1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
1 CHAPTER III.
NOTES ON CHAP. III.
Verse 1. John the Baptist] John, surnamed The Baptist,
because he required those to be baptized who professed to be
contrite because of their sins, was the son of a priest named
Zacharias, and his wife Elisabeth, and was born about A. M. 3999,
and about six months before our blessed Lord. Of his almost
miraculous conception and birth, we have a circumstantial account
in the Gospel of Luke, chap. 1: to which, and the notes there, the
reader is requested to refer. For his fidelity in reproving Herod
for his incest with his brother Philip's wife, he was cast into
prison, no doubt at the suggestion of Herodias, the profligate
woman in question. He was at last beheaded at her instigation,
and his head given as a present to Salome, her daughter, who, by
her elegant dancing, had highly gratified Herod, the paramour of
her incestuous mother. His ministry was short; for he appears to
have been put to death in the 27th or 28th year of the Christian
Came-preaching] κηρυσσων, proclaiming, as a herald, a matter
of great and solemn importance to men; the subject not his own,
nor of himself, but from that God from whom alone he had received
his commission. See on the nature and importance of the herald's
office, at the end of this chapter. κηρυσσειν, says Rosenmuller,
de iis dicitur, qui in PLATEIS, in CAMPIS, in AERE aperto, ut a
multis audiantur, vocem tollunt, &c. "The verb κηρυσσειν is
applied to those who, in the streets, fields, and open air, lift
up their voice, that they may be heard by many, and proclaim what
has been committed to them by regal or public authority; as the
KERUKES among the Greeks, and the PRECONES among the Romans."
The wilderness of Judea] That is, the country parts, as
distinguished from the city; for in this sense the word
wilderness, midbar or midbarioth, is used
among the rabbins. John's manner of life gives no countenance to
the eremite or hermit's life, so strongly recommended and
applauded by the Roman Church.
2And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
2 Verse 2. Repent] μετανοειτε. This was the matter of the
preaching. The verb μετανοεω is either compounded of μετα, after,
and νοειν to understand, which signifies that, after hearing such
preaching, the sinner is led to understand, that the way he has
walked in was the way of misery, death, and hell. Or the word may
be derived from μετα after, and ανοια, madness, which
intimates that the whole life of a sinner is no other than a
continued course of madness and folly: and if to live in a
constant opposition to all the dictates of true wisdom; to wage
war with his own best interests in time and eternity; to provoke
and insult the living God; and, by habitual sin, to prepare
himself only for a state of misery, be evidences of insanity,
every sinner exhibits them plentifully. It was from this notion
of the word, that the Latins termed repentance resipiscentia, a
growing wise again, from re and sapere; or, according to
Tertullian, Resipiscentia, quasi receptio mentis ad se, restoring
the mind to itself: Contra Marcion, lib. ii. Repentance, then,
implies that a measure of Divine wisdom is communicated to the
sinner, and that he thereby becomes wise to salvation. That his
mind, purposes, opinions, and inclinations, are changed; and
that, in consequence, there is a total change in his conduct. It
need scarcely be remarked, that, in this state, a man feels deep
anguish of soul, because he has sinned against God, unfitted
himself for heaven, and exposed his soul to hell. Hence, a true
penitent has that sorrow, whereby he forsakes sin, not only
because it has been ruinous to his own soul, but because it has
been offensive to God.
The kingdom of heaven is at hand] Referring to the prophecy of
Daniel, , where the reign of Christ among men is
expressly foretold. This phrase, and the kingdom of God, mean the
same thing, viz. the dispensation of infinite mercy, and
manifestation of eternal truth, by Christ Jesus, producing the
true knowledge of God, accompanied with that worship which is pure
and holy, worthy of that God who is its institutor and its object.
But why is this called a kingdom? Because it has its laws, all
the moral precepts of the Gospel: its subjects, all who believe in
Christ Jesus: and its king, the Sovereign of heaven and earth.
N. B. Jesus Christ never saved a soul which he did not govern; nor
is this Christ precious or estimable to any man who does not feel
a spirit of subjection to the Divine will.
But why is it called the kingdom of HEAVEN? Because God designed
that his kingdom of grace here should resemble the kingdom of
glory above. And hence our Lord teaches us to pray, Thy will be
done on earth, as it is in heaven. The kingdom of heaven is not
meat and drink, says St. Paul, ; does not consist in the
gratification of sensual passions, or worldly ambition; but is
righteousness, peace, and joy, in the Holy Ghost. Now what can
there be more than this in glory? Righteousness, without mixture
of sin; peace, without strife or contention; joy, in the Holy
Ghost, spiritual joy, without mixture of misery! And all this, it
is possible, by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, to enjoy here
below. How then does heaven itself differ from this state?
Answer. It makes the righteousness eternal, the peace eternal,
and the joy eternal. This is the heaven of heavens! The phrase,
kingdom of heaven, malcuth shamayim, is frequently
used by the rabbinical writers, and always means, the purity of
the Divine worship, and the blessedness which a righteous man
feels when employed in it.
It is farther added, This kingdom is at hand. The dispensation
of the glorious Gospel was now about to be fully opened, and the
Jews were to have the first offers of salvation. This kingdom is
also at hand to us; and wherever Christ crucified is preached,
there is salvation to be found. JESUS is proclaimed to thee, O
man! as infinitely able and willing to save. Believe in his
name-cast thy soul upon his atonement, and enter into rest!
3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
3 Verse 3. The voice of one crying in the wilderness] Or, A
voice of a crier in the wilderness. This is quoted from
, which clearly proves that John the Baptist was the
person of whom the prophet spoke.
The idea is taken from the practice of eastern monarchs, who,
whenever they entered upon an expedition, or took a journey
through a desert country, sent harbingers before them, to prepare
all things for their passage; and pioneers to open the passes, to
level the ways, and to remove all impediments. The officers
appointed to superintend such preparations were called by the
Diodorus's account of the march of Semiramis into Media and
Persia, will give us a clear notion of the preparation of the way
for a royal expedition. "In her march to Ecbatane, she came to
the Zarcean mountain, which, extending many furlongs, and being
full of craggy precipices and deep hollows, could not be passed
without making a great compass about. Being therefore desirous of
leaving an everlasting memorial of herself, as well as shortening
the way, she ordered the precipices to be digged down, and the
hollows to be filled up; and, at a great expense, she made a
shorter and more expeditious road, which, to this day, is called
from her, The road of Semiramis. Afterwards she went into Persia,
and all the other countries of Asia, subject to her dominion; and,
wherever she went, she ordered the mountains and precipices to be
levelled, raised causeways in the plain country, and, at a great
expense, made the ways passable." Diod. Sic. lib. ii. and Bp.
The Jewish Church was that desert country, to which John was
sent, to announce the coming of the Messiah. It was destitute at
that time of all religious cultivation, and of the spirit and
practice of piety; and John was sent to prepare the way of the
Lord, by preaching the doctrine of repentance. The desert is
therefore to be considered as affording a proper emblem of the
rude state of the Jewish Church, which is the true wilderness
meant by the prophet, and in which John was to prepare the way of
the promised Messiah. The awful importance of the matter, and the
vehemence of the manner of the Baptist's preaching, probably
acquired him the character of the crier, βοων.
For the meaning of the word JOHN, see the note on .
4 And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.
4 Verse 4. His raiment of camel's hair] A sort of coarse or
rough covering, which, it appears, was common to the prophets,
In such a garment we find Elijah clothed, .
And as John had been designed under the name of this prophet,
, whose spirit and qualifications he was to possess,
, he took the same habit and lived in the same state of
His meat was locusts] ακριδες. ακρις may either signify the
insect called the locust, which still makes a part of the food in
the land of Judea; or the top of a plant. Many eminent
commentators are of the latter opinion; but the first is the most
likely. The Saxon translator has [Anglo-Saxon] grasshoppers.
Wild honey.] Such as he got in the rocks and hollows of trees,
and which abounded in Judea: see . It is most likely
that the dried locusts, which are an article of food in Asiatic
countries to the present day, were fried in the honey, or
compounded in some manner with it. The Gospel according to the
Hebrews, as quoted by Epiphanius, seems to have taken a similar
view of the subject, as it adds here to the text, ουηγευσιςην
τουμανναωςεγκριςενελαιω. And its taste was like manna, as a
sweet cake baked in oil.
5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,
5 Verse 5. Jordan] Many of the best MSS. and versions, with
add ποταμω, the river Jordan; but the definitive article, with
which the word is generally accompanied, both in the Hebrew and
the Greek, is, sufficient; and our article the, which should ever
be used in the translation, expresses the force of the other.
6And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
6 Verse 6. Were baptized] In what form baptism was originally
administered, has been deemed a subject worthy of serious dispute.
Were the people dipped or sprinkled? for it is certain βαπτω and
βαπτιζω mean both. They were all dipped, say some. Can any man
suppose that it was possible for John to dip all the inhabitants of
Jerusalem and Judea, and of all the country round about the
Jordan? Were both men and women dipped, for certainly both came
to his baptism? This could never have comported either with
safety or with decency. Were they dipped in their clothes? This
would have endangered their lives, if they had not with them
change of raiment: and as such a baptism as John's (however
administered) was, in several respects, a new thing in Judea, it
is not at all likely that the people would come thus provided.
But suppose these were dipped, which I think it would be
impossible to prove, does it follow that, in all regions of the
world, men and women must be dipped, in order to be evangelically
baptized? In the eastern countries, bathings were frequent,
because of the heat of the climate, it being there so necessary to
cleanliness and health; but could our climate, or a more northerly
one, admit of this with safety, for at least three-fourths of the
year? We may rest assured that it could not. And may we not
presume, that if John had opened his commission in the north of
Great Britain, for many months of the year, he would have dipped
neither man nor woman, unless he could have procured a tepid bath?
Those who are dipped or immersed in water, in the name of the Holy
Trinity, I believe to be evangelically baptized-those who are
washed or sprinkled with water in the name of the Father, and of
the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, I believe to be equally so; and
the repetition of such a baptism I believe to be profane. Others
have a right to believe the contrary, if they see good. After
all, it is the thing signified, and not the mode, which is the
essential part of the sacrament. See the note on .
Confessing their sins.] εξομολογουμενοι, earnestly
acknowledging that their sins were their own. And thus taking the
whole blame upon themselves, and laying nothing to the charge of
GOD or man. This is essential to true repentance; and, till a man
take the whole blame on himself, he cannot feel the absolute need
he has of casting his soul on the mercy of God, that he may be
7 ¶ But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
7 Verse 7. Pharisees] A very numerous sect among the Jews, who,
in their origin, were, very probably, a pure and holy people. It
is likely that they got the name of Pharisees, i.e. Separatists,
(from pharash, to separate,) from their separating themselves
from the pollution of the Jewish national worship; and hence, the
word in the Anglo-saxon version is [Anglo-Saxon], holy persons who
stand apart, or by themselves: but, in process of time, like all
religious sects and parties, they degenerated: they lost the
spirit of their institution, they ceased to recur to first
principles, and had only the form of godliness, when Jesus Christ
preached in Judea; for he bore witness, that they did make the
outside of the cup and platter clean-they observed the rules of
their institution, but the spirit was gone.
Sadducees] A sect who denied the existence of angels and
spirits, consequently all Divine influence and inspiration, and
also the resurrection of the dead. The Sadducees of that time
were the Materialists and Deists of the Jewish nation. When the
sect of the Pharisees arose cannot be distinctly ascertained; but
it is supposed to have been some time after the Babylonish
captivity. The sect of the Sadducees were the followers of one
Sadok, a disciple of Antigonus Sochaeus, who flourished about
three centuries before Christ. There was a third sect among the
Jews, called the Essenes or Essenians, of whom I shall have
occasion to speak on .
Come to his baptism] The AEthiopic version adds the word
privately here, the translator probably having read λαθρα in his
copy, which gives a very remarkable turn to the passage. The
multitudes, who had no worldly interest to support, no character
to maintain by living in their usual way, came publicly, and
openly acknowledged that they were SINNERS; and stood in need of
mercy. The others, who endeavoured to secure their worldly
interests by making a fair show in the flesh, are supposed to have
come privately, that they might not be exposed to reproach; and
that they might not lose their reputation for wisdom and sanctity,
which their consciences, under the preaching of the Baptist, told
them they had no right to. See below.
O generation of vipers] γεννηματαεχιδνων. A terribly
expressive speech. A serpentine brood, from a serpentine stock.
As their fathers were, so were they, children of the wicked one.
This is God's estimate of a SINNER, whether he wade in wealth, or
soar in fame. The Jews were the seed of the serpent, who should
bruise the heel of the woman's seed, and whose head should be
bruised by him.
Who hath warned you] Or, privately shown you. τις
επεδιξεν-from υπο, under, and δεικνυμαι, to show. Does
not this seem to allude to the reading of the AEthiopic noticed
above? They came privately: and John may be supposed to address
them thus: "Did any person give you a private warning? No, you
received your convictions under the public ministry of the word.
The multitudes of the poor and wretched, who have been convinced
of sin, have publicly acknowledged their crimes, and sought
mercy-God will unmask you-you have deceived the people-you have
deceived yourselves-you must appear just what you are; and, if you
expect mercy from God, act like the penitent multitude, and bring
forth FRUIT worthy of repentance. Do not begin to trifle with
your convictions, by thinking, that because you are descendants of
Abraham, therefore you are entitled to God's favour; God can, out
of these stones (pointing probably to those scattered about in the
desert, which he appears to have considered as an emblem of the
Gentiles) raise up a faithful seed, who, though not natural
descendants of your excellent patriarch, yet shall be his worthy
children, as being partakers of his faith, and friends of his
God." It should be added, that the Greek word also signifies
plain or ample information. See on .
The wrath to come?] The desolation which was about to fall on
the Jewish nation for their wickedness, and threatened in the last
words of their own Scriptures. See .
Lest I come and smite the earth (et ha-arets, this very
land) with a curse. This wrath or curse was coming: they did not
prevent it by turning to God, and receiving the Messiah, and
therefore the wrath of God came upon them to the uttermost. Let
him that readeth understand.
8Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
10And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
10 Verse 10. And now also the axe is laid] Or, Even now the axe
lieth. As if he had said, There is not a moment to spare-God is
about to cut off every impenitent soul-you must therefore either
turn to God immediately, or be utterly and finally ruined. It was
customary with the prophets to represent the kingdoms, nations,
and individuals, whose ruin they predicted, under the notion
of forests and trees, doomed to be cut down. See ;
. The Baptist follows the same metaphor: the
Jewish nation is the tree, and the Romans the axe, which, by
the just judgment of God, was speedily to cut it down. It has
been well observed, that there is an allusion here to a woodman,
who, having marked a tree for excision, lays his axe at its root,
and strips off his outer garment, that he may wield his blows more
powerfully, and that his work may be quickly performed. For about
sixty years before the coming of Christ, this axe had been lying
at the root of the Jewish tree, Judea having been made a province
to the Roman empire, from the time that Pompey took the city of
Jerusalem, during the contentions of the two brothers Hyrcanus and
Aristobulus, which was about sixty-three years before the coming
of Christ. See Joseph. Antiq. l. xiv. c. 1-5. But as the country
might be still considered as in the hands of the Jews, though
subject to the Romans, and God had waited on them now nearly
ninety years from the above time, expecting them to bring forth
fruit, and none was yet produced; he kept the Romans as an axe,
lying at the root of this tree, who were ready to cut it down the
moment God gave them the commission.
11I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
11 Verse 11. But he that cometh after me] Or, I coming after me,
who is now on his way, and will shortly make his appearance.
Jesus Christ began his ministry when he was thirty years of age,
, which was the age appointed by the law, . John
the Baptist was born about six months before Christ; and, as he
began his public ministry when thirty years of age, then this
coming after refers to six months after the commencement of John's
public preaching, at which time Christ entered upon his.
Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear] This saying is expressive
of the most profound humility and reverence. To put on, take off,
and carry the shoes of their masters, was, not only among the
Jews, but also among the Greeks and Romans, the work of the
vilest slaves. This is amply proved by Kypke, from Arrian,
Plutarch, and the Babylonian Talmud.
With the Holy Ghost, and with fire] That the influences of the
Spirit of God are here designed, needs but little proof. Christ's
religion was to be a spiritual religion, and was to have its seat
in the heart. Outward precepts, however well they might describe,
could not produce inward spirituality. This was the province of
the Spirit of God, and of it alone; therefore he is represented
here under the similitude of fire, because he was to illuminate
and invigorate the soul, penetrate every part, and assimilate the
whole to the image of the God of glory. See on .
With fire] καιπυρι. This is wanting in E. S. (two MSS. one of
the ninth, the other of the tenth century) eight others, and many
Evangelistaria, and in some versions and printed editions; but it
is found in the parallel place, , and in the most
authentic MSS. and versions. It was probably the different
interpretations given of it by the fathers that caused some
transcribers to leave it out of their copies.
The baptism of fire has been differently understood among the
primitive fathers. Some say, it means the tribulations, crosses,
and afflictions, which believers in Christ are called to pass
through. Hence the author of the Opus Imperfectum, on Matthew,
says, that there are three sorts of baptism, 1. that of water; 2.
that of the Holy Ghost; and, 3. that of tribulations and
afflictions, represented under the notion of fire. He observes
farther, that our blessed Lord went through these three baptisms:
1. That of water, he received from the hands of John. 2. That of
the Holy Spirit he received from the Father. And, 3. That of
fire, he had in his contest with Satan in the desert. St.
Chrysostom says; it means the superabundant graces of the Spirit.
Basil and Theophilus explain it of the fire of hell. Cyril,
Jerome, and others, understand by it the descent of the Holy
Spirit, on the day of pentecost.
Hilary says, it means a fire that the righteous must pass
through in the day of judgment, to purify them from such
defilements as necessarily cleaved to them here, and with which
they could not be admitted into glory.
Ambrose says, this baptism shall be administered at the gate of
paradise, by John Baptist; and he thinks that this is what is
meant by the flaming sword, .
Origen and Lactantius conceive it to be a river of fire, at the
gate of heaven, something similar to the Phlegethon of the
heathens; but they observe, that when the righteous come to pass
over, the liquid flames shall divide, and give them a free
passage: that Christ shall stand on the brink of it, and receive
through the flames all those, and none but those, who have
received in this world the baptism of water in his name: and that
this baptism is for those who, having received the faith of
Christ, have not, in every respect, lived conformably to it; for,
though they laid the good foundation, yet they built hay, straw,
and stubble upon it, and this work of theirs must be tried, and
destroyed by this fire. This, they think, is St. Paul's meaning,
If any man build on this foundation (viz. Jesus Christ) gold,
silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man's work
shall be made manifest: and the fire shall try every man's work,
of what sort it is.-If any man's work be burnt, he shall suffer
loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as BY FIRE. From this
fire, understood in this way, the fathers of the following ages,
and the schoolmen, formed the famous and lucrative doctrine of
PURGATORY. Some in the primitive Church thought that fire should
be, in some way or other, joined to the water in baptism; and it
is supposed that they administered it by causing the person to
pass between two fires, or to leap through the flame; or by
having a torch, or lighted candle, present. Thus have those
called Doctors of the Church trifled. The exposition which I have
given, I believe to be the only genuine one.
12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
12 Verse 12. Whose fan is in his hand] The Romans are here termed
God's fan, as, in ,
they were called his axe, and, in , they are termed his
troops or armies.
The winnowing fan of the Hindoos is square, made of split
bamboo; and the corn is winnowed by waving the fan backwards with
both hands-"Whose fan is in his hand."
His floor] Does not this mean the land of Judea, which had been
long, as it were, the threshing-floor of the Lord? God says, he
will now, by the winnowing fan (viz. the Romans) throughly cleanse
this floor-the wheat, those who believe in the Lord Jesus, he will
gather into his garner, either take to heaven from the evil to
come, or put in a place of safety, as he did the Christians, by
sending them to Pella, in Coelosyria, previously to the
destruction of Jerusalem. But he will burn up the chaff-the
disobedient and rebellions Jews, who would not come unto Christ,
that they might have life.
Unquenchable fire.] That cannot be extinguished by man.
13 ¶ Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
14 Verse 14. John forbad him] Earnestly and pressingly opposed
him: this is the proper import of the words διεκωλευεναυτον.
I have observed that δια, in composition, most frequently, if not
always, strengthens the signification in classic authors.
15And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
15 Verse 15. To fulfil all righteousness.] That is, Every
righteous ordinance: so I think the words πασανδικαιοσυνην should
be translated; and so our common version renders a similar word,
The following passage, quoted from Justin Martyr, will doubtless
appear a strong vindication of this translation. "Christ was
circumcised, and observed all the other ordinances of the law of
Moses, not with a view to his own justification; but to fulfil the
dispensation committed to him by the Lord, the God and Creator of
all things."- Wakefield.
How remarkable are the following words of Creeshna (an
Incarnation of the Supreme God, according to the Hindoo theology)
related in the Bhagvat Geeta, p. 47. Addressing his disciple
Arjoon, he says, "I myself, Arjoon, have not, in the three regions
of the universe, any thing which is necessary for me to perform;
nor any thing to obtain, which is not obtained; and yet I live in
the exercise of the moral duties. If I were not vigilantly to
attend to those duties, all men would presently follow my example.
If I were not to perform the moral actions, this world would fail
in their duties: I should be the cause of spurious births, and
should drive the people from the right way. As the ignorant
perform the duties of life from a hope of reward, so the wise man,
out of respect to the opinions and prejudices of mankind, should
perform the same without motives of interest. The wise man, by
industriously performing all the duties of life, should induce the
vulgar to attend to them."
The Septuagint use this word often for the Hebrew mishpat,
judgment, appointment. And in , the person who
δικαιοσυνηνκαιελεοςπεποιηκε-hath done righteousness and
mercy, is he who sacredly attended to the performance of all the
religious ordinances mentioned in that chapter, and performed them
in the genuine spirit of mercy. δικαιωματα is used 1Mac 1:13, 49;
2:21, and in , to denote religious ceremonies.
Michaelis supposes that kol chok, all religious statutes or
ordinances, were the words used in the Hebrew original of this
But was this an ordinance? Undoubtedly: it was the initiatory
ordinance of the Baptist's dispensation. Now, as Christ had
submitted to circumcision, which was the initiatory ordinance of
the Mosaic dispensation, it was necessary that he should submit to
this, which was instituted by no less an authority, and was the
introduction to his own dispensation of eternal mercy and truth.
But it was necessary on another account: Our Lord represented the
high priest, and was to be the high priest over the house of God:-
now, as the high priest was initiated into his office by washing
and anointing, so must Christ: and hence he was baptized, washed,
and anointed by the Holy Ghost. Thus he fulfilled the righteous
ordinance of his initiation into the office of high priest, and
thus was prepared to make an atonement for the sins of mankind.
Then he suffered him.] In the Opus Imperfectum, quoted by
Griesbach, there is the following addition, which, at least, may
serve to show the opinion of its author: Et Johannes quidem
baptizauit ilium in aqua, ille autem Johannem cum Spiritu. "Then
John baptized him with water, and he baptized John with the
16And 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:
16 Verse 16. 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, ,
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. 2. The person of the Holy Ghost in a bodily
shape, (σωματικωειδει, ) like a dove.
3. The person of the Father; a voice came out of heaven, saying,
This is my beloved Son, &c. 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.
17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
17 Verse 17. In whom I am well pleased.] ενωενδακησα in whom I
have delighted-though it is supposed that the past tense is here
used for the present: but . By this
voice, and overshadowing of the Spirit, the mission of the Lord
Jesus was publicly and solemnly accredited; God intimating that he
had before delighted in him: the law, in all its ordinances,
having pointed him out, for they could not be pleasing to God, but
as they were fulfilled in, and showed forth, the Son of man, till,
As the office of a herald is frequently alluded to in this
chapter, and also in various other parts of the New Testament, I
think it best to give a full account of it here, especially as the
office of the ministers of the Gospel is represented by it. Such
persons can best apply the different correspondences between their
own and the herald's office.
At the Olympic and Isthmian games, heralds were persons of the
utmost consequence and importance. Their office was:-
1. To proclaim from a scaffold, or elevated place, the combat
that was to be entered on.
2. To summon the Agonistae, or contenders, to make their
appearance, and to announce their names.
3. To specify the prize for which they were to contend.
4. To admonish and animate, with appropriate discourses, the
athletae, or combatants.
5. To set before them, and explain, the laws of the agones, or
contenders; that they might see that even the conqueror could not
receive the crown or prize, unless he had strove lawfully.
6. After the conflict was ended, to bring the business before
the judges, and, according to their determination, to proclaim the
7. To deliver the prize to the conqueror, and to put the crown
on his head, in the presence of the assembly.
8. They were the persons who convoked all solemn and religious
assemblies, and brought forth, and often slew, the sacrifices
offered on those occasions.
9. They frequently called the attention of the people, during
the sacrifices, to the subject of devotion, with hoc age!
τουτοπραττε: mind what you are about, don't be idle; think of
nothing else. See PLUTARCH in Coriolanus.
The office, and nearly the word itself, was in use among the
ancient Babylonians, as appears from , where the Chaldee
word caroza, is rendered by the Septuagint κηρυξ kerux,
and by our translation, very properly, herald. His business in
the above place was to call an assembly of the people, for the
purpose of public worship; to describe the object and nature
of that worship, and the punishment to be inflicted on those who
did not join in the worship, and properly assist in the
solemnities of the occasion.
is the only place in our translation, in which the word herald
is used: but the word κηρυξ, used by St. Paul, ;
, and by St. Peter, , is found in the
Septuagint, , as well as in , and the verb
κηρυσσω is found in different places of that version, and in a
great number of places in the New Testament.
It is worthy of remark, that the office of the κηρυξ, kerux, or
herald, must have been anciently known, and indeed established,
among the Egyptians: for in , where an account is given
of the promotion of Joseph to the second place in the kingdom,
where we say, And they cried before him, saying, Bow the knee; the
Septuagint has καιεκηρυξενεμπροσθεναυτουκηρυξ. And a HERALD
made proclamation before him. As the Septuagint translated this
for Ptolemy Philadelphus, the Egyptian king, and were in Egypt
when they translated the law, we may safely infer that the office
was not only known, but in use among the Egyptians, being
denominated in their language abrek, which our translators,
following the Vulgate, have rendered, Bow the knee; but which the
Septuagint understood to be the title of an officer, who was the
same among the Egyptians as the κηρυξ among the Greeks. This is a
probable meaning of the word, which escaped me when I wrote the
note on .
As every kind of office had some peculiar badge, or ensign, by
which it was known among the ancients, so the heralds were known
by generally carrying a caduceus. This was a rod with two spread
wings at the top, and about which two serpents were entwined.
The poets fabled that this rod was given by Apollo, the god of
wisdom and music, to Mercury, the god of eloquence, and the
messenger of the gods. To it wonderful properties are ascribed-
especially that it produces sleep, and that it raises the dead.
Who does not at once see, that the caduceus and its properties
clearly point out the office, honour, and influence of the
herald? As persons of strong voice, and ready speech, and
copious eloquence, were always chosen for heralds, they were
represented as endued with wisdom and eloquence from above. They
lulled men to sleep, i.e. by their persuasive powers of speech,
they calmed the turbulent dispositions of an inflamed populace,
when proceeding to acts of rebellion and anarchy; or they roused
the dormant zeal of the community, who, through long oppression,
despairing of succour or relief, seemed careless about their best
interests being stupidly resolved to sink under their burdens, and
expect release only in death.
As to the caduceus itself, it was ever the emblem of peace among
the ancients: the rod was the emblem of power; the two serpents,
of wisdom and prudence; and the two wings, of diligence and
despatch. The first idea of this wonderful rod seems to have been
borrowed from the rod of Moses. .
The word κηρυξ kerux, or herald, here used, is evidently
derived from κηρυσσειν, to proclaim, call aloud; and this from
γηρυς, the voice; because these persons were never employed in any
business, but such only as could not be transacted but by the
powers of speech, and the energy of ratiocination.
For the derivation of the word herald, we must look to the
northern languages. Its meaning in Junius, Skinner, and Minshieu,
are various, but not essentially different; they all seem to point
out different parts of the herald's office. 1. In the Belgic,
heer signifies army. Hence heer-alt, a senior officer, or
general, in the army. 2. Or heer-held, the hero of the
army: he who had distinguished himself most in his country's
behalf. 3. Or from the Gallo-teutonic herr-haut, the high lord,
because their persons were so universally respected, as we have
already seen. 4. Or from the simple Teutonic herr-hold, he who is
faithful to his lord. And, lastly, according to Minshieu, from
the verb hier-holden, stop here; because, in proclaiming peace,
they arrested bloodshed and death, and prevented the farther
progress of war.
These officers act an important part in all heroic history, and
particularly in the Iliad and Odyssey, from which, as the subject
is of so much importance, I shall make a few extracts.
I. Their character was sacred. Homer gives them the epithet of
"Dolon, son of Eumedes, the divine herald." They were also
termed inviolable, ασυλοι; also, great, admirable, &c. In the
first book of the Iliad, we have a proof of the respect paid to
heralds, and the inviolability of their persons. Agamemnon
commands the heralds, Talthybius and Eurybates, his faithful
ministers, to go to the tent of Achilles, seize the young Briseis,
and bring her to him. They reluctantly obey; but, when they come
into the presence of Achilles, knowing the injustice of their
master's cause, they are afraid to announce their mission.
Achilles, guessing their errand, thus addresses them:-
"Hail, O ye heralds, messengers of God and of men! come forward.
I cannot blame you-Agamemnon only is culpable, who has sent you
for the beautiful Briseis. But come, O godlike Patroclus, bring
forth the damsel, and deliver her to them, that they may lead her
away," &c., Iliad i. 334, &c.
II. Their functions were numerous; they might enter without
danger into besieged cities, or even into battles.
III. They convoked the assemblies of the leaders, according to
the orders they received from the general or king.
IV. They commanded silence, when kings were to address the
assembly, (Iliad xviii. 503. κηρυκεςδαραλαωνεσητυον. See
also Iliad ii. 280,) and delivered the sceptre into their hands,
before they began their harangue.
Iliad xxiii. 567.
V. They were the carriers and executors of the royal commands,
(Iliad i. 320,) and went in search of those who were summoned to
appear, or whose presence was desired.
VI. They were entrusted with the most important missions; and
accompanied princes in the most difficult circumstances. Priam,
when he went to Achilles, took no person besides a herald with
him. (Iliad xxiv. 674, 689.) When Ulysses sent two of his
companions to treat with the Lestrygons, he sent a herald at the
same time. (Odys. x. 102.) Agamemnon, when he wished to soften
Achilles, joined Eurybates and Hodius, his heralds, to the
deputation of the princes. (Iliad ix. 170.)
VII. Heralds were employed to proclaim and publish whatever was
to be known by the people. (Odys. xx. 276.)
VIII. They declared war and proclaimed peace. (Odys. xviii.
IX. They took part in all sacred ceremonies: they mingled the
wine and water in the large bowls for the libations, which were
made at the conclusion of treaties. They were the priests of the
people in many cases; they led forth the victims, cut them in
pieces, and divided them among those engaged in the sacrifices.
(Odys. i. 109, &c.)
X. In Odyssey lib. xvii., a herald presents a piece of flesh to
Telemachus, and pours out his wine.
XI. They sometimes waited on princes at table, and rendered them
many other personal services. (Iliad ii. 280; Odys. i. 143, &c.,
146, 153; ii. 6,38.) In the Iliad, lib. x. 3, Eurybates carries
the clothes to Ulysses. And a herald of Alcinous conducts
Demodocus, the singer, into the festive hall. (Odys. viii. 470.)
Many others of their functions, services, and privileges, the
reader may see, by consulting DAMM'S Homeric Lexicon, under κρω.