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prepared for the Lord; the other the Son of the Highest—the King, to whom the Lord God giveth the throne of His father David, who shall rule over the house of Jacob for ever, and of whose kingdom there shall be no end. The two mothers salute each other, as sister-companions in the same faith, and in the same destinies. The one is aged and unfruitful, but she shall still bear the greatest hero of the old theocracy; the other is a virgin, who has never known man, and as such is appointed to be the mother of the Mediator of the New Covenant and Saviour of the world. The one is already far advanced in pregnancy, and the babe leaps in her womb whilst she salutes the future mother of the Lord; the other has scarcely received the promise, and yet she has attained to a blessed assurance that she shall bring forth—bring forth a Son—the Saviour of the world.
Mary's hymn of praise was occasioned by the salutation of Elisabeth : “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.' Mary's answer is in a song of thanksgiving: ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done to me great things, and holy is His name. And His mercy is on them that fear Him, from generation to generation. He hath showed strength with His arm: He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He hath sent empty away. He hath holpen His servant Israel—in remembrance of His mercyas He spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to His seed for ever.'
Thus sang Mary the virgin, who with the promise of the Lord in her heart had sped to the hill country to visit Elisabeth, when she heard the salutation of her friend, and in it a confirmation of her own faith. Her heroic faith, her pilgrimage to the hill country, and her song of praise, in which she is presented to us as the queen of the poor, the lowly, and the wretched,
a monument of divine condescension and grace, proclaim her as the courageous heroine of faith, who shall give birth to the Founder of the New Covenant. She is filled with a lofty assurance of the glorious future, and speaks in spiritual vision as if it were already come and accomplished; for the incarnation of the Son of God, the decisive event on which that future depends, has already taken its commencement. Mary was at this time always filled with the Holy Ghost; Zacharias, on the contrary, only first when he wrote the name of his son John on a tablet, and regained the use of speech. On that occasion he burst forth in the words:
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel ; for He hath visited and redeemed His people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us—an altar of refuge for the oppressed, whose corners, or horns, they have to lay hold of in order to be delivered—in the house of His servant David; as He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been since the world began-from the beginning of the æon—namely, deliverance from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; to show mercy on our fathers, and (so) to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He sware to our father Abraham, that He would grant unto us—his children—that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life. And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest : for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto His people, by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited us--a morning sun from heaven hath saluted us—to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the night-shadow?of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. '
In the song of Mary there breathes the anticipation of those future times, in their living germ, already within her womb, when all generations shall call her blessed, when God shall scatter the proud, and put down the mighty from their seats, and send the rich empty away, whilst showing mercy on them that fear Him, raising on high the lowly, and filling the hungry with good things. No doubt, she thinks, in the first instance, of spiritual relations when she proclaims the humiliation of the proud and the exaltation of the humble; but these relationships appear to her nevertheless as the foundation of a new world in correspondence with them. Yet Mary does not confound the new announcements of salvation with novelties. She sees in them only the fulfilment of the ancient promises made to Abraham and to his seed. The key-note of her song, however, belongs to the New Testament in its divine and human elements, and only turns backwards to the Old Testament in its Christian promises. On the other hand, the song of Zacharias is, in the best sense of the term, priestly, and has its starting point in Old Testament conceptions. Salvation appears to him as salvation for the people of Israel. It presents itself to his mind under the figure of an altar of salvation, which, however, does not stand in the temple, but in the house and city of David. It reflects the old prophetic promises, and is based on the covenant oath made to Abraham. Its result, in a negative point of view, is the salvation and deliverance of Israel ; and positively, the establishment of a people to serve God in holiness and righteousness as a holy priesthoood. The lastmentioned features show clearly how much all these Israelitish hopes of Zacharias are to be considered as the symbolic expression of anticipations which possess a spiritual character. Hence it is, that towards the close of his song of praise, he passes over from the Old Testament to the New Testament point of view, whilst, on the contrary, Mary returns from the New Testament hopes back to the Old Testament promises.
'Εν σκότει και σκιά θανάτου.
1. Those who impute to the Gospel of Luke a tone inimical to Judaism, find a sufficient refutation in this section, which places the commencement of the New Testament era in the Jewish temple. It may be conceded, however, that the Evangelist already indicates his Pauline point of view by the manner in which he exhibits the strong faith of the Virgin of Nazareth, beside the weak faith of the Jewish priest.
2. That the poetical character of this section, which Schleiermacher in his treatise on Luke (p. 23) points out, by no means invalidates the historical nature of the facts concerned, has been already shown. See vol. i. 324.
HISTORY OF THE BIRTH AND EARLY LIFE OF JESUS.
(Chap. ii. 1-40.)
The history of the birth of Jesus was connected in a truly human manner with the greatest changes in the political history of the world.
In those days the Emperor Augustus confirmed the political supremacy of Rome, by ordering the levy of a tax in all parts of the Roman empire. This tax was now also to be imposed on Judea (see above, i. 377), the territory of king Herod, and already a dependency of Rome. It showed that the independence of the kingdom of Israel existed no longer. But just this conclusive sign of the humiliation of the political Israel was for the advantage of the Israel of the theocracy. The imperial decree became the occasion of Jesus being born in Bethlehem, the ancestral city of the house of David.
But this honour put on Jesus was also accompanied with abasement. Joseph and Mary repaired to Bethlehem in order to be taxed. Here Mary is delivered of her son. And thus is Jesus born of a poor pilgrim on her journey, and is first laid in a manger ; a circumstance by which we incidentally learn that He was born in a stable, or in the meanest hut. (See above, vol. i. 379.)
The circumstances of His birth proclaim Him thus as the King of poor human pilgrims. But just this lowliness of His birth becomes the occasion of immediately spreading the good tidings of great joy among those of little account in the landthe shepherds. The revelations of Jehovah by His angel, which were wont to be given to the most distinguished men of the nation, the prophets, singly, are now imparted to an entire group of poor shepherds, who watch their flocks by night in the fields. They are shepherds who, surrounded by the bright radiance of the glory of the Lord, first hear from angelic mouth the announcement of the birth of Christ. Fear not'—thus sounds the heavenly message_“for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great
Comp. Hoffmann, Weissagung und Erfüllung, p. 54.
joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. But not one angel alone brought them these tidings. The scene suddenly changed, and a multitude of the heavenly host joined in praising God, and singing, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will toward men.' This song of heavenly spirits finds its echo in the hearts of Israelitish shepherds, and through them becomes the possession of the world. It is the eternal reflection of the light of joy which Christ spreads upon earth—the expression of the fact, that in His very birth He enriches the poor. The shepherds hasten from the field, and find the child in the manger. They proclaim the things which they have heard. Mary keeps and ponders them in her heartdoubtless, above all things, the angelic song. On this the shepherds return, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, accordant as they had found them to be with the announcement made unto them.
It had not stumbled the shepherds to find the child in a manger. Their report deeply moved the heart of Mary; but with equal power was their own heart moved by the appearance of Mary with the child. These are Israelitish shepherds—as they have been trained under the theocracy—Israelitish-Christian poor people!
The birth of Christ, in its lowly manifestation, enriches the poor. With this first feature of His humiliation there is connected a second. When eight days were accomplished, the child was circumcised, according to the law. Circumcision was indeed, from an Old Testament point of view, a high honour. * The child was thereby consecrated, enrolled among the people of God, and separated from the uncircumcised. But from a New Testament point of view, it imposes a humbling subjection and bondage under the burdensome requirements of the Old Testament law. Thus also Christ was now made under the law. But in connection with that event, He was named Jesus— Deliverer, Redeemer, Saviour. And the name for Him was not merely a name. The angel had called Him so before He was conceived in His mother's womb. Thus, out of eternity and for eternity, He received the name : Jesus. This name is the signmanual of His character. At the same time, therefore, in which by circumcision He became a Jew, He was also designated in