Category Archives: S. Kent Brown

The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple and the Testimonies of Simeon and Anna: Luke 2:21-38

Extracted from The Testimony of Luke, by S. Kent Brown

Luke 2:21–24, New Rendition

21 And when eight days for his circumcision were fulfilled, then his name was called Jesus; it was so named by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 22 And when the days for their purification were fulfilled, according to the law of Moses, they brought him up into Jerusalem to present him before the Lord, 23 just as it was written in the law of the Lord that, “Every male who opens a mother’s womb shall be called holy to the Lord,” 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what was spoken in the law of the Lord, “Either a pair of turtledoves or two young doves.”


2:21 eight days . . . for the circumcising . . . his name was called: As is apparent here and in 1:59, both circumcising and naming a male child occur on the eighth day. Among ancient sources, only Luke preserves this linkage.

conceived in the womb: The force of this expression is to say that Jesus comes to birth as other children do: in a natural manner. He is fully and physically a part of this world and is not a metaphysical, mythological creature.

2:22 purification: A woman is to pay a five-shekel tax and offer sacrifice for ritual purity after giving birth to her firstborn—forty days after a male child and eighty after a female (see the Note on 2:23). Until she does so, she is judged to be ritually unclean. The sacrifice is to consist of a lamb and either a young pigeon or a turtledove. For the poor, the sacrifice is to be either two pigeons or two turtledoves, the offering that Luke affirms in 2:24 (see Ex. 13:2, 11–13; Lev. 12:2–8). Importantly, the best manuscripts read “their purification” rather than “her purification.” The discussion is whether the pronoun “their” points to Mary and Joseph or to Mary and Jesus as needing purification. In light of the plural “their,” if Luke obtains his information from Mary about her experience, then he misunderstands it.

according to the law: The concern with the law here and in later verses has to do with the respect for law and custom that Joseph and Mary exhibit. It also has to do with reverencing the Mosaic law in particular, giving this legal code its due respect as law from God (see the introduction to chapter 1, section C, and the Analysis on 2:21–24 below).

they brought him: This action of bringing the infant Jesus to the temple recalls Hannah’s act of bringing her son Samuel to the sanctuary (see 1 Sam. 1:24). This sort of action is implied in Jesus’ later journey to the temple with his parents (see 2:42), thus forming connections between this account and Hannah’s story.

to Jerusalem: More properly, “up to Jerusalem,” preserving the notion of the sacred, elevated geography of the city.

to present him: As the next verse implies, the intent is to offer the five shekels that redeem the firstborn (see Ex. 13:2, 11–15; 34:19–20; Num. 18:15–17), as is hinted at in 2:27. To be sure, Jesus is already dedicated to God by the words of the angel (see 1:31–33), perhaps mirroring the pattern of Hannah (see 1 Sam. 1:11).

2:23 Every male that openeth the womb: Even though Luke mentions the need to redeem the child here, the offering noted in 2:24 is not the redemption offering of five shekels. Instead, it is the purification offering made by poor people for a new mother (see the Note on 2:22). The verb “to open” (Greek dianoigō) appears in the Septuagint tied not only to the first, sacred manifestation of life from a female, whether a woman or an animal, underlining its link to holiness (see LXX Ex. 13:2, 12–13, 15; 34:19; etc.), but also to the opening of celestial understanding (see LXX Gen. 3:6, 8; also LXX Hosea 2:15). It is in this latter sense that the verb appears later in Luke’s narrative, highlighting the Risen Jesus as the one who opens the understanding and holds the keys to opening the scriptures (see the Notes on 24:31, 32, 45). Moreover, because this verb occurs only here and at the end of Luke’s account, it forms an inclusio that emphatically underscores the unity of the whole Gospel.

holy to the Lord: Although it is true that the firstborn child belongs to God and thus parents must redeem the child by offering sacrifice, as underlined in the Exodus story (see Ex. 13:2), also implicit in this passage stands Jesus’ holiness, as well as the holiness of children in general, which is respected and preserved when the angel of death passes over the homes of the Hebrew slaves (see Ex. 11:4–5; 12:12–13, 23, 27).

2:24 A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons: For these purification offerings, see Leviticus 12:6–8. In accord with this law, Mary offers a gift of the poor, costing an eighth of a denarius per bird (see the Note on 7:41). She holds her infant son while watching the sacrificial process from the Court of the Women where she can see clearly the altar of sacrifice and the sanctuary through the large Nicanor Gate that leads from the Court of the Women into the inner courts of the temple. As an adult, Jesus will return to this same Court of the Women and witness another poor woman, a widow, offer a gift of “all the living that she had” (21:4; see the Notes on 21:1–2 and the Analysis on 21:1–4).


At the heart of these verses beats the principle of respect for law. In a concrete sense, Mary and Joseph fit snugly within this picture. It seems that Luke’s report takes pains to note that those associated with the momentous events that lead to the Christian movement are, as we might expect, upright and honorable people before the law. Unlike others who revolt when the census is declared (see Acts 5:37), Mary and Joseph comply with the new law. Unlike those who seek to kill Jesus (see 22:2; Matt. 2:20), they do not break any of the Ten Commandments. Unlike those who stand as protectors of the law of Moses but break its tenets (see 9:22; 19:47; 20:46–47; 22:2), they obey the law, even its minor points.

A good reason stands behind this portrait. Luke seeks to answer questions about Christianity that have arisen in the larger Roman world, a world that his friend Theophilus represents (see 1:3; JST 3:19; Acts 1:1). After all, within recent memory there has been a bitter war between Jews of Palestine and Roman legions which ends with the fall of Jerusalem and its temple in Ad 70, as well as Masada a few years later. Romans have long identified Christians simply as Jews. But Luke seeks to set the record straight by clarifying that Christians, and those involved in founding their movement, are very different from other Jews (see 1:6; 2:4–5, 22, 24, 27, 39, 42, 51; etc.; the introduction to chapter 1, section C). Significantly for him in his continuing story, it is Jews who inflame the unruly crowds that oppose Paul and his companions in Asia Minor and elsewhere (see Acts 13:50; 14:2, 19; 17:5, 13; etc.).

In another vein, amidst these verses we meet other possible connections to Hannah, mother of the prophet Samuel (see the introduction to chapter 1, section D; the Notes on 1:46–48; the Analysis on 1:5–25). They have to do with the presentation of a child. Only in the story of Hannah do we see a mother bringing her firstborn son to the temple to present him to the Lord. Only in the story of Hannah do we read of a woman offering sacrifice for her new son. Only in the story of Hannah do we witness a parent redeeming a son (see 1 Sam. 1:24–28). Though the law requires these acts of parents, it is only in the stories of Hannah and Mary that we see such actions carried out. The possible echoes are not to be missed.

One further observation needs attention. Jesus comes to the temple very early in his life in the arms of his mother, who is a poor young woman, as her redemption offering of two birds illustrates (see 2:24). The place where Mary brings him is the Court of the Women where she can see both the sacrificial altar and beautiful sanctuary through the connecting Nicanor Gate. Notably, in one brushstroke, Luke’s Gospel paints Jesus’ life with the color of poverty in a place where the opulence of the temple is stunningly visible. As an adult, literally at the end of his life, with only a couple of days until his arrest, Jesus sits in the same courtyard and sees poverty, this time also in the person of a poor woman, a “poor widow” who “of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had” (21:2, 4). In a literary sense, Luke encloses his report of Jesus’ life within the notices of poor women in the temple’s Court of the Women whose circumstances in life contrast sharply with the visible luxuriousness of the temple. He knows poverty, both spiritual and physical; he comes to help those who seek a way out of their spiritual and economic penury.

Simeon (Luke 2:25–35)

New Rendition

25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the encouragement of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And revelation had been given to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he should see the Messiah of the Lord.

27 And he came in the spirit to the temple precinct when the parents were taking the child Jesus in so that they could do for him according to the custom of the law. 28 And he took him into his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Now you are releasing your servant, Master,

according to your saying, ‘in peace,’

30 because my eyes have seen your salvation

31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

32 a light for enlightening nations

and the glory of your people Israel.”

33 And his father and mother marveled at the proclamations concerning him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “See, this boy is positioned for the falling and rising up of many in Israel and for a sign to be spoken against 35 (but a sword shall run through your own soul, too) so that the designs of many hearts shall be revealed.”


2:25 just: The term, which is made emphatic by the addition of the word “devout,” is better rendered “righteous,” as in 1:6, where it is applied to Zacharias and Elisabeth (Greek dikaios; see the Notes on 1:6 and 23:50).

waiting: Luke writes this same verb (Greek prosdechomai) to characterize Joseph of Arimathea, placing them on the same turf. By doing so, he creates a literary inclusio that arcs across his record from beginning to end, tying it together (see the Note on 23:51).

consolation: The noun (Greek paraklēsis) is related to the term that is translated “comforter” elsewhere (see John 14:16, 26).

the Holy Ghost was upon him: This notation first explains how Simeon is able to find Joseph and Mary in the huge complex of the temple grounds (see the Note on 2:27) and, second, identifies one important result of a righteous life. In addition, Luke’s introduction to Simeon seems to suggest that he is not noisy about this spiritual gift that comes to him but is instead quiet and circumspect, his righteousness and devotion clearly visible to God.

2:26 it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost: Luke’s report about the righteous Simeon holds up the eternal principles that revelation can be personal and that it always comes through the Holy Ghost. In Simeon’s case, we do not know whether the revelation comes to him before the angel Gabriel appears to Zacharias and then Mary, or afterward.

the Lord’s Christ: The expression preserves the archaic sense of the term Christ, or Messiah: “the Lord’s anointed one.”

2:27 came by the Spirit into the temple: A miracle is at work. The temple complex, indicated by the Greek term hieron, is distinct from the sanctuary (Greek naos) and is large and generally crowded (see the Note on 1:9). That the Spirit leads Simeon to Joseph and Mary, with their child, is miraculous.

to do for him after the custom of the law: The expression hints at the five shekel payment to be made for the firstborn (see the Notes on 2:22–23).

2:29 now lettest thou thy servant depart: The Greek verb “depart” stands here as a euphemism for “to die,” though it is not the usual term for dying (Greek apoluō). Customarily, it means “to send [someone] away,” or “to release [a prisoner]” as in 8:38 (“Jesus sent him away”) and 23:25 (“[Pilate] released unto them [Barabbas]”). The tense is a simple present indicative, “Now you are letting your servant depart,” though it may well carry a modal sense that expresses a strong wish, because it stands in a hymn of praise. It may also bear a future meaning, “Now thou wilt dismiss thy servant.” The juxtaposition of the terms “servant,” which Mary applies to herself (see 1:38), and “Lord” point to the act of manumission, freeing a slave. This hymn, as recited by Simeon in 2:29–32, is titled Nunc Dimittis from the opening words of the Latin version.

2:30 thy salvation: In Hebrew or Aramaic, which Simeon is doubtless speaking, the term “salvation” comes from the same root that the name Jesus does (Hebrew yāša‘, “to deliver”), thus forming a play on words.

2:31 all people: Simeon strikes a chord that will come to characterize Jesus’ (and Luke’s) interest in the gospel spreading to everyone (see the Notes on 6:17; 8:26; 10:1, 7, 33; 11:29; 13:29; 17:16; 19:46; 24:47), a point that receives confirmation in the reference to Gentiles in 2:32.

2:32 A light to lighten the Gentiles: The expression recalls the Septuagint readings for Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6, “a light of the Gentiles.” These passages tie to the four prophetic “Servant Songs” that anticipate the coming of the Servant-King (see Isa. 42:1–4; 49:1–6; 50:4–9; 52:13–53:12). Simeon’s words can be rendered “a light for revelation to the Gentiles.” One finds a similar expression applied to the Apostle Paul in Acts 13:47.

the glory of thy people Israel: In another allusion to Isaiah’s language (see Isa. 46:13, “I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory”), Simeon draws attention to the two peoples whom Jesus’ message will touch, Gentiles and Jews.

2:33 Joseph and his mother: The oldest manuscripts read, “his father and mother,” no doubt underlining Joseph as the legal father, rather than biological father, who raises Jesus. Later texts add the name Joseph to remove any ambiguity that Joseph is not the father, a feature of verse 43.

2:34 Simeon blessed them: There seems to be an omission in Luke’s account, for he preserves only Simeon’s blessing of Mary in the next verse, not his blessing of Joseph, or even a combined blessing.

fall and rising again: The image of falling appears also in 20:18. Both passages take up a theme found in Isaiah 8:14–15 where “a stone of stumbling and . . . a rock of offense” cause people to “stumble, and fall, and be broken.” The word translated “rising again” refers elsewhere in the New Testament to the resurrection (Greek anastasis). We compare the notions of rising, or ascending, and falling in the earliest mention of the Messiah as “the Rock”: “whoso . . . climbeth up by me shall never fall” (Moses 7:53).

a sign which shall be spoken against: Simeon prophesies that Jesus, who is the sign itself, will face pugnacious opposition, indicated by the Greek participle antilegomenon, which here bears the sense of “contested.” But that opposition will “be revealed” to others (2:35), an important prophecy about Jesus’ role in exposing this sort of evil (see 6:6–11; John 15:22).

2:35 a sword shall pierce through thy own soul: These words, spoken almost as an aside, disclose to Mary that the future of her son will bring pain of soul to her. We imagine that, on occasion, she is a witness to ill treatment of her son by opponents, perhaps by persons whom she knows. We know for certain that she witnesses his death on the cross, an event that brings anguish upon her (see John 19:25–27; compare Matt. 27:55–56; Mark 15:40–41; Luke 23:49).

that the thoughts . . . may be revealed: This fits with the passage in John 15:22—“now they have no cloak for their sin.” It is not that the thoughts of the wicked will be revealed to God who already knows each person’s thoughts. Rather, Jesus will take away the cloak of sin so that evil doers are exposed to public gaze, including those who contemplate wickedness. Moreover, the sense of Simeon’s words points to thoughts as the springboard for evil acts (see 5:22; 6:8; the Note on 24:38).


Our only record of the man Simeon appears in these verses. Attempts to link him to other known persons do not succeed, though he may be tied both to the temple and the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem. Although we usually assume that he is an elderly person because of his reference to death, he need not be very old.

Simeon’s entry into the story allows Luke to stress a number of important characteristics of this man which fit into a gospel framework. First, Luke emphasizes that Simeon is “just and devout,” aspects that mirror a high degree of self-control and noble motivation. The result of Simeon’s righteousness, of course, is that “the Holy Ghost was upon him” (2:25). This portrait of Simeon’s life of devotion, brought forward in just a few words, underscores what is available to anyone who receives the newborn Messiah. Moreover, to Simeon, who has consciously cultivated a life of devotion, comes the spirit of prophecy, allowing him to reveal something of the Savior’s future. That future will include touching not only Israelites but also Gentiles with the message of salvation. This universalism underlies Luke’s two volumes, his Gospel and the Acts. In addition, according to Simeon’s prophecy, the future will include conflicts that will dog Jesus’ footsteps throughout his ministry. Further, Simeon becomes a witness of the first rank, both before the infant’s parents and before others, that God has initiated a special effort among his children.

The hymn of Simeon (2:29–32), called Nunc Dimittis (“now thou dismissest”), joins those of Mary (see 1:46–55) and Zacharias (see 1:68–79) to form an interesting pattern. In a literary sense, it stands at the end of a cycle that begins with promise (the hymn of Mary) and continues with fulfillment in the birth of John (the song of Zacharias) and ends with a “response of praise” on the lips of Simeon. Such praise, of course, also bursts forth in the song of the angels (see 2:13–14) and in the words of Anna (see 2:38). But the angels’ song comes from heaven and Anna’s praise stands unrecorded. Thus, Simeon’s earthly hymn of praise neatly ties off Luke’s presentation of the initial events of God’s imminent salvation, as seen by mortals, showing them to have come to one Simeon who is guided by God’s Spirit.

Simeon’s hymn also discloses threads that tie back to Isaiah’s four Servant Songs (see Isa. 42:1–4; 49:1–6; 50:4–9; 52:13–53:12). First identified by Bernhard Duhm in 1892, these songs point expectantly to God’s servant who will bring the reign of righteousness with him as well as bear away the sins of his people. Hence, the Lord’s servant functions as both King and Messiah, aspects that fit within Luke’s larger purposes. This explains why Simeon’s hymn is important to record.

Anna (Luke 2:36–38)

New Rendition

36 And Anna was a prophetess, a daughter of Phanuel, from the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in days, having lived with her husband seven years from her maidenhood. 37 And she was a widow until the age of eighty-four, who did not depart from the temple since she served by fasts and prayers night and day. 38 And she came that same hour, and praised God, and spoke about him to all those waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.


2:36 Anna: A variant form of Hannah, the name is one more piece that ties back to the earlier Old Testament account of Hannah and her son Samuel (see 1 Sam. 1:1–2:11, 18–21).

a prophetess: Luke’s term elevates Anna and indicates the respect that she enjoys among her peers. Other women known to enjoy the spirit of prophecy are Deborah (see Judg. 4:4), Hulda (see 2 Kgs. 22:14), and the four daughters of Philip (see Acts 21:9).

she was of a great age: The expression is literally “she had advanced many days.” For the term “days” as a common biblical way to describe old age, see Genesis 5:4–5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 23, etc.

had lived with an husband seven years: Evidently, Anna’s husband dies a mere seven years after their marriage, leaving her a widow, perhaps before she is twenty years old, depending on her age at marriage (see 2:37). One senses the pain of her loss within these words.

2:37 a widow: In a sense, Anna stands for all the widows whom Luke’s Gospel will feature, women of goodness whose place and status in this world are regularly under threat (see 4:25–26; 7:11–15; 18:2–6; 20:47; 21:1–4).

about fourscore and four years: Luke apparently sets out Anna’s age when she meets Joseph and Mary to be eighty-four, though the number may point to the years that have passed since her husband died. In either case, Luke firms up his comment that “she was of a great age” (2:36). A certain symbolism may rest undiscovered here because eighty-four is the product of twelve and seven, two numbers that carry rich metaphorical meanings.

departed not from the temple: The word for temple here is hieron and refers to the larger complex (see also 2:27, 46; 4:9; 18:10; the Note on 19:45) rather than to the sanctuary (see 1:21, 22; 23:45; the Note on 1:9). Commentators are unsure whether Anna is somehow a permanent resident within the temple precincts or whether she comes from a nearby home every day. Residency at the temple for women is not attested in Jewish sources. In any event, she is likely praying inside the Court of the Women, where she enjoys a clear view of the great altar and sanctuary through the Nicanor Gate. According to a second-century text called Protevangelium of James, in verses 7:1–8:1, the parents of Mary bring her as a three-year-old child to the temple, where she remains in residence until she is twelve, agreeing with other sources that up to eighty-two girls serve as weavers for the veil of the temple. But we should treat this story about young Mary as legendary.

prayers night and day: This reference to the twice-daily sacrifice and prayer services at the temple makes a case for Luke as a reasonably accurate recorder of Jewish customs. The daily services, of course, include lighting the incense in the sanctuary (see 1:9).

2:38 she coming in that instant: As with his notice of Simeon, Luke wants us to understand that Anna comes to this spot by the aid of the Spirit, a point made firm by calling her “a prophetess” (2:36). Moreover, she arrives at the end of Simeon’s words, meaning that she does not take her clue about the child from him. Her witness stands independent.

gave thanks likewise: Though we do not possess Anna’s words, the statement draws together her response and that of Simeon, placing them on the same ground. Hers too is evidently an expression of praise, a meaning inherent in the Greek verb anthomologeomai.

spake of him to all them that looked for redemption: Two matters become clear. First, Anna becomes a witness of God’s “redemption” through his son, essentially mirroring the other privileged observers. Second, many in her society are looking expectantly for God’s promised redemption. Her words to them will speak to a deeply felt need.

redemption in Jerusalem: Whereas the texts on which the King James Version is based include the preposition “in” (Greek en), some of the best early manuscripts read “redemption of Jerusalem,” an expression that turns a different light on how and where redemption is to occur. If redemption is to take place in Jerusalem, then we look to the last days and hours of Jesus’ ministry, though his deepest suffering and his death occur outside the city walls, in Gethsemane and on Golgotha. If redemption is to be of Jerusalem, then the city represents all Israelites, as hinted at in Moroni 10:31—“awake, and arise from the dust, O Jerusalem; . . . that the covenants of the Eternal Father which he hath made unto thee, O house of Israel, may be fulfilled.”

2:39 when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord: Luke’s summary ties the actions of Mary and Joseph to others who are law-abiding citizens, one of his points of emphasis (see the introduction to chapter 1, section C). In addition, he stresses that they keep all the law. Further, the law belongs to the domain of the Lord; it is divine in character.

they returned into Galilee, to . . . Nazareth: Luke’s report omits the flight into Egypt (see Matt. 2:13–15). We do not know whether he chooses not to include this event or whether he does not know about it. In either instance, the family in time moves to Nazareth, where Joseph probably finds work during the reconstruction of the city of Sepphoris, the main center of Galilee, rather than staying in the area of Jerusalem where he can earn a much higher wage for his skills. Sepphoris lies a mere three miles northwest of Nazareth. Its citizens revolt after Herod dies in 4 Bc and are soon subdued by Roman legionnaires from Syria under the command of P. Quinctilius Varus, legate of Syria. During the battle, Sepphoris burns but is later rebuilt. Naturally, Joseph’s building skills are then in demand. We surmise that Joseph takes Jesus with him to work in the town, thus allowing the youth to learn Greek from Greek-speaking foremen. This circumstance explains why, in the trial before Pilate, Jesus and Pilate do not need an interpreter (see the Note on 23:3).


The temple serves as the anchor in the series of stories that begin with the visit of Mary and Joseph to perform the required sacrifices and to offer the redemption gift following the birth of Jesus. Those accounts finally lead us to Anna who is known openly in the city as one associated with the temple and its services. Luke’s record, of course, will bring temple-related activities to a conclusion in chapter 2 with the story of Jesus’ Passover visit at age twelve (see 2:40–52). But a major focus of this chapter rests on events during one momentous day, one on which Jesus’ parents present the Christ child at the temple. Before the end of that day, God leads both Simeon and Anna to the child and inspires them in their praise. Anna’s known gift of prophecy (see 2:36), here manifested within the temple complex, confers on the infant Jesus a visible, palpable stamp of divine approval. To be sure, other events will do the same, but Anna’s arrival and subsequent witness borne to others will carry weight into the minds of bystanders.

As with Simeon, Anna’s praise arises within sacred precincts, linking the unfolding story of the Christ child more tightly to holiness. Her praise, too, rounds off the sense of promise and fulfillment that weave their way through the songs of Mary and Zacharias and the angels. Further, her status as a respected woman elevates the unfurling events, conferring on them a dignity and a feminine quality that they otherwise lack.

Anna’s name brings us back to the question of whether the story of Hannah influences Luke’s narrative. Even if it does, this does not mean that we should see Anna as fictional, as a mere symbol. Even if much in Luke’s narrative here links back to Hannah and her son Samuel, it is plain that Anna is a real person who comes by inspiration to where Joseph and Mary are. That said, summarizing statements about Jesus seem to tie to similar observations written about Samuel (see 1 Sam. 2:19, 26; 3:19). The statements about Jesus read: “the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him” (2:40) and “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (2:52). As an additional piece, Mary’s song as she enters the home of Elisabeth resembles that of Hannah (see 1 Sam. 2:1–10; Luke 1:46–55). And, of course, both Samuel and Jesus come as children of promise, dedicated to God.



The Last Meeting in Jerusalem (Luke 24:36–49)

This post is extracted from The Testimony of Luke, by S. Kent Brown. It contains the New Rendition, Analysis, and Notes for these verses. Also compare Matt. 28:16–20; Mark 16:14–18; John 20:19–30.

New Rendition

36 While they spoke these things, he stood in the middle of them and said to them, “Peace be to you.” 37 And being alarmed and afraid, they thought they were seeing a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts spring up in your heart? 39 Behold my hands and my feet, that I am he. Handle me and see, because a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see me have.” 40 And saying this, he showed them his hands and feet.

41 But while they were still disbelieving from joy and marveling, he said to them, “Do you have anything to eat here?” 42 And they gave him a piece of a cooked fish. 43 And taking it, he ate before them. 44 And he said to them, “These are my words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that it is necessary that everything written in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms concerning me be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. 46 And he said to them,

“Thus it is written that the Christ suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you. But you remain in the city until you be clothed with power from on high.” Continue reading

On the Cross (Luke 23:34–38)

By S. Kent Brown. This is an extract from The Testimony of Luke. For this reading, compare Matt. 27:37–43; Mark 15:26–32; John 19:19–27.

New Rendition

34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And dividing his garments, they cast lots. 35 And the people stood watching. And also the leaders kept sneering, saying, “Others he saved. Let him save himself, if he is the Christ, the chosen one of God.” 36 And the solders coming to him, ridiculed him, bringing vinegar to him, 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself.” 38 And there was also a writing above him, “This is the King of the Jews.”


The Joseph Smith Translation’s stunning addition to the Savior’s plea for forgiveness in 23:34, which forms the heart of these verses because of the abuse that he receives—“Meaning the soldiers who crucified him” ( JST 23:35)—pushes forward the issue whether certain wicked acts can be forgiven. To be sure, some cannot, such as blasphemy against the Holy Ghost (see 12:10; D&C 132:27). But what about other serious sins? Are there limits to divine mercy? Are there bounds to celestial clemency? In response, we notice that, in the only existing sample of the Savior’s intercessional language in modern scripture, he limits his appeal to his Father, seeking the Father’s graciousness only for those who “believe on my name,” begging him to “spare these . . . that they may . . . have everlasting life” (D&C 45:5). This engaging framework fits snugly with other passages from latter- day scripture that set out a limit to salvation—only for those who believe and repent (see 2 Ne. 2:6–7; Mosiah 3:17–19; Alma 12:15; D&C 29:43–44; etc.). Why? Because saving the wicked, particularly those who “have willfully rebelled against God . . . and would not keep [the commandments of God]” cuts across God’s justice: “salvation cometh to none such; for the Lord hath redeemed none such; yea, neither can the Lord redeem such” (Mosiah 15:26–27). Continue reading

At the Place of Suffering (Luke 22:39– 46)

Extracted from The Testimony of Luke, by S. Kent Brown. On this section, compare Matt. 26:36–46; Mark 14:32–42.

New Rendition

39 And coming out, he went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples also followed him. 40 And when he was at the place, he said to them, “Pray that you do not enter into temptation.” 41 And he withdrew from them as far as a stone’s throw. And kneeling down he prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you will, remove this cup from me. However, let not my will, but yours be done.” 43 And an angel from heaven was seen by him, strengthening him. 44 And being in agony he prayed more intently; and his sweat became like thick drops of blood falling down upon the ground. 45 And rising from prayer and coming to the disciples, he found them sleeping from grief. 46 And he said to them “Why do you sleep? Arise, pray that you not enter into temptation.”


At last the Savior comes to “the hour” (22:14).[1] Throughout his ministry, he speaks openly and often to the Twelve and to others about the approach of this decisive climax (see the Notes on 9:22; 12:50; 17:25; 22:15). Now the eleven Apostles become its only witnesses,[2] perhaps aided by the memory of the unidentified young man (see Mark 14:51–52). But even the Apostles miss most of what happens because they sleep. In all, the most comprehensive account lies in the Gospel of Mark (see Mark 14:32–42).[3] Luke’s report is more  spare but holds the most graphic of descriptions: Jesus’ suffering causes him to bleed through the pores of his skin. This spilling of his own blood, occurring metaphorically in the heavenly sanctuary, “the holy place,” brings about the new covenant and its associated blessing of an “eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:12–15).

Through his divine foresight, Jesus anticipates the shocking intensity of what is coming and admits his anxiety about it all (see the Note on 12:50; also John 12:27; 18:11).[4] But by the time he climbs from Jericho to the capital city, he shows his now settled resolve to face his suffering by pushing the pace up the hill (see the Note on 19:28). However, even his divine foresight and resolve do not fully prepare him for what crashes down on him at Gethsemane—our sins on a sinless man, our wickedness on a righteous person, our guilt on an innocent soul, all of this in addition to paying the price for the transgression of Adam and Eve—“In all their afflictions [the Savior] was afflicted” (D&C 133:53; see Rom. 5:12–17; 1 Cor. 15:21–22; Alma 7:11–12).

When the moment of his suffering arrives in its fiery fury, his first reflex is to push it away; his first temptation is to escape: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me” (22:42). Again and again he begs his Father for a way out (see the Notes on 22:41–42).[5] As the other accounts illustrate through their verbs of repetition, he moves from standing to kneeling to standing again in an effort to diminish the awful anguish, to blunt the piercing pain (see Matt. 26:39; Mark 14:35). As his repeated visits to the Apostles (see Matt. 26:40, 43, 45; Mark 14:37, 40, 41) and as the additions to the Joseph Smith Translation illustrate (see JST Matt. 26:43; JST Mark 14:47), his suffering lasts most of the night.

But does the Savior bleed? At this point, all students of the New Testament Gospels have to make a decision: are verses 43 and 44 genuine? That is, does the angel really come and does Jesus bleed as if he is sweating? For many, these verses represent at best an independent and somewhat dubious Christian tradition that a scribe adds to a manuscript because, as theorized, Luke does not include enough about Jesus’ suffering.[6] For others, these verses are genuine.[7] For still others, these verses preserve “the most precious” of incidents from all the Gospels.[8] For Latter-day Saints, Jesus’ bleeding in Gethsemane is a fact (where else might Jesus bleed in this manner if not in Gethsemane?). It is as Luke describes and as the Risen Savior affirms: like sweat, the blood runs from “every pore” in his body. But this is not all. In the Savior’s own words, the searing “suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit” (D&C 19:18). Not surprisingly, prophecy captures this monumental moment: “behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people” (Mosiah 3:7). In this poignant light, we conclude that verse 44 preserves a genuine record of Jesus’ suffering.

But what about verse 43, which pictures the arrival of “an angel . . . from heaven, strengthening [ Jesus]”? The early Christian authors Justin and Irenaeus, when referring to this scene, draw attention only to the bleeding and not to the appearance of the angel. But this omission simply represents an oversight because Justin is writing about Jesus’ sufferings and Irenaeus is treating Jesus’ human nature.[9] In the case of Tatian, he includes the notice of the angel.[10] Importantly, both verse 43 and verse 44 stand together in all the manuscripts that carry them. Hence, it seems impossible to separate the two. Thus the account of the angel’s appearance is to remain with the report of Jesus’ bleeding.

For any who hold that 22:43–44 forms an insertion into Luke’s narrative and that this insertion shows Luke to be emphasizing Jesus’ prayers in contrast to his suffering,[11] we simply turn to the multitude of references where Jesus prophetically tells his closest followers that he will suffer and die (see the Note on 22:15). To be sure, if we set verses 43 and 44 aside, Mark and Matthew report much more about Jesus’ suffering, although they write nothing about answers to Jesus’ prayers except Jesus’ reference to the Father sending “more than twelve legions of angels” if only Jesus will ask (see Matt. 26:53). But when we accept these two verses as authentic, then we plainly see the underlying themes of God’s initiative in answering prayers and of Jesus’ suffering as fulfilled prophecy.

One further observation. When we think of Jesus bleeding into his clothing from “every pore,” staining thoroughly at least his inner garments, we recall the scene sketched in Isaiah 63:1–3 of the one who “cometh . . . with dyed garments . . . [and is] red in [his] apparel” and treads “the winepress alone.” This adds a significant coloration to the “coming one” of John the Baptist’s prophecy. Jesus’ coming to this moment fulfills older and deeper prophecy (see 13:35; Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:7; Acts 13:25; Mal. 3:1; Mosiah 3:9; D&C 29:11; 88:106; 133:2, 10, 17, 19, 66; the Notes on 3:16; 19:38; 20:16; 21:8, 27; the Analysis on 3:7–20 and 19:28–40).[12]


22:39 he came out: As in 21:37, Jesus exits the city. He doubtless leaves before midnight because continuing the Passover meal after midnight is forbidden and renders participants unclean.[13] When he returns, he will come back as a prisoner (see 22:54).

as he was wont: Jesus’ customary travel route takes him out of the east side of the city to the Mount of Olives rather than in another direction. Luke seems to indicate that Jesus regularly comes this way. Other reports intimate that Jesus stays in Bethany with friends (see Matt. 21:17; 26:6; Mark 11:11–12; 14:3; John 12:1), but Luke records that he spends an occasional night on the Mount of Olives (see the Note on 21:37; also John 8:1–2). Luke’s following note about “the place” hints that the mount is a regular stopping spot (22:40). On this night, Passover celebrants are not to leave the immediate environs of Jerusalem, so Jesus does not go to Bethany.[14]

to the mount of Olives: Unfortunately, Luke’s description does not assist us in locating the exact spot where Jesus and the Apostles spend the next hours. The traditional locale of Gethsemane lies on the lower slope of the Mount of Olives. But the real location of Gethsemane may be higher up the mountain.

22:40 the place: This term (Greek topos; Hebrew maqōm) often refers to a special, even sacred spot (see the Notes on 4:42; 23:33; Matt. 24:15; John 4:20).[15] Jesus’ command that his disciples pray in that spot adds weight to this view. Clearly, “the place” is the designated locale for his suffering. Only Matthew and Mark name the locale Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36; Mark 14:32). John terms it “a garden” or cultivated spot and reports that it lies on the east bank of the Kidron stream ( John 18:1). In a metaphorical sense, it becomes “the holy place” where Jesus enters to shed his blood (see Heb. 9:12–15). In a different regard, a cave near the lower, traditional location, basically a storage area for tools that gardeners use in working with olive trees, may have offered a warm nighttime resting place for Jesus and his followers because “it was cold” ( John 18:18; see the Note on 21:37).[16]

Pray: This command, when paired with the same command in 22:46, forms a bracket or inclusio for verses 40–46. The intended result for both instances is the same—to overcome temptation or trial. Jesus will now do exactly as he commands his disciples and will experience the result firsthand.[17]

temptation: The same term appears in 22:28 and 22:46. One of its meanings is “trial” (see the Notes on 4:2; 22:28, 46). The sense seems to be that disciples should avoid temptations or trials that overmatch their natural or presumed ability to overcome, because only with humility will God assist.[18]

22:41 about a stone’s cast: This notation matches others which point to a recollection of an eyewitness from whom Luke learns indirectly, or with whom Luke speaks directly (see the Note below).

kneeled down, and prayed: The report of these actions also nods toward an eyewitness account, either from one of the three Apostles who can see Jesus or, later, from Jesus himself in a later conversation with his disciples, or from the young man noted in Mark 14:51–52 (see 1:2; 6:10; 9:55; 10:23; 14:25; 19:3, 5; 22:61; 23:28; John 8:6–8; Acts 1:3–4; the Notes on 7:9, 44; 18:40; 22:31, 34).[19] The act of kneeling, also noted in Mark 14:35, “stresses the urgency and humility” of Jesus’ prayer because customarily a person stands to pray (see 18:11, 13).[20]

prayed: The Greek verb proseuchomai stands in the imperfect tense, which can mean repeated or continuous action.[21] This main verb controls the sense of the adjacent participles that are translated “kneeled down” (22:41) and “saying” (22:42). Hence, in our mind’s eye we should see Jesus kneeling, praying, and speaking the words of his prayer again and again, or over a long period of time. That is, he kneels and prays, then he kneels and prays again, and again. We compare Mark 14:35–36 (Greek text), where we also find a string of imperfect tenses in the verbs describing these acts of Jesus, all of which carry a ring of eyewitness authenticity.[22] Incidentally, Jesus and the Apostles follow later Jewish law that forbids any revelry fol- lowing the Passover meal.[23]

22:42 if thou be willing, remove: The first request out of Jesus’ mouth is that his Father take the cup away, illustrating the intensity of his agony (see the Note below). It also forms an unsuccessful attempt to shift the burden of responsibility onto his Father. It seems that Jesus requires time to gain full control of himself so that he can finally pray “nevertheless not my will.” This observation finds support in the repeating or continuous sense of the verb “prayed”—“he prayed again and again” or “he kept praying” (see Note on 22:41). It is evident that the first crushing load of pain and sin to fall on him brings him to this begging request (see Matt. 26:37–38; Mark 14:33–34).

this cup: Reference to the cup, which Jesus shares with his disciples a short while before, occurs in each of the Synoptic accounts of Jesus’ prayer (see Matt. 26:39; Mark 14:36; also 3 Ne. 11:11). The tie to the two cups poured by Jesus at the supper is not to be missed (see 22:17–18, 20). Thus Jesus’ Atonement links closely with sacred ceremony, sacred actions. The first of the cups nods toward the messianic banquet at the end of time; the second points directly to Jesus’ atoning blood. In this latter instance, the mention of the cup may possibly tie to the general concept of “the cup of the wine of the fierceness of [God’s] wrath” (Rev. 16:19; also Rev. 14:10; 3 Ne. 11:11; D&C 103:3). Notably, scripture paints divine wrath either as a liquid (see Job 21:20; Jer. 25:15–16; Hosea 5:10; Rev. 14:10; 19:15; Mosiah 5:5) or as a fire kindled by him (see Num. 11:33; Ps. 106:40; Jer. 44:6).[24]186 John 18:11 rehearses Jesus’ words to Peter about “the cup” at the time of his arrest, a reference that captures the meaning of this expression—“the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” Not incidentally, Luke alone records Jesus sharing two cups at the supper (see 22:17, 20). The other accounts mention only one, that which points to Jesus’ atoning blood. What are we to make of Luke’s double reference to the cup? Both of them point to the future, one immediate (the Atonement) and one far away (the messianic banquet). But they both form a ceremonial tie to Jesus’ work as conqueror of the difficulties of this world.

not my will: Finally, after praying and supplicating “with strong crying and tears” (Heb. 5:7), Jesus surmounts the temptation to back out of his suffering and submits to his Father’s will.

22:43 And there appeared: This verse and the next are not part of the earliest manuscript (75) or other important manuscripts of Luke’s Gospel. Hence, many scholars doubt their authenticity.[25] A few manuscripts place these verses after Matthew 26:39. Recent studies on P 69, a fragmentary text from the third century (held at Oxford) that preserves only a few verses from Luke 22 and omits verses 41–44 instead of just verses 43–44, illustrate that some early texts of these verses are in flux and unsettled.[26] Early Christian authors who quote passages from the Gospels—for example, the second-century writers Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and likely Tatian—show an acquaintance with the scenes painted in 22:43–44, specifically Jesus’ bleeding.[27] Other textual evidence points to their genuine character.[28] In another vein, the verb translated “there appeared” (Greek horaō) actually stands in the passive voice: literally “the angel was seen” by Jesus, underscoring not only the divine initiative to assist him[29] but especially Jesus’ direct sight of this celestial personality, a prominent theme in Luke (see the Notes on 1:11, 12, 29; 24:24, 31, 34).[30] On the question whether Jesus generally needs assistance from angels, see the Note on 4:13.

an angel: The angel’s appearance is a favorite image among painters of religious art. The identity of the angel remains unknown. But the angel’s coming demonstrates the truth of Jesus’ instruction to the Apostles, that prayer will bring results, including heavenly assistance in trials (see 22:40, 46).[31]

22:44 And being: The content of this verse is certainly accurate because Jesus’ bleeding is confirmed both in prophecy (see Mosiah 3:7) and in the Risen Savior’s personal reminiscence of his experience (see D&C 19:18).

being in an agony: Perhaps oddly, before this point Luke offers few clues to us that Jesus is in deep agony, except the imperfect verb “prayed” that nods toward repeated or continuous praying (see the Note on 22:41). This differs from the other accounts wherein Jesus verbalizes his sudden anguish (see Matt. 26:37–38; Mark 14:33–34). Some scholars who believe that verses 43–44 are added by later scribes also judge that, in Luke’s portrayal, Jesus does not suffer deep distress about the troubles that are about to engulf him. Rather, he faces them in a way that becomes an example to later believers.[32]

prayed more earnestly: Without speaking directly about the intensity of Jesus’ suffering, this note discloses that he is pleading desperately for help. As in 22:41, the verb is in the imperfect mood and points to repeated and continual praying (see the Note on 22:41).

his sweat: Luke graphically pictures that all of Jesus’ body is affected by his suffering, as if he is working hard, like an athlete, and his entire body is sweating, from his head to his feet: “profuse sweat.”[33] The Joseph Smith Translation renders the expression differently, changing the noun to a verb: “he sweat” (JST 22:44).

as it were: The force of the Greek comparative particle hōsei is difficult to judge. Some scholars propose that it means “like” and thus they translate “his sweat became like drops of blood” or “the sweat was falling like drops of blood,” thus discounting that Jesus actually sheds blood in Gethsemane.[34] The other sense for hōsei is “as” (see 24:11; Matt. 28:4; Mark 9:26; Rom. 6:13), that is, “his sweat came to be as drops of blood.”[35]

drops of blood: The term translated “drops” (Greek thrombos) appears only here in the entire New Testament. The word can mean “clot” or “small amount of blood.”[36]

falling down to the ground: The blood that oozes from Jesus’ skin does not simply cover and discolor his body but comes in such amounts that the fluid gathers on and drops from the skin of his face. This circumstance raises questions about how art portrays Jesus both in Gethsemane and after- ward, until his execution—he freely bleeds at least into his underclothes, staining them, as the expression “every pore” strongly hints (Mosiah 3:7; D&C 19:18).

22:45 when he rose up: The verb “found” governs this participle and is the simple past tense in Greek, thus conveying to the reader the sense that Jesus prays a long time and then stands up. Incidentally, the verb “to rise up” (Greek anistēmi) describes the resurrection in a few passages (see 9:8, 19; 16:31; 18:33; 24:7, 46).[37] Mark’s report pictures the scene very differently, that Jesus goes forward and falls and prays, then goes forward and falls and prays, actions underscored by the repetitive force of the imperfect verbs (see Mark 14:35). Luke’s adoption of the imperfect verb “he prayed” fits into this view of events (22:41, 44; see the Note on 22:41). In this connection, both Matthew and Mark report that Jesus walks three times to check on Peter, James, and John during this extended experience (see Matt. 26:40, 43, 45; Mark 14:37, 40, 41). Luke reports only one such contact. Luke seems to be placing more emphasis on Jesus’ act of praying and less on his interaction with the Apostles.[38]

for sorrow: The prepositional phrase means “from sorrow” (Greek apo tēs lypēs). The New English Bible renders the phrase “worn out by grief.” That sorrow or grief characterize the past days and hours which the Apostles, particularly Peter, spend with Jesus is certainly a matter of record: “being aggrieved” ( JST 22:33; also John 14:1, 27). The Joseph Smith Translation adjusts “for sorrow” to “for they were filled with sorrow” ( JST 22:45).

22:46 Why sleep ye?: The synoptic Gospels document the Apostles’ fatigue (see Matt. 26:40, 43, 45; Mark 14:37, 40, 41). But only the Joseph Smith Translation hints at the length of their sleep: Judas and the arresting party approach “after they had finished their sleep” ( JST Mark 14:47; also JST Matt. 26:43). This added note indicates that they sleep about as much as they customarily do, that is, much of the night, and that the early dawn draws near (see the Note on 22:60). In this light, and in agreement with Jesus’ repeated returns to the slumbering Apostles, Jesus’ suffering in Gethsemane lasts a large portion of the night.

rise: The Greek verb anistēmi, which here is a participle, can bear the sense “to rise again,” that is, to resurrect.[39] Hence, Jesus’ words to the three Apostles may form a mild hint at his own future resurrection (see the Note on 22:45).

pray: This instruction to pray illustrates an important principle. The divine world seems to be persuaded, perhaps even supported, by the prayer of the righteous (see Jer. 7:16; James 5:16; the Note on 10:2). Such appears to be the case when Jesus instructs followers in the New World to pray even while he is in their midst (see 3 Ne. 19:17–18, 22–26, 30; 20:1).

lest ye enter into temptation: The expression here is stronger than that in 22:40. Is it possible that Jesus’ experience in Gethsemane brings him to express himself more forcefully? That certainly seems to be the case in Mark 14:38, where Jesus’ words brim with meaning because he faces the temptation not to go through with the Atonement—“The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.”[40]

temptation: The sense may reflect both meanings of this term: (1) to be tempted to do or think something inappropriate, or (2) to undergo a trial of some sort (see the Notes on 4:2; 22:28, 40). The appearance of the word “temptation” means that an overtone of Jesus’ prior temptations at the hands of the devil also lingers here (see 4:2–13). In that earlier case, the devil himself administers the temptations. None of his minions take the lead. We can be certain that Satan comes to Jerusalem both to influence Judas (see the Notes on 22:3, 31) and for Jesus’ last hours (see 22:53—“this is your hour, and the power of darkness”). Hence, Satan’s presence may be one of the reasons for Jesus’ instruction that his three chief Apostles pray.

[1] S. Kent Brown, “Gethsemane,” in EM, 2:542–43.

[2] Branscomb, Gospel of Mark, 267.

[3] Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, 197–201.

[4] Barrett, Gospel according to St John, 436; Marshall, Luke, 547; Morris, Luke, 340– 41; Clivaz, L’Ange et la Sueur de Sang, 411–51, 626–33.

[5] Maxwell, “New Testament,” 26–27.

[6] Fitzmyer, Luke, 2:1443–45; Stein, Luke, 559; Ehrman, New Testament: A Histori- cal Introduction, 124.

[7] Marshall, Luke, 832, “with very considerable hesitation”; Brown, Death, 1:185; Morris, Luke, 340.

[8] Plummer, Luke, 509, quoting B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort, early scholars of the New Testament text.

[9] Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 103.8; Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 3.22.2.

[10] Tatian, Diatessaron 48:16–17.

[11] Ehrman, New Testament: A Historical Introduction, 124.

[12] TDNT, 2:666–69.

[13] Mishnah Pesahim 10:9.

[14] Jeremias, Eucharistic Words, 55.

[15] TDNT, 8:195–99, 203–5; TDOT, 8:537–43.

[16] Wilkinson, Jerusalem as Jesus Knew It, 130–31; Taylor, “Garden of Gethsemane,” 26–35, 62.

[17] Green, Luke, 777.

[18] TDNT, 6:28–29.

[19] Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, 200–201.

[20] Marshall, Luke, 830.

[21] Smyth, Greek Grammar, §§1790, 1890–94, 2341; Blass and Debrunner, Greek Grammar, §325, 327.

[22] Branscomb, Gospel of Mark, 267.

[23] Mishnah Pesahim 10:8.

[24] Charles, Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John, 2:14–17.

[25] For example, Bart D. Ehrman and Mark A. Plunkett, “The Angel and the Agony: The Textual Problem of Luke 22:43–44,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 45, no. 3 (1983): 401– 16; Fitzmyer, Luke, 2:1443–45; Stein, Luke, 559; Ehrman, New Testament: A Historical Introduction, 124.

[26] Thomas A. Wayment, “A New Transcription of P. Oxy. 2383 (P69),” Novum Testamentum 50, no. 4 (2008): 351–57; see also Claire Clivaz, L’Ange et la Sueur de Sang: Ou comment on pourrait bien encore écrire l’histoire, vol. 7 of Biblical Tools and Studies (Leuven, Belgium: Peeters, 2010), 460–65, 627.

[27] Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 103.8; Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 3.22.2; Tatian, Diatessaron 48.17.

[28] Bovon, Luke 3, 197–99; Lincoln H. Blumell, “Luke 22:43–44: An Anti-Docetic Interpolation or an Apologetic Omission?” TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism 19 (2014): 1–35; see also Clivaz, L’Ange et la Sueur de Sang, 609–18, 633–39.

[29] BAGD, 581–82; Brown, Death, 1:186.

[30] TDNT, 5:317, 324, 342.

[31] Fitzmyer, Luke, 2:1444.

[32] For example, Stein, Luke, 559; Ehrman, New Testament: A Historical Introduction, 124.

[33] Johnson, Luke, 355; Tannehill, Luke, 324.

[34] Marshall, Luke, 832–33; Fitzmyer, Luke, 2:1444–45; Bock, Luke, 2:1761–62.

[35] Plummer, Luke, 510–11; Liddell and Scott, Greek Lexicon, 2040; Blass and Debrunner, Greek Grammar, §453(3); BAGD, 907.

[36] Liddell and Scott, Lexicon, 807; BAGD, 364.

[37] BAGD, 69; TDNT, 1:369–71.

[38] Marshall, Luke, 833.

[39] BAGD, 69; TDNT, 1:369–71.

[40] Neal A. Maxwell, “The New Testament—a Matchless Portrait of the Savior,” Ensign 16 (December 1986): 20–27.


Signs of the Coming Son of Man (Luke 21:25–28)

by S. Kent Brown. This text is excerpted from The Testimony of Luke, part of the BYU New Testament Commentary. (For this reading, compare Matt. 24:29–31; Mark 13:24–27.) This reading includes the New Rendition, the Analysis, and Notes.

New Rendition

25 “And there will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth anguish of nations in anxiety at the sounds of the sea and the waves, 26 men fainting from fear and expectation of things coming upon the world, since the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and much glory. 28 And when these things begin to occur, stand up and raise your heads, because your deliverance approaches.”


In these verses, the Savior turns to the signs that will precede his Second Coming and the end-time, illuminating a gap between the fall of Jerusalem and these future events. By borrowing language from the Old Testament that is difficult to grasp in places, Jesus predicts troubling portents in the heavens, on the earth, and among men and women.[1] Frighteningly, no one will escape except those who can “lift up [their] heads” and confidently anticipate that their “redemption draweth nigh” (21:28). Hence, Jesus graciously offers the optimistic view to his followers that he and they will ultimately triumph even when challenges seem most sharp and daunting.[2]

Earlier, Jesus presents himself as Son of Man in both his contemporary, earthly contexts and future, heavenly scenes (see 9:26; 11:30; 12:8, 40; 17:22, 24, 26, 30; 18:8).[3] In each of these settings, Jesus offers a hint or an aspect of his work, both here and hereafter. But when he sketches his future arrival as one “in a cloud with power and great glory,” he places a capstone on his ministry, affirming that he comes as lord and king of all (21:27), arriving “with all the holy angels” (D&C 45:44; “all the hosts”— D&C 29:11).

More concretely for his Apostles, Jesus affirms personally to them in his first-person account that, when he comes again, “if ye have slept in peace blessed are you; for as you now behold me and know that I am, even so shall ye come unto me” from their sleep in the grave. More than this, in that day “your redemption shall be perfected,” bringing a glorious climax to their quest for eternal life (D&C 45:46).

In this section of Luke’s record, the Joseph Smith Translation adds clarifying words both to the setting with the Twelve and to the Savior’s sayings that support the idea of a substantial gap in time between the fall of Jerusalem and his Second Coming. At the beginning of 21:25 where we read “there shall be signs,” the JST inserts the following: “And he answered them, and said, In the generation in which the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled, there shall be signs” (JST 21:25). Jesus is responding to a request from the Twelve that does not appear in Luke’s report: “Master, tell us concerning thy coming?” (JST 21:24), elucidating that Jesus’ discussion of the “signs” arises from the disciples’ honest query. Those “signs” will appear only “in the generation in which the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled,” that is, in a distant day, and will include “The earth also [being] troubled” along with “the waters of the great deep” (JST 12:24). In a word, Jesus’ Second Coming and the signs that precede it are not imminent. They remain far away.


21:25 there shall be signs: Picking up the thread at the end of the prior verse about “the times of the Gentiles,” the Joseph Smith Translation adds introductory words from Jesus to this verse: “And he answered them, and said, In the generation in which the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled, there shall be signs” (JST 21:25). Thus, the signs that Jesus discloses will characterize particularly that distant age. Incidentally, the Greek term for “sign” (sēmeion) appears elsewhere in negative dress (see 2:34; 11:16) as well as positive (see 2:11–12; the Notes on 11:16, 29; 21:7).[4]

the sun, . . . the moon, . . . the stars: This celestial set of signs often appears in different but somewhat obscure language: “before the day of the Lord shall come, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon be turned into blood, and the stars fall from heaven” (D&C 45:42; Matt. 24:29; Mark 13:24–25; also Ezek. 32:7; D&C 29:14). Even though this more descriptive language is missing from Luke’s report, Jesus’ recorded words clearly point to an important day, the day of the Lord (see Isa. 13:9–10; 34:4; Joel 2:10, 31; 3:15; Acts 2:20; 2 Pet. 3:10, 12). This scene is augmented in other scripture that speaks of future events, almost as if the heavenly spheres are alive: “the sun shall hide his face, and shall refuse to give light; and the moon shall be bathed in blood; and the stars shall become exceedingly angry, and shall cast themselves down” (D&C 88:87). What is more, at the time of the Savior’s coming, “so great shall be the glory of his presence that the sun shall hide his face in shame, and the moon shall withhold its light, and the stars shall be hurled from their places” (D&C 133:49). But he adds the caution that “these things . . . shall not pass away until all shall be fulfilled” (D&C 45:23). Even so, when the moment arrives, the celestial world will acknowledge the arrival of its king in dramatic fashion (see D&C 43:18; 49:23).

upon the earth distress of nations: Mirroring the celestial disturbances are terrestrial events that will engulf “nations” or “peoples” (Greek ethnos).[5]

the sea and the waves roaring: The latter part of this verse and the first part of 21:26 stand only in Luke’s account. This image of nature out of control appears nowhere else and the Joseph Smith Translation strengthens this scene: “The earth also shall be troubled, and the waters of the great deep” (JST 21:25; also Moses 7:66). Further hints exist in Jesus’ first- person account: “the whole earth shall be in commotion” and “there shall be earthquakes also in divers places, and many desolations” and “the earth shall tremble, and reel to and fro” and the earth’s inhabitants “shall see signs and wonders, for they shall be shown forth . . . in the earth beneath” (D&C 45:26, 33, 48, 40; also 2 Ne. 6:15; 8:6). In related language, scripture pleads for people to repent in the aftermath or midst of alarming natural phenomena (see Rev. 9:20–21; 1 Ne. 19:11; D&C 43:25; 88:87–91). Notably, the JST makes a subtle adjustment that impacts the meaning of Luke’s expression: “there shall be . . . upon the earth distress of nations . . . like the sea and the waves roaring” (JST 21:25; emphasis added).

21:26 Men’s hearts failing them for fear: In the human sphere, the celestial and terrestrial terrors will cause unparalleled fright (see D&C 88:89, 91). Besides fear, in this era “the love of men shall wax cold, and iniquity shall abound” (D&C 45:27). This circumstance will be reversed among believers: rejoicing, they will be confident that their “redemption draweth nigh” and “that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand” (21:28, 31; also Joel 3:16).

those things which are coming on the earth: The Greek verb (eperchomai) bears the sense “to come upon” with unpleasant consequences.[6] In the first person account, the Risen Savior spells out his meaning in more detail: “they shall behold blood, and fire, and vapors of smoke” (D&C 45:41). Moreover, in this dark moment “the nations of the earth shall mourn” and “calamity shall cover the mocker . . . and they that have watched for iniquity shall be hewn down and cast into the fire” (D&C 45:49–50; also D&C 87:6–8; JST 2 Pet. 3:10, 12).

the powers of heaven shall be shaken: The meaning of this declaration remains unsure. This description appears in all the records of this sermon, but only partially in Doctrine and Covenants 45:48, and exhibits Old Testament ties (see Joel 2:10; Hag. 2:6, 21). The context consistently connects this statement to the “signs” of the sun, moon, and stars as well as the coming of the Son of Man in the clouds (see 21:25, 27; Matt. 24:29–31; Mark 13:24–27; JST 2 Pet. 3:10; JS–M 1:33–36; D&C 88:87; 133:49). Hence, the prophecy has much to do with the heavens, occasionally partnered with the earth. But the identity of “the powers” (Greek dynamis), which seem to possess individuality, continues unspecified although other New Testament passages make reference to them (see Rom. 8:38; Eph. 1:21; 1 Pet. 3:22; also D&C 24:1; 38:11). It seems plain that events of the end-time will fracture their world (see D&C 21:6).[7]

21:27 And then shall they see: Before this expression, the Joseph Smith Translation inserts all of verse 28 and adds three words; by doing so, it becomes apparent that Jesus cements the link between “signs” in heaven and earth (see the Notes on 21:25–26), and the event they point to—his Second Coming: “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up and lift up your heads, for the day of your redemption draweth nigh” (JST 21:27; emphasis added). In a different vein, the audience for Jesus’ distant arrival, noted by the pronoun “they,” remains unclear in Luke’s account. Matthew 24:30 holds that “all the tribes of the earth” will see his arrival (also JST Matt. 24:37–38; JST Mark 13:41–42). In other scripture, the audience is “the remnant [that] shall be gathered unto this place [Jerusalem]” (D&C 45:43). At some point, ominously, “the arm of the Lord [shall] fall upon the nations” (D&C 45:47; also D&C 1:13–14; 35:14; 45:45).

the Son of man coming in a cloud with power: As in other passages, the “coming one” is the Savior (see 3:16; Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:7; Acts 13:25; Mal. 3:1; Mosiah 3:9; D&C 29:11; 133:2, 10, 17, 19, 66; the Notes on 3:16; 13:35;

19:38; 20:16; 21:8, 27; the Analysis on 3:7–20; 19:28–40, 45–48; 22:39–46).[8]

But on this occasion, he comes as he has never come before, descending from heaven. Concretely, he will arrive at several spots near one another, including the Mount of Olives (see Zech. 14:4; D&C 45:48; 133:20), Mount Zion (see D&C 133:18), and Jerusalem itself (see D&C 133:21).

great glory: This time, Jesus, the coming one, will arrive in royal dress, in royal hues, and in his resurrected form (see 24:26; also 9:26; D&C 29:11; 45:16, 44, 56).[9]

21:28 And when these things begin: The Joseph Smith Translation relocates this entire verse to a position preceding 21:27, forming an introduction to the arrival of the Son of Man (see JST 21:27–28).

these things: The reference seems to be to the “signs” that Jesus enumerates in 21:25–26,[10] a view made more secure by the movement of this verse in the JST.

lift up your heads: The lifting of one’s hands or eyes or voice often points to a special, sometimes sacred occasion, including prayer and giving blessings (see 16:23; 18:13; 3 Ne. 11:5, 8; the Note on 6:20).[11]

your redemption draweth nigh: This teaching, already linked in the Old Testament to the Lord’s voice heard from Jerusalem (see Joel 3:16), is expressed in other scripture a bit differently: “your redemption shall be perfected” by the coming of the Lord (D&C 45:46; also Moses 7:67). The Greek term for “redemption” (apolytrōsis), appearing only here in the Gospels but frequently in Paul’s writings (see Rom. 3:24; 8:23; 1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:7, 14; etc.), bears the sense of being delivered.[12]88 The Joseph Smith Translation adds three words: “the day of your redemption draweth nigh” (JST 21:27; emphasis added). Such language indicates that Jesus’ actions will occur in an earthly time frame and not in a timeless setting. In a related vein, modern scripture holds that the newly baptized church members will intelligently begin to look “for the signs of [ Jesus’] coming, and shall know [him]” (D&C 39:23). After this final expression in verse 28, the JST inserts verse 27: “And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud, with power and great glory” (JST 21:28).


[1] Green, Luke, 740, nn. 44–47 for references; we note that Green’s reference in n. 46 should be to Isa. 5:30, not to Jonah 5:30, which does not exist.

[2] Morris, Luke, 322; Green, Luke, 740–41.

[3] Green, Luke, 740

[4] BAGD, 755–65; TDNT, 7:231–36, 238–40.

[5] BAGD, 217.

[6] BAGD, 284; TDNT, 2:680–81.

[7] BAGD, 207; TDNT, 2:285, 307–8.

[8] TDNT, 2:666–69.

[9] Fitzmyer, Luke, 1:789; Green, Luke, 740.

[10] Marshall, Luke, 777.

[11] TDNT, 1:186.

[12] Plummer, Luke, 485; TDNT, 4:351–56; Morris, Luke, 328.

Parable of the unjust steward (Luke 16:1–12)

This is excerpted from The Testimony of Luke, by S. Kent Brown. It includes the New Rendition, Analysis, and Notes on each verse.

New Rendition

1 And he began to speak also to his disciples, “There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and he was accused before him as squandering his property. 2 And after he had called him, he said to him, ‘What is this I hear concerning you? Give an accounting of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’ 3 And the steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my lord is taking away the stewardship from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg. 4 I know what I should do so that, when I am removed from my stewardship, they will receive me into their houses.’

5 “And summoning each one of his lord’s debtors, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my lord?’ 6 And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, ‘And you, how much do you owe?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and write eighty.’ 8 And the lord commended the unjust steward because he acted shrewdly—because the sons of this age are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.

9 “And I say to you, make for yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness so that, when it fails, they may receive you into the everlasting dwellings. 10 He who is trustworthy in little is also trustworthy in much, and he who is unjust in little is also unjust in much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in unrighteous mammon, who will entrust to you the real riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy in what is another’s, who will give to you what is yours?” Continue reading

Parable of Dives and Lazarus (Luke 16:19–31)

This is extracted from The Testimony of Luke, by S. Kent Brown. It contains the New Rendition, Analysis, and Notes on each verse.

New Rendition

19 “There was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen and made merry in splendor every day. 20 A certain poor man named Lazarus had been laid at his gates, covered with sores 21 and wanting to be fed from what fell from the rich man’s table. Further, even the dogs, when they came, kept licking his sores. 22 And it came to pass that the poor man died and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. And the rich man also died and was buried.

23 “And in Hades, when he raised his eyes, being in torment, he saw Abraham from afar and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And calling out, he said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus to wet the tip of his finger with water and cool my tongue, because I suffer in this blaze.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that you received your good things in your life, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now, here, he is comforted and you suffer. 26 And besides all this, a great chasm has been placed between us and you, so that those who want to cross from here to you cannot, nor from there might they pass over to us.’ Continue reading

Parable of the Lost Coin (Luke 15:8–10)

This is excerpted from The Testimony of Luke, by S. Kent Brown.

New Rendition

15:8 “Or what woman having ten drachmas, if she should lose one drachma, does not kindle a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And upon finding it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found the drachma which I lost.’ 10 So, I say to you, there will be joy among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”


Continuing a pattern since chapter 13, Luke offers another teaching of the Savior that no other writer preserves, enhancing his record all the more. Continue reading

Healing the Infirm Woman (Luke 13:10-17)

This is an extracted of The Testimony of Luke, by S. Kent Brown, pages 659-665. It includes the New Rendition, Analysis, and Notes on each verse.

 New Rendition

10 And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had had a spirit of sickness for eighteen years. And she was doubled over and was unable to stand up entirely straight. 12 And seeing her, Jesus called to her and said, “Woman, you are released from your illness.” 13 And he laid his hands on her, and she was immediately made straight and glorified God. 14 But the leader of the synagogue, incensed that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, answering said to the crowd, “There are six days in which it is permitted to work, so on these you come and be healed, but not on the Sabbath day.” 15 But the Lord answering him said, “Hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath loose his cow or donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16 But this woman, being a daughter of Abraham whom Satan has bound lo these eighteen years, is it not fitting that she be released from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 17 And after he had said these things, all those opposed to him were ashamed, and all the crowd rejoiced because of all the splendid things that happened because of him. Continue reading

The Women Receive the First Tidings of the Resurrection (Luke 24:1–12)

This section is excerpted from The Testimony of Luke, by S. Kent Brown. It includes an introduction, the New Rendition, notes on each verse, and analysis. (On this section, compare Matt. 28:1–10; Mark 16:1–11; John 20:1–18)


The Garden Tomb

Surprised at the empty tomb and at the appearance of two angels, the women of Galilee hastily retreat to bear the news of the Savior’s resurrection to the Apostles; surprised at this news, Peter runs to the tomb to confirm their words; surprised that the stranger does not know of events in Jerusalem, the two disciples traveling to Emmaus share the news of Jesus’ death and receive in turn an eye-opening discourse; surprised at the disappearance of the stranger after breaking bread with him, these same two disciples rapidly return to the capital city to report their experience to the Apostles and others; surprised at the sudden appearance of the Risen Jesus while the two report and the others listen, they all watch in wonder as he eats with them; surprised at his unexpected presence, the gathered disciples listen in rapt silence as he instructs them and then departs. All is packed into one day. Continue reading