1Since [as is well known] many have undertaken to compile an orderly account of the things which have been fulfilled among us [by God], 2exactly as they were handed down to us by those [with personal experience] who from the beginning [of Christ’s ministry] were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word [that is, of the teaching concerning salvation through faith in Christ], 3it seemed fitting for me as well, [and so I have decided] after having carefully searched out and investigated all the events accurately, from the very beginning, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus; 4so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught [that is, the history and doctrine of the faith].
Birth of John the Baptist Foretold
5In the days of Herod [the Great], king of Judea, there was a certain priest whose name was Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron [the first high priest of Israel], and her name was Elizabeth. 6They both were righteous (approved) in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. 7But they were childless, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both far advanced in years.
8Now it happened while Zacharias was serving as priest before God in the appointed order of his priestly division, 9as was the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter [the sanctuary of] the temple of the Lord and burn incense [on the altar of incense]. 10And all the congregation was praying outside [in the court of the temple] at the hour of the incense offering. 11And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12When Zacharias saw the angel, he was troubled and overcome with fear. 13But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, because your petition [in prayer] was heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14You will have great joy and delight, and many will rejoice over his birth, 15for he will be great and distinguished in the sight of the Lord; and will never drink wine or liquor, and he will be filled with and empowered to act by the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb. 16He will turn many of the sons of Israel back [from sin] to [love and serve] the Lord their God. 17It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous [which is to seek and submit to the will of God]—in order to make ready a people [perfectly] prepared [spiritually and morally] for the Lord.”
18And Zacharias said to the angel, “How will I be certain of this? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in age.” 19The angel replied and said to him, “I am Gabriel; I stand and minister in the [very] presence of God, and I have been sent [by Him] to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20Listen carefully, you will be continually silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe what I told you; but my words will be fulfilled at their proper time.”
21The people [outside in the court] were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering about his long delay in the temple. 22But when he did come out, he was unable to speak to them. They realized that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he kept making signs to them, and remained mute. 23When his time of priestly service was finished, he returned to his home.
24Now after this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant, and for five months she secluded herself completely, saying, 25“This is how the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor on me, to take away my disgrace among men.”
Jesus’ Birth Foretold
26Now in the sixth month [of Elizabeth’s pregnancy] the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, a descendant of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28And coming to her, the angel said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29But she was greatly perplexed at what he said, and kept carefully considering what kind of greeting this was. 30The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31Listen carefully: you will conceive in your womb and give birth to a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32He will be great and eminent and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33and He will reign over the house of Jacob (Israel) forever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end.” 34Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin and have no intimacy with any man?” 35Then the angel replied to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you [like a cloud]; for that reason the holy (pure, sinless) Child shall be called the Son of God. 36And listen, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37For with God nothing [is or ever] shall be impossible.” 38Then Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel left her.
Mary Visits Elizabeth
39Now at this time Mary arose and hurried to the hill country, to a city of Judah (Judea), 40and she entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, her baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and empowered by Him. 42And she exclaimed loudly, “Blessed [worthy to be praised] are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? 44For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45And blessed [spiritually fortunate and favored by God] is she who believed and confidently trusted that there would be a fulfillment of the things that were spoken to her [by the angel sent] from the Lord.”
46And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies and exalts the Lord,
47And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
48For He has looked [with loving care] on the humble state of His maidservant;
For behold, from now on all generations will count me blessed and happy and favored by God!
49For He who is mighty has done great things for me;
And holy is His name [to be worshiped in His purity, majesty, and glory].
50And His mercy is upon generation after generation
Toward those who [stand in great awe of God and] fear Him.
51He has done mighty deeds with His [powerful] arm;
He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.
52He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And exalted those who were humble.
53He has filled the hungry with good things;
And sent the rich away empty-handed.
54He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
55Just as He promised to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
56And Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months, and then returned to her home.
John Is Born
57Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son. 58Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown His great mercy toward her, and they were rejoicing with her.
59It happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child [as required by the Law], and they intended to name him Zacharias, after his father; 60but his mother answered, “No indeed; instead he will be called John.” 61And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by that name.” 62Then they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called. 63And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote as follows, “His name is John.” And they were all astonished. 64At once Zacharias’ mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began speaking, praising and blessing and thanking God. 65Then fear came on all their neighbors; and all these things were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. 66All who heard these things kept them in mind, saying, “What then will this little boy turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him [to bring about his birth].
67Now Zacharias his father was filled with the Holy Spirit and empowered by Him, and he prophesied, saying,
68“Blessed (praised, glorified) be the Lord, the God of Israel,
Because He has visited us and brought redemption to His people,
69And He has raised up a horn of salvation [a mighty and valiant Savior] for us
In the house of David His servant—
70Just as He promised by the mouth of His holy prophets from the most ancient times—
71Salvation from our enemies,
And from the hand of all who hate us;
72To show mercy [as He promised] to our fathers,
And to remember His holy covenant [the promised blessing],
73The oath which He swore to Abraham our father,
74To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies,
Might serve Him without fear,
75In holiness [being set apart] and righteousness [being upright] before Him all our days.
76And you, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
For you will go on before the Lord (the Messiah) to prepare His ways;
77To give His people the knowledge of salvation
By the forgiveness of their sins,
78Because of the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Sunrise (the Messiah) from on high will dawn and visit us,
79To shine upon those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
To guide our feet [in a straight line] into the way of peace and serenity.”
80The child continued to grow and to become strong in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel [as John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah].