In Luke chapter 1 verses 20-22 we read that Zechariah was stricken with muteness, and he makes signs to his fellow priests cuz he can't talk.

But then in verse 62 his neighbours make signs to him, as if he is deaf as well, but we're never told that he's deaf.

Why did the neighbours make signs to Zechariah?


Why did Zechariah's neighbours make signs to him?

It was an unusual practice at the time to name a son after his father, because a man tended to be identified as, for example, (John) son of (Zechariah), i.e., (John), Bar-(Zechariah); and Zechariah Bar-Zechariah would have been strange.

Matthew Henry claims that Zechariah was both deaf and mute (cf. 1:22, 64), so they appealed to him by means of signs. He responded by means of writing (1:63). These two infirmities are often associated with each other (cf. Mark 7:32, 37; 9:25). But here I find the point strained.

Since the naming of the child typically fell to the father, the "crowd" would naturally be gesturing to Zechariah for his validation of Elizabeth's "announcement." Thus, in Luke 1:63 he asked for a writing tablet, which consisted of a wood tablet (a pinakidion) covered with wax.

To everyone’s amazement he wrote, “His name is John.” So why the amazement? Most likely because “John” was not a name used in their family. The proponents of Zechariah's deafness obviously believe that Zechariah was not able to hear Elizabeth’s choice of this name, but, again, this is strained exegesis. Since Zechariah was mute, he could not “say” anything. His only means of confirming the name of the boy was John was to write it down for the onlookers.

  • Hmm... I would accept that except that in the earlier passage he makes signs as a way of communication because of being unable to talk, and so it would seem to me that the neighbours making signs would be a similar act, as opposed to just gesturing... It does seem odd that he would be deaf as well but never mentioned, but I suppose the two being related could explain that – Nacht Mar 4 '14 at 22:37
  • Right - I think this answer misses the point - Zechariah could hear just fine. He just couldn't talk. – Affable Geek Mar 5 '14 at 3:51

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