Although Luke is indebted in this section to his sources, the Gospel of Mark and a collection of sayings of John the Baptist,
he has clearly marked this introduction to the ministry of Jesus with his own individual style. Just as the gospel began with
a long periodic sentence (
), so too this section (1–2). He casts the call of John the Baptist in the form of an Old Testament prophetic call (2) and
extends the quotation from Isaiah found in Mk 1, 3 (Is 40, 3) by the addition of Is 40, 4–5 in vv 5–6
. In doing so, he presents his theme of the universality of salvation, which he has announced earlier in the words of Simeon
). Moreover, in describing the expectation of the people (15), Luke is characterizing the time of John's preaching in the
same way as he had earlier described the situation of other devout Israelites in the infancy narrative (
). In vv 7–18
Luke presents the preaching of John the Baptist who urges the crowds to reform in view of the coming wrath (7.9: eschatological preaching), and who offers the crowds certain standards for reforming social conduct (10–14: ethical
preaching), and who announces to the crowds the coming of one mightier than he (15–18: messianic preaching).
Tiberius Caesar: Tiberius succeeded Augustus as emperor in A.D. 14 and reigned until A.D. 37. The fifteenth year of his reign, depending on
the method of calculating his first regnal year, would have fallen between A.D. 27 and 29. Pontius Pilate: prefect of Judea from A.D. 26 to 36. The Jewish historian Josephus describes him as a greedy and ruthless prefect who had
little regard for the local Jewish population and their religious practices (see 13, 1
). Herod: i.e., Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great. He ruled over Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C. to A.D. 39. His official title
tetrarch means literally, “ruler of a quarter,” but came to designate any subordinate prince. Philip: also a son of Herod the Great, tetrarch of the territory to the north and east of the Sea of Galilee from 4 B.C. to A.D.
34. Only two small areas of this territory are mentioned by Luke. Lysanias: nothing is known about this Lysanias who is said here to have been tetrarch of Abilene, a territory northwest of Damascus.
During the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas: after situating the call of John the Baptist in terms of the civil rulers of the period, Luke now mentions the religious
leadership of Palestine (see the note on 1, 5
). Annas had been high priest A.D. 6–15. After being deposed by the Romans in A.D. 15 he was succeeded by various members
of his family and eventually by his son‐in‐law, Caiaphas, who was high priest A.D. 18–36. Luke refers to Annas as high priest
at this time (but see Jn 18, 13.19
), possibly because of the continuing influence of Annas or because the title continued to be used for the ex‐high priest.
The word of God came to John: Luke is alone among the New Testament writers in associating the preaching of John with a call from God. Luke is thereby
identifying John with the prophets whose ministries began with similar calls. In
John will be described as “more than a prophet”; he is also the precursor of Jesus (
), a transitional figure inaugurating the period of the fulfillment of prophecy and promise.
See the note on Mt 3, 2
The Essenes from Qumran used the same passage to explain why their community was in the desert studying and observing the
law and the prophets (1QS 8, 12–15).
He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire: in contrast to John's baptism with water, Jesus is said to baptize with the holy Spirit and with fire. From the point of
view of the early Christian community, the Spirit and fire must have been understood in the light of the fire symbolism of
the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2, 1–4
); but as part of John's preaching, the Spirit and fire should be related to their purifying and refining characteristics
(Ez 36, 25–27; Mal 3, 2–3). See the note on Mt 3, 11
see the note on Mt 3, 12
Luke separates the ministry of John the Baptist from that of Jesus by reporting the imprisonment of John before the baptism
of Jesus (
). Luke uses this literary device to serve his understanding of the periods of salvation history. With John the Baptist, the
time of promise, the period of Israel, comes to an end; with the baptism of Jesus and the descent of the Spirit upon him,
the time of fulfillment, the period of Jesus, begins. In his second volume, the Acts of the Apostles, Luke will introduce
the third epoch in salvation history, the period of the church.
This episode in Luke focuses on the heavenly message identifying Jesus as Son and, through the allusion to Is 42, 1
, as Servant of Yahweh. The relationship of Jesus to the Father has already been announced in the infancy narrative (
1, 32.35; 2, 49
); it occurs here at the beginning of Jesus' Galilean ministry and will reappear in
before another major section of Luke's gospel, the travel narrative (
9, 51–19, 27
). Elsewhere in Luke's writings (
4, 18; Acts 10, 38
), this incident will be interpreted as a type of anointing of Jesus.
Was praying: Luke regularly presents Jesus at prayer at important points in his ministry: here at his baptism; at the choice of the Twelve
); before Peter's confession (
); at the transfiguration (
); when he teaches his disciples to pray (
); at the Last Supper (
); on the Mount of Olives (
); on the cross (
You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased: this is the best attested reading in the Greek manuscripts. The Western reading, “You are my Son, this day I have begotten
you,” is derived from Ps 2, 7
Whereas Mt 1, 2
begins the genealogy of Jesus with Abraham to emphasize Jesus' bonds with the people of Israel, Luke's universalism leads
him to trace the descent of Jesus beyond Israel to Adam and beyond that to God (38) to stress again Jesus' divine sonship.
The son of Nathan, the son of David: in keeping with Jesus' prophetic role in Lk and Acts (e.g.,
7, 16.39; 9, 8; 13, 33; 24, 19; Acts 3, 22–23; 7, 37
) Luke traces Jesus' Davidic ancestry through the prophet Nathan (see 2 Sm 7, 2
) rather than through King Solomon, as Mt 1, 6–7
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