Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. That have been accomplished. In the Protestant
translation, of things most surely believed. They have followed Beza, and Erasmus: but other learned critics have shewn
that the same Greek word often signifies to fulfil; and it is clearly proved by St. Chrysostom.
Ver. 3. Having
diligently obtained. Here we see, that although the Holy Ghost regulated the pen of the holy writers, that they might
not err; they still employed human means to search and find out the truth of things they mentioned. Even so do general councils,
and the president thereof, the holy pontiff, discuss and examine all causes by human means, although they have the promise
from Jesus Christ of the aid, assistance, and direction of his holy Spirit; (St. John xvi. 13,) as is manifest from the very
first council of the apostles, held at Jerusalem. (Acts xv. 7. and 28.) --- Most excellent Theophilus. This word, Theophilus,
by its etymology, signifies a lover of God: but here we may rather understand some particular person, by the title
given him of most excellent, or best: which, at that time, was given to persons in dignity; as to to Felix,
Acts xxiii. 26. and to Festus, Acts xxvi. 25. (Witham) --- Kratiste, may signify most powerful from Kratos,
strength, or Kratein, to conquer; or, as most generally given, from Kreitton. --- Theophilos,
may be interpreted either a lover of God, or one beloved of God. Whoever, therefore, loves God, and desires to be beloved
by Him, should consider this gospel as penned for himself, and should preserve it as a pledge deposited in his hands. (Ven.
Ver. 5. The
Almighty appointed to Moses that there should be but one high priest at a time, to whom, at his decease, a successor should
be chosen. This rule obtained till the time of David, by whom, by the inspiration of God, many were appointed at once. (1
Paralipomenon chap. xxiv.) According to this regulation, Zachary (Zacharias) is said to perform the office of priest,
according to the order of his course. (Ven. Bede) --- Zacharias seems here to be described as high priest, who once a year
entered alone in the inward sanctuary with the blood of the victims, which he offered for himself and the sins of the people.
(St. Ambrose) --- He was not chosen by a fresh lot to offer up incense, but by a previous lot, according to which the family
of Abia succeeded to the office of high priest. The people waited without, according to Leviticus xvi. 12.; whilst the high
priest carried the incense into the holy of holies, on the 10th day of the 7th month. (Ven. Bede) --- Of the course of
Abia. What we read in the Greek for course, is commonly put for the employment of one day, but here for
the functions of a whole week. For by appointment of David, (1 Paralipomenon xxiv,) the descendants from Aaron were
divided into 24 families; of which the eighth was Abia, from whom descended this Zacharias, who at this time was in the week
of his priestly functions. (Witham) --- It is worthy of remark, that there were three Herods. The first was the one here spoken
of, (surnamed Ascalonite, from his palace in the city of Ascalon, in Palestine) the same who murdered the Innocents. The second
was the son of the first, (surnamed Antipas) who derided Christ at the time of his passion, the same who beheaded the Baptist.
The third was Herod Agrippa, who beheaded St. James, imprisoned St. Peter, and who was afterwards, for his great pride, stricken
by an angel, and devoured by worms. Our Saviour was born in the reign of the first Herod, by whom the prophecy of Jacob, related
in the book of Genesis (chap. xlix,) was fulfilled: The sceptre shall not be taken, &c. Herod was an Idumæan, and
made king of the Jews by the Romans. The Jews, after they entered the land of promise, were first governed by judges, until
Saul: then by kings, until the Babylonian captivity; after that by high priests, until the time of Hyrcanus, whom Herod having
killed, succeeded. From that period to the present day, they have been governed by strangers. (Ven. Bede, and Denis the Carthusian)
--- Elizabeth was of the race of Aaron, by her father; but her mother was probably of the race of David, from whom the blessed
Virgin, cousin of Elizabeth, descended. See below, ver. 36.
Ver. 6. Both
just, ... walking ... without blame. Not that in the sight of God they were exempt even from all lesser feelings[failings?],
which are called venial faults; but only from such sins as might make them forfeit the grace and favour of God. (Witham)
--- Three things are here to be noticed: 1. that good men do keep all God's commandments, which some moderns declare to be
impossible; 2. that men are justified not by imputation only of Christ's justice, nor by faith alone, but by walking in the
commandments; 3. that keeping and doing the commandments, is properly our justification through Jesus Christ. The Greek word
dikaiomata, is properly rendered by Catholics, justifications or commandments, because the keeping of
them through Jesus Christ, is justification. But our separated brethren purposely avoid this word against the justification
of the Catholics, as one of their leaders in innovation blushes not to advance. Hence Beza, in his annotations on the New
Testament, ann. 1556, uses the word constituta, which his scholars render into English by ordinances. (Bristow)
Ver. 9. It
was his lot. The priests drew lots for the different functions to be performed in the same week; and now it fell by lot
to Zacharias, to burn or offer up incense, morning and evening, in that part of the temple called the holy, where was
the altar of incense: Zacharias was in this part of the tabernacle. (Witham) --- See Exodus xxx. 6, 8.
Ver. 10. And
all the ... people were praying without: i.e. in that part of the temple called the court of the Israelites. For
the Jews themselves were not permitted to enter into the first part of the tabernacle, called the holy, much less into
the second part of it, called the holy of holies; the people then prayed, and performed their private devotions, in
that division of the temple called the court of the Israelites, and were there waiting for the coming out of the priest Zacharias.
(Witham) --- We here see that the priest's functions profited the people, though they neither heard nor saw the priest, but
only joined in intention with him; and so may the prayers of the priest in the Catholic Church, though offered up in an unknown
Ver. 12. The
cause of this fear, was the general sentiment that obtained with the Jews, that they would die immediately on seeing an angel.
(Bible de Vence)
Ver. 13. Thy
prayer is heard. We cannot suppose, as St. Augustine observes, (lib. ii. QQ. Evang. chap i., tom. 3, part 2, p. 249. Ed.
Ben.) that he was praying to have children, when his wife was so advanced in years; that he did not think possible;
but he was praying for the people, and for the coming of the Messias. See St. Chrysostom, hom. ii. de incomprehensibili, tom.
1, p. 454. Nov. Ed. Ben. (Witham) --- Zacharias so far despaired of having any offspring, that he did not believe the angel,
when he made him the promise. When therefore the angel says, thy prayer is heard, we must understand it of the prayer
he offered in behalf of the people, to whom salvation and remission of sins were to be brought by Christ. The angel, moreover,
told him of the birth of his son, who was to be the precursor of Christ. (St. Augustine) --- The son that is to be born of
thee, will shew that thy prayer is heard, when he cries out, behold the Lamb of God. (St. Chrysostom) --- It is always
a mark of singular merit, whenever the Almighty either appoints or changes the name of a man. (Ven. Bede) --- The name of
John is derived from the Hebrew word, Jochanan, which frequently occurs in the Old Testament, as 1 Paralipomenon
iii. 15. and vi. 9. and xii. 12. &c. and signifies, blessed with grace or divine favour; see also in Isaias xxx.
Ver. 14. This
was fulfilled not only at his birth, but ever after by the Catholic Church, celebrating his nativity. (Haydock)
Ver. 15. After
the angel had assured him of the joy this son should bring to many, he acquaints him of the excellency of his virtue. He
shall be great before the Lord. He did not extend the boundaries of empire; he did not obtain the triumphs of war, and
force captive and degraded kings to pay him homage: but, what is much greater, preaching in a desert, he renounced the pleasures
of the world, and with the greatest fortitude repressed and subdued the concupiscence of the flesh. Therefore it is said,
he shall drink no wine, nor strong drink. (St. Ambrose) --- And shall drink no wine, nor strong drink: literally,
sicera, by which is signified any liquor that is apt to make a man drunk, according to St. Jerome. (Witham) --- This
prohibition of the angel was a part of the consecration of the Nazarites. See Numbers vi. 3. The word sicera properly
signifies wine of the palm-tree; and next to wine of the grape, there was no more common liquor, none more intoxicating. (Bible
de Vence) --- And he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb; from which words some conjecture,
that St. John the Baptist, though conceived in original sin, yet might have been freed from the guilt of it before he came
into the world. Of this see St. Augustine, Ep. lvii. now Ep. clxxxvii. ad Dardanum. t. ii, p. 685. Ed. Ben. (Witham)
Ver. 17. Turn
the hearts of the fathers, &c. The angel applies these words (Malachias iv. 6.) to St. John the Baptist; telling his
father, that he shall convert many of the children of Israel, &c. by bringing them to the knowledge of Christ.
Secondly, that he shall go before him, or be his precursor and forerunner. --- In the spirit and power of Elias;
i.e. St. John shall be the forerunner of Christ's first coming to redeem mankind, as Elias shall be the forerunner of Christ's
second coming to judge the world. Thirdly, that St. John, by converting the Jews, shall also turn the hearts of the fathers
to the children, &c. The meaning of which obscure words seems to be, that whereas Moses, Abraham, and the prophets,
(whose souls were in a place of rest) knew by a revelation from God, that their children, the Jews, lived in sin and disobedience
to the laws of God; and on this account were offended and displeased at them: now when they shall know that they have been
converted by the preaching of St. John, they shall rejoice, and be reconciled to their children, the Jews: for as our Saviour
tells us, (Luke xv. 7.) there is joy in heaven upon any one sinner that doth penance. The angel, to explain the foregoing
words, adds, and the incredulous to the wisdom and prudence of the just; i.e. St. John's preaching shall make them
truly wise and just. (Witham) --- With reason is he said to precede Christ, who was his forerunner both in his birth and in
his death. In the spirit of prophecy, and in the power of abstinence, and patience, and zeal, they resembled each other; Elias
was in the desert, St. John was in the desert also. The one sought not the favour of king Achab, the other despised the favour
of Herod. The one divided the Jordan, the other changed it into a laver of salvation. The one is to be the forerunner of Jesus
Christ's second coming, as the other was of his first. (St. Ambrose)
Ver. 18. Whereby
shall I know this? Zacharias could not question the Divine Power, but he doubted of what the angel told him. (Witham)
--- It was customary with the Jews, when they heard that any wonderful event was to take place, to inquire whether the Almighty
had manifested his will by any supernatural sign. Zacharias puts this question to the angel, not through any doubt concerning
the omnipotence of God, but because what was promised could not be compassed in the natural order of things: for, I am
an old man and my wife is advanced in years. (Dionysius)
Ver. 19. The
name Gabriel signifies, the strength of God; or, God is my strength. The angels are sometimes styled by proper names,
in order to shew their respective duties; thus, no angel could better be appointed to declare the precursor, as also the Messias
himself, than he who was styled the power of God: since he came to declare the coming of one who was to destroy the
power of the devil, and overthrow his kingdom. (Nicholas of Lyra) See Tobit xii. 15; Apocalypse i. 4. and viii. 2.
Ver. 20. On
account of the many signs the angel had given, that what he said was true, the unbelief of Zacharias seemed inexcusable; for
the angel appeared in a holy place, in the temple, and during divine service: he, moreover, foretold what related to the redemption
of all the people, and to the glory of God; from all which circumstances, Zacharias ought to have concluded, that it was a
good angel, and that what he said would eventually come to pass. (Nicholas of Lyra) --- Shalt be dumb, &c. He seems
to have been both dumb and deaf by the Greek text, and by what we may learn from ver. 62; where we find, that those who were
present did not speak, but rather made signs to him. (Witham)
Ver. 23. After
the days of his office were accomplished; i.e. the weekly ministry; for during that time, the priests lodged in buildings
joining to the temple, separated from their wives. (Witham) --- When it fell to the lot of any of the priests to offer incense,
they not only separated from their wives, but left their houses; wherefore it is said, as soon as the day, &c.
As it was ordained that the priesthood should continue in the family of Aaron, it was necessary they should have wives. But,
as we do not now so much seek after priests of the same family, as those who are virtuous, it has been decreed, that priests
should observe perpetual continency, that they may be able to assist at all times at the altar. (Ven. Bede) --- For the law
of perpetual celibacy of the clergy, See St. Jerome, lib. i. chap. ix. 19. advers Jovin. et. ep. 50; also St. Ambrose, in
1 Tim iii.
Ver. 27. The
word Miriam, or Mary, is expounded by St. Jerome from different etymologies, to signify in Hebrew, star of the sea,
and in Chaldaic, lady. Both interpretations admirably well agree with her, who is the glorious Queen of heaven, our
patroness and star, to direct us in the stormy ocean of this world. --- "O you," cries out St. Bernard, "who find yourselves
tossed to and fro in this tempestuous life, turn not your eyes away from the brightness of this star, if you would not be
overwhelmed in these storms. If the winds of temptations arise; if you fall among the rocks of tribulation; look up to the
star, call upon Mary. If you are agitated, and hard driven with the surges of pride, ambition, detraction, jealously, or envy;
look up to the star, call upon Mary. If anger, covetousness, or lust, beat furiously on the vessel of your soul; look up to
the star, call upon Mary. If you are beginning to founder, and are just sinking into the gulf of melancholy and despair; think
on Mary. In dangers, in distresses, in perplexities, think on Mary, call on Mary. Let her name be never absent from your mouth;
from your mouth let it constantly descend into your heart; and, that you may obtain the suffrage of her prayers; both in life
and death, never depart from the example of her pious conversation." (St. Bernard, hom. ii. super Missus est.)
Ver. 28. Hail,
full of grace: by the greatest share of divine graces granted to any creature. This translation, approved by the ancient
Fathers, agrees with the ancient Syriac and Arabic versions. There was no need therefore to change it into gracious,
with Erasmus; into freely beloved, with Beza; into highly favoured, with the Protestant translators. For if
seven deacons (Acts vi. 3.) are said to be full of the Holy Ghost, as it is again said of St. Stephen, (Acts vii. 55.)
and also of the same St. Stephen, (Acts vi. ver. 8.) that he was full of grace, (as the learned Dr. Wells translates
it in his amendments made to the Protestant translation) why should any one be offended at this salutation given to the blessed
mother of God; who would not have been raised to this highest dignity, had not her soul been first prepared for it by the
greatest share of divine graces? --- The Lord is with thee, by his interior graces; and now, at this moment, is about
to confer upon thee the highest of all dignities, by making thee truly the mother of God. (Witham) --- The Catholic Church
makes frequent use of these words which were brought by the archangel from heaven, as well to honour Jesus Christ and his
virgin Mother, as because they were the first glad tidings of Christ's incarnation, and man's salvation; and are the very
abridgment and sum of the whole gospel. In the Greek Church, they are used daily in the Mass [the Divine Liturgy]. See the
Liturgy of St. James, and that of St. Chrysostom.
Ver. 29. When
she had heard. In the Greek text, when she had seen; as if she also saw the angel, as St. Ambrose observed. (Witham)
Ver. 31. It
may perhaps in the first instance of reflection, appear shocking to our ideas, that a God should dwell in a human body; but
does not the sun emit its rays into all kinds of places, without any detriment to its purity? How much more would the Sun
of justice, assuming a most pure body, formed of the purest blood of the spotless Virgin, not only remain free from every
the least stain himself, but even impart additional sanctity to his virgin Mother. (St. Thomas Aquinas)
Ver. 32. He
... shall be called; i.e. according to the style of the Scriptures, he shall truly be the Son of God. (Witham)
Ver. 33. Those
are here called of the house of Jacob, who out of the multitude of the Jews believed in Christ. This is conformable to that
text of St. Paul: All are not Israelites that are of Israel, but the children of the promise are accounted for the seed.
(Romans ix. 6, 8.) (St. Chrysostom, hom. vii. on S. Matt.) --- And of his kingdom there shall be no end: which clearly
shews it was not to be a temporal, but a spiritual and an eternal kingdom. (Witham)
Ver. 34. How
shall this be done? She only asks about the manner. --- Because I know not man. This answer, as St. Augustine
takes notice, would have been to no purpose, had she not made a vow to God to live always a virgin. (Witham) --- Listen to
the words of this pure Virgin. The angel tells her she shall conceive; but she insists upon her virginity, holding her purity
in higher estimation than the promised dignity. (St. Gregory of Nyssa.) --- She did not doubt the truth of what the angel
said, (as Calvin impiously maintained) but she wished it might not happen to the prejudice of her vowed virginity. (St. Ambrose,
St. Augustine, Ven. Bede, Theophylactus, &c. &c.)
Ver. 35. The
Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, &c. By the divine power thou shalt bring forth, and yet remain always a pure virgin.
--- And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee, shall be called (shall be) the Son of God. The
second person of the ever blessed Trinity, being united to our human nature, remaining unchangeably the same God, and being
born of the Virgin Mary; it must needs be true to say that God was born, that God suffered and died for us; and consequently
that the blessed Virgin Mary was truly the mother of God, or of him that is truly God; though not the mother of the Godhead:
as the Catholic Church declared in the council of Ephesus, (431) against the heretic Nestorius. (Witham) --- Seek not for
natural order in things that transcend nature. You ask, how shall this be done, since you know not man? This, your
ignorance of man, is the very reason why this will take place within you. For had you not been pure, you never would have
been deemed worthy of so great a mystery. Not because marriage is bad, but because virginity is far more excellent. The common
Lord of all ought in his birth to have something common with all mankind, and still something different. He was conceived
and born in the womb like the rest of mankind, but he differed from them in being born of a virgin. (St. Chrysostom, xlix.
Ver. 36. We
find that Aaron, who was of the tribe of Levi, took a wife of the tribe of Juda, viz. Elizabeth, the sister of Naasson. In
the successors of David we find that Joiada, the chief priest, took a wife of the family of David, viz. the daughter of Joram;
from which it appears that both the royal and sacerdotal tribes were united, and that Mary and Elizabeth were relatives. It
was certainly proper that Christ should be born of both these tribes, because he was in himself both king and priest. (Ven.
Ver. 38. Behold
the handmaid. With all modesty and humility of heart and mind, the blessed Virgin consented to the divine will: and from
that moment in her was conceived the Saviour and Redeemer of the world. (Witham) --- Thus ought the virgin, who brought forth
meekness and humility itself, to shew forth an example of the most profound humility. (St. Ambrose)
Ver. 39. This
city is generally supposed to be Hebron, a sacerdotal town, (Josue xxi. 11.) situated in the mountains, to the south of Juda,
and about 120 miles from Nazareth. (Bible de Vence)
Ver. 41. The
infant leaped in her womb. According to the general opinion of the interpreters, this motion of the child at the time
was not natural: and some think that God gave to St. John [the Baptist], even in his mother's womb, a passing knowledge of
the presence of his Redeemer. See St. Augustine in the above cited letter to Dardanus. (Witham)
Ver. 42. In
the same words she is pronounced blessed by Elizabeth, and by the angel Gabriel, both inspired by the Holy Ghost, and this
not only to the praise of Jesus, but for his sake, to the praise of Mary, calling her blessed, and her fruit blessed; and
thus, as Ven. Bede asserts, holding her up to the veneration of both men and angels.
Ver. 43. The
mother of my Lord. A proof that Christ was truly God, and the blessed Virgin Mary truly the mother of God. (Witham) ---
Elizabeth was a just and blessed woman; yet the excellency of the mother of God does so far surpass that of Elizabeth, and
of every other woman, as the great luminary outshines the smaller stars. (St. Jerome præf. in Sophon.)
Ver. 47. In
God my Saviour, as appears by the Greek text, though literally in Latin, in God my salvation. (Witham)
Ver. 48. The
humility of his handmaid, i.e. the humble, low, and abject condition; as perhaps might be translated both in this and
in ver. 52. For the blessed Virgin does not here commend and praise her own virtue of humility; as divers interpreters observe.
See St. Francis de Sales, in his introduction to a devout life, part 3, chap. vi. (Witham) --- As death entered into the world
by the pride of our first parents, so was it proper that the path to life should be opened by the humility of Mary. (Ven.
Bede) --- Not Elizabeth only, but all nations of believers are to call her blessed. (Theophylactus)
Ver. 51. The
wise men of the Gentiles, the Pharisees and Scribes, were powerful; but these the Almighty cast down, and exalted those, who
humbled themselves under his powerful hand. (1 Peter v.) The Jews were proud in their strength, but their incredulity
brought on them their humiliation; whilst the low and mean among the Gentiles, have by faith ascended to the summit of perfection.
(St. Cyril of Alexandria in St. Thomas Aquinas' catenâ aureâ.) (Witham)
Ver. 53. The
Jews were rich in the possession of the law, and the doctrines of the prophets; but, as they would not humbly unite themselves
to the incarnate word [Jesus Christ], they were sent away empty, without faith, without knowledge, deprived of all hopes of
temporal goods, excluded from the terrestrial Jerusalem, and also from that which is in heaven. But the Gentiles, oppressed
with hunger and thirst, by adhering to their Lord, were filled with all spiritual gifts. (St. Basil in Ps. xxxiii.)
Ver. 63. As
then in circumcision, so now in baptism, names are given. And as we see here, and is all the Old Testament, great respect
was had of names, so must we be aware of profane and secular names, and rather, according to the catechism of the council
of Trent, take names of saints and holy persons, which may put us in mind of their virtues. (De Bap. in fine.)
Ver. 69. As
Christ was born of the race of David, he is here called the horn of salvation in the house of David. As Isaias says, a
vineyard is planted in the horn, chap. v. --- A powerful salvation. According to the letter both of the Latin
and Greek text, a horn of salvation. But as it is generally agreed, that by horn, in the phraseology of the
Scriptures, is understood strength and power, and that horn sounds awkwardly in English, and other languages,
I hope it may be literally enough translated, a powerful salvation. (Witham)
Ver. 71. That
he would save us, &c. Literally, salvation from our enemies. The construction and sense is, that God, as he
had declared by his prophets, would grant us salvation, or would save us. (Witham) --- This is not to be understood of temporal,
but of spiritual enemies. For the Lord Jesus, strong in battle, came to destroy all our enemies, and thus to deliver us from
their snares and temptations. (Origen, hom. xvi.) --- He is that King of Glory, the Lord strong and powerful, the Lord
powerful in battle. (Psalm xxiii.)
Ver. 72. To
remember his holy covenant, i.e. of his promise, or of the covenant made with Abraham, that he would bless all nations
in his seed. (Witham) --- At the coming of Christ, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were made partakers of his mercy. For, we cannot
suppose that they who saw his day, and were glad, should not participate in the fruit of his coming; since St. Paul says:
he maketh peace through the blood of the cross, both to the things that are on earth, and the things that are in heaven.
(Colossians i. 20.) (Origen, hom. x.)
According to the oath which he swore. The words according to, are no addition to the letter of the text:
they only barely express what is here signified; to wit, that God swore to Abraham, that he would grant us, or make
it come to pass, that being delivered from our enemies, sin and the devil, we should be in a condition to
serve him without fear, in holiness, &c. (Witham)
Ver. 75. It
is possible, we here see, to have true justice, not only in the sight of man, or by the imputation of God, but in his sight;
and the coming of Christ was to give men such justice.
Ver. 77. Jesus
is our salvation, and St. John [the Baptist] was sent to give to the people the knowledge of this salvation: he bore testimony
of Christ; (Theophylactus) by whom alone remission of sins can be obtained.
Ver. 78. The
rising light, or the rising sun, hath visited us from on high. The Rheims translation hath the Orient,
the Protestant, the day-spring. Both seem more obscure than they need be. The Latin, as well as the Greek, hath a noun
substantive, by which Christ himself is signified. Yet the same word, in both languages, is sometimes taken for a rising
light, and sometimes for a bud, or branch; in which latter sense it is expounded by St. Jerome. (Comment in Zachar.
p. 1737, tom. 3, Ed. Ben.) But in this place it is rather taken for a light that riseth, by the following words, to enlighten
them that sit in darkness, &c. (Witham) --- The Orient. It is one of the titles of the Messias, the true light
of the world, and the sun of justice. (Challoner) --- By this he shews that God has forgiven us our sins, not through our
merits, but through his own most tender mercy; (Theophylactus) and that we are to solicit this forgiveness through the bowels
of his most tender mercy.
Ver. 79. The
Gentiles were in darkness, and given to the adoration of idols, till the light arose and dispelled the darkness, spreading
on all sides the splendour of truth. (St. Basil on Isai.) --- With reason it is said in this place, who sit in darkness;
for we did not walk in darkness, but sat down, as if destitute of all hopes of being delivered. (St. Chrysostom, hom. xiv.
on S. Matt.) --- Then our steps are directed in the paths of peace, when in our every action we act conformably to the grace
of the Almighty. (St. Gregory, hom. xxxii.)
Ver. 80. St.
John remained in the desert till the 30th year of his age. The reason why he concealed himself so long was because he feared
the cruelty of Herod; for, though he was not under his jurisdiction, not being on the confines of Bethlehem, yet on account
of the remarkable events that took place at his birth, by which he was declared the precursor of the Messias, he had reason
to dread the cruelty of the jealous and suspicious Herod. Peter of Alexandria, Nicephorus, Baronius, and others, say, that
when he was yet in his mother's arms, he was conveyed into the desert, and there concealed in the caves and fissures of the
rocks, where people concealed themselves on the approach of their enemies. Cedrinus adds, that 40 days after their flight,
the mother of St. John died; after which, an angel is said to have undertaken the care of the Baptist; but most probably this
office was performed by some attendant on St. Elizabeth. (Tirinus) ---The Baptist remained in the desert till he began his
public ministry, which by a law of the Jews could not be much before he had attained his 30th year. He is styled by antiquity
the first hermit. See St. Jerome in Vita Pauli.
 Ver. 1. Completæ sunt. peplerophoremenon. I know
the pretended differences betwixt plerophoreisthai, and plerousthai. But divers learned critics,
after St. Chrysostom take notice, that they are many times taken for the same. So 2 Timothy iv. 5. Ministerium tuum imple. plerophoreson,
toutesti, says St. Chrysostom, plerosou. log. th. p. 371. Ed. Savil. and on the 17th ver. of the
same chapter, ut per me impleretur, plerophorethe, toutesti, plerothe. (Ibid. p. 376.)
 Ver. 5. De vice Abia, ex ephemerias.
 Ver. 6. Sine querela, amemptoi, irreprehensibiles.
 Ver. 15. Siceram, sikera, from the Hebrew shecar,
or shacar, ebrius fuit.
 Ver. 28. Gratia plena. See Lucas Burgensis on this place.
 Ver. 34. Quia virum non cognosco. St. Augustine, quod profecto
non diceret, nisi Deo Virginem se ante vovisset. (De Virginitate, chap. iv, tom. 6, p. 343. Ed. Ben.)
 Ver. 41. Exultavit, eskirtese. Which signifies to
leap, or skip like lambs, &c.
 Ver. 47. Salutari meo, soteri mou, Salvatori meo.
 Ver. 48. Humilitatem, tapeinosin, not tapeinophrosunen.
By which latter word is signified the virtue of humility of mind and heart. But humilis, and humilitas, in Latin, even in
Cicero, is put to signify vilem et abjectam conditionem: and so also tapeinos, and tapeinosis
in Greek, as in the 70 [the Septuagint] 1 King i. 11. the Latin Vulgate for tapeinesin, has afflictionem
famulæ tuæ. And this is the sense in this and the 52d verse; as it is confirmed by the antithesis, or opposition, betwixt
those of a high, and of a low state or condition.
 Ver. 69. Cornu salutis, keras soterias. Abscissum
est cornu Moab. (Jeremias xlviii. 25.) Cornu David. (Psalm lxxiv. 5.) See also Psalm cxxxi. 17, &c.
 Ver. 73. Jusjurandum quod juravit, orkon on in
the accusative case, for kat orkon, secundum juramentum. Ibid. daturum se nobis, i.e. se effecturum, &c. tou
dounai emin, &c.
 Ver. 78. Oriens. e anatole. Vulgò ortus Solis.
See Mr. Legh Crit. Sacra on anatello, orior, germino, S. Hierom [St. Jerome] on Jeremias, chap. xxiii.
ver. 5. tom. 3, p. 634. suscitabo David germen justum, sive orientem justum. And on Zacharias vi. 12, p. 1737. Ecce vir, oriens
nomen ejus, where he expounds it by anatole, anaphue, and blastema.
Bible Text & Commentary:
The conception of John the Baptist, and of Christ: the visitation
and canticle of the blessed Virgin: the birth of the Baptist, and the canticle of Zachary.
1 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth, in order,
a narration of the things that have been accomplished among us:
2 According as they have delivered them unto us, who from the beginning
were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word;
3 It seemed good to me also, having diligently attained to all things from
the beginning, to write to thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,
4 That thou mayest know the truth of those words in which thou hast been
5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named
Zachary, *of the course of Abia; and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name Elizabeth.
6 And they were both just before God, walking in all the commandments and
justifications of the Lord without blame.
7 And they had no son, for that Elizabeth was barren, and they both were
well advanced in years.
8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priestly office before
God, in the order of his course,
9 According to the custom of the priestly office, it was his lot to offer
incense, going into the temple of the Lord;
10 *And all the multitude of the people were praying without, at the hour
11 And there appeared to him an Angel of the Lord, standing on the right
side of the alter of incense.
12 And Zachary seeing him, was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
13 But the Angel said to him: Fear not, Zachary, for thy prayer is heard:
and thy wife, Elizabeth, shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John;
14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice in his
15 For he shall be great before the Lord: and shall drink no wine, nor
strong drink, and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb:
16 And he shall convert many of the children of Israel to the Lord, their
17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias: *that he
may turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the incredulous to the wisdom of the just, to prepare for the Lord
a perfect people.
18 And Zachary said to the Angel: Whereby shall I know this? for I am an
old man, and my wife is advanced in years.
19 And the Angel answering, said to him: I am Gabriel, who stand before
God: and am sent to speak to thee, and to bring thee these good tidings.
20 And behold, thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be able to speak until
the day wherein these things shall come to pass: because thou hast not believed my words, which shall be fulfilled in their
21 And the people were waiting for Zachary: and they wondered that he staid
so long in the temple.
22 And when he came out he could not speak to them, and they understood
that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he made signs to them, and remained dumb.
23 And it came to pass, after the days of his office were accomplished,
that he departed to his own house.
24 And after those days his wife, Elizabeth, conceived, and hid herself
five months, saying:
25 Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he hath had regard
to take away my reproach among men.
26 And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city
of Galilee, called Nazareth,
27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of
David; and the name of the virgin was Mary.
28 And the Angel being come in, said to her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord
is with thee: Blessed art thou among women.
29 But she having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself
what manner of salutation this should be.
30 And the Angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace
31 *Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a Son,
and thou shalt call his name, Jesus.**
32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High, and
the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David, his father: *and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever,
33 And of his kingdom there shall be no end.
34 And Mary said to the Angel: How shall this be done, because I know not
35 And the Angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon
thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee, shall
be called the Son of God.
36 And behold thy cousin, Elizabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her
old age: and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren:
37 Because no word shall be impossible with God.
38 And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according
to thy word. And the Angel departed from her.
39 And Mary rising up in those days, went into the mountainous country
with haste, into a city of Juda:
40 And she entered into the house of Zachary, and saluted Elizabeth.
41 And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary,
the infant leaped in her womb: and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:
42 And she cried out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou among
women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to
44 For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
45 And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall
be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord.
46 And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord:
47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God, my Saviour.
48 Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid: for behold, from
henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
49 For he that is mighty hath done great things to me: and holy is his
50 And his mercy is from generation to generations, to them that fear him.
51 He hath shewed might *in his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the
conceit of their heart.
52 He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble.
53 *He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he hath sent
54 He hath received Israel, his servant, being mindful of his mercy.
55 As he spoke to our fathers, *to Abraham, and to his seed, for ever.
56 And Mary abode with her about three months: and she returned to her
57 Now Elizabeth's full time of being delivered was come, and she brought
forth a son.
58 And her neighbours and kinsfolks heard that the Lord had shewed his
great mercy towards her, and they congratulated with her.
59 And it came to pass that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the
child, and they called him by his father's name, Zachary.
60 And his mother answering, said: Not so, but he shall be called John.
61 And they said to her: There is none of thy kindred that is called by
62 And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called.
63 And demanding a tablet, he wrote, *saying: John is his name. And they
64 And immediately his mouth was opened, and his tongue loosed,
and he spoke, blessing God.
65 And fear came upon all their neighbours: and all these words were divulged
over all the mountainous country of Judea.
66 And all they that had heard them, laid them up in their heart, saying:
What a one, think ye, shall this child be? For the hand of the Lord was with him.
67 And Zachary, his father, was filled with the Holy Ghost: and he prophesied,
68 *Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, because he hath visited and wrought
the redemption of his people:
69 *And hath raised up a horn of salvation to us, in the house of David,
70 *As he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets, who are from the beginning:
71 Salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us:
72 To shew mercy to our fathers: and to remember his holy covenant.
73 *The oath which he swore to Abraham, our father, that he would grant
74 That being delivered from the hand of our enemies, we may serve him
75 In holiness and justice before him, all our days.
76 And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the most High: for thou
shalt go before the face of the Lord, to prepare his way.
77 *To give knowledge of salvation to his people, unto the remission of
78 Through the bowels of the mercy of our God: in which *the Orient, from
on high, hath visited us.
79 To enlighten them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death:
to direct our feet into the way of peace.
80 And the child grew up, and was strengthened in spirit: and was in the
deserts until the day of his manifestation to Israel.
5: 1 Paralipomenon xxiv. 10.
10: Exodus xxx. 7.; Leviticus xvi. 17.
17: Malachias iv. 6.; Matthew xi. 14.
31: Isaias vii. 14. --- ** Luke ii. 21.
32: Daniel vii. 14. and 27.; Micheas iv. 7.
51: Isaias li. 9.; Psalm lxxxviii. 14.
53: 1 Kings ii. 5.; Psalm xxxiii. 11.
55: Genesis xvii. 9. and xxii. 16.; Psalm cxxxi. 11.; Isaias xli. 8.
63: Luke i. 13.
68: Psalm lxxi. 18.
69: Psalm cxxxi. 17.
70: Jeremias xxiii. 6. and xxx. 10.
73: Genesis xxii. 16.; Jeremias xxxi. 33.; Hebrews vi. 13. and 17.
77: Malachias iv. 5.; Luke i. 17.
78: Zacharias iii. 8. and vi. 12.; Malachias iv. 2.