Luke 1:46-55

Sep 7, 2020

Luke 1.46-55.pdf

Observe how Mary builds on her initial synonymous parallelism in 1:46-47 with an additional synthetic parallel in 1:48-49 where her praise is for the Lord God’s covenant faithfulness on a personal and individual level. The actual names “Lord” and “God” are only used in 46-47. Thereafter, only personal pronouns are used to refer to the Lord God. If we allow the assumption of an AB AB parallelism between the 46-47 pair and the pair in 48-49, then it may be that A “the Lord” and B “God” in her initial praise (46-47) is carried over into her first explanation (48-49).  Mary also introduces two other elements she will systematically tie in later: her humble estate and that she sees herself, individually as “his servant.” In any case, we can certainly observe how she begins to introduce the theme of the God’s “Might” at the end of the strophe in v 49. She then follows up in v50 with a reference to the Lord’s “Mercy” (if we again assume the initial parallelism). In v 51, Mary continues the parallelism, making a definite reference to God’s might by referring to his “strength.”  After this, the development of a chiastic structure in v 50-55 becomes clear. This is because tangible examples of god’s strength and might are provided. Note how this strophe forms a smaller chiastic structure with the negative and positive examples how God has shown his strength. Mary brings in the God’s mighty acts in the past to those of humble estate (such that she sees herself as one with others in the covenant family of Israel who suffered humiliation). This is then followed in v 54-55 by a closing reference to the Lord’s mercy - and here it she makes it clear, on a corporate level, it is Israel whom the Lord is remembering. The main themes therefore, of both explanatory sections of the structure, are based on an alternation between (the Lord’s) “mercy” and (God’s) “might.”

The association of each literary strophe with either “the Lord” or “God” in a rhetorical manner would certainly be more conjectural - not a hill to die on. However, the LXX is a good start to help understand the background of Mary’s praise and prayer. Observe how the name of the Lord God is used in the following LXX Psalms texts:

Psa. 61:2-3           from him (God) is my salvation…

                             he is my God and my Savior (cf. vs 7-8)

Psa. 61:13            that power is of God, and to you, O Lord, is mercy

Psa. 135:23          because in our humiliation the Lord remembered us   because his mercy is forever


If reference isn’t simply made to “God” in relation to his power and might, then often an appended reference to “the Lord-” might be expected (e.g., “The Lord God”).  Examples:

Psa. 88:9, 11

                                O Lord God of hosts, who is like you?  

                                You are powerful, O Lord…                          

                                And with the arm of your power

                                you scattered Your enemies.

Is. 47:4

                                He who delivers you has spoken;

                                the Lord of hosts is His name, the Holy One of Israel.

Is. 57:15

                                The Lord, the Most High who dwells on high forever,

                                the Holy One among His saints,

                                whose name is the Lord Most High