Section Title












A Short History of Israel and how their religious philosophy developed






Characteristics of the Gospel Accounts






Jewish feasts, their calendar and dating system






One View of how we got the Gospels





Part I

Events from Before Jesus’ Birth to the Sermon on the Mount:  Luke’s Introduction






John Pictures Jesus as the Word






The Annunciation of John the Baptist






The Annunciation To the Virgin Mary






The Song of Elizabeth to Mary






The Magnificat of Mary to the birth of John






The Annunciation to Joseph of the Birth of Jesus






The Birth of Jesus






The Praise of the Angels and the Homage of the Shepherds






The Circumcision of Jesus






The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple






The Maji’s Visit






The Child Carried Into Egypt and the Death of the Innocents






Jesus Brought From Egypt






The Childhood of Jesus at Nazareth






Jesus: the Boy at the Temple






The Probable Time of the Savior’s Birth






The Beginning of John’s Ministry






Section Title






The Message and the Messenger






A Specimen of John’s Preaching






John’s Picture Of The Messiah Before Actually seeing Him






The Beginning of Jesus’ Public Ministry






The Three Temptations of Jesus






The Testimony of John To The Committee From the Sanhedrin






Jesus Chooses His First Disciples






Jesus Work His First Public Miracle






Jesus Makes His First Sojourn At Capernaum






The First Cleansing of the Temple at the Passover






An Interview With Nicodemus




2:23 – 3:21


The Parallel Ministry of Jesus and John and John’s Loyalty To Jesus






Events Around Jesus’ Leaving Judea






The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry






Jesus In Samaria: the woman at the well






The Arrival Of Jesus In Galilee






The Great Galilean Ministry






The Healing at Cana of the Courtier’s Son






The First Rejection At Nazareth






The New Home In Capernaum






Jesus Find Four Fishers of Men In Four Fishermen






Excitement In The Synagogue Because of Jesus’ Teaching; Healing Of A Demonic On Sabbath






Jesus Heals Peter’s Mother-In-Law; Many Others






The First Tour With The Four Fishermen






Section Title






A Leper Healed






Healing Of Paralytic Lowered Through Roof






The Call Of Matthew






Jesus In Three Parables Defends His Disciples For Feasting - Not Fasting






Healing A Lame Man On The Sabbath






Sabbath Controversy: Disciples Pluck Grain






A Third Sabbath Controversy Over Healing A Man With A Withered Hand






Jesus Teaches And Heals Many By the Sea Of Galilee






Jesus Selects Twelve Apostles





Part II

The Sermon on the Mount - Introduction







The Sermon on the Mount






The Introduction: The Beatitudes and the Woes






I. Commitment






II. Obedience






III. Humility






IV. Integrity






V. Love






VI. Selflessness






VII. Peacefulness






VIII. Faithfulness






IX. Holiness






A Summary of the Disciple’s Traits





Part III

From the Sermon on the Mount to the Cross

Jesus heals a Centurion’s Servant at Capernaum






Jesus raises a widow’s son at Nain






Section Title






The Message from John the Baptist






Woes upon the cities of opportunity






The anointing of Jesus’ feet by the sinful woman






Mary Magdalene






Blasphemous Accusation of Being in League With Satan






Scribes And Pharisees Demand a Sign






Jesus’ Mother and Brothers Attempt To Take Him Home






Introduction to the first set of parables






The First Group of Parables






Parable of the sower






Parable of the Tares


13:24-30; 36-43




Parable of the Mustard Seed






Parable of the Leaven and many such Parables






Parable of the Lamp






Parable of the Gradually Growing Seed






Parable of the Hidden Treasure






Parable of the Pearl of Great Price






Parable of the Net






Parable of the Householder






Jesus Stills the Tempest Crossing the Lake


8:18, 23-27




Beyond the Lake Jesus Heals the Gergesenes Demoniac






The Return; the Healing of Jairus’ Daughter and the Woman Who Touched Jesus’ Garment






Two Blind Men Healed; A Dumb Demoniac and a Blasphemous Accusation






Section Title






The Last Visit to Nazareth






The Third Tour of Galilee After Instructing and Sending Forth the Twelve






The Guilty Fears of Herod Antipas in Tiberas about Jesus because he beheaded John






The Twelve Return






The Feeding of the 5000






The Jews Attempt to make Jesus King






Jesus Comes to the Twelve During a Storm at Sea






The Reception at Gennesaret






The Collapse of the Galilean Campaign Because Jesus will not Conform to Popular Messianic Expectations






Confrontation with Pharisees over washing of the hands






Withdrawal to Tyre and Healing of Syro-Phoenician Woman; end of first year of ministry






Keeping Away From Herod Antipas, Healing of Deaf Mute






Feeding the 4000






Attack by Pharisees and Sadducees






The Fourth Retirement to Bethsaida Julias; Healing of a Blind Man






The Coming of the Son of Man in that Generation






The Transfiguration






The Puzzle of the Three Apostles on the Way Down the Mountain






The Demoniac the Disciples Could Not Heal







Section Title






Returning Privately Through Galilee, Jesus Again Foretells His Death (#4)






Jesus Pays the Half Shekel for the Temple






The Twelve Contend For Who Will be the Greatest in Heaven






John Rebuked by Jesus






Parable of the Unmerciful Servant






A Disciple Must Give Up Everything to Follow Jesus






Jesus Goes Privately Through Samaria to Jerusalem






At The Feast of Tabernacles






An Adulteress Brought For Judgment






Jesus Claims to be the Light of the World






The First Pharisee Attempt on Jesus’ Life






Jesus Heals A Man Born Blind






Parable of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection Again (#3)






Sending of the Seventy






Jesus Replies to a Lawyer; Parable of the Good Samaritan






Jesus Visits Mary and Martha






The Disciples Prayer; Parable of the Importunate Friend






Jesus Accused of Being a Servant of Satan






While Breakfasting With a Pharisee, Jesus Denounces the Lawyers and the Pharisees






Jesus Speaks to a Large Crowd on Hypocrisy, Covetousness (Parable of Rich Fool) and other Parables







Section Title






All Must Repent or Perish; Parable of the Barren Fig Tree







Crippled Woman Healed; Defense Against Leaders of the Synagogue; Repeat of Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Leaven






At Feast of Dedication: Jews Try to Stone Jesus






The Later Perean Ministry - The Withdrawal From Jerusalem to Bethany and Beyond






Teaching in Perea; Warned About Herod Antipas






Breakfasting With a Pharisee; Heals on the Sabbath; Three Parables






Great Crowds Follow Jesus; He Warns Them to Count Cost of Discipleship to Him






Pharisees Murmur Against Jesus; Parables of Lost Sheep, Lost Coin, and the Lost Son






Parables On Stewardship: (To the Disciples: Parable of the Unjust Steward, Parable of the Unprofitable Servant; To the Pharisees: Parable of Rich Man and Lazarus)






The Raising of Lazarus






The Effects of Raising Lazarus






Jesus Starts on His Last Journey to Jerusalem By Way of Samaria and Galilee






Parables on Prayer: The Importunate Widow and the Pharisee and the Publican






Going From Galilee through Perea Jesus Teaches on Divorce







Section Title






Christ and the Children, the Disciples Failure to Understand Jesus’ Attitude






The Rich Ruler; Parable of Laborers in Vineyard







Jesus Foretells His Death Again (#3); Rebukes James and John






Blind Bartaemus and His Companions Healed






Jesus Visits Zacchaeus; Parable of the Pounds






The Last Public Ministry in Jerusalem; Jesus arrives at Bethany




11:55-12:1, 9-11


Jesus’ Triumphal Entry Into Jerusalem As the Messiah


21:1-11, 14-17




Barren Fig Tree Cursed; Second Cleansing of the Temple


21:12-13, 18-19




Greeks Seek Jesus; By being Lifted Up He Will Draw All Men to Himself






The Barren Fig Tree Found Withered






Sanhedrin Rulers Formally Challenge Jesus






Paying Tribute to Caesar






Sadducees Question About Resurrection






Pharisees Rejoice Over Rout of Sadducees; Pharisaic Lawyer Asks a Legal Question






Descent From David and Lordship Over David






Jesus’ Last Public Discourse; Denounces Scribes and Pharisees






The Contributions in the temple, and the contribution of a poor widow






Olivet Discourse; Jesus’ Second Coming






Jesus Predicts His Crucifixion For the 5th Time






Section Title






At the Feast at the house of Simon the Leper; Mary of Bethany Anoints Jesus






Judas, Stung By Jesus’ Rebuke, Bargains With Rulers






Paschal Meal Preparation






The Paschal Meal



22:14-16, 24-30



Jesus Washes the Apostles Feet






Jesus Points Out Judas as the Betrayer






After Judas’ Departure, Jesus Warns the Disciples






Jesus Institutes the Bread and the Wine






Jesus’ Farewell Discourse to His Disciples






The Discourse on the Way to Gethsemane






Jesus’ Intercessory Prayer






Going From Gethsemane, Jesus Suffers in Agony

14:26, 32-42

26:30, 36-46




Jesus Betrayed, Arrested and Forsaken






Jesus First Examined by Annas, the High Priest




18:13-14, 19-23


Jesus Hurriedly Tried and Condemned by Caiphas and the Sanhedrin

14:53, 55-56

26:57, 59-68

22:54, 63-65



Peter Denies Jesus Three Times

14:54, 66-67

26:58, 69-72


18:15-13, 25-27


After Dawn, Jesus formally Condemned by the Sanhedrin






Remorseful, Judas Commits Suicide






Jesus Before Pilate the First Time


27:2, 11-14




Jesus Before Herod Antipas the Tetrarch






Jesus Before Pilate the Second Time






Section Title






Jesus on the Way to Golgotha






The First Three Hours On the Cross






Three Hours of Darkness







Phenomena Accompanying the Death of Christ



23:45, 47-49



After Proof of Death, the Burial of Jesus





Part IV

Resurrection: Review of Parts I-III






Summary: The First Division: From Jesus’ birth to the Sermon on the Mount






Summary: The Second Division: The Sermon on the Mount






Summary: The Third Division: From the Sermon to the Cross






Summary: A Distillation of Jesus’ sayings:






The Watch at the Tomb by the Women






The Visit by the Women to the Tomb






The Earthquake, Rolling Away of the Stone, and Fright of the Roman Guards






Visit to the Tomb by the Women






Mary Magdalene and the Other Women Report the Empty Tomb






Appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene






Appearance of Jesus to the Other Women






Guards Report to the Jewish Rulers






Report of the Two Disciples and Then to Peter






First Appearance to Disciples (Thomas Absent)






Second Appearance to Disciples – Thomas Present

(1 Cor. 15:3-5)






Appearance to Seven Disciples Beside Sea of Galilee






Section Title






Appearance to Over 500 In Galilee; Great Commission Given (1 Cor. 15:6)






Appearance to the Disciples With Another Commission (Acts 1:3-8)






Jesus’ Last Appearance and Ascension (Acts 1:9-12)






Pentecost: Peter’s Sermon (Acts 2:1-47)












How are the principles of the Sermon on the Mount to be applied in my life? Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians






Application of the Sermon on the Mount: Colossians






Application of the Sermon on the Mount: James, 1 Tim., Titus, 2 Peter; The responsibilities of a believer; spiritual gifts

























I had studied the Gospels for about 15 years before I taught this course and I honestly thought I could not be shown anything new about the Gospels that would be considered of major importance. Of course, we all learn isolated interesting facts that add color to a subject as we grow in our knowledge of the Bible so that is not what I mean. I am referring to something that radically changes our view about a particular subject. I was truly shaken by what I was shown in this study and even more frightened when I considered I had to present it to a class containing some saints that knew a lot more about the Bible than I do. I was more than certain I would find a lot of skepticism to overcome and I was not disappointed.

As I dug into this study I was convicted that a chronological synthesis of the Gospels could be broken down into four major divisions. This view came as I suddenly realized a disproportionate importance should be placed on the Sermon on the Mount. I say this in spite of the fact Mark and John do not even mention the Sermon. However, when the four accounts are put in chronological order an importance of the Sermon became evident that I had never seen before. Of course this same emphasis on the Sermon is found if Matthew’s gospel is singled out for study because the Sermon composes about 10.4% of the verses in Matthew. The Sermon composes only 3.7% of the verses in the chronologically ordered Gospels.

            The purpose of the first division, all that preceded the Sermon, was to show Jesus had the authority necessary to present the Sermon. The Sermon itself was a strong teaching on the attributes of a disciple of Jesus. The third division, the rest of the Gospel accounts between the Sermon and the resurrection, for the greater part explained further what had been taught in the Sermon through practical examples. The last major division, the resurrection, provided the vindication of all Jesus claimed prior to His crucifixion.

 I can refer to no authority anywhere in history that has presented the ministry of Jesus in this manner and that bothers me greatly, as it well should. However, it may well be that someone with far greater learning than I possess has seen this breakdown in some early writing. But I do not have personal knowledge of their studies.

Throughout this course I tried to take the reader back in time in a way that he becomes a part of the culture of that day. After all, the Gospels writers did not write their books in Kansas in 1957. They wrote them in a culture as foreign to us as any culture we can imagine. I suspect living in Jerusalem between 5BC and 32AD was a little like living under the Taliban in Afghanistan before the U.S. invaded that country and the average American Christian simply cannot identify with that culture. I feel it is important that we try to hear Jesus’ words with the same cultural twist a listener of that day would have heard them.






A Short History of Israel

(or How God Altered Jewish Theology About Himself)

I. The historical perspective:

 605BC - Hebrews taken into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.

1) only the poorest left behind

2) other peoples brought in to populate the land.

539BC - Decree by Cyrus to rebuild Temple at Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-6)

516BC - Under Zerubbabel, Temple completed (Dan. 9:1-2; Zech. 7:5)

          1) Only about 50.000 Jews returned to Jerusalem from Babylon

          2) The wealthiest (more than one million) remained in Babylon.

334BC -  Alexander begins his conquests by defeating the Persians at Issus.

332BC -  Alexander the Great conquers Israel

323BC -  Alexander contracts a fever and dies in Babylon. Four of his Generals divided the Kingdom:

             Cassander - Macedonia

             Antigonius - Asia

             Seleucides – Babylon

             Ptolemus - Egypt and to the border of Syria. In all, there were 15

                               Ptolemies (Ptolemy XIII being the husband of

                               Cleopatra VII (THE Cleopatra of legend)).

198BC - Antiochus III of Syria gains Israel from Ptolemies by defeating Egypt in war.

164BC - Judas Maccabe defeats Syrians (momentarily). From this defeat the Hanukkah


142BC - Israel gains independence from Syrians.

  63BC - Roman General Pompey conquers Israel.

  39BC – Herod the Great secures the title “Confederate King” from the Roman

              Senate. He defeated Galilee and then laid siege to Jerusalem. After winning

              the battle he put the Hasmonians to the sword – ending their rule.

4BC - Herod dies and his son Archelaus assumes his office.

5BC - Birth of Jesus

14AD - Caesar Augustus dies and his co-reagent Tiberius assume the office of Caesar.


II.  The Social Perspective


                        Being slaves in Babylon removed the Jews from the only place they could worship. And to make matters even worse, the captivity lasted over seventy years. This had a profound effect upon their form of worship in that they probably began the synagogues as a place of worship during this time period. But even when they were free to return to Jerusalem, most Jews remained in Babylon. Only about 50,000 actually returned to Jerusalem while several million of the wealthier Jews remained in Babylon. Prior to captivity, the Jews had always considered any land outside of Israel as ‘unclean dirt’ and shook it off their shoes when they entered Israel so as to not defile ‘the land.’ However, after the return from Babylon, the land of Syria, from Babylon to Antioch, was considered as an extension of Israel because of the large wealthy Jewish community living there.


There were so many Jews in Babylon that King Cyrus forbade any more Jews expatriating because he feared a depopulation of his country.

The Babylonian Jews kept their national bloodlines pure while those left behind in Jerusalem intermarried with the foreigners brought into the land by the Assyrians. The population resulting from the inter-group marriages became known as Samaritans.


III.  The Religious - Philosophical Perspective


Prior to Babylonian captivity:


The Jewish Rabbis interpreted the Scripture only in its most obvious meaning. The stories were true stories without allegorical or any secondary (i.e., type) meaning.



During Babylonian captivity:

Since the Jews could not worship in the Temple, the synagogues were formed. Later it was deemed that there had to be a synagogue wherever there were at least ten heads of families. Since most worshippers, after the first generation, could not understand Hebrew, the leader of the synagogue would explain the Scripture. It was forbidden to write down his words for fear they would achieve equality with Scripture. Of course they were written down in the language of the people (i.e., Aramaic) because the people could no longer read Hebrew. These writings were collectively known as Targumin. And just as originally feared, the Targumin later became authoritative. People are so predictable.


After Babylonian captivity:


The Jerusalem and Babylonian Jews erected a legal superstructure that rested upon the Talmud (commentaries upon Scripture). As a class, the Scribes first appear approx. 198 BC in the writings of Josephus.[1] Jewish theology developed into two branches: the halaghah and the haggadah. The halaghah was the legalistic content of Jewish tradition. The word means literally ‘to go’ and translates into the means to walk, talk and conduct ones life. It was a collection of learned commentaries on the scripture and came to have even greater authority than scripture. On the other hand, the haggadah was the non-legalistic part of Jewish tradition or the sayings, or homilies of the priests and held no authority. However, the haggadah later came to be the greater authority for the Synagogues. Go figure!

During this period two distinct schools developed for Rabbinical study: one in Jerusalem and the other in Babylon. Over time, the latter became the more prominent school. This was probably due to the number and wealth of the Jews resident in Babylon.


Result of defeat by Alexander and the Greek influence:


The Jews were unable to isolate themselves from the insidious Greek culture like they had been able to do previously when they had been defeated by other nations. The Greek culture not only affected their cultural lives it infected the Jewish thought processes. For the first time in their existence they found themselves having to intellectually defend their theology.

The Jew found himself trying to reconcile the philosophy of the Greeks with what he knew to be truth - that which we call the Old Testament. The problem was he did not have the mental tools necessary for the task. Apparently, up to that period the Jews read Scripture only as a literal text. They memorized great chunks, and often all, of the OT, but they did not use sophisticated analysis of the text. The Jews first had to recognize the truth in the results of the Greek thought process before they could develop defenses. During this period their language became charged with Hellenized words because of their business interactions in the commercial world. As expected, in the initial phases of any new process, some (Rabbis) got carried away with the ‘new thought’ process and were deemed apostates from the faith.[2]

Early in any transitional period, exuberance in a new found process leads to irresponsible excesses and this period was no different than any other. In trying to reconcile the Greek philosophy with that which he knew to be truth, Aristobulus actually described Homer and Hesiod as ‘being drawn from our books[3].’ Such writings led to a ban being placed on all who studied ‘Greek wisdom.’

The Jewish Hellenist was ignorant concerning the Hebrew language but still wanted to study Scriptures. Now the Ptolemies of Egypt could only be described as ‘nuts over books’ in that Ptolemy I founded the Museum of Alexandria that was a home of great literature. Then Ptolemy II asked Eleazar, the High Priest at Jerusalem, for help in translating the Scriptures into Greek. Eleazar sent six representatives from each of the tribes to Egypt along with a very valuable manuscript of the Pentateuch. For seventy-two days, in approx. 285BC, they labored on the isle of Pharos until they had completed the translation that later came to be known as the Septuagint. They returned to Jerusalem laden with gifts from Ptolemy II and bearing a copy of the translation for themselves. This translation became the peoples Scripture because it was in a language they could understand. Over time other Old Testament books were translated and added to the version.

According to Edersheim[4] the Septuagint was a poor rendering of the Hebrew text because the finished product incorporated the Hellenistic inclination of the translators. For example, anthropomorphisms and miracles were deleted or de-emphasized because they were inconsistent with the translator’s Hellenistic view of God.

The theology of the Old Testament became rationalized with the philosophy of Plato and its ethics in the moral arguments of the Stoics. This is the line of reasoning of Josephus used against Apion[5] (an ardent opponent of the Jews in Alexandria). What were some of the principles of these Greek philosophies?


Some Greek Platonic Philosophical Principles:

1) God existed in neither space nor time.

2) He was without qualities, or even a name. He was therefore unrecognizable by man.

3) The soul was pre-existent to being born on earth. This is bedrock of Mormonism today and is given in The Book Of Abraham (D&C).

4) Matter is devoid of all quality, even form and is evil.


Some Greek Stoic Philosophical Principles:

1) God is immanent in the world - in fact, He is that which is real in the world.

2) Chief in His Being is His goodness; only good comes from Him.

3) God only created the soul, and that only of the good.

4) Because there was a separation between God and matter there could be no miracles or interpositions (i.e., God intervening on behalf of man).

5) The four cardinal virtues of Stoicism were temperance, prudence, justice, and fortitude.

6) Matter is devoid of all quality, even form and is inherently evil.


The Logos of the Jews:

            In the Targumin Onkelos, the Memra, Logos, or ‘Word,’ (as applied to God) is

It is mentioned 179 times. However, the Memra is not exclusively applied to the Divine Logos in the Targumin literature. In the Targumin literature, God - not as in His permanent manifestation, or manifest Presence – but as revea1ing Himself, is designated Memra ‘There are many passages wherein God is distinguished from His Memra. For example, Gen. 28:21 “... then the Memra of Jehovah shall be my God.” The Memra is also distinguished from the Shekhinah: Num 23:21 “.... The Memra of Jehovah their God is their helper, and the Shekhinah of their King is in the midst of them.”

            However, the word Memra is never mentioned in the Talmuds. The Talmuds are what could be loosely called commentaries and there are two of them: the oldest is from the Jerusalem Academy and dates from the end of the forth century, the other one is from the Babylonian school and is from the fifth century.


The Logos of Philo of Alexandria[6]:

1) The Logos is not a concrete personality, though not strictly impersonal.

2) He is the shadow of God.

3) He is also described as the ‘image of God,’ upon which man was made. In Platonistic terms: ‘the archetypal idea.’

4) As regards the world, the Logos is its real being. He is its archetype; moreover the instrument through whom God created the world.

5) The Logos separates between God and the world but he also unites in that he is also in the role of intermediary.

6) The Logos announces and interprets to man the will and mind of God.

7) The Logos is not only the mediator but also the real High Priest. As such his purity takes away the sins of man, and by his intercession procures for men the mercy of God.

8) The Logos is also given the designation ‘Paraclete.’ A Paraclete was essentially a lawyer, one who stood beside the accused.

9) He is the sun that enlightens a man’s life, the medium of Divine revelation to the soul; the Manna, or support of spiritual life; He who dwells in the soul.

10) He is further described as, in the fullest sense, Melchisedec[7], the priest of God, the king of righteousness, and the King of Salem, who brings righteousness to the soul.

While this may sound like the Logos of the Letter to the Hebrews, there are great differences:

1) The Logos of Philo is shadowy, unreal, and not a person; there is no need for atonement.

2) The High Priest intercedes but has no sacrifice to offer as the basis for his intercession; most certainly not that of himself

3) There is no cleansing of the soul by blood, no sprinkling on the Mercy Seat, no access for all through the rent veil into the immediate presence of God, and no quickening of the soul to serve the living God.

4) Philo’s view of creation was one in which God formed the universe from that which was already available.

5) Like the Stoics, Philo believed God did not actually do the formation Himself but, employed the Potencies (especially the Logos) for this purpose, because He could not actually touch the earth since it was evil.

6) He also did not view a child as in total depravity but rather thought they were like wax that God would shape. This is but a variation of the so-called modern idea of each new-born child being a clean blackboard onto which can be written the spiritual or non-spiritual character, depending upon his environment.

Philo had no successor. In him, Hellenism had completed its cycle.


Some reasons for Gentile hatred toward the Jews during the Roman Empire:

While it is uncertain by what process so many Jews (approximately one million out of 7,800,00) had come to live in Alexandria, it is known that Alexander the Great gave exceptional privileges to the Jews that lived there. The Ptolemies continued the privileges and Julius Caesar even increased them. Some Jews are known to have become financial millionaires in Alexandria and enjoyed palatial estates there. These men went to great lengths to disguise their Jewish heritage to ingratiate themselves with the Gentiles.

The Romans discovered that the Jews made terrible slaves because they clung so tenaciously to their ancient customs. They refused to be absorbed into Roman culture: hating the worship of idols and avoiding the Roman foods. Many were simply given their freedom while others were bought out of their slavery for very low prices. The freed Jews then became a large, influential population in Rome. They were granted great privileges by Julius Caesar, such as: Roman citizenship, freedom from military service, exemption from paying the customary Divine honors to Caesar and the right to ship large sums of money to the Temple in Jerusalem. Exemption from military service alone was sufficient cause for hatred of the Jews by other people in Rome because an able bodied Roman male was expected to serve in the military between age 16 (15 - if in the navy) and 46 for a period of up to 20 years (after 5AD)[8]. Then as if to add further injury, Caesar Augustus decreed that if the day of public distribution of corn or money fell on a Jewish Sabbath, the Jews were to be given their share on the following day, which undoubtedly increased the feelings of the Roman population.

    Any one of these privileges would have caused envy among the rest of the population, but certainly five of them would have driven the emotional level toward the Jews to hatred. Roman citizenship, something highly valued, was obtained through either birthright or exceptional service to Rome. The Jews had not only done neither, they had even shown outright disgust for the Roman culture. Military service was viewed as something every able-bodied Roman was expected to give to his country for the privilege of being a citizen. However, the Jews were deemed unfit for military service because they refused to fight or even march on the Sabbath.

            To the Romans, like the Muslims today, their religion and their government were seen as one seamless entity. However, they were also very practical and apparently decided that making some concessions would lead to a greater peace and prosperity for their city. Not everyone agreed with the concessions but Julius Caesar had two votes! For these privileges Caesar got unquestioned loyalty from the Jewish community in Rome. The Jews actually chanted mournful Psalms at his funeral pyre and for many nights thereafter. After all, he had been their great benefactor.

            But Julius Caesar wasn’t the only leader to give citizenship to the Jews. Selenucus I (Nicator), the founder of Antioch, also granted the Jews the right of citizenship in all the cities he had built in Asia Minor and Syria. In place of the publicly distributed oil, which their religion forbade them to use, the Jews were given a monetary compensation. This must have added to the already lengthy list of reasons to despise the Jews.

    When Tiberius succeeded to the throne in 14 AD great changes were brought about in the way the Roman government treated the Jews. “Merciless harshness characterized the administration of Palestine; while the Emperor himself was bitterly hostile to Judaism and the Jews, and that although, personally, openly careless of all religion. Under his reign the persecution of the Roman Jews occurred, and Palestine suffered almost to the verge of endurance. The first Procurator he appointed over Judea, changed the occupancy of the High-Priesthood four times, till he found in Caiaphas a sufficiently submissive instrument of Roman tyranny. The extractions, and the reckless disregard of all Jewish feelings and interests, might be characterized as reaching the extreme limit, if worse had not followed when Pontius Pilate succeeded the Procuratorship. Venality, violence, robbery, persecutions, wanton malicious insults, judicial murders without even the formality of a legal process, and cruelty - such are the charges brought against his administration. If former governors had, to some extent, respected the religious scruples of the Jews, Pilate set them purposely at defiance; and this not only once, but also again and again, in Jerusalem, in Galilee, and even in Samaria, until the Emperor himself interposed.[9]


The Expected Time of the Messiah’s Arrival


            Some fixed, by calculation, the date of the coming of the Messiah at 4000 years after creation - or about the time of Jesus though there were also other dates given. On the more wildly speculative side, some thought that He would come after Rome had conquered the whole world; or when all the souls predestined to inhabit the earth had been on earth. But eventually the Synagogues had to admit that one by one all of the fixed dates

had come and gone and that there was no way to know the time of the Messiah’s arrival. All in all, it sounds like the older version of fixing the time of the Great Tribulation in our time


The Common Beliefs In Israel Concerning the Coming of the Messiah


       Edersheim states:[10] “So far as we can gather from the Gospel narratives, no objection was ever taken to the fulfillment of individual prophecies in Jesus. But the general conception which the Rabbis had formed of the Messiah, differed totally from what was presented by the Prophet of Nazareth.”

       The most important point to keep in mind is the organic unity of the Old Testament and the underlying idea of God’s gracious manifestation in the world - the Kingdom of God; the meaning of all - the establishment of this Kingdom on earth. The purpose was individualized in the person of the Messiah with a final relationship in view of that of God towards man and of man towards God.

            The Kingdom actually began with Abraham. Everything that took place from Abraham to the Messiah was an unfolding of that process. The Messiah is not to be thought of as something added to Israel but rather as an integral part of the Kingdom. The Messiah would, as outlined by Isaiah, combine in Himself three offices: Prophet, Priest and King in the actualization of this Kingdom.

            The idea of the organic unity of the Old Testament and its fulfillment in the Messiah is why the rabbinic writings in the Talmud say, “All the prophets prophesied only of the days of the Messiah.”

The Rabbis accorded 456 passages as Messianic: 75 from the Pentateuch, 243 from the Prophets, and 138 from the Hagiographia. The Hagiographia comprised the books of Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentation, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and I and II Chronicles (in that order). “... rather it would seem as if every event were regarded as prophetic, and every prophecy, whether by fact, or by word (prediction), as a light cast its sheen on the future, until the picture of the Messianic age in the far back-ground stood out in the hundredfold variegated brightness of prophetic events, and prophetic utterances; or, as regarded the then state of Israel, till the darkness of their present night was lit up by a hundred constellations kindling in the sky overhead, and its lonely silence broken by echoes of heavenly voices, and strains of prophetic hymns borne on the breeze.”[11] Edersheim then brings up the point that amidst this kind of atmosphere it would be quite easy to lose the meaning of the whole in contemplation of its detail. Unfortunately, the rabbinic focus was on the exaltation of the nation Israel rather than the person of the Messiah. Their concept was to the point of contrariety to that shown in the scriptures.

From Rabbinic writings we find the following list of the Messiah’s expected accomplishments:

1. His pre-mundane existence;

2. His elevation above Moses;

3. His cruel sufferings and violent death for His people;

4. His work on behalf of the living and the dead;

5. His representative character;

6. His redemption and restoration of Israel (<< This is the BIGGIE!);

7. the prevalence of His law;

8.  the opposition of the Gentiles;

9. the partial judgment and conversion of Gentiles;

10. the universal blessings of the latter days;

11. His Kingdom.[12]

           The rabbinic writings further show they did not hold to either the doctrines of Original Sin, or that of man’s sinful nature so they could not be expected to feel a need to be delivered from sin. Therefore it would logically follow that there would be no need for a Priestly office of the Messiah.



The Expected Nature, Person and Qualifications of The Messiah


1. The rabbinical leadership had no concept of a dual nature: Divine and human. It was obviously also foreign to His disciples.

2. They appear to have regarded the Messiah as being far above the ordinary human, royal, prophetic, and even angels, to such an extent, that the boundary line between Messiah and Divine Personality was very thin. When the conviction of the reality finally burst through their minds, they were easily able to step over and worship Him as the Son of God.

3. The Messiah would ride an ass into Jerusalem just as Moses had ridden one back into Egypt and Abraham had ridden to offer Isaac. The donkey had been created on the eve of the world’s first Sabbath.

4. As the first Deliverer had brought down manna from heaven so the Messiah would; as the first Deliverer had made a spring of water to rise so also the Messiah would.

5. Just as Abraham, Job and Hezekiah had attained, without instruction, the wisdom of God - so would the Messiah but to a much greater degree than even the angels.


Some New Testament Revelations Concerning The Character of Jesus


Selected verses that depict the nature of Jesus

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned  - 13(For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. ‘4Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. 15But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.


1 Cor. 15:20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.


1 Cor. 15:44 There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body 45And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. 47The first man was of the earth, made of dust, the second Man is the Lord from heaven. 48As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.


Philippians 2:5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.


From John McArthur’s notes on Philippians:

2:7 made Himself of no reputation. This is more clearly translated “emptied Himself” From this Greek word comes the theological word “kenosis”; i.e., the doctrine of Christ’s self-emptying in His incarnation. This was a self-renunciation, not an emptying Himself of deity, not an exchange of deity for humanity. Jesus did, however, renounce or set aside His privileges in several areas: 1) heavenly glory—while on earth He gave up the glory of a face-to-face relationship with God and the continuous outward display and personal enjoyment of that glory (cf. John 17:5); 2) independent authority—during His incarnation Christ completely submitted Himself to the will of His Father (cf. Matt. 26:39; John 5:30; Heb. 5:8); 3) divine prerogatives He set aside the voluntary display of His divine attributes and submitted Himself to the Spirit’s direction (cf. Matt. 24:36; John 1:45—49); 4) eternal riches while on earth Christ was poor and owned very little (cf. 2 Cor. 8:9); and 5) a favorable relationship with God He felt the Father’s wrath for human sin while on the cross (cf. Matt. 27:46). In the phrase, form of a bondservant, Paul uses the Grk. word “form,” which indicates exact essence. As a true servant, Jesus submissively did the will of His Father (cf. Is. 52:13, 14). In the phrase, the likeness of men, Christ became more than God in a human body, but He took on all the essential attributes of humanity (Luke 2:52; Gal. 4:4; Col. 1:22), even to the extent that He identified with basic human needs and weaknesses (cf. Heb. 2:14, 17; 4:15). He became the God-Man fully God and fully man.





Properties of the Gospels












Papias is the earliest witness to say Matthew is the author12 and that the text was written in Aramaic.

Papias, lrenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Oregin, and Jerome all associate the gospel with Mark and link him with Peter. Clement says that Peter instructed Mark as to what to write.

The anti-Marcionite Prologue (c. 160-180) states, “Luke, a Syrian of Antioch, a doctor by profession, was a disciple of  the Apostles. … Luke, under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, wrote his gospel in the region of Achacia ….”[13]

Irenaeus (c. 180) first reported the tradition that the gospel was written by John the son of Zebedee, at Ephesus.



Prob. 80-100; prob. Originated in Syria



Prob. 70’s or early 80’s

Approx. 100




Gentiles (Romans)

Greeks. Specifically Theophilus, probably a ranking Greek (note: ‘most excellent’)

Hellenistic Jews



Properties of the Gospels (cont’d)








Jesus the King

Jesus the Servant

Jesus the Man

Jesus, Son of God


From Abraham   through David

No genealogy

From Adam to Jesus

Jesus the Son of God (1:18)






OT Quotes





Spoken by Jesus





Unique Material






Jewish Feasts Given In The Gospel Accounts








18 (?)























6:4 – 7:53




















A Word About Calendars and Dating


            Pope Gregory XIII appointed a commission to study the question of calendar reform and in 1582 the Gregorian calendar replaced the one used since Julius Caesar first introduced it in 45 B.C. The new Gregorian calendar dropped 10 days off the calendar so that the vernal equinox date was moved to the same date it had been in the time of Caesar. The new calendar was introduced on 4 October 1582. So the next day was October 15. The new calendar system met with a lot of opposition in Protestant countries: England, and later the colonies adopted it in 1752, Russia in 1918 (by Lenin), Rumania and Greece in 1924, and Turkey in 1927.

            “The Council of Nicea imposed Sunday as the fixed day for the commemoration of the resurrection. The introduction of a chronological Christian era was the work of men like Dionysius Exiguus of Rome (a Sythian monk) who continued the work of the Easter table of Cyril of Alexandria for 95 years. Unfortunately, Dionysius wrongly dated the birth of Christ at 754 A.U.C.” (A.U.C. dates from the beginning of Rome) -  at least 4 years too late.[15]


Jewish Calendar[16]




Equal to our


Jewish Feasts




Begin barley harvest

14: Passover

15-21: Unleavened Bread




Barley harvest

10: Fast for death of Elijah

14: 2nd Passover[17]

16: Fast for Samuel




Wheat harvest

6-7: Pentecost (Weeks/first Fruits).









Grapes, figs, and olives ripen

9: Fast in memory of destruction of Temple by Nebuchadnezzar




Vintage begins





Early rains; plowing

1: Rosh Hashanah (New Year)

10: Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)

15-21: Feast of Tabernacles




Wheat, barley sowing






25: Feast of Dedication or Lights[18]




Rainy winter months





New year for trees





Almonds bloom

13: Feast of Ester

15: Feast of Purim


Adar Sheni

Intercalary month













One View Of How We Received The Gospel Accounts[19]


The Christian Celebration of Christmas[20]


The feast is first mentioned at the head of The Depositio Martvrum in the Roman Chronograph of 354 [ed. Valentini-Zucchetti (Vatican City 1942) 2:17]. Since the Depositio was composed in 336, Christmas in Rome can be dated back that far at least. It is not found, however in the lists of feasts given by Tertullian (De baptisrmo 19: CSEL 20:2 17) and Origen (Contra Celsum 8.22: PG II:1549).


Date. Inexplicable though it seems, the date of Christ’s birth is not known. The Gospels indicate neither the day nor the month: and although Luke (2.1-3) sets the Nativity in a historical perspective the year cannot be determined with exactitude. Modem scholarship favors the period 8 to 6 B.C. (See NATIVITY OF CHRIST.) Why, then, were December25 and January 6 chosen for the celebration of the Lords birth? Several theories are offered in explanation.



            Some (John Chrysostom. B. Lamy: see Kellner, 143-145 ) actually believed December 25 was the birthday of Christ and tried to prove it by arguing from the conception of St. John the Baptist. Assuming, gratuitously, that Zachary was high priest and that the Day of Atonement fell on September 24. John would have been born on June 24 and Christ 6 months later, on December 25. This theory is now considered completely untenable.

            L. Duchesne [Christian Worship: Its Origin and Evolution (5th ed. London 1949) 261-263] suggested that the date of Christmas was determined from March 25. the traditional date of the Crucifixion, since fractional numbers have no place in symbolical systems, the ancients would have postulated a full number of years for the life of Christ. If He died on March 25, He must also have been conceived on this date and thus have been born 9 months later on December 25. More recently H. Engberding has tried, unsuccessfully, to defend a comparable position.

            According to the hypothesis suggested by H. Usener, developed by B. Botte (Les Origines), and accepted by most scholars today, the birth of Christ was assigned the date of the winter solstice (December 25 in the Julian calendar, January 6 in the Egyptian), because on this day, as the sun began its return to northern skies, the pagan devotees of Mithra celebrated the dies natalis Solis Invicti (birthday of the invincible sun). On Dec. 25, 274,  Aurelian had proclaimed the sun-god principal patron of the empire and dedicated a temple to him in the Campus Martius. Christmas originated at a time when the cult of the sun was particularly strong at Rome. This theory finds support in some of the Church Fathers’ contrasting the birth of Christ and the winter solstice: indeed, from the beginning of the 3rd century “Sun of Justice” appears as a title of Christ (Botte. Les Origines 63). Though the substitution of Christmas for the pagan festival cannot be proved with certainty, it remains the most plausible explanation for the dating of Christmas.

       Diffusion. The feast is found very early in North Africa. The oldest Christmas sermon extant was given by Optatus of Mileve in Numidia around 383 [publ. by A. Wilmart, “Un sermon de s. Optat pour la fete de Noel.” RevSeRel 2 (1922) 271-302]. The feast was known in Milan by the time of Ambrose (d. 397). The letter of Pope Siricus (384-399) to Himerius, Bishop of Tarragona (Epist. 1.2.3: PL 13:1134) proves that Christmas was observed in Spain before 384, while the earliest certain evidence of the feast in Gaul is found in the calendar of Perpetuus Bishop of Tours from 461 to 491 (Gregory. Hist. Francorum 10.31.6;PL 71:566)

             In the East the Feast of the Nativity was kept originally on January 6. Nevertheless, toward the end of the 4th century the Western feast of December 25 was admitted. The earliest testimony to an Eastern Feast of Christmas is a sermon of Basil (d. 379); Homilia in s. Christi generationem. PG 31:1457-76). On Dec. 25, 379 or 380 Gregory of Nazianzus preached a Christmas sermon in Constantinople (In theophaniarn oratio 38; PG 36:311-334); he later referred to himself as the founder of the feast (In sancta lumina oratio 39.14; PG 36:349). It was known in Antioch between 386 and 388 for John Chrysostom preached about it (In diem natalem Domini n. J. C., PG 49:351). Paul of Emesa gave a Nativity sermon at Alexandria in the presence of St. Cyril on Dec. 25, 432 (Dc nativitate. PG 77:14 33-44). In Palestine, however, the birth of Christ was celebrated on January 6 until the middle of the 7th century, when December 25 was permanently accepted.

            The Armenians alone never accepted December 25. Under pressure from Rome some of the Uniates in the 16th century accepted the Western feast, for which they simply duplicate the Mass and Office of January 6.

            While opposition to the cult of the sun god could explain the origin of Christmas in given localities, diffusion of the feast throughout the world, where it ran counter to the Eastern observance of January 6 must be attributed to the anti-Asian revival. Atianism was condemned at the Council of Nicaea in 325, and it was at that time that the feast appeared in Rome. The Arians would not have rejected the feast, which could have been interpreted to favor their position, if it had originated before their condemnation. The great anti-Arian Fathers of the East (the Cappadocians and John Chrysostom) seem to have been most influential in Eastern acceptance of Christmas.



















Part I

Luke’s Introduction


This chronology is that of A.T. Robertson[21]


Luke 1: 1Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, 2just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, 3it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, 4that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.


Background - Luke, a Gentile physician, was not among those who followed Jesus before His crucifixion. He did, however, set out to investigate and record the life of Jesus from interviews with those who had known him, as well as use other source material, such as books written about Him (such as the “Q” document).  Eusebius and Jerome say that Luke was a Syrian from Antioch, but there are grounds for believing he was a Macedonian. However, this could be accounted for if Luke had studied medicine at Philippi.[22]

Theophilus may have been a Gentile experiencing doubts about his association with the new community:

            1) Problems with table fellowship

            2) Gentile inclusion

            3) Examples of how rejection was faced in the early church are given by Bock.[23]

4) The account was probably written for religious purposes rather than political because what politician would wade through that much material?

Luke 1:1many have taken in hand” would include “Q” and any other writings that no longer exist.

among us” would indicate 1st generation believers at a minimum, but maybe even 2nd and 3rd generation – Luke was not      there.

                 to set in order” – Luke wrote his account broadly chronological with some rearrangement of material:

                        a) the order of temptations is different from Matthew

                        b) the placement of John the Baptist’s imprisonment

            He does use a geographical arrangement (including Acts, which Luke also wrote)

                        a) Galilee à Samaria à Jerusalem à Judea /Samaria à Rome

Luke 1:3 -perfect understanding of all things” – to follow an account/event to the point of understanding of both oral and written records.

                 most excellent Theophilus” probably means Theophilus was a believer and probably of position.


John Pictures Jesus as the Word


John 1:          1) 1In the beginning was the Word,

                      2) and the Word was with God,

                      3) and the Word was God.

                      4) 2He was in the beginning with God.

3All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:

                1) 13who were born,

                2) not of blood,

                3) nor of the will of the flesh,

                4) nor of the will of man, but of God.

14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. 15John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ” 16And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.


The Word, Jesus, is mentioned in the office of Creator seven times:

            i) John 1:3; ii) John 1:10; iii) 1 Cor. 8:6; iv) Eph. 3:9; v) Col. 1:16; vi) Heb. 1:2; vii) Rev. 3:14

John 1:1 - To a Greek, this might bring to mind the concept of the Logos; to the Jew, Genesis 1:1. This Word (2) was capable of being in the presence of God. In (3) the Word is identified as God. The language is such that it identifies the Word as sharing the nature and being of God – an extension of the personality of God. “What God was, the Word was” is a good paraphrase.[24] To the Greeks the Logos was an impersonal force but John gives the Word gender. He probably is referring to Prov. 8:22-21 (Wisdom) and answers Psm. 22:24 and Gen. 1:26 “Let us …”

John 1:3 – a positive and a negative statement saying the same thing.

John 1:4 – (John 5:26) the self-existent life is distinct from but has special importance to created life.

John 1:5 – Were it not for this Light, there would be only spiritual darkness.

John 1:6-8 – An interruption to introduce John the Baptist.

John 1:10-11 – While this was written retrospectively, we must recognize it was a culmination of a long running situation. See Jer. 7:25.

John 1:11 – “11He came to His own,” or as the New English Bible translates it: 11He came to His own place.

John 1:10Rom 1:20 and Rom. 1:28 covers: “10He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did

                     not know Him.

                      Rom. 1-12 covers: “11He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.

Rom.13-17 covers: “12But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

John 1:13 – defines the difference between spiritual birth and physical birth: 1) speaks of social position, race, tribe, etc.; 2) speaks of a person’s innate desire or will; 3) speaks of the desires or will of other men: fathers, teachers, etc.; 4) the Greek “alla,” translated but, is not just a contrast – it is an emphatic “BUT.”

John 1:14 – “dwelt” is literally “pitched His tabernacle” Docetism was evidently present in the area for which the Johannine writings were intended. This Gnostic heresy denied that Jesus was not a physical being, but was rather a phantom, he only appeared physical. The word for ‘dwelt’ (Greek: tabernacled) would recall the Tabernacle in the desert. This verse formed the main basis for the Creed of Nicea (325 AD) and the Creed of Chalcedon (451 AD), which formulated and defined the Church’s theological position on the deity of Jesus.[25]

John 1:17 – The importance of this verse lies in the Jewish understanding of what Moses accomplished.

John 1:18– Or “the only begotten Son of God.” This verse claims a singular event in all history and demands that Jesus is unique. Only someone completely familiar with another can make an audience understand the second person.

The Annunciation of John the Baptist


Luke 1: 5-25 5There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years. 8So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, 9according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. 11Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. 13But the angel said to him,

(1) “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, (2) for your prayer is heard; (3) and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, (4) and you shall call his name John. (5) 14“And you will have joy and gladness, (6) and many will rejoice at his birth. (A) 15“For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, (B) and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. (C) He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. (D) 16“And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. (E) 17“He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah,

      (a)‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’

      (b) and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,

      (c) to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” 19And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. 20“But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.” 21And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple. 22But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless. 23And so it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house. 24Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, 25“Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”


Background notes:

John 1:5 – Priestly divisions – The Levitic priests were divided up between 24 ‘courses.’ The total number of priests according to Josephus[26] was 20,000 with approximately 50 priests on duty every day. The lot was used to assign each priest his duties for the day. Four lots were used: two before the Temple gates were opened and two after they were opened. Among the group who had been chosen to administer the sacrifice, a third lot was made to choose the single individual that would be honored by the highest honor one might have. This priest could only enjoy this privilege once in his lifetime and afterwards, he would be called “rich” by his peers.

John 1:11 – According to Jewish tradition, Gabriel was inferior to Michael. Tradition also placed Gabriel, who supposedly administered justice, on the left side of the altar and Michael, who administered mercy, on the left side of the altar.[27] Here Zacharias gets the news that tradition was in error – a very real problem for a system based upon errorless tradition.

John 1:17 – According to Rabbinic tradition, Elijah was to return bodily – not in ‘spirit’ – before that great day. Furthermore, he was to be associated with the raising of the dead and certainly not with ‘making ready for the Lord a people prepared.’[28] This is another problem for errorless tradition.


The story of the announcements to Zacharias and Mary must be considered in light of the religious culture of Israel at that time. Zacharias was considered by the Jerusalem council to be an ‘idiot’ or ‘common’ priest (a country, unlearned priest) and certainly not one worthy of a visit by an angel of God, much less Gabriel. Their priesthood was built upon increasing ability to untie extremely complicated logical knots and Zacharias would not have been even close to the lowest priest stationed in Jerusalem. In their mind Gabriel would only have visited them. They held the ‘idiot’ priests and the unlettered common people in utter contempt. Mary and Joseph would have fared even poorer than Zacharias – if that were possible.


But why is this story included in the gospel accounts? I think it was done to establish impeccable witnesses for the ministry of Jesus. There were many false messiahs that presented themselves before the Jews but all presented themselves at a particular moment in history with no supporting evidence that preceded their birth. John is developing a background of two people that would be considered modern (in their day) models of Abraham and Sarah. It was obvious to all that God was working in a special way in their lives; hence, they were very credible. The credibility would extend from Zacharias and Elizabeth to their son John since he did nothing to discredit that attention.


John 1:5 – Herod: (Herod the Great, Herod I) ruled from 39 BC to 4 BC.

John 1:6 – This note about Zacharias and Elizabeth is because the division of Abijah was under suspicion of being unchaste and idolatrous according to rabbinic sources.[29]

John 1:11 – See note 2 above.

John 1:12 - When God tells or gives the name of someone it is important for His purposes

            1) Gen. 16:11 – Israel

            2) 1 Kings 13:2 – Josiah

            3) Is. 7:14 – Immanuel

            4) here – John means ‘Yahweh has been gracious’

John 1:13 – Which prayer? At that moment he was supposed to be offering prayer for Israel. A life of prayer without taking matters into his own hands (i.e., adoption).

John 1:15 – Some say this was the vow of the Nazarene sect. The Spirit was given only for a season in the OT! Others disagree with this citing there is no mention of cutting the hair. There does not appear to be a clear-cut winner in this argument.

John 1:16 – Notice “many” NOT “all.”

John 1:17 – A fulfillment of Mal. 4:5-6. Elijah was to come before ‘the day of the Lord.’ See note 3 above.

            (a) – The fathers will teach the children and thereby save the home – a quote from Malachi.

            (b) – What we would call ‘a religious conversion.’

(c) – A rebuke of the religious garbage being presented to the people – not unlike some religious garbage being passed out today. Were the Jews anymore immoral than we are today?

John 1:18 – Zacharias was asking for a confirming sign. This would indicate there was nothing out of the ordinary in Gabriel’s appearance. That is, no halo and no wings! Zacharias should have believed Gabriel because similar events had befallen Abraham.

John 1:20  – A strong sentence for a minor unbelief? It amounted to about 10 months of house arrest plus being mute and struck dumb! See verse 62.

John 1:21 – They awaited the usual benediction, which Zacharias was unable to deliver.

John 1:26 – To be childless was considered a curse in Israel. To be a priest and be childless was doubly so. If for no other reason than to prove the priest was not homosexual.  In the neighboring countries around Israel, and in reality all countries, at that time practiced killing babies as a way of birth control. The children would be placed on a wall outside of town or on an elevated place where the wild animals or birds would take them for food. Children were considered the property of the father and could be sold or given away at any time.  When sold, they were most likely find themselves in slavery since the greater proportion of people were slaves at that time. In Greece approximately 75% of the people were slaves and in Rome, about half. In spite of what many commentators write, the Jews must have taken part in these practices themselves or else they would have been able to easily conquer their neighbors because they would have had a much greater population. A second argument in favor of this stand is that priests married girls as young as twelve and thirteen years old.  This would not have been necessary in a population where life was revered.  Another problem, though not in Israel by this time, was the sacrificing of babies to the god Moloch. Many children were sacrificed in Israel before the Babylonian captivity. See the book by D. James Kennedy on this subject, as it is an excellent source material.[30]


The Annunciation To the Virgin Mary


Luke 1:26-38 26Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” 29But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30Then the angel said to her,

(1) “Do not be afraid, Mary, (2) for you have found favor with God. (3) 31“And behold, you will conceive in your womb (4) and bring forth a Son, (5) and shall call His name Jesus.


(i) 32“He will be great, (ii) and will be called the Son of the Highest; (iii) and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. (iv) 33“And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, (v) and of His kingdom there will be no end.”


34Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” 35And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 36“Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37“For with God nothing will be impossible.” 38Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.


Luke 1:26 – The sixth month probably refers to Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Nazareth was a town despised by the Jews because of its immorality. See John 1:46. This was the reason for Nathanael’s remark.

Luke 1:28 – ‘highly favored’ would have been out of place. The greeting was the same as the one given Gideon (Judges 6:12).

Mary certainly would not be considered ‘highly favored’ by Jewish society because they considered only the wealthy to be              highly favored by God as evidenced by their wealth.

Luke 1:29 – Mary was troubled by what Gabriel said – not by his physical appearance, or the fact that he was there.

Luke 1:30 – Why would Gabriel think Mary was afraid? Or was this a standard approach when addressing a human?

Luke 1:31– Jesus means ‘Jehovah is salvation’ or ‘He who would save His people.’

Luke 1:32 – He will be intrinsically, unlike John who would be qualitatively ‘great in the sight of the Lord.’ To a Jew “Son of the Highest” would be equal to “Son of God.”

Luke 1:32(iii) – Isaiah 9:7

Luke 1:33 – this would identify Him as the Messiah from the same verse (Is. 9:7).

Luke 1:34 – Mary is stuck on the part about pregnancy! Unlike Zacharais’ case, this had never been done before in all of history, so she had a legitimate cause for concern. However, this ran counter to what was generally believed in Israel about the birth of the Messiah.

Luke 1:35 – The idea that the Holy Ghost was involved in all great events, though not as a person, was familiar to Israel as confirmed by many Rabbinic writings.[31]

Luke 1:36 – This gives Mary something to check on for confirmation of Gabriel’s credentials and the value of his prophecy.


The Song of Elizabeth to Mary


Luke 1:39-45 39Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, 40and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. 41And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”



Luke 1:39 – ‘hill country’ = higher elevations of Judea. Approx. 2-3 days from Nazareth. ‘Haste’ = w/o telling Joseph or her family what had happened.

How did she get there? She was not in Rochester, NY in 2000AD! Remember she was probably only 13-15 years old and that was considered such a hazardous trip for even a man at that time that the trip was usually made only in the protection afforded by caravans. Where did she get the money for the trip?

Luke 1:41 – Notice that the first to recognize the presence of the Messiah was a woman. This pattern will follow His ministry. How does this relate to Gen 3:15-16?

Luke 1:42 – Mary was already pregnant.

The Magnificat of Mary to the birth of John


Luke 1:46-80 46And Mary said:

     “My soul magnifies the Lord,

47  And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

48  For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;