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Evan Roberts Quote : Christian Books : CHAPTER V THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. LUKE

The Books Of The New Testament by Leighton Pullan


[Sidenote: The Author.]

The evidence for believing that the third Gospel was written by St. Luke, the friend of St. Paul, is very strong. In the 2nd century both this Gospel and Acts were attributed to him. St. Irenaeus, about A.D.185, writes: |Luke, also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the gospel preached by him.| A few years earlier the author of the Muratorian Fragment wrote the words, |The third book of the Gospel, that according to Luke.|

According to Eusebius and Jerome and an unknown writer of the 3rd century, St. Luke was a native of Antioch in Syria. Of this we seem to have confirmation in the full account given in Acts of the Church at Antioch. It is shown by Col. iv.14 that he was a Gentile, as there is a distinction drawn between him and those |of the circumcision.| From the same passage we learn that he was a physician. Traces of his profession have been discovered in the frequency with which he describes the healing wrought by Christ and His apostles (iv.18, 23; ix.1, 2, 6; x.9; xxii.51), and the occasional use of terms which a physician was more likely to employ than other people (iv.38; v.12; vi.19; xxii.44). It is very possible that it is St. Luke who is described (2 Cor. viii.18) as |the brother whose praise in the gospel is spread through all the Churches.| This tradition can be traced as far back as Origen. The fact that he was a dear friend of St. Paul is {65} shown by the epithet |beloved| in Col. iv.14; by the fact that he is one of the |fellow-workers| who send greetings from Rome when St. Paul, who was imprisoned there, wrote to Philemon; and by the touching statement in 2 Tim. iv.11, where St. Paul, as he awaits his death, writes, |Only Luke is with me.|

St. Luke's relations with St. Paul are further illustrated from Acts. The literary resemblances between this Gospel and Acts are so numerous and so subtle that the tradition which ascribes both books to one author cannot reasonably be controverted. The passages in Acts which contain the word |we| show that the writer of Acts accompanied St. Paul from Troas to Philippi in A.D.50, when the apostle made his first missionary journey in Europe (Acts xvi.10-17). The apostle left him at Philippi. About six years afterwards St. Paul was again at Philippi, and there met St. Luke, who travelled with him to Jerusalem (Acts xx.5-xxi.18); he also was with the apostle when he made the voyage to Rome, and was shipwrecked with him at Malta. A writer of the 3rd century (quoted in Wordsworth's Vulgate, p.269) tells us that St. Luke had neither wife nor children, and died in Bithynia at the age of seventy-four. A writer of the 6th century asserts that St. Luke was a painter, and attributes to him a certain picture of the Blessed Virgin. Another such picture is preserved in the great church of S. Maria Maggiore at Rome. The legend finds no support in early Christian writers. At the same time, it bears witness to the fact that this Gospel contains the elements of beauty in especial richness. It is the work of St. Luke that inspired Fra Angelico's pictures of the Annunciation, and the English hymn |Abide with me.|

Although St. Irenaeus is the first writer who names St. Luke as the author of the third Gospel, the Gospel is quoted by earlier writers. Special mention must be made of (1) Justin Martyr. He records several facts only found in this Gospel, e.g. Elisabeth as the mother of John the Baptist, the census {66} under Quirinius, and the cry, |Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.| (2) Celsus, the pagan philosopher, who opposed Christianity. He refers to the genealogy which narrates that Jesus was descended from the first man. (3) The Letter of the Churches of Lyons and Vienne, written in A.D.177. (4) Marcion. He endeavoured to found a system of theology which he pretended to be in accordance with the teaching of St. Paul. He rejected the Old Testament as the work of an evil god, and asserted that St. Paul was the only apostle who was free from the taint of Judaism. The only Gospel which he kept was that according to St. Luke, which he retained as agreeing with the teaching of St. Paul. The contents of Marcion's Gospel can be largely discovered in Tertullian. The differences which existed between Marcion's Gospel and our Luke can be easily accounted for. Here, as in St. Paul's Epistles, he simply altered the passages which did not agree with his own interpretation of St. Paul's doctrine. For instance, in Luke xiii.28, instead of |Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob,| he put |the righteous.| The account of our Lord's birth and infancy he omitted, because he did not believe that our Lord's human body was thoroughly human and real. An interesting modern parallel to Marcion's New Testament can be found in England. At the beginning of the 19th century the English Unitarians circulated large numbers of an English version of the New Testament in which were altered all the passages in the English Authorised Version which imply that Jesus is God. The translators of this Unitarian version accepted the Gospels of the New Testament as genuine, although they used unscrupulous methods to support their assertion that the New Testament is Unitarian. In the same way Marcion, although he made unscrupulous alterations in Luke in order to prove that it was really Marcionite, obviously accepted it as a genuine work of the apostolic age.

The Preface of the Gospel begins with a ceremonious dedication to a person of high rank, named Theophilus. He is {67} called by the title |most excellent,| which ordinarily implies that the person so designated is a member of the |equestrian order.| The evangelist tells Theophilus that many had taken in hand to draw up a narrative of those things which are |most surely believed among us.| The preface shows us that many attempts to give an account in order of what our Lord did and said had already been made. The literary activity of the earliest Christians is thus demonstrated to us. The preface suggests to us that substantial accuracy marked these early efforts, and, in a still higher degree, St. Luke's own Gospel. He does not speak of the earlier works as inaccurate, and he does distinctly give his reader to understand that he possesses peculiar qualifications for his task. He asserts that his information is derived from |eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word,| and that he has himself |traced the course of all things accurately from the first.| This preface certainly shows us that the writer took real pains in writing, and that he had personally known men who accompanied our Lord.

The date can hardly be later than A.D.80, unless the evangelist wrote in extreme old age. And the date must be earlier than Acts, as the Gospel is referred to in that work (Acts i.1, 2). Can we fix the date more accurately than this? Many critics think that we can. They say that it must be later than the fall of Jerusalem, A.D.70. It is said that the Gospel presupposes that Jerusalem was already destroyed. The arguments for this are: (1) In Luke xxi.20-24 the utter destruction of Jerusalem is foretold with peculiar clearness. We have already seen that a similar argument is employed by many in speaking of Matt., an argument which seems to imply that our Lord did not foretell that destruction because He could not. This argument must be dismissed. (2) In Luke xxi.20 there is no editorial note like that in Matt. xxiv.15, to emphasize the necessity of paying peculiar attention to our Lord's warning about the coming destruction, and in Luke xxi.25 the final judgment is not so {68} clearly connected with the fall of Jerusalem as in Matt. xxiv.29, where it is foretold as coming |immediately, after the tribulation of those days.| Moreover, xxi.24 suggests that the writer was well aware that an interval must elapse between the two great events. This is the only good argument for placing Luke later than Matt., and it certainly deserves careful attention. At the same time, we must observe the following facts: (a) St. Luke probably did not know St. Matthew's Gospel, otherwise he would not have given such very different, though not contradictory, accounts of the infancy and the resurrection of our Lord; (b) St. Luke may perhaps owe the superior accuracy of his report of the eschatological discourse of Christ to persons whom he knew at Jerusalem in A.D.56; (c) St. Luke himself possibly thought that the end of the world would follow soon after the destruction of Jerusalem, for in xxi.32 he seems to connect the final judgment with his own generation. But the statement is not so strong as in Matt. and Mark. For St. Luke says, |This generation shall not pass away till all be accomplished,| while Matt. and Mark say, |until all these things be accomplished,| evidently including the final judgment.

On the whole, it seems reasonable to date the Gospel according to St. Luke soon after A.D.70, but it contains so many primitive touches that it may be rather earlier. It has been urged that both the Gospel and Acts betray a knowledge of the Antiquities of Josephus, and must therefore be later than A.D.94. This theory remains wholly unproved, and the small evidence which can be brought to support it is far outweighed by the early features which mark St. Luke's books.

[Sidenote: Literary Style.]

The style is marked by great delicacy and power. It is in better Greek than the other Synoptic Gospels, and the evangelist seems to deliberately avoid some of the racy, popular words which are employed by St. Mark. But the beginner should be warned that this Gospel is not very easy to translate, for it contains a good {69} many words with which he is not likely to be familiar. The language of St. Luke contains many proofs that he is writing as a Gentile for Gentiles. Thus he calls the Apostle Simon, who belonged to the fanatically devout party known as the |Cananaeans,| by the corresponding Greek name |Zealot| (vi.15); he seldom uses the Hebrew word |Amen,| and he never uses the word |Rabbi| as a form of address. He adds the word |unclean| before the word |devil| (iv.33), as the Greeks believed that some devils were good and kind, while the Jews believed all devils to be evil. He also substitutes the word |lawyer| for |scribe.| But while the preface is written in what is perhaps the best Greek in the New Testament, the evangelist allows his language to be penetrated by his visions of Jewish scenes. Partly from his study of the Old Testament, partly from his knowledge of the books and the lives in which he found a testimony to Jesus, he acquired the art of breathing into his Greek the simple manner and the sweet tone of a Hebrew story. There is nothing in all literature more perfectly told than the story of the walk to Emmaus. Nothing can be better than the delineation of character which is suggested to us in the story of Zacharias, or of Anna, or of Zacchaeus. There is always a freshness to remind us that the Gospel is |good tidings of great joy| (ii.10), and the Magnificat (i.46-55), the Benedictus (i.68-79), the Gloria in Excelsis (ii.14), and the Nunc Dimittis (ii.29-32), have become for ever part of the praises of the Christian Church. More often than in any other Gospel we find such expressions as |glorifying God,| |praising God,| |blessing God.| Again, St. Luke, in choosing incidents from the life of home, and more especially in choosing incidents in which women are prominent, gives a new solemnity to a life which men had hitherto despised. We always think of the Blessed Virgin as |highly favoured,| of Martha |cumbered about much serving| (x.40), of the widow with the two mites, of the daughters of Jerusalem weeping on the way of the cross (xxiii.28), of the double joy of Elisabeth {70} to bear a son in her old age and to be visited by the mother of her Lord (i.43); and we think all this because St. Luke has told us their story. These passages with their smiles and tears, their simplicity and their depth, are a divine contrast to the grotesque passage in the Jewish liturgy, where the men thank God that they are not women.

The last point in St. Luke's literary style is his use of phrases which resemble phrases in St. Paul's Epistles. He writes as a man who has lived in familiar intercourse with St. Paul. There is a striking similarity between the words attributed to our Lord in the institution of the Eucharist (xxii.19, 20) and those in 1 Cor. xi.24, 25, a similarity which is probably to be accounted for by the fact that St. Luke must often have heard the apostle use these words in celebrating this Sacrament. Besides this, there are phrases which are parallel with phrases in every Epistle of St. Paul. A few instances are -- Luke vi.36 (2 Cor. i.3); Luke vi.39 (Rom. ii.19); Luke viii.13 (1 Thess. i.6); Luke x.20 (Phil. iv.3); Luke xii.35 (Eph. vi.14); Luke xxi.24 (Rom. xi.25); Luke xxii.53 (Col. i.13).

[Sidenote: Character and Contents.]

It has been well said that St. Matthew's Gospel is in a peculiar sense Messianic, St. Mark's is in a peculiar sense realistic, and St. Luke's is in a peculiar sense Catholic. And while St. Matthew takes pains to connect Christianity with the religion of the past, and St. Mark allows his interest in the past and the future to be overshadowed by his resolve to speak of Jesus as actually working marvels, St. Luke seems, like St. Paul, to be essentially progressive and to have a wider horizon than his predecessors. He does not manifest the least antipathy towards Judaism. He has none of that intolerance which so often marks the men who advertise their own breadth of view. He represents our Lord as fulfilling the Law, as quoting the Old Testament, and declaring that |it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the Law to fail| (xvi.17). But he writes as a representative Gentile {71} convert. He takes pleasure in recording all that can attract to Christ that Gentile world which was beginning to learn of the new religion. We may note the following points which illustrate this fact: (1) Luke traces the genealogy of our Lord, not like Matt. by the legal line to Abraham, the father of the Jews, but by the natural line to Adam, the father of humanity (iii.38), thus showing Jesus to be the elder Brother and the Redeemer of every human being. (2) While the true Godhead of our Lord is taught throughout, His true manhood is brought into prominence with peculiar pathos. We note His condescension in passing through the various stages of a child's life (ii.4-7, 21, 22, 40, 42, 51, 52), the continuance of His temptations during His ministry (xxii.28), His constant recourse to prayer in the great crises of His life, His deep sobbing over Jerusalem (xix.41), His sweat like drops of blood during His agony in Gethsemane (xxii.44), a fact recorded by none of the other evangelists. St. Luke seems to be filled with a sense of the divine compassion of Jesus, and thus he relates the facts which prove the reality of the grace, the undeserved lovingkindness, of God to man. Rightly did the poet Dante call him |the scribe of the gentleness of Christ.| (3) Corresponding with this human character of the incarnate Son of God, we find the offer of universal salvation. St. Luke alone -- for the words are wrongly inserted in Matt. -- records the tender words of Jesus, |The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost| (xix.10). St. Paul knew no distinction between Jew and Greek, rich and poor, but taught that to be justified by God is a privilege which can be claimed not by birth but by faith; and what St. Paul enforces by stern arguments which convince our minds, St. Luke instils by the sweet parables and stories which convince our hearts. It is here that we find kindness shown to the Gentile (iv.25-27; xiii.28, 29), and the Samaritan (ix.51-56; xvii.11-19); here we are told of the publican who was |justified| rather than the Pharisee (xviii.9), the story of the penitent {72} thief who had no time to produce the good works which his faith would have prompted (xxiii.43), of the good Samaritan who, schismatic though he was, showed the spirit of a child of God (x.30). Last, and best, there is the parable of the Prodigal Son (xv.11), and the story of the woman who was a sinner (vii.37). To her Christ says, |Thy faith hath saved thee,| and to His host He says, |Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much| -- words which no one but the Son of God could dare to say of any |woman who was in the city, a sinner.| In recording these words, St. Luke proves that Jesus Christ Himself taught the Pauline doctrine that man is saved by faith; and yet not by an empty faith, but by |faith working through love| (Gal. v.6). In this Gospel Jesus is especially the Refuge of sinners, and the teaching of our Lord may be best described by the happy phrase which records His address in the synagogue of Nazareth: |words of grace.|

It is important to notice that in no Gospel do we find such an especial sympathy shown for the poor. The poverty of the holy family (ii.7, 8, 24); the beatitude on the poor (vi.20), with the corresponding woes pronounced upon the rich (vi.24 ff.); the parable of Dives and Lazarus (xvi.19), the invitation of the poor to the supper of the King (xiv.21), show this sympathy. In consequence of this, St. Luke's Gospel has been said to show an Ebionite tendency. But the word is misleading. It is possible that some early Christians may have called themselves by the name Ebionim, a Hebrew word which designated the poor and oppressed servants of God. And it is known that in the 2nd century and afterwards there was a heretical semi-Christian Jewish sect of that name. But St. Luke's Gospel is utterly opposed to the main tenets of these heretics, which were a repudiation of Christ's real Divinity and an insistence upon the necessity of circumcision for all Christians.


Perhaps it is the gentleness of the evangelist, and his preference for all that is tender and gracious, which causes his account of the twelve apostles to differ considerably from that in Mark. Their slowness, their weakness of faith, their rivalries, are set in a subdued light. He does not tell us that Christ once called St. Peter |Satan,| or that Peter cursed and swore when he denied Christ. He omits the rebuke administered to the disciples in the conversation concerning the leaven (Mark viii.17), the ambitious request of the two sons of Zebedee, and the indignation of the disciples at Mary's costly gift of ointment (Matt xxvi.8). When St. Mark speaks of the failure of the disciples to keep awake while their Master was in Gethsemane, he says that they were asleep, |for their eyes were heavy| (xiv.40). When St. Luke speaks of it, he says that they were |sleeping for sorrow| (xxii.45). Doubtless both accounts are true, and we can reverently wonder both at the rugged honesty with which St. Peter must have told St. Mark about the faults of himself and his friends, and at the consideration shown by St. Luke towards the twelve in spite of the fact that he was more closely connected with St. Paul than with them.

About one-third of this Gospel is peculiar to itself, consisting mainly of the large section, ix.51-xviii.14. St. Luke here seems to have used an Aramaic document; the beginning of the section is full of Aramaic idioms. In places where St. Luke records the same facts as the other Synoptists, he sometimes adds slight but significant touches. The withered hand restored on the sabbath is the right hand (vi.6); the centurion's servant is one dear to him (vii.2); and the daughter of Jairus an only daughter (viii.42; cf. the son of the widow at Nain, an only son, vii.12). Among the remarkable omissions in this Gospel we may notice two sayings which are found in Matt. and Mark, and which seem to us to have been peculiarly appropriate for St. Luke's general purpose. The first is the saying of Christ that He had come |not to be ministered unto, {74} but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many| (Matt. xx.28; Mark x.45). The second is the statement that the Gospel |shall be preached in the whole world| (Matt. xxvi.13; Mark xiv.9). With the omission of these sayings we may compare the omission of any record of the visit of the Gentile wise men to the cradle of the infant Saviour of the world -- an incident which would probably have appealed most strongly to the heart of St. Luke, if he had known it. Its absence from this Gospel is one of the many proofs that St. Luke was not familiar with the Gospel according to St. Matthew.

We have already noticed that much of the freshness of this Gospel is due to its being in a peculiar sense the Gospel of praise and thanksgiving. It is also peculiarly the Gospel of prayer. All the three Synoptists record that Christ prayed in Gethsemane. But on seven occasions St. Luke is alone in recording prayers which Jesus offered at the crises of His life: at His baptism (iii.21); before His first conflict with the Pharisees and scribes (v.16); before choosing the Twelve (vi.12); before the first prediction of His Passion (ix.18); at the Transfiguration (ix.29); before teaching the Lord's Prayer (xi.1); and on the Cross (xxiii.34, 46). St. Luke mentions His insistence on the duty of prayer in two parables which no other evangelist has recorded (xi.5-13; xviii.1-8). He alone relates the declaration of Jesus that He had made supplication for Peter, and His charge to the Twelve, |Pray that ye enter not into temptation| (xxii.32, 40).

As the Gospel according to St. Luke is more rich in parables than any other Gospel, we may conclude by giving a few words of explanation concerning our Lord's parables. The word |parable| means a |comparison,| or, more strictly, |a placing of one thing beside another with a view to comparing them.| In the Gospels the word is generally applied to a particular form of teaching. That is to say, it means a story about earthly things told in such a manner as to teach a {75} spiritual truth. The Jews were familiar with parables. There are some in the Old Testament, the Book of Isaiah containing two (v.1-6; xxviii.24-28). The rabbinical writings of the Jews are full of them. But the Jewish parable was only an illustration of a truth which had already been made known. The parables of our Lord are often means of conveying truths which were not known. They must be distinguished from (a) fables, (b) allegories, (c) myths. A fable teaches worldly wisdom and prudence, not spiritual wisdom, and it is put into somewhat childish forms in which foxes and birds converse together. An allegory puts the story and its interpretation side by side, and each part of the story usually has some special significance. A myth takes the form of history, but it relates things which happened before the dawn of history, as they appear to the child-mind of primitive men.

The parables of our Lord were intended to teach the secrets of the kingdom of God (see p.44). They unfold these secrets and at the same time veil them in the illustrations which are employed. These illustrations attract the attention and inquiry of those who are spiritually receptive. On the other hand, those who are unworthy or hardened do not recognize the truth. Nevertheless, the parables were such miracles of simplicity and power, were so easy to remember, and so closely connected with everyday objects, that even the dullest man would awake to the truth if he retained a spark of life. It is difficult to divide the parables into separate groups. But they may perhaps be divided into two groups. The first group is drawn from man's relations with the world of nature and from his simpler experiences, and the second is drawn from man's relations with his fellow-men, relations which involve more complicated experiences. The parables of the second group were sometimes spoken in answer to questions addressed to our Lord in private; such is the parable of the good Samaritan, and that of the rich fool. If we desire to study the parables in special relation to the kingdom of God, {76} we can divide them into three groups. The first consists of those collected in Matt. xiii., delivered in and near Capernaum, and referring to the kingdom of God as a whole. The second consists of those collected in Luke x.-xviii., delivered on Christ's journeys from Galilee to Jerusalem, and referring to the character of the individual members of the kingdom. The third consists of parables spoken during our Lord's last days at Jerusalem, and referring to the judgment of members of the kingdom.

It is difficult to decide whether some of the shorter parables ought to be regarded as parables or not, but the number is usually estimated at about thirty, of which eighteen are peculiar to Luke. In John there are no parables, strictly so called, and St. John never uses the word |parable.| But he uses the word paroimia, or |proverb,| and records several proverbial sayings of our Lord which are rather like parables (John iv.34; x. i-3; xii.24; xv.1-6; xvi.21).


The infancy of our Lord: i.1-ii.52. -- Similarity and contrast between the predictions of the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus, and also between their birth. The circumcision, the visit of Jesus to the temple in boyhood.


Winter A.D.26 till after Pentecost 27.

The preparation for the ministry: iii.1-iv.13. -- The ministry of John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus, the genealogy from Adam, the threefold temptation.


Pentecost A.D.27 till before Passover 28.

Missionary work of Jesus in Galilee: iv.14-ix.6. -- Jesus preaches, is rejected at Nazareth, goes to Capernaum, various miracles (iv.). Call of Simon, leper cleansed, five {77} grounds of offence against Jesus (v.-vi.11). Appointment of the twelve, the sermon (vi.). The centurion's servant, the widow's son, Christ's description of John and of the age, the penitent (vii.). Parables, Christ's relation to His mother and brethren, various miracles (viii.). The mission of the twelve (ix.1-6).

[Perplexity of Herod, ix.7-9.]


Passover A.D.28 till before Tabernacles 28.

Climax of missionary work in Galilee: ix.10-50. -- Christ feeds the multitude, Peter's confession, Christ's first prediction of His death, transfiguration, lunatic boy cured, second prediction of death, two rebukes to apostles.


Tabernacles, September A.D.28 until early 29.

Later ministry, chiefly in Peraea: ix.51-xix.28. -- Jesus rejected by Samaritans, discouragements (ix.). Mission of the seventy, lament over cities of Galilee, the good Samaritan, Mary and Martha (x.). Prayer and the Lord's Prayer, Jesus accused of alliance with Beelzebub, His saying about His mother, denunciation of a generation which will not believe without signs, and of the Pharisees and lawyers (xi.). The leaven of the Pharisees, confidence in God, warnings against covetousness, anxiety and lack of watchfulness, Christ's coming |baptism,| signs of the times (xii.). The meaning of calamities, parable of the fig tree, cure on the sabbath, the mustard seed and the leaven, Gentiles to replace Jews, the Pharisees try to persuade Jesus to leave the dominions of Herod, Christ's first lament over Jerusalem (xiii.).

Lawfulness of healing on the sabbath, humility, inviting the poor, the King's supper, counting the cost (xiv.). Parables to {78} illustrate Christ's care for the lost (xv.). The use and abuse of money (xvi.). Occasions of stumbling, the increase of faith, the truth that we cannot purchase God's favour by doing more than He commands, the ten lepers, the coming of the Son of man (xvii.). Answer to prayer, the Pharisee and publican, little children, the rich young man, Christ's third prediction of His death, the blind beggar at Jericho (xviii.). Zacchaeus, the parable of the pounds (xix.1-28).


Passover A.D.29.

Last days at Jerusalem, and afterwards: xix.29-xxiv.53. -- Entry into Jerusalem, Christ's second lament over Jerusalem, cleansing of the temple (xix.29-xx.). Christ challenged, parable of the vineyard, two questions to entrap Christ, His question (xx.). The widow's mites, predictions of the destruction of the temple, siege of Jerusalem, the second coming (xxi.). Judas' bargain, the Passover, agony on the mount of Olives, the betrayal, Peter's denial, Jesus tried before the elders (xxii.). Jesus before Pilate, Herod, Pilate again, Simon of Cyrene, the daughters of Jerusalem, the crucifixion, burial by Joseph of Arimathaea (xxiii.).

The women at the sepulchre, and Peter, the walk to Emmaus, Jesus appears to the disciples and eats, His commission, the Ascension (xxiv.).

The Date of our Lord's Birth. -- It is fairly well known that the dates of our Lord's Birth and of His Death are both, in all probability, misrepresented in popular chronology. The best ancient chronology fixes the date of the Crucifixion in A.D.29. The Birth was probably about six years before the commencement of our present era. Various reasons make this date probable, including the fact that there was at that time a conjunction of Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars, which must have presented a most brilliant appearance in the sky, and would {79} certainly have attracted the star-loving sages of the East. The great astronomer Kepler was of opinion that this conjunction was followed by the brief appearance of a new star, which is the star mentioned in Matt. ii.2. This is of importance in considering the statements of St. Luke. Several objections have been made to his account of the census held under Quirinius. (1) It is said that Quirinius was not governor of Syria when Jesus was born; his administration was from A.D.6 to A.D.9, and Quinctilius Varus was governor in A.D.1. But St. Luke cannot be proved to say that Quirinius was governor; he describes his office by a participle which may mean |acting as leader,| and there is proof that Quirinius was engaged in a military command in the time of Herod, and also proof that some high official twice governed Syria in the time of Augustus. St. Luke's expression might fit either of these two facts. (2) It is said that Herod was reigning as king in Palestine, and that his subjects would not be included in a Roman census. But in the year 8-7 B.C. Augustus wrote to Herod, saying that he would henceforth treat him as a subject. His dominions must henceforth have been treated like the rest of the dominions of Augustus. (3) It is said that no census took place at that time, and that if there had been a census, it would have been carried out by households, according to Roman custom, and not by families. But there seems to have been a census in Egypt and Syria in B.C.8, and after Augustus determined to put Herod under his authority, the census would naturally be extended to Judaea. Herod would probably be allowed to carry out the census on his own lines, so long as it was really carried out. And he would plainly prefer to do it in the Jewish fashion, so as to irritate the Jews as little as might be.

The question is still involved in some obscurity, but St. Luke's accuracy has not been in the least disproved by the controversy. He is the only evangelist who connects his narrative with the history of Syria and of the Roman empire, and we have every reason to believe that he did his work with care as well as sympathy.

Adv. Har. iii.1.

Matt. v.3 has |poor in spirit.| The same Aramaic word might be used for both |poor| and |poor in spirit.|


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