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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Luke 2

 

 

Verse 1

2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

Ver. 2. When Cyrenius, &c.] Quirinus, the Latin writers call him. Now that the sceptre was departed, Shiloh came.


Verse 3

3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

Ver. 3. And all went to be taxed] To pay a certain small sum of money in token of fidelity. I was once at a court sermon (saith Melancthon) on the Nativity day, and this was the text: but the preacher, instead of discoursing on Christ’s incarnation, spent the whole hour, on a very cold day, in persuading the people to obey magistrates, and to give them as much money as they call for. This is the guise of court parasites, princes, trencher flies.


Verse 4

4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

Ver. 4. And Joseph also went up] By a special providence of God, as is above noted, Luke 2:1, and not only so, but that the holy virgin might still have with her the keeper and cover of her virginity; that the devil might not have occasion to raise up false reports about her great belly.


Verse 5

5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

Ver. 5. Being great with child] Yet could not be excused. This was a cruelty in Augustus (not to spare great-bellied women), but a mercy of God to mankind; for what the better had it been for us, if Joseph had gone to Bethlehem, and not Mary also?


Verse 6

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

Ver. 6. The days were accomplished] Her delivery might well be hastened, or at least facilitated, by her long journey; for it was no less than four days’ journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Some say she was gravida, but not gravata; great-bellied, but not unwieldy: Lumen enim quod in se habebat, pondus habere non poterat, saith Augustine; but I am not bound to believe him.


Verse 7

7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Ver. 7. And she brought forth her firstborn] Whether she were Deipara, the mother of God, was a great controversy, and raised a great storm in the Council of Ephesus; insomuch as the emperor declared both sides heretics. But forasmuch as she was the mother of Christ, Matthew 1:23, and Christ is God; in bringing forth Christ, she was the mother of God. θεοτοκος non θεοδοχος, ut voluit Nestorius. Whether she continued after this a virgin, pie credimus sed nihil affirmamus. But that she vowed virginity, as Papists say, we deny: for how could she promise virginity to God, and marriage to Joseph? There is a story, that when the old Romans had founded Templum pacis, Temple of peace, they sent to ask Apollo how long it should stand? he answered, Until a virgin brought forth: this they took to be perpetual. But therein they were as much mistaken as those Africans, who having an oracle, that when the Romans sent an army into Africa, Mundus cum tota sua prole periret, thought that then the world should be at an end. But afterwards the Romans sent an army thither under the conduct of one Mundus, who in battle was slain, together with his sons, by the Africans; and discovered the illusion of the devil.

Wrapped him in swaddling clothes] This pains she was at (such was her love), though newly delivered, and much weakened thereby. His swaddling clothes were poor and ragged, as may be gathered out of the Greek word here used. σπαργανοω, of σπαρασσω, to rend.

Laid him in a manger] Non in aureo reclinatorio, saith Ludolphus, not in a stately room, as the Porphyrogeniti in Constantinople; not in the best but basest place of the inn, which is counted the meanest house of a city. Oh humble Saviour, whither wilt thou descend?


Verse 8

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

Ver. 8. Keeping watch over their flock] At the tower of Edar, say some, between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, where Jacob, returning from Mesopotamia, stayed with his flock, after he had buried Rachel, Genesis 35:21; Micah 4:8.

By night] Hence some gather that our Saviour was not born in the winter, because in winter they housed their cattle, and fed them not out doors, Proverbs 27:25.


Verse 9

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

Ver. 9. And, lo, the angel of the Lord] Gabriel, likely, was sent, not to Zacharias or Simeon, &c., but to certain shepherds. God goes a way by himself, Had the sages of the East met with these shepherds, they had received better intelligence than they did from the learned scribes.

And the glory of the Lord] As when a king’s son is born, bonfires are made, &c.


Verse 10

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

Ver. 10. I bring you good tidings] The first preacher of the gospel was an angel. God hath now taken this honour from the angels, and put it upon the ministers, who are in Scripture called angels, Revelation 2:1, and angels ministers, Hebrews 1:14. The old church had επαγγελιαν, the promise, we have ευαγγελιαν, the joyful tidings.


Verse 11

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Ver. 11. A Saviour] The Greek word is so emphatic (as Cicero witnesseth) that other tongues can hardly find a fit word to express it. The Grecians delivered by Flaminius, rang out σωτηρ, σωτηρ, with such a courage, that the birds, astonished, fell to the earth.


Verse 12

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

Ver. 12. Wrapped in swaddling clothes] In vilibus et veteribus indumentis, saith Ludolphus. {See Trapp on "Luke 2:7"}


Verse 13

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Ver. 13. Praising God] Angels who have neither so much interest in Christ nor benefit by him as we, sing him into the world. And shall we be dumb? They sang when the world was created, Job 38:7. So now, that it was repaired by Christ.


Verse 14

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Ver. 14. Glory be to God on high] Let God have all the glory, so we may have the peace and grace or good will (for of these angels, Saint Paul learned to salute with grace and peace). Mihi placet distributio angelica, saith Bernard, gratanter accipio quod relinquis, relinquo quod retines: abiuro gloriam, ne amitterem pacem. I am well content with the angels’ distribution, I thankfully accept (Lord) what thou leavest; I meddle not with that which thou retainest. I forego the glory, so I may not miss the peace. Thus he. It was the last speech of dying Chrysostom, Glory be to God from all creatures. Let the Jesuits (saith one) at the end of their books subscribe Laus Deo et Beatae Virgini. Let this be the badge of the beast: cry we, Soli Deo gloria, Glory be to God alone.

In earth peace] Pax, quasi pactio conditionum. ειρηνη παρα το εις εν ειρειν, a connectendo in unum. Christ is the great peace maker; but only to the elect, called here the men of God’s good will. When he was born, Cuncta atque continua totius generis humani aut pax fuit aut pactio. Flor. Hist. l. 4.


Verse 15

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

Ver. 15. Let us now go even unto Bethlehem] They did not reason nor debate with themselves (saith Bishop Hooper, martyr, in a letter to certain good people taken praying in Bow churchyard, and now in trouble) who should keep the wolf from the sheep in the mean time; but committed the sheep to him whose pleasure they obeyed. So let us do now that we be called; commit all other things to him that called us. He will take heed that all shall be well. He will help the husband, comfort the wife, guide the servants, keep the house, preserve the goods; yea, rather than it should be undone, he will wash the dishes, rock the cradle, &c.


Verse 16

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

Ver. 16. Found Mary and Joseph, &c.] They, though of the royal blood, yet lay obscured, not thrusting themselves into observation, but well content with a low condition. Beata Virgo in vili stabulo sedet, et iacet; sed quod homines negligunt, coelestes cives honorant et inquirunt, saith Stella. The humble person is like the violet, which grows low, hangs the head downwards, and hides itself with its own leaves. And were it not that the fragrant smell of his many virtues betrays him to the world, he would choose to live and die in his self-contenting secrecy. Bernard.


Verse 17

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

Ver. 17. They made known abroad] True goodness is communicative; there is no envy in spiritual things; because they may be divided in solidum: one may have as much as another, and all alike. These shepherds, as those lepers, 2 Kings 7:7; 2 Kings 7:9, said one to another, "We do not well; this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace," &c.


Verse 18

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

Ver. 18. Wondered at those things] Yet made little benefit of what they heard. "All the world wondered after the beast," Revelation 13:3. And it was a wonder there was no more wondering at the birth of our Saviour; if that were true especially, that (besides the wise men’s star, Matthew 2:8-11, and the angelic music in the air, &c.) among the Gentiles a voice was heard, The great God is now about to be born; and that at Rome, the likeness of a woman carrying a child in her arms was seen about the sun, &c. These things are told. Polydore Virgil reports out of Orosius, that on the very day of Christ’s nativity, Augustus Caesar caused proclamation that no man should style him Lord any longer, Manifesto praesagio maioris Dominatus, qui tum in terris ortus esset; as presaging a greater than himself then born.


Verse 19

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

Ver. 19. Mary kept all these things] Her soul was a holy ark; her memory like the pot of manna, preserving holy truths and remarkable occurrences.


Verse 20

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Ver. 20. As it was told unto them] God, to show that he respected not persons, revealed this grand mystery to shepherds and wise men; the one poor, the other rich; the one learned, the other unlearned; the one Jews, the other Gentiles; the one near, the other far off.


Verse 21

21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Ver. 21. For the circumcising of the child] Christ would be circumcised, and so become bound to fulfil the law, that he might free us that were under the law, Galatians 4:5. He shed his blood for us when he was but eight days old; he took us into his family by baptism when we hung on our mother’s breasts. Should we not then serve him betimes, remember him from our infancy?


Verse 22

22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;

Ver. 22. And when the days of her purification] She was rather sanctified than polluted by bearing Christ, yet wrangleth not with the law, nor claimeth an immunity. Now if she were so officious in ceremonies, what in the main duties of morality?

According to the law] This law of purification proclaims our uncleanness, whose very birth infects the mother that bare us. She might not till the seventh day converse with men, nor till the 40th day appear before God in the sanctuary, nor then without a burnt offering for thanksgiving, and a sin offering for expiation of a double sin, viz., of the mother that conceived, and of the son that was conceived.


Verse 23

23 (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)

Ver. 23. That openeth the womb] This proves that Mary brought forth Christ in a natural way, and not utero clauso, by a closed womb, by a miracle, as Papists would have it, to prove the fiction of transubstantiation.

Shall be called holy to the Lord] God requireth the firstborn, as usually best beloved; that, together with our children, he might draw to himself the best of our affections.


Verse 24

24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

Ver. 24. A pair of turtledoves] Christ’s mother was not rich enough to bring a lamb. Let this comfort poor Christians. I know thy poverty, saith Christ, but that is nothing, thou art rich, Revelation 2:9. Smyrna, the poorest Church, hath the highest commendation.


Verse 25

25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.

Ver. 25. Just and devout] Or wary and cautious, ευλαβης; one that takes heed and is fearful of being deceived in that which he takes for right and current.

Waiting for the consolation of Israel] That is, for Christ’s coming. This was the sugar wherewith they sweetened all their crosses: this was the dittany, {a} by tasting whereof (as harts do) they shook off all the piercing shafts of their afflictions. Some Jews conclude the Messiah when he comes shall be called Menahem, the Comforter, from Lamentations 1:6.

{a} A labiate plant, Origanum Dictamnus, called also Dictamnus Creticus or dittany of Crete; formerly famous for its alleged medicinal virtues. ŒD


Verse 26

26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

Ver. 26. It was revealed unto him] By an immediate oracle, κεχρηματισμενον. The idolatrous, heathen made use of this word to signify their impious and diabolical oracles. The abuse of a word taketh not away the use of it.


Verse 27

27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,

Ver. 27. And he came by the spirit, &c.] So still, "the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord," Psalms 37:23. He sets his Spirit as tutor, to direct and convince us into all truth Simeon, likely, had done as Daniel did, Luke 9:2, found out by diligent search, that the fulness of time was come, and is therefore thus answered from heaven.


Verse 28

28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,

Ver. 28. Then took he him up in his arms] The blessedest armful that ever the old man had in his life. The patriarchs saluted him ασπασαμενοι; but afar off, Hebrews 11:13.


Verse 29

29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:

Ver. 29. Lord, now lettest thou thy servant] In the Syriac it is, "Now thou openest the prison door;" the prisoner must not, till then, go out; nor we out of life till fairly dismissed. Simeon having laid in his heart (saith one) what he lapt in his arms, sung, Nunc dimittis; I fear no sin, I dread no death; I have lived long enough, I have my life; I have longed enough, I have my love; I have seen enough, I have my light; I have served enough, I have my saint; I have sorrowed enough, I have my joy: sweet babe, let this psalm serve for a lullaby to thee, and for a funeral for me. Oh sleep in my arms, and let me sleep in thy peace. Dying Velcurio broke out into these words, " Pater est Amator, Filius Redemptor, Spiritus Sanctus Consolator; quomodo ilaque tristitia affici possim?" Dying Deering said, " Ego omnium sanctorum minimus, credo et intueor in Christum salutem meam."


Verse 30

30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,

Ver. 30. For mine eyes have seen, &c.] A great satisfaction. So it was to Job, Job 42:5, when he could say, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee." What shall it be to us when we shall see God face to face, &c., 1 Corinthians 13:12. Colamus hic Deum reverenter donec a spe ad speciem transeamus. Worship we God with reverence till we come to see him face to face. Bucholcer.


Verse 31

31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;

Ver. 31. Before the face of all the people] As a banner displayed, as a beacon on a hill, or as the sun in heaven, to be beheld of all; as the brazen serpent was lifted up in the wilderness, &c., John 3:15, εφανη, Titus 2:11.


Verse 32

32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

Ver. 32. The glory of thy people Israel] Oh! pity their perverseness, and pray their conversion, that the Jews may call God Abba, the Gentiles Father, Daniel 12:11. There is a prophecy of the Jews’ final restoration (saith Mr Case, God’s waiting to be gracious), and the time is expressed, which is 1290 years after the ceasing of the daily sacrifice, and the setting up of the abomination of desolation; which is conceived to be about Julian’s time, who assayed to rebuild the temple of the Jews, but was hindered from heaven. This was anno Dom. 360, to which if you add 1290 years, it will pitch the calculation upon the year 1650.


Verse 33

33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.

Ver. 33. Marvelled at those things] Saints, the more they see into the mystery of Christ, the more are they transported with admiration. But most of all at the last day, 2 Thessalonians 1:10.


Verse 34

34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;

Ver. 34. For the fall, &c.] Being reorum scopulus, piorum rupes.

And for a sign, &c.] For a butt mark, against whom his enemies shall shoot the shafts of their gainsayings; like as at the sack of Constantinople, the image of the crucifix was taken down by the Turks, and a Turk’s cap put upon the head thereof, and so set up, and shot at with their arrows, calling it the God of the Christians.


Verse 35

35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

Ver. 35. Yea, a sword shall pierce, &c.] This confutes that of Plautus: Mulier nulla cordicitis dolet ex animo. The word here rendered sword properly signifies a long Thracian dart, entering into her soul. So that she was, I doubt not (as other mothers are), ante partum onerosa, in partu dolorosa, post partum laborosa; yet so, as that she made misery itself amiable by her gracious deportment, as one saith of the Lady Jane Grey.

That the thoughts of many hearts] As they are also now in these discriminating, shedding times. Affliction trieth men who are crocodiles, spunges, chameleons, &c. Before these days came (said Master Bradford, martyr) how many thought of themselves, that they had been in God’s bosom, and so were taken, and would be taken in the world? But now we see whose they are; for to whom we obey, his servants we are, &c. In the Palatinate scarcely one man in twenty stood out; but fell to Popery, as fast as leaves in autumn.


Verse 36

36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;

Ver. 36. From her virginity] i.e. She was a pure virgin when married to her husband. All are not virgins that pass for such; some have their secret conveyances; They can eat stolen bread, and afterwards so wipe their lips that not the least crumb shall be seen, Proverbs 30:19-20.


Verse 37

37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.

Ver. 37. A widow of about eighty-four years] She was now ripe, and ready, even of her own accord, to fall into God’s hand, as ripe fruits do into the hand of the gatherer. And the thoughts of death had long since forbade the banns of a second marriage. Cogita te quotidie moriturum, et de secundis nuptiis nunquam cogitabis. Think of death, and the thoughts of marrying again will die within thee.


Verse 38

38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

Ver. 38. Gave thanks likewise] Succinuit Simeoni, seconded Simeon, and sang the same song. This was somewhat extraordinary, as being against that, 1 Timothy 2:12, and therefore occured only in troublesome and confused times of the Church; as likewise Huldah the prophetess. Our Praedicantissae have here no patronage.


Verse 39

39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.

Ver. 39. According to the law of the Lord] This is often recorded of them in this chapter, that they observed the law exactly, to their singular commendation. The law is to be kept as the apple of one’s eye, Proverbs 7:2. Count nothing little that God commands. It is as much treason to coin pence as twenty shilling pieces. And they were commanded not to eat of the blood, as ever they looked for God’s blessing.

They returned into Galilee] After they had first fled down into Egypt, Matthew 2:12-23.


Verse 40

40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.

Ver. 40. And the grace of God was upon him] Without measure: so that of his overflow we have all received "grace for grace," John 1:16. He had a fulness, not repletive only, but diffusive too; not of plenty only, but of bounty also; not only of abundance, but of redundance. He was anointed with the oil of gladness, not only above, but for his fellows.


Verse 41

41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.

Ver. 41. Now his parents went, &c.] Every male was to appear thrice a year before the Lord. In the females it was a freewill offering, and well accepted.


Verse 42

42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.

Ver. 42. And when he was twelve years old] What he did from his infancy hitherto, the Scripture is silent; Papists feign many idle relations, and thereby expose us to the jeers of Jewish and Turkish miscreants. Where the Scripture hath no tongue, we must have no ears.


Verse 43

43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.

Ver. 43. Joseph and his mother knew not] One would wonder they should be so careless of so peerless a pearl; they might well think there were enough at Jerusalem, among the Herodians especially, that would have been glad to have despatched any that should take upon them to be Messiah the Prince, as Daniel calleth him, Daniel 9:25. When they fled into Egypt for fear of Herod, they lost not the child Jesus; as neither there, nor in their return from thence; but at the feast they did, and in that greatest solemnity. Hence Stella observeth, that there is far greater danger of losing Christ in time of prosperity, and worldly affluence, than in days of persecution and tribulation. In mundi faelicitate et affuentia, potius quam in persecutionibus et tribulationibus Christum amitti.


Verse 44

44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.

Ver. 44. Sought him among their kinsfolk] They knew him to be of a disposition not strange and stoic, but sweet and sociable. Let not us stye up ourselves in a stern austerity, but run into the company of those now, that must be our everlasting companions in heaven.


Verse 45

45 And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.

Ver. 45. And when they found him not] The best are sometimes at a loss, and hard put to it for three days, or so. And this, mostly, for their security, as the Church in the Canticles.


Verse 46

46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.

Ver. 46. Sitting in the midst of the doctors] Christus prius sedet in medio doctorum (ut recte distin. 36, Gratian) quam publice coepit munus Mediatoris obire.

Hearing them, and posing them] In this very year the temple was profaned, even at the passover. For the priests having opened the temple doors by night, as the manner was, found a great company of dead men’s bones in the morning thrown here and there through the whole house. This, saith Josephus, was thought to have been done by the Samaritans, in spite of the Jews. But others think God had a special hand in it, to signify that the temple services were shortly to die and determine, now that the Lord of heaven and earth had taught therein with his own lively voice.


Verse 47

47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.

Ver. 47. At his understanding] Which was so large, even as man, that some have affirmed it to be infinite, and uncreated; but of this, his manhood being a creature, was incapable. Howbeit here our Saviour put forth a beam of his Deity, which yet he soon drew in again, and lay long after obscured.


Verse 48

48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.

Ver. 48. Have sought thee sorrowing] Animo tristissimo, et afflictissimo. God often cures a lethargy of security, by a fever of perplexity.


Verse 49

49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?

Ver. 49. Wist ye not] Men, be they pleased or displeased, God must be obeyed.


Verse 50

50 And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.

Ver. 50. They understood not] Yet were well versed in the Scriptures. If God give us not night as well as light, we are still to seek.


Verse 51

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.

Ver. 51. And was subject unto them] Labouring with his hands, &c., Mark 6:5.


Verse 52

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

Ver. 52. Increased in wisdom] Being παιδαριογερων, as Macarius was called, while a child, for his extraordinary grace and gravity. The exercise of his wisdom, as it was more enlarged, became more lovely in the sight of God and man.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Luke 2:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/luke-2.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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