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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Elisabeth

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ELISABETH.—The NT notice of Elisabeth is confined to the Third Gospel, and its brief record concerning her may well be due to St. Luke’s acquaintance with Mary the mother of our Lord. It is interesting to know that she was a kinswoman (συγγενίς, Luke 1:36) of Mary, though it is unfortunately impossible to verify the exact relationship that existed between them. Elisabeth is described, with her husband Zacharias (wh. see), as a faithful adherent of the OT type of religion—strict and regular in observance of the Law (Luke 1:6). She enjoyed the double distinction, according to Jewish thought, of being both a priest’s daughter and a priest’s wife (Luke 1:5). The joy of such a twofold honour was, however, diminished by the fact that she was barren (Luke 1:7), to an Oriental woman little less than a calamity. But a single event in the Gospel narrative at once dispelled her sorrow and entitled her to a place of honour not among Jewish women alone, but in the eyes of the whole world. In her old age (Luke 1:38) she became the mother of John the Baptist.

Between the promise and the birth of this child she was visited by Mary (Luke 1:39), who remained with her for a period of three months (Luke 1:56), and to whom she was made a proof of the Almighty’s power (Luke 1:36-38). On Mary’s appearance she received a special inspiration of the Holy Spirit, which even enabled her to recognize in her kinswoman the mother of her ‘Lord’ (Luke 1:41 ff.), and in Mary’s Child a fulfilment of the promise of Jehovah Himself (Luke 1:45). Herein she unconsciously illustrated the meaning of her own name, which in its Hebrew form signifies ‘God is an oath.’

On the theory (upheld by Burkitt, Harnack, et al.) that the Magnificat ought to be attributed to Elisabeth and not to Mary, see artt. Birth of Christ, p. 203b note, and Magnificat.

H. Bisseker.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Elisabeth'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/e/elisabeth.html. 1906-1918.

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