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.


i] Conext: See 1:5-25. The Vision of Mary is the second of six episodes covering the dawn of the messianic age, 1:5-2:40. In this section of the gospel, The prophecies concerning the coming messiah, Luke gathers together a group of visions and prophesies. For Luke, these herald the dawning of the messianic era; they testify that Jesus is the long-awaited messiah.


ii] Structure: This narrative, The vision of Mary, presents as follows:

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:

The collocation of the angelic visition to Zechariah and Mary: Luke's telling of this story certainly carries with it Old Testament allusions, cf. Jud.13:2-7 - an 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 center 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 fact and draws from it 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, he properly inherits his "adopting" father's linage. Note that following the custom of the time, an engagement is as good as a wedding.

en + dat. "in [the sixth month]" - Serving here to introduce a temporal clause.

apo + gen. "[God sent]" - [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. "The angel Gabriel was sent from God's heavenly realm to the Galilean town of Nazareth."

Gabrihl "Gabriel" - This angel does not fit with Hebrew usage. Raphael is the closest, Tob.5:4

apestalh (apostelw) aor. "sent" - The passage has echoes of Daniel 10:11-12.

h|/ dat. pro. "Nazareth" - [a city of Galilee] to which [name Nazareth]. Dative of possession.


parqenon (oV) "virgin" - Mary's virginity is noted by Luke, not because virginity is worthy in itself, nor that she is highly spiritual, but to emphasize 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" - Dative of direct object.

w|/ "-" - to whom [name Joseph]. Dative of possession.

ex "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 as an adopted child is accorded the same rights as a natural child.

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

Mariam "Mary" - The name means "excellence".


ii] The annunciation, v28-37. a) The visit of an angel, v28-30. Mary is greeted as the "highly favored" one. Some manuscripts add "blessed are you", but this is not found in the oldest texts. She receives God's grace, but 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]" - having entered, gone into. 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" - joy, delight. 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" - having been favoured. The participle serves as a substantive, "the one having been favoured." 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 favored", not because of who she is, but because of the child she carries, v32-35.

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


hJ "Mary" - The nominative feminine article is obviously identifying Mary. The nominative article with de is often used 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 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" heads toward "terrified" and this because the angel tells her not to be afraid.

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

dielogizeto (dialogizomai) imperf. "wondered" - considered, reasoned, debated. The imperfect carries a durative sense, so an ongoing, continued pondering. She considered the meaning of the angel's words; "she mulled over what the angel had said."

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

oJ aspasmoV (oV) "greeting" - the salutation.

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


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

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

gar "-" - for. This conjunction serves to introduce a causal clause explaining the reason way Mary should stop being afraid.

euJreV (euJiskw) aor. "found" - 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 rightly affirm, but rather to emphasize the kindness of God.

para + dat. "with [God]" - Probably not expressing association, "with", in the sense of "a participant whose viewpoint is relevant to an event*", so "favor 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 emphasized. The angel declares Jesus' messianic qualifications. Luke alludes 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.

sullhmyh/ en gastri "you will be with child" - you will conceive in the womb. The language does not imply something abnormal which is 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" - you will call [the name]. Obviously the future tense here carries imperatival (volitive) force.

autou gen. pro. "him [the name]" - [the name] of him. The genitive is possessive.

Ihsoun (IhsouV) acc. "Jesus" - Joshua (Yahweh is saviour). Accusative complement of the object "name".


ouJtoV demonstrative pro. "he" - this, that. This one = he.

megaV adj. "[he will be] great" - Predicate adjective. Possibly just "he will grow up", while at the other extreme, some commentators suggest the usage here is absolute and therefore an expression of Christ's divinity, "the Great One."

klhqhsetai (kalew) fut. pas. "will be called" - "Will be recognized 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 functioning as a subject complement, see Culy.

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.

dwsei (didwmi) fut. "will give" - "He will grant", "bestow", Cassirer.

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - to him. Dative of indirect object.

ton qronon "the throne" - 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" - 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" - Used here of exercising control or authority, "over, with responsibility for."* "He will rule the people of Israel", CEV.

eiV touV aiwnaV "forever" - to 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, possessive, although possibly ablative, source/origin.

thV basileiaV (a) gen. "kingdom" - of the kingdom [of him]. The genitive, a genitive of reference, serves to tie this clause into 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. "His reign shall never end", REB.


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. Coordinative, here particularly identifying a change in speaker; "then Mary said."

pwV ad. "how [will this be]" - Interrogative adverb introducing a direct question.

epei "since" - since, because. Here serving to introduce 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 Luken literary device to emphasize 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 agency 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" - having answered [said]. Typical Semitic construction of an attendant circumstance participle with the redundant verb "said" used to emphasize the following words.

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

epeleusetai (epercomai) fut. "will come" - The idea may come from Isaiah 32:15, of the Spirit coming upon the wilderness such that the desert blooms, blooming spiritually in the realization 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]. Spacial.

dunamiV (iV ewV) "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" - 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."

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

dio kai "so" - therefore, for this reason also. Inferential conjunction with kai introducing an emphatic logical conclusion.

to ... aJgion adj. "the holy one" - the holy thing = child. The adjective functions as a substantive.

to gennwmenon (gennaw) pres. pas. part. "to be born" - being born. Either "begat" or "bear", where "begat" focuses on the divine paternity and "bear" on Mary's maternity. Added variant ek sou, "out of you." It seems best to stay with the AV and treat this participle as an adjective limiting "the holy one", "which shall be born", the total phrase standing as the subject of "will be called." Nolland suggests that it is substantival with aJgion as its complement, "the child to be born will be called holy - Son of God."

klhqhsetai (kalew) fut. pas. "will be called" - Again "will be recognized to be" is better. 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.

qeou (oV) gen. "[Son] of God" - Genitive of relationship. This is the first usage of the title "Son of God" in Luke. The term serves as a messianic title rather than filial description.


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 "no word from God is devoid of power". This verse, wrongly used, can cause no end of troubles. God will do what he says he will do, not what we think he should do.

Elisabet "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.

sou gen. pro. "your" - The genitive is adjectival, relational.

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

en + dat. "in [her old age]" - in [old age of her]. The preposition here forms a temporal phrase, as NIV.

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

th/ kaloumenh/ (kalew) dat. pres. pas. part. "who was said [to be barren]" - the one being called [barren]. The participle is adjectival, limiting the dative pronoun auth/, so forming a relative clause. 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" - 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.


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. The fact that God is a God of wonders doesn't mean that he is bound to answer our prayers for the impossible!!!!!!

oJti "for" - since, because. Here the conjunction expresses cause/reason; introducing a causal clause explaining why Elizabeth's pregnancy was possible, namely, "because" nothing is impossible to God.

ouk .... pan rhma (a atoV) "nothing" - no word, thing. "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. As also noted above, 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.

para + gen. "with [God]" - Here probably expressing agency, an uncommon usage, so "for God", Cassirer.


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 center of God's eternal plan for humanity.

idou "-" - behold. Interjection. Serving to introduce a significant statement or event.

kuriou (oV) gen. "[I am the Lord's]" - of Lord. Genitive is adjectival expressing relationship or possession. The verb to-be, "I am", is added for meaning.

hJ doulh "servant" - the bondmaid [of Lord]. "Slave girl, woman = servant"; "I belong to the Lord body and soul", Phillips.

genoito (ginomai) aor. opt. "may it be" - 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" - Dative of interest.

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

sou gen. pro. "you [have said]" - [the word] of you. The genitive is ablative, source/origin, "the word/promise from / given by you."

apo + gen. "[left her]" - [departed] from [her]. Expressing separation, "away from."


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