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Luke 1:5-25

Context
Birth Announcement of John the Baptist

1:5 During the reign 1  of Herod 2  king of Judea, there lived a priest named Zechariah who belonged to 3  the priestly division of Abijah, 4  and he had a wife named Elizabeth, 5  who was a descendant of Aaron. 6  1:6 They 7  were both righteous in the sight of God, following 8  all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. 9  1:7 But they did not have a child, because Elizabeth was barren, 10  and they were both very old. 11 

1:8 Now 12  while Zechariah 13  was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 14  1:9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, 15  to enter 16  the holy place 17  of the Lord and burn incense. 1:10 Now 18  the whole crowd 19  of people were praying outside at the hour of the incense offering. 20  1:11 An 21  angel of the Lord, 22  standing on the right side of the altar of incense, appeared 23  to him. 1:12 And Zechariah, visibly shaken when he saw the angel, 24  was seized with fear. 25  1:13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, 26  and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son; you 27  will name him John. 28  1:14 Joy and gladness will come 29  to you, and many will rejoice at 30  his birth, 31  1:15 for he will be great in the sight of 32  the Lord. He 33  must never drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. 34  1:16 He 35  will turn 36  many of the people 37  of Israel to the Lord their God. 1:17 And he will go as forerunner before the Lord 38  in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, 39  to make ready for the Lord a people prepared for him.”

1:18 Zechariah 40  said to the angel, “How can I be sure of this? 41  For I am an old man, and my wife is old as well.” 42  1:19 The 43  angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands 44  in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring 45  you this good news. 1:20 And now, 46  because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, 47  you will be silent, unable to speak, 48  until the day these things take place.”

1:21 Now 49  the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they began to wonder 50  why he was delayed in the holy place. 51  1:22 When 52  he came out, he was not able to speak to them. They 53  realized that he had seen a vision 54  in the holy place, 55  because 56  he was making signs to them and remained unable to speak. 57  1:23 When his time of service was over, 58  he went to his home.

1:24 After some time 59  his wife Elizabeth became pregnant, 60  and for five months she kept herself in seclusion. 61  She said, 62  1:25 “This is what 63  the Lord has done for me at the time 64  when he has been gracious to me, 65  to take away my disgrace 66  among people.” 67 

1 tn Grk “It happened that in the days.” The introductory phrase ἐγένετο (egeneto, “it happened that”), common in Luke (69 times) and Acts (54 times), is redundant in contemporary English and has not been translated.

2 sn Herod was Herod the Great, who ruled Palestine from 37 b.c. until he died in 4 b.c. He was known for his extensive building projects (including the temple in Jerusalem) and for his cruelty.

3 tn Grk “of”; but the meaning of the preposition ἐκ (ek) is more accurately expressed in contemporary English by the relative clause “who belonged to.”

4 sn There were twenty-four divisions of priesthood and the priestly division of Abijah was eighth on the list according to 1 Chr 24:10.

5 tn Grk “and her name was Elizabeth.”

6 tn Grk “a wife of the daughters of Aaron.”

sn It was not unusual for a priest to have a wife from a priestly family (a descendant of Aaron); this was regarded as a special blessing.

7 tn Grk “And they.” Because of the difference between Greek style, which often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” and English style, which generally does not, καί (kai) has not been translated here.

8 tn Grk “walking in” (an idiom for one’s lifestyle).

sn The description of Zechariah and Elizabeth as following… blamelessly was not to say that they were sinless, but that they were faithful and pious. Thus a practical righteousness is meant here (Gen 6:8; Deut 28:9).

9 tn The predicate adjective has the effect of an adverb here (BDF §243).

10 sn Elizabeth was barren. Both Zechariah and Elizabeth are regarded by Luke as righteous in the sight of God, following all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly (v. 6). With this language, reminiscent of various passages in the OT, Luke is probably drawing implicit comparisons to the age and barrenness of such famous OT personalities as Abraham and Sarah (see, e.g., Gen 18:9-15), the mother of Samson (Judg 13:2-5), and Hannah, the mother of Samuel (1 Sam 1:1-20). And, as it was in the case of these OT saints, so it is with Elizabeth: After much anguish and seeking the Lord, she too is going to have a son in her barrenness. In that day it was a great reproach to be childless, for children were a sign of God’s blessing (cf. Gen 1:28; Lev 20:20-21; Pss 127 and 128; Jer 22:30). As the dawn of salvation draws near, however, God will change this elderly couple’s grief into great joy and grant them the one desire time had rendered impossible.

11 tn Grk “were both advanced in days” (an idiom for old age).

12 tn Grk “Now it happened that.” The introductory phrase ἐγένετο (egeneto, “it happened that”), common in Luke (69 times) and Acts (54 times), is redundant in contemporary English and has not been translated.

13 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Zechariah) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

14 tn Grk “serving as priest in the order of his division before God.”

sn Zechariah’s division would be on duty twice a year for a week at a time.

15 tn Grk “according to the custom of the priesthood it fell to him by lot.” The order of the clauses has been rearranged in the translation to make it clear that the prepositional phrase κατὰ τὸ ἔθος τῆς ἱερατείας (kata to eqo" th" Jierateia", “according to the custom of the priesthood”) modifies the phrase “it fell to him by lot” rather than the preceding clause.

16 tn This is an aorist participle and is temporally related to the offering of incense, not to when the lot fell.

17 tn Or “temple.” Such sacrifices, which included the burning of incense, would have occurred in the holy place according to the Mishnah (m. Tamid 1.2; 3.1; 5-7). A priest would have given this sacrifice, which was offered for the nation, once in one’s career. It would be offered either at 9 a.m. or 3 p.m., since it was made twice a day.

18 tn Grk “And,” but “now” better represents the somewhat parenthetical nature of this statement in the flow of the narrative.

19 tn Grk “all the multitude.” While “assembly” is sometimes used here to translate πλῆθος (plhqo"), that term usually implies in English a specific or particular group of people. However, this was simply a large group gathered outside, which was not unusual, especially for the afternoon offering.

20 tn The “hour of the incense offering” is another way to refer to the time of sacrifice.

21 tn Grk “And an angel.” Because of the difference between Greek style, which often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” and English style, which generally does not, δέ (de) has not been translated here.

22 tn Or “the angel of the Lord.” Linguistically, “angel of the Lord” is the same in both testaments (and thus, he is either “an angel of the Lord” or “the angel of the Lord” in both testaments). For arguments and implications, see ExSyn 252; M. J. Davidson, “Angels,” DJG, 9; W. G. MacDonald argues for “an angel” in both testaments: “Christology and ‘The Angel of the Lord’,” Current Issues in Biblical and Patristic Interpretation, 324-35.

23 sn This term is often used to describe a supernatural appearance (24:34; Acts 2:3; 7:2, 30, 35; 9:17; 13:31; 16:9; 26:16).

24 tn The words “the angel” are not in the Greek text, but are implied. Direct objects were frequently omitted in Greek when clear from the context.

25 tn Or “and he was afraid”; Grk “fear fell upon him.” Fear is common when supernatural agents appear (1:29-30, 65; 2:9; 5:8-10; 9:34; 24:38; Exod 15:16; Judg 6:22-23; 13:6, 22; 2 Sam 6:9).

26 tn The passive means that the prayer was heard by God.

sn Your prayer has been heard. Zechariah’s prayer while offering the sacrifice would have been for the nation, but the answer to the prayer also gave them a long hoped-for child, a hope they had abandoned because of their old age.

27 tn Grk “a son, and you”; καί (kai) has not been translated. Instead a semicolon is used in the translation for stylistic reasons.

28 tn Grk “you will call his name John.” The future tense here functions like a command (see ExSyn 569-70). This same construction occurs in v. 31.

snDo not be afraid…you must call his name John.” This is a standard birth announcement (see Gen 16:11; Isa 7:14; Matt 1:21; Luke 1:31).

29 tn Grk “This will be joy and gladness.”

30 tn Or “because of.”

31 tn “At his birth” is more precise as the grammatical subject (1:58), though “at his coming” is a possible force, since it is his mission, as the following verses note, that will really bring joy.

32 tn Grk “before.”

33 tn Grk “and he”; because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, the conjunction καί (kai) has not been translated here. Instead a new English sentence is begun in the translation.

34 tn Grk “even from his mother’s womb.” While this idiom may be understood to refer to the point of birth (“even from his birth”), Luke 1:41 suggests that here it should be understood to refer to a time before birth.

sn He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. This is the language of the birth of a prophet (Judg 13:5, 7; Isa 49:1; Jer 1:5; Sir 49:7); see 1:41 for the first fulfillment.

35 tn Grk “And he.” Here καί (kai) has not been translated because of differences between Greek and English style.

36 sn The word translated will turn is a good summary term for repentance and denotes John’s call to a change of direction (Luke 3:1-14).

37 tn Grk “sons”; but clearly this is a generic reference to people of both genders.

38 tn Grk “before him”; the referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

39 sn These two lines cover all relationships: Turn the hearts of the fathers back to their children points to horizontal relationships, while (turn) the disobedient to the wisdom of the just shows what God gives from above in a vertical manner.

40 tn Grk “And Zechariah.” Here καί (kai) has not been translated because of differences between Greek and English style.

41 tn Grk “How will I know this?”

42 tn Grk “is advanced in days” (an idiom for old age).

43 tn Grk “And the.” Here καί (kai) has not been translated because of differences between Greek and English style.

44 tn Grk “the one who is standing before God.”

45 tn Grk “to announce these things of good news to you.”

46 tn Grk “behold.”

47 sn The predicted fulfillment in the expression my words, which will be fulfilled in their time takes place in Luke 1:63-66.

48 sn Silent, unable to speak. Actually Zechariah was deaf and mute as 1:61-63 indicates, since others had to use gestures to communicate with him.

49 tn Grk “And.” Here καί (kai) has been translated as “now” to indicate the transition to a new topic.

50 tn The imperfect verb ἐθαύμαζον (eqaumazon) has been translated as an ingressive imperfect.

51 tn Or “temple.” See the note on the phrase “the holy place” in v. 9.

52 tn Grk “And when.” Here καί (kai) has not been translated because of differences between Greek and English style.

53 tn Grk “and they.” Here καί (kai) has not been translated because of differences between Greek and English style.

54 tn That is, “he had had a supernatural encounter in the holy place,” since the angel came to Zechariah by the altar. This was not just a “mental experience.”

55 tn Or “temple.” See the note on the phrase “the holy place” in v. 9.

56 tn Grk “and,” but the force is causal or explanatory in context.

57 tn Grk “dumb,” but this could be understood to mean “stupid” in contemporary English, whereas the point is that he was speechless.

58 tn Grk “And it happened that as the days of his service were ended.” The introductory phrase ἐγένετο (egeneto, “it happened that”), common in Luke (69 times) and Acts (54 times), is redundant in contemporary English and has not been translated.

59 tn Grk “After these days.” The phrase refers to a general, unspecified period of time that passes before fulfillment comes.

60 tn Or “Elizabeth conceived.”

61 sn The text does not state why Elizabeth withdrew into seclusion, nor is the reason entirely clear.

62 tn Grk “she kept herself in seclusion, saying.” The participle λέγουσα (legousa) has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.

63 tn Grk “Thus.”

64 tn Grk “in the days.”

65 tn Grk “has looked on me” (an idiom for taking favorable notice of someone).

66 sn Barrenness was often seen as a reproach or disgrace (Lev 20:20-21; Jer 22:30), but now at her late age (the exact age is never given in Luke’s account), God had miraculously removed it (see also Luke 1:7).

67 tn Grk “among men”; but the context clearly indicates a generic use of ἄνθρωπος (anqrwpo") here.



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