New Testament

Week 9: The Gospel of Luke, Part 1

Luke 1:1–9:50

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17 November 2022


Additional reading and links

  • The Infancy Gospel of James,” an apocryphal Gospel written in the mid-to-late second century ᴀ.ᴅ., is the source of many of the traditions connected with the Nativity, including Mary herself being born miraculously (4:1–5:2; the origin of the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception), that Joseph was an elderly widower (8:3–9:2), that Mary rode a donkey from Nazareth to Bethlehem (17:2), and that Jesus was born in a cave (18:1). It also has a number of unusual stories, including one in which Joseph experiences time standing still at the moment Jesus was born (18:2). (The link is to Constantin von Tischendorf’s 1876 translation.)

  • Stephen C. Carlson, “The Accommodations of Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem: Κατάλυμα in Luke 2.7,” New Testament Studies 56 (2010): 326–42. Carlson explains the likely meaning of the word katalyma, translated “inn” in the King James Bible.

  • How did ancient people understand Jesus’ biological parentage? Andrew Lincoln of the University of Gloucestershire addresses this in his article “How Babies Were Made in Jesus’ Time,” Biblical Archaeological Review (November/December 2014): 42–49. (The article is not available for free online, but a blog summary of it can be read here.)


Luke 2:29–32 contains the prayer of Simeon after he encounters the Christ child in the Temple. This scriptural passage is known as the Nunc dimittis—Latin for “now dismiss”—and has been arranged for music by many composers over the last 2,000 years. Here is one of my favorite versions, by the early 20th century composer Gustav Holst. It is sung a capella and in Latin.