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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Luke 1:1

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us,
New American Standard Version
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Nave's Topical Bible - Epistles;   Luke;   Word of God;   Scofield Reference Index - Luke;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - John;   Mary;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Acts, book of;   Gospels;   Inspiration;   Interpretation;   Jesus christ;   Luke;   Luke, gospel of;   Matthew, gospel of;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Genesis, Theology of;   Jesus Christ;   Paul the Apostle;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Angel;   Union Hypostatical;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Acts of the Apostles;   Luke, Gospel According to;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Gospels;   Luke, the Gospel According to;   Theophilus;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Gospel;   Harmony of the Gospels;   Luke, Gospel of;   Q;   Virgin, Virgin Birth;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Acts of the Apostles;   Galatians, Epistle to the;   Gospels;   Gospels, Apocryphal;   John the Baptist;   Luke, Gospel According to;   Mark, Gospel According to;   Quotations;   Vision;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Aristeas ;   Aristion (Aristo);   Assurance;   Epistle;   Fulfilment;   God;   Gospels (2);   Imagination;   John the Baptist;   Matthew, Gospel According to;   New Testament;   Papias;   Quirinius;   Sayings (Unwritten);   Theophilus (2);   1910 New Catholic Dictionary - gospel of saint luke;   luke, gospel of saint;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Theophilus;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Inspiration;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Acts of the Apostles;   Bible, the;   Criticism of the Bible;   Gospels, the Synoptic;   Jesus Christ (Part 1 of 2);   Luke, the Evangelist;   Luke, the Gospel of;   Order;   Sure;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Acts of the apostles;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - New Testament;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Many have taken in hand - Great and remarkable characters have always many biographers. So it appears it was with our Lord: but as most of these accounts were inaccurate, recording as facts things which had not happened; and through ignorance or design mistaking others, especially in the place where St. Luke wrote; it seemed good to the Holy Spirit to inspire this holy man with the most correct knowledge of the whole history of our Lord's birth, preaching, miracles, sufferings, death, resurrection, and ascension, that the sincere, upright followers of God might have a sure foundation, on which they might safely build their faith. See the note on Luke 9:10.

Most surely believed among us - Facts confirmed by the fullest evidence - των πεπληροφορημενων πραγματων . Every thing that had been done or said by Jesus Christ was so public, so plain, and so accredited by thousands of witnesses, who could have had no interest in supporting an imposture, as to carry the fullest conviction, to the hearts of those who heard and saw him, of the divinity of his doctrine, and the truth of his miracles.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Many. It is uncertain what writers are here referred to.

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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". 1878.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary


1. Luke's introduction (Luke 1:1-4)

Of the four Gospel writers, Luke is the only one who introduces his book by setting out briefly the circumstances of his writing. He wanted to prepare an account of the life and ministry of Jesus, but unlike others who prepared similar books, he was not an eye witness of the things about which he wrote. He therefore could prepare his book only after careful research (Luke 1:1-3). He wrote for a person of rank named Theophilus, to give him a reliable account of who Jesus was and what he had done (Luke 1:4). (Concerning Theophilus see also 'The Writing of the Gospels'.)

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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "Brideway Bible Commentary". 2005.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

Nineteen hundred years have not dimmed the luster of this glorious chapter nor cast any shadow over the hard historical facts related therein, facts which have been etched into the conscience of all mankind and which are indelibly written into the pages of the world's authentic records. The account here was written by a brilliant physician, scientist and literary genius, following years of patient and thorough research, and who had the incomparable opportunity of examining all of the sources, written and oral, that had any bearing on the events narrated. Luke's vivid, scientific account is as far above the subjective guesses of modern scholars as the sun in heaven is above the mud-flats of earth. If men would know what really happened at that pivotal point in history which would split all time into the two segments called B.C. and A.D., then let them read it here. This is what happened!

This chapter contains the author's preface (Luke 1:1-4), the record of the annunciation to Zacharias (Luke 1:5-23), the conception of Elizabeth (Luke 1:24-25), the annunciation to Mary (Luke 1:26-38), and Mary's visit to Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-56), the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:57-66), the prophecy of Zacharias (Luke 1:67-79), and a one-sentence summary of John the Baptist's early life (Luke 1:80).


Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to draw up a narrative concerning those matters which have been fulfilled among us, even as they delivered them unto us, who from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to me also, having traced the course of all things accurately from the first to write thee in order, most excellent Theophilus; that thou mightest know the certainty concerning the things wherein thou wast instructed. (Luke 1:1-4)

This preface is not a statement of what Luke proposed to do, but a record of what he had already done. "The tense of the verbs shows that he wrote these verses after he had completed the body of the Gospel."[1]

Here also is a glimpse of the true meaning of the doctrine of the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. "All scripture is inspired by God" (2 Timothy 3:16 RSV), and "Men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21); but this does not mean that God's inspiration comes to the lazy and inactive mind, but rather to the diligent seeker of truth, as beautifully exemplified by the research of Luke. As Barclay expressed it, "The word of God is given, but it is given to the man who is seeking for it."[2] God guided his inspired authors by guiding their purpose, their research, and by protecting them from error, yet leaving the writer free to express the truth discovered in the terms and vocabulary that he already knew.

Many have taken in hand to draw up a narrative ... This indicates that Luke's written sources were numerous. "Many" is incapable of meaning only five or six. Even as many as eight are called "few" in Scripture (1 Peter 3:20); and we are therefore presented with the declaration which reveals a much larger number, perhaps as many as a score, or even more. Thus, the very first line of this Gospel disproves the notion that Luke got most of his Gospel from Mark. As a matter of fact, the solid evidence is all against the assumption that Luke ever saw either Matthew's or Mark's Gospels. As the scholarly Macknight stated, "Without all doubt, had he been speaking of them, he would not have passed them over in such a slight and casual manner."[3]

Matters which have been fulfilled among us ... By these words, Luke affirmed that his record dealt with nothing that was new or novel in the faith of the very extensive Christian community already established throughout the Mediterranean world. The word for "fulfilled" in this clause means "fully established" (English Revised Version (1885) margin); and this means that the total content of Luke's Gospel was already the faith of the whole church at the time he wrote in 60 A.D.

Who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word ... Luke's mention of eye-witnesses of the things he recorded "from the beginning" and "from the first" (Luke 1:3), along with the conspicuous birth narrative in the first two chapters is very nearly the equivalent of saying that he had interviewed the Virgin Mary herself, a conclusion that will appear mandatory in the narrative itself. This is devastating to the wild, subjective theories with regard to Luke's source for the first two chapters. This is also the end of all attempts to late-date the Gospel; for, even at the time Luke wrote, the Virgin Mother was not less than eighty years of age, even allowing for the annunciation to have occurred when she was fifteen years old.

Ministers of the word ... The Greek word Luke used here for "ministers" is [@huperetai], a word used in medical terminology "to refer to doctors who served under a principal physician."[4] Thus, Doctor Luke referred to a group, including the apostles themselves, who served as lesser DOCTORS under the Great Physician. There are numerous uses of such a medical vocabulary throughout Luke.

It seemed good to me also ... This removes any doubt that Luke disapproved of previous writings on the Christian faith, for he here plainly placed himself on the same platform with previous authors.

Having traced the source of all things accurately from the first ... The words "from the first" are a translation of the Greek term [@anothen], the same word which is rendered "from above" in John 3:3. G. Campbell Morgan insisted on the latter meaning here, which would make this an affirmation by Luke of the fact of his inspiration. Hobbs said that there is no reason why both meanings should not apply here.[5]

To write unto thee in order ... There is no way to know exactly what Luke intended by this, other than the inherent truth that his record is systematic. It does not seem to be strictly chronological in every instance; but it is not affirmed here that it is.

Most excellent Theophilus ... The use of "excellent" denominates Theophilus as a man of equestrian rank, that is a knight, the term being used of such officials as the governor of the province (Acts 23:26). The name Theophilus means "one who loves God," but there is no reason to suppose that Luke used this name otherwise than as the personal cognomen of his friend, who might also have been his patron. The omission of the title "excellent" in Acts 1:1 supports the speculation that Theophilus was governor of an unnamed province when Luke was written, but that he was no longer governor when Acts was penned.

That thou mightest know the certainty concerning the things wherein thou wast instructed ... The Greek word here rendered "things" is actually "words" (English Revised Version (1885) margin); and the last clause means "which thou wast taught by word of mouth," unmistakable references to the oral instruction received by Christians in those times, prior to and after their acceptance of the faith. This makes the implications of this passage to be of epic proportions. Despite the fact of there having been "many" written portions of the gospel message, even so important a person as Theophilus had received only word-of-mouth teaching, indicating the universality of the word-of-mouth method of instruction. This fully accounts for the word-by-word correspondence to be found in certain episodes recorded in the synoptic Gospels, all of them written independently. Luke's Gospel was written for the precise purpose of confirming the accuracy of the oral instruction Theophilus had already received. The glimpse afforded here, as Dummelow said, "is all that is really known, as distinguished from what is guessed about the sources of the synoptic Gospels."[6]

One other implication of vast significance appears in this preface. Whereas the oral instruction received by Theophilus was admitted by Luke to have been absolutely correct, and whereas the "many" writers had written of the things Luke recorded, this Gospel was composed for the purpose of greater "certainty" (Luke 1:4) than could have been held in respect of oral teachings, and with a design of giving an account of "all things" (Luke 1:3) that were pertinent to the holy faith, as contrasted with implied inadequacy of the "many" written accounts, this latter implication of inadequacy, or incompleteness, being the sole fault of the "many" writers before him. There is not the slightest hint that Luke was writing to correct false teachings of the writers cited.

[1] Herschel H. Hobbs, An Exposition of the Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1966), p. 17.

[2] William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1956), p. 2.

[3] James MacKnight, Harmony of the Gospels in Two Volumes (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1950), Vol. I, p. 34.

[4] Herschel H. Hobbs, op. cit., p. 19.

[5] Ibid., p. 21.

[6] J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 736.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Forasmuch as many - It has been doubted who are referred to here by the word “many.” It seems clear that it could not be the other evangelists, for the gospel by “John” was not yet written, and the word “many” denotes clearly more than “two.” Besides, it is said that they undertook to record what the “eye-witnesses” had delivered to them, so that the writers did not pretend to be eye-witnesses themselves. It is clear, therefore, that other writings are meant than the gospels which we now have, but what they were is a matter of conjecture. What are now known as spurious gospels were written long after Luke wrote his. It is probable that Luke refers to “fragments” of history, or to narratives of “detached” sayings, acts, or parables of our Lord, which had been made and circulated among the disciples and others. His doctrines were original, bold, pure, and authoritative. His miracles had been extraordinary, clear, and awful. His life and death had been peculiar; and it is not improbable - indeed it is highly probable that such broken accounts and narratives of detached facts would be preserved. That this is what Luke means appears farther from Luke 1:3, where “he” professes to give a regular, full, and systematic account from the very beginning - “having had perfect understanding of “all things from the very first.” The records of the others - the “many” - were broken and incomplete. His were to be regular and full.

Taken in hand - Undertaken, attempted.

To set forth in order - To compose a narrative. It does not refer to the “order” or “arrangement,” but means simply to give a narrative. The word rendered here “in order” is different from that in the third verse, which “has” reference “to order,” or to a full and fair “arrangement” of the principal facts, etc., in the history of our Lord.

A declaration - A narrative - an account of.

Which are most surely believed among us - Among Christians - among all the Christians then living. Here we may remark:

1.That Christians of that day had the best of all opportunities for knowing whether those things were true. Many had seen them, and all others had had the account from those who had witnessed them.

2.That infidels now cannot “possibly” be as good judges in the matter as those who lived at the time, and who were thus competent to determine whether these things were true or false.

3.That all Christians do “most surely believe” the truth of the gospel. It is their life, their hope, their all. Nor can they doubt that their Saviour lived, bled, died, rose, and still lives; that he was their atoning sacrifice, and that he is God over all, blessed forever.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

Jim Brown's Commentary on the New Testament

  1. Luke’s Introduction
    Luk 1:1-4 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, 2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; 3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, 4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.
    1. Luke starts out by saying many have tried to set in order the ministry of Jesus through declaration (meaning both oral tradition writing them down) the things that they believe because they were eyewitnesses and servants of Jesus…
    2. The word “Minister” here, in verse 2, means under-rower but was uniquely used in medical profession to speak of intern doctors who were serving and learning under an experienced physician.  It is identifying those who were actually “WITH” Jesus (who is the “WORD” -- Joh 1:1,14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
    3. Luke spoke with these eyewitnesses and servants of Jesus.  Think of this – Luke must have spoken with Mary in her old age…Luke is the only one to speak of the circumstances around John the Baptist and Jesus’ conception.  Luke alone brings us the magnificat.
    4. It seemed good to Luke to write it all down seeing he had a complete (literally “exact”) account based upon thorough investigation (the witnesses and ministers)…and to write it in an orderly (meaning chronological) manner.
    5. We see, too, who he is writing to in verse 3:  Theophilus.  Now, we ask, is this a person?  The name means “lover of God”.  Some think this is a proper name, some think this is a cover name for perhaps his previous owner who set Luke free, some think this is a general statement of writing to those who love God.  What is the correct answer? 
    6. The wording, “most excellent” suggests the writing is to an individual – perhaps someone high up in a government position (which is how the phrase is used in other places in the Bible) – but it is not necessarily a proper name but more likely a cover name. 
    7. The bigger thought we need to have is:  “Am I a lover of God?”  If so, then this letter is written to me and I should contemplate Jesus and respond both inwardly and outwardly!
    8. And then…the “WHY write this” is to provide the certainty, through witnesses, of the things that “Theophilus” had been instructed (and the verbage leads us to believe it was the basic instruction that would be given to a new believer).
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Jim Brown's Commentary on the New Testament is reproduced by permission of author. All other rights reserved.
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Brown, Jim. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "Jim Brown's Commentary on the New Testament". 2017.

Charles Box's Commentaries on Selected Books of the Bible

Luke"s inspired preface for this gospel -- : Many people had taken it upon themselves to try to write a narrative of what God had done among the Jews and during the days of the early church. The gospel of Luke was written around 59 to 62 AD. Others wrote their accounts based on information passed on to them. Luke had a "perfect understanding of all things from the very first." He was inspired by God. He wrote to Theophilus to tell him exactly what took place. Luke wanted Theophilus to understand with certainty the things that had taken place.

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Box, Charles. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "Charles Box's Commentaries on Selected books of the Bible". 2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Forasmuch as = Since, as is well known indeed. Greek. epeideper. Occurs only here in N.T.

have in hand. Implying previous non = success (Acts 19:13). Elsewhere only in Acts 9:29. A medical word. Compare Colossians 4:14.

to set forth in order = to draw up.

a declaration = a narrative. Greek. diegesis. Occurs only here in N.T., used by Galen of a medical treatise.

of = concerning. Greek. peri. App-104. Not the same word as in verses: Luke 1:5, Luke 1:27, Luke 1:35, Luke 5:61.

things = matters, or facts.

which are most surely believed = which have been fully accomplished; i.e. in fulfilment of prophetic announcement. among. Greek. en. App-104. As in verses: Luke 1:25, Luke 1:28, Luke 1:42

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Luke is the only Evangelist who makes a preface to his Gospel, for the purpose of explaining briefly the motive which induced him to write. By addressing a single individual he may appear to have acted foolishly, instead of sounding the trumpet aloud, as was his duty, and inviting all men to believe. It appears, therefore, to be unsuitable that the doctrine which does not peculiarly belong to one person or to another, but is common to all, should be privately sent to his friend Theophilus. Hence some have been led to think that Theophilus is an appellative noun, and is applied to all godly persons on account of their love of God; but the epithet which is joined to it is inconsistent with that opinion. Nor is there any reason for dreading the absurdity which drove them to adopt such an expedient. For it is not less true that Paul’s doctrine belongs to all, though some of his Epistles were addressed to certain cities, and others to certain men. Nay, we must acknowledge, if we take into account the state of those times, that Luke adopted a conscientious and prudent course. There were tyrants on every hand who, by terror and alarm, were prepared to obstruct the progress of sound doctrine. This gave occasion to Satan and his ministers for spreading abroad the clouds of error, by which the pure light would be obscured. Now, as the great body of men cared little about maintaining the purity of the Gospel, and few considered attentively the inventions of Satan or the amount of danger that lurked under such disguises, every one who excelled others by uncommon faith, or by extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, was the more strongly bound to do his utmost, by care and industry, for preserving the doctrine of godliness pure and uncontaminated from every corruption. Such persons were chosen by God to be the sacred keepers of the law, by whom the heavenly doctrine committed to them should be honestly handed down to posterity. With this view therefore, Luke dedicates his Gospel to Theophilus, that he might undertake the faithful preservation of it; and the same duty Paul enjoins and recommends to Timothy, (2 Timothy 1:14.)

1.Forasmuch as many. He assigns a reason for writing which, one would think, ought rather to have dissuaded him from writing. To compose a history, which had already employed many authors, was unnecessary labor, at least if they had faithfully discharged their duty. But no accusation of imposture, or carelessness, or any other fault, is in the slightest degree insinuated. It looks, therefore, as if he were expressing a resolution to do what had been already done. I reply, though he deals gently with those who had written before him, he does not altogether approve of their labors. He does not expressly say that they had written on matters with which they were imperfectly acquainted, but by laying claim to certainty as to the facts, he modestly denies their title to full and unshaken confidence. It may be objected that, if they made false statements, they ought rather to have been severely censured. I reply again, they may not have been deeply in fault; they may have erred more from want of consideration than from malice; and, consequently, there would be no necessity for greater fierceness of attack. And certainly there is reason to believe that these were little more than historical sketches which, though comparatively harmless at the time, would afterwards, if they had not been promptly counteracted, have done serious injury to the faith. But it is worthy of remark that, in applying this remedy through Luke to unnecessary writings, God had a wonderful design in view of obtaining, by universal consent, the rejection of others, and thus securing undivided credit to those which reflect brightly his adorable majesty. There is the less excuse for those silly people, by whom disgusting stories, under the name of Nicodemus, or some other person, are, at the present day, palmed upon the world.

Are most surely believed among us The participle πεπληροφορημένα, which Luke employs, denotes things fully ascertained, and which do not admit of doubt. The old translator has repeatedly fallen into mistakes about this word, and through that ignorance has given us a corrupted sense of some very beautiful passages. One of these occurs in the writings of Paul, where he enjoins every man to be fully persuaded in his own mind, (Romans 14:5,) that conscience may not hesitate and waver, tossed to and fro (Ephesians 4:14) by doubtful opinions. Hence, too, is derived the word πληροφορία , which he erroneously renders fullness, while it denotes that strong conviction springing from faith, in which godly minds safely rest. There is still, as I have said, an implied contrast; for, by claiming for himself the authority of a faithful witness, he destroys the credit of others who give contrary statements.

Among us (17) has the same meaning as with us. (18) He appears to make faith rest on a weak foundation, its relation to men, while it ought to rest on the Word of God only; and certainly the full assurance (πληροφορία) of faith is ascribed to the sealing of the Spirit, (1 Thessalonians 1:5; Hebrews 10:22.) I reply, if the Word of God does not hold the first rank, faith will not be satisfied with any human testimonies, but, where the inward confirmation of the Spirit has already taken place, it allows them some weight in the historical knowledge of facts. By historical knowledge I mean that knowledge which we obtain respecting events, either by our own observation or by the statement of others. For, with respect to the visible works of God, it is equally proper to listen to eye-witnesses as to rely on experience. Besides, those whom Luke follows were not private authors, but were also ministers of the Word By this commendation he exalts them above the rank of human authority; for he intimates that the persons from whom he received his information had been divinely authorized to preach the Gospel. Hence, too, that security which he shortly afterwards mentions, and which, if it does not rest upon God, may soon be disturbed. There is great weight in his denominating those from whom he received his Gospel ministers of the Word; for on that ground believers conclude that the witnesses are beyond all exception, as the Lawyers express it, and cannot lawfully be set aside.

Erasmus, who has borrowed from Virgil (19) a phrase used in his version, did not sufficiently consider the estimation and weight due to a Divine calling. Luke does not talk in a profane style, but enjoins us in the person of his friend Theophilus to keep in view the command of Christ, and to hear with reverence the Son of God speaking through his Apostles. It is a great matter that he affirms them to have been eye-witneses, but, by calling them ministers, he takes them out of the common order of men, that our faith may have its support in heaven and not in earth. In short, Luke’s meaning is this: “that, since thou now hast those things committed faithfully to writing which thou hadst formerly learned by oral statements, thou mayest place a stronger reliance on the received doctrine.” It is thus evident that God has employed every method to prevent our faith from being suspended on the doubtful and shifting opinions of men. There is the less room for excusing the ingratitude of the world, which, as if it openly preferred the uncertainty arising out of vague and unfounded reports, turns from so great a Divine favor with loathing. But let us attend to the remarkable distinction which our Lord has laid down, that foolish credulity may not insinuate itself under the name of faith. Meanwhile, let us allow the world to be allured, as it deserves, by the deceitful baits of foolish curiosity, and even to surrender itself willingly to the delusions of Satan.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

Brian Bell Commentary on the Bible

  1. Intro:
    1. Growing up, we had a family physician who also was a close friend of the family, “Dr. McDonald.”
      1. In Col.4:14 we learn Luke’s occupation, “Luke the beloved physician”.
      2. Most importantly he had the compassion & warmth of a true family doctor.
      3. He was elderly man with a very dignified countenance, & was never w/o his signature “Bow Tie”!
      4. Throughout his letter we will also see his warmth & compassion as a doctor. [And he repeatedly stresses the warmth & compassion of Jesus]
    2. (At Pastors Prayer) Armando prayed for me, “that as Brian studies this gospel, that this gospel would study Brian!” (my prayer for all of us!)
    3. Book Overview: Lk.1& 2 = 30 yrs of Jesus’ life; Lk.3 - 19:28 = 3 yrs of Jesus’ life; Lk.19:29 - 24:53 = 1 week of Jesus’ life.
      1. Only 8% deals with Jesus life before ministry
      2. 25% deals with His last week before He died.
      3. It is the longest single book in the NT.
        1. Luke & Acts constitute 28% of the NT, making Luke the most prolific of its contributors. [2,138 vs; Paul wrote 2,033]
      4. It is written in the moist refined Greek in the NT, giving it unsurpassed literary richness & beauty!
      5. It contains 4 beautiful hymns: Mary’s Magnificat (the true Ave Maria); Zacharius’ Benedictus; the Gloria in Excelsis of the heavenly host;& the Nunc Dimittis of Simeon[“now dismiss”, “Im ready to be called home now”]
      6. Key Word: Jesus the Son of Man.
      7. Key Verse: 1:3,4 & 19:10 “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
        1. So not only Jews but Samaritans & Gentiles; poor & rich; respectable & despised; tax collectors & religious leaders.
      8. Key Chapter: Ch.15 captures in 3 parables, the lost sheep/coin/son is the crux of the gospel; that God through Christ has come to seek & save that which was lost.
      9. Those who believe His claims are challenged to count the cost of discipleship – Those who oppose will not be satisfied until the Son of Man hangs lifeless on a cross. (Talk Thru the Bible; Hendrickson; Pg.326.)
    4. Luke: A physician; prob. a Greek; a companion of Paul on some of his journeys. He writes as a Christian historian.
      1. He wrote 2 volumes which go together like 1 volume dealing w/the beginning & growth of the early church. – See Acts 1:1.
      2. They are records of journeys: His Travelogue! The Gospel of Luke (Jesus journeys to Jerusalem); And Acts{Luke part 2, or the Sequel!} (Paul’s journey to Rome)
      3. He writes with the Greeks in mind – thus he translates the Aramaic terms, & explains Jewish customs & geography.
        1. Thus he traces Jesus genealogy back, not to Abraham [Father of the Jews](Mt.), but back to Adam [father of all mankind]
      4. Legend says Luke was an artist (J.B.Phillips Into) - If so, he takes his brush & paints the portrait of a warm & compassionate Master, who loves the sinner, the outcast, the ragamuffins of this world!
      5. An Ancient tradition says that Luke was from Syrian Antioch, remained unmarried, & died at the age of 84.
      6. You can tell Luke loves people: by the portraits of Zacharias, the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, the repentant tax collectorZaccheus, the 2 disciples on the Emmaus rd.
      7. He gave a special place to women in his writings: “Elizabeth, Mary, Anna, Martha & Mary, Bernice, Candace, Damaris, Dorcas, Drusilla, Joanna, Lydia, Priscilla, Sapphira, & Susanna.”
      8. He gave a special place to children in his writings: e.g. the child hood of John & Jesus.
    2. Many others have written also – Though not in any way complete accounts. Only on a few aspects of the gospel.
    3. Eyewitnesses & ministers–To what? He presents Jesus as the Son of Man.
      1. ​​​​​​​Jesus, the most human of us all! – See, our humanity isn’t a liability it’s an asset!
      2. Let me quote from Rebecca Pippert, Out of the Salt Shaker, “Jesus gives us permission to be human. Yet we struggle to believe that God intends for us to be fully human…we’re afraid that being made of flesh & blood meets with divine disapproval. The fact that we love to laugh, take a walk w/a friend, sip tea, & read a good book for the sheer pleasure of it is probably regarded from on high, we fear, w/a cosmic frown. We forget that it was God’s idea, not ours, to make us human. How do we discover what it means to be authentically human? We look to Jesus.” [He is irresistible!]
    5. Had perfect understanding – Accurately followed. Carefully investigated.
      1. He establishes his credibility as a historian. He reveals his care & expertise.
      2. Investigative Bible Study –
      3. Q: Where’s the Holy Spirit in all this Luke?
      4. Read Heb.1:1,2
        1. “In many ways” ways God spoke to his servants!
      5. Sometimes God used: direct oracles/dictation (i.e. “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write…”). - Other times ordinary historical research(as in the case of Luke) - Still other times he used Q & A; allegory’s acted out; preaching; signs.
      6. To Moses @ Sinai in thunder & lightening & w/the voice of thunder. To Elijah in a still small voice. To Ezekiel by visions. To Daniel by dreams. To Abram in human form. To Jacob as an angel. (Kent Hughes; pg.21)
      7. Jesus speaks of men who remember His words & deeds that would be made completely accurate by the Holy Spirit as he brought things to their remembrance à Jn.14:25, 26 “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”
        1. Jesus also said in Jn.15:20 “If they kept my word, they will keep yours also.”
        2. Prov.30:5 “Every word of God is pure” (flawless, tested, proves true)
      8. Since God spoke so clearly it caused men & women to live on a higher plane.
        1. Abraham had the faith to sacrifice his son; Moses to w/stand Pharaoh; David to go against Goliath; & Daniel to achieve & maintain integrity in Babylon!
      9. Yet Gods communication to man was still fragmented & lacking… until he spoke by His Son!
      10. So Luke wrote his gospel under the inspiration of the H.S. after he had carefully researched the life of Jesus Christ! (Warren Wiersbe; Outlines; Luke Intro.)
        1. From the very 1st – also translated “from above”.
    6. Orderly account – He wanted to give an accurate & authoritative account of the birth, life, teaching, death, & resurrection of Jesus.
    7. Theophilus – [Θεόφιλος [Theophilos] – God/friend {friend of God}
      1. Both of Luke’s books are addressed to Theophilus.
      2. Probably a Roman believer. Possibly an official (most excellent) who needed grounding in the faith.
        1. Or, may have been an open-minded seeker.
        2. Maybe struggling w/his association in a movement that had Jewish origins.
    9. Certainty – Luke wrote so Theophilus would know the truth & certainty of the Christian Gospel! (for you too!)
      1. Though we live in a world where relativism is pushed & absolutes have been shelved, yet we still need more than ever “Certainty”!
      2. It’s so important to know What we believe, & Why we believe them!
    10. “A man who lived on Long Island was able one day to satisfy a lifelong ambition by purchasing for himself a very fine barometer. When the instrument arrived at his home, he as extremely disappointed to find that the indicating needle appeared to be stuck, pointing to the sector marked‘HURRICANE.’ After shaking the barometer very vigorously several times, its new owner sat down and wrote a scorching letter to the store from which he had purchased the instrument. The following morning on the way to his office in New York, he mailed the letter. That evening he returned to Long Island to find not only the barometer missing, but his house also.The barometer’s needle had been right--there was a hurricane!”  (Galaxie Software. (2002; 2002). 10,000 Sermon Illustrations. Biblical Studies Press.)
    11. Jumping at conclusions is not ½  a good exercise as digging for facts!
    12. Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.
    13. Instructed – this Gk. word gives us our word “catechize” [to instruct orally]
      1. So Theophilus may have been a “Catechumen” [1 receive relig instruct]
    14. Luke: A close observer, excellent writer, painstaking historian, self-effacing chronicler, well trained physician, earnest Christian worker, & faithful friend.
    15. Q: What are you pouring yourself into at this time in order to have good answers, reasons, explanations?
    16. Q: Who are you pouring yourself into. Who is your Theophilus?
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "Brian Bell Commentary". 2017.

The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide


Third Edition







HE Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ, according to S. Luke, that is, the Holy Evangelical History of the words and acts of Jesus, as described by S. Luke. The Arabic says, "In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, one God, the Gospel of the Excellent Father, Luke the Evangelist, the laying open of the glorious Gospel." The Syraic, "In the name of the Lord and our God, we Jeschua Mescicho, sign the Gospel, the holy message of Luke the Evangelist, which he spoke and proclaimed in Greek, in Alexandria." From this diversity, it is clear that the above title or inscription was prefixed to the Gospel, not by S. Luke himself, but by the Church which, in like manner, inscribed one Gospel "According to S. Matthew," one "According to S. John," and another "According to S. Mark." Nay, as regards the faith of the future, this title would have been added to no purpose by S. Luke himself, unless the Church had declared his Gospel to be genuine and not supposititious, and had handed it down as such. This speaks for Tradition against the heretics, for why is the Gospel, bearing the name of S. Luke, to be received as truly his, whilst that with the title of "Matthew and Thomas" is not to be considered theirs? Or again, why is the Gospel of S. Luke more canonical than that of Apelles or Basilides? No other reason can be given but the proof, declaration, and tradition of the Church. For we accept it, not because it is written in the sacred books, but because it has been so handed down by the Church. For instance, we believe this to be the Gospel of S. Luke and canonical, not because he wrote it, but because the Church so delivers and teaches. For although its own authority pertains to this Gospel, as to the others, yet this authority would not be plain to us, but for the declaration of the Church. The same is, a pari, to be said of the sense of Scripture. For the true sense of Scripture is not what appears to you or me, for this would be uncertain and doubtful, for Calvin affirms one sense to be the true one, Luther another, and others another, but that which is taught and received by the Church, whose office it is to deliver as well what is the true Scripture as what is its true meaning. For Holy Scripture consists not in the bark (cortice) of letters or words, but in their genuine meaning. So the Fourth Session of the Council of Trent, and the Fathers everywhere, especially Tertullian (B. iv. cap5 against Marcion). See what I have said on S. Matthew i1.

Observe: I. S. Matthew was the first in order of the Evangelists. He wrote in Hebrew to the Jews in Juda. S. Mark was the second. He wrote in Greek and Latin to the Romans in Italy; then S. Luke wrote to the Greeks in Greek; and S. John last of all, also in Greek; but S. Luke wrote the more elegantly, because he was the more perfect master of Greek. Hear S. Jerome ( Ephesians 84to Paulinus): "Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the quadriga of the Lord, and true Cherubim (which is interpreted, the "multitude of knowledge"), through their whole body they are "full of eyes," sparks shine from them, lightnings flash forth, their feet are "straight," and point upwards, their backs are winged, and they fly hither and thither. They hold themselves mutually one with another, and are "enfolded" with one another, and are rolled together, like a wheel, and they go wherever the influence of the Holy Spirit directs them." See Ezekiel i9, x12; Revelation iv6-8.

Moreover, among the faces or forms of the four Cherubim, the third, that of the ox, is ascribed to S. Luke, as well because he begins from the priesthood of Zachariah, whose chief sacrifice was an ox, as because he underwent the labours of an ox in the Gospel, and bore about continually in his own body the mortification of the Cross for the honour of the name of Christ, as the Church sings of him. See what has been said on Revelation iv7, and Ezekiel i10.

II. S. Luke wrote his Gospel against certain gaping, ignorant, perhaps even false Evangelists, who had written, in Syria or Greece, an imperfect, it may be a lying Gospel, as S. Luke himself signifies in the beginning of his work. So say Origen, S. Ambrose, Theophylact, and S. Epiphanius (Her. l. i), who, however, when he adds that S. Luke wrote against Cerinthus and Meritus, does not seem to speak correctly. For these two, and especially Basilides, were later than S. Luke, as is clear from Eusebius (Hist. B. iii. ch32). Theophylact and Bede think, with more truth, that S. Luke wrote against the Apocryphal Gospels of others, such as pass under the names of "Thomas, Matthew, and the Twelve Apostles."

III. S. Luke was not one of the seventy-two disciples of Christ, as Euthymius and S. Gregory in his preface on Job, chap. i. think, on the authority of Origen; for S. Luke never saw Christ in the flesh, but he wrote what he had heard of Him from the Apostles, as he says himself, i2. Hence the Fathers call S. Luke "the disciple of the Apostles," and S. Paul mentions him by name, as his "fellow-labourer." So S. Jerome, on the65th chapter of Isaiah, and preface to S. Matthew; where he says, "The third" (evangelist) is Luke the physician, by nation a Syrian, of Antioch, whose praise is in the Gospel (2Cor. viii18,22), who himself was a disciple of S. Paul. He wrote his Gospel in the neighbourhood of Achaia and Bœotia, relating some things from the beginning, as he says himself, and describing rather what he heard than what he saw. St. Irenæus says the same, i20; Theodoret, on the Lives of the holy Fathers; Baronius, and others. Tertullian, also (Book iv. against Marcion, chap5), thinks this Gospel not so much S. Luke"s as S. Paul"s, because S. Luke wrote from the dictation of S. Paul, as S. Mark from that of S. Peter. For he says, "what S. Mark wrote may be ascribed to S. Peter, whose interpreter S. Mark was. And so the Gospel of S. Luke is generally given to S. Paul, for the productions of the disciples began to be ascribed to the masters."

S. Jerome also states that "S. Luke, in the Gospel and Acts, performed the duties of a physician of souls, as he had before done of bodies" ( Ephesians 103to Paulinus); and again (in that to Philom). "Luke the physician left in his Gospel, and the book of the Acts of the Apostles to the Churches, how the Apostles from fishers of fish became fishers of men, and from the bodies of men became concerned with their souls, whose Gospel, as often as it is read in the churches, fails not of its medicine."

IV. Baronius thinks that S. Luke wrote in the companionship of S. Paul, anno58, because S. Jerome says that he wrote his Gospel that year in Achaia and Bœotia, where S. Paul was. Others, however, are of opinion that S. Luke wrote earlier, as we must certainly admit, if we agree with S. Jerome (Lib. de Scrip. Eccl. in Luc.), Tertullian (Book iv. against Marcion, c5), Primasius, Anselm, and others, on2Cor. viii18, that by, "the brother whose praise is in the Gospel" S. Paul meant S. Luke—as S. Ignatius, his fellow-citizen and contemporary, plainly asserts in his letter to the Ephesians: "As Luke bears witness, whose praise is in the Gospel." For the Second Epistle of S. Paul to the Corinthians was written in the year58, so that if the praise of S. Luke was in the Gospel at that time, we must necessarily say that it (the Gospel) had been published previously. Hence Euthymius, and Theophylact in his Preface to S. Luke, say that he wrote fifteen years after the ascension of Christ, that is, about the year49. But S. Luke had not then joined S. Paul, for he came to him in the Troad in the year51, as Baronius rightly concludes from Acts xvi10. It appears, therefore, that S. Luke wrote subsequently to the year51, but some years before58, for, as S. Paul says, in that year he was well known and celebrated.

V. S. Luke, after he had joined S. Paul, passed some time away from him, having been sent by him to other places (as I have shown on Acts xvi10), until S. Paul, when he had passed through other countries, came to Greece, thence to Syria, and so to Rome. Acts xx3, 4. For S. Paul, with other companions of his voyage, who are named in that verse, took S. Luke also, as S Luke himself states, verses5, 15. From that time S. Luke became the "diligent" companion of S. Paul, even up to the time of S. Paul"s first imprisonment, which was in the second year of Nero, when S. Luke finished the Acts of the Apostles, and, especially, those of S. Paul. Then, as S. Epiphanius says, S. Luke left S. Paul in prison, and went into Dalmatia, Gaul, Italy, and Macedonia, and preached the gospel everywhere till he came to Patara, a city of Achaia, where, in his eighty-fourth year, he was crowned with a glorious martyrdom in the year of Christ61, the fifth of Nero, and the seventeenth of the session of S. Peter at Rome. So Baronius says, from S. Gregory Nazianzen, Paulinus, Gaudentius, Glyca, Nicephorus and others.

Lastly, who S. Luke was—of what rank and ability, I have described at length in the Book of Acts, where I have said that he appears to be the same as Lucius, whom S. Paul calls his kinsman, Rom xvi21. But he seems different to Lucius of Cyrene, mentioned in Acts xiii3. For S. Luke was of Antioch, not Cyrene. Again, the Roman Martyrology, on April22, says that Lucius was among the first disciples of Christ, which cannot be said of S. Luke.

VI. The reason of S. Luke"s having written a Gospel after SS. Matthew and Mark, was twofold1. To confute the false gospels that were then being published in Syria and Greece, as I have said before2. To write at length those words and acts of Christ which had been passed over by the other Evangelists, and especially His Infancy and Childhood, the Annunciation of His forerunner John the Baptist, His Conception, Nativity, Presentation in the Temple, Presence among the Doctors, the Conversion of St. Mary Magdalene, Zacchus, the thief on the cross, the appearance to the two Disciples at Emmaus, the Parables of the Pharisee and Publican, the Good Samaritan, the Strayed Sheep, the Lost Piece of Money, the Prodigal Son, Lazarus and the Rich Glutton, and others; which show the mercy and pity of Christ to sinners and the miserable. See S. Irenus, iii4, who recounts each. S. Luke also relates, more fully than the others, the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension.

Lastly, S. Peter Damianus, in his Sermon on S. Matthew, says, "S. Luke observes the proper method and order when he describes the priestly stock of the Lord and His Person, and, with this object and intent, proceeds to describe at length every part of the Temple and the priests, to the end of the history. For, as the Mediator between God and man in His human nature, He pleased to be King and Priest in one, that through His kingly power He might rule, and, by His office of Priest, atone for us. These two "Person" of Christ are especially praised by the Fathers, for to Him principally and by singular prerogative God gave the seat of His Father David, that there might be no end of His Kingdom, and that He might be a Priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedek."

S. Anselm again, on Colos. iv., gives two reasons why S. Luke, more than the others, should speak of the mercy of Christ1. S. Luke was a physician of bodies; then, when he turned to Christ, he was made a physician of souls. Hence he speaks, more than the other Evangelists, of the mercies of the Redeemer, by which the weaknesses of sins are driven away2. In Christ, he describes the person of a Priest, making intercession for the sins of the whole world

Lastly, our own John de la Haye, in his Oparat. Evangel. chap68, recounts the twenty-five privileges granted to S. Luke, where, among other things, from S. Jerome, Bede, and Ado, he says that S. Luke never committed mortal sin, but passed a strict life of continual mortification; that he also preserved his virginity to the end, and was therefore beloved by the Blessed Virgin especially and before all others.

S. Ambrose and Titus of Bostra have commented especially on S. Luke. And Tertullian, in his whole work against Marcion (who had declared the Gospel of S. Luke, though adulterated, to be his own), treats of and explains many passages of this Gospel. Cardinal Toletus, also, wrote at length, and with exactness, on the first twelve chapters.






Ver1.—Forasmuch as many. Maldonatus is of opinion that the Evangelists Matthew and Mark are intended; but these were not many, but only two. S. Luke rather seems here to allude to the Apocryphal Gospels, which were circulated under the names of Matthias, Thomas, and other apostles.

Most surely believed. Completæ sunt, Vulgate. πεπληζοφζημένων, Greek. This word signifies—1. fully accomplished; 2. surely ascertained: as it is rendered by S. Ambrose, Theophylact, Euthymius.

Ver2.—Which from the beginning were eye-witnesses, &c. Ipsi viderunt, Vulgate. αυ̉τόπται καὶ ύπηζέται γενόμενοι το̃υ λόγου, Greek: that is who were eyewitnesses (oculares spectactores) and ministers of the word: which we may understands—1. of Christ, for He is the Word of the Eternal Father; the meaning then will be, "As the Apostles who saw Christ Himself and ministered to Him delivered them to us." 2. Of ordinary preaching; the meaning then will be, "As they delivered them who saw the deeds of Christ, and were sent by Him to preach the Gospel."

Ver3.—Having had perfect understanding. παζηκολουθηκότι, Greek: that is "carefully investigating," and therefore "having understood."

In order. καθεξη̃ς, Greek; that is—1. successively, 2. distinctly, in order so as to relate, first the conception of Christ, then His nativity, afterwards His life, and lastly His death and resurrection.

Theophilus. Theophilus was a noble and chief man of Antioch, who was converted by S. Peter and dedicated his house as a church in which S Peter held assemblies of Christians, and placed his chair as primate, as S. Clement relates Recog. lib10, cap. ult. Baronius conjectures that S. Luke, who was a physician and painter of Antioch, wrote to Theophilus as a citizen and as his own intimate friend; Theophylact adds that S. Luke was a catechumen of Theophilus, for S. Peter by himself was not able to instruct the multitude who came together to be taught the faith of Christ, and therefore he made use of the labours of many others for instructing the faithful. He is called most excellent, which was a title given to governors and magistrates; he seems therefore to have been a senator or governor of Antioch.

Ver4.—That thou mayest know the certainly. Veritatem, truth, Vulgate. άσφάλειαν, Greek, certainty, stability.

Ver5.—There was in the days of Herod. S. Luke begins by mentioning the name of Herod to point out the time when John the Baptist and Christ were born; and also to show that the sceptre had now departed from Judah, and had passed over to an alien, and therefore that the time for the advent of the Messiah was at hand according to the prophecy of Jacob, Genesis 49:10. This Herod was the first of that name, surnamed the Great, the father and grandfather of the others. He was a native of Ascalon, an Idumæan by nation, in character a tyrant. By the favour of Caesar he held the kingdom of Judæa; but Christ thrust him and his descendants out of this kingdom, and claimed for Himself the kingdom over Israel which by right was due to Him, though it must be understood as a spiritual kingdom.

Hence he is rightly called Herod, for Herod in Syriac is the same as "a fiery dragon." According to Pagninus, Herod signifies in Hebrew "the conception of threshing," for הדה is to conceive, and דוש to thresh, because he slew the infants in Bethlehem.

Zacharias. He was a priest and also a prophet, as will appear from verses64,67. Whence his name is enrolled among the saints in the Roman Martyrology for the5th of November: where Baronius, following Origen, Nyssen, Cyril, and Peter Alexander, is of opinion that this Zacharias was the martyr who was slain by Herod between the Temple and the Altar, and therefore that he was the one whom Christ mentions, S. Matthew 23:35. His head is preserved and shown at Rome in the Lateran Basilica, from which there is a tradition that formerly blood trickled during several days. I have seen it there and venerated it.

Of the course of Abia. Of that class of the priests of which in the time of David Abia was the head. For David, seeing that the priests, the sons of Aaron, had increased to a large number, so that all could not at once minister in the Temple, distributed them into twenty-four classes, so that each class might minister in the Temple during one week in succession. And that there might be no strife among them as to which course should be the first, second, or third, &c., these families cast lots, and obtained the first place or second, &c., according as the lot came out. In this drawing of lots the eighth place fell to Abia and his descendants. All this is clear from 1 Chronicles 24:1-6. Josephus (Antiq. vii. II) says of David, "He found twenty-four families of priests, and he appointed that each family should minister before God during eight days, from Sabbath to Sabbath," in order to avoid confusion and strife among the priests.

And his wife was the daughter of Aaron. Priests could marry a wife from another tribe because they had no inheritance in the land of Israel, which by the marriage of the wife (if she through the failure of male offspring were the heir of her father) passed over to her husband"s tribe, and so a confusion was caused of inheritances and tribes which was forbidden by the law. But Zacharias having more regard to religion, married a wife not only of the daughters of Levi but of Aaron. Wherefore S. Ambrose says, "Not only from his parents but from his ancestors the illustrious descent of S. John is derived, a descent not exalted by secular power, but venerable from its sanctity. She was called Elizabeth from the wife of the first high priest Aaron, Exodus 6:23. This Elizabeth was holy, and a prophetess: whence her memory is observed in the Roman Martyrology on the5th November. From her S. Elizabeth, daughter of Andrew, king of the Hungarians, surnamed the mother of the poor, and her niece S. Elizabeth, the queen of Portugal took, their name together with her sanctity.

And her name was Elizabeth. Zacharias in Hebrew is the same as "God remembered;" and Elizabeth, "the oath of God," or "the sceptre and dominion," or "rest," or "fulness of God." So that the meaning is that God, mindful of His oath, united these two in marriage, that He might raise up the sceptre of the house of David, and bestow rest and plenty and abundance on His own.

Ver6.—Righteous (just) before God. Many appear just before men, but few before God, because men look upon the countenance, but God on the heart and conscience. S. Francis says truly, "Each man is what he is before God, and no more."

Walking in all the commandments, &c. Commandments, i.e. the moral precepts of the Decalogue. Ordinances, i.e. the ceremonial precepts.

God gave to the Hebrews by Moses precepts of three kinds1. Moral precepts, which are contained in the two tables of the law2. Judgments which relate to justice and human polity, and chiefly concern princes3. Statutes, decrees ceremonial, pertaining to the sacrifices and rites observed in the worship of God. These are called here and elsewhere Justications, Vulgate: first, because those who observe them do what is most right and just, that is to say, perform the service and worship which is most rightfully due to God. Secondly, because by the observance of these men formerly under the old law were justified legally; for those who fulfilled them were considered just persons by the Synagogue, and that not only before man but before God, if they performed those things from the true love of God. For the doers of the law are justified, Romans 2:13.

Blameless. Sine querelâ, Vulgate; άμεμπτοι, Greek. Mark here that the faithful can, yea, ought to observe all the commandments of God; wherefore it is possible to keep them, and not impossible, as Calvin blasphemously asserts, who in this place makes a wonderful exhibition of himself, and all but says that Luke the Evangelist is a liar.

Further, blameless may be interpreted as "without mortal sin," for no just man in this life can avoid all venial sins.

Ver7.—Well stricken in years. He says this to show that John was born of them, not in the way of nature, but by the gift of God and by a miracle, like other eminent saints, as Isaac, Joseph, Samuel. S. Augustine (Serm. iii. on John the Baptist) says Elizabeth was barren in body but fruitful in virtues; her child-bearing was not taken away from her, but it was delayed, until the time of fleshly desire had passed away. . . . In short, when all that causes blame as regards the body was quenched, and they became altogether blameless, all that speaks of barrenness is gone; old age springs into new life, faith conceives, chastity brings forth, one greater than man, one equal to the angels is born, the trumpet of heaven, the herald of Christ, the mystery of the Father, the messenger of the Son, the standard-bearer of the heavenly King, the pardon of sinners, the correction of the Jews, the calling of the Gentiles, and, so to say, the uniting bond of the Law and Grace.

Ver9.—According to the custom of the priesthood his lot was. That is, according to Bede, in his own course, which was the eighth in order, according to the lot which had originally fallen to the family of Abia. But mention of this course has been made in verse8; and therefore the lot spoken of in verse9 is different from the course, and more particularly limits the course. The meaning, therefore, is that when Zacharias, in the order of his course, was ministering in the temple, among the various offices of the priests the office of burning incense fell to him by lot. For because there were many priests of the course of Abia, it was appointed to them by lot what office each of them should perform in the Temple. For there were four principal offices (see Exodus xxx.)—1. To sacrifice2. To light the lamps on the seven-branched candlestick3. On the sabbath-day to place twelve new loaves on the table of shewbread4. To burn incense on the altar of incense. This fourth office, therefore, had fallen by lot to Zacharias, while the three others had fallen to other priests of the same class of Abia. This is clear from the Greek έλαχε του̃ θυμια̃σαι, "he had obtained by lot to burn incense."

Some, as S. Ambrose, Bede, Theophylact, and S. Augustine think that Zacharias was the high priest, because he burnt incense on the altar of incense, for they think that this was in the Holy of holies, which no one except the high priest might enter. But I have shown (Exod. xl24), that this altar was not in the Holy of holies, but in the Holy place, which the common priests used to enter daily. The expression here used, it was his lot (sorte exiit. Vulgate) confirms this; for the high priest was superior to all lots, and, whenever he chose, used to minister in the temple. Besides, at this time, not Zacharias but Joazar was the high priest, as Josephus tells us (Antiq. xvii8).

Morally, we may learn that angels appear while we are engaged in sacred things, and that God either Himself or by an angel speaks with the soul when we are engaged in prayer or sacrifice, as the angel appeared to Zacharias when he was burning incense.

Ver10.—And the whole multitude were praying without. That is in the court outside the Holy place or Temple, which the priests alone, might enter. There were two courts; the inner one, of the priests, containing the altar of burnt-offering; and the outer one, of the people, who from it beheld the sacrifices offered by the priests: but the altar of incense which was in the Holy place they could not see.

At the time of incense. That is to say, when the priests burnt the incense; for according to the religious usage of all nations incense was burnt in the worship of God.

Ver11.—There appeared unto him an angel (Gabriel, as is clear from v19), standing on the right side of the altar1. Because he had come to announce good tidings. Euthymius2. Because he brought down the token of Divine mercy, for the Lord is on my right hand, therefore I shall not be moved. S. Ambrose. We may learn from this that angels stand by altars, priests and sacrifices, and co-operate with them in the worship and adoration of God. Of this there are many instances in the lives of the saints, some of which I have mentioned, Exodus 29:38; Leviticus 9:24.

Ver12.—Zacharias was troubled. Both because of the unusual sight, and because of the majesty in which he appeared, which human weakness could scarcely endure to behold: "for man is not strong enough to bear such a strange and unusual sight without alarm." Titus. So Daniel, when the same angel appeared to him, says, "There remained no strength in me, and my comeliness was turned into corruption." Hence it is the sign of a good angel if at first he causes fear and afterwards joy; but of a bad angel if he makes a man sorrowful after causing joy; whence S. Antony says, "If joy has succeeded to fear we may know that the vision is from God; for the peace of the soul is a sign of the Divine presence; but if the fear remains unshaken it is an enemy who is seen."

Ver13.—Thy prayer is heard. Not his prayer for offspring, S. Augustine says, of which he now so despaired that he did not believe the promise of the angel (verse20), but thy prayer as a priest for the sins of the people and for the coming of the Messiah. But God, who goes beyond the merits and the prayers of suppliants, promised him a son who should be the prophet and forerunner. So Bede, Theophylact, S. Augustine, S. Chrysostom.

Some, however, are of opinion that this prayer of Zacharias was for offspring, only that it had been offered not at this time, but formerly when he was younger.

Thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. Because John, according to Maldonatus, is the same in Hebrew as beloved: or, according to Pagninus, the gift of mercy of the Lord. This is not, however, the precise meaning; for then he would have rather been called Hananiah than John. Properly, therefore, the name John signifies, God hath had merey. And He did this first when He heard the prayer of Zacharias; and secondly by appointing John as the forerunner of the Messiah, and soon after by sending the Messiah Himself; for it was by Christ, and not by Moses and the law, that grace came. So the son of Anna was called Samuel, that is asked and obtained from God by the tears of his mother for the salvation of the whole people, 1 Samuel 1:20. Thirdly, God also showed mercy on John himself (Bede, Jansen, Maldonatus), by filling him with His manifold grace, by which He made him a Doctor in Israel, a Prophet, an Anchorite, a Martyr, a Virgin, and the Forerunner of Christ. John therefore was, as it were, the Son of Charities and Graces, in whom all the Graces of God seem to have blended together.

Mark here the threefold mystery of the three names: for Elizabeth, that is, the oath of God who promiseth, and Zacharias, God"s remembrance of His promise, are the parents of John, that is, the mercy and grace of God.

Ver14.—And thou shalt have joy and gladness. Thy son shall be to thee and to many others the cause of the greatest joy and exultation.

Ver15.—Great in the sight of the Lord: to Whom alone it belongs to determine what is great, what is ordinary, and what is small. Many, says S. Theophylact, are called great in the sight of men, who, being little, esteem little things as great; but John was great in the sight of the Lord, who, being great, weigheth things that are great.

He was great on account—1. of his sanctification in his mother"s womb; 2. the depth of his humility; 3. his extraordinary charity; 4. his exemplary penitence; 5. his seraphic zeal; 6. his whole life, which was as much human as angelic; 7. the sublimity of his prophesying; 8. his solitary life; 9. his office of forerunner of Christ; 10. his most noble martyrdom. See the twenty eight privileges ascribed to John, which Baradius enumerates here.

And he shall not drink wine nor strong drink. Strong drink (Sicera) is everything that intoxicates. To abstain from wine and strong, drink was peculiar to Nazarites; and from this place it appears that John was one during the whole of his life.

And he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother"s womb. This was when, on the entrance of the Blessed Virgin he leapt in his mother"s womb, and, as far as he could, fulfilled his office of forerunner. John, therefore, was born again of the Spirit before he was born of his mother.

Was John then truly cleansed from original sin in the womb and justified? S. Augustine ( Ephesians 57) and S. Jerome (in Jerem. i.) maintain that he was not; for they say that John and Jeremiah are both said to have been sanctified in the womb not really, but according to the predestination of God; for they were ordained to future sanctity so that the same is said here concerning John that the Apostle says of himself, Gal. i., "Who separated me from my mother"s womb." The reason that S. Augustine gives is, that to be born again presupposes being born; but John when in the womb was not yet born; therefore he could not have been born again in reality, but only according to the predestination of God.

But the common opinion of the Fathers is contrary to this (S. Athanasius, Cyprian, Ambrose, Gregory, and others) which I approve of—First, because the angel here most clearly promises "he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother"s womb." Secondly, because at the salutation of the Blessed Virgin he believed in Christ when in the womb. For at that time it was when he was visited and saluted by the Blessed Virgin, in the sixth month from his conception that this wonderful sanctification took place. To the argument of S. Augustine I answer, that a man in order that he may be born again may be considered as born when he has been conceived in the womb; for then as he is born in original sin so also he can by grace be born again and even baptized, as is clear from the practice of the Church in certain cases.

Ver17.—He shall go before Him. John went before Christ1. In his birth, for he was born six months before Christ2. In his baptism, for he baptized before Christ did; yea, he even baptized Christ3. In preaching, of repentance that he might prepare the way for Christ4. By pointing out Jesus as the Messiah and Lamb of God who should take away the sin of the world5. By suffering martyrdom before Christ6. In descending to the fathers in limbus, and announcing to them that Christ would soon come and set them free.

In the spirit and power of Elias. As Elias did excel and in the end of the world will excel in a spirit steadfast and powerful for contending against Antichrist, so that he will convert Jews and others from him to Christ; so in the same powerful spirit John will excel, and by his preaching and holy example move the hardened Jews to repentance, and so prepare them for the baptism of Christ.

The spirit of power in John was like that in Elias; 1. In the austerity of his life2. They both lived in solitude. And 3, in poverty and contempt of the world4. In zeal, and in fervour of preaching, by which both of them converted many Israelites to repentance, and Elias will again do so in the last days, according to the saying (Ecclesiasticus xlviii1), "Elias stood up like fire, and his word burned like a lamp." In the same way Christ says of John, "He was a burning and a shining light," S. John 5:35. 5. In fortitude and suffering: for as Elias contended against the priests of Baal, and their patrons Ahab and Jezebel, and again in the last days will contend against Antichrist and his followers and will suffer many things from them and at last be slain as a martyr; so John contended against Herod and Herodias, and being beheaded by them obtained the crown of martyrdom.

John here is rather compared to Elias in his future coming than in his past; because, as Elias will precede the second coming of Christ with great spirit and power, so likewise John with the same spirit, and power will precede the first coming of Christ. S. Ambrose says that he will go before Him "in the spirit and power of Elias, because Elias had great power and grace, so that he turned back the hearts of the people to faith, power of abstinence, and patience and the spirit of prophecy. Elias was in the wilderness; so also was John. . . . The one sought not the favour of Ahab; the other despised that of Herod. The one divided Jordan; the other brought men to the laver of salvation. The one was the forerunner of our Lord"s first advent, the other of His second," &c.

To turn the hearts of the fathers, &c. John did this when he urged them by word and example to imitate the faith and piety of their fathers; for thus the fathers acknowledged their children as the worshippers of the true God. These words are taken from Malachi, who speaks literally of Elias, typically of John.

And the disobedient, &c. Greek α̉πειθει̃ς, Vulgate, incredulos. That is, he will turn them to the faith and wisdom which the just had and have concerning Christ, which consists in the fear and love of God and of heavenly things, and not perishable, according to the teaching of Christ (Maldonatus). Or, John will cause the unbelieving Jews to consider the signs of the coming of the Messiah given by God to the fathers, and from them to know and believe that Christ has already come, and that this Jesus, whom John pointed out as such, is He.

A people prepared, &c. Perfectam, Vulgate; κατασκευασμενον, Greek; that is well and perfectly prepared and made ready for receiving the teaching and faith of Christ, and the perfection of grace, justice, and the Christian life brought by Christ from heaven.

Ver18.—And Zacharias said to the angel, &c. That is, give a sign or a miracle for a proof to me that the great things which you are promising will surely come to pass. This hesitation on the part of Zacharias seems to have proceeded from want of deliberation and reflection, and therefore was only a venial sin, for which he was punished by being deprived of the power of speech. For otherwise did Abraham, who, when the angel promised that Isaac should be born to him from Sarah who was barren, immediately believed, "for he was strong in faith, giving glory to God, being fully persuaded that what He had promised, He was able also to perform," Romans 4:20-21.

Ver19.—I am Gabriel, who stand. That is, "I am wont to stand, ready to minister to the will of God in all things; I am not indeed now standing before Him in heaven, for I have been sent thence to thee to the earth." Although on the earth angels may also stand before God, and behold His Face; for God is everywhere (S. Matt. xviii10). Hence we may gather that the same angels stand before God and minister to Him, although S. Dionysius the Areopagite and S. Gregory deny this; for Gabriel stands before God and ministers to Him, and is sent to Zacharias.

Moreover, the words "stand before" signify that Gabriel is one of the seven angels who are the chiefs of the heavenly court, as are also Michael and Raphael ( Tobit 12:15). Of these seven angels I have spoken at length on Apocal. i4. Wherefore although some, as Toletus, are of opinion that Gabriel belongs to the last order but one, which is that of archangels, because he is elsewhere called an archangel, yet he more truly seems to be one of the first order which is that of seraphim, and therefore is called by many an archangel; and there are not wanting some who think that he is the first of all among the seraphim. Cardinal Vignerius (in Decachordo Christ. Cord i2) proves this by eight reasons which I have enumerated on Daniel 9:21. All of which are reduced to this one. For the highest work it is fitting that the highest angel should be sent; but the Incarnation of the Word is the highest work of God, therefore Gabriel, who was sent to announce that, is the highest angel. But this reason is not conclusive, as I have there shown. For the common opinion of theologians is that Michael is the highest of all the angels, and the Antagonist of Lucifer. Apocal12:7.

Gabriel in Hebrew means God hath strengthened me, or the strength of God, or God is my strength. He is therefore fitly sent to announce the birth of John and to bestow upon him the spirit of power.

Ver20.—And behold thou shall be dumb, &c. Theophylact and S. Ambrose translated, "thou shalt be deaf," and so make a distinction from what follows, "and not able to speak." For although the Greek word σιωπω̃ν properly signifies one who is dumb, yet one who is deaf may be understood by the same word; for dumbness and deafness are naturally connected, for those who are born dumb are also deaf, and vice versa. Wherefore the Greeks alike call a dumb and a deaf man κω̃φν. Zacharias therefore was made deaf as well as dumb. Whence in verse22he is called κω̃φος. Hence at verse62his friends and neighbours do not speak to Zacharias as being deaf, but signify to him by signs that he should write the name by which he wished his son to be called. "He rightly," says Theophylact, "suffered these two things, the loss of hearing and the loss of speech; for because he had been disobedient, he incurs the punishment of deafness; and because he had objected, of silence."

Until the day that these things, &c. Zacharias not believing the promises of the angel, had asked for a sign to be given him of the birth of John; the angel therefore complying gives him a sign which at the same time shall be a punishment.

Ver23.—The days of his ministration, &c. λειτουζγίας, Greek. That is of his sacred ministration in the Temple. His house was situated in the mountains of Judæa, where his wife Elizabeth was.

Ver24.—After those days his wife conceived. Elizabeth conceived about the24th of September, on which day many Christian Churches celebrate the conception, of John. So that the incense was offered by Zacharias, and his vision and the promise of the angel concerning the birth of John seem to have taken place a little earlier, during the feast of Tabernacles. By this it was signified that John would be born, who was to be the herald of Christ, and through Him the cause of common joy to the whole world; for he would teach men that they were strangers upon the earth, and that they dwelt in it as in a temporary tabernacle, and that they were enrolled by God as citizens of heaven, where they would obtain an eternal and most blessed home. For the Feast of Tabernacles was a sign of all these things, during which the Hebrews with branches of palm trees used to celebrate dances joyfully, because they had been brought in by God into the promised land, after they had been dwelling in tents in the wilderness. Hence it seems that John was conceived about the time of the autumnal equinox, and born about the time of the summer solstice, after which the days decreased in length; while on the other hand, Christ was conceived at the vernal equinox, and born at the winter solstice, after which the days increase; because, as John said, "He must increase, but I must decrease."

She hid herself five months, &c. This hiding was a sign of shame and modesty; for she blushed at her child-bearing on account of her age, says S. Ambrose; but in the sixth month when she heard and saw that kinswoman the Blessed Virgin had conceived without losing her virginity (which was a much more strange and wonderful thing), then she laid aside her shame and went forth openly.

My reproach. Among the Jews in that age, barrenness was a great reproach, and was considered as a sign of the malediction of God.

Ver26.—ln the sixth month. That is the sixth month of the conception of John. Christ was therefore six months younger that John the Baptist. We ought to understand that this six month was not beginning but ending, or rather ended; for from the24th of September, when John was conceived, to the25th of March, when Christ was conceived, there are six whole months. The Annunciation therefore by Gabriel, and consequently the Incarnation of the Word, took place on the25th of March; on which day likewise, Christ, after completing the thirty-fourth year of His life, was crucified. Many are of opinion that the world was created on the same day; so that it was created by God on the same day on which it was afterwards recreated and restored by Christ in His Incarnation and Cross. Whence it is that from this day of March, the English, the Venetians, the Pisans, and several other nations reckon the years after Christ.

The Angel Gabriel. S. Jerome remarks on Daniel 8. that there are three angels, Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel, who are especially mentioned in Scripture; of whom Michael presides over the prayers and offerings of the faithful and is therefore called Michael (that is, who is like God); for it is the prerogative of God alone to hear the prayers of penitents: while Raphael presides over the healing of men"s bodies, and he therefore restored sight to Tobias when he was blind; whence he is called Raphael (that is the Healer or the Healing, of God); and thirdly Gabriel (or the strength of God) presides over the conflicts and wars of the faithful (as is clear from Daniel 12 &c.). Wherefore he is sent to announce the birth of Christ, who was to carry on a most severe war against Lucifer, and the rest of the demons and impious men. Again Gabriel in Hebrew means man of God; the meaning of which is that God will be incarnate, and will be a child as to nature and age; but yet He will also be a man, because from the first instant of His conception His soul will be full of all knowledge, grace, and strength, according to the saying of Jeremiah 31:22, a woman shall compass a man. Again, Toletus following Basil, Dionysius and others, is of opinion that Michael was one of the principalities, which S, Dionysius places as the first order of the third hierarchy of angels, but that Gabriel was of the order of archangels; but it is more probable that Michael was of the order of the seraphim, and that Gabriel was next to him.

Nazareth. Whence Christ was called a Nazarene, being, as it were, the country in which he was conceived. The Blessed Virgin therefore dwelt there with Joseph, to whom she was betrothed. The house or chamber in which she conceived Christ was consecrated by S. James and the other Apostles as a church. After three hundred years S. Helen built a temple there. Also S. Paula, S. Louis, and other travellers visited it. After a thousand years it was translated by angels from Nazareth to Dalmatia and thence to Italy, to Loretto, where it even now stands, and is visited by pilgrims from the whole world; so that Erasmus himself thus addresses the Virgin of Loretto, "Hail to thee, 0 noble offspring of kings, the beauty of priests, the glory of patriarchs, the triumph of the heavenly hosts, the terror of hell, the hope and solace of Christians; thou art next to the Divine nature; do not, we pray thee, be wanting to us; I prostrate myself at thy feet, preserve my poor soul, I beseech thee."

Ver27.—To a Virgin espoused to a man, &c. Espoused, not by betrothal only but by matrimony already contracted, although not actually consummated, see Matthew 1:18. S. Gregory Thaumasius (Serm3de Annun.) says, "Gabriel is sent to prepare a chamber worthy of the most pure Bridegroom; he is sent to contract espousals between the creature and the Creator." Also S. Bernard (Serm1de Assump.) well says, "There is no place in the world of greater dignity than the temple of the virginal womb in which Mary conceived the Son of God, nor in heaven is there any place of higher dignity than the royal throne on which her Son has exalted Mary." And in Serm4, "What angelic purity even may we venture to compare with that virginity, which was worthy of becoming the shrine of the Holy Spirit, and the abode of the Son of God."

Mary. In Hebrew Miriam, that is, Mar Yam, myrrh, or bitterness of the sea; for the Hebrews have a tradition that the sister of Moses was called Miriam, because when she was born the bitter tyranny of Pharaoh in drowning the Hebrew children began. But, by the Divine will, the name was afterwards changed to a different meaning, for after the Red Sea had been crossed and Pharaoh had been drowned, she was called Mariam (Mara Yam), that is mistress of the sea; for as Moses was the leader of the men, so Miriam was the leader of the women in the passage of the Red Sea. Moreover she was a type, says S. Ambrose, of the Blessed Virgin, who is called Mary, that is the Mistress and Lady of the sea of this world, that she may lead us through it in safety to the promised land, that is heaven. S. Isidore (vii. Etym. cap10) says, "Mary is by interpretation illuminator or star of the sea; for she brought forth the Light of the world. But in the Syrian language Mary is called Lady, because she brought forth the Lord."

For this reason Mary was full of grace, and a sea of graces; for as all rivers run into the sea, so all graces which angels, patriarchs, apostles, martyrs, confessors, virgins possessed, came together in her, as S. Bonaventura says. S. Bridget also shows in her Revelations, i9, how delightful the name of Mary is to the angels, and how terrible to demons.

And the angel came in unto her, &c. He glided into the chamber of the Virgin as she was praying in secret for the advent of the Messiah and the salvation of men, either through the window or through the door. For angels, since they are most pure spirits, by means of their subtlety pass through all walls and bodies. Although Andrew, Bishop of Jerusalem, in a sermon on the Annunciation, thinks that the angel secretly opened the door and modestly saluted the Virgin.

Hail, Ave. It is very probable that the angel used the ordinary salutation of the Hebrews, שלום לך, Peace be to thee. Unless the opinion of Serarius is to be preferred, that ave is the Hebrew חוה chave or have, that is, "Live;" so that there is an allusion to the name of Eve, which is in Hebrew חוה chava, that is the mother of all living ( Genesis 3:20), so that the meaning will be, Eve was not the mother of life but of death, because by sin she delivered over all her children to death, but thou, 0 Mary, art truly called Eve, because thou art the mother of life, grace, and glory. Hence in Latin ave is Eva reversed, because Mary turned the maledictions of Eve into blessings.

Highly favoured. Gratia plena, Vulgate, full of grace. Greek, κεχαζιτωμένη, which Beza translates gratis dilecta, freely loved; for he thinks that the just have no inherent and intrinsic, but only an extrinsic righteousness, which consists in this, that, although they be sinners, God of his own good will holds and reckons them as just; which is heresy.

But κεχαζιτωμένη answers to the Hebrew נחנה, filled with grace or made acceptable; for χαζιτοω, signifies I make acceptable, I render beloved or dear, I fill with grace. For God judges nothing to be acceptable except what is truly in itself acceptable; wherefore when He makes any one just and acceptable to Himself, He bestows upon him the gift of justice and inherent grace. Wherefore κεχαζιτωμένη is the same as full of grace: as it is rendered in our version and the Syrian, &c.; also by S. Ambrose and others of the Fathers. This word therefore signifies—1. That the Blessed Virgin had a gift of grace bestowed upon her by God, and that, in a full measure of excellence beyond other just and holy persons, for this epithet is applied solely to the Blessed Virgin, to the end that she might be made worthy to become in time the Mother of God. 2. That she by means of this gift of grace was wonderfully well-pleasing in the sight of God and of all His angels, and in their eyes altogether lovely and beautiful, so that Christ chose her before all others for His mother.

You will say that Christ was more full of grace than the Blessed Virgin. Others also of the saints are said to have been full of the Holy Spirit, as Stephen.

I answer that they are said to have been full of grace, but in different ways. For, as Maldonatus rightly says, a fountain is full of water, so is a river, so are streams, although there is more water and purer in a fountain than in a river, and in a river than in streams. Christ is full of grace, like a fountain where grace gushes forth and is collected as in a reservoir, and from which it flows forth to all men, as from a head to the members. The mother of Christ is full like a river very near a fountain, which although it has less water than a fountain, yet flows with a full channel. Stephen is full like a stream.

S. Augustine (Serm xviii de Sanctus) says, "Mary is filled with grace, and Eve is made clear from guilt; the curse of Eve is changed into the blessing of Mary." Toletus (annotat67) shows that the Blessed Virgin was full of all grace, both in body and soul. For she was free from concupiscence (fomite concupiscenti), so that in her the flesh was subject to the reason and the spirit, as was the case with Adam in Paradise through original righteousness. Wherefore he adds that in her, nature conspired with grace and co-operated with it in every respect. See also what I have said concerning her in the Commentary on the Canticles, especially on those words (c. iv7), Thou art all fair, my love, there is no spot in thee.

S. Jerome (Serm. de Assump. B.V.) says, "It is well said that she was full of grace, because on others grace is bestowed partially (per partes), but the fulness of grace in complete treasure was infused into Mary." And again, "The entire fulness of grace, which is in Christ, came upon Mary, although in a different way."

Suarez shows that the grace possessed by the Blessed Virgin in the first instant of her conception was greater than the grace which the highest angel possesses, who by one or two acts has perfected all his merits, and therefore she merited more than thousands of men merit through their whole life. Wherefore the Blessed Virgin in this first instant loved and praised God with such earnestness of intention that she exceeded the love, and consequently also the merit, of the highest angel. But in the second instant of her co-operation and love, by means of the increase of grace which in the first instant she had merited and had in reality received, she doubled the degrees of love and consequently also of merit; and in the third instant, by doubling the same she quadrupled both merit and grace; and so in every instant, by doubling continually the grace she had received, until her death in the seventy-second year of her age, she had increased the degrees of grace and merit to such an extent that she altogether excelled in them all men and angels taken together. Wherefore she by herself alone is more acceptable to God than all the rest; and God loves the Blessed Virgin alone more than the whole Church, that is, more than all men and angels taken together. See also the Revelations of S. Bridget i10.

The Lord is with thee. The angel gives the reason why she was full of grace, that is, because the Lord was with her in a singular manner, so that He wrought in her the singular work of the Incarnation of the Word. S. Bernard (Serm3) says, "What wonder is it that she was full of grace with whom the Lord was? But this rather is to be wondered at, how He who had sent the angel to the Virgin was found by the angel with the Virgin. Was God then swifter than the angel, so that He outstripped him and reached the earth before His swift messenger? Nor is it to be wondered at. For since the king was on His couch, the sweet ointment of the Virgin gave forth its odour, and the smoke of spices went up in the sight of His glory, and she found grace in the eyes of the Lord." And further on he shows that God is in all creatures by power, in rational beings by knowledge, in the good by love, and therefore He is with them by concord of the will, for it is by means of this that they unite themselves to God. Then he adds, "But since He is in this way with all the saints, yet He was in an especial manner with Mary, between whom and Himself there was such a consent that He joined not only her will, but her flesh to Himself, and of His own and the Virgin"s substance made one Christ; who although He is not wholely of God nor wholely of the Virgin, yet He is wholely God"s and wholely the Virgin"s, and not two sons, but the one son of both." Then he shows that the whole Trinity was with the Blessed Virgin. "Not only is the Lord the Son with thee whom thou art clothing with thy flesh, but also the Lord the Spirit by Whom thou art conceiving, and the Lord the Father who begat Him whom thou art conceiving."

S. Bridget (Revel. iii29), conversing with the Blessed Virgin, says, Thou art made like to the Temple of Solomon, in which the true Solomon moves, and He sits who has made peace between God and man. Blessed therefore art thou, 0 Blessed Virgin, in whom the great God became a little child, the eternal God and invisible Creator became a visible creature." The Blessed Virgin answers, "Why do you compare me with Solomon and his Temple, since I am the mother of Him Who has neither beginning nor end, for the Son of God, Who is my Son, is Priest and King of kings. In short, in my Temple He clothed Himself spiritually with the priestly garments in which He offered sacrifice for the world."

Further S. Thomas (Qust. xxx. art4) expounds the words the Lord is with thee of the Conception and Incarnation of the Word, which was presently to take place, but which had not already taken place; as I shall show at verse38.

Blessed art thou among women. The same was said of Jael and Judith, but it is said here of the Blessed Virgin in a far more excellent way, for she excelled Jael and Judith, and all virgins and matrons a thousand times in blessings, gifts, and graces.

S. Augustine (Serm18 de Sanctis) says, "Blessed art thou among women, for thou hast brought forth life both for men and women. The mother of our race brought punishment into the world; the Mother of our Lord brought salvation to the world. Eve was the originator of sin, Mary of merit." Peter Chrysologus (Serm145) says on these words, "She was truly blessed, for she was greater than the heaven, stronger than the earth, wider than the world; she by herself alone contained God, whom the world contains not; she bore Him Who bears the world; she brought forth Him by Whom she had been begotten, she gives nourishment to the Nourisher of all things living."

Among women. That he might signify that whatever is most excellent in the threefold condition of women is found in the Blessed Virgin. For women are either virgins or widows, or living in matrimony. In Virgins chastity is praised, but not barrenness; in widows liberty of mind is commanded, but not solitude, for it is written (Eccles. iv10) "Woe to him that is alone, for when he falleth he hath not one to lift him up." In matrimony the education of offspring in what is good is highly esteemed, but not the loss of Virginity. The Blessed Virgin alone among all women possessed virginity without barrenness; liberty of mind without loss of companionship, since she was really espoused to Joseph; and what is a greater thing than these, fruitfulness in offspring without the violation of virgin chastity. And so she appropriated whatever is good in the threefold state of women, and whatever is evil she rejected. Whereupon deservedly the angel proclaims her Blessed above all women.

Ver29.—She was troubled. First, at the unwonted appearance, brightness, and majesty of the angel. Secondly, at his unwonted salutation. S. Jerome (Epist7) says, "Let a woman imitate Mary, whom Gabriel found alone in her chamber, and therefore, perhaps, she was alarmed at beholding a man whom she was not accustomed to see" Again S. Bernard (Serm. iii. on Missus Est) says, "She was troubled, but not alarmed; her being troubled was a mark of modesty; her not being alarmed of courage; while her keeping silence and meditating was a mark of prudence."

What manner of salutation. That is, how noble and august, and exceeding the strength and merits of all men, and therefore even her own. For she, in the greatness of her humility, thought far different, yea, even contrary things of herself. For she thought within herself; I seem to myself to be in need of all grace, how then does the angel call me fill of grace, I in my poverty live and associate with poor virgins, how then does the angel proclaim to me that the Lord is wish me. I esteem myself the least and lowest of all women, how then does the angel say to me, Blessed art Thou among women.

Again, the Blessed Virgin was meditating to what end she was so honourably saluted by the angel; for the salutation of the angel had reference to the mystery of the Incarnation which was to be accomplished in her. But since she knew not of this end, she meditated and wondered why she was so honourably saluted by the angel. However, she made no answer, because, as S. Ambrose says, "she did not return the salutation through modesty, nor did she make any answer;" because modesty and astonishment fully occupied her mind, and restrained her tongue.

Listen again to S.

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Bibliographical Information
Lapide, Cornelius. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide. 1890.

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary

Luke, the author of this third gospel, was called by Paul the apostle "the beloved physician." There is some speculation that his patron was a man by the name of Theophilus. In those days physicians were often slaves. And there are some who theorize that Luke was Theophilus" personal physician and servant. Whether or not that be so is only a matter of speculation, and thus, worthless to delve into.

Luke was a Greek. And he is the only Gentile to have the privilege of placing scripture in that holy canon of scripture, which we recognize as inspired of God. And there are two New Testament books that are ascribed to Luke. Of course, the gospel according to Luke and then the Acts of the apostles, which he begins again addressing himself to Theophilus saying, "The former treatise have I made onto thee, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach" ( Acts 1:1 ).

There are some who say that the word Theophilus is not actually a person at all, but just the word in Greek, Theophilao is "lover of God". And so that Luke is actually addressing his letter to the lovers of God. However, the people were usually named after hopes or aspirations or whatever of their parents, and there is no real reason to believe that Theophilus was not an actual person. In fact, being addressed as the most excellent Theophilus indicates that he was actually a ruler in the Roman Empire, as that is a title that is given to men who had a ruling position within the Roman Empire.

Luke introduces the gospel to Theophilus in the first four verses of chapter one.

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in an orderly fashion those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them onto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; It seemed good to me also, having had a complete understanding of all of these things from the very first, to write unto thee an orderly progression, most excellent Theophilus. That you may know the certainty of those things, wherein you have been instructed ( Luke 1:1-4 ).

So Luke here declares that he has heard the message from those persons who were actually the eyewitnesses to these things. Now Luke, no doubt, interviewed personally Mary, in order that he might get a complete understanding concerning the circumstances that were surrounding the birth of Jesus. Luke, being a doctor, would be interested in various aspects that bordered on the medical profession. And it is obvious that he received the information of chapters one and two directly from Mary. And so from his interview with Mary and his questioning of Mary, he got the information for chapters one and two. And the information in these two chapters is not found in detail like this in the other gospels. He had heard Peter and John and those who had been with Jesus, those who were eyewitnesses, he heard their stories, as they told of their relationship with Jesus and of the work and the ministry that Jesus preformed. And then he, no doubt, questioned them more thoroughly to get a more complete understanding. And having what he feels to be a complete understanding of the story, he then proceeds to write to this man Theophilus, in order that he might realize the certainty of those things that he had heard.

Now Luke begins then the actual story of the gospel of Jesus by dealing with the birth, first of all, of John the Baptist, who was to be the forerunner of Jesus Christ.

And so there was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth ( Luke 1:5 ).

So immediately we are introduced to the persons that will be involved in the first part of his narrative here.

Zacharias of the tribe of Levi, making him then one of the priests. He was of the family of Abirim. His wife was also of the tribe of Levi. She was a descendent from the family of Aaron. Now at this particular time in Israel, there were around20,000 descendents from Levi, male descendents, involved in the priesthood. And in as much as it was, of course, impossible for all20,000 to serve continually in the temple, each family had their turn to serve, and they served twice during the year for one-week periods. And when it was the turn of your family to serve, they would cast lots to determine what particular aspect of the service you would be engaged in. And maybe once in a lifetime the priest would have his lot to fall upon the offering of the incense before the altar of incense before the Lord. This was usually just a once in a lifetime; one day in your life you get this glorious privilege of going in with the incense before the altar of incense to offer it before the Lord for the people. And so this was surely a significant and a special day for Zacharias, who during the time that he was serving there, the lot fell on him for this particular task.

Now we are told concerning Zacharias and Elisabeth that:

They were both righteous before God, [they] walked in all of the commandments and the ordinances of the Lord blameless ( Luke 1:6 ).

Two beautiful, righteous people who are quite insignificant as far as the world is concerned. People who loved the Lord, people who walked with the Lord, people you would have never heard about, unless they had been so involved in the story of Jesus Christ. The people, because of their involvement, we are told of them.

Now we are also told that:

They had no child, because Elisabeth was barren; and they were both now well stricken in years ( Luke 1:7 ).

That is, the years had taken their toll; they were bent over. They had become feeble. And the idea of well stricken in years is that of feebleness as the result of age.

In that culture it was considered a curse for a woman not to bear a child. And it was legal grounds for divorce. Had Zacharias desire to put away Elisabeth because of her inability to bear children, no one would have questioned him. It would have been accepted by everybody. But, no doubt, there was a tremendous love that they shared together, and they shared this grief and this sorrow together that they were unable to have children.

Now it came to pass, that, while he was fulfilling the priest office before God in the order of his course ( Luke 1:8 ),

They had the priestly orders, and this was one of the weeks that he had to come in for his particular duty of service.

According as was the custom of the priest office, his lot fell that he might burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord ( Luke 1:9 ).

And you can imagine the excitement of this old man, probably the only day in his life. And he probably had given up by now ever having the opportunity of burning incense. When the lots were drawn, his was that lot to burn the incense before the Lord that day.

And the whole multitude of people were praying outside at the time of incense ( Luke 1:10 ).

Now they would go in before the altar of incense, and they would take this little golden bowl that had burning coals that had been taken from the altar where they had offered the sacrifice. The lamb was offered in the morning and in the evening. And they would take the coals from the altar, put it in this little golden bowl, and then they would put the incense on top. And they would go in swinging this little incense burner before the altar incense, and the smoke, the sweet smelling smoke, would ascend up, and it was a beautiful symbolism of how God receives the prayers of His people. Our prayers that we offer to God arise before God as a sweet smelling odor, pleasant, beautiful.

In the book of Revelation, chapter5, when the lamb takes the scroll out of the right hand of Him who is sitting upon the throne, John said, "And the twenty-four elders came forth with their little golden bowls, full of odors, which are the prayers of the saints, and they offered them before the throne of God" ( Revelation 5:8 ).

Now you remember that when God gave to Moses the instructions for building the tabernacle, and all of these furnishings, and the methods of worship were established, the Lord told Moses over, and over, "Now be careful that you make it exactly according to plan." And the reason why he was to make it exactly according to the plan that was given to him was because this whole thing was a model of what is in heaven. If you want to know what the heavenly scene, the throne of God and all looks like, you can study the tabernacle. And it was a model of heavenly things. So, as the priest on earth would take this little golden bowls and fill them with incense and the incense would arise as the prayer, a sweet smelling savor before God, so in heaven. Chapter5 of Revelation, we see it fulfilled in the heavenly scene, as the twenty-four elders offer their little golden bowls full of odors, which are the prayers of the saints.

So a beautiful symbolism there. And so in offering the incense before the altar of incense, which was in the inner court of the temple, in the holy place, not the holy of holies--only the high priest went in there once a year, but the holy place which was just outside of the holy of holies.

And while he was there, the multitude of people were waiting outside. Because it was then customary when he came out to place the blessing of God upon the people. It was a special occasion, and the people would wait for the priest to come out and give them this blessing.

And there appeared onto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said onto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard ( Luke 1:11-13 );

What prayer? For years he had been praying, "Lord, please give me a son." It really gives to us encouragement for persistence in prayer. He didn"t give up. Even though he was now old. Well stricken with years. He was still praying, "Oh, Lord, I"d love to have a son."

thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name, Johanam ( Luke 1:13 ).

Which means the Lord is gracious. It is shortened to John, but the full name is actually Johanam.

And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many will rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the side of the Lord, and he shall drink neither wine, nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother"s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him [that is the Messiah] in the spirit and in the power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord ( Luke 1:14-17 ).

Now the last word of God to man prior to this was in Malachi, the fourth chapter. And the last word of God to man was in Malachi 4:5,"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."

That was the last word of God to man in the old covenant period, prior to the angel meeting Zacharias there at the altar of the Lord. And it is interesting though the Lord has been silent for four hundred years, that very promise, which was the last promise of the old testament, is the first word of the Lord in the new testament, which is the fulfillment of that prophesy, which is about to take place, as this child that will be born, will go forth in the spirit and in the power of Elijah.

Now there is a lot of confusion as regards to John the Baptist, and the prophesy of the coming of Elijah. In John"s gospel we are told that as John was baptizing at the Jordan River, the Pharisees came out and they demanded of him his authority, and who gave him the authority to do these things. They said, "Are you the Messiah?" He said, "No." They said, "Are you Elijah?" He said, "No." "Then who are you?" He said, "I am just the voice of one crying in the wilderness; prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight His path" ( John 1:20-23 ).

And yet, here the angel of the Lord tells his father that he will be going forth in the Spirit and in the power of Elijah.

Now the confusion exists in the fact that there were two comings of the Messiah. The first coming that we find recorded here in the gospel. The second coming for which we presently wait. And even as Elijah will appear before Jesus comes again. So John the Baptist came in the Spirit and in the power of Elijah. And if a person is able to accept it, he was the fulfillment of that promise of Elijah coming before the Lord, to cause the hearts of the children to turn to their fathers, and their fathers to their children.

So the confusion lies in the fact that there are two comings of the Messiah, as well as the two comings of Elijah, both of them to prepare the people for the coming of the Lord.

He shall be great in the sight of the Lord. He was to be as a Nazarene. Not drinking wine or strong drink, but filled with the Holy Spirit, from his mother"s womb.

In a little bit we will be studying where Mary, when she received word that she was to be the instrument through which the Messiah was to be born, went to this little village of Juda, the home of Elisabeth, who at that point was six months pregnant. And when Mary walked in and greeted Elisabeth, Elisabeth felt the baby leap in her womb, and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

So at that time, no doubt, John was also filled with the Holy Spirit, a prenatal experience, which is quite interesting indeed. Even from his mother"s womb.

Now though Zacharias had been praying that he might have a son, the prayers had not really been prayers of faith anymore, just of a hardly even a glimmering hope. Because when this angel told him that he was to have a son, he didn"t believe it. And he challenged the angel.

Zacharias said onto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife is well stricken in years. And the angel answering said onto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and I"ve been sent to speak to thee, and to show thee this glad tidings. And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because you did not believe my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season ( Luke 1:18-20 ).

It is interesting to me that we so often put such great emphasis upon our faith that God will do a certain thing. As though God is almost impotent apart from man"s faith, to operate, or to work. But here with Zacharias, the angel said, "Alright, you want a sign? You"re not going to be able to speak until the day the child is born, because you didn"t believe."

The things that God is going to perform, whether you believe it or not, God is going to do it. Your unbelief will not stop the work of God. It will not hinder the purposes of God. And so many times they put heavy trips on us. You know, as though God"s work is totally responsible upon my hanging in there and believing, and I feel so guilty because maybe I failed God, and thus, people are lost, or whatever, because I failed God. No, God"s purposes shall stand, whether I believe it or not. You see, your believing or not believing doesn"t really hinder the work of God. He is going to do what He is going to do, in spite of us. And that"s sort of comforting, because I"d hate to think that God"s work depended on me and my faithfulness.

You remember when the children of Israel were threatened with extinction because of Haman"s getting the king to sign the degree that all the Jews were to be put to death on a certain day. And Mordecai sent a message to Esther that she should go in before the king and plead the cause of her people. And she responded, "You just don"t do that, that"s not the protocol of the court. Even as his wife I can"t go in there anytime I want to see him. I can"t go in there unless he calls me in. And if anyone would there to go in before the king, not being called, you"re putting your own life in jeopardy. Because if he doesn"t raise the scepter, they"ll put you to death immediately. And so Mordecai sent an answer back, "Do you think that if this degree goes through that you"re going to escape? How do you know, Esther, but what God didn"t bring you to the kingdom for just this purpose?" And then he said, "If you altogether fail, then their deliverance will arise from another corner." God is going to deliver His people. His purposes are going to stand. God is going to deliver His people. But you will lose out completely.

Now God"s work is going to be done. You may lose out on those rewards and blessings that you could have experienced, had you"ve been faithful. But your unfaithfulness is not going to stop that which God has purposed to do.

And so here is Zacharias, filled with unbelief. "How can I know this? I am old man, my wife is an old woman. What do you mean I am going to have a son?" " I am Gabriel."

The last appearance of Gabriel to our knowledge on the earth was about a little over five hundred years prior to this particular event, when Gabriel appeared to the prophet Daniel and gave to Daniel one of the clearest prophesies concerning the time of the coming of the Messiah. It was Gabriel who said unto Daniel that there are seventy sevens determined upon the nation of Israel, to finish the transgression, to make an end of iniquity. To bring in the everlasting righteousness. To anoint the most holy place. To complete the prophetic picture. And no one understand from the time the commandment goes forth to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, to the coming of the Messiah, the prince, will be seven sevens and sixty-two sevens. The walls should be built again in troublous times. And after the sixty-nine sevens will the Messiah be caught off, and receive nothing for Himself, and the people will be dispersed.

And so this amazing prediction of the time of the coming of the Messiah was given by none other than our friend Gabriel. Sort of a timeless fellow, because now it"s over five hundred years later, and he shows up on the scene again. Probably looking as young and fresh as ever. Announcing now to Zacharias that his wife Elisabeth was to bear the son, which was to be the forerunner of the Messiah, as he will go forth in the Spirit and in the power of Elijah to fulfill the prophesy of sending the messenger before the face of the Lord.

It would appear that as God has set in order the things of the universe, that He probably placed Gabriel as the overseer in charge of the details of getting His Son into the world. Preparing the people on the earth, preparing Mary, because it was Gabriel who appeared to Mary. Preparing here Zacharias. It would seem that he has a hard time keeping secrets. He appeared five hundred years earlier and spilled the beans to Daniel of a time that the Messiah would be coming. And so here he is again, some five hundred years later. It will be interesting to meet Gabriel, looking young and fresh as ever, as he is one of those special angels that God has committed great responsibilities to. And I for one am quite anxious to meet Gabriel. Now, I don"t expect him to sit on my bed and pet my dog. And for you who have read that book, you know what I am talking about.

Now the people waited for Zacharias, [They were waiting outside for that blessing from the priest.] and they marveled that he tarried so long in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and so they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple; for he beckoned unto them, and he remained speechless. And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house ( Luke 1:21-23 ).

So, because they only served for a week at the time. In just a few days he left there, Jerusalem, and went to Judea, which is nearby Jerusalem, actually.

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

Her inability to bear children caused her to be a reproach. But the Lord, she says, has taken that away.

And in the sixth month [the same fellow] the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee, named Nazareth. To a virgin who was espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin"s name was Mary ( Luke 1:26-27 ).

Three terms we need to deal with: engaged, espoused, and married. A person could become engaged when they were two years old, because for the most part, marriage was by arrangement. So parents would get together, they would be friends. You have a pretty little girl, your friends would have a nice little boy, and we"re friends with each other, why don"t we have your son marry my daughter? And we make the arrangements. And so here these little kids, they are four years old, walking around saying, "Well, we"re engaged." Because the arrangements had been made by their parents that they would have each other as husband and wife. They felt that decisions as important as marriage should never be left to the capriciousness of youth. They felt that young people didn"t have enough wisdom to choose their mates.

Now as they became older, and usually they were married by the age of fifteen or sixteen years old. And as they became older, one year before they had the marriage ceremony, they entered into a period known as espousal, where they were as though they were married, in that they were committed completely to each other, but there was never a consummation of the marriage during this period of time. However, once they entered into the period of espousal, they were considered married to the extent that if the fellow wanted to break it off, he had to actually get a divorce, even though the marriage at this point had never been consummated.

So Mary and Joseph were in this period of espousal. Where they were totally committed to each other and to the marriage of each other, and yet, the marriage was not to be consummated until the ceremony at a later time.

And so, "To the virgin who was espoused," she was in this period of the one year before the actual consummation of the marriage, "to a man whose name was Joseph of the house of David, and the virgin"s name was Mary."

And the angel Gabriel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou art highly favored, the Lord is with you: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at what he was saying, and thought in her mind what kind of a greeting is this. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name Jehoshua ( Luke 1:28-31 ).

Which in Greek is Jesus, but in Hebrew Jehoshua, which means, Jehovah is salvation.

Now you remember in Matthew"s gospel when Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant, and he was really troubled by it, because they were espoused. He thought he might just give her a bill of divorcement, put her away privately, because if he would her expose her publicly she"d be stoned to death. And the angel of the Lord came to Joseph at night and said, "Fear not to take Mary as your wife. That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit, and thou shalt call His name Jehoshua" ( Matthew 1:20-21 ). So both Mary and Joseph were instructed by the angel of the Lord in the naming of Jesus. But when he told Joseph, "Call his name Jehoshua," he said, "For He shall save His people from their sins."

So the name is extremely significant because it expresses the mission of Jesus, and that is bringing God"s salvation to men. Jehoshua, the Lord is become our salvation.

Then the angel Gabriel went on to say,

He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of His father David ( Luke 1:32 ):

And, of course, throughout the Old Testament prophesies, there was that promise that the Messiah would sit upon the throne of David, to order it, and to establish it in righteousness and in judgment, from henceforth, even forever.

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

In the book of Revelation, again, that glorious song that Handel has put to music, "King of Kings and Lord of Lords, forever and ever, hallelujah, hallelujah."

So the angel is telling about the eternal reign of Jesus Christ.

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

Now there is a vast difference between the question of Zacharias and the question of Mary. Zacharias was questioning the word of the Lord. Mary was only asking information on the procedures. "How is this to be, seeing I know not a man?" Hers was not the question of doubt. Hers was only an inquiring question as to the manner by which it should be fulfilled. She believed. And that is pointed out a little later as Elisabeth said, "Blessed art thou who hast believed the words that the Lord spoke to thee."

She believed the word that the Lord spoke to her. However, she didn"t know by what process it was to be fulfilled, and that really was her question. "How is this going to be, seeing I am a virgin, I know not a man?"

And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy one which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month of her pregnancy, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her ( Luke 1:35-38 ).

There is sometimes within the Protestant circles, perhaps a backlash to that position that the Catholics have sought to place Mary in as the intercessor, and even some today, the co-redemptress, and there is that backlash among Protestants, oftentimes, to sort of put Mary down. However, as the angel said unto her that she was highly favored, that the Lord was with her and she was blessed among women. Surely when God chose an instrument by which to send His Son into the world, I am certain that He chose an instrument that He has thoroughly prepared. And I believe that Mary must have been one of the most beautiful of character of any woman who has ever lived. And I think that we can demonstrate this actually in the text. That she was a extremely unique individual.

Now remember it is possible that at this point she was only about sixteen years old. And yet, there is such a depth of character that is demonstrated in her. And it begins right here as when the angel tells her all of these remarkable, unusual things that are bound to create problems, as they did with Joseph her espoused husband, she said, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word." With other words, she submitted herself to the purpose of God. "Here I am, let the Lord do as He pleases in my life." That kind of commitment. And I am just intrigued. And Mary is another one that I want to meet. What an unusually remarkable person. Surely the most blessed of any woman who has ever lived.

Now culturally it was the dream, the hope, the desire of every Jewish girl to be the instrument through which God would send the Messiah into the world. And thus, many young Jewish girls, when they had a boy born to them, would call his name Joshua. Hoping that maybe God would use that child to be the instrument of His salvation. And that was a reason, one of the reasons why being barren was considered such a curse. You have no opportunity to be the mother of the Messiah if you are barren. And that was the hope of every young Jewish girl to be the instrument that God would use, the dream, the hope. And with Elisabeth being barren, she had lost that hope. And, of course, everyone who was barren, they would lose the hope. "Oh, I can"t be the instrument." And that was a very disappointing thing to them, to feel, "I can"t be the instrument that God uses to accomplish His purpose."

Oh, that we would be concerned about being the instrument though which God accomplishes His purposes. Today, the Drews are very interesting people. They have an interesting religion that really they don"t even know what it is. In the Drews religion, it"s a break off from the Moslems, but only their priests know what they believe; the people don"t know what they believe. And the priest does the whole religious bit for them. They know they are Drews, and they know that this is their religion and all, but only the priests know what it"s all about. And they know what they believe, but the people don"t. And many of the men, though, are priests. And as you go through the Drews" villages today, you will see these men wearing these pants with these large pouches in the front. For one of the things that the Drews do believe is that when the Messiah comes, He will be born of a man. And so going through their villages, and it"s fascinating to go through the Drews" villages, and see these huge baggy pants in the front, these sacks that hang down in the front, and these man wear these in case they are the one that God chooses to send the Messiah through him.

In other words, they are they ones that get pregnant with the Messiah, and so they are prepared for it by wearing these pants with these large baggy things in the front. They are all set for their pregnancies. They already got their maternity clothes.

But such was the hope of every young girl in Israel. And the fulfillment of that hope came to one, a young girl from Nazareth. A beautiful young girl in character and spirit named Mary.

And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, to the city of Juda; and she entered into the house of Zacharias, and she greeted Elisabeth ( Luke 1:39-40 ).

That word saluted is an old English word, and it actually means greeted. In the marriage ceremony they used to say, "You may now salute your bride." But during World War II, too many of the guys were not really understanding the old English word salute, and so it"s now something that you say, "You may now kiss your bride."

So she entered into the house of Zacharias and greeted Elisabeth.

And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the [greeting] salutations of Mary, that the baby leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit: and she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as I heard the voice of your greeting sounding in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believes: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord ( Luke 1:41-45 ).

I suppose that this would be an appropriate place to talk about abortion.

There was John the Baptist six months along, and yet, there was some kind of a recognition, for when Mary spoke, he responded it to it in the womb.

We are told that as the child is in the womb, that it begins to understand and to recognize voices. That you pregnant mothers should talk to your child. For if you are talking to them while you are still pregnant, they will be comforted by your voice after they are born, because they have learned to recognize it. More and more are we discovering interesting facets of that fetal development. And here at six months with John there was that capacity to leap for joy in his mother"s womb when he heard the voice of Mary.

Now remember she is speaking by the Holy Spirit. And thus, we have the word of the Holy Spirit that the child leaped for joy, at the word of Mary.

We talked a little bit this morning about what factors are considered in determining what is right and what is wrong in our present society. And the effect that the philosophy has had upon our entire culture. The idea that the morees determine in a society what is accepted and unacceptable behavior. What is good, what is bad, what is right, and what is wrong. And in this particular philosophical determination, if enough people within a society began to practice a certain thing, it becomes then socially acceptable, or it becomes good, or becomes right, because that is determined by the mores of the society itself. Accepting that God does not exist, because it has to come from a totally humanistic base. God does not exist. And therefore, there is no godly standard for right or wrong. And in as much as there is no goodly standard for right or wrong, right or wrong is determined strictly by the practices, the mores of a particular society. And the sociologists will show that there are societies where the father has nothing to do with the children. And so in that society it is perfectly alright as the uncle takes the father role within the home. There are societies where they have a plurality of wives, or a plurality of husbands. And because it"s the accepted practice of the society, no one thinks wrong of it or thinks it"s bad or evil, and because the mores determine what is right and what is wrong. So you get enough people doing something, and suddenly it becomes right. And so we get enough abortions, killing millions of innocent babies, but it"s alright because it has become part of the mores. No one is supposed to say anything against it.

I have a hard time handling my emotions around a child. I become foolish. I try to come to their level a bit to communicate with them. I am so fascinated with children. I love children so much. I love little boys, and I love little girls. And to me there is nothing more enjoyable than communicating with children. Seeing their responses. I love to study their faces. I love to study their habits. I love to study just children. I can hold them and just look at them for hours on end, watching them, watching the changing expressions and all. I love to see them develop and grow. That is why I have such tremendous difficulty with child abuse. Where an adult would deliberately abuse a little child. Hurt it, damage it, beat it, destroy it. And unfortunately, it is a rising, increasing problem in our society.

In fact, in L. A. County this year there have been more murders of infants than any time in the history of L. A. It"s at record heights. Babies that are beaten to death, they are drowned, or suffocated, abused. It"s reached record proportions this year. And I have such difficulty with this. My body begins to recoil. I have to put it out of my mind, because I just can"t think about to long, it just affects me too deeply. But I wonder if much of this isn"t attributed to the fact that we"ve began to put a cheaper value on life by the legalizing of abortion. You see, it"s alright to abuse the child, as long as it hasn"t been born yet. But if it is alright to abuse that child because it really doesn"t understand much, it hasn"t been born yet, then I wonder if the next step, it, well, it doesn"t really understand too much of what"s going on, so what difference does it make if you abuse the child? Because it doesn"t really know or understand much yet. Whether or not that has anything to do with it, all I know is that with cheapening of the value of life, it seems to be following through all the segments of our society. And I think that we have some extremely dangerous sociological implications that will arise, from some of these humanistic, liberal legislative decisions that are being made. And I only say that to warn you. I don"t think we"re going to have to deal with it too long. I don"t think God will allow things to go on much longer; I would be very shocked if He does.

All I can say, if I was the Lord, I would have closed it down a long time ago.

Now Elisabeth said onto her,

Blessed is she that believed ( Luke 1:45 ):

Mary believed.

for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. And Mary said ( Luke 1:45-46 ),

And here we now get an insight into the beautiful depth of this young girl, as she began to just worship the Lord.

My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. For his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. For he hath shown strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud and the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He has filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He"s helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; And as he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever [in a reference to the promise of God to Abraham, that through thy seed all nations of the earth will be blessed]. And Mary stayed with her for about three months ( Luke 1:46-56 ),

Probably until the time that John was born.

and then she returned to her own house ( Luke 1:56 ).

Probably stayed to help during this period of pregnancy.

Now she speaks here, beginning with verse Luke 1:51, of the revolution that God creates. First of all, "He has scattered the proud and the imagination of their hearts." And so the first revolution is really an individual revolution of God scattering the proud. The second, "He put down the might from their thrones, and exalted them of low degree." And then thirdly, "Filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty," an economic revolution.

Now Elisabeth"s full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son. And her neighbors and her cousins heard how the Lord had shown great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her. And it came to pass, that on the eight day they came to circumcise the child; they called him Zacharias, after his father. But his mother answered and said, Not so; he shall be called Johanan [God is gracious]. And they said unto her, There is none of your family that is called by that name. And they made signs to his father, how he would have him to be named. He asked for a writing tablet, and he wrote, saying, His name is John [or Johanan]. And all of them marveled ( Luke 1:57-63 ).

Now when a woman was in labor, the neighbors would begin to gather, they would bring their musical instruments, and they would bring food and they prepare for a great party when the child was born. And when the child was born, and they would say, "It"s a boy," the musicians would start playing, and they all dance, and they would have a big party. If when the child was born, and they said, "It"s a girl," they take their musical instruments, fold them up, and go home.

In those days it was considered a great blessing to have a boy born in the home. But girls were sort of disregarded. It took really the teachings of Jesus Christ to elevate women to their proper level. Placing upon them that glory, honor that they deserve.

You women should be extremely thankful for Jesus Christ. All you have to do is go into a culture where the gospel of Christ has not had a strong influence, and look at the role of the woman, and you will appreciate more and more what Jesus Christ has done for you.

Look at the Bedouin society, look at the Indian culture, look at the culture of those people in New Guinea. Read the book, Lords of the Earth, it"s a tremendous sociological insight into the culture of the New Guineans before the coming of Christianity. You"ll really appreciate what Jesus Christ has done, in His elevation of womanhood, to its beautiful, proper place.

Now as soon as he had written on the tablet, his name is John,

His mouth was opened, and his tongue was loosed, and he spoke, and praised God. And fear came on all those that dwelled about them: and all of these sayings were noised abroad throughout all of the hill country of Judea. And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What kind of a kid is this going to be? For the hand of the Lord was with him. And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit ( Luke 1:64-67 ),

Now Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit when Mary greeted her. Now Zacharias is filled with the Holy Spirit,

and he prophesied, saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he has visited and redeemed his people ( Luke 1:67-68 ),

Blessing God for, first of all, the fact that God has visited His people. Jesus Christ is God, manifested in the flesh. And through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, as he is prophesying, the first declaration is that God, the Lord God of Israel, has visited His people. "In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God. The same was in the beginning with God, and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" ( John 1:1-2, John 1:14 ).

He visited His people. But the purpose of His visit was redemption. He was visited and redeemed His people. Jesus, in announcing His purpose, declared, "For the Son of man has come to seek and to save that which was lost" ( Luke 19:10 ). Redemption, the purpose of the coming of Christ. The Lord has raised up a power of salvation. The horn was always symbolic of power. And so He"s raised up the power to salvation in the house of His servant David.

Paul said, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ: it is the power of God unto salvation to those that believe" ( Romans 1:16 ).

The preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness, but unto us who are saved, thereby it is the power of God.

Oh, blessed be God. He has visited His people. God has come to bring redemption, to give power for salvation through the house of His servant David.

As he spoke by the mouth of the holy prophets, which have been since the world began ( Luke 1:70 ):

Recognizing that the prophesies concerning the Savior, concerning the Messiah, have been in existence from the beginning of men"s existence from the beginning of the fall, actually from the time of the fall, when God said to the woman, "Cursed be the serpent. Crawl upon the earth." But then He said that the seed of the woman will bruise his head. That sin would be destroyed by the seed of the woman. Blessed be God, He has brought now the power of salvation. He has redeemed through the seed of the woman, through the virgin-born child.

For God is performing the mercies that he has promised to our fathers, and he is remembering his holy covenant; the oath which he swore to our father Abraham ( Luke 1:72-73 ),

"Through thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed."

That he would grant unto us, that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear ( Luke 1:74 ),

Salvation is more than being saved from. Yes, God has delivered us from the hand of our enemy, but He has saved us for the purpose that we might serve Him, without fear.

In holiness and in righteousness ( Luke 1:75 )

Now both holiness and righteousness have as their root idea that of being right. But holiness is a rightness of character, whereas righteousness is a rightness in conduct. But the one springs out of the other. Holiness is the root. Righteousness is the fruit that springs forth from the root. The difficulty that so many people have today is their endeavor to be right without holiness. But ultimately, any endeavor to be right will break down, for there is no motive strong enough to maintain righteousness, other than holiness. You"ve got to be pure at the core. You"ve got to have the holiness, the right attitude, if you are to have the right actions or activities.

And so it is God"s purpose, first of all, that we walk before Him, or serve Him in holiness. That God does that work within our heart, changing our character, our life, in order that we might also serve Him in righteousness.

The Pharisees had a system of righteousness apart from holiness, and it was total failure. And Jesus remarked on the failure. He said, "Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you"re not going to enter the kingdom of heaven" ( Matthew 5:20 ). So to the disciples that must have been one of the most shocking statements that Jesus had ever made. Because who was more right, who did the things more right than did the Pharisees? And yet, unless your righteousness exceeds those, you"re not going to make it, Jesus said. Why? Because theirs was a righteousness without holiness. It wasn"t from the heart. Their attitudes were stinking according to Jesus.

"The outside you"re like a whitened sepulchre, but inside dead man"s smelly bones. The outside of the platter is all clean, but the inside of the cup is filled with vermon. You may clean the outside, but the inside you have a righteousness without holiness, totally unaccepted. And unless your righteousness exceeds the scribes and the Pharisees, you are not going to make into the kingdom of heaven." Because you have to have a righteousness that springs from holiness. The holiness of character. And God"s purpose that we serve Him in holiness and in righteousness,

all the days of our life ( Luke 1:75 ).

And now addressing the child. This is a prophecy concerning the one that the child is to go before, but concerning the child himself, little John lying there.

And thou, child, shall be called the prophet of the Highest ( Luke 1:76 ):

Jesus said, of all the prophets born of woman, there hasn"t been a greater one than arise than John. "Thou shalt be called the prophet of the Highest."

for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation onto his people, by the remission of their sins. Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the sunrising from on high hath visited us [Or the dayspring, or the sunrising, or the rising of the sun], to give light to those that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet in the way of peace [again referring to Christ] ( Luke 1:76-79 ).

God, by His tender mercy, has sent the sunrise from on high to visit us, that He might give us light, for those who are sitting in darkness, and in the shadows. That He might guide our feet in the way of peace. Peace with God.

And so the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the desert until the day of his showing onto Israel ( Luke 1:80 ). "

Copyright Statement
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". 2014.

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Birth of John. The Annunciation

1-4. Preface. To write a preface to a history is not a Jewish, but a classical custom, and by following it St. Luke shows himself a true Gentile, trained in Greek culture and imitating classical models. Here he affects classical elegance and correctness of expression, but in the course of his Gospel he generally imitates the simpler synoptic style.

This Preface contains all that is really known as distinguished from what is guessed about the sources of the Synoptic Gospels. Its main statements are, (1) that already, when St. Luke was compiling his Gospel (56-58 a.d.), many earlier Gospels existed; (2) that these Gospels were based upon the evidence of the eyewitnesses; (3) that these eyewitnesses were the apostles and official Christian teachers; (4) that the eyewitnesses 'delivered' their testimony in the form of a more or less definitely fixed tradition, which may have been either oral or written; (5) that Christians were definitely instructed and catechised in the contents of this tradition.

St. Luke claims for his Gospel, (1) diligence in collecting all available materials, (2) fulness, (3) careful investigation especially of the earliest period (our Lord's birth and infancy), (4) orderly arrangement, (5) accuracy.

1. Surely believed] RV 'fulfilled.'

2. Even as] i.e. these narratives were in exact accordance with the evidence of the eyewitnesses. Eyewitnesses] i.e. mainly the Apostles themselves, perhaps also the seventy disciples.

3. In order] may refer either to chronological order, or to orderly arrangement according to subjects.

Most excellent Theophilus] Some think that Theophilus is not a real person, but an ideal name for a Christian reader ('beloved of God'). More probably Theophilus was a distinguished Roman citizen resident in Rome. The epithet 'most excellent' was under the empire peculiarly appropriated to Romans of high rank, and became in the 2nd cent, a technical title indicating equestrian rank. This is probably its sense here. Both Felix and Festus, addressed by this title in Acts 23:26; Acts 24:3; Acts 26:25, were 'knights' (equites). Acts is also dedicated to Theophilus.

4. Instructed] lit. 'catechised,' i.e. taught by means of question and answer. At a very early period, probably in the apostolic age, candidates for baptism ('catechumens') were required to go through a preliminary course of training in Christian doctrine and morality, of which catechising formed a prominent part. Theophilus was probably one of St. Luke's own converts, who had with other catechumens attended regular catechising on the life of our Lord.

5-25. Conception of John the Baptist. The rise of Christianity was preceded by a long period of four hundred years, during which prophecy was silent, and the religious guidance of the nation passed to the rabbis and the scribes, who made void the Law of God by their traditions. The advent of Christ was heralded by a great revival of prophecy, and by the restoration of direct communications from God to man through supernatural agency, as in the cases of Zacharias, Joseph, Mary, Elisabeth, Simeon, Anna, the shepherds, the Magi, and, in particular, John the Baptist, who, though he left no written prophecies, and worked no miracle, was declared by our Lord to be the greatest of the prophets, yea, and more than a prophet.

5. The classical style of the preface now changes abruptly to one which is deeply tinged with Hebraisms. This Hebraic style continues to the end of Luke 2. Some scholars explain it by supposing that St. Luke is here using a Hebrew document. Herod] see Matthew 2:1.

The course of Abia (Abijah)] David divided the priests into twenty-four 'courses' or groups, each of which in rotation was responsible for the Temple services for a week. Each course, therefore, officiated twice a year, at an interval of six months. The course of Abijah was the eighth. After the Captivity only four courses returned, but these were subdivided into twenty-four courses under the old names. The course of Abijah is said to have officiated in April and October: see 1 Chronicles 24:3; Nehemiah 1:1.

6. Righteous] i.e. according to the OT. standard. They were good, pious Jews, strict and careful observers of the Mosaic Law, but not, of course, sinless.

9. Lot] To avoid disputes the various functions were decided by lot. To burn incense] This was done daily, morning and evening (Exodus 30:6-8). The daily sacrifice of the lamb was offered on the great altar of burnt offering outside the Temple proper, in front of the porch. The incense was offered inside the Temple on the golden altar of incense which stood before the veil of the Holy of Holies. The officiating priest was alone within the Temple while offering the incense, and the other priests and the people were outside worshipping in the various Temple courts. Only once in a. lifetime could a man enjoy this privilege, and he was ever afterwards called 'rich.' It was the 'highest, mediatorial act,' 'the most solemn part of the day's service, symbolising Israel's accepted prayers.'

11. An angel] It was said of the high priest Simon the Just (died 320 b.c.) that 'for those forty years wherein he had served as high priest, he had seen an angel clothed in white coming into the Holy Place on the Day of Atonement and going out again.' St. Luke gives special prominence to the ministry of angels, and the appearances which he records are particularly difficult to account for as subjective phenomena: see Luke 1:26; Luke 2:9, Luke 2:13, Luke 2:21; Luke 12:8; Luke 15:10; Luke 16:22; Luke 22:43; Luke 24:4, Luke 24:23, and often in Acts.

12. Was troubled] cp. Luke 2:9; Judges 6:22; Judges 13:22, etc.

13. My prayer] Probably not for offspring, but for the coming of the kingdom of God, and of the Messianic salvation, the only suitable prayer for so solemn an occasion. It was a maxim of the rabbis that 'a prayer in which there is no mention of the kingdom of God is no prayer at all.' John] lit. 'Jehovah is gracious.'

15. John was a Nazirite, i.e. one of a class of men in Israel who consecrated themselves to God by abstaining from all intoxicants, by avoiding with scrupulous care all ceremonial defilement, and by wearing the hair long, Numbers 6:1-21. Usually men made the Nazirite vow for a definite time, not less than thirty days, but John, like Samson, Samuel, and the Rechabites in the OT., was a Nazirite for life. There are some examples of the Nazirite vow even among Christians (Acts 18:18; Acts 21:26). James the Lord's brother is said by Hegesippus to have been a life-long Nazirite.

John, the Nazirite and dweller in the wilderness (probably also a celibate), represents the austere and ascetic type of piety which few can imitate. Jesus, purposing in His life to offer an example to all mankind, came eating and drinking, and sharing the joys and sorrows and even the recreations of ordinary society. Both these types of piety, the ascetic and the social, have their place in the Kingdom of God.

Filled with the Holy Ghost] As Jesus was conceived without sin, so his forerunner was sanctified in the womb, though the reference is less to personal sanctification than to consecration to the prophetic office: see Jeremiah 1:5; Galatians 1:5.

17. Go before him] RV 'go before his face,' i.e. before the face of Jehovah. Elias] RV 'Elijah': see Malachi 4:5-6 and on Matthew 17:10. To turn the hearts, etc.] Malachi's exact words are, 'He shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.' 'The fathers' are the patriarchs and prophets of Israel, 'the children' are their degenerate descendants who have alienated the heart of 'their fathers' by their disobedience to their godly precepts. The preaching of John will turn the heart of the children to imitate their just (i.e. pious) ancestors, and thus the heart of their ancestors, now alienated, will be turned to them in love and approbation.

18. With the unbelief of Zacharias compare the laughter of Abraham, Genesis 17:17, and of Sarah, Genesis 1:12. To ask for a sign was not in itself wrong. Abraham, Gideon, and Hezekiah had done so without rebuke. But the appearance of the angel ought itself to have been a sufficient sign to Zacharias.

19. I am Gabriel, etc.] cp. Tobit 1:15, 'I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels which present the prayers of the saints, and go in before the glory of the Holy One.' Two angels only are named in the canonical Scriptures, Gabriel (lit. 'the mighty man of God'), Daniel 8:16; Daniel 9:21 and Michael (lit. 'Who is like God?'), Daniel 10:13, Daniel 10:21; Daniel 12:1; Judges 1:9; Revelation 12:7; In the Apocrypha, Raphael and Uriel are also named. The rabbis say that the Jews learnt the names of the angels in Babylon.

The apparent sanction given here to current Jewish angelology is a good instance of the accommodation to human ideas which is so common in both Testaments. God's messenger reveals himself by the name of Gabriel, because that was the name by which he was commonly known among the Jews. The Jews themselves did not suppose that they knew the real names of the angels. According to the rabbis the names of the angels represented their mission, and were changed as their mission was changed.

21. Marvelled that he tarried] RV 'Marvelled while he tarried.' The people were afraid that the officiating priest might be struck dead for omitting some formality (Leviticus 1:13), hence the custom was for the priest to finish his ministry as quickly as possible. Once when Simon the Just delayed too long, the people became so anxious that they almost broke into the Holy Place. Afterwards they reproached him for his want of consideration for them.

22. Came out] His duty was now to pronounce the priestly benediction (Numbers 6:24), but this he was unable to do.

23. The days] i.e. the week of the course of Abijah.

24. Hid herself five months] She desired to devote herself entirely to prayer and thanksgiving for so signal a mercy. The reproach of childlessness was deeply felt: see Genesis 30:23; 1 Samuel 1:6, etc.

26-38. The Annunciation (see on Matthew 1). Wonder and awe and adoring praise are the emotions with which Christians have ever regarded the unspeakable condescension of Him who, 'when He took upon Him human nature to deliver it, did not abhor the Virgin's womb.' That Mary fully understood who her child was to be, cannot be supposed. The thought of such a condescension of the Author of nature as is implied in the words of the Creed 'conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary,' is overwhelming even to us; to Mary it would have been so appalling that she could not possibly have performed the duties of a mother. Hence the angel was only permitted to reveal to her, that her son would be the Messiah, and the 'Son of God' in some specially exalted yet human sense. The whole narrative moves within the circle of Jewish OT. ideas, and this is a proof of its truth, for an invented story would certainly show marks of a Christian origin. The grace, modest reticence, and inimitable simplicity of the narrative, are in marked contrast to the vulgar details of the Apocryphal Gospels. The festival of the Annunciation (the day on which our Lord became man) is kept on March 25th.

26. The sixth month] i.e. from the conception of John, Luke 1:24. Nazareth] see on Matthew 2:23

28. Came in] Local tradition states that Gabriel appeared to her as she was drawing water at the fountain of the Virgin outside Nazareth, where the Church of the Annunciation now stands. But, as the angel 'came in' to her, she must have been in the house, perhaps engaged in prayer, as painters are fond of representing her. Two well-known devotions have been founded on this incident: (1) the 'Ave Maria' ('Hail, Mary!'); (2) the 'Angelus.'

Highly favoured] or, rather, 'endued with grace' (RM), not, as the Vulgate has it, 'full of grace.' She is addressed not as the mother of grace, but as the daughter of it (Bengel). The angel recognised in Mary a holiness of an entirely special kind, which God had given her to fit her to be the mother of the Holy One. Sinless in the absolute sense she probably was not (see on John 2:4), yet we may reverently believe that no one approached the perfection of holiness and purity so nearly as she. Blessed art thou among women] These words are omitted by many good authorities: see on Luke 1:42.

32. His father David] This seems to imply the Davidic descent of Mary: cp. Luke 1:27, which is ambiguous, and Luke 1:69.

34. How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?] The traditional view of this passage, which sees in it a proof of the perpetual virginity of our Lord's mother, is perhaps correct. Unless Mary had resolved to remain a virgin after her marriage with Joseph, and had obtained her husband's consent to do so, she would not, as a betrothed woman, regard it as impossible that she should have a child: see on Matthew 1:25; Matthew 12:50.

35. The Holy Ghost, etc.] Mary would doubtless understand 'the Holy Ghost' impersonally, as the creative power of God, but St. Luke's readers would understand it personally, as frequently in the Acts. The Holy Ghost, (1) miraculously forms and hallows our Lord's human body and soul at His conception; (2) descends upon Him with an abiding unction at His baptism, consecrating Him to the Messianic office and preparing Him for His ministry; (3) brings about the mystical union of the ascended Christ with His people.

Overshadow] like the Shekinah in the Temple, or the cloud of glory at the Transfiguration, which symbolised the divine presence. We have here 'a new, immediate and divine act of creation, and thus the transmission of sinfulness from the sinful race to him is excluded.' That holy thing, etc.] RV 'that which is to be born shall be called holy, the Son of God.' Mary would probably understand from this that her Child was to be sinless, but not that He would be divine, because the Son of God was an accepted title of the Messiah.

36. Unasked, the angel gives Mary a sign. He who has caused Elisabeth to conceive contrary to nature can make good His word to Mary also. Thy cousin] RV 'thy kinswoman.' It does not follow from this that Mary belonged, like Elisabeth, to the tribe of Levi. Male descent alone determined the tribe, and Mary may have been related to Elisabeth on her mother's side.

38. Behold the handmaid (lit. 'the slave') of the Lord] In these words of humble submission Mary accepts her great destiny. She does so freely, with full understanding of the difficulty of her position. The future she leaves in God's hand. Be it unto me according to thy word] This sacred moment, which marks the beginning of our Lord's incarnate life, should be contrasted with Genesis 3:6. There the disobedience of a woman brought sin and death into the world. Here the obedience of a woman brought salvation, reversing the effect of the Fall.

39-56. Mary's visit to Elisabeth. The Magnificat. This beautiful narrative must be derived from Mary herself, probably directly. It is told as vividly and minutely after a lapse of half-a-century as if it were an event of yesterday. Clearly it was one of those things which the Virgin mother kept and pondered in her heart.

39. Into a city of Judah] or, 'into a city called Judah' (i.e. possibly Juttah, a priestly city near Hebron).

41. The babe leaped] The Jews believed that children were intelligent before birth: cp. Genesis 25:22.

42. Blessed art thou among women] A Hebraism for 'Thou art the most blessed of all women': see on Luke 1:48.

43. The mother of my Lord] The aged Elisabeth acknowledges that the young maiden is greater and more highly favoured than she, because she is 'the mother of my Lord,' i.e. of the Messiah.

44. See on Luke 1:41.

45. For there shall be a performance] RM 'that there shall be,' etc.

46-55. The Magnificat. This glorious song of praise, which has been used in the services of the Church from early times, tells us more than anything else in the NT. of the character of our Lord's mother, and of her spiritual fitness for her exalted destiny. She was one who diligently searched the Scriptures, and was able in spite of her youth to enter into their deepest spiritual meaning. Not that she had risen as yet beyond the standpoint of Judaism. She still regarded the coming of the Kingdom as an overthrow of Herod's dynasty and a restoration of Jewish nationalism (Luke 1:52, Luke 1:54). But her thoughts were fixed on its ethical character. It meant to her the setting up of the ideal of humility, gentleness, and charity, in place of the pride of temporal greatness, a thought which her Son carried further when He said, 'Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.' In the Magnificat Mary appears as a prophetess, like Hannah, whom she closely imitates, but greatly excels in spiritual elevation: see 1 Samuel 2:1. The genuineness of the Magnificat is manifest from its thoroughly Jewish character. It contains no trace of definitely Christian ideas. These may be read into it, and were intended by the Holy Spirit to be ultimately read into it, but they are not there in such a form as to be apprehended by those who are not already Christians. The Magnificat is conveniently divided into two parts: (1) Luke 1:46-49, (2) Luke 1:50-55. The first part is personal in character, expressing the exultant praise of the holy mother for the signal favour which God has shown her, and foretelling that all future generations will call her blessed. The second part sets forth the character of the Kingdom as a moral revolution, and a reversal of all existing standards of goodness and greatness.

46. In the Gospels (not in the Pauline Epistles) 'soul' and 'spirit' are synonymous.

47. In God my Saviour] In Mary's idea of 'salvation' was doubtless included deliverance from foreign power as well as spiritual deliverance. 'God my Saviour' is, of course, in accordance with OT. ideas, God the Father. Not till much later did she come to regard her Son in this aspect.

48. The low estate] cp. 1 Samuel 1:11. Mary, though descended from David, was in humble circumstances.

All generations shall call me blessed] Prophetically spoken. She has become the pattern of womanhood and motherhood to the whole Christian world, and her song has been enshrined in the Liturgy of every Christian Church. Reverence for our Lord's mother, even in its abuses, has not been without its elevating effect on humanity. 'It is remarkable,' says a judicious writer, 'that one of whom we know nothing except her gentleness and her sorrow, should have exercised a magnetic power upon the world incomparably greater than was exercised by the most majestic female patriots of Paganism. Whatever may be thought of its theological propriety, there can be little doubt that the Catholic reverence for the Virgin has done much to elevate and purify the ideal of woman, and to soften the manners of men. It supplied in a great measure the redeeming and ennobling element in that strange amalgam of religious, licentious, and military feeling which was formed round women in the age of chivalry, and which no succeeding change of habit or belief has wholly destroyed' (Lecky).

49. Cp. Psalms 111:9.

50. Cp. Psalms 103:17; Psalms 51. Cp. Psalms 89:10. With prophetic certainty Mary regards the putting down of pride, and the establishment of meekness as already achieved.

52. Cp. Job 5:11; Job 12:19; 1 Samuel 2:7. The mighty] RV 'princes,' include Herod and his dynasty, but the main idea is that a kingdom based on humility and love has entered into the world, more powerful than all earthly kingdoms, and destined to revolutionise them.

53. Cp. Psalms 107:9; Psalms 34:10; 1 Samuel 2:5. In true OT. style spiritual and temporal blessings are conceived of as united in the Messianic age. The temporal needs of the poor and lowly are to be cared for and their wrongs redressed. All things needful both for their souls and bodies will be bountifully supplied.

54. Cp. Psalms 98:3.

55. Cp. Micah 7:20. The national feeling is pronounced. The Gentiles are not mentioned, except indirectly in the allusion to the promise to Abraham. The true translation of Luke 1:54-55 is (see RV) 'He hath helped Israel his servant, that he might remember mercy towards Abraham and his seed for ever, as he spake to our fathers.

56. Joseph's discovery of Mary's condition (Matthew 1:18) must have been subsequent to her return to Nazareth.

57-80. Birth and childhood of the Baptist. The Benedictus.

59. The eighth day] Circumcision took place on the eighth day, even though it was the sabbath: see John 7:22. At the circumcision of a child the circumciser said, 'Blessed be the Lord our God, who hath sanctified us by his precepts and hath given us the law of circumcision.' The father replied, 'Who hath sanctified us by his precepts and hath commanded us to enter the child into the covenant of Abraham our father.'

63. Writing table] i.e. a tablet covered with wax for writing upon.

68-79. The Benedictus. 'This song, which was composed in the priest's mind during the time of his silence, broke solemnly from his lips the moment speech was restored to him, as the metal flows from the crucible in which it has been melted the moment that an outlet is made for it' (Godet). It consists of five strophes, each of three vv., but is most conveniently divided into two portions: (1) Luke 1:68-75, (2) Luke 1:76-79. In the first portion Zacharias praises God for having now fulfilled His promises to Israel by raising up the Messiah in David's house, to save Israel from foreign oppression, and to establish peace, true religion, and righteousness. In the second portion Zacharias directly addresses his son as the destined forerunner of the Messiah, and the preacher of repentance to Israel. The song closes with a beautiful description of the salvation which the Messiah will bring to His people.

This song, like the Magnificat, is purely Jewish in tone. It does not even mention the Gentiles, and it is only in the light of subsequent events that a Christian sense can be read into it.

68. Hath visited] The past tense may express Zacharias' certainty that the Messiah will come, but more probably it implies prophetic knowledge that the conception of Jesus has already taken place. Redeemed] To Zacharias this would mean political redemption from foreign rule as well as spiritual redemption.

69. An horn of salvation] The power of the Messianic King is likened to the strength of a bull, or wild-ox (AV 'unicorn'), which is represented by his horns: cp. 1 Samuel 2:10; 2 Samuel 22:3; Psalms 75:10, etc. David] The expression implies that Mary was descended from David.

70. Since the world began] may be taken literally, Adam being regarded as the first prophet. More probably it is used vaguely for 'in olden times.'

71. Enemies] i.e. Herod and the Romans, but when Christians sing this hymn, they mean Satan and all the enemies of Christ.

72. To perform the mercy promised to our fathers] RV 'To shew mercy towards our fathers.' The RV implies that the patriarchs, though dead, still exist, and take an interest in the fortunes of their posterity, a doctrine affirmed with authority by Christ (Matthew 22:32).

Covenant] The 'covenant' and 'the oath' (Luke 1:73) are identical, though the irregular grammatical construction conceals this: see Genesis 22:16-18.

76. Of the Lord] Zacharias understood it of Jehovah; Christians understand it of Christ. 77. This v. well describes the character of John's ministry, which joined the announcement of the Kingdom with the preaching of repentance. Translate, 'To give unto his people knowledge of salvation—salvation which consists in the remission of sins.'

78. The dayspring] The Gk. word here (anatole) is ambiguous. It may either mean the rising of a heavenly body, and hence the heavenly body itself, so that the Messiah is virtually called 'the Sun' or 'Star of Israel,' or it may mean 'the Branch,' a title applied to the Messiah (Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12).

79. Peace] not successful war is Zacharias' ideal for the Messianic period, and not only earthly peace, but 'peace with God.'

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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

The first Greek word, epeideper (lit. because), occurs only here in the New Testament, though other major Greek writers such as Thucydides, Philo, and Josephus used it. [Note: Henry J. Cadbury, "Commentary on the Preface of Luke," in The Beginnings of Christianity, ed. F. J. Foakes-Jackson and Kirsopp Lake (London: Macmillan and Co, 1920-33), 2:489-510.] Luke tells us that when he wrote his Gospel there were already several written accounts of Jesus" ministry, perhaps including the Gospels of Matthew (A.D40-70) and Mark (A.D63-70). I think it is most probable that Matthew wrote in the late40s, Mark in the late60s, and Luke in the late50s. There were probably other uninspired accounts of Jesus" life and ministry circulating when Luke wrote his Gospel. Luke"s statement here does not imply that the existing accounts were necessarily deficient. He simply wanted to write one that was orderly and based on reliable research ( Luke 1:3). The things accomplished or fulfilled refer to God"s purposes for Jesus" life and ministry.

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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable


Luke introduced his Gospel in a classical literary fashion.

"It was customary among the great Greek and Hellenistic historians, including the first-century Jewish writer Josephus, to explain and justify their work in a preface. Their object was to assure the reader of their capability, thorough research, and reliability." [Note: Liefeld, p821.]

Luke"s introduction contrasts with Matthew"s genealogy, Mark"s title statement, and John"s theological prologue. It would have been what a cultured Greek would have expected to find at the beginning of a reputable historical work. It is all one sentence in Greek.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Darby's Synopsis of the New Testament

Luke Chapter 1

The Gospel of Luke sets the Lord before us in the character of Son of man, revealing God in delivering grace among men. Hence the present operation of grace and its effect are more referred to, and even the present time prophetically, not the substitution of other dispensations as in Matthew, but of saving heavenly grace. At first, no doubt (and just because He is to be revealed as man, and in grace to men), we find Him, in a prefatory part in which we have the most exquisite picture of the godly remnant, presented to Israel, to whom He had been promised, and in relationship with whom He came into this world; but afterwards this Gospel presents moral principles which apply to man, whosoever he may be, whilst yet manifesting Christ for the moment in the midst of that people. This power of God in grace is displayed in various ways in its application to the wants of men. After the transfiguration, which is recounted earlier in the narration by Luke (1) than in the other Gospels, we find the judgment of those who rejected the Lord, and the heavenly character of the grace which, because it is grace, addresses itself to the nations, to sinners, without any particular reference to the Jews, overturning the legal principles according to which the latter pretended to be, and as to their external standing were originally called at Sinai to be, in connection with God. Unconditional promises to Abraham, etc., and prophetic confirmation of them, are another thing. They will be accomplished in grace, and were to be laid hold of by faith. After this, we find that which should happen to the Jews according to the righteous government of God; and, at the end, the account of the death and resurrection of the Lord, accomplishing the work of redemption. We must observe that Luke (who morally sets aside the Jewish system, and who introduces the Son of man as the man before God, presenting Him as the One who is filled with all the fulness of God dwelling in Him bodily, as the man before God, according to His own heart, and thus as Mediator between God and man, and centre of a moral system much more vast than that of Messiah among the Jews)-we must observe, I repeat, that Luke, who is occupied with these new relations (ancient, in fact, as to the counsels of God), gives us the facts belonging to the Lord’s connection with the Jews, owned in the pious remnant of that people, with much more development than the other evangelists, as well as the proofs of His mission to that people, in coming into the world-proofs which ought to have gained their attention, and fixed it upon the child who was born to them.

In Luke, I add, that which especially characterises the narrative and gives its peculiar interest to this Gospel is, that it sets before us that which Christ is Himself. It is not His official glory, a relative position that He assumed; neither is it the revelation of His divine nature, in itself; nor His mission as the great Prophet. It is Himself, as He was, a man on the earth-the Person whom I should have met every day had I lived at that time in Judea, or in Galilee.

I would add a remark as to the style of Luke, which may facilitate the study of this Gospel to the reader. He often brings a mass of facts into one short general statement, and then expatiates at length on some isolated fact, where moral principles and grace are displayed.

Many had undertaken to give an account of that which was historically received among Christians, as related to them by the companions of Jesus; and Luke thought it well-having followed these things from the beginning, and thus obtained exact knowledge respecting them-to write methodically to Theophilus, in order that he might have the certainty of those things in which he had been instructed. It is thus that God has provided for the instruction of the whole church, in the doctrine contained in the picture of the Lord’s life furnished by this man of God; who, personally moved by Christian motives, was directed and inspired by the Holy Ghost for the good of all believers. (2) At Luke 1:5 the evangelist begins with the first revelations of the Spirit of God respecting these events, on which the condition of God’s people and that of the world entirely depended; and in which God was to glorify Himself to all eternity.

But we immediately find ourselves in the atmosphere of Jewish circumstances. The Jewish ordinances of the Old Testament, and the thoughts and expectations connected with them, are the framework in which this great and solemn event is set. Herod, king of Judea, furnishes the date; and it is a priest, righteous and blameless, belonging to one of the twenty-four classes, whom we find on the first step of our way. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron; and these two upright persons walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord (Jehovah) without blame. All was right before God, according to His law in the Jewish sense. But they did not enjoy the blessing that every Jew desired; they had no child. Nevertheless, it was according, we may say, to the ordinary ways of God in the government of His people, to accomplish His blessing while manifesting the weakness of the instrument-a weakness that took away all hope according to human principles. Such had been the history of the Sarahs, the Rebeccas, the Hannahs, and many more, of whom the word tells us for our instruction in the ways of God.

This blessing was often prayed for by the pious priest; but until now the answer had been delayed. Now, however, when, at the moment of exercising his regular ministry, Zacharias drew near to burn incense, which, according to the law, was to go up as a sweet savour before God (type of the Lord’s intercession), and while the people were praying outside the holy place, the angel of the Lord appears to the priest on the right side of the altar of incense. At the sight of this glorious personage Zacharias is troubled, but the angel encourages him by declaring himself to be the bearer of good news; announcing to him that his prayers, so long apparently addressed in vain to God, were granted. Elizabeth should bear a son, and the name by which he should be called was, “The favour of the Lord,” a source of joy and gladness to Zacharias, and whose birth should be the occasion of thanksgiving to many. But this was not merely as the son of Zacharias. The child was the Lord’s gift, and should be great before Him; he should be a Nazarite, and filled with the Holy Ghost, from his mother’s womb: and many of the children of Israel should he turn to the Lord their God. He should go before Him in the spirit of Elias, and with the same power to re-establish moral order in Israel, even in its sources, and to bring back the disobedient to the wisdom of the just-to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

The spirit of Elias was a stedfast and ardent zeal for the glory of Jehovah, and for the establishment, or re-establishment by repentance, of the relations between Israel and Jehovah. His heart clung to this link between the people and their God, according to the strength and glory of the link itself, but in the sense of their fallen condition, and according to the rights of God in connection with these relationships. The spirit of Elias-although indeed the grace of God towards His people had sent him-was in a certain sense a legal spirit. He asserted the rights of Jehovah in judgment. It was grace opening the door to repentance, but not the sovereign grace of salvation, though what prepared the way to it. It is in the moral force of his call to repentance that John is here compared to Elias, in bringing back Israel to Jehovah. And in fact Jesus was Jehovah.

But the faith of Zacharias in God and in His goodness did not come up to the height of his petition (alas! too common a case), and when it is granted at a moment that required the intervention of God to accomplish his desire, he is not able to walk in the steps of an Abraham or a Hannah, and he asks how this thing can now take place.

God, in His goodness, turns His servant’s want of faith into an instructive chastisement for himself, and into a proof for the people that Zacharias had been visited from on high. He is dumb until the word of the Lord is fulfilled; and the signs which he makes to the people, who marvel at his staying so long in the sanctuary, explain to them the reason.

But the word of God is accomplished in blessing towards him; and Elizabeth, recognising the good hand of God upon her with a tact that belongs to her piety, goes into retirement. The grace which blessed her did not make her insensible to that which was a shame in Israel, and which, although removed, left its traces as to man in the superhuman circumstances through which it was accomplished. There was a rightmindedness in this, which became a holy woman. But that which is rightly concealed from man has all its value before God, and Elizabeth is visited in her retreat by the mother of the Lord. But here the scene changes, to introduce the Lord Himself into this marvellous history which unfolds before our eyes.

God, who had prepared all beforehand, sends now to announce the Saviour’s birth to Mary. In the last place that man would have chosen for the purpose of God-a place whose name in the eyes of the world, sufficed to condemn those who came from thence-a maiden, unknown to all whom the world recognised, was betrothed to a poor carpenter. Her name was Mary. But everything was in confusion in Israel: the carpenter was of the house of David. The promises of God-who never forgets them, and never overlooks those who are their object-found here the sphere for their accomplishment. Here the power and the affections of God are directed, according to their divine energy. Whether Nazareth was small or great was of no importance, except to shew that God does not expect from man, but man from God. Gabriel is sent to Nazareth, to a virgin who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David.

The gift of John to Zacharias was an answer to his prayers-God faithful in His goodness towards His people who wait upon Him.

But this is a visitation of sovereign grace. Mary, a chosen vessel for this purpose, had found grace in God’s sight. She was favoured (3) by sovereign grace-blessed among women. She should conceive and bring forth a son: she should call Him Jesus. He should be great, and should be called the Son of the Highest. God should give Him the throne of His father David. He should reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and His kingdom should have no end.

It will be observed here, that the subject which the Holy Ghost sets before us is the birth of the child, as He would be down here in this world, as brought forth by Mary-of Him who should be born.

The instruction given by the Holy Ghost on this point is divided into two parts: first, that which the child to be born should be; secondly, the manner of His conception, and the glory which would be its result. It is not simply the divine nature of Jesus that is presented, the Word which was God, the Word made flesh; but that which was born of Mary, and the way in which it should take place. We know well that it is the same precious and divine Saviour of whom John speaks that is in question; but He is here presented to us under another aspect, which is of infinite interest to us; and we must consider Him as the Holy Ghost presents Him, as born of the virgin Mary in this world of tears.

To take first the Luke 1:31-33.

It was a child really conceived in Mary’s womb, who brought forth this child at the time which God had Himself appointed for human nature. The usual time elapsed before its birth. As yet this tells us nothing of the manner. It is the fact itself, which has an importance that can neither be measured nor exaggerated. He was really and truly man, born of a woman as we are-not as to the source nor as to the manner of His conception, of which we are not yet speaking, but as to the reality of His existence as man. He was really and truly a human being. But there were other things connected with the Person of the One who should be born that are also set before us. His name should be called Jesus, that is, Jehovah the Saviour. He should be manifested in this character and with this power. He was so.

This is not connected here with the fact, “for he shall save his people from their sins,” as in Matthew, where it was the manifestation to Israel of the power of Jehovah, of their God, in fulfilment of the promises made to that people. Here we see that He has a right to this name; but this divine title lies hidden under the form of a personal name; for it is the Son of man who is presented in this Gospel, whatever His divine power might be. Here we are told, “He”-the One who should be born-”should be great,” and (born into this world) “should be called the Son of the Highest.” He had been the Son of the Father before the world was; but this child, born on earth, should be called-such as He was down here-the Son of the Highest: a title to which He would thoroughly prove His right by His acts, and by all that manifested what He was. A precious thought to us and full of glory, a child born of a woman legitimately bears this name, “Son of the Highest”-supremely glorious for One who is in the position of a man and really was such before God.

But other things still were connected with the One that should be born. God would give Him the throne of His father David. Here again we plainly see that He is considered as born, as man, in this world. The throne of His father David belongs to Him. God will give it Him. By right of birth He is heir to the promises, to the earthly promises which, as to the kingdom appertained to the family of David; but it should be according to the counsels and the power of God. He should reign over the house of Jacob-not only over Judah, and in the weakness of a transitory power and an ephemeral life, but throughout the ages; and of His kingdom there should be no end. As indeed Daniel had predicted, it should never be taken by another. It should never be transferred to another people. It should be established according to the counsels of God which are unchangeable, and His power which never fails. Until He delivered up the kingdom to God the Father, He should exercise a royalty that nothing could dispute; which He would deliver up (all things being fulfilled) to God, but the royal glory of which should never be tarnished in His hands.

Such should be the child born-truly, though miraculously born as man. To those who could understand His name it was Jehovah the Saviour.

He should be King over the house of Jacob according to a power that should never decay and never fail, until blended with the eternal power of God as God.

The grand subject of the revelation is, that the child should be conceived and born; the remainder is the glory that should belong to Him, being born.

But it is the conception that Mary does not understand. God permits her to ask the angel how this should be. Her question was according to God. I do not think there was any want of faith here. Zacharias had constantly asked for a son-it was only a question of the goodness and the power of God to perform his request-and was brought by the positive declaration of God to a point at which he had only to trust in it. He did not trust to the promise of God. It was only the exercise of the extraordinary power of God in the natural order of things. Mary asks, with holy confidence, since God thus favoured her, how the thing should be accomplished, outside the natural order. Of its accomplishment she has no doubt (see Luke 1:45; “Blessed,” said Elizabeth, “is she that believed.”) She inquires how it shall be accomplished, since it must be done outside the order of nature. The angel proceeds with his commission, making known to her the answer of God to this question also. In the purposes of God, this question gave occasion (by the answer it received) to the revelation of the miraculous conception.

The birth of Him who has walked upon this earth was the thing in question-His birth of the virgin Mary. He was God, He became man; but here it is the manner of His conception in becoming a man upon the earth. It is not what He was that is declared. It is He who was born, such as He was in the world, of whose miraculous conception we here read. The Holy Ghost should come upon her-should act in power upon this earthen vessel, without its own will or the will of any man. God is the source of the life of the child promised to Mary, as born in this world and by His power. He is born of Mary-of this woman chosen by God. The power of the Highest should overshadow her, and therefore that which should be born of her should be called the Son of God. Holy in His birth, conceived by the intervention of the power of God acting upon Mary (a power which was the divine source of His existence on the earth, as man), that which thus received its being from Mary, the fruit of her womb, should even in this sense have the title of Son of God. The holy thing which should be born of Mary should be called the Son of God. It is not here the doctrine of the eternal relationship of the Son with the Father. The Gospel of John, the Epistle to the Hebrews, that to the Colossians, establish this precious truth, and demonstrate its importance; but here it is that which was born by virtue of the miraculous conception, which on that ground is called the Son of God.

The angel announces to her the blessing bestowed on Elizabeth through the almighty power of God; and Mary bows to the will of her God-the submissive vessel of His purpose, and in her piety acknowledges a height and greatness in these purposes which only left to her, their passive instrument, her place of subjection to the will of God. This was her glory, through the favour of her God.

It was befitting that wonders should accompany, and bear a just testimony to, this marvellous intervention of God. The communication of the angel was not without fruit in the heart of Mary; and by her visit to Elizabeth, she goes to acknowledge the wonderful dealings of God. The piety of the virgin displays itself here in a touching manner. The marvellous intervention of God humbled her, instead of lifting her up. She saw God in that which had taken place, and not herself; on the contrary the greatness of these marvels brought God so near her as to hide her from herself. She yields herself to His holy will: but God has too large a place in her thoughts in this matter to leave any room for self-importance.

The visit of the mother of her Lord to Elizabeth was a natural thing to herself, for the Lord had visited the wife of Zacharias. The angel has made it known to her. She is concerned in these things of God, for God was near her heart by the grace that had visited her. Led by the Holy Ghost in heart and affection, the glory that belonged to Mary, in virtue of the grace of God who had elected her to be the mother of her Lord, is recognised by Elizabeth, speaking by the Holy Ghost. She also acknowledges the pious faith of Mary, and announces to her the fulfilment of the promise she had received (all that took place being a signal testimony given to Him who should be born in Israel and among men).

The heart of Mary is then poured out in thanksgiving. She owns God her Saviour in the grace that has filled her with joy, and her own low estate-a figure of the condition of the remnant of Israel-and that gave occasion to the intervention of God’s greatness, with a full testimony that all was of Himself. Whatever might be the piety suitable to the instrument whom He employed, and which was found indeed in Mary, it was in proportion as she hid herself that she was great; for then God was all, and it was through her that He intervened for the manifestation of His marvellous ways. She lost her place if she made anything of herself, but in truth she did not. The grace of God preserved her, in order that His glory might be fully displayed in this divine event. She recognises His grace, but she acknowledges that all is grace towards her.

It will be remarked here that, in the character and the application of the thoughts that fill her heart, all is Jewish. We may compare the song of Hannah, who prophetically celebrated this same intervention; and see also Luke 1:54-55. But, observe, she goes back to the promises made to the fathers, not to Moses, and she embraces all Israel. It is the power of God, which works in the midst of weakness, when there is no resource, and all is contrary to it. Such is the moment that suits God, and, to the same end, instruments that are null, that God may be all.

It is remarkable that we are not told that Mary was full of the Holy Ghost. It appears to me that this is an honourable distinction for her. The Holy Ghost visited Elizabeth and Zacharias in an exceptional manner. But, although we cannot doubt that Mary was under the influence of the Spirit of God, it was a more inward effect, more connected with her own faith, with her piety, with the more habitual relations of her heart with God (that were formed by this faith and by this piety), and which consequently expressed itself more as her own sentiments. It is thankfulness for the grace and favour conferred on her the lowly one, and that in connection with the hopes and blessing of Israel. In all this there appears to me a very striking harmony in connection with the wondrous favour bestowed upon her. I repeat it, Mary is great inasmuch as she is nothing; but she is favoured by God in a way that is unparalleled, and all generations shall call her blessed.

But her piety, and its expression in this song, being more personal, an answer to God rather than a revelation on His part, it is clearly limited to that which was necessarily for her the sphere of this piety-to Israel, to the hopes and promises given to Israel. It goes back, as we have seen, to the farthest point of God’s relations with Israel-and they were in grace and promise, not law-but it does not go outside them.

Mary abides three months with the woman whom God had blessed, the mother of him who was to be the voice of God in the wilderness; and she returns to follow humbly her own path, that the purposes of God may be accomplished.

Nothing more beautiful of its kind than this picture of the intercourse between these pious women, unknown to the world, but the instruments of God’s grace for the accomplishment of His purpose, glorious and infinite in their results. They hide themselves, moving in a scene into which nothing enters but piety and grace; but God is there, as little known to the world as were these poor women, yet preparing and accomplishing that which the angels desire to fathom in its depths. This takes place in the hill country, where these pious relatives dwelt. They hid themselves; but their hearts, visited by God and touched by His grace, responded by their mutual piety to these wondrous visits from above; and the grace of God was truly reflected in the calmness of a heart that recognised His hand and His greatness, trusting in His goodness and submitting to His will. We are favoured in being admitted into a scene, from which the world was excluded by its unbelief and alienation from God, and in which God thus acted.

But that which piety recognised in secret, through faith in the visitations of God, must at length be made public, and be fulfilled before the eyes of men. The son of Zacharias and Elizabeth is born, and Zacharias (who, obedient to the word of the angel, ceases to be dumb) announces the coming of the Branch of David, the horn of Israel’s salvation, in the house of God’s elect King, to accomplish all the promises made to the fathers, and all the prophecies by which God had proclaimed the future blessing of His people. The child whom God had given to Zacharias and Elizabeth should go before the face of Jehovah to prepare His ways; for the Son of David was Jehovah, who came according to the promises, and according to the word by which God had proclaimed the manifestation of His glory.

The visitation of Israel by Jehovah, celebrated by the mouth of Zacharias, embraces all the blessing of the millennium. This is connected with the presence of Jesus, who brings in His own Person all this blessing. All the promises are Yea and Amen in Him. All the prophecies encircle Him with the glory then to be realised, and make Him the source from which it springs. Abraham rejoiced to see the glorious day of Christ.

The Holy Ghost always does this, when His subject is the fulfilment of the promise in power. He goes on to the full effect which God will accomplish at the end. The difference here is, that it is no longer the announcement of joys in a distant future, when a Christ should be born, when a child should be brought forth, to bring in their joys in days still obscured by the distance at which they were seen. The Christ is now at the door, and it is the effect of His presence that is celebrated. We know that, having been rejected, and being now absent, the accomplishment of these things is necessarily put off until He returns; but His presence will bring their fulfilment, and it is announced as being connected with that presence.

We may remark here, that this chapter confines itself within the strict limits of the promises made to Israel, that is to say, to the fathers. We have the priests, the Messiah, His forerunner, the promises made to Abraham, the covenant of promise, the oath of God. It is not the law; it is the hope of Israel-founded on the promise, the covenant, the oath of God, and confirmed by the prophets-which has its realisation in the birth of Jesus, of the Son of David. It is not, I again say, the law. It is Israel under blessing, not indeed yet accomplished, but Israel in the relationship of faith with God who would. accomplish it. It is only God and Israel who are in question, and that which had taken place in grace between Him and His people alone.

Footnotes for Luke Chapter 1

1: That is, as to the contents of the Gospel. In the ninth chapter His last journey up to Jerusalem begins; and thence on to the latter part of the eighteenth, where (Luke 1:31) His going up to that city is noticed, the evangelist gives mainly a series of moral instructions, and the ways of God in grace now coming in. In verse 35 of chapter 18 (Luke 18:35) we have the blind man of Jericho already noticed as the commencement of His last visit to Jerusalem.

2: The union of motive and inspiration, which infidels have endeavoured to set in opposition to each other, is found in every page of the word. Moreover the two things are only incompatible to the narrow mind of those who are unacquainted with the ways of God. Cannot God impart motives, and through these motives engage a man to undertake some task, and then direct him, perfectly and absolutely, in all that he does? Even if it were a human thought (which I do not at all believe), if God approved of it, could not He watch over its execution so that the result should be entirely according to His will?

3: The expressions, “found favour” and “highly favoured” have not at all the same meaning. Personally she had found favour, so that she was not to fear: but God had sovereignly bestowed on her this grace, this immense favour, of being the mother of the Lord. In this she was the object of God’s sovereign favour.

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Bibliographical Information
Darby, John. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "John Darby's Synopsis of the New Testament". 1857-67.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(1) Forasmuch as many have taken in hand.—On the general bearing of this passage on the questions connected with the authorship and plan of the Gospel, see the Introduction. Here we note (1), what is visible in the English, but is yet more conspicuous in the Greek, the finished structure of the sentences as compared with the simpler openings of the other Gospels; (2) the evidence which the verse supplies of the existence of many written documents professing to give an account of the Gospel history at the time when St. Luke wrote—i.e., probably before St. Paul’s death in A.D. 65. The “many” may have included St. Matthew and St. Mark, but we cannot say. There is no tone of disparagement in the way in which the writer speaks of his predecessors. He simply feels that they have not exhausted the subject, and that his inquiries have enabled him to add something.

Of those things which are most surely believed among us.—Better, of the things that have been accomplished among us.

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Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

St. Luke"s Gospel

Luke 1:3-4

Our information concerning St. Luke is scanty. It is conjectured by some that he was one of the seventy disciples sent forth by our Lord, in addition to the twelve Apostles ( Luke 10:1). There seems no reason to doubt that he was the companion of St. Paul in his travels, and that he was a "physician" ( Colossians 4:14). Some have thought that his profession as a physician may be traced in his manner of describing our Lord"s miraculous cures of diseases, and his companionship of St. Paul in his manner of speaking on such subjects as God"s glory and Christ"s love to sinners. It is generally agreed that his Gospel was written with a special reference to Gentile converts rather than Jews. Origen, Jerome, Chrysostom, Ambrose, and others suppose that St. Paul refers to St. Luke and his Gospel in the words, "the brother whose praise is in the Gospel" ( 2 Corinthians 8:18).

The short preface is a peculiar feature of St. Luke"s Gospel. But we shall find, on examination, that it is full of most useful instruction.

I. St. Luke Gives us a Short but Valuable Sketch of the Nature of a Gospel.—He calls it, "a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us". It is a narrative of facts about Jesus Christ. Christianity is a religion built upon facts. Let us never lose sight of this. It came before mankind at first in this shape. The first preachers did not go up and down the world proclaiming an elaborate, artificial system of abstruse doctrines and deep principles. They proclaimed facts.

II. He Draws a Beautiful Picture of the True Position of the Apostles in the Early Church.—He calls them "eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word". There is an instructive humility in this expression. They were servants of the word of the Gospel. They were men who counted it their highest privilege to carry about, as messengers, the tidings of God"s love to a sinful world, and to tell the story of the Cross.

III. He Describes his own Qualifications for the Work of Writing a Gospel.—He says that he "had perfect understanding of all things from the very first". It would be mere waste of time to inquire from what source St. Luke obtained the information which he has given us in his Gospel. We have no good reason for supposing that he saw our Lord work miracles or heard Him teach. To say that he obtained his information from the Virgin Mary or any of the Apostles is mere conjecture and speculation. Enough for us to know that St. Luke wrote by inspiration of God. Unquestionably he did not neglect the ordinary means of getting knowledge. But the Holy Ghost guided him, no less than all other writers of the Bible, in his choice of matter. St. Luke does not wish his friend to remain in doubt on any matter of his faith. He tells him that he wants him to "know the certainty of those things wherein he had been instructed". Let us bless God daily that we have a written volume which is "able to make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" ( 2 Timothy 3:15).

Luke 1:3-4

What are the legitimate uses of the imagination, that is to say, of the power of perceiving, or conceiving with the mind, things which cannot be perceived by the senses? Its first and noblest use Isaiah, to enable us to bring sensibly to our sight the things which are recorded as belonging to our future state, or invisibly surrounding us in this... but, above all, to call up the scenes and facts in which we are commanded to believe, and be present, as if in the body, at every recorded event of the history of the Redeemer.

—Ruskin, Frondes Agrestes, sec9.

References.—I:3.—Expositor (7th Series), vol. x. p452. Ibid. (5th Series), vol. i. p144. I:3, 4.—T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iv. pp236,243. I:5.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. v. p284. I:5-17.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, Luke, p1. I:9.—Ibid. (6th Series), vol. i. p393113.—A.G. Mortimer, The Church"s Lessons for the Christian Year, pi i. p9. Expositor (4th Series), vol. i.p19. I:15.—J. Keble, Sermons for the Saints" Days, p257. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, Luke, p8.

Luke 1:16

It is because we have so few high saints among us, that we have so many low sinners.

—Richard Baxter.

It would have been but a poor occupation for God to compose this heavy world out of simple elements, and to keep it rolling in the sunbeams from year to year, if He had not had the plan of founding a nursery for a world of spirits upon this material basis. So He is now constantly active in higher natures to attract the lower ones.


Preparation for the Best (First Sunday in Lent)

Luke 1:17

When we speak of preparing ourselves for the future, we commonly think of some coming evil. Life Isaiah, in our familiar and apposite metaphor, a campaign; and "it is usual in war for the guns and the sentinels always to face towards the enemy however far off he may be". There is an instinctive sense of enemies in this mortal life of ours, and every day looks forward more or less anxiously to its tomorrow. Men have so generally acknowledged this state of matters that there are few vaunts which have a more honourable sound to our ears than the old Latin one in utrumque paratus. Yet the phrase is sad. Its readiness for either fate suggests alertness, but has a certain desolate suggestion also: it acknowledges the possibility of the better chance, but it somehow seems to expect the worse.

So it comes to pass that we are far more seldom ready for the better than for the worse event. Preparedness for the best things is rare, because we do not realize that they need preparation, and concentrate our attention in steeling ourselves against possible adversity.

Many a Parsifal is able to combat and unhorse his enemy, and yet is stupefied and blunders irretrievably when he sees the vision of the Holy Grail. Many an adventurer like Jacob looks back ruefully upon an hour of far-reaching promise and spiritual opportunity, saying "Surely God was in this place and I knew it not". The world, in the beginning of the first century, was adjusting itself to Augustus as best it might; but when Christ came, the world knew Him not. We are often prepared to meet the devil: to meet our God we are not prepared.

In the Church Year the great events of the Christian story group themselves into a cluster from Palm Sunday to Whitsunday, breaking the routine of the daily life with the splendid memories of Christ"s passion and resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit. It is fitting that before this season the Church should have set apart a prior season of special preparation.

I. First, there is the preparation of the purification of the heart. All meditation leads that way at once. There is much to be forgiven before we can hope to understand and triumph, and there is much also to be changed. It is only the pure in heart who can by any means see God, and the evil habits of thought, imagination, and desire must be searched out and put away.

II. There is also necessary the boldness of Divine affections. We all admit that the world Isaiah, one way or another, too much with us. Preparation, therefore, must include the practice of looking beyond the world, and carrying up our thoughts and feelings to God Himself. But it requires daring to train our eyes on the Divine, and none but the courageous in heart will succeed in doing it. For the affections that are to find God in Christ must travel along the two lines of our worst and of our best.

Let us face and fully recognise both our weakness and our strength, our worst and our best. Let us bring them both, a strange offering of contrasts, to His feet; that, in our communion with Him, His power and His love may go out upon them both, and recreate us after His image.

—John Kelman, Ephemera Etemitatis, p49.

References.—I:17.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xli. No2404. Expositor (7th Series), vol. vi. pp53, 545118.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiv. No1405.

Luke 1:19

Then Gabriel, like a rainbow"s birth,

Spread his wings and sank to earth;

Entered, in flesh, the empty cell,

Lived there, and played the craftsman well;

And morning, evening, noon and night,

Praised God in place of Theocrite;

(He did God"s will; to him, all one,

If on the earth or in the sun.)

—R. Browning, The Boy and the Angel.

Reference.—I:20.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. x. p281.

Luke 1:25

Dr. Richard Hooker, at one period of his life, was exposed to a cruel slander against his moral character, which, says Izaak Walton, "he kept secret to himself for many months; and being a helpless Prayer of Manasseh, had lain longer under this heavy burthen, but that the Protector of the innocent gave such an accidental occasion as forced him to make it known to his two dearest friends, Edwin Sandys and George Cranmer, who were so sensible of their tutor"s sufferings, that they gave themselves no rest, till by their disquisitions and diligence they had found out the fraud, and brought him the welcome news.... To which the good man"s reply was to this purpose: "To my God I say, as did the mother of St. John Baptist, Thus hath the Lord dealt with me, in the day wherein He looked upon me, to take away my reproach among men. And, O my God! neither my life nor my reputation are safe in my own keeping, but in Thine, who didst take care of me when I yet hanged upon my mother"s breast.""

The Angel"s Greeting to the Virgin Mary

Luke 1:26-28

The festival of the Annunciation has been variously yet appropriately designated thus: "The Day of Salutation"; "the Day of the Gospel"; and "the Festival of the Incarnation". In many parts it was for some time the first day of the ecclesiastical year, as it is now, under its vernacular name—Lady Day, the first quarterly division of the ordinary year. How the ancient Church observed the day can scarcely be ascertained now. And this is not a little remarkable, as the Christian Fathers have written numerous homilies on the day itself, and the Christian Muse has for centuries been actively engaged in illustrating it To the Christian artist, the holy mysteries of the day have ever had a special fascination, as shown by the pictures and paintings—some very grotesque, others very beautiful—which were produced during the first ages succeeding the Annunciation itself. Christians of the present day regard it as the first stage of the Incarnation. Hence we gladly keep the day as a holy festival, and fix our mind upon its marvels.

I. In Old Testament times names were reckoned of paramount consequence, as they were identified with some unusual fact in personal and family life, and were also prophetical. The name Mary—so familiar to us—is the same as Miriam. Its first and best signification is "exalted"; and this applies with peculiar emphasis to Mary of Nazareth. Yet it must not be forgotten that she had lineally descended from David; therefore the blood of Israel"s ancient kings flowed in her veins. She was also a virgin—pure and spotless. Had it been otherwise she had never been the mother of Jesus, because, from first to last, He was to be holy and undefiled; and this could not possibly have been if the least fleck of impurity had been found in her nature. The place of her residence corresponded with her true condition. Nazareth means "separated" or "sanctified". Yet it was no grand metropolis, no flourishing sea-side town, but a small inland, upland city, in the heart of Galilee, called "Galilee of the Gentiles". In other words, it was a little city of carpenters; hence Joseph lived here, and though "of the house of David, "yet, being poor, he worked hard at the toilsome craft of the place. It had no reputation for learning or piety. To this little city a great angel was Divinely sent. He is called Gabriel—"the strength of God". In the celestial hierarchy he ranked next to Michael the archangel, and when in heaven, he says, "I stand in the presence of God"; that Isaiah, right before His throne.

II. Whether Mary was in her house, or what her engagement when Gabriel visited her, we know not; but he instantly saluted her—"Hail!" After this brief salutation, Gabriel bids Mary rejoice, because being "highly favoured" she is to be the mother of the Messiah. This, in truth, was the honour for which every Hebrew female intensely longed from the beginning; but Mary was Divinely chosen for this signal pre-eminency. What joy she felt when Gabriel assured her of this! When he left, she hastened to her cousin, Elisabeth, in the upland country, to communicate the information and the joy to her. "Only the meeting of saints in heaven can parallel the meeting of these two cousins: the two wonders of the world under one roof, declaring their mutual happiness!" (S. ). High dignity, beside deep joy, was now conferred upon Mary. "Thou art highly favoured," said Gabriel to her. But this dignity was not of an earthly, fleeting nature; for Mary was left by the angel in the same humble condition in which he found her; and, in truth, her humble condition was the same at the birth of Christ, and to the day of her own death. The dignity, therefore, was heavenly and lasting. So it has proved itself. No woman, from Eve downward, has been so honoured as the Blessed Virgin of Nazareth. Her very memory is fragrant as Eden. Nor is this all: "The Lord is with thee". This constituted her real blessedness, and was the climax of the annunciation of the angel. The Lord was with Mary in two sublime senses—to sustain and further deepen the joy of her soul, and to perform the covenant which Gabriel had made with her at His bidding. One other brief sentence fell from those angel lips, forming the noblest utterance ever made: "Blessed art thou among women!" After the battle of the river Kishon, and after Jael had slain, in her tent, the captain of the host of the King of Canaan, Deborah, the prophetess, pronounced the heroine "blessed above all women"; but Gabriel, the angel, pronounces a better and richer blessing on Mary; and Mary, in her glorious Magnificat, says of herself, "All generations shall call me blessed". This they have done since the birth of Christ, and this they will continue to do as long as Christ Himself shall reign, even for ever ( Luke 1:32-33).

References.—I:28.—J. Keble, Sermons for the Saints" Days, p191. J. T. Bramston, Fratribus, p111. C. A. Berry, Vision and Duty, p157. J. H. Barrows, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvi. p330. J. Denney, ibid. vol. xlix. p337.

Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Luke 1:32-33

March25 is a memorable day in our calendar. It is important in our business life and in our domestic life. To Churchmen Lady Day has a high significance because that on it we commemorate the announcement of the angel to the Blessed Virgin that she should bring forth a Son who was to be the Incarnate Son of God. We can never forget that she was "highly favoured amongst women" in that she was chosen to be the channel by which—and the thought is a most stupendous one—the Incarnation of the Son of God was to be effected. We reverence her purity and we admire the beauty of her character. When we think of the greatness conferred upon womanhood in the Incarnation it should lead all men—should it not?—to cultivate habits of chivalry and grace in all their dealings with women. But we shall mistake the significance of this festival unless we observe that the Church centres our attention not upon Mary but upon her promised Son. The Collect, the Epistle, the Gospel, the Lessons all point to Him.

I. The Promised Son.—The message of the angel revealed to Mary that her Son should be Jesus, the Saviour. He was coming to redeem Israel, "to save His people from their sins"—and not Israel only but all the world. This was Hebrews, of Whose coming Isaiah prophesied (as we read in the portion of Scripture appointed for today"s Epistle) when he said that, "a virgin shall conceive and bear a Song of Solomon, and shall call His name Immanuel". Nor was this all. The angel who appeared to Mary said that her Son should be a King, "and of His kingdom there shall be no end".

II. The Work He Came to do.—As our Saviour He came to save us from our sins. He was manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil. Has His coming made any difference to your life? Is He in our workshop? Is He in our office? Is He in our home? Is He in our amusements? "God with us" will sanctify every relationship of life. He claims to have control over our life, for is He not the King? "Of His kingdom there shall be no end." Has it begun in you? The religion of Jesus Christ is not for one time or for one land, for "He hath made of one blood all the nations of the earth," and you and I have to spread the kingdom of our Lord if He really is our King.

III. The Future Glory.—It is astonishing that although nineteen hundred years have passed away there should still be so many who do not recognise His claims over them. May it be ours to know Jesus to be our Saviour! May we realise His presence in our lives as our Immanuel! May we recognise His claims as our King! Then and then only shall we pass through this world with an assurance of the future glory.

References.—I:30, 31, 34, and35.—Bishop Gore, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. p209. I:31-35.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. vii. p93. I:33.—Ibid. vol. i. pp36, 209; ibid. (4th Series), vol. ii. p470. I:34.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiv. No1405. Expositor (7th Series), vol. vi. p182.

Luke 1:35-40

In her volume on The Makers of Florence, Mrs. Oliphant describes Mariotto"s picture of the "Visitation "which hangs in the Pitti Palace; Elisabeth and Mary stand in the foreground of the canvas, against the blue sky, the elder woman stepping out eagerly to meet and welcome the shrinking mother of our Lord. "I have heard," she adds, "of a woman, sadly lonely in a strange country, and little aware of the merits of the picture, poor soul! who would go and linger in the room "for company," wistfully wishing that the kind, penetrating, sympathetic tale of that old, tender Elisabeth could but fall on herself." The passage has an autobiographic note, for the woman was no other than Mrs. Oliphant herself.

References.—I:35.—W. Alexander, Primary Convictions, p67. J. Keble, Sermons for the Saints" Days, p201. W. Archer Butler, Sermons Doctrinal and Practical (1Series), p16. Expositor (5th Series), vol. ii. p165; ibid. vol. ix. p865

The Handmaid of the Lord (The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

Luke 1:38

The story of the Annunciation is one of the most impressive to be found in the Gospels. In the Gospel for today we have a striking illustration of the singular beauty, purity, and steadiness of character which are manifested by the Blessed Virgin.

I. Her Faith.—The remarkable faith with which she received the annunciation from the angel of the wonderful event which was to take place is a lesson to us all. Her words are very simple and very full of submissive faith—"Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to Thy word".

II. Her Piety.—The manner in which, as we read later, she pondered in her heart the various events of the Lord"s childhood, which seemed to point out her Son as being greater than even she herself had suspected, is worthy of notice. It befits religious character of the highest order, and shows her to have been possessed of the deepest piety.

III. Her Submission.—The same religious discretion marked her conduct on the occasion of her losing sight of Jesus on their return from Jerusalem when He was twelve years old. His answer might well add to His parents" perplexity, and His mother does not seem to have understood it; but she did not forget the saying because she could not understand it; on the other hand, she kept it in her heart. She was wholly submissive to what she believed to be the Divine will.

IV. The Reverence Due to Her.—We need not flinch from according to the Blessed Virgin the honour which belongs to her. "All generations shall call me blessed," and we must have dull hearts if we do not so account her. We honour the Apostles because they were very near to, and much honoured by, the Lord, and we rightly honour the Virgin Mother of our Lord. But one word of caution is necessary. While we reverence the Blessed Virgin as one of the first of saints, while we call her blessed, and think her the most highly honoured of the human race, we must not harbour any temptation in our hearts to worship her. The best antidote to Mariolatry is to have our whole souls filled with the contemplation of the Virgin"s Song of Solomon, even our Saviour and hers, Jesus Christ our Lord, the Eternal Son of God.

References.—I:38.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. ii. p171. Bishop Gore, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. p200. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Holy Tide Teaching, p77. A. G. Mortimer, The Church"s Lessons for the Christian Year, pt. i. p22. Bishop Jacob, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lx. p21. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for Saints" Days, p90. C. W. Furse, Sermons at Richmond, p285. R. W. Church, Human Life and its Conditions, p172. I:39.—Expositor (7th Series), vol. x. p93. I:42.—J. H. Barrows, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvi. p330. I:43.—J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. iv. p40. I:43.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. ii. p244. I:44.—Ibid. vol. v. p448.

Luke 1:46-47

"After this," writes George Fox in his Journal for1646, "I met with a sort of people that held women have no souls (adding, in a light manner) no more than a goose. But I reproved them, and told them that was not right; for Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour."

References.—I:46.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi. No1514. W. P. Paterson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliii. p22. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in a Religious House, vol. i. p269. I:46-55.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Luke, p17. I:46, 47.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. x. No606; vol. xxxvii. No2219, and vol. li. No2941. J46-48.—H. P. Liddon, The Magnificat, p1. I:47.—Expositor (7th Series), vol. v. p495.

Reverence Due to the Virgin Mary

Luke 1:48

Many truths are, like the "things which the seven thunders uttered," "sealed up" from us. In particular, it is in mercy to us that so little is revealed about the Blessed Virgin, in mercy to our weakness, though of her there are "many things to say," yet they are "hard to be uttered, seeing we are dull of hearing".

But, further, the more we consider who St. Mary was, the more dangerous will such knowledge of her appear to be. Other saints are but influenced or inspired by Christ, and made partakers of Him mystically. But, as to St. Mary, Christ derived His manhood from her and so had an especial unity of nature with her; and this wondrous relationship between God and man it is perhaps impossible for us to dwell much upon without some perversion of feeling. For, truly, she is raised above the condition of sinful beings, though by nature a sinner; she is brought near to God, yet is but a creature, and seems to lack her fitting place in our limited understandings, neither too high nor too low. We cannot combine, in our thought of her, all we should ascribe with all we should withhold. Hence, following the example of Scripture, we had better only think of her with and for her Song of Solomon, never separating her from Him, but using her name as a memorial of His great condescension in stooping from heaven, and not "abhorring the Virgin"s womb". And this is the rule of our own Church, which has set apart only such festivals in honour of the Blessed Mary as may also be festivals in honour of our Lord; the Purification commemorating His presentation in the Temple, and the Annunciation commemorating His Incarnation. And, with this caution, the thought of her may be made most profitable to our faith; for nothing is so calculated to impress on our minds that Christ is really partaker of our nature, and in all respects Prayer of Manasseh, save sin only, as to associate Him with the thought of her by whose ministration He became our brother.

—J. H. Newman.

References.—I:48.—C. A. Berry, Vision and Duty, p157. I:48-50.—H. P. Liddon, The Magnificat, p30. I:49.—F. de W. Lushington, Sermons to Young Boys, p106. I:51-53.—H. P. Liddon, University Sermons (2Series), p203. Ibid. The Magnificat, p57. I:53.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliv. No2582, and vol. lii. No3019. I:54, 55.—H. P. Liddon, The Magnificat, p84. I:65, 66.—J. Keble, Sermons for the Saints" Days, p247. I:66.—R. F. Horton, This Do, p61. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for Saints" Days, p131. I:67.—A. G. Mortimer, The Church"s Lessons for the Christian Year, pt. i. p39. I:67-80.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Luke, p24.


Luke 1:68

About one hundred and eighty years ago (that was in the time of King Charles II.) six persons died in this college in less than a week. That was what we call an awful visitation of God. When we speak of a visitation of God we generally mean His visitation to punish. Then why is it said here, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He hath visited". Why, because you see how it goes on, He hath visited and redeemed His people.

I. Old age is His very true and real visitation—and being Song of Solomon, how ought you to receive it? If a king, an earthly king, were to give you notice that he was coming to see you, what preparation should you make for his visit? The very first time God begins to visit you in old age, the very first time you can say, "I am quite well, and yet I am not so strong as I was," then that means, "Now this corruptible body is beginning to show me that it cannot always, no, nor yet for very much longer, hold together". And that means that it will in time be laid to sleep in the churchyard, waiting for that blessed hope and the Resurrection brought to pass by our Lord Jesus Christ So still you ought to be able to say—ought you not?—"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel".

II. Israel means—He that sees God. And why that name? Because it is only to them who, so David says, have set God always before them that these promises are made.

See how God visited Zacharias himself. In the first place, in judgment, because he disbelieved the miraculous birth of St. John Baptist. "Behold, thou shalt be dumb and not able to speak." And then in love, when immediately the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. And so He visits all of us. Think of every affliction that you have had from your youth up till now; they were God"s visitations. And every deliverance you ever had; that was God"s visitation too. One"s whole life is full of such visitations, such deliverances, and we may all say with good King Hezekiah, "The Lord was ready to save me".—J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College, vol. i. p65.

Luke 1:71-79

We talk very much, and very badly; in pulpit, and Parliament, and press. We want the man who has something new to say, and knows how to say it. For my own part, I don"t think, when he comes, that he will glorify explosives. I want to hear some one talk about Peace—and not from the commercial point of view. The slaughterers shan"t have it all their own way: civilization will be too strong for them, and if old England doesn"t lead in that direction it will be her shame to the end of history.

—George Gissing.

References.—174, 76.—E. J. Boyce, Parochial Sermons, p216. E. H. Hopkins, The Record, vol. xxvii. p799. I:76.—W. G. Rutherford, The Key of Knowledge, p96. I:77-79.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxii. No1907.

The Dayspring

Luke 1:78

The Eternal God is never in a hurry, for a thousand centuries are unto Him but as a moment. In all His great kingdoms the Divine Actor works gradually—the blade, the ear, and the full corn in the ear; the daydawn, the ascending sun, and the full meridian; the promise, the type, and the antitype; the law, the prophets, and the Gospel; the crude altar, the superb temple, and God manifest in the flesh. Gradual progression runs through the ages like a line of light. We invite your attention to the gradual unfolding of Redemption.

I. Gradualness of Development is a prominent feature in all the works of God. (1) In the physical sphere we meet on every hand with this striking feature. A great story demands a long prologue—hence the slowly ascending scale from the protoplasmic beginning to man! In the words of Emerson: "The gases gather to the solid firmament, the chemic lump arrives at the plant and grows, arrives at the quadruped and walks, arrives at the man and thinks". The wheels of His stupendous machinery revolve slowly, and the majestic gradualness of their revolutions bears the stamp of eternity. (2) In the intellectual sphere we meet with this feature of gradualness. Even our consciousness, the Song of Solomon -called foundation of our being, develops. How very gradually our education proceeds. Again, most of our great discoveries have been gradually lured out of their hiding-places. All our great discoveries have come about gradually, "like the deities, their feet have been shod with wool". (3) In the moral and spiritual sphere we meet with this principle of gradualness. No man can leap at a bound into sainthood. The soul can no more be fully sanctified at once than the dawn can become the meridian in an hour, than the blossom can become a ripe apple in a day, than the babe can become a giant in a week!

II. Analogy suggests that the gradualness which we find in the physical, mental, and moral spheres may also be expected in the Progress of Redemption. (1) The world was not ready for an earlier Revelation. The lesson must always be suited to the mental and moral capacity of the learner. Carlyle"s essay on "Bacon" was one of his finest; but it took twenty-five years to become popular, because the age was not educated up to it! A schoolboy cannot understand Milton"s poems without first learning the alphabet, and for ages humanity was God"s child in God"s school learning the moral and spiritual A, B, C. (2) God was anxious to convince humanity of the utter impossibility of self-education. Intellect, and the arts, and physical force, and order, and government strained every nerve to save the world; but it was a colossal failure, and the world, like a tired child, sat weeping away its heart. For our own part we rejoice in this gradualness. And why? Simply because a full-orbed revelation flashed upon us in one instant would have overwhelmed us! We mortals are too feeble and frail to bear the full outflashing of the Divine! "Ye cannot bear it now." As one divine well puts it: "God could have said more to us; but He has not because He would not, and He would not because He loved us too well to overwhelm us with this revelation".

—J. Ossian Davies, The Dayspring from on High, p9.

Luke 1:78

Thus, from our point of view, does Goethe rise on us as the Uniter, and victorious Reconciler, of the distracted, clashing elements of the most distracted and divided age that the world has witnessed since the introduction of the Christian Religion; to which old chaotic Era, of world-confusion and world-refusion, of blackest darkness succeeded by a dawn of light and nobler "dayspring from on high," this wondrous Era of ours Isaiah, indeed, oftenest likened. To the faithful heart let no Era be a desperate one! It is ever the nature of darkness to be followed by a new, nobler light; nay, to produce such.... Woe to the land where, in these seasons, no prophet arises; but only censors, satirists, and embittered desperadoes, to make the evil worse; at best but to accelerate a consummation, which in accelerating they have aggravated! Old Europe had its Tacitus and Juvenal; but these availed not. New Europe too has had its Mirabeaus and Byrons and Napoleons and innumerable red-flaming meteors, shaking pestilence from their hair; and earthquakes and deluges and Chaos come again; but the clear Star, day"s harbinger (Phosphoros, the bringer of light), had not yet been recognised.


References.—I:78.—Basil Wilberforce, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvii. p30. W. M. Bunting, Preacher"s Magazine, vol. xviii. p234. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. liii. No3029. G. H. Curteis, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlv. p4. J. Ossian Davies, The Dayspring from on High, p22.

The Dayspring

Luke 1:78-79

"Them that sit in darkness." The figure is not suggestive of the twilight of a summer"s eve, or the trembling expectant twilight of a summer"s morn; it is the midnight of the winter season. We all know the power of the darkness. How intense and feverish becomes the imagination in the still dark hours of the night! How erratic and untrustful our judgments!

I. "Them that sit in darkness." That was the condition of the race before the Saviour was born. The world was dark, and clammy, and cold. What did death mean to these tenants of the night? It meant the dissolver of the body. It meant the pilot of the soul. If you want to know the explanation of much of the darkness, you must turn to the first and second chapters of the Epistle to the Romans.

II. "They sit in darkness and in the shadow of death...." Now, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem... what? The morning dawned upon that night-burdened, shadow-haunted, fear-filled world. "The dayspring from on high hath visited us." "The dayspring?" not the full day, but the spring of the day, the light-fountain, Heaven"s East. We should only have been "blinded with excess of light". So He dawned upon us; the light fell upon the sore and wearied hearts of men with the soft warmth of an infant"s kiss. "Soft and quiet as the breast feather of a motherly bird." "Hath visited." Another word which helps to heap up and multiply the comforting suggestion. It is a visit of sympathy, of healing, of relief, of release. Such is the infinitely gentle and delicate coming of the omnipotent God.

III. What was the purpose of the dawning? "To give light to them that sit in darkness." (1) To illumine the world. The mission of the dayspring was the ministry of illumination. The Dayspring was not first of all a redeemer. He must first reveal before He can redeem. (2) As redeemer also did this Dayspring visit us. "To guide our feet into the way of peace." It is the guidance of a pioneer. Pioneers are "living ways". David Livingstone laid down his life in Africa, and became a "living way "to guide our feet into the heart of that dark continent. The pioneer is the living way into undiscovered realms.

—J. H. Jowett, Apostolic Optimism, p186.

References.—I:78, 79-—R. J. Campbell, City Temple Sermons, p223. J. Keble, Sermons for Christmas to Epiphany, p1. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Luke, p30. I:79.—F. de W. Lushington, Sermons to Young Boys, p73.

Luke 1:80

"Every week," said Goethe of Schiller in his early life, "he became different and more finished; each time that I saw him he seemed to me to have advanced in learning and judgment."

References.—II:1.—Expositor (7th Series), vol. i. p89; (6th Series), vol. v. p433; (6th Series), vol. iii. p137. II:1, 2.—Ibid. vol. v. p274. II:1-7.—Bishop Gore, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvii. p193. II:1-3.—Expositor (7th Series), vol. v. p19. II:4.—Ibid. (6th Series), vol. x. p280. II:6.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. i. p11.

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. 1910.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Luke 1:1. : three particles, , , , blended into one word, implying that the fact to be stated is well known ( ), important ( ), and important as a reason for the undertaking on hand ( ) = seeing, as is well known. Hahn thinks the word before us is merely a temporal not a causal particle, and that Luke means only to say that he is not the first to take such a task on hand. But why mention this unless because it entered somehow into his motives for writing? It might do so in various ways: as revealing a widespread impulse to preserve in writing the evangelic memorabilia, stimulating him to do the same; as meeting an extensive demand for such writings on the part of Christians, which appealed to him also; as showing by the number of such writings that no one of them adequately met the demand, or performed the task in a final manner, and that therefore one more attempt was not superfluous. , a good Greek word, occurs here only in N. T.— : not an exaggeration, but to be taken strictly as implying extensive activity in the production of rudimentary “Gospels”. The older exegetes understood the word as referring to heretical or apocryphal gospels, of course by way of censure. This view is abandoned by recent commentators, for whom the question of interest rather is: were Mt.’s Logia and Mk.’s Gospel among the earlier contributions which Lk. had in his eye? This question cannot be decided by exegesis, and answers vary according to the critical theories of those who discuss the topic. All that need be said here is that there is no apparent urgent reason for excluding Mt. and Mk. from the crowd of early essayists.— , took in hand; here and in Acts 9:29; Acts 19:13. It is a vox ambigua, and might or might not imply blame = attempted and did not succeed, or attempted and accomplished their task. It is not probable that emphatic blame is intended. On the other hand, it is not likely that . is a mere expletive, and that . is simply = , as, after Casaubon, Palairet, Raphel, etc., maintained. The verb contains a gentle hint that in some respects finality had not yet been reached, which might be said with all due respect even of Mt.’s Logia and Mk.’s Gospel.— , to set forth in order a narrative; the expression points to a connected series of narratives arranged in some order ( ), topical or chronological, rather than to isolated narratives, the meaning put on by Schleiermacher. Both verb and noun occur here only in N. T.— indicates the subject of these narratives. The leading term in this phrase is , about the meaning of which interpreters are much divided. The radical idea of ( , ) is to bring or make full. The special sense will depend on the matter in reference to which the fulness takes place. It might be in the region of fact, in which case the word under consideration would mean “become a completed series,” and the whole phrase “concerning events which now lie before us as a complete whole”. This view is adopted by an increasing number of modern commentators (vide R. V.[1]). Or the fulness may be in conviction, in which case the word would mean “most surely believed” (A. V[2]). This sense of complete conviction occurs several times in N. T. (Romans 4:21, Hebrews 6:11; Hebrews 10:22), but with reference to persons not to things. A very large number of interpreters, ancient and modern, take the word here in this sense (“bei uns beglaubigten,” Weizsäcker). Holtz., H. C., gives both without deciding between them (“vollgeglaubten oder vollbrachten”). Neither meaning seems quite what is wanted. The first is too vague, and does not indicate what the subject-matter is. The second is explicit enough as to that = the matters which form the subject of Christian belief; but one hardly expects these matters to be represented as the subject of sure belief by one whose very aim in writing is to give further certainty concerning them ( , Luke 1:4). What if the sphere of the fulness be knowledge, and the meaning of the clause: “concerning the things which have become widely known among us Christians”? Then it would be plain enough what was referred to. Then also the phrase would point out the natural effect of the many evangelic narratives—the universal diffusion of a fair acquaintance with the leading facts of Christ’s life. But have we any instance of such use of the word?— is used in reference to understanding and knowledge in Colossians 2:2. Then in modern Greek means to inform, and as the word is mainly Hellenistic in usage, and may belong to the popular speech preserved throughout the centuries, . may mean, “those things of which information has been given” (Geldart, The Modern Greek Language, p. 186), or those things generally known among Christians as such.

[1]R. V. Revised Version.

[2] Authorised Version.



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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Luke 1:1-4. The preface.



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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Many have taken in hand to set forth; others wrote accounts of the times besides the four evangelists whose histories have come down to us, but these were the only men designated by God for the instruction of the world in all ages in respect to our Lord’s life and teachings, and inspired by the Holy Ghost for the right accomplishment of this work.

Among us; among the Christians then living. There are certain truths taught in the holy Scriptures which are most surely believed by all true Christians, and which are made the means of sanctifying their souls.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "Family Bible New Testament". American Tract Society. 1851.

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary

IN THE OPENING verses Luke avows the object before him in writing his Gospel; he wished to bring certainty to the mind of a certain Gentile convert. God had given him a perfect understanding of all things from the outset, so now he wrote them “in order,” or “with method;” and we shall see as we proceed that he sometimes ignores historical order to present things in a method that is moral and spiritual. The understanding of that moral and spiritual order, together with having the facts clearly in writing, would bring certainty to Theophilus, as also it will to us. We see here how certainty is linked with the Holy Writings—the Word of God. If we had not the Holy Writings, we should have certainty of nothing.

The first and second chapters present us with facts concerning the birth of Christ, and with very interesting pictures of the godly remnant in Israel, out of whom, according to the flesh, He appeared. The first picture, verses Luke 1:5-25, concerns the priest Zacharias and his wife. They were “righteous before God,” from which we may deduce that they were a couple marked by faith, and consequently they were marked by obedience to the instructions of the law. Yet, when told by an angel that his elderly and barren wife should bear a son, he asked for a sign of some kind to be given in support of the bare Word of God. In this he proved himself to be an “unbelieving believer,” though very true to type, for “the Jews require a sign” (1 Corinthians 1:22); and he suffered governmentally, inasmuch as the sign granted was the loss of his power of speech. The sign was quite appropriate however. The Psalmist said, “I believed, therefore have I spoken.” Zacharias did not believe, and therefore he could not speak.

The angel’s prediction concerning the son of Zacharias was that he should be great in the sight of the Lord, and be filled with the Holy Ghost, so that in the spirit and power of Elijah he might “make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” In verses Luke 1:6, Luke 1:9, Luke 1:11, Luke 1:15, Luke 1:16-17, “Lord” is the equivalent of the Old Testament “Jehovah,” so the advent of the Messiah is to be the advent of Jehovah. There were to be people on earth who were prepared to receive Christ when He came. The Gospel starts then with a godly priest fulfilling the ritual of the law in the temple, and granted a promise that had to do with a people waiting for the Messiah to appear on earth. We ask special attention to this, for we think we shall see that this Gospel gives us the transition from law to grace, and from earth to heaven, so that it ends with tidings of grace for all nations, and with Christ ascending into the heavens to take up high-priestly service there. In chapter 1 the earthly priest was dumb. In the closing verses of the Gospel the men who are to be priests in the new dispensation of the Holy Spirit, were in the temple and anything but dumb—they were praising and blessing God.

In verses Luke 1:26-38, we have the angel’s announcement to Mary concerning the conception and birth of her Son. She was the chosen vessel for this great event. A few details of much importance must be briefly noted. In the first place, verse Luke 1:31 makes it abundantly plain that He was truly a Man; “made of a woman,” as Galatians 4:4 says.

In the second place, verses Luke 1:32-33 make it plain that He was far more than a mere Man. He was “great,” in a way that no other man ever was, being Son of the Highest; and He is destined to be the looked-for King over the house of Jacob, and take up a kingdom that abides for ever. We observe that there is as yet no hint of anything outside those hopes as to the Messiah which could be based upon Old Testament prophecies. The Son of the Highest was coming to reign, and that reign might be immediate as far as this message was concerned.

A difficulty occurred to Mary’s mind which she expressed in verse 34. The coming Child was to have David as His ancestor and yet be the Son of the Highest! She did not ask for a sign, since she accepted the angel’s words, but she did ask for an explanation. How could this thing be? Mary’s question and the angel’s answer in verses Luke 1:35-37, make quite plain in the third place the reality of the virgin birth and the wholly super-natural character of the Manhood of Jesus.

There was to be an action of the Holy Ghost, producing “that Holy Thing,” and then the over-shadowing of the Power of the Highest—a process we believe—protecting “that Holy Thing,” while as yet unborn. In result there was to be a suitable vessel of flesh and blood for the incarnation of the Son of God. He is Son of David truly, as is indicated at the end of verse Luke 1:32, but Romans 1:3 shows that it was the Son of God who became Son of David according to the flesh. In verse Luke 1:35 of our chapter the article “the” is really absent— “called Son of God”—that is, it indicates character rather than the definite Person. When the Son of God became the Son of David through Mary, there was such a putting forth of the power of God as ensured that the “Holy Thing” born of Mary should be “Son of God” in character, and therefore the fit vessel for His incarnation. It was a miracle of the first order; but then, as the angel said, “with God nothing shall be impossible.”

The faith of Mary, and her submission to the pleasure of God concerning her, comes out beautifully in verse 38. Verses Luke 1:39-45 show the piety and prophetic spirit that characterized Elisabeth, for seeing Mary she at once recognized in her the mother “of my Lord.” She was filled with the Holy Ghost, and recognized Jesus as her Lord even before He was born, an instructive illustration, this, of 1 Corinthians 12:3.

This is followed by Mary’s prophetic utterance in verses Luke 1:46-55. It was called forth by her sense of the extraordinary mercy that had been shown to her in her humble circumstances. Though descended from David she was but the espoused wife of the humble carpenter of Nazareth. In the mercy shown to her she saw the pledge of the final exaltation of those who fear God and the scattering of the proud and mighty of this world. She saw moreover that the coming of her Child was to be the fulfilment of the promise that had been made to Abraham—God’s unconditional promise. She had no thought of Israel having deserved anything under the covenant of law. All depended upon the covenant of promise. The hungry were being filled and the rich dismissed empty. This is ever God’s way.

We must not omit to notice that Mary spoke of “God my Saviour.” Though the mother of our Saviour, she herself found her Saviour in God.

In due time the son was born to Zacharias and Elisabeth and at the time of his circumcision his father’s mouth was opened. He wrote, “His name is

John,” showing that he now fully accepted the angel’s word, and hence the name of his son was a settled question. At last he believed, though it was faith that follows sight, of the true Jewish type; consequently his mouth was opened. He praised God, and filled with the Holy Ghost he prophesied.

A striking thing about this prophecy is that, though it was provoked by the birth of his own son John, that child was only before his mind in a minor and secondary way. The great theme of his utterance was the yet unborn Christ of God. He held things in their right proportion. This was the fruit of his being filled with the Spirit, who always magnifies Christ. Had he spoken merely in the enthusiasm engendered by the birth of the unexpected son, he would have talked mainly or altogether about him and the exalted prophetic office to which he was called.

He spoke of the coming of Christ as though it had already materialized, and he celebrated the effects of His coming as though they had already been accomplished. This is a common feature of prophecy: it speaks of things as accomplished which historically are still in the future. For the moment the prophet is carried in his spirit outside all time considerations. In the imminent appearance of Christ, Zacharias saw the Lord God of Israel visiting His people in order to redeem them. The salvation that He would bring would deliver them from all their enemies and enable them to serve Him in freedom, and in holiness and righteousness all the days of their life. And all this would be in fulfilment of His promise and oath to Abraham. Notice how the Holy Spirit inspired him to refer to the unconditional promise to Abraham, just as Mary had done. Israel’s blessing will be on that basis and not on the basis of the covenant of law.

In all this we observe as yet no clear distinction between the first and second comings of Christ. Verses Luke 1:68-75, contemplate things which will only be brought to pass in any full sense at His second coming. True, redemption was wrought by Christ at His first coming, but it was redemption by blood, and not by power; and it is true of course that the holiness and. righteousness in which a restored and delivered Israel will serve their God through the bright millennial day will be based upon the work of the cross. Still in these verses the two comings are regarded as one whole.

Verses Luke 1:76-77 refer directly to John, who had just been born. He was to go before the face of Jehovah preparing His ways. He was to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins. This he did as verse Luke 1:3 of Luke 3:1-38 records, in connection with his baptism. Notice that here “His people” acquires a rather new sense—not Israel nationally, but those who were the believing remnant in the midst of that people. All is on the ground of mercy even with John and his Elijah-like ministry. It is, “the remission of their sins on account of the bowels of mercy of our God” (New Trans.).

In verses Luke 1:78-79 Zacharias returns to the coming of Christ, and all of course is on the ground of that same mercy, for the word “whereby,” connects what follows with the mercy just mentioned. The “Dayspring from on high” is a peculiarly lovely description of Christ. Alternative words for “Dayspring” would be “Daydawn” or “Sunrising.” His advent was indeed the dawning of a new day. Every earthly sunrising has been, to human eyes, from beneath upwards. This one was “from on high” that is, from above downwards. The Spirit of God moved Zacharias to announce by inspiration the dawning of a day that would be new, though the full wonder of it was as yet hidden from his eyes.

He saw however that it meant the bringing in of both light and peace for men; and here he does begin to speak of things that were blessedly accomplished in the first coming of Christ. When He came forth in His public ministry the light began to shine, and the way of peace was well and truly laid in His death and resurrection, and the feet of His disciples led into it immediately after. The prophecy of Zacharias closes on this strikingly beautiful note. In the first glimpse we have of him he is a troubled and fearful man. His last word recorded in Scripture is “peace.” He had seen by faith the coming of the Saviour, like the dawning of a new day of blessing, and that made all the difference.

Verse Luke 1:80 summarizes the whole of John’s life up to the opening of his ministry. God dealt with him in secret in the deserts, educating him in view of his solemn preaching of repentance in the days to come.

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Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". 1947.

F.B. Meyer's 'Through the Bible' Commentary


Luke 1:1-12

The opening verses are very explicit. They are answer enough to those who question the story of our Lord’s supernatural birth and early years. Luke did not catch up the first legend that floated past him. He made searching inquiry. Doctor Weymouth renders the words in Luke 1:3, “having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first,” as, “After careful examination of the facts from the commencement.”

That our Lord should come into our race under special and supernatural conditions was as it should have been; but the historicity of this story largely rests on the careful investigations of “the beloved physician,” who was authenticated by Paul.

The priests were divided into 24 courses, and shared the Temple services for a week each, the work of each priest being decided by lot, 1 Chronicles 24:1-31. Sweeter than the incense which he sprinkled on the coals, was Zacharias’ own prayer, commemorated in the name given to his son, “God’s gracious gift,” Exodus 30:7-8; Revelation 8:3, etc.

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Meyer, Frederick Brotherton. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "F. B. Meyer's 'Through the Bible' Commentary". 1914.

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible


Analysis and Annotations

I. The Birth and Childhood -- Chapter 1-2:52


1. The Introduction. (Luke 1:1-4)

2. Zacharias and Elizabeth; the Vision. (Luke 1:5-12)

3. John the Baptist, his birth and ministry announced. (Luke 1:13-17)

4. Zacharias’ Unbelief and Punishment. (Luke 1:18-26)

5. The Angel’s Announcement to the Virgin Mary. (Luke 1:27-33)

6. Mary’s Question and the Answer. (Luke 1:34-38)

7. Mary Visits Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-45)

8. The Virgin Mary’s Hymn of Praise. (Luke 1:46-56)

9. The Birth of John. (Luke 1:57-66)

10. The Prophetic Song of Zacharias. (Luke 1:67-80.)

Luke 1:1-4

The third Gospel begins in a way that no other Gospel does. It begins in a very human and humble way corresponding beautifully with the purpose of the Gospel. Yet it is couched in the choicest language. “Not only is it written in most classical Greek, but it reminds us by its contents of the similar preambles of the most illustrious Greek historians, especially those of Herodotus and Thueydides” (Prof. F. Godet). From the introduction we learn that Luke was not an eye-witness and minister of the Word; he did not belong to those who walked with the Lord during His earthly ministry. We do not know who the “many” were who had written on the great things which had taken place on earth and which all Christians believed. The remark has no reference to Matthew or Mark. Some have found in this simple introduction, in which Luke has nothing to say about a divine commission to write, an evidence that he did not write by inspiration. Others have pointed out the fact that the words “from the very first” mean literally “from above” (so rendered in John 3:3) and found in these words an evidence that Luke was inspired. This, however, is incorrect; Luke does not assert his own inspiration. The entire introduction rather shows the guidance of the Spirit of God.

“It is a beautiful example of how naturally the Spirit of God works, or may work, in what we term inspiration. The instrument He uses is not like a mere pen in the hand of another. He is a man acting freely--for ‘where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty’--as if from his own heart and mind alone. He uses all the means he has got, and uses them diligently. You are quite prepared to find in his work the character of the writer: why should not He who has prepared the instrument, use it according to the quality of that which He has prepared? Why should He set aside the mind which He has furnished, any more than the affections of the heart which He has endowed?”--Numerical Bible.

Luke 1:5-12

For about 400 years the Lord had sent no communication to His people Israel. The silence of heaven is at last broken. The ministering Priest Zacharias beholds the Angel Gabriel, the same wonderful being, who brought heaven’s messages to Daniel. The names of the aged and pious couple are significant. Zacharias means “Jehovah remembers,” and Elizabeth is translated “the oath of God.” If we join them together we have the sentence “Jehovah remembers the oath of God.” The time of remembrance had come. Prophecy is about to be fulfilled.

Luke 1:13-17

John’s birth and ministry are announced. “John” means “Favor of Jehovah.” It fits in beautifully with the names of Zacharias and Elizabeth. “Jehovah remembers the oath of God” and the blessed result of the remembrance is “the Favor of Jehovah.” Gabriel (which means: “God is mighty”) announces that Zacharias’ prayer had been heard and the answer was now given. The prayers of many years had not been forgotten. God’s time for the answer had come. John is not Elias, but he came in the spirit and power of Elias. Malachi 4:5-6 is yet to see its fulfillment before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

Luke 1:18-26

The announcement of the birth of a son was not believed by Zacharias. Like Abraham and Sarah he looked to earthly circumstances. He did not reckon with the power of God. Disbelieving the words of Gabriel he was struck dumb. He should have shouted praises; instead, he expressed his doubt. Unbelief insults God; the character of God demands judgment upon unbelief.

Luke 1:27-33

Next God’s messenger is sent to Nazareth of Galilee to carry the greatest message, which was ever given to an angel. He appears in Nazareth and came in to the Virgin Mary. How simple and beautiful is the narrative! Here is the woman, the Virgin of Prophecy, who is to bring forth the long promised Son. She is to conceive; bring forth a Son; His name is to be called Jesus; He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest. Even so it came to pass. Then we have an unfulfilled part of the announcement. “The Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David; and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His Kingdom there shall be no end.” When He comes the second time, not in humiliation, but in power and great glory, He will receive the throne of His father David and the promised Kingdom. “Let us beware of spiritualizing away the full meaning of these words. The house of Jacob does not mean ‘all Christians.’ The throne of David does not mean the office of a Saviour to Gentile believers. These words will yet receive a literal fulfillment, when the Lord Jesus comes a second time. The Kingdom of which he speaks is the glorious Kingdom of Daniel 7:27.” (Bishop Ryle.)

Luke 1:34-38

The Virgin’s question “How shall this be, seeing that I know not a man?”--is not the result of unbelief. She believed, presupposing the absolute reality of the promise, in asking the exact manner of its fulfillment. The blessed mystery of the incarnation, how the Son of God should take on the human form and become man, is made known. It is a great mystery. “The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee” means that the human nature of our Lord was produced in the Virgin by a creative act of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 1:18-20). And therefore He possessed an absolutely holy nature. “And the Power of the Most High shall overshadow thee.” This is not a repetition of the first statement. It means that the Son of God, who is the Most High, overshadowed the Virgin, uniting Himself with the miraculously prepared human nature. He is designated in His Being “that holy thing” because He cannot be classified. And because He is holy there could be nothing in Him, who was born of the Virgin, which is unholy. And beautiful is the submission of the Virgin to the will of God.

Luke 1:39-45

Mary then visited her cousin Elizabeth. How perfectly human is the whole account! And how beautiful the language of the elder woman calling the Virgin “the mother of my Lord.” Surely this was a great revelation she received. With holy reverence we also should use that worthy Name. Well has it been said, “Let us remember the deep meaning of the words ‘the Lord’ and beware of using them lightly and carelessly.” Then she blessed Mary. “Blessed is she that believed.”

Luke 1:46-56

The marvelous outburst of praise which comes from Mary’s lips is a beautiful echo of the Old Testament Scriptures. The pious Virgin knew the Word of God; her heart was filled with it and the Holy Spirit used the Word in the expression of her praise. Many Psalms are touched upon, but especially are we reminded of Hannah’s inspired song. (1 Samuel 2:1-36.) Notice also Mary’s deep humility and her acknowledgment of the need of a Saviour. The invention of Rome, of the sinless and immaculate person of Mary, is disproved by everything in the Word of God.

Luke 1:57-66

When John is born Zacharias’ tongue is loosed. He is a type of Israel. Now that people is dumb; some future day when “the Grace of Jehovah” is acknowledged by them, when they see and believe, the remnant of Israel will praise and bless God. No doubt Zacharias was also afflicted with deafness. The last written word of the Old Testament is a curse, Malachi 4:6; the first written word of the New Testament is “grace”--Bengel, “Gnomen” (John: Grace of Jehovah).

Luke 1:67-80

Zacharias prophesies. He praises God for the fulfillment of His promises spoken by the mouth of His holy Prophets. The Lord of salvation is Messiah. It denotes strength and power. He brings deliverance, salvation from enemies and the promised covenant mercies. (Psalms 132:17-18). He beholds the blessings of the promised Kingdom and beholds the blessed results of the visit of the day spring from on high. The Septuagint (Greek translation of the O.T.) translates the word branch in the Old Testament with “day spring.” Christ, the Branch, is also the day spring from on high. The fulfillment of Zacharias’ prophecy takes place with the second coming of the Lord.

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Golden Chain Commentary on the Gospels

Ver 1a. In the beginning was the Word,

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Golden Chain Commentary on the Gospels

For a smuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,2. Even as they delivered them to us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word:3. It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you in order, most excellent Theophilus,4. That you might know the certainty of those things, wherein you have been instructed.

EUSEBIUS St. Luke at the commencement of his Gospel has told us the reason of his writing, which was, that many others had rashly taken upon themselves to give accounts of those things of which he had a more certain knowledge. And this is his meaning when he says, Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of things.

AMBROSE For as many among the Jewish people prophesied by inspiration of the Spirit of God, but others were false prophets rather than prophets, so now also travel many attempted to write Gospels which the good moneychanger refuses to pass. One gospel is mentioned which the twelve Apostles are said to have written; another Basilides presumed to write; and another is said to have been by Matthias.

BEDE The many who are mentioned, he reckons not so much by their number, as by the variety of their manifold heresies; men who were not endued with the gift of the Holy Spirit, but engaging in a vain work, have rather set forth in order a relation of events, than woven a true history

AMBROSE Now they who have attempted to set forth these things in order have labored by themselves, and have not succeeded in what they attempted. For without the assistance of man come the gifts and the grace of God, which, when it is infused, is wont so to flow, that the genius of the writer is not exhausted, but ever abounding. He well says therefore, Of things which have been fully accomplished among us, or which abound among us. For that which abounds is lacking to none, and no one doubts about that which is fulfilled, since the accomplishment builds up our faith, and the end manifests it.

TITUS BOSTRENSIS He says, of things, because not by shadows, as the heretics say, did Jesus accomplish His advent in the flesh, but being as He was the Truth, so in very truth He performed His work.

ORIGEN The effect upon his own mind, St. Luke explains by the expression, of the things which have been fully accomplished among us, i.e. have had their full manifestation among us, (as the Greek word signifies, which the Latin cannot not express in one word,) for he had been convinced of them by sure faith and reason, and wavered not in any thing

CHRYS The Evangelist was so far from being content with his single testimony, that he refers the whole to the Apostles, seeking from them a confirmation of his words; and therefore he adds, as they handed them down to us, who were themselves from the beginning eyewitnesses.

EUSEBIUS Luke is a sure witness, because he obtained his knowledge of the truth either from St. Paul"s instructions, or the instructions and traditions of the other Apostles, who were themselves eyewitnesses from the beginning.

CHRYS. He says, were eyewitnesses, because this is our chief ground for believing in a thing, that we derive it from those who were actually eyewitnesses.

ORIGEN It is plain that of one kind of knowledge, the end is in the knowledge itself, as in geometry; but of another kind, the end is counted to be in the work, as in medicine; and so it is in the word of God, and therefore having signified the knowledge by the words were themselves eyewitnesses, he points out the work by what follows, and were ministers of the word

AMBROSE This expression is used, not that we should suppose the ministry of the word to consist rather in seeing than hearing, but that, because by the word was meant not a word that can be spoken by the mouth, but one of real existence, we may understand that to have been not a common, but a Heavenly Word, to which the Apostles ministered.

CYRIL In what he says of the Apostles having been eyewitnesses of the word, he agrees with John, who says, The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory. For the Word by means of the flesh was made visible.

AMBROSE Now not only did they see the Lord in the body, but also in the Word. For they saw the Word, who with Moses and Elias saw the glory of the Word. Others did not see it, who could only see the body.

ORIGEN It is written in Exodus, The people saw the voice of the Lord. Now a voice is rather heard than seen. But it was so written, to show us that men see the voice of the Lord with other eyes, which they only have who are worthy of them. Again in the Gospel, it is not the voice that is perceived, but the Word, which is more excellent than the voice.

THEOPHYL By these words it is plainly implied, that Luke was not a disciple from the beginning but became one in course of time; others were disciples from the beginning, as Peter, and the sons of Zebedee.

THEOPHYL Nevertheless both Matthew and John were obliged in many things that they wrote to consult those who had had means of knowing the infancy, childhood, and genealogy of our Lord, and of seeing the things which he did.

ORIGEN St. Luke hereby explains to us the source of his writing; seeing that what things he wrote, he gained not from report, but had himself traced them up from the beginning. Hence it follows, It seemed good to me also, having carefully investigated every thing from the very first, to write to you in order, most excellent Theophilus.

AMBROSE When he says, It seemed good to me, he does not deny that it seemed good to God for it is God who predisposes the wills of men. Now no one has doubted that this book of the Gospel is more full of details than the others; by these words then he claims to himself, not any thing that is false, but the truth; and therefore he says, "It seemed good to me, having investigated every thing, to write." Not to write every thing, but from a review of every thing; "for if all the things which Jesus did were written, I do not think the world itself could contain them." But purposely has Luke passed by things that were written by others, in order that each book of the Gospel might be distinguished by certain mysteries and miracles peculiar to itself.

THEOPHYL He writes to Theophilus, a man probably of some distinction, and a governor; for the form, Most excellent, was not used except to rulers and governors. As for example, Paul says to Festus, Most excellent Festus.

THEOPHYL Theophilus means, "loving God," or "being loved by God." Whoever then loses God, or desires to be loved by Him, let him think this Gospel to have been written to him, and preserve it as a gift presented to him, a pledge entrusted to his care. The promise was not to explain the meaning of certain new and strange things to Theophilus, but to set forth the truth of those words in which he had been instructed; as it is added, That you might know the truth of those words in which you have been instructed; that is, "that you might be able to know in what order each thing was said or done by the Lord."

CHRYS Or it may be, "That you might feel certain and satisfied as to the truth of those things which you have heard, now that you behold the same in writing."

THEOPHYL For frequently, when a thing is asserted by any one, and not expressed in writing, we suspect it of falsehood; but when a man has written what he asserts, we are the more inclined to believe it, as if, unless he thought it to be true, he would not commit it to writing.

GREEK EX. The whole preface of in this Evangelist contains two things; first, the condition of those who wrote Gospels before him, (Matthew and Mark for example;) secondly, the reason why he also himself proposed to write one.

Having said, "attempted," a word which may be applied both to those who presumptuously engage upon a subject, and those who reverently handle it, he determines the doubtful expression by two additions; first, by the words, Of things which have been fully accomplished among us; and secondly, As they handed them down to us, who were eyewitnesses from the beginning. The word handed down seems to show, that the eye-witnesses themselves had a commission to transmit the truth. For as they handed it down, so it became others also receiving it in due order, in their turn to publish it. But from the not depositing in writing what had been delivered, several difficulties through lapse of time sprang up. Rightly then did those who had received the tradition from the first eye-witnesses of the Word, establish it in writing for the whole world; thereby repelling falsehood, destroying forgetfulness, and making up from tradition itself a perfect whole.

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John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand,.... From hence, to the end of Luke 1:4 is a preface of the evangelist to his Gospel, setting forth the reasons of his writing it; and which he wrote and sent to the excellent Theophilus, for the further confirmation of him in the faith of Christ. It seems that many had took in hand, or attempteo set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us; that is, they undertook to write and publish a very particular and exact narrative of the birth, life, actions, doctrines, miracles, sufferings, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ; things which Luke, and other Christians, had the fullest and strongest evidence, and were confidently assured of, and most firmly believed, even with a full assurance of faith. By these many, he cannot mean the authentic historians of evangelical facts, as Matthew and Mark; for they two cannot, with any propriety, be called many; and besides, it is not so very clear and certain a point, that they had, as yet, wrote their Gospels; nor would this evangelist suggest any deficiency, weakness, and inaccuracy in them, as he seems to do: nor does he intend such spurious writers as the authors of the Gospels according to the Nazarenes, Hebrews, and Egyptians; of Nicodemus, Thomas, Matthias, and of the twelve apostles; and still less, the Gospels of Cerinthus, Basilides, and other heretics; since these would not have passed without a censure from him, for the falsehood, fabulous, and trifling stuff in them, as well as for the wicked and heretical opinions propagated by them; and besides, these pieces were not extant when this Gospel was written: but he seems to design some honest and well meaning Christians, who undertook to write, and did write an account of the above things, which were firmly believed by all; and which they took from the apostles, and first ministers of the Gospel, from their sermons and discourses, and from conversation with them; and which they committed to writing, partly to help their own memories, and partly for the benefit of others; in which, no doubt, they acted an upright part, though attended with weakness: wherefore, the evangelist does not censure them as false, wicked, and heretical, nor approve of them as divine and perfect for though they honestly meant, and designed well, yet there might be many things collected by them, which were impertinent, and not proper to be transmitted to posterity; and what might be wrote with great inaccuracy and deficiency, and in a style the Holy Ghost thought improper things of this kind should be delivered in: and therefore the evangelist, moved and inspired by the Spirit of God, set about the following work, and under the same influence completed it. The phrase, αναταξασθαι διηγησιν, "to set forth in order a declaration", is as Dr. Lightfoot observes, out of the TalmudF8T. Bab. Succa, fol. 53. 1. , agreeably to the Jewish way of speaking,

"R. Chasdai said to one of the Rabbins, who was מסדר אגדתא, "setting in order a declaration" before him. &c. or relating in order a story before him.

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Gill, John. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament


Luke 1:1-4. “Since indeed many have undertaken to set forth a narrative concerning the things which have been fulfilled among us, as those being eye-witnesses from the beginning and ministers of the Word, have handed down to us; it seemed good to me also, following all things accurately from the beginning, consecutively to write unto thee, O most noble Theophilus, in order that you may well understand the certainty of the histories concerning which you have been catechetically instructed.” We see from this statement that Luke was not one of the old disciples of our Lord, neither was he an eye-witness of His mighty works; as we never hear of him till the second evangelistic tour of Paul, in which he becomes one of his helpers, about A.D. 42. Doubtless he was a practicing physician in Antioch during the entire period of our Lord’s ministry. We have three reasons for accepting the Gospel of Luke without the slightest discount:

1. He received all of his information from the veritable disciples of our Savior, who were eye-witnesses to His mighty works;

2. Paul was his constant companion, and, as we all believe, the dictator of his writings;

3. The plenary inspiration of the Holy Ghost settles forever all controversy in reference to Biblical authenticity.

2 Timothy 3:16 :

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” Theophilus literally means “God breathed,” involving the clear and unequivocal revealed truth that all Scripture was breathed into the different authors by the Almighty. Hence the verbal and plenary inspiration of the Bible is positively and unequivocally revealed. The rapid spread of infidelity is one of the omens of the last days and the near coming of the Lord. Semi-infidelity, admitting a kind of substantial inspiration, is rapidly filling the pulpits. The true teaching of the Bible is, that “all Scripture” — i.e., every word — is breathed into the writer by the Holy Spirit. Hence the great importance of understanding the original, because there the plenary verbal inspiration alone is to be found, translations only carrying with them this inspiration in a general, substantial sense, as they literalize the original.

Theophilus was a name so common in the gospel ages that we can have no idea who is personally alluded to, but doubtless some noble Christian friend of the writer. Bear in mind that Luke dedicates this Gospel to this noble Christian, Theophilus. As the word means “Lover of God,” it follows, as the legitimate sequence, that this Gospel is dedicated to all the lovers of God. I hope, reader, that includes you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Geneva Study Bible

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

(1) Luke commends the witnesses that saw this present account.

(a) Many took it in hand, but did not perform: Luke wrote his gospel before Matthew and Mark.

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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

Frédéric Louis Godet - Commentary on Selected Books

PROLOGUE, Luke 1:1-4.

THE first of our synoptic Gospels opens with a genealogy. This mode of entering upon the subject transports us into a completely Jewish world. This preamble is, as it were, a continuation of the genealogical registers of Genesis; in the βίβλος γενέσεως of Matthew (Matthew 1:1) we have again the Ellé Tholedoth of Moses.

How different Luke"s prologue, and in what an entirely different atmosphere it places us from the first! Not only is it written in most classical Greek, but it reminds us by its contents of the similar preambles of the most illustrious Greek historians, especially those of Herodotus and Thucydides. The more thoroughly we examine it, the more we find of that delicacy of sentiment and refinement of mind which constitute the predominant traits of the Hellenic character. Baur, it is true, thought he discerned in it the work of a forger. Ewald, on the contrary, admires its true simplicity, noble modesty, and terse conciseness. It appears to us, as to Holtzmann, "that between these two opinions the choice is not difficult." The author does not seek to put himself in the rank of the Christian authorities; he places himself modestly among men of the second order. He feels it necessary to excuse the boldness of his enterprise, by referring to the numerous analogous attempts that have preceded his own. He does not permit himself to undertake the work of writing a Gospel history until he has furnished himself with all the aids fitted to enable him to attain the lofty aim he sets before him. There is a striking contrast between his frank and modest attitude and that of a forger. It excludes even the ambitious part of a secretary of the Apostle Paul, which tradition has not been slow to claim for the author of our Gospel.

This prologue is not least interesting for the information it contains respecting the earliest attempts at writing histories of the Gospel. Apart from these first lines of Luke, we know absolutely nothing definite about the more ancient narratives of the life of Jesus which preceded the composition of our Gospels. Therefore every theory as to the origin of the synoptics, which is not constructed out of the materials furnished by this preface, runs the risk of being thrown aside as a tissue of vain hypotheses the day after it has seen the light.

This introduction is a dedication, in which Luke initiates the reader into the idea, method, and aim of his work. He is far from being the first who has attempted to handle this great subject (Luke 1:1). Numerous written narratives on the history of Jesus are already in existence; they all of them rest on the oral narrations of the apostles (Luke 1:2). But while drawing also on this original source, Luke has collected more particular information, in order to supplement, select, and properly arrange the materials for which the Church is indebted to apostolic tradition. His aim, lastly, is to furnish his readers, by this connected account of the facts, with the means of establishing their certainty (Luke 1:4).

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Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

1. ἐπειδήπερ] This compound, of rare occurrence, is in keeping with the rhetorical style of the preface. See Hartung, Partikellehre, i. p. 342. Valcknaer quotes from Ulpian a similar exordium: ἐπειδήπερ περὶ τούτου πολλοὶ ἐπεχείρησαν ἀπολογήσασθαι.

πολλοί] Much depends on the meaning of this word, as guiding, or modifying, our opinion on the relation and sources of our Gospel histories. (1) That the writers of our present Gospels exclusively cannot be meant, is evident; since, even supposing Luke to have seen all three Gospels, one (that of John) was wholly, and another (that of Matthew) was in greater part, the production of an eye-witness and minister of the word,—which would leave only one for the πολλοί. (2) Apocryphal Gospels exclusively cannot be meant: for they would not be ‘narrations concerning matters fully believed among us,’ nor ‘delivered by eye-witnesses and ministers of the word,’ a great part of their contents being excluded by this very author from his own διήγησις. (3) A combination of these two may be intended—e.g. of the latter sort, the Gospel according to the Hebrews,—of the former, that according to Mark, but then also how shall we make out the πολλοί? Our present apocryphal Gospels arose far later than any likely date which can be assigned to Luke’s Gospel: see Prolegomena to Luke, § iv. (4) I believe the only probable interpretation of the words to be, that many persons, in charge of Churches, or otherwise induced, drew up, here and there, statements (narratives, διηγ.) of the testimony of eye-witnesses and ὑπηρ. τ. λ. (see below), so far as they themselves had been able to collect them. (I do not believe that either the Gospel of Matt. or that of Mark are to be reckoned among these; or if they are, that Luke had seen or used them.) That such narratives should not have come down to us, is no matter of surprise: for (1) they would be absorbed by the more complete and sanctioned accounts of our present Evangelists; and (2) Church tradition has preserved very few fragments of authentic information of the apostolic age. It is probable that in almost every Church where an eye-witness preached, his testimony would be taken down, and framed into some διήγησις, more or less complete, of the life and sayings of the Lord.

ἐπεχείρησαν] have undertaken; or, as E. V., taken in hand. This does not necessarily imply the insufficiency of such διηγήσεις, as Orig(1), Ambr(2), Theophyl., &c. have imagined. Nor is any such failure implied (as Bp. Wordsw.) in Acts 19:13, where the aorist also is used. The failure then was not in the ὀνομάζειν, but in the issue. In Acts 9:29, the failure is conveyed by the imperfect tense, not necessarily by the verb itself. The fact of that failure is indeed implied in Luke’s description of his own work—but that, more because it possessed completeness (whereas they were fragmentary) than from any difference in kind.

ἀνατάξασθαι] to draw upto arrange.

διήγ.] a setting forth: and so if in relation to things past, a narration—history. The word is clearly explained in Plato, Rep. iii. p. 392: ἆρʼ οὐ πάντα ὅσα ὑπὸ μυθολόγων ἢ ποιητῶν λέγεται, διήγησις οὖσα τυγχάνει ἢ γεγονότων ἢ ὄντων ἢ μελλόντων; τί γάρ, ἔφη, ἄλλο; ἆρα οὖν οὐχὶ ἤτοι ἁπλῇ διηγήσει ἢ διὰ μιμήσεως γιγνομένῃ ἢ διʼ ἀμφοτέρων περαίνουσιν:

πεπληρ., according to some, ‘fulfilled.’ De Wette supports this by the meaning of πληρόω, Acts 19:21; Acts 12:25, which is beside the purpose. The more likely rendering is that of E. V., certainly believed. (Meyer would render it, ‘which have found their completion among us,’ i.e. ‘us of the apostolic times;’ meaning ‘Theophilus and himself,’ &c. This, I think, gives too emphatic a sense to ἐν ἡμῖν, which can only mean as ordinarily, ‘among us,’ unless accompanied with some qualifying expression. His objection to the ordinary explanation,—that the participle ought, according to it, to be subjective to the πράγματα, surely is of no force.) See reff. and note on 2 Timothy 4:5; 2 Timothy 4:17.

The use of the cognate noun πληροφορία supports this view: see 1 Thessalonians 1:5; Hebrews 6:11. There does not appear to be any reference to the filling of the sails of a ship, as Bp. Wordsw. The word with its cognates occurs only in a figurative sense, derived from “filling full” without any special reference.

ἡμῖν] among us Christians, i.e. you and me, and all members of the Church of Christ—so also the ἡμῖν in Luke 1:2.

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Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

[ ευαγγελιον]

κατα λουκαν

1–4.] PREFACE TO THEOPHILUS. The peculiar style of this preface,—which is purer Greek than the contents of the Gospel, and also more laboured and formal,—may be accounted for, partly because it is the composition of the Evangelist himself, and not translated from Hebrew sources like the rest, and partly because prefaces, especially when also dedicatory, are usually in a rounded and artificial style.

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George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary



Completæ sunt. Greek: peplerophoremenon. I know the pretended differences betwixt Greek: plerophoreisthai, and plerousthai. But divers learned critics, after St. John Chrysostom take notice, that they are many times taken for the same. So 2 Timothy iv. 5. Ministerium tuum imple. Greek: plerophoreson, toutesti, says St. John Chrysostom, Greek: plerosou. log. th. p. 371. Ed. Savil. and on the 17th ver. of the same chapter, ut per me impleretur, Greek: plerophorethe, toutesti, plerothe. (Ibid. p. 376.)

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Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Luke 1:1.(13) ἐπειδήπερ] Quoniam quidem, since indeed, not found elsewhere in the N. T., nor in the LXX., or the Apocrypha; frequent in classical writers, see Hartung, Partikell. I. p. 342 f. Observe that ἐπειδή denotes the fact, assumed as known, in such a way “ut quae inde evenerint et secuta sint, nunc adhuc durent,” Ellendt, Lex. Soph. I. p. 640.

πολλοί] Christian writers, whose works for the most part are not preserved.(14) The apocryphal Gospels still extant are of a later date; Mark, however, is in any case meant to be included. The Gospel of Matthew too, in its present form which was then already in existence, cannot have remained unknown to Luke; and in using the word πολλοί he must have thought of it with others (see Introd. § 2), although not as an apostolic writing, because the πολλοί are distinct from the eye-witnesses, Luke 1:2. The apostolic collection of Logia was no διήγησις περὶ τῶν κ. τ. λ., and its author, as an apostle, belonged not to the πολλοί, but to the ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς αὐτόπται. But the Gospel to the Hebrews, if and so far as it had then already assumed shape, belonged to the attempts of the πολλοί.

ἐπεχείρησαν] have undertaken, said under a sense of the loftiness and difficulty of the task, Acts 19:13. In the N. T. only used in Luke; frequently in the classical writers. Comp. also Ulpian, p. 159 (in Valckenaer): ἐπειδήπερ περὶ τούτου πολλοὶ ἐπεχείρησαν ἀπολογήσασθαι. Neither in the word in itself, nor by comparing it with what Luke, Luke 1:3, says of his own work, is there to be found, with Köstlin, Ebrard, Lekebusch, and older writers, any indication of insufficiency in those endeavours in general, which Origen,(15) Ambrosius, Theophylact, Calovius, and various others even referred to their contrast with the inspired Gospels. But for his special purpose he judged none of those preliminary works as sufficient.

διήγησιν] a narrative; see especially, Plato, Rep. iii. p. 392 D Arist. Rhet. iii. 16; 2 Maccabees 2:32. Observe the singular. Of the πολλοί each one attempted a narrative περὶ τῶν κ. τ. λ., thus comprising the evangelic whole. Loose leaves or detached essays (Ebrard) Luke does not mention.

ἀνατάξασθαι] to set up according to order, Plut. Moral. p. 968 C, εὐτρεπίσασθαι, Hesychius. Neither διήγησ. nor ἀνατάσσ. occurs elsewhere in the N. T.

περὶ τῶν πεπληροφορ. ἐν ἡμῖν πραγμ.] of the facts that have attained to full conviction among us (Christians). πληροφορεῖν, to bring to full conviction, may be associated also with an accusative of the thing, which is brought to full acknowledgment (2 Timothy 4:5); hence in a passive sense: πληροφορεῖταί τι, something attains to full belief (2 Timothy 4:17), it is brought to full conviction ( πληροφορία πίστεως, Hebrews 10:22) among others. So here (it is otherwise where πληροφορεῖσθαι is said of a person, as Romans 4:21; Romans 14:5; Colossians 4:12; Ignat. ad Magnes. viii. 10; Ecclesiastes 8:11; Phot. Bibl. p. 41, 29). Rightly so taken by the Fathers (Theophylact: οὐ γὰρ ἁπλῶς κατὰ ψιλὴν παράδοσιν εἰσὶ τὰ τοῦ χριστοῦ, ἀλλʼ ἐν ἀληθείᾳ καὶ πίστει βεβαίᾳ καὶ μετὰ πάσης πληροφορίας), Erasmus, Beza, Calvin, Grotius, Valckenaer, and many others, including Olshausen and Ewald. The explanation: “quae in nobis completae sunt” (Vulgate), which have fully happened, run their course among us (Luther, Hammond, Paulus, de Wette, Ebrard, Köstlin, Bleek, and others), is opposed to usage, as πληροφορεῖν is never, even in 2 Timothy 4:5, equivalent to πληροῦν, and therefore it cannot be conceived as applying, either, with Schneckenburger (comp. Lekebusch, p. 30), to the fulfilment of God’s counsel and promise through the life of the Messiah, which besides would be entirely imported; or, with Baur, to the idea of Christianity realized as regards its full contents, under which the Pauline Christianity was essentially included.

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The Bible Study New Testament

1–2. Dear Theophilus. The name means “one who loves God.” Acts is also addressed to him. We know nothing more about him. Many have done their best. It is human nature to write down important things and share them with others. Alford (Greek Testament) says: “I believe the only probable interpretation of the words to be, that many persons, in charge of Churches, or otherwise induced, drew up, here and there, statements (narratives, DIEGESIN) of the testimony of eye-witnesses and ministers of the word, so far as they themselves had been able to collect them.” The “many” [which does not include the other Gospels] had done their best, but it is implied that their work was incomplete.




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Ironside's Notes on Selected Books

Its Theme And Author -- Luke 1:1-4

“Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eye-witnesses, and ministers of the word; it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed”- Luke 1:1-4.

In taking up the study of any one of the Gospels it is always well to look at it in relation to the other three. We have four Gospels in the New Testament, and the questions are often asked, “Why are there four?” and “Why do they differ one from the others as they do?” and, “Would it not have been just as easy to have given us one continuous biography of Christ rather than four accounts, all written by different writers?” This was not God’s desire. By giving us four different records written by four different men, we have a stronger foundation for our faith in the stories of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are told in Matthew 18:16, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” God has given us this testimony not only from three, but four witnesses; each one written by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Another reason why He has given us the four Gospels is to present our Lord Jesus Christ in four different aspects. Matthew was chosen to present Him as the promised Messiah, the King” of Israel. Mark presents Him as Jehovah’s perfect, faithful Servant. Everywhere in Mark’s Gospel we see active service to God and man. John presents Christ as the manifestation of Deity, the Eternal Son of the Father, who became Man to bring us salvation. He deigned to become flesh: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

But when we turn to Luke, Jesus is presented as Man in all perfection, the “Son of Man.” That is Luke’s favorite expression. As we examine this book carefully, we shall see many evidences of this.

Luke dwells much on the prayer-life of Jesus Christ, and prayer, of course, is connected with His Manhood. Jesus never makes a move but He looks first to His Father in heaven. We see Him praying, praying, praying, as every important occasion arises.

In this Gospel we also see frequently the Lord Jesus Christ as a guest in the homes of various people. He sat with them and ate with them, and talked over their problems. No other Gospel presents Christ going out to dinner so often as Luke does. Jesus shares their joys and sorrows and partakes of the good things that are presented to Him. When you meet a man at the dinner-table you find out what he really is. I had read forty or fifty biographies of Martin Luther, but he always seemed to be a figure on a pedestal until I read “Luther’s Table Talks.” Then I felt that he and I were friends. I felt that I knew the man as I could not have known him otherwise. So these accounts of Christ at the dinner-table give us an understanding of His Manhood, which we would not get in any other way.

Luke was an educated man. He was a “beloved physician,” and yet a very humble man. He never mentions himself, either here or in the book of Acts. He and Paul met at Troas on the second apostolic journey. After that, Luke was almost a constant companion of the apostle, but as you read the book of Acts from the sixteenth chapter on, you will notice that whenever Luke was with the company, he says, we or us. When he remains behind as Paul and the rest move on, he changes to they and them. When Luke joins them again he reverts to we and us. He was with Paul to the end. In his last letter from Rome, Paul writes, “Only Luke is with me.” He was a widely traveled man, highly-educated, and was of a scientific mind and temperament. In all likelihood he was a Gentile. He may have been of Jewish descent, but his name is a Gentile name, and he writes for the information of Gentiles. His special object in writing this letter was to make clear to a Gentile the facts concerning the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His friend, who is mentioned here in the prologue in verse 3, as “most excellent Theophilus,” was possibly a governor of a Roman province. He uses the title given to a high Roman official. Theophilus was, we gather, a Gentile Christian who evidently held high position in the Roman empire, and Luke was an intimate friend of his. He wrote this Gospel to give Theophilus a clear understanding of what had taken place in Palestine.

Luke gives us a great deal of information that is not found in the other Gospels. It is he alone who relates the stories of the visits of the angel Gabriel to Zacharias and to Mary. No one else tells us of the song of Mary, and the prophecy of Zacharias. The birth of Christ in a stable is recorded only here, as also the angel’s announcement to the shepherds. The presentation of the Child Jesus in the temple at Jerusalem, and the welcome given by Anna and Simeon, also are mentioned only here. The first meeting in Nazareth, as recorded in chapter four; the great draught of fishes; the interview with the woman of the city in the house of Simon the Pharisee, as found in chapter seven; the beautiful incident of Mary at the feet of Jesus; and the mission of the seventy (chap. 10) are found only here. Much of the material of chapters eleven to eighteen inclusive is told only by Luke, as also the story of Zaccheus. It is he alone who mentions the coming of the angel to our Saviour to strengthen Him in His Gethsemane agony. And had it not been for Luke, we would never have known of the penitent thief, nor of the visit of our risen Lord with the two disciples on the way to and in their home at Emmaus.

Then when we think of the parables, it is striking to note how many are only related in this Gospel. The story of the Good Samaritan, the rich fool, the barren fig-tree, the great supper (not to be confounded with the marriage of the king’s son as given in Matthew) the lost coin, the prodigal son, the unjust steward, the story of Dives and Lazarus, the unjust judge and the widow, the Pharisee and the publican, and the parable of the pounds, are all given by Luke. The last-mentioned, while similar to the parable of the talents, is, nevertheless, quite a different story.

How much then we would be bereaved of, if Luke had not been moved by the Spirit of God to search out so many things that no other inspired writer has recorded. There is nothing redundant here. All is of great importance and cannot be overestimated, so far as its value to the Church of God is concerned, and also its importance in presenting the gospel of the grace of God in its manifold aspects.

The book divides itself into three parts: The first four chapters deal with the birth, baptism, and temptation of the Lord Jesus Christ. The second division, chapters four to eighteen, gives the opening up of the way of salvation and approach to God. The nineteenth chapter to the end gives us the story of the crucifixion and resurrection.

In each Gospel the crucifixion is linked with a different offering, as found in Leviticus 1 to 5. Matthew presents it as the trespass-offering. Mark gives us Christ as the sin-offering. John takes up Christ as the burnt-offering. Luke brings Him before us as our great peace-offering-Christ making peace between God and man by shedding His blood on the cross. The trespass-offering sets forth the death of Christ because of the sins actually committed against God and man. The sin-offering speaks of Christ dying for what we are, not only for what we have done. The burnt-offering speaks of Christ dying to glorify God. The peace-offering speaks of peace made by the shed blood of the Lamb of God.

In the book of Ezekiel we have the four faces of the cherubim-the lion, ox, eagle, and man. These answer to the four Gospels. In Matthew we have the majesty of the lion; in Mark the patient service of the ox; in John the penetrating eye of the eagle -the heavenly One; Luke shows us the face of the Man.

Luke was a careful and conscientious investigator. He sought out those who had known the Lord Jesus personally and learned the facts from their own lips. He was, of course, inspired by God, but the Spirit of God led him to make use of all reliable sources of information. Notice how he begins his book: “Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word: it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first.”

Let us stop there for the moment. Luke was sure of his ground. He knew the certainty of the things of which he wrote. There were doubtless many uninspired records, now lost, setting forth much that was commonly reported concerning our Lord’s life and ministry. These, however, were not authoritative; God would not leave us dependent upon untrustworthy records. Early in the next century, many such apocryphal Gospels appeared, none of which have the dignity, the transparency, the sanctity of the inspired Gospels. People talk of the “lost books” of the Bible, but this is all wrong. We have all the Bible God ever meant us to have, in the Old and New Testaments. The so-called “lost books” are unreliable and legendary.

Whether Mark and Matthew had written earlier than Luke we cannot say. If so, he did not copy from them. He wrote as divinely-directed, just as they did. John, we know, was not written until many years afterwards. It is the last of the Gospels in point of time. Luke was not seeking to cast doubt on any other apostolic record, but he wished Theophilus to have an altogether accurate account of “all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up” (Acts 1:1), so he wrote as an independent investigator.

He speaks of those who were “ministers of the word.” The last term may be either the word of the gospel, or perhaps we should capitalize it and read “the Word,” thus referring to Him who, though the Eternal Word, became flesh for our redemption. Whether we think of Christ’s servants as ministers of the written word or of the living Word, it comes to one and the same thing, for Christ is the theme of all Scripture. He is the gospel personified.

We may think of Luke as going to Palestine, seeking out the still-living friends of Jesus, interviewing them and so learning firsthand many facts concerning the Lord’s words and ways that others were not led to put on record.

This is the only one of the four Gospels that gives us the wonderful account of the virgin birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, though it is corroborated by Matthew. Luke was a physician, and the facts brought out here are facts which could only be expected of a physician. He had exact knowledge of everything he wrote. He probably knew the virgin mother intimately and learned from her own lips the great mystery of the incarnation. In the same way he would learn of other facts. And so he wrote in order that Theophilus might “know the certainty of the things wherein he had been instructed.”

May I say to the young people who are troubled with doubts as to these things: If one has an open mind and an honest heart, the Holy Spirit will reveal to him the truth of God’s Word. Let me ask that you give special attention to the details Luke sets forth, and pray that the Holy Spirit of God will open the Word to you, as He did to this beloved physician, and to many millions since his day.

Let us notice carefully each verse of this section. To begin with, Luke tells us that many had taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which were most surely believed among the early Christians. Luke 1:1 says that already there had appeared numerous records purporting to give the life-story of Jesus, which have been lost to us. Perhaps both Matthew and Mark had already appeared, and as these were divinely given, they too have been preserved, with Luke, and John, which came later, to give us a fourfold view of our Lord’s life on earth. In these records an orderly account had been given of those great facts upon which our Christian faith rests.

These things had been made known to him by those who were personally acquainted with the Lord, who had known Him from the beginning, for Luke 1:2 states that, as in John’s writings (1 John 1:1, etc.), from the origin of the Christian testimony, God has given us, through reputable “eyewitnesses, and ministers of the Word,” a faithful account of those important events which mean so much for our heart’s rest and confidence.

Luke insists that he had perfect understanding of all things from the very first. From Luke 1:3 it is clear that he had made a very careful, independent investigation, as became a scientific man, questioning eyewitnesses and visiting the localities where Jesus had lived and wrought His works of power. The facts thus gleaned he desired to lay before his friend, the “most excellent Theophilus,” as a result of which we have this precious portion of the Word of God. For the Holy Spirit used the pen of Luke to give what would be of permanent value not only to Theophilus, but to all people to the end of time.

Note the expression in verse Luke 1:4, “The certainty of those things.” The gospel rests upon these divinely-accredited certainties. It is not an imaginary system based upon weird and unproved legends, but a substantial and logical message resting upon an assured foundation of facts. The Gospels are true histories. Therefore the incidents they record actually occurred.

We need not fear to rest our faith upon this definite testimony which God has preserved for our instruction.




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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. 1914.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Luke 1:1. ἐπειδήπερ, Forasmuch as) A brief dedication applying to both the works of Luke:(1) it may be also termed the Preface or Introduction, and from it there shine forth pre-eminently gravity, simplicity, and candour.— πολλοὶ ἐπεχείρησαν many have taken in hand) Luke does not hereby denote Matthew and John, who had been among the very eye-witnesses of the facts and ministers of the word; not to say that Luke both wrote before John, and does not seem to have seen the Gospel of Matthew. There remains the one evangelist Mark alone; but Luke speaks of many, and employs the word ἐπεχείρησαν, have taken in hand, in a middle sense [i.e. neither expressing disparagement nor praise]; and consonant with this is the particle καθὼς, even as, which implies a consonance with the relation [report] of the eye-witnesses and ministers either sought after or attained by the writers alluded to: also the expression κἀμοὶ, to me also, agrees with the same view; for by it Luke does not so much oppose himself to those many writers, but rather adds himself to their number, as one of the same class, in such a manner, however, as that he may contribute somewhat even still to the ἀσφάλεια and firm assurance of Theophilus. He therefore intimates, if only he has had reference [not merely to others, but] also to Mark [which indeed, if you compare together the forms of expression and the order of narratives in each, is not very unlikely.—Harm., p. 36], that several particulars, not mentioned in Mark, are read to his hand for recording; but that the other writers, as, for instance, he who wrote the Gospel according to the Egyptians, are less calculated to serve towards producing ἀσφάλεια and firm assurance.— ἀνατάξασθαι, to set forth in order) in writing or instructive [catechetico, referring to κατηχήθης, Luke 1:4] words. Hesychius says, ἀνατάξασθαι, εὐτρεπίσασθαι.— τῶν πεπληροφορημένων) πληροφορία, when it is attributed to a man, denotes the fulness of knowledge in the understanding, or of eager desire in the will: 2 Timothy 4:17; Hebrews 6:11, note. Such vigour characterized τὰ πράγματα, the Christian facts, which Luke describes in both his works, whilst they were occurring [were being accomplished]: and these alone had this characteristic; for which reason this periphrasis whereby he designates the same facts is quite sufficient. It was in the sight of the world that the Gospel facts occurred: Acts 26:26.— ἐν ἡμῖν, among us) in the Church, but especially among the teachers, and these veterans.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Luke 1:1-4.

It appears from the Acts of the Apostles, and the Apostolic Epistles, that the earliest preaching of the Gospel consisted of a brief summary of the facts of our Lord‘s earthly history, with a few words of pointed application to the parties addressed. Of these astonishing facts, notes would naturally be taken and digests put into circulation. It is to such that Luke here refers; and in terms of studied respect, as narratives of what was “believed surely,” or “on sure grounds” among Christians, and drawn up from the testimony of “eye-witnesses and ministering servants of the word.” But when he adds that “it seemed good to him also to write in order, having traced down all things with exactness from their first rise,” it is a virtual claim for his own Gospel to supersede these “many” narratives. Accordingly, while not one of them has survived the wreck of time, this and the other canonical Gospels live, and shall live, the only fitting vehicles of those life-bringing facts which have made all things new. Apocryphal or spurious gospels, upheld by parties unfriendly to the truths exhibited in the canonical Gospels, have not perished; but those well-meant and substantially correct narratives here referred to, used only while better were not to be had, were by tacit consent allowed to merge in the four peerless documents which from age to age, and with astonishing unanimity, have been accepted as the written charter of all Christianity.

set forth in order — more simply, to draw up a narrative.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration, [ epecheireesan (Greek #2021) anataxasthai (Greek #392) dieegeesin (Greek #1335)] - 'have undertaken to draw up a narrative,'

Of those things which are most surely believed, [ toon (G3588) pepleeroforeemenoon (G4135)] among us - not 'believed confidently,' but 'believed on sure grounds.' So the word "surely" is used by our translators in Proverbs 10:9, "He that walketh uprightly walketh surely."

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

John Lightfoot's Commentary on the Gospels

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

[Forasmuch as many have taken in hand, &c.] Whereas it was several years after the ascension of our Lord before the four books of the holy gospel were committed to writing; the apostles, the seventy disciples, and other ministers of the word, in the mean time everywhere dispersing the glad tidings: no wonder if any pious and greedy auditors had, for their own memory's sake and the good of others, noted in their own private table-books as much as they were capable of carrying from the sermons and discourses which they so frequently heard. Nor is it more strange if some of these should from their own collections compile and publish now and then some commentaries or short histories of the passages they had met with. Which, however they might perform out of very good intentions, and a faithful impartial pen, yet were these writings far from commencing an infallible canon, or eternal unalterable rule of the Christian faith.

It was not in the power of this kind of writers either to select what the Divine Wisdom would have selected for the holy canon, or to declare those things in that style wherein the Holy Spirit would have them declared, to whom he was neither the guide in the action nor the director of their pen.

Our evangelist, therefore, takes care to weigh such kind of writings in such a balance as that it may appear they are neither rejected by him as false or heretical, nor yet received as divine and canonical: not the first, because he tells us they had written even those very things which the heavenly preachers had delivered to them; not the latter, for to those writings he opposeth, that he himself was one that had perfect understanding of things from above. Of which we shall consider in its proper place.

[To set forth in order a declaration.] A kind of phrase not much unlike what was so familiar amongst the Jews, an orderly narration: saving, that that was more peculiarly applied by them to the commemoration of the Passover. And yet it is used in a larger sense too, who was he who set forth in order a declaration.

[Of those things which are most surely believed among us, &c.] Let us recollect what the unbelieving Jews think and say of the actions, miracles, and doctrine of Christ; and then we shall find it more agreeable to render this clause, of those things which are most surely believed among us, according to what Erasmus, Beza, our own English translators, and others, have rendered it, than with the vulgar, of the things which are fulfilled amongst us. They had said, "This deceiver seduceth the people, those wonders he did were by the power of magic; 'but we do most surely believe those things which he did and taught.'"

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Lightfoot, John. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "John Lightfoot Commentary on the Gospels". 1675.

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Luke 1:1. Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things, which within a short compass of years have been acted and accomplished among us. In the first age, Eusebius admits, that no less than sixty gospels had made their appearance; a number which Mr. Whiston repeats without scruple or disbelief. The fathers, Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine, allow that the number was considerable. Heretics wrote gospels, of which Ambrose says, “they have filled their gospels with empoisoned doctrines,” though otherwise edifying.

Of these gospels Du Pin, the learned ecclesiastical historian, whose original work is now before me, says, Les anciens, font mention de deux evangiles. The ancients mention two gospels, which, though not of equal authority with the four canonical gospels, yet we may not reject them as heretical productions. The first is the gospel of the Nazarenes. The foundation of this work was that of St. Matthew’s, but which, after the christians had fled to Pella, became altered by jewish sectarians.

The second is the gospel according to the Egyptians, a passage from which is cited by St. Clement in his Stromata, where our Saviour says to Salome, who had asked that her two sons might sit, the one on his right and the other on his left hand, “I am come to destroy the works of the woman;” meaning as Clement expounds it, generation and death, the effects of concupiscence. The above gospels are cited also by Origen and Jerome: but both are now lost. To these we add,

1. The gospel of St. Peter, a spurious book, though noticed by Eusebius and Jerome.

2. The gospel of Nicodemus, still extant.

3. The gospel of truth, a Valentinian production.

4. The gospel of perfection, approved by the Gnostics.

5. The gospel according to St. Matthias. This being mentioned by Origen, Eusebius, and Jerome, is put by Galesus in our apochryphal books.

6. The gospel of St. Thomas. This also is named by the above fathers, and is put by Galesus in the same rank.

7. The gospel of St. Bartholomew, which Origen names in his preface to his homilies on Luke, and St. Jerome in his commentaries on St. Matthew. This also is called apochryphal.

8. The gospel of Thaddeus, apochryphal.

9. The gospel of Barnabas, apochryphal.

10. The gospel of Andrew, apochryphal.

These gospels must have contained some good things, else they would not have been so honourably named by those fathers, and retained as apochryphal works. Had they been really written by the apostles whose names they bear, and uncorrupted, they would have found their way into the sacred canon.

Luke 1:3. It seemed good to me also to write. Though Luke had access to those gospels then in use, yet he would write from the oral dictates of those who had accompanied the Lord from the commencement of his glorious career. Those short words show the great care which our evangelist took that nothing might enter his copy but the truth, and the truth as it is in Jesus. No doubt he had the manuscripts to which he alludes, as well as the living witnesses.

Having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first. ανωδην, as in John 3:3, designates also a knowledge of those things from above. As the new birth is from above, so Luke claims here, in addition to the apostolic teaching, inspiration from the Holy Spirit.

Theophilus, a lover of God. This cannot be fictitious, because he had been instructed in the christian faith: but who he was is uncertain.

Luke 1:5. In the days of Herod — a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia, or Abijah. Two of the twenty four courses served a month, but all assisted at the great festivals. Each of these courses were subdivided, according to the houses of their fathers.

Luke 1:6. They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless, This testimony is given to the parents of John, to show that the long-promised herald of the Messiah, who went before his face, as a burning and a shining light, emanated from a hallowed parentage; and being specially promised to Israel, he was, like Isaac, specially given when his parents were both advanced in years. The works of God are works of admiration.

Luke 1:9. His lot was to burn incense, at the evening and morning sacrifice. In Ecclesiasticus, chap. Sirach 50:15, we are told that Simon the highpriest “poured out a sweet-smelling savour to the Most High, the King of all. Then shouted the sons of Aaron, and sounded the silver trumpets, and made a noise to be heard, for a remembrance before the Most High. Then all the people fell down to the earth upon their faces, to worship the Lord God, the Most High.” In later times they rung a bell when the incense was ignited; and while the priest was praying, each man in silence, or with a low voice, so as to hear only his own voice, prayed for pardon and for grace. But why should the papists at mass burn incense, and ring a little bell? This mimicry insults the mediatorial advocacy of Christ as imperfect. Why not also kill oxen and sheep? — On the word temple, see 1 Samuel 1:9. 2 Samuel 7.

Luke 1:13. Fear not, Zacharias, for thy prayer is heard. In early years, he had often prayed for a son, and now in later days for the Messiah: both those prayers shall be accorded, and with a plenitude of joy. The vows of the church are registered in heaven.

Thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name JOHN. This is a name of frequent occurrence in the Hebrew scriptures. יחנןJochanan, or Johanan, from the root חנןchanan, “I have gratified.” It designates joy, rejoicing, and exultation. 1 Chronicles 3:15; 1 Chronicles 6:9; 1 Chronicles 12:12. Isaiah 30:19-20. When God gave names, or rather surnames to the holy patriarchs, whom he peculiarly adopted as his sons, they indicated the grace which God conferred. The name is written in Greek and Latin as in Hebrew, ιωαννης, Johannes, the grace of God, or the gift of God; for John, like Isaac, was a son by divine favour, as illustrated in the next words.

Luke 1:14. Thou shalt have joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice at his birth, because it was the birthday of righteousness, when the dayspring from on high visited his people.

Luke 1:15. He shall be great in the sight of the Lord. The first minister of his kingdom, opening the way for the glory of the Lord to follow, and to enlighten the gentiles. He shall drink no wine, allowed to other priests, except when they officiated. Leviticus 10:9. Nor strong drink, σικερα; the same as the Hebrew שׂכרsechar, in 1 Samuel 1:15, which the LXX render μεθυσμα, metheglin, wine made from honey and water. The prohibition extends to all other kinds of strong drink, whether from fruits or from corn, being a Nazarite, as explained in Leviticus 6:1. On the contrary, the wine he shall drink shall be the celestial wine, which inspired Elijah and the ancient prophets. He shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mothers womb. Like Moses, Samuel, and Jeremiah, he was designated to the ministry from his birth, and gave early indications that he was moved by the Holy Ghost to glorious achievements in future years. He shall go before, as the angel or messenger of the Lord, and a harvest of souls shall be gathered in for him.

Luke 1:18. How shall I know this, for I am aged, and my wife is advanced in days. Here is a wary priest, suffering his too cautious mind to balance on the side of unbelief. He saw a presence more than human; he knew how God had assisted Sarah, Rebekah, Hannah, and the mother of Samson, to be mothers of illustrious men. He must also have known what Josephus states, Antiq. 50, 13. c. 18, how Hyrcanus had seen a glorious vision when Heliodorus came to plunder the temple of the hallowed treasures for the support of aged priests, widows and orphans. 2 Maccabees 3. Nothing is more displeasing to the Lord than to disbelieve his word when sealed by the wonted characters of revelation.

Luke 1:19. I am Gabriel that stand in the presence of God. The same archangel was sent almost five hundred years before, to announce to Daniel the time of the Messiah’s advent, and he was now sent to say, that the time is at hand. Faith in a message above the powers of nature, from the age of this priest and his wife, required annunciation by a presence more than human. Daniel 8:16; Daniel 9:21.

Luke 1:26-27. In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel was sent of God to a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to Joseph. There are diversities of operations, but it is the same Spirit. The birth of John was divinely announced to the jews, and religious men would keep an eye on so auspicious a child. But now the conception of Christ is concealed from all, except the witnesses selected of God. The glorious mystery of God manifest in the flesh, as noticed on Isaiah 7:9., is too bright to be disclosed to vulgar eyes, till the world should become prepared by the doctrine, the miracles, and the resurrection of the Saviour from the dead.

Luke 1:28. Hail — highly favoured, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women. This is a Gothic word, health, peace, joy, Ave, χαιρε, rejoice. What more can we add, but repeat, “the Lord is with thee.”

Whence could Hesiod form his Theogony or generation of the gods, but on the most ancient traditions. Whence, (as is noticed by the learned Frenchmen, Lavaur and bishop Huet) could the idea of Semele’s conception by Jupiter be derived, but from the hallowed traditions of the patriarchs. With these authors, our learned Dr. William Stukeley, in his Palæographia sacra, 1763, perfectly coincides. Whence then could Dr. Joseph Priestley derive his authority for saying, “Jesus was the legitimate son of Joseph and Mary.” Socinianism is assuredly an apostasy from the faith of the whole primitive world.

Luke 1:32. He shall be great, in sanctity, great in doctrine, great in miracles, and shall be called the Son of the Highest, after his hypostasis or glorious person is clothed with flesh, as he has ever been called since he was promised to Adam, the Woman’s Seed, or Son, to bruise the serpent’s head. The illustrious Agur, whose sayings the servants of king Hezekiah appended to Solomon’s Proverbs, confessing his ignorance, as to the immensity of Deity, asks, “What is his name, and what is his Son’s name, if thou canst tell.” Proverbs 30:4. This faith was David’s consolation, when the kings of the earth took counsel against the Lord, and against his Christ. Thou art my Son, to-day have I begotten thee; or as St. Paul, to- day do I declare thee, the Son of God with power, seated for ever on the throne of David, and on the right hand of God. Psalms 72.

Luke 1:35. The power of the Highest shall overshadow thee. The assumption is all mystery. It asks for adoration, not for comment. God so loved the world that he sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, that he might redeem us from the curse of the law. The wings of Jehovah cover the mercyseat, his cloud rests upon the tabernacle. Let the priests and the people adore without, while incense is burned within. Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, shall be born. He shall emerge from the bosom of the virgin, even the Sun of righteousness, to illuminate a benighted world. Psalms 85:10-11.

Luke 1:36. Behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age. This was associating joys to Mary’s consolation: it showed the gracious care of heaven when the fulness of time was come for the redemption of the world. The plans of heaven were written in the volume of the book: God had but to open and extend the scrowl.

Luke 1:39-40. Mary arose in those days, and went to the hill country with haste, being unable to contain her joys. When Elizabeth heard her salutation, the babe leaped in her womb for joy. The like word occurs in the targums, when speaking of the mountains shaking, and the hills leaping. They also add, that “the infants leaped for joy in their mother’s bosoms, when they saw what God had done to Pharaoh at the Red sea.” — What women, what infants, what glory under one roof! Let the mother of the two Gracchuses boast no more of her jewels. See on Malachi 3:17.

Luke 1:41. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost. The salutation of Mary kindled the spark of inspiration to a flame. The divine impetus was so strong, that like the ancient prophets, she burst at once into the effusion of discourse and song. Whence is this grace that I should be the first woman to hear the Saviour preached; that the mother of my Lord should come to me. Blessed art thou among women, supremely blessed above the daughters of Eve. Blessed be the fruit of thy womb, the fountain from which all those benedictions flow. Let Zion weep no more. The Lord who has thus begun, will complete his work. There shall surely be a performance of all the excellent things which the prophets have spoken of Christ, of the conversion of the gentiles, and of all the glory of his kingdom.

Observe, Elizabeth puts Mary among women; why then should the papists for filthy lucre place her high above all gods? She gives identity and locality to Mary: the mother of my Lord is come to me. Then while under her roof she was not in Nazareth. She calls Mary a woman, but her Son she calls her Lord; and as above, the Son of God. Why then should the papists give omnipresence to Mary, and in all the worship of their communion cause prayers to be addressed to her. Mater Dei, ora pro nobis. Mother of God, pray for us. Nay, no minister must preach without reciting, on dividing the subject, his Ave Maria. Oh protestant, if you regard the labours and tears of the reformers and confessors, if you revere the blood of martyrs, and like Paul would rend your raiment at the sight of idolatry, see that you shun the altars of Baal, and all the scarlet array of the mother of harlots.

Luke 1:46-47. Mary said, my soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. This song is the sublime of Hebrew poësy, bold in sentiment, and chaste in expression. It embraces all the cheering themes which once inspired the ancient seers. It is the utterance of Mary’s heart, in the triumph of faith, and is like the flood-tide which makes the rivers overflow their banks. She magnifies the riches of grace, that all the high and princely families of the Asmonean house, who had a palace near the temple, should be overlooked, and she, a lowly virgin, made the mother of “the heir of all things.” Courtly elevations swell the pride of mortals, but celestial favours humble the soul to the dust. Therefore her song awoke up to glory; her soul and spirit, all her powers of mind and heart were developed in the exuberance of praise. With other princes riches have wings, and crowns decay; but here is glory permanent in all its characters: “all generations shall call me blessed.”

Luke 1:51-52. He hath showed strength with his arm. This indicates his conquering power, like the arm of heroes which obtains the victory. He is great above all gods; he hath exalted the lowly, and cast down the mighty from their thrones. So Hannah sung, when she embraced a Samuel in her arms. But the words of Mary have all the expanse of prophecy. The Lord chose the things that were not to bring to nought things that are. He made poor apostles the ministers of his kingdom, to establish the glory of the cross on the ruins of idolatry. He has spread the gospel feast for the poor gentiles, pursuant to his promises to Abraham, while the gainsaying jews are sent empty away, to beg their bread in distant lands.

Luke 1:69. A horn of salvation, against which no foe, no power can stand. His horn can defend the flock. Job 16:15. Psalms 112:9. David’s horn was now in the dust, but in Christ it rose to the throne.

Luke 1:72-73. To perform the mercy promised — the oath which he sware to Abraham. Zacharias makes here a proper distinction between the promise of the Messiah to Abraham, Genesis 12:3, and the oath which he sware after Abraham had obtained an enlargement of the promise by the oblation of Isaac. These were “the two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie.” Thus Zacharias read the scriptures with enlightened regards, and built the hopes of the church on the word of God, the sure mercies of David.

Luke 1:74-75. That we, being delivered out of the hands of our enemies. God had promised to deliver Israel out of Egypt, Exodus 3:12; and he will in like manner deliver his people from sin and Satan, as Paul explains it in Romans 6:18; that being made free from sin, we might serve God in holiness and righteousness all our days. The first of these words, “holiness,” comprehends all the piety we owe to God; the second, “righteousness,” includes all the moral obligations of life, in duties and good offices towards our neighbours.

Luke 1:76. And thou, child, my infant son, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest; for thou shalt go before the Lord to prepare his way. What an apostrophe of a father to a son, born to eclipse the glory of his sire. A son, to prepare the way of the Messiah. To give knowledge and assurance of salvation by the remission of sins, agreeing with the words in Mark 1:4, that John preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. By assurance that the ransom is paid, by a removal of the wrath which the law excites in the conscience, by a sentiment of the love of God shed abroad in the heart, by all the joys of remission, and the fruits of faith which follow. What other gospel but this could relieve the labouring conscience of its load, and produce renovation of heart and life.

Luke 1:80. He was in the deserts. The Greek does not import that John was an eremite, that is, a hermit or anchoret. His father kept him much at his country retreat, leading him no doubt, as a Nazarite and priest by birth, to attend the festivals in Jerusalem as the law required.


St. Luke introduces his gospel with credentials of indisputable purity. He wrote under sacred patronage, in the face of many contemporaries, and even rival historians. He wrote with confidence, having had perfect knowledge of facts and expressions from the first, as well as illumination from above; and he wrote with the most laudable purpose of instructing and confirming Theophilus, and all who should read, in the faith of Christ. Christianity is therefore founded on argument. How should so many men, writing in different times and places, so exactly agree in all the essentials of their history, if they did not write from a clear head and an honest heart. For it is allowed that their slight variations, or apparent contradictions, are a striking confirmation of the truth of the gospel.

Concerning the birth of John we may remark, that the scripture characters were divinely raised up, and called of God. They had no hand whatever in their call and elevation. Let worldly courtiers canvass and become votaries for honour; the honour that cometh from God is all of grace, conferred by the giver, and always in due time. When Jacob was surrounded with great difficulty and distress, the Lord raised up Joseph to nourish his people. When the nation was sorely oppressed, behold, Moses was drawn from the water. In like manner, the Judges, David, Esther, and others, were successively elevated by the special hand of God. Thus also John, the Lord, and his apostles, succeeded in the scheme of providence, and unfolded the mystery hid in ages past.

The angels of God take a most lively interest in the redemption of man. They attended JEHOVAH when he sware to Abraham. Genesis 18:2; Genesis 22:15. They attended in the visions of Isaiah, and of Daniel; and now Gabriel, as first of the train, comes to confirm these promises to Zacharias in the temple of God. Rejoice, ye heavens, and be glad, oh earth, the truth and faithfulness of God endure to all generations. Awake, oh sluggish world, to trace the steps of grace, for all heaven is alert. Come and learn the certainty of the things in which you have been instructed; for it is the highest happiness of angels to unfold the mysteries of providence in redeeming love. Where are there mysteries to be found so sublime, so pure, so abasing to the pride of reason, and so exalting to the humble soul.

Men greatly honoured must be greatly tried. This law seems to have no exceptions. Zacharias was struck both deaf and dumb. And in the next chapter, Mary’s joys are much allayed by the intimation, that the sword of anguish would pass through her soul because of her son. Divine joy participates so much of the consolations of heaven that we must drink it but sparingly in this life.

The salutation of the virgin is highly interesting. The person deputed — his approach and address, are all becoming and proper. There is no meanness of circumstance, nothing as in pagan fable revolting to delicacy. All is simplicity in the expression, all is sublime in the mission, being a disclosure, conformable to prophecy, of the grand plan of redeeming love. The virgin was troubled and embarrassed at the applause of so divine a stranger; but he detailed his mission, that she should be the mother of the Messiah, painting at the same time the future glory of her son. Mary, acknowledging herself the handmaid of the Lord, said, “Be it unto me according to thy word.” So may my soul say, when the Lord applies to me his great and precious promises.

The angel directed her to a companion in her sacred joy. He said that her cousin Elizabeth, then a hundred miles distant, and hitherto reputed barren, was six months advanced in pregnancy with a son, designated to be the harbinger of the Lord. In such extraordinary cases faith requires extraordinary support and pledges from God. So Jeroboam saw his altar rent. God struck the base altar before he struck the baser people. So when Isaiah went to give Ahaz a consoling sign of this virgin, he took his son in his arms to announce the speedy death of both the hostile kings: chap. 7.

How divine was the interview between these two women. They poured joy into each other’s breast, which swelled the torrent as the river of paradise. Their converse comprised all of heaven that mortals can taste on earth, and forgetful of prayer, their whole souls were lost in the transports of praise.

In the song of the virgin we see the dark curtains which had veiled protracted promises, dropped all at once. She saw the person and glory of her son, and all the joyful ages of his people calling her blessed. Above all, she magnified the riches of redeeming grace in passing by the haughty and the proud, and in looking upon her a virgin of low estate. Such is the mercy of the Lord to them that fear him.

Mary did not leave this happy family till she saw the birth of John; had assured signs of pregnancy; and heard Zacharias, dumb as he was, open his mouth in all the sublime effusions of prophetic song. As a little rivulet loses itself in a vast torrent, so this venerable priest lost the private joy of his illustrious infant, in the glories of Messiah his Lord, then sheltered under his sacred roof. And he viewed not his kingdom with carnal eyes, as the scribes and pharisees, but as a horn of salvation raised up for the saints, in conformity to the promises made to Abraham. He viewed it as promoting righteousness and holiness in the church, and as the opening of celestial day on a dark and beclouded world. Yea, and this was to his soul the summit of joy, that his son should he called “the prophet of the Highest,” and presede his Lord with the proclamations of pardon to a sinful people. Thus the divine wisdom took its counsel for the salvation of fallen man. Thus He who condescended to make us in his own image, stooped again to repair our ruin by uniting his divine to our human nature, sanctifying it in its assumption, and making it a model of our future glory. Thus, in this humble cottage were concealed the high characters which attracted the notice of all heaven, while the world knew them not. Satan, tremble, for thy bruiser is incarnate. Idolatry, avaunt, for thy light is come. And thou earth, be glad, for the promised Prince is come to bless the nations and distant tribes with righteousness, and peace, and joy.

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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

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

Ver. 1. Many have taken in hand] Or, have attempted, επεχειρησαν, but not effected. Hence some have concluded, that Luke wrote first of the four evangelists. Howbeit the common opinion is (and the most ancient copies say as much) that Matthew wrote his Gospel eight years after Christ, Mark ten, Luke fifteen, and John forty-two.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

To Theophilus

With his account on the life of the Lord Jesus on earth, Luke wants to make the converted gentile Theophilus better acquainted with Who He is. There were many accounts of the life of the Lord Jesus in circulation, but they were insufficient. That's because the "many", who had undertaken to compile this account of Him, were not inspired. Luke does not accuse them of false intentions or falsehood in what they have written, but their biography clearly fell short. In all cases it was nothing more than the work and effort of men to tell the things that are completely certain and believed among Christians.

Because their work failed, it was necessary to write a new and above all God-given account of Christ. When we read Luke's considerations to record the Lord's life, we notice that there is with him talk of a "motive" and of "inspiration". Both come from God. God worked in Luke the desire to take on this task. Subsequently He has led him entirely and completely into everything he writes down.

We must carefully bear in mind that the difference between an inspired Scripture and another scripture is not that only the inspired is true and that everything else is untrue. A scripture other than an inspired Scripture need not be untrue. No, the big difference is that an inspired Scripture represents the truth as God sees it. This Gospel that Luke writes is not just a biography, as other historians have written. It is God's story of Christ, which from beginning to end breathes the special meaning with which it pleases Him to permeate it.

This is distinctive for all inspired Scriptures, whatever their form or meaning may be. Inspiration excludes mistakes in the story and the text. And that's not all. Inspiration also includes a Divine intention to teach the believer the revelation of the glory of God in Christ.

Besides the fact of inspiration, we also see a difference between Luke and the other, uninspired writers in the working method. The many uninspired writers have delivered what they themselves have seen of the Lord's life. In it they were servants of the Word. This may mean that in their account they have testified of the Lord Jesus as the Word (Jn 1:1; 14). Luke, like all those who have already produced an account, also wants to produce an account.

Those who have already written an account, have their own perception as a source. They started from what they have seen with their own eyes from the Lord's deeds. This also determines that what they have written is no more than their human observation. They could only pass on their own observations, without being able to go into the depths of the truth that has come to man in Christ.

Luke has done an accurate, thorough study of the Lord's life. He has personally "investigated everything carefully from the beginning". He has not limited himself to what he has seen of the Lord. He has also studied the beginning of things concerning the Lord. It is also doubtful whether he knew the Lord Jesus on earth. This is not a problem when we realize that God has given him the special inspiration and revelation of the Spirit. This makes it clear that God has chosen Luke as His instrument, not only to add a new eyewitness testimony to the many that already existed, but to show His own pleasure in this Man to people.

Although Luke says "it seemed fitting for me as well ", just as it had seemed fitting for others well, he still distinguishes his own account from their account. He does not tell how he obtained his perfect knowledge of all the things he writes about, but he simply states the fact that he possesses that perfect knowledge. Accurate research has brought him to the account we have in this Gospel before us.

We know that God has shown Luke everything that is needed for this. But everything God shows a man, does not relieve that man of his own responsibility to study what he wants to describe. Only God is able to unite the responsibility of man with His own sovereign plan. He can do so in such a way that man's responsibility remains fully valid, while that man acts precisely according to God's plan and purpose.

This is aptly seen in what Luke presents as a result of his research in this Gospel. Not a word is mentioned about the wonderful combination of Luke's thorough research and the inspiration and revelation by the Spirit. Yet every believer who reads this Gospel with prayer, will notice how much this Gospel also has come into existence under the mighty effect of God's Spirit and is therefore completely different from any other account of the Lord's life.

There is still a peculiarity to mention about the way in which Luke passes on his findings. He says to do so "in consecutive order". By this, however, he does not mean to say that he describes the life of the Lord in a regular chronological or historical order. The "consecutive order" that he means, has to do with the spiritual coherence of the events. He places events together, not because in time the one event is followed by the other, but because certain events belong together through an inner connection.

For example, he lets an event in which Mary sits at the Lord's feet to hear His words to be followed by an event in which prayer is central (Lk 10:38-42; Lk 11:1-13). In doing so, he emphasizes the inner connection that exists between the Word and prayer, without wondering whether these two events also follow one another in time. A considerable time may have elapsed between the two events. We will find more proofs of this approach to the Lord's life in this Gospel. We will see how facts, conversations, questions, answers, and discourses of the Lord are presented by Luke according to their inner connection and not always as events have taken place successively.

Then we hear to whom Luke writes. He writes to the "most excellent Theophilus". "Most excellent" refers to the official position of Theophilus and not to his character. Although Luke is mainly concerned with preaching the gospel to the poor (Lk 4:18; Lk 6:20; Lk 7:22), his Gospel as a whole is directed to this man of high society who is now a disciple of the Lord.

Someone who holds a high position in the world is particularly exposed to the tricks and temptations of satan and to the worries of life. These are all reasons why the seed of the Word remains without fruit (Lk 8:12-14). The fact that a whole part of the Bible is addressed to this one gentile, especially one having such a status in the world, is a special proof of God's gracious care (cf. 1Cor 1:26). God knows what every human being needs and despises no one. He also wants to provide in the needs of this high-ranking man who is now humble and certainly feels his spiritual poverty despite his earthly status and wealth (Jam 1:10).

Luke wants to convince the converted, non-Jewish Theophilus of the reliability of the Christian truth he has accepted. With this, Luke provides aftercare to these converted gentile. The intention of the evangelist is to give him a better understanding of "the Way". He is taught in the Christian truth, but he needs confirmation and foundation. This means that he needs the Scriptures, for certainty concerning faith is connected to the holy Scriptures, the Word of God. Without the Word we wouldn't have certainty about anything. If we want to serve and fund people who have (recently) came to faith, this can only be done by teaching them God's Word.

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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Luke 1:1". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

The Preface to the Gospel. Luk_1:1-4

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

v. 2. even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word,

v. 3. it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee, in order, most excellent Theophilus,

v. 4. that thou mightest know the certainty of those things wherein thou hast been instructed.

Inasmuch as, since, seeing as is well known: the strong particle implies that the fact which the evangelist is about to state is well known, that it is important, and that it introduces the reason why Luke enters upon his great undertaking. Many persons had taken into their own hand to set forth in a connected narrative the great things that had been fulfilled, brought to their full consummation in their midst in the fullness of time. The Gospel-account had been transmitted in the form of episodes and individual stories, not in a long connected narrative. And there were many that wished a connected story concerning the events which now lay before the Christians as a complete whole. But many of these went ahead on their own initiative, and the word used by Luke implies a slight censure. They acted without authority of the great teachers of the Church, using their own judgment as to the authenticity of the stories that were circulating. Their efforts were on a par with those of the later apocryphal writers, a mixture of truth and falsehood. But the things that form the subject of Christian belief should not be left to scribes that wrote and edited without authority, without the certainty of full and divine truth. The disciples had been the witnesses of Christ's ministry, they had seen and heard the miracles and the sermons from the beginning, they had been ministers with Christ, assisting Him in His great work. They had been servants of the Word. The Gospel-story and its application engrossed their attention, that word summed up and characterized their labors. What they had taught had been the divine truth, since the Holy Spirit had led them into all truth. Their actual report of the Gospel-story and of the Gospel-preaching should be the only one to have validity among Christians. That is the notion which Luke had concerning the matter. Therefore he had made careful inquiries, he had very diligently followed up the matter from the very beginning, he had informed himself in all things with the aid of the responsible, authoritative teachers. He was therefore ready, on the basis of such investigations and studies, to write a continuous story, a connected narrative, of the entire Gospel-history, not only from the beginning of Christ's ministry, but from the beginning of His life. Luke then politely addresses the man for whom his summarized investigations were primarily intended, namely, one Theophilus, probably a Roman, whom he calls honorable, and who may therefore have occupied a high official position. This man had already received catechetical instruction (the first case in which such instruction is implied), but he had not made great advances in religious knowledge outside of the fundamentals, probably for lack of an authoritative textbook. but Luke wants him to know well, to understand exactly and fully, the certainty of the truth which he has learned up to the present time; he should be established in knowledge. It was for that reason that the writing or editing of a chronological and logical history of the life and ministry of Jesus was so desirable. Note: The explanation which Luke here gives does not in any way weaken verbal inspiration. "Though God gives His Holy Spirit to all them who ask Him, yet this gift was never designed to set aside the use of those faculties with which He has already endued the soul, and which are as truly His gifts as the Holy Spirit itself is. The nature of inspiration, in the case of St. Luke, we at once discover: he set himself, by impartial inquiry and diligent investigation, to find the whole truth, and to relate nothing but the truth; and the Spirit of God presided over and directed his inquiries, so that he discovered the whole truth, and was preserved from every particle of error. " Mark also: "This preface gives a lively picture of the intense, universal interest felt by the early Church in the story of the Lord Jesus: Apostles constantly telling what they had seen and heard; many of their hearers taking notes of what they said for the benefit of themselves and others; through these gospelets acquaintance with the evangelic history circulating among believers, creating a thirst for more and yet more; imposing on such a man as Luke the task of preparing a gospel as full, correct, and well-arranged as possible through the use of all available means—previous writing or oral testimony of surviving eyewitnesses. " It may be remarked, finally, that this preface of Luke's gospel is not only a splendid example of Greek writing, but also breathes the spirit of true meekness, such as should characterize not only the minister of the Gospel, but every Christian.

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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". 1921-23.

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


  Luke 1:1-4

1Forasmuch[FN1] as many have taken in hand[FN2] to set forth in order [to draw up] a declaration [narration][FN3] of those things which are most surely believed [concerning the things2[fulfilled][FN4] among us, Even[FN5] as they [those] delivered them [handed them down, παρέδωσαν] unto us, which [who] from the beginning were eye-witnesses [οἱ ἀπ̓ ἀρχῆςαὐτόπται],and ministers of the word; 3It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first [having accurately traced down all things from the first, παρηκολουθηκότι ἄνωθεν πᾶσιν ἀκριβῶς],[FN6] to write unto thee in order,[FN7] mostexcellent [most noble, κράτιστε][FN8] Theophilus, 4That thou mightest know [know accurately, ἐπ ίγνῷς] the certainty of those things [words, or doctrines, λόγων][FN9] wherein thou hast been instructed [catechized].[FN10]


Luke 1:1. Have taken in hand.—The expression is happily chosen, to enhance the importance and difficulty of the work, which many (πολλοί) had undertaken. It seems almost adventurous, in Luke’s eyes, to take up the pen for such a composition. Yet does he by no means intend to commence his work by blaming his predecessors, but rather, by the word κά μοί, to me also ( Luke 1:3), he places himself in their ranks. It is nevertheless obvious, that if he had considered their labors perfectly satisfactory, he would not have felt impelled to attempt his present composition. With reason, therefore, does Origen write (see Hieronymus, Homilia I. in Lucam): “Hoc quod ait: ‘conati sunt,’ latentem habet accusationem eorum, qui absque gratia Spiritus sancti ad scribenda Evangelia prosilierunt. Matthœus quippe et Marcus et Johannes et Lucas non sunt conati scribere, sed scripserunt.”

Many.—It is perfectly arbitrary to refer this to the apocryphal Gospels, which were the product of later times. Luke had in view rather the very earliest literary attempts, made by persons more or less authorized, at the commencement of the apostolic age; and it may be reasonably concluded from this preface, that, during the composition of his Gospel, he had before him many written documents and records (διηγήσεις), which, when they seemed worthy of acceptation, he incorporated in its pages. The relative coincidence between this and the two former Gospels is certainly most simply accounted for, by supposing them to have been freely drawn from common sources. The very comparison of this literary preface ( Luke 1:1-4), written in pure Greek, with the immediately succeeding history of events before Christ’s birth ( Luke 1:5-80), abounding in Hebraisms, would lead to the supposition, that the latter was derived from some more ancient record. Concluding expressions, which seem originally to have stood at the end of shorter narratives, are also found in various places; e.g., Luke 1:80; Luke 2:20; Luke 2:52; Luke 4:13, etc. It was Schleiermacher who first directed attention to these facts; but he pushed his conclusion from them too far, when he considered Luke as almost exclusively a compiler and arranger, and allowed too little for the influence of his individuality in the selection and treatment of his materials.

Luke 1:2. As they delivered them to us.—This delivering (παράδοσις) is here certainly the oral tradition, which formed the basis of the written Gospels, and contained the matter of the ἀνάταξις, which had already been attempted, with various degrees of success. It began with the baptism of John, and the public ministry of Jesus ( Acts 1:21 and John 15:27), and did not originally include the narratives either of His birth or childhood; though Matthew and Luke could have found no difficulty in obtaining accounts of these from authentic sources. The eye-witnesses and ministers here mentioned, are the same persons, viz, the original Apostles; and the word here spoken of is by no means the personal Logos—for no interpreter can be justified in thus confusing the respective senses in which Luke and John employ the same term—but the word of the Gospel, delivered by them to Luke and his fellow-laborers.

Luke 1:3. It seemed good to me also.—The addition of some old translators, mihi et Spiritui sancto, the product of a theory of mechanical inspiration, is not needed, to make us conscious that we have, in the Gospel of Luke, a striking revelation of the true Spirit of Christ.

Having accurately traced down all things from the very first.—This very first (ἄνωθεν)reaches farther back, as may be seen by the first two chapters, than the from the beginning (ἀρχῆς) of Luke 1:2. Paul uses the same word in Acts 26:5 to designate the beginning of his life among the Jews, before his conversion. Luke, who, according to Acts 21:17, saw James at Jerusalem, might have become acquainted, through him, with Mary or the Song of Solomon -called brothers of the Lord, and have learned much from them. The conjecture of a Dutch divine (Dresselhuis), that Luke, in writing the history of the Nativity, made use of an original written narrative, by James the brother of our Lord, which was afterward lost, and replaced by the apocryphal Gospel of James (Protevangelium Jacobi), deserves mention.

Most noble (or honorable) Theophilus.—For the various conjectures that have been made concerning the pedigree, dwelling-place, and rank of this Christian, see Winer, art. Theophilus. We feel most inclined to favor the supposition which fixes his residence in Italy, and perhaps in Rome. For why is Luke so increasingly precise ( Acts 27, 28) in topographical hints, as his narrative is hastening to its close, unless this locality were better known to his friend and first reader, than any other? from Acts 23:8, we may conclude that Theophilus was not of Jewish extraction. Whether he had already made a profession of Christianity, in which he had at first been instructed, must remain uncertain. Κράτιστος was probably a civil official title.

In order.—It does not appear from the word itself, whether by καθεξῆς is to be understood the order of time, or of things. It may denote both; see Acts 3:24; Acts 11:4. Since, however, the καθεξῆς γράφειν is spoken of as a result of the ἄνωθεν παρακολουθεῖν, and Luke often shows that he is aiming at chronological exactness, we are inclined to prefer the former meaning. This does not, however, necessarily imply that he always had this exactness equally in view, nor that he was always equally successful in attaining it.

Luke 1:4. Wherein thou hast been catechized.—One of the earliest historical traces of ancient Christian catechizing, of which, according to Luke 1:1-2, the history of our Lord formed the basis. Thereon, however, were built specific Christian λόγοι, whose doctrinal θεμέλιον, or foundation, is pointed out, Hebrews 6:1-2. These λόγοι could not remain unshaken, unless the most important facts of the gospel history were distinctly understood, and their truth recognized as beyond all doubt. The various, and, perhaps, often contradictory, accounts of these facts, which came to the ears of Theophilus, furnished Luke with a motive for strict historical research, that his friend might know the ἀσφάλεια of the Christian ἀλήθεια.

[This historiographic preface, Luke 1:1-4, is a model of brevity, simplicity, and modesty, as well as of purity and dignity of style. Alford remarks: “The peculiar style of this preface—which is purer Greek than the contents of the Gospel, and also more labored and formal—may be accounted for, partly because it is the composition of the Evangelist himself, and not translated from the Hebrew sources like the rest, and partly because prefaces, especially when also dedicatory, are usually in a rounded and artificial style.” The difference of the periodic Greek style of the preface and the simple Hebraizing language of the following narrative is very striking, and shows the conscientious use of the Hebrew traditions or writings on the history of the infancy. Yet these sources were not slavishly translated, but fully appropriated by Luke and interwoven with the peculiarities of his own style which are found even in the first two chapters. Comp. Credner: Einleitung, i. p 132 ff.; Wilke: Rhetorik, p451; Ewald: Bibl. Jahrbücher, ii. p183; Meyer in loc., and Doctrinal Note5 below.—P. S.]


1. We see that, even in the first decades of the apostolic age, many felt themselves authorized, or rather compelled, to take up the pen, to instruct their contemporaries and successors with respect to the things that had happened concerning Jesus of Nazareth; and this in an age and country in which the modern passion for writing was entirely unknown. How can this enthusiasm be accounted for, unless the history of the crucified Jesus were the most remarkable and most glorious of all histories? It is perfectly inexplicable how Christ could have set so many tongues, hearts, and pens in motion, if He had not been something more than the modern criticism of a Strauss, or of the Tübingen school, [or Renan] would make Him. Comp. Acts 4:20; 2 Corinthians 4:13.

2. Even during the lifetime of the Apostles, the need of an accurate, well-arranged life of Jesus, which should be the work of some competent and duly authorized agent, was felt. And if oral tradition was thus early in danger of becoming corrupted (comp. John 21:22-23), how little certainty concerning the Christian revelation should we now possess without the written testimony! Oral tradition is undoubtedly more ancient than the written gospel; nor was the Church exclusively founded upon the latter. But who could instruct us with any certainty, with respect to the contents of the apostolic παράδοσις, without access to the λραφή? Luke, indeed, wrote his Gospel only for Theophilus and his immediate circle; but the question is not concerning the intentions of Luke, but concerning the design of his glorified Lord, under whose special guidance this Gospel was at first composed, and has since been preserved, for the edification of all succeeding ages.

3. Luke speaks of his study of the human sources of information; he says nothing of his divine inspiration. Are we then to conclude that he was unconscious of the latter, or that it was rendered superfluous by the former? By no means; but rather, in this case, the maxim: subordinate non pugnant holds good. The Holy Spirit, through whose operation he first became a believer in Christ, and afterward a fellow-laborer with Paul, did surely not forsake him, but descended upon him in far more abundant measure, when he took up the pen to bear testimony for his Lord in this more permanent form for all ages to come. Paul has not said in vain: “God is not the author of confusion, but of order;” and the possession of supernatural power, by no means supersedes the use of natural assistance.[FN11]

4. The grand distinction between Christianity and all systems of philosophy, and all other religions, so called, consists in this, that it is not a mere system of notions, but a series of facts. Its first promulgators could all adopt, as their own, the words of John: “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you” ( 1 John 1:1-3). It is this that makes it everlasting; for deeds once done can never be altered: it is this that makes it universal; for duly accredited facts fall within the reach of those also who could not follow a chain of abstract reasoning: it is this that makes it so mighty; for simple facts are stronger than the most elaborate arguments. That a thorough investigation of these facts is a duty, may be taught us by Luke; but their reality being once ascertained, it results, from his words to Theophilus, that the ἀσφάλεια of the faith can no longer be called in question. Would that they who, in reading the Gospel narratives, have continually in their mouths the words, myth, tradition, legend, might enter into the spirit of Luke’s prologue, and, after due research, might feel and experience that here, if anywhere, they are treading on the firm ground of the most unquestionable reality!

5. Luke is the only one of the Synoptists who begins his Gospel with a Preface. His preface is historico-critical, while the Introduction of John is historico-doctrinal. The prominent points in this short Preface are: (1) It cautions us against erroneous or defective statements of facts; (2) it directs us to the apostles as eye-witnesses of the life of Christ; (3) it proves the faithfulness of the Evangelist in tracing the facts to the primitive source; (4) it brings out the human side in the origin of the sacred writings; showing that the Evangelists were not passive instruments, but free, conscious, intelligent, and co-operative agents of the Holy Spirit in producing these books; (5) it teaches that “faith cometh by hearing,” and that the gospel was first taught by catechetical instruction or oral tradition, but then written down by reliable witnesses for all ages to come. This written gospel is essentially the same with the preached gospel of Christ and the Apostles, and together with the Epistles is to us the only pure and infallible source of primitive Christianity.—P. S.]

6. Ambrose: Scriptum est Evangelium ad Theophilum, hoc Esther, ad eum quem Deus diligit. Si Deum diligis, ad te scriptum est. If you are a lover of God, a Theophilus, it is written to thee. James Ford: The name Theophilus imports the temper of mind which God will bless in the Scripture student; “charity edifieth” ( 1 Corinthians 8:1); and who are the most excellent of the earth, but they whose minds are most imbued with this divine love, with this knowledge of the Lord?—P. S.]


Luke a physician, like the few; Theophilus a patient, like the many.—Historical belief in the divine truth of Christianity: 1. Its necessity; 2. its certainty; 3. its insufficiency, when unaccompanied by a living faith.—Luke: 1. The predecessor of believing searchers; 2. the condemner of unbelieving searchers of Scripture.—The history of the Son of Prayer of Manasseh, the beginning and foundation of a new world of literature.—The highest aim which a Christian author can propose to himself: to correct what is faulty, to strengthen what is weak, to arrange what is confused.—The spoken word, the first testimony and announcement of the truths of salvation, and the foundation of all future testimony to the Lord and His kingdom.—Assured faith indispensably necessary to those who would bring others to the knowledge of faith.—Assured faith the aim of Christian instruction.—From faith to knowledge, from knowledge to still firmer faith.[FN12]—Civil dignities and honors not destroyed, but ennobled, by citizenship in the kingdom of God.—Luke a pattern of profitable trading with intellectual gifts and power in the Christian cause.—The criticism of faith, and the faith of criticism.—“Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy” ( 2 Corinthians 1:24).

Starke:—In a good cause, imitation is a good work.—Nothing should be undertaken inconsiderately, especially in important matters ( Proverbs 19:2).—Full assurance and conviction are necessary for writing or speaking with comfort.—The fear of God makes men truly great and excellent.

Heubner:—The providence of God in raising up sincere, earnest, and credible men, for the task of writing the history of Jesus Christ.—The end of Christian authors should be the promotion of Christianity. The real value of an author proportionate to his attainment of this end.


FN#1 - Luke 1:1.—Forasmuch, antique but not antiquated form for inasmuch, in consideration of, since, well corresponds to ἐπειδήπερ (only here in the N. T.), which is more full-sounding and grave than ἐπειδή, like quoniam quidem and the German sintemal in Luther’s and de Wette’s versions, which van Oosterzee exchanged for nachdem.

FN#2 - Luke 1:1.—Or undertaken, attempted, ἐπεχείρησαν, which, not of itself (Origen, Ambrose, Theophylact), but in connection with Luke 1:3 (Meyer), implies the insufficiency of the older διηγήσεις.

FN#3 - Luke 1:1.—Ἀνατάξασθαι διήγησιν, to draw up, to arrange, to compose a narration (Rheims Version, Alford), or narrative, history (Genevan B.). The improper version: declaration, is from Cranmer’s Bible.

FN#4 - Luke 1:1.—Διήγησιν περὶ τῶν πεπληροφορημένων εν ἡμῖν πραγμάτων. Dr. van Oosterzee (following de Wette, in the third ed. of his Commentary on Luke): eine Erzählung von den unter uns (Christen) vollständig gewordenen Geschichten; Vulgate: quæ in nobis completa sunt; Meyer: welche vollendet sind unter uns. So also Luther, Hammond, Bretschneider, Ebrard, etc. But the Peschito, Theophylact, Beza, Grotius, Kuinoel, Olshausen, Ewald, Alford explain with all the older English Versions, except those of Wiclif and Rheims: quæ satis atque abunde nobis probata sunt, quæ sunt compertissima, certainly, or fully believed, or certified. The verb πληροφορέω means: (1) to bring out fully, to complete, to fulfil (like πληρόω, which is the word used in this sense very often in the N. T.); (2) in the passive: to be fully assured or persuaded; so Romans 4:21; Romans 14:5 (comp. also the noun πληροφορία, full assurance; Colossians 2:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; Hebrews 6:11; Hebrews 10:22). But in this second sense the verb is used of persons only, and not of things, πράγματα, as would be the case here according to the Authorized E. V. It is improper to speak of things fully persuaded. Another objection to the Authorized Version Isaiah, that the full assurance, or πληροφορία, of the gospel history could not be taken for granted at the outset, but was to be effected in the mind of Theophilus by the narrative of Luke, comp. Luke 1:4. Meyer brings the expression into pragmatic connection with the following π’ ἀρχῆς, Luke 1:2. The accomplished facts of the gospel history are regarded as standing in close contact with the events of the apostolic age, so that they were completed among those who, like Luke and Timothy, were no more immediate witnesses of the life of Christ.

FN#5 - Luke 1:2.—Even, which dates from Tyndale, is not required by the Greek καθώς, and is omitted by Wiclif, the Rheims Version, and the N. T. of the Am. B. U.

FN#6 - Luke 1:3.—Παρακολουθεῖν, to follow up, to trace down (by research), and so to know fully, is used in precisely the same sense by Demosthenes, Pro corona, p. Luke 285: παρηκολουθηκότα τοῖς πράγμασιν ἐξ ἀρχῆς, κ.τ.λ. Comp. Alford in loc., Tyndale, and Cranmer: as I had searched out diligently all things from the beginning; Genevan B.: learned perfectly all things from the beginning. I prefer to retain from the first (or from the very first in the C. V.), ἄνωθεν, to distinguish it from π’ ἀρχῆς, Luke 1:2. See Exegetical and Critical Notes.

FN#7 - Luke 1:3.—Or consecutively, καθεξῆς. Genevan B.: from point to point.

FN#8 - Luke 1:3.—Κράτιστος is here and often an official title, like our honorable. Hence honorable, or most noble (Genevan B.), is preferable to excellent, which is apt to be applied to moral character. The E. V. renders the word twice most excellent, here and Acts 23:6, and twice most noble, Acts 24:3; Acts 26:25.

FN#9 - Luke 1:4.—Van Oosterzee, Luther, de Wette, Meyer, etc, render λόγοι here doctrines; the Latin Vulgate, Wiclif, Rheims Version, van Ess: words; Beza, Kuinoel, and all the older Protestant English versions: res, things; Alford: histories, accounts. The living words and doctrines of Christ are meant, which rest upon the great facts of the gospel history and derive from them their ἀσφάλεια. For Christianity is not simply a system of doctrines, but first of all a system of divine human facts of salvation, God manifest in the flesh, living, dying, rising, and ever living for us.

FN#10 - Luke 1:4.—Lit.: catechized, catechetically taught, κατηχήθης. The specific word should have been retained here and elsewhere instead of the more indefinite instruct or teach. Catechizing is a primitive and most important institution of the Church, and a preparatory school for full membership. Archbishop Usher says: “The neglect of catechizing is the frustrating of the whole work of the ministry.”—P. S.]

FN#11 - “Nature and the supernatural together constitute the one system of God.” This sentence, which Dr. Horace Bushnell has chosen as the title of his book on Nature and the Supernatural, may be applied also to the doctrine of inspiration. The Bible is the result of divine inspiration and of human labor, and is theanthropic, like the person of Christ. See the Preface to the Am. ed. of Lange, vol. i. p5. Matthew Henry remarks on Luke’s Preface: “It is certain that Luke was moved by the Holy Ghost not only to the writing, but in the writing of it [his Gospel]; but in both he was moved as a reasonable creature, and not as a mere machine.”—P. S.]

FN#12 - The author has in mind, no doubt, the famous maxim of Augustine, Anselm, and Schleiermacher: Fides precedit intellectum, faith precedes knowledge, and supplies it by the equally correct principle, that true Christian knowledge confirms and increases faith. There is a reciprocal friendly relation between πίστις and γνῶσις. Anselm recognized the latter truth also. For while he said, on the one hand: Neque enim quæro intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam, he laid down the principle, on the other hand: Negligentiæ mihi videtur si quæ credimus, non studemus intelligere. Such study, far from leading away from faith, confirms and strengthens it.—P. S.]

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Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible



Luke's introduction shows that, though he was concerned about giving exact information in this letter to Theophilus, he had not thought of being an instrument directly inspired by God. Theophilus was evidently a Gentile authority of whom nothing more is said in scripture, except in Acts 1:1, where only his name is mentioned. Many others had been energized to write an orderly history of those things concerning the Lord Jesus, and Luke was persuaded there was room for his letter also, having received accurate information from those who were eyewitnesses and servants of God in ministering His Word (v.3). But God had ordered that Luke was to write scripture and laid hold of him for this purpose, without Luke realizing that he was inspired by God. Therefore we may expect depths and beauties in this book that Luke himself had not designed.

Theophilus was manifestly in governmental authority (compare v.3 with Acts 26:25), and Luke desired that he should have accurate knowledge and certainty of those things in which he had already had some instruction. The human element in Luke's words is beautifully transparent, as intended by God.



Luke begins by speaking of the priesthood in Israel in the days of Herod. But the high priest and others who were prominent are passed by, and Zacharias, an otherwise very ordinary priest, and his wife Elizabeth are singled out, both of the line of Aaron, comparatively righteous before God and as regards law blameless (v.6). Zacharias means "God has remembered," and Elizabeth, "God has sworn" -- names very appropriate since God was about to fulfill His great promise concerning the Messiah. Having no child and advanced in age, they aptly reflected Israel's condition of desolation, from which only the grace of God can produce blessing.

It was "heads of their fathers' houses" (1 Chronicles 24:4) who served in these priestly courses by turn, elders who represented the priesthood, for there were too many priests for all to serve in the temple. The work of Zacharias was to burn incense in the temple where only priests could enter. He thus was an intermediary: the people prayed while he made intercession. This was God's order in Israel, so different to that now in the Church of God.

When an angel, standing on the right side of the altar of incense, appeared to Zacharias, he was understandably troubled and fearful, yet in what more appropriate place should a priest expect God to reveal Himself? However, the words of the angel were intended to set him at perfect rest. He addressed him by name with no introduction except the quietening words, "Fear not" (vs.11-13). The message of the angel was plain and direct. The prayers of Zacharias had been heard: his wife Elizabeth would have a son who was to be named John. His birth would give joy and gladness to his father and many others. The prophecy of the angel is clear and precise that John would be great in the sight of the Lord (not in the world's eyes), that he should drink neither wine nor strong drink, which evidently indicates that he would be a Nazirite (Numbers 6:1-8). It was also God's sovereign ordering that he should be filled with the Holy Spirit from his birth. There was only one John the Baptist: it would be folly for another to aspire to be the same as he (Jeremiah 1:5). John would be divinely prepared for his unique service of preparing the way of the Lord, and his powerful, earnest preaching of repentance turned many Israelites to the Lord (vs.15-16).

Verse 17 explains Matthew 11:14, "If you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come." The very fact of the Lord's saying, "If you are willing to receive it" indicates a deeper spiritual application, which Luke explains. It was not that John was the same person as Elijah, but John's service before the Lord was "in the spirit and power of Elijah." John's ministry was of the same character as that of Elijah, sternly pressing on Israel the guilt of their disobedience to the law. The reference here is to Malachi 4:6 which some of the Jews took to mean Elijah personally, but John denied this interpretation (John 1:21). The same applies to another prophet who will yet rise during Israel's tribulation, with the same object in view (Revelation 11:6), though unlike John and Elijah, he will not be alone. John's ministry would have good effect also on proper family relationships (v.17). It would subdue the spirit of disobedience and replace it with the wisdom of the just, for the chief object of that ministry was "to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." Repentance is essential for this, and since John was the forerunner of the Lord Jesus, he must emphasize the guilt of Israel so as to prepare their hearts to receive the grace of the Lord Jesus.

The angel's message was so clear and positive that it ought to have left not the slightest doubt in the mind of Zacharias, yet his word was not enough for him. He felt he must have a sign to confirm this or else accept the testimony of his aging circumstances rather than the testimony of God's Word! He aptly pictures the unbelief of Israel.

The angel then disclosed his name, Gabriel, the one who stood in the presence of God and was sent directly with this message. He then gave a sign, though not so pleasant as Zacharias desired. Zacharias would be deprived of speech until the day this prophecy was fulfilled (vs.19-20). Again we have here a likeness to Israel's condition at the time, mute regarding the things of God, unable to lift their voices in praise and thanksgiving, just because of unbelief, until the day they see their Messiah.

The people waiting outside the temple were perplexed when he came out, for they had not expected God to intervene in the nation's affairs, but the evidence was clear that Zacharias must have seen a vision in the temple (vs.21-22). It is then briefly mentioned that, when the days of his service were finished, he returned to his own house. He would not see frequent service in the temple, for there were twenty-four courses of priests, each to serve in turn, evidently being changed each sabbath day (2 Chronicles 23:8).

It is not said how soon after this Elizabeth conceived, but when it happened she confined herself at home for five months, though deeply thankful to God that He had taken away the reproach of her barrenness (vs.24-25).



In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy the angel Gabriel was sent to Nazareth in Galilee to bear a yet more marvelous message to a virgin who was engaged to marry Joseph, both of them being of the house of David. Gabriel's salutation speaks of great grace given to Mary (favor and grace being translations of the same Greek word), of the Lord's presence with her, and of her being blessed among women. Thus her personal blessing is mentioned first (great grace given to her), then her relationship to the Lord (His presence with her), and her relationship to others (blessed among women).

Mary was perplexed at such words, as no doubt also by the sudden appearance of the angel, but wisely waited in silence for an explanation. "Fear not." he says, to set her at rest. Again he speaks of her being favored by God (this subject -- grace or favor -- being beautifully emphasized in Luke). No human merit could deserve such honor as being chosen by God to be the mother of the Messiah. But God had chosen her to be the one who would independently of human resource conceive and bring forth a totally unique Son, His name to be called Jesus (vs.30-31).

He (not Mary) would be great, called "the Son of the Highest," a dignity far higher than could be given to Him by Mary, indeed an eternal dignity. Therefore the Lord God would give to Him the throne of His father David. First mentioned is His being Son of the Highest, His eternal deity; then Son of David, which involves His manhood, being born of Mary. David's throne will be given to Him in the Millennium, and He shall reign over the house of Jacob, with no other ever rising to take that throne. His kingdom will be perpetual (vs.32-33).

Mary does not question the truth of Gabriel's words, as Zacharias did, but did ask how she was to give birth to a child apart from contact with a man. This gave occasion for the marvelous declaration of verse 35, that the Spirit of God would come upon Mary, the power of the Highest overshadowing her, with the result that "that holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God" (v.35). While He would be a true Man, born of a woman, yet He was altogether untainted by her sinful nature, intrinsically holy, the fruit of the power of the Spirit of God. Nothing is said here of His former eternal existence as Son of the Father, the eternal Son, but this is vitally involved in His being called the Son of God.

Gabriel tells her also of Elizabeth's conception in her old age of a son, she being the cousin of Mary. He needed to add nothing more as to John, for this was enough to exercise Mary to visit Elizabeth, as was divinely intended. Mary's simplicity of faith is beautiful. She willingly took the place of a handmaid, a servant, and accepted the word of Gabriel, in contrast to the unbelief of Zacharias (v.38).



Mary then takes a journey to Judea, with haste, to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Let us observe that haste in this case is commendable, for it was based upon the word of God given to her, and the Lord had designed this to strengthen and encourage faith in both of these favored women. As Mary entered the house and spoke, the babe in Elizabeth's womb leaped; and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, broke forth in a short but beautiful prophecy (vs.39-45). Here the living power of the Spirit of God is accompanied by a lowly spirit of humility that finds delight in the blessing of another, recognizing that Mary is to be the mother of the Lord. Elizabeth rejoiced in the blessedness of Mary among women and in the blessedness of the fruit of her womb.

Though Elizabeth was older than Mary, yet she felt herself unworthy to have the mother of her Lord visit her. But she knew that it was for joy that her own child leapSaturday 25-Jun-2011 11:14genuine delight in Him who was born of the virgin. She also speaks of the blessedness of Mary's faith and the unquestionable fact that what she had believed would certainly take place.



Mary's praise and adoration ascribed to the Lord is beautiful. She is a picture of the godly remnant of Israel, the mother of the man-child (Revelation 12:1-6), and her language here will be that of the restored remnant of the Jews following the Great Tribulation. Her soul (the center of her emotions and affections) magnified the Lord, Jehovah. Her spirit (the center of her understanding and intelligence) rejoiced in God her Savior. Verse 46 indicates her submission to His authority when using the title Lord. Verse 47 shows her worship of the supreme God, yet who in grace became her Savior, for she knew herself to be a sinner who needed His salvation, just as we all do.

In verse 48 she is seen to recognize His tender mercy and care for her in her low estate, and that hers was an honor that would never fail to elicit the respect of all generations. While the great and mighty of this world are forgotten, this lowly, humble woman has such an honor as will never be forgotten.

To God also she ascribes infinite power, the mighty One who dealt with her in such power as in no other. But she hastens to add, "and Holy is His name," for in the world, power is ignorant of holiness, but God's power is sanctified (set apart) from every corrupting element. There also is the gentle, tender side of His character, showing mercy without ceasing to those who fear Him. "His mercy endures forever" (Psalms 106:1)

Note that from verse 46 to 49 it is God personally of whom she speaks, "the Lord," "God my Savior," "He that is mighty," and "Holy is His name." But from verse 50 to 55 it is rather what He has done that is emphasized. His mercy is first mentioned, then strength (verse 51) by which the pride of the ungodly is humbled, showing judgment together with strength. Imaginations and high things that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God are brought down to dust. In verse 52 rule is seen, His putting down the mighty of this world and exalting the lowly. Verse 53 deals with His administration, His filling the hungry with good things and sending the rich away empty. He reverses the cruel order of the world. Verse 54 tells of His help to His suffering servant Israel, remembering mercy after long years of Israel's captivity, and this according to His promise to Abraham and his seed -- not according to the covenant of law. The law is left entirely out of Mary's prophecy, for here the glory of God and the person of Christ is the theme. What she speaks had direct application at the time and will also have application at the end of the Tribulation. Mary remained until near the time of Elizabeth's delivery, then returned home.



The promise to Zacharias is realized as Elizabeth gives birth to a son, which causes much rejoicing among her neighbors and relatives at the great mercy of the Lord toward her. According to Jewish law, the babe was circumcised the eighth day and evidently the priests decided that he should take his father's name, Zacharias. But his mother firmly objected and insisted that John was his name. Zacharias himself settled the dispute by writing that his name was John (v.63). Others marveled at this, surprised that he would not agree to give his son his own name. But the angel had settled this before.

When he gave the name John to his son, Zacharias immediately regained his faculty of speech. His unbelief was changed fully to faith, and he spoke in praise to God. These things being reported in the region, there was a serious, reverent fear that fell upon the people who realized that God was acting in some unusual way. He prepared hearts to expect in John an unusual character "And the hand of the Lord was with him," we are told, in subduing, living reality of power (v.66).



The prophecies of Elizabeth and Mary are found before that of Zacharias, though he was the first to be visited with a revelation from God. But he was slower in believing. However, he was now filled with the Holy Spirit to express another stirring that warms the heart. He spoke in the language of firm assurance and conviction, as though all was fully accomplished, though as yet the Messiah had not been born.

Jehovah, God of Israel had visited and redeemed His people, he declared. There is no question as to the accomplishment of this, though the people were not yet free, and the nation as such will not be redeemed until the end of the future seven-year Tribulation period. It is in Christ that God has visited His people, He who is raised up as a horn of salvation in the house of David. The horn speaks of potential power, for it was specially for power in salvation that Israel was looking, little realizing that this must involve great suffering and death for the Messiah. Zacharias gave no suggestion of this, though mentioning the remission of sins (v.77).

He refers to the messages of the prophets from earliest times as speaking of the Messiah, but he does not consider such prophecies as Isaiah 53:1-12 which speak of the Messiah as suffering, but rather appeals to those prophecies that speak of His great power in delivering Israel from their enemies (v.71). This was mercy promised to the fathers, His holy covenant sworn to Abraham. What was necessary to accomplish this is a matter which evidently did not occur to him. Simeon's prophecy, a little later, is more discerning in this regard (Luke 3:34-35), though not actually indicating the death of Christ, but suffering nevertheless.

In Israel's future deliverance Zacharias expresses the desire that Israel might serve God in holiness and righteousness all the days of their life, which will be true in the Millennium when all their fears will be banished (v.74).

In verse 76 he addresses his child John, to say that he will be called the prophet of the Highest; going before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, a herald of One infinitely greater than himself. Because of this great honor, no greater prophet had ever risen than John, none having such a place as this (Luke 7:28).

Verse 77 shows that John would drive home the truth to individuals, to give knowledge of salvation by the remission of their sins. This would call for his preaching a personal repentance, a most important matter to prepare the Jews for having to face their Messiah. The actual remission of sins would only be by God's tender mercy, through the visitation of Him who was the very arising of the day for those in darkness, that is, the blessed Son of God. It is He who would give light to those in darkness, those who had only the shadow of death hovering over their heads, feeling the desolation of their hopeless state. He would change the path of their feet from that of self-will and rebellion to one of peace and tranquility.

John, we are told, not only grew physically, but also in strength of spirit, for he sought the presence of God, though in virtual seclusion, being alone in the deserts. This was a most unusual life for one born into the priesthood of Israel, but John sought no recognition from the high priest or other authorities. In this lonely way he was being prepared by God for his special work.

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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. 1897-1910.

Wells of Living Water Commentary

The Seven Magnificats

Selections from Luke 1:1-80 and Luke 2:1-52


By way of introduction to the seven Magnificats, we will study the annunciation of the birth of Christ, as it was given by the angel unto Mary. Our study will follow Luke 1:27-38 .

1. The virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph. We emphasize that Mary was a virgin. This was plainly set forth in the prophetic Scriptures, when the Holy Ghost wrote, "A virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His Name Immanuel." Jesus Christ was virgin born, or else He could never have been called "Immanuel," "God with us." The latter is contingent upon the former.

The fact that He died for us on the Cross, would have been impossible, in any atoning sense, if He had been begotten by natural generation; inasmuch as, in that case, He, Himself would also have been a sinner. Only One who knew no sin, and did no sin, and in whom there was no sin, could die for sinners.

2. Mary was announced as "highly favored," and "blessed * * among women." When the angel approached Mary, he said "Hail, thou that art highly favored." The word "hail," means "joy"; therefore, the angel was saying to Mary, "All joy." When Mary heard his salutation, she was troubled and cast in her mind what manner of salutation it might be. Then the angel said unto her, "Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God."

3. Mary instructed concerning the Child who should be born. The angel said to Mary, that the One whom she was to name "Jesus," would "be great." He also announced, "And (He) shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: and He shall reign over the House of Jacob for ever; and of His Kingdom there shall be no end."

What an accumulation of titles are found here, yet they were all true. He was called "Jesus," the "Son of the Highest," He was "Great," and He shall yet ascend David's throne, and reign over the House of Jacob in an everlasting Kingdom.

4. Mary told how the possibility of her being mother to the Son of the Highest could be realized. The angel said unto her (Luke 1:35 ), "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." As we speak of the angel's annunciation of the birth of the Saviour, let us emphasize the deeper meaning of the Names ascribed to Him at His birth: emphasizing, particularly, that He was called the "Son of God." As we do this, let us also refer to that remarkable prophecy in Isaiah 9:6 . To all orthodox Christians, Christ carries the Name of "God our Saviour."


1. Mary hastening to the hill country. When the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she should be mother to our Lord, he also told her that her cousin Elisabeth was to have a child within the next three months. In wonderment, Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, unto a city of Judah. We can see her on arrival, as she entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. In answer to Mary's call, Elisabeth came out.

2. Elisabeth's magnificat was spoken as she was filled with the Holy Ghost. We emphasize this. A woman who is spoken of in Luke 1:6 as being righteous before God, and as walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless; and a woman who was filled with the Holy Ghost, could not have uttered words contrary to the heart of God, and to the truth.

3. Hear the words of Elisabeth's Spirit-filled magnificat : "And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" Thus, Elisabeth, ascribing her cousin, Mary, as "the mother of my Lord," did no less than to acknowledge the Deity of the One who was to be born of Mary.

It must be true that the angel, who had announced unto Zacharias that he and his wife were to have a child, had also announced that Mary, the virgin, was to have a Child, and that His Name should be called "Jesus, the Son of the Highest."

Thus it was that Elisabeth intelligently announced her absolute faith in Mary's Son, as God.


1. Mary announced that the One to be born of her was God, her Saviour. As soon as Elisabeth had ceased her magnificat, in which she ascribed Mary as the mother of the Lord, and commended Mary because she had believed that there would be a performance of the things which were told her from the Lord; then Mary gave her response and said, "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour."

We are more than sure that the expression, "God my Saviour," referred to the Christ which should be born of Mary. We are sure, first of all, because Mary's magnificat was an acknowledgment of the verity of that of Elisabeth. In other words, Mary was accepting the title given her by her cousin, as the "mother of my Lord."

We believe, secondly, that Mary was referring to the Babe to be born of her, as "God her Saviour," because Elisabeth said, "Blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her."

2. Mary, believing in the Deity of her Son, and receiving the magnificat of her cousin, said, "For He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed." There was no spirit of boastfulness with Mary. In fact, Mary spoke of her low estate, acknowledged that the Lord, who was mighty, had done great things to her. While all generations were to call her blessed, she, in turn, was to ascribe all the glory to God, saying (Luke 1:49 ) "Holy is His Name."

Mary also continued to say, "He hath shewed strength with His arm; He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts." Would that all of us might have this same spirit of worship, which Mary demonstrated, as the interpulsings of her own heart. Finally, Mary ascribed the birth of her Child as a fulfillment of what God had spoken to the fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed forever.


1. The magnificat of Zacharias took place at the circumcision of John. When the angel had told Zacharias, the aged priest, that he was to have a child of this aged wife, Zacharias had not believed. Therefore, the angel had said, "I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season." From that day Zacharias was dumb until John was born.

2. A season of great rejoicing. Luke 1:58 tells us that Elisabeth's neighbors and cousins came to see her and rejoiced with her. Thus, on the eighth day, when John was circumcised, they called his name Zacharias, after his father. The mother quickly stopped the proceedings, and said, "Not so; but he shall be called John."

Then her kindred and acquaintances made signs to the babe's father how he would have him called. Zacharias asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, "His name is John." At this moment, Zacharias' mouth was open, his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak and praise God. Zacharias, filled with the Holy Ghost, said many wonderful things about the birth of John. In the midst of his Spirit-indicted magnificat, Zacharias cried out, "And thou, child, shalt be called the Prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways."


1. The words of the angel. As the shepherds were guarding their flocks by night, we read, "And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid." Then the angel spake, saying, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."

Let us observe the namings which the angel from Heaven gave to Mary's Babe on that first Christmas Day.

(1) The angel ascribed the Babe as the "Saviour." This was in keeping with what the angel had said to Mary. This was in keeping with what Mary had said when she announced her Babe as "God my Saviour." This was in keeping with what Zacharias had said, "Thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: * * to give knowledge of salvation."

(2) The angel ascribed the Babe as "Christ." That is, the Saviour was God's Anointed One. Beloved, I would that we all, in speaking of this precious Babe, would ascribe to Him His place as Saviour, Christ, and Lord.

(3) The angel ascribed the Babe as "Lord." It is at the Name of Jesus that every knee shall yet bow, and confess that Jesus is Lord. Truly, other than Christ the Lord, there is no Saviour. There is none other name whereby we must be saved.

2. The words of the angels. We read, "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

(2) There was glory to God, because in the birth of Jesus Christ, the marvels of His wisdom and foreknowledge were being wrought out. There was glory to God because God was fulfilling His promise concerning the coming of the seed of the woman and Christ was that Seed.

(2) There was peace on earth and good will to men, because the Saviour, Christ the Lord, had come, bringing salvation.


1. The shepherd's response to the angel's annunciation. As soon as the Heavenly host had disappeared, the shepherds said one to another, "Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us." There was, upon the part of the shepherds, no expression of doubts as to the verity of the angel's message. They heard and they believed. They did not argue against the finding of God, the Son, in so humble a place as a manger. They, the rather, prepared immediately to go. It is worth our while to consider their words.

How many young people today are willing to say, "Let us * * go "? "I will arise and go to Jesus"? How many others are willing to say, "Let us now go." Alas, alas, so many want to defer the day of their going to Christ. They say, "We will go some other time." How many are willing to say, "Let us now go even unto Bethlehem"? In other words, let us go all the way, and not a part of the way.

Finally, how many, old or young, will say, "Let us now go, * * and see"? Any revelation, Divinely given, is worthy of careful consideration. God wants us to look into the depths of the meaning of His Words.

2. The shepherds found it as the angels had told them. They came, they saw, and they were satisfied. Is there any better day for us to come, seeking a Saviour? If we do come, we will see that what God has said is true.

3. The magnificat of the shepherds. The words of their magnificat are not given. We do read two things:

(1) We read that the shepherds made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this Child. Let us do likewise!

(2) We read that the shepherds returned glorifying and praising God. Their Amens and Hallelujahs resounded. The country wide heard them praising God.


1. The Bible description of Simeon. We read concerning this man that he dwelt in Jerusalem, that his name was Simeon, that he was just and devout, that he was waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and that the Holy Ghost was upon him. To such a one, the Lord revealed that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Here was a definite statement to Simeon that Mary's Babe was God the Lord's Christ.

2. The Bible speaks much of the Holy Ghost in conjunction with the birth of the Lord. The angel told Mary that the Holy Ghost was to come upon her. Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost when she spoke her magnificat. Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost when he sounded forth his note of praise. Now that we come to Simeon, we read that the Holy Ghost was upon him; that the Holy Ghost had revealed the birth of the Lord's Christ unto him, and that he came by the Spirit into the Temple, when the parents brought in the Child Jesus that He might be circumcised after the custom of the Law. How intimately did the Holy Ghost move in connection with the birth of Christ!

3. The joy and rejoicing of the aged Simeon as he came into the Temple. He took the Infant, God, up in his arms and blessed God and said, "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy Word: for mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a Light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel." The aged Simeon declared that the Babe that he held in his arms was "God's Salvation," and that his eyes had seen Him. He declared that this Babe was God's Light to the Gentiles, and His glory to the people of Israel. These words, ascribed to Christ "Salvation," "Light," and "glory," could be ascribed to none other than God, the Son, and Son of God.


1. Description of Anna. In Luke 2:36, we read that Anna was a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: we also read that she was of great age; that she had been married seven years, and had been a widow for eighty-four years. She must have been over a hundred. This aged woman served God with fastings and prayer, night and day. For our part, we are very happy that the Holy Ghost saw fit to seal the six magnificats with this seventh one from the lips of Anna. We will be delighted to know what so true and so faithful a woman, and a woman of so great an age, had to say about the Infant Christ.

2. Anna's words. Luke 2:38 says, "And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Israel."

It was remarkable that just as the aged Simeon had ceased speaking, that the aged Anna should come in.

(1) Anna, seeing the Infant, Christ, gave thanks likewise unto the Lord. She joined her magnificat, her praises with those of Elisabeth, of Mary, of Zacharias, of the angels, of the shepherds, and of Simeon. Beloved readers, what say you? Shall we, likewise, add our praise? Yea, our worshipful praise.

(2) Anna, seeing Christ, spake of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. She, therefore, added her testimony to that of the others, that the Infant Christ, was a "Saviour" a "Redeemer." Beloved, with the seven magnificats, let us follow the example of the wise men, who brought to the Child Christ their gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh, and fell down and worshiped Him.


Great is the mystery of the incarnation "God * * manifest in the flesh." The following story tells a tale of how God can do what man cannot do or understand.

And he that was dead came forth (John 11:44 ). The famous clock in Strasburg Cathedral has a mechanism so complicated that it seems to the ignorant and superstitious almost a work of superhuman skill. The abused and offended maker, while as yet unpaid for his work, came one day and touched its secret springs, and it stopped. All the patience and ingenuity of a nation's mechanics and artisans failed to restore its disordered mechanism and set it in motion. Afterward, when his grievances were redressed, that maker came again, touched the inner springs, and set it again in motion, and all its multiplied parts revolved again obedient to his will. When thus, by a touch, he suspended and restored those marvelous movements, he gave to any doubting mind proof that he was the maker, and certainly the master, of that clock. And when Jesus of Nazareth brings to a stop the mechanism of nature, makes its mighty wheels turn back, or in any way arrests its grand movement more than all, when He cannot only stop, but start again, the mysterious clock of human life He gives to an honest mind overwhelming proof that He is God. For a malignant power might arrest or destroy, but only God could reconstruct and restore. A. T. Pierson.

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Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Luke 1:1". "Living Water".

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

The Evangelist's Preface.

1 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, 2Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word 3It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, 4That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.

Complimental prefaces and dedications, the language of flattery and the food and fuel of pride, are justly condemned by the wise and good but it doth not therefore follow, that such as are useful and instructive are to be run down such is this, in which St. Luke dedicates his gospel to his friend Theophilus, not as to his patron, though he was a man of honour, to protect it, but as to his pupil, to learn it, and hold it fast. It is not certain who this Theophilus was the name signifies a friend of God some think that it does not mean any particular person, but every one that is a lover of God Dr. Hammond quotes some of the ancients understanding it so: and then it teaches us, that those who are truly lovers of God, will heartily welcome the gospel of Christ, the design and tendency of which are, to bring us to God. But it is rather to be understood of some particular person, probably a magistrate because Luke gives him here the same title of respect which St. Paul gave to Festus the governor, kratiste (Acts 26:25), which we there translate most noble Festus, and here most excellent Theophilus. Note, Religion does not destroy civility and good manners, but teaches us, according to the usages of our country, to give honour to them to whom honour is due.

Now observe here, I. Why St. Luke wrote this gospel. It is certain that he was moved by the Holy Ghost, not only to the writing, but in the writing of it but in both he was moved as a reasonable creature, and not as a mere machine and he was made to consider,

1. That the things he wrote of were things that were most surely believed among all Christians, and therefore things which they ought to be instructed in, that they may know what they believe, and things which ought to be transmitted to posterity (who are as much concerned in them as we are) and, in order to that, to be committed to writing, which is the surest way of conveyance to the ages to come. He will not write about things of doubtful disputation, things about which Christians may safely differ from one another and hesitate within themselves but the things which are, and ought to be, most surely believed, pragmata peplerophoremena--the things which were performed (so some), which Christ and his apostles did, and did with such circumstances as gave a full assurance that they were really done, so that they have gained an established lasting credit. Note, Though it is not the foundation of our faith, yet it is a support to it, that the articles of our creed are things that have been long most surely believed. The doctrine of Christ is what thousands of the wisest and best of men have ventured their souls upon with the greatest assurance and satisfaction.

2. That it was requisite there should be a declaration made in order of those things that the history of the life of Christ should be methodized, and committed to writing, for the greater certainty of the conveyance. When things are put in order, we know the better where to find them for our own use, and how to keep them for the benefit of others.

3. That there were many who had undertaken to publish narratives of the life of Christ, many well-meaning people, who designed well, and did well, and what they published had done good, though not done by divine inspiration, nor so well done as might be, nor intended for perpetuity. Note, (1.) The labours of others in the gospel of Christ, if faithful and honest, we ought to commend and encourage, and not to despise, though chargeable with many deficiencies. (2.) Others' services to Christ must not be reckoned to supersede ours, but rather to quicken them.

4. That the truth of the things he had to write was confirmed by the concurring testimony of those who were competent and unexceptionable witnesses of them what had been published in writing already, and what he was now about to publish, agreed with that which had been delivered by word of mouth, over and over, by those who from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word, Luke 1:2. Note, (1.) The apostles were ministers of the word of Christ, who is the Word (so some understand it), or of the doctrine of Christ they, having received it themselves, ministered it to others, 1 John 1:1. They had not a gospel to make as masters, but a gospel to preach as ministers. (2.) The ministers of the word were eye-witnesses of the things which they preached, and, which is also included, ear-witnesses. They did themselves hear the doctrine of Christ, and see his miracles, and had them not by report, at second hand and therefore they could not but speak, with the greatest assurance, the things which they had seen and heard, Acts 4:20. (3.) They were so from the beginning of Christ's ministry, Luke 1:2. He had his disciples with him when he wrought his first miracle, John 2:11. They companied with him all the time he went in and out among them (Acts 1:21), so that they not only heard and saw all that which was sufficient to confirm their faith, but, if there had been any thing to shock it, they had opportunity to discover it. (4.) The written gospel, which we have to this day, exactly agrees with the gospel which was preached in the first days of the church. (5.) That he himself had a perfect understanding of the things he wrote of, from the first, Luke 1:3. Some think that here is a tacit reflection upon those who had written before him, that they had not a perfect understanding of what they wrote, and therefore, Here am I, send me (--facit indignatio versum--my wrath impels my pen) or rather, without reflecting on them, he asserts his own ability for this undertaking: "It seemed good to me, having attained to the exact knowledge of all things, anothen--from above " so I think it should be rendered for if he meant the same with from the beginning (Luke 1:2), as our translation intimates, he would have used the same word. [1.] He had diligently searched into these things, had followed after them (so the word is), as the Old-Testament prophets are said to have enquired and searched diligently, 1 Peter 1:10. He had not taken things so easily and superficially as others who had written before him, but made it his business to inform himself concerning particulars. [2.] He had received his intelligence, not only by tradition, as others had done, but by revelation, confirming that tradition, and securing him from any error or mistake in the recording of it. He sought it from above (so the word intimates), and from thence he had it thus, like Elihu, he fetched his knowledge from afar. He wrote his history as Moses wrote his, of things reported by tradition, but ratified by inspiration. [3.] He could therefore say that he had a perfect understanding of these things. He knew them, akribos--accurately, exactly. "Now, having received this from above, it seemed good to me to communicate it " for such a talent as this ought not to be buried.

II. Observe why he sent it to Theophilus: "I wrote unto thee these things in order, not that thou mayest give reputation to the work, but that thou mayest be edified by it (Luke 1:4) that thou mayest know the certainty of those things wherein thou has been instructed." 1. It is implied, that he had been instructed in these things either before his baptism, or since, or both, according to the rule, Matthew 28:19,20. Probably, Luke had baptized him, and knew how well instructed he was peri hon katechethes--concerning which thou hast been catechized so the word is the most knowing Christians began with being catechized. Theophilus was a person of quality, perhaps of noble birth and so much the more pains should be taken with such when they are young, to teach them the principles of the oracles of God, that they may be fortified against temptations, and furnished for the opportunities, of a high condition in the world. 2. It was intended that he should know the certainty of those things, should understand them more clearly and believe more firmly. There is a certainty in the gospel of Christ, there is that therein which we may build upon and those who have been well instructed in the things of God when they were young should afterwards give diligence to know the certainty of those things, to know not only what we believe, but why we believe it, that we may be able to give a reason of the hope that is in us.

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Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Luke 1:1". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 1706.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Luke will not write of things about which Christians may safely differ from one another, and hesitate within themselves; but the things which are, and ought to be surely believed. The doctrine of Christ is what the wisest and best of men have ventured their souls upon with confidence and satisfaction. And the great events whereon our hopes depend, have been recorded by those who were from the beginning eye-witnesses and ministers of the word, and who were perfected in their understanding of them through Divine inspiration.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Concise Commentary on Luke 1:1". "Matthew Henry Concise Commentary

on the Whole Bible". 1706.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible


Luke 1:1-4 Luke's preface.

Luke 1:5-17 An angel appeareth to Zacharias, and promises him a

son in his old age.

Luke 1:18-23 Zacharias doubting is struck dumb for a sign.

Luke 1:24-25 His wife Elisabeth conceives.

Luke 1:26-38 The angel's visit to Mary.

Luke 1:39-45 Elisabeth, saluted by Mary, prophesieth.

Luke 1:46-56 Mary's song of thanksgiving.

Luke 1:57-63 The birth and circumcision of John the Baptist.

Luke 1:64-66 Zacharias's mouth is opened.

Luke 1:67-80 His prophecy.

Ver. 1-4. Luke's evangelical history hath this peculiar to itself, that whereas the histories of the other evangelists are written to the whole world, having no particular inscription, or dedication, Luke dedicates his to a particular person, named Theophilus; for though that name signifieth one that loveth God, yet I cannot think it is to be taken here appellatively, it being commonly used as a proper name; parents in former ages giving children names generally either expressive of their children's duty to God, (that by their names they might be put in mind of it), or expressive of God's mercy to themselves in giving them such children. The evangelist here suggests, that many had taken in hand orderly to write an account of the things which were certainly believed amongst the Jews. Some think that Luke here reflects upon some that, even so early, had given false accounts of our Saviour's history; for there were several pretended Gospels wrote, called, The Gospel of the Nazarenes, of Thomas, Matthias, Nicodemus, and many others, which the church soon saw cause to reject. But others think that Luke doth not at all reflect, and possibly those figments were not so early; but Luke, observing that many did write this famous history, and some, possibly, for want of due information, not so exactly as they might, yet as they were delivered to them from such as from the beginning were eye witnesses, and ministers of the word, but possibly might not be able so exactly to inform them, or the writers not so able duly to digest them (for most think Matthew, Mark, and John wrote after); or possibly because, there being then no printing, but all in manuscripts, because he thought his friend Theophilus (to whom he knew such a history would be grateful) might not have come to the sight of those manuscripts, he undertakes (not without the direction of the Holy Spirit, as appeared afterward) to compile a history of these things, to which he was either encouraged by the example of others, or incited by the mistakes of those who had done it ill, having the advantage perfectly to understand all things from the first. Most think that this advantage arose not from his personal knowledge, but his converse with the apostles and other ministers of Christ; for he saith no more, Luke 1:2, than,

even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eye witnesses, and ministers of the word; by which it seemeth to be hinted to us, that he was no eyewitness, nor minister of the word. To understand by the word in that verse Christ (whom John indeed so calleth, John 1:1) seemeth to me too hard, considering the word, in the evangelists, doth ordinarily signify the gospel, and no where Christ but in John 1:1,2, &c.

That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed; hat is, by the relation of others. Before I pass this preface, I shall make some observations upon it.

1. That even from the beginning there were some cheats, in reporting matters of fact concerning the church. Whether Luke intended to reflect on them, or not, if we may believe any thing of ecclesiastical history, there were some false Gospels; and before the time of the Gospel there were apocryphal writings relating to the history of the Old Testament. No writings but the Scriptures deserve our faith (otherwise than they agree with them) in things of which they give us an account.

2. In Luke's time the history of the Gospel was most surely believed, as being delivered from eyewitnesses.

3. Men ought to have perfect understanding of matters of fact before they write them. Whoso writes a history upon uncertainty, imposes upon all future ages.

4. A knowledge of certainties is what all good men ought to aim at in writing and reading. It is a mean soul that can feed upon an uncertainty, and they are as mean that spend their time in catering such food for reasonable souls. Men's understandings are given them for nobler uses than to gain the notion of a falsehood, and they are low born souls that can spend their precious hours in such cookery let the sauce with which they serve it up be never so artificial.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Luke 1:1". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to draw up a narrative concerning those matters which have been fulfilled among us, even as they delivered them to us, who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word,’

These first four verses are presented in classical Greek, in contrast with what follows in chapters 1 & 2. We note here that ‘many’ are said to have put in writing certain facts about Jesus Christ and His life and teaching. Thus Luke had a number of writings from which to draw, and concerning which he could consult Paul and the twelve. These may well have included Mark’s manuscript of his own Gospel, or a draft of it, which he may well have lent to Luke as containing the testimony of Peter. But Mark’s Gospel could never be sufficient for a historian like Luke. It did not contain sufficient of Jesus’ teaching. He clearly then had sources, or a source, for the teaching of Jesus. But we can be sure that he checked their accuracy with the living voices themselves. On top of this he travelled to places like Caesarea and Jerusalem, at one stage remaining in Caesarea for two years, where he would meet a good number of people who had been present at many of the events described. Given that Luke spent so much time with Paul and would certainly have been in contact with Peter, and definitely was with Mark, it would have been incredible if a careful historian like he was had not checked with them the reliability of the material. It is clear that he was not fully satisfied with what had already been produced. He would not therefore just accept what they said. He was a genuine historian and wanted to do the life of Jesus justice.

His words in themselves emphasise the importance of his subject. He speaks of ‘the things fulfilled among us’. What Jesus was and what He had done was seen as something ‘fulfilled’. It was a fulfilment of the Old Testament Scriptures, and His was a life, seen not as tragically cut short in death, but as a life which had achieved its full potential. It was a fulfilled life. Speaking of Jesus he could hardly have meant anything less. The perfect participle emphasises that they have been fulfilled and are still being so.

And he then stresses that the information contained in his Gospel comes from ‘eyewitnesses and ministers of the word’. While in another this might have indicated that they were simply its original source, Luke’s circumstances and travels make quite clear that he would actually have met these eyewitnesses. He could not have failed to do so. And having done so, had that not been what he was signifying here, he would have added a further comment. The fact that he did not do that stresses that these eyewitnesses were ones whom he had talked with himself.

The use of ‘the word’ here does not go quite as far as John 1:1-18 in personifying the Logos (the Word), but in Luke’s writings ‘the word’ is something powerful and effective that goes forth and changes men’s lives, and the prime thing about it is that it concerns Jesus. Indeed one of the main themes of Acts is the going forth of ‘the word’ (e.g. Luke 4:4; Luke 4:29; Luke 6:4; Luke 6:7; etc), and there it means the word about Jesus Christ, the Messiah. And here he closely connects that word with the life of Jesus as witnessed by eyewitnesses. The word is the word concerning Him which goes forth and produces life (Isaiah 55:11). In the parable of the sower it is the word which is sowed so as to result in the establishment of the Kingly Rule of God (Luke 8:11). In Luke 11:28 Jesus can say, ‘blessed are those who hear the word of God --’, compare also Luke 5:1 where the people press to hear ‘the word of God’. It is called ‘the word of God’ because its source was in God. This is why Paul could say that ‘the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God’. And it is that word of power that Luke wants to present. Compare Luke 4:32; Luke 4:36 where it is both Jesus’ word of authority in teaching and His word of authority in casting out evil spirits.

‘Ministers of the word.’ In Acts it is the Apostles and their close associates who are the ministers of the word (Acts 6:4). As this introduction introduces both books Luke may well be intending us to see by this description Apostolic men who had been with Jesus. Papias had said, ‘For I did not assume that whatever comes from books is as helpful to me as what comes from a living and lasting voice.” There is really no reason for Luke not to have thought the same, and he had the advantage of meeting at least some of the Apostles face to face.

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Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Introduction (1:1-4).

In approaching this introduction we should recognise that it conforms with literary practise in the world of Luke’s day.

Josephus in ‘Against Appion’ opens his writings similarly. In his opening to book 1 he says, “In my history of our Antiquities, most excellent Epaphroditus, I have, I think, made sufficiently clear to any who may peruse that work the extreme antiquity of our Jewish race, the purity of the original stock and the manner in which it established itself in the country which we occupy today. .... Since, however, I observe that a considerable number of persons, .... discredit the statements in my history concerning our antiquity, .... I consider it my duty to devote a brief treatise to all these points, in order at once to convict our detractors of malignity and deliberate falsehood, to correct the ignorance of others, and to instruct all who desire to know the truth concerning the antiquity of our race.”

He then commences book 2 in this way:

“In the first volume of this work, my most esteemed Epaphroditus, I demonstrated the antiquity of our race, corroborating my statements by the writings of the Phoenicians, Chaldaeans, and Egyptians. .... I also challenged the statements of Manetho, Chaeremon and some others. I shall now proceed to refute the rest of the authors who have attacked us.” It will be seen how similar in general terms this is to Luke’s openings, not because either was acquainted with the other, but because it was a standard literary method of the day.

But note that Luke is able to point to eyewitnesses, which Josephus was necessarily unable to do.

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Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

. Preface.—The writer, influenced by the attempts of others to record the primitive tradition of Christianity as it was handed down by the first generation of disciples, essays the same task, and having taken pains to collect, examine, sift, and arrange the contents of the written and oral tradition, presents the result to Theophilus, a Roman official of some standing, who needed fuller acquaintance with the historic basis of the oral teaching about Christianity which he had received. The preface is written in rather elaborate Greek, is modelled on the conventional lines of ancient literature, and displays some acquaintance with medical phraseology, especially that of Galen.

Luke 1:2. from the beginning, i.e. of the public ministry of Jesus, the Baptism.—ministers of the Word: servants of the spoken gospel.

Luke 1:3. all things: his work is to be complete in scope.—from the very first, from the Birth. If, however, we regard Luke 1:5 to Luke 2:52 as a later addition, it may mean from the Baptism.—in order, not necessarily chronological but at least logical, an order in which the events and sayings are given an appropriate setting.—Theophilus, possibly here a generic name, but more probably to be taken as that of an individual, a literary patron of the Evangelist's. The apocryphal Acts make him a Roman administrator of high rank at Caesarea, and the father of the centurion Cornelius. Luke may have been his freedman.

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Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary


Luk . Many.—St. Luke cannot here refer exclusively to the works of the other evangelists. He alludes to narratives drawn up by writers who derived their information from the testimony of "eye-witnesses and ministers of the word." The first and fourth Gospels, written by "eye-witnesses and ministers of the word," are necessarily excluded from this category. This would only leave one Gospel, St. Mark's, as a representative of the "many" incomplete narratives. Neither can St. Luke refer to apocryphal gospels, which are of a very much later date and of no historical value. "He had in view rather the very earliest literary attempts, made by persons more or less authorised, at the beginning of the apostolic age; and it may be reasonably concluded from this preface, that, during the composition of his Gospel, he had before him many written documents and records, which, when they seemed worthy of acceptation, be incorporated in its pages. The relative coincidence between this and the two former Gospels is certainly most simply accounted for by supposing them to have been freely drawn from common sources" (Lange). Taken in hand.—I.e. attempted; as Luk 1:3 implies, the attempts had not been very successful. The narratives were fragmentary and ill-arranged, but not necessarily erroneous. Which are most surely believed among us. R.V. "which have been fulfilled among us." A rendering favoured by many critics, and which seems to yield a better sense, is, "which have been full accredited," or "established by sure evidence."

Luk . Even as they.—I.e. the apostles and original disciples. The English rendering is at first a little misleading. From the beginning.—I.e. from the time Jesus began His public ministry. To have associated with the Saviour from the time of the baptism of John was a necessary qualification for apostleship (Act 1:21-22).

Luk . It seemed good to me also.—"St. Luke by this classes himself with these πολλοί, and shows that he intended no disparagement nor blame to them, and was going to construct his own history from similar sources. The words that follow imply, however, a conscious superiority of his own qualification for the work" (Alford). Having had perfect understanding, etc.—Rather, "having traced the course of all things accurately" (R.V.). From the very first.—Reference is made here to the contents of the first two chapters of the Gospel. The fragmentary narratives in question dealt solely or chiefly with the official life of the Lord. In order.—I.e. "to narrate the events consecutively in a connected series, and methodical, but not necessarily chronological, order" (Wordsworth). Most excellent.—A title formally applied to officials of high rank (Act 23:26; Act 24:3; Act 26:25). Theophilus.—Probably like St. Luke himself, a Gentile convert. Nothing whatever is known of the person here addressed. The name was a very common one. The idea that it is not a proper name, but is to be taken as a designation of a believer—"one who loves God," or "is loved by God"—is far-fetched and highly improbable. The official title—"most excellent"—is a conclusive argument against it.

Luk . Instructed.—Lit. "catechised"; reference being made to the oral teaching imparted to candidates for baptism (catechumens). The section from Luk 1:5 to Luk 2:52 is Hebräistic in style, and hence many have supposed that the Evangelist here makes use of Aramaic documents.


The Relation of Believers to the Written Word.

I. Faith in Christ and personal devotion to Him are the sources of religious life, and not merely faith in a book.—Many early disciples had very imperfect knowledge of Jesus, and had to draw upon materials of information very much inferior to those in our Gospels, and yet manifested a love to their Saviour which puts us to shame. The Christian Church, indeed, existed for several centuries before the canon of the New Testament was fully formed. In the age in which St. Luke wrote, and long afterwards, multitudes became Christians who never saw a copy of any of the Gospels, but relied upon the teaching imparted by evangelists and preachers. This explains the words of St. Paul: "How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Rom ). Specimens of this oral teaching are to be found in Act 10:36-43; Act 13:23-41. The fact that there may be vital religion of the most genuine kind in the cases of individuals who have not very abundant knowledge is a very significant one. We need to remember, too, that there may be abundant knowledge and very little of the religious spirit.

II. Devotion to Christ will lead to our treasuring up everything that we can learn concerning Him—every incident recorded, and every word that fell from His lips. It was this motive no doubt that led to the writing of the multitudinous narratives to which St. Luke here refers. People naturally desired that history of such immense spiritual importance should be committed to writing, and not merely to the fickle memories of hearers. Very early in the history of the Church Papias endeavoured to gather up all the fragments of oral traditions of the facts of the Saviour's life that were still extant. This interest in everything that concerns Jesus accounts for the extraordinary fascination which the apocryphal gospels have had, in spite of their worthlessness, for many, in every generation of Christian history. As one who has studied them carefully says: "We know before we read them that they are weak, silly, and profitless—that they are despicable monuments even of religious fiction—yet still the secret conviction buoys us up, that, perchance, they may contain a few traces of time-honoured traditions—some faint, feeble glimpses of that blessed childhood, that pensive and secluded youth, over which, in passive moments, we muse with such irrepressible longing to know more—such deep, deep desideration. We think that, though so many have sought amidst all this incoherent tissue for the thin golden thread of true history, and have sought, as they themselves tell us, so utterly, so bitterly in vain—still our eyes may descry it—that we may see and realise in our souls some few unrecorded words or deeds of our Redeemer that others have failed to appreciate" (Ellicott).

III. Christian belief is not allied to credulity.—St. Luke writes that Theophilus may know the certainty of those things in which he had been instructed. The basis of fact is essential to faith; and therefore every believer is convinced that, in the New Testament records of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, he has to do with genuine history, and not with cunningly devised fables. This conviction rests upon reasonable grounds. Two of the evangelists, St. Matthew and St. John, were themselves eyewitnesses of events they describe, and were apostles of the Lord. St. Mark is generally considered to have drawn the greater part of his Gospel from the testimony of another eyewitness—St. Peter. While St. Luke writes as one who had had access to the fullest and most trustworthy materials for the biography he has drawn up, and plainly informs us that he had carefully traced out matters from the very beginning, and had scrupulously adhered to the principles that should guide a historian. The Gospels, therefore, submit to the test by which ordinary historical works are to be tried, and come scatheless out of the ordeal. The general tendency of modern criticism is to assign them to a period well within the time when persons were living who could have exposed their falsity, if they had not been records of fact.

Luk . The True Teacher.—St. Luke alone, of all the evangelists, writes a personal introduction to his Gospel. The historical is helpful to the doctrinal, and the record of the individual is as necessary as that of the community. Truth passes through one individual to mankind; the few teach the many. This preface is useful as a distinction, an explanation, and a reflection. It distinguishes the competent from the inadequate instructors, it explains the immediate design of the Gospel, and it reflects light on the high character of the writer. It has been remarked that St. Luke, in this preface, makes no claim to Divine inspiration. The best men do not, as a rule, claim inspiration in so many words, but evince it in their record. The sacred writers do not parade the supernatural; their words are bright with its lustre. True inspiration is self-revealing, and does not need to speak its presence any more than the star its light or the rose its fragrance. Men who talk much about inspiration often lack it. This preface is full of literary grace. A graceful style has its moral uses. St. Luke was a cultured penman; he could employ either the graceful or the rugged. This preface would be helpful to the circulation of the Gospel. Gospels do not disdain the advantage of secondary aids. Eternal realities make use of transient assistances; little things may sometimes advance redemptive missions. Small prefaces may herald the Christ. But a preface of high periods must never fall into a commonplace record; the kindled fire must glow more intensely as it burns. Thus is it with the Gospel of St. Luke. Here we have a pattern of the true teacher.

I. That he comes under the sacred spell of truth.—This preface informs us that "many" had taken in hand to write gospels, and that St. Luke was one of a multitude who had commenced a like task. Why so many scribes? Were they mainly animated by a curious desire to investigate the history of the Christ? was their intellectual activity stirred by the strange facts and doctrine they had heard? did they wish to gain fame by literature? Nay! These early writers had come under a mighty influence—the history of the Christ had awakened them to enthusiasm. The truths concerning Him burned in their souls, and longed for outlet through the pen. This is the true history of theological literature. It is the outcome of a holy enthusiasm stirred by soul-moving and unique facts. It is the outcome of a living and acting Christ. No other literature is written under such a constraining energy. Science has no such moving power. All truth has a charm for the sincere mind; but the charm of Christian truth is incomparable. Hence the number of written gospels. The enthusiasm is numerically strong as well as intense. Enthusiasm in the teacher awakens enthusiasm in the scholar. Christ has set many pens in motion. He has awakened innumerable teachers. Christianity is the best teaching power in the earth; it inculcates the most powerful knowledge—a knowledge mighty because based on facts. Men write about it only as they come under its sacred charm. The writer ignorant of this spell will never send a gospel to his fellows. The true teacher is not a common man, but a man in whose soul truth has been revealed, who strives to write in a book the inner vision he has seen and the subtle power he has felt. Only such a man can record miracles with grace. Such men must write gospels.

II. That he is not discouraged by the partial failure of others.—Many had taken in hand to write the holy record of the Christ. St. Luke seems to imply that their efforts were praiseworthy; he indeed ranks himself amongst them; he gives no censure; he implies their honesty. Doubtless they were zealous but inadequate scribes; had their histories been satisfactory, he would not have added another. Zeal is not competency. Evidently St. Luke does not include the other inspired evangelists as amongst "the many." "The many" are indicated as outside the apostolic circle. He probably refers to writings which have not reached our age. Many feel the impulse of sacred literature; few only realise its ideal. The multitude write inadequate gospels; few write gospels that live. The numerous writers named by St. Luke indicate the difficulty of sacred authorship; in that even a multitude of men cannot accomplish it with success. That in which many fail must be hard to achieve. It indicates the inexhaustibility of religious truth; though many write about it, none can exhaust its meaning. The moral instructor can never wear out his theme. But inadequate attempts to unfold spiritual truth are not without value; each mind has its own peculiar view of Christ, and adds something to the universal conception of Him. But religious literature must of necessity be inadequate, because eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, pen cannot describe, these inscrutable things. The artist cannot paint the sun; he cannot even look upon its glory. Imperfect gospels must be superseded; they place truth in undue perspective; they may destroy the due proportion of the faith. The imperfect gospel must perish—time will destroy it; the true only can endure. But the true teacher is not discouraged by the multitude of imperfect gospels about him; he summons all his energy, uses them as far as he can, enlarges and transforms them, and conducts his own to a complete and perfect end. His gospel is immortal.

III. That his aim is to impart permanency to truth.—The "most excellent Theophilus" had been orally instructed and catechised in the things most surely believed. Rumour of them had reached him, and doubtless he had also enjoyed the privilege of definite verbal teaching. The traditions of the past had been related to him. But tradition was transient and uncertain, liable to corruption and decay. St. Luke was not content with the oral; he wanted "to write" to Theophilus, and through him to all subsequent ages. The true teacher is anxious alike for the adequate and permanent embodiment of the truth. He wants to write it in books, engrave it on immortal souls, embody it in human lives, and associate it with enduring institutions. He would rather commit it to the care of the pen than to the guardianship of the voice. The written Gospels keep the facts of Christianity alive in the universal mind. The true teacher does all he can to make the truth vital and permanent, so that when he is gone his gospel may survive and instruct. He builds a temple for the truth, that it may no longer live in a frail tent.

IV. That he exercises the highest qualities.—This preface proves that St. Luke gave his best abilities to the writing of his Gospel and to the instruction of Theophilus. He was not content to put forth an inferior effort or to gain a partial success; he engaged his whole being in the task.

1. Diligence. He was diligent in the use of existing documents; he did not want to be original where originality would be injurious. He was diligent in research; he traced the history point by point to its commencement. He did not indolently accept conclusions or facts without testing them. He was diligent in personal application and effort, so that he added much to existing information about the Messiah. The true teacher must be diligent; he must be given to original research and fervent endeavour. His mental activity will have a stimulating effect upon the student.

2. Method. St. Luke wrote "in order." He was methodical in the arrangement of his materials. Truth is served by arrangement. It is worth arrangement. Arrangement aids the student. God is not the author of confusion. Order is heaven's first law. It is visible in the material universe. The true teacher will have due regard to the advantage of arrangement; he will secure it by industry and skill. The order of the record will inspire order of mental conception and of moral life.

3. Completeness. St. Luke had "perfect understanding of all things." He investigated facts both small and great; he allowed nothing to escape his observation; all were of meaning in his history. He was not a careless student. He was not a partial thinker. He was not a prejudiced investigator. He was not a sectarian scribe. He had nothing to conceal. All relating to the Christ was interesting and important to him, and would bear the light of day. The true teacher seeks to gather into his instruction all the facts relating to his theme, and so doing he need not fear results; they are in the safe keeping of truth. Completeness of instruction will lead to fulness of moral conduct.

4. Fidelity. St. Luke does not write as an "eyewitness"; the facts he narrates were delivered to him and investigated by him. Testimony is the basis of Christian truth; and in the first instance it is the testimony of eyewitnesses. St. Luke does not claim an authority he did not possess; he presents his authorship in its true light. This gives antecedent credibility to his history: a man true to himself will be true to his facts. He will not be likely to avail himself of seeming advantage in a clandestine manner. He will be characterised by candour and modesty. The true teacher does not claim more than his due, and will not assert an independence that does not belong to him. His fidelity will awaken a love of truth in his students.

5. Courtesy. St. Luke in his preface addresses Theophilus in the most courteous manner, both as regards his character and official position. Truth gains by the courtesy of its teacher. The true teacher is never rude; he has in him the wisdom that is gentle and peaceable. The historian of Christianity must approach men on their best side, and seek the advantage of conciliatory address. Courtesy reacts in the favourable disposition of the student.

V. That he understands the worth of the solitary mind.—St. Luke wrote his Gospel for the instruction and certitude of the most excellent Theophilus; the instruction and confirmation of one mind were to him an object of desire. He wanted to strengthen faith: how many teachers seem to awaken doubt!

1. The man was attractive in disposition. Theophilus was attractive in disposition. He was friendly toward the Divine. He would be likely to receive with meekness the engrafted word. The true teacher is drawn to the receptive scholar.

2. He was influential in rank. Not many mighty are called. The poor have the gospel preached to them. But the true teacher is also anxious to bring wealth and rank under the influence of the truth as it is in Jesus. Theophilus will be a helpful disciple in the future. Christ Himself sought the single soul, the woman of Samaria. The good Shepherd goes after one lost sheep until He finds it. The true teacher appreciates the value of the individual, and will write a gospel for the one mind.

3. He was representative in position. Though St. Luke wrote to one man, yet his Gospel is characterised by universality. The Gospel is sure to travel beyond Theophilus to the world. It will touch all ages. Providence takes our gospels to people we never addressed them to, to ages beyond our own. In St. Luke's Gospel the light dawns upon the Gentile world; the true teacher has words of hope for the outcast, for universal man. He is not exclusive in temper. He delights in wise men from the East, in certain Greeks, as well as in the privileged people. One mind is worth more than a world. The Bible is more concerned about souls than suns and material systems.—Exell.


Luk . The Prologue.—In the Muratorian fragment it is expressly said of Luke that he had not himself seen the Lord in the flesh, but, having drawn his information from as high a source as possible, began his narrative with the birth of John. In his prologue we see the witness, as it were, collecting the materials, and laying the productions of his predecessors, as well as the knowledge of his companions, under contribution, that he may present Theophilus with a reliable history.—McCheyne Edgar.

Luk . "Many have taken in hand."—We have here an incidental notice of the sensation created in human society by the mission and work of Jesus Christ. Those who had seen and heard Him could not but be persuaded that His appearance upon earth was the greatest event in history, and those to whom they spoke of Him could scarcely fail to form the same opinion. As the first generation of believers who had had personal knowledge of the Saviour began to pass away, oral statements concerning His teaching and mighty deeds would naturally be superseded by written documents of a more or less imperfect character. Fragmentary knowledge would lead to the writing and circulation of defective narratives of the life of the Saviour; and no doubt, in some cases, legendary matter would find its way into the record. There was an opening, therefore, for the work of a regular historian like St. Luke, who would by personal labours fill up gaps in the narrative of the life of the Founder of Christianity, and reject all such matter as was from its apocryphal character unworthy of a place in it. The greatness of the task—"to draw up a narrative concerning those matters which have been fulfilled among us" (R.V.), or an adequate account of the life of Jesus—explains why so many had failed in the endeavour. The life of any ordinary man, who has been successful in accomplishing a certain limited piece of work, may with care be satisfactorily written; but that of those who have exercised wide and deep influence upon the society in which they have lived can only be presented in an imperfect and one-sided manner. In many instances the biography utterly fails to explain to a succeeding generation the extraordinary personal influence exercised by the subject of it upon those who came in contact with him. A consideration of this fact convinces us of the enormous, if not insuperable, difficulties in the way of writing the life of One who was Son of God as well as Son of man. Two reasons for the failure that marked the tentative biographies to which St. Luke here alludes may be noted:

(1) the incompleteness of the historical material at the command of the authors; and

(2) want of adequate spiritual sympathy between them and Him of whom they wrote. Hase felicitously compares these early gospels which have now passed into oblivion with the fossil plants which have disappeared to give place to existing vegetation.

"Among us."—Whether we take the latter clause of the verse to mean "the events which have been fulfilled," or "the matters which are most surely-believed," the words "among us" imply that St. Luke is writing as a sacred, and not as a secular, historian. The readers whom he has in view are those who are firmly convinced that the kingdom of God has been established on earth by the life and work of Jesus, the Son of God. It is our being convinced of this fact by the living evidence of those who are believers in Christ, and by the existence of His Church in the world, that will enable us to read the Gospels themselves so as to understand them aright, and to receive the testimony concerning Him that they have to give. Faith in Him as the Saviour will then enable us to understand the significance of His teaching and work.

Luk . "Eyewitnesses and ministers of the word."—Though St. Luke hints at the unsatisfactory results of these early attempts to write the life of Jesus, he casts no slur upon the motives which had influenced the authors of them—indeed, he implies that these narratives were in general based upon the oral testimony of persons who had known Jesus. The errors that characterised them were, therefore, more likely to be those arising from defective knowledge than from intentional perversion of fact. The sources from which St. Luke drew his Gospel were threefold:

(1) the statements of "eyewitnesses and ministers of the word";

(2) the results of the inquiries which he himself had made into events in the life of Christ, which were not usually contained in oral preaching or not prominent in it; and

(3) no doubt material in the writings to which he refers which was suitable for his purpose. Examples of brief narratives of the life of Jesus as given in oral teaching are to be found in Act ; Act 13:23-38. Both of these start from the period of John's preaching and baptism. St. Luke mentions two qualifications which gave weight to the testimony of apostles and original disciples:

(1) they were eyewitnesses of the life of the Saviour from the beginning of His public ministry; and

(2) they had become, after His ascension, ministers of the word, i.e. they had given themselves up to the work of winning disciples by witnessing to the things which they had seen and heard. This second qualification was equally necessary with the first; for there were eyewitnesses who were enemies of the word—the prejudices of scribes, Pharisees, and elders of the Jews, who rejected Jesus, would render it impossible for them to give trustworthy information concerning Him. The kind of "tradition" St. Luke has in view is that of 1Jn : "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life … that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you." Among those who were both eyewitnesses and disciples from whom the Evangelist obtained information were the twelve, the seventy, the Virgin Mary, Lazarus of Bethany and his sisters Martha and Mary, Mary Magdalene, etc. "It is because the Gospels are so primitive and authentic that they bring before us so perfectly, not some visionary ideal that grew up in the mind and soul of Christendom, not some legend of a glorified and saintly figure, but the very picture and image of Jesus Christ as He lived among men."

Luk . "It seemed good to me also."—An interesting light is here thrown incidentally on the nature of the process of inspiration. The Evangelist speaks of the composition of the Gospel as having been a work which he felt at full liberty to undertake or not. He evidently did not regard himself as having been a passive machine moved by the Holy Spirit, but as a man attracted to write upon a subject of absorbing interest, concerning which he was able to give fuller information than had as yet appeared. The method he describes himself as following, too, is that adopted by every conscientious and painstaking historian or biographer. Yet no one can doubt that his work rightly occupies a place in inspired, as distinguished from ordinary, literature. His Gospel has been one of the great means employed by the Holy Spirit for the regeneration of mankind; and all who accept the Christian revelation are firmly convinced that it was composed under the influence of inspiration, however unconscious the author himself may have been of the fact. In this co-operation of the Divine and the human, we have a proof that the Divine sovereignty is exercised without infringement upon the freedom of our will.

"Having traced the course of all things," etc. (R.V.).—"St. Luke seems to compare himself to a traveller who endeavours to ascend to the very source of a river in order to trace it down again all along its course, and to make a full survey of its banks" (Godet). If we might employ the same metaphor, and apply it to the two historical works which we owe to the pen of this Evangelist—the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles—we could describe him as following the stream of God's mercy as revealed in Christ, from the source in the hills of Nazareth down through many lands until it reaches Rome, the centre of the world's life, from whence its healing waters are to flow again to the nations under its rule.

"All things."—St. Luke's purpose seems to be to omit nothing worthy of notice or of a place in the history. St. John, on the other hand, admits that he has in his Gospel merely selected some incidents from a life of unparalleled activity: "Many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name" (Luk ). And, again, "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written" (Luk 21:25).

"The very first."—This is an earlier starting-point than "the beginning" of Luk . He goes back fully thirty years before the Baptist's preaching, and begins with the announcement by the angel of the birth of him who was to be the forerunner of the Christ. Some idea of the extent to which St. Luke has supplied us with information omitted by the first and second evangelists may be formed from a consideration of the fact that out of the thirteen hundred and ten verses contained in the first three Gospels, five hundred and forty-one are peculiar to him. So that he has actually given us more than one-third of the history which we possess of the words and sayings of Jesus.

"Most excellent Theophilus."—From this form of address, used by an inspired writer, may be fairly deduced the lawfulness and propriety, generally speaking, of giving to men the ordinary titles of respect. They err who think that there is any propriety or religion in assuming a singularity in such things, or in sturdily refusing what are usually considered marks of civility and respect. It is unworthy at once of the Christian and of the man to be guilty of hollow hypocrisy or fawning servility; but it is both dutiful and adorning to be courteous, and to give honour to whom honour is due.—Foote.

The Orderliness of Gospel Scripture.—"To write unto thee in order." St. Luke hoped not only to write what was true, but to write it in order. He knew the importance of arrangement, not least in the things of God. "God is not a God of confusion," St. Paul says; and the saying has many applications besides the one which he made of it. It has an important application to God's revelations. The Bible was many books before it was one. The whole volume of the two Testaments was some fifteen hundred years or more in writing; and it was written in order, not casually, and not promiscuously, as regards the Divine Author. There was method, there was system, there was sequence and consequence, in the writing of the Bible. We can trace, too, something of that orderliness of writing which the text speaks of in the acknowledged diversity amongst the three portions of our New Testament.

1. The writings of St. Paul.

2. The first three Gospels.

3. The writings of St. John. Does God write in order, or does "confusion" bewray the no-god, when He bids St. Paul first write down the Saviour in glory—then the three tell us what He was on earth, and then the beloved apostle, survivor of the eleven, spectator of a new age with its troublous fortunes, build the little bridge which shall knit together the two, and say, "He that ascended is the same also that descended: I am He that liveth, and I was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore"?—Vaughan.

Luk . Edification.—It is interesting to notice that St. Luke dedicates his Gospel to a fellow-Christian, to be used by him for edification—that he might know the certainty of those things in which he had been instructed. One might have expected that his purpose would have been to appeal in it to those who were still ignorant of Christian truth, in order to convince them of the reality of those things about which he wrote. But his actual procedure is in perfect harmony with the general character of Holy Scripture. The word of God is so written as to respond only to those who come to it seeking salvation, or who desire to be established and confirmed in the faith they hold, or to make additional attainments in knowledge with a view to a more perfect and worthy service of God. It is a sealed book to those who do not feel the necessity of salvation, and who do not hunger and thirst after righteousness. In it, as in the teaching of Jesus, which is its choicest part, there are things which are hidden from the wise and prudent, but which babes can read and understand. For its treasures are not the prize won by force of intellect, but the gift of Heaven to the loving, believing heart.

The Believer's Faith confirmed.—We know nothing of Theophilus beyond the facts that he was one who had received certain elementary instruction in the articles of the Christian faith, and that St. Luke wrote his Gospel with the purpose of giving him firm assurance of the truth of the great principles and beliefs on which that faith was founded. In one respect, indeed, he was in different circumstances from those in which we find ourselves: his knowledge of religious truth was not derived from a written revelation, but from the oral teaching of apostles and disciples who had known Christ, or of their immediate successors. We can scarcely make a mistake in saying that, until he received this Gospel from the hands of St. Luke, he had never seen a page of any of the books which now make up the New Testament. But apart from this accidental difference of outward circumstances, his experience as a believer was like that of all who, since his time, have embraced the Christian religion. His religious life was based upon the following beliefs, in which he had been instructed:

1. That God is absolutely holy, and requires holiness in all whom He has made capable of consciously serving Him.

2. That he himself was guilty and depraved, and consequently exposed to the Divine anger against sin, and that he could not by any efforts of his own atone for the evil he had done, nor attain to that holiness which God requires.

3. That Jesus Christ, a perfectly holy being, who was Son of God and Son of man, had made atonement for sin.

4. That in the name of Christ free pardon of sin, and the gift of everlasting life, were now offered to all men, to be received by faith in Him. All these beliefs were fully confirmed by the history St. Luke had to give of the life and teaching of Christ. All through this Gospel Christ claims and exercises the power of forgiving sin; and the record of the mercy shown to the penitent woman, to those who had lived lives like that of the prodigal son, and to the dying robber, abundantly proved that no degree of human guilt need lead to despair of forgiveness. (The incidents referred to, and the parable, are peculiar to this Gospel.) We cannot doubt but that Theophilus derived from his reading of this Gospel a deeper assurance of the love of God revealed to mankind in Christ Jesus than he had had before.

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary


We have an Introduction by the Evangelist, in the opening of this Gospel. To which follows the Account of John the Baptist, as the Harbinger of Christ. An Angel appears to Zacharias, and to the Virgin Mary: the Hymn of Mary on the Occasion: the Birth of John the Baptist, and the Prophecy thereon of Zacharias.

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". 1828.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

(1) Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, (2) Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eye witnesses and ministers of the word; (3) It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, (4) That thou mightest know the certainty of those things wherein thou hast been instructed.

I do not think it necessary to detain the Reader with any long observation on this preface. The reasons Luke assigns for entering upon this solemn service, plainly shew that the hand of the Lord was upon him. The certainty of the truths he was about to deliver, arose, not only from being with others eye witnesses of them, but he, and they, are said to have been ministers of the word; thereby intimating that he considered himself called to it by the Lord; for he saith, that it seemed good to him. Who this Theophilus was, is not certain; but it should seem to have been One taught of God, by what is said of his instruction in the faith. And hence we learn, for whom the Gospel is designed, and to whom God the Holy Ghost sends it; similar to what Paul said in his preaching, Men and Brethren, Children of the stock of Abraham and whosoever among you feareth God, to You is the word of this salvation sent! Acts 13:26; Galatians 3:29. Reader! if God the Spirit so commissions His word of salvation to your heart and mine, this will be a blessed testimony to us both, not only of the truth of his holy scriptures, but also of our personal interest in them. And this will be what the same Apostle said to the Church of the Thessalonians, the highest proof of our election of God, when his Gospel comes unto us, not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance. 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5.

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". 1828.

People's New Testament

Forasmuch as many. Luke 1:1-4 are an introduction. They explain that already many narratives of Christ had been written, that these were by eye witnesses and ministers of the word, that Luke had made a careful examination of all these sources of information, and thought it good, "having traced all things accurately from the first, to write them out in order." We thus learn that at least as early as twenty-seven years after the death of Christ (see Introduction to Luke) many histories of eye witnesses and ministers had already written, of which only two, Matthew and Mark, have come down to us.

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Original work done by Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
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Johnson, Barton W. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "People's New Testament". 1891.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Luke 1:1-2. Forasmuch as many have taken in hand — Who they were to whom the apostle here alludes, who had, from vague reports, (for so his words seem to imply,) rashly published narratives not entirely to be depended on, it is impossible for us now to discover. It is true, the word επεχειρησαν, have undertaken, used here by Luke, does not necessarily imply any censure on the writers of such accounts, but the scope of the place seems to imply it, if not on all, at least on some of them: for if all, or even most of them, had furnished true narratives, the number was an argument rather against a new attempt than for it. Grotius justly observes, that the spurious gospels, mentioned by ancient writers, are forgeries manifestly of a later date than the time of Luke. That there were, however, some such performances at the time when Luke began to write, the words of this evangelist are a sufficient evidence: for, to consider this book merely on the footing of a human composition, what writer of common sense would introduce himself to the public by observing the numerous attempts that had been made by former writers, some of whom at least had not been at due pains to be properly informed, if he himself were actually the first, or even the second, or the third, who had written on the subject; and if one of the two who preceded him had better opportunities of knowing than he, and the other fully as good? But the total disappearance of those spurious writings, probably no better than hasty collections of flying rumours, containing a mixture of truth and falsehood, may, after the genuine gospels were generally known and read, be easily accounted for. At midnight, the glimmering of the taper is not without its use, but it can make no conceivable addition to the light of the meridian sun. It deserves, however, to be remarked by the way, that whatever may be thought to be insinuated here by the evangelist, concerning the imperfect information of former historians, there is no hint given of their bad designs. It is justly observed here by Dr. Campbell, that the very circumstance of the number of such narratives, at so early a period, is itself an evidence that there was something in the first publication of the Christian doctrine, which, notwithstanding the many unfavourable circumstances wherewith it was attended, excited the curiosity and awakened the attention of persons of all ranks and denominations; insomuch that every narrative, which pretended to furnish men with any additional information concerning so extraordinary a personage as Jesus, seems to have been read with avidity. To set forth in order a declaration — Greek, αναταξασθαι διηγησιν, to compose a narrative; of those things which are most surely believed among us — As the great foundation of our common faith. The expression, πραγματων, refers not only to the things believed, but also to the things performed by Christ and his apostles; this first history of Luke being designed to record what Jesus himself said or did, Acts 1:1; and his second, to relate the acts of the apostles: and the participle, πεπληροφορημενων, translated, most surely believed, is rather to be understood as referring to the fulness of that evidence with which the things were attended, than to the confidence with which they were credited. It not only signifies that the doctrines were taught and the things done, but that they were taught and done with such circumstances, as laid a foundation for πληροφορια της πιστεως, a full assurance of faith, as to the truth of the doctrines, and the reality of the facts. Even as they delivered them, which from the beginning — Of Christ’s ministry; were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word — Because the persons, according to whose information the writers referred to by Luke composed their histories, are said to have been eye-witnesses as well as ministers of the word, ( του λογου,) several writers have supposed that, by the word, Luke meant Christ himself, one of whose titles is, the Word, John 1:1, and, the Word of God, Revelation 19:13. Others, however, by the word, understand the transactions of our Lord’s public life; his sermons, miracles, death, resurrection, and ascension, because these things were the great subjects of the preaching of the apostles, who were eye and ear witnesses of them. And to Christians these were matters of such moment, that the knowledge, consideration, and remembrance of them, were the great business and comfort of their lives. It is no wonder, therefore, that those who were able should set down in writing such particulars of them as they had learned, whether from the conversations or sermons of the apostles and eye-witnesses. But histories thus drawn up, though they might contain many things highly worthy of the notice of Christians, must needs have been defective both in their matter and manner. Wherefore, Luke, having attained a thorough knowledge of our Lord’s history from the very beginning, thought fit to give a more full, regular, and connected account of it than had hitherto appeared, as he signifies in the next verse.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

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.

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

J. C. Ryle's Expository Thoughts on the Gospels


The Gospel of Luke, which we now begin, contains many precious things which are not recorded in the other three Gospels. Such, for instance, are the histories of Zachariah and Elizabeth, the angel's announcement to the Virgin Mary--and, to speak generally, the whole contents of the first two chapters. Such, again, are the narratives of the conversion of Zaccheus and of the penitent thief--the walk to Emmaus, and the famous parables of the Pharisee and Tax-collector, the rich man and Lazarus, and the Prodigal Son. These are portions of Scripture for which every well-instructed Christian feels peculiarly thankful. And for these we are indebted to the Gospel of Luke.

The short preface which we have now read is a peculiar feature of Luke's Gospel. But we shall find, on examination, that it is full of most useful instruction.

In the first place, Luke gives us a short, but valuable, sketch of the nature of a Gospel. He calls it, "a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us." It is a narrative of facts about Jesus Christ.

Christianity is a religion built upon facts. Let us never lose sight of this. It came before mankind at first in this shape. The first preachers did not go up and down the world, proclaiming an elaborate, artificial system of abstruse doctrines and deep principles. They made it their first business to tell men great plain facts. They went about telling a sin-laden world, that the Son of God had come down to earth, and lived for us, and died for us, and risen again. The Gospel, at its first publication, was far more simple than many make it now. It was neither more nor less than the history of Christ.

Let us aim at greater simplicity in our own personal religion. Let Christ and His Person be the sun of our system, and let the main desire of our souls be to live the life of faith in Him, and daily know Him better. This was Paul's Christianity. "To me to live is Christ." (Philippians 1:21.)

In the second place, Luke draws a beautiful picture of the true position of the apostles in the early church. He calls them, "eye-witnesses and servants of the word."

There is an instructive humility in this expression. There is an utter absence of that man-exalting tone which has so often crept into the Church. Luke gives the apostles no flattering titles. He affords not the slightest excuse to those who speak of them with idolatrous veneration, because of their office and nearness to our Lord.

He describes them as "eye-witnesses." They told men what they had seen with their own eyes, and heard with their own ears. (1 John 1:1.) He describes them as "servants of the word." They were servants of the word of the Gospel. They were men who counted it their highest privilege to carry about, as messengers, the tidings of God's love to a sinful world, and to tell the story of the cross.

Well would it have been for the Church and the world, if Christian ministers had never laid claim to higher dignity and honor than the apostles claimed for themselves. It is a mournful fact, that ordained men have constantly exalted themselves and their office to a most unscriptural position. It is a no less mournful fact, that people have constantly helped forward the evil, by a lazy acceptance of the demands of priest-craft, and by contenting themselves with a mere vicarious religion. There have been faults on both sides. Let us remember this, and be on our guard.

In the third place, Luke describes his own qualifications for the work of writing a Gospel. He says that he "had perfect understanding of all things from the very first."

It would be mere waste of time to inquire from what source Luke obtained the information which he has given us in his Gospel. We have no good reason for supposing that he saw our Lord work miracles, or heard Him teach. To say that he obtained his information from the Virgin Mary, or any of the apostles, is mere conjecture and speculation. Enough for us to know that Luke wrote by inspiration of God. Unquestionably he did not neglect the ordinary means of getting knowledge. But the Holy Spirit guided him, no less than all other writers of the Bible, in his choice of matter. The Holy Spirit supplied him with thoughts, arrangement, sentences, and even words. And the result is, that what Luke wrote is not to be read as the "word of man," but the "word of God." (1 Thessalonians 2:13.)

Let us carefully hold fast the great doctrine of the plenary inspiration of every word of the Bible. Let us never allow that any writer of the Old or New Testament could make even the slightest verbal mistake or error, when, writing as he was "moved by the Holy Spirit." (2 Peter 1:21.) Let it be a settled principle with us in reading the Bible, that when we cannot understand a passage, or reconcile it with some other passage, the fault is not in the Book, but in ourselves. The adoption of this principle will place our feet upon a rock. To give it up is to stand upon a quicksand, and to fill our minds with endless uncertainties and doubts.

Finally, Luke informs us of one main object he had in view in writing his Gospel. It was that Theophilus "might know the certainty of those things wherein he had been instructed."

There is no encouragement here for those who place confidence in unwritten traditions, and the voice of the church. Luke knew well the weakness of man's memory, and the readiness with which a history alters its shape both by additions and alterations, when it depends only on word of mouth and report. What therefore does he do? He takes care to "write."

There is no encouragement here for those who are opposed to the spread of religious knowledge, and talk of ignorance, as the "mother of devotion." Luke does not wish his friend to remain in doubt on any matter of his faith. He tells him that he wants him to "know the certainty of those things wherein he had been instructed."

Let us close the passage with thankfulness for the Bible. Let us bless God daily that we are not left dependent on man's traditions, and need not be led astray by ministers' mistakes. We have a written volume, which is "able to make us wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 3:15.)

Let us begin Luke's Gospel with an earnest desire to know more ourselves of the truth as it is in Jesus, and with a hearty determination to do what in us lies to spread the knowledge of that truth throughout the world.

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Ryle, J. C. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "J. C. Ryle's Expository Thoughts on the Gospels".

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Luke 1:1. Forasmuch as, a good translation of the full sounding Greek word (found only here in the N. T.).

Many. This cannot refer to the Apocryphal Gospels which were written later; nor to hostile or incorrect accounts, but, as the next verse shows, to such sketches of the great facts of salvation as had already been drawn up by Christians, in various places, from the testimony of eye-witnesses. Many such were doubtless in existence then, but being more or less fragmentary would not be preserved. Luke may have used some of these in compiling his narrative, but to what extent it is useless to inquire. Even in the first two chapters, where the influence of Hebrew documents is most probable, the peculiarities of Luke’s own style may be noticed. It is barely possible, but not at all probable, that the Gospels of Matthew and Mark are included here. See the “Introduction to the Gospels”, § 9 The Synoptic Gospels, in the Matthew Book Comments.

Have taken in hand. This indicates the difficulty and importance of the task, not necessarily the failure of these persons to fulfil it. Luke felt their labors to be insufficient not from incorrectness, but from the fragmentary character of their narratives.

To draw up a narrative, etc. Not mere sayings, but sketches which aimed at completeness and order.

Those matters. The great facts of the life of Christ formed the substance of preaching in the Apostolic times.

Are fully established. The word has reference to the entire acceptance of the facts as fully established, hence ‘surely believed’ is partially correct. Some prefer the meaning: ‘have Seen fulfilled among us.’ This would point to the facts of the Gospel history either as completed in the Apostolic age, or as fulfilling the purpose and promise of God. In any case the facts were both established and accepted, since in an age when writing was not so common as now, many undertook to arrange these facts in a written narrative.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

This PREFACE is a model of brevity, simplicity, and modesty, as well as of purity and dignity of style. It does not contain expressions of Hebrew origin, and, like most prefaces, it is formal and highly finished. It differs from the Introduction to the Gospel of John (John 1:1-5), which is more doctrinal, each preface being strictly characteristic of the Gospel which follows. Luke, who depicts most fully the Son of Man, appearing indeed in Israel, but for the benefit of the whole race of man, brings out here the human side in the origin of the sacred writings. This preface claims truthfulness for the narrative which follows, on the ground of the authors patient investigation (Luke 1:3), and presents itself as a certain foundation (Luke 1:4) for faith in the facts of the Saviour’s birth, life, death, and resurrection.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.

The Biblical Illustrator

Luke 1:1-4

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand

St. Luke’s preface

These four verses arc a preface, and a very valuable preface, because they are a declaration from the author himself of the manner in which we are to regard his work.

I. St. Luke gives us to understand that HE HIMSELF WAS NOT AN EYEWITNESS OF THE EVENTS HE IS ABOUT TO RECORD, but that ha had taken pains to inquire, and had a perfect understanding of all the history of the Lord Jesus Christ.

II. St. Luke tells us that he had undertaken to write his Gospel BECAUSE MANY HAD UNDERTAKEN TO DO THE SAME THING BEFORE. The question arises whether he means us to understand that he is adding one more to authentic and trustworthy histories already existing, or whether he intended rather to supersede and correct unauthorized and imperfect histories. Possibly neither the one view nor the other is entirely and exclusively true. It may be that St. Luke was aware that authentic histories were already in existence, but he may have known also that other and spurious accounts had been composed, and therefore have been desirous of helping Theophilus to choose the true and reject the false by setting down for his use such an orderly account of the life of Jesus Christ as he himself had been able to collect.

III. Again, WHO WAS THEOPHILUS? Some have thought that the name, signifying as it does “one who is dear to God,” does not refer to any one particular person; it is probable, however, that Theophilus was a real person, perhaps an important man at Antioch, St. Luke’s city, for whose confirmation in the faith St. Luke was induced to write. Quite in keeping with the general scheme of God’s government that this should have been so. Works which are instinct with the Spirit of God often go far beyond their immediate aim. The Epistles, which are the precious inheritance of the universal Church, were addressed originally to particular portions of the Church, some of them only to individuals, and the greater number of them were called forth by circumstances which have long passed away. And so we need not be surprised to find that a Gospel addressed to Theophilus has become the possession of all throughout the world who follow his good example.

IV. Lastly, let it be noticed that St. Luke did not write to Theophilus with the purpose of giving him his first notions of Christian truth, BUT ONLY OF ESTABLISHING HIM IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF THOSE THINGS IN WHICH HE HAD BEEN ALREADY INSTRUCTED OR CATECHIZED. This was almost of necessity the course which would be followed in the time of the apostles; but it is also the course which is generally followed by ourselves now: we do not gain our first notions of Christian truth from Scripture or indeed from any written book; we are instructed and catechized by our fathers and mothers and teachers, and when we come to years of discretion, and are able to think for ourselves, we find from careful study of God’s Holy Word that those things which we have learnt as children are indeed the truth of God which is able to make us wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. (Bishop Harvey Goodwin.)

The purpose of the Gospel

I. THE INTRODUCTION TO THIS GOSPEL IS THE HIGHEST AUTHORITY FOR THE ACCOUNT OF THE PURPOSE OF ITS COMPOSITION. Theophilus, whoever he was, was already a disciple, and had been instructed in the things which were most surely believed in the Church. He desired to know the certainty of those things. St. Luke believed that it was his vocation to give him what he wanted. If Theophilus was an individual, he represented the need of the Church generally. That which was good for him might, if God pleased, be good for ages to come.

II. MANY, ST. LUKE SAYS, HAD ATTEMPTED THIS TASK BEFORE HIM. They had taken in hand to set forth A DECLARATION of the things, &c. The declaration had been made already--contained in the preaching of the apostles and their helpers. What was wanted was a continuous narrative of the things which made the substance of the declaration, for it was a declaration of things, not of opinions. The preaching concerned a Person, the narrative must exhibit a Person. Who the “many” were St. Luke does not say. Nor does he pronounce upon the merits or demerits of his predecessors. That was not his calling. There was a better judge than he of the genuine and the spurious. We may safely affirm that he was not afraid if the experiments to produce a life of our Lord were ever so numerous; if some of them were ever so confused and erroneous. He could not believe the word which he preached unless he had confidence that what was true would live, that what was false would be, sooner or later, divided from it.

III. The next clause of the introduction has perplexed many, perhaps has given pain to some. WHAT! ARE WE NOT ABOUT TO READ THE STORY OF AN EYE-WITNESS? St. Luke does not claim that character. He has received these records from those who were eye-witnesses. He has examined their reports carefully. He does not say that he ever saw Christ whilst He was walking in Galilee or Judaea. He seems to imply the contrary. Now here is a difference between him and some of the other evangelists, perhaps between him and all the other three. Is it a difference which puts him below them? According to their own judgment and confession, assuredly it is not. They tell us that they did not understand the words and acts of Jesus whilst they were walking with Him, whilst they were eye-witnesses of what He did. They misapprehended the particular words and acts. They misapprehended their relation to each other. They misapprehended the Person who was the Speaker of the words and the Doer of the acts. What they all say--what no one says so frequently as the beloved disciple--is, that the things which they could not understand at first came to them with full power and revelation when they saw Him no more. No doubt to be eye-witnesses of a fact or a person is an honourable distinction, but an eyewitness may glorify himself on that distinction, and attribute a worth to it which no careful student of evidence will concede. There are qualities necessary in an eye-witness besides his eyes. One who possesses these qualities may tell us what they do not tell, may open to us the very sense and purpose of what they do tell. It is so in all cases: if we believe the evangelists--those of them who were eye-witnesses--it is preeminently so in this case.

IV. WHAT DOES ST. LUKE MEAN BY THE WORD? If the expression occurred in St. John’s Gospel it would cause no perplexity. We should assume at once that he was speaking of the Word which was in the beginning and was made flesh. But it has been customary to assume that no other of the evangelists ever fell into this kind of language. I cannot doubt that the apostle who survived to the end of the age was specially appointed to remove confusions which had haunted the readers of the earlier Gospels. But every Jew could read, as well as St. John, that the Word of God had come to Isaiah, or Jeremiah, or Ezekiel. Every Jew who read their prophecies believed they had conversed with this Word as with a living person. The thought, “He with whom we have conversed is that same Person--He has in human flesh revealed Himself to us,” was not a strange speculation, the refinement of a later age. It was the simplest way of connecting the old world with their day. It was the great escape from the rabbinical traditions which buried the Divine Person under the mere letter of the books. Formally to assert the force of the prophetical phrase--to make it prominent before all others--was not St. Luke’s calling.The King, the Christ, is his subject. If we admit any direction of the minds of those who wrote these books--indeed, any special callings of men in this world at all--we can perceive why the tasks of the different evangelists should be different. We can perceive also why each should inevitably at times adopt forms of speech which appear more characteristic of another.

V. “IT SEEMED GOOD TO ME ALSO.” Some may cry, “Was he not then taught by the Spirit of God?” I imagine that he who described the Day of Pentecost, and referred the whole existence and work of the Church to the Spirit of God, had quite as awful a feeling of His government over himself as any of us can have. The freedom of his language shows me how strong his feeling was; our sensitiveness and unwillingness to connect the Spirit with the operations of the human intellect, indicate the weakness of ours. We ask for distinctions about the degrees and measures in which the Spirit has been or will be vouchsafed. The Evangelists make no such distinctions. I think they dared not.

VI. The next clause teaches us much on this subject, and would teach us more if it had not been unhappily perverted in our version. What St. Luke says is that it seemed good to him to write, HAVING FOLLOWED OUT ALL THINGS WITH CAREFUL DILIGENCE FROM THEIR SOURCE, JUST as a man traces the source of a river from its mountain-bed through all its windings. Instead of being absolved from this diligence by the presence of the Divine Spirit, he felt himself obliged by that Spirit to spare no labour, not to omit the most solicitous examination of what he heard, not to give himself credit for understanding it at the first, but to wait for that clear, penetrating light which could distinguish between his own impressions and the truth of things,

VII. There is one word more in this preface which I cannot pass by. St. Luke professes to write to Theophilus IN ORDER. The narrative is to be an orderly or continuous one. Can we then discover that order? Clearly it is very different from that of common biographers. I think you will find that what the evangelist traces are the steps by which a King claimed dominion over his subjects; how they were prepared for Him; how He was prepared for going forth among them; how He manifested the powers of His kingdom; how He illustrated the nature of it; what kind of opposition He encountered; what battles He fought; who stood by Him; who deserted Him; how He seemed to be vanquished; how He prevailed at last. The more steadily we keep before ourselves the thought of a Kingdom of Heaven--a kingdom actual in the highest sense, explaining the nature and forces of every kingdom that has existed on the earth, showing what in those kingdoms must abide, what must pass away--the more shall we adhere to the letter of the Gospels, the more shall we enter into their spirit. (F. D. Maurice, M. A.)

Pulpit Notes

1. The reason which Luke gives for writing this Gospel would seem at first sight to be an excellent reason for not writing. It is thought by superficial persons to-day that there are already sufficient religious books before the world. What is the error of such reasoning? Forgetfulness of the fact that Christianity presents different aspects to different minds, so that no statement of it can ever exhaust its intellectual and spiritual riches. Every Christian student writes a life of Christ for himself. The facts of Christianity are few and simple, but the truths arising out of them are innumerable and profound. The preaching of the Word can never be the same by any two men who diligently inquire into its meaning for themselves and fearlessly express the results of their investigation.

2. At the time of Luke’s writing, the facts of Christianity were not only known as matters of current turnout--they were most surely believed. Not enough that the events of the Christian history be not discredited. They must be received with all faith and love, and become elements of our own spiritual life. When this is realized a new emphasis will characterize the tone of the Church.

3. Noticeable that Luke enters upon his work with the utmost candour and fearlessness. Does not propose to evade anything or skilfully slur over anything. Distinctly says that he will begin at the beginning, and trace the whole history through all its windings, difficulties, and successes. This is precisely what is wanted for our own day, viz., a distinct and complete idea of the ground which is occupied by Christian history.

4. The principle of tradition runs through this prefatory note in a remarkable manner. First of all come the eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word; then come the writers with whom they were immediately associated; then come such men as are represented by the “most excellent Theophilus;” and afterward would come the persons to whom Theophilus communicated the information with which he had been put in trust. Thus one age becomes the debtor of another, and we ourselves are to-day the treasurers of the ages. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)

The preface to the Gospel

I. From this preface to St. Luke’s Gospel we learn, first, THAT THERE WERE ALREADY EXISTING IN THE EVANGELIST’S DAY MANY “GOSPELS”: “Forasmuch as many have undertaken to draw up a consecutive account concerning those matters which have been fully established among us.” Christianity has ever been the grand inspirer of Christendom’s literature. Probably more has been written about Jesus Christ, His character and teaching and work, than about all other things put together. For it is not in religious books alone that we see the signs of His presence and sway. We can scarcely take up a volume on any grave subject--ethical, philosophical, historic, biographic, aesthetic--without ever and anon catching at least glimpses of the passing shadow of the Son of Mary. The unconscious tributes of literature to Jesus the Nazarene arc surprisingly many and emphatic. And, observe, our evangelist does not censure these attempts at biography. He does not hint that those memorabilia are to be rejected. For aught we know, some of these sketches were as truly inspired as the Gospel of St. Luke himself. What though they have not come down to us? There is reason for believing that some Scriptures--for instance, a letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians--have been lost. But this does not detract from the worth of those we do have. Eternity will not exhaust what memoirs of the Divine Man we do have.

II. From this preface to St. Luke’s Gospel, we learn, THE SOURCE OF THE GOSPELS: “Even as they delivered them unto us, who from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word.” The source and basis, then, of these primitive Gospels was the contemporaneous oral gospel or tradition of the original apostles. Need I add that it is still the only kind of tradition which the Church is at liberty to accept as the authorized gospel and doctrine of Jesus Christ?

III. From this preface to St. Luke’s Gospel, we learn, THAT INSPIRATION IS COMPATIBLE WITH FREE-WILL: “It seemed good to me also to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus.” So far as his own consciousness was concerned, he seems to have set himself to his task spontaneously, and arranged his narrative as seemed to him best. Yet the judgment o! the Christian sense from the beginning has been that in thus composing his recital he was Divinely inspired. These facts cast light on the doctrine of inspiration. They show that one may be inspired, and yet act with entire freeness. The sacred writers have often been compared to AElolian harps, played on by the Holy Spirit or Divine Breath of God. The comparison is beautiful and just, so far as it goes. But it does not cover the whole truth; it fails to recognize the human element in inspiration. But let the sacred writers be compared to different musical instruments, for example, a flute, a cornet, a trumpet, an organ, &c., played on, indeed, by one and the same Divine Breath, but giving forth different melodies, according to the character of each distinct instrument; and the comparison becomes more complete and just. The source of the melody is Divine, and common to them all; the character of the melody is human, varying according to the temperament and peculiarity of the writer.

IV. From this preface to St. Luke’s Gospel we learn THAT OUR EVANGELIST WAS QUALIFIED TO WRITE A GOSPEL: “Having traced the course of all things accurately from the first.” His habits of observation as a physician would naturally lead him to scrutinize closely all alleged facts. He at least would know whether the Church of his day was following cunningly devised myths. In short, he exercised the “critical faculty.”

V. From this preface to St. Luke’s Gospel we learn our EVANGELIST’S PURPOSE IN WRITING: “That thou mightest know the certainty concerning the things wherein thou wast instructed.” For knowledge of facts rather than theories was then, as it still is, the need of the times. Such is the preface to the Gospel according to St. Luke. And as St. John’s prologue may be taken as the prologue to the Gospel, so St. Luke’s preface may be taken as the preface to the Gospels. And this suggests our first concluding thought: The advantage of having several Gospels. And herein is an immense advantage. First, the having several Gospels is a key to the detection of imposture: where the testimony is false, it is perilous to multiply witnesses. Again, the having several Gospels helps us to understand better the myriad-sided Divine Man. And yet the four Gospels are but one Gospel. This is the circumstance which makes it so profitable for us to study the Gospels in synchronous lessons. The habit protects us from partial and unsymmetrical views; for the Gospels, like stones in mosaic, are mutually complemental. Secondly, let us thank God that He prompted His servants to note down, so early in the Christian era, statements of the apostolic testimony; for the rich result is that, instead of uncertain and fickle tradition, we have permanent contemporary records. Lastly, be thou thyself a Theophilus, Friend of God; and the Spirit will write a Gospel to thee also. (G. D. Boardman.)

Introductory consideration

The four evangelists are so called, not in same sense as Ephesians 4:11, but to designate them as evangelical historians. The nature and degree of correspondence between the four furnish a strong proof of the credibility of each and all.

I. THE AUTHOR OF THIS GOSPEL UNIVERSALLY ACKNOWLEDGED TO BE LUKE. Companion of St. Paul (Acts 16:1-40. to end; 2 Timothy 4:11). A physician (Colossians 4:14). Said also to have been a painter, but no more authority than a very late tradition for this statement. If, however, he did not paint the faces of the Virgin and her Son with the colours of the limner, he did what was of much more importance; he, in this book, drew to the life an exquisite portraiture of their character, which continued with us long after the masterpieces of the ancient painters have vanished, and which will continue to the end of time--the antidote of superstition, the guide of the serious inquirer, and the admiration of all good men.


1. The Church took great care to distinguish genuine Gospels from spurious. Clear testimony to the universal reception of these four, and only these, as canonical from the beginning.

2. If Luke was one of “the seventy,” then was he also miraculously qualified to compose this history; if not, yet both his human and Divine qualifications for the work might be safely rested solely on his being called to preach the Gospel, and to act and write under the eye and approval of St. Paul.

3. Various circumstantial particulars respecting the destruction of Jerusalem, foretold in this Gospel, and nowhere else, have been exactly fulfilled.

4. Mutual dependence and connection of this Gospel and the other three. (James Foote, M. A.)

The power of truth

St. Luke had no authority to suppress these other Gospels, nor does he reprehend or calumniate them; but he writes the truth simply, and leaves it to outswear falsehood; and so it has done. Moses’ rod has devoured the conjurors’ rods, and St. Luke’s story still retains the majesty of the Maker, and theirs are not. (Dr. Donne.)

Luke and Theophilus

Luke a physician, like the few; Theophilus a patient, like the many. (J. J. Van Oosterzee, D. D.)

Historical belief in the Divine truth of Christianity

1. Its necessity.

2. Its certainty.

3. Its insufficiency when unaccompanied by a living faith. (J. J. Van Oosterzee, D. D.)

Luke is

1. The predecessor of believing searchers.

2. The condemner of unbelieving searchers of Scripture. (J. J. Van Oosterzee, D. D.)

The highest aim which a Christian anther can propose to himself

1. To correct what is faulty.

2. To strengthen what is weak.

3. To arrange what is confused. (Ibid.)

Most excellent Theophilus

Civil dignities and honours not destroyed, but ennobled, by citizenship in the kingdom of God. (J. J. Van Oosterzee, D. D.)

The fear of God makes men truly great and excellent. (Starke.)

St. Luke’s preface

Luke is the only one of the synoptists who begins his Gospel with a preface. His preface is historico-critical, while the introduction of John is historico-doctrinal. The prominent points in this short preface are--

1. It cautions us against erroneous or defective statements of facts.

2. It directs us to the apostles as eye-witnesses of the life of Christ.

3. It proves the faithfulness of the evangelist in tracing the facts to the primitive source.

4. It brings out the human side in the origin of the sacred writings.

5. It teaches that “faith cometh by hearing,” and that the gospel was first taught by catechetical instruction or oral tradition, but then written down by reliable witnesses for all ages to come. This written Gospel is essentially the same with the preached Gospel of Christ and the apostles, and together with the Epistles is to us the only pure and infallible source of primitive Christianity. (P. Schaff, D. D.)

The order in Divine things

From faith to knowledge; from knowledge to still firmer faith. (Van Oosterzee.)

Other narratives of Christ’s life

It appears from this that narratives of the actions of Jesus, and of the events connected with His life and ministry, had been written by many individuals before Luke composed his history. This fact proves that the actions ascribed to Jesus had made a great noise in the world, and that a high degree of curiosity had been excited to peruse everything recorded concerning Him. Can we then suppose that Luke refers to these writings or to the other Gospels? We have reason to believe that Matthew’s Gospel was originally written in Syro-Chaldaic, which was the language spoken by the Jews in our Saviour’s time, and that it was not translated into Greek till some time afterwards. Mark’s Gospel was short, and John’s was not published till many years had elapsed after the destruction of Jerusalem. But as the evangelist says that many had undertaken to record the actions attributed to Jesus, it is evident that he alludes to more than one or two productions. Besides, though not asserted, it is implied, that the writings referred to were either defective or incorrect, for if they contained no arrors, nor were marked by great defects, the fact that they were numerous was a reason against adding to their number. We conclude, then, that Luke does not here refer to any of the other Gospels. Who, then, could be the writers of those narratives of which the evangelist did not approve? Were they the friends or the enemies of Christianity? There is no reason for supposing that the Scribes and Pharisees ventured to publish anything in writing against Jesus or His religion. They seem at first to have been satisfied by circulating false reports respecting His Resurrection, and afterwards by endeavouring to overwhelm Christianity by the strong arm of persecution. It is probable, therefore, that the objectionable narratives to which Luke refers were written by the friends of Christianity. But the zeal of friends has frequently been more injurious to the Christian religion than the malice of its enemies. We can easily conceive the pernicious consequences that may have arisen from erroneous statements, exaggerated facts, and fanciful explanations, given by honest but ignorant or ill-informed writers. The most judicious and effectual remedy was accordingly adopted by St. Luke. It consisted in making a proper selection and accurate statement of the most important facts as procured from the most undoubted authority. This, accordingly, was done; and the consequence has been that all the defective or erroneous accounts of our Saviour which were then circulated have entirely disappeared, as darkness flies at the approach of the morning sun, while the Gospels which contained the only correct history have been duly valued, copied, and preserved. (J. B. Thomson, D. D.)

Many workers needed

Luke undertook to be very minute and exhaustive in his statement of gospel facts. He was going to do better than many other writers had done. He says so with cool frankness: “Forasmuch … to me also.” That is a curious expression. We expected him to say, Forasmuch as many have done this work, there is no need for me to do it. But he makes the very fact that there were other writers, a reason why there should be one more. That was good reasoning; it should prevail in all the lines and departments of Christian life and action. The contrary policy often supersedes it, and brings ministers and churches into great discomfort and enfeeblement. Men will say, You have so many helpers, you have no need of me. They are always more or less dishonest men--not intentionally so; intentional dishonesty is perfectly vulgar and wholly detestable, and nobody lays claim to it; but when men say, There are so many preachers, I need not be one: so many deacons, I need not be another: so many helpers, there is no need of me--they are not conducting a Christian argument, they are with all their graciousness unconsciously jealous and spiteful. Luke reasoned in the right way; he said, Many men are taking up this subject, I will do what I can in it; I think I can beat some of them. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)

The preface the best part of the book

Will the book be as good as the preface? I fancy not--when the subject is Jesus Christ. The first sentence is often the best. Why? Because the subject grows. No man can ever prepare his imagination for the glory of that theme. The young preacher feels this; he buckles to with a brave heart, and says he will work honestly all day, and pray most of the night, and produce such discourses as will satisfy his best ambition. He empties his inkhorn, does all he can, and then puts his young hand upon his mouth and says, Unprofitable! I have failed. I had an ambition high as heaven, bright as the unclouded noon; but I have failed! He does not do justice to himself. The Lord does not pronounce that judgment upon him. He says, Thou hast not failed; industry never fails; conscience always succeeds; thou hast won a right bright crown I Cheer thee I It is not the man who has failed; it is the God who has exceeded all ever thought of in prayer, all ever dreamed of in poetry. Still, we expected more from Luke than from the others, and we get more. He does not see some things as Mark saw them. It is fashionable--shall we say, with due mental reservation, pedantic?--to point out that Luke was the observing writer. Mark observed a good many things that Luke never saw, or at least never recorded. Matthew also had his own way of looking at things; and as for St. John, what was he looking at? Apparently at nothing, for his inner eyes were fastened on the soul of Christ. If Luke had sharp eyes, what ears John had! for he heard whisperings of the heart, throbbings and beatings and sighings: and what a gift of expression I for he turned all that he heard into noble, sweet music for the soul’s comforting in all the cloudy days of Church time. But Luke says he will set down things “in order”; the others have been good historians, but a little wanting in the power of grouping and classifying; good historians, but poor editors; Luke will break things up into chapters, and verses, and paragraphs, and sections, and he will attend to chronological sequence. We need mechanical men in the Church, people who know when to begin a new paragraph, and to codify laws, and to do a good many useful little things. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)

Religion a reality

In spite of our professions and general convictions, we do not give to the truths of the gospel their full weight as infallible certainties; we do not embrace them as realities.





To write unto thee in order

In order

A work wall shaped into an artistic whole a history advancing by well-marked steps, and systematically progressive; an inter-connection easily perceptible of causes and effects--these for a Greek mind constituted the best material for carrying conviction. Now it is precisely this kind of evidence which is to be drawn from the third Gospel. And the preamble leads us even to think that such was the deliberate intention of the author. (Professor Godet.)

If it be said that Luke says that he wrote “in order” ( ἐν ταξει), I answer that there are other orderly arrangements besides those of time and place; and that if a work is a religious memoir, the arrangement would be regulated, though not exclusively, by the reference of the facts to the religious end in view. (Prebendary Row.)

Most excellent Theophilus

Most excellent Theophilus

The person to whom the Gospel is addressed. The name “Theophilus” signifies a lover, or beloved of God; but it would be very unnatural to suppose, with some, that the word is here used as a feigned name, to signify any Christian. Though this method has been adopted by other writers, it is not agreeable to the practice of the inspired. Theophilus is plainly the same real individual to whom the book of the Acts of the Apostles also is addressed. He is here styled “most excellent.” This was an honorary title bestowed on persons high in office, and of nobility, somewhat similar to the title of “excellency” with us. Thus it is given to Acts 23:26) and to Festus (Acts 26:25). Theophilus, therefore, was not only a Christian, but a nobleman, and probably high in office. Thus, though “not many mighty, not many noble, were called,” yet some such were called from the first; and thus some such are still found among the faithful. Such instances ale highly important and pleasing. Not but that the soul of the meanest peasant is, in itself, as precious as the soul of the most illustrious nobleman--not but that the salvation of every soul transcends in importance every worldly consideration; but in reference to the probable effect on others, there is an undeniable difference. Every good man may be of some service to the cause of Christ; but when rank, office, wealth, and talent are engaged, God may be considered as Himself putting more powerful means in operation; and when His own blessing is superinduced, the good effects are correspondingly extensive. (James Foote, M. A.)


From this form of address, used by an inspired writer, may be fairly deduced the lawfulness and propriety, generally speaking, of giving to men the ordinary titles of respect. As to our Lord’s teaching His disciples not to be called rabbi, and to call no man father, or master, on earth, Scripture must be interpreted consistently with itself, and that passage, of course, consistently with such as this; and this rule of interpretation leads to the conclusion that Christ forbade, not the use of common terms in common life, but the assumption, on the one hand, and the yielding, on the other, of any human authority in matters of religion which might at all interfere with His own. They err, therefore, who think there is any propriety or religion in assuming a singularity in such things, or in sturdily refusing what are usually considered marks of civility and respect. It is unworthy at once of the Christian and of the man to be guilty of hollow hypocrisy or fawning servility; but it is both dutiful and adorning to be courteous, and to give honour to whom honour is due. (James Foote, M. A.)

Dedication of books

It has been usual with authors to dedicate their works to particular persons, sometimes with the design of securing their patronage, sometimes merely as a mark of respect and affection, and sometimes with a particular view to the benefit of the individuals themselves. The dictates of inspiration needed not, it is true, the support of any human authority; yet it would not have been unworthy of Divine wisdom to have adopted such secondary means. While this dedication is

Most excellent Theophilus

I. HUMAN TITLES HAVE A PECULIAR SIGNIFICANCE WHEN APPLIED TO RELIGIOUS MEN. Many called “excellent”; this “friend of God” was “most excellent.”



IV. WELL TO HAVE A GOOD NAME--“Theophilus”; better to deserve it--“most excellent.”


1. Anxious to know things of Christ from beginning.

2. To know their certainty.


1. Approved of God--such friendship is not one-sided.

2. Approval of the highest order of men--Luke.

3. The honour of having an authentic and inspired history of Christ dedicated to him.

4. His name thus rescued from utter oblivion (Biblical Museum.)


This name, of Grecian origin, though it is sometimes used by the Jews, leads us to suppose that the noble person who bore it was a Greek. We must add that, in dedicating this work to him, St. Luke was probably not thinking only of the use he would personally make of it. The publication of a book was at that time a much more costly undertaking than it is now, since every copy had to be made by hand. By accepting the manuscript which was dedicated to him, the wealthy Theophilus became what was called the patron or, as we should now say, the sponsor of the book. He undertook to make it known, to have copies made of it, and to circulate these amongst those about him, or who belonged to the same nation as himself. The ancient Judaeo-Christian romance, entitled, “ The Clementines,” of about the year 160, makes Theophilus a man of high position in Antioch, who, after having listened to the preaching of Peter, gave up his palace to be used as a church. (Professor Godet.)

The certainty of those things


Part of the value of this short and simple introduction consists in its quite undesigned manifestation of the true historic character of Christianity. In the good sense Luke was a sceptic first, in order that he might be a rational and strong believer. Anything more truly scientific than his method I cannot imagine. It is the method of every candid historian who wishes to set down only what is genuine and authentic. When he speaks here of “the certainty” of some particular things, he means substantially what the Apostle Paul means when he speaks of “the gospel of God,” “the gospel of which he was not ashamed,” and of “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Is that first “certainty” enough for us still? Everything, we are told, is being tried by this practical test, by what it can do, and by the honest feeling men have to it, and we must not complain if the test is applied even to supernatural religion. We do not complain. It is quite true that we ought to be able by this time to furnish much practical corroboration of the truth and worth of Christianity which did not and could not exist in the apostolic days. I will therefore mention some of the practical and secondary “certainties” which, when duly considered, will tend greatly to confirm and enforce those which are primary and principal.


II. IT IS CERTAIN THAT THE CHRISTIAN FAITH ENABLES THOSE WHO REALLY HAVE IT TO BEAR THE STRAIN AND PRESSURE OF LIFE--the sorrow, the pain, whatever they may be, as they could not be borne without it; and it is quite certain that we do not know of anything else which has the same upholding and consolatory power.


IV. IT IS CERTAIN THAT, AT THIS MOMENT, THERE IS ONLY ONE RELIGION IN THE WORLD THAT CAN, FROM ITS VERY NATURE, BE EXTENDED TO EVERY PART OF IT only one religion which, as a matter of fact, is being diffused by those who believe in it and adhere to it, in a spirit of entire impartiality, “ among all nations, kindreds, peoples, and tongues.” Christianity is, as it has ever been, the only really missionary religion in the world. The poor Turk has no missionary in any Christian country. Educated Hindoos come to our universities, but although they can speak our language as well as we ourselves, and although they know that there is entire religious freedom in this country, who among them preaches Hindooism, or seeks a footing for it among the English people? On the other hand, every Christian individual and every Christian community stand committed, in simple fidelity to their Master, and in obedience to the very law of their life, to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. (Alexander Raleigh, D. D.)

The tone of the New Testament on certainty in religion

The more closely this tone of certainty is studied the more soul-striking the phenomenon becomes, both in its substance and in its accessories. What led these four evangelists, and these writers of the letters on doctrine and life, to speak one and all in this uniform style of intense belief? Was it the blind certainty of ignorant fools? Was it feigned all through? Were they deceived by appearances? They at least believed what they wrote. They seem utterly regardless of calumny and misrepresentation, like men who know that they are right. They speak with a strength of persuasion and assertion which still moves the world. They teach--

1. That man has lost himself by losing She knowledge of his God; and that he can recover himself, with the knowledge of his own nature and eternal destiny, only by recovering the knowledge of his Maker.

2. That God is to be loved through being known in His work of nature and redemption.

3. That certainty is essential for the peace of the soul.

4. That certain knowledge of God’s works and ways is essential to growth in Christian character.

5. That the quality of the moral excellence required by the gospel under such a character is impossible of attainment apart from confidence in the possession of God’s love and life eternal. (Edward White.)

Importance of a firm religious belief

I envy no quality of the mind or intellect in others, be it genius, power, wit, or fancy; but I should prefer a firm religious belief to every other blessing, for it makes life a discipline of goodness; creates new hopes, when all earthly hopes vanish; and throws over the decay, the destruction o! existence, the most gorgeous of all lights; awakens life even in death, and from corruption and decay calls up beauty and divinity; makes an instrument of torture and shame the ladder of ascent to Paradise; and, far above all combinations of earthly hopes, calls up the most delightful visions of palms and amaranths, the gardens of the blest, the security of everlasting joys, where the sensualist and the sceptic view only gloom, decay, annihilation, and despair. (Davy.)

The Bible really believed

The son of Selina, the Countess of Huntingdon, whose zeal in the extension of the gospel is well known, was unhappily an unbeliever, but reverenced his pious and venerable mother. “ I wish,” said a peer to him, “you would speak to Lady Huntingdon; she has just erected a preaching-place close to my residence.” His lordship replied, “Gladly, my lord; but you will do me the favour to inform me what plea to urge, for my mother really believes the Bible.” (Baxendale’s Illustrations.)

The Christian faith is founded on facts

It is important from time to time to be reminded that the real claims of the Christian faith, speaking of it in its largest sense, upon our obedience and reverence are founded on facts which hardly any one of any name or fame disputes, and which, in fact, have hardly ever been disputed. (Dean Stanley.)

The tone of certainty

Apart from criticism as to its cause, this is the most wonderful phenomenon in all literature. If the New Testament is not “ the judge that ends the strife, when wit and reason fail,” at least it speaks in that tone of absolute and invariable certainty which we should expect to accompany a revelation from the living God. And, as a matter of fact, it is this certainty which armed the martyrs of Christ in the early centuries to confront the direst sufferings in defence of the faith; as it is also this which makes it so exceedingly difficult in our times to overthrow Christianity by a set of mere critical peradventures, which are like brittle glass spears breaking against a shield of diamonds. (E. White.)

The witnesses of the gospel facts

These first spectators of “the heavenly vision” of “God manifest in the flesh” are themselves gradually raised into transcendent certainty; and then their testimony, and teaching, and life, transfuse that certitude into those who receive their word. That is according to the general law of life. The generations of men are related intellectually and spiritually. There is a vital unity in humanity--what the French call a solidarity. What human nature once really saw, subjected to every test, and was compelled to believe, humanity still sees through the organs and perceptions of its former members. Inheritance in all departments runs through the world. We believe all our national histories because “our fathers have told us.” But this is only the first stage of belief. Honest souls can test the traditional and historical by spiritual insight, and then they say--to the all-perceiving and all-reporting humanity--“ Now we believe not because of thy saying, for we have seen Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.” (E. White.)

Testimonies of experience

At night, when a railroad train, having stopped at a station, is about to start again, in order that the conductor may know that everything is as it should be, the brakeman on the last car calls out through the darkness, “All right here!” and the next man takes up the word, “All right here!” and the next echoes, “All right here!” and so it passes along the line, and the train moves on. It does me good to sit here while you speak of the life you are guiding through the world’s darkness, and pass the word from one to another, “All right here!” All is right everywhere when the heart is right. (H. W. Beecher.)

Power of personal testimony

Thomas Bilney was aa ardent young convert, and longed to do something for his Master. Hugh Latimer was a zealous Roman Catholic priest, who preached against the Reformation. Bilney went to him, and told him that he wished to confess. In the privacy of the confessional, he told him the whole burning story of his conviction, conversion, and new-found happiness. The Spirit helped, and Latimer’s heart was probed and changed. From that hour Latimer gave his life to the cause he had before opposed, and sealed his testimony with his blood.

Infidels neglect to examine the Bible

Sir Isaac Newton set out in life clamorous infidel; but, on a nice examination of the evidences for Christianity, he found reason to change his opinion. When the celebrated Dr. Edmund Halley was talking infidelity before him, Sir Isaac Newton addressed him in these or the like words: “Dr. Halley, I am always glad to hear!you when you speak about astronomy, or other parts of the mathematics, because that is a subject you have studied, and well understand; but you should not talk of Christianity, for you have not studied it. I have; and am certain that you know nothing of the matter.” This was a just reproof, and one that would be very suitable to be given to half the infidels of the present day, for they often speak of what they have never studied, and what, in fact, they are entirely ignorant of. Dr. Johnson, therefore, well observed that “no honest man could be a Deist, for no man could be so after a fair examination of the proofs of Christianity.” On the name of Hume being mentioned to him, “No, sir,” said he, “Hume owned to a clergyman in the Bishopric of Durham that he had never read the New Testament with attention.” (Student’s Handbook to Scripture Doctrines.)

Examination convincing

Conspicuous in John Randolph’s library was a family Bible. Surrounding it were many books, some for, and others against, its truthfulness as an inspired revelation. One day Mr. Randolph had a clergyman as his guest, and the family Bible became a topic of conversation. The eccentric orator said, “I was raised by a pious mother (God bless her memory!), who taught me the Christian religion in all its requirements. But alas! I grew up an infidel--if not an infidel complete, yet a decided Deist. But when I became a man, in this, as well as in political and all other matters, I resolved to examine for myself, and never to pin my faith to any other man’s sleeve. So I bought that Bible; I pored over it; I examined it carefully. I sought and procured those books for and against it; and when my labours were ended, I came to this irresistible conclusion--the Bible is true. It would have been as easy for a mole to have written Sir Isaac Newton’s treatise on “Optics,” as for uninspired men to have written the Bible.”

Christianity courts examination

But I am anxious you should never let slip the fact that Christianity itself puts the scales and weights into your hands, and starts you on this universal verifying process. When I was a senior scholar I was dazed and bewildered by a man three times my age seeking to shake my faith in the Gospel by assuring me that the Bible was averse to investigation, shrunk from the full light of day, and could only maintain its ground with those who were prejudiced in its favour. Glad was I to find that Christianity rejoices in all light, welcomes it from every quarter, accepts with thankfulness the aid of all the sciences and arts, and urges us to imitate the Bereans, who did not assent to Paul’s words without searching the Scriptures and using the best test they knew, so that they might only believe what was absolutely true, and hold nothing fast except that which was undeniably good. Forget not, then, it is Christianity itself that says, “Prove all things. Examine thoroughly. Get at the core of things. Be not deceived by appearances. Go from facts principles, from the letter to the spirit. Be not cheated by any alloys. Light the fires of examination, put on your crucible, cast in your metallic ores, and heat the furnace to its hottest, and then take away with you the pure gold of goodness and truth.” (J. Clifford, D. D.)

The Bible tested

The Bible has been tried in the ages of the past by godless men like Voltaire; it has been tried by the best classes like Wilberforce; it has been tried by educators like Alexander; it has been tried by men in every conceivable position, in prosperity and in adversity, and it has stood the test. You need not be afraid to build your hopes upon it for time and for eternity. (Dr. John Hall.)

Afraid of being convinced

At Cairo, Gobat entertained high hopes of the conversion of a learned Mohammedan teacher, Sheik Ahmed, which were doomed to disappointment. After many interviews, in which be appeared deeply impressed and ready to receive Christ as his Saviour and God, Gobat lost sight of him. Three months later he says, “I met him one day in the street. I asked him why he had not called for so long a time, to which he naively replied, ‘The last time I was with you I felt that if I went to you again I should be convinced of the truths of Christianity, and be consequently obliged to avow myself a Christian, for which I should have been killed. I therefore resolved to see you no more until my heart should be hardened against your arguments.’” (Memoirs of Bishop Gobat.)

Triumph of the Word

In the diamond fields of South Africa a diamond was found, celebrated lately under the title of fly-stone; placed under a magnifying glass you see enclosed in all its brilliancy a little fly, with body, wings, and eyes in the most perfect state of preservation. How it came there no one knows; but no human skill can take it out. So in Holy Scripture the Spirit of God is found in a place from which no power of man can remove it. Infidelity and criticism have now done their utmost, and it is a kind of satisfaction to know that more powerful advocates of infidelity can hardly be found in the future than there have been in the past. All kinds of weapons have been employed, but the result has been triumph for the Word. (Dr. McEwan.)

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Luke 1:1". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

The Biblical Illustrator

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Luke 1:1". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Luke 1:1-3. Forasmuch, &c.— Forasmuch as many have undertaken to compose a narrative of those things which have been accomplished amongst us, Luke 1:2 as they who were from the beginning eye witnesses, and afterwards ministers of the word, delivered them to us; Luke 1:3. I have also determined, having exactly traced every thing from the first, to write, &c. "This must refer," says Dr.

Doddridge, "to some histories of the life of Christ which are now lost; for Matthew and Mark, the only evangelists who can be supposed to have written before Luke, could not with any propriety be called many; and of these two, Matthew at least wrote from personal knowledge, not the testimony of others. One must readily conclude, that the books referred to are lost, as none of the apocryphal gospels now extant, published either by Fabricius, in his Cod. Apocryph. Nov. Test. or by Mr. Jones in his History of the Canon, can with any shew of reason pretend to equal antiquity with this of St. Luke; but I cannot suppose with some of the ancient fathers, that the evangelist here intends the gospels of Basilides, Cerinthus, and some other early heretics, since he seems to allow these histories, whatever they were, to have been at least honestly written, according to information received from the most capable judges; and it is strange that Eusebius should imagine the words to be intended as a severe censure on the now-unknown compilers of these histories, whoever they were." This appears to be a fair and candid state of the case: Dr. Macknight however observes upon this preface, that, at first sight of it, one would be apt to think, that Luke speaks here of the other gospels, and their authors; yet the character which he gives of the writers whom he had in view, makes it evident that they were historians of a different kind from the evangelists, properly so called; for theywrote according to the information they had received from the eye-witnesses and ministersoftheword;whereastheevangelists,being eye-witnesses themselves, wrote from their own personal knowledge, improved by inspiration; at least Matthew and John were in both these respects writers of this character; and as for Mark, though he was not an apostle, he was most probably an early disciple, and consequently an eye-witness of the greatest part of the things which he has related. Epiphanius affirms, that he was one of the seventy. But, to set the matter in another light, if we interpret St. Luke's preface of the evangelists, we must allow, that he had none but Matthew and Mark in view, since, by the acknowledgment of all, John did not write his gospel till long after Luke's was published;—but that he should call two historians many, is hard to be conceived. Further, if the gospels of Matthew and Mark were abroad when Luke was writing, we may be assured that he would peruse them; and as he speaks of persons who had composed histories of Christ's life, he could not by any means overlook authors of their character. On this supposition, can it be imagined, that while his own gospel was penned under the direction of the Spirit, according to the information that he had received from those who were eye-witnesses, he would only say, of an eye-witness, and an apostle, on whom the Spirit hath descended, or even of an apostle's companion, that they had taken in hand to give the history of Christ's life, and not rather have mentioned both them and their works with particular approbation. The probability of this opinion is heightened by the following consideration: It makes the gospels appear with a noble and beautiful propriety; for, on a supposition that St. Luke wrote before the rest, we conceive the reason why theyhave passed over in silence the many miraculous circumstances with which the conception, birth, and circumcision both of the Messiah's forerunner, and of the Messiah himself were honoured, together with the prophesies of Simeon and Anna uttered at our Lord's presentation in the temple, as also the history of his childhood and private life: Luke had accurately, and at great length related all these things, without omitting any particular that deserved to be mentioned. On the other hand, if we think that Matthew and Mark wrote before Luke, their gospels will appear defective in these important points, and no reason will offer itself to justify such material omission. Instead of have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration, Heylin, Doddridge, &c. read, have undertaken to compose a history. The word πεπληροφορημενων, Dr. Doddridge renders, confirmed with the fullest evidence: it implies both that fulness of evidence by which any fact is supported, and likewise that confidence, or fulness of assent, by which facts so supported are believed. Compare 2 Timothy 4:5; 2 Timothy 4:7 in the Greek.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

Expositor's Bible Commentary

Chapter 1


THE four walls and the twelve gates of the Seer looked in different directions, but together they guarded, and opened into, one City of God. So the four Gospels look in different directions; each has its own peculiar aspect and inscription; but together they lead towards, and unveil, one Christ, "which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty." They are the successive quarterings of the one Light. We call them "four" Gospels, though in reality they form but one, just as the seven arches of color weave one bow; and that there should be four, and not three or five, was the purpose and design of the Mind which is above all minds. There are "diversities of operations" even in making Testaments, New or Old; but it is one Spirit who is "over all, and in all"; and back of all diversity is a heavenly unity-a unity that is not broken, but rather beautified, by the variety of its component parts.

Turning to the third Gospel, its opening sentences strike a key-note unlike the tone of the other three. Matthew, the Levite Apostle, schooled in the receipt of custom-where parleying and preambling were not allowed-goes to his subject with sharp abruptness, beginning his story with a "genesis," "the book of the generation of Jesus Christ." Mark, too, and John, without staying for any prelude, proceed at once to their portrayals of the Divine Life, each starting with the same word "beginning"-though between the "beginning" of St. Mark and that of St. John there is room for an eternity. St. Luke, on the other hand, stays to give to his Gospel a somewhat lengthy preface, a kind of vestibule, where we become acquainted with the presence and personality of the verger, before passing within the temple proper.

It is true the Evangelist does not here inscribe his name; it is true that after inserting these lines of explanation, he loses sight of himself completely, with a "sublime repressing of himself" such as John did not know; but that he here throws the shadow of himself upon the page of Scripture, calling the attention of all people and ages to the "me also," shows clearly that the personal element cannot be eliminated from the question of inspiration. Light is the same in its nature; it moves only in straight lines; it is governed by fixed laws; but in its reflections it is infinitely varied, turning to purple, blue, or gold, according to the nature of the medium and reflecting substance. And what, indeed, is beauty, what the harmony of colors, but the visible music as the same light plays upon the diverse keys? Exactly the same law rules in inspiration. As the Divine Love needed an incarnation, an enshrining in human flesh, that the Divine Word might be vocal, so the Divine Light needs its incarnation too. Indeed, we can scarcely conceive of any revelation of the Divine Mind but as coming through a human mind. It needs the human element to analyze and to throw it forward, just as the electric spark needs the dull carbon-point to make it visible. Heaven and earth are here, as elsewhere, "threads of the same loom," and if we take out one, even the earthly woof of the humanities, we leave only a tangle; and if it is true of works of art that "to know them we must know the man who produced them," it is equally important, if we would know the Scripture, that we have some knowledge of the scribe. And especially important is it here, for there are few books of Scripture on which the writer’s own personality is more deeply impressed than on the Gospel of St. Luke. The "me also" is only legible in the third verse, but we may read it, between the lines, through the whole Gospel.

Concerning the life of St. Luke the facts are few. It has been thought by some that he was one of the "certain Greeks" who came to Jerusalem to worship; while others, again, suppose him to be the nameless one of the two Emmaus travelers. But both these suppositions are set aside by the fact that the Evangelist carefully separates himself from those who were "eye witnesses," which he could not well have done had he taken part in those closing scenes of the Lord’s life, or had he been honored with that "infallible proof" of the Lord’s resurrection. That he was a Gentile is evident; his speech betrayeth him; for he speaks with a Grecian accent, while Greek idioms are sprinkled over his pages. Indeed, St. Paul speaks of him as not being of the "circumcision," [Colossians 4:4; Colossians 4:14] and he himself, in Acts 1:19, speaks of the dwellers at Jerusalem, and the Aceldama of "their" proper tongue. Tradition, with unanimous voice, represents him as a native of Antioch, in Syria.

Responding to the Divine Voice that bids him "write," St. Luke brings to the task new and special qualifications. Familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures-at least in their Septuagint form, as his many quotations show-intimately acquainted with the Hebrew faith and ritual, he yet brings to his work a mind unwarped by its traditions. He knows nothing of that narrowness of spirit that Hebraism unconsciously engendered, with its insulation from the great outer world. His mount of vision was not Mount Zion, but a new Pisgah, lying outside the sacred borders, and showing him "all the kingdoms of the world," as the Divine thought of humanity took possession of him. And not only so, we must remember that his connection with Christianity has been mainly through St. Paul, who was the Apostle of the "uncircumcision." For months, if not for years, he has been his close companion, reading his innermost thoughts; and so long and so close together have they been, their two hearts have learned to beat in a perfect synchronism. Besides, we must not forget that the Gentile question-their status in the new kingdom, and the conditions demanded of them-had been the burning question of the early Church, and that it was at this same Antioch it had reached its height. It was at Antioch the Apostle Peter had "dissembled," so soon forgetting the lessons of the Caesarean Pentecost, holding himself aloof from the Gentile converts until Paul felt constrained to rebuke him publicly; and it was to Antioch came the decree of the Jerusalem Council, that Magna Charta which recognized and enfranchised manhood, giving the privileges of the new kingdom to Gentiles, without imposing upon them the Judaic an achronism of circumcision. We can therefore well understand the bent of St. Luke’s mind and the drift of his sympathies; and we may expect that his pen-though it is a reed shaken with the breath of a higher inspiration-will at the same time move in the direction of these sympathies. And it is exactly this-its "gentility," if we may be allowed to give a new accent and a new meaning to an old word-that is a prominent feature of the third Gospel. Not, however, that St. Luke decries Judaism, or that he denies the "advantage" the Jews have; he cannot do this without erasing Scripture and silencing history; but what he does is to lift up the Son of Man in front of their tabernacle of witness. He does not level down Judaism; he levels up Christianity, letting humanity absorb nationality. And so the Gospel of St. Luke, is the Gospel of the world, greeting "all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues" with its "peace on earth." St. Matthew traces the genealogy of Christ back to Abraham; St. Luke goes farther back, to the fountain-head, where all the divergent streams meet and mingle, as he traces the descent to Adam, the Son of God. Matthew shows us the "wise men," lost in Jerusalem, and inquiring. "Where is He that is born King of the Jews?" But St. Luke gives, instead, the "good tidings" to "all people"; and then he repeats the angel song, which is the key-note of his Gospel,

"Glory to God in the highest, goodwill toward men. It is St. Luke only who records the first discourse at Nazareth, showing how in ancient times, even, the mercy of God flowed out towards a Gentile widow and a Gentile leper. St. Luke alone mentions the mission of the Seventy, whose very number was a prophecy of a world-wide Gospel, seventy being the recognized symbol of the Gentile world, as twelve stood for the Hebrew people. St. Luke alone gives us the parable of the Good Samaritan, showing that all the virtues did not reside in Israel, but that there was more of humanity, and so more of Divinity, in the compassionate Samaritan than in their priest and Levite. St. Luke alone records the call of Zacchaeus, the Gentile publican, telling how Jesus cancelled their laws of heredity, passing him up among the sons of Abraham. St. Luke alone gives us the twin parables of the lost coin and the lost man, showing how Jesus had come to seek and to save that which was lost, which was humanity, here, and there, and everywhere. And so there breathes all through this Gospel a catholic spirit, more pronounced than in the rest, a spirit whose rhythm and deep meaning have been caught in the lines."

"There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, Like the wideness of the sea."

The only other fact of the Evangelist’s life we will here notice is that of his profession; and we notice this simply because it enters as a factor into his work, reappearing there frequently. He was a physician; and from this fact some haste supposed that he was a freedman, since many of the Roman physicians were of that class. But this by no means follows. All physicians were not freedmen; while the language and style of St. Luke show him to be an educated man, one, too, who walked in the upper classes of society. Where he speaks natively, as here in the introduction, he uses a pure Greek, somewhat rounded and ornate, in which there is a total absence of those rusticisms common in St. Mark. That he followed his calling at Troas, where he first joined St. Paul, is probable; but that he practiced it on board one of the large corn-ships of the Mediterranean is a pure conjecture, for which even his nautical language affords no presumption; for one cannot be at sea for a few weeks-especially with an observant eye and attentive ear, as St. Luke’s were-without falling naturally into nautical language. One’s speech soon tastes of salt.

The calling of a physician naturally develops certain powers of analysis and synthesis. It is the art of putting things together. From the seen or felt symptoms he traces out the unseen cause. Setting down the known qualities, by processes of comparison or of elimination he finds the unknown quantity, which is the disease, its nature, and its seat. And so on the pages of the third Gospel we frequently find the shadow of the physician. It appears even in his brief preface; for as he sits down with ample materials before him-on one side the first-hand testimony of "eyewitnesses," and on the other the many and somewhat garbled narratives of anonymous scribes-we see the physician-Evangelist exercising a judicious selection, and thus compounding or distilling his pure elixir. Then, too, a skilled and educated physician would find easy access into the higher circles of society, his very calling furnishing him with letters of introduction. And so, indeed, we find it. Our physician dedicates his Gospel, and also the "Acts," to, not the "most excellent," but the "most noble" Theophilus, giving to him the same title that he afterwards gave to Felix and to Festus. Perhaps its English equivalent would be "the honorable." At any rate it shows that this Theophilus was no mere myth, a locution for any "friend of God," but that he was a person of rank and influence, possibly a Roman governor. Then, too, St. Luke’s mention of certain names omitted by the other Evangelists, such as Chuza and Manaen, would suggest that probably he had some personal acquaintance with the members of Herod’s household. Be this as it may, we recognize the "physician" in St. Luke’s habits of observation, his attention to detail, his fondness for grouping together resemblances and contrasts, his fuller reference to miracles of healing, and his psychological observations. We find in him a student of the humanities. Even in his portrayal of the Christ it is the human side of the Divine nature that he emphasizes; while all through his Gospel, his thought of humanity, like a wide-reaching sky, overlooks and embraces all such earthly distinctions as position, sex, or race.

With a somewhat high-sounding word "Forasmuch," which here makes its solitary appearance in the pages of Scripture-a word, too, which, like its English equivalent, is a treble compound-the Evangelist calls our attention to his work, and states his reasons for undertaking it. It is impossible for us to fix either the date or the place where this Gospel was written, but probably it was some time between A.D. 58-60. Now, what was the position of the Church at that date, thirty-five years after the Crucifixion?

The fiery tongues of Pentecost had flashed far and wide, and from their heliogram even distant nations had read the message of peace and love. Philip had witnessed the wonderful revival in "the (a) city of Samaria." Antioch, Caesarea, Damascus, Lystra, Philippi, Athens, Rome-these names indicate, but do not attempt to measure, the wide and ever-widening circle of light. In nearly every town of any size there is the nucleus of a Church; while Apostles, Evangelists, and Christian merchants are proclaiming the new kingdom and the new laws everywhere. And since the visits of the Apostles would be necessarily brief, it would only be a natural and general wish that some permanent record should be made of their narratives and teaching. In other places, which lay back of the line of Apostles’ travel, the story would reach them, passed from mouth to mouth, with all the additions of rumor, and exaggerations of Eastern loquacity. It is to these ephemeral Gospels the Evangelist now refers; and distinguishing, as he does, the "many" from the "eyewitnesses" and "ministers of the word," he shows that he does not refer to the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark-which probably he has not seen-for one was an Apostle, and both were "eyewitnesses." There is no censure implied in these words, nor does the expression "taken in hand" in itself imply failure; but evidently, to St. Luke’s mind, these manifold narratives were incomplete and unsatisfactory. They contain some of the truth, but not all that the world should know. Some are put together by unskilled hands, and some have more or less of fable blended with them. They need sifting, winnowing, that the chaff may be blown away, and the seed tares separated from the wheat. Such is the physician’s reason for now assuming the role of an Evangelist. The "forasmuch," before being entered on the pages of his Scriptures, had struck upon the Evangelist’s soul, setting it vibrating like a bell, and moving mind and hand alike in sympathy.

And so we see how, in ways simple and purely natural, Scripture grows. St. Luke was not conscious of any special influence resting upon him. He did not pose as an oracle or as the mouthpiece of an oracle, though he was all that, and vastly more. He does not even know that he is doing any great work; and who ever does? A generous, unselfish thought takes possession of him. He will sacrifice leisure and ease, that he may throw forward to others the light that has fallen upon his own heart and life. He will be a truth-seeker and a light-bearer for others. Here, then, we see how a human mind falls into gear with the Divine mind, and human thought gets into the rhythm and swing of the higher thought. Simply natural, purely human, are all his processes of reasoning, comparing, and planning, and the whole Gospel is but the perfect bloom of this seed-thought. But whence came this thought? This is the question. Did it not grow out of these manifold narratives? And did not the narratives themselves grow out of the wonderful Life, the Life which was itself but a Divine Thought and Word incarnate? And so we cannot separate heaven from earth, we cannot eliminate the Divine from even our little lives: and though St. Luke did not recognize it as such-he was an ordinary man, doing an ordinary thing-yet we, standing a few centuries back, and seeing how the Church has hidden in her ark the omer of manna that he gathered, to be carried on and down till time itself shall be no more, we see another Apocalyptic vision, and we hear a Voice Divine that commands him "write." When St. Luke wrote, "It seemed good to me also," he doubtless wrote the pronoun small; for it was the "me" of his obscure, retiring self; but high above the human thought we see the Divine purpose, and as we watch, the smaller "me" grows into the ME, which is a shadow of the great I AM. And so while the "many" treatises, those which were purely human, have passed out of sight, buried deep in their unknown sepulchers, this Gospel has survived and become immortal-immortal because God was back of it, and God was in it.

So in the mind of St. Luke the thought ripens into a purpose. Since others "have taken in hand" to draw up a narrative concerning those matters which have been "fulfilled among us," he himself will do the same; for has he not a special fitness for the task, and peculiar advantages? He has long been intimately associated with those who from the very first were "eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word," the chosen companion of one Apostle, and doubtless owing to his visit to Jerusalem and to his prolonged residence at Caesarea, personally acquainted with the rest. His shall not be a Gospel of surmise or of rumor; it shall only contain the record of facts-facts which he himself has investigated, and for the truth of which he gives his guarantee. The clause "having traced the course of all things accurately from the first"-which is a more exact rendering than that of the Authorized Version, "having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first"-shows us the keen, searching eye of the physician. He looks into things. He distinguishes between the To seem and the To be, the actual and the apparent. He takes nothing for granted, but proves all things. He investigates his facts before he endorses them, sounding them, as it were, and reading not only their outer voice, which may be assumed, and so untrue, but with his stethoscope of patient research listening for the unconscious voices that speak within, and so finding out the reality. He himself is committed to nothing. He is not anxious to make up a story. Himself a searcher after truth, his one concern is to know, and then to tell, the truth, naturally, simply, with no fictitious adornment, or dressing up of his own. And having submitted the facts of the Divine Life to a close scrutiny, and satisfied himself of their absolute truth, and having thrown aside the many guesses and fables which somehow have woven themselves around the wonderful Name, he will write down, in historical order as far as may be, the story, so that his friend Theophilus may know the "certainty of the things" in which he has been "instructed," or orally catechized, as the word would mean.

Where, then, it may be asked, is there room for inspiration? If the genesis of the Gospel is so purely human, where is there room for the touch of the Divine? Why should the Gospel of St. Luke be canonized, incorporated into Holy Scripture, while the writings of others are thrown back into an Apocrypha, or still farther back into oblivion? The very questions will suggest an answer. That touch of the Divine which we call inspiration is not always an equal touch. Now it is a pressure from above that is overwhelming. The writer is carried out of himself, borne up into regions where Sight and Reason in their loftiest flights cannot come, as the prophet foretells events no human mind could foresee, much less describe. In the case of St. Luke there was no need for this abnormal pressure, or for these prophetic ecstasies. He was to record, for the most part, facts of recent occurrence, facts that had been witnessed, and could now be attested, by persons still living; and a fact is a fact, whether it is inspired or no. Inspiration may record a fact, while others are omitted, showing that this fact has a certain value above others; but if it is true, inspiration itself cannot make it more true. Nevertheless, there is the touch of the Divine even here. What is the meaning of this new departure? For it is a new and a wide departure. Why does not Thomas write a Gospel? Or Philip, or Paul? Why should the Evangelist-mantle be carried outside the bounds of the sacred land, to be thrown around a Gentile, who cannot speak the sacred tongue except with a foreign Shibboleth? Ah, we see here the movings of the Holy Ghost! Selecting the separate agents for the separate tasks, and dividing to "every man severally as he will." And not only does the Holy Spirit summon him to the work, He qualifies him for it, furnishing him with materials, and guiding his mind as to what shall be omitted and what retained. It is the same Spirit, who moved "holy men of old" to speak and write the things of God, who now touches the mind and heart of the four Evangelists, enabling them to give the four versions of the one Story, in different language, and with sundry differences of detail, but with no contradiction of thought, each being, in a sense, the complement of the rest, the four quarters making one rounded and perfect whole.

Perhaps at first sight our subject may not seem to have any reference to our smaller lives; for who of us can be Evangelists or Apostles, in the highest meaning of the words? And yet it has, if we look into it, a very practical bearing upon our lives, even the commonplace, every-day life. Whence come our gifts? Who makes these gifts to differ? Who gives us the differing taste and nature? For we are not consulted as to our nature any more than as to our nativities. The fact is, our "human" is touched by the Divine at every point. What are the chequered scenes of our lives but the black or the white squares to which the Unseen Hand moves us at will? Earth’s problem is but Heaven’s purpose. And are not we, too, writing scriptures? Putting God’s thoughts into words and deeds, so that men may read them and know them? Verily we are; and our writing is for eternity. In the volume of our book are no omissions or erasures. Listen, then, to the heavenly call. Be obedient to your heavenly vision. Leave mind and heart open to the play of the Divine Spirit. Keep self out of sight. Delight in God’s will, and do it. So will yon make your lowlier life another Testament, written over with Gospels and Epistles, and closing at last with an Apocalypse.

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "Expositor's Bible Commentary".

The Fourfold Gospel

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to draw up a narrative concerning those matters1 which have been fulfilled among us2,

  1. Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to draw up a narrative concerning those matters. Of whom we know nothing and have no tradition.

  2. Which have been fulfilled among us. Completed, or accomplished according to the divine will.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on Luke 1:1". "The Fourfold Gospel". Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

The Pulpit Commentaries


THE origin of the Gospels—the four histories which relate in detail the circumstances of the foundation of Christianity—will ever be an interesting study. Here we shall never know the exact truth of the compilation of these writings, the foundation-stones of all our hopes and fears; a reverent, scholarly speculation is all that can be offered to the student of the Divine memoirs. The speculation, however, probably in this case comes very near the truth.

After the Ascension and the events of the first Pentecost, which quickly followed their Master's return to heaven, the twelve and a few others who had walked in the company which followed Jesus during the years of his public ministry no doubt often met together and talked over the teaching and the acts of their risen and now glorified Master. As time passed on, a certain number of these acts, a certain number of the public and private discourses in the apostolic company, became adopted as the usual texts or subjects of the teaching and preaching in the assemblies large and small gathered together by the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem and the neighboring towns and villages, subsequently in other parts of the Holy Land, in Syria, and in more distant countries—in Africa and Italy. We may assume that the Holy Spirit aided the composition of these apostolic summaries by bringing to the memory of these holy men the more important of the words and acts of the Lord Jesus, spoken and done when in their midst.

That some such early authoritative summary existed among the first preachers of the faith we may positively assume,

Some twelve traditional sayings besides those related by the four, and those of no great importance, are all that we possess; no record of other miracles of any description have come down to us.

Years passed on. The precious treasure of the apostolic records, the simple memories of his words and acts preserved, and no doubt arranged in some order, were enough for the first preachers and teachers of the faith of Jesus of Nazareth.

There were, no doubt, many rough attempts to write these down on the part of apostles and their pupils. These are most probably the writings to which St. Luke alludes, without disparaging them, in his preface to his Gospel, in the words, "Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us."

But something more accurate in the way of written memoirs was necessary for the Church, as the number of believers multiplied, and the original friends of the Master were one by one taken from their midst—the men who had seen the presence and heard the voice. When the first fervor of enthusiasm had passed away, or rather when the Church had so multiplied that, in the case of the great majority of its members who had only heard of Jesus, this fervor of enthusiasm had never been experienced at all, something of a critical spirit of inquiry sprang up in the various congregations. Who, for instance, was this Jesus of Nazareth, whom the apostles and their pupils preached? Whence came he? Who was that strange teacher John, who baptized him, and, so to speak, introduced him to Israel? Such natural questions necessitated the putting forth, on the part of the leaders of the new faith, documents at once comprehensive as well as authoritative.

Each of the four Gospels supplied an evident want of the early Church; each was the answer, on the part of responsible men, to the natural inquiry of some great section of believers.

The preface to the Gospel of St. Luke, with which we are at present concerned, with great clearness relates how its compiler, having availed himself of all the written and oral apostolic traditions then current in the Church, had personally, with careful and continuous research, traced up these various traditions to their very source, and, having arranged his many facts, presented the whole continuous story to a man of high rank in the Christian congregations, one Theophilus, a noble Greek or Roman, who may be taken as an example of a large class of inquiring earnest Christians of the years 70-90 a.d.

Luke 1:1-4


Luke 1:1

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand. The Greek in which St. Luke's Gospel is written is generally pure and classical, but the language of the little introduction (verse 1-4) is especially studied and polished, and contrasts singularly with the Hebrew character of the story of the nativity, which immediately follows. St, Luke here, in this studied introduction, follows the example of many of the great classical writers, Latin as well as Greek. Thucydides, Herodotus, Livy, for instance, paid special attention to the opening sentences of their histories. The many early efforts to produce a connected history of the life and work of the great Master Christ are not, as some have supposed, alluded to here with anything like censure, but are simply referred to as being incomplete, as written without order or arrangement. They most probably formed the basis of much of St. Luke's own Gospel. These primitive Gospels quickly disappeared from sight, as they evidently contained nothing more than what was embodied in the fuller and more systematic narratives of the "four." Of those things which are most surely believed among us. There was evidently no questioning in the Church of the first days about the truth of the story of the teaching and the mighty works of Jesus of Nazareth. It was the incompleteness of these first evangelists, rather than their inaccuracy, which induced St. Luke to take in hand a new Gospel.

Luke 1:2

Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eye-witnesses, and ministers of the Word. The general accuracy of the recitals contained in those early Gospels is here conceded, as the source of these primitive writings was the tradition delivered by the eye-witnesses of the acts of Jesus; among these eye-witnesses the apostles would, of course, hold the foremost place. The whole statement may be roughly paraphrased thus: "The narrative of the memorable events which have been accomplished in our midst many have undertaken to compose. These different narratives are in strict conformity with the apostles' tradition, which men who were themselves eye-witnesses of the great events, and subsequently ministers of the Word, handed down to us. Now, I have traced up all these traditions anew to their very sources, and propose rewriting them in consecutive order, that you, my lord Theophilus, may be fully convinced of the positive certainty of those great truths in which you have been instructed." Eye-witnesses, anal ministers of the Word; witnesses of the events of the public ministry of Jesus, from the baptism to the Ascension. These men, in great numbers, after Pentecost, became ministers and preachers of the Word.

Luke 1:3

Having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first; more accurately rendered, having followed up (or, investigated) step by step all things from their source. St. Luke, without depreciating the accounts of the life and work of Jesus then current in the Church, here sets out his reasons for undertaking a fresh compilation. His Gospel would differ from the early Gospels:

Luke 2:5-52

THE GOSPEL OF THE INFANCY. The critical reader of the Gospel in the original Greek is here startled by the abrupt change in the style of writing. The first four verses, which constitute the introduction, are written in pure classical language; the sentences are balanced, almost with a rhythmical accuracy. They are the words evidently of a highly cultured mind, well versed in Greek thought. But in the fifth verse, where the history of the eventful period really begins, all is changed. The narrative flows on clearly with a certain picturesqueness of imagery; the style is simple, easy, vivid; but at once the reader is sensible that he has passed out of the region of Greek and Western thought. The language is evidently a close translation from some Hebrew original; the imagery is exclusively Jewish, and the thoughts belong to the story of the chosen people. It is clear that this section of St. Luke's writing, which ends, however, with Luke 2:1-52, is not derived from apostolic tradition, but is the result of his own investigation into the origin of the faith of Christ, gathered probably from the lips of the virgin mother herself, or from one of the holy women belonging to her kinsfolk who had been with her from the beginning of the wondrous events. St. Luke reproduced, as faithfully as he could in a strange tongue, the revelations—some perhaps written, some no doubt oral, communicated to him, we reverently believe, by the blessed mother of Jesus herself. The story of these two chapters is what St. Luke evidently alludes to when, in his short preface (verse 3), he writes of his "perfect understanding in all things from the very first ( ἄνωθεν)."

Luke 1:5-25

The vision of Zacharias in the temple.

Luke 1:5

There was in the days of Herod, the King of Judaea. The Herod here alluded to was the one surnamed "the Great." The event here related took place towards the end of his reign. His dominions, besides Judaea, included Samaria, Galilee, and a large district of Peraea. This prince played a conspicuous part in the politics of his day. He was no Hebrew by birth, but an Idumaean, and he owed his position entirely to the favor of Rome, whose vassal he really was during his whole reign. The Roman senate had, on the recommendation of Antony and Octavius, granted to this prince the title of "King of Judaea." It was a strange, sad state of things. The land of promise was ruled over by an Idumaean adventurer, a creature of the great Italian Republic; the holy and beautiful house on Mount Zion was in the custody of an Edomite usurper; the high priest of the Mighty One of Jacob was raised up or deposed as the officials of Rome thought good. Truly the scepter had departed from Judah. A certain priest named Zacharias; usually spelt among the Hebrews, Zechariah; it means "Remembered of Jehovah," and was a favorite name among the chosen people. Of the course of Abia. ἐφημερία (course) signified originally "a daily service." It was subsequently used for a group of priests who exercised their priestly functions in the temple for a week, and then gave place to another group. From Eleazar and Ithamar, the two surviving sons of the first high priest Aaron, had descended twenty-four families. Among these King David distributed by lot the various tabernacle (subsequently temple) services, each family group, or course, officiating for eight days—from sabbath to sabbath. From the Babylonish exile, of these twenty-four families only four returned. With the idea of reproducing as nearly as possible the old state of things, these four were subdivided into twenty-four, the twenty-four bearing the original family names, and this succession of courses continued in force until the fall of Jerusalem and the burning of the temple, a.d. 70. According to Josephus, Zacharias was especially distinguished by belonging to the first of the twenty-four courses, or families. Of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth; identical with Elisheba, "One whose oath is to God." Both the husband and wife traced their lineage back to the first high priest—a coveted distinction in Israel.

Luke 1:6

And they were both righteous before God. "One of the oldest terms of high praise among the Jews (Genesis 6:9; Genesis 7:1; Genesis 18:23-28; Ezekiel 18:5-9, etc.). It is used also of Joseph (Matthew 1:1-25 : 19), and is defined in the following words in the most technical sense of strict legal observance, which it had acquired since the days of Maccabees. The true Jashar (upright man) was the ideal Jew. Thus Rashi calls the Book of Genesis 'The book of the upright, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob '" (Farrar).

Luke 1:7

And they had no child. This, as is well known, was a heavy calamity in a Hebrew home. In the childless house there was no hope of the long looked-for Messiah being born in it. It was not unfrequently looked on as a mark of the Divine displeasure, possibly as the punishment of some grave sin.

Luke 1:9

His lot was to burn incense; more accurately, he obtained by lot the duty of entering and offering incense. The office of burning incense gave the priest to whom this important lot fell the right of entering the holy place. It was the most coveted of all the priestly duties. The Talmud says the priest who obtained the right to perform this high duty was not permitted to draw the lot a second time in the same week, and as the whole number of priests at this time was very large—some say even as many as twenty thousand—Farrar conjectures that it would never happen to the same priest twice in his lifetime to enter that sacred spot.

Luke 1:10

And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. This would indicate that the day in question was a sabbath or some high day. Dean Plumptre suggests that, lost among that praying crowd, were, "we may well believe, the aged Simeon (Luke 2:25) and Anna the prophetess (Luke 2:36), and many others who waited for redemption in Jerusalem."

Luke 1:11

And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord. Critics have especially found grave fault with this "Hebrew" portion of our Gospel, complaining that it needlessly introduces the marvelous, and brings uselessly into everyday life beings from another sphere. Godet well answers these criticisms by observing "that as Christianity was an entirely new beginning in history, the second and final creation of man, it was natural that an interposition on so grand a scale should be accompanied by a series of particular interpositions. It was even necessary; for how were the representatives of the ancient order of things, who had to cooperate in the new work, to be initiated into it, and their attachment won to it, except by this means? According to Scripture, we are surrounded by angels (2 Kings 6:17; Psalms 34:7), whom God employs to watch over us; but in our ordinary condition we want the sense necessary to perceive their presence—for that condition a peculiar receptivity is required. This condition was given to Zacharias. Origen ('Contra Censure') writes how, "in a church there are two assemblies—one of angels, the other of men,… angels are present at our prayers, and they pray with us and for us." Standing on the right side of the altar of incense. The angel stood between the altar and the shew-bread table. On entering the holy place, the officiating priest would have on his right the table with the shew-bread, on his left the great candlestick, and before him would be the golden altar, which stood at the end of the holy place, in front of the veil which separated this chamber and the dim, silent holy of holies.

Luke 1:12

He was troubled. This was ever the first effect produced by the sight of a spirit-visitant.

Luke 1:13

Thy prayer is heard. What was the nature of this prayer? The Greek word ( δεήσις) used here implies that some special supplication had been offered, and which the angel tells had been listened to at the throne of grace. The righteous old man had not, as some have thought, been praying for a son,—he had long resigned himself in this private sorrow to the will of his God; but we may well suppose that on that solemn occasion he prayed the unselfish patriotic prayer that the long looked for Messiah would hasten his coming. His name John; the shortened form for Jehochanan, "the grace of Jehovah." Under various diminutives, such as Jonah, it was a favorite Hebrew name.

Luke 1:14

Many shall rejoice at his birth. The gladness which his boy's birth was to bring with it was to be no mere private family rejoicing. The child of his old age, who was to be born, would be the occasion of a true national joy.

Luke 1:15

Great in the sight of the Lord. To the pious old Jewish priest the strange visitant's words would bear a deep signification. Zacharias would quickly catch the angel's thoughts. His son was not to be the Messiah of the people's hope, but was to be like one of those great ones loved of God, of whom the women of Israel sang on their solemn feast-days—one like Samson, only purer, or Samuel, or the yet greater Elijah. Could all this deep joy be true? Shall drink neither wine. The old curse then as now. God's heroes must be free from even the semblance of temptation. They must stamp their high lives, from the beginning, by the solemn vow of self-denial and abstinence. It is remarkable how many of the great deliverers and teachers of the chosen people were commanded from childhood to enroll themselves among the abstainers from all strong drink. Nor strong drink. The word δεήσις includes all kinds of fermented drink except that made from the grape; it was especially applied to palm wine.

Luke 1:16

And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. The state of the people at this period was indeed unhappy. The dominant Italian power had introduced into Syria and Palestine the vices and profligate life of Italy and Greece. The great Syrian city Antioch, for instance, in vice and sensuality, had gone far beyond her conqueror, and was perhaps at that time the most wicked city in the world. In the court of Herod, patriotism and true nobility were dead. The priests and scribes were for the most part deeply corrupted, and the poor shepherdless common folk only too readily followed the example of the rich and great. The boy who was to be born was to be a great preacher of righteousness; his glorious mission would be to turn many of these poor wanderers to the Lord their God.

Luke 1:17

In the spirit and power of Elias. There was a confident hope among the Jews, dating frown the days of the prophecy of Malachi, some four hundred years before the vision of Zacharias, that the days of Messiah would be heralded by an appearance of the Prophet Elijah. The selfsame expectation is still cherished by every pious Jew. To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just. The usual explanation of these words of the angel, who uses here the language of Malachi (Malachi 4:5, Malachi 4:6), is that the result of the preaching of this new prophet, who is about to be raised up, will be to restore harmony to the broken and disturbed family life of Israel, whereas now the home life of the chosen race was split up—the fathers, perhaps, siding with the foreign or Roman faction, as represented by Herod and his friends; the sons, on the other hand, being Zealots attached to the national party, bitterly hostile to the Herodians. So also in one house some would belong to the Pharisee, others to the Sadducee, sect. These fatal divisions would, in many cases, be healed by the influence of the coming one. There is, however, another interpretation far deeper and more satisfactory; for nothing in the preaching of the Baptist, as far as we are aware, bore specially on the domestic dissensions of the people; it had a much wider range. The true sense of the angel's words here should be gathered from prophetic passages such as Isaiah 29:22, Isaiah 29:23, "Jacob shall no more be ashamed, neither shall his face wax pale, when he seeth ( יךִּ וֹתאֹרְבִ) his children become the work of my hands;" Isaiah 63:16, "Doubtless thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer!"—The patriarchs, the fathers of Israel, beholding from their abodes of rest the works and days of their degenerate children, mourned over their fall, and, to use earthly language, "were ashamed" of the conduct of their unworthy descendants. These would be glad and rejoice over the result of the preaching of the coming prophet. Godct well sums up the angel's words: "It will be John's mission then to reconstitute the moral unity of the people by restoring the broken relation between the patriarchs and their degenerate descendants."

Luke 1:18

Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man. There was something evidently blamable in this hesitation on the part of Zacharias to receive the angel's promise. It seems as though the radiant glory of the messenger, as he stood before the curtain of the silent sanctuary in his awful beauty, ought to have convinced the doubting old man of the truth of the strange message. The words of the angel, which follow, seem to imply this. What! do you doubt my message? "I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of the Eternal." Others in Old Testament story before—for instance, Abraham (Genesis 15:1-21) and Gideon ( 6:1-40)—had seen and listened to an angel, had at first doubted, but had received in consequence no rebuke, no punishment, for their want of faith. Zacharias was, however, condemned, we learn, to a long period of dumbness.

Luke 1:19

I am Gabriel. The meaning of the name Gabriel is "Hero of God," or "Mighty One of God." In the canonical books only two of the heavenly ones are mentioned by name. Gabriel (here and Daniel 8:16 and Daniel 9:21) and Michael, which signifies "Who is like God" (Jud Luke 1:9; Revelation 12:7; and in Daniel 10:13, Daniel 10:21; Daniel 12:1). Of these two blessed spirits whose names are revealed to us in the Word of God, their appointed work seems to be in connection with the human race and its enemies. Gabriel is the special messenger of good news. He comes to Daniel, and tells him of the restoration of Jerusalem; to Zacharias, and announces the birth of his son, and declares what his glorious office would consist in; to Mary of Nazareth, and foretells the nativity. Michael, on the other hand, appears as the warrior of God. In the Book of Daniel he wars with the enemies of the people of the Lord; in Jude and in the Revelation of St. John he is the victorious antagonist of Satan the enemy of the Eternal. The Jews have a striking saying that Gabriel flies with two wings, but Michael with only one; so God is swift in sending angels of peace and of joy, of which blessed company the archangel Gabriel is the representative, while the messengers of his wrath and punishment, among whom Michael holds a chief place, come slowly. That stand in the presence of God.

"One of the seven

Who in God's presence, nearest to his throne,

Stand ready at command, and are his eyes

That run through all the heavens, and down to the earth

Bear his swift commands, over moist and dry,

O'er sea and land."

Milton derived his knowledge of the seven from the apocryphal Book of Tobit, where in chapter 12:15 we read, "I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels, which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One." In the very ancient Book of Enoch we read of the names of the four great archangels, Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael.

Luke 1:21

And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he tarried so long in the temple. The Talmud tells us that even the high priest did not terry long in the holy of holies on the Day of Atonement. The same feeling of holy awe would induce the ministering priest of the day to perform his functions with no unnecessary delay, and to leave as soon as possible the holy place. The people praying in the court without were in the habit of waiting until the priest on duty came out of the sacred inner chamber, after which they were dismissed with the blessing. The unusual delay in the appearance of Zacharias puzzled and disturbed the worshippers.

Luke 1:22

When he came out, he could not speak unto them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple. Something in the face of the old man, as, unable to speak, he made signs to the congregation, told the awestruck people that the long delay and the loss of speech were owing to no sudden illness which had seized Zacharias. We know that, in the old days of the desert wanderings, the children of Israel could not bear to look on the face of Moses when he came down from the mount after dwelling for a brief space in the light of the glory of the Eternal. Zacharias had been face to face with one whose blessed lot it was to stand for ever in the presence of God. We may well suppose that there lingered on the old man's face, as he left the sanctuary, something which told the beholder of the presence just left.

Luke 1:24

And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months. Various reasons have been suggested for this retirement. It seems most probable that, amazed at the angelic announcement, the saintly woman went into perfect retirement and isolation for a considerable period, to prove well the words of the angel, and to consider how she best could do her part in the training of the expected child, who was to play so mighty a part in the history of her people.

Luke 1:26-38

The annunciation of the Virgin Mary.

The recital contained in this little section is peculiar to this Gospel of St. Luke. It lay outside what may be termed the apostolic tradition. It neither helps nor mars the moral or dogmatic teaching of the men trained in the school of Jesus of Nazareth. It simply answers a question that probably few of the converts of the first quarter of a century which succeeded the Resurrection morning cared to ask:

We do not suppose that the true story of the birth of Jesus Christ was any secret, any precious mystery in the Church of the first days. It was known doubtless to the leading teachers, known to many of their hearers, but it was evidently unused as a popular text for preaching. It probably was not among those "memoirs" of the apostles which were read and expounded in the first forty years in the public synagogues and in the quiet upper rooms of so many of the cities of Syria, and in not a few of the towns of Egypt, Greece, and Italy. Nor is the reason of this doubtful; the wondrous story of the child Jesus' birth would add little to the simple faith of the first believers in the Crucified.

Of miracles and works of wonder they had heard enough to convince them that, if these were true, surely never man had worked like this Man. They had heard, too, of the crowning, sign of the Resurrection. There were men in those first days, scattered abroad in all lands, who had seen these things, who knew that the Master had died on the cross, and who had seen him, touched him, and spoken to him after his resurrection. The mysterious miracle of the incarnation was not needed for the preaching of the first days.

But time went on, and naturally enough many of the thoughtful cultured men who had accepted the doctrine of the cross began to say—We ought to have the true story of the beginnings of these marvelous events authoritatively written down. Here and there we have heard something of the birth and childhood, why have we not the details authenticated? Men like Paul and Luke felt that such natural questionings should be answered. And hence it came to pass that, moved by the Holy Spirit—under, we believe, the direction of Paul—Luke went to the fountainhead, to the blessed mother herself, to those holy women some of whom we believe had borne her company from the beginning, and from her lips and their lips wrote down what she (or they) dictated, partly from memory, partly perhaps from memoranda which she and others had kept of that strange sweet time; and so these two chapters of the Third Gospel, of which the incarnation is the central narrative, were written down much in the original form in which Luke received it, the Greek simply translating the original Hebrew story. Around the words of the Gospel soon gathered a host of miraculous legends glorifying the blessed mother of the Lord. These are utterly unknown to Scripture, and should be quietly put aside. Strange speculations respecting her and the manner of the wondrous birth have been in all times, nay, still are favorite subjects of dispute among theologians. It is a pity to try and be wise beyond what is written. The believer will content himself with just receiving the quiet story of the holy maid as Mary the mother gave it to Luke or Paul, feeling assured that the same power of the Highest by which the crucified Jesus was raised from the tomb where he had lain for three days, was able to overshadow the virgin of Nazareth, was able to cause to be born of her that holy thing which was called the Son of God.

Luke 1:26

And in the sixth month; that is, after the vision of Zacharias in the temple. Unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth. These explanatory notes make it clear that St. Luke was writing for those who were strangers to Palestine. Such details were no doubt added by St. Luke to the oral or written Hebrew narrative upon which this section is entirely based. Under the Roman domination the land of promise was divided into Judaea, Samaria, Peraea, and Galilee. Galilee was the northern department, and comprised the old territory of the tribes of Zebulun, Naphtali, and Asher. From Josephus we learn that at this period the northern division was rich and populous, and covered with flourishing towns. Nazareth, which still exists as a large village of some three thousand inhabitants, under the name of En-Nazirah, is about twenty-four miles to the east of the Luke of Tiberius. It is well situate in a valley among the hills which rise to the north of the Esdraelon plain. From one of the grassy slopes which rise behind Nazareth, one of the noblest views is obtained. The snowy summits of Lebanon and Hennon close the prospect on the north; on the south the broad Esdraelon plain, with the mountains of Ephraim; Gilead and Tabor lie on the east; on the other side, the green uplands of Carmel are bathed by the blue waves of the Mediterranean Sea. The meaning of the name Nazareth has been the subject of much learned controversy. The more usually adopted derivation, however, refers the word to רצן, "a shoot or branch," which conveys, as Dean Plumptre remarks, something of the same meaning as our hurst or holm in English topography. Burckhardt, the traveler, believes the name was originslly used on account of the numerous shrubs which cover the ground in this locality.

Luke 1:27

To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; more accurately, betrothed. The formal ceremony of betrothal took place among the Jews in most cases a year prior to the marriage. The question has arisen whether the words, "of the house of David," refer to Joseph or to Mary. Grammatically, they would seem to belong to Joseph; but the fact of the Gospel being here so closely translated from a Hebrew (Aramaic) original. prevents us from laying down any strict linguistic rules which belong to the Greek language. "Who was Mary the virgin?" has been often asked. Luke 1:32 and Luke 1:69 would lose their point altogether unless we regard Luke as being persuaded that the young Hebrew girl was a descendant of David. In respect to the virgin's family, we read that she was a cousin or kinswoman of Elisabeth. This would at least ally her closely to the priestly race. Dean Plumptre quotes one out of the many ancient apocryphal legends current respecting Mary of Nazareth, deeming it worthy of mention as having left its impress on Christian art. "The name of the virgin's mother was Anne. Mary surpassed the maidens of her own age in wisdom. There were many who early sought her in marriage. The suitors agreed to decide their claims by laying their rods before the holy place, and seeing which budded. It was thus that Joseph became betrothed to her." The same scholar adds, "The absence of any mention of her parents in the Gospels suggests the thought that she was an orphan, and the whole narrative of the nativity presupposes poverty! The name Mary is the same as Miriam or Marah." (On the question of the genealogy recorded by St. Luke, see note on Luke 3:1-38. 23.)

Luke 1:28

Hail, thou that art highly favored. The plena gratia of the Vulgate, said and sung so often in the virgin's famous hymn, is an inaccurate rendering. Rather, "gratia cumulata," as it has been well rendered. "Having been much graced (by God)" is the literal translation of the Greek word. Blessed art thou among women. These words must be struck out; they do not exist in the older authorities.

Luke 1:29

She was troubled; more accurately, she was greatly troubled. Different to Zacharias, who evidently doubted in the mission of the angel, and who required some sign before he could believe, Mary simply wondered at the strangeness of what was about to happen. Her terror at the sudden appearance of the angel, who probably appearedto her as a young man clad in garments of a strange dazzling whiteness, is most natural.

Luke 1:31

JESUS; the ordinary Greek form, the well-known Hebrew Jehoshua, the shortened Joshua, "The Salvation of Jehovah."

Luke 1:32

The Son of the Highest. It is singular that this title, given by the angel to the yet unborn child, was the one given to the Redeemer by the evil spirit in the case of the poor possessed. Is this the title, or one of the titles, by which our Master is known in that greater world beyond our knowledge? The throne of his father David; clearly indicating that Mary herself was of royal lineage, although this is nowhere definitely stated (see Psalms 132:1-18 : 11). These words of the angel are as yet unfulfilled. They clearly speak of a restoration of Israel, still, as far as we can see, very distant. Nearly nineteen centuries have passed since Gabriel spoke of a restored throne of David, of a kingdom in Jacob to which should come no end. The people, through all the changing fortune of empires, have been indeed strangely kept distinct and separate, ready for the mighty change; but the eventful hour still tarries. It has been well observed how St. Luke's report of the angel's words here could never have been a forgery—as one school of critics asserts—of the second century. Would any writer in the second century, after the failure of Jesus among the Jews was well known, when the fall of Jerusalem had already taken place, have made an angel prophesy what is expressed here?

Luke 1:35

The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee. Again the angel makes use of the term "Highest" when alluding to the eternal Father. The expression of Gabriel, "the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee," reminds us of the opening words of Genesis, where the writer describes the dawn of life in creation in the words, "The Spirit of God moved [or, 'brooded'] over the face of the deep." "The Word was conceived in the womb of a woman, not after the manner of men, but by the singular, powerful, invisible, immediate operation of the Holy Ghost, whereby a virgin was, beyond the law of nature, enabled to conceive, and that which was conceived in her was originally and cmnpletcly sanctified" (art. 3., Bishop Pearson on the Creed).

Luke 1:38

Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. "God's message," writes Godet, "by the mouth of the angel was not a command. The part Mary had to fulfill made no demands on her. It only remained, therefore, for Mary to consent to the consequences of the Divine offer. She gives this consent in a word at once simple and sublime, which involved the most extraordinary act of faith that a woman ever consented to accomplish. Mary accepts the sacrifice of that which is dearer to a young maiden than her very life, and thereby becomes pre-eminently the heroine of Israel, the ideal daughter of Zion." Nor was the immediate trouble and sorrow which she foresaw would soon compass her round by any means the whole burden which submission to the angel's message would bring upon the shrinking Nazareth maiden. The lot proposed to her would bring probably in its wake unknown sufferings as well as untold blessedness. We may with all reverence think Mary already feeling the first piercings in her heart of that sharp sword which was one day to wound so deeply the mother of sorrows; yet in spite of all this, in full view of the present woe, which submission to the Divine will would forthwith bring upon her, with an unknown future of sorrow in the background, Mary submitted herself of her own free will to what she felt was the will and wish of her God.

Luke 1:39

Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste. Between the annunciation and this journey of Mary to visit her cousin Elisabeth, we must interpose the events narrated in St. Matthew's Gospel, viz. the natural suspicion of her betrothed future husband, Joseph. his action in the matter; and then the dream of Joseph, in which her innocence was vindicated. As we believe that St. Luke's story here was derived from Mary's own narrative, we can understand well that these details, related by St. Matthew, were scarcely touched upon, and the mother would hurry on to the real points of interest in that eventful past of hers. The hill country here alluded to is the elevated district of Judah, Benjamin, and Mount Ephraim, in contradistinction to the low maritime plain on the east—the old Philistia. Into a city of Juda. There is no such city known as "Juda." Some have supposed that the text is corrupt here, and that for "Yuda" we should read "Jutta," which, according to Joshua 15:55, was a priestly city in the hill country. There is a rabbinical tradition in the Talmud which places the residence of Zacharias at Hebron. It is very probable that Hebron, the great priestly city, is here signified.

Luke 1:41

Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost. The Holy Spirit—that Spirit of prophecy, so often mentioned in the Old Testament—seizes her, and she salutes her young kinswoman, Mary, as the mother of the coming Messiah.

Luke 1:42

And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women (see 5:24). The words which clothed the thoughts in these ecstatic expressions of intense joy and thankfulness on the part of the two favored women, Mary and Elisabeth, are in great measure drawn from hymn and song contained in the Old Testament Scriptures. The song of Hannah, the hymn of Deborah, many of the psalms, the songs of the Canticles, the more glorious of the prophetic utterances, had been ever familiar to both these true women of the people; and they could find no language so fitting as the words of these loved national songs to express the intense joy, the deep awe and gratitude of their hearts. Think what must have been the feeling of the two—the one finding herself the chosen out of all the thousands of Israel, after so many centuries of weary waiting, to be the mother of the Messiah; the other, long after any reasonable hope of any offspring at all had faded away, to be the mother of Messiah's chosen friend, his herald, and his preacher, the mighty forerunner of the King of whom the prophets had written!

Luke 1:43

And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? But the Holy Ghost (Luke 1:41) raised Elisabeth's thoughts yet higher. Not only did she bless the mother of the coming Messiah, but the Spirit opened her eyes to see who that coming Messiah really was. Very vague indeed was the conception of the coming Messiah in Israel. The truth was, perhaps, revealed, and in rapt moments received by men like Isaiah and Ezekiel; and now and again men like David; Daniel wrote down visions and revelations respecting the Coming One, the true purport of which vision they scarcely grasped. Generally the Messianic idea among the people pictured a hero greater than Saul, a conqueror more successful than David, a sovereign more magnificent than Solomon. They pictured ever the glorious arm sustaining the coming Hero-King; but few, if any, dreamed of the "glorious arm" belonging to their future Deliverer. But here the Spirit in a moment revealed to the happy wife of the priest Zacharias that the Babe to be born of her young kinswoman was not only the promised Messiah, but was the awful Son of the Highest! Think, reader, what these simple words we are considering signify! Why am I so favored "that the mother of my Lord should come to me"? "The contrast leaves no room for doubt," well argues Dean Plumptre, "that she used the word 'Lord' in its highest sense. 'Great' as her own son was to be (verse 15) in the sight of the Lord, here was the mother of One yet greater, even of the Lord himself."

Luke 1:46-56

The hymn of Mary, commonly called the Magnificat.

Luke 1:46

And Mary said. There is a great contrast between the behavior of the two women when they met in Elisabeth's house. The elder was full of a new strange ecstatic joy. "She was filled with the Holy Ghost" (Luke 1:42), and spoke her words of lofty congratulation with "a loud voice" (Luke 1:42). Mary, on the other hand, was not conscious evidently, on this occasion, of any special presence of the Holy Spirit. Since the hour of the annunciation and her own meek faithful acceptance of the Lord's purpose, she had been dwelling, so to speak, under the immediate influence of the Spirit of the Lord. Her cousin's inspiration seems to have been momentary and transitory, while hers, during that strange blessed season which immediately preceded the Incarnation, was enduring. Hence the quiet introduction to her hymn, "And Mary said." It is, of course, possible that she had committed the beautiful thoughts to writing; but perhaps, in giving them to Luke or Paul, she needed no parchment scroll, but softly repeated to the chronicler of the Divine story the old song in which she had first told her deep imaginings to Elisabeth, and afterwards often had murmur the same bright words of joy and faith over the holy Babe as he lay in his cradle at Bethlehem, in Egypt, or in Nazareth. The "Virgin's Hymn" for nearly fourteen centuries has been used in the public liturgies of Christendom. We find it first in the ethics of Lauds in the Rule of St. Caesarius of Aries.

Luke 1:46-48

My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. This is the first of the four divisions of the Magnificat. In it she speaks of herself, and her deep feelings of adoration and of holy joy, and of intense glad surprise. It is a prayer, but the highest kind of prayer, for it asks for nothing—it simply breathes adoration and thankfulness. We may imagine the angels praying thus. They have all that created beings, however exalted, can desire in the beatific vision which they perpetually enjoy; and yet they pray continually, but only after this manner. The joy of her spirit, notice, is based on the fact of the revelation that he, God, was, too, her Savior; and, of course, not hers only: her great joy was in the thought of the salvation of the suffering, sinning world around her. Then she passes into simple wonderment that she should have been chosen as the instrument of the boundless goodness of God. She had nothing to recommend her only her low estate. Though royally descended, she only occupied a position among the humblest Hebrew maidens, and yet, owing to God's favor, she will be deemed blessed by countless unborn generations.

Luke 1:49, Luke 1:50

For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his Name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. In this strophe, the second division of the hymn of praise, she glorifies three of the principal Divine attributes—God's power, his holiness, and his mercy. His power or might, alluding to the words of the angel (verse 85), "The power of the Highest shall overshadow thee." Surely in all the records of the Lord's works since the world's creation, his might had been never shown as it was now about to be manifest in her. His holiness had been displayed to her in the way in which the mighty acts of ineffable love had been carried out. His mercy: this attribute of God came home with intense power to the heart of the Jewish girl, into which God's protecting Spirit was shining with so clear a light. She saw something of the great redemption mystery which was then in so strange a way developing itself.

Luke 1:51-53

He hath showed strength with his arm; he hath soattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. From adoration, Mary's hymn proceeds to celebrate the mighty results effected by the Divine pity. As so often in thee prophetic strains, the speaker or writer speaks or writes as though the future had become the past; so Mary here describes the Messianic reversal of man's conception of what is great and little, as though the unborn Babe had already lived and done his strange mighty work in the world. The "glorious arm" which, in old days, had wrought such mighty things for Israel, she recognized as belonging to the coming Deliverer (Luke 1:51). His chosen instruments would be those of whom the world thought little, like herself. The proud and mighty would be put down; the men of low degree, and poor and humble, would be exalted. The hungry would be filled; and they who were rich only in this world's goods would have no share in the new kingdom—they would be sent empty away. How strangely had the virgin of Nazareth caught the thought, almost the very words, of the famous sermon her Divine Son, some thirty years later, preached on the mountain-side near Gennesaret!

Luke 1:54, Luke 1:55

He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; as he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. Her hymn dies down into a strain of gratitude for the eternal faithfulness to the cause of the chosen people. Had not God in very truth remembered his ancient promise? From one of their daughters, still speaking of the future as of the past, Messiah had been born—a greater Deliverer, too, than the most sanguine Hebrew patriot had ever dreamed of.

Luke 1:57-80

John, afterwards called the Baptist, the son of Zacharias and Elisabeth, is born. The Benedictus.

Luke 1:58

How the Lord had showed great mercy upon her. No doubt the vision of Zacharias in the temple, and his subsequent dumbness, had excited no little inquiry. That the reproach of Elisabeth should be taken away, no doubt few really believed. The birth of her son, however, set a seal upon the reality of the priest's vision. The rejoicings of her family were due to more than the birth of her boy. The story of the angel's message, coupled with the unnsual birth, set men thinking and asking what then would be the destiny of this child. Could it be that he was the promised Messiah?

Luke 1:59

On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. This was always, among the Hebrew people, a solemn day of rejoicing; it resembled in some particulars our baptismal gatherings. Relatives were invited to be present, as witnesses that the child had been formally incorporated into the covenant. It was, too, the time when the name which the newly born was to bear through life was given him.

Luke 1:60

Not so; but he shall be called John. It is clear (from verse 62) that the old priest was afflicted with deafness as well as with dumbness. At the naming ceremony, the stricken Zacharias, who was patiently awaiting the hour when his God should restore to him his lost powers, made no effort to express his will. He had already in the past months, no doubt, written down for Elisabeth the name of the boy that was to be born. She interrupts the ceremony with her wishes. The guests are surprised, and make signs to the father. He at once writes on his tablets, "His name is John." The name had been already given. The word "John" signifies "the grace of Jehovah."

Luke 1:63

A writing-table; better, a writing-tablet. The tablets in use generally at the time were usually made of wood, covered with a thin coating of wax; on the soft layer of wax the words were written with an iron stylus.

Luke 1:64

And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God. This, the first hour of his recovered power, was without doubt the occasion of his giving utterance to the inspired hymn (the Benedictus) which is recorded at length a few verses further on (Luke 1:68-79). It. was the outcome, no doubt, of his silent communing with the Spirit during the long months of his affliction.

Luke 1:65

And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea. The inspired utterance of the old priest, so long dumb, in his beautiful hymn of praise, completed as it were the strange cycle of strange events which had happened in the priestly family.

Luke 1:66

And the hand of the Lord was with him. This kind of pause in the history is one of the peculiarities of St. Luke's style. We meet with it several times in the gospel story and in the history of the Acts. They are vivid pictures in a few words of what happened to an individual, to a family, or to a cause, during often a long. course of years. Here the story of the childhood of the great pioneer of Christ is briefly sketched out; in it all, and through it all, there was one guiding hand—the Lord's. The expression, "hand of the Lord," was peculiarly a Hebrew thought—one of the vivid anthropomorphic idioms which, as has been aptly remarked, they could use more boldly than other nations, because they had clearer thoughts of God as not made after the similitude of men (Deuteronomy 4:12). Maimonides, the great Jewish writer of the twelfth century, in his 'Yad Hachazakah,' says, "And there was under his feet (Exodus 24:10); written with the finger of God (Exodus 31:18); the hand of the Lord (Exodus 9:3); the eyes of the Lord (Deuteronomy 11:12); the ears of the Lord (Numbers 11:18). All these are used with reference to the intellectual capacity of the sons of men, who can comprehend only corporeal beings; so that the Law spoke in the language of the sons of men, and all these are expressions merely, just as, If I whet my glittering sword (Deuteronomy 32:41); for has he, then, a sword? or does he slay with a sword? Certainly not: this is only a figure; and thus all are figures" ('Yad,' Acts 1:8).

Luke 1:67

His father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying. The inspired hymn which follows—thought out, no doubt, with the Holy Spirit's help in the course of the long enforced seclusion which his first want of faith had brought upon him—holds a prominent place in all Western liturgics. Like the Magnificat, it is believed to have been first introduced into the public worship of the Church about the middle of the sixth century by St. Csesarius of Aries. It may be briefly summarized as a thanksgiving for the arrival of the times of Messiah.

Luke 1:68, Luke 1:69

He hath visited and redeemed,… and hath raised up. The tenses of the verbs used in these expressions show that in Zacharias's mind, when he uttered the words of his hymn, the Incarnation, and the glorious deliverance commenced in that stupendous act of mercy, belonged to the past. He hath visited; that is, after some four hundred years of silence and absence, the Holy One of Israel had again come to his people. About four centuries had passed since the voice of Malachi, the last of the prophets, had been heard. An horn of salvation. A metaphor not unknown in classical writings (see Ovid, 'Art. Am.,' 1.239; Her., 'Od.,' 3. 21. 18), and a much-used figure in Hebrew literature (see, among other passages, Ezekiel 29:2; Lamentations 2:3; Psalms 132:17; 1 Samuel 2:10). The reference is not to the horns of the altar, on which criminals seeking sanctuary used to lay hold; nor to the horns with which warriors used to adorn their helmets; but to the horns of a bull—in which the chief power of this animal resides. This was a figure especially familiar among an agricultural folk like the Israelites. "A rabbinic writer says that there are ten horns—those of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the horn of the Law, of the priesthood, of the temple, and of Israel, and some add of the Messiah. They were all placed on the heads of the Israelites till they sinned, and then they were cut off' and given to the Gentiles" (Schottgen, 'Hor. Hebr.,' quoted by Dr. Farrar). In the house of his servant David. Clearly Zacharias looked on Mary, as the angel had done (verse 32), as belonging to the royal house of David.

Luke 1:70

By the mouth of his holy prophets. Zacharias looked on all that was then happening as clearly foretold in those sacred prophetic writings preserved in the nation with so much care and reverence. Which have been since the world began. He considered Messianic prophecy as dating from the first intimation after the fall in Eden (Genesis 3:15), and continuing in an intermittent but yet unbroken line from Genesis to Malachi.

Luke 1:71

That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us. When Zacharias spoke these words, his mind, no doubt, was on Rome and its creatures, Herod and his party, whom Rome had set up. The deliverance of Israel, in every Hebrew heart, was the first and great work of the coming Deliverer; but the inspired words had a far broader reference than to Rome, and the enemies of Israelitic prosperity. The expression includes those spiritual evil agencies which war their ceaseless warfare against the soul of man. It was from these that the coming Deliverer would free his people. It was only after the fall of Jerusalem, and the total extinction of the national existence of the people, that, to use Dean Plumptre's language, "what was transitory in the hymn vanished, and the words gained the brighter permanent sense which they have had for centuries in the worship of the Church of Christ."

Luke 1:74, Luke 1:75

Might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. What Zacharias looked on to was a glorious theocracy based upon national holiness. Israel, freed from foreign oppression and internal dissensions, would serve God with a worship at once uninterrupted and undefiled.

Luke 1:76

And thou, child; literally, little child. Here the father breaks forth into an expression of gladness at the thought of the great part his baby-son was to bear in this great national deliverance. His son, too—oh, joy undreamed of!—is to be ranked among the glorious company of the prophets of the Highest.

Luke 1:77

To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins. Zacharias goes on to celebrate the splendid part his son was to play in the great Messianic drama, lie was to be Messiah's pioneer in order to give men the true information respecting the Deliverer's work. Israel was mistaken altogether in its conception of the salvation which they really-needed. Godet puts it with great force. "Why," he asks, "was the ministry of the Messiah preceded by that of another Divine messenger? Because the very notion of salvation was falsified in Israel, and had to be corrected before salvation could be realized. A carnal and malignant patriotism had taken possession of the people and their rulers, and the idea of a political deliverance had been substituted for that of a moral salvation. There was need, then, of another person, divinely authorized, to remind the people that perdition consisted not in subjection to the Romans, but in Divine condemnation; and that salvation, therefore, was not temporal emancipation, but forgiveness of sins."

Luke 1:78

Through the tender mercy of our God. And, goes on Zacharias in his noble hymn, all this tender care for Israel (but really for mankind, though perhaps the speaker of the hymn scarcely guessed it) is owing to the deep love of God. Whereby the Dayspring from on high hath visited us. The beautiful imagery here is derived from the magnificence of an Eastern sunrise. In his temple service at Jerusalem the priest must have seen the ruddy dawn rise grandly over the dark chain of the distant mountains, and lighting up with a blaze of golden glory the everlasting hills as they stood round about Jerusalem. The thought which pictured the advent of Messiah as a sunrise was a favorite one with the prophets. We see it in such prophecies of Isaiah and Malachi as, "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For behold … Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of the; rising" (Isaiah 60:1-3). "Unto you that fear my Name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings" (Malachi 4:2).

Luke 1:79

To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. It would seem that for a moment the Hebrew priest saw beyond the narrow horizon of Israel, and that here, in the close of his glorious song, he caught sight of the distant far-reaching isles of the Gentiles, over which so deep a darkness brooded for ages.

Luke 1:80

And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit. We have here another of St. Luke's solemn pauses in his narrative—one of those little passages in which, in a few words, he sets before us a picture clear and vivid of the events of long years. "The description," writes Dr. Farrar, "resembles that of the childhood of Samuel (1 Samuel 2:26) and of our Lord (Luke 2:40-52). Nothing, however, is said of 'favor with men.' In the case of the Baptist, as of others, 'the boy was father to the man;' and he probably showed from the first that rugged sternness which is wholly unlike the winning grace of the child Christ. 'The Baptist was no lamb of God. He was a wrestler with life, one to whom peace does not come easily, but only after a long struggle. His restlessness had driven him into the desert, where he had contended for years with thoughts he could not master, and from whence he uttered his startling alarms to the nation. He was among the dogs rather than among the lambs of the Shepherd' ('Ecce Homo')." And was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel. "The deserts" here alluded to were that desolate waste country south of Jericho and along the shores of the Dead Sea. We know nothing of the details of the life of the boy, the wonderful circumstances of whose birth are related so circumstantially in this opening chapter of St. Luke's Gospel. Mary, whose "memories," we believe, are recounted almost in her own words, was herself a witness of some of the circumstances narrated; from her friend and cousin Elisabeth she doubtless received the true history of the rest. But Zacharias and Elisabeth, we know, were aged persons when John was born. They probably lived only a short time after his birth. Hence his solitary desert life. Of it we know nothing. In those wild regions at that time dwelt many grave ascetics and hermit teachers, like the Pharisee Banus, the matter of Josephus. From some of these the orphan boy probably received his training. It is clear, from such passages as John 1:31-33 and John 3:2, that some direct communication from the Highest put an end to the ascetic desert life and study. Some theophany, perhaps, like the appearance of the burning bush which called Moses to his great post, summoned the pioneer of Christ to his dangerous and difficult work. But we possess no account of what took place on this occasion when God spoke to his servant John, the evangelist simply recording the fact, "The word of God came unto the son of Zacharias in the wilderness" (John 3:2).


Luke 1:1-4

Preface to the Gospel.


I. THE AUTHOR'S APOLOGY. How conspicuous in it are the elements of candor, simplicity, and earnestness! The first authorities as to the things related were "the eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word." He is careful to intimate that he is not one of them; not an apostle; not even one of the seventy, as some have supposed he was. The position which he assumes is simply this: Many had taken in hand to draw up "a narrative concerning those matters which had been fulfilled among them;" and he too felt constrained to place on record all the information which he possessed. And his claim to be heard is the painstaking which he has brought to the task, the desire to trace the course of the wonderful history with perfect accuracy. Can we fail to note the absence of all self-assertion? Pretentiousness of all kinds is abhorrent to the mind which is "of the truth." Especially when it contemplates the "holy glory" of Jesus, it is like the friend of the bridegroom, who rejoices greatly to hear, not his own, but the bridegroom's voice.

II. THE AUTHOR'S AIM. It is to give the sequence of events "accurately from the first." He had enjoyed exceptional advantages, on account of which he was able to relate the things connected with "the beginning" of the life of Christ. And his purpose is to unfold that life in the completeness and beauty of its development. Now, is not this the work of the Christian teacher still? Christianity is Christ. It is not a mere system of doctrines to be believed and of duties to be done; the root and strength of all doctrines and of all duties is the Person of Jesus. And the noblest function of the "minister of the Word" is to show the eternal life which was with the Father, and is manifested in the Son, who for us was incarnate.

III. THE DESIGNATION OF THE ONE WHOM THE AUTHOR ADDRESSES. "Most excellent Theophilus." Probably he had in view a man bearing this name—a man of high station or rank. The superlative employed is the same as that applied in the Book of the Acts to the Roman procurator, and once by Paul himself, when he replied, "I am not mad, most noble Felix." This Theophilus, therefore, may have been distinguished by position. "Not many mighty, not many noble, are called," but some mighty and noble are; and he may have been drawn through the teaching of St. Paul, and may have wished a full account of those things in which he had been catechized. But be this as it may, note the meaning of the name. "To thee, O lover of God, O soul, teachable, humble, desirous to find in Jesus the Way to the Father; to thee, O hungerer and thirster after righteousness, seeking with pure heart God's gift of the living water; to thee, O man, O woman, who knowest thyself to be the sinner who needs salvation, and wouldst see the Savior who receives sinners and eats with them; to thee, O Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile, this declaration of the gospel of the grace of God is sent! May he who opened the heart of Lydia open thine heart; and through the demonstration of the Spirit, making effectual the exposition of the message, mayest thou have that witness in thyself which is 'the certainty of those things wherein thou hast been instructed!"

Luke 1:5-23

Zacharias and his vision.

Notice some features in the sketch that is given of the priest and of that which happened at the altar of incense.

I. IT IS A PICTURE OF THE SOUL WAITING FOR GOD. That waiting which is emphasized in the Old Testament Scriptures as one of the essentials of piety. How beautifully are the words—"More than they that watch for the morning, my soul waiteth for the Lord;" "It is good that a man should beth hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord"—illustrated in the life and attitude of Zacharias and Elisabeth! Year on year they had waited in their hillside home, asking the blessing of a son. Apparently the hope had set in heavens that were only brass. But one thing was ever bright and real—their faith in the living God; and they walked in all his commandments and ordinances blameless. "Our wills are ours to make them thine." It is easier to consent to God's will when the demand is to act, than to consent when the demand is simply to wait, to direct our prayer to the Eternal, and look up. One of the lessons which we are slow to learn is, "Walk humbly with thy God."

II. THE PASSAGE BEFORE US REVEALS THE HEARER OF PRAYER. (Luke 1:13.) "Thy prayer is heard." Was this the prayer for the son? Or was it the priestly prayer, offered at the altar and through the incense, for the hope and salvation of Israel? Both, it may be, are included. For it is noteworthy that in the two scriptural instances of intense longing for a son—that of Hannah and that of Zacharias—the blessing to the individual is associated with blessing to the whole Church of God. The prayer of faith has interconnections with the purpose of God far beyond our power to estimate, and the doing is "exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." "Thy prayer is heard;" the answer often looks a great way back. Matthew Henry quaintly says, "Prayers are filed in heaven, and are not forgotten though the thing prayed for is not presently given us. The time as well as the thing is in the answer; and God's gift always transcends the measure of the promise."

III. Again, LET THE FORM OF THE ANSWER RETURNED SPEAK TO US OF THE REALITY OF THE SPIRITUAL WORLD. (Verse 19.) "The angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God: and I was sent to speak unto thee, and to bring thee these good tidings." The same presence as that we meet in the Book of Daniel. Gabriel is the angel for the greatly beloved, the angel with the glad tidings; he who afterwards bore the most wonderful of messages to the Hebrew maiden. Our ideas are very confused as to the holy angels. There can be no doubt that the tendency of thought in our day is to narrow the sphere of the supernatural. Formerly, it dominated over thought and action; the influence of spirits and occult spiritual forces was brought in to account for much that is re£erable to laws and powers in nature. Nowadays men are occupied in tracing "natural law in the spiritual world." But who can accept the truth of this first chapter of St. Luke's Gospel and doubt as to the reality of a spiritual universe encompassing the material? And if there be such a universe, why should it seem incredible that spiritual presences should, at sundry times, be declared to men—that Gabriels and Michaels should "at God's bidding speed and post o'er land and ocean without rest;" "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation"? The spiritual mind can have no difficulty as to this. It will recognize in the vision of Zacharias a truth for all. Where there is the praying heart there is "the angel on the right side of the altar of incense."

IV. Finally, THE PUNISHMENT RECORDED IS ONE OF MANY WARNINGS IN SCRIPTURE AGAINST THE UNBELIEF WHICH WOULD LIMIT THE HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL. "How can these things be?" "Whereby I shall know this?" are questions ever rising in the heart. The good priest had waited long. When expectation failed, he bowed his head to God's will. No doubt, one to another, he and his wife, now "well stricken in years," had often recalled the word to Abraham concerning Sarah's laughter, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" But when the trial actually comes, the faith falters. Cannot we understand this? We limp when we should walk and not be weary. "Thou shalt be silent … because thou believedst not." Is not the constant result of unbelief spiritual silence? And the closed heart is followed by the closed lips—"silent … and not able to speak." "Lord, increase our faith."

Luke 1:26-38

The announcement to the Virgin.

Gabriel, "the mighty one of God," or "the man of God," again sent with glad tidings. The work for the great-hearts, for the strongest and best, is the work of preaching the gospel of his grace. The Godsent preacher is he who, like Gabriel, "stands in the presence of God." "He that is now called a prophet was aforetime called a seer." But the true prophet is always a seer. "Sent to a virgin … and the virgin's name was Mary." It is significant that so little is said in Holy Scripture as to this one "blessed among women." Nothing is related as to her birth and parentage, as to her gifts of mind and person; it is not even directly asserted that she belonged to the royal stock of David—that is to be implied only from such a verse as the thirty-second. After the Lord, on the cross, solemnly gave her to the care of the beloved disciple, there is only one allusion to her—an allusion in Acts 1:1-26. There is no reference to her in the Epistles of Paul; none in that of James, certainly nearly related to her; none in those of John, with whom she had lived. St. Luke, speaking of her in connection with the birth, says only, "A virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph." "Blessed," cried a woman one day to Jesus, "is she that bare thee!" He did not deny it; but that there might be no distraction of soul, he added, "Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the Word of God, and keep it." This Mary, or Miriam, is blessed among women. The word of the Lord's angel we need not hesitate to utter', "Hail, thou that art highly favored!" But what is the real beauty of Mary? Is it not that she is in the foremost rank of those on whom the Lord's "yea rather, blessed" rested—that she is pre-eminently the hearer and keeper of the Word of God? The few touches of character which are presented suggest the picture of a rarely lovely nature.

"Faith through the veil of flesh can see

The face of thy Divinity,

My Lord, my God, my Savior."

"This is the doing of the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes."

Luke 1:39-56

The two expectant mothers.

I. THE RETIREMENT. Elisabeth (Luke 1:24) had hidden herself when she knew that the promise of the angel would be fulfilled. Why she did so we are not told, but the language of Luke 1:26 suggests a religious motive. She was filled with gratitude, and she desired, perhaps, a season of holy rest and communion with God. "In silence and solitude," says Thomas a Kempis, "the soul advantageth herself, and learneth the mysteries of Holy Scripture." The same reason may partly have influenced Mary. But, besides this, there is no doubt that she wished to enjoy fellowship with her who alone could share her feeling, and with whom (Luke 1:36) her own prospect of motherhood was so intimately associated. Who can speak of the welcome, the salutations, the conferences, of the two cousins?

"O days of heaven and nights of equal praise,

Serene and peaceful as these heavenly days,

When souls, drawn upward in communion sweet,

Enjoy the stillness of some close retreat,

Discourse, as if released and safe at home,

Of evils past and danger yet to come,

And spread the sacred treasure of the breast

Upon the lap of covenanted rest!"

II. THE SONG OF MARY. Elisabeth, receiving Mary, speaks by the Holy Ghost. Mary had been told of her cousin's condition, but Elisabeth had received no intimation of Mary's. The arrival of the latter is the moment of special revelation. Elisabeth (Luke 1:42) lifts up her voice with a loud cry. The sound of Mary's voice (Luke 1:44) had occasioned the prophetic impulse. She declares the Virgin the mother of her Lord, and in beautiful humility asks, "Whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" And, it may be, feeling the contrast between the faith of the Virgin and the unbelief of her husband, she pronounces a blessing on her who had believed. Then, in response from Mary, comes the song which the Christian Church has incorporated into its liturgies, which it has regarded as the opening of that fountain of praise, that wonderful hymnology, which has made glad the city of God. With regard to this hymn—"the Magnificat," as it is usually designated:

1. Compare it with the song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1-36). In both there is the same blending of personal gladness with the emotion and experience of the Church; the same losing of self in the sense of an unspeakable loving-kindness; the same boasting in the Lord as he who "fills the hungry with good things, and sends the rich empty away." Mary was familiar with this song. Her thought would naturally take shape in utterance charged with its spirit and imagery, even as it represents the purest forms of Hebrew piety. Yet who can fail to see that her utterance is lifted to a higher plane, and is thrilled by a higher inspiration?

2. The song of Mary marks the transition from Old Testament to New Testament praise. The Old Testament is present, not only in the language employed throughout, but also (Luke 1:54, Luke 1:55) in the earnest laying hold of the singular providence of God towards Israel, and the covenant made with Israel's fathers—"with Abraham and his seed for ever." But the germ of the New Testament is manifest in the special thanksgiving (Luke 1:48, Luke 1:49). God the Savior has appeared, and his might is to be declared in the Son because of whose birth all generations shall call her blessed. Thus the two covenants are united in all true Christian praise. The Old Testament is not a thing past; it is completed, and therefore more than ever one possession in Christ. "All the promises of God in him are yea."

"Both theirs and ours thou art,

As we and they are thine;

Kings, prophets, patriarchs, all have part

Along the sacred line."

3. Finally, the song of Mary illustrates Psalms 40:1-8 : whoso waits patiently for the Lord will, like Mary, know that he inclines to and hears the cry of the soul; and a new song will be given to the lips, even praise to our God. The new song of the redeemed soul has its prototype in that which arose, from the hillside dwelling in the uplands of Judah.

Luke 1:59-80

The name-giving, and what followed it.

There is a quiet, gentle beauty in the picture of the home life given in Luke 1:58. The touches of nature in it make us feel our kinship with all the ages. We are told of the flood of congratulations and kind messages which surges towards the happy mother; how the cousins of the priestly families in and around Hebron, and the neighbors scattered over that part of northern Judea, hastened to express their gladness to Zacharias and Elisabeth. The birth of a son of the old age is the talk of the whole country-side. Our attention is more particularly drawn to the ceremonial connected with the circumcision. Observe—

I. THE IMPORTANCE ATTACHED TO THE NAME IN THE BIBLE. Both in his word to Zacharias and his annunciation to the Virgin the angel is explicit as to the name. So, backwards in all the Hebrew records, the name is regarded as full of significance—e.g. Cain, Abel, Seth, Noah. Changes in character and destiny are marked by changes of name—e.g. Abram changed into Abraham; Jacob into Israel; Oshea into Jehoshua; Saul into Paul. The force of the names given to individuals should always be noticed—e.g. Isaac, Ishmael, Jehoshaphat. It is a sign of the deep religious feeling of the Hebrew nation that, in the name, there is so often a part of the ever-adorable name of God—e.g. Elijah, Elisha, Jehoshua. The name is the witness for personal responsibility and personal immortality, a reminder that each of us stands fully out, and alone, before God; that he deals with us separately. Moreover, as the Roman no less than the Hebrew understood, there is a capacity of acting on the imagination and, through the imagination, on the will, in the name. Note, with regard to the name, an interesting conjunction between Christian and Jewish habits. It was the Jewish custom to declare the name on the day of circumcision; it is a Christian custom to declare the name on the day of baptism. As the Hebrew word was the covenant name—that by which the child was to be recognized and individualized in midst of the covenant people—so, theoretically, the name which the parent bestows (not the surname) is that by which the child is individualized in the blood-bought Church of Christ.

II. THE DEPARTURE FROM "USE AND WONT" AT THE CIRCUMCISION OF ZACHARIAS'S BABE. A practice which had its root in a healthy instinct had come to be an accepted institution—the naming of the child after one of" the kindred." What should be the name of the babe? Surely that of the honored father. "Not so," interposes the mother, who had been instructed by her husband, now dumb and deaf; "he shall be called John." "John? No relative is called by this name! What shall the father decide?" Then, to the amazement of all, the writing on the slate, "His name is John." It was the angel name; it was the Divine name. Note: God the Father in heaven has his special name-giving (see Revelation 2:17). Blessed—oh, how blessed!—to have this name—the name written in the Lamb's book of life, in which there is recorded "all that goes on in the depths of the heart between the inmost self and God"!

III. HOW THE PRIEST BECOMES THE PROPHET. The word is no sooner written than the mouth which for months had been closed is opened, and the long pent-up tides of feeling burst forth. When God brings back the soul's captivity, the soul's lost capacities are found. The tongue is loosed which unbelief always ties—tongue and ear as well. "Mine ears hast thou opened; then said I, Lo, I come;" "When I speak with thee, I will open thy mouth;" "We believe, and therefore speak." It is a song of exalted praise, in some of its features resembling Mary's, which flows from the opened lips. See how, towards the end, borne along by the ever-rising inspirations of the Spirit, the song swells into a grand missionary hymn. The Dayspring from on high, that shall visit Israel, will pour a light into the darkness that enwraps the earth, giving light to all that sit in it and in the shadow of death, and guiding their feet into the way of peace. Thus the father prophesied that the child should go before the face of the Lord.

IV. WHAT IS SAID AS TO THE CHILD WHOSE BIRTH AND MISSION HAVE BEEN THUS CELEBRATED. Is not the question discussed in the hill-country (verse 66) one suggested by a birth, by looking at the tiny infant? How wonderful a birth is! What shall be the manner, type of mind, life-story, of the child? A being begun! A journey on and on for ever; but whither? O child!

"God fill thee with his heavenly light

To steer thy Christian course aright;

Make thee a tree of blessed root,

That ever bends with heavenly fruit."

"The child grew, and waxed strong in spirit." Blessed growth! High-spirited in the better sense of the word—the human guided by the Divine! The home far from the world, in the breezy uplands, where he could meditate in the Law of the Lord day and night, and realize the preparation for the work of the prophet of the Highest! Here we leave him for a little. For another Child has been born—he who is called "Wonderful, Counselor."


Luke 1:1-4

Certainties concerning Christ.

There are many things in connection with the gospel of Christ about which there is difference of view and some measure of uncertainty. But it is "those things which are most surely believed" that constitute the rock on which we rest, on which we build our hopes. We cannot live spiritually on uncertainties; they may serve the purpose of speculation or discussion, but they do not bring peace to the soul; they do not minister to life. We may thank God most heartily that there are some certainties concerning Jesus Christ, on which we can construct our life as it now is, and on which we can rely for that which is to come. There is no doubt at all respecting—

I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF OUR LORD'S CAREER. We have the testimony of "eyewitnesses," of men who could not have been mistaken, and who gave the very strongest assurances that they were not deceiving and misleading; we therefore know what were the scenes through which Jesus passed, what were the particulars of his life. We know:

1. His character—how pure, how perfect, it was.

2. His thoughts—how profound, how practical, how original, they were.

3. His works—how mighty and how beneficent they were.

4. His sufferings and sorrows—with what sublime patience they were endured.

5. His death—under what awful solemnities it was undergone.

6. The great and supreme fact of his resurrection. Of all these things we are thoroughly assured.

II. THE OFFER HE MAKES OF HIMSELF AS OUR DIVINE REDEEMER. It is perfectly clear that Jesus Christ regarded himself as One that was here on the highest mission, as One that was very far removed above ordinary manhood. He felt that he stood in a relation to the human race that was not only unusual, but unique. Otherwise he could not have spoken of "giving his flesh for the life of the world," of being "the Light of the world," of "drawing all men unto him;" he could not have invited all heavyladen souls to come to him that they might find rest in him. It is abundantly clear that Jesus Christ offered himself, and still offers himself:

1. As the Divine Teacher, at whose feet we may all sit and learn the living truth of God.

2. As the Divine Savior, in whom we may all trust for the forgiveness of our sins and our reconciliation to God.

3. As the Divine Friend, to whom we may trust our heart, and in whom we may find a Refuge.

4. As the Divine Lord, who claims the obedience and service of our lives.

III. THE SUFFICIENCY OF CHRIST FOR ALL THAT HE UNDERTAKES. Can he, of whom his critics spoke so slightingly as "the carpenter's Son," do all this? Is he equal to such offices as these? There is the experience of eighteen centuries to which this appeal may be made. And from the first to the last; from the experience of the little child and of the man in middle life and of extreme old age; from that of health and of sickness; from that of adversity and of prosperity; from that of ignorance and of culture; from that of human souls of every conceivable variety of constitution and of human lives of every,imaginable variety of condition;—the answer is one strong, unhesitating, enthusiastic "Yes!" Many things are disputable, but this is certain; many things are to be discredited, but these are to be "most surely believed;" and on them we do well to build our present heritage and our eternal hope.—C.

Luke 1:5, Luke 1:6

Life in its completeness.

A very beautiful picture, though on a very small canvas, is here painted; it is a picture of domestic piety. As we think of Zacharias and Elisabeth spending their long life together in the service of Jehovah, attached to one another and held in honor by all their kindred and friends, we feel that we have before our eyes a view of human life which has in it all the elements of an excellent completeness.

I. THE DOMESTIC BOND. Here we have conjugal relationship in its true form; established in mutual respect; justified and beautified by mutual affection; made permanently happy by common affinities and common aims; elevated and consecrated by the presence of another and still nobler bond—that of a strong and immovable attachment to God. A human life is quite incomplete without such tender ties of God's own binding, and these ties are immeasurably short of what they were meant to be if they are not enlarged and ennobled by the sanctities of religion.

II. HUMAN AND DIVINE ESTIMATION. These two godly souls enjoyed the favor of their Divine Father and of their human friends and neighbors: "They were both righteous before God," and they were "blameless" in the sight of men. God accepted them, and man approved them. He to whom they were responsible for all they were and did saw in them, as he sees in all his children, the imperfections which belong to our erring and struggling humanity; but he accepted their reverence and their endeavor to please and to obey him, forgiving their shortcomings. And their kindred and their friends recognized in them those who were regulating their life by God's holy will, and they yielded to them their fullest measure of esteem. No human life is complete without the possession of these two things:

To walk in the shadow of conscious estrangement from God, to miss the sweet sunshine of his heavenly favor,—this is to darken our life with a continual curse, this is to bereave ourselves of our purest joy and most desirable heritage. And while some of the very noblest of our race, following thus in the footsteps of the Master himself, have borne, in calm and heroic patience, the obloquy of the ignorant and the malice of the evil-minded, yet it is our duty, and it should be our desire and aspiration, so to walk in rectitude and in kindness that men will bless us in their hearts, will esteem us for our integrity, will hold us in their affection. The man who "wears the white flower of a blameless life" is the man who will be a power for good in the circles in which he moves.

III. SACRED SERVICE. It may be questionable whether any distinction is intended between "ordinances" and "commandments;" but there can be no question at all that both together cover religious observances and moral obligations. The Law which these two faithful souls obeyed enjoined the one as well as the other. And no human life is complete which does not include both these elements of piety.

1. The worship of God, in private prayer, in family devotion, in public exercises, is a serious and important part of a good man's experience.

2. And certainly not less so is the regulating of conduct by the revealed will of God; the walking, day by day, in uprightness and integrity, in sobriety and purity, in truth and in love. Beautifully complete, fashioned in spiritual symmetry, attractive and influential, is that human life which is spent in the home of hallowed love, which is bright with the favor of God and man, and which is crowned with the sovereign excellences of piety and virtue.—C.

Luke 1:13-17

Parental ambition.

"What would we give to our beloved?" asks one of our poets. What would we ask for our children if we might have our hearts' desire? When the young father or mother looks down on the little child, and then looks on to the future, what is the parental hope concerning him? What is that which, if it could only be assured, would give "joy and gladness"? The history of our race, the chronicles of our own time, even the observation of our own eyes, give abundant proof that the child may rise to the highest distinction, may wield great power, may secure large wealth, may enjoy many and varied pleasures, and yet be a source of sorrow and disappointment. On the other hand, these same authorities abundantly prove that if the parent is only true to his convictions and avails himself of the resources that are open to him, there is every reason to expect that his child will be such an one as to yield to him a pride that is not unholy, a joy that nothing can surpass. Not on the same scale, but alter the same manner, every man's child may become what Gabriel told Zacharias his son should be—

1. ONE TAKING HIGH RANK WITH GOD. "Great in the sight of the Lord." By faith in Jesus Christ our child may become a "son of God" in a sense not only true but high (see John 1:12). "And if children, then heirs, heirs of God" (Romans 8:17). Obedience will ensure the friendship of God (see John 14:23; John 15:14). Earnestness will make him a fellow-laborer with God (1 Corinthians 2:9; 2 Corinthians 6:1). The acceptance of all Christian privilege will make him a "king and priest unto God" (Revelation 1:6). Who can compute how much better it is to be thus "great in the sight of the Lord" than to be honored and even idolized by men?

II. ONE IN WHOM GOD HIMSELF DWELLS. "He shall be filled with the Holy Ghost." God desires to dwell with and in every one of his human children; and if there be purity of heart and prayerfulness of spirit, he will dwell in them continually (Luke 11:13; John 14:17; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Revelation 3:20).

III. ONE THAT IS MASTER OF HIMSELF. "He shall drink neither wine," etc. By right example and wise discipline any man's child may be trained to control his own appetites, to regulate his tastes, to form temperate and pure habits, to wield the worthiest of all scepters—mastery of himself.

IV. ONE IN WHOM THE BEST AND NOBLEST LIVES AGAIN. "He shall go in the spirit and power of Elijah." In John the Baptist there lived again the great Prophet Elijah—a man of self-denying habit; of dauntless courage, that feared the face of no man, and that rebuked kings without flinching; of strong and scathing utterance; of devoted and heroic life. In any one of our children there may live again that One who "in all things in which John was great and noble, was greater and nobler than he." In the little child who is trained in the truth and led into the love of Christ there may dwell the mind and spirit of the Son of God himself (Romans 8:9; Philippians 2:5).

V. ONE THAT LIVES A LIFE OF HOLY USEFULNESS. What nobler ambition can we cherish for our children than that, in their sphere, they should do as John did in his—spend their life in the service of their kind? Like him, they may:

1. Make many a home holier and happier than it would have been.

2. Prepare the way for others to follow with their higher wisdom and larger influence.

3. Be instrumental in turning disobedient hearts from the way of folly to the path of wisdom.

4. Earn the benediction of" many" whom they have blessed (verse 14).

To ensure all this, there must be:

1. Parental example in righteousness and wisdom.

2. Parental training as well as teaching.

3. Parental intercession.—C.

Luke 1:31-33

The greatness of Jesus Christ.

To Mary, as to Elisabeth, it was foretold by the celestial messenger that her Son should be "great." There can be no doubt that, after all that was then said, Mary expected unusually great things of the Child that should be born of her. But how very far short of the fact her highest hopes have proved to be! For to whatever exalted point they reached, the Jewish maiden could not possibly have attached to the angel's words such meaning as we know them to have contained. The greatness of that promised Child was threefold; it related

I. HIS DIVINE ORIGIN. He was not only to be her offspring, but he should "be called the Son of the Most High." And there was to come upon her and overshadow her the Holy Ghost, the Power of the Most High. He was to be not only a son of God, but the Son of God, related to the Eternal Father as no other of the children of men had ever been or should ever be. He was to be One that would in the fullest sense partake of the Divine nature, be one in thought and in aim and in action with the Father (John 5:19, John 5:23; John 8:28; John 10:30; John 14:10, John 14:11). He was to be "God manifest in the flesh."

II. THE WORK HE SHOULD ACCOMPLISH. "Thou shalt call his name Jesus;" and he was to be so called because he would "save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:25). There have been "saviors of society" from whom this poor wounded world might well have prayed to be delivered, men who tried to cover their own hideous selfishness under a fair and striking name. What they have claimed to be, Jesus the Savior was and is. He saves from sin. And to do that is to render us the very greatest conceivable service, both in its negative and positive aspects.

1. Negatively considered. To destroy sin is to take away evil by the root. For sin is not only, in itself, the worst and most shameful of all evils by which we can be afflicted, but it is the one fruitful source of all other evils—poverty, estrangement, strife, weariness and aching of heart, death.

2. Positively considered. Saving from sin means restoring to God; it includes reinstatement in the condition from which sin removed us. Jesus Christ, in the very act in which he redeems us from the penalty and power of sin, restores us to God—to his Divine favor, his likeness, his service. Accepting and abiding in the Savior, we dwell in the sunshine of God's everlasting friendship; we grow up into his perfect image; we spend our days and our powers under his direction. It is not only that Jesus Christ delivers us from the darkest curse; it is that he raises us to the loftiest heritage, by the salvation which he offers to our hearts.

III. THE DIGNITY AND POWER HE SHOULD ATTAIN. He was to reign upon a throne, "over the house of Jacob for ever;" and "of his kingdom there should be no end." Great and large as Mary's expectations for her promised Child may have very justly been, they can have been nothing to the fulfillment of the angel's words. For the kingdom of Christ. (as it is or as it shall be) is one that surpasses in every way that of the greatest Hebrew sovereign. It does so:

1. In its main characteristics. It is spiritual. The only homage which is acceptable to its King is the homage of the heart, the only tribute the tribute of affection, the only obedience the obedience of love. It is beneficent. Every subject in this realm is sacredly bound to seek his brother's wellbeing rather than his own. It is righteous. Every citizen, because he is such, is pledged to depart from all iniquity, to pursue and practice all righteousness.

2. In its extent. It has "no end" in its spacial dimensions. No river bounds it; no mountain, no sea; it reaches the whole world round.

3. In its duration. He shall reign "for ever;" his rule will go down to remotest times; it will touch and include the last generation that shall dwell upon the earth. Let us rejoice in his greatness; but let us see to it that

Luke 1:46-48

The voice of praise.

This "improvisation of a happy faith" is not more musical to the ear than it is beautiful to our spiritual discernment. It presents to us the mother of our Lord in a most pleasing light. We will look at these words of devout gratitude as—

I. MARY'S RESPONSE to God's distinguishing goodness to her. She received from God a kindness that was:

1. Necessarily unique. Only to one of the daughters of men could be granted the peculiar honor conferred on her. We are naturally and properly affected by mercies which speak of God's distinguishing goodness to us.

2. Fitted to fill her heart with abounding joy. She was to become a mother, and the mother of One who should render to his people services of surpassing value; no wonder that her "spirit rejoiced" in such a prospect.

3. Calculated to call forth all that was highest and worthiest in her nature. She would have to cherish and to rear, to teach and to train, that illustrious Son who should call her "mother."

4. Certain to confer, upon her, an honorable immortality. All generations would call her blessed.

5. Rendered to one who could not have expected it. God had stooped low to bless, even to the low estate of "his bondmaiden." And, impressed with this wonderful and unanticipated goodness, she poured forth her gladness in a song of holy gratitude, of lofty praise. Such should be—

II. OUR APPRECIATION of God's abounding kindness to ourselves.

1. The indebtedness under which our heavenly Father has laid us. It is, indeed, as different as possible from that which inspired this sacred lyric. Yet may we most reverently and most becomingly take the words of Mary into our lips—both the utterance of felt obligation and the language of praise. For:

2. The response we should make to our Father.

Luke 1:49-55

God revealed in Jesus Christ.

We see much more in Mary's words than the thoughts which were present to her mind at the time of utterance; for we stand well within that kingdom of God of which she stood on the threshold. To the holy confidence she entertained in God's goodness to all Israel, and especially to herself up to that hour, there was added a reverent wonder as to this new manifestation of Divine mercy. So she sang of the power and the holiness, the mercy and the faithfulness, of Jehovah. Through bitterest experiences (Luke 2:35) she passed into the light of truth and the rest of God, and now she sees how much greater occasion she had than she knew at the moment to sing in such strains of the character of God. We look at these Divine attributes as expressed in the coming of the Savior.

I. HIS DIVINE POWER. "He that is mighty hath done … great things" (Luke 1:49); "He hath showed strength with his arm" (Luke 1:51). God's power is very gloriously manifested in the formation and furniture of this earthly home, in the creation of successive generations of mankind, in the providential government of the world, including the mastery of all physical forces and the control of all human energies; but by far the most wonderful exhibition of Divine power is in the redemption of the world by Jesus Christ. To exert a transforming power on one intelligent, free, disloyal spirit; to conquer a rebellious, to win an estranged, soul; to raise a fallen nature, and uplift it to a height of holy excellence; to make that which had lowered itself to the basest fit for the society of the holiest in heaven; to do this not in one individual case but in the case of "ten thousand times ten thousand;" to introduce a power which can elevate an,t ennoble families, communities, nations; which is changing the character and condition of the entire race;—this is "the power of God," this is the doing of him "that is mighty."

II. HIS DIVINE HOLINESS. "Holy is his Name" (Luke 1:49); "He hath scattered the proud," etc. (Luke 1:51, Luke 1:52). God's holiness is shown in his providential interpositions, in his humbling the haughty, in his scattering the cruel and the profane, in his raising the lowly and the pure and the true. Thus he has been revealing his righteousness in every nation and in every age. But nowhere does his holiness appear as it is seen in

III. HIS DIVINE MERCY. (Luke 1:50.) Many are the testimonies borne by Old Testament saints to the pity, the patience, the mercy, of the Lord. But in Jesus Christ—in his spirit, in his example, and more particularly in his redeeming death and work—is the manifestation of the grace of God. "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." In the gospel of Christ the pity, the patience, the magnanimity, of God rise to their fullest height, reach to their noblest breadth.

IV. HIS DIVINE FAITHFULNESS. (Luke 1:53-55.) God, who made us for himself and for truth and righteousness, who has made our hearts to hunger for the highest good, does not leave us to pine and perish; he fills us with the "rich provision" of his truth and grace in Jesus Christ. "As he spake unto our fathers," so he has done, granting not only such a One as they hoped for, but One that has been to the whole race of man a glorious Redeemer, in whom all nations are blessed with a blessing immeasurably transcending the most sanguine hopes of his ancient people.

1. Let our souls be so filled with the greatness and the goodness of God as thus revealed, that we shall break forth into grateful song, magnifying his Name.

2. Let us return at once to him, if we yet remain at a distance from him; for we have no right to hope, and no reason to expect, that he will ever manifest himself to us in more attractive features than as we see him in the Son that was born of the lowly Virgin.—C.

Luke 1:58, Luke 1:66, Luke 1:67

Joy and awe at a human birth.

When John was born his mother's heart was filled with great joy, and her neighbors rejoiced with her. And when the little child, a week old, was introduced into the Jewish commonwealth, a feeling of awe filled the hearts of those present, and there was much wonderment concerning him. "Fear came on them all," and every one was asking, "What manner of child shall this be?" No doubt the exceptional character of the circumstances attending his birth and his circumcision accounted for the joy and also for the fear; but apart from all that was unusual, there was reason enough ibr both sentiments to be felt and shown. At any ordinary human birth there is—

I. OCCASION FOR HOPEFULNESS AND GLADNESS OF HEART. "The mother remembereth no more her anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world," said our Lord (John 16:21). And why rejoice on this occasion? Because of:

1. The love which the little child will cherish. Not, indeed, to be manifested in its very earliest days, but to be felt and shown before long—the beautiful, clinging, whole-hearted love of childhood; a love which it is fair to see and most precious to receive.

2. The love which the little child will call forth—the love which is parental, fraternal; the love of those who serve as well as that of kindred and friends,—this, too, is one of the most goodly sights on which the eye of purity and wisdom rests; it is one of the sweetest and most wholesome ingredients in the cup of earthly good.

3. The discipline which the coming of the child will involve. All parents have an invaluable privilege, from which they ought to derive the greatest benefit. They may be so slow to learn, so unimpressionable, so obdurate, that they are none the wiser or better for their parentage; and in that case they will be something or even much the worse. But if the "little child" does not "lead" us, it is our own fault and folly. The child's dependency on his parent, trustfulness in his parent, obedience to his parent,—do these not speak eloquently of our dependence upon, our trustfulness in, our obedience to our heavenly Father? The love we feel for our little child, the care we take of him, the profound regret we should feel if he went astray, the sacrifice we are ready to make for his recovery,—does not all this summon us, with touching and even thrilling voice, to realize the love God has for us his human children, the care he has taken of us day and night through all our years, the profound Divine regret with which he has seen us go astray from himself, the wonderful sacrifice he made for us when he spared not his own Son but delivered him up for us all, in order to restore us to himself and reinstate us in our heritage? And the labor we are necessitated to bestow, the patience to exercise, and the self-denial and sacrifice to show,—these are essential factors in the forming of our character. We should not choose them, but we may well be most thankful for them.

4. The excellency to which he may attain; it may be that

Who can tell what lies latent in that helpless infant? what sources of power and blessing are in that little cradle?

II. OCCASION FOR REVERENT AWE. It may well be that "fear" comes on all those who hold their own children in their arms. For they who are entrusted with a little child receive therewith a most grave responsibility. It is true that nothing can remove the accountableness of each soul to its Creator for what it has become; but it is also true that parents are very seriously responsible for the character and career of their children. Our children will believe what we teach them, will form the habits in which we train them, will follow the example we set them, will imbibe the spirit which we are breathing in their presence. What shall this child be? That depends on ourselves. If we are only true and wise and kind, our children will almost certainly become what we ourselves are—what we long and pray that they may be. Joy and awe are therefore the two appropriate sentiments at every human birth. When a child is born into the home, there enters that which may be the source of the greatest gladness to the heart; there also enters that which should make life a far more serious and solemn thing.—C.

Luke 1:74, Luke 1:75

The course of the Christian life.

These words of Zacharias will very well indicate the course through which a Christian life passes from its commencement to its close.

I. IT BEGINS IN SPIRITUAL EMANCIPATION. "We being delivered out of the hand of our enemies." In order to "walk in newness of life," we must be rescued from the thraldom of sin. And there is a twofold deliverance that we need. One is from the condemnation of our guilt; for we cannot rest and rejoice in the love of God while we are under a troubled sense of the Divine displeasure, while we feel and know that our "sin has separated between" ourselves and our heavenly Father. The other is from the bondage of evil. So long as we are "held in the cords of our sins," we are helplessly disobedient; it is only when we have learnt to hate sin, and, loathing it, to leave it behind us, that we are free to walk in the path of righteousness. This double emancipation is wrought for us by the Lord whose way the son of Zacharias was to prepare. By faith in him, the great Propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2), we have full and free forgiveness, so that all the guilty past may be removed from our sight; and in the presence of a crucified Redeemer "the flesh and its affections are crucified," we die to our old self and our old iniquities, the tolerance of sin is slain, we hate that which we loved and embraced before, we are "delivered out of the hand of our enemies."

II. IT PROCEEDS ALONG THE PATH OF FILIAL SERVICE. We "serve him without fear." Here are two elements—obedience and happiness. As soon as we unite ourselves to our Lord and Savior, we live to serve. "None of us liveth to himself;" "We thus judge,… that we who live should not live unto ourselves, but unto him who died for us" (2 Corinthians 5:14, 2 Corinthians 5:15). And this is the only true life of man. The animal may live for itself, though even the higher animals live rather for others than for themselves. But all whom we should care to emulate live to serve. It is not the sentence passed, it is the heritage conferred upon us, that in Christ Jesus we live to serve God—to serve him by direct worship and obedience, and also, indirectly, by serving the children of his love and the creatures of his care. And we serve in love; and therefore without fear—without that fear which means bondage; for "perfect love casteth out fear." It is with no hesitating and reluctant step that we walk in the ways of God; it is our joy to do his bidding; we "delight to do his will: yea, his Law is within our heart" (Psalms 40:8). "We have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear;" our spirit is the spirit of happy childhood, which runs to fulfill its Father's word.

III. IT MOVES TOWARDS PERFECT EXCELLENCE OF CHARACTER. "In holiness and righteousness before him." Here are three elements of the Christian life.

1. A holy hatred of evil; leading us to condemn it in ourselves and in others, and prompting us to expel and extirp