The Infancy Narratives in Luke's Gospel
by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.

Overview of the Contents of Luke 1—2:

1:1-4 - Prologue: Literary Introduction to the Gospel

1:5-25 - Angel Gabriel appears to Zechariah to announce the birth of John (the Baptist)

1:26-38 - Angel Gabriel appears to Mary to announce the birth of Jesus (the “Annunciation”)

1:39-56 - Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth (the “Visitation”; incl. Mary's “Magnificat”)

1:57-58 - Elizabeth gives birth to her son (John the Baptist)

1:59-80 - 8th day: circumcision & naming of John the Baptist (incl. Zechariah's “Benedictus”)

2:1-5 - Joseph and Mary journey to Bethlehem

2:6-7 - Mary gives birth to her baby in Bethlehem of Judea (the “Nativity”)

2:8-14 - Angels appear to some shepherds (incl. the angels' “Gloria”)

2:15-20 - Shepherds visit Mary and Joseph and their infant

2:21 - 8th day: circumcision and naming of Jesus

2:22-38 - 40th day: Jesus is presented to God in the Jerusalem Temple (the “Presentation”)

2:39-40 - Jesus' family returns to Nazareth

2:41-52 - Twelve-year-old Jesus is found in the Temple (incl. Simeon's “Nunc Dimittis”)

Parallels in Biblical Birth Narratives:

. Birth of Ishmael
(Gen 15:1-21; 16:1-16)
Birth of Isaac
(Gen 17:15-22; 18:9-15; 21:1-8)
Birth of Samson
(Judg 13:2-25)
Birth of Samuel
(1 Sam 1:1—2:11)
Birth of John
(Luke 1:5-25, 57-80)
Birth of Jesus
(Luke 1:26-38; 2:1-40)

Mother's Situation

Sarai: barren (11:30; 16:1-2) Sarah: old (17:17; 18:11-12) Anonymous Wife: barren Hannah: barren Elizabeth: barren, old Mary: virgin, not yet married
Father's Role Abram: questions God Abraham: listens to God Manoah: dialogues with wife Elkanah: comforts Hannah Zechariah: priest in temple Joseph: no major role
Child Requested by Abram (15:3) (not explicit) (not explicit) by Hannah's prayer by Zechariah's prayer (implicit) (not requested)
Announcement of Birth* many descendants (15:5) by God to Abraham by an angel to the woman by Eli's assurance to Hannah by angel Gabriel to Zechariah by angel Gabriel to Mary
Initial Reaction Abram believed (15:6) Abraham laughs Woman tells her husband Eli thinks Hannah is drunk Zechariah questions / doubts Mary questions / believes
Result of Announcement Sarai gives Hagar to Abram delay of several chapters Angel appears again to both Hannah conceives from husband Elizabeth conceives from husband Mary conceives from Holy Spirit
Birth of Child conflict before birth (16:4-16) brief mention (21:1-3) brief mention (13:24a) very brief mention (1:20) brief narration (1:57-58) extensive narration (2:1-20)
Circumcision first instituted (17:1-27) brief mention (21:4) (not mentioned) (not mentioned) extensive narration (1:59-79) brief mention (2:21)
Boy's Name Ishmael (16:11, 15-16) Isaac (17:19; 21:3-5) Samson (13:24a) Samuel (1:20) John (1:13, 59-63) Jesus (1:31, 35; 2:21)
Reaction [Praising God] (not explicit) by Sarah (21:6-7) (sacrifice offered before birth) by Hannah (2:1-10) by Zechariah (1:67-79) by Mary (1:46-55);
by angels (2:8-14);
by shepherds (2:20)
by Simeon (2:28-32)
Child Grows driven away (21:9-21) great feast (21:8) brief mention (13:24b-25) (1:24-28; 2:11) brief mention (1:80) incident at age twelve (2:40-52)

*Note: Raymond Brown (Birth of the Messiah, p. 156) subdivides these Biblical Annunciations into five steps, most of which occur in most of the above stories:

  1. The appearance of an angel of the Lord (or appearance of the Lord)
  2. Fear or prostration of the visionary confronted by this supernatural presence
  3. The divine message:
    1. The visionary is addressed by name
    2. A qualifying phrase describing the visionary
    3. The visionary is urged not to be afraid
    4. A woman is with child, or about to be with child
    5. She will give birth to the (male) child
    6. The name by which the child is to be called
    7. An etymology interpreting the name
    8. The future accomplishments of the child
  4. An objection by the visionary as to how this can be, or a request for a sign
  5. The giving of a sign to reassure the visionary

Nazareth & Bethlehem:

Related Resources:


Electronic New Testament Educational Resources
Electronic New Testament Educational Resources


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