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Jews by birth. In verse 14, he says that Luke, the beloved pnysician, and Demas also saluted them; from which it is inferred that they were not of the circumcision, but were by birth Gentiles.
Most writers suppose that Luke, the writer of this Gospel, was intended in the above place in Colossians. If so, his profession was that of a physician. And it has been remarked that his descriptions of diseases are more accurate, and circumstantial, and have more of technical correctness than those of the other evangelists.
Luke's Gospel bears the same marks of inspiration as the other books. It is simple, pure, yet sublime; nothing unworthy of God; and elevated far above the writings of any uninspired man.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE.
1 FORASMUCH as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,
'Forasmuch as many.' It is probable that Luke refers to fragments of history, or to narratives of detached sayings, or acts, or parables of our Lord, which had been made and circulated among the disciples, and others. That this was what he meant, appears further from ver. 3; where Luke professes to write' in order; that is, to give a regular, full, and systematic account. The others were broken and incomplete. This was to be regular and full. Taken in hand.' Undertaken, attempted. To set forth in order.' To compose a narrative. It does not refer to the order or arrangement, but means simply to give a narrative. A declaration.' A narrative, an account of. 'Which are most surely believed among us.' Among christians-among all the christians then living. Christians of that day had the best of all opportunities of knowing whether those things were true. Many had seen them, and all others had the account from those who had witnessed them. Infidels now cannot possibly be as good judges in the matter as those who lived at the time, and were competent to determine whether these things were true or false.
2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eye-witnesses, and ministers of the word;
'As they delivered them.' As they gave an account of them. 'From the beginning.' That is, from the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. Eye-witnesses.' Who had seen them themselves, and who were therefore proper witnesses. 'Ministers of the word.' The term 'word' here means the gospel. Luke never uses it, as John does, to denote the second person of the Trinity. These eye-witnesses and ministers, refer doubtless to the seventy disciples, to the apostles, and perhaps to other preachers who had gone forth to proclaim the same things.
3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,
'It seemed good.' I thought it best, or I have also determined. 'Having had perfect understanding,' &c. The literal translation
of the original would be 'having exactly traced every thing from the first.' Or having, by diligent and careful investigation, followed up every thing to the source, to obtain an accurate account of the matter. Luke did not profess to have seen these things; and this expression is to show how he acquired his information. It was by tracing up every account till he became satisfied of its truth. We see here the nature of Luke's inspiration. God, by his Holy Spirit, directed his faculties and kept him from error. 'In order.' This word means distinctly, particularly, in opposition to the confused and broken accounts to which he had referred before. Most excellent Theophilus.' The title, ' most excellent,' is to be considered as denoting rank or office. It occurs only in three other places in the New Testament, and is there given to men in office-to Felix and Festus, Acts xxiii. 26; xxiv. 3; xxvi. 25. These titles express no quality of the men, but belong to the office; and we may hence learn that it is not improper for christians to address men in office by their customary titles. Who Theophilus was is unknown. It is probable that he was some distinguished Roman, or Greek, who had been converted, who was a friend of Luke, and who had requested an account of these things.
4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.
"The certainty. Have full evidence, or proof of. 'Been instructed. By the preachers of the gospel.
5 ¶ There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia. and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.
'In the days of Herod.' See Matt. ii. 1. 'Of the course of Abia.' When the priests became so numerous that they could not all at once minister at the altar, David divided them into twenty-four classes or courses, each one of which officiated for a week, 1 Chron. xxiv. The class, or course, of Abia, was the eighth in order, 1 Chron. xxiv. 10. Compare 2 Chron. viii. 14. The Greek word Abia is the same as the Hebrew word Abijah. 'His wife was of the daughters of Aaron. A descendant of Aaron, the first high priest of the Jews.
6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
'Both righteous.' Both just, or holy. It is an honourable testimonial of their piety towards God. 'Walking in,' &c. Keeping the commandments. To walk in the way that God commands is to obey. Ordinances.' Rites and customs which God
had ordained, or appointed. These words refer to all the duties of religion, which were made known to them. Blameless.' They were strict, exact, punctual. Yet this, if it had been mere external observance, might have been no proof of piety. See Phil. iii. 6. But in the case of Zacharias and Elisabeth, it seems to have been real love to God, and sincere regard for his law.
7 And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren and they both were now well stricken in years.
'Well stricken in years.' Old, or advanced in life, so as to render the prospect of having children hopeless.
8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course,
'Before God.' The temple was regarded by the Jews as the house or dwelling of God; and in the first temple there was, in the most holy place, a cloud called the Shechinah, or visible sign of the presence of God. It was thus before God, that Zacharias offered incense.
9 According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.
The Jewish writers inform us that it was customary for the priests to divide their daily task by lot. To burn incense. Incense is an aromatic, or white rosin, procured from trees chiefly in Arabia. It was distinguished for a pleasant smell when burnt, and was used in ancient worship. It was burnt by the priest every morning and evening, Ex. xxx. 7, 8. This was the time of the evening incense. The incense used in the temple was made of stacte, onycha, and galbanum, Ex. xxx. 34, with pure frankincense, and it was not lawful for this compound to be used elsewhere than in the house of God. Into the temple.' See Matt. xxi. 12. The part of the temple where incense was burnt was the holy place.
10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.
'The whole multitude.' This was the regular time of evening prayer, and multitudes came up to the temple to worship. Praying without. In the courts around the temple; particularly in the court of the women.
11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
'An angel.' It had now been about four hundred years since the time of Malachi, and since there had been any Divine revela
tion. Now that Messiah was about to appear, God sent his messenger to announce his coming, to encourage the hearts of his people, and to prepare them to receive him. On the right side,' &c. The altar of incense stood close by the veil which divided he holy place from the most holy. On the north stood the table of shew-bread. On the south the golden candlestick. As Zacharias entered, the angel would stand near the table of shewbread.
12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
'He was troubled.' This was an unusual appearance. He was alone, in the presence of God. The appearance was sudden, unexpected, and therefore fearful.
13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
'Thy prayer is heard.' That is, thy prayer for offspring. This, among the Jews, was an object of intense desire. No prospect was more gloomy to them than that of dying childless, so that their name should perish.
'At his birth.' This does not refer so much to the time of his birth, as to subsequent rejoicing. Such shall be his character, that he shall be an honour to the family, and a blessing to mankind.
14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; shall rejoice at his birth.
15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.
'Shall be great.' Shall be eminent or distinguished. 'In the sight of the Lord.' That is, shall be really or truly great. God shall regard him as such. Shall drink neither wine." The kind of wine commonly used in Judea was a light wine, often not stronger than cider in this country. It was the common drink of all classes of the people. The use of wine was forbidden only to the Nazarite. Num. vi. 3. It was because John sustained this character, that he abstained from the use of wine. Strong drink.' It is not easy to ascertain precisely what is meant by this word, but we are certain that it does not mean strong drink in our sense of the term. Distilled spirits were not then known. The strong drink among the Jews was probably nothing more than fermented liquors, or a drink obtained from fermented dates, figs, and the