Judges 13:2) and Samuel ( 1 Samuel 1:1-2), where both mothers were barren, yet gave birth to famous men of God through divine interventions.

Judges 13:2, "And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not."

1 Samuel 1:1-2, "Now there was a certain man of Ramathaimzophim, of mount Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephrathite: And he had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children."

Luke 1:8-20 — The Angelic Prophecy Given to Zacharias - Luke opens his testimony with a Jewish priest receiving a divine oracle from the Lord through the angel Gabriel.

Oracles in the Ancient World- The concept of a priest receiving a divine oracle was not new to the ancient Greco-Roman world. The classical writers reveal that the concept of sacred mysteries being utters as divine oracles was practiced in the ancient world. Regarding the use of oracles, the ancient Greeks regarded divine oracles as a form of worship until the time of the Persian war (490-479 B.C.). 137] The temple of Apollo located at Delphi was famous in the ancient world for delivering oracles to men by those in a trance, or they interpreted dreams or patterns in nature. 138] The Greek historians Herodotus (484-425 B.C.) 139] and Plutarch (A.D 46-100) 140] mention this place of oracles in their writings. While the Romans as a nation did not regard oracles as a religious practice, this custom continued within the Empire, but not without the contempt of the Romans. 141] This practice was later outlawed under the Roman emperor Theodosius (A.D 379-385). 142] King Saul's visit to the witch of Endor shows its popularity among ancient eastern cultures ( 1 Samuel 28:7-25). The damsel who prophesied over Paul and Barnabas in Philippi is an example of the proliferation of divination in the New Testament times ( Acts 16:16-24). The Sibylline Oracles, 143] a collection of Greek oracles compiled by Jews and Christians in the early centuries before and after Christ, reflect the widespread popularity that the Sibyl prophetesses held in ancient Greek and Roman history. Regarding the concept of "mysteries" ( μυστή ριον) revealed through oracles, Plutarch, writing about the Pythian priestesses who prophesied at Delphi, speaks of "interpreters of the sacred mysteries." 144] Thus, when Paul refers to the mysteries hidden from the ages being revealed to the Church ( Romans 16:25, 1 Corinthians 2:7, Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 3:3-4; Ephesians 3:9; Ephesians 6:19, Colossians 1:26; Colossians 2:2; Colossians 4:3, 1 Timothy 3:9), or when Luke , Paul, and Peter speak of the "oracles" ( λόγιον) (G 3051) of God ( Acts 7:38, Romans 3:2, Hebrews 5:12, 1 Peter 4:11), they are speaking in a cultural language that the Greeks and Romans understood, where pagans frequently sought oracles through divine utterance at the temples to reveal hidden mysteries for their lives.

137] C. H. Prichard, "Oracle," in A Dictionary of the Bible, vol 3, ed. James Hastings (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1901), 629.

138] R. F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, R. K. Harrison, and Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nelson"s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, rev. ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), in Libronix Digital Library System, v 21c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp, 2000-2004), "Oracle."

139] Herodotus writes, "…and he [Dorieus] asked the Spartans for a company of folks, whom he took away as colonists; he neither enquired of the oracle at Delphi in what land he should plant his settlement, nor did aught else that was customary…" (Histories 542) See Herodotus III, trans. A. D. Godley, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (London: William Heinemann, 1938), 46-47.

140] Plutarch tells us that the Sibylline prophetesses of Delphi used poetic verses with their prophecies, saying, "…for when we drew near that part of the rock which joins to the senate-house, which by common fame was the seat of the first Sibyl that came to Delphi from Helicon, where she was bred by the Muses…Serapio made mention of certain verses of hers, wherein she had extolled herself as one that should never cease to prophesy even after her death…" (Wherefore the Pythian Priestess Now Ceases to Deliver Her Oracles in Verse 9) He later writes, "…but I am constrained to claim your first promise, to tell me the reason wherefore now the Pythian prophetess no longer delivers her oracles in poetic numbers and measures…and also the temple of Tellus, to which the oracle appertained, and where the answers were delivered in verses and song." (Wherefore the Pythian Priestess Now Ceases to Deliver Her Oracles in Verse 17) See William W. Goodwin, Plutarch's Essays and Miscellanies, vol 3 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1911), 77, 86-87.

141] The Roman poet Lucan (A.D 39-65) reflects the contempt for such oracles by the Romans when he writes, "They had now come to the Temple, the only one which among the Libyan nations the uncivilized Garamantes possess. There stands Jupiter, the foreteller of destiny, as they relate; but not either brandishing the lightnings or like to ours, but Ammon with crooked horns." (Pharsalia 9593-598) See H. T. Riley, The Pharsalia of Lucan (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1853), 359.

142] C. H. Prichard, "Oracle," In A Dictionary of the Bible, ed. James Hastings (), 629.

143] The Sibylline Oracles, trans. H. C. O. Lanchester, in The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English With Introductions and Critical and Explanatory Notes to the Several Books, vol 2, ed. R. H. Charles (electronic edition), in Libronix Digital Library System, v 21c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp, 2000-2004).

144] Plutarch writes, "The interpreters of the sacred mysteries acted without any regard to us, who desired them to contract their relation into as few words as might be, and to pass by the most part of the inscriptions." (Wherefore the Pythian Priestess Now Ceases to Deliver Her Oracles in Verse 2) See William W. Goodwin, Plutarch's Essays and Miscellanies, vol 3 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1911), 70.

Romans 16:25, "Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,"

1 Corinthians 2:7, "But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden Wisdom of Solomon , which God ordained before the world unto our glory:"

Ephesians 1:9, "Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:"

Ephesians 3:3-4, "How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)"

Ephesians 3:9, "And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:"

Ephesians 6:19, "And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,"

Colossians 1:26, "Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:"

Colossians 2:2, "That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;"

Colossians 4:3, "Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:"

1 Timothy 3:9, "Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience."

Acts 7:38, "This is Hebrews , that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:"

Romans 3:2, "Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God."

Hebrews 5:12, "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat."

1 Peter 4:11, "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."

The reference to pillars and foundations of the Church in 1 Timothy 3:15 suggests that Paul had in mind the ancient Greek and Roman temples with their practice of divination, and that he compares this pagan scene of worship to the New Testament Church and the Holy Scriptures, which serve as its pillars and foundation.

Luke 1:8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest"s office before God in the order of his course,

Luke 1:9 According to the custom of the priest"s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.

Luke 1:8-9Comments- The Order of the Levitical Priestly Service- The order of the Levitical priestly service was established during the time of Moses and the building of the Tabernacle, when the Levites were set apart from the other tribes for divine service ( Numbers 3:5-10; Numbers 8:6-26). When King David built the Temple in Jerusalem he further organized these priestly duties ( 1 Chronicles 24:1-19), which order was continued by Solomon ( 2 Chronicles 8:14), Hezekiah ( 2 Chronicles 31:2; 2 Chronicles 31:19), and Ezra ( Luke 6:18). The Scriptures tell us there were twenty-four orders of priests ( 1 Chronicles 24:1-19), with Zechariah being of the eighth order of Abijah ( 1 Chronicles 24:10, Luke 1:5).

1 Chronicles 24:19, "These were the orderings of them in their service to come into the house of the LORD, according to their manner, under Aaron their father, as the LORD God of Israel had commanded him."

2 Chronicles 8:14, "And he appointed, according to the order of David his father, the courses of the priests to their service, and the Levites to their charges, to praise and minister before the priests, as the duty of every day required: the porters also by their courses at every gate: for so had David the man of God commanded."

2 Chronicles 31:2, "And Hezekiah appointed the courses of the priests and the Levites after their courses, every man according to his service, the priests and Levites for burnt offerings and for peace offerings, to minister, and to give thanks, and to praise in the gates of the tents of the LORD."

2 Chronicles 31:19, "Also of the sons of Aaron the priests, which were in the fields of the suburbs of their cities, in every several city, the men that were expressed by name, to give portions to all the males among the priests, and to all that were reckoned by genealogies among the Levites."

Ezra 6:18, "And they set the priests in their divisions, and the Levites in their courses, for the service of God, which is at Jerusalem; as it is written in the book of Moses."

Luke 1:10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.

Luke 1:10 — "And the whole multitude of the people were praying without" - Comments- One thing that the people were praying during this period of history is for the Messiah to come and deliver them from the oppression of the Roman Empire.

Luke 1:10 — "at the time of incense" - Comments- The offering of incense represented men's prayers unto God ( Psalm 141:2, Revelation 5:8; Revelation 8:3-4).

Psalm 141:2, "Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice."

Revelation 5:8, "And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints."

Revelation 8:3-4, "And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel"s hand."

Luke 1:11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.

Luke 1:11Comments- If Theophilus was not familiar with the angelic visits recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures, he was certainly familiar with the mythological visitations described in Roman-Greco mythology.

Luke 1:12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

Luke 1:13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a Song of Solomon , and thou shalt call his name John.

Luke 1:13Comments- Zacharias and Elisabeth were now beyond the age of childbearing ( Luke 1:7). Luke 1:13 reveals that they had prayed earnestly for a child when they were younger. They had probably long abandoned their hope and earnest prayer for a child because of their old age.

Sometimes our prayers are not answered immediately within the time frame that we want them answered. We see in verse 20 that God did not answer the prayers of this old couple until the time in which they were to be "fulfilled in their season."

Luke 1:20, "And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season."

Yet, because Zacharias had sown seeds of prayer for the people of his nation by offering incense in the Temple, he placed himself in a position to receive a blessing. In the fullness of time, their seed produced a harvest.

Luke 1:14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.

Luke 1:15 For 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.

Luke 1:15 — "and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink" - Comments- The angel's description of person abstaining from drinking wine nor strong drink is found in the law of the Nazarite ( Numbers 6:1-20) which explains how a man or a woman separates themselves unto the Lord. Zacharias well knew that the angel was telling him that his son would be separated unto God for a special purpose. He knew from Matthew 1:16 that this purpose would be to bring the children of Israel back unto their God.

Luke 1:15 — "and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother"s womb" - Comments- Luke 1:15 describes the anointing of John the Baptist from the womb. This is a unique statement in the four Gospels, supporting the secondary theme of Luke , which declares the prophetic utterances of eye-witnesses who testify of the deity of Jesus Christ through the anointing and empowering of the Holy Spirit, which reflects the office and ministry of the prophet. We see this emphasis of the anointing of the Holy Spirit in Jesus' ministry in Luke 4:1, "And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan." Luke the Evangelist will emphasize this theme at the end of his Gospel when Jesus commissions His disciples in Luke 24:48-49, saying, "And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high."

Luke 4:1,"And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,"

Luke 24:48-49, "And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high."

Luke 1:15Comments - The experience of an individual being filled with the Holy Spirit was new to mankind, since they were only empowered by the Holy Spirit under the Old Covenant. The Holy Spirit had never dwelt permanently inside a person until the institution of the New Covenant. Samson was a Nazarite with whom the Holy Spirit came upon for a season to empower him to do the work of God, but the Holy Spirit would leave before coming again. In contrast, John the Baptist would be the first to have this type of permanent anointing, followed by Jesus Christ, then the one hundred twenty in the upper room, and the New Testament Church.

Luke 1:16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.

Luke 1:16Comments- Luke 1:16 reflects the primary theme of Luke's Gospel, which declares the deity of Jesus Christ through eyewitnesses. John the Baptist will turn the hearts of many people through his testimony of the deity of Jesus Christ. The phrase "the Lord their God" specifically refers to Jesus Christ, since the next phrase in Luke 1:17 says that John the Baptist will "go before Him," that Isaiah , John will go before and prepare the way for the arrival of Jesus Christ.

Luke 1:17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, 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.

Luke 1:17 — "And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias" - Comments- As with the statement in the previous verse ( Luke 1:15), "and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother"s womb," this statement supports the secondary theme of Luke's Gospel, which declares that we are to be witnesses of Jesus Christ through the anointing and empowering of the Holy Spirit.

Luke 1:17 — "to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children" - Comments- One of the characteristics of a depraved society is child abuse. Even today in some of the most wicked societies there is abusive child labour, child trafficking, child slavery, child sex slavery and child sacrificing.

Luke 1:17Comments - Luke 1:17 is a paraphrased quote from Malachi 4:5-6.

Malachi 4:5-6, "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."

As an historian, Luke begins where the Old Testament ends. He breaks four hundred years of silence by announcing the fulfillment of the last prophecy of the Old Testament. Since the Gospel of Luke is built upon prophetic fulfillment, Luke must tie his recorded prophecies to Old Testament prophecies.

Luke 1:17 refers to the anointing of John the Baptist, which reflects the secondary theme of Luke's Gospel, which states that we are to be witnesses of Jesus Christ through the anointing and empowering of the Holy Spirit. This anointing that Elijah walked in was an anointing that brought the nation of Israel into a time of national repentance. In like manner, John the Baptist called the nation of Israel into repentance, and the people of that nation followed his call of repentance through water baptism.

Luke 1:16-18Comments - The Character of John the Baptist - The description of John the Baptist in Luke 1:16-18 suggests that God forms the character of individuals even while they are in the womb. Any parent knows that each child has a unique character, with different gifts and interests, although they are raised in the same home by the same parent. God gives every person a unique profile and character as a part of His wonderful plan of creation for the human race.

Luke 1:18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old Prayer of Manasseh , and my wife well stricken in years.

Luke 1:18Comments - Zacharias responded to Gabriel's prophecy by asking for a sign to prove that what the angel was telling him was the truth. Thus, the angel met him at his point of faith by giving him a sign, which was to strike him dumb until the day of John's birth. Zacharias would believe because of this sign. In contrast, the virgin Mary would respond to Gabriel's prophecy by asking how she would conceive ( Luke 1:34), and he responded to her point of faith by explaining how the Holy Spirit would descend upon her so and bring about a miraculous conception. Jesus rebuked the people for seeking after a sign ( Matthew 12:39; Matthew 16:4, Mark 8:12, Luke 11:29). Paul tells us that the Jews required a sign ( 1 Corinthians 1:22).

1 Corinthians 1:22, "For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:"

Luke 1:19 And 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 shew thee these glad tidings.

Luke 1:19Comments - The angel Gabriel appeared to three people in the Scriptures: Daniel ( Daniel 8:16; Daniel 9:21), Zacharias ( Luke 1:19), and Mary, the mother of Jesus ( Luke 1:26). These are the only times Gabriel is mentioned in the Scriptures. In all three appearances he comes to men and women of God to bring them a message from the Lord.

Luke 1:20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.

Luke 1:20 — "And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words" - Comments - We note that Mary believed the words of the angel Gabriel, while Zachariah doubted. As we get older, we tend to become more skeptical in life, while youth tend to be more teachable and easily believe what adults tell them. Zachariah was struck dumb because of his unbelief. Perhaps his unbelief would have brought many negative confessions from his lips, thus hindering the fulfillment of this prophecy from the angel of the Lord. Note the power of the tongue:

James 3:6, "And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell."

Luke 1:20 — "which shall be fulfilled in their season" - Comments - Each of these eye-witness testimonies leading up to Jesus' birth contain prophetic utterances. Prophecy, which is the aspect of 5-fold ministry underlying Luke's Gospel, follows a redemptive timeline that God the Father alone has planned. The phrase "which shall be fulfilled in their season" indicates that not even Gabriel the angel knew the time of their fulfillment.

Luke 1:20Comments - The angel Gabriel struck Zechariah speechless as a sign and confirmation to him that the prophetic word was genuine because of his doubt. In contrast, the angel gave Mary a confirmation when he informed her that her cousin Elisabeth was with child.

Luke 1:21-25 — The Fulfillment of the Divine Prophecy - Luke 1:21-25 records the fulfillment of the angel Gabriel's divine prophecy as Zechariah was struck dumb and Elisabeth conceived.

Luke 1:21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple.

Luke 1:22 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.

Luke 1:22Comments - According to Luke 1:22, the people were anticipating Zacharias to speak to them. The Jewish Tamid (72) instructs the priest to offer a blessing over the people according to Numbers 6:24-26 on the steps that ascended to the Sanctuary after the daily sacrifice. 145] Some scholars suggests the possibility that Jesus' final blessing in Luke 24:50 fulfilled the priestly blessing that Zecharias was not able to perform because the angel struck him with dumbness in the opening passage of Luke's Gospel ( Luke 1:21-22). 146] This blessing would make an appropriate closing to the Gospel, and it alludes the fact that Jesus Christ is now our Great High Priest.

145] Esther G. Chazon, Ruth A. Clements, and Avital Pinnick, eds, Liturgical Perspectives: Prayer and Poetry in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls; Proceedings of the Fifth International Symposium of the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Associated Literature (Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill, 2003), 122.

146] David L. Allen, "Class Lecture," Doctor of Ministry Seminar, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 25 July to 5 August 2011; John Nolland, Luke 1:1-9:20, in Word Biblical Commentary, vol 35A (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002), in Libronix Digital Library System, v 21c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp, 2000-2004), comments on Luke 1:22.

Luke 24:50, "And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them."

Numbers 6:23-27, "Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them."

Luke 1:23 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.

Luke 1:24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,

Luke 1:24Comments - Elisabeth was able to hid her pregnancy for the first five months. However, during the sixth month the angel appears to Mary, the mother of Jesus, and tells her about Elisabeth ( Luke 1:26-38). This means that Elisabeth was no longer hidden.

Luke 1:25 Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.

Luke 1:25Comments - The Jews of this day believed that a woman was barren because of divine judgment. This is because the blessings and favor of God described in the Mosaic Law promised to bless the fruit of the womb. The word "men" is used in Luke 1:5 to refer to men and woman, especially to her immediate relatives and friends.


Verses 5-52

Prophetic Witnesses of Jesus' Birth (God the Father's Predestination) ( Luke 1:5-80) and Infancy and Childhood (God the Father's Calling) ( Luke 2:1-52) - Luke 1:5-80 gives three testimonies of prophecies predicting Jesus' divine birth and His predestined office and ministry as Saviour of the World, while Luke 2:1-52 gives three prophetic witnesses of Jesus' infancy and childhood. These six prophetic witnesses of His birth and childhood reveal the fact that Jesus Christ has been predestined to His divine office as the Saviour of the World. In contrast, Matthew's parallel account emphasizes the birth of the Messiah as a King. Matthew's Gospel introduces the King in a way that follows proper protocol for royalty. Matthew reveals Jesus as a descendent of the royal lineage of King David and the fulfillment of the promises that God made to Abraham. Luke's genealogy reveals Him as the promised seed of woman.

Outline - Here is a proposed outline:

A. Three Prophetic Witnesses of Jesus' Birth — Luke 1:5-80

1. The Vision of Zacharias — Luke 1:5-25

2. The Prophecy of Mary — Luke 1:26-56

3. The Prophecy of Zacharias & Elisabeth — Luke 1:57-80

B. Three Prophetic Witnesses of Jesus' Infancy & Childhood — Luke 2:1-52

1. The Prophetic Witness of the Shepherds at His birth — Luke 2:1-20

a) The Birth of Jesus — Luke 2:1-7

b) The Witness of the Shepherds — Luke 2:8-20

2. Two Prophetic Witnesses in the Temple at His Dedication — Luke 2:21-38

a) The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple — Luke 2:21-24

b) The Witness of Simeon — Luke 2:25-35

c) The Witness of Anna — Luke 2:36-38

d) Jesus Returns to Nazareth — Luke 2:39-40

3. The Prophetic Witness of the Jesus' Childhood in the Temple — Luke 2:41-52

Luke's Prophetic Witnesses- After four hundred hears of silence, God was not speaking to His people through the office of the prophet, but through simple Jewish men and women of God regarding the coming of the Messiah. In Luke 1:5 to Luke 2:52 God gave directly to Mary, the mother of Jesus, many witnesses to confirm that this divine birth was a fulfillment of prophecy.

1. Gabriel- Luke 1:26-38

2. Elizabeth- Luke 1:39-45

3. The Shepherds- Luke 2:16-17

4. The Three wise men- Matthew 2:1-11

5. Simon- Luke 2:25-35

6. Anna- Luke 2:36-39

Mary was a very probable source that Luke used when compiling these witnesses of Jesus' birth and childhood. Luke 1:5 to Luke 2:52 gives three testimonies of prophecies predicting Jesus' divine birth and three testimonies from His childhood of His office and ministry as Saviour of the World.

Luke's Emphasis on Prophecy- It is important to note how these stories place emphasis in the narrative material upon the work and empowerment of the Holy Spirit to enable these people to declare their testimonies through prophecy. The secondary theme of Luke/Acts states that those who testified of Jesus Christ did so through the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Regarding the three testimonies that prophesied the births of John and Jesus, in the Witness of Zacharias ( Luke 1:5-25) the angel tells Zacharias that his son would be filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb. In the Witness of Mary ( Luke 1:26-56) the angel tells Mary that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and overshadow her, and the babe leaped in Elisabeth's womb as she was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied. In the Witness of Zacharias and Elisabeth ( Luke 1:57-80), Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied. In the story of Jesus' birth, Simeon came by the Spirit and prophesied what was revealed to him by the Spirit about the child Jesus, and Anna the prophetess also came and gave her prophecy under the unction of the Spirit.


Verses 5-80

Prophetic Witnesses Predicting the Birth of Jesus ( Luke 1:5-80) - Luke 1:5-80 gives three testimonies as prophecies predicting Jesus' divine birth and His predestined office and ministry as Saviour of the world.

1. The Vision of Zacharias ( Luke 1:5-25) - Luke 1:5-25 contains the vision of Zacharias, in which the angel Gabriel gives Zacharias a prophecy of the birth of his Song of Solomon , who will go forth as a herald of the coming of the Lord. This passage concludes with Zacharias and Elisabeth awaiting the fulfillment of this prophecy after having conceived ( Luke 1:24-25).

Luke 1:24-25, "And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men."

2. The Prophecies of Gabriel, Elisabeth, & Mary ( Luke 1:26-56) - Luke 1:26-56 contains three prophecies of Gabriel, Mary, and Elisabeth predicting the birth of the Saviour, who is to be named Jesus. This passage concludes with Mary awaiting this birth in fulfillment of prophecy ( Luke 1:56).

Luke 1:56, "And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house."

3. The Prophecy of Zacharias ( Luke 1:57-80) - Luke 1:57-80 contains the prophecy of Zacharias, who offers praise for the coming Saviour and a prediction of the office and ministry of his son John the Baptist. This passage concludes with the child in the desert awaiting his manifestation to Israel in fulfillment of this prophecy ( Luke 1:80).

Luke 1:80, "And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel."


Verses 26-56

The Witness of Mary Regarding Jesus' Birth - Luke 1:26-56 gives us a three-part testimony of the Mary's experiences regarding the divine birth of our Saviour. We have the testimony of the appearing of the angel Gabriel to Mary ( Luke 1:26-38), the testimony of Elisabeth's babe leaping in her womb ( Luke 1:39-45), and the testimony of Mary's prophecy ( Luke 1:46-56).

We know from Luke's Gospel that after the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced the birth of Jesus ( Luke 1:26-38), that she immediately visited her cousin Elisabeth for three months ( Luke 1:38-45). Since Matthew's Gospel tells us that Mary's conception came after her betrothal ( Matthew 1:18), then she would have spent three months away from Joseph during the time of her betrothal. This three-month period would have given Mary time to show her pregnancy to others and upon her return to Joseph, to be found with child by him.

Outline - Here is a proposed outline:

1. The Birth of Jesus Foretold to Mary by the Angel Gabriel — Luke 1:26-38

2. The Testimony of Elisabeth's Babe Leaping in Her Womb — Luke 1:39-45

3. The Testimony of Mary's Prophecy — Luke 1:46-56

Luke 1:26-38 — The Birth of Jesus Foretold to Mary by the Angel Gabriel - Luke 1:26-38 gives the testimony of Jesus' divine birth with the appearing of the angel Gabriel to His mother Mary.

Luke 1:26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

Luke 1:26 — "And in the sixth month" - Comments- This is the sixth month of Elizabeth"s conception ( Luke 1:36).

Luke 1:36, "And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren."

Mary will visit Elisabeth shortly after this visitation from the angel Gabriel. Mary probably waited until the Holy Spirit visited her and conceived the Saviour in her womb before setting off to see her cousin. She will stay with Elizabeth for three months before returning home. She probably stayed there until the birth of John.

Luke 1:26 — "the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth" - Comments- The angel Gabriel appeared to three people in the Scriptures: Daniel ( Daniel 8:16; Daniel 9:21), Zacharias ( Luke 1:19), and Mary, the mother of Jesus ( Luke 1:26). These are the only times Gabriel is mentioned in the Scriptures. In all three appearances he comes to men and women of God to bring them a message from the Lord.

Luke 1:26 reveals the divine providence and intervention of God the Father in the affairs of mankind. God has determined the time and place (Nazareth) and person (Mary). Paul describes this timing as "in due time" ( Romans 5:6). In other words, this supernatural birth took place in God's own time-table of events in His plan of redemption for mankind.

Romans 5:6,"For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly."

Luke 1:31 — "thou shalt conceive in thy womb" - Comments- At the conception of Mary, the Word became flesh.

John 1:14, "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."

Luke 1:32 He 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:

Luke 1:32Comments- King David's royal lineage was alluded to earlier in this passage when Joseph was mentioned ( Luke 1:27).

Luke 1:33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

Luke 1:32-33Comments - The Prophetic Utterance- In Luke 1:32-33 the angel Gabriel gives to Mary a prophetic utterance stating that God was fulfilling His promise to David of an eternal royal lineage through Jesus Christ. Each of the eye-witness accounts leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ contains a prophecy to be fulfilled.

Luke 1:34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

Luke 1:34Comments - Mary is given a Messianic prophecy by the angel. She struggles with these words because she had a concept of an earthly Messiah and his kingdom, as did all Jews, rather than Jesus' divine, virgin birth as the Son of God.

The virgin Mary would respond to Gabriel's prophecy by asking how she would conceive ( Luke 1:34), and he responded to her point of faith by explaining how the Holy Spirit would descend upon her so and bring about a miraculous conception. In contrast, Zacharias responded to Gabriel's prophecy by asking for a sign to prove that what the angel was telling him was the truth ( Luke 1:18). Thus, the angel met him at his point of faith by giving him a sign, which was to strike him dumb until the day of John's birth. Zacharias would believe because of this sign. In contrast, Jesus rebuked the people for seeking after a sign ( Matthew 12:39; Matthew 16:4, Mark 8:12, Luke 11:29). Paul tells us that the Jews required a sign ( 1 Corinthians 1:22).

1 Corinthians 1:22, "For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:"

Luke 1:35 And 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 shall be called the Son of God.

Luke 1:35 — "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee" - Comments - Under the old covenant the Holy Spirit rested upon men and women of God, rather than indwelling them, as in the new covenant. Note the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in other old covenant passages of Scripture.

Genesis 1:2, "And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."

Exodus 40:35, "And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle."

Matthew 17:5, "While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Song of Solomon , in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him."

Luke 1:36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.

Luke 1:36Comments - The angel Gabriel tells Mary that Zechariah and Elisabeth have received a similar divine visitation and miraculous pregnancy as confirmation of his words to Mary. Mary's visit to Elisabeth will establish themselves in faith regarding these prophecies. Had Mary stayed with Joseph during these early month, she may have fallen into condemnation and doubt. However, Elisabeth would serve as a strong comfort to Mary.

Luke 1:37-38Comments - Luke 1:37 literally reads, "because every word from God is not is unable." Thus, the angel tells Mary that the Word ( ῥ ῆ μα) of God is not able to fail. Mary answers back by embracing the word of God, saying," Be it unto me according to thy word ( ῥ ῆ μα)."

Luke 1:39-45 — The Testimony of Elisabeth's Babe Leaping in Her Womb - Luke 1:39-45 gives the testimony of Elisabeth's babe leaping in her womb. This visit served as confirmation to both Elisabeth and Mary that the prophetic words from the angel Gabriel were sure and steadfast since both had received a similar divine visitation.

Elisabeth's Prophecy - Luke 1:41-45 records the prophecy that Elisabeth spoke over Mary when they met. The experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking prophetically will continue throughout the Gospel of Luke and book of Acts , since it supports the underlying theme of these books. One of the outward evidences of being filled with the Holy Spirit is the manifestation of speaking in a prophetic utterance, whether prophecy or tongues (see Acts 19:6). Elisabeth's prophecy also contains a number of inward effects that being filled with the Holy Spirit has upon a person. There is a sense of God's blessedness and favor when experiencing His presence. Thus, Elisabeth says, "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb." ( Luke 1:42). In addition, a person feels humble and unworthy of being touched by the presence of God. So she says, "And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me," ( Luke 1:43). Another inward evidence of being filled with the Spirit is an overwhelming sense of joy. Thus, she declares, "For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy," ( Luke 1:44). A final inward evidence we see in this passage is how Elisabeth was filled with confidence and faith in the fulfillment of God's spoken Word when she says, "And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord," ( Luke 1:45).

Acts 19:6, "And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied."

Luke 1:39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;

Luke 1:39Comments - Although Luke accurately records the names of the cities in the story of Jesus' birth and childhood, he does not name the city of Judah to which Mary traveled to visit her cousin Elisabeth. This omission by the author may reflect the fact that Elisabeth had fled there to hid herself until the birth of this child.

Luke 1:24, "And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,"

Luke 1:40 And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.

Luke 1:40Comments - Zechariah was the head of the house, so the Scriptures call it his house. However, women normally greet other women first, so we see Mary first greeting Elisabeth, who was a cousin to Mary ( Luke 1:36).

Luke 1:41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:

Luke 1:41Comments - When Elisabeth drew near to the Christ, Frances J. Roberts writes, "[Her] response was immediate- an inner, involuntary response to the nearness of Christ, even while He was yet unborn and unseen by the world." She was filled with joy and the Holy Ghost. In the same way, when Christ's Second Coming is at hand, we will hear His voice. She writes, "It is the voice of the Bridegroom calling forth His bride…Ye need not fear that ye will miss it. Be it ever so soft, ye shall hear." Our hearts shall hear, and shall leap with joy as did Elisabeth. She says, "I tell you, there shall be a revelation of My nearness given to My dear ones before My second coming. Anticipate Me. Watch for Me. Thy heart shall listen, and thy heart shall hear. I am not far off. I am looking through the lattice. Ye shall see Me - ye shall know - ye shall rejoice." 147]

147] Frances J. Roberts, Come Away My Beloved (Ojai, California: King's Farspan, Inc, 1973), 106.

Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Ghost at this time as well as her child. This was prophesied in Luke 1:15.

Luke 1:15, "For 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."

Later Zacharias is filled with Holy Ghost.

Luke 1:67, "And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,"

Luke 1:41 is an excellent verse to support the truth that life begins at conception. We know that Mary has recently conceived the Christ child in her womb. She then comes to visit her cousin Elisabeth. Elisabeth sensed the presence of the Christ in Mary's womb. This proves that He was a living being even when He was only days old in the womb.

Luke 1:45Comments - We find in Luke 1:45 that Elisabeth's prophecy referred to Mary's faith in the prophetic word of the angel Gabriel ( Luke 1:26-38). In this passage Mary said to the angel, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." ( Luke 1:38) Because of Mary's faith, there would be a performance of those prophetic words. In contrast, the angel Gabriel stuck Zacharias speechless because he doubted the prophetic word given to him.

When we receive a word from God either through His written Word or by a divinely spoken word, we must believe in that word if God is to use us in the fulfillment of that word. He can fulfill His word in many different ways. But if we want to be involved, we must cooperate with His Word.

Luke 1:46-56 — The Testimony of Mary's Prophecy - Luke 1:46-56 gives the testimony of Mary's prophecy regarding Jesus as the Saviour of the world.

Luke 1:47Comments - The fact that Mary, the mother of Jesus, called Him "Saviour" means that she herself was in need of the forgiveness of sins. This confession contradicts the Roman Catholic doctrine of the "Immaculate Mary, the Mother of God," which states that Mary was without sin. 148]

148] Henry A. Brann explains the Roman Catholic doctrine of Mary's immaculate conception by saying, "…it is the Catholic belief that the blessed Virgin was, by a special privilege, preserved immaculate, that Isaiah , free from the stain of original sin, from the first moment of her conception." Henry A. Brann, The Triumphs and Glories of the Catholic Church (New York: Thomas Kelly, 1895), 169.

Luke 1:56Comments - One suggestion as to why Mary left after three months and returned home is because her morning sickness would have come to an end at this time and she would have felt well enough to travel. Otherwise, traveling with morning sickness would have been difficult. Mary also probably ministered to her elderly cousin Elisabeth during her third trimester of pregnancy up until the birth of John. The last three months are generally the most difficult time of pregnancy, particularly with Elisabeth's great age.


Verses 57-80

The Prophecy of Zacharias - In Luke 1:57-80 we have the prophecy of Zacharias that Jesus would be the Saviour of the World, and his son would be the prophet of the Highest.

Outline - Here is a proposed outline:

1. The Birth of John the Baptist — Luke 1:57-66

2. The Prophecy of Zacharias Concerning the Ministry of John — Luke 1:67-80

Luke 1:57-66The Birth of John the Baptist - Luke 1:57-66 records the birth of John the Baptist. Luke records the purpose of John the Baptist"s ministry according to the prophecies given before his birth ( Luke 1:17; Luke 1:76-79), which was to prepare for the coming of the Messiah through preaching repentance of one's sins and faith in God.

Luke 1:17, "And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, 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."

Luke 1:76-79, "And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."

Luke 1:58Comments - The angel said to Zechariah that "many shall rejoice at his birth." ( Luke 1:14)

Luke 1:14, "And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth."

Luke 1:61Comments - The tradition in Africa for naming children is similar to those of biblical times. An African child received several names from its parents or relatives. Unlike the American tradition of being given the family's last name, the child is identified by its several names, which are handed down from generation to generation. Each African name identifies a person to a particular tribe. It would be unheard of for an African child to receive a name outside of its family and tribe.

Luke 1:67-80 — The Prophecy of Zacharias Concerning the Ministry of His Son John - In Luke 1:67-80 we have the record of the prophecy of Zacharias concerning the ministry of his son John.

Luke 1:67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,

Luke 1:67Comments - See a similar prophetic event in 2Chronicles when the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah:

2 Chronicles 20:14, "Then upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah , the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, came the Spirit of the LORD in the midst of the congregation;"

Luke 1:70Comments - The books of the Old Testament were delivered to Israel through the office of the prophet, while the New Testament books were written by those in the office of the apostle.

Luke 1:76Comments - The Gospel of Luke places emphasis upon the office and ministry of Jesus Christ as a Prophet. Jesus is referred to as a prophet five times in the Gospel of Luke ( Luke 1:76; Luke 7:16; Luke 7:39; Luke 13:33; Luke 24:19). In contrast, Jesus is referred to a prophet by Matthew on two occasions ( Matthew 21:11; Matthew 21:46), by John on two occasions ( John 7:40; John 9:17), while Mark makes no such reference.

Luke 1:76, "And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;"

Luke 7:16, "And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people."

Luke 7:39, "Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This Prayer of Manasseh , if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner."

Luke 13:33, "Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem."

Luke 24:19, "And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:"

Luke 1:80Comments - It can be speculated that before his public appearance, John the Baptist lived among the Essenes, a devout group of Jews who separated themselves from society by forming a desert community, with strict codes of conduct. John's characteristics of separation from society ( Luke 1:80), his simple dress and apparent poverty ( Matthew 3:4), his lifestyle of celibacy, and his proclamation against that which is evil ( Mark 1:4-5, Luke 3:7), his use of purification rites through water baptism ( Matthew 3:6), his call to share what ones owns with his fellowman ( Luke 3:11), his message to live at peace among others ( Luke 3:14), are also found among the ancient Jewish Essene society of the first century, as describe by the Jewish historian Josephus. 149] While the Essenes restricted their membership to Jews, John the Baptist renounced such racism by saying, "And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham." ( Matthew 3:9) John also emphasized the impending judgment of God ( Matthew 3:12), as did the Essenes.

149] Josephus writes, "For there are three philosophical sects among the Jews. The followers of the first of whom are the Pharisees; of the second the Sadducces; and the third sect, who pretends to a severer discipline, and called Essenes. These last are Jews by birth, and seem to have a greater affection for one another than the other sects have. These Essenes reject pleasures as an evil, but esteem continence, and the conquest over our passions, to be virtue. They neglect wedlock, but choose out other persons' children, while the are pliable, and fit for learning…These men are despisers of riches, and so very communicative as raises our admiration. Nor is there any one to be found among them who hath more than another... Nor do they allow of the change of garments, or of shoes, till they be first entirely torn to pieces or worn out by time… After which they assemble themselves together again into one place; and when they have clothed themselves in white veils, they then bathe their bodies in cold water. And after this purification is over… They are eminent for fidelity, and are the ministers of peace; whatsoever they say also is firmer than an oath; but swearing is avoided by them, and they esteem it worse than perjury. (Wars 282-5)

 


Copyright Statement
These files are copyrighted by the author, Gary Everett. Used by Permission.
No distribution beyond personal use without permission.

Bibliography Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Luke 1:4". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ghe/luke-1.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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