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Luke 2:1-5

Home > The New Testament > Luke > Chapters 1-4a > Verses 1:57-2:21
Previous page: Verses 1:1-56                      Next page: Verses 2:22-52


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This section should be very brief. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Story.This wiki page covers two episodes in the pre-ministry portion of Luke's account:

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Luke 1:57-80: Birth of John[edit]

  • Luke 1:59-60. Zacharias’s name means “whom Jehovah remembers” and John’s name means “favored by Jehovah.”
  • Luke 1:80. Might Herod’s decree (Matt 2:16) perhaps explain why John was raised in the desert? Some have speculated that he was raised by Essenes or a similar group. If John were raised by such a group, what might that suggest about his family’s relation to the temple and its priesthood? Why would it be appropriate that the forerunner of the Savior be raised among those who felt that way?

Luke 2:1-21: Birth of Jesus[edit]

  • Luke 2:1-5. Critics of the gospels like to point out that it makes no sense for Joseph to go to Bethlehem for a census, since a census, created to measure and register populations for taxation purposes, only work if people register where they live. People don't generally move back to their ancestral homelands for a census. For these critics, the Bethlehem story is created by the gospel writers to show how the birth of Christ fulfills prophecy.
However, if Joseph, through the gift of prophecy, understands that his son is to be the Messiah, the King of Israel--both by birthright, as well as by nature of his divine conception--then perhaps Joseph decides that the registry, coming on the eve of Jesus birth, is the perfect time for him to move his family back to Bethlehem so that he and his son can be registered there as legitimate heirs of the defunct Davidic kingdom. Rather than seeing the Bethlehem story as a later add on to fulfill prophecy, perhaps Joseph made the sacrifice to move his family under the burden of the late pregnancy to not only fulfill the prophecies of Christ's birth, but to potentially initiate a restoration of the kingdom.
Since Joseph and his family are traditionally thought to have stayed in Bethlehem for perhaps over a year before being warned to leave, it is possible that Joseph had originally intended to permanently settle in Bethlehem with his family. Of course, this didn't work out, and when they return from Egypt, Joseph is told to go back to his former home in Nazareth--perhaps to give Jesus a safer and quieter upbringing away from the power-wrangling closer to Jerusalem.--Rob Fergus 15:05, 19 Dec 2006 (UTC)
  • Luke 2:1: Caesar. "Caesar" in verse 1 is the title of the Roman emperor.
  • Luke 2:1: Taxed. The verb translated as "taxed" in verse 1 and following verses is apographo (related to the "graph" words of English), which meant to enroll or register. Such registration presumably would have included information to be used for taxing purposes, although the word doesn't require it. The word translated as "taxing" in verse 2 is apographe, which many modern translations translate as "census."
  • Luke 2:1: All the world.' It is important to Luke's record that the story of Christ's birth begins on a rather cosmic level: "all the world." Though this phrase may well have been simply a Roman way of describing "the whole empire (since nothing else matters but the empire)," the role the phrase plays in the story here is important: it opens with Caesar Augustus, the honorable, who has power over life and death throughout "all the world," requiring the subjected state of Judah to a census for taxation and conscription purposes. When Jesus is born a few verses later, he is laid quite humbly in a feed-box.
  • Luke 2:4: City. The Greek word translated as "city" in verse 4 is polis (related to the English word "politics"). The word can also be translated as "town"; at the time, Bethlehem was only a village.
  • Luke 2:4. As there are no parentheses in Greek, the role the final phrase of this verse plays in the English translation of the text betrays the understanding of the translators of the KJV. Parentheses accomplish two things at once. They say something about the importance and the necessity of their content: whatever is parenthetical is at once less important and yet nonetheless absolutely necessary. Ultimately, parentheses mar a text, breaking up its flow by frustrating what would otherwise be a rather simple sentence: they are used because some necessary, though not central, information must be included. That the translators relegated Joseph's Davidic lineage to parentheses is rather interesting: they recognized that its inclusion in the passage disrupts the flow of the text, but that it is absolutely necessary to understanding. That is, on the one hand, one must recognize that verses 4 and 5 do not read very well unless some sort of punctuation makes some sense of the jumble of words. But on the other hand, that Joseph leaves Nazareth to go to Bethlehem for the registration would make no sense unless the lineage were mentioned. The consequence of this syntactic interpretation on the translators' part is that the lineage is marginalized: though necessary for understanding, it is marked with a sort of unimportance, thrust to the side of things, almost unworthy of mention. But, as one must recognize the place of Joseph's lineage in the meaning of the story, one must also recognize how not marginal this information is! There is, in short, an irony about the translation here--an irony recognizably embedded in the Greek itself.
In other words, Luke only seems to mention Joseph's lineage in passing, as a footnote perhaps. Yet this lineage is vital: Joseph's place in the Davidic line marks the absolute humility of the royal family (displaced from their city, reduced to rags, sleeping in a stable, placing the baby in the feed-box, not to mention the unfortunate scandal of Mary's being pregnant). When this is set in the broader context of unquestioned Roman power (or, rather, Roman power wielded absolutely, such that when it is questioned, it is not questioned for long), the irony of Jesus' birth begins to open up. This opens onto the humility further implied in the announcement to, of all people, shepherds, etc.
This humility is perhaps highlighted if one knows something of the likely reason for Joseph's being in Nazareth in the first place. If Joseph was, as the parenthetical material claims, "of the house and lineage of David," Joseph's right to rule in Judah would have earned him enemies among the Hasmoneans and perhaps eventually among those elite within the government under the Romans. Some scholars have suggested, then, that Joseph was in an obscure northern village precisely to be out of the way in the meanwhile. His lengthy journey to Bethlehem brings him to his rightful place as heir, but even there he is without the means and connections to provide a decent place for Jesus' birth. Whatever the reason for Joseph's living so far from his ancestral home, and especially in a city of almost no consequence (Nazareth was a tiny village), the census brings him home to where he ought to wield influence and power because of his lineage.
  • Luke 2:5. The phrase translated as "espoused wife" in verse 5 (mnesteuo autos gune) is traditionally and generally understood to mean that Mary was betrothed or pledged to be married to Joseph, a commitment that is stronger than what we think of as an engagement to be married.
  • Luke 2:6-7: Accomplished. The Greek word translated "accomplished" (pimplaemi) in verse 6 could also have been translated “fulfilled.” Luke uses that Greek word, “fulfilled,” eight times in chapters one and two. Why?
  • Luke 2:7: Inn. In verse 7, the Greek word translated as "inn" ("inns" in the Joseph Smith Translation) is kataluma. One possible meaning of the word is the traditional one, referring to a lodging place where strangers could stay. During this time period, such inns would have likely been very small and crude by today's standards, and often used for animals as well as people. Another possible translation of the word is to refer to the room of a house, often the dining room but sometimes a guestroom. Bible scholars who have intepreted the word this way in this verse believe that Mary and Joseph may have wanted to stay at the home of relatives, but found that there was no room there (perhaps because of so many people coming for the census). Kataluma is used two other times in the New Testament, Mark 14:14 and Luke 22:11, where the King James Version uses the word "guestchamber" to refer to the place of the Last Supper.
  • Luke 2:7: Manger. In verse 7, the word (phatne) translated as "manger" could also be translated as "feeding trough" or "animal stall."
  • Luke 2:7: Swaddling. In verse 7, the word (sparganoo) translated as "swaddling clothes" refers to strips of cloth that were commonly used for newborn babies.
  • Luke 2:7. The description of the birth itself lays all the emphasis on Mary, while the journey to Bethlehem seems to lay the burden on Joseph. In verses 4-5, Mary is a tagalong, but here the birth is entirely her business. That shift in focus is important: this baby is "her firstborn son," but not Joseph's. That is, though Joseph is explicitly of "the house and lineage of David," Jesus is Mary's, original with her and with whatever secrets she has in her bosom: Joseph stands quite at the side of things. This is doubly significant in light of the fact that Joseph is not mentioned again in regards to the adoration of the Baby in the whole following passage. While shepherds come to worship, Joseph simply disappears from the narrative. Joseph is, ultimately, set up as a sort of background to the story, made a sort of backdrop to how Mary arrives in Bethlehem, but that is it.
We all know that Christ was not born in December. To back this up, in verse 8 we see shepherds in the field tending their flocks. This would not happen in the middle of December. This would be something they would and could do in the Spring. Also, the fact that the inns were all full suggests that there were a lot of people in the area. This would be in line with the Passover (April) in which thousands and thousands of pilgrims went to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration.
  • Luke 2:8. That the angels come to shepherds is significant on a few levels. Certainly, there is a powerful contrast betweeen the highhanded political issues of the first verses of the chapter and the angelic message to these humble shepherds. But there is more as well: David had been a shepherd "in the same country" where these are, and hints of the Davidic themes of Luke are present here.
  • Luke 2:9. The angel appears and with him or her is "the glory of the Lord," a phrase with quite a particular meaning in that era. As spelled out in Ezekiel, the "glory of the Lord" was something like the physical reality of God's presence, the thing that registers with the physical senses when the Lord is near. Ezekiel sees the glory come to and go from the house of the Lord, and the word in Hebrew (as well as Greek) translated "glory" means quite literally "weight." This emergence of the angel from heaven with the glory of the Lord is phrased ultimately in terms of the Day of Atonement, where the angelic high priest would emerge from the temple bearing "good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people," clothed in the robes that made him represent the Lord Himself. This emergence on the Day of Atonement was understood to be the coming of judgment, the great Day of the Lord, and it is significant then that the shepherds "were sore afraid." They should have been: they knew what such an appearance meant, and they were frightened by the coming Day.
  • Luke 2:10. It is in light of this fear and of the apocalyptic overtones of the visitation that the angel's first words are "Fear not." The Day of the Lord was to be fearful indeed, but not to the poor and trodden down: they were to be saved at the last on the great Day of the Lord, according to the prophets. That the angel goes on to extend these "good tidings of great joy" to "all people" is significant as well: from the very start, Luke has the vision of the Gentile missions to come. One should note that "good tidings" is a translation of the Greek euangelion, what is usually translated "gospel": this is the first announcement of the gospel, the arrival of the good message to be brought by the angels. It is to the shepherds, of all people, that the announcement comes (does this perpetuate the acceptation of Abel in the earliest stories of the Bible?).
  • Luke 2:11. It is interesting that the angel describes Jesus as being born "unto you." There is apparently an allusion in this phrasing to Isa 6:9, essentially a reinterpretation, then, of an Old Testament prophecy. Like the passage in Isaiah, Jesus is given four titles here: "Savior," "Christ," "the Lord," and "of David" (compare Isaiah's: "Wonderful Counselor," "the Mighty God," "the Everlasting Father," "the Prince of Peace").
  • Luke 2:12. As heavenly visitors often do, the angel offers a sign or a token that is to prove the genuineness of the vision, so that the shepherds can know surely that they have been visited by true messengers. The sign is, however, quite humble, linking up with all the themes of humility running through the whole passage: they will find a baby in a feed-box.
  • Luke 2:13. The phrase "heavenly host" is archaic enough that many do not recognize the military thrust of the words: what appears in song here are legions of armies, all angelic. The vision is parallel to visions in the Book of Mormon and the Old Testament, where God appears in the midst of so many angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God. As Amos 3:7 puts things, this is the "council" (unfortunately translated "secret" in the KJV), the heavenly chorus and council of God. That the shepherds here have such a vision suggests that they have had a glimpse of what goes on within the true holy of holies (Isaiah describes a similar scene as happening within the temple).
This is especially significant in light of the triple appearance of angels in Luke's Christmas story. The first angel appears to Zacharias at the veil of the temple; the second appears to Mary in Nazareth; the third appears here to the shepherds out in the field. One can note in this series of movement away from the centralized cultus of the temple towards the poor who were—at the time—dispossessed of the temple: from the actual place of revelation at the veil to a house in an obscure village, and then to the fields of the countryside where the poor shepherds tend their flocks. What is so significant about this triple appearance and trajectory is that the third messenger opens the heavens, not to the priestly figure of Zacharias in the temple, but to the homely shepherds in the field: there it is, far from the Holy of Holies, that the throneroom of the Lord is opened again. This, of course, plays into Luke's broader message: the gospel is to be preached to the dispossessed, to the poor and downtrodden.
The temple themes are quite clear here, as they are through much of chapter 1. Three angelic messengers are sent, as in Gen 18 to Abraham, to prepare Israel to behold/enter into the council of heaven by parting the veil. (It will be noted that three angelic messengers are to be found in the Matthew version of the Christmas story as well, though there all three appear uniquely to Joseph.)
  • Luke 2:14. The words of the angels emphasize the logic of incarnation: from heaven ("Glory to God in the highest") to earth ("and on earth peace, good will toward men"). The linking up of God's heaven with man's earth in the encounter is significant: in the incarnation, the glory of God brings about peace on earth, and the two are made one.
  • Luke 2:15. The shepherds collectively decide to confirm the event by seeking the sign left by the angel.
  • Luke 2:16. Not only does "haste" describe the shepherd's way of getting to the stable, but it also describes Luke's treatment of their stay there: nothing is said of their visit to the Christ Child except that they found Mary, and Joseph, and the baby in the feed-box. This sets up the emphasis Luke apparently is trying maintain, however: several verses will set up the subsequent response of the shepherds and how it compares to the response of Mary. This anticipates to some extent the relation between Jesus and those for whom He performs miracles: one keeps things silent, the others broadcast the message widely. Indeed, there is a profound emphasis on this point, and it might be of some importance, given the temple themes running through this story (see especially verse 13): the shepherds, having been given a sacred sign and a vision of the celestial glory, spread abroad the mystery they have been shown, while Mary—the handmaiden of the Lord—"kept all these things" in her heart, maintained the integrity of the symbolism (the verb translated "pondered" here—symballein—is the word from which the English "symbol" is derived) by locking up the signs and tokens she had received within her heart. This is not, of course, to denigrate what the shepherds do: that they glorify and praise God would seem to mean that they speak with the tongue of the angels they beheld. But Mary's different response certainly deserves sustained attention.
  • Luke 2:19: Pondered. The Greek word sumballo means to meet or encounter, either another or oneself. Acts 4:15 also uses this same term to describe a group conferring together. Here, followed by the phrase "in her heart," sumballo suggests a conferring within onself—a rich way to express in Greek what the English phrase "pondered them in her heart" seems to accurately capture. (See also the NET note on this usage.)

Unanswered questions[edit]

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Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

  • Luke 1:59-60. Meaning of Zacharias and John Do the meanings of Zacharias's and John's names tell us anything about why the angel told Zacharias to name the child John and why the family and friends wanted to name him after his father? (See lexical notes below.) How would the family have understood the name Zacharias in this case? How is the name John meaningful in this case?
  • Luke 1:67-80. What does Zacharias tell us about Jesus in his blessing of John? How does what he says about Jesus reflect what we saw the prophets of the Old Testament saying? Zacharias specifically says that Jesus has come to make it possible for Israel to perform the mercy that was promised and to remember the covenant. Reread Ex 19:5-6 to recall the promise of the covenant. Given that promise, what does Zacharias foresee Jesus restoring? The Greek word translated “serve” in verse 74 specifically refers to temple service. What should we make of the fact that the priest who has been serving in the temple is prophesying that Jesus will come and make temple service possible?
  • Luke 1:67-80. What does Zacharias tell us about John in this blessing? Why does Zacharias call Jesus “the dayspring,” in other words, the dawn? See also verses 78-79.
  • Luke 2:1-21. As in chapter 1, Luke goes out of his way to tell the story of Jesus’ birth in parallel to the story of John the Baptist’s birth: the joy at the birth of the child, the circumcision and naming, prophecies of expectation by someone closely associated with the temple, and a concluding remark about the growth and development of the child. Why do you think tells the stories with these parallels?
  • Luke 2:8-21. Though Matthew shows us Christ’s birth (or at least his infancy—the wise men may have come some time after he was born) as it relates to the rich and powerful, Luke shows us the birth in relation to the poor. Why do you think Luke tells the story this way?
  • Luke 2:9. Why is it significant that, from among the many poor people living around Bethlehem, the angel appears to the shepherds? What symbolic significance could that have? What was David the king’s occupation? How is Jesus sometimes described?
  • Luke 2:11. The angels announce the good news, the gospel: the Savior, the Messiah (”the Anointed One”), the Lord has been born. How does each of these titles differ in meaning?
  • Luke 2:11. Luke is the only one of the four gospel writers who uses the title “Savior,” and he uses the verb “save” more than Matthew and Mark put together. Why might that be? What does it tell us about his gospel?

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

  • Luke 2:14: Peace, good will toward men. See this post by Kevin Barney for a discussion of alternate translations of this passage.

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.




Previous page: Verses 1:1-56                      Next page: Verses 2:22-52

Luke 2:6-10

Home > The New Testament > Luke > Chapters 1-4a > Verses 1:57-2:21
Previous page: Verses 1:1-56                      Next page: Verses 2:22-52


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This section should be very brief. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Story.This wiki page covers two episodes in the pre-ministry portion of Luke's account:

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Luke 1:57-80: Birth of John[edit]

  • Luke 1:59-60. Zacharias’s name means “whom Jehovah remembers” and John’s name means “favored by Jehovah.”
  • Luke 1:80. Might Herod’s decree (Matt 2:16) perhaps explain why John was raised in the desert? Some have speculated that he was raised by Essenes or a similar group. If John were raised by such a group, what might that suggest about his family’s relation to the temple and its priesthood? Why would it be appropriate that the forerunner of the Savior be raised among those who felt that way?

Luke 2:1-21: Birth of Jesus[edit]

  • Luke 2:1-5. Critics of the gospels like to point out that it makes no sense for Joseph to go to Bethlehem for a census, since a census, created to measure and register populations for taxation purposes, only work if people register where they live. People don't generally move back to their ancestral homelands for a census. For these critics, the Bethlehem story is created by the gospel writers to show how the birth of Christ fulfills prophecy.
However, if Joseph, through the gift of prophecy, understands that his son is to be the Messiah, the King of Israel--both by birthright, as well as by nature of his divine conception--then perhaps Joseph decides that the registry, coming on the eve of Jesus birth, is the perfect time for him to move his family back to Bethlehem so that he and his son can be registered there as legitimate heirs of the defunct Davidic kingdom. Rather than seeing the Bethlehem story as a later add on to fulfill prophecy, perhaps Joseph made the sacrifice to move his family under the burden of the late pregnancy to not only fulfill the prophecies of Christ's birth, but to potentially initiate a restoration of the kingdom.
Since Joseph and his family are traditionally thought to have stayed in Bethlehem for perhaps over a year before being warned to leave, it is possible that Joseph had originally intended to permanently settle in Bethlehem with his family. Of course, this didn't work out, and when they return from Egypt, Joseph is told to go back to his former home in Nazareth--perhaps to give Jesus a safer and quieter upbringing away from the power-wrangling closer to Jerusalem.--Rob Fergus 15:05, 19 Dec 2006 (UTC)
  • Luke 2:1: Caesar. "Caesar" in verse 1 is the title of the Roman emperor.
  • Luke 2:1: Taxed. The verb translated as "taxed" in verse 1 and following verses is apographo (related to the "graph" words of English), which meant to enroll or register. Such registration presumably would have included information to be used for taxing purposes, although the word doesn't require it. The word translated as "taxing" in verse 2 is apographe, which many modern translations translate as "census."
  • Luke 2:1: All the world.' It is important to Luke's record that the story of Christ's birth begins on a rather cosmic level: "all the world." Though this phrase may well have been simply a Roman way of describing "the whole empire (since nothing else matters but the empire)," the role the phrase plays in the story here is important: it opens with Caesar Augustus, the honorable, who has power over life and death throughout "all the world," requiring the subjected state of Judah to a census for taxation and conscription purposes. When Jesus is born a few verses later, he is laid quite humbly in a feed-box.
  • Luke 2:4: City. The Greek word translated as "city" in verse 4 is polis (related to the English word "politics"). The word can also be translated as "town"; at the time, Bethlehem was only a village.
  • Luke 2:4. As there are no parentheses in Greek, the role the final phrase of this verse plays in the English translation of the text betrays the understanding of the translators of the KJV. Parentheses accomplish two things at once. They say something about the importance and the necessity of their content: whatever is parenthetical is at once less important and yet nonetheless absolutely necessary. Ultimately, parentheses mar a text, breaking up its flow by frustrating what would otherwise be a rather simple sentence: they are used because some necessary, though not central, information must be included. That the translators relegated Joseph's Davidic lineage to parentheses is rather interesting: they recognized that its inclusion in the passage disrupts the flow of the text, but that it is absolutely necessary to understanding. That is, on the one hand, one must recognize that verses 4 and 5 do not read very well unless some sort of punctuation makes some sense of the jumble of words. But on the other hand, that Joseph leaves Nazareth to go to Bethlehem for the registration would make no sense unless the lineage were mentioned. The consequence of this syntactic interpretation on the translators' part is that the lineage is marginalized: though necessary for understanding, it is marked with a sort of unimportance, thrust to the side of things, almost unworthy of mention. But, as one must recognize the place of Joseph's lineage in the meaning of the story, one must also recognize how not marginal this information is! There is, in short, an irony about the translation here--an irony recognizably embedded in the Greek itself.
In other words, Luke only seems to mention Joseph's lineage in passing, as a footnote perhaps. Yet this lineage is vital: Joseph's place in the Davidic line marks the absolute humility of the royal family (displaced from their city, reduced to rags, sleeping in a stable, placing the baby in the feed-box, not to mention the unfortunate scandal of Mary's being pregnant). When this is set in the broader context of unquestioned Roman power (or, rather, Roman power wielded absolutely, such that when it is questioned, it is not questioned for long), the irony of Jesus' birth begins to open up. This opens onto the humility further implied in the announcement to, of all people, shepherds, etc.
This humility is perhaps highlighted if one knows something of the likely reason for Joseph's being in Nazareth in the first place. If Joseph was, as the parenthetical material claims, "of the house and lineage of David," Joseph's right to rule in Judah would have earned him enemies among the Hasmoneans and perhaps eventually among those elite within the government under the Romans. Some scholars have suggested, then, that Joseph was in an obscure northern village precisely to be out of the way in the meanwhile. His lengthy journey to Bethlehem brings him to his rightful place as heir, but even there he is without the means and connections to provide a decent place for Jesus' birth. Whatever the reason for Joseph's living so far from his ancestral home, and especially in a city of almost no consequence (Nazareth was a tiny village), the census brings him home to where he ought to wield influence and power because of his lineage.
  • Luke 2:5. The phrase translated as "espoused wife" in verse 5 (mnesteuo autos gune) is traditionally and generally understood to mean that Mary was betrothed or pledged to be married to Joseph, a commitment that is stronger than what we think of as an engagement to be married.
  • Luke 2:6-7: Accomplished. The Greek word translated "accomplished" (pimplaemi) in verse 6 could also have been translated “fulfilled.” Luke uses that Greek word, “fulfilled,” eight times in chapters one and two. Why?
  • Luke 2:7: Inn. In verse 7, the Greek word translated as "inn" ("inns" in the Joseph Smith Translation) is kataluma. One possible meaning of the word is the traditional one, referring to a lodging place where strangers could stay. During this time period, such inns would have likely been very small and crude by today's standards, and often used for animals as well as people. Another possible translation of the word is to refer to the room of a house, often the dining room but sometimes a guestroom. Bible scholars who have intepreted the word this way in this verse believe that Mary and Joseph may have wanted to stay at the home of relatives, but found that there was no room there (perhaps because of so many people coming for the census). Kataluma is used two other times in the New Testament, Mark 14:14 and Luke 22:11, where the King James Version uses the word "guestchamber" to refer to the place of the Last Supper.
  • Luke 2:7: Manger. In verse 7, the word (phatne) translated as "manger" could also be translated as "feeding trough" or "animal stall."
  • Luke 2:7: Swaddling. In verse 7, the word (sparganoo) translated as "swaddling clothes" refers to strips of cloth that were commonly used for newborn babies.
  • Luke 2:7. The description of the birth itself lays all the emphasis on Mary, while the journey to Bethlehem seems to lay the burden on Joseph. In verses 4-5, Mary is a tagalong, but here the birth is entirely her business. That shift in focus is important: this baby is "her firstborn son," but not Joseph's. That is, though Joseph is explicitly of "the house and lineage of David," Jesus is Mary's, original with her and with whatever secrets she has in her bosom: Joseph stands quite at the side of things. This is doubly significant in light of the fact that Joseph is not mentioned again in regards to the adoration of the Baby in the whole following passage. While shepherds come to worship, Joseph simply disappears from the narrative. Joseph is, ultimately, set up as a sort of background to the story, made a sort of backdrop to how Mary arrives in Bethlehem, but that is it.
We all know that Christ was not born in December. To back this up, in verse 8 we see shepherds in the field tending their flocks. This would not happen in the middle of December. This would be something they would and could do in the Spring. Also, the fact that the inns were all full suggests that there were a lot of people in the area. This would be in line with the Passover (April) in which thousands and thousands of pilgrims went to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration.
  • Luke 2:8. That the angels come to shepherds is significant on a few levels. Certainly, there is a powerful contrast betweeen the highhanded political issues of the first verses of the chapter and the angelic message to these humble shepherds. But there is more as well: David had been a shepherd "in the same country" where these are, and hints of the Davidic themes of Luke are present here.
  • Luke 2:9. The angel appears and with him or her is "the glory of the Lord," a phrase with quite a particular meaning in that era. As spelled out in Ezekiel, the "glory of the Lord" was something like the physical reality of God's presence, the thing that registers with the physical senses when the Lord is near. Ezekiel sees the glory come to and go from the house of the Lord, and the word in Hebrew (as well as Greek) translated "glory" means quite literally "weight." This emergence of the angel from heaven with the glory of the Lord is phrased ultimately in terms of the Day of Atonement, where the angelic high priest would emerge from the temple bearing "good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people," clothed in the robes that made him represent the Lord Himself. This emergence on the Day of Atonement was understood to be the coming of judgment, the great Day of the Lord, and it is significant then that the shepherds "were sore afraid." They should have been: they knew what such an appearance meant, and they were frightened by the coming Day.
  • Luke 2:10. It is in light of this fear and of the apocalyptic overtones of the visitation that the angel's first words are "Fear not." The Day of the Lord was to be fearful indeed, but not to the poor and trodden down: they were to be saved at the last on the great Day of the Lord, according to the prophets. That the angel goes on to extend these "good tidings of great joy" to "all people" is significant as well: from the very start, Luke has the vision of the Gentile missions to come. One should note that "good tidings" is a translation of the Greek euangelion, what is usually translated "gospel": this is the first announcement of the gospel, the arrival of the good message to be brought by the angels. It is to the shepherds, of all people, that the announcement comes (does this perpetuate the acceptation of Abel in the earliest stories of the Bible?).
  • Luke 2:11. It is interesting that the angel describes Jesus as being born "unto you." There is apparently an allusion in this phrasing to Isa 6:9, essentially a reinterpretation, then, of an Old Testament prophecy. Like the passage in Isaiah, Jesus is given four titles here: "Savior," "Christ," "the Lord," and "of David" (compare Isaiah's: "Wonderful Counselor," "the Mighty God," "the Everlasting Father," "the Prince of Peace").
  • Luke 2:12. As heavenly visitors often do, the angel offers a sign or a token that is to prove the genuineness of the vision, so that the shepherds can know surely that they have been visited by true messengers. The sign is, however, quite humble, linking up with all the themes of humility running through the whole passage: they will find a baby in a feed-box.
  • Luke 2:13. The phrase "heavenly host" is archaic enough that many do not recognize the military thrust of the words: what appears in song here are legions of armies, all angelic. The vision is parallel to visions in the Book of Mormon and the Old Testament, where God appears in the midst of so many angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God. As Amos 3:7 puts things, this is the "council" (unfortunately translated "secret" in the KJV), the heavenly chorus and council of God. That the shepherds here have such a vision suggests that they have had a glimpse of what goes on within the true holy of holies (Isaiah describes a similar scene as happening within the temple).
This is especially significant in light of the triple appearance of angels in Luke's Christmas story. The first angel appears to Zacharias at the veil of the temple; the second appears to Mary in Nazareth; the third appears here to the shepherds out in the field. One can note in this series of movement away from the centralized cultus of the temple towards the poor who were—at the time—dispossessed of the temple: from the actual place of revelation at the veil to a house in an obscure village, and then to the fields of the countryside where the poor shepherds tend their flocks. What is so significant about this triple appearance and trajectory is that the third messenger opens the heavens, not to the priestly figure of Zacharias in the temple, but to the homely shepherds in the field: there it is, far from the Holy of Holies, that the throneroom of the Lord is opened again. This, of course, plays into Luke's broader message: the gospel is to be preached to the dispossessed, to the poor and downtrodden.
The temple themes are quite clear here, as they are through much of chapter 1. Three angelic messengers are sent, as in Gen 18 to Abraham, to prepare Israel to behold/enter into the council of heaven by parting the veil. (It will be noted that three angelic messengers are to be found in the Matthew version of the Christmas story as well, though there all three appear uniquely to Joseph.)
  • Luke 2:14. The words of the angels emphasize the logic of incarnation: from heaven ("Glory to God in the highest") to earth ("and on earth peace, good will toward men"). The linking up of God's heaven with man's earth in the encounter is significant: in the incarnation, the glory of God brings about peace on earth, and the two are made one.
  • Luke 2:15. The shepherds collectively decide to confirm the event by seeking the sign left by the angel.
  • Luke 2:16. Not only does "haste" describe the shepherd's way of getting to the stable, but it also describes Luke's treatment of their stay there: nothing is said of their visit to the Christ Child except that they found Mary, and Joseph, and the baby in the feed-box. This sets up the emphasis Luke apparently is trying maintain, however: several verses will set up the subsequent response of the shepherds and how it compares to the response of Mary. This anticipates to some extent the relation between Jesus and those for whom He performs miracles: one keeps things silent, the others broadcast the message widely. Indeed, there is a profound emphasis on this point, and it might be of some importance, given the temple themes running through this story (see especially verse 13): the shepherds, having been given a sacred sign and a vision of the celestial glory, spread abroad the mystery they have been shown, while Mary—the handmaiden of the Lord—"kept all these things" in her heart, maintained the integrity of the symbolism (the verb translated "pondered" here—symballein—is the word from which the English "symbol" is derived) by locking up the signs and tokens she had received within her heart. This is not, of course, to denigrate what the shepherds do: that they glorify and praise God would seem to mean that they speak with the tongue of the angels they beheld. But Mary's different response certainly deserves sustained attention.
  • Luke 2:19: Pondered. The Greek word sumballo means to meet or encounter, either another or oneself. Acts 4:15 also uses this same term to describe a group conferring together. Here, followed by the phrase "in her heart," sumballo suggests a conferring within onself—a rich way to express in Greek what the English phrase "pondered them in her heart" seems to accurately capture. (See also the NET note on this usage.)

Unanswered questions[edit]

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  • Luke 1:59-60. Meaning of Zacharias and John Do the meanings of Zacharias's and John's names tell us anything about why the angel told Zacharias to name the child John and why the family and friends wanted to name him after his father? (See lexical notes below.) How would the family have understood the name Zacharias in this case? How is the name John meaningful in this case?
  • Luke 1:67-80. What does Zacharias tell us about Jesus in his blessing of John? How does what he says about Jesus reflect what we saw the prophets of the Old Testament saying? Zacharias specifically says that Jesus has come to make it possible for Israel to perform the mercy that was promised and to remember the covenant. Reread Ex 19:5-6 to recall the promise of the covenant. Given that promise, what does Zacharias foresee Jesus restoring? The Greek word translated “serve” in verse 74 specifically refers to temple service. What should we make of the fact that the priest who has been serving in the temple is prophesying that Jesus will come and make temple service possible?
  • Luke 1:67-80. What does Zacharias tell us about John in this blessing? Why does Zacharias call Jesus “the dayspring,” in other words, the dawn? See also verses 78-79.
  • Luke 2:1-21. As in chapter 1, Luke goes out of his way to tell the story of Jesus’ birth in parallel to the story of John the Baptist’s birth: the joy at the birth of the child, the circumcision and naming, prophecies of expectation by someone closely associated with the temple, and a concluding remark about the growth and development of the child. Why do you think tells the stories with these parallels?
  • Luke 2:8-21. Though Matthew shows us Christ’s birth (or at least his infancy—the wise men may have come some time after he was born) as it relates to the rich and powerful, Luke shows us the birth in relation to the poor. Why do you think Luke tells the story this way?
  • Luke 2:9. Why is it significant that, from among the many poor people living around Bethlehem, the angel appears to the shepherds? What symbolic significance could that have? What was David the king’s occupation? How is Jesus sometimes described?
  • Luke 2:11. The angels announce the good news, the gospel: the Savior, the Messiah (”the Anointed One”), the Lord has been born. How does each of these titles differ in meaning?
  • Luke 2:11. Luke is the only one of the four gospel writers who uses the title “Savior,” and he uses the verb “save” more than Matthew and Mark put together. Why might that be? What does it tell us about his gospel?

Resources[edit]

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  • Luke 2:14: Peace, good will toward men. See this post by Kevin Barney for a discussion of alternate translations of this passage.

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.




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Luke 2:11-15

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Summary[edit]

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Story.This wiki page covers two episodes in the pre-ministry portion of Luke's account:

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Luke 1:57-80: Birth of John[edit]

  • Luke 1:59-60. Zacharias’s name means “whom Jehovah remembers” and John’s name means “favored by Jehovah.”
  • Luke 1:80. Might Herod’s decree (Matt 2:16) perhaps explain why John was raised in the desert? Some have speculated that he was raised by Essenes or a similar group. If John were raised by such a group, what might that suggest about his family’s relation to the temple and its priesthood? Why would it be appropriate that the forerunner of the Savior be raised among those who felt that way?

Luke 2:1-21: Birth of Jesus[edit]

  • Luke 2:1-5. Critics of the gospels like to point out that it makes no sense for Joseph to go to Bethlehem for a census, since a census, created to measure and register populations for taxation purposes, only work if people register where they live. People don't generally move back to their ancestral homelands for a census. For these critics, the Bethlehem story is created by the gospel writers to show how the birth of Christ fulfills prophecy.
However, if Joseph, through the gift of prophecy, understands that his son is to be the Messiah, the King of Israel--both by birthright, as well as by nature of his divine conception--then perhaps Joseph decides that the registry, coming on the eve of Jesus birth, is the perfect time for him to move his family back to Bethlehem so that he and his son can be registered there as legitimate heirs of the defunct Davidic kingdom. Rather than seeing the Bethlehem story as a later add on to fulfill prophecy, perhaps Joseph made the sacrifice to move his family under the burden of the late pregnancy to not only fulfill the prophecies of Christ's birth, but to potentially initiate a restoration of the kingdom.
Since Joseph and his family are traditionally thought to have stayed in Bethlehem for perhaps over a year before being warned to leave, it is possible that Joseph had originally intended to permanently settle in Bethlehem with his family. Of course, this didn't work out, and when they return from Egypt, Joseph is told to go back to his former home in Nazareth--perhaps to give Jesus a safer and quieter upbringing away from the power-wrangling closer to Jerusalem.--Rob Fergus 15:05, 19 Dec 2006 (UTC)
  • Luke 2:1: Caesar. "Caesar" in verse 1 is the title of the Roman emperor.
  • Luke 2:1: Taxed. The verb translated as "taxed" in verse 1 and following verses is apographo (related to the "graph" words of English), which meant to enroll or register. Such registration presumably would have included information to be used for taxing purposes, although the word doesn't require it. The word translated as "taxing" in verse 2 is apographe, which many modern translations translate as "census."
  • Luke 2:1: All the world.' It is important to Luke's record that the story of Christ's birth begins on a rather cosmic level: "all the world." Though this phrase may well have been simply a Roman way of describing "the whole empire (since nothing else matters but the empire)," the role the phrase plays in the story here is important: it opens with Caesar Augustus, the honorable, who has power over life and death throughout "all the world," requiring the subjected state of Judah to a census for taxation and conscription purposes. When Jesus is born a few verses later, he is laid quite humbly in a feed-box.
  • Luke 2:4: City. The Greek word translated as "city" in verse 4 is polis (related to the English word "politics"). The word can also be translated as "town"; at the time, Bethlehem was only a village.
  • Luke 2:4. As there are no parentheses in Greek, the role the final phrase of this verse plays in the English translation of the text betrays the understanding of the translators of the KJV. Parentheses accomplish two things at once. They say something about the importance and the necessity of their content: whatever is parenthetical is at once less important and yet nonetheless absolutely necessary. Ultimately, parentheses mar a text, breaking up its flow by frustrating what would otherwise be a rather simple sentence: they are used because some necessary, though not central, information must be included. That the translators relegated Joseph's Davidic lineage to parentheses is rather interesting: they recognized that its inclusion in the passage disrupts the flow of the text, but that it is absolutely necessary to understanding. That is, on the one hand, one must recognize that verses 4 and 5 do not read very well unless some sort of punctuation makes some sense of the jumble of words. But on the other hand, that Joseph leaves Nazareth to go to Bethlehem for the registration would make no sense unless the lineage were mentioned. The consequence of this syntactic interpretation on the translators' part is that the lineage is marginalized: though necessary for understanding, it is marked with a sort of unimportance, thrust to the side of things, almost unworthy of mention. But, as one must recognize the place of Joseph's lineage in the meaning of the story, one must also recognize how not marginal this information is! There is, in short, an irony about the translation here--an irony recognizably embedded in the Greek itself.
In other words, Luke only seems to mention Joseph's lineage in passing, as a footnote perhaps. Yet this lineage is vital: Joseph's place in the Davidic line marks the absolute humility of the royal family (displaced from their city, reduced to rags, sleeping in a stable, placing the baby in the feed-box, not to mention the unfortunate scandal of Mary's being pregnant). When this is set in the broader context of unquestioned Roman power (or, rather, Roman power wielded absolutely, such that when it is questioned, it is not questioned for long), the irony of Jesus' birth begins to open up. This opens onto the humility further implied in the announcement to, of all people, shepherds, etc.
This humility is perhaps highlighted if one knows something of the likely reason for Joseph's being in Nazareth in the first place. If Joseph was, as the parenthetical material claims, "of the house and lineage of David," Joseph's right to rule in Judah would have earned him enemies among the Hasmoneans and perhaps eventually among those elite within the government under the Romans. Some scholars have suggested, then, that Joseph was in an obscure northern village precisely to be out of the way in the meanwhile. His lengthy journey to Bethlehem brings him to his rightful place as heir, but even there he is without the means and connections to provide a decent place for Jesus' birth. Whatever the reason for Joseph's living so far from his ancestral home, and especially in a city of almost no consequence (Nazareth was a tiny village), the census brings him home to where he ought to wield influence and power because of his lineage.
  • Luke 2:5. The phrase translated as "espoused wife" in verse 5 (mnesteuo autos gune) is traditionally and generally understood to mean that Mary was betrothed or pledged to be married to Joseph, a commitment that is stronger than what we think of as an engagement to be married.
  • Luke 2:6-7: Accomplished. The Greek word translated "accomplished" (pimplaemi) in verse 6 could also have been translated “fulfilled.” Luke uses that Greek word, “fulfilled,” eight times in chapters one and two. Why?
  • Luke 2:7: Inn. In verse 7, the Greek word translated as "inn" ("inns" in the Joseph Smith Translation) is kataluma. One possible meaning of the word is the traditional one, referring to a lodging place where strangers could stay. During this time period, such inns would have likely been very small and crude by today's standards, and often used for animals as well as people. Another possible translation of the word is to refer to the room of a house, often the dining room but sometimes a guestroom. Bible scholars who have intepreted the word this way in this verse believe that Mary and Joseph may have wanted to stay at the home of relatives, but found that there was no room there (perhaps because of so many people coming for the census). Kataluma is used two other times in the New Testament, Mark 14:14 and Luke 22:11, where the King James Version uses the word "guestchamber" to refer to the place of the Last Supper.
  • Luke 2:7: Manger. In verse 7, the word (phatne) translated as "manger" could also be translated as "feeding trough" or "animal stall."
  • Luke 2:7: Swaddling. In verse 7, the word (sparganoo) translated as "swaddling clothes" refers to strips of cloth that were commonly used for newborn babies.
  • Luke 2:7. The description of the birth itself lays all the emphasis on Mary, while the journey to Bethlehem seems to lay the burden on Joseph. In verses 4-5, Mary is a tagalong, but here the birth is entirely her business. That shift in focus is important: this baby is "her firstborn son," but not Joseph's. That is, though Joseph is explicitly of "the house and lineage of David," Jesus is Mary's, original with her and with whatever secrets she has in her bosom: Joseph stands quite at the side of things. This is doubly significant in light of the fact that Joseph is not mentioned again in regards to the adoration of the Baby in the whole following passage. While shepherds come to worship, Joseph simply disappears from the narrative. Joseph is, ultimately, set up as a sort of background to the story, made a sort of backdrop to how Mary arrives in Bethlehem, but that is it.
We all know that Christ was not born in December. To back this up, in verse 8 we see shepherds in the field tending their flocks. This would not happen in the middle of December. This would be something they would and could do in the Spring. Also, the fact that the inns were all full suggests that there were a lot of people in the area. This would be in line with the Passover (April) in which thousands and thousands of pilgrims went to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration.
  • Luke 2:8. That the angels come to shepherds is significant on a few levels. Certainly, there is a powerful contrast betweeen the highhanded political issues of the first verses of the chapter and the angelic message to these humble shepherds. But there is more as well: David had been a shepherd "in the same country" where these are, and hints of the Davidic themes of Luke are present here.
  • Luke 2:9. The angel appears and with him or her is "the glory of the Lord," a phrase with quite a particular meaning in that era. As spelled out in Ezekiel, the "glory of the Lord" was something like the physical reality of God's presence, the thing that registers with the physical senses when the Lord is near. Ezekiel sees the glory come to and go from the house of the Lord, and the word in Hebrew (as well as Greek) translated "glory" means quite literally "weight." This emergence of the angel from heaven with the glory of the Lord is phrased ultimately in terms of the Day of Atonement, where the angelic high priest would emerge from the temple bearing "good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people," clothed in the robes that made him represent the Lord Himself. This emergence on the Day of Atonement was understood to be the coming of judgment, the great Day of the Lord, and it is significant then that the shepherds "were sore afraid." They should have been: they knew what such an appearance meant, and they were frightened by the coming Day.
  • Luke 2:10. It is in light of this fear and of the apocalyptic overtones of the visitation that the angel's first words are "Fear not." The Day of the Lord was to be fearful indeed, but not to the poor and trodden down: they were to be saved at the last on the great Day of the Lord, according to the prophets. That the angel goes on to extend these "good tidings of great joy" to "all people" is significant as well: from the very start, Luke has the vision of the Gentile missions to come. One should note that "good tidings" is a translation of the Greek euangelion, what is usually translated "gospel": this is the first announcement of the gospel, the arrival of the good message to be brought by the angels. It is to the shepherds, of all people, that the announcement comes (does this perpetuate the acceptation of Abel in the earliest stories of the Bible?).
  • Luke 2:11. It is interesting that the angel describes Jesus as being born "unto you." There is apparently an allusion in this phrasing to Isa 6:9, essentially a reinterpretation, then, of an Old Testament prophecy. Like the passage in Isaiah, Jesus is given four titles here: "Savior," "Christ," "the Lord," and "of David" (compare Isaiah's: "Wonderful Counselor," "the Mighty God," "the Everlasting Father," "the Prince of Peace").
  • Luke 2:12. As heavenly visitors often do, the angel offers a sign or a token that is to prove the genuineness of the vision, so that the shepherds can know surely that they have been visited by true messengers. The sign is, however, quite humble, linking up with all the themes of humility running through the whole passage: they will find a baby in a feed-box.
  • Luke 2:13. The phrase "heavenly host" is archaic enough that many do not recognize the military thrust of the words: what appears in song here are legions of armies, all angelic. The vision is parallel to visions in the Book of Mormon and the Old Testament, where God appears in the midst of so many angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God. As Amos 3:7 puts things, this is the "council" (unfortunately translated "secret" in the KJV), the heavenly chorus and council of God. That the shepherds here have such a vision suggests that they have had a glimpse of what goes on within the true holy of holies (Isaiah describes a similar scene as happening within the temple).
This is especially significant in light of the triple appearance of angels in Luke's Christmas story. The first angel appears to Zacharias at the veil of the temple; the second appears to Mary in Nazareth; the third appears here to the shepherds out in the field. One can note in this series of movement away from the centralized cultus of the temple towards the poor who were—at the time—dispossessed of the temple: from the actual place of revelation at the veil to a house in an obscure village, and then to the fields of the countryside where the poor shepherds tend their flocks. What is so significant about this triple appearance and trajectory is that the third messenger opens the heavens, not to the priestly figure of Zacharias in the temple, but to the homely shepherds in the field: there it is, far from the Holy of Holies, that the throneroom of the Lord is opened again. This, of course, plays into Luke's broader message: the gospel is to be preached to the dispossessed, to the poor and downtrodden.
The temple themes are quite clear here, as they are through much of chapter 1. Three angelic messengers are sent, as in Gen 18 to Abraham, to prepare Israel to behold/enter into the council of heaven by parting the veil. (It will be noted that three angelic messengers are to be found in the Matthew version of the Christmas story as well, though there all three appear uniquely to Joseph.)
  • Luke 2:14. The words of the angels emphasize the logic of incarnation: from heaven ("Glory to God in the highest") to earth ("and on earth peace, good will toward men"). The linking up of God's heaven with man's earth in the encounter is significant: in the incarnation, the glory of God brings about peace on earth, and the two are made one.
  • Luke 2:15. The shepherds collectively decide to confirm the event by seeking the sign left by the angel.
  • Luke 2:16. Not only does "haste" describe the shepherd's way of getting to the stable, but it also describes Luke's treatment of their stay there: nothing is said of their visit to the Christ Child except that they found Mary, and Joseph, and the baby in the feed-box. This sets up the emphasis Luke apparently is trying maintain, however: several verses will set up the subsequent response of the shepherds and how it compares to the response of Mary. This anticipates to some extent the relation between Jesus and those for whom He performs miracles: one keeps things silent, the others broadcast the message widely. Indeed, there is a profound emphasis on this point, and it might be of some importance, given the temple themes running through this story (see especially verse 13): the shepherds, having been given a sacred sign and a vision of the celestial glory, spread abroad the mystery they have been shown, while Mary—the handmaiden of the Lord—"kept all these things" in her heart, maintained the integrity of the symbolism (the verb translated "pondered" here—symballein—is the word from which the English "symbol" is derived) by locking up the signs and tokens she had received within her heart. This is not, of course, to denigrate what the shepherds do: that they glorify and praise God would seem to mean that they speak with the tongue of the angels they beheld. But Mary's different response certainly deserves sustained attention.
  • Luke 2:19: Pondered. The Greek word sumballo means to meet or encounter, either another or oneself. Acts 4:15 also uses this same term to describe a group conferring together. Here, followed by the phrase "in her heart," sumballo suggests a conferring within onself—a rich way to express in Greek what the English phrase "pondered them in her heart" seems to accurately capture. (See also the NET note on this usage.)

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

  • Luke 1:59-60. Meaning of Zacharias and John Do the meanings of Zacharias's and John's names tell us anything about why the angel told Zacharias to name the child John and why the family and friends wanted to name him after his father? (See lexical notes below.) How would the family have understood the name Zacharias in this case? How is the name John meaningful in this case?
  • Luke 1:67-80. What does Zacharias tell us about Jesus in his blessing of John? How does what he says about Jesus reflect what we saw the prophets of the Old Testament saying? Zacharias specifically says that Jesus has come to make it possible for Israel to perform the mercy that was promised and to remember the covenant. Reread Ex 19:5-6 to recall the promise of the covenant. Given that promise, what does Zacharias foresee Jesus restoring? The Greek word translated “serve” in verse 74 specifically refers to temple service. What should we make of the fact that the priest who has been serving in the temple is prophesying that Jesus will come and make temple service possible?
  • Luke 1:67-80. What does Zacharias tell us about John in this blessing? Why does Zacharias call Jesus “the dayspring,” in other words, the dawn? See also verses 78-79.
  • Luke 2:1-21. As in chapter 1, Luke goes out of his way to tell the story of Jesus’ birth in parallel to the story of John the Baptist’s birth: the joy at the birth of the child, the circumcision and naming, prophecies of expectation by someone closely associated with the temple, and a concluding remark about the growth and development of the child. Why do you think tells the stories with these parallels?
  • Luke 2:8-21. Though Matthew shows us Christ’s birth (or at least his infancy—the wise men may have come some time after he was born) as it relates to the rich and powerful, Luke shows us the birth in relation to the poor. Why do you think Luke tells the story this way?
  • Luke 2:9. Why is it significant that, from among the many poor people living around Bethlehem, the angel appears to the shepherds? What symbolic significance could that have? What was David the king’s occupation? How is Jesus sometimes described?
  • Luke 2:11. The angels announce the good news, the gospel: the Savior, the Messiah (”the Anointed One”), the Lord has been born. How does each of these titles differ in meaning?
  • Luke 2:11. Luke is the only one of the four gospel writers who uses the title “Savior,” and he uses the verb “save” more than Matthew and Mark put together. Why might that be? What does it tell us about his gospel?

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

  • Luke 2:14: Peace, good will toward men. See this post by Kevin Barney for a discussion of alternate translations of this passage.

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.




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Luke 2:16-20

Home > The New Testament > Luke > Chapters 1-4a > Verses 1:57-2:21
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Summary[edit]

This section should be very brief. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Story.This wiki page covers two episodes in the pre-ministry portion of Luke's account:

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Luke 1:57-80: Birth of John[edit]

  • Luke 1:59-60. Zacharias’s name means “whom Jehovah remembers” and John’s name means “favored by Jehovah.”
  • Luke 1:80. Might Herod’s decree (Matt 2:16) perhaps explain why John was raised in the desert? Some have speculated that he was raised by Essenes or a similar group. If John were raised by such a group, what might that suggest about his family’s relation to the temple and its priesthood? Why would it be appropriate that the forerunner of the Savior be raised among those who felt that way?

Luke 2:1-21: Birth of Jesus[edit]

  • Luke 2:1-5. Critics of the gospels like to point out that it makes no sense for Joseph to go to Bethlehem for a census, since a census, created to measure and register populations for taxation purposes, only work if people register where they live. People don't generally move back to their ancestral homelands for a census. For these critics, the Bethlehem story is created by the gospel writers to show how the birth of Christ fulfills prophecy.
However, if Joseph, through the gift of prophecy, understands that his son is to be the Messiah, the King of Israel--both by birthright, as well as by nature of his divine conception--then perhaps Joseph decides that the registry, coming on the eve of Jesus birth, is the perfect time for him to move his family back to Bethlehem so that he and his son can be registered there as legitimate heirs of the defunct Davidic kingdom. Rather than seeing the Bethlehem story as a later add on to fulfill prophecy, perhaps Joseph made the sacrifice to move his family under the burden of the late pregnancy to not only fulfill the prophecies of Christ's birth, but to potentially initiate a restoration of the kingdom.
Since Joseph and his family are traditionally thought to have stayed in Bethlehem for perhaps over a year before being warned to leave, it is possible that Joseph had originally intended to permanently settle in Bethlehem with his family. Of course, this didn't work out, and when they return from Egypt, Joseph is told to go back to his former home in Nazareth--perhaps to give Jesus a safer and quieter upbringing away from the power-wrangling closer to Jerusalem.--Rob Fergus 15:05, 19 Dec 2006 (UTC)
  • Luke 2:1: Caesar. "Caesar" in verse 1 is the title of the Roman emperor.
  • Luke 2:1: Taxed. The verb translated as "taxed" in verse 1 and following verses is apographo (related to the "graph" words of English), which meant to enroll or register. Such registration presumably would have included information to be used for taxing purposes, although the word doesn't require it. The word translated as "taxing" in verse 2 is apographe, which many modern translations translate as "census."
  • Luke 2:1: All the world.' It is important to Luke's record that the story of Christ's birth begins on a rather cosmic level: "all the world." Though this phrase may well have been simply a Roman way of describing "the whole empire (since nothing else matters but the empire)," the role the phrase plays in the story here is important: it opens with Caesar Augustus, the honorable, who has power over life and death throughout "all the world," requiring the subjected state of Judah to a census for taxation and conscription purposes. When Jesus is born a few verses later, he is laid quite humbly in a feed-box.
  • Luke 2:4: City. The Greek word translated as "city" in verse 4 is polis (related to the English word "politics"). The word can also be translated as "town"; at the time, Bethlehem was only a village.
  • Luke 2:4. As there are no parentheses in Greek, the role the final phrase of this verse plays in the English translation of the text betrays the understanding of the translators of the KJV. Parentheses accomplish two things at once. They say something about the importance and the necessity of their content: whatever is parenthetical is at once less important and yet nonetheless absolutely necessary. Ultimately, parentheses mar a text, breaking up its flow by frustrating what would otherwise be a rather simple sentence: they are used because some necessary, though not central, information must be included. That the translators relegated Joseph's Davidic lineage to parentheses is rather interesting: they recognized that its inclusion in the passage disrupts the flow of the text, but that it is absolutely necessary to understanding. That is, on the one hand, one must recognize that verses 4 and 5 do not read very well unless some sort of punctuation makes some sense of the jumble of words. But on the other hand, that Joseph leaves Nazareth to go to Bethlehem for the registration would make no sense unless the lineage were mentioned. The consequence of this syntactic interpretation on the translators' part is that the lineage is marginalized: though necessary for understanding, it is marked with a sort of unimportance, thrust to the side of things, almost unworthy of mention. But, as one must recognize the place of Joseph's lineage in the meaning of the story, one must also recognize how not marginal this information is! There is, in short, an irony about the translation here--an irony recognizably embedded in the Greek itself.
In other words, Luke only seems to mention Joseph's lineage in passing, as a footnote perhaps. Yet this lineage is vital: Joseph's place in the Davidic line marks the absolute humility of the royal family (displaced from their city, reduced to rags, sleeping in a stable, placing the baby in the feed-box, not to mention the unfortunate scandal of Mary's being pregnant). When this is set in the broader context of unquestioned Roman power (or, rather, Roman power wielded absolutely, such that when it is questioned, it is not questioned for long), the irony of Jesus' birth begins to open up. This opens onto the humility further implied in the announcement to, of all people, shepherds, etc.
This humility is perhaps highlighted if one knows something of the likely reason for Joseph's being in Nazareth in the first place. If Joseph was, as the parenthetical material claims, "of the house and lineage of David," Joseph's right to rule in Judah would have earned him enemies among the Hasmoneans and perhaps eventually among those elite within the government under the Romans. Some scholars have suggested, then, that Joseph was in an obscure northern village precisely to be out of the way in the meanwhile. His lengthy journey to Bethlehem brings him to his rightful place as heir, but even there he is without the means and connections to provide a decent place for Jesus' birth. Whatever the reason for Joseph's living so far from his ancestral home, and especially in a city of almost no consequence (Nazareth was a tiny village), the census brings him home to where he ought to wield influence and power because of his lineage.
  • Luke 2:5. The phrase translated as "espoused wife" in verse 5 (mnesteuo autos gune) is traditionally and generally understood to mean that Mary was betrothed or pledged to be married to Joseph, a commitment that is stronger than what we think of as an engagement to be married.
  • Luke 2:6-7: Accomplished. The Greek word translated "accomplished" (pimplaemi) in verse 6 could also have been translated “fulfilled.” Luke uses that Greek word, “fulfilled,” eight times in chapters one and two. Why?
  • Luke 2:7: Inn. In verse 7, the Greek word translated as "inn" ("inns" in the Joseph Smith Translation) is kataluma. One possible meaning of the word is the traditional one, referring to a lodging place where strangers could stay. During this time period, such inns would have likely been very small and crude by today's standards, and often used for animals as well as people. Another possible translation of the word is to refer to the room of a house, often the dining room but sometimes a guestroom. Bible scholars who have intepreted the word this way in this verse believe that Mary and Joseph may have wanted to stay at the home of relatives, but found that there was no room there (perhaps because of so many people coming for the census). Kataluma is used two other times in the New Testament, Mark 14:14 and Luke 22:11, where the King James Version uses the word "guestchamber" to refer to the place of the Last Supper.
  • Luke 2:7: Manger. In verse 7, the word (phatne) translated as "manger" could also be translated as "feeding trough" or "animal stall."
  • Luke 2:7: Swaddling. In verse 7, the word (sparganoo) translated as "swaddling clothes" refers to strips of cloth that were commonly used for newborn babies.
  • Luke 2:7. The description of the birth itself lays all the emphasis on Mary, while the journey to Bethlehem seems to lay the burden on Joseph. In verses 4-5, Mary is a tagalong, but here the birth is entirely her business. That shift in focus is important: this baby is "her firstborn son," but not Joseph's. That is, though Joseph is explicitly of "the house and lineage of David," Jesus is Mary's, original with her and with whatever secrets she has in her bosom: Joseph stands quite at the side of things. This is doubly significant in light of the fact that Joseph is not mentioned again in regards to the adoration of the Baby in the whole following passage. While shepherds come to worship, Joseph simply disappears from the narrative. Joseph is, ultimately, set up as a sort of background to the story, made a sort of backdrop to how Mary arrives in Bethlehem, but that is it.
We all know that Christ was not born in December. To back this up, in verse 8 we see shepherds in the field tending their flocks. This would not happen in the middle of December. This would be something they would and could do in the Spring. Also, the fact that the inns were all full suggests that there were a lot of people in the area. This would be in line with the Passover (April) in which thousands and thousands of pilgrims went to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration.
  • Luke 2:8. That the angels come to shepherds is significant on a few levels. Certainly, there is a powerful contrast betweeen the highhanded political issues of the first verses of the chapter and the angelic message to these humble shepherds. But there is more as well: David had been a shepherd "in the same country" where these are, and hints of the Davidic themes of Luke are present here.
  • Luke 2:9. The angel appears and with him or her is "the glory of the Lord," a phrase with quite a particular meaning in that era. As spelled out in Ezekiel, the "glory of the Lord" was something like the physical reality of God's presence, the thing that registers with the physical senses when the Lord is near. Ezekiel sees the glory come to and go from the house of the Lord, and the word in Hebrew (as well as Greek) translated "glory" means quite literally "weight." This emergence of the angel from heaven with the glory of the Lord is phrased ultimately in terms of the Day of Atonement, where the angelic high priest would emerge from the temple bearing "good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people," clothed in the robes that made him represent the Lord Himself. This emergence on the Day of Atonement was understood to be the coming of judgment, the great Day of the Lord, and it is significant then that the shepherds "were sore afraid." They should have been: they knew what such an appearance meant, and they were frightened by the coming Day.
  • Luke 2:10. It is in light of this fear and of the apocalyptic overtones of the visitation that the angel's first words are "Fear not." The Day of the Lord was to be fearful indeed, but not to the poor and trodden down: they were to be saved at the last on the great Day of the Lord, according to the prophets. That the angel goes on to extend these "good tidings of great joy" to "all people" is significant as well: from the very start, Luke has the vision of the Gentile missions to come. One should note that "good tidings" is a translation of the Greek euangelion, what is usually translated "gospel": this is the first announcement of the gospel, the arrival of the good message to be brought by the angels. It is to the shepherds, of all people, that the announcement comes (does this perpetuate the acceptation of Abel in the earliest stories of the Bible?).
  • Luke 2:11. It is interesting that the angel describes Jesus as being born "unto you." There is apparently an allusion in this phrasing to Isa 6:9, essentially a reinterpretation, then, of an Old Testament prophecy. Like the passage in Isaiah, Jesus is given four titles here: "Savior," "Christ," "the Lord," and "of David" (compare Isaiah's: "Wonderful Counselor," "the Mighty God," "the Everlasting Father," "the Prince of Peace").
  • Luke 2:12. As heavenly visitors often do, the angel offers a sign or a token that is to prove the genuineness of the vision, so that the shepherds can know surely that they have been visited by true messengers. The sign is, however, quite humble, linking up with all the themes of humility running through the whole passage: they will find a baby in a feed-box.
  • Luke 2:13. The phrase "heavenly host" is archaic enough that many do not recognize the military thrust of the words: what appears in song here are legions of armies, all angelic. The vision is parallel to visions in the Book of Mormon and the Old Testament, where God appears in the midst of so many angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God. As Amos 3:7 puts things, this is the "council" (unfortunately translated "secret" in the KJV), the heavenly chorus and council of God. That the shepherds here have such a vision suggests that they have had a glimpse of what goes on within the true holy of holies (Isaiah describes a similar scene as happening within the temple).
This is especially significant in light of the triple appearance of angels in Luke's Christmas story. The first angel appears to Zacharias at the veil of the temple; the second appears to Mary in Nazareth; the third appears here to the shepherds out in the field. One can note in this series of movement away from the centralized cultus of the temple towards the poor who were—at the time—dispossessed of the temple: from the actual place of revelation at the veil to a house in an obscure village, and then to the fields of the countryside where the poor shepherds tend their flocks. What is so significant about this triple appearance and trajectory is that the third messenger opens the heavens, not to the priestly figure of Zacharias in the temple, but to the homely shepherds in the field: there it is, far from the Holy of Holies, that the throneroom of the Lord is opened again. This, of course, plays into Luke's broader message: the gospel is to be preached to the dispossessed, to the poor and downtrodden.
The temple themes are quite clear here, as they are through much of chapter 1. Three angelic messengers are sent, as in Gen 18 to Abraham, to prepare Israel to behold/enter into the council of heaven by parting the veil. (It will be noted that three angelic messengers are to be found in the Matthew version of the Christmas story as well, though there all three appear uniquely to Joseph.)
  • Luke 2:14. The words of the angels emphasize the logic of incarnation: from heaven ("Glory to God in the highest") to earth ("and on earth peace, good will toward men"). The linking up of God's heaven with man's earth in the encounter is significant: in the incarnation, the glory of God brings about peace on earth, and the two are made one.
  • Luke 2:15. The shepherds collectively decide to confirm the event by seeking the sign left by the angel.
  • Luke 2:16. Not only does "haste" describe the shepherd's way of getting to the stable, but it also describes Luke's treatment of their stay there: nothing is said of their visit to the Christ Child except that they found Mary, and Joseph, and the baby in the feed-box. This sets up the emphasis Luke apparently is trying maintain, however: several verses will set up the subsequent response of the shepherds and how it compares to the response of Mary. This anticipates to some extent the relation between Jesus and those for whom He performs miracles: one keeps things silent, the others broadcast the message widely. Indeed, there is a profound emphasis on this point, and it might be of some importance, given the temple themes running through this story (see especially verse 13): the shepherds, having been given a sacred sign and a vision of the celestial glory, spread abroad the mystery they have been shown, while Mary—the handmaiden of the Lord—"kept all these things" in her heart, maintained the integrity of the symbolism (the verb translated "pondered" here—symballein—is the word from which the English "symbol" is derived) by locking up the signs and tokens she had received within her heart. This is not, of course, to denigrate what the shepherds do: that they glorify and praise God would seem to mean that they speak with the tongue of the angels they beheld. But Mary's different response certainly deserves sustained attention.
  • Luke 2:19: Pondered. The Greek word sumballo means to meet or encounter, either another or oneself. Acts 4:15 also uses this same term to describe a group conferring together. Here, followed by the phrase "in her heart," sumballo suggests a conferring within onself—a rich way to express in Greek what the English phrase "pondered them in her heart" seems to accurately capture. (See also the NET note on this usage.)

Unanswered questions[edit]

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Prompts for further study[edit]

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  • Luke 1:59-60. Meaning of Zacharias and John Do the meanings of Zacharias's and John's names tell us anything about why the angel told Zacharias to name the child John and why the family and friends wanted to name him after his father? (See lexical notes below.) How would the family have understood the name Zacharias in this case? How is the name John meaningful in this case?
  • Luke 1:67-80. What does Zacharias tell us about Jesus in his blessing of John? How does what he says about Jesus reflect what we saw the prophets of the Old Testament saying? Zacharias specifically says that Jesus has come to make it possible for Israel to perform the mercy that was promised and to remember the covenant. Reread Ex 19:5-6 to recall the promise of the covenant. Given that promise, what does Zacharias foresee Jesus restoring? The Greek word translated “serve” in verse 74 specifically refers to temple service. What should we make of the fact that the priest who has been serving in the temple is prophesying that Jesus will come and make temple service possible?
  • Luke 1:67-80. What does Zacharias tell us about John in this blessing? Why does Zacharias call Jesus “the dayspring,” in other words, the dawn? See also verses 78-79.
  • Luke 2:1-21. As in chapter 1, Luke goes out of his way to tell the story of Jesus’ birth in parallel to the story of John the Baptist’s birth: the joy at the birth of the child, the circumcision and naming, prophecies of expectation by someone closely associated with the temple, and a concluding remark about the growth and development of the child. Why do you think tells the stories with these parallels?
  • Luke 2:8-21. Though Matthew shows us Christ’s birth (or at least his infancy—the wise men may have come some time after he was born) as it relates to the rich and powerful, Luke shows us the birth in relation to the poor. Why do you think Luke tells the story this way?
  • Luke 2:9. Why is it significant that, from among the many poor people living around Bethlehem, the angel appears to the shepherds? What symbolic significance could that have? What was David the king’s occupation? How is Jesus sometimes described?
  • Luke 2:11. The angels announce the good news, the gospel: the Savior, the Messiah (”the Anointed One”), the Lord has been born. How does each of these titles differ in meaning?
  • Luke 2:11. Luke is the only one of the four gospel writers who uses the title “Savior,” and he uses the verb “save” more than Matthew and Mark put together. Why might that be? What does it tell us about his gospel?

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

  • Luke 2:14: Peace, good will toward men. See this post by Kevin Barney for a discussion of alternate translations of this passage.

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.




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Luke 2:21-25

Home > The New Testament > Luke > Chapters 1-4a > Verses 2:22-52
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Summary[edit]

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  • Jesus presented at the temple (2:22-40)
  • Jesus about his Father's business at the temple (2:41-52)

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

  • Luke 2:32, 34. The words of Simeon here are very similar to that found in the apocryphal Testament of Levi (Dead Sea Scrolls, 4Q541), describing an individual that was to appear and "make atonement". This would suggest that Simeon may here be citing an old tradition related to the Messiah.
  • Luke 2:34-35. When Simeon speaks of the fall and rise of many in Israel, he may have Isa 8:14 in mind. Note also that the only other times that Luke uses the Greek word that is here translated “rise,” he is referring to resurrection, so that is probably also what he means here.
  • Luke 2:36. Phanuel means “face of God” and Asar (Asher) means “good luck.”
  • Luke 2:36. Four women in the Old Testament are called “prophetess”: Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Deborah (Judges 4:4), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14), and Isaiah’s wife (Isaiah 8:3). The rabbis also recognized Sarah, Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1), Abigail (1 Samuel 25:32), and Esther as prophetesses.
  • Luke 2:41-51. Notice how important the Temple is to Luke’s story. It begins in the Temple, with Gabriel’s appearance to Zacharias. As an infant Jesus’s divinity and calling is confirmed by witnesses in the temple. And the only incident we know from his childhood is one in the Temple. When we get to the end of Luke gospel (Luke 24:53), we will see that his story ends with the disciples in the Temple.
  • Luke 2:49. In verse 49, the phrase translated “about my Father’s business” is probably better translated “in my Father’s house.”

Unanswered questions[edit]

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Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

  • Luke 2:21-29. Why is it important to know that Jesus was raised according to the Mosaic Law?
  • Luke 2:22-24, 25-27. In the first set of verses, Luke refers to the law three times. In the second set, he refers to the Spirit three times. What do you make of that parallel?
  • Luke 2:22-28. Oddly, Luke seems to be confused about the rituals required by the Law of Moses. According to Leviticus 12:2-8, forty days after the birth of a male child, a woman was to be purified by offering a lamb at the temple, or a pair of doves if she was poor. Exodus 13:2 and 13:12-13 says that the first-born male belongs to God and could be redeemed by an offering by the father. Luke has conflated the two offerings.
  • Luke 2:23. In verse 23, "male that openeth the womb" is the literal translation of a Greek idiom that refers to the firstborn male.
  • Luke 2:25. Some have speculated that Simeon is a member of the priestly class who, having seen the corruption of the temple priesthood, is waiting for its restoration. This speculation based on the fact that he calls himself a servant in verse 29 and that word is generally reserved for those with the priesthood.
  • Luke 2:25. In verse 25, the word translated “consolation” is paraklēsis. It is closely related to the word translated “comforter” in places like John 14:16 and 26, and 15:26. Literally the Greek word means “one who calls out” or “one who calls to,” so it means “an exhorter” or “one who beseeches.” Luke uses the word in Luke 3:18 to describe John the Baptist’s preaching.
  • Luke 2:25. Simeon has been “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” What does that mean? A rabbinic tradition has it that the phrase refers to the last words spoken between Elijah and Elisha, words that will be revealed when Elijah returns. Could that rabbinic tradition have significance for Latter-day Saints?
  • Luke 2:35. With what does Simeon bless Mary? When Simeon says that Jesus will minister so “that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed,” what does he mean?
  • Luke 2:36-38. By calling Anna a prophetess, Luke explicitly compares her to Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, and Isaiah's wife. (See the exegesis.) In what ways is she comparable to them?
  • Luke 2:36-38. If we think of Simeon and Anna as types, who might they represent?
  • Luke 2:36. Do the meanings of the names in Anna's genealogy perhaps explain why Luke has mentioned those names?
  • Luke 2:42-52. Luke shows us a young boy who knows the scriptures, who is at home in the Temple, who understands that God is his father, and who obeys his parents. The person we see here is anything but a rebel. Why might Luke have thought it important to show his audience that?
  • Luke 2:49. This verse could summarize Jesus’ life. Did Luke write it with that in mind?

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.




Previous page: Verses 1:57-2:21                      Next page: Verses 3:1-4:15

Luke 2:26-30

Home > The New Testament > Luke > Chapters 1-4a > Verses 2:22-52
Previous page: Verses 1:57-2:21                      Next page: Verses 3:1-4:15


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Summary[edit]

This section should be very brief. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

  • Jesus presented at the temple (2:22-40)
  • Jesus about his Father's business at the temple (2:41-52)

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

  • Luke 2:32, 34. The words of Simeon here are very similar to that found in the apocryphal Testament of Levi (Dead Sea Scrolls, 4Q541), describing an individual that was to appear and "make atonement". This would suggest that Simeon may here be citing an old tradition related to the Messiah.
  • Luke 2:34-35. When Simeon speaks of the fall and rise of many in Israel, he may have Isa 8:14 in mind. Note also that the only other times that Luke uses the Greek word that is here translated “rise,” he is referring to resurrection, so that is probably also what he means here.
  • Luke 2:36. Phanuel means “face of God” and Asar (Asher) means “good luck.”
  • Luke 2:36. Four women in the Old Testament are called “prophetess”: Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Deborah (Judges 4:4), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14), and Isaiah’s wife (Isaiah 8:3). The rabbis also recognized Sarah, Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1), Abigail (1 Samuel 25:32), and Esther as prophetesses.
  • Luke 2:41-51. Notice how important the Temple is to Luke’s story. It begins in the Temple, with Gabriel’s appearance to Zacharias. As an infant Jesus’s divinity and calling is confirmed by witnesses in the temple. And the only incident we know from his childhood is one in the Temple. When we get to the end of Luke gospel (Luke 24:53), we will see that his story ends with the disciples in the Temple.
  • Luke 2:49. In verse 49, the phrase translated “about my Father’s business” is probably better translated “in my Father’s house.”

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

  • Luke 2:21-29. Why is it important to know that Jesus was raised according to the Mosaic Law?
  • Luke 2:22-24, 25-27. In the first set of verses, Luke refers to the law three times. In the second set, he refers to the Spirit three times. What do you make of that parallel?
  • Luke 2:22-28. Oddly, Luke seems to be confused about the rituals required by the Law of Moses. According to Leviticus 12:2-8, forty days after the birth of a male child, a woman was to be purified by offering a lamb at the temple, or a pair of doves if she was poor. Exodus 13:2 and 13:12-13 says that the first-born male belongs to God and could be redeemed by an offering by the father. Luke has conflated the two offerings.
  • Luke 2:23. In verse 23, "male that openeth the womb" is the literal translation of a Greek idiom that refers to the firstborn male.
  • Luke 2:25. Some have speculated that Simeon is a member of the priestly class who, having seen the corruption of the temple priesthood, is waiting for its restoration. This speculation based on the fact that he calls himself a servant in verse 29 and that word is generally reserved for those with the priesthood.
  • Luke 2:25. In verse 25, the word translated “consolation” is paraklēsis. It is closely related to the word translated “comforter” in places like John 14:16 and 26, and 15:26. Literally the Greek word means “one who calls out” or “one who calls to,” so it means “an exhorter” or “one who beseeches.” Luke uses the word in Luke 3:18 to describe John the Baptist’s preaching.
  • Luke 2:25. Simeon has been “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” What does that mean? A rabbinic tradition has it that the phrase refers to the last words spoken between Elijah and Elisha, words that will be revealed when Elijah returns. Could that rabbinic tradition have significance for Latter-day Saints?
  • Luke 2:35. With what does Simeon bless Mary? When Simeon says that Jesus will minister so “that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed,” what does he mean?
  • Luke 2:36-38. By calling Anna a prophetess, Luke explicitly compares her to Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, and Isaiah's wife. (See the exegesis.) In what ways is she comparable to them?
  • Luke 2:36-38. If we think of Simeon and Anna as types, who might they represent?
  • Luke 2:36. Do the meanings of the names in Anna's genealogy perhaps explain why Luke has mentioned those names?
  • Luke 2:42-52. Luke shows us a young boy who knows the scriptures, who is at home in the Temple, who understands that God is his father, and who obeys his parents. The person we see here is anything but a rebel. Why might Luke have thought it important to show his audience that?
  • Luke 2:49. This verse could summarize Jesus’ life. Did Luke write it with that in mind?

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.




Previous page: Verses 1:57-2:21                      Next page: Verses 3:1-4:15

Luke 2:31-35

Home > The New Testament > Luke > Chapters 1-4a > Verses 2:22-52
Previous page: Verses 1:57-2:21                      Next page: Verses 3:1-4:15


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This section should be very brief. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

  • Jesus presented at the temple (2:22-40)
  • Jesus about his Father's business at the temple (2:41-52)

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

  • Luke 2:32, 34. The words of Simeon here are very similar to that found in the apocryphal Testament of Levi (Dead Sea Scrolls, 4Q541), describing an individual that was to appear and "make atonement". This would suggest that Simeon may here be citing an old tradition related to the Messiah.
  • Luke 2:34-35. When Simeon speaks of the fall and rise of many in Israel, he may have Isa 8:14 in mind. Note also that the only other times that Luke uses the Greek word that is here translated “rise,” he is referring to resurrection, so that is probably also what he means here.
  • Luke 2:36. Phanuel means “face of God” and Asar (Asher) means “good luck.”
  • Luke 2:36. Four women in the Old Testament are called “prophetess”: Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Deborah (Judges 4:4), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14), and Isaiah’s wife (Isaiah 8:3). The rabbis also recognized Sarah, Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1), Abigail (1 Samuel 25:32), and Esther as prophetesses.
  • Luke 2:41-51. Notice how important the Temple is to Luke’s story. It begins in the Temple, with Gabriel’s appearance to Zacharias. As an infant Jesus’s divinity and calling is confirmed by witnesses in the temple. And the only incident we know from his childhood is one in the Temple. When we get to the end of Luke gospel (Luke 24:53), we will see that his story ends with the disciples in the Temple.
  • Luke 2:49. In verse 49, the phrase translated “about my Father’s business” is probably better translated “in my Father’s house.”

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

  • Luke 2:21-29. Why is it important to know that Jesus was raised according to the Mosaic Law?
  • Luke 2:22-24, 25-27. In the first set of verses, Luke refers to the law three times. In the second set, he refers to the Spirit three times. What do you make of that parallel?
  • Luke 2:22-28. Oddly, Luke seems to be confused about the rituals required by the Law of Moses. According to Leviticus 12:2-8, forty days after the birth of a male child, a woman was to be purified by offering a lamb at the temple, or a pair of doves if she was poor. Exodus 13:2 and 13:12-13 says that the first-born male belongs to God and could be redeemed by an offering by the father. Luke has conflated the two offerings.
  • Luke 2:23. In verse 23, "male that openeth the womb" is the literal translation of a Greek idiom that refers to the firstborn male.
  • Luke 2:25. Some have speculated that Simeon is a member of the priestly class who, having seen the corruption of the temple priesthood, is waiting for its restoration. This speculation based on the fact that he calls himself a servant in verse 29 and that word is generally reserved for those with the priesthood.
  • Luke 2:25. In verse 25, the word translated “consolation” is paraklēsis. It is closely related to the word translated “comforter” in places like John 14:16 and 26, and 15:26. Literally the Greek word means “one who calls out” or “one who calls to,” so it means “an exhorter” or “one who beseeches.” Luke uses the word in Luke 3:18 to describe John the Baptist’s preaching.
  • Luke 2:25. Simeon has been “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” What does that mean? A rabbinic tradition has it that the phrase refers to the last words spoken between Elijah and Elisha, words that will be revealed when Elijah returns. Could that rabbinic tradition have significance for Latter-day Saints?
  • Luke 2:35. With what does Simeon bless Mary? When Simeon says that Jesus will minister so “that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed,” what does he mean?
  • Luke 2:36-38. By calling Anna a prophetess, Luke explicitly compares her to Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, and Isaiah's wife. (See the exegesis.) In what ways is she comparable to them?
  • Luke 2:36-38. If we think of Simeon and Anna as types, who might they represent?
  • Luke 2:36. Do the meanings of the names in Anna's genealogy perhaps explain why Luke has mentioned those names?
  • Luke 2:42-52. Luke shows us a young boy who knows the scriptures, who is at home in the Temple, who understands that God is his father, and who obeys his parents. The person we see here is anything but a rebel. Why might Luke have thought it important to show his audience that?
  • Luke 2:49. This verse could summarize Jesus’ life. Did Luke write it with that in mind?

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.




Previous page: Verses 1:57-2:21                      Next page: Verses 3:1-4:15

Luke 2:36-40

Home > The New Testament > Luke > Chapters 1-4a > Verses 2:22-52
Previous page: Verses 1:57-2:21                      Next page: Verses 3:1-4:15


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This section should be very brief. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

  • Jesus presented at the temple (2:22-40)
  • Jesus about his Father's business at the temple (2:41-52)

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

  • Luke 2:32, 34. The words of Simeon here are very similar to that found in the apocryphal Testament of Levi (Dead Sea Scrolls, 4Q541), describing an individual that was to appear and "make atonement". This would suggest that Simeon may here be citing an old tradition related to the Messiah.
  • Luke 2:34-35. When Simeon speaks of the fall and rise of many in Israel, he may have Isa 8:14 in mind. Note also that the only other times that Luke uses the Greek word that is here translated “rise,” he is referring to resurrection, so that is probably also what he means here.
  • Luke 2:36. Phanuel means “face of God” and Asar (Asher) means “good luck.”
  • Luke 2:36. Four women in the Old Testament are called “prophetess”: Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Deborah (Judges 4:4), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14), and Isaiah’s wife (Isaiah 8:3). The rabbis also recognized Sarah, Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1), Abigail (1 Samuel 25:32), and Esther as prophetesses.
  • Luke 2:41-51. Notice how important the Temple is to Luke’s story. It begins in the Temple, with Gabriel’s appearance to Zacharias. As an infant Jesus’s divinity and calling is confirmed by witnesses in the temple. And the only incident we know from his childhood is one in the Temple. When we get to the end of Luke gospel (Luke 24:53), we will see that his story ends with the disciples in the Temple.
  • Luke 2:49. In verse 49, the phrase translated “about my Father’s business” is probably better translated “in my Father’s house.”

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

  • Luke 2:21-29. Why is it important to know that Jesus was raised according to the Mosaic Law?
  • Luke 2:22-24, 25-27. In the first set of verses, Luke refers to the law three times. In the second set, he refers to the Spirit three times. What do you make of that parallel?
  • Luke 2:22-28. Oddly, Luke seems to be confused about the rituals required by the Law of Moses. According to Leviticus 12:2-8, forty days after the birth of a male child, a woman was to be purified by offering a lamb at the temple, or a pair of doves if she was poor. Exodus 13:2 and 13:12-13 says that the first-born male belongs to God and could be redeemed by an offering by the father. Luke has conflated the two offerings.
  • Luke 2:23. In verse 23, "male that openeth the womb" is the literal translation of a Greek idiom that refers to the firstborn male.
  • Luke 2:25. Some have speculated that Simeon is a member of the priestly class who, having seen the corruption of the temple priesthood, is waiting for its restoration. This speculation based on the fact that he calls himself a servant in verse 29 and that word is generally reserved for those with the priesthood.
  • Luke 2:25. In verse 25, the word translated “consolation” is paraklēsis. It is closely related to the word translated “comforter” in places like John 14:16 and 26, and 15:26. Literally the Greek word means “one who calls out” or “one who calls to,” so it means “an exhorter” or “one who beseeches.” Luke uses the word in Luke 3:18 to describe John the Baptist’s preaching.
  • Luke 2:25. Simeon has been “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” What does that mean? A rabbinic tradition has it that the phrase refers to the last words spoken between Elijah and Elisha, words that will be revealed when Elijah returns. Could that rabbinic tradition have significance for Latter-day Saints?
  • Luke 2:35. With what does Simeon bless Mary? When Simeon says that Jesus will minister so “that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed,” what does he mean?
  • Luke 2:36-38. By calling Anna a prophetess, Luke explicitly compares her to Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, and Isaiah's wife. (See the exegesis.) In what ways is she comparable to them?
  • Luke 2:36-38. If we think of Simeon and Anna as types, who might they represent?
  • Luke 2:36. Do the meanings of the names in Anna's genealogy perhaps explain why Luke has mentioned those names?
  • Luke 2:42-52. Luke shows us a young boy who knows the scriptures, who is at home in the Temple, who understands that God is his father, and who obeys his parents. The person we see here is anything but a rebel. Why might Luke have thought it important to show his audience that?
  • Luke 2:49. This verse could summarize Jesus’ life. Did Luke write it with that in mind?

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.




Previous page: Verses 1:57-2:21                      Next page: Verses 3:1-4:15

Luke 2:41-45

Home > The New Testament > Luke > Chapters 1-4a > Verses 2:22-52
Previous page: Verses 1:57-2:21                      Next page: Verses 3:1-4:15


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This section should be very brief. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

  • Jesus presented at the temple (2:22-40)
  • Jesus about his Father's business at the temple (2:41-52)

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

  • Luke 2:32, 34. The words of Simeon here are very similar to that found in the apocryphal Testament of Levi (Dead Sea Scrolls, 4Q541), describing an individual that was to appear and "make atonement". This would suggest that Simeon may here be citing an old tradition related to the Messiah.
  • Luke 2:34-35. When Simeon speaks of the fall and rise of many in Israel, he may have Isa 8:14 in mind. Note also that the only other times that Luke uses the Greek word that is here translated “rise,” he is referring to resurrection, so that is probably also what he means here.
  • Luke 2:36. Phanuel means “face of God” and Asar (Asher) means “good luck.”
  • Luke 2:36. Four women in the Old Testament are called “prophetess”: Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Deborah (Judges 4:4), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14), and Isaiah’s wife (Isaiah 8:3). The rabbis also recognized Sarah, Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1), Abigail (1 Samuel 25:32), and Esther as prophetesses.
  • Luke 2:41-51. Notice how important the Temple is to Luke’s story. It begins in the Temple, with Gabriel’s appearance to Zacharias. As an infant Jesus’s divinity and calling is confirmed by witnesses in the temple. And the only incident we know from his childhood is one in the Temple. When we get to the end of Luke gospel (Luke 24:53), we will see that his story ends with the disciples in the Temple.
  • Luke 2:49. In verse 49, the phrase translated “about my Father’s business” is probably better translated “in my Father’s house.”

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

  • Luke 2:21-29. Why is it important to know that Jesus was raised according to the Mosaic Law?
  • Luke 2:22-24, 25-27. In the first set of verses, Luke refers to the law three times. In the second set, he refers to the Spirit three times. What do you make of that parallel?
  • Luke 2:22-28. Oddly, Luke seems to be confused about the rituals required by the Law of Moses. According to Leviticus 12:2-8, forty days after the birth of a male child, a woman was to be purified by offering a lamb at the temple, or a pair of doves if she was poor. Exodus 13:2 and 13:12-13 says that the first-born male belongs to God and could be redeemed by an offering by the father. Luke has conflated the two offerings.
  • Luke 2:23. In verse 23, "male that openeth the womb" is the literal translation of a Greek idiom that refers to the firstborn male.
  • Luke 2:25. Some have speculated that Simeon is a member of the priestly class who, having seen the corruption of the temple priesthood, is waiting for its restoration. This speculation based on the fact that he calls himself a servant in verse 29 and that word is generally reserved for those with the priesthood.
  • Luke 2:25. In verse 25, the word translated “consolation” is paraklēsis. It is closely related to the word translated “comforter” in places like John 14:16 and 26, and 15:26. Literally the Greek word means “one who calls out” or “one who calls to,” so it means “an exhorter” or “one who beseeches.” Luke uses the word in Luke 3:18 to describe John the Baptist’s preaching.
  • Luke 2:25. Simeon has been “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” What does that mean? A rabbinic tradition has it that the phrase refers to the last words spoken between Elijah and Elisha, words that will be revealed when Elijah returns. Could that rabbinic tradition have significance for Latter-day Saints?
  • Luke 2:35. With what does Simeon bless Mary? When Simeon says that Jesus will minister so “that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed,” what does he mean?
  • Luke 2:36-38. By calling Anna a prophetess, Luke explicitly compares her to Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, and Isaiah's wife. (See the exegesis.) In what ways is she comparable to them?
  • Luke 2:36-38. If we think of Simeon and Anna as types, who might they represent?
  • Luke 2:36. Do the meanings of the names in Anna's genealogy perhaps explain why Luke has mentioned those names?
  • Luke 2:42-52. Luke shows us a young boy who knows the scriptures, who is at home in the Temple, who understands that God is his father, and who obeys his parents. The person we see here is anything but a rebel. Why might Luke have thought it important to show his audience that?
  • Luke 2:49. This verse could summarize Jesus’ life. Did Luke write it with that in mind?

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.




Previous page: Verses 1:57-2:21                      Next page: Verses 3:1-4:15

Luke 2:46-52

Home > The New Testament > Luke > Chapters 1-4a > Verses 2:22-52
Previous page: Verses 1:57-2:21                      Next page: Verses 3:1-4:15


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This section should be very brief. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

  • Jesus presented at the temple (2:22-40)
  • Jesus about his Father's business at the temple (2:41-52)

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

  • Luke 2:32, 34. The words of Simeon here are very similar to that found in the apocryphal Testament of Levi (Dead Sea Scrolls, 4Q541), describing an individual that was to appear and "make atonement". This would suggest that Simeon may here be citing an old tradition related to the Messiah.
  • Luke 2:34-35. When Simeon speaks of the fall and rise of many in Israel, he may have Isa 8:14 in mind. Note also that the only other times that Luke uses the Greek word that is here translated “rise,” he is referring to resurrection, so that is probably also what he means here.
  • Luke 2:36. Phanuel means “face of God” and Asar (Asher) means “good luck.”
  • Luke 2:36. Four women in the Old Testament are called “prophetess”: Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Deborah (Judges 4:4), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14), and Isaiah’s wife (Isaiah 8:3). The rabbis also recognized Sarah, Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1), Abigail (1 Samuel 25:32), and Esther as prophetesses.
  • Luke 2:41-51. Notice how important the Temple is to Luke’s story. It begins in the Temple, with Gabriel’s appearance to Zacharias. As an infant Jesus’s divinity and calling is confirmed by witnesses in the temple. And the only incident we know from his childhood is one in the Temple. When we get to the end of Luke gospel (Luke 24:53), we will see that his story ends with the disciples in the Temple.
  • Luke 2:49. In verse 49, the phrase translated “about my Father’s business” is probably better translated “in my Father’s house.”

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

  • Luke 2:21-29. Why is it important to know that Jesus was raised according to the Mosaic Law?
  • Luke 2:22-24, 25-27. In the first set of verses, Luke refers to the law three times. In the second set, he refers to the Spirit three times. What do you make of that parallel?
  • Luke 2:22-28. Oddly, Luke seems to be confused about the rituals required by the Law of Moses. According to Leviticus 12:2-8, forty days after the birth of a male child, a woman was to be purified by offering a lamb at the temple, or a pair of doves if she was poor. Exodus 13:2 and 13:12-13 says that the first-born male belongs to God and could be redeemed by an offering by the father. Luke has conflated the two offerings.
  • Luke 2:23. In verse 23, "male that openeth the womb" is the literal translation of a Greek idiom that refers to the firstborn male.
  • Luke 2:25. Some have speculated that Simeon is a member of the priestly class who, having seen the corruption of the temple priesthood, is waiting for its restoration. This speculation based on the fact that he calls himself a servant in verse 29 and that word is generally reserved for those with the priesthood.
  • Luke 2:25. In verse 25, the word translated “consolation” is paraklēsis. It is closely related to the word translated “comforter” in places like John 14:16 and 26, and 15:26. Literally the Greek word means “one who calls out” or “one who calls to,” so it means “an exhorter” or “one who beseeches.” Luke uses the word in Luke 3:18 to describe John the Baptist’s preaching.
  • Luke 2:25. Simeon has been “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” What does that mean? A rabbinic tradition has it that the phrase refers to the last words spoken between Elijah and Elisha, words that will be revealed when Elijah returns. Could that rabbinic tradition have significance for Latter-day Saints?
  • Luke 2:35. With what does Simeon bless Mary? When Simeon says that Jesus will minister so “that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed,” what does he mean?
  • Luke 2:36-38. By calling Anna a prophetess, Luke explicitly compares her to Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, and Isaiah's wife. (See the exegesis.) In what ways is she comparable to them?
  • Luke 2:36-38. If we think of Simeon and Anna as types, who might they represent?
  • Luke 2:36. Do the meanings of the names in Anna's genealogy perhaps explain why Luke has mentioned those names?
  • Luke 2:42-52. Luke shows us a young boy who knows the scriptures, who is at home in the Temple, who understands that God is his father, and who obeys his parents. The person we see here is anything but a rebel. Why might Luke have thought it important to show his audience that?
  • Luke 2:49. This verse could summarize Jesus’ life. Did Luke write it with that in mind?

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.




Previous page: Verses 1:57-2:21                      Next page: Verses 3:1-4:15

Matt 2:1-5

Home > The New Testament > Matthew > Chapters 1-2
Previous page: Matthew                      Next page: Chapters 3-4


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This section should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Story. Chapters 1-2 tell the story of Jesus's birth and childhood in four episodes:

  • Matt 1:18-25: Mary conceives and gives birth. Mary conceives, Joseph is instructed to marry her, and then Christ is born.
  • Matt 2:13-23: The flight to Egypt. Joseph and Mary flee to Egypt until Herod dies (2:13-23)

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Matt 1:1-17: Jesus's genealogy[edit]

  • Matt 1:1-17: Jesus's Genealogy. It is clear that Matthew is not giving an exact genealogy. For example, he tells us that there were fourteen generations between each of the three important events in Israel’s history—from Abraham, to David, to the Babylonian captivity, to the coming of Christ: three groups of fourteen generations each, culminating in the birth of Christ. But if we compare this genealogy to the other genealogies in the Old Testament we can see that this is incorrect. Why would Matthew knowingly give us a genealogy that isn’t accurate? (Notice that Ezra does something similar: he omits six generations of priests from his genealogy. Compare Ezra 7:1-5 to 1 Chronicles 6:3-15.)
It is curious that these five women appear in this genealogy since each has some sexual stigma about her: (1) Tamar dressed up as a prostitute to have a child by her father in law Judah; (2) Rahab was a prostitute; (3) Ruth as a widow brought Boaz into marriage in a less-than-conventional manner; (4) Bath-sheba committed adultery with King David; and (5) Mary, merely engaged, shows up pregnant. (It could be that Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bath-sheba are singled out simply because they were some of the few women noteworthy in the scripture of the time, but this then raises essentially the same question: why were these particular women, each associated with some sexual stigma, the few women noteworthy in the scripture at the time.)
It could be that Matthew makes mention of these women to suggest that the women were innocent--that they were fulfilling the will of God which lead to the birth of Christ. This fits with a view, espoused by some scholars, that a major New Testament theme is that messianic concepts in the Old Testament were misunderstood by the Jews and that Christ's mission was focused largely on groups of people who themselves were misunderstood (see verse 6 related links below for more info). As this view goes: (1) Tamar did what she did precisely to fulfill the law of levirate, which Judah was breaking. Though the process through which she accomplished the deed was unconventional, she fulfilled the law of the Lord precisely. (2) Rahab had been a prostitute, but she delivered a city into the hands of the Israelites, and she was given a perpetual inheritance among the chosen people (see Heb 11:31 and James 2:25 for references to Rahab as an example of faith). (3) Ruth's plan, in part concocted by Naomi, was according to the will of God so that David might be born through her in an act of redemption. (4) Bathsheba will be discussed below. (5) Mary, though she was probably accused of unfaithfulness, was a virgin.
If one accepts this line of reasoning, one must assume that Matthew, by including Bathsheba with the other four women, regards her (and possibly David with her?) as guiltless. On the other hand, if one rejects the idea that Matthew believes Bathsheba is innocent, then it remains to be explained what to make of the curiosity of these five women in Jesus's genealogy.
  • Matt 1:1-17: Four women in Jesus's genealogy. Genealogies in the Bible rarely mention women, but this one mentions four: Tamar (spelled “Thamar” here, verse 3), Rahab (here "Rachab," verse 5), Ruth (verse 5), and Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah (spelled “Urias” here—verse 6). One reason that Matthew may have chosen to mention these four women is that they all had unusual stories. Mary's story of a virgin birth is also unusual, and Matthew may be trying to make it fit within Jewish tradition rater than outside it. This is the gospel of Matthew, who was writing to a Jewish audience with numerous proof texts drawn from the Old testament.
Julie M Smith has a useful overview concerning the women included in Matthew's genealogy published in Segullah Spring 2008 (available here[1]).
  • Matt 1:5: The number of David's name. In Jewish thinking at the time of Christ, the “number” of David’s name is fourteen. (Jewish numerologists added up the number values of the consonants in names and believed that those numbers were significant. The Hebrew letter that we transliterate as “d” is the fourth letter in the Hebrew alphabet and the letter that we transliterate as “v” is the sixth letter, so the number of David’s name is 4+6+4, fourteen.) Note the reference to three sets of fourteen generations in verse 16.
  • Matt 1:18, 20: Of. The preposition "of" in the phrases "of the Holy Ghost" in verses 18 and 20 is a translation of the Greek preposition ek. Prepositions can be notoriously difficult to translate from one language to the other, and this is no exception. Modern translations render the preposition here as either "of," "by" or "through." Because of the various ways in which the preposition can be understood, these verses are not inconsistent with the belief that God (Heavenly Father) was the father of Jesus.
  • Matt 1:18-19: Put her away privily. Jewish divorce law, unlike the laws and customs of other people at the time, required that divorce be formal: a man wishing to divorce his wife (to do so, he had to find “some uncleanness in her” or “something indecent about her”—Deuteronomy 24:1), had to give her a document contradicting their marriage contract. She was then free to remarry.
Joseph could have had Mary tried and executed for being pregnant outside their engagement. And how far-fetched does her story sound? That she had not had sexual relations outside their marriage, but that she was pregnant of a 'divine' manner and would raise the Son of God. This is way beyond 'the dog ate my homework'. Joseph could have wanted vengeance and held angst against Mary. This seems to show meekness and compassion on his part.

Matt 1:18-25: Mary conceives and gives birth[edit]

  • Matt 1:18-25: Joseph marries Mary. Here is some major themes and points to this story:
Are there situations where we have been "crossed" where we could lash out at someone but we deal with it in a meek way? What about if you hear someone is spreading gossip about you or someone you know? We are better off if we 'turn the other cheek'.
This is the perfect example of not jumping to conclusions. Our culture is set up and our instinct is such that we automatically typically have an impulse that someone "pay" for what they have done. We assume the worst and act out immediately, rather than giving someone the benefit of the doubt and cutting them slack. I am sure when Mary explained to Joseph that she had not had sexual relations outside their engagement but that she was 'divinely' pregnant, it sounded like the most laughable of stories. But rather than laugh Mary all the way to trial and execution, Joseph 'let it ride' and cut her some slack. Shows massive character and integrity on Joseph's part.
Case study #1 : We jump to conclusions with our spouses, automatically assuming they have ill intentions. Your husband is late for work when you have something important to get to or your wife is ornery and snaps at you when you get home from a busy day at work. Rather than the wife hearing her husband out and finding out that his best employee quit which is the reason he is late, she jumps all over him for having mindlessly ruined her evening with his selfishness. Or the husband doesn't think that his wife has had a horrible day with the kids tearing the house apart and problems, instead he jumps all over her for not supporting him in a rough and busy day, rather than trying to have empathy for what her day might have been like.
Case study #2 : An example of email gone awry. Assume the worst and lash out only to realize later that we misinterpreted. This happens at work, we assume someone meant the worst when they are just making a comment in jest, and we lash out, only to end up feeling sheepish.
Case study #3 : Stephen Covey has an example of riding the subway in New York with a dad who is not paying attention while his three sons tear the subway apart. Covey is angry and finally goes and tells the man off. The man is almost in another world and apologizes saying that his wife, his sons' mother, had just died and they were trying to cope. It totally changed Covey's perspective, and he now had compassion and concern rather than thinking selfishly of himself and what bothers him.
Can we not all have a little more patience? Can we not all give others the benefit of the doubt? Can we not be a little more long suffering and enduring. What if we are wrong and the people did have bad intentions, does that make it any better? What if Mary had actually cheated on Joseph, would it of been of value to have her tried and executed? Do we end up feeling better by "getting our way" in a shouting match, or do we feel worse?
  • Matt 1:21: Yeshua. The name Jesus is the Latinized version of Yeshua. It was a fairly common name at the time. It means "Jehovah saves." But Jesus was the child who would in fact save us.
Verse 21 explicitly connects Jesus with the God of the Old Testament. Since the name Jesus means "Jehovah saves," this verse says, in essence: "You shall name him 'Jehovah saves,' for he will save the people from their sins."

Matt 2:1-12: The wise men[edit]

  • Matt 2:1-26: Story of the wise men. At the time, new kings were often given gifts by emissaries of foreign regimes (see related links). The gifts of the wise men can therefore be seen as the trappings of an official recognition of Christ's kingship. No wonder Herod was so threatened.
  • Matt 2:1-2: Magi. In verse 1, the Greek word translated as "wise men" is magi, the plural of magus, a Persian word that originally referred to a member of the Zoroastrian priesthood caste of the Medes and Persians. It came to refer more broadly to those in the Persian culture who were astrologers, physicians, dream intepreters and the like.
The magi thus were most likely pagan worshippers. As has been pointed out many times by commentators, readers of Matthew's gospel in the first century would certainly have understood pagans to be signified by the term. Some scholars have tried to read into the term a reference to Jews residing still in Babylon, but this seems, in the end, unlikely. In fact, if one regards the wise men as pagans, then the story of Jesus' life begins and ends with pagans, though in opposing ways: at the beginning, the pagans come to Jesus to worship Him, in the end (Matt 28:19), Jesus sends the apostles to the pagans to convert them. The poetic appeal of this reading perhaps strengthens it. This assertion needs to cite to authority so that it is rebuttable.
One has the picture here of the wise men wandering about Jerusalem (or other towns) asking about the King of the Jews. Their mention of the star and their intent to worship the newborn Messiah would have raised quite a stir in the volatile political atmosphere of the time. It is no surprise that Herod is troubled in the next verse. Perhaps an interesting aspect of the way the question is phrased in the verse here is that the wise men apparently assume that the Jews would be well apprised of the situation: it does not occur to them that the Jews would have missed the occurrence of such an event.
  • Matt 2:2: Star in the east. The Greek words translated as "his star in the east" could also be translated "his star as it rose" or "his star in its rising."
  • Matt 2:3. This verse is worded in such a way that it might be an allusion to Isa 7:2: the king and the people are suddenly quite afraid, but because they misunderstand the doings of God.
  • Matt 2:4. Herod consults with the (apparently subordinate) priests and scribes in order to sort things out before confronting himself the wise men on the subject. The point is interesting because it presents Herod as in absolute control, and it presents the priests and scribes as more knowledgeable than one might otherwise guess from the gospel narratives.
  • Matt 2:6. Matthew quotes Micah 5:1-3. Since his quotation doesn’t correspond to either the Greek version of the Old Testament that was commonly used in Jesus’s day (the Septuagint) or the established Hebrew version, he is either quoting somewhat loosely, or he may be quoting a version of Micah that we no longer have.
  • Matt 2:11: Frankincense and myrrh. Frankincense (libanos in Greek) and myrrh (smurna) were both costly aromatic resins (dried sap). Frankincense was often used as an incense, and myrrh was often used in embalming.

Matt 2:13-23: The flight to Egypt[edit]

  • Matt 2:13-23: Moses and Jesus. The parallels between the story of Moses and that of Jesus are striking, as are the parallels between the Pharaoh and Herod: the Pharaoh tried to kill all male children (Exodus 1:22); Moses had to flee because his life was in danger (Exodus 2:15); when the Pharaoh died, Moses returned (Exodus 4:19-20). In addition, as Word Biblical Commentary points out (33a:34), the language of Matthew 2:19 is almost identical to that of Exodus 2:23 (of the Septuagint, of course). What are we to make of such parallels? What is Matthew doing by drawing our attention to them?
  • Matt 2:17: Jeremiah. ”Jeremy the prophet” means “Jeremiah the prophet.” Matthew is quoting Jeremiah 31:15. As with Micah 5 (verse 6), he is not quoting exactly.
  • Matt 2:23: Branch. The fact that the Hebrew for "branch" is nsr, may explain Matthew's remark that Jesus' life in Nazareth was foretold by the prophets; perhaps Matthew understood Isaiah 11: to be punning on the word "Nazareth."

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Matt 1:1. By using the phrase "book of the genealogy," Matthew deliberately imitates passages such as Genesis 2:4 and 5:1. Why? What is he trying to tell us about what follows?
  • Matt 1:18-19. What does the story of verses 18-19 tell us about Joseph's character?
  • Matt 1:20-23. Is it significant that Joseph is a dreamer, like Joseph of old? Is the meaning of Joseph’s name significant, “to take away my reproach”?
  • Matt 1:23. If the child is to be named “Jesus,” then why does verse 23 say his name will be “Emmanuel”?
  • Matt 1:23. Why does Matthew end this part of his story with a quotation from Isaiah?
  • Matt 2:1. Why might Matthew have thought it was important to tell the Jewish community about the visit of the Gentile wise men?
  • Matt 2:1. We see that the Gentile visitors have come to adore the Messiah. What is the reaction of the Jews to the news of his birth? What might that foreshadow? Given that foreshadowing, how might this chapter be an excellent introduction to Matthew as a whole?
  • Matt 2:1. Early Christians celebrated Epiphany, the holiday commemorating the coming of the wise men, before it began to celebrate Christmas. Why do you think that might have been?
  • Matt 2:2. What do the wise men mean when they say that they have seen his star?
  • Matt 2:3-4. Why is Herod troubled? What would Herod’s wise men know that the magi wouldn’t know? In other words, why did the wise men consult with Herod and his court?
  • Matt 2:11. Why does Matthew mention the gifts the wise men gave?
  • Matt 2:11. How might Jesus’ family have been able to use these gifts?
  • Matt 2:21-23. JST Matthew 3:25[2] - How is it that the Savior "could not be taught" or "needed not that any man should teach Him?"

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Matt 2:1-12: The wise men in cultural context. The Oxford Annotated Bible (ISBN 0-19-528485-2) points out in reference to this story that "Foreign regimes often sent emmissaries to greet and give gifts to new kings or rulers" (p. NT10).

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.



Previous page: Matthew                      Next page: Chapters 3-4

Matt 2:6-10

Home > The New Testament > Matthew > Chapters 1-2
Previous page: Matthew                      Next page: Chapters 3-4


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This section should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Story. Chapters 1-2 tell the story of Jesus's birth and childhood in four episodes:

  • Matt 1:18-25: Mary conceives and gives birth. Mary conceives, Joseph is instructed to marry her, and then Christ is born.
  • Matt 2:13-23: The flight to Egypt. Joseph and Mary flee to Egypt until Herod dies (2:13-23)

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Matt 1:1-17: Jesus's genealogy[edit]

  • Matt 1:1-17: Jesus's Genealogy. It is clear that Matthew is not giving an exact genealogy. For example, he tells us that there were fourteen generations between each of the three important events in Israel’s history—from Abraham, to David, to the Babylonian captivity, to the coming of Christ: three groups of fourteen generations each, culminating in the birth of Christ. But if we compare this genealogy to the other genealogies in the Old Testament we can see that this is incorrect. Why would Matthew knowingly give us a genealogy that isn’t accurate? (Notice that Ezra does something similar: he omits six generations of priests from his genealogy. Compare Ezra 7:1-5 to 1 Chronicles 6:3-15.)
It is curious that these five women appear in this genealogy since each has some sexual stigma about her: (1) Tamar dressed up as a prostitute to have a child by her father in law Judah; (2) Rahab was a prostitute; (3) Ruth as a widow brought Boaz into marriage in a less-than-conventional manner; (4) Bath-sheba committed adultery with King David; and (5) Mary, merely engaged, shows up pregnant. (It could be that Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bath-sheba are singled out simply because they were some of the few women noteworthy in the scripture of the time, but this then raises essentially the same question: why were these particular women, each associated with some sexual stigma, the few women noteworthy in the scripture at the time.)
It could be that Matthew makes mention of these women to suggest that the women were innocent--that they were fulfilling the will of God which lead to the birth of Christ. This fits with a view, espoused by some scholars, that a major New Testament theme is that messianic concepts in the Old Testament were misunderstood by the Jews and that Christ's mission was focused largely on groups of people who themselves were misunderstood (see verse 6 related links below for more info). As this view goes: (1) Tamar did what she did precisely to fulfill the law of levirate, which Judah was breaking. Though the process through which she accomplished the deed was unconventional, she fulfilled the law of the Lord precisely. (2) Rahab had been a prostitute, but she delivered a city into the hands of the Israelites, and she was given a perpetual inheritance among the chosen people (see Heb 11:31 and James 2:25 for references to Rahab as an example of faith). (3) Ruth's plan, in part concocted by Naomi, was according to the will of God so that David might be born through her in an act of redemption. (4) Bathsheba will be discussed below. (5) Mary, though she was probably accused of unfaithfulness, was a virgin.
If one accepts this line of reasoning, one must assume that Matthew, by including Bathsheba with the other four women, regards her (and possibly David with her?) as guiltless. On the other hand, if one rejects the idea that Matthew believes Bathsheba is innocent, then it remains to be explained what to make of the curiosity of these five women in Jesus's genealogy.
  • Matt 1:1-17: Four women in Jesus's genealogy. Genealogies in the Bible rarely mention women, but this one mentions four: Tamar (spelled “Thamar” here, verse 3), Rahab (here "Rachab," verse 5), Ruth (verse 5), and Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah (spelled “Urias” here—verse 6). One reason that Matthew may have chosen to mention these four women is that they all had unusual stories. Mary's story of a virgin birth is also unusual, and Matthew may be trying to make it fit within Jewish tradition rater than outside it. This is the gospel of Matthew, who was writing to a Jewish audience with numerous proof texts drawn from the Old testament.
Julie M Smith has a useful overview concerning the women included in Matthew's genealogy published in Segullah Spring 2008 (available here[3]).
  • Matt 1:5: The number of David's name. In Jewish thinking at the time of Christ, the “number” of David’s name is fourteen. (Jewish numerologists added up the number values of the consonants in names and believed that those numbers were significant. The Hebrew letter that we transliterate as “d” is the fourth letter in the Hebrew alphabet and the letter that we transliterate as “v” is the sixth letter, so the number of David’s name is 4+6+4, fourteen.) Note the reference to three sets of fourteen generations in verse 16.
  • Matt 1:18, 20: Of. The preposition "of" in the phrases "of the Holy Ghost" in verses 18 and 20 is a translation of the Greek preposition ek. Prepositions can be notoriously difficult to translate from one language to the other, and this is no exception. Modern translations render the preposition here as either "of," "by" or "through." Because of the various ways in which the preposition can be understood, these verses are not inconsistent with the belief that God (Heavenly Father) was the father of Jesus.
  • Matt 1:18-19: Put her away privily. Jewish divorce law, unlike the laws and customs of other people at the time, required that divorce be formal: a man wishing to divorce his wife (to do so, he had to find “some uncleanness in her” or “something indecent about her”—Deuteronomy 24:1), had to give her a document contradicting their marriage contract. She was then free to remarry.
Joseph could have had Mary tried and executed for being pregnant outside their engagement. And how far-fetched does her story sound? That she had not had sexual relations outside their marriage, but that she was pregnant of a 'divine' manner and would raise the Son of God. This is way beyond 'the dog ate my homework'. Joseph could have wanted vengeance and held angst against Mary. This seems to show meekness and compassion on his part.

Matt 1:18-25: Mary conceives and gives birth[edit]

  • Matt 1:18-25: Joseph marries Mary. Here is some major themes and points to this story:
Are there situations where we have been "crossed" where we could lash out at someone but we deal with it in a meek way? What about if you hear someone is spreading gossip about you or someone you know? We are better off if we 'turn the other cheek'.
This is the perfect example of not jumping to conclusions. Our culture is set up and our instinct is such that we automatically typically have an impulse that someone "pay" for what they have done. We assume the worst and act out immediately, rather than giving someone the benefit of the doubt and cutting them slack. I am sure when Mary explained to Joseph that she had not had sexual relations outside their engagement but that she was 'divinely' pregnant, it sounded like the most laughable of stories. But rather than laugh Mary all the way to trial and execution, Joseph 'let it ride' and cut her some slack. Shows massive character and integrity on Joseph's part.
Case study #1 : We jump to conclusions with our spouses, automatically assuming they have ill intentions. Your husband is late for work when you have something important to get to or your wife is ornery and snaps at you when you get home from a busy day at work. Rather than the wife hearing her husband out and finding out that his best employee quit which is the reason he is late, she jumps all over him for having mindlessly ruined her evening with his selfishness. Or the husband doesn't think that his wife has had a horrible day with the kids tearing the house apart and problems, instead he jumps all over her for not supporting him in a rough and busy day, rather than trying to have empathy for what her day might have been like.
Case study #2 : An example of email gone awry. Assume the worst and lash out only to realize later that we misinterpreted. This happens at work, we assume someone meant the worst when they are just making a comment in jest, and we lash out, only to end up feeling sheepish.
Case study #3 : Stephen Covey has an example of riding the subway in New York with a dad who is not paying attention while his three sons tear the subway apart. Covey is angry and finally goes and tells the man off. The man is almost in another world and apologizes saying that his wife, his sons' mother, had just died and they were trying to cope. It totally changed Covey's perspective, and he now had compassion and concern rather than thinking selfishly of himself and what bothers him.
Can we not all have a little more patience? Can we not all give others the benefit of the doubt? Can we not be a little more long suffering and enduring. What if we are wrong and the people did have bad intentions, does that make it any better? What if Mary had actually cheated on Joseph, would it of been of value to have her tried and executed? Do we end up feeling better by "getting our way" in a shouting match, or do we feel worse?
  • Matt 1:21: Yeshua. The name Jesus is the Latinized version of Yeshua. It was a fairly common name at the time. It means "Jehovah saves." But Jesus was the child who would in fact save us.
Verse 21 explicitly connects Jesus with the God of the Old Testament. Since the name Jesus means "Jehovah saves," this verse says, in essence: "You shall name him 'Jehovah saves,' for he will save the people from their sins."

Matt 2:1-12: The wise men[edit]

  • Matt 2:1-26: Story of the wise men. At the time, new kings were often given gifts by emissaries of foreign regimes (see related links). The gifts of the wise men can therefore be seen as the trappings of an official recognition of Christ's kingship. No wonder Herod was so threatened.
  • Matt 2:1-2: Magi. In verse 1, the Greek word translated as "wise men" is magi, the plural of magus, a Persian word that originally referred to a member of the Zoroastrian priesthood caste of the Medes and Persians. It came to refer more broadly to those in the Persian culture who were astrologers, physicians, dream intepreters and the like.
The magi thus were most likely pagan worshippers. As has been pointed out many times by commentators, readers of Matthew's gospel in the first century would certainly have understood pagans to be signified by the term. Some scholars have tried to read into the term a reference to Jews residing still in Babylon, but this seems, in the end, unlikely. In fact, if one regards the wise men as pagans, then the story of Jesus' life begins and ends with pagans, though in opposing ways: at the beginning, the pagans come to Jesus to worship Him, in the end (Matt 28:19), Jesus sends the apostles to the pagans to convert them. The poetic appeal of this reading perhaps strengthens it. This assertion needs to cite to authority so that it is rebuttable.
One has the picture here of the wise men wandering about Jerusalem (or other towns) asking about the King of the Jews. Their mention of the star and their intent to worship the newborn Messiah would have raised quite a stir in the volatile political atmosphere of the time. It is no surprise that Herod is troubled in the next verse. Perhaps an interesting aspect of the way the question is phrased in the verse here is that the wise men apparently assume that the Jews would be well apprised of the situation: it does not occur to them that the Jews would have missed the occurrence of such an event.
  • Matt 2:2: Star in the east. The Greek words translated as "his star in the east" could also be translated "his star as it rose" or "his star in its rising."
  • Matt 2:3. This verse is worded in such a way that it might be an allusion to Isa 7:2: the king and the people are suddenly quite afraid, but because they misunderstand the doings of God.
  • Matt 2:4. Herod consults with the (apparently subordinate) priests and scribes in order to sort things out before confronting himself the wise men on the subject. The point is interesting because it presents Herod as in absolute control, and it presents the priests and scribes as more knowledgeable than one might otherwise guess from the gospel narratives.
  • Matt 2:6. Matthew quotes Micah 5:1-3. Since his quotation doesn’t correspond to either the Greek version of the Old Testament that was commonly used in Jesus’s day (the Septuagint) or the established Hebrew version, he is either quoting somewhat loosely, or he may be quoting a version of Micah that we no longer have.
  • Matt 2:11: Frankincense and myrrh. Frankincense (libanos in Greek) and myrrh (smurna) were both costly aromatic resins (dried sap). Frankincense was often used as an incense, and myrrh was often used in embalming.

Matt 2:13-23: The flight to Egypt[edit]

  • Matt 2:13-23: Moses and Jesus. The parallels between the story of Moses and that of Jesus are striking, as are the parallels between the Pharaoh and Herod: the Pharaoh tried to kill all male children (Exodus 1:22); Moses had to flee because his life was in danger (Exodus 2:15); when the Pharaoh died, Moses returned (Exodus 4:19-20). In addition, as Word Biblical Commentary points out (33a:34), the language of Matthew 2:19 is almost identical to that of Exodus 2:23 (of the Septuagint, of course). What are we to make of such parallels? What is Matthew doing by drawing our attention to them?
  • Matt 2:17: Jeremiah. ”Jeremy the prophet” means “Jeremiah the prophet.” Matthew is quoting Jeremiah 31:15. As with Micah 5 (verse 6), he is not quoting exactly.
  • Matt 2:23: Branch. The fact that the Hebrew for "branch" is nsr, may explain Matthew's remark that Jesus' life in Nazareth was foretold by the prophets; perhaps Matthew understood Isaiah 11: to be punning on the word "Nazareth."

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Matt 1:1. By using the phrase "book of the genealogy," Matthew deliberately imitates passages such as Genesis 2:4 and 5:1. Why? What is he trying to tell us about what follows?
  • Matt 1:18-19. What does the story of verses 18-19 tell us about Joseph's character?
  • Matt 1:20-23. Is it significant that Joseph is a dreamer, like Joseph of old? Is the meaning of Joseph’s name significant, “to take away my reproach”?
  • Matt 1:23. If the child is to be named “Jesus,” then why does verse 23 say his name will be “Emmanuel”?
  • Matt 1:23. Why does Matthew end this part of his story with a quotation from Isaiah?
  • Matt 2:1. Why might Matthew have thought it was important to tell the Jewish community about the visit of the Gentile wise men?
  • Matt 2:1. We see that the Gentile visitors have come to adore the Messiah. What is the reaction of the Jews to the news of his birth? What might that foreshadow? Given that foreshadowing, how might this chapter be an excellent introduction to Matthew as a whole?
  • Matt 2:1. Early Christians celebrated Epiphany, the holiday commemorating the coming of the wise men, before it began to celebrate Christmas. Why do you think that might have been?
  • Matt 2:2. What do the wise men mean when they say that they have seen his star?
  • Matt 2:3-4. Why is Herod troubled? What would Herod’s wise men know that the magi wouldn’t know? In other words, why did the wise men consult with Herod and his court?
  • Matt 2:11. Why does Matthew mention the gifts the wise men gave?
  • Matt 2:11. How might Jesus’ family have been able to use these gifts?
  • Matt 2:21-23. JST Matthew 3:25[4] - How is it that the Savior "could not be taught" or "needed not that any man should teach Him?"

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Matt 2:1-12: The wise men in cultural context. The Oxford Annotated Bible (ISBN 0-19-528485-2) points out in reference to this story that "Foreign regimes often sent emmissaries to greet and give gifts to new kings or rulers" (p. NT10).

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.



Previous page: Matthew                      Next page: Chapters 3-4

Matt 2:11-15

Home > The New Testament > Matthew > Chapters 1-2
Previous page: Matthew                      Next page: Chapters 3-4


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This section should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Story. Chapters 1-2 tell the story of Jesus's birth and childhood in four episodes:

  • Matt 1:18-25: Mary conceives and gives birth. Mary conceives, Joseph is instructed to marry her, and then Christ is born.
  • Matt 2:13-23: The flight to Egypt. Joseph and Mary flee to Egypt until Herod dies (2:13-23)

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Matt 1:1-17: Jesus's genealogy[edit]

  • Matt 1:1-17: Jesus's Genealogy. It is clear that Matthew is not giving an exact genealogy. For example, he tells us that there were fourteen generations between each of the three important events in Israel’s history—from Abraham, to David, to the Babylonian captivity, to the coming of Christ: three groups of fourteen generations each, culminating in the birth of Christ. But if we compare this genealogy to the other genealogies in the Old Testament we can see that this is incorrect. Why would Matthew knowingly give us a genealogy that isn’t accurate? (Notice that Ezra does something similar: he omits six generations of priests from his genealogy. Compare Ezra 7:1-5 to 1 Chronicles 6:3-15.)
It is curious that these five women appear in this genealogy since each has some sexual stigma about her: (1) Tamar dressed up as a prostitute to have a child by her father in law Judah; (2) Rahab was a prostitute; (3) Ruth as a widow brought Boaz into marriage in a less-than-conventional manner; (4) Bath-sheba committed adultery with King David; and (5) Mary, merely engaged, shows up pregnant. (It could be that Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bath-sheba are singled out simply because they were some of the few women noteworthy in the scripture of the time, but this then raises essentially the same question: why were these particular women, each associated with some sexual stigma, the few women noteworthy in the scripture at the time.)
It could be that Matthew makes mention of these women to suggest that the women were innocent--that they were fulfilling the will of God which lead to the birth of Christ. This fits with a view, espoused by some scholars, that a major New Testament theme is that messianic concepts in the Old Testament were misunderstood by the Jews and that Christ's mission was focused largely on groups of people who themselves were misunderstood (see verse 6 related links below for more info). As this view goes: (1) Tamar did what she did precisely to fulfill the law of levirate, which Judah was breaking. Though the process through which she accomplished the deed was unconventional, she fulfilled the law of the Lord precisely. (2) Rahab had been a prostitute, but she delivered a city into the hands of the Israelites, and she was given a perpetual inheritance among the chosen people (see Heb 11:31 and James 2:25 for references to Rahab as an example of faith). (3) Ruth's plan, in part concocted by Naomi, was according to the will of God so that David might be born through her in an act of redemption. (4) Bathsheba will be discussed below. (5) Mary, though she was probably accused of unfaithfulness, was a virgin.
If one accepts this line of reasoning, one must assume that Matthew, by including Bathsheba with the other four women, regards her (and possibly David with her?) as guiltless. On the other hand, if one rejects the idea that Matthew believes Bathsheba is innocent, then it remains to be explained what to make of the curiosity of these five women in Jesus's genealogy.
  • Matt 1:1-17: Four women in Jesus's genealogy. Genealogies in the Bible rarely mention women, but this one mentions four: Tamar (spelled “Thamar” here, verse 3), Rahab (here "Rachab," verse 5), Ruth (verse 5), and Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah (spelled “Urias” here—verse 6). One reason that Matthew may have chosen to mention these four women is that they all had unusual stories. Mary's story of a virgin birth is also unusual, and Matthew may be trying to make it fit within Jewish tradition rater than outside it. This is the gospel of Matthew, who was writing to a Jewish audience with numerous proof texts drawn from the Old testament.
Julie M Smith has a useful overview concerning the women included in Matthew's genealogy published in Segullah Spring 2008 (available here[5]).
  • Matt 1:5: The number of David's name. In Jewish thinking at the time of Christ, the “number” of David’s name is fourteen. (Jewish numerologists added up the number values of the consonants in names and believed that those numbers were significant. The Hebrew letter that we transliterate as “d” is the fourth letter in the Hebrew alphabet and the letter that we transliterate as “v” is the sixth letter, so the number of David’s name is 4+6+4, fourteen.) Note the reference to three sets of fourteen generations in verse 16.
  • Matt 1:18, 20: Of. The preposition "of" in the phrases "of the Holy Ghost" in verses 18 and 20 is a translation of the Greek preposition ek. Prepositions can be notoriously difficult to translate from one language to the other, and this is no exception. Modern translations render the preposition here as either "of," "by" or "through." Because of the various ways in which the preposition can be understood, these verses are not inconsistent with the belief that God (Heavenly Father) was the father of Jesus.
  • Matt 1:18-19: Put her away privily. Jewish divorce law, unlike the laws and customs of other people at the time, required that divorce be formal: a man wishing to divorce his wife (to do so, he had to find “some uncleanness in her” or “something indecent about her”—Deuteronomy 24:1), had to give her a document contradicting their marriage contract. She was then free to remarry.
Joseph could have had Mary tried and executed for being pregnant outside their engagement. And how far-fetched does her story sound? That she had not had sexual relations outside their marriage, but that she was pregnant of a 'divine' manner and would raise the Son of God. This is way beyond 'the dog ate my homework'. Joseph could have wanted vengeance and held angst against Mary. This seems to show meekness and compassion on his part.

Matt 1:18-25: Mary conceives and gives birth[edit]

  • Matt 1:18-25: Joseph marries Mary. Here is some major themes and points to this story:
Are there situations where we have been "crossed" where we could lash out at someone but we deal with it in a meek way? What about if you hear someone is spreading gossip about you or someone you know? We are better off if we 'turn the other cheek'.
This is the perfect example of not jumping to conclusions. Our culture is set up and our instinct is such that we automatically typically have an impulse that someone "pay" for what they have done. We assume the worst and act out immediately, rather than giving someone the benefit of the doubt and cutting them slack. I am sure when Mary explained to Joseph that she had not had sexual relations outside their engagement but that she was 'divinely' pregnant, it sounded like the most laughable of stories. But rather than laugh Mary all the way to trial and execution, Joseph 'let it ride' and cut her some slack. Shows massive character and integrity on Joseph's part.
Case study #1 : We jump to conclusions with our spouses, automatically assuming they have ill intentions. Your husband is late for work when you have something important to get to or your wife is ornery and snaps at you when you get home from a busy day at work. Rather than the wife hearing her husband out and finding out that his best employee quit which is the reason he is late, she jumps all over him for having mindlessly ruined her evening with his selfishness. Or the husband doesn't think that his wife has had a horrible day with the kids tearing the house apart and problems, instead he jumps all over her for not supporting him in a rough and busy day, rather than trying to have empathy for what her day might have been like.
Case study #2 : An example of email gone awry. Assume the worst and lash out only to realize later that we misinterpreted. This happens at work, we assume someone meant the worst when they are just making a comment in jest, and we lash out, only to end up feeling sheepish.
Case study #3 : Stephen Covey has an example of riding the subway in New York with a dad who is not paying attention while his three sons tear the subway apart. Covey is angry and finally goes and tells the man off. The man is almost in another world and apologizes saying that his wife, his sons' mother, had just died and they were trying to cope. It totally changed Covey's perspective, and he now had compassion and concern rather than thinking selfishly of himself and what bothers him.
Can we not all have a little more patience? Can we not all give others the benefit of the doubt? Can we not be a little more long suffering and enduring. What if we are wrong and the people did have bad intentions, does that make it any better? What if Mary had actually cheated on Joseph, would it of been of value to have her tried and executed? Do we end up feeling better by "getting our way" in a shouting match, or do we feel worse?
  • Matt 1:21: Yeshua. The name Jesus is the Latinized version of Yeshua. It was a fairly common name at the time. It means "Jehovah saves." But Jesus was the child who would in fact save us.
Verse 21 explicitly connects Jesus with the God of the Old Testament. Since the name Jesus means "Jehovah saves," this verse says, in essence: "You shall name him 'Jehovah saves,' for he will save the people from their sins."

Matt 2:1-12: The wise men[edit]

  • Matt 2:1-26: Story of the wise men. At the time, new kings were often given gifts by emissaries of foreign regimes (see related links). The gifts of the wise men can therefore be seen as the trappings of an official recognition of Christ's kingship. No wonder Herod was so threatened.
  • Matt 2:1-2: Magi. In verse 1, the Greek word translated as "wise men" is magi, the plural of magus, a Persian word that originally referred to a member of the Zoroastrian priesthood caste of the Medes and Persians. It came to refer more broadly to those in the Persian culture who were astrologers, physicians, dream intepreters and the like.
The magi thus were most likely pagan worshippers. As has been pointed out many times by commentators, readers of Matthew's gospel in the first century would certainly have understood pagans to be signified by the term. Some scholars have tried to read into the term a reference to Jews residing still in Babylon, but this seems, in the end, unlikely. In fact, if one regards the wise men as pagans, then the story of Jesus' life begins and ends with pagans, though in opposing ways: at the beginning, the pagans come to Jesus to worship Him, in the end (Matt 28:19), Jesus sends the apostles to the pagans to convert them. The poetic appeal of this reading perhaps strengthens it. This assertion needs to cite to authority so that it is rebuttable.
One has the picture here of the wise men wandering about Jerusalem (or other towns) asking about the King of the Jews. Their mention of the star and their intent to worship the newborn Messiah would have raised quite a stir in the volatile political atmosphere of the time. It is no surprise that Herod is troubled in the next verse. Perhaps an interesting aspect of the way the question is phrased in the verse here is that the wise men apparently assume that the Jews would be well apprised of the situation: it does not occur to them that the Jews would have missed the occurrence of such an event.
  • Matt 2:2: Star in the east. The Greek words translated as "his star in the east" could also be translated "his star as it rose" or "his star in its rising."
  • Matt 2:3. This verse is worded in such a way that it might be an allusion to Isa 7:2: the king and the people are suddenly quite afraid, but because they misunderstand the doings of God.
  • Matt 2:4. Herod consults with the (apparently subordinate) priests and scribes in order to sort things out before confronting himself the wise men on the subject. The point is interesting because it presents Herod as in absolute control, and it presents the priests and scribes as more knowledgeable than one might otherwise guess from the gospel narratives.
  • Matt 2:6. Matthew quotes Micah 5:1-3. Since his quotation doesn’t correspond to either the Greek version of the Old Testament that was commonly used in Jesus’s day (the Septuagint) or the established Hebrew version, he is either quoting somewhat loosely, or he may be quoting a version of Micah that we no longer have.
  • Matt 2:11: Frankincense and myrrh. Frankincense (libanos in Greek) and myrrh (smurna) were both costly aromatic resins (dried sap). Frankincense was often used as an incense, and myrrh was often used in embalming.

Matt 2:13-23: The flight to Egypt[edit]

  • Matt 2:13-23: Moses and Jesus. The parallels between the story of Moses and that of Jesus are striking, as are the parallels between the Pharaoh and Herod: the Pharaoh tried to kill all male children (Exodus 1:22); Moses had to flee because his life was in danger (Exodus 2:15); when the Pharaoh died, Moses returned (Exodus 4:19-20). In addition, as Word Biblical Commentary points out (33a:34), the language of Matthew 2:19 is almost identical to that of Exodus 2:23 (of the Septuagint, of course). What are we to make of such parallels? What is Matthew doing by drawing our attention to them?
  • Matt 2:17: Jeremiah. ”Jeremy the prophet” means “Jeremiah the prophet.” Matthew is quoting Jeremiah 31:15. As with Micah 5 (verse 6), he is not quoting exactly.
  • Matt 2:23: Branch. The fact that the Hebrew for "branch" is nsr, may explain Matthew's remark that Jesus' life in Nazareth was foretold by the prophets; perhaps Matthew understood Isaiah 11: to be punning on the word "Nazareth."

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Matt 1:1. By using the phrase "book of the genealogy," Matthew deliberately imitates passages such as Genesis 2:4 and 5:1. Why? What is he trying to tell us about what follows?
  • Matt 1:18-19. What does the story of verses 18-19 tell us about Joseph's character?
  • Matt 1:20-23. Is it significant that Joseph is a dreamer, like Joseph of old? Is the meaning of Joseph’s name significant, “to take away my reproach”?
  • Matt 1:23. If the child is to be named “Jesus,” then why does verse 23 say his name will be “Emmanuel”?
  • Matt 1:23. Why does Matthew end this part of his story with a quotation from Isaiah?
  • Matt 2:1. Why might Matthew have thought it was important to tell the Jewish community about the visit of the Gentile wise men?
  • Matt 2:1. We see that the Gentile visitors have come to adore the Messiah. What is the reaction of the Jews to the news of his birth? What might that foreshadow? Given that foreshadowing, how might this chapter be an excellent introduction to Matthew as a whole?
  • Matt 2:1. Early Christians celebrated Epiphany, the holiday commemorating the coming of the wise men, before it began to celebrate Christmas. Why do you think that might have been?
  • Matt 2:2. What do the wise men mean when they say that they have seen his star?
  • Matt 2:3-4. Why is Herod troubled? What would Herod’s wise men know that the magi wouldn’t know? In other words, why did the wise men consult with Herod and his court?
  • Matt 2:11. Why does Matthew mention the gifts the wise men gave?
  • Matt 2:11. How might Jesus’ family have been able to use these gifts?
  • Matt 2:21-23. JST Matthew 3:25[6] - How is it that the Savior "could not be taught" or "needed not that any man should teach Him?"

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Matt 2:1-12: The wise men in cultural context. The Oxford Annotated Bible (ISBN 0-19-528485-2) points out in reference to this story that "Foreign regimes often sent emmissaries to greet and give gifts to new kings or rulers" (p. NT10).

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.



Previous page: Matthew                      Next page: Chapters 3-4

Matt 2:16-20

Home > The New Testament > Matthew > Chapters 1-2
Previous page: Matthew                      Next page: Chapters 3-4


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This section should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Story. Chapters 1-2 tell the story of Jesus's birth and childhood in four episodes:

  • Matt 1:18-25: Mary conceives and gives birth. Mary conceives, Joseph is instructed to marry her, and then Christ is born.
  • Matt 2:13-23: The flight to Egypt. Joseph and Mary flee to Egypt until Herod dies (2:13-23)

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Matt 1:1-17: Jesus's genealogy[edit]

  • Matt 1:1-17: Jesus's Genealogy. It is clear that Matthew is not giving an exact genealogy. For example, he tells us that there were fourteen generations between each of the three important events in Israel’s history—from Abraham, to David, to the Babylonian captivity, to the coming of Christ: three groups of fourteen generations each, culminating in the birth of Christ. But if we compare this genealogy to the other genealogies in the Old Testament we can see that this is incorrect. Why would Matthew knowingly give us a genealogy that isn’t accurate? (Notice that Ezra does something similar: he omits six generations of priests from his genealogy. Compare Ezra 7:1-5 to 1 Chronicles 6:3-15.)
It is curious that these five women appear in this genealogy since each has some sexual stigma about her: (1) Tamar dressed up as a prostitute to have a child by her father in law Judah; (2) Rahab was a prostitute; (3) Ruth as a widow brought Boaz into marriage in a less-than-conventional manner; (4) Bath-sheba committed adultery with King David; and (5) Mary, merely engaged, shows up pregnant. (It could be that Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bath-sheba are singled out simply because they were some of the few women noteworthy in the scripture of the time, but this then raises essentially the same question: why were these particular women, each associated with some sexual stigma, the few women noteworthy in the scripture at the time.)
It could be that Matthew makes mention of these women to suggest that the women were innocent--that they were fulfilling the will of God which lead to the birth of Christ. This fits with a view, espoused by some scholars, that a major New Testament theme is that messianic concepts in the Old Testament were misunderstood by the Jews and that Christ's mission was focused largely on groups of people who themselves were misunderstood (see verse 6 related links below for more info). As this view goes: (1) Tamar did what she did precisely to fulfill the law of levirate, which Judah was breaking. Though the process through which she accomplished the deed was unconventional, she fulfilled the law of the Lord precisely. (2) Rahab had been a prostitute, but she delivered a city into the hands of the Israelites, and she was given a perpetual inheritance among the chosen people (see Heb 11:31 and James 2:25 for references to Rahab as an example of faith). (3) Ruth's plan, in part concocted by Naomi, was according to the will of God so that David might be born through her in an act of redemption. (4) Bathsheba will be discussed below. (5) Mary, though she was probably accused of unfaithfulness, was a virgin.
If one accepts this line of reasoning, one must assume that Matthew, by including Bathsheba with the other four women, regards her (and possibly David with her?) as guiltless. On the other hand, if one rejects the idea that Matthew believes Bathsheba is innocent, then it remains to be explained what to make of the curiosity of these five women in Jesus's genealogy.
  • Matt 1:1-17: Four women in Jesus's genealogy. Genealogies in the Bible rarely mention women, but this one mentions four: Tamar (spelled “Thamar” here, verse 3), Rahab (here "Rachab," verse 5), Ruth (verse 5), and Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah (spelled “Urias” here—verse 6). One reason that Matthew may have chosen to mention these four women is that they all had unusual stories. Mary's story of a virgin birth is also unusual, and Matthew may be trying to make it fit within Jewish tradition rater than outside it. This is the gospel of Matthew, who was writing to a Jewish audience with numerous proof texts drawn from the Old testament.
Julie M Smith has a useful overview concerning the women included in Matthew's genealogy published in Segullah Spring 2008 (available here[7]).
  • Matt 1:5: The number of David's name. In Jewish thinking at the time of Christ, the “number” of David’s name is fourteen. (Jewish numerologists added up the number values of the consonants in names and believed that those numbers were significant. The Hebrew letter that we transliterate as “d” is the fourth letter in the Hebrew alphabet and the letter that we transliterate as “v” is the sixth letter, so the number of David’s name is 4+6+4, fourteen.) Note the reference to three sets of fourteen generations in verse 16.
  • Matt 1:18, 20: Of. The preposition "of" in the phrases "of the Holy Ghost" in verses 18 and 20 is a translation of the Greek preposition ek. Prepositions can be notoriously difficult to translate from one language to the other, and this is no exception. Modern translations render the preposition here as either "of," "by" or "through." Because of the various ways in which the preposition can be understood, these verses are not inconsistent with the belief that God (Heavenly Father) was the father of Jesus.
  • Matt 1:18-19: Put her away privily. Jewish divorce law, unlike the laws and customs of other people at the time, required that divorce be formal: a man wishing to divorce his wife (to do so, he had to find “some uncleanness in her” or “something indecent about her”—Deuteronomy 24:1), had to give her a document contradicting their marriage contract. She was then free to remarry.
Joseph could have had Mary tried and executed for being pregnant outside their engagement. And how far-fetched does her story sound? That she had not had sexual relations outside their marriage, but that she was pregnant of a 'divine' manner and would raise the Son of God. This is way beyond 'the dog ate my homework'. Joseph could have wanted vengeance and held angst against Mary. This seems to show meekness and compassion on his part.

Matt 1:18-25: Mary conceives and gives birth[edit]

  • Matt 1:18-25: Joseph marries Mary. Here is some major themes and points to this story:
Are there situations where we have been "crossed" where we could lash out at someone but we deal with it in a meek way? What about if you hear someone is spreading gossip about you or someone you know? We are better off if we 'turn the other cheek'.
This is the perfect example of not jumping to conclusions. Our culture is set up and our instinct is such that we automatically typically have an impulse that someone "pay" for what they have done. We assume the worst and act out immediately, rather than giving someone the benefit of the doubt and cutting them slack. I am sure when Mary explained to Joseph that she had not had sexual relations outside their engagement but that she was 'divinely' pregnant, it sounded like the most laughable of stories. But rather than laugh Mary all the way to trial and execution, Joseph 'let it ride' and cut her some slack. Shows massive character and integrity on Joseph's part.
Case study #1 : We jump to conclusions with our spouses, automatically assuming they have ill intentions. Your husband is late for work when you have something important to get to or your wife is ornery and snaps at you when you get home from a busy day at work. Rather than the wife hearing her husband out and finding out that his best employee quit which is the reason he is late, she jumps all over him for having mindlessly ruined her evening with his selfishness. Or the husband doesn't think that his wife has had a horrible day with the kids tearing the house apart and problems, instead he jumps all over her for not supporting him in a rough and busy day, rather than trying to have empathy for what her day might have been like.
Case study #2 : An example of email gone awry. Assume the worst and lash out only to realize later that we misinterpreted. This happens at work, we assume someone meant the worst when they are just making a comment in jest, and we lash out, only to end up feeling sheepish.
Case study #3 : Stephen Covey has an example of riding the subway in New York with a dad who is not paying attention while his three sons tear the subway apart. Covey is angry and finally goes and tells the man off. The man is almost in another world and apologizes saying that his wife, his sons' mother, had just died and they were trying to cope. It totally changed Covey's perspective, and he now had compassion and concern rather than thinking selfishly of himself and what bothers him.
Can we not all have a little more patience? Can we not all give others the benefit of the doubt? Can we not be a little more long suffering and enduring. What if we are wrong and the people did have bad intentions, does that make it any better? What if Mary had actually cheated on Joseph, would it of been of value to have her tried and executed? Do we end up feeling better by "getting our way" in a shouting match, or do we feel worse?
  • Matt 1:21: Yeshua. The name Jesus is the Latinized version of Yeshua. It was a fairly common name at the time. It means "Jehovah saves." But Jesus was the child who would in fact save us.
Verse 21 explicitly connects Jesus with the God of the Old Testament. Since the name Jesus means "Jehovah saves," this verse says, in essence: "You shall name him 'Jehovah saves,' for he will save the people from their sins."

Matt 2:1-12: The wise men[edit]

  • Matt 2:1-26: Story of the wise men. At the time, new kings were often given gifts by emissaries of foreign regimes (see related links). The gifts of the wise men can therefore be seen as the trappings of an official recognition of Christ's kingship. No wonder Herod was so threatened.
  • Matt 2:1-2: Magi. In verse 1, the Greek word translated as "wise men" is magi, the plural of magus, a Persian word that originally referred to a member of the Zoroastrian priesthood caste of the Medes and Persians. It came to refer more broadly to those in the Persian culture who were astrologers, physicians, dream intepreters and the like.
The magi thus were most likely pagan worshippers. As has been pointed out many times by commentators, readers of Matthew's gospel in the first century would certainly have understood pagans to be signified by the term. Some scholars have tried to read into the term a reference to Jews residing still in Babylon, but this seems, in the end, unlikely. In fact, if one regards the wise men as pagans, then the story of Jesus' life begins and ends with pagans, though in opposing ways: at the beginning, the pagans come to Jesus to worship Him, in the end (Matt 28:19), Jesus sends the apostles to the pagans to convert them. The poetic appeal of this reading perhaps strengthens it. This assertion needs to cite to authority so that it is rebuttable.
One has the picture here of the wise men wandering about Jerusalem (or other towns) asking about the King of the Jews. Their mention of the star and their intent to worship the newborn Messiah would have raised quite a stir in the volatile political atmosphere of the time. It is no surprise that Herod is troubled in the next verse. Perhaps an interesting aspect of the way the question is phrased in the verse here is that the wise men apparently assume that the Jews would be well apprised of the situation: it does not occur to them that the Jews would have missed the occurrence of such an event.
  • Matt 2:2: Star in the east. The Greek words translated as "his star in the east" could also be translated "his star as it rose" or "his star in its rising."
  • Matt 2:3. This verse is worded in such a way that it might be an allusion to Isa 7:2: the king and the people are suddenly quite afraid, but because they misunderstand the doings of God.
  • Matt 2:4. Herod consults with the (apparently subordinate) priests and scribes in order to sort things out before confronting himself the wise men on the subject. The point is interesting because it presents Herod as in absolute control, and it presents the priests and scribes as more knowledgeable than one might otherwise guess from the gospel narratives.
  • Matt 2:6. Matthew quotes Micah 5:1-3. Since his quotation doesn’t correspond to either the Greek version of the Old Testament that was commonly used in Jesus’s day (the Septuagint) or the established Hebrew version, he is either quoting somewhat loosely, or he may be quoting a version of Micah that we no longer have.
  • Matt 2:11: Frankincense and myrrh. Frankincense (libanos in Greek) and myrrh (smurna) were both costly aromatic resins (dried sap). Frankincense was often used as an incense, and myrrh was often used in embalming.

Matt 2:13-23: The flight to Egypt[edit]

  • Matt 2:13-23: Moses and Jesus. The parallels between the story of Moses and that of Jesus are striking, as are the parallels between the Pharaoh and Herod: the Pharaoh tried to kill all male children (Exodus 1:22); Moses had to flee because his life was in danger (Exodus 2:15); when the Pharaoh died, Moses returned (Exodus 4:19-20). In addition, as Word Biblical Commentary points out (33a:34), the language of Matthew 2:19 is almost identical to that of Exodus 2:23 (of the Septuagint, of course). What are we to make of such parallels? What is Matthew doing by drawing our attention to them?
  • Matt 2:17: Jeremiah. ”Jeremy the prophet” means “Jeremiah the prophet.” Matthew is quoting Jeremiah 31:15. As with Micah 5 (verse 6), he is not quoting exactly.
  • Matt 2:23: Branch. The fact that the Hebrew for "branch" is nsr, may explain Matthew's remark that Jesus' life in Nazareth was foretold by the prophets; perhaps Matthew understood Isaiah 11: to be punning on the word "Nazareth."

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Matt 1:1. By using the phrase "book of the genealogy," Matthew deliberately imitates passages such as Genesis 2:4 and 5:1. Why? What is he trying to tell us about what follows?
  • Matt 1:18-19. What does the story of verses 18-19 tell us about Joseph's character?
  • Matt 1:20-23. Is it significant that Joseph is a dreamer, like Joseph of old? Is the meaning of Joseph’s name significant, “to take away my reproach”?
  • Matt 1:23. If the child is to be named “Jesus,” then why does verse 23 say his name will be “Emmanuel”?
  • Matt 1:23. Why does Matthew end this part of his story with a quotation from Isaiah?
  • Matt 2:1. Why might Matthew have thought it was important to tell the Jewish community about the visit of the Gentile wise men?
  • Matt 2:1. We see that the Gentile visitors have come to adore the Messiah. What is the reaction of the Jews to the news of his birth? What might that foreshadow? Given that foreshadowing, how might this chapter be an excellent introduction to Matthew as a whole?
  • Matt 2:1. Early Christians celebrated Epiphany, the holiday commemorating the coming of the wise men, before it began to celebrate Christmas. Why do you think that might have been?
  • Matt 2:2. What do the wise men mean when they say that they have seen his star?
  • Matt 2:3-4. Why is Herod troubled? What would Herod’s wise men know that the magi wouldn’t know? In other words, why did the wise men consult with Herod and his court?
  • Matt 2:11. Why does Matthew mention the gifts the wise men gave?
  • Matt 2:11. How might Jesus’ family have been able to use these gifts?
  • Matt 2:21-23. JST Matthew 3:25[8] - How is it that the Savior "could not be taught" or "needed not that any man should teach Him?"

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Matt 2:1-12: The wise men in cultural context. The Oxford Annotated Bible (ISBN 0-19-528485-2) points out in reference to this story that "Foreign regimes often sent emmissaries to greet and give gifts to new kings or rulers" (p. NT10).

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.



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Matt 2:21-23

Home > The New Testament > Matthew > Chapters 1-2
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This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This section should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Story. Chapters 1-2 tell the story of Jesus's birth and childhood in four episodes:

  • Matt 1:18-25: Mary conceives and gives birth. Mary conceives, Joseph is instructed to marry her, and then Christ is born.
  • Matt 2:13-23: The flight to Egypt. Joseph and Mary flee to Egypt until Herod dies (2:13-23)

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Matt 1:1-17: Jesus's genealogy[edit]

  • Matt 1:1-17: Jesus's Genealogy. It is clear that Matthew is not giving an exact genealogy. For example, he tells us that there were fourteen generations between each of the three important events in Israel’s history—from Abraham, to David, to the Babylonian captivity, to the coming of Christ: three groups of fourteen generations each, culminating in the birth of Christ. But if we compare this genealogy to the other genealogies in the Old Testament we can see that this is incorrect. Why would Matthew knowingly give us a genealogy that isn’t accurate? (Notice that Ezra does something similar: he omits six generations of priests from his genealogy. Compare Ezra 7:1-5 to 1 Chronicles 6:3-15.)
It is curious that these five women appear in this genealogy since each has some sexual stigma about her: (1) Tamar dressed up as a prostitute to have a child by her father in law Judah; (2) Rahab was a prostitute; (3) Ruth as a widow brought Boaz into marriage in a less-than-conventional manner; (4) Bath-sheba committed adultery with King David; and (5) Mary, merely engaged, shows up pregnant. (It could be that Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bath-sheba are singled out simply because they were some of the few women noteworthy in the scripture of the time, but this then raises essentially the same question: why were these particular women, each associated with some sexual stigma, the few women noteworthy in the scripture at the time.)
It could be that Matthew makes mention of these women to suggest that the women were innocent--that they were fulfilling the will of God which lead to the birth of Christ. This fits with a view, espoused by some scholars, that a major New Testament theme is that messianic concepts in the Old Testament were misunderstood by the Jews and that Christ's mission was focused largely on groups of people who themselves were misunderstood (see verse 6 related links below for more info). As this view goes: (1) Tamar did what she did precisely to fulfill the law of levirate, which Judah was breaking. Though the process through which she accomplished the deed was unconventional, she fulfilled the law of the Lord precisely. (2) Rahab had been a prostitute, but she delivered a city into the hands of the Israelites, and she was given a perpetual inheritance among the chosen people (see Heb 11:31 and James 2:25 for references to Rahab as an example of faith). (3) Ruth's plan, in part concocted by Naomi, was according to the will of God so that David might be born through her in an act of redemption. (4) Bathsheba will be discussed below. (5) Mary, though she was probably accused of unfaithfulness, was a virgin.
If one accepts this line of reasoning, one must assume that Matthew, by including Bathsheba with the other four women, regards her (and possibly David with her?) as guiltless. On the other hand, if one rejects the idea that Matthew believes Bathsheba is innocent, then it remains to be explained what to make of the curiosity of these five women in Jesus's genealogy.
  • Matt 1:1-17: Four women in Jesus's genealogy. Genealogies in the Bible rarely mention women, but this one mentions four: Tamar (spelled “Thamar” here, verse 3), Rahab (here "Rachab," verse 5), Ruth (verse 5), and Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah (spelled “Urias” here—verse 6). One reason that Matthew may have chosen to mention these four women is that they all had unusual stories. Mary's story of a virgin birth is also unusual, and Matthew may be trying to make it fit within Jewish tradition rater than outside it. This is the gospel of Matthew, who was writing to a Jewish audience with numerous proof texts drawn from the Old testament.
Julie M Smith has a useful overview concerning the women included in Matthew's genealogy published in Segullah Spring 2008 (available here[9]).
  • Matt 1:5: The number of David's name. In Jewish thinking at the time of Christ, the “number” of David’s name is fourteen. (Jewish numerologists added up the number values of the consonants in names and believed that those numbers were significant. The Hebrew letter that we transliterate as “d” is the fourth letter in the Hebrew alphabet and the letter that we transliterate as “v” is the sixth letter, so the number of David’s name is 4+6+4, fourteen.) Note the reference to three sets of fourteen generations in verse 16.
  • Matt 1:18, 20: Of. The preposition "of" in the phrases "of the Holy Ghost" in verses 18 and 20 is a translation of the Greek preposition ek. Prepositions can be notoriously difficult to translate from one language to the other, and this is no exception. Modern translations render the preposition here as either "of," "by" or "through." Because of the various ways in which the preposition can be understood, these verses are not inconsistent with the belief that God (Heavenly Father) was the father of Jesus.
  • Matt 1:18-19: Put her away privily. Jewish divorce law, unlike the laws and customs of other people at the time, required that divorce be formal: a man wishing to divorce his wife (to do so, he had to find “some uncleanness in her” or “something indecent about her”—Deuteronomy 24:1), had to give her a document contradicting their marriage contract. She was then free to remarry.
Joseph could have had Mary tried and executed for being pregnant outside their engagement. And how far-fetched does her story sound? That she had not had sexual relations outside their marriage, but that she was pregnant of a 'divine' manner and would raise the Son of God. This is way beyond 'the dog ate my homework'. Joseph could have wanted vengeance and held angst against Mary. This seems to show meekness and compassion on his part.

Matt 1:18-25: Mary conceives and gives birth[edit]

  • Matt 1:18-25: Joseph marries Mary. Here is some major themes and points to this story:
Are there situations where we have been "crossed" where we could lash out at someone but we deal with it in a meek way? What about if you hear someone is spreading gossip about you or someone you know? We are better off if we 'turn the other cheek'.
This is the perfect example of not jumping to conclusions. Our culture is set up and our instinct is such that we automatically typically have an impulse that someone "pay" for what they have done. We assume the worst and act out immediately, rather than giving someone the benefit of the doubt and cutting them slack. I am sure when Mary explained to Joseph that she had not had sexual relations outside their engagement but that she was 'divinely' pregnant, it sounded like the most laughable of stories. But rather than laugh Mary all the way to trial and execution, Joseph 'let it ride' and cut her some slack. Shows massive character and integrity on Joseph's part.
Case study #1 : We jump to conclusions with our spouses, automatically assuming they have ill intentions. Your husband is late for work when you have something important to get to or your wife is ornery and snaps at you when you get home from a busy day at work. Rather than the wife hearing her husband out and finding out that his best employee quit which is the reason he is late, she jumps all over him for having mindlessly ruined her evening with his selfishness. Or the husband doesn't think that his wife has had a horrible day with the kids tearing the house apart and problems, instead he jumps all over her for not supporting him in a rough and busy day, rather than trying to have empathy for what her day might have been like.
Case study #2 : An example of email gone awry. Assume the worst and lash out only to realize later that we misinterpreted. This happens at work, we assume someone meant the worst when they are just making a comment in jest, and we lash out, only to end up feeling sheepish.
Case study #3 : Stephen Covey has an example of riding the subway in New York with a dad who is not paying attention while his three sons tear the subway apart. Covey is angry and finally goes and tells the man off. The man is almost in another world and apologizes saying that his wife, his sons' mother, had just died and they were trying to cope. It totally changed Covey's perspective, and he now had compassion and concern rather than thinking selfishly of himself and what bothers him.
Can we not all have a little more patience? Can we not all give others the benefit of the doubt? Can we not be a little more long suffering and enduring. What if we are wrong and the people did have bad intentions, does that make it any better? What if Mary had actually cheated on Joseph, would it of been of value to have her tried and executed? Do we end up feeling better by "getting our way" in a shouting match, or do we feel worse?
  • Matt 1:21: Yeshua. The name Jesus is the Latinized version of Yeshua. It was a fairly common name at the time. It means "Jehovah saves." But Jesus was the child who would in fact save us.
Verse 21 explicitly connects Jesus with the God of the Old Testament. Since the name Jesus means "Jehovah saves," this verse says, in essence: "You shall name him 'Jehovah saves,' for he will save the people from their sins."

Matt 2:1-12: The wise men[edit]

  • Matt 2:1-26: Story of the wise men. At the time, new kings were often given gifts by emissaries of foreign regimes (see related links). The gifts of the wise men can therefore be seen as the trappings of an official recognition of Christ's kingship. No wonder Herod was so threatened.
  • Matt 2:1-2: Magi. In verse 1, the Greek word translated as "wise men" is magi, the plural of magus, a Persian word that originally referred to a member of the Zoroastrian priesthood caste of the Medes and Persians. It came to refer more broadly to those in the Persian culture who were astrologers, physicians, dream intepreters and the like.
The magi thus were most likely pagan worshippers. As has been pointed out many times by commentators, readers of Matthew's gospel in the first century would certainly have understood pagans to be signified by the term. Some scholars have tried to read into the term a reference to Jews residing still in Babylon, but this seems, in the end, unlikely. In fact, if one regards the wise men as pagans, then the story of Jesus' life begins and ends with pagans, though in opposing ways: at the beginning, the pagans come to Jesus to worship Him, in the end (Matt 28:19), Jesus sends the apostles to the pagans to convert them. The poetic appeal of this reading perhaps strengthens it. This assertion needs to cite to authority so that it is rebuttable.
One has the picture here of the wise men wandering about Jerusalem (or other towns) asking about the King of the Jews. Their mention of the star and their intent to worship the newborn Messiah would have raised quite a stir in the volatile political atmosphere of the time. It is no surprise that Herod is troubled in the next verse. Perhaps an interesting aspect of the way the question is phrased in the verse here is that the wise men apparently assume that the Jews would be well apprised of the situation: it does not occur to them that the Jews would have missed the occurrence of such an event.
  • Matt 2:2: Star in the east. The Greek words translated as "his star in the east" could also be translated "his star as it rose" or "his star in its rising."
  • Matt 2:3. This verse is worded in such a way that it might be an allusion to Isa 7:2: the king and the people are suddenly quite afraid, but because they misunderstand the doings of God.
  • Matt 2:4. Herod consults with the (apparently subordinate) priests and scribes in order to sort things out before confronting himself the wise men on the subject. The point is interesting because it presents Herod as in absolute control, and it presents the priests and scribes as more knowledgeable than one might otherwise guess from the gospel narratives.
  • Matt 2:6. Matthew quotes Micah 5:1-3. Since his quotation doesn’t correspond to either the Greek version of the Old Testament that was commonly used in Jesus’s day (the Septuagint) or the established Hebrew version, he is either quoting somewhat loosely, or he may be quoting a version of Micah that we no longer have.
  • Matt 2:11: Frankincense and myrrh. Frankincense (libanos in Greek) and myrrh (smurna) were both costly aromatic resins (dried sap). Frankincense was often used as an incense, and myrrh was often used in embalming.

Matt 2:13-23: The flight to Egypt[edit]

  • Matt 2:13-23: Moses and Jesus. The parallels between the story of Moses and that of Jesus are striking, as are the parallels between the Pharaoh and Herod: the Pharaoh tried to kill all male children (Exodus 1:22); Moses had to flee because his life was in danger (Exodus 2:15); when the Pharaoh died, Moses returned (Exodus 4:19-20). In addition, as Word Biblical Commentary points out (33a:34), the language of Matthew 2:19 is almost identical to that of Exodus 2:23 (of the Septuagint, of course). What are we to make of such parallels? What is Matthew doing by drawing our attention to them?
  • Matt 2:17: Jeremiah. ”Jeremy the prophet” means “Jeremiah the prophet.” Matthew is quoting Jeremiah 31:15. As with Micah 5 (verse 6), he is not quoting exactly.
  • Matt 2:23: Branch. The fact that the Hebrew for "branch" is nsr, may explain Matthew's remark that Jesus' life in Nazareth was foretold by the prophets; perhaps Matthew understood Isaiah 11: to be punning on the word "Nazareth."

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Matt 1:1. By using the phrase "book of the genealogy," Matthew deliberately imitates passages such as Genesis 2:4 and 5:1. Why? What is he trying to tell us about what follows?
  • Matt 1:18-19. What does the story of verses 18-19 tell us about Joseph's character?
  • Matt 1:20-23. Is it significant that Joseph is a dreamer, like Joseph of old? Is the meaning of Joseph’s name significant, “to take away my reproach”?
  • Matt 1:23. If the child is to be named “Jesus,” then why does verse 23 say his name will be “Emmanuel”?
  • Matt 1:23. Why does Matthew end this part of his story with a quotation from Isaiah?
  • Matt 2:1. Why might Matthew have thought it was important to tell the Jewish community about the visit of the Gentile wise men?
  • Matt 2:1. We see that the Gentile visitors have come to adore the Messiah. What is the reaction of the Jews to the news of his birth? What might that foreshadow? Given that foreshadowing, how might this chapter be an excellent introduction to Matthew as a whole?
  • Matt 2:1. Early Christians celebrated Epiphany, the holiday commemorating the coming of the wise men, before it began to celebrate Christmas. Why do you think that might have been?
  • Matt 2:2. What do the wise men mean when they say that they have seen his star?
  • Matt 2:3-4. Why is Herod troubled? What would Herod’s wise men know that the magi wouldn’t know? In other words, why did the wise men consult with Herod and his court?
  • Matt 2:11. Why does Matthew mention the gifts the wise men gave?
  • Matt 2:11. How might Jesus’ family have been able to use these gifts?
  • Matt 2:21-23. JST Matthew 3:25[10] - How is it that the Savior "could not be taught" or "needed not that any man should teach Him?"

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Matt 2:1-12: The wise men in cultural context. The Oxford Annotated Bible (ISBN 0-19-528485-2) points out in reference to this story that "Foreign regimes often sent emmissaries to greet and give gifts to new kings or rulers" (p. NT10).

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.



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