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|New American Bible|
2002 11 11
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1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar
Augustus 2 that the whole world should be enrolled.
This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius
was governor of Syria.
So all went to be enrolled, each to his own
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the
town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem,
because he was of the house and family of David,
to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who
was with child.
While they were there, the time came for her to
have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son. 3
She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there
was no room for them in the inn.
4 Now there were shepherds in that region living
in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the
glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the
5 For today in the city of David a savior has
been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you: you will find
an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger."
And suddenly there was a multitude of the
heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:
6 "Glory to God in the highest and on earth
peace to those on whom his favor rests."
When the angels went away from them to heaven,
the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see
this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us."
So they went in haste and found Mary and
Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.
When they saw this, they made known the message
that had been told them about this child.
All who heard it were amazed by what had been
told them by the shepherds.
And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on
them in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and
praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.
When eight days were completed for his
circumcision, 7 he was named Jesus, the name given him by
the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
8 When the days were completed for their
purification 9 according to the law of Moses, they took him
up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord,
"Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,"
and to offer the sacrifice of "a pair of
turtledoves or two young pigeons," in accordance with the dictate in the
law of the Lord.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was
Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, 10
and the holy Spirit was upon him.
It had been revealed to him by the holy Spirit
that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord.
He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when
the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in
regard to him,
he took him into his arms and blessed God,
"Now, Master, you may let your servant go
in peace, according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and
glory for your people Israel."
The child's father and mother were amazed at
what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his
mother, "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in
Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted
(and you yourself a sword will pierce) 11
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter
of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived
seven years with her husband after her marriage,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She
never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
And coming forward at that very time, she gave
thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption
When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions
of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of
The child grew and became strong, filled with
wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
12 Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for
the feast of Passover,
and when he was twelve years old, they went up
according to festival custom.
After they had completed its days, as they were
returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not
Thinking that he was in the caravan, they
journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances,
but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem
to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple,
sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them
and all who heard him were astounded at his
understanding and his answers.
When his parents saw him, they were astonished,
and his mother said to him, "Son, why have you done this to us? Your
father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety."
And he said to them, "Why were you looking
for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" 13
But they did not understand what he said to
He went down with them and came to Nazareth,
and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.
And Jesus advanced (in) wisdom and age and
favor before God and man.
1 [1-2] Although universal
registrations of Roman citizens are attested in 28 B.C., 8 B.C., and A.D. 14
and enrollments in individual provinces of those who are not Roman citizens are
also attested, such a universal census of the Roman world under Caesar Augustus
is unknown outside the New Testament. Moreover, there are notorious historical
problems connected with Luke's dating the census when Quirinius was governor of
Syria, and the various attempts to resolve the difficulties have proved
unsuccessful. P. Sulpicius Quirinius became legate of the province of Syria in
A.D. 6-7 when Judea was annexed to the province of Syria. At that time, a
provincial census of Judea was taken up. If Quirinius had been legate of Syria
previously, it would have to have been before 10 B.C. because the various
legates of Syria from 10 B.C. to 4 B.C. (the death of Herod) are known, and
such a dating for an earlier census under Quirinius would create additional
problems for dating the beginning of Jesus' ministry (⇒ Luke
3:1, ⇒ 23). A previous legateship after 4
B.C. (and before A.D. 6) would not fit with the dating of Jesus' birth in the
days of Herod (⇒ Luke 1:5; ⇒ Matthew
2:1). Luke may simply be combining Jesus' birth in Bethlehem with his
vague recollection of a census under Quirinius (see also
⇒ Acts 5:37) to underline the significance of this
birth for the whole Roman world: through this child born in Bethlehem peace and
salvation come to the empire.
2  Caesar Augustus: the reign of
the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus is usually dated from 27 B.C. to his death in
A.D. 14. According to Greek inscriptions, Augustus was regarded in the Roman
Empire as "savior" and "god," and he was credited with
establishing a time of peace, the pax Augusta, throughout the Roman world
during his long reign. It is not by chance that Luke relates the birth of Jesus
to the time of Caesar Augustus: the real savior (⇒ Luke
2:11) and peace-bearer (⇒ Luke 2:14; see
also ⇒ Luke 19:38) is the child born in Bethlehem.
The great emperor is simply God's agent (like the Persian king Cyrus in
⇒ Isaiah 44:28-⇒ 45:1)
who provides the occasion for God's purposes to be accomplished. The whole
world: that is, the whole Roman world: Rome, Italy, and the Roman provinces.
3  Firstborn son: the description
of Jesus as firstborn son does not necessarily mean that Mary had other sons.
It is a legal description indicating that Jesus possessed the rights and
privileges of the firstborn son (Genesis 27; ⇒ Exodus
13:2; ⇒ Numbers 3:12-13;
⇒ 18:15-16; ⇒ Deut
21:15-17). See the notes on ⇒ Matthew
1:25; ⇒ Mark 6:3. Wrapped him in swaddling
clothes: there may be an allusion here to the birth of another descendant of
David, his son Solomon, who though a great king was wrapped in swaddling
clothes like any other infant (⇒ Wisdom 7:4-6). Laid
him in a manger: a feeding trough for animals. A possible allusion to
⇒ Isaiah 1:3 LXX.
4 [8-20] The announcement of Jesus'
birth to the shepherds is in keeping with Luke's theme that the lowly are
singled out as the recipients of God's favors and blessings (see also
⇒ Luke 1:48, ⇒ 52).
5  The basic message of the
infancy narrative is contained in the angel's announcement: this child is
savior, Messiah, and Lord. Luke is the only synoptic gospel writer to use the
title savior for Jesus (⇒ Luke 2:11;
⇒ Acts 5:31; ⇒ 13:23;
see also ⇒ Luke 1:69;
⇒ 19:9; ⇒ Acts 4:12). As
savior, Jesus is looked upon by Luke as the one who rescues humanity from sin
and delivers humanity from the condition of alienation from God. The title
christos, "Christ," is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew masiah,
"Messiah," "anointed one." Among certain groups in
first-century Palestinian Judaism, the title was applied to an expected royal
leader from the line of David who would restore the kingdom to Israel (see
⇒ Acts 1:6). The political overtones of the title are
played down in Luke and instead the Messiah of the Lord
(⇒ Luke 2:26) or the Lord's anointed is the one who
now brings salvation to all humanity, Jew and Gentile (⇒ Luke
2:29-32). Lord is the most frequently used title for Jesus in Luke
and Acts. In the New Testament it is also applied to Yahweh, as it is in the
Old Testament. When used of Jesus it points to his transcendence and dominion
6  On earth peace to those on
whom his favor rests: the peace that results from the Christ event is for those
whom God has favored with his grace. This reading is found in the oldest
representatives of the Western and Alexandrian text traditions and is the
preferred one; the Byzantine text tradition, on the other hand, reads: "on
earth peace, good will toward men." The peace of which Luke's gospel
speaks (⇒ Luke 2:14; ⇒ 7:50;
⇒ 8:48; ⇒ 10:5-6;
⇒ 19:38, ⇒ 42;
⇒ 24:36) is more than the absence of war of the pax
Augusta; it also includes the security and well-being characteristic of peace
in the Old Testament.
7  Just as John before him had
been incorporated into the people of Israel through his circumcision, so too
this child (see the note on ⇒ Luke 1:57-66).
8 [22-40] The presentation of Jesus
in the temple depicts the parents of Jesus as devout Jews, faithful observers
of the law of the Lord (⇒ Luke 2:23-24,
⇒ 39), i.e., the law of Moses. In this respect, they
are described in a fashion similar to the parents of John
(⇒ Luke 1:6) and Simeon (⇒ Luke
2:25) and Anna (⇒ Luke 2:36-37).
9  Their purification:
syntactically, their must refer to Mary and Joseph, even though the Mosaic law
never mentions the purification of the husband. Recognizing the problem, some
Western scribes have altered the text to read "his purification,"
understanding the presentation of Jesus in the temple as a form of
purification; the Vulgate version has a Latin form that could be either
"his" or "her." According to the Mosaic law
(⇒ Lev 12:2-8), the woman who gives birth to a boy
is unable for forty days to touch anything sacred or to enter the temple area
by reason of her legal impurity. At the end of this period she is required to
offer a year-old lamb as a burnt offering and a turtledove or young pigeon as
an expiation of sin. The woman who could not afford a lamb offered instead two
turtledoves or two young pigeons, as Mary does here. They took him up to
Jerusalem to present him to the Lord: as the firstborn son
(⇒ Luke 2:7) Jesus was consecrated to the Lord as the
law required (⇒ Exodus 13:2,
⇒ 12), but there was no requirement that this be
done at the temple. The concept of a presentation at the temple is probably
derived from ⇒ 1 Sam 1:24-28, where Hannah offers
the child Samuel for sanctuary services. The law further stipulated
(⇒ Numbers 3:47-48) that the firstborn son should be
redeemed by the parents through their payment of five shekels to a member of a
priestly family. About this legal requirement Luke is silent.
10  Awaiting the consolation of
Israel: Simeon here and later Anna who speak about the child to all who were
awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem represent the hopes and expectations of
faithful and devout Jews who at this time were looking forward to the
restoration of God's rule in Israel. The birth of Jesus brings these hopes to
11  (And you yourself a sword will
pierce): Mary herself will not be untouched by the various reactions to the
role of Jesus (34). Her blessedness as mother of the Lord will be challenged by
her son who describes true blessedness as "hearing the word of God and
observing it" (⇒ Luke 11:27-28 and ⇒ Luke
12 [41-52] This story's concern with
an incident from Jesus' youth is unique in the canonical gospel tradition. It
presents Jesus in the role of the faithful Jewish boy, raised in the traditions
of Israel, and fulfilling all that the law requires. With this episode, the
infancy narrative ends just as it began, in the setting of the Jerusalem
13  I must be in my Father's
house: this phrase can also be translated, "I must be about my Father's
work." In either translation, Jesus refers to God as his Father. His
divine sonship, and his obedience to his heavenly Father's will, take
precedence over his ties to his family.
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