Sunday, Dec 11, 2005: “The Infancy Narratives: Session 3”

St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary
The Infancy Narratives
Discussion Led By Rev. Mike Kreutzer
Sunday, December 11, 2005


Luke 1


Introduction; “many” others have set down accounts

gospel of universal mission; geographical focus included in infancy narrative (Jerusalem of the 
Jews and Rome of the Gentiles; Temple scenes and specific mention of the emperors)

prominent role of women in the gospel and of Mary in the infancy narrative

narrative forms a transition from the OT to the NT: begins with Zechariah and Elizabeth, Simeon 
and Anna, representatives of OT piety; Canticle of Mary focuses on Israel as the “poor one of the Lord”; moves from these OT images to the beginning of the NT with John the Baptist and Jesus

parallels between infancy narrative and the opening parts of Acts; pouring out of the Spirit;

similarities between the canticles of Luke and the speeches of Acts; in Luke 2:11, angels proclaim Jesus as “Messiah” and “Lord,” which is what Peter calls him in Acts 2:36

seven scenes in the narrative:
1) Annunciation about John the Baptist
2) Annunciation about Jesus
3) Visitation
4) Birth / Circumcision / Naming of John the Baptist
5) Birth / Circumcision / Naming of Jesus
6) Presentation in the Temple
7) Finding in the Temple

1:1-4 introduction to the entire gospel

1:1-25 Annunciation about John the Baptist

5 “Zechariah”: name appears seven times in 1-2 Chronicles as a priestly or Levite name;
“priestly order”: 24 orders of priests, each of which served in the Temple one week every half-
year; “Elizabeth”: only one by that name in the OT was Elisheba, the wife of Aaron

7 “barren” and “getting on in years”: Abraham and Sarah, Elkanah and Hannah; continuation of biblical themes

9 “offer incense”: duties assigned by lot; offering the incense was a high honor; once a priest 
had provided that service, he was ineligible to do it again until every other priest in his order had done so

10 “time of the incense offering”: probably 3 p.m.; Daniel 9:21 gives this as the time of the second 
appearance of Gabriel; Acts 3:1 gives this as “the hour of prayer”

11 “there appeared”: same verb as used in Acts 2:3 for the appearance of tongues of fire

Biblical annunciations of birth take place in 5 steps (cf. Ishmael, Isaac, John, Jesus (Mt & Lk)):
1) The appearance of the Lord (or an angel of the Lord)
2) Fear of the one to whom the annunciation is made
3) The divine message:

a) The visionary is addressed by name
b) A qualifying phrase describing the visionary
c) The visionary is urged not to be afraid
d) A woman is with child or is about to be with child
e) She will give birth to the (male) child
f) The name by which the child is to be called
g) An etymology interpreting the name
h) The future accomplishments of the child

4) An objection by the visionary as to how this can be or a request for a sign
5) The giving of a sign to reassure the visionary

13 “John”: “Yohanan” = “Yahweh has given grace”

15 “filled with the Holy Spirit”: “filled with” occurs 22 times in Luke / Acts

17 “With the spirit and power of Elijah”: cf. Malachi 4:5-6, “Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents.”; great power and prophetic speech

19 “Gabriel”: “man of God”; in literature of this period, there were either four (Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Phanuel) who stood in the divine presence, or seven)

20 “mute”: apparently deaf also since people communicate with him by using signs
“day”: “kairos” a time of God’s action

21 “delay”: the Mishnah declares that a priest should not delay in the Temple sanctuary

24 “five months”: pregnancy was considered to last 10 lunar months; this is why Mary can be said to learn about Elizabeth’s pregnancy in her sixth month, stay with her for three months, and still have returned home before the baby is born

25 departure is the way that Luke ends a scene in the infancy narratives

1:26-38 Annunciation about Jesus

26 starts out in Nazareth, as contrasted with Matthew who begins in Bethlehem
“engaged”: although the situation is not described as it was in Matthew, it portrays the same situation: after the legal marriage, but before they lived together
“house of David”: same as in David, but not the same great emphasis; Mary’s lineage is not clear; some writers have claimed that she, too, was of the house of David, although this is not attested to anywhere else in the NT; Luke seems to portray her as of the house of Levi (like Zechariah)
same basic annunciation pattern as in the annunciation about John

31 “name him”: literally, “call his name’ (a Semitism); Mary names the child (unlike Mt’s version)

35 “a holy spirit” as in Mt

36 “relative Elizabeth”: Wycliffe interpreted this as “cousin”; no other NT references indicate any biological relationship between John and Jesus; in John, the Baptist does not even know Jesus (1:31)

1:39-56 Visitation

39 “hill country”: Luke has already hinted (1:23) that Zechariah did not live in Jerusalem; only about one-fifth of the priests did

44 “the child in my womb leaped for joy”: Luke in 1:15 had already said that the child would be filled with the Holy Spirit; this happens in 1:41, and the child recognizes Jesus in Mary’s womb

46-55 Magnificat: a Jewish-Christian composition reflecting on and celebrating God’s work in Mary; based on other Jewish hymns of praise, especially on the song of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:1- 10; probably a pre-Lukan or non-Lukan hymn incorporated by Luke into the narrative; there are similarities between the Lukan canticles and the speeches in Acts (REB: “they give voice to general sentiments that are appropriate for the dramatis personae in the setting in which they are placed. It is not a question of a purely fictional creation, for the dramatis personae are remembered or conceived of as representatives of a certain type of piety which the canticles vocalize.”

1:57-80 Birth / Circumcision / Naming of John the Baptist

59 Originally, circumcision was probably a rite a puberty, but the Law specified that it take place on the eighth day (cf. Isaac and Paul); witnesses would be present and a benediction would be said; in patriarchal times, naming took place at birth, although rabbinic tradition describes Moses as being named at the time of his circumcision

60 “John”: a name well-attested in priestly circles

63 “amazed”: Since Zechariah was apparently deaf as well as mute, they were amazed that he had heard the discussion and his wife’s assertion that the child should be named John.

65 “Fear” comes before a dramatic divine intervention, both for Zechariah (1:12) and Mary (1:30)

66-67 “All” wondered who this child would be; Zechariah knew

68-79 The Benedictus: possibly a pre-Lukan, Jewish-Christian hymn incorporated by Lk into his narrative

80 departure to end the scene; John the Baptist’s birth story is complete; from a dramatic perspective, he is off the stage, and out of the scene, so that the author can put the spotlight on Jesus