An Interview with Daniel John – Part 2

Has this type of Harmonious Merger of the Gospels existed before?

Long before there were the four Gospels that we have today, placed side-by-side as a collection in the New Testament, the four accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were combined in a merged harmony called, the “Diatessaron“, in about 160 CE.  The creator of that unified Gospel account was a man named Tatian, who was a student of Justin Martyr in Rome. After Justin died, Tatian continued his school, until he came into conflict with the Church of Rome, and left the city.

A Harmony of the GospelsIt should be noted that in the year 160 CE, when Tatian was compiling his merger, there were many Gospel accounts, and collections of the sayings and teachings of Jesus Christ, being circulated throughout the growing church. By some accounts, there were more than 20 such “Gospels”. Of those, Tatian used just four, the same four accounts that are found in every New Testament of Jesus Christ today.  Why he used these four Gospel accounts, in favor or lieu of the others, was likely because he knew John’s Gospel to be inspired, and perhaps he used the other three because they were so similar.

The Diatessaron used about 96% of the Gospel of John, and added to it material from the other three Gospels.  Where two or more of the accounts were parallel, or synoptic, Tatian generally chose the version of the saying or event that contained the most detail. And perhaps this was a way of dealing with the three very similar and over-lapping accounts of Matthew-Mark-Luke, by ensuring that the essential details of the stories were preserved from each.

As the Diatessaron was much more complete than reading even any two or three Gospel accounts, it grew in popularity, and became widely accepted throughout the early church, from Rome in the west, to Byzantine in the east.  Over time, the Diatessaron replaced the use of all of the other individual Gospels, and it remained THE Gospel used throughout the church for a period of 250 years.

Due to some of his views, Tatian was considered to be a heretic by the Roman church – and it should be noted that the modern church, having changed over the past 1,800 years, would not consider such views and opinions as heretical today.  However, due partly to this, and also because of the editorial shortcomings of the Diatessaron, when the Roman Catholic church released the Vulgate version of the New Testament in Latin in the year 405 CE, Tatian’s merged harmony was not included, but rather, the four Gospels that he had used were presented as four separate accounts once again. So, long before there were the four individual Gospel that we have as a collection today, there was a merged harmony.

Since the Vulgate Bible of the fifth century, there have been many harmonies that align the overlapping and parallel verses in columns, side-by-side.   A harmony is a good tool to compare not only the words in the verses of the four Gospels, but it of necessity also provides a single timeline for all of the sayings, stories and events that combine to form the Gospel story of the Life of Jesus Christ. This is shown in the order by which all of the sayings and stories are ordered, including the parallel sections, from the beginning of the Gospel story to the end.

As for a new merger, which combines in some way the words or thought/concepts of the four individual Gospel accounts, there have only been a very few attempts since the Diatessaron. This has been partly due to the difficulty of the task, and also from a prohibition by the church on “altering” the words of God, which goes back to the time of the Vulgate Bible, when the Book of Revelation was added as the last book of the collection.

In more modern times, and into the twentieth century, there have been many more harmonies, and also a few mergers. Some of these have even included the use of colors to represent which words or wording came from which of the four Gospels.

Learning from past examples, and using a precise system of notation, The Synoptic Gospel – FIVE COLUMN goes beyond all previous harmonies and mergers by dividing the parallel verses into individual words, which are then aligned on a word-for-word and thought-for-thought basis, making it the most complete and accurate merged harmonization of the texts of the four Gospels of the New Testament that has yet been produced.

To learn more about the history and the formation of the Four Gospels of the New Testament, watch the nine part Overview of The Gospels Series.

The Red Letter Gospel – Printed Edition!

Printed editions of The Red Letter Gospel are now available, with all of the Words of Jesus Christ in bright red letters!
The paperback books feature the newest design of the “flame” cover, and are available here.

The Red Letter Gospel - cover

Of course, as always, we welcome all comments, testimonials and feedback, for this amazing new Gospel!

How Many Words of Jesus Christ are Red?

Now that The Red Letter Gospel has been completed, which is a red-lettered edition of The Synoptic Gospel, the question has been asked, “What percentage of the Gospel is just the words of Jesus Christ?”

To begin, the full word count of the complete texts of the four Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, from the English version of the NASB (New American Standard Bible), is a total of 83,680 words.

The Red Letter Gospel - Scene 674When the texts are arranged in the four Gospel harmony and word-for-word merger of FIVE COLUMN: The Synoptic Gospel, the combined Gospel is 65,460 words, or just over 22% shorter in length.  This 22% is mostly the duplication that is repeated within the parallel sections of Gospel verses, which is excluded in the combined text of the fifth column.

Counting only the original words of Jesus Christ from The Red Letter Gospel, and excluding where other people repeat in speech words that He said (which would also be colored red), the count of His words is 31,426, or almost 48% of the entire Gospel!  This means that almost one half of the entire unified Gospel story are only the words of Jesus! Amazing!

So incredible is the collection of the words of Jesus Christ, that a work has begun that will contain only His words, laid out according to the scene and verse chronology of The Synoptic Gospel.  This will be for those who want to be able to quickly see everything that Jesus Christ said, which is the real essence of the Gospel Story.

In conclusion, by my unverified count, Jesus Christ spoke some 31,426 words in the combined Gospel, which is almost one half of the entire story!

If you would like to read the red-letter words of Jesus Christ, click here to purchase your copy of The Red Letter Gospel.

New! The Red Letter Gospel!

The Red Letter Gospel coverA new version of The Synoptic Gospel PDF now features the Words that were spoken by Jesus Christ in red letters!  This red letter edition will be known as “The Red Letter Gospel“.

Now it is once again clear the Words that Jesus Himself spoke!  I say once again, because the very first version of the printed Synoptic Gospel was a red letter edition, way back in 2009.

The printed version of The Red Letter Gospel will follow, along with a red letter Kindle edition to be sold with the black-and-white version that is currently available on Amazon.com.

Check out the new PDF Edition here.

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As always, let us know what you think with your Comments and Testimonials, and Thank You, for your continued support of The Synoptic Gospel!

New! FIVE COLUMN 3.0

New updates to the FIVE COLUMN database include the following features:FIVE COLUMN - The Synoptic Gospel

  1. angled brackets < > now enclose every word that was added to the fifth column text for which there is no counterpart within the four columns of the Gospel harmony.
  2. an asterisk * indicates words in the four NASB (New American Standard Bible) columns that were compared with the Greek of the Nestle and the Westcott-Hort manuscripts as those words were being substituted into the fifth column.
  3. additional historical references to more people and locations (to help keep track of the Herods!)
  4. the new Flame cover!

Adding the angle brackets to the fifth column text is a change significant enough to warrant the inclusion of the current copyright date, and all versions of FIVE COLUMN: The Synoptic Gospel will be now be designated as:   © 2009, 2014, 2017  by Smart Publishing Ltd.

A coupon code to download a free copy of the PDF version of this new edition of FIVE COLUMN: The Synoptic Gospel has been sent to those who have purchased previous versions of the FIVE COLUMN PDF.

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All of the works that are based on the fifth column text of the FIVE COLUMN database will also be updated as Version 3.0 of The Synoptic Gospel: The Story of The Life of Jesus, including the printed book, PDF, ePub and Kindle editions.  Look for those here!

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A new channel has been created to host the current videos on FIVE COLUMN and The Synoptic Gospel, and also The Overview of the Gospel series.

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New videos will be added regularly, with the next videos to be the remaining episodes of the nine part Overview of The Gospel series.

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NEW VIDEO Explains FIVE COLUMN

In order to briefly explain how the FIVE COLUMN merged harmony of the Four GospWhat Is FIVE COLUMN?els was created, a new video has been added entitled, “What Is FIVE COLUMN?

The amazing graphics of the 12 minute video show how the verses of the original four Gospels were divided and arranged to produce a true word-for-word harmony for all of the sayings and events of the combined Gospel Story of The Life of Jesus Christ.

After watching the FIVE COLUMN video you will understand the advantages of reading a more complete and yet shorter Gospel story, that is told chronologically in 360 Scenes of Action, so that you can follow everything that happened.

A second important video called, “What Is The Synoptic Gospel?” has also been added to the Home page, which explains the features and benefits of reading the fifth column of the FIVE COLUMN database as The Synoptic GospelThe Story of The Life of Jesus.

Read FIVE COLUMN if you want to see how the words of the four Gospels were harmoniously combined, and read The Synoptic Gospel if you just want to read the complete Gospel Story, to know all that Jesus Christ said, and did, and taught.

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Commentary on Scene 121 – Gabriel Tells Mary that She will Birth A Son

Chapter 1 – The Birth of Jesus

Act 2 – The Annunciation to Mary

Scene 1 – Gabriel Tells Mary that She Will Birth A Son

Nazareth, Galilee            late December / 7 BCE

Luke 1:26-38

1  Now in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth,

2  to a virgin engaged to a man of the house of David whose name was Joseph; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

3  Coming in, Gabriel said to her, “Greetings, favored one!  The Lord is with you.”

4  But Mary was very perplexed at this statement, and pondered what kind of salutation this was.

5  The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God!

6  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son; and you shall name Him Jesus.

7  He will be great; and will be called the Son of the Most High!

8  And the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His Kingdom will have no end.”

9  Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”

10  The angel answered, and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.

11  And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age, and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month; for nothing will be impossible with God.”

12  Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word!”

13  And the angel departed from her.

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This Scene begins a new Act – The Annunciation to Mary, which details the events surrounding the conception and pregnancy of a woman named Mary, who is about to become the mother of Jesus, the Messiah (Christ).  This Scene continues the story from the Gospel of Luke, which some have called “The Birth Narrative”.

Verse 1
The Scene begins with the statement, “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God…”  (Luke 1:25~)  The word “angel” means “messenger”, and throughout the Bible these beings have brought messages from God to certain people.  It seems that Gabriel was quite a busy angelic messenger, and was connected with the announcement of important births – first to Zacharias about John, and now to Mary about Jesus.

It is noted that this same being identified as Gabriel, meaning “God is my strength”, delivered the message to a Jewish prophet named Daniel some seven hundred years before, while Daniel was a captive looking for redemption during the deportation of the Jews to Babylon.  Coincidentally, Gabriel’s message to Daniel at that time was about the future birth of a Messiah (Christ = anointed one) (Daniel 9:25-26) who would save the Jewish peoples, this very son that is now being announced by Gabriel to Mary.

The “sixth month” mentioned here is generally taken to indicate the sixth month since Gabriel spoke with Zacharias in the Temple (Scene 111 – The Birth of John is Foretold to Zacharias) as Gabriel will say later in this Scene, that Elizabeth is now “in her sixth month” of pregnancy. So the date for this scene is six months after Zacharias was told by an angel in The Temple that his wife Elizabeth would conceive John, which would make the likely timing of this event in late December of 7 BCE.

Verse 2
The angel was sent to a woman named Mary who was engaged to a man named Joseph.  Joseph was of “the house of David” as he was a descendant from the royal lineage of the great king.  This information is important when considering that the ancestral lineage of a man determined which Israelite tribe he was a member of. For the Messiah, as with any king, this was doubly important, and for Jesus there are two different genealogies given, one in the Gospel of Matthew (1:1-17) (Scene and Commentary 021)and the other in Luke (3:23-28) (Scene and Commentary 022).  It is believed that one is the ancestral lineage through the mother of the Jesus, Mary; and the other through his father, Joseph, although as we will see, Jesus was begotten by the Holy Spirit of God, and His “father” and not Joseph.

It is stated here that Mary was a virgin, in that she had not yet had sexual relations with anyone, and she herself will confirm this in verse 9. This is related to Isaiah 7:14, which states in part, “The Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” It is noted that where most translations of the Old Testament render the word “virgin” for the Hebrew word almah which can also mean merely a “young woman (or maiden)”.

Note that these words of Isaiah, are also addressed to “the house of David” (Isaiah 7:13), as a sign to Israel from “the Lord Himself”, which the Joseph is identified as being a member of, in Matthew’s genealogy.

Verse 3
“Coming in” is not a clear statement about how the angel Gabriel manifested or appeared to Mary. While this seems to imply that Gabriel entered a house or dwelling, it is also possible that this encounter with Gabriel was in a dream or a waking vision that Mary had. Either way, after greeting her, Gabriel addresses Mary by calling her “favored one”, and then telling her that “the Lord is with you,” (Luke 1:28), and that she has “found favor with God” (verse 5 – Luke 1:30).

Verse 4 – 5
Mary is “perplexed at this statement” meaning that she did not understand it. She might have been unable to think and process the appearance of the angel, as Gabriel tells her “do not be afraid”.  Fear is a normal reaction when humans meet angels.  Recall that the angel, likely this same Gabriel, also said “Do not be afraid” to Zacharias six months ago, in the Temple in Jerusalem (Scene 111 – The Birth of John is Foretold to Zacharias).

Gabriel goes on to tell Mary that she should not fear because she has “found favor with God.” What this means is that Mary will be blessed, but why Mary has been so chosen is not mentioned.

Verse 6
Gabriel tells Mary that she will conceive a son, whom she is to name, “Jesus”. Why “Jesus”? As we know, all names in the Bible have a meaning, and the name Jesus is the Greek version of the Hebrew name “Joshua” (Yehosua or Yeshua), which means, “God delivers (or saves or rescues)”.  It is later conformed in xx (  ) that Jesus will save His people, which equates with one of the understanding of the role or function of the Messiah.

It is significant to note that the angel named Mary’s child before he was even born. This is in contrast to “Immanuel” (God with us) mentioned by Isaiah as being the name of the child that would be born to a young woman (Isaiah 7:14).

Why was Mary singled out for so wonderful an honor – and so great a responsibility?  God only knows.  How great it must be to be favored by God!

Verse 7-8
Gabriel goes on to tell Mary, “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; and the Lord will give Him the throne of His father, David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”

As an aside – this description would seem to indicate that “the house of Jacob” will endure forever and have no end. The house of Jacob is the people or nation of Israel, which is strange, as there was a period of many, many centuries where the people of Israel were scattered through captivity to first Assyria and then Babylon, and there were many periods of time when there was officially no nation of Israel, until it became recognized again in the middle of the twentieth century (1948).  But that is another topic…

What must have gone through Mary’s head as she was being told this amazing news – that her son would be called the “Son of the Most High”?  And how could this child receive the throne of David, and have a kingdom that would have “no end”, when there had not been a king on the throne of Israel for 700 years, and Israel was currently controlled by the Romans?  How could any earthly kingdom “have no end”? And how is David His “father”, when the Holy Spirit of God would be His father (verse 10)?

Obviously King David is the father of Jesus in a spiritual or royal way through Mary’s own ancestral lineage.  It is a very ancient way of looking at things to say that any previous genetic ancestor was your “father”, or “mother”.

Perhaps this statement by Gabriel indicates a position or relationship of favoritism, as David was highly favored by God (1 Samuel 18:14; Acts 7:46, 13:22).  Or perhaps this is saying that as the greatest king of Israel, Jesus would once more, like David, rule over the kingdom.

King David is listed in both of the genealogies of Jesus that are found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, which some see as representing a maternal, and a paternal genealogy, meaning that Jesus is descended from king David through both His mother (see Scene 022) and also His father’s (Joseph’s) lineage (Scene 021).

Verse 9
Mary’s response to these words of the angel is to ask, “How can this be…?”  Mary is not questioning any of the specific details about the child, or what she has been told – rather she asks how this will happen, since as mentioned, she is an unmarried virgin, and she has not yet slept with Joseph, the man to whom she is betrothed.

Verse 10
The angel Gabriel tells Mary that, “the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”  (Luke 1:~35)

Now Gabriel has called the child “the Son of God”, as well as or of “the Son of the Most High”.  But here he explains that the special and unique child shall be called the “Son of God” because “the power of the Most High will overshadow” her. This clearly says that Mary would become pregnant with child, but without giving any biological details of how this would happen, so that her conception could only be viewed as a miracle from God.

A distinction is noted by the explanation of the angel that Jesus is the “Son” of God because of His unique (miraculous) birth, which is through the power of the Holy Spirit of God, and it does not mean that Jesus is physically “begotten” of or by God in some way. God is Spirit (xx) and “son” is a term used for human relationships. It is used here to show a relationship between Jesus as the human Messiah (The Anointed One), and the God that made everything and sent the Messiah.

The term and concept of “Son of God” is describing a relationship that a human mind can understand. The Spirit of Jesus, put into Mary by the Holy Spirit, was Divine or of God, but it was not of the essence of the exalted Creator God Himself.

Consider that Adam, the first “man”, is also called the “Son of God” (Luke 3:38), and so are “…all who are led by the Spirit of God” (Romans 8:14-17) called “son of God”.  The point is that it is the relationship of the spirit that is important, and not that of the flesh, and that this term “Son of God”,  as applied to Jesus, whatever He represents of Divinity, is in fundamental (essential = essence) ways a separate and distinct being from the God of Spirits Who is His Father. God generates and sends the Holy Spirit.

Verse 11
This question of Mary wasn’t exactly doubt on her part, and Gabriel tells her that her ‘relative’ Elizabeth is now in her sixth month of pregnancy, “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Many believe that Mary and Elizabeth as “relatives” were likely cousins, although it appears that Elizabeth is old enough to have been Mary’s mother or older aunt.

It is interesting to note that these two related women – one a barren, elderly woman married to a priest, and the other a young virgin betrothed to a carpenter, should be selected together for this service of bringing forth both the Messiah and also His forerunner from the same family.  Perhaps this was arranged in this way so that Jesus would be aware of, or support the baptism ministry of John.  Perhaps God had chosen the righteous Mary to be the mother of the Messiah, and then decided to honor the prayers of an elderly priest who happened to be related to her, thereby solving two issues at once.  Or maybe these were simply the two most righteous women in the kingdom who were descended from the ancestral lineage of King David, who could fulfill the ancient prophecies that the throne of David would endure forever (1 Chronicles 17:12; Isaiah 9:7; +).  Either way, there is a profound wisdom and lesson for us if we knew the full reason behind the selection of these two particular women.

Verse 12
Mary then says, “Behold the bondslave of the Lord.”  (Luke 1:~38 – NASB Edition)  “Bondslave” means slave or something very close to “slave” – one who is indentured or indebted to another person, or simply one who is subjected to the authority of another.  Originally the term may have meant one who is indebted or enslaved until there is a fulfillment or some pledge or bond, after which they would be released.  Various translations of the New Testament render this Greek word as ‘slave’, and a few as ‘servant’.  Either way, Mary here clearly acknowledges her servitude, or indebtedness, to her Master, God.  And this is always the correct attitude before God.  As Jesus Himself would later say in the Garden of Gethsemane, “what You will be done!” (Scene 811.7 – Matthew 26:39 + Mark 14:36 + Luke 22:42 ), and also “Your will be done” (812.4 – Matthew 26:42).

It can be assumed from the fact that Mary was chosen and “favored” with so great an honor as to be the human mother of the “Son of God” that she was a very righteous and pious person, and it is likely that she spent a lot of time in prayer to God (along with Zacharias and Elizabeth) – again, a lesson for us all.

With a demonstration of pure and perfect faith, Mary’s final words to the angel Gabriel are, “…may it be done to me according to your word.” By this Mary indicates her complete trust in God by believing the Word of His messenger, the angel Gabriel who now stands before her.

Verse 13
Gabriel, having fulfilled his commission as an angel (messenger) of God to deliver the message, then departs or disappears, presumably by simply vanishing before her eyes, or maybe by walking out the door, or by leaving her dream or vision.

No doubt Mary would be very happy at this amazing announcement, that she would birth a son by Divine decree, and we will see what she does, in the next scene.

Commentary on Scene 112 – Elizabeth Becomes Pregnant with John

Chapter 1 – The Birth of Jesus

Act 1 – Prophecy About John

Scene 2 – Elizabeth Becomes Pregnant with John

Judean hill country,  Judea          summer / 7 BCE

Luke 1:24-25

  1. After these days Zacharias’ wife Elizabeth became pregnant,
  2. and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace from among men.”

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This very short Scene of only two verses is the continuation of the narrative from the Gospel of Luke in the last commentary (Scene 111) as it continues the story after the priest Zacharias has returned home from his tour of service in the Temple in Jerusalem.

It is assumed that either immediately or soon after returning to his wife Elizabeth, whom he has not seen for at least two weeks, Zacharias would try and couple with her to produce the baby that had been promised to him by the angel Gabriel.  Most likely Zacharias slept with his wife as soon as he returned home, as he had been told by the angel Gabriel in the last Scene, that because he had doubted the words of the angel, he would be unable to speak “until the day when these things take place.”  Either way, soon after his return home, Zacharias’ wife, Elizabeth, becomes pregnant with child.

During a five month period of “seclusion”, when Elizabeth isolated herself in her home and away from everyone, she gives an interesting statement, which many have taken to mean that she was publicly disgraced until now, at her advanced age, by being childless.

When the command has been given by God to “Be fruitful and multiply…” (Genesis 1:28) being barren is generally a cause for shame, and children were seen as a blessing from God, and considered a sign of God’s favor.

It is interesting to note that there are at least seven women mentioned in the Bible as being barren.  Of them, six eventually conceived, and a few, like Elizabeth, became pregnant in their old age.  Of course, any time that a couple is childless, it could also be the fault of the male, but in this case the Scripture says, “…because Elizabeth was barren…”  (Luke 1:7)

While one woman (Michal – the daughter of Saul who loved David) remained childless by choice, the other six who bore children all gave birth to a male child.  And each of these boys would become very important figures who would all play a crucial role in the development of the nation of Israel.

Some of these barren women include Sarah, the wife of Abraham, and one generation later, Rebekah, the wife of their miracle son Isaac.  Without either of these two remarkable births the Jewish nation might not have been, or at least, things might have turned out very differently…

Of course it is God that seals and opens the wombs of these women.  Looking at those who were barren, and the sons who were eventually born to them, it is clear that God used barren women and the miracle of their children to further His purpose.  It is also apparent therefore, that being barren may in fact be a huge blessing from God.  And also, that if you are childless, continue to pray to God that he might give you children, as He did to Elizabeth.

Children are always a blessing from God, and Elizabeth clearly acknowledges that the Lord has, “…looked with favor,…” upon her (Luke 1:25).

Through her child, this miracle son that would be born, the Jewish nation, and the entire world, would be blessed.

Commentary on Scene 111 – The Birth of John is Foretold to Zacharias

Chapter 1 – The Birth of Jesus

Act 1 – Prophecy About John

Scene 1 – The Birth of John is Foretold to Zacharias

Mark 1:1 / Luke 1:5-23

This commentary begins a new Chapter – Chapter 1 – entitled, The Birth of Jesus.  You can probably guess what this Chapter is about…

This first Scene of the Chapter is taken entirely from the Gospel of Luke, with the exception of one verse from the Gospel of Mark, which is its opening line (Mark 1:1). There are no parallel verses shared between the Gospels in this scene. The contents of this Scene, along with the next few Scenes which are also taken entirely from the Gospel of Luke, have been called, The Birth Narrative.

Although the author, Luke, was not an apostle or disciple of Jesus Christ, and had never met Him in the flesh, he wanted to write an account which he compiled from the testimonies of “those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word”, as he stated in the second verse of his Gospel. This group included some of the apostles of Jesus, and people who had been with Him, which likely included His family.

Luke’s Gospel is the longest of the four Gospels (at 1,151 verses), and it contains many details and stories that are not found in the other Gospel accounts.  The Gospel of Luke is often recited around Christmastime for the details that it provides about the birth story of Jesus. For more information on Luke, see the very first post of this series.

Verse 2 to 4
This Act begins with an older childless Levite priest named Zacharias, from the tribe of Abijah, who is serving in the Jerusalem Temple during the rotation of his order.

Verse 5 and 6
While inside The Temple, burning incense to God, an angel named “Gabriel” (verse 13) appears to Zacharias, and speaks with him. Whatever type of spiritual being an angel is, the word “angel” means “messenger” in Greek.  The name “Gabriel” means, “able-bodied (strong) one of God”, or “God is my hero”.

As a further side-note on Gabriel, Gabriel is one of only two angels mentioned by name in the standard Protestant Bible, the other one being, “Michael” (Jude 1:9; Revelation 12:7).  For this reason, many assume that Gabriel is likely also an “arch-angel”, a chief or principal angel – one who has authority over other angels.  It is interesting to note that the “el” at the end of both of their names means “of God” (like Daniel and Nathaniel, etc.)

Gabriel is, or represents, the same angelic messenger who first gave the prophecy of revelation about the coming Messiah to Daniel, when he had been a captive in Babylon some 600 years before (Daniel 8:16).

Verse 7
Zacharias, serving alone by candle-light in the darkened inner room of The Temple, was afraid when he saw the angel. Although Zacharias was fearful of the angel, the appearance of the Gabriel to Zacharias was likely that of Gabriel to Daniel, and that is “like a man” (Daniel 8:15). Daniel was also afraid, when he encountered Gabriel (Daniel 8:17).

Verse 8 – 9
Gabriel tells Zacharias that (despite their advanced age) he and his wife will conceive a son, whom they are to name “John”.

Verse 10
Part of the mission of the forerunner to the Messiah will be to, “… turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God.”  (Luke 1:16) Why does Gabriel mention the power and spirit of Elijah?  Jesus, the Messiah, would later confirm that “… if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come.”  (Matthew 11:14) 

But why Elijah?  Of all of the great prophets that are mentioned in the Old Testament, why is it the prophet Elijah? This is truly a very important and profound mystery – one for which I have never yet heard the right explanation – either from a Christian, who seems not to be overly bothered by the statement and its implications, or from a Jewish person, especially a “Messianic” Jew – who still, after some 2,500 years, sets a cup for Elijah (Kos shel Eliyahu ha-Navi) every year at the table of their annual Seder (Passover) meal.  At this point many also open the front door to symbolically, or literally, invite Elijah in.  The topic of “why Elijah?” will be mentioned in another post on this blog, after the Scene when John has baptized Jesus as the Messiah – the Christ.

Verse 11
The angel Gabriel then goes on to quote some of the closing lines from the Book of Malachi about the Messiah, which states, “…to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children.” (Malachi 4:5-6)

By this statement Gabriel means that John will prepare some of the Israelite people to meet their long-promised Messiah, for whom all of the Jewish people had long been patiently waiting.  Gabriel says that Zacharias’ son “will be filled with the Holy Spirit, while still in his mother’s womb.” Truly this will be a remarkable child, and a man with a mission!

Verse 12
Well, for whatever reason, this priest Zacharias, who was serving and burning incense at that very moment in The Temple, did not believe what the angel Gabriel was telling him, and Zacharias doubted, and in essence he almost even asked for proof of the miracle that was being told to him.  He asked, “How will I know this for certain? …”  (Luke 1:18).

Verse 13-14
For this act of unbelief the angel Gabriel seals the mouth of Zacharias so that he is unable to speak, until the time that the promised son, whom the angel tells Zacharias to name “John”, is born. Note that Zacharias is told to name his son John, which means, “Graced by God”, or “God is Grace” or “Gracious”.

Since Zacharias’ wife was not yet even pregnant, this would mean at least nine months of silence, before Zacharias would be able to speak again…  It is best not to doubt the words of God, or what is spoken to you by His angels!

At the end of his rotation of service in the Jerusalem Temple with his Abijan brethren, Zacharias returned home to his wife, Elizabeth, still unable to speak. It is without doubt that so that he would be able to speak, Zacharias had relations with his wife Elizabeth, as soon as he returned home.

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Additional Note
This is the first scene of The Synoptic Gospel to include a date and a location, which are noted in the header of the Scene. As Zacharias is in The Temple, the location for the action is the city of Jerusalem, which is within the province or territory of Judea.

As for the date, which is a crucial first step in establishing the timing for the birth and life of Jesus, without getting into too much detail, there was an annual schedule where the priests from the divisions of priests that were established by King David (1 Chronicles 24:1-18) during each year would do two two-week long periods of service in The Temple.  It is from this fact, along with the details provided in this part of Luke’s Gospel that a guess can be made about what time of year this meeting between Zacharias, the father of John, and the angel Gabriel, might have taken place in The Temple.  This detailed information will be available in the companion book, The Timeline of the Life of Jesus, which will be published in 2018.

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