Luke Chapter 1:24-38

This chapter is very long; it runs to some 80 verses. However, the sections seem to be going fairly quickly. This is largely because the narrative is broken into story-segments, in which the whole is more significant than the pieces, at least to some degree, and to this point. We are still in the story of Zacharias, the father of the Baptist. He has emerged from the Temple sanctuary mute after having a conversation with a messenger of God.

24 Μετὰ δὲ ταύτας τὰς ἡμέρας συνέλαβεν Ἐλισάβετ ἡ γυνὴ αὐτοῦ: καὶ περιέκρυβεν ἑαυτὴν μῆνας πέντε, λέγουσα

25 ὅτι Οὕτως μοι πεποίηκεν κύριος ἐν ἡμέραις αἷς ἐπεῖδεν ἀφελεῖν ὄνειδός μου ἐν ἀνθρώποις.

After these days, Elisabeth his wife conceived; and she confined herself for five months, saying that “In this way the lord has done with me, in days which he saw (as in, saw fit) to take away my reproach (the reproach directed at her) among men.

Now we have switched to Elisabeth. I don’t recall offhand whether Zacharias makes another appearance or not; regardless, both of the parents of the Baptist disappear completely after these opening verses.  They simply vanish with nary another thought. That’s just the way it is. The question, I think, is not where they go, but where did they come from? This stuff is, by definition, L material, stories that Luke got from a mysterious source unknown to the other evangelists, and either not known or not used by John. This takes us back to the very beginning of this gospel and those “servants” that he mentioned. Honestly, though, isn’t the most likely answer that Luke made this up, along with all the other new additions to the story of Jesus? It is, quite frankly. And the fact that there are so many of them adds weight to the suggestion, since the collection indicates that we are dealing with a creative mind working at a high level. 

24 Post hos autem dies concepit Elisabeth uxor eius et occultabat se mensibus quinque dicens:

25 “Sic mihi fecit Dominus in diebus, quibus respexit auferre opprobrium meum inter homines”.

26 Ἐν δὲ τῷ μηνὶ τῷ ἕκτῳ ἀπεστάλη ὁ ἄγγελος Γαβριὴλ ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ εἰς πόλιν τῆς Γαλιλαίας ἧ ὄνομα Ναζαρὲθ

27 πρὸς παρθένον ἐμνηστευμένην ἀνδρὶ ᾧ ὄνομαἸωσὴφ ἐξ οἴκου Δαυίδ, καὶ τὸ ὄνομα τῆς παρθένου Μαριάμ.

In the sixth month, the messenger Gabriel was sent by God to the town of Galilee the name (of which) was Nazareth (27) to the virgin betrothed to a man the name to whom was Joseph, from the house of David, and the name of the virgin was Mariam. 

Bear in mind that the Jewish new year starts in September, at the time of the equinox, IIRC. In which case, the sixth month is March. In the Roman Church the Feast of the Annunciation is celebrated March 25, which happens to be exactly nine months before December 25. Now, this is interesting because I’ve read that the whole bit about the shepherds being out with their flocks indicates a time of year other than the winter. But let’s give the text points for consistency. Let’s not speculate when the phrase “in the sixth month” was actually added to the text. Could it have been inserted after the date for Christmas was settled on December 25? Yes, that is entirely possible. 

Now I count three. Three what? We’ve got Nazareth, Joseph, and, most importantly, the virgin. That Jesus was from Nazareth occurs exactly once in Mark, in 1:9. It occurs several times in both Matthew and Luke. Since Mark was altogether unconcerned with Jesus’ background, or the physical aspects of his earthly life, it is very easy to suppose that the use in Mark was added after it had become established lore that Jesus was from Nazareth. So, if this was not in Q–and it can’t be, since it’s in Mark, too, if only added later–then where did Luke get this “fact” about Jesus? And let’s not forget that Matthew came up with the name of the home town in order to add the prophecy that “he will be called a Nazarene”. The internal evidence of the text, as I’ve argued, indicates that Jesus came from Caphernaum. 

And, BTW, John only mentions Nazareth twice, both times coming in the same story in Chapter 1.

Secondly, we have Joseph. Once again, this “fact” is not found in any text of Q. Again, it’s i Matthew. Again, we know one definite source for both of these two facts; the simplest explanation is that Luke got them from Matthew. Yes, could be part of the oral tradition. but we don’t know, and can’t know that. We do know our earliest recorded source. I am positively flabbergasted that these two things never come up in discussions about Q. Why not? I can understand why the Q people wouldn’t want to go there, but what about the Mark Without Q proponents? Is their sense of historical evidence and/or argument so badly stunted that this never occurs to them? Part of the problem is that the Q people have been so successful in entrenching Q in the “scholarship” that they have been able completely to set the parameters and the

26 In mense autem sexto missus est angelus Gabriel a Deo in civitatem Galilaeae, cui nomen Nazareth,

27 ad virginem desponsatam viro, cui nomen erat Ioseph de domo David, et nomen virginis Maria.

acceptable in the debate.

In my opinion, the clincher is the virgin. This is based on the quote from Isaiah, translated into Greek. Now, reading the HS in the LXX was not uncommon; IIRC, Philo of Alexandria read the LXX rather than the Hebrew version. But where and when did that quote from Isaiah become associated with Jesus? In Matthew. There is no mention of the birth, let alone a virgin birth in any of the reconstructed versions of Q that I’ve ever seen. So, once again, why is this not discussed in conjunction with Luke’s use of Matthew? This seems almost impossible to explain if Luke did not use Matthew. Again, using the oral tradition may be tempting, but how much, but more critically, to what level of detail are we to assume was transmitted via the oral tradition? Then we need to consider subsequent development. We obviously know that the idea of the virgin birth lodged–firmly–in Christian tradition. Now let’s realize that this is only found in two books of the entire NT; more, it’s only found in the first chapter of those two books. That’s it. It occurs in Matthew’s birth narrative and here in Luke’s birth narrative. The clear inference to be drawn here is that this was not a belief that was firmly lodged in the “tradition”, whether oral, written, or whatever combination of the two. Given this, it would seem imprudent, if not foolish, to assume that Luke simply plucked this out of the air of the ambient “tradition”, or unspecified and unnameable “oral sources”, when all the evidence tells us that it was not part of the overall tradition. In the entirety of the rest of the NT, only Luke picked up on the idea. When you think about it, we have a large overlap of material that is not in Mark shared between Matthew and Luke, and on top of that we have a very specific, very rare bit of belief that the two–and only these two–share. This is not smoking-gun proof; that will never be found. But the connexions here between Matthew and Luke make it very, very difficult to accept as remotely probable that Luke was unaware of Matthew. This is just too coincidental otherwise. The placement, the wording, the overlaps, those are all secondary, if not tertiary points that can be used in support of an argument, but they alone do not constitute an argument.

26 In mense autem sexto missus est angelus Gabriel a Deo in civitatem Galilaeae, cui nomen Nazareth,

27 ad virginem desponsatam viro, cui nomen erat Ioseph de domo David, et nomen virginis Maria.

28 καὶ εἰσελθὼν πρὸς αὐτὴν εἶπεν, Χαῖρε, κεχαριτωμένη, ὁ κύριος μετὰ σοῦ.

29 ἡδὲ ἐπὶ τῷ λόγῳ διεταράχθη καὶ διελογίζετο ποταπὸς εἴη ὁ ἀσπασμὸς οὗτος.

30 καὶ εἶπεν ὁ ἄγγελος αὐτῇ, Μὴ φοβοῦ, Μαριάμ, εὗρες γὰρ χάριν παρὰ τῷ θεῷ:

31 καὶ ἰδοὺ συλλήμψῃ ἐν γαστρὶ καὶ τέξῃ υἱόν, καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν.

32 οὗτος ἔσται μέγας καὶ υἱὸς ὑψίστου κληθήσεται, καὶ δώσει αὐτῷ κύριος ὁ θεὸς τὸν θρόνον Δαυὶδ τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ,

33 καὶ βασιλεύσει ἐπὶ τὸν οἶκον Ἰακὼβ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας, καὶ τῆς βασιλείας αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἔσται τέλος.

And he (the messenger) coming in to her said, “Rejoice, having been favoured, the lord is with you”. (29) Indeed, upon the  speech she was troubled, and dialogued in what manner this greeting could be. (30) And the messenger said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mariam, for you have found grace beside God. (31) And look, you will conceive in your belly and will give birth to a son, and you will call his name Jesus. (32) He will be great, and he will be called son of the most high, the lord the God will give him the throne of David his father, (33) and he will reign in the home of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom will be no end.”

There is a whole lot of allusions to Matthew here. We mentioned this regarding John, but the “you will call the name to him Jesus” is pretty much verbatim from Matthew, and it’s used in the very same context that Matthew has it. Granted, the person on the other end of the prophecy has change, and even changed sex, but the idea is identical. And yet, this never comes up in the Q discussions as part of Q, nor is it ever mentioned as an agreement that has to be explained. Why not? Because I don’t think it can be explained, at least not in terms of Q. I’ve just been re-reading one of Kloppenborg’s books, Q The Earliest Gospel, and he talks about “Minimal Q”. This includes all the stuff that’s in Luke and Matthew that’s not in Mark. This would certainly qualify under that criterion, but it’s nowhere to be found in the reconstructions. Instead, we get all these unprovable discussions about why Matthew or Luke deviated, or kept close to the source. 

There is also a lot of connecting to the HS as well. We have the reference to David, and that Jesus is of the line of David. Now, do we have to take this literally? Because, strictly speaking, in Matthew Jesus is not of the line of David, because Joseph was not Jesus’ father. There I think we have a pretty clear indication of how the whole virgin birth got grafted onto another version of who Jesus was. And also note that Matthew called Joseph the son of David, so this seems like another instance where Luke is very thematically linked to Matthew, even if the story seems to be very different. Here perhaps is a good introduction to the idea of Luke as a novelist; Matthew’s creation of Joseph is very functional, but not much more. Here, the announcement, perhaps I should call it the Annunciation, is so much more than that, to the point that people don’t even particularly notice just how the two versions of the messenger story are linked together by themes. The underlying idea is Matthew’s, but the decoration is all from Luke, who has turned this into a story, with a beginning, middle, and end, and he’s given us dialogue, not just an announcement from a herald or messenger, and he’s given us psychological insights, for we are told Mary was troubled by all of this. As well she might be when a divine creature suddenly shows up in your living room.

Finally, I think that the idea of Jesus’ kingdom being eternal is a new development; I don’t recall that from previous gospels or epistles. However, I cannot say that with certainty. I’ll keep an eye out and see.

28 Et ingressus ad eam dixit: “Ave, gratia plena, Dominus tecum”.

29 Ipsa autem turbata est in sermone eius et cogitabat qualis esset ista salutatio.

30 Et ait angelus ei: “Ne timeas, Maria; invenisti enim gratiam apud Deum.

31 Et ecce concipies in utero et paries filium et vocabis nomen eius Iesum.

32 Hic erit magnus et Filius Altissimi vocabitur, et dabit illi Dominus Deus sedem David patris eius,

33 et regnabit super domum Iacob in aeternum, et regni eius non erit finis”.

34 εἶπεν δὲ Μαριὰμ πρὸς τὸν ἄγγελον, Πῶς ἔσται τοῦτο, ἐπεὶ ἄνδρα οὐ γινώσκω;

35 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ ἄγγελος εἶπεν αὐτῇ, Πνεῦμα ἅγιον ἐπελεύσεται ἐπὶ σέ, καὶ δύναμις ὑψίστου ἐπισκιάσει σοι: διὸ καὶ τὸ γεννώμενον ἅγιον κληθήσεται, υἱὸς θεοῦ.

Mariam said towards the messenger, “How will this be, since Ido not know a man?” (35)And answering the messenger said to her, “The sacred breath will complete this upon you, and the power of the most high will overshadow you. And on which account these occurrences holy he will be called, the son of God”.

The “sacred breath will complete this.” Once more, we have a bit of Matthew’s Christology, or theology, or explanation used in exactly the same context by Luke. In both these gospels, and nowhere else, Jesus was conceived within Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. God literally breathed on her and effected this miracle. Again, the details match up exactly. The angel, the virgin, the holy spirit. Where did Luke get this? I stated this before, and I will restate it here for additional emphasis, that these pieces of the story are not to be found anywhere else. They show up in no gospel, nor in Thomas nor in Q. So whence did they come? Where did Luke find them? The answer is pretty close to being blindingly obvious: he got them from Matthew. Yes, yes, they could be parallel development, but the degree of agreement pretty much excludes a coincidental arrival at the same place by two separate authors. This is not the result of a random set of circumstances. And yes, each evangelist could have tapped into the same oral tradition, but that is not an argument, nor an hypothesis. There is no way either to prove or disprove this contention. And it falls into the same category as Q: it was there for Matthew and Luke and then subsequently vanished without a trace. If this is so probable, why didn’t Mark disappear, too? He was cannibalized pretty much completely. Are we to assume that a gospel that was squishy on Jesus’ divinity was preserved, where the collected sayings of The Man Himself were tossed into the junk pile? Does that really seem credible? Sure, it’s possible, but does it really, and I mean really make sense?

That is the question you have to ask yourself, and answer for yourself. But you must ask that question. 

34 Dixit autem Maria ad angelum: “Quomodo fiet istud, quoniam virum non cognosco?”.

35 Et respondens angelus dixit ei: “ Spiritus Sanctus superveniet in te, et virtus Altissimi obumbrabit tibi: ideoque et quod nascetur sanctum, vocabitur Filius Dei.

36 καὶ ἰδοὺ Ἐλισάβετ ἡ συγγενίς σου καὶ αὐτὴ συνείληφεν υἱὸν ἐν γήρει αὐτῆς, καὶ οὗτος μὴν ἕκτος ἐστὶν αὐτῇ τῇ καλουμένῃ στείρᾳ:

37 ὅτι οὐκ ἀδυνατήσει παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ πᾶν ῥῆμα.

38 εἶπεν δὲ Μαριάμ, Ἰδοὺ ἡ δούλη κυρίου: γένοιτό μοι κατὰ τὸ ῥῆμά σου. καὶ ἀπῆλθεν ἀπ’ αὐτῆς ὁ ἄγγελος.

“And you know, Elisabeth your kinswoman, she also has conceived a son in her old age, and this indeed in the sixth month to her the barren one is called. (Six months ago she was called barren). (37) That is not impossible for God, the all the writings (say). [Translation here is very literal; the more idiomatic would be that nothing is impossible. And in a literal sense, the “say” has to be understood.] (38) Mary said, “Behold the slave-girl of the lord. It may be according to your words.” And went away from her the messenger.

Here’s another question: is “slave girl” over the top? Or is it unflinchingly accurate. But “handmaid” and “servant” really don’t capture the word. “Doule” means “slave”, in this case female. I would take “bondmaid”. It’s just that this word has become distasteful to us; “slave” was even too much for the KJV. The NASB preserves the sense by using “bondmaid”, but there is a degree of separation even there. This sort of thing, along with “baptize”, “angel”, and “Holy Spirit” have become, I think, impediments to our being able to see the NT as anything but a work that is somehow outside the realm of human existence. It is a creation, a whole, a separate entity protected by this veil of euphemisms (handmaid) and what have become pre-conceived notions (Holy Spirit) in our culture. We fall into those “everybody knows” traps, in which basic premises are never challenged. They’re really not even recognized as premises; they are understood a priori as having a very specific and rock-solid meaning when they have no such meaning. This is the problem I have with “NT Greek”. Even conceding that such a thing exists–which I don’t, except in terms so abstruse as to be almost meaningless–it becomes a closed system, self-referential and never seeing itself in context. Words have pre-set meanings that may–or may not–have a strong connexion to the meaning of the word in the rest of Greek literature. To dislodge us from these mental ruts is the biggest reason I insist on being a crank and looking outside the world of “NT Greek” and seeing these words and these texts in the larger context of the Greek language. 

36 Et ecce Elisabeth cognata tua et ipsa concepit filium in senecta sua, et hic mensis est sextus illi, quae vocatur sterilis,

37 quia non erit impossibile apud Deum omne verbum ”.

38 Dixit autem Maria: “ Ecce ancilla Domini; fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum ”. Et discessit ab illa angelus.


About James, brother of Jesus

I have a BA from the University of Toronto in Greek and Roman History. For this, I had to learn classical Greek and Latin. In seminar-style classes, we discussed both the meaning of the text and the language. U of T has a great Classics Dept. One of the professors I took a Senior Seminar with is now at Harvard. I started reading the New Testament as a way to brush up on my Greek, and the process grew into this. I plan to comment on as much of the NT as possible, starting with some of Paul's letters. After that, I'll start in on the Gospels, starting with Mark.

Posted on January 28, 2017, in Chapter 1, gospel commentary, gospels, Luke's Gospel, Matthew's Gospel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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