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Bible Commentaries

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

Matthew 3

Verse 1

1. ἐν δὲ ταῖς ἡμ . ἐκ . ] The last matter mentioned was the dwelling at Nazareth: and though we must not take the connexion strictly as implying that Joseph dwelt there all the intermediate thirty years, the ἡμέραι ἐκεῖναι must be understood to mean that we take up the persons of the narrative where we left them; i.e. dwelling at Nazareth. See Exodus 2:11 , LXX.

παραγίνεται ] Comes forward ‘makes his appearance.’ Euthym [19] asks the question, πόθεν ; and answers it, ἀπὸ τῆς ἐνδοτέρας ἐρήμου . But this can hardly be, owing to the ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ following. The verb is used absolutely. The title Ἰω . ὁ βαπτ . shews that St. Matthew was writing for those who well knew John the Baptist as an historical personage. Josephus, in mentioning him (Antt. xviii. 5. 2), calls him Ἰωάννηςἐπικαλούμενος βαπτιστής . John was strictly speaking a prophet; belonging to the legal dispensation; a rebuker of sin, and preacher of repentance. The expression in St. Luke, ἐγένετο ῥῆμα θεοῦ ἐπὶ Ἰωάννην , is the usual formula for the Divine commission of the Prophets (Jeremiah 1:1 ; Ezekiel 6:1 ; Ezekiel 7:1 , &c.). And the effect of the Holy Spirit on John was more in accordance with the O.T. than the N.T. inspiration; more of a sudden overpowering influence, as in the Prophets, than a gentle indwelling manifested through the individual character, as in the Apostles and Evangelists.

[19] Euthymius Zigabenus, 1116

The baptism of John was of a deeper significance than that usual among the Jews in the case of proselytes, and formed an integral part of his divinely appointed office. It was emphatically the baptism of repentance ( λουτρὸν μετανοίας , says Olshausen (cf. Luk 3:3 ), but not λουτρὸν παλιγγενεσίας , Tit 3:5 ). We find in Acts 18:24-26 ; Acts 19:1-7 , accounts of persons who had received the baptism of John, who believed and (in Apollos’s case) taught accurately the things (i.e. facts) concerning the Lord; but required instruction (in doctrine) and rebaptizing in the name of the Lord Jesus. Whether the baptism practised by the disciples before the Resurrection was of the same kind, and required this renewal, is uncertain. The fact of our Lord Himself having received baptism from John, is decisive against the identity of the two rites, as also against the idea (Olsh. i. 154, note) derived from Acts 19:4 , that John used the formula βαπτίζω σε εἰς τὸν ἐρχόμενον . His whole mission, as Olsh. well observes, was calculated, in accordance with the office of the law which gives the knowledge of sin ( Rom 3:20 ), to bring men’s minds into that state in which the Redeemer invites them (ch. Mat 11:28 ), as weary and heavy laden, to come to him.

ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ ] where also he had been brought up, Luke 1:80 . This tract was not strictly a desert , but thinly peopled, and abounding in pastures for flocks. Josephus, B. J. iii. 10. 7, says, that the Jordan διατέμνει τὴν Γεννήσαρ μέσην , ἔπειτα πολλὴν ἀναμετρούμενος ἐρημίαν εἰς τὴν Ἀσφαλτῖτιν ἔξεισι λίμνην . See Judges 1:16 ; 1 Kings 2:34 . This ἔρημος answers to πᾶσα περίχωρος τοῦ Ἰορδάνου in Luke 3:3 . See note on ch. Matthew 4:1 .

Verses 1-12

1 12. ] PREACHING AND BAPTISM OF JOHN. Mark 1:1-8 . Luke 3:1-17 . Here the synoptic narrative begins, its extent being the same as that specified by Peter in Acts 1:22 , ‘ from the baptism of John unto that same day that He was taken up from us .’ For a critical comparison of the narratives in the various sections, see notes on St. Mark. In this Gospel, I have generally confined myself to the subject matter .

Verse 2

2. μετανοεῖτε ] Used by the Baptist in the O.T. sense of turning to God as His people , from the spiritual idolatry and typical adultery in which the faithless among the Jews were involved. This, of course, included personal amendment in individuals. See Luke 3:10-14 . Josephus describes John, Antt. xviii. 5. 2, as τοὺς Ἰουδαίους κελεύοντα ἀρετὴν ἐπασκοῦντας καὶ τῇ πρὸς ἀλλήλους δικαιοσύνκαὶ πρὸς τὸν θεὸν εὐσεβείᾳ χρωμένους βαπτισμῷ συνιέναι .

βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν ] An expression peculiar in the N.T. to St. Matthew. The more usual one is ἡ βασ . τοῦ θεοῦ : but ἡ β . τῶν οὐρ . is common in the Rabbinical writers, who do not however, except in one or two places, mean by it the reign of the Messiah , but the Jewish religion the theocracy . Still, from the use of it by St. Matthew here, and in ch. Matthew 4:17 ; Matthew 10:7 , we may conclude that it was used by the Jews, and understood, to mean the advent of the Christ , probably from the prophecy in Daniel 2:44 ; Daniel 7:13-14 ; Daniel 7:27 .

It has been observed by recent critics, that wherever the term βασ . τ . οὐρ . (or its equivalent) is used in the N.T., it signifies, not the Church, nor the Christian religion, but strictly the kingdom of the Messiah which is to be revealed hereafter . I should doubt this being exclusively true. The state of Christian men now is undoubtedly a part of the bringing in of the kingdom of Christ, and, as such, is included in this term. See Mark 12:34 , and note on ch. Matthew 5:3 .

Verse 3

3. οὗτος γάρ ἐστιν ] Not the words of the Baptist , meaning ἐγὼ γάρ εἰμι , as in John 1:23 , but of the Evangelist; and ἐστιν is not for ἦν , but is the prophetic present, representing to us the place which the Baptist fills in the divine purposes. Of γάρ , Bengel says well, “Causa cur Johannes ita exoriri tum debuerit uti Mat 3:1-2 describitur, quia sic prædictum erat.” The words ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ belong in the Hebrew to ἑτοιμάσατε , but in the LXX and here to βοῶντος . The primary and literal application of this prophecy to the return from captivity is very doubtful. If it ever had such an application, we may safely say that its predictions were so imperfectly and sparingly fulfilled in that return, or any thing which followed it, that we are necessarily directed onward to its greater fulfilment the announcement of the kingdom of Christ. Euthymius remarks, ὁδὸν δὲ κυρίου καὶ τρίβους αὐτοῦ καλεῖ τὰς ψυχάς , ὧν ἐπιβαίνειν ἔμελλενλόγος τοῦ εὐαγγελίου , ἃς καὶ προτρέπεται ἑτοιμάζειν , ἤγουν καθαίρειν , τῷ ἐργαλείῳ τῆς μετανοίας ἀνασπῶντας μὲν τὰς ἀκάνθας τῶν παθῶν , ἐκρίπτοντας δὲ τοὺς λίθους τῆς ἁμαρτίας , καὶ οὕτως εὐθείας καὶ ὁμαλὰς αὐτὰς ἀπεργάζεσθαι πρὸς ὑποδοχὴν αὐτοῦ .

Verse 4

4. αὐτὸς δὲἸω . ] αὐτὸς recalls the reader from the prophetic testimony, to the person of John: now John himself.… As John was the Elias of prophecy, so we find in his outward attire a striking similarity to Elias, who was ἀνὴρ δασύς , καὶ ζωνὴν δερματίνην περιεζωσμένος τὴν ὀσφὺν αὐτοῦ . 4 Kings Matthew 1:8 . The garment of camel’s hair was not the camel’s skin with the hair on, which would be too heavy to wear, but raiment woven of camel’s hair, such as Josephus speaks of (B. J. i. 24. 3), ἐσθῆτες ἐκ τριχῶν πεποιημέναι , as a contrast to ἐσθ . βασιλικαί . From Zechariah 13:4 , it seems that such a dress was known as the prophetic garb: ‘neither shall they (the prophets) wear a rough garment ( δέῤῥιν τριχίνην , LXX, who, however, make it a garment of penitence for having deceived ) to deceive.’

ἀκρίδες ] There is no difficulty here. The ἀκρίς , permitted to be eaten, ref. Levit., was used as food by the lower orders in Judæa, and mentioned by Strabo and Pliny as eaten by the Æthiopians, and by many other authors as articles of food. Jerome, adv. Jovinian. ii. 7, vol. ii. p. 334, says, “Apud Orientales et Libyæ populos quia per desertam et calidam eremi vastitatem locustarum nubes reperiuntur, locustis vesci moris est: hoc verum esse Joannes quoque Baptista probat.” Shaw found locusts eaten by the Moors in Barbary. (Travels, p. 164) Epiphanius, Hær. xxx. 13, vol. i. p. 138, quotes this from the Gospel according to the Ebionites as follows: καὶ τὸ βρῶμα αὐτοῦ μέλι ἄγριον , οὗγεῦσις ἦν τοῦ μάννα , ὡς ἔγκρις ἐν ἐλαίῳ , and adds, ἵνα δῆθεν μεταστρέψωσι τὸν τῆς ἀληθείας λόγον εἰς ψεῦδος , καὶ ἀντὶ ἀκρίδων ποιήσωσιν ἐγκρίδας ἐν μέλιτι .

μέλι ἄγριον ] See 1 Samuel 14:25 . Here, again, there is no need to suppose any thing else meant but honey made by wild bees; τὸ ἐν ταῖς τῶν πετρῶν σχισμαῖς ὑπὸ τῶν μελισσῶν γεωργούμενον . Euthym [20] Schulz (cited by Winer, Realw., and De Wette) found such honey in this very wilderness in our own time. See Psalms 81:16 ; Judges 14:8 ; Deuteronomy 32:13 . The passage usually cited from Diodorus Siculus (xix. 94) to shew that μέλι ἄγριον exuded from trees, does not necessarily imply it; φύεται γὰρ παρ ʼ αὐτοῖς τὸ πέπερι ἀπὸ τῶν δένδρων , καὶ μέλι πολὺ τὸ καλούμενον ἄγριον , ᾧ χρῶνται ποτῷ μεθ ʼ ὕδατος . Suidas certainly makes it a gum: μ . ἄγ . ὅπερ ἀπὸ τῶν δένδρων ἐπισυναγόμενον , μάννα τοῖς πολλοῖς προσαγορεύεται . And Meyer prefers this view, on account of the predicate ἄγριον , which, he says, is a terminus technicus, pointing out this particular kind of honey. But he does not give any authority for this assertion: and it seems just as likely that ἄγριον might be applied to it as made by wild bees.

[20] Euthymius Zigabenus, 1116

Verse 5

5. τότε ἐξεπ . ] The latter καί here has been supposed to mean ‘ especially ,’ seeing that Judæa was part of the περίχωρος ; as in the expression ἄλλως τε καί . But the former καὶ πᾶσα will hardly allow this.

καὶ πᾶσαπερ . means all the neighbourhood of Jordan not included in Jerusalem and Judæa before mentioned. Parts of Peræa, Samaria, Galilee, and Gaulonitis come under this denomination.

There need be no surprise at such multitudes going out to John. The nature of his announcement, coupled with the prevalent expectation of the time, was enough to produce this effect. See, as strictly consistent with this account, chap. Matthew 11:7-15 .

Verse 6

6. ἐβαπτίζοντο ] When men were admitted as proselytes, three rites were performed circumcision, baptism , and oblation; when women, two baptism and oblation . The baptism was administered in the day-time, by immersion of the whole person; and while standing in the water the proselyte was instructed in certain portions of the law. The whole families of proselytes, including infants, were baptized. It is most probable that John’s baptism in outward form resembled that of proselytes. See above, on Matthew 3:1 . Some (De Wette, Winer, Paulus, Meyer) deny that the proselyte baptism was in use before the time of John: but the contrary has been generally supposed, and maintained (cf. Lightfoot, Schöttgen, Buxtorf, Wetstein, Bengel). Indeed the baptism or lustration of a proselyte on admission would follow as a matter of course, by analogy from the constant legal practice of lustration after all uncleannesses: and it is difficult to imagine a time when it would not be in use. Besides, it is highly improbable that the Jews should have borrowed the rite from the Christians, or the Jewish hierarchy from John.

ἐξομολογούμενοι τ . ἁμ . αὐ . ] From the form and expression this does not seem to have been merely ‘shewing a contrite spirit,’ ‘confessing themselves sinners,’ but a particular and individual confession; not, however, made privately to John, but before the people: see his exhortation to the various classes in Luke 3:10-15 ; nor in every case, but in those which required it. Josephus uses the very same expression, Antt. viii. 4. 6. The present participle carries with it a certain logical force; “confessing, as they did,” almost = “on condition of confessing.” So Fritzsche, “si peccata sua confiterentur.”

Verse 7

7. Φαρισ . καὶ Σαδδ . ] These two sects, according to Josephus, Antt. xiii. 5. 9, originated at the same period, under Jonathan the High Priest (B.C. 159 144). The Pharisees, deriving their name probably from פָּרַשׁ , ‘he separated’ ( διὰ τὴν ἐθεχοπερισσοθρησκείαν , Epiph. Hær. xvi. 1, vol. i. p. 34), took for their distinctive practice the strict observance of the law and all its requirements, written and oral. They had great power over the people, and are numbered by Josephus, as being, about the time of the death of Herod the Great, above 6000. (Antt. xvii. 2. 4.) We find in the Gospels the Pharisees the most constant opponents of our Lord, and His discourses frequently directed against them. The character of the sect as a whole was hypocrisy; the outside acknowledgment and honouring of God and his law, but inward and practical denial of Him: which rendered them the enemies of the simplicity and genuineness which characterized our Lord’s teaching. Still among them were undoubtedly pious and worthy men, honourably distinguished from the mass of the sect; John 3:1 ; Acts 5:34 . The various points of their religious and moral belief will be treated of as they occur in the text of the Gospels.

Σαδδουκαίων ] Are said to have derived their name from one Sadok, about the time of Alexander the Great (B.C. 323): but more probably, as stated by Epiphanius, Hær. xiv. 1, vol. i. p. 31, ἐπονομάζουσιν ἑαυτοὺς Σαδδουκαίους δῆθεν ἀπὸ δικαιοσύνης τῆς ἐπικλήσεως ὁρμωμένης · σεδὲκ γὰρ (whence the adjectival form, צַדִּיק , see Genesis 6:9 ; Genesis 18:25 a [21] . fr.) ἑρμηνεύεται δικαιοσύνη . They rejected all tradition , but did not, as some have supposed, confine their canon of Scripture to the Pentateuch. The denial of a future state does not appear to have been an original tenet of Sadduceism, but to have sprung from its abuse. The particular side of religionism represented by the Sadducees was bare literal moral conformity, without any higher views or hopes. They thus escaped the dangers of tradition, but fell into deadness and worldliness, and a denial of spiritual influence. While our Lord was on earth, this state of mind was very prevalent among the educated classes throughout the Roman empire; and most of the Jews of rank and station were Sadducees.

[21] alii = some cursive mss.

The two sects, mutually hostile, are found frequently in the Gospels united in opposition to our Lord (see ch. Matthew 16:1 ; Matthew 16:6 ; Matthew 16:11 ; Matthew 22:23 ; Matthew 22:34 : also Act 4:1 ); the Pharisees representing hypocritical superstition; the Sadducees, carnal unbelief.

ἐρχομένους ] as they came. It would appear here as if these Pharisees and Sadducees came with others, and because others did, without any worthy motive, and they were probably deterred by his rebuke from undergoing baptism at his hands. We know, from Luke 7:30 , that the Pharisees in general ‘ were not baptized of him .’ ἐπί denotes the moral direction of their purpose , not merely motion towards: as in Μενέλαον στἐλλειν ἐπὶ τὰν Ἑλέναν , Eur. Iph. Aul. 178, and similar expressions; cf. Bernhardy, Syntax, p. 252 f., where many examples are given. Some interpret it in a hostile sense, ‘to oppose his baptism,’ as in ἑπτὰ ἐπὶ Θήβας : but this is manifestly inconsistent with the context.

τῆς μελλούσης ὀργῆς ] The reference of John’s ministry to the prophecy concerning Elias, Malachi 3:1 ; Malachi 4:5 ( Mar 1:2 ), would naturally suggest to men’s minds ‘the wrath to come’ there also foretold. It was the general expectation of the Jews that troublous times would accompany the appearance of the Messiah. John is now speaking in the true character of a prophet, foretelling the wrath soon to be poured on the Jewish nation.

Verse 8

8. ] οὖν expresses an inference from their apparent intention of fleeing from the wrath to come: q. d., ‘if you are really so minded,’ …

Verse 9

9. μὴ δόξητε λ . ] Not pleonastic: but, Do not fancy you may say, &c. In Justin Martyr’s dialogue with Trypho the Jew, § 140, p. 230, we read: εἰσὶ δὲ λάκκοι συντετριμμένοι καὶ ὕδωρ μὴ συνέχοντες , οὓς ὤρυξαν ὑμῖν οἱ διδάσκαλοι ὑμῶν αὐτῶνκαὶ πρὸς τούτοις ἑαυτοὺς καὶ ὑμᾶς βουκολοῦσιν , ὑπολαμβάνοντες ὅτι πάντως τοῖς ἀπὸ τῆς σπορᾶς τῆς κατὰ σάρκα τοῦ Ἀβραὰμ οὖσι , κἂν ἁμαρτωλοὶ ὦσι , καὶ ἄπιστοι , καὶ ἀπειθεῖς πρὸς τὸν θεόν , ἡ βασιλείααἰώνιος δοθήσεται . The expression λέγειν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς , as similar expressions in Scripture (e.g., Psalms 9:6 (27), 11 (32); Matthew 13:1 : Ecclesiastes 1:16 ; Ecclesiastes 2:15 a [22] . fr.), is used to signify the act by which outward circumstances are turned into thoughts of the mind. See Beck, Biblische Seelenlehre, p. 83.

[22] alii = some cursive mss.

ἐκ τῶν λ . τ . ] The pebbles or shingle on the beach of the Jordan. He possibly referred to Isaiah 51:1-2 . This also is prophetic, of the admission of the Gentile Church. See Romans 4:16 ; Galatians 3:29 . Or we may take the interpretation which Chrysostom prefers, also referring to Isaiah 51:1-2 ; μὴ νομίζετε , φησίν , ὅτι ἐὰν ὑμεῖς ἀπόλησθε , ἄπαιδα ποιήσετε τὸν πατριάρχην . οὐκ ἔστι τοῦτο , οὐκ ἔστι . τῷ γὰρ θεῷ δυνατὸν καὶ ἀπὸ λίθωι ἀνθρώπους αὐτῷ δοῦναι , καὶ εἰς συγγένειαν αὐτοῦ ἀγαγεῖν , ἐπεὶ καὶ ἐξ ἀρχῆς οὕτως ἐγένετο . τῷ γὰρ ἐκ λίθων ἀνθρώπους γενέσθαι ὅμοιον ἦν τὸ ἀπὸ τῆς μήτρας ἐκείνης τῆς σκληρᾶς προελθεῖν παιδίον .

Verse 10

10. ] Of ἤδη δέ , Klotz says, Devar. p. 606, “Respondent Latinis particulis jam vero , et habent idoneum atque alacrem transitum ab una re ad aliam.… Transitum faciunt illæ particulæ, ut nos ad rem præsentem revocent:” Eurip. Med. 772: Rhes. 499: Herodot. vii. 35.

The presents , κεῖται , ἐκκόπτεται , and βάλλεται , imply the law, or habit, which now and henceforward, in the kingdom of heaven, prevails: ‘ from this time it is so .’

Verse 11

11. ἐν ὕδ . ] ἐν is not redundant, but signifies the vehicle of baptism, as in ἐν πν . ἁγ . κ . πυρί afterwards.

ἐρχόμενος ] The present participle is used of a certain and predetermined future event; “he that is to come.” See on ch. Matthew 2:4 .

τὰ ὑποδ . βαστάσαι ] Lightfoot (from Maimonides) shews that it was the token of a slave having become his master’s property, to loose his shoe, to tie the same, or to carry the necessary articles for him to the bath. The expressions therefore in all the Gospels amount to the same.

ἐν πν . ἁγ . κ . πυρί ] This was literally fulfilled at the day of Pentecost: but Origen and others refer the words to the baptism of the righteous by the Holy Spirit , and of the wicked by fire . I have no doubt that this (which I am surprised to see upheld by Neander, De Wette, and Meyer) is a mistake in the present case, though apparently (to the superficial reader) borne out by Matthew 3:12 . The double symbolic reference of fire, elsewhere found, e.g. Mark 9:50 , as purifying the good and consuming the evil, though illustrated by these verses, is hardly to be pressed into the interpretation of πυρί in this verse, the prophecy here being solely of that higher and more perfect baptism to which that of John was a mere introduction. To separate off πν . ἁγίῳ as belonging to one set of persons, and πυρί as belonging to another, when both are united in ὑμᾶς , is in the last degree harsh, besides introducing confusion into the whole. The members of comparison in this verse are strictly parallel to one another: the baptism by water , the end of which is μετάνοια , a mere transition state, a note of preparation, and the baptism by the Holy Ghost and fire , the end of which is ( Mat 3:12 ) sanctification , the entire aim and purpose of man’s creation and renewal. So Chrys.: τῇ ἐπεξηγήσει τοῦ πυρὸς πάλιν τὸ σφοδρὸν καὶ ἀκάθεκτον τῆς χάριτος ἐνδεικνύμενος . Thus the official superiority of the Redeemer (which is all that our Evangelist here deals with) is fully brought out. The superiority of nature and pre-existence is reserved for the fuller and more dogmatic account in John 1:1-51 .

Verse 12

12. οὗ τὸ πτύον ] οὗαὐτοῦ , a very common redundancy. See reff. οὗ is not ‘ whose ,’ which is implied in τό : it belongs (against Meyer) to χειρί , not to πτύον , and the sense is just as if it had stood, οὗ ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ τὸ πτύον . In the Rabbinical work Midrash Tehillim, on Psalms 2:1-12 , is found: ‘Advenit trituratio, stramen projiciunt in iguem, paleam in ventum, sed triticum conservant in area: sic nationes mundi erunt sicut conflagratio furni: ast Israel conservabitur solus.’ (Quoted by Lightfoot on John 3:17 .)

τὴν ἅλωνα ] The contents of the barn-floor . (De Wette, &c.) Thus in ref. Job, εἰσοίσει δέ σου ( σοι [23] , not [24] ) τὸν ἅλωνα . Or perhaps owing to διακαθ . ( shall cleanse from one end to the other ) the floor itself , which was an open hard-trodden space in the middle of the field. See “The Land and the Book,” p. 538 ff., where there is an illustration. “Very little use is now made of the fan , but I have seen it employed to purge the floor of the refuse dust, which the owner throws away as useless.” p. 540.

[23] The Codex Boreeli, once possessed by John Boreel, Dutch ambassador in London under James I. It was lost for many years, till found at Arnheim by Heringa, a professor at Utrecht. It is now in the public library at the latter place. Heringa wrote a dissertation on it, so copious as to serve for an edition of the codex itself. This dissertation was published by Vinke in 1843. Contains the four Gospels with many lacunæ, which have increased since Wetstein’s time. Tischendorf in 1841 examined the codex and compared it with Heringa’s collation. Tischendorf assigns it to the ninth century: Tregelles, to the tenth .

[24] The MS. referred to by this symbol is that commonly called the Alexandrine, or CODEX ALEXANDRINUS. It once belonged to Cyrillus Lucaris, patriarch of Alexandria and then of Constantinople, who in the year 1628 presented it to our King Charles I. It is now in the British Museum. It is on parchment in four volumes, of which three contain the Old, and one the New Testament, with the Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians. This fourth volume is exhibited open in a glass case. It will be seen by the letters in the inner margin of this edition, that the first 24 chapters of Matthew are wanting in it, its first leaf commencing ὁ νυμφίος , ch. Matthew 25:6 : as also the leaves containing ἵνα , John 6:50 , to καὶ σύ , John 8:52 . It is generally agreed that it was written at Alexandria; it does not, however, in the Gospels , represent that commonly known as the Alexandrine text, but approaches much more nearly to the Constantinopolitan, or generally received text. The New Testament, according to its text, was edited, in uncial types cast to imitate those of the MS., by Woide, London, 1786, the Old Testament by Baber, London, 1819: and its N.T. text has now been edited in common type by Mr. B. H. Cowper, London, 1861. The date of this MS. has been variously assigned, but it is now pretty generally agreed to be the fifth century .

ἄχυρον ] Not only the chaff , but also the straw: see reff.: ‘all that is not wheat.’

Verse 13

13. τοῦ βαπτ . ] Why should our Lord, who was without sin , have come to a baptism of repentance? Because He was made sin for us: for which reason also He suffered the curse of the law. It became Him, being in the likeness of sinful flesh , to go through those appointed rites and purifications which belonged to that flesh. There is no more strangeness in His having been baptized by John, than in His keeping the Passovers. The one rite, as the other, belonged to sinners and among the transgressors He was numbered . The prophetic words in Psalms 40:12 , spoken in the person of our Lord, indicate, in the midst of sinlessness, the most profound apprehension of the sins of that nature which He took upon him. I cannot suppose the baptism to have been sought by our Lord merely to honour John (Kuinöel), or as knowing that it would be the occasion of a divine recognition of his Messiahship (Paulus), and thus preordained by God (Meyer): but bona fide , as bearing the infirmities and carrying the sorrows of mankind, and thus beginning here the triple baptism of water, fire, and blood, two parts of which were now accomplished, and of the third of which He himself speaks, Luke 12:50 , and the beloved Apostle, 1 John 5:8 , where πνεῦμα = πῦρ .

His baptism, as it was our Lord’s closing act of obedience under the Law, in His hitherto concealed life of legal submission, His πληρῶσαι πᾶσ . δικ ., so was His solemn inauguration and anointing for the higher official life of mediatorial satisfaction which was now opening upon Him. See Romans 1:3-4 . We must not forget that the working out of perfect righteousness in our flesh by the entire and spotless keeping of God’s law ( Deu 6:25 ), was, in the main, accomplished during the thirty years previous to our Lord’s official ministry .

Verses 13-17

13 17. ] JESUS HIMSELF BAPTIZED BY HIM. Mark 1:9-11 .Luke 3:21-22; Luke 3:21-22 . It does not appear exactly when the baptism of our Lord took place . If the comparative age of the Baptist is taken into account, we should suppose it to have been about six months after this latter began his ministry. But this is no sure guide. The place was Bethany (the older reading), beyond Jordan; John 1:28 .

Verse 14

14. διεκώλυεν ] A much stronger word than κωλύω , implying the active and earnest preventing, with the gesture or hand, or voice, as here. The imperfect tense conveys, not that he endeavoured merely to hinder Him (see Hermann’s note on Soph. Ajax, 1105), but began to hinder Him, was hindering Him.

There is only an apparent inconsistency between the speech of John in this sense, and the assertion made by him in John 1:33 , ‘I knew him not.’ Let us regard the matter in this light: John begins his ministry by a commission from God, who also admonishes him, that He, whose Forerunner he was, would be in time revealed to him by a special sign. Jesus comes to be baptized by him. From the nature of his relationship to our Lord, he could not but know those events which had accompanied his birth, and his subsequent life of holy and unblameable purity and sanctity. My impression from the words of this verse certainly is, that he regarded Him as the Messiah . Still, his belief wanted that full and entire assurance which the occurrence of the predicted sign gave him, which the word ᾔδειν implies, and which would justify him in announcing Him to his disciples as the Lamb of God. See the ancient opinions in Maldonatus’s note.

Verse 15

15. ἀποκριθείς ] Bp. Wordsworth remarks, on this, the first occurrence of this very common form, that it is stigmatized by the grammarians as a solecism. The passage is in Phrynichus, Eclog. ed. Lobeck, p. 108, ἀποκριθῆναι διττὸν ἁμάρτημα . ἔδει γὰρ λέγειν ἀποκρίνασθαι , καὶ εἰδέναι ὅτι τὸ διαχωρισθῆναι σημαίνει , ὥσπερ οὖν καὶ τὸ ἐναντίον αὐτοῦ , τὸ συγκριθῆναι , εἰς ἓν καὶ ταὐτὸν ἐλθεῖν . εἰδὼς οὖν τοῦτο , ἐπὶ μὲν τὸ ἀποδοῦναι τὴν ἐπερώτησιν , ἀποκρίνεσθαι λέγε , ἐπὶ δὲ τοῦ διαχωρισθῆναι , τὸ ἀποκριθῆναι .

ἄρτι ] The exact meaning is difficult. It cannot well be that which the E. V. at first sight gives, that something was to be done now , inconsistent with the actual and hereafter-to-be-manifested relation of the two persons. Rather ‘ though what has been said ( Mat 3:14 ) is true, yet the time is not come for that: as yet, ἄρτι , now, are we in another relation (viz. our Lord as the fulfiller of the law, John as a minister of it), therefore suffer it .’ So Chrysostom: οὐ διηνεκῶς ταῦτα ἔσται , ἀλλ ʼ ὄψει με ἐν τούτοις οἷς ἐπιθυμεῖς · ἄρτι μέντοι ὑπόμεινον τοῦτο (Hom. xii. 1, p. 161), ‘This ἄρτι is spoken from the Lord’s foreknowledge, that this relation of subjection to John was only temporary, and that hereafter their relative situations would be inverted.’ Meyer. Stier remarks (Reden Jesu, vol. i. p. 14, edn. 2), that now was fulfilled the prophetic announcement of Psalms 40:7-8 .

ἡμῖν ] not for μοί , but for μοὶ καὶ σοί . I cannot help thinking that this word glances at the relationship and previous acknowledged destinations of the speakers. It has however a wider sense, as spoken by Him who is now first coming forth officially as the Son of Man , extending over all those whose baptism plants them in his likeness , Romans 6:1-23 . See Stier, ibid.

δικαιοσύνην ] requirements of the law. See ch. Matthew 6:1 , where the sense is general, as here.

Verse 16

16. βαπτισθείς ] On this account I would make the following remarks. (1) The appearance and voice seem to have been manifested to our Lord and the Baptist only . They may have been alone at the time: or, if not, we have an instance in Acts 9:7 , of such an appearance being confined to one person, while the others present were unconscious of it. We can hardly however, with some of the Fathers, say, that it was πνευματικὴ θεωρία , or ὀπτασία , οὐ φύσις τὸ φαινόμενον , Theod. Mopsuest [25] , or ‘Aperiuntur cœli non reseratione elementorum, sed spiritualibus oculis, quibus et Ezechiel in principio voluminis sui apertos eos esse commemorat.’ Jerome in loc. (2) The Holy Spirit descended not only in the manner of a dove, but σωματικῷ εἴδει ( [26] Luke): which I cannot understand in any but the literal sense, as THE BODILY SHAPE OF A DOVE, seen by the Baptist. There can be no objection to this, the straightforward interpretation of the narrative, which does not equally apply to the Holy Spirit being visible at all , which John himself asserts Him to have been ( Joh 1:32-34 ), even more expressly than is asserted here. Why the Creator Spirit may not have assumed an organized body bearing symbolical meaning, as well as any other material form, does not seem clear. This was the ancient, and is the only honest interpretation. All the modern explanations of the ὡσεὶ περιστ . as importing the manner of coming down, belong, as Meyer has rightly remarked, to the vain rationalistic attempt to reduce down that which is miraculous. The express assertion of Luke, and the fact that all four Evangelists have used the same expression, which they would not have done if it were a mere tertium comparationis, are surely a sufficient refutation of this rationalizing (and, I may add, blundering) interpretation.

[25] Mopsuest. Theodore, Bp. of Mopsuestia, 399 428

[26] When, in the Gospels, and in the Evangelic statement, 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 , the sign (║) occurs in a reference, it is signified that the word occurs in the parallel place in the other Gospels, which will always be found indicated at the head of the note on the paragraph. When the sign (║) is qualified , thus, ‘║ Mk.,’ or ‘║ Mt. Mk.,’ &c., it is signified that the word occurs in the parallel place in that Gospel or Gospels, but not in the other or others .

εὐθύς belongs to ἀνέβη , not to βαπτ ., nor to ἀνεῴχθ . It is the first member of the conjunctive clause of which καὶ ἰδού is the second as we say, the moment that Jesus was gone up out of the water, behold. (3) Two circumstances may be noticed respecting the manner of the descent of the Spirit: ( α ) it was, as a dove: the Spirit as manifested in our Lord was gentle and benign . Lord Bacon (Meditationes Sacræ, cited in Trench on the Miracles, p. 37) remarks: “Moses edidit miracula, et profligavit Ægyptios pestibus multis: Elias edidit, et occlusit cœlum ne plueret super terram: Elisæus edidit, et evocavit ursas de deserto quæ laniarent impuberes: Petrus Ananiam sacrilegum hypocritam morte, Paulus Elymam magum cæcitate percussit: sed nihil hujusmodi fecit Jesus. Descendit super eum Spiritus in forma columbæ, de quo dixit, Nescitis cujus Spiritus sitis. Spiritus Jesu, spiritus columbinus: fuerunt illi servi Dei tanquam boves Dei triturantes granum, et conculcantes paleam: sed Jesus agnus Dei sine ira et judiciis.” On the history of this symbol for the Holy Spirit, see Lücke’s Comm. on John, vol. i. 425. ( β ) This was not a sudden and temporary descent of the Spirit, but a permanent though special anointing of the Saviour for his holy office. It ‘ abode upon Him ,’ John 1:32 . And from this moment His ministry and mediatorial work (in the active official sense) begins. εὐθέως , the Spirit carries Him away to the wilderness: the day of His return thence (possibly; but see notes on Joh 1:29 ) John points Him out as the Lamb of God: then follows the calling of Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael, and the third day after is the first miracle at the marriage in Cana. But we must not imagine any change in the nature or person of our Lord to have taken place at his baptism. The anointing and crowning are but signs of the official assumption of the power which the king has by a right independent of, and higher than these. (4) The whole narrative is in remarkable parallelism with that of the Transfiguration. There we have our Lord supernaturally glorified in the presence of two great prophetic personages, Moses and Elias, who speak of His decease, on the journey to which He forthwith sets out (ch. Matthew 17:22 , compared with Mat 19:1 ); and accompanied by the same testimony of the voice from heaven, uttering the same words, with an addition accordant with the truth then symbolized. (5) In connexion with apocryphal additions, the following are not without interest: κατελθόντος τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ἐπὶ τὸ ὕδωρ , καὶ πῦρ ἀνήφθη ἐν τῷ Ἰορδάνῃ · καὶ ἀναδύντος αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τοῦ ὕδατος κ . τ . λ . Justin Martyr, Dial. § 88, p. 185. The author of the tract ‘de Rebaptismate,’ among the works of Cyprian, blames the spurious book called ‘Petri Prædicatio,’ for relating, among other things, of Christ, “cum baptizaretur, ignem super aquam esse visum, quod in evangelio nullo est scriptum.” (ch. 9) The Ebionite gospel, according to Epiphanius, Hær. xxx. 13, vol. i. p. 138, added, after ἐνεὐδόκησα , ἐγὼ σήμερον γεγέννηκά σε . καὶ εὐθὺς περιέλαμψε τὸυ τόπον φῶς μέγα . ὃν ἰδὼνἸωάννης λέγει αὐτῷ Σὺ τίς εἶ κύριε ; καὶ πάλιν φωνὴ ἐξ οὐρανοῦ πρὸς αὐτόν · οὗτός ἐστινυἱός μουἀγαπητός , εἰς ὃν ηὐδόκησα . καὶ τότεἸωάν . προσπεσὼν αὐτῷ ἔλεγε Δέομαί σου κύριε , σύ με βάπτισον . ὁ δὲ ἐκώλυεν αὐτῷ λέγων Ἄφες , ὅτι οὕτως ἐστὶ πρέπον πληρωθῆναι πάντα . Jerome gives the following opening of the narrative from the gospel according to the Hebrews: “Ecce mater domini et fratres ejus dicebant ei Joannes baptista baptizat in remissionem peccatorum: eamus et baptizemur ab eo. Dixit autem eis Quid peccavi ut vadam et baptizer ab eo? nisi forte hoc ipsum quod dixi ignorantia est.”

Verse 17

17. ] Φων . λ . does not require ἐγένετο or any word to be supplied, nor the participle to be understood as a past tense. Lo, a voice from heaven, saying. See similar constructions, Luke 5:12 ; Luke 19:20 a [27] . fr.

[27] alii = some cursive mss.

εὐδόκησα ] not the usitative aorist, but declarative of the definite past εὐδοκία of the Father in Him, Ephesians 1:4 : see above. On the solemn import, as regards us, of our Blessed Lord’s baptism, cf. Athanas. Or. i., contra Arianos 47, vol. i. (ii. Migne) p. 355 f.: εἰ δὲ ἡμῶν χάριν ἑαυτὸν ἁγιάζει ( Joh 17:18-19 ), καὶ τοῦτο ποιεῖ ὅτε γέγονεν ἄνθρωπος , εὔδηλον ὅτι καὶεἰς αὐτὸν ἐν τῷ Ἰορδάντοῦ πνεύματος γενομένη κάθοδος , εἰς ἡμᾶς ἦν γενομένη διὰ τὸ φορεῖν αὐτὸν τὸ ἡμέτερον σῶμα . καὶ οὐκ ἐπὶ τῇ βελτιώσει τοῦ Λόγου γέγονεν , ἀλλ ʼ εἰς ἡμῶν πάλιν ἁγιασμόν , ἵνα τοῦ χρίσματος αὐτοῦ μεταλάβωμεντοῦ γὰρ κυρίου ὡς ἀνθρώπου λουομένου εἰς τὸν Ἰορδάνην , ἡμεῖς ἦμεν οἱ ἐν αὐτῷ καὶ παρ ʼ αὐτοῦ λουόμενοι · καὶ δεχομένου δὲ αὐτοῦ τὸ πνεῦμα , ἡμεῖς ἦμεν οἱ παρ ʼ αὐτοῦ γενόμενοι τούτου δεικτικοί . What follows is well worth reading, shewing the pre-eminence of our Lord’s anointing over that of all others, Psalms 45:7 ; Isaiah 61:1 ; Acts 10:38 .

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Matthew 3". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.