chapter 3 ->
|Book||Gospel of Luke|
|Christian Bible part||New Testament|
|Order in the Christian part||3|
Luke 2 is the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament. It contains an account of Jesus's birth and an incident from his childhood. Verses 1-19 are commonly read during Nativity plays as part of celebrating Christmas.
Some early manuscripts containing the text of this chapter are:
According to the Gospel of Luke, Caesar Augustus ordered a census be conducted of the ".. entire Roman World", during (or possibly before) Quirinius's governorship of Syria, and this is the reason that Joseph and Mary, who lived in Nazareth, were in Bethlehem, King David's place of birth, when Jesus was born. Many English translations suggest that the purpose of the census was for everyone to be registered, but the King James Version and others state that everyone was to be taxed. The Expanded Bible suggests that the register was compiled for taxation. The accuracy of this account of the timing of the birth of Jesus has been disputed by many modern scholars. Quirinius was not governor of Syria until 6-7 CE. The suggestion that the census therefore took place before Quirinius's governorship is made by biblical scholar John Nolland as a way of resolving a historical difficulty about the timing of Jesus's birth in relation to this census. Jesuit theologian Joseph Fitzmyer, however, argues that this is not a natural reading of the Greek and "has about it something of the air of desperation".
According to the narrative in chapter 1, Mary had travelled from Nazareth to a city in the hill country of Judah to visit her cousin Elizabeth, and then returned to Nazareth, then travelled again with Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
"A multitude of the heavenly host" appear, praising God and saying "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace..." There is some discussion over the later part of the sentence the most usual modern interpretations being "... and goodwill to men", "... towards men of goodwill" or ".. to those he favours". The American Standard Version, for example, has "...among men in whom he is well pleased", which corresponds to the third reading. The line is the opening part of the Greater Doxology, and as such important in the main rites of the Christian church.
The angels then return to heaven and the shepherds go into Bethlehem to see for themselves and find Joseph and Mary and the infant Jesus. They then "...spread the word..." about the angels and Jesus, then return to their flocks. It is generally considered significant that this message was given to shepherds, who were located on the lower rungs of the social ladder in first-century Palestine. Contrasting with the more powerful characters mentioned in the Nativity, such as the Emperor Augustus, they seem to reflect Mary's words in the Magnificat: "He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble." The phrase "peace to men on whom his favor rests" has been interpreted both as expressing a restriction to a particular group of people that God has chosen, and inclusively, as God displaying favor to the world.
Luke 2:21 tells how Joseph and Mary have their baby circumcised on the eighth day after birth, and name him Jesus, as Gabriel had told Mary to do in Luke 1:31. Protestant theologian Jeremy Taylor argues that Jesus's circumcision proved his human nature while fulfilling the law of Moses and had Jesus been uncircumcised, it would have made Jews substantially less receptive to his Evangelism.
The law in Leviticus 12:1-8 requires that after giving birth of a male child, a mother is regarded as 'unclean' for seven days and to stay home for a further 33 days, after which, on the 40th day, a sacrifice is to be offered for her purification and can only be done in Jerusalem. It is Mary, not her child, who needed to be purified, and even though Mary was not polluted by the conception, bearing, and giving birth of Jesus, who had no impurity in his nature (although he was made sin for his people), she still came under this law of purification, so that all possible requirements of the law were fulfilled (cf. Galatians 4:4).
"The days of her purification" or "her purifying" (Hebrew: ?, , in Leviticus 12:4 and 12:6) are to be fulfilled or accomplished following the ordination similar to the one stated by Maimonides:
This was the time when they, Joseph and Mary, brought the child Jesus, to the Temple in Jerusalem to complete Mary's ritual purification and to provide the sacrifice specified in the Law of Moses, in which she took the option provided for poor people (those who could not afford a lamb) in Leviticus 12:8, sacrificing "a pair of doves or two young pigeons." This was done in the eastern gate, called the gate of Nicanor, specially for:
Then, they presented Jesus to God through the priest, his representative. Here Mary appeared with her firstborn son, the true Messiah, marking the first time of Jesus' coming into his temple, as was foretold (Malachi 3:1).
The presentation of Jesus in the Temple officially inducts him into Judaism and concludes the birth narrative in the Gospel of Luke. Within the account, "Luke's narration of the Presentation in the Temple combines the purification rite with the Jewish ceremony of the redemption of the firstborn (Luke 2:23-24)."
In the Temple, they meet Simeon and Anna. Simeon had been waiting for the Christ, and believes Jesus is him. Simeon prays the Nunc Dimittis (Canticle of Simeon) and tells Mary "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." Anna, an old widowed woman who spent all her time in the temple praying, comes and praises Jesus as well.
In verses 39-40, the family returns to Nazareth in Galilee, where Jesus grows and becomes strong and wise. He receives God's favour or grace. Unlike the apocryphal gospels, no preternatural stories of Jesus' childhood are found in Luke, or indeed any of the four canonical gospels. Verse 40 is echoed in verse 52: Lutheran pietist Johann Bengel suggests that verse 40 refers to the period from his first to his twelfth year, when Jesus grew in body, whereas verse 52 covers the period from his twelfth to his thirtieth year, when his progress is a spiritual increase towards "full perfection".
The Gospel then provides the only story of Jesus's childhood in the Canonical Gospels. When Jesus is twelve his family travels to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. Then they leave with a large group of their relatives and friends and after a day they realize Jesus is not with them. They go back to Jerusalem and after three days of looking find him in the temple talking with the temple teachers. His parents scold him for running off, but Jesus replies that they should have known where he was. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" His family fails to understand what he is talking about. They all then go to Nazareth.
Jesus continues to grow and flourish both in wisdom and stature, and in the favour of God and man. This mirrors verse 40, and completes Jesus' early years. The next we see of him is in Chapter 3, verse 21, when he is baptised by John the Baptist.
The story of the Presentation of Jesus to God in the Temple concludes Luke's birth narrative (Luke 2.22-39).