Vol. 18, No. 7 – February 17, 2019
II. The Identification of the Son of Man with Men, Luke 1:5-4:13.
D. The Advent of the Son of Man, Luke 2:1-20.
1. The birth narrative, vs. 1-7.
2. The announcement to and adoration from the shepherds, vs. 8-20.
E. The Adoration of the Baby, vs. 21-38.
1. The circumcision, vs. 21-25.
2. The adoration from Simeon, vs. 25-35.
3. The adoration from Anna, vs. 36-38.
F. The Advancement of the Boy, including the Temple incident at age 12, vs. 39-52.
This chapter begins as Chapter 1 began, cf. Luke 1:5a, (“during the reign of king Herod,” 27-4 B.C.), with Luke giving a historical and chronological marker for the timeframe in which these events occur, vs. 1-2. Luke will do this again to begin Chapter 3, in vs. 1-2.
Luke 2:1, “Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.”
A “decree,” (the noun DOGMA, δόγμα, “decree, edict, or ordinance,”) was sent out to all the people in the Roman Empire by “Caesar Augustus,” (Kaisar, Καῖσαρ, “Caesar or Emperor,” Augoustos, Αὐγοῦστος, “Augustus,” September 63 B.C. – August 14 A.D., who was born Gaius Octavius Thurinuswho), was the first Emperor of the Roman Empire who reigned from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D. He was the great-nephew and adopted son and heir of Julius Caesar. Our month August is named for him.
“Census,” is the Present, Middle, Infinitive Verb APOGRAPHO, ἀπογράφω that means, “record, to enroll, or inscribe in a register.” It is used here and in vs. 3, 5; Heb 12:23. The Noun APOGRAPHE ἀπογραφή that means, “registration, a record, or enrollment,” is used in vs. 2, and Acts 5:37. Although, not directly mentioned, the typical reason for taking a census was to ensure proper taxation of the people or to ascertain the military strength of the various provinces.
“Inhabited earth,” is the Greek OIKOUMENE, οἰκουμένη that means, “the inhabited earth, the world,” and used for the Roman Empire. This passage is noteworthy as defining the usual N.T. use of OIKOUMENE as the sphere of Roman rule at its greatest extent. It was one of the great Gentile world-monarchies, Dan 2:7f., which is peculiarly the sphere of prophecy.
Romans regarded their great empire as the Orbis Terrarum, or “orb of the earth.” All lands beyond its boundaries were considered outer barbarism.
“I am thrilled when I read this simple, historically accurate passage with tremendous spiritual truth behind it. Caesar Augustus attempted to make himself a god. He wanted to be worshiped. He signed a tax bill which caused a woman and man, peasants, living in Nazareth, to journey to Bethlehem to enroll. That woman was carrying in her womb the Son of God! This is tremendous! This Caesar Augustus tried to make himself God, but nobody today reverences him or pays taxes to him. But that little baby in Mary’s womb — many of us worship Him today and call Him our Savior.” (Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee.)
Therefore, in vs. 1, the birth of Jesus Christ took place during the reign of “Caesar August.” He was merely the tool in God’s hand to bring to pass the prophecy.
Luke 2:2, “This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.”
Now, in vs. 2, the birth also took place, “while Quirinius was governor of Syria.”
“Quirinius,” (KURENIOS, Κυρήνιος, “Kyrenios,” 51 B.C. – 21 A.D.), was apparently the “governor,” (HEGEMONEUO, ἡγεμονεύω a verb that means, “be leader, rule, or to govern”), of “Syria,” (Συρία) twice: from 4 B.C. to 1 A.D., when this census was taken, and again from 6-11 A.D., as confirmed archaeologically. His full name is Publius Sulpicius Quirinius. The province of Syria included Judaea as a political subdivision.
“The Greek word HEGEMON, which Luke uses for governor, would be used for either of the Roman titles, viz.: Proprætor, or senatorial governor; or Quæstor, or imperial commissioner. Quirinius may have commenced the enrollment as Quæstor and finished it ten years later as Proprætor. He was a well-known character in that age. Harsh and avaricious as a governor, but an able and loyal soldier, earning a Roman triumph for successes in Cilicia, and being honored by a public funeral in A.D. 21.” (A Harmony of the Four Gospels.)
The Jews hated their pagan conquerors and censuses were forbidden under Jewish law. The resultant taxation assessment was greatly resented by the Jews, and open revolt was prevented only by the efforts of the high priest Joazar, according to the Jewish Ency-clopedia. Despite efforts to prevent revolt, the census did trigger the revolt of Judas of Galilee and the formation of the party of the Zealots, according to Josephus.
Though neither knew it, God used Caesar and Quirinius to fulfill what He promised long ago in Micah 5:2, seven hundred years before the birth of Christ.
Because of the death of King Herod in 4 B.C., and the beginning of Quirinius’ Governorship in the same year, most place the birth of Jesus Christ at around 4 B.C.
Luke 2:3, “And everyone was on his way to register for the census (APOGRAPHO), each to his own city.”
In vs. 3, “everyone to his own city,” The Romans enrolled each person at the place where he was then residing; but the Jews were to return to their ancestral or tribal cities and enroll themselves as citizens of these cities. This was the city where Joseph’s ancestors had been settled by Joshua when he divided the land, Joshua 13, and was the home town of David, the ancestor of Joseph and Jesus.
Luke 2:4, “Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David.”
Although Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth and Mary was possibly in her last trimester of pregnancy, they journeyed about 100 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
Regardless of the demands of the Roman census and tax law, Luke includes this narrative to once again focuses our attention on the establishment of Davidic ancestry for Jesus through His legal father Joseph. Cf. 1 Sam 17:12.
1 Sam 17:12, “Now David was the son of the Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, whose name was Jesse, and he had eight sons. And Jesse was old in the days of Saul, advanced in years among men.”
In addition, Joseph and Mary may have been well aware of the prophecy of the birthplace of the Messiah from Micah 5:2-3, that the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem, providing them with an even greater motivation for going to the city of David, cf. Mat 2:1, 5-6, 8, 16; Luke 2:15; John 7:42.
Micah 5:2, “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.”
Micah 5:3, “Therefore He will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has borne a child. Then the remainder of His brethren will return to the sons of Israel.” This prophecy was written well after David had perished.
“Bethlehem,” (Βηθλέεμ BETH-LEEM), located 5 miles south of Jerusalem means, “house of bread.” It was the later or Jewish name for the old Canaanitish village of Ephrath, the Ephrath near where Rachel, the wife of Jacob, died while giving birth to Benjamin, Gen 35:19. It sat 2,350 feet above sea level, surrounded by fertile farm-land and grass-covered hillsides.
Gen 35:19, “So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).”
And as you know, Jesus is the “Bread of Life,” John 6:35, 48.
Luke 2:5, “In order to register (APOGRAPHO) along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.”
Roman law did not necessitate Mary’s presence with Joseph during the enrollment process. But, due to her advancement of pregnancy, and the potential ridicule she might continue to endure if she stayed behind, Joseph brought her with him.
“Engaged” is the Verb MNESTEUO, μνηστεύω that means, “betroth or become engaged.” It is only used here and in Mat 1:18, Luke 1:27. In the other two usages of this word, it was the time frame before Mary became pregnant by the Holy Spirit overshadowing her.
Yet, from our passage, we would think that Mary and Joseph were not yet married. But, in Mat 1:24-25, it tells us “And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.”
In Matthew, “wife” is the Noun GUNE that means just that. But, we have to view this from the Jewish perspective. From a legal perspective, engagement was as good as being married today with the one caveat of not yet having sexual relations. Sexual relations occurred after the wedding ceremony took place. After the wedding ceremony, the husband and wife would consummate the marriage through sexual relation-ships.
In Joseph’s and Mary’s case, Joseph did not have sexual relationship with Mary until after the birth of Jesus. So, whether they had a wedding ceremony or not is not told to us in Scripture. Nevertheless, the marriage was not consummated because they had not had sexual relations yet, and it was like they were still engaged.
Therefore, Matthew approaches it from the Jewish legal perspective of marriage and Luke from the Jewish perspective of not having consummated the marriage yet, to emphasize the virgin pregnancy once again. Given the dual language, we can assume that the marriage ceremony was performed and Joseph took Mary to their new home as husband and wife back in Nazareth. But, he did not have sexual relations with her.
In addition, having had the wedding ceremony made it possible for Joseph to take Mary with him to Bethlehem. Otherwise, they would not have been able to travel together to Bethlehem. And, as noted above, if he had left her behind, it may have stirred up more ridicule with some possibly thinking he abandoned her.
Therefore, we can conclude that Joseph and Mary had completed their marriage vows and were husband and wife, yet because Joseph was a righteous man, he kept her as a virgin until after the birth of Jesus Christ, which is what Luke emphasizes. This fulfilled prophecy, Isa 7:14; Mat 1:23.
Isa 7:14, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel, (God with us).”
The fact that Mary had children with Joseph after the birth of Jesus is noted in Mat 12:46; 13:55-56; Mark 6:3; John 2:12; 7:3-10; Acts 1:14; 1 Cor 9:5; Gal 1:19. His stepbrothers were: James, Joseph Jr., Simon, and Judas or Jude, and He had at least two stepsisters that are unnamed in the Bible.
Luke 2:6, “While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.”
“To give birth,” is the Aorist, Active Infinitive of the Verb TIKTO that means, “to bring forth, bear children, generate, etc.” We noted it in Chapter 1 for the birth announcement of Jesus, vs. 31 and the birth of John, vs. 57. In Chapter 2, we will see it again in vs. 7, in the Aorist, Active, Indicative for Mary having given birth to Jesus, and vs. 11, in the Aorist, Passive, Indicative at the birth announcement to the shepherds.
The text does not affirm or deny the popular image of the couple arriving in Bethlehem just as the baby was about to be born. They most likely were there for some time before. Luke simply states that the birth took place. So, it was during their stay in the city of David that Mary’s pregnancy reached full term; the time had come for her to deliver the Messiah to the world.
Also, as far as the time of year that this took place, we have no information. The early church did not record it, nor do the Scriptures. Our celebration held on December 25th is only a place holder for the celebration. It is most likely not the actual date.
“The early Christians made no record of the date of Christ’s birth; we find no mention of December 25 earlier than the fourth century. The Eastern Church celebrated Christ’s birth by a feast called Epiphany, which means manifestation. They chose January 6 as the date for this feast, for they reasoned that if the first Adam was born on the sixth day of creation, the second Adam must have been born on the sixth day of the year. The Western church celebrated Christ’s birth on the 25th of December by a feast called Natalis, which means Nativity. But Pope Julius I. (A.D. 337-352) designated December 25 as the proper day, and the Eastern churches soon united with the Western churches in observing this day; and the custom has become universal. We do not observe this day because of the Pope’s decree, but because of the tradition on which the Pope’s decree was founded.” (The Fourfold Gospel: or A Harmony of the Four Gospels.)
In this passage we see that Jesus was born of a woman, but was uniquely the Seed of a woman, Gen 3:15, without earthly father, truly virgin born.
Gal 4:4, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law.”
Luke 2:7, “And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
“First born,” is the Accusative Singular of the Adjective PROTOTOKOS, πρωτότοκος. It is used 8 times in the NT. It is also used in some ancient manuscripts in Mat 1:25, but the oldest and most reliable texts do not include it there.
Luke notes that this was Mary’s first born son to continue the emphasis of the virgin birth. This leaves open the possibility that she had other children, as she did, as we noted in vs. 5. Otherwise, Luke would have stated that Jesus was her “only begotten son,” MONOGENES HUIOS.
Now, we see in Scripture that there is more to this title. Within ancient Israel there were basically two understandings of “firstborn.”
1. The first is the understanding as the “firstborn of the inheritance.” The ancient Jews regarded the firstborn male child as the “firstborn of the inheritance,” because the first male child usually received a double portion of the father’s inheritance and assumed the role of the father as head of the family upon his death.
2. The second understanding is the “firstborn of the sanctuary.” This is because the firstborn child of the mother was consecrated to the Lord and had to be redeemed through an offering. Joseph and Mary made such an offering for her firstborn child Jesus in vs. 22-24. In theory a lamb was to be offered, but in practice the poor were allowed a smaller sacrifice of two doves or two young pigeons. The offering they made for Jesus was a typical poor person’s offering.
Therefore, upon Jesus’ birth, He was consecrated, set apart, unto God the Father for a special work and service as the sacrificial Lamb, who would receive a great inheritance as the head of the Church!
Being “firstborn,” was also a part of and in fulfillment of prophecy. Jesus is the “firstborn” Son of God the Father, Who in Psa 89:27, prophesied that His first born son would be a great king. Psa 89:27, “I also shall make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” Thus, being the firstborn involved some measure of status and inheritance in this messianic prophecy, as we will note below.
Of the 8 usages of PROTOTOKOS in the NT, all but one refers to Jesus. The other usage refers to the firstborn of the Egyptians who were destroyed on Passover night, Heb 11:28. Of the other 7, (the number of spiritual perfection), only one refers to His birth to Mary, our passage, which is the first time it is used in the NT. The other six, (the number of man), refer to Him being the Son of God.
Each of the instances of PROTOTOKOS referring to Jesus Christ as the firstborn of God can be classified in 4 groups that essentially capture every understanding.
1. Christological, Col 1:15-17.
Col 1:15, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.”
Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, cf. Heb 1:1-3, the firstborn over all creation. By Him all things were created, and they were created for Him as well. With respect to the rest of creation, He is the firstborn, thus heir over all things. With respect to God, He has been designated the only begotten of the Father, John 1:18. Thus, He is the first and the only Son of God. The meaning of PROTOTOKOS in Col 1:15, is a statement about the rights, privileges, and prerogatives of Jesus, the Divine Son of God. In addition, neither in this verse, nor in any other containing the word “firstborn” regarding His relationship to God, is there a suggestion that the 2nd Person of the Trinity was literally born, created, or generated, as God is eternal and never born. Therefore, this first category speaks to the Person of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, Who is God, the creator and sovereign of the heavens and the earth.
2. Soteriological, Col 1:18-20; Rev 1:5.
Col 1:18, “He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.”
Rev 1:5, “And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood.”
Christ is also the “firstborn of the dead.” He is the first “in order” from the perspective of salvation history, to have risen from the dead. He rose victoriously, triumphing over death and having broken the power of death. Because His death was substitutional, it was also representational. He redeemed believers from sin through His death providing salvation for all who would believe in Him. Therefore, those who have believed in Him have been justified through His resurrection, Rom 4:25.
Rom 4:25, “He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.”
Christians are dead and buried to sin with Him; in like manner, they have been raised to the new life in and with Him, Rom 6:4; Eph 2:5f.
Rom 6:4, “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
3. Ecclesiastical, Rom 8:29; Heb 12:23.
Rom 8:29, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.”
Heb 12:23, “To the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect.”
Since Christians have been raised with Christ, they are also members of the body of the firstborn Son from the dead. We walk to be conformed to His image as the Son of God. This does not mean that we will be made Divine into gods. It means we have been placed into the family of God as brothers and sisters, of which comprise His Church or the “general assembly” of the firstborn of God, cf. Acts 20:28. As such, we are co-heirs in and with Christ, firstborn heirs, those to whom a double portion of the inheritance is due.
Rom 8:17, “And if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”
4. Eschatological, Heb 1:6.
Heb 1:6, “And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, ‘AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP HIM’.”
This text recalls that God first brought His firstborn Son into the world called the 1st Advent, and then all the angels will worship Him, which speaks of His 2nd Advent. At His first coming, Christ was clothed in humility, but when He comes again, He will come with multitudes of angels who worship Him as the sovereign Lord on His throne, Heb 1:6-9; Rev 19:11-16. Likewise, “the world” is part of the inheritance of the firstborn which He will share with His brothers and sisters at His 2nd Advent, Rom 8:17; 1 Cor 3:21-23. The One whose head suffered under a crown of thorns will become King of kings and Lord of lords, Rev 19:16; Dan 2:37. Then the prophecy, “I will make Him My firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth,” Psa 89:27, will see its eternal fulfillment.
Therefore, the title, “firstborn,” has a Christological, Soteriological, Ecclesiastical, and Eschatological meaning. These tell us of the person and work of Jesus Christ who has redeemed mankind to build a church unto God that will be blessed for all of eternity.
“Wrapped him in cloths” is the Aorist, Active, Indicative of the Verb SPARGANOO, σπαργανόω that means, “To wrap in swaddling clothes, or to swathe.” SPARGANOO is used for strips of cloth like bandages, wrapped around young infants to keep their limbs straight, and to help the baby transition from the womb (a very snug place) to the outside world. It was a word that appeared in ancient medical writings. In NT times, the baby was wrapped in a large square of cloth and strips of cloth were tied around the square to keep it in place. In ancient times, like today, a swaddled infant was safe if wrapped and watched properly.
In the LXX, the word occurs just twice, both times metaphorically. In Ezek 16:4, wicked Jerusalem is compared to a newborn; uncared for, cast out, not wrapped in swaddling clothes. In Job 38:9, the Lord speaks of His creation of the sea as though it were a newborn which He wrapped in the swaddling clothes of the mist. In light of the OT usage, this probably carries the unspoken implication that the baby Jesus was treated with love and properly cared for.
Another instance of SPARGANOO occurs in the Apocryphal book Wisdom of Solomon 7:4, that reads, “I was nursed in swaddling clothes, and that with cares.” This is Solomon recounting his birth as the future king of Israel, being the son of David, as he was born in a humble state just as all are born, vs. 5-6, “For there is no king that had any other beginning of birth. 6For all men have one entrance into life, and the like going out.” With this we see another allusion to the birth of Jesus Christ: humbly born, as the king of Israel, as the Son of David.
SPARGANOO is only used in the NT here and in vs. 12, at the angel of the Lord’s announcement to the shepherds in the field as a “sign” of the baby born “today in the city of David,” who was “Savior, who is Christ the Lord,” vs. 11.
Some believe there was an additional emphasis to this, in that the wrapping of the baby was a further sign to the shepherds who were watching over the sacrificial lambs. They are called “Levitical shepherds,” who upon the birth of a lamb would wrap them with cloth to keep them “without spot or blemish,” so that they would qualify as sacrificial lambs cf. Num 6:14. Thus, this ties Jesus’ birth with His sacrifice upon the Cross as THE sacrificial lamb, Heb 9:14; 1 Peter 1:19.
Some also believe the swaddling clothes were a foreshadowing, a prophetic reference, of Jesus’ burial cloths. Although it may have symbolism, it cannot be shown linguistically, as the Greek word SPARGANOO is only used here and in vs. 12, and it is never used in the NT to refer to burial cloth. In the descriptions of Jesus’ burial, we see variations on the phrase “wrapped in linen cloth,” and different Greek words are used like ENTULISSO for “wrap,” and SINDON or OTHONION for “linen or cloth.” The swaddling clothes could prefigure Jesus’ burial, as the Magis’ gift of myrrh in Mat 2:11 did, but the link cannot be proved linguistically.
Other than the symbolism of being loved and cared for, Luke is laying the foundation for the “sign” the Jewish shepherds would receive to know that this baby was the one foretold to them by the Angel of the Lord, vs. 8-12, as this word is only used here and in vs. 12.
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If you would like more information on this subject, you may watch/listen to lesson:
#19-014 & 19-015
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A PERSONAL NOTE FOR YOU
If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I am here to tell you that Jesus loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His life for you. God the Father also loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His only Son for you by sending Him to the Cross. At the Cross Jesus died in your place. Taking upon Himself all of your sins and all of my sins. He was judged for our sins and paid the price for our sins. Therefore, our sins will never be held against us.
Right where you are, you now have the opportunity to make the greatest decision in your life. To accept the free gift of salvation and eternal life by truly believing that Jesus Christ died for your sins and was raised on the third day as the proof of the promise of eternal life. So right now, you can pause and reflect on what Christ has done for you and say to the Father:
“Yes Father, I believe that Your Son, Jesus Christ,
died on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins.”
If you have done that, I welcome you to the eternal Family of God!