Gospel of Luke 01 (ch. 1, 2)


Bailey, Kenneth E..  The Cross & the Prodigal: Luke 15 Through the eyes of Middle Eastern Peasants, second edition.  (IVP Books, Downers Grove IL, 2005).

————————-  Finding the Lost Cultural Keys to Luke 15.  (Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis MO, 1992).

————————-  Jacob and the Prodigal: How Jesus Retold Israel’s Story.  (Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove IL, 2003).

Byrne, Brendan.  The Hospitality of God: a Reading of Luke’s Gospel.  (Liturgical Press, 2000 , Collegeville MN).

Craddock, Fred B.  Luke.  Part of Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching edited by James L. Mays.   (John Knox Press, Louisville, 1990).


Culy, Martin M., Mikeal C. Parsons, and Joshua J. Stigall.  Luke: A Handbook on the Greek Text.  (Baylor University Press, 2010, Waco TX).


Fitzmyer, Joseph A.  The Gospel According to Luke I – IX.  A New translation with Introduction and commentary.  Part of the Anchor Bible Commentary Series edited by W. F. Albright and David Noel Freedman.  (Doubleday, New York, 1970).


————————–  The Gospel According to Luke X – XXIV.  A New translation with Introduction and commentary.  Part of the Anchor Bible Commentary Series edited by W. F. Albright and David Noel Freedman.  (Doubleday, New York, 1985).


Gillman, John.  Luke: Stories of Joy and Salvation.  Part of the Spiritual Commentaries on the Bible series edited by Mary Ann Getty-Sullivan.  (New City Press, Hyde Park NY, 2002).


Gonzalez, Justo L.  Luke.  Part of the Belief: A theological commentary on the Bible series, Amy Plantinga Pauw and William C. Placher General Editors.  (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 2010).


Hendrickx, Herman.  The Third Gospel for the Third World.  (Liturgical Press, Collegeville MN, 1997).

  • Volume One – Luke 1:1-2:52
  • Volume Two – A  Luke 3:1-6:49
  • Volume Two – B  Luke 7:1-9:50
  • Volume Three – A  Luke 9:51-13:21
  • Volume Three – B  Luke 13:22-17:10
  • Volume Three-C  Luke 17:11-19:44
  • Volume Four  – A  Luke 19:45-21:38


Johnson, Luke Timothy.  The Gospel of Luke.  Part of the Sacra Pagina biblical commentary series edited by Daniel J. Harrington S.J..  (Liturgical Press, Collegeville MN, 1991).

Levine, Amy-Jill and Marc Zvi Brettler editors.  The Jewish Annotated New Testament / New Revised Standard Version Bible Translation.  (Oxford University Press, New York, 2011).

Marshall, I. Howard.  The Gospel of Luke.  Part of the New International Greek Testament Commentary (NIGTC) series edited by I. Howard Marshall and Donald A. Hagner.  (Eerdmans, 1978, Grand Rapids MI)

McKenna, Megan.  Luke: The Book of Blessings and Woes.  (New City Press, Hyde Park NY, 2009).

Patella, Michael F..  The Gospel According to Luke.  Part of the New Collegeville Bible Commentary edited by Daniel Durken O.S.B.  (Liturgical Press, Collegeville MN, 2005).

Walker, Thomas W..  Luke.  Part of the Interpretation Bible Studies series .  (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 2001).


Grand overview: In the Gospel of Luke Jesus brings the good news of God’s love to Jerusalem, in the Acts of the Apostles the church brings the same message from Jerusalem to the world / Gentiles.

Byrne p.13: “… it is clear that we have been drawn into a context of expectation – the expectation that God who has promised salvation to Israel will very soon make good that promise by setting Israel free.  An essential feature of the infancy stories in Luke is the acknowledgment on the part of key characters in the drama (Mary, Elizabeth, Zechariah, Simeon, Anna) that in the births of John and Jesus the long-awaited salvation has dawned.”  This is the “meta-narrative”, the larger narrative in which the story of Jesus is situated.


Chapter 1


Byrne p. 9: Luke adheres closely to the prologues of Greek literary works of the times.

Luke possesses a tradition and wishes to pass it on to others.  He is conscious of his imposition of “order” to his work.  OUR presumption of order might be of “historical order of events” – A happened before B, then came C etc.  But this is OUR presumption of order and not necessarily Luke’s.  Byrne p. 10 and others see the “ordering” as the intention to tell the story (stories) in a coherent way – not a mish-mash of things in arbitrary fashion.

Luke is clear of his larger purpose – “that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received”.  The gospel is a document rooted in Luke’s faith to confirm and solidify the faith of others.  Byrne p. 10 sees the story of Road to Emmaus (post-Easter) as a paradigm of this –  Jesus tells and  interprets all of the scriptures for the two disciples as they walked along so that they finally grasped the meaning of them.

Theophilus = “God lover” in Greek. Perhaps a real person or a rich patron, more likely a stand-in for many individual formerly pagan / Gentile believers.

Sidebar theme: birth announcements

Byrne p. 17: “The motif of barrenness implies a blockage on the human side that only God’s power can overcome.  If  new life, leadership and rescue for the people are to arise out of such a situation, it can only come about through the direct action of God.”

Biblical (OT) “birth” announcements for older barren women:

  • Samson (Judges 13:2-5):  There was a certain man from Zorah, of the clan of the Danites,  whose name was Manoah. His wife was barren and had borne no children.   An angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her: Though you are barren and have had no children, you will conceive and bear a son.  Now, then, be careful to drink no wine or beer and to eat nothing unclean, for you will conceive and bear a son. No razor shall touch his head, for the boy is to be a nazirite for God from the womb. It is he who will begin to save Israel from the power of the Philistines.
  • Samuel (1 Sam.1:9-20): Hannah rose after one such meal at Shiloh, and presented herself before the LORD; at the time Eli the priest was sitting on a chair near the doorpost of the LORD’s temple. In her bitterness she prayed to the LORD, weeping freely, and made this vow: “O LORD of hosts, if you look with pity on the hardship of your servant, if you remember me and do not forget me, if you give your handmaid a male child, I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life. No razor shall ever touch his head.”  …  Eli said, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have requested.” She replied, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes,” and left. She went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and no longer appeared downhearted. Early the next morning they worshiped before the LORD, and then returned to their home in Ramah. When they returned Elkanah had intercourse with his wife Hannah, and the LORD remembered her.  She conceived and, at the end of her pregnancy, bore a son whom she named Samuel.
  • Isaac (Genesis 18:9-14) : “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There in the tent,” he replied. One of them* said, “I will return to you about this time next year, and Sarah will then have a son.” Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent, just behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years, and Sarah had stopped having her menstrual periods. So Sarah laughed* to herself and said, “Now that I am worn out and my husband is old, am I still to have sexual pleasure?”  But the LORD said to Abraham: “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really bear a child, old as I am?’  Is anything too marvelous for the LORD to do? At the appointed time, about this time next year, I will return to you, and Sarah will have a son.”



Sidebar – schematic structure of Chapters 1 and 2

Byrne p. 20

John the Baptist                                               Jesus

Annunciation                                                     Annunciation

Birth (short)                                                       Birth (long)

Circumcision (long)                                          Circumcision (short)

Wilderness                                                         Temple


Announcement of the Birth of John

The gospel open with a scene in the Temple, it will draw to its end in the Temple.  The Temple will play a large role throughout the gospel.  It is the place of sacrifice and reconciliation with God, it is the center of the Judaism of the times.

Zechariah and Elizabeth are righteous, observant, and blameless.  All seems well.  Except that she is also barren – things are not so well.  What is God doing here?  If we see them as representative of the best of Israel the same question is being asked – for those who are righteous, observant, and blameless – why is God delaying his promise of salvation and freedom???

A miracle, consistent with those of the past, will take place.

“I am Gabriel” in verse 1:19.  See Daniel Chapter 9:21ff  for Gabriel’s role in announcing the coming of the messiah. : “

I was still praying, when the man, Gabriel, whom I had seen in vision before, came to me in flight at the time of the evening offering.  He instructed me in these words: “Daniel, I have now come to give you understanding.   When you began your petition, an answer was given which I have come to announce, because you are beloved. Therefore, mark the answer and understand the vision.


“Seventy weeks are decreed

for your people and for your holy city:

Then transgression will stop and sin will end,

guilt will be expiated,

Everlasting justice will be introduced,

vision and prophecy ratified,

and a holy of holies will be anointed. ….


Announcement of the Birth of Jesus

Notice that the shift from Zechariah to Mary is a shift in power and importance – from the Temple to Nazareth far away, from the powerful priest chosen to enter the sanctuary to a poor girl in a village.  The barrier to conception here is not old age / barrenness but her young age / virginity.  It is almost as if these stories will emphasize that whatever the problem God will overcome it, from A to Z.

A miracle, something new, will take place.  Similar but different.  God is at work.

Like Zechariah she raises an objection / question – but she is not punished, she is given a sign – Elizabeth is pregnant.

Mary Visits Elizabeth

Byrne p. 24: “A favorite device of Luke, particularly prominent in Acts, is to bring together two individuals, both of whom have had a religious experience that they only partly understand.  When they share their experience, individual experience becomes community experience and in the process finds full meaning.”   Road to Emmaus is another example.

The unborn John “leaps in the womb” recalls the dancing of King David in the presence of the Ark of the Covenant.  Dancing for joy was an aspect of the banquet of the messiah.  The foretaste of the kingdom.

Byrne p. 25: “In the meeting of these two women, in the hospitality they exchange, we see the beginnings of the community that will share and celebrate the blessings of salvation.”

Canticle of Mary

This may have been a song originally attributed to Elizabeth whose “lowliness” was more extensive than Mary’s.  Here is the song that Hannah sung after the birth of Samuel (1 Samuel 2):

And Hannah prayed:*

“My heart exults in the LORD,

my horn is exalted by my God.

I have swallowed up my enemies;

I rejoice in your victory.


There is no Holy One like the LORD;

there is no Rock like our God.

Speak boastfully no longer,

Do not let arrogance issue from your mouths.*


For an all-knowing God is the LORD,

God who weighs actions.

“The bows of the mighty are broken,

while the tottering gird on strength.



The well-fed hire themselves out for bread,

while the hungry no longer have to toil.

The barren wife bears seven sons,

while the mother of many languishes.


“The LORD puts to death and gives life,

casts down to Sheol and brings up again.

The LORD makes poor and makes rich,

humbles, and also exalts.


He raises the needy from the dust;

from the ash heap lifts up the poor,

To seat them with nobles

and make a glorious throne their heritage.


“For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s,

and he has set the world upon them.

He guards the footsteps of his faithful ones,

but the wicked shall perish in the darkness;

for not by strength does one prevail.


The LORD’s foes shall be shattered;

the Most High in heaven thunders;

the LORD judges the ends of the earth.

May he give strength to his king,

and exalt the horn of his anointed!”



The Birth of John

The” neighbors and relatives” rejoiced with the parents of John.  They also represent the good and faithful people of Israel who are confident in the grace and promises of God.  However, perhaps in a portent of what is to come later – they cling to tradition with regard to the naming.  They see, but only dimly, that God is at work in the situation.

The Canticle of Zechariah

Byrne p. 27: “As in the Magnificat, the canticle speaks of this liberation as something already arrived.  The task is to communicate a “knowledge” of it through the ministry of John and Jesus.”

Byrne p. 28: “…Luke seems to be suggesting that the rich biblical idea of “visitation” best describes what God is about to do through the ministry of John and Jesus.  “Visitation” can imply judgment.  For the most part, however, in the biblical tradition God “visits” the people to save them.  The key issues is, How will the visit be received?  Who will be hospitable to this visit and find salvation?  Who will not?”

Chapter 2

The Birth of Jesus

Byrne p. 31: There is some evidence that there was a census in the time of Quirinius (6 to 7 CE) but NOT during the time of Herod the Great who died 10 years earlier.  They were not historical contemporaries.

Luke may have had 2 larger themes – Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee, was born in Bethlehem, where the Messiah would be born according the tradition.  And the human powers of the day (Rome), even though in opposition to God, would be used by God to make it all happen.

Byrne p. 31: “It has been customary to think in terms of “no room at the inn.”  But “inn” or “hotel” is not a good translation for the Greek word kataluma.  (Referring to the inn where the Good Samaritan takes the wounded traveller, Luke uses another word, pandocheion (10:34).)  It is better to think of the public caravansary or khan where groups of travelers in the Middle East could spend the night with some degree of security.”

Culy p. 69: “in 22:11, Kataluma does not refer to an inn, but rather to a “guest room,” and it is likely that Luke’s point here is that the guest room with relatives or friends was full.”

The visitor from “on high” does not find hospitality in the City of David.  Perhaps justified given the census, but a portent nonetheless.

The Visit of the Shepherds

Byrne p. 33: “But when the shepherds  – again like Mary (1:39) – go “with haste” to Bethlehem and find the child lying in the manger exactly as they had been told by the angels, the coming together of promise and reality constitutes for them “knowledge of salvation.”  Again – this will be a theme of Luke – God keeps his promises, the day of salvation has dawned.

The Circumcision and Naming of Jesus

The Presentation in the Temple

The elderly couple (Simeon and Anna) represent, according to Byrne p. 34, a continuity with the traditions of Judaism and a faithful Israel.

Actually taking the child to the Temple was not required by the Law (Exodus 13:1 and 13:11-16) – one sent the required sacrificial animal or the funds to purchase one.  Exodus 13: 1 and or 2: “Consecrate to me every firstborn; whatever opens the womb among the Israelites, whether of human being or beast, belongs to me.”  And 13:13: “Every firstborn of a donkey you will ransom with a sheep. If you do not ransom it, you will break its neck. Every human firstborn of your sons you must ransom.”

Byrne points out p. 35: In the song by Simeon (called the Nunc Dimittis) the traditional order of things gets reversed (another portent?): He will be a light to the Gentiles comes first and second  glory for the people of Israel.

With regard to the second oracle of Simeon, which introduces a sad note at a joyous time, Byrne says on page 36: “Luke, as we have seen from the start, is interested not only in the proclamation of the Gospel but in the way human beings respond to it.  To accept the message as “good news” requires conversion, a conversion at depth that shakes up and challenges conventional and comfortable assumptions about the way the promised salvation will run.  Many will balk at the breadth of the hospitality that God offers and react with rejection.  Luke’s Gospel will explore the reasons for this rejection.  In a particular way Simeon’s oracle is prophetic for what will occur when Jesus inaugurates his public ministry in the synagogue at Nazareth (4:16-30).”

The Return to Nazareth


The Boy Jesus in the Temple

Byrne p. 37: “Jesus’ family is going to have to surrender him, just as  later his hometown (Nazareth) and his people (Israel) will have to surrender him, to a wider divine purpose.”


Sidebar – Summary

Byrne p. 38: “The divine intervention, in fulfillment of the promise, comes about in the ordinary dilemmas of life.  But it does so in surprising and unexpected ways.  The mistakes, the failures *(Zechariah’s unbelief, no room in Bethlehem) – the dropped stitches, so to speak – are eventually picked up and sewn back into a broader divine purpose.”


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