Luke 3:1 Commentary - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
From his visit to Jerusalem and the temple, the boy Jesus returned to his mountain home of Nazareth, and probably wrought at his father’s trade as a carpenter. About five years after the return, when Jesus was seventeen years of age, the news came doubtless to Nazareth from Rome, the conquering capital of the world, that Augustus Cesar, emperor of Rome, and acknowledged master of the nations, after a reign of forty years, had gone to the grave. In his young days Augustus had been an unscrupulous and bloody man, for the sake of winning the empire. But when it was attained he became a just and a beneficent ruler, and brought the nations of the world to peace. Thus he, like John the Baptist, though in a different manner, prepared the way for the Prince of Peace. Little knew the proud emperor that he was but the preparer for the boy of Nazareth.
1. Now As in his preface, Luk 1:1-3, so here, Luke exhibits the true historical spirit. Christianity is a religion of facts. It stands in its place in history. It is neither theory, nor legend, nor myth. Here are its dates, and during the rule of these princes, and in the localities here designated, the commencing events of our religion transpired in open historic day. The challenge is thus boldly given to learned criticism to invalidate the record. Learned criticism has tried its best, and it has totally and signally failed. Luke’s chronology is triumphant over every assault, and is in every point TRUE.
Reign of Tiberius Cesar He was the cruel and sensual successor of Augustus in the empire of Rome. Reckoning the fifteen years from the death of Augustus, when Jesus was seventeen years of age, Jesus would be thirty-two years of age. But as in fact he was but about thirty, it is beyond doubt that Luke reckons in this fifteen years the two years in which Tiberius reigned in connection with Augustus.
Pontius Pilate See note on Mat 27:2.
Herod being tetrarch See note on Mat 14:1-12.
Philip tetrarch See note on Mat 14:1.
Iturea The name of the modern province of Jedur, in the Old Testament Jetur, was prolonged in pronunciation by the Greeks, in the day of their predominance, into the euphonius Iturea. Our reader will find it on the map, a tract about thirty miles long and twenty-five broad, lying between the Damascus region on the north, Batanea on the south, the Hermon range of mountains on the west, and the rough Trachonitis on the east. Jetur (1Ch 1:31; 1Ch 5:9) was the name of one of the sons of Ishmael, and thence of his Ishmaelitish tribe who settled this locality. Though this tract in the course of centuries was conquered by different occupants, much of the old stock remained. Aristobulus, king of Judea, about B.C. 100, subdued and compelled them to accept the Jewish faith. Herod the Great, in dividing his kingdom, left Iturea as part of a tetrarchy to his son Philip.
Trachonitis Lay on the east of Iturea.
Abilene The tract bordering on the anti-Lebanon ridge, and extending indefinitely eastward, so as to include Abila as its capital, from which the territorial name is derived. Of this Abilene history mentions no Lysanias as ruler, but one who was slain by Mark Antony about sixty years before the point of time here designated by Luke. Hence Strauss, assuming that Luke has this Lysanias in mind, makes a very abortive charge to convict him of chronological mistake. But 1. There is not a word in any history of this point of time to contradict Luke’s statement that a later Lysanias (probably grandson of the historical Lysanias) was tretrach of Abilene; for history leaves the matter perfectly blank; there being no history of that period extant. 2. Josephus, describing the transfer of Abilene to Agrippa, styles it the “Abilene of Lysanias,” which could hardly refer to a Lysanias no later than the Lysanias of seventy years before. 3. Traces of Luke’s Lysanias are found outside of history. A coin has been found, belonging to a period later than Herod’s death, bearing the inscription, “Lysanias, tetrarch and high priest.” A Doric temple in Abila bears the inscription, “Lysanias, tetrarch of Abilene.” This must have been Luke’s Lysanias, for the first Lysanias was not tetrarch, that title having been first adopted after Herod’s death. And we may here note an admonitory warning against drawing arguments against the truth of Scripture history from the nonexistence of confirmatory secular history. No Abilenean history was extant, and so, forsooth, no second Lysanias could have existed. Such was the sceptical argument until an accidental medal authenticated the man named.
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Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Daniel D. Whedon (1808-1885) was a prominent university professor, theologian, and author. He served as Professor of Ancient Languages at Wesleyan University in Connecticut; as Professor of Rhetoric at the University of Michigan; and as editor of the Methodist Quarterly Review from 1856 to1884. He authored numerous books including Commentary on the New Testament (New York: Carlton & Porter, 1860); Commentary on the Old Testament (New York: Nelson & Phillips, 1873); What is Arminianism? (Toronto: W. Briggs, 1879); and Essays, Reviews, and Discourses (New York: Phillips & Hunt, 1887).