The Characterisation on Gabriel in Luke 1:5-38

After revising some notes on exegesis here yesterday, I wanted to do some more work looking at how characters in Luke are presented. I started with the angel Gabriel and found some interesting things:

Gabriel is introduced as ἄγγελος κυρίου in v11. For the next few verses he is simply referred to as ὁ ἄγγελος (1:13, 18, 19).

In v19, the angel responds to Zechariah’s request for a sign by introducing himself and explaining who he is. It is only here that we learn the angel’s name (Γαβριὴλ). Since this verse is Gabriel himself talking, he uses the first person pronoun to refer to himself. The end of Gabriel’s speech to Zechariah in v20 is the last we hear from Gabriel in this pericope. We are not given any details about his departure.

The next mention of Gabriel is in v26 when we are told that he is sent to Mary. It is interesting that when the angel is introduced in this next episode (vv26-38) we are told his name, rather than a simple noun phrase (like in v11). I take it that Luke does this intentionally so that we know that the angel who appears to Mary is the same as the one who appeared previously to Zechariah. This ties these two episodes together (vv5-25 and vv26-38). This verse (v26) and v11 are the only uses of the name Gabriel in the NT.

After being introduced with his proper name, the narrative reverts to using ὁ ἄγγελος (vv30, 34, 35, 38) as well as one pronominal reference (v28).

V38 draws the episode to a conclusion by telling us that the angel departed from Mary. This verses is not paralleled in Gabriel’s appearance to Zechariah.

The next mention of ὁ ἄγγελος is 2:9. Here the angel is introduced in exactly the same was as in 1:11, yet this angel is never specifically named as Gabriel (or anyone else).

Overall, Gabriel is portrayed as an angel having considerable significance and position as God’s messenger. In v19 he appeals to his own name and standing before God as a means of rebuking Zechariah. He also has some authority since he pronounces the judgement of dumbness and muteness on Zechariah. At the same time, Gabriel is pictured much more ‘gently’ in his appearance to Mary. He is more patient with her. Furthermore, the repeated use of the noun ὁ ἄγγελος to refer to Gabriel shows that his is certainly not the center of attention but just a messenger sent by God to announce the continuance of God’s redemptive plan (cf. v26).

[ Gabriel is also mentioned in Daniel 8:16 and 9:21. ]


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