A Voice Crying

& LOY Commentary 11 Comments

An examination of the Jewish setting of John the Baptist's proclamation of an immersion of repentance for the release of Israel's sin indebtedness.

Matt. 3:1-6; Mark 1:1-6; Luke 3:1-7a

(Huck 1; Aland 13; Crook 16)[1]

Revised: 25-August-2020

וּבִשְׁנַת חֲמֵשׁ עֶשְׂרֵה לְמֶמְשֶׁלֶת טִיבִירְיוֹס קֵיסַר בִּמְשֹׁל פּוֹנְטִיּוֹס פִּילָטוֹס בִּיהוּדָה וּבִמְלֹךְ הֵרוֹדֵיס בַּגָּלִיל וּבִמְלֹךְ פְּלִיפּוֹס אָחִיו בִּיטוּר וּטְרָכוֹן וּבִמְלֹךְ לוּסַנְיָה בָּאֲבֵילִין וּבְכַהֵן חָנָן כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל וְקַיָּפָא הָיָה דְּבַר אֱלֹהִים עַל יוֹחָנָן בֶּן זְכַרְיָה בַּמִּדְבָּר וַיָּבֹא אֶל כָּל כִּכַּר הַיַּרְדֵּן וַיִּקְרָא טְבִילַת תְּשׁוּבָה לִשְׁמִטַּת עֲוֹנוֹת כַּכָּתוּב בְּסֵפֶר דִּבְרֵי יְשַׁעְיָה הַנָּבִיא קוֹל קוֹרֵא בַּמִּדְבָּר פַּנּוּ דֶּרֶךְ יי [וְהִנֵּה אֻכְלוּסִים גְּדוֹלִים יֹצְאִים אֵלָיו לִטְבּוֹל לְפָנָיו]

Now in the fifteenth year of the imperial rule of Emperor Tiviryos, during the governorship of Pontiyos Pilatos in Yehudah, and during the reign of Herodes in the Galil, and during the reign of his brother Pelipos in Yetur and Trachon, and during the reign of Lusanyah in the Avelin, and during the high priesthood of Hanan and Kayafa, the word of God came to Zecharyah’s son, Yohanan the Immerser, who was in the desert. So Yohanan went into the whole Yarden Valley and proclaimed a repentance immersion for the cancellation of Israel’s debt of sin, as it is written in Yeshayah the prophet’s book of oracles, A voice cries, “Prepare the LORD’s way in the desert[Isa. 40:3].

Large crowds went out to Yohanan the Immerser to be purified under his supervision.[2]

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Reconstruction

To view the reconstructed text of A Voice Crying, click on the link below:

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Story Placement

In the Gospels of Luke and Matthew the pericope we have entitled A Voice Crying is placed subsequent to their respective infancy narratives. In the Gospel of Mark, by contrast, A Voice Crying is the opening scene of the entire Gospel.

Click here to view the Map of the Conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua. __________________________________________________________________

Conjectured Stages of Transmission

Numerous scholars espousing a variety of solutions to the Synoptic Problem have recognized partial, if not complete, Lukan independence with respect to Luke’s version of the A Voice Crying pericope.[3] Even among those who subscribe to the theory of Markan Priority known as the Two-source Hypothesis are to be found scholars who admit the possibility that the author of Mark utilized the pre-synoptic source behind the Lukan-Matthean Double Tradition (DT) material when composing his version of A Voice Crying.[4] Likewise, Matthew’s version of A Voice Crying is frequently described as a conflation of Mark’s version with the version from the pre-synoptic DT source.[5] However, there are scholars who maintain that the similarities between the Lukan and Matthean versions of A Voice Crying that differentiate them from Mark’s version are purely the product of chance and need not be accounted for by the independent use of a pre-synoptic source by the authors of Luke and Matthew.[6]

Following Lindsey’s hypothesis, we believe that Luke’s is the earliest extant version of A Voice Crying. The author of Mark paraphrased Luke’s version, working into it as he did so material from Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser (= Matt. 11:7-11 // Luke 7:24-28). In our estimation, it was not merely the composite quotation of Exod. 23:20 and Mal. 3:1 (Mark 1:2; L5-9) that the author of Mark imported into A Voice Crying from Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser. Mark’s relocation of John’s activity from the Jordan Valley (Luke 3:3; L32-33) to the desert (Mark 1:4; L29) appears to be a reaction to Jesus’ thrice-repeated question “Whom did you go out into the desert to see?” (Luke 7:24-26; cf. Matt. 11:7-9). Likewise, Mark’s description of John’s rough attire and rustic dining habits (Mark 1:6; L61-68) appears to be responding to Luke’s version of Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser, which states that John did not wear soft clothing and that people in fine robes and luxury (τρυφή) are to be found in palaces (Luke 7:25; cf. Matt. 11:8).[7] A camel-hair garment is the opposite of soft clothing, and apparently the author of Mark considered John’s diet to be the opposite of τρυφή (trūfē, “luxury”), a term that is often associated with gastronomic pleasures (cf., e.g., Gen. 49:20; Ps. 35[36]:9; Sir. 37:29; Jer. 28[51]:34; Lam. 4:5; Ezek. 34:14; 2 Pet. 2:13; Jos., Ant. 2:88; 10:193; 11:47).[8]

The points of agreement between the Matthean and Lukan versions of A Voice Crying against Mark’s indicate that the author of Matthew combined Mark’s version of A Voice Crying with that of the Anthology (Anth.), the pre-synoptic source known to all three synoptic evangelists. These Lukan-Matthean agreements against Mark include the following:

  • Omission of Mark’s titular phrase ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ υἱοῦ θεοῦ.[9]
  • The placement of the Isa. 40 quotation following the description of John’s proclamation.
  • Omission of Mark’s composite quotation of Exod. 23:20 and Mal. 3:1.
  • Opening A Voice Crying with a chronological note consisting of ἐν + δέ + time marker (L15).
  • The use of the distinctive geographical term πᾶσα ἡ περίχωρος τοῦ Ἰορδάνου (“all the surrounding region of the Jordan”; L32-33 [Luke], L73-74 [Matt.]).

The degree of verbal identity between the Lukan and Matthean versions of A Voice Crying is not great, but this is mainly due to Markan interference. The Hebraic quality of Luke’s description of the word of God’s coming to John (L24-26), the use of the biblical phrase περίχωρος τοῦ Ἰορδάνου (“region around the Jordan”; L32-33), which the Matthean agreement (L73-74) confirms was the wording of Anth., the resemblance of Luke’s βάπτισμα μετανοίας (“baptism of repentance”; L35) to a Hebrew construct phrase, and the high level of verbal identity in the DT pericopae on John the Baptist that follow A Voice Crying[10] all point to Anth. as Luke’s source for A Voice Crying.

Crucial Issues

  1. Where was John the Baptist’s activity located?
  2. What is the significance of the chronological and geographical markers in the opening of Luke’s version of A Voice Crying?
  3. What was the significance of John’s baptism?
  4. Was John’s baptism related to other Jewish rites of immersion? If so, to which ones?

Comment

L1-2 Scholars have voiced differing opinions as to how the words in Mark 1:1 are related to everything that follows in Mark’s Gospel.[11] Some regard Mark 1:1 as the heading of the opening section of Mark’s Gospel.[12] Others regard this verse as the title or programmatic statement of the Gospel as a whole. In support of viewing L1-2 as a stand-alone unit (i.e., as a title) are the lack of a definite article accompanying the initial noun ἀρχή (archē, “beginning”), the lack of a verb in Mark 1:1, and the lack of a clear grammatical connection between L1-2 and what follows in Mark 1:2. Others have argued that Mark 1:4 supplies the verb that would make Mark 1:1 part of a longer sentence, and the intervening scriptural quotation in Mark 1:2-3 should be regarded as parenthetical. In other words, L1-2 should be read as part of a sentence that reads, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus…was John the Baptizer in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the release of sins.”[13] Critics of this view point out that the scriptural quotation in Mark 1:2-3 is too crucial to Mark’s understanding of the Baptist’s role to be tucked away between parentheses.

Our lack of punctuation in the interlinear translation of Mark 1:1 in the reconstruction document and our capitalization therein reflect our view that L1-2 form the title or programmatic description of the entire work. Proving the christological claims made for Jesus in Mark 1:1 sets the agenda for the Gospel as a whole.[14]

L1 ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου (Mark 1:1). According to Lindsey, when the author of Mark set about composing his Gospel he decided to trim away Luke’s infancy narratives and begin with the public appearance of John the Baptist. Nevertheless, Lindsey suggested that Mark’s title was partly inspired by Luke’s opening lines:

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning [ἀπ᾿ ἀρχῆς] were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word [τοῦ λόγου], it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed. (Luke 1:1-4; RSV)

Lindsey believed that the phrases “from the beginning” and “the word” from Luke’s opening dedication were still ringing in Mark’s ears as he read Luke’s dating of the word of God’s coming to John the Baptist in the fifteenth year of Tiberius—a dating constructed in a manner similar to chronological notices found in the beginning of prophetic books (cf., e.g., Hag. 1:1; Zech. 1:1). According to Lindsey, the prophetic-sounding opening of Luke 3:1-3 inspired the author of Mark to search for a prophetic book that opened with the words ἀρχή (archē, “beginning”) and λόγος (logos, “word”), which occurred in Luke 1:2. This he found in Hosea, where he read:

Ἀρχὴ λόγου κυρίου πρὸς Ωσηε

Beginning of [the] Word of [the] Lord to Hosea (Hos. 1:2)

Lindsey explained that this verbless sentence with its anarthrous ἀρχή became the model for Mark’s title: “Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus [the] Messiah [the] Son of God.”[15]

Whether or not Lindsey correctly identified the mechanism whereby the author of Mark arrived at the wording of his title, the message Mark 1:1 conveyed to its original audience was of a titanic clash between Israel’s sacred history and prophetic tradition and the cosmic boasts of Roman imperial propaganda. The noun εὐαγγέλιον (evangelion, “good news,” “gospel”) does not occur in the Gospel of Luke, and it is unlikely that Jesus used a corresponding Hebrew noun, such as בְּשׂרָה (besorāh, “message”), in his teaching to refer to the main content of his message. Nevertheless, the verb בִּשֵּׂר (bisēr, “announce a message”) / εὐαγγελίζειν (evangelizein, “to announce good news”) does occur in Isa. 61:1, a verse that clearly had a profound influence on Jesus’ understanding of his unique calling,[16] since allusions to this Isaiah verse occur in the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-10; Luke 6:20-22),[17] in Jesus’ message to the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:18-19), and in his response to John the Baptist’s question (Matt. 11:4-6; Luke 7:22-23).[18] Thus it appears that early on among Jesus’ Greek-speaking followers the term εὐαγγέλιον came to be used as shorthand for Jesus’ message about the divine favor that was being shown to Israel as God, through his Kingdom, brought redemption to his people.

But this good news proclaimed by Jesus’ followers was a direct challenge to Roman imperial propaganda, which claimed that peace and salvation had been wrought for the world not by the God of Israel, but by the divine Caesar, as we read in the Priene Calendar inscription:

Lines 1-31 (top) and 32-60 (bottom) of the Priene Calendar Inscription. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

…ἐπε[ιδὴ ἡ πάντα] διατάξασα τοῦ βίου ἡμῶν πρόνοια σπουδὴν εἰσεν[ενκαμ]ένη καὶ φιλοτιμίαν τὸ τεληότατον τῶι βίωι διεκόσμη[σεν] ἐνενκαμένη τὸν Σεβαστόν, ὃν εἰς εὐεργεσίαν ἀνθρώ[πων] ἐπλήρωσεν ἀρετῆς, [ὥ]σπερ ἡμεῖν καὶ τοῖς μεθ᾽ ἡ[μᾶς σωτῆρα πέμψασα] τὸν παύσοντα μὲν πόλεμον, κοσμήσοντα [δὲ πάντα, φανεὶς δὲ] ὁ Καῖσαρ τὰς ἐλπίδας τῶν προλαβόντων [ — ]έθηκεν, οὐ μόνον τοὺς πρὸ αὐτοῦ γεγονότ[ας εὐεργέτας ὑπερβα]λόμενος ἀλλ᾽ οὐδ᾽ ἐν τοῖς ἐσομένοις ἐλπίδ[α ὑπολιπὼν ὑπερβολῆς,] ἦρξεν δὲ τῶι κόσμωι τῶν δι᾽ αὐτὸν εὐανγελί[ων ἡ γενέθλιος] τοῦ θεου….

…Since Providence, which has ordered all things and is deeply interested in our life, has set in most perfect order by giving us Augustus, whom she filled with virtue that he might benefit humankind, sending him as a savior, both for us and for our descendants, that he might end war and arrange all things, and since he, Caesar, by his appearance [excelled even our anticipations], surpassing all previous benefactors, and not even leaving to posterity any hope of surpassing what he has done, and since the birthday of the god [i.e., Augustus—DNB and JNT] was the beginning [ἦρξεν] of the good tidings [εὐανγελίων] for the world that came by reason of him…. (OGIS, 2:40-42 no. 458)[19]

Whereas imperial propaganda proclaimed the birthday of Caesar Augustus as the beginning of the Gospel for the entire world, the author of Mark boldly announced a Gospel that began with Jesus.[20]

L2 Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ υἱοῦ θεοῦ (Mark 1:1). Some scholars argue that because χριστός (christos, “anointed one,” “Christ”) lacks a definite article in Mark 1:1, the author of Mark used this term as part of Jesus’ name (i.e., “Jesus Christ”) rather than as a title (i.e., “Jesus the Anointed One”). Their argumentation, if applied evenly, would also require us to regard υἱοῦ θεοῦ, which also lacks a definite article, as part of Jesus’ name (i.e., “Jesus Christ Godson”), which is plainly absurd. We cannot divine from the grammar of Mark’s title whether χριστός is used as a title or a personal name.

A gold coin issued by Caesar Augustus with the inscription DIVI・F. The title Divi filius (Lat., “son of a god”) refers to Octavian’s (Augustus’) adoption by Julius Caesar, whom the Roman Senate had posthumously deified. Image courtesy of the Classical Numismatic Group.

Some NT MSS omit υἱοῦ θεοῦ from Mark’s title,[21] and scholarly opinion is divided on whether or not υἱοῦ θεοῦ should be regarded as original.[22] Since the author of Mark used the title “son of God” elsewhere in his Gospel, and since demonstrating Jesus’ divine sonship is one of Mark’s central aims, we concur with those scholars who regard υἱοῦ θεοῦ as an original part of Mark’s title, which served as a programmatic statement for his Gospel.

Whereas in a Jewish milieu the title “son of God” would connote the concept of the Davidic messiah,[23] in contrast to an Aaronic (or priestly) messiah, in a non-Jewish context the acclamation of Jesus as “son of God” would resound as a challenge to Roman imperial propaganda,[24] which hailed Caesar Augustus as “son of a god,” as we read in Virgil’s Aeneid (first cent. B.C.E.):

This, this is he, whom thou so oft hearest promised to thee, Augustus Caesar, son of a god, who shall again set up the Golden Age amid the fields where Saturn once reigned, and shall spread his empire past Garamant and Indian, to a land that lies beyond the stars, beyond the paths of the year and the sun, where heaven-bearing Atlas turns on his shoulders the sphere, inset with gleaming stars. (Aeneid 6:791-797; Loeb)[25]

Virgil linked Augustus’ divine parentage to Roman imperial claims to rightful worldwide domination.[26] While such claims may have come as good news to citizens in Rome, for the conquered peoples under the heel of the Roman Empire’s military might these boasts often engendered resentment. The author of Mark clearly believed that the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, offered a welcome response to Roman imperial propaganda.

L3 καθὼς γέγραπται (Mark 1:2). If, as Lindsey maintained, the author of Mark knew Luke’s infancy narratives, it is possible that the author of Mark picked up the phrase καθὼς γέγραπται (kathōs gegraptai, “just as it has been written”) from Luke 2:23, the only place where καθὼς γέγραπται occurs in all of Luke’s Gospel. In the Lukan parallel to Mark 1:2 in L39 we find ὡς γέγραπται (hōs gegraptai, “as it has been written”; Luke 3:4). Lindsey believed it was typical of the author of Mark’s editorial style to use words and phrases collected from excluded portions of Luke when paraphrasing the Lukan pericopae he did choose to incorporate into his Gospel.

L4 ἐν τῷ Ἠσαΐᾳ τῷ προφήτῃ (Mark 1:2). Marcus noted that the only other place where a biblical quotation is cited with the formula ἐν τῷ + personal name is in Paul’s epistle to the Romans, where Paul cited a verse from Hosea with the formula ὡς καὶ ἐν τῷ Ὡσηὲ λέγει (“as he also says in Hosea”; Rom. 9:25).[27] Marcus further noted that rabbinic parallels to Mark’s citation formula are wanting. Could it be that, having modeled his title on Hos. 1:2, as Lindsey suggested (see above, Comment to L1), the author of Mark recalled the formula Paul used in Romans to quote Hosea, and used Paul’s formula as a substitute for Luke’s “as it has been written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet” (Luke 3:4; L39-40)?

L5-9 Having promised a quotation from Isaiah, the author of Mark surprises his readers by quoting a verse that looks rather like Mal. 3:1, but which is almost identical to Luke 7:27, as we see in the table below:

Malachi 3:1 Mark 1:2 Luke 7:27
ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἐξαποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου, καὶ ἐπιβλέψεται ὁδὸν πρὸ προσώπου μου ἰδοὺ ἀποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου πρὸ προσώπου σου, ὃς κατασκευάσει τὴν ὁδόν σου ἰδοὺ ἀποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου πρὸ προσώπου σου, ὃς κατασκευάσει τὴν ὁδόν σου ἔμπροσθέν σου
Behold, I send out my messenger, and he will oversee the way before my face. Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way. Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way ahead of you.

In the above table we have marked points of disagreement with Mark’s quotation in red. Blue marks points of agreement between Mark’s quotation and Luke’s that are not present in Mal. 3:1. As the table clearly shows, Mark’s quotation could easily be viewed as an abbreviated version of Luke 7:27.

Some scholars insist that the authors of Matthew and Luke noticed that Mark incorrectly identified the quotation in Mark 1:2 as belonging to Isaiah, and therefore both authors independently chose to omit these lines from their respective versions of A Voice Crying.[28] But it seems highly improbable that two authors would, of their own accord, independently sacrifice a biblical prooftext. In a time when early Christian authors were scrambling to discover any biblical support, however tenuous, for their extraordinary claims, such a drastic measure as omitting a prooftext that had been handed to them seems inconceivable, especially since a far simpler solution would be to change the ascription from “Isaiah” to “the prophets,” as, in fact, was done in some NT MSS of Mark.

Recognizing this problem, other scholars have suggested that the Malachi-like quotation was inserted into the text of Mark by later copyists who imported it from Luke 7:27.[29] But even proponents of this view are forced to admit that their solution has no textual evidence to back it up.[30] Therefore, a third solution has been proposed, which is that the author of Mark was familiar with the pre-synoptic source of the Lukan-Matthean DT pericopae, usually referred to as “Q,” and it was from that source that the author of Mark took the Malachi-like quotation.[31] In other words, Mark’s insertion of the Malachi-like quotation into A Voice Crying backs up our assertion that no early Christian author would willingly sacrifice a scriptural prooftext that was available to him, unless he had a compelling reason for doing so.

John the Baptist as depicted in an illuminated Arabic Gospel. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Lindsey’s hypothesis accounts for the Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark’s inclusion of the Malachi-like quotation in an even more convincing manner, for according to Lindsey, the author of Luke, writing before the Gospel of Mark was composed, was wholly independent of Mark’s influence. The author of Luke did not have to decide not to include the Malachi-like quotation in A Voice Crying because the quotation did not occur there in his source (Anth.). Instead, the author of Luke included the quotation in Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser, where it becomes apparent that the verse is a composite quotation of Mal. 3:1 and Exod. 23:20. From that same pericope we learn that Jesus blended these two verses together in order to quell speculations that John the Baptist might be the eschatological Elijianic prophet. To discourage such an identification, Jesus recast John the Baptist as a prophet-like-Moses, who appeared not at the end of time, but at the beginning of a new era, that of the Kingdom of Heaven.[32] Unfortunately, the sophisticated argument in Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser completely went over the author of Mark’s head, and so we find him, in his reworking of A Voice Crying, using the composite Exodus-Malachi quotation in order to prove that John the Baptist is the promised Elijah.[33] The author of Matthew wholeheartedly endorsed the identification of John with Elijah (cf. Matt. 11:14-15), but he saw that the composite Exodus-Malachi quotation was not present in Anth.’s version of A Voice Crying. Seeing, however, that the selfsame quotation did occur in Anth.’s version of Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser, which he intended to incorporate into his Gospel, the author of Matthew felt free to omit it from A Voice Crying, knowing that the prooftext would not be sacrificed, but merely postponed. Thus, according to Lindsey’s hypothesis, two authors did not independently decide to omit a biblical prooftext from A Voice Crying. On the contrary, one author (Luke) never knew of its relation to A Voice Crying. Another author (Mark), hating to lose a precious prooftext, inserted it into A Voice Crying. And a third author (Matthew) had, in its absence from Anth.’s version of A Voice Crying, a compelling reason to omit it from A Voice Crying, knowing that he would include the prooftext later in his Gospel.

L6 ἀποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου (Mark 1:2). The Lukan and Matthean composite Exodus-Malachi quotations in Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser are nearly identical, but whereas Luke 7:27 has ἀποστέλλω (apostellō, “I send”) without the first-person pronoun, the parallel in Matt. 11:10 reads ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω (egō apostellō, “I send”). We concluded that Matthew’s version represents the wording of Anth.[34] If that conclusion is correct, then it appears the author of Mark, who omits the first-person pronoun, copied the composite quotation from Luke rather than from Anth.

L10-14 In Mark 1:3 the author of Mark finally cites the Isaiah passage promised at the beginning of Mark 1:2. Note, however, that the personal pronouns in the two quotations do not agree (“your road” in L9, “his paths” in L14), which attests to the secondary nature of their combination.[35] The Markan form of the Isa. 40:3 quotation in L10-14 is identical to that found in the Lukan and Matthean versions of A Voice Crying. Since we believe that Luke and Matthew preserve the original location of the Isa. 40:3 quotation, we will discuss the differences between LXX and the synoptic form of the quotation in the comments to L41-L45.

L15-23 Although many scholars voice the opinion that the elaborate synchronism of Luke 3:1-2 must be the work of the author of Luke,[36] scholars frequently recognize that Luke’s synchronism bears a striking similarity to the chronological notices found in the biblical descriptions of a prophet’s call.[37] We believe that Luke’s synchronism was derived from Anth. for the following reasons:

  1. The Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark to open A Voice Crying with ἐν + δέ + time marker strongly suggests that Anth.’s version, too, opened with a chronological notice (see below, Comment to L15). In which case, the chronological notice can be traced back to the Hebrew Life of Yeshua.
  2. The similarity of Luke’s synchronism to the dating of prophetic calls in biblical books (see below, Comment to L15) indicates that Luke’s synchronism may have been based on an Hebraic source such as Anth. In which case, Luke’s description of the Baptist’s prophetic call could be traced back to the Hebrew Life of Yeshua.
  3. The date indicated by Luke’s synchronism (the fifteenth year of Tiberius) has theological significance for Jewish readers (see below, Comment to L15), especially those in the land of Israel (Tiberius’ fifteenth year coincided with a Sabbatical Year), that is not exploited by the author of Luke, which suggests that the chronological information in Luke 3:1-2 stems from an Hebraic source such as Anth., a source that was based on the Hebrew Life of Yeshua.
  4. The theological significance of the date indicated by Luke’s synchronism (a Sabbatical Year, or year of release) appears to be directly tied to John’s baptism of repentance for the release of sins (see below, Comment to L36).
  5. The geographical scope of Luke’s synchronism (the borders of Israel) betrays a local Jewish perspective (see below, Comment to L22) that might be expected of an Hebraic source such as Anth., which was based on the Hebrew Life of Yeshua, but which is at odds with Luke’s universal perspective.
  6. The geographical scope of Luke’s synchronism suggests that it was composed during the reign of Agrippa I, the only time when all the regions mentioned in Luke 3:1-3 were under the jurisdiction of a single Jewish monarch (see below, Comment to L22). The reign of Agrippa I is too early a date for Lukan composition, but not for the composition of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua, from which Luke’s source, Anth., was derived.[38]

L15 ἐν δὲ ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις (Matt. 3:1). The Lukan-Matthean minor agreement against Mark to open A Voice Crying with the formula ἐν + δέ + time marker strongly suggests that some such formula occurred in Anth., but the waters are muddied by the fact that the authors of Luke and Matthew do not agree to use the same time marker. Whereas Luke’s version of A Voice Crying provides an elaborate synchronism befitting the description of a prophet’s call, Matthew’s version has the vague expression “in those days.” Unless we are to understand from Matthew that John the Baptist had a decades-long career, Matthew’s “in those days” can hardly refer to the reign of Archelaus, which was the temporal setting of the preceding Matthean pericope.[39] In that pericope Jesus was still a young child (παιδίον; Matt. 2:21), yet Jesus clearly came to John for baptism as a full-grown adult. Therefore, a chronological notice such as Luke’s makes more sense, since it acknowledges a significant time gap between the infancy narratives and the Baptist’s prophetic call.

But how do we account for the fact that Matthew’s phrase ἐν δὲ ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις (en de tais hēmerais ekeinais, “but in those days”) can be reverted so easily to Hebrew as וּבַיָּמִים הָהֵם (ūvayāmim hāhēm, “and in those days”)? It appears that in his efforts to draw parallels between John the Baptist and Jesus (on which, see below, Comment to L37-38), the author of Matthew decided to use identical vocabulary in A Voice Crying and Yeshua’s Immersion (L4) to describe the first public appearances of John (παραγείνεται [“comes by”]; Matt. 3:1) and Jesus (παραγίνεται [“comes by”]; Matt. 3:13). In this process, the author of Matthew transferred the simpler time marker (“in those days”) from the opening of Yeshua’s Immersion (L2) into the ἐν + δέ + time marker formula of A Voice Crying.[40] Thus, Matthew’s Hebraic-looking time marker actually is a reflection of Anth., only a reflection of a different part of Anth. than A Voice Crying comes from.[41]

ἐν ἔτει δὲ πεντεκαιδεκάτῳ (GR). Luke’s precise formula ἐν ἔτει δέ + numeral + genitive (“but in the Nth year of…”) does not occur in LXX, but the nearly identical formula καὶ ἐν ἔτει + numeral + genitive (“and in the Nth year of…”) does occur as the translation of וּבִשְׁנַת + numeral + -לְ (“and in the Nth year of…”), as we see in the following examples:

וּבִשְׁנַת אַחַת עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה לְיוֹרָם

And in the eleventh year of Yoram…. (2 Kgs. 9:29)

καὶ ἐν ἔτει ἑνδεκάτῳ Ιωραμ

And in the eleventh year of Yoram…. (4 Kgdms. 9:29)

וּבִשְׁנַת שְׁתַּיִם לְמַלְכוּת נְבֻכַדְנֶצַּר

And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar…. (Dan. 2:1)

καὶ ἐν τῷ ἔτει τῷ δευτέρῳ τῆς βασιλείας Ναβουχοδονοσορ

And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar…. (Dan. 2:1)

More often we find that when rendering the וּבִשְׁנַת + numeral + -לְ construction the LXX translators put the numeral ahead of the word for “year” (as we do in English), for instance:

וּבִשְׁנַת שְׁמֹנֶה עֶשְׂרֵה לַמֶּלֶךְ יָרָבְעָם

And in the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam…. (1 Kgs. 15:1)

καὶ ἐν τῷ ὀκτωκαιδεκάτῳ ἔτει βασιλεύοντος Ιεροβοαμ

And in the eighteenth year of the reigning of Jeroboam…. (3 Kgdms. 15:1)

וּבִשְׁנַת שָׁלוֹשׁ לְמָלְכוֹ

And in the third year of his reign…. (2 Chr. 17:7)

καὶ ἐν τῷ τρίτῳ ἔτει τῆς βασιλείας αὐτοῦ

And in the third year of his reign…. (2 Chr. 17:7)

וּבִשְׁנַת שְׁמוֹנֶה עֶשְׂרֵה לְמָלְכוֹ

And in the eighteenth year of his reign…. (2 Chr. 34:8)

καὶ ἐν τῷ ὀκτωκαιδεκάτῳ ἔτει τῆς βασιλείας αὐτοῦ

And in the eighteenth year of his reign…. (2 Chr. 34:8)

וּבִשְׁנַת אַחַת לְכוֹרֶשׁ

And in the first year of Cyrus…. (Ezra 1:1)

καὶ ἐν τῷ πρώτῳ ἔτει Κύρου

And in the first year of Cyrus…. (2 Esd. 1:1)

These examples suffice to show that Luke’s ἐν ἔτει δέ + numeral + genitive construction could easily have come from the Greek translation of a Hebrew source.

In Comment to L15-23 we noted that Luke’s synchronism bears a strong resemblance to biblical descriptions of prophetic calls. Luke’s description of John’s prophetic call is structured as ἐν ἔτει + numeral + genitive qualifiers + ἐγένετο ῥῆμα θεοῦ ἐπὶ Ἰωάνην (“in the Nth year of…was the word of God upon John”). Compare Luke’s description to the following examples:

ἐν τῷ δευτέρῳ ἔτει ἐπὶ Δαρείου τοῦ βασιλέως…ἐγένετο λόγος κυρίου ἐν χειρὶ Αγγαιου τοῦ προφήτου

In the second year of King Darius…the word of the Lord came [lit., “was”] by the hand of Haggai the prophet…. (Hag. 1:1)

בִּשְׁנַת שְׁתַּיִם לְדָרְיָוֶשׁ הַמֶּלֶךְ…הָיָה דְבַר יי בְּיַד חַגַּי הַנָּבִיא

In year two of King Darius…the word of the LORD came [lit., “was”] by the hand of Haggai the prophet…. (Hag. 1:1)

ἐν τῷ ὀγδόῳ μηνὶ ἔτους δευτέρου ἐπὶ Δαρείου ἐγένετο λόγος κυρίου πρὸς Ζαχαριαν

In the eighth month of the second year during [the reign of] Darius, the word of the Lord came [lit., “was”] to Zechariah…. (Zech. 1:1)

בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַשְּׁמִינִי בִּשְׁנַת שְׁתַּיִם לְדָרְיָוֶשׁ הָיָה דְבַר יי אֶל זְכַרְיָה

In the eighth month in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came [lit., “was”] to Zechariah…. (Zech. 1:1)

These descriptions of prophetic calls come from books composed in late Biblical Hebrew. Although neither example exactly matches Luke’s description of John the Baptist’s prophetic call, the similarities argue against attributing Luke 3:1-2 to Lukan composition.

וּבִשְׁנַת חֲמֵשׁ עֶשְׂרֵה (HR). The vast majority of instances of ἔτος (etos, “year”) in LXX stand for the Hebrew noun שָׁנָה (shānāh, “year”).[42] Likewise, we find that the LXX translators rendered שָׁנָה with ἔτος far more often than with any other Greek term.[43] We have already collected numerous examples that prove that Luke’s ἐν ἔτει δέ + numeral construction reverts easily to וּבִשְׁנַת + numeral. The phrase ἐν ἔτει πεντεκαιδεκάτῳ (en etei pentekaidekatō, “in the fifteenth year”), parallel to Luke 3:1, is found in 4 Kgdms. 14:23 as the translation of בִּשְׁנַת חֲמֵשׁ עֶשְׂרֵה (bishnat ḥamēsh ‘esrēh, “in the fifteenth year”).[44]

It is impossible to pin down with certainty the date of Tiberius’ fifteenth year to which Luke 3:1 refers, because the author of Luke does not inform us in what manner he counted or whose calendar (Jewish or Roman) he might have been using.[45] The likeliest starting point is from the death of Augustus, which occurred on the 19th of August in the year 14 C.E.[46] But we do not know whether the partial year during which Tiberius reigned from the death of Caesar until New Year’s day was counted as year one, or whether that partial year was left out of the total and the count began on the first New Year’s day of Tiberius’ reign. Likewise, we do not know whether the New Year’s day from which the years of Tiberius’ reign were reckoned was that of the Roman calendar (1st of January) or whether it was one of the New Year’s days belonging to the Jewish calendar (1st of Tishri [autumn] or 1st of Nisan [spring]). In any case, the fifteenth year of Tiberius’ reign was somewhere between 27 and 29 C.E.

Wacholder has pointed out that no matter how the author of Luke (or his source) might have counted, the fifteenth year of Tiberius’ reign coincided, in whole or in part, with the Sabbatical Year that commenced on the first of the month of Tishri (Sept.-Oct.) in 27 C.E. and which concluded on the last of the month of Elul (Aug.-Sept.) in 28 C.E.[47] According to Wacholder, this coincidence may have been intentional, since there is evidence that Jewish expectations of messianic deliverance in the Second Temple period tended to focus on Sabbatical Years.[48]

Support for Wacholder’s suggestion may be found in the description of John’s baptism as an immersion of repentance for the release (ἄφεσις) of sins. The choice of the noun ἄφεσις (afesis, “release”) to express the notion of forgiveness is a bit odd from the perspective of normal Koine Greek usage;[49] however, in LXX ἄφεσις is the term used to render שְׁמִטָּה (shemiṭāh), one of the biblical terms for the Sabbatical Year or year of release (שְׁנַת הַשְּׁמִטָּה [shenat hashemiṭāh]). In Sabbatical Years the land was to be left fallow (Lev. 25:1-7), an observance called שְׁמִיטַּת הָאָרֶץ (shemiṭat hā’āretz, “the release of the land”; cf. Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, §38 [ed. Schechter, 115])[50] or שְׁמִיטַּת קַרְקַע (shemiṭat qarqa‘, “release of the soil”; cf. b. Moed Kat. 2b) in the language of the rabbinic sages, and debts were to be cancelled (Deut. 15:1-2), a practice referred to as שְׁמִיטַּת כְּסָפִים (shemiṭat kesāfim, “release of money”; cf. b. Moed Kat. 2b) in rabbinic parlance. In the Second Temple period debt became a metaphor for sin, and likewise the release of debtors from debt became a metaphor for forgiveness.[51] Thus, a baptism of repentance for the release of (the debt of) sins being initiated in a Sabbatical Year makes perfect historical and theological sense (see below, Comment to L36).

The fact that only Luke’s Gospel bears witness to the Sabbatical timing of the Baptist’s ministry, combined with the fact that the author of Luke was apparently oblivious to the chronological significance of the year in which John began proclaiming his baptism, suggests both that the author of Luke had access to an excellent source and that he did not fully appreciate the implications of the information that source reported. Rather than tampering with his source, the author of Luke reproduced it faithfully, thereby preserving invaluable data for reconstructing the original intention of John the Baptist’s message.

A coin with Tiberius’ portrait with the inscription TI CAESAR • DIVI • AVG • F • AVGVST • IMP (“Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus, Augustus Emperor”). On the obverse is a globe with a rudder (symbolizing his ability to steer the course of the world). Image courtesy of the Classical Numismatic Group.

L16 לְמֶמְשֶׁלֶת טִיבִירְיוֹס קֵיסַר (HR). The בִּשְׁנַת + numeral + -לְ construction used in biblical dating formulae (see above, Comment to L15) accounts for our affixation of the preposition -לְ (le, “to”) to the noun מֶמְשָׁלָה (memshālāh, “dominion”) in our reconstruction. We have chosen to reconstruct the noun ἡγεμονία (hēgemonia, “rule”) with מֶמְשָׁלָה, first because opposite the instances of ἡγεμονία in Sir. 7:4 and Sir. 10:1 we find מֶמְשָׁלָה in a Hebrew MS of Ben Sira (MS A),[52] and second because the phrase ממשלת הכתיאים (“dominion of the Kittim”) refers to Roman imperial rule in Pesher Habakkuk (1QpHab II, 13-14).[53] Thus מֶמְשָׁלָה appears to be a highly appropriate reconstruction of ἡγεμονία in Luke 3:1.

For our reconstruction of Tiberius’ name we have relied on a rabbinic tradition recorded in Genesis Rabbah, where the sages acknowledge that the city of Tiberias in the Galilee was named after the emperor Tiberius (Gen. Rab. 23:1 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:221]). In that source the emperor’s name is spelled טיביריוס, which is the form we have adopted for HR. Delitzsch rendered Τιβέριος (Tiberios) as טִיבַרְיוֹס (ṭivaryōs) in Luke 3:1, whereas Jastrow preferred the spelling טְבִרְיוֹס (eviryōs).

Image of a coin minted during the reign of Tiberius with the inscription Divus Augustus Tater (“Divine Augustus Father”). On obverse is depicted an eagle clutching the globe (symbolizing Rome’s global domination). Image courtesy of the Classical Numismatic Group.

We have reconstructed Καῖσαρ (Kaisar, “Caesar”) with קֵיסַר (qēsar, “Caesar”), a loanword that is attested in Hebrew in tannaic literature (Sifre Deut. §357 [ed. Finkelstein, 429]). We learn from a document discovered in Wadi Murabba‘at (Papyrus 18), which is dated to the second year of נרון קסר (“Nero Caesar”; = 55/56 C.E.), that the title “Caesar” had entered Aramaic by the middle of the first century C.E. at the latest.[54] Since it is reasonable to assume that “Caesar” entered the Hebrew language at approximately the same time, there is no obstacle to including the term in our reconstruction.

Limestone inscription from Caesarea in which Pilate dedicates a temple to the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Photographed at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem by Joshua N. Tilton.

L17 בִּמְשֹׁל פּוֹנְטִיּוֹס פִּילָטוֹס בִּיהוּדָה (HR). Since the verb ἡγεμονεύειν (hēgemonevein, “to govern”) does not occur in LXX, we do not have a guide for reconstructing Luke’s participle ἡγεμονεύοντος (hēgemonevontos, “being governor”). We initially considered reconstructing Luke’s participle with the noun הֶגְמוֹנְיָה (hegmōnyāh, “governorship”), which is derived from the Greek noun ἡγεμονία (hēgemonia, “rule”).[55] Weighing against this decision, however, is the awkwardness of our reconstructing a participle with a noun, and the fact that if we were to use הֶגְמוֹנְיָה in our reconstruction at all, it would make more sense to do so in L16 where the noun ἡγεμονία (“rule”), from which הֶגְמוֹנְיָה derives, occurs. Since ἡγεμονία (“rule”) in L16 and ἡγεμονεύοντος (“ruling”) are based on the same ἡγεμον- root, a satisfying option is to reconstruct both terms with forms based on the same Hebrew root. Having reconstructed ἡγεμονία with the noun מֶמְשָׁלָה (memshālāh, “dominion”), from the root מ-שׁ-ל, we have opted to reconstruct ἡγεμονεύοντος as -בְּ + infinitive construct of מָשַׁל (i.e., בִּמְשֹׁל [bimshol, “while ruling”]).

Compare our reconstruction to the following biblical examples:

בְּבוֹא רָשָׁע בָּא גַם־בּוּז

When wickedness comes, there also comes contempt. (Prov. 18:3)

וּבִמְשֹׁל רָשָׁע יֵאָנַח עָם

And while a wicked person is ruling, the people sigh. (Prov. 29:2)

As for reconstructing the name Πόντιος Πιλᾶτος (Pontios Pilatos, “Pontius Pilate”), we are at a disadvantage because neither this Roman governor nor anyone else bearing these names is mentioned in the ancient Hebrew sources. Nevertheless, we are afforded some guidance by observing how other Latin names were transliterated into Hebrew, undoubtedly via Greek, which was the administrative language of the Roman Empire in the eastern provinces. The following is a partial list of the masculine Latin names that are represented in rabbinic sources:

English Latin Greek Hebrew
Aemilius Aimilius Αἰμίλιος אמליוס[56]
Coponius Coponius Κωπώνιος קִיפּוֹנוֹס[57]
Hadrian Hadrianus Ἁδριανός אַדְרְיָינוֹס, הַדְרְיָינוֹס
Rufus Rufus Ῥοῦφος רוּפוֹס
Tiberius Tiberius Τιβέριος טִיבִירְיוֹס
Titus Titus Τίτος טִיטוֹס
Trajan Traianus Τραϊανός טְרָיָינוֹס
Vespasian Vespasianus Οὐεσπασιανός אִסְפַּסְיָינוֹס

These examples show that Latin names crossed into Hebrew via Greek with very little variation. The one consistent change was that the -us endings in Latin became -ος endings in Greek and consequently וֹס- endings in Hebrew. Given the above-cited examples as models, reconstructing Πόντιος Πιλᾶτος with פּוֹנְטִיּוֹס פִּילָטוֹס (pōnṭiyōs pilāṭōs) is likely to be very close to the mark.

Ἰουδαία (Ioudaia, “Judea”) is the usual rendering of יְהוּדָה (yehūdāh) in LXX, when the latter refers to the territory rather than an individual.[58] The use of a declinable form for the proper noun “Judea” stands in contrast to the regular occurrence in LXX of indeclinable forms of most personal names. Undoubtedly the decision of the LXX translators to use a declinable form was guided by the fact that, as the name of an important geographical region, the name had long since entered the Greek language in a Hellenized form. Most biblical names, on the other hand, would have remained completely foreign to non-Jewish Greek speakers.

Our choice of the preposition -בְּ (be, “in”) to represent the genitive case of the phrase τῆς Ἰουδαίας (tēs Ioudaias, “of Judea”) is guided by the use of this preposition in phrases such as אֶת הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ לְמֶמְשֶׁלֶת בַּיּוֹם (“the sun for rule over the day”; Ps. 136:8), which in LXX was rendered τὸν ἥλιον εἰς ἐξουσίαν τῆς ἡμέρας (“the sun for authority of the day”; Ps. 135:8), and וּמַלְכוּתוֹ בַּכֹּל מָשָׁלָה (“and his kingdom rules over all”; Ps. 103:19), which was rendered in LXX as καὶ ἡ βασιλεία αὐτοῦ πάντων δεσπόζει (“and his kingdom rules of all”; Ps. 102:19).

Pilate’s tenure as the governor of Judea is typically dated from 26/27 C.E. – 36/37 C.E.; however, there are scholars who dispute Pilate’s start date or his end date, or both.[59] No one, however, disputes Luke’s statement that Pilate was governor of Judea in the fifteenth year of Tiberius’ reign.

L18 καὶ βασιλεύοντος Ἡρῴδου τῆς Γαλιλαίας (GR). Since in the case of Pilate (L17), Philip (L19-21) and Lysanias (L22) the ruler’s name is given before the name of his territory, we suspect that Herod’s name also appeared before the name of his territory (i.e., Galilee) in Luke’s source (Anth.). The author of Luke may have reordered the wording simply to avoid monotony.

Whether to retain the participle τετραρχοῦντος (tetrarchountos, “being tetrarch”) in GR is a vexed question. The nouns אַרְכוֹן (’archōn, “magistrate”) and אַרְכוֹנְטוֹס (’archōnṭōs, “ruler,” “magistrate”), both derived from the Greek word ἄρχων (archōn, “ruler”), are attested in rabbinic sources,[60] and Hebrew words formed with the prefixes -טֶטְר (ṭeṭr-) and -טִיטְר (ṭiṭr-), from the Greek prefix τετρα- (tetra-), are also found in rabbinic sources,[61] so it is conceivable that τετραρχοῦντος (tetrarchountos, “being tetrarch”) represents some kind of Hebrew loanword from Greek. But if it does, that word is unattested in the ancient sources.[62]

Another possibility is that τετραρχοῦντος is the author of Luke’s replacement for a term such as βασιλεύοντος (basilevontos, “reigning,” “being king”). Unlike the authors of Mark and Matthew, who applied the title βασιλεύς (basilevs, “king”) to the ruler of the Galilee (Matt. 14:9; Mark 6:14, 22, 25, 26, 27), the author of Luke assiduously avoided referring to Herod Antipas as a “king.” Instead, Luke used the more accurate title τετραάρχης (tetraarchēs, “tetrarch”; Luke 3:19; 9:7; Acts 13:1), perhaps reflecting his knowledge that Antipas’ attempts to be awarded the title “king” had been thwarted.

The matter is complicated, however, by the fact that there is one point at which Luke and Matthew agree to apply the title “tetrarch” to Antipas (Matt. 14:1 // Luke 9:7) where Mark’s parallel has “king” (Mark 6:14). This Lukan-Matthean minor agreement strongly suggests that at least in this one instance Anth. used the title “tetrarch.”[63] But the fact that the Anthologizer applied the title “tetrarch” to Antipas once does not prove that he did so consistently. Josephus referred to a certain Lysanias (an ancestor of the Lysanias mentioned in Luke 3:1) sometimes as ruler of a tetrarchy (Ant. 18:237; 20:138) and sometimes as a “king” (J.W. 1:440; cf. J.W. 2:215, 247), although, properly speaking, Lysanias never bore the latter title.

That Herod Antipas was sometimes unofficially styled as a king is proven by the author of Luke himself, for in Acts he preserved the following early Christian midrash that interprets Psalm 2 in light of the events surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion:

…it is you who said by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant: “Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers have gathered together against the Lord and against his Messiah.” For in this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (Acts 4:25-28; NRSV)[64]

According to this early midrash, Herod Antipas is equated with “the kings of the earth” (LXX: οἱ βασιλεῖς τῆς γῆς) of Ps. 2:2. Given this popular usage,[65] it is not so easy to put down the references to Antipas as “king” in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew as due to Markan redaction. We have to contend with the possibility that the Anthologizer (following the wording of the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua) sometimes referred to Antipas as “tetrarch” and sometimes as “king.”

In fact, Anth.’s inconsistent use of titles with respect to Herod may tend to confirm our suspicion that the Hebrew Life of Yeshua incorporated several pericopae (including those describing the birth of John the Baptist in Luke 1 and those describing his public career in Luke 3) from an earlier Hebrew Life of Yohanan the Immerser.[66] Whereas the author of the Hebrew Life of Yohanan the Immerser may have referred to Herod Antipas as מֶלֶךְ (melech, “king”), the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua may have referred to Antipas with some such term as טֶטְרַרְכוֹן (ṭeṭrarchōn, “tetrarch”).[67] These different appellations for Herod Antipas would then have been reflected in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua, and subsequently in Anth., and ultimately in the Gospel of Matthew. This would explain why Luke and Matthew indicate that Antipas was called “tetrarch” in Anth.’s version of Herodes Wonders about Yeshua (since this pericope was composed by the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua, who used a Hebrew form of “tetrarch”), but why the same ruler was called “king” in Anth.’s version of Yohanan the Immerser’s Execution (since this pericope was incorporated from the Hebrew Life of Yohanan the Immerser, whose author used the title מֶלֶךְ).

A coin minted by Herod Antipas. On the obverse the inscription reads ΗΡΩΔΟΥ ΤΕΤΡΑΡΧΟΥ (Hērōdou tetrarchou, “Of Herod the tetrarch”). The inscription on the reverse reads ΤΙΒΕΡΙΑΣ (Tiberias, “Tiberias”), the city Antipas founded in honor of the emperor. Image courtesy of the Classical Numismatic Group.

But if the Hebrew Life of Yohanan the Immerser habitually referred to Antipas as “king,” then this increases the likelihood that τετραρχοῦντος in Luke 3:1 ought to be ascribed to Lukan redaction, since A Voice Crying is one of the pericopae we believe belonged to the Hebrew biography of John the Baptist. Therefore, we have adopted the participle βασιλεύοντος (basilevontos, “being king”) for GR in L18, and likewise in L19 and L22.

וּבִמְלֹךְ הֵירוֹדֵיס בַּגָּלִיל (HR). Above, we established the likelihood that Hebrew speakers of the late Second Temple period referred to Herod Antipas as מֶלֶךְ (melech, “king”). It follows that his action of being a king would be expressed with the verb מָלַךְ (mālach, “reign,” “be king”). For HR, therefore, we have adopted -בְּ + the infinitive construct of מָלַךְ (= “while reigning” or “while being king”) as the equivalent of the participle βασιλεύοντος (basilevontos, “being king”).[68]

The Gospel writers consistently referred to Herod Antipas by the name “Herod,” never using the name “Antipas.”[69] To a certain extent this may reflect common usage, as even the coins Antipas minted bear only the name “Herod.”[70] However, we might have expected the Gospel writers to have at least occasionally used the name “Antipas” in order to distinguish the tetrarch from his more famous father, Herod the Great. But perhaps the Gospel writers intentionally used the name “Herod” to the exclusion of the ruler’s other names as a means of casting the tetrarch in the worst possible light.[71]

The name “Herod,” always with reference to Antipas’ father, Herod the Great, is mentioned a few times in rabbinic sources.[72] In the Babylonian Talmud Herod’s name consistently occurs in the two-syllable form הוֹרְדוֹס (hōrdōs; b. Suk. 51b; b. Taan. 23a; b. Bab. Bat. 3b-4a; b. Hul. 139b),[73] and since, apart from the Bible, the Babylonian Talmud became the most familiar and influential Jewish text within Judaism, this form of Herod’s name became current in Modern Hebrew.[74] Herod’s name is rarely mentioned in rabbinic sources from the land of Israel, but when his name does occur it appears in a three-syllable form. In Sifra, for instance, we encounter a story that takes place בימי הורודוס (bimē hōrōdōs, “in the days of Herod”; Sifra, BeḤukotai, pereq 1 [ed. Weiss, 110d]).[75] The same story is repeated in Leviticus Rabbah, but there Herod’s name is spelled הירודוס (hērōdōs; Lev. Rab. 35:10 [ed. Margulies, 2:828]). Both of these spellings are closer to the three-syllable Greek name Ἡρῴδης (Hērōdēs) than the Babylonian spelling הוֹרְדוֹס. One of the Bar Kochva letters (Mur 24 E) written in Hebrew and dating from the second century C.E. mentions a camp that is located בהרודיס (“in the Herodium”; lit., “in the [fortress of] Herod”).[76] Since the text is not pointed (a much later development), we cannot know exactly how בהרודיס was vocalized, but בַּהֵרוֹדֵיס (bahērōdēs) is a reasonable conjecture, since this gives us a three-syllable form of Herod’s name that is as close to the Greek pronunciation as Hebrew can achieve.[77] Since this pronunciation of Herod’s name was current in 134 C.E. (the date indicated in the letter), it was likely current approximately a century earlier, when the Hebrew Life of Yeshua was composed and when living Herods were a recent memory. We have therefore adopted the three-syllable form הֵרוֹדֵיס for HR.

Γαλιλαία (Galilaia, “Galilee”) is the way the LXX translators rendered הַגָּלִיל (hagālil, “the Galilee”).[78] In rabbinic sources Galilee continued to be referred to as הַגָּלִיל, as we see in the following examples:

הַמַּעֲלֶה פֵירוֹת מִן הַגָּלִיל לִיהוּדָה

The one who brings up fruit from the Galilee to Judah…. (m. Maas. 2:3)

כָּךְ הָיוּ אַנְשֵׁי יְרוּשָׁלַםִ כּוֹתְבִין וְאַנְשֵׁי הַגָּלִיל הָיוּ כוֹתְבִין כְּאַנְשֵׁי יְרוּשָׁלַםִ

This is how the men of Jerusalem would write, and the men of the Galilee would write like the men of Jerusalem…. (m. Ket. 4:12)

אֵין אַנְשֵׁי הַגָּלִיל צְרִיכִין לִכְתּוֹב

The men of the Galilee do not need to write…. (m. Ned. 5:5)

וְהַגָּלִיל יֶחרַב

…and the Galilee will be destroyed…. (m. Sot. 9:15)

Given these examples, our reconstruction with the definite form בַּגָּלִיל (bagālil, “in the Galilee”) is justified.

L19 καὶ βασιλεύοντος Φιλίππου τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ (GR). We think the author of Luke may have modified the wording of his source in L19, moving Philip’s name to the beginning of the clause, replacing καί (kai, “and”) with δέ (de, “but”), and changing βασιλεύοντος (basilevontos, “being king”) to the more accurate τετραρχοῦντος (tetrarchountos, “being tetrarch”).[79]

וּבִמְלֹךְ פְּלִיפּוֹס אָחִיו (HR). On reconstructing βασιλεύοντος (basilevontos, “being king”) with בִמְלֹךְ (bimloch, “while being king”), see above, Comment to L18. On reconstructing the name Φίλιππος (Filippos, “Philip”) as פְּלִיפּוֹס (pelipōs, “Philip”), see Choosing the Twelve, Comment to L30.[80]

First-century C.E. Nabatean inscription mentioning Philip the tetrarch, son of Herod the Great, known from the Gospels and the writings of Josephus. Philip’s name appears on the far right of the second line of the inscription, spelled פלפס. Image courtesy of the Howard Crosby Butler Archive, Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University. Used with permission.

On reconstructing ἀδελφός (adelfos, “brother”) with אָח (’āḥ, “brother”), see Demands of Discipleship, Comment to L15.

L20 בִּיטוּר (HR). Luke’s adjective Ἰτουραῖος (Itouraios, “Iturean”) occurs once in LXX, where it is the translation of יְטוּר (yeṭūr; 1 Chr. 5:19). Elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible יְטוּר is mentioned as the name of one of the sons of Ishmael (Gen. 25:15; 1 Chr. 1:31). Yetur was thus regarded by the LXX translators as the ancestor of the Itureans who lived in the mountainous region between Syria and Lebanon.[81] A Greek noun equivalent to “Iturea” is unattested prior to the fourth century C.E.,[82] and accordingly, the author of Luke refers to the Iturean (and Trachonite) region. Hebrew, on the other hand, made use of the name יְטוּר as a toponym, as we see in the following baraita from the Jerusalem Talmud:

תני מטמא כהן ויוצא חוצה לארץ לדיני ממונות ולדיני נפשות ולקידוש החודש ולעיבור שנה ולהציל השדה מיד גוי ואפילו ליטור יוצא ועורר עליה ללמוד תורה ולישא אשה

It was taught [in a baraita]: A priest may make himself impure by going outside the land [of Israel] for monetary judgments, and capital judgments, and for sanctifying the month, and for intercalating the year, and to save a field from the hand of a Gentile. And even to Iturea [לִיטוּר] he goes out and contests it, [or] to study Torah, or to marry a wife. (y. Ber. 3:1 [23a-b])

The name טרכון (erāchōn) as it appears in the Rehov Inscription (see below).

L21 וּטְרָכוֹן (HR). Fortunately, the Hebrew equivalent of Τραχωνῖτις (Trachōnitis, “Trachonite”) has been preserved in a description of the borders of the Holy Land in the famous Rehov Synagogue Inscription (line 17),[83] where the name appears as טרכון, which probably ought to be vocalized as טְרָכוֹן (erāchōn). Josephus, who mentions Philip as tetrarch of Trachonitis (J.W. 2:247; Ant. 17:189; 18:106, 137), more frequently referred to this territory by the name Τράχων (Trachōn),[84] which accords with the Hebrew form of the name.[85] Like Ἰτουραῖος (“Iturean”), Τραχωνῖτις (“Trachonite”) is an adjective,[86] and therefore these descriptors required the noun χώρα (chōra, “region”) to modify. In Hebrew, by contrast, יְטוּר (“Yetur”) and טְרָכוֹן (“Trachon”) are nouns, making an equivalent to χώρα in HR superfluous.

The Rehov Synagogue Inscription. The name טְרָכוֹן is circled. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L22 καὶ βασιλεύοντος Λυσανίου τῆς Ἀβιληνῆς (GR). Since in the case of Pilate (L17) and Herod (L18), and probably also in the case of Philip (GR L19), the participle for “ruling” comes before the ruler’s name, we suspect that in Anth. βασιλεύοντος (basilevontos, “being king”), which the author of Luke exchanged for τετραρχοῦντος (tetrarchountos, “being tetrarch”), also appeared before Lysanias’ name.

A coin issued by the elder Lysanias (the grandfather [?] of Luke’s Lysanias). Image courtesy of the Classical Numismatic Group.

The reference to a tetrarchy of Lysanias in Abilene in Luke 3:1 poses some difficulty for historians. Josephus mentions a Lysanias, the son of Ptolemy, who was ruler of Chalcis (Ant. 14:330). Josephus once refers to this Lysanias as “king” (J.W. 1:440),[87] but his coins demonstrate that his official title was “tetrarch.”[88] Although Abilene was nestled on the borders of Chalcis and, indeed, may have been part of Chalcis in the time of Lysanias and his father Ptolemy, this Lysanias cannot have been the same as the Lysanias of Luke 3:1, since the former was executed by Mark Anthony in 36 B.C.E. (Ant. 15:92).

We subsequently learn from Josephus that Emperor Gaius Caligula awarded the former tetrarchy of a certain Lysanias to Agrippa I upon making the latter king (Ant. 18:237). But this tetrarchy was not of Chalcis (which was eventually to be ruled by Agrippa’s brother, Herod; cf. Ant. 19:277), but of Abila, as Josephus elsewhere made clear (Ant. 19:275; 20:138).[89] This raises the possibility that the tetrarch Lysanias, to whom Josephus referred in connection with Agrippa I, is to be distinguished from the Lysanias son of Ptolemy whom Josephus had mentioned earlier. A likely explanation that accounts for the confusion is that after the execution of Lysanias son of Ptolemy in 36 B.C.E. his tetrarchy was partitioned.[90] One part retained the name of Chalcis, while another part was called Abila, or Abilene, after its chief city. And it appears that this lesser tetrarchy was ruled by the Lysanias (perhaps a descendant of Lysanias son of Ptolemy) to whom Luke 3:1 refers.[91] Some scholars cite an inscription that mentions a Lysanias the tetrarch as evidence in support of this hypothesis.[92]

The inscription in question has been known to historians for centuries, having been described in the mid-1700s by Richard Pococke, who saw it in the ruins of a temple at the site of ancient Abila.[93] Then, in the early 1900s, a duplicate of the inscription was discovered carved into a cliff face at the site of ancient Abila. The duplicate was in much better condition than the previously known copy, which made it possible to correct certain misunderstandings of the earlier discovered fragmentary text. This duplicate inscription reads:

Ὑπὲρ τῆς τῶν κυρίων Σεβαστῶν σωτηρ[ί]ας καὶ τοῦ σύμπαντος (α)ὐτῶν οἴκου, Νυμφαῖος Ἀβιμμεου(ς) Λυσανίου τετράρχου ἀπ[ε]λε[ύ]θερο(ς) τὴν ὁδὸν κτίσας ἐπο[ί]ησεν καὶ τὸν ναὸν οἰκοδόμησεν καὶ τὰς φυτείας πάσας ἐφύτευσεν ἐκ τῶν (ἰ)δίων ἀν(αλ)ωμάτον. Κρόνῳ κυρίῳ καὶ τῇ πατρίδι εὐσεβείας χάριν.

For the salvation of the lords Augusti and their entire house; Nymphaeus son of Abimmeos, freedman of Lysanias the tetrarch, who founded the road, constructed it and built the temple and planted all the orchards at his own expense. To the Lord Kronos and to the fatherland for the sake of piety.[94]

Greek inscription discovered in Abila mentioning the tetrarch Lysanias. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Scholars date this inscription to no earlier than the death of Caesar Augustus (14 C.E.), since that date marked the first time that the title Augusti (Gk.: Σεβαστοί) was borne simultaneously by two individuals (Tiberius and his mother Livia, the widow of Augustus).[95] Given this date, some scholars have suggested that the Nymphaeus named in the inscription must have been freed by the tetrarch mentioned in Luke as ruling in the fifteenth year of Tiberius, rather than by the Lysanias son of Ptolemy who died in 36 B.C.E. As Creed maintained, “It remains possible that Nymphaeus was emancipated as a child by the elder Lysanias of Chalcis some half a century before, but it is far more probable that we have a reference to a younger Lysanias who was tetrarch of Abilene in the reign of the emperor Tiberius.”[96]

וּבִמְלֹךְ לוּסַנְיָה בָּאֲבֵילִין (HR). On reconstructing βασιλεύοντος (basilevontos, “being king”) with בִמְלֹךְ (bimloch, “while being king”), see above, Comment to L18. As we already noted, Josephus referred to the elder Lysanias (the father of Luke’s Lysanias?) as “king” (J.W. 1:440), although his official title was “tetrarch.” We now note that Josephus also referred to (the younger?) Lysanias’ tetrarchy of Abila (or Abilene) as a “kingdom” (J.W. 2:215, 247). These references to Lysanias’ tetrarchy as a “kingdom” make our reconstruction with מָלַךְ all the more justifiable.

Reconstructing Lysanias’ name in Hebrew poses a particular challenge, since this name does not occur in any extant ancient Hebrew source. Delitzsch transliterated the name Λυσανίας (Lūsanias, “Lysanias”) in Luke 3:1 as לוּסָנִיָּס (lūsāniyās), which is perfectly reasonable. Our reconstruction as לוּסַנְיָה (lūsanyāh) is based on our observation that in LXX many names ending in -ίας end in יָה- in their Hebrew forms. For instance, Ἀδωνίας (Adōnias) is the equivalent of אֲדֹנִיָּה (adoniyāh) in 3 Kgdms. 1:5, Ἀμεσσίας (Amessias) is the equivalent of אֲמַצְיָה (amatzyāh) in 4 Kgdms. 12:22, Ματταθίας (Mattathias) is the equivalent of מַתִּתְיָה (matityāh) in 1 Chr. 9:31, Ζαχαρίας (Zacharias) is the equivalent of זְכַרְיָה (zecharyāh) in 1 Chr. 16:5, and Ζαβδίας (Zabdias) is the equivalent of זְבַדְיָה (zevadyāh) in 1 Chr. 27:7. Many more such examples could be adduced. On this analogy לוּסַנְיָה (lūsanyāh) could easily be the Hebrew equivalent of Λυσανίας (Lūsanias). Of course, the examples we have cited are transliterations from Hebrew into Greek. We cannot know for certain whether the equation works in the reverse. Would a Greek name ending in -ίας be transliterated with a יָה- ending? Some support for an affirmative answer might be found in the way Greek names ending with -ίας were put into Syriac, another Semitic language. The Greek name Ἐνδεμίας (Endemias), which occurs in the Letter of Aristeas (§49), was transliterated as אנדמיא,[97] and the Greek name Ὀρνίας (Ornias; Let. Arist. §47) was transliterated as אורניא.[98] These Greek-to-Syriac transliterations suggest that names ending in -ίας might well have been converted to Hebrew with a יָה- ending.

When it comes to reconstructing the name Ἀβιληνή (Abilēnē, “Abilene”), we are once again faced with difficulties. As we have noted, Josephus referred to the tetrarchy of Lysanias by the name “Abila” (variously spelled Ἄβιλα [Abila; Ant. 19:275] or Ἄβελα [Abela; Ant. 20:138]), which was also the name of the tetrarchy’s main city.[99] It so happens that there was a second city named Abila, this one in the region of the Decapolis,[100] and this second Abila appears to be mentioned in an aggadic tradition connected to the story of Job:

ותפל שבא ותקחם ואת הנערים אמ′ ר′ אבא בר כהנא יצאו מכפר קרינוס והלכו את כל האבילין ובאו למגדל צבעיא ומתו שם

And the Sabeans fell upon them [i.e., Job’s livestock—DNB and JNT] and took them and the servants [Job 1:15]. Rabbi Abba son of Kahana said, “They went out from Kefar Kiryanos and went through all the Abelin [הָאֲבֵילִין] and came to the Tower of the dyers, and there they died.” (Lev. Rab. 17:4 [ed. Margulies, 1:379])

Margulies notes that in a parallel version of this tradition the name Kefar Kiryanos is replaced by the name Kefar Karnayim (כפר קרנים; Pesikta Rabbati 17:6 [ed. Friedmann, 88b]). This variant is significant because Eusebius, in his Onomasticon, mentioned a tradition according to which Karnayim was the home of Job. Karnayim was located east of the Jordan and south of the Yarmuk, between the cities of Abila to its west and Edrei to its east; thus, “the Abelin” of the rabbinic tradition appears to refer to the area surrounding Abila of the Decapolis.[101] Now, if הָאֲבֵילִין (hā’avēlin, “the Abels”) could refer to the region surrounding one city of Abila, it stands to reason that the same term could be applied to the tetrarchy of Lysanias, which was centered upon a different city of Abila. The Hebrew name אֲבֵילִין (avēlin) is, moreover, fairly close in sound to Ἀβιληνή (Abilēnē). Delitzsch rendered Ἀβιληνή as אֲבִילִין (avilin) in Luke 3:1.

Two cities of Abila indicated by red arrows. Map detail from George Adam Smith, Atlas of the Historical Geography of the Holy Land (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1915), Map 44.

Having struggled to identify Lysanias and to reconstruct both his name and the name of his tetrarchy in Hebrew, we must not neglect to ask ourselves why the author of Luke—or, as we suppose, the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua—bothered to mention Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene at all. What did these regions share in common that would explain why they are all mentioned together in Luke 3:1? Just over a century ago Cronin offered an explanation that, if modified slightly, seems plausible. Cronin suggested that in Luke 3:1 the author of Luke was describing how the Holy Land, as it was defined at the time of the Gospel’s composition, had been governed in the days of John the Baptist and Jesus.[102] In other words, the author of Luke 3:1 projected the political boundaries of his own time back onto the time about which he was writing.

Since, according to Cronin, everyone who ruled any territory that was “part of the Holy Land” in the author of Luke 3:1’s time earned a place in Luke 3:1, it should be possible to identify the date of Luke 3:1’s composition. All that is required is to find a time when all the regions mentioned in Luke 3:1 were regarded as a united whole. According to Cronin, during the first century C.E. there were two such periods: first, from 37-44 C.E. during the reign of Agrippa I, and second, from 53-66 C.E. during the rule of Agrippa II. During both of these periods, Cronin explained, “one of the Jewish Herods with or without the help of a Roman procurator”[103] governed all of the territories mentioned in Luke 3:1. Owing to his assumption that the author of Luke 3:1 was identical to the author of Luke’s Gospel, Cronin preferred the later date, since the author of Luke presumably composed his Gospel after the death of Agrippa I, which is described in Acts 12:20-23.[104]

The territories governed by King Agrippa I. Map from George Adam Smith, Atlas of the Historical Geography of the Holy Land (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1915), Map 44.

We believe Cronin’s premise is correct, but that his assumption that the author of Luke penned Luke 3:1 in his own time is faulty. If, as we suppose, the author of Luke copied Luke 3:1 from Anth., then it is more likely that Luke 3:1 was composed by the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua, in which case the reign of Agrippa I is not too early a date for its composition. Moreover, it was only in the latter part of Agrippa’s rule, from 41-44 C.E., that the regions described in Luke 3:1 were all united under the reign of a single ruler. In other words, 41-44 C.E. is the only time in the first century when it really makes sense for an author to project the political boundaries reflected in Luke 3:1 back onto the period of John and Jesus. If we are correct that the regions mentioned in Luke 3:1 reflect the time of that verse’s composition, then we have one more reason for supposing that the author of Luke copied this verse from Anth., and we have also gained a significant insight into the timing of the composition of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua.

L23 ἐπὶ ἀρχιερέως Ἅννα καὶ Καϊάφα (GR). The pattern to which we grew accustomed in Luke 3:1, in which we found an official’s name coupled with an abstract noun (L16) or a participle (L17, L18, L19, L22) meaning “rule,” is broken in Luke 3:2. In L23 we are confronted with two official’s names combined, not with a participial form of a verb such as ἀρχιερατεύειν (archieratevein, “to be high priest”),[105] nor even the name of the office (e.g., ἀρχιερωσύνη [archierōsūnē, “high priesthood”]),[106] but with the title of the office holder(s), viz., ἀρχιερεύς (archierevs, “arch priest” or “high priest”), introduced with the preposition ἐπί (epi).

Although the preposition ἐπί does not occur in connection with any of the territorial rulers mentioned in Luke 3:1, we do find ἐπί in biblical dating formulae:

ἐν τῷ δευτέρῳ ἔτει ἐπὶ Δαρείου τοῦ βασιλέως

In the second year during [ἐπὶ] King Darius…. (Hag. 1:1)

בִּשְׁנַת שְׁתַּיִם לְדָרְיָוֶשׁ הַמֶּלֶךְ

In year two to King Darius…. (Hag. 1:1)

ἐν τῷ δευτέρῳ ἔτει ἐπὶ Δαρείου

…in the second year during [ἐπὶ] Darius…. (Zech. 1:7)

בִּשְׁנַת שְׁתַּיִם לְדָרְיָוֶשׁ

…in year two to Darius…. (Zech. 1:7)

ἐν τῷ τετάρτῳ ἔτει ἐπὶ Δαρείου τοῦ βασιλέως

…in the fourth year during [ἐπὶ] King Darius…. (Zech. 7:1)

בִּשְׁנַת אַרְבַּע לְדָרְיָוֶשׁ הַמֶּלֶךְ

…in year four to King Darius…. (Zech. 7:1)

Instead of the expected abstract noun (“high priesthood”) or participle (“being high priest”), we have ἀρχιερεύς (archierevs, “arch priest” or “high priest”), a term that is surprisingly rare in LXX books with counterparts in MT.[107] The scarcity of ἀρχιερεύς is due to the decision of the LXX translators to consistently render הַכֹּהֵן הַגָּדוֹל (hakohēn hagādōl, “the high priest,” lit., “the big priest”) as ὁ ἱερεὺς ὁ μέγας (ho hierevs ho megas, “the big priest”).[108] Not one of the three instances of ἀρχιερεύς in LXX books corresponding to MT are the equivalent of הַכֹּהֵן הַגָּדוֹל. Thus, the prevalence of the term ἀρχιερεύς for “high priest” in the Gospel of Luke, and in the other Synoptic Gospels, constitutes a glaring non-Septuagintism.

וּבְכַהֵן חָנָן כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל וְקַיָּפָא (HR). Having employed -בְּ + infinitive construct in our reconstructions of L17, L18, L19 and L22, we have followed suit in L23 with the verb כִּהֵן (kihēn, “be a priest,” “serve as priest”). In MH the use of כִּהֵן disappeared. It does not occur at all in the Mishnah, and Jastrow lists only the verb נִתְכַּהֵן (nitkahēn, “be appointed priest”) for the כ-ה-נ root.[109] Since we prefer to reconstruct narrative in a biblicizing style, the disappearance of כִּהֵן in MH poses no obstacle to our reconstruction.

Despite the Greek word order, in HR we have given the high priest’s name before his title, as this is the order known from ancient Jewish sources: חִלְקִיָּהוּ הַכֹּהֵן הַגָּדוֹל (“Hilkiah the high priest”; 2 Kgs. 22:4, 8; 23:4; 2 Chr. 34:9), יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן יְהוֹצָדָק הַכֹּהֵן הַגָּדוֹל (“Yehoshua ben Yehozadak the high priest”; Hag. 1:1, 12, 14; 2:2, 4; Zech. 6:11; cf. Zech. 3:1, 8), אֶלְיָשִׁיב הַכֹּהֵן הַגָּדוֹל (“Elyashiv the high priest”; Neh. 3:1, 20; 13:28), תפלוס הכהן הגדל (“Theophilus the high priest”; Rahmani no. 871), יוֹחָנָן כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל (“Yohanan [the] high priest”; m. Maas. Shen. 5:15; m. Sot. 9:10; m. Par. 3:5; m. Yad. 4:6), יְהוֹיָדַע כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל (“Yehoyada [the] high priest”; m. Shek. 6:6).

The high priest called Ἅννας (Hannas, “Annas”) in the Gospels and in Acts is referred to as Ἄνανος (Ananos, “Ananus”) in the writings of Josephus.[110] Rabbinic sources refer to a high priestly family called בֵּית אֶלְחָנָן (bēt ’elḥānān, “the house of Elhanan”; t. Men. 13:21) or בֵּית חָנִין (bēt ḥānin, “the house of Hanin”; b. Pes. 57a) in parallel traditions. Since Josephus informs us that not only did Ananus (= Annas) serve as high priest, but his five sons also held the high priestly office after him (Ant. 20:198), he is a likely candidate for the founder of “the house of (El)Hanan.”[111] However, this identification of Annas with the Elhanan (or Hanin) of rabbinic sources makes our task of Hebrew reconstruction somewhat more challenging, since otherwise we would have reconstructed Ἅννας as חָנָן (ḥānān, “Hanan”) without further ado. Indeed, חָנָן remains the most viable option for HR, and it may be that the same high priest went by both names, Elhanan and Hanan.[112] The variant form Hanin may be a result of confusion between the high priest’s name and the patronymic of one of the tradents (Abba ben Yose[ph]) of the tradition in which “the house of (El)Hanan” is mentioned. The following table shows the variant forms of the name of the high priest and the tradent’s patronymic in various sources and manuscripts:[113]

Source Tradent’s Patronymic High Priestly Family
Tosefta (t. Men. 3:21)
Vienna MS יוחנן איש ירושלם בית אלחנן
Bavli (b. Pes. 57a)
London, Valmadonna Trust, 9 (Sassoon 594) חנן בית חנן
Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cod. hebr. 6 חנן בית חנן
Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cod. hebr. 95 חנין בית חנין
Vatican, Bibliotheca Apostolica, Ebr. 125 חנן בית חנן
Vatican, Bibliotheca Apostolica, Ebr. 134 חנין בית חנן
New York, Jewish Theological Seminary, Rab. 1623 חנן בית חנן

From the above table we see that however Abba ben Yose(ph)’s father’s name is spelled, this usually tracks with the spelling of the name of the high priestly house. In any case, the spelling חָנָן is dominant in the manuscripts of the Babylonian Talmud, and this may have been the original spelling. For the purposes of our investigation, we see that the high priest named Annas in the Gospels and Acts is the same as the Ananus known to Josephus, and probably to be identified as the Elhanan or Hanan who is remembered in rabbinic sources as the founder of a high priestly dynasty.

The name חָנָן occurs 19xx in MT,[114] and in LXX it was usually transliterated as Αναν (Anan).[115]

Ossuary inscription, יהוחנה ברת יהוחנן בר תפלוס הכהן הגדל (“Yehohanah daughter of Yehohanan son of Theophilus the high priest”). Yehohanah was the descendant of a dynasty of Sadducean high priests. Her grandfather, Theophilus, was appointed high priest in 37 C.E. He was the son of the high priest Annas and the brother-in-law of Caiaphas, both of whom were involved in Jesus’ arrest and interrogation. (Courtesy of the Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums)

Despite its lack of precedence in LXX, ἀρχιερεύς (archierevs, “high priest”) is clearly to be reconstructed as כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל (kohēn gādōl, “high priest”), and the only question is whether to add the definite article in accordance with BH style, or to omit it in accordance with MH style.[116] Since Luke 3:2 is narrative, we would expect to reconstruct the high priest’s title according to BH style. Moreover, on an ossuary from the end of the Second Temple period (Rahmani no. 871) we find the inscription יהוחנה ברת יהוחנן בר תפלוס הכהן הגדל (“Yehohanah daughter of Yehohanan son of Theophilus the high priest”), in which the high priest’s title takes the definite article.[117] On the other hand, the Greek text of Luke 3:2 lacks a definite article, which may indicate that, despite his attempts to compose narrative in a biblicizing style, the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua accidentally slipped into MH idiom. The decision is a difficult one, but for HR we have opted to adhere to the Greek text by omitting the definite article. It may be that in the Second Temple period the spoken language was still in flux, and it would have been regarded as normal to use either הַכֹּהֵן הַגָּדוֹל or כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל even when the meaning was definite.

The inscription יהוסף בר קיפא (“Yehoseph bar Kayapha”) is engraved on the back of the ossuary of Caiaphas the high priest.

The Hebrew form of the name Καϊάφας (Kaiafas, “Caiaphas”) has long been conjectured to be קַיָּפָא (qayāfā’).[118] This conjecture was confirmed when the ossuary of the high priest Caiaphas was discovered, bearing the inscription יהוסף בר קיפא (“Yehoseph bar Kayapha”).[119] An ossuary likely dating from shortly after the destruction of the Temple, which bears the inscription מרימ ברת ישוע בר קיפא כהן ממעזיה מבית אמרי (“Miriam daughter of Yeshua bar Kayapha, a priest from [the division of] Ma‘aziah from Bet Imri”), has also been discovered.[120] Both the high priest Joseph Caiaphas and Miriam’s father Yeshua bore the family name בַּר קַיָּפָא (bar qayāfā’, “son of Kayapha”), but we cannot say how the two individuals may have been related. Rabbinic sources refer to a high priestly “house of Kayapha” to which the Caiaphas of the Gospels and Acts probably belonged (t. Yev. 1:10).[121] A certain Yonatan Kayapha is mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud.[122]

Ossuary of the high priest Joseph Caiaphas. Photographed at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem by Joshua N. Tilton.

The mention of two high priests in Luke 3:2 is problematic because the high priestly office was never occupied by more than one individual at a time. One might assume that Luke 3:2 refers to the year in which the high priesthood transitioned from Annas to Caiaphas, but this solution does not square with the historical record. According to Josephus, Annas was not immediately succeeded by Caiaphas; three other high priests—Ishmael son of Phiabi, Eleazar son of Ananus (= Annas), and Simon son of Camithus—came between Annas and Caiaphas. The puzzle created by the mention of two high priests in Luke 3:2 has bothered historians from an early period. Eusebius (fourth cent. C.E.) suggested that we are to understand from Luke 3:2 that Jesus made his first public appearance during the high priesthood of Annas and continued to teach publicly until he was crucified during the tenure of Caiaphas (Hist. eccl. 1:10 §2), but since Annas had vacated the high priestly office long before Tiberius’ fifteenth year as emperor, Eusebius’ solution is inadequate. Some modern scholars have proposed that the reference to Caiaphas was a later addition to the text of Luke 3:2 by a scribe who spotted Luke’s chronological error,[123] but this solution is not supported by any NT manuscript.

It may be that in the fifteenth year of Tiberius’ reign Annas was the oldest surviving occupant of the high priestly office. Certain biblical commandments depended on the timing of the high priest’s death (cf. Num. 35:25-28; Josh. 20:6), and therefore it may have been customary among Jews of the Second Temple period to keep track of how long former high priests remained alive even though they no longer enjoyed lifetime appointments, as envisioned in Scripture. Perhaps it was for this reason that two high priests—Annas, a former high priest, and Caiaphas, the current office holder—are mentioned in Luke 3:2. It also appears to be true that Annas (Ananus) continued to wield considerable influence in Second Temple society long after his tenure in office came to a formal conclusion in 15 C.E.

L24 All three synoptic versions of A Voice Crying finally begin to agree in L24. The convergence between Matthew, Mark and Luke will be short-lived, however, continuing only until around L35, where they once again set off on their separate ways.

παραγείνεται (Matt. 3:1). The author of Matthew’s use of the historical present is suggestive of Matthean redaction.[124] Moreover, of the three instances of παραγίνεσθαι (paraginesthai, “to come toward”) in Matthew, one occurs in a unique Matthean pericope (Matt. 2:1) and two occur without support in the Lukan and Markan parallels (Matt. 3:1 [cf. Mark 1:4; Luke 3:2]; Matt. 3:13 [cf. Mark 1:9; Luke 3:21]). Thus, παραγείνεται (parageinetai, “he comes toward”) in Matt. 3:1 should be ascribed to the author of Matthew’s editorial activity. This conclusion is further supported by the observation that the author of Matthew intentionally worded the descriptions of the first public appearances of John the Baptist (Matt. 3:1) and Jesus (Matt. 3:13) so that they would mirror one another.[125] In both verses the author of Matthew used the un-Hebraic present tense form παραγείνεται (parageinetai, “he arrives”). Since the aorist form ἐγένετο (egeneto, “he/it was”) in Mark and Luke is far easier to reconstruct, we have rejected Matthew’s wording in L24 for GR.

ἐγένετο (GR). In biblical descriptions of the delivery of a divine oracle we sometimes find the following construction: dating formula + ἐγένετο + “word of the Lord/God” + preposition (usually πρός) + prophet’s name (see below). This is the pattern we find in Luke’s version of A Voice Crying, and on the basis of this pattern we have accepted Luke’s wording in L24 for GR. The author of Mark retained Luke’s verb but changed the subject from “the word of God” to “John the Baptist,” thereby transforming the account into the arrival of John the Baptist in the desert, instead of Luke’s description of the prophetic call that came to John while he was already in the wilderness. The author of Matthew followed Mark in this respect.

הָיָה (HR). We find the construction dating formula + ἐγένετο + “word of the Lord/God” + preposition (usually πρός) + prophet’s name as the translation of dating formula + הָיָה דְּבַר יי אֶל + prophet’s name in the following examples:

בִּשְׁנַת שְׁתַּיִם לְדָרְיָוֶשׁ הָיָה דְּבַר יי אֶל חַגַּי הַנָּבִיא

…in year two of Darius was the word of the LORD unto Haggai the prophet…. (Hag. 2:10)

ἔτους δευτέρου ἐπὶ Δαρείου ἐγένετο λόγος κυρίου πρὸς Αγγαιον τὸν προφήτην

…of the second year of Darius was the word of the Lord unto Haggai the prophet…. (Hag. 2:10)

בִּשְׁנַת שְׁתַּיִם לְדָרְיָוֶשׁ הָיָה דְבַר יי אֶל זְכַרְיָה בֶּן בֶּרֶכְיָה בֶּן עִדּוֹ הַנָּבִיא

…in year two of Darius was the word of the LORD unto Zechariah son of Berechiah son of Iddo the prophet…. (Zech. 1:1)

ἔτους δευτέρου ἐπὶ Δαρείου ἐγένετο λόγος κυρίου πρὸς Ζαχαριαν τὸν τοῦ Βαραχιου υἱὸν Αδδω τὸν προφήτην

…of the second year of Darius was the word of the Lord unto Zechariah the son of Berechiah son of Iddo the prophet…. (Zech. 1:1)

בִּשְׁנַת שְׁתַּיִם לְדָרְיָוֶשׁ הָיָה דְבַר יי אֶל זְכַרְיָה בֶּן בֶּרֶכְיָהוּ בֶּן עִדּוֹא הַנָּבִיא

…in year two of Darius was the word of the LORD unto Zechariah son of Berechyahu son of Iddo the prophet…. (Zech. 1:7)

ἐν τῷ δευτέρῳ ἔτει ἐπὶ Δαρείου ἐγένετο λόγος κυρίου πρὸς Ζαχαριαν τὸν τοῦ Βαραχιου υἱὸν Αδδω τὸν προφήτην

…in the second year of Darius was the word of the Lord unto Zechariah the son of Berechiah son of Iddo the prophet…. (Zech. 1:7)

In other instances the pattern is the same, except it is phrased in the first person, so instead of the prophet’s name we find “to me”:

בַּשָּׁנָה הָעֲשִׂירִית…הָיָה דְבַר יי אֵלַי

In the tenth year…was the word of the LORD unto me…. (Ezek. 29:1)

ἐν τῷ ἔτει τῷ δεκάτῳ…ἐγένετο λόγος κυρίου πρός με

In the tenth year…was the word of the Lord unto me…. (Ezek. 29:1)

These examples suffice to show that Luke’s description of the coming of God’s word to John the Baptist is highly Hebraic and that we are correct to reconstruct ἐγένετο in L24 with הָיָה.‎[126]

L25 ῥῆμα θεοῦ (GR). Luke’s phrase ῥῆμα θεοῦ (hrēma theou, “word of God”) is quite rare in LXX, occurring only in Exod. 24:3, 1 Kgdms. 9:27, Isa. 40:8 and Jer. 1:1.[127] If the author of Luke had wished to imitate the language of LXX, as some scholars suppose, he ought to have written (ὁ) λόγος (τοῦ) θεοῦ (9xx in LXX),[128] or better yet, (ὁ) λόγος (τοῦ) κυρίου (scores of instances in LXX),[129] in L25. However, we believe that the Hebraisms in Luke’s Gospel are better explained as reflecting the literal Greek translation of a Hebrew source rather than as sporadic attempts to imitate the style and vocabulary of LXX.

דְּבַר אֱלֹהִים (HR). In the examples of the divine word’s coming to a prophet cited above in Comment to L24 this action was always expressed in Greek as ἐγένετο λόγος κυρίου (“was the word of the Lord”). There are, however, examples in which הָיָה דְבַר יי (“was the word of the LORD”) was rendered ἐγένετο ῥῆμα κυρίου, for instance:

וַיְהִי דְּבַר יי אֶל נָתָן

…and was the word of the LORD unto Nathan…. (2 Sam. 7:4)

καὶ ἐγένετο ῥῆμα κυρίου πρὸς Ναθαν

…and was the word of the Lord unto Nathan…. (2 Kgdms. 7:4)

וַיְהִי דְבַר יי אֵלָיו

And was the word of the LORD unto him…. (1 Kgs. 17:2, 8)

καὶ ἐγένετο ῥῆμα κυρίου πρὸς Ηλιου

And was the word of the LORD unto Elijah…. (3 Kgdms. 17:2, 8)

וַיְהִי דְּבַר יי אֶל אֵלִיָּהוּ

And was the word of the LORD unto Elijah…. (1 Kgs. 21:28)

καὶ ἐγένετο ῥῆμα κυρίου ἐν χειρὶ δούλου αὐτοῦ Ηλιου περὶ Αχααβ

And was the word of the Lord in the hand of his servant Elijah concerning Ahab…. (3 Kgdms. 20:28)

Similar examples are found in Gen. 15:1 and 1 Kgdms. 15:10.

There is only one example in MT in which we find הָיָה דְבַר אֱלֹהִים (“was the word of God”) followed by a preposition and the name of a prophet, as we have in HR:

וַיְהִי דְּבַר אֱלֹהִים אֶל נָתָן

And was the word of God unto Nathan…. (1 Chr. 17:3)

In LXX this statement was translated as:

καὶ ἐγένετο λόγος κυρίου πρὸς Ναθαν

And was the word of the Lord unto Nathan…. (1 Chr. 17:3)

We imagine that the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua preferred to write דְּבַר אֱלֹהִים in order to avoid using the Tetragrammaton. The phrase “the word of God” also featured importantly in the teachings of Jesus. For instance, Jesus explained that the seed of the Four Soils Parable represented “the word of God.”[130]

L26 ἐπὶ Ἰωάννην (GR). In light of all the biblical examples we have examined thus far, Luke’s preposition ἐπί (epi, “upon”) is so unexpected that we considered changing it to πρός (pros, “unto”) in GR. Nevertheless, we find one clear example in which the usual description of the word of the LORD/God’s coming “unto” (πρός/אֶל) a prophet is exchanged for the word of the LORD’s coming “upon” a prophet (David):[131]

וַיְהִי עָלַי דְּבַר יי

And the word of the LORD was upon me…. (1 Chr. 22:8)

καὶ ἐγένετο ἐπ᾿ ἐμοὶ λόγος κυρίου

And the word of the Lord was upon me…. (1 Chr. 22:8)

Perhaps the divine word’s coming “upon” a prophet instead of “unto” a prophet reflects the changing idiom of late Biblical Hebrew. Whatever the case, on the basis of this example we have retained Luke’s wording for GR.

The unique array of rare expressions in Luke 3:2 that describe the divine word’s coming upon John the Baptist are easy to reconstruct in Hebrew, yet we feel compelled to reiterate that Luke’s phrasing can hardly be characterized as imitating the style and vocabulary of LXX. Had it been the author of Luke’s desire to “Septuagintalize,” he surely would have adopted stereotyped formulae and written ἐγένετο λόγος κυρίου πρὸς Ἰωάννην.

עַל יוֹחָנָן (HR). On reconstructing ἐπί (epi, “upon”) with עַל (‘al, “upon”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L11. We saw in the preceding paragraphs that, although rare, the preposition עַל can be used in descriptions of the divine word’s coming upon a prophet.

On reconstructing the name Ἰωάννης (Iōannēs, “John”) as יוֹחָנָן (yōḥānān, “John”), see Choosing the Twelve, Comment to L25.

L27 τὸν Ζαχαρίου υἱὸν (GR). Whether or not to accept Luke’s wording in L27 for GR was a question with which we wrestled mightily, and we freely admit that the opposite conclusion could be argued from the same data. Against Luke’s identification of John as “the son of Zechariah” are the following facts: among all New Testament writers, only the author of Luke reports the name of John the Baptist’s father; the mention of the Baptist’s patronymic in Luke 3:2 could easily be explained as a redactional addition intended to link the account of the Baptist’s call to Luke’s earlier account of John’s birth; and Luke’s word order in L27 is not particularly Hebraic. In order to substantiate the last of these objections, we studied how expressions such as “John son of Zechariah” were handled in LXX.

The familial relationship “A son of B” is stated in Hebrew as א בֶּן ב. In LXX such expressions were generally rendered in one of the following ways:[132]

  • A υἱος B (“A son [of] B”): cf., e.g., Gen. 24:15 (Βαθουηλ υἱῷ Μελχας = לִבְתוּאֵל בֶּן מִלְכָּה); Gen. 36:10 (Ελιφας υἱὸς Αδας = אֱלִיפַז בֶּן עָדָה; Ραγουηλ υἱὸς Βασεμμαθ = רְעוּאֵל בֶּן בָּשְׂמַת); Gen. 36:33 (Ιωβαβ υἱὸς Ζαρα = יוֹבָב בֶּן זֶרַח); Gen. 36:35 (Αδαδ υἱὸς Βαραδ = הֲדַד בֶּן בְּדַד); Gen. 36:38 (Βαλαεννων υἱὸς Αχοβωρ = בַּעַל חָנָן בֶּן עַכְבּוֹר; also Gen. 36:39); Exod. 33:11 (Ἰησοῦς υἱὸς Ναυη = יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן נוּן); Num. 1:5 (Ελισουρ υἱὸς Σεδιουρ = אֱלִיצוּר בֶּן שְׁדֵיאוּר; also Num. 2:10; 7:30, 35; 10:18); Num. 1:6 (Σαλαμιηλ υἱὸς Σουρισαδαι = שְׁלֻמִיאֵל בֶּן צוּרִישַׁדָּי; also Num. 2:12; 7:36, 41; 10:19); Num. 1:7 (Ναασσων υἱὸς Αμιναδαβ = נַחְשׁוֹן בֶּן עַמִּינָדָב; also Num. 2:3; 7:12, 17; 10:14); Num. 1:8 (Ναθαναηλ υἱὸς Σωγαρ = נְתַנְאֵל בֶּן צוּעָר; also Num. 2:5; 7:18, 23; 10:15); Num. 1:9 (Ελιαβ υἱὸς Χαιλων = אֱלִיאָב בֶּן חֵלֹן; also Num. 2:7; 7:24, 29; 10:16); Num. 1:10 (Ελισαμα υἱὸς Εμιουδ = אֱלִישָׁמָע בֶּן עַמִּיהוּד; also Num. 2:18; 7:48, 53; 10:22; Γαμαλιηλ υἱὸς Φαδασσουρ = גַּמְלִיאֵל בֶּן פְּדָהצוּר; also Num. 2:20; 7:54, 59); Num. 1:11 (Αβιδαν υἱὸς Γαδεωνι = אֲבִידָן בֶּן גִּדְעֹנִי; also Num. 2:22; 7:60, 65); Num. 1:12 (Αχιεζερ υἱὸς Αμισαδαι = אֲחִיעֶזֶר בֶּן עַמִּישַׁדָּי; also Num. 2:25; 7:66, 71); Num. 1:13 (Φαγαιηλ υἱὸς Εχραν = פַּגְעִיאֵל בֶּן עָכְרָן; also Num. 2:27; 7:72, 77; 10:26); Num. 1:14 (Ελισαφ υἱὸς Ραγουηλ = אֶלְיָסָף בֶּן דְּעוּאֵל; also Num. 7:42, 47; cf. Num. 2:14); Num. 1:15 (Αχιρε υἱὸς Αιναν = אֲחִירַע בֶּן עֵינָן; also Num. 2:29; 7:78, 83; 10:27); Num. 3:24 (Ελισαφ υἱὸς Λαηλ = אֶלְיָסָף בֶּן לָאֵל); Num. 3:30 (Ελισαφαν υἱὸς Οζιηλ = אֶלִיצָפָן בֶּן עֻזִּיאֵל); Num. 3:35 (Σουριηλ υἱὸς Αβιχαιλ = צוּרִיאֵל בֶּן־אֲבִיחָיִל); Num. 4:16 (Ελεαζαρ υἱὸς Ααρων = אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן אַהֲרֹן); Num. 4:33 (Ιθαμαρ υἱοῦ Ααρων = אִיתָמָר בֶּן אַהֲרֹן; also Num. 7:8); Num. 13:4 (Σαλαμιηλ υἱὸς Ζακχουρ = שַׁמּוּעַ בֶּן זַכּוּר); Num. 13:5 (Σαφατ υἱὸς Σουρι = שָׁפָט בֶּן חוֹרִי); Num. 13:6 (Χαλεβ υἱὸς Ιεφοννη = כָּלֵב בֶּן יְפֻנֶּה; also Num. 14:30, 38; 26:65; 32:12; 34:19; Deut. 1:36); Num. 13:7 (Ιγααλ υἱὸς Ιωσηφ = יִגְאָל בֶּן יוֹסֵף); Num. 13:8 (Αυση υἱὸς Ναυη = הוֹשֵׁעַ בִּן נוּן); Num. 13:9 (Φαλτι υἱὸς Ραφου = פַּלְטִי בֶּן רָפוּא); Num. 13:10 (Γουδιηλ υἱὸς Σουδι = גַּדִּיאֵל בֶּן סוֹדִי); Num. 13:11 (Γαδδι υἱὸς Σουσι = גַּדִּי בֶּן סוּסִי); Num. 13:12 (Αμιηλ υἱὸς Γαμαλι = עַמִּיאֵל בֶּן גְּמַלִּי); Num. 13:13 (Σαθουρ υἱὸς Μιχαηλ = סְתוּר בֶּן מִיכָאֵל); Num. 13:14 (Ναβι υἱὸς Ιαβι = נַחְבִּי בֶּן וָפְסִי); Num. 13:15 (Γουδιηλ υἱὸς Μακχι = גְּאוּאֵל בֶּן מָכִי); Num. 14:38 (Ἰησοῦς υἱὸς Ναυη = יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן נוּן; also Num. 27:18; 32:28; Deut. 1:38; 34:9); Num. 16:1 (Κορε υἱὸς Ισσααρ = קֹרַח בֶּן יִצְהָר; Αυν υἱὸς Φαλεθ = אוֹן בֶּן פֶּלֶת); Num. 22:2 (Βαλακ υἱὸς Σεπφωρ = בָּלָק בֶּן צִפּוֹר; also Num. 22:4, 10); Num. 22:5 (Βαλααμ υἱὸν Βεωρ = בִּלְעָם בֶּן בְּעוֹר; also Num. 24:3, 15; 31:8; Deut. 23:5); Num. 25:7 (Φινεες υἱὸς Ελεαζαρ = פִּינְחָס בֶּן אֶלְעָזָר; also Num. 25:11; 31:6); Num. 25:14 (Ζαμβρι υἱὸς Σαλω = זִמְרִי בֶּן סָלוּא); Num. 34:20 (Σαλαμιηλ υἱὸς Εμιουδ = שְׁמוּאֵל בֶּן עַמִּיהוּד); Num. 34:21 (Ελδαδ υἱὸς Χασλων = אֱלִידָד בֶּן כִּסְלוֹן); Num. 34:22 (Βακχιρ υἱὸς Εγλι = בֻּקִּי בֶּן יָגְלִי); Num. 34:23 (Ανιηλ υἱὸς Ουφι = חַנִּיאֵל בֶּן אֵפֹד); Num. 34:24 (Καμουηλ υἱὸς Σαβαθα = קְמוּאֵל בֶּן שִׁפְטָן); Num. 34:25 (Ελισαφαν υἱὸς Φαρναχ = אֱלִיצָפָן בֶּן פַּרְנָךְ); Num. 34:26 (Φαλτιηλ υἱὸς Οζα = פַּלְטִיאֵל בֶּן עַזָּן); Num. 34:27 (Αχιωρ υἱὸς Σελεμι = אֲחִיהוּד בֶּן שְׁלֹמִי); Num. 34:28 (Φαδαηλ υἱὸς Βεναμιουδ = פְּדַהְאֵל בֶּן עַמִּיהוּד); Deut. 3:14 (Ιαϊρ υἱὸς Μανασση = יָאִיר בֶּן מְנַשֶּׁה)
  • Α υἱος Β (“the A son [of] B”): cf., e.g., Gen. 11:31 (τὸν Λωτ υἱὸν Αρραν = אֶת לוֹט בֶּן הָרָן); Num. 10:29 (τῷ Ιωβαβ υἱῷ Ραγουηλ = לְחֹבָב בֶּן רְעוּאֵל); Num. 13:16 (τὸν Αυση υἱὸν Ναυη = לְהוֹשֵׁעַ בִּן נוּן); Num. 26:37 (τῷ Σαλπααδ υἱῷ Οφερ = צְלָפְחָד בֶּן חֵפֶר); Num. 27:18 (τὸν Ἰησοῦν υἱὸν Ναυη = אֶת יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן נוּן); Num. 31:8 (τὸν Βαλααμ υἱὸν Βεωρ = אֶת בִּלְעָם בֶּן בְּעוֹר; also Deut. 23:5); Num. 32:40 (τῷ Μαχιρ υἱῷ Μανασση = לְמָכִיר בֶּן מְנַשֶּׁה)
  • A ὁ υἱος Β (“A the son [of] B”): cf., e.g., Gen. 25:12 (Ισμαηλ τοῦ υἱοῦ Αβρααμ = יִשְׁמָעֵאל בֶּן־אַבְרָהָם); Gen. 25:19 (Ισαακ τοῦ υἱοῦ Αβρααμ = יִצְחָק בֶּן אַבְרָהָם); Gen. 28:5 (πρὸς Λαβαν τὸν υἱὸν Βαθουηλ = אֶל לָבָן בֶּן בְּתוּאֵל); Gen. 29:5 (Λαβαν τὸν υἱὸν Ναχωρ = אֶת לָבָן בֶּן נָחוֹר); Gen. 34:2 (Συχεμ ὁ υἱὸς Εμμωρ = שְׁכֶם בֶּן חֲמוֹר; also Gen. 34:18); Gen. 36:12 (Ελιφας τοῦ υἱοῦ Ησαυ = לֶאֱלִיפַז בֶּן עֵשָׂו); Exod. 37:19[38:21] (Ιθαμαρ τοῦ υἱοῦ Ααρων = אִיתָמָר בֶּן אַהֲרֹן; also Num. 4:28); Num. 3:32 (Ελεαζαρ ὁ υἱὸς Ααρων = אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן אַהֲרֹן); Num. 17:2 (πρὸς Ελεαζαρ τὸν υἱὸν Ααρων = אֶל אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן אַהֲרֹן)
  • A υἱὸς τοῦ B (“A son of the B”): cf., e.g., Gen. 36:32 (Βαλακ υἱὸς τοῦ Βεωρ = בֶּלַע בֶּן בְּעוֹר); 2 Kgdms. 23:34 (Αλιφαλεθ υἱὸς τοῦ Ασβίτου = אֱלִיפֶלֶט בֶּן אֲחַסְבַּי); Mic. 6:5 (Βαλααμ υἱὸς τοῦ Βεωρ = בִּלְעָם בֶּן בְּעוֹר); Isa. 39:1 (Μαρωδαχ υἱὸς τοῦ Λααδαν = מְרֹדַךְ בַּלְאֲדָן בֶּן בַּלְאֲדָן)
  • (genitive) Α τοῦ Β (“of A [son] of the B”):[133] cf., e.g., Gen. 25:9 (Εφρων τοῦ Σααρ = עֶפְרֹן בֶּן צֹחַר); 1 Chr. 26:28 (Σαουλ τοῦ Κις = שָׁאוּל בֶּן קִישׁ; Αβεννηρ τοῦ Νηρ = אַבְנֵר בֶּן נֵר; Ιωαβ τοῦ Σαρουια = יוֹאָב בֶּן צְרוּיָה); 2 Chr. 20:34 (Ιου τοῦ Ανανι = יֵהוּא בֶן חֲנָנִי); Amos 1:1 (Ιεροβοαμ τοῦ Ιωας = יָרָבְעָם בֶּן־יוֹאָשׁ); Hag. 1:14 (Ζοροβαβελ τοῦ Σαλαθιηλ = זְרֻבָּבֶל בֶּן שַׁלְתִּיאֵל; Ἰησοῦ τοῦ Ιωσεδεκ = יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן יְהוֹצָדָק; also Zech. 6:11); Zech. 6:10 (Ιωσιου τοῦ Σοφονιου = יֹאשִׁיָּה בֶן צְפַנְיָה); Isa. 7:1 (Αχαζ τοῦ Ιωαθαμ = אָחָז בֶּן יוֹתָם); Dan. 9:1 (Δαρείου τοῦ Ξέρξου = דָרְיָוֶשׁ בֶּן אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ)
  • Α ὁ τοῦ Β (“A the [son] of the B”): cf., e.g., Gen. 23:8 (Εφρων τῷ τοῦ Σααρ = בְּעֶפְרוֹן בֶּן צֹחַר); Exod. 6:25 (Ελεαζαρ ὁ τοῦ Ααρων = אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן אַהֲרֹן); Exod. 35:34 (Ελιαβ τῷ τοῦ Αχισαμακ = אָהֳלִיאָב בֶּן אֲחִיסָמָךְ; also Exod. 37:21); Exod. 37:20[38:22] (Βεσελεηλ ὁ τοῦ Ουριου = בְּצַלְאֵל בֶּן אוּרִי); Num. 10:20 (Ελισαφ ὁ τοῦ Ραγουηλ = אֶלְיָסָף בֶּן דְּעוּאֵל); Num. 10:23 (Γαμαλιηλ ὁ τοῦ Φαδασσουρ = גַּמְלִיאֵל בֶּן פְּדָה־צוּר); Num. 10:24 (Αβιδαν ὁ τοῦ Γαδεωνι = אֲבִידָן בֶּן־גִּדְעוֹנִי); Num. 10:25 (Αχιεζερ ὁ τοῦ Αμισαδαι = אֲחִיעֶזֶר בֶּן עַמִּישַׁדָּי); Num. 11:28 (Ιησοῦς ὁ τοῦ Ναυη = יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן נוּן; also Num. 14:30; 26:65; 32:12; 34:17); Num. 14:6 (Χαλεβ ὁ τοῦ Ιεφοννη = כָּלֵב בֶּן יְפֻנֶּה); Num. 22:16 (Βαλακ ὁ τοῦ Σεπφωρ = בָּלָק בֶּן צִפּוֹר); Num. 32:41 (Ιαϊρ ὁ τοῦ Μανασση = יָאִיר בֶּן מְנַשֶּׁה)
  • Α ὁ τοῦ Β (“the A the [son] of the B”): cf., e.g., Exod. 31:2 (τὸν Βεσελεηλ τὸν τοῦ Ουριου = בְּצַלְאֵל בֶּן־אוּרִי; also Exod. 35:30); Exod. 31:6 (τὸν Ελιαβ τὸν τοῦ Αχισαμαχ = אֵת אָהֳלִיאָב בֶּן אֲחִיסָמָךְ); Josh. 13:22 (τὸν Βαλααμ τὸν τοῦ Βεωρ = אֶת בִּלְעָם בֶּן בְּעוֹר); Josh. 14:14 (τῷ Χαλεβ τῷ τοῦ Ιεφοννη = לְכָלֵב בֶּן יְפֻנֶּה); 2 Chr. 11:22 (τὸν Αβια τὸν τῆς Μααχα = אֶת אֲבִיָּה בֶן מַעֲכָה); 2 Chr. 20:14 (τῷ Οζιηλ τῷ τοῦ Ζαχαριου = יַחֲזִיאֵל בֶּן זְכַרְיָהוּ); 2 Chr. 24:20 (τὸν Αζαριαν τὸν τοῦ Ιωδαε = אֶת זְכַרְיָה בֶּן יְהוֹיָדָע); Ezek. 11:1 (τὸν Ιεζονιαν τὸν τοῦ Εζερ = אֶת יַאֲזַנְיָה בֶן עַזֻּר)

Note that despite variations these LXX translations of א בֶּן ב (“A son of B”) retain Hebrew word order. From the above survey we see that we would have expected Luke’s “upon John the son of Zechariah” to have appeared as ἐπὶ [τὸν] Ἰωάννην τὸν υἱὸν [τοῦ] Ζαχαρίου. Nowhere do we encounter Luke’s construction Α ὁ Β υἱός (“A the [of] B son”) in LXX as the translation of א בֶּן ב. On the other hand, we do find Luke’s construction Α ὁ Β υἱός (“A the [of] B son”) in original Greek compositions. Below we cite several examples of the Α ὁ Β υἱός formula from the writings of Josephus:

  • Ἐλεάζαρον τὸν Ἀαρῶνος υἱὸν (“Eleazar the son of Aaron”; Ant. 4:57)
  • Ιωνάθης ὁ Σουμᾶ υἱὸς (“Jonathan the son of Soumas”; Ant. 7:304)
  • Ἰώαζος ὁ τοῦ Ἰηοῦδος υἱὸς (“Jehoahaz the son of Jehu”; Ant. 9:173)
  • Ὀζίας ὁ τοῦ Ἀμασία υἱός (“Uzziah the son of Amaziah”; Ant. 9:215)
  • Δημήτριος…ὁ Σελεύκου υἱὸς (“Demetrius…the son of Seleucus”; Ant. 12:389)
  • Εὐπόλεμον τὸν Ἰωάννου υἱὸν (“Eupolemos the son of John”; Ant. 12:415)
  • Ὑρκανὸν τὸν Ἀλεξάνδρου υἱὸν (“Hyrcanus the son of Alexander”; Ant. 14:197)
  • Ὑρκανοῦ τοῦ Ἀλεξάνδρου υἱοῦ (“of Hyrcanus the son of Alexander”; Ant. 14:226)
  • Ἀγρίππας…ὁ Ἀριστοβούλου υἱὸς (“Agrippa…the son of Aristobulus”; Ant. 18:126)
  • Μᾶρκος ὁ τοῦ Ἀλεξάνδρου υἱὸς (“Marcus the son of Alexander”; Ant. 19:277)
  • ὁ Ῥαμέσσης ὁ τοῦ Ἀμενώφιος υἱὸς (“Ramesses the son of Amenophis”; Apion 1:300)

These examples from the writings of Josephus could support the suggestion that the author of Luke replaced John’s title “the Baptist” with the patronymic “the son of Zechariah,” and slipped into Greek compositional style in the process.

On the other hand, in biblical examples of the divine word’s coming to a prophet we often find that the name of the prophet’s father is given:[134]

וַיְהִי דְבַר יי אֶל יֵהוּא בֶן חֲנָנִי

And the word of the LORD was unto Jehu son of Hanani…. (1 Kgs. 16:1)

καὶ ἐγένετο λόγος κυρίου ἐν χειρὶ Ιου υἱοῦ Ανανι

And the word of the Lord was in the hand of Jehu son of Hanani…. (3 Kgdms. 16:1)

הָיֹה הָיָה דְבַר יי אֶל יְחֶזְקֵאל בֶּן בּוּזִי הַכֹּהֵן

The word of the Lord was unto Ezekiel son of Buzi the priest…. (Ezek. 1:3)

καὶ ἐγένετο λόγος κυρίου πρὸς Ιεζεκιηλ υἱὸν Βουζι τὸν ἱερέα

And the word of the Lord was unto Ezekiel son of Buzi the priest…. (Ezek. 1:3)

וַיְהִי דְּבַר יי אֶל יוֹנָה בֶן אֲמִתַּי

And the word of the LORD was unto Jonah son of Amittai…. (Jonah 1:1)

καὶ ἐγένετο λόγος κυρίου πρὸς Ιωναν τὸν τοῦ Αμαθι

And the word of the Lord was unto Jonah the son of Amittai…. (Jonah 1:1)

הָיָה דְבַר יי אֶל זְכַרְיָה בֶּן בֶּרֶכְיָה בֶּן עִדּוֹ הַנָּבִיא

…the word of the LORD was to Zechariah son of Berechiah son of Iddo the prophet…. (Zech. 1:1; cf. Zech. 1:7)

ἐγένετο λόγος κυρίου πρὸς Ζαχαριαν τὸν τοῦ Βαραχιου υἱὸν Αδδω τὸν προφήτην

….the word of the Lord was to Zechariah the son of Berechiah son of Iddo the prophet…. (Zech. 1:1; cf. Zech. 1:7)

Moreover, we have an example that demonstrates that a Greek translator of a Semitic source could chose to adopt the Greek word order A ὁ Β υἱός (“A the [of] B son”) found in Luke 3:2 when translating “A son of B”:

אשלט לאחיקר בר ענאל אחי על כל ש[יזפנות] [מלכותה]

And to Ahikar, son of Anael my brother, he gave power over all the [treasures] [of his kingdom]…. (4QpapTobb ar [4Q196] 2 I, 5-6; DSS Study Edition [adapted])

καὶ ἔταξεν Αχιαχαρον τὸν Αναηλ υἱὸν τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ μου ἐπὶ πᾶσαν τὴν ἐκλογιστίαν τῆς βασιλείας αὐτοῦ

And he appointed Achiacharos son of Hanael my brother over all the accounts of his kingdom…. (Tob. 1:21; NETS)

The Aramaic word order א בַּר ב (“A son of B”) is the same as the Hebrew word order א בֶּן ב (“A son of B”); nevertheless, the Greek translator of Hebrew or Aramaic Tobit chose to adopt the Greek word order A ὁ Β υἱός (“A the [of] B son”) found in Luke 3:2. Therefore, while the word order Ἰωάννην τὸν Ζαχαρίου υἱόν (“John the of Zechariah son”) could be explained as Lukan composition, Luke’s word order could also reflect a Greek translation conforming more to Greek style than to the Hebrew word order of the source text.

It appears to us that the author of Luke derived his version of A Voice Crying from a source that is based on a Hebrew narrative. Despite its Hebraic quality, however, Luke’s source was not written in imitation of LXX. It would have been easy for the author of Luke or the author of his source to conform much more closely to LXX style and vocabulary in the description of the divine word’s coming to John. The failure of Luke’s version of A Voice Crying to reproduce LXX style strongly suggests that it is based on a direct translation of a Hebrew source into Greek.

ὁ βαπτίζων (Mark 1:4). The title ὁ βαπτίζων (ho baptizōn, “the baptizing one”) appears to be the author of Mark’s replacement for Luke’s “son of Zechariah.” The author of Mark also applied the title ὁ βαπτίζων to John the Baptist in Mark 6:14 and Mark 6:24, but this title was never applied to John in the Gospels of Luke or Matthew.[135] The more usual title for John is ὁ βαπτιστής (ho baptistēs, “the Baptist”), which is the title the author of Matthew used opposite Mark’s ὁ βαπτίζων here in L27. Some NT MSS drop the definite article before βαπτίζων in Mark 1:4, treating the participle not as a substantive but as part of the description of John’s action: “…John was immersing in the desert and proclaiming an immersion of repentance….” This textual variant probably arose because of unfamiliarity with Mark’s use of ὁ βαπτίζων (“the baptizing one”) as a title for John.[136]

בֶּן זְכַרְיָה (HR). We have already discussed at length Luke’s word order in L27, concluding that although it does not conform to Hebrew word order a Greek translator might deviate slightly from the word order of his source in order to accommodate his translation to Greek style. On reconstructing υἱός (hūios, “son”) with בֵּן (bēn, “son”), see Fathers Give Good Gifts, Comment to L3.

This facsimile of an ossuary inscription with the name שמעון בן זכריה (“Shimon ben Zecharyah”) is found in Gustaf Dalman, “Inschriften aus Palästina,” Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins 37.2 (1914): 135-145.

The Greek spelling Ζαχαρίας (Zacharias, “Zechariah”) is the standard LXX equivalent of the Hebrew name זְכַרְיָה (zecharyāh, “Zechariah”), but Ζαχαρίας was also used to represent the long form זְכַרְיָהוּ (zecharyāhū).[137] Since use of the shortened forms of theophoric names was more common in the Second Temple period, we have preferred זְכַרְיָה for HR. The name זְכַרְיָה is found on pre-70 C.E. ossuary inscriptions, in papyrus documents from Murabba‘at, and inscribed on an ostracon from Masada.[138] A certain sage by the name of זְכַרְיָה בֶן קְבוּטָל (“Zechariah ben Kevutal”) and another by the name of זְכַרְיָה בֶן הַקַּצָּב (“Zechariah ben ha-Katzav”) are mentioned in the Mishnah (m. Yom. 1:6; m. Ket. 2:9; m. Sot. 5:1; m. Edu. 8:2). The Tosefta mentions a certain זכריה בן אבקילס (“Zechariah ben Avkilas [?]”; t. Shab. 16:7 [Vienna MS]), who is perhaps identical to the Ζαχαρίας…υἱὸς Ἀμφικάλλει (“Zacharias…son of Amphicalleus”) mentioned in the writings of Josephus (J.W. 4:225).[139]

According to scholars, the name זַכַּאי (zaka’y, “Zakkai”) is a shortened form of זְכַרְיָה (“Zechariah”).[140] If this derivation is correct, then two important Jewish figures from the end of the Second Temple period, John the Baptist and Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai, bore slightly different forms of the same name. This coincidence proves only that Luke’s testimony that John the Baptist’s Hebrew name was Yohanan ben Zecharyah is entirely plausible, since other persons from the first century are known to have been called by variations of these names.

L28 κηρύσσων (Matt. 3:1). The author of Matthew took the participle κηρύσσων (kērūssōn, “proclaiming”) from Mark and/or Anth., but moved it up from its original position in L34 to L28. This was done in order to lay the groundwork for putting the words “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!” into the mouth of John the Baptist.

L29 ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ (GR). All three synoptic writers agree to write the prepositional phrase “in the desert” in L29, but whereas in Mark and Matthew John appears in the desert and makes his proclamation there, according to Luke the word of God comes to John in the desert, prompting him to leave his solitude and begin proclaiming his baptism in the Jordan Valley.

בַּמִּדְבָּר (HR). On reconstructing ἔρημος (erēmos, “desert,” “uninhabited place”) with מִדְבָּר (midbār, “desert,” “uninhabited place”), see Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser, Comment to L8. The term מִדְבָּר can mean “desert” in the traditional sense of a hot, arid environment, but it can also be used for any undeveloped land that is unsuitable for habitation or agriculture.[141]

L30 τῆς Ἰουδαίας (Matt. 3:1). Matthew is the only Synoptic Gospel to definitely place John’s ministry in Judea, although Mark’s description of all Jerusalem and Judea’s going out to John is suggestive of a Judean setting (Mark 1:5; L53-56). But since Luke’s account of the Baptist’s activity mentions neither Judea nor Jerusalem, it may be that this detail was added to the story by the author of Mark. The conflict between John the Baptist and Herod Antipas hints at a Galilean setting, for as we saw above in Comment to L18, Antipas ruled as tetrarch in Galilee.[142] Luke’s version of A Voice Crying indicates that John the Baptist was not stationed in a single location, but wandered up and down the Jordan Valley as he proclaimed the baptism he had been commissioned to administer (Luke 3:3).

L31 καὶ ἦλθεν (GR). Luke’s “and he came” underscores John’s movement away from his seclusion and toward his prospective audience. It is not necessary to assume, however, that John abandoned a “desert” or “wilderness” setting.[143] The description of John’s movement, which does much to explain how the Baptist attracted a following, is absent in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew.[144]

וַיָּבֹא (HR). In handwritten annotations to his synopsis, Lindsey indicated that Luke’s καὶ ἦλθεν (kai ēlthen, “and he came”) should be reconstructed with the verb בָּא (bā’, “come”).[145] On reconstructing the verb ἔρχεσθαι (erchesthai, “to come”) with בָּא (bā’, “come”), see Demands of Discipleship, Comment to L8.

L32-33 εἰς πᾶσαν περίχωρον τοῦ Ἰορδάνου (GR). Luke’s reference to “all the surrounding region of the Jordan” finds striking confirmation in Matt. 3:5 (L73-74), although it is totally absent in Mark. Their common use of this singular phrase in A Voice Crying, albeit at different points in this pericope, is a strong indication that both the authors of Luke and Matthew knew a non-Markan version of A Voice Crying.[146] Since the author of Luke appears to have reproduced this non-Markan version of A Voice Crying with little or no changes, whereas the author of Matthew mainly followed Mark’s version and merely used the non-Markan version for supplementary details, it is more likely that Luke’s version of A Voice Crying preserves the phrase “all the surrounding region of the Jordan” at its original location.[147] Moreover, Catchpole noted that Matthew’s naming of “all the surrounding region of the Jordan” as one of the geographical regions from which people came out to be baptized in the Jordan has the jarring sound that might be produced when an editor inexpertly inserted a phrase into a context where it did not originally belong.[148]

אֶל כָּל כִּכַּר הַיַּרְדֵּן (HR). Since the phrase περίχωρος τοῦ Ἰορδάνου (perichōros tou Iordanou) occurs 3xx in LXX as the translation of כִּכַּר הַיַּרְדֵּן (kikar hayardēn, “Jordan Valley,” lit., “circle of the Jordan”; Gen. 13:10, 11; 2 Chr. 4:17), reconstructing this phrase poses little difficulty. On two occasions in MT כִּכַּר הַיַּרְדֵּן occurs as part of the longer phrase כָּל כִּכַּר הַיַּרְדֵּן (kol kikar hayardēn, “all the Jordan Valley”; Gen. 13:10, 11), and in both these instances the LXX translators rendered כָּל (kol, “all”) with πᾶς (pas, “all”), exactly as in Luke 3:3 and Matt. 3:5. The only unanswered question we face in L32 is how to reconstruct the preposition εἰς (eis, “into”).

Twice in MT we encounter the phrase בְּכִכַּר הַיַּרְדֵּן (bechikar hayardēn, “in the Jordan Valley”; 1 Kgs. 7:46; 2 Chr. 4:17), but in both of these instances the LXX translators rendered -בְּ (be, “in”) with ἐν (en, “in”; 3 Kgdms. 7:33; 2 Chr. 4:17), which gives us pause regarding the reconstruction of εἰς in L32. We have therefore undertaken a survey of the examples in LXX in which ἔρχεσθαι εἰς (erchesthai eis, “to come into”) serves as the translation of בָּא (bā’, “come,” “enter”), in order to see which Hebrew prepositions typically accompany בָּא in such cases. The results of our survey are as follows:

  • ἔρχεσθαι εἰς is often the translation of בָּא without an accompanying preposition. Cf., e.g., Gen. 33:18 (καὶ ἦλθεν Ιακωβ εἰς Σαλημ = וַיָּבֹא יַעֲקֹב שָׁלֵם); Gen. 45:25 (καὶ ἦλθον εἰς γῆν Χανααν = וַיָּבֹאוּ אֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן); Exod. 19:2 (καὶ ἤλθοσαν εἰς τὴν ἔρημον τοῦ Σινα = וַיָּבֹאוּ מִדְבַּר סִינַי).
  • ἔρχεσθαι εἰς is often the translation of בָּא without a preposition but with a locative ה- attached to the destination. Cf., e.g., Gen. 12:5 (καὶ ἦλθον εἰς γῆν Χανααν = וַיָּבֹאוּ אַרְצָה כְּנָעַן); Gen. 37:14 (καὶ ἦλθεν εἰς Συχεμ = וַיָּבֹא שְׁכֶמָה); Exod. 15:27 (καὶ ἤλθοσαν εἰς Αιλιμ = וַיָּבֹאוּ אֵילִמָה).
  • ἔρχεσθαι εἰς is a common translation of בָּא אֶל. Cf., e.g., Gen. 32:9 (Ἐὰν ἔλθῃ Ησαυ εἰς παρεμβολὴν = אִם יָבוֹא עֵשָׂו אֶל הַמַּחֲנֶה); Gen. 43:21 (ἤλθομεν εἰς τὸ καταλῦσαι = בָאנוּ אֶל הַמָּלוֹן); Num. 13:27 (ἤλθαμεν εἰς τὴν γῆν = בָּאנוּ אֶל הָאָרֶץ); Josh. 9:17 (καὶ ἦλθον εἰς τὰς πόλεις αὐτῶν = וַיָּבֹאוּ אֶל עָרֵיהֶם).
  • ἔρχεσθαι εἰς can translate -בָּא בְּ, as in 4 Kgdms. 6:23 (τοῦ ἐλθεῖν εἰς γῆν Ισραηλ = לָבוֹא בְּאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל); Ps. 68[69]:3 (ἦλθον εἰς τὰ βάθη τῆς θαλάσσης = בָּאתִי בְמַעֲמַקֵּי מַיִם); Ps. 78[79]:1 (ἤλθοσαν ἔθνη εἰς τὴν κληρονομίαν σου = בָּאוּ גוֹיִם בְּנַחֲלָתֶךָ). Nevertheless, ἔρχεσθαι εἰς as the translation of -בָּא בְּ is much rarer than the other possibilities.

While our survey shows that the εἰς in L32 could be reconstructed in a variety of ways, in the end we decided to adopt אֶל (’el, “unto”) for HR, first because we have reconstructed with בָּא אֶל elsewhere in LOY,[149] and second because the following parallel is so similar:

וַיָּבֹאוּ אֶל גְּלִילוֹת הַיַּרְדֵּן

And they came unto the region of the Jordan…. (Josh. 22:10)

καὶ ἦλθον εἰς Γαλγαλα τοῦ Ιορδάνου

And they came into Galgala of the Jordan…. (Josh. 22:10)

Additional examples in which καὶ ἦλθεν/ἦλθον εἰς serves as the translation of וַיָּבֹא/וַיָּבֹאוּ אֶל are found in 1 Kgdms. 24:4; 30:26; 4 Kgdms. 5:24; 2 Chr. 23:2 (cf. Jer. 44[37]:16).

In addition to the verses where περίχωρος (perichōros, “surrounding region”) occurs as the translation of כִּכָּר (kikār, “circle”) as part of the phrase περίχωρος τοῦ Ἰορδάνου (perichōros tou Iordanou, “surrounding region of the Jordan”; Gen. 13:10, 11; 2 Chr. 4:17), equivalent to כִּכַּר הַיַּרְדֵּן (kikar hayardēn, “Jordan Valley”), περίχωρος also occurs as the translation of כִּכָּר in Gen. 13:12; 19:17, 28; Deut. 34:3; 2 Esd. 22:28.

In contrast to the regular use of indeclinable forms of most personal names and toponyms in LXX, the inflected proper noun Ἰορδάνης (Iordanēs, “Jordan”) is the standard LXX translation of יַרְדֵּן (yardēn, “Jordan”).[150] Probably the LXX translators used an inflected form because, as the name of the region’s most important river, the Hellenized form Ἰορδάνης had already become well established in the Greek language. Philo and Josephus both use the form Ἰορδάνης to refer to the Jordan, but Josephus sometimes adopted the spelling Ἰόρδανος (Iordanos).[151]

Some scholars, citing a halachic ruling reported in the Mishnah, claim that John’s baptism may have been totally divorced from the concept of ritual purity.[152] The rabbinic ruling states:

מֵי הַיַּרְדֵּן וּמֵי הַיַּרְמוּךְ פְּסוּלִין מִפְּנֵי שֶּׁהֵן מֵי תַעֲרוּבוֹת

The waters of the Jordan and the waters of the Yarmuk are invalid because they are mixed waters. (m. Par. 8:10)

It would be wrong, however, to conclude from this mishnah that “[e]arly rabbinic tradition specifically excludes the Jordan River as a place of purification.”[153] First, the halachic ruling in m. Par. 8:10 applies specifically to water used for sprinkling with the ashes of the red heifer (Num. 19:17-19), not to water used for ritual immersion.[154] Second, as m. Par. 8:11 makes clear,[155] the rabbinic ruling does not apply to the entire Jordan River, but only from the point at which the Yarmuk flows into the Jordan, a little to the south of the Sea of Galilee. If the connection of John’s baptism to ritual purity must be denied—to our minds a questionable proposition—it must be done on grounds other than m. Par. 8:10. It may be, however, that the greater degree of the Jordan’s purity north of the point where the Yarmuk enters the Jordan could support a Galilean setting for John’s baptizing activity.[156]

L34 λέγων (Matt. 3:2). The author of Matthew, having already used the participle κηρύσσων (kērūssōn, “proclaiming”) in L28, used λέγων (legōn, “saying”) opposite the κηρύσσων of Mark and Luke in L34 to introduce the direct speech which the author of Matthew placed on the Baptist’s lips.

וַיִּקְרָא (HR). The verb κηρύσσειν (kērūssein, “to proclaim”) is not particularly common in LXX. Where it does occur, however, it usually does so as the translation of קָרָא (qārā’, “cry,” “call,” “proclaim”).[157] In the context of John’s proclamation of a baptism, the verb קָרָא seems especially apt, since קָרָא was used for proclaiming public rites, such as fasts, as we see in the following examples:

וַיַּאֲמִינוּ אַנְשֵׁי נִינְוֵה בֵּאלֹהִים וַיִּקְרְאוּ צוֹם וַיִּלְבְּשׁוּ שַׂקִּים מִגְּדוֹלָם וְעַד קְטַנָּם

And the people of Nineveh trusted in God, and they proclaimed [וַיִּקְרְאוּ] a fast, and they put on sackcloth—from the greatest to the least of them. (Jonah 3:5)

καὶ ἐνεπίστευσαν οἱ ἄνδρες Νινευη τῷ θεῷ καὶ ἐκήρυξαν νηστείαν καὶ ἐνεδύσαντο σάκκους ἀπὸ μεγάλου αὐτῶν ἕως μικροῦ αὐτῶν

And the men of Nineveh trusted in God, and they proclaimed [ἐκήρυξαν] a fast, and they put on sackcloth—from the greatest to the least of them. (Jonah 3:5)

וַיִּקְרָא צוֹם עַל כָּל יְהוּדָה

And he proclaimed [וַיִּקְרָא] a fast over all Judah. (2 Chr. 20:3)

καὶ ἐκήρυξεν νηστείαν ἐν παντὶ Ιουδα

And he proclaimed [ἐκήρυξεν] a fast in all Judah. (2 Chr. 20:3)

Notice that in the above examples the LXX translators rendered קָרָא with the verb κηρύσσειν.[158]

Not only was קָרָא used for the proclamation of fasts,[159] it was also used for the proclamation of debt release in the Sabbatical Year (Deut. 15:2) and for proclamations of amnesty (Jer. 34:8, 15, 17), especially that which occurred in the Jubilee Year (Lev. 25:10; Isa. 61:1). As we discussed above in Comment to L15, it appears that John’s proclamation of a baptism of repentance for the release of sins was timed to coincide with the commencement of a Sabbatical Year (and perhaps, in his mind, also a Jubilee Year). These considerations also make reconstructing κηρύσσειν with קָרָא in L34 particularly appropriate.

L35 μετανοεῖτε (Matt. 3:2). Those scholars who suspect that the author of Matthew erased the description of John’s baptism as one intended for the release of sins because he was uncomfortable with the implication that forgiveness could be attained through any means other than Jesus’ sacrificial death are probably correct.[160] In its place the author of Matthew has John utter the command “Repent!”

The imperative μετανοεῖτε (metanoeite, “Repent!”) occurs only in Matthew and Mark, and even in these Gospels it is rare (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15). Luke’s Gospel never puts the stand-alone command “Repent!” in the mouth of John or Jesus.

Another indication that the direct speech attributed to John the Baptist in Matthew’s version of A Voice Crying is secondary is the subtle shift in emphasis that it creates. John’s very title “the Baptist” indicates that baptism was the distinctive and central feature of John’s activity.[161] But by changing the wording of his source the author of Matthew transformed John the proclaimer of a baptism into a preacher of repentance.

טְבִילַת תְּשׁוּבָה (HR). The noun βάπτισμα (baptisma, “immersion,” “baptism”) does not occur in LXX. The only time the cognate verb βαπτίζειν (baptizein, “to immerse”) occurs in LXX with a Hebrew equivalent, that equivalent is טָבַל (ṭāval, “immerse”):

וַיֵּרֶד וַיִּטְבֹּל בַּיַּרְדֵּן שֶׁבַע פְּעָמִים

And he went down and immersed in the Jordan seven times…. (2 Kgs. 5:14)

καὶ κατέβη Ναιμαν καὶ ἐβαπτίσατο ἐν τῷ Ιορδάνῃ ἑπτάκι

And Naiman went down and immersed himself in the Jordan seven times…. (4 Kgdms. 5:14; NETS)

The verb βάπτειν (baptein, “to immerse”), also a cognate of βάπτισμα, is the usual LXX equivalent of טָבַל.[162] This evidence suggests that we should seek to reconstruct βάπτισμα with a noun based on the ט-ב-ל root. A viable candidate is the noun טְבִילָה (evilāh, “immersion”), which does not occur in MT but is quite common in rabbinic sources. The noun טְבִילָה is not common in DSS, but it does occur once in the Copper Scroll (3Q15 I, 12), which was composed in Mishnaic-style Hebrew. The example from the Copper Scroll proves that טְבִילָה was already current when the Hebrew Life of Yeshua was composed.

On reconstructing μετάνοια (metanoia, “repentance”) with תְּשׁוּבָה (teshūvāh, “repentance”), another word that is not attested in MT but is common in rabbinic sources, see Call of Levi, Comment to L68. The use of these two post-biblical terms in a narrative context coheres with our view that while the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua attempted to compose narrative in a biblicizing style, he frequently resorted to MH style or vocabulary either out of necessity (because BH lacked the vocabulary for the ideas he wished to express) or accidentally (out of habit from daily usage of the spoken language). The result is a mixed or blended style, similar to that which we find in the baraita in b. Kid. 66a, which preserves a fragment of a Second Temple Hebrew document.

From the description of John’s baptism in Luke and Mark, the question arises, “Why and in what manner did John the Baptist consider ritual immersion to be related to repentance?” Josephus is the earliest known writer to take up this question, which he answered in his description of John the Baptist’s activity:

…he [i.e., John the Baptist—DNB and JNT] had exhorted the Jews to lead righteous lives, to practice justice towards their fellows and piety towards God, and so doing to join in baptism. In his view this was the necessary preliminary if baptism was to be acceptable to God. They must not employ it to gain pardon for whatever sins they committed, but as a purification of the body implying that the soul was already thoroughly cleansed by right behavior. (Ant. 18:117; Loeb [adapted])[163]

Josephus was concerned primarily with a question different from ours, namely “What is the connection between John’s baptism and forgiveness?”—a question to which we will return in Comment to L36. Nevertheless, Josephus touched on the connection between immersion and repentance when he stated that John’s baptism was a purification of the body that mirrored the purification of the soul. According to Josephus, therefore, baptism and repentance operated along parallel tracks. Whereas baptism purified the body from ritual impurities, repentance purified the soul of moral corruption. The purification of the physical body symbolized the purification of the inner being, but, at least as far as Josephus was concerned, the two types of purification remained entirely distinct.

Josephus’ claim to be representing John’s opinion notwithstanding, it seems that Josephus’ interpretation of John’s activity was filtered through the lens of his own worldview and his preconceived notions about ritual purity which, by Josephus’ own admission, were influenced by the teachings of the Pharisees (Life 12). We therefore doubt that John the Baptist would have wholly agreed with the way Josephus portrayed the connection between baptism and repentance, for whereas Josephus maintained a clear distinction between moral and ritual purity—a quintessentially Pharisaic way of looking at the issue—John’s proclamation of a baptism of repentance implies that the Baptist considered ritual and moral purity to be inseparable.[164] In this respect John’s view of ritual purity resembled that which the Essenes espoused in DSS.

One of the mikvaot used by Jewish sectarians who lived at Qumran two millennia ago. The lower part of this mikveh was cut into the soft marl that abounds in the vicinity of Qumran, while its upper part was constructed from stones and mortar. Plastered walls inside the immersion chamber ensured that no water leaked out.

The Hebrew Bible and Pharisaic halachah distinguish between ritual and moral purity in the following manner. Ritual impurity is the natural result of biological processes (e.g., menstruation, sexual intercourse, death), it is inevitable (i.e., everyone who is subject to the laws of ritual impurity will, at one time or another, become ritually impure through no fault of their own), it is transferrable through contact with (or, in more severe cases, proximity to) a source of impurity, and, in most cases, becoming ritually impure is morally neutral.[165] Purification is obtained through immersion in water (in combination with other rites in cases of severe impurity).[166] Moral impurity, by contrast, shares none of these qualities. It does not result from natural biological processes, but through violation of commandments. Therefore, moral impurity is not inevitable, it is a matter of choice. Moral impurity results from moral deficiency. It does not contaminate the sinner and is therefore not transferrable through contact or proximity. Moral impurity contaminates the land and concentrates in the Temple. Purification is effected not through immersion of the sinner but through sacrifices of atonement, which remove the impurity generated by sin from the Temple. In DSS, however, the distinction between moral and ritual purity is obliterated, or, to put the matter differently, a fusion between ritual and moral purity has taken place. Therefore, we find in DSS that transgressors of the commandments are not only regarded as impure, they are also capable of passing their impurity onto others. Likewise, we find that ritual purification of the body is not possible without separation from sin, and conversely, repentance is not regarded as complete without ritual purification. Similarly, in DSS purification and atonement are conflated in such a way that atonement often describes the purification of an individual from sin rather than the purification of the Temple.

The following passage from the Community Rule is particularly illustrative of the Essene fusion of the concepts of ritual and moral impurity:

ולוא יצדק במתיר שרירות לבו וחושך יביט לדרכי אור בעין תמימים לוא יתחשב לוא יזכה בכפורים ולוא יטהר במי נדה ולוא יתקדש בימים ונהרות ולוא יטהר בכול מי רחץ טמא טמא יהיה כול יומי מואסו במשפטי אל לבלתי התיסר ביחד עצתו

And he [i.e., anyone not belonging to the sect—DNB and JNT] will not be justified while he persists in the stubbornness of his heart. And he will regard the ways of light as darkness, but in the eye of the blameless he will not be taken into account. He will not make himself right by atonements, and he will not purify himself by waters of sprinkling, and not sanctify himself by seas or rivers, and not purify himself by any waters of washing. Impure! Impure he will be all the days of his rejection of God’s judgments without the reproof of the Community of his counsel. (1QS III, 3-6)

According to this passage, sins make a person ritually impure (“Impure! Impure he will be…”) and rites of purification are wholly ineffective until and unless a person separates from sin (“…he will not purify himself by waters of sprinkling, and not sanctify himself by seas or rivers, and not purify himself by any waters of washing”). Ritual and moral purity have become inextricably intertwined. The inability of immersion to purify the sinner as described in the Community Rule reminds us of the following homily that was to be delivered on fast days ordained by the rabbinic sages:

איזה צום שאני רוצה בו פתח חרצובות רשע וגו′ אם היה שרץ בידו של אדם אפי′ טובל בשילוח ובכל מימי בראשית אינו טוהיר לעולם השליך שרץ מידו עלתה לו טבילה בארבעים סאה וכן הוא אומ′ ומודה ועוזב ירוחם

Which is the fast that I desire? To unlock the bonds of wickedness [Isa. 58:6], etc. If there was [the carcass of] a creeping thing in a person’s hand, then even if he immersed in Siloam or in all the waters of creation, he is not ever purified. But if he casts [the carcass of] the creeping thing from his hand, then immersion in forty seahs [of water] suffices to purify him. And so it says, but the one who confesses and abandons [his sin] will be shown mercy [Prov. 28:13]. (t. Taan. 1:8; Vienna MS)

The futility of immersing while maintaining contact with a source of ritual impurity in the rabbinic homily serves as a metaphor for the futility of outward displays of repentance, such as fasting, while simultaneously cherishing sinful intentions and desires. The imagery in the rabbinic homily is similar to that which is found in the Community Rule; both describe types of water that, under the right circumstances, are particularly efficacious for purification, but which are impotent so long as contact with a source of impurity is maintained. But whereas the rabbinic homily maintains a clear distinction between moral and ritual purity, which at most mirror one another, according to the Community Rule sin itself has become a source of ritual impurity.

Interior of a mikveh at Masada. Image courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.

We believe that this Essene fusion of ritual and moral purity influenced John the Baptist, leading to his proclamation of an immersion of repentance. Like the Essenes, John appears to have regarded sin as a source of impurity that defiles the body.[167] But unlike the Essenes John was not content to withdraw from sinful society in order to maintain a strict regimen of ritual purity in a closed community. Instead of shutting out and cutting off sinful Israelites, damning them to eternal annihilation, John believed that the coming redemption would involve a royal amnesty toward Israel (on which, see below, Comment to L36).[168] God would be gracious toward his erring children. Therefore, John developed a novel solution to the uniquely Essene problem of sin impurity: a baptism of repentance. John the Baptist not only demanded that sinners turn from their evil ways, he also required sinners to wash from their bodies the contamination caused by their misdeeds. Only then would their repentance be complete and acceptable to God.

John’s distinctive understanding of the relationship between sin and impurity may have been one of the factors contributing to the Pharisaic rejection of his message. John’s conception of sin and impurity did not cohere with Pharisaic-rabbinic halachah. Jesus’ approval of and participation in John’s baptism points to Jesus’ independence vis-à-vis Pharisaic opinion in halachic matters.

L36 εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν (GR). In the preceding comment we suggested that John the Baptist conceived of the coming redemption in terms of a royal amnesty. This conclusion is partly founded on the term ἄφεσις (afesis, “release”), which is employed in the Gospels of Luke and Mark to describe John’s baptism. Scholars routinely note that ἄφεσις is not normally used in Koine Greek in a religious sense as a term for forgiveness,[169] but that ἄφεσις more naturally belongs to the realm of finance, where ἄφεσις conveys the meaning of “remission” or “release” from debt.[170]

Moshe Weinfeld has shown that debt release is associated with the ancient Near Eastern practice of proclaiming royal amnesties when a new king acceded to the throne or when a sitting monarch wished to reassert his authority after a period of crisis.[171] These amnesties typically included the cancellation of debts and the suspension or abolition of various kinds of taxes owed to the crown. Such proclamations were portrayed as a means of rebalancing the social order, correcting the abuses and injustices that had been tolerated during the reign of the previous monarch, or rooting out the corruption of public officials that had been brought to the king’s attention. By such means the new king or the ruler who needed to reestablish his authority was able to win popular support among his subjects. This widespread ancient Near Eastern practice influenced the Israelite prophetic tradition, which sometimes portrayed the final redemption in terms of a royal amnesty proclaimed to Israel when God assumes the throne over the entire earth.

A late example of this ancient Near Eastern phenomenon is preserved in a papyrus from Ptolemaic Egypt dating from 118 B.C.E., which we quote in part:

[Βασιλεὺς] Πτολεμαῖος καὶ βασίλισσα Κλεοπάτρα ἡ ἀδελφὴι [καὶ βασίλισσ]α Κλεοπάτρα ἡ γυνὴ [ἀ]φιᾶσει τοὺς ὑ[πὸ] τὴ[ν βασιλήαν π]άντας ἀγνοημάτων, ἁμαρτημ[άτ]ων, [ἐν-[κλημάτων, ⟨καταγνωσμάτον⟩], αἰτ[ι]ῶν πασῶν τῶν ἕως θ τοὺ Φα[ρμοῦ(θι) τοῦ] νβ (ἔτους) [π]λὴν τ[ῶν φόν]ους ἑκουσίοις καὶ ἱεροσυλίαις ἐνεχομ[ένων].

Προστετά[χα]σι δὲ καὶ τοὺς ἀνακεχωρηκότας δ[ιὰ τὸ ἐνέχεσθαι λ]ήαις καὶ ἑτέρα⟨ι⟩ς αἰτίαις καταπορευομένους εἰς [τὰς ἰδίας ἐρ-γ]άσεσθαι π[ρ]ὸς αἷς καὶ πρότερον ἦσαν ἐργασία[ις καὶ…. τὰ] ἔτι ὑπάρ[χοντα] ἄπρατα ἀπὸ τῶν διατα[…. — ]

[Ἀφιᾶσι] δὲ π[ά]ν[τας] τῶ[ν ὀφ]ειλ[ο]μένων τ[ῶι βα(σιλικῶι) εἰς τοὺς αὐτο]ὺς χρόνους πρός τε τὴν σιτικὴν μί(σθωσι)ν κα[ὶ ἀργυ(ρικὴν) π]ρ(όσοδον) πλὴν τῶν μεμισθωμένων εἰς τὸ πατρικὸν [ὑπὲ]ρ ὧν δ[ι]εγγύ(ημα) ὑπάρχει

King Ptolemy and Queen Cleopatra the sister and Queen Cleopatra the wife proclaim an amnesty [(ἀ)φιᾶσει] to all their subjects for errors, crimes [ἁμαρτημ(άτ)ων], accusations, condemnations, and offences of all kinds up to the 9th of Pharmouthi of the 52nd year, except to persons guilty of wilful murder or sacrilege.

And they have decreed that persons who have gone into hiding because they were guilty of robbery or other offences shall return to their own homes and resume their former occupations and shall [recover] the property which is still unsold out of the….

And they remit [Ἀφιᾶσι] to all persons the arrears for the said period in respect both of rents in corn and of money taxes, except to hereditary lessees for whom security has been given…. (Select Papyri II §210; Loeb)[172]

In this royal decree the verb translated “proclaim an amnesty” is ἀφιέναι (afienai), of which ἄφεσις (afesis, “release”) is a cognate noun. Among the things that are pardoned in this royal amnesty are ἁμαρτήματα (hamartēmata), translated “crimes” in the text above, but usually rendered “sins” when it occurs in LXX and NT. In LXX and NT the noun ἁμάρτημα (hamartēma, “sin”) is a synonym of the more common ἁμαρτία (hamartia, “sin”). Thus, this royal decree of amnesty from Ptolemaic Egypt provides us with a striking verbal parallel to John’s baptism of repentance εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν (eis afesin hamartiōn, “for the release of [the debt of] sins”).

In addition to pardoning crimes, the Ptolemaic amnesty decree mentions the return of people to their homes, the recovery of their property, and the cancellation of debts—a list that bears a striking resemblance to the Sabbatical and Jubilee Year proclamation of return to ancestral lands and release from servitude and debt. This resemblance becomes all the more pronounced when we discover that דְּרוֹר (derōr, “liberty [proclaimed during the Jubilee Year]”), יוֹבֵל (yōvēl, “Jubilee”) and שְׁמִטָּה (shemiṭāh, “remission,” “letting go,” “cancellation [of debt]”)—all terms relating to the Jubilee and Sabbatical Years—are usually rendered in LXX by the single term ἄφεσις,[173] and that these account for the majority of the instances of ἄφεσις in LXX.[174] The decision of the LXX translators to render all three Hebrew terms relating to Sabbatical and Jubilee releases with the noun ἄφεσις may suggest that they regarded royal amnesty decrees to be the most familiar contemporary analogy with which their readers could comprehend the biblical institution of Sabbatical and Jubilee releases.

The forgiveness of sins is never mentioned in the biblical passages dealing with the Sabbatical and Jubilee Years, but, as we have seen, royal amnesty decrees did evolve to include legal pardons. The way the LXX translators used the vocabulary of royal amnesty decrees to render biblical terminology relating to the Sabbatical and Jubilee Years suggests that the conditions were ripe for a cross-pollination of the concepts of amnesty and Sabbatical/Jubilee release to occur in the minds of Second Temple Jewish thinkers. This potential was increased by a semantic development in Hebrew, which began to use the language of “debt” as a metaphor for sin. Sin began to be described as debt that Israel was obliged to pay off before it could acquire its freedom from domination by Gentile kingdoms. In addition, the Second Temple period witnessed the development of the notion that God had allotted to each of the stages of Israel’s salvation history a preordained amount of time measured according to the Sabbatical and Jubilee cycles. According to this line of thought, the final redemption would be timed to coincide with a Jubilee. The convergence of these ideas paved the way for the final redemption to be portrayed as a Jubilee proclamation of release from Israel’s debt of sin.[175]

An important document from Qumran demonstrates that the portrayal of the redemption in terms of a Jubilee proclamation of a forgiveness of sins did, in fact, occur:

ואשר אמר בשנת היובל [הזואת תשובו איש אל אחוזתו ועליו אמר וז]ה [דבר השמטה] שמוט כול בעל משה יד אשר ישה[ ברעהו לוא יגוש את רעהו ואת אחיו כיא קרא ]שמטה לא[ל פשרו ]לאחרית הימים על השבויים אשר[ — ]ואשר מוריהמה החבאו וסתר[ו] ומנחלת מלכי צדק כי[א — ] והמה נחל[ת מלכי צ]דק אשר ישיבמה אליהמה וקרא להמה דרור לעזוב להמה[ משא ]כול עוונותיהמה ו[כן יהי]ה הדבר הזה בשבוע היובל הראישון אחר תש[עה ה]יובלים וי[ום הכפ]ורים ה[וא]ה ס[וף ]ה[יו]בל העשירי לכפר בו על כול בני [אור ו]אנש[י ]גורל מל[כי ]צדק[ — ]ם עלי[המ]ה הת[ ]לפ[י ]כ[ול עש]ותמה כיא הואה הקץ לשנת הרצון למלכי צדק ולצב[איו ע]ם קדושי אל לממשלת משפט כאשר כתוב עליו בשירי דויד אשר אמר אלוהים [נ]צב בע[דת אל ]בקורב אלוהים ישפוט ועליו אמ[ר ו]עלי[ה] למרום שובה אל ידין עמים ואשר א[מר עד מתי ת]שפוטו עוול ופני רשע[י]ם תש[או ס]לה פשרו על בליעל ועל רוחי גורלו אש[ר — ]ים בסו[רמ]ה מחוקי אל ל[הרשיע] ומלכי צדק יקום נקם משפטי א[ל וביום ההואה יצי]ל[מה מיד ]ב֯ליעל ומיד כול ר[וחי גורלו]

And that which said, In the year of [this] Jubilee [you will return, each to his own (land) holding (Lev. 25:13), concerning it he said, and th]is [is the manner of the release:] Every creditor must release what he lent[ to his neighbor. He must not oppress his neighbor or his brother, for] a release [was proclaimed] unto G[od (Deut. 15:2). Its interpretation] for the end of days concerns the captives [Isa. 61:1], who [ — ] and whose teachers who hid and conceal[ed], and from the inheritance of Melchizedek, fo[r –] and they are the inheritan[ce of Melchiz]edek, who will cause them to return to them. And he will proclaim liberty [דְּרוֹר] [Isa. 61:1] to them to forsake[176] for them[ the debt of ]all their iniquities. And this thing [wil]l [happen] in the first week of the Jubilee after the ni[ne] Jubilees. And that D[ay of Atone]ment is the e[nd of] the tenth [Ju]bilee, to atone in it for all the sons of [light and] for the men of the lot of Melchizedek. [ — ] over [them] [ — ] accor[ding to] all their [dee]ds, for it is the time of the year of favor [Isa. 61:2] toward Melchizedek and toward [his] hos[ts, the peo]ple of the holy ones of God, and for the rule of law, as it is written concerning him in the Songs of David, which said, God [st]ands in the divine assembly, he will judge among the gods [Ps. 82:1]. And concerning him he sa[id, And] above [it] return to on high, God will judge the peoples [Ps. 7:8-9]. And regarding that which he sa[id, How long will you] judge unjustly and fav[or] the wick[e]d? [Se]lah [Ps. 82:2], its interpretation concerns Belial and the spirits of his lot, wh[o — ] when [they] tur[ned aside] from the statutes of God to [do wickedly]. But Melchizedek will surely avenge the judgments of G[od. And in that day he will de]l[iver them from the hand of] Belial and from the hand of all the spi[rits of his lot]. (11QMelch [11Q13] II, 2-14)

In this complicated text an Essene author wove together biblical verses from the Torah concerning the Jubilee and Sabbatical Years and Isaiah’s prophecy concerning an anointed prophet to describe how Melchizedek, the cosmic priest of the Most High, will proclaim to Israel a release from her debt of sins in the appointed time of redemption, which will coincide with the Jubilee Year. The text mentions the Day of Atonement, which according to Scripture is when the proclamation of liberty is to be made during the Jubilee Year,[177] and it goes on to describe Melchizedek, who as high priest will make atonement for the sons of light. Since the high priest’s role on the Day of Atonement is to purify the Temple, it seems probable that an eschatological purifying of the Temple is what is envisioned here. The Qumran text also uses verses from the Psalms to describe how Melchizedek will act as an eschatological judge, casting Belial from the heavenly council and avenging divine justice, which has been mocked by Belial’s corrupt rule.

For our present purpose what is of primary importance is the way that 11QMelchizedek has incorporated the idea of the forgiveness of sins into the matrix of Sabbatical and Jubilee releases from debt. This, we believe, is the background against which to understand John the Baptist’s proclamation of an immersion of repentance for the release of the debt of sins.[178] As we have seen, John’s public appearance was likely timed to coincide with a Sabbatical Year (and possibly also a Jubilee Year, according to his calculations).[179] In that year the Baptist proclaimed that the cancellation of Israel’s debt of sin (and the consequent freedom from debt servitude to the Gentile nations that Israel’s indebtedness entailed) could be obtained by repentance, which involved both the turning away from sins and the cleansing from sin impurity through ritual immersion.

Some scholars suggest that John’s baptism was in opposition to or in competition with the Temple’s sacrificial system, since according to Scripture forgiveness is obtained by offering sacrifices of atonement in the Temple.[180] But while we would agree that John viewed the Temple as defiled and profaned, we would not go so far as to say that John’s baptism was instituted in opposition to the Temple.[181] According to his preaching, John the Baptist anticipated the imminent arrival of a Elijianic priestly figure who would purify the Temple and bring judgment upon the wicked. This description is similar to the role ascribed to Melchizedek in the Qumran document discussed above. Thus, it appears that John had not given up on the Temple; he eagerly awaited the time when it would be purified. John’s baptism could be viewed as a preparation for the day of the Temple’s purification (i.e., the eschatological Day of Atonement), since it would be necessary for anyone who wished to witness the purification of the Temple to have first undergone ritual purification themselves. In other words, John the Baptist may well have regarded his immersion of repentance for the release of the debt of sin not as a replacement for the Temple, but as a necessary first step toward the Temple’s purification.

לִשְׁמִטַּת עֲוֹנוֹת (HR). Previous scholars translated ἄφεσις (afesis, “release”) into Hebrew using סְלִיחָה (seliḥāh, “forgiveness”),[182] but having concluded that John’s baptism was inspired by Sabbatical/Jubilee release ideology, שְׁמִטָּה (shemiṭāh, “remission,” “release”) feels more appropriate, since this term is specifically tied to the Sabbatical Year’s cancellation of debts. Moreover, in contrast to סְלִיחָה, which was never rendered with ἄφεσις in LXX,[183] every single instance of שְׁמִטָּה in MT was rendered with ἄφεσις by the LXX translators.[184] The noun דְּרוֹר (derōr, “liberty”) does not appear to be a viable option for HR, since it never occurs in the construct state, whereas שְׁמִטָּה, as we saw in Comment to L15, occurs in construct phrases such as שְׁמִטַּת אֶרֶץ (shemiṭat ’eretz, “release of land”), שְׁמִטַּת קַרְקַע (shemiṭat qarqa‘, “release of soil”) and שְׁמִטַּת כְּסָפִים (shemiṭat kesāfim, “release of money”). The use of שְׁמִטָּה in HR, however, does not preclude the possibility that John conceived of his baptism as related to the Jubilee Year, since we saw that Sabbatical and Jubilee verses were freely combined in 11QMelchizedek.

In LXX ἁμαρτία (hamartia, “sin”) is most often the translation of nouns formed from the root ח-ט-א, such as חֵטְא (ḥēṭ’, “sin”), חַטָּאת (ḥaṭā’t, “sin,” “sin offering”) or חֲטָאָה (aṭā’āh, “sin”),[185] and so we find that Delitzsch rendered ἁμαρτία as חֵטְא in Luke 3:3, and Lindsey did the same in Mark 1:4.[186] Another option might be to reconstruct ἁμαρτία as חוֹב (ḥōv, “debt”), since we believe John’s ritual immersion was related to his belief that the eschatological Sabbatical or Jubilee Year, when Israel’s debt of sin will be abolished, was at hand. But such a reconstruction would only obscure the issue, since it is hard to see how שְׁמִיטַּת חוֹבוֹת (shemiṭat ḥōvōt, “release of debts”)[187] would be understood to be something different from the ordinary שְׁמִטָּה (“release”) or שְׁמִיטַּת כְּסָפִים (“monetary release”) of the Sabbatical Year. We saw above that the Essene author of 11QMelchizedek expected Melchizedek to proclaim Jubilee liberty to Israel, implying that God had “forsaken” or “cancelled” the debt of all their sins (11QMelch [11Q13] II, 6). The term used for “sins” in that passage is עֲוֹנוֹת (avonōt, “sins”), and this term seems particularly suitable for our reconstruction, since it occurs in a biblical text closely associated with John the Baptist, and it, too, envisions sin as a debt that needs to be paid off:

נַחֲמוּ נַחֲמוּ עַמִּי יֹאמַר אֱלֹהֵיכֶם דַּבְּרוּ עַל לֵב יְרוּשָׁלִַם וְקִרְאוּ אֵלֶיהָ כִּי מָלְאָה צְבָאָהּ כִּי נִרְצָה עֲוֹנָהּ כִּי לָקְחָה מִיַּד יְהוָה כִּפְלַיִם בְּכָל חַטֹּאתֶיהָ

“Comfort! Comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak encouragingly to Jerusalem, and cry out to her that her servitude is complete and that her sin is paid off,[188] for she has taken from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.” (Isa. 40:1-2)

These are the two verses that precede the verse that is associated with John the Baptist in all four canonical Gospels, namely “A voice cries, ‘Prepare the way of the LORD in the desert’” (Isa. 40:3). The two opening verses of Isa. 40 describe how God issues the command to proclaim to Jerusalem the good news that she has worked off her debt of sin through servitude to the Gentile kingdoms who have dominated her since the destruction of the Temple. Her debt having been paid off, Jerusalem can once again be set free and the exile of her children can come to an end. Although neither the concept of Sabbatical release nor Jubilee liberty is explicitly mentioned in this passage, the theme of Jerusalem’s servitude being brought to a conclusion is reminiscent of the commands to liberate persons who had sold themselves into slavery on account of debts in the Sabbatical and Jubilee Years (cf. Lev. 25:39-43, 47-55; Deut. 15:12-15).

The mixing of sin and debt metaphors, similar to our reconstruction שְׁמִטַּת עֲוֹנוֹת (“release of [the debt of] sins”), is fairly common in ancient Jewish sources. In 11QMelchizedek we encountered the phrase משא כול עוונותיהמה (“the debt of all their iniquities”; 11QMelch II, 6). In rabbinic sources we encounter words for sin, such as עָוֹן (‘āvon, “iniquity,” “sin”), combined with the verb מָחַל (māḥal, “forgive a debt”), as in the following examples:

יהא אדם שמח ביסורים יותר מן הטובה שאילו אדם בטובה כל ימיו אינו נמחל לו מעון שבידו ובמה נמחל לו ביסורין

Let a person rejoice in trials more than prosperity, for if a person enjoys prosperity all his days his debt will not be forgiven [אֵינוֹ נִמְחָל לוֹ] for his iniquity [מֵעָוֹן]. And by what means is he forgiven? By means of trials. (Sifre Deut. §32 [ed. Finkelstein, 56])[189]

ואמר רבה בר חיננא סבא משמיה דרב כל העושה דבר עבירה ומתבייש בו מוחלין לו על כל עונותיו שנאמר למען תזכרי ובשת ולא יהיה לך עוד פתחון פה מפני כלמתך בכפרי לך לכל אשר עשית נאם ה′ אלהים

And Raba bar Hinena the elder said in the name of Rab, “Everyone who commits a transgression [דְּבַר עֲבֵירָה] and is ashamed of it, [the debt of] all his sins [כֹּל עֲוֹנוֹתָיו] are forgiven him [מוֹחֲלִין לוֹ], as it is said, So that you will remember and be ashamed, and you will never again open your mouth because of your disgrace, when I atone for you for all that you have done,’ says the Lord GOD” [Ezek. 16:63]. (b. Ber. 12b)

אמר דוד לפני הקב″ה רבונו של עולם מחול לי על אותו עון אמר לו מחול לך

David said before the Holy One, blessed be he, “Master of the universe, forgive me [מְחוֹל לִי] the debt for this iniquity [עָוֹן].” He said to him, “The debt is forgiven you [מָחוּל לְךָ].” (b. Shab. 30a)

Additional examples of the mixing of sin and debt metaphors in rabbinic sources can be found in Lord’s Prayer, Comments to L18 and L19.

The LXX translators rendered עָוֹן (‘āvon, “sin,” “iniquity”) with a variety of terms, including ἀδικία (adikia, “unrighteousness”) and ἀνομία (anomia, “lawlessness”), but ἁμαρτία (hamartia, “sin”) is also a common translation.[190]

L37-38 The author of Matthew is known for putting the words of John the Baptist into the mouth of Jesus,[191] but in Matt. 3:2 the author of Matthew has placed the words of Jesus, paraphrased from Mark 1:15, in the mouth of John the Baptist. The Kingdom of Heaven is never the subject of John’s preaching in the other New Testament Gospels, and even in the Gospel of Matthew the Kingdom of Heaven is associated with the Baptist only in Matt. 3:2.[192] Since the term “Kingdom of Heaven” originated in Pharisaic-rabbinic circles, it seems unlikely that John the Baptist would have used it in his preaching, since his mindset was much closer to that of the Essenes than to that of the Pharisees.[193] We conclude, therefore, that the reference to the Kingdom of Heaven in Matt. 3:2 is the product of Matthean redaction.[194]

L39 οὗτος γάρ ἐστιν (Matt. 3:3). Matthean redaction continues into the introduction of the Isaiah quotation. Instead of writing that John the Baptist made his proclamation “even as it has been written in the Book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,” the author of Matthew wrote, “For this [i.e., John] is the one spoken about through the prophet Isaiah.” The words οὗτος γάρ ἐστιν (“For this is [the one]”) echo Jesus’ statement οὗτός ἐστιν περὶ οὗ γέγραπται (“This is [the one] about whom it is written…”; Matt. 11:10 // Luke 7:27) in Yeshua’s Words About Yohanan the Immerser (L22), where Jesus identified John the Baptist as the prophet like Moses by quoting Exod. 23:20 in combination with Mal. 3:1. The decision by the author of Matthew to echo Yeshua’s Words About Yohanan the Immerser by writing οὗτος γάρ ἐστιν in Matt. 3:3 may have been his way of giving a nod to the composite quotation of Exod. 23:20 and Mal. 3:1 in Mark 1:2, which the author of Matthew omitted in his version of A Voice Crying.[195]

כַּכָּתוּב (HR). On reconstructing ὡς (hōs, “like,” “as”) with -כְּ (ke, “like,” “as”), see “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves”, Comment to L50.

The phrase ὡς γέγραπται (hōs gegraptai, “as it has been written”) occurs 3xx in LXX (2 Chr. 35:12; 2 Esd. 20:35, 37), each time as the translation of כַּכָּתוּב (kakātūv, “according to the thing written”).[196] Other instances of כַּכָּתוּב in MT are rendered similarly: καθὼς γέγραπται (kathōs gegraptai, “just as it is written”; 4 Kgdms. 14:6; 23:21; 2 Chr. 23:18; 25:4), καθὰ γέγραπται (katha gegraptai, “as it is written”; Josh. 8:31), κατὰ τὰ γεγραμμένα (kata ta gegrammena, “according to the things written”; 2 Esd. 3:2) and κατὰ τὸ γεγραμμένον (kata to gegrammenon, “according to the thing written”; 2 Esd. 3:4; 18:15).

On reconstructing γράφειν (grafein, “to write”) with כָּתַב (kātav, “write”), see Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser, Comment to L22.

L40 ὁ ῥηθεὶς διὰ Ἠσαΐου τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος (Matt. 3:3). In L40 the author of Matthew has done his best to conform the introduction of the Isaiah quotation to the style of the uniquely Matthean fulfillment formulae, which occur repeatedly throughout Matthew’s Gospel.[197] Matthew’s fulfillment formulae typically state either τότε ἐπληρώθη τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ + personal name + τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος (“Then was fulfilled the thing spoken through + personal name + the prophet, saying…”; Matt. 2:17; 27:9) or ἵνα/ὅπως πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ + personal name + τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος (“So that might be fulfilled the thing spoken through + personal name + the prophet, saying….”; Matt. 4:14; 8:17; 12:17; cf. Matt. 2:23; 13:35). An additional type of fulfillment formula unique to Matthew omits the personal name of the prophet: ἵνα πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν (ὑπὸ κυρίου) διὰ τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος (“So that might be fulfilled the thing spoken [by the Lord] through the prophet saying….”; Matt. 1:22; 2:15; 21:4). Here in A Voice Crying the author of Matthew is not describing the fulfillment of prophecy, but identifying John the Baptist as the one mentioned in Isaiah’s prophecy, so the verb πληροῦν (plēroun, “to fill,” “to fulfill”) has been omitted and the masculine form ὁ ῥηθείς (ho hrētheis, “the one spoken [about]”) has replaced the neuter τὸ ῥηθέν (to hrēthen, “the thing spoken [about]”). Otherwise, the author of Matthew’s introduction to the Isaiah quotation conforms to the uniquely Matthean fulfillment formulae found throughout Matthew’s Gospel.[198]

Since the Matthean fulfillment notices are unparalleled in the Gospels of Mark and Luke, it is highly probable that they were the literary invention of the author of Matthew, who added them at appropriate points in his Gospel to demonstrate that the story he told about Jesus had all happened according to prophecy. The efforts the author of Matthew took to conform the introduction to the Isaiah quotation in A Voice Crying to the style of his fulfillment formulae strongly suggest that Matthew’s wording in L40 is redactional.

ἐν βίβλῳ λόγων Ἠσαΐου τοῦ προφήτου (GR). Although Codex Vaticanus, which we use as the base text for the LOY reconstruction documents, reads ἐν βιβλίῳ (en bibliō, “in [the] book”) in L40 (Luke 3:4), the critical editions indicate that the correct reading (i.e., that which the author of Luke actually wrote) is ἐν βίβλῳ (en biblō, “in [the] book”). We have therefore adopted the reading of the critical editions for GR. Vaticanus’ ἐν βιβλίῳ appears to be a scribal improvement, perhaps in imitation of LXX style.

Mark’s “just as it has been written in Isaiah the prophet” (Mark 1:2; L3-4) appears to be an abbreviated form of Luke’s longer ascription “as it has been written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet” (Luke 3:4; L39-40).

Notley has drawn attention to the fact that the designation “book of Isaiah” does not occur in LXX or in Hellenistic Jewish sources from the Second Temple period.[199] The only contemporary parallels to Luke’s designation “book of Isaiah” are found in DSS, where we find references to סֵפֶר יְשַׁעְיָה (sēfer yesha‘yāh, “the book of Isaiah”; 4QTanḥ [4Q176] 1-2 I, 4)—after which follows a quotation of Isa. 40:1-5—and to סֵפֶר יְשַׁעְיָה הַנָּבִיא (sēfer yesha‘yāh hanāvi’, “the book of Isaiah the prophet”; 4QFlor [4Q174] 1-2 I, 15; 4Q265 2 I, 3). We also find references to סֵפֶר יְשַׁעְיָה in rabbinic sources.[200] These parallels suggest that Luke’s designation “the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet” reflects an underlying Hebrew source.

בְּסֵפֶר דִּבְרֵי יְשַׁעְיָה הַנָּבִיא (HR). Most instances of βίβλος (biblos, “book,” “scroll”) in LXX occur as the translation of סֵפֶר (sēfer, “book,” “scroll”);[201] however, the LXX translators more often rendered סֵפֶר as βιβλίον (biblion, “book,” “scroll”).[202]

Only three examples of כַּכָּתוּב בְּסֵפֶר (kakātūv besēfer, “according to the thing written in [the] book”), such as we have in L39-40 (HR), occur in MT (Josh. 8:31; 2 Kgs. 14:6; 2 Chr. 35:12). In all three instances the reference is to “the book of [the law of] Moses.” The LXX translators rendered כַּכָּתוּב בְּסֵפֶר as καθὼς γέγραπται ἐν βιβλίῳ in 4 Kgdms. 14:6 and as ὡς γέγραπται ἐν βιβλίῳ in 2 Chr. 35:12. In Josh. 8:31 the LXX translators omitted an equivalent to סֵפֶר (sēfer, “book”). The phrase “written in the book of the words of X” occurs only once in LXX, where ταῦτα γέγραπται ἐν βιβλίῳ ῥημάτων Σαλωμων (“these have been written in the book of the words of Solomon”; 3 Kgdms. 11:41) occurs as the translation of הֵם כְּתֻבִים עַל סֵפֶר דִּבְרֵי שְׁלֹמֹה (“they are written on the scroll of the words of Solomon”; 1 Kgs. 11:41). Therefore, had the author of Luke been attempting to imitate the vocabulary and style of LXX, he ought to have written καθὼς/ὡς γέγραπται ἐν βιβλίῳ ῥημάτων Ἠσαΐου τοῦ προφήτου rather than ὡς γέγραπται ἐν βίβλῳ λόγων Ἠσαΐου τοῦ προφήτου. His departure from LXX models by using βίβλος (biblos, “book”) instead of βιβλίον (biblion, “book”), and λόγος (logos, “word”) instead of ῥῆμα (hrēma, “word”), suggests that the author of Luke relied on an Hebraic source independent of LXX.

As we have seen, “the book of Isaiah” is paralleled in ancient Jewish sources written in Hebrew, and in the Damascus Document we find a reference to הדבר אשר כתוב בדברי ישעיה בן אמוץ הנביא (“the thing that is written about in the words of Isaiah son of Amoz the prophet”; CD-A VII, 10), but the full designation “the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet” appears to be unique to Luke 3:4. Nevertheless, since examples of “the book of Isaiah” and “the words of Isaiah” lack parallels in Greek sources, our supposition that Luke’s “the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet” reflects an Hebraic source remains unchallenged.

Regarding the form of the prophet’s name we have adopted for HR, we note that although in LXX Ησαιας[203] always occurs as the equivalent of the long form יְשַׁעְיָהוּ (yesha‘yāhū),[204] whereas the shortened form יְשַׁעְיָה (yesha‘yāh) is represented variously as Ιεσια (Iesia; 2 Esd. 8:7; 21:7), Ισαια (Isaia; 1 Chr. 3:21) or Ωσαιας (Ōsaias, 2 Esd. 8:19), there is no reason to assume that the more familiar Greek form Ἠσαΐας/Ἡσαΐας could not have been used by the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua to represent the shortened form of the Hebrew name. The short form יְשַׁעְיָה occurs in late books of the Hebrew Bible (Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles), and it is attested in the fifth-century B.C.E. Aramaic papyri from Elephantine,[205] long before the composition of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua. During the Second Temple period the shortened form of biblical names was generally preferred, and more importantly, we have seen that the short form יְשַׁעְיָה was used in DSS and in rabbinic sources when referring to “the book of Isaiah.” We have therefore used the short form יְשַׁעְיָה for HR, since using the long form probably would have sounded overly archaic to first-century readers.[206]

On reconstructing προφήτης (profētēs, “prophet”) with נָבִיא (nāvi’, “prophet”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L22.

L41-51 How far did the Isaiah quotation extend in Luke’s source (Anth.) and in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua? Many scholars are agreed that the author of Luke expanded the Isaiah quotation to include Isa. 40:4-5 because of its universalist content (“and all flesh will see the salvation of God”; Luke 3:6; Isa. 40:5 [LXX]).[207] It is rarely asked, however, whether in Luke’s source the whole of Isa. 40:3 was quoted, or only part. This question is routinely overlooked because the assumption of Markan Priority dominates the study of the Synoptic Gospels, and Mark’s version of A Voice Crying quotes all of Isa. 40:3. But if the Gospel of Luke was wholly independent of Mark, as Lindsey supposed, then it is by no means self-evident that Luke’s source quoted Isa. 40:3 in its entirety. The fact is, “make his paths straight” does not add a great deal of meaning to the quotation, and readers would have recalled the entire context of the Isaiah quotation even if only the first half of Isa. 40:3 was explicitly cited. Since we can see no compelling reason why Anth. must have included the second half of Isa. 40:3, and since it is typical of ancient Jewish sources to cite only the relevant parts of verses when quoting Scripture, we have included in GR and HR only those words from Isaiah that are essential for the quotation to make sense.

The text of Isa. 40:2-5 as it appears in the Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaa XXXIII, 1-5) discovered at Qumran. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L41 φωνὴ βοῶντος (GR). Matthew, Mark and Luke agree on the wording of the Isa. 40:3 quotation in L41, which is identical to LXX. As we have discussed elsewhere,[208] we believe that the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua relied on LXX for most Scripture quotations,[209] since LXX was widely known and respected in Greek-speaking synagogues and in early Christian congregations.

קוֹל קוֹרֵא (HR). There can be little doubt as to our Hebrew reconstruction in L41. In LXX the vast majority of instances of φωνή (fōnē, “voice”) occur as the translation of קוֹל (qōl, “voice”).[210] Likewise, the LXX translators rendered קוֹל almost exclusively as φωνή.[211] Similarly, βοᾶν (boan, “to shout”) occurs more often in LXX as the translation of קָרָא (qārā’, “call,” “shout”) than as the translation of any other verb.[212] In any case, our reconstruction agrees with the wording of Isa. 40:3 in MT. Is the voice to be applied to John the Baptist, who proclaimed (קָרָא; HR, L34) an immersion of repentance for the Sabbatical release of Israel’s debt of sins? Or does the voice refer to the bat kol, or heavenly voice, that spoke to John, urging him to leave his seclusion in the desert and begin preparing the way for the eschatological Day of Atonement when the Temple would be purified and Jubilee liberty would be proclaimed to Israel?

L42 ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ (GR). The three synoptic evangelists agree on the phrase “in the desert,” which is identical to the wording of the LXX translation of Isa. 40:3. Did the synoptic writers understand ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ as describing the location of the voice (“A voice of one shouting in the desert”), or as describing the setting of the preparations (“Prepare the way of the Lord in the desert!”)? The authors of Luke and Matthew are clear that people went out to see John the Baptist “in the desert” (Matt. 11:7 // Luke 7:24), but John was also preparing the way for the LORD “in the desert” by baptizing those who came out to listen to him. In MT “in the desert” clearly refers to the place of preparation, since בַּמִּדְבָּר פַּנּוּ (“In the desert prepare!”; Isa. 40:3) is paired with יַשְּׁרוּ בָּעֲרָבָה (“Straighten in the desert!”; Isa. 40:3). The LXX translation of Isa. 40:3 is ambiguous, since it drops the second synonym for “desert,” but ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ could still be understood in LXX as referring to the place of preparation.[213] Likewise, traditional Christian exegesis notwithstanding, ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ in the Gospels can, and perhaps should, be understood as the place of preparation.[214]

בַּמִּדְבָּר (HR). Our reconstruction is identical to the MT wording of Isa. 40:3. On reconstructing ἔρημος (erēmos, “desert”) with מִדְבָּר (midbār, “desert”), see above, Comment to L29.

L43 ἑτοιμάσατε τὴν ὁδὸν κυρίου (GR). All three synoptic evangelists agree on the wording of “prepare the way of the Lord” in L43, which is identical to LXX.

פַּנּוּ דֶּרֶךְ יי (HR). Our reconstruction is identical to the wording of Isa. 40:3 in MT.

L44 εὐθείας ποιεῖτε (Luke 3:4). Since we believe that it was the author of Luke who extended the Isaiah quotation past “prepare the way of the Lord,” we have left the GR and HR columns blank in L44. Luke’s wording is identical to that of LXX.

L45 τὰς τρίβους αὐτοῦ (Luke 3:4). In L45 Luke’s wording diverges from that of LXX, which reads τὰς τρίβους τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν (“the paths of our God”) instead of Luke’s “his paths.” Perhaps the author of Luke modified the wording so that the Isaiah quotation could be understood as preparing the way for the Lord Jesus instead of preparing the way for the LORD God. Whatever his motive, Luke’s wording was picked up by the author of Mark and accepted by the author of Matthew.

L46-51 Having added the composite quotation of Exod. 23:20 and Mal. 3:1 to the beginning of the Isaiah quotation, the author of Mark decided to cut Luke’s quotation off early, ending at the close of Isa. 40:3. Perhaps the author of Mark was encouraged to do so by observing that the Isaiah quotation was much shorter in Anth. than in Luke. The author of Matthew, following Mark’s lead, extended the Isaiah quotation as far as the end of Isa. 40:3; his failure to continue the quotation to the end of Isa. 40:5 could be viewed as confirmation of our view that in Anth.’s version of A Voice Crying the Isaiah quotation did not extend beyond Isa. 40:3.

L48 καὶ ἔσται τὰ σκολιὰ εἰς ἐυθεῖας (Luke 3:5). Some scholars count Luke’s omission of πάντα (panta, “all”) before τὰ σκολιά (ta skolia, “the bent [things]”) as an agreement with MT against LXX,[215] but since Codex Alexandrinus also omits πάντα before τὰ σκολιά, it is safer to suppose that the author of Luke knew a Greek version of Isa. 40:4 like that attested in Codex Alexandrinus than to assume that he was familiar with the Hebrew text of Isaiah. That the author of Luke would omit πάντα to bring his quotation more in line with the Hebrew text appears especially unlikely given the sharp disagreements with the Hebrew text elsewhere in the Isaiah quotation, which include writing “his ways” instead of “way of our God” (L45), writing “smooth roads” instead of “plain” (L49), omitting “and the glory of the LORD will be revealed,” which ought to have appeared between L49 and L50 had the author of Luke wished to follow the Hebrew text of Isaiah, and adding “the salvation of God” in L51, which has no counterpart in the Hebrew text of Isa. 40:5.

L49 καὶ αἱ τραχεῖαι εἰς ὁδοὺς λείας (Luke 3:5). Luke 3:5 has the plural αἱ τραχεῖαι (hai tracheiai, “the rough [things]”) instead of the singular ἡ τραχεῖα (hē tracheia, “the rough [thing]”) known from LXX MSS. While the Hebrew text also has a plural form, namely רְכָסִים (rechāsim, “rough [things]”), for reasons explained in Comment to L48 we believe it is more likely that the author of Luke knew a Greek version of Isa. 40:4 that had the plural αἱ τραχεῖαι than that he corrected LXX on the basis of the Hebrew text.

Recall that the author of Luke had used the adjective Τραχωνῖτις, (Trachōnitis, “Trachonite”) from the cognate noun τράχων (trachōn, “stony tract,” “rugged terrain”), in Luke 3:1 (L21).

Instead of εἰς ὁδοὺς λείας (eis hodous leias, “into smooth roads”), as in Luke 3:5, many LXX manuscripts read εἰς πεδία (eis pedia, “into plains”), which is much closer to the לְבִקְעָה (leviq‘āh, “into a plain”) of the Hebrew text of Isa. 40:4.[216] However, the author of Luke is not alone in reading εἰς ὁδοὺς λείας in Isa. 40:4; Codex Alexandrinus agrees with Luke, which suggests that the author of Luke was familiar with a Greek version of Isa. 40:4 that read “into smooth roads.”[217]

L50 καὶ ὄψεται πᾶσα σὰρξ (Luke 3:6). We can only speculate why the author of Luke omitted the words καὶ ὀφθήσεται ἡ δόξα κυρίου (“and will be seen the glory of the Lord”), which occur at the beginning of all known LXX versions of Isa. 40:5. Perhaps the Greek text the author of Luke copied was missing these words, or perhaps he accidentally skipped over them, or perhaps he skipped over them in his impatience to reach the universalist message of the second stanza of Isa. 40:5. In any case, Luke’s wording “and all flesh will see” is identical to LXX.

L51 τὸ σωτήριον τοῦ θεοῦ (Luke 3:6). The words “the salvation of God” do not appear in any known Hebrew MS containing Isa. 40:5, but they do occur in LXX. The inclusion of these words in his Isaiah quotation is one of the strongest arguments against the theory that the author of Luke was acquainted with the Hebrew text of Isaiah.

L52-57 Luke 3:7 is a transitional verse, connecting A Voice Crying to Yohanan the Immerser Demands Repentance. Its style suggests that the author of Luke paraphrased the wording of his source in order to make the transition quicker and smoother for his Greek readers. We suspect that instead of Luke’s “He was saying, therefore, to the out-coming crowds…,” Anth. read something like, “And behold, large crowds were coming out to him….” We have included the first half of Luke 3:7 in A Voice Crying because it influenced Mark’s description of Judea and Jerusalem’s going out to be baptized by John (L53-57), which in turn influenced the Gospel of Matthew. Due to our greater-than-usual uncertainty regarding how to reconstruct these lines, however, we have placed GR and HR for L53-57 in brackets.

L52 ἔλεγεν οὖν (Luke 3:7). Not only is the use of the imperfect form ἔλεγεν (elegen, “he was saying”) un-Hebraic, but most of the instances of ἔλεγεν in Luke are unsupported by Mark and none are corroborated by Matthew. These facts suggest that most, if not all, instances of ἔλεγεν in Luke are redactional.[218] The use of οὖν (oun, “therefore”) in a narrative context might also be a sign of Greek stylistic improvement. We believe that something corresponding to “therefore he was saying” occurred in Anth.—probably εἶπεν αὐτοῖς (eipen avtois, “he said to them”; cf. Matt. 3:7)—but in a later position than in Luke.[219] The author of Luke appears to have moved the verb for speaking to a position of prominence because Luke 3:7 leads into a lengthy discourse by John the Baptist.

L53 [καὶ ἰδοὺ ὄχλοι πολλοί ἐκπορευόμενοι (GR). We suspect that Luke’s τοῖς ἐκπορευομένοις ὄχλοις (“to the out-coming crowds”) in L53-55 echoes a description in Anth. of large crowds’ coming out to John the Baptist. How might Anth.’s description have been worded? Several times in LXX we find the exclamation καὶ ἰδού (kai idou, “And behold!”) combined with a subject followed by an imperfect or participial form of ἐκπορεύεσθαι (ekporevesthai, “to go out”):

καὶ ἰδοὺ Ρεβεκκα ἐξεπορεύετο…ἔχουσα τὴν ὑδρίαν ἐπὶ τῶν ὤμων αὐτῆς

And behold! Rebecca was coming out [ἐξεπορεύετο]…having the pitcher on her shoulders. (Gen. 24:15)

וְהִנֵּה רִבְקָה יֹצֵאת…וְכַדָּהּ עַל שִׁכְמָהּ

And behold! Rebecca is coming out [יֹצֵאת]…and her jar is on her shoulder. (Gen. 24:15)

καὶ ἰδοὺ ἡ θυγάτηρ αὐτοῦ ἐξεπορεύετο εἰς ἀπάντησιν αὐτοῦ

And behold! His daughter was coming out [ἐξεπορεύετο] to meet him…. (Judg. 11:34)

וְהִנֵּה בִתּוֹ יֹצֵאת לִקְרָאתוֹ

And behold! His daughter is coming out [יֹצֵאת] to meet him…. (Judg. 11:34)

καὶ ἰδοὺ ἐκεῖθεν ἀνὴρ ἐξεπορεύετο ἐκ συγγενείας οἴκου Σαουλ

And behold! From there a man was coming out [ἐξεπορεύετο] from the family of the house of Saul…. (2 Kgdms. 16:5)

וְהִנֵּה מִשָּׁם אִישׁ יוֹצֵא מִמִּשְׁפַּחַת בֵּית שָׁאוּל

And behold! From there a man is coming out [יוֹצֵא]. [He is] from the family of the house of Saul…. (2 Sam. 16:5)

καὶ ἰδοὺ ὕδωρ ἐξεπορεύετο ὑποκάτωθεν τοῦ αἰθρίου

And behold! Water was coming out [ἐξεπορεύετο] from beneath the atrium…. (Ezek. 47:1)

וְהִנֵּה מַיִם יֹצְאִים מִתַּחַת מִפְתַּן הַבַּיִת

And behold! Waters are coming out [יֹצְאִים] from under the threshold of the Temple…. (Ezek. 47:1)

καὶ ἰδοὺ δύο γυναῖκες ἐκπορευόμεναι καὶ πνεῦμα ἐν ταῖς πτέρυξιν αὐτῶν

And behold! Two women are coming out [ἐκπορευόμεναι] and wind is in their wings…. (Zech. 5:9)

וְהִנֵּה שְׁתַּיִם נָשִׁים יוֹצְאוֹת וְרוּחַ בְּכַנְפֵיהֶם

And behold! Two women are coming out [יוֹצְאוֹת] and wind is in their wings…. (Zech. 5:9)

καὶ ἰδοὺ τέσσαρα ἅρματα ἐκπορευόμενα ἐκ μέσου δύο ὀρέων

And behold! Four chariots are coming out [ἐκπορευόμενα] from between two mountains…. (Zech. 6:1)

וְהִנֵּה אַרְבַּע מַרְכָּבוֹת יֹצְאוֹת מִבֵּין שְׁנֵי הֶהָרִים

And behold! Four chariots are coming out [יֹצְאוֹת] from between the two mountains…. (Zech. 6:1)

In each of these instances καὶ ἰδού + subject + ἐκπορεύεσθαι serves as the translation of וְהִנֵּה + subject + יֹצֵא.[220] We find καὶ ἰδοὺ ὄχλοι πολλοὶ ἐκπορευόμενοι to be appealing for GR not only because it resembles the examples cited above, but also because we have adopted καὶ ἰδού + ὄχλος πολύς elsewhere in LOY.[221] Instead of accepting the participial form ἐκπορευόμενοι (ekporevomenoi, “going out”) for GR, we could have used the imperfect form ἐξεπορεύοντο (exeporevonto, “they were going out”). The advantage of accepting ἐξεπορεύοντο is that in L53 Mark and Matthew have an imperfect opposite Luke’s participle. But the Greek participle is a more precise equivalent of the Hebrew participle, so we prefer to think that Luke’s participle preserves an element of the wording of Anth.

וְהִנֵּה אֻכְלוּסִים גְּדוֹלִים יֹצְאִים] (HR). On the appearance of וְהִנֵּה (“And behold”) clauses in vav-consecutive contexts, and on reconstructing ἰδού (idou, “behold”) with הִנֵּה (hinēh, “behold”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L6.

On reconstructing ὄχλος πολύς (ochlos polūs, “large crowd”) as אֻכְלוּס גָּדוֹל (’uchlūs gādōl, “big crowd”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L4.

In LXX ἐκπορεύεσθαι (ekporevesthai, “to go out”) usually occurs as the translation of יָצָא (yātzā’, “go out”).[222] The LXX translators more often rendered יָצָא as ἐξέρχεσθαι (exerchesthai, “to go out”), but ἐκπορεύεσθαι is the second most frequent translation of יָצָא.[223]

L54 πρὸς αὐτὸν (GR). Some sort of prepositional phrase is required in L54, and since Mark and Matthew supply πρὸς αὐτόν (pros avton, “to him”) at just the right spot, we have accepted it for GR. Thus it appears that L54 is one of those relatively rare instances where the author of Mark preserves an echo of Anth.’s wording that has been lost in Luke. As we noted above in Comment to L52-57, the author of Luke paraphrased Anth. in this section of A Voice Crying, so it is not surprising to find that precisely here is where we find the author of Mark (whose two sources were Luke and Anth.) preserving echoes of Anth. that are not present in Luke.

L55-56 πᾶσα ἡ Ἰουδαία χώρα καὶ οἱ Ἱεροσολυμεῖται πάντες (Mark 1:5). Mark’s description of the whole Judean region and all the Jerusalemites’ going out to John the Baptist strains credulity, especially if we accept a Galilean setting for the Baptist’s activity, as we discussed above in Comment to L30. However, Notley has noted that the reference to Judea and Jerusalem may have been intended as an allusion to the greater context of the Isaiah quotation applied to John the Baptist in A Voice Crying.[224] In Isa. 40:9 the author of Mark would have read:

ἐπ᾿ ὄρος ὑψηλὸν ἀνάβηθι, ὁ εὐαγγελιζόμενος Σιων ὕψωσον τῇ ἰσχύι τὴν φωνήν σου ὁ εὐαγγελιζόμενος Ιερουσαλημ ὑψώσατε μὴ φοβεῖσθε εἰπὸν ταῖς πόλεσιν Ιουδα Ἰδοὺ ὁ θεὸς ὑμῶν

Ascend a tall mountain, O bringer of good news to Zion; raise your voice forcefully, O bringer of good news to Jerusalem [Ιερουσαλημ]; raise [your voices], do not be afraid, say to the cities of Judah [Ιουδα], “Behold your God.” (Isa. 40:9)

It appears that the author of Mark, who considered the public appearance of John the Baptist to mark the beginning of the εὐαγγέλιον (evangelion, “good news,” “gospel”; Mark 1:1), equated John the Baptist with the εὐαγγελιζόμενος (evangelizomenos, “bearer of good news”) of Isa. 40:9. Accordingly, the author of Mark reasoned that the φωνή (fōnē, “voice”) of Isa. 40:3 is the recipient of the command in Isa. 40:9 to “raise your voice forcefully” in order to proclaim the good news to Jerusalem and Judah. Note that in Isa. 40:9 the LXX translators did not render יְהוּדָה (yehūdāh, “Judah”) as Ιουδαία (Ioudaia, “Judea”), as was their usual practice,[225] but as Ἰούδας (Ioudas, “Judas,” “Judah”). Perhaps this irregularity is reflected in Mark’s reference to ἡ Ἰουδαία χώρα (hē Ioudaia chōra, “the Judean region”) in L55 instead of “Judea,” as we might have expected.

Be that as it may, Mark’s use of the term Ἱεροσολυμῖται (Hierosolūmitai, “Jerusalemites”) cannot be attributed to the LXX translation of Isa. 40:9, which refers instead to Ἰερουσαλήμ (Ierousalēm, “Jerusalem”).[226] The spelling Ἰερουσαλήμ, found in Isa. 40:9 and throughout LXX, is a transliteration of יְרוּשָׁלֵם (yerūshālēm), an alternate (and probably older)[227] pronunciation of the name יְרוּשָׁלַיִם (yerūshālayim, “Jerusalem”).[228] Mark’s noun Ἱεροσολυμίτης (Hierosolūmitēs, “Jerusalemite,” “Jerusalem resident”), on the other hand, is based on the Hellenistic spelling of “Jerusalem” as Ἱεροσόλυμα (Hierosolūma), which incorporates the adjective ἱερός (hieros, “holy”) into the name of the holy city.[229] The spelling Ἱεροσόλυμα does not occur in LXX books corresponding to MT, although it does occur in books such as Tobit and 1 Maccabees, which were translated from Hebrew or Aramaic originals.

It may be significant for a clearer understanding of synoptic relationships to note that while the transliterated form Ἰερουσαλήμ never occurs in the Gospel of Mark, it does appear in the Double Tradition Lament for Yerushalayim pericope (Matt. 23:37 // Luke 13:34), indicating that the Hebraic spelling occurred in Anth. Elsewhere, the author of Matthew consistently used the Hellenized spelling Ἱεροσόλυμα, whether writing on his own (Matt. 2:1, 3; 5:35; 16:21 [cf. Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22]) or under the influence of Mark (Matt. 3:5 [cf. Mark 1:5]; 4:25 [= Mark 3:8]; 15:1 [= Mark 7:1]; 20:17 [= Mark 10:32], 18 [= Mark 10:33]; 21:1 [= Mark 11:1], 10 [= Mark 11:11]). The author of Luke, by contrast, occasionally used the Hellenized spelling (Luke 2:22; 13:22; 19:28; 23:7),[230] but usually preferred the Hebraic spelling Ἰερουσαλήμ in his Gospel (Luke 2:25, 38, 41, 43, 45; 4:9; 5:17; 6:17; 9:31, 51, 53; 10:30; 13:4, 33, 34 [2xx]; 17:11; 18:31; 19:11; 21:20, 24; 23:28; 24:13, 18, 33, 47, 52). While scholars have advanced various theories to account for the distribution of the Hellenized and Hebraic forms of “Jerusalem” in Luke’s writings,[231] we believe the most probable explanation is that Luke’s preference for the Hebraic spelling of “Jerusalem” in his Gospel and the first half of Acts is a reflection of his use of an Hebraic source (or sources).[232] His occasional use of the Hellenistic spelling, especially in the first instance (Luke 2:22), which occurs in close proximity to the first instance of the Hebraic spelling (Luke 2:25), may have been a means for the author of Luke to tip off his non-Jewish Greek readers to the sanctity of Jerusalem, since this connotation was embedded in the Hellenistic form of Jerusalem’s name.

L55 ὄχλοις (Luke 3:7). Along with other scholars,[233] we suspect that Luke’s reference to “crowds” preserves an echo of the wording of his pre-synoptic source (see above, Comment to L53). The author of Mark replaced the generic “crowds” with “all the Judean region and all the Jerusalemites” (L55-56). Matthew’s description of John’s seeing many of the Pharisees and Sadducees (πολλοὺς τῶν Φαρισαίων καὶ Σαδδουκαίων) come to his baptism (Matt. 3:7; Yohanan the Immerser Demands Repentance, L1-2) might also preserve an echo of Anth., which we believe described large crowds’ (ὄχλοι πολλοί; A Voice Crying, L53) going out to John.

L57 βαπτισθῆναι] (GR). All three synoptic evangelists use passive forms of the verb βαπτίζειν (baptizein, “to immerse”), and they also agree on the prepositional phrase ὑπ᾿ αὐτοῦ (hūp avtou, “by him”).[234] However, “to be baptized by someone” is difficult to reconstruct in Hebrew. We never find examples in Hebrew sources of ט-ב-ל תַּחַת (“immerse/be immersed under [the supervision of]”) or of ט-ב-ל עַל יְדֵי (“immerse/be immersed at the hands of,” i.e., “be immersed by”). The closest equivalent to “to be immersed by someone” we have found in Hebrew sources is טָבַל לִפְנֵי (ṭāval lifnē, “immerse/immerse oneself in front of”) in rabbinic sources (see below).[235] We suspect that the Greek translator rendered טָבַל לִפְנֵי with the passive βαπτισθῆναι (baptisthēnai, “to be immersed”) and that the author of Luke added ὑπ᾿ αὐτοῦ (“by him”) to Anth.’s wording in L57 for further clarification.[236] From Luke, ὑπ᾿ αὐτοῦ was passed on to Mark and thence to Matthew (L58).

[לִטְבּוֹל לְפָנָיו (HR). As we discussed above, we believe Luke’s passive infinitive βαπτισθῆναι (baptisthēnai, “to be immersed”) represents the Greek translator’s attempt to render the Hebrew idiom טָבַל לִפְנֵי (“immerse in front of”), examples of which include:

מעשה בבלוריא שטבלו מקצת שפחותיה לפניה ומקצתן לאחריה ובא מעשה לפני חכמים ואמרו את שטבלו לפניה בנות חורין ושטבלו לאחריה משועבדות

An anecdote concerning Valeria, some of whose maidservants immersed [טָבְלוּ] in front of her [לְפָנֶיהָ] and some of them immersed behind her. The incident came before the sages, and they said, “Those who immersed before her are freedwomen [because she witnessed their immersion—DNB and JNT], but those who immersed behind her are slaves [because she did not witness their immersion—DNB and JNT].” (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Pisḥa chpt. 15 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:87])

העבד שטבל לפני רבו הרי הוא בן חורין

The slave who immersed in the presence of [טָבַל לִפְנֵי] his master: he is a freedman. (Gerim 2:3 [ed. Higger, 71])

Our hypothesis that βαπτισθῆναι represents the Greek translator’s attempt to render the Hebrew idiom טָבַל לִפְנֵי rests on the fact that the Hebrew verb טָבַל (ṭāval) can be used in the reflexive sense of “immerse oneself,” and on the fact that, according to Jewish halachah, a person is not immersed by someone else. This fact makes the suggestion that John the Baptist personally dunked people in the waters of the Jordan River historically implausible. More likely, John the Baptist presided over the immersions of the people who came out to the Jordan without actually touching them. John’s presiding over their immersions would have been sufficient for him to earn the title ὁ βαπτιστής (ho baptistēs, “the Immerser,” or traditionally, “the Baptist”), which is probably best reconstructed as הַמַּטְבִּיל (hamaṭbil, “the Immerser”).[237]

In the following examples the participles מַטְבִּיל (maṭbil) and מַטְבֶּלֶת (maṭbelet) are used for men and women who preside over proselyte immersions:

האיש מטביל את האיש, והאשה מטבלת את האשה אבל לא את האיש

A man immerses [מַטְבִּיל] a man, and a woman immerses [מַטְבֶּלֶת] a woman, but not a man. (Gerim 1:4 [ed. Higger, 69])

אִם רוֹצָה לְהִתגַּיֵּיר, מַטְבִּילָהּ וּמְשַׁחְרְרָהּ וּמוּתָּר בָּהּ מִיָּד

If she [i.e., a non-Israelite woman captured in battle—DNB and JNT] wants to become a proselyte, he [i.e., her captor—DNB and JNT] immerses her [מַטְבִּילָהּ] and sets her free, and he is permitted to marry her immediately. (Semahot 7:13 [ed. Zlotnick, 17])

מטבילין גר בשבת

They may immerse [מַטְבִּילִין] a proselyte on the Sabbath. (b. Yev. 46b)

אין מטבילין גר בלילה

They may not immerse [מַטְבִּילִין] a proselyte at night. (b. Yev. 46b)

It is unlikely that in any of these instances the participial forms of הִטְבִּיל (hiṭbil) imply that the immerser physically submerged the proselyte in water, especially since other rabbinic texts assume that proselytes immerse themselves (cf., e.g., m. Pes. 8:8; m. Edu. 5:2). The role of the immerser in these examples is rather to observe the proselyte’s immersion, to ensure that it has been conducted according to halachic stipulations, and to bear witness to the fact that the proselyte has, indeed, immersed himself or herself, thereby completing the process of conversion to Judaism.

Unless compelling evidence can be produced to the contrary, it seems safest to presume that John oversaw immersions in the same way the immersers in the above examples oversaw proselytes. In other words, there is no reason to assume that John the Baptist entered the waters of the Jordan and physically submerged the individuals who came to him. Rather, it seems that people came out to John in order that he would oversee their immersions, since it was on his authority that immersion of repentance for the release of sin indebtedness was proclaimed. The people might well have assumed that only immersions performed directly under John’s supervision would have the extraordinary effect of removing sin impurity, which could make them fit to participate in the approaching eschatological Day of Atonement. Ordinary immersions not performed under John’s supervision could not be expected to do more than remove ordinary ritual impurities.

L58 ἐν τῷ Ἰορδάνῃ ποταμῷ (Mark 1:5). In ancient Hebrew sources we never find the name יַרְדֵּן (yardēn, “Jordan”) in combination with a word for “river.” In LXX there is only one example of ὁ Ἰορδάνης ποταμός (ho Iordanēs potamos, “the Jordan River”; Num. 13:29), but the underlying Hebrew text simply reads הַיַּרְדֵּן (hayardēn, “the Jordan”). Earlier, the author of Mark had claimed that John was baptizing in the desert (Mark 1:4), a description that may have raised the eyebrows of listeners. Therefore, he might have felt that an explicit reference to a river would clarify the situation for his readers.[238] Unlike Luke, which describes John’s going throughout the Jordan Valley, Mark’s Gospel has not, until now, mentioned the Jordan. Luke’s Gospel does not explicitly state that the immersions John oversaw took place in the Jordan, but from his earlier reference to the Jordan Valley (Luke 3:3) readers familiar with the geography of Israel would have naturally reached this conclusion. We regard the mention of the Jordan River in L58 as part of the Markan expansion of A Voice Crying.

L59-60 ἐξομολογούμενοι τὰς ἁμαρτίας αὐτῶν (Mark 1:5). Confession of sins is not a common phenomenon in the Synoptic Gospels. The verb ἐξομολογεῖν (exomologein) never occurs in the sense of “confess” in Luke, and does so only in Mark and Matthew in A Voice Crying. Apart from the description of penitents confessing their sins in the Markan and Matthean versions of A Voice Crying, the only other reference to “confessing sins” in NT is found in James 5:16. Lindsey believed that the author of Mark mined the Epistle of James for imagery and vocabulary with which to embellish and illuminate his story of Jesus, and his suggestion that the author of Mark alluded to this passage in James gains credibility when we note that James forged a causal link between confessing sins (James 5:16) and sins’ being forgiven (James 5:15):

ἡ εὐχὴ τῆς πίστεως σώσει τὸν κάμνοντα καὶ ἐγερεῖ αὐτὸν ὁ κύριος κἂν ἁμαρτίας ᾖ πεποιηκώς ἀφεθήσεται αὐτῷ ἐξομολογεῖσθε οὖν ἀλλήλοις τὰς ἁμαρτίας καὶ εὔχεσθε ὑπὲρ ἀλλήλων ὅπως ἰαθῆτε

The prayer of faith will deliver the sick person, and the Lord will raise him, and even the sins he has committed with be forgiven [ἀφεθήσεται] him. Therefore, confess [ἐξομολογεῖσθε] to one another your sins [τὰς ἁμαρτίας] and pray for one another, that you might be healed. (James 5:15-16)

Note, moreover, that the verb James used for forgiveness is a cognate of the noun ἄφεσις (afesis, “release”), the term used to describe John’s immersion of repentance for the release of sins (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; L36). We suspect that Luke’s description of John’s immersion reminded the author of Mark of James’ reference to the forgiveness of sins, and that this inspired him to import the idea of confession into A Voice Crying.[239]

John the Baptist as depicted by Alexander Ivanov. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L61-68 Mark’s description of John the Baptist’s attire and dietary habits appears to come as an afterthought,[240] interrupting the flow from the arrival of the crowds (Mark 1:5) to John’s address of the same (Mark 1:7-8).[241] Matthew’s transposition of the Markan order, placing the description of John’s wardrobe and dining preferences (L61-68) before mention of the crowds (L69-79), is a literary improvement.[242] Matthew’s parallel to Mark 1:6 in Matt. 3:4 is also characterized by numerous stylistic improvements, giving Matthew’s wording in L61-68 a more polished appearance. It does not appear that the author of Matthew made corrections to Mark in these lines on the basis of Anth.

Whereas Mark’s description of the Baptist’s clothing may be an attempt to suggest that John bore a physical resemblance to Elijah (see below, Comment to L63 and Comment to L64-65), Mark’s description of John’s diet appears to have no connection to the fiery prophet. Perhaps, therefore, the author of Mark’s information concerning the Baptist’s diet stems from a different source or was intended to serve a different purpose. It is difficult to understand why the author of Luke, who preserved far more information on John the Baptist than any of the other Gospel writers, would have omitted these interesting details about John’s personal habits, unless we are correct in concluding that the description in Mark 1:6 was not found in Luke’s source (i.e., Anth.).[243]

L61 αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ Ἰωάνης (Matt. 3:4). Matthew’s “And this same John…” is a more elegant way for the author of Matthew to resume his description of John the Baptist, after having identified him as the one spoken of through the prophet Isaiah, than simply copying Mark’s “And John was clothed…,” which makes for an abrupt transition.

L62 εἶχεν τὸ ἔνδυμα αὐτοῦ (Matt. 3:4). By changing Mark’s grammatically awkward καὶ ἦν…ἐνδεδυμένος…καὶ ἔσθων (“and he was…clothed…and is eating…”; L61, L62, L66) to two discrete statements, εἶχεν τὸ ἔνδυμα αὐτοῦ (“he had his clothing…”; L62) and ἡ δὲ τροφὴ ἦν αὐτοῦ (“and his food was…”; L66), the author of Matthew was able to improve Mark’s Greek style without changing the content of the description.[244]

L63 τρίχας καμήλου (Mark 1:6). Mark’s description of John the Baptist’s clothing made of camel hair may have been inspired by the biblical description of Elijah as ἀνὴρ δασύς (anēr dasūs, “a hairy man”; 4 Kgdms. 1:8) and by Zechariah’s description of prophets: καὶ ἐνδύσονται δέρριν τριχίνην (kai endūsontai derrin trichinēn, “and they will be clothed in a hairy skin”; Zech. 13:4). The verb ἐνδύειν (endūein, “to wear”) in the Zechariah verse is the same as that which appears in Mark 1:6 (L62), and Zechariah’s adjective τρίχινος (trichinos, “made of hair”) is a cognate of Mark’s noun θρίξ (thrix, “hair”).

Lupieri has argued that the Markan and Matthean description of John’s clothing excludes the possibility that John the Baptist followed the halachah of the Essenes as portrayed in DSS since, according to Lupieri, the Essenes would have regarded camel hair as intrinsically impure.[245] But while the Torah does indeed forbid the consumption of camel meat (Lev. 11:4; Deut. 14:7), and the carcass of a camel was a source of ritual impurity (Lev. 11:26-28), the impurity of camel hair is by no means obvious. Lupieri based his argument on the fact that the Essenes regarded an animal’s skin as having the same ritual status as its flesh[246] and on his assumption that, according to the Essenes, an animal’s hair would have the same status as its skin (although the sources do not state this explicitly). But even granting that this last assumption is correct, camel hair (like sheep’s wool) need not come from a dead animal,[247] so there is no reason to assume that the Essenes regarded camel hair as inherently impure. Only if we assume that John the Baptist wore a hairy camel-skin cloak does Lupieri’s argument hold water, but although Zech. 13:4 mentions hairy skins, Mark and Matthew merely state that John wore clothing made of camel hair. Therefore, no conclusions regarding John’s adherence to Essene rules of purity should be drawn from the Markan and Matthean description of John’s clothing, even supposing that their description is historically reliable and not merely a literary ploy to paint John in the guise of Elijah. The use of camel wool (צֶמֶר גְּמַלִּים [tzemer gemalim]) is mentioned in rabbinic sources (cf., e.g., m. Kil. 9:1; m. Neg. 11:2; t. Shab. 9:3). In none of these cases is camel wool necessarily deemed to be ritually impure.

L64-65 καὶ ζώνην δερματίνην περὶ τὴν ὀσφὺν αὐτοῦ (Mark 1:6). There is complete Markan-Matthean agreement as to the description of John the Baptist’s belt. Their description of John’s belt is also nearly identical to the description of Elijah’s belt as it was translated in LXX (4 Kgdms. 1:8):

John’s Belt Elijah’s Belt
καὶ ζώνην δερματίνην περὶ τὴν ὀσφὺν αὐτοῦ καὶ ζώνην δερματίνην περιεζωσμένος τὴν ὀσφὺν αὐτοῦ
…and a belt of leather around his waist. …and a belt of leather being wrapped around his waist.

The only difference in wording between the two descriptions is that whereas the description of Elijah’s belt contains a participial form of the verb περιζωννύναι (perizōnnūnai, “to wrap around”), the description of John’s belt replaces the participle with the preposition περί (peri, “around”). Such a high level of verbal agreement with 4 Kgdms. 1:8 is unlikely to have been achieved accidentally,[248] and for the author of Matthew to have copied these words so precisely, when he paraphrased so much of the rest of Mark’s wording in L61-68, strongly suggests that he recognized the biblical allusion. The only reason that we can think of for the author of Mark to have described John’s appearance in a way that echoes the description of Elijah’s attire is to hint that John the Baptist was in some way a successor to, or identical with, Elijah the prophet.

It is noteworthy that the Gospel of Luke nowhere makes an explicit identification between John the Baptist and Elijah, but if the author of Mark had read Luke’s Infancy Narrative he would have expected John to come ἐν πνεύματι καὶ δυνάμει Ἠλίου (en pnevmati kai dūnamei Ēliou, “in the spirit and power of Elijah”; Luke 1:17). Perhaps this prediction in Luke’s Infancy Narrative sparked the author of Mark’s imagination, inspiring him to emphasize similarities between John the Baptist and the biblical prophet.

L66 καὶ ἔσθων (Mark 1:6). Although modern critical editions prefer the reading ἐσθίων (esthiōn, “eating”) in Mark 1:6, we believe that the rarer alternate spelling ἔσθων (esthōn, “eating”) preserved in Codex Vaticanus (B) and Codex Bezae (D) is likely correct. This is because Lindsey, noting that the form ἔσθων/ἐσθοντες is used 3xx in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 7:33 [B, D], 34 [D]; 10:7 [B, D]), suggested that the author of Mark picked up on this Lukan usage and employed it in his description of John the Baptist’s dietary habits.[249]

ἡ δὲ τροφὴ ἦν αὐτοῦ (Matt. 3:4). Whereas Mark 1:6 indicates that John the Baptist was in the habit of consuming locusts and wild honey, according to Matthew, John’s diet consisted exclusively of these items.[250] Matthew’s description of John’s diet is not only more restrictive, it is also delivered in a more polished Greek style than in Mark 1:6.[251]

An eighth-century B.C.E. seal (Avigad no. 310) with the inscription לעזריו הגבה (“Belonging to ‘Azaryau Hageva”) written in paleo-Hebrew script. The seal also bears the figure of a locust. The Hebrew word for locust sounds like the name Hageva in the inscription.

L67 ἀκρίδας (Mark 1:6). According to Mark, the locust (ἀκρίς [akris]) was a staple of John the Baptist’s diet. Some scholars have attempted to link John’s eating of locusts specifically to Essene dietary practice, but since the Torah permits locusts for food, and since in addition to DSS (cf., e.g., 11QTa XLVIII, 3-5; CD XII, 14-15) the consumption of locusts is mentioned in rabbinic sources (cf., e.g., m. Ber. 6:3; m. Edu. 8:4), John’s eating of locusts does not distinguish him as an Essene or former Essene.[252]

Carob tree with ripening carob pods. Photographed at The Hebrew University’s Botanical Garden on Mount Scopus by Joshua N. Tilton.

Certain Christian traditions identify the Baptist’s food as something other than locusts. According to Tatian’s Diatessaron (second cent. C.E.), John the Baptist ate milk and wild honey.[253] Another tradition identifies the Baptist’s food as carob. Scholars frequently dismiss these alternate identifications of John’s food as the result of “western squeamishness” toward eating locusts;[254] however, it ought to be noted that the Hebrew and Aramaic words for locust (Heb. חָגָב [ḥāgāv]; Aram. חָגָבָא [ḥāgāvā’]),[255] and the Hebrew and Aramaic words for milk (Heb. חָלָב [ḥālāv]; Aram. חַלְבָּא [ḥalbā’]) and carob (Heb. חֲרוּב [arūv]; Aram. חֲרוּבָא [arūvā’]), sound somewhat alike (especially in Hebrew). If the variant identifications arose due to the similar sounds of these Hebrew (or Aramaic) terms, then the traditions cannot be attributed to western sensibilities.

A desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria), the variety of locust that was used as food. Photographed in Israel by Adam Matan. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Of the two alternative identifications of John’s food, carob is particularly interesting, since rabbinic literature preserves traditions according to which certain Jewish ascetics subsisted on a diet of carob. According to one tradition, Hanina ben Dosa, a first-century C.E. Hasid, survived from week to week on a small amount of carob (b. Ber. 17b; b. Taan. 24b). According to another tradition, Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai survived in hiding for thirteen years on carob (y. Shev. 9:1 [25b]). If the point of describing John’s diet was to mark him as an ascetic (cf. Matt. 11:18 // Luke 7:33), then carob would be a natural choice.[256] We do not know what the source for Mark’s information on John’s diet may have been. It could not have been the Gospel of Luke, and it appears unlikely that it was Anth. If the author of Mark’s information came from an oral source, it is plausible that the similar-sounding words חֲרוּב (arūv, “carob”) and חָגָב (ḥāgāv, “locust”) were confused, with the result that the author of Mark wrote ἀκρίς (akris, “locust”) in his Gospel. On the other hand, the identification of John’s food as carob instead of locusts could have arisen among later Christians because carob came to be associated with Jewish asceticism.

L68 καὶ μέλι ἄγριον (Mark 1:6). We do not know whether by “wild honey” the author of Mark referred to the honey produced by wild bees or to a sap produced by trees.[257] Diodorus of Sicily (first cent. B.C.E.) described desert-dwelling Arabs who drank wild honey from trees (i.e., some kind of sap?) mixed with water (ἀπὸ τῶν δένδρων μέλι…τὸ καλούμενον ἄγριον; Bibliotheca historica 19:94 §10), so it may be that this is what the author of Mark had in mind. On the other hand, there is nothing in Mark to prevent us from supposing that bee honey was what he intended.

A passage in the Damascus Document mentions the care that must be taken to avoid consuming bee larvae, presumably suspended in honey (CD-A XII, 11-13). However, as Kelhoffer rightly pointed out, this warning is dubious grounds for suggesting that John’s diet of honey marked him as an Essene or a former Essene.[258] From a lost work by Philo quoted by Eusebius we learn that some Essenes were beekeepers,[259] which provides another hint that they did indeed consume honey, but honey was (and remains) kosher for all Jews, so Mark’s description of John’s honey-eating habit can neither support nor refute the Baptist’s affiliation with the Essenes.

Perhaps John’s diet is more usefully compared to that of Bannus, Josephus’ erstwhile teacher:

καὶ μηδὲ τὴν ἐντεῦθεν ἐμπειρίαν ἱκανὴν ἐμαυτῷ νομίσας εἶναι πυθόμενός τινα Βάννουν ὄνομα κατὰ τὴν ἐρημίαν διατρίβειν, ἐσθῆτι μὲν ἀπὸ δένδρων χρώμενον, τροφὴν δὲ τὴν αὐτομάτως φυομένην προσφερόμενον, ψυχρῷ δὲ ὕδατι τὴν ἡμέραν καὶ τὴν νύκτα πολλάκις λουόμενον πρὸς ἁγνείαν, ζηλωτὴς ἐγενόμην αὐτοῦ

Not content, however, with the experience thus gained [by studying the teachings of the three main Jewish sects—DNB and JNT], on hearing of one named Bannus, who dwelt in the wilderness, wearing only such clothing as trees provided, feeding on such things as grew of themselves [τὴν αὐτομάτως φυομένην], and using frequent ablutions of cold water, by day and night, for purity’s sake, I [i.e., Josephus—DNB and JNT] became his devoted disciple. (Life §11; Loeb)

Scholars have long noted the similarities between John the Baptist and Bannus the teacher of Josephus,[260] which include their desert locations, their rustic attire, and their association with ritual immersion. Josephus’ statement that Bannus’ food consisted of that which grows spontaneously (τὴν αὐτομάτως φυομένην) is strikingly similar to the phrase τὰ αὐτόματα ἀναβαίνοντα (“that which spontaneously comes up”), the LXX translation of סָפִיחַ (sāfiaḥ; Lev. 25:5, 11), a term that refers to uncultivated vegetation which may be eaten during the Sabbatical Year.[261] Lupieri suggested that the restriction of Bannus’ diet to that which grows spontaneously reflects a Jubilee ideology,[262] and the same might pertain to John the Baptist’s diet.[263] Whether locusts or carob, tree sap or bee honey, the products mentioned in Mark 1:6 involve no human production and could therefore be consumed during a Sabbatical or Jubilee Year. As we have seen, a diet based on a Sabbatical or Jubilee Year ideology would comport well with Luke’s account of the word of God’s coming to John in a Sabbatical Year (see above, Comment to L15) and his description of John’s baptism as an immersion of repentance for the (Sabbatical or Jubilee) release (of the debt) of sins (see above, Comment to L36). If Mark’s description of John the Baptist’s diet does reflect a Sabbatical or Jubilee ideology, however, then his information regarding John’s eating habits is more likely the reflection of a reliable source than a Markan invention, since neither the author of Luke nor the author of Mark appear to have understood the Sabbatical/Jubilee significance of the timing of John’s call or of his baptism.[264]

L69-79 As we noted above in Comment to L61-68, the author of Matthew inverted Mark’s order so that the description of John’s appearance and diet would come prior to mentioning the crowds. In this way the author of Matthew improved the logical progression of the narrative from the arrival of the crowds to John’s exhortation of the same.

L69 τότε ἐξεπορεύετο (Matt. 3:5). Since the replacement of καί (kai, “and”) with τότε (tote, “then”) is typical of Matthean redaction,[265] there is no reason to suppose that the author of Matthew corrected Mark’s wording in L69 on the basis of Anth.

L71-72 Ἱεροσόλυμα καὶ πᾶσα ἡ Ἰουδαία (Matt. 3:5). The author of Matthew made several minor changes to Mark’s wording in L71-72, including inverting the order of Mark’s geographical references, changing “Judean region” to “Judea,” changing “Jerusalemites” to “Jerusalem,” and omitting “all” with respect to Jerusalem. The change in order may have been for logical reasons, since if all Judea went out to John, then logically all Jerusalem did likewise, Jerusalem being part of Judea. The other changes are stylistic improvements of Mark’s awkward phrasing.

L73-74 καὶ πᾶσα ἡ περίχωρος τοῦ Ἰορδάνου (Matt. 3:5). In Matt. 3:5 we encounter a surprising agreement with the wording of Luke, albeit from a different section of A Voice Crying (see above, Comment to L32-33). Both Matthew and Luke mention “all the surrounding region of the Jordan,” but while the mention of this region makes sense in Luke (John leaves his seclusion in the desert to proclaim his baptism in the Jordan Valley), in Matthew the reference to “all the surrounding region of the Jordan” is puzzling, since we would not have expected the surrounding region of the Jordan to have to go out to the Jordan to be baptized by John—they were already there. It appears that the author of Matthew picked up the phrase “all [πᾶσα] the surrounding region of the Jordan” from Anth. and inserted it after the description of “all [πᾶσα] Judea” going out to John, due to the attraction of the πᾶς (pas, “all”) in both phrases.

L75-79 We have already discussed the differences between Matt. 3:6 and the parallel in Mark 1:5 in Comments to L53-60.

Redaction Analysis

A Voice Crying has come down to us in three distinct versions, each of which bears the stamp of the author of the Gospel in which it appears.

Luke’s Version[266]

A Voice Crying
Luke Anthology
Total
Words:
122 Total
Words:
80 [88]
Total
Words
Identical
to Anth.:
76 [78] Click here for details.
%
Identical
to Anth.:
62.30 [63.11]%

Of the three synoptic versions of A Voice Crying, Luke’s appears to have preserved Anth.’s wording most faithfully. We believe that Lukan redaction is limited to a few variations of word order and vocabulary in the opening chronological notice (L18, L19, L22), the significant expansion of the Isaiah quotation (L44-51), and the thoroughgoing paraphrase of the transition to John the Baptist’s address to the crowds following the Isaiah quotation (L52-57). Even in his paraphrase at the conclusion of A Voice Crying, however, the author of Luke preserved the sense and some of the vocabulary of his source.

Mark’s Version[267]

A Voice Crying
Mark Anthology
Total
Words:
98 Total
Words:
80 [88]
Total
Words
Identical
to Anth.:
21 [24] Click here for details.
%
Identical
to Anth.:
21.43 [24.50]%

In typical Markan style, the author of Mark left very little of Luke’s wording untouched. Having decided to make A Voice Crying the opening pericope of his Gospel, the author of Mark added a title (L1-2) and, skipping over Luke’s chronological notice and the description of the word of God’s coming to John, he opened with a dramatic Scripture quotation. Even his Isaiah quotation did not escape Markan redaction: the author of Mark spliced the composite citation of Exod. 23:20 and Mal. 3:1, which he picked up from another Lukan pericope (Luke 7:27), into the quotation (L5-9), which he nevertheless maintained came from Isaiah. Borrowing vocabulary from Luke’s account of the word of God’s coming to John (Luke 3:2-3), the author of Mark went on to tell how John was in the desert proclaiming a baptism, something of a contradiction in terms (L24-36). Mark’s description of all the Jerusalemites’ and all the Judean region’s going out to John similarly borrowed from Luke’s description of John’s addressing the crowds (Luke 3:7), but the reference to Jerusalem and Judea was the author of Mark’s own contribution, likely inspired by Isa. 40:9, which commands the “voice” of Isa. 40:3 to proclaim the gospel to Judea and Jerusalem. Mark’s (and following him, Matthew’s) description of the people’s confessing their sins (L59-60) in order to activate the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins may owe its genesis to the Epistle of James, the only other NT text to mention confession of sins (James 5:16). Mark’s description of John’s clothing (L61-65) appears to be an imaginative portrayal of the Baptist in the image of Elijah,[268] but the description of the Baptist’s diet might have been derived from a well-informed source (an oral report?) that indirectly attested to John’s Sabbatical/Jubilee ideology.

Matthew’s Version[269]

A Voice Crying
Matthew Anthology
Total
Words:
100 Total
Words:
80 [88]
Total
Words
Identical
to Anth.:
20 [22] Click here for details.
%
Identical
to Anth.:
20.00 [22.00]%

The author of Matthew attempted to blend Mark’s version of A Voice Crying with Anth.’s version. Anth.’s version of A Voice Crying exerted the most influence in the beginning of Matthew’s version of the pericope, where we find two agreements with Luke. First, the author of Matthew opens A Voice Crying not with a Scripture quotation, as in Mark, but with a chronological notice (L15). Second, when a Scripture quotation is finally given, it includes, like Luke, only a passage from Isaiah, but not the composite citation of Exod. 23:20 and Mal. 3:1, as in Mark. However, we also find an echo of Anth.’s wording near the end of Matthew’s version of A Voice Crying (L73-74). Despite these corrections on the basis of Anth., the greater influence of Mark’s version of A Voice Crying on Matthew is undeniable.

Many of the Matthean changes to Mark’s wording are improvements of Greek style (e.g., the paraphrasing of Mark’s wording in L61-62 and L66), narrative flow (e.g., the transposition of the contents of Mark 1:5 and 1:6), or logical progression (e.g., the inversion of Mark’s order in L71-72). Other changes reflect the author of Matthew’s theological views (e.g., replacing the description of John’s baptism with direct speech in L35-38) or conform the wording to important Matthean formulae (L40).

Results of This Research

The “desert” of Bethsaida where the Jordan River enters the Sea of Galilee. From this aerial perspective the snowy peaks of Mount Hermon are visible in the distance. Is this one of the areas in which John the Baptist administered his immersion of repentance for the release of sin indebtedness?

1. Where was John the Baptist’s activity located? Although Matt. 3:1 reports that John’s activity took place in the Judean desert, it is questionable whether this information reflects an independent source. It could be the author of Matthew’s conclusion, drawn from Mark’s statement that people from Judea and Jerusalem went out to be baptized by John (Mark 1:5). Calling Matthew’s educated guess into doubt are the stories from multiple sources of John’s conflicts with Herod Antipas, ruler of the Galilee, which suggests a Galilean setting for John’s activity. Luke’s description of John’s going into all the Jordan Valley (Luke 3:3) could also support a Galilean setting for John’s activity, since the Jordan Valley extends north of the Sea of Galilee.

2. What is the significance of the chronological and geographical markers in the opening of Luke’s version of A Voice Crying? Luke’s version of A Voice Crying takes great care to pinpoint the timing of John the Baptist’s prophetic call. Dating John’s calling to the fifteenth year of Tiberius’ reign may have been intended to demonstrate that John’s proclamation of a baptism of repentance for the release of (the debt of) sin coincided with a Sabbatical (and possibly also a Jubilee) Year, when debts were to be cancelled and debtors who had sold themselves into slavery in order to work off their debts were to be released. The author of Luke, who was probably a Gentile believer, may not have been aware that the fifteenth year of Tiberius’ reign was a Sabbatical Year, and he certainly gave no hint that he understood the theological connection between Sabbatical/Jubilee Year debt release and John’s baptism. The author of Luke’s lack of awareness of this theological background to John’s baptism suggests that his chronological information came from a Jewish source, the implications of which the author of Luke did not fully appreciate.

The geographical information in the opening of Luke’s version of A Voice Crying probably served a different purpose from the chronological marker. The territories that are mentioned in Luke 3:1 demarcate the boundaries of the kingdom of Judea as they existed during the reign of Agrippa I from 41-44 C.E. It therefore appears that the person who composed the story of John’s prophetic call wished to describe the political circumstances of the territory that was to become Agrippa I’s kingdom. Why would anyone want to do such a thing? The most plausible reason is that the story of John’s prophetic call was composed during the reign of Agrippa I, and therefore the author projected the boundaries of the geo-political entity that was familiar to him (i.e., Agrippa’s kingdom) backward into the time of John the Baptist. Modern historians do much the same thing when they explain to their readers that Constantinople is located in modern-day Turkey, or that the Inca Empire was centered in modern-day Peru and included parts of what is now Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile and Colombia. Thus, the geographical markers in Luke’s version of A Voice Crying, which describe the territory of Agrippa I’s kingdom in the years 41-44 C.E., provide a valuable clue as to the date of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua’s composition.

3. What was the significance of John’s baptism? According to the Gospels of Luke and Mark, John’s baptism was an immersion of repentance for the release of sins. This description raises two questions, which neither Gospel attempts to explain: 1) Why is immersion necessary for repentance? 2) Why do the Gospel writers use a financial term (ἄφεσις) to refer to the forgiveness of sin? Both questions find satisfying answers when John the Baptist is compared to the Essene writings preserved in the Dead Sea Scrolls. From these writings we learn that, contrary to other forms of Judaism, the Essenes believed in the ritually defiling power of sin. Sin, in their view, made sinners ritually impure, and contact with sinners was ritually defiling in the same way that contact with corpses or carcasses of non-kosher animals or genital discharges would render a person ritually impure. In other words, the Essenes had fused the concepts of ritual and moral impurity, such that there could be no effective purification for persons who held on to their sins (just as in rabbinic Judaism there could be no effective purification for a person who was holding a dead reptile), and conversely, repentance could never be complete until the ritual defilement of sin had been washed away by immersion. John the Baptist appears to have accepted the Essenes’ unorthodox view that sin is ritually defiling, but unlike the Essenes he believed that the solution was not to separate oneself from sinners, but to urge sinners to repent.[270] It is unlikely, therefore, that John the Baptist was himself an Essene, but he probably should be plotted on the ideological-religious spectrum of first-century Jewish society somewhere on the fringes of the Essene movement.[271]

As for the use of financial vocabulary to describe the forgiveness of sins, we find in a document called 11QMelchizedek the eschatological hopes of the Essenes described in terms of a Sabbatical/Jubilee redemption. Melchizedek, a priestly messiah, comes to proclaim Jubilee liberty from the debt of sin to Israel and purifies the Temple on the eschatological Day of Atonement. Melchizedek is also depicted as a cosmic judge who will condemn the wicked and vindicate the righteous. The use of Sabbatical and/or Jubilee imagery, namely the forgiveness of debts, to describe the final redemption of Israel in 11QMelchizedek is a surprising development within Second Temple Judaism, but it helps us to understand why in a Sabbatical Year (and possibly a Jubilee Year as well) John the Baptist began to proclaim an immersion of repentance for the release of sins. The release of sins was a Sabbatical or Jubilee release from sin indebtedness. And now that Israel’s debt of sin was cancelled, the time for Israel’s liberation had arrived. Now was the time to prepare for the eschatological Day of Atonement, when the Temple would be purified and the wicked would be punished. All who wished to participate in the Temple’s purification must first be pure themselves, and so an immersion that could wash away the ritual defilement of sin became of the utmost importance.

4. Was John’s baptism related to other Jewish rites of immersion? If so, to which ones? Scholars have frequently compared and contrasted John’s baptism either to the immersion of Gentile converts to Judaism[272] or to a supposed initiatory immersion rite for admission into the Essene sect.[273] Other scholars have argued for the independence of John’s baptism from Jewish ritual immersions, since, unlike Jewish immersions, John the Baptist supposedly submerged the recipients of his baptism into the water, and, also unlike Jewish immersions,[274] John’s baptism was supposedly an unrepeatable act.[275]

The view that John’s baptism was totally distinct from Jewish ritual immersions is the least tenable, since the evidence upon which it is based is unsubstantiated. We do not know that John’s baptism was an unrepeatable act. This is merely an assumption.[276] We also do not know that John the Baptist physically submerged the recipients of his baptism. In Hebrew sources we find ט-ב-ל in the causative hif‘il stem (הִטְבִּיל [hiṭbil, “to immerse something”]) in the context of proselyte baptism, where it is unlikely that the “immerser” physically submerged the proselytes.[277] The “immerser’s” role was rather to witness and bear testimony to the proselyte’s self-immersion. This was likely the role of John the Baptist. John invited people to immerse themselves, and he both authorized and bore witness to their self-immersion. We believe that the references to John’s baptizing others and to persons’ being baptized by John are simply a reflection in Greek of Hebrew sources that used causative forms of the root ט-ב-ל or the idiom ט-ב-ל לִפְנֵי to describe John’s oversight of self-immersions.

Our foregoing discussion suggests that John’s baptism did share some formal similarities to proselyte baptism, as most ritual immersions did not require an “immerser” to oversee and testify to a person’s self-immersion, but it appears unlikely that John the Baptist used proselyte immersion as his model. First, there is the historical problem as to whether proselyte immersions actually existed in the time of John, since we do not have any contemporary witnesses to the practice of immersing Gentile converts to Judaism.[278] Second, given the many similarities between John the Baptist’s worldview and that of the Essenes, it seems doubtful whether John the Baptist would have accepted the notion of Gentile conversion to Judaism, a view that the Essenes (and perhaps also the Sadducees) rejected.[279] If John did not believe that Gentiles could become Jews, why would he have modeled his baptism on a rite based on the presumption that they could?[280]

We believe that scholars are correct to seek to understand John’s baptism against the background of Essene thought and practice, however, the evidence for an immersion of initiation to the Essene sect is scant.[281] Rather than comparing John’s baptism to a conjectured Essene initiation rite, John’s baptism can be usefully compared to the Essene notion that a person who sins requires ritual purification. John’s baptism of repentance is simply a logical outgrowth of this uniquely Essene point of view regarding the defiling force of sin.

Conclusion

When Luke’s version of A Voice Crying is taken seriously, we gain important insight into the original meaning of John the Baptist’s immersion of repentance for the release of sins.


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  • [1] For abbreviations and bibliographical references, see “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.’
  • [2] This translation is a dynamic rendition of our reconstruction of the conjectured Hebrew source that stands behind the Greek of the Synoptic Gospels. It is not a translation of the Greek text of a canonical source.
  • [3] See Burnett Hillman Streeter, “The Original Extent of Q,” in Studies in the Synoptic Problem (ed. W. Sanday; Oxford: Clarendon, 1911), 184-208, esp. 186; Taylor, 156; Bundy, 45 §1; Beare, Earliest, 38 §1; Marshall, 132; Bovon, 1:118.
  • [4] See especially Catchpole, 70-76.
  • [5] See Streeter, “The Original Extent of Q,” 186; Beare, Earliest, 38 §1; Luz, 1:133-134; Witherington, 77.
  • [6] See Fitzmyer, 1:452, 461; Frans Neirynck, “The First Synoptic Pericope: The Appearance of John the Baptist in Q?” Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses 72 (1996): 41-74.
  • [7] Guelich (21) suggested that the description of the Baptist’s diet in Mark 1:6 answers to Jesus’ statement in Like Children Complaining (Luke 7:33; cf. Matt. 11:18) that John did not eat bread or drink wine, but the correspondence is not very close, since Mark 1:6 describes John’s attire and diet (i.e., what John did eat), whereas Like Children Complaining claims that the Baptist neither ate (bread) nor drank (wine).
  • [8] If Mark’s description of the Baptist’s diet is a response to Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser, then it must be to Luke’s version that the author of Mark was responding, since it is more likely that Matthew’s version, which omits the reference to τρυφή (“luxury”), preserves the wording of Anth. See Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser, Comment to L15.
  • [9] This is the least significant of the Lukan-Matthean minor agreements in A Voice Crying, since it is only natural that the authors of Luke and Matthew would omit a title at this point in their narrative, having opened their Gospels with accounts of the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth. Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that Mark’s title has not left a trace in Matthew’s version of A Voice Crying.
  • [10] The author of Luke tended to copy large blocks of material from a single source. See, for example, Luke’s block of material on John the Baptist in Luke 7:18-35, most of which was taken from Anth. (See our introduction to the “Yohanan the Immerser and the Kingdom of Heaven” complex.) Likewise, compare Luke’s block of material on prayer (Luke 11:1-13), nearly all of which was taken from Anth. (See our introduction to the “How to Pray” complex).
  • [11] Boring enumerated as many as eleven different ways of breaking Mark 1:1-4 into independent syntactical units. See M. Eugene Boring, “Mark 1:1-15 and the Beginning of the Gospel,” Semeia 52 (1990): 43-81, esp. 48-50.
  • [12] Taylor (152) expressed his preference for regarding Mark 1:1 as the title of the first section of Mark’s Gospel.
  • [13] For a defense of the view that Mark 1:2-3 should be regarded as a parenthetical aside, see C. H. Turner, “A Textual Commentary on Mark I,” Journal of Theological Studies 28 (1927): 145-158, esp. 150.
  • [14] See Bundy, 42-43 §1; Boring, “Mark 1:1-15 and the Beginning of the Gospel,” 50-53.
  • [15] See Robert L. Lindsey, “From Luke to Mark to Matthew: A Discussion of the Sources of Markan ‘Pick-ups’ and the Use of a Basic Non-canonical Source by All the Synoptists,” under the subheading “Mark’s Editorial Method: An Examination of Mark Chapter 1”; cf. LHNS, 9 §. Other scholars have also noted the similarity between Mark 1:1 and Hos. 1:2. See Swete, 1; Boring, “Mark 1:1-15 and the Beginning of the Gospel,” 71 n. 18.
  • [16] See Peter J. Tomson, “The Core of Jesus’ Evangel: ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΣΑΣΘΑΙ ΠΤΩΧΟΙΣ (Isa 61),” in The Scriptures in the Gospels (ed. C. M. Tuckett; Leuven: Peeters, 1997), 647-658; idem, “‘To Bring Good News to the Poor’: The Core of Jesus’ Gospel,” in his Studies on Jews and Christians in the First and Second Centuries (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2019), 223-233.
  • [17] On allusions to Isa. 61 in Jesus’ Beatitudes, see David Flusser, “Blessed are the Poor in Spirit…” (Flusser, JOC, 102-114).
  • [18] On the allusion to Isa. 61 in Jesus’ reply to John the Baptist, see Yohanan the Immerser’s Question.
  • [19] Text according to Wilhelm Dittenberger, ed., Orientis Graeci Inscriptiones Selectae (2 vols; Leipzig: S. Hirzel, 1903-1905), 2:53-55. Translation (slightly adapted) according to Craig A. Evans, “Mark’s Incipit and the Priene Calendar Inscription: From Jewish Gospel to Greco-Roman Gospel,” Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism 1 (2000): 67-81, esp. 69.
  • [20] In addition to Evans, “Mark’s Incipit and the Priene Calendar Inscription: From Jewish Gospel to Greco-Roman Gospel,” see Boring-Berger-Colpe, 169; Marcus, 1:146.
  • [21] On the textual evidence for and against υἱοῦ θεοῦ, see Turner, “A Textual Commentary on Mark I,” 150; Metzger, 73.
  • [22] Marcus (1:141) rejected the title “son of God” in Mark 1:1 on the grounds that it is inconceivable that a Christian scribe would have omitted it.
  • [23] Pace Bundy (42 §1) et al., who maintain that the title “son of God,” as applied to Jesus, originated in Gentile Christianity from pagan roots. On the “son of God” concept in ancient Judaism, see Adela Yarbro Collins, “Mark and His Readers: The Son of God among Jews,” Harvard Theological Review 92.4 (1999): 393-408; Serge Ruzer, “Son of God as Son of David: Luke’s Attempt to Biblicize a Problematic Notion,” Babel und Bible 3 (2006): 321-352.
  • [24] On the “son of God” concept in the imperial cult, see Adela Yarbro Collins, “Mark and His Readers: The Son of God among Greeks and Romans,” Harvard Theological Review 93.2 (2000): 85-100.
  • [25] Translation according to H. Rushton Fairclough, trans., Virgil (2 vols.; New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1916), 1:560-563.
  • [26] On Roman pretensions to worldwide domination, see P. A. Brunt, “Roman Imperial Illusions,” in his Roman Imperial Themes (Oxford: Clarendon, 1990), 433-480.
  • [27] See Marcus, 1:142.
  • [28] Cf., e.g., Beare, Earliest, 37 §1; Fitzmyer, 1:461; Neirynck, “The First Synoptic Pericope,” 58.
  • [29] For the view that the quotation in Mark 1:2 is a later interpolation, see Taylor, 153; Bundy, 43 §1; John A. T. Robinson, “Elijah, John and Jesus: An Essay in Detection,” in his Twelve New Testament Studies (London: SMC Press, 1962; repr. from New Testament Studies 4 [1958]: 263-281), 28-52, esp. 34 n. 14. Cf. Mann, 195.
  • [30] See Taylor, 153.
  • [31] For the hypothesis that “Q” was the source of the quotation in Mark 1:2, see Burnett Hillman Streeter, “Mark’s Knowledge and Use of Q,” in Studies in the Synoptic Problem (ed. W. Sanday; Oxford: Clarendon, 1911), 165-183, esp. 168; Catchpole, 71.
  • [32] See Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser, Comment to L23-27.
  • [33] Cf. William Lockton, Certain Alleged Gospel Sources: A Study of Q, Proto-Luke and M (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1927), 5-7.
  • [34] See Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser, Comment to L23.
  • [35] Robinson (“Elijah, John and Jesus: An Essay in Detection,” 34) referred to Mark’s combination of the composite Mal. 3:1/Exod. 23:20 quotation with Isa. 40:3 as “a very botched affair.”
  • [36] Scholars who regard the synchronism at the opening of Luke’s version of A Voice Crying as a Lukan composition include Manson (Luke, 24), Marshall (132), Fitzmyer (1:452) and Bovon (1:119).
  • [37] On the similarity of Luke’s synchronism to the style of dating found in prophetic books, see A. B. Bruce, 481; Bundy, 46 §1; Henry J. Cadbury, “Some Lukan Expressions of Time (Lexical Notes on Luke-Acts VII),” Journal of Biblical Literature 82.3 (1963): 272-278, esp. 272; Bovon, 1:118, 119, 120; Nolland, Luke, 1:140. And see also Comment to L15.
  • [38] On the composition dates of the Synoptic Gospels and the pre-synoptic sources, see LOY Excursus: The Dates of the Synoptic Gospels.
  • [39] Nolland (Matt., 135) suggested that “in those days” (Matt. 3:1) should be understood as referring to the days of Jesus’ residence in Nazareth, which lasted from his childhood until his baptism.
  • [40] Cf. Davies-Allison, 1:288; Luz, 1:134.
  • [41] It should be noted that although Matthew’s phrase ἐν δὲ ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις reverts easily to Hebrew as וּבַיָּמִים הָהֵם, in MT this Hebrew phrase occurs only in Judg. 18:1, where the LXX translators rendered it as καὶ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις.
  • [42] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:565-568.
  • [43] See Dos Santos, 213-214.
  • [44] Cf. 2 Chr. 15:10, where ἐν τῷ πεντεκαιδεκάτῳ ἔτει τῆς βασιλείας Ασα (“in the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa”) is the translation of לִשְׁנַת חֲמֵשׁ עֶשְׂרֵה לְמַלְכוּת אָסָא (“of the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa”).
  • [45] See the discussions in A. B. Bruce, 480; Creed, 48; Marshall, 133; Fitzmyer, 1:455; Nolland, Luke, 1:139; Bovon, 1:120. See also Harold W. Hoehner, “Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ Part II: The Commencement of Christ’s Ministry,” Bibliotheca Sacra 131.1 (1974): 41-54, esp. 41-48; Ben Zion Wacholder, “Chronomessianism: The Timing of Messianic Movements and the Calendar of Sabbatical Cycles,” Hebrew Union College Annual 46 (1975): 201-218, esp. 213-215; Brian Messner, “‘In the Fifteenth Year’ Reconsidered: A Study of Luke 3:1,” Stone-Campbell Journal 1.2 (1998): 201-211.
  • [46] Some scholars have advanced arguments in favor of beginning the count from 11 C.E., when Tiberius was granted power in the provinces equal to that of Augustus. But although this method of counting would seem to harmonize with Luke’s estimate that Jesus was about thirty years old at the time of his baptism (Luke 3:23), there is no precedent for such a method of counting, and the aim is clearly apologetic rather than historical. For critiques of this view, see Creed, 48; Hoehner, “Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ,” 43; Messner, “‘In the Fifteenth Year’ Reconsidered: A Study of Luke 3:1,” 201-211.
  • [47] See Wacholder, “Chronomessianism: The Timing of Messianic Movements and the Calendar of Sabbatical Cycles,” 214.
  • [48] J. Duncan M. Derrett (“The Baptist’s Sermon: Luke 3,10-14,” Bibbia e Oriente 37.3 [1995]: 155-165, esp. 163) similarly suggested that John the Baptist’s public proclamation coincided with a Sabbatical Year, but the year Derrett indicated (33/34 C.E.) is (nearly) a full Sabbatical cycle later than that which is indicated by the chronological notice in Luke 3:1. Unfortunately, Derrett provided no basis for his calculation of the Baptist’s chronology. We are therefore left to wonder why Derrett would date the Baptist’s ministry to the final year of Philip the tetrarch’s life. According to the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, Herodias used her daughter as a pawn to have her revenge on John the Baptist. This took place before Herodias’ daughter (Salome) was married to Philip, since she is portrayed as living at home with her mother and stepfather Herod Antipas. We must conclude, therefore, that Derrett either rejected the Markan and Matthean accounts of the Baptist’s execution as unhistorical, or he espoused an extremely compressed timeline in which Salome is used to secure the beheading of the Baptist, is married to Philip, and is then widowed, all in the span of a year.
  • [49] See Plummer, Mark, 54; Taylor, 154; Rudolf Bultmann, “ἀφίημι, ἄφεσις, παρίημι, πάρεσις,” TDNT, 1:509-512.
  • [50] Cf. m. Avot 5:9.
  • [51] On the sin-as-debt metaphor that developed in the Second Temple period, see Gary A. Anderson, “From Israel’s Burden to Israel’s Debt: Towards a Theology of Sin in Biblical and Early Second Temple Sources,” in Reworking the Bible: Apocryphal and Related Texts at Qumran (ed. Esther Chazon, Devorah Dimant, and Ruth Clements; Leiden: Brill, 2005), 1-30.
  • [52] The noun ἡγεμονία occurs only 7xx in LXX (Gen. 36:30 [= אַלוּף]; Num. 1:52 [= דֶּגֶל]; 2:17‎ [= דֶּגֶל]; 4 Macc. 6:33; 13:4; Sir. 7:4; 10:1). The Hebrew equivalents of ἡγεμονία in Genesis and Numbers are not suitable for HR. The LXX translators usually rendered מֶמְשָׁלָה as ἐξουσία (exousia, “authority”) or ἀρχή (archē, “rule”). See Dos Santos, 114.
  • [53] On the identification of the Kittim in DSS, see Hanan Eshel, “The Kittim in the War Scroll and in the Pesharim,” in Historical Perspectives: From the Hasmoneans to Bar Kokhba in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls (ed. David Goodblatt, Avital Pinnick, and Daniel R. Schwartz; Leiden: Brill, 2001), 29-44; Brian Schultz, “Not Greeks but Romans: Changing Expectations for the Eschatological War in the War Texts from Qumran,” in The Jewish Revolt Against Rome: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (ed. Mladen Popović; Leiden: Brill, 2011), 107-127.
  • [54] Wacholder mentions the Murabba‘at Papyrus in Ben Zion Wacholder, “The Calendar of Sabbatical Cycles During the Second Temple and Early Rabbinic Period,” Hebrew Union College Annual 44 (1973): 153-196, esp. 169.
  • [55] See Jastrow, 331. An example of הֶגְמוֹנְיָה, appearing with the alternate spelling הֶגְמוֹנְיָא (hegmōnyā’), is found in the following parable, which aims to explain why the heavenly visitors in the book of Genesis were called “men” when they appeared to Abraham, but “angels” when they appeared to Lot:

    אמר ר′ תנחומא לאחד שנטל הגמוניא מן המלך עד שלא הגיע לבית אוריאן שלו היה מהלך כפגן כך עד שלא עשו שליחותן אנשים וכיון שעשו שליחותן לבשו מלאכות

    Rabbi Tanhuma said, “[It may be compared] to someone who took the governorship [הֶגְמוֹנְיָא] from the king. Prior to his arrival at the place of office he would go about as a commoner. So [too with the angels]: prior to doing their mission they were men, but as soon as they began doing their mission, they appeared in angelic form.” (Gen. Rab. 50:2 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 2:518])

  • [56] The name אמליוס is attested in 4Q333 in reference to Marcus Aemilius Sacurus, the governor of Syria, appointed by Pompey in 66 C.E. See Hanan Eshel, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Hasmonean State (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 138.
  • [57] The name קִיפּוֹנוֹס is attested in the Mishnah (m. Mid. 1:3) with referece to one of the gates on the western side of the Temple Mount. It is likely that this gate was named after the Roman governor Coponius. See Lee I. Levine, Jerusalem: Portrait of the City in the Second Temple Period (538 B.C.E.—70 C.E.) (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2002), 230 n. 49; R. Steven Notley, Jerusalem City of the Great King (Jerusalem: Carta, 2015), 84.
  • [58] See Hatch-Redpath, 3:85.
  • [59] The chronological issues pertaining to Pilate’s governorship are discussed by Daniel R. Schwartz, “Pontius Pilate’s Appointment to Office and the Chronology of Josephus’ Antiquities, Books 18-20,” in his Studies in the Jewish Background of Christianity (Tübingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 1992), 182-201, and in the same volume, “Pontius Pilate’s Suspension from Office: Chronology and Sources,” 202-217.
  • [60] See Jastrow, 121 (אַרְכוֹנְטוֹס), ‎122 (אַרְכָן).
  • [61] See Jastrow, 528, 530-531.
  • [62] Also, such a loanword would more likely be a noun, but here we have a participle, which probably needs to be reconstructed with a verb.
  • [63] The suggestion that the authors of Luke and Matthew independently made the same correction to Mark is difficult to accept. While we can easily imagine the author of Luke changing “king” to “tetrarch,” it is hard to understand why the author of Matthew would have done so here, since in the very next pericope he accepted Mark’s designation of Herod as “king.” Why would he reject “king” in Matt. 14:1 only to accept “king” in Matt. 14:9? The most probable explanation is that the author of Matthew read “tetrarch” in Anth.’s Herodes Wonders about Yeshua pericope, but read “king” in Anth.’s version of Yohanan the Immerser’s Execution. In other words, it was the author of Mark who homogenized the vocabulary in these pericopae, writing “king” in both although Anth. had “tetrarch” in the one and “king” in the other.
  • [64] On the midrash on Psalm 2 in Acts, see David Flusser, “An Early Jewish-Christian Document in the Tiburtine Sibyl” (Flusser, JOC, 359-389, esp. 376); Huub van de Sandt, “The Quotations in Acts 13, 13-52 as a Reflection of Luke’s LXX Interpretation,” Biblica 75.1 (1994): 26-58, esp. 32; Brad H. Young, “A Fresh Examination of the Cross, Jesus, and the Jewish People” (JS1, 191-209, esp. 204-205).
  • [65] Since, according to Luke, the midrash preserved in Acts 4:25-28 originated with the apostles in Jerusalem, there is every reason to believe that it was originally formulated in Hebrew. Referring to Antipas as “king” might simply be a reflection of colloquial Hebrew usage.
  • [66] On the incorporation of a Hebrew Life of Yohanan the Immerser into the Hebrew Life of Yeshua, see Yohanan the Immerser’s Execution, under the subheading “Story Placement.”
  • [67] Other possible Hebrew forms of “tetrarch” include טִיטְרַרְכוֹן (ṭiṭrarchōn), טֶטְרַרְכוֹנְטוֹס (ṭeṭrarchōnṭōs) or טִיטְרַרְכוֹנְטוֹס (ṭiṭrarchōnṭōs), and טֶטְרַרְכֵיס (ṭeṭrarchēs) or טִיטְרַרְכֵיס (ṭiṭrarchēs).
  • [68] Compare our וּבִמְלֹךְ הֵרוֹדֵיס (“and during Herod’s being king”) to the biblical phrase עַד מְלֹךְ דָּוִיד (“until David’s being king”; 1 Chr. 4:31).
  • [69] On the tetrarch Herod Antipas, see F. F. Bruce, “Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea,” Annual of Leeds University Oriental Society 5 (1966): 6-23; Harold W. Hoehner, Herod Antipas: A Contemporary of Jesus Christ (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972; repr., Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980).
  • [70] According to Braund, “Antipas is named simply ‘Herod’—not ‘Antipas’ or ‘Herod Antipas’—in Josephus,” but he is mistaken. Josephus refers to Herod Antipas simply as “Antipas” in, e.g., J.W. 1:562, 646, 668; 2:20, 23, 94. Josephus refers to Ἡρώδης ὁ κληθεὶς Ἀντίπας (“Herod, the one called Antipas”) in J.W. 2:167. Josephus does, however, refer to Herod Antipas simply as “Herod” in J.W. 2:178, 181. See David C. Braund, “Herod Antipas,” ABD, 3:160.
  • [71] See Schwartz’s comments with respect to Agrippa I, who also is consistently called “Herod” but never “Agrippa” in Acts. Unlike Herod Antipas, who is known to have used the name “Herod,” no other ancient source refers to Agrippa by the name “Herod.” See Daniel R. Schwartz, Agrippa I: Last King of Judaea (Tübingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 1990), 120.
  • [72] On the portrayal of Herod in rabbinic sources, see Daniel R. Schwartz, “Herod in Ancient Jewish Literature,” in The World of the Herods: Volume 1 of the International Conference The World of the Herods and the Nabataeans held at the British Museum, 17-19 April 2001 (ed. Nikos Kokkinos; Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 2007), 45-53.
  • [73] On the spelling הוֹרְדוֹס see the comments of Malcolm Lowe and David Flusser, “Evidence Corroborating A Modified Proto-Matthean Synoptic Theory,” New Testament Studies 29.1 (1983): 25-47, esp. 44 n. 48.
  • [74] Delitzsch also adopted the spelling הוֹרְדוֹס in his Hebrew translation of the New Testament.
  • [75] We also encounter the spelling הוֹרוֹדוֹס in Seder Olam, chpt. 30 (ed. Guggenheimer, 260).
  • [76] For this reference we are indebted to Wacholder, “The Calendar of Sabbatical Cycles During the Second Temple and Early Rabbinic Period,” 177. Josephus notes that King Herod had bestowed his name upon his fortress. Whereas in Greek the name of the man and the name of the fortress were differentiated, in the Hebrew of the Second Temple period the names were indistinguishable. See J. T. Milik, “Textes Hébreux et Araméens,” in Discoveries in the Judaean Desert (ed. Emanuel Tov et al.; Oxford: Clarendon, 1955-2008), 2:67-205, esp. 126.
  • [77] Ilan made note of a pre-135 C.E. ostracon from Murabba‘at (Mur 77) that bears the name Herod, spelled הרדיס. Perhaps this spelling, too, should be vocalized as הֵרֹדֵיס (hērodēs), as Ilan states that this spelling is closer to the Greek vocalization than that found in the Babylonian Talmud. The identity of this Herod is unknown. See Tal Ilan, Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity: Part I Palestine 330 BCE-200 CE (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002), 282-283.
  • [78] Γαλιλαία occurs as the translation of הַגָּלִיל in Josh. 20:7; 21:32; 3 Kgdms. 9:11; 4 Kgdms. 15:29; 1 Chr. 6:61 (cf. Isa. 8:23). Γαλιλαία is also the spelling adopted in the writings of Josephus.
  • [79] Note that in the case of Herod (L18) and Lysanias (L22) we find the conjunction καί. Only in the case of Philip (L19) do we find the conjunction δέ.
  • [80] Avi-Yonah (“Archaeological Sources,” in Safrai-Stern, 1:46-62, esp. 58) mentioned an inscription “dedicated to Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis,” which, therefore, “illustrate[s] the statement in Luke 3:1.” However, the inscription, which is in Nabatean, does not mention Iturea or Trachonitis, but reads as follows:

    בשנת XXXIII למרנא פלפס עבדו ותרו בר בדר וקציו בר שדי וחנאל בר משכאל ומנע ב[ר] גרמו בומס צלם גלשו בר בנתו אנעם בר עצבו אמנא שלם

    In the year 33 of our lord Philippos; there was made by Witr son of Budar (?) and Kasiu son of Sudai and Hann’ēl son of Masak’ēl and Nuna (?) son of Garm, this altar of the statue of Galis the son of Banat (?) ’An‘am son of Asb (was) the sculptor. Peace!

    Text and translation according to Joseph Offord, “A Nabataean Inscription Concerning Philip, Tetrarch of Auranitis,” Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement 51.2 (1919): 82-85.

  • [81] See George Adam Smith, The Historical Geography of the Holy Land (25th ed.; London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1931), 544-547; Offord, “A Nabataean Inscription Concerning Philip, Tetrarch of Auranitis,” 85; E. A. Speiser, Genesis (AB1; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1964), 188. The Itureans are also mentioned in the writings of Eupolemus (second cent. B.C.E.) as having fought with the Israelites in the time of King David. See Schürer, 1:561.
  • [82] See Smith, The Historical Geography of the Holy Land, 545 n. 3.
  • [83] On the Rehov Synagogue Inscription, see Ze’ev Safrai, “The Rehov Inscription,” Immanuel 8 (1978): 48-57; Jacob Sussmann, “The Inscription in the Synagogue at Reḥob,” in Ancient Synagogues Revealed (ed. Lee I. Levine; Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1981), 146-151.
  • [84] Josephus referred to Trachonitis by the name Trachon in J.W. 1:398 (2xx), 400, 668; 2:95; Ant. 13:427; 15:343, 344, 345, 360; 16:130, 271, 273, 276, 347; 17:319. The first-century geographer Strabo (Geogr. 16:2 §20) mentions two geological formations called the Trachons, for which Trachon or Trachonitis was named. See Smith, The Historical Geography of the Holy Land, 542-544.
  • [85] Delitzsch rendered Τραχωνῖτις in Luke 3:1 as טַרְכוֹנָה (ṭarchōnāh), and this spelling is maintained in MHNT. Undoubtedly, Delitzsch was guided in his translation by the name טְרָכוֹנָא (erāchōnā’) for Trachonitis, which occurs in t. Shev. 4:11 and Sifre Deut. §51 (ed. Finkelstein, 118) in a tradition parallel to that which is preserved in the Rehov Synagogue Inscription. In t. Shev. 4:11 and Sifre Deut. §51, however, the name טְרָכוֹנָא appears in an Aramaic context. In any case, Delitzsch’s vocalization of the name as טַרְכוֹנָה remains odd.
  • [86] See BDAG, “Τραχωνῖτις, ιδος,” 1014; Marshall, 134.
  • [87] Cassius Dio (Roman hist. 49:32 §5) likewise referred to this Lysanias as a “king.” See Schürer, 1:565.
  • [88] As Burnett et al. state, “It is surprising that the portrait has a diadem, as neither Ptolemy nor Lysanias had the rank of king.” See Andrew Burnett, Michael Amandry, and Pere Pau Ripollès Alegre, Roman Provincial Coinage Volume 1: From the Death of Caesar to the Death of Vitellius (44 BC-AD 69): Part 1: Introduction and Catalogue (London: British Museum Press; Paris: Bibliothèque Nationale, 1992), 662.
  • [89] In J.W. 2:247 Josephus distinguished between Chalcis and the “kingdom of Lysanias,” i.e., Abila (or Abilene).
  • [90] See Schürer, 1:565.
  • [91] See Schürer, 1:566-568; Samuel Sandmel, “Lysanias,” in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols.; ed. George Buttrick et al.; Nashville: Abingdon, 1962), 3:193; Schwartz, Agrippa I, 59-60.
  • [92] See Creed, 309; Schürer, 1:568; Kenneth W. Clark, “Abilene,” in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols.; ed. George Buttrick et al.; Nashville: Abingdon, 1962), 1:9; Scott T. Carroll, “Lysanias,” ABD, 4:425; Jerry A. Pattengale, “Abilene,” ABD, 1:20.
  • [93] Pococke described the inscription as follows:

    …a Greek inscription which I saw on a stone about four feet wide, and three deep, that was fixed on the inside of the church, but some of it has been broke off; so that the latter part of the lines are lost; it seems to consist of verses in honour of the builder, and to run in the first person, beginning with the year, and afterwards makes mention of Lysanias, tetrarch of Abilene; and by the last line it seems to be the devotion of a lady of the name Eusebia.

    See Richard Pococke, A Description of the East and Some Other Countries (2 vols.; London: W. Bowyer, 1743-1745), 2a:116.
    The inscription, which Pococke transcribed, appears in the Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum (no. 4521) and in Orientis Graeci Inscriptiones Selectae (no. 606), where it was reconstructed as follows:

    Ὑπὲρ (τ)ῆ(ς) τῶν κυρίων Σε[βαστῶν] | σωτηρίας καὶ τοῦ σύμ[παντος] | αὐτῶν οἴκου Νύμφαιος Ἀέ[του], | Λυσανίου τετράρχου ἀπελε[ύθερος] || τὴν ὁδὸν κτίσας ἄστε[ι]π[τ]ο[ν οὖσαν καὶ] | τὸν ναὸν οἰκο[δομ]ή[σας τὰς περὶ αὐτὸν] | φυτείας πάσας ἐφύ[τευσεν ἐκ | τ]ῶν ἰδίων ἀναλ[ωμάτων θεῷ] | Κρόνῳ κυρίῳ κα[ὶ ————— || ————] Εὐσεβία γυνή.

    For the safety of the lords Augusti and their whole house; Nymphaeus…freedman of Lysanias the tetrarch, who built the road where there was none and erected the temple and planted all the orchards around it at his own expense for the divine Cronus, lord, and … Eusebia, his wife.

    Text according to Wilhelm Dittenberger, ed., Orientis Graeci Inscriptiones Selectae (2 vols.; Leipzig: S. Hirzel, 1903-1905), 2:302-303. Translation according to David C. Braund, Augustus to Nero: A Sourcebook on Roman History 31 BC-AD 68 (Totowa, N.J.: Barnes & Noble, 1985), 232.

  • [94] Text according to Raphaël Savignac, “Texte complet de l’inscription d’Abila relative à Lysanias,” Revue Biblique 9.4 (1912): 533-540 (for an English translation of this article, click here).
  • [95] See Creed, 309; Schürer, 1:568.
  • [96] See Creed, 309. Cf. Schürer, 1:569.
  • [97] See Ilan, Lexicon of Jewish Names, 277.
  • [98] See Ilan, Lexicon of Jewish Names, 301.
  • [99] See John Hogg, “On the City of Abila, and the District Called Abilene near Mount Lebanon, and on a Latin Inscription at the River Lycus, in the North of Syria,” Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 20 (1850): 38-48; Pattengale, “Abilene,” ABD, 1:20.
  • [100] See W. Harold Mare, “Ablia of the Decapolis,” ABD, 1:19-20.
  • [101] See Mordecai Margulies, ed., Midrash Wayyikra Rabbah: A Critical Edition Based on Manuscripts and Genizah Fragments with Variants and Notes (2 vols.; New York and Jerusalem: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1993), 1:379 (in Hebrew).
  • [102] See H. S. Cronin, “Abilene, the Jewish Herdos and St Luke,” Journal of Theological Studies 18 (1917): 147-151, esp. 151.
  • [103] See Cronin, “Abilene, the Jewish Herdos and St Luke,” 150.
  • [104] Cf. Manson, Luke, 24-25.
  • [105] The verb ἀρχιερατεύειν occurs once in LXX: 1 Macc. 14:47.
  • [106] The term ἀρχιερωσύνη occurs in 1 Macc. 7:21; 11:27, 57; 14:38; 16:24; 2 Macc. 4:7, 24, 25, 29; 11:3; 14:7; 4 Macc. 4:1, 16. It also occurs several times in the writings of Philo and Josephus. Another term for expressing “high priesthood” in Greek is ἀρχιερατεία (archierateia), but unlike ἀρχιερωσύνη, ἀρχιερατεία is not attested in LXX, Philo or Josephus.
  • [107] In LXX books with counterparts in MT ἀρχιερεύς occurs only 3xx: Lev. 4:3 (= הַכֹּהֵן הַמָּשִׁיחַ); Josh. 22:13 (הַכֹּהֵן); 24:33 (no Heb. equivalent). Contrast this scarcity to the numerous occurrences of ἀρχιερεύς in 1 Esd. (4xx), 1 Macc. (20xx) and 2 Macc. (13xx).
  • [108] In LXX ὁ ἱερεὺς ὁ μέγας occurs as the translation of הַכֹּהֵן הַגָּדוֹל in Lev. 21:10; Num. 35:25, 28 (2xx); 4 Kgdms. 12:11; 22:4, 8; 23:4; 2 Esd. 13:1, 20; 23:28; 2 Chr. 34:9; Hag. 1:1, 12, 14; 2:2, 4; Zech. 3:1, 8; 6:11. In short, with the sole exception of one occurrence in Josh. 20:6, a verse that has no counterpart in LXX, every instance of הַכֹּהֵן הַגָּדוֹל in MT was translated as ὁ ἱερεὺς ὁ μέγας.
  • [109] See Jastrow, 615.
  • [110] Cf. Ant. 18:26, 34, 95; 19:297, 313; 20:197-198. On the identity of the NT Annas with Josephus’ Ananus, see Menahem Stern, “Aspects of Jewish Society: The Priesthood and other Classes” (Safrai-Stern, 2:561-630, esp. 607); James C. VanderKam, From Joshua to Caiaphas: High Priests after the Exile (Fortress: Minneapolis, 2004), 420-424.
  • [111] See Foakes Jackson-Lake, 4:41; VanderKam, From Joshua to Caiaphas, 422-423.
  • [112] The Mishnah mentions a high priest named Hanamel (m. Par. 3:5). Is this the same priest as (El)Hanan?
  • [113] The information presented in the following table was obtained from the National Library of Israel’s Rabbinics Manuscripts Online.
  • [114] The name חָנָן occurs in Gen. 36:38, 39; 1 Kgs. 4:9; Jer. 35:4; Ezra 2:46; Neh. 7:49; 8:7; 10:11, 23, 27; 13:13; 1 Chr. 1:49, 50; 4:20; 8:23, 38; 9:44; 11:43; 27:28.
  • [115] The LXX translators rendered חָנָן as Αναν in 1 Chr. 4:20; 8:23, 38; 9:44; 11:43; 2 Esd. 2:46; 17:49; 20:11, 23; 23:13.
  • [116] In MH the title of the high priest always appears as כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל, even when definite. See Segal, 180 §374, 184 §378.
  • [117] On this ossuary and its inscription, see Dan Barag and David Flusser, “The Ossuary of Yehoḥanah Granddaughter of the High Priest Theophilus,” Israel Exploration Journal 36.1 (1986): 39-44.
  • [118] Delitzsch rendered Caiaphas’ name as קַיָּפָא in Luke 3:2. Cf. Foakes Jackson-Lake, 4:42.
  • [119] On this ossuary inscription, see Ronny Reich, “Ossuary Inscriptions from the Caiaphas Tomb”; idem, “Ossuary Inscriptions from the ‘Caiaphas’ Tomb,” ‘Atiqot 21 (1992): 72-77; idem, “Ossuary Inscriptions of the Caiaphas Family from Jerusalem,” in Ancient Jerusalem Revealed (ed. Hillel Geva; Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1994), 223-225.
  • [120] On this inscription, see Boaz Zissu and Yuval Goren, “The Ossuary of ‘Miriam Daughter of Yeshua Son of Caiaphas, Priests [of] Ma‘aziah from Beth ’Imri’” Israel Exploration Journal 61.1 (2011): 74-95; Richard Bauckham, “The Caiaphas Family,” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 10.1 (2012): 3-31. We have accepted Bauckham’s reading of the inscription. Determining whether the language of the inscription is Hebrew or Aramaic is problematic, since the use of the Aramaic forms בר/ברת (“son of”/ “daughter of”) occur in Hebrew as well as Aramaic inscriptions. See Rahmani, 201 no. 571; Guido Baltes, “The Use of Hebrew and Aramaic in Epigraphic Sources of the New Testament Era” (JS2, 35-65, esp. 47-48).
  • [121] On the rabbinic tradition relating to the high priests of the house of Kayapha, see Ben-Zion Rosenfeld, “The Settlement of Two Families of High Priests during the Second Temple Period,” in Historical-Geographical Studies in the Settlement of Eretz-Israel (2 vols.; ed. Yose Katz, Yehoshua Ben-Arieh, and Y. Kaniel; Jerusalem: Yad Yitzhaq ben Zvi, 1991), 2:206-218 (in Hebrew). For an English translation of Rosenfeld’s article, click here.
  • [122] See y. Maas. 5:7 [26a]; Ilan, Lexicon of Jewish Names, 408.
  • [123] See Creed, 49; Foakes Jackson-Lake, 4:41.
  • [124] On Matthew’s use of the historical present, see LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style, under the subheading “Mark’s Freedom and Creativity.”
  • [125] See Luz, 1:134; Witherington, 78.
  • [126] Lindsey (LHNS, 9 §1) indicated that the reconstruction of ἐγένετο in Luke 3:2 should be הָיָה.
  • [127] In Exod. 24:3 ῥῆμα θεοῦ occurs as the translation of דְּבַר יי (“the word of the LORD”). In 1 Kgdms. 9:27 and Isa. 40:8 ῥῆμα θεοῦ occurs as the translation of דְּבַר אֱלֹהִים (“the word of God”). In Jer. 1:1, where the LXX translators wrote τὸ ῥῆμα τοῦ θεοῦ, ὃ ἐγένετο ἐπὶ Ιερεμιαν (“The word of God, which was upon Jeremiah”), MT simply reads דִּבְרֵי יִרְמְיָהוּ (“Words of Jeremiah”). The phrase דְּבַר אֱלֹהִים is itself quite rare in MT, occurring in Judg. 3:20; 1 Sam. 9:27; Isa. 40:8; Jer. 23:36; Ezra 9:4; 1 Chr. 17:3. In half of these instances (Judg. 3:20; Ezra 9:4; 1 Chr. 17:3) the LXX translators rendered דָּבָר (dāvār, “word”) as λόγος (logos, “word”).
  • [128] The phrase (ὁ) λόγος (τοῦ) θεοῦ occurs in Judg. 3:20; 2 Kgdms. 16:23; 1 Chr. 15:15; 25:5; 2 Esd. 9:4; Prov. 30:5; 31:8; Jer. 1:2; 9:19.
  • [129] The phrase (ὁ) λόγος (τοῦ) κυρίου occurs in Exod. 4:28; 1 Kgdms. 15:24; 2 Kgdms. 12:9; 14:17; 24:11; 3 Kgdms. 12:22, 24; 13:1, 2, 5, 9, 17, 20, 32; 16:1; 21:35; 4 Kgdms. 7:1; 9:36; 15:12; 20:16, 19; 24:2; 1 Chr. 10:13; 11:3, 10; 12:24; 17:3; 22:8; 2 Chr. 11:2, 4; 12:7; 18:18; 19:11; 30:12; 34:21; 35:6; 36:5, 21; 2 Esd. 1:1; Ps. 32:4, 6; Hos. 1:1, 2; 4:1; Amos 5:1; 7:16; 8:11, 12; Mic. 1:1; 4:2; 6:1; Joel 1:1; Jonah 1:1; 3:1; Zeph. 1:1; 2:5; Hag. 1:1, 3; 2:10, 20; Zech. 1:1, 7; 4:6, 8; 6:9; 7:1, 4, 8; 8:1, 18; 9:1; 11:11; 12:1; Mal. 1:1; Isa. 1:10; 2:3; 28:14; 38:4; 39:5, 8; Jer. 1:4, 11, 13; 2:4, 31; 5:13; 7:2; 8:9; 10:1; 13:2, 3, 8; 14:1; 17:15, 20; 18:5; 19:3; 20:8; 21:11; 22:2, 29; 23:17; 24:4; 27:1; 34:18; 35:7, 12; 36:30; 38:10; 39:6, 8, 26; 40:1; 41:4, 12; 42:12; 43:1, 4, 8, 11, 27; 44:2, 6; 45:20, 27; 46:15; 49:7, 15; 50:1, 8; 51:24, 26; Ezek. 1:3; 3:16; 6:1, 3; 7:1; 11:14, 25; 12:1, 8, 17, 21, 26; 13:1, 2; 14:2, 12; 15:1; 16:1, 35; 17:1, 11; 18:1; 20:2; 21:1, 3, 6, 13, 23; 22:1, 17, 23; 23:1; 24:1, 15, 20; 25:1, 3; 26:1; 27:1; 28:1, 11, 20; 29:1, 17; 30:1, 20; 31:1; 32:1, 17; 33:1, 23; 34:1, 7; 35:1; 36:1, 4, 16; 37:4, 15; 38:1.
  • [130] See Four Soils Interpretation, Comment to L21.
  • [131] This example was noted by Plummer (Luke, 85).
  • [132] When examples were abundant, we restricted ourselves to the Pentateuch.
  • [133] We encounter (genitive) Α τοῦ Β primarily as the translation of construct + name + בֶּן + name.
  • [134] Cf. Bundy, 46 §1.
  • [135] In the Didache, a late first- or early second-century document, the title ὁ βαπτίζων is used for anyone who administers baptism to newly admitted Christians (Did. 7:4). Was the author of Mark attempting to emphasize continuity between John’s immersions and Christian baptism when he applied the title ὁ βαπτίζων to John the Baptist?
  • [136] On the textual variants in Mark 1:4, see Turner, “A Textual Commentary on Mark I,” 150; J. K. Elliott, “An Eclectic Textual Commentary on the Greek Text of Mark’s Gospel,” in New Testament Textual Criticism: Its Significance for Exegesis. Essays in Honour of Bruce M. Metzger (ed. Eldon Jay Epp and Gordon D. Fee; Oxford: Clarendon, 1981), 47-60, esp. 49-50; France, Mark, 61.
  • [137] See Hatch-Redpath, 3:66.
  • [138] See Ilan, Lexicon of Jewish Names, 90-93.
  • [139] See Ilan, Lexicon of Jewish Names, 92 n. 20 and n. 21, 262.
  • [140] See Ilan, Lexicon of Jewish Names, 91 n. 15; Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 78. At first glance there would seem to be no connection between the names זְכַרְיָה (zecharyāh, “the LORD remembered”) and זַכַּאי (zaka’y, “innocent”), but names were sometimes shortened to the first two consonants plus an אי- ending. For instance, that the name יַנַּאי (yana’y, “Yannai”) is a shortened form of יוֹנָתָן (yōnātān, “Yonatan”) is confirmed by references to Alexander Yannai in rabbinic sources that refer to the same Hasmonean monarch who issued bilingual coins with the inscriptions ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ (“of King Alexander”) on one side and יהונתן המלך (“Yehonatan the king”) on the other. Other names with אי- endings include עַזַּאי (“Azzai”), probably a shortened form of עֲזַרְיָה (“Azariah”); יוֹחַאי (“Yohai”), probably a shortened form of יוֹחָנָן (“Yohanan”); and נִתַּאי (“Nitai”), probably a shortened form of נְתַנְיָה (“Netanyah”). On shortened names with אי- endings, see Ilan, Lexicon of Jewish Names, 23-24.
  • [141] See Mendel Nun, “The ‘Desert’ of Bethsaida”; David N. Bivin, “‘The “Desert” of Bethsaida’: Is Midbar Akin to Village Common?
  • [142] On a possible Galilean setting for John’s baptizing activity, see Flusser, Jesus, 43-45; Rainey-Notley, 350-351; R. Steven Notley, In the Master’s Steps: The Gospels in the Land (Jerusalem: Carta, 2014), 15-19.
  • [143] See Nolland, Luke, 1:140.
  • [144] Cf. Nolland, Matt., 136.
  • [145] See LHNS, 9 §1.
  • [146] See Harnack, 41; Streeter, “The Original Extent of Q,” 186; McNeile, 26; Knox, 2:4 n. 2; Marshall, 135; Luz, 1:134 n. 1; Bovon, 1:118 n. 6. See also Lindsey, “From Luke to Mark to Matthew,” under the subheading “Mark’s Editorial Method: An Examination of Mark Chapter 1”; idem, “The Major Importance of the ‘Minor’ Agreements,” under the subheading “From Non-Hebraisms to the Synoptic Problem.”
  • [147] Pace Bovon (1:118 n. 6), who opined that Matthew preserves the original “Q” position of “all the surrounding region of the Jordan.”
  • [148] See Catchpole, 74-75.
  • [149] LOY segments in which we have used בָּא אֶל in HR include Demands of Discipleship, L8; Persistent Widow, L9; Friend in Need, L6-7.
  • [150] Cf. our discussion regarding the name Ἰουδαία in Comment to L17.
  • [151] See Karl Heinrich Rengstorf, “ποταμός, ποταμοφόρητος, Ἰορδάνης,” TDNT, 6:595-623, esp. 609.
  • [152] See Oscar J. F. Seitz, “Praeparatio Evangelica in the Markan Prologue,” Journal of Biblical Literature 82.2 (1963): 201-206, esp. 204-205. Cf. H. H. Rowley, “The Baptism of John and the Qumran Sect,” in New Testament Essays: Studies in Memory of Thomas Walter Manson 1893-1958 (ed. A. J. B. Higgins; Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1959), 218-229. Rowley claimed in that essay (222) that “the baptism of John was a rite of initiation and only a rite of initiation,” which seems to imply that ritual purity played no role in John’s baptism. Rowley, however, does not bring m. Par. 8:10 into the discussion.
  • [153] Quotation from Guelich, 20.
  • [154] See Abrahams, 1:33 n. 1; Blackman, 6:443; Rengstorf, “ποταμός, ποταμοφόρητος, Ἰορδάνης,” TDNT, 6:612. Rengstorf (600) cited an anecdote in b. Ber. 22a as proof that the Jordan River could, in fact, be used for ritual immersion. Presumably the anecdote to which Rengstorf referred is the following:

    מעשה ברבי יהודה שראה קרי והיה מהלך על גב הנהר אמרו לו תלמידיו רבינו שנה לנו פרק אחד בהלכות דרך ארץ ירד וטבל ושנה להם אמרו לו לא כך למדתנו רבינו שונה הוא בהלכות דרך ארץ אמר להם אף על פי שמיקל אני על אחרים מחמיר אני על עצמי

    An anecdote concerning Rabbi Yehudah, who had a ritually defiling emission, and he was walking along a [lit., “the”] river. His disciples said to him, “Rabbi! Recite to us a chapter of halachot pertaining to proper conduct.” He went down and immersed and recited to them. They said to him, “Rabbi, did you not teach us thus, ‘[A man who had a ritually defiling emission] may recite halachot pertaining to proper conduct’?” He said to them, “Although I am lenient toward others, I am strict toward myself.” (b. Ber. 22a)

    Unless Rengstorf knew of a variant reading of which we are unaware, there is no explicit reference to the Jordan in this story, and we must leave open the possibility that the story took place at a river other than the Jordan.

  • [155] According to m. Par. 8:11, the sources of the Jordan River at Panias are valid for mixing with the ashes of the red heifer.
  • [156] See Rainey-Notley, 351.
  • [157] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:763.
  • [158] There are other examples in which the proclamation of a fast was expressed with the verb קָרָא (1 Kgs. 21:9, 12; Isa. 58:5; Jer. 36:9; Ezra 8:21), but in these instances the LXX translators did not render קָרָא as κηρύσσειν.
  • [159] In MH it is more usual to find גָּזַר תַּעֲנִית (gāzar ta‘anit, “decree a fast”), but since we prefer to reconstruct narrative in a biblicizing style, our observations regarding the use of קָרָא for proclaiming a fast remain valid. In addition, we have found one instance of קָרָא תַּעֲנִית in Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer, chpt. 46 (ed. C. M. Horowitz, 167), where we read וקראו תענית בכל ישראל מגדול ועד קטן (“And they proclaimed a fast in all Israel, from the great unto the small”).
  • [160] See Bundy, 45 §1; Hartwig Thyen, “ΒΑΠΤΙΖΜΑ ΜΕΤΑΝΟΙΑΣ ΕΙΣ ΑΦΕΣΙΝ ΑΜΑΡΤΙΩΝ,” in The Future of our Religious Past (ed. James M. Robinson; trans. Charles E Carlston and Robert P. Scharlemann; New York: Harper & Row, 1971), 131-168, esp. 138-139; John P. Meier, “John the Baptist in Matthew’s Gospel,” Journal of Biblical Literature 99.3 (1980): 383-405. Meier (388) opines that the omission of εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν in Matthew’s version of A Voice Crying was theologically motivated: “For Matthew, forgiveness of sins comes only through the sacrificial death of Christ, and so the phrase eis aphesin hamartiōn is transposed from John’s baptism to the word over the cup at the Last Supper (26:28).”
  • [161] Cf. Thyen, “ΒΑΠΤΙΖΜΑ ΜΕΤΑΝΟΙΑΣ ΕΙΣ ΑΦΕΣΙΝ ΑΜΑΡΤΙΩΝ,” 133 n. 2.
  • [162] See Dos Santos, 73; Hatch-Redpath, 1:190.
  • [163] On the authenticity of this passage and its interpretation, see John P. Meier, “John the Baptist in Josephus: Philology and Exegesis,” Journal of Biblical Literature 111.2 (1992): 225-237; Hermann Lichtenberger, “The Dead Sea Scrolls and John the Baptist: Reflections on Josephus’ Account of John the Baptist,” in The Dead Sea Scrolls: Forty Years of Research (ed. Devorah Diman and Uriel Rappaport; Leiden: Brill, 1992), 340-346. We find it surprising that Nir has concluded that Josephus’ account of John the Baptist must be a Christian interpolation on the very grounds that Ant. 18:116-119 describes baptism in terms of the Essene understanding of the ritually defiling force of sin. See Rivka Nir, “Josephus’ Account of John the Baptist: A Christian Interpolation?Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 10.1 (2012): 32-62. Might not the same grounds upon which Nir based her opinion lead to the opposite conclusion, namely that Josephus’ information on John the Baptist came from a reliable first-century source?
  • [164] On the distinction between ritual and moral purity, see Jonathan Klawans, “The Impurity of Immorality in Ancient Judaism,” Journal of Jewish Studies 48.1 (1997): 1-16.
  • [165] There are only two opposite situations in which a person’s ritual status is not morally neutral, namely on occasions when ritual purity or impurity is obligatory. Ritual purity is obligatory when a person is in contact with holy objects (e.g., sacrifices) or present in a holy place (e.g., the Temple). In such a situation being ritually impure is not morally neutral, because it is in violation of the biblical commandments. Becoming ritually impure is obligatory when the performance of certain commandments, such as consummating a marriage or burying a corpse, is biblically mandated. Refusing to perform such activities in order to remain pure would not be morally neutral, since it would involve refusing to obey a biblical commandment.
  • [166] For a basic introduction to the ancient Jewish concept of ritual purity, see Joshua N. Tilton, “A Goy’s Guide to Ritual Purity.”
  • [167] Cf. David Flusser, Jewish Sources in Early Christianity (trans. John Gluker; Tel Aviv: MOD Books, 1989), 46. For a critique of Flusser’s oversimplification of the purity issues connected with John’s baptism, see Kazen, 233-235. For a different perspective, see Peter J. Tomson, “‘Devotional Purity’ and Other Ancient Jewish Purity Systems,” in his Studies on Jews and Christians in the First and Second Centuries (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2019), 107-139, esp. 130-135.
  • [168] Cf. Flusser, Jewish Sources in Early Christianity, 46; Kazen, 237.
  • [169] See Plummer, Mark, 54; Taylor, 155; Bundy, 44 §1. These scholars suggested that “remission of sins” is a distinctively Christian usage, but since ἄφεσις ἁμαρτιῶν (“release of sins”) appears to reflect the concept of a divine amnesty taking place at the eschatological Jubilee in which God proclaims a release from the debt of sin, it is more likely that this vocabulary reflects a Second Temple Jewish context.
  • [170] Moulton-Milligan, 96; Mann, 196.
  • [171] See Moshe Weinfeld, Social Justice in Ancient Israel and in the Ancient Near East (Jerusalem: Magnes; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995), 75-96, 140-151.
  • [172] Text and translation according to A. S. Hunt and C. C. Edgar, trans., Select Papyri (3 vols.; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1932-1941), 2:58-61.
  • [173] See Dos Santos, 45 (דְּרוֹר),‎ 78 (יוֹבֵל),‎ 212 (שְׁמִטָּה).
  • [174] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:182.
  • [175] For a devotional reflection on the concept of amnesty and its relation to the Christian faith, see Joshua N. Tilton, “Amnesty or Amnesia? A Christian Dilemma in the United States of America,” at WholeStones.org.
  • [176] On the unusual usage of עָזַב (‘āzav, “forsake”) as a term for forgiveness, see Anderson, “From Israel’s Burden to Israel’s Debt,” 17-18.
  • [177] See Lev. 25:8-12.
  • [178] Cf. Daniel R. Schwartz, “On Quirinius, John the Baptist, the Benedictus, Melchizedek, Qumran and Ephesus,” Revue de Qumran 13 (1988): 635-646, esp. 640-641; R. Steven Notley, “The Kingdom of Heaven Forcefully Advances,” in The Interpretation of Scripture in Early Judaism and Christianity: Studies in Language and Tradition (ed. Craig A. Evans; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000), 279-322, esp. 308-309.
  • [179] Opinions differed in the ancient sources as to whether the Jubilee Year coincided with the seventh Sabbatical Year of a Jubilee cycle, or whether the Jubilee Year followed the seventh Sabbatical Year. See Wacholder, “Chronomessianism,” 204.
  • [180] Scholars who view John’s baptism as an alternative to Temple sacrifices include Thyen, “ΒΑΠΤΙΖΜΑ ΜΕΤΑΝΟΙΑΣ ΕΙΣ ΑΦΕΣΙΝ ΑΜΑΡΤΙΩΝ,” 150-151; Fitzmyer, 1:460; Fredriksen, From Jesus, 97; Witherington, 109. According to Webb, John the Baptist was not opposed to the Temple and its rites per se, but only against the corrupt priests who defiled it. Thus, John’s immersions were a temporary substitute for the Temple. See Robert L. Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet: A Socio-Historical Study (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991), 192-193, 203-205.
  • [181] Cf. Kazen, 238.
  • [182] So Delitzsch in Luke 3:3 and Lindsey in Mark 1:4 (HTGM, 87). Similarly, Jones equated ἄφεσις with סְלִיחָה in Luke 1:77. See Douglas Jones, “The Background and Character of the Lukan Psalms,” Journal of Theological Studies 19.1 (1968): 19-50, esp. 37 n. 6.
  • [183] The noun סְלִיחָה occurs in Ps. 130:4 (= ἱλασμός); Dan. 9:9 (= ἔλεος); Neh. 9:17 (= ἐλεήμων). In Hebrew MSS of Ben Sira (MS A and MS C) סְלִיחָה occurs opposite ἐξιλασμός in Sir. 5:5.
  • [184] See Dos Santos, 212. Cf. Schwartz, “On Quirinius, John the Baptist, the Benedictus, Melchizedek, Qumran and Ephesus,” 640.
  • [185] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:62-64.
  • [186] See Lindsey, HTGM, 87.
  • [187] Jastrow (429) indicates that the plural of חוֹב is חוֹבִין, but חוֹבוֹת is found in tannaic sources (Sifre Num. Zuta, BeHa‘alotecha 10:30 [ed, Horowitz, 265]; Mechilta de-Shimon ben Yohai, Yitro 18:27 [ed. Epstein-Melamed, 134]). On the use of חוֹב (“debt”) in the sense of debt caused by sin, see Lord’s Prayer, Comment to L19.
  • [188] On the use of רָצָה (rātzāh) in the sense of “repay” in Isa. 40:2, see Anderson, “From Israel’s Burden to Israel’s Debt,” 19-24.
  • [189] Cf. Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Baḥodesh chpt. 10 (ed. Lauterbach, 2:345).
  • [190] See Dos Santos, 152.
  • [191] Examples of transferring John’s words to Jesus include Matt. 7:19 (cf. Matt. 3:10; Luke 3:9) and Matt. 23:33 (cf. Matt. 3:7; Luke 3:7). On the author of Matthew’s placement of John’s sayings on Jesus’ lips, and vice versa, see Cadbury, Making, 44; Bundy, 45 §1; Meier, “John the Baptist in Matthew’s Gospel,” 388; David Flusser, “Two Anti-Jewish Montages in Matthew” (Flusser, JOC, 552-560); idem, Jesus, 46.
  • [192] See Bundy, 45 §1; Flusser, Jesus, 49 n. 21.
  • [193] See David Flusser, “Jewish Messianism Reflected in the Early Church” (Flusser, JSTP2, 258-288, esp. 259-260 n. 3). Cf. Lindsey, “From Luke to Mark to Matthew,” under the subheading “Mark’s Editorial Method: An Examination of Mark Chapter 1”; LHNS, 9 §1.
  • [194] Cf. Manson, Teaching, 127; Davies-Allison, 1:292.
  • [195] Cf. Neirynck, “The First Synoptic Pericope,” 58.
  • [196] Cf. Fitzmyer, 1:460.
  • [197] Cf. Nolland, Matt., 138.
  • [198] Hawkins (33) noted that ῥηθέν/ῥηθείς are distinctively Matthean terms.
  • [199] See R. Steven Notley, “Jesus’ Jewish Hermeneutical Method in the Nazareth Synagogue,” in Early Christian Literature and Intertextuality: Volume 2: Exegetical Studies (ed. Craig A. Evans and H. Daniel Zacharias; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2009), 46-59, esp. 49; idem, “Non-Septuagintal Hebraisms in the Third Gospel: An Inconvenient Truth” (JS2, 320-346, esp. 332). See also R. Steven Notley and Jeffrey P. García, “The Hebrew Scriptures in the Third Gospel,” in Searching the Scriptures: Studies in Context and Intertextuality (ed. Craig A. Evans and Jeremiah J. Johnson; London: Bloomsbury, 2015), 128-147, esp. 132.
  • [200] Examples of סֵפֶר יְשַׁעְיָה in rabbinic sources include:

    הרואה ספר מלכים בחלום יצפה לגדולה ולעשירות ישעיה יצפה לנחמה

    The one who sees the book [סֵפֶר] of Kings in a dream can expect greatness and wealth. [The one who sees the book of] Isaiah [יְשַׁעְיָה] can expect consolation. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 40:10 [ed. Schechter, 128])

    אמר להם הביאו לי ספר ישעיה

    He said to them, “Bring me the book of Isaiah [סֵפֶר יְשַׁעְיָה].” (Song Rab. 3:4 §2 [ed. Etelsohn, 138])

    אמר ר′ יהושע בן קרחה עשרים אשרי כתיב בספר תהלים, כנגד עשרים הוי שכתוב בספר ישעיה

    Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korhah said, “Twenty ‘blessed’s are written in the Psalms, corresponding to twenty ‘woe’s that are written in the book of Isaiah [בְּסֵפֶר יְשַׁעְיָה].” (Midrash Tehillim 1:1 §8 [ed. Buber, 9])

  • [201] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:219.
  • [202] See Dos Santos, 144.
  • [203] The spelling Ἠσαΐας (Ēsaias, “Isaiah”), with the smooth breathing mark, occurs in critical editions of NT, but Ἡσαΐας (Hēsaias), with the rough breathing mark, occurs in modern editions of the works of Josephus. In our reconstruction we have followed the spelling conventions of printed NT texts.
  • [204] In LXX Ησαιας is the equivalent of יְשַׁעְיָהוּ in 4 Kgdms. 19:2, 5, 6, 20; 20:1, 4, 8, 9, 11, 14, 16, 19; 2 Chr. 32:20, 32; Isa. 1:1; 2:1; 7:3; 13:1; 20:2, 3; 37:2, 5, 6, 21; 38:1, 4, 21; 39:3, 5, 8.
  • [205] See A. Cowley, ed. and trans., Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century B.C. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1923), no. 5, line 16 (ed. Cowley, 11); no. 8, line 33 (ed. Cowley, 23); no. 9, line 21 (ed. Cowley, 26).
  • [206] Note that in DSS, which often affected an archaic style, the shortened form of Isaiah’s name is used even when quoting a biblical verse that has the long form of the name (3QpIsa [3Q4] 1 I, 1; cf. Isa. 1:1).
  • [207] See Creed, 49; Knox, 2:5 n. 2; Bundy, 46 §1; Beare, Earliest, 38 §1; Fitzmyer, 1:452; Nolland, Luke, 1:138.
  • [208] On the use of LXX by the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua, see Yohanan the Immerser’s Question, Comment to L43.
  • [209] The Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua followed LXX, except in places where the Greek and Hebrew versions of a verse diverged from one another in a way that might obscure the meaning of the quotation as it was understood in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua.
  • [210] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:1447-1450.
  • [211] See Dos Santos, 181.
  • [212] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:222. Cf. Dos Santos, 185, where we learn that the LXX translators usually rendered קָרָא with καλεῖν (kalein, “to call”) and its compounds. But after these, βοᾶν is among the more common translations of קָרָא.
  • [213] See Plummer, Mark, 53; Abbott, Fourfold, 2:42.
  • [214] See David Flusser, “The Apocryphal Book of Ascensio Isaiae and the Dead Sea Sect” (Flusser, JOC, 3-20, esp. 9-10 n. 19); idem, Jesus, 37-38 n. 2.
  • [215] See Marshall, 137; Nolland, Luke, 1:138.
  • [216] In LXX πεδίον (pedion, “plain”) occurs as the translation of בִּקְעָה (biq‘āh, “valley,” “plain”) in Gen. 11:2; Deut. 8:7; Josh. 11:8, 17; 12:7; 2 Chr. 35:22; 2 Esd. 16:2; Ps. 103[104]:8; Amos 1:5; Zech. 12:11; Isa. 40:4; 41:18; 63:14; Ezek. 3:22, 23; 8:4; 37:1, 2.
  • [217] Cf. Bovon, 1:119 n. 9.
  • [218] Cf. Harnack, 40; LHNS, 10 §2.
  • [219] See Yohanan the Immerser Demands Repentance, Comment to L4.
  • [220] At other times, וְהִנֵּה + subject + יֹצֵא was translated as καὶ ἰδού + subject + ἐξῆλθεν (cf., e.g., Judg. 9:43; 1 Kgdms. 9:14).
  • [221] See Call of Levi, L28.
  • [222] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:439-440.
  • [223] See Dos Santos, 83.
  • [224] See Rainey-Notley, 350; Notley, In the Master’s Steps, 15. On the other hand, Lindsey believed that Mark’s reference to Judea and Jerusalem was picked up from Acts 26:20. See LOY Excursus: Catalog of Markan Stereotypes and Possible Markan Pick-ups, under the entry for Mark 1:5.
  • [225] On the translation of the toponym יְהוּדָה as Ιουδαία in LXX, see above, Comment to L17.
  • [226] According to Smith, in LXX Ιερουσαλήμ is best vocalized with a smooth breathing mark affixed to the initial letter, i.e., Ἰερουσαλήμ (Ierousalēm). See George Adam Smith, “The Name Jerusalem and its History,” in his Jerusalem: The Topography, Economics, and History from Earliest Times to A.D. 70 (2 vols.; London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1907-1908), 1:250-265, esp. 260. Cf. Hatch-Redpath, 3:81.
  • [227] On יְרוּשָׁלֵם as the more ancient pronunciation, see Smith, “The Name Jerusalem and its History,” 252.
  • [228] In Philo’s works the transliterated spelling Ἰερουσαλήμ occurs only once (Somn. 2:250), and in that context Philo took care to explain that Jerusalem is called Ἰερουσαλήμ “by the Hebrews” (ὑπὸ Ἑβραίων). The transliterated spelling Ἰερουσαλήμ never occurs in the writings of Josephus, although the form Ἰερουσαλήμη (Ierousalēmē) occurs once (Apion 1:179) in a quotation from the works of Clearchus of Soli (ca. 300 B.C.E.). In that quotation Clearchus comments on the awkwardness of the foreign name. Note that although the name is spelled with the rough breathing mark (Ἱερουσαλήμην) in the Loeb edition of Josephus, the smooth breathing is closer to the Hebrew pronunciation with which Clearchus seems to have been familiar. See Smith, “The Name Jerusalem and its History,” 260. On Clearchus and the quotation in Josephus, see Stern, 1:47-52.
  • [229] On the pseudo-etymology of the Hellenistic spelling Ἱεροσόλυμα, see Thackeray, 168; James A. Montgomery, “Paronomasias on the Name Jerusalem,” Journal of Biblical Literature 49:3 (1930): 227-282.
  • [230] While N-A gives the Hellenized spelling Ἱεροσόλυμα in Luke 13:22 and Luke 19:28, Codex Bezae has the Hebraic form Ἰερουσαλήμ in both verses. See Josep Rius-Camps, “The Spelling of Jerusalem in the Gospel of John: The Significance of Two Forms in Codex Bezae,” New Testament Studies 48.1 (2002): 84-94.
  • [231] See Dennis D. Sylva, “Ierosalēm and Hierosoluma in Luke-Acts,” Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der älteren Kirche 74.3-4 (1983): 207-221; J. M. Ross, “The Spelling of Jerusalem in Acts,” New Testament Studies 38.3 (1992): 474-476.
  • [232] Although the apostle Paul occasionally used the Hellenistic spelling Ἱεροσόλυμα (Gal. 1:17, 18; 2:1), the Hebraic spelling Ἰερουσαλήμ occurs with greater frequency in his writings (Rom. 15:19, 25, 26, 31; 1 Cor. 16:3; Gal. 4:25, 26). Thus we can assume that the Hebraic spelling would have been familiar to Luke’s audience, which makes Luke’s willingness to accept Ἰερουσαλήμ from his Hebraic-Greek sources (Anth. and FR) easier to understand.
  • [233] Cf. Harnack, 41; Catchpole, 75 n. 53.
  • [234] Note, however, that Codex Bezae contains a textual variant in Luke 3:7, according to which the people were not baptized ὑπ᾿ αὐτοῦ (“by him”) but ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ (enōpion avtou, “in front of him”), in other words, in John’s presence. Could ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ be the original reading in Luke 3:7 and ὑπ᾿ αὐτοῦ in Codex Vaticanus and other MSS be due to assimilation to the text of Matthew and Mark? Cf. Creed, 51; Jeremias, Theology, 51; Fitzmyer, 1:467. See the discussion in George E. Rice, The Alteration of Luke’s Tradition by the Textual Variants in Codex Bezae (Ph.D. dissertation, Case Western Reserve University, 1974), 46-49.
  • [235] See Lachs, 42.
  • [236] Note the absence of ὑπ᾿ αὐτοῦ (“by him”) in Luke 3:12 (Yohanan the Immerser’s Exhortations, L7) and Luke 3:21 (Yeshua’s Immersion, L2).
  • [237] On reconstructing ὁ βαπτιστής as הַמַּטְבִּיל, see Yohanan the Immerser’s Question, Comment to L21.
  • [238] Cf. LHNS, 10 §1.
  • [239] See Robert L. Lindsey, “Measuring the Disparity Between Matthew, Mark and Luke,” under the subheading “Further Proof of Mark’s Dependence on Luke”; idem, “From Luke to Mark to Matthew,” under the subheading “Mark’s Editorial Method: An Examination of Mark Chapter 1”; LHNS, 10 §1.
  • [240] See Bundy, 44 §1.
  • [241] See Catchpole, 74.
  • [242] Cf. Allen, 23-24; Bundy, 45 §1.
  • [243] See Bundy, 47 §1.
  • [244] Cf. Allen, 23; McNeile, 26.
  • [245] Edmondo Lupieri, “‘The Law and the Prophets Were Until John’: John the Baptist Between Jewish Halakhot and Christian History of Salvation,” Neotestamentica 35.1 (2001): 49-56, esp. 52.
  • [246] The Essene principle that an animal’s skin has the same ritual status as the animal’s flesh is stated in the Temple Scroll as follows:

    כי כטהרת בשרו כן יטהרו העורות

    For according to the purity of its flesh, so will be the purity of the skins. (11QTa [11Q19] XLVII, 15)

    However, as Qimron noted, this statement is made with respect to animal offerings. See Elisha Qimron, “The Chicken and the Dog and the Temple Scroll,” Tarbiz 54 (1995): 473-476 (in Hebrew; click here to read an English translation of Qimron’s article).
    The Essene prohibition against using the hides of impure animals is articulated in the following passage from the Halakhic Letter known as 4QMMT:

    ואפ על עור[ות ועצמות הבהמה הטמאה אין לעשות] [מן עצמותמה] ומן ע[ו]ר[ות]מה ידות כ[לים]

    And also concerning the sk[ins and bones of a non-kosher animal]: tools and ve[ssels] [are not to be made] [from their bones] or from their s[k]in[s]. (4QMMTd [4Q397] 1-2 I, 1-2)

    Pharisaic and Sadducean halachah permitted the use of the bones of impure animals in the making of vessels (cf. m. Yad. 4:6).

  • [247] As noted in Meier, Marginal, 2:48.
  • [248] Pace Guelich, 21.
  • [249] See Lindsey, HTGM, 79 n. 1.
  • [250] See James A. Kelhoffer, “Did John the Baptist Eat Like a Former Essene? Locust-Eating in the Ancient Near East and at Qumran,” Dead Sea Discoveries 11.3 (2004): 293-314, esp. 294.
  • [251] Allen, 23; McNeile, 26.
  • [252] For a critique of the view that John’s diet marks him as an Essene, see Kelhoffer, “Did John the Baptist Eat Like a Former Essene?” 293-314. The references to eating locusts in Let. Aris. §145 and Philo, Leg. 2:105 are commentaries on the Torah’s dietary commandments and do not necessarily reflect upon contemporary Hellenistic Jewish practice.
  • [253] See J. Rendel Harris, Fragments of the Commentary of Ephrem Syrus upon the Diatessaron (London: C. J. Clay and Sons, 1895), 17; F. I. Andersen, “The Diet of John the Baptist,” Abr-Nahrain 3 (1961-1962): 60-74, esp. 64.
  • [254] Quotation from France, Mark, 69; cf. Andersen, “The Diet of John the Baptist,” 64.
  • [255] In LXX ἀκρίς is more often the translation of אַרְבֶּה (’arbeh, “locust”) than of חָגָב (see Hatch-Redpath, 1:50-51), but it appears that in MH חָגָב became the more commonly used term for locust. In the Mishnah, for instance, אַרְבֶּה occurs only once, whereas חָגָב occurs over 20xx.
  • [256] Cf. Zohary, 63.
  • [257] See James A. Kelhoffer, “John the Baptist’s ‘Wild Honey’ and ‘Honey’ in Antiquity,” Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 45.1 (2005): 59-73.
  • [258] See Kelhoffer, “Did John the Baptist Eat Like a Former Essene?” 295.
  • [259] The Philo quotation reads:

    Εἰσὶ γὰρ αὐτῶν οἱ μὲν γεηπόνοι, τῶν περὶ σπορὰν καὶ φυτουργίαν ἐπιστήμονεσ, οἱ δ᾽ ἀγελάρχαι, παντοδαπῶν θρεμμάτων ἡγεμόνες・ ἔνιοι δὲ σμήνη μελιττῶν ἐπιτροπεύουσιν. Ἄλλοι δὲ δημιουργοὶ τῶν κατὰ τέχνας εἰσίν

    There are farmers among them [i.e., the Essenes—DNB and JNT] expert in the art of sowing and cultivation of plants, shepherds leading every sort of flock, and beekeepers. Others are craftsmen in divers trades. (Eusebius, Praep. ev. 8:11)

    Text according to E. H. Gifford, Evangelicae Praeparationis (4 vols.; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1903), 1:483. Translation according to Geza Vermes and Martin D. Goodman, The Essenes According to the Classical Sources (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1989), 26-27.

  • [260] Cf., e.g., Plummer, Mark, 53.
  • [261] Since eating that which grew of its own accord during a Sabbatical Year was permitted (cf. Exod. 23:11; Lev. 25:6-7), the prohibition against reaping סָפִיחַ apparently refers to harvesting the entire crop of spontaneous growth at once and placing it in storage for personal use. See Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus (3 vols.; Anchor Yale Bible; New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991-2001), 3:2160.
  • [262] See Lupieri, “‘The Law and the Prophets Were Until John’: John the Baptist Between Jewish Halakhot and Christian History of Salvation,” 54.
  • [263] According to Brownlee, “The fare of John the Baptist…represents that which grows by itself in nature, without cultivation or breeding.” See W. H. Brownlee, “John the Baptist in the New Light of Ancient Scrolls,” in The Scrolls and the New Testament (ed. Krister Stendahl; New York: Crossroad, 1992), 33-53, 252-256, esp. 33.
  • [264] Davies believed that John’s diet could be accounted for by the Baptist’s status as an Essene or former Essene who regarded his oath to abide by Essene practice, including the rejection of the food of non-members, as binding. See Stevan L. Davies, “John the Baptist and Essene Kashruth,” New Testament Studies 29.4 (1983): 569-571. We do not believe that there is sufficient evidence to prove that John the Baptist had ever been a member of the Essene sect; he may simply have belonged to a group that shared certain affinities with the Essenes. Therefore, we cannot assume that he had taken an oath to abstain from the food of non-Essenes.
  • [265] On τότε as an indicator of Matthean redaction, see Jesus and a Canaanite Woman, Comment to L22.
  • [266]
    A Voice Crying
    Luke’s Version Anthology’s Wording (Reconstructed)
    ἐν ἔτει δὲ πεντεκαιδεκάτῳ τῆς ἡγεμονίας Τιβερίου Καίσαρος ἡγεμονεύοντος Ποντίου Πειλάτου τῆς Ἰουδαίας καὶ τετραρχοῦντος τῆς Γαλειλαίας Ἡρῴδου Φιλίππου δὲ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ τετραρχοῦντος τῆς Ἰτουραίας καὶ Τραχωνείτιδος χώρας καὶ Λυσανίου τῆς Ἀβειληνῆς τετραρχοῦντος ἐπὶ ἀρχιερέως Ἅννα καὶ Καϊάφα ἐγένετο ῥῆμα θεοῦ ἐπὶ Ἰωάνην τὸν Ζαχαρίου υἱὸν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ καὶ ἦλθεν εἰς πᾶσαν περίχωρον τοῦ Ἰορδάνου κηρύσσων βάπτισμα μετανοίας εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν ὡς γέγραπται ἐν βιβλίῳ λόγων Ἠσαΐου τοῦ προφήτου φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ ἑτοιμάσατε τὴν ὁδὸν κυρίου εὐθείας ποιεῖτε τὰς τρίβους αὐτοῦ πᾶσα φάραγξ πληρωθήσεται καὶ πᾶν ὄρος καὶ βουνὸς ταπεινωθήσεται καὶ ἔσται τὰ σκολιὰ εἰς ἐυθεῖας καὶ αἱ τραχεῖαι εἰς ὁδοὺς λείας καὶ ὄψεται πᾶσα σὰρξ τὸ σωτήριον τοῦ θεοῦ ἔλεγεν οὖν τοῖς ἐκπορευομένοις ὄχλοις βαπτισθῆναι ὑπ᾿ αὐτοῦ ἐν ἔτει δὲ πεντεκαιδεκάτῳ τῆς ἡγεμονίας Τιβερίου Καίσαρος ἡγεμονεύοντος Ποντίου Πιλάτου τῆς Ἰουδαίας καὶ βασιλεύοντος Ἡρῴδου τῆς Γαλιλαίας καὶ βασιλεύοντος Φιλίππου τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ τῆς Ἰτουραίας καὶ Τραχωνίτιδος χώρας καὶ βασιλεύοντος Λυσανίου τῆς Ἀβιληνῆς ἐπὶ ἀρχιερέως Ἅννα καὶ Καϊάφα ἐγένετο ῥῆμα θεοῦ ἐπὶ Ἰωάννην τὸν Ζαχαρίου υἱὸν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ καὶ ἦλθεν εἰς πᾶσαν περίχωρον τοῦ Ἰορδάνου κηρύσσων βάπτισμα μετανοίας εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν ὡς γέγραπται ἐν βίβλῳ λόγων Ἠσαΐου τοῦ προφήτου φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ ἑτοιμάσατε τὴν ὁδὸν κυρίου [καὶ ἰδοὺ ὄχλοι πολλοὶ ἐκπορευόμενοι πρὸς αὐτὸν βαπτισθῆναι]
    Total Words: 122 Total Words: 80 [88]
    Total Words Identical to Anth.: 76 [77]  
    Percentage Identical to Anth.: 62.30 [63.11]%

  • [267]
    A Voice Crying
    Mark’s Version Anthology’s Wording (Reconstructed)
    ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ υἱοῦ θεοῦ καθὼς γέγραπται ἐν τῷ Ἠσαΐᾳ τῷ προφήτῃ ἰδοὺ ἀποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου πρὸ προσώπου σου ὃς κατασκευάσει τὴν ὁδόν σου φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ ἑτοιμάσατε τὴν ὁδὸν κυρίου εὐθείας ποιεῖτε τὰς τρίβους αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο Ἰωάνης ὁ βαπτίζων ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ κηρύσσων βάπτισμα μετανοίας εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν καὶ ἐξεπορεύετο πρὸς αὐτὸν πᾶσα ἡ Ἰουδαία χώρα καὶ οἱ Ἱεροσολυμεῖται πάντες καὶ ἐβαπτίζοντο ὑπ᾿ αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ Ἰορδάνῃ ποταμῷ ἐξομολογούμενοι τὰς ἁμαρτίας αὐτῶν καὶ ἦν ὁ Ἰωάνης ἐνδεδυμένος τρίχας καμήλου καὶ ζώνην δερματίνην περὶ τὴν ὀσφὺν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἔσθων ἀκρίδας καὶ μέλι ἄγριον ἐν ἔτει δὲ πεντεκαιδεκάτῳ τῆς ἡγεμονίας Τιβερίου Καίσαρος ἡγεμονεύοντος Ποντίου Πιλάτου τῆς Ἰουδαίας καὶ βασιλεύοντος Ἡρῴδου τῆς Γαλιλαίας καὶ βασιλεύοντος Φιλίππου τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ τῆς Ἰτουραίας καὶ Τραχωνίτιδος χώρας καὶ βασιλεύοντος Λυσανίου τῆς Ἀβιληνῆς ἐπὶ ἀρχιερέως Ἅννα καὶ Καϊάφα ἐγένετο ῥῆμα θεοῦ ἐπὶ Ἰωάννην τὸν Ζαχαρίου υἱὸν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ καὶ ἦλθεν εἰς πᾶσαν περίχωρον τοῦ Ἰορδάνου κηρύσσων βάπτισμα μετανοίας εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν ὡς γέγραπται ἐν βίβλῳ λόγων Ἠσαΐου τοῦ προφήτου φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ ἑτοιμάσατε τὴν ὁδὸν κυρίου [καὶ ἰδοὺ ὄχλοι πολλοὶ ἐκπορευόμενοι πρὸς αὐτὸν βαπτισθῆναι]
    Total Words: 98 Total Words: 80 [88]
    Total Words Identical to Anth.: 21 [24]  
    Percentage Identical to Anth.: 21.43 [24.50]%

  • [268] Cf. Bundy, 44 §1.
  • [269]
    A Voice Crying
    Matthew’s Version Anthology’s Wording (Reconstructed)
    ἐν δὲ ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις παραγείνεται Ἰωάνης ὁ βαπτιστὴς κηρύσσων ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ τῆς Ἰουδαίας λέγων ἤγγικεν γὰρ ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν οὗτος γάρ ἐστιν ὁ ῥηθεὶς διὰ Ἠσαΐου τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ ἑτοιμάσατε τὴν ὁδὸν κυρίου εὐθείας ποιεῖτε τὰς τρίβους αὐτοῦ αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ Ἰωάνης εἶχεν τὸ ἔνδυμα αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τριχῶν καμήλου καὶ ζώνην δερματίνην περὶ τὴν ὀσφὺν αὐτοῦ ἡ δὲ τροφὴ ἦν αὐτοῦ ἀκρίδες καὶ μέλι ἄγριον τότε ἐξεπορεύετο πρὸς αὐτὸν Ἱεροσόλυμα καὶ πᾶσα ἡ Ἰουδαία καὶ πᾶσα ἡ περίχωρος τοῦ Ἰορδάνου καὶ ἐβαπτίζοντο ἐν τῷ Ἰορδάνῃ ποταμῷ ὑπ᾿ αὐτοῦ ἐξομολογούμενοι τὰς ἁμαρτίας αὐτῶν ἐν ἔτει δὲ πεντεκαιδεκάτῳ τῆς ἡγεμονίας Τιβερίου Καίσαρος ἡγεμονεύοντος Ποντίου Πιλάτου τῆς Ἰουδαίας καὶ βασιλεύοντος Ἡρῴδου τῆς Γαλιλαίας καὶ βασιλεύοντος Φιλίππου τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ τῆς Ἰτουραίας καὶ Τραχωνίτιδος χώρας καὶ βασιλεύοντος Λυσανίου τῆς Ἀβιληνῆς ἐπὶ ἀρχιερέως Ἅννα καὶ Καϊάφα ἐγένετο ῥῆμα θεοῦ ἐπὶ Ἰωάννην τὸν Ζαχαρίου υἱὸν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ καὶ ἦλθεν εἰς πᾶσαν περίχωρον τοῦ Ἰορδάνου κηρύσσων βάπτισμα μετανοίας εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν ὡς γέγραπται ἐν βίβλῳ λόγων Ἠσαΐου τοῦ προφήτου φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ ἑτοιμάσατε τὴν ὁδὸν κυρίου [καὶ ἰδοὺ ὄχλοι πολλοὶ ἐκπορευόμενοι πρὸς αὐτὸν βαπτισθῆναι]
    Total Words: 100 Total Words: 80 [88]
    Total Words Identical to Anth.: 20 [22]  
    Percentage Identical to Anth.: 20.00 [22.00]%

  • [270] Lichtenberger (“The Dead Sea Scrolls and John the Baptist,” 340) pointed to John’s general summons to all Israel to repent as evidence that John the Baptist could not have been an Essene, at least not at the time that he proclaimed his baptism.
  • [271] On the ideological-religious spectrum current in first-century Israel, see Joshua N. Tilton, “Locating Jesus’ Place on the Political-Ideological Spectrum of Second Temple Jewish Society,” WholeStones.org.
  • [272] See Manson, Sayings, 41; H. H. Rowley, “Jewish Proselyte Baptism and the Baptism of John,” Hebrew Union College Annual 15 (1940): 313-334; Boring-Berger-Colpe, 194; Witherington, 109; France, Matt., 108.
  • [273] See Brownlee, “John the Baptist in the New Light of Ancient Scrolls,” 36-41.
  • [274] Cf., e.g., J. Green, 164; France, Mark, 68-69.
  • [275] Cf., e.g., Guelich, 17-18.
  • [276] See John A. T. Robinson, “The Baptism of John and the Qumran Community: Testing a Hypothesis,” in his Twelve New Testament Studies (London: SCM Press, 1962), 11-27, esp. 17; Albright-Mann, 26; Fitzmyer, 1:453-454; Meier, Marginal, 2:51. Nevertheless, Meier argued that the one-time character of John’s baptism should be inferred from the facts that 1) John’s baptism had to be administered by the Baptist, with the result that repeated immersions were at least highly inconvenient, and 2) John’s acute eschatology left no time for repeat immersions.
  • [277] See Rowley, “Jewish Proselyte Baptism and the Baptism of John,” 322.
  • [278] Although Josephus mentions the conversion of certain individuals to Judaism which took place during the Second Temple period, he does not indicate that immersion was part of the conversion process. Does his silence imply that proselyte immersion did not exist or that it was not observed by these converts, or did Josephus simply take proselyte immersion for granted? The Mishnah refers to a debate between the schools of Hillel and Shammai over proselyte immersion (m. Edu. 5:2), which suggests that, at least within Pharisaic Judaism, proselyte immersion was observed prior to the destruction of the Temple, but how much prior is uncertain.
    On the paucity of early attestations to proselyte immersion in Jewish sources, see Shaye Cohen, “Conversion to Judaism in Historical Perspective: From Biblical Israel to Postbiblical Judaism,” Conservative Judaism 36.4 (1983): 31-45, esp. 37-38. For arguments in favor of a pre-70 C.E. date for proselyte immersion, see Rowley, “Jewish Proselyte Baptism and the Baptism of John,” 316-320; Sandt-Flusser, 277-278.
  • [279] While DSS indicate that the Essenes did allow גֵּרִים (gērim, “strangers,” “sojourners”) to join their sect, DSS also indicate that these persons who adopted the Jewish religion remained Gentiles. From the Essenes’ priestly point of view, neither a person’s religious convictions nor a rite of initiation (circumcision, immersion) could change the facts of his or her birth. Accordingly, we do not hear about rites of conversion such as circumcision or immersion in DSS. On differing attitudes toward conversion in Second Temple Judaism, see Daniel R. Schwartz, “Yannai and Pella, Josephus and Circumcision,” Dead Sea Discoveries 18 (2011): 339-359; idem, “Ends Meet: Qumran and Paul on Circumcision,” in The Dead Sea Scrolls and Pauline Literature (ed. Jean-Sébastien Rey; Leiden: Brill, 2014), 295-307.
  • [280] If John did not believe in the possibility of conversion, then it goes without saying that his baptism did not—pace Hagner (1:49), Keener (121), Witherington (109), France (Matt., 109) et al.—imply that his fellow Jews were no better than Gentiles. See Robinson, “The Baptism of John and the Qumran Community: Testing a Hypothesis,” 19; Sandt-Flusser, 275.
  • [281] This view is vigorously rejected by Rowley (“The Baptism of John and the Qumran Sect,” 218-229). Cf. Adela Yarbro Collins, “The Origin of Christian Baptism,” Studia Liturgica 19.1 (1989): 28-46, esp. 31-32; Kazen, 239-243.
  • David N. Bivin

    David N. Bivin
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    David N. Bivin is founder and editor of Jerusalem Perspective. A native of Cleveland, Oklahoma, U.S.A., Bivin has lived in Israel since 1963, when he came to Jerusalem on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship to do postgraduate work at the Hebrew University. He studied at the Hebrew…
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    Joshua N. Tilton

    Joshua N. Tilton

    Joshua N. Tilton grew up in St. George, a small town on the coast of Maine. For his undergraduate degree he studied at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, where he earned a B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies (2002). There he studied Biblical Hebrew and…
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