22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;
23 (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)
24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.
1901 ASV Translation:
22 And when the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were fulfilled, they brought him up to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord
23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord),
24 and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.
In 2:21-24 there are two textual differences between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26. The first is the spelling of the name "Moses". The Textus Receptus omits one letter. The second is in the phrase in 2:24 "in the Law of the Lord". The Textus Receptus omits the definite article "the".
I. In the paragraph of 2:21-39, it seems to be Luke's intention to address the characterization of the newly born Jesus by two elderly saints in the Temple.
II. The content of Luke's record break down into these parts...
A. 2:21 -- the "Name" given
B. 2:22-24 -- the occasion for the comments made by Simeon and Anna
C. 2:25-35 -- Simeon's character and comments
D. 2:36-38 -- Anna's character and thanksgiving to God regarding His redemption
E. 2:39 -- Luke's conclusion of this part of his record: the departure to Nazareth and the subsequent growth of Jesus
I. There is a very large difference between Luke's record and Matthew's record.
A. The language of Luke is both specific enough and elastic enough to permit the events of Matthew's record, but if we did not have Matthew's account of the flight to Egypt we would know nothing of it at all. Luke gives no hint that Jesus' arrival created a great stir in the capital city of Judah, nor does he mention the murderous activity of Herod in attempting to destroy Jesus as a baby.
1. When Luke addresses specific time frames, he does it in reference to "Law".
a. The "Law" required circumcision on the eighth day.
b. The "Law" required sacrifices of purification on the 40th day from the birth day.
2. When Luke says that they departed into Galilee in 2:39 his words do not "require" any specific time frame. He does not say, "The day afterwards, they departed..." or any such "specific" thing. He simply says that "as they had completed all the things according to the Law of the Lord, they went back into Galilee". He doesn't say anything about whether they went back to Bethlehem first, whether they had to flee to Egypt either before, or after, the purification rites, or when any of what Matthew records might have taken place. But, Matthew does say something that is very instructive regarding these "timing" issues. In Matthew 2:22 he says that Joseph left Egypt to go back to Israel, but was afraid to "go there" because he heard that Herod's wicked son was in control in Jerusalem and because he was warned in a dream not to "go there". The implications are pretty strong that Joseph did not go back to Jerusalem once he had to flee to Egypt. Given those implications, it is highly unlikely that the flight to Egypt occurred before the purification rites had been performed.
3. Though there are some implications in this conclusion for the "timing" of the birth of Jesus in respect to the death of Herod (which is reported to have occurred in the spring of 4 B.C. on the weight of a comment by Josephus that there was an eclipse of the moon at the time of Herod's death), there is nothing of any real significance to these implications. They don't "address" the question of whether Jesus was born in December on or around the "traditional" date of "Christmas", nor does it matter. God's focus on the birth of His Son is a focus on the fact "THAT" it happened, not a focus on "WHEN" in the time of the year it happened. It is a curiosity that so many make such a big deal about celebrating the birth on a "day", but that's all it is -- a curiosity.
B. There is a very large difference in what Luke wanted to get across to Theophilus and what Matthew wanted to get across to his readers: Luke wanted Theophilus to buy into the "Servant" mentality of the Son of Man; and Matthew wanted his readers to buy into the "Practice of Righteousness" mentality of the Son of Man. These are not contradictory emphases, but they are distinct ones that called for the record of different details in the birth narratives given by the two different authors.
II. Luke's Focus Upon the "Legal" Foundations for the Actions of Simeon and Anna.
A. It is clear that he wished Theophilus to understand that Joseph and Mary were active practitioners of "the Law of the Lord".
1. There is a three-fold statement in these three verses that is either "according to the Law", or "as it is written in the Law".
2. Twice it is the "Law of the Lord" and once it is "the Law of Moses".
3. There can be no doubt that Luke is emphatic about the events as being dictated by God. The question is this: what is significant about the conformity of the actions to the Lord's declared will?
a. One clear issue is the fact that this creation is the Lord's.
b. Thus, it is the Lord Who sets the parameters of all activities within His creation.
c. With the creation of true, but dependent, personality, the Lord put the issue of creature-participation with Him directly into His creation.
d. The issue of creature-participation aspersonality is the issue of how the creature will be enabled to participate with the Lord in His creation.
e. It is indisputable from the very beginning that the Lord determined that one of the aspects of creature-enablement would be His breath of life (Genesis 2:7).
f. It is also indisputable that the Lord also determined that His words would be addressed to the creature to give him the ability to cooperate with Him. So, with the "spirit" that enables actual function, also comes the "word" that gives direction to the function.
g. But, then, comes the record (Genesis 3) of the creatures' determination to violate the words of the owner of the creation. This makes creature-participation in the creation a new matter: it is antagonistic participation.
h. So, given the rise of antagonism, the issue now is whether the creation will be subject to vanity forever. There are three options:
1) the creation can be destroyed;
2) the creation can be permitted to languish under the consequences of antagonism; or,
3) the creation can be restored to compatible participation once again.
i. Of the options, only the third makes any sense. If the creation is destroyed, there is no purpose to creation (here today and gone tomorrow). If the creation is permitted to languish in antagonism, the purpose for creation is only to reveal the wrath of God (the glory of His wrath maintained for the benefit of those creatures who did not go into antagonism). If, however, the creation is to be recovered from its lapse, the purpose of creation is to reveal the grace and mercy of God so that the "recovered" can more fully enter into real participation with Him.
j. Thus, the question arises: how can the creation be recovered without violating the character of God? Justice demands judgment, not restoration. But mercy demands restoration, not judgment.
k. The answer is given by the "words of the Lord": sin will be atoned for so that forgiveness can be extended so that reconciliation can be achieved so that compatible participation can be practiced.
l. The next question then arises: how can Justice and Mercy both be satisfied so that neither is violated?
m. The answer: Jesus. Thus, "Enter the One Who will satisfy both Justice and Mercy".
1) The satisfaction of Justice means the One Who satisfies will do two things: He will live Justly; and He will atone for sin.
2) The satisfaction of Justice under "atonement" means, however, that the penalties of Justice upon sin will be visited upon the sinless sacrifice so that those under the Law's demand for justice can be free from the visitation of those penalties.
B. It is also clear that he wished Theophilus to pick up on the issue of "the Law's demands regarding specific days for certain actions."
1. The opening phraseology of 2:21 and 2:22 is exactly the same except for the use of the definite article before the word "days" in 2:22 (it is exempted in 2:21 because the word "eight" takes its place). That same phraseology is then followed by the same linguistic structure of using a definite article in the Genitive followed by the "event" (circumcision in 2:21 and purification in 2:23) which, in turn, is followed by the Genitive phrase "of Him" in 2:21 (translated "him" by the ASV) and "of them" in 2:22 (translated "their" by the ASV). [The AV's translation "her" in 2:22 rests upon a terribly weak manuscript tradition].
2. It could hardly escape Theophilus' notice that Luke is deliberately focused on "something". The question is the nature of that "something". The answer seems to be "the Legal issues surrounding the coming of Jesus".
3. It is my contention that the "Name" is given in respect to two issues: demand and promise. The issue of "demand" is the issue of Jesus being "circumcised" -- which is the equivalent of Paul's "born under the Law" (Galatians 4:4). The issue of "promise" is the issue of Jesus being named "Jesus" by the angel before the conception in Mary's womb. Jesus is "Jesus" precisely because He was born "under the Law" (and, thus, circumcised) sothat He could fulfill the promise of "providing redemption" (Galatians 4:5). The issues of demand/promise give the "Name" its HUGE significance. Men stand under the "demandingness" of God and, left there, they will die; but, men also stand under the "promise" of God, and, believing it, they will live. Jesus is the Savior because He fulfilled the demand so that He could fulfill the promise.
C. It should, then, be clear that the issues of "Law" need to be understood to at least some degree.
1. Luke first addresses the "fulfillment of the days of their purification".
a. In the "Law", there is instruction for a woman who gives birth to either a male child, or a female child, in Leviticus 12:1-5.
1) If she gave birth to a male child, she was to be "unclean" so that she could not come to the sanctuary of the Tabernacle, nor touch any "hallowed" thing for 40 days (7 days for "uncleanness" and 33 for "purification").
2) If she gave birth to a female child, she was "unclean" for 14 days and then had to continue to act as unclean until 66 more days had passed. This made for an 80 day period of time for the birth of a daughter -- exactly twice as long as for the birth of a son.
3) This raises some issues regarding the difference in God's mind between a son or a daughter, but Jesus was a son, so Luke just addresses the 40 days of Mary's "purification".
b. We have little, to no, information as to how much familiarity Theophilus had of these regulations, but Luke addresses him as if he has at least heard the general teaching.
c. Luke's point is inescapable: Joseph and Mary were practitioners of "Law". This is a second way for Luke to get it across to Theophilus that God was involved with folks who were willing to do what He prescribed for them. The first way was the way of Luke 1:6 where he simply declared that the parents-to-be of the first "miraculous son" were "walking in all of the commandments and ordinances of the Lord". Joseph and Mary were also "committed believers".
2. From there Luke goes directly to the fact that the regulations regarding the purification issues were "according to the Law of Moses".
a. This is enormously significant in the light of Romans 3:20 and Galatians 2:16. There Paul says pointedly that no one is "justified" (declared righteous by God) by the performance of the Law of Moses. This means that neither Zacharias, nor Elizabeth, nor Mary, nor Joseph engaged in their practice of the Law in order to obtain God's salvation. It means that all four of them should be seen in the light of redeemed people whose hearts have been circumcised (Romans 2:29) so that they desire to please God by doing what He tells them to do.
b. This raises the issue of the relationship between "Jesus" and the people of God. Luke intentionally presents Him as the "Savior" (Luke 2:11) Who is the actual expression of the God Who is "my Savior" (Luke 1:47).
c. Luke's point is that Jesus was subjected to the practices of the Law of Moses by Joseph and Mary. He makes this point because his theological mentor, the apostle Paul, had deeply schooled his thinking in terms of how Jesus could only be "Jesus" if He was unrebelliously subject to all of the Law of Moses for all of His earthly life...beginning with His circumcision and continuing with His continuing submission to his earthly "parents" (Luke 2:51) as they practiced the dictates of the Law of Moses.
3. Then Luke tells us of the dictates of the Law of Moses. They are two-fold.
a. First are the regulations regarding the woman's impurity after giving birth.
1) These regulations are mentioned by Luke in 2:24 as consisting of the offering of a pair of birds as an "atonement".
2) These birds were a secondary option for an offering as Leviticus 12:8 clarifies. They were to be presented in lieu of a lamb by those whose "means" did not allow for the offering of the more expensive lamb. This "suggests" that Joseph and Mary had not yet been given the "gold" which Matthew says that the Magi gave to them in their worship of Jesus.
b. Second are the regulations that have to do with "presenting" the first offspring of a womb to God.
1) The requirements are given in Exodus 13.
2) The requirements were inclusive of both man and animals.
III. Luke's Point.
A. The four verses of Luke 2:21-24 are a deliberate focus upon Jesus' involvement with the Law of Moses.
B. This involvement was completely involuntary on His part. He was only 8 days old when He was circumcised by others and given a name that God had ordained. He was only 40 days old when He was presented to the Lord according to Mosaic prescription. He was a "typical" baby in that, at approximately six weeks of age He was completely "passive" as far as "obedience to the Law" was concerned.
C. But, passive or active, Luke clearly wishes Theophilus to understand that the Law of Moses was being satisfied in its requirements.
D. This is a huge issue because the "Savior" had to "fulfill the Law" in order to "save" those who had broken that Law.