Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,[ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΟΝ]
Chap. 1:1-4.] Preface to Theophilus. The peculiar style of this preface,—which is purer Greek than the contents of the Gospel, and also more laboured and formal,—may be accounted for, partly because it is the composition of the Evangelist himself, and not translated from Hebrew sources like the rest, and partly because prefaces, especially when also dedicatory, are usually in a rounded and artificial style.
1. ἐπειδήπερ] This compound, of rare occurrence, is in keeping with the rhetorical style of the preface. See Hartung, Partikellehre, i. p. 342. Valcknaer quotes from Ulpian a similar exordium: ἐπειδήπερ περὶ τούτου πολλοὶ ἐπεχείρησαν ἀπολογήσασθαι.
πολλοί] Much depends on the meaning of this word, as guiding, or modifying, our opinion on the relation and sources of our Gospel histories. (1) That the writers of our present Gospels exclusively cannot be meant, is evident; since, even supposing Luke to have seen all three Gospels, one (that of John) was wholly, and another (that of Matthew) was in greater part, the production of an eye-witness and minister of the word,—which would leave only one for the πολλοί. (2) Apocryphal Gospels exclusively cannot be meant: for they would not be ‘narrations concerning matters fully believed among us,’ nor ‘delivered by eye-witnesses and ministers of the word,’ a great part of their contents being excluded by this very author from his own διήγησις. (3) A combination of these two may be intended—e.g. of the latter sort, the Gospel according to the Hebrews,—of the former, that according to Mark, but then also how shall we make out the πολλοί? Our present apocryphal Gospels arose far later than any likely date which can be assigned to Luke’s Gospel: see Prolegomena to Luke, § iv. (4) I believe the only probable interpretation of the words to be, that many persons, in charge of Churches, or otherwise induced, drew up, here and there, statements (narratives, διηγ.) of the testimony of eye-witnesses and ὑπηρ. τ. λ. (see below), so far as they themselves had been able to collect them. (I do not believe that either the Gospel of Matt. or that of Mark are to be reckoned among these; or if they are, that Luke had seen or used them.) That such narratives should not have come down to us, is no matter of surprise: for (1) they would be absorbed by the more complete and sanctioned accounts of our present Evangelists; and (2) Church tradition has preserved very few fragments of authentic information of the apostolic age. It is probable that in almost every Church where an eye-witness preached, his testimony would be taken down, and framed into some διήγησις, more or less complete, of the life and sayings of the Lord.
ἐπεχείρησαν] have undertaken; or, as E. V., taken in hand. This does not necessarily imply the insufficiency of such διηγήσεις, as , , Theophyl., &c. have imagined. Nor is any such failure implied (as Bp. Wordsw.) in Acts 19:13, where the aorist also is used. The failure then was not in the ὀνομάζειν, but in the issue. In Acts 9:29, the failure is conveyed by the imperfect tense, not necessarily by the verb itself. The fact of that failure is indeed implied in Luke’s description of his own work—but that, more because it possessed completeness (whereas they were fragmentary) than from any difference in kind.
ἀνατάξασθαι] to draw up—to arrange. διήγ.
διήγ.] a setting forth: and so if in relation to things past, a narration—history. The word is clearly explained in Plato, Rep. iii. p. 392: ἆρʼ οὐ πάντα ὅσα ὑπὸ μυθολόγων ἢ ποιητῶν λέγεται, διήγησις οὖσα τυγχάνει ἢ γεγονότων ἢ ὄντων ἢ μελλόντων; Τί γάρ, ἔφη, ἄλλο; Ἆρα οὖν οὐχὶ ἤτοι ἁπλῇ διηγήσει ἢ διὰ μιμήσεως γιγνομένῃ ἢ διʼ ἀμφοτέρων περαίνουσιν:
πεπληρ., according to some, ‘fulfilled.’ De Wette supports this by the meaning of πληρόω Acts 19:21; Acts 12:25, which is beside the purpose. The more likely rendering is that of E. V., certainly believed. (Meyer would render it, ‘which have found their completion among us,’ i.e. ‘us of the apostolic times;’ meaning ‘Theophilus and himself,’ &c. This, I think, gives too emphatic a sense to ἐν ἡμῖν, which can only mean as ordinarily, ‘among us,’ unless accompanied with some qualifying expression. His objection to the ordinary explanation,—that the participle ought, according to it, to be subjective to the πράγματα, surely is of no force.) See reff. and note on 2Timothy 4:5, 2Timothy 4:17.
The use of the cognate noun πληροφορία supports this view: see 1Thessalonians 1:5: Hebrews 6:11. There does not appear to be any reference to the filling of the sails of a ship, as Bp. Wordsw. The word with its cognates occurs only in a figurative sense, derived from “filling full” without any special reference.
ἡμῖν] among us Christians, i.e. you and me, and all members of the Church of Christ—so also the ἡμῖν in ver. 2.
2. καθὼς παρ.] The Apostles, &c., delivered these matters orally to the Churches in their teaching (see below on κατηχ.) and others drew up accounts from that catechetical instruction. It appears from this, that Luke was not aware of any διήγησις drawn up by an eye-witness or ὑπ. τ. λ. Their account of these matters was a παράδοσις, from which the διηγήσεις were drawn up. He cannot therefore have seen (or, having seen, not recognized as such, which is highly improbable) the Gospel of Matthew. Compare 1John 1:1-3.
ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς—not, ‘from the very beginning,’ i.e. the birth of the Lord, &c., but from the official beginning: see Acts 1:21 f. It differs from ἄνωθεν below.
αὐτ. κ. ὑπηρ. τοῦ λ.] αὐτ. most probably stands alone: but it may well be taken with τ. λ. (see below.)
ὑπηρ.,—see reff.,—ministering servants—but in connexion with ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς. The fanciful idea of “remiges in navi, sc. ecclesia,” cited by Wordsw. from Valckn., is out of the question. ὑπηρέτης had long lost trace of its original derivation, in its more common meaning; and it would be abhorrent from good taste to suppose St. Luke to have used it with so pedantic an allusion.
τ. λόγου—not, ‘the Λόγος’ (i.e. Christ: so Orig., Athanasius, Cyril, ), which would be altogether alien from Luke’s usage (see on Hebrews 4:12. Bleek, in his posthumous “Erklärung der drei ersten Evv.,” Leipz. 1862, also objects to the personal sense as too precise and definite for the rhetorical generalities of St. Luke in this passage)—nor ‘the matter,’ so that ὑπ. τ. λ. would signify those who by their labours contributed to bring the matter about, ‘qui ipsi interfuerunt rebus, tanquam pars aliqua’—for this is alien from Luke’s usage of ὑπηρ.—see Acts 26:16; but, the word,—‘the word preached:’—so that ὑπηρέτης τ. λόγ. = διάκονος τ. λόγ. Acts 6:4.
3. ἔδοξεν κἀμοί] Luke by this classes himself with these πολλοί, and shews that he intended no disparagement nor blame to them, and was going to construct his own history from similar sources. The παρηκ. ἄν. πᾶσιν ἀκρ. which follows, implies however a conscious superiority of his own qualification for the work. There is here no expressed claim to inspiration, but at the same time no disclaimer of it. (The addition et spiritui sancto, after κἀμοί, which is found in 3 lat. mss. and in ., makes the following clause an absurdity.)
παρηκ.] having traced down (by research), and so become accurately acquainted with. The word is used in just this sense by Demosth., περὶ τ. στ., p. 285: ἐκεῖνος ὁ καιρὸς καὶ ἡ ἡμέρα ἐκείνη οὐ μόνον εὔνουν καὶ πλούσιον ἄνδρα ἐκάλει, ἀλλὰ καὶ παρηκολουθηκότα τοῖς πράγμασιν ἐξ ἀρχῆς, καὶ συλλελογισμένον ὀρθῶς τίνος ἕνεκα ταῦτʼ ἔπραττεν ὁ Φίλ., καὶ τί βουλόμενος.
ἄνωθεν] from the beginning—i.e. as in ver. 5;—as distinguished from those who only wrote of the official life of the Lord, or only fragments perhaps of that.
καθεξῆς, consecutively: see reff. By this word we must not understand Luke to lay claim to any especial chronological accuracy in writing;—which indeed is not found in his Gospel. He traced the events in order as they happened: but he may have arranged them as other considerations led him. The word is of later usage, e.g. by Plutarch, Ælian, &c. The classics have ἐφεξῆς.
κράτ. θεόφ.] It is wholly unknown who this person was. The name was a very common one. The conjectures about him are endless, and entirely without value. It appears that he was a person of dignity (see reff. on κράτιστ.), and a convert to Christianity.
The idea of the name being not a proper, but a feigned one, designating ‘those who loved God’ (found as early as Epiphanius, Hær. ii. 51, p. 429, εἴτουν τινὶ Θεοφίλῳ τότε γράφων τοῦτο ἔλεγεν, ἢ παντὶ ἀνθρώπῳ θεὸν ἀγαπῶντι: and adopted again recently by Bp. Wordsworth), is far-fetched and improbable.
4.] ἐπιγνῷς—here in its stricter sense, of acquiring additional, more accurate knowledge—see reff. κατηχ.] Theophilus had then been orally instructed in the narratives which form the subject of this Gospel: and Luke’s intention in writing it is, that he might have a more accurate knowledge of these histories.
κατηχήθης—literally, catechized, ‘catechetically taught.’ Bleek, h. l., reminds us that this is not St. Luke’s own usage of the verb: cf. Acts 21:21, Acts 21:24, where it simply signifies hearing by report. But we may answer that in Acts 18:25, where the same construction occurs, this is the most likely sense.
λόγων is not to be rendered ‘things:’ neither it, nor ῥῆμα, nor דָּבָר, ever has this meaning, as is commonly but erroneously supposed. In all the commonly-cited examples of this, ‘things expressed in words’ are meant: here, the histories,—accounts. (See Prolegg. to the Gospels, i. 3.)
5-25.] Announcement by Gabriel of the birth of John. Peculiar to Luke. The style now totally alters and becomes Hebraistic, signifying that the following is translated or complied from an Aramaic oral narration, or perhaps (from the very distinct character of these two first chapters) document.
5.] ἐξ ἐφ. Ἀβ., which was the eighth of the four and twenty courses of the priests (see ref. 1 Chron.). These courses kept their names and order, though not their descent, after the captivity. The courses, though called ἐφημερίαι, were of a week’s duration each: ἀπὸ σαββάτου ἐπὶ σάββατον, Jos. Antt. vii. 14. 7. Meyer observes that if any use is to be made of this note of time of fix the date, our reckoning must be made backward from the destruction of the temple, not forward from the restoration of the courses by Judas Maccabæus, because it is not certain what course then began the new order of things; whereas we have a fixed note for the destruction of the temple, that it was on the 9th of Ab, and the course in waiting was that of Jehoiarib. Comm. ii. p. 194.
With the reading κ. γυνὴ αὐτῷ, we must render, and he had a wife from among … Ἐλισ.
Ἐλισ.] The LXX rendering, Exodus 6:23, of אֱלִישֶׁבַע, the wife of Aaron: signifying, Deus juramentum. John was thus of priestly descent by both parents. Cf. Jos. Vit. i. init., ἐμοὶ δὲ γένος ἐστὶν οὐκ ἄσημον, ἀλλʼ ἐξ ἱερέων ἄνωθεν καταβεβηκός. ὥσπερ δὴ παρʼ ἑκάστους ἄλλη τίς ἐστιν εὐγενείας ὑπόθεσις, οὕτως παρʼ ἡμῖν ἡ τῆς ἱερωσύνης μετουσία τεκμήριόν ἐστι γένους λαμπρότητος.
6.] πορ. ἐν, a Hebraism, as also προβ. ἐν τ. ἡμέραις, ver. 7, and ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ ἱερ.… ἔλαχεν, vv. 8, 9. This last is a construction frequent in Luke. In the phrase ἐντολαῖς κ. δικαιώμασιν (see reff.), we must not press any difference between the terms. δικαίωμα, as Bleek remarks, is used of an ordinance of God, laying down what is δίκαιον for men.
7.] προβαίνειν is only found in the classics in this sense with τήν or κατὰ τὴν ἡλικίαν, or τῇ ἡλικίᾳ.
9, 10. τοῦ θυμιᾶσαι (not θυμιάσαι)] This was the most honourable office which was allotted among the priests each day, and the same person could not serve it more than once. On the manner of casting the lots, see Lightfoot in loc.
τοῦ θ. εἰσελθών = to go in and to burn incense. The gen. τοῦ is in government after the verb ἔλαχεν: see Winer, § 44. 4. a. This verb commonly governs an accusative, but now and then a genitive: see Kühner, § 521: and cf. Il. ω. 76.
An account of John Hyrcanus the high-priest having a vision at the time of offering incense occurs Jos. Antt. xiii. 10. 3: φασὶ γὰρ ὅτι κατʼ ἐκείνην τὴν ἡμέραν καθʼ ἣν οἱ παῖδες αὐτοῦ τῷ Κυζικηνῷ συνέβαλον, αὐτὸς ἐν τῷ ναῷ θυμιῶν μόνος, ὢν ὁ ἀρχιερεύς, ἀκούσειε φωνῆς ὡς οἱ παῖδες αὐτοῦ νενικήκασιν ἀρτίως τὸν Ἀντίοχον. καὶ τοῦτο προελθὼν ἐκ τοῦ ναοῦ παντὶ τῷ πλήθει φανερὸν ἐποίησε· καὶ συνέβη οὕτως γενέσθαι. Here also we have the people outside (in the courts of the men and women):—their prayers were offered while the incense was burnt, as the smoke was symbolical of the ascent of prayer, Revelation 8:3, Revelation 8:4.
It appears, from the allotment having been just mentioned, to have been the morning incense burning. So Meyer. Theophylact and others understand the whole as describing the entry into the Holy of holies on the great day of Atonement, Lev_16. But this is manifestly an error: for it would necessitate Zacharias having been high-priest, which he never was; and in this case there would have been no casting of lots.
11.] The altar of incense, Exodus 30:1, must not be confounded with the large altar of burnt-offering: that stood outside the holy place, in the court of the priests. It was during the sacrifice on the great altar that the daily burning of the incense took place: one of the two priests, whose lot it was to offer incense, brought fire from off the altar of burnt-offering to the altar of incense, and then left the other priest there alone,—who, on a signal from the priest presiding at the sacrifice, kindled the incense: see Exodus 40:5, Exodus 40:26.
This is no vision, but an actual angelic appearance. The right is the favourable side: see Matthew 25:33. “We must understand the right as regarded the officiating priest, who stood with his face to the altar. It would thus be on the N. side of the holy place, where the table of shew-bread stood, whereas on the S. side was the golden candlestick.” Bleek.
13.] He had then prayed for a son—but as appears below, long since—for he now had ceased to look for an answer to his prayer. Many Commentators (, Thl., Euth., Grot., &c.) have thought his prayer was for the salvation of Israel by the appearance of the Messiah: but the former view appears more probable.
15.] ἐνώπ. τ. κ., signifying the spiritual nature of his office and influence.
The priests were similarly prohibited to drink strong drink; and the Nazarites even more rigidly: see reff.
σίκ. = שֵׁכָר (from שָׁכַר, ‘inebriatus est’),—‘any strong liquor not made from grapes.’ [Wiclif renders “He schal not drynke wyne ne sidir.”]
πν. ἁγ. πλ. is a contrast to, and a reason for, the not drinking wine nor strong drink: compare Ephesians 5:18.
Olshausen and Meyer think that (comparing ver. 44) the meaning is, the Holy Spirit should in some wonderful manner act on the child even before his birth. But (see reff.) this is not necessary,—nay, would it not rather be in this case ἐν κοιλίᾳ …? The ἐκ seems to fix the prior limit of the indwelling of the Spirit, at his birth. Meyer grounds his view on the meaning of ἔτι as distinguished from ἤδη, and takes the construction as embracing both particulars—he shall be so in, and shall become so from … So likewise Bleek, and Hoffmann, Weiss. und Erfüll. ii. 250 f.
16.] The work of John was one of preparation and turning men’s hearts towards God. For full notes on his office, see on Mat_11. It may suffice here to repeat, that it was a concentration of the spirit of the law, whose office it was to convince of sin: and that he eminently represented the law and the prophets in their work of preparing the way for Christ.
17.] ἐνώπ. αὐτοῦ—i.e. κυρίου τοῦ θ. αὐτῶν, manifest in the flesh. De Wette denies this interpretation, as contrary to all analogy: and yet himself explains the expression by saying that what the Messiah does, is in Scripture ascribed to God as its doer (similarly Meyer). But why? because Messiah is God with us. This expression is besides used (see Zechariah 14:5) in places where the undoubted and sole reference is to the Messiah. See Bleek’s note, in which he decides for this view, as against that which refers αὐτοῦ directly to the Messiah as the Son of God.
ἐν πν. κ. δυν.] As a type, a partial fulfilment, of the personal coming of Elias in the latter days (see note on Matthew 11:13, Matthew 11:14). Bleek remarks that it was not in the wonder-working agency of Elias that John was like him, for “John did no miracle,”—but in the power of his uttered persuasion.
ἐπιστρ.…] The first member only of the sentence corresponds with Malachi, and that not verbatim. The angel gives the exposition of the second member,—καὶ καρδίαν ἀνθρώπου πρὸς τὸν πλησίον αὐτοῦ,—for of course that must be understood in the better sense, of the good prevailing, and the bad becoming like them.
ἐν is elliptic for εἰς τὸ εἶναι ἐν … see reff.
Augustine, De Civ. Dei, xx. 29, vol. vii.—‘est sensus, ut etiam filii sic intelligant legem, id est, Judæi, quemadmodum patres eam intellexerunt, id est Prophetæ, in quibus erat et ipse Moyses:’ so also Kuinoel, but erroneously, for both articles would be expressed,—τῶν πατέρων ἐπὶ τὰ τέκνα.
18.] The birth of John, involving human generation, but prophetically announced, and supernatural, answers to the birth of Isaac in the O.T.
But Abraham’s faith was a strong contrast to the unbelief of Zacharias: see Romans 4:19. De Wette, without noticing the above remark (which is Olshausen’s), says, “the same doubt, which Abraham also entertained in a similar case;” so that we have here, as often elsewhere, in the interpretation of Scripture (Genesis 15:6, Genesis 15:8; Genesis 17:17; Genesis 18:12), De Wette versus Paul (Rom. as above):—the fact being, that the case Genesis 15:8 was not similar.
πρεσβύτης] The Levites (see Numbers 4:3; Numbers 8:24, Numbers 8:25) became superannuated at the age of fifty: but it appears, by extracts from the Rabbinical writings given by Lightfoot, that this was not the case with the priests.
The names of the angels, say the Rabbis, came up with Israel from Babylon. We first read of both Michael and Gabriel in the book of Daniel. But we are not therefore to suppose that they were borrowed from any heathen system, as Strauss and the rationalists have done; the fact being, that the persons and order of the angels were known long before, and their names formed matter of subsequent revelation to Daniel: see Professor Mill’s Vindication of Luke, 1, § 4, and note A; also Josh. 5:13-16.
ὁ παρεστ. ἐν. τ. θ., one of the chief angels near the throne of God. They are called seven in Tobit (ibid.): see Dr. Mill’s Tract, as above.
20.] We must not consider this dumbness solely as a punishment; it was also a sign, as Zacharias had required. It is impossible for us to say what the degree of unbelief in Zacharias was, and therefore we can be no judges as to his being deserving of the punishment (against Strauss and the rationalists).
κ. μ. δυν. λαλ.] This is not a repetition, but an explanation of the ground and reason, of σιωπῶν.
ἄχρι ἧς ἡμέρας γέν. ταῦτα] ποῖα; ἡ γέννησις δηλαδή, καὶ ἡ κλῆσις τοῦ ὀνόματος. Euthym.
ἀνθʼ ὧν is not a Hebraism, but good Greek: see Passow, and Matthiæ, § 480.
οἵτινες not merely identifies, but classifies: “being, as they are, of that kind which …”
21.] It was customary for the priest at the time of prayer not to remain long in the holy place, for fear the people who were without might imagine that any vengeance had been inflicted on him for some informality;—as he was considered the representative of the people. The words ἐθαύμαζον ἐν are best taken together, wondered at, as in ref. Sir. They may also be taken separately, taking ἐν as ‘during:’ and so Meyer: but this is not so probable.
22.] They knew, by some excitement, visible in his manner. It was not his office to pronounce the benediction, but that of the other incensing priest; so that his ‘not being able to speak,’ must mean, in answer to the enquiries which his unusual appearance prompted. This answer he gave by a sign: and the question was also by signs; for (see ver. 62) he was deaf, as well as dumb, which indeed is the strict meaning of κωφός—οὔτε λαλῶν, οὔτʼ ἀκούων,
23. ὡς ἐπλήσ.] The week during which his course was on duty. Mr. Greswell, by much elaborate calculation, has made it probable, but only as one out of several alternatives, that this week was Tisri 18-25, = September 30-October 7, of the sixth year before the Christian era (Prolegg. p. 85 sqq.).
A deaf and dumb person, we thus see, was not precluded from some of the sacerdotal ministrations.
24, 25.] περιέκρυβεν—either, to avoid defilement: see Judges 13:13, Judges 13:14,—to hide her pregnancy from her neighbours till it was certain and apparent,—or, from the precaution which the first months of pregnancy require.
Kuinoel suggests, that the reason may have been, that she might devote herself more uninterruptedly to exercises of devotion and thankfulness, and that this is expressed by the words following.
If so, ὅτι must mean ‘because,’ as indeed is the usage of these first chapters,—see below on ver. 45; but it seems here to be only the usual particle by which a speech is introduced: see Genesis 29:33. And indeed λέγουσα really carries the reason of her hiding herself—“seeing that she said (within herself).…”
ἐπεῖδεν] There is no ellipsis of ἐμέ or ἐπʼ ἐμέ, nor is the meaning, ‘hath looked upon me;’ but ἐπʼ is to be taken with the infinitive following—hath condescended to remove: so ἐφοράω, Herod. i. 124: cf. ἐπεσκέψατο λαβεῖν, Acts 15:14. [τὸ] ὄνειδος—of barrenness: see ref.
26-38.] Announcement by the same Angel of the birth of Christ.
26.] τῷ ἕκτῳ—referring to the πέντε in ver. 24.
Ναζαρέτ] In this particular the information of our Evangelist appears to be fuller than that of Matthew, who seems not to be aware of any residence at Nazareth previous to the birth of our Lord: but see note on Matthew 2:22.
27.] ἐξ οἴκου Δ refers to Joseph in this place, who (see Mat_1) was of the direct lineage of David. That Mary was so, is no where expressed in the Gospels, but seems to be implied in ver. 32, and has been the general belief of Christians. The Son of David was to be the fruit of his body (Psalm 132:11); which He would not be, unless His virgin mother was of the house of David. See notes on the genealogy in ch. 3. (Still we must remember the absolute oneness in the marriage relation, which might occasion that Mary herself should be reckoned as being in very deed that which her husband was. Perhaps this has been hardly enough taken into account. Edn. 5, 1862.)
28.] κεχαριτωμ., not ‘gratiâ plena,’ as the Vulg.;—for, though χαριτόω is not found in classical writers, the analogy of all verbs in -όω must rule it to mean, the passing on of the action implied in the radical substantive to the object of the verb—the ‘conferring of grace or favour, upon.’ And this is its meaning in the only other place (see reff.) where it occurs in the N.T. Thl. explains it as corresponding to εὗρες χάριν παρὰ τῷ θεῷ, ver. 30:—τοῦτο γάρ ἐστιν τὸ κεχαριτῶσθαι, τὸ εὑρεῖν χάριν παρὰ τῷ θεῷ.
ὁ κύρ. μετὰ σοῦ] i.e. ἐστίν: see ref.
32. Δαυεὶδ τοῦ π. αὐτ.] This announcement makes it almost certain (but see note above) that Mary also was of the house of David. No astonishment is expressed by her at this part of the statement, and yet, from the nature of her question, it is clear that she did not explain it by supposing Joseph to be the destined father of her child. See 2Samuel 7:13: Psalm 89:3, Psalm 89:4: Isaiah 9:7: Jeremiah 33:15.
34, 35.] This question differs from that raised by Zacharias above. It is merely an enquiry after the manner in which so wonderful a thing should take place; not, how shall I know this?—it takes for granted that it shall be, and only asks, How?
πνεῦμα ἅγ.] the Holy Spirit—the creative Spirit of God, of whom it is said, Genesis 1:2, that He ἐπεφέρετο ἐπάνω τοῦ ὕδατος. But as the world was not created by the Holy Ghost, but by the Son, so also the Lord was not begotten by the Holy Ghost, but by the Father: and that, before the worlds. “No more is here to be attributed to the Spirit, than what is necessary to cause the Virgin to perform the actions of a mother.… As Christ was made of the substance of the Virgin, so He was not made of the substance of the Holy Ghost, Whose essence cannot at all be made. And because the Holy Ghost did not beget Him by any communication of His essence, therefore He is not the Father of Him, though He were conceived by Him.” (Pearson on the Creed, p. 165, 166.)
ἐπισκιάσει] The figure is perhaps from a bird (as Grotius: see ref. Ps.), or from a cloud: see the other reff.
ἅγιον] Some take this for the predicate of τὸ γενν., ‘shall be called holy, the Son of God.’ But it is more simple to take it as E. V., that holy thing, &c., making τὸ γενν. ἅγ. the subject, and υἱ. θ. the predicate. On the latter expression, see note on Matthew 4:3.
36. συγγενής] On the συγγενίς in the var. readd., we may remark, that these fem. terminations of common adjectives belong to later Greek. συγγενίς, ἐσχάτως βάρβαρον, Pollux iii. 50. It is found in Plutarch, Quæst Rom. (vi. 314), &c. See Lobeck on Phrynichus, p. 452†. Cf. μοιχαλίς, Matthew 12:39 reff.
What relation, no where appears in Scripture: and traditions are not worth recounting. But we must take the word in the narrower sense, not in the wider reference of Romans 9:3. Elisabeth was of the tribe of Levi: but this need not hinder connexion by marriage with other tribes. Aaron himself married into Judah, Exodus 6:23. We find in Judges 17:7 a young man of the family of Judah who was a Levite. Philo de Monarch. ii. 11 (vol. ii. p. 229), says, προσέταξε τῷ μὲν ἀρχιερεῖ μνᾶσθαι μὴ μόνον γυναῖκα παρθένον, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἱέρειαν ἐξ ἱερέων … ἐπετράπη δὲ τοῖς ἄλλοις καὶ μὴ ἱερέων γαμεῖν θυγατέρας.
37.] The future, in Hebrew, expresses that which does not belong to any fixed time, but shall ever be so.
ῥῆμα] See reff., and above on ver. 4. This place, and its original, Genesis 18:14, which are sometimes quoted to shew that ῥῆμα may mean simply “a thing,” are in fact most decisive against any such supposition. For the declaration amounts to this, “Hath the Lord spoken and can He not do it?”
38.] Her own faithful and humble assent is here given to the divine announcement which had been made to her. I believe that her conception of the Lord is to be dated from the utterance of these words. So Euthym.: ἀπʼ αὐτῆς—ἤδη συλλαβούσης ἅμα τῷ λόγῳ αὐτοῦ. Similarly , , , Maldonat., Grot. Lightfoot, holding a different opinion, says, Agnosco quidem, communiter obtinuisse, quod Virgo in urbe Nazareta conceperit, idque eodem instante quo Angelus eam alloquebatur. She was no unconscious vessel of the divine will, but (see ver. 45) in humility and faith, a fellow-worker with the purpose of the Father; and therefore her own unity with that purpose was required, and is here recorded.
39-56.] Visitation of Elisabeth by Mary.
39.] The situation of Elisabeth was not before this known to Mary; and on the intelligence of it from the angel, she arose and went to congratulate her kinswoman.
But before this the events related in Matthew 1:18-25 had happened.
Mary being betrothed to Joseph, had no communications with him, except through the pronubæ; who, on the first indications of her pregnancy, represented it to him. This would not take longer time than the expression ἐν ταῖς ἡμ. ταύ. might include—possibly three or four weeks. Then happened Matthew 1:19, Matthew 1:20; and immediately Joseph took her home. As a betrothed virgin she could not travel; but now immediately, and perhaps for the very reason of the circumstances under which Joseph had taken her home, she visits Elisabeth,—remaining with her about three months, ver. 56. So that we have, five months, during which Elisabeth hid herself, + the sixth month, during which takes place the Annunciation, the discovery of Mary’s pregnancy, her taking home by Joseph, + three months visit of Mary = nine months, nearly her full time: see ver. 57.
πόλιν Ἰούδα may possibly mean “the city of Juttah,” which (Joshua 21:16) was given, together with Hebron (in the hill country of Judæa: ib. ver. 11), and other neighbouring cities, to the children of Aaron the priest.
But it may also mean ‘a city of Judah;’ and this is perhaps more likely, as no place of residence is mentioned for Zacharias in ver. 23,—and one would hardly be introduced so abruptly here. See for Ἰούδα thus used, Matthew 2:6: Joshua 21:11.
It is not Jerusalem; for that would hardly have been described as in the hill country; and from vv. 23, 65, the Evangelist clearly indicates some other place than Jerusalem as the residence of the parents of John.
41.] The salutation uttered by Elisabeth is clearly implied to have been an inspiration of the Holy Spirit. No intimation had been made to her of the situation of Mary. The movement of the babe in her womb (possibly for the first time: vel nunc primum, vel saltem vehementius, quam pro more, Lightf.) was part of the effect of the same spiritual influence. The known mysterious effects of sympathy in such cases, at least lead us to believe that there may be corresponding effects where the causes are of a kind beyond our common experience.
τ. ἀσπασμ., not ‘the salutation of Mary (the Annunciation),’ but Mary’s salutation: the former construction is not according to Luke’s usage.
42.] εὐλογ. has a double meaning: that of blessed,—from above—blessed among women, i.e. beyond other women; and praised,—from below—i.e. called blessed by women. The former is the best rendering here: and then ἐν γ. will be the Hebrew superlative, as in Jer_29 (49) 15, and Song of Solomon 1:8.
43.] The word κυρίου, as applied to the unborn babe, can no otherwise be explained than as uttered in the spirit of prophecy, and expressing the divine nature of our Lord: see especially Psalm 110:1, from which Bleek thinks the expression is adopted.
45.] Either (as E. V., Vulg., Erasm., Beza, Meyer) blessed is she that believed, for, &c., or blessed is she that believed that there shall be, &c. The last is maintained by Bengel and De Wette, and supported by Acts 27:25. But I own it seems to me very improbable here; the sense and the period would both suffer;—and the usage of these first chapters is to render a reason by ὅτι: see vv. 37, 48, 49, 68.
De Wette and Bleek urge against it, that we should thus look for σοί and not αὐτῇ. But surely the preceding ἡ πιστεύσασα, rendering the sentence axiomatic, would prepare the way for the demonstrative pronoun of the third person, on either view of ὅτι. I much prefer the former rendering, as agreeable likewise to the analogy of Scripture, where faith, in the recipient of the divine purposes, is so often represented as a co-ordinate cause of the fulfilment of those purposes. Lightf. well suggests, that there may have been present to the mind of Elisabeth the unbelief of her husband, as contrasted with Mary’s faith.
46-55.] Compare throughout the song of Hannah, 1Samuel 2:1-10.
As connected with the defence of the hymns contained in these two chapters, we may observe, taking the very lowest ground, that there is nothing improbable, as matter of fact, in holy persons, full of the thoughts which permeate the O.T. prophecies, breaking out into such songs of praise as these, which are grounded on and almost expressed in the words of Scripture (see Dr. Mill, Historical character of Luk_1 vindicated, p. 40 ff.). The Christian believer however will take a higher view than this, and attribute to the mother of our Lord, that same inspiration of the Holy Spirit which filled Elisabeth (ver. 41) and Zacharias (ver. 67).
46, 47.] ψυχὴ—πνεῦμα, the whole inner being: see on 1Thessalonians 5:23.
σωτῆρι—not merely ‘Deliverer from degradation, as a daughter of David’—but, in a higher sense, author of that salvation which God’s people expected [among whom the Holy Virgin reckons herself. Only sinners need a Saviour].
ταπείν.] low condition, not humility; the noun is an objective one.
51-55.] These aorists express, not the habit of the past, but the consequences involved for the future in that which the Lord had done to her.
51.] The dative διανοίᾳ apparently expresses the realm in which the ὑπερηφανία is shewn. Bleek quotes from Symmachus, Psalm 75:6, ὑπερήφανοι τῇ καρδίᾳ: but it is τὴν καρδίαν: the LXX however in the same place has ἀσύνετοι τῇ καρδίᾳ.
Ver. 55 is not rendered in the E. V. according to the construction; from Psalm 97:3 it will be seen that μνησθῆναι ἐλέους τῷ Ἀβ. are to be joined together, and therefore καθὼς … ἡμῶν will be parenthetical. See Micah 7:20.
57-79.] Birth and naming of John the Baptist.
59.] ἐκάλουν—they were calling—wished to call: see Matthew 3:14 for this use of the imperfect. The names of children were given at circumcision, because, at the institution of that rite, the names of Abram and Sarai were changed to Abraham and Sarah,—Genesis 17:5, Genesis 17:15.
60.] There is no reason for supposing, with Theophyl., Euthym., Meyer, that Elisabeth had had the name supernaturally intimated to her. She must necessarily have learnt it, in the course of communication by writing, from her husband.
62.] The natural inference (see on ver. 22) from this verse is, that Zacharias was deaf as well as dumb; nor do I think Kuinoel, De Wette, Meyer, Olshausen, Bengel, Bleek, and Bp. Wordsworth have succeeded in invalidating this inference. There could have been no reason for beckoning, had Zacharias been able to hear articulate words. Bengel’s reason, adopted by Bp. W., “commodius est muto innuentes videre quam loquentes audire,” is surely too far-fetched.
63.] πινακίδ. (= πινάκιον, Aristoph. Vesp. 167), a tablet smeared with wax, on which they wrote with a style. On λέγων, a Hebraism, as applied to writing, see reff. and Jos. Antt. xi. 4. 7,—Δαρεῖος ἀντιγράφει τῷ Σισίνῃ … τάδε λέγων.
ἐθαύμ. πάντες] This also confirms the view that Zacharias was deaf. There would be nothing wonderful in his acceding to his wife’s suggestion, if he had known it: the coincidence, apparently without this knowledge, was the matter of wonder.
64.] For now first had the angel’s words, καλέσεις τὸ ὄν. αὐτ. Ἰωάννην, ver. 13, received their fulfilment.
65.] For the construction περιοικ. αὐτούς, see Herod. v. 78: Xen. Anab. v. 6. 16.
ῥήματα, words; not ‘things,’ see above on vv. 4, 37. All this tale became matter of λαλιά throughout, &c.
66.] λέγοντες carries a slightly logical force with it;—almost = ‘for they said.’
ἄρα refers back to the circumstances which have happened—What then shall, &c.: see ch. 8:25: Acts 12:18.
καὶ γὰρ χεὶρ κ.…, a remark inserted by the Evangelist himself, not a further saying of the speakers in the verse before, as Kuinoel and others maintain. The γάρ refers back to the question just asked, q. d., ‘And they might well enquire thus, for’ &c.
68-79.] This Hymn of thanksgiving appears to have been uttered at the time of the circumcision of the child (in which case the matters related in vv. 65, 66 are parenthetical and anticipatory)—and, as the Magnificat, under the immediate influence of inspiration of the Holy Ghost. It is entirely Hebrew in its cast and idioms, and might be rendered in that language almost word for word. It serves, besides its own immediate interest to every Christian, to shew to us the exact religious view under which John was educated by his father. “It may be well for the student to read the beginning of this and the following chapter in Hebrew, in which they have been published in translations of the N.T. and in the Book of Common Prayer rendered into that language.” Wordsw.
68.] After ἐπεσκέψατο (for Hebraistic sense of which see reff.) must be understood, as an object, τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ, contained in the following dative.
69.] κέρας—a metaphor from horned beasts, who are weak and defenceless without, but formidable with their horns: see reff.; and cf. Hor. Od. iii. 21. 18, ‘addis cornua pauperi.’ There does not seem to be any allusion (Selden, &c.) to the horns of the altar—the mere notion of a refuge is never connected with the Messiah’s Kingdom.
70.] Meyer cites τοὺς ἀπʼ αἰῶνος ῥήτορας, Longin. 34.
72. ποιῆσαι …] For a similar use of the infinitive, see ver. 54. We may take it here either as of the purpose, “to perform …,” which is recommended by the ὅρκον ὃν κ. τ. λ., below,—or with Euthym., Bleek, ., as epexegetic, and equivalent to ἐν τῷ ποιῆσαι, or in English to a participial clause, ‘performing,’ &c.
73.] ὅρκον ὃν … for ὅρκου, ὃν …: see Genesis 22:16-18. Calvin, al., suppose the construction to be κατὰ τὸν ὅρκον ὃν …; Grotius makes the words dependent on ἐλάλησεν above, as also the infin. ποιῆσαι: Bleek thinks that the accusative is directly governed by μνησθῆναι, as well as the preceding genitive. “The Holy Spirit, speaking by Zacharias, seems to refer here to the providential dispensation signified in the names of the Baptist and his parents. The Baptist, by his name John, spake of the ἔλεος or grace of God: Zacharias (from זָכַר, recordatus fuit, and יָהּ, Jah, Jehovah) signifies θεὸς ἐμνήσθη, and Elisabeth (from אֵל, El, Deus, and שָׁבַע, sheba, juravit) is connected with the ὅρκος θεοῦ.” Wordsw. This seems probable in the case before us: but the student must be reminded that it is ground to be very cautiously trodden, and where a morbid or pedantic fancy will be constantly going astray.
74, 75.] The attempts to remove the Jewish worship by Antiochus Epiphanes and by the Romans, had been most calamitous to the people.
This ἐν ὁσι. κ. δικαιοσ. sufficiently refutes the idea of some, that the whole subject of this song is the temporal theocratic greatness of the Messiah.
76.] It is not necessary to interpret κυρίου of the Messiah: it may be said of God, whose people (ver. 77) Israel was. But the believing Christian will find it far more natural thus to apply it, especially in connexion with Matthew 1:21.
77.] ἐν ἀφέσει, in remission, the element in which the former blessing was to be conferred. The remission of sin is the first opening for the γνῶσις σωτηρίας: see ch. 3:7.
78.] ἀνατολή is (see reff.) the LXX rendering for צֶמַח a branch or sprout—and thus, ‘that which springs up or rises,’ as Light:—which, from the clauses following, seems to be the meaning here.
ἐξ ὕψ. may be taken with ἀνατ., as in E. V.:—or perhaps with the verb ἐπιφᾶναι. But however taken, the expression is not quite easy to understand. The word had come apparently to be a name for the Messiah: thus in ref. Zech. ἰδοὺ ἀνήρ, Ἀνατολὴ ὄνομα αὐτῷ: and then figures arising from the meaning of the word itself, became mixed with that which was said of Him. The day-spring does not come ἐξ ὕψους, but from beneath the horizon; but the Messiah does. Again the ἐπιφᾶναι κ.τ.λ. of the next verse belongs to the day-spring, and only figuratively to the Messiah. See Bleek’s long note.
79.] See reff. Care must be taken on the one hand not to degrade the expressions of this song of praise into mere anticipations of temporal prosperity, nor, on the other, to find in it (except in so far as they are involved in the inner and deeper sense of the words, unknown save to the Spirit who prompted them) the minute doctrinal distinctions of the writings of St. Paul. It is the expression of the aspirations and hopes of a pious Jew, waiting for the salvation of the Lord, finding that salvation brought near, and uttering his thankfulness in Old Testament language, with which he was familiar, and at the same time under prophetic influence of the Holy Spirit. That such a song should be inconsistent with dogmatic truth, is impossible: that it should unfold it minutely, is in the highest degree improbable.
80.] A very similar conclusion to those in ch. 2:40, 52, and denoting probably the termination of that record or document of the birth of the Baptist, which the Evangelist has hitherto been translating, or perhaps transcribing already translated.
That this first chapter is such a separate document, appears from its very distinct style. Whether it had been preserved in the holy family, or how otherwise obtained by Luke, no trace now appears. It has a certain relation to, and at the same time is distinguished from, the narration of the next chapter. The Old Testament spirit is stronger here, and the very phraseology more in unison with Hebrew usage.
ταῖς ἐρ.] The ὀρεινή of Judæa was very near this wilderness, and from the character of John’s official life afterwards, it is probable that in youth he would be given to solitude and abstemiousness. It cannot be supposed that the Essenes, dwelling in those parts, had any, or only the most general kind of influence over him, as their views were wholly different from his.
ἀναδ., opening of his official life: see note on ch. 10:1.