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Luke 1

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Luke 1

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The two books attributed to Luke (Luke and Acts) make up about 28 percent of the Greek New Testament. Luke is not mentioned by name in either book. The only places where his name occurs in the New Testament are in Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11; and Philemon 24. Luke also referred to himself directly in the “we” sections of Acts (16:10–17; 20:5–21:18; 27:1–28:16).

Luke must have been a Gentile for Paul differentiates him from the Jews (Col. 4:10–14). Paul wrote that, of his fellow-workers, Aristarchus, Mark, and John were the only ones who were Jews. The others (Epaphras, Luke, and Demas) were therefore probably Gentiles. Paul referred to Luke as a physician (Col. 4:14), a fact which many try to corroborate from passages in Luke and Acts. Until modern times church tradition uniformly has held Luke to be the author of Luke and Acts. According to tradition Luke was from Antioch, but it is impossible to verify this claim.


Luke claimed to be a historian (Luke 1:1–4). He carefully researched his material for specific reasons. He consulted eyewitnesses for information (1:2). He may have gathered certain details, such as facts on Jesus’ youth, from Mary herself (cf. 2:51). Luke also seemed to have had contacts with the Herodian court (cf. 3:1, 19; 8:3; 9:7–9; 13:31; 23:7–12). Scholars do not agree on which sources Luke used in writing his Gospel. He may have reworked various source materials at his disposal in order to create a unified whole, written in his style, which reflected his purpose. All this, of course, was done under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Date and Place

A number of dates have been suggested for the writing of Luke. If Acts were written before the time of Nero’s persecution (A.D. 64)—which seems evident by the fact that Acts closed with Paul still alive and in prison—then the Book of Luke must have been written several years before that, for Acts was subsequent to Luke. Though it is impossible to pinpoint a specific date, a time of composition between A.D. 58 and 60 fits well.

Luke gave no clues as to the place where he wrote his Gospel. Thus any statement on the matter would be mere speculation. Some suggest that Luke wrote from either Caesarea or Rome.


Luke had two purposes in writing this book. One was to confirm the faith of Theophilus, that is, to show that his faith in Christ rested on firm historical fact (1:3–4). His other purpose was to present Jesus as the Son of Man, who had been rejected by Israel. Because of this rejection, Jesus was also preached to Gentiles so that they could know the kingdom program of God and attain salvation.

Lk 1:1 Dear Theophilos:

Concerning the matters that have taken place among us, many people have undertaken to draw up accounts

2 based on what was handed down to us by those who from the start were eyewitnesses and proclaimers of the message.

3 Therefore, Your Excellency, since I have carefully investigated all these things from the beginning, it seemed good to me that I too should write you an accurate and ordered narrative,

4 so that you might know how well-founded are the things about which you have been taught.

The book of Luke is the first of 2 books written by Luke, an early follower of Yeshua. The 2nd volume is Acts.
The 2 volumes cover the life of Yeshua in Luke and the birth and growth of the Messianic movement in Acts.
The book begins like a letter, with a greeting to the recipient, Theophilos.
Dr. Stern comments:

1 Theophilos, addressed in v. 3 as “Your Excellency,” was probably an upper-class Greek for whom Luke wrote this book and the book of Acts (see Ac 1:1N) with the purpose he himself states in v. 4. Alternatively, since the name means “lover of God,” Luke may be writing to a generic and typical disciple.

In this time it was common for wealthy individuals to commission books to be written and Theophilus may have been a wealthy man that had heard about Yeshua and wanted a full account written for him and he paid Luke to research and write a history of the life of Yeshua and the early Yeshua movement.

1:2. “Handed down” was sometimes a technical term in the ancient world. Disciples of rabbis normally passed down first-generation traditions carefully. Oral storytellers were also adept at memorizing and passing on stories accurately. Because Luke writes while eyewitnesses are still alive, and because they were accorded a place of prominence in the early church, we may be sure that his traditions are reliable. (Eyewitness sources were accepted as the best.)

Jewish concept of tradition handed down. Authority from previous sources.

5 In the days of Herod, King of Y’hudah, there was a cohen named Z’kharyah who belonged to the Aviyah division. His wife was a descendant of Aharon, and her name was Elisheva.

1:5. Historians customarily introduced a narrative by listing the names of reigning kings or governors, which provided the approximate time of the narrative. Herod the Great was officially king of Judea from 37 to 4 b.c. Twenty-four “orders” (NRSV, TEV) or “divisions” (NIV, NASB) of priests (, especially v. 10) took turns serving in the temple, two nonconsecutive weeks a year. Priests could marry any pure Israelite, but they often preferred daughters of priests (“daughters of Aaron”).

5 Herod the Great. See Mt 2:1N.

Cohen, priest (see Mt 2:4N). The cohanim were partitioned into 24 divisions, the names of which appear at 1 Chronicles 24:7–18; the Aviyah division was the eighth. Each served for a week at a time; thus the members of a division did Temple duty twice a year. All divisions were present for Sukkot (see Yn 7:2N, 7:37N, 8:12N).

His wife was a descendent of Aharon. A cohen must marry a woman from a family of cohanim. Elisheva was not only from a priestly family but descended from Moses’ brother, the first cohen gadol.

6 Both of them were righteous before God, observing all the mitzvot and ordinances of ADONAI blamelessly.

6 Mitzvot. See Mt 5:19N. Adonai. See Mt 1:20.

Contrary to some Christian theologians, the New Testament teaches that the Torah of Moses offers righteousness. To be considered righteous before God, Z’kharyah and Elisheva had to love God and fellowman, trust God and believe his word. As evidence of this love and trust they observed all the rules of behavior God had revealed, including those which demanded repentance and a blood sacrifice as a sin offering when they fell short of full obedience. For more, see Ro 9:30–10:10&NN.

7 But they had no children, because Elisheva was barren; and they were both well along in years.

Reminiscent of Abraham and Sarah being old without a child.
Reminiscent of Abraham and Sarah being old without a child.
The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament 1:5–25—The Angel and the Priest

1:7. To be childless was economically and socially disastrous: economically, because parents had no one to support them in old age (cf. comment on 1 Tim 5:4, 8); socially, because in the law barrenness was sometimes a judgment for sin, and many people assumed the worst possible cause of a problem. Most people assumed that barrenness was a defect of the wife, and Jewish teachers generally insisted that a man divorce a childless wife so he could procreate. “Aged” may suggest that they were over sixty (Mishnah Abot 5:21); age itself conferred some social status and was sometimes listed among qualifications or virtues.

5:21 A He would say, “(1) At five to Scripture, (2) ten to Mishnah, (3) thirteen to religious duties, (4) fifteen to Talmud, (5) eighteen to the wedding canopy, (6) twenty to responsibility for providing for a family, (7) thirty to fullness of strength, (8) forty to understanding, (9) fifty to counsel, (10) sixty to old age, (11) seventy to ripe old age, (12) eighty to remarkable strength, (13) ninety to a bowed back, and (14) at a hundred— he is like a corpse who has already passed and gone from this world.”

8 One time, when Z’kharyah was fulfilling his duties as cohen during his division’s period of service before God,

9 he was chosen by lot (according to the custom among the cohanim) to enter the Temple and burn incense.

10 All the people were outside, praying, at the time of the incense burning,

The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament 1:5–25—The Angel and the Priest

1:8–9. There were many more priests and Levites than necessary (perhaps eighteen thousand) for any given function in the temple, so they were chosen for specific tasks by lot, during their appointed time of service (besides service on the three major festivals, they served about two weeks out of the year). Given the number of priests, a priest might get the opportunity in 1:9 only once in a lifetime; this would have been a special occasion for Zechariah.

Incense offerings (Ex 30:7–8) had been standard in ancient Near Eastern temples, perhaps to quench the stench of burning flesh from the sacrifices in the closed buildings. This offering in the temple preceded the morning sacrifice and followed the evening sacrifice. It is said that the officer who ministered regularly in the temple signaled the time to begin the offering and then withdrew; the priest cast incense on this altar, prostrated himself and then withdrew himself—normally immediately (cf. 1:21).

1:10. The hours of morning and evening sacrifices were also the major public hours of prayer in the temple (cf. Acts 3:1). Except during a feast, most of the people praying there would be Jerusalemites; unable to enter the priestly sanctuary, they were presumably men in the Court of Israel, and some women outside that in the Court of the Women.

11 when there appeared to him an angel of ADONAI standing to the right of the incense altar.

12 Z’kharyah was startled and terrified at the sight.

13 But the angel said to him, “Don’t be afraid, Z’kharyah; because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elisheva will bear you a son, and you are to name him Yochanan.

14 He will be a joy and a delight to you, and many people will rejoice when he is born,

15 for he will be great in the sight of ADONAI. He is never to drink wine or other liquor, and he will be filled with the Ruach HaKodesh even from his mother’s womb.

11 when there appeared to him an angel of ADONAI standing to the right of the incense altar.

12 Z’kharyah was startled and terrified at the sight.

13 But the angel said to him, “Don’t be afraid, Z’kharyah; because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elisheva will bear you a son, and you are to name him Yochanan.

14 He will be a joy and a delight to you, and many people will rejoice when he is born,

The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament 1:5–25—The Angel and the Priest

1:14–15. The closest Old Testament parallel to Luke 1:15 is Judges 13:4–5, 7, where Samson, as a Nazirite from birth, is warned to abstain from strong drink (cf. Num 6:3–4). Cf. Luke 7:33. Ancient Judaism especially viewed the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of prophecy.

4 Now, therefore, be careful not to drink any wine or other intoxicating liquor, and don’t eat anything unclean.

5 For indeed you will conceive and bear a son. No razor is to touch his head, because the child will be a nazir for God from the womb. Moreover, he will begin to rescue Isra’el from the power of the P’lishtim.”

6 The woman came and told her husband; she said, “A man of God came to me; his face was fearsome, like that of the angel of God. I didn’t ask him where he came from, and he didn’t tell me his name.

7 But he said to me, ‘Listen! You will conceive and bear a son, so now don’t drink any wine or other intoxicating liquor, and don’t eat anything unclean, because the child will be a nazir for God from the womb until the day he dies.’ ”

15 He is never to drink wine or other liquor. It may be that Yochanan, like Samson, was to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God in the special way outlined in Numbers 6:1–21. The outward requirements included eating no grapes or grape products, not cutting the hair, and not going near a dead person.

16 He will turn many of the people of Isra’el to ADONAI their God.

17 He will go out ahead of ADONAI in the spirit and power of Eliyahu to turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready for ADONAI a people prepared.”

17 He will go out ahead of Adonai, in the sense of Isaiah 40:3–5, which he himself quotes at 3:4–6 below. Though Yochanan is not Elijah, he will function with his same spirit and power to “clear the way before” God (Malachi 3:1) and announce the Messiah’s coming. See Mt 11:10–14&N, Mt 17:10–12&N, and below, 1:76–78&N.

To turn the hearts of fathers to their children. See Mt 10:35–36N.

Quotation of

4 It was just as had been written in the book of the sayings of the prophet Yesha‘yahu,

“The voice of someone crying out:

‘In the desert prepare the way forADONAI!

Make straight paths for him!

5 Every valley must be filled in,

every mountain and hill leveled off;

the winding roads must be straightened

and the rough ways made smooth.

6 Then all humanity will see God’s deliverance.’ ”

18 Z’kharyah said to the angel, “How can I be sure of this? For I am an old man; my wife too is well on in years.”

19 “I am Gavri’el,” the angel answered him, “and I stand in the presence of God. I was sent to speak to you, to give you this good news.

19 Gavri’el, one of the two angels mentioned by name in the Tanakh (Daniel 8:16, 9:21); the other is Mikha’el (see Rv 12:7&N).

20 Now, because you didn’t believe what I said, which will be fulfilled when the time comes, you will be silent, unable to speak until the day these things take place.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Z’kharyah; they were surprised at his taking so long in the Temple.

22 But when he came out unable to talk to them, they realized that he had seen a vision in the Temple; speechless, he communicated to them with signs.

23 When the period of his Temple service was over, he returned home.

The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament 1:5–25—The Angel and the Priest

1:20–21. Casting incense on the heated altar of incense normally took little time, after which the priest emerged immediately. The delay here may have troubled the crowds; perhaps they thought Zechariah had been disrespectful and struck dead, or that something else had gone wrong. If Zechariah’s offering had failed, their prayers were also in jeopardy.

24 Following this, Elisheva his wife conceived, and she remained five months in seclusion, saying,

25 “ADONAI has done this for me; he has shown me favor at this time, so as to remove my public disgrace.”

25 Removed my public disgrace. Elisheva invokes the words of Rachel, another woman of the Bible, whose barrenness was ended by God’s direct involvement; see Genesis 30:22–23.

Genesis 30:22-23:

22 Then God took note of Rachel, heeded her prayer and made her fertile.

23 She conceived, had a son and said, “God has taken away my disgrace.”

26 In the sixth month, the angel Gavri’el was sent by God to a city in the Galil called Natzeret,

27 to a virgin engaged to a man named Yosef, of the house of David; the virgin’s name was Miryam.

The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament 1:26–38—The Angel and the Girl

1:26–27. Because Joseph was of David’s line and Jesus would be his legal son, Jesus could qualify as belonging to David’s royal house. In Judaism, “virgins” were young maidens, usually fourteen or younger. The term Luke uses here for “virgin” also indicates that she had not yet had sexual relations with a man (1:34–35). Nazareth in this period was an insignificant village of an estimated sixteen hundred to two thousand inhabitants.

27 Of the house of David, i.e., descended from King David. See 3:22–38&N, Mt 1:1–16&N, Ro 1:3–4&N.

28 Approaching her, the angel said, “Shalom, favored lady! ADONAI is with you!”

29 She was deeply troubled by his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.

30 The angel said to her, “Don’t be afraid, Miryam, for you have found favor with God.

31 Look! You will become pregnant, you will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Yeshua.

32 He will be great, he will be called Son of Ha‘Elyon. ADONAI, God, will give him the throne of his forefather David;

33 and he will rule the House of Ya‘akov forever—there will be no end to his Kingdom.”

Here the Messiah is given a name from a divine messenger, YESHUA.

32 HaElyon, Greek upsistos, “highest, most high.” The Hebrew name Elyon is used by itself at Numbers 24:16 and elsewhere. God is first called El elyon (“God most high”) at Genesis 14:18–20, where Avraham tithed to the priest Malki-Tzedek. That phrase is found in the New Testament at Mk 5:7, Lk 8:28, Ac 16:17, MJ 7:1; the first three of these are spoken by demoniacs. Upsistos appears in the plural to denote places (“in the highest [heavens]”) at Mt 21:9; Mk 11:10; Lk 2:14, 19:38. “Son of HaElyon” means “Son of God,” as is clear from v. 35. The language of vv. 32–33 is entirely in line with the Tanakh and very Messianic.

The throne of his forefather David was promised for the Messiah to King David in 2 Samuel 7:12–13, 16; see Mt 1:1N.

33 There will be no end (see Daniel 2:44; 7:14, 18, 27) to his kingdom, the Kingdom of God (see Mt 3:2N).

Keeping with the Abraham and Sarah imagery God is first called El elyon (“God most high”) at , where Avraham tithed to the priest Malki-Tzedek.

5 For a child is born to us,

a son is given to us;

dominion will rest on his shoulders,

and he will be given the name

Pele-Yo‘etz El Gibbor

Avi-‘Ad Sar-Shalom

[Wonder of a Counselor, Mighty God,

Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace],

6 in order to extend the dominion

and perpetuate the peace

of the throne and kingdom of David,

to secure it and sustain it

through justice and righteousness

henceforth and forever.

The zeal of ADONAI-Tzva’ot

will accomplish this.

34 “How can this be,” asked Miryam of the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered her,

“The Ruach HaKodesh will come over you,

the power of Ha‘Elyon will cover you.

Therefore the holy child born to you

will be called the Son of God.

36 “You have a relative, Elisheva, who is an old woman; and everyone says she is barren. But she has conceived a son and is six months pregnant!

37 For with God, nothing is impossible.”

37 With God nothing is impossible. Compare Mt 19:26; also Genesis 18:13–14, where the Lord responds to Sarah, who is too old to bear a child, “Is anything too hard for Adonai?”

13 ADONAI said to Avraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and ask, ‘Am I really going to bear a child when I am so old?’

14 Is anything too hard for ADONAI? At the time set for it, at this season next year, I will return to you; and Sarah will have a son.” (ii)

38 Miryam said, “I am the servant of ADONAI; may it happen to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

This is amazing that hearing this news that Miriam just accepts it.

39 Without delay, Miryam set out and hurried to the town in the hill country of Y’hudah

40 where Z’kharyah lived, entered his house and greeted Elisheva.

Miriam ran off to see Eilsheva.
Elisheva praises God:

41 When Elisheva heard Miryam’s greeting, the baby in her womb stirred. Elisheva was filled with the Ruach HaKodesh

42 and spoke up in a loud voice,

“How blessed are you among women!

And how blessed is the child in your womb!

43 “But who am I, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

44 For as soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy!

45 Indeed you are blessed, because you have trusted that the promise ADONAI has made to you will be fulfilled.”

Miriam responds in praise:

46 Then Miryam said,

“My soul magnifies ADONAI;

47 and my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior,

48 who has taken notice of his servant-girl

in her humble position.

For—imagine it!—from now on, all generations will call me blessed!

49 “The Mighty One has done great things for me!

Indeed, his name is holy;

50 and in every generation

he has mercy on those who fear him.

51 “He has performed mighty deeds with his arm,

routed the secretly proud,

52 brought down rulers from their thrones,

raised up the humble,

53 filled the hungry with good things,

but sent the rich away empty.

54 “He has taken the part of his servant Isra’el,

mindful of the mercy

55 which he promised to our fathers,

to Avraham and his seed forever.”

Many lines are quoted exactly or approximately from the Tanakh; compare vv. 46 (Psalm 34:2), 47 (Psalm 35:9), 48 (1 Samuel 1:11), 49 (Psalm 111:9), 50 (Psalm 103:17), 51 (Psalm 89:11(10)), 52 (Job 12:19, 5:11), 53 (1 Samuel 2:5, Psalm 107:9), 54 (Psalm 98:3), 55 (Genesis 17:7, 19; Micah 7:20).

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