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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Luke 21



Verse 1

1. ἀναβλέψας δέ. The expression seems to shew that He was sitting with downcast eyes, saddened, perhaps, in His spirit and agitated by the great Denunciation; but this last little incident is ‘like a rose amid a field of thistles,’—an act genuinely beautiful in the desert of ‘official devotion.’

γαζοφυλάκιον. See John 8:20. This was in the Court of the Women. The High Priest Jehoiada had put a chest for this purpose at the entrance of the House, 2 Kings 12:9; see Nehemiah 10:38; Jos. B. J. VI. 5; Antt. XIX. 6, § 1, and 2 Maccabees 3:6-12. It contained the Corban, Matthew 27:6. But in our Lord’s day there were thirteen chests called Shopheroth, from their trumpet-shaped openings, adorned with various inscriptions. These rich men do not seem to have been observing the injunctions both sacred and Talmudic to give secretly, Matthew 6:4; Matthew 6:18.

πλουσίους. More literally, “He saw those who were casting their gifts into the treasury—rich men.” St Mark tells us that the gifts were large (Mark 12:41).

Verses 1-4

Luke 21:1-4. THE WIDOW’S MITE

Verse 2

2. τινα. If the καὶ of some MSS. (AEGHD, &c.) be genuine, it should perhaps follow the τινα—“some one—even a widow;” aliquam, eamque viduam.

δύο λεπτά. “Which make a farthing,” Mark 12:42. The lepton or prutah was the smallest of coins, and the Rabbis did not allow any one to give less than two.

Verse 3

3. πλεῖον πάντων. Because “one coin out of a little is better than a treasure out of much, and it is not considered how much is given, but how much remains behind.” S. Ambrose. See 2 Corinthians 8:12. In the Talmud a High Priest is similarly taught by a vision not to despise a poor woman’s offering of meal.

Verse 4

4. οὗτοι. The word is not exactly contemptuous as it often is (see Luke 7:39, Luke 15:30), but still it has the depreciatory effect often conveyed by a pronoun being used δεικτικῶς, i.e. by substituting a gesture for a description.

ἐκ τοῦ περισσεύοντος αὐτοῖς. ‘Out of their overplus.’ The essence of charity is self-denial.

εἰς τὰ δῶρα. Not “into their gifts” (quae donarent, Beza) but ‘unto the gifts’ of the treasury.

Verse 5

5. τινων λεγόντων. The question was asked by the Apostles as Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives, perhaps gazing on the Temple as it shone in the last rays of sunset.

λίθοις καλοῖς. Bevelled blocks of stone, of which some are described as having been forty cubits long and ten high; double cloisters; monolithic columns; alternate slabs of red and white marble, &c. See Jos. B. J. Luke 21:5 and Bab. Succa, f. 51, 1.

ἀναθήμασιν. ‘Sacred offerings’ (Psalms 62), such as the golden chain of Agrippa; gifts of Ptolemy Philadelphus, Augustus, Julia, Helen of Adiabene, and crowns, shields, goblets, &c.; the golden vine with its vast clusters given by Herod. Jos. B. J. Luke 21:5, § 4. See 2 Maccabees 5:16; and Jos. Antt. XIII. 3, xv. 11, § 3. Hence Tacitus calls it “a temple of immense opulence,” Hist. Luke 21:8. The word ἀναθήματα does not occur again in the N. T., though in reality ἀνάθεμα is only a desynonymised form of the same word. Indeed א ADX La[366] Ti[367] here read ἀναθέμασιν.

Verses 5-7


Verse 6

6. ταῦτα ἃ θεωρεῖτε. See Matthew 7:24; 1 John 2:24; 1 John 2:27; 2 Corinthians 12:17, &c. ‘These things which ye are gazing on’ (it is what is called the ‘pendent nominative’). See Winer, p. 718, for similar constructions.

λίθος ἐπὶ λίθῳ. See on Luke 19:44 and the remarkable passage in 2 Esdras 10:54, “in the place where the Highest beginneth to shew His city, there can no man’s building be able to stand.” This was fulfilled in spite of the strong wish of Titus to spare the Temple, Jos. B. J. vi. 4, § 5. He was himself so amazed at the massive substructures that he could only see in his conquest the hand of God (id. VI. 9, § 1). This prophecy was in reality that “Let us depart hence” which Josephus (B. J. VI. 5, § 3) and Tacitus (Hist. Luke 21:13) tell us was uttered by a mysterious Voice before the destruction of Jerusalem.

Verse 7

7. ἐπηρώτησαν. The questioners were Peter and James and John and Andrew, Mark 13:3.

πότεκαὶ τί τὸ σημεῖον; Our Lord leaves the former question unanswered (see on Luke 17:20) and only deals with the latter. This was His gentle method of discouraging irrelevant or inadmissible questions (comp. Luke 13:23-24).

Verse 8

8. μὴ πλανηθῆτε. A danger incurred even by the elect. Matthew 24:24. The moral key-notes of this great Discourse of the Last Things (Eschatology) are Beware! Watch! Endure! Pray!

πολλοὶ γὰρ κ.τ.λ. “Even now are there many antichrists,” 1 John 2:18.

ὁ καιρὸς ἤγγικεν. ‘The crisis has approached.’

Verses 8-27


Verse 9

9. πολέμους καὶ ἀκαταστασίας. The best comment on the primary fulfilment of this Discourse is the Jewish War of Josephus, and the Annals and History of Tacitus (Ann. XII. 38, xv. 22, xvi. 13), whose narrative is full of earthquakes, wars, crimes, violences and pollutions, and who describes the period which he is narrating as one which was “rich in calamities, horrible with battles, rent with seditions, savage even in peace itself.” (Tac. Hist. I. 12.) The main difficulties of our Lord’s Prophecy vanish when we bear in mind (i) that Prophecy is like a landscape in which time and space are subordinated to eternal relations, and in which events look like hills seen chain behind chain which to the distant spectator appear as one; and (ii) that in the necessarily condensed and varying reports of the Evangelists, sometimes the primary fulfilment (which is shewn most decisively and irrefragably by Luke 21:32 to be the Fall of Jerusalem), sometimes the ultimate fulfilment is predominant. The Fall of Jerusalem was the Close of that Aeon and a symbol of the Final End (τέλος). This appears most clearly in the report of St Luke.

ἀκαταστασίας. Conditions of instability and rottenness, the opposite to peace. 1 Corinthians 14:33; 2 Corinthians 6:5; James 3:16. Such commotions were the massacre of 20,000 Jews in their fight with the Gentiles at Caesarea; the assassinations or suicides of Nero, Galba, Otho, and Vitellius; the civil wars, &c.

μὴ πτοηθῆτε. ‘Be not scared,’ Luke 24:37; 1 Peter 3:6; Proverbs 3:25.

ἀλλ' οὐκ εὐθέως τὸ τέλος. ‘But not immediately is the end.’ For ‘by and by’ see Luke 17:7; Matthew 13:21; Mark 6:25. The words are most important as a warning against the same eschatological excitement which St Paul discourages in 2 Thess. (“The end is not yet,” Matthew 24:6; Mark 13:7.) The things which ‘must first come to pass’ before the final end were [1] physical disturbances; [2] persecutions; [3] apostasy; [4] wide evangelisation; [5] universal troubles of war, &c. They were the “beginning of birth-throes” (Matthew 24:8); what the Jews called the “birth-pangs of the Messiah.”

Verse 11

11. σεισμοί. Tac. Hist. I. 2. For such physical portents at great crises see Thuc. I. 23; Tac. Ann. XII. 43, 64, Hist. I. 56; Liv. XLIII. 13, &c.

λιμοί. Acts 11:28. The original gives the common paronomasia λιμοὶ καὶ λοιμοί. (Comp. ἀσυνέτους, ἀσυνθέτους, Romans 1:29; Romans 1:31; Winer, p. 793.)

λοιμοί. Josephus (B. J. VI. 9, § 3) mentions both pestilence and famine as the immediate preludes of the storming of Jerusalem. They were due, like the plague at Athens, to the vast masses of people—Passover pilgrims—who were at the time crowded in the city.

φόβητρα. Terrors, Vulg[368] terrores: comp. Psalms 88:15; Isaiah 19:17. See Wisdom of Solomon 17:1-21; 2 Esdras 5:6. The word occurs here alone in the N. T. Among these would be the “Abomination of Desolation,” or “desolating wing of Abomination,” which seems best to correspond with the foul and murderous orgies of the Zealots which drove all worshippers in horror from the Temple (Jos. B. J. IV. 3, § 7, Luke 21:6, § 1, &c.). Such too would be the rumour of monstrous births (id. VI. 5, § 3); the cry ‘woe, woe’ for seven and a half years of the peasant Jesus, son of Hanan; the voice and sound of departing guardian-angels (Tac. Hist. Luke 21:13), and the sudden opening of the vast brazen Temple-gate which required twenty men to move it (Jos. ib.).

σημεῖα ἀπ' οὐρανοῦ. Josephus mentions a sword-shaped comet. Both Tacitus and Josephus mention the portent that

“Fierce fiery warriors fought upon the clouds,

In rank, and squadron, and right form of war;”

and Tacitus tells us how the blind multitude of Jews interpreted these signs in their own favour (Hist. Luke 21:13).

Verse 12

12. ἐπιβαλοῦσιν ἐφ' ὑμᾶς τὰς χεῖρας. The best comment on the whole verse is found in Acts 4:3; Acts 5:17-41; Acts 6:11-13; Acts 12:2; Acts 16:19-39; Acts 25:23; 2 Timothy 4:16-17. Comp. John 15:20; John 16:2-3.

Verse 13

13. εἰς μαρτύριον. See Mark 13:9; Philippians 1:28; 2 Thessalonians 1:5.

Verse 14

14. μὴ προμελετᾶν. Luke 12:11; Matthew 10:19-20. The meaning is that they were neither to be anxious about the form of their Apologia, nor to make it skilfully elaborate.

Verse 15

15. ἐγὼ γάρ. This is emphatic. “I—who will then be exalted and glorified—will supply you with spiritual power.”

δώσω ὑμῖν στόμα. As in Exodus 4:11-12; Jeremiah 1:9; Isaiah 6:6. God, as Milton says, ‘sendeth forth His cherubim with the hallowed fire of His altar to touch the lips of whom He will.’ στόμα, mouth, is the concrete picture for the abstract speech.

οὐ δυνήσονταιἀντειπεῖν. See Acts 4:14; Acts 6:10. They will not be able to gainsay your speech, nor to resist your wisdom.

Verse 16

16. παραδοθήσεσθε. In consequence of the disunions prophesied in Luke 1:34, Luke 12:53; Matthew 10:21.

καὶ ὑπὸ γονέων κ.τ.λ. ‘Even by parents,’ &c., “non modo ab alienis.” Bengel.

ἐξ ὑμῶν. Of the four to whom He was immediately speaking, perhaps all, and certainly two, were martyred.

Verse 17

17. ἔσεσθε μισούμενοι ὑπὸ πάντων. The hatred shall be permanent and universal, Luke 2:34, Luke 6:22; John 17:14; 1 Peter 4:14; 1 Peter 4:16; Acts 24:5; id. Acts 28:22. “They speak against you as evil doers,” 1 Peter 2:12. “Reproached for the name of Christ,” id. Luke 4:14. “A malefic, an excessive, execrable superstition” (Tac., Plin., Suet.). ‘Away with the godless!’ ‘The Christians to the lions!’

Verse 18

18. θρίξ. The expression is proverbial, as in Acts 27:34. No hair shall perish, for they are “all numbered,” Matthew 10:30. The previous verse [17] is of course sufficient to shew that the meaning is spiritual here, not literal as in Acts 27:34. No absolute or final harm could happen to them even when they were slain by these enemies. Marcion seems to have omitted the verse from the idle notion that it involved a contradiction.

οὐ μὴ ἀπόληται, i.e. not without the special Providence of God, nor without reward, nor before the due time. Bengel.

Verse 19

19. ἐν τῇ ὑπομονῇ ὑμῶν κτήσασθε. On the verb κτῶμαι comp. Luke 18:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:4. With the better reading it means ‘By your patience ye shall gain your souls’ or ‘lives.’ Mark 13:13. The need of patience and endurance to the end is prominently inculcated in the N.T., Romans 5:3; Hebrews 10:36; James 1:4, &c.

Verse 20

20. κυκλουμένην. ‘In course of being compassed.’ See on Luke 19:43, and Jos. B. J. Luke 21:2, § 6, 12.

Verse 21

21. οἱ ἐν τῇ Ἰουδαίᾳ. This expression again most clearly proves what was the near horizon of this Prophecy.

εἰς τὰ ὄρη. The Christians, in consequence of “a certain oracular utterance” (Euseb. H. E. III. 5), or an angel-warning (Epiphan. Haer. I. 123), but more probably in consequence of this warning, fled, before the siege, out of Judaea, to the little Peraean town of Pella, among the Transjordanic hills. The verse, as Theophylact says, is a warning to the Christians that the battlements of Jerusalem will not be strong enough to protect them.

ἐν μέσῳ αὐτῆς. ‘Of her,’ i.e. Jerusalem.

ἐν ταῖς χώραις. ‘In the fields,’ Luke 12:16; or, perhaps, in the provinces.

Verse 22

22. ἡμέραι ἐκδικήσεως. See Daniel 9:26-27. Josephus again and again calls attention to the abnormal wickedness of the Jews as the cause of the divine retribution which overtook them. In his Wars of the Jews he declares that no generation and no city was “so plunged in misery since the foundation of the world.” B. J. Luke 21:10, § 5.

τὰ γεγραμμένα. See Luke 19:42; Isaiah 29:2-4; Hosea 10:14-15; Deuteronomy 28:49-57; 1 Kings 9:6-9; Psalms 79:1-13; Micah 3:8-12.

Verse 23

23. οὐαί. The ‘woe’ is only an expression of pity for them because their flight would be retarded or rendered impossible.

ἀνάγκη μεγάλη καὶ ὀργή. 1 Thessalonians 2:16, “Wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.” Josephus says that, when there were no more to plunder or slay, after “incredible slaughter and miseries,” Titus ordered the city to be razed so completely as to look like a spot which had been never inhabited. B. J. VI. 10, VII. 1.

Verse 24

24. στόματι μαχαίρης. A Hebraism, though στόμα in the sense of ‘edge’ is also classical (comp. δίστομος). 1,100,000 Jews are said to have perished in the war. “It seems as though the whole race had appointed a rendezvous for extermination” Renan. (See on Luke 22:49.)

αἰχμαλωτισθήσονται. This is one of the group of words used only by St Luke and St Paul. Josephus speaks of 97,000 Jews sent to various provinces and to the Egyptian mines. B. J. VI. 9.

ἔσται πατουμένη ὑπὸ ἐθνῶν. So that the very thing happened which the Maccabees had tried to avert by their fortifications (1 Maccabees 4:60). All sorts of Gentiles—Romans, Saracens, Persians, Franks, Norsemen, Turks—have ‘trodden down’ Jerusalem since then. The analytic future implies a permanent result.

ἄχρι οὗ πληρωθῶσιν. Attic Greek would require ἄχρι ἄν, but the ἂν is constantly omitted in the N.T. with these particles of time. See Luke 12:50, Luke 13:8, &c.; Mark 14:32.

καιροὶ ἐθνῶν. By the times—’seasons’ or ‘opportunities’ of the Gentiles—is meant the period allotted for their full evangelisation. Romans 11:25. This limit of time was fulfilled at Christ’s Parousia in the destruction of Jerusalem. The καιροὶ merely means the one καιρὸς regarded in its several elements.

Verse 25

25. ἐν ἡλίῳ καὶ σελήνῃ καὶ ἄστροις. ‘In sun, and moon, and stars.’ The articles of the A. V[369] should be omitted. Comp. Acts 27:20. These signs are mainly metaphorical—the eclipse of nations and the downfall of potentates—though there may be literal fulfilments also. The language is that of the ancient prophets, Amos 8:9; Joel 2:30-31; Ezekiel 32:7-8, as in Revelation 6:12-14.

συνοχή. Luke 12:50 and 2 Corinthians 2:4.

ἤχους. Thus accented the word is the genitive of ἧχος. If accented ἠχοῦς it is the gen. of ἠχώ. It is the objective genitive (perplexity about). The true reading is probably ἤχους, and the translation, “in perplexity at the roar of the sea and surge.” Comp. Psalms 46:4. Isaiah 5:30. The raging sea is the sea of nations, Judges 1:13; Revelation 17:15.

Verse 26

26. ἀποψυχόντων ἀνθρώπων. Literally, “men swooning.” Meyer renders it “giving up the ghost.”

καὶ προσδοκίας. “And expectation;” only here and in Acts 12:11.

τῇ οἰκουμένῃ. Literally, “on the habitable world.”

αἱ γὰρ δυνάμεις τῶν οὐρανῶν, i.e. the “bright dynasts” (Aesch. Ag. 6)—the Hosts of the Heavens.

Verse 27

27. ἐρχόμενον ἐν νεφέλῃ. Metaphorically in great world crises (Matthew 16:17; Matthew 16:28); actually at the Last Coming. Acts 1:11; Matthew 26:64; Revelation 14:14.

Verse 28

28. ἀνακύψατε. The ‘earnest expectation’ (ἀποκαραδοκία—‘watching with outstretched neck’) of the creature, Romans 8:19; Romans 8:23. This verb ἀνακύπτειν only occurs in Luke 13:11; John 8:7; John 8:10. Comp. Matthew 24:31.

ἡ ἀπολύτρωσις ὑμῶν. This will follow Christ’s Parousia. Comp. Luke 18:7.

Verse 29

29. καὶ πάντα τὰ δένδρα. This is added by St Luke only. The fig-tree would be specially significant to Jewish readers.

Verses 29-36


Verse 30

30. ἀφ' ἑαυτῶν, i.e. you need no one to tell you. Luke 12:57.

Verse 31

31. γινόμενα. ‘Coming.’

Verse 32

32. οὐ μὴ παρέλθῃ ἡ γενεὰ αὕτη. This verse has a nearer and a farther meaning. That very generation would not have passed when, 40 years later, the Jewish nation was crushed, and the Mosaic dispensation rendered impossible. But γενεά also means race, and the Jewish race shall last till the end of all things.

Verse 33

33. παρελεύσονται. 2 Peter 3:7; Isaiah 51:6; Psalms 102:26.

οἱ δὲ λόγοι μου. ‘My sayings,’ my utterances. Isaiah 40:8.

Verse 34

34. κραιπάλῃ. ‘The giddiness of yesterday’s debauch’; the headache after drunkenness.—Lat. crapula.

μέθῃ. Only in St Paul and St Luke. Comp. Romans 13:13. Hence the exhortation “be sober,” νήψατε, 1 Peter 4:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:6.

μερίμναις. Comp. Matthew 13:22. The surfeit of yesterday; drunkenness of to-day; cares for to-morrow (Van Oosterzee). The verse recalls the traditional utterance of Christ, ἐν οἷς ἂν ὑμᾶς καταλάβω, ἐν τούτοις καὶ κρινῶ, in whatsoever things I shall find you, in those I will also judge you. Just. Mart. Dial. 47. Clem. Alex. Quis Div. Salv. 40 (Meyer).

βιωτικαῖς. Comp. 1 Corinthians 6:3. ἐπιστῇ. Luke 20:1.

Verse 34-35

34, 35. αἰφνίδιοςὡς παγίς. ἐπ[εισ]ελεύσεται γάρ א BDL La[360] Ti[361] W. H[362]

Verse 35

35. ὡς παγίς. Ecclesiastes 9:12; Romans 11:9; 1 Timothy 3:7. There is the same metaphor in Isaiah 24:17. The common metaphor is “as a thief,” 1 Thessalonians 5:2; Revelation 3:3; Revelation 16:15.

ἐπεισελεύσεται. This classical double compound (BDL) is found here only in the N.T.

τοὺς καθημένους. A Hebraism (Genesis 19:30, &c.), but perhaps with the collateral notion of ‘sitting at ease,’ Jeremiah 8:14; Jeremiah 25:19 (LXX[370]). ‘Face of the earth,’ 2 Samuel 18:8.

Verse 36

36. ἀγρυπνεῖτε δὲ κ.τ.λ. Luke 18:1; Ephesians 6:18. Render ‘watch ye at all times, making supplication.’ ἐν παντὶ καιρῷ. At every season.

κατισχύσητε. See critical note, and Luke 20:35.

σταθῆναι. ‘To take your place.’ Comp. Luke 18:11, Luke 19:8. Malachi 3:2. Meyer takes it in the passive sense, ‘to be set’ (by the angels, Matthew 24:31).

τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου. See on Luke 5:24, Luke 9:58. On this day our Lord also uttered the Parables of the Ten Virgins and of the Talents, and other warnings, Matthew 25.

Verse 37

37. τὰς ἡμέρας. ‘During the days.’ The notice is retrospective, applying to Palm Sunday, and the Monday and Tuesday in Passion Week. After Tuesday evening He never entered the Temple again. Wednesday and Thursday were spent in absolute and unrecorded retirement, perhaps with His disciples in the house at Bethany, until Thursday evening when He went into Jerusalem again for the Last Supper.

τὰς δὲ νύκτας. ‘But during the nights.’

ηὐλίζετο. Literally, “used to bivouac;” it is very probable that He slept in the open air with His disciples, as is very common with Orientals. He would be safe on the slopes of Olivet, among the booths of the Galilaean pilgrims; see Luke 22:39; John 18:1-2.

εἰς τὸ ὄρος. Literally, “into;” i.e. he went to, and stayed upon (by the common brachylogy).

ἐλαιών. Olivetum. See on Luke 19:29. Substantives in ών are collectives, as ἀμπελών, a vineyard, &c.

Verse 37-38


Verse 38

38. ὤρθριζεν. ‘Resorted to Him at early dawn,’ Jeremiah 29:7 (LXX[371]), 1 Maccabees 11:67, Evang. Nicod. 15.

ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ. Comp. Luke 19:47; Acts 5:21.

A few cursive MSS. here add the “Gospel for Penitents,” John 7:53 to John 8:11.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Luke 21:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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