What does Luke 3:2 mean?
ESV: during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.
NIV: during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.
NASB: in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zechariah, in the wilderness.
CSB: during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, God's word came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.
NLT: Annas and Caiaphas were the high priests. At this time a message from God came to John son of Zechariah, who was living in the wilderness.
KJV: Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.
Luke makes several references to major political figures, to establish a timeline for his account (Luke 1:5; 2:1–2). In the prior verse, that included the various heads of government who ruled at the time (Luke 3:1). Here, he points to the top religious leaders of Israel.
Originally, Israel's high priests served until death, passing the role to a son. Rome did not prefer to leave anyone in power for too long, however, so they occasionally forced new men into the position (John 11:49). Despite official status, former high priests, such as Annas, were still called by that title. During the public ministry of Christ, Annas' son-in-law Caiaphas was the official, Roman-recognized high priest (Matthew 26:3).
After this list of impressive, famous, well-connected people, Luke makes a pointed remark. God's message did not come to these worldly figureheads; it came to the son of a simple priest who lived alone in the desert (Luke 1:13, 80). This reinforces the idea that the world's definition of importance is irrelevant to God (1 Corinthians 1:18, 26–27).
Luke 3:1–6 continues a pattern establishing Luke's account as genuine history. Once again, he ties these events to other historical markers. This also creates contrast: while powerful men are in powerful positions, the "the word of God" comes to a strange hermit living in the desert. Luke's account also provides a connection between John's ministry and the prophecies which predicted it.
The early part of Luke's gospel shifts back and forth between the histories of Jesus and John the Baptist. Chapter 3 starts with historical and prophetic context about John. It then depicts some of John's interactions with local religious leaders. Luke gives only a brief description of Jesus' baptism. He also touches on John's criticism of Herod the Tetrarch, which would eventually result in John's execution (Matthew 14:10–12). The chapter ends with a genealogy of Christ.
Chapters 1 and 2 provided early history for both John the Baptist and Jesus. Chapter 3 establishes John's preaching ministry and its connection to Jesus Christ. The chapter ends with a genealogy which some believe runs through Mary's side of the family. Chapter 4 transitions from Jesus' baptism into His public ministry, by describing His fasting in the wilderness and temptation by Satan.
Luke was a traveling companion of Paul (Acts 16:10) and a physician (Colossians 4:14). Unlike Matthew, Mark, and John, Luke writes his gospel as an historian, rather than as a first-hand eyewitness. His extensive writings also include the book of Acts (Acts 1:1–3). These are deliberately organized, carefully researched accounts of those events. The gospel of Luke focuses on the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Luke's Gentile perspective presents Christ as a Savior for all people, offering both forgiveness and direction to those who follow Him.
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