Lectionary Calendar
Monday, July 15th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
StudyLight.org has pledged to help build churches in Uganda. Help us with that pledge and support pastors in the heart of Africa.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries
Matthew 3

Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New TestamentMeyer's Commentary

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors



Matthew 3:2 . καὶ λέγων ] Lachm. and Tisch. have merely λέγων , only after B א , Hil. and some Verss. The superfluous καί was easily overlooked.

Matthew 3:3 . ὑπό ] B C D א , 1, 13, 33, 124, 157, 209, Syr cur Sahid. Aeth. Vulg. It. Sax. read διά ; so Griesbach, Gersdorf, Schulz, Lachm., Tisch. Correctly; see on Matthew 2:17 .

Matthew 3:4 . The position ἦν αὐτοῦ (Lachm., Tisch.) is, by means of B C D א , 1, 209, so sufficiently attested, that it must be preferred to the ordinary position αὐτοῦ ἦν , which spontaneously suggested itself to the copyists.

Matthew 3:6 . Ἰορδάνῃ ] B C* M Δ א , Curss., and many Verss. and Fathers, add ποταμῷ ; so Lachm. and Tisch. 8. Addition from Mark 1:5 .

Matthew 3:7 . The αὐτοῦ was easily passed over after βάπτισμα as unnecessary; it is wanting, however, only in B א *, Sahid. Or. Hil., but is deleted by Tisch. 8.

Matthew 3:8 . καρπὸν ἄξιον ] Elz. has καρποὺς ἀξίους , after too weak testimony. Retained by Fritzsche. It arose from the copyists, who deemed the plural more appropriate to the sense, and had Luke 3:8 in view.

Matthew 3:10 . δὲ καί ] Lachm. Tisch.: δέ , which is so preponderantly attested by B C D M Δ א , Curss. Verss. Or. Ir. Did. Bas., that δὲ καί is to be regarded as introduced from Luke 3:9 .

Matthew 3:14 . Instead of ὁ δὲ Ἰωάννης , Lachm. and Tisch. 8 have only ὁ δέ , after B א , Sahid. Eus. Correctly; the name was much more easily interpolated than omitted.

Matthew 3:16 . The transposition εὐθὺς ἀνέβη in B D א , Curss. Verss. and Fathers (so Lachm. and Tisch.), is a change, which assigned to the εὐθύς its more usual place (Gersdorf, I. p. 485).

αὐτῷ ] is bracketed by Lachm., deleted by Tisch., but has a decided preponderance of witnesses in its favour, and its significance was easily misunderstood and passed over.

καί ] before ἐρχόμ . is to be defended on decisive testimony, against Tisch. 8; comp. on Matthew 3:2 .

Verse 1

Matthew 3:1 . Ἐν … ἐκείναις ] בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם , Exodus 2:11 ; Exodus 2:23 ; Isaiah 38:1 . Indefinite determination of time, which, however, always points back to a date which has preceded it. Mark 1:9 ; Luke 2:1 . Here: at the time when Jesus still sojourned at Nazareth. The evangelist passes over the history of the youth of Jesus, and at once goes onwards to the forerunner of the Messiah; for he might not have had at his command any written documents, and sufficiently trustworthy traditions regarding it, since the oldest manner of presenting the gospel history, as still retained in Mark, began first with John the Baptist, to which beginning our evangelist also turns without further delay. It employs in so doing only the very indefinite transition with the same simplicity of unstudied historical writing, as in Exodus 2:11 , where by the same expression is meant the time when Moses still sojourned at the court of Egypt, though not the time of his childhood (Matthew 3:10 ), but of his manhood. Accordingly, the following hypotheses are unnecessary; that of Paulus: in the original document, from which Matthew borrowed the following narrative, something about John the Baptist may have preceded, to which this note of time was appended, which Matthew retained, without adopting that preliminary matter; of Holtzmann: that a look forward to Mark 1:9 here betrays itself; of Schneckenburger (üb. d. erste kanon. Ev. p. 120): that in the gospel according to the Hebrews ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Ἡρώδου erroneously stood, instead of which Matthew put the indefinite statement before us; of Hilgenfeld, Evang. p. 55: in the older narrative, which lay at the foundation of our Matthew, the genealogical tree of Jesus was perhaps followed by ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Ἡρώδου τοῦ βασιλέως τῆς Ἰουδαίας ἦλθεν (or ἐγένετο ) Ἰωάννης ; compare also Keim, Gesch. J. I. p. 61. The correct view was already adopted by Chrysostom and his followers, Beza, Camerarius, Bengel: “Jesu habitante Nazarethae, Matthew 2:23 ; notatur non breve, sed nulla majori mutatione notabile intervallum.” It is Luke 3:1 which first gives the more precise determination of time, and that very minutely.

παραγίνεται ] Historic present, as in Matthew 2:13 . Euth. Zigabenus: πόθεν ὁ Ἰωάννης παραγέγονεν ; ἀπὸ τῆς ἐνδοτέρας ʼρήμου . Opposed to this is the ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ that follows. Matthew has only the more general and indefinite expression: he arrives, he appears. Luke 12:51 ; Hebrews 9:11 .

ὁ βαπτιστ .] Josephus, Antt. xviii. 5. 2 : Ἰωάνν . ὁ ἐπικαλούμενος βαπτιστής .

ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ τῆς Ἰουδαίας ] מִדְבַּר יְהוּדָה , Judges 1:16 , Joshua 15:61 , a level plain adapted for the feeding of cattle, sparsely cultivated and inhabited, [375] which begins at Tekoa, and extends as far as the Dead Sea. Winer, Realwörterb. s.v. Wüste ; Tobler, Denkblätter aus Jerus. p. 682; Keim, Gesch. J . I. p. 484 f. The mention of the locality is more precise in Luke 3:2 f.; but that in Matthew, in which the wilderness is not marked off geographically from the valley of the Jordan, which was justified by the nature of the soil (Josephus, Bell . iii. 10. 7, iv. 8. 2 f.), and involuntarily called forth by the following prophecy, is not incorrect. Comp. Ebrard (in answer to Strauss); Keim, l.c. p. 494.

[375] The idea of a flat surface called מִדְבָּר is given us partially in the Lüne-burger Heath. See generally, Crome, Beiträge zur Erklär. des N. T. p. 41 ff. Not to be confused with עֲרָבָה , steppe, concerning which see Credner in the Stud. u. Krit. 1833, p. 798 ff. Compare in regard to our wilderness, Robinson, Pal. II. p. 431.

Verse 2

Matthew 3:2 . Μετανοεῖτε ] denotes the transformation of the moral disposition , which is requisite in order to obtain a share in the kingdom of the Messiah. Sanhedrin f. 97, 2 : “Si Israelitae poenitentiam agunt, tunc per Goëlem. liberantur.” In the mouth of John the conception could only be that of the Old Testament ( נִחַם , שׁוּב ), expressing the transformation according to the moral requirements of the law, but not yet the Christian idea, according to which μετάνοια has as its essential inseparable correlative, faith in Jesus as the Messiah (Mark 1:15 ), after which the Holy Spirit, received by means of baptism, establishes and completes the new birth from above into true ζωή . John 3:3 ; John 3:5 ; Titus 3:5 f.; Acts 2:38 .

ἤγγικε ] it is near; for John expected that Jesus would set up His kingdom. Comp. Matthew 4:17 , Matthew 10:7 .

ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν ] See Fleck, de regno div. 1829; Weissenbach, Jesu in regno coelor. dignitas, 1868; Keim, Gesch. J. II. p. 40 ff.; Kamphausen, d. Gebet des Herren, p. 56 ff.; Wittichen, d. Idee des Reiches Gottes, 1872. The kingdom of heaven (the plural is to be explained from the popular idea of seven heavens; see on 2 Corinthians 12:2 ) corresponds to the Rabbinical מלכות השמים (Schoettgen, Diss. de regno coelor. I. in his Horae, I. p. 1147 ff., and Wetstein in loc.), an expression which is used by the Rabbins mostly indeed in the ethico-theocratic sense, but also in the eventually historical meaning of the theocracy, brought to its consummation by the Messiah (Targum, Mich. Matthew 4:7 b in Wetstein). In the N. T. this expression occurs only in Matthew, and that as the usual one, which, as that which was most frequently employed by Jesus Himself, is to be regarded as derived from the collection of sayings (in answer to Weiss). Equivalent in meaning to it are: βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ (also in Matthew, yet much rarer and not everywhere critically certain), βασιλ . τ . Χριστοῦ , ἡ βασιλεία . Comp. Isaiah 20:6 ; Daniel 2:44 , Daniel 7:14 ff., Daniel 7:26 f. The kingdom of the Messiah is designated by ἡ βας . τ . οὐρ ., because this kingdom, the consummated theocracy in its glory, is no earthly kingdom, John 18:36 , but belongs to heaven, appears to us as descending from heaven, where, up till that time, its blessings, its salvation, and its δόξα are preserved by God for bestowal at some future period. Although among the Jewish people the theocratic idea, of which the prophets were the bearers, had preserved its root, and from this people alone, in accordance with its divine preparation and guidance, could the realization of this idea, and with it the salvation of the world, proceed, as, indeed, the profounder minds apprehended and cherished the mighty thought of Messiah in the sense of the true rule of God, and of its destination for the world, yet the common idea of the people was predominantly political and particularistic, frequently stamped with the fanatical thought of a world-rule and with millenarian ideas (the Messiah raises up the descendants of Abraham, then comes the kingdom which lasts a thousand years, then the resurrection and the condemnatory judgment of the heathen, the descent of the heavenly Jerusalem, and the everlasting life of the descendants of Abraham on the earth, which has been transformed along with the whole universe). In the teaching of Christ, however, and in the apostolic writings, the kingdom of the Messiah is the actual consummation of the prophetic idea of the rule of God; and as it is unaccompanied by millenarian ideas (which exist only in the non-apostolic Apocalypse), so also is it without any national limitation, so that participation therein rests only on faith in Jesus Christ, and on the moral renewal which is conditioned by the same, and “God all in all” is the last and highest aim, without the thought of the world-rule, and the expectation of the renewal of the world, of the resurrection, of the judgment, and also of the external glory losing their positive validity and necessity, thoughts which rather form the subject of living Christian hope amidst all the struggles and oppressions of the world. Moreover, those expressions, βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν , κ . τ . λ ., never signify anything else than the kingdom of the Messiah (Koppe, Exc. I. ad Thess.), even in those passages where they appear to denote the (invisible) church, the moral kingdom of the Christian religion, and such like; or to express some modern abstraction of the concrete conception, [376] which is one given in the history, an appearance which is eliminated by observing that the manner of expression is frequently proleptic , and which has its historical basis in the idea of the nearness of the kingdom, and in the moral development which necessarily precedes its manifestation (comp. Matthew 11:12 ; Matthew 12:28 ; Matthew 16:19 ). Comp. on Romans 14:17 ; 1 Corinthians 4:20 ; Colossians 1:13 ; Colossians 4:11 ; Matthew 6:10 . That John the Baptist also had, under divine revelation, apprehended the idea of the Messiah’s kingdom in the ethical light, free from any limitation to the Jewish people (John 1:29 ), without, however, entirely giving up the political element, is already shown by Matthew 3:7 ff. It cannot, however, be proved, and is, considering the divine illumination of the Baptist, improbable, and also without any foundation in Matthew 11:3 , that too much has been put into his mouth by ascribing to him the definite announcement of the kingdom. If Josephus, in his account of John, makes no mention of any expression pointing to the Messiah, [377] yet this may be sufficiently explained from his want of susceptibility for the higher nature of Christianity, and from his peculiar political relation to the Romans.

[376] e.g. an organized commonwealth under the principle of the divine will (Tholuck); arrangement of things in which this will has come to its consummation, and now alone is operative (Hofmann). Schleiermacher: “The idea of the kingdom of God must have originated in Christ from His self-consciousness and His perception of sin, if He conceived of His life as disseminated among the masses ”.

[377] Antt . xviii. 5. 2 : Κτείνες τοῦτον Ἡρώδης , ἀγαθὸν ἄνδρα καὶ τοὺς Ἰουδαίους κελεύοντα ἀρετὴν ἐπασκοῦντας καὶ τῇ πρὸς ἀλλήλους δικαιοσύνῃ καὶ πρὸς τὸν θεὸν εὐσεβείᾳ χρωμένους βαπτισμῷ συνιέναι · οὕτω γὰρ καὶ τὴν βάπτισιν ἀποδεκτὴν αὐτῷ φανεῖσθαι , μὴ ἐπί τινων ἁμαρτάδων παραιτήσει χρωμένων , ἀλλʼ ἐφʼ ἁγνείᾳ τοῦ σώματος , ἅτε δὴ καὶ τῆς ψυχῆς δικαιοσύνῃ προεκκεκαθαρμένης .

Verse 3

Matthew 3:3 . Γάρ ] “Causa, cur Johannes ita exoriri tum debuerit, uti Matthew 5:1-2 , describitur, quia sic praedictum erat,” Bengel.

Does not belong to John’s discourse, Matthew 3:3 , so that by οὗτος he points to himself, as Er. Schmid, Raphel, Fritzsche, Paulus, Rettig in the Stud. u. Krit . 1838, p. 205 f., maintain, since so prominent a self-designation has no basis in the connection (John 1:23 ; on the other hand, John 6:50 ; John 6:58 ); further, the descriptive present ἐστί is quite in keeping with παραγίνεται in Matthew 3:1 ; and αὐτὸς δέ , Matthew 3:4 , is quite in keeping with the sense of the objectively and generally delivered prophetic description (the voice of one calling , and so on), and leads to the concrete person thereby intended.

ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ ] belongs in the original text to ἑτοιμάσατε , and in the LXX. also there is no reason for separating it from it; but here it belongs to βοῶντος , according to Matthew 3:1 : κηρύσσων ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ . This in answer to Rettig, Hofmann, Weissag. u. Erf . II. p. 77 f., and Delitzsch.

The passage, Isaiah 11:3 , quoted according to the LXX., contains historically a summons to prepare the way for Jehovah, who is bringing back His people from exile, and to make level the streets which He is to traverse, after the analogy of what used to take place in the East when rulers set out on a journey (Wetstein and Münthe). In this the evangelist recognises (and the Baptist himself had recognised this, John 1:23 ) the typically prophetic reference to John as the prophet who was to call on the Jews to prepare themselves by repentance for the reception of the Messiah (whose manifestation is the manifestation of Jehovah). In Isaiah, the voice which calls is that of a herald of Jehovah, who desires to begin his journey; in the Messianic fulfilment, it is the voice of the Baptist.

Faith in a God-sent forerunner runner of the Messiah, based on prophecy (Malachi 3:1 ; Luke 1:17 ; Luke 1:76 ) and confirmed by Jesus Himself (Matthew 11:10 , Matthew 17:11 ), and attested as realized in the appearance of the Baptist, had in various ways (see Bertholdt, Christol . p. 58) assumed the form of the expectation of the return of one of the ancient prophets. Comp. Matthew 16:14 ; John 1:21 .

Verse 4

Matthew 3:4 . Αὐτός ] ipse autem Johannes, the historical person himself, who is intended (Matthew 3:3 ) by that φωνή of Isaiah.

εἶχε … καμήλου ] He had his (distinctive, constantly worn) robe of camels’ hair . The reading is αὐτοῦ , which is neither to be written αὑτοῦ (it is used from the standpoint of the narrator, and without any reflective emphasis), nor is it superfluous. Whether are we to think of a garment of camels’ skin, or a coarse cloth of camels’ hair? Er. Schmid and Fritzsche are of the former opinion. But as hair alone is expressly mentioned as the material [378] (comp. also Mark 1:6 ), the latter is to be preferred. Even at the present day coarse cloth is prepared from camels’ hair for clothing and for covering tents. See Harmar, III. p. 356. Of clothes made from the hides of camels (probably, however, from sheep and goatskins, compare Hebrews 11:37 ) there is not a trace to be found among either ancient or modern Oriental saints (Harmar, III. p. 374 ff.).

ΔΕΡΜΑΤΊΝΗΝ ] not of a luxurious material, but like Elijah, 2 Kings 1:8 , whose copy he was (comp. Ewald, Gesch. d. Volks Isr . III. p. 529). Dress and food are in keeping with the asceticism of the Baptist, and thereby with the profound earnestness of his call to μετάνοια . “Habitus quoque et victus Johannis praedicabat ,” Bengel.

ἀκρίδες ] Several kinds of locusts were eaten, Leviticus 11:22 . Comp. Plin. N. H. vi. 35, xi. 32, 35. This is still the custom in the East, especially amongst the poorer classes and the Bedouins. The wings and legs are torn off, and the remainder is sprinkled with salt, and either boiled or eaten roasted. Niebuhr, Reise , I. p. 402; Harmar, I. p. 274 f.; Rosenmüller, altes und neues Morgenl. in loco . The conjectures of the older writers, who, deeming this food unworthy of John, have substituted sometimes cakes ( ἐγκριδες ), [379] sometimes crabs ( καρίδες ), or fruits of the nut kind ( ἀκρόδρυα ) and other articles, deserve no consideration.

μέλι ἄγριον ] Commonly: honey prepared by wild bees, which in the East flows out of the clefts of the rocks . Euth. Zigabenus: τὸ ἐν ταῖς τῶν πετρῶν σχισμαῖς ὑπὸ τῶν μελισσῶν γεωργούμενον . Bochart, Hieroz . II. 4. 12; Suicer, Thes . II. p. 330; Ewald, Gesch. Isr . III. p. 50. It is still frequently found in abundance at the present day in the Jewish wilderness. Schulz, Leitungen d. Höchsten auf den Reisen durch Eur. As. Afr . V. p. 133; Rosenmüller, I. 1, p. 7; Oedmann, Sammlungen aus d. Naturk. zur Erkl. d. heil. Schr . VI. p. 136 f. Others (Suidas, Salmasius, Reland, Michaelis, Kuinoel, Fritzsche, Schegg, Bleek, Volkmar) understand tree honey , a substance of the nature of honey which issues from palms, figs, and other trees. Diod. Sic. xix. 94; Wesseling in loc .; Plin. N. H. xv. 7; Suidas, s.v. ἀκρίς . Comp. Heyne, ad Virg. Ecl . iv. 30. Similarly, Polyaenus, iv. 3. 32: τὸ ὕον μέλι , the Persian manna. This explanation of tree honey is to be preferred, as, according to Diod. Sic. l.c. and Suidas, the predicate ἄγριον , as terminus technicus , actually designates this honey, whilst the expression μέλι ἄγριον cannot be proved to be employed of the honey of wild bees (which, moreover, is the common honey).

[378] Comp. Josephus, Bell. Jud . xvii. 24. 3 : ὡς ἀντὶ τῶν βασιλικῶν ἐν τάχει περιθήσουσιν ἑαυταῖς ἐκ τριχῶν πεποιημένας .

[379] Epiph. Haer . xxx. 13 quotes from the Gospel according to the Hebrews: καὶ τὸ βρῶμα αὐτοῦ , φήσι , μέλι ἄγριον , οὗ ἡ γεῦσις ἦν τοῦ μάννα ὡς ἐγκρὶς ἐν ἐλαίῳ (conjecture: ἐν μέλιτι ). A confusion has here been supposed between ἀκρίδες and ἐγκρίδες , and it has been inferred that that Gospel was derived from Greek sources, especially from the Greek Matthew. So also Credner, Beitr . I. p. 344 f.; Bleek, Beitr . p. 61; Harless, Erl. Weihnachtsprogr . 1841, p. 21. Comp. Delitzsch, Entsteh. u. Anl. d. kanon. Ev . I. p. 20. But that passage from the Gospel to the Hebrews contains only one kind of sustenance employed by John, the μέλι ἄγριον , the taste of which is described according to Exodus 16:31 , Numbers 11:8 . The Ebionites altogether omitted the locusts , as being animal food, but did not substitute, as Epiphanius erroneously supposes, ἐγκρίδες for ἀκρίδες . The resemblance of the tree honey to the manna could not but be welcome to their Jewish point of view; but because the word ἐγκρίς occurs in the books of Moses in the description of its taste, they adopted it; this has no relation whatever to our ἀκρίδες .

Verse 5

Matthew 3:5 . Ἡ περίχωρος τοῦ Ἰορδάνου ] כִּכַּר הַוַּרְדֵן , Genesis 13:10-11 ; 1 Kings 7:47 ; 2 Chronicles 4:17 . The country on both sides of the Jordan, now Elgor, see Robinson, Pal. II. p. 498 ff. Comp. Lightfoot, Hor. p. 216. The whole passage conveys an impression of solemnity, with which also the naming of the town and district, instead of the inhabitants (Nägelsbach on the Iliad, p. 103 ff. Exodus 3:0 ), is connected. The baptism of John has been erroneously regarded as a modified application of the Jewish baptism of proselytes. So Selden (Jus. nat. Matthew 2:2 ), Lightfoot (Hor. p. 220 ff.), Danz (in Meuschen, N. T. ex Talm. ill. pp. 233 ff., 287 ff.), Ziegler (theol. Abh. II. p. 132 ff.), Eisenlohr (hist. Bemerk. üb. d. Taufe, 1804), Kaiser (bibl. Theol. II. p. 160), Kuinoel, Fritzsche, Bengel, üb. d. Alter d. Jüd. Proselytent. 1814. For the baptism of proselytes, the oldest testimony to which occurs in the Gemara Babyl. Jebamoth xlvi. 2, and regarding which Philo, Josephus, and the more ancient Targumists are altogether silent, did not arise till after the destruction of Jerusalem. Schneckenburger, üb. d. Alter der Jüd. Proselytent. u. deren Zusammenst. m. d. joh. u. chr. Ritus, 1828; Paulus, exeg. Handb. I. p. 307 ff. The reception of proselytes was accomplished, so long as the temple stood, by means of circumcision and the presentation of a sacrifice, which was preceded, like every sacrifice, by a lustration, which the proselyte performed on himself. It is not, however, with this lustration merely, but chiefly with the religious usages of the Jews as regards washings, and their symbolical meaning (Genesis 35:2 ; Exodus 19:10 ; Numbers 19:7 ; Numbers 19:19 ; 1 Samuel 16:5 ; Jdt 12:7 ), that the baptism of John has its general point of connection in the history of the people, although it is precisely as baptism, and accompanied by the confession of sin, that it appears only as something new given to this dawn of the Messiah’s kingdom, under the excitement of the divine revelation, of which John was the bearer. Venerable prophetic pictures and allusions, like Isaiah 1:16 ; Isaiah 4:4 ; Isaiah 44:24 , Ezekiel 36:25 , Zechariah 13:1 , Psalms 51:4 , might thus serve to develope it still further in the soul of this last of the prophets. What was symbolized in the baptism of John was the μετάνοια . Comp. Josephus, Antt. xviii. 5. 2. [380] To this, however, the immersion of the whole of the baptized person, as the μετάνοια , was to purify the whole man, corresponded with profound significance, and to this the specifically Christian view of the symbolic immersion and emersion afterwards connected itself (Romans 6:3 ff.; Titus 3:5 ) by an ethical necessity.

ἘΞΟΜΟΛΟΓ .] In the same way as in the case of the sin-offering (Leviticus 16:21 ff.; Numbers 5:7 ), and in general to be taken as a venerable pre-condition of divine grace and blessing, Psalms 32:5 ; Psalms 51:1 ff.; Ezra 9:6 ; Daniel 9:5 .

The participle is not to be taken as if it were conditional (Fritzsche: “ si … confiterentur ”), as the subjection to this condition, in the case of every one who came to be baptized, is necessarily required as a matter of course; but: they were baptized whilst they confessed , during the confession, which is conceived as connected with the act of baptism itself. Whether is it a summary or a specific confession which is intended? Both may have taken place, varying always according to the individuals and their relations. The compound , however (Josephus, Antt . viii. 4. 6; passages in Philo; see in Loesner), expresses, as also in Acts 19:18 , James 5:16 , an open confession.

[380] See this passage of Josephus above on ver. 2. Without any reason has this meaning been discovered in it, that John viewed his baptism as a means of covenant , by explaining βαπτισμῷ συνιέναι to mean: to unite through or for baptism (Strauss, Keim, Hausrath). The meaning of the passage is rather: John commanded the Jews to be wise in the exercise of virtue, and so on ( sapere , comp. Romans 3:11 ; 2 Corinthians 10:12 ), by means of baptism .

Verse 7

Matthew 3:7 . The Pharisees (from פָּרַשׁ , separavit, the separated ones, διὰ τὴν ἐθελοπερισσοθρησκείαν , Epiphanius, Haer. i. 16) received, besides the law, also tradition; taught the doctrine of fate, without, however, denying the freedom of the will; of immortality, and that in the case of pious persons, in pure bodies; of good and evil angels, and were, in all the strictness of external righteousness, according to law and statute, the crafty, learned, patriotic, and powerful supporters of the degenerate orthodoxy. The Sadducees [381] recognised merely the written law, and that not only of the Pentateuch, but of the whole of the O. T., although according to the strict exposition of the letter, and to the exclusion of tradition; they denied the existence of higher spirits, of fate and personal immortality, and adhered to a strict code of morals; they had less authority with the people than the exclusive orthodox Pharisees, against whom they formed a decided party of opposition, but had much influence over men of rank and wealth. The strictly closed order of Essenes , in its separation from the world and the temple, as well as in its ascetic self-satisfaction and self-sanctification, the quiet separatistic holy ones of the land, connected together by community of goods, and under obligation, besides, daily to perform holy lustrations, kept themselves far away from the movement evoked by John.

Observe that the article is not repeated before Σαδδουκ ., because they are conceived as forming, along with the Pharisees, one unworthy category . “Nempe repetitur articulus, ubi distinctio logica aut emphatica ita postulat,” Dissen, ad Dem. de cor . p. 574.

ἐπί ] not contra (Olearius), which would be quite opposed to the context, but telic , in order to be baptized; comp. Luke 23:48 . Why should the Pharisees and Sadducees not also have come to baptism, since they shared with the people the hope of the Messiah, and must have felt also on their part the extraordinary impression made by the appearance of John, and the excitement awakened by it, and, in keeping with their moral conceit, would easily enough have compounded with the confession of sins? It is, however, already probable à priori , and certain, by means of Luke 7:30 , that they, at least so far as the majority were concerned, did not allow themselves to be baptized, although they had come with this intention, but were repelled in terror by the preaching of repentance and punishment, Matthew 3:8 ff.

There exists, therefore, no variation between this and Luke 7:30 ; the Pharisees and Sadducees are no addition by Matthew (Ewald, Holtzmann), and neither is Matthew to be blamed for committing a historical mistake, occasioned by John 1:24 (Schneckenburger, Bleek), nor is Luke to be charged with want of originality in this section (de Wette). But the former relates with more minuteness than Luke (Matthew 3:7 : τοῖς … ὄχλοις ) in separating the persons in question from the mass along with whom they came.

γεννήματα ἐχιδνῶν ] cunning, malignant men! Matthew 12:34 , Matthew 23:33 ; Isaiah 14:29 ; Isaiah 59:5 ; Psalms 58:5 ; Wetstein on the passage. Comp. Dem. 799. 4 : πικρὸν καὶ ἔχιν τὴν φύσιν ἄνδρωπον .

τῆς μελλούσης ὀργῆς ] is to be understood of the divine wrath which is revealed at the Messianic judgment (Romans 2:5 ; 1 Thessalonians 1:10 ). The common belief of the Jews referred this to the heathen (Bertholdt, Christol . pp. 203 ff., 223 ff.). John, however, to the godless generally, who would not repent. The wrath of God, however, established as a unity in the holy nature of the divine love as its inseparable correlate, is not the punishment itself, but the holy emotion of absolute displeasure with him who opposes His gracious will, and from this the punishment proceeds as a necessary manifestation of righteousness. The revelation of the divine wrath is not limited to the last judgment (Romans 1:18 ; 1 Thessalonians 2:16 ; Luke 21:23 ), but in it attains its consummation. Comp. Romans 1:18 and Ephesians 2:3 , and so on, especially Ritschl, de ira Dei , [382] 1859; Bartholomaei in the Jahrb. f. deutsche Theol. 1861, II. p. 256 ff.; Weber, vom Zorne Gottes , 1862.

φυγεῖν ἀπό ] is, like בָּרַה מִן (Isaiah 48:20 ; Isaiah 24:18 ), constructio praegnans: to flee away from , Matthew 23:33 ; Mark 16:8 ; John 10:11 ; Hom. Od . xii. 120: φυγέειν κάρτιστον ἀπʼ αὐτῆς , Xen. Mem . ii. 6. 31; Plat. Phaed . p. 62 D. The infinitive aorist designates the activity as momentary , setting forth the point of time when the wrath breaks forth, in which the flight also is realized. Meaning of the question: Nobody can have instructed you, that you should escape. Comp. Matthew 23:33 : πῶς φύγητε .

[381] Epiphanius, Haer . i. 14 : ἐπονομάζουσι ἑαυτοὺς Σαδδουκαίους δῆθεν ἀπὸ δικαιοσύνης τῆς ἐπικλήσεως ὁρμωμένης . The Jewish tradition derives it from the proper name Zadok. R. Nathan, ad Pirke Aboth , i. 3. The latter is to be preferred, with Ewald, Geiger, Hitzig, and others; see Keim, Gesch. J . I. p. 275. Hausrath, Zeitgesch . I. p. 118. That name, however, is to be understood as that of an old and distinguished priestly family; 2 Samuel 7:17 ; 2 Samuel 15:24 ; Ezekiel 48:11 ; 1Ma 7:14 .

[382] Who determines the conception, p. 24, thus: “Certum argumentum justitiae divinae ab humana diversae, quatenus valet ad defendendum adversus homines contumaciter Deo fidem denegantes finem ejus summum et absolutum, per Christum cum genere humano communicatum.”

Verse 8

Matthew 3:8 . Οὖν ] Deduction from what precedes. In your impenitent condition you cannot escape from the wrath; proceed then to exhibit that morality of conduct which is appropriate to the change of mind as its result . Instead of your unrepentant condition, I require of you a practical repentance, the hindrance and opposition to which arises from your overweening conceit as children of Abraham (Matthew 3:9 ). What John here requires applied, indeed, to the people in general, but was especially appropriate to their scholastic leaders.

τῆς μετανοίας is governed by ἄξιον (Acts 26:20 ); on καρπὸν ποιεῖν , like עֲשׂוֹת פְרִי (occurring likewise in Greek writers), borrowed from fruit-trees, comp. Matthew 7:17 f. al.; καρποποιός , Eur. Rhes. 964; καρπ . is collective, Galatians 5:22 ; Ephesians 5:9 ; Philippians 1:11 .

Verse 9

Matthew 3:9 . Δόξητε ] Do not allow yourselves to suppose , do not say to yourselves, 1 Corinthians 11:16 ; Philippians 3:4 .

λέγειν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς ] אָמַר בְּלִבּוֹ , cogitare secum. It objectively represents reflection as the language of the mind. Psalms 4:5 , Psalms 10:6 . Psalms 14:1 ; Matthew 9:21 ; Luke 3:8 ; Luke 7:49 . Delitzsch, Psych, p. 180 [E. T. 213]. Comp. λέγειν πρὸς ἑαυτόν in Plat. Phaed. p. 88 C.

πατέρα … Ἀβραάμ ] The Jews of the common sort and their party leaders believed that the descendants of Abraham would, as such, become participators of salvation in the Messiah’s kingdom, because Abraham’s righteousness would be reckoned as theirs. Sanhedrin, f. 901: לכל ישראל יש להם חלק לעולם הבא . Bereschith, R. xviii. 7. Wetstein on the passage. Bertholdt, Christol. p. 206 ff. Comp. in the N. T., especially John 8:33 ff.

ὅτι δύναται , κ . τ . λ .] God is able, notwithstanding your descent from Abraham, to exclude you from the Messiah’s salvation; and, on the other hand, to create and bring forth out of these stones, which lie here around on the bank of the Jordan, such persons as are GENUINE children of Abraham, that is, as Euth. Zigabenus strikingly expresses it: οἱ τὰς ἀρετὰς αὐτοῦ μιμούμενοι καὶ τῆς αὐτῆς αὐτῷ καταξιούμενοι μερίδος ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τῶν οὐρανῶν . Comp. Romans 4:0 ; Romans 9:6 ff.; Galatians 4:0 ; John 8:39 f. It is an anticipation, however, to find the calling of the heathen here indicated. It follows first from this axiom.

Verse 10

Matthew 3:10 . Already, however (it is then high time), is the decision near at hand , according to which the unworthy are excluded from Messiah’s kingdom, and are consigned to Gehenna.

In ἤδη is contained the thought that the hearers did not yet expect this state of things; see Baeumlein, Partik . p. 139; the presents ἐκκόπτεται and βάλλεται denote what is to happen at once and certainly , with demonstrative definiteness, not the general idea: is accustomed to be hewn down , against which οὖν is decisive (in answer to Fritzsche), the meaning of which is: “that, as a consequence of this, the axe, etc., every tree will be, and so on.” See upon the present , Dissen, ad Pind. Nem . iv. 39 f., p. 401.

Verse 11

Matthew 3:11 . Yet it is not I who will determine the admission or the exclusion, but He who is greater than I. In Luke 3:16 there is a special reason assigned for this discourse, in keeping with the use of a more developed tradition on the part of the later redactor.

εἰς μετάνοιαν ] denotes the telic reference of the baptism (comp. Matthew 28:19 ), which imposes an obligation to μετάνοια . To the characteristic ἐν ὕδατι εἰς μετάνοιαν stands opposed the higher characteristic ἐν πνευματι ἁγίῳ κ . πυρί , the two elements of which together antithetically correspond to that “baptism by water unto repentance;” see subsequently.

ἐν is, agreeably to the conception of βαπτίζω ( immersion ), not to be taken as instrumental , but as in , in the meaning of the element , in which immersion takes place. Mar 1:5 ; 1 Corinthians 10:2 ; 2 Kings 5:14 ; Polyb. v. 47. 2 : βαπτιζόμενοι ἐν τοῖς τέλμασι ; Hom. Od . ix. 392.

ὁ δὲ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος ] that is, the Messiah . His coming as such is always brought forward with great emphasis in Mark and Luke. The present here also denotes the near and definite beginning of the future.

ἰσχυρότ . μου ἐστίν ] In what special relation he is more powerful is stated afterwards by αὐτὸς ὑμᾶς βαπτίσει , κ . τ . λ .

οὗ οὐκ εἰμί , κ . τ . λ .] In comparison with Him, I am too humble to be fitted to be one of His lowest slaves. To bear the sandals of their masters ( βαστάσαι ), that is, to bring and take them away, as well as to fasten them on or take them off (the latter in Mark and Luke), was amongst the Jews, Greeks, and Romans the business of slaves of the lowest rank. See Wetstein, Rosenmüller, Morgenl. in loc.; comp. Talmud, Kiddusch . xxii. 2.

αὐτός ] He and no other, Matthew 1:21 .

ὑμᾶς ] was spoken indeed to the Pharisees and Sadducees; but it is not these only who are meant, but the people of Israel in general, who were represented to the eye of the prophet in them, and in the multitude who were present.

ἐν πν . ἁγ . κ . πυρί ] in the Holy Spirit , those who have repented; in fire (by which that of Gehenna is meant), the unrepentant. Both are figuratively designated as βαπτίζειν , in so far as both are the two opposite sides of the Messianic lustration , by which the one are sprinkled with the Holy Ghost (Acts 1:5 ), the others with hell-fire, as persons baptized are with water. It is explained as referring to the fire of everlasting punishment , after Origen and several Fathers, by Kuinoel, Schott ( Opusc . II. p. 198), Fritzsche, Neander, de Wette, Paulus, Ammon, B. Crusius, Arnoldi, Hofmann, Bleek, Keim, Volkmar, Hengstenberg, Weber, vom Zorne Gottes , p. 219 f.; Gess, Christi Vers. u. Werk , I. p. 310. But, after Chrysostom and most Catholic expositors, others (Erasmus, Beza, Calvin, Clericus, Wetstein, Storr, Eichhorn, Kauffer, Olshausen, Glöckler, Kuhn, Ewald) understand it of the fire of the Holy Spirit, which inflames and purifies the spirits of men . Comp. Isaiah 4:4 . These and other explanations, which take πυρί as not referring to the punishments of Gehenna, are refuted by John’s own decisive explanation in Matthew 3:12 : τὸ δὲ ἄχυρον κατακαύσει πυρὶ ἀσβέστῳ . It is wrong, accordingly, to refer the πυρί to the fiery tongues in Acts 2:0 . (Euth. Zigabenus, Maldonatus, Elsner, Er. Schmid, Bengel, Ebrard). The omission of καὶ πυρί is much too weakly attested to delete it, with Matthaei and Rinck, Lucubr. crit . p. 248. See Griesbach, Comm. crit . p. 25 f.

Verse 12

Matthew 3:12 . And fire , I say; for what a separation will it make!

οὗ ] assigns a reason, like our: He whose [German, Er, dessen ]. See Ellendt, Lex. Soph . II. p. 371; Kühner, II. p. 939. It is not, however, as Grotius, Bengel, Storr, Kuinoel think, pleonastic, but the literal translation is to be closely adhered to: whose fan is in his hand; that is, he who has his (to him peculiar, comp. Matthew 3:4 ) fan in his hand ready for use. Comp LXX. Isaiah 9:5 . According to Fritzsche, ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ is epexegetical: “cujus erit ventilabrum, sc. in manu ejus.” But such epexegetical remarks, which fall under the point of view of Appositio partitiva , stand, as they actually occur, in the same case with the general word, which they define more minutely ( οὗ τὸ πτύον , τῆς χειρὸς αὐτοῦ ). See Ephesians 3:5 , and remarks in loc .

ἅλωνα ] ἅλως (Xen. Oec . xviii. 6; Dem. 1040. 23), in Greek writers commonly after the Attic declension, is the same as נֹּרֶן , a circular firmly-trodden place upon the field itself, where the grain is either trodden out by oxen, or thrashed out by thrashing machines drawn by oxen. Keil, Arch. II. p. 114; Robinson, III. p. 370. Similarly in Greek writers; see Hermann, Privatalterth. xv. 6, xxiv. 3. The floor is cleansed in this way, that the seed grains and the pounded straw and similar refuse are not allowed to lie upon it indiscriminately mingled together, in the state in which the threshing has left this unclean condition of the floor, but the grain and refuse are separated from each other in order to be brought to the place destined for them. In the figure, the floor, which belongs to the Messiah, is not the church (Fathers and many others), nor mankind (de Wette), nor the Jewish nation (B. Crusius), but, because the place of the Messiah’s activity must be intended (Ewald), and that, according to the national determination of the idea of the Baptist, the holy land, as the proper sphere of the work of the Messiah, not the world in general (Bleek), as would have to be assumed according to the Christian fulfilment of the idea. In accordance with this view, we must neither, with Zeger, Fischer, Kuinoel, de Wette, explain τ . ἅλωνα , according to the alleged Hebrew usage (Job 39:12 ; Ruth 3:2 ), as the grain upon the floor; nor, with Fritzsche, regard the cleansing as effected, removendo inde frumentum, which is an act that does not follow until the floor has been cleansed. The διακαθαρίζειν , to purify thoroughly, which is not preserved anywhere except in Luke 2:17 , designates the cleansing from one end to the other; in classical writers διακαθαίρειν , Plat. Pol. iii. pp. 399 E, 411 D; Alciphr. iii. 26.

ἀποθήκην ] place for storing up, magazine. The grain stores ( σιτόβολιον , Polyb. iii. 100. 4; θησαυροὶ σίτου , Strabo, xii. p. 862; σιτοδόκη , Pollux) were chiefly dry subterranean vaults. Jahn, Archäol. I. 1, p. 376.

ἄχυρον ] not merely chaff in the narrower sense of the word ( מֹץ ), but all those portions of the stalk and ear which contain no grain, which are torn in pieces by the threshing, and remain over ( חֶּכֶן ), Herod. iv. 72; Xen. Oec. xvii. 1, 6. f.; Genesis 24:25 ; Exodus 5:7 . These were used as fuel. Mishna tract, Schabbath ii. 1; Parah. iv. 3. Paulsen, vom Ackerbau der Morgenl. p. 150.

The sense, apart from figurative language, is: The Messiah will receive into His kingdom those who are found worthy (comp. Matthew 13:30 ); but upon the unworthy He will inflict in full the everlasting punishments of Gehenna. Comp. Mal. 3:19.

ἀσβέστῳ ] which is not quenched (Hom. Il. xvii. 89; Pind. Isthm. iii. 72; Dion. Hal. Antt. i. 76, corresponding to the thing portrayed; comp. Isaiah 66:24 ). Not, therefore: which is not extinguished till all is consumed (Paulus, Bleek).


John 1:26 is not to be regarded as parallel with Matthew 3:12 , for, according to John, the Baptist speaks after the baptism of Jesus, and to the members of the Sanhedrim. And doubtless he had often given expression to his testimony regarding Christ, who was the point which the prophet had in view in his preaching of repentance and baptism.

That he is not yet definitely designated in Matthew as Elijah (Luke 1:17 ; Matthew 11:10 ; Matthew 11:14 ), is rightly regarded as an evidence of the truth of the gospel narrative, which has not anticipated the subsequently developed representation of John. To relegate, however, the announcement of the Messiah from the preaching of the Baptist into the realm of legend (Strauss) is a mockery of the entire evangelical testimony, and places it below the narrative of Josephus, which was squared according to the ideas of political prudence ( Antt . xviii. 5. 2).

Verse 13

Matthew 3:13 . Τότε ] at that time , when John thus preached the advent of the Messiah, and baptized the people, Matthew 3:1-12 .

ἀπὸ τ . Γαλιλ .] See Matthew 2:23 . It belongs to παραγ . The position is different in Matthew 2:1 .

τοῦ βαπτισθ . ὑπʼ αὐτοῦ ] Jesus wished to be baptized by John (genitive, as in Matthew 2:13 ), but not in the personal feeling of sinfulness (B. Bauer, Strauss, Pécaut), or as the bearer of the guilt of others (Riggenbach, Krafft); not even because He, through His connection of responsibility with the unclean people , was unclean according to the Levitical law (Lange), or because He believed that He was obliged to regard the collective guilt of the nation as His guilt (Schenkel); just as little in order to separate Himself inwardly from the sins of the nation (Baumgarten), or make it certain that His σὰρξ ἀσθενείας should not be opposed to the life of the Spirit (Hofrnann, Weissag. und Erfüll . II. p. 82), or because the meaning of the baptism is: the declaration that He is subjected to death for the human race (Ebrard); not even to bring in here the divine decision as to His Messiahship (Paulus), or to lay the foundation for the faith of others in Him , so far as baptism is a symbol of the regeneration of those who confess Him (Ammon, L. J. I. p. 268), or in order to honour the baptism of John by His example (Calvin, Kuinoel, Keim), or to bind Himself to the observance of the law (Hofmann, Krabbe, Osiander); or because He had to conduct Himself, before the descent of the Spirit, merely as an Israelite in general. The opinion also of Schleiermacher, that the baptism of Jesus was the symbolical beginning of His announcement of Himself , and, at the same time, a recognition of John’s mission , is foreign to the text. The true meaning appears from Matthew 3:15 , namely, because Jesus was consciously certain that He must, agreeably to God’s will, subject Himself to the baptism of His forerunner, in order (Matthew 3:16-17 ) to receive the Messianic consecration; that is, the divine declaration that He was the Messiah ( ἵνα ἀναδειχθῇ τῷ λαῷ , Euth. Zigabenus), and thereby to belong from that moment solely and entirely to this great vocation . The Messianic consciousness is not to be regarded as first commencing in Him at the baptism, so that He would be inwardly born, by means of baptism, to be the Messiah, and would become conscious of His divine destination, to full purification and regeneration as the new duty of His life; but the πρέπον ἐστὶν ἡμῖν , Matthew 3:15 , presupposes a clear certainty regarding His vocation; and John’s relation to the same, as in general the existence of that consciousness, must have been the necessary result of His own consciousness, which had attained the maturity of human development, that He was the Son of God. But that baptism, to which He felt certain that He must submit Himself, was to be for Him the divine ordination to the Messiahship . It is clear, according to this, that His baptism was quite different from that of others, so far as in Him, as a sinless being, there could be no confession of sin; but the lustrative character of the baptism could only have the meaning, that from that moment He was taken away from all His previous relations of life which belonged to the earthly sphere, and became, altogether and exclusively, the Holy One of God, whom the Father consecrated by the Spirit. Although He was this God-sanctified One from the beginning, yet now, as He was aware that this was the will of God, He has, by the assumption of baptism, solemnly bound and devoted Himself to the full execution of His unique destiny, a devotion which was already more than a vow (Keim), because it was the actual entrance into the Messianic path of life, which was to receive at the very threshold its divine legitimation for all future time. In so doing, He could, without any consciousness of guilt (Matthew 11:29 ), associate Himself, in all humility (Matthew 11:29 ), with the multitude of those whom the feeling of guilt impelled to baptism; because in His own consciousness there was still the negation of absolute moral goodness, to which He, long afterwards, expressly gave so decided expression (Matthew 19:17 ).

Verse 14

Matthew 3:14 . According to John 1:33 , it was revealed to the Baptist that He upon whom he should see the Spirit descending was the Messiah. It was accordingly not until this moment that the recognition of Jesus as the Messiah entered his mind; and therefore, in the Gospel of John, he says of the time which preceded this moment: κἀγὼ οὐκ ᾔδειν αὐτόν . The passage before us is not in contradiction with this, for the recognition of the Messiahship of Jesus does not yet lie at its foundation, but the prophetic anticipation of the same, which on the approach of Jesus, as that solemn decision was about to begin through the revelation of the σημεῖον , seized the soul of the Baptist involuntarily and miraculously, and yet psychologically, in keeping with the spiritual rapport prepared by revelation. Comp. Luther: “he scents the Spirit.” Accordingly, we are not to assume in our passage either a recognition only of higher excellence (Hess, Paulus, Hofmann), or a contradiction with John (Strauss, de Wette, Keim), or, after Lücke, Holtzmann, and Scholten, that the oldest and shortest tradition of Matthew contained merely Matthew 3:16-17 , while Matthew 3:14-15 were a later addition of the complete Matthew, [383] which Hilgenfeld seeks to support from the silence of Justin regarding the refusal of the Baptist, whilst Keim gives, indeed, the preference to the statement of Matthew over that of John, but still allows it to be very problematical.

διεκώλυεν ] Stronger than the simple verb. The word (which does not occur elsewhere in the N. T. nor in the LXX., yet in Jdt 4:7 ; Jdt 12:7 , and frequently in the classical writers) is selected , in keeping with the serious opposition of the astonished John. The imperfect is descriptive , and, indeed, so much so, that “vere incipit actus, sed ob impedimenta caret eventu,” Schaefer, ad Eur. Phoen . 81. Kühner, II. 1, p. 123. John actually repelled Jesus, and did not baptize Him at once , but only when the latter had made representations to the contrary effect.

ἐγὼ χρείαν , κ . τ . λ .] Grotius: Si alter nostrum omnino baptizandus sit, ego potius abs te, ut dignissimo, baptismum petere debui . Thus spoke John in the truest feeling of his own lowliness and sinfulness, in the presence of the long-longed for One, the first recognition of whom suddenly thrilled him.

καὶ σὺ ἔρχῃ πρός με ;] A question indicative of the astonishment with which the Baptist, although he had received the divine declaration, John 1:33 , was yet seized, through the impression made on him by the presence of the Lord. Moreover, this discourse necessarily excludes the idea that he too connected the baptism of Jesus with the profession of a confession of His sins. Yet the apocryphal Praedicatio Pauli , according to Cyprian, Opp . p. 142, Rigalt (Credner, Beitr . I. p. 360 ff.), had already made Jesus deliver a confession of sin; in the Evangelium sec. Hebraeos , on the other hand, quoted by Jerome, c. Pel . iii. 1, Jesus answers the request of His mother and His brethren to let Himself be baptized along with them: “Quid peccavi, ut vadam et baptizer ab eo? nisi forte hoc ipsum quod dixi ignorantia est.”

[383] According to Epiphanius, Haer . xxx. 13, the Gospel according to the Hebrews contained the conversation, although with embellishments, but placed it after the baptism. The want of originality of this narrative in itself (in answer to Schneckenburger, Hilgenfeld) already shows its apocryphal and extravagant character. The correctness of its position has found favour, indeed, with Bleek (p. 179 f., and in the Stud. u. Krit . 1833, p. 436), Usteri (in the same, 1829, p. 446), and Lücke, and Keim also, at the expense of our Gospel; but, after what has been said above, without any reason, as the want of agreement between Matthew and John is only apparent, and is not to be removed by changing the meaning of the simple and definite οὐκ ᾔδειν αὐτόν . See on John 1:31 . The Wolfenbüttel Fragmentist ( vom Zwecke Jesu , p. 133 ff.) has notoriously misused John 1:31 to assert that Jesus and John had long been acquainted with each other, and had come to an understanding to work to each other’s hands, but to conceal this from the people.

Verse 15

Matthew 3:15 . Ἄρτι ] now , suffer it just now . The antithesis of time is here not that of the past (see on Galatians 1:9 ), but of the future, as in John 13:37 ; 1 Corinthians 13:12 . Chrysostom: οὐ διηνεκῶς ταῦτα ἔσται . ἀλλʼ ὄψει με ἐν τούτοις οἷς ἐπιθυμεῖς · ἄρτι μέντοι ὑπόμεινον τοῦτο .

The meaning: “ sine paulisper ” (Fritzsche), comp. de Wette: “ let it be for once ,” is not sufficient. Schneckenburger, p. 122, regards the ἄφες as having been inappropriately transferred from the Gospel according to the Hebrews. Erroneously, as it there belongs (in the sense: let it remain ) to the apocryphal addition, according to which John , after the baptism of Jesus, prays the latter to baptize him; and Jesus answers: ἄφες , ὅτι οὕτως ἐστὶ πρέπον πληρωθῆναι πάντα (Epiphanius, Haer . xxx. 13). This apocryphal outgrowth is manifestly a farther spinning out of the tradition, as recorded in Matthew. Several of the Fathers likewise inferred from ἄρτι , in our verse, that John was afterwards baptized by Jesus.

ἡμῖν ] to thee and to me . To refer it merely to Jesus (Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euth. Zigabenus, Glöckler), or, in the first place to Jesus (de Wette, Bleek), is opposed to the context. See Matthew 3:14 .

πᾶσαν δικαιοσύνην ] all righteousness , all which as duty it is obligatory on us to do. Ch. F. Fritzsche in Fritzschior. Opusc . p. 81. Comp. πληρ . εὐσέβειαν , 4Ma 14:15 . If I do not allow myself to be baptized, and thou dost not baptize me, there remains something unfulfilled (therefore, οὕτω ) which ought to be done by us, in accordance with the divine will; then satisfaction is not made by us to all righteousness. Comp. on πᾶσαν the plural expression δικαιοσύναι in Sir 44:10 ; Job 2:13 .

Verse 16

Matthew 3:16 . Εὐθύς ] which cannot belong to ἀνεῴχθ . (Maldonatus, Grotius, B. Crusius), nor can it be referred to βαπτισθείς by supposing a hyperbaton (Fritzsche); see Kühner, II. 2, p. 642. Matthew would have written, καὶ εὐθὺς βαπτισθείς . It belongs to ἀνέβη , beside which it stands: after He was baptized , He went up straightway, etc. This straightway was understood at once as a matter of course, but does not belong, however, merely to the descriptive , but to the circumstantial style of the narrative, setting forth the rapid succession (of events).

ἀνεῴχθησαν αὐτῷ οἱ οὐρανοί ] designates neither a clearing up of the heavens (Paulus), nor a thunderstorm quickly discharging itself (Kuinoel, Ammon), since the poetic descriptions, as in Sil. It. i. 535 ff., are quite foreign (see Drackenborch, ad Sil. It . iii. 136; Heyne, ad Virg. Aen . iii. 198) to our simple historical narrative; as, moreover, neither in the Gospel according to the Hebrews, nor in Epiphanius, Haer . xxx. 13, nor in Justin, c. Tryph . 88, [384] is a thunderstorm meant. Only an actual parting of the heavens , out of which opening the Spirit came down, can be intended. Ezekiel 1:1 ; John 1:51 ; Revelation 4:1 ; Acts 7:56 ; Isaiah 64:1 .

αὐτῷ does not refer to the Baptist (Beza, Heumann, Bleek, Kern, Krabbe, de Wette, Baur), since Matthew 3:16 begins a new portion of the history, in which John is no longer the subject. It refers to Jesus , and is the dative of purpose. To Him the heavens open; for it was on Him that the Spirit was to descend. Comp. Vulgate.

εἶδε ] Who? not John, but Jesus , without ἐπʼ αὐτόν standing for ἘΦʼ ΑὙΤΌΝ (Kuinoel); Kühner, II. 1, p. 489 f.; Bleek on the passage. The Gospel according to the Hebrews clearly referred ΕἾΔΕ to Jesus, with which Mark 1:10 also decidedly agrees. [385]

ὡσεὶ περιστεράν ] The element of comparison is interpreted by modern writers not as referring to the shape of the visibly descending Spirit, but to the manner of descent , where partly the swiftness (Fritzsche), partly the soft, gentle movement (Bleek) and activity (Neander), and the like, have been imagined as referred to. But as all the four evangelists have precisely the same comparison (Mark 1:10 ; Luke 3:22 ; John 1:32 ), which, as a mere representation of the manner of the descent, would be just as unessential as it would be an indefinite and ambiguous comparison; as, farther, Luke expressly says the Spirit descended, σωματικῷ εἴδει ὡσεὶ περιστερά , where, by the latter words, the σωματ . εἴδει is defined more precisely (comp. the Gospel according to the Hebrews in Epiphanius, Haer . xxx. 13 : εἴδε , namely, Jesus, τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ τὸ ἅγιον ἐν εἴδει περιστερᾶς κατελθούσης ; also Justin, c. Tr . 88), so that interpretation appears as a groundless attempt to lessen the miraculous element, and only the old explanation (Origen and the Fathers in Suicer, Thes. s.v. περιστερά , Euth. Zigabenus, Erasmus, Luther), that the form of a dove actually appeared , can be received as the correct one. So also Paulus (who, however, thought of a real dove which accidentally appeared at the time!), de Wette, Kuhn ( L. J. I. p. 319), Theile ( zur Biogr. Jesu , p. 48), Keim, Hilgenfeld, who compares 4 Esdr. Matthew 5:26 . The symbolic element of this divine σημεῖον (see remarks after Matthew 3:17 ) rests just in its appearance in the form of a dove , which descends.

[384] In the Gospel according to the Hebrews: περιέλαμψεν τὸν τόπον φῶς μέγα . Justin. κατελθόντος τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ἐπὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ πῦρ ἀνήφθη ἐν τῷ Ἰορδάνῃ .

[385] Schmidt in the Jahrb. f. D. Th . 1869, p. 655, erroneously says: If Jesus were the subject, ἐφʼ αὑτόν must necessarily have been put. See Buttmann, neut. Gr . p. 97 f. [E. T. 111 f.].

Verse 17

Matthew 3:17 . Φω νὴ … λέγουσα ] Here neither is ἐγένετο to be supplied, after Luke 3:22 ; nor does the participle stand for the finite tense. See on Matthew 2:18 . But literally: and lo, there, a voice from heaven which spoke . Comp. Matthew 17:5 ; Luke 5:12 ; Luke 19:20 ; Acts 8:27 ; Revelation 4:1 ; Revelation 6:2 ; Revelation 7:9 .

ὁ ἀγαπητός ] dilectus , not unicus (Loesner, Fischer, Michaelis, and others). The article , however, does not express the strengthened conception ( dilectissimus ), as Wetstein and Rosenmüller assert, but is required by grammar; for the emphasis lies on ὁ υἱός μου , to which the characteristic attribute is added by way of distinction. Comp. Kühner, II. 1, p. 529 f. Exactly so in the same voice from heaven, Matthew 17:5 .

ἐν ᾧ εὐδόκησα ] Hebraistic construction imitative of חָפֵץ כְ . See Winer, p. 218 [E. T. 291]. Fritzsche, ad Rom. II. p. 371 (Polybius ii. 12. 13 does not apply here); frequently in LXX. and Apocrypha.

The aorist denotes: in whom I have had good pleasure (Ephesians 1:4 ; John 17:24 ), who has become the object of my good pleasure. See Hermann, ad Viger. p. 746; Bernhardy, p. 381 f.; Kühner, II. 1, p. 134 f. The opposite is ἐμίσησα , Romans 9:13 ; ἤχθηρε κρονίων , Hom. Il. xx. 306.

The divine voice solemnly proclaims Jesus to be the Messiah, ὁ υἱός μου ; which designation, derived from Psalms 2:7 , [386] is in the divine and also in the Christian consciousness not merely the name of an office, but has at the same time a metaphysical meaning, having come forth from the Father’s being, κατὰ πνεῦμα , Romans 1:4 , containing the Johannine idea, ΛΌΓΟς ΣᾺΡΞ ἘΓΈΝΕΤΟ (according to Matthew 1:20 , Luke 1:35 , also the origin of the corporeity). That the passage in Isaiah 62:1 (comp. Matthew 12:18 ) lies at the basis of the expression of that voice, either alone (Hilgenfeld) or with others (Keim), has this against it, that ΥἹΌς ΜΟΥ is the characteristic point , which is wanting in Isaiah l.c. , and that, moreover, the other words in the passage do not specifically correspond with those in Isaiah.

[386] In the Gospel according to the Hebrews the words of the voice ran, according to Epiphanius, Haer . xxx. 13 : σύ μου εἶ ὁ υἱὸς ἀγαπητός , ἐν σοὶ εὐδόκησα · καὶ πάλιν · ἐγὼ σήμερον γεγέννηκά σε . So also substantially in Justin, c. Tr . 88. Manifestly an addition from later tradition, which had become current from the well-known passage in Psalms 2:0 . Nevertheless, Hilgenfeld regards that form of the heavenly voice as the more original. See on the opposite side, Weisse, Evangelienfrage , p. 190 ff.


The fact of itself that Jesus was baptized by John, although left doubtful by Fritzsche, admitted only as possible by Weisse, who makes it rather to be a baptism of the Spirit, while relegated by Bruno Bauer to the workshop of later religious reflection, stands so firmly established by the testimony of the Gospels that it has been recognised even by Strauss, although more on à priori grounds ( L. J. I. p. 418). He rejects, however, the more minute points as unhistorical, while Keim sees in it powerful and speaking figures of spiritual occurrences which then took place on the Jordan; Schenkel again introduces thoughts which are very remote; and Weizsäcker recognises in it the representation of the installation of Jesus into His vocation as Ruler, and that by the transformation of a vision of Jesus into an external fact, and refers the narrative to later communications probably made by the Lord to His disciples. The historical reality of the more minute details is to be distinguished from the legendary embellishments of them. The first is to be derived from John 1:32-34 , according to which the Baptist , after an address vouchsafed to him by God, in which was announced to him the descent of the Spirit as the Messianic σημεῖον of the person in question, saw the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descend upon Jesus, and abide upon Him, and, in accordance with this, delivered the testimony that Jesus was the Son of God. The seeing of the Baptist, and the testimony which he delivered regarding it, is accordingly to be considered as based on John 1:32-34 , as the source of the tradition preserved in the Synoptics, in the simplest form in Mark. According to Ewald, it was in spirit that Jesus saw (namely, the Spirit, like a dove , consequently “ in all its liveliness and fulness ,” according to Isaiah 11:2 ) and heard what He Himself probably related at a later time, and that the Baptist himself also observed in Jesus, as He rose up out of the water, something quite different from what he noticed in other men, and distinguished Him at once by the utterance of some extraordinary words. But, considering the deviation of John’s narrative from that of the Synoptics, and the connection in which John stood to Jesus and the Baptist, there exists no reason why we should not find the original fact in John. Comp. Neander, L. J. p. 83 f.; Schleiermacher, p. 144 ff.; Ewald, Gesch. Chr . p. 230 f. Moreover, that seeing of the Spirit in the form of a dove is a spiritual act, taking place in a vision (Acts 7:55 ; Acts 10:10 ff.), but which was transformed by the tradition of the apostolic age into an external manifestation, as the testimony of John (John 1:34 ), which was delivered on the basis of this seeing of his, was changed into a heavenly voice (which therefore is not to be taken as Bath Kol , least of all “as in the still reverberation of the thunder and in the gentle echo of the air,” as Ammon maintains, L. J. p. 273 f.). The more minute contents of the heavenly voice were suggested from Psalms 2:7 , to which also the old extension of the legend in Justin, c. Tryph . 88, and in the Ev. sec. Hebr . in Epiph. Haer . xxx. 13, points. Consequently the appearance of the dove remains as an actual occurrence, but as taking place in vision (Orig. c. Cels . i. 43 48. Theodore of Mopsuestia: ἐν εἴδει περιστερᾶς γενομένη ἡ τοῦ πνεύματος κάθοδος οὐ πᾶσιν ὤφθη τοῖς παροῦσιν , ἀλλὰ κατά τινα πνευματικὴν θεωρίαν ὤφθη μόνῳ τῷ Ἰωάννῃ , καθὼς ἔθος ἦν τοῖς προφήταις ἐν μέσῳ πολλῶν τὰ πᾶσιν ἀθεώρητα βλέπειν … ὀπτασία γὰρ ἦν , οὐ φύσις τὸ φαινόμενον ), as also the opening of the heavens (Jerome: “Non reseratione elementorum, sed spiritualibus oculis”). Origen designates the thing as θεωρία νοητική . Comp. Grotius, Neander, Krabbe, de Wette, Bleek, Weizsäcker, Wittichen. Finally, the question [387] whether before the time of Christ the Jews already regarded the dove as a symbol of the Divine Spirit, is so far a matter of perfect indifference, as the Baptist could have no doubt, after the divine address vouchsafed to him , that the seeing the form of a dove descending from heaven was a symbolical manifestation of the Holy Spirit; yet it is probable, from the very circumstance that the ὀπτασία took place precisely in the form of a dove , that this form of representation had its point of connection in an already existing emblematic mode of regarding the Spirit, and that consequently the Rabbinical traditions relating thereto reach back in their origin to the pre-Christian age, without, however (in answer to Lücke on John), having to drag in the very remote figure of the dove descending down in order to brood , according to Genesis 1:2 . Here it remains undetermined in what properties of the dove (innocence, mildness, and the like; Theodore of Mopsuestia: φιλόστοργον κ . φιλάνθρωπον ζῶον ) the point of comparison was originally based. Moreover, according to John 1:32 ff., the purpose of what took place in vision does not appear to have been the communication of the Holy Spirit to Jesus (misinterpreted by the Gnostics as the reception of the λόγος ), but the making known of Jesus as the Messiah to the Baptist on the part of God, through a ΣΗΜΕῖΟΝ of the Holy Spirit. In this the difficulty disappears which is derived from the divine nature of Jesus, according to which He could not need the bestowal of the Spirit, whether we understand the Spirit in itself, or as the communicator of a nova virtus (Calvin), or as πνεῦμα προφητικόν (Thomasius), or as the Spirit of the divine ἘΞΟΥΣΊΑ for the work of the Messiah (Hofmann), as the spirit of office (Kahnis), which definite views are not to be separated from the already existing possession of the Spirit. The later doubts of the Baptist, Matthew 11:2 ff. (in answer to Hilgenfeld, Weizsäcker, Keim), as a momentary darkening of his higher consciousness in human weakness amid all his prophetic greatness, are to be regarded neither as a psychological riddle nor as evidence against his recognition of Jesus as the Messiah, which was brought about in a miraculous manner; and this is the more conceivable when we take into consideration the political element in the idea of the Messiah entertained by the imprisoned John (comp. John 1:29 , Remark). If, however, after the baptism of Jesus, His Messianic appearance did not take place in the way in which the Baptist had conceived it, yet the continuous working of the latter, which was not given up after the baptism, can carry with it no well-founded objection to the revelation of Jesus as the Messiah, which is related in the passage before us. Comp. on John 3:23 .

[387] Talmudic and Rabbinical witnesses, but no pre-Christian ones, are in existence for the Jewish manner of regarding it (amongst the Syrians the dove was held sacred as the symbol of the brooding power of nature; see Creuzer, Symbol . II. p. 80). See Chagig . ii., according to which the Spirit of God, like a dove , brooded over the waters (comp. Bereshith rabba , f. iv. 4; Sohar, f. xix. 3, on Genesis 1:2 , according to which the Spirit brooding on the water is the Spirit of the Messiah ). Targum on Song of Solomon 2:12 : “Vox turturis, vox Spirituss.” Ir. Gibborim, ad Genesis 1:2 ; Bemidb. rab . f. 250. 1. See also Sohar, Num. f. 68, 271 f., where the dove of Noah is placed in typical connection with the Messiah; in Schoettgen, II. p. 537 f. Comp. besides, Lutterbeck, neutest. Lehrbegr . I. p. 259 f.; Keim, Gesch. J. I. p. 539. The dove was also regarded as a sacred bird in many forms of worship amongst the Greeks.

Bibliographical Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Matthew 3". Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hmc/matthew-3.html. 1832.
Ads FreeProfile