“in those days.” “In those days” is a literal rendering of the Greek phrase in Matthew 3:1, however, the phrase is quite peculiar because Matthew had just finished talking about how Joseph, Mary, and Jesus went to Nazareth and lived there when Jesus was a baby (Matt. 2:23). So, Matthew 3:1 is almost 30 years after Matthew 2:23. So, why does Matthew say, “in those days” in Matthew 3:1 as if he was speaking of the same time frame as Matthew 2:23?
There are no clear occurrences of the phrase “in those days” being used to introduce a completely new time frame, as it is seemingly used here. Many commentaries suggest that this phrase can introduce a new time frame, but when looking at each of those occurrences they put forward such as Genesis 6:4, Deuteronomy 17:9, and Daniel 10:2 there is a defined time frame already within the context. The phrase never introduces a new time frame. R.T. France proposes a good solution to the problem (R. T. France, Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary, TNTC, 1985). France suggests that the best way to understand “in those days” is that it refers to “in those days when Jesus was still living in Nazareth.” So, although 30 years have passed, what Matthew mentions in Matthew 2:23, that Jesus is living in Nazareth, still holds true in Matthew 3:1, and so “in those days” is properly supplied. In the days that Jesus was still living in Nazareth, John the Baptist came on the scene.