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The Holy Spirit in Luke 1-2

Posted by on Sep 18, 2010 in scripture, spirit/holy spirit | 4 comments

The Holy Spirit in Luke 1-2

I’ve been going through the New Testament studying the information presented about the Holy Spirit. In this post, I’m examining what is often called the Lukan Infancy Narratives, because chapters 1-2 of Luke cover events just before and during the births of John the Baptist and Jesus.

I’m only going to cover these two chapters because there is something interesting (and perhaps new to the Gospels) in these two chapters. In Matthew and Mark, we primarily read about the work of the Holy Spirit in and around the life of Jesus Christ. Those Gospels also promise an ongoing work of the Spirit through Jesus’ followers. However, Matthew and Mark are almost silent concerning the work of the Spirit outside the life of Jesus.

But, in Luke 1-2, Luke often mentions the work of the Holy Spirit in other people besides Jesus and his followers. An angel prophesies to Zechariah that his son (John the Baptist) would be filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:15). The angel also tells Mary that the Holy Spirit will “come upon her” in the conception of Jesus (Luke 1:35). The, when she meets Mary, Elizabeth (Zechariah’s wife) is filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41).

After the birth of John, his father Zechariah is filled with the Holy Spirit and begins prophesying both about John and about Jesus (Luke 1:67). After the birth of Jesus, Luke introduces us to a man named Simeon. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would see the Messiah before his death, and while the Spirit was “upon him,” the Spirit led him into the temple where he say Jesus and his parents (Luke 2:25-27).

While we see language like this (concerning the Spirit) about followers of Jesus in the epistles and while we use language like this regularly today, we did not see the Holy Spirit filling or coming upon or leading anyone but Jesus (and the promise to his followers) in Matthew and Mark.

Again, Luke does not tell us how Simeon knew that the Holy Spirit was leading him into the temple, or what it meant specifically to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” or for the Holy Spirit to “come upon” someone, we do see that this happened around the events of the births of John the Baptist and Jesus.


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  1. 9-20-2010

    When I read this, it reminded me of something I wrote about Zachariah and Elizabeth a few years ago (1996). I think Elizabeth might be the first person in the NT who was “filled with the Spirit.” So, I dug it out, and read it again. It seemed to tie into this post as well as the issues about “Who is my Elder?” and the post about “Qualifications” and such.

    It’s a rather lengthy story, but if anyone is interested, I posted “Filled with the Spirit” on my blog at:

  2. 9-23-2010

    I know you are going to walk through a great number of passages in the NT making observations, so this question may be a little early, or it may inspire a separate post. . .

    Is there a difference in meaning for translation purposes, in your understanding, in passages that say Holy Spirit (πνευμα αγιου) and The Holy Spirit του αγιου πνευματος?

    Is there a difference in meaning if there is or is not a greek definite article?

  3. 9-23-2010


    Thanks for the link to your article!


    I haven’t looked into that. Do you have a theory?


  4. 9-23-2010

    Alan, I don’t have a theory, but I do remember that the pastor of my grandmother’s church when I was a kid always made it a point to distinguish the two. I think he was thinking along the lines of Holy Spirit, without a definite article meant Holy Spirit power or working or influence, and with the definite article, the Holy Spirit Himself.

    (Though I was a kid, I think I understood that he was trying to differentiate between receiving the Holy Spirit upon salvation and being filled with Holy Spirit power for ministry, while refuting the pentecostal teaching that one must be baptized in the Holy Spirit after salvation.)


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