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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament
Luke 1



Verse 1

Forasmuch as (επειδηπερepeidēper). Here alone in the N.T., though common in literary Attic. Appears in the papyri. A triple compound (επειepei = since, δηdē = admittedly true, περper = intensive particle to emphasize importance).

Many (πολλοιpolloi). How many no one knows, but certainly more than two or three. We know that Luke used the Logia of Jesus written by Matthew in Aramaic (Papias) and Mark‘s Gospel. Undoubtedly he had other written sources. Have taken in hand (επεχειρησανepecheirēsan). A literal translation of επιχειρεωepicheireō (from χειρcheir hand and επιepi upon). Both Hippocrates and Galen use this word in their introduction to their medical works. Here only in the N.T., though a common literary word. Common in the papyri for undertaking with no idea of failure or blame. Luke does not mean to cast reflection on those who preceded him. The apocryphal gospels were all much later and are not in his mind. Luke had secured fuller information and planned a book on a larger scale and did surpass them with the result that they all perished save Mark‘s Gospel and what Matthew and Luke possess of the Logia of Jesus. There was still room for Luke‘s book. That motive influences every author and thus progress is made.

To draw up, a narrative (αναταχασται διηγησινanataxasthai diēgēsin). Ingressive aorist middle infinitive. This verb αναταχασταιanataxasthai has been found only in Plutarch‘s Moral. 968 CD about an elephant “rehearsing” by moonlight certain tricks it had been taught (Moulton and Milligan, Vocabulary). That was from memory going regularly through the thing again. But the idea in the word is plain enough. The word is composed of τασσωtassō a common verb for arranging things in proper order and αναana again. Luke means to say that those before him had made attempts to rehearse in orderly fashion various matters about Christ. “The expression points to a connected series of narratives in some order (ταχιςtaxis), topical or chronological rather than to isolated narratives” (Bruce). “They had produced something more than mere notes or anecdotes” (Plummer). ΔιηγησιςDiēgēsis means leading or carrying a thing through, not a mere incident. Galen applies this word some seventy-five times to the writing of Hippocrates.

Which have been fulfilled (των πεπληρωπορημενωνtōn peplērōphorēmenōn). Perfect passive participle from πληροπορεωplērophoreō and that from πληρηςplērēs (full) and περωpherō (to bring). Hence to bring or make full. The verb is rare outside of the lxx and the N.T. Papyri examples occur for finishing off a legal matter or a financial matter in full. Deissmann (Light from the Ancient East, pp. 86f.) gives examples from the papyri and inscriptions for completing a task or being convinced or satisfied in mind. The same ambiguity occurs here. When used of persons in the N.T. the meaning is to be convinced, or fully persuaded (Romans 4:21; Romans 14:5; Hebrews 6:11; Hebrews 10:22). When used of things it has the notion of completing or finishing (2 Timothy 4:5, 2 Timothy 4:17). Luke is here speaking of “matters” (πραγματωνpragmatōn). Luke may refer to the matters connected with Christ‘s life which have been brought to a close among us or accomplished. Bruce argues plausibly that he means fulness of knowledge “concerning the things which have become widely known among us Christians.” In Colossians 2:2 we have “fulness of understanding” (της πληροποριας της συνεσεωςtēs plērophorias tēs suneseōs). In modern Greek the verb means to inform. The careful language of Luke here really pays a tribute to those who had preceded him in their narratives concerning Christ.

Verse 2

Even as (κατωςkathōs). This particle was condemned by the Atticists though occurring occasionally from Aristotle on. It is in the papyri. Luke asserts that the previous narratives had their sound basis. Delivered unto us (παρεδωσαν ημινparedōsan hēmin). Second aorist active indicative of παραδιδωμιparadidōmi Luke received this tradition along with those who are mentioned above (the many). That is he was not one of the “eyewitnesses.” He was a secondary, not a primary, witness of the events. Tradition has come to have a meaning of unreliability with us, but that is not the idea here. Luke means to say that the handing down was dependable, not mere wives‘ fables. Those who drew up the narratives had as sources of knowledge those who handed down the data. Here we have both written and oral sources. Luke had access to both kinds.

Which from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word (οι απ αρχης αυτοπται και υπηρεται γενομενοι του λογουhoi ap' archēs autoptai kai hupēretai genomenoi tou logou). “Who” is better than “which” for the article here. The word for eyewitnesses (αυτοπταιautoptai) is an old Greek word and appears in the papyri also. It means seeing with one‘s own eyes. It occurs here only in the N.T. We have the very word in the medical term autopsy. Greek medical writers often had the word. It is a different word from εποπταιepoptai (eyewitness) in 2 Peter 1:16, a word used of those who beheld heavenly mysteries. The word for “ministers” (υπηρεταιhupēretai), under rowers or servants we have had already in Matthew 5:25, Matthew 26:58 and Mark 14:54, Mark 14:65. We shall see it again in Luke 4:20 of the attendant in the synagogue. In the sense of a preacher of the gospel as here, it occurs also in Acts 26:16. Here “the word” means the gospel message, as in Acts 6:4; Acts 8:4, etc.

From the beginning apparently refers to the beginning of the ministry of Jesus as was true of the apostles (Acts 1:22) and of the early apostolic preaching (Acts 10:37-43). The Gospel of Mark follows this plan. The Gospel of Luke goes behind this in chapters 1 and 2 as does Matthew in chapters 1 and 2. But Luke is not here referring to himself. The matters about the childhood of Jesus Christ would not form part of the traditional preaching for obvious reasons.

Verse 3

It seemed good to me also (εδοχε καμοιedoxe kamoi). A natural conclusion and justification of Luke‘s decision to write his narrative. They had ample reason to draw up their narratives. Luke has more reason to do so because of his fuller knowledge and wider scope.

Having traced the course of all things (παρηκολουτηκοτι πασινparēkolouthēkoti pāsin). The perfect active participle of a common verb of the ancient Greek. Literally it means to follow along a thing in mind, to trace carefully. Both meanings occur abundantly in the ancient Greek. Cadbury (Appendix C to Beginnings of Christianity, Vol. II, pp. 489ff.) objects to the translation “having traced” here as implying research which the word does not here mean. Milligan (Vocabulary) is somewhat impressed by this argument. See my discussion of the point in Chapter XVI of Studies in the Text of the N.T. (The Implications in Luke‘s Preface) where the point is made that Luke here claims fulness of knowledge before he began to write his book. He had the traditions of the eyewitnesses and ministers of the word and the narratives previously drawn up. Whether he was a personal contemporary with any or all of these events we do not know and it is not particularly pertinent. He had mentally followed along by the side of these events. Galen used this verb for the investigation of symptoms. Luke got himself ready to write before he began by full and accurate knowledge of the subject. ΑκριβωςAkribōs (accurately) means going into minute details, from ακρονakron the topmost point. And he did it from the first (ανωτενanōthen). He seems to refer to the matters in Chapters 1:5-2:52, the Gospel of the Infancy.

In order (κατεχηςkathexēs). Chronological order in the main following Mark‘s general outline. But in 9:51-18:10 the order is often topical. He has made careful investigation and his work deserves serious consideration.

Most excellent Theophilus (κρατιστε Τεοπιλεkratiste Theophile). The name means god-lover or god-beloved. He may have been a believer already. He was probably a Gentile. Ramsay holds that “most excellent” was a title like “Your Excellency” and shows that he held office, perhaps a Knight. So of Felix (Acts 23:26) and Festus (Acts 26:25). The adjective does not occur in the dedication in Acts 1:1.

Verse 4

Mightest know (επιγνωιςepignōis). Second aorist active subjunctive of επιγινωσκωepiginōskō Full knowledge (επιepi -), in addition to what he already has.

The certainty (την ασπαλειανtēn asphaleian). Make no slip (σπαλλωsphallō to totter or fall, and αa privative). Luke promises a reliable narrative. “Theophilus shall know that the faith which he has embraced has an impregnable historical foundation” (Plummer).

The things (λογωνlogōn). Literally “words,” the details of the words in the instruction.

Wast instructed (κατηχητηςkatēchēthēs). First aorist passive indicative. Not in O.T. and rare in ancient Greek. Occurs in the papyri. The word ηχεωēcheō is our word echo (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:8 for εχηχηταιexēchētai has sounded forth). ΚατηχεωKatēcheō is to sound down, to din, to instruct, to give oral instruction. Cf. 1 Corinthians 14:9; Acts 21:21, Acts 21:24; Acts 18:25; Galatians 6:6. Those men doing the teaching were called catechists and those receiving it were called catechumens. Whether Theophilus was still a catechumen is not known. This Preface by Luke is in splendid literary Koiné and is not surpassed by those in any Greek writer (Herodotus, Thucydides, Polybius). It is entirely possible that Luke was familiar with this habit of Greek historians to write prefaces since he was a man of culture.

Verse 5

There was (εγενετοegeneto). Not the usual ενen for “was,” but there arose or came into notice. With this verse the literary Koiné of Luke 1:1 to Luke 1:4 disappears. To the end of chapter 2 we have the most Hebraistic (Aramaic) passage in Luke‘s writings, due evidently to the use of documents or notes of oral tradition. Plummer notes a series of such documents ending with Luke 1:80, Luke 2:40, Luke 2:52. If the mother of Jesus was still alive, Luke could have seen her. She may have written in Aramaic an account of these great events. Natural reserve would keep her from telling too much and from too early publicity. Luke, as a physician, would take special interest in her birth report. The supernatural aspects disturb only those who do not admit the real Incarnation of Jesus Christ and who are unable to believe that God is superior to nature and that the coming of the Son of God to earth justifies such miraculous manifestations of divine power. Luke tells his story from the standpoint of Mary as Matthew gives his from the standpoint of Joseph. The two supplement each other. We have here the earliest documentary evidence of the origins of Christianity that has come down to us (Plummer).

Herod, King of Judea (ηρωιδου βασιλεως της ΙουδαιαςHērōidou basileōs tēs Ioudaias). This note of time locates the events before the death of Herod the Great (as he was called later), appointed King of Judea by the Roman Senate b.c. 40 at the suggestion of Octavius and Antony. He died b.c. 4.

Of the course of Abijah (εχ επημεριας Αβιαex ephēmerias Abia). Not in old Greek, but in lxx and modern Greek. Papyri have a verb derived from it, επημερεωephēmereō Daily service (Nehemiah 13:30; 1 Chronicles 25:8) and then a course of priests who were on duty for a week (1 Chronicles 23:6; 1 Chronicles 28:13). There were 24 such courses and that of Abijah was the eighth (1 Chronicles 24:10; 2 Chronicles 8:14). Only four of these courses (Jedaiah, Immer, Pashur, Harim) returned from Babylon, but these four were divided into twenty-four with the old names. Each of these courses did duty for eight days, sabbath to sabbath, twice a year. On sabbaths the whole course did duty. At the feast of tabernacles all twenty-four courses were present.

Of the daughters of Aaron (εκ των τυγατερων Ααρωνek tōn thugaterōn Aarōn). “To be a priest and married to a priest‘s daughter was a double distinction” (Plummer). Like a preacher married to a preacher‘s daughter.

Verse 6

Righteous before God (δικαιοι εναντιον του τεουdikaioi enantion tou theou). Old Testament conception and idiom. Cf. Luke 2:25 about Simeon. Expanded in Old Testament language. Picture of “noblest product of Old Testament education” (Ragg) is Zacharias and Elisabeth, Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna who were “privileged to see with clear eyes the dawn of the New Testament revelation.”

Verse 7

Because that (κατοτιkathoti). Good Attic word, according to what. Only in Luke and Acts in the N.T. In the papyri.

Well stricken in years (προβεβηκοτες εν ταις ημεραις αυτωνprobebēkotes en tais hēmerais autōn). Wycliff has it right: “Had gone far in their days.” Perfect active participle. See also Luke 1:18.

Verse 8

While he executed the priest‘s office (εν τωι ιερατευειν αυτονen tōi hierateuein auton). A favourite idiom in Luke, ενen with the articular infinitive and the accusative of general reference where the genitive absolute could have been used or a temporal conjunction and finite verb. It is proper Greek, but occurs often in the lxx, which Luke read, particularly in imitation of the Hebrew infinitive construct. The word ιερατευωhierateuō does not appear in the ancient Greek, but in the lxx and this one example in Luke. It is on the Rosetta Stone and the early inscriptions so that the word was simply applied by the lxx translators from current usage.

Verse 9

His lot was (ελαχεelache). Literally, he obtained the lot. Second aorist active indicative of λαγχανωlagchanō to obtain by lot, a very old verb from Homer on. It is used either with the genitive as here, or the accusative as in Acts 1:17; 2 Peter 1:1. Papyri show examples with the accusative. It was only once in a lifetime that a priest obtained the lot of going (εισελτωνeiselthōn here nominative aorist active participle agreeing with the subject of ελαχεelache) into the sanctuary (τον ναονton naon not το ιερονto hieron the outer courts) and burning incense on the golden altar. “It was the great moment of Zacharias‘s life, and his heart was no doubt alert for the supernatural” (Ragg). The fortunate lot was “a white stone” to which Revelation 2:17 may refer.

Burn incense (του τυμιασαιtou thumiasai). Here only in the N.T. Occurs on inscriptions. Hobart finds it used by medical writers for fumigating herbs. “Ascending the steps to the Holy Place, the priests spread the coals on the golden altar, and arranged the incense, and the chief operating priest was then left alone within the Holy Place to await the signal of the president to burn the incense. It was probably at this time that the angel appeared to Zacharias” (Vincent).

Verse 10

Were praying without (ην προσευχομενον εχωēn proseuchomenon exō). Periphrastic imperfect indicative picturing the posture of the people while the clouds of incense rose on the inside of the sanctuary.

Verse 11

Appeared (ωπτηōphthē). First aorist passive indicative. It is the form used by Paul of the resurrection appearances of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:5-8). There is no use in trying to explain away the reality of the angel. We must choose between admitting an objective appearance and a myth (Plummer).

Verse 13

Is heard (εισηκουστηeisēkousthē). First aorist passive indicative. A sort of timeless aorist, “was heard” when made, and so “is heard” now. Probably the prayer was for a son in spite of the great age of Elisabeth, though the Messianic redemption is possible also.

John (ΙωανηνIōanēn). The word means that God is gracious. The mention of the name should have helped Zacharias to believe. The message of the angel (Luke 1:13-17) takes on a metrical form when turned into Hebrew (Ragg) and it is a prose poem in Greek and English like Luke 1:30-33, Luke 1:35-37, Luke 1:42-45, Luke 1:46-55, Luke 1:68-70; Luke 2:10-12, Luke 2:14, Luke 2:29-32, Luke 2:34-35. Certainly Luke has preserved the earliest Christian hymns in their oldest sources. He is the first critic of the sources of the Gospels and a scholarly one.

Verse 14

Gladness (αγαλλιασιςagalliasis). Only in the lxx and N.T. so far as known. A word for extreme exultation.

Rejoice (χαρησονταιcharēsontai). Second future passive indicative. The coming of a prophet will indeed be an occasion for rejoicing.

Verse 15

Strong drink (σικεραsikera). A Hebrew word transliterated into Greek, an intoxicating drink. Here only in the N.T. John was to be a personal “dry” or Nazarite (Numbers 6:3).

Shall not drink (ου μη πιηιou mē piēi). Strong prohibition, double negative and second aorist subjunctive.

The Holy Ghost (πνευματος αγιουpneumatos hagiou). The Holy Spirit in contrast to the physical excitement of strong drink (Plummer). Luke uses this phrase 53 times, 12 in the Gospel, Mark and John 4 each, Matthew 5 times.

Even from his mother‘s womb (ετι εκ κοιλιας μητρος αυτουeti ek koilias mētros autou). A manifest Hebraism. Cf. Luke 1:41.

Verse 17

Before his face (ενωπιον αυτουenōpion autou). Not in the ancient Greek, but common in the papyri as in lxx and N.T. It is a vernacular Koiné word, adverb used as preposition from adjective ενωπιοςenōpios and that from ο εν ωπι ωνho en ōpi ōn (the one who is in sight). Autou here seems to be “the Lord their God” in Luke 1:16 since the Messiah has not yet been mentioned, though he was to be actually the Forerunner of the Messiah.

In the spirit and power of Elijah (εν πνευματι και δυναμει Ελειαen pneumati kai dunamei Eleiā). See Isaiah 40:1-11; Malachi 3:1-5. John will deny that he is actually Elijah in person, as they expected (John 1:21), but Jesus will call him Elijah in spirit (Mark 9:12; Matthew 17:12).

Hearts of fathers (καρδιας πατερωνkardias paterōn). Paternal love had died out. This is one of the first results of conversion, the revival of love in the home.

Wisdom (προνησειphronēsei). Not σοπιαsophia but a word for practical intelligence.

Prepared (κατεσκευασμενονkateskeuasmenon). Perfect passive participle, state of readiness for Christ. This John did. This is a marvellous forecast of the character and career of John the Baptist, one that should have caught the faith of Zacharias.

Verse 18

Whereby (κατα τιkata ti). According to what. It was too good to be true and Zacharias demanded proof and gives the reason (for, γαρgar) for his doubt. He had prayed for this blessing and was now sceptical like the disciples in the house of Mary about the return of Peter (Acts 12:14.).

Verse 19

Gabriel (ΓαβριηλGabriēl). The Man of God (Daniel 8:6; Daniel 9:21). The other angel whose name is given in Scripture is Michael (Daniel 10:13, Daniel 10:21; Judges 1:9; Revelation 12:7). The description of himself is a rebuke to the doubt of Zacharias.

Verse 20

Thou shalt be silent (εσηι σιωπωνesēi siōpōn). Volitive future periphrastic.

Not able to speak (μη δυναμενος λαλησαιmē dunamenos lalēsai). Negative repetition of the same statement. His dumbness will continue “until” (αχρι ης ημεραςachri hēs hēmeras) the events come to pass “because” (αντ ωνanth' hōn). The words were to become reality in due season (καιρονkairon not χρονοςchronos time).

Verse 21

Were waiting (ην προσδοκωνēn prosdokōn). Periphrastic imperfect again. An old Greek verb for expecting. Appears in papyri and inscriptions. It denotes mental direction whether hope or fear.

They marvelled (εταυμαζονethaumazon). Imperfect tense, were wondering. The Talmud says that the priest remained only a brief time in the sanctuary.

While he tarried (εν τωι χρονιζεινen tōi chronizein). See Luke 1:8 for the same idiom.

Verse 22

Perceived (επεγνωσανepegnōsan). Second aorist indicative. Clearly knew because he was not able to pronounce the benediction from the steps (Numbers 6:24-26).

Continued making signs (ην διανευωνēn dianeuōn). Periphrastic imperfect again. He nodded and beckoned back and forth (διαdia between). Further proof of a vision that caused his dumbness.

Verse 23

Ministration (λειτουργιαςleitourgias). Our word liturgy. A common word in ancient Greek for public service, work for the people (λεως εργονleōs ergon). It is common in the papyri for the service of the Egyptian priesthood as we see it in the lxx of Hebrew priests (see also Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 9:21; 2 Corinthians 9:12; Philemon 2:17, Philemon 2:30).

Verse 24

Conceived (συνελαβενsunelaben). Luke uses this word eleven times and it occurs only five other times in the N.T. It is a very old and common Greek word. He alone in the N.T. has it for conceiving offspring (Luke 1:24, Luke 1:31, Luke 1:36; Luke 2:21) though James 1:15 uses it of lust producing sin. Hobart (Medical Language of Luke, p. 91) observes that Luke has almost as many words for pregnancy and barrenness as Hippocrates (εν γαστρι εχεινen gastri echein Luke 21:23; εγκυοςegkuos Luke 2:5; στειραsteira Luke 1:7; ατεκνοςateknos Luke 20:28).

Hid (περιεκρυβενperiekruben). Only here in the N.T., but in late Koiné writers. Usually considered second aorist active indicative from περικρυπτωperikruptō though it may be the imperfect indicative of a late form περικρυβωperikrubō If it is aorist it is the constative aorist. The preposition περιperi makes it mean completely (on all sides) hid.

Verse 25

My reproach (ονειδος μουoneidos mou). Keenly felt by a Jewish wife because the husband wanted an heir and because of the hope of the Messiah, and because of the mother‘s longing for a child.

Verse 26

Was sent (απεσταληapestalē). Second aorist passive indicative of αποστελλωapostellō from which apostle comes. The angel Gabriel is God‘s messenger to Mary as to Zacharias (Luke 1:19).

Verse 27

Betrothed (εμνηστευμενηνemnēsteumenēn). Perfect passive participle. Betrothal usually lasted a year and unfaithfulness on the part of the bride was punished with death (Deuteronomy 23:24.).

Verse 28

Highly favoured (κεχαριτωμενηkecharitōmenē). Perfect passive participle of χαριτοωcharitoō and means endowed with grace (χαριςcharis), enriched with grace as in Ephesians 1:6, non ut mater gratiae, sed ut filia gratiae (Bengel). The Vulgate gratiae plena “is right, if it means ‹full of grace which thou hast received‘; wrong, if it means ‹full of grace which thou hast to bestow‘” (Plummer). The oldest MSS. do not have “Blessed art thou among women” here, but in Luke 1:42.

Verse 29

Cast in her mind (διελογιζετοdielogizeto). Imperfect indicative. Note aorist διεταραχτηdietarachthē Common verb for reckoning up different reasons. She was both upset and puzzled.

Verse 30

Favour (χαρινcharin). Grace. Same root as χαιρωchairō (rejoice) and χαριτοωcharitoō in Luke 1:28. To find favour is a common O.T. phrase. ΧαριςCharis is a very ancient and common word with a variety of applied meanings. They all come from the notion of sweetness, charm, loveliness, joy, delight, like words of grace, Luke 4:22, growing grace, Ephesians 4:29, with grace, Colossians 4:6. The notion of kindness is in it also, especially of God towards men as here. It is a favourite word for Christianity, the Gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24) in contrast with law or works (John 1:16). Gratitude is expressed also (Luke 6:32), especially to God (Romans 6:17).

With God (παρα τωι τεωιpara tōi theōi). Beside God.

Verse 31

Conceive in thy womb (συλλημπσηι εν γαστριsullēmpsēi en gastri). Adding εν γαστριen gastri to the verb of Luke 1:24. Same idiom in Isaiah 7:14 of Immanuel.

Jesus (ΙησουνIēsoun). As to Joseph in Matthew 1:21, but without the explanation of the meaning. See note on Matthew 1:21.

Verse 32

The Son of the Most High (υιος υπσιστουhuios Hupsistou). There is no article in the Greek, but the use of Most High in Luke 1:35 clearly of God as here. In Luke 6:35 we find “sons of the Most High” (υιοι υπσιστουhuioi Hupsistou) so that we cannot insist on deity here, though that is possible. The language of 2 Samuel 7:14; Isaiah 9:7 is combined here.

Verse 33

Shall be no end (ουκ εσται τελοςouk estai telos). Luke reports the perpetuity of this Davidic kingdom over the house of Jacob with no Pauline interpretation of the spiritual Israel though that was the true meaning as Luke knew. Joseph was of the house of David (Luke 1:27) and Mary also apparently (Luke 2:5).

Verse 35

Shall overshadow thee (επισκιασειepiskiasei). A figure of a cloud coming upon her. Common in ancient Greek in the sense of obscuring and with accusative as of Peter‘s shadow in Acts 5:15. But we have seen it used of the shining bright cloud at the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:34). Here it is like the Shekinah glory which suggests it (Exodus 40:38) where the cloud of glory represents the presence and power of God.

Holy, the Son of God (αγιον υιος τεουHagion huios theou). Here again the absence of the article makes it possible for it to mean “Son of God.” See Matthew 5:9. But this title, like the Son of Man (ο υιος του αντρωπουHo huios tou anthrōpou) was a recognized designation of the Messiah. Jesus did not often call himself Son of God (Matthew 27:43), but it is assumed in his frequent use of the Father, the Son (Matthew 11:27; Luke 10:21; John 5:19.). It is the title used by the Father at the baptism (Luke 3:22) and on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:35). The wonder of Mary would increase at these words. The Miraculous Conception or Virgin Birth of Jesus is thus plainly set forth in Luke as in Matthew. The fact that Luke was a physician gives added interest to his report.

Verse 36

Kinswoman (συγγενιςsuggenis). Not necessarily cousin, but simply relative.

Verse 37

No word (ουκ ρημαouk rhēma). ημαRhēma brings out the single item rather than the whole content (λογοςlogos). So in Luke 1:38.

Verse 39

Arose (αναστασαanastāsa). Luke is very fond of this word, sixty times against twenty-two in the rest of the N.T.

Into the hill country (εις την ορινηνeis tēn orinēn). Luke uses this adjective twice in this context (here and Luke 1:65) instead of το οροςto oros the mountains. It is an old word and is in the lxx, but nowhere else in the N.T. The name of the city where Zacharias lived is not given unless Judah here means Juttah (Joshua 15:55). Hebron was the chief city of this part of Judea.

Verse 40

Saluted (ησπασατοēspasato). Her first glance at Elisabeth showed the truth of the angel‘s message. The two mothers had a bond of sympathy.

Verse 41

Leaped (εσκιρτησενeskirtēsen). A common enough incident with unborn children (Genesis 25:22), but Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit to understand what had happened to Mary.

Verse 42

With a loud cry (κραυγηι μεγαληιkraugēi megalēi). A moment of ecstatic excitement.

Blessed art thou (ευλογημενηeulogēmenē). Perfect passive participle. A Hebraistic equivalent for the superlative.

Verse 43

The mother of my Lord (η μητηρ του Κυριου μουhē mētēr tou Kuriou mou). See Psalm 110:1. Only by the help of the Holy Spirit could Elisabeth know that Mary was to be the mother of the Messiah.

Verse 45

For (οτιhoti). It is not certain whether οτιhoti here is “that” or “because.” It makes good sense either way. See also Luke 7:16. This is the first beatitude in the New Testament and it is similar to the last one in the Gospels spoken to Thomas to discourage his doubt (John 20:29). Elisabeth wishes Mary to have full faith in the prophecy of the angel. This song of Elisabeth is as real poetry as is that of Mary (Luke 1:47-55) and Zacharias (Luke 1:68-70). All three spoke under the power of the Holy Spirit. These are the first New Testament hymns and they are very beautiful. Plummer notes four strophes in Mary‘s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-48, Luke 1:49, Luke 1:50, Luke 1:51-53, Luke 1:54, Luke 1:55). Every idea here occurs in the Old Testament, showing that Mary‘s mind was full of the spiritual message of God‘s word.

Verse 46

Doth magnify (μεγαλυνειmegalunei). Latin, magnificat. Harnack argues that this is also the song of Elisabeth because a few Latin MSS. have it so, but Mary is correct. She draws her material from the O.T. and sings in the noblest strain.

Verse 47

Hath rejoiced (ηγαλλιασενēgalliasen). This is aorist active indicative. Greek tenses do not correspond to those in English. The verb αγαλλιαωagalliaō is a Hellenistic word from the old Greek αγαλλωagallō It means to exult. See the substantive αγαλλιασιςagalliasis in Luke 1:14, Luke 1:44. Mary is not excited like Elisabeth, but breathes a spirit of composed rapture.

My spirit (το πνευμα μουto pneuma mou). One need not press unduly the difference between “soul” (πσυχηpsuchē) in Luke 1:46 and “spirit” here. Bruce calls them synonyms in parallel clauses. Vincent argues that the soul is the principle of individuality while the spirit is the point of contact between God and man. It is doubtful, however, if the trichotomous theory of man (body, soul, and spirit) is to be insisted on. It is certain that we have an inner spiritual nature for which various words are used in Mark 12:30. Even the distinction between intellect, emotions, and will is challenged by some psychologists.

God my Saviour (τωι τεωι τωι σοτηρι μουtōi theōi tōi sotēri mou). Article with each substantive. God is called Saviour in the O.T. (Deuteronomy 32:15, Psalm 24:5; Psalm 95:1).

Verse 48

The low estate (την ταπεινωσινtēn tapeinōsin). The bride of a carpenter and yet to be the mother of the Messiah. Literal sense here as in Luke 1:52.

Shall call me blessed (μακαριουσιν μεmakariousin me). So-called Attic future of an old verb, to felicitate. Elisabeth had already given her a beatitude (μακαριαmakaria Luke 1:45). Another occurs in Luke 11:27. But this is a very different thing from the worship of Mary (Mariolatry) by Roman Catholics. See my The Mother of Jesus: Her Problems and Her Glory.

Verse 50

Fear (ποβουμενοιςphoboumenois). Dative of the present middle participle. Here it is reverential fear as in Acts 10:2; Colossians 3:22. The bad sense of dread appears in Matthew 21:46; Mark 6:20; Luke 12:4.

Verse 51

Showed strength (εποιησεν κρατοςepoiēsen kratos). “Made might” (Wycliff). A Hebrew conception as in Psalm 118:15. Plummer notes six aorist indicatives in this sentence (Luke 1:51), neither corresponding to our English idiom, which translates here by “hath” each time.

Imagination (διανοιαιdianoiāi). Intellectual insight, moral understanding.

Verse 52

Princes (δυνασταςdunastas). Our word dynasty is from this word. It comes from δυναμαιdunamai to be able.

Verse 54

Hath holpen (αντελαβετοantelabeto). Second aorist middle indicative. A very common verb. It means to lay hold of with a view to help or succour.

Servant (παιδοςpaidos). Here it means “servant,” not “son” or “child,” its usual meaning.

Verse 58

Had magnified (εμεγαλυνενemegalunen). Aorist active indicative. Same verb as in Luke 1:46.

Rejoiced with her (συνεχαιρον αυτηιsunechairon autēi). Imperfect tense and pictures the continual joy of the neighbours, accented also by συνsun - (cf. Philemon 2:18) in its mutual aspect.

Verse 59

Would have called (εκαλουνekaloun). Conative imperfect, tried to call.

Verse 62

Made signs (ενενευονeneneuon). Imperfect tense, repeated action as usual when making signs. In Luke 1:22 the verb used of Zacharias is διανευωνdianeuōn he would have him called (το τι αν τελοι καλεισται αυτοto Ti an theloi kaleisthai auto). Note article τοto with the indirect question, accusative of general reference. The optative with ανan is here because it was used in the direct question (cf. Acts 17:18), and is simply retained in the indirect.

What would he wish him to be called? (if he could speak), a conclusion of the fourth-class condition.

Verse 63

Tablet (πινακιδιονpinakidion). Diminutive of πινακιςpinakis In Aristotle and the papyri for writing tablet, probably covered with wax. Sometimes it was a little table, like Shakespeare‘s “the table of my memory” (Hamlet, i.5). It was used also of a physician‘s note-book.

Wrote, saying (εγραπσεν λεγωνegrapsen legōn). Hebrew way of speaking (2 Kings 10:6).

Verse 64

Immediately (παραχρημαparachrēma). Nineteen times in the N.T., seventeen in Luke.

Opened (ανεωιχτηaneōichthē). First aorist passive indicative with double augment. The verb suits “mouth,” but not “tongue” (γλωσσαglōssa). It is thus a zeugma with tongue. Loosed or some such verb to be supplied.

Verse 65

Fear (ποβοςphobos). Not terror, but religious awe because of contact with the supernatural as in the case of Zacharias (Luke 1:12). Were noised abroad (διελαλειτοdielaleito). Imperfect passive. Occurs in Polybius. In the N.T. only here and Luke 6:11. It was continuous talk back and forth between (διαdia) the people.

Verse 66

What then (τι αραti ara). With all these supernatural happenings they predicted the marvellous career of this child. Note ΤιTi what, not ΤιςTis who. Cf. Acts 12:18.

They laid them up (ετεντοethento second aorist middle indicative) as Mary did (Luke 2:19).

The hand of the Lord (χειρ Κυριουcheir Kuriou). Luke‘s explanation in addition to the supernatural events. The expression occurs only in Luke‘s writing (Acts 11:21; Acts 13:11).

Verse 67

Prophesied (επροπητευσενeprophēteusen). Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This Benedictus (ΕυλογητοςEulogētos Blessed) of Zacharias (Luke 1:68) may be what is referred to in Luke 1:64 “he began to speak blessing God” (ευλογωνeulogōn). Nearly every phrase here is found in the O.T. (Psalms and Prophets). He, like Mary, was full of the Holy Spirit and had caught the Messianic message in its highest meaning.

Verse 68

Hath visited (επεσκεπσατοepeskepsato). An old Greek word with a Hebraic colouring to look into with a view to help. The papyri have plenty of examples of the verb in the sense of inspecting, examining.

Redemption (λυτρωσινlutrōsin) here originally referred to political redemption, but with a moral and spiritual basis (Luke 1:75, Luke 1:77).

Verse 69

Horn of salvation (κερας σωτηριαςkeras sōtērias). A common metaphor in the O.T. (1 Samuel 2:10; 2 Samuel 23:3, etc.). It represents strength like the horns of bulls. Cf. Psalm 132:17.

Verse 70

Since the world began (απ αιωνοςap' aiōnos). Better “from of old” (Weymouth, American Revision).

Verse 73

The oath which he sware (ορκον ον ωμοσενhorkon hon ōmosen). Antecedent attracted to case of the relative. The oath appears in Genesis 22:16-18. The oppression of the Gentiles seems to be in the mind of Zacharias. It is not certain how clearly he grasped the idea of the spiritual Israel as Paul saw it in Galatians and Romans.

Verse 74

Delivered (ρυστενταςrhusthentas). First aorist passive participle of an old verb, ρυομαιrhuomai The accusative case appears, where the dative could have been used to agree with ημινhēmin because of the infinitive λατρευεινlatreuein (Luke 1:74) to serve (from latros for hire). But Plato uses the word of service for God so that the bad sense does not always exist.

Verse 75

In holiness and righteousness (εν οσιοτητι και δικαιοσυνηιen hosiotēti kai dikaiosunēi). Not a usual combination (Ephesians 4:24; Titus 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 2:10). The Godward and the manward aspects of conduct (Bruce). οσιοςHosios the eternal principles of right, δικαιοςdikaios the rule of conduct before men.

Verse 76

Yea and thou (και συ δεkai su de). Direct address to the child with forecast of his life (cf. Luke 1:13-17).

Prophet (προπητηςprophētēs). The word here directly applied to the child. Jesus will later call John a prophet and more than a prophet.

The Lord (ΚυριουKuriou). Jehovah as in Luke 1:16.

Verse 77

Knowledge of salvation (γνωσιν σωτηριαςgnōsin sōtērias). “This is the aim and end of the work of the Forerunner” (Plummer).

Verse 78

Tender mercy (σπλαγχνα ελεουςsplagchna eleous). Bowels of mercy literally (1 Peter 3:8; James 3:11). Revised margin has it, hearts of mercy.

The dayspring from on high (ανατολη εχ υπσουςanatolē ex hupsous). Literally, rising from on high, like the rising sun or stars (Isaiah 60:19). The word is used also of a sprouting plant or branch (Jeremiah 23:5; Zechariah 6:12), but that does not suit here.

Shall visit (επεσκεπσεταιepeskepsetai), correct text, cf. Luke 1:68.

Verse 79

To shine upon (επιπαναιepiphānai). First aorist active infinitive of επιπαινωepiphainō (liquid verb). An old verb to give light, to shine upon, like the sun or stars. See also Acts 27:20; Titus 2:11; Titus 3:4.

The shadow of death (σκιαι τανατουskiāi thanatou). See Psalm 107:10, where darkness and shadow of death are combined as here. Cf. also Isaiah 9:1. See note on Matthew 4:16. To guide (tou kateuthūnai). Genitive of the articular infinitive of purpose. The light will enable them in the dark to see how to walk in a straight path that leads to “the way of peace.” We are still on that road, but so many stumble for lack of light, men and nations.

Verse 80

Grew (ηυχανεēuxane). Imperfect active, was growing.

Waxed strong (εκραταιουτοekrataiouto). Imperfect again. The child kept growing in strength of body and spirit.

His shewing (αναδειχεως αυτουanadeixeōs autou). Here alone in the N.T. It occurs in Plutarch and Polybius. The verb appears in a sacrificial sense. The boy, as he grew, may have gone up to the passover and may have seen the boy Jesus (Luke 2:42-52), but he would not know that he was to be the Messiah. So these two boys of destiny grew on with the years, the one in the desert hills near Hebron after Zacharias and Elisabeth died, the other, the young Carpenter up in Nazareth, each waiting for “his shewing unto Israel.”


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Luke 1:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

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