Luke 3

The Ministry of John the Baptist

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,
Or “Emperor Tiberius” (“Caesar” is a title for the Roman emperor).
Tiberius Caesar was the Roman emperor Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus, who ruled from a.d. 14–37.
when Pontius Pilate
The rule of Pontius Pilate is also described by Josephus, J. W. 2.9.2–4 (2.169-177) and Ant. 18.3.1 (18.55-59).
was governor of Judea, and Herod
Herod refers here to Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great. He ruled from 4 b.c.-a.d. 39, sharing the rule of his father’s realm with his two brothers. One brother, Archelaus (Matt 2:22) was banished in a.d. 6 and died in a.d. 18; the other brother, Herod Philip (mentioned next) died in a.d. 34.
was tetrarch
A tetrarch was a ruler with rank and authority lower than a king, who ruled only with the approval of the Roman authorities. This was roughly equivalent to being governor of a region. Several times in the NT, Herod tetrarch of Galilee is called a king (Matt 14:9, Mark 6:14–29), reflecting popular usage.
of Galilee, and his brother Philip
Philip refers to Herod Philip, son of Herod the Great and brother of Herod Antipas. Philip ruled as tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis from 4 b.c.-a.d. 34.
was tetrarch of the region of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias
Nothing else is known about Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene.
was tetrarch of Abilene,
during the high priesthood
Use of the singular high priesthood to mention two figures is unusual but accurate, since Annas was the key priest from a.d. 6–15 and then his relatives were chosen for many of the next several years. After two brief tenures by others, his son-in-law Caiaphas came to power and stayed there until a.d. 36.
of Annas and Caiaphas, the word
The term translated “word” here is not λόγος (logos) but ῥῆμα (rhēma), and thus could refer to the call of the Lord to John to begin ministry.
of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.
Or “desert.”
Grk “And he.” Here καί (kai) has not been translated because of differences between Greek and English style. Due to the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started here in the translation.
went into all the region around the Jordan River,
“River” is not in the Greek text but is supplied for clarity.
preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
A baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins was a call for preparation for the arrival of the Lord’s salvation. To participate in this baptism was a recognition of the need for God’s forgiveness with a sense that one needed to live differently as a response to it (Luke 3:10–14).

As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

“The voice
Or “A voice.”
of one shouting in the wilderness:
Or “desert.” The syntactic position of the phrase “in the wilderness” is unclear in both Luke and the LXX. The MT favors taking it with “Prepare a way,” while the LXX takes it with “a voice shouting.” If the former, the meaning would be that such preparation should be done “in the wilderness.” If the latter, the meaning would be that the place from where John’s ministry went forth was “in the wilderness.” There are Jewish materials that support both renderings: 1QS 8:14 and 9.19-20 support the MT while certain rabbinic texts favor the LXX (see D. L. Bock, Luke [BECNT], 1:290–91). While it is not absolutely necessary that a call in the wilderness led to a response in the wilderness, it is not unlikely that such would be the case. Thus, in the final analysis, the net effect between the two choices may be minimal. In any case, a majority of commentators and translations take “in the wilderness” with “The voice of one shouting” (D. L. Bock; R. H. Stein, Luke [NAC], 129; I. H. Marshall, Luke [NIGTC], 136; NIV, NRSV, NKJV, NLT, NASB, REB).

‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
This call to “make paths straight” in this context is probably an allusion to preparation through repentance as the verb ποιέω (poieō) reappears in vv. 8, 10, 11, 12, 14.
his paths straight.
Every valley will be filled,
The figurative language of this verse speaks of the whole creation preparing for the arrival of a major figure, so all obstacles to his approach are removed.

and every mountain and hill will be brought low,
and the crooked will be made straight,
and the rough ways will be made smooth,
and all humanity
Grk “all flesh.”
will see the salvation of God.’”
A quotation from Isa 40:3–5. Though all the synoptic gospels use this citation from Isaiah, only Luke cites the material of vv. 5–6. His goal may well be to get to the declaration of v. 6, where all humanity (i.e., all nations) see God’s salvation (see also Luke 24:47).

So John
Grk “he”; the referent (John) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
said to the crowds
The crowds. It is interesting to trace references to “the crowd” in Luke. It is sometimes noted favorably, other times less so. The singular appears 25 times in Luke while the plural occurs 16 times. Matt 3:7 singles out the Sadducees and Pharisees here.
that came out to be baptized by him, “You offspring of vipers!
Or “snakes.”
Who warned you to flee
The rebuke “Who warned you to flee…?” compares the crowd to snakes who flee their desert holes when the heat of a fire drives them out.
from the coming wrath?
Therefore produce
The verb here is ποιέω (poieō; see v. 4).
Grk “fruits.” The plural Greek term καρπούς has been translated with the collective singular “fruit” (so NIV; cf. Matt 3:8 where the singular καρπός is found). Some other translations render the plural καρπούς as “fruits” (e.g., NRSV, NASB, NAB, NKJV).
that proves your repentance, and don’t begin to say
In other words, “do not even begin to think this.”
to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’
We have Abraham as our father. John’s warning to the crowds really assumes two things: (1) A number of John’s listeners apparently believed that simply by their physical descent from Abraham, they were certain heirs of the promises made to the patriarch, and (2) God would never judge his covenant people lest he inadvertently place the fulfillment of his promises in jeopardy. In light of this, John tells these people two things: (1) they need to repent and produce fruit in keeping with repentance, for only that saves from the coming wrath, and (2) God will raise up “children for Abraham from these stones” if he wants to. Their disobedience will not threaten the realization of God’s sovereign purposes.
For I tell you that God can raise up children for Abraham from these stones!
The point of the statement God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham is that ancestry or association with a tradition tied to the great founder of the Jewish nation is not an automatic source of salvation.
Even now the ax is laid at the root of the trees,
Even now the ax is laid at the root of the trees. The imagery of an “ax already laid at the root of the trees” is vivid, connoting sudden and catastrophic judgment for the unrepentant and unfruitful. The image of “fire” serves to further heighten the intensity of the judgment referred to. It is John’s way of summoning all people to return to God with all their heart and avoid his unquenchable wrath soon to be poured out. John’s language and imagery is probably ultimately drawn from the OT where Israel is referred to as a fruitless vine (Hos 10:1–2; Jer 2:21–22) and the image of an “ax” is used to indicate God’s judgment (Ps 74:5–6; Jer 46:22).
and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be
Grk “is”; the present tense (ἐκκόπτεται, ekkoptetai) has futuristic force here.
cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10  So
Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so” to indicate the consequential nature of the people’s response.
the crowds were asking
Though this verb is imperfect, in this context it does not mean repeated, ongoing questions, but simply a presentation in vivid style as the following verbs in the other examples are aorist.
him, “What then should we do?”
11 John
Grk “he”; the referent (John) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
answered them,
Grk “Answering, he said to them.” This construction with passive participle and finite verb is pleonastic (redundant) and has been simplified in the translation to “answered them.”
“The person who has two tunics
Or “shirt” (a long garment worn under the cloak next to the skin). The name for this garment (χιτών, chitōn) presents some difficulty in translation. Most modern readers would not understand what a ‘tunic’ was any more than they would be familiar with a ‘chiton.’ On the other hand, attempts to find a modern equivalent are also a problem: “Shirt” conveys the idea of a much shorter garment that covers only the upper body, and “undergarment” (given the styles of modern underwear) is more misleading still. “Tunic” was therefore employed, but with a note to explain its nature.
must share with the person who has none, and the person who has food must do likewise.”
12 Tax collectors
The tax collectors would bid to collect taxes for the Roman government and then add a surcharge, which they kept. Since tax collectors worked for Rome, they were viewed as traitors to their own people and were not well liked. Yet even they were moved by John’s call.
also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?”
13 He told them, “Collect no more
In the Greek text μηδὲν πλέον (mēden pleon, “no more”) is in an emphatic position.
By telling the tax collectors to collect no more than…required John was calling for honesty and integrity in a business that was known for greed and dishonesty.
than you are required to.”
Or “than you are ordered to.”
14 Then some soldiers
Grk “And soldiers.”
also asked him, “And as for us – what should we do?”
Grk “And what should we ourselves do?”
He told them, “Take money from no one by violence
Or “Rob no one.” The term διασείσητε (diaseisēte) here refers to “shaking someone.” In this context it refers to taking financial advantage of someone through violence, so it refers essentially to robbery. Soldiers are to perform their tasks faithfully. A changed person is to carry out his tasks in life faithfully and without grumbling.
or by false accusation,
The term translated “accusation” (συκοφαντήσητε, sukofantēsēte) refers to a procedure by which someone could bring charges against an individual and be paid a part of the fine imposed by the court. Soldiers could do this to supplement their pay, and would thus be tempted to make false accusations.
and be content with your pay.”

15  While the people were filled with anticipation
Or “with expectation.” The participle προσδοκῶντος (prosdokōntos) is taken temporally.
The people were filled with anticipation because they were hoping God would send someone to deliver them.
and they all wondered
Grk “pondered in their hearts.”
whether perhaps John
Grk “in their hearts concerning John, (whether) perhaps he might be the Christ.” The translation simplifies the style here.
could be the Christ,
Or “Messiah”; both “Christ” (Greek) and “Messiah” (Hebrew and Aramaic) mean “one who has been anointed.”
See the note on Christ in 2:11.
16 John answered them all,
Grk “answered them all, saying.” The participle λέγων (legōn) is redundant and has not been translated.
“I baptize you with water,
A few mss (C D 892 1424 pc it ) add εἰς μετάνοιαν (eis metanoian, “for repentance”). Although two of the mss in support are early and important, it is an obviously motivated reading to add clarification, probably representing a copyist’s attempt to harmonize Luke’s version with Matt 3:11.
but one more powerful than I am is coming – I am not worthy
Grk “of whom I am not worthy.”
The humility of John is evident in the statement I am not worthy. This was considered one of the least worthy tasks of a slave, and John did not consider himself worthy to do even that for the one to come, despite the fact he himself was a prophet!
to untie the strap
The term refers to the leather strap or thong used to bind a sandal. This is often viewed as a collective singular and translated as a plural, “the straps of his sandals,” but it may be more emphatic to retain the singular here.
of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
With the Holy Spirit and fire. There are differing interpretations for this phrase regarding the number of baptisms and their nature. (1) Some see one baptism here, and this can be divided further into two options. (a) The baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire could refer to the cleansing, purifying work of the Spirit in the individual believer through salvation and sanctification, or (b) it could refer to two different results of Christ’s ministry: Some accept Christ and are baptized with the Holy Spirit, but some reject him and receive judgment. (2) Other interpreters see two baptisms here: The baptism of the Holy Spirit refers to the salvation Jesus brings at his first advent, in which believers receive the Holy Spirit, and the baptism of fire refers to the judgment Jesus will bring upon the world at his second coming. One must take into account both the image of fire and whether individual or corporate baptism is in view. A decision is not easy on either issue. The image of fire is used to refer to both eternal judgment (e.g., Matt 25:41) and the power of the Lord’s presence to purge and cleanse his people (e.g., Isa 4:4–5). The pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost, a fulfillment of this prophecy no matter which interpretation is taken, had both individual and corporate dimensions. It is possible that since Holy Spirit and fire are governed by a single preposition in Greek, the one-baptism view may be more likely, but this is not certain. Simply put, there is no consensus view in scholarship at this time on the best interpretation of this passage.
17 His winnowing fork
A winnowing fork is a pitchfork-like tool used to toss threshed grain in the air so that the wind blows away the chaff, leaving the grain to fall to the ground. The note of purging is highlighted by the use of imagery involving sifting though threshed grain for the useful kernels.
is in his hand to clean out his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his storehouse,
Or “granary,” “barn” (referring to a building used to store a farm’s produce rather than a building for housing livestock).
but the chaff he will burn up with inextinguishable fire.”
The image of fire that cannot be extinguished is from the OT: Job 20:26; Isa 34:8–10; 66:24.

18  And in this way,
On construction μὲν οὖν καί (men oun kai), see BDF #451.1.
with many other exhortations, John
Grk “he”; the referent (John) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
proclaimed good news to the people.
19 But when John rebuked Herod
Herod refers here to Herod Antipas. See the note on Herod Antipas in 3:1.
the tetrarch
See the note on tetrarch in 3:1.
because of Herodias, his brother’s wife,
Several mss (A C K W Ψ 33 565 579 1424 2542 al bo) read τῆς γυναικὸς Φιλίππου τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ (tēs gunaikos Filippou tou adelfou autou, “the wife of his brother Philip”), specifying whose wife Herodias was. The addition of “Philip,” however, is an assimilation to Matt 14:3 and is lacking in the better witnesses.
This marriage to his brother’s wife was a violation of OT law (Lev 18:16; 20:21). In addition, both Herod Antipas and Herodias had each left previous marriages to enter into this union.
and because of all the evil deeds
Or “immoralities.”
that he had done,
20 Herod added this to them all: He locked up John in prison.

The Baptism of Jesus

21  Now when
Grk “Now it happened that when.” The introductory phrase ἐγένετο (egeneto, “it happened that”), common in Luke (69 times) and Acts (54 times), is redundant in contemporary English and has not been translated.
all the people were baptized, Jesus also was baptized. And while he was praying,
Grk “and while Jesus was being baptized and praying.” The first of these participles has been translated as a finite verb to be more consistent with English style.
the heavens
Or “the sky”; the Greek word οὐρανός (ouranos) may be translated “sky” or “heaven,” depending on the context. In this context, although the word is singular, the English plural “heavens” connotes the Greek better than the singular “heaven” would, for the singular does not normally refer to the sky.
22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove.
This phrase is a descriptive comparison. The Spirit is not a dove, but descends like one in some type of bodily representation.
And a voice came from heaven, “You are my one dear Son;
Grk “my beloved Son,” or “my Son, the beloved [one].” The force of ἀγαπητός (agapētos) is often “pertaining to one who is the only one of his or her class, but at the same time is particularly loved and cherished” (L&N 58.53; cf. also BDAG 7 s.v. 1).
in you I take great delight.”
Instead of “You are my one dear Son; in you I take great delight,” one Greek ms and several Latin mss and church fathers (D it Ju [Cl] Meth Hil Aug) quote Ps 2:7 outright with “You are my Son; today I have fathered you.” But the weight of the ms testimony is against this reading.
Or “with you I am well pleased.”
The allusions in the remarks of the text recall Ps 2:7a; Isa 42:1 and either Isa 41:8 or, less likely, Gen 22:12, 16. God is marking out Jesus as his chosen one (the meaning of “[in you I take] great delight”), but it may well be that this was a private experience that only Jesus and John saw and heard (cf. John 1:32–33).

The Genealogy of Jesus

23  So
Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so” to indicate the summary nature of the statement.
Jesus, when he began his ministry,
The words “his ministry” are not in the Greek text, but are implied. Direct objects were frequently omitted in Greek when clear from the context, but must be supplied for the contemporary English reader.
was about thirty years old. He was
Grk “of age, being.” Due to the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, the participle ὤν (ōn) has been translated as a finite verb with the pronoun “he” supplied as subject, and a new sentence begun in the translation at this point.
the son (as was supposed)
The parenthetical remark as was supposed makes it clear that Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus. But a question still remains whose genealogy this is. Mary is nowhere mentioned, so this may simply refer to the line of Joseph, who would have functioned as Jesus’ legal father, much like stepchildren can have when they are adopted by a second parent.
of Joseph, the son
Several of the names in the list have alternate spellings in the ms tradition, but most of these are limited to a few mss. Only significant differences are considered in the notes through v. 38.
The construction of the genealogy is consistent throughout as a genitive article (τοῦ, tou) marks sonship. Unlike Matthew’s genealogy, this one runs from Jesus down. It also goes all the way to Adam, not stopping at Abraham as Matthew’s does. Jesus has come for all races of humanity. Both genealogies go through David.
of Heli,
24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, 25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, 27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel,
On Zerubbabel see Ezra 2:2.
the son of Shealtiel,
Grk and KJV Salathiel. Most modern English translations use the OT form of the name (Shealtiel, Ezra 3:2).
the son of Neri,
Shealtiel, the son of Neri. 1 Chr 3:17 identifies Jeconiah as the father of Shealtiel. The judgment on Jeconiah’s line (Jer 22:30) may be reflected here.
28 the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, 29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, 31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan,
The use of Nathan here as the son of David is different than Matthew, where Solomon is named. Nathan was David’s third son. It is not entirely clear what causes the difference. Some argue Nathan stresses a prophetic connection, but it is not clear how (through confusion with the prophet Nathan?). Others note the absence of a reference to Jeconiah later, so that here there is a difference to show the canceling out of this line. The differences appear to mean that Matthew’s line is a “royal and physical” line, while Luke has a “royal and legal” line.
the son of David,
The mention of David begins a series of agreements with Matthew’s line. The OT background is 1 Chr 2:1–15 and Ruth 4:18–22.
32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala,
The reading Σαλά (Sala, “Sala”) is found in the best and earliest witnesses (Ƥ4 א* B sys sa). Almost all the rest of the mss2 A D L Θ Ψ 0102 [f1, 13] 33 Maj. latt syp,h bo) have Σαλμών (Salmōn, “Salmon”), an assimilation to Matt 1:4–5 and 1 Chr 2:11 (LXX). “In view of the early tradition that Luke was a Syrian of Antioch it is perhaps significant that the form Σαλά appears to embody a Syriac tradition” (TCGNT 113).
the son of Nahshon,
33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni,
The number and order of the first few names in this verse varies greatly in the mss. The variants which are most likely to be original based upon external evidence are Amminadab, Aram (A D 33 565 [1424] pm lat); Amminadab, Aram, Joram (K Δ Ψ 700 2542 pm); Adam, Admin, Arni (Ƥ4vid א* 1241 pc sa); and Amminadab, Admin, Arni (א2 L X [Γ] f13 pc). Deciding between these variants is quite difficult. The reading “Amminadab, Aram” is the strongest externally since it is represented by Alexandrian, Western, and Byzantine witnesses, although it is significantly weaker internally because it disrupts the artistic balance of the number of generations and their groups that three names would preserve (see TCGNT 113, fn. 1 for discussion). In this case, the subtle intrinsic arguments that would most likely be overlooked by scribes argues for the reading “Amminadab, Admin, Arni,” although a decision is quite difficult because of the lack of strong external support.
the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah,
34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah,
The list now picks up names from Gen 11:10–26; 5:1–32; 1 Chr 1:1–26, especially 1:24–26.
the son of Nahor,
35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan,
It is possible that the name Καϊνάμ (Kainam) should be omitted, since two key mss, Ƥ75vid and D, lack it. But the omission may be a motivated reading: This name is not found in the editions of the Hebrew OT, though it is in the LXX, at Gen 11:12 and 10:24. But the witnesses with this reading (or a variation of it) are substantial: א B L f1 33 (Καϊνάμ), A Θ Ψ 0102 f13 Maj. (Καϊνάν, Kainan). The translation above has adopted the more common spelling “Cainan,” although it is based on the reading Καϊνάμ.
the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,
37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel,
Here the Greek text reads Mahalaleel. Some modern English translations follow the Greek spelling (NASB, NRSV) while others (NIV) use the OT form of the name (Gen 5:12, 15).
the son of Kenan,
The Greek text has Kainam here. Some modern English translations follow the Greek spelling more closely (NASB, NRSV Cainan) while others (NIV) use the OT form of the name (Kenan in Gen 5:9, 12).
38 the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.
The reference to the son of God here is not to a divine being, but to one directly formed by the hand of God. He is made in God’s image, so this phrase could be read as appositional (“Adam, that is, the son of God”). See Acts 17:28–29.

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