Apostle Paul: Passionate Discipleship
Beginning the Journey (for new Christians).
1, 2, and 3 John
1 & 2 Thessalonians
1 & 2 Timothy
2 Peter, Jude
7 Last Words of Christ
Christ Powered Life (Rom 5-8)
David, Life of
Glorious Kingdom, The
Holy Spirit, Disciple's Guide
Jesus and the Kingdom
Lamb of God
Listening for God's Voice
Names of God
Names of Jesus
Rebuild & Renew: Post-Exilic Books
Sermon on the Mount
3. The Shepherds' Sign of the Manger (Luke 2:1-20)by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Audio (30:34) | YouTube (25:48)
Gerard (Gerrit) van Honthorst (1590-1656), Adoration of the Shepherds (Die Anbetung der Hirten, Adorazione dei Pastori, 1622). 164 x 190 cm, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne. Larger image.
"1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to his own town to register.
4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.'
13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14'Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.'
15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.'
16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told." (Luke 2:1-20)
How cute to see some girl's doll, recruited at the last minute and wrapped tightly in a blanket, lying amidst the straw of an X-ended manger that dwells the remainder of the year in the church attic. Jessica stands in for Mary, while Robert, the tallest boy in Sunday school this year, makes a perfect Joseph -- once they've applied his fake beard.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm not at all against nativity scenes. But we've seen so many, year after year, that it's hard for us to read Scripture and see with fresh eyes what it actually says to us. Luke 2:1-7 makes four important points about the birth of Jesus:
- Jesus is born in history.
- Jesus is born in David's birthplace.
- Jesus' birth is attended by hardship.
- Jesus is born in humble circumstances.
1. Jesus Is Born in History (2:1-2)
"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)" (2:1-2)
Jesus has an historical context; he's neither a myth nor a legend. He is both historical and verifiable. He is mentioned not only in the New Testament, but by contemporaries and early documents such as Josephus, Pliny, Tacitus, Suetonius, Bar-Serapion, Thallus, Lucian, and the Talmud.1 Jesus is a person in history.
Jesus' historical setting includes rulers Caesar Augustus, Herod the Great, and Quirinius. "Caesar Augustus," Roman emperor Octavian, reigned 27 BC - 14 AD. Herod the Great, called "King of the Jews," ruled Judea from 40 to 4 BC. Quirinius was a military leader and Roman consul in central Asia Minor, and later Imperial Legate of Syria-Cilicia (AD 6 to 9), where Josephus notes that he conducted a census.2 The census in our passage isn't recorded elsewhere but makes sense, perhaps under a kind of extraordinary command authority Quirinius possessed during his military maneuvers in Cilicia or during a brief earlier stint as governor in Syria.3
|Q1. (Luke 2:1-2) Why does Luke name the
rulers in 2:1-2? What point is he making?
2. Jesus Is Born in David's Birthplace (2:3-4)
"And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David." (2:3-4)
The second point of our passage is that Jesus was born in the birthplace of David, Israel's greatest King. Nearly 1000 years before Jesus' birth, God had promised to David through the Prophet Samuel, "Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever" (2 Samuel 7:16). Micah had also prophesied of Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Messiah (Micah 5:2)
The Jews eagerly expected David's successor and called this hoped-for Messiah the "Son of David." Jesus is the Son of David, this promised King. It is no accident that Joseph was "of the house and lineage of David" (Luke 2:4, KJV) and that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.4
3. Jesus' Birth is Attended by Hardship (2:5-6)
"He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born." (2:5-6)
The most glorious event in history is about to unfold, but for Joseph and Mary it is drudgery and hardship.
- Mary and Joseph live in Nazareth, four days journey north of Bethlehem.
- Mary is pregnant. A journey late in pregnancy is arduous for her. But if she stays in Nazareth she has to face scandal alone. Luke puts it delicately: "... Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child" (2:5).
- Compounding that, it could well have been winter, if second century church tradition is to be taken seriously.5
An arduous journey in winter, a pregnant teenage mom. Who says that following God's plan is easy? Just because we face hardships and obstacles is no indication that God is absent, that we've missed his will.
|Q2. Why do you think the journey to
Bethlehem was difficult for Mary? Is pleasure an indication that
we are in God's will or not? Any examples from your life?
Extra Credit: Argue for or against this proposition: "Being a
consistent Christian causes more hardships than just going
with the flow."
4. Jesus Is Born in Humble Circumstances (2:7)
"... And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." (2:7)
The manger astounds me. The holy Son of God was born in a stable or cave where animals were kept and his first crib was a common cattle trough. Why? Though Jesus was by very nature God (Philippians 2:6), he didn't grasp at his prerogatives or flaunt his rights. Instead, he "made himself nothing (kenoō), taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness...." (Philippians 2:7). Kenoō means "make empty." Jesus literally "emptied himself" of all the privileges to which he was heir. He didn't just take a low place, he took the lowest place. His commission was "to preach good news to the poor" (Luke 4:18; quoting Isaiah 61:1), so he was born among the poorest of the poor. His disciples argued about who would be greatest in the Kingdom, but Jesus stopped them short: "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). The manger represents serving.
Shepherds Keeping Watch over Their Flocks (2:8)
But the manger was more than a symbol of humility. God planned it as a sign. Let's read on.
"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night." (2:8)
Sheep raised on the hillsides around Bethlehem may well have been destined for temple sacrifices in Jerusalem, only six miles to the north.6 Jeremias describes a shepherd's life:
"The dryness of the ground made it necessary for the flocks of sheep and cattle to move about during the rainless summer and to stay for months at a time in isolated areas, far from the owner's home. Hence, herding sheep was an independent and responsible job; indeed, in view of the threat of wild beasts and robbers, it could even be dangerous. Sometimes the owner himself (Luke 15:6; John 10:12) or his sons did the job. But usually it was done by hired shepherds, who only too often did not justify the confidence reposed in them (John 10:12-13)."7
Some of Israel's great heroes were shepherds -- Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David. But in the First Century, it seems, shepherds -- specifically, hireling shepherds -- had a rather unsavory reputation. The Rabbis are quoted as saying, "most of the time they were dishonest and thieving; they led their herds onto other people's land and pilfered the produce of the land." Because they were often months at a time without supervision, they were often accused of stealing some of the increase of the flock. Consequently, the pious were warned not to buy wool, milk, or kids from shepherds on the assumption that it was stolen property.8 Shepherds were not allowed to fulfill a judicial office or be admitted in court as witnesses.9 A midrash on Psalm 23:2 reads, "There is no more disreputable occupation than that of a shepherd."10 Philo, a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher of Alexandria (25 BC - 45 AD), wrote about looking after sheep and goats, "Such pursuits are held mean and inglorious."11
They lived outside most of the year. "Abiding in the field" (KJV) is the Greek verb agrauleō, "live out of doors."12 Flocks were kept outside in this way from April to November, and, sometimes during the winter in suitable locations.13 Shepherds were constantly with their sheep, since the sheep were vulnerable to all kinds of trouble. "Keeping watch" is a combination of two related Greek words, phulassō, "to carry out sentinel functions, watch, guard,"14 and phulakē, "the act of guarding." Together they carry the idea of "keep watch, do guard duty."15 The shepherds made sure that the sheep were safe from wandering off and injuring themselves, as well as dangers from thieves and wolves.
The Glory of the Lord (2:9)
One minute the shepherds are talking quietly in the blackness of the winter sky. The next moment the hillside is ablaze with light and booming with the sound of an angel's voice.
"An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified." (2:9)
The brightness is more than just mega-candlepower. It is the radiance of God's own glory. "Glory" (doxa, which we also see in verse 14) refers to "the condition of being bright or shining, brightness, splendor, radiance."16 Throughout the Old Testament the presence of God is referred to as overwhelmingly bright, burning as fire, such as the cloud above the tabernacle by day and the pillar of fire by night (Exodus 16:7, 10; 40:34-35; 1 Kings 8:11; Isaiah 6:3; 40:5; 60:1; Ezekiel 3:23; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 4:4; etc.). God's angels sometimes bear this same bright glory (Matthew 28:3; Luke 24:4; Daniel 10:6). In this case the glory shines around the whole area. The shepherds are frozen in terror. "Terrified" (NIV) or "sore afraid" (KJV) reads, literally, "feared with a great fear."
|Q3. (Luke 2:7-8) Why do you think the
message of Jesus' birth comes to shepherds, of all people?
Why is Jesus born in a stable with a manger for a bed? This
has to be intentional. What point is God making?
The Good News Angel (2:10-11)
The angel moves first to calm their fears....
"But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.'" (2:10-11)
This Good News angel has the enviable task of being the first herald of Messiah's birth. "Bring good news" (NIV) or "bring good tidings" (KJV) is the Greek verb euangelizō, from which we get our English word, "evangelize." Here it means, "bring good news, announce good news." Later in the New Testament it is widely used for "proclaim the message of salvation, preach the gospel."17 This is very good news that results in joy,18 intensified by the Greek adjective megas, "great, above standard in intensity."19 This is great joy indeed!
Notice how broad is the angel's message. It is not for just the pious or for the Jew, but "for all the people." What wonderful news for those who are estranged from God and struggling under oppression! The baby is not just born to Mary and Joseph. The baby is born "to you" -- to the shepherd recipients of the message and all others.
"The town of David"20 reminds the reader of the Messiah-child's connection with his ancestor David. Prophecy indicates that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem. And what a fitting prophecy for these Bethlehem shepherds to recall, given 730 years previously by the prophet Micah:
"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times....
He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth.
And he will be their peace." (Micah 5:2-3, 5a)
A Savior (2:11)
The angel also calls this baby "Savior" (sōtēr) "one who rescues, savior, deliverer, preserver."21 In the prophecies about Jesus' birth in Luke 1-3 we observe this theme several times (1:69, 17, 77; 2:30-32; 3:6 from Isaiah 40:5). Jesus, quoting Isaiah, spelled out his mission this way:
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19, quoting from Isaiah 61:1-2)
This Savior will bring both salvation from enemies and from sin -- but not just to the Jews but also to the Gentiles -- all people!
Christ the Lord (2:11)
Finally, the angel utters the words that Jews had longed for centuries to hear -- "He is Christ the Lord." Messiah! This Child is Messiah!
Our English word "Christ," of course, comes from the Greek adjective christos, "anointed," which translates Hebrew mashiah, transliterated in English as "messiah."22 The angel's declaration, however, doesn't use the word "Christ" by itself, but in the phrase, "Christ the Lord." "Lord" (kurios) means "owner, lord, master, a designation of any person of high position."23 Jews were used to reading "Lord" whenever the divine name "Yahweh" appeared in Scripture, so to Jewish ears, these two words, christos and kurios spoke of divinity. The meaning seems to "the highest conceivable and most lofty designation of Christ,"24 that is, "The Lord Messiah" or "the Messiah (and) the Lord" with connotations of kurios used of Yahweh himself, rather than just of an exalted personage -- a Savior who can be regarded as the Messiah-Yahweh.25 The implications of this exalted title are staggering!
|Q4. (Luke 2:11) What are the three titles of
Jesus given by the angels? What does each mean? What does
this tell us about Jesus' true identity?
At the Sign of a Manger (2:12)
The shepherds are given a sign that the angel's message is true:
"This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." (2:12)
"Sign" (sēmeion) means "a sign or distinguishing mark whereby something is known, sign, token, indication."26 The sign consists of two elements. The baby is: (1) wrapped in cloths, and (2) lying in a manger.
The phrase "wrapped in swaddling clothes" (KJV) or "cloths" (NIV) translates the Greek verb sparganoō, "to wrap in pieces of cloth used for swaddling infants, wrap up in cloths."27 These were "strips of cloth like bandages, wrapped around young infants in order "to keep their limbs straight."28 This was pretty common.
However, the second sign was that the newborn would be found in a manger -- that was unique! The Greek noun is phatnē, "manger, crib, feeding-trough."29 A manager would indicate the location in some kind of stable. A second century legend indicates that this was in a cave.30
Glory to God in the Highest (2:13-14)
After the angel's startling declaration, the heavens reveal a huge crowd of angelic beings:
"Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
'Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.'" (2:13-14)
The crowd is described with two phrases: (1) "great company" or "multitude"31and (2) "heavenly host." "Host" is the Greek noun strateia, a military term that means "army."32 God's heavenly army is mentioned several times in scripture (Joshua 5:14; 2 Kings 6:17; Psalm 34:7; 103:21; 148:2).
This heavenly army is praising God.33 It may have been a heavenly choir as in popular Christmas lore, but the scripture doesn't explicitly say that they are singing as the angels in Revelation (5:11-13; 15:3). Here they seem to be chanting in unison or speaking (Greek legō, "utter words, say").
The content of their praise is (1) to give glory to God and (2) to offer a blessing of peace to men. "Glory" (doxa) is used here in the sense of "honor as an enhancement or recognition of status or performance, fame, recognition, renown, honor, prestige."34 The angels promise peace (Greek eirēnē) -- peace between God and mankind, which essentially amounts to salvation.
We're used to the wording: "on earth peace, good will toward men," (KJV) but more ancient Greek manuscripts indicate a better translation: "on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests" (NIV).35 The idea is that God extends his peace and salvation to his favored people, those whom he sovereignly chooses or elects to favor and save.
The Shepherd's Response (2:15-18)
Now the shepherds have a choice.
"15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.' 16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them." (2:15-18)
They hurry to Bethlehem. Where do you find a manger? In a stable, of course. So they check out the stables in this village and come across one with a baby sleeping in it. They meet the Holy Family and share with them their story of the angelic visitation. Then they go and tell others what the angels have told them, just like the villagers did after the remarkable birth of John the Baptist (1:65). The NIV's translation "spread the word" seems to miss the point, which is rendered well in the KJV and NRSV: "They made known what had been told them about this child." The angel's announcement of "a savior, Christ the Lord" is spread throughout the area, resulting in amazement in the hearers.
Mary Ponders the Shepherd's Report (2:19)
"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." (2:19)
Mary has much to think about. "Treasured up" (NIV) or "kept all these things" (KJV) is suntereō, "to store information in one's mind for careful consideration, hold or treasure up (in one's memory)."36 "Pondered" is sumballō, "to give careful thought to, consider, ponder," something similar to our colloquial "get it all together."37 She has a lot to process, a lot to make sense of. The shepherds do also.
Joyful Shepherds (2:20)
"The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told." (2:20)
The final scene in this passage finds the shepherds climbing back up the hill to where their flocks lie. The angel had told them what to expect and that's just the way they found it. We leave them glorifying (doxazō) and praising (aineō), the appropriate response to this unforgettable night.
|Q5. (Luke 2:17-20) Great joy, praise,
curiosity, amazement, telling others, thoughtful meditation.
Which of these responses to the Good News are present in your
life? In what manner do they show themselves? If some are
missing, why? What can you do to recover these responses?
Lessons for Disciples
What are we disciples supposed to get out of this telling of the story of Jesus' birth? Several things:
- God brings Good News to the poor and humble. The shepherds, sometimes despised by their countrymen, were the first recipients of the Good News of Jesus' birth. Since God is no respecter of persons, we aren't to show favoritism either.
- The glory of the Lord is powerful and huge. Just because we don't see it visibly doesn't mean that God isn't active. He often works in quiet ways. Only occasionally does he confirm his presence in miraculous ways.
- Jesus is the heir of David.
- Jesus is the expected Savior, Messiah-Master-Lord-God in our midst.
- The Good News is for all people, Jew and Gentile alike.
- Not all people, however, receive God's peace, but only those whom he has sovereignly chosen. Don't let suggestions of predestination trouble you. Be humble enough to allow God to be sovereign beyond your own meager understanding of these things. Deal with it! :-)
- Appropriate responses to this Good News include "great joy" (2:10), praise (2:13-14, 20), curiosity to confirm its truth (2:15-16), amazement (2:18), telling others (2:17), and thoughtful meditation (2:19). Nowhere do we see unbelief.
Father, what an amazing night the shepherds had! To have a glimpse of your heavenly glory, to hear a mighty army chant your praise, to see the Messiah-Child, to listen to the angel recite his glorious titles -- Savior, Messiah, Lord. Thank you for letting us hear the story again. Write it large and indelibly in our hearts that we might be fervent Good News tellers, too. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
"And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn" (Luke 2:7)
"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:11, KJV)
- Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict (Campus Crusade for Christ, 1972), documents all these references and more in Chapter 5: "Jesus--a Man of History," pp. 83-89.
- Josephus, Antiquities 18.1-3,26, referred to in Acts 5:37.
- The controversy surrounding Quirinius and this census are discussed fully in Craig L. Blomberg, "Quirinius," ISBE 3:12-13; and Marshall, Luke, pp. 99-105. Usually Romans conducted a census where residents lived, but there is a precedent for the procedure we see in Luke 2:3-5. A decree of C. Vibius Maximus, dated in AD 104, required absentees to return to their home towns for a census in Egypt (P. Lond. 904, 20f; cited in J.M. Creed, St. Luke, London: Macmillan, 1930).
- A phrase in John Hopkins Jr.'s carol "We Three Kings" got me wondering: "Born a king on Bethlehem's plain" (1857). How could a town in the "hill country of Judah" have a plain? Bethlehem sits near the crest of the Judean central mountain spine that runs north and south in Israel, west of the great rift valley and east of the coastal plains that taper down to the Mediterranean to the west. A look at Google Earth or Google Maps makes clear its mountainous topography, as do photos of the town. Yet we see general reference to a plain in "Joy to the World" ("rocks, hills, and plains"), Isaac Watts (1719). But the references to a plain in Bethlehem where shepherds watched sheep is especially clear among nineteenth century song writers: "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" ("above its sad and lowly plains..."), Edmund H. Sears (1849); "Shepherds Watching O'er the Plain," Mrs. Gaskell (1916); "The Shepherds on Fair Bethlehem's Plain," Edward G. Selden (1916), "Blessèd Night, When First that Plain," Horatius Bonar (1857); "When, Marshaled on the Nightly Plain," Henry K. White (1812); "Far, Far Away on Judea’s Plains," John M. Macfarlane (1869); and "On Judah's Plains as Shepherds Sat," unknown author (1849). Even Edersheim's editor in Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (1887) makes that mistake (1:187). I guess in their romanticizing of the birth of Christ, song writers in the nineteenth century never traveled to the Holy Land.
- The date of December 25 goes back to Hippolytus (AD 165-235), and Chrysostom (AD 345-407), who stated in 386 that December 25 is the correct day. Brief discussion in William P. Armstrong and Jack Finegan, "Chronology of the New Testament," ISBE 1:688.
- Morris, Luke, p. 84. He cites Rabbinical sources that flocks were only to be kept in the wilderness (Mishnah, Baba Kamma 7:7; Talmud, Baba Kamma 79b-80a). Any animal found between Jerusalem and a spot near Bethlehem must be presumed to be a sacrificial victim (Mishnah, Shekalim 7:4).
- Joachim Jeremias, "poimēn, ktl.," TDNT 6:485-502.
- Joachim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus (SCM/Fortress Press, 1969), pp. 304-305. He cites b. Sanh. 25b; Strack and Billerback II, 114; M.B.K. x.9; T.B.K. xi.9, 370; b. Ket. 62b; b.B.K. 94b Bar. Green, Luke, p. 130, disputes this analysis. Rather, he sees them merely as "peasants, located toward the bottom of the scale of power and privilege." Marshall, Luke, p. 108, too, notes that the tradition of despised shepherds is late.
- Jeremias, "poimēn, ktl.," TDNT 6:489.
- Midrash Ps. 23.2, ed. Buber, Vilna 1891, 99b.12, cited by Jeremias, Jerusalem, p. 311, fn. 42.
- Philo, de agric. 61, cited by Jeremias, Jerusalem, p. 311, fn. 42.
- Agrauleō, BDAG 15.
- Marshall, Luke, p. 108, cites Strack and Billerback II, 114-116; Morris, Luke, p. 84.
- Phulassō, , BDAG 1068.
- Phulakē, BDAG 1067.
- Doxa, BDAG 257.
- Euangelizō, BDAG 402.
- Chara, "the experience of gladness, joy" (BDAG 1077).
- Megas, BDAG 623-624.
- "City" or "town" is the Greek noun polis, which can refer "a population center of varying size," BDAG 844-845.
- Sōtēr, BDAG 985.
- See notes on mashiah, TWOT #1255c.
- Kurios, BDAG 576-579.
- Walter Grundmann, "chrio, ktl.," TDNT 9:532-33, quoting H. Sahlin.
- Marshall, Luke, p. 110. Cf. Green, Luke, p. 135.
- Sēmeion, BDAG 920.
- Sparganoō, BDAG 936. We don't use the English word "swaddle" much any more, but it is derived from the Old English word swathain, "to swathe, bind, wrap."
- Marshall, Luke, p. 106, cites Ezekiel 16:4 and Wisdom 7:4.
- Phatnē, BDAG 1050. The lexicographer indicates that the term "could perhaps be a stable or even a feeding-place under the open sky, in contrast to kataluma, a shelter where people stayed." The predominant idea of this word group is of feeding animals. Martin Hengel, phatnē, TDNT 9:49-55, denies the possibility in our context that this can be translated "stall."
- Ibid. Also Joachim Jeremias, "poimēn, ktl.," TDNT 6:491, fn. 59. A cave in Bethlehem was honored by Christians as Christ's birthplace as early as the early second century AD.
- Plēthos, "crowd, throng, host, assembly" (BDAG 825-826).
- Otto Bauernfeind, "strateuomai ktl.," TDNT 7:701-713.
- Aineō, here and in verse 20, means "to praise," with the root idea of "express approval" (BDAG 27).
- "Glory" is often used in the New Testament in the context of praise: Luke 19:38; Ephesians 1:6; 3:21; Philippians 2:11; Revelation 5:13 (BDAG 257-258). These angels honor God as being highest (Greek hupsistos) in a spatial sense, in contrast to earth (mentioned in the next phrase) (BDAG 1045). Also Georg Bertram, "hupsistos," TDNT 8:619.
- The meaning of this phrase depends upon the case (nominative or genitive) of eudokia, which can mean either, (1) "state or condition of being kindly disposed, good will," or (2) "state or condition of being favored, favor, good pleasure" (BDAG 404-405). The KJV translation based on the Textus Receptus renders "good will" (eudokia) in the nominative case. However, newer translations, based on the oldest Alexandrian and Western Greek manuscripts, render it in the genitive case, "on earth peace among those whom he favors" (NRSV). Similar Semitic phrases -- "sons of his [God's] good pleasure" and "the elect of his good pleasure" -- occur in several Qumran hymns. (Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (United Bible Societies, 1971), p. 133, citing 1 QH iv.32f.; xi.9; viii.6. Marshall, p. 112.)
- Suntereō, BDAG 975.
- Sumballō, BDAG 956.
In-depth Bible study books
You can purchase one of Dr. Wilson's complete Bible studies in PDF, Kindle, or paperback format.
- Disciple's Guide to the Holy Spirit
- 1, 2, and 3 John
- 1 Peter
- 2 Peter & Jude
- 1 & 2 Thessalonians
- 1 & 2 Timothy
- 1 Corinthians
- 2 Corinthians
- Abraham, Faith of
- Christ Powered Life (Romans 5-8)
- Christmas Incarnation
- Colossians and Philemon
- David, Life of
- Glorious Kingdom, The
- Great Prayers of the Bible
- Jacob, Life of
- Jesus and the Kingdom of God
- JesusWalk: Beginning the Journey
- John's Gospel
- Lamb of God
- Listening for God's Voice
- Lord's Supper
- Luke's Gospel
- Moses the Reluctant Leader
- Names and Titles of God
- Names and Titles of Jesus
- Rebuild & Renew: Post-Exilic Books
- Resurrection and Easter Faith
- Sermon on the Mount
- Seven Last Words of Christ