Dedication to Theophilus
1 1 So many others have tried their hand at putting together a story of the wonderful harvest of Scripture and history that took place among us, 2 using reports handed down by the original eyewitnesses who served this Word with their very lives. 3 Since I have investigated all the reports in close detail, starting from the story's beginning, I decided to write it all out for you, most honorable Theophilus, 4 so you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt the reliability of what you were taught. A Childless Couple Conceives
The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold
5 During the rule of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest assigned service in the regiment of Abijah. His name was Zachariah. His wife was descended from the daughters of Aaron. Her name was Elizabeth. 6 Together they lived honorably before God, careful in keeping to the ways of the commandments and enjoying a clear conscience before God. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth could never conceive, and now they were quite old. 8 It so happened that as Zachariah was carrying out his priestly duties before God, working the shift assigned to his regiment, 9 it came his one turn in life to enter the sanctuary of God and burn incense. 10 The congregation was gathered and praying outside the Temple at the hour of the incense offering. 11 Unannounced, an angel of God appeared just to the right of the altar of incense. 12 Zachariah was paralyzed in fear. 13 But the angel reassured him, "Don't fear, Zachariah. Your prayer has been heard. Elizabeth, your wife, will bear a son by you. You are to name him John. 14 You're going to leap like a gazelle for joy, and not only you - many will delight in his birth. 15 He'll achieve great stature with God. 16 He will turn many sons and daughters of Israel back to their God. 17 He will herald God's arrival in the style and strength of Elijah, soften the hearts of parents to children, and kindle devout understanding among hardened skeptics - he'll get the people ready for God." 18 Zachariah said to the angel, "Do you expect me to believe this? I'm an old man and my wife is an old woman." 19 But the angel said, "I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring you this glad news. 20 But because you won't believe me, you'll be unable to say a word until the day of your son's birth. Every word I've spoken to you will come true on time - God's time."