The time of birth arrived (Lk 2:6-2:6)

“While they were there,

The time came

For her

To deliver

Her child.”

 

Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτοὺς ἐκεῖ ἐπλήσθησαν αἱ ἡμέραι τοῦ τεκεῖν αὐτήν,

 

Luke had a very simple statement, just like Matthew, chapter 2:1, about the birth of Jesus.  While they were there (Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτοὺς ἐκεῖ) in Bethlehem, the time came for her to deliver her child (ἐπλήσθησαν αἱ ἡμέραι τοῦ τεκεῖν αὐτήν).  Her pregnancy had reached its end.  After all that had preceded, the main event had arrived.  As any mother, Mary was excited about the birth of her child.  Joseph might also have been concerned.

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Quirinius of Syria (Lk 2:2-2:2)

“This was the first registration.

It was taken

When Quirinius was

Governor of Syria.”

 

αὕτη ἀπογραφὴ πρώτη ἐγένετο ἡγεμονεύοντος τῆς Συρίας Κυρηνίου.

 

Luke noted that this first registration was taken (αὕτη ἀπογραφὴ πρώτη ἐγένετο) when Quirinius was governing Syria (ἡγεμονεύοντος τῆς Συρίας Κυρηνίου).  Quirinius was the legate of Syria from 6 CE-12 CE.  He was born 51 BCE and died at the age of 72 in 21 CE.  He did take a census or registration for tax purposes in 6 CE when he took over.  This led to the revolt of Judas the Galilean and the formation of the Jewish Zealots, who opposed Roman rule.  They opposed this census for the purposes of taxation by Quirinius, the Governor of Syria.  The one problem is that this census took place 10 years after Herod had died.  However, the birth of Jesus and John was placed during the reign of Herod.  Thus, there is a problem with this dating by Luke, who may have been confused about these historical details.

 

An angel appeared (Lk 1:11-1:11)

“Then there appeared

To Zechariah

An angel of the Lord.

He was standing

On the right side

Of the altar

Of incense.”

 

ὤφθη δὲ αὐτῷ ἄγγελος Κυρίου ἑστὼς ἐκ δεξιῶν τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου τοῦ θυμιάματος.

 

Next, Luke introduced an angel, just as in Matthew, chapter 1:20, when an angel appeared to Joseph to tell him about the birth of Jesus.  Angels played a special role in Jewish society as messengers of the Lord.  These angels were spiritual beings who worshipped God in heaven.  Thus, the Temple had many engravings with angels on them, especially cherubim angels.  Luke said that an angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah (ὤφθη δὲ αὐτῷ ἄγγελος Κυρίου).  This angel stood at the right side of the altar of incense (ἑστὼς ἐκ δεξιῶν τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου τοῦ θυμιάματος) in the sanctuary.  Those outside praying knew nothing about this appearance of an angel inside the sanctuary.

The unique perspective of Joseph

The Gospel of Matthew presented the infancy story of Jesus from the perspective of Joseph, unlike the Gospel of Luke that presented the same story from the perspective of Mary. What do they have in common and what is unique. Mary and the child Jesus play a secondary role in this narration, since it was all about Joseph, the son of Jacob, the father of the child. There were certain things in common with the Luke story. Both Joseph and Mary were troubled by this pregnancy. Both had an angel come and explain that the child was from the Holy Spirit. Both were told that the name of the child would be Jesus. In both stories, the child is born in Bethlehem. Beyond that, there were some unique things to the story of Joseph in Matthew. He almost divorced Mary. He had a number of angelic dreams. He was told to go to Egypt, which he did. He then returned to Israel and settled in Nazareth in Galilee. In between, there was the strange story of King Herod and the magi. Matthew used 5 different Old Testament Hebrew prophecies to show that Jesus was truly within the Jewish prophetic tradition. Clearly, in these two opening chapters, Matthew was a Jewish scripture scholar with his use of 1 Chronicles in the genealogy and the various prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Micah, and Judges. Whatever sources he used for this unique perspective on the birth of Jesus, they were clearly Jewish based. Joseph was a righteous Jewish man. After this presentation, Joseph seemed to drift off the center stage in the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth.

Different Gospel Beginnings

Do you know how many of the gospels contain the Christmas story?  The answer is that only two, since only Matthew and Luke relate the birth of Jesus.  The other two gospels, Mark, the earliest, and John, the latest, start with the Baptism of Jesus.  The Gospel of Mark is the shortest and the most direct gospel story, as it starts with the public life of Jesus.  The Gospel of John is more spiritual and opens with the beautiful theological prologue about the “Word” (Λόγος) with echoes of the Genesis story of creation.