My wife and I teach a third & fourth grade Sunday School class at my local church. Yesterday, it was my week to teach the lesson, which concerned the birth of John the Baptist and the prophecy of Zechariah from Luke 1:57-80. So having explained the activity in verses 59-63, where the neighbors and relatives assume the infant will be named after his father, and Elizabeth tells them his name is John “And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And they all wondered” (vv. 62-63), one of my students immediately raised his hand and asked, “If his only problem was that he couldn’t speak, then why did they have to use sign language to talk to him?”
Did you ever wonder about that? It never once crossed my mind. Are you as smart as a third grader?
Today, I looked it up at the online ESV Study Bible. Here’s what I learned.
They made signs to his father indicates that Zechariah was deaf as well as mute, or else they would simply have spoken to him (see note on v. 22). This is confirmed by the people’s amazement (v. 63) that he chose the same name as Elizabeth chose, something that would not have been surprising if he had been able to hear her.
So naturally I also checked out the note at verse 22, which explicitly states that Zechariah was “mute”. Here’s what that note reveals:
Mute (Gk. kōphos) can mean either “mute” or “deaf,” depending on the context, and there is some evidence that it can at times mean “deaf and mute” (see note on vv. 62-63).
So, once again, you learn something new every day. Are you smarter than a third grader? I’m not!