Gospel of Luke Chapter 2:8-20 Antique Commentary Quotes

Cambridge Bible

Luke 2:8

8–20. The Angels to the Shepherds

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.


Pop Comm Bible Schaff

Luke 2:8

Luk_2:8. Shepherds, i.e., some shepherds, probably chosen because they too like Simeon ‘were waiting for the consolation of Israel’ (Luk_2:25). The Shepherd of Israel cares for His flock; while sending a Saviour to the whole world, He satisfied the secret yearnings of this humble company. His care is as minute as it is extensive.

Keeping watch over their flock by night. This might have been in December. The Jewish Rabbins indeed say that flocks were taken out in March and brought home in November, but this probably refers to far-off pastures. During the rainy season from November to March, according to the testimony of trustworthy observers, there generally occurs an interval of dry weather (between the middle of December and the middle of February), when of course the grass is green. The exact date cannot be fixed. The traditional date (December 25) is of late origin, and Christmas was not celebrated in the Church till after the middle of the fourth century, and seems to have been substituted for a series of heathen festivals (see Schaff: Church History, vol. ii., p. 395 ff.). The anniversary is of less antiquity, of less importance and accuracy, than Easter, which was observed from the earliest times. In the early Church there was no agreement as to the time of Christ’s birth, and quite as little among modern chronologists. The Saviour was born in the fulness of time, just when He was most needed, and when the Jewish and Gentile world was fully prepared for this central fact and turning-point in history. The 25th of December may have been selected for poetic and symbolical fitness. At that season the longest night gives way to the returning sun on his triumphant march, just as Christ appeared in the darkest night of sin and error as the true Light of the world.


Pulpit Commentary


In the same country; that is, in the upland pastures immediately in the neighborhood of Bethlehem. Shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. Why were shepherds chosen as the first on earth to hear the strange glorious news of the birth of the Savior of the world? It seems as though this very humble order was selected as a practical illustration of that which in the future history of Christianity was to be so often exemplified—”the exaltation of the humble and meek.” Mary would learn from this, the first visit of adorers to her Babe, that the words of her song (the Magnificat) would in very truth be realized. The subsequent visit of the learned and wealthy travelers from the East (Mat_2:1-12) would tell her that the words of the Isaiah prophecy were all literally, in their due order, to be fulfilled, some of them even in the unconscious childhood of her Son (see Isa_60:3, Isa_60:6; Psa_72:10). Now, among the Jews at that period shepherds were held in low estimation among the people. In the Talmud (treatise ‘Sanhedrin’) we read they were not to be allowed in the courts as witnesses. In the treatise ‘Avodah-Zarah’ no help must be given to the heathen or to shepherds. The Mishna (Talmud) tells us that the sheep intended for the daily sacrifices in the temple were fed in the Bethlehem pastures. This semisacred occupation no doubt influenced these poor toilers, and specially fitted them to be the recipients of the glad tidings. They would hear much of the loved Law in the solemn ritual of the great temple. They would know, too, that there was a rumor widely current in those days that the longlooked—for Messiah was soon to appear, and that their own Bethlehem was to witness his appearing.


Cambridge Bible

Luke 2:9

And lo] The phrase often introduces some strange or memorable event.

the angel] Rather, an Angel.

came upon them] Epestê—a common word in St Luke, who uses it eighteen times, Luk_24:4; Act_12:7, &c. It may mean stood by them.

the glory of the Lord] The Shechinah, or cloud of brightness which symbolised the Divine Presence, as in Exo_24:16; 1Ki_8:10; Isa_6:1-3; Act_7:55. See on Luk_1:35. The presence of the Shechinah was reckoned as one of the most precious blessings of Israel, Rom_9:4.


A.T. Robertson

Luke 2:10

I bring you good tidings of great joy (euaggelizomai hūmin charan megalēn). Wycliff, “I evangelize to you a great joy.” The active verb euaggelizō occurs only in late Greek writers, lxx, a few papyri examples, and the N.T. The middle (deponent) appears from Aristophanes on. Luke and Paul employ both substantive euaggelion and verb euaggelizō very frequently. It is to Paul’s influence that we owe their frequency and popularity in the language of Christendom (George Milligan, The Epistles to the Thessalonians, p. 143). The other Gospels do not have the verb save Mat_11:5 and that in a quotation (Isa_61:1).


Pop Comm Bible Schaff

Luke 2:10

Luk_2:10. Be not afraid. Comp. chap. Luk_1:13; Luk_1:30.

I bring you glad tidings of great joy. Lit., ‘I evangelize to you great joy.’ The message is a gospel message, a joyous message; therefore they should not be afraid.

To all the people, i.e., of Israel. First of all to them, then through them to the Gentiles.


A.T. Robertson

Luke 2:11

Is born (etechthē). First aorist passive indicative from tiktō. Was born.

Saviour (sōtēr). This great word is common in Luke and Paul and seldom elsewhere in the N.T. (Bruce). The people under Rome’s rule came to call the emperor “Saviour” and Christians took the word and used it of Christ. See inscriptions (Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, p. 344).

Christ the Lord (Christos Kurios). This combination occurs nowhere else in the N.T. and it is not clear what it really means. Luke is very fond of Kurios (Lord) where the other Gospels have Jesus. It may mean “Christ the Lord,” “Anointed Lord,” “Messiah, Lord,” “The Messiah, the Lord,” “An Anointed One, a Lord,” or “Lord Messiah.” It occurs once in the lxx (Lamentations 4:20) and is in Ps. of Sol. 17:36. Ragg suggests that our phrase “the Lord Jesus Christ” is really involved in “A Saviour (Jesus) which is Christ the Lord.” See note on Mat_1:1 for Christ and note on Mat_21:3 for Lord.


Cambridge Bible

Luke 2:11

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).


Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown

Luke 2:12

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And this shall be a sign, [ to (G3588) seemeion (G4592), ‘the sign,’] unto you; Ye shall find the babe , [ brefos (G1025)] – ‘a Babe.’ Pity that our translators so often insert the definite article where it is emphatically wanting in the original, and omit it where in the original it is emphatically inserted.

Wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. Here the article, though existing in the received text, ought not to be there, having but weak authority: our translators, therefore, are right here. The sign, it seems, was to consist solely in the over-powering contrast between the lofty things just said of Him and the lowly condition in which they would find Him. ‘Him whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting, ye shall find a Babe: Whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain ye shall find “wrapped in swaddling bands and lying in a manger!”‘ Thus, early were those amazing contrasts, which are His chosen style, held forth. (See 2Co_8:9.)


A.T. Robertson

Luke 2:13

Host (stratias). A military term for a band of soldiers common in the ancient Greek. Bengel says: “Here the army announces peace.”

Praising (ainountōn). Construction according to sense (plural, though stratias is singular).


Cambridge Bible

Luke 2:13

a multitude of the heavenly host] The Sabaoth; Rom_9:29; Jas_5:4. “Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him,” Dan_7:10; Rev_5:11-12. The word is also used of the stars as objects of heathen worship, Act_7:42.


Pop Comm Bible Schaff

Luke 2:14

Luk_2:14. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men of God’s good pleasure, or, ‘in whom He is well pleased,’ The best authorities, by the insertion of a single letter in the Greek, read: ‘men of good pleasure.’ The word is elsewhere translated ‘good-will,’ but it must mean God’s good-will or good-pleasure, not man’s. This is brought out in the translation given above, which expresses the view of the vast majority of scholars. The full meaning is: Let there be, or there is (both ideas being included), glory to God among the angels in heaven for sending the Messiah, and peace (in the widest sense, salvation) on earth among men in whom He is well pleased, i.e., His chosen people. The form is that of Hebrew parallelism, in two lines with a three-fold correspondence: ‘glory’—‘peace;’ ‘in the highest’—‘on earth;’ ‘God’—‘among men of His good-pleasure.’ ‘Toward’ is altogether incorrect ‘Good-pleasure’ cannot mean the good-will of men toward God or toward each other (Roman Catholic versions). This sense is contrary to the grammatical usage of the Greek as well as to the analogy of Scriptural statements. At such a time the ground of peace would be placed, not in men, but in God. The less correct translation of the E. V. is to be explained as follows: God is praised in heaven, and peace proclaimed on earth, because He has shown His good-will among men by sending the Messiah, who is the Prince of peace (Isa_9:5, and has reconciled heaven and earth, God and man. In both cases, ‘peace’ is to be taken in the widest sense; it is the result of the great doings of God for which angels praise Him. ‘Good-pleasure’ not only means favor toward men, but implies that sinful men are well-pleasing to a holy God,—a mystery proclaimed and explained by the gospel of Jesus Christ. In Him, chosen in Him and in fellowship with Him, sinful men become the objects of God’s good-pleasure. God’s mercy and God’s sovereignty, thus meeting in the Babe of Bethlehem, are celebrated by the heavenly host. Poetry is truly Christian just to the extent that it is an echo and response to this first Christian hymn. Angels show their sympathy in man’s salvation, and utter their highest praises to God, when they sing of the ‘Saviour, Christ the Lord.’ The personal dignity of the Redeemer is supported by this Gloria in Excelsis, while Christ’s work in bringing ‘peace on earth among men of God’s good-pleasure’ upholds the truthfulness of this story of the angels’ song at His birth.


Pop Comm Bible Schaff

Luke 2:15

Luk_2:15. The shepherds. The angels went to heaven; the shepherds sought what the angels had praised: the former, to continue the song of ‘glory in the highest;’ the latter, to discover ‘peace on earth.’

Now, i.e., at once.

Even unto Bethlehem. As far as Bethlehem; as though it were not their usual place of resort.

This thing, lit., ‘saying;’ the same word is used in Luk_2:17; Luk_2:19. The simple faith of these shepherds is a token that they were men ‘in whom He is well-pleased’ and hence chosen to receive this revelation.


Pop Comm Bible Schaff

Luke 2:16

Luk_2:16. Found, suggesting previous search.

Mary and Joseph Her name naturally comes first, as the mother, but especially in view of the peculiar nature of her motherhood.

In the manger: the one they had sought as the sign.


Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown

Luke 2:17

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child – that is, as is evident from Luk_2:20, before they left the neighbourhood. And so they were, as Bengel remarks, the first evangelists; having, indeed, no commission, but feeling with Peter and John, “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”


Pop Comm Bible Schaff

Luke 2:18

Luk_2:18. Wondered. With this natural, and probably transient, wonder of those who heard the story, the narrative contrasts the more abiding effect upon Mary. Before Jesus appeared as a teacher, thirty years afterwards, the story was probably forgotten by all but a few earnest souls. If His words and works did not prevent the mass of the Jews from rejecting Him, how little influence would this story have.


A.T. Robertson

Luke 2:19

Kept (sunetērei). Imperfect active. She kept on keeping together (sun-) all these things. They were meat and drink to her. She was not astonished, but filled with holy awe. The verb occurs from Aristotle on. She could not forget. But did not Mary keep also a Baby Book? And may not Luke have seen it?

Pondering (sunballousa). An old Greek word. Placing together for comparison. Mary would go over each detail in the words of Gabriel and of the shepherds and compare the sayings with the facts so far developed and brood over it all with a mother’s high hopes and joy.


Pop Comm Bible Schaff

Luke 2:20

Luk_2:20. Returned, i.e., to their flock, to their duty. Angelic revelations did not make them unfaithful shepherds. But their ordinary duty was made glad by what they had heard and seen. We hear no more of them. Van Oosterzee: ‘They probably fell asleep, before the beginning of our Lord’s public ministry, with the recollection of this night in their hearts, and a frame of mind like that of the aged Simeon. Their names, unknown on earth, are written in heaven, and their experience is the best example of the first beatitude. Mat_5:3.’


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