Luke 1
Expositor's Greek Testament


Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,
Luke 1:1-4. The preface.

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

[1]R. V. Revised Version.

[2] Authorised Version.

Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;
Luke 1:2. καθὼς implies that the basis of these many written narratives was the παράδοσις of the Apostles, which, by contrast, and by the usual meaning of the word, would be mainly though not necessarily exclusively oral (might include, e.g., the Logia of Mt.).—οἱτοῦ λόγου describes the Apostles, the ultimate source of information, as men “who had become, or been made, eye-witnesses and ministers of the word”. Both αὐτόπτ. and ὑπηρ. may be connected with τοῦ λόγου, understood to mean the burden of apostolic preaching = the facts of Christ’s earthly history. Eye-witnesses of the facts from the beginning (ἀπʼ-ἀρχῆς), therefore competent to state them with authority; servants of the word including the facts (= “all that Jesus began both to do and to teach”), whose very business it was to relate words and facts, and who therefore did it with some measure of fulness. Note that the ἡμῖν after παρέδοσαν implies that Lk. belonged to the second generation (Meyer, Schanz). Hahn infers from the ἡμῖν in Luke 1:1 that Lk. was himself an eye-witness of Christ’s public ministry, at least in its later stage.

It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,
Luke 1:3. ἔδοξε κἀμοὶ: modestly introducing the writer’s purpose. He puts himself on a level with the πολλοὶ, and makes no pretensions to superiority, except in so far as coming after them, and more comprehensive inquiries give him naturally an advantage which makes his work not superfluous.—παρηκολουθηκότι ἄν. π.: having followed (in my inquiries) all things from the beginning, i.e., not of the public life of Jesus (ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς, Luke 1:2), but of His life in this world. The sequel shows that the starting point was the birth of John. This process of research was probably gone into antecedent to the formation of his plan, and one of the reasons for its adoption (Meyer, also Grimm, Das Proömium des Lukasevangelium in Jahrbücher f. deutsche Theologie, 1871, p. 48. Likewise Calvin: omnibus exacte pervestigatis), not merely undertaken after the plan had been formed (Hahn).—ἀκριβῶς, καθεξῆς σ. γρ. explain how he desired to carry out his plan: he wishes to be exact, and to write in an orderly manner (καθεξῆς here only in N. T., ἐφεξῆς in earlier Greek). Chronological order aimed at (whether successfully or not) according to many (Meyer, Godet, Weiss, Hahn). Schanz maintains that the chronological aim applies only to the great turning points of the history, and not to all details; a very reasonable view. These two adverbs, ἀκρ., καθ., may imply a gentle criticism of the work of predecessors. Observe the historical spirit implied in all Lk. tells about his literary plan and methods: inquiry, accuracy, order, aimed at at least; vouchers desired for all statements. Lk. is no religious romancer, who will invent at will, and say anything that suits his purpose. It is quite compatible with this historic spirit that Lk. should be influenced in his narrations by religious feelings of decorum and reverence, and by regard to the edification of his first readers. That his treatment of materials bearing on the characters of Jesus and the Apostles reveals many traces of such influence will become apparent in the course of the exposition.—κράτιστε Θεόφιλε. The work is to be written for an individual who may perhaps have played the part of patronus libri, and paid the expenses of its production. The epithet κράτιστε may imply high official position (Acts 23:26; Acts 26:25). On this see Grotius. Grimm thinks it expresses only love and friendship.

That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.
Luke 1:4. Indicates the practical aim: to give certainty in regard to matters of Christian belief.—περὶ ὧν κ. λόγων: an attraction, to be thus resolved: περὶ τῶν λόγων οὓς κατηχήθης. λόγων is best taken = matters (πραγμάτων, Luke 1:1), histories (Weizsäcker), not doctrines. Doubtless this is a Hebraistic sense, but that is no objection, for after all Lk. is a Hellenist and no pure Greek, and even in this preface, whose pure Greek has been so often praised, he is a Hellenist to a large extent. (So Hahn, Einleitung, p. 6.) The subject of instruction for young Christians in those early years was the teaching, the acts, and the experience of Jesus: their “catechism” historic not doctrinal.—κατηχήθης: is this word used here in a technical sense = formally and systematically instructed, or in the general sense of “have been informed more or less correctly”? (So Kypke.) The former is more probable. The verb (from κατὰ, ἠχέω) is mainly Hellenistic in usage, rare in profane authors, not found in O. T. The N. T. usage, confined to Lk. and Paul, points to regular instruction (vide Romans 2:18).

This preface gives a lively picture of the intense, universal interest felt by the early Church in the story of the Lord Jesus: Apostles constantly telling what they had seen and heard; many of their hearers taking notes of what they said for the benefit of tnemselves and others: through these gospelets acquaintance with the evangelic history circulating among believers, creating a thirst for more and yet more; imposing on such a man as Luke the task of preparing a Gospel as full, correct, and well arranged as possible through the use of all available means—previous writings or oral testimony of surviving eye-witnesses.

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.
Luke 1:5-25. The birth of the Baptist announced. From the long prefatory sentence, constructed according to the rules of Greek syntax, and with some pretensions to classic purity of style, we pass abruptly to the Protevangelium, the prelude to the birth of Christ, consisting of the remainder of this chapter, written in Greek which is Hebraistic in phrase and structure, and Jewish in its tone of piety. The evangelist here seems to have at command an Aramaic, Jewish-Christian source, which he, as a faithful collector of evangelic memorabilia, allows to speak for itself, with here and there an editorial touch.

Luke 1:5-7. The parents of John.—ἐγένετο, there was, or there lived.—ἐν ταῖς ἡ., etc.: in the days, the reign, of Herod, king of Judaea. Herod died 750 A.C., and the Christian era begins with 753 A.C. This date is too late by three or four years.—ἐξ ἐφημερίας Ἀβιά: ἐφημερία (a noun formed from ἐφημέριος -ον, daily, lasting for a day), not in profane authors, here and in Luke 1:8 in N. T., in Sept[3], in Chron. and Nehemiah, = (1) a service lasting for a day, or for days—a week; (2) a class of priests performing that service. The priests were divided into twenty-four classes, the organisation dating according to the tradition in Chronicles (1 Chronicles 24) from the time of David. The order of Abia was the eighth (1 Chronicles 24:10). Josephus (Ant., vii., 14, 7) uses ἐφημερίς and πατρία to denote a class. On the priesthood and the temple worship and the daily service, consult Schürer’s History, Div. ii., vol. i., pp. 207–298.—γυνὴ· a daughter of Aaron; John descended from priestly parents on both sides.

[3] Septuagint.

And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
Luke 1:6. δίκαιοι: an O. T. term, and expressing an O. T. idea of piety and goodness, as unfolded in the following clause, which is Hebrew in speech as in sentiment: walking in all the commandments and ordinances (equivalent terms, not to be distinguished, with Calvin, Bengel, and Godet, as moral and ceremonial) blameless (relatively to human judgment).

And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.
Luke 1:7. καὶ οὐκ ἦν, etc.: childless, a calamity from the Jewish point of view, and also a fact hard to reconcile with the character of the pair, for the Lord loveth the righteous, and, according to O. T. views, He showed His love by granting prosperity, and, among other blessings, children (Psalms 128).—καθότι: a good Attic word: in Lk.’s writings only in N. T. = seeing, inasmuch as.—προβεβηκότες ἐν τ. ἡμ.: “advanced in days,” Hebraistic for the classic “advanced in age” (τὴν ἡλικίαν) or years (τοῖς ἔτεσιν): childless, and now no hope of children.

And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course,
Luke 1:8-10. Hope preternaturally revived.—ἐν τῷ ἱερατεύειν: Zechariah was serving his week in due course, and it fell to his lot on a certain day to perform the very special service of burning incense in the holy place. A great occasion in a priest’s life, as it might never come to him but once (priests said to be as many as 20,000 in our Lord’s time). “The most memorable day in the life of Zechariah” (Farrar, C. G. T.).

According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.
Luke 1:9. κατὰ τὸ ἔθος is to be connected with ἔλαχε: casting lots, the customary manner of settling who was to have the honour.—εἰσελθὼν is to be connected with θυμιάσαι, not with ἔλαχε. The meaning is that entering the sanctuary was the necessary preliminary to offering incense: in one sense a superfluous remark (Hahn), yet worth making in view of the sacredness of the place. A great affair to get entrance into the ναός.

And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.
Luke 1:10. πλῆθος: there might be a crowd within the temple precincts at the hour of prayer any day of the week, not merely on Sabbath or on a feast day (“dies solennis, et fortasse sabbatum,” Bengel).

And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
Luke 1:11-17. A celestial visitant.

Luke 1:11. ὤφθη: the appearance very particularly described, the very position of the angel indicated: on the right side of the altar of incense; the south side, the propitious side say some, the place of honour say others. The altar of incense is called, with reference to its function, θυμιατήριον in Hebrews 9:3.

And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
Luke 1:12. ἐταράχθη describes the state of mind generally = perturbed, φόβος specifically. Yet why afraid, seeing in this case, as always, the objective appearance answers to the inward state of mind? This fear of the divine belongs to O. T. piety.

But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
Luke 1:13. δέησις: all prayed at that hour, therefore of course the officiating priest. The prayer of Zechariah was very special—δέησις implies this as compared with προσευχή, vide Trench, Synonyms—and very realistic: for offspring. Beneath the dignity of the occasion, say some interpreters; a very superficial criticism. True to human nature and to O. T. piety, and not unacceptable to God. That the prayer was for offspring appears from the angelic message, objective and subjective corresponding.—γεννήσει, shall bear; originally to beget.—Ἰωάννην: the name already mentioned to inspire faith in the reality of the promise: meaning, God is gracious.

And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
Luke 1:14. χαρά, ἀγαλλίασις, a joy, an exultation; joy in higher, highest degree: joy over a son late born, and such a son as he will turn out to be.—πολλοὶ: a joy not merely to parents as a child, but to many as a man.

For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.
Luke 1:15. μέγας, a great man before the Lord; not merely in God’s sight = true greatness, but indicating the sphere or type of greatness: in the region of ethics and religion.—καὶ οἶνον, etc., points to the external badge of the moral and religious greatness: abstinence as a mark of consecration and separation—a devotee.—σίκερα = שֵׁכָר (not Greek), strong drink, extracted from any kind of fruit but grapes (here only in N. T.).—Πνεύματος Ἁγίου: in opposition to wine and strong drink, as in Ephesians 5:18. But the conception of the Holy Spirit, formed from the Johannine type of piety, is very different from that of St. Paul, or suggested by the life of our Lord.

And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.
Luke 1:16 describes the function of the Baptist.—ἐπιστρέψει: repentance, conversion, his great aim and watchword.

And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
Luke 1:17. προελεύσεται ἐν. α.: not a reference to John’s function as forerunner of Messiah, but simply a description of his prophetic character. He shall go before God (and men) = be, in his career, an Elijah in spirit and power, and function; described in terms recalling Malachi 4:6.

And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.
Luke 1:18-20. Zechariah doubts. The angel’s dazzling promise of a son, and even of a son with such a career, might be but a reflection of Zechariah’s own secret desire and hope; yet when his day-dream is objectified it seems too good and great to be true. This also is true to human nature, which alternates between high hope and deep despair, according as faith or sense has the upper hand.

And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.
Luke 1:19. ἀποκριθεὶς: the very natural scepticism of Zechariah is treated as a fault.—Γαβριὴλ: the naming of angels is characteristic of the later stage of Judaism (vide Daniel 8:16; Daniel 10:21).

And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
Luke 1:20. σιωπῶν καὶ μὴ δ. λ., silent and not able to speak; a temporary dumbness the sign asked, a slight penalty; not arbitrary, however, rather the almost natural effect of his state of mind—a kind of prolonged stupefaction resulting from a promise too great to be believed, yet pointing to a boon passionately desired.—ἀνθʼ ὧν: a phrase of Lk. = תַּחַת אֲשֶׁר, because. (Also in 2 Thessalonians 2:10.)

And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple.
Luke 1:21-22. The people without.—προσδοκῶν, waiting; they had to wait. The priest was an unusually long time within, something uncommon must have happened. The thought likely to occur was that God had slain the priest as unworthy. The Levitical religion a religion of distance from God and of fear. So viewed in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Illustrative quotations from Talmud in Wünsche, Beiträge, p. 413.

And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless.
Luke 1:22. ὀπτασίαν: from his dazed look they inferred that the priest had seen a vision (chap. Luke 24:23, 2 Corinthians 12:1).—διανεύων: making signs all he could do; he could not bless them, e.g., if that was part of his duty for the day, or explain his absence (here only).

And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.
Luke 1:23-25. Returns home. The week of service over, Zechariah went back to his own house.—λειτουργίας: in Biblical Greek used in reference to priestly service; elsewhere of public service rendered by a citizen at his own expense or of any sort of service.

And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,
Luke 1:24. περιέκρυβεν: hid herself entirely (περὶ), here only; ἔκρυβον: a late form of 2nd aorist. Why, not said, nor whether her husband told her what had happened to him.—μῆνας πέντε: after which another remarkable event happened. Whether she appeared openly thereafter is not indicated. Possibly not (J. Weiss).—ἐπεῖδεν: here and in Acts 4:29 = took care, the object being ἀφελεῖν τὸ ὄν. μ. = to remove my reproach: keenly felt by a Jewish woman. ἐν is understood before αἷς (Bornemann, Scholia).

Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.
And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
Luke 1:26-38. The announcement to Mary.

Luke 1:26. Ναζαρέτ: the original home of Joseph and Mary, not merely the adopted home as we might infer from Matthew 2:23.

To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
Luke 1:27. ἐξ οἴκου Δ.: Mary, Joseph, or both? Impossible to be sure, though the repetition of παρθένου in next clause (instead of αὐτῆς) favours the reference to Joseph.

And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
Luke 1:28. χαῖρε, κεχαριτωμένη: ave plena gratiâ, Vulg[4], on which Farrar (C. G. T.) comments: “not gratiâ plena, but gratiâ cumulata”; much graced or favoured by God.—χαριτόω is Hellenistic, and is found, besides here, only in Ephesians 1:6 in N. T.—ὁ Κύριος μετὰ σοῦ, the Lord (Jehovah) is or be with thee, ἐστί or ἔστω understood; the two renderings come practically to the same thing.

[4] Vulgate (Jerome’s revision of old Latin version).

And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
Luke 1:29. διεταράχθη: assuming that ιδοῦσα (T.R.) is no part of the true text, Godet thinks that Mary saw nothing, and that it was only the word of the angel that disturbed her. It is certainly the latter that is specified as the cause of trouble. The salutation troubled her because she felt that it meant something important, the precise nature of which (ποταπὸς) did not appear. And yet on the principle that in supernatural experiences the subjective and the objective correspond, she must have had a guess.

And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
Luke 1:31. Ἰησοῦν: no interpretation of the name here as in Matthew 1:21; a common Jewish name, not necessarily implying Messianic functions. There may have been ordinary family reasons for its use.

He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
Luke 1:32 foreshadows the future of the child.—μέγας, applied also to John, Luke 1:15.—κληθήσεται, shall be called = shall be.—τὸν θρόνον Δ. τ. πατρὸς α.: the Messiah is here conceived in the spirit of Jewish expectation: a son of David, and destined to restore his kingdom.

And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
Luke 1:35. Πνεῦμα Αγιον: without the article because a proper name = the well-known Holy Spirit, say some (Meyer, Farrar), but more probably because the purpose is not to indicate the person by whom, etc., but the kind of influence: spirit as opposed to flesh, holy in the sense of separation from all fleshly defilement (Hofmann, J. Weiss, Hahn).—δύναμις ὑψίστου: the power of the Most High, also without article, an equivalent for π. ., and more definite indication of the cause, the power of God. Note the use of ὕψιστος as the name of God in Luke 1:32, here, and in Luke 1:76. Feine (Vorkanonische Überlieferung des Lukas, p. 17) includes ὁ ὕψιστος, ὁ δυνατός (Luke 1:49), ὁ δεσπότης (Luke 2:29), ὁ κύριος (Luke 1:6; Luke 1:9; Luke 1:11, etc.), all designations of God, among the instances of a Hebraistic vocabulary characteristic of chaps. 1 and 2. The first epithet recurs in Luke 6:35 in the expression “sons of the Highest,” applied to those who live heroically, where Mt. has “children of your Father in heaven”.—ἐπελεύσεται, ἐπισκιάσει: two synonyms delicately selected to express the divine substitute for sexual intercourse. Observe the parallelism here: “sign of the exaltation of feeling. The language becomes a chant,” Godet. Some find poetry throughout these two first chapters of Lk. “These songs … doubtless represent reflection upon these events by Christian poets, who put in the mouths of the angels, the mothers and the fathers, the poems which they composed” (Briggs, The Messiah of the Gospels, p. 42. Even the address of Gabriel to Zechariah in the temple, Luke 1:13-17, is, he thinks, such a poem).—τὸ γεννώμενον ἄγιον, the holy thing—holy product of a holy agency—which is being, or about to be, generated = the embryo, therefore appropriately neuter.—υἱὸς Θεοῦ, Son of God; not merely because holy, but because brought into being by the power of the Highest.

And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
Luke 1:36. καὶ ἰδού, introducing a reference to Elizabeth’s case to help Mary’s faith.—συγγενίς, late form for συγγενής (T.R.), a blood relation, but of what degree not indicated, suggesting that Mary perhaps belonged to the tribe of Levi.—γήρει: Ionic form of dative for γήρᾳ (T.R.). Hellenistic Greek was an eclectic language, drawing from all dialects as from the poets, turning their poetic expressions to the uses of prose.—καλουμένη: Elizabeth is described as one who is still being called barren, though six months gone in pregnancy, because people have had no means of knowing her state.

For with God nothing shall be impossible.
Luke 1:37. ἀδυνατήσει: the verb means, in classic Greek, to be weak, of persons. In Sept[5] and N. T. (here and in Matthew 17:20) it means to be impossible, of things. Commentators differ as to whether we should render: no word of God shall be weak, inoperative, or no thing, with, on the part of, God, shall be impossible.—ῥῆμα = דָּבָר may be rendered either word or thing. The reading παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ ([6] [7] [8]) seems to demand the former of the two translations. Field, Otium Nor., discusses this passage. Adopting the above reading, and adhering to the sense of ἀδυνατ. in reference to things, he translates: “for from God no word (or no thing) shall be impossible”.

[5] Septuagint.

[6] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[7] Codex Bezae

[8] Codex Regius--eighth century, represents an ancient text, and is often in agreement with א and B.

Some recent critics find in this section two different views of the birth of Jesus, one implying natural paternity, the other supernatural causality, the former being the view in the original document, the other introduced by the evangelist, the former Jewish in its tendency of thought, the latter heathen-Christian. The subject is discussed by Hillmann in Jahrb. für prot. Theol., 1891, and Usener, Religions-geschictliche Untersuchungen, 1888. J. Weiss, in his ed. of Meyer, p. 303, note, seems inclined to favour this view, and to see in Luke 1:31-33 the one version, and in Luke 1:34-35 the other, due to Lk. Against this view vide Feine, Vork. Überlief.

And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;
Luke 1:39-45. Mary visits Elizabeth.

Luke 1:39. ἐν τ. . ταὑταις in these (not those = ἐκείναις, A. V[9]) days = at the time of the angelic visit.—μετὰ σπουδῆς: no time lost, a most natural visit from one woman with a high hope, to another, a friend, in a similar state of mind.—εἰς τὴν ὀρεινὴν (χώραν, again Luke 1:65): into the hill country, referring to the southern hill country of Judah, Benjamin and Ephraim. Galilee had a hill country too. The expression has been supposed to point to the origin of Lk.’s document in Judaea (Hillmann).—εἰς πόλιν Ἰούδα, to a city of Judah, not particularly named. Reland (Palaestina) conjectures that we should read Jutta, the name of a priestly city mentioned twice in Joshua (Joshua 15:55, Luke 21:16).

[9] Authorised Version.

And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.
And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:
Luke 1:41. ἐσκίρτησε: commentators discuss the connection between the maternal excitement and the quickening of the child—which was cause and which effect. Let this and all other questions in reference to the movement denoted be passed over in respectful silence.

And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
Luke 1:42. ἀνεφώνησεν: here only in N. T. The verb, with the following words, κραυγῇ μεγάλῃ, point to an unrestrained utterance under the influence of irrepressible feeling, thoroughly true to feminine nature: “blessed thou among women (a Hebrew superlative), and blessed the fruit of thy womb,” poetic parallelism again, answering to the exalted state of feeling. The reference to the Holy Spirit (in Luke 1:41) implies that Elizabeth spoke by prophetic inspiration.

And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
Luke 1:43. ἵνα ἔλθῃ: subjunctive instead of infin. with art., the beginning of a tendency, which ended in the substitution of να with the subjunctive for the infinitive in modern Greek.

For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
Luke 1:44. γὰρ: implies that from the movement of her child Elizabeth inferred that the mother of the Lord stood before her.

And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.
Luke 1:45. μακαρία, here, as elsewhere, points to rare and high felicity connected with heroic moods and achievements.—ὅτι, because or that, which? great conflict of opinion among commentators. The former sense would make ὅτι give the reason for calling Mary blessed = blessed because the things she hopes for will surely come to pass. The latter makes ὅτι indicate the object of faith = blessed she who believes that what God has said will come to pass, with possible allusion to her own husband’s failure in faith.

And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
Luke 1:46-56. Mary’s song.—μεγαλύνει: magnificat, Vulg[10], whence the ecclesiastical name for this hymn, which has close affinities with the song of Hanna in 1 Samuel 2:1-10; variously regarded by critics: by some, e.g., Godet and Hahn, as an extemporised utterance under inspiration by Mary, by others as a remnant of old Jewish-Christian Hymnology (J. Weiss, etc.), by others still as a purely Jewish Psalm, lacking distinctively Christian features (Hillmann). There are certainly difficulties connected with the first view, e.g., the conventional phraseology and the presence of elements which do not seem to fit the special situation.—ψυχή, πνεῦμα: synonyms in parallel clauses.

[10] Vulgate (Jerome’s revision of old Latin version).

And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
Luke 1:48. This verse and the two preceding form the first of four strophes, into which the song naturally divides. The first strophe expresses simply the singer’s gladness. The second (Luke 1:49-50) states its cause. The third (Luke 1:51-53) describes in gnomic aorists the moral order of the world, for the establishment of which God ever works in His holy and wise Providence, overturning the conventional order, scattering the proud, upsetting thrones, and exalting them of low degree, filling the hungry, and sending the rich away empty. It is this third part of the hymn which on first view seems least in keeping with the occasion. And yet on a large view this strophe exactly describes the constant tendency of Christ’s influence in the world: to turn things upside down, reverse judgments, and alter positions. The last strophe (Luke 1:54-55) sets forth the birth about to happen as a deed of divine grace to Israel.

For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
Luke 1:54. ἀντελάβετο: laid hold: of with a view to help, as in Isaiah 41:8-9, Acts 20:35, 1 Timothy 6:2. cf. ἰπιλαμβάνεται, Hebrews 2:16.—μνησθῆναι ἐλέους, καθὼς ἐλάλησεν: what is about to happen is presented as fulfilling a promise made to the Fathers long, long ago, but not forgotten by God, to whom 1000 years, so far as remembering and being interested in promises are concerned, are as one day.—τῷ Ἁβραὰμ καὶ τ. σ. α The construction is a little doubtful, and has been differently understood. It is perhaps simplest to take Αβ., etc., as the dative of advantage = to remember mercy for the benefit of Abraham and his seed. The passage is an echo of Micah 7:20.

As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.
And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.
Luke 1:56. Mary returns to her home.—ἔμεινε: the time of Mary’s sojourn with her kinswoman is given as “about three months”. This would bring her departure near to the time of Elizabeth’s confinement. Did she remain till the event was over? That is left doubtful.

Now Elisabeth's full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son.
Luke 1:57-66. Birth of John.

Luke 1:57. ἐπλήσθη, was fulfilled, the time for giving birth arrived in due course of nature.

And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.
Luke 1:58. περίοικοι (περί, οἶκος), dwellers around, neighbours, here only in N. T., several times in Sept[11] Named first because nearest; some of the relatives would be farther away and would arrive later. This gathering of neighbours and kinsfolk (συγγενεῖς) presents a “gracious tableau of Israelite life,” Godet.—μετʼ αὐτῆς: a Hebraism = πρὸς αὐτήν.—συνέχαιρον α., they congratulated her: congratulabantur ei, Vulg[12]; or, better, they rejoiced with her (Luke 1:14).

[11] Septuagint.

[12] Vulgate (Jerome’s revision of old Latin version).

And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father.
Luke 1:59. ἦλθον, on the eighth, the legal day, they came, to circumcise the child; i.e., those who were concerned in the function—the person who performed the operation, and the relatives of the family.—ἐκάλουν may be the imperfect of repeated action = they took for granted by repeated expressions that the name was to be Zechariah, or the conative imperfect indicating a wish which was frustrated.

And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John.
Luke 1:60. Ἰωάννης, John; presumably the mother had learned this from the father, by writing on a tablet as on the present occasion. The older commentators (Meyer also) supposed a Divine revelation.

And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name.
Luke 1:61. συγγενείας, kinsmanship. In Lk. only in N. T. Cf. Acts 7:3; Acts 7:14.

And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called.
Luke 1:62. ἐνένευον (here only in N. T.): they made signs, which seems to imply that Zechariah is supposed to be deaf as well as dumb. Various suggestions have been made to evade this conclusion; e.g., that men are very apt to treat a dumb person as if he were also deaf (Bengel, De Wette, Godet); that they communicated by signs instead of by speech to spare the feelings of Elizabeth, whose judgment was being appealed from (Meyer); that a sign was all that was needed, Zechariah having heard all that was said (Bleek, J. Weiss, Hahn).—τὸ before the clause following—τί ἂν θέλοι, viewed as a substantive, is very appropriate in a case where the question was not spoken but signalled.—ἂν θέλοι: the optative with ἂν, implies diverse possibilities; found in Lk.’s writings only in N. T.

And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all.
Luke 1:63. πινακίδιον (dim. from πίναξ), here only in N. T.: a little tablet probably covered with wax, used like a slate; pugillarem in Vulg[13]—λέγων is used here, Hebrew fashion = to the effect.—ἔγραψε λέγων: hypallage pro γράφων ἔλεγε (Pricaeus) = he said by writing.—ἐθαύμασαν: they wondered, at this consent of the parents in giving a strange name, and felt there must be something under it—an omen.

[13] Vulgate (Jerome’s revision of old Latin version).

And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.
Luke 1:64. στόμα, γλῶσσα: both connected with ἀνεῴχθη, though the idea of opening is applicable only to the former—a case of zeugma. The return of speech a second marvel or rather a third: (1) a child of old parents; (2) the singular name; (3) the recovery of speech, much marked, and commented on among the denizens of the hill country of Judah (διελαλεῖτο).—φόβος, not terror, but religious awe in presence of the supernatural—characteristic of all simple people.

And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea.
And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.
Luke 1:66. τί ἄρα, etc.: what, in view of all these unusual circumstances, will this child come to? A most natural question. They felt sure all things portended an uncommon future for this child: “omina principiis inesse solent”.—καὶ γὰρ, etc.: a reflection of the evangelist justifying the wistful questioning of the hill folk = they might well ask, for indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.

And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,
Luke 1:67-79. The song of Zechariah, called from the first word of it in the Vulgate the Benedictus. It is usually divided into five strophes, but it is more obviously divisible into two main parts, Luke 1:67-75, Luke 1:76-79. (Briggs, The Messiah of the Gospels, calls these divisions strophes, thus recognising only two.) Hillmann (Jahrb. f. prot. Theol., 1891) regards the first part as a purely Jewish Psalm, having no reference to the birth of the Baptist; furnished with a preface, Luke 1:67, and an epilogue referring to the Baptist as the forerunner of Jesus by the evangelist. J. Weiss (in Meyer) seems to accept this conclusion, only suggesting that the second part (Luke 1:76-79) might be in the source used by Lk., appended to the Psalm by the Jewish-Christian redactor.

Luke 1:67. ἐπροφήτευσεν, prophesied, when? At the circumcision, one naturally assumes. Hahn, however, connects the prophesying with the immediately preceding words concerning the hand of the Lord being with the boy. That is, Zechariah prophesied when it began to appear that his son was to have a remarkable career.

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,
Luke 1:68. ἐπεσκέψατο, visited graciously (vide on Matthew 25:36), occasionally used in Sept[14] in the sense of judicial visitation (Psalm 89:33). Note the use of the aorist there, which runs through Luke 1:68-75, in Luke 1:76-79 futures occur. The object of ἐπεσκέψατο is latent in τῷ λαῷ (τὸν λαὸν, cf. Luke 7:16; λαός applied to Israel as the chosen people, ἔθνος to the other nations).

[14] Septuagint.

And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;
Luke 1:69. κέρας σ. = βασιλείαν, because kings were anointed with a horn of oil, or = δύναμιν, because in their horn all horned animals have their power (Euthy. Zig.); a thoroughly Hebrew symbol.—ἐν οἴκῳ Δ., pointing to a descendant of David, who has wrought signal deliverance for Israel.

As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:
Luke 1:70. ἁγίων: a predicate applied in reverence to the prophets, as to the apostles in Ephesians 3:5.

That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;
Luke 1:71. σωτηρίαν, in apposition with κέρας σ., resuming and developing the thought interrupted by Luke 1:70, which is parenthetical.—ἐχθρῶν, τῶν μισούντων: not to be anxiously distinguished; poetic synonyms.

To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant;
Luke 1:72. ποιῆσαι: in effect epexegetical of salvation, though formally indicating the aim of the salvation.—μετὰ τ. π., as in Luke 1:58, to make mercy with, for to show mercy to.—ἁγίας, holy, applied to another of Israel’s sacred inheritances: the covenant.

The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,
Luke 1:73. ὅρκον for ὅρκου, depending on μνησθῆναι, a case of inverse attraction, the noun by the relative (ὃν, object of ὤμοσεν) instead of the relative by the noun. Cf. Luke 20:17. Examples from Greek authors in Bornemann, Scholia.

That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,
In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.
Luke 1:75. ὁσιότητι: the Godward, religious aspect of conduct (Ephesians 4:24).—δικαιοσύνῃ: the manward, ethical aspect.

And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
Luke 1:76-79. From the general thanksgiving for Divine mercy the song turns to the special cause of gladness afforded by the birth of John.—σὺ, παιδίον: this address supposes the Baptist to be still a child, and all that is said of him is a prophetic forecast of the future, in literary form.—ὑψίστου: once more, for God. In the circle which produced this hymn, and these early records, the idea of Divine transcendency characteristic of later Judaism seems to have prevailed.

To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,
Luke 1:77. τοῦ δοῦναι, the infinitive of purpose, to be connected with προπορεύσῃ in Luke 1:76 = John will go before the Lord (Jehovah), with the view of giving the knowledge of salvation in the forgiveness of sins. This is a very general description of John’s ministry, hardly differentiating it from that of Christ. The knowledge of salvation in forgiveness is salvation = Christ’s gift.

Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,
Luke 1:78. διὰ σπλάγχνα, etc., on account of, etc., indicating the fountain-head of salvation—the mercy of God, described in Hebrew phrase as the bowels of mercy of our God.—ἐπισκέψεται: the future (aorist in T.R.), though in few MSS. ([15] [16] [17]), is doubtless the true reading. In the second great strophe the verbs are all future, and describe what is to be.—ἀνατολὴ: happily rendered “dayspring” in A. V[18] The reference is undoubtedly to a light, star, or sun, not to a branch from Jesse’s stem, as it might be so far as usage in Sept[19] is concerned (vide Jeremiah 23:5, Zechar. Luke 3:8, Luke 6:12), for its function is ἐπιφᾶναι, to appear as a light to those in darkness (σκότει).—σκιᾷ θανάτου: vide on Matthew 4:16.

[15] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[16] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[17] Codex Regius--eighth century, represents an ancient text, and is often in agreement with א and B.

[18] Authorised Version.

[19] Septuagint.

The Benedictus is steeped in O. T. language; “an anthology from Psalms and Prophets,” Holtz., H. C.

To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.
Luke 1:80. Conclusion: being a summary statement on John’s history from childhood to manhood.—πνεύματι: the growing strength of John’s spirit, the development of a remarkable moral individuality, the main point in the view of the evangelist.—ἐν ταῖς ἐρήμοις, in the desert places: not far to go from his home to find them; visits to them frequent in early boyhood; constant abode when youth had passed into manhood; love of solitude grown into a passion. Meet foster-mother for one who is to be the censor of his time. Essenes not far off, but no indication of contact, either outwardly or inwardly, with them.

The Expositor's Greek Testament - Nicoll

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