Caesar: Or “Emperor.” The Greek word Kaiʹsar corresponds to the Latin term Caesar. (See Glossary.) The name Augustus, a Latin word meaning “August One,” was first given by the Roman Senate as a title to Gaius Octavius, the first Roman emperor, in the year 27 B.C.E. He thus became known as Caesar Augustus. His decree resulted in Jesus’ being born in Bethlehem, in fulfillment of Bible prophecy.—Da 11:20; Mic 5:2.
the inhabited earth: In a broad sense, the Greek word for “inhabited earth” (oi·kou·meʹne) refers to the earth as the dwelling place of mankind. (Lu 4:5; Ac 17:31; Ro 10:18; Re 12:9; 16:14) In the first century, this term was also used in reference to the vast Roman Empire, where the Jews had been dispersed.—Ac 24:5.
to be registered: Augustus likely issued this decree because a census would help him to tax his subjects and conscript men for military service. In doing so, Augustus evidently fulfilled Daniel’s prophecy about a ruler “who causes an exactor to pass through the splendid kingdom.” Daniel further foretold that during the reign of that ruler’s successor, “a despised one,” something momentous would happen: “The Leader of the covenant,” or the Messiah, would be “broken,” or put to death. (Da 11:20-22) Jesus was executed during the reign of Augustus’ successor, Tiberius.
Quirinius . . . governor of Syria: Publius Sulpicius Quirinius, a distinguished Roman senator, is mentioned only once in the Bible. Scholars initially claimed that Quirinius served only one term of governorship over the Roman province of Syria in about 6 C.E., during which a rebellion broke out in response to a census. As a result, they attacked this passage and cast doubt on Luke’s account by reasoning that Quirinius was governor in 6 or 7 C.E., whereas Jesus’ birth was earlier. However, in 1764 an inscription was found that strongly suggests that Quirinius served as governor (or, legate) in Syria for two distinct terms. Other inscriptions too have led some historians to acknowledge that Quirinius served a term as governor of Syria earlier, in the B.C.E. period. It was evidently during this term that the first registration, mentioned in this verse, took place. Furthermore, the critics’ reasoning ignores three key facts. First, Luke acknowledges that there was more than one census, calling this the “first registration.” He was evidently aware of a later registration, which occurred about 6 C.E. That registration was mentioned by Luke in the book of Acts (5:37) and by Josephus. Second, Bible chronology rules out the possibility that Jesus was born during Quirinius’ second term. However, it does harmonize with Jesus’ being born during Quirinius’ first term, which was somewhere between the years 4 and 1 B.C.E. Third, Luke is well-known as a meticulous historian, one who lived in the era of many of the events he described. (Lu 1:3) In addition, he was inspired by holy spirit.
went up from Galilee: There was a town named Bethlehem just 11 km (7 mi) from Nazareth, but prophecy specified that the Messiah would come from “Bethlehem Ephrathah.” (Mic 5:2) That Bethlehem, referred to as David’s city, was located in Judea, in the south. (1Sa 16:
manger: The Greek word phatʹne, rendered “manger,” means “feeding place.” It may have been some kind of feeding trough for animals, though the Greek word phatʹne can also refer to the stall in which animals are kept. (Compare Lu 13:15, where this Greek word is rendered “stall.”) In this context, it appears to refer to a feeding place, though the Bible does not specify whether this manger was an outdoor or an indoor trough or one connected with a stall.
shepherds: A large number of sheep were regularly needed for offerings at Jerusalem’s temple, so it is quite possible that some of the sheep raised around Bethlehem were intended for this purpose.
living out of doors: The Greek expression comes from a verb that combines a·grosʹ (“field”) and au·leʹ (“place open to the air”), so the word means “to live in the fields, to live under the open sky,” and implies spending the night outdoors. Sheep may be led out to pasture during the daytime in any season of the year. However, the shepherds were spending the night out in the fields with their flocks. So this indicates the time of Jesus’ birth. The rainy season in Israel begins about mid-October and lasts several months. By December, Bethlehem, like Jerusalem, frequently experiences frost at night. The fact that Bethlehem’s shepherds were in the fields at night points to a season prior to the start of the rains.—See App. B15.
Jehovah’s angel: This expression occurs many times in the Hebrew Scriptures, starting at Ge 16:7. When it occurs in early copies of the Septuagint, the Greek word agʹge·los (angel; messenger) is followed by the divine name written in Hebrew characters. That is how the expression is handled at Zec 3:5, 6 in a copy of the Septuagint found in a cave in Nahal Hever, Israel, in the Judean desert. This fragment is dated between 50 B.C.E. and 50 C.E. It is noteworthy that when later copies of the Greek Septuagint replaced the divine name with Kyʹri·os in this and many other verses, the definite article was not included where it would be expected according to standard grammatical usage. This may be another indication that Kyʹri·os replaces the divine name here and in similar contexts. A number of Bible translations retain the divine name when rendering the expression “Jehovah’s angel” in this verse.—See App. C.
Jehovah’s glory: The first two chapters of Luke’s account are rich with references to and allusions to passages and expressions from the Hebrew Scriptures where the divine name occurs. Although existing Greek manuscripts use the word Kyʹri·os (Lord) in this verse, there are good reasons for using the divine name in the main text. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the corresponding Hebrew expression for “glory” occurs along with the Tetragrammaton more than 30 times. (Some examples are found at Ex 16:7; 40:34; Le 9:6, 23; Nu 14:10; 16:19; 20:6; 1Ki 8:11; 2Ch 5:14; 7:1; Ps 104:31; 138:5; Isa 35:2; 40:5; 60:1; Eze 1:28; 3:12; 10:4; 43:4; Hab 2:14.) An early copy of the Greek Septuagint, found in a cave in Nahal Hever in the Judean Desert near the Dead Sea, dated between 50 B.C.E. and 50 C.E., contains the Tetragrammaton written in ancient Hebrew characters within the Greek text at Hab 2:14. Also, it is noteworthy that when later copies of the Septuagint replaced the divine name with Kyʹri·os in this and many other verses, the definite article was not included where it would be expected according to standard grammatical usage, making Kyʹri·os tantamount to a proper name. So in view of the Hebrew Scripture background as well as the absence of the Greek definite article, the divine name has been used in the main text of Lu 2:9.—See study notes on Lu 1:6; 1:9 and App. C.
who is Christ: The angel’s use of this title was evidently prophetic, since the outpouring of holy spirit at the time of Jesus’ baptism marked the time of his becoming in actual fact the Messiah, or Christ.—Mt 3:16, 17; Mr 1:9-11; Lu 3:21, 22.
Christ the Lord: The Greek expression here rendered “Christ the Lord” (Khri·stosʹ kyʹri·os, lit., “Christ Lord”) occurs only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures. The angel’s use of these titles was evidently prophetic, and the clause could therefore be rendered “who was to be Christ the Lord.” (See study note on who is Christ in this verse.) Under inspiration, Peter explains at Ac 2:36 that God had made Jesus “both Lord and Christ.” However, the expression rendered “Christ the Lord” has also been understood in other ways. Some scholars have suggested the rendering “the anointed Lord.” Others have considered this combination of titles to mean “the Lord’s Christ,” which is the reading found in a few Latin and Syriac translations of Lu 2:11. Along these lines, some translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures into Hebrew (referred to as J5-8, 10 in App. C) use the rendering ma·shiʹach Yeho·wahʹ, that is, “Jehovah’s Christ.” For these and other reasons, some have understood the term at Lu 2:11 in a way similar to the Greek expression rendered “the Christ of Jehovah” at Lu 2:26.
and on earth peace among men of goodwill: Some manuscripts have readings that could be rendered “and on earth peace, goodwill toward men,” and this wording is reflected in some Bible translations. But the reading employed by the New World Translation has much stronger manuscript support. This angelic announcement did not refer to an expression of God’s goodwill toward all humans regardless of their attitudes and actions. Rather, it refers to those who will receive his goodwill because they display genuine faith in him and become followers of his Son.—See study note on men of goodwill in this verse.
men of goodwill: The “goodwill” referred to in this angelic statement is evidently that displayed by God, not by humans. The Greek word eu·do·kiʹa can also be rendered “favor; good pleasure; approval.” The related verb eu·do·keʹo is used at Mt 3:17; Mr 1:11; and Lu 3:22 (see study notes on Mt 3:
which Jehovah has made known to us: The angels conveyed the message, but the shepherds recognized the source as being Jehovah God. Although existing Greek manuscripts use Kyʹri·os (Lord) here, there are good reasons for using the divine name in the main text. In the Septuagint, the Greek verb rendered “has made known” is used to translate a corresponding Hebrew verb in contexts where Jehovah communicates his will to humans or where humans want to know his will. In such scriptures, the original Hebrew text often uses the Tetragrammaton. (Ps 25:4; 39:4; 98:2; 103:6, 7) Therefore, it would be natural to connect the divine name with what the Jewish shepherds are here saying.—See study note on Lu 1:6 and App. C.
Jesus: Corresponds to the Hebrew name Jeshua or Joshua, a shortened form of Jehoshua, meaning “Jehovah Is Salvation.”
the time . . . for purifying them: That is, the time for them to be ceremonially cleansed for worship. The Mosaic Law required that a mother undergo purification for 40 days after giving birth to a male. (Le 12:1-4) This law evidently taught, not a demeaning view of women and childbirth, but a vital spiritual truth: Through the process of childbirth, the sin of Adam is transmitted from one generation to the next. Mary was no exception, contrary to claims made by religious scholars. (Ro 5:12) Luke would not have used the pronoun “them” in this verse to include Jesus, for he knew that holy spirit had shielded Jesus from the sinful condition of his imperfect human mother, so he did not need cleansing. (Lu 1:34, 35) Because Joseph arranged for the trip and as family head was responsible for seeing that the sacrifice was offered, Luke may have included Jesus’ adoptive father in the word “them.”
Jehovah: Existing Greek manuscripts use the word Kyʹri·os (Lord) here, but there are good reasons for using the divine name in the main text. As the following verse shows, Jesus’ being brought to the temple after his birth is in accord with Jehovah’s words to Moses at Ex 13:1, 2, 12, where parents were commanded to “devote to Jehovah every firstborn male.” Also, the expression to present him to Jehovah is similar to what is described at 1Sa 1:22-28, where young Samuel is presented “before Jehovah” and dedicated to His service. In view of the context and the Hebrew Scripture background, the divine name is used in the main text of Lu 2:22.—See study notes on Lu 1:6; 2:23 and App. C.
Jehovah’s Law: Although existing Greek manuscripts read noʹmo Ky·riʹou, “Lord’s Law,” there are good reasons for using the divine name in the main text. This expression occurs many times in the Hebrew Scriptures as a combination of the Hebrew word for “law” and the Tetragrammaton. (For example: Ex 13:9; 2Ki 10:31; 1Ch 16:40; 22:12; 2Ch 17:9; 31:3; Ne 9:3; Ps 1:2; 119:1; Isa 5:24; Jer 8:8; Am 2:4.) The expression just as it is written is a common introduction to Hebrew Scripture quotes in the Christian Greek Scriptures. (Mr 1:2; Ac 7:42; 15:15; Ro 1:17; 10:15) It is also used in the Septuagint at 2Ki 14:6 to introduce a scripture quote. The full expression “just as it is written in Jehovah’s Law” reflects an expression in the Hebrew Scriptures that can be found at 2Ch 31:3 and 35:26, where the divine name is used. Additionally, scholars have noted that the Greek definite article is not included before Kyʹri·os where it would be expected according to standard grammatical usage, making Kyʹri·os tantamount to a proper name in this context. In view of the context, the Hebrew Scripture background, and the absence of the Greek definite article, there are good reasons to use the divine name in the main text of Lu 2:23.—See study note on Lu 1:6 and App. C.
they offered a sacrifice: Under the Mosaic Law, a woman remained ceremonially unclean for a set length of time after giving birth. Once the time had elapsed, a burnt offering and a sin offering were made for her.—Le 12:1-8.
the Law of Jehovah: See study note on Lu 2:23.
a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons: The Law allowed for women of little means to offer birds instead of a sheep, which would have been far costlier. (Le 12:6, 8) Clearly, Joseph and Mary were poor at this time, which shows that the astrologers came, not when Jesus was a newborn, but when he was older. (Mt 2:9-11) If Joseph and Mary had already received the costly gifts that those men brought, the couple could readily have afforded a sheep for sacrifice when they went to the temple.
Simeon: This name comes from a Hebrew verb meaning “to hear; to listen.” Like Zechariah and Elizabeth, Simeon is described as righteous. (Lu 1:5, 6) He is also called devout, a rendering of the Greek word eu·la·besʹ, which is used in the Christian Greek Scriptures to denote being careful and conscientious in matters of worship.—Ac 2:5; 8:2; 22:12.
the Christ: Or “the Anointed One; the Messiah.” The title “Christ” is derived from the Greek word Khri·stosʹ and is equivalent to the title “Messiah” (from Hebrew Ma·shiʹach), both meaning “Anointed One.”—See study note on Mt 1:1 and on the Christ of Jehovah in this verse.
the Christ of Jehovah: There are good reasons for using the divine name in the main text, although available Greek manuscripts literally read “the Christ of Lord” (ton khri·stonʹ Ky·riʹou). In existing copies of the Septuagint, this expression corresponds to the Hebrew term ma·shiʹach YHWH, that is, “anointed (one) of Jehovah,” used 11 times in the Hebrew Scriptures. (1Sa 24:6 [twice], 10; 26:9, 11, 16, 23; 2Sa 1:14, 16; 19:21; La 4:20) In connection with both Luke’s account and the Septuagint, scholars have noted that the Greek definite article was not included before Kyʹri·os where it would be expected according to standard grammatical usage, making Kyʹri·os in these contexts tantamount to a proper name. Therefore, both the Hebrew Scripture background and the absence of the Greek article are valid reasons for treating Kyʹri·os in these expressions, not as a title, but as an equivalent of the divine name. A number of Bible translations use such renderings as Jehovah, Yahveh, Yahweh, יהוה (YHWH, or the Tetragrammaton), LORD, and ADONAI in the main text or in footnotes and marginal notes to indicate that this is a reference to Jehovah God. A number of reference works support this view.—See App. C.
Sovereign Lord: The Greek word de·spoʹtes has the basic meaning “lord; master; owner.” (1Ti 6:1; Tit 2:9; 1Pe 2:18) When used in direct address to God, as here and at Ac 4:24 and Re 6:10, it is rendered “Sovereign Lord” to denote the excellence of his lordship. Other translations have used such terms as “Lord,” “Master,” “Sovereign,” or “Ruler of all.” Many translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures into Hebrew use the Hebrew term ʼAdho·naiʹ (Sovereign Lord), but at least two such translations (referred to as J9, 18 in App. C) here use the divine name, Jehovah.
letting your slave go: The Greek word for “to let go” literally means “to set free; to release; to dismiss.” Here it is used as a euphemism for “to let die.” For a person to die in peace could mean his dying a tranquil death after having enjoyed a full life or after the realization of a cherished hope. (Compare Ge 15:15; 1Ki 2:6.) God’s promise to Simeon had now been fulfilled; he had seen the promised “Christ of Jehovah,” God’s means of salvation. Simeon could now feel an inner peace and tranquillity and be content with sleeping in death until the resurrection.—Lu 2:26.
for removing the veil from the nations: Or “for revelation to the nations.” The Greek term a·po·kaʹly·psis, rendered “removing the veil,” denotes “an uncovering” or “a disclosure” and is often used regarding revelations of spiritual matters or of God’s will and purposes. (Ro 16:25; Eph 3:3; Re 1:1) Aged Simeon here referred to the child Jesus as a light, and he indicated that spiritual enlightenment was also to benefit the non-Jewish nations, not just the natural Jews and proselytes. Simeon’s prophetic words were in agreement with prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures, such as those recorded at Isa 42:6 and 49:6.
the rising again: The Greek word a·naʹsta·sis used here is usually rendered “resurrection” in the Christian Greek Scriptures. (See study note on Mt 22:23.) Simeon’s words in this verse indicate that people would react to Jesus in different ways, uncovering the reasonings of their hearts. (Lu 2:35) To unbelievers, Jesus would be a sign to be spoken against, or an object of contempt. Such faithless ones would reject him, stumble over him, and fall. As foretold, Jesus proved to be a stone of stumbling to many Jews. (Isa 8:14) Others, however, would put faith in Jesus. (Isa 28:16) They would be figuratively resurrected, or raised up, from a state of being “dead in [their] trespasses and sins” and would come to enjoy a righteous standing with God.—Eph 2:1.
a long sword: Since there is no Scriptural indication that Mary had an actual sword run through her, this expression evidently refers to the pain, suffering, and sorrow that Mary would undergo in connection with her son’s death on a torture stake.—Joh 19:25.
you: Or “your own soul; your life.”—See Glossary, “Soul.”
Anna: The Greek form of the Hebrew name Hannah, meaning “Favor; Grace.” By speaking about young Jesus to all those waiting for Jerusalem’s deliverance, she acted as a prophetess. The basic sense of the term “prophesying” is the declaring of inspired messages from God, the revealing of the divine will.
never missing from the temple: Anna was constantly at the temple, possibly from the time the temple gates were opened in the morning until they were closed in the evening. Her sacred service included fasting and supplications, indicating that she mourned over the prevailing conditions and longed for change, like other faithful servants of God. (Ezr 10:1; Ne 1:4; La 1:16) For centuries the Jews had been subject to foreign powers, and deteriorating religious conditions had reached even to the temple and its priesthood. Those conditions could well explain why Anna and others were earnestly “waiting for Jerusalem’s deliverance.”—Lu 2:38.
rendering sacred service: Or “worshipping.”—See study note on Lu 1:74.
God: The earliest Greek manuscripts here use The·osʹ (God). However, other Greek manuscripts and translations into Latin and Syriac use the term for “the Lord.” A number of translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures into Hebrew (referred to as J5, 7-17, 28 in App. C) use the divine name, and the phrase can be rendered “giving thanks to Jehovah.”
the Law of Jehovah: Although existing Greek manuscripts read noʹmon Ky·riʹou, “Lord’s Law,” there are good reasons for using the divine name in the main text. This expression occurs many times in the Hebrew Scriptures as a combination of the Hebrew word for “law” and the Tetragrammaton. (For example: Ex 13:9; 2Ki 10:31; 1Ch 16:40; 22:12; 2Ch 17:9; 31:3; Ne 9:3; Ps 1:2; 119:1; Isa 5:24; Jer 8:8; Am 2:4.) It is also noteworthy that the Greek definite article is not included before Kyʹri·os where it would be expected according to standard grammatical usage, making Kyʹri·os tantamount to a proper name in this context. In view of the Hebrew Scripture background and the absence of the Greek definite article, the divine name is used in the main text.—See study notes on Lu 1:6; 2:23 and App. C.
they went back into Galilee: Although this statement may seem to indicate that Joseph and Mary went straight to Nazareth after presenting Jesus at the temple, Luke’s account is highly condensed. Matthew’s account (2:1-23) provides additional details regarding the visit of the astrologers, Joseph and Mary’s flight to Egypt to escape King Herod’s murderous plan, Herod’s death, and the family’s return to Nazareth.
his parents were accustomed: The Law did not require women to attend the Passover celebration. Yet, it was Mary’s custom to accompany Joseph on the annual journey to Jerusalem for the festival. (Ex 23:17; 34:23) Each year, they made the round-trip of nearly 300 km (190 mi) with their growing family.
went up: That is, they went up to Jerusalem, a journey that involved ascending through hilly and mountainous terrain.—See study note on Lu 2:4.
asking them questions: As shown by the reaction of those listening to Jesus, his questions were not merely those of a boy seeking to satisfy his curiosity. (Lu 2:47) The Greek word rendered “asking . . . questions” could in some contexts refer to the type of questioning and counterquestioning used in a judicial examination. (Mt 27:11; Mr 14:60, 61; 15:2, 4; Ac 5:27) Historians say that some of the foremost religious leaders would customarily remain at the temple after festivals and teach at one of the spacious porches there. People could sit at the feet of those men to listen and to ask questions.
were in constant amazement: Here the form of the Greek verb for “be amazed” may denote continued or repeated astonishment.
he said to them: The words that follow are Jesus’ first words recorded in the Bible. As a young boy, Jesus was evidently not fully aware of his prehuman existence. (See study notes on Mt 3:16; Lu 3:21.) Yet, it seems reasonable that his mother and his adoptive father had passed on to him the information received during angelic visitations as well as through the prophecies of Simeon and Anna, spoken during the family’s trip to Jerusalem 40 days after Jesus’ birth. (Mt 1:20-25; 2:13, 14, 19-21; Lu 1:26-38; 2:8-38) Jesus’ reply indicates that he to some extent understood the miraculous nature of his birth and his special personal relationship with his heavenly Father, Jehovah.
I must be in the house of my Father: The Greek expression for “in the house of my Father” is literally rendered “in the [things] of my Father.” The context shows that Joseph and Mary were concerned about Jesus’ whereabouts, so it is most natural to understand these words to refer to a location, or place, that is, “the house [or “dwelling; courts”] of my Father.” (Lu 2:44-46) Later, during his ministry, Jesus specifically referred to the temple as “the house of my Father.” (Joh 2:16) According to some scholars, though, this expression could also be understood more broadly as, “I need to be concerned [or, “busy”] with the things of my Father.”
continued subject: Or “remained in subjection; remained obedient.” The continuous form of the Greek verb indicates that after impressing the teachers at the temple with his knowledge of God’s Word, Jesus went home and humbly subjected himself to his parents. This obedience was more significant than that of any other child; it was part of his fulfilling the Mosaic Law in every detail.—Ex 20:12; Ga 4:4.
sayings: Or “things.”—See study note on Lu 1:37.