Translation commentary on Luke 2:51


kai katebē met’ autōn ‘and he went down with them.’

katabainō ‘to come down,’ ‘to go down,’ here used of going away from Jerusalem (cf. 10.30, 31; Acts 24.1; 25.7), as contrasted with anabainō (cf. vv. 4 and 42), and implying going back home.

kai ēn hupotassomenos autois ‘and he was obedient to them.’ The imperfect tense is durative.

hupotassō ‘to subject,’ in the passive ‘to become subject,’ ‘to obey’; here the participle is virtually equivalent to an adjective meaning ‘obedient.’

kai hē mētēr autou dietērei panta ta rēmata ‘and his mother kept everything.’ The definite article ta here makes panta ta rēmata a summary of the events told in the preceding narrative.

diatēreō ‘to keep,’ ‘to treasure,’ synonymous with suntēreō, used in a similar phrase in v. 19.


He (or, the boy Jesus) went down with them and came to Nazareth, or, ‘came and-arrived in N.’ (Kituba). Some versions contract the two clauses into one, e.g. “he went back with them to N.” (An American Translation). Went down. For movement to a lower, or a higher, level cf. on “went up” in 2.4. With them, or specifying the pronoun, ‘with his parents,’ ‘with the-two-of-them’ (Malay); Balinese has ‘returned together,’ leaving the persons in whose company he returned to be inferred from the context.

And was obedient to them. From the change of aspect it follows that this clause is not a mere continuance of the preceding pair of clauses; hence some versions prefer a major break and an explicit reference to the agent, cf. .’..; and he was submissive to them’ (Bible de Jérusalem). The phrase may be interpreted as the description of Jesus’ behaviour (i.e. he willingly did as he was ordered), or of the situation in which he found himself, cf. ‘was under their authority’ (cf. New English Bible). Where a rendering covering both possibilities is not available, the second one can best be chosen. — Obedient. The concept of ‘obedience’ may be described by ‘to do what a person says,’ ‘to accept orders,’ ‘to follow (in a person’s steps)’ (Malay), ‘to have an ear that listens’ (Kipsigis), ‘to hear a person’s mouth’ (Uduk). In some other languages one term covers ‘to believe’ and ‘to obey’ (Tepeuxila Cuicatec, Tzeltal), or ‘to hear/listen’ and ‘to obey’ (Bahasa Indonesia), or, ‘to listen,’ ‘to believe’ and ‘to obey’ (Thai).

Kept all these things in her heart, cf. on v. 19.

Quoted with permission from Reiling, J. and Swellengrebel, J.L. A Handbook on the Gospel of Luke. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1971. For this and other handbooks for translators see here . Make sure to also consult the Handbook on the Gospel of Mark for parallel or similar verses.

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