Luke Chapter 1:38-56

The messenger of the lord has just left Mary, and now we get a change of scene.

39 Ἀναστᾶσα δὲ Μαριὰμἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ταύταις ἐπορεύθη εἰς τὴν ὀρεινὴν μετὰ σπουδῆς εἰς πόλιν Ἰούδα,

40 καὶ εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον Ζαχαρίου καὶ ἠσπάσατο τὴν Ἐλισάβετ.

41 καὶ ἐγένετο ὡς ἤκουσεν τὸν ἀσπασμὸν τῆς Μαρίας ἡ Ἐλισάβετ, ἐσκίρτησεν τὸ βρέφος ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ αὐτῆς, καὶ ἐπλήσθη πνεύματος ἁγίου ἡ Ἐλισάβετ,

Having stood up, Mariam in those days traveled to the hilly (part, hill country) with haste to the city of Judah, (40) and went to the home of Zacharias and greeted Elisabeth. (41) And it happened (that) Elisabeth hearing the greeting of Mary, the foetus in her womb leapt, and Elisabeth was filled with the sacred breath.  

There is a bit of a weird juxtaposition here. On the one hand, we get the immediacy of “having stood up”, as in directly after the angel left; but this is contrasted with “in those days”, which can mean straight away, but it certainly doesn’t have to, and generally implies a sort of vagueness about exactly when, just as the English phrase does.

As a technical note, I don’t know if there was a “city of Judah”. Judah is the another form of Judea, so I think that the literal translation is probably too literal. I will note, however, that it was translated as-is, that means literally, into the Vulgate, which also renders this as “city of Judah”. I don’t think this really matters; Luke is not giving us a geography lesson, nor is he writing a travelogue. His point is that Mary went to see Elisabeth, and that Elisabeth lived in Judea, Which is interesting in a way, since this is the first connexion of the Jesus story to a site that is not Bethlehem, but is outside Galilee. Perhaps we are to assume from this that Mary’s people came from Judea? Because we are specifically told that she was visited by the messenger of the lord in Nazareth, in Galilee.

Now, you have heard me argue that Jesus was from Caphernaum. I still believe this. However, Matthew fixed the hometown of Jesus as Nazareth. And I believe it was Matthew who did this, and not Mark. Mark mentions the name of Nazareth exactly once, in 1:9 when he introduces Jesus, saying that he comes from Nazareth. That’s it. And that could very, very easily be a later interpolation. In Chapter 3, when Jesus’ family comes to “rescue” him from the hostile crowd of Pharisees, we are not told the name of the home town, and we discussed that it would have been impossible for word to travel from Caphaernaum, where the story is set, to Nazareth, and for the family to travel from Nazareth back to Caphernaum in anything much less than about a day, not in the time the story indicates. Which leads me to believe that his family lived in Caphernaum. Mark told us that Jesus moved to Caphernaum, but we are not told he moved with his mother and brothers and sisters. Perhaps we are to assume that, but in Chapter 6, when Jesus returned to his unnamed home town as a prophet withouth honour, those who knew Jesus as a child pointed to Jesus’ siblings, making it very much sound like they were present in the home town. This conflicts with the previous story, but that’s kind of the point. When Mark wrote, Jesus had no fixed address, just as he had no father. Matthew had to correct both of these, Luke followed, and the “from Nazareth” was interpolated into the text of Mark.

Which takes us to my real point here. Once again, we have Luke agreeing with Matthew in a situation that is not represented anywhere else in the tradition. Matthew mentions Nazareth twice, both in Chapter 2 which contains the birth narrative, and then once later to situate Jesus as “from Nazareth”. Luke/Acts mentions Jesus six times, twice as many as Matthew, but half of those are in Chapter 2, which contains the birth and early life of Jesus. John mentions Nazareth twice. And that’s it. Nothing else in the entire NT. So, much like the virgin birth, the home town is basically found only in Matthew and Luke, and almost exclusively in the context of Jesus’ early life, and then it more or less disappears from the narrative. Nor does Nazareth appear in any of the Q material, although, by rights, the virgin should be considered Q material, since it only occurs in Matthew and Luke. So once again, I think this presents fairly solid evidence that Luke was very well aware of Matthew, and that he followed Matthew. BUT: Luke rewrote Matthew very thoroughly, so thoroughly that scholars don’t recognize that what Luke is telling us is actually an expanded version of Matthew’s story. That is, it’s the same story with a whole lot of more details and episodes and anecdotes thrown in to flesh it all out, to make it read more like a story, or perhaps–dare I say it?–more like a novel. We are getting Zacharias and Elisabeth just as Arthur got Sir Palomides and Nyneve; minor characters who play a role and disappear, at least for long stretches of time.

39 Exsurgens autem Maria in diebus illis abiit in montana cum festinatione in civitatem Iudae

40 et intravit in domum Zachariae et salutavit Elisabeth.

41 Et factum est, ut audivit salutationem Mariae Elisabeth, exsultavit infans in utero eius, et repleta est Spiritu Sancto Elisabeth

42 καὶ ἀνεφώνησεν κραυγῇ μεγάλῃ καὶ εἶπεν, Εὐλογημένη σὺ ἐν γυναιξίν, καὶ εὐλογημένος ὁ καρπὸς τῆς κοιλίας σου.

43 καὶ πόθεν μοι τοῦτο ἵνα ἔλθῃ ἡ μήτηρ τοῦ κυρίου μου πρὸς ἐμέ;

44 ἰδοὺ γὰρ ὡς ἐγένετο ἡ φωνὴ τοῦ ἀσπασμοῦ σου εἰς τὰ ὦτά μου, ἐσκίρτησεν ἐν ἀγαλλιάσει τὸ βρέφος ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ μου.

45 καὶ μακαρία ἡ πιστεύσασα ὅτι ἔσται τελείωσις τοῖς λελαλημένοις αὐτῇ παρὰ κυρίου.

And (Elisabeth) sounded out, in a great cry and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And wherefore to me this in order that came the mother of my lord to me? For behold, how it happened the voice of your greeting to my ears (came), the foetus in my womb leapt in exultation. And happy her having believed that the culmination will come by those things spoken to her from the lord”.

[ A bit rough here; first, this speech of Elisabeth follows directly upon the previous verse; there is a comma between, and not a full stop; however, to discuss the text it seemed better to break these verses apart. ]

About the vocabulary. In Verse 42, the word Elisabeth uses that I have rendered as “blessed” is ‘eulogia’. Strictly speaking, this means “well-spoken of”, or even just “good speech”. It’s the root of “eulogy”, the part of the funeral in which we speak well of the deceased. In the LXX and NT, it comes to be associated with “blessed”–whether one or two syllables–and I can support that. Then, the word in Verse 45 that I translated as “happy” is ‘makaria’. This is the word at the beginning of all of those Beatitudes: “Makaria hoi ptochoi…” And that gets translated as “blessed”, usually the two syllable form. There is some overlap in the words, but the base meaning of neither word is anything close to our conception of “blessed”. That has not stopped any number of translation from rendering both of these as “blessed”; I did not do so just to be a crank. Er, to show that there is a different word behind each of these.

Finally, there is the idea of culmination. That is a connexion to Matthew, but not one exclusively to Matthew.

42 et exclamavit voce magna et dixit: “Benedicta tu inter mulieres, et benedictus fructus ventris tui.

43 Et unde hoc mihi, ut veniat mater Domini mei ad me?

44 Ecce enim ut facta est vox salutationis tuae in auribus meis, exsultavit in gaudio infans in utero meo.

45 Et beata, quae credidit, quoniam perficientur ea, quae dicta sunt ei a Domino”.

46 Καὶ εἶπεν Μαριάμ, Μεγαλύνει ἡ ψυχή μου τὸν κύριον,

47 καὶ ἠγαλλίασεν τὸ πνεῦμά μου ἐπὶ τῷ θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου,

48 ὅτι ἐπέβλεψεν ἐπὶ τὴν ταπείνωσιν τῆς δούλης αὐτοῦ. ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν μακαριοῦσίν με πᾶσαι αἱ γενεαί:

49 ὅτι ἐποίησέν μοι μεγάλα ὁ δυνατός, καὶ ἅγιον τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ,

50 καὶ τὸ ἔλεος αὐτοῦ εἰς γενεὰς καὶ γενεὰς τοῖς φοβουμένοις αὐτόν.

51 Ἐποίησεν κράτος ἐν βραχίονι αὐτοῦ, διεσκόρπισεν ὑπερηφάνους διανοίᾳ καρδίας αὐτῶν:

52 καθεῖλεν δυνάστας ἀπὸ θρόνων καὶ ὕψωσεν ταπεινούς,

53 πεινῶντας ἐνέπλησεν ἀγαθῶν καὶ πλουτοῦντας ἐξαπέστειλεν κενούς.

54 ἀντελάβετο Ἰσραὴλ παιδὸς αὐτοῦ, μνησθῆναι ἐλέους,

55 καθὼς ἐλάλησεν πρὸς τοὺς πατέρας ἡμῶν, τῷ Ἀβραὰμ καὶ τῷ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα.

56 Ἔμεινεν δὲ Μαριὰμ σὺν αὐτῇ ὡς μῆνας τρεῖς, καὶ ὑπέστρεψεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτῆς.

And Mary said, “Makes great my soul the lord, (47) and rejoices my spirit upon God my saviour, (48) that looks upon the lowliness of his female slave. For behold, from him now will make happy me all his children. (49) that his power has made me great, and (made) holy my name, (50) and his mercy to generation after generation for those fearing him. (51) His strength made in his arm, scattered the proud in (the) thought of their hearts. (52) He brought low the powerful from their thrones and raised the lowly, (53) those hungering are filled of good things and the wealthy he sends empty. (54) He has taken up his child Israel, mindful of mercy, (55) accordingly he has spoken to our fathers, to Abraham and his progeny to eternity.”

(56) Mariam remained with her (Elisabeth) for three months, and returned to her own dwelling.

This, of course, is the Magnificat. If you take a peek down below at the Latin, you will see the first word on the second line is “Magnificat”, whence the title of the prayer. My kids sing in the church choir, and I have heard this sung as a hymn many, many times. It’s beautiful. Both in Greek and in Latin, the first word is a verb: “makes great”, the subject of which is “my soul”. But the verb comes first in that wonderful flexibility of a case language.

This translation is really awful from a poetic sense. Here, I am just being a crank because this deserves a less literal and a more poetic translation. The versions I’ve heard sung, mostly English, but once or twice in Latin, sound ever so much better than what I’ve put down. But then, creating poetry is not the goal here.

46 Et ait Maria:

“Magnificat anima mea Dominum, /47 et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo salvatore meo, / 48 quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae.

Ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes, / 49 quia fecit mihi magna, qui potens est, et sanctum nomen eius,

50 et misericordia eius in progenies et progenies / timentibus eum. 

51 Fecit potentiam in brachio suo, / dispersit superbos mente cordis sui; /

52 deposuit potentes de sede / et exaltavit humiles; / 53 esurientes implevit bonis / et divites dimisit inanes.

54 Suscepit Israel puerum suum, / recordatus misericordiae, / 55 sicut locutus est ad patres nostros,

Abraham et semini eius in saecula ”.

56 Mansit autem Maria cum illa quasi mensibus tribus et reversa est in domum suam.

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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 29, 2017, in Chapter 1, gospel commentary, gospels, Luke's Gospel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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