From: Over 50 Interpreters Explain the Gospel of Luke Return to Home
By Roland H. Worth, Jr. © 2015
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Weymouth: Seeing that many have attempted to draw up a narrative of the facts which are received with full assurance among us
WEB: Since many have undertaken to set in order a narrative concerning those matters which have been fulfilled among us,
Young’s: Seeing that many did take in hand to set in order a narration of the matters that have been fully assured among us,
Conte (RC): Since, indeed, many have attempted to set in order a narrative of the things that have been completed among us,
1:1 Forasmuch as many. The fact that many of the early Christians attempted to put in writing the story of Christ as delivered to them by the Apostles, is mentioned only in this place; and from the language used here it appears that these attempts were but partially successful. Luke, however, does not condemn the writers; he merely intimates the imperfection of the writings. Of the large number of documents in circulation, each contained a part, and a few, perhaps, many parts of the gospel history, but none of them set it forth as a complete whole. Still, the great interest and value of even these fragmentary productions led the Evangelist to perceive how important it would be to embody in a single work all the information treasured up in these separate menoranda, together with other facts and details which had come to his knowledge, or which could be acquired by diligent research; and to arrange the whole into a regular, consecutive and orderly narrative. 
The writer does not here speak of the other genuine Gospels, as we perceive by his own words. But St. Matthew and St. John were themselves eyewitnesses. While St. Mark cannot be spoken of as "many" even if his Gospel (which is doubted) were then written. 
The older exegetes understood the word as referring to heretical or apocryphal gospels, of course by way of censure. This view is abandoned by recent commentators, for whom the question of interest rather is: were Matthew’s Logia and Mark's Gospel among the earlier contributions which Luke had in his eye? This question cannot be decided by exegesis, and answers vary according to the critical theories of those who discuss the topic. All that need be said here is that there is no apparent urgent reason for excluding Matthew and Mark from the crowd of early essayist. 
What the documents likely were: These many attempts to narrate the earthly life of the Saviour were probably those collections of traditional memorials, parables and miracles (logia, diegeseis), of which all that was most valuable was incorporated in our four Gospels. Setting aside the Apocryphal Gospels, which are for the most part worthless and even pernicious forgeries, Christian tradition has not preserved for us one trustworthy event of the life of Christ, and barely a dozen sayings (agrapha dogmata like that preserved by Paul in Acts 20:35) which are not found in the Gospels. 
have taken in hand. The [Greek] word carries the sense of a difficult undertaking (see Acts xix. 13), and implies that previous attempts have not been successful. It occurs frequently in medical language. Hippocrates begins one of his medical treatises very much as Luke begins his gospel. "As many as have taken in hand to speak or to write concerning the healing art." 
to set forth in order a declaration. Not a disorganized jumble of quotes and events with no discernible order and pattern, but a thought out presentation of the course of events and teachings that He delivered. Presented in a manner most beneficial to the reader. [rw]
of those things which are most surely believed among us. Christianity is built upon facts (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). 
Among Christians: such things as were taught to all on their admission to the Church. 
There was evidently no questioning in the Church of the first days about the truth of the story of the teaching and the mighty works of Jesus of Nazareth. It was the incompleteness of these first evangelists, rather than their inaccuracy, which induced St. Luke to take in hand a new Gospel. 
Alternative translation examined: Others render it “which have been fulfilled,” “have found their accomplishment;” but the analogous uses of the same Greek verb in Romans 4:21, 14:5, and 2 Timothy 4:17, and especially of the substantive plerophoria in 1 Thessalonians 1:5, Hebrews 6:11, support the English version. The expression is most important as shewing that whatever might be the defects of the narratives there was no hesitation about the facts. “The work of these unknown first Evangelists was new only in form and not in substance.” Westcott, Introduction, page 174. 
In depth: Does Luke include Matthew and Mark among the earlier writings describing the life of Christ ? This is maintained by those who think that Luke wrote after Matthew and Mark (Hug), or only after Matthew (Griesbach, etc.). But however little Luke shared in the traditional opinion which attributed the first Gospel to the Apostle Matthew, he could not speak of that writing as he speaks here; for he clearly opposes to the writers of the tradition [who wrote inadequate or incomplete accounts, verse 1, with] the apostles who were the authors of it. [Hence] it may be affirmed that Luke was not acquainted with a single written Gospel emanating from an apostle. As to the collection of the "Logia" (discourses of the Lord), which some attribute to Matthew, it would certainly not be excluded by Luke's expression.
As to the gospel of Mark, Luke's expressions might certainly suit this writing. For, according to tradition, Mark made use in his narrative of the accounts of an eyewitness, Peter. But still it may be questioned whether Luke would have employed the term "undertake" in speaking of a work which was received in the Church as one of the essential documents of the life of Jesus. For the rest, exegesis alone can determine whether Luke really had Mark before him either in its present or a more ancient form. It appears probable, therefore, to me, that the works to which Luke alludes are writings really unknown and lost. Their incompleteness condemned them to extinction, in proportion as writings of superior value, such as our Synoptics, spread through the church.
As to whether Luke availed himself of these writings, and in any way embodied them in his own work he does not inform us. But is it not probable, since he was acquainted with them, that he would make some use of them? Every aid would appear precious to him in a work the importance of which he so deeply felt.
In depth: Characteristics of Luke’s introduction to his gospel account . This brief preface is in several respects most interesting and important.
i. It is the only personal introduction to any historic book in the Bible except the Acts. It is specially valuable here as authenticating the first two chapters and shewing that Marcion’s excision of them was only due to his desire to suppress the true humanity of Christ, as his other mutilations of the Gospel—which made it “like a garment eaten by months,” Epiphan.—were due to hostility to the Old Testament.
ii. The style in which it is written is purer and more polished than that of the rest of the Gospel, though it is “the most literary of the Gospels.” It was the custom of antiquity to give special elaboration to the opening clauses of a great work, as we see in the histories of Thucydides, Livy, etc. In the rest of the Gospel the style of the Evangelist is often largely modified by the documents of which he made such diligent use.
iii. It shews us in the simplest and most striking manner that the Divine Inspiration was in no way intended to supersede the exercise of human diligence and judgment.’
iv. It proves how “many” early attempts to narrate the life of Christ have perished. We may well suppose that they have only perished because the Four Evangelists were guided by “a grace of superintendency” to select and to record all that was most needful for us to know, and to preserve everything which was accurate and essential in the narratives which had previously been published.
v. It furnishes us on the very threshold with a key to the aims of the Evangelist in the more systematic and comprehensive history which he is now led to write. With a modesty, which is also evinced by his self-suppression in the Acts of the Apostles, he here lays claim to nothing beyond methodical order and diligent research.
vi. We see at once from this preface the association of thought and expression between Luke and his great Teacher. Several of the most marked words, “attempted,” “most surely believed,” “orally instructed,” “certainty,” are only found elsewhere in the letters and speeches of Paul.
Weymouth: on the authority of those who were from the beginning eye-witnesses and were devoted to the service of the divine Message,
WEB: even as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word delivered them to us,
Young’s: as they did deliver to us, who from the
beginning became eye-witnesses, and officers of the Word, --
Conte (RC): just as they have been handed on to those of us who from the beginning saw the same and were ministers of the word,
1:2 Even as they delivered them unto us. The same phrase is used by Paul when he speaks about the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23), and about the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3). It is called a "tradition" (2 Thessalonians 2:15), that "which has been committed to the trust" of Christians (1 Timothy 6:20), and the "good thing which has been committed" to the Church (2 Timothy 1:14). 
delivered. Not necessarily excluding written traditions, but referring mainly to oral tradition. 
He therefore wrote his Gospel, as he had heard; but he composed his Acts of the Apostles, as he had seen.—S. Jerome. 
which from the beginning. The word is restricted by the term eye-witnesses to the public beginning i.e., the entrance of Christ upon His ministry; or, as more definitely explained by Luke himself, the time of His baptism. (Acts i. 22.) 
The official beginning, the commencement of Jesus' ministry. Compare Acts i. 1, 21, 22; John xv. 27. 
St. Luke began his account with the conception of John the Baptist. But the disciples were eye-witnesses only from the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, when He was thirty years old. The other information he, as they, gleaned from the testimony of those persons who were acquainted with the facts. 
were eyewitnesses. Those who had seen the events as they occurred. Our chief source of knowledge of facts, is the witness of credible persons. 
To be "witnesses chosen before of God" of the doings and sayings of Jesus was the very essence and object of the apostolic office (Acts 10:41; 1:8, 22; 26:16). In accordance with this is the bold declaration of Peter at a later day, "We have not followed cunningly devised fables . . . but were eyewitnesses." On equally strong grounds does John, later than the publication of this gospel, place his own testimony, "That which was from the beginning which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled . . . declare we unto you" (1 John 1:1) Such declarations afford no room, no interval of time, no chance for the intervention of fabricators for forming traditions, legends, or myths. Our gospels are the plain records of the statements of actual spectators. 
and ministers of the word. Some eyewitnesses simply shared their experiences with other friends and locals as time and years rolled by. Others were more active and became teachers and instructors, sharing what they had heard and seen in places, probably both far and near. [rw]
Weymouth: it has seemed right to me also, after careful investigation of the facts from their commencement, to write for you, most noble Theophilus, a connected account,
WEB: it seemed good to me also, having traced the course of all things accurately from the first, to write to you in order, most excellent Theophilus;
Young’s: it seemed good also to me, having
followed from the first after all things exactly, to write to thee in order,
most noble Theophilus,
Conte (RC): so it seemed good to me also, having diligently followed everything from the beginning, to write to you, in an orderly manner, most excellent Theophilus,
1:3 It seemed good to me also. I thought it best, or I have also determined. It seemed to be called for that there should be a full, authentic, and accurate account of these matters. 
having had perfect understanding. The Greek word indicates a process rather than, as in our version, a result. The meaning is, that he had "carefully investigated" the things which he was about to write, and had become "accurately informed" upon them. 
Rather, “having accurately traced out” or “followed up.” See the same word in 1 Timothy 4:6; 2 Timothy 3:10. Luke modestly puts himself exactly on the same footing as these narrators in not having the primary apostolic qualification, but claims continuous and complete knowledge and careful research. 
Was Luke inspired?: He neither claims nor denies inspiration. 
Or: This does not exclude a concurrence with the influence of inspiration. So in the letters of the counsel at Jerusalem, it is said, "it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us" (Acts 15:28) 
of all things. Not of some things, but of everything. In other words there weren’t “fuzzy areas” that he had to gloss over with meaningless words since he had uncovered insufficient data to say anything. It is a way of saying that his researching had born full and ample fruit and that, in this book, he would be sharing it. [rw]
from the very first. Lit., from above; the events being conceived in a descending series. 
This reaches beyond the beginning of verse 2. The parties there referred to had attempted to narrate the story of Christ's official life, using the facts attested by the Apostles; but in addition to this, Luke proposes to treat of his birth and even its antecedents; to go back to the “very first” and exhibit Christ coming, as well as Christ come, in the flesh. [ ? ]
Luke’s Gospel differed from these [other] narratives in beginning from the birth of John the Baptist and the Annunciation, whereas they began at the manhood and public ministry of Christ, as do Mark and John. See Acts 1:22; Luke 16:16, “the Law and the Prophets were until John: since that time the Kingdom of God is preached.” 
Instead of very first Gaussen would render from above, as in John iii. 31, and understand it as the Evangelist's own assertion of his inspiration. But this is inconsistent with the immediately preceding words. 
to write unto thee. Although this certainly doesn’t exclude Luke sharing verbally his findings with Theophilus, it indicates that from the very beginning a written account was part of Luke’s agenda. This could be because of either or both of these reasons: (1) To write a history both of Jesus’ life and the early church (Acts) envolved research that overlapped but was not totally identical. Hence it would make full sense to share with Theophilus a written account of the first, while he continued research on the second and, quite likely, before he had opportunity to be in his company again. (2) As the sponsor (= financier?) of the journeys Luke would undertake to do his research, the scale of the effort would make it quite natural for Theophilus to desire a permanent written record of the material. It is quite possible that he wished this not just for his personal benefit but as a tool of teaching and information to be further copied and passed on to various congregations. [rw]
in order. As our Lord often delivered His instructions repeatedly, and on various occasions, the order in which they were repeated is not strictly adhered to in regard to them, nor in regard to certain minute circumstances. "Order," may refer to subjects rather than dates, to the grouping of events and incidents in cases of similarity rather than to time, regarding which he is less definite than the two other Synoptists, especially in his narrative from chapter 9:51 to 13:14, which is exclusively his own save verse 18 [of] chapter 16. 
Or: He speaks not of chronological order but of orderly history, as not fragmentary and in detached portions, but complete and arranged; brought into a connected whole. 
Schanz maintains that the chronological aim applies only to the great turning points of the history, and not to all details; a very reasonable view. 
most excellent Theophilus. Or "most noble"--a title of rank applied by this same writer twice to Felix and once to Festus (Acts 22:26; 24:3; 26:25). It is likely, therefore, that "Theophilus" was chief magistrate of some city in Greece or Asia Minor. 
Or: Of his residence we have but one indication. The Acts of the Apostles is also addressed by Luke to Theophilus (Acts 1:1) and it has been noted that Luke, when his narrative brings him into Italy and near Rome, mentions such places [little known in other areas] as Appi Forum and the Three Taverns (28:15), precisely as if they were known to Theophilus. The inference is that he was a resident of Rome. 
Theophilus. Although the name of Theophilus is not symbolic, yet Theophilus himself stands as a representative for every Christian reader. Neither the Gospel nor the Acts are to be viewed as a mere private letter to him. In a similar way, Cicero addressed his treaties on Old Age and on Friendship to Atticus; Horace addressed his Art of Poetry to the Pisoes; and Plutarch addressed his Treatise on Divine Delay to Cynius. This address, although it was usually attended with some personal references, yet, like a modern dedication of a book, was simply a token of respect for an honoured friend; and the composition itself was none the less a work for the public and posterity. 
The work is to be written for an individual who may perhaps have played the part of patronus libri, and paid the expenses of its production. 
[It is] a very common name. It means “Dear to God,” but it is unlikely that it is here an ideal name. Absolutely nothing is known of him. Some from the title “most excellent” have conjectured that Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:7-12) is meant, to whom they think that the Acts might have naturally been dedicated. But the name seems to shew that a Greek is intended, and Luke is writing mainly for Greeks. A Theophilus, who held some high distinction at Antioch, is mentioned in the Clementine Recognitions; and as Luke was, not improbably, a proselyte of Antioch, this may be the person for whom he wrote. Others make him a Bishop of Caesarea Philippi. 
Weymouth: that you may fully know the truth of the things which you have been taught by word of mouth.
WEB: that you might know the certainty concerning the things in which you were instructed.
Young’s: that thou mayest
know the certainty of the things wherein thou wast
Conte (RC): so that you might know the truthfulness of those words by which you have been instructed.
1:4 That thou mightest know the certainty. This does not imply that Theophilus was in doubt as to the truth of the things in which he had been instructed, but merely that it would edify and strengthen him to be furnished with additional facts and evidences. Compare 1 John v. 13. "These things have I written unto you that believe . . . that you may believe." 
of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed. From [Greek, which means] to resound; to teach by word of mouth; and so, in Christian writers, to instruct orally in the elements of religion. It would imply that Theophilus had, thus far, been orally instructed. The word catechumen is derived from it. 
Oral instruction (katechesis) flourished especially at Alexandria, which was famous for its catechetical school. This [term] may possibly have favoured the notion that Theophilus was an Alexandrian. 
Is this word is used here in a technical sense --formally and systematically instructed, or in the general sense of "have been informed more or less correctly"? (So Kypke.) The former is more probable. 
Who had instructed Theophilus--who, moreover, was assuredly already a Christian (not merely interested on behalf of Christianity) we know not, but certainly it was not Luke himself. 
Weymouth: There was in the time of Herod, the king of Judaea, a priest of the name of Zechariah, belonging to the class of Abijah. He had a wife who was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
WEB: There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the priestly division of Abijah. He had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
Young’s: There was in the days of Herod, the king
of Judea, a certain priest, by name Zacharias, of the
course of Abijah, and his wife of the daughters of
Aaron, and her name Elisabeth;
Conte (RC): There was, in the days of Herod, king of Judea, a certain priest named Zechariah, of the section of Abijah, and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
1:5 There was in the days of Herod the king. Distinguished in profane history as Herod the Great. He was, while but a youth, appointed governor of Galilee, and his dominion was soon after enlarged so as to include Coele-Syria. Subsequently he was made Tetrarch of Judea, but the next year, being forced, upon an invasion of the Parthians, to leave the country, he fled to Rome, where he was appointed by the Senate “king of Judea.” After a prolonged struggle he captured Jerusalem, and at length established his authority throughout his kingdom. His reign was long, and the latter years of it were signalized by great cruelty and many inhuman executions. Josephus relates that he ordered the nobles whom he had called to him in his last moments to be executed immediately after his decease, that so at least his death might be attended by universal mourning. (See also Matt. ii. 16-18.) 
of Judaea. Besides Judaea, Samaria, and Galilee, his kingdom included the most import regions of Peraea. 
a certain priest. [The priests] were the most honorable nobility among the Jews. It is a saying of R. Jochanan, "He that would be rich, let him join himself to the seed of Aaron; for so it is, that the law and the priesthood make rich." And so Josephus says, "As among different nations there are different sorts of nobility, so with us the sharing of the priesthood is token of illustrious rank." And so the learned Greek Jew of Alexandria, the celebrated Philo, a contemporary of Jesus, loftily said, "As far as God surpasses man in greatness, so far the high-priesthood surpasses the royalty; for this former is the service of God, the latter the care of men." 
named Zacharias. The common Jewish name Zachariah (2 Kings 14:29; Ezra 8:3, 11; Zechariah 1:1; 1 Macc. 5:18, etc.) means “remembered by Jehovah.” The Jews highly valued the distinction of priestly birth. The notion that Zacharias was a High Priest and that his vision occurred on the great Day of Atonement is refuted by the single word “his lot was,” verse 9. 
of the course of Abia. In the time of David there were twenty-four priestly families (sixteen descendants from Eleazar, and eight from Ithamar, the two younger sons of Aaron), to whom the king distributed by lot the weekly service in the temple. Each family was called a course (1 Chronicles 24:1-19; 2 Chronicles 31:2). After the Babylonian exile only four of these families returned to Palestine, but these were subdivided into twenty-four to maintain the old number of the courses, and they took the old names (Nehemiah 13:30). The course of Abia or Abijah (1 Chronicles 24:10) was the eighth in order and was a revived one (Nehemiah 10:7; 12:4, 17). 
Each of these [courses] did duty for eight days, from one Sabbath to another, once every six months. The service of the week was subdivided among the various families which constituted a course. On Sabbaths the whole course was on duty. On feast-days any priest might come up and join in the ministrations of the sanctuary; and at the Feast of Tabernacles all the twenty-four courses were bound to be present and officiate. The course of Abijah was the eighth of the twenty-four. See 1 Chron. xxiv. 10. 
Effort to calculate the date of the event: Meyer observes that if any use is to be made of this note of time to fix the date, our reckoning must be made backward from the destruction of the temple, not forward from the restoration of the courses by Judas Maccabaeus, because it is not certain what course then began the new order of things; whereas we have a fixed note for the destruction of the temple, that it was on the 9th of Ab, and the course in waiting was that of Jehoiarib. Comm. ii. p. 194. 
Reckoning back from this we find that the course of Abijah went out of office on October 9, B.C. 6, A.U.C. 748. The reader should bear in mind that our received era for the birth of Christ (A.U.C. 753) was only fixed by the Abbot Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century, and is probably four years wrong. 
and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron. A priest might marry any of the daughters of Israel, yet it was more honorable to take a wife of priestly descent, i.e., of "the daughters of Aaron," who was the first high priest and brother to Moses. And this is here noted to show that John was of the [priestly] line, both on his father's and mother's side. 
and her name was Elisabeth. The same name as Elisheba (“one whose oath is by God,” compare Jehoshebah, 2 Kings 11:2), the wife of Aaron, Exodus 6:23; mentioned by name according to Ibn Ezra as “the mother of the priesthood.” 
Weymouth: They were both of them upright before God, blamelessly obeying all the Lord's precepts and ordinances.
WEB: They were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord.
they were both righteous before God, going on in all the commands and righteousnesses of the Lord blameless,
Conte (RC): Now they were both just before God, progressing in all of the commandments and the justifications of the Lord without blame.
1:6 And they were both righteous. Upright and holy in their outward conduct. 
One of the oldest terms of high praise among the Jews (Genesis 6:9, 7:1, 18:23-28. See Psalms 37:37; Ezekiel 18:5-19, etc.). It is also used of Joseph, Matthew 1:19. 
before God. They were truly, sincerely righteous. 
walking. Habitual tenor of one's life (Psalms 1:1). 
Living according to the law of Moses. Thus David loved to liken a righteous life to the walking in a set path. See Ps. xvi. 11; cxix. 35. 
in all. “All” not just some; not just selective obedience, but a sincere effort for comprehensive allegiance. [rw]
the commandments and ordinances of the Lord. The words included all the 248 positive and 365 negative precepts into which the Rabbins divided the Law. 
The one [term] expressing their moral—the other their ceremonial obedience. Cf. Ezekiel 11:20; Hebrews 9:1. 
Alternate view: Walking in all the commandments and ordinances (equivalent terms, not to be distinguished, with Calvin, Bengel, and Godet, as moral and ceremonial). 
Or: The distinction existed, but often disappeared in everyday usage: The two words occur in the LXX version of Genesis 26:5 (of Abraham) and 2 Chronicles 17:4 (of Jehoshaphat). “Commandments” means the moral precepts of natural and revealed religion (Romans 7:8-13). “Ordinances” had come to be technically used of the ceremonial Law (Hebrews 9:1). The distinctions were not accurately kept, but the two words together would, to a pious Jew of that day, have included all the positive and negative precepts. 
blameless. As the word "just" ["righteous"] conveys that they were irreproachable before God, "without blame" conveys that they were irreproachable before men, "providing good things not only in the sight of God, but also in the sight of men" (Romans 12:17). The words "without blame" only imply exemption from grievous sins or crimes, which alone entail reproach with men. 
None being able to lay any evil to their charge. They were as exemplary and conscientious in the discharge of their religious duties as they were in the discharge of the offices of civil life. 
Weymouth: But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren; and both of them were far advanced in life.
WEB: But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they both were well advanced in years.
Young’s: and they had no child, because that
Elisabeth was barren, and both were advanced in their days.
Conte (RC): And they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they both had become advanced in years.
1:7 And they had no child. In the East, mourned as a reproach (1 Samuel 1:10). "Children are the heritage of the Lord" (Psalms 127:3). 
This was regarded as a heavy misfortune because it cut off all hope of the birth of the Messiah in that family. It was also regarded as often involving a moral reproach, and as being a punishment for sin. See Genesis 11:30, 18:11, 30:1-23; Exodus 23:26; Deuteronomy 7:14; Judges 13:2, 3; 1 Samuel 1:6, 27; Isaiah xlvii. 9. 
because that Elisabeth was barren. In all the youthful and middle years when pregnancy was desired and expected, it had failed to occur. [rw]
and they both were now well stricken in years. And so, doubtless, feeling that there was less and less reason to hope for offspring. Still, there is nothing to indicate the natural impossibility that they might yet be so blessed. 
Zacharias could not have been over fifty years old, as the duties of the priest's office could not be performed beyond that age. 
Arguing this was not necessarily the case: A priest apparently might minister until any age, but Levites were partially superannuated at 50 (Numbers 3:1-39, 4, 8:25). 
Weymouth: Now while he was doing priestly duty before God in the prescribed course of his class,
WEB: Now it happened, while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his division,
it came to pass, in his acting as priest, in the order of his course before God,
Conte (RC): Then it happened that, when he was exercising the priesthood before God, in the order of his section,
1:8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office. The priest who had the highest functions allotted to him was called “the chief of the course.” There are said to have been some 20,000 priests in the days of Christ, and it could therefore never fall to the lot of the same priest twice to offer incense. Hence this would have been, apart from the vision, the most memorable day in the life of Zacharias. 
before God. That is, in the house of God, the temple where God dwelt. 
in the order of His course. He was ministering with others of the course or family of Abia, according to the customs of the temple. 
I.e., on some day of that week in which, twice in the year, the course of Abijah would be on duty. The twenty-four courses would have to take their turn at least twice every year. 
Weymouth: it fell to his lot--according to the custom of the priesthood--to go into the Sanctuary of the Lord and burn the incense;
WEB: according to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to enter into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.
Young’s: according to the custom of the
priesthood, his lot was to make perfume, having gone into the sanctuary of the
Conte (RC): according to the custom of the priesthood, the lot fell so that he would offer incense, entering into the temple of the Lord.
1:9 According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was. Four lots were drawn to determine the order of the ministry of the day: the first, before daybreak, to designate the priests who were to cleanse the altar and prepare its fires; the second for the priest who was to offer the sacrifice and cleanse the candlestick and the altar of incense; the third for the priest who should burn incense; and the fourth appointing those who were to lay the sacrifice and meat-offering on the altar, and pour out the drink-offering. 
to burn incense. Only here in New Testament. The incensing priest and his assistants went first to the altar of burnt-offering, and filled a golden censer with incense, and placed burning coals from the altar in a golden bowl. As they passed into the court from the Holy Place they struck a large instrument called the Magrephah, which summoned all the ministers to their places. Ascending the steps to the holy place, the priests spread the coals on the golden altar, and arranged the incense, and the chief officiating priest was then left alone within the Holy Place to await the signal of the president to burn the incense. It was probably at this time that the angel appeared to Zacharias. When the signal was given, the whole multitude withdrew from the inner court, and fell down before the Lord. Silence pervaded the temple, while within, the clouds of incense rose up before Jehovah. (For a more detailed account see Edersheim, "The Temple, its Ministry," etc.) 
Mixed with stacte, onycha, and galbanum (Ex. xxx. 34), it was called the holy perfume, and was used only in the temple. It was burned twice a day in the Holy Place (Ex. xxx. 7-8) by the ordinary priests, and on the day of Atonement by the high priest in the Holy of Holies. Lev. xvi. 13. 
This was the loftiest and most coveted of priestly functions, Exodus 30:1-10; Numbers 16:1-40. King Uzziah was smitten with leprosy for trying to usurp it (2 Chronicles 26:18). Incense was a symbol of prayer (Psalms cxli. 2; Hebrews 9:4; Revelation 8:3, 4), and Philo tells us that it was offered twice a day—before the morning and after the evening sacrifice of a lamb. 
when he went into the temple of the Lord. The golden altar of incense stood before the veil which separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies (Exodus 30:6). The priest entered in white robes and with unsandaled feet with two attendants who retired when they had made everything ready. The people waited outside in the Court of Israel praying in deep silence till the priest who was sacrificing the evening lamb at the great altar of Burnt Offering in the Court gave a signal to his colleague in the shrine, perhaps by the tinkling of a bell (Exodus 30:1-10; Psalms cxli. 2; Malachi 1:11). He then threw the incense on the fire of the golden altar, and its fragrant smoke rose with the prayers of the people. It was while performing this solemn function that John Hyrcanus also had received a divine intimation (Josephus, Antiquities, xiii. 103). 
Weymouth: and the whole multitude of the people were outside praying, at the hour of incense.
WEB: The whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.
Young’s: and all the multitude of the people were
praying without, at the hour of the perfume.
Conte (RC): And the entire multitude of the people was praying outside, at the hour of incense.
1:10 And the whole multitude of the people. The people of all classes. The Jews visited the temple twice a day, to be present at its solemn services, and to offer their prayer and gifts. See Acts iii. 1. 
It is observable, that on this day there was "a multitude without at the time of offering incense;" which has suggested the probability that it was the Sabbath-day; as it is known that on this day only did a multitude of people attend the temple services. A few devout people were present on other days; but besides them, the congregation was then composed of the priests, the Levites, and a number of persons called "stationary men," who were considered to represent the people. 
were praying without. Outside the court in front of the temple, where stood the altar of burnt offering; the men and women in separate courts, but the altar visible to all. 
The prayers were perfectly silent, as in the parable of the Pharisee and Publican; and to the deep silence which pervaded the great congregation in this solemn moment, there is an emphatic allusion in the apocalyptic vision (Rev. viii. 1, 3), when he who beheld it declares, "there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour," while the angel offered incense--"the prayers of the saints"--on the altar before the Throne. This lasted so long as the priest remained within the temple; but the instant he re-appeared, the sacrifice was laid upon the altar, and the Levites commenced their psalmody and the sounding of their trumpets. 
Incense rising upwards in a white cloud of pleasant perfume, was the instructive symbol of prayers ascending to God. Rev. viii. 3-4. 
The Temple was mainly used for sacrifice. Prayer in the Tabernacle is only once mentioned in the Pentateuch (Deuteronomy 26:12-15). But the Temple had naturally become a “House of Prayer” (Isaiah lvi. 7; Nehemiah 11:17; Matthew 21:13). One of the Rabbis went so far as to argue that prayer was a Rabbinic not a Mosaic institution! 
at the time of incense. Greek, "hour." Third and ninth hour, 9a.m. and 3 p.m. 
Perhaps at the morning incense burning, though this can not be determined certainly. 
Weymouth: Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense;
WEB: An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
Young’s: And there appeared to him a messenger of
the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of the perfume,
Conte (RC): Then there appeared to him an Angel of the Lord, standing at the right of the altar of incense.
1:11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord. The first mention of angels in this gospel. For other appearances see 1:26 (angel and Mary), 2:9-13 (angels to the shepherds), 16:22 (angels and Lazarus), 17:43 (angels in Gethsemane), 24:4, 23 (angels at the tomb). 
It is an awful thought, that wherever sinful man, even at his best estate, is brought face to face with a spiritual being, he feels instantly the overpowering conscience of sins, and the mortal terrors of their punishment. Is. vi. 5. Hence while the angel appears in a form of beauty and gentleness fit for his nature and mission, Zacharias is in great terror. 
standing on the right side of the altar of incense. As the altar of burnt incense was placed in the extreme westerly part of the sanctuary, the right side to Zacharias facing it, would be north of it. 
right side. [The right side] deemed a favorable omen by Greeks and Romans. Two angels stood on the right side of the sepulcher (Mark 16:5). Jesus told Peter to cast a net on the right side (John 21:6). Christ, enthroned, sits at the right hand, etc. (Psalms 110:1). Solomon's mother sat on his right hand (1 Kings 2:19). 
altar of incense. It stood within the holy place, and near the inmost veil which covered the Holy of Holies. Exodus 30:1-6. It was made of Shittim wood, eighteen inches square and three feet in height. It was overlaid with pure gold. This altar was only for daily incense and blood was never spilt upon it, excepting once a year on the great day of atonement. Leviticus 16:18-19. See Exodus 30:1, 14; 5:26. 
Weymouth: and Zechariah on seeing him was agitated and terrified.
WEB: Zacharias was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him.
Young’s: and Zacharias,
having seen, was troubled, and fear fell on him;
Conte (RC): And upon seeing him, Zechariah was disturbed, and fear fell over him.
1:12 And when Zacharias saw him he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. The appearance was sudden and unexpected, and it might have suggested to Zacharias—not unreasonably--that he had perhaps forfeited his life by some error in the performance of his service. The circumstances, too, were well-calculated to foster his alarm. He was alone; he was before God; a solemn stillness reigned within and around the Holy place; and we may presume that, as in chap. ii. 9, "the glory of the Lord shone round about" the heavenly messenger. 
A pious Hebrew learned from his Scriptures (Judges xiii. 6, 21-22), as well as from his own heart, to fear to look upon the celestial beings. The sudden, unusual vision, was of itself alarming. 
Weymouth: But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your petition has been heard: and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call his name John.
WEB: But the angel said to him, "Don't be afraid, Zacharias, because your request has been heard, and your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
Young’s: and the messenger said unto him, 'Fear
not, Zacharias, for thy supplication was heard, and
thy wife Elisabeth shall bear a son to thee, and thou shalt
call his name John,
Conte (RC): But the Angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth shall bear a son to you. And you shall call his name John.
1:13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard. He encourages him that he may listen attentively to the message. 
It has been thought that the prayer of Zacharias to which the angel alludes had reference to the Messiah. Thus Meyer and Van Oosterzee. But while I do not doubt that Zachariah, like other pious Israelites, had often, and perhaps daily, prayed for the coming of the Redeemer, I do not think that reference is made to that prayer. The angel says, “thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son.” This shall be the proof that thy prayer is heard. 
On the other hand: It will be observed that the angel afterward goes on to explain that this son was to be Christ's appointed harbinger, thus laying the stress rather upon the fact of Messiah's coming, than of a son being born to Zacharias. Both these blessings were soon to be bestowed. 
and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son. Not merely a child, but a son, who may continue the paternal name among the families of Israel and more than remove that stain which was felt to be attached to childlessness. 
and thou shalt call his name John. Not only the fact of childbirth is promised but the very name for the child is provided as well. If God makes possible an impossible pregnancy, why shouldn’t He have the right to name the child? [rw]
Weymouth: Gladness and exultant joy shall be yours, and many will rejoice over his birth.
WEB: You will have joy and gladness; and many will rejoice at his birth.
there shall be joy to thee, and gladness, and many at his birth shall joy,
Conte (RC): And there will be joy and exultation for you, and many will rejoice in his nativity.
1:14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness. He had dreamt of it, hoped for it, and now it will be a reality. The “joy and gladness” did not come at the point in life he expected it, but the important thing was that it did come. [rw]
And many shall rejoice at his birth. Not referring to the time but to the consequences of his birth. He shall prove to be so great a blessing to “many” that they will rejoice that he was born. Some expositors understand the rejoicings mentioned verse 58 to be referred to; but these are so common, and, as it were, a matter of course that they would scarcely have been the subject of angelic prediction. 
Not so much his relatives, as those who should be led by his preaching to receive the Gospel of Christ. It was a promise of the future excellence and usefulness of this child which was to be born. 
The gladness which his boy's birth was to bring with it was to be no mere private family rejoicing. 
Weymouth: For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; no wine or fermented drink shall he ever drink; but he will be filled with the Holy Spirit from the very hour of his birth.
WEB: For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will drink no wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb.
Young’s: for he shall be great before the Lord,
and wine and strong drink he may not drink, and of the Holy Spirit he shall be
full, even from his mother's womb;
Conte (RC): For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb.
1:15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord. [Great] in wisdom, piety, eloquence, heroic fidelity, and usefulness 
How different this from being great in the sight of men! John lived in a desert; he was clad in the coarsest garb; he fed upon the plainest and simplest food; he was distinguished for no desolating wars, no splendid conquests, nothing that gave Alexander, and Herod, and Frederick, the title of Great--but how truly great he was! Great in virtue, in his triumphs over his own spirit, and in the aeal and fidelity with which he discharged the duties of his great spiritual office. 
Our Lord declared that, "among those born of women, there had not risen a greater than John the Baptist" (Matt. xi. 7), i.e., that among men born up to that time, there had been no one so highly favored by God. His greatness consisted in his privilege of announcing the immediate coming of the Messiah, and the gracious zeal and eloquence with which he did it. John x. 41. 
And shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. Officiating priests were forbidden, while on their sacred work (Leviticus 10:8-11), to use any intoxicating beverage. 
But John’s practice was to be an on-going lifestyle, something far more life encompassing: This designates him as a Nazarite for life. (Comp. Acts xxi. 24.) Ordinarily a Nazarite's vow, with its consequent abstinence, was for only a limited time, generally thirty or sixty days, in which case he was called by the Jews a "Nazarite of days," as distinguished from the "perpetual Nazarite." During the period of his consecration, he was obliged to abstain not only from wine and strong drink, but even from grapes, whether moist or dried. He was forbidden to cut his hair, or to approach any dead body. Samson, Samuel and John are the only "perpetual Nazarites" mentioned in Scripture. 
wine. Was the juice of the grape, and as manufactured in Judea, was commonly very light and harmless. Its use was not forbidden to any except Nazarites. 
A more potent mixture is surely intended, however: Wine was the fermented juice of grapes. All other preparation of stimulating drinks, whether from grains or the palm, were called by the general name strong drink. The Eastern nations procured a liquid of an intoxicating kind from the palm tree, which grows in that portion of Asis; also from apples and grains. The Jews did not understand the chemical art of distilling liquors, and of course had no strong drink in the modern sense. The evil, however, was much the same, as we read of drunkenness as being known to them. Is. v. 22; Prov. xxiii, 29-30. 
strong drink. Sikera, was any inebriating liquor not made from grapes. The word does not mean as with us, distilled spirits, for the art of distillation was not then known. The strong drink of the time was obtained from dates, figs, and other fruits by fermentation. It contained intoxicating properties, and is therefore often the subject of warning in the Scriptures. 
Concurring in this evaluation: “Strong drink” was also forbidden to ministering priests, Leviticus 10:8. The term seems to have been specially applied to palm wine (Pliny, Natural History, xiv. 19), and all intoxicants (e.g. beer, etc.) which are not made of the juice of the grape. 
and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost. Compare Ephesians 5:18 and Acts 2:13, where the same contrast is suggested; the absence of the one is the capacity for the other. 
Shall be Divinely designated or appointed to this office, and qualified for it by all needful communications of the Holy Spirit. To be "filled" with the Holy Spirit, is to be illuminated, sanctified, and guided by His influence. In this place it refers (1) to the Divine intention that he should be set apart for this work, as God designed that Paul should be an apostle from his mother's womb (Galatians 1:15). (2) It refers to an actual fitting for the work from the birth, by the influence of the Holy Spirit, as was the case with Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5), and with David (Psalms 22:9-10). 
According to any worthy conception of the Holy Spirit's influence, whether viewed as enlightening, purifying or directing, this must be understood, with Bloomfield, as a Hebrew hyperbole denoting from the earliest period. Some even go so far as to refer the language to a period antecedent to birth! So Van Oosterzee, who characterizes a different view of Kuinoel's as a "lax interpretation." Similarly Olshausen and Meyer. But as Alford replies, in this case the language would have "been in rather than from his mother's womb." I can not regard the text as signifying more that that the whole intelligent and moral life of John would be blessed and guided by a fullness of the Holy Spirit. Alford's interpretation, which fixes the prior limit at his birth, seems equally with Meyer's to involve a materialistic conception of the Spirit. 
even from his mother's womb. Compare 1 Samuel 1:11; Jeremiah 1:5. 
Weymouth: Many of the descendants of Israel will he turn to the Lord their God;
WEB: He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord, their God.
Young’s: and many of the sons of Israel he shall
turn to the Lord their God,
Conte (RC): And he will convert many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God.
1:16 And many. Not all. 
of the children of Israel. The descendants of Jacob, called also Israel. Gen. xxxii. 28. John was a prophet to the Jew's only. He did not preach to the Gentiles. 
The Hebrew and the Hebriastic Greek almost always say “sons” in naming offspring, or descendants, quite regardless of whether daughters are also included. 
shall he turn to the Lord their God. Assuming this language to refer to the Messiah, Bede urges it as conclusive against the Arians. Alford takes the same view. But as we have so many texts which unequivocally teach the divinity of our Savior, it is injudicious to press those of questionable application. Nor can I doubt that Zachariah understood the words as referring to the God of his fathers, such being for him their obvious sense. It is suggestive, however, to compare Mal. iii. 1 with Matt. xi. 10, and to notice in the latter how our Savior, in quoting the prophecy, changes the grammatical person: "Behold I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee; not as in the prophet, "prepare the way before me." Whether or not, therefore, Zachariah understood the Lord their God as equivalent to the Lord whom ye seek, of Malachi, i.e., the Messiah, it is at least clear to us from parallel passages that the language will easily bear that sense. 
Weymouth: and he will be His forerunner in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn fathers' hearts to the children, and cause the rebellious to walk in the wisdom of the upright, to make a people perfectly ready for the lord."
WEB: He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, 'to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,' and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to prepare a people prepared for the Lord."
Young’s: and he shall go before Him, in the spirit
and power of Elijah, to turn hearts of fathers unto children, and disobedient
ones to the wisdom of righteous ones, to make ready for the Lord, a people
Conte (RC): And he will go before him with the spirit and power of Elijah, so that he may turn the hearts of the fathers to the sons, and the incredulous to the prudence of the just, so as to prepare for the Lord a completed people."
1:17 And he shall go before Him. As a herald precedes a king. The Christ for whom they waited, was soon to come, and this child should anticipate His coming only by a little. The words here refer to Mal. iv. 5-6, and imply that the Him of this verse is the Lord their God. 
in the spirit and power of Elias. Spirit, i.e., the disposition; and in the power . . . the energy, the force, the zeal, of Elijah. 
Not his miraculous power for "John did no miracle" (John 10:41), but his power in "turning the heart," or with like success in his ministry Both fell on degenerate times; both witnessed fearlessly for God; neither appeared much save in the direct exercise of their ministry; both were at the head of schools of disciples; the success of both was similar. 
Difficulty of even the apostles understanding this fit John: From the last words of Malachi (4:4-6; 3:1), the Jews universally believed (as they do to this day) that Elijah would visibly return to earth as a herald of the Messiah. It required the explanation of our Lord to open the eyes of the Apostles on this subject: “This is Elias which was for to come,” Matthew 11:14. “Elias truly shall first come and restores all things . . . Then the disciples understood that He spake unto them of John the Baptist,” Matthew 17:10-14. The resemblance was partly in external aspect (2 Kings 1:8; Matthew 3:4); and partly in his mission of stern rebuke and invitation to repentance (1 Kings 18:21, 21:20). 
to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children. This language has given rise to great diversity of interpretation. Matthew Henry understands it as referring to Jews and Gentiles; but this view is far-fetched, and seems to be put into the words rather than to have been drawn from them. Besides, it was no part of John's especial mission to turn the hearts of the Jews to the Gentiles. Dr. Scott translates [the Greek] by with--"to turn the hearts of the fathers with the children." But [it] can very rarely bear this sense, especially before the accusative, and the construction here imperiously forbids it. Bloomfield regards the words as denoting "the reconciliation of discordant sects and political feuds by a common repentance and reformation." It does not appear, however, that John did in fact accomplish this work. Very few of the leading sectaries seem to have yielded to his influence; while feuds were certainly as rife after as before his preaching. Van Oosterzee says: "The feeling of the paternal relationship had grown cold in many hearts, in the midst of the moral corruption of Israel: when the forerunner lifts up his voice, the ties of family affection shall be strengthened." Similarly Dr. Campbell, who renders [the Greek as] to reconcile to. But have we any ground for believing that paternal feelings had grown cold: or that leading object of the Baptist's mission was to reconcile family variances?
Interpreted as breaking down self-centeredness in preparing to receive the Messiah: I suggest that the meaning is to be sought in the teaching of John himself, and especially in the substance of his prophetic announcement. He proclaimed the kingdom of heaven as near at hand. Now the effect of such an announcement upon old men and fathers may be readily conceived. The future was bright; but as for them they could hope in the order of nature to enjoy but few of its blessings; their children, however, might participate in them to the full. Hence the leading subject of John's proclamation would turn their hearts to (or upon) their children, or as in the Septuagint of Malachi, towards them. But there is a still more general conception underlying the language, especially as used by the prophet. It is rendered by the LXX, "He shall turn the heart of a father towards his son, and the heart of a man towards his neighbor." In other words, a principal work of John will be to break down and overcome men's unworthy and inordinate selfishness, by pointing them to the common. Looking now at the directions which he gave to the different classes who came to him, chap. iii. 8-14, we observe that in each several case "the heart was turned from self to consider the rights, interests, and wants of others;" nay, some sacrifice of self-interest was enjoined upon all who would "bring forth fruits meet for repentance." 
Interpreted as uniting competing factions of the contemporary world in jointly seeking the same goal of serving the Messiah: Malachi adds, "and the heart of the children to the fathers"--which is here changed. This language teaches that one end of John's mission was to effect reconciliation among his people, to preach "peace on earth," and by "works meet for repentance," bring all to a state of preparation for the presence of the Lord. St. Paul says: "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." Heb. xii. 14. The angels announced "peace on earth, good will to men" (ch ii. 14) as a characteristic of Christ's coming. In his mission, John was to effect this peace. In the account of his first preaching to the Jews, there are indications that all ranks and parties felt, for a time, an inclination to lay aside their differences, and unite to await the Messiah. Ch. iii. Pure religion will never flourish where contention and strife are. They must be put away, that we may receive its gracious influences. 
In the same vein: The usual explanation of these words of the angel, who uses here the language of Malachi (iv. 5-6), is that the result of the preaching of this new prophet, who is about to be raised up, will be to restore harmony to the broken and disturbed family life of Israel, whereas now the home life of the chosen race was split up--the fathers, perhaps, siding with the foreign or Roman faction, as represented by Herod and his friends; the sons, on the other hand, being Zealots attached to the national party, bitterly hostile to the Herodians. So also in one house some would belong to the Pharisee, others to the Sadducee, sect. These fatal divisions would, in many cases, be healed by the influence of the coming one. There is, however, another interpretation far deeper and more satisfactory: for nothing in the preaching of the Baptist, as far as we are aware, bore specially on the domestic dissensions of the people; it had a much wider range. The true sense of the prophetic passages such as Isa. xxix, 22-23, "Jacob shall no more be ashamed, neither shall his face wax pale, when he seeth his children become the work of my hands:” Isa. lxiii. 16, "Doubtless thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer!"-- The patriarchs, the fathers of Israel, beholding from their abodes of rest the works and days of their degenerate children, mourned over their fall, and, to use earthly language, "were ashamed" of the conduct of their unworthy descendants. These would be glad and rejoice over the result of the preaching of the coming prophet. Godet well sums up the angel's words: "It will be John's mission then to reconstitute the moral unity of the people by restoring the broken relation between the patriarchs and their degenerate descendants." 
Or, more concisely: The fathers here are the holy ancestry of degenerate Israel, who had, as it were, been offended with the apostasy of their descendants. John would so infuse a better spirit into this generation that a reconciliation should take place between the holy olden time and the fallen present. 
and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just. The angel may have used these words as a parallel to those of Malachi: "The heart of the children to the fathers;" for the children who are disobedient, are neither wise nor just. The wisdom of the just, is the true wisdom; such as the righteous fathers of the nation had manifested: or, it may signify the wisdom of the Just One, that is, of Christ, who is so described Acts iii. 14. 
to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. Josephus declares, that John was "a good man, who instructed the Jews by the exercise of virtue, and by piety toward God, and righteousness or justice towards one another, to come to his baptism: and that hereupon there was a great concourse made unto him, the people being much delighted with his doctrine."--Jos. Antiq., Bk. xviii. ch. 7. 
Weymouth: "By what proof," asked Zechariah, "shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is far advanced in years."
WEB: Zacharias said to the angel, "How can I be sure of this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years."
Young’s: And Zacharias
said unto the messenger, 'Whereby shall I know this? for
I am aged, and my wife is advanced in her days?'
Conte (RC): And Zechariah said to the Angel: "How may I know this? For I am elderly, and my wife is advanced in years."
1:18 And Zacharias said unto the angel. It might, at first sight, appear harsh that God is so much offended by his reply. He brings forward his old age as an objection. Abraham did the same; and yet his faith is so highly applauded that Paul declares, he "considered not his own body now dead, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb," (Rom. iv. 19,) but unhesitatingly relied on the truth and power of God. Zacharias inquires how, or by what proof, he might arrive at certainty. But Gideon was not blamed for twice asking a sign (Judges vi. 17, 37, 39). Nay more, we are shortly after this informed of Mary's objection, How shall this be, since I know not a man? (ver. 34,) which the angel passed over as if it contained nothing wrong. How comes it then that God punished Zacharias so severely, as if he had been guilty of a very heinous sin? I do acknowledge that, if the words only are considered, either all were equally to blame, or Zacharias did nothing wrong. But as the actions and words of men must be judged from the state of the heart, we ought rather to abide by the judgment of God, to whom the hidden secrets of the heart are naked and opened (Heb. iv. 13). [ ? ]
Whereby shall I know this? A question of unbelief seeking after a sign. It is in strong contrast with the faith of Abraham under similar circumstances. Both were old men; each was promised a son by natural generation; but Zacharias alone staggered at a promise involving the supernatural. 
Why was it wrong in him to desire a sign? Because he had already had one. It was sinful in Zacharias not to believe after he had seen the glorious angel. Unbelief is a great sin, for it is an insult to the truth of God. It was, therefore, both a sign and a judgment that Zacharias was told he should be dumb. 
The angel's dazzling promise of a son, and even a son with such a career, might be but a reflection of Zechariah's own secret desire and hope; yet when his day-dream is objectified it seems too good and great to be true. This also is true to human nature, which alternates between high hope and deep despair, according as faith or sense has the upper hand. 
Why Mary was treated differently: The Virgin in similar circumstances expressed a similar doubt, but was not punished for it. This was done because Zacharias was a priest and should have believed, on the testimony of the angel, that which, though difficult, his own Scriptures taught him was not impossible. Gen. xviii. 10-14; Heb. xi. 11-12. But the Virgin could rightly ask for information, when a fact was announced to which there was nothing similar in all the history of the human race. 
for I am an old man. The Levites (see Num. iv. 3; viii. 24-25.) became superannuated at the age of fifty: but it appears, by extracts from the Rabbinical writings given by Lightfoot, that this was not the case with the priests. 
and my wife well stricken in years. In effect: Much as I would like this to be true, both my wife and I are just too old for it to happen! [rw]
Weymouth: "I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God," answered the angel, "and I have been sent to talk with you and tell you this good news.
WEB: The angel answered him, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God. I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news.
Young’s: And the messenger answering said to him,
'I am Gabriel, who have been standing near before God, and I was sent to speak
unto thee, and to proclaim these good news to thee,
Conte (RC): And in response, the Angel said to him: "I am Gabriel, who stands before God, and I have been sent to speak to you, and to proclaim these things to you.
1:19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel. The name means “Hero of God.” He is also mentioned in verse 25, and in Daniel 8:16, 9:21-23. The only other Angel or Archangel (1 Thessalonians 4:16; Jude 9) named in Scripture is Michael (“Who is like God?” Daniel 10:21). In the Book of Enoch we read of “the four great Archangels, Michael, Uriel, Raphael, Gabriel,” and so two in Pirke Rabbi Eliezer, iv. In Tobit xii. 15, “I am Raphael (Healer of God), one of the seven holy Angels which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One.” Since Michael was dispatched on messages of wrath and Gabriel on messages of mercy, the Jews had the beautiful saying that “Gabriel flew with two wings, but Michael with only one.” 
that stand in the presence of God. To stand in the presence of one is a phrase denoting honor or favor. To be admitted to the presence of a king, or to be with him, was a token of favor. So to stand before God, signifies merely that he was honored or favored by God. He was permitted to come near him, and to see much of His glory. Compare 1 Kings 10:8; 12:6; 17:1; Proverbs 22:29. 
A position of exalted dignity, implying capacity for the most important services. 
and am sent. The angels are ministering spirits sent forth to those who shall be heirs of salvation (Hebrews 1:7,14). They delight to do the will of God; and one way of doing that will is by aiding His children here, by succouring the afflicted, and by defending those who are in danger. There is no more absurdity or impropriety in supposing that angels may aid them, than there is in supposing that good men may aid each other. 
and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. That is, of John's birth as Christ's forerunner. The Gospel means glad tidings, and John's advent was a glad event as introducing the Gospel. Mark 1:1; Luke 2:10-17. 
In depth: Do angels have personal names ? On the other hand, there are those who doubt that angels have any proper names. This is the view taken by a writer who has devoted a volume to the subject of angels ([Greek]: "Or a Discourse of Angels." London : Printed for Thomas Parkhurst, at the Bible and Three Crowns, 1701. The learned author's name does not appear in any part of the work; but our copy is lettered Saunders' Angels. Vol. III) He argues, that although names do appear in Scripture, "they are names given those angels, not as their proper names, but as names that suited such messages as they were then sent on, and did as properly belong to other angels when sent on like messages. Gabriel signifieth the power or strength of God,--and the angel is so called when sent to declare the great power of God; Michael signifieth, who is like unto God,--that is, so strong as to be able to contend with Him; and so the angel is called when sent to fight for God's people, and to oppose the devil and his angels. In like manner, that angel mentioned in Tobit is called Raphael, because he was sent to heal, (as you read in that history,) and so the word signifies. These were not names perpetually belonging to those individual angels, as their proper names, but names given them as appearing in certain ministries suiting such names. And when any other angels are sent about the like services, those names do as properly belong to them"
This is an ingenious view, and entitled to consideration. It even obviates some difficulties; but, upon the whole, there seems to us grounds of preference for the opinion, that the names given are actually proper names. Without this, indeed the significance we have deduced from the employment of Gabriel on the present occasion, would fall to the ground.
In depth: Was Biblical angelogy borrowed from the Persian ? The Bible knows of only two heavenly personages who are invested with a name: Gabriel (Daniel 8:16, 9:21) and Michael (Daniel 10:13, 21; 12:1; Jude 9; Revelation 12:7). Biblical angelogy makes mention of no other persons belonging to the upper world. But this wise [restraint] did not satisfy later Judaism; it knew besides an angel Uriel, who gives good counsel, and an angel Raphael, who works bodily curses. The Persian angelology is richer still. it reckons no less than seven superior spirits or amschaspands. How, then, can it be maintained that the Jewish angelology is a Persian importation? History does not advance from the complicated to the simple.
Weymouth: And now you will be dumb and unable to speak until the day when this has taken place; because you did not believe my words--words which will be fulfilled at their appointed time."
WEB: Behold, you will be silent and not able to speak, until the day that these things will happen, because you didn't believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time."
Young’s: and lo, thou shalt be silent, and
not able to speak, till the day that these things
shall come to pass, because thou didst not
believe my words, that shall be fulfilled in
Conte (RC): And behold, you will be silent
and unable to speak, until the day on which
these things shall be, because you have not
believed my words, which will be fulfilled in
1:20 And behold, thou shalt be dumb [mute, NKJV] and not able to speak. Showing that the silence would not be voluntary.  It would be in the nature of a punishment. [rw]
until the day that these things shall be performed. Nine months, perhaps plus or minus a few days or a week or two--according to the length of her particular pregnancy. For the whole time he himself will not be able to speak a word either. But just as her pregnancy would come to an end, so would his silence. [rw]
because thou believest not my words. In effect saying: “You have had a multi-decade long wish. Now that it is about to come true, you refuse to accept it instead of receiving it with the joy that should be expected. Hence there will be a punishment as long as the pregnancy itself.” [rw]
which shall be fulfilled in their season. God wills that we have faith in His promises. But when He has decided to act, He is going to act—with or without our having faith in it. His power is always greater than any human’s lack of faith. [rw]
Weymouth: Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and were surprised that he stayed so long in the Sanctuary.
WEB: The people were waiting for Zacharias, and they marveled that he delayed in the temple.
Young’s: And the people were
waiting for Zacharias, and wondering at his tarrying
in the sanctuary,
Conte (RC): And the people were waiting for Zechariah. And they wondered why he was being delayed in the temple.
1:21 And the people waited for Zacharias. Naturally not being willing to depart until the ceremony was completed. [rw]
and marvelled. According to the Talmud, the priests, especially the chief priests, were accustomed to spend only a short time in the sanctuary, otherwise it was feared that they had been slain by God for unworthiness or transgression. 
that he tarried so long in the temple. The Talmud tells us that even the high priest did not tarry long in the holy of holies on the Day of Atonement. The same feeling of holy awe would induce the ministering priest of the day to perform his unctions with no unnecessary delay, and to leave as soon as possible the holy place. The people praying in the court without were in the habit of waiting until the priest on duty came out of the sacred inner chamber, after which they were dismissed with the blessing. The unusual delay in the appearance of Zacharias puzzled and disturbed the worshippers. 
Weymouth: When, however, he came out, he was unable to speak to them; and they knew that he must have seen a vision in the Sanctuary; but he kept making signs to them and continued dumb.
WEB: When he came out, he could not speak to them, and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple. He continued making signs to them, and remained mute.
Young’s: and having come out, he was not able to
speak to them, and they perceived that a vision he had seen in the sanctuary,
and he was beckoning to them, and did remain dumb.
Conte (RC): Then, when he came out, he was unable to speak to them. And they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he was making signs to them, but he remained mute.
1:22 And when he came out. The moment of the priest’s reappearance from before the ever-burning golden candlestick, and the veil which hid the Holiest Place, was one which powerfully affected the Jewish imagination, Ecclus. l. 5-21. 
he could not speak unto them. They were waiting in the Court to be dismissed with the usual blessing, which is said to have been usually pronounced by the other priest. Numbers 6:23-26. “Then he” (the High priest Simon) “went down and lifted up his hands over the whole congregation of the children of Israel, to give the blessing of the Lord with his lips, and to rejoice in His name. Then they bowed themselves down to worship the second time, that they might receive a blessing from the Most High.” Ecclus. l. 20. 
and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple. They judged this to be the explanation of his delay, and then of his disturbed looks on issuing forth, and of his unusual silence. 
vision. Optasian. Used especially of the most vivid and “objective” appearances, 24:23; Acts 26:19; 2 Corinthians 12:1; Daniel 9:23. 
for he beckoned unto them and remained speechless. Made signs to inform them that something extraordinary had occurred, and to dismiss them to their homes. Prophecy had long been silent--the priesthood now becomes dumb, as a sign of the approaching end of the Levitical ordinances. 
Origen, Ambrose, and Isidore, see in the speechless priest vainly endeavouring to bless the people, a fine image of the Law reduced to silence before the first announcement of the Gospel. The scene might stand for an allegorical representation of the thesis so powerfully worked out in the Epistle to the Hebrews (see Hebrews 8:13). Zacharias became dumb, and Saul of Tarsus blind, for a time. 
Weymouth: When his days of service were at an end, he went to his home;
WEB: It happened, when the days of his service were fulfilled, he departed to his house.
Young’s: And it came to pass, when the days of his
service were fulfilled, he went away to his house,
Conte (RC): And it happened that, after the days of his office were completed, he went away to his house.
1:23 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished [completed, NKJV]. That is, the week time of service for his class or course of priests. The priest was not permitted to leave the precincts of the temple till the week's term was finished. 
He was unable to speak. He was, however, able to burn incense according to his office; and he continued at the temple, till the time of his appointed ministration was expired. 
They lasted from the evening of one Sabbath to the morning of the next. 2 Kings 11:5. 
he departed to his own house. The last thing he would want at this stage would be a bunch of prying questions from well intentioned associates who would find the truth—the coming child—to be as impossible to believe as he did and for the same reason—advanced age. [rw]
We may suppose that his functions as priest would end altogether until so serious a bodily infirmity as had been put upon him should cease. Thus it is with reason supposed that at the next half-yearly term of service, he was absent from his “course.” 
his own house. [It] was in the hill country of Judaea (verse 39), but whether at Hebron, or in some neighboring priest-city, or whether necessarily at this time in a priest-city at all, is quite unknown. 
Weymouth: and in course of time his wife Elizabeth conceived, and kept herself secluded five months.
WEB: After these days Elizabeth, his wife, conceived, and she hid herself five months, saying,
Young’s: and after those days, his wife Elisabeth
conceived, and hid herself five months, saying --
Conte (RC): Then, after those days, his wife Elizabeth conceived, and she hid herself for five months, saying:
1:24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived. How long after is a mere matter of guess-work; so that all attempts to make out of the fact an element in the calculations concerning the precise date of the Saviour’s birth, are frustrated by the vagueness. 
and hid herself five months, saying. Why has been variously conjectured by those who have chosen to guess rather than to note the reason given by Elizabeth herself [in the next verse]. 
Weymouth: "Thus has the Lord dealt with me," she said, "now that He has graciously taken away my reproach among men."
WEB: "Thus has the Lord done to me in the days in which he looked at me, to take away my reproach among men."
Young’s: Thus hath the Lord done to me, in days in
which He looked upon me, to take away my reproach among men.'
Conte (RC): "For the Lord did this for me, at the time when he decided to take away my reproach among men."
1:25 Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days herein he looked on me. Nearly the same as the Hebrew expression, “He visited me” (i.e., in a friendly sense). It is of God’s blessing that she has hope of offspring. 
to take away my reproach among men. [Childlessness] is often a judgment of mercy and goodness, founded on His [foreknowledge] of what might occur in case women had begotten children who, in after life, might prematurely bring down their gray hairs in sorrow to the grave. Why sterility should be regarded as a reproach among the Jews, as it undoubtedly was, is differently accounted for. Some say, because it was looked on as a penalty inflicted by God (1 Kings 1:6); others, because it rendered void the end of marriage, which was to beget children; others, because it deprived them of the chance of having the promised Messiah come forth one day from their [descendants]. 
my reproach. The language implies that she had been taunted with her barrenness by her acquaintances. 
In depth: Why did Elizabeth remain in seclusion the first five months of her pregnancy? Her conduct has been explained in many ways. According to De Wette, this retreat was nothing more than a precaution for her health. It was dictated, according to Bleek and Oosterzee, by a desire for meditation and by sentiments of humble gratitude. Of all these explanations, the last certainly appears the best.
But it in no way accounts for the [seclusion] for five months, so particularly [emphasized]. Further, how from this point of view are we to explain the expression, "Thus hath the Lord dealt with me?" The full meaning of this word "thus" is necessarily weakened by applying it in a general way to the greatness of the blessing conferred on Elizabeth, while this expression naturally establishes a connection between the practice she pursues toward herself from this time, and God's method of dealing with her.
What is this connection? Does she not mean, "I will treat myself as God has treated my reproach. He has taken it away from me; I will therefore withdraw myself from the sight of men, so long as I run any risk of still bearing it, when I am in reality delivered from it?" Restored by God, she feels that she owes it to herself, as well as to Him who has honored her in this way, to expose herself no more to the scornful [remarks] of men until she can appear before them [obviously pregnant]. In this way the term five months becomes perfectly intelligible. For it is after the fifth month that the condition of a pregnant woman becomes apparent. 
Weymouth: Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth,
WEB: Now in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
Young’s: And in the sixth month was the messenger
Gabriel sent by God, to a city of Galilee, the name of which is Nazareth,
Conte (RC): Then, in the sixth month, the Angel Gabriel was sent by God, to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
1:26 And in the sixth month. Reckoning from the starting point of the five months in verse 24. 
This is the only passage which indicates the age of John the Baptist, as half a year older than our Lord. 
the angel Gabriel. As the bearer of cheer and comfort (verse 19). 
was sent from God unto a city of Galilee. Thus began to be fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 9:1, 2. Galilee of the Gentiles, one of the four great Roman divisions of Palestine, was north of Judaea and Samaria, west of Peraea, and comprised the territories of Zebulun, Naphthali, and Asher (Matthew 4:13). Josephus describes it as rich in trees and pastures, strong, populous, containing 204 towns, of which the least had 15,000 inhabitants. 
named Nazareth. These explanatory notes make it clear that St. Luke was writing for those who were strangers to Palestine. 
Nazareth is situated north of the plain of Esdraelon, and on the western slope of a basin among the hills. It is about sixty-six miles north of Jerusalem, fourteen miles from the Sea of Galilee, and twenty-one miles from the Mediterranean Sea. If one could be transported back to that age, he would see a busy scene in and around Nazareth; one of the great caravan roads from Damascus to Acco on the Mediterranean Sea passed through this place and upon its streets could be seen men of all nationalities. It was also one of the priestly centers of Palestine. Climbing the hill back of the town a magnificent view was spread out; on every quarter could be seen populous villages and fertile fields. To the north, the view was arrested in its sweep over a beautiful land only by the snow-capped Hermon; to the west, the eye could travel to Carmel; to the southwest was the Great Sea itself studded with many sails; to the south, the plain of Esdraelon; and to the east, the wooded height of Tabor. Christ was not out of, but in, the intense commercial life of His times, and in one of the most charming natural regions of His country. 
Weymouth: to a maiden betrothed to a man of the name of Joseph, a descendant of David. The maiden's name was Mary.
WEB: to a virgin pledged to be married to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary.
Young’s: to a virgin, betrothed to a man, whose
name is Joseph, of the house of David, and the name of the virgin is Mary.
Conte (RC): to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the name of the virgin was Mary.
1:27 To a virgin espoused. Rather, “betrothed.” The betrothal is in the East a ceremony of the deepest importance. ]56]
The formal ceremony of betrothal took place among the Jews in most cases a year prior to the marriage. 
Betrothal, in Jewish custom, was equivalent to marriage in its power to bind the parties to each other. [ ? ]
to a man whose name was Joseph. The scriptures do not tell us very much about Joseph. He was a just man, of the house of David, his descent attested by a double descent in the public registers (John 1:45; Matthew 1:16, 20; Luke 2:41, 3:23); he lived at Nazareth, and was a carpenter. The decree of Augustus about taxation compelled him to live for a time at Bethlehem. There Jesus was born, and Joseph was present at the adoration of the shepherds and of the wise men from the East. He fled with Mary and the child Jesus to Egypt, returned to Bethlehem on the death of Herod, but, fearing Archelaus, went back to Nazareth, where he carried on his trade. He took Jesus and Mary to Jerusalem twice, at least, in the boyhood of the Savior, and in all probability died before the crucifixion (John 19:27), if not before the beginning of the public ministry of the Lord (Mark 6:3). 
of the house of David. Family of David or descendants of David. 
and the virgin's name was Mary. Tradition says, that Mary’s parents were Joachim of Nazareth and Anna of Bethlehem; that at this time she was about 18 years old, whilst Joseph, a carpenter was much older (girls in the East were usually married between 14-17 years and even earlier). 
Her probable ancestry: We are nowhere told that Mary was of the house of David, for both of the genealogies of the Gospels are genealogies of Joseph. The fact that it seems always to be assumed that Mary also was of the lineage of David (verse 32), makes it probable that the genealogy of Mary is involved in that of Joseph, and that they were first cousins. 
She is mentioned six times only after the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus:
(1) at the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-5);
(2) when with the brethren of the Lord she tried to speak to Jesus (Matthew 12:46; Luke 8:19; Mark 3:21, 31);
(3) when spoken about by the people of Nazareth (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:1-3);
(4) when blessed by a woman (Luke 11:27);
(5) at the crucifixion (John 19:25-27);
(6) after the ascension (Acts 1:14). 
In-depth: Keeping Mary’s importance in perspective . It is never safe, in matters of faith, to give the rein to our imaginations, or to quit for an instant the sure guidance of the Scriptures. On the warrant of those Scriptures we regard her, as the most Blessed of women, not simply because the Son of God was born of her; but because of the pre-eminent virtues, with which she was endued, her lowliness, and purity, her perfect faith, and her entire submission to the Will of God (Ver. 42, 45). But the Scriptures contain not the slightest intimation that she is to be regarded, as an object of Worship, more than any other of the Saints and servants of the Lord; nor is it possible to find in the writings of the Christian fathers for many centuries a trace of evidence, that she was so regarded. Nothing, in fact, is more remarkable than the silence of Scripture concerning her; as if God in His wisdom had resolved that we should know nothing about her more, than what was necessary to teach us the mystery of the Incarnation. Deut. xxxiv. 6.—Dean Lowe.
Weymouth: So Gabriel went into the house and said to her, "Joy be to you, favoured one! the Lord is with you."
WEB: Having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, you highly favored one! The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women!"
Young’s: And the messenger having come in unto
her, said, 'Hail, favoured one, the Lord is with
thee; blessed art thou among women;'
Conte (RC): And upon entering, the Angel said to her: "Hail, full of grace. The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women."
1:28 And the angel came in unto her. Some think that all this business was transacted in a vision; and that there was no personal appearance of the angel. When Divine visions were given, they are announced as such in the sacred writings; nor can we with safety attribute anything to a vision where a Divine communication is made, unless it be specified as such in the text. 
And said, Hail [Rejoice, NKJV] thou that art highly favored. Thou who hast found favor with God, as the angel himself interprets it. Verse 30. 
[Which means that this praise/phrase] has been misinterpreted to encourage the practice of praying to the virgin as divine. It does not mean, however, that Mary was to be a source but rather a recipient of grace; upon her God was bestowing peculiar favor. She may rightly be regarded as the most blessed among women; but only a woman still. 
[She was “highly favored”] by being the mother of the long-expected Messiah; the mother of the Redeemer of mankind. To be reckoned among his ancestors was accounted honor for even Abraham and David. But now the happy individual was designated who was to be His mother. 
Lit., as Rev. in margin, endued with grace. Only here and Eph. i. 6. The rendering full of grace, Vulgate, Wycliffe, and Tyndale, is therefore wrong. 
the Lord is with thee. The word "is" is not in the original. The passage may be rendered either "the Lord is with thee," or "the Lord be with thee," implying the prayer of the angel that all blessings from God might descend and rest upon her. 
blessed art thou among women. These words must be struck out; they do not exist in the older authorities. 
They may have been added from verse 42. With this address compare Judges 6:12. 
God in His wisdom had chosen this pious and lowly virgin to become the mother of the infant Jesus. Why He had chosen her above all others, is among the secret things of His own will. She was obedient, humble, and pious; but still, like others of the sinful descendants of Eve, an heir of our common fallen nature. To this high honor she came not by her own merit, or the angel would have stated it, but by the favor of God. And we may join in this congratulation, and lovingly reverence her who was the mother of our Lord. But we cannot bend the knee to her, or call on her in prayers, or in any way worship her, without sinning against our own souls, and offending God by idolatry. There is but one Mediator and High Priest for us, the Lord Jesus. And God will not suffer Divine worship to be paid to any creature. 
Weymouth: She was greatly agitated at his words, and wondered what such a greeting meant.
WEB: But when she saw him, she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered what kind of salutation this might be.
Young’s: and she, having seen, was troubled at his
word, and was reasoning of what kind this salutation may be.
Conte (RC): And when she had heard this, she was disturbed by his words, and she considered what kind of greeting this might be.
1:29 And when she saw him. The phrase, absent from many manuscripts, is of doubtful authenticity, but the angel's visibility seems to be implied. 
she was troubled at his saying. Not, as it seems, as his presence. She did not apparently fear him, so much as become perplexed at that which he said to her. How was all this to be to her, a lowly maiden of Nazareth? 
More important was her reaction to what was said rather than to the angelic messenger itself hence this was the natural point to emphasize. [rw]
More accurately, she was greatly troubled. Different to Zacharias, who evidently doubted in the mission of the angel, and who required some sign before he could believe, Mary simply wondered at the strangeness of what was about to happen. Her terror at the sudden appearance of the angel, who probably appeared to her as a young man clad in garments of a strange dazzling whiteness, is most natural. 
and cast in her mind [considered, NKJV]. Cogitated or tried to explain it to herself. 
what manner of salutation this should be. What this salutation could mean. 
How was it to be classed in her thinking; what it meant; how it was to be accounted for. It was so extraordinary in its source, the abruptness of its manner, the singularity of its apparent purport, that she was very naturally at a loss. Not only perplexity, but an anxiety amounting to fear, must have appeared in her countenance. 
Weymouth: But the angel said, "Do not be frightened, Mary, for you have found favour with God.
WEB: The angel said to her, "Don't be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
Young’s: And the messenger said to her, 'Fear not,
Mary, for thou hast found favour with God;
Conte (RC): And the Angel said to her: "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found grace with God.
1:30 And the angel said unto her, fear not, Mary. My appearance portends no harm to thee (as was the case with Zechariah, verse 13). Here, as there, the reason for confidence and cheerfulness is introduced by “for.” 
for thou hast found favour with God. So much so that she would be given a blessing that no one previously—and no one afterward—would ever receive: bearing the fleshly body that would carry God’s unique and only Son in His life and ministry. [rw]
Weymouth: You will conceive in your womb and bear a son; and you are to call His name JESUS.
WEB: Behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bring forth a son, and will call his name 'Jesus.'
Young’s: and lo, thou shalt
conceive in the womb, and shalt bring forth a son,
and call his name Jesus;
Conte (RC): Behold, you shall conceive in your womb, and you shall bear a son, and you shall call his name: JESUS.
1:31 And. In consequence of that favor--. 
behold. It is a fact deserving particular attention. How noteworthy must it have seemed to her as one after another the items were enumerated. 
thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. Jesus was the equivalent of Joshua in the Hebrew, originally, “Jehoshua,” meaning “Jehovah is salvation.” This already involved His Messiahship, which is more clearly brought to view in what follows. 
Matthew 1:21 explains the reason of the name—“for He Himself shall save His people from their sins.” 
Weymouth: He will be great and He will be called 'Son of the Most High.' And the Lord God will give Him the throne of His forefather David;
WEB: He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father, David,
Young’s: he shall be great, and Son of the Highest
he shall be called, and the Lord God shall give him the throne of David his
Conte (RC): He will be great, and he will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father.
1:32 He shall be great. There is undoubted reference in this passage to Isaiah 9:6-7. By His being "great" is meant He shall be distinguished or illustrious; great in power, in wisdom, in dominion on earth and in heaven. 
Great in holiness and all excellence of character, great in the works which He will perform. 
and shall be called the Son of the Highest. This is the same as to say, "he shall be" the Son etc. The Hebrews often used this form of speech. 
It is singular that this title, given by the angel to the yet unborn child, was the one given to the Redeemer by the evil spirit in the case of the poor possessed (see Mark v. 7). 
the Highest. God, called "the Highest" because He is exalted over all His creatures on earth and in heaven. 
and the Lord God shall give unto Him. It won’t be an act of usurpation upon His part, taking what was not His due. Instead it would be given personally by the one person whose honorable intent and desire for the best for the human race can never be compromised by pettiness or prejudice—God Himself. [rw]
the throne of his father David. [I.e.] the kingdom. See verse 33. Christ was the promised Son of David, who was to occupy his throne. 2 Samuel 7:11-12; Psalms 45:6-7. See also Hebrews 1:8. 
The throne is here used for that which is exercised upon it; His royal power. Jesus in His human nature was to receive the supremacy over all the true seed of Abraham--the true members of the kingdom promised to David; that is, over all saints. It was a spiritual kingdom, the Church, of which the kingdom of David was a type and prophecy. 
Clearly indicating that Mary herself was of royal lineage, although this is nowhere definitely stated (see Ps. cxxxii. 11). It has been well observed how St. Luke's report of the angel's words here could never have been a forgery--as one school of critics asserts--of the second century. Would any writer in the second century, after the failure of Jesus among the Jews was well known, when the fall of Jerusalem had already taken place, have made an angel prophesy what is expressed here? 
Weymouth: and He will be King over the House of Jacob for the Ages, and of His Kingdom there will be no end."
WEB: and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever. There will be no end to his Kingdom."
Young’s: and he shall reign over the house of
Jacob to the ages; and of his reign there shall be no end.'
Conte (RC): And he will reign in the house of Jacob for eternity. And his kingdom shall have no end."
1:33 And He shall reign over the house of Jacob. Both of Jacob's natural and spiritual descendants. "For," says Grotius, "just as David the king of Israel did by conquest amalgamate the Edomites and other nations with his kingdom, so also this Messiah-king, by gospel conquest, shall incorporate the Gentiles into his kingdom and naturalize them as true Israel. Isaiah 14:1, 'The stranger shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob.' And 44:5, of the same 'stranger' it is said he 'shall call himself by the name of Jacob.' " 
for ever. His kingdom would be a permanent, unending one. No conflicts over successorship for the same person would reign throughout its duration. [rw]
and of His kingdom there shall be no end. This both expounds the words for ever, going just before, and also distinguishes the kingdom of Christ from all kingdoms of the world, which all shall have their periods; and also assures us of the continuance of the gospel church, which is Christ’s kingdom, till his kingdom of glory be revealed; and this agreeth with the prophecies of the Old Testament, concerning the [eternal duration of the] kingdom of the Messiah, and the typical kingdom of David, Psalms 145:13; Isaiah 9:7; Daniel 7:14; Micah 4:7. 
Other kingdoms, like the four spoken of in Dan. vii. 14, should end, but this was never to cease from being a kingdom till He has surrendered the redeemed saints to His Father. 1 Cor. xv. 28; Heb. ii. 8-9. The promise made to David could now be understood, that "his throne should be established for ever." 2 Sam. vii. 13-16; Ps. cxxxii. 11. 
St Paul saith indeed that he shall at the end of the world deliver up the kingdom to God the Father; not that his kingdom shall then cease, but that form of administration only, that he now useth in the collecting and conserving of His Church. 
Weymouth: "How can this be," Mary replied, "seeing that I have no husband?"
WEB: Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, seeing I am a virgin?"
Young’s: And Mary said unto the messenger,
'How shall this be,
seeing a husband I do not know?'
Conte (RC): Then Mary said to the Angel, "How
shall this be done, since I do not know man?"
1:34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be. Mary requires no sign to certify the angel's message, as Zacharias did. She does not ask if what he had done to her were possible; all she asks is, how shall it be done; and this, as a virgin, she has the right to do. 
A question of simple wonder, not of vain curiosity or unbelief. There was every reason why she should ask it. Accordingly she was satisfied, not punished. 
seeing I know not a man? Her question does not, like that of Zacharias, demand proof of the fact announced, but only desires to know how this is consistent with her known virginity. It is evident that she thinks of the promised birth as taking place soon, before her marriage. 
In depth: Attempting to turn her reference to the current fact into a promise/pledge of her perpetual condition . For the notion of some, that would from hence impose upon us to believe that Mary hath vowed virginity, as if the sense of the words were, I am resolved never to know man, it is so ridiculous, that no man of ordinary sense can allow it; for, besides that there were no such vows that we ever read of amongst the Israelites, nor could any such be made but by the law of God might be rescinded, if made when the virgin was in her father’s house; and besides that it is very improbable that a Jewish woman should make such a vow, in whom barrenness was such a reproach, and who looked upon it as a curse. She certainly understood the angel as speaking of a thing in being, or which presently should be; and though she believed what the angel said, yet is desirous of further satisfaction how such a thing could be [in a case like hers].
Weymouth: The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for this reason your holy offspring will be called 'the Son of God.'
WEB: The angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore also the holy one who is born from you will be called the Son of God.
Young’s: And the messenger answering said to her,
'The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall
overshadow thee, therefore also the holy-begotten thing shall be called Son of
Conte (RC): And in response, the Angel said to her: "The Holy Spirit will pass over you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. And because of this also, the Holy One who will be born of you shall be called the Son of God.
1:35 And the angel answered and said unto her. If she had already been married the “how” would be assumed—unless told otherwise—to be by the normal means of human procreation. However, this had not yet begun to occur for her so she was left with the quite natural question of “how.” It was not a matter of a lack of faith but the lack of the normal human cause of pregnancy. Hence the Spirit provides her the needed answer. [rw]
The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee. God shall do this strange thing by a direct miracle, overshadowing and effecting it. 
the Highest. Again the angel makes use of the term "Highest" when alluding to the eternal Father. The expression of Gabriel, "the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee," reminds us of the opening words of Genesis, where the writer describes the dawn of life in creation in the words, "The Spirit of God moved [or, 'brooded'] over the face of the deep." "The Word was conceived in the womb of a woman, not after the manner of men, but by the singular, powerful, invisible, immediate operation of the Holy Ghost, whereby a virgin was, beyond the law of nature, enabled to conceive, and that which was conceived in her was originally and completely sanctified" (art. iii., Bishop Pearson on the Creed). 
shall overshadow thee. The metaphor in the word is taken from a cloud, in which God had appeared (Exod. xl. 34; 1 Kings viii. 10). 
Therefore. The result of this direct miraculous intervention. [rw]
also that holy thing. “Holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners,” Hebrews 7:26. “Who did no sin,” 1 Peter 2:22. 
which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. As Adam was called the son of God, Luke 3:38, God (by His creating power) supplying as to Him the place of father and mother, and to Christ supplying the place of the father, though not of the mother. 
Weymouth: And see, your relative Elizabeth--she also has conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.
WEB: Behold, Elizabeth, your relative, also has conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.
Young’s: and lo, Elisabeth, thy kinswoman, she
also hath conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month to her
who was called barren;
Conte (RC): And behold, your cousin Elizabeth has herself also conceived a son, in her old age. And this is the sixth month for her who is called barren.
1:36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth. That is a relative by the mother's side. It appears hence that Jesus and John the Baptist were relatives by birth. Elizabeth was of the tribe of Levi. But intermarriage with other tribes was prohibited only when it might involve inheritances (Numbers 36:7), which danger would not exist in marrying a priest, as he could not have an inheritance; and so, if a woman of the tribe of Levi passed into another tribe. Aaron himself married into Judah (Exodus 6:23-37). 
she hath also conceived. Thus God has given thee a proof and pledge, in what He has done for Elizabeth, of what He will do for thyself. Therefore, have faith in God. 
a son. Of the office of the forerunner nothing is said; for Mary would hear it from his mother (Elizabeth). 
in her old age. [This] was a thing so much out of the natural way as to constitute an instance calculated to confirm Mary’s confidence: “Behold an example in thine own family!” (Grotius, cited by Meyer.) 
and this is the sixth month with her. Showing us that the pregnancy is well advanced at this point. Although Mary is not told that it is a miraculous conception she could hardly have viewed it as anything else in light of her age arguing that more than the normal course of human events was involved and in light of the angelic message she herself had just received. In light of those two factors, what else could she have concluded than that it was miraculous? [rw]
who was called barren. It is probable that Elizabeth got this appellative by way of reproach; or to distinguish her from some other Elizabeth also well known, who had been blessed with children. Perhaps this is the reproach which Elizabeth speaks of (verse 25), her common name among men, among the people who knew her, being Elizabeth the barren. 
Weymouth: For no promise from God will be impossible of fulfilment."
WEB: For everything spoken by God is possible."
nothing shall be impossible with God.'
Conte (RC): For no word will be impossible with God."
1:37 For with God. God is fully able to suspend by miracle the laws of nature, and even reverse them all. For the laws of nature are nothing more than the ordinary action of the Divine will, which God can vary just as easily as He can hold them uniform. 
nothing shall be impossible. Ages ago (Genesis 18:14) the Lord had said in a similar announcement to Abraham, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" The angel refers to the analogous case of Elizabeth as proof to Mary that miraculous birth is an event that may now occur. 
We never doubt God’s will, but we do in some measure doubt His power. See them both running parallel, Job 42:2. 
Weymouth: "I am the Lord's maidservant," Mary replied; "may it be with me in accordance with your words!" And then the angel left her.
WEB: Mary said, "Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it to me according to your word." The angel departed from her.
Young’s: And Mary said, 'Lo, the maid-servant of
the Lord; let it be to me according to thy saying,' and the messenger went away
Conte (RC): Then Mary said: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word." And the Angel departed from her.
1:38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord. She thus expresses her entire submission to the will of God, and her faith in the message of the angel. She was the handmaid, that is, the servant of the Lord, and felt, therefore, that she owed entire obedience to whatsoever might be commanded by Him. "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." 1 Sam. xv. 22. 
be it unto me according to thy word. The thoughts of the Virgin Mary seem to have found their most natural utterance in the phrases of Scripture. 1 Samuel 3:18, “If it be the Lord let Him do what seemeth Him good.” For Mary too was aware that her high destiny must be mingled with anguish. 
And the angel departed from her. His job completed, He left. Although nothing would be more natural, its explicit mention does protect us from any erroneous conclusion that the angel accompanied her throughout her pregnancy. [rw]
In depth: The annunciation in the pages of restrained Biblical narrative versus in apocryphal church legends . We can best appreciate the noble simplicity of truthfulness by comparing this narrative of the Annunciation with the diffuse inflation of the Apocryphal Gospels. Take for instance such passages as these from one of the least extravagant of them, “The Gospel of the Nativity of Mary:”
“The Angel Gabriel was sent to her . . . to explain to her the method or order of the Conception. At length having entered unto her, he filled the chamber where she abode with an immense light, and saluting her most courteously said, ‘Hail Mary! Most acceptable Virgin of the Lord! Virgin full of grace . . . blessed art thou before all women; blessed art thou before all men hitherto born.’ But the Virgin who already knew the countenance of angels, and was not unused to heavenly light, was neither terrified by the angelic vision nor stupefied by the greatness of the light, but was troubled at his word alone; and began to think what that salutation so unwonted could be, or what it portended, or what end it could have. But the Angel, divinely inspired and counteracting this thought said, ‘Fear not, Mary, as though I meant something contrary to thy chastity by this salutation; for etc. etc.’ ”
The reader will observe at once the artificiality, the tasteless amplifications, the want of reticence;--all the marks which separate truthful narrative from elaborate fiction.
(with number code)
1 = Adam Clarke. The New Testament . . . with a Commentary and
Critical Notes. Volume I: Matthew to the Acts. Reprint, Nashville,
Tennessee: Abingdon Press.
2 = Marvin R. Vincent. Word Studies in the New Testament. Volume I:
The Synoptic Gospels, Acts of the Apostles, Epistles of Peter, James,
and Jude. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1887; 1911 printing.
3 = J. S. Lamar. Luke. [Eugene S. Smith, Publisher; reprint, 1977 (?)]
4 = Charles H. Hall. Notes, Practical and Expository on the Gospels;
volume two: Luke-John. New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1856,
5 = John Kitto. Daily Bible Illustrations. Volume II: Evening Series:
The Life and Death of Our Lord. New York: Robert Carter and
6 = Thomas M. Lindsay. The Gospel According to St. Luke. Two
volumes. New York: Scribner & Welford, 1887.
7 = W. H. van Doren. A Suggestive Commentary on the New Testament:
Saint Luke. Two volumes. New York: D. Appleton and Company,
8 = Melancthon W. Jacobus. Notes on the Gospels, Critical and
Explanatory: Luke and John. New York: Robert Carter &
Brothers, 1856; 1872 reprint.
9 = Alfred Nevin. Popular Expositor of the Gospels and Acts: Luke.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Ziegler & McCurdy, 1872.
10 = Alfred Nevin. The Parables of Jesus. Philadelphia: Presbyterian
Board of Publication, 1881.
11 = Albert Barnes. "Luke." In Barnes' Notes on the New Testament.
Reprint, Kregel Publications, 1980.
12 = Alexander B. Bruce. The Synoptic Gospels. In The Expositor's
Greek Testament, edited by W. Robertson Nicoll. Reprint, Grand
Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
13 = F. Godet. A Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke. Translated
from the Second French Edition by E. W. Shalders and M. D. Cusin.
New York: I. K. Funk & Company, 1881.
14 = D. D. Whedon. Commentary on the Gospels: Luke-John. New
York: Carlton & Lanahan, 1866; 1870 reprint.
15 = Henry Alford. The Greek Testament. Volume I: The Four Gospels.
Fifth Edition. London: Rivingtons, 1863.
16 = David Brown. "Luke" in Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and
David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the
Old and New Testaments. Volume II: New Testament. Hartford:
S. S. Scranton Company, no date.
17 = Dr. [no first name provided] MacEvilly. An Exposition of the Gospel
of St. Luke. New York: Benziger Brothers, 1886.
18 = H. D. M. Spence. “Luke.” In the Pulpit Commentary, edited by H. D.
M. Spence. Reprinted by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company,
19 = John Calvin. Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists,
Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Translated by William Pringle. Reprint,
Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
20 = Thomas Scott. The Holy Bible ...with Explanatory Notes (and)
Practical Observations. Boston: Crocker and Brewster.
21 = Henry T. Sell. Bible Studies in the Life of Christ: Historical and
Constructive. New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1902.
22 = Philip Vollmer. The Modern Student's Life of Christ. New York:
Fleming H. Revell Company, 1912.
23 = Heinrich A. W. Meyer. Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the
Gospels of Mark and Luke. Translated from the Fifth German
Edition by Robert Ernest Wallis. N. Y.: Funk and Wagnalls,
1884; 1893 printing.
24 = John Albert Bengel. Gnomon of the New Testament. A New
Translation by Charlton T. Lewis and Marvin R. Vincent.
Volume One. Philadelphia: Perkinpine & Higgins, 1860.
25 = John Cummings. Sabbath Evening Readers on the New Testa-
ment: St. Luke. London:Arthur Hall, Virtue & Co,1854.
26 = Walter F. Adeney, editor. The Century Bible: A Modern
Commentary--Luke. New York: H. Frowdey, 1901. Title page
missing from copy.
27 = Pasquier Quesnel. The Gospels with Reflections on Each Verse.
Volumes I and II. (Luke is in part of both). New York: Anson
D. F. Randolph, 1855; 1867 reprint.
28 = Charles R. Erdman. The Gospel of Luke: An Exposition.
Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1921; 1936 reprint.
29 = Elvira J. Slack. Jesus: The Man of Galilee. New York: National
Board of the Young Womens Christian Associations, 1911.
30 = Arthur Ritchie. Spiritual Studies in St. Luke's Gospel. Milwaukee:
The Young Churchman Company, 1906.
31 = Bernhard Weiss. A Commentary on the New Testament. Volume
Two: Luke-The Acts. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1906.
32 = Matthew Henry. Commentary on the Whole Bible. Volume V:
Matthew to John. 17--. Reprint, New York: Fleming H. Revell
Company, no date.
33 = C. G. Barth. The Bible Manual: An Expository and Practical
Commentary on the Books of Scripture. Second Edition.
London: James Nisbet and Company, 1865.
34 = Nathaniel S. Folsom. The Four Gospels: Translated . . . and with
Critical and Expository Notes. Third Edition. Boston: Cupples,
Upham, and Company, 1871; 1885 reprint.
35 = Henry Burton. The Gospel according to Luke. In the Expositor's
Bible series. New York: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1895.
36 = [Anonymous]. Choice Notes on the Gospel of S. Luke, Drawn from
Old and New Sources. London: Macmillan & Company, 1869.
37 = Marcus Dods. The Parables of Our Lord. New York: Fleming H.
Revell Company, 18--.
38 = Alfred Edersheim. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah.
Second Edition. New York: Anson D. F. Randolph and Company,
39 = A. T. Robertson. Luke the Historian in the Light of Research.
New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1920; 1930 reprint.
40 = James R. Gray. Christian Workers' Commentary on the Old and
New Testaments. Chicago: Bible Institute Colportage Associat-
ion/Fleming H. Revell Company, 1915.
41 = W. Sanday. Outlines of the Life of Christ. New York: Charles
Scribner's Sons, 1905.
42 = Halford E. Luccock. Studies in the Parables of Jesus. New York:
Methodist Book Concern, 1917.
43 = George H. Hubbard. The Teaching of Jesus in Parables. New
York: Pilgrim Press, 1907.
44 = Charles S. Robinson. Studies in Luke's Gospel. Second Series.
New York:American Tract Society, 1890.
45 = John Laidlaw. The Miracles of Our Lord. New York: Funk &
Wagnalls Company, 1892.
46 = William M. Taylor. The Miracles of Our Saviour. Fifth Edition.
New York: A. C. Armstrong & Son, 1890; 1903 reprint.
47 = Alexander Maclaren. Expositions of Holy Scripture: St. Luke.
New York: George H. Doran Company, [no date].
48 = George MacDonald. The Miracles of Our Lord. New York:
George Routledge & Sons, 1878.
49 = Joseph Parker. The People's Bibles: Discourses upon Holy Scrip-
ture—Mark-Luke. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 18--.
50 = Daniel Whitby and Moses Lowman. A Critical Commentary and
Paraphrase on the New Testament: The Four Gospels and the Acts
of the Apostles. Philadelphia: Carey & Hart, 1846.
51 = Matthew Poole. Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1600s.
52 = George R. Bliss. Luke. In An American Commentary on the New
Testament. Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society,
53 = J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. The Fourfold Gospel.
54 = John Trapp. Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1654.
55 = Ernest D. Burton and Shailer Matthews. The Life of Christ.
Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1900; 5th reprint,
56 = Frederic W. Farrar. The Gospel According to St. Luke. In “The
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges” series. Cambridge: At
the University Press, 1882.