Decree from Caesar Augustus ( δογμα παρα Καισαρος Αυγουστου ). Old and common word from δοκεω, to think, form an opinion. No such decree was given by Greek or Roman historians and it was for long assumed by many scholars that Luke was in error. But papyri and inscriptions have confirmed Luke on every point in these crucial verses 2:1-7. See W.M. Ramsay's books (Was Christ Born at Bethelehem? Luke the Physician. The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the N.T.).
The World ( την οικουμενην ). Literally,
the inhabited ( land , γην ). Inhabited by the Greeks, then by the Romans, then the whole world (Roman world, the world ruled by Rome). So Ac 11:28; 17:6.
Should be enrolled ( απογραφεσθα ). It was a census, not a taxing, though taxing generally followed and was based on the census. This word is very old and common. It means to write or copy off for the public records, to register.
The first enrolment ( απογραφη πρωτη ). A definite allusion by Luke to a series of censuses instituted by Augustus, the second of which is mentioned by him in Ac 5:37. This second one is described by Josephus and it was supposed by some that Luke confused the two. But Ramsay has shown that a periodical fourteen-year census in Egypt is given in dated papyri back to A.D. 20. The one in Ac 5:37 would then be A.D. 6. This is in the time of Augustus. The first would then be B.C. 8 in Egypt. If it was delayed a couple of years in Palestine by Herod the Great for obvious reasons, that would make the birth of Christ about B.C. 6 which agrees with the other known data
When Quirinius ( Κυρηνιου ). Genitive absolute. Here again Luke has been attacked on the ground that Quirinius was only governor of Syria once and that was A.D. 6 as shown by Josephus (Ant. XVIII. I.I). But Ramsay has proven by inscriptions that Quirinius was twice in Syria and that Luke is correct here also. See summary of the facts in my Luke the Historian in the Light of Research, pp. 118-29.
Each to his own city ( εκαστος εις την εαυτου πολιν ). A number of papyri in Egypt have the heading enrolment by household ( απογραφη κατ' οικιαν ). Here again Luke is vindicated. Each man went to the town where his family register was kept.
To enrol himself with Mary ( απογραψασθα συν Μαριαμ ). Direct middle. "With Mary" is naturally taken with the infinitive as here. If so, that means that Mary's family register was in Bethlehem also and that she also belonged to the house of David. It is possible to connect "with Mary" far back with "went up" ( ανεβη ) in verse 4, but it is unnatural to do so. There is no real reason for doubting that Mary herself was a descendant of David and that is the obvious way to understand Luke's genealogy of Jesus in Lu 3:23-38). The Syriac Sinaitic expressly says that both Joseph and Mary were of the house and city of David.
Betrothed ( εμνηστευμενην ). Same verb as in 1:27, but here it really means "married" or "espoused" as Mt 1:24f. shows. Otherwise she could not have travelled with Joseph.
Great with child ( ενκυω ). Only here in N.T. Common Greek word.
That she should be delivered ( του τεκειν αυτην ).
For the bearing the child as to her . A neat use of the articular infinitive, second aorist active, with the accusative of general reference. From τικτω, common verb.
Her firstborn ( τον πρωτοτοκον ). The expression naturally means that she afterwards had other children and we read of brothers and sisters of Jesus. There is not a particle of evidence for the notion that Mary refused to bear other children because she was the mother of the Messiah.
Wrapped in swaddling clothes ( εσπαργανωσεν ). From σπαργανον, a swathing band. Only here and verse 12 in the N.T., but in Euripides, Aristotle, Hippocrates, Plutarch. Frequent in medical works.
In a manger ( εν φατνη ). In a crib in a stall whether in a cave (Justin Martyr) or connected with the inn we do not know. The cattle may have been out on the hills or the donkeys used in travelling may have been feeding in this stall or another near.
In the inn ( εν τω καταλυματ ). A lodging-house or khan, poor enough at best, but there was not even room in this public place because of the crowds for the census. See the word also in Lu 22:11; Mr 14:14 with the sense of guest-room (cf. 1Ki 1:13). It is the Hellenistic equivalent for καταγωγειον and appears also in one papyrus. See Ex 4:24. There would sometimes be an inner court, a range or arches, an open gallery round the four sides. On one side of the square, outside the wall, would be stables for the asses and camels, buffaloes and goats. Each man had to carry his own food and bedding.
Abiding in the field ( αγραυλουντες ). From αγρος, field and αυλη, court. The shepherds were making the field their court. Plutarch and Strabo use the word.
Keeping watch ( φυλασσοντες φυλακας ). Cognate accusative. They were bivouacking by night and it was plainly mild weather. In these very pastures David had fought the lion and the bear to protect the sheep (1Sa 17:34f.). The plural here probably means that they watched by turns. The flock may have been meant for the temple sacrifices. There is no way to tell.
Stood by them ( επεστη αυτοις ). Ingressive aorist active indicative. Stepped by their side. The same word in Ac 12:7 of the angel there. Paul uses it in the sense of standing by in Ac 22:20. It is a common old Greek word, εφιστημ.
Were sore afraid ( εφοβηθησαν φοβον μεγαν ). First aorist passive indicative with cognate accusative (the passive sense gone), they feared a great fear.
I bring you good tidings of great joy ( ευαγγελιζομα υμιν χαραν μεγαλην ). Wycliff, "I evangelize to you a great joy." The active verb ευαγγελιζω occurs only in late Greek writers, LXX, a few papyri examples, and the N.T. The middle (deponent) appears from Aristophanes on. Luke and Paul employ both substantive ευαγγελιον and verb ευαγγελιζω very frequently. It is to Paul's influence that we owe their frequency and popularity in the language of Christendom (George Milligan, The Epistles to the Thessalonians, p. 143). The other Gospels do not have the verb save Mt 11:5 and that in a quotation (Isa 61:1).
Ις βορν ( ετεχθη ). First aorist passive indicative from τικτω. Was born.
Saviour ( σωτηρ ). This great word is common in Luke and Paul and seldom elsewhere in the N.T. (Bruce). The people under Rome's rule came to call the emperor "Saviour" and Christians took the word and used it of Christ. See inscriptions (Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, p. 344).
Christ the Lord ( Χριστος Κυριος ). This combination occurs nowhere else in the N.T. and it is not clear what it really means. Luke is very fond of Κυριος ( Lord ) where the other Gospels have Jesus. It may mean "Christ the Lord," "Anointed Lord," "Messiah, Lord," "The Messiah, the Lord," "An Anointed One, a Lord," or "Lord Messiah." It occurs once in the LXX (La 4:20) and is in Ps. of Sol. 17:36. Ragg suggests that our phrase "the Lord Jesus Christ" is really involved in "A Saviour (Jesus) which is Christ the Lord." See on Mt 1:1 for Christ and Mt 21:3 for Lord.
Host ( στρατιας ). A military term for a band of soldiers common in the ancient Greek. Bengel says: "Here the army announces peace."
Praising ( αινουντων ). Construction according to sense (plural, though στρατιας is singular).
Among men in whom he is well pleased ( εν ανθρωποις ευδοκιας ). The Textus Receptus (Authorized Version also has ευδοκια, but the genitive ευδοκιας is undoubtedly correct, supported by the oldest and best uncials. (Aleph, A B D W). C has a lacuna here. Plummer justly notes how in this angelic hymn Glory and Peace correspond, in the highest and on earth, to God and among men of goodwill. It would be possible to connect "on earth" with "the highest" and also to have a triple division. There has been much objection raised to the genitive ευδοκιας, the correct text. But it makes perfectly good sense and better sense. As a matter of fact real peace on earth exists only among those who are the subjects of God's goodwill, who are characterized by goodwill toward God and man. This word ευδοκια we have already had in Mt 11:26. It does not occur in the ancient Greek. The word is confined to Jewish and Christian writings, though the papyri furnish instances of ευδοκησις. Wycliff has it "to men of goodwill."
Said to one another ( ελαλουν προς αλληλους ). Imperfect tense, inchoative, "began to speak," each to the other. It suggests also repetition, they kept saying,
Now ( δη ). A particle of urgency.
This thing ( το ρημα τουτο ). A Hebraistic and vernacular use of ρημα (something said) as something done. See on Lu 1:65. The ancient Greek used λογος in this same way.
With haste ( σπευσαντες ). Aorist active participle of simultaneous action.
Found ( ανευραν ). Second aorist active indicative of a common Greek verb ανευρισκω, but only in Luke in the N.T. The compound ανα suggests a search before finding.
Made known ( εγνωρισαν ). To others (verse 18) besides Joseph and Mary. The verb is common from Aeschylus on, from the root of γινωσκω (to know). It is both transitive and intransitive in the N.T.
Kept ( συνετηρε ). Imperfect active. She kept on keeping together ( συν- ) all these things. They were meat and drink to her. She was not astonished, but filled with holy awe. The verb occurs from Aristotle on. She could not forget. But did not Mary keep also a Baby Book? And may not Luke have seen it?
Pondering ( συνβαλλουσα ). An old Greek word. Placing together for comparison. Mary would go over each detail in the words of Gabriel and of the shepherds and compare the sayings with the facts so far developed and brood over it all with a mother's high hopes and joy.
His name was called Jesus ( κα εκληθη το ονομα αυτου Ιησους ). The κα is left untranslated or has the sense of "then" in the apodosis. The naming was a part of the ceremony of circumcision as is shown also in the case of John the Baptist (Lu 1:59-66).
The days of their purification ( α ημερα του καθαρισμου αυτων ). The old manuscripts have "their" ( αυτων ) instead of "her" ( αυτης ) of the later documents. But it is not clear whether "their" refers to Mary and Joseph as is true of "they brought" or to Mary and the child. The mother was Levitically unclean for forty days after the birth of a son (Le 12:1-8).
To present him to the Lord ( παραστησα τω Κυριω ). Every first-born son was thus redeemed by the sacrifice (Ex 13:2-12) as a memorial of the sparing of the Israelitish families (Nu 18:15f.). The cost was about two dollars and a half in our money.
In the law of the Lord ( εν νομω Κυριου ). No articles, but definite by preposition and genitive. Vincent notes that "law" occurs in this chapter five times. Paul (Gal 4:4) will urge that Jesus "was made under the law" as Luke here explains. The law did not require that the child be brought to Jerusalem. The purification concerned the mother, the presentation the son.
A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons ( Ζευγος τρυγονων η δυο νοσσους περιστερων ). The offspring of the poor, costing about sixteen cents, while a lamb would cost nearly two dollars. The "young of pigeons" is the literal meaning.
Devout ( ευλαβης ). Used only by Luke (Ac 2:5; 8:2; 22:12) in the N.T. Common in ancient Greek from Plato on. It means taking hold well or carefully ( ευ and λαβειν ) and so reverently, circumspectly.
Looking for the consolation of Israel ( προσδεχομενος παρακλησιν του Ισραελ ). Old Greek verb to admit to one's presence (Lu 15:2) and then to expect as here and of Anna in verse 38.
Paraklsin here means the Messianic hope (Isa 11:10; 40:1), calling to one's side for cheer.
Upon him ( επ' αυτον ). This is the explanation of his lively Messianic hope. It was due to the Holy Spirit. Simeon and Anna are representatives of real piety in this time of spiritual dearth and deadness.
It had been revealed unto him ( ην αυτω κεχρηματισμενον ). Periphrastic past perfect passive indicative. Common Greek verb. First to transact business from χρημα and that from χραομα, to use, make use of; then to do business with public officials, to give advice (judges, rulers, kings), then to get the advice of the Delphic and other oracles (Diodorus, Plutarch). The LXX and Josephus use it of God's commands. A Fayum papyrus of 257 B.C. has the substantive χρημαστισμος for a divine response (cf. Ro 11:4). See Deissmann, Light From the Ancient East, p. 153.
Before ( πριν η ). Classic Greek idiom after a negative to have subjunctive as here (only example in the N.T.) or the optative after past tense as in Ac 25:16 (subjunctive changed to optative in indirect discourse). Elsewhere in the N.T. the infinitive follows πριν as in Mt 1:18.
When the parents brought in the child Jesus ( εν τω εισαγαγειν τους γονεις το παιδιον Ιησουν ). A neat Greek and Hebrew idiom difficult to render into English, very common in the LXX;
In the bringing the Child Jesus as to the parents . The articular infinitive and two accusatives (one the object, the other accusative of general reference).
After the custom of the law ( κατα το ειθισμενον του νομου ). Here the perfect passive participle ειθισμενον, neuter singular from εθιζω (common Greek verb, to accustom) is used as a virtual substantive like το εθος in 1:8. Luke alone in the N.T. uses either word save εθος in Joh 19:40, though ειωθα from εθω, occurs also in Mt 27:15; Mr 10:1.
Then he ( κα αυτος ). Κα as in 2:21. Αυτος, emphatic subject, he after the parents.
Arms ( αγκαλας ). Old Greek word, here only in the N.T. It means the curve or inner angle of the arm.
Now lettest thou ( νυν απολυεις ). Present active indicative,
Thou art letting . The Nunc Dimittis, adoration and praise. It is full of rapture and vivid intensity (Plummer) like the best of the Psalms. The verb απολυω was common for the manumission of slaves and Simeon here calls himself "thy slave ( δουλον σου ), Lord ( Δεσποτα, our despot)." See 2Pe 2:1.
Of all the peoples ( παντων των λαων ). Not merely Jews. Another illustration of the universality of Luke's Gospel seen already in 1:70 in the hymn of Zacharias. The second strophe of the song according to Plummer showing what the Messiah will be to the world after having shown what the Messiah is to Simeon.
Revelation to the Gentiles ( αποκαλυψιν εθνων ). Objective genitive. The Messiah is to be light ( φως ) for the Gentiles in darkness (1:70) and glory ( δοξα ) for Israel (cf. Ro 9:1-5; Isa 49:6). The word εθνος originally meant just a crowd or company, then a race or nation, then the nations other than Israel (the people, ο λαος ) or the people of God. The word Gentile is Latin from gens, a tribe or nation. But the world-wide mission of the Messiah comes out clearly in these early chapters in Luke.
His father and his mother ( ο πατηρ αυτου κα η μητηρ ). Luke had already used "parents" in 2:27. He by no means intends to deny the Virgin Birth of Jesus so plainly stated in 1:34-38. He merely employs here the language of ordinary custom. The late MSS. wrongly read "and Joseph" instead of "his father."
Were marvelling ( ην θαυμαζοντες ). The masculine gender includes the feminine when both are referred to. But ην is singular, not ησαν, the normal imperfect plural in this periphrastic imperfect. This is due to the wide space between copula and participle. The copula ην agrees in number with ο πατηρ while the participle coming last agrees with both ο πατερ κα η μητηρ (cf. Mt 17:3; 22:40). If one wonders why they marvelled at Simeon's words after what they had heard from Gabriel, Elisabeth, and the Shepherds, he should bear in mind that every parent is astonished and pleased at the fine things others see in the child. It is a mark of unusual insight for others to see so much that is obvious to the parent. Simeon's prophecy had gone beyond the angel's outline and it was surprising that he should know anything about the child's destiny.
Is set for the falling and the rising up of many in Israel ( Κειτα εις πτωσιν κα αναστασιν πολλων εν τω Ισραηλ ). Present indicative of the old defective verb appearing only in present and imperfect in the N.T. Sometimes it is used as the passive of τιθημ as here. The falling of some and the rising up of others is what is meant. He will be a stumbling-block to some (Isa 8:14; Mt 21:42,44; Ro 9:33; 1Pe 2:16f.) who love darkness rather than light (Joh 3:19), he will be the cause of rising for others (Ro 6:4,9; Eph 2:6). "Judas despairs, Peter repents: one robber blasphemes, the other confesses" (Plummer). Jesus is the magnet of the ages. He draws some, he repels others. This is true of all epoch-making men to some extent.
Spoken against ( αντιλεγομενον ). Present passive participle, continuous action. It is going on today. Nietzsche regarded Jesus Christ as the curse of the race because he spared the weak.
A sword ( ρομφαια ). A large sword, properly a long Thracian javelin. It occurs in the LXX of Goliath's sword (1Sa 17:51). How little Mary understood the meaning of Simeon's words that seemed so out of place in the midst of the glorious things already spoken, a sharp thorn in their roses, a veritable bitter-sweet. But one day Mary will stand by the Cross of Christ with this Thracian javelin clean through her soul, σταβατ Ματερ Δολοροσα (Joh 19:25). It is only a parenthesis here, and a passing cloud perhaps passed over Mary's heart already puzzled with rapture and ecstasy.
May be revealed ( αποκαλυφθωσιν ). Unveiled. First aorist passive subjunctive after οπως αν and expresses God's purpose in the mission of the Messiah. He is to test men's thoughts ( διαλογισμο ) and purposes. They will be compelled to take a stand for Christ or against him. That is true today.
One Anna a prophetess ( Hαννα προφητις ). The word προφητις occurs in the N.T. only here and Re 2:20. In old Greek writers it means a woman who interprets oracles. The long parenthesis into verse 37 tells of her great age. Montefiore makes it 106 as she was 15 when married, married 7 years, a widow 84.
Which departed not ( η ουκ αφιστατο ). Imperfect indicative middle. She kept on not leaving. The Spirit kept her in the temple as he led Simon to the temple (Plummer). The case of "the temple" ( του ιερου ) is ablative.
Night and day ( νυκτα κα ημεραν ). Accusative of duration of time, all night and all day. She never missed a service in the temple.
Coming up ( επιστασα ). Second aorist active participle. The word often has the notion of coming suddenly or bursting in as of Martha in Lu 10:40. But here it probably means coming up and standing by and so hearing Simeon's wonderful words so that her words form a kind of footnote to his.
Gave thanks ( ανθωμολογειτο ). Imperfect middle of a verb ( ανθομολογεω ) in common use in Greek writers and in the LXX though here alone in the N.T. It had the idea of a mutual agreement or of saying something before one ( αντ ). Anna was evidently deeply moved and repeated her thanksgiving and kept speaking ( ελαλε, imperfect again) "to all them that were looking for ( προσδεχομενοις, as in 1:35 of Simeon) the redemption of Jerusalem ( λυτρωσιν Ιερουσαλημ )." There was evidently a group of such spirits that gathered in the temple either men around her and Simeon or whom she met from time to time. There was thus a nucleus of old saints in Jerusalem prepared for the coming of the Messiah when he at last appears as the Messiah in Jerusalem (John 2 and 3). These probably all passed away. But they had a happy hour of hope and joy. The late MSS. have "in Jerusalem" but "of Jerusalem" is correct. What they meant by the "redemption of Jerusalem" is not clear, whether political or spiritual or both. Simeon was looking for the consolation of Israel (2:25) and Zacharias (1:68) sang of redemption for Israel (Isa 40:2).
To their own city Nazareth ( εις πολιν εαυτων Ναζαρετ ). See on Mt 2:23 about Nazareth. Luke tells nothing of the flight to Egypt and the reason for the return to Nazareth instead of Bethlehem, the place of the birth of Jesus as told in Mt 2:13-23. But then neither Gospel gives all the details of this period. Luke has also nothing about the visit of the wise men (Mt 2:1-12) as Matthew tells nothing of the shepherds and of Simeon and Anna (Lu 2:8-28). The two Gospels supplement each other.
The child grew ( ηυξανε ). Imperfect indicative of a very ancient verb ( αυξανω ). This child grew and waxed strong ( εκραταιουτο, imperfect middle), a hearty vigorous little boy ( παιδιον ). Both verbs Luke used in 1:80 of the growth of John the Baptist as a child. Then he used also πνευματ, in spirit. Here in addition to the bodily development Luke has "filled with wisdom" ( πληρουμενον σοφια ). Present passive participle, showing that the process of filling with wisdom kept pace with the bodily growth. If it were only always true with others! We need not be troubled over this growth in wisdom on the part of Jesus any more than over his bodily growth. "The intellectual, moral, and spiritual growth of the Child, like the physical, was real. His was a perfect humanity developing perfectly, unimpeded by hereditary or acquired defects. It was the first instance of such a growth in history. For the first time a human infant was realizing the ideal of humanity" (Plummer).
The grace of God ( χαρις θεου ). In full measure.
Every year ( κατ' ετος ). This idiom only here in the N.T., a common Greek construction. Every male was originally expected to appear at the passover, pentecost, and tabernacles (Ex 23:14-17; 34:23; De 16:16). But the Dispersion rendered that impossible. But pious Palestinian Jews made a point of going at least to the passover. Mary went with Joseph as a pious habit, though not required by law to go.
Twelve years old ( ετων δωδεκα ). Predicate genitive. Luke does not say that Jesus had not been to Jerusalem before, but at twelve a Jewish boy became a "son of the law" and began to observe the ordinances, putting on the phylacteries as a reminder.
They went up ( αναβαινοντων αυτων ). Genitive absolute with present active participle, a loose construction here, for the incident narrated took place after they had gone up, not while they were gong up. "On their usual going up" (Plummer).
When they had fulfilled the days ( τελειωσαντων τας ημερας ). Genitive absolute again, but aorist participle (effective aorist). "The days" may mean the full seven days (Ex 12:15f.; Le 23:6-8; De 16:3), or the two chief days after which many pilgrims left for home.
As they were returning ( εν τω υποστρεφειν αντους ). The articular infinitive with εν, a construction that Luke often uses (1:21; 2:27).
The boy, Jesus ( Ιησους ο παις ). More exactly, "Jesus the boy." In verse 40 it was "the child " ( το παιδιον ), here it is "the boy" ( ο παις, no longer the diminutive form). It was not disobedience on the part of "the boy" that made him remain behind, but intense interest in the services of the temple; "involuntary preoccupation" (Bruce) held him fast.
In the company ( εν τη συνοδια ). The caravan going together on the road or way ( συν, οδος ), a journey in company, then by metonymy the company itself. A common Greek word (Plutarch, Strabo, etc.). The women usually went ahead and the men followed. Joseph may have thought Jesus was with Mary and Mary that he was with Joseph. "The Nazareth caravan was so long that it took a whole day to look through it" (Plummer).
They sought for him ( ανεζητουν αυτον ). Imperfect active. Common Greek verb. Note force of ανα. They searched up and down, back and forth, a thorough search and prolonged, but in vain.
Seeking for him ( αναζητουντες αυτον ). Present participle of the same verb. This was all that was worth while now, finding the lost boy.
After three days ( μετα ημερας τρεις ). One day out, one day back, and on the third day finding him.
In the temple ( εν τω ιερω ). Probably on the terrace where members of the Sanhedrin gave public instruction on sabbaths and feast-days, so probably while the feast was still going on. The rabbis probably sat on benches in a circle. The listeners on the ground, among whom was Jesus the boy in a rapture of interest.
Both hearing them and asking them questions ( κα ακουοντα αυτων κα επερωτωντα αυτους ). Paul sat at the feet of Gamaliel (Ac 22:3). Picture this eager boy alive with interest. It was his one opportunity in a theological school outside of the synagogue to hear the great rabbis expound the problems of life. This was the most unusual of all children, to be sure, in intellectual grasp and power. But it is a mistake to think that children of twelve do not think profoundly concerning the issues of life. What father or mother has ever been able to answer a child's questions?
Were amazed ( εξισταντο ). Imperfect indicative middle, descriptive of their continued and repeated astonishment. Common verb εξιστημ meaning that they stood out of themselves as if their eyes were bulging out. The boy had a holy thirst for knowledge (Plummer), and he used a boy's way of learning.
At his understanding ( επ τη συνεσε ). Based on ( επ ), the grasp and comprehension from συνιημ, comparing and combining things. Cf. Mr 12:33.
His answers ( ταις αποκρισεσιν αυτου ). It is not difficult to ask hard questions, but this boy had astounding answers to their questions, revealing his amazing intellectual and spiritual growth.
They were astonished ( εξεπλαγησαν ). Second aorist passive indicative of an old Greek word ( εκπλησσω ), to strike out, drive out by a blow. Joseph and Mary "were struck out" by what they saw and heard. Even they had not fully realized the power in this wonderful boy. Parents often fail to perceive the wealth of nature in their children.
Son ( τεκνον ). Child, literally. It was natural for Mary to be the first to speak.
Why ( Τ ). The mother's reproach of the boy is followed by a confession of negligence on her part and of Joseph ( sorrowing , οδυνωμενο ).
Thy father ( ο πατερ σου ). No contradiction in this. Alford says: "Up to this time Joseph had been so called by the holy child himself, but from this time never."
Sought ( εζητουμεν ). Imperfect tense describing the long drawn out search for three days.
How is it that ( Τ οτ ). The first words of Jesus preserved to us. This crisp Greek idiom without copula expresses the boy's amazement that his parents should not know that there was only one possible place in Jerusalem for him.
I must be ( δε εινα με ). Messianic consciousness of the necessity laid on him. Jesus often uses δε (must) about his work. Of all the golden dreams of any boy of twelve here is the greatest.
In my Father's house ( εν τοις του πατρος μου ). Not "about my Father's business," but "in my Father's house" (cf. Ge 41:51). Common Greek idiom. And note "my," not "our." When the boy first became conscious of his peculiar relation to the Father in heaven we do not know. But he has it now at twelve and it will grow within him through the years ahead in Nazareth.
They understood not ( ου συνηκαν ). First aorist active indicative (one of the k aorists). Even Mary with all her previous preparation and brooding was not equal to the dawning of the Messianic consciousness in her boy. "My Father is God," Jesus had virtually said, "and I must be in His house." Bruce observes that a new era has come when Jesus calls God "Father," not Δεσποτες. "Even we do not yet fully understand" (Bruce) what Jesus the boy here said.
He was subject unto them ( ην υποτασσομενος αυτοις ). Periphrastic imperfect passive. He continued subject unto them, this wondrous boy who really knew more than parents and rabbis, this gentle, obedient, affectionate boy. The next eighteen years at Nazareth (Lu 3:23) he remained growing into manhood and becoming the carpenter of Nazareth (Mr 6:3) in succession to Joseph (Mt 13:55) who is mentioned here for the last time. Who can tell the wistful days when Jesus waited at Nazareth for the Father to call him to his Messianic task?
Kept ( διετηρε ). Imperfect active. Ancient Greek word ( διατηρεω ), but only here and Ac 15:29 in the N.T. though in Ge 37:11. She kept thoroughly ( δια ) all these recent sayings (or things, ρηματα ). In 2:19 συνετηρε is the word used of Mary after the shepherds left. These she kept pondering and comparing all the things. Surely she has a full heart now. Could she foresee how destiny would take Jesus out beyond her mother's reach?
Advanced in wisdom and stature ( προεκοπτεν τη σοφια κα ηλικια ). Imperfect active, he kept cutting his way forward as through a forest or jungle as pioneers did. He kept growing in stature ( ηλικια may mean age, as in 12:25, but stature here) and in wisdom (more than mere knowledge). His physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual development was perfect. "At each stage he was perfect for that stage" (Plummer).
In favour ( χαριτ ). Or grace. This is ideal manhood to have the favour of God and men.
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