Merry Christmas everyone!  Tonight is Christmas Eve, and in order to finish all my Advent translating I worked through thirty verses yesterday and then another thirty today.  I really feel like I’m inside Luke’s head.  The reading for this week moved away from Matthew and into familiar Christmasy passages from Luke 1.  Tomorrow I will finish the journey at church where we will read Luke 2:1-20.

Advent week 1

Advent week 2

Advent week 3

Luke 1 contains lengthy poems, both the Magnificat and Zechariah’s prophecy.  There are also some very interesting angelic visits.  As always, my commentary is in italics in the brackets.


Luke 1:1-80

I noticed that many undertook to compile an account of the events which have happened among us.  They became servants of the word and handed down to us eyewitnesses from the beginning.  It seemed good to me, after studying it, to write you everything accurately, structured, and from the beginning, noble Theophilus that you might learn the word with certainty.

It happened in the days of Herod, King of the Jews, that there was a priest whose name was Zechariah, from the order of Abijah and his wife was from the daughters of Aaron.  Her name was Elizabeth.  They were both blameless servants before God keeping all the commandments and the pronouncements of the Lord.  They had no children because Elizabeth was barren.  Both of them were old.

Now the time for his group in the order to serve before God came.  It was the custom of the order to determine by lot who went into the Temple of the Lord to burn incense.  All the people were outside praying when the hour of the incense came.

An Angel of the Lord appeared to him standing at the right of the incense altar.  Zechariah was troubled when he saw it and fear fell upon him.  Then the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid Zechariah because your prayers were heard and your wife Elizabeth will have a son and you will name him John.  He will be a joy and gladness to you and many will rejoice at his birth.  He will be great before the Lord.  He shall not drink wine or liquor for he will be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb.  He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.  In the Spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him [The him here is the Lord—He will go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah] to return the hearts of parents to children and the disobedient to righteous wisdom, to get people ready to prepare for the Lord.  [There are two different verbs which mean ‘prepare’ here.  Both must refer to the people and the work John will do.  Neither verb is an infinitive, but I have tried to capture the feeling.]

Zechariah said to the angel, “How can this happen?  I myself am old and my wife is also old.”

The angel answered and said, “I myself am Gabriel, who stands before God and he sent me to speak to you and to bring this good news to you.  Behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day this happens for you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their time.”  [I never realized just how long Gabriel’s speech is in this passage.  His language has a formality to it that feels very much like pronouncements, not dialogue.]

And the people were waiting for Zechariah and they wondered at his delay in the Temple.  When he came out he was unable to speak to them and they realized that he had seen a vision in the Temple.  He kept making signs to them and he remained mute throughout.  He did fulfill the days of his service and then went home.  Now, right after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived but she hid it for five months, saying, “So this is how the Lord has worked in these days.  He looked upon me to take away my shame before people.”

Then in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to the city of Nazareth in Galilee to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph who was from the house of David.  The name of the virgin was mary [Actually, Mariam in the GNT.  Both Joseph and Mariam are very Hebrew names.  Likewise, for reasons beyond me Zechariah in the earlier text ought to be Zachariah, but traditionally it is rendered Zechariah.]  he went into her and said, “Rejoice you who have been graced.  The Lord is with you.”

At this word she was deeply disturbed and wondered what this type of greeting might mean?  The angel said to her, “Do not fear Mary for you found grace from God.

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and you will bear a son and name him Jesus.  This one will be great and he will be called an exalted son and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David.  He will reign over the house of Jacob forever and his kingdom will never end.”

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be since I’m not sexually active?”  [the actual wording in Greek is “since a man not I know.”  In the Bible, the verb ‘to know’ is an idiom for sex.  This is true in the Hebrew as well as Greek, hence Adam “knew” his wife.  The other problem here is the tense.  Mary speaks in the present tense, which makes English options difficult, although in Greek it makes perfect sense because it speaks of a present situation.  That is why I opted for ‘sexually active.’  I know that it is a jarring phrase, but keep in mind, regardless of what violence we do to the Bible stories in church children’s literature, the Bible is an adult book with adult themes.  Mary’s statement is supposed to be unnerving.]

The angel answered and said, “Holy Spirit will come to you and overshadow you with exalted power, therefore the child being born is holy.  He will be called Son of God.  Behold, your relative Elizabeth, the one called ‘barren’ has conceived a son in her old age.  She is six months along.  It is not impossible for God to do all these things. [things=words (rhema) in GNT]

Mary said, “Behold I am the Lord’s servant.  May it be to me according to your words,” and the angel left her.

Mary rose up in those days and traveled with haste to a Judean city in the hill country.  She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth.

Then what happened is that as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant jumped in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  She screamed a loud shout and said, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  And how is it that the mother of my Lord might come to visit me?  For it happened at the sound of your greeting in my ear the infant jumped with gladness in my womb.  Blessed is the one who believes that it will be completed what has been spoken to her by the Lord.”

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit is gladdened by God my savior because he looked upon the humility of his servant.  For behold, all generations will say [There is no verb here in the Greek for “say” or “call” so something has to be added to smooth it over.  The lack of a verb her is not an omission or a sign of chopped speech, but instead reflects careful poetic thought for word choice.  The verb is assumed.] I am blessed from now on because of the great things The Almighty did for me.  His name is holy.  His mercy to those fearing him is from generation to generation.  He strengthened his arms and scattered those with arrogant thoughts in their hearts.  He deposed the powerful from thrones and exalted the humble.  He filled those who were hungry with good food and he sent away the wealthy empty handed.  He took care of Israel his child, remembering mercy.  Just as he said to our fathers, to Abraham and his offspring forever.” [In translating the Magnificat, two things are apparent.  One, Luke did not compose this.  The language, style, and vocabulary are not from his hand.  He was obviously using a written source.  Two, the language is careful and poetic, artistic and theological.  Some have argued a young Jewish girl could not have written this.  That is a different argument.  However, it was composed by someone who knew what she was doing.]

She remained with her three months and returned to her own home.

Then Elizabeth’s time came to give birth and she had a son.  Her neighbors and relatives heard about the Lord’s magnificent mercy to her and so they rejoiced with her.

The eighth day came and they went to circumcise the child and they named him after his father Zechariah.  His mother answered and said, “No, name him John!”

They said to her, “There is no one from your family that is called by that name.”  Then the father nodded his head that this is what they wished to name him.  Asking for a writing tablet he wrote saying, “His name is John,” and everyone marveled.  His mouth and tongue were opened and immediately he spoke blessings to God.  Fear came as their neighbors and the whole Judean hill country as they heard these words.  It settled on all of them as they heard about it such that in their hearts [heart is singular in GNT] they were saying, “What then will this child be?”  For the hand of God was with him.

His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and he prophesied saying,

“Blessed is the Lord God of Israel for he visited and ransomed his people.  He raised up a horn of salvation in the house of David, his child to us.  Just as he spoke by his prophets, the holy ones from the past.  Salvation from our enemies and from the hand of everyone who hates us.  To have mercy on our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham to give to us.  Not to fear the hand of our enemies for we will be rescued to serve before him in holiness and righteousness all our days.  And you, child, will be called a prophet of the most high for you will lead before the Lord to prepare his way to give knowledge of salvation by forgiveness of their sins to his people.  By the compassionate mercy of our God he will look upon us as the dawn from above to shine in the darkness and upon those sitting in the darkness of death, to guide our feet in the way of peace.”

The child grew and became strong in the Spirit and was in the desert until the day of his proclamation to Israel.


I apologize for the tardiness of this blog.  It was supposed to be posted last week, but, alas, many things emerged which prevented that.  I will be running silently for the next week or so but I wanted to get these wonderful Advent passages, especially the Magnificat, posted first. 

John 5:30-37

I am not able to do anything myself. I judge just as I hear, and my judgment is righteous, because I do not seek my will but the will of the one who sent me. If I bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. But if there is another who bears witness about me, he knows the testimony is true and is a witness about me. You have sent to John, and he has born witness to truth. But I myself do not receive from any man’s witness, but these things I say so that you may be saved. This one was a burning, shining lamp and you were willing for a little while to exult in his cry. But I myself have a greater witness than John, the works I have done by my Father so that I might complete them. These works I do testify about me that the Father has sent me. The Father who sent me has testified about me, neither have you heard his voice nor seen his likeness. His word you do not have abiding in you, because this one, this one you do not believe. Research the scriptures, so that you yourself suppose to have eternal life in them; these also testify about me. But you do not wish to come to me so that you may have life. I have not received glory from men. But I know you that the love of God you do not have in yourselves. I have come in the name of my Father, and you do not accept me. If another should come in his own name, this one you would accept. How are you able to trust in receive praise from one another and the praise from the only God you do not seek? Do not think that I myself will accuse you to the Father when the one accusing you is Moses, and he is the one you have hoped in. For if you believed in Moses, you would believe in me; it was about me Moses wrote! But if you do not believe the scripture, how will you believe in my words?

Luke 1:5-25

It happened in those days that Herod was king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah from the Abijah division whose wife was from the daughter of Aaron and her name was Elizabeth. Now both of them were righteous before God, following all the commandments and pronouncements blamelessly. They had no children because Elizabeth was barren and they were both advanced in years. It came time for his scheduled service with his division before God. According to custom, he was chose by lot to be the priest who would go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. All the multitude of the people was praying at the hour of the incense. But he saw an angel of the Lord standing at the right of the incense altar. He was troubled, and fear fell upon Zechariah. Then the angel said to him, “Do not fear, Zechariah, because your prayers have been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to your son and you will call his name John. He will be your joy and exultation and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great before the Lord, and wine and strong drink he may not drink. The Holy Spirit will fill him even from his mother’s womb. Many of the children of Israel will turn to the Lord their God. The spirit and power of Elijah will go before him, to return the hearts of parents to their children and to a knowledge of righteousness; to prepare a people to the Lord who have been prepared.” And Zechariah said to the angel, “How can anyone know this? For I myself am old and my wife is advanced in her days.” The Angel answered, he said to him, “I myself am Gabriel, the one standing before God and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring good news to you. Behold, you will be silent and not able to speak until these days are finished, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in due time.” And the people were waiting for Zechariah and marveled at the time he was in the sanctuary. Now when he came out he was unable to speak to them, and they knew he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He was making signs to them and remained dumb. After his term of service was fulfilled, he returned to his house. After these days, Elizabeth, his wife, conceived and hid herself away five months saying, “That the Lord has acted in this way to me, he looked upon me to remove my shame among people.”

Luke 1:26-38

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee named Nazareth to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph. He was from the house of David and the virgins name was Mary. Coming toward her he said, “Rejoice! Grace has been given to you. The Lord is with you.” Now at these words she was disturbed and wondered what kind of greeting this was. The angel said to her, “Do not fear, Mary, for you found grace from God. Behold, you yourself will conceive in the womb and bear a son and call his name Jesus. He will be great and a son of The Most High and the Lord will give to him the throne of David his father. He will reign upon the house of Jacob in this age and his reign will never end.” Now Mary said to the angel, “How is this, since I know no man?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit, he will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, therefore the one born will be called Holy Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth, who was called barren has conceived a son in her old age and is six months along because no word from God will be impossible.” Now Mary said, “Behold, I am a servant of the Lord; may it happen to me according to your word.” And the angel went away from her.

Luke 1:39-56

 Now in those days Mary set out with haste to go to a city of Judea that was out in the highlands. She went to the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard the greeting from Mary, the baby in her womb jumped, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she called out loudly and said, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how is this that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ear, the baby in my womb jumped in exultation. Happy is she who believed that the Lord will accomplish what he has told her.” And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit exults upon God my savior. That he saw the humility of his servant, for behold, from now on all generations will call me happy, for the Almighty did great things to me. Holy is his name. His mercy is given in generation after generation to those fearing him. He acted by his power and might, he scattered those who were arrogant in their own mind and heart. He deposed rulers from thrones and lifted up the humble. He filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty handed. He took in Israel as his child, remembering mercy, just as he said to our fathers, “In Abraham and in his seed forever.” Now Mary remained with her three months and then returned to her house.

Luke 1:57-66

 Now when Elizabeth’s time came to give birth she had a son. Her relatives and all those living nearby heard that the Lord multiplied his mercy toward her and they rejoiced together. On the eighth day they went to circumcise the child and to name him by the name of his father, Zechariah. But the mother answered, saying “No, he will be called John.” They said to her that, “There is no one from your family called by that name.” Then his father nodded that was his wish as well. He asked for a writing tablet. He wrote saying, “His name is John.” Everyone marveled. Instantly his mouth and tongue now was opened and he spoke a blessing to God. Fear came upon everyone of those living nearby. The whole highlands of Judea kept talking about it. Everyone who heard about it took it to heart saying, “What is this child to be? For the hand of the Lord was with him.”