The mission of the Messiah, 1:5-9:50

1. Prophecies concerning the coming messiah, 1:5-2:40

ii] Vision of Mary


Following on from the angel's announcement to Zechariah, Mary receives her own angelic visitation, but this time privately, and in a quiet village setting.


Luke's account of the angelic visitation to Mary makes the point that the child to be conceived in her womb will be no normal child. He will be the heir to David's throne and will take the royal title, "Son of the Most High", cf., Ps.2:7, 89:26f, and "Son of God", which titles describe his unique messianic authority. It is he who will usher in the long-promised kingdom of God.


i] Context: See 1:1-4. The Vision of Mary is the second of six episodes covering the dawn of the messianic age, 1:5-2:40.


ii] Structure: The vision of Mary:

Setting, v26-27;

The annunciation, v28-37:

The visit of an angel, v28-30;

The announcement, v31-33;

Mary's question, v34;

The angel's answer, v35;

A confirming sign, v36-37;

Mary's compliance, v38:

"I am the Lord's servant ...."


iii] Interpretation:

Luke's telling of the angelic visitation to Mary, certainly carries with it Old Testament allusions, cf., Jud.13:2-7 - it is a typical annunciation story. Yet, what is most notable about the story, is the way it parallels the annunciation of the Baptist's birth; the two stories have a shared framework. When the two stories are placed side-by-side, Jesus emerges as the greater one. John's role is to prepare God's people, while Jesus' role is to rule his people; John's role is temporary, Jesus' role is eternal. John is certainly a great man, but Jesus is the Son of the Most High God.

Another interesting feature of the story is the way Mary is the focus of the annunciation, rather than Joseph. It is through Joseph that Jesus receives his Davidic heritage, and yet Mary is the centre of Luke's story. When Mary is compared with Zechariah, we see a woman of faith compared with a man of doubt. Zechariah is struck dumb, but Mary speaks, "let it happen to me as you have said." Luke's affirmation of women in the gospel is quite unusual for the age.


iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 1:26

The annunciation, v26-38. This episode serves "not so much in announcing the virginal conception, as in making known from a divine source, and in advance of his conception, who and what Jesus is predestined to be", Evans.

i] Setting, v26-27. It is normally argued that the virgin birth was necessary so that Jesus would not be tainted by original sin. This is mere speculation and is not found in scripture. God is quite capable of achieving human salvation through a perfect messiah without a virgin birth. Luke simply states the facts, and draws from them the implication of Jesus' messianic authority. Luke sees Jesus' credentials confirmed in Joseph who is "a descendant of David" (of the house of David) - the Messiah is of David's linage. Jesus may not be of Joseph's blood line, but in typical Semitic fashion, Jesus properly inherits his "adopting" father's linage. Note that following the custom of the time, an engagement is as good as a wedding.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

en + dat. "in [the sixth month]" - in [the sixth month]. Temporal use of the preposition serving to introduce a temporal clause.

apo + gen. "[God sent]" - [the angel gabriel was sent] from [god]. Expressing origin/source, as NIV, although possibly here the rare sense of agency is intended, "by". A variant uJpo, "by", expressing agency, exists, but obviously a correction of the original text. "The angel Gabriel was sent from God's heavenly realm to the Galilean town of Nazareth." Note that Hebrew usage would have Raphael rather than Gabriel, cf., Tob.5:4. The passage has echoes of Daniel 10:11-12.

h|/ dat. pro. "Nazareth" - [to, into a city of galilee] to which [was name nazareth]. Dative of possession.


parqenon (oV) "virgin" - [toward] a virgin. Mary's virginity is noted by Luke, not because virginity is worthy in itself, nor that she is highly spiritual, but to emphasise the miracle. Elizabeth was barren, but Mary was a virgin. The Gk. word of itself does not mean virgin, but rather unmarried woman, who may or may not be a virgin. Isaiah 7:14, quoted by Matthew, states "a maiden shall conceive", again somewhat unclear, although the early believers never wavered on the issue of the virgin birth.

emnhsteumenhn (mnhsteuw) perf. pas. part. "pledged to be married" - having been betrothed. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "virgin". The normal custom was a betrothal at 13 and marriage at 14.

andri (hr droV) dat. "to a man" - to a man. Dative of direct object.

w|/ dat. pro. "-" - to whom is the [name joseph]. Dative of possession.

ex + gen. "a descendant [of David]" - out of, from [house of david]. Expressing source / origin. Establishing Jesus' Davidic heritage. That Joseph was not the genetic father of the child is of little import to the Jewish mind, given that an adopted child is accorded the same rights as a natural child.

thV parqenou (oV) gen. "the virgin's [name]" - [and] the name [of the virgin]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, or idiomatic, "the name give to the virgin."

Mariam "Mary" - was mary. Predicate nominative of an assumed verb to-be. The name means "excellence".


ii] The annunciation, v28-37. a) The visit of an angel, v28-30. Mary is greeted as the "highly favoured" one. Some manuscripts add "blessed are you", but this is not found in the oldest texts. So, she certainly receives God's grace, but Luke does not suggest that she is not the giver of grace. These words leave her highly perplexed. She is not troubled by the vision, but by the "words".

eiselqwn (eisercomai) aor. part. "went [to her]" - [and] having entered, gone into [toward her]. Probably an attendant circumstance participle, "entering said", so "went in and said", but possibly temporal, "the angel, as he approached her, said", Berkeley. The verb is used mainly of entering into an area, rather than approaching, as in entering a room. "He went in to her", Barclay.

caire (a) pres. imp. "Greetings" - [he said] joy, delight = hail, greetings. Often just a greeting, but here the sense of "rejoice" must be included. Possibly even an imperative, a call to rejoice, but most likely a stereotypical exclamation; "hail".

kacaritwmenh (caritow) perf. pas. part. "you who are highly favoured" - the one having been favoured. The participle serves as a vocative substantive, "O favoured one." She is favoured in that she is the recipient of God's free and unmerited grace, not because she is gracious, which she probably is. Mary is "highly favoured", not because of who she is, but because of the child she carries, v32-35.

meta + gen. "with" - [the lord is] with [you]. Expressing association; as in "stand beside." A hortatory subjunctive verb to-be is assumed, expressing a wish, "May the Lord be with you."


hJ de "Mary" - but/and she. Transitional, indicating a change in speaker. Luke will often use the nominative article with de to show a "shift in speaker", Culy, here from the angel's words to Mary's musings.

dietaracqh (diatarassw) aor. pas. "was greatly troubled" - was deeply disturbed, confused, perplexed. The prefix strengthens the disturbance, so "greatly disturbed" by the angel's words, rather than his presence. Johnson suggests the sense "utterly confused" heading toward "terrified", and this because the angel tells her not to be afraid.

epi + dat. "at" - upon [the word, message]. Spatial, "at"; instrumental, "by his words", Rieu, or causal "because of / on the basis of his words."

dielogizeto (dialogizomai) imperf. "wondered" - was pondering, considering, debating. The imperfect carries a durative sense, so an ongoing continued pondering may be in mind. The action could also be iterative, repeated action, "she mulled over what the angel had said", or conative, attempted action, "tried to discern", ESV, even ingressive, "began to wonder", NET.

potapoV pro. "what kind of" - what sort of [this greeting, salutation]. Used as an interrogative adjective forming an indirect question. "Sort of" = "meaning; "wondered what the greeting could mean", REB.

ei[h (eimi) opt. "might be" - might be. We may have expected a subjunctive verb to-be here, but Luke tends to use an optative in indirect questions.


auth/ pro. "to her" - [and the angel said] to her. Dative of indirect object.

mh fobou (fobeomai) pres. imp. "do not be afraid" - do not fear [mary]. The sense is "stop being anxious." Fear is a normal response in the face of a divine visitation. As with so much in this passage, we again have an Old Testament allusion, eg., Jud.6:24.

gar "-" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Mary should stop being afraid.

euJreV (euJiskw) aor. "found" - you found [favour]. Mary found, in the sense of received divine grace. Again, the idea is of the bestowal of favours from a superior to an inferior, apart from any worthiness in the inferior to receive the favour. Such does not seek to denigrate Mary, whom Luke affirms, but rather to emphasise the kindness of God.

para + dat. "with" - with [god]. Probably not expressing association, "with", in the sense of "a participant whose viewpoint is relevant to an event*", so "favour in God's estimation", Culy, but expressing sphere, "in the sight of, before." "God has chosen you for a very precious privilege", Barclay.


b) The announcement, v31-33: The angel tells Mary that she will have a son. Luke quotes Isaiah 7:14 with "Jesus" (The Lord is saviour) replacing "Immanuel" (God with us). Again, Luke doesn't make much of the fact of the virgin birth; he doesn't develop the idea. Interestingly, neither is the virgin birth taken up in the Epistles, nor in the writings of the early Church Fathers. Jewish sensibilities may be behind this gentle treatment of what is an amazing event. Only later, against the Docetists (those who deny the humanity of Jesus) and the Adoptionists (those who deny the divinity of Jesus), is the virgin birth emphasised. In the vision, the angel declares Jesus' messianic qualifications. Luke is probably alluding to the second book of Samuel 7:10-16 - the messiah's kingship, unlike popular opinion, will have no end - his kingship is everlasting.

kai idou "-" - and behold. The interjection idou, often with kai (26 times in Luke), is often used in a narrative to emphasise what follows, and sometimes to introduce a new participant. Marshall suggests that it "appears to be a sign of popular story-telling." Cf., Cully 1:20, p.20.

sullhmyh/ en gastri "you will be with child" - you will conceive in the womb [and will bear a son]. The language does not imply something abnormal - again in line with Luke's playing down of the virgin birth. The language reflects Old Testament usage, eg., Gen.16:11, Isa.7:14. "You will become pregnant", or something softer, "you are going to be the mother of a son", Phillips.

kaleseiV (kalew) fut. "you are to give" - [and] you will call [the name]. Obviously the future tense here carries imperatival (volitive) force.

autou gen. pro. "him" - of him. The genitive is possessive.

Ihsoun (IhsouV) acc. "Jesus" - joshua = jesus (yahweh is saviour). Accusative complement of the direct object "name", standing in a double accusative construction.


ouJtoV pro. "he" - this one [will be]. Demonstrative pronoun, subject of the verb to-be. This one = he will be.

megaV adj. "great" - great. Predicate adjective. Possibly just "he will grow up", while at the other extreme, some commentators suggest the usage here is absolute (as compared to John who is "great before the Lord") and therefore an expression of Christ's divinity, "the Great One."

klhqhsetai (kalew) fut. pas. "will be called" - [and] he will be called. "Will be recognised to be" rather than someone actually calling him / naming him, Son of God.

uiJoV (oV) "the Son" - son. The accusative case would be expected, but here the noun serves as the complement of the nominative subject "he" of the passive verb "will be called", standing in a double nominative construction and asserting a fact about the subject." Cully nicely illustrates this classification: Object complement of an indicative verb: "I call him David" - "David" being the accusative complement of the accusative object "him" standing in a double accusative construction; Subject complement of a passive verb: "He is called David" - "David" being the nominative complement of the nominative subject "he" standing in a double nominative construction.

uJyistou gen. adj. "of the Most High" - of most high. The genitive is adjectival, relational. Superlative / absolute "highest", used of God when masculine, therefore "the Most High", or sometimes of God's place of dwelling ("high above") when neuter, "heaven". The context indicates that here it refers to God, and as a proper noun it is without the article. Therefore, "Son of the Most High" = "Son of God", which here is probably only a messianic title and does not imply a filial relationship. So "Son of God" = "son of David." The truth revealed in these words is that Jesus is the Davidic king who will rule the dawning kingdom.

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - [and lord god will give] to him. Dative of indirect object. "He will grant", "he will bestow upon him", Cassirer.

ton qronon "the throne" - the throne [of david the father of him]. Probably a metonym where "throne" substitutes for an associate word, eg., "ruling authority", Culy; "he will set him upon the throne of his ancestor, king David", Junkins.


basileusei (basileuw) fut. "he will reign" - [but/and] he will serve as a king, reign. Jesus will reign over the tribes of Israel and this reign will be eternal, "forever". Again, Luke is employing Old Testament, Davidic, messianic imagery to underline prophetic fulfilment. Of course, Luke understands that Christ's kingdom transcends Jewish nationalism.

epi + acc. "over" - upon. Used here of exercising control or authority, "over, with responsibility for."* "He will rule the people of Israel", CEV.

eiV touV aiwnaV "forever" - [the house of jacob] to, into the ages. A common phrase meaning "forever." The plural serves to underline the eternal aspect of forever. Christ's reign is eternal; "there will be no end", JB.

autou gen. pro. "his" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive, "his kingdom" / verbal, subjective, "the kingdom ruled by him."

thV basileiaV (a) gen. "kingdom" - [and] of the kingdom [of him there will be no end]. The genitive is adverbial, reference / respect; "and with respect to his kingdom, it will have no end." The genitive ties this clause to the preceding clause and thus its central idea of the kingship of Christ. Therefore, although the word rightly refers to the domain of Christ's reign, his sovereign reign, lordship, remains the focus. Note the parallelism between "house of Jacob", a rather traditional term for the house of Israel, cf., Isa.8:17, and the "kingdom [of God]". The link between the two is evident in Acts 15:16-18, quoting Amos 9:11-12. Often translated as "reign", "His reign shall never end", REB, although the everlasting nature of the Jesus' kingdom is in mind.


c) Mary's question, v34: Mary is confused. She probably thinks the angel is saying that the conception is to take place immediately, but she is not yet married. So, "How will this be?"

de "-" - but/and [mary said toward the angel]. Transitional, here identifying a change in speaker; "Then Mary said."

pwV ad. "how" - how [will this be]? Interrogative adverb introducing a direct question; "How will this come about?"

epei "since" - because. Causal conjunction introducing a causal clause.

ou ginwskw pres. "I am a virgin" - [a man] i do not know. Obviously "I have not had sexual intercourse with a man", although the present tense, being durative, carries the idea "I am not having / I am not knowing", ie., she has had and continues to have no intercourse with a man. This usage of the word "know" is both Semitic and Hellenistic. Mary's response raises a problem. Why would she stress her present virginity given that the promised conception is future and she will indeed "know" Joseph soon, following the period of engagement? Some commentators suggest it is simply a Lukan literary device to emphasise her virginity, but it is quite possible that she has misunderstood the time frame, or even understood her conception to be an immediate occurrence. Evans suggests her response is nothing more than a product of "human incomprehension."


d) The angel's answer, v35: Mary's conception is not described in the terms of her "mating" with the Holy Spirit, rather, the Spirit gives life to her barren womb. The Spirit is the agent of new creation and of resurrection life. So, God's Shekinah glory will "overshadow" her, will tabernacle with her. Note that the title "Son of God" is still messianic in character. Luke is not suggesting a filial relationship between Jesus and the Father.

apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) aor. pas. part. "answered" - [and the angel] having answered [said]. Attendant circumstance participle, redundant; see 1:19.

auth/ dat. pro. "-" - to her. Dative of indirect object.

epeleusetai (epercomai) fut. "will come" - [holy spirit] will come upon. The idea may come from Isaiah 32:15, of the Spirit coming upon the wilderness such that the desert blooms, blooming spiritually in the realisation of the kingdom, or even of the Spirit coming upon someone to prophecy, or perform the will of God in a certain situation. There are no references of the Spirit coming upon someone to conceive a child, cf., Nolland.

epi + acc. "upon [you]" - upon, on [you]. Spatial. Typical repetition of the prepositional prefix of a verb.

dunamiV (iV ewV) "power" - [and] the power. This word can function as an equivalent expression to spirit; "the (holy) spirit of God is a term for God himself as operating with effect in the world." Davies.

uJyistou gen. adj. "of the Most High" - of the highest, most high. The adjective serves as a substantive, while the genitive is adjectival, ablative, source/origin; "power from the Most High."

episkiasei (episkiazw) fut. "will overshadow" - will envelop, overshadow. There is a possible sexual image here, but it may not be intended. The presence and power of God will tabernacle with Mary, she will experience the Shekinah, the presence of the divine in the cloud that covers faithful Israel. Here the Spirit is depicted as life-giving. Matthew has ek "out of, from / by [the Holy Spirit]", probably with an instrumental sense. "He will draw his shadow over you." Luke makes the point that her child will be conceived "without human agency", Marshall.

soi dat. pro. "you" - you. Dative of direct object after the verb "overshadow."

dio kai "so" - therefore, for this reason and = also. Inferential conjunction with a adjunctive kai introducing an emphatic logical conclusion (result, so Marshall).

to gennwmenon (gennaw) neut. pres. pas. part. "to be born" - the child being born. The participle is neuter, "due to an implied to teknon", Thompson. Either "begat" or "bear", where "begat" focuses on the divine paternity and "bear" on Mary's maternity. Added variant ek sou, "out of you."

What is the relationship between the participle to gennwmenon and the adjective aJgion?

i It seems best to stay with the AV and treat this participle as an attributive adjective limiting the substantive adjective "the holy one", "the holy one which shall be born will be called the Son of God", together serving as the subject of the verb "will be called", as NIV.

i Nolland suggests that the participle serves as a substantive with aJgion, "holy", as its complement, "the child to be born will be called holy - Son of God", ie., both "holy" and "Son of God" serve as predicates of the verb "will be called", as ESV. For this construction see 1:32.

i Fitzmyer suggests that the participle serves as a substantive with aJgion, "holy" as a predicate adjective, "the child being born will be holy, he will be called the Son of God,", as NRSV.

klhqhsetai (kalew) fut. pas. "will be called" - will be called [holy]. Again "will be recognised to be" is better.

qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - [the son] of god. Genitive of relationship. As indicated above, the NIV, as with most translations, has "Son of God" as the predicate of the verb "called", but it is possibly a secondary predicate, with the primary predicate being the adjective "holy"; "for that reason your child will be called holy, and the Son of God", Goodspeed. This is the first usage of the title "Son of God" in Luke. The term serves as a messianic title rather than a filial description; it is a messianic identifier.


e) A confirming sign, v36-37: Elizabeth's conception will serve as a sign to Mary, validating this word from God, and she will serve as a confidant in Mary's lonely journey. The angel confirms the prophecy with the statement that "no word from God is devoid of power". This verse, wrongly used, can cause no end of troubles when someone acts on what they believe is "a word from God". God will do what he says he will do, not what we think he will do.

kai idou "-" - and behold. See 1:30.

Elisabet "Elizabeth" - elizabeth. A nominative pendens - an independent or hanging nominative later picked up by the pronoun auth; "Elizabeth your relative, she also has conceived." Used in the Gk. to "introduce the topic of what follows", Culy.

hJ suggeniV (iV idoV) "relative" - the relative, kinswoman [of you]. Standing in apposition to "Elizabeth". The kinship is unstated except to say that Jesus and John are related through their mothers. "Your kinswoman", Barclay; "your cousin Elizabeth", Phillips.

en + dat. "in" - [she and = also has conceived a son] in [old age of her]. The preposition here adverbial, introducing a temporal phrase, as NIV.

auth/ dat. pro. "she" - [and this is the sixth month] to = for her. Dative of reference or interest, "with respect to", or "for".

th/ kaloumenh/ (kalew) dat. pres. pas. part. "who was said" - the one being called. The participle is adjectival, limiting the dative pronoun auth/, so introducing an attributive modifier of "her". Mary has not asked for a sign, but she is given one. "They said she could never have a child", Barclay.

steira dat. adj. "barren" - barren. Functioning as a subject complement, and this because the participle is passive and thus the subject, th/, "the one" (in apposition to auth/, "her") receives its action. Dative in agreement with the subject and therefore a double dative construction; see 1:32 for this construction.


A common religious saying, cf., Mk.10:27, Job.42:2. We have here a possible allusion to the birth of Isaac to the Sarah who was barren at the time, Gen.18:14. The purpose of the words is to elicit faith in a wondrous God; "she was called to believe in him who calls into being what is not", Nolland. "Mary can be assured of these promises because God's word is powerful", Thompson.

oJti "for" - since, because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Elizabeth's pregnancy was possible, namely, "because" nothing is impossible for God.

ouk "no" - no [word, thing]. This negation with the future negative verb "to be impossible" is emphatic. "For no promise of God can fail to be fulfilled", Phillips.

adunathsei (adunatew) fut. "is impossible" - will be impossible. As noted above, possibly alluding to Gen.18:14, but also possibly Jer.32:17. The words probably relate directly to Elizabeth's pregnancy, rather than Mary's intended conception, but obviously they do apply to Mary as well. This statement should not be used to imply that God will do the impossible things of our imagination. Best to translate the phrase as "no word / promise from God is devoid of power" to avoid the "anything is possible" danger. Mind you, positive thinking is better than negative thinking - mountains are climbed by people who believe that they can climb them!

para + gen. "with [God]" - beside [god]. Here probably expressing agency, an uncommon usage, so "by / with God", but source origin is also possible, "No promise from God will be impossible of fulfilment", Weymouth.


iii] Mary's compliance, v38: "So let it be with your word to me." Mary submits to the Lord's will and so places herself in the centre of God's eternal plan for humanity.

idou "-" - [and mary said] behold. Interjection. Serving to introduce a significant statement or event.

hJ doulh "servant" - i am the bondmaid [of the lord]. "Slave girl, woman = servant"; "I belong to the Lord body and soul", Phillips. The genitive "of the Lord" is adjectival, relational, or possessive.

genoito (ginomai) aor. opt. "may it be" - may it become, happen. The optative serving to express a wish. Mary here is behaving as a servant of the Lord by submitting to his will, cf., 1Sam.25:41, Gen.21:1. The word expresses an "acceptance of the angel's assertions as fact and a willing submission. This can be called faith", Evans. "She is the woman of faith whose yes is unequivocal", Johnson.

moi dat. pro. "to me" - to me. Dative of interest, advantage.

kata + acc. "as" - according to. Here expressing a standard; "in accordance with, corresponding to."

sou gen. pro. "you" - [the word] of you. The genitive is adjectival, verbal subjective, but could also be classified as ablative, source / origin, "the word / promise given by / from you."

apo + gen. "-" - [and the angel departed] from [her]. Expressing separation, "away from."


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