Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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LUKE - Chapter 3

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Luke 3

Supplemental Commentary:

Note.  Only those parts of the Third Gospel that are peculiar to it are commented on here.  For all other parts the reader should consult the Commentaries on the parallel passages in the other Gospels.


1.  The Preparation  3, 1 -- 4, 14

Some authors think that the first draft of Luke's Gospel began here and that 1-2 were prefixed by the Evangelist before publishing the final draft.  It would seem from Mark 1, 1-4 and Acts 10, 37 that the oral Gospel of the Apostles began with the preaching of the Baptist.

1 f.  The first phrase of this elaborate introduction is meant by the Evangelist as a chronological note, the other phrases merely give the political background.  In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar: unfortunately it is possible to reckon the first year of the reign of the Emperor Tiberius in two ways: either from his appointment as co-regent with Augustus in the autumn of 12 A.D., or from the death of Augustus and the beginning of Tiberius' rule as sole emperor on the 19th of August of the year 14 A.D.  Accordingly, the fifteenth year of Tiberius would be either from the fall of 26 A.D. to the fall of 27 A.D. or from August 19th, 28 A.D. to August 18th, 29 A.D.  The method of reckoning the years of the reign of Tiberius from the death of Augustus seems to have been the only one used by profane historians.  But the other method is favored by many commentators because of other chronological considerations.  It is to be observed that this chronological note is given by Luke as the date of the beginning of John's ministry.  V.21 implies that the baptism of Jesus took place some months later.  The latter event was about two months before the first Passover of Christ's public ministry.  According to the two methods mentioned above, the first Passover would be either in 28 A.D. or in 30 A.D.  Astronomical calculation (the day of the Passover being determined by the moon) makes it certain that the last Passover of Christ's life was either in 30 or in 33 A.D.  Lysanias, tetrarch of Abilina: another Lysanias of Abilina, known from profane history, was put to death by Mark Antony in 36 B.C.  The Lysanias mentioned here was his son or grandson.  For the other rulers mentioned here by Luke, see article on The New Testament Background.

3.  Parallels in Matt. 3, 1-3 and Mark 1, 1-4.  The region about the Jordan: not the whole valley of the Jordan but the southern part only, the district about Jericho (cf. Gen. 13, 10 f).    5 f.  Luke alone give the full citation from Isa. 40, 3-5.    7-9.  Parallel in Matt. 3, 7-10: in Matthew, however, these words are spoken to the Pharisees and Sadducees, in Luke to the crowds.  10-15.  Peculiar to Luke.  Advice to people in various states of life.  Note the special emphasis laid upon social justice and charity, so typical of the Third Gospel.    13.  The higher officials in the tax-office generally connived at the extortions of the lesser tax-gatherers.    14.  Plunder no one: i.e., by physical violence; the Greek is literally, "Do not shake down anyone."  Neither accuse anyone falsely: the Greek signifies, "Do not blackmail anyone," properly, "Do not threaten to  inform on anyone."    16 f.  Parallels in Matt. 3, 11 f and Mark 1, 7 f.

19 f.  Cf. Matt. 14, 3 f; Mark 6, 17 f.  It is rather remarkable that none of the Gospels puts the account of John's arrest in its proper chronological place.  The first two Gospels speak of it only in connection with the death of the Baptist.  The Third Gospel clearly anticipates this event, in order to finish all that it has to say of the Baptist before beginning the account of Christ's public ministry.  Actually John was arrested by Herod about a year after our Lord's baptism (cf. Matt. 4, 12; Mark 1, 14; John 4, 1 ff).

3, 21-22:  The Baptism of Jesus.  Parallels in Matt. 3, 13-17 and Mark 1, 9-11.  When all the people had been baptized: this should not be understood in the sense that Jesus was the very last person baptized by John, but it does imply that many had been baptized before Him.  Luke alone notes that our Lord was in prayer at His baptism.

3, 23-38:  Genealogy of Jesus.  See the Commentary on the genealogy that is given in Matt. 1, 1-17, which is partly similar to and partly dissimilar from this one.    28.  About thirty years of age: some take this to mean, "Perhaps somewhat more, perhaps somewhat less than thirty years old."  But Luke, who gives the exact date of Christ's birth (2, 1 f) and the exact date of the call of the Baptist (3, 1 f), could have given Christ's exact age at this time, if he had wished to do so.  The Greek is literally, "as (one) of thirty years."  According to Num. 4, 3.47 the Levites had to be at least thirty years old before beginning their sacred ministry.  The Rabbis applied this to other offices and did not allow a man to teach in public unless he was at least thirty years old.  Luke merely wishes to point out that Jesus complied with this regulation, without stating how much time had elapsed since His thirtieth birthday.

Confraternity Bible:

John the Baptist  1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was procurator of Judea, and Herod tetrarch of Galilee, and Philip his brother tetrarch of the district of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zachary, in the desert.  3* And he went into all the region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4* as it is written in the book of the words of Isaias the prophet,
"The voice of one crying in the desert, 'Make ready the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. 

5* Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low,

And the crooked ways shall be made straight, and the rough ways smooth; 6* and all mankind shall see the salvation of God.'"
7 He said therefore to the crowds that went out to be baptized by him, "Brood of vipers! who has shown you how to flee from the wrath to come?  8 Bring forth therefore fruits befitting repentance, and do not begin to say, 'We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you that God is able out of these stones to raise up children to Abraham.  9 For even now the axe is laid at the root of the trees; every tree, therefore, that is not bringing forth fruit is to be cut down and thrown into the fire."

10 And the crowds asked him, saying, "What then are we to do?"  11 And he answered and said to them, "Let him who has two tunics share with him who has none; and let him who has food do likewise."

12 And the publicans also came to be baptized, and they said to him, "Master, what are we to do?"  13 But he said to them, "Exact no more than what has been appointed you."

14 And soldiers also asked him, saying, "And we---what are we to do?"  And he said to them, "Plunder no one, accuse no one falsely, and be content with your pay."

15 Now as the people were in expectation, and all were wondering in their hearts about John, whether perhaps he might be the Christ, 16 John addressed them, saying to all, "I indeed baptize you with water.  But one mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to loose.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  17 His winnowing fan is in his hand, and he will clean out his threshing floor, and will gather the wheat into his barn; but the chaff he will burn up with unquenchable fire."  18 So with many different exhortations he kept on preaching the gospel to the people.

19 But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him concerning Herodias, his brother's wife, and concerning all the evil things that Herod had done, 20 crowned all this by shutting up John in prison.

The Baptism of Jesus  21 Now it came to pass when all the people had been baptized, Jesus also having been baptized and being in prayer, that heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form as a dove, and a voice came from heaven, "Thou art my beloved Son, in thee I am well pleased."

Genealogy of Jesus 23* And Jesus himself, when he began his work, was about thirty years of age, being---as was supposed---the son of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, 24* the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Janne, the son of Joseph, 25* the son of Matthathias, the son of Amos, the son of Naum, the son of Esli, the son of Nagge, 26* the son of Maath, the son of Matthathias, the son of Semei, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, 27* the son of Joanna, the son of Resa, the son of Zorobabel, the son of Salathiel, the son of Neri, 28* the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Her, 29* the son of Jesus, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, 30* the son of Simeon, the son of Judas, the son of Joseph, the son of Jona, the son of Eliachim, 31* the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Matthata, the son of Nathan, the son of David, 32* the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Booz, the son of Salmon, the son of Naasson, 33* the son of Aminadab, the son of Aram, the son of Esron, the son of Phares, the son of Judas, 34* the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Thare, the son of Nachor, 35* the son of Seruch, the son of Ragau, the son of Phalec, the son of Eber, the son of Sale, 36* the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Sem, the son of Noe, the son of Lamech, 37* the son of Mathusale, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Malaleel, the son of Cainan, 38* the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, who was of God.


3: The baptism of John was not a sacrament, but a symbol of repentance, by which the recipient expressed his sorrow for his sins and his desire for internal purification.  Thus he was prepared for the true remission of his sins.

4-6: Isa. 40, 3-5.

23-38: In St. Matthew the genealogy descends from Abraham to Jesus, whereas in St. Luke it ascends from Jesus to Adam.  Both evangelists give the genealogy of St. Joseph, but according to different relationships.