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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Luke 3

 

 

Verses 1-22

PART SECOND

The Beneficent Activity and Holy Behavior of the Son of Man

___________

FIRST SECTION

TESTIMONY BORNE TO MESSIAH

Luke 3

A. By the Preaching and Baptism of John. Luke 3:1-22

1Now, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar, Pontius Pilate being governor [procurator] of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the[FN1] tetrarchof Abilene, 2Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests,[FN2] the word of God came untoJohn, the son of Zacharias [Zachariah], in the wilderness 3 And he came into all the country about [the] Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission ofsins; 4As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias [Isaiah] the prophet, saying,[FN3] The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight 5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall bemade smooth; 6And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

7 Then said he to the multitude [multitudes, ὄχλοις] that came forth to be baptized of [by] him, O generation [Brood] of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrathto come? 8Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of [meet for] repentance; and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to [for] our father: for I say untoyou, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham 9 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire10, And the people asked him, saying, What [then] shall we do then? 11He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat [food], let him do likewise.

12 Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? 13And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you 14 And the[FN4] soldiers likewise demanded of him [asked him], saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man [one], neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.

15 And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused [all were reasoning, διαλογιζομένων πάντων] in their hearts of [concerning] John, whether he were the Christ,or not; 16John answered, saying unto them all [answered them all, saying, ἀπεκρίνατο . ἅπασιν λέγων], I indeed baptize you with water [ὕδατι]; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: He shall baptize you 17 with [in, ἐν] the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His [threshing-] floor, and will gather the wheat into His garner;but the chaff He will burn with fire unquenchable 18 And many other things, in his exhortation [And with many other exhortations he], preached he unto the people.

19 But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip’s20[brother’s][FN5] wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done [did, ἐποίησε], Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison.

21 Now, when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized,and praying, the heaven was opened, 22And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape, like a dove, upon Him; and a voice came from heaven, which said,[FN6] Thou art My beloved Son; in Thee I am well pleased.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Luke 3:1. In the fifteenth year, etc.—With this chronological notice, Luke points out, as his predecessors had omitted doing, the exact position which the sacred narrative occupies on the wide platform of universal history. We will endeavor to point out, as briefly as possible, what may be deduced from his indication concerning the precise period of the public appearing of John and of Jesus.—(a) The fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar is easily ascertained. Augustus died A.U.C767, which, taking this event as the terminus a quo, gives the year782. It seems, however, probable, that our computation must be made from the time when Tiberius was associated with Augustus in the government of the Empire, two years earlier, which would give us the year780. The reigning years of a Roman emperor were, indeed, commonly dated from the time when he governed alone; but as Luke is here speaking of ἡγεμονία, and not of μοναρχία or βασιλεία, he seems to include the two preceding years, in which Tiberius, indeed, possessed a power no way inferior to that of Augustus.—(b) Pontius Pilate, the successor of Valerius Gratus, and sixth governor (procurator) of Judea, possessed this dignity for ten years under the above-named Emperor, viz, from779–789 A.U.C, until he was deprived of his office in consequence of the accusations of the Jews.—(c) Herod (Antipas) became tetrarch of Galilee after the death of his father, Herod the Great, 750, and continued in his government till his deposition in792.—(d) His brother Philip received, contemporaneously with himself, the tetrarchy of Iturea and Trachonitis, and remained in this post till his death in786. According to Josephus (Ant. Judges 17:8; Judges 17:1), his jurisdiction extended also over Batanæa and Auranitis, while his brother also governed Peræa.—(e) Lysanias, tetrarch of Abilene, was not the ruler from Chalcis, between Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon, who was put to death, four and twenty years before Christ, by Antony, at the instigation of Cleopatra,[FN7] but may have been a second Lysanias, whom Josephus passes over in silence, as less celebrated than the former. It will not seem improbable to any, that two princes of the same name should have ruled over the same district, during the course of so many years.—And lastly, (f) with regard to the high-priests, Annas and Caiaphas. For remarks concerning the latter, see Lange on Matthew 26:3 [vol. i. p460]; the former had been made high-priest by Cyrenius, but deposed seven years after by Vitellius. He was succeeded by three others, and lastly by Caiaphas. That he should have continued, after his deposition, to bear the name of high-priest in the sacred history, seems owing to the influence he still possessed,—an influence originating in his own character, strengthened by his relationship to Caiaphas, and always employed in opposition to Christianity. He is even always mentioned first, either on account of his age, or because he first bore the office of high-priest, or perhaps because he exercised the office alternately with Caiaphas.[FN8] See, with respect to this latter supposition, Hug, Einl. in’s N. T. ii. p218, and Friedlieb, Archäologie der Leidensgeschichte. We shall not be mistaken if, using this notice of Luke as a foundation, we reckon the date of John’s ministry to have been the year780, and that of our Lord’s birth, thirty years earlier, viz, 750, or about four years before the usual Christian era.—Compare the exact, and, in our estimation, not yet superseded, calculations of Wieseler, in his Chronological Synopsis.[FN9]

Luke 3:2. The word of God came.—We can see no reason for supposing (with Wieseler) that this refers, not to the first preaching, but to some later appearance, of the Baptist, which was the immediate cause of his imprisonment. The solemnity of this introduction leads us rather to conclude, that the Evangelist intends to point out the time when John began to exchange his solitary life in the wilderness for one of public activity. And this circumstantial chronology is the more suitable, since the eras of John and of Jesus are inseparable; the baptism of the King of the heavenly kingdom following the public appearing of the forerunner, and taking place in the same year.

Unto John, the son of Zachariah.—See Luke 1:5, etc.—In the wilderness.—The locality is thus indefinitely mentioned by Luke, while the sphere of his activity is only generally stated as extending εἰς πᾶσαν τὴν περίχωρον τοῦ Ἱορδ. For Theophilus, who lived so far from the scene of the sacred history, a more exact indication was unnecessary. Compare, however, John 1:28; John 3:23, and the remarks on Matthew 3:1 [vol. i. p68].

Luke 3:4. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, etc.—There is no reason for so closely uniting these words, as to make them designate the voice of John, as a vox clamantis in deserto. The word בַּמִּדְבָּר ( Isaiah 40:3) does not belong to the preceding קוֹל קוֹרֵא, but to the immediately following, præparate viam Domini. The parallelism exacts that we should translate, Prepare ye in the wilderness the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God, Isaiah 40:3. The voice of the caller is the same mentioned in Luke 3:8. Luke gives this prophetic passage more correctly, and more closely follows the Septuagint, than the other Synoptists, especially in the closing phrase, ὄψεται πᾶσα σάρξ, κ.τ.λ.

Luke 3:5. Every valley, etc.—That the whole of this passage, from Isaiah, is figurative language, derived from the march of a monarch, preceded by his herald, scarcely needs mentioning. The particular, however, which must not be overlooked Isaiah, that the prophecy of Isaiah 40. (Luke knows nothing yet of a second Isaiah), though it has a real, has no direct or exclusive reference to John the Baptist. A manifestation of the glory of God is announced, which, beginning with the return from Babylon, is beheld in incomparable splendor at the coming of Christ, and since goes on in growing fulfilment, but is not completed till the last day. Every prophet of the Old Testament going before the face of Jehovah, was a type of John the Baptist, who was to announce the advent of the God-Man; and John again was the type of every apostle, preacher, or missionary, who causes “the voice of one crying” to be heard, before the King Himself can appear. This voice began to sound when Isaiah first perceived and interpreted it; it was heard with unusual power through John’s instrumentality; it will not be silent till the last trumpet shall be heard.

Luke 3:7. To the multitudes—Brood of Vipers!—This mode of address might seem strange to us, without the more detailed account of St. Matthew, who informs us ( Luke 3:7), that the people, addressed in this discouraging manner, were by no means anxious inquirers after salvation, but rather Pharisees and Sadducees, or at least such as were infected by their pernicious leaven. Among this multitude must then be reckoned the crowds attracted to the banks of the Jordan by idle curiosity, if by no worse motive, whom the penetrating glance of John appreciates at their proper value. John, on the banks of the Jordan, appears, as Jesus did afterward, with the fan in his hand; and before we accuse him of harshness, we should do well to remember, first, that love itself can be severe, and that the meek Saviour Himself was inexorably Song of Solomon, toward hypocrites; and secondly, that the judgment here announced was not inevitable, but only impending over obstinate impenitence, while John earnestly desires that they may yet escape it, and points out the way of safety. By the terms, “serpents,” “brood of vipers,” the diabolical nature of hypocrisy is pointed out. Comp. 2 Corinthians 11:14; Revelation 20.—Who hath warned you?—in other words, who hath taught you, and how came you to think that, while you remain as you are, and without an inward change of mind, you can escape the wrath to come, by compliance with an outward sign alone? The last of the Old Testament prophets had also spoken of the judgment to be executed by the Messiah ( Malachi 4:5-6; but the Jews pacified themselves with the idea, that this threat applied to the Gentiles, and not to themselves.

Luke 3:8. Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance.—These are the ἔργα mentioned Acts 26:20, and detailed in the same connection, Luke 3:11. John requires these, because without them they could not possibly escape the wrath to come (οὖν).

And begin not, etc.—Descent from Abraham, the national boast of the Jews, had now a higher importance in their eyes, because they believed that this, though standing alone, would give them a right to share in the blessings of the Messiah. This idea was, as it were, the shield under which they sought to shelter themselves from the sharp arrows of the preaching of repentance, and which John thus snatches from them.—Of these stones.—He points to the stones of the wilderness, with reference too, perhaps, to the creation, when God made man of the dust of the earth. The notion, that the call of the heathen was now present to the mind of the Baptist, is at least unproved; nor is there in his preaching any reference to this event.

Luke 3:9. The Axe is laid.—There Isaiah, in these words, a passing on from the notion of the possibility, to that of the certainty, of the wrath to come. The axe laid, not near to the unfruitful branches, but to the very roots, points to the judgment of extermination about to break forth on the impenitent.—Every tree, etc.—A fruitless fig-tree was afterward made, by our Lord, the representative of the whole Jewish nation ( Luke 13:6); but here each tree, about to be hewn down, denotes an impenitent individual, receiving his sentence. John at least does not teach an ἀποκατάστασις πάντων.

Luke 3:10. And the people asked him.—The question of perplexed penitents; not unlike that put to Peter, at the feast of Pentecost, Acts 2:37. The answer is given entirely in the Old Testament fashion, and from a legal point of view, without any mention of the higher requisites of faith and love; and is remarkable, as showing how thoroughly practical, temperate, and even comparatively rigorous, was the morality of the preacher of repentance. A man who made the duties of mercy and justice, of brotherly love and fidelity in daily intercourse, so prominent, could scarcely be an enthusiast. Luke is the only Evangelist who has communicated, from some unknown source, these special features of the Baptist’s teaching. His whole answer shows with what penetration he had, even in his secluded life, observed the chief defects of each different class. He who would influence men, must not live so severed from them, that he ceases to know and understand them.

Luke 3:11. He that hath two coats, etc.—They are not required to leave their several callings, but to sacrifice their selfishness while remaining in them. Comp. Isaiah 58:3-6; Daniel 4:24.

Luke 3:13. Exact no more, etc.—The covetousness and selfishness of the publicans, the “immodestia publicanorum,” had become proverbial; John pronounces an irrevocable veto against their exactions.

Luke 3:14. Soldiers.—It is uncertain whether these soldiers were used for purposes of police (Ewald), or whether they belonged to some foreign legion employed by Herod in his wars (Michaelis). At all events, they were men actually employed in military service, and were perhaps, by their question, kindred spirits to the pious centurion Cornelius ( Acts 10.)—Διασείειν, to extort by fear, to lay under contribution. Συκοφαντεῖν, to play the spy, thence to slander, to do injustice (to cheat). How much opportunity the military service afforded for such practices, and how much the hardships of the times were thereby enhanced to many, needs no explanation.

[John did not say to the soldiers: Throw away your arms and desert your colors; but: Do not abuse your power. His exhortation plainly implies the lawfulness of the military profession, and consequently the right of war under certain circumstances. Aggressive wars, it is true, are always wrong, but defensive wars against foreign invasion and domestic rebellion are justifiable. War is always a dread calamity, but in the present state of society, it is often an unavoidable necessity, and the only means of defending the rights, the honor, and the very existence of a nation, and may thus prevent still greater evil. It is a destroyer and barbarizer, but in the overruling providence of God it may become a civilizer and even a Christianizer.—P. S.]

Luke 3:15. Whether he were the Christ.—A surprising proof of the deep impression made, by the moral strictness of the Baptist, upon the susceptible mind of the multitude. There was some foundation of truth in this delusion, since, by means of John, Christ Himself, though invisibly, was standing at the door and knocking. The moral greatness of John is shown in the fact, that he made no use of this delusion of the people, but hastened to withdraw within those limits which they would almost have compelled him to pass. Similar conduct was shown by Paul and Barnabas, Acts 14:15.

Luke 3:16. John answered them all, saying.—And if we also read that, on an entirely distinct occasion, he gave the same answer to a small section of the Sanhedrin ( John 1:25), we are by no means forced to the conclusion, that one Evangelist contradicts the other, but rather that John repeated this saying at different times; a saying whose purport was so important, and whose form was figurative language so entirely in the spirit and after the heart of the Baptist, that, having once uttered it, he could not have expressed himself more powerfully and naturally with respect to this vital question.

Luke 3:16. One mightier than I.—A general expression for what he elsewhere declares in a more definite manner, e.g., John 1:30. The greater might of the Messiah is here made, by the context, to consist especially in the fact, that His baptism can effect what John’s baptism is powerless to produce. Consequently, He more deserves the reverence and attention of the people, while His forerunner deems himself unworthy to perform the most menial office for Him.

He shall baptize you with [better in] the Holy Ghost, and with fire.—He will, so to speak, wholly immerse you in the Holy Ghost, and in the fire.[FN10] The baptism of the Spirit, which produces renewal, is contrasted with the baptism of water, which can only represent it. The baptism of fire is appointed for the unconverted, as that of the Holy Spirit for believers.[FN11] As Simeon had announced that Christ was set for the fall of some and rising of others, so does John here describe Him as coming with a twofold baptism. Some are renovated by His baptism, others buried in the fiery baptism of final judgment.

Luke 3:17. Whose fan, etc.—See Matthew 3:12 [vol. i. p72.] The same figure occurs also Jeremiah 15:7, and Luke 22:31; while the internal connection between the κήρυγμα of John and that of Malachi 4:1 is self-evident.

Luke 3:18. He preached the Gospel unto the people.—The announcement of the most fearful judgments belongs, then, no less than that of an abundant baptism of the Spirit, to that work of evangelization which the Baptist had commenced. A significant hint to those who consider a representation of the judgments of the Lord fundamentally incompatible with the full and free preaching of the Gospel.

Luke 3:19. But Herod.—The first appearance upon the scene, of the tetrarch, who is hereafter to play so terrible a part in the Baptist’s history. He was the son of Herod the Great, and of Malthace, a Samaritan. He married first the daughter of King Aretas, but afterwards entered into an adulterous connection with his brother Philip’s wife. The account here given by Luke should be specially compared with that of Mark ( Luke 6:17-20). Mark tells us that this punishment did not hinder Herod from esteeming John in a certain sense; Luke, that he had not brought it upon himself by reproving this crime alone, but also all the evils that Herod did. There can be no ground for doubting (with Meyer) the historical character of a narrative so psychologically probable. He who is in any measure acquainted with the character of the tetrarch, will not doubt that a preacher of repentance would find material enough for reproving him concerning πονηρά. That these reached their climax in the imprisonment and execution of John, was a conviction which Luke undoubtedly shared with all Christian antiquity, and which needs no justification.

Luke 3:20. That he shut up John in prison.—It is not impossible that he allowed him less and less liberty in the prison to which he had been condemned, and at length cut off all access to him. The whole of Luke’s account of John is summary, and written without regard to chronology: he here collects all that he has to say concerning the forerunner, that he may confine himself for the future to the history of Jesus alone; the narrative of the baptism forming the point of transition.

Luke 3:21. It came to pass, etc.—The necessity of comparing together the accounts of the different Evangelists, in order to obtain an exact description of the chief events of the Gospel history, is here very apparent. Not one Evangelist communicates a complete account of what happened at our Lord’s baptism; and it is only by collating their several contributions, that we obtain a complete view of the occurrence. Matthew gives us the most copious account, and also the dialogue which took place between the Baptist and the Saviour; Mark, according to his usual custom, narrates very concisely, but with the addition of some fresh and graphic incident,—here the opening of the heavens (σχιζομένους τοὺς οὐρ.): John depicts the subjective side of this event, in its high significance to our Lord’s forerunner: Luke presupposes an acquaintance with the occurrence, through the apostolic κήρυγμα, and touches upon it for the sake of completeness, and especially to render conspicuous the testimony borne by the Father to the Son on this occasion. In this condition of things, it is unfairness itself to understand our Evangelist’s expressions, which certainly were never penned with diplomatic exactness, so ad literam as to cause an irreconcilable discrepancy between himself and his fellow-witnesses. Plainly, the words, that Jesus was baptized when all the people were baptized, do not necessarily imply, that both the baptism of the Lord and the opening of the heavens happened in the presence of a numerous multitude,—such a publicity would have been a violation of both human and divine decorum,—but only, that, at the period when the greatest number of baptisms was taking place, the baptism of Jesus of Nazareth took place (and naturally in private) among others. The object of Luke Isaiah, not to narrate the baptism for its own sake, but for the sake of the heavenly authentication which the Lord then received.

Luke 3:21. Jesus also being baptized, and praying.—It is one of the singularia Lucœ, that he often mentions that Jesus prayed, even when the other Evangelists make no mention of the circumstance; as, for example, on the night preceding the choosing of His Apostles ( Luke 6:12.) By uniting the accounts of all the Evangelists, with reference to our Lord’s practice of private prayer, we find that. Hebrews, who always lived in uninterrupted communion with the Father, specially and emphatically hallowed every turning-point of his earthly career—His baptism, choice of Apostles, renunciation of a throne ( John 6:15), transfiguration, and his journey towards his last sufferings—by solitary prayer. Those who accept the view that the Evangelist describes a public baptism, must surely have lost sight of his account of this act of prayer. Or did He then so pray publice, that the heavens were opened, a sort of show-prayer in fact? As well might we infer from Luke’s words, literally interpreted, the incongruity, that He was baptized with all the people, in massa, and at the same time.

Luke 3:21. The heaven was opened.—The objective character of the narrative is remarkable. According to Matthew and Mark, it is Jesus who sees heaven opened, and for whose sake this occurrence takes place. John expressly states, that the ray fell upon the mind of the Baptist; while Luke relates the event as though uncaused by the subjectivity of any, and in this respect satisfies the higher requirements of historic narrative.

Luke 3:22. In a bodily shape, like a dove.—The mention of the dove by all the four Evangelists, plainly shows, that the descent of the Spirit was usually compared, by the Baptist who saw it, and afterwards by those who related it, to the descent of a dove. It Isaiah, however, by no means necessary to infer, from the σωματικὸν εἶδος of Luke, the actual form of a dove. Luke does not say, σωματικῷ εἴδει περιστερᾶς, but ὡς περιστεράν. By supposing a ray of light to have descended from the opened heaven, gently, swiftly, and evenly, like the downward flight of a dove, and to have shone around the head of the praying Saviour for some space of time, we escape many difficulties, and obtain a representation beautiful in itself, and becoming the divine majesty. It is by no means proved, that the dove was, in the days of Jesus, regarded by the Jews as an emblem of the Holy Spirit. The very shy nature of the dove renders it difficult to conceive its descending from heaven, and abiding on a newly baptized person, even in a vision. And if ancient Christian art, exchanging the figure for the fact, constantly introduced a visible dove into every representation of the baptism, it is only probable that this unæsthetic treatment was the result of an exegetical error. Our view also will satisfactorily explain why Justin Martyr (Dial. cum Tryph. c88), as well as the Gospel of the Hebrews (Epiphanius, Hœres. xxx13), mentions a vivid ray of light as suddenly surrounding the banks of Jordan. By a very natural symbolism, light was regarded by the Jews as an emblem of the Divinity; and we can see no reason why the descent of a ray of light should not also have been compared to the descent of a dove.

[I beg leave to differ from the esteemed author in his ingenious attempt to get rid of the dove. The Holy Spirit did not use, indeed, a real, living dove as His organ (as Satan used a serpent in the history of temptation), else the Evangelists would not connect ὡς or ὡσεί with περιστερὰ, but He assumed, in His form of manifestation to the inward vision of John (comp. the parallel passage of John 1:32, I (John) saw, and Matthew 3:16, “he saw”), an organized bodily shape, σωματικὸν εἶδος (Luke), and this was, according to the unanimous testimony of all the Evangelists, the shape of a dove, or looked like a dove, ὡς περιστερά, which is the natural symbol of purity and gentleness. The comparison is between the Spirit and the dove, and not (as Bleek and others assume) simply between the descent of the Spirit and the flight of a dove, for this would leave the σωματικὸν εἶδος of Luke unexplained. The whole phenomenon was, of course, not material, but supernatural (a πνευματικὴ θεωρία), yet none the less objective and real.[FN12] Why should the creative Spirit, who in the beginning was brooding (like a dove, as the Talmud has it) over the face of the waters ( Genesis 1:2), brought cosmos out of chaos, not be able to create an organized shape of deep symbolical significance? A dove is decidedly a more appropriate and expressive medium of His manifestation than the form of “a ray of light from heaven.” There is no good reason, therefore, to deviate here from the old interpretation, which is adopted also by de Wette, Meyer, and Alford, as the plain and natural meaning of Luke.—P. S]

Luke 3:22. A voice from heaven.—There is no reason for understanding this, either of a Song of Solomon -calledבַּת קוֹל, a pure invention of the later Rabbis, or of thunder, which, indeed, is often called the voice of the Lord in the poetical, but never in the historical, books of the Old Testament. Everything compels us to accept this as an actual, extraordinary, and plainly audible voice from heaven; yet such a one as would be understood and interpreted only in a peculiar state of mind and spirit, such as that in which Jesus and John then were. Any interpretation which impugns either the reality or the agency of the voices from heaven, heard during the life of Jesus, is objectionable. Certainly Jesus understood, still better than John, the full force and meaning of the Father’s voice. For the servant it was the decisive intimation, “This same is He;” for the Song of Solomon, the definite declaration, “Thou art My beloved Son.” The reference to Psalm 2:7, Isaiah 42:1, is evident; but the opinion, that Jesus is here called the Song of Solomon, in whom the Father is well pleased, only because he is the Messiah of Israel, the theocratic King, is derived from the exegetic commentum, that, in New Testament diction, Χριστός and νἱὸς Θεοῦ are only two terms to denote the same idea. (On the whole narrative, compare the Disputatio theol. inaug. de locis evang. in quibus Jesum baptismi ritum subiisse traditur, by Dr. J. J. Prins, L. B, 1838; and on John the Baptist, a monograph by G. E. W. de Wys, Schoonhoven, 1852.)

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. In the beginning of the third chapter of Luke, compared with the close of the second, we feel how remarkable is the transition from quiet seclusion to unbounded publicity, in the incidents recorded. On the preaching and ministry of John, see the remarks on Matthew 3 [vol. i. p67 ff.]

2. In the choice of the time at which the voice of the Baptist, and so shortly after that of the Lord, should begin to be heard, we see another manifest proof of the wisdom of God. What civil, political, and moral misery is associated with the names which Luke here ( Luke 3:1-2) mentions! All Israel had, indeed, become a barren wilderness, when “the voice of one crying” was loudly and unexpectedly heard.

3. The preaching of John, as Luke communicates it, Isaiah, even in its form, of a prophetic, Old Testament character. The Lord comes in the wind, in the earthquake, and in the fire, but not yet in the still small voice. It is easy to remark the difference between the voice of the law, which resounds here, and that of the gospel, which was afterward heard; but not less necessary, perhaps, to observe their still more striking agreement. Even in the severest tones of the preacher of repentance the evangelical element may be recognized, while we meet with expressions in the discourses of Jesus quite as strong as any which we hear from the lips of John (e.g., Matthew 11:20-24; Matthew 23:13 f.). If we shrink from the notion, that the Lord Himself, on such occasions, was standing on lower ground, Old Testament ground, from which He afterward rose to greater heights, we shall be obliged to conclude, that the New Testament also recognizes a revelation of wrath not less terrible than was threatened under the Old. Matthew 19:6 may aptly be cited in this case.

4. The morality preached by John differs from that of the Lord, inasmuch as the former lays more stress upon the regulation of the external conduct, while Jesus lays more upon that of the inner life. It Isaiah, however, self-evident, that all which John requires from the people, the publicans, and the soldiers, is only valuable in his eye so far as it is the fruit and proof of an inward change of mind. John could not be contented with fruits externally united to a dead tree, but must recognize the truth of Matthew 7:18. But the more he knew himself to be unable to communicate the new life, the more strenuously would he insist on such conduct as would give unambiguous proof of an inward desire of salvation; and the more emphasis he laid upon the inflexible demands of the law, the more intense must be the desires awakened in the hearts of many.

5. The character of John, as exhibited by his lowly testimony to himself, contrasted with the lofty expectations of the people, is one of the most exalted which the history of the kingdom of God can show. To have been able to enlist thousands on his side by a single word, and not to utter that word, but to direct the attention of these thousands to another, whom they had not yet seen, and as soon as He appears, humbly to retire to the background, yea, even to rejoice in his own abasement, if only this other be exalted ( John 3:29-30),—when has a more elevated character been seen, and how can such moral greatness be explained, unless the words of Luke 1:15; Luke 1:80 were the expression of unmixed truth?

6. The inquiry concerning the aim and purpose of John’s baptism, is quite independent of that concerning the antiquity and meaning of the baptism of proselytes. He who submitted to it, confessed himself, by this very Acts, to be impure, and worthy of punishment; acknowledged his obligation, as one called into the kingdom of the Messiah, to lead a holy life; and received the assurance that God would forgive his sins. Even here, then, forgiveness was not to be earned by the sinner’s own previous amendment; but with the announcement of the kingdom of God was revealed the preventing grace of the Father, which promised forgiveness of sins; and only faith in this grace could afford strength for moral improvement, which could alone enable him who was the subject of it fully to taste the joy of pardon. This baptism differed from all former Old Testament washings, by its special reference to the now nearly approaching kingdom of Messiah; while the distinction between the baptism of John and the subsequent Christian baptism was, that the former prepared and separated for the kingdom of God, and the latter admitted within it. On this account, baptism by the disciples of Jesus, and even by the Lord Himself, at the commencement of His public ministry ( John 3:22; John 4:2), can be regarded as only a continuation of this preparatory baptism of John. Christian baptism, the baptism of consecration, could not be instituted till the New Covenant had been instituted in Christ’s blood, the throne of the kingdom of heaven ascended, and the promise of the Holy Spirit fulfilled.

7. Not only did John and Christ stand in external connection with each other, but they are inseparably united. As John preceded Christ, so must the preacher of repentance still cause his voice to be heard in the heart, before Christ can live in us. Through anxiety to peace, through repentance to grace, was not only the way into the kingdom of the Lord for the Jews in those days, but also for Christians in these. Holy strictness is still the true initiation into the exalted joy of the Christian life. He who remains the disciple of John without coming to Christ, endures hunger without obtaining food; he who will go to Christ without having been spiritually a learner in the school of John, finds food, without having any appetite for it.

8. Every answer to the inquiry, why Jesus suffered Himself to be baptized, may be considered unsatisfactory, which either regards baptism as necessary for the Lord, in the same sense as it was for the sinful Israelites, or, on the other hand, sees in this fact only a compliance with an existing usage of no special importance to Himself. John immediately perceived that baptism, as an acknowledgment of guilt and impurity, was unnecessary for Jesus ( Matthew 3:14.) Nor do we read that any requirement of μετάνοια was made. Perhaps we may even regard the mention, by Matthew, that “when He was baptized, He went up straightway (εὐθύς) out of the water,” as a hint at the difference between His baptism and that of the other Jews, who probably remained some time under the water. If we inquire into the Lord’s own view of the necessity of baptism in His own ease, He calls it a fulfilling of all righteousness. He considers it as fitting that He should now submit to this rite, as, thirty years before, it was considered fitting that He should be circumcised and presented in the temple. He was hereby brought into personal relation with that kingdom of God, the future subjects of which were to be set apart in like manner, and entered into communication with an impure world whose sins He was to bear. And, though no acknowledgment of obligation was necessary in His case, yet a holy and solemn consecration to His high vocation was by no means superfluous. Needing no purification for Himself, He yet receives it, as head of His body the Church, for all His members; and thus proves that He will be in all things like unto His brethren, sin only excepted. Besides, it is seen by the incidents which accompanied and followed it, what it was the will of the Father that this baptism should be to Him, even the heavenly consecration of the Son to the work which the Father had given Him. He consecrates Himself, and at the same time the Father consecrates him, to the kingdom of God.

9. It is apparent, from Isaiah 11:2, that the anointing with the Holy Spirit was among the characteristics of the Messiah. The peculiarity, however, Isaiah, that while He came momentarily upon the elect of the Old Testament, He remained upon Jesus. The same thought is paraphrastically expressed in the old Evangelium Nazarœorum, where the Holy Spirit is introduced at the baptism of the Lord as saying: “My Song of Solomon, I was waiting in all the prophets till Thou shouldest come, that I might rest upon Thee. Thou art My resting-place (tu enim es requies mea), My only-begotten Song of Solomon, who rulest forever.”

10. The revelation at the Jordan was neither new nor unnecessary to the God-Man. Undoubtedly the consciousness of the Lord, with respect to His work and person, had been continually increasing in strength, clearness, and depth, since the occurrence recorded of His twelfth year. His very first word to John shows how He places Himself upon a level with the greatest of the prophets; and He who will fulfil all righteousness must well know who He Isaiah, and wherefore He is come. But now the revelation from above impresses its unerring seal upon the perfect revelation within, and Luke represents this sealing ( John 6:27, ἐσφράγισεν) as a definite answer to prayer. As the voice from Heaven ( John 12) consecrated Him the atoning High Priest, and that upon Tabor declared Him the greatest of the prophets, who was to be heard before Moses and Elias, so was His formal appointment as King of the heavenly kingdom bestowed upon Him in the presence of the Baptist.

11. The descent of the Holy Spirit at the baptism, and the miraculous birth of our Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit, are by no means inconsistent facts. Undoubtedly, the Son of Man had not lived thirty years upon earth without the Holy Spirit: and it is an arbitrary assumption to suppose that miraculous power was specially bestowed upon Him at this instant. Our Lord, however, had hitherto possessed the gifts of the Holy Spirit only by means of his continual communion with the Father, and of the Father’s unceasing communications to Him. There is nothing unfounded in the opinion, that the Father communicated still more to Him, who already possessed so much, and that the indwelling element of His life was developed, in all its fulness, by a new and mighty afflation from above. We should not be able to determine with certainty what He now received, unless we could compare His inner life before and after His baptism; but for this we are not furnished with sufficient data. It is enough for us to know that the Holy Spirit, who had been for thirty years the bond of communion between the Father and His incarnate Song of Solomon, now, at the beginning of His public ministry, entered into new relations with Him. He anointed Him as King of the kingdom of heaven, and at the same time as a Prophet, mighty in deed and word before God and the people.

12. The whole history of the baptism of Jesus is highly and abidingly valuable in a doctrinal point of view. It is a pledge to us that our Lord voluntarily undertook His work upon earth, began and ended it with full consciousness, and was furnished with all the gifts and powers which it required. It gives to our faith in the Son of God the objective foundation of divine testimony, which can neither be denied nor recalled. And it presents us with so striking a revelation of the fulness of the divine nature, when the Father gives testimony to the Song of Solomon, and the Holy Spirit descends in a visible form, that we can scarcely read it without recalling the words of one of the Fathers: I ad Jordanem et videbis Trinitatem.”

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

John and Jesus in their mutual relation.—The history of the kingdom of God, in its connection with the history of the world.—Tiberius and Herod in princely robes; Annas and Caiaphas in priestly garments; John in the rough clothing of a preacher of repentance.—The forerunner: 1. His severity toward the unholy multitude; 2. his humility toward the holy Christ.—Preparing the way of the Lord, Isaiah, 1. a difficult work; 2. an indispensable necessity; 3. a blessed employment.—The voice of the caller; 1. How much it requires; 2. how gravely it threatens; 3. how gently it comforts and promises.—John must still precede Jesus.—The abasement of all that is high, and the elevation of all that is low, in the heart whereinto Christ enters.—Fruitless efforts to escape the wrath to come.—The fruits of conversion: 1. No true religion without conversion; 2. No true conversion without godliness.—Descent from Abraham gives no precedence in the kingdom of God.—What the power of God can make out of stones: 1. Of stones of the desert, children of Abraham; 2. of stony hearts, hearts of flesh.—The axe laid to the root of the trees: what justice has laid it to the root; what mercy leaves it still lying at the root!—The judgment on unfruitful trees Isaiah, 1. surely to be expected; 2. perfectly to be justified; 3. still to be avoided.—The great inquiry, What shall we do? 1. A question becoming all; 2. a question answered to all.—The answer to the great inquiry of life, 1. from the stand-point of the law ( Luke 3:10-14); 2. from the stand-point of grace ( Acts 2:38.)—No true peace, without a vigorous struggle against besetting sins.—The fundamental law of the kingdom of God, in its application to daily life.—No condition too lowly, or too unfavorable, to allow a man to prove himself a subject of the kingdom of God. The beneficial influence of conversion upon the military profession.—How would it have been, if John had been the Christ?—Baptism with water and the Spirit: 1. The distinction; 2. the connection between them.—Deep humility, the greatness of John the Baptist.—The exalted nature of Jesus, freely owned by John, a confession, 1. honorable to John 2. due to Christ; 3. important to the world, to Israel, to us.—Jesus the true Baptist.—Baptism with the Holy Spirit: with the Spirit, 1. of truth, to enlighten us; 2. of power, to renew us; 3. of grace, to comfort us; 4. of love, to unite us to each other, to Christ, to God.—Baptism with fire considered, 1. on its terrible; 2. on its inevitable; 3. on its beneficial side.—The preaching of the gospel by John is especially the preaching of repentance: 1. As such, it was prophesied of; 2. as such, it was carried on; 3. as such, it worked; 4. as such, it is still needed. The thresher and the fan, the wheat and the barn, the chaff and the unquenchable fire.—John before Herod: 1. The strict preacher of repentance; 2. the innocent victim; 3. the avenging accuser.— John, a faithful court-preacher.—John and our Lord on the banks of the Jordan.—The most exalted solemnity during the Baptist’s life.—The voice from heaven at the Jordan, a revelation for John, for Jesus, for us.—The time of baptism, a time of prayer.—The voice of the Father, the Amen to the prayer of the Son.—Jesus baptized with the Holy Spirit.—The anointing of Christ, the anointing of the Christian.—The first voice from heaven to the Lord’s honor, the key-note of the subsequent voices from heaven.—The heavenly authentication after thirty years of solitary separation.

Starke:—Everything happens at the right time.—The light arises in darkness, when it looks most gloomy.—The chief work of the preacher must ever be to prepare the way to the Lord Jesus.—Repentance no easy matter: it costs time and labor to level mountains.—The Church of God is not confined to any special people.—God seeks fruit; is not contented with mere leaves; and, however high a tree thou mayest be, is no respecter of persons.—The work of God, for the most part, begins with people of low condition.—A preacher must inculcate not merely general, but special duties, according to the condition of his hearers. The multitude generally knows no medium, but would either raise a man to heaven, or plunge him into hell.—Christ can, and will, in His own good time, purify His Church; a comfort for those who mourn over its present corruption.—The Church is not without chaff; heart-Christians and lip-Christians are always mingled.—Christ receives baptism in the same manner as sinful men; what humility!—The mystery of the Trinity is here plainly enough depicted: away with the vain babbling of Jews and Socinians.

Heubner:—The faithful preaching of repentance, an act of heroism.—The solemn voice of truth does not repel, but attracts. The mere preaching of the law cannot lead to salvation; the preaching of the gospel can alone do this.—Christ knows the genuine and the spurious among His followers; what teacher is like Him? Jesus received a heavenly consecration to His calling: we too may enter upon our calling, if we have the inward consciousness that God has chosen us for our work, and the inward witness that we are the children of God.

Arndt:—How does the light arise upon mankind, and upon individual men? The appearance of John may teach us. Day dawns quietly yet powerfully; gravely yet full of promise.—The baptism of Jesus in the Jordan considered, 1. as strange in the sight of man; 2. as pleasing in the sight of God. Schleiermacher:—What must precede the Lord’s entrance into human hearts.—Harless (in a sermon on Luke 3:15-17): On the question, what kind of prophets do we require? Such as (a) think humbly of themselves; (b) know how to reprove the folly of the multitude; and (c) direct attention from themselves to Him who came with the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and will come with the fiery baptism of judgment. Strauss:—[Late court-preacher and professor at Berlin.]—The greatest man and Christ: 1. What is the greatest of men compared with Christ? 2. What is Christ compared with the greatest of men? Palmer:—Testimony for Christ must always be, 1. a voluntary; 2. a just; 3. a constant testimony. F. W. Krummacher:—The kingdom of Christ, according to the preaching of John,, Isaiah, 1. a kingdom not of this world, though a world-wide kingdom; 2. a kingdom not of outward show, but a kingdom of truth; 3. a kingdom not of false peace, but of substantial help; 4. not a kingdom of the law, but of salvation; 5. not a kingdom of demands, but a kingdom of grace.

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Luke 3:1.—The article the should be omitted as in governor and the preceding tetrarch.

FN#2 - Luke 3:2.—Or more correctly, according to the oldest reading: Annas being high-priest and Caiaphas, (ἐπὶ ἀρχιερέως Ἀννα καὶ Κ.,) for which the text. rec. reads ἐπ’ ἀρχιερέων—a manifest correction on account of the two names. On Annas or Ananus, and Joseph or Caiaphas, his Song of Solomon -in-law and successor in the office of high-priest, see Matthew 26:3; John 18:13; Joseph. Antiq. Luke 18:2; Luke 18:2; and Exeg. Notes.

FN#3 - Luke 3:4.—The word saying, λέγοντος, is unnecessary and should be omitted on the authority of Codd. Sin, B, D, L, etc, and the modern critical editions. It was inserted from Matthew 3:3.

FN#4 - Luke 3:14.—The article should be omitted as in the Greek.

FN#5 - Luke 3:19.—The text. rec. inserts from Mark 6:17, Φιλίππου after γυναικός, against the best ancient authorities, including Cod. Sin. The modern critical editions omit it.

FN#6 - Luke 3:22.—The words which said, λέγουσαν, should be thrown out of the text, according to Codd. Sin, B, D, L, Vulg, etc. Insertion from Matthew 3:17.—P. S.]

FN#7 - Joseph. Antiq. xv4, 1; xix5, 1; xx7, 1; De bello Jud. i13, 1; ii11, 5; Cass. Dio, 49, 32. Meyer concludes against Strauss that the statement of Luke is confirmed rather than refuted by Josephus.—P. S.]

FN#8 - Wordsworth in loc.: “St. Luke, in a spirit of reverence for the sacred office—instituted by God Himself—of the High-Priesthood, which was hereditary and for life, does not acknowledge that the High-Priest could be lawfully made and unmade by the civil power. He still calls Annas the High-Priest, and yet, since Caiaphas was de facto High-Priest, and was commonly reputed so to be, he adds his name in the second place to that of Annas.”—P. S.]

FN#9 - Comp. also the careful essay of Andrews on the date of Christ’s birth, in his Life of our Lord, pp1–22.—P. S.]

FN#10 - The difference between βαπτίζειν ὕδατι without ἐν, and βαπτίζειν ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ καὶ πυρί, should be noticed in the translation by with in the former and in in the latter case: the instrumental dative signifies the element by which, the preposition ἐν the locality or element in which the baptism is performed. Matthew, however, in the parallel passage, Luke 3:11-12, uses ἐν in both cases, while in Mark 1:8 there is a difference of reading; some authorities have ἐν before ὕδατι and πνεύματι, others omit it before both, still others (as Cod. Sin.) read ὕδατι and ἐν πνεύματι. I prefer the latter as being more consistent with Scripture usage, comp. Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; Acts 11:16, as well as with the nature of the case. Water may be regarded both as the element in which, and as the element by which baptism is performed, and hence may or may not be connected with ἐς; but the Holy Spirit could not properly be conceived as the mere instrument of an Acts, and hence should in every case be construed with the local preposition ἐν.—As regards the bearing of the phrase to baptize in the Holy Ghost, on the immersion controversy, it is hardly fair to press it one way or the other, since in this case the term is evidently used figuratively, though, of course, with reference to the sacred rite. It means to be overwhelmed or richly furnished with the Holy Spirit. Dr. van Oosterzee, like Dr. Lange and most of the German commentators, adheres to the original and prevailing usage of βαπτίζω; but they do not intend to deny the wider Hellenistic use of the term, much less to convey the idea that immersion is the only proper mode of baptism, the effect and validity of which does not depend either on the quantity or quality of water, or the mode of its application, but upon the power of the Holy Spirit accompanying the water and the administration of the rite in the name of the Holy Trinity and with the intention to baptize. Comp. on this controversy the lengthy remarks in my History of the Apostolic Church, § 142, p.—(of the English edition).—P. S.]

FN#11 - So also Dr. Lange. Comp. my annotation on Matthew 3:11, vol. i. p72, in dissent from this reference of the baptism of fire to the final judgment.—P. S.]

FN#12 - Comp. Jerome in loc.: “Aperiuntur autem cœli non reseratione elementorum sed spiritualibus oculis, quibus et Ezechiel in principio voluminio sui apertos eos esse commemorat.”—P. S.]


Verses 23-38

B. Testimony of the Genealogy. Luke 3:23-38

23And Jesus Himself began to be about thirty years of age [Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age when He began (His ministry)];[FN13] being (as was supposed) the Song of Solomon 24of Joseph, which [who] was[FN14] the son[FN15] of Heli,[FN16] Which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi, which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Janna, which 25 was the son of Joseph, Which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of Amos, which was the son of Naum, which was the son of Esli, which was the son of Nagge, 26Which was the son of Maath, which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of 27 Semei, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Juda, Which was the son of Joanna, which was the son of Rhesa, which was the son of Zorobabel, which was the son 28of Salathiel, which was the son of Neri, Which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Addi, which was the son of Cosam, which was the son of Elmodam, which was the son 29of Er, Which was the son of Jose, which was the son of Eliezer, which was the son of 30 Jorim, which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi, Which was the son of Simeon, which was the son of Juda, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of 31 Jonan, which was the son of Eliakim, Which was the son of Melea, which was the son of Menan, which was the son of Mattatha, which was the son of Nathan, which was the 32son of David, Which was the son of Jesse, which was the son of Obed, which was the33son of Booz, which was the son of Salmon, which was the son of Naasson, Which was the son of Aminadab, which was the son of Aram, which was the son of Esrom, which 34 was the son of Phares, which was the son of Juda, Which was the son of Jacob, which was the son of Isaac, which was the son of Abraham, which was the son of Thara, which 35 was the son of Nachor, Which was the son of Saruch, which was the son of Ragau, which was the son of Phalec, which was the son of Heber, which was the son of Sala, 36Which was the son of Cainan, which was the son of Arphaxad, which was the son of 37 Sem, which was the son of Noe, which was the son of Lamech, Which was the son of Mathusala, which was the son of Enoch, which was the son of Jared, which was the son 38of Maleleel, which was the son of Cainan, Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Luke 3:23. When He began, ἀρχόμενος (His ministry).—The rendering, And Jesus was, when He began (i.e., to preach), about thirty years of age, is not free from difficulties, but is recommended by its connection with the context. For, in the preceding verses, the Evangelist has been describing the dedication of the Lord to His work as Messiah; and what more natural than that he should now speak of His entrance thereupon? Besides, it is entirely according to his custom to specify dates: he has already mentioned that of the ministry of John, and those of the birth, circumcision, presentation in the temple, and first Passover of Jesus; and he now indicates to his readers the date of the things ἤρξατο Ἰησοῦς ποιεῖν τε καὶ διδάσκειν, Acts 1:1. In any case this construction is preferable to the exposition: “incipiebat antem Jesus annorum esse fere triginta,” Jesus began to be about thirty years of age.[FN17] If Luke had meant to say this, he would certainly have expressed himself very obscurely.

About thirty years of age.—All attempts at fixing an exact chronology of our Lord’s life, from this indication of Luke, have split upon this word “about” (ὡσεί).[FN18] We are only informed by it, that when Jesus began His public ministry, He was not much under, or much above, thirty years of age. This was, according to Numbers 4:3; Numbers 4:47, the age at which the Levitical services were entered upon, though undoubtedly there was no need of applying such a law to the Lord’s entrance upon His work as Messiah. On the other hand, however, it was at the age of thirty that the Jewish scribes were accustomed to enter upon their office as teachers; and John the Baptist also commenced his ministry at this age. Perhaps the contemporaries of Jesus might not have been disposed to recognize the authority of a teacher who had not attained the age appointed to the Levites.

Luke 3:23-38. Being (as was supposed the son of Joseph) the son of Eli, etc.—We prefer including νἱὸς ̓Ιωσήφ also in the parenthesis. The passage then stands, ὢντοῦ Ἡλί, being the son of Eli, i.e., though supposed to be the son of Joseph. This manner of introducing the parenthesis will show at once that we agree with those who consider that, while Matthew gives the genealogy of Joseph, Luke gives that of Mary. Compare the important remarks of Lange on Matt. i. [vol. i. p48 ff.]. The difficulties of this view are not unappreciated by us, but still greater difficulties attend every other hypothesis; whether that of the Levirate marriage, or that of the total irreconcilability of the two genealogies. Considered in itself, it was far more likely that Luke would give the genealogy of Mary than that of her husband. She is the principal figure throughout his early chapters; while Joseph occupies a far more subordinate position than in Matthew. He is very explicit in narrating that Mary became the mother of the Holy Child, through the miraculous operation of the Holy Spirit; why then should Hebrews, who was not writing for Jews, give the descent of His foster-father, when he is intent upon asserting, that the Lord was not related to Joseph according to the flesh? He is expressly contrasting His true descent from Eli, the father of Mary, with His supposed descent from Joseph; and Mary is simply passed over, because it was not customary among the Jews to insert the names of females in their genealogies. We find it then here stated, that Jesus was the descendant of Eli, viz, through Mary, his daughter. It is true that the word τοῦ is used throughout to denote the relation of father and Song of Solomon, not of grandson and grandfather; but Luke was obliged, this once, to use this word in another sense, since through the miraculous birth, which he had himself described, one member in this line of male ancestors was missing. The Ἀδάμ τοῦ Θεοῦ, too, at the end, shows that τοῦ need not, in this passage, be invariably supposed to apply to physical descent. If Mary became the mother of our Lord through the power of the Holy Spirit, He could have no male ancestors but hers, and the name of Eli, His grandfather, must stand immediately, before that of Jesus, in His genealogy, since the introduction of the mother’s name was not customary, and that of the father impossible in this instance.

The difficulties raised against this view are easily met. Is it urged, 1. that the Jews did not keep genealogies of women?—the answer Isaiah, that this is the genealogy of Eli, the father of Mary, and grandfather of Jesus2. That Mary, being a cousin of Elisabeth, must have been a daughter of Aaron, and not of the tribe of Judah? But her mother might have been of the house of Aaron, and related to Elisabeth, while her father was descended from the royal line3. That, according to an ancient Jewish tradition, one Joachim was the father of Mary? But this tradition is quite unworthy of belief, and is also contradicted by another, which asserts that Mary, the daughter of Eli, suffered martyrdom in Gehenna (see Lightfoot ad Luc. iii23). 4. That while the genealogies of Luke and Matthew have nothing else in common, they both contain the names of Salathiel and Zerubbabel? We answer, that both Mary and Joseph seem to have descended from Zerubbabel, the son of Salathiel. The fact, that this latter is called by Luke the son of Neri, and by Matthew the son of Jeconiah, may be explained by supposing a Levirate marriage, the name of the natural father being given by Luke, and that of the father according to the law, by Matthew. Besides, why might not both lines meet at least once, during a period of so many centuries? Jeconiah was carried captive to Babylon at the age of eighteen, and remained there a prisoner thirty-seven years; Neri, his brother ( Matthew 1:11), would then, in his place, “raise up seed unto his brother,” and become the natural father of Salathiel, whose son Zerubbabel had several children, from one of whom (Abiud) descended Joseph, and from another (Rhesa), Eli, the father of Mary. (For the defence of this hypothesis, compare also the treatise of Wieseler, in the Theol. Studien und Kritiken, ii1845, and the article, Genealogy of Jesus, in the Bibl. Dictionaries.)

On comparing the genealogies in Matthew and Luke, we are immediately struck with the differences between them. The former is written in the descending, the latter in the ascending line: the former extends to Abraham, the common ancestor of the Jewish nation; the latter to Adam, the common parent of mankind: the former is divided into three parts, each of fourteen generations, and thus exhibits a more artificial arrangement, while it wants the completeness which we discover in the latter. Both tables give fourteen names from Abraham to David; while from David to the Babylonian captivity, Matthew gives fourteen, and Luke twenty-one names. Symmetrical arrangement causes Matthew to omit certain names; while a desire for historical completeness is more strongly manifested in Luke, who, during his stay with Paul at Jerusalem ( Acts 21:17), might easily have found opportunities of obtaining important particulars concerning Mary and her genealogy. The universal character of his genealogy is explained by the fact, that his Gospel was not written, as that of Matthew, for the Christians of Palestine. It presents no other difficulties, except the mention that Zerubbabel was the son of Rhesa, while 1 Chronicles 3:19-21 gives very different names. It has been, however, supposed, that the last-named statement is less accurate, and that the original text has been corrupted in this place.

The historical authority of this genealogy has been vainly contested, on the ground of a statement of Eusebius (H. E. i7), that the genealogies of the distinguished Jews were burnt in the time of Herod. This statement bears on its very surface marks of internal improbability; while the authority of J. Africanus, which is cited in its support, is highly problematical. Josephus, too, says nothing of his measure, and publishes his own genealogy, as it existed in the public registries. Besides, in this case, the “taxing” ( Luke 2:2) would have been impracticable; while the same informant (J. Africanus) states, that some few, among whom he expressly mentions the family of our Lord, prepared genealogical tables from copies, or from memory. The apocryphal Gospel of James also speaks of the existence of the genealogies, as a thing publicly known. See Thilo, Cod. Apocryph. N. T. 1, p166.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. The often contested descent of Mary from David is raised above all possibility of refutation by the genealogy of Luke. The Lord Jesus was therefore naturally, as well as legally, descended from David; and this descent is with perfect justice made prominent by both Peter and Paul ( Acts 2:30; Acts 13:23; Romans 1:3; 2 Timothy 2:8); while Jesus designates Himself the Son of David, Mark 12:35-37. This descent from David was important to the Jews of those days, as one of the legitimate proofs of His Messiahship, and is still of the highest significance. It is a fresh proof of the faithfulness of Him who performed the promises which He had sworn to David and His seed, and a specimen of His divine arrangement, which may well fill us with adoring admiration. As the Christ could only be born in Israel, the nation which alone worshipped the true God, so was it also necessary that Hebrews, in whom the ideal of the old theocracy was to be realized, should be a descendant of the man after God’s own heart, under whose sceptre the theocratic nation had reached the climax of its prosperity. This royal origin of our Lord is the key to the psychological explanation of the royal and exalted character, continually impressed upon His words, deeds, and silence. It makes us understand also, with what perfect right He could, even in His glorified state, declare that He was not only the bright and morning star, but also the root and offspring of David. ( Revelation 22:16; comp. Luke 5:5.)

2. The genealogy of Jesus stands here immediately after His baptism. As soon as Luke has related how He was acknowledged by His heavenly Father as His Song of Solomon, he proceeds to narrate who He really was related to, according to the flesh.—Starke.

3. The genealogy of Luke offers complete proof that the Lord was “very Prayer of Manasseh,” the promised seed of David; and also, by human descent, the Son of God, as the first Adam is therein said to have been.

4. The second Adam, like the first, sprang immediately from a creative act of Omnipotence. The Messiah belongs not to Israel alone, but to the whole world of sinners. The prophetic word ( Micah 5:2), that His “goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting,” applies, in a certain sense, even to His human origin.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

The genealogical tree of Christ: 1. The root; 2. the branch; 3. the crown; 4. the fruit of His race.—The genealogy in connection with the work of redemption: It presents us: 1. with the image of humanity, which needs redemption; 2. with the greatness of Christ, who undertakes redemption; 3. with the glory of God, who ordains redemption.—The first and the second Adam: 1. Their natural relationship; 2. the infinite difference in their relations, (a) to God, (b) to Prayer of Manasseh, (c) to each other.—The wonderful difference between the apparent and the actual in the person of the Redeemer. Luke gives us a glimpse of it in His descent; but it strikes us also when we consider the lowly outward appearance and exalted dignity: (a) Of His person; (b) of His work; (c) of His kingdom; (d) of His future.—The great importance of the Bible genealogies.—Christ the aim and end of the Bible genealogies.—God’s faithfulness in the performance of His ancient promises.—Jesus, the son of Adam: 1. The Son of God became a son of Adam; 2. the Son of Adam truly the Son of God, the promised Redeemer.—Concealment of the true descent of Jesus, even at the beginning of His public ministry.—The miraculously begotten Son of Mary suffers Himself to be supposed to be the son of Joseph.—For further ideas, see Lange on Matthew 1:17 [vol. i. pp50, 51]. Consult also Köppen: Die Bibel, ein Werk göttlicher Weisheit, i26–40; ii199, etc, on the value of these, and the other genealogies.

Arndt:—The significance of the genealogy of Jesus: 1. For His person; 2. for His work. “This remarkable genealogical tree stands forth, a unique memorial of the faith and expectation of the Old Testament saints. To our imaginations, its boughs and branches had been vocal for centuries with the words: ‘Oh that Thou wouldest rend the heavens,’ etc, while tears of thankfulness and ecstasy water its root, and these names, which brighten, like stars of heaven, the history of Israel, seem moistened with the dew-drops of joy and ardent desire. Oh, not one single word of Holy Scripture was written in vain!” etc.

Footnotes:

FN#13 - Luke 3:23.—Καὶ αὐτὸς ἦν Ἰησοῦς ὡσεὶ ἐτῶν τριάκοντα ἀρχόμενος, And Jesus Himself was about thirty years old (or of age) when He began (His ministry). So Tyndale, Wesley, Norton, Whiting, de Wette, Meyer, Alford, etc. The rendering of Cranmer, the Genevan and the Authorized Versions is ungrammatical and makes ὡσεί unmeaning. We may say ἄρχεσθαι εἶναι ἐτῶν τριάκοντα,or ἔτους ιακοστοῦ, to enter into the thirtieth year, but not ἄρχ. ἐτῶν τριάκοντα. Ἀρχόμενος adds an explanation, and hence is put last. We must supply to preach, or to teach, or His ministry, comp. Acts 1:1; Acts 1:22. So Euthymius: ἀρχ. τῆς εἰς τὸν λαὸν ἀναδείξεως αὐτοῦ, ἤτοι τῆς διδασκαλίας.

FN#14 - Luke 3:23 ff.—The insertion which (who) was of the E. V, in this verse and throughout this section, is heavy and unnecessary, and hence properly omitted in the translations of Wesley, Campbell, Sharpe, Kendrick, Whiting, the Revised N. T. of the Am. B. U, etc. If it be retained, it should be italicized rather than the son.

FN#15 - Luke 3:23 ff.—The son. This is implied in the Greek genitive τοῦ Ἡλὶ, etc, and need not be italicized.

FN#16 - Luke 3:23 ff.—In the spelling of these proper names there is considerable variation in the MSS. and ancient transl, but not of sufficient account to justify a deviation from the Received Text. In a popular revision of the English Version, the spelling of Hebrew names here, as in the genealogy of Matthew, should be conformed to the Hebrew spelling, as in the E. V. of the O. T. Hence Eli for Heli, Naggai for Nagge, Shimei for Semei, Judah for Juda, Johanah for Joanna, Zerubbabel for Zorobabel, etc. See the Crit. Note on Matthew 1vol. i. p48.—P. S.]

FN#17 - So Erasmus, Luther, Beza, and the authorized Engl. Version. Comp. my Critical Note 1on Luke 3:23; also Meyer in loc.—P. S.]

FN#18 - For a full discussion of the date of Christ’s baptism, the reader is referred to Andrews: The Life of our Lord, etc, pp22–35.—P. S.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Luke 3:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/luke-3.html. 1857-84.

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Friday, December 6th, 2019
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