Luke 2:6-7 – Birth of Jesus: Part 2 of 4

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It is important to understand the significance of these expressions, especially of the latter two. For Luke will use them again while describing the sign given by the angels to the shepherds (Lk 2:12, 16). The phrase ‘first-born son’ is the translation of the Greek word prototokos which by itself does not carry the connotation of ‘first among several’. Its usage even outside the Bible confirms this. Even an only son is described as the ‘first-born’ on an Egyptian epitaph dated 5 B.C.E. In Jewish religious thinking, God’s promise to the patriarchs was transmitted through the first-born son (Cf. Gen 27; Ex 4:22; see also Rom 8:29; Col 1:18). The word ‘first-born’ is found in the Mosaic Law in the context of the obligation of consecrating the first male child to God (Ex 13:2; 34:19; Num 3:12-14; 18:15-16; Deut 21:15-17). By the term ‘first-born’, Luke wants to convey the idea that Jesus has the status of the first-born as provided in the Mosaic Law. Luke also thereby prepares for the scene in Luke 2:22-24. Therefore, to conclude that Mary may have had other children is to force the text to say more than what it intends to say and to miss the point of the evangelist.

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