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Best of the best. Gospel of Luke chapter one.

Commentary on the New Testament

Commentary on the New Testament




The Book of Luke


Book Introduction



“[Book Introduction]


 The Gospel According to St. Luke


 WRITER. The writer of the third Gospel is called by Paul "the beloved physician" #Col 4:14 and, as we learn from the Acts, was Paul's frequent companion. He was of Jewish ancestry, but his correct Greek marks him as a Jew of the dispersion. Tradition says that he was a Jew of Antioch, as Paul was of Tarsus.


 DATE. The date of Luke falls between A.D. 63 and 68.


THEME. Luke is the Gospel of the human-divine One, as John is of the divine-human One. The key-phrase is "Son of man," and the key-verse #Lu 19:10. "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." In harmony with this intent, Luke relates those things concerning Jesus which demonstrate how entirely human He was. His genealogy is traced to Adam, and the most detailed account is given of His mother, and of His infancy and boyhood. The parables peculiar to Luke have distinctively the human and the seeking note. But Luke is careful to guard the Deity and Kingship of Jesus Christ #Lu 1:32-35. Luke, then, is the Gospel of "the man whose name is The BRANCH" #Zec 6:12.” [scofield].

“Luke, which some take to be a contraction of Lucilius; born at Antioch, so St. Jerome. Some think that he was the only one of all the penmen of the scripture that was not of the seed of Israel. He was a Jewish proselyte, and, as some conjecture, converted to Christianity by the ministry of Paul at Antioch; and after his coming into Macedonia (#Ac 16:10) he was his constant companion.

…Origen and Epiphanius, who both say that he was one of the seventy disciples. He is supposed to have written this gospel when he was associated with St. Paul in his travels, and by direction from him: and some think that this is the brother whom Paul speaks of (#2Co 8:18), whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches of Christ; as if the meaning of it were, that he was celebrated in all the churches for writing this gospel; and that St. Paul means this when he speaks sometimes of his gospel, as#Ro 2:16.” MATHHEW HENRY].


Lu. 1:1 ¶ Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,


“{Forasmuch as} (epeidhper). Here alone in the N.T., though common in literary Attic. Appears in the papyri. A triple compound (epei =since, dh =admittedly true, per = intensive particle to emphasize importance). {Many} (polloi). How many no one knows, but certainly more than two or three. We know that Luke used the Logia of Jesus written by Matthew in Aramaic (Papias) and Mark's Gospel. Undoubtedly he had other written sources. {Have taken in hand} (epeceirhsan). A literal translation of epiceirew (from ceir, hand and epi, upon). Both Hippocrates and Galen use this word in their introduction to their medical works. Here only in the N.T., though a common literary word. Common in the papyri for undertaking with no idea of failure or blame. Luke does not mean to cast reflection on those who preceded him. The apocryphal gospels were all much later and are not in his mind. Luke had secured fuller information and planned a book on a larger scale and did surpass them with the result that they all perished save Mark's Gospel and what Matthew and Luke possess of the Logia of Jesus. There was still room for Luke's book. That motive influences every author and thus progress is made. {To draw up, a narrative} (anataxasqai dihghsin). Ingressive aorist middle infinitive. This verb anataxasqai has been found only in Plutarch's _Moral_. 968 CD about an elephant "rehearsing" by moonlight certain tricks it had been taught (Moulton and Milligan, _Vocabulary_). That was from memory going regularly through the thing again. But the idea in the word is plain enough. The word is composed of tassw, a common verb for arranging things in proper order and ana, again. Luke means to say that those before him had made attempts to rehearse in orderly fashion various matters about Christ. "The expression points to a connected series of narratives in some order (taxij), topical or chronological rather than to isolated narratives" (Bruce). "They had produced something more than mere notes or anecdotes" (Plummer). dihghsij means leading or carrying a thing through, not a mere incident. Galen applies this word some seventy-five times to the writing of Hippocrates. {Which have been fulfilled} (twn peplhrwforhmenwn). Perfect passive participle from plhroforew and that from plhrhj (full) and ferw (to bring). Hence to bring or make full. The verb is rare outside of the LXX and the N.T. Papyri examples occur for finishing off a legal matter or a financial matter in full. Deissmann (_Light from the Ancient East_, pp. 86f.) gives examples from the papyri and inscriptions for completing a task or being convinced or satisfied in mind. The same ambiguity occurs here. When used of persons in the N.T. the meaning is to be convinced, or fully persuaded(#Ro 4:21; 14:5; Heb 6:11; 10:22). When used of things it has the notion of completing or finishing(#2Ti 4:5,17). Luke is here speaking of "matters" (pragmatwn). Luke may refer to the matters connected with Christ's life which have been brought to a close among us or accomplished. Bruce argues plausibly that he means fulness of knowledge "concerning the things which have become widely known among us Christians." In#Col 2:2 we have "fulness of understanding" (thj plhroforiaj thj sunesewj). In modern Greek the verb means to inform. The careful language of Luke here really pays a tribute to those who had preceded him in their narratives concerning Christ.” RWP].

Most surely believed among us— Facts confirmed by the fullest evidence-twn peplhroforhmenwn pragmatwn. Every thing that had been done or said by Jesus Christ was so public, so plain, and so accredited by thousands of witnesses, who could have had no interest in

supporting an imposture, as to carry the fullest conviction, to the hearts of those who heard and saw him, of the divinity of his doctrine, and the truth of his miracles.” [ADAM CLARKE].


Lu. 1: 2  Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;


“Here we have both written and oral sources. Luke had access to both kinds.

…{Which from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word} (oi ap archj autoptai kai uphretaid~ genomenoi tou logou). "Who" is better than "which" for the article here. The word for {eyewitnesses} (autoptai) is an old Greek word and appears in the papyri also. It means seeing with one's own eyes. It occurs here only in the N.T. We have the very word in the medical term _autopsy_. Greek medical writers often had the word. It is a different word from epoptai (eyewitness) in#2Pe 1:16, a word used of those who beheld heavenly mysteries

…{From the beginning} apparently refers to the beginning of the ministry of Jesus as was true of the apostles(#Ac 1:22) and of the early apostolic preaching(#Ac 10:37-43).” [RWP].


Lu. 1: 3  It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,

“{in order} The words "in order" are emphatic, indicating Luke's purpose to reduce to order the Gospel story.” [scofield].

“{It seemed good to me also} (edoxe kamoi). A natural conclusion and justification of Luke's decision to write his narrative. They had ample reason to draw up their narratives. Luke has more reason to do so because of his fuller knowledge and wider scope. {Having traced the course of all things} (parhkolouqhkoti pasin). The perfect active participle of a common verb of the ancient Greek. Literally it means to follow along a thing in mind, to trace carefully.

… Luke got himself ready to write before he began by full and accurate knowledge of the subject. akribwj (accurately) means going into minute details, from akron, the topmost point. And he did it {from the first} (anwqen). He seems to refer to the matters in Chapters #1:5 -2:52, the Gospel of the Infancy. {In order} (kaqexhj). Chronological order in the main following Mark's general outline. But in#9:51-18:10 the order is often topical. He has made careful investigation and his work deserves serious consideration. {Most excellent Theophilus} (kratiste.~ qeofile). The name means god-lover or god-beloved. He may have been a believer already. He was probably a Gentile. Ramsay holds that "most excellent" was a title like "Your Excellency" and shows that he held office, perhaps a Knight. So of Felix (#Ac 23:26) and Festus(#Ac 26:25). The adjective does not occur in the dedication in#Ac 1:1.” [RWP].

“Theophilus” is only named  in one only place, in the Bible. That is in Acts chapter one. Cf. Acts 1:1 ¶ The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,

“Luke began his gospel a great deal further in the past than the others did.” [geneva].

“having had perfect understanding of all things… The Syriac and Persic versions refer the word "all" to persons, to the eyewitnesses and ministers of the word; rendering the clause thus, "who have been studiously near to them all": and both senses may be taken in, and the meaning be, that Luke had diligently sought after, and had attained unto a perfect knowledge of all the affairs of Christ; having studiously got into the company of, and intimately conversed with all, or as many as he could, who had seen Christ in the flesh; and were, from the very first of his ministry, attendants on him, that he might have the most certain and exquisite account of things, that could be come at:

…to write unto thee, in order, most excellent Theophilus;   Theophylact {k} says, he was of the order of the senators, and perhaps a nobleman, or prince:” [JOHN GILL].

“3. from the very first --that is, from the very earliest events; referring to those precious details of the birth and early life, not only of our Lord, but of His forerunner, which we owe to Luke alone.

…most excellent --or "most noble" --a title of rank applied by this same writer twice to Felix and once to Festus(#Ac 22:26 24:3 26:25). It is likely, therefore, that "Theophilus" was chief magistrate of some city in Greece or Asia Minor [WEBSTER and WILKINSON].” [JFB]. Cf. Acts 23:26  Claudius Lysias unto the most excellent governor Felix sendeth greeting.

Theophilus— As the literal import of this word is friend of God, qeou filov,” [ADAM CLARKE].


When he says that “it seemed good” to him, he is probably also means that he is moved by the Holy Spirit.  For he uses this term that way, elsewhere in Acts. Cf. Acts 15:28  For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; St. Paul also thinks that way. Cf. 1 Corinthians 7:40  But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God.


Lu. 1: 4  That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.

“Mightest know} (epignwj). Second aorist active subjunctive of epiginwskw. Full knowledge (epi -),in addition to what he already has. {The certainty} (thn asfaleian). Make no slip (sfallw, to totter or fall, and a privative). Luke promises a reliable narrative. "Theophilus shall know that the faith which he has embraced has an impregnable historical foundation" (Plummer). {The things} (logwn). Literally "words," the details of the words in the instruction. {Wast instructed} (kathchqhj). First aorist passive indicative.

… The word hcew is our word echo (cf. #1Th 1:8 for exhchtai, has sounded forth). kathcew is to sound down, to din, to instruct, to give oral instruction. Cf. #1Co 14:9; Ac 21:21,24; 18:25; Gal 6:6. Those men doing the teaching were called _catechists_ and those receiving it were called _catechumens_. Whether Theophilus was still a catechumen is not known. This Preface by Luke is in splendid literary _Koiné_ and is not surpassed by those in any Greek writer (Herodotus, Thucydides, Polybius). It is entirely possible that Luke was familiar with this habit of Greek historians to write prefaces since he was a man of culture.” [RWP].

“hast been instructed --orally instructed--literally, "catechized" or "catechetically taught," at first as a catechumen or candidate for Christian baptism.” [JFB].

“Ver. 4. That thou mightest know the certainty, &c.]

…The Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Arabic versions render it, "that thou mightest know the truth"; that is, the certain truth of things: the truth he did in some measure know before, but Luke's view was, that he might have a more certain knowledge of it; both truth, and the certainty of it may be intended:

…so the Hebrew word, hnwma, signifies both truth and firmness; and the word here used signifies such a certain evidence of things, as may be safely depended on;” [JOHN GILL].

Some of the reasons for this fuller account are-

1. To help build your faith! Cf. John 20:31  But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

2. To help you remember these things. Cf. 2 Peter 1:15  Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.



Lu.1: 5 ¶ There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.

“{There was} (egeneto). Not the usual en for "was," but there arose or came into notice. With this verse the literary _Koiné_ of verses 1 to 4 disappears. To the end of chapter 2 we have the most Hebraistic (Aramaic) passage in Luke's writings, due evidently to the use of documents or notes of oral tradition. Plummer notes a series of such documents ending with #1:80, 2:40, 2:52. If the mother of Jesus was still alive, Luke could have seen her. She may have written in Aramaic an account of these great events. Natural reserve would keep her from telling too much and from too early publicity. Luke, as a physician, would take special interest in her birth report.

…Luke tells his story from the standpoint of Mary as Matthew gives his from the standpoint of Joseph. The two supplement each other. We have here the earliest documentary evidence of the origins of Christianity that has come down to us (Plummer).

{Herod, King of Judea} (hrwdou basilewj thj ~ ioudaiaj). This note of time locates the events before the death of Herod the Great (as he was called later), appointed King of Judea by the Roman Senate B.C. 40 at the suggestion of Octavius and Antony. He died B.C. 4.

{Of the course of Abijah} (ex efhmeriaj abia).

…Daily service(#Ne 13:30; 1Ch 25:8) and then a course of priests who were on duty for a week(#1Ch 23:6; 28:13). There were 24 such courses and that of Abijah was the eighth (#1Ch 24:10; 2Ch 8:14). Only four of these courses (Jedaiah, Immer, Pashur, Harim) returned from Babylon, but these four were divided into twenty-four with the old names. Each of these courses did duty for eight days, sabbath to sabbath, twice a year. On sabbaths the whole course did duty. At the feast of tabernacles all twenty-four courses were present. {Of the daughters of Aaron} (ek twn qugaterwn aarwn). "To be a priest and married to a priest's daughter was a double distinction" (Plummer). Like a preacher married to a preacher's daughter.

” [RWP].

“his wife was of the daughters of Aaron --The priests might marry into any tribe, but "it was most commendable of all to marry one of the priests' line" [LIGHTFOOT].” [JFB].

“Ver. 5. There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, &c.] This was Herod, the son of Antipater, sometimes called Herod the Great, and is rightly here said to be the king of Judea; for, by deputation from the Roman emperor, he had the government of all Judea, which upon his death was divided among his sons. The phrase, "in the days of", is an eastern way, of speaking; see#Ge 14:1 Ru 1:1 1Sa 17:12; and intends the time of his reign; in which there was” [JOHN GILL].

“Now observe here,


     I. The account given of his parents (#Lu 1:5): They lived in the days of Herod the king, who was a foreigner, and a deputy for the Romans, who had lately made Judea a province of the empire. This is taken notice of to show that the sceptre was quite departed from Judah, and therefore that now was the time for Shiloh to come, according to Jacob's prophecy, #Ge 49:10. The family of David was now sunk, when it was to rise, and flourish again, in the Messiah.” [MATTHEW HENRY].  Nehemiah 12:1 ¶ Now these are the priests and the Levites that went up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra,



Lu. 1: 6  And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

“6. commandments and ordinances --The one expressing their moral-- the other their ceremonial --obedience [CALVIN and BENGEL], (Compare #Eze 11:20 Heb 9:1).” [JFB].

You have here a very interesting couple, Zacharias and Elisabeth, a priest with a wife. I have often marveled why the Church of Rome should think it wrong that priests should be married, when it is evident that the priests under the law were so.

… Zacharias and Elisabeth were notable for excellence of character: “They

were both righteous before God. Not only did they stand high in the esteem of men, but the great God, who reads the hearts of all, and sees how they live in secret, reckoned them to be righteous: They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments-that is, in the moral precepts of the law-and ordinances-that is in the ceremonial rites- of the Lord blameless.”

… There have been some good people who have lived in very bad times; never was there a worse reign than that of Herod; seldom or never a better man and woman than Zacharias and Elisabeth. Let no man excuse himself for sinning because of the times in which he lives.” [SPURGEON].





Luke 1: 7  And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.

Some might, "she was sick and needed healing, were was her God!". But as we read on, we find that God does heal her!

"And they had no child. This fact was a reproach and shame to her, barrenness being considered even a punishment for sin by many.


Because that Elisabeth was barren. The births of Isaac (#Ge 17:17 21:2),  Samson (#Jud 13:2,24),  Samuel (#1Sa 1:2,5,20) and the Baptist were all contrary to nature,  and were faint foreshadowings of the greater miracle which took place in the birth of our Lord. (TFG 9) "

"7. So with Abraham and Sarah,  Isaac and Rebekah,  Elkanah and Hannah, Manoah and his wife." [JFB].

  "{Well stricken in years} (probebhkotev en taiv hmeraiv autwn). Wycliff has it right: "Had gone far in their days." Perfect active participle. See also verse #18."[RWP].

"Ver. 7. And they had no child,  &c.] Son or daughter: and which was accounted a great infelicity: but this was not owing to the judgment of God upon them for any sins they had been guilty of,  as the above character of them shows: and it had been the case of some righteous pairs before them for a great while,  as Abraham and Sarah,  Manoah, and his wile,  Elkanah and Hannah:


because that Elizabeth was barren; so that it was peculiarly her case,  and not Zacharias's: and though God had promised the people of Israel that there should be no male nor female barren among them, #De 7:14 yet there were instances and exceptions to this general rule, as before mentioned,  when it was the pleasure of God to make himself known,  and magnify his power in the extraordinary conception and birth of any person; and therefore,  though barrenness was reckoned a reproach to a person,  there was,  in this case,  a particular hand of God,  to answer a special purpose: the signs of sterility are,  according to the Jews  …and they both were now well stricken in years; which made the conception and birth of John the more extraordinary,  and even


miraculous,  and so the belief of it the more difficult; see #Ge 17:17  [JOHN GILL].


Luke 1:8  And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course,

9  According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.

10  And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.

11  And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.

12  And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

13  But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.

"Fear not. These are the first words of the gospel which began at that hour to unfold itself. (Also see TFG "Lu 1:30".)


John. This name means "the Lord is gracious, "or "the Lord is merciful." "(TFG 11) 

"John--the same as "Johanan, "so frequent in the Old Testament, meaning "Jehovah's gracious gift." " [JFB].

"Fear not. This first celestial message at the dawning of the New Testament dispensation is one of cheer.


Thy prayer is heard. The childless old priest had prayed for offspring.


Shalt call his name John. That is,  "the God-given.""[PNT].




14  And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.

There should always be “joy” at the birth of any child. For we do not know if that child may be used of God, to help mankind!

15  For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.

How is he “great in the sight of the Lord”? Because, he let God work though him in turning many to God and helping to rebuild families (see vs. 17)! 

16  And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.

17  And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. 

All of God’s people should have a part in the saving of souls. Each in the part that God gives them! Always knowing that God does all of the hard work.  Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:6  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. [NKJV]

1 Corinthians 3:10  According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.[NKJV]


The work that we do needs to be done in the power and wisdom of God. Cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:5  For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake. [NKJV]

Philippians 4:13  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.[NKJV] 


“in the spirit and power of Elisa” is “in the spirit and power of Elijah” in the NKJV.
The “spirit” of Elijah” is probably the Holy Spirit”, because:

1.        All good things come from God Cf. James 1. 

2.        Elijah was a servant of God.  Cf. 1 Kings 17:1 ¶ And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word."

3.        Elijah being a true prophet of God, would be moving in the power of God.  Cf. 1 Kings 17:22  Then the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived.

         1 Kings 17:23  And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the                    house, and gave him to his mother. And Elijah said, "See, your son lives!"

        1 Kings 17:24  Then the woman said to Elijah, "Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and  that the word of the LORD in your mouth is the truth."




Luke 8: 11  Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.

12  Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.

" {Which for a while believe} (oi prov kairon pisteuousin). Ostensibly they are sincere and have made a real start in the life of faith. {They fall away} (afistantai). Present middle indicative. They stand off,  lose interest," [RWP].


13  They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.

" {They are choked} (sunpnigontai). Present passive indicative of this powerfully vivid compound verb sunpnigw used in #Mr 4:19; Mt 13:22,  only there these worldly weeds choke the word while here the victims themselves are choked. Both are true. Diphtheria will choke and strangle the victim. Who has not seen the promise of fair flower and fruit choked into yellow withered stalk without fruit" [RWP].

14  And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.

"{Bring no fruit to perfection} (ou telesforousin). Compound verb common in the late writers (telov,  forew). To bring to completion. Used of fruits,  animals,  pregnant women. Only here in the N.T." [RWP].

15  But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.

"Verse 15. With patience.— Rather, with perseverance. The Greek word upomonh, which our translators render patience, properly signifies here, and in Romans 2:7, perseverance. The good ground, because it is good, strong and vigorous, continues to bear: bad or poor ground cannot produce a good crop, and besides it is very soon exhausted. The persons called the

good ground in the text are filled with the power and influence of God, and therefore continue to bring forth fruit; i.e. they persevere in righteousness.

From this we may learn that the perseverance of the saints, as it is termed, necessarily implies that they continue to bring forth fruit to the glory of God. Those who are not fruitful are not in a state of perseverance." [ADAM CLARKE].

"It bears fruit (karpoforousin,  an old expressive verb, karpov and forew). That is the proof of spiritual life. {In patience} (en upomonh). There is no other way for real fruit to come. Mushrooms spring up overnight,  but they are usually poisonous. The best fruits require time,  cultivation,  patience." [RWP].