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From the Temptation of Christ, to the commencement of his
Further testimony of John the Baptist.
JOHN i. 19-341.
19 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent Bethabara. riod, 4739, priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art
year. Vulgar Era,
Sacra, expressly limits its meaning to denote the land of Ca-
1 Michaelis and Lightfoot begin this part of the history at
Having now been inaugurated by the waters of baptism, the testimony from heaven, the anointing of the spirit, and the conquest over temptation, into his high office; the Messiah presents himself to his forerunner, who immediately hails him, as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. John, as a prophet, spoke under the influence of divine inspiration: in no other manner could he have obtained power to make the declaration. As our Lord had come into the world for the express object of expiating the sin of man, there is an obvious propriety in the salutation of the Baptist. It seems to mean, that as far as man was concerned, all the other offices, characters, and attributes of the Holy One of God, are of comparatively inferior moment, unless be be considered as the spotless lamb, that should die for mankind. The testimony of the ancient prophets had but gradually revealed the various perfections of the Messiah; and the hope and faith of man had been continually excited and cherished by the wise and merciful ordinance which appointed a succession of prophets, each of whom added some additional information respecting him who was to come. This salutation of the Baptist was the completion of all prophecy. From this time the voice of prophetic inspiration, under the law of the old covenant, utterly ceased. The Messiah had come, and he was before them. The Lamb of God was preparing himself for the fearful sacrifice. The epithet which was thus given to Christ must have been thoroughly understood by the people, as the Jews were accustomed to give to the lambs which were offered in the temple, the same name "the sacrifice of God." Vide Raza Mehinna in Zobar in Lev. fol. 3. 32. apud Gill in loc.
In support of the doctrine of the atonement, there is more authority than for any other revealed in the Jewish or Christian Scriptures. It was taught in the beginning of the patriarchal dispensation, the first after the fall, in the words of the promise and in the institution of sacrifices. It is enforced with the uniform concurrent testimony of the types, prophecies, opinions, customs, and traditions of the Jews, and the Jewish Church. It is the peculiar foundation and principal doctrine of the
20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, Bethabara. riod, 4739, I am not the Christ.
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21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? Valgar Era, And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he
22 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us.
thou of thyself?
as said the
23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wil-
24 And they which were sent, were of the Pharisees.
Christian Church in all ages, which has never deviated from the
The messengers from Jerusalem could not or would not
Joh. And. Danzius, in a very valuable treatise on the baptism of Proselytes among the Jews, written to illustrate this passage of St. John's Gospel, and the passages in Matthew, chap. iii. has considered at length the baptism of John. His treatise is bound up in Meuschen's Nov. Test. ex Talmude. As the work is not often to be procured, I have selected some of the points he discusses, and beg to refer to the work itself for the more ample detail.
To determine whether the baptism of John was divinely appointed or not, two enquiries appear to be necessary.
1. Was such a rite as baptism practised in the Jewish Church by divine appointment before the time of John.
2. If so, was the baptism of John distinct from that previously established among the Jews.
In reply to these questions, Danzius concludes that the baptism of John was not totally distinct from that in use amongst the Jews, (p. 262. § 25.) Scripture concurs with Josephus in speaking of baptism as a rite of long standing in the Jewish Church. By both John is represented to have been more bent upon correcting the abuse of the existing institution, than in establishing a new one.
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26 John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: Bethabara. riod, 4739, but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; 27 He it is, who, coming after me, is preferred before Vulgar Æra, me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose.
28 These things were done in Bethabara 3, beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world ^!
Baptism was appointed by God himself, (p. 266. § 30.) It was the received opinion among the ancient Jews, that baptism was appointed by God, and had obtained in their nation from the promulgation of the law. The sanctification enjoined (Exod. xix. 10.) is thought to have been baptism.
(P. 288. § 7. and 11.) St. Paul, 1 Cor. x. 2. says, ¿v ry vedeλy και ένθαλασσῃ ἐβαπτισαντο. These words may be taken literally, without any figurative signification. They were baptized, v VEDEλy, i.e. in rain water, and έv Oaλaroy, in the sea.
(P. 301. § 85 and 86.) The Jewish Elders did not inquire into the baptism of John, as a thing the nature of which was new and unheard of amongst them-1st. But because he, on his private authority, usurped a public function, which belonged to three persons (triumvirati) commissioned by the Church. -2dly. Because he baptized those for whom it might seem unnecessary, viz. Jews under the covenant, who had been baptized before in their ancestors, and needed not baptism as an initiatory rite for admission into the Jewish Church. (p. 305. §102.)-And, 3dly. Because in his baptism he differed from their ancestors in the end proposed.
The Jews believed baptism to have been instituted by God himself. If this opinion was true, and the baptism of John was not totally distinct from that in use among the Jews, John must be allowed to have been divinely commissioned to exercise that function.-See the Treatise of Danzius.
Gorionides, however, asserts of John, that he was the institutor of baptism. This is he who ban mwy, made, instituted, or practised baptism.-Lib. v. c. 45. (ap. Gill.)
3 The events of the new dispensation were shadowed forth by the many circumstances under the former system of worship. St. John baptized at Bethabara. This place, the name of which denotes "a place of passage," is said to have been the very spot where the Israelites, under the command of Joshua, advanced into the Holy Land. It was over against Jericho. There is reason to believe (vide Lightfoot in loc.) that St. John was baptizing in the very place therefore, where the Israelites passed over; and that our Lord was baptized in that spot where the ark rested in the bed of the river. These coincidences are so very appropriate and numerous, that we shall do well to hesitate before we call them all accidental.
Jerome (a) and Origen (b) have preserved the tradition that John baptized in Bethabara. The place was pointed out to strangers in their time.
(a) De locis Hebraicis, fol. 89. I. (b) Comm. in Joan. tom. S. p. 131.
4 The observations of Lightfoot on the time when and the circumstances under which this expression was used, deserve to be noticed.
30 This is he of whom I said3, After me cometh a Bethabara. riod, 4739, man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. 31 And I knew him not: but that he should be made
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John, in his opinion, could not have selected a more characteristic expression than that of the morning and evening lamb, that was offered at Jerusalem.
1. John addressed Priests and Levites, whose chief employment was to make a sacrifice of that lamb.
2. It was about the time of offering the sacrifice, when John used these words.
3. The lamb declared the innocency of Christ in his being without spot, and the death of Christ in being offered up.
4. It was pertinent to the doctrine of John, for he had spoken of remission of sin to all who came near, and declares when Christ came in sight, in what mauner the sins of those who repented were to be forgiven, by the sacrifice of this very lamb of God, who should bear away the sins of the world, as the lamb offered in the temple, took away in a figure the sins of the Jews.-Lightfoot, 2d part of the Harmony of the Evangelists, Works, vol. i. p. 529.
To take away sin was a common phrase among the Talmudists. Brescith rabba, sect. 22. fol. 23. 2. ad verba Caini, Cainus Deum sic alloquitur: superna et inferna tu portas,
sed peccata mea tu non portas. Eadem ולפשעי אין אתה סובל
repetuntur in Debarim rabba, sect, 8. fol. 260. 2. Jalkut Ru-
.Messias portat peccata Israel משיח סובל עוונות ישראל
In the Levitical Dispensation, when a sacrifice was offered
tion of their lives to make an atonement for them. Exod. xxx.
Vide Whitby in loc. Lightfoot, vol. ii. p. 531. and Archbishop
5 Kuinoel, comparing this verse with ver. 30. has discussed both passages at length, and decides, after an impartial examination of the various meanings assigned to them, by others, in favour of the generally received opinion, that the Baptist intended to enforce on his hearers the Scriptural doctrine of the pre-existence of Christ.-Kuinoel in libros historicos N. T. vol. iii. p. 117-121.
6 This expression of the Evangelist, "I knew him not," appears at variance with the passage Matt. iii. 13. where John, knowing his superiority, declares, "I have need to be baptized by thee." There are several ways of reconciling this apparent difference-the most natural interpretation seems to be, that John being made acquainted by his own parents with the miraculous circumstances that preceded the birth of his relation;
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manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with Bethabara. water.
32 And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit Vulgar Æra, descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon
33 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, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
34 And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.
and having known the extraordinary purity and holiness of his
Some commentators suppose that John, on Jesus coming to
The venerable Archdeacon Nares interprets the passage, I knew him not as the Messiah. Doddridge endeavours to prove, that either accidentally, or providentially, they might very possibly have been unknown to each other.-Archdeacon Nares Remarks on the Socinian Version of the New Testament, p. 34,
Nonnus, who lived in the fourth century, has left a Paraphrase of the Gospel of St. John in homeric verse. The principal use of this work, in the present day, is to shew us the sense in which the more controverted passages of St. John's Gospel were understood at this period. Nonnus has thus paraphrased the expression, "I knew him not," in verse 31.
The corresponding passage in verse 33, leaves out the word