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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament
Luke 3

 

 

Verse 1

Luke 3:1. Luke’s accuracy appears from his naming here no less than seven official person ages, from the Roman emperor to the Jewish high-priest, or high-priests.

In the fifteenth, year of the reign of Tiberius Cesar. The stepson and successor of Augustus. The usual (and incorrect) Christian era (A. D.) coincides with the year of Rome (U. C.) 754. Augustus died Aug. 19, U. C. 767 for A. D. 14, counting U. C. 754 as A. D. 1). The fifteenth year of the sole reign of Tiberius was from August 19, U. C. 781, to the same day 782. But he was associated with Augustus as ruler, from January, 765. The expression translated: ‘of the reign of’ permits us to reckon from either point Reckoning from January, 765, ‘the fifteenth year’ would give from January, 779, to January, 780, as the date of John’s ministry. This date accords better with the fact that Christ was born before the death of Herod (Matthew 2:19), which occurred U. C. 75. For Jesus ‘was about thirty years of age’ (Luke 3:23) at the time of His baptism, which took place some time after John began to preach. The other view would give no earlier year than 781 as the beginning of St John’s ministry, and would lead to the conclusion that our Lord was thirty-two years old when He was baptized. This is possible, but not probable. We therefore hold that the year spoken of is U.C. 779-780 (A. D. 26-27). On the date of our Lord’s birth, see Introd. § 7, 3 (1).

Pontius Pilate. Sixth governor (procurator) of Judea. He held the office from U.C. 779-789 (A.D. 26-36).

Hered. Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, and Malthace, the full brother of Archelaus (Matthew 2:22), and the murderer of John the Baptist. He is frequently spoken of in the Gospels. He was tetrarch of Galilee from U. C. 750 to 792. Perea was also under his jurisdiction.

His brother Philip. Not the same as Philip, the first husband of Herodias, spoken of in Mark 6:17, and alluded to in Matthew 14:3 and Luke 3:19, who was disinherited by his father and remained a private citizen. Philip the tetrarch was the son of Herod the Great and Cleopatra, a woman of Jerusalem, the fifth and last wife of Herod. He reigned from 750 to 786, and was the best of Herod’s sons.

The region of Iturea and Trachonitis. The northeastern part of Palestine, beyond the Sea of Galilee.

Lysanias, tetrarch of Abilene, the district about the town of Abila, which was eighteen miles north of Damascus. Another person of this name ruled over a larger district in the same region about sixty years before, and was killed by Antony. All the territory ruled by that Lysanias, was assigned by Augustus to others, except Abilene, which therefore seems to have had a separate ruler. He is named by Luke alone, but a good many years afterwards the district was called ‘Abila of Lysanias.’


Verses 1-22

The ministry of John is narrated by all four Evangelists. Peculiar to Luke are: the chronological notice (Luke 3:1), which points out the exact position of the main gospel facts on the wide platform of universal history; he quotes the fuller quotation from Isaiah (Luke 3:4-6), and Several particulars exemplifying John’s teaching (Luke 3:10-14). Matthew and Mark pass at once to the announcement of the coming of the Messiah, but Luke prefaces it with a description of the state of expectation prevalent among the people (Luke 3:15) answering to the fuller account of John (John 1:19-25). The imprisonment of the Baptist and the cause of it are mentioned here (Luke 3:19-20) to complete the account of John’s activity; the baptism of Jesus and the Divine attestation which accompanied it, coming last (Luke 3:21-22) as most important and as a resumption of the main thread of the history. On the character and mission of John the Baptist, see on Matthew 3:1-12.


Verse 2

Luke 3:2. In the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas. There could be properly but one high-priest, holding office for life; the verse therefore suggests some peculiar state of things. From other sources we learn: that Annas had been high-priest, but was deposed by the Romans some years before; that, after a number of changes his son-in-law Caiaphas was made high-priest, holding the office at this time. Annas, however, is called the high-priest in Acts 4:6, and still exercised some functions of the office (John 18:13). Annas was probably recognized by the Jews as the legitimate high-priest, while Caiaphas was accepted as high-priest de facto, whenever contact with Roman authority made such a recognition necessary. The name of Annas comes first on account of his age and influence. Others suppose that the two alternated yearly in the office; others, that Annas was the deputy to the high-priest (2 Kings 25:18), thus evading the Roman interference. The first view is the best, especially as it involves a protest against the unlawful meddling with an office of God’s appointment. Comp. on Matthew 26:2; Matthew 26:57.

The word of God came. The Old Testament formula for prophetic inspiration.

In the wilderness. See chap. Luke 1:80. The beginning of John’s ministry is referred to.


Verse 3

Luke 3:3. See on Matthew 3:1; Mark 1:4.


Verse 4

Luke 3:4. Matthew and Mark also quote Isaiah 40:3, but no more.


Verse 5-6

Luke 3:5-6. Every valley, etc. Luke adds Isaiah 40:4, and part of Luke 3:5. The removal of natural obstacles from the path of an approaching conqueror represents the removal of moral hindrances, by means of John’s preaching of repentance, before the coming Messiah.

The salvation of God. The ‘salvation’ spoken of by Simeon (chap. Luke 2:30).


Verses 7-9

Luke 3:7-9. See on Matthew 3:7-10.

Multitudes. Matthew: ‘many of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ In this case as in that of every popular preacher, many of the hearers were attracted by idle curiosity or worse motives. John knew this, and adopted this severe tone.—The agreement with Matthew is close, but in Luke 3:8, we have fruits instead of ‘fruit,’ and begin not instead of ‘think not.’

Luke 3:10-14 are peculiar to Luke.


Verse 10

Luke 3:10. What then shall we do? The question of those whose conscience had been aroused. Comp. similar questions, Acts 2:37; Acts 16:30; Acts 22:10. But the answers given under the gospel dispensation were different.


Verse 11

Luke 3:11. He that hath two coats, etc. This reply says nothing of faith and love. John belonged to the dispensation of the law, was a preacher of repentance, a forerunner of the Saviour. The answer was correct, but necessarily incomplete. The principle is that of unselfishness, which is set forth by our Lord, in the Sermon on the Mount, as self-denying love. This is the link between the two preachers, as far as moral precepts are concerned.


Verse 12

Luke 3:12. Publicans. Tax-gatherers. See Matthew 5:46. Their presence is a proof of the power of John’s preaching.


Verse 13

Luke 3:13. Exact no more. Great opportunity for exaction was afforded by the system of letting out the collectorships to the highest bidder; the exactions would all be clear profit.


Verse 14

Luke 3:14. Soldiers. Some soldiers. The original refers to those in actual service at the time. They may have had police duty to perform. That they were foreign mercenaries employed by Herod is less likely, since the inference is that they were either Jews or men like Cornelius (Acts 10).

Do violence to no one. The verb first means ‘to shake violently,’ then to oppress, vex, lay under contribution, etc.

Neither accuse any wrongfully. Lit., neither be sycophants, i.e., play the spy, be informers, slander, etc. For such conduct military service, in those days, afforded great opportunity.

Be content with your wages. Mutinies on account of pay were frequent, especially among the soldiers of dependent kings. John did not say: 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. John understood his audience, yet he had been a recluse. Knowledge of human nature is essential for the preacher; but a careful study of God’s Word in retirement may be a better means of obtaining it than constant intercourse with the world.


Verse 15

Luke 3:15. Were in expectation, i.e., waiting for a declaration of John respecting himself. Comp. the demand, John 1:19-22.

All reasoned. The question was considered by all.

Whether haply he were the Christ. This shows the deep impression made by John, as well as the general expectation that the Messiah would speedily come. John’s humble declaration shows moral greatness.


Verse 16-17

Luke 3:16-17. Comp, the accounts of Matthew and Mark, also John 1:26-27. The latter passage probably refers to a later interview with delegates from Jerusalem, though the language may have been used more than once.

With water, not ‘in water,’ as in Matthew 3:11.

In the Holy Spirit and fire. Not in fire of judgment, see on Matthew 3:11. Notice the variations of ‘with’ and ‘in.’—The striking figure is repeated: Whose fan is in his hand, etc.


Verse 18

Luke 3:18. With many other exhortations, etc. The form of the verse is peculiar. The exhorting was varied, different in character as well as repeated. Yet thus he preached glad tidings, i.e., of the coming Messiah. This description of his ministry is peculiarly apt, hinting at the close connection between repentance and belief in the Gospel, and at the relation between John the Baptist and Christ.


Verse 19

Luke 3:19. But Herod, etc. This took place afterwards. It is inserted here to complete the sketch of John’s ministry, just as chap. Luke 1:80 does that of his youth.

Herodias. See Matthew 14:3.

All the evil things which Herod had done. See Mark 6:17-20, where Herod’s willingness to hear him is brought out.


Verse 21

Luke 3:21. Luke’s account of the baptism of Jesus is concise, but we have some new details.

When all the people were baptised. These baptisms preceded that of our Lord; probably few were present on the latter occasion.

Jesus also having been baptised, and praying. The baptism took place first, then the prayer. Luke alone mentions the latter.

The heaven was opened. Matthew and Mark say, to Jesus; John, to the Baptist; Luke simply states the fact. This variety and agreement show that some actual external phenomenon occurred.


Verse 22

Luke 3:22. In a bodily form. This must be taken literally, especially in an exact historical account like that before us. See Matthew 3:16.


Verse 23

Luke 3:23. And Jesus himself, when he began, i.e., is ministry. This is the only grammatical view. The last verse told of how God had solemnly declared Him to be the Messiah, and the subsequent history tells of His ministry.

Was about thirty years of age. ‘About,’ indefinite, but probably over that age. The Levites did not enter upon their public duties under that age, and it is improbable that He would deviate from the usage. The beginning of the ministry could not have been later than U. C. 782 (see Luke 3:1), and probably was two years earlier.

Being the son (at was supposed) of Joseph. The words, ‘as was supposed,’ would be a curious introduction to a genealogy of Joseph. We therefore prefer to explain this, ‘being the son, as was supposed, of Joseph,’ but in reality through his mother, of Heli,’ the father of Mary, and His nearest male ancestor. ‘It is remarkable that, in the Talmud, Mary the mother of Jesus is called the daughter of Heli. From whence have Jewish scholars derived this information? If from the text of Luke, this proves that they understood it as we do; if they received it from tradition, it confirms the truth of the genealogical document Luke made use of.’ (Godet.) Others supply ‘son in law’ between Joseph and Heli, but this is not in keeping with the regular succession of the passage,’ and involves the groundless assumption that Mary was an heiress, whose family was now represented by Joseph. The first view is open to fewest objections. An untrustworthy Jewish tradition says that Mary’s father was named Joachim. The Jews did not keep the genealogies of women, but this is the genealogy of Heli; and to call our Lord, the son of Heli (His nearest male ancestor, the names of women being passed over) accords with Jewish usage. The name of Mary would be unnecessary after Luke’s account of the Nativity. Besides, our Lord was ‘the son of David,’ and that could be true, according to the gospel history, only through His mother. It implied everywhere in the Old Testament that the Messiah should be an actual descendant of David, and in the New it is taken for granted that Jesus fulfilled this promise. It is precisely in this Gospel, that we would look for her genealogy, since she has been the principal figure thus far. The view that this is the genealogy of Joseph is attended with insuperable difficulties. How could Joseph be the son of ‘Jacob’ (Matthew) and ‘the son of Heli’ (Luke)? A solution by the theory of a Levirate marriage, is unsatisfactory; two such must be assumed; and even then the difficulty is not met, for the offspring of a Levirate marriage must be recorded as that of the older deceased brother, and two distinct genealogies would not be given. On such a point a mistake is scarcely conceivable.


Verses 23-38

ON THE TRANSLATION OF THE GENEALOGY. The formula: ‘which was,’ has nothing answering to it, in the original, and ought to be omitted. The spelling of the names has been altered in many cases to accord with the correct reading, in others to conform to the Hebrew names as given in the Old Testament. The tracing back of the genealogy to Adam agrees well with the expressions of Paul about the second Adam (1 Corinthians 15; comp. Romans 5), and with the character of Luke’s Gospel. Yet it would be too much to say that Luke traced the line back of Abraham out of regard for Gentile readers.


Verse 24

Luke 3:24. Matthat. In our view not the same as Matthan, the grandfather of Joseph (Matthew 1:15). A number of very common Hebrew names occur, as might be expected.


Verse 27

Luke 3:27. Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel (Gr. Salathiel), Here the two genealogies probably, but not certainly, coincide (comp. Matthew 1:13). Salathiel is here called ‘the son of Neri;’ in Matthew he is represented as the son of Jeconiah. We may assume a Levirate marriage, or the marriage of Salathiel with a daughter of Neri. Just at that point of the history (the beginning of the captivity) such things would be most likely to occur.


Verse 31

Luke 3:31. Nathan. Comp. 2 Samuel 5:14; 1 Chronicles 3:5; Zechariah 12:12. On the genealogy from David back to Adam, comp. 1 Chronicles 1, 2


Verse 33

Luke 3:33. The son of Arni. This is better established than: ‘the son of Aram.’ Still the latter agrees with Ruth 4:18; 1 Chronicles 2:9; Matthew 1:3-4.


Verse 34

Luke 3:34, ff. etc. From Abraham to Adam, comp. Genesis 11:10-26. The only variation is the insertion here of Cainan (Luke 3:36), between ‘Salah’ (1 Chronicles 1:18 : ‘Shelah’) and ‘Arphaxad.’ This agrees with the LXX. (Genesis), but with no other Old Testament record. Explanations: 1. That the Jews corrupted the Hebrew in these chronological passages; 2. That the LXX. is incorrect, though followed here; 3. Less probably that the transcriber inserted it here by mistake, and from this passage it got into the LXX. Whether (1.) or (2.) be adopted must depend upon the view taken of the whole chronological difference between the Hebrew Bible and the Greek version. (The latter gives a period before Christ of more than five thousand years.)


Verse 38

Luke 3:38. The son of God. Luke does not add this, to prove that Jesus was the son of God. It implies that Adam was created directly by God, also that he stood in a closer relation to God than other creatures. This relation stands in close connection with the fact of the Nativity. The appearance of the Son of God in the highest sense, to redeem, as the second Adam, the fallen race which sprang from the first, proves the exalted position of unfallen man. ‘If man were not the offspring of God, the incarnation would be impossible.’ (Godet.)

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Luke 3:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/luke-3.html. 1879-90.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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