Saint Luke – Chapter 3

The Bible – New Testament

Saint Luke

Chapter 3


1 2 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,


during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, 3 the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.


4 He went throughout (the) whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,


5 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: «A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.


Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth,


and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'»


He said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, «You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?


Produce good fruits as evidence of your repentance; and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.


Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.»


And the crowds asked him, «What then should we do?»


He said to them in reply, «Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.»


Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, «Teacher, what should we do?»


He answered them, «Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.»


Soldiers also asked him, «And what is it that we should do?» He told them, «Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.»


Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah.


6 John answered them all, saying, «I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.


His winnowing fan 7 is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.»


Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.


8 Now Herod the tetrarch, who had been censured by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil deeds Herod had committed,


added still another to these by (also) putting John in prison.


9 10 After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened


11 and the holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, «You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.»


12 When Jesus began his ministry he was about thirty years of age. He was the son, as was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli,


the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,


the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai,


the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda,


the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri,


the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er,


the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi,


the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim,


the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, 13


the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon,


the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah,


the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,


the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah,


the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,


the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan,


the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

1 [1-20] 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 (⇒ Luke 1:1-4), so too this section (⇒ Luke 3:1-2). He casts the call of John the Baptist in the form of an Old Testament prophetic call (⇒ Luke 3:2) and extends the quotation from Isaiah found in ⇒ Mark 1:3 (⇒ Isaiah 40:3) by the addition of ⇒ Isaiah 40:4-5 in ⇒ Luke 3:5-6. In doing so, he presents his theme of the universality of salvation, which he has announced earlier in the words of Simeon (⇒ Luke 2:30-32). Moreover, in describing the expectation of the people (⇒ Luke 3:15), 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 (⇒ Luke 2:25-26, ⇒ 37-38). In ⇒ Luke 3:7-18 Luke presents the preaching of John the Baptist who urges the crowds to reform in view of the coming wrath (⇒ Luke 3:7, 9: eschatological preaching), and who offers the crowds certain standards for reforming social conduct (⇒ Luke 3:10-14: ethical preaching), and who announces to the crowds the coming of one mightier than he (⇒ Luke 3:15-18: messianic preaching).
2 [1] 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 ⇒ Luke 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.
3 [2] 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 ⇒ Luke 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 ⇒ John 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 ⇒ Luke 7:26 John will be described as «more than a prophet»; he is also the precursor of Jesus (⇒ Luke 7:27), a transitional figure inaugurating the period of the fulfillment of prophecy and promise.
4 [3] See the note on ⇒ Matthew 3:2.
5 [4] 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).
6 [16] 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 (⇒ Ezekiel 36:25-27; ⇒ Malachi 3:2-3). See the note on ⇒ Matthew 3:11.
7 [17] Winnowing fan: see the note on ⇒ Matthew 3:12.
8 [19-20] Luke separates the ministry of John the Baptist from that of Jesus by reporting the imprisonment of John before the baptism of Jesus (⇒ Luke 3:21-22). 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.
9 [21-22] This episode in Luke focuses on the heavenly message identifying Jesus as Son and, through the allusion to ⇒ Isaiah 42:1, as Servant of Yahweh. The relationship of Jesus to the Father has already been announced in the infancy narrative (⇒ Luke 1:32, ⇒ 35; ⇒ 2:49); it occurs here at the beginning of Jesus’ Galilean ministry and will reappear in ⇒ Luke 9:35 before another major section of Luke’s gospel, the travel narrative (⇒ Luke 9:51-⇒ 19:27). Elsewhere in Luke’s writings (⇒ Luke 4:18; ⇒ Acts 10:38), this incident will be interpreted as a type of anointing of Jesus.
10 [21] Was praying: Luke regularly presents Jesus at prayer at important points in his ministry: here at his baptism; at the choice of the Twelve (⇒ Luke 6:12); before Peter’s confession (⇒ Luke 9:18); at the transfiguration (⇒ Luke 9:28); when he teaches his disciples to pray (⇒ Luke 11:1); at the Last Supper (⇒ Luke 22:32); on the Mount of Olives (⇒ Luke 22:41); on the cross (⇒ Luke 23:46).
11 [22] 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 ⇒ Psalm 2:7.
12 [23-38] Whereas ⇒ Matthew 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 (⇒ Luke 3:38) to stress again Jesus’ divine sonship.
13 [31] The son of Nathan, the son of David: in keeping with Jesus’ prophetic role in Luke and Acts (e.g., ⇒ Luke 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 Sam 7:2) rather than through King Solomon, as ⇒ Matthew 1:6-7.