Jesus' parents are law-abiding Jews. They show up at the temple to perform sacrifices associated with the wife's purification after birth (Lev 12:2-4, 6). Such a ceremony occurs forty days after the child's arrival. At the same time the firstborn child is to be set aside to the Lord (Ex 13:2, 12, 16; 34:19; Num 18:15-16). Jesus' parents bring the child along, though that is not necessary. They offer a pair of doves or two young pigeons. This offering recalls Leviticus 12:8, though the wording is closer to the Greek Old Testament version of Leviticus 5:11. Since this offering is the one usually made by the poor, Jesus is identified with the very people he reached out to save (1:52; 4:18-19; 6:20; 7:22-23; Greeven 1968:69). But Joseph and Mary do not live in abject poverty, since Joseph is a carpenter by trade (Mk 6:3; Plummer 1922:65). This could be the offering of someone from a "middle-class" background as well. Regardless of their precise social status, Luke is making it clear that Jesus' parents are not spiritual renegades, but Jews who are sensitive and faithful to the Mosaic law—a point reinforced in Luke 2:40-52, when they will make their customary annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem. All the persons surrounding Jesus at his birth have a heritage of devotion to God. The testimony to Jesus stands on the shoulders of a series of highly respectable figures.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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