Luke Jewish New Testament and comment David H. Stern

chapter 1
1. Dear Theophilos, Concerning the matters that have taken place among us, many people have undertaken to draw up accounts
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.

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.
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.
Herod the Great. See Mt 2:1 N.
Cohen, priest (see Mt 2:4N). The cohcinim were partitioned into 24 divisions, the names of which appear at I 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.
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.
Elisheva was barren; and they were both well along in years. Barrenness was often considered a sign of God's displeasure and judgment (as can be inferred from Elisheva's reaction at v. 25). The stage is set for another in the series of miraculous births of important men that began with the births of Isaac to i 00-year-old Abraham and 90-ycar-old Sarah (Genesis 18:1-5, 21:1-7), Samson to Manoah and his wife (Judges 13) and Samuel to Elkanah and Hannah (1 Samuel 1:1-2:10). After the birth of Yochanan to Elisheva (v. 57) the series culminates and concludes with the birth of Yeshua the Messiah to the virgin Miryam (2:7).

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,
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.
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. See also Appendix, p. 932.

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 (Malachi 3:23–24(4:5–6)), and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready for Adonai a people prepared.”
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 ll: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.

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.
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 his period of his Temple service was over, he returned home.
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.”
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.

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.
Of the house of David, i.e., descended from King David. See 3:22-38&N, Mt 1:1-16&N, Rol: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.
Yeshua. See Mt 1:1&N, 1:21&N.

32. He will be great, he will be called Son of Ha‘Elyon. Adonai, God, will give him the throne of his forefather David;
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; seeMt 1:1N.

33. and he will rule the House of Ya‘akov forever — there will be no end to his Kingdom.”
There will be no end (see Daniel 2:44; 7:14, 18,27) to his kingdom, the Kingdom of God (see Mt 3:2N).

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.
The Ruach HaKodesh will come over you. Compare Mt 1:18-23, 1:16N and this strange passage from the Zohar:
"The Faithful Shepherd said, 'At that time [there will come] pangs and pains upon the woman in childbirth, that is, the Shekhina.... And through these pains, which will make her cry out, seventy supernal Sanhedrins will be aroused, until her voice reaches the Lord.... And from those voices which she gives forth... her womb opens... to give birth to two Messiahs.... In that time the forests will be denuded, and the Serpent will pass from the world.'" (Ra'aya Mehemna3:67b-68a, in Raphael Patai, The Messiah Texts, pp. 129-130)

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.”
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?"

38. Miryam said, “I am the servant of Adonai; may it happen to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
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.
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!
How blessed. See Mt 5:3N.

43. “But who am I, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
Lord. See Mt 7:21N.

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.”
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 (1 Samuel 1:11; 2:1).
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.”
These verses are known in the western world as the Magnificat, from the section's first word in the Vulgate, Jerome's translation of the Bible into Latin around 400 C.E. They resemble Hannah's song of praise to God at the dedication of her son Samuel (I Samuel 2:1-10). 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).

56. Miryam stayed with Elisheva for about three months and then returned home.
57. The time arrived for Elisheva to have her baby, and she gave birth to a son.
58. Her neighbors and relatives heard how good Adonai had been to her, and they rejoiced with her.
59. On the eighth day, they came to do the child’s b’rit-milah. They were about to name him Z’kharyah, after his father,
On the eighth day, they came to give the child his b'rit-milah. Circumcision is the sole condition for a Jew's being under the covenant God made with Abraham (Genesis 17:10-14). It is to be done on the eighth day ofaboy's life(Genesis 17:12, Leviticus 12:3).

They were about to name him Z'kharyah after his father. Anyone acquainted with Jewish religious practice knows that a Jewish boy is named at his b'rit-milah. But whence do we know of this custom? In a series of lectures over Israel Army Radio Professor David Flusser said:
"From early Christian literature we can learn about Jewish customs not recorded in early Jewish sources. Take an example: the Jewish custom of giving a boy his name during his circumcision ceremony is not known in our Talmudic literature, but in one of the Gospels (Luke 1:59-64) we are told that John the Baptist's father gave him his name during this ceremony." (Jewish Sources in Early Christianity, MOD Books, P.O.B. 7103. Tel Aviv 61070, Israel, 1989, p. 10, condensed)

Among Ashkenazic Jews today it is not customary to name a child after a living relative, but this is not always the case with Sephardics, and it was apparently not so in Israel two thousand years ago.

60. when his mother spoke up and said, “No, he is to be called Yochanan.”
61. They said to her, “None of your relatives has that name,”
62.and they made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called.
63. He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is Yochanan.”
Yochanan. See Mt 4:21N.

64. He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is Yochanan.”
And his first words were a b'rakhah (blessing) to God. The experience of Z'kharyah was that of a righteous man (v. 5) with deficient faith (v. 18), whom God chastised (vv. 19-20) in order to deepen his faith (Proverbs 3:11, MJ 12:5-15). This verse shows that the chastening had the desired result.

65. All their neighbors were awestruck; and throughout the hill country of Y’hudah, people talked about all these things.
66. Everyone who heard of them said to himself, “What is this child going to be?” For clearly the hand of Adonai was with him.
67. His father Z’kharyah was filled with the Ruach HaKodesh and spoke this prophecy:
68. “Praised be Adonai, the God of Isra’el, (Psalms 41:14(13); 72:18; 106:48) because he has visited and made a ransom to liberate his people
69. by raising up for us a mighty Deliverer who is a descendant of his servant David.
70. It is just as he has spoken through the mouth of the prophets from the very beginning —
71. that we should be delivered from our enemies and from the power of all who hate us.
72. “This has happened so that he might show the mercy promised to our fathers — that he would remember his holy covenant,
73. the oath he swore before Avraham avinu
74. to grant us that we, freed from our enemies, would serve him without fear,
75. in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76. You, child, will be called a prophet of Ha‘Elyon; you will go before the Lord to prepare his way (Malachi 3:1; Isaiah 40:3),
77. by spreading the knowledge among his people that deliverance comes by having sins forgiven
78. through our God’s most tender mercy, which causes the Sunrise to visit us from Heaven,
79. to shine on those in darkness, living in the shadow of death (Isaiah 9:1(2)), and to guide our feet into the paths of peace.”
Those who are in darkness... living in the shadow of death. Because in rabbinic literature the citation of a line of Scripture frequently implies reference to the entire passage of which it is a part (see Mt 2:6N), it is appropriate to point out that Isaiah 8:23-9:1 (9:1-2), quoted more fully at Mt 4:15-16, leads into one of the Tanakh's most important Messianic passages, Isaiah 9:5-6 (6-7):
5. "For unto us a child is bom,
Unto us a son is given,
And the government shall be upon his shoulder,
And his name shall be called
Pele Yo 'etz El Gibbor A vi Ad Sar Shalom;
6. "So that the government may grow
And peace be unbounded
Upon the throne of David
And upon his kingdom.
To establish it
And uphold it
In justice
And righteousness
From now
Until eternity.
"The zeal of Adonai of Hosts will do this."

Verse 5 explains that the "great light" of Isaiah 9:1 (see also Isaiah 58:8, 60:1-2) is a person, the child born to us, the son given us (see Mt 1:23&N), on whose shoulder the government shall be, and whose character and properties are defined by his Hebrew name, which means "Wonder Counselor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace." Verse 6 explains v. 5; it shows why there is a need fora son with such names to rule Israel. The reason is that it requires nothing less than a divine human to establish forever the government of the world from David's throne, with peace, justice and righteousness prevailing.

This passage has been understood from ancient times to be a reference to the Messianic King. For example, the first-century B.C.E. Aramaic translation of the Tanakh called the Targum Yonatan rendered this passage: "From ancient times his name was given as Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, He who lives forever, the Messiah in whose days peace shall increase."

Later, however, Jewish commentators sought vigorously to avoid referring the passage to Yeshua and therefore gave it a different meaning. To appreciate how they went about it, we must understand that the long Hebrew name is not to be taken as the actual name by which the Messiah was to be known, but (like "Immanu'el" in Isaiah 7:14 and Mt 1:23&N, and see Mt 28:19N) as an indication of his character and as a sign of his being the Messiah. Isaiah understood that a name could function as a sign: "And it shall be to Adonai for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off' (Isaiah 55:13).

So, consider the name. Jewish versions of the Bible often translate it as a sentence about God: "A wonderful counselor is the mighty God, the Eternal Father, the Prince of Peace." The purpose of translating the name thus is to detract from its function as descriptive of the person bearing it and make it rather (and only) a description of God. But such a translation makes it irrelevant to the context. For the verses tell us that in order for the son on whose shoulder the government shall be to have the properties of being increasing, eternal and entirely peaceful, just and righteous, that child, that son, must be a Wonder Counselor — one whose counsel is vastly beyond that ordinarily found in the world's governments, so far beyond as to be worthy of the appellation "pele" a term which in the Tanakh is reserved for God alone and refers to his miracles. And he must be a prince of shalom, which means not only peace but harmony, well-being, integrity and health (see Mt 10:12N). Yeshua is a Father of Eternity, one whose perspective covers all of history and goes beyond into eternity (Yn 1:1—18, MJ 1:1-3). And finally, although he is distinct from the Father and has different functions, he is in his essence, without decreasing his humanity. Almighty God (Jeremiah 23:5-6; Yn 1:1&N, 1:14&N, 10:30&N; Co 2:9&N).

These verses are known in the west as the Benedictus (which is the section's first word in the Vulgate; see I:46-55N). As with the Magnificat there are many references to the Tanakh, and the entire prophecy is couched in Tanakhic language. Verse 71 is quoted from Psalm 106:10.

80. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he lived in the wilderness until the time came for him to appear in public to Isra’el.

next chapter...