Luke 1

In this chapter: Dedication to Theophilus. Birth of John the Baptist foretold. Birth of Jesus foretold. Mary visits Elizabeth. Mary’s song: the Magnificat. The birth of John the Baptist. Zechariah prophesies.

As I will say in every chapter:

This commentary and entire website is for everyone, but it is mainly for those in oppressed or developing countries, where Christians cannot afford or have access to wonderful Study Bibles or commentaries.

The commentary has a practical application (GrowApp) at the end of each section of Scripture, for discipleship.

The translation is mine. I offer it only to learn what the Greek really says. If you would like to see other translations, please go to biblegateway.com.

The Greek terms with brief definitions can be looked up at biblehub.com. However, I hope to bring different nuances to the few words I focus on. And I keep things nontechnical.

Links are provided for further study.

Let’s begin.

Introduction (Luke 1:1-4)

1 Since many have taken in hand to write up a narrative account of the events that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as the eyewitnesses from the beginning, becoming ministers of the message, have handed on to us, 3 I, who have investigated accurately everything from top to bottom, decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may learn the accuracy of the message you have been taught.

Comments:

1-4:

Many Bible scholars have noted the formal and intellectual tone and wording in these four verses from Dr. Luke. It is like the King James Version, formal and archaic, but noble and literary. It is one clause after another, without a period or full stop until the end. He clearly wants to send the signal—a shot over the bow—that he was careful and studious and impeccable in his investigation. He knew what he was about. “Much more so in antiquity than today, first sentences are the primary point-of-entry for literary productions. The first column of writing, even the first sentence, performed much the same purpose as the modern book jackets, table of contents, and the title page. In the Greco-Roman world, a ‘book’ available in the form of a rolled-up scroll, did not allow for informal browsing for the purpose of divining its approach, genre or subject matter. Hence, the opening sentence was crucial for putting those who either read it or heard it read on notice as to what could be expected in the work as a whole” (Green, p. 33).

In Acts 21:17 Paul and his team, including Luke, since he uses the pronoun “we,” arrived in Jerusalem. Luke with his writing kit followed Paul around, but he must have gone off on his own to investigate and interview the Messianic Jews in the capital and those living in Judea, who could supply him with information about Jesus’s ministry. Yes, Acts 11:19 says that some had been scattered from Jerusalem because of the persecution arising from Stephen’s death (Acts 7:54-8:3), but surely others remained in Jerusalem and Judea. He probably collected a few documents about the story of Jesus (which no longer exist, except what is incorporated into his Gospel). Luke may have met Mary, mother of John Mark, and heard that Mark wrote down some notes from Peter’s preaching, before both Peter and Mark were in Rome. Most importantly, he probably met Mary, mother of Jesus, in the area, if she had not passed away; she was a young maiden when Jesus was conceived, so she could very well have been alive. She may have recounted her story to him (Luke 1:36-28, 46-56; 2:1-52). No doubt elderly Zechariah and Elizabeth had died before Luke reached Jerusalem, so one of their unknown relatives or friends who lived in the hill country of Judea (Luke 1:39) may have told him, because Zechariah and Elizabeth handed on their story to the next generation, who passed it on to Luke. In any case, it seems Luke did his research in Jerusalem and the Judean hills and other places in greater first-century Israel.

All of this is my speculation, putting two and two together on how Luke’s investigation was accurate and thorough. These people handed down the traditions or stories and words of the “events that have been accomplished” in the middle of them. They wanted to get things right, in the days before smartphones that record everything.

Luke uses accurately or accuracy twice, for emphasis. “Accuracy” can also be translated as “certainty.” He researched data for his two volumes so that Theophilus could know Luke’s records of the events and words were certain and accurate.

11. Eyewitness Testimony in Luke’s Gospel

Here is the introduction written by Jewish historian Josephus (lived c. AD 37-100) to his work Against Apion:

‘In my history of our Antiquities, most excellent Epaphroditus, I have, I think, made sufficiently clear … the extreme antiquity of our Jewish race … Since, however, I observe that a considerable number of persons … discredit the statements in my history …, I consider it my duty to devote a brief treatise to all these points … to instruct all who desire to know the truth concerning the antiquity of our race. As witnesses to my statements I propose to call the writers who, in the estimation of the Greeks, are the most trustworthy authorities on antiquity as a whole’ (Jos. Ap. 1:1–4).

No, Luke did not copy Josephus. Instead, the excerpt shows that Josephus was following a long tradition for introducing a book, and Luke was also following the same long tradition.

Here is Josephus’ introduction to his second book Against Apion:

‘In the first volume of this work, my esteemed Epaphroditus, I demonstrated the antiquity of our race … I shall now proceed to refute the rest of the authors who have attacked us’ (Jos. Ap. 2:1f.).

The above brief introduction to Book Two looks a lot like the preface to the Book of Acts, the second volume to the Gospel of Luke. Once again Luke did not copy from Josephus (the chronology is off), but he is fitting in to a long-standing literary tradition.

Source: Marshall, p. 40.

1:

“since”: this word in Greek appears in similar form in official inscriptions that archeologists have uncovered, equivalent to our legal word “whereas,” which begins many of our decrees or proclamations or documents. However, “since” in this context is best.

“taken in hand”: these words come from one Greek verb epicheireō (pronounced eh-pea-khay-reh-oh), and the Greek word for hand is seen in the stem cheir-.

“accomplished”: it could be translated as fulfilled,” which is an important concept in Luke: 1:20, 57; 2:6, 21-22; 9:31; 21:22, 24; 24:44-47. The verb is in the passive voice, so we can call it the divine passive, which is an understated way of saying that God is the one acting behind the scenes, fulfilling and accomplishing the important moments in his Son’s life.

2:

“Eyewitnesses”: This word in Greek gives us our word autopsy.

There was more than one eyewitness. Luke 8:1-3 says women were eyewitnesses, and Jesus sent out the twelve in Luke 9:1-6. Luke 10:1-24 says there were seventy-two men who went out to spread the good news. Luke could have carefully interviewed them, possibly most of them.

“From the beginning”: this is a key idea for Luke in his two introductions (v. 2 and Acts 1:1, 21-22). Disciples who were the best and most reliable followed Jesus from the very beginning, when he began to teach and do his ministry. Incidentally, this explains why Saul-Paul could never be the twelfth apostle, as some Bible teachers oddly claim with disappointment for him and with blame for Peter for “jumping the gun” when they cast lots for Matthias. Saul-Paul was never with Jesus from the beginning.

“ministers”: it comes from the Greek noun hupēretēs (pronounced hoo-pay-ray-tayss) and also means “assistant” or “helper.” It comes from the Greek prefix hupo– (under) and ēretēs (rower), so it properly means “under-rower.” Picture the three-tiered Greek triremes, and the rowers in the bottom tiers. These ministers were servants. The same is true for you. He is the pilot, you’re just a sailor. You may take the wheel to steer, but don’t be surprised if he has to take back the wheel after a few minutes.

“becoming ministers”: Eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word were one group. It is interesting that the eyewitnesses became ministers of the Word. As noted, this becoming happened in Luke 9:1-6 and 10:1-24, but mostly it happened throughout the Book of Acts. They were propelled to speak the Word by the power and infilling of the Spirit. None of them had formal training, but they had spent time with Jesus (Acts 4:13).

“handed on”: this is the standard verb for passing on true stories about Jesus. It was very important for the earliest Christians to get things right. Don’t believe the online, sneering skeptics that say the four Gospels are unreliable.

See the Conclusion to my long series on the reliability of the Gospels:

15. The Historical Reliability of the Gospels: Conclusion (it has a quick summary of the previous parts and links to them)

We have two levels or stages: (1) those who lived the events in Jesus’ life, and (2) then the eyewitnesses who formed the traditions or teachings about Jesus’s life and ministry. Luke fits in the second group, but he is still very close to the first stage, in his research.

From that post you can click back on the other posts in the series.

“message”: it is the Greek noun logos (pronounced loh-goss and is used 330 times in the NT). Since it is so important, let’s explore the noun more deeply, as I do in this entire commentary series.

The noun is rich and full of meaning. It always has built into it rationality and reason. It has spawned all sorts of English words that end in –log-, like theology or biology, or have the log– stem in them, like logic.

As I say throughout the commentary: Though certain Renewalists may not like to hear it, there is a rational side to the Word of God, and a moment’s thought proves it. The words you’re reading right now are placed in meaningful and logical and rational order. The Bible is also written in that way. If it weren’t, then it would be nonsense and confusing, and we couldn’t understand the gibberish. (Even your prophecies have to make logical and rational sense on some level!) Your Bible studies and Sunday morning sermons have to make sense, also. Luke’s Gospel has logic and rational argumentation built into it. People need to be ministered to in this way. God gave us minds and brains and expects us to use them. Your preaching cannot always be flashy and shrieky and so outlandishly entertaining that people are not fed in the long term. Movements like that don’t last over the years without the Word. I have observed this from firsthand experience in certain sectors of the Renewal Movement.

People have the deepest need to receive solid teaching. Never become so outlandishly supernatural and entertaining that you neglect the reasonable and rational side of preaching the gospel and teaching the Bible. Yes, Luke-Acts is very charismatic, but it is also very orderly and rational and logical.

On the other side of the word logos, people get so intellectual that they build up an exclusive Christian caste of intelligentsia that believe they alone can teach and understand the Word. Not true.

Bottom line: Just study Scripture with Bible helps and walk in the Spirit, as they did in Acts. Combining Word and Spirit is the balanced life.

3:

“I”: The Greek literally says, “it seemed (good) to me.” I like it when Luke steps out from behind the “fourth wall” (a stage term) and announces himself. He deserves lots of credit and gratitude for his Gospel and Acts.

No one has figured out who Theophilus was. I believe that he was a real person, but it is possible that his name could have been a code because of persecution that may have arisen anywhere around the empire. His name literally means “God lover” or “he who loves God” or “he whom God loves.” Or it may have been his real name, as written. It was not uncommon.

“Excellent” means he was part of a ruling family or class, whether in the highest level in Rome or locally somewhere in the provinces (more likely). He was wealthy enough to pay for the hand-copying of Luke-Acts on manuscript papers, by hand (no printing presses back then). It may have been copied several times and disseminated while he and Luke were alive (my speculation from the logic of history), but these original manuscripts did not survive.

Bock writes of Theophilus: “… his social station suggests that he is probably a Gentile, as does the amount of energy Luke spends in Acts defending the Gentile mission. The amount of Jewish material and interaction with devout pagans in Acts may also suggest a former God-fearer … Nevertheless, that the work is dedicated to Theophilus does not mean that Luke intended his work just for him. Other ancient writes dedicated their works to individuals, knowing full well that they were writing for a larger audience” (vol. 1, p. 64).

But you can decide whether he was a Jew, who had a Greek name, which often happened, or he was a Gentile.

4:

Whoever Theophilus was, he was instructed in the words or accounts or stories about God and Jesus’s ministry, and the spread of Christianity. Luke wanted to ensure that his patron—or reader –could trust the accuracy and certainty of what he had been taught. That’s why Luke did a careful investigation, with due diligence.

“learn”: it is the verb epiginōskō (pronounced eh-pea-gee-noh-skoh, and the “g” is hard as in “get,” and it is used 44 times in the NT). Here are the basic meanings, depending on the context: (1) “know exactly, completely”; “know again, recognize”; “acknowledge’; (2) “know, learn, find out, ascertain; notice; perceive, learn of; understand, know, learn to know.” The second set of definitions apply to Theophilus: “learn of, learn to know.”

Word Study: Knowledge

“message”: it could be translated as “accounts” or even “stories,” if we are generous. It is the standard Greek noun logos. See v. 2 for more information.

GrowApp for Luke 1:1-4:

A.. It is likely that Theophilus subsidized the spread of the gospel through Luke’s two books (Gospel and Acts). It was costly to hand-copy them. How and where and why do you donate money for the progress of the gospel at church or honest Christian organizations?

Zechariah and Elizabeth Are Childless (Luke 1:5-10)

5 It happened in the days of Herod, king of Judea. There was a certain priest named Zechariah, from the priestly division of Abijah, and his wife named Elizabeth was from the daughters of Aaron. 6 They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and decrees of the Lord, blamelessly. 7 They did not have a child because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in their years.

8 It happened when he was performing his priestly duties before God in the arrangement of his priestly division, 9 according to the custom of his priestly office; the lot fell to him to offer incense. He went into the sanctuary of the Lord. 10 And all the crowd of the people were praying outside, at the hour of the offering of incense.

Comments:

The Holy Spirit is active in Luke’s Gospel: in the first three chapters, the opening salvo to Jesus’s ministry: 1:15, 35, 41, 67; 2:25-27; 3:16, 22, 41.

From 1:5 to 2:52, here are the seven scenes:

(1). Announcement of John’s coming birth (1:5-25);

(2). Announcement of Jesus coming birth (1:26-38);

(3). Meeting of two mothers, Mary and Elizabeth and Mary’s Magnificat (1:39-56);

(4). Birth of John and Zechariah thanksgiving song to God (1:57-80);

(5). Birth of Jesus (2:1-21);

(6). Circumcision and naming and praise / prophecy (2:22-40);

(7). Passover in the temple (2:41-52)

Each scene has a departure: 1:23, 38, 56, 80; 2:20, 39, 51.

(Garland, p. 59)

Bock sees nine scenes (p. 69, slightly edited):

(1). Announcement to Zechariah (1:5-25)

(2). Announcement to May (1:26-38)

(3). Meeting of Mary and Elizabeth (1:39-45)

(4). Mary’s praise: the Magnificat (1:46-56)

(5). Birth of John (1:57-66)

(6). Zechariah’s praise: the Benedictus (1:67-80)

(7). Birth of Jesus (2:1-7)

(8). Reaction to the birth (2:8-21)

(9). Witness of Simeon (man) and Anna (woman) at the temple (2:22-40)

Here are parallel between John and Jesus in their birth narratives:

Parallels between John and Jesus in Birth Narratives (1:5-2:52)
John Common Events or Elements Jesus
1:5-7 A.. Introduction of Parents 1:26-27
1:8-23 B.. The Annunciation 1:28-38
1:24-25 C.. The Mother’s Response 1:39-56
1:57-58 D.. The Birth 2:1-20
1:59-66 E.. Circumcision and Naming 2:21-24
1:67-69 F.. Prophetic Response 2:25-39
1:80 G.. Growth of the Child 2:40-52
Green, p. 50 (modified)

But this is not a juxtaposition of equals. Luke is eager to say that John was merely the forerunner and not the Savior.

5:

“in the days of Herod”: He ruled over Judea, Samaria, Galilee and the surrounding region from 37 to 4 B.C (or 6 B.C.). No doubt the angel visited Zechariah shortly before Herod died. You can google who Herod was beyond that.

Herod got his kingship from Caesar. “By contrast, Jesus will receive a kingdom conferred on him by God (22:29), and he ‘will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his reign there will be no end’ (1:33)” (Garland, comment on 1:5)

Luke was careful to anchor his account in historical figures. He followed the skills of Hellenistic historians (pagan historians who lived before him and were contemporaneous with him) and the biblical historians, who were also keen to put historical guardrails around their histories. Further, in the religions of Greece and Rome, and other religions circulating at the time, like the cult of the Egyptian goddess Isis with her numerous temples, the preachers of these religions claimed their gods popped down from their heavens and appeared to humans, but no one can anchor these stories in history. Living in that culture, Luke wanted to ensure the accuracy and certainty of his account, by guard-railing his accounts.

But let’s not exaggerate because if throughout the entire Bible there are some historical data points that are unanswered, then we should not throw out the entire Scripture. That’s an overreaction and unrealistic. Your faith is brittle and unhealthy. The Bible still offers us wonderful truths about God and his redemptive plan in Christ. The American church of the more restrictive variety needs to relax about all of this.

13. Are There Contradictions in the Gospels?

‘Total’ Inerrancy and Infallibility or Just Infallibility? (I have a high view of Scripture)

Here, however, Luke knows what he is about in these historical details.

“priestly division”: There were twenty-four division, and each one subdivided into orders, and each order served a daily rotation during its week of service in the temple. Each rotation was made up of four to nine families. There about 700 of these groups, besides the 50 who served at the sacrifice. They served twice in a year, for one week at a time. In total, there are about 18,000 priests who served at the temple (750 x 24 = 18,000) (Bock. pp. 76, 100).

“Abijah”: He is mentioned eighth in a long list in 1 Chron. 24:10. It is that kind of list that is so boring to modern readers in the Bible, so they skip over it. But here it is applied to the NT.

When Luke reports that Elizabeth was from the daughters of Aaron, this important fact would have communicated to his readers that she had a consecrated and holy ancestry. It was common for a priest to have a wife of the same background (see Lev. 21:7, 14 for the rules of marriage for priests).

6:

The key word is “both.” In Luke’s Gospel womankind is specially emphasized (e.g. 8:1-3). Both Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous before God. Both walked in the commandments and decrees (or statutes) of the Lord.

“Blamelessly” comes at the end of the sentence (in Greek) for emphasis. It could be translated “(they were) blameless.”

It is possible to behave blamelessly before the Lord and your neighbors (Ezek. 18:1-32). This means they can find nothing to blame you for, like a barking dog, a smoky, loud car, yelling and dishes breaking, or loud music, just to name a few modern examples. This does not mean, however, that you have achieved moral perfection in your personal and private life. Nor does it mean that you can strut into God’s thrice-holy presence on your own merits and righteousness (Is. 6). You must repent and receive forgiveness of sins (Luke 1:77). But social righteousness that pleases God is possible, because God put this capacity in humans.

What Is Moral Law?

Sanctification: Can Christians Achieve Sinless Perfection Now?

Luke records another older man who was good and righteous who was waiting expectantly for the reign of God: Joseph of Arimathea (23:50-51). So Luke encloses his story with older righteous people who also can participate in the plan of God. All they need to be is expectant.

7:

A problem enters the story, and in the ancient world it was always the woman’s fault. In Judaism at the time and in the OT, it was a shame or reproach not to have children (Gen. 11:30; 15:2-3; 16:2; 30:1-3; Lev. 20:20-21; 1 Sam. 1:5-6; 2 Sam. 6:23; Jer. 22:30). Barrenness or childlessness is a sad condition for those who have yearned or are yearning for a child. God is about to perform a wonder, however. Elizabeth, an older woman, is about to conceive when she could not conceive in her younger years. All of this is reminiscent of Sarah and Abraham and their “miracle baby” (Gen. 12:1-5; 16:1-16; 17:17-22; 18:1-15; 21:1-7). Fortunately, Elizabeth did not hatch a plot to offer any servant woman they may have had to bear her child, as Sarah did through Hagar (cf. Gen. 16:1-16)!

“in their years”: literally means “in their days.” The point, beside her age, is that day by day, year by year, they did not have an answer to their prayer for a child.

8-9:

It was an ordinary priestly day for an ordinary priest, while he was doing his ordinary priestly duty of offering incense, chosen by the ordinary drawing of lots. No, his service was not profane or unconsecrated, but nothing about it suggests that he was about to receive an angelic visitor.

10:

Incense is a symbol of prayer (Ps. 141:2; Rev. 5:8; 8:3-4).

It is good to see a crowd of people outside, praying. Call it a mega-gathering. And not everyone abandoned the Lord, during Roman oppression.

“praying”: it is the very common verb proseuchomai (pronounced pros-yew-khoh-my) and appears 85 times. The noun proseuchē (pronounced pros-yew-khay) is used 36 times, so they are the most common words for prayer or pray in the NT. They are combined with the preposition pros, which means, among other things, “towards,” and euchē, which means a prayer, vow and even a mere wish. But Christians (and presumably these Jewish people) took over the word and directed it towards the living God; they leaned in toward him and prayed their requests fully expecting an answer. It is not a mere wish to a pagan deity.

Prayer flows out of confidence before God that he will answer because we no longer have an uncondemned heart (1 John 3:19-24); and we know him so intimately that we find out from him what is his will is and then we pray according to it (1 John 5:14-15); we pray with our Spirit-inspired languages (1 Cor. 14:15-16). Pray!

What Is Prayer?

What Is Petitionary Prayer?

What Is Biblical Intercession?

GrowApp for Luke 1:5-10

A.. Zechariah served the Lord in the sanctuary. How are you serving the Lord in church, a service tailor made for you?

B.. The people were praying outside the sanctuary, during Roman occupation. What do you pray during your own tough times, whether at home or on the job? (Maybe some people throughout the globe who suffer real persecution will read this post. Pray for them.)

Gabriel’s Good News, Zechariah’s Skepticism (Luke 1:11-20)

11 An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the incense altar. 12 Zechariah looked and was disturbed, and fear came on him. 13 The angel said to him, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth shall birth you a son, and you shall call his name ‘John.’ 14 He shall be a joy and rejoicing for you, and many people shall rejoice at his birth, 15 for he shall be great before the Lord. And he shall not drink wine or alcohol, and he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb. 16 And he shall turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 He shall be a forerunner before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the heart of the fathers to the children, from disobedience to the thinking of the righteous, to prepare for the Lord a people prepared.” 18 Zechariah said to the angel, “According to what standard shall I know this? For I am old, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel replied to him, “I am Gabriel who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent forth to speak to you and announce to you this good news. 20 Watch! You shall be mute and unable to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which shall be accomplished in their right time!

Comments:

11:

Marshall: “The altar of incense … stood in the centre of the holy place (Yoma 33b …). Zechariah’s task was to place incense on the heated altar and then prostrate himself in prayer” (comment on v. 11).

“appeared”: it is the passive form of the verb horaō (pronounced hoh-rah-oh), and it is used often in Luke-Acts for supernatural appearances: Luke 24:34; Acts 2:3; 7:2, 30, 35; 9:17; 13:31; 26:16. The fact that the verb is used often in the passive form indicates that this is another divine passive, which means God acts to ordain the supernatural appearing, like send an angel. Charismatics who claim they can go right up into heaven or see Jesus whenever they want do not understand Scripture. God decides.

“angel”: An angel, both in Hebrew and Greek, is really a messenger. Angels are created beings, while Jesus was the one who created all things, including angels (John 1:1-4). Renewalists believe that angels appear to people in their dreams or in person. It is God’s ongoing ministry through them to us.

Here is a multi-part study of angels in the area of systematic theology, but first, here is a summary list of the basics:

Angels:

(a) Are messengers (in Hebrew mal’ak and in Greek angelos);

(b) Are created spirit beings;

(c) Have a beginning at their creation (not eternal);

(d) Have a beginning, but they are immortal (deathless).

(e) Have moral judgment;

(f) Have a certain measure of free will;

(g) Have high intelligence;

(h) Do not have physical bodies;

(i) But can manifest with immortal bodies before humans;

(j) They can show the emotion of joy.

Bible Basics about Angels

Angels: Questions and Answers

Angels: Their Duties and Missions

Angels: Their Names and Ranks and Heavenly Existence

Angels: Their Origins, Abilities, and Nature

Luke must have got the factoid about where Gabriel stood at the right side of the altar, from someone who heard the story from Zechariah himself. He was old at this stage, so no doubt he had died before Luke could interview him. So here we have an instance of the verb in v. 2 “handed on” or “passed on.” These stories were handed on from one generation to the next.

Once again:

11. Eyewitness Testimony in Luke’s Gospel

12:

Zechariah responded as you or I would respond. The Greek literally says, “Fear fell upon him.” This is the opposite of the Spirit falling on anyone.

But let’s not criticize or look down on him. It is an awesome thing for an angel to appear. Many Renewalists treat it casually, without fear. Sometimes I wonder why it is so relaxed for them. I trust they are telling the truth in their stories of angelic appearances and not speaking from their imaginations. “They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord” (Jer. 23:18, NIV). But let’s not go negative entirely. Some people today really can see angels. (I’ve seen them in my dreams.)

Dreams and Visions: How to Interpret Them

Those links will help you filter your experiences through the Word.

13:

“angel”: see v. 11 for more information.

“don’t be afraid”: Reassuring words from the mighty angel. This is the standard Greek verb for fear (phobeomai, pronounced foh-beh-oh-my), and you can see phob– in it. It means a wide range of things, like “filled with awe,” but “afraid” is also correct. It is also used in vv. 30 and 50, below.

Let’s become a little more definite. BDAG is considered the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, and it defines the verb as follows: (1) “to be in an apprehensive state, be afraid”; people can become “frightened.” “Fear something or someone.” (2) “to have a profound measure of respect for, (have) reverence, respect”; a person like God or a leader can command respect.

The Shorter Lexicon says adds nuances (1) “be afraid … become frightened … “fear something or someone” (2) “fear in the sense of reverence, respect.”

Either the first or second definition fit here, but I prefer the second ones. There is nothing wrong with the reverential fear of God in your life, particularly when you encounter an angel.

Gabriel himself says that Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s prayer has been heard. “Prayer” or “plea” is singular, as if God bundled up all their prayers into one and answered it. It is the noun deēsis (pronounced deh-ay-seess), and it means “entreaty, supplication, prayer” (see Luke 2:37 and 5:33). Maybe the lesson is that God heard them the first time. However, there is nothing wrong with persistent prayer (Luke 18:1-8), but let’s not ask God as if we stand in weakness before him. We stand boldly now in the name of Jesus (John 16:23-24, 26; Heb. 4:16).

It was a done deal. God himself looked into the human future and said this birth shall happen. And his parents shall call him John.

A little systematic theology:

Theologians teach us that God sees all of eternity, every event, everything, in one simultaneous act. That is an amazing statement. All of eternity appears before him in one action, at one “time.” Nothing escapes his notice. Nothing catches him by surprise. This is called God’s omniscience. He sees all and knows all.

Do I Really Know God? He Is Omniscient

“prayer”: this word can be translated as petition. Morris points out that the verb tense is past, so Zechariah must have prayed while he burned the incense (comment on v. 13). He may have prayed for the redemption if Israel, but could he have included a prayer for a child?

In any case, it is a blessing when God answers prayers of his people, particularly when they are infertile.

14:

The words for joy and rejoicing accumulate in this short verse. Gabriel is an angel, and he and all the other angels celebrate when one sinner repents (Luke 15:10). Let’s not assume that heaven is always so serious. They know how to celebrate—and do celebrate. Here, however, the celebrations take place on earth at the birth of a boy, a specially called boy.

“It may be better to see John as having a unique position, neither Nazarite nor priest, though with points of connection with both. The most important thing is that from the very first John was to be filled with the Spirit, without whose help God’s work cannot be done effectively. John is the only person said in the New Testament to be filled with the Spirit from his mother’s womb … (Morris, comment on vv. 14-17, emphasis original)

15:

Here is a background passage to Elizabeth’s story. Hannah also bore the shame of barrenness, until God answered her prayer and gave her a prophet.

10 In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. 11 And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” (1 Sam. 1:10-11, NIV)

John was not a Nazarite, but he was devoted to the Lord and became a significant prophet who was transitional between the OT and Jesus. Samuel helped the people transition between judges and kings (Saul and David).

He shall be great before the Lord. God has a plan for you and all your children. Let him work it out in his time and in his way. Be cautious about imposing your own “good” agenda on them or on yourself. Yours may be good, but not of God.

John was going to be a Nazarite. See Num. 6 for more details than the ones offered here. One detail is that a Nazarite should not cut his hair. So John grew up with long hair, and apparently it got shaggy, if the movies are to be believed. Another detail is that the vow was typically temporary, but apparently God called John to be one from childhood, the beginning. Alternatively, he may not have been a Nazarite. His refusal to drink alcohol may be his way of showing total devotion to God. Lev. 10:9 says priests (Aaron and his sons, and Elizabeth was a daughter of Aaron) should not drink alcohol, and John was a son of a priest, so he may have carried that devout practice forward.

Most importantly, John was going to be filled with the Holy Spirit while from his mother’s womb. This means out of his mother’s womb he had already been filled with the Spirit. This speaks to the abortion issue. Babies can be filled with the Spirit, so they can grow up to accomplish all that God is about to lay out ahead of them. Please don’t abort them before God works out his plans for their lives.

What the Bible Really Says about Abortion and Prenatal Life

Spiritual Sonograms: God Loves You and Your Baby

“filled with the Holy Spirit”: In the OT, the Spirit came and left people as he willed (12 Sam. 10:10; 2 Kings 2:9-16). Here John would follow in the line of other prophets whose experience with the Spirit was strong (Is. 61:1; Ezek. 11:5; Joel 2:28). The point is that a prophet is here, and he is like the others who preceded him.

Baptized, Filled, and Full of the Spirit: What Does It All Mean?

16-17:

John was coming in the spirit and power of Elijah, which references Malachi 4:5-6. One sign that a revival is happening is that the parents and children can be reconciled. One must not overplay this aspect, however. When a choice has to be taken for the kingdom or the family—no third option is available—then one must always choose the kingdom first (Luke 9:57-62; 12:49-53). Muslims and sometimes Jews have to go through this, when they convert to Jesus the Lord. Girls may be “honor-killed.” Let’s pray that you do not have to choose between the two sides, but your family will support you.

“power”: it is the noun dunamis (or dynamis) (pronounced doo-na-mees or dee-na-mis, but most teachers prefer the first one). It is often translated as “power,” but also “miracle” or “miraculous power.” It means power in action, not static, but kinetic. It moves. Yes, we get our word dynamite from it, but God is never out of control, like dynamite is. Its purpose is to usher in the kingdom of God and repair and restore broken humanity, both in body and soul. For nearly all the references of that word and a developed theology, please click on Miracles, Signs and Wonders.

What Are Signs and Wonders and Miracles?

“turned” is another word for repentance. The Greek is epistrephō (pronounced eh-pea-streh-foh). And the streph– stem means “to turn.” One translator suggests “restore.” God wants to turn and restore your heart towards your family and towards the Lord. “This prediction does not simply refer to the creation of family harmony, but to an image of repentance and conversion” (Garland, comment on 1:15-17).

What Is Repentance?

Note the word “turn”:

for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. (1 Thess. 1:9-10, NIV)

“in the thinking of the righteous”: The Greek for “thinking” in v. 17 is phronēsis (pronounced froh-nay-seess), and it means “way of thinking, (frame of) mind” and “understanding, insight, intelligence” (Eph. 1:8). The first definition is the one that suits v. 17. It takes the Holy Spirit, even from birth, to get people’s minds in tune with righteous people and with righteous thinking. If you were not dedicated to the Spirit at birth, God by his Spirit can speed up the process to get you to think righteously.

“Luke’s infancy narrative highlights an outbreak of the prophetic as each main character bursts forth with prophetic utterance and praise” (Garland, comment on 1:15-17).

Systematic and practical theology:

The Personhood of the Spirit

The Spirit’s Deity and Divine Attributes

The Spirit in the Life of Christ

The Spirit in the Church and Believers

18:

“angel”: see v. 11 for more information.

The Greek literally reads, “According to what shall I know this?” The wording indicates slight arrogance and unbelief. I added the word “standard” to communicate the skepticism. Zechariah was looking for a sign—but the problem was that the sign was standing right in front of him—Gabriel himself. The Gospel writers were hard on those who seek for a sign, when Jesus was performing signs all the time (Matt. 16:1; Mark 8:11; John 4:48; 20:24-29, esp. v. 29; compare 1 Cor. 1:22).

It is a pity and misdirected for translators to have Zechariah say, “How can I know this?” (or a variation of it). That’s not what the Greek says exactly. Rather, Zachariah and Elizabeth were older and for years had been praying for a child. They did not see any answer. Zechariah may have been jaded. He certainly did not rejoice at the announcement. He quickly got over his fear at his initial encounter with the angel and spouted off his skeptical question.

His attitude and words were far different from those of Mary (v. 34). She asked simply, “How can this be?” She was young and innocent and was curious as to how she could get pregnant when she never “knew” a man. She did not have many years of unanswered prayer behind her. She was not jaded. This is perfectly nuanced writing by Luke, which suits the characters in his story. “Unlike Mary, Zechariah will not trust the angel’s word until he receives a sign (see 11:26, 29). By contrast Mary asks in what way her pregnancy will happen, assuming it will happen. She trusts God before she is given a sign” (Garland, comment on 1:18)

“know”: The verb is ginōskō (pronounced gee-noh-skoh, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”). It is so common that it is used 222 times in the NT. BDAG has numerous definitions of the verb, depending on the context: (1) “to arrive at a knowledge of someone or something, know, know about, make acquaintance of”; (2) “to acquire information through some means, learn (of), ascertain, find out”; (3) “grasp the significance or meaning of something, understand, comprehend”; (4) “to be aware of something, perceive, notice, realize”; (5) to have sexual intercourse with, sex / marital relations with”; (6) “to have come to the knowledge of, have come to know, know.” (7) “to indicate that one does know, acknowledge, recognize.” So we can know a person, a thing, a fact, an abstract thing like math. We can even know God personally or know about him from a distance, like a theological truth. It is best to know him personally. We can know all these things deeply or shallowly. In this verse, the best translation is the first definition.

Word Study: Knowledge

19:

“angel”: see v. 11 for more information.

Gabriel replies to Zechariah, based on the angel’s standing before God. “I am Gabriel who stands in the presence of God.” Then he announced his commissioning: God himself sent him forth. You can get your authority from God. He commissioned you in your own calling, tailor made for you (see 2 Cor. 5:16-21).

“I have been sent forth”: this verb is apostellō (pronounced ah-poh-stehl-loh), and it is related to the noun apostle, but let’s not overstate things. It means “to send” and is used 132 times in the NT. BDAG says it means (1) “to dispatch someone for the achievement of some objective, send away / out” (the disciples are sent out: Matt. 10:5; Mark 3:14; 6:17; Luke 9:2; John 4:38; 17:18). (2) “to dispatch a message, send, have something done.”

“announces … good news”: as noted in other verses in Luke, the phrase is one verb in Greek: euangelizō (pronounced eu-ahn-geh-lee-zoh, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”). Eu– means “good,” and angel means “announcement” or “news”; and izō is the verb form. (Greek adds the suffix -iz- and changes the noun to the verb and we do too, as in “modern” to “modernize”). Awkwardly but literally it means “good-news-ize,” as in “Let’s ‘good-news-ize’ them!”

Here the angel announced God’s plan for Zechariah and his son.

The three “I’s” of Zechariah are countered by the three “I’s” of Gabriel. Look for them. (Garland, comment on 1:19). Insightful.

20:

“Watch!”: This is an updated translation of the old “behold!” Some translators turn it into a mental activity: “Consider!” They may be right, but I like the warning aspect that one can see with one’s own eyes. It is the storyteller’s art to draw attention to the people and action that follows. “As you, my audience, sit and listen to me read this Gospel, listen up! Look! A man will go mute!” Professional grammarians say that when “look!” introduces a character, then he or she will play a major role in the pericope (pronounced peh-RIH-coh-pea) or section. Alternatively, when a verb follows “look!” then a significant act is about to take place and the person or people are less significant (and that’s what happens here).  (Culy, Parsons, Stigall, p. 21).

In any case, this verse is God’s temporary disciplinary action on Zechariah’s unbelief and skepticism. The lesson here is that Zechariah spoke with his mouth words of skepticism and unbelief to a holy angel, so now his mouth will be shut. God’s discipline fit the man’s infraction. He sought for a sign, and the one he got was his own muteness! The irony is rich.

Zechariah’s silence must be seen above all as a “sign”—this is, as the proof he requested. On the face of it, the giving of a sign is not extraordinary in the biblical tradition; we may recall the signs given to Abraham (Gen 15:7-16), Moses (Exod 4:1-17), Gideon (Judg 6:36-40), Hezekiah (2 Kgs 20:1-11), and Ahaz (Isa 7:10-17). As in those instances, here the sign is given as a guarantee of God’s promise. The sign given Zechariah is more than certification; it is also punishment for his unbelief … (Green, p. 79).

“believe”: the verb is pisteuō (pronounced pea-stew-oh), and it is used 241 times. It means to “believe, be convinced of something.” In a more specific definition it goes in a direction: “to have faith in Christ or God” (Mounce p. 61). Believing (verb) and faith (noun) is very important to God. It is the language of heaven. We live on earth and by faith see the invisible world where God is. We must believe he exists; then we must exercise our faith to believe he loves us and intends to save us. We must have saving faith by trusting in Jesus and his finished work on the cross.

True acronym:

F-A-I-T-H

=

Forsaking All, I Trust Him.

Let’s discuss the verb believe and the noun faith more deeply. It is the language of the kingdom of God. It is how God expects us to relate to him. It is the opposite of doubt, which is manifested in whining and complaining and fear. Instead, faith is, first, a gift that God has distributed to everyone (Rom. 12:3). Second, it is directional (Rom. 10:9-11; Acts 20:21). We cannot rightly have faith in faith. It must be faith in God through Christ. Third, faith in Christ is different from faith in one’s ability to follow God on one’s own. It is different from keeping hundreds of religious laws and rules. This is one of Luke’s main themes in Acts, culminating in the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and Paul’s ministry for the rest of Acts. Faith in Jesus over faith in law keeping. Fourth, there is faith as a set of beliefs and doctrines, which are built on Scripture (Acts 6:7). Fifth, there is also a surge of faith that is poured out and transmitted through the Spirit when people need it most (1 Cor. 12:9). It is one of the nine charismata or manifestations of grace (1 Cor 12:7-11). Sixth, one can build faith and starve doubt by feasting on Scripture and the words about Christ (Rom. 10:17).

Word Study on Faith and Faithfulness

In this context Zechariah did not believe a message from Gabriel himself. Go figure.

“in their right time”: the noun here is kairos (pronounced kye-ross and is used 85 times), which speaks more of a quality time than quantity. BDAG is considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, and it defines the noun as follows: (1) a point of time or period of time, time, period, frequently with the implication of being especially fit for something and without emphasis on precise chronology. (a) Generally a welcome time or difficult timefruitful times; (b) a moment or period as especially appropriate the right, proper, favorable time … at the right time; (2) a defined period for an event, definite, fixed time (e.g. period of fasting or mourning in accord with the changes in season), in due time (Gal. 6:9); (3) a period characterized by some aspect of special crisis, time; (a) generally the present time (Rom. 13:11; 12:11); (b) One of the chief terms relating to the endtime … the time of crisis, the last times.

All of this stand in a mild contrast—not a sharp contrast—from chronos. Greek has another word for time: chronos (pronounced khro-noss), which measures one day, one week or one month after another.

Here kairos means the right quality of time, when his son would be born. So now we know Zechariah was mute for at least nine months. But the more important point is that the timing is of the Lord, though Zechariah had something to do with it (if you know what I mean).

GrowApp for Luke 1:11-20

A.. Study Luke 18:1-8. Zechariah and Elizabeth prayed a long time and saw no answer. How long have you ever prayed and not seen an answer? Are you jaded against God and the things of the Spirit?

B.. Gabriel said John would cause joy. Angels celebrate over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:19). What is your story about your salvation that caused angels to celebrate?

The Answer Arrives (Luke 1:21-25)

21 The people were waiting for Zechariah and were amazed at the time he spent in the sanctuary. 22 When he exited, he was unable to speak to them. They recognized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He was motioning to them and remained mute throughout. 23 And so it happened that when the days of his service were completed, he went back home. 24 After those days, his wife Elizabeth conceived and secluded herself for five months. 25 She said, “And thus the Lord acted for me in the days when he looked with favor and removed my shame among the people.”

Comments:

21-24:

“Zechariah’s encounter with Gabriel takes place at the center of the Jewish world, the Holy Place, only a veiled doorway from the presence of God’s glory. But Gabriel travels to Mary, faraway from the temple mount in Jerusalem to Nazareth in Galilee—insignificant, despised, unclean” (Green, p. 84). Mary, though only a young girl, embraces God’s plan. Zechariah has difficulties at first.

Apparently the offering of incense did not take so long in normal circumstances; the conversation with the angel added to his time.

The angel’s disciplinary action was still in effect—no speech. The people did not completely understand, because he saw a vision of sorts, but Gabriel really did appear to him. It was no mere vision.

“recognized”: it is the verb epiginōskō, and see v. 4 for more comments.

Much more often than not, it is best just to go home after a mighty experience with God. People who wander around from church to church are unstable. And Zechariah’s going home solved the practical problem of conceiving. John’s birth was going to happen the normal way between husband and wife (unlike Mary’s pregnancy).

So nature took its course, and Elizabeth conceived. The verb sullambanō (pronounced sool-lahm-bah-noh) for conceive corresponds to the Latin concipio, where we get our word conceive. That is, the same verb will be used for Mary’s conception (v. 31). Most translators have “get pregnant.”

25:

The phrase “looked with favor” comes from one Greek verb ephoraō (pronounced eh-fohr-ah-oh), and it means to “gaze upon”; “with favor” is implied.

“shame”: Elizabeth lived in an honor and shame culture, which was expressed in public. No doubt the people in the Judean hill country alternated between pity and contempt for her. “Poor Elizabeth! She has no child! What did she do wrong that God closed her womb? It is God’s will! It’s his punishment. Poor little thing.” She called it “my shame.” So she was really, really grateful when God lifted or removed shame or reproach from her.

“people”: it is the Greek noun anthrōpos (pronounced ahn-throw-poss), and even in the plural some interpreters say that it means only “men.” However, throughout the Greek written before and during the NT, in the plural it means people in general, including womankind (except rare cases). In the singular it can mean person, depending on the context (in 2:25; 4:33; 6:6; 7:8, for example, the context says one man or male). So a “person” or “people” or “men and women” (and so on) is almost always the most accurate translation, despite what more conservative translations say.

GrowApp for Luke 1:21-25

A.. How do you think Elizabeth felt when Zechariah returned home and motioned to her about the angel he saw and the promise of a child, if she could understand him? (He did have access to a writing tablet [see v. 63]).

B.. How about you, when God has not answered your prayers? Are you jaded or full of praise, no matter what?

Jesus’ Birth Is Foretold (Luke 1:26-38)

26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town in Galilee by the name of Nazareth 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man by the name of Joseph, from the dynasty of David, and the name of the virgin was Mary. 28 And coming to her, he said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you!” 29 She was startled at the word and reasoned about what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. You have found favor with God. 31 And look! You shall conceive in your womb and birth a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He shall be great and called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God shall give him the throne of David, his ancestor. 33 And he shall rule over the house of Jacob forever, and there shall be no end to his kingdom.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How shall this be, since I have no relations with a husband?” 35 And the angel replied to her, “The Holy Spirit shall come upon you and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you. Therefore, the holy one who is born shall be called ‘the Son of God.’ 36 And look! Your relative Elizabeth herself has conceived a son in her womb, and he is six months old—to her who had been barren! 37 For every word shall not be impossible for God!” 38 “See the Lord’s servant. Let it happen to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Comments:

Let’s start off with a table of similarities between Matthew’s and Luke infancy narratives.

Details in Common in the Infancy Narratives

1 His birth is related to the reign of Herod (Luke 1:5; Matt. 2:1)
2 His father’s name is Joseph, and his mother’s name is Mary (Luke 1:26; Matt. 1:18)
3 Mary, mother to be, is a virgin betrothed to Joseph, but they do not yet live together (Luke 1:27, 34; 2:5; Matt. 1:18)
4 Jesus fulfills prophecies, whether by direct quotations or by OT patterns (Luke 1:31 and Is. 7:14; Luke 1:32 and Is. 9:6-7, 2 Sam. 7:12-16; Luke 1:37 and Gen. 18:14;

Matt. 1:23 and Is. 7:14, 8:8; Matt. 2:2 and Num. 24:17; Matt. 2:6 and Mic. 5:2; 2:11 and Is. 60:6; Matt. 2:15 and Hos. 11:1; Matt. 2:18 and Jer. 31:15; 2:23 and Is. 11:1)

5 Joseph is of the house of David (Luke 1:27; 2:4; Matt. 1:16, 20)
6 An angel from heaven announces the coming birth of Jesus (Luke 1:28-30; Matt. 1:20-21)
7 Angels in dreams and visitations direct the events and instruct Joseph and Mary (Luke 1:26-38; 2:13-14; Matt. 1:20-24; 2:13, 19)
8 Jesus is recognized himself to be a son of David (Luke 1:35; Matt. 1:18, 20)
9 His conception is to take place through the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35; Matt. 1:18, 20)
10 Joseph is not involved in the conception (Luke 1:34; Matt. 1:18-25)
11 The name “Jesus” is imposed by heaven prior to his birth (Luke 1:31; Matt. 1:21)
12 The angel identifies Jesus as “Savior” (Luke 2:11; Matt. 1:21)
13 Jesus is born after Mary and Joseph come to live together (Luke 2:4-7; Matt. 1:24-25)
14 Jesus is born at Bethlehem (Luke 2:4-7; Matt. 2:1)
15 New family has visitors: shepherds (Luke 2:15-20) and wisemen (Matt. 2:10-11)
16 Wise men visit the family in a house (Matt. 2:11), but shepherds see him in part of the house where animals were stabled (Luke 2:16)
17 Jesus settles, with Mary and Joseph, in Nazareth in Galilee (Luke 2:29, 51; Matt. 2:22-23)
Joseph A. Fitzmyer, SJ. The Gospel according to Luke, I-IX. Vol. 28. The Anchor Bible. (Doubleday, 1981), p. 307, modified; I added five rows.

There are differences as well. But differences do not add up to contradictions. An account having information, while another account covering the same topic but does not have the same information, does not add up to a contradiction. A difference, yes, but not a contradiction, particularly when the differences can be possibly reconciled or at least left alone and enjoyed in their own contexts.

Equations:

Information in one account + Silence in another account ≠ Contradiction

Boiled down:

Information + Silence ≠ A Contradiction

But

Information + Silence = A Difference

Or

Information + An omission = A Difference

A Difference ≠ A Contradiction (not always or necessarily)

Differences are guided by the purpose of the biblical authors. Or we may not know why an author omits or includes bits of information. Whatever the case, we should not get panicky about them or deny the truthfulness of the accounts. This mindset is too fussy and demanding, not recognizing the texts as they present themselves but unwisely imposing our modern concerns on them.

If those equations help, then good. If not, move on.

There is probably by now a nice youtube video on the topic. You can look it up (I have not).

In any case, our faith in God and his written Word should not be brittle. It should not break when these differences emerge. Call it the dramatist’s art. All four biblical writers took small liberties to tell their stories, their own way. Please relax a lot more about this. Don’t get stuck into a groove laid down by hyper-inerrantists, who nervously force all the small details to fit together. Keep the plain thing the main thing. The plain thing is those commonalities in the table: Virgin birth, his name Jesus, he is the Savior, and God is orchestrating the birth of his Son.

Begin a series on the reliability of the Gospels. Start with the Conclusion which has quick summaries and links back to the other parts:

15. The Historical Reliability of the Gospels: Conclusion

The Gospels have a massive number of agreements in their storylines:

14. Similarities among John’s Gospel and the Synoptic Gospels

Celebrate all the similarities and don’t fret about the differences.

See this part in the series that puts differences in perspective (a difference ≠ a  contradiction):

13. Are There Contradictions in the Gospels?

But the bigger picture is, as noted, to not allow your faith to become so brittle that it snaps in two because of these puzzles. It’s time to stop demanding no discrepancies or else you will leave the Christian faith. No more hyper-inerrancy or total inerrancy. Slow down and relax.

Bottom line: in my opinion, there are no contradictions in the synoptic Gospels covering the infancy narratives–just differences.

We should focus on and celebrate the similarities in the table.

26:

“angel”: see v. 11 for more comments.

God marked time by Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the sixth month. NIV: “in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy,” though the phrase “Elizabeth’s pregnancy” is not original. This is kairos time, not strictly chronos time (see comments on v. 20).

“was sent”: see v. 19 for deeper comments. Once again Gabriel got his commission: announce the birth of the Son of God. His authority came from God. Our authority also comes from God, when he commissions us. Please study or read 2 Cor. 5:16-21, if you believe God is commissioning you to carry out his mission for you, and we all have a mission from him, tailor made just for us.

27:

It was important to establish that the Son of God came through David’s lineage, because of v. 32—God’s gift to his Son. It is also important to establish her virginity, because of the miraculous birth prophesied in Is. 7:14.  Also, Jesus had to have a divine nature, and his conception was by the Father through the Holy Spirit and his power. See v. 35 for more theology about this.

“betrothed” could be translated as “wooed” or “courted,” but “betrothed” is the better translation, because of Matt. 1:18-19. Joseph’s parents, if they were still alive, entered into a contract-covenant with Mary’s parents, to seal the marriage agreement before the marriage actually took place. (Or it is more likely that Joseph himself entered into this legal agreement, since his parents were probably dead.) It was much more serious and legally established than the modern practice of engagement.

“Mary”: the Greek is Mariam, and the Hebrew is Miriam. Some Hebrew roots people—those who insist on going back to the Hebrew background and imposing these beliefs on the rest of us, even to the point of Christians keeping the kosher food laws and festivals and Sabbaths—believe that we should keep the “purer” Hebrew word Miriam. I won’t quarrel with them on this one point, but on the other hand there is nothing wrong with translating words that worldwide Gentiles can relate to: Marie in French and Maria in Spanish, for example. Americans follow trends because of their diversity, and this trendiness can become unstable and distracting from the core message. The gospel must go to the whole world, without old and obsolete encumbrances and burdens imposed on Arabs or Indonesians or Filipinos, for example. God is about to reject temple Judaism as a religion when the Gospel finishes, but not the people who still claim this obsolete religion, because he still loves people, but he is not enamored with systems. (When it comes to it, God is not enamored with large swathes of Christianity, either.) Streamline the gospel, please, for that’s the entire overarching thrust of the New Covenant Scriptures.

28:

“Greetings!” In Greek, this is the standard “rejoice!” In Hebrew, he said, “Shalom!” which means peace. But translators go with the cultural meaning of “Greetings!” Or “Hail!”

“favored one”: This comes from the Greek verb charitoō (pronounced khah-ree-toh-oh), and, yes, it is related to grace (charis, pronounced khah-reese). Mary received this greeting and complement because God deemed her favored and full of grace. Grace has been rightly defined as God’s unmerited and unearned favor and generosity and kindness. See verse 30 for more comments.

What Is Grace?

Grace to You

Grace Is a Verb

“The Lord is with you”: The verb “is” is missing, so the greeting is a fact: “The Lord is with you.” This may reflect Matthew’s title of Jesus, Immanuel, “God with us” (Matt. 1:23). God is with Mary through her (future) Son.

29:

“startled”: this verb is related to the one in v. 12 (disturbed). The difference here is that no fear fell on Mary, as it did on Zechariah.

“reasoned”: it comes from the verb dialogizomai (pronounced dee-ah-loh-gee-zoh-my, and our word dialogue is related to it). It goes deeper than another verb for thinking, nomizō (pronounced noh-mee-zoh). The log– stem has a wider intellectual or mental sense to it, and the prefix dia– just means “thorough” or “continuous.” The Greeks could add –iz– to a word and change it into a verb. It means “consider, ponder, reason, discuss, argue.” Sometimes it is translated as “wonder,” but that is too aesthetic or emotional—but no firm objections to that word choice from me! I thought about using it here, and you can if you want to.

30:

“angel”: see v. 11 for more comments.

“Don’t be afraid”: This is the standard Greek verb for fear (phobeomai, pronounced foh-beh-oh-my), and you can see phob– in it. It means a wide range of things, but afraid is also correct. See v. 13 for more comments.

Of course the angel had to reassure her not to be afraid. So she must have been frightened on some level, but no fear fell on her, as noted. When an angel appears, it should be startling. Anyone who claims this reverential fear does not occur in the soul when an angel appears is treating the visitation casually (see comments on v. 12.)

“favor”: It comes from the Greek noun charis (pronounced khah-reese) and means, depending on the context, “graciousness, attractiveness; favor, gracious care, help or goodwill, practical application of goodwill”; a “gracious deed or gift, benefaction.” In some contexts, it means “exceptional effects produced by divine grace,” in other words, empowerment to accomplish a task or receive a blessing.

Let’s go deeper, by repeating part of what I wrote in the linked post, below:

William Mounce teaches us about the Hebrew and Greek words. The Hebrew noun ḥen (pronounced khain) “describes that which is favorable or gracious, especially the favorable disposition of one person to another” (p. 302). The Greek noun further means “the acceptance of and goodness toward those who cannot earn or do not deserve such gain” (p. 303). The verb in Hebrew is ḥanan (pronounced khah-nan) and means to be gracious, “to show mercy favor, be gracious” (ibid.).

What Is Grace?

“Grace is not limited simply to receiving mercy and forgiveness. Finding grace with God means that God entrusts her with something great to do and to bear” (Garland, comment on 1:30).

31:

“Look!”: see my comment on v. 20.

As noted at v. 24, the verb sullambanō (pronounced sool-lahm-bah-noh) for conceive corresponds to the Latin concipio, where we get our word conceive. That is, the same verb was used for Elizabeth’s conception, but Mary’s conception will be miraculous. Some translators simply have “get pregnant,” which is accurate, also.

The name “Jesus” comes from Hebrew “the Lord saves.” Perfect name. This meaning is spelled out clearly in Luke 2:11, but especially in Matt. 1:21-23.

32:

“He shall be great”: this is true, for he was / is the Son of the Most High. This attribute is applied to God (Deut. 10:17) and to Christ (Tit. 2:13). On the other side, John will be great before the Lord (v. 15). John will be called the prophet of the Most High (v. 76). Jesus has the elevated status, Luke subtly notes.

“Son of the Most High”: God shall give him the throne of David, and Jesus won’t share the throne with David, the Israelite king. Jesus fulfills this promise and prophecy, by himself.

Let’s dip into systematic theology.

“Son of God”: Mary may not have fully known at that time what the Son of God meant as her baby boy, but we do now. Jesus was the Son of the Father eternally, before creation. The Son has no beginning. He and the Father always were, together. The relationship is portrayed in this Father-Son way so we can understand who God is more clearly. Now he relates to us as his sons and daughters. On our repentance and salvation and union with Christ, we are brought into his eternal family.

Quick teaching about the Trinity in systematic theology. The Father in his role as the Father is over the Son; the Father guides the whole of creation and the plan of the ages. The Son carries out the plan, notably by being born as a man, humbling himself, taking on the form of a servant (Phil. 3:7-8). He humbled himself so deeply and thoroughly that he died a death on the cross, the instrument of the death penalty.

The Trinity: What Are the Basics?

The Trinity: What Are Key Terms?

The Trinity: What Are Some Illustrations?

The Trinity: What Does He Mean to Me?

However, the Father and Son are equal in their essence or nature. The Father is fully God and the Son is fully God, in their essence. Phil. 2:6: Jesus did not regard equality with God as something to hold on to, but he surrendered the environment of heaven and took the form of a servant.

Boiled down:

Function or role: the Father is over the Son in his incarnation and role in the redemptive plan

In their essence or essential nature: Father and Son are equal.

Please see my posts on the Son of God:

6. Titles of Jesus: The Son of God

When Did Jesus “Become” the Son of God?

33:

Mary will bear a son, while Elizabeth will bear a son for Zechariah (v. 13). Mary completes her assignment for God, not a husband.

“house of Jacob”: this means the family line going all the way back to Jacob, and by extension Jacob’s father (Isaac) and grandfather (Abraham). Jacob’s other name was Israel, so he stands in for the entire nation.

“forever”: this word comes from the noun aiōn (pronounced aye-own, and we get our word aeon from it). It is used 122 or 123 times in the NT. It can mean, depending on the context: (1) very long time, eternity; in the past it means earliest time, ages long past (Luke 1:70) or since the world began (John 9:32); in the future is can mean to eternity, eternally, forevermore. (2) age, era, this present (evil) age before the Second Coming (Matt. 12:32, 13:22; Luke 16:8; 2 Cor. 4:4; Gal. 1:4). It can mean the (happy) age to come after the Second Coming (Mark 10:30; Eph. 1:21). (3) world, material universe (1 Tim. 1:17; Heb. 1:2). (4) The Aeon, a powerful evil spirit (Eph. 2:2 and perhaps Col. 1:26) (The Shorter Lexicon).

Let’s explore the adjective, which is aiōnios (pronounced eye-oh-nee-oss and used 71 times). BDAG, considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the NT, says that it means (1) “pertaining to a long period of time, long ago”; (2) pertaining to a period of time without beginning or end, eternal of God”; (3) pertaining to a period of unending duration, without end.”

So, the noun and adjective have versatile meanings, but it is clear that “eternal” is attached to God; apart from that modification it mostly means “a long time” or “an age.”

What Do Words ‘Eternity,’ ‘Eternal’ Fully Mean in the Bible?

“kingdom”: What is the kingdom? As noted in other verses that mention the kingdom in this commentary, the kingdom is God’s power, authority, rule, reign and sovereignty. He exerts all those things over all the universe but more specifically over the lives of people. It is his invisible realm, and throughout the Gospels Jesus is explaining and demonstrating what it looks like before their very eyes and ears. It is gradually being manifested from the realm of faith to the visible realm, but it is not political in the human sense. It is a secret kingdom because it does not enter humanity with trumpets blaring and full power and glory. This grand display will happen when Jesus comes back. In his first coming, it woos people to surrender to it. We can enter God’s kingdom by being born again (John 3:3, 5), by repenting (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:5), by having the faith of children (Matt. 18:4; Mark 10:14-15), by being transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son whom God loves (Col. 1:13), and by seeing their own poverty and need for the kingdom (Matt. 5:3; Luke 6:20; Jas. 2:5).

It also includes the Great Reversal in Luke 1:51-53, where Mary said that Jesus and his kingdom were about to bring to the world. The powerful and people of high status are to be brought low, while the humble and those of low status are about to be raised up. It also fulfills the reversal in 2:34, where Simeon prophesied that Jesus was appointed for the rising and falling of many. It is the right-side-up kingdom, but upside-down from a worldly perspective.

Here it is the already and not-yet. The kingdom has already come in part at his First Coming, but not yet with full manifestation and glory and power until his Second Coming.

5 The Kingdom of God: Already Here, But Not Yet Fully

Bible Basics about the Kingdom of God

Questions and Answers about Kingdom of God

Basic Definition of Kingdom of God

1 Introducing the Kingdom of God (begin a ten-part series)

Liefeld and Pao: “The child whose life is this engendered by the power of God, which power is identified as the Holy Spirit, is himself called by Gabriel ‘the holy one.’ Because of this connection with the Holy Spirit, and because of the ethical meaning of ‘holy’ in v. 49, this word probably relates here to the purity of Jesus instead of to separation for a divine vocation” (comment on v. 35). I add: This vocation will grow gradually and be sealed at his baptism.

34:

“angel”: see v. 11 for more comments.

Betrothal lasted only about a year, so she asks how can this conception happen? Though the angel used the future tense, Mary must have interpreted the promise in the near future.

Her question was not like that of Zechariah, for the wording is different. She simply asks, “how.” Zechariah, in contrast, asked, “According to what …?” Mary was young and had no worries about barrenness, as Elizabeth and Zechariah had. She did not have to pray for a child for many years without an answer to her prayer; they had done this. Clearly Zechariah asked his question from skepticism, while Mary was more genuinely and innocently perplexed.

However, some scholars wonder why Mary asked the question in the first place? She knew biology! (Bock discusses the scholars’ puzzlement at length [vol. 1, pp. 118-21]). The answer seems obvious to me. The readers / listeners of Luke’s Gospel have to know that this conception will be divine and will happen before her marriage to Joseph. She was a virgin. She must have thought the pregnancy would happen quickly. She was puzzled because she was not yet married.

“have (no) relations”: Older translation of the standard Greek verb ginōskō (pronounced gih-noh-skoh, and the “g” is hard as in “get,” and it is used 222 times in the NT) is “know.” See v. 18 for more comments. In this context, it is a euphemism for having sexual relations with a person. Mary and Joseph had not had sex, yet.

Please don’t fornicate or have sex before marriage. Let this betrothed couple guide you and set the example for you.

35:

“angel” see v. 11 for more comments.

This verse uses phrasing that indicates that God himself will miraculously conceive his Son in Mary’s womb.

“overshadow”: a figure of speech for the divine presence (Exod. 40:35) and the miraculous work of God.

“Son of God”: see v. 32 for more comments.

Dr. Luke does not have to go into details, so he uses metaphorical verbs “come upon” and “overshadow.” Even as a doctor who may have delivered babies, he probably did not know how God was going to work this miracle (nor do we, really). In any case “come upon” is a paralleled in the Septuagint (pronounced sep-too-ah-gent and is the third-to-first-century B.C. Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible) in Is. 32:15, and the image has no sexual connotation. It is a divine activity.

So neither “overshadow” or “come upon” is the normal language of sexual activity, but they mean miraculous activity. God’s Spirit will create in a similar way that he created before at the beginning (Gen. 1:2; Ps. 33:6) or in humankind as a special work (Ezek. 37:14).

Now for a little systematic theology. If you don’t get this section, read it over several times. If you still don’t get it, ask. If you still don’t get it, skip it.

We are standing on holy ground, when the incarnation is described here (“incarnation” means “becoming flesh”). Jesus is both fully divine or has the fullness of deity (Col. 2:9; John 1:1-4, 14) and is fully human, but without sin. Yes, he was full deity even as a zygote, but his deity was hidden behind his humanity (Mary’s ovum). His divinity did not have the full human capacity to express itself, but God’s miraculous conception and his nature were there all throughout the process of Jesus forming into an embryo and a fetus (Luke 2:5) and a human baby (2:22-39), a boy (2:40-52), and a man (3:21-23). That is, his divine nature did not grow with his human nature, but his divine nature simply remained hidden behind his human nature. As far as we know from Scripture, which is sparse on the details about such mysteries, his divine nature was static (remained still) as he grew, but completely and powerfully present. At the baptismal launch of his ministry, he could then display his divine nature more fully than before, so it became kinetic (it moved). But he still surrendered it to the Father; he did not lay it aside or lose it. Consider these verses about his surrendering it to the Father: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. I am in the Father, and the Father is in me” (John 14:9-10). Jesus “can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son does also” (John 5:19). “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).

One theologian insightfully suggests that the Father and Son cooperated in showing the Son’s divine nature, like a bank manager and a customer who have to use two keys to open up a safety deposit box. They have to cooperate to turn the keys at the same time, and then the contents are revealed. So it is with the cooperation of the Father and Son. Jesus submitted his divine nature to the Father, who hid it behind Jesus’s human nature, until the Father and Son allowed it to shine, only in part, for example, on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36). Finally, we have to consider the Holy Spirit in Jesus’s life, who was given to him in the Spirit’s fullness (Luke 3:21-22). So the Trinity was fully active in his earthly life, plus his divine nature.

Everything was perfectly coordinated in Jesus, even if we cannot figure out the details with our sparse biblical data.

3. Do I Really Know Jesus? He Was God Incarnate

4. Do I Really Know Jesus? He Took the Form of a Servant

5. Do I Really Know Jesus? He Came Down from Heaven

6. Do I Really Know Jesus? Why Did He Become a Man?

2. Two Natures in One Person: He Was Human and God

3. Titles of Jesus: The Son of David and the Messiah

5. Titles of Jesus: The Lord

In Part Four I exegete passage Phil. 2:6-8.

“power”: see v. 17 for more comments.

36:

“conceived”: it is the same Greek word as in vv. 24 and 31, and see the comments there.

Once again God marks time by significant events, or by Elizabeth’s sixth month of pregnancy. This is kairos time, though the noun is not mentioned here (see v. 20 for comments). God keeps track of your baby, even in the womb.

“look”: see my comments on v. 20.

37:

Then Gabriel injects faith into the announcement. No word or promise shall be impossible with God. The Greek noun here is rhēma (pronounced ray-mah), and the rhē– stem is related to speaking, and the –ma suffix means “the result of.” So combined, the noun means a “spoken word” (though it does not always mean that in every context). But the promise of a child was spoken by Gabriel in this instance. Never forget what Gabriel said to Mary—no promise or claim or word that comes from God’s throne—from God himself—shall be impossible for him, though it may be for us. His promise to her and his character and ability to carry it out apply to God’s promises spoken to your heart, if they really come from God.

38:

“angel”: see v. 11 for comments.

Mary adopts a humble posture and attitude. She simply submitted to the Lord’s will and his word (rhēma again, and see v. 37). This humility is in contrast to Zechariah’s skepticism and reluctance, who, because of it, was struck mute, since he was, after all, in the presence of an angel.

“See”: it is the updated translation of “behold!” It’s difficult to translate to the reader how humble this is because we don’t speak like that. But she says, “Here is the Lord’s servant.” Or “I am the Lord’s servant.”

“servant”: it is the feminine form doulē (pronounced doo-lay), and it could be translated as slave, but I chose servant because in Jewish culture a Hebrew man (or woman) who sold himself into servitude to his fellow Jew was like an indentured servant whose term of service had a limit; he (or she) was freed in the seventh year. But then the indentured servant could stay with his family, if he (or she) liked his owner (Exod. 21:2-6; Lev. 25:38-46; Deut. 15:12-18). So there was a lot of liberty even in servitude, in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).

Slavery and Freedom in the Bible

It is a sure thing, however, that Luke’s Greek audience would have heard “slave” in the word doulē. So if you wish to interpret it like that, then that’s your decision. But culturally at that time slavery had nothing to do with colonial or modern slavery.

Liefeld and Pao: Hannah’s story is told in 1 Sam. 1:11, in which she devoutly and humbly prayed for a child and calls herself a doulē in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. Then Liefeld and Pao write of Mary’s servanthood: “Her servanthood is not a cringing slavery but a submission to God that in OT times should characterize believers today (cf. v. 40). Understandably, Mary doubtless felt empathy with Hannah’s sense of being at the Lord’s disposal in a past of life over which a woman before modern times had little or no control. Mary’s trusting submission at this point in her life may be compared with her attitude toward her son later on (cf. Jn. 2:5)” (comment on v. 38).

GrowApp for Luke 1:26-38

A.. Mary was told she was favored of God. Do you believe you too are favored of God? Where does his favor come from?

B.. In v. 37 Gabriel makes a strong statement about God’s promises and his ability to carry them out. How do you really believe that no promise or word from God is impossible for him to carry out? Stated positively, how do you believe he can carry out every one of his promises?

C.. What do you do if you stumble over your human unbelief about his promise to you?

Mary Visits Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-45)

39 In those days Mary got up and hurried off into the hill country to a Judean town 40 and entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 It so happened that as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 And she lifted her voice exuberantly and said, “Blessed are you among women! And blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 How does this happen for me that the mother of my Lord would come to me? 44 For look! As the voice of your greetings sounded in my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy! 45 Blessed is she who has believed that there will be the fulfillment of what had been spoken to her from the Lord!”

Comments:

39-40:

Bock says that the distance from Nazareth to the hill country of Judea was 80-100 miles (128.7-160 km) (p. 134). Travel time was three to four days. What motivated her to go? The best response is God’s leading. The Spirit was orchestrating the two connected birth narratives. Mary surely did not travel alone. She either attached herself to other travelers, or she went with family or neighbors. But she appears to have entered the house alone. In any case, it was a bold act for a girl to travel like this, in those days. I wonder how Joseph felt about this. Did he try to talk her out of it? If he couldn’t, did he surrender and offer advice, like how much food to take on the journey? The best route? Did he ask any of his family member to accompany her, part of the way?

In any case, never let fear dominate you. Don’t be foolish or needlessly risky, but fear? Never. Step out in faith, if God calls.

41:

Never doubt that even a developing baby can perceive in its baby nature the things of God. Verse 15 says John would be full of the Spirit already from his mother’s womb. This speaks to the abortion issue. Please don’t abort your baby before God works out his plan for him.

What the Bible Really Says about Abortion and Prenatal Life

Spiritual Sonograms: God Loves You and Your Baby

For Sunday School teachers of small children, don’t deprive them of the fullness of the Spirit. Lay hands on them and pray for God to fill them, even if they don’t understand and look around while you are praying.

Elizabeth was also filled with the Spirit—baby John and mature adult Elizabeth. The Spirit is here to fill all of us. Have you received the infilling of the Spirit? All you need to be is hungry and thirsty for more of God. Please don’t approach this gift with your intellect fully charged up. “Well, we’ll just see about this! I’ll sit right here and watch and criticize! I won’t act until I want to, or I got proof! All this is passé and obsolete after the first century anyway!” With that skeptical attitude, you won’t receive him. Become like a child in your faith. Cornelius the centurion, a full adult male and military commander, was hungry for God, when Peter walked into his house. He received the Spirit in his fulness (Acts 10). Are you also hungry and open? If so, ask, and you will receive the Holy Spirit, not a fish or an egg or a scorpion (demon) (study Luke 11:11-13).

Baptized, Filled, and Full of the Spirit: What Does It All Mean?(It reviews all the key nouns, adjectives and verbs)

“The Spirit takes center stage in Acts after Pentecost and prompts Jesus’ followers in various break-throughs in taking the gospel to the world. The Spirit does something new, but the Spirit is not something new. The Spirit always has been the messenger of God’s truth and guidance to humans and came upon various persons in the Old Testament to lead them to prophesy (see Num 11:16-25; 24:2; 2 Sam 23:2; 1 Chr. 12:18; Neh 9:30; Isa 61:1; Mic 3:8; Ezek 2:2; 3:12, 14, 24; 8:3; 11:1, 3, 24; 37:1; 43:5; Zech 7:12). David spoke through the Spirit (Acts 1:16; 4:25 as did Isaiah (Acts 28:25) (Garland, comment on 1:40-41).

42:

“exuberantly”: literally a “great cry” or “great shout.” Exuberantly gets the point across better in English. However one translates it, her exuberance came from her being filled with the Spirit. That is one of the fruit or product of the infilling: Boldness to carry out a mission or give a speech. How do we know she was bold? Verse 24 says she secluded herself for five months. The next thing she knows, Mary greets her, and the Spirit fills her and she speaks with a loud shout or cry. She goes from seclusion to boldness in a minute! Many Renewalists believe that the Spirit’s presence in anointed people can “rub off” on them. This seems to be true from Scripture, as here.

Her exclamation says that Mary’s fruit of the womb is blessed. Did she perceive that Mary was pregnant at that time? Or did she speak in faith? After all, she said, “Blessed is she who believes that this shall be fulfilled.” That’s the future tense. So maybe Mary was not yet pregnant, but Elizabeth foresaw it happening.

“blessed”: it comes from the Greek verb eulogeō (pronounced eu-loh-geh-oh), and it literally means to “speak well.” BDAG defines the term, depending on the context, as follows: (1) “to say something commendatory, speak well of, praise, extol”; (2) “to ask for bestowal of special favor, especially of calling down God’s gracious power, bless”; (3) “to bestow a favor, provide with benefits.” When it is used in the passive, as here, it means Mary had been spoken well of. She has been the object / person of well speaking. And so has her baby, whether now or in the future. God had already spoken well of him (vv. 31-35, above).

Any chance people will speak well of their families, to have peace in the household?

“fruit of your womb”: that’s an old school translation, but accurate. It literally says “fruit,” and of course it means “baby.”

In Luke 11:27-28, someone from the crowd will shout that the woman who nursed Jesus as a baby is blessed. Jesus will reply that the ones who are blessed hear the word of God and keep it. So Mary’s blessedness is not located in her brining a special child into the world, but because she “has heard, believed, and obeyed (see Deut. 28:1, 4) and she becomes a model of faith” Garland, comment on 1:42).

43:

The Greek here is elliptical. “From where (is) this to me?” That’s unclear for general readers, so translators just say something as I translated it.

“mother of my Lord”: That’s an amazing statement of faith. Mary must have communicated to Elizabeth that God would enable her to conceive the Son of the Most High. Did she write a letter? Or maybe Elizabeth did not know it by natural means (a letter), but by a word of knowledge, a prophetic insight. In any case, already Elizabeth was submitting to the Lord Jesus, either before he was conceived, or while he was an embryo in her womb. Now that takes faith and a humble heart!

Marshall: “Jesus is described as [Lord] (1:76; 2:11; 7:13, 19; 10:1, 39, 41; 11:39; 12:42; 13:15; 17:5f.; 18:6; 19:8, 31, 34; 20:42, 44; 22:61; 24:3, 34; cf. 1:15 (and note) for the use of the title for God)” (comment on v. 43).

No wonder why early generations of Christians called Mary the “Mother of God.” After all, Elizabeth says she was the mother of “my Lord.” Theologically and technically, both statements are right. Note that Elizabeth called him Lord from the very beginning. It was inspired and personal. John had to find this out for himself. Morris also teaches us that Elizabeth was not jealous of Mary. “But in genuine humility she recognized the greater blessing God had given to Mary” (note on vv. 43-45).

44-45:

Still more remarkable content—reality here for them, more than words on a page for us and them. Elizabeth perceived the motive in baby John by divine means. He leaped for joy. It was not an ordinary kick. She spoke out her belief.

And now for the even more remarkable part. She uses the past tense (she who has believed) about a future event, for the verb “there will be” is in the future. Yes, the Word of Faith teachers get a few things right, once in a while. Please don’t throw out everything they say. In any case, you have to believe it before you see it (John 20:29). Elizabeth believed it before it was accomplished—before Mary’s baby, her Lord, was conceived or born.

“blessed” The more common adjective, which appears here in vv. 20-22, is makarios (pronounced mah-kah-ree-oss) and is used 50 times. It has an extensive meaning: “happy” or “fortunate” or “privileged” (Mounce, pp. 67-71). But it is in the feminine: “blessed is she.”

Let’s look more deeply at “blessed.”

The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and the main word for blessing is the verb barak, used 327 times throughout the Hebrew Bible: Genesis 76 times, Deuteronomy 40 times, and Psalms 76 times. Each time it is people-related. The noun is beraka, used 71 times, and “denotes the pronouncement of good things on the recipient or the collection of good things” (Mounce, p. 70).

The New Testament was written in Greek, and the verb is eulogeō (pronounced yew-loh-geh-oh, and the “g” is hard), which is used 41 times and means to “bless, thank, or praise.” The adjective eulogētos (pronounced yew-loh-gay-toss, and the “g” is hard), which is used 8 times, means “blessed, praised.” The noun is eulogia (pronounced yew-lo-gee-ah, the “g” is hard, and we get our word eulogy from it), and is used 16 times. It means to “speak well.” It is mostly translated as “praise.” The log– stem is rich in Greek, and it can include speaking a word.

Do I Really Know God? He Is Blessed

“look!”: see my comments on v. 20.

In v. 45, the verb “believe” comes from pisteuō (pronounced pea-stew-oh or pih-stew-oh), and see v. 20 for more comments.

So Luke highlights women’s roles and high status in his Gospel. Good for Dr. Luke. He must have observed that his culture did not value them highly, and God moved on his heart to run against the culture, in Luke-Acts. God was doing a new thing. This is now his show, his kingdom. Women too shall be honored. They too shall be blessed. They too shall be filled with the Spirit. They too shall be lifted up. They too shall accomplish his purposes.

This is a perfect segue into Mary’s song / poem.

Before we get to her poem / song, let’s look more deeply at “blessed.”

The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and the main word for blessing is the verb barak, used 327 times throughout the Hebrew Bible: Genesis 76 times, Deuteronomy 40 times, and Psalms 76 times. Each time it is people-related. The noun is beraka, used 71 times, and “denotes the pronouncement of good things on the recipient or the collection of good things” (Mounce, 70).

The New Testament was written in Greek, and the verb is eulogeō, which is used 41 times and means to “bless, thank, or praise.” The adjective eulogētos, which is used 8 times, means “blessed, praised.” The noun is eulogia, where we get our word eulogy, and is used 16 times. It means to “speak well.” It is mostly translated as “praise.” The log– stem is rich in Greek, and it can include speaking a word.

The more common adjective is makarios, which is used 50 times. It has an extensive meaning: happy or fortunate or privileged (Mounce, pp. 67-71).

GrowApp for Luke 1:39-45

A.. Elizabeth went from seclusion to outspoken boldness. How has the infilling of the Spirit transformed your life? When were you so filled with the Spirit that you spoke out boldly?

B.. God spoke well of Mary and her future baby. He calls you blessed even before you feel blessed. He values you before you feel valued. How do you think this full and true revelation from God can help you grow in him?

Mary’s Hymn of Praise (Luke 1:46-56)

46 And Mary said:

“My soul magnifies the Lord

47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior

48 Because he has looked upon his servant girl’s low status.

For look! From now on all generations will consider me blessed,

49 because the Almighty has done great things for me—

Holy is his name!

50 For generation after generation his mercy is on those who reverence him.

51 He exercised power with his arm;

He has scattered the arrogant in the thought of their heart;

52 He has brought down rulers from thrones

And raised up the lowly;

53 He has filled up the hungry with good things

And sent away the rich empty.

54 He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,

Remembering mercy,

55 –Just as he spoke to our ancestors—

For Abraham and his descendants, forever.”

56 Mary stayed with her for about three months and then returned to her home.

Comments:

The background to Mary’s song / poem / hymn is Hannah’s song:

Then Hannah prayed and said:

“My heart rejoices in the Lord;
    in the Lord my horn is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
    for I delight in your deliverance.

“There is no one holy like the Lord;
    there is no one besides you;
    there is no Rock like our God.

“Do not keep talking so proudly
    or let your mouth speak such arrogance,
for the Lord is a God who knows,
    and by him deeds are weighed.

“The bows of the warriors are broken,
    but those who stumbled are armed with strength.
Those who were full hire themselves out for food,
    but those who were hungry are hungry no more.
She who was barren has borne seven children,
    but she who has had many sons pines away.

“The Lord brings death and makes alive;
    he brings down to the grave and raises up.
The Lord sends poverty and wealth;
    he humbles and he exalts.
He raises the poor from the dust
    and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
    and has them inherit a throne of honor.

“For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s;
    on them he has set the world.
He will guard the feet of his faithful servants,
    but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness.

“It is not by strength that one prevails;
10     those who oppose the Lord will be broken.
The Most High will thunder from heaven;
    the Lord will judge the ends of the earth.

“He will give strength to his king
    and exalt the horn of his anointed.” ((1 Sam. 2:1-10, NIV)

Commentator Morris teaches us that Mary may have thought about its content on her four days’ journey to Elizabeth’s house. She “brooded” over the story of Hannah and then spoke her own inspired song (p. 92).

The infancy narratives are not rooted in Greco-Roman or ancient paganism, but in Scripture.

It is not clear that Mary sang this hymn / song / poem, for the Greek says, “Mary said” (not sang).  But it is poetic, as it moves from one thought to the next. She did at least recite it out loud.

The whole poem expresses the Great Reversals, the major theme in Luke’s Gospel, so look for it throughout. Consider:

Unjust Condition or Status:

Mary’s low status.

Reversal:

All generations will consider her blessed because the Almighty has done great things for her.

Implied Unjust Condition or Status (not stated, but it is clear from context):

Many generations ignore God.

Reversal:

His mercy is on those who reverence or fear him.

Unjust Condition or Status:

The arrogant and rulers were exalted and the lowly debased.

Reversal:

He brought down the arrogant and the rulers and raised up the lowly.

Implied Unjust Condition or Status:

The rich were getting fat on good things to the exclusion of the poor.

Reversal:

He sent the rich away empty and filled up the hungry with good things.

Implied Unjust Condition or Status:

Israel has been oppressed by Roman rule.

Reversal:

He has come to help Israel and remembered mercy on Abraham and his descendants. Mary’s song or poem is (mostly) in the past tense, but the future sense is implied because her Son will accomplish the reversal throughout his earthly ministry and even today, as he is seated at the right hand of his Father.

This fulfills the Great Reversal. We will see that that Luke 2:34 says that Jesus would cause the fall of the mighty and the rise of the needy, and the rich would be lowered, and the poor raised up. It is the down elevator and up elevator. Those at the top will take the down elevator, and those at the bottom will take the up elevator.

46-47:

Mary’s soul and spirit praised God for the good promises that he gave her. She believed it with her heart.

“soul”: it is the noun psuchē (pronounced ps-oo-khay, and be sure to pronounce the ps-, and our word psychology comes from it). It can mean, depending on the context: “soul, life” and it is hard to draw a firm line between the two. “Breath, life principle, soul”; “earthly life”; “the soul as seat and center of the inner life of man in its many and varied aspects, desires, feelings, emotions”; “self’; or “that which possesses life, a soul, creature, person.”

A little theology:

Most Renewalists believe in the three parts of humanity: body, soul and spirit (1 Thess. 5:23 and Heb. 4:12 and other verses). Other Renewalists believe that we are two parts: body and soul / spirit (2 Cor. 4:16). Spirit and soul are just synonyms, like heart and spirit / soul are synonyms. Surely there are not now four parts, are there (body, soul, spirit, heart)?

Here in this verse it means soul.

Systematic theology again:

Word Study on Spirit, Soul, and Body

48:

“servant girl”: many translations omit “girl,” because it is implied from the context, but I like to reflect the Greek feminine for “servant.” She was God’s servant girl. See v. 38 for more comments. “Low status” refers to her humble social position. She does not belong to the Jewish aristocracy (Liefeld and Pao, comment on v. 48).

“all generations will consider me blessed.” The Greek literally says, “all generations will bless me.”

Why did Luke go from the present tense (my soul magnifies) to the past (my spirit has rejoiced)? It is probable that Luke was not very fussy or precise about this, as professional grammarians are. Mary was in a continuous state of gratitude, from her angelic promise to her journey to Elizabeth’s house and her return home, until the birth—throughout her life.

“look!”: see my comments on v. 20.

49:

“Almighty”: that is another title or name of God. There are at least 150 other such names or titles that flow out of his activity. We come to know God by his deeds and also by clear statements of Scripture about his character, like God is good (Pss. 25:8; 119:68, and many others).

The Names of God

Commentator Joel Green says that Mary is calling on God the Warrior, referencing Deut. 10:17-18; Ps. 24:8; Is. 10:20-27; Zeph. 3:17. That imagery is not as clear to me as it is to him, but he is probably right. Make of this what you will.

50:

“reverence”: this is the standard Greek verb for fear (phobeomai, pronounced foh-beh-oh-my), and you can see phob– in it. It has a wide range of meanings, but I decided to translate it as “reverence,” but fear is also correct. See v. 13 for more comments. There is nothing wrong with reverential fear of God in our lives.

51:

“Arm” is a metaphor for power and strength. It makes sense, because the arm exerts power, like hammering or lifting or boxing. (See Exod. 32:11; Deut. 3:24; 4:34; Ps. 70:18; Is. 30:30; 52:10). The proud look down on others without looking up to God, so they are presented as God’s enemies (Ps. 101:5; Prov. 16:5; 29:23; Is. 13:11). The proud person’s understanding work against God and take divine prerogatives only God has (Garland, p. 95).

52:

“thrones”: Rulers sit on their thrones, dishing out unjust sentences and rapaciously taking the resources of the land, but now they are thrown off their high and mighty thrones.  Best of all, he raises up the lowly like you and me. This reminds me of Jeremiah’s calling: “See, I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant” (Jer. 1:10, NIV). Jesus was about to have the same ministry, but his fulfillment of this calling has taken and is taking centuries to work out and will be finalized when he finally overthrows all the worldly kingdoms and establishes his own kingdom, visible for all to see, as noted. Study Acts 1:6-7.

53:

The hungry will get good things, and this does not merely mean food, though it includes that. And the rich—the rulers and powerful who sit on thrones—will be dethroned and sent off empty handed. This too takes place in slow motion and will be finalized at the end of the world, when Jesus sets up his own throne and rules with absolutely perfect justice.

In vv. 51-53 Mary introduces the Great Reversal that Jesus and his kingdom bring to the world. The people powerful and high status are brought low, while the humble and low status are raised up. Simeon will prophesy that Jesus is appointed the falling and rising of many (Luke 2:34).

54-55:

“Remembering”: this word is a mental activity, but God is omniscient, so remembering is a poetic way of saying God is keeping and acting on his covenant. God came to the aid of Israel in order to act in his covenant love (see v. 72).

Abraham is a frequent figure in Luke-Acts, appearing twenty-two times.

Yes, God remembered his servant Israel, but the Jewish establishment in Jerusalem will reject their Messiah, by the time Luke’s Gospel ends. God put his judgment on them (Luke 19:41-45; 21:20-24; 23:26-31; Matt. 21:33-45). As it happens, however, after Pentecost came, with the outpouring of the Spirit, many priests converted to the Lordship of Jesus (Acts 6:7) and so did thousands of Jews of Judea and Jerusalem (Acts 2:47; 4:4; 21:20). But the main thrust of God’s plan today is about the Gentiles. Now they are destined to take the gospel to the whole world, including Israel. Messianic Jews (those who have converted to the Messiah) are included in God’s global project of taking the gospel to the world, as well. And the resurrected Jesus guides everything from heaven and by his Spirit in his church, both redeemed or saved Gentiles and redeemed or saved Jews.

“forever”: see v. 33 for more comments.

As noted, Abraham plays a major role in Luke-Acts. “The covenant promises of Mary’s hymn are those of the Abrahamic covenant” Bock, vol. 1, p. 160): Gen. 12:3; 17:7-8; 18:18; 22:18; 26:3; Exod. 2:24; Mic. 7:20). See v. 73 for how God is responding to the Abrahamic covenant.

God’s Covenant with Abraham

56:

Mary must have been a great comfort and encouragement to Elizabeth and Zechariah. She was away from Joseph for a long time. I hope he didn’t mind! He must have been glad when she returned to her home. Elizabeth was pregnant six months (v. 26). And Mary stayed about three months. Why not stay until John was born? Maybe Mary did not want to intrude on God’s call on John. In any case, I trust that in this very charismatic and wonderous atmosphere in Luke 1, God led her to go home.

GrowApp for Luke 1:46-56

A.. How has God worked out reversals in your life? First you were put down, and now you are lifted up. If you cannot remember any time, then please study Eph. 2:6 very carefully. How does this verse about being seated in the heavenly realms apply to your life?

B.. Have you ever been gone from home for three months or know someone who has? If you have, how has this been a blessing to you? What could you do to host the spouses of missionaries while they are on short- or long-term trips?

Birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:57-66)

57 The time for Elizabeth to give birth was completed, and she birthed a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord magnified his mercy for her, and they celebrated with her. 59 And when the eighth day came to pass, they went to circumcise the child, and they were beginning to call him after the name of his father, Zechariah. 60 But his mother responded and told them, “No! But he shall be called John.” 61 They told her, “No one of your relatives is called by that name.” 62 They began to make signs to his father as to what he would want to call him. 63 He asked for a little writing tablet and wrote, saying, “John is his name.” And everyone was surprised. 64 Instantly his mouth was opened, also his tongue, and he began speaking and praising God. 65 And fear came on all their neighbors; and in the entire hill country of Judea, these words were spoken throughout. 66 Everyone who heard tucked it in their hearts, saying, “What will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.

Comments:

57:

A quick and straightforward verse. The Greek for time here is chronos (pronounced khroh-nohss), and we get chronology from it. This shows that we should not make too much of the nuances between chronos time and kairos time. Supposedly the first is sequential, calendar time, while the second has a quality built into it, measured by significant events, which in this case is the birth of John. In any case, the calendar and nature say it was time to give birth, and she did.

58:

God answered her prayers. “He lavished his mercy on her,” says one translation. Mine is very literal, for I like the image of God magnifying or enlarging mercy—on her, on Elizabeth herself. In v. 25 she said she owned “my shame.” Now her shame was removed, in front of all her neighbors and relatives. Public shame has now turned to public honor.

59-63:

Everyone knew best (or so they thought). They naturally called him by his father’s name, but good ideas are not God ideas. They were surprised when he wrote his son’s name. Don’t let people’s “good ideas” interfere with God’s ideas. Let God surprise them—and you.

Gabriel—sent from God!—named the child before he was born. The prophetic powers and foreseeing ability of God is beyond our human minds to figure out. See v. 13 for the theology of God’s omniscience.

Liefeld and Pao: “Zechariah may have been deaf as well as mute, though this has not been indicated. Luke says he was ‘unable to speak’ (v. 22), but the word used … can also mean ‘deaf’ (as in 7:22) (comment on vv. 62-63). He does have to receive and give gestures, so maybe he was also mute and deaf.

Bock on v. 63: “Zechariah’s response is emphatic. His name is … John. Zechariah does not say it shall be John. The change in tense between 1:60 and 1:63 is significant. For Zechariah, the child had a name from the time of the angel’s announcement. There was not choice for him. His reply indicates obedience and submission to God’s message” (p. 168).

64:

A miraculous intervention. His mouth was opened, but there is no verb for his tongue, so translators reasonably add one: “his tongue was loosed.” Gabriel had said Zechariah would not be able to speak until it happened (v. 20). But note that he did not speak at the birth of his son, but when he wrote, “John is his name.” Apparently God wanted him to get it fixed in his mind that God is in control, and writing the name of his son accomplished that (see v. 13).

“praising”: it is the verb eulogeō, and see v. 42 for more comments.

65:

Reverential fear is valid when miracles happen. It is the Greek noun phobos (pronounced foh-bohss), and it can mean “fright” or “fear” or “awe” or “reverential fear.” Nowadays preachers appear a little embarrassed by the fear of God. But they are wrong. Fear of God is a virtue in us, and the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 1:7). The NT authors like this word, using the verb and noun and adjectives (and emphobos, pronounced as it looks) 151 times. Imagine standing before God’s white throne in heaven. If he did not love you, you would faint with fear. Even when you know that he loves you, you would still shake and tremble with fear. Awe and intimacy go together between us and the Creator of the universe.

“words”: this word is rhēma, again. See v. 37 for more information.

66:

“tucked”: literally the Greek verb is the standard one for “place” or “put.” Everyone in the Judean hills who heard placed these miraculous events and words in their hearts, similar to Mary “pondering” (Luke 2:19) and “treasuring” (2:51) in her heart the words about her son. Instead of “placed” I chose “tucked.” It’s a little more intimate and sweet (or so it seems to me).

It must be wonderful to observe how a child grows up, what he would grow up into. God was on him, with him. What does that mean for the only child? Was he a little preacher boy? (I have heard of boys standing on soapboxes and playing church and preaching up a storm for their neighbor kids and siblings.) How deeply did he study the Torah and the other portions of Scripture? What did Zechariah the priest teach him? Did he say priests don’t drink alcohol? Probably. What did Elizabeth teach him about her ancestor Aaron, Moses’s older brother?

GrowApp for Luke 1:57-66

A.. What was it like when God answered a major prayer in your life?

B.. How would you define the fear of God (your fear of God)? What is your experience with it?

C.. In your child’s life, what has he or she grown or growing up into? If he or she has temporarily wandered off from the things of God, how are you praying for him or her?

D.. What are you teaching your children about God? How often? What does it mean to lead by example?

The Prophecy of Zechariah (Luke 1:67-80)

67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying:

68 “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,

Because he visited them and effected redemption for his people,

69 and he has lifted up a horn of salvation for us

In the house of David his servant,

70 just as he spoke through the mouths of his holy prophets from ages past,

71 Salvation from our enemies and from the hand of everyone who hates us,

72 to show mercy to our ancestors,

Remembering his holy covenant,

73 the oath which he swore to Abraham our ancestor, to grant us, 74 after being rescued from the hand of the enemies, to serve him fearlessly, 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

76 And you also, little child, shall be called prophet of the Most High; you shall go before the Lord to prepare his paths,

77 to reveal the knowledge of salvation to his people,

The forgiveness of their sins,

78 because of the heartfelt mercy of our God,

By which the Dayspring from on high shall visit us,

79 to shine on those living in darkness and the shadow of death,

To set our feet on the path of peace.

80 The child grew and became strong in the Spirit. He was in the desert until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

Comments:

Garland on the purpose of the hymns in Luke’s narrative and in the believing audience:

The hymns of the infancy narrative poetically interpret what is going on and directly engage the audience to join in the celebration. They have a show-stopping quality. Luke, therefore, does not include this hymn [Mary’s hymn] and the ones to follow as an extra frill to garnish the narrative. Instead, it highlights a major theme that stages “a meeting of faith and interpretation.” God has acted, and now a believer responds and interprets what it means from the stance of faith. The effect has been that for centuries the audience has joined to rejoice with Mary, Zechariah, and Simeon and in some cases to sing along. (p. 88).

67:

Throughout Luke-Acts, when people are filled with the Spirit or with a gift of the Spirit, or the Spirit came on them, they act or speak (Luke 1:41, 67, 80; Acts 2:2, 4, 43; 6:3, 5, 8; 7:55; 9:17; 10:44-46; 11:24; 13:9, 52; 14:17; 16:34; 19:6). The infilling is not a static experience or event. And so it is here.

Baptized, Filled, and Full of the Spirit: What Does It All Mean?

68:

I really like the translation “visited.” Other have “looked on,” but the Shorter Lexicon says to go with “visit.” I like the image of God coming down and visiting us, through prophets like John, but most significantly through Jesus, the Son of the Most High.

John will be the forerunner of his Lord (v. 76), so he pre-announced the redemption for God’s people. As noted, national Israel will reject its Messiah, so now the gospel has been entrusted to the Gentiles (and Jews who convert; see Acts 6:7). See vv. 54-55 and Luke 19:41-45; 21:20-24; 23:26-31; Matt. 21:33-45)

“redemption”: it is the Greek noun lutrōsis (pronounced loo-troh-seess and used only here, Luke 2:38; Heb. 9:12). It means “ransoming, releasing, and redemption.” In this context, God is supposed to buy back or redeem Israel from her enemies.

What Is Redemption in the Bible?

Covenant of Redemption

I like Morris’ simple definition: “saving at a cost” (comment on vv. 68-70). Then he quotes another scholar: “rescue at a high price.”

69:

“horn”: this reflects the four little protrusions sticking out from the altar of God in the tabernacle in the wilderness (Exod. 27:2; Lev. 4:30). In Lev. 4:30, the priest put the blood of the sacrifice on the horns of the altar of burnt sacrifice. It is easy to relate this to Jesus’ blood sacrifice, but let’s not assume Luke had this in mind (though he could have). The word “horn” came to mean salvation or deliverance, so one translation says, “brought about a mighty deliverance” (Culy, Parsons, and Stigall). It goes right to the evolved meaning of mighty deliverance. “‘Horn is a common OT metaphor for power because of the great strength of the horned animals of the Near East. The word ‘salvation’ describes the kind of strength Zechariah had in mind” (Liefeld and Pao, comment on v. 69).

Marshall: “The means of redemption is that God has brought onto the stage of history (… cf. Acts 13:22) a ‘horn of salvation’, i.e. ‘a mighty Saviour’. … ‘horn’, suggests the strength of a fighting animal. It is used in Ps. 132:17 of a successor to David, but the language here reflects Ps. 18:2” (comment on v. 69).

“salvation”: Since the theology of salvation (soteriology) is so critical for our lives, let’s look more closely at the noun salvation, which is sōtēria (pronounced soh-tay-ree-ah and used 46 times) and at the verb sōzō (pronounced soh-zoh and used 106 times).

Greek is the language of the NT. BDAG defines the noun sōtēria as follows, depending on the context: (1) “deliverance, preservation” … (2) “salvation.”

The verb sōzō means “save, rescue, heal” in a variety of contexts, but mostly it is used of saving the soul. BDAG says that the verb means, depending on the context: (1) “to preserve or rescue from natural dangers and afflictions, save, keep from harm, preserve,” and the sub-definitions under no. 1 are as follows: save from death; bring out safely; save from disease; keep, preserve in good condition; thrive, prosper, get on well; (2) “to save or preserve from transcendent danger or destruction, save or preserve from ‘eternal’ death … “bring Messianic salvation, bring to salvation,” and in the passive it means “be saved, attain salvation”; (3) some passages in the NT say we fit under the first and second definition at the same time (Mark 8:5; Luke 9:24; Rom. 9:27; 1 Cor. 3:15).

Another rarer verb is diasōzō (pronounced dee-ah-soh-zoh and used 8 times), and the prefix means “through.” Here are the occurrences: Mark 14:36; Luke 7:3; Acts 23:24; 27:43-44; 28:1, 4; 2; 1 Pet. 3:20. It means what the regular verb does, but often to be rescued through and up to the very end, like Paul’s ship landing on Malta after going through the storm.

As noted throughout this commentary on Luke-Acts, the noun salvation and the verb save go a lot farther than just preparing the soul to go on to heaven. Together, they have additional benefits: keeping and preserving and rescuing from harm and dangers; saving or freeing from diseases and demonic oppression; and saving or rescuing from sin dominating us; ushering into heaven and rescuing us from final judgment. What is our response to the gift of salvation? You are grateful and then you are moved to act. When you help or rescue one man from homelessness or an orphan from his oppression, you have moved one giant step towards salvation of his soul. Sometimes feeding a hungry man and giving clothes to the naked or taking him to a medical clinic come before saving his soul.

All of it is a package called salvation and being saved.

Word Study on Salvation

“house”: it means dynasty. Jesus descends from David (Luke 3:23-31), and he fulfills the Davidic covenant.

God’s Covenant with David

3. Titles of Jesus: The Son of David and the Messiah

70-71:

Jesus’s ministry was predicted by the prophets and therefore is valid. It was no surprise for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

It is a burden on the Jewish community over the centuries to have enemies and those who hate the Jews. Please don’t allow this to happen in your soul. It is poison, and poison distorts your perspective.

“salvation”: it comes from the noun sōtēria (pronounced soh-tay-ree-ah). See v. 69 for more comments.

In this verse, it means a new era has been ushered in for them back them and for us today.

What Does ‘Salvation’ Mean?

“from ages past”: see v. 33 for comments.

72:

“covenant”: here is a working definition:

Out of his great love for his highest creation, people, God unilaterally reaches out to them and initiates an unalterable legal agreement, in which he stipulates the terms that reveal how he relates to people, and they to him.

More simply:

A covenant is an unalterable legal agreement, in which God stipulates the terms that reveal how he relates to people, and they to him.

As it happens, the people broke the Sinai covenant, and Jeremiah promised a new covenant (31:31-34). Please read Heb. 8 for how it applies to the church. The Sinai covenant has been replaced (Heb. 8, 9, 10).

Bible Basics about Covenants

73:

The oath he swore to Abraham is found in three phases seen in Gen. 12:1-3 and 15:1-21 and 17:1-27. The actual oath is found in Gen. 22:15-18, after Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac. Many scholars believe there are two covenants, one is an unconditional land grant (Gen. 15), which is still ongoing; it is not based on an outward sign like circumcision. Rather, Abraham believed God, and his faith was credited to him as righteousness (15:6). The second is the conditional covenant of circumcision, which has been replaced by the New Covenant, because now we are not circumcised except in the heart (Rom. 2:25-29). The unconditional land grant has not been replaced, but the second one has. This sounds reasonable to me.

God’s Covenant with Abraham

Whatever the case, God relates to his people by a covenant or legal agreement he makes with us.

74-75:

First, God has to rescue the Jews from the hand of their enemies.

“hand”: this noun is metaphorical and speaks of instrument. The hand of their enemies held them down. Now Zechariah was prophesying political and military deliverance from the Romans, but if he had lived, he would have been disappointed to see the Romans conquer Jerusalem in A.D. 70. In fact, this conquest was part of God’s judgment on national Israel’s for its rejection of the Messiah (see vv. 54-55, above, and Luke 19:41-45; 21:20-24; 23:26-31; Matt. 21:33-45).

“serve”: this is the Greek verb latreuō (pronounced lah-true-oh). It is more than just the offering of animal sacrifices in the temple; it has a moral quality to it: holiness and righteousness. Your own worship must produce holiness, righteousness, and fearlessness. On the other side, it must also produce reverential awe, while you worship. Worship that does not lead to a changed life is just enthusiasm and flashing lights without substance. It is okay to have fun and joy, with leaping, but we must go deeper.

76:

John now has his mission. He will be a prophet, and he shall “forerun” (literally) before the Lord. Theologically, Jesus is called the Lord, which in his context speaks of his deity. John was a prophet of the Most High, while Jesus is the Son of the Most High (v. 32). John was killed and his body lies in the grave to this day (Luke 3:18-19; 9:7-9), but Jesus’s body never suffered decay, because God raised him from the dead, and his body did not suffer from decay (Luke 24 and Acts 2:24-32).

77:

“reveal”: it literally reads “give,” but John, in effect, reveals salvation, while God gives it. In this context I see them as synonyms.

For Luke, John’s ministry is about preaching salvation, the forgiveness of sins, and the baptism of repentance. Forgiveness is also a major part of Jesus’ teaching (Luke 4:18). Jesus’s preaching and the apostolic preaching emphasize repentance: Luke 24:47; Acts 5:31; 13:38; 17:30; 20:21). In Luke 24:47, preaching repentance was part of Jesus commission.

What Is Biblical Forgiveness?

“knowledge”: it is the Greek noun gnōsis (pronounced g’noh-seess, and be sure to pronounce the “g”; yes, we really do get our word know from it, through Indo-European roots). BADG, which many consider to be the authoritative lexicon of the NT, says it is the “comprehension or intellectual grasp of something,” which God and man can do. That’s fine, but in Christ our knowledge goes into the heart. We can experience it, or, better, we can experience the reality behind the intellectual grasp. We can have personal and experiential knowledge of God and his salvation.

Word Study: Knowledge

“forgiveness”: it comes from the Greek noun aphesis (pronounced ah-feh-seess), which means “release” or “cancellation” or “pardon” or “forgiveness.” Let’s look at a more formal definition of its verb, which is aphiēmi (pronounced ah-fee-ay-mee), and BDAG defines it with the basic meaning of letting go: (1) “dismiss or release someone or something from a place or one’s presence, let go, send away”; (2) “to release from legal or moral obligations or consequence, cancel, remit, pardon”; (3) “to move away with implication of causing a separation, leave, depart”; (4) “to leave something continue or remain in its place … let someone have something” (Matt. 4:20; 5:24; 22:22; Mark 1:18; Luke 10:30; John 14:18); (5) “leave it to someone to do something, let, let go, allow, tolerate.” The Shorter Lexicon adds “forgive.” In sum, God lets go, dismisses, releases, sends away, cancels, pardons, and forgives our sins. His work is full and final. Don’t go backwards or dwell on it. God has dismissed or sent them away.

Please read these verses for how forgiving God is:

10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Ps. 103:10-12)

And these great verses are from Micah:

18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
19 He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea. (Mic. 7:18-19, ESV)

What Is Biblical Forgiveness?

“sins”: it comes from the word noun hamartia (pronounced hah-mar-tee-ah). A deep study reveals that it means a “departure from either human or divine standards of uprightness” (BDAG, p. 50). It can also mean a “destructive evil power” (ibid., p. 51). In other words, sin has a life of its own. Be careful! In the older Greek of the classical world, it originally meant to “miss the mark” or target. Sin destroys, and that’s why God hates it, and so should we. The good news: God promises us forgiveness when we repent.

Bible Basics about Sin: Word Studies

Human Sin: Original and Our Committed Sin

78:

“heartfelt”: it comes from the Greek noun splagchnon (pronounced splahg-khnown). BDAG says the noun is related to the inward part of the body, especially the viscera, inward parts, entrails. But some update their translation with the noun as “heart.” The verb is splanchnizomai (pronounced splan-khnee-zoh-my) and is used 12 times, exclusively in the Gospels. “It describes the compassion Jesus had for those he saw in difficulty” (Mounce, New Expository Dictionary, p. 128). BDAG defines the verb simply: “have pity, feel sympathy.” The verb is also related to the inward parts of a person. God’s mercy comes from the deepest part of his being (so to speak). Some translations have “tender.” I went with another part of the anatomy—the heart.

As an important side note, in Hebrew the verb raḥam (pronounced rakh-am, and used 47 times) means “to have compassion on, show mercy, take pity on and show love.” The noun raḥamim (39 times) (pronounced rach’meem) means “compassion, mercy, pity.” Both words are related to the word for “womb,” when a woman feels close to and love for the human life growing there. It’s deep in God, too.

Do I Really Know God? He Is Compassionate and Merciful

“Daystar”: one translation has the intriguing “Rising One” (Culy, Parsons, Stigall). I like that one. Others have “the Sun.” “Dawning” can signify a mental activity: “it dawned on me.”

However, the main point is Jesus. He is the Daystar or Dayspring. Dayspring is better, because a Daystar does not last, and it cannot enlighten those sitting in darkness and the shadows. This is a great metaphor for the coming of the Messiah.

79:

“Messiah’s task also involves guidance … The purpose of his appearing is to lead others to God, into the way of peace. The consequence of deliverance is a full life, which is able to serve God (1:74-75)” (Bock, vol. 1, p. 193).

“shadow of death”: this reminds me of Ps. 23:4: “Yes, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” or harm.

“peace”: it speaks of more than just the absence of war. It can mean prosperity and well-being. It can mean peace in your heart and peace with your neighbor. Best of all, it means peace with God, because he reconciled us to him.

Let’s explore more deeply the peace that God brings.

This word in Hebrew is shalom and means well being, both in the soul and in circumstances, and it means, yes, prosperity, because the farm in an agricultural society would experience well being and harmony and growth. The crops would not fail and the livestock would reproduce. Society and the individual would live in peace and contentment and harmony. Deut. 28:1-14 describes the blessings for obedience, a man and his family and business enjoying divine goodness and benefits and material benefits.

With that background, let’s explore the Greek word, which overlaps with shalom. It is the noun eirēnē (pronounced ay-ray-nay, used 92 times, and we get the name Irene from it). One specialist defines it: “Peace is a state of being that lacks nothing and has no fear of being troubled in its tranquility; it is euphoria coupled with security. … This peace is God’s favor bestowed on his people” (Mounce, p. 503).

BDAG has this definition for the noun: (2) It is “a state of well-being, peace.” Through salvation we have peace with God (Rom. 5:1). We have peace that has been brought through Christ (Col. 3:15). We are to run towards the goal of peace (2 Pet. 3:14; Rom. 8:6). It is the essential characteristic of the Messianic Age (Acts 10:36; Rom. 10:15). An angel greeted and promised the shepherds peace on earth for those in whom God is well pleased, at the birth of the Messiah (Luke 2:29). In the entire Gospel of Luke, Jesus was ushering in the kingdom of God.

Word Study on Peace

Do I Really Know God? He Is the God of Peace

80:

People called by God and about whom mighty prophecies were spoken as children must still grow up, as naturally as anyone else. John is different from any other child in Israel because he became strong in spirit (his own spirit) or the Spirit (God’s Spirit). It can be both the human spirit and God’s Spirit at the same time in this verse. And he was a forerunner of the Lord Jesus, the Messiah.

GrowApp for Luke 1:67-80

A.. John was about to preach repentance and forgiveness of sin. How did you experience the forgiveness of sins? What did that feel like?

B.. John grew and became stronger in God. How do you become stronger in the power of the Spirit?

Summary and Conclusion

Several themes are clear in this chapter.

First, it is clear now that Luke has begun his biography about Jesus with the power of the Spirit. His Gospel is super-charged with the charismatic and supernatural atmosphere of God through his Spirit. From the first chapter to the last one, Chapter 24, his work must be read in that context.

Second, we are now moving from temple religion to a simpler practice implemented by John the Baptist. Zechariah was a priest and did his duty in the temple (1:8-10). Circumcision appears once in this chapter (v. 59) and once in the next (2:21). The Passover festival is observed in the next chapter (2:41-43). At first the new Way (early Christianity) was contained in Judaism, and so is not completely unprecedented. But gradually the new Way had to drift, in fits and starts, away from the older religion. All the old rituals have to disappear. And John is called to announce the new Way and streamline things. One main difference is that one can be immersed in water for the sign of repentance and the forgiveness of sins. One does not need to go to the temple and offer a sin offering for this forgiveness.

Third, the Great Reversal comes to the fore. The poor and outcast, like women, are brought to the front and center of God’s kingdom project to rescue the globe, while the blindly powerful and rich are marginalized in God’s kingdom. Recall that Luke 1:51-53 and 2:34 says that Jesus would cause the fall of the mighty and the rise of the needy, and the rich would be lowered, and the poor raised up. It is the down elevator and up elevator. Those at the top will take the down elevator, and those at the bottom will take the up elevator.

Fourth, God promises deliverance for Israel, so God’s biblical story continues, but will they recognize it when it comes through the Messiah? The Jewish establishment in Jerusalem did not see it; they pushed for and allowed the Romans to crucify him. Now Judaism, expressed in the temple worship, is about to sit under judgment (Luke 19:41-45; 21:20-24; 23:26-31; Matt. 21:33-45), though numerous individual priests (Acts 6:7) and thousands of Jews of Jerusalem and Judea converted (Acts 2:41; 4:4; Acts 21:20). As noted, God loves people, but he is not enamored with systems.

And now the kingdom has been turned over to the Gentiles, so the gospel can go around all the world, without Judaism encumbering it. The kingdom of God has been streamlined to the basics, without all the rituals and dietary laws and harsh penalties and other things spelled out in the Torah (first five books of the Bible). The Sinai Covenant has been replaced with the New Covenant (Heb. 8, 9, 10), but the New Covenant Scriptures still retained moral law.

David E. Garland has twelve contrasts between Zechariah and Mary at the birth announcements (pp. 84-85). Here is a summary:

1.. Zechariah and Elizabeth belong to a priestly line; Mary’s background is not stated, indicating her lowly status.

2.. The older couple are both blameless and righteous; Mary’s social qualities, though no doubt stellar, are not brought up, indicating she is the recipient of unmerited favor;

3.. Zechariah was in devout prayer and religious duties, who said many prayers; the angel visited Mary without her praying, so divine grace again.

5.. Zechariah is in Jerusalem, the holy city; Mary was in village of no fame;

6.. Elizabeth is beyond child-bearing age, but conception through a man will happen; Mary is a virgin, so human conception is impossible;

7.. To Zechariah the angel promised what happened in the OT: an older couple will conceive (e.g. Abraham and Sarah); Mary is promised a virginal concept that has never happened before.

8.. Zechariah asked for a sign, though the sign—the angel right in front of him—was sufficient, and the sign he received is silence; Mary received the sign of a blessing from Elizabeth.

9.. John is to be great before the Lord; Jesus is great in himself, without the qualifier;

10.. John’s mission will prepare the way, and then he shall fade out of the narrative; Jesus and his kingdom will live on forever;

11.. John will be filled with the Spirit even before his birth, yet the Spirit is prophetic; Jesus will be conceived by the Spirit and his power and is Son of the Most High;

12.. John the prophet will turn many in Israel to God; Jesus the Messianic king will rule forever over the house of Jacob.

SOURCES

As a life-long learner, I refer to a community of Bible scholars, throughout this commentary on Luke. They are many kilometers ahead of me in understanding the text. They are excellent, and I admire them, but their commentaries are too often too technical. I hope I have simplified matters. I also write from a Renewal perspective.

Bock, Darrel L. Luke 1:1-9:50. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. 1 (Baker, 1994).

—. Luke 9:51-24:53. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. 2. (Baker 1996).

Culy, Martin M., Mikael C. Parsons. Joshua J. Stigall. Luke: A Handbook on the Greek Text. (Baylor UP, 2010).

Fitzmyer, Joseph A., SJ. The Gospel according to Luke, I-IX. Vol. 28. The Anchor Bible. (Doubleday, 1981).

—. The Gospel according to St. Luke, X-XIV. The Anchor Bible. Vol. 28A. (Doubleday, 1985).

Garland, David E. Luke. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. (Zondervan, 2011).

The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger (United Bible Society, 2014).

Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. (Eerdmans, 1997).

Liefeld, Walter L. and David W. Pao. Luke. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. (Zondervan, 2007).

Marshall, I. Howard. The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text. The New International Greek Testament Commentary. (Eerdmans, 1978).

Morris, Leon. Luke. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. (IVP Academic, 1988).

Stein, Robert H. Luke: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture. The New American Commentary. Vol. 24. (Broadman and Holman, 1992).

Works Cited

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