Luke: The Greek form of the name is Lou·kasʹ, from the Latin name Lucas. Luke, the writer of this Gospel and of Acts of Apostles, was a physician and a faithful companion to the apostle Paul. (Col 4:14; see also “Introduction to Luke.”) Because of his Greek name and his style of writing, some have claimed that Luke was not a Jew. Also, at Col 4:10-14, Paul first speaks of “those circumcised” and later mentions Luke. However, that claim runs contrary to the indication at Ro 3:1, 2, which says that the Jews “were entrusted with the sacred pronouncements of God.” Therefore, Luke may have been a Greek-speaking Jew with a Greek name.
According to Luke: None of the Gospel writers identify themselves as such in their accounts, and titles are evidently not part of the original text. In some manuscripts of Luke’s Gospel, the title appears as Eu·ag·geʹli·on Ka·taʹ Lou·kanʹ (“Good News [or, “Gospel”] According to Luke”), whereas in others a shorter title, Ka·taʹ Lou·kanʹ (“According to Luke”), is used. It is not clear exactly when such titles were added or began to be used. Some suggest the second century C.E., since examples of the longer title have been found in Gospel manuscripts that have been dated to the end of the second century or early third century. According to some scholars, the opening words of Mark’s book (“The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God”) may have been the reason why the term “gospel” (lit., “good news”) came to be used to describe these accounts. The use of such titles along with the name of the writer may have come about for practical reasons, providing a clear means of identification of the books.
that are given full credence: The Greek expression could also be rendered “that are given full credibility.” It highlights that the facts had been thoroughly examined. Combining this with the expression among us indicates that there was full conviction among Christians that all things connected with Christ had been fulfilled and had proved true and were worthy of being accepted with confidence. Therefore, some translations use such phrases as “that have been fully believed among us.” In other contexts, forms of the same Greek word are rendered “fully convinced” and “with firm conviction.”—Ro 4:21; 14:5; Col 4:12.
attendants of the message: Or “servants of the word.” Two translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures into Hebrew (referred to as J18, 22 in App. C) here use the Tetragrammaton and read “servants of Jehovah’s word.”
traced: Or “carefully investigated.” Luke was not an eyewitness to the events he recorded. So in addition to being inspired by holy spirit, he evidently based his account on the following sources: (1) Written records available to him as he compiled Jesus’ genealogy. (Lu 3:23-38) (2) The inspired account penned by Matthew. (3) Personal interviews with many eyewitnesses (Lu 1:2), such as the surviving disciples and possibly Jesus’ mother, Mary. Nearly 60 percent of the material in Luke’s Gospel is unique to his account.—See “Introduction to Luke.”
in logical order: Or “in an orderly sequence.” The Greek expression ka·the·xesʹ, rendered “in logical order,” can refer to sequence of time, topic, or logic, but it does not necessarily denote strict chronological order. That Luke did not always record the events in chronological sequence is evident from Lu 3:18-21. Therefore, all four Gospel accounts need to be examined to establish the order of events during Jesus’ life and ministry. Luke generally related events in chronological order, but he evidently allowed other factors to influence his systematic presentation of events and topics.
most excellent: The Greek word for “most excellent” (kraʹti·stos) is used in an official sense when addressing high officials. (Ac 23:26; 24:3; 26:25) Therefore, some scholars feel that this term may indicate that Theophilus held a high position before becoming a Christian. Others understand the Greek term to be simply a friendly or polite form of address or an expression of high esteem. Theophilus was evidently a Christian, for he had already been “taught orally” about Jesus Christ and his ministry. (Lu 1:4) Luke’s written statement would have served to assure him of the certainty of what he had previously learned by word of mouth. However, there are other views on this matter. Some feel that Theophilus was at first an interested person who later converted, whereas others feel that the name, meaning “Loved by God; Friend of God,” was used as a pseudonym for Christians in general. When addressing Theophilus at the beginning of Acts of Apostles, Luke does not use the expression “most excellent.”—Ac 1:1.
Herod: Refers to Herod the Great.—See Glossary.
Zechariah: From the Hebrew name meaning “Jehovah Has Remembered.” Some Bible translations use “Zacharias,” reflecting the Greek form of the name.
the division of Abijah: Abijah was a priestly descendant of Aaron. In King David’s day, Abijah was recognized as head of one of the paternal houses of Israel. David divided the priesthood into 24 divisions, each to serve at the sanctuary in Jerusalem for a one-week period every six months. The paternal house of Abijah was chosen by lot to head the eighth division. (1Ch 24:3-10) “The division of Abijah” did not necessarily have to do with the line of descent of Zechariah but with the priestly division with which Zechariah was assigned to serve.—See study note on Lu 1:9.
Abijah: From the Hebrew name meaning “My Father Is Jehovah.”
Elizabeth: The Greek name E·lei·saʹbet comes from the Hebrew name ʼE·li·sheʹvaʽ (Elisheba), meaning “My God Is Plenty; God of Plenty.” Elizabeth was from the daughters of Aaron, that is, a descendant of Aaron, so John’s parents were both of priestly descent.
Jehovah: In this translation, this is the first occurrence of the divine name in the Gospel of Luke. Although existing Greek manuscripts use the word Kyʹri·os (Lord) here, there are good reasons to believe that the divine name was originally used in this verse and later replaced with the title Lord. (See App. C1 and C3 introduction; Lu 1:6.) The first two chapters of Luke’s account are rich with references to and allusions to expressions and passages in the Hebrew Scriptures where the divine name occurs. For example, the phrase commandments and legal requirements and similar combinations of legal terms can be found in the Hebrew Scriptures in contexts where the divine name is used or where Jehovah is speaking.—Ge 26:2, 5; Nu 36:13; De 4:40; 27:10; Eze 36:23, 27.
his turn to offer incense: High Priest Aaron initially offered the incense on the golden altar. (Ex 30:7) However, his son Eleazar was given oversight of the incense and other tabernacle items. (Nu 4:16) Zechariah, who was an underpriest, is here described as burning the incense, so it appears that handling this service, except on the Day of Atonement, was not restricted to the high priest. The burning of incense may have been considered the most esteemed of the daily services at the temple. It was done after the sacrifice was offered, and during that time, the people would be gathered for prayer outside the sanctuary. According to Rabbinic tradition, lots were drawn for this service but a priest who had previously officiated was not allowed to do so again unless all present had performed the service before. If this is so, a priest might have the honor only once in a lifetime.
sanctuary: In this context, the Greek word na·osʹ refers to the central temple building. When it was Zechariah’s “turn to offer incense,” he had to enter the Holy, the first compartment of the sanctuary, where the altar of incense was located.—See study notes on Mt 27:5; 27:51 and App. B11.
the sanctuary of Jehovah: As mentioned in the study note on Lu 1:6, the first two chapters of Luke’s account are rich with references to and allusions to passages and expressions in the Hebrew Scriptures where the divine name occurs. For example, expressions corresponding to the combination “sanctuary [or “temple”] of Jehovah” often include the Tetragrammaton. (Nu 19:20; 2Ki 18:16; 23:4; 24:13; 2Ch 26:16; 27:2; Jer 24:1; Eze 8:16; Hag 2:15) As explained in App. C1, there are good reasons to believe that the divine name was originally used in this verse and later replaced with the title Lord. Therefore, the name Jehovah is used in the main text.—See App. C3 introduction; Lu 1:9.
Jehovah’s angel: Starting at Ge 16:7, this phrase is often found in the Hebrew Scriptures as a combination of the Hebrew word for “angel” and the Tetragrammaton. When it occurs at Zec 3:5, 6 in an early copy of the Septuagint, the Greek word agʹge·los (angel; messenger) is followed by the divine name written in Hebrew characters. This fragment, found in a cave in Nahal Hever, Israel, in the Judean Desert, is dated between 50 B.C.E. and 50 C.E. The reasons why the New World Translation uses the expression “Jehovah’s angel” in the main text, although available Greek manuscripts of Lu 1:11 read “Lord’s angel,” are explained in App. C1 and C3.
John: See study note on Mt 3:1.
in the sight of Jehovah: The Greek expression e·noʹpi·on Ky·riʹou (lit., “in sight of [before] Lord”) reflects a Hebrew idiom and occurs over 100 times in existing copies of the Septuagint as a translation of Hebrew phrases where the Tetragrammaton is used in the original text. (Jg 11:11; 1Sa 10:19; 2Sa 5:3; 6:5) The Hebrew Scripture background for this expression is an indication that Kyʹri·os is here used as a substitute for the divine name.—See App. C3 introduction; Lu 1:15.
Jehovah: The angel’s message to Zechariah (vss. 13-17) strongly reflects language used in the Hebrew Scriptures. For example, the combination of Kyʹri·os (Lord) and The·osʹ (God) along with a personal pronoun (here rendered Jehovah their God) is common in quotations from the Hebrew Scriptures. (Compare the expression “Jehovah your God” at Lu 4:8, 12; 10:27.) In the Hebrew Scriptures, the combination “Jehovah their God” occurs over 30 times, whereas the expression “the Lord their God” is never used. Also, the term the sons of Israel reflects a Hebrew idiom used many times in the Hebrew Scriptures, meaning “the people of Israel” or “the Israelites.”—Ge 36:31; ftn.; see App. C3 introduction; Lu 1:16.
Elijah’s: From the Hebrew name meaning “My God Is Jehovah.”
to turn back the hearts of fathers to children: This expression, quoting a prophecy at Mal 4:6, is not foretelling a general reconciliation between fathers and their children. Rather, John’s message would move fathers to repent, changing their hard hearts into humble, teachable hearts, like those of obedient children. Some would become children of God. Malachi similarly foretold that the hearts of sons would turn back to fathers, meaning that repentant men would become more like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, their faithful forefathers.
get ready for Jehovah a prepared people: The angel’s words to Zechariah (vss. 13-17) contain allusions to such verses as Mal 3:1; 4:5, 6; and Isa 40:3, where the divine name is used. (See study notes on Lu 1:15, 16.) An expression similar to the Greek phrase for to get ready . . . a people can be found in the Septuagint at 2Sa 7:24, where the Hebrew text reads: “You established your people Israel . . . , O Jehovah.”—See App. C3 introduction; Lu 1:17.
Gabriel: From the Hebrew name meaning “A Strong (Able-Bodied) One of God.” (Da 8:15, 16) Other than Michael, Gabriel is the only angel named in the Bible and the only materialized angel to reveal his own name.
declare this good news: The Greek verb eu·ag·ge·liʹzo·mai is related to the noun eu·ag·geʹli·on, “good news.” The angel Gabriel is here acting as an evangelizer.—See study notes on Mt 4:23; 24:14; 26:13.
holy service: Or “public service.” The Greek word lei·tour·giʹa used here and the related words lei·tour·geʹo (to render public service) and lei·tour·gosʹ (public servant, or worker) were used by the ancient Greeks and Romans to refer to work or service for the State or for civil authorities and done for the benefit of the people. For example, at Ro 13:6, the secular authorities are called God’s “public servants” (plural form of lei·tour·gosʹ) in the sense that they provide beneficial services for the people. The term as used here by Luke reflects the usage found in the Septuagint, where the verb and noun forms of this expression frequently refer to the temple service of the priests and Levites. (Ex 28:35; Nu 8:22) Service performed at the temple included the idea of a public service for the benefit of the people. However, it also included holiness, since the Levitical priests taught God’s Law and offered sacrifices that covered the sins of the people.—2Ch 15:3; Mal 2:7.
how Jehovah has dealt with me: Or “what Jehovah has done for me.” Here Elizabeth expresses her gratitude in a way that may bring to mind Sarah’s experience as described at Ge 21:1, in which verse the divine name occurs. Elizabeth’s comment about how her reproach of being childless has been taken away echoes the words of Rachel, recorded at Ge 30:23.—See App. C1 and C3 introduction; Lu 1:25.
In her sixth month: That is, the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, as shown by the context, verses 24 and 25. Lit., “In the sixth month.”
promised in marriage: See study note on Mt 1:18.
Mary: Corresponding to the Hebrew name “Miriam.” Six women in the Christian Greek Scriptures are named Mary: (1) Mary the mother of Jesus, (2) Mary Magdalene (Mt 27:56; Lu 8:2; 24:10), (3) Mary the mother of James and Joses (Mt 27:56; Lu 24:10), (4) Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus (Lu 10:39; Joh 11:1), (5) Mary the mother of John Mark (Ac 12:12), and (6) Mary of Rome (Ro 16:6). In Jesus’ day, Mary was one of the most common female names.
Jehovah is with you: This and similar phrases that include the divine name often occur in the Hebrew Scriptures. (Ru 2:4; 2Sa 7:3; 2Ch 15:2; Jer 1:19) The angel’s greeting to Mary is similar to the words used when Jehovah’s angel addressed Gideon at Jg 6:12: “Jehovah is with you, you mighty warrior.”—See App. C1 and C3 introduction; Lu 1:28.
Jesus: See study note on Mt 1:21.
Jehovah God: As mentioned in the study note on Lu 1:6, the first two chapters of Luke’s account are rich with references to and allusions to passages and expressions in the Hebrew Scriptures where the divine name occurs. The angel’s words about the throne of David are an allusion to the promise at 2Sa 7:12, 13, 16, where Jehovah is speaking to David through the prophet Nathan and where the Tetragrammaton occurs several times in the immediate context. (2Sa 7:4-16) In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the expression here rendered “Jehovah God” and similar combinations occur mainly in quotes from the Hebrew Scriptures or in passages reflecting Hebrew language style.—See study note on Lu 1:16 and App. C3 introduction; Lu 1:32.
your relative: This form of the Greek term (spelled syg·ge·nisʹ) occurs only once in the Christian Greek Scriptures, but another spelling (syg·ge·nesʹ) of the word is used in other verses. (Lu 1:58; 21:16; Ac 10:24; Ro 9:3) Both terms refer to a relative in general, someone belonging to the same extended family or clan. So Mary and Elizabeth were related, but the exact relationship is not specified. Zechariah and Elizabeth were of the tribe of Levi and Joseph and Mary were of the tribe of Judah, so the relationship may not have been close.
no declaration will be impossible for God: Or “no word from God will ever fail.” Or possibly, “nothing will be impossible for God.” The Greek word rheʹma, rendered “declaration,” can refer to “a word; a saying; a declaration.” Or it can refer to “a thing; the thing spoken of,” whether an event, an action described, or the result of what has been declared. Although the Greek text could be rendered in different ways, the overall meaning remains the same, namely, that nothing is impossible as far as God is concerned or with respect to any of his promises. The wording here is similar to the Septuagint rendering of Ge 18:14, where Jehovah assured Abraham that his wife, Sarah, would give birth to Isaac in her old age.
Look! Jehovah’s slave girl!: With these words, Mary echoes expressions of other servants of Jehovah mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures. For example, Hannah says in her prayer recorded at 1Sa 1:11: “O Jehovah of armies, if you look upon the affliction of your servant [or, “slave girl”].” At 1Sa 1:11, the Septuagint uses the same Greek word for “slave girl” as is used in Luke’s account.—See App. C3 introduction; Lu 1:38.
traveled . . . into the mountainous country: From Mary’s home in Nazareth, this trip into the Judean hills might have taken three or four days, depending on where the city of Zechariah and Elizabeth was located. The distance may have been 100 km (60 mi) or more.
the fruitage of your womb: Or “the child in your womb.” The Greek word for “fruit; fruitage” (kar·posʹ) is here used figuratively together with the term rendered “womb” to refer to an unborn child. The whole expression reflects a Hebrew idiom that refers to offspring as a “fruit; fruitage,” or product, of human reproduction.—Ge 30:2, ftn.; De 7:13, ftn.; 28:4, ftn.; Ps 127:3; 132:11, ftn.; Isa 13:18; La 2:20, ftn.
from Jehovah: The things spoken to Mary by the angel had their origin with Jehovah God. The Greek expression pa·raʹ Ky·riʹou, here rendered “from Jehovah,” occurs in existing copies of the Septuagint as a translation of Hebrew expressions in which the divine name is typically used.—Ge 24:50; Jg 14:4; 1Sa 1:20; Isa 21:10; Jer 11:1; 18:1; 21:1; see App. C3 introduction; Lu 1:45.
And Mary said: Mary’s words of praise that follow in verses 46-55 contain well over 20 references to or allusions to the Hebrew Scriptures. Many of her expressions echo words of the prayer of Hannah, Samuel’s mother, who also received a blessing from Jehovah in the matter of childbirth. (1Sa 2:1-10) Some other examples of expressions referred to or alluded to can be found at Ps 35:9; Hab 3:18; Isa 61:10 (vs. 47); Ge 30:13; Mal 3:12 (vs. 48); De 10:21; Ps 111:9 (vs. 49); Job 12:19 (vs. 52); Ps 107:9 (vs. 53); Isa 41:8, 9; Ps 98:3 (vs. 54); Mic 7:20; Isa 41:8; 2Sa 22:51 (vs. 55). Mary’s words give evidence of her spirituality and her knowledge of the Scriptures. They show her appreciative attitude. Her words also reveal the depth of her faith, as she spoke of Jehovah as abasing the haughty and powerful and as helping the lowly and poor who seek to serve him.
My soul: Or “My whole being.” The Greek word psy·kheʹ, traditionally rendered “soul,” here refers to a person’s entire being. In this context, “my soul” can also be rendered “I.”—See Glossary, “Soul.”
My soul magnifies Jehovah: Or “My soul praises (proclaims) the greatness of Jehovah.” These words of Mary may echo passages in the Hebrew Scriptures, such as Ps 34:3 and 69:30, where the divine name is used in the same verse or in the context. (Ps 69:31) In these verses, the same Greek word for “magnify” (me·ga·lyʹno) is used in the Septuagint.—See study note on And Mary said in this verse and study notes on Lu 1:6, 25, 38 and App. C3 introduction; Lu 1:46.
that Jehovah had magnified his mercy to her: This expression reflects the wording of verses in the Hebrew Scriptures, including Ge 19:18-20, where Lot addresses Jehovah by saying: “Jehovah! . . . You are showing great kindness to me [lit., “You are magnifying your kindness”].”—See App. C3 introduction; Lu 1:58.
hand: This term is often used figuratively for “power.” Since the hand applies the power of the arm, “hand” may also convey the idea of “applied power.”
hand of Jehovah: This phrase, as well as “Jehovah’s hand,” is often found in the Hebrew Scriptures as a combination of the Hebrew word for “hand” and the Tetragrammaton. (Ex 9:3; Nu 11:23; Jg 2:15; Ru 1:13; 1Sa 5:6, 9; 7:13; 12:15; 1Ki 18:46; Ezr 7:6; Job 12:9; Isa 19:16; 40:2; Eze 1:3) The Greek expression rendered “hand of Jehovah” also occurs at Ac 11:21; 13:11.—See study notes on Lu 1:6, 9; Ac 11:21 and App. C3 introduction; Lu 1:66.
Let Jehovah be praised: Or “Blessed be Jehovah.” This expression of praise is common in the Hebrew Scriptures, where it is often used with the divine name.—1Sa 25:32; 1Ki 1:48; 8:15; Ps 41:13; 72:18; 106:48; see App. C3 introduction; Lu 1:68.
a horn of salvation: Or “a powerful savior.” In the Bible, animal horns often represent strength, conquest, and victory. (1Sa 2:1; Ps 75:4, 5, 10; 148:14; ftns.) Also, rulers and ruling dynasties, both the righteous and the wicked, are symbolized by horns, and their achieving of conquests was likened to pushing with horns. (De 33:17; Da 7:24; 8:2-10, 20-24) In this context, the expression “a horn of salvation” refers to the Messiah as the one having power to save, a mighty savior.—See Glossary, “Horn.”
rendering sacred service to him: Or “worshipping him.” The Greek verb la·treuʹo basically denotes serving. As used in the Scriptures, it refers to rendering service to God or in connection with the worship of him (Mt 4:10; Lu 2:37; 4:8; Ac 7:7; Ro 1:9; Php 3:3; 2Ti 1:3; Heb 9:14; 12:28; Re 7:15; 22:3) or to rendering service at the sanctuary or temple (Heb 8:5; 9:9; 10:2; 13:10). Thus, in some contexts the expression can also be rendered “to worship.” In a few cases, it is used in connection with false worship—rendering service to, or worshipping, created things.—Ac 7:42; Ro 1:25.
Jehovah: The prophetic words of Zechariah in the second part of this verse reflect the wording of Isa 40:3 and Mal 3:1, where the divine name, represented by four Hebrew consonants (transliterated YHWH), occurs in the original Hebrew text.—See study notes on Lu 1:6, 16, 17; 3:4 and App. C3 introduction; Lu 1:76.
you will go ahead of Jehovah: John the Baptist would “go ahead of Jehovah” in the sense that he would be the forerunner of Jesus, who would represent his Father and come in his Father’s name.—Joh 5:43; 8:29; see the study note on Jehovah in this verse.