Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Matthew 3:16

After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him,
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Baptism;   Dove, Turtle;   Holy Spirit;   Jesus, the Christ;   John;   Symbols and Similitudes;   Trinity;   Vision;   Scofield Reference Index - Holy Spirit;   Trinity;   Thompson Chain Reference - Birds;   Doves;   Heaven;   Holy Spirit;   Manifestations, Special Divine;   Mysteries-Revelations;   Spirit;   Tokens, Divine;   The Topic Concordance - Holy Spirit;   Jesus Christ;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Baptism;   Character of Saints;   Dove, the;   Emblems of the Holy Spirit, the;   Prophecies Respecting Christ;   Trinity, the;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Doves;   Miracle;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Baptism;   Holy spirit;   Jesus christ;   John the baptist;   Trinity;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Church, the;   Holy Spirit;   Jesus Christ;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Holy Ghost;   Hutchinsonians;   CARM Theological Dictionary - Messiah;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Dove;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Jesus Christ;   Noah;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Baptism;   Birds;   Matthew, the Gospel of;   Ordinances;   Spirit;   Trinity;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Dove;   Jordan;   Mss;   Trinity;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Animals;   Atonement (2);   Communion (2);   Confession (of Sin);   Doctrines;   Dove ;   Enthusiasm;   God;   Heaven ;   Holy Spirit (2);   Immanence ;   John the Baptist;   Matthew, Gospel According to;   Messiah;   Premeditation;   Redemption (2);   Session;   Spirit ;   Trinity (2);   Water (2);   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Holiness;   Turtle;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Dove;   Kingdom of christ of heaven;   Kingdom of god;   Kingdom of heaven;   Levi;   Trinity;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Dove (turtle);   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Anoint;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - John, the Baptize;   Jesus of Nazareth;   Kingdom or Church of Christ, the;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Baptism (Lutheran Doctrine);   Descend;   Dove;   Go;   Holy Spirit;   Plagues of Egypt;   Trinity;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Abraham, Apocalypse of;   Baptism;   Holy Spirit;   Jesus of Nazareth;  
Devotionals:
Chip Shots from the Ruff of Life - Devotion for March 26;   Every Day Light - Devotion for December 7;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

The heavens were opened unto him - That is, to John the Baptist - and he, John, saw the Spirit of God - lighting upon him, i.e. Jesus. There has been some controversy about the manner and form in which the Spirit of God rendered itself visible on this occasion. St. Luke, Luke 3:22, says it was in a bodily shape like to a dove: and this likeness to a dove some refer to a hovering motion, like to that of a dove, and not to the form of the dove itself: but the terms of the text are too precise to admit of this far-fetched interpretation.

This passage affords no mean proof of the doctrine of the Trinity. That three distinct persons are here, represented, there can be no dispute.

  1. The person of Jesus Christ, baptized by John in Jordan.
  • The person of the Holy Ghost in a bodily shape, (σωματικω ειδει, Luke 3:22;) like a dove.
  • The person of the Father; a voice came out of heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, etc.
  • The voice is here represented as proceeding from a different place to that in which the persons of the Son and Holy Spirit were manifested; and merely, I think, more forcibly to mark this Divine personality.

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    Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/matthew-3.html. 1832.

    Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

    Out of the water - This shows that he had descended to the river. It literally means, “he went up directly from the water.” The original does not imply that they had descended into the river, and it cannot be proved, therefore, from this passage, that his baptism was by immersion; nor can it be proved that even, if his baptism was by immersion, that therefore the same mode is binding on people now. In order to demonstrate from this passage that immersion is essential, it is necessary to demonstrate:

    (a) that he went into the river;

    (b) that, being there, he was wholly immersed;

    (c) that the fact that he was immersed, if he was, proves that all others must be, in order that there could be a valid baptism.

    Neither of these three things has ever been demonstrated from this passage, nor can they be.

    The heavens were opened unto him - This was done while he was praying, Luke 3:21. The ordinances of religion will be commonly ineffectual without prayer. If in those ordinances we look to God, we may expect that he will bless us; the heavens will be opened, light will shine upon our path, and we shall meet with the approbation of God. The expression, “the heavens were opened,” is one that commonly denotes the appearance of the clouds when it lightens. The heavens appear to open or give way. Something of this kind probably appeared to John at this time. The same appearance took place at Stephen‘s death, Acts 7:56. The expression means that he was permitted to see far into the heavens beyond what the natural vision would allow.

    To him - Some have referred this to Jesus, others to John. It probably refers to John. See John 1:33. It was a testimony given to John that this was the Messiah.

    He saw - John saw.

    The Spirit of God - See Matthew 3:11. This was the third person of the Trinity, descending upon him in the form of a dove, Luke 3:22. The dove, among the Jews, was the symbol of purity of heart, harmlessness, and gentleness, Matthew 10:16; compare Psalm 55:6-7. The form chosen here was doubtless an emblem of the innocence, meekness, and tenderness of the Saviour. The gift of the Holy Spirit, in this manner, was the public approbation of Jesus John 1:33, and a sign of his being set apart to the office of the Messiah. We are not to suppose that there was any change done in the moral character of Jesus, but only that he was publicly set apart to his work, and solemnly approved by God in the office to which he was appointed.

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    Bibliographical Information
    Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/matthew-3.html. 1870.

    The Biblical Illustrator

    Matthew 3:16

    Heavens were opened unto Him.

    This great sight

    1. Great in the Object.

    2. Great in the Person.

    3. Great in the Mysteries.

    Trinity Sunday

    I. The three persons in the holy trinity.

    1. Jesus of Nazareth.

    2. The Holy Ghost miraculously exhibited.

    3. The Holy Father.

    II. A vivid representation of gospel salvation.

    1. Here was salvation embodied in Jesus Christ.

    2. The Holy Ghost falls on Him.

    3. The Holy Father’s solemn attestation of the sufficiency of Christ and His salvation.

    III. The privilege of believers here confirmed in the person of Jesus Christ.

    1. We view Him as our Federal Head and Representative.

    2. In this capacity He received the Holy Ghost.

    3. In this character the Father delighted in Him, and also in His people.

    Divine testimony to the Tri-unity of the Godhead

    I. Demonstrate from Scripture the Tri-unity of the Godhead.

    II. Prove Christ’s perfect union in the Godhead, as the true ground of Christian faith.

    III. How great a blessing this glorious doctrine is for all God’s people. There may be mines of precious wealth, of minerals, gold, silver, jewels, in a domain only partially known; so with this doctrine. God the Father planned the way of redemption. God the Son willingly came to accomplish our salvation. And God the Spirit guides us into all truth. The whole Trinity joins in man’s salvation.

    1. How great the condescension of Jehovah thus to reveal the nature and perfections of mercy.

    2. How much all revelation testifies of God the Father’s delight in His beloved Son.

    3. How God is well pleased in the soul’s salvation by Christ. (J. G. Angley, M. A.)

    Christ’s baptism

    I. Christ’s submission to the ordinance of baptism.

    1. Jesus humbly waits upon the Baptist. The fortitude with which to meet publicity.

    2. He is privately discovered to John.

    3. The Saviour meekly persists in His obedient resolution. How lovely this conflict of humility!

    4. Jesus at last receives the sign from His forerunner.

    II. The honours Christ received at His baptism.

    1. The opening of the heavens.

    2. The descent of the Spirit followed.

    3. The proclamation of the Father closed the scene of wonders. (J. Bennett, D. D.)

    I. Here is a declaration of the dignity and endearedness of the Saviour, “My beloved Son.”

    1. The dignity of His Person.

    2. The endearedness of the Son.

    II. The father’s complacency in the son. Complacency takes place.

    1. In Creation: “All things were made by Him.”

    2. In redemption: “He hath made us accepted in the beloved.”

    3. The Father is well pleased with Christ in His incarnation and mediation.

    4. He is well pleased with Him in all His people. (H. Budd, M. A.)

    Here we have

    1. Expresses the relation He stands in to Him.

    2. Expresses the affection the Father hath to Him. Observe God’s favour to us Is Him. He is My beloved Son, IN whom I am well pleased. Consider what God is out of Christ, and what God is IN Christ.

    I. What God is out of Christ to the sinner.

    II. What God is in Christ.

    The arithmetic of heaven

    A gentleman, passing a church with Daniel Webster, asked him, “How can you reconcile the doctrine of the Trinity with reason?” The statesman replied by asking, “Do you understand the arithmetic of heaven?” The application is evident. (Anon.)

    The heavens are never shut while either of the sacraments is duly administered and received; neither do the heavens ever thus open without the descent of the Holy Ghost. (Bishop Hall.)

    1. The Person that did hear witness.

    2. The manner how He testified to the honour of His Son.

    3. The authority of that voice from heaven.

    4. The Person to whom the witness is borne.

    5. What is witnessed of Him in respect of Himself.

    6. What is witnessed of Him in respect of our consolation, we the beloved in Him. (Hacket.)

    As the Father sent His voice from heaven to earth, let our lips be full of prayers, that we may send our voice from earth to heaven. (Hacket.)

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    Bibliographical Information
    Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Matthew 3:16". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/matthew-3.html. 1905-1909. New York.

    Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

    And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway from the water: and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him.

    Straightway from the water strongly suggests immersion as the action, that constitutes Scriptural baptism. Immersion is the only "kind" of baptism in which the person being baptized goes to the water before the act and leaves the water behind after the act! Who had the authority to change the action called baptism? It cannot be allowed that any man ever had such authority. The Holy Scriptures affirm that men are "buried" by baptism (Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:3-5).

    Spirit of God descending as a dove ... This referred to the sign by which John was inspired to recognize the Messiah (John 1:32-34). Thus, it is clear the Holy Spirit adopted the shape of a dove on that occasion, otherwise John could not have seen and borne witness. As in all Scriptural symbolism, the dove was a creature most admirably suited to serve in that situation as a vehicle for suggesting the Holy Spirit. Note: (1) The dove was a "clean" creature under the ceremonial laws of the Jews; (2) it was used in their religious sacrifices, two, in fact, being offered upon the presentation of our Lord in the temple (Luke 2:24); (3) it is a monogamous creature! (4) it is a symbol of peace; (5) it is a marvel of gentleness, love, and affection; (6) it is a messenger (the homing pigeon is a dove); and (7) the dove has no gall, suggesting that there is no bitterness in the service of God. Brownville wrote, "It has been suggested that one reason for the gentleness of the dove is that the bird has no gall, the gall having been considered by naturalists of old as the source and fount of contention."[7]

    ENDNOTE:

    [7] C. Gordon Brownville, Symbols of the Holy Spirit (Westwood, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1945), p. 19.

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    Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
    Bibliographical Information
    Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/matthew-3.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

    John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

    And Jesus, when he was baptized,.... Christ, when he was baptized by John in the river Jordan, the place where he was baptizing,

    went up straightway out of the water. One would be at a loss at first sight for a reason why the Evangelist should relate this circumstance; for after the ordinance was administered, why should he stay in the water? what should he do there? Everyone would naturally and reasonably conclude, without the mention of such a circumstance, that as soon as his baptism was over, he would immediately come up out of the water. However, we learn this from it, that since it is said, that he came up out of the water, he must first have gone down into it; must have been in it, and was baptized in it; a circumstance strongly in favour of baptism by immersion: for that Christ should go down into the river, more or less deep, to the ankles, or up to the knees, in order that John should sprinkle water on his face, or pour it on his head, as is ridiculously represented in the prints, can hardly obtain any credit with persons of thought and sense. But the chief view of the Evangelist in relating this circumstance, is with respect to what follows; and to show, that as soon as Christ was baptized, and before he had well got out of the water,

    lo the heavens were opened: and some indeed read the word "straightway", in connection with this phrase, and not with the words "went up": but there is no need of supposing such a trajection, for the whole may be rendered thus;

    and Jesus, when he was baptized, was scarcely come up out of the water, but lo, immediately, directly, as soon as he was out, or rather before,

    the heavens were opened to him; the airy heaven was materially and really opened, parted, rent, or cloven asunder, as in Mark 1:10 which made way for the visible descent of the Holy Ghost in a bodily shape. A difficulty arises here, whether the words, "to him", are to be referred to Christ, or to John; no doubt but the opening of the heavens was seen by them both: but to me it seems that John is particularly designed, since this vision was upon his account, and for his sake, and to him the following words belong; "and he", that is,

    John, saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: for this is what was promised to John, as a sign, which should confirm his faith in Jesus, as the true Messiah, and which he himself says he saw, and upon which he based the record and testimony he bore to Christ, as the Son of God; see John 1:32 not but that the descent of the Holy Ghost in this manner might be seen by Christ, as well as John, according to Mark 1:10. The Spirit of God, here said to descend and light on Christ, is the same, which in the first creation moved upon the face of the waters; and now comes down on Christ, just as he was coming up out of the waters of Jordan, where he had been baptized; and which the JewsF18Bereshit Rabba, fol. 2. 4. & 6. 3. Vajikra Rabba, fol. 156. 4. Zohar in Gen. fol. 107. 3. & 128. 3. Baal Hatturim in Gen. i. 2. Caphtor Uperah, fol. 113. 2. so often call המשיח רוח של מלד, "the Spirit of the king Messiah, and the spirit of the Messiah". The descent of him was in a "bodily shape", as Luke says in Luke 3:22 either in the shape of a dove, which is a very fit emblem of the Spirit of God who descended, and the fruits thereof, such as simplicity, meekness, love, &c. and also of the dove-like innocence, humility, and affection of Christ, on whom he lighted; or it was in some other visible form, not expressed, which pretty much resembled the hovering and lighting of a dove upon anything: for it does not necessarily follow from any of the accounts the Evangelists give of this matter, that the holy Spirit assumed, or appeared in, the form of a dove; only that his visible descent and lighting on Christ was ωσει περιστερα, as a dove descends, hovers and lights; which does not necessarily design the form of the creature, but the manner of its motion. However, who can read this account without thinking of Noah's dove, which brought in its mouth the olive leaf, a token of peace and reconciliation, when the waters were abated from off the earth? Give me leave to transcribe a passage I have met with in the book of ZoharF19In Num. fol. 68. 3, 4. ;

    "a door shall be opened, and out of it shall come forth the dove which Noah sent out in the days of the flood, as it is written, "and he sent forth the dove", that famous dove; but the ancients speak not of it, for they knew not what it was, only from whence it came, and did its message; as it is written, "it returned not again unto him any more": no man knows whither it went, but it returned to its place, and was hid within this door; and it shall take a crown in its mouth, and put it upon the head of the king Messiah.'

    And a little after, the dove is said to abide upon his head, and he to receive glory from it. Whether this is the remains of some ancient tradition, these men studiously conceal, concerning the opening of the heavens, and the descent of the Spirit of God, as a dove, upon the Messiah; or whether it is hammered out of the evangelic history, let the reader judge.

    Copyright Statement
    The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
    A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
    Bibliographical Information
    Gill, John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-3.html. 1999.

    Geneva Study Bible

    And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto o him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:

    (o) To John.
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    Bibliographical Information
    Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/matthew-3.html. 1599-1645.

    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

    Matthew 3:16, Matthew 3:17. Descent of the Spirit upon the baptized Redeemer.

    And Jesus when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water — rather, “from the water.” Mark has “out of the water” (Mark 1:10). “and” - adds Luke (Luke 3:21), “while He was praying”; a grand piece of information. Can there be a doubt about the burden of that prayer; a prayer sent up, probably, while yet in the water - His blessed head suffused with the baptismal element; a prayer continued likely as He stepped out of the stream, and again stood upon the dry ground; the work before Him, the needed and expected Spirit to rest upon Him for it, and the glory He would then put upon the Father that sent Him - would not these fill His breast, and find silent vent in such form as this? - “Lo, I come; I delight to do Thy will, O God. Father, glorify Thy name. Show Me a token for good. Let the Spirit of the Lord God come upon Me, and I will preach the Gospel to the poor, and heal the broken-hearted, and send forth judgment unto victory.” While He was yet speaking -

    lo, the heavens were opened — Mark says, sublimely, “He saw the heavens cleaving” (Mark 1:10).

    and he saw the Spirit of God descending — that is, He only, with the exception of His honored servant, as he tells us himself (John 1:32-34); the by-standers apparently seeing nothing.

    like a dove, and lighting upon him — Luke says, “in a bodily shape” (Luke 3:22); that is, the blessed Spirit, assuming the corporeal form of a dove, descended thus upon His sacred head. But why in this form? The Scripture use of this emblem will be our best guide here. “My dove, my undefiled is one,” says the Song of Solomon (Song of Solomon 6:9). This is chaste purity. Again, “Be ye harmless as doves,” says Christ Himself (Matthew 10:16). This is the same thing, in the form of inoffensiveness towards men. “A conscience void of offense toward God and toward men” (Acts 24:16) expresses both. Further, when we read in the Song of Solomon (Song of Solomon 2:14), “O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rocks, in the secret places of the stairs (see Isaiah 60:8), let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely” - it is shrinking modesty, meekness, gentleness, that is thus charmingly depicted. In a word - not to allude to the historical emblem of the dove that flew back to the ark, bearing in its mouth the olive leaf of peace (Genesis 8:11) - when we read (Psalm 68:13), “Ye shall be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold,” it is beauteousness that is thus held forth. And was not such that “holy, harmless, undefiled One,” the “separate from sinners?” “Thou art fairer than the children of men; grace is poured into Thy lips; therefore God hath blessed Thee for ever!” But the fourth Gospel gives us one more piece of information here, on the authority of one who saw and testified of it: “John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and It Abode Upon HimAnd lest we should think that this was an accidental thing, he adds that this last particular was expressly given him as part of the sign by which he was to recognize and identify Him as the Son of God: “And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending And Remaining On Himthe same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw and bare record that this is the Son of God” (John 1:32-34). And when with this we compare the predicted descent of the Spirit upon Messiah (Isaiah 11:2), “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,” we cannot doubt that it was this permanent and perfect resting of the Holy Ghost upon the Son of God - now and henceforward in His official capacity - that was here visibly manifested.

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    These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
    This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
    Bibliographical Information
    Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/matthew-3.html. 1871-8.

    John Lightfoot's Commentary on the Gospels

    16. 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 (chap 2:13, 5:1, 6:4, and 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.

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    Bibliographical Information
    Lightfoot, John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". "John Lightfoot Commentary on the Gospels". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jlc/matthew-3.html. 1675.

    People's New Testament

    And Jesus, when he was baptized. The baptism took place in the river Jordan, and was doubtless by immersion. Dr. Whitby, of the Church of England, on this passage, says: "The observation of the Greek Church is this, that he who ascended out of the water must first descend into it. Baptism is therefore to be performed, not by sprinkling, but by washing the body." Dr. Schaff, the great Pedo-baptist scholar, says: "While the validity of baptism does not depend on the quantity or quality of water, or the mode of its application, yet immersion and emersion is the primitive and expressive mode to symbolize the idea of entire spiritual purification and renovation." Dr. Schaff also says: "The Greek word {baptize} is derived from a root that means 'to dip,' 'to immerse.'" These views are endorsed by all the great Pedo-baptist scholars.

    Went up straightway out of the water. The Revision says "from the water," which is correct, as the preposition is {apo}; yet Mark uses {ek} in giving the same account, which the Revision correctly renders "out of." He went up, praying, as we learn from Luke 3:21.

    Lo, the heavens were opened unto him. The skies were parted, rolled back, so as to reveal, as it were, the throne of God.

    Spirit... descending like a dove. In form, and not, as some suppose, in motion merely, which would convey no definite idea. It descended to anoint him to be Christ.

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    These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
    Original work done by Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
    Bibliographical Information
    Johnson, Barton W. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". "People's New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pnt/matthew-3.html. 1891.

    Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

    The Spirit of God descending as a dove (πνευμα τεου καταβαινον ωσει περιστερανpneuma theou katabainon hōsei peristeran). It is not certain whether Matthew means that the Spirit of God took the form of a dove or came upon Jesus as a dove comes down. Either makes sense, but Luke (Luke 3:22) has it “in bodily form as a dove” and that is probably the idea here. The dove in Christian art has been considered the symbol of the Holy Spirit.

    Copyright Statement
    The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
    Bibliographical Information
    Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/matthew-3.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

    Vincent's Word Studies

    As a dove ( ὡσεί περιστερὰν )

    In the form of a dove, and not, as some interpret, referring merely to the manner of the descent - swiftly and gently as a dove (compare Luke 3:22In a bodily form, as a dove ”)The dove was an ancient symbol of purity and innocence, adopted by our Lord in Matthew 10:16. It was the only bird allowed to be offered in sacrifice by the Levitical law. In Christian art it is the symbol of the Holy Spirit, and that in his Old Testament manifestations as well as in those of the New Testament. From a very early date the dove brooding over the waters was the type of the opening words of Genesis. An odd fresco on the choir-walls of the Cathedral of Monreale, near Palermo, represents a waste of waters, and Christ above, leaning forward from the circle of heaven with extended arms. From beneath him issues the divine ray along which the dove is descending upon the waters. So Milton:

    “Thou from the first

    Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread

    Dove-like sat'st brooding on the vast abyss

    And mad'st it pregnant.”

    In art, the double-headed dove is the peculiar attribute of the prophet Elisha. A window in Lincoln College, Oxford, represents him with the double-headed dove perched upon his shoulder. The symbol is explained by Elisha's prayer that a double portion of Elijah's spirit might rest upon him.

    It has been asserted that, among the Jews, the Holy Spirit was presented under the symbol of a dove, and a passage is cited from the Talmud; “The Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters like a dove.” Dr. Edersheim (“Life and Times of Jesus the Messia”) vigorously contradicts this, and says that the passage treats of the supposed distance between the upper and the lower waters, which was only three finger-breadths. This is proved by Genesis 1:2, where the Spirit of God is said to brood over the face of the waters, “just as a dove broodeth over her young without touching them.” “Thus the comparison is not between the Spirit and the dove, but between the closeness with which a dove broods over her young without touching them, and the supposed proximity of the Spirit to the lower waters without touching them.” He goes on to say that the dove was not the symbol of the Holy Spirit, but of Israel. “Iftherefore, rabbinic illustration of' the descent of the Holy Spirit with the visible appearance of a dove must be sought for, it would lie in the acknowledgment of Jesus as the ideal typical Israelite, the representative of his people.”

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    Bibliographical Information
    Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/matthew-3.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

    Wesley's Explanatory Notes

    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 — Let our Lord's submitting to baptism teach us a holy exactness in the observance of those institutions which owe their obligation merely to a Divine command. Surely thus it becometh all his followers to fulfil all righteousness. Jesus had no sin to wash away. And yet he was baptized. And God owned his ordinance, so as to make it the season of pouring forth the Holy Spirit upon him. And where can we expect this sacred effusion, but in an humble attendance on Divine appointments? Lo, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God - St. Luke adds, in a bodily form - Probably in a glorious appearance of fire, perhaps in the shape of a dove, descending with a hovering motion, till it rested upon him. This was a visible token of those secret operations of the blessed Spirit, by which he was anointed in a peculiar manner; and abundantly fitted for his public work.

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    Wesley, John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/matthew-3.html. 1765.

    The Fourfold Gospel

    And Jesus when he was baptized1, went up straightway from the water2: and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him;

    1. And Jesus when he was baptized. See and see .

    2. Went up straightway from the water, etc. See .

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    These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
    Bibliographical Information
    J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". "The Fourfold Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tfg/matthew-3.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

    Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

    Like a dove. But why in this form? The Scripture use of this emblem will be our best guide here. "My dove, my undefiled, is one," says the Song (Song of Solomon 6:9). This is chaste purity. Again, Be ye harmless as doves," says Christ himself (Matthew 10:16). Further, when we read the Song (Song of Solomon 2:14) "O my dove that art in the clefts of the rocks in the secret places of the stairs (see Isaiah 60:8), let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice and thy countenance is comely,"--it is shrinking modesty, meekness gentleness, that is thus charmingly depicted. In a word, when we read (Psalms 68:13), "Ye shall be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold," it is beauteousness that is thus held forth. And was not such that "Holy, harmless, undefiled One," the "Separate from sinners"? And when with John 1:32-34 we compare the predicted descent of the Spirit upon Messiah (Isaiah 11:2), "And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him," we cannot doubt that it was this permanent and perfect resting of the Holy Ghost upon the Son of God--now and thenceforward in his official capacity--that was here visibly manifested.

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    Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ain/matthew-3.html. 1878.

    Scofield's Reference Notes

    Jesus

    For the first time the Trinity, foreshadowed in many ways in the O.T., is fully manifested. The Spirit descends upon the Son, and at the same moment the Father's voice is heard from heaven.

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    Scofield, C. I. "Scofield Reference Notes on Matthew 3:16". "Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition)". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/srn/matthew-3.html. 1917.

    John Trapp Complete Commentary

    16 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:

    Ver. 16. And Jesus when he was baptized] Many of the ancients held that the day of Epiphany was the day of our Saviour’s baptism. But that, I think, is but a conjecture. The Habassines, a kind of mongrel Christians in Africa, baptize themselves every year on that day in lakes or ponds; thereby to keep a memorial of our Saviour’s baptism in Jordan. This is (as Tyndal was wont to say of a like matter) to pass by the provision, and lick the sign post.

    Went up straightway out of the water] And stood upon the shore, apart from the company, that all might see and hear what was now to be done. St Luke addeth, {Luke 3:21} that he fell there upon his knees and prayed; thereby teaching us, with what deep devotion we are to receive the sacraments, which are given us of God to signify, as by sign; to assure, as by seal; and to convey, as by instrument, Jesus Christ and all his benefits. The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are there one in covenanting and working thy salvation. Stir up thyself therefore to hope and faith at the sacrament: speak to thy faith, as Deborah did to herself, 5:12; "Awake, awake, Deborah, utter a song:" give glory to God, lay claim to the covenant: lean on Christ’s bosom at that supper, and bethink thyself, with Esther at the feast, what suit thou hast to commence, what Haman to hang up, what lust to subdue, what grace (chiefly) to get growth in, &c. But for most communicants, urge them to prayer before, in, and after sacrament, and they must say (if they say truly), as David did of Saul’s armour, I cannot go with these, for I have not been accustomed to them, 1 Samuel 17:39.

    And, lo, the heavens were opened unto him] As he was praying; for prayer is the key of heaven, wherewith we may take out of God’s treasury plentiful mercy for ourselves and others. He cannot possibly be poor that can pray, Romans 10:12. One said of the Pope, that he could never want money so long as he could hold a pen in his hand: of the faithful Christian it may safely be affirmed, he cannot want any good thing while he can call to God for it. If he can find a praying heart, God will find a pitying heart and a supplying hand. Now he is worthily miserable that will not make himself happy by asking. The ark and the mercy seat were never separated. God never said to Israel, "Seek ye me in vain," Isaiah 45:19. The hand of faith never knocked at heaven’s gates, but they were opened, and the Spirit descended, though not so visibly as here at the baptism of our Saviour, nor a voice heard so audibly from heaven as then, yet as truly and effectually to the support of the poor suppliant: who while he prayeth in the Holy Ghost, 1:20, receiveth new supplies of the Spirit, { επιχορηγια, Philippians 1:19; Ephesians 4:16} and is sweetly, but secretly, sealed up thereby to the day of redemption.

    And he saw the Spirit of God descending] From the Father (who spake from the most excellent glory, 2 Peter 1:17) upon the Son, who stood upon the shore, so that here was concilium augustissimum, a most majestical meeting of the three persons in Trinity, about the work of man’s redemption, as once about his creation: Genesis 1:26; "Let us make man." The Hebrews interpret it, "I and my judgment hall;" by which phrase the Trinity of old was implied. For a judgment hall in Israel consisted of three at least; which, in their close manner of speech, they applied to God, but their posterity understood it not. And as in the matter of man’s creation and redemption, so likewise of his sanctification, remarkable is that of the apostle, 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, where the diversities of gifts are said to be of the Spirit; the diversities of ministries (whereby these gifts are administered) of the Lord, that is, of Christ; and the diversities of operations (effected by the gifts and ministries) to be of God the Father.

    Like a dove, and lighting upon him] This was shadowed of old, by Noah’s dove lighting upon the ark; and serveth to denote Christ’s innocence, purity, love to his little ones, κυουσι γαρ αλληλας, saith Aristotle; {a} and another thus:-

    " Felle columba caret, rostro non caedit, et ungues

    Possidet innocuos puraque grana legit."

    That was more than ridiculous, nay, it was blasphemous, that those pilgrims that went to Jerusalem to fight in the Holy War (as they called it) did carry a goose before them, pretending it to be the Holy Ghost. These were drunk with the wine of the whore of Babylon’s abominations; and not filled with the Spirit, as St Stephen was, and Barnabas, and others of old; as of late, among many, that famous Beza, de quo collegae saepe dicebant, eum sine felle vivere. And himself reports of himself and his colleagues, in an epistle to Calvin, that, disputing with a Spanish Jesuit about the Eucharist, "the Jesuit" (saith he) "called us vulpes, et simias, et serpentes (foxes, apes, serpents). My answer was this, Non magis nos credere, quam transubstantiationem." To not greatly believe us than transubstantiation. So that angel John Bradford (as one calleth him), when he reasoned with Alphonsus a Castro; the friar was in a wonderful rage, and spake so high that the whole house rang again, chafing with om and cho, saith Mr Fox. But Bradford answered him with meekness of wisdom, and, like the waters of Shiloah at the foot of Sion, ran softly, Isaiah 8:6. He had been baptized with that Holy Ghost that descended upon our Saviour, who received not the Spirit by measure, but had a fulness, not of abundance only, but also of redundance, John 1:14.

    {a} περιστερα, παρα, του περισσως εραν. Herdfield.

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    Trapp, John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/matthew-3.html. 1865-1868.

    Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

    Matthew 3:16. The heavens were opened unto him That is to say, to John; to whose view, as well as to that of the Saviour, this wonderful vision was presented. St. Mark has so expressed it, as plainly to refer the seeing it to Christ; and John the Baptist has in another place assured us, that he saw it, and took particular notice of it, as the sign he was directed to observe, as the distinguishing characteristic of the Messiah. See John 1:32; John 1:34. The Greek word ευθυς, rendered straightway in our version, denotes the immediate opening of the heavens after our Lord's baptism. See Blackwall's Sacred Classics, vol. 1: p. 89. The Spirit of God is said here to have descended like a dove: in St. Luke it is added, σωματικω ειδει, in a corporeal form; a phrase which might have been used with propriety, though there had not been, as is generally supposed, any appearance of the shape of the animal here mentioned, but only a lambent flame falling from heaven, with a hovering, dove-like motion, which Dr. Scott and others suppose to have been all. But Justin Martyr says expressly, that it was in the form of a dove; adding that all Jordan shone with the reflection of the light; and Jerome calls it, the appearance of a dove. It resembled a dove, says Wetstein, both in appearance and flight. See Hammond, and Whit

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    Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/matthew-3.html. 1801-1803.

    Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

    Here we have the solemn inauguration of Christ into his prophetic office, accompanied with a threefold miracle.

    1. The opening of the heavens.

    2. The descent of the Holy Ghost upon him, like as a dove descends.

    3. God the Father's voice concerning his son.

    The heavens were opened to shew that heaven, which was closed and shut against us for our sins, is now opened to us, by Christ's undertaking for us. As the first Adam shuts us out of heaven, the second Adam lets us into it; he opened heaven, to us by his meritorious passion, and he keeps it open by his prevailing intercession.

    Next, the Holy Ghost descends like a dove upon our Savior: here we have an evidence of the blessed Trinity; the Father speaks from Heaven, the Son comes out of the water,

    Hence we gather, That the Holy Ghost is not a quality, or an operation, but a person, and a person really distinct from the Father and the Son.

    But why did the Holy Spirit now descend upon Christ, seeing he was mow truly and really God?

    Answer The divinity of Christ was quiescent in him, till he entered upon his prophetic office at thirty years old, and after.

    And the Holy Ghost now descends, first, for the designation of his person, to shew that Christ was the person set apart for the work and office of a mediator.

    Secondly, For the qualification of his person for the performance of his office. This was Christ's unction, Isaiah 61:1 when he was anointed above his fellows, to be the king, priest and, prophet of his church.

    Last of all, We have the audible voice of God the Father pronouncing,

    1. The nearness of Christ's relation to himself, This is my Son, not by adoption, but by eternal generation.

    2. The endearedness of his person, This is my beloved Son.

    3. The fruit and benefit of this near and dear relation unto us; In him I am well pleased.

    Note, 1. That there is no possibility for any person to please God out of Christ; both our persons and our performances find acceptance only for his sake.

    2. That in and through Christ, God is well pleased with all believers: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, &c.

    Lord! what revivng news is this to thy church, to hear that her head and husband, her surety, mediator, and intercessor, is that only Son of God in whom his soul is delighted and ever well pleased! That Son who always pleased thee, and by and through whom thou art well pleased with, and reconciled to, thy offending creatures!

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    Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/matthew-3.html. 1700-1703.

    Golden Chain Commentary on the Gospels

    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.

    Ambrose, Ambrosiaster, Serm. 12. 4: For, as we have said, when the Saviour was washed, then the water was cleansed for our baptism, that a laver might be ministered to the people who were to come. Moreover, it behoved that in Christ"s baptism should be signified those things which the faithful obtain by baptism.

    Pseudo-Chrys.: This action of Christ"s has a figurative meaning pertaining to all who were after Him to be baptized; and therefore he says, "straightway He ascended," and not simply "He ascended," for all who are worthily baptized in Christ, straightway ascend from the water; that is, make progress in virtues, and are carried on towards a heavenly dignity. They who had gone down to the water carnal and sinful sons of Adam, straightway ascend from the water spiritual sons of God. But if some by their own faults make no progress after baptism, what is that to the baptism?

    Rabanus: As by the immersion of His body He dedicated the laver of baptism, He has shewn that to us also, after baptism received, the entrance to heaven is open and the Holy Spirit is given, as it follows, "and the heavens were opened."

    Jerome: Not by an actual cleaving of the visible element, but to the spiritual eye, as Ezekiel also in the beginning of his book relates that he saw them.

    Pseudo-Chrys.: For had the actual creation of the heavens been opened, he would not have said, "were opened to Him," for a physical opening would have been open to all.

    But some one will say, What, are the heavens then closed to the eye of the Son of God, who even when on earth is present in heaven? But it must be known, that as He was baptized according to the ordinance of humanity that He had taken on Him, so the heavens were opened to His sight as to His human nature, though as to His divine He was in heaven.

    Remig.: But was this then the first time that the heavens were opened to Him according to His human nature? The faith of the Church both believes and holds that the heavens were no less open to him before than after. It is therefore said here, that the heavens were opened, because to all them who are born again the door of the kingdom of heaven is opened.

    Pseudo-Chrys.: Perhaps there were before some unseen obstacles which hindered the souls of the dead from entering the skies. I suppose that since Adam"s sin no soul had mounted the skies, but the heavens were continually closed. When, lo! on Christ"s baptism they were again opened; after He had overcome by the Cross the great tyrant death, henceforward the heaven, never more to be closed, needed not gates, so that the Angels say not, "Open ye gates," for they were open, but "take away the gates." [Psalms 24:7]

    Or the heavens are opened to the baptized, and they see those things which are in heaven, not by seeing them with the bodily eye, but by believing with the spiritual eye of faith.

    Or thus; The heavens are the divine Scriptures, which all read but all do not understand, except they who have been so baptized as to receive the Holy Spirit. Thus the Scriptures of the Prophets were at the first sealed to the Apostles, but after they had received the Holy Spirit, all Scripture was opened to them.

    However, in whatever way we interpret, the heavens were opened to Him, that is to all, on His account; as if the Emperor were to say to any one preferring a petition for another, This boon I grant not to him but to you; that is, to him, for your sake.

    Gloss. non occ.: Or, so bright a glory shone round about Christ, that the blue concave seemed to be actually cloven.

    Chrys.: But though you see it not, be not therefore unbelieving, for in the beginnings of spiritual matters sensible visions are always offered, for their sakes who can form no idea of things that have no body; which if they occur not in later times, yet faith may be established by those wonders once wrought.

    Remig.: As to all those who by baptism are born again, the door of the kingdom of heaven is opened, so all in baptism receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

    Aug., App. Serm. 135. 1: Chris after He had been once born among men, is born a second time in the sacraments, that as we adore Him then born of a pure mother, so we may now receive Him immersed in pure water. His mother brought forth her Son, and is yet virgin; the wave washed Christ, and is holy. Lastly, that Holy Spirit which was present to Him in the womb, now shone round Him in the water, He who then made Mary pure, now sanctifies the waters.

    Pseudo-Chrys.: The Holy Ghost took the likeness of a dove, as being more than other animals susceptible of love. All other forms of righteousness which the servants of God have in truth and verity, the servants of the Devil have in spurious imitation; the love of the Holy Spirit alone an unclean spirit cannot imitate. And the Holy Ghost has therefore reserved to Himself this special manifestation of love, because by no testimony is it so clearly seen where He dwells as by the grace of love.

    Rabanus, ap. Anselm: Seven excellencies in the baptized are figured by the dove. The dove has her abode near the rivers, that when the hawk is seen, she may dive under water and escape; she chooses the better grains of corn; she feeds the young of other birds; she does not tear with her beak; she lacks a gall; she has her rest in the caverns of the rocks; for her song she has a plaint.

    Thus the saints dwell beside the streams of Divine Scripture, that they may escape the assaults of the Devil; they choose wholesome doctrine, and not heretical for their food; they nourish by teaching and example, men who have been the children of the Devil, i.e. the imitators; they do not pervert good doctrine by tearing it to pieces as the heretics do; they are without hate irreconcileable; they build their nest in the wounds of Christ"s death, which is to them a firm rock, that is their refuge and hope; as others delight in song, so do they in groaning for their sin.

    Chrys.: It is moreover an allusion to ancient history; for in the deluge this creature appeared bearing an olive branch, and tidings of rest to the world. All which things were a type of things to come. For now also a dove appears pointing out to us our liberator, and for an olive branch bringing the adoption of the human race.

    Aug., de Trin., ii, 5: It is easy to understand how the Holy Ghost should be said to be sent, when as it were a dove in visible shape descended on the Lord; that is, there was created a certain appearance for the time in which the Holy Spirit might be visibly shewn. And this operation thus made visible and offered to mortal view, is called the mission of the Holy Spirit, not that His invisible substance was seen, but that the hearts of men might be roused by the external appearance to contemplate the unseen eternity.

    Yet this creature in the shape of which the Spirit appeared, was not taken into unity of person, as was that human shape taken of the Virgin. For neither did the Spirit bless the dove, nor unite it with Himself for all eternity, in unity of person. Further, though that dove is called the Spirit, so far as to shew that in this dove was a manifestation of the Spirit, yet can we not say of the Holy Spirit that He is God and dove, as we say of the Son that He is God and man; and yet it is not as we say of the Son that He is "the Lamb of God," as not only has John Baptist declared, but as John the Evangelist saw the vision of the Lamb slain in the Apocalypse. For this was a prophetic vision, not put before the bodily eyes in bodily shape, but seen in the Spirit in spiritual images.

    But concerning this dove none ever doubted that is was seen with the bodily eye; not that we say the Spirit is a dove as we say Christ is a Rock; (for "that Rock was Christ.) [1 Corinthians 10:4] For that Rock already existed as a creature, and from the resemblance of its operation was called by the name of Christ, (whom it figured;) not so this dove, which was created at the moment for this single purpose.

    It seems to me to be more like the flame which appeared to Moses in the bush, or that which the people followed in the wilderness, or to the thunderings and lightnings which were when the Law was given from the mount. For all these were visible objects intended to signify something, and then to pass away. For that such forms have been from time to time seen, the Holy Spirit is said to have been sent; but these bodily forms appeared for the time to shew what was required, and then ceased to be.

    Jerome: It sat on the head of Jesus, that none might suppose the voice of the Father spoken to John, and not to the Lord.

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    Aquinas, Thomas. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". "Golden Chain Commentary on the Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gcc/matthew-3.html.

    Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

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

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

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    Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/matthew-3.html. 1863-1878.

    Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

    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.

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    Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/matthew-3.html. 1832.

    Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

    Matthew 3:16. ἀνέβη εὐθύς, went up immediately) There was nothing to detain Him longer. Thus also He rose immediately from the dead.— ἰδοὺ, κ. τ. λ., lo, etc.) A novel and great occurrence.— αὐτῷ, to Him) This implies far more than if the Evangelist had said “above Him.”— οἱ οὐρανοὶ, the heavens) in the plural number.

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    Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/matthew-3.html. 1897.

    Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

    See Poole on "Matthew 3:17".

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    Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/matthew-3.html. 1685.

    Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

    ИисусДуха Божияглас с небес глаголющий Здесь ясно описаны все три Лица Святой Троицы. См. пояснение к Лк.3:22. Повеление Бога Отца внять Его Сыну и сошествие Духа Святого (см. пояснение к ст. 12:31) официально ознаменовали вступление Христа на служение.

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    MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mac/matthew-3.html.

    Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

    Lighting upon him; in token of his being endowed with the Holy Spirit for his work. Compare John 3:34. vs Matthew 3:16-17. At the opening of the Saviour’s ministry we have a manifestation of the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, all cooperating in the great work of man’s salvation.

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    Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". "Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/matthew-3.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

    Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

    16.Baptized — How he was baptized is not said. His coming out of the water aids us not in guessing how, for the preposition properly signifies from. Nor if Jesus waded into and out of the water, would it in the least aid the matter. Thousands in ancient and modern times have been baptized by affusion, as they are represented in ancient pictures, standing or kneeling in the bed of a stream. But at any rate, the mode of his baptism was such as to make it the symbol and picture of the spiritual baptism which forthwith descended upon him in dovelike form.

    And he saw — That is, Jesus saw the dovelike Spirit. And John says that he saw it John 1:32. There is no proof for the opinion of some that it was unseen by many others. Like a dove — That is, in a dovelike shape, as Luke beyond all equivocation declares — in a bodily shape like a dove. That is, the Spirit invested itself with a dove form, in order to make itself visible to their senses. It assumed the form of a dove, as that bird was to the minds of those spectators the emblem of innocence. We cannot understand the purpose of commentators who endeavour to mar the beauty of this gracious manifestation by talking of its not being a dovelike form, but forsooth a quivering motion, (of what?) like a dove!

    And here have we not a striking illustration of the Incarnation? As the Holy Spirit the third hypostasis in the Trinity, assumes the bodily form of a dove by way of self-manifestation to the eyes of men, so what difficulty in supposing that the second person of the Trinity should become God manifest in the flesh in a human form? So, many a time in the Old Testament, the angel of Jehovah, or rather the angel-Jehovah, being no other than Jehovah manifest, is described as appearing to the patriarchs. In Eden Jehovah-God walked in the garden, and pronounced sentence upon Adam. Jacob wrestled with God “face to face” at Peniel. The angel-Jehovah appeared to Moses, and said, “I am the God of thy Father.” And revealing his name, to be uttered to Pharaoh, he says: “Thus shalt thou say, I AM hath sent me unto you.” The most learned doctors in the Church, in all ages, have agreed, and that on most reliable ground, that this personage so at various times appearing, was no other than the Son of Man, seen at last in vision by Daniel, (chap. 7,) invested with “an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away.” Few persons, at any rate, feel any difficulty in supposing, or at least comprehending and conceiving, that these angelic forms were visible embodiments of the person of Jehovah. What greater difficulty is there in conceiving that the person of Jesus should have been as truly the visible representative manifestation, or embodiment, of the same Divine Being?

     

     

     

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    Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/matthew-3.html. 1874-1909.

    Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

    ‘And Jesus when he was baptised, went up immediately from the water, and lo, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming on him,’

    Having been baptised by John, Jesus came out of the water, and immediately ‘the Heavens were opened’. Nothing visible would have been seen which was being described in these words. The opening of the Heavens was a way of speaking of God acting from Heaven. God as it were opens the door of Heaven so that Heaven may break through on earth. But the only thing that was actually visible was ‘the Spirit of God’ (Luke - ‘the Holy Spirit’) coming down from Heaven like a dove and settling on Jesus. Luke makes absolutely clear that what was seen was something ‘physical’ with an appearance almost like a dove. While too much dogmatism is ruled out, what is important is that something that appeared physical was actually seen. A phenomenon was actually observed.

    The Spirit of God (or the Lord) coming on someone is a common feature in the Old Testament where the Spirit comes on charismatic leaders (the Judges, Saul and David), on prophets, on the coming Righteous King (Isaiah 11:1-4), on the Servant of YHWH (Isaiah 42:1-4), and on the Anointed Prophet (Isaiah 61:1-2). The idea of the Servant of YHWH is most apposite in view of Matthew 12:18-21, because it is clearly something that Matthew has in mind. On the other hand it is the Coming King Who has been most in view up to this point in Matthew. We can really discount the Spirit coming on the charismatic leaders and the prophets as being too closely associated with what happened, for there was no thought that they would receive the Spirit in order to pass Him on to many as a means of transforming the people of God, (it is true that the Spirit of Moses is passed on from Moses to seventy elders, but that is simply a larger example of what happened when Elijah passed on the Spirit on to Elisha. It was an empowering of men appointed for a particular service, not a general effusion of the Spirit). And mention of the Spirit coming on people ends with David. Thus we may see it here as indicating that the Coming King, Servant and Prophet of Isaiah was being authenticated as the King and Servant by the Voice from Heaven, and as the Prophet by Jesus’ words in Luke 4:18. This also ties in with Matthew’s continual and pointed emphasis on Isaiah’s prophecies from Matthew 3:3 to Matthew 13:17, a passage which then continues through to Matthew 20:28. In other words Jesus is to fill to the full the prophecies concerning the King, the Servant and the Prophet in Isaiah.

    That then was a most momentous event. But what is even more startling is the reference to the Spirit visibly descending (in Luke ‘in bodily form’). This is unique in Scripture. The whole pattern of references to the Spirit in the Old Testament point to the fact that He represents the invisible activity of God revealed in its results. The Spirit is never seen. It is the Angel of YHWH Who is seen, but not the Spirit. When the Spirit works something happens and men are aware that it is due to the Spirit of God simply because of the results. But the Spirit is never visibly ‘seen’, only His effective working is seen. The same also applies in the New. (The fire at Pentecost is not actually said to be the Spirit. It is God appearing in fire. The Spirit does the filling for the purposes of prophecy and tongues - Acts 2:1-4). No wonder then that Luke felt that he had to emphasise the unique fact of what happened by calling it ‘bodily’. It was almost incredible for anyone who knew the Scriptures that the Spirit would come visibly. It must here therefore indicate something very special indeed, something that was totally unique, and with a unique significance.

    One thing that it does suggest is that for the first time ‘the Spirit of God’ is being portrayed as in some way distinctive from the One Who sent Him. He has proceeded from the Father, and yet is in some way distinct from the Father. For here He is in visible form. It also appears to indicate that when Jesus receives the Spirit it is not as a kind of temporary loan from the Father, with Himself as an extension of the Father, (as the war leaders and prophets had been an extension of God’s mighty arm, or had been enclothed with Him - for ‘the Spirit of God clothes Himself with Gideon’), but as an outright giving of the Spirit to be under His control. Symbolically the Spirit has, as it were, come from the Father and has come to the earthly Jesus. He Himself can therefore drench men in the Holy Spirit on the basis of His own will precisely because the Holy Spirit now proceeds from Him.

    How long it took those closest to Jesus to recognise that this experience indicated this fact we do not know, but it does explain why John the Baptiser was able to declare, ‘I saw and bear witness that this is the Son of God’ (John 1:34). He instinctively recognised the significance of what he had seen. None but the true and only beloved Son could receive the Spirit in this completeness, going far beyond anything experienced on earth before.

    By this God was indicating, not just that Jesus was filled with the Spirit, but that the Spirit was on earth in bodily form in Jesus, as in no other before or since. In Jesus earth and Heaven had been combined from the beginning through His birth (Matthew 1:18; Matthew 1:20), and now they were uniquely combined for His future task. By it God was indicating what the situation now was. Jesus in His physical presence was the spiritual connection between earth and Heaven (compare John 3:13), with all the resources of God available to Himon earth. That did not mean, of course, that He acted separately from the Father. Indeed He would go out of His way to emphasise that He and His Father always acted together (John 5:19; John 9:3-4). But it drew out that He could be compared with no other. All others received the Spirit by measure. He alone received the Spirit in all His fullness (John 3:34). And that was why Matthew saw so clearly that in the presence of the King there was the activity of the Spirit, whether on earth or in Heaven. That was why Jesus could cast out evil spirits by the Spirit of God (Matthew 12:28). It was in this way that the Kingly Rule of Heaven was now on earth in all who enjoyed the Spirit’s working as gifted to them by Jesus (Matthew 11:27). (The Apostles would also cast out evil spirits by the Spirit of God as imparted to them by Jesus - Matthew 10:1)

    ‘Like a dove.’ More strictly we should say ‘like a bird’, such as a dove or a pigeon. Bird types were not then as strictly differentiated as they are today. This would be a reminder of the Spirit of God hovering over creation when God began His creative work (Genesis 1:2), and may thus be seen as indicating that God was as it were beginning a new creative work. It would also be a reminder of the dove who returned to the ark with the symbol of coming fruitfulness in its beak (Genesis 8:11), the symbol that judgment was at least temporarily put aside and of a new opportunity for creation to begin again. But important too is the idea that it was no eagle Who descended here. Here it was a gentle bird with peaceful intent (compare Matthew 10:16). It symbolised what would lie beneath the activity of ‘the Holy Spirit and fire’. The idea is quite remarkable. No combination of pictures could better express the ministry of Jesus. The dove depicts the One Who is meek and lowly in heart (Matthew 11:29), the One Who does not break the bruised reed or quench the still smoking flax (Matthew 12:20), Who through His Spirit gives life to those who seek Him (John 6:63), producing righteousness within them through the soft refreshing rain of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 44:1-4), and yet the fire depicts One Who is harsh with sin, and will if necessary refine it with fire (Matthew 3:12; Malachi 3:3), and Who in the end will be harsher still with those who harden themselves against repentance and must receive the full weight of His fiery judgment (Matthew 3:13; Isaiah 5:24; Isaiah 66:16; Isaiah 66:24; Ezekiel 15:6-7; Ezekiel 22:21-22).

    ‘He saw’ almost certainly refers to John, as the voice in the third person in Matthew 3:17 makes clear. This was a manifestation to John as well as to Jesus. Whether anyone else saw it we do not know.

    We should recognise that this was the initial true ‘Pentecost’. This was the moment from which the Holy Spirit’s mighty work would blossom out from the King and would fan out to those of Israel who were ready to receive Him. What happened at the ‘other’ Pentecost (and in the Upper Room - John 20:22) would be a repeating of this on the whole body of Christ (and on the whole band of Apostles) at the time. But there, if the signs are to be seen as indicating the Holy Spirit and not the God of Sinai Himself, the dove was replaced by the wind and fire, possibly based partly on John’s symbolism.

    The coming of the Holy Spirit on Jesus was like a coronation. It was an anointing of Him (already the Anointed One) as God’s Messiah (Acts 4:27; Acts 10:38). It was the revelation that now, from Him, the Holy Spirit would reach out to all around Him, through His words, through His healings, through His casting out of evil spirits, and through His whole life (Luke 4:18-19; Isaiah 61:1-2). From now on the rain of the Spirit would fall and the fire of the Spirit would burn, and it would make many responsive and fruitful, would purify many, and would sadly cause others to wither and die. For now that the King was present and operative, men must either enter under His Kingly Rule and obey His words, or they must turn from His Kingly Rule and refuse to acknowledge Him. And sadly even some who professed to come under His Kingly Rule would not in fact do so. They would draw near to Him with their lips and honour Him with their mouths but their hearts would be far from Him. There would even be those who drew back and remained no longer with Him (Matthew 15:8; Matthew 7:21-22; John 6:66).

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    Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/matthew-3.html. 2013.

    Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

    Matthew 3:16. From the water. Mark: ‘out of.’ They probably stood in the water, but as both accounts do not so assert, this is not the essential fact.

    And lo, the heavens were opened. How, cannot be explained. Doubtless some miraculous appearance in the sky. Lange even suggests that the stars appeared. ‘Heaven, which was closed by the first Adam, is opened again over the second.’

    Unto him and he saw, i.e., Jesus; though John also saw it (John 1:33). The two statements are not contradictory, but point to a real appearance, seen by both the persons who were concerned in this solemn inauguration. ‘Unto Him’ may also mean ‘for him, ‘for his advantage.

    The Spirit of God. Only a Person could be thus embodied.

    Descending as a dove. Luke says, ‘in a bodily form, as a dove.’ This statement, in which all four Evangelists agree, is to be understood literally. A temporary embodiment of the Holy Spirit occurred to publicly inaugurate our Lord as the Messiah. The accidental, or even Providential, appearance of a real dove would not call for such marked mention in all four Gospels. The dove symbolizes perfect gentleness, purity, fulness of life and the power of communicating it.

    Coming upon him. John (John 1:32) says: ‘it abode upon Him;’ the outward sign was temporary, the anointing was permanent. His active ministry now begins.

    The baptism with the Holy Ghost of One ‘conceived by the Holy Ghost,’ is a Divine mystery. In one light it was but the outward sign of that which was His already. At the same time our Lord had a human development (comp. Luke 2:40; Luke 2:52; Hebrews 5:8). It may aid us in apprehending the fact that the Son of God became a real man, to regard this event as marking the age of maturity; the attainment of the full consciousness of his nature and mission as the God-Man and Saviour. The time had come for Him to begin His official work, that time was marked by the visible sign of the Holy Ghost, here -spoken of; the Divine Spirit now entered ‘into some new relation with the Incarnate’ Son, with respect to the work of salvation, and the God-Man received some internal anointing for His work corresponding to the outward sign.’

    Matthew 3:17. And lo, a voice out of the heavens. Heard by all who stood by, as on the mount of transfiguration (chap. Matthew 17:5).

    This is. A declaration to John that ‘this is’ the Messiah. Matthew, who pays special attention to the proof of the Messiahship of Jesus, probably gives the exact language; Mark and Luke give the substance: ‘Thou art.’

    My beloved Son, lit, ‘My Son the beloved!’ Used in a unique sense. No one else was or could be a ‘Son,’ or ‘Beloved,’ as this Person was. The Divine nature and eternal Sonship of Christ are obviously implied.

    In whom. This clause is taken from Isaiah 42:1. See the direct quotation in chap. 12, 18.

    I was well pleased. The clause might be paraphrased: ‘On whom I fixed my delight.’ This means perfect complacency. The original indicates a past time, not a continued state. The latter sense is a possible one, declaring the eternal good pleasure of the Father in the Son, but this would be only a repetition of the previous declaration. The more grammatical sense points to the complacency of the Father in the Son, when He assumed the office of Mediator (comp. Ephesians 1:4; John 17:24). Hence the reference is to the past, not to the time of his baptism. His preexistence is implied, and the meaning is peculiarly appropriate in the circumstances. The Godhead eternally existing as Trinity was manifested, as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to us and for us in this occurrence, as throughout the economy of redemption. The revelation of the Trinity at the baptism of Jesus gives special significance to the formula of baptism: ‘in’ (or ‘into’) ‘the name of the Father,’ etc. By this attestation to his Sonship and Messiahship, Jesus was anointed as Prophet, Priest, and King. That such an occasion should involve miraculous events was to be expected. The supernatural becomes the natural in the life of a Divine human Person.

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    Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/matthew-3.html. 1879-90.

    Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

    Matthew 3:16. And Jesus, when he was baptized, &c. — Hereby he was, 1st, installed into his ministerial office, as the priests were by washing, Exodus 29:4; Leviticus 8:6; Leviticus 2 d, engaged solemnly in the same military work with us against sin and Satan; 3d, admitted a member of the gospel Church, as he was before of the Jewish, by circumcision; 4th, he was baptized as a public person, the Head of his Church, in whom, and by virtue of whose baptism, all his members are baptized spiritually, Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12. Went up straightway out of the water — Or, as the original, ανεβη απο του υδατος, rather signifies, ascended from the water, namely, went up from the banks of Jordan. The heavens were opened unto him — For his sake, appearing as if they had been rent asunder directly over his head. It is probable they might resemble that opening of the heavens which we often see in a time of great lightning, when the sky seems to divide, to make the fuller and clearer way for the lightning: although, doubtless, this was much more striking and glorious. And he saw — Christ himself saw, and also John the Baptist, as appears by John 1:33-34; and by this he was further confirmed that this was the very Christ: — the Spirit of God descending like a dove — Not only in a hovering, dove-like motion, but, it seems, with a bright flame, in the shape of a dove, for St. Luke says, Luke 3:22, σωματικω ειδει, ωσει περιστεραν, in a bodily shape, as a dove. See also John 1:32. The Holy Spirit descended upon him in this form to signify what Christ Isaiah, 1 st, in his own nature to them that come to him, meek and loving; 2d, in the execution of his office, reconciling us to the Father, and bringing us good tidings of peace and reconciliation, as the dove brought Noah tidings of the deluge being assuaged; 3d, in the operations of his Spirit upon his people, whereby they are made meek, lowly, and harmless as doves. And lighting upon him — As a visible token of a new degree of the Holy Ghost’s operation in Christ, now at his entrance upon his public employment, even of that Spirit by which, according to the intimations God had given in his word, he was anointed in a peculiar manner, and abundantly fitted for his public work. Psalms 45:7; Isaiah 61:1. And thus was Christ installed into his ministerial function, both by baptism and the unction of the Holy Ghost, as the priests of old were by washing and anointing.

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    Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/matthew-3.html. 1857.

    George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

    He . . . went up, &c. Christ was in the river when he was baptized. As soon as he went out, and was praying, says St. Luke, (iii. 21,) the heavens were opened to him, or in favour of him; and he saw the Spirit of God descending: i.e. Christ himself saw the shape of the dove, which was also seen by the Baptist, as we find, John i. 33. And it was perhaps seen by all that were present. --- As a dove, or like a dove in a bodily shape. The dove was an emblem of Christ's meekness and innocence. (Witham) --- Calmet supposes that it was St. John that saw the Spirit of God descend thus upon Jesus Christ. The Greek text is favourable to this interpretation. But the Vulgate supposes it was Jesus Christ himself. St. John declares that he saw the Spirit; (John i. 32,) but this apparent disagreement is easily cleared, by supposing that both saw the shape of the dove, and also the surrounding crowd, and that they all heard the voice of the Father, as it was heard by the disciples in the transfiguration on Mount Thabor, (chap. xvii,) and by the crowd in the temple. John xii. (Tirinus)

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    Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/matthew-3.html. 1859.

    E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

    out of = away from. Greek. apo. App-104.

    from. Greek. apo.

    lo. Figure of speech Asterismos (App-6), for emphasis.

    He saw: i.e. the Lord saw.

    the Spirit of God. Note the Articles, and see App-101.

    God. See App-98.

    like = as if. Greek. hosei = sis it were (not homoios = resembling in form or appearance): referring to the descent, not to bodily form as in Mark 1:10. In Luke 3:22 hosei may still be connected with the manner of descent, the bodily form referring to the Spirit.

    dove. See note on "fire", Matthew 3:11.

    lighting = coming.

    upon. Greek. epi. App-104.

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    Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/matthew-3.html. 1909-1922.

    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

    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, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of [ apo (Greek #575)] - rather, 'from' - "the water." Mark has "out of the water" [ ek (Greek #1537)].

    And - adds Luke (Luke 3:21), "while He was praying;" a grand piece of information. Can there be a doubt about the burden of that prayer; a prayer sent up, probably, while yet in the water-His blessed head suffused with the baptismal element; a prayer continued likely as He stepped out of the stream, and again stood upon the dry ground? The work before Him, the needed and expected Spirit to rest upon Him for it, and the glory He would then put upon the Father that sent Him-would not these fill His breast, and find silent vent in such form as this?-`Lo, I come; I delight to do thy will, O God. Father, glorify thy name. Show me a token for good. Let the Spirit of the Lord God come upon me, and I will preach the Gospel to the poor, and heal the broken-hearted, and send forth judgment unto victory.' While He was yet speaking --

    Lo, the heavens were opened. Mark says, sublimely, "He saw the heavens cleaving" [ schizomenous (Greek #4977)].

    And he saw the Spirit of God descending - that is, He only, with the exception of His honoured servant, as He tells us Himself, John 1:32-34; the by-standers apparently seeing nothing.

    Like a dove, and lighting upon him. Luke says, "in a bodily shape" (Luke 3:22); that is, the blessed Spirit, assuming the corporeal form of a dove, descended thus upon His sacred head. But why in this form? The Scripture use of this emblem will be our best guide here. "My dove, my undefiled is one," says the Song (Song of Solomon 6:9). This is chaste purity. Again, "Be ye harmless as doves," says Christ Himself (Matthew 10:16). This is the same thing, in the form of inoffensiveness toward men. "A conscience void of offence toward God and toward men" (Acts 24:16) expresses both.

    Further, when we read in the Song (Song of Solomon 2:14), "O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs (see Isaiah 60:8), let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely" - it is shrinking modesty, meekness, gentleness, that is thus charmingly depicted. In a word-not to allude to the historical emblem of the dove that flew back to he ark, bearing in its mouth the olive leaf of peace (Genesis 8:11) - when we read (Psalms 68:13), "Ye shall be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold," it is beauteousness that is thus held forth. And was not such that "Holy, harmless, undefiled One," the "Separate from sinners?" "Thou art fairer than the children of men; grace is poured into Thy lips; therefore God hath blessed Thee forever!" But the fourth Gospel gives us one more piece of information here, on the authority of one who saw and testified of it: "John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and IT ABODE UPON HIM" [ kai (Greek #2532) emeinen (Greek #3306) ep' (Greek #1909) auton (Greek #846)].

    And lest we should think that this was an accidental thing, he adds that this last particular was expressly given him as part of the sign by which he was to recognize and identify Him as the Son of God: "And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending AND REMAINING ON HIM [ kai (Greek #2532) menon (Greek #3306) ep' (Greek #1909) auton (Greek #846)], the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Spirit. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God" (John 1:32-34). And when with this we compare the predicted descent of the Spirit upon Messiah (Isaiah 11:2), "And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him" [w

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    Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/matthew-3.html. 1871-8.

    The Bible Study New Testament

    16. He was baptized. The baptism took place in the river Jordan, and was certainly by immersion. Dr. Whitby of the Church of England said: “The observation of (conclusion reached by) the Greek Church is this, that he who ascended out of the water must first descend into it. Baptism is therefore to be performed, not by sprinkling, but by washing the body.” Dr. Schaff wrote: “While the validity of baptism does not depend on the quantity or quality of water, or the mode of its application, yet immersion and emersion [emergence] is the primitive and expressive mode to symbolize the idea of entire spiritual purification and renovation.” Dr. Schaff also says: “The Greek word ‘baptize’ as derived from a root that means ‘to dip,’ ‘to immerse.’” All the great scholars agree with these views. Jesus came up out of the water. Luke 3:21 tells us he was praying as he came up. Then heaven was opened. The skies parted, to reveal the very throne of God. The Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit comes to anoint Jesus [Christ means anointed], to identify him (John 1:32-34) and to give him power (John 3:34). The form of a dove was used to make the Spirit visible.

     

     

     

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    Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/matthew-3.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

    Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

    (16) The heavens were opened.—The narrative implies (1) that our Lord and the Baptist were either alone, or that they alone saw what is recorded. “The heavens were opened to him” as they were to Stephen (Acts 7:56). The Baptist bears record that he too beheld the Spirit descending (John 1:33-34), but there is not the slightest ground for supposing that there was any manifestation to others. So in the vision near Damascus, St. Paul only heard the words and saw the form of Him who spake them (Acts 9:7; Acts 22:9). That which they did see served, as did the tongues of fire on the day of Pentecost, as an attestation to the consciousness of each, of the reality of the gift imparted, and of its essential character. That descent of the Spirit, “as it were a dove,” as St. Luke adds (Luke 3:22), “in bodily form,” taught the Baptist, as it teaches us, that the gift of supernatural power and wisdom brought with it also the perfection of the tenderness, the purity, the gentleness of which the dove was the acknowledged symbol. To be “harmless as doves” was the command the Lord gave to His disciples (Matthew 10:16), and when they read this record, they were taught as we are, “of what manner of spirit” they were meant to be.

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    Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/matthew-3.html. 1905.

    Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

    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:
    Jesus
    Mark 1:10
    lo
    Ezekiel 1:1; Luke 3:21; Acts 7:56
    and he
    Isaiah 11:2; 42:1; 59:21; 61:1; Luke 3:22; John 1:31-34; 3:34; Colossians 1:18,19
    Reciprocal: Exodus 40:9 - the anointing oil;  Exodus 40:12 - GeneralLeviticus 5:7 - two turtledoves;  Song of Solomon 2:14 - my dove;  Matthew 12:18 - I will;  Matthew 28:19 - the name;  Luke 4:1 - full;  John 1:32 - I saw;  John 1:51 - Hereafter;  Acts 1:2 - through;  Acts 8:39 - were;  1 Timothy 3:16 - justified;  1 John 5:7 - The Father;  1 John 5:9 - for;  Revelation 4:1 - a door

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    Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/matthew-3.html.

    E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

    If Jesus went up out of the water it was necessary that lie go down into it, and that would agree with the definition of "baptize" as given at verse6. The heavens were opened unto hint and he saw the Spirit in the form of a dove. This together with John 1:32-34 indicates that Jesus and John were the only witnesses of this remarkable event. It was fitting that John be permitted to see it since that was the sign the Lord had given him by which he was to recognize the One for whom all this preparatory work was being done.

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    Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/znt/matthew-3.html. 1952.

    Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

    16.And, lo, the heavens were opened to him. The opening of the heavens sometimes means a manifestation of heavenly glory; but here it means also a cleft, or opening, of the visible heaven, so that John could see something beyond the planets and stars. The words of Mark can have no other meaning, he saw the heavens cleft asunder (296) An exact inquiry into the way in which this opening was made, would be of no importance, nor is it necessary. It is sufficient for us to believe, that it was a symbol of the Divine presence. As the Evangelists say that John saw the Holy Spirit, it is probable that the opening of the heavens was chiefly on his account. Yet I do not hesitate to admit that Christ also, so far as he was man, received from it additional certainty as to his heavenly calling. This appears to be the tendency of the words of Luke: while Jesus was praying, the heaven was opened, (Luke 3:21 :) for, though his prayers were always directed towards the benefit of others, yet as man, when he commenced a warfare of so arduous a description, he needed to be armed with a remarkable power of the Spirit.

    But here two questions arise. The first is, why did the Spirit, who had formerly dwelt in Christ, descend upon him at that time? This question is answered by a passage of the prophet Isaiah, which will be handled in another place.

    “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord God hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,” (Isaiah 61:1.)

    Though the grace of the Spirit was bestowed on Christ in a remarkable and extraordinary manner, (John 3:34,) yet he remained at home as a private person, till he should be called to public life by the Father. Now that the full time is come, for preparing to discharge the office of Redeemer, he is clothed with a new power of the Spirit, and that not so much for his own sake, as for the sake of others. It was done on purpose, that believers might learn to receive, and to contemplate with reverence, his divine power, and that the weakness of the flesh might not make him despised.

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    Calvin, John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:16". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/matthew-3.html. 1840-57.