« PreviousContinue »
Luke iii. 1----14.
LUKE, the author of the history before us, and likewise of the book which is called the Acts of the Apostles, was a Jew by religious profession, the companion and fellow-labourer of Paul. He was well acquainted also with the other apostles, although not one of their number. Some of the things which are here related he might learn from them, particularly what took place in the early part of Christ's public ministry; the rest he might learn from his own observation, from attending Christ as one of his disciples. The authenticity of his history, however, does not depend upon our knowledge of this circumstance, but upon the assurance which we have, that it was received as authentic by persons of the age in which he lived, who knew his character and qualifications, or were well acquainted with the transactions of which he professes to give an account. Several other things are said of him, besides what I have just mentioned, but not with any degree of certainty. Thus he is supposed to be a physician, because Paul, in his epistle to the Colossians, iv. 14, speaks of Luke, the beloved physician; but he is not described under that character in any of the other epistles where he is mentioned, nor in the book of Acts. Vol. 2.]
It has also been supposed that he was one of the two disciples whom our Lord joined after his resurrection, while they were going to Emmaus, because Luke tells us that the name of one of them was Cleopas, but makes no mention of the name of the other, from motives of modesty, as it has been imagined, because it was himself. It has been said by some of the Fathers, that Luke was one of the seventy disciples whom Jesus sent out to preach; but this idea probably arose from Luke's being the only one of the evangelists who has mentioned this mission. Others have supposed that he was one of the teachers of the church at Antioch, because we find in their number a Lucius of Cyrene; a name which very much resembles that of Luke, having only something more of the Roman termination: Acts xiii. 1. But these two last suppositions do not very well agree with each other: for the seventy disciples whom Jesus sent out to preach, were inhabitants of Galilee, like the apostles; and it is not likely that Jesus would join to them a fo reigner of Cyrene in Africa. Having mentioned what we know of the historian, I now proceed to the history, beginning at that part of it which is universally acknowledged to be his.
Luke iii. 1----14.
1. Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judæa,
Luke, who was better acquainted with the forms of historical composition than the other evangelists, here fixes the period at which John the Baptist began to preach, by telling us in what year of the reign of the Emperor Tiberius it took place. The reason of referring this date to the Roman empire was, that the country of Judæa was under the dominion of the Romans.
Herod the Great had been put in possession of Judæa and the neighbouring regions which he governed, by the Romans. When he died he divided his territory by
will between his three sons, who were called Archelaus, Herod and Philip. These were confirmed in their separate jurisdictions by the same authority which had given him the whole. But Archelaus, having been guilty of great oppression in his administration, was deposed by the Romans, and the country which had been subject to him reduced to a Roman province, under the name of Judæa. The two other brothers continued to possess the territory which had been left them by their father, which the evangelist next proceeds to
And Herod being tetrarch of Galilee,
This is the prince whose name is for ever stigmatized with the crime of beheading John the Baptist. He is the person also to whom Jesus was sent by Pilate at his trial. The title of Tetrarch was originally given to one who presided over the fourth part of a kingdom; but it came afterward to signify, as it does here, one who presided over any part of a country.
And his brother Philip, tetrarch of Iturea and of the region of Trachonitis; two countries lying upon the opposite side of the sea of Galilee; and Lysanias, the tetrarch of Abilene.
This was a small province on the borders of Syria: it is mentioned here, because it was part of Palestine, or because many Jews resided there.
2. Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness.
It appears from the Old Testament that the law of Moses required that there should be one high priest, and no more; and that he should continue in office for life. But Luke says here that there were two high priests at this time. To account for this language, it has been
observed, that the high priest possessing the chief civil power under the Romans, it was usual for them to remove him, whenever he did not give satisfaction, and to put another, but of the same family, into his place. The person, however, who had been once high priest retained that title as long as he lived, although he had ceased to exercise any authority. This was the situation of Annas, or, as Josephus calls him, Ananus: for he had been put out of office eleven years before by Gratas the Roman governor, and his son-in-law Caiaphas raised into his place; but being still regarded by the people as high priest, notwithstanding this unjust removal, he retained the name. This interpretation is further confirmed by observing that Josephus uses the same language, speaking frequently of the high priests, as if there were two or more, when in reality thiere could be but one.
In saying that the word of God came unto John, the evangelist has adopted the language used by the writers of the Old Testament, when they mean to express that God sends a divine message to any one; for the usual form of speech upon these occasions is, that the word of the Lord came to such a person, He went into the wilderness, probably, to prepare himself for receiving a divine revelation.
3. And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
That is, he came to all the cities and towns in the neighbourhood of Jordan, such as Bethabara and Enon, insisting upon the necessity of the inhabitants repenting, in order to preserve themselves from those calamities which God was about to bring upon the nation for their sins, and to prepare for the kingdom of the Messiah, which he was sent to announce; and showing them the propriety of submitting to the ordinance of baptism, as an expression of that purity of heart and life which they now engaged to maintain.
The Jews baptized all proselytes to their religion from idolatry, as a symbolical expression of their being