Seeing that many have attempted to draw up a narrative of the facts which are received with full assurance among us
on the authority of those who were from the beginning eye-witnesses and were devoted to the service of the divine Message,
it has seemed right to me also, after careful investigation of the facts from their commencement, to write for you, most noble Theophilus, a connected account,
that you may fully know the truth of the things which you have been taught by word of mouth.
There was in the time of Herod, the king of Judaea, a priest of the name of Zechariah, belonging to the class of Abijah. He had a wife who was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
They were both of them upright before God, blamelessly obeying all the Lord's precepts and ordinances.
But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren; and both of them were far advanced in life.
Now while he was doing priestly duty before God in the prescribed course of his class,
it fell to his lot--according to the custom of the priesthood--to go into the Sanctuary of the Lord and burn the incense;
and the whole multitude of the people were outside praying, at the hour of incense.
Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense;
and Zechariah on seeing him was agitated and terrified.
But the angel said to him, 'Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your petition has been heard: and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call his name John.
Gladness and exultant joy shall be yours, and many will rejoice over his birth.
For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; no wine or fermented drink shall he ever drink; but he will be filled with the Holy Spirit from the very hour of his birth.
Many of the descendants of Israel will he turn to the Lord their God;
and he will be His forerunner in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn fathers' hearts to the children, and cause the rebellious to walk in the wisdom of the upright, to make a people perfectly ready for the lord.'
'By what proof,' asked Zechariah, 'shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is far advanced in years.'
'I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God,' answered the angel, 'and I have been sent to talk with you and tell you this good news.
And now you will be dumb and unable to speak until the day when this has taken place; because you did not believe my words--words which will be fulfilled at their appointed time.'
Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and were surprised that he stayed so long in the Sanctuary.
When, however, he came out, he was unable to speak to them; and they knew that he must have seen a vision in the Sanctuary; but he kept making signs to them and continued dumb.
When his days of service were at an end, he went to his home;
and in course of time his wife Elizabeth conceived, and kept herself secluded five months.
'Thus has the Lord dealt with me,' she said, 'now that He has graciously taken away my reproach among men.'
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth,
to a maiden betrothed to a man of the name of Joseph, a descendant of David. The maiden's name was Mary.
So Gabriel went into the house and said to her, 'Joy be to you, favoured one! the Lord is with you.'
She was greatly agitated at his words, and wondered what such a greeting meant.
But the angel said, 'Do not be frightened, Mary, for you have found favour with God.
You will conceive in your womb and bear a son; and you are to call His name JESUS.
He will be great and He will be called 'Son of the Most High.' And the Lord God will give Him the throne of His forefather David;
and He will be King over the House of Jacob for the Ages, and of His Kingdom there will be no end.'
'How can this be,' Mary replied, 'seeing that I have no husband?'
The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for this reason your holy offspring will be called 'the Son of God.'
And see, your relative Elizabeth--she also has conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.
For no promise from God will be impossible of fulfilment.'
'I am the Lord's maidservant,' Mary replied; 'may it be with me in accordance with your words!' And then the angel left her.
Not long after this, Mary rose up and went in haste into the hill country to a town in Judah.
Here she came to the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth;
and as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the babe leapt within her. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit,
and uttered a loud cry of joy. 'Blest among women are you,' she said, 'and the offspring of your body is blest!
But why is this honour done me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For, the moment your greeting reached my ears, the babe within me leapt for joy.
And blessed is she who has believed, for the word spoken to her from the Lord shall be fulfilled.'
Then Mary said: 'My soul extols the Lord,
And my spirit triumphs in God my Saviour;
Because He has not turned from His maidservant in her lowly position; For from this time forward all generations will account me happy,
Because the mighty One has done great things for me--Holy is His name!--
And His compassion is, generation after generation, Upon those who fear Him.
He has manifested His supreme strength. He has scattered those who were haughty in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has cast monarchs down from their thrones, And exalted men of low estate.
The hungry He has satisfied with choice gifts, But the rich He has sent empty-handed away.
His servant Israel He has helped, Remembering His compassion--
In fulfillment of His promises to our forefathers--For Abraham and his posterity for ever.'
So Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months, and then returned home.
Now when Elizabeth's full time was come, she gave birth to a son;
and her neighbours and relatives heard how the Lord had had great compassion on her; and they rejoiced with her.
And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and were going to call him Zechariah, after his father.
His mother, however, said, 'No, he is to be called John.'
'There is not one of your family,' they said, 'who has that name.'
They asked his father by signs what he wished him to be called.
So he asked for a writing-tablet, and wrote, 'His name is John.' And they all wondered.
Instantly his mouth and his tongue were set free, and he began to speak and bless God.
And all who lived round about them were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judaea reports of all these things were spread abroad.
All who heard the story treasured it in their memories. 'What then will this child be?' they said. For the lord's hand was indeed with him.
And Zechariah his father was filled with the Holy Spirit, and spoke in a rapture of praise.
'Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,' he said, 'Because He has not forgotten His people but has effected redemption for them,
And has raised up a mighty Deliverer for us In the house of David His servant--
As He has spoken from all time by the lips of His holy Prophets--
To deliver us from our foes and from the power of all who hate us.
He dealt pitifully with our forefathers, And remembered His holy covenant,
The oath which He swore to Abraham our forefather,
To grant us to be rescued from the power of our foes And so render worship to Him free from fear,
In piety and uprightness before Him all our days.
And you moreover, O child, shall be called Prophet of the Most High; For you shall go on in front before the Lord to prepare the way for Him,
To give to His People a knowledge of salvation In the forgiveness of their sins,
Through the tender compassion of our God, Through which the daybreak from on high will come to us,
Dawning on those who now dwell in the darkness and shadow of death--To direct our feet into the path of peace.'
And the child grew and became strong in character, and lived in the Desert till the time came for him to appear publicly to Israel.