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Luke 2:8

    Luke 2:8 Translations

    King James Version (KJV)

    And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

    American King James Version (AKJV)

    And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

    American Standard Version (ASV)

    And there were shepherds in the same country abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock.

    Basic English Translation (BBE)

    And in the same country there were keepers of sheep in the fields, watching over their flock by night.

    Webster's Revision

    And there were shepherds in the same country abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock.

    World English Bible

    There were shepherds in the same country staying in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock.

    English Revised Version (ERV)

    And there were shepherds in the same country abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock.

    Clarke's Commentary on Luke 2:8

    There were - shepherds abiding in the field - There is no intimation here that these shepherds were exposed to the open air. They dwelt in the fields where they had their sheep penned up; but they undoubtedly had tents or booths under which they dwelt.

    Keeping watch - by night - Or, as in the margin, keeping the watches of the night, i.e. each one keeping a watch (which ordinarily consisted of three hours) in his turn. The reason why they watched them in the field appears to have been, either to preserve the sheep from beasts of prey, such as wolves, foxes, etc., or from freebooting banditti, with which all the land of Judea was at that time much infested. It was a custom among the Jews to send out their sheep to the deserts, about the passover, and bring them home at the commencement of the first rain: during the time they were out, the shepherds watched them night and day. As the passover occurred in the spring, and the first rain began early in the month of Marchesvan, which answers to part of our October and November, we find that the sheep were kept out in the open country during the whole of the summer. And as these shepherds had not yet brought home their flocks, it is a presumptive argument that October had not yet commenced, and that, consequently, our Lord was not born on the 25th of December, when no flocks were out in the fields; nor could he have been born later than September, as the flocks were still in the fields by night. On this very ground the nativity in December should be given up. The feeding of the flocks by night in the fields is a chronological fact, which casts considerable light upon this disputed point. See the quotations from the Talmudists in Lightfoot.

    The time in which Christ was born has been considered a subject of great importance among Christians. However, the matter has been considered of no moment by Him who inspired the evangelists; as not one hint is dropped on the subject, by which it might be possible even to guess nearly to the time, except the chronological fact mentioned above. A late writer makes the following remark: "The first Christians placed the baptism of Christ about the beginning of the fifteenth year of Tiberius; and thence reckoning back thirty years, they placed his birth in the forty-third year of the Julian period, the forty-second of Augustus, and the twenty-eighth after the victory at Actium. This opinion obtained till a.d. 527, when Dionysius Exiguus invented the vulgar account. Learned and pious men have trifled egregiously on this subject, making that of importance which the Holy Spirit, by his silence, has plainly informed them is of none. Fabricius gives a catalogue of no less than 136 different opinions concerning the Year of Christ's birth: and as to his birth Day, that has been placed by Christian sects and learned men in every month in the year. The Egyptians placed it in January - Wagenseil, in February - Bochart, in March - some, mentioned by Clemens Alexandrinus, in April - others, in May - Epiphanius speaks of some who placed it in June - and of others who supposed it to have been in July - Wagenseil, who was not sure of February, fixed it probably in August - Lightfoot, on the 15th of September - Scaliger, Casaubon, and Calvisius, in October - others, in November - but the Latin Church, supreme in power, and infallible in judgment, placed it on the 25th of December, the very day on which the ancient Romans celebrated the feast of their goddess Bruma." See more in Robinson's Notes on Claude's Essay, vol. i. p. 275, etc. Pope Julius I. was the person who made this alteration, and it appears to have been done for this reason: the sun now began his return towards the northern tropic, ending the winter, lengthening the short days, and introducing the spring. All this was probably deemed emblematical of the rising of the Sun of righteousness on the darkness of this world, and causing the day-spring from on high to visit mankind.

    Barnes' Notes on Luke 2:8

    The same country - Round about Bethlehem.

    Shepherds - Men who tended flocks of sheep.

    Abiding in the field - Remaining out of doors, under the open sky, with their flocks. This was commonly done. The climate was mild, and, to keep their flocks from straying, they spent the night with them. It is also a fact that the Jews sent out their flocks into the mountainous and desert regions during the summer months, and took them up in the latter part of October or the first of November, when the cold weather commenced. While away in these deserts and mountainous regions, it was proper that there should be someone to attend them to keep them from straying, and from the ravages of wolves and other wild beasts. It is probable from this that our Saviour was born before the 25th of December, or before what we call "Christmas." At that time it is cold, and especially in the high and mountainous regions about Bethlehem. But the exact time of his birth is unknown; there is no way to ascertain it. By different learned men it has been fixed at each month in the year. Nor is it of consequence to "know" the time; if it were, God would have preserved the record of it. Matters of moment are clearly revealed; those which "he" regards as of no importance are concealed.

    Keeping watch ... - More literally, "tending their flocks "by turns" through the night watches."
    Book: Luke