Luke 3:1-2: History is His Story

Read: Luke 3:1-2

Luke starts Chapter 3 in a similar fashion to how he starts several of the previous “chapters” of Jesus’ early life by placing the events during the reign of a particular historical figure (Luke 1:5, Luke 2:1-2). This time though, he lists a number of people.

  • Tiberius Caesar – the emperor in Rome and the stepson of Agustus Caesar. Luke notes that this was during the 15 year of the reign of Tiberius. Tiberius’ reign started in 14 AD, so this places the start of Jesus’ public ministry around 29AD.
  • Herod Antipas – he was the son of Herod the Great, and he himself was not a Jew, but ruled over the Gallilee. He was the Herod that had John the Baptist beheaded (Matthew 14:10) and the Herod that Jesus went to see leading up to his crucifixion who was in Jerusalem at the time of crucifixion. Jesus, being from Galilee, was sent by Pilate to Herod so that Herod could deal with him.
  • Herod Phillip – He was the son of Herod the Great from another woman. Antipas was his half-brother and was more moderate and tempered than his brother. He rule from Caesarea Phillipi, which as a important place in Jesus ministry (Matthew 16:12-18).
  • Lysanias – Little is known about this Lysanias, however another Lysanias is mentioned by Josephus. It is thought that Luke’s Lysanias is a descendant of the one mentioned by Josephus in the same way that the name “Herod” was used by a number of rules. Archaeological evidence supports this view.
  • Pontius Pilate – Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea directly responsible for the emperor. His job was to maintain the peace and collect taxes to support Rome. He played an important role in Jesus’ public trial where he attempted to appease the crowd (John 18:16-19:23).
  • Annas – Annas was the defacto high priest and father-in-law to Ciaphas. He was the priest that Jesus went before in his trial (Johm 18:13-23) and also the priest Peter and John went before in Acts.
  • Caiaphas – Caiaphas was the official high priest appointed by Rome. He prophesied concerning Jesus’ death conspired with others to have Jesus killed (Matthew 26:3-4, John 11:47-53)

The tendency of readers and even many commentaries is to gloss over verses that can historical data or genealogies. But Luke’s goal in writing his gospel is stated clearly in Luke 1:3 where he declares he wanted to write an orderly account of the ministry of Jesus. With this in mind, when readers come across historical figures, it’s good to take some time and read about these figure because in doing so it helps set the stage for the events that are unfolding in the gospel. The life of Jesus is not some myth set in some obscure time, rather it set in real history with real people. JRR Tolkien noted that this what set the story of Jesus apart from other mythologies even though it shared some things in common with other mythological stories. He and C.S. Lewis called the story of Jesus the “true myth”. Understanding the historical setting of Jesus’ life and ministry then helps one understand the sayings and action of Jesus too.

Lord, history is your story. Help me understand it so that I may know you better!

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