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Luke & the Infancy of Jesus

Luke & the Infancy of Jesus


The first two chapters of the Gospel of Matthew tell the story of the birth and infancy of Jesus. The story did not originate with the author of Matthew, but the author’s source borrowed heavily from known legends concerning the birth of Moses, among other things. The account is almost entirely an invention of Jesus’ followers, probably after the mid-first century. The infancy narrative in Matthew tells us more about early ‘Christian’ beliefs regarding Jesus than it tells us about Jesus himself.

This leaves just one other account, the Gospel of Luke, for us to learn about the birth of Jesus. The public’s understanding of Luke’s birth story has grown over the last few decades. The common belief has been that Bethlehem’s ‘inn’ was too full to accommodate a traveling pregnant woman, causing Joseph and Mary to take refuge in a cave reserved for farm animals; Jesus was ‘born in a manger’. This view from pop theology is being corrected, albeit slowly, by more culturally, textually, and linguistically accurate details. The ‘inn’ (κατάλυμα), for example, is more properly translated as ‘guest room’ (cf. Luke 22.11; as opposed to ‘inn’, πανδοχεῖον, in Luke 10.34). Joseph and Mary were not callously rejected by a local hotel, they were hosted in someone’s own home, though the guest room was already occupied. This led to Mary giving birth in the living room, where the homeowner’s animals would also be kept at night, hence Jesus was placed (not born) in a food trough.1François Bovon, Luke 1 (tr. Christine Thomas; ed. Helmut Koester), 86, 90. It is likewise becoming somewhat more common for students of the Bible to accept that the shepherds are only found in Luke, just as the magi are found only in Matthew.

Though Matt 1–2 and Luke 1–2 each describe the birth and infancy of Jesus, these two narratives cannot easily be harmonized. Beyond the most basic information (Jesus himself, his parents Mary and Joseph, his birth in Bethlehem, and Mary’s virginity through the whole process), the two accounts disagree on nearly every detail. Matthew and Luke resist the efforts of sermons and Christmas pageants to be told as one story. Thus, Luke’s infancy narrative deserves scrutiny apart from Matthew.

The Annunciation to Zechariah

Matt 1–2 divides neatly into a series of smaller units: a genealogy for Jesus (1.1–17), the revelation of Mary’s pregnancy (1.18–25), Herod I learning of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem and the king’s attempt to kill him as a toddler, which his family escapes (2.1–18), and Jesus’ family moving to Nazareth to avoid Herod I’s son Archelaus, who ruled over Judea but not Galilee (2.19–23). Luke does contain a genealogy for Jesus, but it is found in chapter three, after Jesus becomes an adult. Luke 1 instead begins with a highly polished introduction. These four verses (1.1–4) are a single sentence, ‘the best stylized sentence in the whole NT’,2John Nolland, Luke 1–9:20, 4. in which the author explains his motivation for writing his gospel. Though ‘many’ have already attempted to write a record of Jesus, based on ‘eyewitnesses and servants of the Lord’, the author wants to improve on their efforts, despite being separated from Jesus ‘by two layers of tradition’.3Joseph Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke: I–IX, 294.

The author dedicates his work to a man named Theophilus. This name has commonly been taken as a symbol for any Christian who reads the book, since Theophilus means ‘friend/lover of God’.4Nolland, 10. However, most scholars understand Theophilus to have been a real individual, in part because clear symbolic use of the name did not come until centuries later.5Fitzmyer, 299–300; I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke, 43. Theophilus is called κράτιστε, ‘most excellent’. This word was the Greek equivalent to Latin egregius and optimus, terms that referred to someone of high standing in society, especially members of the government. Theophilus was a respected member of his community, though we cannot know if he was some kind of official.6Bovon, 23; Fitzmyer, 300. Some take the presence of a dedication as opportunity to identify the author. Because the author was known to the person to whom the book was dedicated, the original copy of the book must have named the author directly, Luke himself.7Nolland, 5. This thought process strikes me as a tremenous leap.

The eloquent Greek preface shows the author’s mindset, that he considered his work might stand alongside articulate histories written by previous literary pillars. With verse 5, though, the language of the text abruptly switches from a ‘secular’ style to one much more ‘Semitic’ in content and idiom.8Bovon, 16; Fitzmyer, 308; Marshall, 46; Nolland, 4, 17. The suddenness of this change in writing style has led many scholars to believe the author of Luke 1.1–4 did not actually write the infancy narratives which follow. Instead, the rest of Luke 1–2 comes from other hands, including Aramaic or Hebrew texts which the author translated, or Greek texts already containing this ‘Semitic’ texture.9Fitzmyer, 312; Nolland, 34.

The first story block in Luke is found in 1.5–25. ‘In the days of King Herod of Judea’, we find a married couple, Zechariah and Elizabeth, both of priestly lineage. The couple is old, and ‘Elizabeth was barren’. Zechariah is chosen by lot to serve his turn in the temple, a public duty which priests may only perform once or twice in their lifetime.10Nolland, 23. In the temple, near the end of his ritual duties, Zechariah is met by the ‘angel of the Lord’. Zechariah expresses fear, but the angel encourages him and reveals how God’s purposes will be fulfilled by Elizabeth giving birth to a son, despite her age and barrenness. The son must be named John, and he must abstain from alcohol (implying he was compelled to take a Nazirite vow).11Fitzmyer, 325–326. Zechariah responds with doubt, prompting the angel to give Zechariah a sign of the prophecy’s legitimacy by making him mute (and deaf, per 1.62). Soon after, Zechariah returns home from the temple, and he and Elizabeth conceive.

The annunciation to Zechariah contains allusions to parts of the Hebrew Bible.12Nolland, 18. The phrasing in 1.5, ‘in the days of King Herod of Judea’ (ἐγένετο ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Ἡρῴδου βασιλέως τῆς Ἰουδαίας), appears to be taken from LXX Jer 1.2 (ἐγένετο ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ιωακιμ υἱοῦ ιωσια βασιλέως ιουδα).13Ibid., 25. The very names ‘Zechariah’ and ‘Elizabeth’ may have been given to John’s parents by the storyteller due to their associations with the priesthood (cf. Exo 6.23; 1 Chr 9.21; 15.18; 2 Chr 24.20–21)—one such Zechariah is even noted as being chosen by lots to perform certain duties (1 Chr 26.14)—but some think the names are authentic details.14Fitzmyer, 317; Marshall, 52. The story’s allusion to the Hebrew Bible are especially strong when it comes to older birth legends. God announces to Abraham that he and Sarah will have a son despite their old age (Gen 17.19; 18.11).15Bovon, 34; Fitzmyer, 318; Marshall, 60; Nolland, 26. The ‘Angel of the Lord’ (the Messenger of Yhwh) also appears to the wife of Manoah to announce she will have a son despite being barren (Judges 13.2–7). Hannah is also barren, but prays to God when she and her husband visit a shrine; upon returning home they conceive (1 Sam 1.1–19).16Fitzmyer, 317. Abraham and Sarah are instructed what to name their son, due to the circumstances of his birth (Gen 17.19). Manoah’s wife is informed that her son must abstain from alcohol (Judges 13.4, 7; cf. Lev 10.9; Num 6.3; 1 Sam 1.11).17Bovon, 36; Marshall, 57; Nolland, 30.

While the Angel of the Lord in Luke 1 fills in for the herald of God’s plan, as seen in those parts of the Hebrew Bible, the shape of Zechariah’s revelation and the identity of the angel originated in a much later genre of literature: the apocalypses of Second Temple Judaism.18Nolland, 19. An author, whose community was experiencing a crisis, would express his knowledge of the past and his hope for the outcome of the crisis in written form. Unlike the classic ‘thus says Yhwh’ sort of prophecy, the apocalyptic author’s ideas would be presented to the reader in narrative form. The protagonist—a stand-in for the author or, more properly, his community—was invariably an ancient figure who would be shown receiving a revelation from God. An angelic messenger would be dispatched to guide the protagonist through his revelation, a mouthpiece for the author to explain his book’s symbolism just enough for his community to understand it was written about them. The earliest such example of this format is 1 Enoch 1–36, where four or seven archangels partly fill the role of the mediator between God and the protagonist.

Contrary to later Christian theories that the ‘Angel of the Lord’ should be understood as a pre-existent Jesus, Luke explicitly identifies the Angel of the Lord with one of those archangels, Gabriel (1.11, 19).19Fitzmyer, 324. Gabriel informs Zechariah that he ‘stands in the presence of God’, a typical depiction of the archangels’ activity (e.g. 1 En 20.1–8; Tob 12.15; Jub 2.2; Rev 1.4).20Bovon, 39. While Gabriel does appear in 1 Enoch, Luke 1–2 instead seems to borrow Gabriel from his role in the Book of Daniel, where he fulfills the mediator role individually.21Fitzmyer, 320; Nolland, 29. The statement in Luke 1.17 that John will lead ‘the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous’ may derive from Dan 12.3.22Nolland, 32.

The Annunciation to Mary

The Zechariah block is followed by a unit centered on Mary (Luke 1.26–56), which differs in style somewhat from the previous section,23Ibid., 41. but deliberately imitates it.24Fitzmyer, 309, 318, 335; Nolland, 21. Gabriel now appears to Mary, informing her she is pregnant with the future king of Israel. This episode follows the same shape as Zechariah’s revelation: Mary expresses confusion, Gabriel encourages her, Mary responds. When she travels to visit Elizabeth, she receives a sign of the legitimacy of Gabriel’s prediction when John recognizes her presence while still in the womb.

Gabriel’s identification of Jesus as ‘son of the Most High’ is connected to the statement that ‘the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David’, signifying sonship as a messianic attribute (1.31–32). This phrasing may draw on Isa 9.6–7, taking Jesus to be the ‘son’ who will sit on ‘the throne of David’ and whose ‘kingdom’ will last ‘forever’ (rather than Hezekiah, as the context demands). Luke 1.35 says that God’s spirit will ‘come’ (ἐπελεύσεται) to Mary and God’s power will ‘overshadow’ (ἐπισκιάσει) her. While this is traditionally interpreted as explaining how Mary will become pregnant as a virgin, this is not a necessary reading of the passage. Paul, for example, believed that God enabling the barren Sarah to conceive with Abraham meant Isaac was born ‘according to the spirit’ (Gal 4.28–29).25Fitzmyer, 337. Luke appeals to God’s spirit/power to explain why Mary’s son will be called God’s son: it is because ‘the child to be born will be holy’, not because he secretly bears a divine nature. The concept of the king of Israel as God’s son is found earliest in 2 Sam 7.12–16 (which may also have influenced Luke 1.31–32) and Psa 2, while the exact titles ‘son of the Most High’ and ‘son of God’ are first seen together in 4Q246 (cf. 4Q174), possibly speaking of the Messiah or a self-deifying ruler.26John Bergsma, Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls: Revealing the Jewish Roots of Christianity, 38–39; Fitzmyer, 338; Nolland, 42; Geza Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, 617–618.


The son of God he will be proclaimed and the son of the Most High they will call him. Like the sparks of the vision, so will be their kingdom.

God’s spirit/power aiding in the formation of an unborn child for a special purpose was not completely unusual; the choice of wording is compatible with Mary conceiving through normal means. But how then did the idea that Mary conceived as a virgin come about? One suggestion is that it developed from a similar perspective to that found in a passage from Philo of Alexandria (On Cherubim 12–15).27Fitzmyer, 342. In this passage Philo discusses the wives of Israel’s patriarchs and prophets. He especially draws attention to those women whom God miraculously aided to conceive, such as Sarah (13.45). Here, Philo associates virginity with moral purity, and writes that ‘the association of men, with a view to the procreation of children, makes virgins women. But when God begins to associate with the soul, he makes that which was previously woman now again virgin’ (14.50). Put succinctly: sex makes a woman no longer a virgin, but when a woman’s soul aligns with God, she ‘returns into the class of pure virgins’ and ‘is transformed into the appearance of virginity’ (14.50; 15.52). Under this hypothesis, as Jesus’ followers pushed his identification as God’s son further back in time, the idealization of his parents, and especially his mother, also developed. Mary’s simple obedience to God’s plan became impeccable moral purity, and eventually the ‘virginity’ of her soul became literal: she conceived Jesus while still a virgin.

Mary’s confusion over Gabriel’s announcement is itself puzzlesome. She asks Gabriel how she could possibly have a child ‘since I am a virgin’ (1.34). Mary’s question follows a detail just established by the narrator—she is already betrothed to Joseph (1.27). This question leads to the bizarre situation where Mary knows how children are conceived, and knows she is going to be married to Joseph, but rather than drawing the obvious conclusion from these two points (that she and Joseph will together conceive a son at a future time, probably sooner than later), she instead simply knows what the reader already knows from tradition: she will conceive while still a virgin.28Marshall, 69–70. Luke 1.34 is the only point where Mary’s virgin conception of Jesus is alluded to in the gospel (but still not made explicit), but its lack of continuity with 1.27 leads some scholars to argue the verse may be an interpolation.

The verb previously mentioned, ‘to overshadow’ (ἐπισκιάζω), is used later in Luke 9.34 (from Mark 9.37) for the theophanic cloud. This usage originates in LXX Exo 40.35 (cf. LXX 90.4), where the cloud representing God’s presence ‘overshadowed’ the tabernacle once its construction was complete. This cloud is later noted to reside over the ark of the covenant, representing God as seated on his throne (Lev 16.2, 13). When the temple in Jerusalem was built, God’s cloud filled the temple after the ark was placed in it (1 Kings 8.6–11). The ark first arrived in Jerusalem a generation earlier, during the rule of King David, before the temple was built. This brings us to a cluster of unusual parallels.29Fitzmyer, 364. When Mary visits Elizabeth, John begins ‘leaping’ in excitement in Elizabeth’s womb (Luke 1.41); when the ark of the covenant arrived in Jerusalem, David was ‘leaping’ in excitement. Elizabeth asks Mary, ‘And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?’ (Luke 1.43); when the ark’s procession runs into trouble before arriving at Jerusalem, David asks ‘How shall the ark of the Lord come to me?’ (2 Sam 6.9) Mary remained with Elizabeth for three months (Luke 1.56); when the ark’s procession ran into trouble before arriving at Jerusalem, the ark was left in one man’s home for three months (2 Sam 6.11).

Whereas Matt 1–2 intended to present Jesus as superior to Moses, this passage in Luke seems instead to convey Mary as a sort of new ark of the covenant. And in this analogy, perhaps, the son in Mary’s womb is the successor to the holy relics (stone tablets, manna, Aaron’s staff) that had been stored inside the ark.

The Birth of John

The annunciation to Zechariah in 1.5–25 continues with the birth of John in 1.57–80. These two blocks were originally a single birth legend.30Bovon, 32; Marshall, 86. Elizabeth gives birth, and insists on naming her son John. When the extended family objects, saying that no one in their lineage has that name for the son to inherit, Zechariah confirms Elizabeth’s choice. The story even provides an etiology for the choice of name, though this was lost in the translation to Greek: because God showed ‘mercy’ on Elizabeth (1.58), the son is named ‘John’ (Yoḥanan), which in Hebrew means something like ‘Yhwh is merciful’. Zechariah’s ability to speak and hear is restored, and he delivers a hymnic prophecy.

Luke 1–2 contains a few hymns that double as prophecies concerning John and Jesus. The first comes from Mary, in her response to Elizabeth (1.46–55). The second comes from Zechariah when his speech is restored (1.68–79). There is a short song of praise from angels upon the birth of Jesus (2.14), and finally an oracle from a man in Jerusalem’s temple concerning Jesus (2.29–32). Each hymn is heavily dependent on passages from the Hebrew Bible, with the Septuagint in particular showing through.31Fitzmyer, 356–357, 374–375.

Luke 1.46b–55

Deut 10.21; 1 Sam 1.11; 2.1, 7; Mal 3.12; Psa 24.5; 88.10b; 97.3; 102.17; 105.42; 106.9b; 110.9

Luke 1.68–79

Gen 24.12; 26.3; Josh 24.14; 1 Sam 2.10; Isa 38.20; 40.3; 59.8; Mal 3.1; Psa 18.3, 18; 41.14; 72.18; 105.8; 106.10, 45, 48; 107.10; 111.9

They are derivative to such an extent that none of them can seriously be attributed to the people Luke 1–2 claims. It is most likely the situation that each hymn (except perhaps 2.14, due to its brevity) pre-existed the birth stories in which we find them.32Fitzmyer, 309; Nolland, 22. None of them reflects a uniquely ‘Christian’ perspective,33Bovon, 56–57 and 69, suggests a possible connection to the ‘Pharisaic’ Psalms of Solomon, with additional parallels to the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, especially T. Zebulun 7.3; 8.2. but because they are based so closely on biblical texts they could still have been written by Jesus’ followers.34Fitzmyer, 361.

Zechariah’s prophecy, oddly, is focused more on ‘the Davidic savior than of his prophetic precursor, John’.35Nolland, 24. His hymn begins by saying God ‘has redeemed’ Israel because he ‘has raised up’ a savior from David’s lineage. There are a few explanations for why this might be. (Jesus has not been born yet.) One is that John’s birth legend may have originally identified him, not Jesus, as the Messiah, and this line is a remnant of that.36Bovon, 37; Joel Marcus, John the Baptist in History and Theology, 11–12. But the text does not actually call John by the label ‘anointed’, so this is disputed.37Fitzmyer, 318–319; Marshall, 50. Fitzmyer later (385) points out that ‘prophet of the Most High’ is a messianic title used for a priest-king descendant of both Levi and Judah in Testament of Levi 8.15. Might this same thought stand behind Zechariah’s hymn for John’s birth? A second theory is that verses 76–77 were edited or interpolated to ‘Christianize’ a messianic hymn that otherwise pre-dates the Jesus movement.38Bovon, 68; Fitzmyer, 383. And a third suggestion is that the two halves of the hymn (verses 68–75 and 76–79) originated separately.39Marshall, 87, though he doubts the theory.

The Birth of Jesus

We next find the story of Jesus’ birth in Luke 2.1–40. The author again provides a setting to give context.

Luke 2.1–5

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.

It is difficult to understate just how severely problematic this paragraph is. In Luke 1.1 we learn that Augustus was emperor. Augustus ruled from 27 BCE until 14 CE, overlapping with the reign of Herod I from 37 BCE until 4 BCE, so this is initially compatible with the earlier statement that Herod was king (Luke 1.5; cf. Matt 2.1).40Fitzmyer, 317; Marshall, 51. But the author then claims Augustus issued a degree ‘that all the world should be registered’. Though the word οἰκουμένη does refer to the ‘[inhabited] world’, it was often used idiomatically to refer to the ‘world’ of the Roman Empire specifically. So although we do have plenty of ancient sources testifying that censuses were a regular feature of Augustus’ reign,41Bovon, 83. not one of them was a census of the entire empire. Instead, these censuses focused on individual regions.

Verse 2.2 attempts to clarify the situation, saying the census occurred ‘while Quirinius was governor of Syria’, but this just introduces another problem. Quirinius is a historical figure for whom we have plenty of information.42Fitzmyer, 402. He did not become governor of Syria until 4 CE, and he did not conduct his census until 6 CE, more than ten years after Herod I had already died. According to Luke 1.26, Elizabeth was just six months pregnant with John when Mary became pregnant with Jesus. This means that, in Luke 1–2, the time between the births of John and Jesus is simultaneously six months and ten years. There have been strained apologetic attempts to reconcile this contradiction. One such is to claim Quirinius served as governor of Syria twice, the first time conveniently being late in Herod’s reign, but we have zero evidence for this. Another claim is that the census in question began while Herod was alive, but took over a decade to complete, after Quirinius became governor in 6 CE. Except we know that the census was not commissioned until 6 CE precisely because that was the year Samaria, Judea, and Idumea were annexed by the Roman Empire as the new Iudaea Province. The empire wanted a headcount of its newly acquired territory. A third attempt is to suggest that ‘Herod’ in Luke 1.5 refers not to Herod I, but his son Herod Archelaus. This cannot be the case, since Archelaus was given the title of ‘ethnarch’; he was never the ‘king of Judea’ (cf. Luke 3.1 mentions a ‘Herod’, but we know this refers to Herod Agrippa, rather than either Herod I or Herod Archelaus, because the text properly calls him by the title ‘tetrarch’).43Nolland, 25. We are left with a brazen contradiction between Luke 1.5 and 2.1–5 because the author ‘failed to understand the date of the census of Quirinius’.44Fitzmyer, 392–393, 401–402.

The census, we read, required Joseph to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, because Joseph ‘descended from the house and family of David’. Two new problems emerge. First, the purpose of a census is to determine how many people live in a location in the present, for the purposes of taxation. For Joseph to be a descendent of King David would be entirely irrelevant to the Roman Empire; what matters is where Joseph lives now, in the year 6 CE. This issue is so glaringly obvious that theologically conservative scholars must invent explanations to justify it (e.g. that Joseph must have owned property in Bethlehem, a notion found nowhere in the text, and contrary to the reason provided for his travel).45Marshall, 101. Second, the author correctly notes that Nazareth was in Galilee, while Bethlehem was in Judea. Galilee belonged to the tetrarchy of Herod Antipas, north of Archelaus’ ethnarchy. Galilee—and thus Joseph individually—was not subject to the census in the slightest. The earliest gospel, Mark, says Jesus was ‘of Nazareth’ (e.g. 1.9; 1.24) and may indicate he moved to Capernaum (2.1; 9.33), but never associates him with Bethlehem. Yet the common belief was the Messiah must be born in Bethlehem (cf. John 7.42). Thus, early followers needed to explain why Jesus was ‘of Nazareth’ while also showing he was born in Bethlehem. The infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke create different excuses. For Matthew, Jesus was born in Bethlehem because Mary and Joseph already lived there, but they moved to Nazareth to avoid the Archelaus. For Luke, Jesus was born in Bethlehem because of the contrived circumstances of a census, but his parents’ actual home was back in Nazareth.

The setting provided in Luke 2.1–5, that Joseph had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem because of an empire-wide census, is nonsensical in every detail. The author firmly demonstrates his own unfamiliarity with the time period of Jesus’ birth, as well as widely-known historical figures and government projects. The paragraph serves one function, but it is not to properly relay history to the reader. Its function is to get Mary to Bethlehem, so that Jesus may be born there in fulfillment of prophecy.46Fitzmyer, 393.

The choice to introduce each birth story by providing the setting (1.5a and 2.1–5) also brings our attention to another discrepancy in the two chapters. Luke 2 introduces the parents of Jesus as if for the first time. Verses 2.3–4 state how ‘all’ people returned to their hometowns for the census, and identifies Joseph as one of those people. Next, verse 2.5 brings Mary into the narrative by identifying her as the woman ‘to whom he [Joseph] was betrothed and who was expecting a child’. This second introduction is unnecessary, revealing the passage does not show awareness that Mary and Joseph were already introduced in 1.26–56.47Fitzmyer, 311, 392; Marshall, 47; Nolland, 22. Redundancies like this are sometimes remnants of an imperfect seam between multiple sources, and most scholars think this is what we have here. The paragraph about the census is not just the opening to a new chapter. It was originally the opening to an independent text about Jesus’ birth, containing most of Luke 2.1–40, and does not contain the idea that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived.48Bovon, 81. As far as this chapter is concerned, Joseph is the father of Jesus (2.33).49This might require an emendation of ‘betrothed’ to ‘married’ in 2.5, though Bovon (81) and Fitzmyer (392) each suggest 2.1–5 was written after 2.6–40 by a different author.

The Date of Luke-Acts

The Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles each begin with a dedication to Theophilus, showing either book came from a single hand. The authorship of Luke-Acts was commonly assigned to a period ranging from 60 CE to 90 CE. Conservative scholars prefer the earlier side of this range.50Nolland, xxxix. They typically rely on two main arguments. One, Acts lacks any reference to Paul’s letters, suggesting this was because they had not yet achieved scriptural status in order for the author to think it necessary to mention them.51Fitzmyer, 57. Two, the abrupt conclusion of Acts before the death of Paul indicates it was written before his execution in Rome, traditionally dated to roughly 62 CE. For many decades, the more critical side of scholarship favored the later end of that time frame.52Hans Conzelmann, Acts of the Apostles, (tr. James Limburg, A. Thomas Kraabel, Donald H. Juel; ed. Eldon Jay Epp, Christopher R. Matthews), xxxiii. Since Mark has commonly been dated circa 66–70 CE,53Fitzmyer, 53. and the most widely accepted solution to the Synoptic Problem is that Matthew and Luke each independently used Mark and the hypothetical Q, this would put Luke-Acts just a few decades after Mark.

Recent years have seen some scholars arguing Luke-Acts must have instead been written even later, in the early second century. Mark seems instead to have been written around 75–80 CE, necessarily pushing Luke closer to the end of the first century at minimum, and Acts along with it. From the opposite direction, though there are some possible uses of Acts by Justin Martyr in the middle of the second century (1 Apology 50.12), the first unambiguous quotation of a passage from Acts comes after 170 CE.54Joseph Tyson, Marcion and Luke-Acts: A Defining Struggle, 10–11. This is remarkably late for a text that allegedly was written more than seventy years earlier. This shows the need to reevaluate what sources the author of Luke-Acts had available.

From the start, that Luke-Acts post-dates 70 CE is not determined simply by the fact of Luke’s use of Mark, but because the author’s redactions to Markan material show even clearer knowledge of the outcome to the Judean-Roman War (Luke 19.41–44; 21.20–24).55Tyson, 11–13.

After this, it should actually be recognized as strange that Acts does not so much as hint at Paul’s letter-writing, given they were his primary means of communicating with the various church communities he helped to build up. It instead seems the author made a conscious choice to not acknowledge them. Some scholars lay out examples where Acts shares a high degree of unique words and phrases with Paul’s letters.56Michael Goulder, Luke: A New Paradigm: Volume 1, 132–135; Tyson, 17–19. Most egregiously, Acts flatly contradicts Paul’s letters when it comes to the debate of Torah-observance for gentiles. For example, Paul firmly states he did not compel his companion Titus to be circumcised even though he was Greek, refusing to ‘submit even for a moment’ to his opponents (Gal 2.3–5), and he scathingly criticizes Peter for refusing to eat with non-Judeans who did not abide by Judean customs (Gal 2.11–14). Acts inverts these two anecdotes completely. Peter is not only shown eating with gentiles, he repels criticism that such commingling is inappropriate (Acts 11.2–3). The author also omits Titus altogether, inserting a story where Paul acquiesces to the opinion of diaspora Judeans and circumcises another companion, Timothy, also a Greek man (Acts 16.3). It is argued that Acts cannot produce a complete inversion of Paul’s recollection of Peter eating with gentiles, the Council of Jerusalem, and his own views on circumcision (while also using Paul’s own wording on top of that) without first having Paul’s own account to reference.57Tyson, 17–19.

It is also argued that Luke-Acts shows use of the multi-volume Judean Antiquities, written by the ancient historian Josephus. Given the time, place, and subject matter, it is inevitable the two books should overlap somewhat. Hence, in the past, the idea that Luke-Acts used Josephus was considered ‘abandoned’.58Fitzmyer, 57; cf. Conzelmann, xxxiii. However, Judean Antiquities is much denser, and finds stronger corroboration by contemporary historians and archaeological evidence. Luke-Acts provides only brief details on when its events take place, while Josephus, for the most part, is exhaustive in giving such details. This is how we know the chronology in Luke 1–2 regarding Herod I, Quirinius, and the census is in error. This is not the only time the author mentioned the census, though. Where Luke 1–2 conflates 5 BCE and 6 CE as a single point in time, so that the census of Quirinius happens shortly before Jesus’ birth, Acts adds another complication. Acts 5 has the renowned Gamaliel give a short speech to his peers in Jerusalem, people who hoped to condemn the apostles to death. Gamaliel justifies leaving the apostles alone by claiming that, if God wanted the Jesus movement stopped, he would accomplish it himself. Gamaliel cites precedent to prove his point.

Acts 5.36–37

‘For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and disappeared. After him Judah the Galilean rose up at the time of the census and got people to follow him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered.’

Theudas’ attempted revolt and death happened around 45 or 46 CE, about ten years after Gamaliel’s speech. Judah the Galilean is noted to have revolted and died ‘at the time of the census’, which was nearly forty years before Theudas, not ‘after him’ as the text says. In the final volume of Judean Antiquities, Josephus provides information about Theudas (20.5.1), then immediately mentions that some of Theudas’ contemporaries were the sons of Judah the Galilean (20.5.2). In this section, Josephus provides Theudas and Judah in reverse-chronological order, but he is fully aware he has done this, which is why he directly reminds his readers that Judah lived many years earlier, and had already been described ‘in a previous book’ (cf. 18.1.1). It appears the author of Luke-Acts drew from JA 20.5.1–2, but misread or misunderstood it, leading to the error in Gamaliel’s speech where he names the two revolutionaries not just in the wrong order, but identifies Theudas roughly a decade before his failed revolt even happened.59Tyson, 14–15.

Amid this and other details, it seems clear the author of Luke-Acts used Josephus’ history. Since Judean Antiquities was written circa 93–94 CE, Luke-Acts would need to come from a decade or two later, circa 115–120 CE.60Tyson, 15; cf. Patricia Walters, The Assumed Authorial Unity of Luke and Acts: A Reassessment of the Evidence, 192–194. Placing Luke-Acts at this time allows a handful of other details to fall into place. It explains the author’s lack of familiarity with people and events over the first half of the first century. It provides time for Paul’s letters to be collected and referenced. And it explains the reference to ‘many’ evangelistic predecessors.61Fitzmyer, 54.

However, there is an additional point to address. In the first half of the second century there was a man named Marcion, who taught a vehemently anti-Judean form of Christianity. And, importantly, Marcion is responsible for the first known ‘New Testament’, which contained several letters of Paul and the ‘Gospel of the Lord’. Marcion’s opponents (writing many decades later) accused him of creating his gospel by taking a copy of Luke and removing all connections between Jesus and the Hebrew god or Hebrew scriptures. But some scholars haved speculated whether Marcion may have used an earlier version of the Gospel of Luke, rather than the canonical version we know. This hypothetical edition, dubbed Proto-Luke, would have come from a different author than the one who created Luke-Acts. Proto-Luke originally began with Luke 3.1,62Ibid., 89, 310. so that Marcion’s critics were mistaken in blaming him for ‘removing’ passages which his copy of the gospel never contained. Per such theories, Proto-Luke was written circa 80–90 CE. Some decades later, Proto-Luke was used by two different Christian authors for nearly opposite reasons, becoming Marcion’s gospel on the one hand, and the first half of Luke-Acts on the other hand.

John the Forerunner

In Luke 1–2, the story of Jesus’ infancy echoes the story of John’s in certain ways. For example, John’s story concludes by saying ‘the child grew and became strong in spirit’ (1.80). This is paralleled by the conclusion to Jesus’ infancy, which says ‘the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom’ (2.40). Jesus’ birth story was written or edited to resemble John’s.

We do not know the circumstances that led to John becoming the prophetic figure he was, but there is, I think, a reasonable theory worth considering. When reading the gospels alongside the historian Josephus, the portrait of John that emerges is suspiciously close to that of the Qumran sect, an apparent fringe group of Essenes that produced the Dead Sea Scrolls. Within the crowd of theologies and sects of Second Temple Judaism, John and Qumran can be found standing very close together. Some of their most noteworthy parallels include:63Marcus, 27–32.

  • John was remembered for his ritual immersion in water (i.e. baptism), which was for repentance and forgiveness in an eschatological context, something the Qumran sect similarly did (1QS 3.4–12; 4.20–25).
  • John baptized people out in the wilderness, at the Jordan River. The Qumran sect was located nearby, also in the wilderness, where the Jordan River met the Dead Sea.
  • John was associated with (Mark 1.2–3) or quoted (Matt 3.1–3; Luke 3.2–6) Isaiah 40.3, which the Qumran sect also used to define themselves (1QS 8.12–14; 9.18–20).
  • John is shown as the son of two parents of priestly lineage (Luke 1.5). The Qumran sect is thought to have originated as a group of priests who separated from Jerusalem’s temple establishment.

It may be that John was a member of the Qumran sect, or was influenced by its members, given their geographical proximity.64Bergsma, 32–33; Marcus, 27. However, there are two major differences between John and the sect. John’s baptism was only performed once per person, while the Qumran sect did theirs regularly. And, John defined his mission entirely around one individual, himself, rather than an entire group.65Marcus, 33–36. The Gospel of Mark begins by citing Mal 3.1 in addition to Isa 40.3 when introducing John, passages also greatly important to the Qumran sect.66Bergsma, 33–35. Many interpreters of the Book of Malachi connect the messenger (3.1–2) with Elijah (4.5–6), since both are sent to prepare Israel for the arrival of ‘the Lord’. Consequently, Mark next describes John as resembling Elijah (Mark 1.6; cf. 2 King 1.8).67Marcus, 46–47. This identification of John as the fulfillment of the Elijah prophecy in Malachi is made explicit by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (11.14; 17.10–13). Luke has Gabriel inform Zechariah that John’s birth was ordained for the purpose of fulfilling the Elijah prophecy (1.16–17).

While there is not a clear trajectory between the four canonical gospels, we find each one (in roughly chronological order) diminishing John’s importance while still utilizing John as the forerunner of ‘the Lord’ Jesus. The earliest, Mark, simply has Jesus baptized by John, a recognized prophetic figure from the era. Matthew copies Mark here, but invents the detail that John initially refused to baptize Jesus because the latter is superior to the former (Matt 3.13–15). Luke removes the identification of John with Elijah altogether from his main narrative.68Fitzmyer, 319–320; Marcus, 47. Luke also creates some ambiguity whether it was even John who baptized Jesus, since he has John thrown in prison before Jesus’ baptism is mentioned (Luke 3.19–22). Luke’s own detail that John the baptizer would be ‘filled with the holy spirit’ from birth (Luke 1.15) is in sharp conflict with an idea found in the gospels (and especially Luke-Acts) that only Jesus could give the holy spirit to people (Luke 3.16; Acts 1.5; 19.2).69Marcus, 13.

The Gospel of John goes beyond the others in devaluing John. When asked, John explicitly denies being the fulfillment of the Elijah prophecy (1.21).70Ibid., 48. An earlier edition of the gospel may have identified Jesus as Elijah instead in 1.38–51. John identifies Jesus as his superior when Jesus is seen walking by the Jordan River, and, in fact, Jesus is never actually baptized (1.28–36). John directly says he must diminish next to Jesus (3.25–30). Jesus is noted as baptizing even more followers than John ever did (4.1–2). It is noted that John lacked any miracles, contrary to Jesus’ many miracles (10.41; cf. 11.47; 12.37; 20.30). The author of the Gospel of John even felt the need to twice interrupt the Logos poem (John 1.1–18) to bluntly inform the reader that the poem is not about John the baptizer (1.6–8, 15).

These protestations [in the Gospel of John] are emphatic, and all except 1:27 are unparalleled in the Synoptic Gospels.71Ibid., 11.

If the author of Luke-Acts did not write the Gospel of Luke entirely, but simply redacted Proto-Luke, it could explain why the gospel’s base narrative removed the Markan identification of John with Elijah while the birth narrative kept it. The author of Luke-Acts simply did not realize Proto-Luke omitted this association of John with Elijah.

While a few scholars believe Luke-Acts was intentionally written in opposition to Marcion, there may be another (non-mutually exclusive) explanation for the use of the birth narratives. The tendency of the gospels to diminish John instead reflects a polemic against John being improperly elevated, not denigrated. Today there exists a religion, Mandaeism, which elevates John and condemns Jesus. Mandaeism’s history is ancient,72Ibid., 18–20. and just about the time Mandaeism emerged, we find a fourth century Christian writer criticizing a contemporary sect that evidently called John the Messiah. This writer cited a text from the second or third century, showing that a John-centric group existed even that early.73Ibid., 14–18. It is doubtful Mandaeism originated with John himself; it instead appears that a Gnostic sect borrowed from a different John-centric group sometime betwen the second and fourth centuries. In reading Acts, we find a John-centric group spread at least as far as Ephesus (18.25; 19.1–7).74Conzelmann, 159; Marcus, 12. An author in the second century who intended to harmonize conflicting traditions within and alongside early Christianity might find the continued existence of John’s group awkward. In Acts, the only time the author brings this group up is to have them converted by Paul; in his mind the group should be absorbed into Christianity. Yet the author might find this episode alone inadequate. He would need to demonstrate more clearly that although John was the eschatological ‘Elijah’ as this other group believed, Jesus was still superior.

The bridge between the birth stories (Luke 1.26–56) does exactly this, with the detail of Elizabeth’s seclusion possibly created to setup for the interpolation.75Bovon, 47; Fitzmyer, 320–321; Marcus, 133; Marshall, 77. Here alone, we find the two mothers identified as family. (The narration only calls Elizabeth a συγγενίς of Mary, ‘kin’ or ‘relative’. Though their precise connection remains ambiguous, it may imply Mary was also thought to come from the tribe of Levi. Later Christian tradition would instead say Mary was a descendant of David, from the tribe of Judah, just like her husband Joseph.) When Mary arrives to visit Elizabeth, the older woman quickly declares that Mary is ‘blessed among women’, and that Mary’s son is ‘the Lord’. Despite no other text in the New Testament containing the idea, John and Jesus are literally family: continuity is established.76Marcus, 13. Jesus is ‘the Lord’, the one for whom John is only the forerunner: Jesus’ superiority to John is established.77Bovon, 55. Since Jesus ‘superseded’ John, ‘there can no longer be a Baptist group’.78Conzelmann, 159.

Shepherds and Prophets

The magi in Matthew were loosely based on Zoroastrian priests, but were primarily chosen because of their association with astrology, to grant a place in the story for the appearance of a ‘messianic’ star. Luke’s choice for shepherds to be the witnesses of the newborn Jesus also deserves attention, but the explanation is far less involved. Though wayward shepherds are sometimes used as a metaphor of poor leadership in scriptures, the Hebrew Bible reflects a largely positive view of the profession. God himself is compared to a shepherd several times (e.g. Psa 23.1; Isa 40.11; Jer 31.10; Ezek 34.15). Across the Mediterranean Sea, a few Greek and Roman myths contained scenes where shepherds found infants that one day became kings (Oedipus and Romulus),79Bovon, 87. but Lukan dependence here is tenuous. The simple matter is that shepherds were brought into the story because of the association with King David.

The shepherds are almost certainly introduced by Luke into the story because of the association of Jesus’ birth with Bethlehem, the town of David. We first learn of David as a shepherd tending the flocks of Jesse, his father, in 1 Sam 16:11; see further references to this activity of his in 1 Sam 17:14-15,20,28,34—especially his boast of having killed lions and bears in defense of the flock (and hence his ability to slay the Philistine Goliath). Moreover, Mic 5:1 speaks of Bethlehem as a place from which shall come forth a “ruler in Israel” (like David), even though it was among the insignificant clans of Judah. This OT verse is actually quoted (in a slightly expanded form which makes the ruler into a “shepherd”) in Matt 2:6. But Luke makes no allusion to this OT passage, even though he undoubtedly knew it; and it may well have figured in his thinking in depicting Jesus as a ruler born in shepherd-country.80Fitzmyer, 395.

Luke’s next scene has Jesus, now eight days old, circumcised and taken to the temple in Jerusalem. Bethlehem was never given as the family’s residence, so when the temple visit concludes the family returns to their home in Nazareth. This is one of the more overt contradictions with Matthew’s birth story. In that other account Joseph and Mary already lived in Bethlehem before Jesus’ birth, and they remained there for about two years afterward. When King Herod attempts to have Jesus killed, the family hides in Egypt for a period of time. Their decision to live in Nazareth only came about after Herod’s death, because they were still afraid of his son Archelaus. Galilee, and hence Nazareth within it, was not under Archelaus’ jurisdiction.

Luke’s portrayal of Jesus’ family as faithfully Torah-observant seems to be well-meaning, but still misrepresents what ‘the law of Moses’ (2.22) or ‘the law of the Lord’ (2.23) actually required from the parents of a newborn. Following a son’s circumcision, only the mother needed to be purified (Lev 12.3–4), but Luke 2.22 says ‘they’ were purified (Mary and Jesus, Mary and Joseph, or all three?). The author also points to Exo 13.1–16 to demonstrate that Jesus’ parents ‘presented’ him in the temple according to the law, but no such ‘presentation’ is commanded in the Torah. This act is another example of the author imitating the detail found in an earlier birth narrative (1 Sam 1.22–24).81Goulder, 255.

After this, Jesus’ family meets two prophetic figures in quick succession. The passage bears stronger resemblance to the themes of the complete Luke-Acts, possibly hinting it was edited or written by the chief author-redactor of the two volumes. The sequence of two prophets, a man and a woman, and the repeated mention of the holy spirit’s inspiration (three times in 2.25–27) has been taken as a hint the author had in mind Joel 2.28–29. This would result in both volumes beginning with a reference to that passage (cf. Acts 2.17–18). With the birth of Jesus, the last stage in history has begun.82Ibid., 256.

Jesus the Youth

The final episode of Luke’s infancy narratives actually skips more than a decade forward (2.41–52). Jesus, now twelve years old, travels to Jerusalem with his family for the Passover. When his family joins the caravan to return to Nazareth, Jesus secretly remains in Jerusalem so that he can engage theologians in the temple. Mary and Joseph only realize Jesus is missing from the caravan after a full day of travel and must return to Jerusalem. After spending three days searching the city, they at last discover him showing off his theological prowess to the educated elite. Mary is rightfully exasperated, but Jesus rebukes her that of course he should be found in the temple. As with Jesus’ birth story (2.33), Joseph is referred to as his ‘father’ (2.48), contradicting the virgin birth.83Bovon, 109; Fitzmyer, 311. The author uses this moment to highlight how God is the ‘true’ father of Jesus, but this does not demand fatherhood in a ‘literal’ sense (as literal as such a fatherhood may be when it comes to a miraculous virgin conception).

The four canonical gospels were not the only ones. Another was written in the middle of the second century. Though we call it the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, this name is a misnomer. The book contains a series of anecdotes set during Jesus’ childhood, following from the example of the final episode in Luke 2, which is used as the book’s conclusion.84Bovon, 110. Each story imagines Jesus using his divine power to perform ‘sensational’, ‘capricious and even destructive’ miracles.85J.K. Elliott, The Apocryphal New Testament: A Collection of Apocryphal Christian Literature in an English Translation Based on M.R. James, 68. The reader is left with the impression that Jesus was a terrible child, but the author may have intended to convey that Jesus’ morality is above/incomprehensible to normal humanity. Anachronistically applying this thought to Luke 2 results in a similar takeaway. Jesus is defiant to his parents, unnecessarily causing stress and taking nearly a week of their time, but the author does not mean any of this to reflect badly on Jesus’ character. Rather, it is a tale demonstrating what is stated in the final verse of the chapter: ‘Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in divine and human favor’.

When Jesus repudiates his mother, the narrator notes that she ‘treasured all these things in her heart’. A similar idiom is used earlier, when the shepherds arrive to praise Jesus as a newborn (2.19). In addition to these, the block inserted in the previous chapter (1.26–56) shows that Mary, Elizabeth, and Joseph were entirely aware that Jesus would share a unique relationship with God. Mary even receives a prophetic oracle which, though cryptic in language, makes it clear that God’s plan for Jesus involves serious hardship and opposition (2.34–35). In other words, for Luke 1–2, Jesus’ immediate and extended family know who he ‘really’ is. Contrast this to the Gospel of Mark, which yields a story where Jesus’ mother and siblings say he is out of his mind (Mark 3.21). When his mother and siblings again try to speak to Jesus, Jesus says that his true family is ‘whoever does the will of God’ (3.31–35). Later, Jesus briefly returns to Nazareth, but when the villagers reject him, he counts his family among those who find him dishonorable (Mark 6.1–6).86Michael Strickland & David Young, The Rhetoric of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark, 79–81. Luke also has a passage in which one of Jesus’ followers says Mary should be blessed above all women, only for Jesus to contradict the sentiment (Luke 11.27–28).

These episodes in Mark and Luke reflect an earlier tradition where Jesus spurns traditional family connections. His relationship with his mother and siblings was apparently strained: they question his sanity and his validity as a prophet, and he in turn finds his ‘true’ family among his followers. It is difficult to square these away with the idea found in Luke 1.26–56 or 2.1–40, that Jesus’ family had always known his existence and purpose had been orchestrated by heaven. Instead, they seem ignorant of who he ‘really’ is, which is the same situation we find in Luke 2.41–52.87My opinion of the evidence here is opposite Fitzmyer, 398.


In the mid- to late-first century CE a story about John the baptizer’s birth was written. Maybe preserved by a sect centered around John,88Nolland, 21. the purpose of the birth legend was to illustrate his supreme importance as the herald for God’s arrival in the imminent eschatological Day of Yhwh. Jesus, possibly being a student of John’s message,89Marcus, 27. agreed with the idea of John’s unparalleled greatness, but used it as a baseline to measure his own followers’ devotion to God (Luke 7.28 / Matt 11.11).90Ibid., 13. In the meantime, Jesus’ followers were also preserving and developing traditions about their leader. They came to believe that Jesus was superior to John, reimagining John’s mission so that he was not a herald for God, but for the Messiah, Jesus himself. The earliest extant text that achieved this is the Gospel of Mark. But later followers felt like Mark was lacking, so they expanded it with further materials about Jesus. One expansion we know as the Gospel of Matthew, but the other is a hypothetical gospel edition we call Proto-Luke.

Jesus’ birth legend was the last substantial component accrued by these gospel traditions,91Fitzmyer, 305. having the ‘telltale quality of a later addition’.92Ibid., 310. Like John’s birth legend, the goal was to provide a foundation for Jesus’ messianic identity in his infancy, long before either his resurrection (Rom 1.1–4) or his baptism (Mark 1.11).93Ibid., 306. This tradition branched off at some point in its development. The author of Matthew received it in one form, but another form came to the attention of a scribe who already had a copy of John’s birth legend.94Ibid., 306.

This scribe combined the two birth legends while interpolating some new material. In the process, he fabricated a family relationship for John and Jesus.95Bovon, 7. The goal there is similar to the folktales in Genesis which create ancient family connections between Israel and its neighbors (such Moab and Ammon in Gen 19.30–38, or Edom in 25.27–30). Sometime later, after a decade or three, Proto-Luke underwent redaction by two different Christian theologians, each with vastly different ideas about Jesus’ relationship to Judaism. While one severed Jesus from his ancestral religion (Marcion), the other expanded Proto-Luke to become the first half of a gospel-history that would harmonize conflicting movements within second century Christianity. This included whitewashing the controversial Paul and finding common ground with a John-centric group within Judaism that never simply folded into the Jesus movement. This author appended the now-combined birth legends for John and Jesus to the beginning of his gospel (Luke-Acts).

Within this reconstruction of how Luke 1–2 came to be, which items in the two birth legends might be considered historically probable, or at least plausible? The priestly ancestry of John is not terribly farfetched, based on the overlap between his theology and that of the Qumran sect. John’s abstinence from alcohol found in Q (Matt 11.18 / Luke 7.33) is independently given an etiology in Luke 1; this explanation for his abstinence is probably not historical, but the abstinence itself is very likely.

The passage setting Jesus up to be born in Bethlehem bears little resemblance to other historical records, is logistically outlandish, and contradicts our one other source that also places his birth in Bethlehem (Matt 1–2, which is itself filled with legendary elements and theological invention). Against this, we know the author had motivation to ‘help’ Jesus fulfill a prophecy regarding the Messiah’s birthplace. This renders Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem extremely doubtful; it is far more likely he was simply born in Nazareth, a residence agreed upon by all four gospels.

On the other hand, Jesus’ birth in the time of King Herod makes sense, due to the independent attestation of Luke 1.5 (cf. 1.26) and Matt 2.1. It receives additional corroboration from a different Lukan source that Jesus was in his early thirties circa 28/29 CE (Luke 3.1–2, 23). Consequently, the birth of John during the time of Herod is also viable, though we can’t confirm if John actually was older than Jesus (let alone that they were born within six months of each other).


1 François Bovon, Luke 1 (tr. Christine Thomas; ed. Helmut Koester), 86, 90.

2 John Nolland, Luke 1–9:20, 4.

3 Joseph Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke: I–IX, 294.

4 Nolland, 10.

5 Fitzmyer, 299–300; I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke, 43.

6 Bovon, 23; Fitzmyer, 300.

7 Nolland, 5.

8 Bovon, 16; Fitzmyer, 308; Marshall, 46; Nolland, 4, 17.

9 Fitzmyer, 312; Nolland, 34.

10 Nolland, 23.

11 Fitzmyer, 325–326.

12 Nolland, 18.

13 Ibid., 25.

14 Fitzmyer, 317; Marshall, 52.

15 Bovon, 34; Fitzmyer, 318; Marshall, 60; Nolland, 26.

16 Fitzmyer, 317.

17 Bovon, 36; Marshall, 57; Nolland, 30.

18 Nolland, 19.

19 Fitzmyer, 324.

20 Bovon, 39.

21 Fitzmyer, 320; Nolland, 29.

22 Nolland, 32.

23 Ibid., 41.

24 Fitzmyer, 309, 318, 335; Nolland, 21.

25 Fitzmyer, 337.

26 John Bergsma, Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls: Revealing the Jewish Roots of Christianity, 38–39; Fitzmyer, 338; Nolland, 42; Geza Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, 617–618.

27 Fitzmyer, 342.

28 Marshall, 69–70.

29 Fitzmyer, 364.

30 Bovon, 32; Marshall, 86.

31 Fitzmyer, 356–357, 374–375.

32 Fitzmyer, 309; Nolland, 22.

33 Bovon, 56–57 and 69, suggests a possible connection to the ‘Pharisaic’ Psalms of Solomon, with additional parallels to the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, especially T. Zebulun 7.3; 8.2.

34 Fitzmyer, 361.

35 Nolland, 24.

36 Bovon, 37; Joel Marcus, John the Baptist in History and Theology, 11–12.

37 Fitzmyer, 318–319; Marshall, 50. Fitzmyer later (385) points out that ‘prophet of the Most High’ is a messianic title used for a priest-king descendant of both Levi and Judah in Testament of Levi 8.15. Might this same thought stand behind Zechariah’s hymn for John’s birth?

38 Bovon, 68; Fitzmyer, 383.

39 Marshall, 87, though he doubts the theory.

40 Fitzmyer, 317; Marshall, 51.

41 Bovon, 83.

42 Fitzmyer, 402.

43 Nolland, 25.

44 Fitzmyer, 392–393, 401–402.

45 Marshall, 101.

46 Fitzmyer, 393.

47 Fitzmyer, 311, 392; Marshall, 47; Nolland, 22.

48 Bovon, 81.

49 This might require an emendation of ‘betrothed’ to ‘married’ in 2.5, though Bovon (81) and Fitzmyer (392) each suggest 2.1–5 was written after 2.6–40 by a different author.

50 Nolland, xxxix.

51 Fitzmyer, 57.

52 Hans Conzelmann, Acts of the Apostles, (tr. James Limburg, A. Thomas Kraabel, Donald H. Juel; ed. Eldon Jay Epp, Christopher R. Matthews), xxxiii.

53 Fitzmyer, 53.

54 Joseph Tyson, Marcion and Luke-Acts: A Defining Struggle, 10–11.

55 Tyson, 11–13.

56 Michael Goulder, Luke: A New Paradigm: Volume 1, 132–135; Tyson, 17–19.

57 Tyson, 17–19.

58 Fitzmyer, 57; cf. Conzelmann, xxxiii.

59 Tyson, 14–15.

60 Tyson, 15; cf. Patricia Walters, The Assumed Authorial Unity of Luke and Acts: A Reassessment of the Evidence, 192–194.

61 Fitzmyer, 54.

62 Ibid., 89, 310.

63 Marcus, 27–32.

64 Bergsma, 32–33; Marcus, 27.

65 Marcus, 33–36.

66 Bergsma, 33–35.

67 Marcus, 46–47.

68 Fitzmyer, 319–320; Marcus, 47.

69 Marcus, 13.

70 Ibid., 48. An earlier edition of the gospel may have identified Jesus as Elijah instead in 1.38–51.

71 Ibid., 11.

72 Ibid., 18–20.

73 Ibid., 14–18.

74 Conzelmann, 159; Marcus, 12.

75 Bovon, 47; Fitzmyer, 320–321; Marcus, 133; Marshall, 77.

76 Marcus, 13.

77 Bovon, 55.

78 Conzelmann, 159.

79 Bovon, 87.

80 Fitzmyer, 395.

81 Goulder, 255.

82 Ibid., 256.

83 Bovon, 109; Fitzmyer, 311.

84 Bovon, 110.

85 J.K. Elliott, The Apocryphal New Testament: A Collection of Apocryphal Christian Literature in an English Translation Based on M.R. James, 68.

86 Michael Strickland & David Young, The Rhetoric of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark, 79–81.

87 My opinion of the evidence here is opposite Fitzmyer, 398.

88 Nolland, 21.

89 Marcus, 27.

90 Ibid., 13.

91 Fitzmyer, 305.

92 Ibid., 310.

93 Ibid., 306.

94 Ibid., 306.

95 Bovon, 7.

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