Matthew: Chapter 3 Footnotes
3:1 John the Baptist comes from the priestly Essene milieu and is referenced outside the Bible by Josephus.
3:2 When John says the "kingdom of heaven" is at hand, he is referring to the coming of God. Devout Jews at the time avoided using God's name out of reverence. Mark, Luke, & John all refer directly to the coming of the Lord. 'Repent' = to change one's mind for the better.
3:4 Jews expected the return of Elijah from heaven to prepare Israel for the final coming of God's kingdom. John's austere dress echoes that of the prophet Elijah, who did not die, but rather ascended into heaven. John's dress and austere eating later became a model for monks. On a side note, it is likely his clothing was not made of actual camel's hair (which was fairly expensive once woven), but rather simple dressed camel's skin.
3:6 Ritual washing was a powerful and frequently used symbol at the time. Here it is a religious rite of cleansing/purification, but performed by John instead of by the penitent sinner alone. This was not just a symbolic act; they were to go forth and make serious changes in their lives and return to God. In addition, John's baptism was performed once-only in contrast to ritual washing.
3:7 Pharisees & Sadducees (see 'Beyond the Bible, 'People' section). The fairly harsh words of John ("You brood of vipers!") are directed to them rather than the crowds that came out of honest interest/faith.
3:8 'Bear fruit' = good works.
3:9 Salvation is no longer exclusive to the children of Abraham. Gentiles can be saved.
3:11 In contrast with John's baptism of water, Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Some scholars find them synonymous: both related to the the purifying and refining characteristics of fire. Others take fire as a threat of destruction of the unrepentant during God's judgment.
3:12 A winnowing fan was a fork-like shovel with which the threshed wheat was thrown into the air. The good kernels fell to the ground; the light chaff, blown off by the wind, was gathered and burned up.
3:13-17 The baptism of Jesus and the descent of the Holy Spirit equips Jesus for his coming ministry. He has received the power, wisdom, and holiness he needs for that role. All four gospels include this incidence (though slightly differently), emphasizing its importance.
3:14-15 The dialogue between John and Jesus here only occurs in Matthew. It reveals that John is well aware of Jesus' superiority.
3:15 "to fulfill all righteousness" means to submit to God's plan for the salvation of the human race. Here Jesus is identified with the sinners around him by also accepting baptism.
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Jennifer Becker Landsberger
Who am I? Freelance writer (magazines, websites, & copywriting), Catholic, military wife, and Mensan. Double Bachelor's in History & Psychology.
Witnessing by charity and love are above all. Studying the Bible and beyond helps me on this quest. Feel free to join my walk into the Bible.
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~~~Prayer before Writing-
Oh creator of the universe, who has set the stars in the heavens and causes the sun to rise and set, shed the light of your wisdom into the darkness of my mind. Fill my thoughts with a loving knowledge of you, that I may bring you like to others. Just as you can make even babies speak your truth, instruct my tongue and guide my pen to convey the wonderful glory of the Gospel. Make my intellect sharp, my memory clear, and my words eloquent, so that I may faithfully interpret the mysteries what you have revealed.
To my readers & fellow writers,
1. I will pray that God's grace helps illuminate all of our interactions- both those of simple reading and more active conversations.
2. I will communicate with you respectfully and civilly. These are (rightly) issues which we feel passionate about. But even in disagreements, I will respect you fellow "seekers of truth."
3. I will not fall into negative behavior or words, such as insinuations, exaggerations, blames, or personal attacks. I respectfully ask you to do the same.
4. I will pray we will all find the truth and strive to fulfill the two greatest commandments: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:30-31)
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