Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 1 Study # 1
November 6, 2005
1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene,
2 Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.
1901 ASV Translation:
1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene,
2 in the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.
- I. The Overall Impression.
- A. He gives the "rulers" of Rome, Judaea, Galilee, Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Abilene.
- 1. All but Judaea are north of Jerusalem.
- 2. Ituraea was northeast of the Sea of Galilee; Trachonitis was also northeast, between Galilee and Damascus; and Abilene was northwest of Damascus.
- 3. The question concerns Luke's interest in these areas.
- a. They are clearly under Roman dominion.
- b. They are ordered from Judea, north to Galilee, then east to Trachonitis, and then far north to Abilene.
- B. He gives the leaders of the "high-priesthood".
- C. He gives the "event": the word of God came unto John.
- D. Conclusion: the High King speaks in the midst of the human affairs of "Roman authority" and Jewish theological degradation.
- 1. A darker scenario could hardly be imagined: the bleakest outlook for the Kingdom of God from a human perspective.
- 2. It is time for the King of Heaven to address the issue; and He does -- with Grace.
- II. The Background.
- A. John had been predicted to be the forerunner of the Christ.
- B. The Christ had been born in the city of David.
- III. The Particulars.
- A. In the 15th year of the hegemony of Tiberius Caesar...
- 1. There is little doubt that Theophilus would have known what year this was in whatever calendars were extant in his experience.
- 2. The questions of what year this was in our calendar-arrangement are manifold and make even the heads of those thoroughly schooled in chronological issues swim.
- a. If we accept the birth of Jesus as a winter of B.C. 5/4 event, and the statement that He began His ministry when He was "about" 30 years old as pretty much on target without "rounding off", the latest John could have come on the scene would have been the winter of 26 and Jesus' ministry would have been "about" seven years long.
- b. But, either this fact of the Word of God is lost to us, or its significance is to be found in some other place.
- 3. The point of a 15th year in timing the coming of the Word of the Highest King may well be found in the same direction as the 12th year of Jesus in the immediately preceeding text.
- a. The twelfth year of Jesus was more about "cycles of contrasts" to produce "wisdom" than it is about how old He was. The "point" of the paragraph of Luke 2:40-52 is about Jesus' growth in wisdom. His age has to figure into that thesis is some direct way.
- b. The fifteenth year of an earthly ruler might also be about three cycles of five, rather than about a calendar year.
- 1) Three is consistently the number of "sufficiency".
- 2) Five is the number of "recompense" (Leah used it this way to name Issachar, her fifth son--who was born because she "hired" her husband and was "paid back" for her investment). The Pentateuch was all about "Law" which, in turn, is all about "recompense"...the establishment of justice. It is not a big jump from a three-fold focus upon "recompense" (3X5) to the intention of the Gracious Lord to begin to address humanity through "John".
- c. In the specific chronology of Daniel's vision of the seventy weeks, the sixty-ninth week began on or about Feb. 23, 26 A.D. when Jesus was 29 years and some months old.
- 4. The jump from Jesus' 12th year to Tiberius' 15th year is clearly involved in this text. John would, likely, have become a "son of the commandment" during Jesus' 12th year. Seventeen years later he would have been 30 years old and ready to become the voice in the wilderness that announces the coming of Messiah.
- a. Jesus is the "Maker of the Broad Place".
- b. Tiberius was the "descendent of the god-river" who took the title of "the elephant slayer". The contrast between the "hegemon" of Rome and the Redeemer of Heaven could not be greater.
- c. The entire region of the Davidic/Solomonic empire has been brought to its "nadir" under Tiberius and the High Priesthood of the Annas/Caiaphas coalition.