Zacharias made mute Luke 1:20


When Zacharias doubts that his wife can become pregnant as foretold by the angel Gabriel he is struck dumb.

I have in the back of my mind someone saying that Zacharias was in the temple that day at the feast of the atonement and that it was his job to come out and say the name of God to the people gathered. Hence being struck dumb was certainly symbolic that something major had happened.

Can anyone help me to verify this? Please.

God bless,



I have heard that as well, that it was the day of atonement and that Zacharias was in the Holy of Holies. I don’t believe it.

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, it fell to him by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. (Luke 1:8-11)

Zacharias was burning incense. Incense was the most pleasing of all the offerings made to God and it was done twice every day, morning and afternoon, at the 'hour of incense." The altar of incense was not inside the Holy of Holies but outside the curtain. The text says nothing about the day of atonement or bringing blood into the Holy of Holies.

I’m open to correction.



I dont know about this particular event, but I do know in the bible, angels and man seem to have alot of interaction, and its fairly well known, but in modern times, even going back 100s of years ago, there doesnt seem to anything going on like this anymore…??


Agreed that this is not necessarily the Day of Atonement, but I found the following article (extract) from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

a"…ccording to Maimonides (“More Neb.”, i, 61, and “Yad chasaka”, xiv, 10) the true Divine name was used only by the priests in the sanctuary who imparted the blessing, and by the high-priest on the Day of Atonement. Phil “De mut. nom.”, n. 2 (ed. Marg., i, 580); “Vita Mos.”, iii, 25 (ii, 166)] seems to maintain that even on these occasions the priests had to speak in a low voice."

“From <

Does anyone know what the “more neb”, “yad chasaka” and “de mut. nom” references refer to?


That idea stems from the (to be fair, historically inaccurate) popular Christian belief - since the 2nd century Protoevangelium of James - that Zechariah was actually a high priest. From 4th century that we see different Christian writers expressing that Zechariah was high priest and received his annunciation on the Holy of Holies, either on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) or on Sukkot (Feast of Booths), which they often confuse with each other.

You might say that Luke somewhat encourages this idea in a way, because he has Zechariah burn incense, writes as if Zechariah was the only person within the sanctuary, and mentions people praying outside the sanctuary. Automatically his readers’ minds would default to the biblical descriptions of the high priest offering incense by himself during the Day of Atonement.

But while Luke could very well have described Zechariah’s actions as if they were the actions of the high priest during Yom Kippur, but it’s not automatic indication that Zechariah was historically a high priest. In other words, Luke’s narrative is possibly more theological than literal here. In any case, we have no records from Josephus of a high priest named Zechariah during the relevant time period (7-4 BC, the last years of Herod’s reign): the high priest during that time would have been either Simon son of Boethus (reigned 23-5 BC), Matthias son of Theophilus (reigned 5-4 BC) or Joazar son of Boethus (Matthias’s wife’s brother, reigned 4 BC). Not to mention, as you mention a plain reading of Luke does not give any hint that he was either the high priest or that it was the Day of Atonement; incense was offered in the temple everyday at morning and at twilight. And while only Zechariah and the angel is described in the scene, it does not necessarily have to follow that Zechariah was alone in the sanctuary.

The Mishnah specifies that at least five priests were required for the daily service: those who tended the menorah - the lampstand - and prepared the altar, the one who will offer incense, and his assistant. After doing their job, said five priests would go outside the sanctuary, standing on the steps of the porch and, along with other priests, confer the priestly blessing (Numbers 6:24-26) on the people. If we suppose this tradition is accurate, then Zechariah could have been one of these five priests; the reason the people would have been surprised at his delay (1:21) may have been because only four of the five priests came out.


The part in bold/red re five priests and how the incense was offered is absolutely fascinating to me. Thank you for bringing the Mishnah into the conversation.



According to the great Jewish Sage Rabbi Mosheh ben Maimon (Maimonides, or “The Rambam”), 1135-1204) the true Divine name was used only by the priests in the sanctuary who imparted the blessing, and by the high-priest on the Day of Atonement.
“This sacred name, which, as you know, was not pronounced except in the sanctuary by the appointed priests, when they gave the sacerdotal blessing, and by the high priest on the Day of Atonement, undoubtedly denotes something which is peculiar to God, and is not found in any other being.” “Moreh Nevuchim” (the Guide for the Perplexed), i, 61”]

So I agree that Zacharias was not the High Priest, but nonetheless if he gave the sacerdotal blessing, then he would have spoken the Divine name. During the blessing, yes. Was it repeated to the multitude? Still looking for that one.

I am sure Scott Hahn said it.


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