The twelve-year old (Lk 2:42-2:42

“When Jesus was

Twelve years old,

They went up

As usual

For the festival.”

 

Καὶ ὅτε ἐγένετο ἐτῶν δώδεκα, ἀναβαινόντων αὐτῶν κατὰ τὸ ἔθος τῆς ἑορτῆς,

 

Now we have another unique saying of Luke about the age of Jesus.  When Jesus was 12 years old (Καὶ ὅτε ἐγένετο ἐτῶν δώδεκα), the whole family went up to Jerusalem (ἀναβαινόντων αὐτῶν) as usual for the festival of Passover (κατὰ τὸ ἔθος τῆς ἑορτῆς).  This was not a bar mitzvah or confirmation, since this Jewish practice came later.  However, Jesus would have been on the verge of puberty.  The number 12 would play a major role in the life of Jesus, since he had 12 apostles, who were called the Twelve.  This episode is the only insight into the life of Jesus between his birth and the baptism by John, that can be found in any of the canonical biblical gospel narratives.  There are many stories about the boyhood of Jesus in some apocryphal gospels.  Thus, this story takes on a special canonical importance.

The purification (Lk 2:22-2:22)

“When the time came

For their purification,

According to the law

Of Moses,

They brought him up

To Jerusalem

To present him

To the Lord.”

 

Καὶ ὅτε ἐπλήσθησαν αἱ ἡμέραι τοῦ καθαρισμοῦ αὐτῶν κατὰ τὸν νόμον Μωϋσέως, ἀνήγαγον αὐτὸν εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα παραστῆσαι τῷ Κυρίῳ,

 

Luke said that when the time or the days were completed (Καὶ ὅτε ἐπλήσθησαν αἱ ἡμέραι) for their purification (τοῦ καθαρισμοῦ αὐτῶν), according to the law of Moses (κατὰ τὸν νόμον Μωϋσέως, Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to Jerusalem (ἀνήγαγον αὐτὸν εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα) to present him to the Lord (παραστῆσαι τῷ Κυρίῳ).  What is this purification and is it different than circumcision.  The story of John did not have this purification ritual.  Strictly speaking, this was a purification of the mother to take place 40 days after the birth of a child that had made her unclean as described in Leviticus, chapter 12:1-8.  The presentation of the child and the father were not part of this purification ritual.  There was no law or custom about the presentation of a child, other than the presentation of the first born as in Exodus, chapter 13:2 and 13:16.  Women were considered unclean after childbirth because of the blood discharge that took place with birthing.  If a male was born, the woman was unclean for 7 days, like menstruation, so that on the 8th day the male child could be circumcised.  There were 33 more days of blood purification for the male child.  During her unclean period, this new mother could not touch any holy thing, or go into the sanctuary.  Thus, the purification ritual took place on the 40th day, a symbolic number based on the 40 years of the Israelites in the desert wilderness.

The Christmas scene birth of Jesus (Lk 2:7-2:7)

“Mary gave birth

To her first-born son.

She wrapped him

In bands

Of swaddling cloths.

She laid him

In a manger,

Because there was

No place

For them

In the inn.”

 

καὶ ἔτεκεν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς τὸν πρωτότοκον, καὶ ἐσπαργάνωσεν αὐτὸν καὶ ἀνέκλινεν αὐτὸν ἐν φάτνῃ, διότι οὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τόπος ἐν τῷ καταλύματι.

 

Luke explained in great detail about the birth of Jesus, his clothing, and the manger, that has become the famous Christmas scene that most have come to know and love.  Matthew, chapter 2:1, had no details like this in his story about the birth of Jesus, while Mark and John had no infancy narratives at all.  In fact, Matthew said that the Magi visited Mary and the child in a house in chapter 2:11, not a manger.  Luke reported that Mary gave birth to her first-born son (καὶ ἔτεκεν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς τὸν πρωτότοκον).  Did that imply that there were other children?  Within the Jewish tradition, the first-born male child would be dedicated to God with special legal and family rights, as indicated in Exodus, chapter 13:2, where Yahweh got the first-born of everything, as a consecration to God.  In Numbers, chapter 3:12, the Levites take the place of the first born as a dedication to God.  In Deuteronomy, chapter 21:17, the first born had all the rights versus the other children.  Mary wrapped the baby Jesus with bands of cloth or swaddling clothes (καὶ ἐσπαργάνωσεν αὐτὸν), as it is often called.  These tight bands of cloth kept the arms and legs of the newborn from wailing away, while also keeping the child warm.  Then Mary laid him in a manger (καὶ ἀνέκλινεν αὐτὸν ἐν φάτνῃ), because there was no place for them in the lodging inn (διότι οὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τόπος ἐν τῷ καταλύματι).  This manger (ἐν φάτνῃ) was a feeding trough for horses and cattle.  Thus, Jesus was born in a place where animals would feed.  He then would offer himself as the bread of life.  Apparently, they were in a barn because there were no appropriate lodging places for a pregnant expecting woman.  There was no indication that Joseph had other relatives in Bethlehem where they might stay.  Just by coincidence, I am posting this blog on December 24, 2018, Christmas Eve.

The circumcision (Lk 1:59-1: 59)

“On the eighth day,

They came

To circumcise

The child.

 

Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ ὀγδόῃ ἦλθον περιτεμεῖν τὸ παιδίον,

 

Luke explained what happened on the eighth day (Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ ὀγδόῃ) after the birth of the child.  They came to circumcise this child (ἦλθον περιτεμεῖν τὸ παιδίον).  This circumcision, brit milah, or bris was a sign of the covenant with God that goes back to Abraham in Genesis, chapter 17:11-12.  This sacerdotal covenant alliance story emphasized male circumcision as the main part of the Yahweh covenant.  Thus. circumcision became a big deal.  Every male was to be circumcised by removing the flesh of the foreskin of his penis, when he was eight days old.  This also included male slaves born or brought into the house.  An uncircumcised Jewish male would be cut off from his people, because he had broken the covenant with God.  Circumcision has been practiced among many ancient and contemporary groups for either religious or hygienic reasons.  In fact, despite their differences, Islamic males practice circumcision also.  In the USA, most boys born in a hospital are circumcised for hygienic or health purposes.

The child of Elizabeth is born (Lk 1:57-1:57)

“Now the time came

For Elizabeth

To give birth.

She bore a son.”

 

Τῇ δὲ Ἐλεισάβετ ἐπλήσθη ὁ χρόνος τοῦ τεκεῖν αὐτήν, καὶ ἐγέννησεν υἱόν.

 

Luke said that the time had been completed for Elizabeth (Τῇ δὲ Ἐλεισάβετ ἐπλήσθη ὁ χρόνος) to give birth (τοῦ τεκεῖν αὐτήν).  Elizabeth had gone through her 9 months of pregnancy.  Thus, with a normal birth, she bore a son (καὶ ἐγέννησεν υἱόν).  There was nothing spectacular here.

The name of God is holy (Lk 1:49-1:49)

“The Mighty One

Has done great things

For me.

Holy

Is his name.”

 

ὅτι ἐποίησέν μοι μεγάλα ὁ δυνατός. καὶ ἅγιον τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ,

 

This canticle of Mary was modeled on that of Hannah in 1 Samuel, chapter 2:2-6, that praised Yahweh for the birth of her son, the prophet Samuel.  Yahweh was the rock of Hannah’s knowledge.  Luke indicated that Mary said that the Mighty One (ὁ δυνατός) had done great things for Mary (ὅτι ἐποίησέν μοι μεγάλα).  Thus, Holy is his name (καὶ ἅγιον τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ).  Mary appreciated that the powerful holy God had gone great things for her.

The slave of the Lord (Lk 1:38-1:38)

“Then Mary said.

‘Here am I!

The slave

Of the Lord!

Let it be

With me

According to your word!’

Then the angel

Departed from her.”

 

εἶπεν δὲ Μαριάμ Ἰδοὺ ἡ δούλη Κυρίου· γένοιτό μοι κατὰ τὸ ῥῆμά σου. καὶ ἀπῆλθεν ἀπ’ αὐτῆς ὁ ἄγγελος.

 

Luke brought this conversation between the Angel Gabriel and Mary to a close.  She fully agreed with the plan, so the angel left.  Luke indicated that Mary said (εἶπεν δὲ Μαριάμ) that she was a slave of the Lord (Ἰδοὺ ἡ δούλη Κυρίου).  Most translations prefer the softer “servant” or “handmaid” rather than “slave,” but the Greek word “ἡ δούλη” indicates a female slave.  Mary wanted everything to be done to her just as the angel of God had said (γένοιτό μοι κατὰ τὸ ῥῆμά σου).  With that, the Angel Gabriel flew off or left her (καὶ ἀπῆλθεν ἀπ’ αὐτῆς ὁ ἄγγελος), because he had accomplished his mission.  The stage was set for the birth of John and Jesus.