THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS, THE SON OF MARY AND THE SAVIOUR ACCORDING TO LUKE - Manfred Diefenbach - ebook

THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS, THE SON OF MARY AND THE SAVIOUR ACCORDING TO LUKE ebook

Manfred Diefenbach

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Opis

The practical commentary on Luke's Gospel is written for pastoral co-workers and for the faithful. It is a solid help for a better, deeper and more profound understanding of biblical teaching and it will help to preach the Good News more convincingly always and everywhere. The conception of this commentary follows the principle of "Lectio Divina" in five steps according to Pope Benedict XVI: to read the "Word of God", meditate/reflect on it, pray with it and internalize it, as well as live out the biblical message. In doing so, the Christian lifestyle will be inspired biblically. Der praxisorientierte Kommentar zum Lukasevangelium bietet Seelsorgern und engagierten Laien eine solide Handreichung für ein besseres, vertieftes Schriftverständnis und für eine glaubwürdige Verkündigung im Hier und Heute - in der Liturgie, Schule ... oder privat Zuhause. Der Aufbau des Kommentars folgt dem Prinzip der "Lectio Divina" in bewusster Anlehnung an ihre Ausformulierung durch Papst Benedikt XVI. So stützt die Abfolge von Lektüre, Meditation, Gebet und Verinnerlichung die Motivation, zu wirklich alltagsverändernden Handlungsweisen zu finden.

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MANFRED DIEFENBACH

THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS,

THE SON OF MARY AND

THE SAVIOUR

ACCORDING TO LUKE

A COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF LUKE

FOR THE LITURGY, CATECHISM,

AND CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY

epubli GmbH Berlin

© 2012

Das Werk ist urheberrechtlich geschützt. Die dadurch begründeten Rechte, insbesondere die der Übersetzung, des Nachdrucks, der Entnahme von Abbildungen, der Funksendung, der Wiedergabe auf fotomechanischem oder ähnlichem Wege und der Speicherung in Datenverarbeitungsanlagen bleiben, auch bei nur auszugsweiser Verwertung, vorbehalten.

Die Vergütungsansprüche des § 54 Abs. 2 UrhG werden durch die Verwertungsgesellschaft WORT wahrgenommen.

ISBN 978-3-8442-4182-2

Foreword

What is the Purpose of this Work?

In the year 1993, I published my dissertation “Die Komposition des Lukasevangeliums unter Berücksichtigung antiker Rhetorik­elemente”. Nearly 20 years later, this practical commentary on Luke’s Gospel is written for pastoral co-workers and for the faithful. It will be a solid help for a better, deeper and profounder understanding of biblical teaching and it will help to preach and teach the Good News more convincingly, in word and deed, always and everywhere. Therefore, it is necessary to prepare ourselves with the five steps of the “Lectio Divina” according to Pope Benedict XVI[1] (Verbum Domini 87): to read (lectio) the “Word of God”, meditate/reflect on it (meditatio), pray with it (oratio) and internalize it (contemplatio), as well as live out the biblical message (actio). The aim of this commentary, like my commentary on Mark (2012), is to help our understanding of the “Word of God” today. Whether you are a priest, a deacon, a catechist, a lay minister, or a seminarian, this work will have achieved its goal if it succeeds in complementing and helping you in your preaching and/or in your teaching. This ebook will be the basis for your self-study and ongoing formation programme.

I would like to acknowledge my debt to Bishop Dr Paul Hinder OFM Cap. I also wish to thank Mrs. Gisela Schardt and Mrs. Loreen Bemb for their proof-reading and corrections.

Limburg-Offheim,

the Memorial of the Evangelist Saint Luke on 18th October 2012

Manfred Diefenbach

Introduction

All Christians – both clergy and lay people – are called to be witnesses – being a “Minister of the Word of God” (Luke 1:2) and of faith. We are “ministers” of the Word of God. We should be teachers of the faith in order to open hearts to conversion, so that those whom we teach may hear and receive the “Word of God”. Let us keep in mind that we are first receivers of the Word, and then disciples and “servants”/“co-workers” of Jesus Christ in preaching and/or teaching the message of the Good News. To be a minister of the Word of God and of His Love is to receive first, and then to “hand on” (the meaning of the Latin word “traditio” is “hand on”) what has been received. The truth that saves our life kindles the heart of the receiver with a love of neighbour that should motivate him/her to communicate his/her experience of faith to others.

Jesus was a teacher, preacher, catechist, biblical scholar, and storyteller. He talked about, and explained in parables, “the Kingdomof Heaven”, taking into account people’s different kinds of background and understanding. In His preaching, Jesus used parables, like the Parable of the Sower (cf. Mark 4:3–8/Matthew 13:4–8/Luke 8:5–8) who sows seeds in various soils. Through His interpretation (cf. Mark 4:13–20/Matthew 13:18–23/Luke 8:11–15), Jesus helped His disciples to understand, receive, believe, accept, and live this parable. We, the faithful who want to spread and share the “Word of God”, must be sowers who preach and teach His Word as the message of God and His Kingdom, now as it did then. The seed is the Word of God, His message. With His help, the Good News of God will fall on good soil, in the heart of men (cf. Matthew 13:19). In the same way, the seed that has fallen into the heart of the disciples of Jesus – now as it was then – is fruitful, ranging up to 100 per cent depending on their disposition.

“The Word of God must appear in its entire splendor, even if it is ‘expressed in human words’” (Dei Verbum 13). That is the task of all preachers in the Church and teachers and catechists in the schools. May we be guided in our preaching and teaching by Jesus Christ who opened the minds of the disciples of Emmaus (Luke 24:27) and the other disciples (v. 45) to the understanding of the scriptures, making their hearts burn within them (v. 32) with the desire of glorifying God.

THREE STAGES IN THE FORMATION OF THE INSPIRED GOSPELS[2]

1. The Gospels tell us about the life of Jesus of Nazareth, who was born in Bethlehem, the town of King David in 7 or 6 B. C. (cf. Luke 2:1–20) He healed the sick and taught the people about God. God (cf. Luke 3:22; 9:35) and Peter (Matthew 16:16) proclaimed Him: the “Christ”, the “Son of God”.

2. ‚After His Death on “Good Friday” (14th Nisan according to the Synoptic Evangelists) and His Resurrection on “Easter Sunday”, the second stage in the development of the Gospels was the oral tradition of the Good News in the preaching of His disciples and Galilean women, such as, for example, Mary of Magdala. What could they tell the people? The Acts of the Apostles says:

“Someone must join us as a witness to the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. He must be one of the men who have companied with us during the whole time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism until the day when Jesus was taken up from us” (Acts 1:21–22) and “ascended into Heaven” (1:11).

3. The Evangelists Mark, Matthew, Luke – who wrote the three Synoptic Gospels[3] – and John wrote the four Gospels – under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They related the story/history of Jesus of Nazareth as both the “Son of God” and the “son” of Joseph and Mary and His message of salvation, by selecting some of the many elements which had been handed on, either orally or already in written form, through the Holy Spirit (= inspiration).

FROM EXEGESIS TO THE “HEARTS” AS THE HERMENEUTIC OF THE WORD OF GOD

The Bible is like a library. We find two parts in the Holy Scriptures: the “Old Testament” – the “Hebrew Bible” – and the “New Testament”, which were written between 1000 B. C. and 100 A. D. The Holy Bible is based on factual information, and at the same time it is from the eternity of God and it leads us back to His eternity. On the other hand, the reader or the listener of the Bible, who wants to understand the words and deeds of it, should read, study, and understand the Hebrew/Greek texts of the ancient world in their original historical context, and project himself/herself into Antiquity, 2000 or even 3000 years ago.

People today find themselves in the same situation as the first century Ethiopian in the Acts of the Apostles. They need an interpreter to understand the biblical texts (Acts 8:30–31[4]):

Philip asked the Ethiopian: “Do you understand what you are reading?”

The Ethiopian replied: “How can I unless someone guides me?”

Therefore, the “Word of God” has to be made understandable in our time and culture with the help of the Holy Spirit by the works of the scholars, preachers, teachers/professors, catechists, parents. For example, in the New Testament, what is the intention of Luke? The distance between this ancient text of the first century and the reader of the twenty-first century has to be bridged in order to arrive at the authentic sense of the sacred text. Christians also hear Christ’s voice in the readings and homily, which explain the texts of the Bible in today’s language. They are thus invited to apply these inspired biblical words/texts in their lives. Their different forms – parables, healings, the narratives of His Passion and Resurrection as well as their context (who wrote it, to whom, why), are a personal message from God. We must enter the ancient world, so that the written text can become living word.

The Apostle Paul spoke “on Christ’s behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:20) as God’s “mouthpiece” (Galatians 1:10) and placed himself com­pletely at the service of the proclamation of the Gospel. He preached the Good News of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ without compromise – cf. Romans 8:35–37 or 2 Corinthians 11:23–27.

As His “servant”, Paul was His instrument because he only wanted God and Christ to be the focus of life. He was not a self-centered “minister of the Word of God”. The Spirit of God and Jesus Christ lives in us and is taught through us in words and deeds by means of personal testimony. Therefore, this commentary on Luke is based on the Greek text.

According to the “communication model”[5], our role as a SENDER/transmitter (1) and as a “minister of the Word of God” is to reach the members of the Church, the RECEIVERs/ addressees (3) of the apostolic MESSAGE – the Good News (2).

Bishops, priests, deacons, professors, catechists, parents and all the faithful should learn, through frequent reading of the Sacred Scripture(s), to bring the message of the Bible to the ears and hearts of people of our own time. First, we are receivers, and then we can act as God’s servants and Christ’s disciples, and co-workers in the preaching and/or teaching of the message of the Good News. A faithful and true minister of the Word of God receives and hands on what has been received. The truth that saves his life inflames the heart of the receiver with love of neighbour, and motivates him to pass on to others what he has freely received. The principal functions in the pastoral ministry can be distinguished: catechesis, preaching, and the biblical apostolate; the Word of God has to be made understandable in our time and culture – in preaching and/or teaching as well in the biblical apostolate.

How can we guide the people who want to hear and understand the Good News? We have to avoid two extremes[6] when interpreting the Bible:

on the one hand, we have to protect the interpretation of the Bible from attacks by science, which analyses words of the Bible – the so-called “historical-critical methods” – as if they were ordinary writings without the inspiration of the Holy Spirit;

on the other hand, there is the so-called “mystical exegesis”. This way of understanding the Bible is all symbolic and spiritual as if it had nothing to do with historical facts and the world we live in. This method believes that there is no need for science in interpreting the Bible. So the Bible is read as if the Spirit dictated it word for word.

“The Word of God must appear in all its splendour, even if it is ‘expressed in human words’ (DV 13)”. That is the task of all preachers in the Church and teachers and catechists in the schools. May we be guided in our preaching and teaching by Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, who opened the minds of the disciples of Emmaus (Luke 24:27) and the other disciples (v. 45) to the understanding of scripture(s), making their hearts burn within them (v. 32):

“Christ has no hands, only our hands to do His work.

He has no feet, only our feet to lead people on His way.

Christ has no lips, only our lips to tell people about Him.

He has no help, only our help to bring people to His side”,

so runs the prayer of Saint Teresaof Ávila (1515–1582 A. D.).

In this way, we Christians have to present and represent – with body and soul – Jesus Christ, the “Son of God”, the “Christ”, the incarnate “Word of God” so that we already bring a little bit of Heaven to earth.

0. The Macrostructure/Composition of the Gospel according to Luke

The book of the Evangelist and Hellenistic historian Luke (cf. Luke 1:1–4), who had training in ancient rhetoric, is structured according to a fairly standard set of “topic lists” such as a curriculum vitae (= CV) comparing the lives of Jesus and John the Baptist. The sections on John the Baptist’s ministry (Luke 3:1–20) are similar to the ministry of Jesus in Galilee (Luke 4:14–9:50), on the way to Jerusalem (9:51–19:28), and in Jerusalem (19:29–21:38). For the Evangelist Luke, John must be seen primarily as a prophet, and the mission of Jesus is grounded in the divine word, which John meditated and preached. The parallels between the lives and activities of John the Baptist (3:1–20) and of Jesus are significant, but Jesus the Christ (3:21–23:56) has surpassed John at the end through His Resurrection (24:1–53[7]):

1. Beginning/Opening: John the Baptist and Jesus’ Birth (1:1–3:20)

1.1 Prologue (1:1–4)

1.2 The Infancy of John the Baptist and Jesus as an “Overture”[8](v. 5–2:52)

1.3 The Ministry and the End of John the Baptist (3:1–20)

2. Middle: Jesus’ Public Ministry in Word and Deed (3:21–19:28)

2.1 Baptism of Jesus, His Genealogy, and His Temptation (3:21–4:13)

2.2 The Journey and Public Ministry of Jesus in Galilee (4:14–9:50)

2.3 The Journey and Public Ministry of Jesus on the “Way to Jerusalem” (9:51–19:28)

3. Final Part: Jesus in Jerusalem (19:29–24:53)

3.1 The Ministry of Jesus in Jerusalem (19:29–21:38)

3:2 The Passion and Crucifixion of Jesus (22:1–23:56)

3.3 The Resurrection and the Ascension of Jesus (24:1–53)

Chapter 1

The book of the Evangelist and Hellenistic historian Luke, who had training in ancient rhetoric, is structured according to a fairly standard set of “topic lists” such as a curriculum vitae (= CV) comparing the lives of Jesus and John the Baptist. The sections on John the Baptist’s ministry (Luke 3:1–20) are similar to the ministry of Jesus in Galilee, on the way to Jerusalem, and in Jerusalem. For Luke, John must be seen primarily as a prophet, and the mission of Jesus is grounded in the divine word, which John meditated and preached. The parallels between the lives and activities of John the Baptist (3:1–20) and of Jesus are significant, but Jesus the Christ (3:21–23:56) has surpassed John at the end through His Resurrection (24:1–53). Jesus, therefore, had fulfilled the prophecies of the Hebrew Bible, our so-called Old Testament, and the prophecy of John the Baptist (3:4–6, 16). Luke was like a portrait painter who painted two pictures or “diptychs”[9], using words about John the Baptist and Jesus, Elizabeth and Mary, in the form of “picture-stories” in two separate panels[10]. The main characters in the visitation of the unborn infants are Jesus and John the Baptist as follows:

Topic

John the Baptist

Jesus the Christ

The Beginning (1:1–4:13)

►Prooemion (1:1–4)

►List of Origins as Prophecy

(vv. 5–56)

►List of Origins as Fulfillment (vv. 57–4:14)

The Annunciation/ Promise of the Birth (vv. 5–25)

The Praise of Elizabeth (vv. 39–45)

His Birth, Neighbours’ Witness, his Circumci­sion (vv. 1:57–79)

His Upbringing and Training (v. 80)

“God’s Order” (3:2)

The Annunciation of the Birth (vv. 26–38)

The Praise of Mary/Magnificat (vv. 46–55/56)

His Birth, Shep­herds’ Witness, His Circumcision and Presentation in the Temple (2:1–39)

His Upbringing and Training (vv. 40, 41–51, 52)

God’s Voice during the Baptism of Jesus (3:21–22)

His Genealogy (vv. 23–38)

[His Temptation (4:1–13)]

The Middle: the Ministry

(3:3–18)

His Words & Deeds in Galilee & on the Way to Jerusalem (4:14–19:48)

The End in the Form of a Con­flict

 Manner of Death (3:19–20)

Event after Death [9;7, 19]: (The resurrection of John?)

Manner of Death in Jerusalem (20:1–23:56)

Events after Death (24:1–53): His Re­surrection!

Luke expresses in the prologue/preface/introduction (1:1–4) his aim/purpose in the style of Greco-Roman history and biographers of Luke’s time (for example, Herodotus, Thucydides, Josephus or Mark 1:1; Acts 1:1–3) to confirm “Theophilus” (v. 3 or Acts 1:1), and in the third generation members of the Early Church/Lucan communities, in their trust in God through a reflection on the vision and mission of Jesus. It is structured in the form of a communication set-up – the sender/story-teller/Evangelist (who) – “the first witnesses and ministers of the word” [v. 2] and Luke as a “communicator” [v. 3]) and the receiver/reader “Theophilus” (v. 4). “Luke invites Theophilus and friends to see in faith that in Jesus all God’s promises have come to fulfillment. Luke invites them to confess faith in Jesus as Savior, Christ, and Lord not only in their reflection upon the resurrection and the baptism of Jesus” (like Mark), “but also in their reflection upon the beginning of Jesus’ life in God.”[11]

The actors (Gabriel, Mary, Joseph), a fixed time (“in the sixth month”) and a place (“Nazareth in Galilee”) in vv. 26–27[12] introduce the dialogue between the angel Gabriel (cf. vv. 28b–c; 30b–33, 35b–37) and Mary (cf. vv. [29,] 34, 38b–c), the mother of Jesus (cf. v. 31). Note in vv. 28–38, which is structured at the beginning by the “coming of the angel” Gabriel, the use of the same Greek basic verb “went to” in v. 28a and “went away” (= left) in v. 38d at its end.

The text of Luke 1:39–56, in the context of the beginning of the lives of both John the Baptist (cf. 1:5–25, 57–80) and Jesus (cf. 1:26–38; 2:1–20, 21–40), “the Christ” and “the Son of David”, the son of Mary[13] and Joseph[14], is framed with the help of a notice of Mary’s going for a visit to Elizabeth at the beginning (cf. vv. 39–41) and her going home at the end of the “Magnificat” [15]. Therefore, the structure of Luke 1:39–45/56 is:

vv. 39–41: Narrative setting

vv. 42–45: The praise of Mary by Elizabeth

[vv. 46–55: “The Magnificat” as the praise of God by Mary

vv. 46–49: First part: God’s deed of salvation towards her (as an individual)

vv. 50–55: Second part: God’s deed of salvation in its universal dimension

v. 56: Conclusion]

vv. 57–79: The birth and the circumcision of John the Baptist including “the Benedictus” as the praise of God by Zechariah

v. 80: Summary Notice

Commentary

1. Beginning/Opening: John the Baptist and Jesus’ Birth (Luke 1:1–3:20)

1.1 PROLOGUE (1:1–4)

v. 1: Luke is one of “many” early Gospel-writers who wrote a “narrative account”[16] of the Gospel about Jesus; others are the other Evangelists Mark, Matthew, John, or the apocalyptic Gospels according to Thomas, Mary etc. Luke was neither a disciple nor an eyewitness of Jesus; he was a pagan “convert”. He “begins his Gospel with a brief preface written in classical Greek style” and reflects the traditional custom of secular writing.”[17]

v. 2: So, Luke explains three stages in the formation[18]/growth of the Good News about Jesus (note the introduction here). He “selected certain elements of the many narratives which had been handed on, either orally” (for example, by His disciples or by Mary Magdalene) “or already in written form”[19] (for example, by his predecessors Mark and/or Matthew[20] or the so-called “Quelle Q” [Source Q] and maybe John) using them as his “trustworthy and authoritative sources”[21]. He “synthesized and explained with an eye to the situation of” his church (cf. Dei Verbum 19/CCC 126): From the reception about “the life and teaching of Jesus” before and after the Easter event (What – cf. v. 1b or Act 1:21–22) to the transformation and interpretation in the form of “the oral tradition” by His (male and female) disciples as the first “eyewitnesses”[22] (Who – cf. v. 2b or Acts 1:8) of the crucified and glorified Jesus,

v. 3: to the written Gospel according to “the minister/servant[23]of the Word” Luke (Who – v. 2b) who reread, reviewed, retold – “to seem good” and to “write[24]an orderly account” (How – v. 3b) –, and order the Good News about Jesus “from the beginning”[25] in his own “logical/chronological sequence”[26] (cf. Acts 11:4) like a (religious, faithful) historian for “Theóphılos”[27] (Whom or in Latin “Theophilus” in v. 3d). Is he a real, concrete faithful Christian and sponsor of the Evangelist, or is he a fictional person who can represent every Christian? “Luke’s work is thus a hermeneutic or interpretation of the apostolic message for Christians living in a new and vastly different historical context”[28] (biblical text and context).

v. 4: The aim/purpose or author’s intention (Why – v. 4b) was/is to “know the truth of all” about His “life and teaching” “in his own way”[29].

1.2 THE INFANCY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST AND JESUS AS AN OVERTURE (1:5–2:52)

1.2.1 The Annunciation of the Birth of John the Baptist(vv. 5–25)

The Setting of the Situation of Zechariah and Elizabeth

(vv. 5–7

[30]

)

Who: John’s parents Zechariah and Elizabeth, the angel Gabriel (vv. 11, 19b), the people (vv. 10, 21);

Where: in the “Temple” of Jerusalem (9);

When: “in the days of Herod” the Great.

v. 5: The first of three synchronisms[31] (cf. 2:1–2; 3:1–2) introduces the infancy narratives of John the Baptist (cf. vv. 5–25, 57–80) and Jesus (cf. vv. 26–38; 2:1–20) in the time of King “Herod”[32] ( cf. Matthew 2:1) the Great (37–4 B.C.), who ruled over Palestine. Herod was confirmed by the Roman Senate as “King of the Jews”, therefore he ordered a massacre of infants to kill Jesus, the so-called new “King of the Jews” (cf. Matthew 2:2, 16–18 or Luke 23:3, 37–38). Only half Jewish himself, he expanded and beautified the Temple of Jerusalem enormously.

Luke describes “Zechariah”[33] as a Jewish “priest”[34] of “Abijah”[35] division[36], who worked at the temple managing in this time because he and “his wifeElizabeth[37]” belonged to the tribe of “Aaron”[38];

v. 6: he emphasizes that “this priestly couple lives in conformity with God’s”[39] “commandments[40]and ordinances/regulations[41]blame­lessly[42]” (cf. Genesis 26:5; Deuteronomy 4:40).

v. 7: Then, the Evangelist tells that this old – “both were advanced[43]in days/years” (cf. v. 18d or Genesis 18:11) – married couple was “barren”[44] (cf. v. 36c) respectively “childless”[45] (cf. Leviticus 20:20–21) like Sarah (cf. Genesis 16:1), Rebecca (cf. Genesis 25:21), Rachel (cf. Genesis 30:1), the mother of Samson (cf. Judge 13:2–24), or Hanna (cf. 1 Samuel 1:1–2:11). Barrenness “in Judaism was a misfortune, even a disgrace, for a couple.”[46]

Gabriel’s Pronouncement of the Birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah in the Temple of Jerusalem

(8–20

[47]

)

The Setting of Zechariah in the Temple

(vv. 8–10)

v. 8: It follows the description of “service”[48] (cf. vv. 5b, 23a) by Zechariah’s priestly division (cf. v. 5b) by “lot”[49] (v. 9 or in Acts 1:17) at the morning and evening sacrifice (cf. Exodus 30:7–8) in the “Holy Place” of the Temple[50] in Jerusalem

v. 9: to burn incense[51] (cf. vv. 10, 11). Incense was burned in the “Temple”[52] (cf. 21b, 22b) “of the Lord” twice daily.

v. 10: The “multitude”[53] of “people”[54] “Israel” (cf. 2:32; Acts 4:10, 27; 13:17, 24) “prayed”[55] “outside at the hour of incense” (cf. vv. 9, 11), when they saw the smoke drifting heavenwards from the burning incense, so that their prayers were ascending God’s throne, so the symbolics.

The Dialogue between the Angel Gabriel and Zechariah

(vv. 11–20

[56]

)

The Annunciation of the Birth of John the Baptist (vv. 11–13d)

v. 11: Zechariah enters the sanctuary near the “Holy of Holies” to offer incense to God for the people. The “angel”[57] “Gabriel comes at the time of liturgical prayer”[58] (cf. Daniel 9:21; 10:8–12, 15), so that Zechariah had an angelophany[59] (cf. Daniel 9:21 or Luke 22:43; 24:23) in a visible form “on the right side of the altar of incense[60]”.

v. 12: The “normal human reaction” of the priest was “fear”[61] because of this “supernatural”[62] appearance. Therefore, he “fell[63]upon him” surprisingly and respectfully.

v. 13: After the phrase “do not be afraid”[64] (cf. Daniel 10:12), Gabriel pronounces Zechariah the divine message that his “wife Elizabeth will bear[65]… a son”, so that Zechariah’s “personal and his priestly prayer”[66] was “heard” by God and her “barrenness was no barrier to the promise and the plan of God.”[67]

The Child’s Name

(v. 13e)

Then the angel pronounces that the son should “called … John[68]” (cf. vv. 60, 63), that means “Lord is gracious” or “YHWH has shown favour”, as Ishmael (cf. Genesis 16:11–12), Isaac (cf. Genesis 17:19), Josiah (cf. 1 Kings 13:2), Immanuel (cf. Isaiah 7:14–17) or Solomon (cf. 1 Chronicles 22:9–10).

The “Child’s Destiny”

[69]

(vv. 14–17)

v. 14: He“will be a joy ( ) and gladness[70]/delight (to you), and many [will rejoice[71]] because of his birth[72] [ ]”.

v. 15: “for he will be great before the Lord, and he (shall not drink[73]) wine[74]” (cf. 7:33) “and {other} strong/fermented drink[75] ( )” (cf. Leviticus 10:9; Numbers 6:3; Judge 13:7; 1 Samuel 1:11), “and the Holy Spirit[76]will fill[77]him even from [his] / / mother’s /womb[78]/ [ ]”. In other words: John the Baptist was inspired and acted in God’s name his special tasks:

v. 16: “(He will turn[79]) many of the sons of Israel[80] ( ) to the Lord their God” (cf. Malachi 2:6),

v. 17: “and he will go before[81]Him {= the Lord} in the spirit and power[82]of Elijah[83], to turn the hearts[84]of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient[85]to the wisdom[86]of the just/righteous, to make ready[87] ( ) a people prepared[88] ({for the} Lord)” (cf. Malachi 3:23–24 or Jesus Sirach 48:1, 3, 10).

Zechariah’s Response and Gabriel’s Statement 

(vv. 18–20)

v. 18: The angel’s message was too good to be true. Therefore, Zechariah expresses doubts about the angel’s promise because of his “practical limitations of old age”[89]: “How shall I know this?” (cf. Genesis 15:8) “For I am old[90], and (my) wife ( ) is advanced in days/ years” (cf. v. 7c or Genesis 17:17; 18:11).

v. 19: The angel answered him: “I am” (cf. Exodus 3:14) “Gabriel[91], who stands in presence[92]of God; and I have been sent[93]to speak to you and to ‘tell (you) /this/ Good News’[94] ( ) / /” (cf. Daniel 9:20–21).

v. 20: “And behold, you will be silent[95]and not able[96]to speak until the day that this happens, because you did not believe[97] (my) words ( ), which will be fulfilled[98]in their time[99].”

Conclusion

(vv. 21–25)

Zechariah’s Reaction of Gabriel’s Pronouncement 

(vv. 21–23

[100]

)

v. 21: The (multitude of the – cf. v. 10) Jewish “people” were “waiting”[101] “outside” (v. 10) a long time[102] for Zechariah to come out and pronounce the customary blessing upon them as found in Numbers 6:24–26.

v. 22: Luke tells that Gabriel punished Zechariah on God’s behalf for his disbelief by making him “dumb”[103] until the promise became reality (cf. v. 64). Because of his speechlessness (note the parallel with v. 20b), Zechariah made a sign[104] to the praying Jews outside the Temple of Jerusalem. So, they “realized”[105] (cf. v. 4a) that Zechariah should “see a vision[106]” (cf. 24:23) inside the Temple.

v. 23: After his “service”[107] in the Temple, Zechariah went home[108].

Elizabeth’s Reaction of Gabriel’s Pronouncement 

(vv. 24–25

[109]

)

v. 24: The phrase “after these days”[110] introduces the realization of Gabriel’s pronouncement that Elizabeth “became pregnant”[111] (cf. vv. 31a, 36a). According to Luke, “five months” ago, she said:

v. 25: “Thus ( ) the Lord (/ / has done /to me/) in the days when He looked on[112]me, to take away[113]my disgrace/reproach[114]among men.”

“The opening scene […] will present the upside-down world of God, where the humanly impossible becomes possible with God”[115] (cf. v. 37).

1.2.2 The Annunciation of Jesus’ Birth(vv. 26–38)

The Setting

(vv. 26–27)

Who: The angel Gabriel (v. 26b), the Virgin Mary (v. 27a, b) and her fiancé Joseph (v. 27a), Jesus (v. 31c);

Where: Nazareth in Galilee (v. 26b);

When: six months after the annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist (v. 26a) in the time of King Herod the Great (v. 5a).

v. 26: The angel Gabriel (cf. v. 19b) has been sent by God[116] to bring an important divine message to Zechariah in the Temple of Jerusalem (cf. vv. 11, 19) and Mary in Nazareth (v. 26). The same note of time “in the/her sixth[117]month[118]”, we can also find in verse 36 in the context of Gabriel’s pronouncement of Elizabeth’s pregnancy (cf. v. 24). The stage of the annunciation of the birth of Jesus is the Galilean[119] “town”[120] Nazareth[121] (350–400 metres above sea level) – the “hometown” of Joseph and Mary as well as Jesus.

v. 27: Afterwards, Luke “defines”[122] the Jewish man “Joseph”[123] (cf. 2:4, 16; 3:23–24; 4:22) as a descendant of the “house of” the King “David”[124] (v. 27b or cf. v. 69; 2:4 [“… to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David …”] or Romans 1:3 and 2 Timothy 2:8) and the young Jewish girl Mary[125] (vv. 27, 30, 34, 38, 41, 46, 56; 2:5, 16, 19, 34) as a Virgin[126] (vv. 27a, c; 34; cf. the quotation of Isaiah 7:14[127] in Matthew 1:23!). Luke reports Mary’s engagement as a relationship with Joseph in 1:27 and 2:4–5 (cf. Matthew 1:18) with regard to the basis of the messianic legitimacy of Jesus as the “Son of David”[128] (cf. Luke 3:23, 31 or 18:38–39; 20:41) and the “Son ofGod” (cf. v. 35; 4:3, 9, 41; 8:28; 22:70; Acts 9:20).

The Dialogue between the Angel Gabriel and Mary (vv. 28–38)

Gabriel’s Greeting

(v. 28)

The angel Gabriel introduces the conversation with a greeting[129] (cf. v. 14) in combination with the special title “highly favoured” for Mary and the first phrase with a biblical background[130] “the Lord is with you” (cf. “Hail Mary”!).

Mary’s Reaction

(v. 29)

Her reaction is confusion[131] and “thinking about”[132] this “greeting”[133] (cf. vv. 41, 44).

The Annunciation of Jesus’ Birth

(vv. 30–31a)

v. 30: The biblical words “Do not be afraid” (vv. 13b, 30b) are a typical (second) phrase to introduce a divine message by God Himself (cf. Genesis 15:1; 26:24; 46:3; Joshua 8:1) or by His angels (cf. 2 Kings 1:15; Luke 1:13; 2:10; Matthew 1:20; 28:5) and by His Son Jesus (cf. Luke 5:10; 8:50; 12:4, 7, 32; Mark 5:36; 6:50; Matthew 10:26, 28, 31; 14:27; 17:7; 28:10). Afterwards, Gabriel calls her name – “Mary” – and a third biblical phrase (v. 30c: “you have found favour with/grace[134]by God, cf. Genesis 6:8) is like the first phrase in v. 28c.

v. 31a: After the fourth biblical phrase “and look” (cf., for example, vv. 31, 36, 44, 48; 2:10, 25; 5:12, 18), the angel Gabriel tells her the divine message/Good News in the form of the mixed quotation of Isaiah 7:14 as the fulfillment of this prophecy like Judges 13:3, 5:

1. her “pregnancy” (cf. vv. 24a [Elizabeth], 36a; 2:21; Matthew 1:18, 23 [Mary[135]]), and

2. the annunciation of His birth (cf. 2:6, 7, 11; Matthew 1:21, 23, 25; 2:2 or),

The Child’s Name

(v. 31b)

and Genesis 17:19: l His naming[136] (cf. vv. 13e, 59, 61 [John the Baptist]) – “Jesus” (in Hebrew: Joshua/Jeshua – cf. Luke 2:21; Matthew 1:20) that means “God saves”.

The Child’s Destiny

(vv. 32–33)

Gabriel describes solemnly the role of Jesus and His relationship to God: He will be

1. “great”[137] (cf. vv. 15a, 49a [or 2:10])

2. “called”[138] the “Son of the Most High[139]” (= God[140] – cf. vv. 35c, 76b),

3. the Son of “his father” David and “the throne”[141] (cf. 2 Samuel 7:13, 16 or Acts 2:30) of “David”,

4. the King[142] (cf., for example, Luke 23:3, 37–38) of “the house of Jacob”[143] (= Israel) forever[144].

The central meaning of the vv. 32–33 and the main intention of the Evangelist is not the special role and/or the person of Mary but rather Jesus Himself.

Mary’s Query

(v. 34)

The expression “( ) to know (a man)” is a normal way in the Bible of speaking of conjugal relations (cf., for example, Genesis 4:1, 17, 25; 19:8; 24:16). Mary’s second reaction (first reaction in v. 29) is in the form of a question (cf. the reaction of Zechariah in v. 18), because they were not allowed to have sexual intercourse before her/their marriage (cf. Deuteronomy 22:13–27). It could result in the punishment of stoning (ibid, 22:24). A young unmarried “teenager”[145], who became pregnant, risked a scandal[146]. Unless the father of the child agreed to marry her, she would probably remain unmarried for life. “Luke has taken care to observe the reactions of Mary in the face of divine revelations; her consternation” (cf. Luke 1:29), “her difficulty” (cf. 1:34), “her amazement at the prophecy of Simeon” (cf. 2:33), “her lack of understanding at the word of Jesus in the temple (cf. 2:50). Faced with a mystery which goes beyond her understanding, she reflects on the message; she comes back again and again to the events in which she has taken part, preserving her memories, pondering over them in her heart”[147] (cf. 2:19, 51). In this way the Evangelist emphasizes that Mary as the mother of the Most High is a Virgin – a “virginal conception through the power of the Holy Spirit”[148] (cf. v. 35b – note also v. 15c) – at the moment that she conceives Jesus, the “Son of David” (cf. v. 32c), the “(Holy) Son of God” (cf. vv. 32a, 35d).

Gabriel’s Explanation

(vv. 35–37)

v. 35: In three steps the angel Gabriel explains her pregnancy (v. 35b: “overshadow”[149]) and birth (vv. 13d, 35c: “born”) of the Davidic Jesus as “Son of God”[150]:

v. 36: 2. with the help of the example of her pregnant relative Elizabeth who was old and was said to “be barren” (cf. vv. 5, 7, 13, 24, 40–45, 57–80),

v. 37: 3. with a theological conclusion: “For nothing is impossible[153]with God” (cf. Genesis 18:14 or Matthew 19:26) that means God is able to do the impossible in our eyes/mind.

Letter of Intent of Mary of Nazareth

(v. 38a–b)

Mary responds with the classic biblical words as a model believer (v. 45) to God’s plan: “I am the handmaid[154]/servant of the Lord” (cf. Jeremiah 6:8) and the words which are the prayer of the so-called “Angelus” (v. 38b). The Vatican Council II said that “the Virgin Mary … at the message of the angel received the Word of God in her heart and in her body and gave Life to the world” (Lumen Gentium 53).

Gabriel’s Departure

(v. 38c)

After Gabriel’s mission in Nazareth, a short note of the Evangelist concludes the story of Gabriel’s annunciation of the Birth of Jesus to Mary: The “angel” Gabriel “went away/left” (cf. v. 23b) Mary.

1.2.3 Mary’s Visit to Elizabeth(vv. 39–56)

The Setting

(vv. 39–40)

Who: Mary and Elizabeth;

Where: the house of Zechariah (v. 40) in one of the cities in the hill country of Judea (vv. 39, 65);

When: the visit was during the sixth month of Elizabeth’s bearing pregnancy (vv. 36, 39).

v. 39: Mary “stood up[155]/arosein these days”[156] and “went with haste[157]to a town” (cf. v. 26b) in “Judea”[158] where

v. 40: “Elizabeth” (cf. vv. 5, 7, 13, 24, 36, 40–41, 57) and her husband “Zechariah” (cf. vv. 5, 12–13, 18, 21, 40, 59, 67; 3:2) were at home. Then, Mary “came into[159]/entered” (cf. v. 9) their “house” (cf. v. 23b) and “greeted[160]Elizabeth”. The two mothers of John and Jesus – still in their mothers’ womb – were together. Both pregnant women, Elizabeth and Mary, were close relatives and from the same house of Levi – Joseph was from the house of David (cf. v. 27 or 3:23, 31). His hometown was Bethlehem[161] in the district of Judah (cf. Luke 3:30, 33; Matthew 1:2–3; 2:6).

The Praise of Mary by Elizabeth

(vv. 41–45)

v. 41: After the greeting (cf. vv. 29b, 44a) of Mary, the six-month-old “babe” – note the Greek text: “fruit of her womb”[162] (= embryo/foetus) –as in “Hail Mary” – John (cf. vv. [26,] 36) in Elizabeth’s “womb” (cf. vv. 15d, 42c, 44b) “leaps”[163] (v. 44b) for “joy” (cf. v. 14a) in recognition of Jesus, the Saviour, the Christ. The notice of the “leaping” of the unborn John in conjunction with the theological, pneumatic phrase “to be filled with the ‘Holy Spirit’” (cf. vv. 15c [Elizabeth], 67a [Zechariah]), the giver of life, is like a response to young (about 12- or 14-year-old Jewish “virgin”) Mary’s greeting.

v. 42: Both pregnant women, old Elizabeth and young Mary, “blessed/praised”[164] “loudly”[165] God (vv. 42–45 [Elizabeth] and vv. 46–55 [Mary]) in the words recalling Joel’s (cf. Judges 5:24) and Judith’s (cf. Judith 13:18 or Deuteronomy 28:4) liberation of their people: at first, Elizabeth blessed both, Mary and her babe, Jesus, the bringer of peace (cf. Luke 2:14).

v. 43: Further Elizabeth expressed (verbally) her surprise in form of a question (v. 43: “Why does this [happen to] me, that the ‘mother of my Lord’ should come to me”? – cf. 2 Samuel 6:9; 24:21).

v. 44: and interpreted her reaction as being caused by the “leaping” of her babe John in her womb (nonverbal – cf. v. 41b) after hearing of Mary’s “greeting” (cf. v. 41). Because of the grace-filled calling by God, the praise of Elizabeth has a mariological, theological, as well as Christological aspect.

v. 45: So, the willing Mary, as a model of a “believer”[166] (cf. 1:38, 45) in contrast to the priest Zechariah (cf. v. 20), is “blessed”[167] (cf. 11:27) for her trust in the fidelity of God.

The Magnificat by Mary

(vv.46–55) 

God’s Deed of Salvation in Mary’s (Indiviudal) View 

(vv. 46–49)

vv. 46–47: The praise as a glorifying and rejoicing in God (cf. Isaiah 61:10) introduces Hanna’s prayer[168] in 2 Samuel 2:1 and Psalm 35:9 as well as Jesus Sirach 51:1 expressing a relationship between “our Lady” and God, “the Lord”[169] who is her Saviour (v. 47; note the message of the angel in Luke 2:11 or the “Benedictus” in 1:69, 71, 77).

vv. 48–49: Then, the “vertical (King-servant) relationship” is described closely: The same word in Luke 1:38 is used for a vow, a solemn promise (cf. 1 Samuel 1:11). She is like a lowly, humble, poor, simple (earthly, cf. v. 52b or 1 Samuel 18:23) (maid-) servant, a handmaid of the heavenly Lord, the “Almighty” (v. 49a[170]) and “Holy”[171] (v. 49b) God. Her lowliness is contrasted with the might of God, for whom nothing is impossible (vv. 37, 49; 18:27). Is the true blessedness of a woman in Luke 11:27–28 an example for verse 48b – “all ages/generations will call me”, Mary, “blessed” as was Lea in Genesis 30:13?

God’s Deed of Salvation in Its Universal Dimension (vv. 50–55)

Verse 50, a combination of verses 13 and 17 of Psalm 103, concludes the first stanza in view of the individual situation of the praying person and leads into the unlimited and universal view of His “mercy”[172] (cf. vv. 50a, 54, 58b, 72a, 78a [the “Benedictus”] and also Psalms 105:8; 106:45) for those “who fear” (cf. vv. 13b, 30b) “Him”. That means the Chosen People of Israel and all peoples who have accepted and respected God as their only heavenly and earthly “Lord”, “King”, ruler, master, leader ... God is pictured as a “champion” of the poor, the oppressed, and the despised.

vv. 51–52: In form of a contrast between rich (arrogant/mighty – cf. Psalm 34:11 and Luke 6:25) people of the so-called “high society” of a(n earthly) kingdom and lowly respectively humble ([physically and spiritually] hungry [cf. Matthew 5:3, 6 or Luke 6:21, 25]) people who have Him in their “heart”[173] and in their mind (cf. the quotation of Deuteronomy 6:5 in Luke 10:27 or Proverbs 3:34). God has turned the [earthly] social order upside down radically with “His arm[174]” (cf. Psalm 89:14) like a “social” and “peaceful revolution” of the hearts and the minds: He “scatters[175]the proud-hearted” and “casts[176]the mighty from their thrones[177]” (v. 32c) “and raises” (cf. Luke 14:11; 18:14) “the lowly[178]”.

v. 53: A second picture of the social intention of the Evangelist makes the contrast clearer: “to fill[179]the starving with good things” that they “are satisfied” (cf. Luke 6:21 or 16:20–22 [Lazarus]; cf. also Exodus 16:1–35; Psalm 107:8–9; 146:7) as opposed to “send the richaway[180]empty[181]” (cf. Psalm 34:11 and Luke 6:25; 12:21; 16:19–28 [the rich man] or 20:10–11). Being poor is conditional on receiving God’s grace. In the eyes of Luke, the Church offers an alternative lifestyle in the sense of a “society of God” as an inclusive, egalitarian community different from the Hellenistic cities. The Christians were a model of social integration[182]: poor or outcasts and rich, underprivileged and privileged, women and men, non-Jews and Jews, old and young people, blacks and whites, and so on.

In verses 54–55, the song makes a link to the history of the “Chosen People” of Israel[183] and the tradition of their forefathers as a new salvation history upon the old promises and covenant made to “Abraham”[184] (cf. Exodus 32:13; 2 Kings 13:23 or Psalm 100:5) which is timeless, everlasting (cf. v. 33b).

Conclusion

(v. 56)

At the end of the “Magnificat”, a notice told about Mary’s returning[185] from Judea to her home in the Galilean Nazareth (cf. v. 26) after her “three-months”-visit[186] in the house of Elizabeth and Zechariah, the parents of John the Baptist, the “precursor” and “forerunner” of Mary’s child.

1.2.4 The Birth and the Circumcision of John the Baptist (vv. 57–80)

The Birth of John the Baptist

(vv. 57–66

[187]

)

The Notice of Birth as the Setting

(vv. 57–58

[188]

)

Who: Elizabeth, Zechariah, the baby John the Baptist, their neighbours and relatives (v. 58), the people (vv. 65–66);

Where: still in the house of Zechariah (v. 40) in the hill country of Judea (vv. 39, 65);

When: “on the eighth day” after John the Baptist’s birth during his “circumcision” (v. 59).

v. 57: Luke tells shortly that “Elizabeth” has borne[189] a “son” (cf. 2:6–7b).

v. 58: Her “neighbours”[190] and “relatives”[191] (cf. 2:44) “shared her joy”[192] because of her “Lord’s great mercy” (cf. vv. 50a, 54, 72a, 78a).

The Naming of John during his Circumcision 

(vv. 59–64

[193]

)

vv. 59, 61: In Genesis 17:12 and Leviticus 12:3 state that the circumcision[194] should be “eight[195]days” (cf. 2:21; 9:28) after the birth of a boy.

Usually, “the naming of the child … happened immediately after birth. There was a tradition in priestly circles to name the child after the grandfather; however, the expectation in this gathering is to call the new child after the father”[196].

v. 60: But “Elizabeth” (vv. 5c, 7b, 13d, 24a, 36a, 40b, 41a, c) intervenes and corrects – note the correction[197] (“ouk … allá”/“not … but” in v. 60b–c) – them because their son should be “called” “John” (cf. v. 13e).

v. 62: Therefore, their relatives ask the deaf, speechless and dumb Zechariah (cf. vv. 20, 22) about the baby’s name, by making signs/gestures (cf. v. 22d[198]).

v. 63a–b: He “wished/begged”[199] a “writing tablet”[200]. Then, he “wrote”[201]: “John is (his) name ( )” like Elizabeth in v. 60.

The Reaction

(vv. 63c–66)

v. 63c: Luke emphasizes that “all”[202] present “neighbours and relatives” (v. 58) were “surprised”[203] that both Elizabeth (cf. v. 60) and her husband Zechariah (v. 63b) chose the same name “under the inspiration of God”[204].

v. 64: Then, Zechariah’s “mouth”[205] was “opened”[206] and his “tongue”[207] was loosed (cf. Daniel 10:16) so that he began to “speak, praising God[208]”.

v. 65: “All these news[209]/things” (cf. 2:15, 19) as “supernatural event”[210] were “talked”[211] over in the familiar circle throughout “all the hill country of Judea” (cf. v. 39) people,

v. 66: so that they asked: “What then is (this) child ( ) going to be?” because “Lord’s hand” should “be with him” (cf. Acts 11:21).

The Benedictus

[212]

by Zechariah

(vv. 67–79

[213]

)

The Setting

(v. 67)

After the note about the reactions of the neighbours and relatives as well as the Judean people (cf. 63c–66) follows the inspired[214] (cf. v. 15c) “blessing”[215], “praise” and “prophecy”[216] by Zechariah, the “father”[217] of John the Baptist. “The neighbours may speculate about the future of the child, but Zechariah knows what lies in the child’s future, and he will echo that revelation in the canticle”[218]. After his nine months of silence, Zechariah praised God as follows:

Zechariah’s Vision of Jesus for Israel

(vv. 68–75)

v. 68: He prophesied the coming[219] of the “Saviour/Redeemer” in God[220]’s name, who would “redeem[221]” (cf. 2:38) “(His) people ( )” (cf. vv. 10, 17d, 21a, 77a and 2:10, 31–32).

v. 69: This Redeemer, who will save/deliver[222] the people (cf. v. 71a), has “raised up”[223] from the “house of David” (cf. v. 27a and 2:4 or Psalm 132:17), “His servant”[224] (cf. v. 54a in allusion to Isaiah 52:13–53:12 for Jesus).

vv. 70–75: “The hymn moves back in history to the time beyond David when God made his promise to Abraham” (Gen 12:3; 22:3, 16–18; Exodus 2:24; Leviticus 26:42; Psalms 105:8–9; 106:45; Jeremiah 11:5; Micah 7:20 or the Magnificat in v. 55b). “It recalls the covenant[225] and its purpose: that the people would be delivered from the hands of their enemies” (cf. Psalms 18:18; 106:10 or 2 Samuel 22:18), “so that they could serve God without fear of those enemies in a spirit of holiness and justice for the remainder of their lives”[226] (cf. v. 69). Thus “Abraham’s covenant is highlighted”[227] in the Benedictus.

Zechariah’s Vision of his Son John for Israel

(vv. 76–77

[228]

)

v. 76: Then, Zechariah predicted the role of his son (cf. vv. 16–17, 66), John the Baptist, who will be “called” (cf. vv. 13e, 31–32, 35–36, 59–62) “the prophet” (cf. Luke 9:8, 19; 20:6) “of theMost High[229]” and will be the “precursor of Jesus”[230] – “to prepare the ways” (cf. 17d or Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1; Mark 1:2) of “the Lord” as Messiah – the Jews were eagerly awaiting the Messiah – and

v. 77: to preach the repentance (cf. 3:3; 24:47) as “forgiveness[231]of their sins” for the “salvation” (cf. vv. 69a, 71a) “to/of (His) people ( )”.

Zechariah’s Vision for Israel

(vv. 78–79)

v. 78: The promise is that “God’s mercy” (cf. vv. 50a, 54, 58b, 72a) will “dawn upon” (cf. 68b) the people like a “rising”[232] star/sun on the “high” (cf. v. 76a),

v. 79: to “shine[233]on those who (sit[234]) in darkness[235]and in the sha­dow[236]of death ( )” (cf. Isaiah 9:1; 60:1–3),to “guide[237] {our} feet { } into the way of peace[238]” (cf. Isaiah 59:8 or Luke 2:14, 29; 24:36 – in the sense of an “inclusio”[239]; Romans 3:17).

Summary Notice as an Epiphora

[240]

(v. 80)

The note about the “growing up”[241] of John the Baptist concludes the birth and naming of Elizabeth and Zechariah’s son, who “became strong[242]in spirit” – note the parallels in 2:40. The story of his “vision and mission” to “Israel” (cf. vv. 16a, 54a, 68a) in the “desert”[243][244] (cf. 3:2, 4) will continue after Jesus’ Birth and Naming (2:1–40) as well as His visit of the Temple in Jerusalem (vv. 41–52) in Luke 3:2–20.

Chapter 2

The setting or the introduction (vv. 1–5) of the story of Jesus’ Birth (vv. 6–7) is structured like a document of an ancient tax declaration[245] (names, place, …). A longer setting of the political situation (2:1–3) as the reason (cf. vv. 1c, 2, 3a, 5a: a census/registration) for the journey of Joseph and the pregnant Virgin[246] Mary from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem in Judea (vv. 4–5) introduces the short “report”[247] of the Birth of Jesus (vv. 6–7) in a grotto “as the courtyard of the inn”[248]. A new situation with new actors opens a second scene: An angel announces and explains the Birth of Jesus to the shepherds in the field at night (vv. 8–14[249]). The third scene tells that the shepherds visit the “holy family” in the shed (vv. 15–20). It follows His Circumcision (vv. 21–40) including the “Nunc Dimittis” by Simeon (vv. 29–32) and the story of the 12-year-old boy Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem (vv. 41–52), which is structured with temporal information in vv. 41 (“very year”), 42a (“when Jesus was twelve years old”), 46a (“after three days”). The second part (vv. 46–51) is a dialogue between Jesus and His earthly parents about the heavenly Father in vv. 48–49. The Evangelist concludes his “overture” about John the Baptist and Jesus (Luke 1:5–2:52) with three notes about their misunderstanding (v. 50) of Jesus’ answer (v. 49), their return to Nazareth (v. 51) and about their growing up physically, spiritually, and socially (v. 52). Jesus’ third[250] visit to Jerusalem (vv. 41–52) as a 12-year-old boy has some parallels to “His way to Jerusalem” in 9:51–24:53 as an adult (3:23: “about 30 years” later). Therefore, Robert J. Karris speaks about a “bridge passage”, which concludes “Luke’s overture” and anticipates the “future journey of Jesus, God’s Son, from Galilee to Jerusalem”[251] (cf. 9:51–19:28). “Luke began his overture in the Temple in Jerusalem (1:5–25). He concludes his overture in the Temple” (2:40–51). “This large inclusio prepares for the end of the Gospel”[252] (24:52–53).

Commentary

1.2.5 The Birth of Jesus (vv. 1–20)

The Setting

(vv. 1–5)

Who: Joseph (vv. 4, 16), Mary (vv. 5, 16, 19), shepherds (vv. 8–10, 16–18, 20), angel/s (vv. 9–15);

Where: the “town Nazareth” in “Galilee”[253] (v. 4a) and the “town Bethlehem” in “Judea”[254] (v. 4b–c);

When: in the time of “CaesarAugustus” (31/30 B. C.–14 A. D.) and “Quirinius”, the governor of Syria (6–7/9 A. D.)!?

v. 1: As in Luke 1:5, a synchronism[255] in vv. 1–2 introduces the Birth, Circumcision, Naming, and Jesus’ double presence in the Temple (vv. 27a, 46a). A “decree”[256] on tax declaration gives/mandates a

v. 2: “census”[257] respectively enrollment/registration (vv. 1–3, 5) under Quirinius[258], the Roman governor of Syria[259]. The Evange­list does not give an exact date/time[260] when Jesus was born. The Jewish people in Palestine were under the rule of the Roman Empire,

vv. 3–5: so that “Joseph”[261] (vv. 4a, 16b), the descendant of “David” (cf. 18:38–39; Matthew 2:1–6), and “Mary”[262] (cf. vv. 5a, 16b, 19a, 34b) of “Nazareth”[263], his pregnant fiancée[264]/wife (cf. Luke 1:27; Matthew 1:18), as law-abiding citizens, had to register/enroll in their ancestral town[265] (v. 3), “the place prophesied for the beginning of the Messiah”[266] as “the Davidic Messiah who will bring about the eschatological gift of peace”[267] (cf. v. 14). For their registration, both had to make the journey to Bethlehem[268] (vv. 4b, 15c – about 650 metres above sea level[269]), the “city” of King “David”[270]. Luke makes a contrast[271] between Rome, the political capital, the centre of the Roman Empire and its Emperor “Caesar”[272]Augustus”[273] (cf. v. 1), and Bethlehem, in the biblical context the seat of the royal “house” of the Jewish King “David”. Jesus’ Birth happened in this insignificant remote town (cf. Acts 26:26).

The Birth of Jesus in Particular

(vv. 6–7

[274]

)

The short description of His Birth must be read in the light of the introduction and also with the biblical background of the prophecy of Micah 5:1–2.

v. 6: The simple and brief account of “Jesus’ Birth”[275] (cf. vv. 7a, 11a and 1:31) is introduced with the help of Luke’s typical Greek phrase “egéneto dé” (= [but] it happened [ ] – cf. v. 1a or 1:8; 3:21; 5:1; 6:1, 6, 12; 8:22; 9:28, 37, 51; 11:27; 16:22; 18:35; 22:24; 23:12; Acts 4:5; 5:7; 8:1, 8; 9:19, 32, 37, 43; 10:10; 11:10, 26; 14:1, 5; 15:39; 16:16; 19:1, 10, 17, 23; 21:1, 5, 35; 22:6, 17; 23:9; 28:8, 17).

v. 7: Mary “gave birthto herfirst-born son”[276] (Jesus in vv. 6b, 11a – note John the Baptist in 1:57) in allusion to Exodus 13:2, 12; 34:19 as a special relationship to God (cf. Luke 1:32–33; 2:22–24, 49; 3:21–22; 9:35). The “first-born son” is a legal designation for the one who has a privileged position under Mosaic Law (cf. Deuteronomy 21:15–17). Luke’s “Christmas story” tells that Jesus was born in a grotto/stable/barn in Bethlehem and not in an “inn”[277] because there was “no room”, so the translation of the two Greek words “ouktopos” – in English and German language is the word u-topia/U-topie. Further, the Evangelist tells in short sentences that Mary “wrapped”[278] (cf. v. 12b or Wisdom 7:4–6) her baby in a “cloth and placed[279]Him in a manger”/“feeding trough[280]” (cf. vv. 12c, 16c) where animals[281] fed usually – the normal description of the “everyday life of a baby” as a human being.

The Shepherds and the Good News of the Angel(s) 

(vv. 8–20

[282]

)

The Announcement of the Birth by an Angel to the Shepherds

(vv. 8–14

[283]

)

v. 8: The scene of the (awakened[284]) “shepherds”[285], who were[286] with their “flock”[287] “in the field[288]” near Bethlehem in the night, whence the offerings in the Temple were chosen, introduces

v. 9: the “appearing”[289] of the “Lord’s glory”[290] by an angel (cf. Luke 24:4). As the fear of the priest Zechariah in Luke 1:11–19 because of the angelophany, the shepherds also had a “great fear”[291] of the “Lord’s angel[292]”. They, who were generally poor, lowly, and outcast in the Jewish society and because of their dirty work not able to observe all the meticulous hand-washings and rules and regulations, are like little/lowly/modest people, the first to hear the Good News, the first visitors to Jesus and witnesses of Jesus’ Birth like that of David, who was at first a shepherd (cf. 1 Samuel 16:1–13) and afterwards, the King. The angel informs/announces/proclaims to them about the Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem:

v. 10: The typical biblical phrase “Do not be afraid” (cf., for example, 1:13, 30; 5:10; 8:50; 9:45; 12:4, 7, 32; 18:2; Acts 18:9; 27:24) introduces a divine message in two parts (the announcement[293] (cf. 1:19) of the Birth of Jesus, the Christ, in v. 11 and the “sign” for the shepherds and for all people[s] by an angel[294] in v. 12).

v. 11: The lawless shepherds are the (first) receivers of the Good News about the Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, the town of “David