Luke Jewish New Testament and comment David H. Stern

chapter 2
1. Around this time, Emperor Augustus issued an order for a census to be taken throughout the Empire.
Augustus. Title with overtones of divinity given by the Roman Senate in 27 B.C.E. to Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, founder of the Roman Empire. He ruled the Mediterranean world until 14 C.E.

2. This registration, the first of its kind, took place when Quirinius was governing in Syria.
There is an historical problem because, according to Tacitus and others, Quirinius did not begin governing in Syria until 6 C.E. But he was in charge of Syria's defense and foreign policy under Varus around 7 B.C.E. and later, so he could have supervised the registration (for tax purposes) in Herod's territory.
This registration, the first of its kind, or: "this first registration," before the better-known one of 6 C.E. referred to in Ac 5:37.

3. Everyone went to be registered, each to his own town.
4. So Yosef, because he was a descendant of David, went up from the town of Natzeret in the Galil to the town of David, called Beit-Lechem, in Y’hudah,
5. to be registered, with Miryam, to whom he was engaged, and who was pregnant.
6. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth;
7. and she gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him in cloth and laid him down in a feeding trough, because there was no space for them in the living-quarters.
8. In the countryside nearby were some shepherds spending the night in the fields, guarding their flocks,
Shepherds derived little income from their unskilled work, so that they were held in low esteem. As such they were at the opposite end of the social scale from the Magi of Mt 2:1 ff. Both came to honor the Messiah of high and low alike.

9. when an angel of Adonai appeared to them, and the Sh’khinah of Adonai shone around them. They were terrified;
10. but the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, because I am here announcing to you Good News that will bring great joy to all the people.
The coming of Yeshua the Messiah is good news that brings great joy to all the people; the "people" is Israel (as in v. 32 below).

11. This very day, in the town of David, there was born for you a Deliverer who is the Messiah, the Lord.
A deliverer or "savior." Greek sotir, corresponding to Hebrew moshia', which is another form of the word "hoshia'"(see Mt 21:9&N) and is related to Yeshua's own name (see Mt 1:21 &N). The word "sdter " is first used in the New Testament at Lk 1:47, where it refers to God (i.e., the Father); here it refers to Yeshua as having functions which are exclusively God's.

A study of the word "yasha'"V'sa\e") in the Tanakh reveals several senses in which it is used in connection with God. God saves Israel (Exodus 14:30) his people (2 Samuel 3:18) from the hand of her enemies (I Samuel 4:3), and he promises to save them also from their uncleannesses (Ezekiel 36:29). He saves afflicted ones (Psalm 18:28(27)), those of a contrite spirit (Psalm 34:19(18)), the children of the needy (Psalm 72:4), the poor from the sword (Job 5:15), and the humble (Job 22:29). He saves not with sword and spear (1 Samuel 17:47) but with his right hand (Psalm 138:7), in his mercy (Psalm 31:17(16)), and for the sake of his own name (Psalm 106:8). He can save directly (1 Samuel 10:19) or through a human agent such as King Jeroboam (2 Kings 14:27), and in one instance the credit is given to "the angel of his presence" (Isaiah 63:9). In conclusion, salvation may be from outward enemies or inward uncleannesses (sins), and it may apply to a people or to an individual.

Thus the New Testament, which uses the word "sdter " 24 times and the related verb "sozo" ("save") 44 times, builds on the foundation already established in the Tanakh. When inquiry is made as to whether someone is "saved," the question has roots in the Tanakh as well as in the New Testament.

12. Here is how you will know: you will find a baby wrapped in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”
13. Suddenly, along with the angel was a vast army from heaven praising God:
14. “In the highest heaven, glory to God! And on earth, peace among people of good will!”
This verse commences the liturgical passage known in the western world as the Gloria. People of good will are people whom the will of God favors and whose own wills desire what God wills. The latter is itself a consequence of God's favor (Ep 2:8-10; compare Ro 11:31&N).

15. No sooner had the angels left them and gone back into heaven than the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go over to Beit-Lechem and see this thing that has happened, that Adonai has told us about.”
16. Hurrying off, they came and found Miryam and Yosef, and the baby lying in the feeding trough.
17. Upon seeing this, they made known what they had been told about this child;
18. and all who heard were amazed by what the shepherds said to them.
19. Miryam treasured all these things and kept mulling them over in her heart.
20. Meanwhile, the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen; it had been just as they had been told.
21. On the eighth day, when it was time for his b’rit-milah, he was given the name Yeshua, which is what the angel had called him before his conception.
On the eighth day, when it was time for his b'rit-milah, he was given the name Yeshua.Seel:59N, Mt 1:21N.

22. When the time came for their purification according to the Torah of Moshe, they took him up to Yerushalayim to present him to Adonai
23. (as it is written in the Torah of Adonai, "Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to Adonai") (Exodus 13:2, 12, 15)
24. and also to offer a sacrifice of a pair of doves or two young pigeons (Leviticus 12:8), as required by the Torah of Adonai.
22-24 These verses record the observance of two points of Jewish law, pidyon-haben (redemption of a firstborn son) and the purification of a mother alter childbirth.

The ceremony of redeeming the firstborn male son reminds the Jewish people of their redemption from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 13:2-16) and of avoiding the last of the Ten Plagues to afflict the Egyptians, the slaughter of their firstborn sons (Exodus 11:45, 12:29-30), by slaughtering a lamb in accordance with God's command and placing its blood on the doorposts; on seeing it the angel of death passed over the Israelite families (Exodus 12:3-14,21-28). Each family therefore dedicates its firstborn son to God's service but then redeems the boy for a payment of five sanctuary-.yftf?Ws (Numbers 18:16). In consequence God accepts instead the Levites, the descendants of Ya'akov's son L'vi, for service in the Tabernacle or Temple (Numbers 3:12-13,45; 8:14-19).

Pidyon-haben takes place after the son is thirty days old (Numbers 3:14). Today it is normally done on the thirty-first day, but that is not a biblical requirement. The narrative in v. 22 suggests either that Miryam and Yosef went up to Jerusalem at the time of pidyon-haben and remained there ten days until it was time for Miryam's purification, or that they delayed the pidyon-haben until the purification. Purification of a mother is described in Leviticus 12:1-8. The mother of a son remains ceremonially unclean for forty days after childbirth. On the forty-first day a sacrifice is offered.

"a one-year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or turtledove for a sin offering.... But if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take a pair of doves or two young pigeons..., and the cohen shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean." (Leviticus 12:6, 8) From Luke's quotation of this in v. 24 we learn that Yosef and Miryam were relatively poor. Today's Orthodox Jewish women cannot offer a sacrifice, since there is no Temple; but they immerse themselves in a mikveh in partial observance of the purification rite.

Their purification. Only Miryam was ritually impure, so the plural is unexpected. Luke may be thinking of her purification together with Yeshua's redemption rite. Or Yosef may have undergone ritual purification with Miryam; it was permitted though not commanded (compare Sha'uFs purification at Ac 21:22-27&NN). In our own times, even though neither the Written nor Oral Torah requires it, some Orthodox Jewish men immerse themselves in a mikveh on Friday afternoon in order to be ritually pure before the commencement of Shabbai. Torah, see Mt 5:17N. Up to Yerushalayim. see Mt 20:18N.

25. There was in Yerushalayim a man named Shim‘on. This man was a tzaddik, he was devout, he waited eagerly for God to comfort Isra’el, and the Ruach HaKodesh was upon him.
He waited eagerly for God to comfort Israel. This "comforting" is the main subject of the latter portion of the book of Isaiah (Chapters 40-66), to which Shim'on makes a number of allusions in vv. 29-35. The comforting was prophesied by Isaiah to come about through the Messiah (see Isaiah 40:1,49:13, 52:9).

26. It had been revealed to him by the Ruach HaKodesh that he would not die before he had seen the Messiah of Adonai.
27. Prompted by the Spirit, he went into the Temple courts; and when the parents brought in the child Yeshua to do for him what the Torah required,
28. Shim‘on took him in his arms, made a b’rakhah to God, and said,
29. “Now, Adonai, according to your word, your servant is at peace as you let him go;
30. for I have seen with my own eyes your yeshu‘ah,
Yeshu'ah. This renders Greek soterion: both words mean "salvation." But there is a wordplay here, because Hebrew yeshu'ah is also the feminine form of the Messiah's name, Yeshua (see Mt 1:21 &N).

31. which you prepared in the presence of all peoples —
32. a light that will bring revelation to the Goyim and glory to your people Isra’el.”
A light that will bring revelation to the Goyim. Compare Isaiah 42:6, "I am Adonai..., and I will appoint you as a covenant to the people," i.e., to the Jews, "and as a light to the goyim" (Gentiles, nations, pagans; see Mt 5:47N). Likewise Isaiah 49:6, "I will also make you a light of the govim," and Isaiah 51:4.

33. Yeshua’s father and mother were marvelling at the things Shim‘on was saying about him.
34. Shim‘on blessed them and said to the child’s mother, Miryam, “This child will cause many in Isra’el to fall and to rise, he will become a sign whom people will speak against;
Compare Isaiah 8:14.

35. moreover, a sword will pierce your own heart too. All this will happen in order to reveal many people’s inmost thoughts.”
36. There was also a prophet named Hannah Bat-P’nu’el, of the tribe of Asher. She was a very old woman — she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage
Tribe of Asher, one of the "ten lost tribes of Israel" which vanished after the conquest of the Northern Kingdom in 722 B.C.E. (see Yn 4:9N), leaving only the tribes of Y'hudah and Binyamin on the Land, plus the tribe of L'vi serving in the Temple. But individual families could preserve their identities and transmit their genealogies.

37. and had remained a widow ever since; now she was eighty-four. She never left the Temple grounds but worshipped there night and day, fasting and praying.
Now she was 84. Or, obviously with lower probability, "she had been a widow for 84 years."

38. She came by at that moment and began thanking God and speaking about the child to everyone who was waiting for Yerushalayim to be liberated.
Waiting for Yerushaiayim to be liberated or "redeemed." Compare Isaiah 52:9, "For Adonai has comforted his people; he has redeemed Yerushaiayim." All the Isaiah passages quoted above in vv. 25-28 draw heavily on the portions of Isaiah that identify the Messiah with the people Israel; see v. 25N, Mt 2:15N.

39. When Yosef and Miryam had finished doing everything required by the Torah of Adonai, they returned to the Galil, to their town Natzeret.
40. The child grew and became strong and filled with wisdom — God’s favor was upon him.
41. Every year Yeshua’s parents went to Yerushalayim for the festival of Pesach.
His parents went to Yerushalayim for the festival of Pesach. There were three "pilgrim festivals" in the Jewish calendar when all Israel was supposed to appear at "the place where Adonai chooses to establish his name" (Deuteronomy 16:2) — Pesach ("Passover"; see Mt 26:2N), Shavu 'ot ("Weeks," "Pentecost"; see Ac 2:1N), and Sukkot ("Tabernacles," "Booths"; see Yn 7:2N). Not all Jews obeyed the requirement, especially those as far away as Natzeret; but, being observant and pious Jews, Miryam and Yosef went every year.

42. When he was twelve years old, they went up for the festival, as custom required.
When he was twelve years old. This single incident from Yeshua's "silent years" (see 2:52N) took place near the age at which a Jewish boy today undergoes his bar-mitzvah ceremony and becomes a "son of the commandment," personally responsible for keeping the Torah given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. At this time he dons t'fillin for the first time officially (see Mt 23:5N), and for the first time he is given an aliyah (call-up) to come to the bitnah (lectern) and read from the sefer-Torah (Torah scroll) in a synagogue service. Verses 46-47 suggest a comparable "coming out" for Yeshua, but there the parallel ends. Bar-mitzvah did not start to become a major ceremonial event in the Jewish life-cycle until the Middle Ages, and only in modem times has it become the focus of grandiose celebrations. Moreover, the age for bar-mitzvah is not twelve but thirteen.

43. But after the festival was over, when his parents returned, Yeshua remained in Yerushalayim. They didn’t realize this;
44. supposing that he was somewhere in the caravan, they spent a whole day on the road before they began searching for him among their relatives and friends.
45. Failing to find him, they returned to Yerushalayim to look for him.
46. On the third day they found him — he was sitting in the Temple court among the rabbis, not only listening to them but questioning what they said;
47. and everyone who heard him was astonished at his insight and his responses.
Questioning what they said... his responses. This questioning or "putting sh 'eilot" (see Mt 22:23N) was not one-sided querying but dialogue, since Yeshua answered the rabbis' return-questions. Thus, there was a real intellectual exchange going on, and the listeners were amazed at how well this twelve-year-old was holding up his side of it.

48. When his parents saw him, they were shocked; and his mother said to him, “Son! Why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been terribly worried looking for you!”
Why have you done this to us? Miryam's question is misplaced. Upset as she and Yosef may have been while searching several days for their child, they should, according to Yeshua's response in the following verse, have known where to look, especially in the light of what had already been revealed to them about their son (Mattityahu 1-2, Luke 1-2). The narrative does not suggest that Yeshua, by "getting himself lost," had misbehaved, but that Miryam, like many worried mothers, had overreacted.

49. He said to them, “Why did you have to look for me? Didn’t you know that I had to be concerning myself with my Father’s affairs?”
50. But they didn’t understand what he meant.
51. So he went with them to Natzeret and was obedient to them. But his mother stored up all these things in her heart.
52. And Yeshua grew both in wisdom and in stature, gaining favor both with other people and with God.
In this verse and v. 40 we are told everything the New Testament has to say about Yeshua's life between the ages of about two (Mt 2:16) and thirty (below, 3:23), except for Ihe single incident at age twelve (vv. 41-51) and the fact that he was known in Natzeret as a carpenter (Mk 6:1-4). Humanly he grew in wisdom, even though divinely he is Wisdom. God was gracious and sensible enough not to burden us with too much to read or with unnecessary details, for "of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh" (Ecclesiastes 12:12); moreover, "there are also many other things Yeshua did; and if they were all to be written down, 1 don't think the whole world could contain the books that would have to be written!" (Yn 21:25). A biographer would have told more; since the writers of the Gospels were not primarily biographers but communicators of the Good News, they wrote only what people needed to know for their own spiritual well-being.

But that has not dispelled curiosity about the most famous human being in history; so that a number of false gospels were written in ancient times, purporting to describe Yeshua's life during this "silent period"; many of them have been collected in Wilhelm Schneemelcher, ed.. New Testament Apocrypha (English translation by R. McL. Wilson, 2 volumes, Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1963). Not only that, but in modem times new religions have attempted to undermine the truth of the New Testament by co-opting "the Christ" into their own value systems. In their spiritual equivalent of gossip-sheets they have invented stories that Jesus travelled to India, studied yoga with Far Eastern "masters," was visited by extraterrestrial beings, and performed various miracles and works of magic.

All of this satisfies the "itching ears" of those "ever learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Ti 4:3, 3:7). There is not the slightest evidence that Yeshua did anything between ages 12 and 30 other than live the life expected of the Jewish son of a Jewish carpenter in the Galil (Mt 13:55, Mk6:3). On the contrary, had he been absent for eighteen years his contemporaries would not have been as familiar with him as Yn 6:42 shows they were. The purpose of these elaborate fabrications is, on the one hand, to cater to people's pride in having some supposedly superior knowledge, and, on the other, to draw attention away from the central message of the New Testament — the Bad News that human beings are separated from God by their sins and stand in need of atonement, and the Good News that the Messiah Yeshua has made that once-for-all atonement and offers it to anyone who will trust him and his word.

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