Luke 3


The time in which John the Baptist began to preach, 1-3.

The prophecies which were fulfilled in him, 4-6.

The matter and success of his preaching, 7-9;

among the people, 10, 11;

among the publicans, 12, 13;

among the soldiers, 14.

His testimony concerning Christ, 15-18.

The reason why Herod put him afterwards in prison, 19, 20.

He baptizes Christ, on whom the Spirit of God descends, 21, 22.

Our Lord's genealogy, 23-38.


Verse 1. Fifteenth year] This was the fifteenth of his

principality and thirteenth of his monarchy: for he was two

years joint emperor, previously to the death of Augustus.

Tiberius Caesar] This emperor succeeded Augustus, in whose reign

Christ was born. He began his reign August 19, A.D. 14, reigned

twenty-three years, and died March 16, A.D. 37, aged seventy eight

years. He was a most infamous character. During the latter part of

his reign especially, he did all the mischief he possibly could;

and that his tyranny might not end with his life, he chose Caius

Caligula for his successor, merely on account of his bad

qualities; and of whom he was accustomed to say, This young prince

will be a SERPENT to the Roman people, and a PHAETHON to the rest

of mankind.

Herod] This was Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great

who murdered the innocents. It was the same Herod who beheaded

John Baptist, and to whom our Lord was sent by Pilate. See the

account of the Herod family in the notes on Mt 2:1.

Iturea and Trachonitis] Two provinces of Syria, on the confines

of Judea.

Abilene] Another province of Syria, which had its name from

Abila, its chief city.

These estates were left to Herod Antipas and his brother Philip

by the will of their father, Herod the Great; and were confirmed

to them by the decree of Augustus.

That Philip was tetrarch of Trachonitis, in the fifteenth year

of Tiberius, we are assured by Josephus, who says that Philip the

brother of Herod died in the twentieth year of Tiberius, after he

had governed Trachonitis, Batanea, and Gaulonitis thirty-seven

years. Antiq. b. xviii. c. 5, s. 6. And Herod continued tetrarch

of Galilee till he was removed by Caligula, the successor of

Tiberius. Antiq. b. xviii. c. 8, s. 2.

That Lysanius was tetrarch of Abilene is also evident from

Josephus. He continued in this government till the Emperor

Claudius took it from him, A.D. 42, and made a present of it to

Agrippa. See Antiq. b. xix. c. 5, s. 1.

Tetrarch signifies the ruler of the fourth part of a country.

See Clarke on Mt 14:1.

Verse 2. Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests] Caiaphas was

the son-in-law of Annas or Ananias, and it is supposed that they

exercised the high priest's office by turns. It is likely that

Annas only was considered as high priest; and that Caiaphas was

what the Hebrews termed cohen mishneh, or

sagan cohanim, the high priest's deputy, or ruler of the temple.

See Clarke on Mt 2:4, and

See Clarke on Joh 18:13.

The facts which St. Luke mentions here tend much to confirm the

truth of the evangelical history. Christianity differs widely from

philosophic system; it is founded in the goodness and authority of

God; and attested by historic facts. It differs also from popular

tradition, which either has had no pure origin, or which is lost

in unknown or fabulous antiquity. It differs also from pagan and

Mohammedan revelations, which were fabricated in a corner, and had

no witnesses. In the above verses we find the persons, the places,

and the times marked with the utmost exactness. It was under the

first Caesars that the preaching of the Gospel took place; and in

their time, the facts on which the whole of Christianity is

founded made their appearance: an age the most enlightened, and

best known from the multitude of its historic records. It was in

Judea, where every thing that professed to come from God was

scrutinized with the most exact and unmerciful criticism. In

writing the history of Christianity, the evangelists appeal to

certain facts which were publicly transacted in such places, under

the government and inspection of such and such persons, and in

such particular times. A thousand persons could have confronted

the falsehood, had it been one! These appeals are made-a challenge

is offered to the Roman government, and to the Jewish rulers and

people-a new religion has been introduced in such a place, at such

a time-this has been accompanied with such and such facts and

miracles! Who can disprove this? All are silent. None appears to

offer even an objection. The cause of infidelity and irreligion is

at stake! If these facts cannot be disproved, the religion of

Christ must triumph. None appears because none could appear. Now

let it be observed, that the persons of that time, only, could

confute these things had they been false; they never attempted it;

therefore these facts are absolute and incontrovertible truths:

this conclusion is necessary. Shall a man then give up his faith

in such attested facts as these, because, more than a thousand

years after, an infidel creeps out, and ventures publicly to sneer

at what his iniquitous soul hopes is not true!

The word of God came unto John] That is, the Holy Spirit that

revealed to him this doctrine of salvation. This came upon him in

the desert, where he was living in such a state of austerity as

gave him full right to preach all the rigours of penitence to

others. Thus we find that the first preachers, historians, and

followers of the doctrines of the Gospel were men eminent for the

austerity of their lives, the simplicity of their manners,

and the sanctity of their conduct; they were authorized by God,

and filled with the most precious gifts of his Spirit. And what

are the apostles which the new philosophy sends us? Philosophers

full of themselves, not guided by the love of truth or wisdom, but

ever seeking their own glory; in constant hostility among

themselves, because of their separate pretensions to particular

discoveries, of the honour of which they would almost as soon lose

life as be deprived. Who are they? Men of a mortified life and

unblamable conversation? No-they are poets and poetasters;

composers of romances, novels, intrigues, farces, comedies, &c.,

full of extravagance and impurity. They are pretended moralists

that preach up pleasure and sensual gratification, and dissolve,

as far as they can, the sacred and civil ties that unite and

support society. They are men whose guilt is heightened by their

assuming the sacred name of philosophers, and dignifying their

impure system with a name at which Philosophy herself blushes and


Verse 3. The baptism of repentance] See Clarke on Mt 3:4-6, and

See Clarke on Mr 1:1, &c., and Mark 16 at the end.

Verse 4. Prepare ye the way] It was customary for the Hindoo

kings, when on journeys, to send a certain class of the people two

or three days before them, to command the inhabitants to clear the

ways. A very necessary precaution where there are no public


Verse 5. Every valley shall be filled] All hinderances shall be

taken out of the way: a quotation from the Greek version of

Isa 40:4, containing an allusion to the preparations made in

rough countries to facilitate the march of mighty kings and

conquerors. See the instance produced on Mt 3:3.

Verse 7. - 9. On this account of the Baptist's mode of

preaching, see Clarke's notes on Mt 3:7-11.

Verse 10. What shall we do then?] The preaching of the Baptist

had been accompanied with an uncommon effusion of that Spirit

which convinces of sin, righteousness, and judgment. The people

who heard him now earnestly begin to inquire what they must do to

be saved? They are conscious that they are exposed to the

judgments of the Lord, and they wish to escape from the coming


Verse 11. He that hath two coats, &c.] He first teaches the

great mass of the people their duty to each other. They were

uncharitable and oppressive, and he taught them not to expect

any mercy from the hand of God, while they acted towards others in

opposition to its dictates. If men be unkind and uncharitable

towards each other, how can they expect the mercy of the Lord to

be extended towards themselves?

Verse 12. Then came also publicans] He next instructs the

tax-gatherers in the proper discharge of their duty: though it

was an office detested by the Jews at large, yet the Baptist does

not condemn it. It is only the abuse of it that he speaks against.

If taxes be necessary for the support of a state, there must be

collectors of them; and the collector, if he properly discharge

his duty, is not only a useful, but also a respectable officer.

But it seems the Jewish tax-gatherers exacted much more from the

people than government authorized them to do, Lu 3:13, and the

surplus they pocketed. See the conduct of many of our surveyors

and assessors. They are oppressors of the people, and enrich

themselves by unjust surcharges. This, I am inclined to think,

is too common an evil; and the executive government is often the

people's scape-goat, to bear the crimes of its officers, crimes

in which it has no concern. For an account of the publicans,

See Clarke on Mt 5:46.

Verse 14. The soldiers likewise demanded of him] He, thirdly,

instructs those among the military. They were either Roman

soldiers, or the soldiers of Herod or Philip. Use no violence to

any, μηδεναδιασεισητε, do not extort money or goods by force

or violence from any. This is the import of the words neminein

concutite, used here by the Vulgate, and points out a crime of

which the Roman soldiers were notoriously guilty, their own

writers being witnesses. Concussio has the above meaning in the

Roman law. See RAPHELIUS in loco.

Neither accuse any falsely] Or, on a frivolous pretence-μηδε

συκοφαντησητε, be not sycophants, like those who are base

flatterers of their masters, who to ingratiate themselves into

their esteem, malign, accuse, and impeach the innocent. Bishop

PEARCE observes that, when the concussio above referred to did not

produce the effect they wished, they often falsely accused the

persons, which is the reason why this advice is added.

See Clarke on Lu 19:7.

Be content with your wages.] οψωνιοις. The word signifies not

only the money which was allotted to a Roman soldier, which was

tico oboli, about three halfpence per day, but also the

necessary supply of wheat, barley, &c. See Raphelius.

Verse 15. Whether he were the Christ] So general was the

reformation which was produced by the Baptist's preaching that the

people were ready to consider him as the promised Messiah. Thus

John came in the spirit and power of Elijah, and reformed all

things; showed the people, the tax-gatherers, and the

soldiers, their respective duties, and persuaded them to put away

the evil of their doings. See Clarke on Mt 17:11.

Verse 16. - 17. On these verses see Mt 3:11, 12, and

Mr 1:7, 8, and particularly Clarke's note on "Joh 3:5".

Verse 19. Herod the tetrarch] See this subject explained at

large, Mt 14:1, &c., and Mr 6:21, 23.

Verse 21. Jesus-being baptized] See on Mt 3:16, 17.

Verse 23. Thirty years of age] This was the age required by the

law, to which the priests must arrive before they could be

installed in their office: See Clarke on Nu 4:3.

Being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph] This same phrase is

used by Herodotus to signify one who was only reputed to be the

son of a particular person: τουτονπαιςνομιζεται he was SUPPOSED

to be this man's son.

Much learned labour has been used to reconcile this genealogy

with that in St. Matthew, Mt 1:1-17, and there are several ways

of doing it; the following, which appears to me to be the best, is

also the most simple and easy. For a more elaborate discussion of

the subject, the reader is referred to the additional observations

at the end of the chapter.

MATTHEW, in descending from Abraham to Joseph, the spouse of the

blessed virgin, speaks of SONS properly such, by way of natural

generation: Abraham begat Isaac, and Isaac begat Jacob, &c. But

Luke, in ascending from the Saviour of the world to GOD himself,

speaks of sons either properly or improperly such: on this

account he uses an indeterminate mode of expression, which may be

applied to sons either putatively or really such. And Jesus

himself began to be about thirty years of age, being, as was

SUPPOSED the son of Joseph-of Heli-of Matthat, &c. This receives

considerable support from Raphelius's method of reading the

original ωνωςενομιζετουιοςιωσηφτουηλι, being (when

reputed the son of Joseph) the son of Heli, &c. That St. Luke does

not always speak of sons properly such, is evident from the first

and last person which he names: Jesus Christ was only the supposed

son of Joseph, because Joseph was the husband of his mother Mary:

and Adam, who is said to be the son of God, was such only by

creation. After this observation it is next necessary to

consider, that, in the genealogy described by St. Luke, there are

two sons improperly such: i.e. two sons-in-law, instead of two


As the Hebrews never permitted women to enter into their

genealogical tables, whenever a family happened to end with a

daughter, instead of naming her in the genealogy, they inserted

her husband, as the son of him who was, in reality, but his

father-in-law. This import, bishop Pearce has fully shown,

νομιζεσθαι bears, in a variety of places-Jesus was considered

according to law, or allowed custom, to be the son of Joseph, as

he was of Heli.

The two sons-in-law who are to be noticed in this genealogy are

Joseph the son-in-law of Heli, whose own father was Jacob,

Mt 1:16; and

Salathiel, the son-in-law of Neri, whose own father was

Jechonias: 1Ch 3:17, and Mt 1:12. This remark alone is

sufficient to remove every difficulty. Thus it appears that

Joseph, son of Jacob, according to St. Matthew, was son-in-law

of Heli, according to St. Luke. And Salathiel, son of Jechonias,

according to the former, was son-in-law of Neri, according to the


Mary therefore appears to have been the daughter of Heli; so

called by abbreviation for Heliachim, which is the same in Hebrew

with Joachim.

Joseph, son of Jacob, and Mary; daughter of Heli, were of the

same family: both came from Zerubbabel; Joseph from Abiud, his

eldest son, Mt 1:13, and Mary by

Rhesa, the youngest. See Lu 3:27.

Salathiel and Zorobabel, from whom St. Matthew and St. Luke

cause Christ to proceed, were themselves descended from Solomon in

a direct line: and though St. Luke says that Salathiel was son of

Neri, who was descended from Nathan, Solomon's eldest brother,

1Ch 3:5, this is only to be understood of his having espoused

Nathan's daughter, and that Neri dying, probably, without male

issues the two branches of the family of David, that of Nathan and

that of Solomon, were both united in the person of Zerubbabel, by

the marriage of Salathiel, chief of the regal family of Solomon,

with the daughter of Neri, chief and heretrix of the family of

Nathan. Thus it appears that Jesus, son of Mary, reunited in

himself all the blood, privileges, and rights of the whole family

of David; in consequence of which he is emphatically called, The

son of David. It is worthy of being remarked that St. Matthew, who

wrote principally for the Jews, extends his genealogy to Abraham

through whom the promise of the Messiah was given to the Jews; but

St. Luke, who wrote his history for the instruction of the

Gentiles, extends his genealogy to Adam, to whom the promise of

the Redeemer was given in behalf of himself and of all his

posterity. See Clarke on Mt 1:1, &c.

Verse 36. Of Cainan] This Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, and

father of Sala, is not found in any other Scripture genealogy. See

Ge 10:24; 11:12; 1Ch 1:18, 24, where

Arphaxad is made the father of Sala, and no mention at all made

of Cainan. Some suppose that Cainan was a surname of Sala, and

that the names should be read together thus, The son of Heber, the

son of Salacainan, the son of Arphaxad, &c. If this does not untie

the knot, it certainly cuts it; and the reader may pass on without

any great scruple or embarrassment. There are many sensible

observations on this genealogy in the notes at the end of Bishop

Newcome's Harmony.

Copyright information for Clarke