Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse

& LOY Commentary 8 Comments

John the Baptist anticipated the coming of an Elijah-like priestly messiah who would purify the Temple on an eschatological Day of Atonement.

Matt. 3:11-12; Mark 1:7-8; Luke 3:15-17

(Huck 4; Aland 16; Crook 19)[1]

Revised: 5-August-2020

וַיַּחְשְׁבוּ הָאֻכְלוּסִים בְּלִבָּם יוֹחָנָן הוּא הַמָּשִׁיחַ וַיַּעַן יוֹחָנָן אוֹתָם לֵאמֹר אֲנִי מַטְבִּיל אֶתְכֶם בַּמַּיִם וַהֲרֵי בָּא אַחֲרַי מִי שֶׁאֵינִי רָאוּי לְהַתִּיר לוֹ רְצוּעַת מִנְעָלָיו הוּא יַטְבִּיל אֶתְכֶם בָּרוּחַ וּבָאֵשׁ מִי שֶׁהָרַחַת בְּיָדוֹ וִיטַהֵר אֶת גּוֹרְנוֹ וְיַכְנִיס אֶת הַחִטִּים לְאוֹצָרוֹ וְהַקַּשׁ יִשְׂרֹף בְּאֵשׁ תָּמִיד

The people in the crowds were thinking, “Yohanan the Immerser must be the messianic priest!”

But Yohanan replied, “Whereas I immerse you in water, someone is coming for whom I’m unworthy even to undo his sandal straps. When he comes he will immerse you in wind and fire. Already this someone has his winnowing shovel in his hand, and he intends to purify his threshing floor. The wheat he will store in his storeroom, but the stubble that remains on the threshing floor he will burn in the flames of the altar.”[2]

.

.

.

.

Reconstruction

To view the reconstructed text of Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse, click on the link below:

Download (PDF, 173KB)

Story Placement

Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse is the only specimen of direct speech attributed to John the Baptist in the Gospel of Mark. As a result, in Mark’s Gospel the only statement the Baptist is permitted to make is that his own water immersions are about to be supplanted by a Mightier One who will immerse his audience in the Holy Spirit. Clearly, the author of Mark offers a distorted picture of the Baptist’s message, for had John solely proclaimed the coming of a Mightier One with a better baptism than his own, there would have been no reason to receive John’s immersion. Thus, the Lukan and Matthean inclusion of Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse within a larger cluster of the Baptist’s sayings is inherently more probable than the placement of this pericope as an isolated saying in the Gospel of Mark.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse is presented as though it were the continuation of John’s condemnation of the Pharisees and Sadducees (cf. Matt. 3:7). This placement has the jarring result that the Pharisees and Sadducees are thereby included among those whom John claims to have baptized (“I am baptizing you”; Matt. 3:11).[3] If the Pharisees and Sadducees had been willing participants in John’s water immersions, we must ask what cause the Baptist had for castigating them. The best explanation is that the audience against which Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse is directed in Matthew is unrealistic, and undoubtedly due to the author of Matthew’s tendentious insertion of the Pharisees and Sadducees into the introduction of his version of Yohanan the Immerser Demands Repentance.[4]

The placement of Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse in Luke’s Gospel, by contrast, makes good sense. There it forms part of John’s address to the crowds, coming in response to their speculations about the Baptist’s role in the divine economy. Moreover, we have found that the author of Luke, throughout his third chapter, followed the order of pericopae as they appeared in his source, the Anthology (Anth.). We have, accordingly, accepted Luke’s pericope order in our reconstruction of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua.

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

Conjectured Stages of Transmission

Despite evidence of a fair amount of redactional activity in the opening verse of Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse (Luke 3:15), the numerous Lukan-Matthean minor agreements against Mark in this pericope, as well as the overall ease with which Luke’s version reverts to Hebrew, suggest that the author of Luke copied Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse from his Hebraic-Greek source, Anth.[5]

The author of Mark based his version of Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse on Luke’s, making characteristic changes such as inversion of word and sentence order, addition of colorful detail, and (counterintuitively) omission of entire statements.

The author of Matthew combined the short Markan form with the fuller Anth. account to produce his version of Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse.[6]

Versions of John the Baptist’s sayings contained in Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse are also included in Acts and the Gospel of John.[7] In the opening chapter of Acts the risen Jesus is reported as saying:

Ἰωάννης μὲν ἐβάπτισεν ὕδατι, ὑμεῖς δὲ ἐν πνεύματι βαπτισθήσεσθε ἁγίῳ οὐ μετὰ πολλὰς ταύτας ἡμέρας

John immersed in water, but in a few days you will be immersed in a holy spirit. (Acts 1:5)

It should be noted that Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit merely alludes to John the Baptist’s saying, it is not a direct quotation,[8] and there is no reason to suppose that the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise as described in Acts 2 bears a direct relationship to what John the Baptist had in mind when he contrasted his water immersions with the immersion to be administered by the Someone coming after him. Indeed, it is characteristic of Jesus to put a new twist on a concept he inherited from others.

Elsewhere in Acts we find Paul quoting John the Baptist:

ὡς δὲ ἐπλήρου Ἰωάννης τὸν δρόμον, ἔλεγεν· τί ἐμὲ ὑπονοεῖτε εἶναι; οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐγώ· ἀλλ᾿ ἰδοὺ ἔρχεται μετ᾿ ἐμὲ οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἄξιος τὸ ὑπόδημα τῶν ποδῶν λῦσαι

But as John was completing his race, he was saying, “What do you think I am? It is not I. But, behold, one is coming after me, the shoe of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.” (Acts 13:25)

Bovon suggested that the fact that parts of Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse were quoted on separate occasions in Acts is evidence that the sayings originally had an independent existence, and that it was only at a later stage that these sayings attributed to the Baptist were combined into a single discourse unit.[9] But it is the universal practice of orators to cite only the parts of a well-known quotation that serve her or his purpose, even when doing so substantially changes the quotation’s original meaning and/or ignores its original context. Therefore, we do not find Bovon’s opinion that different parts of Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse were quoted on separate occasions to be convincing.

In the Gospel of John the Baptist is quoted as saying:

ἐγὼ βαπτίζω ἐν ὕδατι· μέσος ὑμῶν ἕστηκεν ὃν ὑμεῖς οὐκ οἴδατε, ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος, οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ [ἐγὼ] ἄξιος ἵνα λύσω αὐτοῦ τὸν ἱμάντα τοῦ ὑποδήματος

I immerse in water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one coming after me, the strap of whose shoe I am not worthy to untie. (John 1:26-27)

The form of the Baptist’s saying preserved in the Fourth Gospel is a secondary reworking of an earlier version. This is evident from the fact that John’s assertion “I immerse in water” serves no purpose in its Johannine context; it neither answers the question posed in John 1:25 (“Why, then, do you immerse if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”) nor distinguishes the Baptist from the one coming after him, since this coming one is not said to administer an immersion of any kind.[10] We believe that Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse, especially in its Lukan and Matthean versions, preserves the earliest and most accurate form of John the Baptist’s prophecy of the Someone coming after him.

Crucial Issues

  1. What was the identity of the figure who would administer the baptism greater than John’s?
  2. What was the nature of the baptism the eschatological figure would administer?

Comment

L1-5 Although the Greek of Luke 3:15 resists retroversion to Hebrew, we believe it is more likely that the author of Luke reworked the introduction to Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse than that he created it ex nihilo.[11] First, having determined that Yohanan the Immerser’s Exhortations (Luke 3:10-14) derived from Anth., some kind of transition introducing Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse would have been necessary. Otherwise, the Baptist’s prophecy of Someone coming after him would have lacked a context. Second, despite evidence of Greek polishing in Luke 3:15, this verse also contains the Hebraic phrase “thinking in their hearts,” which suggests that behind Luke’s introduction there stood a Hebrew original.

The people’s hesitant speculation, “Perhaps he might be the Messiah,” expressed in difficult-to-reconstruct-Greek, may hint at the reason the author of Luke decided to rework the introduction to Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse. The Anthology may have contained what the author of Luke deemed to be too strong an affirmation of John the Baptist’s messianic status. Anth.’s version may have simply quoted the crowds as thinking, “John: he’s the Messiah!”

In any case, the author of Luke’s reworking of the introduction to Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse is similar to his reworking of the transition between A Voice Crying and Yohanan the Immerser Demands Repentance (Luke 3:7).[12]

L1 προσδοκῶντος δὲ τοῦ λαοῦ (Luke 3:15). The use of the genitive absolute construction (“while the people were expecting”)[13] and the change in audience from “the crowds” (Luke 3:7, 10) to “the people” (Luke 3:15)[14] suggest that L1 is the product of Lukan redaction.[15] The disproportionately high frequency of the verb προσδοκᾶν (prosdokan, “to expect,” “to wait”) in the writings of Luke compared to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark points in the same direction.[16] Since the main idea of Luke 3:15 can be expressed in Hebrew without reconstructing L1, we have omitted it from GR and HR.

L2 καὶ διελογίσαντο οἱ ὄχλοι (GR). While Luke’s genitive absolute construction (“while everyone was conversing”) is likely redactional, the combination of διαλογίζεσθαι (dialogizesthai, “to consider,” “to converse”) with “in their hearts” (L3) could easily have been adopted from Luke’s source (Anth.),[17] since “thinking in the heart” is a common Hebrew idiom (see below, Comment to L3).[18] Perhaps instead of Luke’s genitive absolute a simple καί + aorist construction stood in Anth. Likewise, instead of “the people” or “everyone” as the subject, perhaps Anth. referred once more to “the crowds.” On the basis of these speculations we have adopted καὶ διελογίσαντο οἱ ὄχλοι (“and the crowds conversed”) for GR in L2.

וַיַּחְשְׁבוּ הָאֻכְלוּסִים (HR). In LXX the verb διαλογίζεσθαι is not particularly common, but where it does occur it usually appears as the translation of חָשַׁב (ḥāshav, “think,” “consider”).[19] Instances of חָשַׁב in MT were more frequently rendered with λογίζεσθαι (logizesthai, “to reckon,” “to think”) than with the compound form διαλογίζεσθαι. Nevertheless, διαλογίζεσθαι is among the more common renderings of חָשַׁב in LXX.[20]

On reconstructing ὄχλος (ochlos, “crowd”) with אֻכְלוּס (’uchlūs, “crowd”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L4.

L3 ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις αὐτῶν (GR). We have accepted “in their hearts” for GR not only because this phrase easily reverts to Hebrew, but also because “to think in the heart” is a Hebraic expression, examples of which include:

וְאִישׁ אֶת רָעַת רֵעֵהוּ אַל תַּחְשְׁבוּ בִּלְבַבְכֶם

And each of you must not devise [תַּחְשְׁבוּ] the evil of his neighbor in your heart [בִּלְבַבְכֶם]. (Zech. 8:17; cf. Zech. 7:10)

καὶ ἕκαστος τὴν κακίαν τοῦ πλησίον αὐτοῦ μὴ λογίζεσθε ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν

…and do not devise [λογίζεσθε] evil in your hearts [ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν] each against his neighbor…. (Zech. 8:17; NETS; cf. Zech 7:10)

אֲשֶׁר חָשְׁבוּ רָעוֹת בְּלֵב

…who devised [חָשְׁבוּ] evil [things] in the heart [בְּלֵב]…. (Ps. 140:3)

οἵτινες ἐλογίσαντο ἀδικίας ἐν καρδίᾳ

…whoever considered [ἐλογίσαντο] wicked [things] in the heart [ἐν καρδίᾳ]…. (Ps. 139:3)

Bovon thought the author of Luke had a favorable view of the people’s speculations about John the Baptist’s messianic status,[21] but the considerable trouble the author of Luke appears to have taken to tone down their expectations suggests otherwise.

If Luke 3:15 is ultimately derived from a Hebrew source that read וַיַּחְשְׁבוּ…בְּלִבָּם (“and they considered…in their heart”), then, given the negative contexts in which חָשַׁב בְּלֵב occurs in the examples cited above,[22] it is probable that the Hebrew source behind Anth. regarded the people’s speculations in a decidedly unfavorable light.

בְּלִבָּם (HR). In LXX ἐν [ταῖς] καρδίαις αὐτῶν (en [tais] kardiais avtōn, “in their hearts”) occurs about as often as the translation of בִּלְבָבָם (bilvāvām, “in their heart”)[23] as of בְּלִבָּם (belibām, “in their heart”).[24] We have preferred the latter form for HR because whereas we find examples of בְּלִבָּם in tannaic sources (cf., e.g., m. Mid. 2:2; t. Sanh. 14:3), examples of בִּלְבָבָם occur only in biblical quotations. On reconstructing καρδία (kardia, “heart”) with לֵב (lēv, “heart”), see Four Soils interpretation, Comment to L32.

L4 Ἰωάννης (GR). We suspect that περὶ τοῦ Ἰωάνου (peri tou Iōanou, “concerning John”) reflects the author of Luke’s more delicate handling of the crowds’ speculations. In contrast to his roundabout wording, Luke’s source (Anth.) may simply have quoted the crowds as saying, “John: he’s the Messiah!”

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

L5 αὐτὸς ὁ χριστός ἐστιν (GR). Luke’s Greek in L5 is difficult to reconstruct in Hebrew, and the hesitant language he used (“Perhaps he might be the Messiah”) may be a reflection of his own discomfort with the sentiment the crowds expressed in his source. A statement such as αὐτὸς ὁ χριστός ἐστιν (avtos ho christos estin, “He is the Messiah”), which reverts neatly to Hebrew, could easily have been modified into Luke’s μήποτε αὐτὸς εἴη ὁ χριστός (mēpote avtos eiē ho christos, “Perhaps he might be the Messiah”).

הוּא הַמָּשִׁיחַ (HR). In LXX the adjective χριστός (christos, “anointed”) usually occurs as the translation of מָשִׁיחַ (māshiaḥ, “anointed”).[25] Likewise, most instances of מָשִׁיחַ in MT were translated χριστός in LXX.[26] The Fourth Gospel, too, equates μεσσίας (messias, “Messiah”), a hellenized form of מָשִׁיחַ, with χριστός (John 4:25).

In the Second Temple period there was no single concept of “the Messiah” as Christians think of it today. “The anointed one” might be an eschatological high priest, appointed to purify the Temple and properly institute the divine service according to the “correct” interpretation of the Torah. Or “the anointed one” might be an eschatological warrior-king who would restore the royal household of David and vanquish Israel’s foes. Some Second-Temple Jewish thinkers had a place for both a messianic priest and a messianic king in their eschatological schemes, while for others all that was important was that Israel be redeemed, no matter who accomplished it. Since John the Baptist was a priest by birth, if the crowds entertained speculations about his messianic status, then surely they envisioned him as a candidate for the eschatological high priest.[27]

L6 καὶ ἀπεκρίνατο Ἰωάννης (GR). Luke 3:16 does not open with a coordinating conjunction such as καί (kai, “and”) or δέ (de, “but”), but we would have expected Anth. to have some such equivalent for the vav attached to a vav-consecutive verb. Perhaps the author of Luke dropped the conjunction in his revision of Anth.’s wording. Our decision to prefer καί over δέ for GR has been guided by the parallel in Mark, which opens with καί and may reflect the wording of Anth.

Mark’s use of the verb κηρύσσειν (kērūssein, “to proclaim”) in L6 (Mark 1:7) harks back to the description of John the Baptist’s proclaiming (κηρύσσων) an immersion of repentance for the release of sins in A Voice Crying, L34 (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3). Since κηρύσσειν is not an appropriate verb for a response, Luke’s verb, ἀποκρίνειν (apokrinein, “to answer”), is more likely to reflect the wording of Anth.

Whether or not the form ἀπεκρίνατο (apekrinato, “he answered”)—a middle rather than the more usual passive form (viz., ἀπεκρίθη [apekrithē, “he answered”])—stood in Anth. is exceedingly difficult to decide. In LXX ἀπεκρίνατο occurs only 4xx (Exod. 19:19; Judg. 5:29; 1 Chr. 10:13; Ezek. 9:11), and in NT only 7xx (Matt. 27:12; Mark 14:61; Luke 3:16; 23:9; John 5:17, 19; Acts 3:12), so one might conclude from its rarity that its presence in Luke 3:15 is redactional. But by the same token we are forced to admit that the use of ἀπεκρίνατο is not typical of Lukan redactional style.[28] Perhaps, therefore, the author of Luke used the less usual form ἀπεκρίνατο because it appeared in his source. Neither form is more Hebraic than the other, as both forms can be reverted to Hebrew as עָנָה (‘ānāh, “answer”), so the criterion of ease of reconstruction cannot help us reach a decision. In the end, we preferred to retain ἀπεκρίνατο for GR on the basis of Luke’s generally conservative approach to his sources. Even when revising his source, he tended not to change any more of its original wording than necessary. Since the use of ἀπεκρίνατο instead of ἀπεκρίθη is not an improvement of Greek style, the author of Luke likely used the form ἀπεκρίνατο because he copied it from Anth.

Finally, for GR we have moved John’s name up from L8 to a more Hebraic position.

וַיַּעַן יוֹחָנָן אוֹתָם (HR). On reconstructing ἀποκρίνειν (apokrinein, “to answer”) with עָנָה (‘ānāh, “answer”), see Call of Levi, Comment to L56.

On reconstructing Ἰωάννης (Iōannēs, “John”) with יוֹחָנָן (yōḥānān, “John”), see above, Comment to L4.

We have added אוֹתָם (’ōtām, “them”) to HR based on our observation that in MT, when עָנָה is followed by לֵאמֹר, as in our reconstruction, לֵאמֹר is often preceded by the direct object marker:

וַיַּעֲנוּ בְנֵי חֵת אֶת־אַבְרָהָם לֵאמֹר לוֹ

And the sons of Het answered Abraham, saying to him…. (Gen. 23:5)

וַיַּעַן עֶפְרוֹן אֶת־אַבְרָהָם לֵאמֹר לוֹ

And Ephron answered Abraham, saying to him…. (Gen. 23:14)

וַיַּעַן יוֹסֵף אֶת־פַּרְעֹה לֵאמֹר

And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying…. (Gen. 41:16)

וַיַּעַן רְאוּבֵן אֹתָם לֵאמֹר

And Reuben answered them, saying…. (Gen. 42:22)

וַיַּעֲנוּ אֶת־יְהוֹשֻׁעַ לֵאמֹר

And they answered Joshua, saying…. (Josh. 1:16)

L7 לֵאמֹר (HR). On reconstructing a participial form of λέγειν (legein, “to say”) with the infinitive construct לֵאמֹר (lē’mor, “to say”), see Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L5-6.

L8 πᾶσιν ὁ Ἰωάνης (Luke 3:16). The reiteration of πᾶς (pas, “all”; cf. L2), the addition of the definite article to John’s name,[29] and the un-Hebraic word order are all probably due to Lukan redaction. We have therefore omitted L8 from GR. Just as the author of Luke was intent upon weakening the confident assertion that John the Baptist was the Messiah, so he endeavored to reinforce the Baptist’s denial to everyone of his messianic role.

L9 ἐγὼ μὲν βαπτίζω ὑμᾶς ὕδατι (GR). The Lukan-Matthean agreements against Mark confirm that their order—mentioning the medium of John’s immersion before his prophecy of Someone coming after him—is that of Anth. The author of Mark was far more interested in the Baptist’s prophecy, which he believed concerned Jesus, than he was about the rest of John’s message, which, for the most part, he omitted.

The Lukan-Matthean minor agreements also confirm that μέν (men, “on the one hand”) and the present tense βαπτίζω (baptizō, “I am immersing”) belonged to Anth.

Nevertheless, questions of word order remain. Luke placed the medium of immersion, ὕδατι (hūdati, “with water”), ahead of the verb and the object. His word order is un-Hebraic[30] and appears to have been motivated by a desire to emphasize the contrast between John’s water immersion and the spirit-and-fire immersion of the coming Someone.[31] We have therefore preferred to place the medium in its Hebraic position at the end of the clause, as indicated by Mark and Matthew.

Another word-order decision we face in L9 is where to place ὑμᾶς (hūmas, “you”), the object of John’s immersions. The position of ὑμᾶς after the verb in Luke and Mark is more Hebraic than its position in Matthew,[32] but in L22 Luke and Matthew agree to write ὑμᾶς βαπτίσει (hūmas baptisei, “you he will immerse”) against Mark’s βαπτίσει ὑμᾶς (baptisei hūmas, “he will immerse you”), which strongly suggests that, at least in L22, and therefore possibly also in L9, Anth. had the order object→verb.

We are thus faced with a question of probability. Did the author of Luke move ὑμᾶς from its position in Anth., thereby accidentally achieving a more Hebraic word order, which was subsequently followed by Mark? Or did the author of Matthew move ὑμᾶς from its position in Anth. so that ὑμᾶς would appear in the same position in both L9 and L22 (i.e., before the verb)? Since it is difficult to understand why the author of Luke would have made such an arbitrary change to Anth.’s word order, while the explanation that Matthew made the change in order to produce better symmetry between the two parts of the Baptist’s saying is a reasonable conjecture,[33] we have accepted the Lukan-Markan placement of ὑμᾶς for GR.[34]

Hagia Sophia Deesis mosaic (1)

John the Baptist as depicted in a mosaic at the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Finally, with respect to GR in L9, there is the question of whether the ἐν (en, “in”) that the author of Matthew affixed to ὕδατι is a reflection of Anth. or whether he added the preposition to create symmetry with L23, which includes ἐν. Certainly the inclusion of ἐν is more Hebraic, since it corresponds to -בְּ, which is necessary in HR, but in this case the probability of accidentally adopting a more Hebraic reading seems evenly balanced with the likelihood that the author of Matthew added ἐν for the sake of symmetry.[35] Jesus’ allusion to John’s saying in Acts 1:5 (cf. Acts 11:16) omits the ἐν before ὕδατι, but since we believe that Jesus’ prophecy of immersion in the Holy Spirit influenced the wording of the synoptic versions of Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse (see below, Comment to L23), appealing to Acts 1:5 is less than decisive. In the end, we have decided to omit ἐν from GR. Having caught the author of Matthew in the act of creating symmetry once in L9, it is reasonable to attribute the presence of ἐν to the same cause.

Naaman immerses in the Jordan River. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

אֲנִי מַטְבִּיל אֶתְכֶם בַּמַּיִם (HR). In LXX βαπτίζειν (baptizein, “to immerse”) occurs as the translation of טָבַל (ṭāval, “immerse”) in the story of Naaman’s immersing himself in the Jordan (4 Kgdms. 5:14). In MH the transitive sense (i.e., the immersion of objects and overseeing the immersion of other persons) was typically expressed with the root ט-ב-ל in the hif‘il stem.[36] Since overseeing immersions was precisely what earned John the Baptist his title, reconstructing with the hif‘il participle מַטְבִּיל (maṭbil, “immersing”) is the optimal choice for HR.[37]

In LXX, where ὕδωρ (hūdōr, “water”) occurs frequently, it nearly always translates מַיִם (mayim, “water”) in the underlying Hebrew text.[38] Despite a surprising variety of renderings, the overwhelming majority of instances of מַיִם in MT were rendered ὕδωρ in LXX.[39] We have reconstructed the anarthrous ὕδατι (“in/with water”) with the definite בַּמַּיִם (bamayim, “in the water”) in accordance with Hebrew preference. Several times in LXX בַּמַּיִם was translated with the indefinite phrase [ἐν] ὕδατι ([en] hūdati, “in water”; cf., e.g., Exod. 12:9; 29:4; 40:12; Lev. 1:9, 13; 6:21; 8:6, 21; 14:8, 9; 15:5).

John’s medium for immersion—water—may offer a clue as to the Baptist’s self-understanding. Whereas others may have speculated that John was Elijah returned (cf. John 1:21),[40] John likely saw his role as preparing the way for Elijah’s coming.[41] According to one interpretation of the prophecies of Malachi, Elijah would return to the Temple (Mal. 3:1) to deal with an erring priesthood.[42] Elijah would come in fiery awesomeness (Mal. 3:2) to refine the sons of Levi, bring judgment upon evildoers (Mal. 3:5), and reinstitute the divine service according to the Torah’s precepts (Mal. 3:4).[43] If one were to ask when this purification of the priesthood and reinstitution of the proper rites of the divine service would take place, a likely answer would be the Day of Atonement, since on this day the Temple underwent an annual purification from the impurity of sin.

This picture of Elijah’s eschatological return accords well with John’s baptism of repentance for the release of (the debt of) sins, which seems to be based on a Sabbatical or Jubilee Year proclamation of amnesty that would become effective on the eschatological Day of Atonement (see A Voice Crying, Comment to L36).

Elijah slays the priests of Baal. Statue on the summit of Mount Carmel. Photograph courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.

Especially in view of his prophecy of Someone who would purify the threshing floor—likely a cipher for the Temple (see below, Comment to L28)—it appears that John’s immersions in water were a preparation for the fiery purification of the Temple and the priesthood (and evidently the rest of Israel as well), which Elijah would administer when he returned. As Robinson noted, water was not a medium in which Elijah operated: “As on Carmel, Elijah was the one to appear on the scene when Israel (symbolized deliberately in the twelve stones out of which the altar was made) had already been drenched with water: then he [i.e., Elijah—DNB and JNT] would come near and call down fire from the Lord (I Kings 18.30-9).”[44] In other words, just as lowly servants had doused the twelve stones representing Israel ahead of Elijah’s fiery vindication of the true form of worship, so John the Baptist was a lowly servant, immersing Israel in water ahead of its fiery ordeal at the hands of the same incendiary prophet.[45] The water immersions John administered were the only means by which Israel would survive Elijah’s imminent fiery judgment.

L10 εἰς μετάνοιαν (Matt. 3:11). We agree with those scholars who regard “for repentance” as a Matthean addition.[46] Harnack argued that it is difficult to imagine the author of Matthew adding “for repentance” on his own initiative, since he only used the term μετάνοια (metanoia, “repentance”) on one other occasion (Matt. 3:8), and then only because it occurred in his source, as proven by the parallel in Luke 3:8.[47] Catchpole, on the other hand, argued that it is even more difficult to imagine the author of Luke rejecting εἰς μετάνοιαν had it occurred in his source, since he used this very phrase elsewhere in his Gospel (Luke 5:32), and the noun μετάνοια occurs with much greater frequency in Luke (5xx) compared to Mark (1x) and Matthew (2xx), indicating that repentance was a subject dear to the author of Luke’s heart.[48]

We suspect that the addition of εἰς μετάνοιαν (eis metanoian, “for repentance”) in L10 is symptomatic of the author of Matthew’s aversion to the notion that John’s immersions were εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν (eis afesin hamartiōn, “for the release of sins”; Mark 1:4 // Luke 3:3).[49] For the author of Matthew, only Jesus’ blood was effective εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν (“for the release of sins”; Matt. 26:28).

L11 ὁ δὲ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος (Matt. 3:11). Matthew’s word order in L11 is un-Hebraic,[50] and it appears as though the author of Matthew attempted to reformulate “the One mightier than I is coming behind me” into a title (“the One Coming Behind Me”) in anticipation of John the Baptist’s question, “Are you the Coming One?” (Matt. 11:3; Luke 7:19, 20).[51] It is unlikely, therefore, that Matthew’s wording is identical to Anth.’s.[52]

ἔρχεται δὲ (GR). Since Luke and Matthew agree against Mark to utilize a μέν…δέ (men…de, “on the one hand…on the other hand”) construction in L9-11, there can be little doubt that this construction was found in Anth. We have accordingly accepted Luke’s δέ (de, “but”) in L11 for GR.

וַהֲרֵי בָּא (HR). Reconstructing ἔρχεται δέ (erchetai de, “but is coming”) as וּבָא (ūvā’, “and is coming”) might be more straightforward,[53] but -וְ (ve, “and”) hardly expresses the dramatic contrast that John implied existed between himself and the coming Someone. Sometimes the LXX translators rendered וְהִנֵּה (vehinēh) simply with the conjunction καί (“and”) or δέ (“but”) without any equivalent corresponding to הִנֵּה (“behold”), as we see in the following examples:

וְהִנֵּה יי נִצָּב עָלָיו

And behold [וְהִנֵּה]! The LORD stood above it…. (Gen. 28:13)

ὁ δὲ κύριος ἐπεστήρικτο ἐπ᾿ αὐτῆς

And [δὲ] the Lord leaned on it…. (Gen. 28:13; NETS)

וְהִנֵּה שֶׁבַע פָּרוֹת אֲחֵרוֹת עֹלוֹת אַחֲרֵיהֶן מִן הַיְאֹר

And behold [וְהִנֵּה]! Seven other cows are coming up after them from the Nile…. (Gen. 41:3)

ἄλλαι δὲ ἑπτὰ βόες ἀνέβαινον μετὰ ταύτας ἐκ τοῦ ποταμοῦ

But [δὲ] seven other cows were coming up after these from the river…. (Gen. 41:3)

וְהִנֵּה שֶׁבַע שִׁבֳּלִים דַּקּוֹת וּשְׁדוּפֹת קָדִים צֹמְחוֹת אַחֲרֵיהֶן

And behold [וְהִנֵּה]! Seven heads of grain, scrawny and scorched by the east wind, are growing up after them. (Gen. 41:6)

ἄλλοι δὲ ἑπτὰ στάχυες λεπτοὶ καὶ ἀνεμόφθοροι ἀνεφύοντο μετ᾿ αὐτούς

But [δὲ] seven other heads of grain, scrawny and wind-blasted, were growing up after them. (Gen. 41:6)

וְהִנֵּה מִצְרַיִם נֹסֵעַ אַחֲרֵיהֶם

And behold [וְהִנֵּה]! Egyptians are marching behind them! (Exod. 14:10)

καὶ οἱ Αἰγύπτιοι ἐστρατοπέδευσαν ὀπίσω αὐτῶν

…and [καὶ] the Egyptians encamped behind them…. (Exod. 14:10; NETS)

וְהִנֵּה שְׁמוּאֵל בָּא

And behold [וְהִנֵּה]! Samuel is coming! (1 Sam. 13:10)

καὶ Σαμουηλ παραγίνεται

…and [καὶ] Samuel comes along…. (1 Kgdms. 13:10)

Lindsey noted that ἰδοῦ (idou, “behold”) does occur in the form of the Baptist’s saying quoted in Acts 13:25 (see above, Conjectured Stages of Transmission).[54] The interjection ἰδοῦ cannot have occurred in Anth., since there is no place for it to fit within the μέν…δέ construction, but perhaps the version in Acts 13:25 reflects an independent witness to the Hebrew version of John’s saying.[55]

Instead of הִנֵּה we have adopted הֲרֵי (ha, “behold”), which in MH took the place of הִנֵּה. Since L11 reflects direct speech, it seems more natural to use הֲרֵי in our reconstruction than the archaic-sounding הִנֵּה.

L12 ὁ ἰσχυρότερός μου (Luke 3:16). The possibility that Acts 13:25 preserves an independent witness to the Hebrew version of John the Baptist’s saying opened our eyes to the fact that an equivalent to ἰσχυρότερός μου (ischūroteros mou, “mightier than I”) is conspicuously absent from the Acts version of the Baptist’s saying. “Mightier than I” is absent in the Johannine version as well (see above, Conjectured Stages of Transmission). Conversely, something corresponding to “after me” is present in the Acts version of the Baptist’s saying (Acts 13:25; cf. Acts 19:4), but absent in Luke 3:16. Perhaps, therefore, ἰσχυρότερός μου (“mightier than I”) is simply the author of Luke’s substitute for Anth.’s ὀπίσω μου (opisō mou, “after me”). The author of Luke may have disliked the connotation of ἔρχεται ὀπίσω μου (“he is coming behind me”),[56] since elsewhere in his Gospel ἔρχεσθαι ὀπίσω μου (“to come behind me”) is synonymous with “to be my [i.e., Jesus’] disciple” (Luke 9:23; 14:27).[57] Replacing “after me” with “mightier than I” enabled the author of Luke to avoid suggesting that Jesus was John’s disciple and to more accurately (in his view) describe the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus.

L13 ὀπίσω μου (GR). If we are correct in supposing that “mightier than I” is Luke’s substitute for “after me,” then it appears that the author of Mark simply combined the two phrases he saw in his sources: ἰσχυρότερός μου from Luke and ὀπίσω μου from Anth. The author of Matthew inherited the combination from Mark, but rearranged the wording in order to speak of a Coming One instead of a Mightier One.

As we noted in Comment to L12, the Acts version of John the Baptist’s saying, which occurs in a speech delivered by Paul, has something corresponding to “after me,” namely μετ᾿ ἐμὲ (met eme, “after me”; Acts 13:25). Another Pauline speech in Acts alludes to John the Baptist’s saying, and it, too, includes something corresponding to “after me”:

Ἰωάννης ἐβάπτισεν βάπτισμα μετανοίας τῷ λαῷ λέγων εἰς τὸν ἐρχόμενον μετ᾿ αὐτὸν ἵνα πιστεύσωσιν, τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν εἰς τὸν Ἰησοῦν

John immersed with an immersion of repentance, speaking to the people that they might believe in the one coming after him [μετ᾿ αὐτὸν], namely in Jesus. (Acts 19:4)

The Johannine version of the Baptist’s saying, like Mark and Matthew, has ὀπίσω μου (John 1:27).

אַחֲרַי (HR). On reconstructing ὀπίσω μου (opisō mou, “after me”) with אַחֲרַי (’aḥarai, “after me”), see Demands of Discipleship, Comment to L24-25.

L14 ἐστιν (Matt. 3:11). The presence of the verb εἶναι (einai, “to be”) in L14 is due to the author of Matthew’s transformation of Mark’s “the One Mightier Than I is coming after me” into “the One Coming After Me is mightier than I” (see above, Comment to L11).

A first-century C.E. sandal discovered in the Northern Palace at Masada. Photographed at the Israel Museum by Joshua N. Tilton.

L15 οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς (GR). All three synoptic versions of Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse, as well as the Acts and Johannine versions of the Baptist’s saying, include the notice about John’s unworthiness to perform menial tasks for the Someone whose coming he announces. There can be little doubt, therefore, that John’s unworthiness belonged to the original form of the saying, and since all three synoptic writers are agreed on the wording, we have accepted their testimony for GR.

מִי שֶׁאֵינִי רָאוּי (HR). Elsewhere in LOY -מִי שֶׁ (mi she-, “one that”) has been used to reconstruct ὅς ἐάν (hos ean, “whoever”)[58] and ὅστις (hostis, “whoever”),[59] but -מִי שֶׁ is also suitable for reconstructing ὅς (hos, “who,” “that”). More difficult is determining how to reconstruct “I am not worthy,” since there are not many parallels to this statement in Hebrew sources. One option we considered for HR is כְּדַי (kedai, “fitting,” “deserving”), but the one time we encounter the statement אֵינִי כְּדַי in rabbinic sources the speaker protests that a certain situation is beneath his dignity, not that he is unworthy.[60]

Perhaps, therefore, רָאוּי (rā’ūy, “qualified,” “suited”) ought to be preferred for HR. An example of אֵינִי רָאוּי with a meaning more or less equivalent to “I am not worthy” is found in the following statement:

תנו רבנן אל יאמר אדם תלמיד אני איני ראוי להיות יחיד

Our rabbis taught [in a baraita]: Let not a person say, “I am only a disciple, I am not qualified [אֵינִי רָאוּי] to be a yahid [i.e., someone who distinguishes himself from the crowd by performing extraordinary acts of piety—DNB and JNT].” (b. Taan. 10b)

L16 κύψας (Mark 1:7). Mark’s is the only version of Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse to include the image of the Baptist’s bending down in order to tend to the shoes of the one whose coming he announces. Neither is there an equivalent to “bending” in the Acts or Johannine versions of the Baptist’s saying. It seems likely, therefore, that “bending down” is simply a colorful flourish added by the author of Mark.[61]

Sandals from the second century C.E. discovered in the Cave of Letters in Nahal Hever. Photo courtesy of BiblePlaces.com.

L17 λῦσαι (GR). Every version of the Baptist’s saying except Matthew’s uses the verb λύειν (lūein, “to loosen”) to describe the action John accounted himself unworthy to perform. With such strong attestation from multiple sources, it seems unavoidable that we should accept Luke’s and Mark’s wording for GR.[62]

לְהַתִּיר לוֹ (HR). The verb λύειν (lūein, “to loosen”) is not all that common in LXX,[63] but it twice occurs in relation to the noun ὑπόδημα (hūpodēma, “shoe”; Exod. 3:5; Josh. 5:15), the very term for “shoe” that occurs in Luke and Mark at L19. In those two verses λύειν serves as the translation of נָשַׁל (nāshal, “remove”), which is an action different from the one John the Baptist describes. Fortunately, there are several places in rabbinic sources that describe the untying of shoes, which can serve as models for our reconstruction:

נעל לו מנעלו והתיר לו מנעלו

…he ties his shoe for him and he unties his shoe for him. (y. Kid. 1:3 [12a])

התיר רצועות מנעל וסנדל

He untied the straps of his shoe and sandal. (b. Shab. 112a)

אמר רבי יהושע בן לוי כל מלאכות שהעבד עושה לרבו תלמיד עושה לרבו חוץ מהתרת (לו) מנעל

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said, “All the duties that a slave performs for his master, a disciple performs for his master, except for untying his shoe for him.” (b. Ket. 96a)

התיר לו מנעלו

…he untied his shoe for him…. (b. Kid. 22b)

נעל לו מנעלו או התיר לו מנעלו

…he tied his shoe for him, or he untied his shoe for him…. (b. Bab. Bat. 53b)

התיר מנעליו ויצא לשוק הרי זה מגסי הרוח

If he untied his shoes and went to the market, behold, this one is haughty of spirit. (Tosefta Derech Eretz 6:15 [ed. Higger, 316])

The above sources demonstrate that הִתִּיר (hitir, “release,” “untie”) is the Hebrew verb used to describe the untying of shoes. The above sources also support our inclusion of לוֹ (, “for him”) in HR despite the lack of anything corresponding to the preposition with pronominal suffix in the Greek text. In Hebrew -לְ + suffix appears to have been necessary when referring to the untying of someone else’s shoes. In Greek, however, translating לוֹ would have been superfluous.

In LXX λύειν (“to loosen”) occurs as the translation of הִתִּיר (“release,” “untie”) in Ps. 104[105]:20; 145[146]:7.

L18 רְצוּעַת (HR). In one of the sources cited in the previous comment (b. Shab. 112a) we saw that the Hebrew noun for “shoe strap” is רְצוּעָה (retzū‘āh). This term does not occur in the Hebrew Bible or in the Dead Sea Scrolls. References to shoe straps (רְצוּעוֹת מִנְעָל; m. Shab. 15:2; m. Neg. 11:11) and sandal straps (רְצוּעוֹת סַנְדַּלִּים; m. Kel. 26:9), however, do occur in the Mishnah.

First-century ivory sandaled foot. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

L19 מִנְעָלָיו (HR). On reconstructing ὑπόδημα (hūpodēma, “shoe,” “sandal”) with מִנְעָל (min‘āl, “shoe,” “sandal”), see Conduct on the Road, Comment to L73.

L20 βαστάσαι (Matt. 3:11). Why the author of Matthew decided to change the imagery from untying shoes to carrying them is anyone’s guess.[64]

L21 ἐγὼ ἐβάπτισα ὑμᾶς ὕδατι (Mark 1:8). Scholarly opinion is divided between those who regard Mark’s aorist ἐβάπτισα (ebaptisa, “I immersed”) as a Semitism, and upon that basis argue that Mark’s aorist should be understood as having present force (i.e., “I immerse”),[65] and those who think that Mark’s aorist is theologically motivated in order to make John himself confess that his immersions are over and done with.[66] The weakness of the first suggestion is that it is very difficult to imagine a context in which the statement אֲנִי הִטְבַּלְתִּי אֶתְכֶם בַּמַּיִם would not convey its usual sense of “I used to immerse you in water.” The second suggestion might be correct. Another possibility is that the author of Mark picked up the aorist verb from Acts 1:5 (cf. Acts 11:16).

L22 αὐτὸς ὑμᾶς βαπτίσει (GR). The Lukan-Matthean agreement to omit δέ (de, “but”) from L22 confirms that it did not occur here in Anth. Mark’s δέ in L22 makes up for the δέ the author of Mark omitted in L11.

הוּא יַטְבִּיל אֶתְכֶם (HR). On reconstructing βαπτίζειν (baptizein, “to immerse”) with הִטְבִּיל (hiṭbil, “immerse”), see above, Comment to L9.

L23 ἐν πνεύματι (GR). Despite its absence in Codex Vaticanus, it is likely that the original text of Mark, like that of Luke and Matthew, also included the preposition ἐν (en, “in”), as the critical editions indicate. The preposition ἐν also occurs in Jesus’ allusion to John’s saying in Acts 1:5 (cf. Acts 11:16). Given the strong attestation of ἐν, we see no reason not to include it in GR.

On the other hand, although the adjective ἁγίῳ (hagiō, “holy”) is just as strongly attested, we have reason to believe it did not come from Anth. Immersion in the Holy Spirit is surprising in the context of John the Baptist’s warnings of a coming judgment, and it does not agree with the imagery of the threshing floor, which the Baptist used to illustrate the impending immersion in the Lukan and Matthean versions of Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse. Several scholars have suggested that instead of speaking of an immersion in the Holy Spirit and fire (ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ καὶ πυρί), the Baptist originally warned of an immersion in wind and fire (ἐν πνεύματι καὶ πυρί).[67] This suggestion fits with the Baptist’s message: Someone is coming to bring a swift and terrible judgment on the wicked, but now, in this moment, God is offering you a final opportunity for clemency. Be immersed in the Jordan and bear the fruits of repentance—that is the only way you will survive the coming immersion that will destroy everything but the wheat. The eschatological Day of Atonement is coming, so avail yourselves now of his Jubilee release from the indebtedness of sin, lest when He Who Is Coming arrives to purify the Temple,[68] he discovers that you, too, are defiled with the impurity of sin.

Outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost as depicted in a thirteenth-century Nestorian Peshitta Gospel. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Not only does immersion in wind and fire make sense in the context of the Baptist’s message, it is easy to see how his prophecy was transformed into predicting an immersion in the Holy Spirit and fire. According to Acts 1:5, when Jesus promised the pouring out of the Holy Spirit he said, “John immersed in water, but in a few days you will be immersed in a holy spirit.” In this way Jesus put a new twist on John’s prophecy consistent with Jesus’ dissent from John regarding the timing of the final judgment. Whereas John believed that Israel was teetering on the edge of the end of history, Jesus believed that between the former age and the eschaton there would be an historical period during which the Kingdom of Heaven would redeem Israel and restore creation. Only after the period of the Kingdom of Heaven was completed would the final judgment come.[69]

John the Baptist’s Redemptive Timeline

In contrast to John’s prediction of an imminent immersion of judgment in wind and fire, Jesus promised an immersion of creative renewal in the Holy Spirit. The way he put a new twist on John’s saying was simple and elegant: John’s ἐν πνεύματι καὶ πυρί = בָּרוּחַ וּבָאֵשׁ (bārūaḥ ūvā’ēsh, “in the wind and in the fire”) became ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ = בְּרוּחַ הַקֹּדֶשׁ (berūaḥ haqodesh, “in the Holy Spirit”).

Jesus’ Redemptive Timeline

The author of Luke, who was well acquainted with Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit, was probably unaware of the clever wordplay Jesus had invented to transform the meaning of the Baptist’s prophecy. Therefore, when he read the words of John’s prophecy as they appeared in Anth., he interpreted them through the lens of Jesus’ promise, wrongly taking ἐν πνεύματι καὶ πυρί to mean “in Spirit and fire” instead of “in wind and fire” as the Baptist intended. Probably the author of Luke thought that ἐν πνεύματι (as he assumed, “in Spirit”) was too obscure for his readers, so he added ἁγίῳ (hagiō, “holy”), which he knew from Jesus’ saying.

The author of Mark not only accepted “Holy Spirit” from Luke, he also dropped “fire,” since his familiarity with Acts 1:5 convinced him that John’s prediction could only concern the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.[70] The author of Matthew, as was so often his practice, simply combined Mark’s wording with Anth.’s, undoubtedly assuming that Mark’s “Holy Spirit” was the correct interpretation of Anth.’s ἐν πνεύματι.[71]

Supposing the Baptist originally described an immersion in wind and fire is preferable to the following alternative suggestions:

  1. The Baptist originally spoke only of immersion in the Holy Spirit, as reflected in Mark, and fire was added to the tradition behind the versions in Luke and Matthew.[72]
  2. The Baptist originally spoke only of immersion in fire, which the author of Mark replaced with “Holy Spirit,” and the two versions (Holy Spirit and fire) were combined either in the tradition behind the Lukan and Matthean versions, or by the authors of Luke and Matthew independently.[73]
  3. The Baptist spoke all along of two immersions: one in the Holy Spirit for the salvation of those who repented, and one in fire for the destruction of the unrepentant.[74]

None of these alternate solutions can account for the specific imagery of the threshing floor, which the Baptist used to elucidate the meaning of the coming immersion. An immersion in wind and fire, on the other hand, naturally leads into the imagery of the threshing floor, since wind blows away chaff, fire burns stubble, and only wheat remains to be gathered into the storehouse.

Support for the hypothesis that John the Baptist originally spoke of an immersion in wind and fire can be found, of all places, in Luke’s account of the giving of the Holy Spirit in Acts. This account, which is the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise in Acts 1:5 (“John immersed in water, but in a few days you will be immersed in a holy spirit”), contains two details that become immediately explicable against the background of the Baptist’s prophecy of an immersion in wind and fire:

  1. a sound “like rushing wind” (ὥσπερ φερομένης πνοῆς) that filled the house (Acts 2:2)
  2. tongues “like fire” (ὡσεὶ πυρός) that rested on the apostles (Acts 2:3)

The significance of these odd details is never explained in Acts, which suggests that the author of Luke inherited them from his source.[75] That source was evidently at pains to demonstrate that John’s prophecy of an immersion in wind and fire was fulfilled at Pentecost. The author of Luke, on the other hand, displays no awareness of tension between John’s prophecy and Jesus’ promise. As his addition of ἁγίῳ (“holy”) to L23 shows, the author of Luke believed the Baptist had spoken of an immersion in the Holy Spirit all along.

“Elias the Prophet” by Nicholas Roerich. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Furthermore, immersion in wind and fire accords well with the identification of the Someone whose coming John the Baptist foretold as Elijah, since wind and fire feature prominently in two key events during Elijah’s career. First, on Mount Horeb a great wind (רוּחַ גְּדוֹלָה), an earthquake and fire (אֵשׁ) preceded the voice of the LORD (1 Kgs. 19:11-12). Second, when Elijah was translated to heaven, a chariot of fire (רֶכֶב אֵשׁ) and horses of fire (סוּסֵי אֵשׁ) appeared and he was taken up in a whirlwind (סְעָרָה‎; 2 Kgs. 2:11). Thus, Elijah was strongly associated with both wind and fire in the biblical tradition, so it is fitting that these should be the media in which his immersion should be conducted.[76]

With the understanding that John the Baptist spoke of an immersion in wind and fire, a clearer insight is gained into the Baptist’s high self-awareness. Notwithstanding his protestation of being unworthy to untie the shoe straps of the one who was coming, one’s response to John’s proclamation of a baptism of repentance for the release of sins would determine whether or not the immersion administered by the coming one would result in destruction.[77] When the threshing floor was engulfed in wind and fire, only the wheat—which is to say, those who had received John’s watery ablution—would be spared.[78]

בָּרוּחַ (HR). On reconstructing πνεῦμα (pnevma, “wind,” “spirit”) with רוּחַ (rūaḥ, “wind,” “spirit”), see Return of the Twelve, Comment to L25. Just as we reconstructed the anarthrous ὕδατι (“in/with water”) with the definite בַּמַּיִם (“in the water”) in L9, so in L23 we have reconstructed ἐν πνεύματι (“in wind”) with בָּרוּחַ (“in the wind”) for the same reasons.

L24 καὶ πυρί (GR). The Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark to include “and fire” demonstrates that this phrase was derived by both authors from Anth.

וּבָאֵשׁ (HR). On reconstructing πῦρ (pūr, “fire”) with אֵשׁ (’ēsh, “fire”), see Darnel Among the Wheat, Comment to L32. In MT the phrase וּבָאֵשׁ (ūvā’ēsh, “and in the fire”) occurs twice; in both instances the LXX translators rendered it without the definite article as καὶ ἐν πυρί (kai en pūri, “and in fire”; 2 Kgdms. 23:7; Zeph. 1:18).[79]

L25-32 The high level of verbal agreement in L25-32 indicates that the authors of Matthew and Luke copied the Purifying the Threshing Floor saying from Anth.[80] Since GR attempts to reconstruct the wording of Anth., which is never in doubt in DT when Luke and Matthew are in agreement, there will be no need for further comment on GR except when Luke and Matthew disagree.

The agreement of the authors of Luke and Matthew to place the Purifying the Threshing Floor saying at the same point in their narratives indicates that in Anth., too, this saying was a continuation of the Baptist’s prophecy of Someone who would come to administer a wind-and-fire immersion. The author of Mark’s omission of this saying is consistent with his omission of “and fire” in L24.[81] By making these omissions, the author of Mark transformed the impending immersion of judgment into a benevolent immersion in the Holy Spirit, an image that conformed to his understanding that John’s prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus.

Winnowing tools. Image adapted from Jane E. Harrison, “Mystica Vannus Iacchi (Continued),” The Journal of Hellenic Studies 24 (1904): 241-254, esp. 248.

L25 מִי שֶׁהָרַחַת (HR). On reconstructing ὅς (hos, “who”) with -מִי שֶׁ (mi she-, “one that”), see above, Comment to L15.

According to Webb, correctly identifying the agricultural implement signified by πτύον (ptūon) is crucial for a proper understanding of the Baptist’s threshing floor imagery.[82] Webb maintained that the winnowing shovel (πτύον) was never used to winnow wheat, this task being reserved exclusively for the winnowing fork (θρῖναξ [thrinax]). According to Webb, the task performed with the winnowing shovel (πτύον) was scooping up the grain from the threshing floor after the winnowing had been completed and moving it into the granary, and scooping up chaff from the threshing floor and heaving it onto the fire.[83] From the fact that the eschatological figure at the threshing floor is said to be holding a πτύον (“winnowing shovel”), Webb deduced that the winnowing process had already been completed by the time of his arrival.[84] That the winnowing process had already been completed, in turn, proved to Webb that the suggestion that John the Baptist predicted an immersion in wind and fire is incorrect. Wind has to do with winnowing, but in order for the eschatological figure to be holding a πτύον, winnowing must have been over and done with. Therefore, Webb concluded, there can be no room for supposing that John the Baptist spoke of an immersion in wind and fire, whereas immersion in the Holy Spirit and fire makes sense. The winnowing shovel could only be used to take the wheat and the chaff to their final destinations: with the shovel the wheat (= the righteous) are immersed in the Holy Spirit, while the chaff (= the wicked) are destroyed in the fire of judgment.[85]

Arab farmers sifting grain. Photographed in Israel, 1934. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Where Webb’s argument breaks down is not in the identification of the πτύον as a winnowing shovel, but in his assertion that the πτύον was used only for gathering, never for winnowing. That the πτύον was used for winnowing (i.e., separating grain from chaff) and not merely for gathering is suggested by numerous ancient literary sources.

In Homer’s Odyssey we read of a tool that is poetically referred to as a ἀθηρηλοιγός (athērēloigos, “chaff destroyer”; Odyssey 11:127). Since this tool looked similar to a boat oar, it has been identified as a πτύον.[86] But ἀθήρ (athēr, “chaff”), from which the word ἀθηρηλοιγός is derived, refers to light particles that are carried away on the wind. It is the heavier refuse, καλάμη (kalamē, “stubble”) and ἄχυρον (achūron, “straw”), that remains to be scooped up from the threshing floor and burned. In other words, the poetic name ἀθηρηλοιγός (“chaff destroyer”) for the πτύον (“winnowing shovel”) hints that its use was for winnowing as well as gathering.

This conclusion is supported by a reference to the πτύον in the writings of the fifth-century B.C.E. poet Aeschylus, who described a dove at a threshing floor being killed by the shovels.[87] It is more likely that an unwary dove would be killed by shovels during the vigorous process of winnowing than in the gentler process of scooping up grain. Another indication that the πτύον was used for winnowing is the custom of setting up a πτύον in the middle of a grain heap to indicate that the winnowing process was completed.[88]

The Latin and Hebrew equivalents of πτύον provide further support for our conclusion that the winnowing shovel was used for winnowing as well as gathering. The Latin term for πτύον is ventilabrum,[89] which, according to Varro (first cent. B.C.E), earned its name “because with this [i.e., the ventilabrum—DNB and JNT] the grain ventilatur ‘is tossed’ in the air” (Varro, On the Latin Language 5:138; Loeb).[90] That by “tossed in the air” Varro referred to winnowing grain cannot be doubted, since elsewhere he made this explicit:

Iis tritis oportet e terra subiectari vallis aut ventilabris, cum ventus spirat lenis.

After the threshing the grain should be tossed from the ground when the wind is blowing gently, with winnowing fans or shovels [ventilabris]. (Varro, On Agriculture 1:52 §2; Loeb [adapted])[91]

Instances of the Hebrew equivalent of πτύον, which, as Webb correctly noted, is רַחַת (raḥat, “winnowing shovel”),[92] likewise support our contention that the winnowing shovel was used for winnowing. For example, Rabbi Yose cited Rabbi Hanina’s opinion that defined a threshing floor that is not fixed as כל שאינו זורה ברחת (“any [threshing floor] in which a person does not winnow with a winnowing shovel”; b. Bab. Bat. 24b), the implication being that in a regular threshing floor a person does winnow with a רַחַת (“winnowing shovel”). Another rabbinic text leads to the same conclusion:

תנו רבנן המקבל שדה מחבירו ולא עשתה אם יש בה כדי להעמיד כרי חייב לטפל בה שכך כותב לו אנא אוקים ואניר ואזרע ואחצוד ואעמר ואדוש ואידרי ואוקים כריא קדמך ותיתי אנת ותיטול פלגא ואנא בעמלי ובנפקות ידי פלגא וכמה כדי להעמיד בה כרי אמר רבי יוסי ברבי חנינא כדי שתעמוד בו הרחת

Our rabbis taught [in a baraita]: The one who leases a field from his fellow, but it does not produce—if there is enough to make a heap, he is liable to continue working it, for thus it is written for him [in the Aramaic lease agreement]: “I will stand, and I will plow, and I will sow, and I will cut, and I will make into sheaves, and I will thresh, and I will winnow [ואידרי], and I will set up a heap before you, and you will come and receive half, and I will receive half in return for my labor and expenses.” And how much is enough to make a heap? Rabbi Yose in the name of Rabbi Hanina said, “Enough so that you may stand up a shovel [הָרַחַת] in it.” (b. Bab. Metz. 105a; cf. y. Bab. Metz. 9:4 [32b])

We have already encountered the custom of standing up a winnowing shovel in a grain heap in our survey of Greek sources. Here, it is likely that the standing up of the shovel in the grain heap was to signal to the landlord or the tax assessors that the use to which the winnowing shovel had been put—the winnowing process—was now completed.[93] Commenting on this passage, Rashi paraphrased the Aramaic declaration ואידרי (“and I will winnow”) in Hebrew as אזרה המוץ ברחת או בנפה (“I will winnow the chaff with a winnowing shovel [בְּרַחַת] or with a fan”). Similarly, in his commentary on b. Shab. 73a, which defines winnowing as a class of work prohibited on the Sabbath, Rashi wrote: הזורה ברחת לרוח (“‘Winnowing’ [m. Shab. 7:2], i.e., with a winnowing shovel [בְּרַחַת] to the wind”).

A threshing floor near Mount Gerizim photographed in the early 1900s. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Thus, it emerges from the ancient sources that Webb’s contention that a winnowing shovel was never used for winnowing is false. Winnowing shovels were used at threshing floors to toss the threshed produce into the air, so that the wind could carry the chaff away and the wheat could be separated from the unwanted refuse. Lest the pendulum swing too far in the other direction, however, we must point out that winnowing shovels were also used for scooping up the winnowed grain. The Mishnah specifically refers to the use of the רַחַת in storerooms (m. Kel. 15:5). What we learn about the winnowing shovel from rabbinic sources makes רַחַת the perfect agricultural implement for HR, for in Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse the coming Someone not only winnows (as alluded to by the immersion in wind) but also gathers the larger refuse for the flames (as alluded to by the immersion in fire) and stores the wheat in the storehouse.

L26 בְּיָדוֹ (HR). On reconstructing χείρ (cheir, “hand”) with יָד (yād, “hand”), see Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple, Comment to L35.

L27 καὶ διακαθαριεῖ (GR). Matthew’s verb, διακαθαρίζειν (diakatharizein, “to purge thoroughly”), is not only absent from LXX, it appears to be unattested prior to the writing of his Gospel.[94] The related verb καθαρίζειν (katharizein, “to purify,” “to cleanse”) does occur in LXX, but not in the sense of clearing a threshing floor or winnowing grain. Luke’s verb, διακαθαίρειν (diakathairein, “to purge thoroughly”), is also absent from LXX, but the cognate verb καθαίρειν (kathairein, “to cleanse,” “to purge”) does occur once in LXX as the translation of the root ד-ו-שׁ (“thresh”; Isa. 28:27). A second-century C.E. papyrus attests to the use of καθαίρειν in the sense of “winnow” or “sift.”[95] Perhaps this is the sense of καθαίρειν in 2 Kgdms. 4:6, the only other instance of καθαίρειν in LXX, which states, ἡ θυρωρὸς τοῦ οἴκου ἐκάθαιρεν πυρούς (“the porter of the house was cleaning wheat”). Moreover, the very same verb that appears in Luke 3:17, διακαθαίρειν, occurs in a scene that takes place at a threshing floor in a writing attributed to Alciphron (date uncertain):

Ἄρτι μοι τὴν ἅλω διακαθήραντι καὶ τὸ πτύον ἀποτιθεμένῳ ὁ δεσπότης ἐπέστη καὶ ἰδὼν ἐπῄνει τὴν φιλεργίαν

I had just finished clearing [διακαθήραντι] the threshing floor and was putting my winnowing shovel [πτύον] away when my master came suddenly upon me, saw what I had done, and proceeded to commend my industry. (Alciphron, Letters 2:23; Loeb [adapted])[96]

Thus, it appears that the author of Luke improved Anth.’s wording in L27 in two respects:

  1. He changed the rare and unusual (for its context) verb διακαθαρίζειν to the more “correct” (from a Greek-speaker’s perspective) διακαθαίρειν.
  2. He changed the future indicative into an infinitive.[97]

The odd verb selection in Matthew’s version of Purifying the Threshing Floor is best accounted for by Notley’s suggestion that the threshing floor in John the Baptist’s saying is a veiled reference to the Temple (see below, Comment to L28). Unlike threshing floors, it is normal to speak of the purification of temples. Supposing that the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua encountered a verb that meant “purify,” he may have selected the rare verb διακαθαρίζειν,[98] which means “purify,” because it looks and sounds similar to διακαθαίρειν, a verb that was used with reference to grain and threshing floors. The author of Matthew retained the unusual verb from Anth., whereas the author of Luke substituted the “correct” verb for Anth.’s unusual one.

וִיטַהֵר (HR). Two reconstructions of καὶ διακαθαριεῖ (kai diakathariei, “and he will thoroughly purify”) seem plausible: וִיכַפֵּר (vichapēr, “and he will purify”) and וִיטַהֵר (viṭahēr, “and he will purify”). The first option is attractive because כִּפֵּר (kipēr, “purify”) is used specifically for the purification of the Temple and its sacred vessels. If the purification of the threshing floor is a veiled reference to the purification of the Temple on the eschatological Day of Atonement, then כִּפֵּר is a fitting choice. As we noted above, διακαθαρίζειν does not occur in LXX, but the cognate verb καθαρίζειν does occur twice in LXX as the translation of כִּפֵּר, once in relation to the purification of the altar (Exod. 29:37) and once in relation to the golden altar of incense (Exod. 30:10).

In favor of the second option is the frequency with which καθαρίζειν occurs in LXX as the translation of טִהֵר (ṭihēr, “purify”);[99] the use of καθαρίζειν/טִהֵר for the purification of the Temple (2 Chr. 29:15; 34:8)[100] and the altar (Ezek. 43:26), as well as ordinary objects; and the occurrence of טִהֵר (LXX: καθαρίζειν) in Mal. 3:3, the very prophetic text that appears to have inspired John the Baptist’s prediction of a coming Someone who will engulf Israel in wind and fire when he purifies the threshing floor (= Temple) (see above, Comment to L9). Given all these reasons in favor of טִהֵר, and the possibility that using כִּפֵּר for the purification of a threshing floor would sound outlandish (even if the threshing floor was intended as an allusion to the Temple), we have adopted טִהֵר for HR.

On reconstructing καθαρίζειν with טִהֵר, see Yohanan the Immerser’s Question, Comment to L40.

L28 אֶת גּוֹרְנוֹ (HR). In LXX ἅλων (halōn, “threshing floor”) usually occurs as the translation of גּוֹרֶן (gōren, “threshing floor”).[101] Likewise, the LXX translators nearly always rendered גּוֹרֶן as ἅλων.[102]

In a lecture on John the Baptist’s message, Notley made the insightful suggestion that the threshing floor to which the Baptist referred was a veiled reference to the Temple.[103] The use of a threshing floor as a metaphor for the Temple is natural, since, according to Scripture, the Temple was built on a threshing floor (2 Sam. 24:18-24; 1 Chr. 21:18-22; 2 Chr. 3:1).[104] Moreover, if the inspiration behind John the Baptist’s prediction of the coming Someone who would immerse Israel in wind and fire and purify his threshing floor was Malachi’s prophecy of Elijah’s sudden appearance in the Temple and his purification of the priesthood (Mal. 3:1-5), then the conclusion that the threshing floor is a cipher for the Temple seems unavoidable.

Painting by William Hole depicting David’s purchase of the threshing floor of Aravnah the Jebusite, which later became the site of Solomon’s Temple. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

We have also seen that a purification of the Temple on the eschatological Day of Atonement lines up nicely with John the Baptist’s proclamation of a Jubilee shemiṭāh or release from the indebtedness of sin (see A Voice Crying, Comments to L15 and L36). According to Scripture, the Sabbatical and Jubilee releases of debt were to be proclaimed on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 25:8-12). Therefore, John’s immersions appear to be a preparation for the eschatological Day of Atonement, to ensure that the righteous in Israel would be purified from the defilement of sin. Only by being immersed by John would they endure the day of Elijah’s coming, which, according to Malachi, would be like a refiner’s fire (Mal. 3:2). Purified from sin, the righteous of Israel would be like wheat gathered safely into the storeroom. But those who refused John’s immersion would be caught in an impure state when Elijah came to purify the Temple, and so they would be blown away like chaff or burnt like stubble.

Few scholars besides Notley have noticed that the threshing floor of which the Baptist spoke was a veiled reference to the Temple,[105] but J. Armitage Robinson came very close when he suggested that Jesus’ “cleansing of the Temple” was inspired by John’s prophecy of the purification of the threshing floor.[106] This suggestion was subsequently echoed by his nephew John A. T. Robinson.[107]

If we are correct in supposing that John the Baptist taught that the Temple was so defiled that it required a superhuman figure to purify it on an eschatological Day of Atonement, then the Baptist must have had an exceedingly low opinion of the current state of the Temple and of the priesthood that controlled it. But is there a specific critique of the priesthood implied in the Baptist’s prophecy of a coming Someone who would purify the threshing floor?

The facade of the Jerusalem Temple as depicted in a fresco from the Dura Europos Synagogue. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

One possibility is that John the Baptist anticipated the restoration of the Zadokite line to the high priesthood. Zadok was the high priest in the time of King David, and descendants of Zadok continued to serve as high priests until the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Thus, the Zadokite high priesthood provided continuity between the pre-exilic period and the Second Temple period, a continuity that, in the eyes of some, gave the Second Temple its legitimacy. The removal of the Zadokite line from the high priesthood in the second century B.C.E. was a major disruption, likely leading to the formation of the party of the Sadducees (Hebrew: צדוקים, “Zadokites”) and the foundation of the temple of Onias (a Zadokite priest) in Leontopolis, Egypt.[108] The Essenes, too, looked forward to the renewal of the Zadokite high priesthood,[109] and, given the numerous points of contact between John the Baptist and the Essenes, it is plausible that the Baptist, too, entertained Zadokite sympathies. If the Someone whose coming John the Baptist predicted was Elijah, then we must take into account the ancient Jewish traditions that identified Elijah with Phineas the high priest.[110] According to Num. 25:13, God made a covenant of eternal priesthood (בְּרִית כְּהֻנַּת עוֹלָם) with Phineas, which some ancient Jewish exegetes understood to constitute a promise that the high priesthood should be occupied by a descendant of Phineas forever. The book of Chronicles indicates that Zadok, the founder of the Zadokite high priesthood, belonged to the line of Phineas (1 Chr. 6:8),[111] which makes Elijah-cum-Phineas an appropriate figure for reinstating the Zadokite priesthood.

The function of Elijah as a restorer of the Zadokite high priesthood may be corroborated by a rabbinic source. According to the Mishnah, Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai, who was active at the end of the Second Temple period, received the following tradition from his predecessors concerning Elijah’s coming:

אֵין אֵלִייָּהוּ בָּא לְטַמֵּא וּלְטַהֵר לְרָחֵק וּלְקָרֵב אֶלָּא לְרָחֵק אֶת הַמְקוֹרָבִין בִּזְרוֹעַ וּלְקָרֵב אֶת הַמְרוֹחָקִין בִּזְרוֹע

Elijah is not coming to declare pure or impure, or to distance or bring near, but only to remove those [families] who were brought near by force and to reinstate those [families] who were driven out by force. (m. Edu. 8:7)

Although the examples of families that are cited in the continuation of the tradition cited above do not include the high-priestly family of Zadok, one wonders whether the tradition was considered to be applicable to the Zadokite high priesthood as well.

Winnowing at Gezer, Oct. 1934. The man in the foreground uses a winnowing fork, the woman behind him is using a winnowing fan. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Another possibility is that John the Baptist’s critique of the Temple hierarchy was leveled against the high priests’ practice of sending their slaves armed with staves to threshing floors to extort from Israelite farmers the priestly dues, which by rights belonged to the ordinary priests. Josephus described this high-priestly extortion as taking place during the term of Ishmael son of Phiabi, who was appointed by Agrippa II (ca. 49 C.E.; Ant. 20:180-181). Josephus ascribed the same practice to Ananias son of Nedebaeus (Ant. 20:206), who was high priest just prior to Ishmael son of Phiabi, although Josephus indicates that the extortions perpetrated by Ananias took place during Albinus’ term as governor of Judea, which was in the early 60s C.E. These dates are much later than the time of John the Baptist, but Josephus also indicates that such extortion was rampant among all the high priests (Ant. 20:207; cf. Ant. 20:181), so perhaps these extortions were already taking place during the Baptist’s lifetime.[112] An early date for the extortions at the threshing floors seems to be supported by an early rabbinic tradition that condemns the corrupt practices of several high-priestly families, including the house of Boethus, which was in power during the reign of Herod the Great (t. Men. 13:21; b. Pes. 57a). If high-priestly extortion of the priestly dues was the aim of the Baptist’s critique, then his warning had an ironic twist: the coming Someone would purify his threshing floor (i.e., the Temple) by putting a stop to the high-priestly abuses perpetrated at threshing floors throughout the land of Israel.

There is no reason why the two critiques we have suggested should be mutually exclusive.

L29 καὶ συνάξει τὸν σῖτον (GR). As in L27, the infinitive in Luke’s version is a stylistic improvement over the future indicative verb in Matthew’s version of Purifying the Threshing Floor.[113] It therefore seems likely that the author of Matthew copied συνάξει (sūnaxei, “he will gather”) from Anth.[114] Matthew’s version reads “his wheat” as opposed to “the wheat” in Luke’s version. In this instance we suspect that the author of Matthew added the possessive pronoun in order to conform to “his hand” (L26), “his threshing floor” (L28) and “his storehouse” (L30).[115] In this way the contrast is heightened between the grain, which is to be preserved, and the refuse, which is to be destroyed.

וְיַכְנִיס אֶת הַחִטִּים (HR). On reconstructing συνάγειν (sūnagein, “to gather”) with הִכְנִיס (hichnis, “to bring in”), see Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry, Comment to L16.

On reconstructing σῖτος (sitos, “grain”) with חִטָּה (ḥiṭāh, “wheat”), see Darnel Among the Wheat, Comment to L8. Since the Hebrew term for wheat usually occurs in the plural form (one such example is cited below in Comment to L31), we have followed suit in HR.

L30 לְאוֹצָרוֹ (HR). On reconstructing ἀποθήκη (apothēkē, “storehouse”) with אוֹצָר (’ōtzār, “storehouse”), see Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry, Comment to L16.

L31 וְהַקַּשׁ (HR). In LXX ἄχυρον (achūron, “straw”) usually occurs as the translation of תֶּבֶן (teven, “straw”).[116] Although we are accustomed to thinking of the Someone whose coming the Baptist foretold as burning the chaff, there is only one example in LXX where ἄχυρον occurs as the translation of מוֹץ (mōtz, “chaff”; Isa. 17:13). Moreover, chaff was not typically burned. The light particles referred to as מוֹץ were simply carried away on the wind (cf. Isa. 17:13; Hos. 13:3; Ps. 1:4; 35:5; Job 21:18; 1QHa XV, 23). It seems likely, therefore, that by ἄχυρον something larger than chaff is intended.[117]

Hebrew sources refer to three classes of refuse that are left over from the threshing and winnowing process: תֶּבֶן (teven, “straw”), קַשׁ (qash, “stubble”) and מוֹץ (mōtz, “chaff”). All three are mentioned together in the following rabbinic fable:[118]

התבן והמוץ והקש היו מדיינין זה עם זה זה אומר בשבילי נזרעה השדה וזה אומר בשבילי נזרעה השדה אמרו להן החטים המתינו עד שתבא הגורן ואנו יודעין בשל מי נזרעה השדה. בא הגורן וכשנכנסים אל הגורן יצא בעל הבית לזרותה הלך לו המוץ לרוח נטל התבן והשליכו לארץ נטל הקש ושרפו נטל את החטין ועשה אותן כרי

The straw [הַתֶּבֶן] and the chaff [וְהַמּוֹץ] and the stubble [וְהַקַּשׁ] were conversing with one another. This one was saying, “On my account the field was sown!” And that one was saying, “On my account the field was sown!” The wheat [הַחִטִּים] said to them, “Wait until the harvest comes, and we will know on whose account the field was sown.” The harvest came, and as they were brought into the threshing floor the landlord came out to winnow it. The chaff went to the wind. He took the straw and threw it on the ground. He took the stubble and burnt it. He took the wheat and made it into a heap. (Song Rab. 7:3 §3 [ed. Etelsohn, 233]; cf. Gen. Rab. 83:5 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 2:1000-1001]; Pesikta Rabbati 10:4 [ed. Friedmann, 36a])

This fable not only enumerates the different kinds of refuse that were left over after threshing and winnowing, it also indicates the different means by which the three classes of refuse were disposed of. Chaff was obliterated in the wind.[119] Straw could be put to use for other purposes, such as fodder, fertilizer or ground cover. Stubble (קַשׁ) was used as fuel for fires.[120]

Not only does קַשׁ (“stubble”) appear to be the correct term for the refuse that was burned after winnowing, קַשׁ suits the Baptist’s imagery, which drew so heavily from the prophecies of Malachi, since in Malachi we read:

כִּי־הִנֵּה הַיּוֹם בָּא בֹּעֵר כַּתַּנּוּר וְהָיוּ כָל־זֵדִים וְכָל־עֹשֵׂה רִשְׁעָה קַשׁ וְלִהַט אֹתָם

For behold! The day is coming, burning like an oven. And all the arrogant and workers of wickedness will be stubble [קַשׁ], and it will set them ablaze…. (Mal. 3:19 [ET: 4:1])

L32 יִשְׂרֹף בְּאֵשׁ תָּמִיד (HR). On reconstructing κατακαίειν (katakaiein, “to burn”) with שָׂרַף (sāraf, “burn”), see Darnel Among the Wheat, Comment to L32.

On reconstructing πῦρ (pūr, “fire”) with אֵשׁ (’ēsh, “fire”), see above, Comment to L24.

The adjective ἄσβεστος (asbestos, “unquenchable”) occurs only once in LXX (Job 20:26 [Alexandrinus]), where κατέδεται αὐτὸν πῦρ ἄσβεστον (“unquenchable fire will devour him”; NETS) occurs as the translation of תְּאָכְלֵהוּ אֵשׁ לֹא נֻפָּח (“and a fire not fanned will consume him”). It seems unlikely, however, that John the Baptist alluded to this verse in Job. Reconstructing πυρὶ ἀσβέστῳ (pūri asbestō, “in/with unquenchable fire”) with בְּאֵשׁ תָּמִיד (be’ēsh tāmid, “in perpetual fire”) is in keeping with our supposition that the Baptist’s threshing floor imagery is a veiled reference to the Temple. The phrase אֵשׁ תָּמִיד occurs only once in Scripture, where it describes the flames on the altar:

אֵשׁ תָּמִיד תּוּקַד עַל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ לֹא תִכְבֶה

A perpetual fire shall be kept burning on the altar, it will not be extinguished. (Lev. 6:6 [ET: 6:13])

καὶ πῦρ διὰ παντὸς καυθήσεται ἐπὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον, οὐ σβεσθήσεται

And a fire through all time will be burned on the altar, it will not be extinguished [σβεσθήσεται]. (Lev. 6:6 [ET: 6:13])

Note that the verb σβεννύναι (sbennūnai, “to extinguish”) in Lev. 6:6 comes from the same root as the adjective ἄσβεστος, which occurs here in L32.

Redaction Analysis

Each of the synoptic writers adapted Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse to achieve their respective purposes. Luke’s version appears to be closest to that of Anth.

Luke’s Version[121]

Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse
Luke Anthology
Total
Words:
77 Total
Words:
69
Total
Words
Identical
to Anth.:
59 Click here for details.
%
Identical
to Anth.:
76.62%

Lukan redaction is particularly apparent in the narrative introduction to Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse (L1-8), where it appears he attempted to tone down the messianic speculations of the crowds. In place of the crowds’ enthusiastic affirmation that John the Baptist was the Messiah, which we suppose was expressed in Anth., the author of Luke introduced a degree of caution and uncertainty: “Perhaps he might be the Messiah.” The author of Luke also emphasized that the Baptist made known “to everyone” (L8) that he merely paved the way for the coming of another whose sandals he was unfit to untie.

Two other significant changes the author of Luke made to Anth.’s wording were changing “after me,” which might imply inferiority, to “mightier than I” (L12), which clearly expresses the Baptist’s subordinate relationship to the Someone whose coming he announced, and adding the word “holy” (L23) to “wind/spirit.” This the author of Luke did under the influence of Jesus’ prophecy of the giving of the Holy Spirit recorded in Acts 1:5, and it is probable that he was unaware that by adding “holy” to John’s words he was changing their original significance. Nevertheless, this change had far-reaching consequences, since it was adopted by the author of Mark, who passed it on to Matthew.

The other changes the author of Luke made were stylistic improvements that did little to alter the meaning of his source. These include changes of word order (L9) and the use of infinitives (L27, L29) where Anth. had used future indicatives. In L27 the author of Luke replaced a rare and seemingly incorrect verb (διακαθαρίζειν) with what he regarded as the proper verb (διακαθαίρειν) that ought to have been used for the clearing of threshing floors. In doing so, however, he made the Baptist’s already obscure allusion to the purification of the Temple (of which he was probably ignorant) that much more difficult to detect.

Mark’s Version[122]

Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse
Mark Anthology
Total
Words:
29 Total
Words:
69
Total
Words
Identical
to Anth.:
22 Click here for details.
%
Identical
to Anth.:
75.86%

The author of Mark presents an extremely truncated version of John the Baptist’s teaching, preserving only the Baptist’s announcement that Someone was coming to administer a much better immersion than the one he had to offer.[123] In essence, the Baptist’s message, according to Mark, was that he was already obsolete. This skewed presentation of John the Baptist is symptomatic of the author of Mark’s desire to make John the Baptist recognize Jesus as the Messiah.

To achieve his purpose the author of Mark omitted the reference to the messianic speculation of the crowds (L1-5), he delayed the contrast between John’s water immersions and the immersion to be administered by his successor (L9) in order to emphasize the coming of the Mightier One, he changed the tense in L21 to the aorist so that John the Baptist admits that his immersions are already finished, and he omitted the reference to the immersion in fire (L24) so that the identity of the Mightier One who would immerse in the Holy Spirit would be obvious: John the Baptist proclaimed the coming of Jesus the Messiah. In addition, the author of Mark completely dispensed with the Purifying the Threshing Floor saying (L25-32), since this did not contribute to his main concern, which was to show that Jesus had already supplanted John the Baptist.

Matthew’s Version[124]

Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse
Matthew Anthology
Total
Words:
58 Total
Words:
69
Total
Words
Identical
to Anth.:
45 Click here for details.
%
Identical
to Anth.:
77.59%

In typical Matthean fashion the author of Matthew blended the wording of the two versions of Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse to which he had access (Mark and Anth.). Similar to Mark, Matthew’s version omits the messianic speculations of the crowds (L1-8), and from Mark the author of Matthew accepted the description “mightier than I” in reference to the Someone whose coming John announced (L12) and “holy” in reference to the immersion in wind/spirit that the coming Someone would administer (L23). Otherwise, the author of Matthew was guided by the wording of Anth., although he did not refrain from adding a few touches of his own. First, in L10 the author of Matthew specified that John’s immersion was “for repentance” rather than “for the release of sins,” as Luke and Mark attested in A Voice Crying, L36. Second, he preferred the imagery of carrying shoes (L20) to that of untying them (L16-18). Third, he changed “the wheat” to “his wheat” (L29) in order to underscore that the refuse had never been “his” (i.e., Jesus’ [since he undoubtedly identified the Coming One as Jesus]) in the first place.

Results of This Research

1. What was the identity of the figure who would administer the immersion greater than John’s? While the Gospel writers strongly hint that the mysterious figure whose coming John proclaimed was none other than Jesus, there is no indication from the synoptic accounts that John the Baptist had Jesus in mind when he made his pronouncement.[125] Various scholars have identified the Someone whose coming the Baptist predicted as the Son of Man, the Messiah, Elijah, or even God himself.[126] We believe that the function John expected the coming Someone to perform is the key to unlocking his identity.[127] Drawing on the imagery of Malachi’s prophecy, John described Someone who would purify the Temple (“he will clear the threshing floor”), bring judgment on the wicked (“he will burn the stubble”), and rescue the righteous (“he will bring in the wheat”). This description fits the profile of a messianic priest. Malachi identifies the messenger of the covenant with Elijah, and since Elijah was held to be a priest as well as a prophet, perhaps even identical to Phineas the grandson of Aaron the first priest, Elijah is a strong candidate for the Someone whose coming John the Baptist anticipated. Identifying the Someone whose coming John proclaimed as Elijah also explains the origin of the notion that John the Baptist was himself Elijah. After all, John was a priest and a prophet and he was active in the region of the Jordan Valley, the very region from which Elijah had been taken up into heaven. Despite John’s denials, popular perceptions were not so easily put down.

2. What was the nature of the immersion the eschatological figure would administer? John the Baptist contrasted his own water immersions, which were an offer of amnesty in preparation for the eschatological Day of Atonement, with the wind-and-fire immersion that would destroy those who had not purified themselves before the eschatological Day of Atonement arrived. There is no indication in the Baptist’s words that the immersion to be administered by the Someone whose coming he proclaimed would be one of mercy or second chances. Only the wheat (i.e., the righteous who had repented and been immersed in the Jordan) would endure the coming judgment.

Jesus, whose view of God’s redemptive plan was different than John the Baptist’s, put a new twist on John’s teaching when he promised the gift of the Holy Spirit. John had immersed in water and foretold an immersion of judgment in wind and fire, but Jesus would immerse his apostles in the Holy Spirit. John’s prediction and Jesus’ promise were able to be compared and contrasted because the word for “wind” in Hebrew is the same as the word for “Spirit.” Jesus’ clever way of reinterpreting John’s prophecy became so familiar to the early Christians that the original meaning of John’s prophecy was overshadowed and eventually forgotten. The unfolding of this process is partially preserved in the transmission of John’s prophecy from Luke (which still speaks of immersion in the Holy Spirit and fire) to Mark (which speaks exclusively of immersion in the Holy Spirit).

Conclusion

In Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse, John the Baptist denies that he is a messianic figure. He was merely warning Israel to prepare for the day when Elijah, in the role of messianic priest, comes to purify the Temple. John’s protestations notwithstanding, it emerges from his discourse that the Baptist did believe that he played a pivotal role in the unfolding of eschatological events. Only those who availed themselves of his water immersion would endure the wind-and-fire immersion of Elijah on the eschatological Day of Atonement. Thus, John the Baptist combined humility and a high self-awareness in a manner not unlike that which we encounter in Jesus.


Click here to return to “The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction” main page. _______________________________________________________
  • [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] Cf. Plummer, Matt., 28; McNeile, 28; Bundy, 51-52 §4; Davies-Allison, 1:312.
  • [4] On the author of Matthew’s redactional insertion of the Pharisees and Sadducees, see Yohanan the Immerser Demands Repentance, Comment to L1-2.
  • [5] The high Lukan-Matthean verbal agreement (above 80%) in the Purifying the Threshing Floor saying (Matt. 3:12 // Luke 3:17), which is included in Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse, also supports our conclusion that Anth. stood behind both the Lukan and Matthean versions of this pericope. On high verbal agreement in DT pericopae as an indicator of derivation from Anth., see LOY Excursus: Criteria for Distinguishing Type 1 from Type 2 Double Tradition Pericopae.
  • [6] Cf. scholars such as McNeile (28) and Davies-Allison (1:311), who regard Matthew’s version of Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse as a conflation of Mark and Q. Likewise, John P. Meier, “John the Baptist in Matthew’s Gospel,” Journal of Biblical Literature 99.3 (1980): 383-405, esp. 390.

    Justin Martyr was familiar with the Matthean form of Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse, as we see from his version of the Baptist’s saying:

    ἐγὼ μὲν ὑμᾶς βαπτίζω ἐν ὕδατι εἰς μετάνοιαν ἥξει δὲ ὁ ἰσχυτότερός μου, οὗ οὔκ εἰμι ἱκανὸς τὰ ὑποδύματα βαστάσαι αὐτὸς ὑμᾶς βαπτίσει ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ καὶ πυρί οὗ τὸ πτύον αὐτοῦ ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ διακαθαριεῖ τὴν ἅλωνα αὐτοῦ καὶ τόν σῖτον συνάξει εἰς τὴν ἀποθήκην τὸ δὲ ἄχυρον κατακαύσει πυρὶ ἀσβέστῳ

    I, on the one hand, immerse you in water for repentance, but the one mightier than I will come, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear. He will immerse you in holy spirit and fire. His winnowing shovel is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his threshing floor, and the wheat he will gather into the storehouse, but the stubble he will burn in unquenchable fire. (Dial. §49 [ed. Trollope, 1:99-100])

  • [7] For a comparison of the various versions of John’s prediction of the coming of Someone whose sandals John was unworthy to remove, see Paul G. Bretscher, “‘Whose Sandals’? (Matt 3:11),” Journal of Biblical Literature 86.1 (1967): 81-87.
  • [8] In Acts 11:16 the saying recorded in Acts 1:5 is repeated with slight variation of word order. There the saying is correctly attributed to Jesus, not to John the Baptist.
  • [9] See Bovon, 1:126.
  • [10] The source of the Johannine version of the Baptist’s saying is unknown. Like Matthew, but unlike Mark and Luke, John’s version includes the preposition ἐν (en, “in”) before ὕδατι (hūdati, “in/with water”). Also like Matthew, John’s version uses the titular phrase ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος (ho opisō mou erchomenos, “the one coming after me”; Matt. 3:11), whereas Luke and Mark refer to “the one stronger than I.” Like Mark and Luke, John’s version refers to untying the straps of the coming one’s shoes (Mark 1:7; Luke 3:16), whereas Matthew omits the reference to straps and speaks of carrying the shoes rather than untying them. Like the version in Acts 13:25, John’s version uses the adjective ἄξιος (axios, “worthy”), whereas all three synoptic versions have ἱκανός (hikanos, “sufficient”). Unique to John is the suggestion that the coming one has already been standing in the midst of those who were interrogating the Baptist. Perhaps the Johannine version of the Baptist’s saying is an amalgamation of the versions found in the Synoptic Gospels and Acts, or perhaps it is based on oral tradition.
  • [11] Cf. Marshall, 144; Nolland, Luke, 1:151; Robert L. Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet: A Socio-Historical Study (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991), 264 n. 3.
  • [12] On the author of Luke’s redactional activity in Luke 3:7, see A Voice Crying, Comment to L52-57.
  • [13] On the genitive absolute as an indicator of Lukan redaction, see LOY Excursus: The Genitive Absolute in the Synoptic Gospels, under the subheading “The Genitive Absolute in Luke.”
  • [14] Note that, according to Acts 19:4, John the Baptist spoke τῷ λαῷ (tō laō, “to the people”), exhorting them so that they might believe in the one coming after him.
  • [15] Cf. Ernst Bammel, “The Baptist in Early Christian Tradition,” New Testament Studies 18.1 (1971): 95-128, esp. 106 n. 3.
  • [16] The verb προσδοκᾶν occurs 2xx in Matthew (Matt. 11:3; 24:50), 0xx in Mark, 6xx in Luke (Luke 1:21; 3:15; 7:19, 20; 8:40; 12:46) and 5xx in Acts (Acts 3:5; 10:24; 27:33; 28:6 [2xx]). See Moulton-Geden, 861. The table below shows all of the instances of προσδοκᾶν in the Synoptic Gospels and the parallels (if any):

    Matt. 11:3 DT = Luke 7:19

    Matt. 24:50 DT = Luke 12:46

    Luke 1:21 U

    Luke 3:15 TT (cf. Matt. 3:[–]; Mark 1:7)

    Luke 7:19 DT = Matt. 11:3

    Luke 7:20 DT (cf. Matt. 11:[–])

    Luke 8:40 TT (cf. Matt. 9:[–]; Mark 5:21)

    Luke 12:46 DT = Matt. 12:50


    Key: TT = pericope has parallels in all three Synoptic Gospels; DT = Lukan-Matthean pericope; U = verse unique to a particular Gospel; [–] = no corresponding word and/or verse

    The evidence is not unequivocal. The two Lukan-Matthean agreements in DT pericopae to write προσδοκᾶν proves that this verb did sometimes occur in Anth. On the other hand, the use of προσδοκᾶν in the second half of Acts indicates that the author of Luke favored this verb and the presence of προσδοκᾶν in Lukan contexts that on other grounds appear to be redactional (Luke 3:15; 8:40) suggests that the author of Luke sometimes added προσδοκᾶν to his source.

    It is possible that Luke’s use of προσδοκᾶν in Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse was intended to create resonances with Yohanan the Immerser’s Question (Matt. 11:3; Luke 7:19, 20), where the Lukan-Matthean agreement to write προσδοκᾶν proves that this verb occurred in Anth. The author of Luke’s redaction would then parallel the author of Matthew’s adaptation of Anth.’s wording in Yohanan the Immerser’s Question from ἔρχεται ὁ ἰσχυρότερός μου (“one mightier than I is coming”; Mark 1:7; Luke 3:16) to ὁ…ἐρχόμενος ἰσχυρότερός μού ἐστιν (“the coming one is mightier than I”; Matt. 3:11) in order to strengthen the association between Yohanan the Immerser’s Question and Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse.

  • [17] Cf. Bammel, “The Baptist in Early Christian Tradition,” 106 n. 3.
  • [18] Cf. Marshall, 145.
  • [19] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:304-305.
  • [20] See Dos Santos, 71.
  • [21] See Bovon, 1:125.
  • [22] Note also the negative connotations of מַחְשְׁבֹת לֵב (maḥshevot lēv, “thoughts of the heart”) in Gen. 6:5. Cf. Prov. 6:18; 19:21.
  • [23] In LXX ἐν [ταῖς] καρδίαις αὐτῶν is the translation of בִּלְבָבָם in Ps. 27[28]:3; 77[78]:18; Zeph. 1:12. In Eccl. 9:3 and Jer. 5:24 בִּלְבָבָם was rendered ἐν [τῇ] καρδίᾳ αὐτῶν.
  • [24] In LXX ἐν [ταῖς] καρδίαις αὐτῶν is the translation of בְּלִבָּם in Ps. 34[35]:25; Zech. 12:5. In Ps. 73[74]:8 and Eccl. 3:11 בְּלִבָּם was rendered ἐν [τῇ] καρδίᾳ αὐτῶν.
  • [25] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:1475-1476.
  • [26] See Dos Santos, 123.
  • [27] Thus, Nolland (Luke, 1:150) missed the point when he stated, “Nothing in John’s ministry attracts thought of a Davidic messiah.” In the Second Temple period messiahs could be Davidic or otherwise.
  • [28] Cf. Marshall, 145.
  • [29] See LHNS, 11 §4.
  • [30] Luke’s word order dictates reconstructing John’s statement as אֲנִי בַּמַּיִם מַטְבִּיל אֶתְכֶם, which, if not impossible, is at least awkward and unusual.
  • [31] Cf. Marshall, 146.
  • [32] Matthew’s word order dictates reconstructing John’s statement as אֲנִי אֶתְכֶם מַטְבִּיל בַּמַּיִם, which is truly jarring.
  • [33] See Davies-Allison, 1:312.
  • [34] For a different view, see Harry Fleddermann, “John and the Coming One (Matt 3:11-12//Luke 3:16-17),” Society of Biblical Literature Seminar Papers 23 (1984): 377-384, esp. 378.
  • [35] This is how Davies and Allison accounted for the presence of ἐν in Matt. 3:11. See Davies-Allison, 1:312.
  • [36] See Yohanan the Immerser’s Question, Comment to L21.
  • [37] Cf. LHNS, 11 §4; Lindsey, HTGM, 87.
  • [38] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:1381-1384.
  • [39] See Dos Santos, 110.
  • [40] On the popular identification of John the Baptist with Elijah, see Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser, Comment to L23-27.
  • [41] See 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. 29-31; Schuyler Brown, “‘Water-Baptism’ and ‘Spirit-Baptism’ in Luke-Acts,” Anglican Theological Review 59.2 (1977): 135-151, esp. 136-137.
  • [42] Some scholars object that “the Lord” and “the messenger of the covenant” of Mal. 3:1 ought not to be equated with “my messenger” of the same verse, but must rather be identified as God himself. See Knox Chamblin, “Gospel and Judgment in the preaching of John the Baptist,” Tyndale Bulletin 13 (1963): 7-15, esp. 11; John H. Hughes, “John the Baptist: The Forerunner of God Himself,” Novum Testamentum 14.3 (1972): 191-218, esp. 193. Whether or not they are correct with regard to the author of Malachi’s original intention, there are good reasons for equating all three personages. First, having begun to speak in the first person (“I will send my messenger”), why would God then refer to himself in the third person (“he will come suddenly”)? God resumes speaking in the first person in Mal. 3:5, so it is natural to assume that the figure(s) spoken of in the third person in Mal. 3:1-4 is a single individual. Second, “messenger of the covenant” is a qualifier of “the lord” (“the lord whom you seek, namely the messenger of the covenant”), and it is natural to suppose that the messenger of the covenant is none other than “my messenger,” whom God promises to send in the opening of the verse. It is understandable, therefore, that some readers would reach the conclusion that the coming of a single person is envisioned throughout. Ancient Jewish commentaries on Mal. 3:1 are scarce, but at least one Jewish interpreter, Rabbi David Kimhi (Radak [1160-1235]), who may have been passing on earlier traditions, not only regarded “the messenger of the covenant” as one with “the lord” and “my messenger” as a single figure, he identified that figure as Elijah: אמר מלאך הברית על אליהו (“It says ‘messenger of the covenant’ concerning Elijah”). See Rabbi David Kimhi, Duodecim Prophetæ cum comentariis R. Dauid Kimhi (Paris: ex officina Roberti Stephani, typographi Regii, 1539), on Mic. 3:1. This is the second of two possible identifications of “the messenger of the covenant” that Rabbi David Kimhi proposed, the other being the Messiah. It makes perfect sense that God would not reenter the Temple until it had been purified for him by an eschatological high priest.
  • [43] On the influence of Malachi’s prophecy on John the Baptist’s preaching, see Jeffrey A. Trumbower, “The Role of Malachi in the Career of John the Baptist,” in The Gospels and the Scriptures of Israel (ed. Craig A. Evans and W. Richard Stegner; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994), 28-41, esp. 34-36.
  • [44] See Robinson, “Elijah, John and Jesus: An Essay in Detection,” 31 (italics original). Brownlee also discussed the possibility that John the Baptist expected the coming of Elijah. 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. 48.
  • [45] The coming Someone’s function of purifying the Temple and priesthood matches the role of a priestly, rather than a Davidic, messiah. Strengthening the identification of John’s coming Someone as Elijah are Jewish traditions, likely reaching back to the Second Temple period, that Elijah was a priest as well as a prophet. See John C. Poirier, “The Endtime Return of Elijah and Moses at Qumran,” Dead Sea Discoveries 10.2 (2003): 221-242.
  • [46] Scholars who attribute εἰς μετάνοιαν to Matthean redaction include Allen (25), McNeile (28-29), Nolland (Luke, 1:151) and Bovon (1:126 n. 56). See also Fleddermann, “John and the Coming One (Matt 3:11-12//Luke 3:16-17),” 378.
  • [47] See Harnack, 3.
  • [48] Catchpole, 10.
  • [49] On the author of Matthew’s rejection of the notion that John’s immersions could effect forgiveness, see A Voice Crying, Comment to L35.
  • [50] Matthew’s word order dictates a reconstruction such as הָאַחֲרַי בָּא חָזָק מִמֶּנִּי (“The one behind me is coming, stronger than I”), which is nonsensical, since a preposition cannot be used as a substantive, or perhaps מִי שֶׁאַחֲרַי בָּא הוּא חָזָק מִמֶּנִּי (“Someone who is behind me is coming. He is stronger than I”), which is bizarre. We would have expected the Hebrew statement הַבָּא אַחֲרַי חָזָק מִמֶּנִּי (“The one coming behind me is stronger than I”) to be expressed in Greek as ὁ ἐρχόμενος ὀπίσω μου ἰσχυρότερός μού ἐστιν.
  • [51] See Meier, “John the Baptist in Matthew’s Gospel,” 390-391 n. 24; idem, Marginal, 2:79 n. 76.
  • [52] Pace Fleddermann (“John and the Coming One [Matt 3:11-12//Luke 3:16-17],” 378) and Tuckett, who argued that ὁ ἐρχόμενος in Matthew came from Q. See Christopher M. Tuckett, “John the Baptist in Q,” in his Q and the History of Christianity: Studies on Q (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996), 107-137, esp. 117 n. 34.
  • [53] On reconstructing ἔρχεσθαι (erchesthai, “to come”) with בָּא (bā’, “come”), see Demands of Discipleship, Comment to L8.
  • [54] LHNS, 11 §4.
  • [55] In Acts 13:25 the Baptist’s saying is quoted by Paul, who, according to Acts 21:40; 22:2, was a Hebrew speaker. Paul may well have memorized the Baptist’s saying in its Hebrew form.
  • [56] Cf. Fleddermann, “John and the Coming One (Matt 3:11-12//Luke 3:16-17),” 378; Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet: A Socio-Historical Study, 265.
  • [57] Our suggestion presupposes that the author of Luke believed that John the Baptist was speaking about Jesus when he spoke of Someone coming after him. John himself does not appear to have identified the coming Someone with Jesus at the time when he prophesied the Someone’s coming to the crowds. Cf. Manson, Luke, 28; Bammel, “The Baptist in Early Christian Tradition,” 97.
  • [58] The phrase -מִי שֶׁ appears as the reconstruction of ὃς ἐάν in Yohanan the Immerser’s Question, L45.
  • [59] The phrase -מִי שֶׁ appears as the reconstruction of ὅστις in Demands of Discipleship, L21, L29-31.
  • [60] In a talmudic discussion Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi states:

    אני איני כדי לעמוד מפני בני

    As for me, it is not fitting for me [אֵינִי כְּדַי] to stand in the presence of my son…. (b. Kid. 33b)

  • [61] Cf. Fleddermann, “John and the Coming One (Matt 3:11-12//Luke 3:16-17),” 383; Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet: A Socio-Historical Study, 271.
  • [62] Pace Creed (53) and Tuckett (“John the Baptist in Q,” 117 n. 34), who thought that Matthew preserves the original form. See Davies-Allison, 1:315.
  • [63] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:889.
  • [64] Fleddermann (“John and the Coming One [Matt 3:11-12//Luke 3:16-17],” 379) suggested that the author of Matthew attempted to simplify the imagery in the Baptist’s saying.
  • [65] For the view that Mark’s aorist is a Semitism, see Taylor, 64, 157; Guelich, 24.
  • [66] For the view that Mark’s aorist is theologically driven, see McNeile, 28; Bultmann, 111; Bundy, 50 §4; Mann, 197; Catchpole, 11. See also Fleddermann, “John and the Coming One (Matt 3:11-12//Luke 3:16-17),” 382.
  • [67] See A. B. Bruce, 84; C. K. Barrett, The Holy Spirit and the Gospel Tradition (rev. ed.; London: SPCK, 1966), 126; Beare, 39 §4; Ernest Best, “Spirit-Baptism,” Novum Testamentum 4.3 (1960): 236-243; Schweizer, 51-52; Cf. Davies-Allison, 1:317.
  • [68] According to Josephus, God used the Romans to purify the Temple with fire (J.W. 4:323; 6:110). Flusser suggested that Josephus’ apologetic explanation for the Romans’ burning of the Temple was based on earlier apocalyptic notions of the Temple’s purification by fire. See David Flusser, “Jerusalem in Second Temple Literature” (Flusser, JSTP2, 44-75, esp. 69). Note that the English version of Flusser’s article is marred by numerous translational errors. Those of which we are aware have been collected on this website in the blog post entitled Corrections and Emendations to Flusser’s Judaism of the Second Temple Period.
  • [69] On the disagreement between John the Baptist and Jesus over a two-stage or three-stage division of history, see David Flusser, “The Stages of Redemption History According to John the Baptist and Jesus” (Flusser, Jesus, 258-275).
  • [70] See David Flusser, “The Literary Relationship Between the Three Gospels,” in his Jewish Sources in Early Christianity: Studies and Essays (Tel Aviv: Sifriat Poalim, 1979), 28-49, esp. 48 (in Hebrew); idem, “The Baptism of John and the Dead Sea Sect,” in his Jewish Sources in Early Christianity: Studies and Essays (Tel Aviv: Sifriat Poalim, 1979), 81-112, esp. 98 (in Hebrew).
  • [71] The Baptist’s affirmation in the Fourth Gospel that “this is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit” (John 1:33) betrays the influence of the synoptic tradition, or perhaps direct knowledge of the saying of Jesus recorded in Acts 1:5.
  • [72] A major problem with the hypothesis that the Baptist spoke only of an immersion of the Holy Spirit is that proclaiming a bigger and better immersion that was soon to be available would have been a major disincentive to participating in John’s water immersions. Why not wait for the upgrade and save oneself the trouble of being immersed twice? In order to avoid this difficulty, Kraeling argued that originally the Baptist spoke only of immersion in a wind (ἐν πνεύματι) of judgment. John’s saying was subsequently reinterpreted with the addition of ἁγίῳ (“holy”) as a reference to the Holy Spirit, as reflected in Mark 1:8. Finally, the addition of καὶ πυρί (“and fire”) was a reaction against Mark’s reinterpretation of the Baptist’s saying, and therefore the entire phrase ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ καὶ πυρί should be understood as a hendiadys implying that the one whose coming John foretold would “destroy you with the fiery breath of his Spirit.” See Carl H. Kraeling, John the Baptist (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1951), 62-63.
  • [73] Scholars who suppose that “Holy Spirit and fire” represents the independent combination of the Markan and Q traditions by the authors of Luke and Matthew include Harnack (3), Manson (Sayings, 41), Brown (“‘Water-Baptism’ and ‘Spirit-Baptism’ in Luke-Acts,” 136), Luz (1:138) and Bovon (1:126). Scholars who suppose that “Holy Spirit and fire” was already in Q include Taylor (157) and Fleddermann (“John and the Coming One [Matt 3:11-12//Luke 3:16-17],” 381). Bultmann (111 n. 1) preferred not to decide between these two options. Neither did Hartwig Thyen, “ΒΑΠΤΙΣΜΑ ΜΕΤΑΝΟΙΑΣ ΕΙΣ ΑΦΕΣΙΝ ΑΜΑΡΤΙΩΝ,” in The Future of our Religious Past: Essays in Honour of Rudolf Bultmann (ed. James M. Robinson; trans. Charles E. Carlston and Robert P. Scharlemann; New York: Harper & Row, 1971), 131-168, esp. 132 n. 6, 137 n. 25. The main weakness of this proposal is that the substitution of “fire” with “Holy Spirit” remains inexplicable, since neither the words nor the concepts in Greek or Hebrew bear any similarity to one another.
  • [74] The notion of two mutually exclusive immersions is advocated by Robert L. Webb, “The Activity of John the Baptist’s Expected Figure at the Threshing Floor (Matthew 3.12 = Luke 3.17),” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 43 (1991): 103-111, esp. 109-111. The weakness of this solution is that it undermines the contrast John the Baptist drew between himself and the one whose coming he foretold. John immersed at the present time in water for the salvation of those who repented. The one who was coming would immerse at a future time in wind and fire for the destruction of those who did not repent. Two additional contrasts between the present and future immersions are that John’s immersion was limited and voluntary, whereas the immersion administered by the coming one would be universal and involuntary. Cf. Kraeling, John the Baptist, 117.
  • [75] See Flusser, “The Baptism of John and the Dead Sea Sect,” 98 n. 41.
  • [76] Elijah’s association with fire is emphasized in Sir. 48:1. Sir. 48:3 notes that on three occasions Elijah called down fire from heaven. These took place during Elijah’s contest with the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel (1 Kgs. 18:36-38) and twice when Ahaziah attempted to summon Elijah to Samaria (2 Kgs. 1:1-12).
  • [77] See Manson, Sayings, 41; Thyen, “ΒΑΠΤΙΣΜΑ ΜΕΤΑΝΟΙΑΣ ΕΙΣ ΑΦΕΣΙΝ ΑΜΑΡΤΙΩΝ,” 136.
  • [78] On the high self-awareness revealed in Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse, see Catchpole (8-9); Meier, Marginal, 2:55.
  • [79] Other instances of rendering בָּאֵשׁ (“in the fire”) as [ἐν] πυρί (“in fire”) occur in Exod. 3:2; 12:10; 19:18; 29:14, 34; 32:20; Lev. 4:12; 6:23; 7:17, 19; 8:17, 32; 9:11; 13:52, 55, 57; 16:27; 19:6; 20:14; Num. 31:10, 23; Deut. 1:33; 4:11; 5:23; 7:5, 25; 9:15, 21; 12:3, 31; 13:17; 18:10.
  • [80] The authors of Luke and Matthew both achieved above 80% verbal identity with one another in the Purifying the Threshing Floor saying, which marks Purifying the Threshing Floor as a Type 1 Double Tradition (DT) pericope. The author of Luke copied most Type 1 DT pericopae from Anth. See LOY Excursus: Criteria for Distinguishing Type 1 from Type 2 Double Tradition Pericopae.
  • [81] Cf. James D. G. Dunn, “Spirit-and-Fire Baptism,” Novum Testamentum 14.2 (1972): 81-92, esp. 85.
  • [82] See Webb, “The Activity of John the Baptist’s Expected Figure at the Threshing Floor (Matthew 3.12 = Luke 3.17),” 103-111.
  • [83] Ibid., 107.
  • [84] Ibid.
  • [85] Ibid., 109-110.
  • [86] The identification of the ἀθηρηλοιγός (“chaff destroyer”) as a πτύον (“winnowing shovel”) was made at least as early as Eustathius of Thessalonica (12th cent. C.E.) in his Commentarii ad Homeri Odysseam (ed. Gottfried Stallbaum; Leipzig: Wegel, 1825), 1:402 §1675.49 (on Odyssey 11:127). See Jane E. Harrison, “Mystica Vannus Iacchi,” The Journal of Hellenic Studies 23 (1903): 292-324, esp. 301-303.
  • [87] The passage reads:

    σιτουμένην δύστηνον ἀθλίαν φάβα μέσακτα πλευρὰ πρὸς πτύοις πεπληγμένην

    A wretched piteous dove, in quest of food, dashed amid the winnowing shovels [πτύοις], its breast broken in twain. (Aeschylus, Fragments §119 [210]; Loeb [adapted])

    Text and translation (slightly adapted) according to Herbert Weir Smyth, Aeschylus (Loeb; 2 vols.; New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1926), 2:455.

  • [88] The custom of setting up a winnowing shovel in a grain heap is mentioned in Theocritus (third cent. B.C.E), Bucolic Poems, “The Harvest-Home,” 7:155-157. For text and translation see J. M. Edmonds, trans., The Greek Bucolic Poets (Loeb; New York: Macmillan, 1912), 106-107. See also Harrison, “Mystica Vannus Iacchi,” 305-306; idem, “Mystica Vannus Iacchi (Continued),” The Journal of Hellenic Studies 24 (1904): 241-254, esp. 241-245.
  • [89] On equating the πτύον and the ventilabrum, see Harrison, “Mystica Vannus Iacchi,” 310; K. D. White, Agricultural Implements of the Roman World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967), 32-33.
  • [90] Text and translation according to Roland G. Kent, trans., Varro: On the Latin Language (Loeb; 2 vols.; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1938), 1:130-131.
  • [91] Text and translation (slightly adapted) according to William Davis Hooper, trans., Cato and Varro: On Agriculture (Loeb; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1935), 286-287.
  • [92] See Webb, “The Activity of John the Baptist’s Expected Figure at the Threshing Floor (Matthew 3.12 = Luke 3.17),” 107. In Symmachus’ translation of Isa. 30:24, πτύον is the translation of רַחַת. See Hatch-Redpath, 2:1329. In MT the noun רַחַת is found only in Isa. 30:24, where it is said to be used for winnowing.
  • [93] See Harrison, “Mystica Vannus Iacchi (Continued),” 242-243.
  • [94] See Creed, 54; Davies-Allison, 1:318; Webb, “The Activity of John the Baptist’s Expected Figure at the Threshing Floor (Matthew 3.12 = Luke 3.17),” 106.
  • [95] See Bernard P. Grenfell et al., eds., The Tebtunis Papyri (4 vols.; London: Henry Frowde, 1902-1933), 2:212-213 no. 373.10.
  • [96] Text and translation (slightly adapted) according to Allen Rogers Benner and Francis H. Fobes, trans., The Letters of Alciphron, Aelian and Philostratus (Loeb; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1949), 120-121. Noted in Webb, “The Activity of John the Baptist’s Expected Figure at the Threshing Floor (Matthew 3.12 = Luke 3.17),” 108.
  • [97] Cf. Harnack, 2; Creed, 54; Nolland, Luke, 1:153; Bovon, 1:127 n. 59.
  • [98] Since διακαθαρίζειν appears to be unattested prior to Matthew, there is the outside chance that the verb was coined by the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua.
  • [99] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:698.
  • [100] The verb καθαρίζειν is also used for the purification of the Temple in 1 Macc. 4:36, 41, 43; 2 Macc. 2:18; 10:3, 7; 14:36.
  • [101] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:60.
  • [102] See Dos Santos, 39.
  • [103] See R. Steven Notley, “The Gospel According to John the Baptist,” from the lecture series Are You the One Who Is to Come? Jesus in First-Century Understanding (recorded September 19-21, 2002 in Zeeland, Michigan) (Holland, MI: En-Gedi Resource Center, 2006).
  • [104] The fact that the Temple was built on a threshing floor may be the key to understanding the otherwise bizarre association of threshing floor imagery with the Day of Atonement in the following rabbinic midrash on Jacob’s statement that his brother Esau was a hairy man (Gen. 27:11):

    ר′ לוי אמר לקווץ וקרח שהיו עומדין על שפת הגורן ועלה המוץ בקווץ ונסתבך בשערו, עלה המוץ בקרח ונתן ידו על ראשו והעבירו, כך עשו הרשע מתלכלך בעונות כל השנה ואין לו במה להתכפר, אבל יעקב מתלכלך בעונות [כל השנה] ויש לו יום הכפורים להתכפר לו

    Rabbi Levi said, “[The contrast between Esau’s hairiness and Jacob’s smoothness may be compared] to a curly-haired person and someone who is bald who were standing at the side of a threshing floor and the chaff went up on the curly-haired person and caught in his hair. The chaff went up on the bald person and he put his hand on his head and removed it [i.e., the chaff—DNB and JNT]. So it is with Esau the wicked. He soils himself with sins all the year long, but he has no means by which to be purified. But Jacob soils himself with sins all the year long, yet he has the Day of Atonement to purify him. (Gen. Rab. 65:15 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 2:726])

    The rabbinic work Genesis Rabbah, in which this midrash appears, does not tell us to what circumstances it might be responding. The tone is polemical, and a plausible reconstruction is that the midrash responds to competition for control of the Temple mount. One thing is clear: the hairless Jacob represents Israel. Esau, dubbed “the wicked,” typically stands for the Roman Empire. Therefore, the hairy Esau in the above midrash could allude to the Roman occupation of the Antonia fortress, which guarded the Temple complex during the Second Temple period. Alternatively, Esau’s access to the threshing floor might refer to the temple of Jupiter, which was constructed on the site of the Temple during the reign of Hadrian. In any case, the polemical thrust of the midrash might be that while both Jacob (i.e., Israel) and Esau (i.e., Rome) had access to the threshing floor (i.e., the Temple mount), only Israel had the Day of Atonement whereby its impurity could be removed.

  • [105] Webb (John the Baptizer and Prophet: A Socio-Historical Study, 299) raised the possibility that the threshing floor symbolized the Temple only to reject it. Webb’s rejection of this possibility on the grounds that “John’s ministry was not addressed to the temple establishment specifically but to all Israel” is all the more surprising because he argued that Yohanan the Immerser Demands Repentance was addressed specifically to the Sadducees (ibid., 175-178), and that John’s immersions were an emergency substitute for the Temple’s rites, which the Temple authorities had invalidated through their corrupt practices (ibid., 203-205).
  • [106] See J. Armitage Robinson, The Historical Character of St. John’s Gospel (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1908), 25.
  • [107] See Robinson, “Elijah, John and Jesus: An Essay in Detection,” 40.
  • [108] On the temple of Onias, see Robert Hayward, “The Jewish Temple at Leontopolis: A Reconsideration,” Journal of Jewish Studies 33 (1982): 429-443; Abraham Wasserstein, “Notes on the Temple of Onias at Leontopolis,” Illinois Classical Studies 18 (1993): 119-129; Erich S. Gruen, “The Origins and Objectives of Onias’ Temple,” Scripta Classica Israelica 16 (1997): 46-70; Joan E. Taylor, “A Second Temple in Egypt: The Evidence for the Zadokite Temple of Onias,” Journal for the Study of Judaism 29.3 (1998): 297-321.
  • [109] Essene Zadokite sympathies are expressed in the Damascus Document (CD-A III, 18-IV, 12), the Rule of the Community (1QS V, 1-3), which requires obedience to the sons of Zadok, and the Rule of the Congregation (1QSa I, 1-3, 24; II, 2-3), which envisions the leadership of the Zadokite priests in the last days. See also 1QSb III, 23-24.
  • [110] On the identification of Elijah with Phineas in ancient Jewish sources, see Ginzberg, 2:996 n. 3; Alexander Zeron, “The Martyrdom of Phineas-Elijah,” Journal of Biblical Literature 98.1 (1979): 99-100. Already in Ben Sira’s eulogy of famous men, Phineas (Sir. 45:23) and Elijah (Sir. 48:1-2) are distinguished because of their zeal. In Mattathias’ deathbed speech, Phineas (1 Macc. 2:54) and Elijah (1 Macc. 2:58) are again noted for their zeal. Phineas and Elijah are not identified with one another in these sources, but the two characters are presented as being cut from the same cloth. Pseudo-Philo’s Biblical Antiquities (second cent. C.E.?) draws striking parallels between the lives of Phineas and Elijah not supported by the biblical text (L.A.B. 48:1), such as Phineas’ being fed by eagles (cf. Elijah, who was fed by ravens), Phineas’ ability to open and shut the heavens (cf. Elijah’s ability to dictate rainfall), and the promise that Phineas would be taken up to heaven (cf. Elijah, who was taken up in the whirlwind).
  • [111] By means of its genealogies, the book of Chronicles indicates that the high-priestly succession within the line of Eleazar (Phineas’ father) was interrupted during the period of the Judges, when Eli of the house of Ithamar (Eleazar’s brother) became high priest (1 Sam. 14:3; 22:9; 1 Chr. 24:3; cf. Seder Eliyahu Rabbah, chpt. [11]12 [ed. Friedmann, 57]). According to the book of Samuel, the priesthood was corrupted under Eli’s leadership, his sons being referred to as בְּנֵי בְלִיָּעַל (benē veliyā‘al, “worthless persons” or “sons of Belial”; 1 Sam. 2:12) on account of their abuses. Eventually, Eli was confronted by a prophet who told him that his descendants would be removed from office and that the LORD would raise up a faithful priest, for whom he would build a sure house (1 Sam. 2:35). The book of Kings informs us that this prophecy against the house of Eli was fulfilled when Solomon removed Abiathar, a descendant of Eli, from office (1 Kgs. 2:27) and appointed Zadok, a descendant of Phineas, to take his place (1 Kgs. 2:35). Regarding the Essene hopes for the reinstatement of the Zadokite high priesthood, it should be noted that the Damascus Document (CD-A III, 18-IV, 12) presents the members of the Essene sect as repeating in their own time the temporary interruption by the house of Eli to the succession of the high priesthood among the descendants of Phineas. The members of the sect are the “sure house,” the “sons of Belial” (i.e., the wicked priests in control of the Temple) again run rampant in Israel (CD-A IV, 13), but the “sons of Zadok” will stand in the end of days (CD-A IV, 4) to offer sacrifices in a purified Temple. On this section of the Damascus Document, see Daniel R. Schwartz, “‘To Join Oneself to the House of Judah’ (Damascus Document IV, 11),” Revue de Qumrân 10.3 (1981): 435-446.
  • [112] Cf. Randall Buth and Brian Kvasnica, “Temple Authorities and Tithe Evasion: The Linguistic Background and Impact of the Parable of The Vineyard, the Tenants and the Son” (JS1, 53-80, esp. 69-70).
  • [113] See Fleddermann, “John and the Coming One (Matt 3:11-12//Luke 3:16-17),” 379.
  • [114] Cf. Harnack, 2 n. 2.
  • [115] Cf. Fleddermann, “John and the Coming One (Matt 3:11-12//Luke 3:16-17),” 380.
  • [116] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:188.
  • [117] Luz (1:138) rightly pointed out that chaff is not burned, but his assertion that “Linguistically, ἄχυρον cannot mean the straw” (1:138 n. 48) is surprising, given the LXX translators’ preference for rendering תֶּבֶן (“straw,” “hay”) with ἄχυρον. Luz is also incorrect that ἄχυρον is not burned. According to Moulton-Milligan (100), “feeding the fire was the normal use” of ἄχυρον. Windblown chaff is called ἀθήρ (athēr).
  • [118] We refer to the illustration in Song Rab. 7:3 §3 as a fable rather than a parable because the ability of inanimate objects, plants and animals to speak is more typical of fables than of parables, which are more rooted in the experiences of everyday life. On the distinction between fables and parables, see Young, JHJP, 5-6. The rabbinic sages were certainly aware of fables, such as those of Aesop, and they reshaped and reused them for their own purposes. On fables in rabbinic sources, see Joseph Jacobs, ed., The Fables of Aesop, as first printed by William Caxton in 1484, with those of Avian, Alfonso and Poggio (2 vols; London: David Nutt in the Strand, 1889), 1:110-124; idem, “Æsop’s Fables Among the Jews,” JE, 1:221-222; Young, JHJP, 238-239; Haim Schwarzbaum, “The Fables of Aesop and the Parables of the Sages,” Maḥanayim 112 (1967): 112-117 (in Hebrew). An English translation of Schwarzbaum’s article is now available on the Whole Stones blog: “Aesop’s Fables and the Parables of the Sages” at www.WholeStones.org.
  • [119] We cannot, therefore, agree with Dunn (“Spirit-and-Fire Baptism,” 88), who maintained that “the wind…is purely a sifting separating force, neither beneficial nor destructive.” Wind was a destructive force to the chaff, the element in which it was eradicated. The poetic name “chaff-destroyer,” which Homer conferred on the winnowing shovel, was earned because with the shovel winnowers exposed the chaff to the element in which it was dissolved.
  • [120] Recognizing that the different kinds of refuse were disposed of in different ways helps us to understand why John the Baptist referred to an immersion of wind and fire. Wind did away with the chaff, while fire did away with the larger refuse. The fact that straw might be put to good use was overlooked by the Baptist, since it did not serve his rhetorical purpose.
  • [121]
    Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse
    Luke’s Version Anthology’s Wording (Reconstructed)
    προσδοκῶντος δὲ τοῦ λαοῦ καὶ διαλογιζομένων πάντων ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις αὐτῶν περὶ τοῦ Ἰωάνου μήποτε αὐτὸς εἴη ὁ χριστός ἀπεκρείνατο λέγων πᾶσιν ὁ Ἰωάνης ἐγὼ μὲν ὕδατι βαπτίζω ὑμᾶς ἔρχεται δὲ ὁ ἰσχυρότερός μου οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς λῦσαι τὸν ἱμάντα τῶν ὑποδημάτων αὐτοῦ αὐτὸς ὑμᾶς βαπτίσει ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ καὶ πυρί οὗ τὸ πτύον ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ διακαθᾶραι τὴν ἅλωνα αὐτοῦ καὶ συναγαγεῖν τὸν σεῖτον εἰς τὴν ἀποθήκην αὐτοῦ τὸ δὲ ἄχυρον κατακαύσει πυρὶ ἀσβέστῳ καὶ διελογίσαντο οἱ ὄχλοι ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις αὐτῶν Ἰωάννης αὐτὸς ὁ χριστός ἐστιν καὶ ἀπεκρίνατο Ἰωάννης λέγων ἐγὼ μὲν βαπτίζω ὑμᾶς ὕδατι ἔρχεται δὲ ὀπίσω μου οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς λῦσαι τὸν ἱμάντα τῶν ὑποδημάτων αὐτοῦ αὐτὸς ὑμᾶς βαπτίσει ἐν πνεύματι καὶ πυρί οὗ τὸ πτύον ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ διακαθαριεῖ τὴν ἅλωνα αὐτοῦ καὶ συνάξει τὸν σῖτον εἰς τὴν ἀποθήκην αὐτοῦ τὸ δὲ ἄχυρον κατακαύσει πυρὶ ἀσβέστῳ
    Total Words: 77 Total Words: 69
    Total Words Identical to Anth.: 59  
    Percentage Identical to Anth.: 76.62%

  • [122]
    Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse
    Mark’s Version Anthology’s Wording (Reconstructed)
    καὶ ἐκήρυσσεν λέγων ἔρχεται ὁ ἰσχυρότερός μου ὀπίσω οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς κύψας λῦσαι τὸν ἱμάντα τῶν ὑποδημάτων αὐτοῦ ἐγὼ ἐβάπτισα ὑμᾶς ὕδατι αὐτὸς δὲ βαπτίσει ὑμᾶς πνεύματι ἁγίῳ καὶ διελογίσαντο οἱ ὄχλοι ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις αὐτῶν Ἰωάννης αὐτὸς ὁ χριστός ἐστιν καὶ ἀπεκρίνατο Ἰωάννης λέγων ἐγὼ μὲν βαπτίζω ὑμᾶς ὕδατι ἔρχεται δὲ ὀπίσω μου οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς λῦσαι τὸν ἱμάντα τῶν ὑποδημάτων αὐτοῦ αὐτὸς ὑμᾶς βαπτίσει ἐν πνεύματι καὶ πυρί οὗ τὸ πτύον ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ διακαθαριεῖ τὴν ἅλωνα αὐτοῦ καὶ συνάξει τὸν σῖτον εἰς τὴν ἀποθήκην αὐτοῦ τὸ δὲ ἄχυρον κατακαύσει πυρὶ ἀσβέστῳ
    Total Words: 29 Total Words: 69
    Total Words Identical to Anth.: 22  
    Percentage Identical to Anth.: 75.86%

  • [123] Cf. Fleddermann, “John and the Coming One (Matt 3:11-12//Luke 3:16-17),” 383.
  • [124]
    Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse
    Matthew’s Version Anthology’s Wording (Reconstructed)
    ἐγὼ μὲν ὑμᾶς βαπτίζω ἐν ὕδατι εἰς μετάνοιαν ὁ δὲ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος ἰσχυρότερός μού ἐστιν οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς τὰ ὑποδήματα βαστάσαι αὐτὸς ὑμᾶς βαπτίσει ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ καὶ πυρί οὗ τὸ πτύον ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ διακαθαριεῖ τὴν ἅλωνα αὐτοῦ καὶ συνάξει τὸν σεῖτον αὐτοῦ εἰς τὴν ἀποθήκην αὐτοῦ τὸ δὲ ἄχυρον κατακαύσει πυρὶ ἀσβέστῳ καὶ διελογίσαντο οἱ ὄχλοι ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις αὐτῶν Ἰωάννης αὐτὸς ὁ χριστός ἐστιν καὶ ἀπεκρίνατο Ἰωάννης λέγων ἐγὼ μὲν βαπτίζω ὑμᾶς ὕδατι ἔρχεται δὲ ὀπίσω μου οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς λῦσαι τὸν ἱμάντα τῶν ὑποδημάτων αὐτοῦ αὐτὸς ὑμᾶς βαπτίσει ἐν πνεύματι καὶ πυρί οὗ τὸ πτύον ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ διακαθαριεῖ τὴν ἅλωνα αὐτοῦ καὶ συνάξει τὸν σῖτον εἰς τὴν ἀποθήκην αὐτοῦ τὸ δὲ ἄχυρον κατακαύσει πυρὶ ἀσβέστῳ
    Total Words: 58 Total Words: 69
    Total Words Identical to Anth.: 45  
    Percentage Identical to Anth.: 77.59%

  • [125] According to Acts 19:4, however, Paul claimed that John the Baptist exhorted the people “that they might believe in the one coming after him, namely Jesus.”
  • [126] Scholars who believe that John the Baptist heralded the coming of God himself include Bretscher (“‘Whose Sandals’? [Matt 3:11],” 85-87), Hughes (“John the Baptist: The Forerunner of God Himself,” 191-218), Thyen (“ΒΑΠΤΙΣΜΑ ΜΕΤΑΝΟΙΑΣ ΕΙΣ ΑΦΕΣΙΝ ΑΜΑΡΤΙΩΝ,” 135-136) and Bovon (1:126). For a critique of this view, see Meier, Marginal, 2:34. In addition, if, as we suppose, John the Baptist really did inquire whether Jesus might be the Someone whose coming he predicted, he can have hardly meant, “Are you God incarnate?” Such a conceptual category did not exist in Second Temple Judaism and took time to develop even within Christianity. Hughes’ attempt to get around this difficulty by proposing that ὁ ἐρχόμενος (“the coming one”) in the Baptist’s question (Matt. 11:3; Luke 7:19, 20) does not refer back to the Someone of his prediction because it lacks the qualifier ὀπίσω μου (“after me”) is feeble (“John the Baptist: The Forerunner of God Himself,” 204-206).
  • [127] See Robinson, “Elijah, John and Jesus: An Essay in Detection,” 29-30.
  • David N. Bivin

    David N. Bivin
    Facebook

    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…
    [Read more about author]

    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…
    [Read more about author]

  • Online Hebrew Course

    Want to learn Hebrew? Check out our online Hebrew course Aleph-Bet: Hebrew Reading and Writing for Christians in 17 Easy Lessons.

  • JP Content