NIV Luke 2:38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

What were they expecting Jesus to accomplish with regard to Jerusalem?

  • 1
    There is a difference between the lutrosis redemption (λυτροσις) looked for in this verse and the more extensive apolutrosis redemption (απολυτροσις) which is expressed in ten specific places in the Greek scripture (for example Luke 21:28 your redemption draweth nigh ,απολυτροσις). Jesus used the more extensive word but here is used the more limited one.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 23, 2018 at 16:16
  • Thanks @NigelJ. Interestingly I believe Luke 21:28 is referring to the very same event as Luke 2:38.
    – Ruminator
    Sep 23, 2018 at 16:28

4 Answers 4


They expected him to take back political control of Jerusalem.

Luke 1:26-33


And in the sixth month was the messenger Gabriel sent by God, to a city of Galilee, the name of which is Nazareth,

to a virgin, betrothed to a man, whose name is Joseph, of the house of David, and the name of the virgin is Mary.

And the messenger having come in unto her, said, 'Hail, favoured one, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women;'

and she, having seen, was troubled at his word, and was reasoning of what kind this salutation may be.

And the messenger said to her, 'Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favour with God;

and lo, thou shalt conceive in the womb, and shalt bring forth a son, and call his name Jesus;

he shall be great, and Son of the Highest he shall be called, and the Lord God shall give him the throne of David his father, [which for centuries was stationed in Jerusalem]

and he shall reign over the house of Jacob to the ages; and of his reign there shall be no end.'

The mother of John and James believed this.

Matthew 20:20-23


Then came near to him the mother of the sons of Zebedee, with her sons, bowing and asking something from him,

and he said to her, 'What wilt thou?' She saith to him, 'Say, that they may sit -- these my two sons -- one on thy right hand, and one on the left, in thy reign.'

And Jesus answering said, 'Ye have not known what ye ask for yourselves; are ye able to drink of the cup that I am about to drink? and with the baptism that I am baptized with, to be baptized?' They say to him, 'We are able.'

And he saith to them, 'Of my cup indeed ye shall drink, and with the baptism that I am baptized with ye shall be baptized; but to sit on my right hand and on my left is not mine to give, but -- to those for whom it hath been prepared by my father.'


When Jesus Christ was crucified, the Jews charged Him of trying to make Himself a king:

Luke 23:1-3

And having risen, the whole multitude of them did lead him to Pilate,

and began to accuse him, saying, 'This one we found perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying himself to be Christ a king.'

And Pilate questioned him, saying, 'Thou art the king of the Jews?' and he answering him, said, 'Thou dost say it.'


Pilate concurred.

John 19:1-3, 7-22

Then, therefore, did Pilate take Jesus and scourge him,

and the soldiers having plaited a crown of thorns, did place it on his head, and a purple garment they put around him,

and said, 'Hail! the king of the Jews;' and they were giving him slaps.


the Jews answered him, 'We have a law, and according to our law he ought to die, for he made himself Son of God.'

When, therefore, Pilate heard this word, he was the more afraid,

and entered again to the praetorium, and saith to Jesus, 'Whence art thou?' and Jesus gave him no answer.

Pilate, therefore, saith to him, 'To me dost thou not speak? hast thou not known that I have authority to crucify thee, and I have authority to release thee?'

Jesus answered, 'Thou wouldst have no authority against me, if it were not having been given thee from above; because of this, he who is delivering me up to thee hath greater sin.'

From this time was Pilate seeking to release him, and the Jews were crying out, saying, 'If this one thou mayest release, thou art not a friend of Caesar; every one making himself a king, doth speak against Caesar.'

Pilate, therefore, having heard this word, brought Jesus without -- and he sat down upon the tribunal -- to a place called, 'Pavement,' and in Hebrew, Gabbatha;

and it was the preparation of the passover, and as it were the sixth hour, and he saith to the Jews, 'Lo, your king!'

and they cried out, 'Take away, take away, crucify him;' Pilate saith to them, 'Your king shall I crucify?' the chief priests answered, 'We have no king except Caesar.'

Then, therefore, he delivered him up to them, that he may be crucified, and they took Jesus and led him away,

and bearing his cross, he went forth to the place called Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha;

where they crucified him, and with him two others, on this side, and on that side, and Jesus in the midst.

And Pilate also wrote a title, and put it on the cross, and it was written, 'Jesus the Nazarene, the king of the Jews;'

this title, therefore, read many of the Jews, because the place was nigh to the city where Jesus was crucified, and it was having been written in Hebrew, in Greek, in Roman.

The chief priests of the Jews said, therefore, to Pilate, 'Write not -- The king of the Jews, but that one said, I am king of the Jews;'

Pilate answered, 'What I have written, I have written.'


And even after He was resurrected (according to the text), His disciples still believed it.

Acts 1:3-4, 6


to whom also he did present himself alive after his suffering, in many certain proofs, through forty days being seen by them, and speaking the things concerning the reign of God.

And being assembled together with them, he commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, 'Ye did hear of me;


They, therefore, indeed, having come together, were questioning him, saying, 'Lord, dost thou at this time restore the reign to Israel?'


Edit per comment

That BDAG (to be honest I do not know what that stands for) reference you want to use references Luke 1:68 we quoted above:

, εως, ἡ (s. λυτρόω; as legal and commercial t.t. in pap) ① experience of being liberated from an oppressive situation, transf. sense of commercial usage ‘redemption of someth. for a price’: ransoming, releasing, redemption (Plut., Arat. 11, 2 λ. αἰχμαλώτων; Palaeph. exc. Vat. p. 99, 10; LXX; TestJos 8:1) ποιεῖν λύτρωσιν τῷ λαῷ bring about a deliverance for the people Lk 1:68 (cp. TestLevi 2:10 Armenian vers.: s. Charles). προσδέχεσθαι λύτρωσιν Ἰερουσαλήμ wait for the redemption


Textual Considerations


The Greek word λύτρωσιν is the singular accusative form of λύτρωσις. It is the noun form of the verb λυτρόω ("to free by paying a ransom"; "to liberate from an oppressive situation"),1 and so the noun λύτρωσις refers to either:2

  1. The one so liberated, hence the "experience of being liberated from an oppressive situation," generally with the "sense of commercial usage 'redemption of someth[ing] for a price.'"
  2. The ransom payment itself.

The term is only used three times in the New Testament, in Luke 1:68, here in Luke 2:38, and then in Hebrews 9:12.

In Lk 1:68, Zacharias (father of John the Baptist), just after being freed from his muteness, prophesied of Christ, beginning with the statement:

Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed [ἐποίησεν λύτρωσιν] His people,

So the noun is used in conjunction with the aorist active indicative form of the verb ποιέω, which here is "to undertake or do someth[ing] that brings about an event, state, or condition, do, cause, bring about, accomplish, prepare, etc."3 So more literally translated (keeping the noun as a noun), Luke 1:68 would be (my translation, bold showing the two Greek terms):

Blessed [be the] Lord, the God of Israel, because he looks after and makes redemption toward his people.

In the context of this prophecy in Luke 1:68-79, this redemption includes:

  1. Salvation from enemies and those hating the Jews (v.71, 74a)
  2. Salvation for fearless service in holiness and righteousness (v.74b, 75)
  3. Salvation by remission of sins (v.77b)
  4. Salvation through God's mercy to bring the Dawn from above for light to guide the way (v.78-79).

So in this context, the redemption leads to this all encompassing salvation experience (which includes from enemies, but also much more).

The Hebrews 9:12 reference clearly indicates the use of the term to refer to the "eternal redemption" that is in Christ's work (bold added where the term is found; NKJV):

11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

In the immediate context of Luke 2:38, the phrase is given by Anna (v.36), who had in "that instant" (v.38a) that Simeon had given his blessing (vv.25-35), gives her thanks and then goes to spread the word of the Christ's coming (v.26 with his following testimony). In that testimony, Simeon again refers to the Lord's "salvation" (v.30), and in the context that such a salvation would be (NKJV):

A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel. (v.32)

And then to Mary specifically (v.34b-35):

34 ... Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against 35 (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

So the focus of his testimony is particularly on the enlightening to that salvation by the child, and inclusive in some way to the Gentiles.

So all three uses in the text of the New Testament indicate a broader scope than merely a political freedom, though Luke's use shows that freedom is part of the broader scope goals in the salvation from enemies.

"In/of Jerusalem"

There is a textual variant here that comes into play. The Majority text has the Greek preposition ἐν ("in") prior to the term for Jerusalem (Ἱερουσαλήμ), whereas the UBS text does not. Since the term for Jerusalem is an indeclinable proper name (it does not change form by case), it could stand in a nominative, genitive, dative, or accusative relationship, depending upon context.

In Metzger's commentary,4 the reading without the preposition is given an "{A}" rating, meaning "certain," that is, certain as "the relative degree of certainty in the mind of the Committee for the reading adopted as the text" of the UBS.5 This is despite the fact that the Majority text includes it. The reasoning given is "the insertion of ἐν relieves the grammatical ambiguity,"6 and so the Committee on the UBS text considers the preposition an addition to the original text for purposes relieving that ambiguity, and so not original.

The presence of the ἐν does remove ambiguity, but whether that it was original to the text or not will depend on one's view of how to determine the original text (DISCLAIMER: I am a Majority text advocate). Given that the word "Jerusalem" is undeclinable, a loss of the preposition from the text would not be easily detectable, as the word form would not give any clues to the preposition's loss (that is, had it been declinable, then a dative form would have been here if the preposition were used, and had it been a genitive form, then it would have argued against the ἐν preposition's inclusion).

So the distinctions between the "in Jerusalem" (KJV, NKJV) with the "of Jerusalem" (ESV, NASB, NIV, NET) is based on the underlying Greek text, as the KJV and NKJV use the Majority reading, while the others (1) use the UBS/NA28 reading and (2) interpret it as relating to the participants of the redemption.

Interpretive Possibilities

The first possibility is if the term Jerusalem is to be taken as the object or recipient of redemption in Lk 2:38 (as is implied by the "of Jerusalem" reading), then it may be a reference with emphasis on the political redemption being sought (per another answer given here). This should still be considered in the broader context of the salvation Israel was expecting (per the Luke 1 passage, and Simeon's statements in the context of Anna's proclamations). Note that even if the preposition ἐν should be in the text, this could be the interpretation, as the term can mean "with respect to," and so "redemption with respect to Jerusalem." However, I personally do not favor this view.

The second possibility is that the term Jerusalem refers to the location of Anna's testifying of the Christ. This would be more favorable if the ἐν is original to the text, but even if it is not, since Jerusalem is undeclinable, it may still be the intent of the statement. To me, context favors this interpretation:

  1. The prior use in Luke 1 indicates Israel is looking for the broader salvation that God has promised, which includes taking care of enemies, but more than that.
  2. The lead in of Simeon's prophecy particularly calls attention to the broader ethnic nature of the Christ's work in the reference to the Gentiles; additionally, his statement to Mary specifically notes that there is both a "fall and rising of many in Israel" that is coming, so there is not a focus on Israel's blessing alone (indeed, it seems some may not partake).
  3. Anna "did not depart from the temple" for 84 years (v.37), so her ministry was localized to it; therefore, her testimony of speaking "of Him to all those who looked for redemption" would only have been toward those "in Jerusalem" because she lived(?) and ministered in the temple only; and all who sought such a redemption would come to the temple (even Gentiles that had converted to Judaism, though they would only be allowed in certain areas, even as Anna would have only been allowed in certain areas).


Either a reference to Jerusalem's freedom or to Anna's place of testimony are valid, and either are valid despite the inclusion or exclusion of the preposition.


1 William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), s.v. λυτρόω.

2 Ibid., s.v. λύτρωσις.

3 Ibid., s.v. ποιέω.

4 Bruce Manning Metzger, United Bible Societies, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition a Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th Rev. Ed.) (London: United Bible Societies, 1994), s.vv. "The Gospel According to Luke 2:28."

5 Ibid., xxviii.

6 Ibid., s.vv. "The Gospel According to Luke 2:28."

  • This is another very high quality answer. +1 However, I have a significant amount of disagreement. You seem to combine the work of John the preacher of repentance and administrator of mikveh (Luke 1:76-79) with Jesus' work. Jesus is the "horn of salvation" meaning "military deliverer" while John was to "prepare his way before him" by calling the people to repent and wash away their sins in mikveh, no? How could John know that Jesus was to be rejected to ratify the new covenant? That was not revealed to him. See Luke 7:19, Acts 13:24.
    – Ruminator
    Oct 8, 2018 at 18:50
  • Also, Hebrews 9:12 speaks of Jesus "finding" or as in the NKJV "having obtained" λύτρωσις (αἰωνίαν λύτρωσιν εὑράμενος) from his own death: KJV Heb 9:12 "Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." biblegateway.com/passage/… "for us" was added by the translators and do not belong.
    – Ruminator
    Oct 8, 2018 at 18:56
  • You don't need to answer my concerns but I did want to express them. Again, your answer was excellent, so answering my objections are optional.
    – Ruminator
    Oct 8, 2018 at 18:59
  • The point of Heb 9:12 is that "if Jesus was able to enter into the holy place on the basis of his own blood how much more shall we, because his blood was the ratification of the new covenant".
    – Ruminator
    Oct 8, 2018 at 19:01
  • By the way, Heb 1:3 is also about Jesus' own "purification" in order to be qualified to be the great high priest: biblegateway.com/passage/…
    – Ruminator
    Oct 8, 2018 at 19:07


And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. [ESV]

There are eight uses of the word λύτρωσις in the LXX, the relevant document at the time:

29And if any one sells a dwelling house in a walled city, then its redemption shall stand; until a year of days has elapsed, its redemption shall stand. (Leviticus 25)

48after he has been sold to him he shall have redemption; one of his brothers shall redeem him.
(Leviticus 25)

16And its redemption is from a month old; its evaluation is five shekels, according to the holy shekel; twenty obols there are. (Numbers 18)

15And Ascha said to him, "Give me a blessing; since you have given me away into the land of the south, you shall also give me redemption of water." And according to her desire, Chaleb gave her redemption of the upper and the redemption of the lower. (Judges 1)

7A brother does not ransom; shall anyone ransom? He will not give to God his atonement 8and the price for redeeming his soul. (Psalm 49 [48:8-9])

9Redepmtion he sent to his people; he commanded his covenant forever, Holy and awesome is his name. (Psalm 111 [110])

7because with the Lord there is mercy and much redemption is with him. (Psalm 130 [129])]

4For a day of retribution has come upon them, and a year of ransom is here. (Isaiah 63)

There is little in these uses which leads one to see the subsequent control over that which was redeemed by the one who was responsible for the redemption. Rather, the most common sense is to redeem and return to the original status. In this case Anna would be speaking about Jesus to those expecting a Redeemer who would restore Jerusalem, not a ruler over the entire nation.

The focus is on Jerusalem, not a people (the King of the Jews) or a country (the King of Israel). Others were expecting the King of Israel1 or a restoration of the kingdom to Israel2 and yet Anna spoke about Jesus to those who were more narrowly focused on the redemption of Jerusalem. This is also drawn out by the three prophecies Luke records:

Zechariah: redeemed his people [Israel]
Simeon: your people Israel
Anna: redemption of Jerusalem

This is not to say Jesus was not also the redeemer of His people and all people. It is recognizing some were looking specifically for the redemption of Jerusalem.

At the time, the Temple was corrupt; it had become a place of business. The High Priest was appointed by Rome. While there were devout Levites, like Zechariah and Elizabeth, the priesthood was controlled by the Sadducees who did not know Scripture and used their position to become ruling aristocrats.

Jerusalem was supposed to be governed by the law of the Temple:

This is the law of the temple: the whole territory on the top of the mountain all around shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the temple. (Ezekiel 43:12)

And a place to rejoice:

And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your towns, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are among you, at the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name dwell there. (Deuteronomy 16:11)

Unlike those who left or refused to associate with the corruption, there were others who stayed and hoped for the redemption of Jerusalem, a return to the time where the High Priest was not a servant of Rome; the priesthood not a profession to become wealthy and the Temple was not a place of business. This redemption would go beyond mere political control since the people had experienced corruption under previous Jewish and Greek rulers. The redemption would be complete in every aspect.

1. Matthew 27:42, Mark 15:32, John 1:49, and John 12:13.
2. Acts 1:6


Luke 2:38 (YLT)

38 and she, at that hour, having come in, was confessing, likewise, to the Lord, and was speaking concerning him, to all those looking for redemption in Jerusalem.

The verse says, "looking for redemption IN Jerusalem." After looking at Vines, the phrase "redemption in Jerusalem" represents more of a general usage of redemption, ie "the release of a ransom by paying a price". Christ paid the ransom price under which Israel was held, the price of death demanded by the Old Testament law.

The reference to Jerusalem is just indicating Israel in general; Jerusalem is representative of the entire nation.

This phrase would match the intention of Simeon's phrase (a few verses earlier) the "consolation of Israel (KJV)" or the "comforting of Israel" (YLT).

Luke 2:25 (YLT)

25 And lo, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name [is] Simeon, and this man is righteous and devout, looking for the comforting of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him,

So we see both phrases are looking for Christ to bring comfort and peace to Israel by performing the duties of a redeemer.

  • Might there be prophecy or something historical that you can relate this "release by paying a price"? And have you consulted a lexicon to see if perhaps there might be a different, more appropriate sense of the word?
    – Ruminator
    Oct 3, 2018 at 1:00

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