Capernaum: From a Hebrew name meaning “Village of Nahum” or “Village of Comforting.” (Na 1:1, ftn.) A city of major importance in Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was located at the NW shore of the Sea of Galilee and was called “his own city” at Mt 9:1.
Capernaum: See study note on Mt 4:13.
he sent some elders of the Jews: The parallel account at Mt 8:5 says that “an army officer came to him [Jesus].” The Jewish elders were apparently acting as intermediaries on behalf of the army officer. Only Luke mentions this detail.
Soon afterward: Some ancient manuscripts read “On the following day,” but the main text reading used here has stronger manuscript support.
Nain: A Galilean city about 35 km (22 mi) SW of Capernaum, evidently the city that Jesus was coming from. (Lu 7:1-10) Nain, mentioned only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures, is identified with the modern-day village of Nein on the NW side of the hill of Moreh, about 10 km (6 mi) SSE of Nazareth. Today the village is quite small, but ruins in the area show that it was larger in earlier centuries. Overlooking the Plain of Jezreel and located in an attractive natural setting, Nain was the scene of the first of the three recorded resurrections that Jesus performed—the others were at Capernaum and at Bethany. (Lu 8:49-56; Joh 11:1-44) Some 900 years earlier, in the nearby town of Shunem, the prophet Elisha resurrected the son of a Shunammite woman.—2Ki 4:8-37.
an only-begotten son: The Greek word mo·no·ge·nesʹ, traditionally translated “only-begotten,” has been defined as “the only one of its kind; one and only; unique.” The Bible uses the term in describing the relation of sons and daughters to their parents. (See study notes on Lu 7:12; 8:42; 9:38.) In the apostle John’s writings, this term is used exclusively of Jesus (Joh 3:16, 18; 1Jo 4:9) but never about Jesus’ human birth or existence as a man. Instead, John uses the term to describe Jesus in his prehuman existence as the Logos, or the Word, the one who “was in the beginning with God,” even “before the world was.” (Joh 1:1, 2; 17:5, 24) Jesus is the “only-begotten son” because he was Jehovah’s Firstborn and the only one created directly by God. While other spirit creatures are likewise called “sons of the true God” or “sons of God” (Ge 6:2, 4; Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:4-7), all those sons were created by Jehovah through that firstborn Son (Col 1:15, 16). In summary, the term mo·no·ge·nesʹ refers both to Jesus’ being “one of a kind; unique; incomparable” and to his being the only son produced directly and solely by God.—1Jo 5:18; see study note on Heb 11:17.
only-begotten Son: The Greek word mo·no·ge·nesʹ, traditionally rendered “only-begotten,” has been defined as “the only one of its kind; one and only; unique.” In the apostle John’s writings, this term is exclusively used of Jesus. (Joh 1:14; 3:18; 1Jo 4:9; see study note on Joh 1:14.) Although the other spirit creatures produced by God were called sons, Jesus alone is called the “only-begotten Son.” (Ge 6:2, 4; Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:4-7) Jesus, the firstborn Son, was the sole direct creation of his Father, so he was unique, different from all other sons of God. They were created, or begotten, by Jehovah through that firstborn Son. The Greek word mo·no·ge·nesʹ is used in a similar way when Paul says that Isaac was Abraham’s “only-begotten son.” (Heb 11:17) Though Abraham fathered Ishmael by Hagar and several sons by Keturah (Ge 16:15; 25:1, 2; 1Ch 1:28, 32), Isaac was “only-begotten” in a special sense. He was Abraham’s only son by God’s promise as well as the only son of Sarah.—Ge 17:16-19.
the gate of the city: The Greek word poʹlis (“city”) is used three times with regard to Nain. While this term usually denotes a walled city, it is uncertain whether a wall surrounded Nain. If there was no city wall, the “gate” may simply have been an opening between the houses by which a road entered Nain. However, some archaeologists believe that a wall surrounded Nain. In either case, Jesus and his disciples may have met the funeral procession at a “gate” at Nain’s eastern entrance, which was in the direction of the hillside tombs lying to the SE of the modern-day village of Nein.
only: The Greek word mo·no·ge·nesʹ, traditionally rendered “only-begotten,” has been defined as “the only one of its kind; one and only; the only one or member of a class or kind; unique.” The term is used in describing the relation of both sons and daughters to their parents. In this context, it is used in the sense of an only child. The same Greek word is also used of Jairus’ “only” daughter and of a man’s “only” son, whom Jesus healed. (Lu 8:41, 42; 9:38) The Greek Septuagint uses mo·no·ge·nesʹ when speaking of Jephthah’s daughter, concerning whom it is written: “Now she was his one and only child. Besides her, he had neither son nor daughter.” (Jg 11:34) In the apostle John’s writings, mo·no·ge·nesʹ is used five times in reference to Jesus.—For the meaning of the term when used about Jesus, see study notes on Joh 1:14; 3:16.
moved with pity: Or “felt compassion.” The Greek verb splag·khniʹzo·mai used for this expression is related to the word for “intestines” (splagʹkhna), denoting a deeply felt, intense emotion. It is one of the strongest words in Greek for the feeling of compassion.
two of his disciples: The parallel account at Mt 11:2, 3 simply says that John the Baptist sent “his disciples.” Luke adds the detail about the number of disciples.
a leper: A person suffering from a serious skin disease. The leprosy referred to in the Bible is not restricted to the disease known by that name today. Anyone diagnosed with leprosy became an outcast from society until he was cured.—Le 13:2, ftn., 45, 46; see Glossary, “Leprosy; Leper.”
baptism in symbol of repentance: Lit., “baptism of repentance.” Baptism did not wash away sins. Rather, those baptized by John publicly repented over sins against the Law, showing their determination to change their behavior. This repentant attitude helped lead them to the Christ. (Ga 3:24) John was thereby preparing a people to see “the salvation” that God had provided.—Lu 3:3-6; see study notes on Mt 3:2, 8, 11 and Glossary, “Baptism; Baptize”; “Repentance.”
baptize you: Or “immerse you.” The Greek word ba·ptiʹzo means “to dip; to plunge.” Other Biblical references indicate that baptism involves complete immersion. On one occasion, John was baptizing at a location in the Jordan Valley near Salim “because there was a great quantity of water there.” (Joh 3:23) When Philip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch, they both “went down into the water.” (Ac 8:38) The same Greek word is used in the Septuagint at 2Ki 5:14 when describing that Naaman “plunged into the Jordan seven times.”
neither eating nor drinking: This evidently refers to John’s life of self-denial, which included fasting as well as adhering to the Nazirite requirement of abstaining from alcoholic beverages.—Nu 6:2-4; Mt 9:14, 15; Lu 1:15; 7:33.
neither eating bread nor drinking wine: See study note on Mt 11:18.
tax collectors: Many Jews collected taxes for the Roman authorities. People hated such Jews because they not only collaborated with a resented foreign power but also extorted more than the official tax rate. Tax collectors were generally shunned by fellow Jews, who put them on the same level as sinners and prostitutes.—Mt 11:19; 21:32.
tax collectors: See study note on Mt 5:46.
its children: Or “its results.” Here wisdom is personified and depicted as having children. In the parallel account at Mt 11:19, wisdom is depicted as having “works.” Wisdom’s children, or works—that is, the evidence produced by John the Baptist and Jesus—prove that the accusations against them are false. Jesus is, in effect, saying: ‘Look at the righteous works and conduct, and you will know that the charge is false.’
entered the house of the Pharisee: Of the four Gospel writers, only Luke mentions that Jesus received and accepted invitations from Pharisees to dine with them. Other instances are mentioned at Lu 11:37; 14:1.
a woman who was known . . . to be a sinner: The Bible shows that all humans are sinners. (2Ch 6:36; Ro 3:23; 5:12) Therefore, the term “sinner” is here used in a more specific way, evidently referring to those who had a reputation for practicing sin, perhaps of a moral or a criminal nature. (Lu 19:7, 8) Only Luke records this account about the sinful woman, perhaps a prostitute, pouring oil on Jesus’ feet. The Greek expression rendered “who was known . . . to be” is literally “who was,” but as used in this context, it likely refers to a characteristic quality or character of a person or to a class to which an individual belongs.
debts: Referring to sins. When sinning against someone, a person incurs a debt to that one, or has an obligation to him, and must therefore seek his forgiveness. Receiving God’s forgiveness depends on whether the person has forgiven his personal debtors, that is, those who have sinned against him.—Mt 6:14, 15; 18:35; Lu 11:4.
canceled his debt: Or “forgave him the debt (loan).” In a figurative sense, debts can refer to sins.—See study note on Mt 6:12.
who is in debt to us: Or “who sins against us.” When sinning against someone, a person incurs a figurative debt to that one, or has an obligation to him, and must therefore seek his forgiveness. In the model prayer that Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, he used the term “debts” instead of sins. (See study note on Mt 6:12.) The Greek word for forgive literally means “to let go,” that is, to let go of a debt by not demanding its repayment.
Two men were debtors: Jews living in the first century C.E. were familiar with the relationship between creditors and debtors, and Jesus at times drew on this knowledge for his illustrations. (Mt 18:23-35; Lu 16:1-8) Only Luke records this illustration of the two debtors, one of whom owed ten times as much as the other. Jesus gave the illustration because of the attitude that his host, Simon, had toward the woman who came in and poured perfumed oil on Jesus’ feet. (Lu 7:36-40) Jesus likens sin to a debt too big to be repaid and highlights the principle: “The one who is forgiven little, loves little.”—Lu 7:47; see study notes on Mt 6:12; 18:27; Lu 11:4.
denarii: A denarius was a Roman silver coin that weighed about 3.85 g (0.124 oz t) and bore an image of Caesar on one side. As Mt 20:2 shows, agricultural laborers in Jesus’ day commonly received a denarius for a 12-hour workday.—See Glossary, “Denarius,” and App. B14.
water for my feet: In ancient times, as in many parts of the earth today, walking was the main way of traveling. Some of the common people went barefoot, but many wore sandals consisting of little more than a sole and some leather straps. On entering a house, a person removed his sandals. An essential mark of hospitality was that of washing the feet of a guest. This service was performed either by the householder or by a servant. At the very least, water was provided for that purpose.—Ge 18:4; 24:32; 1Sa 25:41; Lu 7:37, 38.
You gave me no kiss: In Bible times, a kiss served as a token of affection or respect. The act of kissing might have included touching one’s lips to those of another (Pr 24:26), kissing another person’s cheek or, in an exceptional case, even kissing his feet (Lu 7:37, 38). Kissing was common not only between male and female relatives (Ge 29:11; 31:28) but also between male relatives (Ge 27:26, 27; 45:15; Ex 18:7; 2Sa 14:33). It was likewise a gesture of affection between close friends.—1Sa 20:41, 42; 2Sa 19:39.
When Jesus referred to those living in “royal houses” (Lu 7:25) or “houses of kings” (Mt 11:8), his listeners may have been reminded of the many luxurious palaces built by Herod the Great. Shown in the photograph are remains of just one part of a winter palace complex that he built in Jericho. This building included a colonnaded reception hall measuring 29 by 19 m (95 by 62 ft), colonnaded courtyards surrounded by many rooms, and a bathhouse that incorporated heating and cooling systems. Connected to the palace was a multitiered garden. This palace may have been burned during an uprising that occurred a few decades before John the Baptist began his ministry, and it was rebuilt by Herod’s son, Archelaus.
In Bible times, flutes might be made of reed, cane, or even bone or ivory. The flute was one of the most popular of all musical instruments. It was played on joyous occasions, such as at banquets and weddings (1Ki 1:40; Isa 5:12; 30:29), a custom imitated by children in public places. It was also played at times of sadness. Professional mourners were often accompanied by flutists playing mournful tunes. The piece of a flute shown here was found in Jerusalem in a layer of rubble that dates to when the temple was destroyed by the Romans. It is about 15 cm (6 in.) long and is likely made from a bone that was part of the leg of a cow or an ox.
Some marketplaces, like the one depicted here, were located along a road. Vendors often placed so much merchandise in the street that it blocked traffic. Local residents could buy common household goods, pottery, and expensive glassware, as well as fresh produce. Because there was no refrigeration, people needed to visit the market each day to buy supplies. Here a shopper could hear news brought in by traders or other visitors, children could play, and the unemployed could wait to be hired. In the marketplace, Jesus healed the sick and Paul preached. (Ac 17:17) By contrast, the proud scribes and Pharisees loved to be noticed and greeted in these public areas.
These small vaselike vessels for perfume were originally made of stone found near Alabastron, Egypt. The stone itself, a form of calcium carbonate, came to be known by the name Alabastron. The jar shown here was discovered in Egypt and dates from somewhere between 150 B.C.E. and 100 C.E. A less costly material, such as gypsum, was used to make similar-looking jars; these too were called alabasters, simply because of the use to which they were put. However, cases made of genuine alabaster were used for the more costly ointments and perfumes, like those with which Jesus was anointed on two occasions—once at the house of a Pharisee in Galilee and once at the house of Simon the leper in Bethany.