Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 3 Study # 14
33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.
1901 ASV Translation:
33 And his father and his mother were marvelling at the things which were spoken concerning him;
Textual Issues: In 2:33 the texts differ significantly. The Textus Receptus reads "And Joseph and His mother..." and the Nestle/Aland 26 reads "And His father and mother". In his textual commentary regarding 2:33, Metzger claims a rather high level of confidence that the actual name of His father (Joseph) was a later insertion that was made to soften the impact of the words "His father" (which would, if misunderstood, compromise the virgin birth doctrine by "admission" of the claim that Jesus was actually a typical father-begotten son). The reasoning is simple: if Joseph was "His father", then Jesus was not born of God. The reasoning is also illegitimately simplistic: there are other issues involved in the word "father" than only the identification of where the male sperm came from. Since it was in Luke 1:26-38 that Luke clearly established the virgin conception of Jesus so that He could be called "the Son of God" (1:35), it is impossible that Luke, by using the words "His father", meant to undercut his own presentation. But, that is not to say that Luke would not have used "His father" in his text. Mary, herself, used this terminology in 2:48 without any hint that she was denying her miraculous pregnancy. Since both the textual evidence and the fact that it is highly likely that someone else thought he saw a problem and removed it by changing "His father" to "Joseph", we will accept the legitimate text as "His father and mother...".
August 7, 2005
- I. The Lesser Issue: Why Did Luke Call Joseph and Mary "his father and mother"?
- A. This is precisely the way Mary addressed their relationship to Jesus in this same chapter (2:48).
- 1. This means that it is perfectly legitimate for Luke to refer to Joseph as "His father".
- 2. This type of reference does absolutely nothing to undermine the unambiguous record of the virgin conception issues in chapter one.
- B. The question still needs an answer.
- 1. Luke was presenting Joseph and Mary as the ones most closely related to the facts about Jesus and His personal identity.
- 2. Luke used the "father and mother" terminology because it "connects" in the minds of most people as a reference to "the most tightly involved people". There is no one who has a better "setting" for "understanding" than those who are the most intimately involved in terms of time, space, and events.
- a. There is little doubt that Joseph and Mary had to "deal with" the attitudes of the people in Nazareth in regard to Mary's claim that she was supernaturally pregnant. Only the most sanguine of dreamers would think that the people of Nazareth "believed" Mary's explanation of her "out of wedlock" pregnancy (Joseph, himself, did not believe it -- as Matthew's record tells us pointedly: Matthew 1:19).
- 1) Six months of "living with" the skepticism and whispers could not help but totally reinforce Joseph's and Mary's "focus" upon one of the most significant "signs" ever given to humanity. Miraculous, divinely produced, pregnancies are not everyday events and could hardly be brushed aside when it is "the" point of contention for six months. Mary actually came "home" from Elizabeth's at about the time when she would have begun to "show" -- not yet "married", and not "with" Joseph for that period of time. So, everyone is wondering "where has Mary been and how is it that she is pregnant while Joseph has been here all this time?" This "history" would raise questions in people's minds as to whether Joseph was the "father".
- 2) This, alone, would tend to make a person either more profoundly "believing", or drive them into a peculiar kind of "hardness" as they fought against Yahweh's plan's cost to them. If Joseph and Mary let their resentment against the people of Nazareth turn into a resentment against Yahweh for imposing such pain upon them, a kind of spiritual dullness would naturally set in.
- b. Thus we are moved, by Joseph's and Mary's obvious "surprise" at both the words of the shepherds and the words of Simeon, to the conclusion that Joseph and Mary had not "handled" the consequences of being "glorified" by God as His instruments for the production of the Savior in a good way. This is, of course, a hard contrast to our "sanitized" view of the people God uses (how many people, for example, have even considered that Mary might well have been characterized by those "failings" of the "insignificant" -- boastfulness, mouthiness, etc. -- while at the same time having a sensitive heart to Elizabeth's need and to God?). People without the Spirit are notorious for their participation in human fallenness -- even "believers". Why did God give His Spirit at Pentecost if our sanitized views of Old Testament believers have any credibility?
- c. Therefore we have to answer the question of Luke's terminology in light of the fact that Joseph and Mary were "surprised" and Simeon was not. The only "distinction" that the text makes is the Spirit's presence upon Simeon. This may well be a "stage-setting" for Luke's record of the necessity for, and coming of, the Spirit at the Pentecost recorded in Acts 2.
- II. The Major Issue: Why Did Luke Tell Us of Joseph's and Mary's Reaction to Simeon's Words?
- A. Luke was not finished with his record of Simeon's words as 2:34-35 reveal.
- B. Luke's words set up a significant contrast between Simeon and Joseph/Mary.
- 1. There is no record of Simeon's participation in any of the events prior to his words in the temple.
- 2. Joseph and Mary have been being impacted by special words and events since the arrival of Gabriel at Mary's home to tell her of her upcoming pregnancy. We were even told in 2:18-19 that "marvelling" was the response to the shepherds.
- 3. Yet, Simeon seems to have a better grasp of what is going on than Joseph or Mary. However, it may be that Simeon is simply dominated by the Spirit and his words are not really any better understood by him than by the parents. There are, after all, an untold number of "layers" of understanding of the words which express reality. It is possible to "understand" words with only a superficial grasp of their meaning in the sense that the words address both superficial things as well as profound ones. The person who turns the key in the ignition of an automobile "understands" that the action will typically lead to the engine's activities. But the auto-mechanic, who understands that the key is making a "switch" operate which directs electrical energy to both the starting motor and the coil which provides the spark for the spark plugs, and understands all of the mechanical functions that make the engine run, has a more significant "understanding" of the function of turning the key in the ignition. But, the doctor of mechanical engineering understands even more profoundly what the action of turning the ignition means. Everyone gets the engine started the same way, but the level of understanding is vastly different. So, we have no idea what Simeon really "understood" in respect to what his words meant, nor do we know what Joseph and Mary had actually come to accept regarding Jesus. All we really know is that Luke felt compelled to tell Theophilus that Joseph and Mary were both rather stunned by Simeon's words.
- C. Clearly, Luke wanted Theophilus to recognize that the words regarding Jesus were enormously significant.
- 1. This intention seems to be the rationale for both 2:18-19 and our current text.
- 2. But, it still seems remarkable that Joseph and Mary do not seem to have really settled into the reality that they are living.
- a. The word "marvelled" is generally used to indicate the reaction a person has when his experience is somewhere outside of the boundaries of his expectations. It is even used of Jesus (Luke 7:9). It can be over as small a thing as being "surprised" that Jesus didn't wash his hands before He reclined to eat (Luke 11:38) or as great a thing as seeing the resurrected Lord (Luke 24:41).
- b. Luke refers to this reaction 13 times in this Gospel. He introduces us to it in 1:21 as the reaction of those who "expected" Zacharias to come out of the temple a lot sooner than he did. Our current text is the fourth time he introduces the reaction that someone is having to things outside of "expectation".
- c. It seems apparent that Luke is using the term as a "focus" word -- to get his reader(s) to zero in on what has been going on to create this reaction. Because it is a "focus" word in respect to "expectation", Luke apparently wished for Theophilus to give "expectation" some thought and seek out a "reason" for why the reaction is what it is. Why should Joseph and Mary be "surprised" at Simeon's words -- given their past experiences with Gabriel, the pregnancy, the birth, and the shepherds' testimony? Indeed, why should anyone be "surprised" at Simeon's words given the massive amount of revelation in the Scriptures regarding the Messiah? Apparently there is something "wrong" with human "expectation" in a rather major way. What is it? Why are human beings always so "surprised" at God's works? It has to be related to the impact that sin has made and is making. Men, under sin, seem to have a terrible time thinking properly about God as He really is. They are not "surprised" when things happen that their view of God tells them "ought" to happen, but when things happen that their view of God disallows, they "marvel".
- d. There is, in this reaction, a serious "caution": do not resist the implications of the event(s). This is not to say we ought not to resist certain things about our "interpretation" of events, but we ought to be willing to let the evidence lead us to Truth. However, that "Truth" must be in real harmony with the words of God about what is true. An "interpretation" of "events" is always "suspect" unless it is in real harmony with divine revelation. If it is not, it is a deception. This means that we are in greater need of understanding the words of divine revelation than we are of "experiencing" things, for without revelation to guide us, experience can easily lead us astray. The problem here is that we tend to think we are "noble" in our motivations and, therefore, cannot "misunderstand" the implications of an "event" when the reality is that we are typically "not noble", but rather "over-committed" to our desires for pleasure, peace, and prominence and think that, because we are committed to these objectives, God is also. Interestingly, the "truth" that God was trying to reveal by the events concerned His "grace". Men are invariably over-committed to God as a "reactor" to human activities as though it is man who determines the flow of history and under-committed to God as "initiator" of "grace" in the human setting in order to determine the flow of history.
- D. The "surprise" in the text is Simeon's declaration that Jesus was identified as the "Salvation of God" Who would bring grace into the Gentile and Jewish settings. For the Gentiles, He would be the demonstration of the meaning of grace unto relational peace, and for the Jews, He would be the demonstration of the meaning of grace unto spiritual significance.
- 1. The Gentiles needed a "light of revelation" regarding the true interest of God in their acquisition of Life.
- 2. The Jews needed a grasp of the true "glory" that Life sponsors. In the light of Luke 6:23 (which calls for a radically atypical reaction to being hated), it is clear that Israel needed a significant "adjustment" to the "glory" issue of being Yahweh's instrument for the execution of His plan.
- E. Thus, the "Why" of Luke's record is to be found in the fact that even the "godly" man/woman does not view God properly when it comes to "grace". "Godliness" often has a profound "rules" orientation and "grace" is significantly outside of the "rules". This does not mean that God is disinterested in men learning to live "in bounds", but it does mean that the learning must be love-driven, not reward-me-driven.