Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.SECOND SECTION
THE HISTORY OF THE NATIVITY
A. The highest Gift of Heaven. LUKE 2:1–7
(Luke 2:1–14, the Gospel for Christmas.)
1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree [or edict, δόγμα] from Cæsar Augustus, that all the [Roman] world should be taxed [registered, enrolled].1 2(And this taxing [enrolment, ἀπογραφή]2 was first [the first, πρώτη]3 made when Cyrenius 3[Quirinius]4 was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed [enrolled], every one into [to] his own city. 4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage [family, πατριᾶς] of David), 5To be taxed [enrolled] with Mary his espoused [betrothed] wife5 being great with child. 6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling-clothes [bands], and laid him in a manger;6 because there was no room for them in the inn.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Luke 2:1. In those days.—Shortly after the date of John’s birth. Comp. Luke 1:36.
All the world.—ΙΙ ᾶσαἡ οἰκου μένη denotes not merely the country of the Jews, but the whole Roman empire (orbis terrarum); and the enrolling (ἀπογρὰφεσθαι) was undertaken to obtain a registry of the inhabitants of the country, and of their respective possessions, whether for the purpose of levying a poll-tax, or of recruiting the army.
Luke 2:2. The registering itself took place as the first, when Quirinius was governor of Syria.7—The difficulties found in this remark of Luke, and the various efforts which have been made to solve this chronological enigma, are well known. (See among others, WINER, in voce, Quirinius, Real-wörterbuch, ii. 292 ff.)
[The difficulties are found in the following statements:
1. That the emperor Augustus ordered a general census throughout the empire (Luke 2:1). But it is certain from heathen authorities that Augustus ordered at least three times, A. U. 726, 746, and 767, a census populi, and also that he prepared himself a breviarium totius imperii, which was read, after his death, in the Roman senate. Comp. the Monumentum Ancyranum; Tacitus, Annal. 1, 11; Sueton. Octav. 28, 101. The census of 726 and that of 767 can not be meant by Luke; that of 746 may be the same, but it seems to have been confined to the cives Romani. It is more probable that the census here spoken of was connected with the breviarium totius imperii, in which was noted also quantum sociorum (including King Herod) in armis.
2. That a Roman census was ordered for Judæa at the time of Christ’s birth (Luke 2:3), i.e., during the reign of Herod the Great and before Palestine became a Roman province (A. U. 759). But Herod was a rex socius, who had to pay tribute to the Romans; and, then, this census may have been ordered not so much for taxation, as for statistical and military purposes to make out a full estimate of the whole strength of the empire. The same object is contemplated in the decennial census of the United States.
3. That Luke assigns the census here spoken of to the period of the presidency of Quirinus (Cyrenius) over Syria, while, according to Josephus, Antiq. xvii. cap. 13, § 5; xviii. 1, 1, this Quirinus became governor of Syria after the deposition of Archelaus and the annexation of Judæa to Syria, A. U. 758 or 760, that is about eight or ten years after Christ’s birth, which preceded Herod’s death in 750 A. U. (According to the isolated, and hence unreliable, statement of Tertullian, Adv. Marc. iv. 19, Christ was born when Q. Saturninus was governor of Syria.) I shall give the passage of Josephus in full, that the reader may judge better of the nature of the difficulty and the attempts to solve it.
(Antiq. xvii. Luke 13, §5): “So Archelaus’s country was laid to the province of Syria; and Quirinius(Cyrenius), who had been consul was sent by Cæsar to take account of the people’s effects in Syria, and to sell the house of Archelaus. (B. xviii. ch. i § 1.) Now Quirinius, a Roman senator, and one who had gone through other magistracies, and had passed through them till he had been consul, and one who, on other accounts, was of great dignity, came at this time into Syria, with a few others, being sent by Cæsar to be a judge of that nation, and to take an account of their substance. Coponius, also, a man of the equestrain order, was sent together with him, to have the supreme power over the Jews. Moreover,Quirinius came himself into Judæa, which was now added to the province of Syria, to take an account of their substance, and to dispose of Archelaus’s money. But the Jews, although at the beginning they took the report of a taxation heinously, yet did they leave off any further oppositon to it, by the persuasion of Joazer, who was the son of Bœthus, and highpriest; so they being over-persuaded by Joazer’s words, gave an account of their estates, withouth any dispute about it. Yet was there one judas, a Gaulonite, of a city whose name was Gamala, who taking with him Saddiuk, a Pharisee, became zealous to draw them to a revolt, who both said, that this taxation was no better than an introduction to slavery, and exhorted the nation to assert tgeir liberty, as if they could procure them happiness and socurity for what they possessed, and assured enjoyment of a still greater good, which was that of the honor and glory they would thereby acquire for magnanimity.”
The census of Quirinius here described by Josephus, is evidently the same to which Luke alludes in Acts 5:37: “After this man arose Judas the Galilean, in the days of the enrolment (ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις τῆς ἀπογραφῆς), and drew away much people after him,” etc. Josephus calls this rebellious Judas a Gaulonite because he was of Gamala in Lower Gaulanitis; but in Antiq. xx. 5, 2 and De Bello Jud. ii. 8, 1 he calls him likewise a Γαλιλαῖος. In regard to this census, then, the Jewish historian entirely confirms the statement of the sacred historian.
But now the trouble is to find room for another census in Palestine under the superintendence of the same Quirinius and at the time of Christ’s birth. This is the real and the only difficulty, and has given rise to various solutions, which are noticed below.
Besides the article of Winer to which Dr. van Oosterzee refers, the following authorities may be consulted on this vexed question: PHILIPP EDUARD HUSCHKE (a learned lawyer of Breslau): Ueber den zur Zeit Christi gehaltenen Census, 1840. THOLUCK: Glaubwürdigkeit der evang. Geschichte. WIESELER: Chronologische Synopse, pp. 73–122. HENRY BROWNE: Ordo Sœclorum, Lond. 1844, pp. 40–49. FR.. BLEEK: Synoptische Erklärung der drei ersten Evangelien, 1862, p. 67 ff. A. W. ZUMPT: De Syria Romanorum provincia, &.c, 1854 (pp. 88–125). R. BERGMANN: De inscriptione latina, ad P. Sulpicium Quirinium referenda, Berol. 1851. H. GERLACH: Die röm. Statthalter in Syrien u. Judäa von 69 a. C. bis 69 P. C. Berl. 1865, p. 22. H. LUTTEROTH: Le recensement de Quirinius en Judée, Par. 1865.—P. S.]
We reject as inadmissible: 1. The attempt to remove the difficulty in a critical way, whether by rejecting the whole verse as an erroneous gloss (as Venema, Valckenaer, Kuinoel, Olshausen, and others), or by altering the well-supported reading as by the omission of the article (with Lachmann). 2. The conjecture, that Quirinius instituted this census, not as ordinary Proconsul of Syria, but as extraordinary legatus Cœsaris;8 for, in this case, Luke would certainly have employed another word than ἡγεμονεύειν. 3. The explanation, that this enrolment took place before Quirinius was governor of Syria (Tholuck and Wieseler). Luke writes better Greek than to use πρώτη in the sense of προτέρα.9 4. The evasion, that ἀπογραφή means registration as well as taxation (Ebrard), and that the former took place now, the latter eleven years after under Quirinius. 5. Entirely arbitrary and gratuitous is the supposition of Schleiermacher, that it was merely a priestly taxing that took the parents of Jesus to Bethlehem, which Luke incorrectly confounds with the Roman census.
Setting these aside, we believe we may render the passage thus: the taxing itself was made, for the first time, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. With Paulus, Lange, and others, we read αύτή for αὓτη; a reading which no one can deem inadmissible, who considers that Luke himself wrote without accents. We believe that the Evangelist inserts this remark, to distinguish the decree for the enrolment, which brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, from the enrolment itself, which was not carried into execution till several years later. From the mention of the governor of Syria and Judæa it is evident that Luke 2:2 speaks of the enrolment in the country of Judæa, while Luke 2:1 refers to the enrolment of the whole Roman empire. Nothing prevents us from supposing that the ἀπογραφή was really ordered and begun at the birth of Christ, but was interrupted in Judæa for a time by the death of Herod, and the political changes consequent on that event, and subsequently resumed and carried out with greater energy under Cyrenius, so that it might rightly be said to have been made, or completed, when he was governor.10 The remark of Luke, that this taxing was the first that was made in Judæa, is no doubt designed to make prominent the fact that the birth of Jesus occurred just at the time when the deepest humiliation of the Jewish nation by the Romans had begun. Perhaps also in the fact that our Lord should, so soon after His birth, have been enrolled as a Roman subject, he may have discovered a trace of that universality which characterizes his Gospel.
Thus viewed, the account of Luke contains nothing that compels us to charge him with a mistake of memory, in so public and important a fact. Had he not investigated everything from the beginning (Luke 1:1–3), and does he not show (Acts 5:37) an accurate acquaintance with the taxing which took place eleven [ten] years later, and was the cause of so many disorders? The decree of Augustus was not improbable in itself; and from the account of Tacitus (Ann. i. 11) it may be inferred, that it was actually promulgated. For he tells us, that after the death of Augustus, Tiberius caused a statistic account, in the handwriting of Augustus, to be read in the senate, in which, among other particulars, were stated the revenue and expenditure of the nation, and the military force of the citizens and allies. Now, Augustus could not have obtained such information concerning Judæa without an ἀπογραφή, nor is it at all inconceivable, that the territory even of an ally, such as Herod was, should have been subjected to so arbitrary a measure. It appears also from Josephus (Ant. Jud. xvi. 4, 1; xvii. 5–8, 11), that Herod was not at all indulged at Rome, but was regarded with a considerable measure of disfavor, and perhaps the enrolment could be affected in a milder manner in the dominions of an ally, than among the inhabitants of a conquered province. The monumentum Ancyranum at all events, proves, that in the year 746 A. U. C. an enrolment of Roman citizens took place, and that, therefore, such enrolments were by no means uncommon in the days of Augustus. The notices of this enrolment by Cassiodorus (Var. iii. 52) and Suidas (in voce, ἀπογραφή) prove less, since both these authors, being Christians, might have drawn their information from Luke. But the silence of Josephus, concerning this whole transaction, may easily be accounted for, especially if we allow that the enrolment was indeed begun under Herod, but not at once completed. Suetonius speaks but very briefly of the whole period; while in Dion Cassius we find no notice at all of the history of the five years preceding the Christian era. They cannot, therefore, be cited as evidence against Luke; and we should certainly be mistaken in supposing, that the complete imperial δόγμα was, in all places, immediately complied with, as if by magic. Should any feel, however, that all these considerations fail to remove the existing difficulties, we can only advise them to assign such data to the ὀστρακίνοις σκεύεσι, in which the great treasure of the gospel is deposited.
[There is another and better solution of the chronological difficulty which should be mentioned, viz., the assumption that Quirinius was twice governor of Syria, once three years before Christ down to the birth of Christ (A. U. 750–753), and once about 6–11 after the birth of Christ (760). A double legation of Quirinius in Syria has recently been made almost certain by purely antiquarian researches from two independent testimonies, viz.: 1. From a passage in Tacitus, Annales, iii. 48, as interpreted by A. W. ZUMPT: De Syria Romanorum provincia ab Cœsare Augusto ad T. Vespasianum (Comment. Epigraph. ad antiq. Rom. pert. Berl. 1854, vol. ii. pp. 88–.25), and approved by MOMMSEN: Res gestœ divi Augusti, pp. 121–124; comp. also ZUMPT’S recent article in Hengstenberg’s Evang. Kirchenzeitung for Oct. 14, 1865 (against STRAUSS: Die Halben und die Ganzen). 2. From an old monumental inscription discovered between the Villa Hadriani and the Via Tiburtina, and first published at Florence, 1765, and more correctly by Th. Mommsen, 1851, which must be referred, not to Saturninus (as is done by Zumpt), but to Quirinius (according to the celebrated antiquarians, Mommsen and Bergmann), and which plainly teaches a second governorship in these words: Proconsul Asiam provinciam ob[tinuit legatus] Divi Augusti iterum [i.e., again, a second time] Syriam et Ph[œnicem administravit or obtinuit]. Comp. RICH. BERGMANN: De inscriptione latina, ad P. Sulpicium Quirinium, Cos. a. 742 U. C., ut videtur, referenda, Berol. 1851, together with a votum of MOMMSEN, ibid. pp. iv.–vii.; also HERM. GERLACH: Die rŏmischen Statthalter in Syrien und Judäa von 69 vor Chr. bis 69 nach Chr. Berl. 1865, p. 22 ff. We hold, then, to a double census under Quirinius: the first (πρὼτη) took place during his first Syrian governorship, and probably in connection with a general census of the whole empire (the breviarium totius imperii), including the dominion of Herod as a rex socius, and this is the one intended by Luke in our passage; while the second took place several years afterwards, during his second governorship, and had reference only to Palestine, with the view to fix its tribute after it had become a direct Roman province (A. U. 759), and this is the census mentioned in Acts 5:37, and Josephus, in Antiq. xvii. 1, § 1. It is certain that Augustus held at least three census populi of the empire.—P. S.]
Luke 2:4. Joseph also went up.—The usual expression for going from Galilee to the much more elevated region of Jerusalem. The enrolment would naturally take place in Judæa, in consideration of the claims of nationality. The policy of Rome, as well as the religious scruples of the Jews, demanded it. For this reason, each went to be registered, every one to his ancestral city; though, in other cases, the Romish census might he taken either according to the place of residence or the forum originis. Bethlehem.—Comp. the remarks of Lange on Matt. 2:1.
Luke 2:5. With Mary.—The conjecture that Mary was an heiress (Olshausen and others) who had possessions in Bethlehem, and was obliged to appear there to represent an extinct family, cannot be proved, and is also unnecessary. Undoubtedly, according to the Roman custom, women could be enrolled without their personal appearance; nor did the Jewish practice require their presence. But if no edict obliged Mary to travel to Bethlehem, neither did any forbid her accompanying her husband; and her love for the city of David seems to have overcome all difficulties. Would not a contemplative spirit like hers, perceive that the δόγμα of Cæsar Augustus was but an instrument, in the hand of Providence, to fulfil the prophecy of Micah (Luke 5:1), with respect to the birth-place of Messiah; and now that all was cleared up between her and Joseph, could she have been willing to await the hour of her delivery alone in Galilee, while he was obliged to travel into Judæa?
Luke 2:7. In a manger.—Probably some cave or grotto used for sheltering cattle, and perhaps belonging to the same shepherds to whom the “glad tidings” were first brought. Justin Martyr, in his Dial. c. Tryph., speaks of a σπηλαῖον σύνεγγυς τῆς κώμης. Compare also Origen, Contra Cels. 1, 55. At all events, even if this tradition be unfounded, it cannot be proved that it arose from a misunderstanding of Isa. 33:16. In any case, it deserves more credit than the account in the Protevangelium of James, Luke 18, and Hist. de nativit. Mariœ, Luke 13, that during her journey the time of Mary’s delivery arrived, and that she was obliged to seek refuge in this cave. Luke, on the contrary, gives us reason to conclude that she had arrived at Bethlehem, and sought, though in vain, a shelter in the κατάλυμα. It is not probable that the φάτνη formed part of the caravanserai; nor can we agree with Calvin’s view, that descendants of the royal race were designedly harshly and inhospitably treated by Roman officials. It is more likely that Mary and Joseph would not, in their state of poverty, be thought worth the distinction of any special mortification.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The days of Herod form the centre of the world’s history. Every review of the state of the Jewish and heathen world at the time of Christ’s birth, confirms the truth of the remark of St. Paul, ὅτε δὲ ἦλθεν τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ χρόνου, κ.τ.λ., Gal. 4:4.
2. As the time of Herod is the turning-point between the old and new dispensations, so is it also the most brilliant period in the revelations of God. God, man, and the God-Man, are never presented to us under a brighter light.
3. God manifests all His attributes in sending His Son: His power, in making Mary became a mother through the operation of the Holy Ghost; His wisdom, in the choice of the time, place, and circumstances; His faithfulness, in the fulfilment of the word of prophecy (Micah 5:1); His holiness, in hiding the miracle from the eyes of an unbelieving world; and especially His love and grace (John 3:16). But, at the same time, we see how different, and how infinitely higher, are His ways and thoughts than ours. His dealings with His chosen ones seem obscure to our finite apprehension, when we see that she who was most blessed of all women, finds less rest than any other. God brings His counsel to pass in silence, without leaving the threads of the web in mortal hands. Apparently, an arbitrary decree decides where Christ is to be born. Still, when carefully viewed, a bright side is not wanting to the picture. God as the Almighty carries out His plan through the free acts of men; and without his knowledge Augustus is an official agent in the kingdom of God.
4. Man also manifests himself at the birth of the Lord: his nothingness in the midst of earthly greatness is shown in Cæsar Augustus; his high rank and destiny in the midst of earthly meanness, in Mary and Joseph.
5. The God-Man, who here lies before us as a πρωτότοκος, is at the same time the absolute miracle and the most inestimable benefit. God and man, the old and new covenants, heaven and earth, meet in a poor manger.
“Den aller Weltkreis nie beschloss
Der liegt hier in Mariens Schooss,” etc.
He who, either secretly or openly, denies this truth, can never understand the significance of the Christmas festival—perhaps never experience the true Christmas joy. The denial of the divinity of Christ by the Rationalist preacher is annually punished at the return of every Christmas celebration.11
6. When we are once convinced who it is that came, the manner in which He came becomes a manifestation not only of the love of the Father, but also of the grace of the Son. 2 Cor. 8:9.
The lowly birth of the Saviour of the world coincides exactly with the nature of His kingdom. The origin of this kingdom was not of earth; its fundamental law was to deny self, and for love to serve others; its end, to become great through abasement, and to triumph by conflict: all this is here exhibited before our eyes as in compendio.
7. The more our astonishment is excited by the miracle of the incarnation, the more must we be struck by the infinite simplicity—we could almost say barrenness, and chronicle-like style—of St. Luke’s account of it. Few internal evidences of authenticity are more convincing than those furnished by a careful comparison of the canonical and apocryphal narratives of the Nativity. The contrast is as indescribable, as between a calm summer night enlightened by tender moonbeams, and a stage-scene of tree and forest lit up with Bengal lights. Such a delineation could only be the work of one resolved to say neither less nor more than the truth.
8. In contemplating what the sacred history says, we must not overlook what it passes over in silence. Of a birth without pain, salva virginitate, nulla obstetricis ope, and other similar commenta, in which a fancy not always pure has delighted itself, not a jot or tittle is mentioned. How early, however, such play of human wit began and found favor, may be seen, among others, in the example of Ambrosius, who in his treatise De instit. Virg., Opera, tom. 2. p. 257, finds the maternal lap of Mary described in Ezek. 44:2, of which he sang:
“Fit porta Christi pervia,
Referta plena gratia,
Transitque rex et permanet
Clausa, ut fuit per sæcula.”
9. The designation, “her first-born son,” does not necessarily imply that the union of Joseph and Mary was blessed with other children. The first born might also be the only child.12 The question, therefore, whom we are to understand by the ἀδελφοί of Jesus must be decided independently of this expression.
[Comp. on this difficult question my annotation to LANGE’S Matthew, p. 256 ff.; the commentators on Matt. 1:25; and also BLEEK: Synoptische Erklärung, etc., vol. i. p. 76. Bleek remarks, that πρωτότοκος may indeed apply to the only child of a mother, but only at the time of his birth, or at least as long as there is some prospect of other children. The Evangelists, however, looking back to the past history, could not well use this term of Jesus, if they had known that Mary had no other children.—P. S.]
10. The first reception which Jesus met with in this world, is in many respects of a typical character. Comp. John 1:11. Bengel well remarks: “etiam hodie Christo rarus in diversoriis locus.”
[11. ST. BERNARD: “Why did our Lord choose a stable? Evidently that He might reprove the glory of the world, and condemn the vanities of this present life. His very infant body has its speech.” Dr. PUSEY: “Christ’s attendants were the rude cattle, less rude only than we, the ox and the ass, emblems of our untamed rebellious nature, yet owning, more than we, ‘their master’s crib.’ Is. 1:3; Ps. 32:9.”—P. S.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
The decree of the earthly emperor, and the over-ruling arrangement of the heavenly King.—The lowly birth of the Saviour of the world is, 1. surprising, when we consider who He is that comes; 2. intelligible, when we ask why He comes; 3. a cause of joy, when we see for whom He comes.—The King of Israel, a Roman subject.—“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; He turneth it whithersoever He will.”—The stem of Jesse hewn down, yet shooting anew, Isa. 11:1.—Bethlehem, the house of bread for the soul, John 6:33.—The journey of Mary and Joseph to Jerusalem, a type of the believer’s pilgrimage: dark at its beginning, difficult in its progress, glorious in its end.—The city of David, the least of all the cities of Judah, and the most remarkable of all cities on earth.—Mary’s first-born son, the only-begotten Son of God, and the First-born among many brethren.—Room in the inn for all, except Him.
The manger of Jesus, 1. the scene of God’s glory, 2. the sanctuary of Christ’s honor, 3. the foundation-stone of a new heaven and a new earth.—The Saviour of the world is (2 Cor. 9:15), 1. a gift of God, 2. an unspeakable gift, 3. a gift for which we must give Him thanks.—The birth of Jesus, the new birth of the human race: 1. Without it, the new birth of mankind is impossible; 2. with it, the new birth is begun; 3. by it, the new birth is assured.—The Christmas festival the festival of the faithfulness of God.—The coming of the Son of God in the flesh, a manifestation of the infinite wisdom of God: this wisdom evidenced in the time (Luke 2:1 and 2), the place (Luke 2:3 and 5), and the mean circumstances (Luke 2:6 and 7) of His appearing.—The manger, 1. what it conceals, 2. what it reveals.—The whole world summoned to be enrolled as subjects of this King.—“Behold, I make all things new:” 1. A new revelation, 2. a new covenant, 3. a new man, 4. a new world.—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, equally manifested and glorified in the manger of Bethlehem.—Christmas, the celebration of, 1. the highest honor, and 2. the deepest disgrace, of man.—The manger of the Nativity, a school of, 1. deep humility, 2. stead-fast faith, 3. ministering love, and 4. joyful hope.—The coincidences between the birth of Christ in us, and the birth of Christ for us: The birth in us is, 1. carefully prepared for, 2. quietly brought to pass, 3. as much misunderstood by the world, yet, 4. as quickly manifested upon earth, and rejoiced over in heaven, as the birth for us.
STARKE:—The first lesson given us by the new-born Christ is, Obey.—Even before we are born, we are wanderers in the world.—Jesus has consecrated all the hard places on which we are obliged to lie in this world.
HEUBNER:—Earthly kingdoms are obliged to serve the heavenly kingdom.—The enrolment of Jesus among the children of men, the salvation of millions.—Our birth on earth, an entrance into a strange country.
F. W. KRUMMACHER:—The threefold birth of the Son of God, 1. begotten of the Father before all worlds, 2. born of flesh in the world, 3. born of the Spirit in us.
C. HARMS:—Christ in us conceived by the operation of the Holy Spirit, born in poverty and weakness, exposed to peril of death soon after birth, remains for years unknown, experiences, on appearing, great opposition, is persecuted and oppressed, but soon rises again, raises itself into heaven, and in His spirit they that cleave to him carry forward and complete His work.
KUCHLER:—It is necessary for a due celebration of Christmas, that we should recognize the Son of God in the new-born child; for, without this recognition, we should lack, 1. the full reason for, and due appreciation of, this celebration; 2. we should observe it without the right spirit; and 3. fail to obtain its true blessing.
FUCHS:—The Son of God born in the little town of Bethlehem, a proof, 1. that the Lord certainly performs what He promises; 2. that with God nothing is impossible; 3. that nothing is too mean or too lowly for God.
FLOREY:—The festival of Christmas, a children’s festival: 1. It leads us to a child; 2. it fills the world of children with joy; 3. its due celebration demands a childlike spirit.
AHLFELD:—The birth of the Lord the greatest turning-point of history: 1. The world and the heart before the birth of Christ; 2. the world and the heart after the birth of Christ.
THOLUCK:—The characteristics of Christmas joy; it is a secret, silent, childlike, modest, elevating joy.
JASPIS:—How the celebration of the first Christmas still glorifies itself in the heart of believing Christians.
Dr. THYM:—Christmas joy over the Christmas gift.
[M. HENRY:—Christ was born in an inn, to intimate: 1. That He was homeless in this world; 2. that he was a pilgrim on earth, as we ought to be; 3. that He welcomes all comers, and entertains them, but without money and without price.—P. S.]
Luke 2:1.—To register or enrol is the proper term for ἀπογράφεσθαι (lit. to write off, to copy, to enter in a list; see the Greek Dictionaries). This may be done with a view to taxation (ἀποτίμησις, census), or for military, or statistical, or ambitious purposes. We know from Tacitus, Annal. i. 11, Suetonius, Aug. 28, 101, that Augustus drew up with his own hand a rationarium or breviarium otius imperii, in which “opes publicæ continebantur; quantum civium sociorumque in armis; quot classes, regna, provinciæ, tributa aut vectigalia et necessitates ac largitiones” (Tacitus). Tyndale, Coverdale, Cranmer, the Genevan Version, the Bishops’, and King James’ have all taxed; Rheims Version: enrolled; Norton, Sharpe, Campbell, Whiting, the revised N. T. of the Am. B. V.: registered; Luther: schätzen; Ewald: aufschreiben; Meyer, van Oosterzee: aufzeichnen.
Luke 2:2.—The usual reading is αὕτη ἡ ἀπογραφὴ πρώτη ἐγένετο. But Lachmann, on the authority mainly of the Vatican MS., omits the article ἡ, and this omission to which Wieseler assents, is now sustained by the Sinait. MS. The article is not necessary where the demonstrative pronoun takes the place of the prædicate; comp. Rom. 9:8: ταῦτα τέκνα τοῦ Θεοῦ sc. ἐστίν; Gal. 3:7; 4:24; 1 Thess. 4:3; Luke 1:36; 21:22, and BUTTMANN: Grammatik des N. T. 1859, p. 105.—Dr. van Oosterzee translates: die Aufzeichnung SELBST geschah als erste, the registering ITSELF took place as the first, etc. He reads with Paulus, Ebrard, Lange, Hofmann αὐτή, (ipsa) itself, instead of αὕτη, this (which may be done, since the sacred writers and oldest MSS. used no accents at all), and he bases upon this his solution of the chronological difficulty of the passage. See his Exeg. Notes. I cannot agree with this solution.
Luke 2:2.—Αὕτη (ἡ) ἀπο γραφὴ πρώτη ἐγένετο, κ.τ.λ., This enrolment was the first made when, i.e., the first that was made or took place, Quirinus being then governor of Syria. The Vulgate: Hæc descriptio prima facta est a præside Syriæ Cyrino. This is, grammatically, the most natural rendering of πρώτη, which probably refers to a second census under Quirinus, held about ten years after Christ’s birth, and mentioned by Luke in Acts 5:37 (ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις τῆς ἀπογραφῇς), and by Josephus at the close of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th book of his Antiquities. Meyer translates likewise: Dieser Census geschah als der erste während Quirinus Præses von Syrien war. There are, however, other translations of πρώτη, which arise more or less from a desire to remove the famous chronological difficulty involved in this incidental remark of Luke. (1) The authorized E. V., Bishop Middleton, Whiting, and others, take the word adverbially = πρῶτον, πρῶτα, primum: “This enrolment was first made when,” etc., i.e., did not take effect until Quirinius was governor of Syria. But this sense would require a very different phrase such as οὐ πρότερον ἐγένετο πρὶν ἤ, or τότε πρῶτον ἐγένετο ὅτε, or ὕστερον δἤ ἐγένετο, κ.τ.λ. (2) Huschke, Tholuck, Wieseler, Ewald, and other eminent scholars solve the chronological difficulty by taking πρώτη in the sense of προτέρα, prior to, or before Quirinius was governor. Ewald compares the Sanscrit and translates: Diese Schatzung geschah VIEL FRUHER ALS da Quirinus herrschte (Geschichte Christus’, p. 140; but not in his earlier translation of the Synoptical Gospels of 1850 where he translates: Dieser Census geschah als der erste während Quirinus über Syrien herrschte). Meyer objects to this interpretation, but both he and Bleek admit that πρῶτός τινος may mean before some one. This usus loquendi is justified by John 1:5, 30: πρῶτός μου, prior me; John 15:18: πρῶτον ὑμῶν, priorem vobis; Jer. 29:2: ὕστερον ἐξελθόντος (אַחֲרֵי עֵאת) Ἰεχονίου τοῦ βασιλέως, after the departure of Jeconiah the king (here, however, ἐξελθόντος is gen. abs., and πρώτη does not occur), and by several passages from profane writers (see Huschke, Wieseler, Meyer, and Bleek). But it cannot be denied that this sense of πρώτη is at least very rare, and no clear case can be adduced where it occurs in connection with a participle; while, on the other hand, Luke might have expressed this sense much more clearly and naturally in his usual way by πρὸ τοῦ ἡγεμονεύειν (comp. LUKE 2:21 of this chapter; 12:15; Acts 23:15), or by πρίν or πρὶν ἤ. Hence this translation, though not impossible, philologically, is yet not natural, and should only be adopted when the chronological difficulty can not be solved in a more satisfactory way. See the Exeg. Notes.
Luke 2:2.—Κυρη νιος is the Greek form for the Latin Quirinius (not Quirinus, although Meyer insists on this form). His full name was PUBLIUS SULPICIUS QUIRINIUS; he was first consul at Rome, then præses of Syria, and died at Rome A. D. 21. See Tacitus, Annal. iii. 48; Sueton. Tiber. 49, and Josephus, Antiq. Book xvii. at the close, and Book xviii. at the beginning.
Luke 2:5.—The oldest and best authorities, including Cod. Sin., omit γυναικί, which is no doubt a later supplement.
Luke 2:7.—The text. rec. (and Tischendorf in ed. 7) reads the article, ἐν τῇ φάτνῃ, in THE manger; but the article is wanting in Codd. Sin., A., B., D., L., etc., and thrown out by Lachmann, Meyer, Alford, so that the Authorized Version is here (accidentally) correct. The article was added here and in Luke 2:12 by a copyist, in order to designate the particular, well known manger of our Saviour. Sharpe, Wakefield, Scarlett, Campbell, and Whiting have prematurely corrected the E. V. and inserted the definite article on the basis of the Elzevir text.—P. S.]
[We give here, as usual in the Exegetical and Critical Notes, the author’s own version, which reads: Die Aufzeichnung selbst geschah als erste, da, etc. He bases upon it his solution of the chronological difficulty, with which I cannot agree. See my Crit. Note 2, on Luke 2:2.—P. S.]
[Browne, also, in his learned work on Biblical chronology, entitled Ordo Sæclorum, p. 40 ff., solves the difficulty by taking ἡγεμών in a wider sense and assuming that Quirinius was at the head of an imperial commission of the census for Syria.—P. S.]
[Comp., however, πρῶτός μου, John 1:15, 30; 15:18, and my Critical Note 3 above.—P. S.]
[The objection to this solution of the difficulty is, that Luke 2:3 ff. relate the enrolment itself, or the execution of the imperial edict.—P. S.]
[The author, in the second edition, has a long note protesting against a superficial and inconsiderate review in Rudelbach and Guericke’s Zeitschrift for 1860, p. 502, which did him great injustice, and asserting his unqualified belief in the full Divinity of our Saviour for which he has long borne the reproach of Christ in Holland.—P. S.]
[So Jerome on Matt. 1:25, Theophylact in Luke 2:7 (πρωτότοκος λέγεται ὁ πρῶτος τεχθεὶς, κἄν μὴ δεύτερος ἐπετέχθη), and all the Roman Catholic commentators, but evidently under the influence of the dogma of the perpetual virginity of Mary which obtained from the fourth century.—P. S.]
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.B. The first Gospel upon Earth. LUKE 2:8–12
8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, [and, καὶ] keepingwatch over their flock by night. 9And, lo, the [an] angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid.10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great 11joy, which shall be to all [the] people.13 For unto [to] you is born this day, in the cityof David, a Saviour, which [who] is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you [12and this shall be the sign to you, τοῦτο ὑμῖν τὸ σημεῖον.]; ye shall find the [a] babe wrapped in swaddling-clothes,14 lying15 in a16 manger.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Luke 2:8. Keeping watch over their flock by night, φυλάσσοντες φυλακάς.—The expression seems to indicate, that they were stationed at various posts, and perhaps relieved one another. On the authority of Lightfoot, ad Luc. ii. 8, many commentators have remarked, that the Jews were not accustomed to drive their cattle to pasture after the first half of November, and that we have, in this verse, indirect evidence of the worthlessness of the tradition which has assigned the 25th of December as the day of our Lord’s birth. It is well known that this date was chosen on account of the contemporary natalis invicti solis, without finding any other support in the gospel. On the other hand, however, we might contend that, from Luke 2:8 alone, it cannot be deemed impossible that the birth of our Lord should have occurred in winter. This winter may have been less severe than usual. Several travellers (e.g., Rauwolf, Reisen 1, p. 118) inform us, that in the end of December, after the rainy season, the flowers bloom and the shepherds lead out their flocks again. Besides, these shepherds may have formed an exception to the general rule, whether from poverty, or as being servants. The Lord Himself, in the first night of His life oh earth, did not rest on roses. It is also worthy of note, that the ancient Church, to whom the peculiarities of the climate of Palestine were certainly known, was never hindered in its practice of celebrating the Nativity on the 25th of December by the consideration of Luke 2:8. May not the difficulty, then, be more imaginary than real?
[NOTE ON THE DATE OF THE NATIVITY OF CHRIST.—The fact mentioned by Luke, that the shepherds pastured their flock in the field of Bethlehem, is of itself not inconsistent with the traditional date of our Saviour’s birth. Travellers in Palestine differ widely in their meteorological accounts, as the seasons themselves vary in different years. But Barclay, Schwartz and others who give us the result of several years’ observations in Jerusalem, agree in the statement that during the rainy season from the end of October to March there generally occurs an interregnum of several weeks’ dry weather between the middle of December and the middle of February, and that during the month of December the earth is clothed with rich verdure, and sowing and ploughing goes on at intervals. Schubert says that the period about Christmas is often one of the loveliest periods of the whole year, and Tobler remarks, that the weather about Christmas is favorable to the feeding of flocks, and often most beautiful. The saying of the Talmudists, that the flocks were taken to the fields in March and brought home in November, had reference to the pastures in the wilderness far away from the cities or villages. Comp. on this whole subject S. J. ANDREWS: The Life of our Lord upon the Earth, p. 16 ff.
But while the statement of Luke cannot disprove the tradition of the Nativity, it can as little prove it. This tradition is itself of late origin and of no critical value. The celebration of Christmas was not introduced in the church till after the middle of the fourth century. It originated in Rome, and was probably a Christian transformation or regeneration of a series of kindred heathen festivals, the Saturnalia, Sigillaria, Juvenalia, and Brumalia, which were celebrated in the month of December in commemoration of the golden age of universal freedom and equality, and in honor of the unconquered sun, and which were great holidays, especially for slaves and children. (See my Church History, N. Y., vol. ii. p. 395 ff.) In the primitive Church there was no agreement as to the time of Christ’s birth. In the East the 6th of January was observed as the day of His baptism and birth. In the third century, as Clement of Alexandria relates, some regarded the twentieth of May, others the twentieth of April, as the birth-day of our Saviour. Among modern chronologists and biographers of Jesus there is still greater difference of opinion, and every month, even June and July (when the fields are parched from want of rain), have been named as the time when the great event took place. Lightfoot assigns the Nativity to September, Lardner and New-come to October, Wieseler to February, Paulus to March, Greswell and Alford to the 5th of April, just after the spring rains, when there is an abundance of pasture, Lichtenstein places it in July or December, Strong in August, Robinson in autumn, Clinton in spring, Andrews between the middle of December, 749, to the middle of January, 750 A. U. On the other hand, Roman Catholic historians and biographers of Jesus, as Sepp, Friedlieb, Bucher, Patritius, also some Protestant writers, defend the popular tradition, or the 25th of December. Wordsworth gives up the problem, and thinks that the Holy Spirit has concealed the knowledge of the year and day of Christ’s birth and the duration of His ministry from the wise and prudent to teach them humility.
The precise date of the Nativity can certainly be no matter of vital importance, else it would have been revealed to us. It is enough for us to know that the Saviour was born in the fulness of time, just when He was most needed, and when the Jewish and Gentile world was fully prepared for this central fact and turning point in history. For internal reasons the 25th of December, when the longest night gives way to the returning sun on his triumphant march, is eminently suited as the birth-day of Him who appeared in the darkest night of sin and error as the true Light of the world. But it may have been instinctively selected for this poetic and symbolical fitness rather than on historic grounds.—P. S.]
Luke 2:9. And, lo, an angel.—The whole narrative is evidently designed to impress us with the sudden and unexpected manner of the angelic apparition; while, at the same time, it is not denied that the susceptibility of the shepherds for the reception of the heavenly message may have been enhanced by their waiting for the redemption of Israel, their mutual discourse, and their sojourn, in the quiet solemn night, beneath the starry heavens. Meanwhile, the first preacher of the gospel stands suddenly before them.—The glory of the Lord which shone round them (δό ξα Κυρίου περι έλαμψεν αὐτούς), is the כְּבוֹד יהוָֹה, already known to them from the Old Testament. And it was the sight of this that filled them with fear.
Luke 2:9. And they were sore afraid or feared greatly (ἐφοβήθη σαν φόβον μέγαν).—The fear which we so often find mentioned in the sacred narrative, when man comes into immediate contact with the supernatural and the holy (comp., e.g., Luke 5:8 and 24:5), is not to be wholly attributed to the fact, that such contact was unexpected, and still less to a conviction of moral impurity before God, only. It seems rather, that the old popular belief, that he who had seen God would die (Judg. 13:22), had by no means disappeared even after the Babylonian captivity. This belief might also have been strengthened by traditional remembrance of the cherubim with the flaming sword at the gate of Eden. In any case, this superstitious fear is surely a better ὀσμὴ εὐωδίας before God, than the incredulous scepticism of modern days concerning any angelic visitations.
Luke 2:10. To all the people.—Namely to Israel, to whom they belonged, as is expressed with the same particularity, Luke 1:33; Matt. 1:21. The announcement of this truth to the shepherds, indirectly intimates, that other pious Israelites were soon to hear from them of the birth of their King. In Luke 2:17 we are told of the first fulfilment of this indirect command.
Luke 2:11. Christ, the Lord.—Not the Christ of the Lord, as He is called Luke 2:26, but the Messiah, who equally with the Jehovah of the Old Testament, bears the name Κύριος (com. Luke 23:2, and Acts 2:36). The intimation that He was born in the city of David would recall Micah 5, which, according to Matt. 2:5, was in those days universally understood to refer to Messiah.
[ALFORD: “This is the only place where these words (Χριστός and Κύριος) come together. In Luke 23:2, we have Χρ. βασιλέα, and in Acts 2:36, Κύριον καὶ Χρ. And I see no way of understanding this Κύριος, but as corresponding to the Hebrew JEHOVAH.” So also WORDSWORTH. This reference is the more probable, since Luke in Luke 2:9 uses Κύριος twice of Jehovah. The connection of Christ with Lord occurs also in Col. 3:24, though in a somewhat different meaning, τῷ Κυρίῳ Χριστῷ δουλεύετε.—P. S.]
Luke 2:12. And this shall be the sign to you.—It happens here, as in the annunciation of the birth to Mary (Luke 1:36). A sign was vouchsafed, where none was asked,—God seeing that it was indispensably necessary, on account of the extraordinary nature of the circumstance; while Zachariah, who requested a sign, was visited with loss of speech. The sign now granted, is as wonderful as the occurrence just announced, yet one suited to the capacity of the shepherds, and at the same time infallible. The fear, as to whether they may approach the new-born King, and offer Him their homage, is dispelled by the intimation of His lowly condition, while their carnal views of the nature of His kingdom are thereby counteracted. Unless we suppose that the shepherds forthwith made inquiry in all the possible φάτναι of Galilee, whether a child had lately been born therein, we must conclude that their own well-known, and perhaps not far distant φάτνη, was the one pointed out. If they would naturally have hastened thither first, we are not left to suppose, with Olshausen, that they were led by some secret influence upon their minds. Conjectures, which give offence to the sceptical, are best avoided, when not indispensably necessary.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. This narrative may be called, The history of the first preaching of the gospel upon earth. It became Him, of whom are all things, and by whom are all things, to send such a message by the mouth of an angel. The last preaching of the gospel, the glad tidings of the last day, “Behold, He cometh again,” will also be announced with the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God.
2. It will not seem without significance, to any who appreciate the symbolic element of the Scriptures, that the first announcement was made to shepherds. Jehovah had Himself borne the name of the shepherd of Israel, and the Messiah had been announced under this designation by the prophets (Ps. 23; Ezek. 34). David had pastured his flocks in this very neighborhood; and since the rich and mighty in Jerusalem were looking only for an earthly deliverer, it was undoubtedly among these humble shepherds that the poor in spirit and the mourners would be found, to whom the Lord Himself afterwards addressed His own preaching. There is something indescribably divine and touching in the care of God to satisfy the secret yearnings of individuals, at the same time when He is occupying Himself with the eternal salvation of millions. Man overlooks the masses in the individual, or neglects the individual in the masses; God equally comprehends the interests of both in His arrangements.
3. The glory of the Lord, which shone round the shepherds, consisted not alone in the dazzling brightness of the angel, but was manifested by the fact of his appearing, at such a moment, in such a place, to such men. An angel announces the birth of Jesus; no such announcement distinguishes the birth of John; and thus it is made evident from the very first, how much the King surpasses the forerunner. But for this angelic manifestation, how could the glad tidings have been communicated with infallible certainty, and who could have been more worthy of so august a proclamation than the Word made flesh? Yet the angel appears not in the manger, but visits the shepherds in the silent night-watches, in the open field; a circumstance which powerfully testifies, that the greatness which is to distinguish the Lord’s coming is a silent and hidden greatness. He appears to shepherds: God has chosen the mean things of the world to confound the things which are mighty. He speaks too in a manner suited to their comprehension and to their need, and impresses on the first preaching of the gospel that character indelebilis of all its after-announcements: “Great joy.” Surely we can hardly fail to perceive here also, somewhat of the πολυποικιλος σοφία τοῦ Θεοῦ, spoken of in Eph. 3:10.
4. The Redeemer is here called Saviour, not Jesus. This name was first to be bestowed upon Him eight days later, in the rite of circumcision.—Born unto you: the word must have directed the attention of the shepherds to the fact, that a supply for the felt necessity of each individual soul was now provided. The sign granted to them is so peculiarly an exercise of their faith, that we might almost imagine we heard the new-born Saviour exclaim to those who were the first to come unto Him: “Blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in Me.”
[5. From Dr. RICHARD CLERKE (abridged): God has in every birth His admirable work. But God to be a child, Θεὸς ἐγγάστριος, God in a woman’s womb, that is the miraculum miraculorum. The great God to be a little babe (μέγας Θεὸς μικρὸν βρέφος, St. Basil); the Ancient of days to become an infant (co-infantiari, St. Irenæus); the King of eternity to be two or three months old (βασιλεὺς αἰώνων to be bimestris, trimestris), the Almighty Jehovah to be a weak man; God immeasurably great, whom heaven and earth cannot contain, to be a babe a span long; He that rules the stars to suck a woman’s nipple (regens sidera—sugens ubera, Augustine); the founder of the heavens rocked in a cradle; the swayer of the world swathed in infant bands;—it is ἔργον ἀπιστότατον, a Greek father says, a most incredible thing. The earth wondered, at Christ’s Nativity, to see a new star in heaven; but heaven might rather wonder to see a new Sun on earth.—P. S.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
The “quiet in the land,” not forgotten of God.—The glory of the Lord shining in the fields of Bethlehem.—The glory of God,—1. majesty, 2. wisdom, 3. love, 4. holiness,—seen in the angelic appearance at the birth of Jesus.—The angel a model for all preachers, the shepherds a pattern for all hearers, of the Christmas message.—The gospel, though centuries old, an ever new gospel: 1. The hearers, Luke 2:8; 2. the preachers, Luke 2:9; 3. the key-note, Luke 2:10; 4. the principal contents, Luke 2:11; 5. the sign, Luke 2:12.—No fear which may not be exchanged for great joy by the glad tidings of a Saviour; but also, no great joy can truly pervade the heart, unless preceded by fear.—The message of Christmas night, a joyful message for the poor in spirit.—The Christmas festival, a festival for the whole world; 1. this it is designed to be; 2. this it can be; 3. this it must be; 4. this it will be.—The child in the manger, 1. the Son of David; 2. the Lord of David; 3. the Lord of David because He was born His Son.—The shepherds of Bethlehem, themselves sheep of the Good Shepherd.
STARKE:—With God is no respect of persons.—MAJUS:—The glory of the Lord, of which the proud see nothing, shines round about the lowly.—The servants and messengers of the Lord must walk in the light.—OSIANDER:—The birth of Christ a remedy against slavish fear.—Divine revelation does not supersede our own diligence, investigation, and research, but extends to them a helping hand.
HEUBNER:—Everything here turns upon, 1. Who the new-born child is; 2. for whom He is born; 3. and where.—Christmas joys, a foretaste and pledge of the joys of heaven.
HARLESS:—In Christ is joy for all the world; viz., 1. the divine message for the lowly; 2. the consolation for the fearful; 3. the satisfying of the individual yearnings; and 4. the appearance of the Salvation of the whole world.
PALMER:—The three embassies of God: He sends, 1. His Son to redeem us; 2. His angels to announce Him; 3. men to behold Him.
HOFACKER:—The extensive prospect opened to our faith at Christ’s birth: 1. How far backward; 2. how high upward; 3. how far forward, it teaches us to look!—What should a heart filled with the devout spirit of Christmas consider? 1. The excellence of the first Christmas preacher; 2. the humility of the hearers; 3. the importance of the angelic Christmas sermon.
COUARD:—Unto you is born this day a Saviour: 1. A Saviour is born; 2. a Saviour is born; 3. a Saviour is born unto you; 4. a Saviour is born unto you to-day.
VAN OOSTERZEE:—The light appearing in the night.—The birth of Jesus a light in the darkness, 1. of ignorance; 2. of sin; 3. of affliction; 4. of death.
THOMASIUS:—The birth of the Lord in its relation to the history of the world: 1. As the end of the old world; 2. as the beginning of the new.
ARNDT:—The first Christmas sermon. Nothing less is incumbent upon us than, 1. to understand it; 2. to believe it; 3. to obey it.
Luke 2:10.—Παντὶ τῷ λαῷ. The omission of the article in the Authorized Version unduly generalizes the sense. The people of Israel are here meant, for whom the angelic message was first, though, of course, not exclusively, intended.
Luke 2:12.—̓Εσπαργανωμένον, swathed, or wrapped up in swaddling clothes or swathing bands. The paraphrastic rendering of the English Version from Tyndale to James was perhaps suggested by that of Erasmus: fasciis involutum. See Luke 2:7.
Luke 2:12.—The usual reading καὶ before κείμενον has no sufficient critical authority and was inserted to connect the two participles. Cod. Sinait. omits also κείμενον and reads simply βρέφος ἐσπαργανωμένον ἐν φάτνῃ.
Luke 2:12.—The definite article τῇ before φάτνη in the text. rec. is wanting in the best authorities, also in Cod. Sin., and cancelled by the modern critical editors.—P. S.]
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,C. Heaven and Earth united, in celebrating the Nativity. LUKE 2:13–20
(Luke 2:15–20. The Gospel for the Day after Christmas.)
13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praisingGod, and saying, 14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will [εὐδοκία] toward men [peace among men of His good will, i.e., among the elect people of God,εἰρήνη ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας].17 15And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, [and the men]18 the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16And they came with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19But Mary keptall these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20And the shepherds returned,19 glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Luke 2:13. A multitude of the heavenly host, צְבָא הַשָּׁמַיִם.—A usual appellation of the angels, who are represented as the body-guard of the Lord. Comp. 1 Kings 22:19; Dan. 7:10; 2 Chr. 18:18; Ps. 103:21; Matt. 26:53; Apoc. 19:14. To include among the multitude spoken of, the spirits of the Old Testament saints, as well as angels, is a conjecture unsupported by the text.
Luke 2:14. Glory to God in the highest.—The song of the angels may be divided into three parts, the last of which contains the fundamental idea, which evokes the praise of the two preceding strophes. God’s good-will toward men: this is the matter, the text, the motive of their song. The reading, ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας, followed by the Vulgate and received by Lachmann, is indeed supported by considerable weight of external testimony, but presents the internal difficulty of introducing a weak repetition in this short doxology: ἐπὶ γῆς and ἐνἀνθρ. being merely equivalents. This difficulty can only be obviated by understanding εἰρήνη in its literal sense of peace, altering the punctuation, and reading as the first member of the sentence, δόξα ἐνὑψίστοις Θεῷ καὶ ὲπὶ γῆς, and as the second, εἰρήνηἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας. Yet even then, this last expression, in the sense of men who are the objects of the divine good-will, or of those who are themselves men of good-will (homines bonœ voluntatis), is harsh and unexampled in New Testament phraseology. It is far more suitable to consider the divine εὐδοκία ἐνἀνθρ., so gloriously manifested in sending His Son, as the theme of the song. It is because of this good-will that he receives δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις in heaven, Matt. 21:9; and ἐπὶ γῆς ἐιρήνη, i.e., praise and honor. The parallelism of the members requires this explanation, and a comparison with Luke 19:38 favors it. The connection of ideas, then, stands thus: the good-will of God towards man is the subject of His glorification, both in heaven and earth. The usual explanation of peace as the cessation of a state of enmity through the birth of Messiah, the Prince of Peace, Isa. 9:5, must in this case be given up. The εἰρήνη appears in this song, not as a benefit vouchsafed to man, but as an homage offered to God.
Good-will.—The word expresses not only that God shows unmerited favor to men, but that they are also objects of complacency to Him. The same fact is expressed by Christ, Matt. 3:17; 12:18; 17:5. The solution of the mystery, how a holy God can feel complacency towards sinful man, lies in the fact, that He does not look at him as he is in himself, but as he is in Christ, who is the Head of a renewed and glorified humanity.
[I beg leave to differ from the esteemed author in the interpretation of the Gloria in excelsis, especially for the reason that εἰρήνη never means praise or honor, but always peace, and is so uniformly translated in the English Version in the 80 or more passages where it occurs in the N. T. (except Acts 9:31, where it is rendered rest, and Acts 24:2, where it is translated quietness). See BRUDER’S Greek Concordance. If we retain the reading εὐδοκία, I prefer, as coming nearest the interpretation of Dr. v. Oosterzee, that of Bengel: “Gloria in excelsissimis Deo (sit), et in terra pax (sit)! cur? quoniam in hominibus beneplacitum (est).” In other words, God is praised in heaven, and peace is proclaimed on earth, because He has shown His good-will to men by sending the Messiah, who is the Prince of peace (Isa. 9:5) and has reconciled heaven and earth, God and man. Or, according to the more usual and natural interpretation, the third clause is taken as an amplification simply of the second, forming a Hebrew parallelism. Hence the absence of καὶ after εἰρήνη. This will undoubtedly remain the meaning of the Gloria in excelsis for the common reader of the authorized Protestant Versions of the Bible which read εὐδοκία in the nominative.—But as I have shown above in the Critical Notes, the weight of external testimony is strongly in favor of the reading εὐδοκίας, in the genitive, so that the angelic hymn consists of two, not of three, clauses: Δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις Θεῷ—καὶ ἐπὶγῆς εἰρήνη ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας,—the last three words qualifying and explaining ἐπὶ γῆς. There is a threefold correspondence: (1) between δόξα and εἰρήνη; (2) between ἐν ὑψίστοις or ἐν οὐρανοῖς and ἐπὶ γῆς; and (3) between Θεῷ and ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας. (Cp. Meyer and Bleek.) The sense is: Glory be to God among the angels in heaven for sending the Messiah,—and peace or salvation on earth among men of His good pleasure (unter Menschen des göttlichen Wohlgefallens), i.e., among God’s chosen people in whom He is well pleased. Εὐδοκία (דָצוֹז) is, in any case, not the good-will of men toward God or toward each other (as the Vulgate and the Roman Catholic Versions have it: hominibus bonœ voluntatis, Rheims Version: men of good-will), so as to limit the peace to those men who are disposed to accept the Messiah and to be saved; but it means here (as in all other cases but one) the good-will or the gracious pleasure of God toward men, by which He reconciles the world to Himself in Christ (2 Cor. 5:19). Comp. Matt. 11:26 (οὕτως ἐγένετο εὐδοκία ἔμπροσθέν σου); Luke 10:21; Eph. 1:5 (κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ); Eph. 1:9; Phil. 2:13 (ὁ Θεὸς…ἐνεργῶν…ὑπὲρ τῆς εὐδοκίας); 2 Thess. 1:11. In the same sense the verb is used Matt. 3:17: “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, ἐν ᾧεὐδόκησα; 17:5. For the unusual genitive we may compare the analogous phrases: σκεῦος ἐκλογῆς, Acts 9:15, and ὁ υἱὸς τῆς ἀγαπῆς αὐτοῦ, Col. 1:13.
I will only add that this angelic song is the keynote of the famous Gloria in excelsis which was used as a morning hymn in the Greek Church as early as the second or third century, and thence passed into the Latin, Anglican, and other Churches, as a truly catholic, classical, and undying form of devotion, sounding from age to age and generation to generation. Sacred poetry was born with Christianity, and the poetry of the Church is the echo and response to the poetry and music of angels in heaven. But the worship of the Church triumphant in heaven, like this song of the angels, will consist only of praise and thanksgiving, without any petitions and supplications, since all wants will then be supplied and all sin and misery swallowed up in perfect holiness and blessedness. Thus the glorious end of Christian poetry and worship is here anticipated in its beginning and first manifestation.—P. S.]
Luke 2:15. Let us now go.—Not the language of doubt, which can scarcely believe, but of obedience desiring to receive, as soon as possible, assurance and strength, in the way of God’s appointing.
Luke 2:16. And found Mary and Joseph, and the babe.—Here, as usual in the history of the Nativity, the name of Mary comes before that of her husband. Natural as it was that they should not find the child without His parents, yet this meeting was specially adapted to give most light to the shepherds concerning the mysterious occurrence. The Evangelist leaves it to our imagination to conceive the joy with which this sight would fill the hearts of the simple shepherds, and what strength the faith of Mary and Joseph must have drawn from their unexpected and wonderful visit.
Luke 2:17. They made known abroad the saying that was told them, διεγνώρισαν.—The διά obliges us to believe that they spoke to others besides Joseph and Mary concerning the appearing of the angels. Probably by daybreak there might have been many persons in the neighborhood of the φάτνη. Though the influence of the shepherds was too little for their words to find much echo beyond their immediate circle; yet they were the first evangelists Proverbs modulo suo among men.
Luke 2:18. And all that heard it wondered.—It is a matter of rejoicing, that the good news left no one who heard it entirely unmoved. The contrast, however, between these first hearers (Luke 2:18) and Mary (Luke 2:19), forces upon us the conclusion, that their wonder was less deep and less salutary than her silent pondering.
Luke 2:19. But Mary.—Mary appears here, as well as in Luke 1:29, and 2:51, richly adorned with that incorruptible ornament which an apostle describes (1 Pet. 3:4) as the highest adorning of woman. Heart, mind, and memory are here all combined in the service of faith.
Luke 2:20. And the shepherds returned.—A beautiful example of their pious fidelity in their vocation. Their extraordinary experience does not withdraw them from their daily and ordinary duties, but enables them to perform them with increased gladness of heart. They probably fell asleep, before the beginning of our Lord’s public ministry, with the recollection of this night in their hearts, and a frame of mind like that of the aged Simeon. Their names, unknown on earth, are written in heaven, and their experience is the best example of the first beatitude. Matt. 5:3. Undoubtedly, their early and simple testimony to the new-born Saviour was not entirely without fruit; though they might soon have been convinced that such a messsage, brought to them from heaven, was not calculated for the ears of every one, nor intended to be proclaimed upon the house-tops.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. Granting, as is reasonable to suppose, that the announcement of the first angel produced a heavenly and extraordinary frame of mind in the shepherds, yet the fact of the angels’ song loses none of its historic reality from this admission. The first message of salvation made them capable of entering into the rejoicings of the heavenly world on this unparalleled occasion. It is easier to believe that the words κατὰῥητόν were imprinted on their memory, than that they could possibly forget them. Happily, however, there is now no need of mentioning or refuting the rationalistic explanations of this occurrence, as they have already died a natural death. The arbitrary assumption, that the history of the song of angels must have immediately resounded through the whole land, could alone have emboldened any one to find, with Meyer, “in the subsequently prevailing ignorance and non-recognition of Jesus as the Messiah,” a real difficulty against the objective truth of this whole occurrence.
2. Although St. Luke’s declaration (Luke 1:3), that he had “perfect understanding of all things from the very first,” must be applied to every part of the history of the Nativity; yet the historic credibility of the angels’ song is best demonstrated when it is considered in connection with the personal dignity of the Redeemer. A just estimate of the whole is the best preparation for appreciating isolated facts, in the history of our Lord’s manifestation in the flesh. The divine decorum manifested in the early history will be evident to those only, who honor and understand the great facts of Christ’s public life. The supernatural occurrences with which the history opens, can offend those alone who forget the exalted nature of its progress, and the miraculous splendor of its conclusion. (For remarks on the Gloria in excelsis, see the Dissert. theol. de hymno angelico by Z. B. MUNTENDAM, Amsterdam, 1849.)
3. He who acknowledges in Jesus of Nazareth the Christ, the Lord, the Son of the living God, will find no difficulty in the miracles attending His entrance into the world. Four things are here especially in unison with the rank of the King, and the spiritual nature of His kingdom:—Angels celebrate the birth of Jesus; angels celebrate the birth of Jesus on earth; angels celebrate the birth of Jesus in the quiet night; angels celebrate the birth of Jesus in the presence of poor shepherds. The first denotes the exalted dignity of His person; the second, the purpose of His coming (Col. 1:20); the third, the hidden nature of His glory to the eye of sense; the fourth, the subjects to be admitted into His kingdom. There is something so unspeakably great and glorious in this union of earthly obscurity with heavenly splendor, of angels with shepherds, of the form of a servant with the majesty of a king, that the well-known saying, “ce n’ est pas ainsi qu’ on invente,” can never be better applied than to the whole narrative.
[Rousseau, in the famous Confession of the Savoyard Vicar in his Emile, says against the theory of poetic fiction that the poet (of the gospel history) would be greater than the hero; and Theodore Parker, though himself addicted to this false system, inconsistently, yet truly and forcibly remarks, that “it takes a Jesus to forge a Jesus.” This is a strong argument against the mythical hypothesis of Strauss, and the legendary hypothesis of Renan. By denying the miracle of the historical Jesus of the gospel, they leave us the greater miracle of the Jesus of fiction.—P. S.]
4. It will conduce to our due estimation of the work of redemption, to consider the point of view from which the angels contemplate it. These holy spirits, who desire to look into the depths of these mysteries (1 Pet. 1:12), who admire the manifold wisdom of God in His dealings with His church (Eph. 3:10), and rejoice even over one sinner that repenteth (Luke 15:10), held but one such festival as that they celebrated in the night of the Nativity. It is no marvel, since by the birth of Jesus sinners are not only reconciled with God and with each other, but things in heaven and on earth are also gathered together in one (Eph. 1:10). To the question, why the Logos should receive fallen men, and not fallen angels, they know but one answer: εὐδοκία!
5. The excellent way in which the wonders of the holy night have been glorified by art, deserves special admiration. We need but call to mind the church hymn of CÖLIUS SEDULIUS (about A. D. 405); A solis ortus cardine; the Quid est quod arctum circulum of PRUDENTIUS; the Jesu redemtor omnium of an unknown author; the Agnoscet omne sœculum of FORTUNATUS, not to refer to later ones. Among painters, JOHN ANGELICUS DA FIESOLE has admirably represented the Annunciation; CORREGGIO the suggestive image of the night of the Nativity; RAPHAEL the ideal conception of the Madonna with the holy child. In the representation of the entire holy family the Italian school is distinguished above all others. [Roman Catholic art glorifies too much the Madonna in the Divine Child and reflects the doctrinal error of Mariolatry; Protestant art glorifies the Divine Son above His earthly mother and every other creature. The perfection of art will be the perfection of worship, whose only proper object is the triune God.—P. S.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
The salvation of sinners, the joy of angels.—God’s good-will towards men, the matter of His glorification in heaven and earth.—What does the angels’ song announce to men? 1. Bethlehem’s miracle; 2. Jesus’ greatness; 3. the Father’s honor; 4. the Christian’s calling; 5. heaven’s likeness.—The praise of the sons of God in the first hour of creation (Job 38:7), and in the first hour of redemption.—The hymns of heaven, contrasted with the silence of earth.—The angel, the best instructor in true Christmas rejoicing.—The song of the seraphim of the Old (Isa. 6:1 ff.), and the song of the angels of the New Covenant.—Every Christmas carol a distant echo of the angels’ song.—The song of the angels on earth, and the song of the redeemed in heaven (Rev. 5:9).—Angels came into the fields, but not to the manger.—Angels return to heaven, their Lord remains on earth.—The light which disappeared from the shepherds, contrasted with the light which continued to shine before them.—The journey to the manger: What must be, 1. left behind, 2. taken, and 3. expected on this journey.—The earnest inquiry after the incarnate Redeemer.—Through faith to vision; through vision to higher faith.—The first act of worship before the child in the manger.—The first messengers of the gospel (Luke 2:17).—The birth of Christ in us: 1. Its commencement, by wondering (Luke 2:18); 2. its progress, by pondering (Luke 2:19); 3. its end, thankful glorifying of God (Luke 2:20).—The testifying faith of the shepherds contrasted with the silent faith of Mary.—The first communion of saints around the manger of the Lord, a communion of faith, of love, and of hope.—Mary’s faith tried, strengthened, and crowned on the night of the Nativity.—Contemplative faith at the manger of the Lord.—The first pilgrims to the stable of Bethlehem: 1. Their pilgrim mind; 2. their pilgrim staff; 3. their pilgrim hope; 4. their pilgrim joy; 5. their pilgrim thanksgiving.—The glad tidings of salvation, 1. demand, 2. deserve, and 3. reward, the strictest investigation.—Not one indifferent witness of the new-born Saviour.—The Sabbath hours of the Christian life, a preparation for renewed God-glorifying activity.—To glorify God in our daily work, the best thankoffering for the sight of His grace in Christ.
STARKE:—Nova Bibl. Tub.: Jesus honored in heaven, however much He was despised on earth.—MAJUS:—In Christ heaven and earth, God, men and angels, are reconciled.—Bibl. Wurt.:—As soon as we hear of Christ, we should run to find him.—We should excite one another to exercises of piety.—We must seek Christ, not according to our own notions, wit, or reason, but according to the word of God.—Nova Bibl. Tub.:—They who wonder at the mysteries of God, though they believe not yet, are not far from faith.—Be not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the word.—LUTHER:—It is praiseworthy to imitate the angelic virtues (Luke 2:13–20).
ARNDT:—True celebration of Christmas, after the pattern of the shepherds: 1. Their going; 2. their seeing; 3. their spreading abroad the saying; 4. their return to their avocations.
HEUBNER:—A childlike disposition is not disturbed by the meanness of outward appearances.
Luke 2:19: St. Luke here gives us a hint of one of his sources of information.—What effects should the announcement of the birth of Jesus produce in us? 1. Desires after Jesus, a longing to know Him by our own experience; 2. zeal in testifying for Jesus, for the encouragement of others; 3. renewed activity in duty, and constant glorifying of God by a holy walk and conversation.
KITTEN:—The festival of the Nativity, a festival for both heaven and earth: 1. For heaven; for it was, (a) prepared in heaven, (b) suited for heaven, (c) celebrated in heaven. 2. For earth; for it is the festival which commemorates, (a) our illumination, (b) our elevation to the rank of God’s children, (c) our transformation into heirs of glory.
FLOREY:—Our heart, the birth place of the Lord:
1. Hidden from the world; 2. favored by the Lord; 3. blessed within.
HERBERGER:—Christmas day, 1. a day of miracle; 2. a day of honor; 3. a day of grace.
HÖFER:—In Christ we receive, 1. the love of heaven; 2. the light of heaven; 3. the peace of heaven.
AHLFELD:—The shepherds as patterns for imitation: 1. They seek the child in the stable and the manger; 2. they spread the gospel message everywhere; 3. they praise God with thankful joy.
HARLESS:—The faith of the shepherds, true faith. 1. Its foundation—(a) God’s word, (b) God’s deed; 2. its properties—(a) emotion of heart, (b) activity of life; 3. its aim—(a) the spreading of the kingdom of God upon earth, (b) the glory of God.
BRANDT:—Joy in the Saviour is, 1. the greatest, 2. the noblest, 3. the most active joy.
KRAUSHOLD:—A true Christmas blessing consists in our becoming, 1. more desirous of salvation, 2. firmer in faith, 3. more abundant in testimony, 4. more joyful in praise.
FUCHS:—The Christian’s celebration of Christmas: 1. His visit to his Saviour (Luke 2:15, 16); 2. his sojourn with his Saviour (Luke 2:18, 19); 3. his return from his Saviour (Luke 2:17, 20).
[“With malice toward no one, with charity for all.” This truly Christian motto of President Lincoln, in his second inaugural address, spoken in the midst of a fearful civil war, March 4, 1865, is an earthly echo of the Divine εὐδοκία.—P. S.]
Luke 2:14.—Here we meet with one of the most important differences of reading which materially affects the sense. Dr. van Oosterzee follows the Received Text and defends it in the Exegetical Notes. I shall supply here the necessary critical information. The text. rec., which reads εὐδοκία, and puts a comma after εἰρήνη, is supported by some later uncial MSS., E., G., H., K., L., M., P. (but not by B., as was generally stated before Mai’s edition, even by Lachmann, Tischendorf, ed. 7, and Bleek), also by most of the Greek fathers, as Origen (?), Eusebius, Athanasius, Epiphanius, Greg. Naz., Chrysostom, Cyr. Alex., Const. Apost. (the Gloria in excelsis), and most of the interpreters. The Authorized English Version, Luther, and most of the Protestant Versions follow the text. rec. On the other hand, εὐδοκίας (the genitive depending on ἀνθρώποις and connected in one sentence with ἐπι γῆς εἰρήνη) is the reading of the oldest and weightiest uncial MSS., Cod. Sinait. (as edited by Tischendorf), Cod. Alex, or A., Cod. Vatic. or B. (as edited both by Angelo Mai, who derives εὐδοκίας a prima manu, and by Buttmann), Cod. Bezæ or D. (Cod. C. or Ephræmi Syri has a lacuna in Luke 2:6–41, and can be quoted on neither side), the Itala and Vulgata (hominibus bonæ voluntatis, to which Wiclif and all the Roman Catholic Versions conform), Irenæus, the Latin fathers, as Ambrose, Hieronymus, Augustine, and it was approved by Beza, Bengel (though not in his Gnomon), Mill, R. Simon, Hammond, and adopted in the text by Lachmann, Tischendorf (ed. 7), Tregelles (Alford is doubtful); among modern commentators by Olshausen, Meyer (who translates: unter Menschen, welche wohlgefallen), and Ewald (unter Menschen von Huld). The internal evidence also is rather in favor of εὐδοκίας. For it is easier to suppose that a transcriber changed the genitive into the nominative, to make it correspond with δόξα and εἰρήνη, than that he changed the nominative into the unusual phrase ἄνθρωποι εὐδοκίας. Tischendorf says in loc. (ed. 7 critica major): “Incredibile est εὐδοκίας a correctore profectum esse, εὐδοκία vero facile se offerebat. Præterea lectio a nobis recepta ab ipso sensu imprimis commendatur; aptissime enim hymnus iste duobus membris absolvitur, quorum alterum verbis δόξα, usque Θεῷ, alterum verbis καὶ ἐπί usque εὐδοκίας continetur.” But I shall have more to say on the interpretation of the passage in the Exegetical Notes below.
Luke 2:15.—The reading καὶ οἱ ἄνθρωποι before οἱ ποιμένες is supported by A., D., E., etc., adopted by Tischendorf, and Alford, also by de Wette, Meyer, and van Oosterzee (who defends it as forming a beautiful antithesis to ἄγγελοι); but it is omitted by Codd. Sin. and Vat., the Latin Vulgate, Eusebius, Augustine, etc., and is included in brackets by Lachmann and Tregelles.
Luke 2:20.—Ὑπέστρεψαν is the proper reading, sustained by Cod. Sin., etc., and adopted in the modern critical editions against ἐ πέστρεψαν of the Elzevir text.—P. S.]
And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.THIRD SECTION
THE HISTORY OF THE GROWTH
A. The Eighth Day; or, Submission to the Law. Luke 2:21
(The Gospel for New Year’s Day)
21And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child [for circumcising Him],20 his name was called JESUS, which was so named of [by] the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Luke 2:21. The circumcising.—See the Exegetical Notes on Luke 1:59.
[ALFORD:—“The Lord was made like unto His brethren (Hebr. 2:17; 4:15) in all weakness and bodily infirmity, from which legal uncleannesses arose. The body which He took on Him, though not a body of sin, was mortal, subject to the consequence of sin,—in the likeness of sinful flesh; but incorruptible by the indwelling of the Godhead (1 Pet. 3:18). In the fulfilment therefore of His great work of redemption He became subject to legal rites and purifications—not that they were absolutely necessary for Him, but were included in those things which were πρέποντα for Him in His humiliation and ‘making perfect’: and in His lifting up of that human nature, for which all these things were absolutely necessary (Gen. 17:14), into the Godhead.”—BENGEL remarks on πρὸ τοῦ, antequam: “Exquisite hic denotatur beneplacitum Patris in Christo, atque innuitur simul, nunc infantem circumcisione per se non eguisse. Conf. Gal. 1:15.”—P. S.]
Jesus, Ἰησοῦς.—Hebr. יְהוֹשׁוּעַ, or contracted, יֵשׁוּעַ,—Jehovah auxilium. It appears from Col. 4:11, and Matt. 27:16, 17, where the correct reading is Jesus Barabbas, that the name was not an usual one at this time. For mystical derivations of the name see Wolf and others.
Which (name) was so named (or: the name given by the angel).—The naming of our Lord was not less an act of faith in obedience to the divine command, than the naming of the Baptist (Luke 1:63). In this instance, the direction was not given to Joseph alone (Matt. 1:21), but also to Mary (Luke 1:31).
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. It is remarkable that Luke relates the circumcision of the Baptist in a far more detailed and circumstantial manner than that of the Messiah. This is surely no proof that the two narratives were derived from entirely different sources (Schleiermacher); while this very brevity and simplicity offer a fresh token of the truth of the history. A mere inventor would never have omitted enhancing the occurrences of the eighth and fortieth days, by appearances of angels. The detailed account of the circumcision of John, contrasted with the brevity with which that of Jesus is narrated, is the more striking, when we consider that the first stands entirely upon Old Testament ground; while the Mosaic law, and the rite of circumcision itself, were about to be done away with by the second (Lange.)
2. In a certain point of view, circumcision had not the same meaning for the child Jesus, as it bore for every other son of Abraham. The spotless purity of His body needed no symbol of the putting off of the sinful Adam; and even without περιτομή, He would doubtless, in the eye of Heaven, have been sanctified and hallowed in a peculiar sense of the word. But the King of the Jews could not, and would not, omit the token that He belonged, according to the flesh, to that elect people; and when the Son of God appeared in the likeness of sinful flesh, He chose also to receive the emblem of purification from sin, that He might be in all things like unto His brethren, sin only excepted. The principle, afterward so prominently laid down by our Lord at His baptism, also applies in this instance, Matt. 3:15. It shows a deep insight into the nature and reality of His incarnation, that the mother of our Lord never thinks of withdrawing either Him or herself from the duties of the eighth or of the fortieth day.
3. He who was ἐκ γυναικὸς γενόμενος, came also at the appointed time ὑπὸ νόμον by circumcision. His reception of this rite is an incident in the history of the self-humiliation of Him who, being originally in the form (μορφή) of God, took upon Him the form of a servant. By it He became symbolically bound to perform that will of the Father, for whose fulfilment He had come into the world. Olshausen well remarks, that “the harmony of the divine plan of salvation required His submission to even this form of human development, according to which He was received as a member of the theocracy of the Old Testament, by means of the same sacred treatment which brought all His brethren within the bonds of the covenant, in order that He might, after attaining to the perfectly developed consciousness of His higher existence, elevate to the higher degrees of His own life, that community to which He was united by so many various ties.”
4. Now that Christ is circumcised, the law is in this respect also both fulfilled and repealed. Baptism takes the place of circumcision (Col. 2:10–12), as the form of admission into the new covenant; and Paul rightly opposes the judaizing zeal for the re-introduction of circumcision, as a virtual denial of Christian principle.
5. The most important fact of the eighth day, is, after all, the naming of the Saviour. What name was ever given which promised more, and which less disappointed the expectations excited, than this? Comp. Acts 4:12.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Jesus made under the law, that He might redeem us from the law.—Jesus both humbled and exalted, on the eighth day.—The circumcision of the flesh, and the circumcision of the heart, Rom. 2:28, 29.—Circumcision and baptism.—The first fruits of the blood of Christ, a sacrifice of obedience.—The name Jesus is, 1. a name given by God; 2. a name whereby we must be saved; 3. the only name under heaven given for this purpose.—The solemn manner in which circumcision was instituted (Gen. 17.), contrasted with the silent and almost imperceptible manner in which it disappeared, Heb. 8:13.—The harmony between the name and work of Jesus.—The name Jesus: 1. The dignity with which the Lord is invested; 2. the work which He performs; 3. the homage He receives, as bearing this name.—Joseph and Mary, patterns of the unquestioning obedience of faith.—The name of Jesus, and our name.—New Year’s day, the Lord’s name-day: 1. The knowledge of the name of Jesus, the best New Year’s blessing; 2. the faithful confession of this name, the chief New Year’s duty.—The New Year considered in the light of the name of Jesus, the name of Jesus in the light of the New Year.—Our earthly destination also, is appointed by God before our birth.
STARKE:—Christ was esteemed unclean, according to the law, that, by His satisfaction, He might take away our uncleanness.
PALMER:—The name of Jesus in the mouth of His believing people who are in the world: 1. All that we believe and confess in the world is summed up in this one name; 2. what we do for the world, we do in the name of Jesus; 3. what we shall take out of the world is this name alone; (or, more shortly, the name of Jesus, with respect to the faith, the works, and the hope of the Christian).
RAUTENBERG:—The name of Jesus, our light in the darkness of the New Year’s morning: 1. The light of grace for the darkness of our conscience; 2. the light of power for the darkness of our life.—This name on New Year’s day, 1. throws the right light on our reminiscences; 2. gives the right weight to our resolutions; 3. and provides the anchor of true confidence for our hopes.
SPRITZLER:—We must begin with Jesus Christ, the true “beginning.”—Through Him we have, 1. new life; 2. new hopes; 3. new righteousness; 4. new peace.
V. GERLACH:—The New Year, a year of salvation.
STIER:—The right way of beginning the New Year: 1. Not in our own name; 2. not only in the name of God alone, but in the name of the Lord Jesus.
HEUBNER:—The Christian resolution to lead a new life in the New Year: 1. What this resolution requires—circumcision of the heart and fulfilment of duties; 2. what gives it strength—the name of Jesus; 3. what promises its accomplishment—the protection of Providence (Luke 2:21).
Luke 2:21.—The Received Text reads to τὸ παιδίον, the child, to mark the chief person; but this word is unnecessary in the connection and not sustained by the best authorities and critical editions which read αὐτόν. So also Cod. Sinait. The second καί before ἐκλήθη is simply redundant, and hence properly omitted in the E. V.—P. S.]
And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;B. The Fortieth Day; or, the Redemption from the Temple Service. LUKE 2:22–40
22And when the days of her [their]21 purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished [completed], they brought Him to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord;23(As it is written in the law of the Lord [Ex. 13:2], Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord); 24And to offer a sacrifice, according to that which is said in the law of the Lord [Lev. 12:8], A pair of turtle-doves, or two young pigeons.
25And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. 26And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ [the Christ of the Lord]. 27And he came by the Spirit unto the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for Him after the custom of the law, 28Then took he [he took] Him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,
29Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word: 30For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, 31Which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people [all the nations, πάντων τῶν λαῶν];
32A light to lighten [for a revelation to, εἰς ἀποκάλυψιν] the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.
33And Joseph [His father, ὁ πατὴρ αὐτοῦ] and His mother22 marvelled at those thingswhich were spoken of Him. 34And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary His mother,
Behold, this child [οὗτος] is set [appointed] for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;
35(Yea, [And] a sword shall pierce through thy [thine] own soul also), That the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
36And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the [a] daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser [Asher]: she was of a great age [of great age], and had lived with an [a] husband 37seven years from her virginity; And she was a widow of about [till]23 fourscore and four years, which [who] departed not from the temple, but served God [serving]38with fastings and prayers night and day. And she,24 coming in that instant [at that very hour, αὐτῇ τῇ ὥρᾳ], gave thanks likewise unto the Lord [God],25 and spake of Him to all them that looked for redemption in26 Jerusalem.
39And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.
40And the child grew, and waxed strong27 in spirit, [being] filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon him.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Luke 2:22. Their (not her) purification.—The law of Moses declared, that the mother was unclean seven days after the birth of a son (fourteen days after the birth of a daughter), and must remain separate for thirty-three days from this period. These forty days are together denoted the days of the καθαρισμός. If several persons are spoken of (αὐτῶν, their), we must not refer it to the Jews in general, nor to the mother and the child (for the Mosaic precept, Lev. 12:4–6, had regard only to the mother, not the child), but to the mother and the father. Joseph was not obliged to be present in the temple, yet he might take part in the solemnity of purification, as it was his part to present the firstborn to the Lord. It appears from the reference to Lev. 12:8, that Mary brought the offering of the poor.
Luke 2:24. In the law of the Lord.—According to Exod. 13:2, all the first-born were dedicated to God. In remembrance of the deliverance from Egypt, when the destroying angel spared the first-born of the Israelites, it was ordered, that the eldest son of every family should be considered as God’s special property, and be redeemed from the service of the sanctuary by the payment of five shekels (Num. 18:16). The tribe of Levi afterward took the place of the first-born thus dedicated and redeemed. The fact that Mary was unable to bring a lamb and a turtle-dove [Lev. 12:6], as she would undoubtedly desire to do, is a fresh proof of the truth of the apostolic word, 2 Cor. 8:9.
Luke 2:25. Simeon.—The principal traditions concerning this aged saint are to be found in Winer in voce28 The very manner in which Luke mentions him, as ἄνθρωπος ἐν Ἱερουσ., while he speaks with so much more of detail concerning Anna, supports the conjecture that, though acknowledged by God, he was not famous among his fellow-men. He may have been, however, one of the leading men of his country, and was probably aged, while he must certainly be numbered among those who waited for the redemption of Israel, Luke 2:25, 38. A later tradition, describing him as blind, but receiving his sight on the approach of the child Jesus, suitable as its allegorical sense may be, is without historical foundation.
Luke 2:26. Revealed unto him by the Holy Spirit.—By an inward revelation, which it would be as impossible to describe as presumptuous to doubt. We prefer supposing an infallible consciousness, wrought by God, that his prayer in this respect was certainly heard, to imagining the intervention of some wonderful dream. If the spirit of prophecy had departed from Israel since the time of Malachi, according to the opinion of the Jews, the return of this Spirit might be looked upon as one of the tokens of Messiah’s advent.
Luke 2:26. See death.—Or, as it is elsewhere expressed, taste death, Matt. 16:28; Heb. 2:9. It means, not merely falling asleep, but the experience of death as death, with its terrible accompaniments. That he should depart immediately, or soon after seeing Christ, was not indeed revealed to him in so many words, but might naturally be expected by him. Lange beautifully remarks: “Simeon is in the noblest sense the eternal Jew of the Old Covenant who cannot die before he has seen the promised Messiah. He was permitted to fall asleep in the peace of his Lord before His crucifixion.”
Luke 2:27. And he came by the Spirit—Perhaps he was accustomed, like Anna, to go daily into the temple; at all events, he now felt an irresistible impulse from God to enter it. It is possible that he might have heard the narration of the shepherds of Bethlehem; but such a supposition is not necessary for the understanding of the gospel account.
Luke 2:29. Now lettest Thou, etc.—Simeon’s song of praise is genuinely Israelitish, not exclusively Jewish. Compared with the hymns of Zachariah and Mary, it is more peculiarly characterized by its psychological truth than even by its æsthetic beauty. The internal variety and harmony of these three compositions is a proof of the credibility of the early chapters of Luke which must not be overlooked.
According to Thy word.—A retrospect of the previous revelation.
Luke 2:30. Thy salvation.—His mind fastens on the thing, not the person; and he sees the world’s salvation, while beholding the form of a helpless child.
Luke 2:31. Before the face of all nations (πάντων τῶν λαῶν).—The true union of the particular and universal points of view. Salvation goes out from Israel to all people without distinction, in order to return to Israel again. The Sun of Righteousness makes the same circuit as the natural sun, Eccles. 1:5.
Luke 2:32. A light for a revelation to (to lighten) the Gentiles, εἰς ἀποκὰλυψιν ἐθνῶν.—The κάλυμμα is now taken away from the eyes of all nations, that they may see the Christ, the Light of the world.—And the glory.—Not a declaration that glory is the end proposed, but used as apposition to σωτήριον, Luke 2:30. The highest glory of Israel consists in the salvation of Messiah.
Luke 2:33. And His father and mother marvelled.—Not because they learned from the song of Simeon anything that they had not heard of before, but they were struck and charmed by the new aspect under which this salvation was presented. Simeon sees fit to moderate their transports, by alluding to the approaching sufferings which must precede the glory. His words, however, contained nothing new or strange. The prophets had already announced, that the Servant of the Lord would undergo sufferings and persecution; and even the apparent poverty of the mother and of the holy child could not but convince the pious man, who well knew the carnal expectations of his fellow-countrymen, that a Messiah born in so lowly a condition could not fail to encounter the opposition of the nation. With regard to the ῥομφαία (Luke 2:35), it did not pierce Mary’s soul for the first time, but only for the last time, and the most deeply, on Golgotha.
His father.—[Our Saviour never speaks of Joseph as His father, see Luke 2:49; but he was His father in a legal sense and in the eyes of the people, and, as Alford observes in loc, in the simplicity of a historical narrative we may read ὁ πατὴρ αὐτοῦ and οἱ γονεῖς, without any danger of forgetting the momentous fact of the supernatural conception.—P. S.]
Luke 2:34. Set for [κεῖται εἰς, is appointed for] the fall.—Comp. Isa. 8:14; Rom. 9:33. This divine setting or appointing is always to be considered as caused by their own fault, in those who fall, by wilfully continuing in unbelief and impenitence. Mary had already expressed the same truth, in a more general form, Luke 1:52, 53; while the Lord Himself still further develops it, John 9:39, 41; Matt. 21:44. We have here the first hint, given in New Testament times, of the opposition which the kingdom of Messiah would experience from unbelief. The angels had only announced great joy: it was given to the man of God, who saw heaven opened before his death, to go a step farther.
[And for a sign which shall be spoken against, σημεῖον ἀντι λεγόμενον signum, cui contradicitur.—BENGEL: “Insigne oxymoron. Signa alias tollunt contradictionem: hoc erit objectum contradictions, quanquam per se signum est evidens fidei (Is. 55:13, Sept.); nam eo ipso, quia lux est, illustris et insignis est. Magnum erit spectaculum.” The fulfilment of this prophecy culminated in the crucifixion.—P. S.]
[Luke 2:35. And a sword shall pierce, etc.—This sentence is coördinate to the preceding one, and hence should not be inclosed in parenthesis, as in the E. V. The grief of Mary corresponds to the rejection and suffering of Christ. The sword that shall pierce the ψυχή of Mary, must be referred to her sympathizing motherly anguish at beholding the opposition of the world to her Son, and especially His passion and crucifixion. It is a prophecy of the mater dolorosa apud crucem lacrymosa, who represents the church of all ages in the contemplation of the cross.—I cannot agree with Alford, who refers the ῥομφαία to the sharp pangs of sorrow for her sin and the struggle of repentance; referring to Acts 2:37. This would require πνεῦμα or καρδιάν rather than ψυχήν, and is hardly consistent with the character of Mary. She was probably one of those rare favorites of Divine grace who never forsake their “first love,” who are always progressing in goodness, and from their infancy silently and steadily grow in holiness, without passing through a violent change, or being able to mark the time and place of their conversion. Such were St. John, Zinzendorf, Mary of Bethany and other female saints.—P. S.]
Luke 2:35. That the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.—The thoughts of Mary, who now as before (Luke 2:19) ponders and is silent, and the thoughts of all who, whether for their fall or rising again, should come in contact with her Son. Lasting neutrality with respect to the Lord is impossible; he that is not for Him is against Him; comp. Luke 11:23. His appearing brings to light the latent good and evil, as the same sun which dissipates the clouds that obscure the sky, also draws up the mists and vapor of earth.
Luke 2:36. A daughter of Phanuel.—It is remarkable that the name of Anna’s father should be mentioned, and not that of her husband. Perhaps he also was known as one who waited for the consolation of Israel. The pious words of Anna, Luke 2:38, cannot be the only reason of her being called a prophetess; such an appellation must have been caused by some earlier and frequent utterances, dictated by the Spirit of prophecy, by reason of which she ranks among the list of holy women who, both in earlier and later times, were chosen instruments of the Holy Ghost. Eighty-four years (fourscore and four) is mentioned as the sum of her whole life, not of that portion of it which had elapsed since the death of her husband. It is specially mentioned, to show also that, though she had passed but few years in the married state, she had reached this advanced age as a widow; a fact redounding to her honor in a moral sense, and ranking her among the comparatively small number of “widows indeed,” whom St. Paul especially commends, 1 Tim. 5:3,5. That her piety was of an entirely Old Testament character, gives no support to the opinion of certain Roman Catholic theologians, e.g. SEPP, Leben Jesu, 2. p. 54, that Mary was brought up under her guidance in the house of the Lord.
Luke 2:38. Likewise gave thanks, ἀνθωμολογεῖτο, vicissim laudabat, Ps. 79:13.—She took up the theme of praise which had just fallen from the aged Simeon. We believe, with Tischendorf, that the correct reading here is τῷ Θεῷ; but even if we read τῷ Κυρίῳ, with the Textus Receptus, we still have to apply it to the Jehovah of Israel. It is no acknowledgment of the new-born Christ, but a doxology to the Father who sent Him, that is here spoken of; while the words immediately following, and spake of Him, evidently allude to the child of Mary, whose name needs not to be repeated here, as He plays the chief part in the whole history.
Luke 2:38. That looked for redemption in Jerusalem.—There were then a certain number of pious persons dwelling in the capital, who lived in and upon the hope of salvation through the Messiah, and among whom the report of His birth was soon spread. Who knows how soon this report might not have spread also throughout the whole country through their means, had not the secret departure of the holy family to Egypt and Nazareth caused every trace of them to disappear from the eyes of this little band at Jerusalem? Perhaps, too, it was chiefly composed of the aged, the poor, and the lowly, whose influence would certainly not be very extensive. The new-born Saviour, now recognized, through the testimony of Simeon and Anna, by the noblest in Israel, was soon to receive the homage of the Gentile world also, through the arrival of the wise men from the east.
Luke 2:39. And when they had performed all things—they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.—The question naturally occurs here, whether the visit of the wise men, and the subsequent flight into Egypt, took place before or after the fortieth day. Although the former is by no means impossible (see LANGE, Leben Jesu ii, p. 110), we think the latter conjecture preferable. The narrative of Luke (Luke 2:22–24), at least, gives us the impression, that the presentation in the temple took place at the customary time; and we should therefore find some difficulty in inserting the matter contained in Matt. 2. between the eighth and fortieth days. As long as Mary had not brought her offering of purification, she was obliged to remain at home, as unclean; and if Joseph, on his return from Egypt, as we find from Matt. 2:22, 23, was obliged to settle at Nazareth, instead of Bethlehem, from fear of Archelaus, it was not likely that he would then have ventured to go to Jerusalem, and even into the temple. We need not necessarily conclude, from Matt. 2:1, that the event there mentioned took place in the days immediately following the birth of Jesus; nor can Luke 2:39 be considered a complete account of the whole occurrence. This would have required the return to Bethlehem, and its sad results, to be mentioned before the settlement at Nazareth. The passage is rather a concluding paragraph, wherewith the Evangelist closes his account of the early infancy of our Lord, before passing on to a somewhat later period. Completeness not being his aim in this preliminary history, he has no need to speak of the visit of the Magi, and the flight into Egypt, even if he were as well acquainted with these circumstances as Matthew was; but hastens on to the definitive settlement at Nazareth (Luke 1:26; 2:4), where Mary and Joseph had previously dwelt; and even of this period he gives only a general account, Luke 2:40, and a single occurrence, Luke 2:41–52.29
Luke 2:40. And the child grew, etc.—Comp. Luke 1:80. The same expressions are made use of concerning John, while somewhat more is added when Jesus is spoken of. There is no need of insisting on the anti-docetic character of the whole narrative.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. Even the second occurrence in the life of our Lord, His presentation in the temple, is elucidated by a reference to what is written. From this time forth, the ἵνα πληρωθῇ ἡ γραφή will continually recur, and the whole life of the God-Man present a realization of the ideal, depicted in the prophetic writings of the Old Testament. The offering of doves, brought by Mary on this occasion, while it shows the poverty of her condition, testifies at the same time to the depths of humiliation to which the Son of God descended. Mary cannot bring a lamb for an offering: she brings something better, even the true Lamb of God, into the temple.
2. In Simeon and Anna we see incarnate types of the expectation of salvation under the Old Testament, as in the child Jesus the salvation itself is manifested. At the extreme limits of life, they stand in striking contrast to the infant Saviour, exemplifying the Old Covenant decaying and waxing old before the New, which is to grow and remain. Old age grows youthful, both in Simeon and Anna, at the sight of the Saviour; while the youthful Mary grows inwardly older and riper, as Simeon lifts up before her eyes the veil hanging upon the future.
3. The coming of Simeon into the temple, “by the Spirit,” is entirely according to Old Testament experience. The Spirit does not dwell in him, permanently, as his own vital principle, as in the Christian believer; but comes upon and over him, as a power acting from without. Such exceptional manifestations among the saints in Israel, by no means prejudice the statement of St. John, Luke 7:39. There is a remarkable coincidence between the expectation of Simeon and that mentioned Isa. 49:6. [ALFORD: “Simeon was the subject of an especial indwelling and leading of the Holy Ghost, analogous to that higher form of the spiritual life expressed in the earliest days by walking with God, and according to which God’s saints have often been directed and informed in an extraordinary manner by His Holy Spirit.”—P. S.]
4. A divine propriety, so to speak, seems to require that the new-born Saviour should receive first the homage of the elect of Israel, and afterward that of the representatives of the Gentile world. If so, the visit of the Magi must have been subsequent to the presentation in the temple. Besides, if the gold they offered had come into the hands of Mary and Joseph before this event, would they have brought only the offering of poverty?
5. The shepherds, Simeon, and Anna agree in this, that they all become, in their respective circles, witnesses to others of the salvation of God. They do not wait, or seek for suitable opportunity, but seize upon the first, as the best. Comp. Ps. 36:1; Acts 4:20. When the Saviour is seen by faith, the true spirit of testimony is already aroused.
6. The sacred art has not forgotten to glorify the presentation of Jesus in the temple. Think of the beautiful pictures of JOHN VAN EYK, RUBENS, GUIDO RENI, PAUL VERONESE, RAPHAEL, TITIAN, REMBRANDT, and many others.
7. [AMBROSE, on Luke 2:22 (Opera, tom. i. p. 1301):—“Christ received a witness at his birth, not only from prophets and shepherds, but also from aged and holy men and women. Every age, and both sexes, and the marvels of events, confirm our faith. A virgin brings forth, the barren becomes a mother, the dumb speaks, Elizabeth prophesies, the wise men adore, the babe leaps in the womb, the widow praises God … Simeon prophesied; she who was wedded prophesied; she who was a virgin prophesied; and now a widow prophesies, that all states of life and sexes might be there (ne qua aut professio deeset aut sexus.”—P. S.]
8. We shall have to speak more particularly, in the next division, of the manner of the genuine human development of Jesus. But the hint here given, is sufficient to direct our attention to its reality. Not only the body, but the soul and spirit of the Lord, grew incessantly and regularly. When He was a child, He spake as a child, before He could, with full consciousness, testify of God as His Father. Undoubtedly the awakening of His divine-human consciousness, His recognition of Himself, formed part of the filling with wisdom. As Sartorius says in his lectures on Christology, “The eye which comprehends heaven and earth within its range of vision, does not, by betaking itself to darkness or closing its lid, deprive itself of its power of sight, but merely resigns its far-reaching activity; so does the Son of God close His all-seeing eye, and betake Himself to human darkness on earth, and then as a child of man open His eye on earth, as the Light of the world, gradually increasing in brilliancy till it shines at the right hand of the Father, in perfect splendor.”
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
The offering of pious poverty acceptable to God.—The inconsiderable redemption-money paid for Christ; the infinite price of redemption paid by Christ.—Simeon, a type of an Israelite indeed: 1. Just and devout; 2. waiting for the consolation of Israel; 3. filled with the Holy Ghost.—The Holy Ghost, 1. witnesses of Christ; 2. leads to Christ; 3. and teaches to praise Christ.—The song of Simeon, the last note of the psalmody of the Old Testament.—He who has seen the salvation of Christ can depart in peace.—Christ, according to the prophecy of Simeon, 1. the glory of Israel; 2. the light of the Gentiles; 3. the highest gift of God to both.—The death that glorifies God, has, 1. a song on the lips; 2. Christ in the arms; 3. heaven in view.—Christ set for the fall of some, and the rising of others: 1. It is not otherwise; 2. it cannot be otherwise; 3. it ought not to be otherwise; 4. it will not be otherwise.—The sign that is spoken against, 1. in its continual struggle; 2. in its certain triumph.—Christ, the touchstone of the heart.—The Saviour came into this world for judgment, John 9:39.—The sword in Mary’s heart: the depth of the wound; the balm for its healing.—Anna the happiest widow of Holy Scripture.—A pious old age, cheered with the light of Christ’s salvation.—The first female testimony to Christ, a testimony, 1. excited by longing expectation; 2. based on personal vision; 3. given with full candor; 4. sealed by a holy walk; 5. crowned by a happy old age.—The Annas of the Old and New Testament, 1 Sam. 2: Both tried, heard, and favored in a peculiar manner.—In Christ there is neither male nor female, old nor young, etc.; but faith which worketh by love.—The significancy of the events of the fortieth day, 1. to Simeon and Anna; 2. to Mary and Joseph; 3. to Israel; 4. to Christendom in after ages.—The holy childhood.—The grace of God on the holy child.—The most beautiful flower on the field of Nazareth.
STARKE:—The duty of all parents to present their children to God.—MAJUS:—Vows and sacrifices must be offered according to the law of God, not according to the notions of men.—The most pious are not always the richest; therefore despise none for their poverty.—God has a people of His own, even in the darkest seasons of the Church, 1 Kings 19:18.—QUESNEL:—The elect of God never die, till they have beheld, here on earth, the Christ of God with the eye of faith.—HEDINGER:—The duty of yielding immediately to special impulses toward that which is good.—The death of God’s children, a loosening of the bondage of His life of misery.—The prosperity and adversity of the saints, determined beforehand in the counsels of God, even from eternity (Luke 2:34).—Whatever happens to Christ the Head, happens also to His members (Luke 2:34).—ZEISIUS:—Mary (Luke 2:35), a type of the Church, upon whom, as the spiritual mother, all the storms of affliction fall.—God, the God of the widow, Ps. 68:6.—Holy people cannot but speak of holy things: what is the chief subject then of our discourse?—LANGII Opus Bibl.:—Children should imitate the mind of Jesus, and grow stronger in what is good.—Jesus remained a child but a short time, and His believing people should not long remain children in faith.
HEUBNER:—Christian dedication of children: 1. Its nature; 2. its blessing.—Simeon’s faith, and Simeon’s end.—The prelude of the “Stabat mater … cujus animam trementem, contristatam et gementem, pertransivit gladius.”—Anna, the model of the Christian widow, forsaken by the world, and living alone and bereft; but not forsaken of God, and living in the happy future, and in the faith of Christ.—Early announcement of the destination of Jesus: 1. How and why it happened; 2. its truth and confirmation.
RIEGER:—Of the spiritual priesthood of Christians.—J. SAURIN:—Simeon delivered from fear of death by the child Jesus: 1. He cannot desire to see anything greater on earth; 2. he has the sacrifice for sin in his arms; 3. he is assured of eternal life, why then should he desire to remain any longer on earth?—F. W. KRUMMACHER beholds, in the history of Simeon, 1. a divine “Forwards,” 2. a happy halt, 3. a safe anchorage, 4. a peaceful farewell, 5. a joyful welcome.—O. VON GERLACH:—Jesus our all, when we, 1. have found in Him rest for our souls; 2. are resolved to fight for Him; and 3. to bear His reproach.—RAUTENBERG:—Simeon’s hope: 1. To what it was directed; 2. on what it was founded; 3. and how it was crowned.—BOBE:—Simeon in the temple: 1. The Holy Spirit his leader; 2. faith his consolation; 3. piety his life; 4. the Saviour his joy; 5. departure for his home his desire.—KRUMMACHER:—Anna a partaker of a threefold redemption: 1. From an oppressive uncertainty; 2. from a heavy yoke; 3. from a heavy care.—FLOREY:—Directions on our pilgrimage for a new year (from Luke 2:33–40). We must go on our journey, 1. steadfast in the faith (Luke 2:34); 2. submissive to the divine will (Luke 2:35); 3. diligent in the temple of God (Luke 2:34); 4. waiting for the promises of God (Luke 2:38); 5. faithful in our daily work (Luke 2:39); and 6. growing in the grace of God (Luke 2:40).—L. HOFACKER:—Simeon, one of the last believers of the Old Covenant, an encouraging example for the believers of the New.
Luke 2:22.—Αὐτῶν is better authenticated (also by Cod. Sinait.) than αὐτοῦ, and still better than αὐτῆς, and refers to Mary and Joseph (not the child, nor the Jews), comp. the following ἀνήγαγον αὐτόν. In this instance the translators of King James followed the Complutensian reading αὐτῆς, which is almost without authority and a manifest correction from the misapprehension of a transcriber who thought that αὐτοῦ or αὐτῶν would imply the impurity of Christ. Wiclif and the Genevan Bible have Maries purification, the Rheims Test. her purification, but Tyndale and Cranmer correctly their purification.
Luke 2:33.—The original reading, which is sustained by Codd. Sinait., B., D., L., Origen, Vulgate (pater ejus et mater), etc., was no doubt: ὁ πατὴρ αὐ τοῦ καὶ ἡ μήτηρ (Cod. Sinait. adds a second αὐτοῦ), and is adopted in the text of Tischendorf, Alford, and Tregelles (not of Lachmann). The substitution of Ἰωσήφ for πατὴρ αὐτοῦ is easily explained from prejudice. The word is, of course, not to be taken in the physical, but in the legal and popular sense.
Luke 2:37.—The usual reading is ὡς, which is very usual in connection with numbers; but Lachmann, Tischendorf, Alford, and Tregelles read ἕως, till, according to Coda. Sinait., B., L., Vulgate (usque ad), etc.
Luke 2:38.—Αὕτη is wanting in the best authorities and modem critical editions, and could easily be inserted from Luke 2:37.
Luke 2:38.—Τῷ Θεῷ is the true reading (sustained also by Cod. Sinait.), and now generally adopted instead of the lect. rec. τῷ Κυρίῳ.
Luke 2:38.—Ἐν is wanting in Codd. Sinait., Vat., etc., and dropped by Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles. Alford puts it in brackets. In this case Ἱερουσαλήμ must be taken as the genitive; for the redemption of Israel. But Meyer defends the ἐν, and explains its omission from Luke 2:25.
Luke 2:40.—Πνεύματι seems to have been inserted from Luke 1:80, and is excluded from the text by Lachmann, Tischendorf, Alford, Tregelles, on the best ancient authorities. Cod. Sinait. is likewise against it. Dr. van Oosterzee omits it in his German Version.—P. S.
[According to some, Simeon was the son of the famous Rabbi Hillel, and father of Gamaliel, the teacher of St. Paul (Acts 5:34). The Rabbis say: “The birth of Jesus of Nazareth was in the days of R. Simeon, son of Hillel.” But this is, of course, a mere conjecture, without inherent probability.—P. S.]
[For an examination of the conflicting views of harmonists on the order of these events, the reader is referred to SAM. J. ANDREWS: The Life of our Lord, N. Y., 1863, p. 84 ff., who places the visit of the Magi and the flight into Egypt soon after the presentation in the temple. This is the view of the majority of modern harmonists, while the old traditional view puts the arrival of the Magi on the sixth day of January, or on the thirteenth day after the birth of our Saviour.—P. S.]
Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.C. The Twelfth Year; or, the Growth in Wisdom and Favor. LUKE 2:41–52
41Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passoLuke 2:42And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem, after the custom of the feast. 43And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and His mother [parents, οἱ γονεῖς]30 knew not of it [knew it not]. 44But they, supposing Him to have been [that He was] in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought Him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.45And when they found Him31 not, they turned back again [they returned] to Jerusalem, seeking him.
46And it came to pass, that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors [teachers], both hearing them, and asking them questions. 47, And all that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. 48And when they saw Him, they were amazed: and His mother said unto Him, Son, why hast Thou thus dealt with us? behold, Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing. 49And He said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not [Did ye not know] that I must be about my Father’s business [ἐν τοῖς τοῦ ΙΙατρός μου]?32 50And they understood not the saying which He spake unto them.
51And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but His mother kept all these sayings in her heart. 52And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature [age],33 and in favour with God and man.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Luke 2:41. At the feast of the Passover.—See Lange’s remarks on the Passover, Matt. 26:2 [vol. i. p. 459]. The celebration lasted seven days, from the 15th of Nisan, and was appointed for all time to come. Every Israelite was bound to be present, except such as were unable to perform the necessary journey, viz., the sick, the aged, and boys under the age of twelve, who, as well as the blind, the deaf, and the lunatic, were permitted to remain at home. At the beginning of the month of Nisan, messengers were despatched to all parts, to remind the people of the approaching festival, that none might have ignorance to plead as an excuse for absence. A detailed description of the rite is not necessary for the elucidation of Luke’s narrative; we need only here remark, that every Jewish child of twelve years old was permitted, as “a son of the law,” to take part in the celebration of the sacred festival. According to Jewish custom at a later time, a child was, in his fifth year, instructed in the law; in his tenth, in the Mishna; and in his thirteenth, was fully subjected to the obedience of the law. There existed, also, no longer any reason that Jesus should absent Himself from Judea, as Archelaus, whom Joseph had reason to fear, was already banished by Augustus, after a reign of ten years. Women were by no means obliged to go up to the feast (see SCHÖTTGEN, Horœ in Luc. ii. 41); yet the fact of Mary’s accompanying her son on the occasion of his first celebration, needs neither defence nor explanation.
Luke 2:43. The child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem.—Luke neither tells us that Jesus remained behind at Jerusalem intentionally, nor that Joseph and Mary lost sight of Him through want of necessary care. A circumstance must here have been omitted; and we may safely suppose, that Joseph and Mary joined their elder fellow-travellers in the persuasion that Jesus, who knew of the time and place of departure, was among the younger ones. The more Mary was accustomed to trust to His obedience and wisdom, the less necessary would it be always to watch Him. An involuntary mistake, of whatever kind it might be, separated the child from the parents. Perhaps, too, they might have become uneasy on His account earlier in the day; but the multitude of the caravans at a time when, as Josephus tells us, Galilee contained more than four million inhabitants, would render an instantaneous search impracticable;34 and a day’s journey being generally not very long, inquiry was delayed till the end of the day. It must not, besides, be forgotten, that in the East even an ordinary child of twelve would be equal to one of fourteen or fifteen among us; and that they could not, therefore, be extremely uneasy, especially about such a child as He was.—See Tholuck’s apologetic treatment of this subject in his Glaubwürdigkeit der evangelischen Geschichte, p. 210, etc.
Luke 2:46. After three days.—If we understand, with de Wette and others, that these three days were spent in seeking for the child in Jerusalem, it is almost inexplicable that it should only so late have come into their thoughts to go to the temple. It seems more probable that we must allow one day for their departure, Luke 2:44; one for their return, Luke 2:45; and the third, Luke 2:46, for their search; and that they found Him in the sanctuary at the close of the latter. (See Grotius and Paulus in loc.)
In the temple.—Probably in one of the porches of the Court of the Women, where the schools of the Rabbis were held, and the law regularly expounded. The Evang. infant. Arab. Luke 50–53, gives a lengthy apocryphal account of the conversation of Jesus with the Jewish Rabbis in the temple.
Sitting in the midst of the teachers.—It has been often said, that it was the custom of the times for scholars to receive the instructions of the Rabbis standing, as a mark of reverence. This has been, however, well disproved by Vitringa (de Synagog. Vet. i. p. 167). We have to understand it in the same sense as St. Paul speaks of his sitting at the feet of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). De Wette insists, notwithstanding, that the child Jesus appears here in a consessus of discussing Rabbis, entering into the argument as a member of it would do. Surely he has not sufficiently considered the following words, ἀκούων καὶ ἐπερωτῶν, which plainly show, that the idea of receiving is here made far more prominent than that of communicating. Olshausen far more suitably remarks, that “a lecturing, demonstrating child would have been an anomaly, which the God of order would never have exhibited.” The astonishment of His hearers at the intelligence manifested in His answers, need not surprise us, if these answers were even as excellent as that which He gave to Mary’s somewhat hasty demand.
Luke 2:48. Thy father and I.—Not merely the only possible manner in which Mary could publicly speak to her son of Joseph, but also an indisputable proof of the wisdom with which she brought up the child; a wisdom, which taught her to say nothing yet to Him of the mystery of His birth, and which had faith enough to wait, till His own consciousness should be fully and clearly awakened to the fact of His being the Son of God. The more surprising, therefore, must His answer have seemed to His mother, as containing a hint, intelligible to her alone, that He already knew who His Father was.
Luke 2:49. How is it that ye sought Me?—The quiet repose of this answer, contrasted with Mary’s natural agitation, produces an impression quite peculiar. He is apparently astonished that He should have been sought, or even thought of, anywhere else, than in the only place which He felt to be properly His home.—Perhaps this was the moment in which His immediate intuition of His destination was aroused. Thus the magnet, if it could speak, would express its astonishment, if it were assigned another than a northward direction, or the sunflower, if it was supposed not to be always turned toward the sun. [ALFORD:—“This is no reproachful question. It is asked in all the simplicity and boldness of holy childhood.”—P. S.]
About My Father’s business.—The rendering of some, “in My Father’s house” unnecessarily narrows the fulness of the expression. He stays in the temple as such only, inasmuch as it is there that to τὰ τοῦ πατρός are for the present concentrated, according to His view. Better: in the things or affairs of my Father, in that what belongs to His honor and glory. A beautiful exposition of this inexhaustible text may be found in STIER’S Words of the Lord Jesus, vol. I. [I must be, δεῖ.—It signifies a moral necessity which is identical with perfect freedom.—P. S.]
Luke 2:50. And they understood not the saying.—If Meyer and others are right, in concluding that the meaning of these words was totally incomprehensible to His parents, this inexplicable ignorance might perhaps be adduced, as evidence against the truth of the history of the Nativity and its miracles. We do not, however, see any reason why we should not attribute their astonishment to the fact, that he should, sponte sua, so plainly express what He had learned neither from them nor from the doctors Besides, twelve years of quiet oblivion had elapsed, between His birth and this moment; and even the faith of a Mary would not be always equally clear and strong.
Luke 2:51. And was subject unto them.—It seems almost as if Luke were trying to oppose the notion, that the child, whose faculties were developing in so heavenly a manner, had even for an instant spoken in an unchildlike manner to His mother and foster-father. If His heart drew Him to the temple, the voice of duty called Him back to Galilee; and, perfect even in childhood, He yielded implicit obedience to this voice. The blossom of His inner life, which had opened and spread abroad its first fragrance in the temple, was to continue expanding in the obscurity of Nazareth; and Mary was to wait eighteen years, keeping “all these sayings in her heart,” before anything else unprecedented should occur.
Luke 2:52. In wisdom and age.—Age (margin) would seem the preferable rendering of ἡλικία, for, though increase in age is as inevitable a consequence as increase of stature, yet the former expression is important to Luke, who, having spoken of His twelfth year, and being about to mention His thirtieth (Luke 3:23), characterizes, by this concluding formula, the whole of these eighteen years as a period of development.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. We may compare the appearance of Jesus on earth to the course of the sun. The first light appeared above the horizon on the night of the Nativity at Bethlehem; when His public ministry began, this light had gained its meridian height; but as the sun’s journey from east to south is often performed amidst darkening clouds, so is the history of these thirty years for the most part veiled in obscurity. Only once, in this long morning, is the veil of clouds drawn aside, and we get a glimpse of the increasing glories of this Sun of Righteousness; and this moment of brightness is the epoch of this Passover feast.
2. Perhaps there are few passages in Luke’s history of the birth and childhood of Jesus, which bear such incontestable marks of truth and reality as this. A comparison with the apocryphal Gospels is even unnecessary, as the whole narrative breathes throughout a truth and simplicity, with which nothing else can be compared. What writer of a fiction would ever have imagined an occurrence, from which the miraculous is so entirely banished, in which no angel is introduced to assist in the discovery of the lost child, but his parents are represented as finding Him again in an ordinary manner, and one in which even an appearance of disobedience to Mary is cast upon Jesus! To be unable to imagine so precocious a development, is to place the Lord behind many children, of whom remarkable traits of early maturity are related. Nor should we forget here the remark of a Christian apologist, that “in Christianity, and in its sacred records, the motto of cold intellectual culture, ‘nil mirari,’ is less applicable than the principle of the most sublime of its predecessors: τὸ θαυμάζειν τῆς φιλοσοφίας ἀρχή.” Osiander.
[“Of the boyhood of Jesus, we know only one fact, recorded by Luke; but it is in perfect keeping with the peculiar charm of His childhood, and foreshadows, at the same time, the glory of His public life, as one uninterrupted service of His heavenly Father. When twelve years old, we find Him in the temple, in the midst of the Jewish doctors, not teaching and offending them, as in the apocryphal Gospels, by any immodesty or forwardness, but hearing and asking questions, thus actually learning from them, and yet filling them with astonishment at His understanding and answers. There is nothing premature, forced or unbecoming His age, and yet a degree of wisdom and an intensity of interest in religion, which rises far above a purely human youth. ‘He increased,’ we are told, ‘in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.’ He was subject to His parents, and practised all the virtues of an obedient son; and yet He filled them with a sacred awe as they saw Him absorbed in the things of His Father, and heard Him utter words, which they were unable to understand at the time, but which Mary treasured up in her heart as a holy secret, convinced that they must have some deep meaning, answering to the mystery of His supernatural conception and birth. Such an idea of a harmless and faultless heavenly childhood, of a growing, learning, and yet surprisingly wise boyhood, as it meets us in living reality at the portal of the Gospel history, never entered the imagination of a biographer, poet, or philosopher before. On the contrary, as has been justly observed by Dr. H. Bushnell (on the Character of Jesus, p. 19), ‘in all the higher ranges of character, the excellence portrayed is never the simple unfolding of a harmonious and perfect beauty contained in the germ of childhood, but is a character formed by a process of rectification, in which many follies are mended and distempers removed, in which confidence is checked by defeat, passion moderated by reason, smartness sobered by experience. Commonly a certain pleasure is taken in showing how the many wayward sallies of the boy are, at length, reduced by discipline to the character of wisdom, justice, and public heroism, so much admired. Besides, if any writer, of almost any age, will undertake to describe not merely a spotless, but a superhuman or celestial childhood, not having the reality before him, he must be somewhat more than human himself, if he do not pile together a mass of clumsy exaggerations, and draw and overdraw, till neither heaven nor earth can find any verisimilitude in the picture.’—This unnatural exaggeration, into which the mythical fancy of man, in its endeavor to produce a superhuman childhood and boyhood, will inevitably fall, is strikingly exhibited in the myth of Hercules, who, while yet a suckling in the cradle, squeezed two monster serpents to death with his tender hands, and still more in the accounts of the apocryphal Gospels, on the wonderful performances of the infant Saviour. These apocryphal Gospels are related to the canonical Gospels as the counterfeit to the genuine coin, or as a revolting caricature to the inimitable original; but, by the very contrast, they tend, negatively, to corroborate the truth of the evangelical history. The strange contrast has been frequently urged, especially in the Strauss controversy, and used as an argument against the mythical theory. While the evangelists expressly reserve the performance of miracles to the age of maturity and public life, and observe a significant silence concerning the parents of Jesus, the pseudo-evangelists fill the infancy and early years of the Saviour and His mother with the strangest prodigies, and make the active intercession of Mary very prominent throughout. According to their representation, even dumb idols, irrational beasts, and senseless trees, bow in adoration before the infant Jesus, on his journey to Egypt; and after His return, when yet a boy of five or seven years, He changes balls of clay into flying birds, for the idle amusement of His playmates; strikes terror round about Him, dries up a stream of water by a mere word, transforms His companions into goats, raises the dead to life, and performs all sorts of miraculous cures, through a magical influence which proceeds from the very water in which he was washed, the towels which he used, and the bed on which he slept. Here we have the falsehood and absurdity of unnatural fiction, while the New Testament presents to us the truth and beauty of a supernatural, yet most real history, which shines out only in brighter colors by the contrast of the mythical shadows.” (From SCHAFF’S Person of Christ, the Miracle of History. Boston, 1865, p. 28 ff.)—P. S.]
3. The first words which drop from the lips of the Word made flesh, are especially important in a doctrinal point of view. They are the childlike and naïve expression of direct and infallible self-consciousness, now gradually developing into higher knowledge. This is the moment in which the long-closed and slowly-growing bud first breaks through its outer covering. The child Jesus excites astonishment, but shows none, except at the fact that they knew not where to find Him. But the deep mysteries of His nature are still covered with a garment of the purest innocence. The temple is to Him, in the fullest sense, the dwelling-place of His Father, of whom He will soon declare, that “God is a Spirit.” His ear, desirous of instruction, is seeking answers to important and vital questions from those Rabbis, against whose perversions of Scripture He will soon denounce a terrible woe. His foot, which an irresistible yet inexplicable attraction draws toward the temple, soon submissively follows the track which the will of His parents points out. We feel that the child Jesus must have acted thus, and could not have acted otherwise.
4. But this passage of Christ’s early history is of extreme importance for other reasons. It is important in its influence on the present. Hitherto pious Jews and lowly shepherds, waiting for the salvation of Israel, have borne testimony to the infant Messiah: He now bears testimony to Himself; and the whole occurrence, which would surely be impressed on the mind of certain doctors of Jerusalem, was a fresh hint to the whole Jewish nation, to give a becoming reception to Him who would shortly appear among them. It is also important in its relation to the past. A seal is now set to the word of the angel, “He shall be called the Son of the Highest” (Luke 1:32). The consciousness of Jesus is aroused to this unique relationship, and a ray now gilds the obscurity of Nazareth, which must recall to Mary’s mind the miracles of Bethlehem, and direct her hopes to a future full of blessings. Finally, it is important as a sign of the future: if ever the saying of a child was prophetic, it was the saying of Jesus in the temple. It is the programme, the key-note, of the whole future earthly and heavenly life of our Lord. His consciousness of divinity, His obedience, His self-denial, His speech, as never man spake, all are here present in nuce, soon to be manifested in luce. Luke 2:49 is the germ of John 4:34; 8:29; 9:4; and even His farewell to life, John 17:4, naturally refers to this beginning.
5. The outer life of Jesus, during the next eighteen years, is covered with a veil of obscurity, which not even the writers of the apocryphal Gospels have ventured to lift. His days seem to have been quietly passed in the privacy of the domestic circle. Even Nathanael, who lived at Cana, only three leagues off from Nazareth, John 1:46, 47, had never yet heard anything of the son of Joseph. The death of His foster-father probably happened during this interval. Miracles would have been without purpose in the retirement of home; and John 2:3 cannot be understood to denote that any had yet been performed by him. Mark 6:3 (according to the true reading, ὁτέκτων) shows decidedly that He had worked at His father’s trade; a fact supported also by tradition. See JUSTINUS M., Dialog. cum Tryph. Luke 88. Compare the account of a remarkable statement of Julian the Apostate, in Theodoret, H. E. iii. 23, and Sozomen, vi. 2. The family of Nazareth seems not to have lived in a state of extreme poverty, but still less in the possession of any temporal superfluity.
6. The increase of Jesus in wisdom during this period was,—(1) real. Jesus had to learn from the words of others what as yet He knew not; and that was entirely unknown to Him as a child, which He had a glimpse of as a boy, conjectured as a youth, and first clearly perceived as a man.—(2) Unchecked. In attributing to the Lord Jesus the relative imperfection of childhood, we must carefully avoid imputing to Him the failings of childhood. His life showed no trace of childish faults, to be hereafter conquered. The words of John, Matt. 3:14, show, on the contrary, what impression was made by His moral purity when thirty years of age; and the voice from heaven, Luke 2:17, sets the seal of the divine approval on the now completed development of the Son of Man, a seal which the Holy One of Israel would only have affixed to absolute perfection.—(3) It was effected by means. We may exclude from the means whereby this development was effected, (a) a learned education by Jewish doctors (John 7:15); (b) an Eastern, Egyptian, Greek, or Alexandrian training, which was formerly thought of; (c) an instruction in the principles of the various Jewish sects, viz., the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. On the other hand, we may ascribe more or less influence to—(a) His training by the pious Mary, and the godly Joseph, in the ways of a quiet domestic life; (b) to the natural beauties of the neighborhood of Nazareth;35 (c) to the Scriptures of the Old Testament, which He undoubtedly read, understood, and delighted in, more than any other child; (d) to the annual journeys to Jerusalem, which must certainly have opened His eyes to the corruption of His nation and its leaders; and (e) above all to prayerful communion with His heavenly Father. But, allowing for all these, we are forced to recur (f) to that essential singularity in the personality of the Lord, whereby, with such comparatively weak and disproportioned means, he could become actu, what He had been from His birth potentiâ.—Lastly,  the development of the God-Man was normal, inasmuch as it holds up to His people an example of what they must more and more approach unto, in fellowship with Himself, growing by the faithful use of every means of grace, from “little children” to “young men,” and from “young men” to “fathers” in Christ: 2 Cor. 3:18; 2 Pet. 3:18.—On the whole subject of the human development of the Son of Man, compare ATHANASIUS, Orat. III. contra Arian, Luke 51 (tom. i., p. 475), and GREGORY NAZIANZEN, Oratio 43 in laud. Basilii, Luke 38. See also the excellent remarks of ULLMANN, Sinlessness of Jesus (p. 104 f. of the 5th German edition), and those of MARTENSEN in his Dogmatik ii., p. 315. The latter well observes, that “we see in this narrative, not only that the consciousness of His peculiar relation to His Father is dawning within Him; but that in His sitting in the midst of the teachers of His nation, not merely listening, but astonishing them by His questions and answers, we may also perceive the earliest revelation of His productive relation to those around Him (discendo docuit).”
[P. SCHAFF (The Person of Christ, etc., 1865, p. 34 ff.): “Jesus grew up among a people seldom and only contemptuously named by the ancient classics, and subjected at the time to the yoke of a foreign oppressor; in a remote and conquered province of the Roman empire; in the darkest district of Palestine; in a little country-town of proverbial insignificance; in poverty and manual labor; in the obscurity of a carpenter’s shop; far away from universities, academies, libraries, and literary or polished society; without any help, as far as we know, except the parental care, the daily wonders of nature, the Old Testament Scriptures, the weekly Sabbath services of the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4:16), the annual festivals in the temple of Jerusalem (Luke 2:42), and the secret intercourse of His soul with God, His heavenly Father. These are, indeed, the great educators of the mind and heart; the book of nature and the book of revelation are filled with richer and more important lessons, than all the works of human art and learning. But they were accessible alike to every Jew, and gave no advantage to Jesus over His humblest neighbor. Hence the question of Nathaniel, “What good can come out of Nazareth?” Hence the natural surprise of the Jews, who knew all His human relations and antecedents. “How knoweth this man letters?” they asked, when they heard Jesus teach, “having never learned?” (John 7:15.) And on another occasion, when He taught in the synagogue, “Whence has this man this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not His mother Mary and His brethren (brothers) James and Joses and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Whence, then, hath this man all these things?” These questions are unavoidable and unanswerable, if Christ be regarded as a mere man. For each effect presupposes a corresponding cause. .. Jesus can be ranked neither with the school-trained nor with the self-trained or self-made men, if by the latter we understand, as we must, those who without the regular aid of living teachers, yet with the same educational means, such as books, the observation of men and things, and the intense application of their mental faculties, attained to vigor of intellect and wealth of scholarship, like Shakspeare, Jacob Boehm, Benjamin Franklin, and others. All the attempts to bring Him into contact with Egyptian wisdom, or the Essenic Theosophy, or other sources of learning, are without a shadow of proof, and explain nothing after all. He never quotes from books except the Old Testament, He never refers to secular history, poetry, rhetoric, mathematics, astronomy, foreign languages, natural sciences, or any of those branches of knowledge which make up human learning and literature. He confined himself strictly to religion. But from that centre He shed light over the whole world of man and nature. In this department, unlike all other great men, even the prophets and the apostles, He was absolutely original and independent. He taught the world as one who had learned nothing from it and was under no obligation to it. He speaks from divine intuition as one who not only knows the truth, but who is the truth, and with an authority, which commands absolute submission, or provokes rebellion, but can never be passed by with contempt or indifference. His character and life were originated and sustained in spite of circumstances with which no earthly force could have contended, and therefore must have had their real foundation in a force which was preternatural and divine.”—P. S.]
7. We may be thankful that St. Luke, compared with the other Evangelists, has communicated to us so much of the early history of our Lord; nor less so, that he has told us so little; as this very reticence furnishes a proof of his fides historica, checks vain curiosity, and shows us how infinitely more important for our faith is the history of His ministry, passion, death, and glorification, than that of His youth and childhood.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
The first Passover of Jesus: 1. The history; 2. the significance of this journey for Jesus, for His parents, for Israel, for the world.—The first appearance of the Messiah in the sanctuary.—The glory of the second house greater than that of the first, Hag. 2:10.—The first Passover of Jesus: 1. Visited with desire; 2. celebrated worthily; 3. left obediently.—The parents and the child united before the Lord.—The Son of Man once a lost son.—Seeking for Jesus: 1. The anxiety of deprivation; 2. the joy of finding.—The interchange of joy and sorrow during our earthly pilgrimage.—Jesus lost in the hurry and bustle of the world, but found again in the temple.—Jesus sitting in the midst of the teachers whom He was afterwards to oppose.—The school of Rabbis at Jerusalem, a model for parents and children.—Mary’s astonishment excited by Jesus, comp. Luke 2:18 and 33.—The over-hasty zeal of Mary, and the heavenly tranquillity of Jesus.—God, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, in a sense applicable to Him alone.—The Son of Man aroused to the consciousness of His being the God-Man.—To be about His Father’s business, the vocation, 1. of Christ; 2. of the Christian.—Even the first recorded saying of the Lord too deep to be entirely understood, the explanation of all His deeds, and the key to His whole life.—Christ’s first Passover journey: 1. A glimpse into the history of His youth; 2. a turning-point in the history of His development; 3. a turning-point in the history of salvation.—The return from Jerusalem to Nazareth, a specimen of the voluntary self-denial and obedience of Christ.—Jesus, even at Nazareth, about His Father’s business.—The contemplative faith of Mary, 1. in its secret conflict, 2. in its final triumph.—The growth in secret, both in wisdom and stature, from the imperfect child to the perfect man, of Him who was the Most High and Most Glorious.—The increase in grace.—He who finds favor with God, finds favor also with man.—The season of waiting.—Faithfulness in little things.—The fifth commandment not destroyed but fulfilled by Jesus.—The fear of the Lord the beginning of wisdom.—Increase in wisdom and age, the work of grace; favor, the crown put upon wisdom and age.—That which is most precious, though ripening in the world, 1. was then, 2. is now, 3. will be ever, hidden from the eye of the world.
STARKE:—The care parents should have for their children.—To public worship must be added domestic worship.—QUESNEL:—Jesus is more often lost in time of prosperity than in times of misfortune and persecution.—HEDINGER:—We often, from erroneous judgment, seek Christ among our kinsfolk and acquaintance, where He
is not to be found.—We often have to seek long for Jesus; and this is our best employment, even if we have to spend more than one spiritual day’s journey upon it.—Sorrow for the loss of Jesus, a reasonable sorrow.—He who would be a teacher of others, must first be a learner.—CRAMER:—Christ has hallowed instruction by question and answer.—The more spiritual gifts any one has received, the more careful will he be to avoid boasting.—Nova Bibl. Tub.:—Jesus more learned than His teachers (Isa. 50:4): let us hear Him.—Parents transgress when they reprove and punish their children unseasonably or unreasonably, Prov. 20:1–6; 22:6.—MAJUS:—Children may instruct their parents, if they do it respectfully and modestly, 1 Sam. 19:4.—We must not despise what we do not understand.—OSIANDER:—Christ has, by His obedience, made satisfaction for the disobedience of children; while, by His example, He teaches children to obey their parents.—Faith keeps in her heart even what she does not understand.—There is little hope of children who increase in age and stature only, and decrease in wisdom and favor.
HEUBNER:—The care of man is not sufficient for children, if God does not add to it the care of His angels.—Even good children may innocently cause grief.—As Jesus grew and ripened in retirement, so the ministers of the gospel often have long to wait before God calls them into full work.—Jesus commanding respect even as a boy.—The family of Jesus a model for Christian families.—The charms of the history of Jesus for the young.
STIER:—The holy child Jesus and our children (a continuous contrast).—ARNDT:—1. The tokens; 2. the excitements; 3. the fruits of early piety, visible in the holy child Jesus.—The early history of Jesus: 1. Jesus in Nazareth; 2. Jesus of Nazareth.—A DES AMORIE V. D. HOEVEN (preacher in Utrecht, died 1849): 1. Behold the child Jesus! 2. Behold in the child the man Jesus! 3. Become children in Christ, that you may become men!—GERDESSEN:—The appearance of Christ in the sanctuary: Ought He not to be, 1. about His Father’s business; 2. in the midst of the teachers; 3. according to the usage of the feast; 4. sought for sorrowing; and 5. manifesting a childlike disposition?—M. G. ALBRECHT (died 1835): The child Jesus is often lost in our days, after a spiritual manner.—GAUPP:—The Mediator between God and man discernible in Jesus, even in His twelfth year: 1. In the holy privacy of His life in God; 2. in the consciousness of His relation to the Father; 3. in the unintermitted occupation of His spirit with the work which the Father had given Him to do.—RAUTENBERG:—Our children our judges: 1. What this means; 2. how this happens; 3. to what this leads.—Finally, an excellent sermon by ADOLPHE MONOD (died 1856): Jésus enfant, modèle des enfants, Paris, 1857.
Luke 2:43.—It is more probable that the original reading οἱ γονεῖς αὐτοῦ, His parents, which is sustained by Codd. Sinait., Vatic., Vulg. (parentes ejus), etc., recommended by Griesbach, and adopted by Lachmann, Tischendorf, Alford, Tregelles (also by van Oosterzee in his Version), was changed for dogmatic reasons into the text. rec.: Ἰωσὴφ καὶ ἡ μήτηρ αὐτοῦ, than vice versa. Comp. Crit. Note 1 on Luke 2:33. Meyer, however, defends the lect. rec., and regards οἱ γονεῖς αὐτοῦ as an addition from Luke 2:41.
Luke 2:45.—Αὐτόν, after εὑρόντες is wanting in the best authorities, and a superfluous insertion a seriore manu.
Luke 2:49.—Literally: in the things of My Father; in rebus Patris Mei; in dem, was Meines Vaters ist. Comp. 1 Tim. 4:15, ἐν τούτοις ἴσθι. So Maldonatus, Wolf, Valckenaer, Rosenmüller, de Wette, Ewald, van Oosterzee, Alford (who, however, strangely translates: among My Father’s matters), and all the older English Versions. But the fathers and the majority of modern commentators, including Meyer, also the revised N. T. of the Am. B. U., give the phrase a local reference: in My Father’s house, i.e., in the temple. This is grammatically equally correct, but it improperly limits and weakens the rich meaning, since Christ could only occasionally be in the temple. The preposition ἐν denotes the life-element in which Christ moved during His whole life, whether in the temple or out of it. See also the author’s Exeg. Note, p. 49, in which I entirely concur.
Luke 2:52.—The primary meaning of ἡλικία (from ἧλιξ, of age, in the prime of life) is age, the flower or prime of life, manhood, and is so correctly understood here by the Vulgate (ætate), Erasmus, Luther, Wiclif, Tyndale, Cranmer, the Rheims N. T., Kuinœl, de Wette, Alford, Whiting, van Oosterzee, and many others, comp. John 9:21, 23; Heb. 11:11; also Luke 12:25 and Matt. 6:27 (see Lange’s note, vol. i. p. 134). The Genevan and the Authorized E. V., Beza, Grotius, Bengel, Ewald, Meyer, Robinson (Diction.), the revised N. T. of the Am. B. U., etc., translate: stature, growth, as in Luke 19:3 (τῇ ἡλικία μικρός). But the only reason urged by Meyer against the former version, applies rather to the latter; for growth in age is more comprehensive than growth in stature. The meaning of the passage is that Jesus grew in wisdom as well as in age.—P. S.]
[At the time of David the whole population of Palestine furnished one million three hundred thousand men capable of bearing arms (2 Sam. 24:9), which would give us only a total population of nearly five millions. But at the time of Christ, Galilee, owing to the great fertility of its soil, was very densely populated, and Josephus states that the smallest of its four hundred and four towns and villages, numbered over fifteen thousand inhabitants (De bello Jud. 1.i. c. 3, § 2; Vit. 25). As to the city of Jerusalem, the ordinary number of inhabitants, according to Hecatæus, was one hundred and twenty thousand; and at the time of the passover, the population, according to Josephus, De bello Jud. iv. 9, 3, exceeded the number of two million seven hundred thousand male individuals, including, of course, all foreigners from Syria, Egypt, etc.; the number of paschal lambs slaughtered amounting once to one hundred and thirty-six thousand five hundred. In such a crowd it was easy to be lost. Perhaps Mary’s homeward-bound steps were quickened “by motherly anxiety for other and younger children left behind in Nazareth.”—P. S.]
[RENAN, in the second chapter of his Vie de Jésus, gives, from personal observation, the following graphic description of the beauty of nature around Nazareth: “Nazareth was a little town, situated in a fold of land broadly open at the summit of the group of mountains which closes on the north the plain of Esdralon. The population is now from three to four thousand, and it cannot have varied very much. … The environs are charming, and no place in the world was so well adapted to dreams of absolute happiness. Even in our days, Nazareth is a delightful sojourn, the only place perhaps in Palestine where the soul feels a little relieved of the burden which weighs upon it in the midst of this unequalled desolation. The people are friendly and good-natured; the gardens are fresh and green. … The beauty of the women who gather there at night, this beauty which was already remarked in the sixth century, and in which was seen the gift of the Virgin Mary (by Antonius Martyr, Itiner. § 5), has been surprisingly well preserved. It is the Syrian type in all its languishing grace.”—P. S.]