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Go to Bible: Matthew 3
Mat 3:1

“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.a 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.

The Bible does not tell us how long before Jesus was baptized and started his ministry that John started his ministry. It could have been months or a few years. John was six months older than Jesus (Luke 1:26), and for a period of time, both John and Jesus were ministering separately and were both baptizing people (John 3:22-23). Then John was thrown in prison and executed.

R. T. France, Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary [TNTC].
Mat 3:2(top)
Mat 3:3

“A voice of one calling out in the desert, ‘Make the road ready for the Lord! Make the paths straight for him!’” This quotation is from Isaiah 40:3 and it is quoted in Luke 3:4 and Mark 1:3 as well. In the Hebrew text of Isaiah, the word translated “Lord” in the Greek text is Yahweh, the personal name of God.

[For more on the custom of making a road ready by clearing and leveling it, see commentary on Mark 1:3. For more on the Septuagint and the original NT texts being in Greek, see commentary on Luke 3:4.]

“the Lord.” The Greek text reads “Lord.” However, it is worth noting that the Hebrew manuscripts of Matthew read “Yahweh,” not “adonai” or another word for “lord.” Yahweh is the personal name of God, and a rabbinic abbreviation for it appears in the Hebrew manuscript of Matthew as well as in the verses of the Old Testament that Matthew quoted. As we will discuss below, there is evidence that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew and used the name Yahweh, however, there is debate about the fidelity of the Hebrew text of Matthew, and since the rest of Matthew in the REV is from the Greek text, the REV followed that construction here in Matthew as well.

In the fourteenth century, a complete Hebrew text of Matthew appeared in the body of a Jewish polemical treatise entitled Even Bohan, “The Touchstone.” The manuscript was not all in one place, but when gathered together was the complete book of Matthew. The author of the treatise, and thus the one who copied Matthew into it, was Shem-Tob ben Isaac ben-Shaprut (sometimes called Ibn Shaprut; also, because his name was actually Shem-Tob, sometimes the manuscript is referred to as the Shem-Tov manuscript). The Shem-Tob manuscript is not well known, so it is important to say a few things about it.

The Even Bohan treatise contains the entire book of Matthew in Hebrew, but unfortunately, Shem-Tob wrote his notes in Hebrew right into the Hebrew text, which means they have to be lifted out of the text of Matthew for it to be read without them.

For many years the Shem-Tob manuscript was ignored, even though there was historical evidence that Matthew wrote in Hebrew. It was ignored because it had been the opinion of most scholars that the Shem-Tob manuscript was a translation back into Hebrew from the Latin, or perhaps from Greek. However, recent interest in the Hebrew language has caused a reexamination of the text. There are now a number of scholars who, for a number of reasons, think that the Shem-Tob manuscript represents a Hebrew manuscript tradition that goes back to the Hebrew text Matthew wrote. One reason is that there seem to be too many verses that differ from any known Greek or Latin manuscript for the Shem-Tob manuscript to be a translation from either of those manuscript traditions. Another very important reason is that the Shem-Tov manuscript uses a rabbinic abbreviation for Yahweh, the only personal name of God (all His other “names” are actually titles). No Jew in the Middle Ages would have used “Yahweh,” and no scholarly Jew would ever have placed the holy name of God, which they would not even say out loud, into a Christian Bible. A third reason involves some of the commentary Shem-Tob wrote. For example, after Matthew 2:12 and the verse about Jesus being born in Bethlehem, he comments that the Hebrew text is wrong and the error is not in “Jerome’s version” (the Latin). From comments like these, we can see that Shem-Tov was copying an earlier Hebrew text. He would not have created a unique, and incorrect, Latin text, and then criticized it.

It is too much to go into all the various reasons for believing that the Shem-Tov manuscript represents a Hebrew manuscript tradition that goes back to an original that Matthew wrote, and there are still many scholars who believe Matthew first wrote in Greek, but more information can be found in the work by George Howard, The Hebrew Gospel of Matthew.

It is also important to remember that although there are quite a few places that the Shem-Tov manuscript differs from the Greek text, it will take thorough study before adopting any of its readings into the English Bible because the Shem-Tov manuscript was in the hands of Jews, not Christians and also, as with any other manuscript from centuries after Christ, would have been copied several times before it existed as the Shem-Tob manuscript we have available today. However, when it comes to the name “Yahweh,” the evidence seems certain that it would have had to have been passed down from an original Hebrew text of Matthew, and hence we use it in the REV.

Until recently scholars believed that Hebrew was not spoken in Palestine in the first century and that when the word “Hebrew” appeared in documents from the first or second century that “Aramaic” was actually meant. However, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other documents from around the time of Christ have revealed that Hebrew was both written and spoken in the first century. Given that, there is reason to believe that when the ancients said “Hebrew” they meant “Hebrew.”

A number of Church fathers said that Matthew wrote his gospel in Hebrew. Unfortunately, some of them are quoted in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History and we do not have their original surviving statements. Nevertheless, it seems highly unlikely that Eusebius would have said they said Matthew wrote in Hebrew if that was not what they said. Eusebius was not trying to build a case that Matthew wrote in Hebrew; he was simply writing a history of the Church. Furthermore, the accuracy of Eusebius’ statements would have been much easier to check in his day than now.

  • Papias. The Church Father Papias, who wrote in the first third of the second century was a bishop of the early Church. According to Eusebius, Papias said: “Matthew collected the oracles [literally: “words”] in the Hebrew language, and each interpreted them as best he could.” (Quoted in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History (Lake Translation, p. 297). The statement, “each interpreted them as best he could” refers to the declining knowledge in Hebrew as the years went on and the Church became more Hellenized.
  • Ireneus (pronounced I-ren-'ā-us). In about 170 AD, Ireneus wrote in Against Heresies (3:1): “Matthew also issued a written gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect.”
  • Origen. Origen lived about 210 AD. He was cited by Eusebius in Ecclesiastical History (6:25) saying that Matthew wrote his gospel in Hebrew.
  • Jerome. Jerome (347-420 AD) said Matthew originally wrote in Hebrew, and apparently had a Hebrew manuscript of Matthew, because he quotes from it. From Jerome, Commentary on Psalm 135 (de Santos 22): “In the Hebraic gospel according to Matthew it has thus: Our bread for tomorrow give us this day, that is, the bread which you will give in your kingdom give us today.”

Jerome also wrote, On Famous Men 3 (de Santos 18): “Matthew, who is also Levi, the ex-publican apostle, first composed in Hebraic letters the gospel of Christ in Judea on account of those who had believed from among the circumcision; [but those] who afterward translated it into Greek is not sufficiently certain. Furthermore, this Hebraic [text] is held even until today in the Caesarean library which Pamphilus the martyr studiously put together. There was an opportunity for me from the Nazaraeans to copy this volume, which is used in Beroea, a city of Syria. In which [gospel] it must be noted that, wherever the evangelist, whether from his own person or from the Lord and savior, makes use of testimonies of the old scriptures, he does not follow the authority of the seventy translators [the Septuagint version], but the Hebrew. From which things two are: From Egypt did I call my son, and: For he shall be called a Nazarene.” (These references are 2.15 and 2.23, respectively).

Jerome said in the Prologue of the Four Gospels: “First of all is Matthew, a publican with the cognomen of Levi, who published a gospel in Judea in the Hebrew speech, especially on account of those who had believed in Jesus from among the Jews, and with the shadow of the law in no way succeeding he served the truth of the gospel.”

“prepare the road of Yahweh, in the wilderness make straight a path for our God.” When the people said, “prepare the road of Yahweh…a path for our God,” no one thought that God would actually come and use the road. It would be well understood in the culture that the road would be prepared for God’s representative, in this case, the Messiah. Some Trinitarians say this verse shows that Jesus was God, but that is not the case. Jesus was God’s Messiah, and as such, when the road was prepared for him, it was prepared for God.

We see the cultural thought and expression that God’s representative was referred to as “God,” or that God somehow came via a representative, in other places in the Bible. For example, after Jesus raised a man from the dead, Luke records that the people said, “‘A great prophet has arisen among us!’ And, ‘God has visited his people!’” (Luke 7:16). The people did not think God Himself had somehow shown up among them; for one thing, they would never call God a prophet. The people realized God had “visited” them by sending a great prophet.

God comes to us through many different intermediaries and circumstances, but the fact that God is the one behind the actions of His intermediaries explains why, in the culture, the intermediary is not mentioned at all. For example, sometimes angels speak or act as if they were God Himself, but they are actually His intermediaries. A good example is when Jacob wrestled with “God” (Gen. 32:28, 30). Genesis never tells us that “God” is not God Himself but a representative—we have to learn that from other places in the Scripture. It was an angel that wrestled with Jacob (Hos. 12:4). Another example is when Naomi, living in Moab, heard that “Yahweh had visited Israel by giving them bread” (Ruth 1:6). Saying that God “visited” Israel was just an idiomatic way of saying He had blessed Israel, in this case with food. God did not show up in Israel carrying a basket of food, as we might do if we visited a neighbor with food, instead, God blessed the efforts of the laborers who planted and tended the food, so there was plenty of food.

The custom of using mediators and intermediaries was so deeply ingrained in the culture that sometimes they are completely left out of the biblical record. For example, Matthew 8:5 says that when Jesus entered Capernaum, “a centurion came to him.” The entire record of the centurion and Jesus is recorded in Matthew without any hint that the centurion was not present at all—he worked through intermediaries. Only in Luke do we find the full record with the intermediaries included. Luke says that when the centurion heard of Jesus, “he sent elders of the Jews to him” (Luke 7:3). The whole conversation between the centurion and Jesus occurred through intermediaries.

We see the idea of intermediaries when Jesus is called “Immanuel” which is Hebrew for “God with us” (Matt. 1:23). Calling Jesus Immanuel does not make him God any more than David’s brother Eliab was the son of God because his name means “God is my father.” Names often have a significance or are a kind of prayer or wish of the one doing the naming, but they are rarely purely literal. Jesus was “God with us” as God’s Messiah and intermediary.

It might well be asked that if the Bible is really saying to prepare the road for the Messiah, God’s representative, why not just say that; why say prepare the road for God? The “Messiah” was “the anointed one,” but as we can see from the biblical text itself, there were many “anointed ones” (cp. king Saul, 1 Sam. 24:6; king David, 2 Sam. 19:21; king Zedekiah, Lam. 4:20). We learn that there were many gods and many lords (1 Cor. 8:5), as well as many “anointed ones” and “saviors.” Many of them did not represent the true God, or represent Him fully or faithfully. A wonderful way to make sure that everyone knew the way was to be prepared for God’s true representative was to say to prepare it for God.

[For more on names being significant but not literal, see commentary on Matt. 1:23; “Immanuel.”]

Mat 3:4

“camel’s hair.” The garment of camel’s hair was a rough, thick, outer robe. It was common, and when James Freeman wrote Manners and Customs of the Bible in 1875, it was still worn quite commonly by Arabs. It was likely a similar outer robe to what Elijah wore centuries before (2 Kings 1:8).

Mat 3:5

“Jerusalem...Judea...the whole region.” The names of the areas are a metonymy for the people in Jerusalem, Judea, etc. The area is put by metonymy for the people in those areas.

[See figure of speech “metonymy.”]

Mat 3:6

“openly confessing.” The Greek verb is exomologeō (#1843 ἐξομολογέω), and it means to confess or admit openly or publicly. In this instance it is a plural participle, and indicates that the confession was connected with the baptism: they confessed their sin as they were being baptized, i.e., just before going under the water. The form of the verb indicates that they openly confessed their sin, not just whispered it to John. John Peter Lange writes: “The compound ἐξομολογούμενοι denotes public confession.”a Meyer points out that public confession is also indicated in Acts 19:18 and James 5:16.b

The public confessions at the baptism of John showed how serious the people were about being saved and entering the Kingdom of Heaven after they heard from John that the Kingdom was about to arrive (cp. John’s message in Matt. 3:2, “the Kingdom of Heaven is near”). The “Kingdom of Heaven” was the kingdom promised in the Old Testament and ruled by Christ where no one was sick, the government was just, there was an abundance of food, and there was no war or crime.

People wanted to get into that kingdom, and they set aside their reservations and, out in the water with John, openly confessed their sins. Their being immersed in the waters of the Jordan then symbolized the death of the old ways and rebirth or resurrection into a new life, which they would then have to live out in the flesh day after day. In contrast to the common people, the religious leaders such as the Pharisees refused to be baptized by John, no doubt in part because they had no intention of openly confessing their sin (Luke 7:30).

We may gain some insight into part of the reason why God spoke from heaven and said about Jesus, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” when we contrast what occurred with the common people and what happened with Jesus. The common people all openly confessed their sin in the hearing of the crowd, but of course, Jesus did not do that. It is possible that there were people in the crowd that were confused about Jesus and wondered why he did not confess any sin, but the loud voice from heaven would have made it quite clear that God was pleased with Jesus, as well as testify to the crowd who Jesus was. The voice was not for John’s sake. John knew who Jesus was, although miraculous confirmation is always welcome. The voice was for the crowd’s sake. Also, there is little doubt that news of the voice got around, which would have only heightened the Messianic expectation that was already quite high due to things such as the teachings of John.

[For more on John’s baptism, see the commentary on Mark 1:4. For more on the Messianic Kingdom on earth, see commentary on Matthew 5:5, “inherit the earth.”]

Lange’s Commentary.
H. Meyer, Meyer’s Commentary, 6:78.
Mat 3:7

“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism.” This event is also recorded in Luke 3:7-9, and that record lets us know that the “multitudes” were coming to John and he was speaking to them. However, Matthew lets us know that, although John said what he said in a way that everyone could hear him, part of what he said, was to, and specifically applied to, the Jewish leaders, which were the Pharisees and Sadducees mentioned here in Matthew 3:7. They were the “trees” (Matt. 3:8), the high and mighty “pillars of society” who ruled Israel and thought themselves better than others (Luke 18:11), and refused to be baptized by John (Luke 7:30), and who were in danger of being “cut down” and thrown into the fire of Gehenna, the Lake of Fire (Matt. 3:10; Luke 3:9; cp. Rev. 20:11-15).

“The wrath that is about to come.” This is the wrath associated with the Day of the Lord (see commentary on Revelation 6:17). The wrath did not come quickly, and still has not come. John the Baptist did not know that God would interpose the Administration of the Sacred Secret, which we are in today, between the resurrection of Christ and his coming in Judgment. He thought since the Messiah was on earth, Armageddon would come soon.

[For a more complete understanding of the Administration of the Sacred Secret, and an explanation of administrations in the Bible, see Graeser, Lynn, Schoenheit, The Gift of Holy Spirit: The Power to be like Christ, Appendix A “The Administration of the Sacred Secret.” Also, see commentary on Ephesians 3:2.]

Mat 3:8

“Come now.” See commentary on Luke 3:8.

Mat 3:9

“these stones.” The Jews claimed that salvation was in large part due to their being descendants of Abraham, and John was repudiating that belief. His sharp rebuke was made even sharper by his reference to “these stones.” If anything is common in Israel it is stones, and the Bible has many, many references to them. Solomon’s wealth was described by saying that he made silver to be in Jerusalem as “stones” (1 Kings 10:27). Dashing one’s foot against a stone was common and painful (Ps. 91:12). When a dignitary would come through the area, the roads would have to be cleared of stones (Isa. 62:10), and to plant one would have to get the stones out of the vineyard (Isa. 5:1-2). This record is also in Luke 3:8.

Mat 3:10

“trees.” The “trees” are people, and in this context it refers to rulers and leaders. This is the commonly-used figure of speech hypocatastasis.

[For more on “trees” being people, see commentary on Luke 3:9. For more on hypocatastasis see commentary on Rev. 20:2.]

“will be cut down.” Although the Greek text has the verb in the present tense, the cutting will be done in the future, as the English translation has the text. This is the idiom some scholars refer to as the “prophetic present,” and it takes an event that is future but certain to happen and coming soon, and treats it as if it is present.

[For more on the prophetic present, see commentary on Luke 3:9.]

“and thrown into the fire.” John is giving these leaders a very serious warning. God expects people to have faith in Him, obey Him, and do good works, and those who do not are in danger of being thrown into Gehenna, the Lake of Fire, which is the “second death” and is everlasting death (Rev. 20:14-15).

[For more on annihilation in the Lake of Fire, see Appendix 5, “Annihilation in the Lake of Fire.”]

Mat 3:11

“as a symbol of your repentance.” The Greek can be expressed that way, even if it is not the predominant way eis and the accusative is translated. D. A. Carson expresses the situation well:

The phrase “for repentance” (eis metanoian) is difficult: eis plus the accusative frequently suggests purpose (“I baptize you in order that you will repent”). Contextually (v. 6), this is unlikely, even in the telic sense suggested by Broadus: “I baptize you with a view to continued repentance.” But causal eis, or something very close to it, is not unknown in the NT (cf. Turner, Syntax, pp. 266-67): “I baptize you because of your repentance.”a

We assert the scope of Scripture shows that John did baptize people because of their repentance, and indeed, it was because of their repentance that the people came to John to be baptized by him. Indeed, Luke 7:29-30 make it clear that the sinners came to John to be baptized while the religious leaders rejected God’s purpose for themselves by not allowing themselves to be baptized by John, which would have involved their publicly confessing their sins.

The water baptism was a symbol, an outward demonstration, of the inward repentance that had happened in the heart of the people who came to be baptized. Many scholars and translators recognize this, and Daniel Wallace expresses it well: “Water baptism is not a cause of salvation, but a picture; and as such it serves both as a public acknowledgment (by those present) and a public confession (by the convert)....”b

Scholars and translators express how water baptism is a symbol or picture of the inner work of God in different ways in their writings. For example, Charles Williams translates the Matthew 3:11: “I am baptizing you in water to picture your repentance” (The NT in the Language of the People). Ann Nyland has: “I baptize you in water to show that you have changed your minds” (The Source NT). J. B. Phillips says: “I baptize you with water as a sign of your repentance” (NT in Modern English). Goodspeed’s New Testament reads: “I am baptizing you in water in token of your repentance.” Davies and Allison, after examining other possible interpretations, conclude: “It is, however, better to endorse a more nuanced position: baptism presupposes and expresses repentance.”c Robert Mounce writes as if John is speaking in the first person: “‘My baptism’ he might say, ‘indicates you have repented.’”d See commentary on Mark 1:4.

“whose sandals I am not worthy to carry.” That John would compare himself to Jesus in this way is very important in showing the humble and obedient heart of John, who was God’s loyal servant. John’s comparison occurs in all four Gospels (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:7; Luke 3:16, and John 1:27). Matthew is slightly different but the heart is the same.

“with holy spirit or with fire.” This is the gift of holy spirit. The Messiah will baptize every person with either the gift of holy spirit or the fire of God’s judgment.

[For more information on “holy spirit or fire,” see commentary on Luke 3:16. For more information on the uses of “holy spirit,” see Appendix 6: Usages of ‘Spirit’.]

F. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 8:104.
Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 371.
Davies and Allison, Matthew 1-7 [ICC].
Mounce [NIBCNT].
Mat 3:12

“wheat…chaff.” This is the figure of speech hypocatastasis; the wheat and chaff represent people. The “wheat” was the grains of wheat that could be ground into flower, while the chaff was small broken pieces of the stalk on which the wheat grew. For more on hypocatastasis, see commentary on Revelation 20:2, “dragon.”

Mat 3:13

“Then Jesus arrived.” The record of Jesus’ baptism is in Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; and is mentioned in John 1:31-34.

Mat 3:14(top)
Mat 3:15

“Allow it now.” Jesus does not deny what John just said, “I [John]have the need to be baptized by you [Jesus].” Yet at this time Jesus was allowing both he and John to fulfill their calling by God. John’s baptism portrayed cleansing from sin, surely, but also the picture of going under the water and then coming up out of it also signified death and resurrection, something that Jesus certainly went through. So Jesus’ being baptized by John was proper on a number of levels.

“it is proper for us to fulfill all righteousness.” The fact that Jesus said, “it is proper,” even though he did not need to be cleansed from sin, points to another purpose for Jesus’ baptism that was proper, appropriate, or “right,” in the eyes of God. Although Jesus did not need John’s baptism to be cleansed from sin, he went to John specifically to be baptized by him (Matt. 3:13). Furthermore, Jesus did not say, “it is proper for ‘me’ to fulfill all righteousness,” but rather, “it is proper for ‘us’ [John and Jesus] to fulfill all righteousness.” So here we see Jesus, before his public ministry began, submitting to God and the offices that God ordained: God sent John to baptize, and God told Jesus to go to John and get baptized. Lenski writes, “It was proper that they should carry out whatever their respective positions required.”a John’s baptism of Jesus was tied into Jesus’ being revealed to Israel (John 1:31), perhaps as one obedient enough to be “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29).

R. C. H. Lenski, Matthew’s Gospel, 126.
Mat 3:16

“as he stepped away from the water.” The heavens did not open and the holy spirit descend while Jesus was standing in the Jordan River, but as he came “away” (apo) from the river and stepped up onto the bank. This fact becomes especially clear when Matthew is read in harmony with Mark. Here in Matthew 3:16, “away from” is from the Greek preposition apo (away from). The only way to be “away from” the water is to be out of it. Leon Morris writes:

Matthew does not describe the baptism, but takes up his narrative from the time when it was completed...He uses the preposition apo (which he uses 113 times) whereas Mark uses ek (Mark 1:10). But Matthew has no dislike for ek, for he uses it 82 times, so he is not simply avoiding Mark’s preposition. He may, of course, use apo to indicate “more clearly Jesus’ complete departure from the waters of the Jordan” than does Mark’s ek....a

Robert Gundry writes: “[Matthew] makes Jesus go up from the water immediately after the baptism, i.e., clamber up on the riverbank...Matthew’s apo does not negate the thought of emergence contained in Mark’s ek, but it indicates more clearly Jesus’ complete departure from the waters of the Jordan.”b

Other commentators make note of the fact that by leaving John and stepping out of the Jordan River, Jesus is shown to be starting his own new ministry, not connected with John the Baptist. Davies and Allison make that point: “Jesus’ emerging from the water and climbing the bank...connects the heavenly vision and voice not with an action of John but with an action of Jesus.”c They further state that it brings to mind at least two strong images that are imbedded in the Jewish mind: the creation of order from watery chaos (Gen. 1:2), and Israel’s new beginning as it came up and out of the Red Sea. Jesus’ coming up out of the Jordan marked the start of something new.

[For more on Jesus’ baptism, see commentary on Mark 1:10.]

“look!” The Greek word is idou (#2400 ἰδού), and it is used to get our attention. See commentary on Matthew 1:20.

“he saw the spirit of God descending.” In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the “he saw” can refer to Jesus or John, the pronouns are unclear. But in any case, this was an event visible to anyone there and John did actually see it (John 1:32). The fact that the spirit came down upon Jesus was important because it openly demonstrated to the world that Jesus had been “anointed” with holy spirit, something that normally cannot be seen (cp. Acts 10:38).

Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, 66.
Gundry, Matthew: A Commentary.
Davies and Allison, Matthew 1-7 [ICC], 328.

Additional resource:

Video expand/contractThe Baptism of Jesus Christ - Commentary from the REV (8:46) (Pub: 2014-04-11)

This teaching details the order of events before, during, and after the baptism of Jesus and explains how this shows that there is a distinction between John the Baptist’s ministry and the ministry of Jesus Christ.

Verses: Matt. 3:13-17; Mark 1:10

Teacher: John Schoenheit

Watch on Youtube popout

Mat 3:17

“behold.” The Greek word is idou (#2400 ἰδού), and it is used to get our attention. See commentary on Matthew 1:20.

“This is.” What God said at Jesus’ baptism is recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and in Mark and Luke, God speaks directly to Jesus, saying, “You are my beloved Son.” Here in Matthew, the text says, “This is” my beloved Son. While it is possible that God made more than one statement about His Son, one being “You are” and one being “This is,” that is not likely. The greater possibility is that Mark and Luke recorded what the voice from heaven actually said, while Matthew recorded what the voice fully intended: that we the audience be included in the knowledge that Jesus is the Son of God. Thus, when Matthew, Mark, and Luke are put together and understood as communicating God’s heart to mankind, we see that Jesus got clear confirmation that he was the Son of God, and God intends for us to have that understanding too. That Jesus is the Son of God is not a message just for Jesus. It is for the world to know. It seems likely from John 1:34 that the audience, including John the Baptist, heard the voice from heaven as well as Jesus did.

Due to the pressure to harmonize scriptures so that the same record reads the same way in different Gospels, the Greek manuscript “D” from the fifth century, and some Syriac (Aramaic) manuscripts, have Matthew read “You are my beloved Son,” like Mark and Luke do. Thankfully, that harmonization was copied into so few manuscripts that it does not show up in any well-known version of the Bible. In support of the reading “This is my beloved Son” is not only almost every known Greek manuscript and some Syriac manuscripts, but also the Shem Tov Hebrew manuscript of Matthew. The Shem Tov Hebrew manuscript is believed to be a lineal descendant of the original manuscript of Matthew that the Apostle Matthew wrote in Hebrew.

[For more on the Shem Tov Hebrew Manuscript of Matthew see commentary on Matthew 3:3.]

One last reason to believe that “this is” was the original reading of Matthew 3:17 is that there would be lots of pressure to change “this is” to “you are,” but no pressure to change “you are” to “this is.” That makes “This is” what textual scholars call “the more difficult reading,” which in most cases is the original reading because scribes tended to make the text easier to read and understand rather than harder to read and understand. Given all the evidence, “This is my beloved Son” can be seen to be the original reading of Matthew 3:17.

[For more on the harmonization of Scripture, and how it has affected translations, see commentary on Luke 11:2, “Father.”]


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