1Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us,2just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word, delivered them to us, 3it seemed good to me also, having closely followed all things from the very first, to write it to you in orderly fashion, most excellent Theophilus, 4that you may know the certainty of the words which you were told.5There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.6And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless.7But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.8So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division,9according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.10And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense.11And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense.12And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.13But the angel said to him, Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.14And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.15For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb.16And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.17He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.18And Zacharias said to the angel, By what shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.19And the angel answered and said to him, I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings.20But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their season.21And the people waited for Zacharias, and wondered that he lingered so long in the temple.22But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they recognized that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he made signs to them and remained speechless.23And so it was, as soon as the days of his service were fulfilled, that he departed to his own house.24Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying,25Thus the Lord has done with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.26Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,27to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary.28And having come in, the angel said to her, Hail, favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!29But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and contemplated what kind of greeting this might be.30And the angel said to her, Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor from God.31And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS.32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David.33And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.34Then Mary said to the angel, How can this be, since I do not know a man?35And the angel answered and said to her, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.36Now behold, Elizabeth your kinswoman has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren.37For not one declaration of God will be impossible.38Then Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word. And the angel departed from her.39And Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah,40and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.41And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.42And she spoke out with a loud voice and said, Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!43And why is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?44For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.45Blessed is she who believes, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.46And Mary said: My soul magnifies the Lord,47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.48For He regards the lowly state of His handmaid; for behold, henceforth all generations will count me blessed.49For He who is mighty does great things to me, and holy is His name.50And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.51He performs mightily with His arm; He scatters the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.52He puts down the mighty from their thrones, and exalts the lowly.53He fills the hungry with good things, and the rich He sends away empty.54He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy,55as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever.56And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house.57Now Elizabeth's time was fulfilled for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son.58And her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had magnified His mercy with her, and they rejoiced with her.59So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they were calling him by the name of his father, Zacharias.60And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John.61But they said to her, There is no one among your kindred who is called by this name.62So they made signs to his father; what he would have him called.63And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, His name is John. So they all marveled.64And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God.65And fear came on all who dwelt around them; and all these sayings were talked about throughout all the hill country of Judea.66And all those who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What kind of child will this be? And the hand of the Lord was with him.67And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:68Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people,69and raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David,70as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets since the world began,71Deliverance from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us,72to perform mercy with our fathers and to remember His holy covenant,73the oath which He swore to our father Abraham:74To grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear,75in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.76And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,77to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins,78through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;79to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.80So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his proclamation to Israel.
Jamieson Fausset Brown Bible Commentary 1
set forth in order--more simply, to draw up a narrative. 2
from the beginning--that is, of His public ministry, as is plain from what follows. 3
from the very first--that is, from the very earliest events; referring to those precious details of the birth and early life, not only of our Lord, but of His forerunner, which we owe to Luke alone.
in order--or "consecutively"--in contrast, probably, with the disjointed productions to which he had referred. But this must not be pressed too far; for, on comparing it with the other Gospels, we see that in some particulars the strict chronological order is not observed in this Gospel.
most excellent--or "most noble"--a title of rank applied by this same writer twice to Felix and once to Festus (Acts 22:26
; Acts 24:3
; Acts 26:25
). It is likely, therefore, that "Theophilus" was chief magistrate of some city in Greece or Asia Minor [WEBSTER and WILKINSON]. 4
that thou mightest know--"know thoroughly."
hast been instructed--orally instructed--literally, "catechized" or "catechetically taught," at first as a catechumen or candidate for Christian baptism. 5
ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE FORERUNNER. (Luke 1:5-25)
Herod--(See on Matt 2:1
course of Abia--or Abijah; the eighth of the twenty-four orders of courses into which David divided the priests (see 1Chr 24:1
, 1Chr 24:4
, 1Chr 24:10
). Of these courses only four returned after the captivity (Ezra 2:34
), which were again subdivided into twenty-four--retaining the ancient name and order of each. They took the whole temple service for a week each.
his wife was of the daughters of Aaron--The priests might marry into any tribe, but "it was most commendable of all to marry one of the priests' line" [LIGHTFOOT]. 6
commandments and ordinances--The one expressing their moral--the other their ceremonial--obedience [CALVIN and BENGEL], (Compare Ezek 11:20
; Heb 9:1
). It has been denied that any such distinction was known to the Jews and New Testament writers. But Mark 12:33
, and other passages, put this beyond all reasonable doubt. 7
So with Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Elkanah and Hannah, Manoah and his wife. 9
his lot was to burn incense--The part assigned to each priest in his week of service was decided by lot. Three were employed at the offering of incense--to remove the ashes of the former service; to bring in and place on the golden altar the pan filled with hot burning coals taken from the altar of burnt offering; and to sprinkle the incense on the hot coals; and, while the smoke of it ascended, to make intercession for the people. This was the most distinguished part of the service (Rev 8:3
), and this was what fell to the lot of Zacharias at this time [LIGHTFOOT]. 10
praying without--outside the court in front of the temple, where stood the altar of burnt offering; the men and women in separate courts, but the altar visible to all.
the time of incense--which was offered along with the morning and evening sacrifice of every day; a beautiful symbol of the acceptableness of the sacrifice offered on the altar of burnt offering, with coals from whose altar the incense was burnt (Lev 16:12
). This again was a symbol of the "living sacrifice" of themselves and their services offered daily to God by the worshippers. Hence the language of Ps 141:2
; Rev 8:3
. But that the acceptance of this daily offering depended on the expiatory virtue presupposed in the burnt offering, and pointing to the one "sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savor" (Eph 5:2
), is evident from Isa 6:6
right side--the south side, between the altar and the candlestick, Zacharias being on the north side, in front of the altar, while offering incense [WEBSTER and WILKINSON]. But why there? The right was the favorable side (Matt 25:33
) [SCHOTTGEN and WESTEIN in MEYER]; compare Mark 16:5
thy prayer is heard--doubtless for offspring, which by some presentiment he even yet had not despaired of.
John--the same as "Johanan," so frequent in the Old Testament, meaning "Jehovah's gracious gift." 14
shall rejoice--so they did (Luke 1:58
, Luke 1:66
); but the meaning rather is, "shall have cause to rejoice"--it would prove to many a joyful event. 15
great in the sight of the Lord--nearer to Him in official standing than all the prophets. (See Matt 11:10
drink neither wine nor strong drink--that is, shall be a Nazarite, or "a separated one" (Num 6:2
, &c.). As the leper was the living symbol of sin, so was the Nazarite of holiness; nothing inflaming was to cross his lips; no razor to come on his head; no ceremonial defilement to be contracted. Thus was he to be "holy to the Lord [ceremonially] all the days of his separation." This separation was in ordinary cases temporary and voluntary: only Samson (Judg 13:7
), Samuel (1Sam 1:11
), and John Baptist were Nazarites from the womb. It was fitting that the utmost severity of legal consecration should be seen in Christ's forerunner. HE was the REALITY and PERFECTION of the Nazarite without the symbol, which perished in that living realization of it: "Such an High Priest became us, who was SEPARATE FROM SINNERS" (Heb 7:26
filled with the Holy Ghost, from . . . womb--a holy vessel for future service. 16
A religious and moral reformer, Elijah-like, he should be (Mal 4:6
, where the "turning of the people's heart to the Lord" is borrowed from 1Kgs 18:37
). In both cases their success, though great, was partial--the nation was not gained. 17
before him--before "the Lord their God" (Luke 1:16
). By comparing this with Mal 3:1
and Isa 40:3
, it is plainly "Jehovah" in the flesh of Messiah [CALVIN and OLSHAUSEN] before whom John was to go as a herald to announce His approach, and a pioneer o prepare His way.
in the spirit--after the model.
and power of Elias--not his miraculous power, for John did no miracle" (John 10:41
), but his power "turning the heart," or with like success in his ministry. Both fell on degenerate times; both witnessed fearlessly for God; neither appeared much save in the direct exercise of their ministry; both were at the head of schools of disciples; the success of both was similar.
fathers to the children--taken literally, this denotes the restoration of parental fidelity [MEYER and others], the decay of which is the beginning of religious and social corruption--one prominent feature of the coming revival being put for the whole. But what follows, explanatory of this, rather suggests a figurative sense. If "the disobedient" be "the children," and to "the fathers" belongs "the wisdom of the just" [BENGEL], the meaning will be, "he shall bring back the ancient spirit of the nation into their degenerate children" [CALVIN, &c.]. So Elijah invoked "the God Abraham, Isaac, and Israel," when seeking to "turn their heart back again" (1Kgs 18:36
to make ready, &c.--more clearly, "to make ready for the Lord a prepared people," to have in readiness a people prepared to welcome Him. Such preparation requires, in every age and every soul, an operation corresponding to the Baptist's ministry. 18
Whereby, &c.--Mary believed what was far harder without a sign. Abraham, though older, and doubtless Sarah, too, when the same promise was made to him, "staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God." This was that in which Zacharias failed. 19
Gabriel--signifying "man of God," the same who appeared to Daniel at the time of incense (Dan 9:21
) and to Mary (Luke 1:26
stand, &c.--as his attendant (compare 1Kgs 17:1
not able--deprived of the power of speech (Luke 1:64
). He asked a sign, and now he got it.
until the day that these things shall be performed--See on Luke 1:64
waited--to receive from him the usual benediction (Num 6:23
tarried so long--It was not usual to tarry long, lest it should be thought vengeance had stricken the people's representative for something wrong [LIGHTFOOT]. 22
speechless--dumb, and deaf also (see Luke 1:62
hid five months--till the event was put beyond doubt and became apparent. 26
ANNUNCIATION OF CHRIST. (Luke 1:26
sixth month--of Elisabeth's time.
Joseph, of the house of David--(See on Matt 1:16
highly favoured--a word only once used elsewhere (Eph 1:6
, "made accepted"): compare Luke 1:30
, "Thou hast found favour with God." The mistake of the Vulgate's rendering, "full of grace," has been taken abundant advantage of by the Romish Church. As the mother of our Lord, she was the most "blessed among women" in external distinction; but let them listen to the Lord's own words. "Nay, rather blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it." (See on Luke 11:27
The angel purposely conforms his language to Isaiah's famous prophecy (Isa 7:14
) [CALVIN]. 32
This is but an echo of the sublime prediction in Isa 9:6
How, &c.--not the unbelief of Zacharias, "Whereby shall I know this?" but, taking the fact for granted, "How is it to be, so contrary to the unbroken law of human birth?" Instead of reproof, therefore, her question is answered in mysterious detail. 35
Holy Ghost--(See on Matt 1:18
power of the highest--the immediate energy of the Godhead conveyed by the Holy Ghost.
overshadow--a word suggesting how gentle, while yet efficacious, would be this Power [BENGEL]; and its mysterious secrecy, withdrawn, as if by a cloud, from human scrutiny [CALVIN].
that holy thing born of thee--that holy Offspring of thine.
therefore . . . Son of God--That Christ is the Son of God in His divine and eternal nature is clear from all the New Testament; yet here we see that Sonship efflorescing into human and palpable manifestation by His being born, through "the power of the Highest," an Infant of days. We must neither think of a double Sonship, as some do, harshly and without all ground, nor deny what is here plainly expressed, the connection between His human birth and His proper personal Sonship. 36
thy cousin--"relative," but how near the word says not.
conceived, &c.--This was to Mary an unsought sign, in reward of her faith. 37
For, &c.--referring to what was said by the angel to Abraham in like case (Gen 18:14
), to strengthen her faith. 38
Marvellous faith in such circumstances! 39
VISIT OF MARY TO ELISABETH. (Luke 1:39-56)
hill country--the mountainous tract running along the middle of Judea, from north to south [WEBSTER and WILKINSON].
with haste--transported with the announcement to herself and with the tidings, now first made known to her, of Elisabeth's condition.
a city of Juda--probably Hebron (see Josh 20:7
; Josh 21:11
saluted Elisabeth--now returned from her seclusion (Luke 1:24
babe leaped--From Luke 1:44
it is plain that this maternal sensation was something extraordinary--a sympathetic emotion of the unconscious babe, at the presence of the mother of his Lord. 42
What beautiful superiority to envy have we here! High as was the distinction conferred upon herself, Elisabeth loses sight of it altogether, in presence of one more honored still; upon whom, with her unborn Babe, in an ecstasy of inspiration, she pronounces a benediction, feeling it to be a wonder unaccountable that "the mother of her Lord should come to her." "Turn this as we will, we shall never be able to see the propriety of calling an unborn child "Lord," but by supposing Elisabeth, like the prophets of old, enlightened to perceive the Messiah's Divine nature" [OLSHAUSEN]. 43
"The mother of my Lord"--but not "My Lady" (compare Luke 20:42
; John 20:28
)" [BENGEL]. 45
An additional benediction on the Virgin for her implicit faith, in tacit and delicate contrast with her own husband.
for--rather, as in the Margin, "that." 46
A magnificent canticle, in which the strain of Hannah's ancient song, in like circumstances, is caught up, and just slightly modified and sublimed. Is it unnatural to suppose that the spirit of the blessed Virgin had been drawn beforehand into mysterious sympathy with the ideas and the tone of this hymn, so that when the life and fire of inspiration penetrated her whole soul it spontaneously swept the chorus of this song, enriching the Hymnal of the Church with that spirit-stirring canticle which has resounded ever since from its temple walls? In both songs, those holy women, filled with wonder to behold "the proud, the mighty, the rich," passed by, and, in their persons the lowliest chosen to usher in the greatest events, sing of this as no capricious movement, but a great law of the kingdom of God, by which He delights to "put down the mighty from their seats and exalt them of low degree." In both songs the strain dies away on CHRIST; in Hannah's under the name of "Jehovah's King"--to whom, through all His line, from David onwards to Himself, He will "give strength"; His "Anointed," whose horn He will exalt (1Sam 2:10
); in the Virgin's song, it is as the "Help" promised to Israel by all the prophets.
My soul . . . my spirit--"all that is within me" (Ps 103:1
my Saviour--Mary, poor heart, never dreamt, we see, of her own "immaculate conception"--in the offensive language of the Romanists--any more than of her own immaculate life. 54
holpen--Compare Ps 89:19
, "I have laid help on One that is mighty." 55
As he spake to our fathers--The sense requires this clause to be read as a parenthesis. (Compare Mic 7:20
; Ps 98:3
for ever--the perpetuity of Messiah's kingdom, as expressly promised by the angel (Luke 1:33
abode with her about three months--What an honored roof was that which, for such a period, overarched these cousins! and yet not a trace of it is now to be seen, while the progeny of those two women--the one but the honored pioneer of the other--have made the world new.
returned to her own house--at Nazareth, after which took place what is recorded in Matt 1:18
BIRTH AND CIRCUMCISION OF JOHN--SONG OF ZACHARIAS AND PROGRESS OF THE CHILD. (Luke 1:57-80)
eighth day--The law (Gen 17:12
) was observed, even though the eighth day after birth should be a sabbath (John 7:23
; and see Phil 3:5
called him--literally, "were calling"--that is, (as we should say) "were for calling." The naming of children at baptism has its origin in the Jewish custom at circumcision (Gen 21:3
); and the names of Abram and Sarai were changed at its first performance (Gen 17:5
, Gen 17:15
made signs--showing he was deaf, as well as dumb. 63
marvelled all--at his giving the same name, not knowing of any communication between them on the subject. 64
mouth opened immediately--on thus palpably showing his full faith in the vision, for disbelieving which he had been struck dumb (Luke 1:13
, Luke 1:20
fear--religious awe; under the impression that God's hand was specially in these events (compare Luke 5:26
; Luke 7:16
; Luke 8:37
hand of the Lord was with him--by special tokens marking him out as one destined to some great work (1Kgs 18:46
; 2Kgs 3:15
; Acts 11:21
There is not a word in this noble burst of divine song about his own child; like Elisabeth losing sight entirely of self, in the glory of a Greater than both.
Lord God of Israel--the ancient covenant God of the peculiar people.
visited and redeemed--that is, in order to redeem: returned after long absence, and broken His long silence (see Matt 15:31
). In the Old Testament, God is said to "visit" chiefly for judgment, in the New Testament for mercy. Zacharias would, as yet, have but imperfect views of such "visiting and redeeming," "saving from and delivering out of the hand of enemies" (Luke 1:71
, Luke 1:74
). But this Old Testament phraseology, used at first with a lower reference, is, when viewed in the light of a loftier and more comprehensive kingdom of God, equally adapted to express the most spiritual conceptions of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. 69
horn of salvation--that is "strength of salvation," or "mighty Salvation," meaning the Saviour Himself, whom Simeon calls "Thy Salvation" (Luke 2:30
). The metaphor is taken from those animals whose strength is in their horns (Ps 18:2
; Ps 75:10
; Ps 132:17
house of . . . David--This shows that Mary must have been known to be of the royal line, independent of Joseph; of whom Zacharias, if he knew anything, could not know that after this he would recognize Mary. 70
since the world began--or, "from the earliest period." 72
the mercy promised . . . his holy covenant . . . 73
the oath . . . to . . . Abraham--The whole work and kingdom of Messiah is represented as a mercy pledged on oath to Abraham and his seed, to be realized at an appointed period; and at length, in "the fulness of the time," gloriously made good. Hence, not only "grace," or the thing promised; but "truth," or fidelity to the promise, are said to "come by Jesus Christ" (John 1:17
That he would grant us, &c.--How comprehensive is the view here given! (1) The purpose of all redemption--"that we should serve Him"--that is, "the Lord God of Israel" (Luke 1:68
). The word signifies religious service distinctively--"the priesthood of the New Testament" [BENGEL]. (2) The nature of this service--"in holiness and righteousness before Him" (Luke 1:75
) --or, as in His presence (compare Ps 56:13
). (3) Its freedom--"being delivered out of the hand of our enemies." (4) Its fearlessness--"might serve Him without fear." (5) Its duration--"all the days of our life." 76
Here are the dying echoes of this song; and very beautiful are these closing notes--like the setting sun, shorn indeed of its noontide radiance, but skirting the horizon with a wavy and quivering light--as of molten gold--on which the eye delights to gaze, till it disappears from the view. The song passes not here from Christ to John, but only from Christ direct to Christ as heralded by His forerunner.
thou child--not "my son"--this child's relation to himself being lost in his relation to a Greater than either.
prophet of the Highest; for thou shalt go before him--that is, "the Highest." As "the Most High" is an epithet in Scripture only of the supreme God, it is inconceivable that inspiration should apply this term, as here undeniably, to Christ, unless He were "God over all blessed for ever" (Rom 9:5
to give knowledge of salvation--To sound the note of a needed and provided "salvation" was the noble office of John, above all that preceded him; as it is that of all subsequent ministers of Christ; but infinitely loftier was it to be the "Salvation" itself (Luke 1:69
and Luke 2:30
by the remission of . . . sins--This stamps at once the spiritual nature of the salvation here intended, and explains Luke 1:71
, Luke 1:74
Through the tender mercy of our God--the sole spring, necessarily, of all salvation for sinners.
dayspring from on high--either Christ Himself, as the "Sun of righteousness" (Mal 4:2
), arising on a dark world [BEZA, GROTIUS, CALVIN, DE WETTE, OLSHAUSEN, &c.], or the light which He sheds. The sense, of course, is one. 79
(Compare Isa 9:2
; Matt 4:13
). "That St. Luke, of all the Evangelists, should have obtained and recorded these inspired utterances of Zacharias and Mary--is in accordance with his character and habits, as indicated in Luke 1:1
" [WEBSTER and WILKINSON]. 80
And the child, &c.--"a concluding paragraph, indicating, in strokes full of grandeur, the bodily and mental development of the Baptist; and bringing his life up to the period of his public appearance" [OLSHAUSEN].
in the deserts--probably "the wilderness of Judea" (Matt 3:1
), whither he had retired early in life, in the Nazarite spirit, and where, free from rabbinical influences and alone with God, his spirit would be educated, like Moses in the desert, for his future high vocation.
his showing unto Israel--the presentation of himself before his nation, as Messiah's forerunner.