Gospel of Luke Chapter 2: 3-20 Antique Commentary Quotes

Cambridge Bible:Luke Farrar
1. there went out a decree from Cesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed] Rather, that there should be an enrolment of the habitable world. The verb apographesthai is here probably passive, though we have the aorist middle apograpsasthai ‘to enroll himself’ in vs. 5. The registration (apographē) did not necessarily involve a taxing (apotimēsis), though it was frequently the first step in that direction. Two objections have been made to the historic credibility of the decree, and both have been fully met.

1. It is said ‘that there is no trace of such a decree in secular history.’ The answer is that

(α) the argumentum e silentio is here specially invalid because there happens to be a singular deficiency of minute records respecting this epoch in the ‘profane’ historians. The history of Nicolaus of Damascus, the flatterer of Herod, is not extant. Tacitus barely touches on this period (Ann. i. 1, “pauca de Augusto”). There is a hiatus in Dion Cassius from a.u.c. 748-752. Josephus does not enter upon the history of these years.

(β) There are distinct traces that such a census took place. Augustus with his own hand drew up a Rationarium of the Empire (a sort of Roman Doomsday Book, afterwards epitomised into a Breviarium), which included the allied kingdoms (Tac. Ann. i. 11; Suet. Aug. 28), and appointed twenty Commissioners to draw up the necessary lists (Suidas s. v. ἀπογραφή).

2. It is said ‘that in any case Herod, being a rex socius (for Judaea was not annexed to the Province of Syria till the death of Archelaus, a. d. 6), would have been exempt from such a registration.’ The answer is that

(α) the Clitae were obliged to furnish such a census though they were under an independent prince, Archelaus (Tac. Ann. vi. 41; cf. I. ii, regna).

(β) That Herod, a mere creature of the Emperor, would have been the last person to resist his wishes (Jos. Antt. xiv. 14. 4; xv. 6. 7; xvi. 9. 3). (γ) That this Census, enforced by Herod, was so distasteful to the Jews that it probably caused the unexplained tumults which occurred at this very period (Jos. Antt. xvii. 2. 4; B. J. i. 33, § 2). This is rendered more probable by the Targum of Jonathan on Hab_3:17, which has, “the Romans shall be rooted out; they shall collect no more tribute (Kesooma=census) from Jerusalem” (Gfrörer, Jahrh. d. Heils, i. 42). That the Emperor could issue such a decree for Palestine shews that the fulfilment of the old Messianic promises was near at hand. The sceptre had departed from Judah; the Lawgiver from between his feet.

As regards both objections, we may say

(i) that St Luke, a writer of proved carefulness and accuracy, writing for Gentiles who could at once have detected and exposed an error of this kind, is very unlikely (taking the lowest grounds) to have been guilty of such carelessness.

(ii) That Justin Martyr, a native of Palestine, writing in the middle of the second century, three times appeals to the census-lists (ἀπογραφαὶ) made by Quirinus when he was first Procurator, bidding the Romans search their own archives as to the fact (Apol. i. 34, 46; Dial. c. Tryph. 78), as also does Tertullian (Adv. Marc. iv. 7. 19).

(iii) If St Luke had made a mistake it would certainly have been challenged by such able critics as Celsus and Porphyry;—but they never impugn his statement. On every ground therefore we have reason to trust the statement of St Luke, and in this as in many other instances (see my Life of St Paul, i. 113) what have been treated as his ‘manifest errors’ have turned out to be interesting historic facts which he alone preserves for us.

all the world] Rather, the habitable world, i. e. the Roman Empire, the orbis terrarum (Act_11:28, &c.; Polyb. vi. 50).

2. this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria] Rather, this first enrolment took place (literally ‘took place as the first’) when Quirinus was governor of Syria. We are here met by an apparent error on which whole volumes have been written. Quirinus (or Quirinius, for the form of his name is not absolutely certain) was governor (Praeses, Legatus) of Syria in a. d. 6, ten years after this time, and he then carried out a census which led to the revolt of Judas of Galilee, as St Luke himself was aware (Act_5:37). Hence it is asserted that St Luke made an error of ten years in the governorship of Quirinus, and the date of the census, which vitiates his historic authority. Two ways of obviating this difficulty may finally be rejected.

(α) One is to render the words ‘took place before (protē) Quirinus was governor.’ The translation is entirely untenable, and is not supported by protos mou ‘before me’ in Joh_1:30. And if this were the meaning the remark would be most unnecessary.

(β) Others would render the verb egeneto by ‘took effect:’—this enrolment was begun at this period (b. c. 4 of our vulgar era) by P. Sentius Saturninus, but not completed till the Procuratorship of Quirinus a. d. 6. But this is to give a strained meaning to the verb, as well as to take the ordinal (protē) as though it were an adverb (proton).

(γ) A third, and more tenable, view is to extend the meaning of hegemoneuontos ‘was governor’ to imply that Quirinus, though not actually Governor of Syria, yet might be called hegemon, either (i) as one of the twenty taxers or commissioners of Augustus, or (ii) as holding some procuratorial office (as Epitropos or joint Epitropos with Herod; comp. Jos. Antt. xv. 10. 3; B. J. i. 20. 4). It is, however, a strong objection to solution (i) that the commissioners were ἄριστοι, optimates or nobles, whereas Quirinus was a novus homo: and to (ii) that St Luke is remarkably accurate in his use of titles.

(δ) A fourth view, and one which I still hold to be the right solution, is that first developed by A. W. Zumpt (Das Geburtsjahr Christi, 1870), and never seriously refuted though often sneered at. It is that Quirinus was twice Governor of Syria, once in b. c. 4 when he began the census (which may have been ordered, as Tertullian says, by Varus, or by P. Sentius Saturninus); and once in a. d. 6 when he carried it to completion. It is certain that in a.u.c. 753 Quirinus conquered the Homonadenses in Cilicia, and was rector to Gaius Caesar. Now it is highly probable that these Homonadenses were at that time under the jurisdiction of the propraetor of the Imperial Province of Syria, an office which must in that case have been held by Quirinus between b. c. 4-b. c. 1. The indolence of Varus and his friendship with Archelaus may have furnished strong reasons for superseding him, and putting the diligent and trustworthy Quirinus in his place. Whichever of these latter views be accepted, one thing is certain, that no error is demonstrable, and that on independent historical grounds, as well as by his own proved accuracy in other instances, we have the strongest reason to admit the probability of St Luke’s reference.

Cyrenius] This is the Greek form of the name Quirinus, Orelli ad Tac. Ann. ii. 30. All that we know of him is that he was of obscure and provincial origin, and rose to the consulship by activity and military skill, afterwards earning a triumph for his successes in Cilicia. He was harsh, and avaricious, but a loyal soldier; and he was honoured with a public funeral in a. d. 21 (Tac. Ann. ii. 30, iii. 22, 48; Suet. Tib. 49, &c.).

ICCNT:Luke Plummer
1. Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις ἐξῆλθεν δόγμα παρὰ καίσαρος Αὐγούστου ἀπογράφεσθαι πᾶσαν τὴν οἰκουμένην. For the constr. see detached note at the end of ch. 1.; and for ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις see on 1:5 and 39. The time of the birth of John is roughly indicated. Even in class. Grk. the first meaning of δόγμα, as “opinion, philosophic tenet,” is not very common (Plat. Rep. 538 C); it is more often a “public decree, ordinance.” This is always the meaning in N.T., whether an ordinance of the Roman Emperor (Act_17:7), or of the Apostles (Act_16:4; comp. Ign. Mag. 13; Didaché, 11:3), or of the Mosaic Law (Col_2:14; Eph_2:15; comp. 3 Mal_1:3; Jos. Ant. xv. 5, 3). For ἐξῆλθεν δόγμα comp. Dan_2:13 (Theod.). In Daniel δόγμα is freq. of a royal decree (3:10, 4:3, 6:9, 10). See Lft. on Col_2:14.

ἀπογράφεσθαι. Probably passive, ut describeretur (Vulg.), not middle, as in ver. 3. The present is here used of the continuous enrolment of the multitudes; the aorist in ver. 5 of the act of one person. The verb refers to the writing off, copying, or entering the names, professions, fortunes, and families of subjects in the public register, generally with a view to taxation (ἀποτίμησις or τίμημα). It is a more general word than ἀποτιμάω, which implies assessment as well as enrolment. But it is manifest that the ἀπογραφή here and in Act_5:37 included assessment. The Jews were exempt from military service; and enrolment for that purpose cannot be intended. In the provinces the census was mainly for purposes of taxation.

πᾶσαν τὴν οἰκουμένην. “The whole inhabited world,” i.e. the Roman Empire, orbis terrarum. Perhaps in a loose way the expression might be used of the provinces only. But both the πᾶσαν and the context exclude the limitation to Palestine, a meaning which the expression never has, not even in Jos. Ant. viii. 3. See on 4:5 and 21:26. In inscriptions Roman Emperors are called κύριοι τῆς οἰκουμένης. The verse implies a decree for a general census throughout the empire.

It must be confessed that no direct evidence of any such decree exists beyond this statement by Lk., and the repetitions of it by Christian writers. But a variety of items have been collected, which tend to show that a Roman census in Judæa at this time, in accordance with some general instructions given by Augustus, is not improbable.

1. The rationarium or rationes imperii, which was a sort of balance-sheet published periodically. by the emperor (Suet. Aug. xxvii.; Cal. xvi.). 2. The libellus or breviarium totius imperii, which Augustus deposited with his will (Tac. Ann. i. 11. 5, 6 ; Suet. Aug. ci.). 3. The index rerum gestarum to be inscribed on his tomb, which was the original of the Marmor Ancyranum. But these only indicate the orderly administration of the empire. A general census would have been useful in producing such things; but that does not prove that it took place. Two passages in Dion Cassius are cited; but one of these (liv:35) refers to a registration of the emperor’s private property, and the other (lv:13) to a census of Roman citizens. If Augustus made a general survey of the empire, of which there is evidence from the commentarii of Agrippa mentioned by Pliny (Nat. Hist. iii. 2, 17), this also would have been conveniently combined with a general census, although it does not show that such a census was ordered. Of some of the provinces we know that no census was held in them during the reign of Augustus. But it is probable that in the majority of them a census took place; and the statement of so accurate a writer as Lk., although unsupported by direct evidence, may be accepted as substantially true: viz. that in the process of reducing the empire to order, Augustus had required that a census should be held throughout most of it. So that Lk. groups the various instances under one expression,just as in Act_11:28 he speaks of the famines, which took place in different parts of the empire in the time of Claudius, as a famine ἐφʼ ὅλην οἰκουμένην. Of the Christian witnesses none is of much account. Riess seems to be almost alone in contending that Orosius (Hist. Rom. vi. 22. 6) had any authority other than Lk. Cassiodorus (Variarum Epp. iii. 52) does not mention a census of persons at all clearly; but if orbis Romanus agris divisus censuque descriptus est means such a census, he may be referring to Luk_2:1. The obscure statement of Isidore of Spain (Etymologiarum, v. 26. 4; Opera, iii. 229, ed. Arevallo) may either be derived from Lk. or refer to another period. What Suidas states (Lex. s.v. ἀπογραφή partly comes from Lk. and partly is improbable. At the best, all this testimony is from 400 to 1000 years after the event, and cannot be rated highly. The passages are given in full by Schürer (Jewish People in the T. of J. C. i. 2, pp. 116, 117). But it is urged that a Roman census, even if held elsewhere, could not have been made in Palestine during the time of Herod the Great, because Palestine was not yet a Roman province. In a.d. 6, 7, when Quirinius certainly did undertake a Roman census in Judæa, such a proceeding was quite in order. Josephus shows that in taxation Herod acted independently (Ant. xv.10. 4, xvi. 2. 5, xvii.2. I, II. 2; comp. 17:8, 17:4). That Herod paid tribute to Rome is not certain; but, if so, he would pay it out of taxes raised by himself. The Romans would not assess his subjects for the tribute which he had to pay. Josephus, whose treatment of the last years of Herod is very full, does not mention any Roman census at that time. On the contrary, he implies that, even after the death of Herod, so long as Palestine was ruled by its own princes, there was no Roman taxation; and he states that the census undertaken by Quirinius a.d. 7 excited intense opposition, presumably as being an innovation (Ant. 18:1. 1, 2:1).

In meeting this objection, let us admit with Schürer and Zumpt that the case of the Clitæ(?) is not parallel. Tacitus (Ann. vi. 41. 1) does not say that the Romans held a census in the dominions of Archelaus, but that Archelaus wished to have a census after the Roman fashion. Nevertheless, the objection that Augustus would not interfere with Herod’s subjects in the matter of taxation is untenable. When Palestine was divided among Herod’s three sons, Augustus ordered that the taxes of the Samaritans should be reduced by one-fourth, because they had not taken part in the revolt against Varus (Ant. xvii. 11, 4; B. J. ii. 6. 3); and this was before Palestine became a Roman province. If he could do that, he could require information as to taxation throughout Palestine; and the obsequious Herod would not attempt to resist.1. The Value of such information would be great. It would show whether the tribute paid (if tribute was paid) was adequate; and it would enable Augustus to decide how to deal with Palestine in the future. If he knew that Herod’s health was failing, he would be anxious to get the information before Herod’s death; and thus the census would take place just at the time indicated by Lk., viz. in the last months of the reign of Herod. For “Clitæ” we should read Kietai; Ramsay, Expositor, April, 1897.

2. αὕτη ἀπογραφὴ πρώτη ἐγένετο. This may be accepted as certainly the true reading;2 and the meaning of it is not really doubtful.“This took place as a first enrolment, when Q. was governor of Syria.” The object of the remark is to distinguish the census which took Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem from the one undertaken by Q. in a.d. 6, 7, at which time Q. was governor of Syria. But was he governor b.c. 4, when Herod died? It is very difficult to establish this.

From b.c. 9 to 6 Sentius Saturninus was governor; from b.c. 6 to 4 Quinctilius Varus. Then all is uncertain until a.d. 6, when P. Sulpicius Quirinius becomes governor and holds the census mentioned Act_5:37 and also by Josephus (Ant. xviii. 1, 1, 2. 1). It is quite possible, as Zumpt and others have shown, that Quirinius was governor of Syria during part of the interval between b.c. 4 and a.d. 6, and that his first term of office was b.c. 3, 2. But it seems to be impossible to find room for him between b.c. 9 and the death of Herod; and, unless we can do that, Lk. is not saved from an error in chronology. Tertullian states that the census was held by Sentius Saturninus (Adv. Marc. iv. 19); and if that is correct we may suppose that it was begun by him and continued by his successor. On the other hand, Justin Martyr three times states that Jesus Christ was born ἐπὶ Κυρηνίου, and in one place states that this can be officially ascertained ἐκ τῶν ἀπογραφῶν τῶν γενομένων (Apol. i. 34, 46; Dial. lxxviii.).

We must be content to leave the difficulty unsolved. But it is monstrous to argue that because Lk. has (possibly) made a mistake as to Quirinius being governor at this time, therefore the whole story about the census and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem is a fiction. Even if there was no census at this time, business connected with enrolment might take Joseph to Bethlehem, and Lk. would be correct as to his main facts. That Lk. has confused this census with the one in a.d. 6, 7, which he himself mentions Acts v. 37, is not credible. We are warranted in maintaining (1) that a Roman census in Judæa at this time, in accordance with instructions given by Augustus, is not improbable; and (2) that some official connexion of Quirinius with Syria and the holding of this census is not impossible. The accuracy of Lk. is such that we ought to require very strong evidence before rejecting any statement of his as an unquestionable blunder. But it is far better to admit the possibility of error than to attempt to evade this by either altering the text or giving forced interpretations of it.

The following methods of tampering with the text have been suggested: to regard πρώτη as a corruption of πρώτῳ ἔτει through the intermediate πρωτει (Linwood); to insert πρὸ τῆς after ἐγένετο (Michaelis); to substitute for Κυρηνίου either Κυιντιλίου (Huetius), or Κρονίου=Saturnini (Heumann), or Σατουρνίνου (Valesius); to omit the whole verse as a gloss (Beta, Pfaff, Valckenaer). All these are monstrous. The only points which can be allowed to be doubtful in the text are the accentuation of αὕτη and the spelling of Κυρηνίου, to which may perhaps be added the insertion of the article.

Among the various interpretations may be mentioned—

(1) Giving πρῶτος a comparative force, as in Joh_1:15, Joh_1:30: “This taxing took place before Quirinius was governor of Syria” (Huschke, Ewald, Caspari); or, as ἐσχάτη τῶν υἱῶν ἡ μήτηρ ἐτελεύτησε (2 Mac. 7:41) means “The mother died last of all, and later than her sons,” this may mean, “This took place as the first enrolment, and before Q. was governor of S.” (Wieseler). But none of these passages are parallel: the addition of ἡγεμονεύοντος is fatal. When πρῶτος is comparative it is followed by a simple noun or pronoun. It is incredible that Lk., if he had meant this, should have expressed it so clumsily.

(2) Emphasizing ἐγένετο, as in Act_11:28: “This taxing took effect, was carried out, when Q. was governor of S.” (Gumpach, etc.); i.e. the decree was issued in Herod’s time, and executed ten or twelve years later by Q. This makes nonsense of the narrative. Why did Joseph go to Bethlehem to be enrolled, if no enrolment took place then? There would be some point in saying that the census was finished, brought to a close, under Q., after having been begun by Herod; but ἐγένετο cannot possibly mean that.

(3) Reading and accentuating αὐτὴ ἡ ἀπογραφή: “The raising of the tax itself (as distinct from the enrolment and assessment) first took place when Q.,” etc. “Augustus ordered a census and it took place, but no money was raised until the time of Q.” (Ebrard). This involves giving to ἀπογραφή in ver. 2 a totally different meaning from ἀπογράφεσθαι in ver. 1 and ἀπογράψασθαι in ver. 5; which is impossible.

(4) With αὐτὴ ἡ ἀπογραφή, as before: “The census itself called the first took place when Q.,” etc. The better known census under Q. was commonly regarded as the first Roman census in Judæa: Lk. reminds his readers that there had really been an earlier one (Godet). This is very forced, requires the insertion of the article, which is almost certainly an interpolation, and assumes that the census of a.d. 6, 7 was generally known as “the first census.” From Act_5:37 it appears that it was known as “the census”: no previous or subsequent enrolment was taken into account. In his earlier edition Godet omitted the ἡ: in the third (1888) he says that this interpretation requires the article (i. p. 170).

McClellan quotes in illustration of the construction: αἰτία δὲ αὕτη πρώτη ἐγένετο τοῦ πολέμου (Thuc. i. 55, 3); αὔτη τῶν περὶ Θήβας ἐγένετο ἀρχή καὶ κατάστασις πρώτη (Dem. 291. 10); πρώτη μὲν μήνυσις ἐγένετο αὕτη κατὰ τούτων τῶν ἀνδρῶν (Andoc. iii. 5); αὕτη πρώτη δημοτελὴς κρίσις ἐγένετο ἀρετῆς πρὸς πλοῦτον (Aristid. i. 124); and adds the curious remark that “the Holy Spirit would have us note that the Saviour of the World was registered in the first census of the World !”

ἡγεμονεύοντος τῆς Συρίας Κυρηνίου. Like ἡγεμών (20:20, 21:12, etc.) and ἡγεμονία (3:1), the verb is generic, and may express the office of any ruler, whether emperor, proprætor, procurator, etc. It does not tell us that Quirinius was legatus in b.c. 4 as he was in a.d. 6. And it should be noted that Justin (see above) states that Quirinius was procurator (ἐπίροπος) at the time of this census (Apol. i. 34); and that in the only other place in which Lk. uses this verb he uses it of a procurator (3:1). This gives weight to the suggestion that, although Varus was legatus of Syria at the time of the enrolment, yet Quirinius may have held some office in virtue of which he undertook this census. Lk. is probably not giving a mere date. He implies that Quirinius was in some way connected with the enrolment. For what is known about P. Sulpicius Quirinius see Tac. Ann. ii. 30. 4, iii. 22. 1, 2, 23. 1, and esp. 48; Suet. Tib. xlix. Dion Cassius (54:48) calls him simply Πόπλιος Σουλπίκιος. But he was not really a member of the old patrician gens Sulpicia. The familiar word Quirinus (Κυρῖνος) induced copyists and editors to substitute Quirinus for Quirinius.

B has Κυρείνου, but there is no doubt that the name is Quirinius and not Quirinus. This is shown, as Furneaux points out in a note on Tac. Ann. ii. 30, 4, by the MS. readings in Tacitus; by the Greek forms Κυρίνιος (Strabo, 12, 6, 5, 569) and Κυρήνιος (here and Jos. Ant. xviii. 1, 1), and by Latin inscriptions (Orell. 3693, etc.). Quirinius is one of the earliest instances of a person bearing two gentile names.

3. καὶ ἐπορεύοντο πάντες ἀπογράφεσθαι, ἕκαστος εἰς τὴν ἑαυτοῦ πόλιν . The καί looks back to ver. 1, ver. 2 being a parenthesis. The πάντες means all those in Palestine who did not reside at the seat of their family. A purely Roman census would have required nothing of the kind. If Herod conducted the census for the Romans, Jewish customs would be followed. So long as Augustus obtained the necessary information, the manner of obtaining it was immaterial. Where does Lk. place the death of Herod?

Pulpit Commentary
Lk 2:2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) Hostile criticism makes a still more direct attack upon the historical statement made by St. Luke here. Quirinius, it is well known, was governor (legatus or praeses) of Syria ten years later, and during his office a census or registration with a view to taxation which led to a popular disturbance, was made in his province. These critics say that St. Luke mentions, as taking place before the birth of Jesus, an event which really happened ten years after. Much historical vestigation has been made with a view to explain this difficulty. It has been now satisfactorily demonstrated that, strangely enough, this Quirinius who ten years later was certainly governor (legatus) of Syria at the time of the birth of the Savior held high office in Syria, either as praeses (governor) or quaestor (imperial commissioner). The Greek word rendered by the English “governor” would have been used for either of these important offices. On the whole question of these alleged historical inaccuracies of St. Luke, it may be observed:

(1) Strangely enough, none of the early opponents of Christianity, such as Celsus or Porphyry, impugn the accuracy of our evangelist here. Surely, if there had been so marked an error on the threshold of his Gospel, these distinguished adversaries of our faith, living comparatively soon after the events in question, would have been the first to hit so conspicuous a blot in the story they hated so well. And

(2) nothing is more improbable than that St. Luke, a man of education, and writing, too, evidently for people of thought and culture, would have ventured on a definite historical statement of this kind, which would, if wrong, have been so easily exposed, had he not previously thoroughly satisfied himself as to its complete accuracy. Generally, the above conclusions are now adopted, lately, amongst others, by Godet, Farrar, Plumptre, and Bishop Ellicott (in his Hulsean Lectures). Godet has an especially long and exhaustive note on this subject. The conclusions are mainly drawn from the researches of such scholars as Zumpt and Mommsen. Cyrenius; Latin, Quirinus. He is mentioned by the historians Tacitus and Suetonius. He appears to have been originally of humble birth, and, like so many of the soldiers of fortune of the empire, rose through his own merits to his great position. He was a gallant and true soldier, but withal self-seeking and harsh. For his Cilician victories the senate decreed him a triumph. He received the distinguished honor of a public funeral, A.D. 21 (Tac., “Ann.,” 2:30; 3:22, 48; Suet., “Tib.,” 49).

Adam Clarke
Luke 2:3

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city – The Roman census was an institution of Servius Tullius, sixth king of Rome. From the account which Dionysius of Halicarnassus gives of it; we may at once see its nature: “He ordered all the citizens of Rome to register their estates according to their value in money, taking an oath, in a form he prescribed, to deliver a faithful account according to the best of their knowledge, specifying the names of their parents, their own age, the names of their wives and children, adding also what quarter of the city, or what town in the country, they lived in.” Ant. Rom. l. iv. c. 15. p. 212. Edit. Huds.

A Roman census appears to have consisted of these two parts:

1. The account which the people were obliged to give in of their names, quality, employments, wives, children, servants, and estates; and

2. The value set upon the estates by the censors, and the proportion in which they adjudged them to contribute to the defense and support of the state, either in men or money, or both: and this seems to have been the design of the census or enrolment in the text.

This census was probably similar to that made in England in the reign of William the Conqueror, which is contained in what is termed Domesday Book, now in the Chapter House, Westminster, and dated 1086.

Cambridge Bible: Lk Farrar
3. every one into his own city] This method of enrolment was a concession to Jewish prejudices. The Roman method was to enrol each person at his own place of residence. Incidentally this unexplained notice proves that St Luke is dealing with an historical enrolment.

A.T. Robertson
Luke 2:3
Each to his own city (hekastos eis tēn heautou polin). A number of papyri in Egypt have the heading enrolment by household (apographē kat’ oikian). Here again Luke is vindicated. Each man went to the town where his family register was kept.

Cambridge Bible:Lk Farrar
4. the city of David] 1Sa_17:12, “David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem-Judah whose name was Jesse.”
Bethlehem] Thus was fulfilled the prophecy of Mic_5:2, “Thou, Bethlehem-Ephratah … out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel.” Cf. 4:8, “And thou, O tower of the flock” (Migdol Eder, Gen_35:21), “unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion.”
Bethlehem (‘House of Bread,’ to which the mystical method of Scriptural interpretation refers such passages as Isa_33:16, LXX.; Joh_6:51, Joh_6:58) is the very ancient Ephrath (‘fruitful’) of Gen_35:16, 48:7; Psa_132:6. It is a small town six miles from Jerusalem. It was the scene of the death of Rachel (Gen_35:19); of the story of Ruth, and of the early years of the life of David (1Sa_16:1; 2Sa_23:15). The name is now corrupted into Beitlahm, ‘house of flesh.’

of the house and lineage (rather, family) of David] The humble condition of Joseph as a provincial carpenter in no way militates against this. Hillel, the great contemporary Rabbi, who also claimed to be a descendant of David, began life as a half-starved porter; and numbers of beggars in the East wear the green turban which shews them to be undisputed descendants of Mohammed.

Cambridge Bible:Lk Farrar
5. ἀπογράψασθαι. “To get himself enrolled.” The aorist of his single act, the present (ver. 3) of a series of such acts. Both are middle, while ἀπογράφεσθαι in ver. 1 is probably passive. We must not take σὺν Μαριάμ with ἀπογράψασθαι: it belongs to ἀνέβη. It is essential to the narrative that she should go up with him; it is not so that she should be enrolled with him. In a Roman census women paid the poll-tax, but were not obliged to come in person. That Mary had property in Bethlehem is a conjecture which is almost disproved by her resourcelessness in the place. And if it was necessary for her to come, because she also was of David’s line, would not Lk. have written διὰ τὸ εἶναι αὐτοὺς ἐξ οἴκου κ. π. Δ. ? This reading is found in Syr-Sin.: “because they were both of the house of D.” It is futile to argue that a woman in her condition would not have gone unless she was compelled: therefore Lk. represents her as being compelled: therefore he has made a mistake. She would be anxious at all risks not to be separated from Joseph. Lk. does not even imply that her presence was obligatory; and, if he had said that it was, we do not know enough about the matter to say whether he would have been wrong. Had there been a law which required her to remain at home, then Lk. might be suspected of an error. For σύν see on 1:56.

τῇ ἐμνηστευμένῃ αὐτῷ, οὔσῃ ἐγκύῳ. The γυναικί of A, Vulg. Syr. and Aeth. is a gloss, but a correct one. Had she been only his betrothed (1:27; Mat_1:18), their travelling together would have been impossible. But by omitting γυναικί Lk. intimates what Mt. states 1:25. Syr-Sin. and some Latin texts have “wife” without “espoused.” The οὔσῃ introduces, not a mere fact, but the reason for what has just been stated; he took her with him, “because she was with child.” After what is related Mat_1:19 he would not leave her at this crisis. See on 1:24.

Cambridge Bible:Lk Farrar
6. the days were accomplished] There is a reasonable certainty that our Lord was born b. c. 4 of our era, and it is probable that He was born (according to the unanimous tradition of the Christian Church) in winter. There is nothing to guide us as to the actual day of His birth. It was unknown to the ancient Christians (Clem. Alex. Strom. i. 21), Some thought that it took place on May 20 or April 20. There is no trace of the date Dec. 25 earlier than the fourth century, but it is accepted by Athanasius, Jerome, Ambrose, &c.

John Calvin
Luke 2:7
7.Because there was no room for them in the inn We see here not only the great poverty of Joseph, but the cruel tyranny which admitted of no excuse, but compelled Joseph to bring his wife along with him, at an inconvenient season, when she was near the time of her delivery. Indeed, it is probable that those who were the descendants of the royal family were treated more harshly and disdainfully than the rest. Joseph was not so devoid of feeling as to have no concern about his wife’s delivery. He would gladly have avoided this necessity: but, as that is impossible, he is forced to yield, and commends himself to God. We see, at the same time, what sort of beginning the life of the Son of God had, and in what cradle he was placed. Such was his condition at his birth, because he had taken upon him our flesh for this purpose, that he might, “empty himself” (Phi_2:7) on our account. When he was thrown into a stable, and placed in a manger, and a lodging refused him among men, it was that heaven might be opened to us, not as a temporary lodging, but as our eternal country and inheritance, and that angels might receive us into their abode.

CambridgeBible:Lk Farrar
7. firstborn] The word has no bearing on the controversy as to the ‘brethren of Jesus,’ as it does not necessarily imply that the Virgin had other children. See Heb_1:6, where first-born=only-begotten.

wrapped him in swaddling clothes] Eze_16:4. In her poverty she had none to help her, but (in the common fashion of the East) wound the babe round and round with swathes with her own hands.

in a manger] If the Received Text were correct it would be ‘in the manger,’ but the article is omitted by A, B, D, L. Phatnē is sometimes rendered ‘stall’ (as in Luk_13:15; 2Ch_32:28, LXX.); but ‘manger’ is probably right here. It is derived from pateomai, ‘I eat’ (Curtius, Griech. Et. ii. 84), and is used by the LXX. for the Hebrew. אֵבוּם ‘crib,’ in Pro_14:4. Mangers are very ancient, and are to this day sometimes used as cradles in the East (Thomson, Land and Book, ii. 533). The ox and the ass which are traditionally represented in pictures are only mentioned in the apocryphal Gospel of Matthew, 14, and were suggested by Isa_1:3, and Hab_3:2, which in the LXX. and the ancient Latin Version (Vetus Itala) was mistranslated “Between two animals thou shalt be made known.”

there was no room for them in the inn] Kataluma may also mean guest-chamber as in 22:11, but inn seems to be here the right rendering. There is another word for inn, pandocheion (10:34), which implies an inn with a host. Bethlehem was a poor place, and its inn was probably a mere khan or caravanserai, which is an enclosed space surrounded by open recesses of which the paved floor (leewan) is raised a little above the ground. There is often no host, and the use of any vacant leewan is free, but the traveller pays a trifle for food, water, &c. If the khan be crowded the traveller must be content with a corner of the courtyard or enclosed place among the cattle, or else in the stable. The stable is often a limestone cave or grotto, and there is a very ancient tradition that this was the case in the khan of Bethlehem. (Just. Martyr, Dial. c. Tryph. c. 78, and the Apocryphal Gospels, Protev. xix., Evang. Infant. iii. &c.) If, as is most probable, the traditional site of the Nativity is the real one, it took place in one of the caves where St Jerome spent so many years (Ep. 24, ad Marcell.) as a hermit, and translated the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate). The khan perhaps dated back as far as the days of David under the name of the House or Hotel (Gêrooth) of Chimham (2Sa_19:37, 2Sa_19:38; Jer_41:17).

The tender grace and perfect simplicity of the narrative is one of the marks of its truthfulness, and is again in striking contrast with the endlessly multiplied miracles of the Apocryphal Gospels. “The unfathomable depths of the divine counsels were moved; the fountains of the great deep were broken up; the healing of the nations was issuing forth; but nothing was seen on the surface of human society but this slight rippling of the water.” Isaac Williams, The Nativity.

ICC:Lk Plummer
7. τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς τὸν πρωτότοκον. The expression might certainly be used without implying that there had been subsequent children. But it implies the possibility of subsequent children, and when Luke wrote this possibility had been decided. Would he have used such an expression if it was then known that Mary had never had another child ? He might have avoided all ambiguity by writing μονογενῆ, as he does 7:12, 8:42, 9:38. In considering this question the imperf. ἐγίνωσκεν (Mat_1:25) has not received sufficient attention. See Mayor, Ep. of St. James, pp. xix-xxii.

ἐσπαργάνωσεν αὐτόν. It has been inferred from her being able to do this that the birth was miraculously painless (τὴν ἀνώδινον κύησιν, Euthym.), of which there is no hint. For the verb comp. ὁμίχλῃ αὐτὴν ἐσπαργάνωσα, “I made thick darkness a swaddling band for it” (Job_33:9).

ἐν φάτνῃ. The traditional rendering “in a manger” is right; not “a stall” either here or in 13:15. The animals were out at pasture, and the manger was not being used. Justin (Try. 78.) and some of the apocryphal gospels say that it was in a cave, which is not improbable. In Origen’s time the cave was shown, and the manger also (Con. Cels. 1:51). One suspects that the cave may be a supposed prophecy turned into history, like the vine in 19:31.Isa_33:16 (οὗτος οἰκήσει ἐν ὑψηλῷ σπηλαίῳ πέτρας ὀχυρᾶς) was supposed to point to birth in a cave, and then the cave may have been imagined in order to fit it, just as the colt is represented as “tied to a vine, ” in order to make Gen_49:11 a prediction of Luk_19:30-33 (Justin, Apol. 1:32).

οὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τόπος ἐν τῷ καταλύματι. Most of the Jews then residing in Palestine were of Judah or Benjamin, and all towns and villages of Judah would be very full. No inhospitality is implied. It is a little doubtful whether the familiar translation “in the inn” is correct. In 10:34 “inn” It is πανδοχεῖὸν, and in 22:11 κατάλυμα is not “inn.” It is possible that Joseph had relied upon the hospitality of some friend in Bethlehem, whose “guest-chamber,” however, was already full when he and Mary arrived. See on 22:11. But κατάλυμα in LXX represents five different Heb. words, so that it must have been elastic in meaning. All that it implies is a place where burdens are loosed and let down for a rest. In Polybius it occurs twice in the plural: of the general’s quarters (2:36, 1), and of reception rooms for envoys (32:19, 2). It has been suggested that the “inn” was the Geruth Chimham or “lodging-place of Chimham” (Jer_41:17), the [son] of Barzillai (2Sa_19:37, 2Sa_19:38), “which was by Bethlehem,” and convenient for those who would “go to enter into Egypt.” See Stanley, Sin. & Pal. pp. 163, 529. Justin says that the cave was σύνεγγυς τῆς κώμης, which agrees with “by Bethlehem.” The Mandra of Josephus (Ant. 10:9, 5) was perhaps the same place as Geruth Chimham. Syr-Sin. omits “in the inn.”

A.T. Robertson
Luke 2:7
Her firstborn (ton prōtotokon). The expression naturally means that she afterwards had other children and we read of brothers and sisters of Jesus. There is not a particle of evidence for the notion that Mary refused to bear other children because she was the mother of the Messiah.

Wrapped in swaddling clothes (esparganōsen). From sparganon, a swathing band. Only here and Luk_2:12 in the N.T., but in Euripides, Aristotle, Hippocrates, Plutarch. Frequent in medical works.

In a manger (en phatnēi). In a crib in a stall whether in a cave (Justin Martyr) or connected with the inn we do not know. The cattle may have been out on the hills or the donkeys used in travelling may have been feeding in this stall or another near.

In the inn (en tōi katalumati). A lodging-house or khan, poor enough at best, but there was not even room in this public place because of the crowds for the census. See the word also in Luk_22:11; Mar_14:14 with the sense of guest-room (cf. 1Ki_1:13). It is the Hellenistic equivalent for katagōgeion and appears also in one papyrus. See Exo_4:24. There would sometimes be an inner court, a range or arches, an open gallery round the four sides. On one side of the square, outside the wall, would be stables for the asses and camels, buffaloes and goats. Each man had to carry his own food and bedding.

Cambridge Bible:Lk Farrar
8. in the same country] Tradition says that they were natives of the little village Beth-zur (Jos_15:58; Neh_3:16). They were feeding their flocks in the same fields from which David had been summoned to feed Jacob, God’s people, and Israel His inheritance.
shepherds] Why these were the first to whom was revealed the birth of Him who was called the Lamb of God, we are not told. The sheep used for the daily sacrifice were pastured in the fields of Bethlehem.

abiding in the field] This does not prove, as some have supposed, that the Nativity took place in spring, for in some pastures of Palestine the shepherds to this day bivouac with their flocks in winter.

ICCNT:Lk Plummer
8-14. The Angelic Proclamation to the Shepherds: πτωχοὶ εὐαγγελίζονται (7:22). It was in these pastures that David spent his youth and fought the lion and the bear (1Sa_17:34, 1Sa_17:35). “A passage in the Mishnah (Shek. 7:4; comp. Baba K. 7:7, 80a) leads to the conclusion that the flocks which pastured there were destined for Temple-sacrifices, and accordingly, that the shepherds who watched over them were not ordinary shepherds. The latter were under the ban of Rabbinism on account of their necessary isolation from religious ordinances and their manner of life, which rendered strict religious observance unlikely, if not absolutely impossible. The same Mischnic passage also leads us to infer that these flocks lay out all the year round, since they are spoken of as in the fields thirty days before the Passover—that is, in the month of February, when in Palestine the average rainfall is nearly greatest” (Edersh. L. & T. i. pp. 186, 187). For details of the life of a shepherd see D.B. art. “Shepherds,” and Herzog, Pro_2 art. “Viehzucht und Hirtenleben.”

8. ἀγραυλοῦντες. Making the ἀγρός their αὐλή, and so “spending their life in the open air”: a late and rare word, whereas ἄγραυλος is class. This statement is by no means conclusive against December as the time of the year. The season may have been a mild one; it is not certain that all sheep were brought under cover at night during the winter months.

It is of the flocks in the wilderness, far from towns or villages, that the often quoted saying was true, that they were taken out in March and brought home m November. These shepherds may have returned from the wilderness, and if so, the time would be between November and March. But the data for determining the time of year are so very insufficient, that after minute calculation of them all we are left in our original uncertainty. Among those who have made a special study of the question we have advocates for almost every month in the year. The earliest attempts to fix the day of which we have knowledge are those mentioned (and apparently condemned as profane curiosity) by Clement of Alexandria (Strom. 1:21 sub fin.). In his time some took April 21, others April 22, and others May 20, to be the day. What was unknown in his time is not likely to have been discovered afterwards respecting such a detail. December 25th cannot be traced higher than the fourth century, and it seems to have been adopted first in the West. We must be content to remain in ignorance as to the date of the birth of Christ. See on ἐφημερίας 1:5; D. of Chr. Ant. art. “Christmas”; Andrews, L. of our Lord, pp. 12-21, ed. 1892.

φυλάσσοντες φυλακάς. The plural refers to their watching in turns rather than in different places. The phrase occurs Num_8:26; Xen. Anab. 2:6, 10; but in LXX τὰς φυλακὰς φυλ. is more common; Num_3:7, Num_3:8, Num_3:28, Num_3:32, Num_3:38, etc. Comp. Plat. Phædr. 240 E; Laws, 758 D. The fondness of Lk. for such combinations of cognate words is seen again ver. 9, 7:29, 17:24, 22:15, and several times in the Acts. See on 11:46 and 23:46. We may take τῆς νυκτός after φυλακάς, “night-watches,” or as gen. of time, “by night.” See Blass, Gr. p. 199.

John Calvin
Luke 2:9
9.And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them He says, that the glory of the Lord shone around the shepherds, by which they perceived him to be an angel. For it would have been of little avail to be told by an angel what is related by Luke, if God had not testified, by some outward sign, that what they heard proceeded from Him. The angel appeared, not in an ordinary form, or without majesty, but surrounded with the brightness of heavenly glory, to affect powerfully the minds of the shepherds, that they might receive the discourse which was addressed to them, as coming from the mouth of God himself. Hence the fear, of which Luke shortly afterwards speaks, by which God usually humbles the hearts of men, (as I have formerly explained,) and disposes them to receive his word with reverence.

Pulpit Commentary
Lk 2:9
The angel of the Lord came upon them; better, an angel. The Greek word rendered “came upon them a very favorite word with St. Luke suggests a sudden appearance. The glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. The white shining cloud of intolerable brightness, known among the Jews as the Shechinah, the visible token of the presence of the Eternal, in the bush, in the pillar of fire and cloud which guided the desert-wanderings, in the tabernacle and the temple. It shone round the Redeemer on the Mount of Transfiguration. It robed him when, risen, he appeared to the Pharisee Saul outside Damascus. The occasional presence of this visible glory was exceedingly precious to the chosen people. The terror felt by the shepherds was the natural awe ever felt by man when brought into visible communion with the dwellers in the so-called spirit-world.

Cambridge Bible:Lk Farrar
11. a Saviour] It is a curious fact that ‘Saviour’ and ‘Salvation,’ so common in St Luke and St Paul (in whose writings they occur forty-four times), are comparatively rare in the rest of the New Testament. ‘Saviour’ only occurs in Joh_4:42; 1Jn_4:14; and six times in 2 Pet. and Jude; ‘salvation’ only in Joh_4:22, and thirteen times in the rest of the N. T.

Christ the Lord] “God hath made that same Jesus whom ye crucified both Lord and Christ,” Act_2:36; Php_2:11. ‘Christ’ or ‘Anointed’ is the Greek equivalent of Messiah. In the Gospels it is almost invariably an appellative, ‘the Christ.’ But as time advanced it was more and more used without the article as a proper name. Our Lord was ‘anointed’ with the Holy Spirit as Prophet, Priest and King.

the Lord] In the lower sense the word is used as a mere title of distinction; in the higher sense it is (as in the LXX.) the equivalent of the Hebrew ‘Jehovah’—the ineffable name. “We preach Christ Jesus the Lord,” 2Co_4:5 (see Php_2:11; Rom_14:9; 1Co_8:6; “No one can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost,” 1Co_12:3).

ICC:Lk Plummer
11. ἐτέχθη ὑμῖν σήμερον σωτήρ. To the shepherds, as a part, and perhaps a specially despised part, of the people of Israel. Here first in N.T. is σωτήρ used of Christ, and here only in Lk. Not in Mt. or Mk., and only once in Jn. (4:42): twice in Acts (5:31, 13:23), and freq. in Tit. and 2 Pet. The 1st aor. of τίκτω, both act. and pass., is rare: see Veitch.

χριστὸς κύριος. The combination occurs nowhere else in N.T., and the precise meaning is uncertain. Either “Messiah, Lord,” or “Anointed Lord,” or “the Messiah, the Lord,” or “an anointed one, a Lord.” It occurs once in LXX as a manifest mistranslation. Lam_4:20, “The breath of our nostrils, the anointed of the Lord,” is rendered πνεῦμα προσώπου ἡμῶν Χριστὸς κύρος. If this is not a corrupt reading, we may perhaps infer that the expression Χριστὸς κύριος was familiar to the trapslator. It occurs in the Ps. Sol., where it is said of the Messiah καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν ἀδικία ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις αὐτοῦ ἐν μέσῳ αὐτῶν, ὅτι πάντες ἅγιοι, καὶ βασιλεὺς αὐτῶν Χριστὸς κύριος (17:36: comp. the title of 18.). But this may easily be another mistranslation, perhaps based on that in Lam_4:20. Comp. εἶπεν ὁ κύριος τῷ κυρίῳ μου (Psa_110:1), and ἐπεκαλεσάμην Κύριον πατέρα κυρίου μου (Ecclus. 51:10). See Ryle and James, Ps. of Sol. pp. 141-143. The addition of ἐν πόλει Δαυείδ here indicates that this σωτήρ is the King of Israel promised in the Prophets: see on ver. 4.

ICC:Lk Plummer
12. καὶ τοῦτο ὑμῖν τὸ σημεῖον. ΒΞ omit the τό. Sign for what? By which to prove that what is announced is true, rather than by which to find the Child. It was all-important that they should be convinced as to the first point; about the other there would be no great difficulty.—εὑρήσετε βρέφος. “Ye shall find a babe,” “not the babe,” as most English Versions and Luther; Wiclif has “a yunge child.” This is the first mention of it; in ver. 16 the art. is right. In N.T., as in class. Grk., βρέφος is more often a newlyborn child (18:15; Act_7:19; 2Ti_3:15; 1Pe_2:2) than an unborn child (Luk_1:41, Luk_1:44); in LXX it is always the former (1 Mac. 1:61; Mal_2 Mac. 6:10; 3 Mac. 5:49; 4 Mac. 4:25), unless Ecclus. 19:11 be an exception. Aquila follows the same usage (Psa_8:3, 16:14; Isa_65:20).—ἐσπαργανωμένον καὶ κείμενον ἐν φάτνῃ. Both points are part of the sign. The first participle is no more an adjective than the second. No art. with φάτνῃ: the shepherds have not heard of it before.

Pulpit Commentary
Lk 2:12
Lying in a manger. This was to be the sign. On that night there would, perhaps, be no other children born in the Bethlehem village; certainly the shepherds would find no other newly born infant cradled in a manger.

Marvin Vincent
Luke 2:13
A multitude of the heavenly host
Host (στρατιας) is literally army. “Here the army announces peace” (Bengel). Wyc., heavenly knighthood. Tynd., heavenly soldiers.

John Calvin
Luke 2:14
14.Glory to God in the highest The angels begin with thanksgiving, or with the praises of God; for Scripture, too, everywhere reminds us, that we were redeemed from death for this purpose, that we might testify with the tongue, as well as by the actions of the life, our gratitude to God. Let us remember, then, the final cause, why God reconciled us to himself through his Only Begotten Son. It was that he might glorify his name, by revealing the riches of his grace, and of his boundless mercy. And even now to whatever extent any one is excited by his knowledge of grace to celebrate the glory of God, such is the extent of proficiency in the faith of Christ. Whenever our salvation is mentioned, we should understand that a signal has been given, (156) to excite us to thanksgiving and to the praises of God.

On earth peace The most general reading is, that the words, among men good-will, should stand as a third clause. So far as relates to the leading idea of the passage, it is of little moment which way you read it; but the other appears to be preferable. The two clauses, Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, do unquestionably agree with each other; but if you do not place men and God in marked opposition, the contrast will not fully appear. Perhaps commentators have mistaken the meaning of the preposition ἐν, for it was an obscure meaning of the words to say, that there is peace in men; but as that word is redundant in many passages of Scripture, it need not detain us here. However, if any one prefer to throw it to the last clause, the meaning will be the same, as I shall presently show.

We must now see what the angels mean by the word peace. They certainly do not speak of an outward peace cultivated by men with each other; but they say, that the earth is at peace, when men have been reconciled to God, and enjoy an inward tranquillity in their own minds. We know that we are born “children of wrath,” (Eph_2:3,) and are by nature enemies to God; and must be distressed by fearful apprehensions, so long as we feel that God is angry with us. A short and clear definition of peace may be obtained from two opposite things, — the wrath of God and the dread of death. It has thus a twofold reference; one to God, and another to men. We obtain peace with God, when he begins to be gracious to us, by taking away our guilt, and “not imputing to us our trespasses,” (2Co_5:19;) and when we, relying on his fatherly love, address him with full confidence, and boldly praise him for the salvation which he has promised to us. Now though, in another passage, the life of man on earth is declared to be a continual warfare, (Job_7:1,) and the state of the fact shows that nothing is more full of trouble than our condition, so long as we remain in the world, yet the angels expressly say that there is peace on earth This is intended to inform us that, so long as we trust to the grace of Christ, no troubles that can arise will prevent us from enjoying composure and serenity of mind. Let us then remember, that faith is seated amidst the storms of temptations, amidst various dangers, amidst violent attacks, amidst contests and fears, that our faith may not fail or be shaken by any kind of opposition.

Among men good-will The Vulgate has good-will in the genitive case: to men of good-will. How that reading crept in, I know not: but it ought certainly to be rejected, both because it is not genuine, and because it entirely corruptsthe meaning. Others read good-will in the nominative case, and still mistake its meaning. They refer good-will to men, as if it were an exhortation to embrace the grace of God. I acknowledge that the peace which the Lord offers to us takes effect only when we receive it. But as εὐδοκία is constantly used in Scripture in the sense of the Hebrew word רצון, the old translator rendered it beneplacitum , or, good-will. This passage is not correctly understood as referring to the acceptance of grace. The angels rather speak of it as the source of peace, and thus inform us that peace is a free gift, and flows from the pure mercy of God. If it is thought better to read good-will to men, or towards men, it will not be inadmissible, so far as regards the meaning: for in this way it will show the cause of peace to be, that God has been pleased to bestow his undeserved favor on men, with whom he formerly was at deadly variance. If you read, the peace of good-will as meaning voluntary peace, neither will I object to that interpretation. But the simpler way is to look upon εὐφοκία as added, in order to inform us of the source from which our peace is derived.

Cambridge Bible:Lk Farrar
14. in the highest] i. e., in highest heaven, Job_16:19; Psa_148:1; comp. “the heavenlies” in Eph_1:3, &c.; Sir_43:9.
on earth peace]

The Angels sang indeed of such an ultimate Peace; but also of “the peace which passeth understanding;” of that peace whereof Christ said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth give I unto you.” See Pro_3:17, on which the Book of Zohar remarks that it means peace in heaven and on earth, and in this world and the next. As regards earthly peace He himself said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword,” Mat_10:34; Luk_12:51. See this contrast magnificently shadowed forth in Isa_9:5, Isa_9:6.

Good will towards men] The reading eudokia, ‘goodwill,’ is found in B, but א, A, D read eudokias, and if this be the right reading the meaning is “on earth peace among men of good will” (hominibus bonae voluntatis, Vulg.), i. e. those with whom God is well pleased. “The Lord taketh pleasure in them that hope in His mercy,” Psa_147:11; comp. 12:32, “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” The construction “men of good will” would be rare in this sense, but the triple parallelism of the verse,

to God
in the highest
to men whom God loves
on earth

seems to favour it. In either case the verse implies that “being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” Rom_5:1. In any case the “towards” is wrong, and must be altered into “among” (ἐν).

ICC:Lk Plummer
14. Δόξα … εὐδοκίας. The hymn consists of two members connected by a conjunction; and the three parts of the one member exactly correspond with the three parts of the other member.

Glory to God in the highest,

And on earth peace among men of His good will.

Δόξα balances εἰρήνη, ἐν ὑψίστοις balances ἐπὶ γῆς, Θεῷ balances ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας. This exact correlation between the parts is lost in the common triple arrangement; which has the further awkwardness of having the second member introduced by a conjunction, 1 while the third is not, and of making the second and third members tautological. “On earth peace” is very much the same as “Good will amongst men.” Yet Scrivener thinks that “in the first and second lines heaven and earth are contrasted; the third refers to both those preceding, and alleges the efficient cause which has brought God glory and earth peace” (Int. to Crit. of N.T. ii. p. 344); which seems to be very forced. The construction ἐν ἀνθρώποιϚ εὐδοκίαϚ is difficult; but one of the best of modem Greek scholars has said that it “may be translated ‘among men of His counsel for good’ or ‘of His gracious purpose.’ This rendering seems to be in harmony with the preceding context and with the teaching of Scripture in general” (T. S. Evans, Contemp. Rev., Dec. 1881, p. 1003). WH. take a similar view. They prefer, among possible meanings, “in (among and within) accepted mankind,” and point out that “the Divine ‘favour’ (Psa_30:5, Psa_30:7, 85:1, 89:17, 106:4) or ‘good pleasure,’ declared for the Head of the race at the Baptism (3:22), was already contemplated by the Angels as resting on the race itself in virtue of His birth” (ii. App. p. 56, where the whole discussion should be studied). H. suggests that the first of the two clauses should end with ἐπὶ γῆς rather than Θεῷ, and that we should arrange thus: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth; Peace among men of His good pleasure.” With the construction of this first clause he compares 7:17 and Act_26:23: “Glory to God not only in heaven, but now also on earth.” “In this arrangement ‘glory’ and ‘peace’ stand severally at the head of the two clauses as twin fruits of the Incarnation, that which redounds to ‘God’ and that which enters into ‘men.’” This division of the clauses, previously commended by Olshausen, makes the stichometry as even as in the familiar triplet, but it has not found many supporters. It destroys the exact correspondence between the parts of the two clauses, the first clause having three or four parts, and the second only two. W. here leaves H. to plead alone.

εὐδοκίας. The word has three meanings: (1) “design, desire,” as Ecclus. 11:17 ; Rom_10:1; (a) “satisfaction, contentment,” as Ecclus. 35:14; 2Th_1:11; (3) “benevolence, goodwill,” as Psa_106:4; Luk_2:14. Both it and εὐδοκεῖν are specially used of the favour with which God regards His elect, as Ps. 146:12; Luk_3:22. The meaning here is “favour, goodwill, good pleasure”; and ἄνθρωποι εὐδοκίας are “men whom the Divine favour has blessed.” See Lft. on Php_1:15. Field (Otium Norv. 3. p. 37) urges that, according to Græco-biblical usage, this would be, not ἄνθρωποι εὐδοκίας, but ἄνδρες εὐδοκίας, and he appeals to nine examples in LXX. But two-thirds of them are not in point, being singulars, and having reference to a definite adult male and not to human beings in general. These are 2Sa_16:7, 2Sa_16:18:20; Psa_80:18; Jer_15:10; ibid. Aq.; Dan_10:11. There remain ἄνδρες βουλῆς μου, Psa_119:24, Aq.; of οἱ ἄνδρες τῆς διαθίκης σου, Oba_1:7; ἄνδρες εἰρηνικοί σου, Oba_1:7. This last is again not parallel, as being accompanied by an adj. and not a gen. Substitute ἄνδρες αἱμάτων, Ps. 138:19. Of these instances, all necessarily refer to adult males, excepting Aq. in Psa_119:24, and this more naturally does so, for “counsellors” are generally thought of as male. But, allowing that the usual expression would have been ἀνδράσιν εὐδοκίας, this might well have been avoided here in order to emphasize the fact that all, male and female, young and old, are included. Even in the case of an individual S. Paul writes ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἀνομίας (2Th_2:3), so that the combination is at any rate possible. See on Rom_10:1.

The reading is a well-known problem, but the best textual critics are unanimous for εὐδοκίας. The internal evidence is very evenly balanced, as regards both transcriptional and intrinsic probabilities, which are well stated and estimated in WH. (2. App. pp. 55, 56). The external evidence is very decidedly in favour of the apparently more difficult reading εὐδοκίας. Roughly speaking, we have all the best MSS. (excepting C, which is here defective), with all Latin authorities, against the inferior MSS., with nearly all versions, except the Latin, and nearly all the Greek writers who quote the text. Syr-Sin.. has “and goodwill to men.”

For εὐδοκίας, א* A B D, Latt. (Vet. Vulg.) Goth. Iren-Lat. Orig-Lat. and the Lat. Gloria in excelsis.

For εὐδοκία, L P Γ Δ Λ Ξ, etc., Syrr. (Pesh. Sin. Harcl.) Boh. Arm. Aeth. Orig. Eus. Bas. Greg-Naz. Cyr-Hier. Did. Epiph. Cyr-Alex.

“The agreement, not only of א with B, but of D and all the Latins with both, and of A with them all, supported by Origen in at least one work, and that in a certified text, affords a peculiarly strong presumption in favour of εὐδοκίας. If this reading is wrong, it must be Western; and no other reading in the New Testament open to suspicion as Western is so comprehensively attested by the earliest and best uncials” (WH. p. 54). The vehemence with which Scrivener argues against εὐδοκίας is quite out of place.

R.B. Terry
Luke 2:14
TEXT: “on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!”
EVIDENCE: S* A B* D W lat vg cop(south)

NOTES: “on earth peace, good will among men!”
EVIDENCE: Sc B3 K L P Delta Theta Xi Psi f1 f13 28 565 700 892 1010 1241 Byz Lect syr(s,h,pal) syr(p) (“good hope to men”) cop(north)
COMMENTS: The text reading can also be translated “on earth peace among men of good will,” but the sense seems to be “men of [God’s] good pleasure.” This is a Semitic expression found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The difference between the two readings is only one of one letter, the Greek letter “sigma” or “s” at the end of the word. Where the word occurs at the end of a line, the letter “sigma” is written as a little raised “c” which it would be possible for a copyist to overlook. Therefore, the change from “among men of good pleasure” to “good pleasure among men” may have happened either accidently (when the “sigma” was overlooked) or deliberately (by copyists who did not understand that in the Semitic expression “men of good pleasure” the good pleasure was God’s).

Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Luke 2:15
Let us go, etc. — lovely simplicity of devoutness and faith this! They are not taken up with the angels, the glory that invested them, and the lofty strains with which they filled the air. Nor do they say, Let us go and see if this be true – they have no misgivings. But “Let us go and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.” Does not this confirm the view given on Luk_2:8 of the spirit of these humble men?

Cambridge Bible: Lk Farrar
15. Let us now go] Rather, Come now! let us go.
16. found] The word is not merely εὗρον but ἀνεῦρον, discovered after search. The lamp hung from the centre of a rope would guide them to the khan, but among a crowd it would not be easy to find the new-born babe of the humble travellers.

John Calvin
Luke 2:17
17.They published concerning the word It is mentioned by Luke, in commendation of the faith of the shepherds, that they honestly delivered to others what they had received from the Lord; and it was advantageous to all of us that they should attest this, and should be a sort of secondary angels in confirming our faith. Luke shows also that, in publishing what they had heard, they were not without success. Nor can it be doubted, that the Lord gave efficacy to what they said, that it might not be ridiculed or despised; for the low rank of the men diminished their credit, and the occurrence itself might be regarded as fabulous. But the Lord, who gave them this employment, does not allow it to be fruitless.

That the Lord should adopt such a method of proceeding as this, — should employ inconsiderable men in publishing his Word, may not be quite so agreeable to the human mind. But it tends to humble the pride of the flesh, and to try the obedience of faith; and therefore God approves of it. Still, though all are astonished, no one moves a step to come to Christ: from which we may infer, that the impression made upon them by hearing of the power of God, was unaccompanied by any devout affection of the heart. The design of publishing this report was not so much for their salvation, as to render the ignorance of the whole people inexcusable.

John Calvin
Luke 2:19
19.Now Mary kept Mary’s diligence in contemplating the works of God is laid before us for two reasons; first, to inform us, that this treasure was laid up in her heart, for the purpose of being published to others at the proper time; and, secondly, to afford to all the godly an example for imitation. For, if we are wise, it will be the chief employment, and the great object of our life, to consider with attention those works of God which build up our faith. Mary kept all these things This relates to her memory. Συμβάλλειν signifies to throw together, — to collect the several events which agreed in proving the glory of Christ, so that they might form one body. For Mary could not wisely estimate the collective value of all those occurrences, except by comparing them with each other.

Pulpit Commentary
Lk 2:19
But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. Such a note as this could only have been made by Mary herself. She knew her Child was in some mysterious sense the Son of God. A glorious being not of earth had told her that her Boy would be the Savior of Israel. The visit of the rough shepherds to her in the crowded caravanserai, and their strange but quiet and circumstantial story of the angel”s visit to them, was only another link in the wondrous chain of events which was day by day influencing her young pure life. She could not as yet grasp it all, perhaps she never did in its mighty gracious fullness; but, as at the first, when Gabriel the angel spoke to her, so at each new phase of her life, she bowed herself in quiet trustful faith, and waited and thought, writing down, we dare to believe, the record of all that was passing, and this record, we think, she showed to Luke or Paul.

The wisdom of devout meditation.
Mary “kept” all those things which she had heard, treasured them in the secret chamber of her mind, dwelt upon them in her heart. Much she must have wondered what it could all mean and what would be the issue of it. Doubtless the hope that was in her purified her heart as so sacred a hope would do, (1Jn_3:3) and made her life a life of reverence and prayer. It was good for her to think much of the purpose God was about to accomplish through her instrumentality; she would be the better fitted for that holy motherhood by which she was to be so highly honored, and by which she was to render so inestimable a service to her nation and her race. The fact that she did keep and dwell upon these solemn and sacred mysteries may remind us of

I THE THINGS THAT ARE MOST WORTH KEEPING. These are not moneys that may be kept in the bank, nor jewels that may be treasured in the cabinet, nor parchments that may be guarded in the strong box; they are none other than Divine thoughts which we can hold in our hearts. And of these there are Divine revelations. They may be of his holy purpose, such as Mary”s heart held; or they may be of his own character or disposition toward us his children, such as we may learn and hold; or they may be revelations of our own true selves, of our character and our necessities and our possibilities; or they may be of the way by which we can approach and resemble God. There are also Divine invitations to return from our estrangement, to draw near to his throne, to accept his mercy, to walk by his side, to sit down at his table. There are Divine exhortations to duty, to service, to self-sacrifice. And there are Divine promises , of provision and protection and inspiration here, of blessedness and enlargement hereafter.


1. They pertain to God himself, and therefore connect us with the Highest.

2. They affect us, ourselves our character, our inner life, our essential being.

3. They bring us into harmony with all things; for he that is right with Godand true to himself is adjusted to all other beings, and is ready for all other things.

4. They render us fitted for life anywhere and in the distant future; so thatdeath will be a mere incident in our history, not concluding our career, but only opening the gate into other and brighter spheres.

III THE DANGER WE ARE IN OF LOSING THEM. There is a plausible philosophical theory that a thought once received into the mind cannot ever be wholly lost; once there it remains there, though it may be in the far background, unperceived, unemployed. But, as a matter of practical life, we know too well, both from testimony and experience, that the best and highest thoughts may escape our view; they may be only too easily lost sight of and disregarded. Neglect, or an engrossing interest in lower or in more exciting subjects, will make them invisible, ineffective, useless. It is a most pitiable thing that in every generation there are multitudes of souls that once welcomed and cherished the loftiest conceptions and the noblest aspirations, to whom these thoughts and hopes are now nothing whatsoever; they are gone from their mind; they have not been wisely “kept,” but foolishly and culpably lost. Therefore

IV THE WISDOM OF A REVERENT MEDITATION. We do ourselves the truest service when, by pondering on them, we keep sound and whole within our hearts the great thoughts of God. The power of continuous meditation is one of the faculties of our human nature; but the rush and strain of modern life constitute a powerful temptation to let this faculty rust in disuse. But as we love ourselves truly and wisely we shall resist and overcome the temptation. All souls that would do their sacred duty to themselves must think well and much on the things they know. If they would truly and thoroughly understand that of which they speak, if they wish Divine truth to have its own purifying and transforming power over them, if they aspire to build up a strong and influential character, if they wish to be “no longer children,” but men in Christ Jesus, they must ponder in their hearts the doctrines they count in their creed, the language they take into their lips. It is the truth we dwell upon that we live upon. C.

Albert Barnes
Luke 2:19
Mary kept all these things – All that happened, and all that was said respecting her child. She “remembered” what the angel had said to “her;” what had happened to Elizabeth and to the shepherds – all the extraordinary circumstances which had attended. the birth of her son. Here is a delicate and beautiful expression of the feelings of a mother. A “mother” forgets none of those things which occur respecting her children. Everything they do or suffer – everything that is said of them, is treasured up in her mind; and often she thinks of those things, and anxiously seeks what they may indicate respecting the future character and welfare of her child.

Pondered – Weighed. This is the original meaning of the word “weighed.” She kept them; she revolved them; she “weighed” them in her mind, giving to each circumstance its just importance, and anxiously seeking what it might indicate respecting her child.
In her heart – In her mind. She “thought” of these things often and anxiously.

John Calvin
Luke 2:20
20.Glorifying and praising God This is another circumstance which is fitted to be generally useful in confirming our faith. The shepherds knew with certainty that this was a work of God. Their zeal in glorifying and praising God is an implied reproof of our indolence, or rather of our ingratitude. If the cradle of Christ had such an effect upon them, as to make them rise from the stable and the manger to heaven, how much more powerful ought the death and resurrection of Christ to be in raising us to God? For Christ did not only ascend from the earth, that he might draw all things after him; but he sits at the right hand of the Father, that, during our pilgrimage in the world, we may meditate with our whole heart on the heavenly life. When Luke says, that the testimony of the angel served as a rule to the shepherds in all that they did, he points out the nature of true godliness. For our faith is properly aided by the works of God, when it directs everything to this end, that the truth of God, which was revealed in his word, may be brought out with greater clearness.

ICC:Lk PLummer
2: 20. δοξάζοντες καὶ αἰνοῦντες. The latter is the more definite word. The former is one of the many words which have acquired a deeper meaning in bibl. Grk. Just as δόξα in bibl. Grk. never (except 4Ma. 5:18) has the class. meaning of “opinion,” but rather “praise” or “glory,” so δοξάζω in bibl. Grk. never means “form an opinion about,” but “praise” or “glorify.” It is used of the honour done by man to man (1Sa_15:30), by man to God (Exo_15:2), and by God to man (Psa_91:15). It is also used of God glorifying Christ (Act_3:13), a use specially common in Jn. (8:54, 11:4, etc.), and of Christ gloryfying God (17:4). See on Rom_1:21. For the combination comp. αἰνετὸν καὶ δεδοξασμένον (Dan_3:26, 55). For αἰνεῖν see on ver. 13.

πᾶσιν οἷς. For the attraction see on 3:19. If ἤκουσαν refers to the angelic announcement, then καθώς refers to εἶδον only. But ἤκουσαν καὶ εἶδον may sum up their experiences at Bethlehem, which were a full confirmation (καθώς = “even as, just as”) of what the Angel had said. Syr-Sin. Omits καὶ αἰνοῦντες and πᾶσιν.

Schleiermacher points out that, if this narrative had been a mere poetical composition, we should have had the hymn of the shepherds recorded and more extensive hymns assigned to the Angels (S. Luke, Eng. tr. p. 31). He regards the shepherds as the probable source of the narrative; “for that which to them was most material and obvious the nocturnal vision in the fields, is the only circumstance treated in detail” (p. 33). But any narrator would give the vision, and could hardly give it more briefly without material loss. The brevity of it, especially when contrasted with the apocryphal gospels, is strong guarantee for its truth. How tempting to describe the search for the Babe and the conversation between the parents and the shepherds! Of the myth-hypothesis Weiss rightly says that “it labours in vain to explain the part played here by the shepherds by means of the pastoral tales of the ancients, and is driven to drag in, awkwardly enough, the legends of Cyrus and Romulus” (Leben Jesu, i. 2, 4, note, Eng. tr. p. 255). As for the old rationalism, which explained the angelic vision by ignis fatuus or other phosphoric phenomena, which travellers have said to be common in those parts; “the more frequent such phenomena, the more familiar must shepherds above all men, accustomed to pass their nights the whole summer long in the open air, have been with them, and the less likely to consider them as a sign from heaven pointing at a particular event” (Schleierm. p. 36)


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