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In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
[John The Baptist preaching in the wilderness of Judea.] That John was born in Hebron, one may not unfitly conjecture by comparing Luke 1:39 with Joshua 21:11; and that he was born about the feast of the Passover, namely, half a year before the nativity of our Saviour, Luke 1:36. So the conceptions and births of the Baptist and our Saviour ennobled the four famous tekuphas
"John lived in the deserts, until he made himself known unto Israel," Luke 1:80. That is, if the pope’s school may be interpreter, he led the life of a hermit. But,
I. Be ashamed, O papist, to be so ignorant of the sense of the word wilderness; or desert; which in the common dialect sounds all one as if it had been said, "He lived in the country, not in the city; his education was more coarse and plain in the country, without the breeding of the university, or court at Jerusalem." An oblation for thanksgiving consists of five Jerusalem seahs, which were in value six seahs of the wilderness; that is, six country seahs.
"A Jerusalem seah exceeds a seah of the wilderness by a sixth part."
"The trees of the wilderness are those which are common, and not appropriate to one master": that is, trees in groves and common meadows.
So 2 Corinthians 11:26; "in perils in the city, and in perils in the country."
II. The wildernesses of the land of Canaan were not without towns and cities; nor was he presently to be called an Eremite who dwelt in the wilderness. The hill-country of Judea, John’s native soil, is called by the Talmudists, The royal mountain; or hill; and by the Psalmist, The desert hill-country; Psalms 75:6; and yet "in the royal mountain were a myriad of cities."
III. David passed much of his youth in the wilderness, 1 Samuel 17:28; but yet, who will call him an eremite? In the like sense I conceive John living in the deserts, not only spending his time in leisure and contemplation, but employing himself in some work, or studies. For when I read, that the youth of our Saviour was taken up in the carpenter’s trade, I scarcely believe his forerunner employed his youth in no calling at all.
Beginning now the thirtieth year of his age, when, according to the custom of the priests, he ought to have come to the chief Sanhedrim to undergo their examination, and to be entered into the priesthood by them, "the word of God coming unto him," Luke 3:2; as it had done before to the prophets, he is diverted to another ministry.
And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
[Repent ye.] A doctrine most fit for the gospel, and most suitable to the time, and the word or the phrase as agreeable to the doctrine.
I. A nation leavened with the error of the Pharisees, concerning justification by the works of the law, was necessarily to be called off to the contrary doctrine of repentance. No receiving of the gospel was otherwise to be expected.
II. However the schools of the Pharisees had illy defined repentance, which we observe presently, yet they asserted that repentance itself was necessary to the reception of the Messias. Concerning this matter the Babylonian Gemarists do dispute: whom Kimchi also upon Isaiah 54:19
"If Israel shall repent but one day, forthwith the Redeemer cometh" (Taanith).
Therefore, it is very fitly argued by the Baptist, and by our Saviour after him, Matthew 4:17; from the approach of the kingdom of heaven to repentance, since they themselves to whom this is preached do acknowledge that thus the kingdom of heaven, or the manifestation of the Messias, is to be brought in. For however the Gemarists who dispute of this were of a later age, yet for the most part they do but speak the sense of their fathers.
III. The word repentance as it does very well express the sense of true repentance, so among the Jews it was necessary that it should be so expressed, among whom repentance, for the most part, was thought to consist in the confession of the mouth only.
"Whosoever, out of error or presumption, shall transgress the precepts of the law, whether they be those that command or those that forbid, when he repents and returns from his sins, he is bound to make confession. Whosoever brings an offering for a sin, committed either out of ignorance or presumption, his sin is not expiated by the offering, until he makes an oral confession. Or whosoever is guilty of death, or of scourging by the Sanhedrim, his sin is not taken away by his death, or by his scourging, if he do not repent and make confession. And because the scape-goat is the expiation for all Israel, therefore the high priest makes confession over him for all Israel."
It is worthy observing, that, when John urgeth those that came to his baptism to repent, it is said, that they were baptized, "confessing their sins": which was a sign of repentance highly requisite among the Jews, and necessary for those that were then brought in to the profession of the Gospel; that hereby they might openly profess that they renounced the doctrine of justification by the works of the law.
It is worthy of observing also, that John said not, "Repent, and believe the gospel," which our Saviour did, Matthew 4:17; (and yet John preached the gospel, Mark 1:1-2; John 1:7); for his office, chiefly, was to make Christ known, who when he should come was to be the great preacher of the gospel.
Therefore the Baptist doth very properly urge repentance upon those that looked for the Messias; and the text of the Gospel used a very proper word to express true and lively repentance.
[For the kingdom of heaven is at hand.] I. The kingdom of heaven; in Matthew, is the kingdom of God; for the most part, in the other evangelists. Compare these places:
"The kingdom of heaven is at hand," Matthew 4:17.
"The poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom of heaven;" Matthew 5:3.
"The least in the kingdom of heaven;" Matthew 11:11.
"The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven;" Matthew 13:11.
"Little children, of such is the kingdom of heaven;" Matthew 19:14.
"The kingdom of God is at hand," Mark 1:15.
"Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God;" Luke 6:20.
"The least in the kingdom of God;" Luke 7:28.
"The mysteries of the kingdom of God;" Luke 8:10.
"Little children, of such is the kingdom of God;" Mark 10:14.
And so we have it elsewhere very often, For Heaven is very usually, in the Jewish dialect, taken for God; Daniel 4:23; Matthew 21:25; Luke 15:21; John 3:27. And, in these and such-like speeches, scattered in the Talmudists: Death by the hand of heaven: The name of heaven is profaned: The worship of heaven: by the help of heaven; etc. "For they called God by the name of Heaven; because his habitation is in heaven" (Tishbi).
The story of the Jews is related, groaning out under their persecution these words, O Heavens! that is, as the Gloss renders it, Ah! Jehovah!
II. This manner of speech, the kingdom of heaven; is taken from Daniel, Daniel 7:13-14; where, after the description of the four earthly and tyrannical monarchies, that is, the Babylonian, Mede-Persian, Grecian, and Syro-Grecian, and the destruction of them at last; the entrance and nature of the reign of Christ is described, as it is universal over the whole world, and eternal throughout all ages: "under whom the rule, and dominion, and authority of kingdoms under the whole heaven is given to the people of the saints of the Most High," Matthew 3:27; that is, "Whereas, before, the rule had been in the hands of heathen kings, under the reign of Christ there should be Christian kings." Unto which that of the apostle hath respect, 1 Corinthians 6:2; "know ye not that the saints shall judge the world?"
Truly I admire that the fulfilling of that vision and prophecy in Daniel should be lengthened out still into I know not what long and late expectation, not to receive its completion before Rome and antichrist shall fall; since the books of the Gospel afford us a commentary clearer than the sun, that that kingdom of heaven took its beginning immediately upon the preaching of the Gospel. When both the Baptist and Christ published the approach of the kingdom of heaven from their very first preaching; certainly, for any to think that the fulfilling of those things in Daniel did not then begin, for my part, I think it is to grope in the dark, either through wilfulness or ignorance.
III. The kingdom of heaven implies, 1. The exhibition and manifestation of the Messias, Matthew 12:28; "But if I, by the finger of God, cast out devils, the kingdom of God is come upon you": that is, ’Hence is the manifestation of the Messias.’ See John 3:3; John 12:13; etc. 2. The resurrection of Christ; death, hell, Satan, being conquered: whence is a most evident manifestation that he is that ’eternal King,’ etc.: see Matthew 26:29; Romans 1:4. 3. His vengeance upon the Jewish nation, his most implacable enemies: this is another, and most eminent manifestation of him: see Matthew 16:28; Matthew 19:28. 4. His dominion by the sceptre of the gospel among the Gentiles, Matthew 21:43. In this place which is before us it points out the exhibition and revelation of the Messias.
IV. The phrase the kingdom of heaven very frequently occurs in the Jewish writers. We will produce some places; let the reader gather the sense of them:
"R. Joshua Ben Korcha saith, In reciting the phylacteries, why is Hear, O Israel; [Deuteronomy 6:4; etc.] recited before that passage And it shall come to pass, if you shall hearken [Deuteronomy 11:13], etc. To wit, that a man first take upon himself the kingdom of heaven; and then the yoke of the precept." So the Jerusalem Misna hath it; but the Babylonian thus: "That a man first take upon himself the yoke of the kingdom of heaven; and then the yoke of the precept."
"Rabh said to Rabbi Chaijah, We never saw Rabbi
"Doth any ease nature? Let him wash his hands, put on his phylacteries, repeat them, and pray, and this is the kingdom of heaven fulfilled." "If thou shalt have explained Shaddai, and divided the letters of the kingdom of heaven; thou shalt make the shadow of death to be cool to thee"; that is, "If, in the repeating of that passage of the phylacteries [Deuteronomy 6:4], ’Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord,’ etc., you shall pronounce the letters distinctly and deliberately, so that you shall have sounded out the names of God rightly, ’thou shalt make cool the shades of death.’ " For the same Gloss had said, The repeating of that passage; ’Hear, O Israel,’ etc., is the taking of the kingdom of heaven upon thee. But the repeating of that place, ’And it shall be, if thou shalt hearken,’ etc. [Deuteronomy 19:13] is the taking of the yoke of the precept upon thee.
"Rabban Gamaliel recited his phylacterical prayers on the very night of his nuptials. And when his scholars said unto him, ’Hast thou not taught us, O our master, that a bridegroom is freed from the reciting of his phylacteries the first night?’ he answered, ’I will not hearken to you, nor will I lay aside the kingdom of heaven from me, no, not for an hour.’ "
"What is the yoke of the kingdom of heaven?" In like manner as they lay the yoke upon an ox, that he may be serviceable; and if he bear not the yoke, he becomes unprofitable: so it becomes a man first to take the yoke upon himself, and to serve in all things with it: but if he casts it off, he is unprofitable: as it is said, ’Serve the Lord in fear.’ What means, ’in fear?’ the same that is written, ’The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’ And this is the kingdom of heaven."
"The scholars of Jochanan Ben Zaccai asked, Why a servant was to be bored through the ear, rather than through some other part of the body? He answered, When he heard with the ear those words from mount Sinai, ’Thou shalt have no other Lord before my face,’ he broke the yoke of the kingdom of heaven from him, and took upon himself the yoke of flesh and blood."
If by the kingdom of heaven; in these and other such-like places, which it would be too much to heap together, they mean the inward love and fear of God, which indeed they seem to do; so far they agree with our gospel sense, which asserts the inward and spiritual kingdom of Christ especially. And if the words of our Saviour, "Behold, the kingdom of God is within you," Luke 17:21; be suited to this sense of the nation concerning the kingdom of heaven; there is nothing sounds hard or rough in them: for it is as much as if he had said "Do you think the kingdom of heaven shall come with some remarkable observation, or with much show? Your very schools teach that the kingdom of God is within a man."
But, however they most ordinarily applied this manner of speech hither, yet they used it also for the exhibition and revelation of the Messiah in the like manner as the evangelical history doth. Hence are these expressions, and the like to them, in sacred writers: "The Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God should come." "They thought that the kingdom of God should presently be manifested." "Josephus of Arimathea waited for the kingdom of God."
And these words in the Chaldee paraphrast, "Say ye to the cities of Judah, The kingdom of your God is revealed," Isaiah 40:9; "They shall see the kingdom of their Messiah," Isaiah 53:11.
The Baptist, therefore, by his preaching, stirs up the minds of his hearers to meet the coming of the Messiah, now presently to be manifested, with that repentance and preparation as is meet.
And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.
[His food was locusts.] He that by vow tieth himself from flesh, is forbidden the flesh of fish and of locusts. See the Babylonian Talmud (Cholin) concerning locusts fit for food.
Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan.
[The region round about Jordan.] The word the region round about; is used by the Jerusalem Gemara: "From Beth-horon to the sea is one region round about;" or, one circumjacent region. Perhaps, both in the Talmudist and in the evangelist, is one and the same thing with a coast; or a country along a coast; in Pliny: "The country (saith he) along the coast is Samaria": that is, the sea-coast, and the country further, lying along by that coast: which may be said also concerning the region round about Jordan. Strabo, concerning the plain bordering on Jordan, hath these words; "It is a place of a hundred furlongs, all well watered and full of dwellings."
few things concerning Baptism.
And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
[And were baptized.] It is no unfit or unprofitable question, whence it came to pass that there was so great a conflux of men to the Baptist, and so ready a reception of his baptism?
I. The first reason is, Because the manifestation of the Messias was then expected, the weeks of Daniel being now spent to the last four years. Let us consult a little his text: --
Daniel 9:24. "Seventy weeks
1. Into seven weeks, or forty-nine years, from the giving of Cyrus’ patent for the rebuilding Jerusalem, to the finishing the rebuilding of it by Nehemiah.
2. Into sixty-two weeks, or four hundred thirty-four years, -- namely, from the finishing the building of the city to the beginning of the last week of the seventy. In which space of time, the times of the Persian empire (which remained after Nehemiah, if indeed there was any time now remaining), and the times of the Grecian empire, and of the Syro-Grecian, were all run out, and those times also, wherein the Romans ruled over the Jews.
3. The holy text divides the last week, or the last seven years, into two equal parts, Matthew 3:27; which I thus render; "And he shall strengthen, or confirm; the covenant with many in that one week: and the half of that week shall make the sacrifice and oblation to cease: or; in the half of that week he shall make to cease," etc. Not in the middle of that week, but in the latter half, that is, the latter three years and a half of the seven.
First, seven weeks having been reckoned up before, and then sixty-two weeks, Matthew 3:25; -- now there remained one only of the seventy; and in reference to that, in the middle of it the Messias shall begin his ministry; which being finished in three years and a half (the latter halved part of that week), "he shall make the sacrifice and oblation to cease," etc.
The nation could not but know, could not but take great notice of, the times so exactly set out by the angel Gabriel. Since, therefore, the coming of the Messias was the great wish and desire of all, -- and since the time of his appearing was so clearly decreed by the angel that nothing could be more, -- and when the latter half of the last seven years, chiefly to be observed, was now, within a very little, come: -- it is no wonder if the people, hearing from this venerable preacher that the kingdom of heaven was now come, should be stirred up beyond measure to meet him, and should flock to him. For, as we observed before, "They thought that the kingdom of God would immediately be manifested," Luke 19:11.
II. Another reason of it was this, -- the institution of baptism, for an evangelical sacrament, was first in the hand of the Baptist, who, "the word of the Lord coming to him," (Luke 3:2) went forth, backed with the same authority as the chiefest prophets had in times past. But yet the first use of baptism was not exhibited at that time. For baptism, very many centuries of years backwards, had been both known and received in most frequent use among the Jews, -- and for the very same end as it now obtains among Christians, -- namely, that by it proselytes might be admitted into the church; and hence it was called Baptism for proselytism; and was distinct from Baptism
I. I ascribe the first use of it, for this end, to the patriarch Jacob, when he chose into his family and church the young women of Sychem, and other heathens who then lived with him. "Jacob said to his family, and to all who were with him, Put away from you the strange gods, and be ye clean, and change your garments," etc. Genesis 35:2. What that words means, and be ye clean; Aben Ezra does very well interpret to be the washing of the body; or baptism; which reason itself also persuades us to believe.
II. All the nation of Israel do assert, as it were with one mouth, that all the nation of Israel were brought into the covenant, among other things, by baptism. "Israel (saith Maimonides, the great interpreter of the Jewish law) was admitted into the covenant by three things, -- namely, by circumcision, baptism, and sacrifice. Circumcision was in Egypt; as it is said, ’None uncircumcised shall eat of the passover.’ Baptism was in the wilderness before the giving of the law; as it is said, ’Thou shalt sanctify them to-day and to-morrow, and let them wash their garments.’ "
III. They assert, that that infinite number of proselytes in the day of David and Solomon were admitted by baptism: "The Sanhedrims received not proselytes in the days of David and Solomon: not in the days of David, lest they should betake themselves to proselytism out of a fear of the kingdom of Israel: not in the days of Solomon, lest they might do the same by reason of the glory of the kingdom. And yet abundance of proselytes were made in the days of David and Solomon before private men; and the great Sanhedrim was full of care about this business: for they would not cast them out of the church, because they were baptized," etc.
IV. "Whensoever any heathen will betake himself, and be joined to the covenant of Israel, and place himself under the wings of the divine Majesty, and take the yoke of the law upon him, voluntary circumcision, baptism, and oblation, are required: but if it be a woman, baptism and oblation."
That was a common axiom No man is a proselyte until he be circumcised and baptized. It is disputed by the Babylonian Gemara, "A proselyte, that is circumcised and not baptized, what of him? R. Eliezer saith Behold, he is a proselyte: for so we find concerning our fathers, that they were circumcised, but not baptized. One is baptized, but not circumcised; what of him? R. Joshua saith, Behold, he is a proselyte: for so we find concerning the maidservants, who were baptized, but not circumcised. But the wise men say, Is he baptized, and not circumcised? Or, Is he circumcised, and not baptized? He is not a proselyte, until he be circumcised and baptized."
But baptism was sufficient for women so far forth as this held good, "One baptizeth a heathen woman in the name of a woman, we can assert that for a deed rightly done." Where the Gloss is this; "To be baptized in the name of a woman, was to be baptized with the washing of a woman polluted; and not with the baptism to proselytism. But we may, nevertheless, assert her, who is so baptized, for a complete proselytess; because that baptism of washing for uncleanness serves for proselytism to her; for a heathen woman is not baptized
V. They baptized also young children (for the most part with their parents). They baptize a little proselyte according to the judgment of the Sanhedrim; that is, as the Gloss renders it, "If he be deprived of his father, and his mother brings him to be made a proselyte, they baptize him
And the Gemara a little after; If with a proselyte his sons and his daughters are made proselytes also, that which is done by their father redounds to their good. R. Joseph saith, When they grow into years, they may retract. Where the Gloss writes thus; "This is to be understood of little children, who are made proselytes together with their father."
"A heathen woman, if she is made a proselytess, when she is now big with child, -- the child needs not baptism: for the baptism of his mother serves him for baptism." Otherwise, he were to be baptized.
"If an Israelite take a Gentile child, or find a Gentile infant; and baptizeth him in the name of a proselyte, -- behold, he is a proselyte."
We cannot also pass over that, which indeed is worthy to be remembered: "Any one’s servant is to be circumcised, though he be unwilling; but any one’s son is not to be circumcised, if he be unwilling. R. Jochanan inquired, Behold a little son; do you circumcise him by force? Yea, although he be as the son of Urcan. R. Hezekiah saith, Behold, a man finds an infant cast out, and he baptizeth him in the name of a servant: in the name of a freeman, do you also circumcise him in the name of a freeman."
We have therefore alleged these things the more largely, not only that you may receive satisfaction concerning the people flocked, in so universal a concourse, to John’s baptism (because baptism was no strange thing to the Jews); but that some other things may be observed hence, which afford some light to certain places of Scripture, and will help to clear some knotty questions about baptism.
First, You see baptism inseparably joined to the circumcision of proselytes. There was, indeed, some little distance of time; for "they were not baptized till the pain of circumcision was healed, because water might be injurious to the wound." But certainly baptism ever followed. We acknowledge, indeed, that circumcision was plainly of divine institution; but by whom baptism, that was inseparable from it, was instituted, is doubtful. And yet it is worthy of observation, our Saviour rejected circumcision, and retained the appendix to it: and when all the Gentiles were now to be introduced into the true religion, he preferred this ’proselytical introductory’ (pardon the expression) unto the sacrament of entrance into the gospel.
One might observe the same almost in the eucharist. The lamb in the Passover was of divine institution, and so indeed was the bread. But whence was the wine? But yet, rejecting the lamb, Christ instituted the sacrament in the bread and wine.
Secondly, Observing from these things which have been spoken, how very known and frequent the use of baptism was among the Jews, the reason appears very easy why the Sanhedrim, by their messengers, inquired not of John concerning the reason of baptism, but concerning the authority of the baptizer; not what baptism meant, but whence he had a license so to baptize, John 1:25.
Thirdly, Hence also the reason appears why the New Testament doth not prescribe, by some more accurate rule, who the persons are to be baptized. The Anabaptists object, ’It is not commanded to baptize infants, -- therefore they are not to be baptized.’ To whom I answer, ’It is not forbidden to baptize infants, -- therefore they are to be baptized.’ And the reason is plain. For when Paedobaptism in the Jewish church was so known, usual, and frequent, in the admission of proselytes, that nothing almost was more known, usual, and frequent, --
1. There was no need to strengthen it with any precept, when baptism was now passed into an evangelical sacrament. For Christ took baptism into his hands, and into evangelical use, as he found it; this only added, that he might promote it to a worthier end and a larger use. The whole nation knew well enough that little children used to be baptized: there was no need of a precept for that which had ever, by common use, prevailed. If a royal proclamation should now issue forth in these words, "Let every one resort, on the Lord’s day, to the public assembly in the church"; certainly he would be mad, who, in times to come, should argue hence that prayers, sermons, singing of psalms, were not to be celebrated on the Lord’s day in the public assemblies, because there is no mention of them in the proclamation. For the proclamation provided for the celebration of the Lord’s day in the public assemblies in general: but there was no need to make mention of the particular kinds of the divine worship to be celebrated there, when they were always, and every where, well known and in daily use before the publishing of the proclamation, and when it was published. The case is the very same in baptism. Christ instituted it for an evangelical sacrament, whereby all should be admitted into the possession of the gospel, as heretofore it was used for admission into proselytism to the Jewish religion. The particulars belonging to it, -- as, the manner of baptizing, the age, the sex to be baptized, etc. -- had no need of a rule and definition; because these were, by the common use of them, sufficiently known even to mechanics and the most ignorant men.
2. On the other hand, therefore, there was need of a plain and open prohibition that infants and little children should not be baptized, if our Saviour would not have had them baptized. For, since it was most common, in all ages foregoing, that little children should be baptized, if Christ had been minded to have that custom abolished, he would have openly forbidden it. Therefore his silence, and the silence of the Scripture in this matter, confirms Paedobaptism, and continueth it unto all ages.
Fourthly, It is clear enough, by what hath been already said, in what sense that is to be taken in the New Testament which we sometimes meet with, -- namely, that the master of the family was baptized with his whole family, Acts 16:15; Acts 16:33; etc. Nor is it of any strength which the Anti-paedobaptists contend for, that it cannot be proved there were infants in those families; for the inquiry is not so proper, whether there were infants in those families, as it is concluded truly and deservedly, -- if there were, they had all been to be baptized. Nor do I believe this people, that flocked to John’s baptism, were so forgetful of the manner and custom of the nation, that they brought not their little children also with them to be baptized.
Some things are now to be spoken of the manner and form which John used.
First, In some things he seems to have followed the manner whereby proselytes were baptized; in other things, not to have followed them. Concerning it the Talmudic Canons have these sayings: --
I. They do not baptize a proselyte by night. Nor, indeed, "were the unclean to be washed but in the day-time." Maimonides adds, "They baptized not a proselyte on the sabbath, nor on a holy-day, nor by night."
II. A proselyte hath need of three; that is, it is required, that three men, who are scholars of the wise men, be present at the baptism of a proselyte; who may take care that the business be rightly performed, and may briefly instruct the catechumen
III. They baptize a proselyte in such a confluence of waters as was fit for the washing of a menstruous woman. Of such a confluence of waters the lawyers have these words: "A man that hath the gonorrhea is cleansed nowhere but in a fountain: but a menstruous woman, as also all other unclean persons, were washed in some confluence of waters; in which so much water ought to be as may serve to wash the whole body at one dipping. Our wise men have esteemed this proportion to be a cubit square, and three cubits depth: and this measure contains forty seahs of water."
When it is said, that "he that hath the gonorrhea is to wash in a spring
IV. When a proselyte was to be circumcised, they first asked him concerning the sincerity of his conversion to Judaism: whether he offered not himself to proselytism for the obtaining riches, for fear, or for love to some Israelite woman, etc. And when they saw that he came out of love of the law, they instructed him concerning the various articles of the law, of one God, of the evil of idolatry, of the reward of obedience, of the world to come, of the privileges of Israel, etc. All which, if he professed that he embraced them he is forthwith circumcised.
"As soon as he grows whole of the wound of circumcision, they bring him to baptism; and being placed in the water, they again instruct him in some weightier and in some lighter commands of the law. Which being heard, he plunges himself, and comes up, and behold, he is as an Israelite in all things. The women place a woman in the waters up to the neck; and two disciples of the wise men, standing without, instruct her about some lighter precepts of the law and some weightier, while she, in the meantime, stands in the waters. And then she plungeth herself; and they, turning away their faces, go out, while she comes up out of the water."
In the baptizing of a proselyte, this is not to be passed over, but let it be observed, namely, that others baptized him; and that he baptized himself; or dipped, or plunged himself in the waters. Now, what that plunging was, you may understand from those things which Maimonides speaks in Mikvaoth in the place before cited. "Every person baptized"
And now, a little to compare the baptism of John with that proselytical baptism, and ours with both, these things are to be considered: --
I. If you compare the washing of polluted persons, prescribed by the law, with the baptism of proselytes, -- both that and this imply uncleanness, however something different, that implies legal uncleanness, -- this, heathen, -- but both polluting. But a proselyte was baptized not only into the washing-off of that Gentile pollution, nor only thereby to be transplanted into the religion of the Jews; but that by the most accurate rite of translation that could possibly be, he might so pass into an Israelite, that, being married to an Israelite woman, he might produce a free and legitimate seed, and an undefiled offspring. Hence, servants that were taken into a family were baptized, -- and servants also that were to be made free: not so much because they were defiled with heathen uncleanness, as that, by that rite becoming Israelites in all respects; they might be more fit to match with Israelites, and their children be accounted as Israelites. And hence the sons of proselytes, in following generations, were circumcised indeed, but not baptized. They were circumcised, that they might take upon themselves the obligation of the law; but they needed not baptism, because they were already Israelites. From these things it is plain that there was some difference as to the end, between the Mosaical washings of unclean persons, and the baptism of proselytes; and some between the baptism of proselytes and John’s baptism: not as though they concurred not in some parallel end; but because other ends were added over and above to this or that, or some ends were withdrawn.
II. The baptism of proselytes was the bringing over of Gentiles into the Jewish religion; the baptism of John was the bringing over of Jews into another religion. And hence it is the more to be wondered at, that the people so readily flocked to him, when he introduced a baptism so different from the known proselytical baptism. The reason of which is to be fetched from hence, -- that at the coming of the Messias they thought, not without cause, that the state of things was plainly to be changed; and that, from the oracles of the prophets, who, with one mouth, described the times of the Messias for a new world. Hence was that received opinion, That God, at that time, would renew the world for a thousand years...And that also, that they used the world to come by a form of speech very common among them, for the times of the Messias; which we observe more largely elsewhere.
III. The baptism of proselytes was an obligation to perform the law; that of John was an obligation to repentance. For although proselytical baptism admitted of some ends, -- and circumcision of others, -- yet a traditional and erroneous doctrine at that time had joined this to both, that the proselytes covenanted in both, and obliged himself to perform the law; to which that of the apostle relates, Galatians 5:3; "I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law."
But the baptism of John was a ’baptism of repentance’; Mark 1:4; which being undertaken, they who were baptized professed to renounce their own legal righteousness; and, on the contrary, acknowledged themselves to be obliged to repentance and faith in the Messias to come. How much the Pharisaical doctrine of justification differed from the evangelical, so much the obligation undertaken in the baptism of proselytes differed from the obligation undertaken in the baptism of John: which obligation also holds amongst Christians to the end of the world.
IV. That the baptism of John was by plunging the body (after the same manner as the washing of unclean persons, and the baptism of proselytes was), seems to appear from those things which are related of him; namely, that he "baptized in Jordan"; that he baptized "in Aenon, because there was much water there"; and that Christ, being baptized, "came up out of the water": to which that seems to be parallel, Acts 8:38; "Philip and the eunuch went down into the water," etc. Some complain, that this rite is not retained in the Christian church, as though it something derogated from the truth of baptism; or as though it were to be called an innovation, when the sprinkling of water is used instead of plunging. This is no place to dispute of these things. Let us return these three things only for a present answer: --
1. That the notion of washing in John’s baptism differs from ours, in that he baptized none who were not brought over from one religion, and that an irreligious one too, -- into another, and that a true one. But there is no place for this among us who are born Christians: the condition, therefore, being varied, the rite is not only lawfully, but deservedly, varied also. Our baptism argues defilement, indeed, and uncleanness; and demonstrates this doctrinally, -- that we, being polluted, have need of washing: but this is to be understood of our natural and sinful stain, to be washed away by the blood of Christ and the grace of God: with which stain, indeed, they were defiled who were baptized by John. But to denote this washing by a sacramental sign, the sprinkling of water is as sufficient as the dipping into water, -- when, in truth, this argues washing and purification as well as that. But those who were baptized by John were blemished with another stain, and that an outward one, and after a manner visible; that is, a polluted religion, -- namely, Judaism or heathenism; from which, if, according to the custom of the nation, they passed by a deeper and severer washing, -- they neither underwent it without reason; nor with any reason may it be laid upon us, whose condition is different from theirs.
2. Since dipping was a rite used only in the Jewish nation and proper to it, it were something hard, if all nations should be subjected under it; but especially, when it is neither necessarily to be esteemed of the essence of baptism, and is moreover so harsh and dangerous, that, in regard of these things, it scarcely gave place to circumcision. We read that some, leavened with Judaism to the highest degree, yet wished that dipping in purification might be taken away, because it was accompanied with so much severity. "In the days of R. Joshua Ben Levi, some endeavoured to abolish this dipping, for the sake of the women of Galilee; because, by reason of the cold, they became barren. R. Joshua Ben Levi said unto them, Do ye go about to take away that which hedges in Israel from transgression?" Surely it is hard to lay this yoke upon the neck of all nations, which seemed too rough to the Jews themselves, and not to be borne by them, men too much given to such kind of severer rites. And if it be demanded of them who went about to take away that dipping, Would you have no purification at all by water? It is probable that they would have allowed of the sprinkling of water, which is less harsh, and not less agreeable to the thing itself.
3. The following ages, with good reason, and by divine prescript, administered a baptism differing in a greater matter from the baptism of John; and therefore it was less to differ in a less matter. The application of water was necessarily of the essence of baptism; but the application of it in this or that manner speaks but a circumstance: the adding also of the word was of the nature of a sacrament; but the changing of the word into this or that form, would you not call this a circumstance also? And yet we read the form of baptism so changed, that you may observe it to have been threefold in the history of the New Testament.
Secondly, In reference to the form of John’s baptism
But the apostles baptized the Gentiles, according to the precept of our Lord, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," Matthew 28:19. For since it was very much controverted among the Jews about the true Messias, and that unbelieving nation denied, stiffly and without ceasing, that Jesus of Nazareth was he (under which virulent spirit they labour even to this day), it was not without cause, yea, nor without necessity, that they baptized in the name of Jesus; that by that seal might be confirmed this most principal truth in the gospel, and that those that were baptized might profess it; that Jesus of Nazareth was the true Messias. But among the Gentiles, the controversy was not concerning the true Messias, but concerning the true God: among them, therefore, it was needful that baptism should be conferred in the name of the true God, "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."
We suppose, therefore, that men, women, and children came to John’s baptism, according to the manner of the nation in the reception of proselytes; namely, that they standing in Jordan were taught by John that they were baptized into the name of the Messias, that was now immediately to come; and into the profession of the doctrine of the gospel concerning faith and repentance; that they plunged themselves into the river, and so came out. And that which is said of them, that they were baptized by him "confessing their sins," is to be understood according to the tenour of the Baptist’s preaching; not that they did this man by man, or by some auricular confession made to John, or by openly declaring some particular sins; but when the doctrine of John exhorted them to repentance and to faith in the Messias, they renounced and disowned the doctrine and opinion of justification by their works, wherewith they had been beforetime leavened, and acknowledged and confessed themselves sinners.
[In Jordan.] John could not baptize in any part of Jordan, so it were within the bounds of Judea (which the evangelists assert), which had not been dried up, and had afforded a passage to the Israelites when they came out of Egypt, and were now entering into the promised land.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
[And seeing many of the Pharisees and Sadducees.] To attempt a history of the Pharisees and Sadducees; after so many very learned men, who have treated of their original, manners, and institutions, would be next to madness: we will briefly touch at a few things, and those, perhaps, less obvious.
1. That the Pharisees do not derive their name (as some would have it) from the word which signifies to expound is sufficiently evinced by this, that there were women-Pharisees as well as men. "R. Joshua saith, A religious man foolish, a wicked man crafty, a woman-Pharisee; and the dashing of the Pharisees
A gadding widow they call her, "who always goes about from place to place to visit her neighbours"; they are the words of the Gloss. "And these corrupt the world, because they are no other but bawds and sorceresses, and yet they pretend sanctity."
"Joanna the daughter of Retib
I have therefore cited these passages, not only that it may be shown that there were women-Pharisees; and so that the name is not take from interpreting or expounding; but that it may be observed also what kind of women, for the most part, embrace Pharisaism; namely, widows and maids, under the veil of sanctity and devotion, hiding and practising all manner of wickedness. And so much we gain of the history of the Pharisees; while we are tracing the etymology of the word.
II. That the Pharisees therefore were so called from the word signifying separation; is more commonly asserted, and more truly; and the thing itself, as well as the word, speaks it. So that by a word more known to us, you might rightly call the Pharisees, Separatists; but in what sense, has need of more narrow inquiry. The differences of the Jewish people are to be disposed here into diverse ranks: and, first, we will begin with the women.
1. It were an infinite task to search particularly, how their canons indulged (shall I say?) or prescribed the woman a freedom from very many rites, in which a great part of the Jewish religion was placed. How numberless are the times that that occurs in the Talmudic pandect, "Women, servants, and children, are not bound to these things. Women, servants, and children, are not bound to recite their phylacteries, nor to wear them. The Passovers of women are at their own will." And, not to dwell upon things that are obvious, let this one serve instead of many: "A certain matron asked R. Eleazar, Why, when Aaron sinned in making the golden calf, the people are punished with a threefold death? He answered, Let not a woman be learned beyond her distaff. Hircanus his son said unto him, Because no answer is given her in one word out of the law, she will withdraw from us three hundred tenth cori yearly. To whom he replied, Let them rather go and be burnt, than the words of the law be delivered to women."
From hence it appears that the women that embraced Pharisaism did it of their own free will and vow, not by command: which the men-Pharisees also did.
2. Pass we from the women to the men; and, first, to the lowest degrees of men in the distinction relating to religion; namely, to them whom they ordinarily called illiterate; and the people of the earth; or the plebeians. Of them, thus the Gemara in Sotah newly cited: "One reads the Scriptures, and recites the Misna, and yet he waits not upon the scholars of the wise men; what of him? R. Eleazar said, This is one of the people of the earth. R. Samuel Bar Nachmani saith, Behold, this is an illiterate man. R. Jannai saith, ’Behold, this is a Cuthean.’ R. Achabar saith, ’Behold, this is a magician.’ " And a little after, "Who is the people of the earth?" R. Meith saith, ’He that recites not his phylacteries morning and evening with his prayers.’ But the wise men say, ’He, whosoever he be, that lays not up his phylacteries.’ Ben Azzai saith, ’He who hath not a fringe on his garment.’ R. Jochanan Ben Joseph saith, ’He that instructs not his sons in the doctrine of the law.’ Others say, ’He who, although he read the Scriptures, and repeats the traditions, yet attends not on the scholars of the wise men, this is, the people of the earth
The colleagues or associates; and scholars of the wise men; were opposed to these vulgar persons. Under the title of scholars of the wise men are comprehended all that were learned and studious: under the title of religious; as well learned as unlearned. There were some of the learned whom they commonly called colleagues of the Rabbins; who as yet were candidates, and not preferred to the public office of teaching or judging. The thing may be illustrated by one example: "Do the colleagues enter in to appoint the new moon?" R. Hoshaia said, When I was a colleague; R. Samuel Ben R. Isaac led me in to the appointment of the new moon, but I knew not whether I were of the number or no." And a little later; "Do the colleagues
In this sense the word a colleague; differs nothing from a scholar of a wise man; in that both signify a student and a learned man. But the word a colleague; hath a wider sense, denoting all such who have more professedly devoted themselves to religion, and have professed a more devout life and rule than the common people, whether they were learned or unlearned, whether of the sect of the Pharisees; or of the Sadducees; or some other. Hence you have mention of a religious Samaritan; and of a religious baker. And the phrase seems to be drawn from Psalms 119:63; "I am a companion of all those that fear thee": They take upon them the habit of religion. See the Babylonian Talmud in Avodah Zarah in the Gloss. That distinction also is worthy of consideration, of The greater and the less religious.
Yet the word seems sometimes to be appropriated to the Pharisees; as being men who, above all others, put on a splendidly cloaked religion, which appears enough from the history of the Gospel. So, perhaps, is that to be understood, The religious Galileans purify; that is, as the Gloss explains it, "They cleanse their wine and their oil for a drink-offering, if perhaps the Temple may be built in their days." Which, nevertheless, the Aruch citing, thus explains them, The religious eat their common food in cleanness. By which very thing the Gloss defines Pharisees; To the Pharisees; that is, to them that eat their common food in cleanness. Behold, how the word religious; and Pharisees; are convertible terms; and how this was the proper notion whereby a Pharisee was defined, "That he ate his common food in cleanness": that is, that he washed his hands when he ate.
III. We must not think that Pharisaism arose altogether and at once, but it was long a-conceiving, and of not fixed form when it was brought forth. The same may, in a manner, be said of this, which is of the traditions: both these and that were the issue of many years. The traditionarians do refer the first conception of the Traditions to the times of Ezra. But how many centuries of years passed before the birth of this whole monster was full ripe? In like manner, the first seeds of Pharisaism were cast long before its birth; and being now brought forth, was a long time growing, before it came to maturity; if so be any can define what its maturity was.
We observe presently, that the foundations of Sadduceeism were laid in the days of Ezra, before there were any Sadducees: in his days also, I suspect, the foundations of Pharisaism were laid long before there were any Pharisees. For, since the Pharisees were marked with that title because they separated themselves from other men, as more profane; and since, in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, it was the great care, and that a holy care too, to separate the seed of Israel from the heathen inhabitants of the land, to wit, the Samaritans, the Ashdodites, the Moabites, etc., not much after; some men, arrogating too much for themselves, took occasion hence of separating themselves from the men of the Israelitic seed, as too profane, and very unfit (alas!) for their communion. Which very thing we experience in our present Separatists. For when the Scripture commands Christians that they communicate not "with unbelievers, with those who are without," etc., that is, with heathens; some do hence make a pretence of withdrawing themselves from the assemblies of Christians: by what right, by what foundation, let themselves look to it.
We shall not trace the time wherein the name of Pharisee first arose; this is done by learneder men: and therefore let it be enough to have observed that only. After once this pretence of religion was received, "that it was a pious matter to separate a man’s self from the common people," superstition increased every day, which served for a stay and patronage to this sect and separation. For when they had espoused a religion so supercilious, that they commonly said, "Stand off, I am holier than thou" (which was also foretold by the prophet with an execration, Isaiah 65:5), and that they place the highest sanctimony in this, to withdraw themselves from the common people, as profane; it was certainly necessary to circumscribe, and to put themselves under a more austere rule and discipline, that they might retain the name and fame of religious person in other things besides that separation, that argued so much pride and arrogancy. Hence the troubles about tithings and washings arose, and increased age after age: hence sprang the frequent fasting and prayers, the cares of the phylacteries, fringes, and other matters without number: so that (a thing fatal to Separatists) this sect, at last, was crumbled into sects, and a Pharisee was, in a manner, the same to a Pharisee; that the people of the earth was to a Pharisee.
Both Talmuds reckon seven sects of Pharisees; and so does the Aruch; which it will not be irksome to describe with their pencil, that the reader may see to what a degree of madness this sect was come, as well as to what a degree of hypocrisy. The Pharisees are seven:
1. A Shechemite Pharisee. This
2. A Pharisee struck or dashing. Who dasheth his feet. The Gloss is, "He who walketh in humility, the heel of one foot touching the great toe of the other: nor did he lift up his feet from the earth, so that his toes were dashed against the stones." The Aruch writes, "Who withdrew himself a great way off, that he might not press upon men in the ways, and dashed his feet against the stones." Strike me (or surround me), and yet I will perform the command.
3. A Pharisee that lets out his blood. "He strikes out his blood against the walls." The Gloss is; "He shows himself such a one as if his eyes were hoodwinked, that he might not look upon a woman; and hereupon dashed his head against the walls, and let out his blood." The Aruch writes, "He so pressed up himself against the walls, that he might not touch those that passed by, that by the dashing he fetched blood of himself." -- "He performed one precept, and one duty, and struck out blood at each."
4. A Pharisee of the mortar. The Aruch thus describes him; "He went in a loose coat, resembling a mortar with the mouth turned downwards. So he, with his loose garment, was straiter above and broader below." In the Jerusalem Talmud he is called "who saith, I withdraw whatsoever is mine and fulfil the command."
5. "The Pharisee which saith, Let me know what my duty is, and I will do it." "I have done my duty, that the command may be performed according to it." The Aruch thus; "As though he should say, There is no man can show me wherein I have transgressed."
6. A Pharisee of fear; such was Job.
7. A Pharisee of love: Among all these, none is worthy to be loved but the Pharisee of love: as Abraham.
Whether Pharisaism ran out into any of these sects in the days of the Baptist, we dispute not. Let it be granted, that the best and the most modest of that order came to his baptism: the best of the Pharisees certainly were the worst of men. And it is so much the more to be wondered at that these men should receive his baptism after that manner as they did; when it was highly contrary to the rule of the Pharisees to converse among the common people, of whom there was so great a concourse to John; and highly contrary to the doctrine of the Pharisees; so much as to dream of any righteousness, besides that which was of the works of the law, which the doctrine of John diametrically contradicted.
The original of the Sadducees; learned men as well Jews as Christians, do, for the most part, refer to one Zadoc; a scholar of Antigonus Socheus; which Antigonus took the chief seat in the Sanhedrim after the death of Simeon the Just. Of him thus speaks the tract Avoth; "Antigonus of Socho received traditions of Simeon the Just. He said, Be not as servants, who wait upon their master for the sake of the reward; but be ye like servants who wait upon their master not for the sake of the reward: but let the fear of the Lord rule you."
"This wise man (saith Rambam upon the place) had two scholars, Zadoc and Baithus; who, when they heard this from their master, said among themselves, when they were gone away. Our master in his exposition teacheth us that there is neither reward nor punishment, nor any expectation at all
Yet that raiseth a scruple here: "At the conclusion of all prayers in the Temple they said, for ever. But when the heretics brake in and said, There was no age but one, it was appointed to be said, for ever and ever; or from age to age." Upon these words thus the Gloss; "In the first Temple they said only, ’Blessed be the Lord God of Israel for ever.’ But when the heretics brake in and said there was no age but this, Ezra and his consistory appointed that it should be said, for ever and ever; or from age to age; to imply there is a double world
Take notice, reader, that "there were some who denied the resurrection of the dead in the days of Ezra," when as yet Zadoc, the father of the Sadducees; was not born. After Ezra, and his great synagogue (which endured many a year after Ezra was dead), sat Simeon the Just, performing the office of the high-priest, for the space of forty years: and Antigonus Socheus, the master of Zadoc, succeeded him in the chair of the Sanhedrim. So that although the Sadducees, with good reason, do bear an ill report for denying the resurrection, and that was their principal heresy; yet that heresy was, when as yet there were no heretics, called by the name of Sadducees. To which, perhaps, those words do agree (which sufficiently taste of such a heresy), "Ye have said, It is in vain to serve God," etc., Malachi 3:14.
It is not, therefore, to be denied that the Sadducee-heretics were so named from Zadoc; but that the heresy of the Sadducees; concerning the resurrection, was older than that name, one may suppose not without reason; nor that that cursed doctrine first arose from the words of Antigonus, illy understood by Zadoc and Baithus, but was of an ancienter original, when as yet the prophets Zecharias, Malachi, and Ezra himself, were alive, if that Ezra were not the same with Malachi, as the Jews suppose. Therefore I do rather think that heresy sprang from the misunderstanding of the words of Ezekiel, Ezekiel_37; which some understanding according to the letter, and, together with it, seeing no resurrection, dreamt that there would be none afterward. And this doctrine increased, and exalted itself into a sect; when, at length, Zadoc and Baithus asserted that it was so determined out of the chair by their master Antigonus, the president of the Sanhedrim.
When I fetch the rise of the Sadducees not much after the death of Simeon the Just, that does not unseasonably come into my mind, which is mentioned by the Talmudists, that the state of things became worse after his death. "All the days of Simeon the Just, the scape-goat had scarce come to the middle of the precipice of the mountain
For more info on Pharisees and Sadducees see "Sketches of Jewish Social Life," chapter 13. Among the People, and with the Pharisees, chapter 14. The "Fraternity" of Pharisees and chapter 15. Relation of the Pharisees to the Sadducees and Essenes, and to the Gospel of Christ by Alfred Edersheim.
[Generation of vipers.] I. Serpents,; Matthew 23:33. Not so much "the seed of Abraham," which ye boast of, as "the seed of the serpent," "O, the Antichrist, the Opposer; 2 Thessalonians 2:4. A nation and offspring diametrically opposite, and an enemy to that seed of the woman, and which was to bruise his heel."
II. Hence, not without ground, it is concluded that that nation was rejected and given over to a reprobate sense, even before the coming of Christ. They were not only a generation; but an offspring of vipers, serpents sprung from serpents. Nor is it wonder that they were rejected by God, when they had long since rejected God, and God’s word, by their traditions. See that Matthew 13:13-15; 1 Peter 2:10; "Ye were not a people."
There was, indeed, a certain remnant among them to be gathered by Christ: and when that was gathered, the rest of the nation as delivered over to everlasting perdition. This is that remnant of the apostle, Romans 11:5; which then was, when he writ those things; which then as to be gathered, before the destruction of that nation.
[To fly from the wrath to come.] These words respect the very last words of the Old Testament, "lest I smite the earth with a curse," Malachi_4; and denote the most miserable destruction of the nation, and now almost ready to fall upon them.
The receiving of John’s baptism signed and fenced those that received it from the ruin that was just coming. To this belongs that of St. Peter, Epistle 1, 1 Peter 3:20-21; in that manner as Noah and his sons were by water delivered from the flood, "so also baptism now, the antitype of that type, saveth us" from the deluge of divine indignation, which in a short time is to overflow the Jewish nation. Think here, if those that came to baptism brought not their little ones with them to baptism: when, by the plain words of the Baptist, those that are baptized are said to "fly from the wrath to come?" that is, ’the wrath of God,’ that was not long hence to destroy the nation by a most sad overthrow.
And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
[Think not to say.] A Jerusalem phrase, to be met with everywhere in the Talmud: To think a word; or to be of that opinion.
And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
[The axe is laid to the root.] These words seem to be taken from Isaiah 5:23-24. The destruction of the nation was to proceed from the Romans, who had now a great while held them under the yoke. That axe, now laid to the root of the tree, shall certainly cut it down, if from this last dressing by the gospel it bears not fruit. In the Talmud, those words of Isaiah are applied to the destruction of the city; and thence it is argued, that the Messias should be born not much after the time of that destruction, because presently after the threatening of that ruin follows, "A Branch shall arise out of the stock of Jesse," Isaiah 11:1.
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
[Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear.] In Luke it is to unloose the latchet of his shoes; which comes to the same thing: both sound to the same import, as if he had said, ’Whose servant I am not worthy to be.’
"A Canaanite servant is like a farm, in respect of buying: for he is bought with money, or with a writing, or by some service done as a pledge or pawn. And what is such a pawning in the buying of servants? Namely, that he looseth the shoe of him
This, by the way, is to be noted, which the Gloss intimates, that all servants, of what heathen nation soever, bought by the Jews, were called ’Canaanite servants,’ because it is said of Canaan, "Canaan a servant of servants."
And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
[Thus it becomes us to fulfil all righteousness.] That is, ’that we fulfil every thing that is just.’ Now in the baptism of Christ there were these two just things especially: -- I. That this great priest, being initiated into his ministerial office, should answer the type of the admission of the Levitical priests, who were initiated by washing and anointing; so was he by baptism, and the Holy Ghost. II. When, by the institution of Christ, those that entered into the profession of the gospel were to be introduced by baptism, it was just, yea, necessary, that Christ, being to enter into the same profession, and to preach it too, should be admitted by baptism.
And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
[And Jesus being baptized.] I. That Christ conversed upon earth two-and-thirty years and a half (as many years as David lived at Jerusalem; compare 2 Samuel 5:5), is proved hence: -- 1. That he was baptized when he had now completed his twenty-ninth year, and had newly begun his thirtieth. That the words of Luke imply, He began to be about thirty years old. Which words, although they are applied by some Christians to I know not what large latitude, -- yet in the Jewish schools, and among that nation, they would not admit, certainly, of another sense than we produce. For there this axiom holds, The first day of the year is reckoned for that year. And, questionless, Luke speaks with the vulgar. For let it be supposed that the evangelist uttered these words in some Jewish school, "N. was baptized beginning to be about thirty years old": how could it be understood by them of the thirtieth complete (much less of the thirty-first, or thirty-second, as some wrest it)? When the words beginning to be about; do so harmoniously agree with the said axiom, as scarcely any thing can do more clearly. 2. That, from his baptism to his cross, he lived three years and a half. This is intimated by the angel Gabriel, Daniel 9:27; "In the half of a week" (that is, in three years and a half) "he shall make the sacrifice and oblation to cease"; and it is confirmed from the computation in the evangelists, but especially in John, who clearly mentioneth four Passovers (John 2:13; John 5:1; John 6:4; and John 13:1) after his forty days’ fast, and not a little time spent in Galilee.
II. Therefore, we suppose Christ was baptized about the feast of Tabernacles, in the month Tisri, at which time we suppose him born; and that John was born about the feast of the Passover, and at that time began to baptize. For when Christ lived two-and-thirty years and a half, and died at the feast of the Passover, you must necessarily reduce his birth to the month Tisri, and about the time of the feast of Tabernacles: and when John the Baptist was elder than he by half a year, you must necessarily suppose him born about the feast of the Passover. But of these things we have said something already.
And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
[And behold, a voice from heaven.] Christ was honoured with a threefold testimony, pronounced by a voice from heaven, according to his threefold office. See what we say at Matthew 17:2.
You find not a voice sent from heaven between the giving of the law and the baptism of Christ. What things the Jews relate of Bath Kol; they must pardon me if I esteem them, partly, for Jewish fables, -- partly, for devilish witchcrafts. They hold it for a tradition: "After the death of the last prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, the Holy Spirit departed from Israel
But why, I pray, was prophecy withdrawn, if heavenly oracles were to be continued? Why, also, was Urim and Thummim taken away? Or rather, why was it not restored after the Babylonian captivity? For "Five things (say they) were wanting under the second Temple, which were under the first; namely, the fire from heaven, the ark, Urim and Thummim, the oil of anointing, and the Holy Spirit." It would certainly be a wonder, if God, taking away from his people his ordinary oracles, should bestow upon them a nobler oracle, or as noble; and that when the nation had degenerated, and were sunk into all kind of impiety, superstition, heresy. When the last prophets, Haggai and the rest, were dead, the Sadducean heresy, concerning the resurrection crept in, and the Pharisaical heresy also, weakening all Scripture, and making it of none effect by vain traditions. And shall I believe that God should so indulge his people, when they were guilty of so grievous apostasy, as to vouchsafe to talk familiarly with them from heaven, and to afford them oracles so sublime, so frequent, as the prophets themselves had not the like? If I may speak plainly what I think, I should reduce those numberless stories of the Bath Kol which occur everywhere under these two heads; namely, that very many are mere fables, invented for this purpose, that hence the worth of this or that Rabbin or story may be illustrated: the rest are mere magical and diabolical delusions.
When I read these and such-like passages, that the Bath Kol in Jericho gave witness to Hillel, that he was worthy to have the Holy Ghost abide upon him; that the Bath Kol in Jabneh yielded the same testimony to Samuel the Little; that the Bath Kol again in Jabneh determined the controversies between the schools of Shammai and Hillel, for those of Hillel; and innumerable other stories of that kind, I cannot but either suspect these to be tales, or that these voices were framed by art magic for the honour of the Rabbins.
It is remarkable what is related in the Jerusalem Talmud; R. Eliezer saith, They follow the hearing of Bath Kol. And a little after; "R. Jochanan, and R. Simeon Ben Lachish, desired to see the face of Samuel
"R. Jonah and R. Josah went to visit R. Acha lying sick: Let us follow, say they, the hearing of Bath Kol. They heard the voice of a certain woman speaking to her neighbour, ’The light is put out.’ To whom she said, ’Let it not be put out, nor let the light of Israel be quenched.’ "
Behold! Reader, a people very well contented to be deceived with a new kind of Bath Kol. Compare these things with Virgil’s lots; of which the Roman historians speak frequently. Not to be more tedious therefore in this matter, let two things only be observed: 1. That the nation, under the second Temple was given to magical arts beyond measure. And, 2. That it was given to an easiness of believing all manner of delusions beyond measure. And one may safely suspect, that those voices which they thought to be from heaven, and noted with the name of Bath Kol; were either formed by the devil in the air to deceive the people, or by magicians by devilish art to promote their own affairs. Hence the apostle Peter saith with good reason, that "the word of prophecy was surer than a voice from heaven"; 2 Peter 1:19.
The very same which I judge of the Bath Kol; is my opinion also of the frequent appearances of Elias, with which the leaves of the Talmud do every where abound; namely, that in very many places the stories are false, and, in the rest, the apparitions of him were diabolical. See the notes on Matthew 17:10.
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Lightfoot, John. "Commentary on Matthew 3". "John Lightfoot Commentary on the Gospels". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26