Dear Theophilos: Concerning the matters that have taken place among us, many people have undertaken to draw up accounts
based on what was handed down to us by those who from the start were eyewitnesses and proclaimers of the message.
Therefore, Your Excellency, since I have carefully investigated all these things from the beginning, it seemed good to me that I too should write you an accurate and ordered narrative,
so that you might know how well-founded are the things about which you have been taught.
In the days of Herod, King of Y'hudah, there was a cohen named Z'kharyah who belonged to the Aviyah division. His wife was a descendant of Aharon, and her name was Elisheva.
Both of them were righteous before God, observing all the mitzvot and ordinances of ADONAI blamelessly.
But they had no children, because Elisheva was barren; and they were both well along in years.
One time, when Z'kharyah was fulfilling his duties as cohen during his division's period of service before God,
he was chosen by lot (according to the custom among the cohanim) to enter the Temple and burn incense.
All the people were outside, praying, at the time of the incense burning,
when there appeared to him an angel of ADONAI standing to the right of the incense altar.
Z'kharyah was startled and terrified at the sight.
But the angel said to him, "Don't be afraid, Z'kharyah; because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elisheva will bear you a son, and you are to name him Yochanan.
He will be a joy and a delight to you, and many people will rejoice when he is born,
for he will be great in the sight of ADONAI. He is never to drink wine or other liquor, and he will be filled with the Ruach HaKodesh even from his mother's womb.
He will turn many of the people of Isra'el to ADONAI their God.
He will go out ahead of ADONAI in the spirit and power of Eliyahu to turn the hearts of fathers to their childrena and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready for ADONAI a people prepared."
Z'kharyah said to the angel, "How can I be sure of this? For I am an old man; my wife too is well on in years."
"I am Gavri'el," the angel answered him, "and I stand in the presence of God. I was sent to speak to you, to give you this good news.
Now, because you didn't believe what I said, which will be fulfilled when the time comes, you will be silent, unable to speak until the day these things take place."
Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Z'kharyah; they were surprised at his taking so long in the Temple.
But when he came out unable to talk to them, they realized that he had seen a vision in the Temple; speechless, he communicated to them with signs.
When his period of his Temple service was over, he returned home.
Following this, Elisheva his wife conceived, and she remained five months in seclusion, saying,
"ADONAI has done this for me; he has shown me favor at this time, so as to remove my public disgrace."
In the sixth month, the angel Gavri'el was sent by God to a city in the Galil called Natzeret,
to a virgin engaged to a man named Yosef, of the house of David; the virgin's name was Miryam.
Approaching her, the angel said, "Shalom, favored lady! ADONAI is with you!"
She was deeply troubled by his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
The angel said to her, "Don't be afraid, Miryam, for you have found favor with God.
Look! You will become pregnant, you will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Yeshua.
He will be great, he will be called Son of Ha`Elyon. ADONAI, God, will give him the throne of his forefather David;
and he will rule the House of Ya`akov forever -- there will be no end to his Kingdom."
"How can this be," asked Miryam of the angel, "since I am a virgin?"
The angel answered her, "The Ruach HaKodesh will come over you, the power of Ha`Elyon will cover you. Therefore the holy child born to you will be called the Son of God.
"You have a relative, Elisheva, who is an old woman; and everyone says she is barren. But she has conceived a son and is six months pregnant!
For with God, nothing is impossible."
Miryam said, "I am the servant of ADONAI; may it happen to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.
Without delay, Miryam set out and hurried to the town in the hill country of Y'hudah
where Z'kharyah lived, entered his house and greeted Elisheva.
When Elisheva heard Miryam's greeting, the baby in her womb stirred. Elisheva was filled with the Ruach HaKodesh
and spoke up in a loud voice, "How blessed are you among women! And how blessed is the child in your womb!
"But who am I, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For as soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy!
Indeed you are blessed, because you have trusted that the promise ADONAI has made to you will be fulfilled."
Then Miryam said, "My soul magnifies ADONAI;
and my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior,
who has taken notice of his servant-girl in her humble position.b For -- imagine it! -- from now on, all generations will call me blessed!
"The Mighty One has done great things for me! Indeed, his name is holy;
and in every generation he has mercy on those who fear him.c
"He has performed mighty deeds with his arm, routed the secretly proud,
brought down rulers from their thrones, raised up the humble,
filled the hungry with good things, but sent the rich away empty.
"He has taken the part of his servant Isra'el, mindful of the mercy
which he promised to our fathers, to Avraham and his seed forever."
Miryam stayed with Elisheva for about three months and then returned home.
The time arrived for Elisheva to have her baby, and she gave birth to a son.
Her neighbors and relatives heard how good ADONAI had been to her, and they rejoiced with her.
On the eighth day, they came to do the child's b'rit-milah. They were about to name him Z'kharyah, after his father,
when his mother spoke up and said, "No, he is to be called Yochanan."
They said to her, "None of your relatives has that name,"
and they made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called.
He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone's surprise he wrote, "His name is Yochanan."
At that moment, his power of speech returned, and his first words were a b'rakhah to God.
All their neighbors were awestruck; and throughout the hill country of Y'hudah, people talked about all these things.
Everyone who heard of them said to himself, "What is this child going to be?" For clearly the hand of ADONAI was with him.
His father Z'kharyah was filled with the Ruach HaKodesh and spoke this prophecy:
"Praised be ADONAI, the God of Isra'el, because he has visited and made a ransom to liberate his people
by raising up for us a mighty Deliverer who is a descendant of his servant David.
It is just as he has spoken through the mouth of the prophets from the very beginning --
that we should be delivered from our enemies and from the power of all who hate us.
"This has happened so that he might show the mercy promised to our fathers -- that he would remember his holy covenant,
the oath he swore before Avraham avinu
to grant us that we, freed from our enemies, would serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
You, child, will be called a prophet of Ha`Elyon; you will go before the Lord to prepare his way
by spreading the knowledge among his people that deliverance comes by having sins forgiven
through our God's most tender mercy, which causes the Sunrise to visit us from Heaven,
to shine on those in darkness, living in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the paths of peace."
The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he lived in the wilderness until the time came for him to appear in public to Isra'el.