Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship

Studies in the Bible and Antiquity


Luke 1:5-25 shares several themes and type-scenes in common with other biblical narratives, and yet one major allusion has often been overlooked: its connection with Isaiah 6:1-8. Like the first chapter of Luke, Isaiah 6 is also a prophetic call narrative that takes place in the temple, involves and angelic encounter, and explores the themes of silence and language. Despite the centrality of the temple in Israelite theology, temple epiphanies are surprisingly uncommon in the Hebrew Bible. Furthermore, in no other biblical texts does the recipient of the vision encounter an angel specifically at the temple's altar. Where Zechariah is struck dumb, Isaiah also finds himself unable to speak and must have his language cleansed prior to his prophetic task. Because these are the only two texts in the Bible that share these convergences, it is clear that Luke intentionally alluded to Isaiah 6:1-8 in crafting the opening of his narrative. This allusion helps inform his audience about Jewish theology, sets John the Baptist apart as a prophetic figure, and introduces Luke's later use of Isaiah 6:9-10 in Luke-Acts.