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out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all the world a Acts v. $7. should be taxed. 2 [ap And] this I taxing was first made
when Cyrenius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into which is called Bethhouse and lineage of his espoused [rr wife],
b1 Sam. xvi. 1, Judæa, unto the city of David,
4. John vii. 42.
c Matt. i. 16. ch. i. 27.
d Matt. i. 18. ch. i. 27.
e Matt. i. 25.
lehem; because he was of the
9 render, enrolment.
rrender, enroll himself.
-or that the first did so, and this was subsequent to it. Now both of these senses till recently seemed to be inadmissible. For Quirinus was not known to have been governor of Syria till the year of Rome 758, after the banishment of Archelaus, and the addition of his territory to the province of Syria. And the birth of our Lord occurred at least eight years before this, previous to Herod's death, and when Sentius Saturninus was governor of Syria. But it has been made highly probable, by A. W. Zumpt of Berlin, that Quirinus was TWICE governor of Syria. The substance of his researches is given at length in the note in my Greek Testament. The result of it is, that Zumpt fixes the time of his first governorship at from B.C. 4 to B.C. 1. It is true this does not quite remove our difficulty. But it brings it within such narrow limits, that any slight error in calculation, or even the latitude allowed by the words was first made might well cover it. I may mention it as remarkable, that Justin Martyr (Century 2) three times distinctly asserts that our Lord was born under Quirinus, and appeals to the register then made, as if from it the fact might, if necessary, be confirmed.
We conclude then, that an assessment or enrolment of names with a view to ascertain the population of the empire, was commanded and put in force at this time. It was unaccompanied (probably) by any payment of money. We know that Augustus drew up an account or summary of the whole empire, which took many years to arrange and complete, and of which the enrolment of the inhabitants of the provinces would naturally form a part. Of the data for this compilation, the enrolment in our text might be one. That Judæa was
not a Roman province at this time, is no objection to our text; for the compilation of Augustus contained the "kingdoms” of the Roman empire, as well as the provinces.
3-5.] There is a mixture here of Roman and Jewish customs, which is not at all improbable, considering the circumstances. In the Roman census, men, women, and children were all obliged to go and be enrolled. But then this census was made at their dwelling-place, not at that of their extraction. The latter practice springs from the Jewish genealogical habits, and its adoption in this case speaks strongly for the accuracy of the chronology. If this enrolment was by order of Augustus, and for the whole empire, it of course would be made so as to include all, after the Roman manner: but inasmuch as it was made under the Jewish king Herod, it was done after the Jewish manner, in taking this account of each at his own place of extraction. being apparently herself sprung from the lineage of David (see ch. i. 32), might on this account go to Bethlehem, being, as some suppose, an inheritress; but this does not seem to be the Evangelist's meaning, but that, after the Roman manner, she accompanied her husband.
stress must be laid on espoused, as if she were only the betrothed wife of Joseph at this time; she had been taken to his house before this: the history in our text happening during the time indicated by Matt. i. 25.
7.] Now that "firstborn" has disappeared from the text of St. Matthew (i. 25), it must be here remarked, that although the term may undoubtedly be used of an only child, such use is necessarily always connected with the expectation of others to follow, and can
f i. 12.
19. Mark i. 4.1. 23. Matt. 1. 21.
15. ver. 31, 32. ch. xxiv.
and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And [ss lo]t the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and theyGen. xii. 3. were sore afraid. 10 f And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, 8 which shall be to all people. 11 h For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ. 16. the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, vv lying in manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth
sor, keeping the watches of the night over their flock. t render, an.
▾ render, a babe. no longer have place when the whole course of events is before the writer and no others have followed. The combination of this consideration with the fact, that brethren of our Lord are brought forward in this Gospel in close connexion with His mother, makes it as certain as any implied fact can be, that those brethren were the children of Mary herself. Ancient tradition states the birthplace of our Lord to have been a cave: and this tradition is nowise inconsistent with our text-for caves are used in most rocky countries as stables. the inn] i. e. a public place of reception for travellers; not a room in a private house.' Of what sort this inn was, does not appear. It probably differs from that mentioned in ch. x. 34, in not being kept by an host: see note there. 8.] Mr. Greswell
has made it highly probable that our Lord was born on the evening of (i. e. which began) the 5th of April, the 10th of the Jewish Nisan: on which same day of April, and the 14th of Nisan, He suffered thirty-three years after. Before this time there would be abundance of grass in the pastures the spring rains being over: but much after it, and till after the autumnal equinox again, the pastures would be comparatively bare: see note on John vi. 10. 9.] the glory of the Lord -the brightness of God's presence - the Shechinah (see reff.) which also accompanied His angels when they appeared to men. It is agreeable at least to the ana
h Isa. ix. 6.
k Matt. i. 16:
ch. i. 43. Acts ii. 36:
1.36. Phii. ch. xix. 38.
Eph. i. 6: iii. 10, 21. Rev. v. 13. m Isa. lvii. 19.
u render, all the people.
i. Rom. v. 1. Eph. ii. 17.
logy of the divine dealings, to suppose that these shepherds, like Symeon, were waiting for the consolation of Israel.
10, 11] to all THE people, -i. e. the Jewish people. To them was the first message of joy, before the bursting in of the Gentiles-just as here the one angel gives the prefatory announcement, before the multitude of the heavenly host burst in with their proclamation of peace on earth.' Christ the Lord] This is the only place where these words come together. In ch. xxiii. 2 we have" Christ a King," and in Acts ii. 36 "Lord and King." (In Col. iii. 24 we have, in a somewhat different meaning [said to servants], "ye serve the Lord Christ.") And I see no way of understanding this Lord, but as corresponding to the Hebrew JEHOVAH.
12.] Olshausen hazards
a conjecture, that the stable or cave may possibly have belonged to these shepherds. But I think the words even unto, or as far as to Bethlehem, ver. 15, do not look as if Bethlehem were their home. seems clear that the spot was somehow known to them by the angel's description.
Not "the babe," as A. V.;-the angel, in giving the sign, generalizes the term: they were to know the truth of his words, by finding a child wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
14.] It has been disputed whether Glory to God means There is, or Let there be, glory to God. But there can be no doubt that the sense of both these is
11. ch. i. 66.
n Gen. xxxvii. W good will toward men. 15 And it came to X pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a a manger. 17 And when they had seen it, they made known [aa abroad] b the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
o Gen. xvii. 12. Lev. xii. 3.
ch. i. 59
21 And when eight days were accomplished for the p Matt. 21, circumcising of the child, his name was called P Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
25. ch. i. 31.
q Lev. xii. 2, 3, 4, 6.
22 And when the days of g her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to I i.e. when.
w read, among men of good pleasure: see note.
a render, the.
e read, him.
brender, concerning the saying. d render, pondering.
c render, words.
g read, their, with most of the ancient authorities: one has his; but not one
spoken by the shepherds.
21.] HIS CIRCUMCISION. was made like unto His brethren (Heb. ii. 17; iv. 15) in all weakness and bodily infirmity, from which legal uncleannesses arose. The body which He took on Him, though not a body of sin, was mortal, subject to the consequence of sin, -in the likeness of sinful flesh: but incorruptible by the indwelling of the
Godhead (1 Pet. iii. 18). In the fulfilment therefore of His great work of redemption, He became subject to legal rites and purifications-not that they were absolutely necessary for Him, but were included in those things which were becoming for Him, in His humiliation and 'making perfect:' and in His lifting up of that human nature, for which all these things were absolutely necessary (Gen. xvii. 14), into the Godhead.
22-38.] THE PURIFICATION IN THE TEMPLE. SYMEON AND ANNA RECOGNIZE AND PROPHESY OF HIM.
22.] See Lev. xii. 1-8, where however the child is not, as here, expressly included in the purification. The reading his is remarkable, and hardly likely to have been a correction: "her," adopted by the A.V., is almost without authority, and is a manifest correction. Bengel denies
that either the Lord or His mother wanted purification; and mentions that
Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; 23 as it is written
xxii. 29: xxxiv. 19. Num. iii. 13: viii. 17: xviii.
s Lev. xii. 2, 6,
Mark xv. 43.
48. Heb. xi. v Matt, iv. 1.
in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the Exod. xiii. 2: womb shall be called holy to the Lord; 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. 25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Symeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting t Isa. xl. 1. for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him; 26 and it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not "see death, before he had seen u Ps. lxxxix. the Lord's Christ. 27 And he came vi by the Spirit into the temple and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, 28 then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, Phil. 1. 23. according to thy word: 30 for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 31 which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 32 a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. 33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.
h render, had been.
w Gen. xlvi. 30.
* Isa. ii. 10.
i literally, in.
ch. lii. 6.
2.3. Matt. 2
iv. 16. Acts
k read, his father and mother, as most of the ancient authorities, and the express testimony of Origen.
some render their of the Jews,' but does not approve of it (John ii. 6 is certainly no case in point). See the last note, on the necessity of purification for both.
23.] God had taken the tribe of Levi instead of the firstborn that openeth the womb, Num. iii. 12, and required only the excess in number of the firstborn over the Levites to be redeemed (ib. vv. 44—51). This arrangement appears afterwards to have been superseded by a general command to redeem all the firstborn at five shekels of the sanctuary (Num. xviii. 15, 16).
24.] The offering (ref. Lev.) was, a lamb for a burnt-offering, and a pigeon for a sin-offering: but if the parties were too poor to bring a lamb, then two pigeons. But we are not hereby justified in assuming extreme poverty to have been the condition of our Lord's family. This no where appears from the Gospel history. 25.] It appears
that this Symeon might have been Symeon the son of Hillel,-and father of Gamaliel, mentioned in Acts v. 34 ff. But we have no means of ascertaining this. consolation of Israel] See Acts xxviii. 20. VOL. I.
It was a common form of adjuration
29.] lettest thou depart, not from life, or out of the earth,—but as being thy servant, he thinks of his death as the termination of, and so dismissal from, his servitude. 32.] See Isa. xlix. 6. The general term of the last verse,- all the peoples (so literally), is here divided into two, the Gentiles, and Israel. 33. his father] In ver. 48 we have Joseph again called by this name. Our Lord X
z Isa. viii. 14.
Hos. xiv. 9.
33. 1 Cor. i.
ii. 16. 1 Pet. ii. 7, 8. a Acts xxviii.
34 And Symeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising Rom. ix. 52, again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be 23, 24. 2 Cor. spoken against; 35 yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also; that the thoughts of many hearts b Ps. xlii. 10. revealed. 36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; 37 and she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served [God] with fastings and prayers e Acts xxvi. 7. night and day. 38 And she P coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all
1 Tim. v. 5.
& Mark xv. 43. them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
ver. 25. ch.
39 And when they had performed all things according
m render, reasonings out of many hearts.
n literally, far advanced in many days.
• omit: not in the original.
P render, coming in at the same hour.
Himself would not speak of him thus, see ver. 49; but in the simplicity of the narrative we may read his parents, and such expressions, without any danger of for getting the momentous history of the Conception and Nativity. 34.] fall, as a stone of stumbling and rock of offence (see references), at which they should fall through unbelief. rising again,
-or, rising up-in the sense of ch. i. 52-by faith and holiness; or, the fall and rising up may refer to the same persons; as it is said by our Lord, He that humbleth himself shall be exalted.' I prefer this last interpretation, as cohering best with the next verse: see note on it.
35.] This prophecy I do not believe to have its chief reference to the deep sorrows of the mother of our Lord on beholding His sufferings, much less to her future death by martyrdom; least of all to the Crucifixion, which by shedding the blood of her Son, would also pierce her heart and drain it of its life-blood and make it childless. None of these interpretations satisfy us for the words stand in a totally different connexion, and one far worthier of the honour of that holy woman, and of the spiritual character of Symeon's prophecy: that prophecy is, of the struggle of many in Israel through repentance to faith in this Saviour; among which number even His mother herself was to be included. The sharp pangs of
I read, God.
sorrow for sin must pierce her heart also (cf. esp. Acts ii. 37); and the general end follows; that reasonings out of many hearts may be revealed; that they who receive the Lord Jesus may be manifest, and they who reject Him: see John ix. 39. We may find moreover, in the traces of her connexion with our Lord in the Evangelic history, the piercing and dividing of her soul, and in the last notice of her in Acts i., the triumph of her faith after the Ascension. 37. fastings and prayers] Not merely in the ordinary hours of prayer, at nine, and three, or the ordinary fasts on Monday and Thursday, but in an asceticdevotional method of life. night is
said to be put first, because fasts were reckoned from one evening to another. Is it not rather because the greater solemnity and emphasis rests on the religious exercise by night? 38.] It was possibly at the hour of prayer; as she spoke of Him to numbers, who would at such a time be flocking to the temple.
39, 40.] RETURN TO NAZAREth. 39.] Certainly the obvious inference from this verse is, that Joseph and Mary returned from Jerusalem to Nazareth direct. But it is only an inference, and not the assertion of the text. This part of the Gospel History is one where the Harmonists, by their arbitrary reconcilements of the two Evangelistic accounts, have given great advantage to the enemies of the