Simeon addressed Mary (Lk 2:34-2:34)

“Then Simeon

Blessed them.

He said to Mary,

His mother,

‘This child

Is destined

For the falling

And rising

Of many

In Israel.

He will be a sign

That will be opposed.”

 

καὶ εὐλόγησεν αὐτοὺς Συμεὼν καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς Μαριὰμ τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ Ἰδοὺ οὗτος κεῖται εἰς πτῶσιν καὶ ἀνάστασιν πολλῶν ἐν τῷ Ἰσραὴλ καὶ εἰς σημεῖον ἀντιλεγόμενον

 

Luke said that this holy and devout Simeon turned to Mary and her family.  Simeon blessed them (καὶ εὐλόγησεν αὐτοὺς Συμεὼν), presumably Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.  Was this a priestly blessing?  There was no indication that Simeon was a priest, but only an old devout righteous man, but he could have been a old Levite priest also.  Then he said to Mary (καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς Μαριὰμ), the mother of Jesus (τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ) that this child would be destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel (Ἰδοὺ οὗτος κεῖται εἰς πτῶσιν καὶ ἀνάστασιν πολλῶν ἐν τῷ Ἰσραὴλ).  He would be a sign that would be a contraction, as some would oppose him (καὶ εἰς σημεῖον ἀντιλεγόμενον).  Everything would not be smooth sailing for her and this child.  However, this was not as bad as what Matthew, chapter 2:13-18, had Joseph suffer.  There the intention of King Herod was to destroy all the young children in Bethlehem that led him to flee into Egypt.  Luke had none of that here.  Instead, Joseph and Mary are law abiding Jewish parents active in the Jerusalem Temple, where a holy man came and told them how wonderful Jesus was.  There were no Magi here, just shepherds visiting the baby child.  King Herod was not even in the picture here in Luke.

Joseph goes to Bethlehem (Lk 2:4-2:4)

“Joseph also went

From the town

Of Nazareth,

In Galilee,

To Judea.

He went

To the city

Of David,

Called Bethlehem,

Because he was

Descended

From the house

And family

Of David.”

 

Ἀνέβη δὲ καὶ Ἰωσὴφ ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας ἐκ πόλεως Ναζαρὲθ εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν εἰς πόλιν Δαυεὶδ ἥτις καλεῖται Βηθλεέμ, διὰ τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν ἐξ οἴκου καὶ πατριᾶς Δαυείδ,

 

Luke clearly indicated why Joseph went (Ἀνέβη δὲ καὶ Ἰωσὴφ) from the town of Nazareth, in Galilee (ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας ἐκ πόλεως Ναζαρὲθ), to Judea (εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν).  He went to the city of David (εἰς πόλιν Δαυεὶδ), that is called Bethlehem (ἥτις καλεῖται Βηθλεέμ), because he was descended from the house (διὰ τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν ἐξ οἴκου) and family of David (καὶ πατριᾶς Δαυείδ).  Luke never mentioned King Herod like Matthew, chapter 2:1.  However, both Matthew and Luke agreed on the place of Bethlehem, in the territory of Judah, about 5-6 miles south of Jerusalem, with a current population of about 25,000 in present day Palestinian territory.  They also both agreed that Joseph was a descendant of King David, from Bethlehem.  Matthew had first mentioned Joseph in chapter 1:27 as the engaged partner of Mary.  The Messiah had been predicted to be from Bethlehem as in Micah, chapter 5:2.  Matthew, chapter 2:5-6, had the Jewish priests and scribes tell King Herod that the place for the birth of this new king had to be Bethlehem in Judea.  The prophet Micah, had written this ode about the small town of Bethlehem, where King David came from.  Obviously, this new ruler of Israel would be from this same place and be also part of the Davidic bloodline.  Matthew and Luke made the clear connection between David, Bethlehem, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.  However, Luke, unlike Matthew had very little information about Joseph.

Zechariah the priest (Lk 1:5-1:5)

“In the days

Of King Herod

Of Judea,

There was a priest

Named Zechariah.

He belonged to

The priestly order

Of Abijah.

His wife was

A descendant

Of Aaron.

Her name

Was Elizabeth.”

 

Ἐγένετο ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Ἡρῴδου βασιλέως τῆς Ἰουδαίας ἱερεύς τις ὀνόματι Ζαχαρίας ἐξ ἐφημερίας Ἀβιά, καὶ γυνὴ αὐτῷ ἐκ τῶν θυγατέρων Ἀαρών, καὶ τὸ ὄνομα αὐτῆς Ἐλεισάβετ.

 

The first person that Luke introduced was Zechariah.  None of the other gospel writers mentioned Zechariah.  However, Luke placed him within a historical context.  This all this took place during the reign of King Herod of Judea (Ἐγένετο ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Ἡρῴδου βασιλέως τῆς Ἰουδαίας).  Matthew, chapter 2:1-12, had mentioned King Herod and the intriguing story of the Magi.  King Herod the Great (74 BCE-1 CE) was the Roman client king of Judea.  In fact, the Roman Senate named him King of the Jews in 40 BCE.  He built many things during his reign, including expanding the Second Temple in Jerusalem.  At his death, his kingdom was divided among his children.  There was a prophet and book of Zechariah, chapter 1:1, who lived around 520 BCE.  However, this Zechariah here (τις ὀνόματι Ζαχαρίας) was a priest (ἱερεύς), probably in Jerusalem.  He belonged to the priestly division of Abijah (ἐξ ἐφημερίας Ἀβιά), which was the 8th of the 24 divisions of priests that served in the Temple as laid out in 1 Chronicles, chapter 24:7-19.  His wife was also a daughter or descendant of Aaron (καὶ γυνὴ αὐτῷ ἐκ τῶν θυγατέρων Ἀαρών), a Levite or part of the priestly class.  She was called Elizabeth (καὶ τὸ ὄνομα αὐτῆς Ἐλεισάβετ).  Thus, the action of his gospel begins with the unique story of the Jerusalem Temple priest Zachariah and his Levite wife Elizabeth.  Some biblical scholars think that this infancy story, like the infancy story of Matthew, chapter 1:18-2:23, are later additions.  They are here, so I will deal with it.

Herod feared John (Mk 6:20-6:20)

“Herod feared John.

He knew

That John

Was a righteous

And holy man.

He protected John.

When he heard him,

He was greatly perplexed.

Yet he liked

To listen

To him.”

 

ὁ γὰρ Ἡρῴδης ἐφοβεῖτο τὸν Ἰωάνην, εἰδὼς αὐτὸν ἄνδρα δίκαιον καὶ ἅγιον, καὶ συνετήρει αὐτόν, καὶ ἀκούσας αὐτοῦ πολλὰ ἠπόρει, καὶ ἡδέως αὐτοῦ ἤκουεν.

 

This mention of Herod being afraid of John the Baptist can be found in Matthew, chapter 14:5, and here.  In Matthew, Herod was afraid of the large crowds that regarded John as a prophet.  Here, however, King Herod is more seriously confused.  Mark said that Herod also feared John (ὁ γὰρ Ἡρῴδης ἐφοβεῖτο τὸν Ἰωάνην).  However, he was not afraid of the crowds, but because he knew that John was a righteous and holy man (εἰδὼς αὐτὸν ἄνδρα δίκαιον καὶ ἅγιον).  Herod was protecting or keeping John safe (καὶ συνετήρει αὐτόν).  When he heard John (καὶ ἀκούσας αὐτοῦ), he was greatly perplexed or in doubt (πολλὰ ἠπόρει).  Yet he liked to gladly listen to him (καὶ ἡδέως αὐτοῦ ἤκουεν).

Herodias wanted to kill John (Mk 6:19-6:19)

“Herodias

Had a grudge

Against John.

She wanted

To kill him.

But she could not.”

 

ἡ δὲ Ἡρῳδιὰς ἐνεῖχεν αὐτῷ καὶ ἤθελεν αὐτὸν ἀποκτεῖναι, καὶ οὐκ ἠδύνατο·

 

This is a unique verse of Mark, who said that Herodias had a grudge against John (ἡ δὲ Ἡρῳδιὰς ἐνεῖχεν αὐτῷ).  She wanted or wished to kill him (καὶ ἤθελεν αὐτὸν ἀποκτεῖναι), but she was not able to or could not kill him (καὶ οὐκ ἠδύνατο).  In other words, the wife of Herod was really angry at John the Baptist for what he had said about her and her marriage to King Herod.

The head of John the Baptist on a platter (Mt 14:9-14:11)

“King Herod was sorry.

Yet out of regard

For his oaths

And his guests,

He gave his command.

He sent his men.

He had John beheaded

In the prison.

His head

Was brought on a platter.

The dish was given

To the girl.

She then brought it

To her mother.”

 

καὶ λυπηθεὶς ὁ βασιλεὺς διὰ τοὺς ὅρκους καὶ τοὺς συνανακειμένους ἐκέλευσεν δοθῆναι,

καὶ πέμψας ἀπεκεφάλισεν Ἰωάνην ἐν τῇ φυλακῇ.

καὶ ἠνέχθη ἡ κεφαλὴ αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ πίνακι καὶ ἐδόθη τῷ κορασίῳ, καὶ ἤνεγκεν τῇ μητρὶ αὐτῆς.

 

This beheading of John the Baptist can be found in Mark, chapter 6:25-28, and here.  King Herod was pained and sorry (καὶ λυπηθεὶς ὁ βασιλεὺς) for what he had just promised, much like in the story of Esther, chapter 5:3, where the king was willing to give Esther anything she wanted.  Yet out of regard for his oaths (διὰ τοὺς ὅρκους) and his guests reclining at table with him (καὶ τοὺς συνανακειμένους ἐκέλευσεν δοθῆναι), Herod commanded his men to carry out this request (ἐκέλευσεν δοθῆναι).  He sent his men to behead John in the prison (καὶ πέμψας ἀπεκεφάλισεν Ἰωάνην ἐν τῇ φυλακῇ) at Machaerus, about 5 miles east of the Dead Sea.  It is not clear whether they waited around for the men to come back with the head of John, which was one way to make sure a person was dead.  Then his head was brought on a platter or dish to Herod (καὶ ἠνέχθη ἡ κεφαλὴ αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ πίνακι).  He then gave it to the girl Salome (καὶ ἐδόθη τῷ κορασίῳ), who then gave it to her mother (καὶ ἤνεγκεν τῇ μητρὶ αὐτῆς), Herodias.  This was her revenge against John the Baptist because he had criticized her marriage to Herod.  Off with his head!

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.