1 Your Excellency Theophilus: Since so many people have undertaken the task of compiling a narrative of events that have happened among us, 2 [that is, people] who were ministers of the word and original eyewitnesses [of these events], and who passed them on to us; [and since] 3 I have thoroughly investigated the entire series of events [myself], I felt it would be good for me also to write you an orderly account of them. 4 Then you could know how reliable the information is that you have been told.
5 In the days of King Herod, of Judea, there was a certain priest named Zacharias of the "Abijah" division. He had a wife named Elizabeth who was a descendant of Aaron. 6 They both did what was right in God's sight [by] living blamelessly according to all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. 7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth was unable to bear offspring due to their both being very old.
8 Now it happened that when Zacharias' turn came in his division, 9 to perform his customary duties as a priest before God, he drew the responsibility [that day] of entering the Temple of the Lord to burn the incense offering. [Note: This was done on a golden Altar in the Temple by a priest twice a day]. 10 There was a whole crowd of people praying outside because it was the time for burning the incense offering. 11 Just then an angel from the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the incense altar. 12 Zacharias became disturbed when he saw the angel and was gripped by fear. 13 But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid Zacharias, for your earnest prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to a son and you will name him John. 14 And you will have joy and happiness and many people will rejoice when he is born. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord and he will not drink any wine or intoxicating drinks [Note: This restriction suggests that John may have taken the special vow of consecration making him a "Nazarite"]. And he will be filled with the Holy Spirit from the time he is born. 16 And he will influence many Israelites to turn to the Lord their God. 17 He will go on ahead of the Messiah [See verse 76], in the spirit and power of Elijah, to rekindle the affections of fathers for their children, and [to influence] disobedient people to live wisely like righteous people. And he will prepare the people to be ready for [the coming of] the Lord."
18 And Zacharias said to the angel, "How will I know this? For I am an old man and my wife is [also] very old."
19 The angel answered him, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And consider this, you will [have to] remain a mute and be unable to speak until the day when these things happen because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in due time."
21 Now the people who waited [outside] for Zacharias were very surprised that he was staying in the Temple so long. 22 And when he [finally] came out, he was not able to talk to them. Then they realized he had seen a vision while in the Temple. So, he remained a mute and had to make [hand] signs to them [i.e., in order to be understood]. 23 And so it happened, when he had completed the [required] days of his ministry, he went home.
24 After those days, his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and she stayed in seclusion for five months, saying, 25 "The Lord has done this for me, and at this time [in my life] He has favored me by removing the stigma placed on me by people [i.e., for not having children]."
26 Now in the sixth month [of Elizabeth's pregnancy] the angel Gabriel was sent from God to the Galilean town of Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28 The angel came to her and said, "Greetings, you are someone greatly favored [i.e., by God]; the Lord is with you." 29 But she became very troubled by what he said and wondered what such a greeting could mean. 30 Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid Mary, for you have received favor from God. 31 And consider this, you will become pregnant and give birth to a son and you will name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Highest [i.e., God], and the Lord will give Him the throne of His forefather King David. 33 And He will rule over the [spiritual] descendants of Jacob forever and there will be no end to His kingdom."
34 And Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have never had sex with a man?"
35 The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Highest [i.e., God] will overshadow you. Therefore, the child you carry will be called the holy Son of God.
36 And consider this, your relative Elizabeth is also pregnant with a son in spite of her old age, and [even though] she was said to be unable to have children, she is now six months along. 37 For nothing that God says [will happen] is impossible."
38 And Mary said, "Here I am, the Lord's slave-girl; let it happen to me according to what you say." Then the angel left her.
39 About that time Mary made a hurried trip to a Judean town in the hill country. [Note: This was be the same province in which Jerusalem was located]. 40 [Upon arriving] she entered the home of Zacharias and greeted [his wife] Elizabeth. 41 And it happened when Elizabeth heard Mary greet her, the baby in Elizabeth's womb "kicked," and she was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Then she spoke out in a loud voice and said, " [Mary], you are [truly] blessed [from] among [all] women, and the child you will bear [i.e., Jesus] is blessed [as well].
43 But why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to [visit] me? 44 For listen, when I heard your voice greeting me, the baby in my womb "kicked" for joy. 45 And she who [has] believed [the promises made by the Lord] is [truly] blessed, for the things which have been spoken to her [i.e., to Mary] by the Lord will [indeed] be fulfilled."
46 Then Mary said, "My soul lifts up the Lord, 47 and my spirit has rejoiced in God, my Savior. 48 For He has looked favorably on the humble circumstances of His servant-girl. And consider this, all generations of people will call me 'blessed' from now on. 49 For the Mighty One has done great things for me, and His name is holy. 50 He shows mercy to generation after generation of people who have reverence for Him. 51 He has demonstrated power with His arm. He has scattered those who are proud in the thoughts of their heart. 52 He has dethroned rulers and has exalted humble people. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things and has sent the rich away empty-handed. 54 (As He said to our forefathers), He has helped His servants, the Israelites, [showing] that He remembered to be merciful 55 to Abraham and his descendants forever."
56 So, Mary stayed with [her relative] Elizabeth for about three months [i.e., until about the time John was born. See 1:26-31], and then returned to her home. 57 Now when Elizabeth was due to deliver, she gave birth to a son. 58 When her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had extended great mercy toward her [i.e., in giving her a child], they rejoiced with her.
59 And it happened on the eighth day [i.e., since the baby was born] that they came to circumcise the child [i.e., to perform the Jewish rite of identity, signifying the responsibility to observe the law of Moses]. And they [i.e., probably the neighbors and/or relatives of Elizabeth and Zacharias] suggested that they name him Zacharias, after his father. 60 But his mother answered, "No, he will be named John."
61 And they replied to her, " [But] there are not any of your relatives named that." 62 And [so] they made [hand] signs to the [baby's] father to find out what he wanted to name him. 63 Then Zacharias asked for a writing tablet and wrote [the words] "His name is John." And they were all amazed. 64 Just then his mouth was capable of uttering speech, and his tongue could form words, and he praised God. 65 Then all those who lived in the area became afraid; and people were talking about all these things throughout the entire hill country of Judea. 66 And everyone who heard about this incident remembered it [i.e., for some time]. They were saying, "What will this child become? For the hand of the Lord was [surely] with him."
67 Then his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,
68 "May the Lord be praised, [who is] the God of the Israelites, for He has come to [the aid of] His people and bought them back [i.e., from bondage]. 69 He has provided a horn of salvation [i.e., His saving strength] for us from a descendant of His servant King David [i.e., Jesus, born of Mary] 70 (as He spoke through the message of the holy prophets of long ago). 71 [He has provided] salvation from our enemies, and from the [destructive] hand of all those who hate us, 72 in order to show mercy to our forefathers and to remember His holy Agreement. 73 [This Agreement was] the oath by which He swore to Abraham, our forefather, 74 that we would be delivered from the [destructive] hand of our enemies and [then] serve Him without fear 75 by living holy and righteous lives before Him all of our days. 76 Yes, you [my] child [i.e., John], will be called the prophet of the Highest [i.e., God], for you will go ahead of the Lord's presence to prepare His ways. 77 And [you will] provide the knowledge of salvation to His people, by [granting them] the forgiveness of their sins 78 because of God's merciful compassion. Therefore, the morning sun from above will arise 79 to shine on those who are sitting in darkness and [are under] the shadow of death, and to direct our feet into the way of peace."
80 So, the child [i.e., John] grew and became strong in [his] spirit and stayed in the desert until the day when he appeared publicly to the Israelites.