Troublesome Topic: THE STRATEGIC USE OF NAMES IN LUKE 1

Luke 1:5

Translation

In the days of King HEROD

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of JUDEA,

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there was

a certain priest

named

ZACHARIAH,

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of the

rotation of ABIJAH;

his wife was a daughter of AARON,

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and her name was ELIZABETH.

 

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Paraphrase

In the days when the SELF-PROCLAIMED HERO was king over THE LAND OF THOSE HOT-HEADED, TROUBLE-SOME JEWS, there was a certain priest whose name expressed this truth: THE ETERNAL AND PERSONAL GOD REMEMBERS ME. He was part of the priestly rotation of those who claim that THE ETERNAL AND PERSONAL GOD IS MY FATHER.  His wife was a product of ENLIGHTENMENT, and she lived by the creed, “I HAVE BOUND MYSELF TO GIVE ALL MY ALLEGIANCE TO MY GOD.”

Luke 1:13

Translation

 Then the angel said to him, “ZACHARIAH,

do not fear, for your request

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has been heard

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and your wife ELIZABETH will bear you a son

and you will call his name JOHN.

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Paraphrase

Then the messenger said to him, YOU WHOM THE ETERNAL AND PERSONAL GOD REMEMBERS, do not fear, for your request

has been heard and your wife, the one who has BOUND HERSELF TO GIVE ALL ALLEGIANCE TO HER GOD, will bear a son for you and his life will testify that GOD HAS BEEN GRACIOUS.

Luke 1:16

Translation

And the hearts of many of the sons of ISRAEL

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he will turn

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to the LORD

their GOD.

Paraphrase

He will cause the return of the hearts of many of those whose heritage is to THOSE WHO REFUSE TO LET GO OF GOD;

he will cause them to return to THE SUPREME RULER, to the one they had pledged to follow as THE CREATOR AND OWNER OF ALL THINGS.

Luke 1:17

Translation

And he will precede Him in the spirit and power of ELIJAH,

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to turn the hearts of fathers to their children,

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and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, and to

make ready a people prepared

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for the [coming of] the LORD.”

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Paraphrase

And he (John) will precede Him (the Lord) in the spirit and power of the one who demonstrates that THE ETERNAL AND PERSONAL GOD IS MY GOD in order to cause the hearts of fathers to once again be properly attuned to the needs of their sons,

And he will cause the disobedient [sons] to return to the wisdom that is exemplified by the righteous,

and to make ready a people

perfectly prepared for coming of THE SUPREME RULER.

Luke 1:19

Translation

And answering, the angel said to him, “I am GABRIEL

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and I stand before God;

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I was sent to speak to you and give you these glad tidings.

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Paraphrase

By way of an answer the messenger said to him, “I am

THE MIGHT OF GOD,” I am always ready to receive a command from God and do it; I was sent to speak to you and share this “Good News” with you.

Luke 1:26

Translation

In the sixth month

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THEOS

sent

the angel GABRIEL to a city in GALILEE

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the name

of which was NAZARETH,

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Paraphrase

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy THE CREATOR AND OWNER OF ALL THINGS sent the messenger who was THE MIGHT OF GOD to a town in THE HEATHEN CIRCLE, to the place of the HOLY SPROUT,

Luke 1:27

Translation

to a virgin who was promised in marriage to a man named JOSEPH, who was of the house of DAVID; the virgin’s name was MARY.

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Paraphrase

to a virgin who was

pledged in marriage to ONE WHO WILL INCREASE who belonged to those who are LOVED.

The virgin was REBELLIOUS.

Luke 1:28

Translation

And having come to her he said, “Grace

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to you,

O recipient of grace,

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for THE LORD is with

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you.”

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Paraphrase

When the messenger arrived he said to her, “Rejoice in God’s grace, for you are a willing recipient of the grace God has freely shown you, and you are accepted and specially honored by Him. Here is God’s message to you: The SUPREME RULER is your close companion, with whom you have close fellowship.”

Luke 1:32

Translation

He will be powerful, and will be called the SON OF

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THE MOST HIGH GOD,

and the LORD GOD

will give Him

the throne of His father DAVID,

Paraphrase

He will be powerful and will be called ONE-AND-THE-SAME WITH THE MOST AWE-INSPIRING, MOST POWERFUL GOD; and THE SUPREME RULER who is THE CREATOR AND RULER OF ALL THINGS will give Him the authority of His father, the one who was LOVED,

Luke 1:33

Translation

and He will reign over the house of JACOB

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through all ages, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

Paraphrase

and He will reign over the house of THE CRAFTY ONES throughout all ages, and there will be no end of His exercise of authority over them.”

Luke 1:38

Translation

Then MARY said, “Behold, I am a slave

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of the LORD, may it be to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her.

Paraphrase

Then THE REBELLIOUS ONE said, “See, here is my decision and my level of resolve on the matter: I will be a humble slave bound to THE SUPREME RULER, may things happen to me as you have said.”

Then the messenger left her.

Luke 1:39

Translation

In those days, having risen up, MARY

went with haste to the hill country, to a town in JUDAH,

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Paraphrase

A few days after recovering from her encounter with the angel, THE [PREVIOUSLY] REBELLIOUS ONE made her way quickly to the hill country, i.e. to a certain town in THE LAND OF PRAISE AND CELEBRATION,

Luke 1:40

Translation

and she entered the house of ZACHARIAH and greeted

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ELIZABETH.

Paraphrase

and she entered the house of THE ONE WHOM THE ETERNAL AND PERSONAL GOD REMEMBERS and greeted THE ONE WHO HAD BOUND HERSELF TO GIVE ALL ALLEGIANCE TO HER GOD.

Luke 1:59

Translation

Now it came to pass that, on the eighth day, they went to circumcise the child, and some were calling the child by his father’s name, ZACHARIAH.

Paraphrase

Now it came to pass that, on the eighth day, they went to circumcise the child, and some were calling the child by his father’s name, ONE WHOM THE ETERNAL AND PERSONAL GOD HAS REMEMBERED.

Luke 1:60

Translation

And answering, his mother said, “No, His name will definitely be JOHN.”

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Paraphrase

But his mother responded to their comments by saying, “No, His name will definitely be GOD IS GRACIOUS.”

Luke 1:61

Translation

They said to her, “No one among your relatives is called by that name.”

Paraphrase

(the same as translation- They said to her, “No one among your relatives is called by that name.”)

Luke 1:62

Translation

So they used signs to ask his father what he wished him to be called.

Paraphrase

(the same as translation-So they used signs to ask his father what he wished him to be called.)

Luke 1:63

Translation

After asking for a writing tablet he wrote, saying, “His name is JOHN.” Everyone marveled at this.

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Paraphrase

After asking for a writing tablet he wrote his response, which was, “his name is GOD IS GRACIOUS.” This caused quite a commotion among everyone who was there.

Footnotes

1

Herod means “Hero, or son of a hero.” At least he thinks he is a hero; his actions will soon prove this name to be true or false.

2: The name Judea

Judea was the Greek way of saying simply, “the place where the Jews live.” The name Jews was tied to the Hebrew name for Judah, the largest tribe that remained in that region. But for the Greek-speaking Romans it had nothing to do with the meaning of the original Hebrew name, therefore I seek to convey how the Romans viewed the Jews, because that was the key issue behind their use of the name Judea.

3

The name Zachariah means “Remembered by God.” The name for God found in Hebrew names ending (for us) in “iah” is always YHVH (or YHWH), the most holy, most revered name of God. In the paraphrase column I usually render this name for God as “THE ETERNAL AND PERSONAL GOD.” The Jews would have always remembered Moses’ important encounter with God at the burning bush that was not burning up, where God told Moses “I am,” “I just am.” The implication was that God has always existed, always will exist, and exists right now in the fullest sense of life that is possible. That is where I get the concept of “eternal.” However, there is also a personal aspect to this name. Instead of showing one of God’s great and impressive qualities, like His unlimited power or knowledge, this name shows God as a relational God, one who wants to get close to us. Yes, God “is,” and He exists eternally, but the Hebrews also came to realize that God is there for us, He is available, accessible, and wants an intimate relationship with each one of us. He is a personal friend. And this name, the most revered name the Jews had for God, conveyed to them His desire for intimate closeness. That is why I render the name of this man as THE ETERNAL AND PERSONAL GOD REMEMBERS ME.

Already we see that there is turmoil, conflict and danger, communicated through the names Herod and Judea, but God sees and is remembering His people, as is shown in the name Zachariah. Even though it looked to Zachariah like God had forgotten him because his request for a son had been ignored, his name kept reminding him that God was always vigilant and caring for His people.

4: The name Aaron

There are two lines of thought about the origin of the name Aaron. One says it comes from a root pronounced in English as “Ahar,” meaning to be “enlightened,” or possibly “teacher.” The other line of thought is that it comes from a root, pronounced “Ar,” which means “mountain.” The Hebrew pronunciation of the actual name was “Aharon,” and thus I find “ahar” more plausible than simply “Ar.”

5: The name Elizabeth

There are two parts of her name. The first is EL, “God,” a shortened version of the divine name “Elohim,” with the letter i as a possessive indicator, giving us the idea of “my God.” The second part means “oath” or “to swear an oath,” and if we back up further, the literal meaning is “to seven oneself,” presenting the idea of fully binding oneself in seven ways. If we ask, “Who is being bound, and to whom?” we can safely assume that the one with the name is binding herself to her God. The name does not include anything like a preposition “to,” “by” or “with,” so one of those needs to be assumed. I believe the preposition “to” fits best.

6: “your request”

I do not consider this the key word for prayer in its deepest sense, rather this word means to supplicate, request or entreat, based on a specific need. I call this asking God for favors. There is nothing wrong with asking God for a favor, but we need to remember that He has not obliged Himself to answer such requests with a “Yes.” When God does answer our requests for a favor it is only because He is a gracious God who delights in blessing our socks off, though we don’t deserve it.

7: “has been heard”

Another way to say this would be, “You whom God has remembered, guess what? God has indeed remembered you!” The implication is this: “Therefore, do not doubt the meaning of your name. The fact that God heard your request is evidence that God is paying attention to you. While it has seemed like God was distant and unconcerned, the opposite has been true, God has remembered you, which means, God has been paying attention to you all along.” These words by the angel are a mild chastisement.

Furthermore, remembering always brought with it a decision to act. Whenever the Bible says that God remembered His people, or a specific person, there was always action that followed. Whenever God asks us to remember something or someone, He expects decisive action to follow. In this case the action God had chosen was explained by the angel in the latter part of the same sentence.

8

The name John means “God has been gracious.” God answered Zachariah’s request for a son, not because he and his wife were righteous and had bound themselves to obediently follow God, as Elizabeth’s name indicates, but rather because God is a gracious God. There is balance here; Elizabeth was not barren because of anything she had done wrong for she was righteous before God, but neither did they deserve God’s favor; we can never do enough to deserve anything good from God. He shows us His favor and grace because it is in His nature to do so.

9

The name Israel means: “One who fights, One who wrestles with God, One who strives or contends with God.” It denotes a combative, demanding relationship with God, but for a good purpose, to receive what one knows only God can deliver, and it is based on the knowledge that God has already promised what is desired but He is looking to see if we will demonstrate persistent tenacity. Some scholars say it means “God strives, God is persistent, or God perseveres.” It is quite possible that the Jews of Jesus’ day understood both sides of this name, recognizing that God is striving with us too, testing our tenacity, calling us to higher levels of faith and obedience. But I think the Jews placed the emphasis on man’s role here, man’s tenacious striving toward God (thankfully God meets us more than half way); they allowed this name to remind them of the story of Jacob wrestling all night with the representative of God (Jesus) and focus their thoughts on the questions, “How badly do you want this? “How hard are you fighting for every spiritual gain?” I could express the meaning of  this name like this: “those who are tenaciously persistent in showing God how serious they are about holding on to Him in order to receive what He has already promised” (the long version), but I can also express it simply as “those who refuse to let go of God,” (the short version). Obviously, we cannot do this entirely in our own strength, we need God’s help to even fight like that. As I see it, the Jews would have understood that, in this endeavor called spiritual growth, man has a role to play, and God has a role to play. We do our contending with God by being tenaciously persistent, not letting go of God for any reason, always having a fighting attitude against sin in our own lives.

How can all this be in a name? One had to understand the story behind the name, not just the meaning of the word. The Jews would have remembered the story almost every time the name was mentioned, (see Genesis 32).

10: “he will turn”

Notice the irony in this statement: Those who “refuse to let go of God,” had failed to hold on to Him, had stopped being persistent and needed to “return” to God. The mission of John the Baptizer was to call the children of Israel to make changes in their lives so they could once again live up to their name; he called them to be what they claimed to be.

Dear reader, how about you? Are you being what you claim to be? Do you claim to be a “Christian?” “Christian” means “little Christ.” Are you living as a representation of, or little picture of who Christ is? Are you an Israelite? Most of us in Christianity would say “no.” But we should be Israelites in the sense that we too should be striving with God and for God, taking hold of God and not letting go for anything.

11

Elijah was one of the biggest Old Testament figures in the eyes of the New Testament era Jews, alongside Abraham, Moses and David.  This statement is saying that this new figure, whom we call John the Baptist, would be just as big a deal as Elijah and his work would have the same type of powerful impact and a similar spirit, i.e. passion and zeal. We can easily understand the comment about the spirit of Elijah for it fits well, however, the part about the power of Elijah we struggle to understand for John did not do any great miracles like Elijah did. So why the comparison? How did John operate in the power of Elijah? It has to do with the name Elijah, which means “my God is YHVH.” Both Elijah and John the Baptizer called people to recognize who the true God is and to choose Him as their God. For Elijah it was most prominently done in the encounter with the 450 prophets of Baal on Mt Carmel; for John it was his ministry along the Jordan river, proclaiming to the people that their Messiah was soon to come and they needed to repent to be ready to receive Him. Although John did not do miracles like Elijah did, he had a powerful impact in pointing people to God just like Elijah.

12

The Old Testament ends with God promising to send [another] Elijah, who will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers (Malachi 4:5-6, the very last verses of the Old Testament). The New Testament picks up that same terminology only 17 verses into Luke’s Gospel. Obviously, God wanted to bring together those who had been separated; obviously, God’s saving work has social as well as spiritual ramifications; obviously, the family is a key part of how God works; and obviously, the Gospel message is to be passed down from generation to generation.

The passage in Malachi goes on to say that if the reconciling of fathers and sons does not happen He, God, would have to strike the earth with a curse. Some have lamented the fact that the Old Testament ends with the word “curse.” I think the ending of the Old Testament creates a powerful linkage to the beginning of the New Testament because of how Luke reaches back to connect with this passage from Malachi, which lays out clearly the only options available to us. The options for mankind are either reconciliation or a curse. The story of Jesus is not complete without a proper understanding of the problem, which is sin and how it displeases God. Jesus Christ is the antidote for sin. Malachi set the stage for Christ’s coming with how he ended his prophetic writing.

13

The word used just prior to this and translated “make ready” means to arrange or make the necessary preparations. This word, translated “prepared,” means to build or construct something exactly as prescribed by the design given the builder, using a tool or implement for that purpose. John appears to have been that tool.

14

Inserting the word “coming” makes this statement much more powerful and brings it closer to its fully intended meaning. Remember that the Jews would often quote a verse from the Old Testament but leave out the most important part for the hearer or reader to figure out on his own. I think that is happening here. Malachi 4 said that if a change in heart did not happen God would be obliged to come and strike the earth with (another) curse. As Luke quotes Malachi, he implies that God is indeed coming, and we know that He did come in the person of Jesus Christ. As predicted by Malachi, the coming of God to earth went well for those with humble, contrite hearts, but it did not go well for those with proud, self-righteous hearts.

15

Gabriel means either “mighty man of God, mighty warrior for God, mighty for God,” or simply “the might of God.” In light of what Zachariah needed to hear, it is the latter that makes the most sense.

16: “before God”

There were two primary reasons one would stand before a powerful ruler: one was to hear a judgment and receive either the blessing or the punishment decided upon, and the other was to await an order and then rush to obey it. For the angel it was obviously the latter. The name of the angel and his words “I stand before God,” both point to the same thing; they work together to communicate the following: “It is unwise for you to question my words. I have been on many missions for God and He considers me a valuable member of His ranks. I would never tell you something that did not come directly from Him. In fact, my entire job is to wait before Him until He gives me a task to fulfill, and then go and do it. Did you think I just made this up? Did you think this is coming from me and not from God?”

17: “glad tidings”

This is the same Greek word from which we get the word Gospel and Evangelize. This is not just some good news, this is The Good News.

18

“in the sixth month,” is all the text says but the context clearly points to the pregnancy of Elizabeth as the gauge by which this time-frame is being measured.

19

The name Galilee comes from a word meaning “rod, cylinder, circle, or circuit.” But Galilee’s reputation at the time of Jesus was more than that. It was surrounded by pagans—Syria to the North, Tyre and Sidon to the West, Samaria to the South, and desert lands to the East. It also had many Gentiles living within its boundaries because it was a fertile area; even though Galilee was small it boasted 204 towns and villages. But because of the number of Gentiles living there, Mt 4:15 refers to it as “Galilee of the Gentiles,” and the Jews from outside Galilee called it “the heathen circle.”

20

The first thing to be noted about Nazareth is that it is not mentioned in other ancient texts, including the Old Testament, only the New Testament. It appears that God intentionally had Jesus grow up in an insignificant, unheard of place we could call “Nowhereville.” This perception of Nazareth as “Nowhereville” is not based on size, for there were smaller towns in that area, rather it is based on a seeming lack of importance in the previously recorded history of the Jewish people. Nothing significant had ever happened there meriting inclusion in the historical records. I have chosen to not include “Nowhereville” in the paraphrase column because it would be too cumbersome, so this footnote is the only place where I mention this additional aspect of the place where Jesus grew up.

Although we cannot be sure of the meaning of the name Nazareth, there are several possibilities. In the Hebrew mind, the word Nazareth would have three primary letters, called radicals, followed by a suffixed ending; those three letters would have been NZR, or possibly NTZR (the TZ sound is made by one Hebrew letter). The words “sprout” and “guard or watch tower,” are possible meanings from the root letters NTZR. The meaning “set apart or consecrated” would come from the root letters NZR. We cannot be sure which word it was named after because we only see the name in Greek, not in Hebrew. The idea of a watch tower may come from the fact that a prominent hill stands outside of the town. The idea of being “set apart,” which is the main idea behind “holy or sanctified,” could have come from some unrecorded event in the location’s history; and the same could be said of “shoot or branch.” The idea of a “shoot or sprout” was closely tied to the God’s prophecies about a remnant remaining and being used to restore the entire people of God. Regarding a connection to Jesus it would seem that “set apart/holy” and “branch/shoot/sprout” would be the most logical meanings. It is not a stretch to think that God, knowing in advance what would happen and where it would happen, caused a town to be given a name which sounded like “holy” and “sprout” in preparation for His Son in human form to grow up there. The name sounded like both those possible roots and it is quite likely that both root meanings would come to mind when a Jew of Jesus’ day said the name. Therefore, even though they come from different roots, I have chosen for the paraphrase column to use “holy sprout” as the most desirable meaning for Nazareth.

 

21

Yes, you read that correctly, Mary does mean “rebellious and defiant.” Her name comes from the Hebrew name “Miriam,” in fact the Greek name reads “Miriam.” The Latin and Spanish name Maria, is only one letter short of the Hebrew and Greek names. I will use the English name Mary, so as to not confuse the reader. Both Miriam and Mary mean “rebellious and defiant.” The Bible does not paint a picture of life that is candy-coated or artificial, it is very real and something we can readily identify with, therefore not all the names used in the story of Jesus depict spiritual perfection. It is both interesting and comforting that when God sent His Son to this world as a baby, He sent Him into the arms of someone who was not already perfect, but one who represented all the rest of us who are rebellious, defiant and in need of a savior.

Why would someone name their child “rebellious and defiant?” In the time of Israel’s slavery in Egypt the name Miriam made sense. Parents were showing their desire to be free from the oppressive thumb of the Egyptians. In the time of the Roman occupation of Palestine the same sentiment would have been true, so her parents may have named her something that reflected their hatred of Rome. In this case it is more likely that Mary’s parents were simply naming her after a prominent woman from the Old Testament, although it fit the socio-political setting as well. But beyond that, there is the wonderful irony which the name Miriam/Mary brings to the story, and that irony would not have been lost on the original audience. We all start out as rebellious, defiant sinners, and those are precisely the ones that Jesus came for. That truth is constantly driven home to us by the name of this special one whom many within Christendom have venerated. There is indeed certain respect due her, but there is also a message communicated through her name, a message that does not set her apart from the rest of us, but makes her our representative, for she is just like all of us.

22

This word is obviously used as a greeting, but the greeting is based on the idea that the person being addressed is a recipient of God’s grace. The word’s primary meaning is “grace,” but it is sometimes translated “rejoice, be glad,” for those are proper responses for one that has received God’s grace. Our rejoicing can never be separated from God’s grace.

23: “recipient of grace”

It is difficult to put into English the full impact of the Greek word used here, and in my paraphrase column I risk losing the reader in too much detail. Most English translations choose to render it as “highly favored,” which is not wrong, just weak; there is so much more to it than that. Not only does the angel greet her with a greeting that is based on God’s grace, he goes on to highlight the fact that she is a willing recipient of the grace God has freely shown her, as one who is accepted and specially honored by Him. The word itself was understood by Greek speaking people to convey the following: 1) the recipient of God’s grace is willing to receive it;

2) God’s grace is freely given, it is not earned; 3) someone who receives God’s grace is highly esteemed, honored, or favored; 4) the receipt of such grace is accompanied by joy, gladness, and rejoicing.

The most remarkable aspect of this word choice is revealed when we think about whom the angel is speaking to – the “rebellious, defiant one,” for that is what Mary means. I believe Mary was a devout Jewess, raised in a good family; however, she was not a perfect child, nor a sinless young lady. With a name like that it is likely she had an inferiority complex, which may explain why the angel tells her three times that she is accepted by God and is a recipient of God’s grace. Before the angel could give her his important message, he had to address her deep insecurities and reassure her that she was accepted by God. In these ways she represents all mankind in our need of a savior, and her name was used by God to weave together a description of the coming of the Savior which includes all the characters necessary to make the story right. Without a guilty, needy, and helpless sinner as part of the narrative, the arrival of a savior would be senseless. However, the emphasis of the narrative is not her sinful condition, despite the meaning of her name; the emphasis is that she, though rebellious, has been a recipient of God’s grace, a truth that is communicated with double emphasis in this verse—“Grace to you, O recipient of grace”—and is repeated in v. 30.

24

This preposition means “after, with, or among,” but it communicates much more than physical proximity. Its use here indicates a closeness in relationship, a companionship with its accompanying fellowship. This is yet another way in which the text is shouting at us that the rebellious one has been fully accepted by God and because of His grace is in close fellowship with Him, to the point that He is giving her a very special role and task.

25

Isn’t something missing here? Some translations also have “blessed are you among women” at this point in the text. The manuscripts that do not include these words are (for the most part) the earlier, therefore, more important ones. The word “blessed are you among women” appear to have been added later by a scribe during copying, but it was added early enough to make it into many manuscripts after it. Don’t let this bother you, for the words, “blessed are you among women,” do occur in Lk 1:42 and there is no doubt about their inclusion at that point.

 

26

In ancient times a deity figure that was called a “son of a god” was considered just as much a god as the one who was considered the “father.” For instance, Baal was considered the son of the god El, but in the minds of many people, Baal surpassed El in power and popularity. The phrase “son of god” was a way of saying that this one also was a god, equal to the other gods; there was no difference. In the modern American mind it sounds to some people like “son of God” makes Jesus less than God, or at best, the phrase is lost on us because its meaning is unclear to us; however, the people of ancient times used the phrase to indicate that this one was indeed on the same level as all the rest of the gods. To a Jew the phrase meant that this one, Jesus, was the same as God even though there is only one God. For things like this that the human mind cannot fully understand, the Jews were happy to leave that in God’s hands and just believe what He said.

27: “house of Jacob”

Notice that here the negative name, “crafty ones” is used instead of the positive name, “One who refuses to let go of God.” Either name (Jacob or Israel) could have been chosen, but the negative one was chosen in order to show God’s grace and mercy toward sinners. In reality, the Jews did not see the name Jacob as being only negative; it was the name of an important ancestor, so they probably ignored the negative stuff about it. I personally think it was chosen rather than Israel in order to show man’s spiritual weakness and God’s grace.

28: “I am a slave”

Once again notice the additional power and irony that the understanding of names brings to the story. Here the REBELLIOUS AND DEFIANT ONE says, “I will submit, I will obey totally. I will be bound to the Lord, to do only what He desires. I will accept whatever He chooses to do with me, even if I don’t fully understand it.” She did not know how Joseph would react, or how her parents would react. But she did know there was a chance she could be stoned for becoming pregnant outside of marriage; and she knew that no one would believe her story about the angel who said she would become pregnant by the Holy Spirit. People would say, “The Holy Spirit doesn’t go around getting girls pregnant; you’re just trying to cover up your bad choices.” But she decided, with resolve, to say “Yes, the Lord may do with me whatever He desires; I will no longer be REBELLIOUS.” Why don’t we see a name change for Mary? My guess is that God left her original name in the story to remind us of ourselves, to remind us of what we are like without Him.

Notice also that being a “slave” includes the concept of being bound to someone. In this case Mary was voluntarily binding herself to the Lord as His slave. The name Elizabeth means one who has BOUND HERSELF TO GIVE ALL ALLEGIANCE TO HER GOD. Now Mary, THE REBELIOUS ONE, is becoming like Elizabeth, A BOUND ONE.

29: “a town in Judah”

Here the absence of a name should catch our attention. We are not told the name of the town because it would not contribute to the story. The identification of all the components of the story is not important; the spiritual truths found in the story are important. Notice also that this unnamed town is in Judah, not Judea. By the time of Jesus the names Judah and Judea were used for roughly the same area of land, but they had different emphases. Judah was the old Hebrew designation for one of the tribes of Israel, with its roots in God’s plan; Judea was what the same area of land was called by foreigners who did not like the Jews because they were hot-headed and rebellious.

30: “greeted”

A typical Jewish greeting was either to wish them “shalom,” which means “wholeness, or wellbeing,” or to say “May the Lord be with you.” The same wish was reciprocated back from the recipient to the first speaker. Whichever greeting Mary used would have been true for these two women in many ways.

31: The name John

To us it seems like there is little difference between the one spiritually rich name (Zachariah, One whom God has remembered) and the other spiritually rich name (John, God is gracious). However, in this case it was not a matter of one name being “better” than the other, but an issue of the one name being unexpected or new, and the other being predictable and thus “ordinary.” God was forcing them to break out of the rut they were in and see other aspects of how He works. Zachariah needed the personal reminder that God remembered him and was working on his behalf; other generations of the family may not have needed that message, but a slightly different message. God was shaking up the family so they would be alerted to what He was doing, and He was showing more than one way in which He works.

32: "everyone marveled at this”

This word contains both a sense of awed amazement, and an act of pondering, or wondering about something. These two ideas go together to show people who have witnessed something unexpected, or unexplainable and then asked themselves, “what does this mean?” Not only was everyone amazed at the unprecedented choice of a name, but they wondered “Why?” If they could not figure out a “good” reason, some were probably allowing themselves to be angered by it. Despite the miracle that had allowed Elizabeth to get pregnant, some were thinking only about maintaining the pride of the family line. However, what happened next was another miraculous demonstration of God’s power which proved very effective at shutting the mouths of those who had been resisting this choice of a name.