In Luke 4:17, Jesus reads from the Scriptures during a religious meeting. The passage reads,

Luke 4:16-21 (NIV) He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor."

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

From a historical perspective, was it ordinary at that time for all men to read from the scrolls in public religious meetings, or does Jesus' reading imply that he had a special status within the religious community?

  • That Jesus was addressed as "Rabbi" (i.e., rav-i, meaning "my master" or "my teacher") in John 1:38, 1:49; 3:2; 3:26; and 6:25 indicates that he had status in the Jewish community in general and possibly also in the synagogue located in Nazareth in particular. See torahresource.com/EnglishArticles/TriennialCycle.pdf for additional insights. Oct 11, 2016 at 13:49
  • I am aware of that, but I suspect that the disciples would have called him "teacher" and "master" regardless of his status in the community, because that is what he was to them. I am asking, according to the contemporary religious community, not just according to his disciples.
    – Andrew
    Oct 11, 2016 at 15:11
  • @rhetorician And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Rabbi, rebuke your disciples” (Luke 19:39). Then there came to him some of the Sadducees…and they asked him, saying, “Rabbi…” (Luke 20:27 - Matthew 22:23-24). I suppose that's enough to establish that he was considered a Rabbi by the community.
    – Andrew
    Oct 11, 2016 at 15:23
  • 1
    Good points. Your question may ultimately be unanswerable, since local synagogue polity back then may have differed from synagogue to synagogue. Perhaps in one locale the men who wanted to read took turns, and in another locale the order was determined by lots. On thing is certain, however: Jesus felt at home in his "Father's house," and from the age of 12 he was able to "hold his own" with the elders in the synagogue (Luke 2:47-50). Oct 12, 2016 at 16:29

1 Answer 1


It would have been common for some members to recite the scriptures in same way it happens in some Churches or assemblies. Though the reciter might not be a random person but of some credibility. Jesus had a good credibility and reputation as a teacher.

(Luke 4:14-15) 14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.

(Matthew 13:53-54) 53 And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, 54 and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works?

The reading of scripture was indeed a custom in Synagogues. A quote from The IVP New Testament Commentary Series – Jesus Preaches in Nazareth: The Time of Fulfillment Has Come (4:16-30)

To appreciate the account, it helps to understand the order of an ancient synagogue service (m. Megilla 3—4; m. Berakot 2). To have a synagogue service required the presence of ten adult males. At the service, the Shema was recited (Deut 6:4-9), followed by prayers, including some set prayers like the Tephillah and the Eighteen Benedictions (m. Berakot 2:2). After this the Scripture was read, beginning with a portion from the Torah (Gen—Deut) and moving next to a section from the Prophets. Instruction then followed. Often the speaker linked the texts together through appeal to other passages. The service then closed with a benediction.

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