Gospel of Luke Chapter 2:8-15, 25-35 Sunday School Notes

These are some of my notes for Sunday December 20, 2009 in the Lifeway Explore the Bible series.

Books referenced in these notes are:

1. Birth of the Messiah, Anchor Yale 1999, by Raymond Brown

2. Baker New Testament Commentary Series: Luke by William Hendriksen and Simon Kistemaker

3. NIV Application Commentary: Luke, Zondervan 1996 by Darrell Bock

4. New Testament Text and Translation Commentary by Philip Comfort

5.  NET Bible from Bible dot org, also available from CBD

6. IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, by Craig Keener

Luke 2:8-15
Angelic host’s testimony to the shepherds of Jesus’ birth is significant in its scope. Angels were the most exalted and mysterious inhabitants of Heaven, while the shepherds represent the most lowly of earthly dwellers. Thus God’s action is shown to affect the entire created order, from top to bottom.(Bock)

The angelic announcement here is the third in Luke (Lk 1:5-25, 26-38). The pattern is the usual one: appearance (9a), fear (9b), “don’t fear” remark (10-11), and the giving of a verifying sign (12). That the announcement is called “good news” has its cultural place, since the birth of the emperor Augustus was termed “good news” and the arrival of a “savior”. Thus the announcement of Jesus indicates His own greatness, and perhaps a counter claim to that of the emperors.(Bock)

The titles the angel gives to Jesus are important:

1.Savior (soter) reflects Jesus’ call to deliver His people, as in Mary and Zechariah’s songs (Lk 1:46-55, 67-79). Savior in the OT is often used of God (Deu 20:4, Josh 12:22; Ps 24:5, 25:5; Is 25:9). Among the Greeks saviors included rulers, doctors and philosophers. (Bock)

2.Christ(christos), “anointed” shows Jesus as the promised Messiah (adaptation of Hebrew Mashiach). Messiah is a rare term in the OT, most prominent in Ps 2:2. Luke uses it often: (Lk 1:27, 31-35, 68-72, 79, 2:4).(Bock)

3.Lord (kurios) is the most ambiguous title, seemingly a simple “sir or lord”, but the rest of this Gospel and its sequel Acts will demonstrate that it is in fact a form of the divine LORD, and the extent of Jesus’ lordship. (Bock)

That the angels give the shepherds a sign shows it was meant for them to see for themselves. It also is the third given sign, fitting the angelic appearance pattern (1:19-20, 36)(Bock)

The notion of shepherds being a despised class is actually from Jewish legal code centuries later than the NT, which takes a positive view of them (Matt 18:12, Mark 6:34, Lk 15:4, Jn 10:2-5; Eph 4:11; Heb 13:2; 1 Pet 2:25)(Bock)

Glory to God in the highest” is a mixed saying, indicating:

1.God’s exalted nature

2.That the residents of highest heaven should praise God.(Bock)

Peace to them God favors, toward whom God has good will, shows that there is benefit in Christ’s coming, but only for those among His chosen.(Bock)

Luke 2:8
Region/country: Greek chora, open country. Now said to be Shepherd’s Fields, two miles from Bethlehem. Based on open country sheep tending, people have always claimed Jesus was born between March and November. As early as Clement of Alexandria (c.200 AD) it was suggested Jesus’ birthday was May 20 or April 20-21 (Stromata I 21) On the other hand, even today sheep are sometimes seen in Shepherds Field at Christmas time. Since ancient times Mal 4:2 has been used as a sort of allegorical justification for celebrating Jesus’ birth during a solar event.(Brown, Hendriksen)

The sheep would be let out in the field during the day to eat grass, but at night they were probably put into pens or sheepfolds to protect them from weather, predators, and thieves. The shepherds’ took shifts watching the sheep 24/7, some sleeping in huts of branches perhaps while the others watched.(Hendriksen)

Luke 2:9
Angel of the Lord: In OT, “angel of the LORD” is a way of describing God’s visible presence among men. It is in post exilic Judaism that angels become distinct personal agents of God, servant spirits. For earlier interchangeable God and angel passages, see Gen 16:7 and 13, Gen 22:11 and 14, Ex 3:2 and 4, Jud 6:12 and 14. (Brown)

Angelic host’s testimony to the shepherds of Jesus’ birth is significant in its scope. Angels were the most exalted and mysterious inhabitants of Heaven, while the shepherds represent the most lowly of earthly dwellers. Thus God’s action is shown to affect the entire created order, from top to bottom.(Bock)

Luke 2:10
All people: Some see Gentiles included here, citing Acts 15:14, 18:10. But the Davidic Savior is likely most related to the people of Israel, “all” presumably meaning all classes of Israelites. (Brown)

See Is 52:7 for cross reference(Brown)

Luke 2:11
This day/today: now. Implied sense of “time finally fulfilled”.(Brown)

City of David: This usually means Jerusalem (2 Sam 5:7,9), but the shepherd’s presumably being Bethlehemites, David’s family seat and birth city what would come to mind from “city of David”.(Brown)

Christ, Lord: Greek Christos Kurios. Also “Christ the Lord” or “the Anointed Lord”. This occurs in the Greek OT at Lam 4:20 as a mistranslation of the original Hebrew and also in the pseudepigrahia Ps of Solomon 17:36. Some suggest a mistranslation here of christos kuriou “the anointed of the LORD”, caused by the use of abbreviations called nomina sacra, which were used even in very early NT manuscripts to abbreviate what were considered divine names , such as “Jesus, lord, Christ, God”. (Brown)

Luke is unusual in using “lord” of Jesus fourteen times, when Matthew and Mark use it only one each for Jesus.(Brown)

See Is 9:5 for cross reference. (Brown)

Luke 2:12
Baby: Greek brephos, “foetus or newborn child”. Greek paidion “infant or young child” is first used of Jesus in Luke at 2:17. See Is 1:3 for cross reference.(Brown)

Luke 2:14
In the highest/highest heaven: Greek hupsistos, “highest, supreme, ultimate”. Nowadays often translated “highest heaven” to make clear “highest” relates to God, not the sort of glory/praise due Him. (Brown)

Textual variant:
anthropois eudokia goodwill toward/among men/human beings/people
S2 B2 L Theta Majority Eusebius

anthropois eudokias
men/human beings/people of (God’s) pleasure/favor/goodwill
S A B D W Cop(sa)

The manuscript support for “men of His/God’s favor” is uncommonly strong. This is a Semitic expression confirmed by at least two quotes from the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Coptic Sahidic translation. It also explains the majority reading, because the particularist notion of God favoring some and gifting them with peace is a “hard saying” some scribes would likely change. See Eph. 1:4-9 for a classic text on goodwill and election.(Comfort)

Luke 2:22
Textual variant:
tou katharismou auton
the purification of them
S A B L W Theta f1,13 Majority

tou katharismou
the purification
435 Cop(bo)

tou katharismou autes
her purification

The favored reading “their purification” is a problem because Lev. 12:6 only mentions the mother’s purification after childbirth, not the father or the child. This lead to variants of “his” “her” and “the”. The KJV got the very poorly attested “her” from Beza’s Greek NT, which got it from Erasmus, who likely looked at the Latin eius (which can be either masculine or feminine) and chose the feminine as most appropriate. Indeed the suspicion is that “her” in late Greek manuscripts came about by back- translating from the Latin.(Comfort, NET)

Their purification: Either includes Mary and Joseph (because Joseph ceremonially defiled himself aiding Mary during Jesus’ delivery, but there is no literature about men being defiled in childbirth. Or Luke considered the whole purification process a family affair) or as Origen long ago suggested, Mary and Jesus, Luke mixing Mary’s purification rite with Jesus’ rite of redemption as His family’s firstborn into one process.(Brown, Comfort)

Luke 2:24
Pair of doves or two young pigeons: These are the only birds termed acceptable in the Law for sacrifice. That a second bird was substituted for a lamb indicates that Mary and Joseph were not well-off financially. Mary would lay hands on the birds, and one would simply have it’s neck rung, the other killed then burnt as a whole offering.(Brown, Keener)

The presentation of Jesus as the firstborn is from Ex 13:1, 11. The law is changed with the creation of the Levite priestly class in Num 18:15-16, which allowed the firstborns of Israel to be freed from service to God for five sheckels or twenty denarius, equivalent to twenty days’ wages for a soldier or common laborer.(Brown)

Luke 2:25
Simeon’s readiness to die after seeing Jesus has always lead people to believe he was an old man at this point, as does his blessing of Mary and Joseph, since it is the greater person who usually gives the blessing.(Brown)

Righteous: Greek dikaios, also used to describe John the Baptist’s parents and Joseph.(Brown)

Devout: Greek eulabes, careful of religious duties. Often used secularly to describe worthy politicians in ancient Greece and Rome, rather like “Christian” or “religious” is used today.(Brown)

Israel’s consolation: See Is 40:1, 66:12-13, Is 52:9(Brown)

Luke 2:26
Revealed: Greek chrematizein, a divine oracle, such as Acts 10:22. (Brown)

Luke 2:27
Guided by the Spirit: Literally “in the Spirit”. (Brown)

Temple complex: Either the Court of the Gentiles or the Court of Women, those being where Mary was allowed to go within the Temple grounds.

Customary under the law: the firstborn child’s presentation and redemption, as discussed above in verse 24.(Brown)

Luke 2:29
Slave/servant: Greek doulos, used of mine slaves who were worked to death and household slaves who were virtual step-children and might inherit from their owners. Thus a hard term to translate, except to note it is different from the common notion of slavery in the American South.(Brown)

depart/dismiss- euphemism for die, Greek apolyein (Greek OT Num 20:39)(Brown)

Luke 2:31
All peoples: Is 52:10 says “all nations”. Some think this means “all classes of Jews”, but it is more commonly thought to include the two groups in 2:32: Gentiles and Jews, thus, all the world.(Brown)

Luke 2:32
Light and glory both speak of illumination and light, but the sense here are different for each group. “Light” to the Gentiles presupposing taken them from darkness so they see, a reference to the common notion of Gentiles as morally corrupt. “Glory” to Israel is bringing the people and especially their religion into a spotlight, honoring it and them.(Brown)

See Is 52:9-10, 49:6, 46:13, 42:6, 40:5 for cross reference(Brown)

Luke 2:33
Were astonished: Why still surprised after angels and shepherds’ visits? Simply because they were normal people, caught up in fantastic things.

Luke 2:34
Blessed them: This make some people think Simeon was a priest, but he is also apparently much the parents’ elder and a devout man, so blessing them would be a natural gesture even for a layman.(Brown)

Fall and rise: Rise is Greek anastasis, more usually used of “resurrection”, here opposed to fall’s connotation of “destruction”.(Brown)

Many: short of all, but still indicating a cross-section of the whole nation of Israel.(Brown)

Luke 2:35
Sword: Some manuscripts say “spear” here, taking a cue from John 19:34 and 19:25-27.(Brown)

The saying about a sword piercing Mary’s own soul has created a bushel of interpretations. Brown notes eight different ones which he rejects. He goes to Ezekiel for his interpretation, citing Ezk 14:17 as the nearest equivalent, and several others to show a sword is not only destructive, but discriminatory (Ezk 5:1-2, 6:8-9, 12:14-16). He then cites Matt 10:34-36 and the Lukan form in 12:51-53 to show Jesus’ application of a divisive sword. This is then related to Mark 3:31-35’s saying about Jesus’ true family being believers, which seems to put Mary and Jesus’ brothers outside the circle at the time. The Lukan version (Lk 8:19-21) is not so harsh, and of course Acts 1:13-15 reveals Mary and the brothers among the followers in the upper room after the Ascension, to say nothing of James’ role as head of the Jerusalem church and Jude’s traditional authorship of the epistle with his name. Thus the sword is a metaphor for the divisiveness Jesus will cause among people.(Brown)

Thoughts: Greek dialogismos, used thirteen times in NT, all negative: bad thoughts, vain thoughts, doubts. This relates back to v.34’s opposed/spoken against.(Brown)

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