The Annunciation of John the Baptist Pt.2

It is important to note that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke are the only gospels to have an Infancy Narrative out of the canonical gospels. Of course, other early Christian sources such as the 2nd century A.D.  document The Protoevangelium of James aided in our understanding of the early traditions surrounding the birth of the Lord. There are various suppositions as to why only two gospels write about the birth of Christ. Any historiographer would ask about the author’s motives for including such a narrative. It is fairly undisputed by biblical scholars and theologians that Matthew’s Gospel is written with a Jewish audience in mind, whilst Luke’s Gospel is written for a gentile readership. If one continues to focus on Luke, it’s important to also understand a particular source of Luke’s Gospel. Pope Benedict reminds us, “Luke indicates from time to time that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is herself one of his sources, especially when he says in 2:51 that ‘his mother kept all these things in her heart’ (also 2:19). Only she could report the event of the Annunciation… Why should Luke have invented the statement about Mary keeping the words and events in her heart, if there were no concrete grounds for saying so?”[1]

The beginning of the Infancy Gospel of Luke is different than many modern stories. The narrative begins with Shakespearean play, instead of focusing on main characters of the story that Luke is telling, he begins with two characters of small importance to the overall theme Christ’s great sacrifice. As quoted by Dr. Edward Sri of the Augustine Institute, in his book Dawn of the Messiah: The Coming of Christ in Scripture, “Luke begins his Gospel like a good Shakespearean play: with a pair of minor characters who prepare the way for the lead roles to take the stage.”[2]

Naturally, the two people are of some importance being the parents of John the Baptist—Zechariah, and Elizabeth. Although not the main focus of Luke’s Gospel, Zechariah and Elizabeth play a vital role in laying the foundation of the importance of Christ’s birth to both the Jewish community and also humanity. Sri explains, “Zechariah and Elizabeth are a standout couple with high credentials in first-century Judaism.”[3]

The couple both come from a priestly background, Zechariah being a priest and Elizabeth being a descendant of Aaron.[4] Pope Benedict confirms the fact by asserting that “Zechariah is a priest from the division of Abijah. His wife Elizabeth is also of priestly stock: she is from the tribe of Aaron.”[5] Naturally, by birth, this would make John the Baptist through the tribe of Levi a priest in which Benedict instructs, “In him the priesthood of the Old Covenant moves toward Jesus; it becomes a pointer toward Jesus, a proclamation of his mission.”[6] Pope Benedict continues to explain, “concerning the priests who are consecrated to God, it is said: Drink no wine nor strong drink, you nor your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die; it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations (Lev 10:9.”[7]

Luke’s most impressive use of Old Testament typology within the narrative of Zechariah and Elizabeth is the Annunciation of John the Baptist. The imagery used by Luke is filled with references to Old Testament scripture that would express the importance of these events to their audience using as Sri explains “the last prophetic words of the Old Testament.”[8]The typology in the beginning of Luke hinges on dialogue between the Angel of the Lord and Zechariah by the Holy of Holies. The Angels speaks to Zechariah and says:

And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God,
17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Eli′jah,
to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,
and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,
to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”[9]

The typology used by Luke is to reference the audience back to the book of Malachi and frame John the Baptist as the new Elijah to “prepare the way before me” for Christ’s birth.[10] Luke according to tradition being a fairly educated man and skilled writer used his knowledge and skill to highlight the importance of John the Baptist’s birth with Christ’s birth to connect it to Old Testament scripture to prove Malachi’s prophecy is being fulfilled through John. By examining Mal. 4: 5-6, one can see that Luke uses nearly identical language:

“Behold, I will send you Eli′jah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lordcomes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.”[11]

After the Angel of the Lord makes his announcement to Zechariah before the Holy of Holies, in which it fell to Zechariah to offer incense in the temple:

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty,according to the custom of the priesthood, it fell to him by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.[12]

It’s important to note that John does not assume the identity of Elijah, but rather that figure and statue of the Old Testament prophet, “he comes in the spirit and power of the great prophet.”[13]

[1] Pope Benedict, 16.

[2] Edward Sri, Dawn of the Messiah: The Coming of Christ in Scripture (Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2005), 7.

[3] Ibid, 8.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Pope Benedict, 18.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid, 22.

[8] Sri, 12.

[9] Lk. 1: 16-17 RSV

[10] Mal. 3:1 RSV

[11] Mal. 4: 5-6 RSV

[12] Lk. 1:8-11 RSV

[13] Pope Benedict, 23.

5 Comments

    1. Thank you, the sad fact is that these post take a lot of time to research and are the best quality. However, they get the minimal activity. Now, if I posted something with the title “Pope Francis eats sushi with a known heretic” The post automatically attracts 150% more activity.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There is probably less room for opinion on posts that are informative or instructive, leading to less commentary. Of course, there is the sensationalistic aspect of some other types of posts, which can be exciting. Yet it is frustrating when you want to actually learn about the faith but can’t find material. I’m glad for them, even if I can’t add much to the discussion.

        Liked by 1 person

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