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Bible Commentaries

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Luke 1



Verse 1



Completæ sunt. Greek: peplerophoremenon. I know the pretended differences betwixt Greek: plerophoreisthai, and plerousthai. But divers learned critics, after St. John Chrysostom take notice, that they are many times taken for the same. So 2 Timothy iv. 5. Ministerium tuum imple. Greek: plerophoreson, toutesti, says St. John Chrysostom, Greek: plerosou. log. th. p. 371. Ed. Savil. and on the 17th ver. of the same chapter, ut per me impleretur, Greek: plerophorethe, toutesti, plerothe. (Ibid. p. 376.)

Verse 3

Having diligently obtained. Here we see, that although the Holy Ghost regulated the pen of the holy writers, that they might not err; they still employed human means to search and find out the truth of things they mentioned. Even so do general councils, and the president thereof, the holy pontiff, discuss and examine all causes by human means, although they have the promise from Jesus Christ of the aid, assistance, and direction of his holy Spirit; (St. John xvi. 13,) as is manifest from the very first council of the apostles, held at Jerusalem. (Acts xv. 7. and 28.) --- Most excellent Theophilus. This word, Theophilus, by its etymology, signifies a lover of God: but here we may rather understand some particular person, by the title given him of most excellent, or best: which, at that time, was given to persons in dignity; as to to Felix, Acts xxiii. 26. and to Festus, Acts xxvi. 25. (Witham) --- Greek: Kratiste, may signify most powerful from Greek: Kratos, strength, or Greek: Kratein, to conquer; or, as most generally given, from Greek: Kreitton. --- Greek: Theophilos, may be interpreted either a lover of God, or one beloved of God. Whoever, therefore, loves God, and desires to be beloved by Him, should consider this gospel as penned for himself, and should preserve it as a pledge deposited in his hands. (Ven. Bede)

Verse 5



De vice Abia, Greek: ex ephemerias.

Verse 6



Sine querala, Greek: amemptoi, irreprehensibiles.

Verse 9

It was his lot. The priests drew lots for the different functions to be performed in the same week; and now it fell by lot to Zacharias, to burn or offer up incense, morning and evening, in that part of the temple called the holy, where was the altar of incense: Zacharias was in this part of the tabernacle. (Witham) --- See Exodus xxx. 6, 8.

Verse 10

And all the ... people were praying without: i.e. in that part of the temple called the court of the Israelites. For the Jews themselves were not permitted to enter into the first part of the tabernacle, called the holy, much less into the second part of it, called the holy of holies; the people then prayed, and performed their private devotions, in that division of the temple called the court of the Israelites, and were there waiting for the coming out of the priest Zacharias. (Witham) --- We here see that the priest's functions profited the people, though they neither heard not saw the priest, but only joined in intention with him; and so may the prayers of the priest in the Catholic Church, though offered up in an unknown tongue.

Verse 12

cause of this fear, was the general sentiment that obtained with the Jews, that they would die immediately on seeing an angel. (Bible de Vence)

Verse 13

Thy prayer is heard. We cannot suppose, as St. Augustine observes, (lib. ii. QQ. Evang. chap i., tom. 3, part 2, p. 249. Ed. Ben.) that he was praying to have children, when his wife was so advanced in years; that he did not think possible; but he was praying for the people, and for the coming of the Messias. See St. John Chrysostom, hom. ii. de incomprehensibili, tom. 1, p. 454. Nov. Ed. Ben. (Witham) --- Zacharias so far despaired of having any offspring that he did not believe the angel, when he made him the promise. When therefore the angel says, thy prayer is heard, we must understand it of the prayer he offered in behalf of the people, to whom salvation and remission of sins were to be brought by Christ. The angel, moreover, told him of the birth of his son, who was to be the precursor of Christ. (St. Augustine) --- The son that is to be born of thee, will shew that thy prayer is heard, when he cries out, behold the Lamb of God. (St. John Chrysostom) --- It is always a mark of singular merit, whenever the Almighty either appoints or changes the name of a man. (Ven. Bede) --- The name of John is derived from the Hebrew word, Jachanan, which frequently occurs in the Old Testament, as 1 Paralipomenon iii. 15. and vi. 9. and xii. 12. &c. and signifies, blessed with grace or divine favour; see also in Isaias xxx. 18, 19.

Verse 14

was fulfilled not only at his birth, but ever after by the Catholic Church, celebrating his nativity. (Haydock)

Verse 15



Siceram, Greek: sikera, from the Hebrew shecar, or shacar, ebrius fuit.

Verse 17

Turn the hearts of the fathers, &c. The angel applies these words (Malachias iv. 6.) to St. John the Baptist; telling his father, that he shall convert many of the children of Israel, &c. by bringing them to the knowledge of Christ. Secondly, that he shall go before him, or be his precursor and forerunner. --- In the spirit and power of Elias; i.e. St. John shall be the forerunner of Christ's first coming to redeem mankind, as Elias shall be the forerunner of Christ's second coming to judge the world. Thirdly, that St. John, by converting the Jews, shall also turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, &c. The meaning of which obscure words seems to be, that whereas Moses, Abraham, and the prophets, (whose souls were in a place of rest) knew by a revelation from God, that their children, the Jews, lived in sin and disobedience to the laws of God; and on this account were offended and displeased at them: now when they shall know that they have been converted by the preaching of St. John, they shall rejoice, and be reconciled to their children, the Jews: for as our Saviour tells us, (Luke xv. 7.) there is joy in heaven upon any one sinner that doth penance. The angel, to explain the foregoing words, adds, and the incredulous to the wisdom and prudence of the just; i.e. St. John's preaching shall make them truly wise and just. (Witham) --- With reason is he said to precede Christ, who was his forerunner both in his birth and in his death. In the spirit of prophecy, and in the power of abstinence, and patience, and zeal, they resembled each other; Elias was in the desert, St. John was in the desert also. The one sought not the favour of king Achab, the other despised the favour of Herod. The one divided the Jordan, the other changed it into a laver of salvation. The one is to be the forerunner of Jesus Christ's second coming, as the other was of his first. (St. Ambrose)

Verse 18

Whereby shall I know this? Zacharias could not question the Divine Power, but he doubted of what the angel told him. (Witham) --- It was customary with the Jews, when they heard that any wonderful event was to take place, to inquire whether the Almighty had manifested his will by any supernatural sign. Zacharias puts this question to the angel, not through any doubt concerning the omnipotence of God, but because what was promised could not be compassed in the natural order of things: for, I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years. (Dionysius)

Verse 19

The name Gabriel signifies, the strength of God; or, God is my strength. The angels are sometimes styled by proper names, in order to shew their respective duties; thus, no angel could better be appointed to declare the precursor, as also the Messias himself, than he who was styled the power of God: since he came to declare the coming of one who was to destroy the power of the devil, and overthrow his kingdom. (Nicholas of Lyra) See Tobit xii. 15; Apocalypse i. 4. and viii. 2.

Verse 20

account of the many signs the angel had given, that what he said was true, the unbelief of Zacharias seemed inexcusable; for the angel appeared in a holy place, in the temple, and during divine service: he, moreover, foretold what related to the redemption of all the people, and to the glory of God; from all which circumstances, Zacharias ought to have concluded, that it was a good angel, and that what he said would eventually come to pass. (Nicholas of Lyra) --- Shalt be dumb, &c. He seems to have been both dumb and deaf by the Greek text, and by what we may learn from ver. 62; where we find, that those who were present did not speak, but rather made signs to him. (Witham)

Verse 23

After the days of his office were accomplished; i.e. the weekly ministry; for during that time, the priests lodged in buildings joining to the temple, separated from their wives. (Witham) --- When it fell to the lot of any of the priests to offer incense, they not only separated from their wives, but left their house; wherefore it is said, as soon as the day, &c. As it was ordained that the priesthood should continue in the family of Aaron, it was necessary they should have wives. But, as we do not now so much seek after priests of the same family, as those who are virtuous, it has been decreed, that priests should observe perpetual continency, that they may be able to assist at all times at the altar. (Ven. Bede) --- For the law of perpetual celibacy of the clergy, See St. Jerome, lib. i. chap. ix. 19. advers Jovin. et. ep. 50; also St. Ambrose, in 1 Tim iii.

Verse 27

word Miriam, or Mary, is expounded by St. Jerome from different etymologies, to signify in Hebrew, star of the sea, and in Chaldaic, lady. Both interpretations admirably well agree with her, who is the glorious Queen of heaven, our patroness and star, to direct us in the stormy ocean of this world. --- "O you," cries out St. Bernard, "who find yourselves tossed to and fro in this tempestuous life, turn not your eyes away from the brightness of this star, if you would not be overwhelmed in these storms. If the winds of temptations arise; if you fall among the rocks of tribulation; look up to the star, call upon Mary. If your are agitated, and hard driven with the surges of pride, ambition, detraction, jealously, or envy; look up to the star, call upon Mary. If anger, covetousness, or lust, beat furiously on the vessel of your soul; look up to the star, call upon Mary. If you are beginning to founder, and are just sinking into the gulf of melancholy and despair; think on Mary. In dangers, in distresses, in perplexities, think on Mary, call on Mary. Let her name be never absent from your mouth; from your mouth let it constantly descend into your heart; and, that you may obtain the suffrage of her prayers; both in life and death, never depart from the example of her pious conversation." (St. Bernard, hom. ii. super Missus est.)

Verse 28



Gratia plena. See Lucas Burgensis on this place.

Verse 29

When she had heard. In the Greek text, when she had seen; as if she also saw the angel, as St. Ambrose observed. (Witham)

Verse 31

may perhaps in the first instance of reflection, appear shocking to our ideas, that a God should dwell in a human body; but does not the sun emit its rays into all kinds of places, without any detriment of its purity? How much more would the Sun of justice, assuming a most pure body, formed of the purest blood of the spotless Virgin, not only remain free from every the least stain himself, but even impart additional sanctity to his virgin Mother. (St. Thomas Aquinas)

Verse 32

He ... shall be called; i.e. according to the style of the Scriptures, he shall truly be the Son of God. (Witham)

Verse 33

are here called of the house of Jacob, who out of the multitude of the Jews believed in Christ. This is conformable to that text of St. Paul: All are not Israelites that are of Israel, but the children of the promise are accounted for the seed. (Romans ix. 6, 8.) (St. John Chrysostom, hom. vii. on S. Matt.) --- And of his kingdom there shall be no end: which clearly shews it was not to be a temporal, but a spiritual and an eternal kingdom. (Witham)

Verse 34



Quia virum non cognosco. St. Augustine, quod profecto non diceret, nisi Deo Virginem se ante vovisset. (De Virginitate, chap. iv, tom. 6, p. 343. Ed. Ben.)

Verse 35

The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, &c. By the divine power thou shalt bring forth, and yet remain always a pure virgin. --- And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee, shall be called (shall be) the Son of God. The second person of the ever blessed Trinity, being united to our human nature, remaining unchangeably the same God, and being born of the Virgin Mary; it must needs be true to say that God was born, that God suffered and died for us; and consequently that the blessed Virgin Mary was truly the mother of God, or of him that is truly God; though not the mother of the Godhead: as the Catholic Church declared in the council of Ephesus, (431) against the heretic Nestorius. (Witham) --- Seek not for natural order in things that transcend nature. You ask, how shall this be done, since you know not man? This, your ignorance of man, is the very reason why this will take place within you. For had you not been pure, you never would have been deemed worthy of so great a mystery. Not because marriage is bad, but because virginity is far more excellent. The common Lord of all ought in his birth to have something common with all mankind, and still something different. He was conceived and born in the womb like the rest of mankind, but he differed from them in being born of a virgin. (St. John Chrysostom, xlix. in Genes.)

Verse 36

find that Aaron, who was of the tribe of Levi, took a wife of the tribe of Juda, viz. Elizabeth, the sister of Naasson. In the successors of David we find that Joiada, the chief priest, took a wife of the family of David, viz. the daughter of Joram; from which it appears that both the royal and sacerdotal tribes were united, and that Mary and Elizabeth were relatives. It was certainly proper that Christ should be born of both these tribes, because he was in himself both king and priest. (Ven. Bede)

Verse 38

Behold the handmaid. With all modesty and humility of heart and mind, the blessed Virgin consented to the divine will: and from that moment in her was conceived the Saviour and Redeemer of the world. (Witham) --- Thus ought the virgin, who brought forth meekness and humility itself, to shew forth an example of the most profound humility. (St. Ambrose)

Verse 39

city is generally supposed to be Hebron, a sacerdotal town, (Josue xxi. 11.) situated in the mountains, to the south of Juda, and about 120 miles from Nazareth. (Bible de Vence)

Verse 41



Exultavit, Greek: eskirtese. Which signifies to leap, or skip like lambs, &c.

Verse 42

the same words she is pronounced blessed by Elizabeth, and by the angel Gabriel, both inspired by the Holy Ghost, and this not only to the praise of Jesus, but for his sake, to the praise of Mary, calling her blessed, and her fruit blessed; and thus, as Ven. Bede asserts, holding her up to the veneration of both men and angels.

Verse 43

The mother of my Lord. A proof that Christ was truly God, and the blessed Virgin Mary truly the mother of God. (Witham) --- Elizabeth was a just and blessed woman; yet the excellency of the mother of God does so far surpass that of Elizabeth, and of every other woman, as the great luminary outshines the smaller stars. (St. Jerome præf. in Sophon.)

Verse 47

In God my Saviour, as appears by the Greek text,(8) though literally in Latin, in God my salvation. (Witham)



Salutari meo, Greek: soteri mou, Salvatori meo.

Verse 48



Humilitatem, Greek: tapeinosin, not tapeinophrosunen. By which latter word is signified the virtue of humility of mind and heart. But humilis, and humilitas, in Latin, even in Cicero, is put to signify vilem et abjectam conditionem: and so also Greek: tapeinos, and tapeinosis in Greek, as in the 70 [the Septuagint] 1 King i. 11. the Latin Vulgate for Greek: tapeinesin, has affictionem famulæ tuæ. And this is the sense in this and the 52d verse; as it is confirmed by the antithesis, or opposition, betwixt those of a high, and of a low state or condition.

Verse 51

wise men of the Gentiles, the Pharisees and Scribes, were powerful; but these the Almighty cast down, and exalted those, who humbled themselves under his powerful hand. (1 Peter v.) The Jews were proud in their strength, but their incredulity brought on them their humiliation; whilst the low and mean among the Gentiles, have by faith ascended to the summit of perfection. (St. Cyril of Alexandria in St. Thomas Aquinas' catena aurea.) (Witham)

Verse 53

Jews were rich in the possession of the law, and the doctrines of the prophets; but, as they would not humbly unite themselves to the incarnate word [Jesus Christ], they were sent away empty, without faith, without knowledge, deprived of all hopes of temporal goods, excluded from the terrestrial Jerusalem, and also from that which is in heaven. But the Gentiles, oppressed with hunger and thirst, by adhering to their Lord, were filled with all spiritual gifts. (St. Basil in Ps. xxxiii.)

Verse 63

then in circumcision, so now in baptism, names are given. And as we see here, and is all the Old Testament, great respect was had of names, so must we be aware of profane and secular names, and rather, according to the catechism of the council of Trent, take names of saints and holy persons, which may put us in mind of their virtues. (De Bap. in fine.)

Verse 69



Cornu salutis, Greek: keras soterias. Abscissum est cornu Moab. (Jeremias xlviii. 25.) Cornu David. (Psalm lxxiv. 5.) See also Psalm cxxxi. 17, &c.

Verse 71

That he would save us, &c. Literally, salvation from our enemies. The construction and sense is, that God, as he had declared by his prophets, would grant us salvation, or would save us. (Witham) --- This is not to be understood of temporal, but of spiritual enemies. For the Lord Jesus, strong in battle, came to destroy all our enemies, and thus to deliver us from their snares and temptations. (Origen, hom. xvi.) --- He is that King of Glory, the Lord strong and powerful, the Lord powerful in battle. (Psalm xxiii.)

Verse 72

To remember his holy covenant, i.e. of his promise, or of the covenant made with Abraham, that he would bless all nations in his seed. (Witham) --- At the coming of Christ, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were made partakers of his mercy. For, we cannot suppose that they who saw his day, and were glad, should not participate in the fruit of his coming; since St. Paul says: he maketh peace through the blood of the cross, both to the things that are on earth, and the things that are in heaven. (Colossians i. 20.) (Origen, hom. x.)

Verse 73



Jusjurandum quod juravit, Greek: orkon on in the accusative case, for Greek: kat orkon, secundum juramentum. Ibid. daturum se nobis, i.e. se effecturum, &c. Greek: tou dounai emin, &c.

Verse 75

is possible, we here see, to have true justice, not only in the sight of man, or by the imputation of God, but in his sight; and the coming of Christ was to give men such justice.

Verse 77

is our salvation, and St. John [the Baptist] was sent to give to the people the knowledge of this salvation: he bore testimony of Christ; (Theophylactus) by whom alone remission of sins can be obtained.

Verse 78

rising light,(12) or the rising sun, hath visited us from on high. The Rheims translation hath the Orient, the Protestant, the day-spring. Both seem more obscure than they need be. The Latin, as well as the Greek, hath a noun substantive, by which Christ himself is signified. Yet the same word, in both languages, is sometimes taken for a rising light, and sometimes for a bud, or branch; in which latter sense it is expounded by St. Jerome. (Comment in Zachar. p. 1737, tom. 3, Ed. Ben.) But in this place it is rather taken for a light that riseth, by the following words, to enlighten them that sit in darkness, &c. (Witham) --- The Orient. It is one of the titles of the Messias, the true light of the world, and the sun of justice. (Challoner) --- By this he shews that God has forgiven us our sins, not through our merits, but through his own most tender mercy; (Theophylactus) and that we are to solicit this forgiveness through the bowels of his most tender mercy.



Oriens. Greek: e anatole. Vulgo ortus Solis. See Mr. Legh Crit. Sacra on Greek: anatello, orior, germino, S. Hierom [St. Jerome] on Jeremias chap. xxiii. ver. 5. tom. 3, p. 634. suscitabo David germen justum, sive orientem justum. And on Zacharias vi. 12, p. 1737. Ecce vir, oriens nomen ejus, where he expounds it by Greek: anatole, anaphue, and Blastema.


Verse 79

Gentiles were in darkness, and given to the adoration of idols, till the light arose and dispelled the darkness, spreading on all sides the splendour of truth. (St. Basil on Isai.) --- With reason it is said in this place, who sit in darkness; for we did not walk in darkness, but sat down, as if destitute of all hopes of being delivered. (St. John Chrysostom, hom. xiv. on S. Matt.) --- Then our steps are directed in the paths of peace, when in our every action we act conformably to the grace of the Almighty. (St. Gregory, hom. xxxii.)

Verse 80

. John remained in the desert till the 30th year of his age. The reason why he concealed himself so long was because he feared the cruelty of Herod; for, though he was not under his jurisdiction, not being on the confines of Bethlehem, yet on account of the remarkable events that took place at his birth, by which he was declared the precursor of the Messias, he had reason to dread the cruelty of the jealous and suspicious Herod. Peter of Alexandria, Nicephorus, Baronius, and others, say, that when he was yet in his mother's arms, he was conveyed into the desert, and there concealed in the caves and fissures of the rocks, where people concealed themselves on the approach of their enemies. Cedrinus adds, that 40 days after their flight, the mother of St. John died; after which, an angel is said to have undertaken the care of the Baptist; but most probably this office was performed by some attendant on St. Elizabeth. (Tirinus) ---The Baptist remained in the desert till he began his public ministry, which by a law of the Jews could not be much before he had attained his 30th years. He is styled by antiquity the first hermit. See St. Jerome in Vita Pauli.


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Bibliography Information
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Luke 1:4". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.

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