Luke chapter 3 opens with some information that allows for some dating – and some confusion. The subject of the first three verses is when it was that the word of God came to John the Baptist in the wilderness. Although there are a lot of names of historical figures mentioned, as well as their titles and domains, the most telling is in the first phrase of the opening verse.
It was in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. He ascended to the throne as emperor on September 17, 14. A.D., with the Senate validating his position as “Princeps” – a title first given to his predecessor, Augustus – on September 18. So, depending on the literal meaning of “the fifteenth year,” it was likely between 28 and 29 A.D. Attempts at applying this to the date of the birth of Jesus, however, have generated less agreement. Forgetting the errors in the calendar, which is beyond the scope of this study, there are a number of scholars who believe that “reign” in this case may have been applied to Tiberius’ rule over other provinces as well – which may have begun about 11 A.D. It all becomes much too overwhelming, and there is no real proof. It is sufficient to say that Jesus birth was not in the year “1” (there was no year “0”), and in any case, best estimates are that it was between 4-6 B.C, based on the death of Herod the great.
What does all of this have to do with the calling of John the Baptist from the wilderness by the Lord? Not much really. The most important thing is told to us in verse 3 – that “he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” It is in this manner, as a result of his calling, that he “prepared the way” for Jesus. Verses 4-6 quote the prophet Isaiah from Isaiah 40:3-5:
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall become straight,
and the rough places shall become level ways,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 1 Chronicles here
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.