Yeshua’s Immersion

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The words of the heavenly voice that spoke at Jesus' immersion foreshadowed the trajectory of Jesus' career.

Matt. 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22

(Huck 6; Aland 18; Crook 21)[1]

Revised: 23 November 2021

וַיְהִי בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם וַיָּבֹא יֵשׁוּעַ [מִנָּצְרַת הַגָּלִיל] הַיַּרְדֵּנָה אֶל יוֹחָנָן לִטְבּוֹל לְפָנָיו וַיִּטְבֹּל יֵשׁוּעַ וַיַּעַל מִן הַמַּיִם וְהִנֵּה נִפְתְּחוּ הַשָּׁמַיִם וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים כַּיּוֹנָה צָלְחָה עָלָיו וְהִנֵּה בַּת קוֹל מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם אוֹמֶרֶת בְּנִי אַתָּה יְדִידִי בְּךָ רָצְתָה נַפְשִׁי

Back in the days prior to the Immerser’s execution, Yeshua [from Natzerat of the Galil] came to the Yarden to be purified under Yohanan’s supervision. So Yeshua immersed himself, but as he emerged from the water, the heavens parted and God’s Spirit swooped onto him like a dove, and a voice from heaven declared, “You are my beloved son, as Isaac was to Abraham; I accept you as a redeeming sacrifice.”[2]






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Story Placement

In the Gospels of Mark and Matthew Yeshua’s Immersion follows directly upon the heels of Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse, in which John the Baptist proclaimed a coming Someone who would administer an immersion surpassing his own. This juxtaposition of John’s prophecy with Jesus’ baptism gives the impression that Jesus is the very Someone whose coming the Baptist predicted. But this identification is problematic even in its Markan and Matthean contexts. Whereas the Baptist had predicted Someone who would administer an immersion, Jesus came to receive John’s immersion. Similarly, whereas John predicted that the Someone would immerse others in the Holy Spirit, in Yeshua’s Immersion the Spirit comes to Jesus. These discrepancies between John’s prediction and the account of Jesus’ baptism suggest that the portrayal of Jesus as the fulfillment of John the Baptist’s prophecy is a secondary literary device, which the author of Mark achieved by placing Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse and Yeshua’s Immersion side-by-side, an arrangement the author of Matthew accepted.

In the Gospel of Luke, by contrast, a notice about John the Baptist’s imprisonment (Luke 3:18-20) intervenes between Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse (Luke 3:15-17) and Yeshua’s Immersion (Luke 3:21-22). Luke’s arrangement of the pericopae accordingly lacks the overt implication that Jesus is the Someone whose coming John announced. However, it seems unlikely that the author of Luke would have suppressed the implication that Jesus fulfilled John’s expectations had it occurred in his sources since elsewhere in his writings he did not hesitate to present Jesus in this manner (Acts 13:24-25; 19:4).

The combining of the Life of Yohanan the Immerser with the Life of Yeshua.

As we have stated elsewhere,[3] we believe that despite its extremely condensed and highly polished Greek form, Luke’s account of John’s imprisonment accurately preserves the placement of Yohanan the Immerser’s Execution as it appeared in the Anthology (Anth.) and in its predecessor, the Hebrew Life of Yeshua. It appears that the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua incorporated an earlier John the Baptist source, which we have dubbed the Hebrew Life of Yohanan the Immerser, into his biography of Jesus. This earlier source covered the full span of John the Baptist’s life, from the announcement of his birth to Zechariah and Elizabeth to his execution by Herod Antipas, but the Hebrew Life of Yohanan the Immerser made no reference to Jesus. When the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua incorporated this Baptistic source into his biography of Jesus, he decided to use up all the material from this source before describing any interactions between John the Baptist and Jesus, which, of necessity, the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua composed himself. Thus, in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua (and subsequently in Anth. and the Gospel of Luke, which retained the original pericopae order) John the Baptist’s execution was reported prior to the sole personal encounter between John and Jesus. Feeling the awkwardness of reporting the grizzly details of the Baptist’s death before the account of Jesus’ baptism, the author of Luke skimmed over the two narratives in such a way that he merely noted the fact of John’s imprisonment and described Jesus’ baptism without explicitly stating that John the Baptist was present for that momentous occasion. His editorial attempts to smooth over the jarring transition between Yohanan the Immerser’s Execution and Yeshua’s Immersion notwithstanding, the author of Luke preserved the pericope order of Anth. and, ultimately, of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua.

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

Conjectured Stages of Transmission

Many scholars acknowledge that for Yeshua’s Immersion the authors of Luke and Matthew utilized a source other than (or in addition to) Mark, namely Q. Their reasoning for positing a non-Markan source behind Luke’s version of Yeshua’s Immersion is the presence in this pericope of a few Lukan-Matthean minor agreements against Mark (L2/L10; L23; L27; [L30]; L34),[4] as well as the overall probability that since the non-Markan source common to Luke and Matthew contained an account of John the Baptist’s preaching and an account of Jesus’ temptation in which his status as “Son of God” is the central concern, it probably also included an account of Jesus’ baptism,[5] which forms the only logical bridge between these two narratives.[6]

As followers of Lindsey’s solution to the Synoptic Problem, we suppose that the author of Mark depended on Luke’s Gospel rather than the reverse, so we concur that the author of Luke relied on a non-Markan pre-synoptic source for Yeshua’s Immersion. But which of his two sources the author of Luke relied upon, the Anthology (Anth.) or the First Reconstruction (FR), must be determined. The highly polished Greek style in which the author of Luke recounted Jesus’ baptism, as well as the brevity of his account, might suggest that the author of Luke depended on FR, which Lindsey described as a stylistically improved Greek epitome of Anth. On the other hand, the Greek syntax of Luke 3:21-22 is so good as to suggest that the stylistic improvements were made by the author of Luke himself.[7] Moreover, we have found that the author of Luke depended on Anth. for his versions of A Voice Crying (Luke 3:1-7a),[8] Yohanan the Immerser Demands Repentance (Luke 3:7b-9),[9] Yohanan the Immerser’s Exhortations (Luke 3:10-14),[10] Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse (Luke 3:15-17),[11] and Yohanan the Immerser’s Execution (Luke 3:18-20),[12] and since the high level of verbal identity of the Lukan version of Yeshua’s Testing (Luke 4:1-13) with Matthew’s (Matt. 4:1-11) suggests that the author of Luke copied this pericope from Anth. as well,[13] it would be surprising if the author of Luke had turned to FR as his source for Yeshua’s Immersion (Luke 3:21-22). Thus, it is unlikely that the polished Greek style in which the author of Luke reported Jesus’ baptism is due to his reliance on FR. Rather, it appears that in Yeshua’s Immersion the author of Luke was himself paraphrasing Anth.’s account of Jesus’ baptism.[14] As we already noted (see above, Story Placement), the author of Luke’s motivation for paraphrasing Anth.’s version of Yeshua’s Immersion was his desire to smooth over the awkward transition from the account of the Baptist’s execution to the description of Jesus’ immersion under the auspices of John.

The fact that on the whole Mark’s account of Jesus’ baptism reverts quite easily to Hebrew suggests that Anth., rather than Luke, was the author of Mark’s primary source for Yeshua’s Immersion. Matthew’s version of Yeshua’s Immersion is mainly based on Mark’s, the major difference being the exchange that takes place between John and Jesus prior to Jesus’ baptism (Matt. 3:14-15). Since this exchange bears all the hallmarks of Matthean redaction (see below, Comment to L12-22), it is highly unlikely that any of it can be traced back to Anth. The several minor agreements with Luke against Mark in Matthew’s version of Yeshua’s Immersion, on the other hand, indicate that the author of Matthew followed his customary practice of combining the wording of his two sources, Mark and Anth., whenever they recorded the same story.

Crucial Issues

  1. Why did Jesus participate in an immersion of repentance for the forgiveness of sins?
  2. In what sense was the Spirit like a dove?
  3. Was the voice from heaven that spoke at Jesus’ baptism something different from a bat kol known from rabbinic literature?
  4. What was the message the heavenly voice intended to convey?


L1 καὶ ἐγένετο (GR). Choosing between the conjunctions καί (kai, “and”), in agreement with the best reading of Mark 1:9,[15] and δέ (de, “but”), in agreement with Luke 3:21, is difficult since either conjunction could be reconstructed easily in Hebrew. Since Luke’s δέ is a slight stylistic improvement, and since the author of Luke paraphrased Anth.’s immersion scene in an elevated Greek style, we have accepted Mark’s καί for GR.

וַיְהִי (HR). Whether we had accepted καὶ ἐγένετο (kai egeneto, “and it was”) or ἐγένετο δέ (egeneto de, “but it was”) for GR, our Hebrew reconstruction would be the same. On the highly Hebraic subjectless ἐγένετο + time marker + finite verb construction we find in Mark 1:9 (L1-4), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L1.

L2 ἐν τῷ βαπτισθῆναι (Luke 3:21). Since it would not be impossible to reconstruct Luke’s ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ βαπτισθῆναι ἅπαντα τὸν λαόν (“But it happened when all the people were immersed…”) as וַיְהִי בִּטְבִילַת כֹּל הָעָם (“And it happened during the immersion of all the people…”),[16] and since the use of the passive infinitive βαπτισθῆναι (baptisthēnai, “to be immersed”) is a Lukan-Matthean minor agreement (see Matt. 3:13; L10), rejecting Luke’s wording for GR in L2 cannot be done lightly. Nevertheless, there are good reasons for regarding Luke’s wording in L2 as redactional. First, while it is true that Luke’s wording in L1-2 could be reconstructed in Hebrew, reconstructing the rest of Luke’s syntactically Greek sentence gets much tougher until we get to the declaration of the voice from heaven (L41-44), which suggests that the main part of Luke’s sentence is a paraphrase of Anth. If the author of Luke paraphrased the main part of the sentence, this raises the distinct possibility that the introductory part of Luke’s sentence (L1-2) is a paraphrase, too. Second, the fact that the author of Luke referred to ὁ λαός (ho laos, “the people”) in L2 indicates that he was indeed paraphrasing the introductory part of his sentence (L1-2) since references to ὁ λαός in Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse (L1; Luke 3:15) and Yohanan the Immerser’s Execution (L2; Luke 3:18) were shown to be the product of Lukan redaction.[17] Third, it seems likely that the author of Luke replaced Anth.’s “and it happened in those days” with “but while all the people were immersed” because, given the placement of Yohanan the Immerser’s Execution prior to Yeshua’s Immersion, “in those days” could be wrongly understood as “in the time after John’s death.” By writing “while all the people were immersed” the author of Luke wished to clarify for his readers that Jesus’ baptism took place while John the Baptist was still alive and engaged in his baptizing activities.[18] Thus it appears that Mark’s “in those days” accurately reflects the wording of Anth. in L2. At best, we can say that Luke’s passive infinitive in L2 retains an echo of Anth.’s wording, which was more accurately preserved by the author of Matthew in L10.

ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις (GR). Whereas Codex Vaticanus reads ἐν ἐκείναις ταῖς ἡμέραις (en ekeinais tais hēmerais, lit. “in those the days”) in Mark 1:9, Codex Bezae’s word order is ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις (en tais hēmerais ekeinais, lit. “in the days those”). Bezae’s word order is not a Greek stylistic improvement, but it does conform to Hebrew word order. Bezae’s word order also finds confirmation in the time marker in Matt. 3:1, which we believe the author of Matthew took from Mark’s and/or Anth.’s wording in Yeshua’s Immersion, L2.[19] Whether Codex Bezae preserves Mark’s original word order, or whether the author of Mark slightly rearranged Anth.’s word order in L2, we have accepted the Hebraic order ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις for GR.

בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם (HR). On reconstructing ἡμέρα (hēmera, “day”) with יוֹם (yōm, “day”), see Choosing the Twelve, Comment to L5. The LXX translators frequently rendered the phrase בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם (bayāmim hāhēm, “in those days”) as ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις (en tais hēmerais ekeinais, “in those days”), the wording we have adopted for GR.[20]

L3 [παραγείνεται] (Matt. 3:1). Within brackets in L3 we have the verb παραγείνεται (parageinetai, “he comes toward”) from Matthew’s version of A Voice Crying in order to show how the opening of Matt. 3:1 overlaps and mirrors the opening of Matt. 3:13.

L4 τότε παραγείνεται (Matt. 3:13). The author of Matthew replaced the longer introduction of Yeshua’s Immersion in Mark and Anth. with τότε παραγείνεται (tote parageinetai, “then he comes toward”). In doing so he accomplished two purposes. First, he presented Jesus’ appearance on the stage just as John the Baptist finishes announcing the advent of Someone who would administer an immersion of fire and the Holy Spirit.[21] The appearance of Jesus as if on cue is unlike Mark’s version, which vaguely describes Jesus’ arrival in the days of John’s activity. Matthew’s τότε παραγείνεται strengthens the impression that Jesus is to be identified as the Someone John proclaimed. Second, the author of Matthew achieved a parallelism between John the Baptist and Jesus since he used the historical present παραγείνεται (“he comes toward”) to describe the arrival of both individuals (Matt. 3:1 [John], 13 [Jesus]).[22] The use of the adverb τότε (tote, “then”) in narrative is typical of Matthean redaction,[23] as is the use of the historical present[24] and the generation of parallels between John the Baptist and Jesus.[25] As in A Voice Crying (L24, L31), so also in Yeshua’s Immersion (L1, L4) the author of Matthew used παραγίνεσθαι (paraginesthai, “to come toward”) to take the place of ἐγένετο…ἦλθεν (egenetoēlthen, “it was…he came”) in Anth.

ἦλθεν (GR). We considered adding the conjunction καί (kai, “and”) before the verb in GR since presumably a vav-consecutive stood behind the aorist ἦλθεν (ēlthen, “he came”). But sometimes after rendering וַיְהִי (vayehi, “and it was”) as καὶ ἐγένετο (kai egeneto, “and it was”) the LXX translators would omit the καί when translating the second vav-consecutive, for instance:

וַיְהִי מִקֵּץ אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם וַיִּפְתַּח נֹחַ אֶת־חַלּוֹן

And it was at the end of forty days, and Noah opened the window…. (Gen. 8:6)

καὶ ἐγένετο μετὰ τεσσαράκοντα ἡμέρας ἠνέῳξεν Νωε τὴν θυρίδα

And it was after forty days Noah opened the window…. (Gen. 8:6)

וַיְהִי בְּנָסְעָם מִקֶּדֶם וַיִּמְצְאוּ בִקְעָה בְּאֶרֶץ שִׁנְעָר

And it was during their journeying from the east, and they found a plain in the land of Shinar…. (Gen. 11:2)

καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ κινῆσαι αὐτοὺς ἀπὸ ἀνατολῶν εὗρον πεδίον ἐν γῇ Σεννααρ

And it was when they moved from the east they found a plain in the land of Shinar…. (Gen. 11:2)

וַיְהִי בְּשַׁחֵת אֱלֹהִים אֶת־עָרֵי הַכִּכָּר וַיִּזְכֹּר אֱלֹהִים אֶת־אַבְרָהָם

And it was during God’s destroying of the cities of the plain, and God remembered Abraham…. (Gen. 19:29)

καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ ἐκτρῖψαι κύριον πάσας τὰς πόλεις τῆς περιοίκου ἐμνήσθη ὁ θεὸς τοῦ Αβρααμ

And it was when the Lord destroyed all the cities of the surrounding region God remembered Abraham…. (Gen. 19:29)

Such examples prove that it is not necessary to add καί to GR.

וַיָּבֹא (HR). On reconstructing ἔρχεσθαι (erchesthai, “to come”) with בָּא (bā’, “come”), see Demands of Discipleship, Comment to L8.

L5 Ἰησοῦς (GR). Whereas the author of Mark introduced Jesus’ name without the definite article (ho, “the”), Jesus’ name occurs with the definite article in Matthew’s parallel. Since the addition of is a Greek stylistic improvement that cannot be reconstructed in Hebrew,[26] we have accepted Mark’s anarthrous Ἰησοῦς (Iēsous, “Jesus”) for GR.

יֵשׁוּעַ (HR). On reconstructing Ἰησοῦς with יֵשׁוּעַ (yēshūa‘, “Jesus”), see Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L12.

A marketplace in Nazareth photographed in the 1960s by David N. Bivin.

L6 ἀπὸ Ναζαρὲτ τῆς Γαλιλαίας (Mark 1:9). According to Mark, Jesus “from Nazareth of the Galilee” came to John for his baptism, or, alternatively, Jesus came “from Nazareth of the Galilee” to John for his baptism. The phrase ἀπὸ Ναζαρὲτ τῆς Γαλιλαίας (apo Nazaret tēs Galilaias, “from Nazareth of the Galilee”) could modify either the subject, “Jesus” (cf. Matt. 21:11; John 1:45; Acts 10:38), or the verb, “came.”[27] This is the sole use of the name “Nazareth” in Mark’s Gospel,[28] and partly for this very reason it is extremely difficult to decide whether the author of Mark copied ἀπὸ Ναζαρὲτ τῆς Γαλιλαίας from Anth. Mark’s lack of interest in Nazareth may suggest that the one time he referred to this town by name was due to its presence in his source (Anth.). On the other hand, Mark’s spelling of the name “Nazareth” as Ναζαρέτ (Nazaret) never occurs in the Gospel of Luke, which has Ναζαρέθ (Nazareth [Luke 1:26; 2:4, 39, 51]) and Ναζαρά (Nazara [Luke 4:16]). Mark’s non-Lukan spelling of “Nazareth” may suggest Markan redaction since Luke’s spelling presumably reflects that of Anth.,[29] but it could be that the level of Markan redaction extends only to the spelling of “Nazareth,” not to the addition of the name itself.

One possibility is that the author of Mark added “from Nazareth of the Galilee” under the influence of Peter’s address in the home of Cornelius, where we read:

ὑμεῖς οἴδατε τὸ γενόμενον ῥῆμα καθ᾿ ὅλης τῆς Ἰουδαίας, ἀρξάμενος ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας μετὰ τὸ βάπτισμα ὃ ἐκήρυξεν Ἰωάννης, Ἰησοῦν τὸν ἀπὸ Ναζαρέθ, ὡς ἔχρισεν αὐτὸν ὁ θεὸς πνεύματι ἁγίῳ καὶ δυνάμει

…you know the thing that happened throughout all Judea, beginning from the Galilee [ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας] after the immersion that John proclaimed—Jesus, the one from Nazareth [ἀπὸ Ναζαρέθ], how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power…. (Acts 10:37-38)

These verses in Acts mention “from the Galilee” and “from Nazareth” in connection with Jesus’ anointing with the Holy Spirit, which is probably to be understood as a description of Jesus’ baptism, although this is not stated explicitly. If the author of Mark understood Peter’s address in this way, then it is understandable if these verses had come into his mind and he alluded to them by adding to Yeshua’s Immersion that Jesus came “from Nazareth of the Galilee.” Lending credence to this possibility is Lindsey’s belief (see below, Comment to L24) that the author of Mark subtly reworked the description of the opening of the heavens and the Spirit’s descent following Jesus’ baptism so as to allude to Peter’s vision of the sheet containing diverse kinds of animals coming down from heaven (Acts 10:11-16), which is described in the very same chapter in which the above-cited verses from Acts occur.

Nevertheless, we must confess that Mark’s wording in L6 reverts easily to Hebrew (see below). Since on the basis of Hebrew retroversion we cannot rule out “from Nazareth of the Galilee,” we have tentatively accepted Mark’s wording in L6 for GR, but placed it within brackets. We have done the same for HR.

Fragment of a third- or fourth-century C.E. synagogue inscription bearing the name נ]צרת] (“[Na]zareth”) in Hebrew.

[מִנָּצְרַת הַגָּלִיל] (HR). No references are made to the town of Nazareth in the Hebrew Bible, DSS or rabbinic sources,[30] so reconstructing the name of Nazareth remained uncertain until the discovery of a third- or fourth-century C.E. synagogue inscription in 1962.[31] This fragmentary inscription from Caesarea listed the names of the twenty-four priestly courses and the towns in which these priestly families lived in the period after the Bar Kochva revolt. One of the towns named in the inscription is Nazareth, spelled נצרת, which is the spelling we have adopted for our reconstruction. The inscription does not indicate how the name ought to be vocalized, but Dalman compared the formation of נצרת to that of the toponyms דָּבְרַת (dāverat, “Daberath”; Josh. 19:12; 21:28; 1 Chr. 6:57) and צָרְפַת (tzārefat, “Zarephath”; 1 Kgs. 17:9, 10; Obad. 20) and concluded that נָצְרַת (nātzerat) is correct.[32] For our reconstruction we have accepted his conclusion.

A view of Nazareth from the east as it was at the turn of the twentieth century. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On reconstructing Γαλιλαία (Galilaia, “Galilee”) with הַגָּלִיל (hagālil, “the Galilee”), see A Voice Crying, Comment to L18.

The phrase “Nazareth of the Galilee” is constructed in the same manner as “Bethlehem of Judah” (see Judg. 17:9; 19:1, 2, 18; Ruth 1:1, 2). Compare Mark’s καὶ…ἦλθεν Ἰησοῦς ἀπὸ Ναζαρὲτ τῆς Γαλιλαίας (“And…Jesus from Nazareth of the Galilee came…”) to the following biblical verse:

וַיֵּלֶךְ אִישׁ מִבֵּית לֶחֶם יְהוּדָה לָגוּר בִּשְׂדֵי מוֹאָב

And a man from Bethlehem of Judah went to live in the plain of Moab. (Ruth 1:1)

καὶ ἐπορεύθη ἀνὴρ ἀπὸ Βαιθλεεμ τῆς Ιουδα τοῦ παροικῆσαι ἐν ἀγρῷ Μωαβ

And a man from Bethlehem of Judah went to live in the plain of Moab. (Ruth 1:1)

ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλειλαίας (Matt. 3:13). The author of Matthew copied Mark’s and/or Anth.’s wording in L6, but omitted the reference to Nazareth. Also different from Mark (and/or Anth.), the prepositional phrase is definitely to be understood as modifying the verb, for otherwise ὁ ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλειλαίας (“the one from the Galilee”) would have to have been written. It was the editorial addition of in L5 that removed the ambiguity.

Why the author of Matthew chose to omit Nazareth is difficult to say. His decision may have to do with his redactional localizing of the Baptist’s activity in the desert of Judea (Matt. 3:1).[33] The author of Matthew must, therefore, have envisioned Jesus as moving from one jurisdiction (Herod’s in the Galilee) to another (Pilate’s in Judea), in which case naming the town within the first jurisdiction may have seemed superfluous. Depending on the Baptist’s actual location, however, it is possible that Jesus simply moved within a single territory.[34]

A view of Nazareth’s environs from the Mount of the Precipice.

L7-11 Unlike L1-6, Mark’s wording in L7-11 poses difficulty in terms of Hebrew reconstruction, as well as in terms of consistency with a first-century Jewish cultural context. It is simply difficult to reconstruct καὶ ἐβαπτίσθη εἰς τὸν Ἰορδάνην ὑπὸ Ἰωάνου (“and he was immersed into the Jordan by John”) in Hebrew. Delitzsch, indeed, rendered Mark’s Greek as וַיִּטָּבֵל עַל־יְדֵי יוֹחָנָן בַּיַּרְדֵּן (“and he was immersed by John in the Jordan”), but his translation feels somewhat contorted since ט-ב-ל in the nif‘al stem is not attested in rabbinic sources,[35] nor do we possess any examples of נִטְבַּל תַּחַת (niṭbal taḥat, “be immersed under [the supervision of]”) or נִטְבַּל עַל יְדֵי (niṭbal ’al ye, “be immersed at the hands of,” i.e., “be immersed by”), which would be equivalent to ἐβαπτίσθη…ὑπὸ Ἰωάνου (“he was immersed…by John”). In other words, a translation such as Delitzsch’s is simply unprecedented in ancient Hebrew sources. Mark’s claim that “he was immersed by John” is also culturally problematic since the demands of ritual purity require a person to immerse herself or himself (cf. t. Toh. 4:8).[36] Ritual immersion was not an administered rite in ancient Judaism, and since John’s baptism was concerned with removing the ritual impurity generated by sin,[37] it seems incredible that he would have undermined the purpose of his immersions by maintaining physical contact with the participants as they entered the water.[38]

The earliest known representation of the Jewish form of baptism. This fresco, found in the second-century Callistus catacomb in Rome, depicts Jesus after he had immersed himself being assisted out of the Jordan River by John the Baptist.

Proselyte immersions were no exception in this regard. Like all other ritual immersions, the proselyte immersed himself or herself (cf., e.g., m. Pes. 8:8; m. Edu. 5:2). But proselyte immersions did require witnesses (Gerim 1:4 [ed. Higger, 69]), and in these contexts the person overseeing an immersion was called in Hebrew a מַטְבִּיל (maṭbil, “immerser”). The title מַטְבִּיל did not imply that the person overseeing the immersion physically dunked the proselyte into the water; rather, the מַטְבִּיל oversaw and gave sanction to the proselyte’s immersion. John the Baptist probably bore the title מַטְבִּיל (“immerser”),[39] and, like “immersers” of proselytes, his role as “immerser” would have been to authorize and oversee the immersions of those who repented in response to his declaration of God’s clemency ahead of the eschatological Day of Atonement.[40] His title need not imply that he personally plunged the participants into the water.

Mark’s version of Yeshua’s Immersion, according to which Jesus was immersed into the Jordan by John,[41] looks like a secondary paraphrase produced by someone who did not understand the intricacies of ritual purity halachah.

L8 ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰορδάνην (GR). Whereas the author of Mark subtly changed the wording of Anth. by stating that Jesus was baptized “into the Jordan” by John, Matthew’s version, which probably reflects the wording of Anth., states that Jesus came “upon the Jordan” to John for immersion.

הַיַּרְדֵּנָה (HR). Although Matthew’s preposition ἐπί (epi, “upon”) might seem a bit odd—in Yeshua’s Immersion Jesus does not walk on the water—we find that sometimes the LXX translators rendered בָּא + toponym + locative ה- with ἔρχεσθαι + ἐπί + toponym, for instance:

וַיָּבֹא בְּאֵרָה שָּׁבַע

…and he came to Beersheba…. (Gen. 46:1)

ἦλθεν ἐπὶ τὸ φρέαρ τοῦ ὅρκου

…he came upon the well of the oath…. (Gen. 46:1)

וַיָּבֹא גִדְעוֹן הַיַּרְדֵּנָה

And Gideon came to the Jordan…. (Judg. 8:4)

καὶ ἦλθεν Γεδεων ἐπὶ τὸν Ιορδάνην

And Gideon came upon the Jordan…. (Judg. 8:4)

This last example is of particular interest since it affords us an almost exact grammatical parallel to our Greek reconstruction in L4-8.

On reconstructing Ἰορδάνης (Iordanēs, “Jordan”) with יַרְדֵּן (yardēn, “Jordan”), see A Voice Crying, Comment to L32-33.

L9 πρὸς Ἰωάννην (GR). Since we think it is unlikely that the pre-synoptic tradition stated that Jesus was immersed “by John” (see above, Comment to L7-11), but since it seems highly probable that John the Baptist was mentioned by name in Yeshua’s Immersion (contrast Luke’s version), we have accepted Matthew’s statement that Jesus came “to John.” We have, however, omitted the definite article associated with John’s name, which the author of Matthew probably added as a stylistic improvement to the wording of Anth.[42]

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

L10 τοῦ βαπτισθῆναι (GR). The Lukan-Matthean agreement to use the passive infinitive form βαπτισθῆναι (baptisthēnai, “to be immersed”) while setting the stage for Jesus’ baptism is striking. The author of Luke appears to have retained this form from Anth., while substantially rewriting the introduction to Yeshua’s Immersion in his attempt to ease the transition from Yohanan the Immerser’s Execution (see above, Comment to L2). The author of Matthew, on the other hand, preserved βαπτισθῆναι in its original context: Jesus came to John for immersion.

לִטְבּוֹל לְפָנָיו (HR). On reconstructing βαπτισθῆναι (baptisthēnai, “to be immersed”) with לִטְבּוֹל לְפָנָיו (liṭbōl lefānāv, “to immerse in his presence”), see A Voice Crying, Comment to L57.

L11 ὑπ᾿ αὐτοῦ (Matt. 3:13). Matthew’s ὑπ᾿ αὐτοῦ (hūp avtou, “by him”) in L11 is best explained as a concession to ὑπὸ Ἰωάνου (hūpo Iōanou, “by John”) in Mark 1:9. Since John’s name had already been mentioned in L9, the author of Matthew replaced it with the personal pronoun. The author of Matthew’s inclusion of ὑπ᾿ αὐτοῦ is an excellent example of his method of weaving together the wording of his two sources, Mark and Anth. Since we believe “by John” and “by him” were not present in Anth., we have omitted them from GR.

The meeting of John the Baptist and Jesus as depicted in a medieval manuscript. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L12-22 The Gospel of Matthew is unique in reporting an exchange between John the Baptist and Jesus in which the former expresses the impropriety of immersing Jesus when it is he, John, who ought to be immersed by Jesus. John relents, however, when Jesus insists that it is right for John to immerse him, for in this way they will “fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:14-15). This conversation assumes that John the Baptist recognized in Jesus the Someone whose coming he had foretold—a prediction which, in Matthew’s telling of the story, John had made only moments before Jesus arrived on the scene (see above, Comment to L4). How this recognition of Jesus on John’s part was possible is unclear, however, since there is no indication in Matthew that the two had ever met previously, and the manifestations of the Spirit at Jesus’ baptism had yet to occur. In fact, the entire conversation looks suspiciously like a projection of the author of Matthew’s beliefs about John and Jesus back onto the story of Jesus’ immersion. The conversation addresses concerns that troubled the author of Matthew and his readers—How could John, the forerunner, have immersed Jesus, the Messiah? How could Jesus, the sinless one, be immersed in a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins?—but these concerns could not have troubled John, who did not know who Jesus was.[43]

The impression that the exchange between John and Jesus in Matt. 3:14-15 was composed by the author of Matthew is confirmed when we examine its vocabulary and style. These verses contain words and phrases that are found nowhere else in the Synoptic Gospels (διακωλύειν in L12; πρέπειν in L20; πληροῦν + δικαιοσύνη in L21), as well as terms that are usually indicative of Matthean redaction (ἄρτι in L19; τότε in L22).[44] The bolstering of Jesus’ messianic status[45] and the subordination of John to Jesus are also symptomatic of Matthean redaction.[46]

The solution proposed to the problem of why Jesus submitted to baptism in Matt. 3:14-15, namely that Jesus had no need of it personally[47] but it was good for him to do so for the sake of appearances,[48] also has a Matthean ring. It parallels the story of Jesus’ payment of the half-shekel Temple contribution,[49] which is reported only in the Gospel of Matthew (Matt. 17:24-27). In that story, too, Jesus is presented as being above the obligation of the half-shekel, but he ends up paying it anyway—by fabulous means—so as not to give offense.[50]

Scholars have noted that in dealing with the problem of why Jesus was baptized by John the author of Matthew created other, more perplexing, difficulties. Having recognized Jesus as the Coming One whom John the Baptist proclaimed, why did the Baptist not announce Jesus’ identity to the crowds so that they could follow him? Why did the Baptist himself not follow Jesus? And perhaps even more difficult, if John the Baptist recognized Jesus’ unique status prior to his immersion, why did John have to ask some time later whether Jesus was the Coming One, as though the notion had only just occurred to him?[51]

Since it appears that Matt. 3:14-15 is a Matthean composition not derived from Anth., we have omitted L12-22 from GR and HR.

L12 ὁ δὲ διεκώλυεν αὐτὸν (Matt. 3:14). Strengthening our suspicion that Matt. 3:14-15 is a Matthean composition is the appearance of vocabulary that does not occur elsewhere in the Synoptic Gospels. One such term is διακωλύειν (diakōlūein, “to prevent”), a verb that has no Hebrew equivalent in LXX.[52] The author of Matthew’s use of διακωλύειν in the imperfect tense also suggests that his wording in L12 did not come from a Hebraic source since the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua typically preferred the aorist tense for completed action.

L15 ὑπὸ σοῦ βαπτισθῆναι (Matt. 3:14). Matthew’s word order in L15 is un-Hebraic, as Delitzsch’s translation demonstrates: אָנֹכִי צָרִיךְ לְהִטָּבֵל עַל יָדֶךָ (“I need to be immersed by you”). Whereas Matthew’s Greek text has “by you” in front of the verb, Hebrew syntax requires “by you” to be placed after the verb. We have already discussed the difficulty of reconstructing βαπτίζειν + ὑπό in Comment to L7-11.

L17-18 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ (Matt. 3:15). The only feature in Matt. 3:14-15 that actually looks like it might be Hebraic is the use of ἀποκριθεὶς…εἶπεν (apokritheis…eipen, “answering…he said”), which occurs in L17-18. The phrase ἀποκριθεὶς…εἶπεν reverts easily to Hebrew as וַיַּעַן…וַיֹּאמֶר (vaya‘an…vayo’mer, “and he answered…and he said”),[53] and it definitely occurred elsewhere in Anth. (cf., e.g., Matt. 11:4 ∥ Luke 7:22; Yohanan the Immerser’s Question, L32-34). Nevertheless, Matt. 27:25, in which all the Jewish people are falsely portrayed as owning the guilt for Jesus’ crucifixion, amply demonstrates that the author of Matthew was capable of writing ἀποκριθεὶς…εἶπεν in free composition:[54]

καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς πᾶς ὁ λαὸς εἶπεν τὸ αἷμα αὐτοῦ ἐφ᾿ ἡμᾶς καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ τέκνα ἡμῶν

And answering, all the people said, “His blood be upon us and upon our children!” (Matt. 27:25)

Thus, the mere appearance of ἀποκριθεὶς…εἶπεν in L17-18 is not sufficient to convince us that the author of Matthew drew the dialogue between John the Baptist and Jesus from a Hebraic source.

L19 ἄφες ἄρτι (Matt. 3:15). The adverb ἄρτι (arti, “now”) is a go-to term for the author of Matthew, who used it 7xx in his Gospel (Matt. 3:15; 9:18; 11:12; 23:39; 26:29, 53, 64), which is in stark contrast to the complete absence of ἄρτι in the Gospels of Mark and Luke.[55] The appearance of ἄρτι in L19 only deepens our impression that Matt. 3:14-15 was composed by the author of Matthew.

L20 οὕτω γὰρ πρέπον ἐστὶν ἡμῖν (Matt. 3:15). This verse contains the only instance of πρέπειν (prepein, “to be fitting”) in the Synoptic Gospels. Moreover, the use of a neuter participial form of πρέπον + εἶναι is typical of Greek composition.[56]

L21 πληρῶσαι πᾶσαν δικαιοσύνην (Matt. 3:15). Although Delitzsch translated πληρῶσαι πᾶσαν δικαιοσύνην (plērōsai pasan dikaiosūnēn, “to fulfill all righteousness”) as לְמַלֵּא כָּל־הַצְּדָקָה, this is bizarre Hebrew. In Hebrew it is possible to say that something is filled with righteousness (מִלֵּא צִיּוֹן מִשְׁפָּט וּצְדָקָה [milē’ tziyōn mishpāṭ ūtzedāqāh, “He will fill Zion with justice and righteousness”; Isa. 33:5]; צֶדֶק מָלְאָה יְמִינֶךָ [tzedeq māle’āh yeminechā, “your right hand is filled with righteousness”; Ps. 48:11]), but we have not found a single example of “fulfilling righteousness” in MT, DSS or rabbinic literature. On the other hand, fulfillment is a prominent theme in the Gospel of Matthew,[57] and the author of Matthew is alone among the synoptic evangelists in claiming that John the Baptist came ἐν ὁδῷ δικαιοσύνης (en hodō dikaiosūnēs, “in the way of righteousness”; Matt. 21:32). Applying the term “righteousness” to John’s baptism and describing submission to this baptism as “fulfillment” looks, therefore, very much like a Matthean construct. It seems unlikely that “to fulfill all righteousness” could be a reflection of a Hebraic source.

L22 τότε ἀφίησιν αὐτόν (Matt. 3:15). The use of τότε and the use of a historical present (“then he permits him”) are both un-Hebraic and typical of Matthean redaction. These indicators of Matthean redaction further lessen the probability that the exchange between John the Baptist and Jesus in Matt. 3:14-15 came from Anth.

L23 βαπτισθεὶς δὲ Ἰησοῦς (GR). There is a surprising Lukan-Matthean agreement in L23 to use a participial form of βαπτισθῆναι, Jesus’ name and a coordinating conjunction. This minor agreement is one of the clues that the authors of Matthew and Luke shared a non-Markan source for Yeshua’s Immersion. Since Matthew’s wording in L23 bears a stronger resemblance to Hebrew than Luke’s—Luke has a genitive absolute construction[58] —we followed Matthew for GR, excluding only the definite article before Jesus’ name, which looks like a slight Greek stylistic improvement.

וַיִּטְבֹּל יֵשׁוּעַ (HR). Although the Greek participle βαπτισθείς (baptistheis, “being immersed”) is passive, for HR we have reconstructed using the ט-ב-ל root in the active qal stem. The Hebrew verb טָבַל (ṭāval, “immerse”) often occurs with a reflexive meaning (i.e., “immerse oneself”). As we noted above in Comment to L7-11, the historical probability is that Jesus immersed himself in accordance with Jewish custom.

On reconstructing participle + δέ + aorist, such as we find in Matt. 3:16 (βαπτισθεὶς δὲ…ἀνέβη), with two vav-consecutives, see Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L37-41.

On reconstructing Ἰησοῦς (Iēsous, “Jesus”) with יֵשׁוּעַ (yēshūa‘, “Jesus”), see above, Comment to L5.

L24 καὶ προσευχομένου (Luke 3:21). Luke’s καὶ προσευχομένου (kai prosevchomenou, “and while praying”) is part of an un-Hebraic genitive absolute construction. It has the effect of divorcing the manifestations of the Spirit that follow from the baptism that preceded them. It seems likely that the author of Luke was uncomfortable with the implication that John’s baptism was able to impart the Holy Spirit to Jesus, given his emphatic denials that John’s baptism was able to do the same for others (Acts 19:1-7).[59] The author of Luke, therefore, predicated the impartation of the Spirit to Jesus on prayer. The prayer life of Jesus, as scholars have noted, is a recurring redactional motif in Luke’s Gospel.[60]

καὶ εὐθὺς ἀναβαίνων (Mark 1:10). In L10 we encounter for the first time in his Gospel the author of Mark’s use of the adverb εὐθύς (evthūs, “immediately”), which he employed ad nauseam from this point onward.[61] Lindsey referred to other such frequently repeated terms in Mark as “Markan stereotypes,” and he noticed that the author of Mark had usually picked up these stereotypes from portions of the Gospel of Luke he omitted or from Acts. Lindsey therefore looked up the occurrences of εὐθύς in Luke’s writings and noticed right away that one of them (there are only two) occurs in the story of Peter’s vision of the sheet containing diverse species of animals that came down from heaven (Acts 10:16).[62] There are certain similarities between the story of Peter’s vision and Yeshua’s Immersion: in both accounts heaven opens, something descends, and a voice makes a startling declaration.[63] Since the author of Luke used εὐθύς on only one other occasion, in his version of the Houses on Rock and Sand parable (Luke 6:49), which bears no resemblance to Yeshua’s Immersion, the story of Peter’s vision is a likely candidate for the origin of Mark’s εὐθύς stereotype.

Seventeenth-century painting by Domenico Fetti of Peter’s vision of the sheet descending from heaven. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

There may be additional signs that the author of Mark adapted his version of Yeshua’s Immersion so that it would more closely resemble the story of Peter’s vision. First, unlike Luke’s version of Yeshua’s Immersion, in which the opening of heaven and the descent of the Spirit are reported in objective terms, in Mark’s version the manifestations of the Spirit are reported in terms of a vision: εἶδεν σχιζομένους τοὺς οὐρανούς (“he saw the heavens splitting”; Mark 1:10) resembles καὶ θεωρεῖ τὸν οὐρανὸν ἀνεῳγμένον (“he sees heaven opening”; Acts 10:11). Second, ὡς περιστερὰν καταβαῖνον (“like a dove descending”; Mark 1:10) resembles καὶ καταβαῖνον σκεῦός τι ὡς ὀθόνην μεγάλην (“and some object descending like a big sheet”; Acts 10:11). Third, unlike Luke and Matthew, who agreed to add a qualifier to “spirit,” Mark simply has τὸ πνεῦμα (“the Spirit”; Mark 1:10), which resembles Luke’s reference to τὸ πνεῦμα (with no qualifier) in Acts 10:19. It seems arbitrary to dismiss these similarities as coincidental. Lindsey’s suggestion that Mark’s καὶ εὐθὺς ἀναβαίνων (“and immediately coming up”; Mark 1:10) was modeled on καὶ εὐθὺς ἀνελήμφθη τὸ σκεῦος (“and immediately the object was taken up”; Acts 10:16) has merit.

εὐθὺς ἀνέβη (Matt. 3:16). We believe that in L24 the author of Matthew blended the wording of his two sources, Mark and Anth. From Mark he accepted the adverb εὐθύς, while from Anth. he accepted the aorist verb ἀνέβη (anebē, “he came up”).

וַיַּעַל (HR). In LXX ἀναβαίνειν (anabainein, “to go up,” “to ascend”) is a common verb, almost always occurring as the translation of עָלָה (‘ālāh, “go up,” “ascend”).[64] Similarly, the LXX translators rendered עָלָה with ἀναβαίνειν far more often than with any other verb.[65] Moreover, the sequence טָבַל←עָלָה, as in our reconstruction (L23-24), is a commonplace in rabbinic literature. For example:

יָרַד לִטְבּוֹל אִם יָכוֹל לַעֲלוֹת וּלְהִתְכַּסּוֹת וְלִקְרֹאות עַד שֶׁלֹּא תָנֶץ הַחַמָּה יַעֲלֶה וְיִתְכַּסֶּה וְיִקְרֵא

He went down to immerse [לִטְבּוֹל]. If he is able to come up [לַעֲלוֹת] and clothe himself and recite [the Shema—DNB and JNT] before the sun rises, then he may come up and clothe himself and recite. (m. Ber. 3:5)

קִידֵּשׁ יָדָיו וְרַגְלָיו וּפַשַׁט יָרַד וְטָבַל עָלָה וְנִסְתַּפַּג הֵבִיאוּ לוֹ בִגְדֵי זָהָב וְלָבַשׁ

He [i.e., the high priest] sanctified his hands and his feet and stripped, went down and immersed [וְטָבַל]. He came up [עָלָה] and dried himself. They brought him garments of gold and he dressed. (m. Yom. 3:4; cf. m. Yom. 3:6; 7:3, 4; m. Tam. 1:1; m. Par. 3:8)

מעשה בצדוקי אחד שהעריב שמשו ובא לשרוף את הפרה וידע בו רבן יוחנן בן זכיי ובא וסמך שתי ידיו עליו ואמ′ לו אישי כהן גדול מה נאה אתה להיות כהן גדול רד טבול אחד וטבל ועלה אחר שעלה צרם לו באזנו

An anecdote concerning a certain Sadducee [high priest—DNB and JNT] who waited for the sun to set [for his purification in accordance with Sadducean halachah—DNB and JNT] and then came to burn the heifer. But Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai [who disagreed with the Sadducean opinion that it was necessary for the sun to go down for the purification to be complete—DNB and JNT] knew what he was up to, so he came and placed his hands on him and said to him, “My man, the high priest, how nice it is for you to be the high priest! Go down and immerse once.” So he immersed [וְטָבַל] and he came up [וְעָלָה]. After he came up he [i.e., Yohanan ben Zakkai—DNB and JNT] tore his [i.e., the Sadducean high priest’s—DNB and JNT] ear [thereby making him ineligible to perform the rite of the red heifer—DNB and JNT]. (t. Par. 3:8; Vienna MS)

הרי שטבל ועלה ואחר כך נמצא עליו דבר חוצץ אע″פ שהוא מתעסק באותו המין אחר שטבל הרי זה טמא

Behold, one who immersed [שֶׁטָּבַל] and came up [וְעָלָה] and afterwards something was found to have come between [his flesh and the water—DNB and JNT], even though he was engaged in the same kind [of activity—DNB and JNT] after he immersed: behold, this one is impure. (t. Toh. 4:8; Vienna MS)

L25 ἐκ τοῦ ὕδατος (Mark 1:10). Whether to include “out of the water” in GR is a difficult decision. Arguments pro and con can be adduced. In favor of including ἐκ τοῦ ὕδατος (ek tou hūdatos, “out of the water”) is the ease with which it reverts to Hebrew and the fact that mentioning the water in a context describing immersion is only to be expected. On the other hand, in our survey of rabbinic sources that describe immersing and coming up again (see previous Comment), a phrase corresponding to “out of the water” is conspicuously absent. Moreover, the phrase ἐκ τοῦ ὕδατος does not occur anywhere else in the Synoptic Gospels, but it does appear once in Acts in the story of the Ethiopian eunuch’s baptism, where we read:

ὅτε δὲ ἀνέβησαν ἐκ τοῦ ὕδατος, πνεῦμα κυρίου ἥρπασεν τὸν Φίλιππον καὶ οὐκ εἶδεν αὐτὸν οὐκέτι ὁ εὐνοῦχος

But when they came out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched up Philip, and the eunuch did not see him anymore. (Acts 8:39)

The similarities between the story of the Ethiopian eunuch’s baptism and Mark’s version of Yeshua’s Immersion—ἀναβαίνειν ἐκ τοῦ ὕδατος (“to come up out of the water”), the Spirit, εἶδεν (“he saw”), the context of immersion—led Lindsey to speculate that ἐκ τοῦ ὕδατος in Mark 1:10 is a “Markan pick-up” from Acts 8:39.[66]

The baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch in a detail of the ceiling fresco created by Melchior Steidl in the former Banz Abbey. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

We doubt, however, that the author of Mark would have drowned his readers in a deluge of allusions to stories from Acts, and there may be a very good reason why water was specifically mentioned in the pre-synoptic versions of Yeshua’s Immersion. The collocation of water and the Spirit suggests an original allusion to the creation story in Genesis, in which God’s Spirit hovered over the primordial waters (Gen. 1:2). Since an allusion to Gen. 1:2 would be substantially weakened without explicit reference to water, we think Mark’s ἐκ τοῦ ὕδατος is likely to be original and have therefore included it in GR.

ἀπὸ τοῦ ὕδατος (Matt. 3:16). The author of Matthew’s use of the preposition ἀπό (apo, “from,” “away from”) in place of Mark’s ἐκ (ek, “out of,” “from”) could be explained as a correction made on the basis of Anth., or as a slight change made by the author of Matthew himself. According to Moule, in Koine Greek ἀπό was beginning to take over the meaning of ἐκ and the distinction between them was no longer strictly maintained.[67] It is probably unwarranted, therefore, to seek any theological significance in the change of prepositions.[68]

מִן הַמַּיִם (HR). On reconstructing ὕδωρ (hūdōr, “water”) with מַיִם (mayim, “water”), see Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse, Comment to L9. In LXX the phrase ἐκ τοῦ ὕδατος occurs as the translation of מִן הַמַּיִם (min hamayim, “from the water”) in Exod. 2:10 and Judg. 7:5.

L26 καὶ ἰδοὺ (GR). As we noted above in Comment to L24, we believe the author of Mark slightly reworked his version of Yeshua’s Immersion in order to make it resemble the story of Peter’s vision in Acts 10. One of the ways he did so was to replace Anth.’s Hebraic καὶ ἰδού (kai idou, “and behold”), preserved in Matthew’s parallel, with εἶδεν (eiden, “he saw”), which corresponds to Peter’s seeing the sheet coming down out of heaven (θεωρεῖ [theōrei, “he sees”; Acts 10:11]). Since Mark’s “he saw” appears to be redactional, we have accepted Matthew’s Hebraic interjection καὶ ἰδού for GR.

וְהִנֵּה (HR). On reconstructing ἰδού (idou, “behold”) with הִנֵּה (hinēh, “behold”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L6.

L27 σχιζομένους τοὺς οὐρανοὺς (Mark 1:10). Whereas Luke and Matthew agree to use the verb ἀνοίγειν (anoigein, “to open”) when describing heaven’s opening, Mark has the more dramatic verb σχίζειν (schizein, “to rip”). The Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark practically ensures that their verb is the one found in Anth.[69]

Many scholars detect in Mark’s σχιζομένους τοὺς οὐρανούς (schizomenous tous ouranous, “the heavens being ripped open”) an allusion to Isaiah’s outburst, “O that you would rend [קָרַעְתָּ] the heavens and come down!” (Isa. 63:19 [ET: 64:1]). But if the author of Mark did allude to this verse, he must have been reading the Hebrew text since the LXX version of Isa. 63:19 translated קָרַע (qāra‘, “rend,” “tear”) with ἀνοίγειν, the verb found in Luke and Matthew.[70] Therefore, the grounds for detecting an allusion to the Hebrew text of Isa. 63:19 in Mark’s version of Yeshua’s Immersion are rather weak.[71] The only other evidence scholars cite for Mark’s dependence on Isaiah 63 is 1) the question “Where is the one who set within him [בְּקִרְבּוֹ] his Holy Spirit?” in Isa. 63:11, which supposedly explains Mark’s statement that the Spirit descended εἰς (eis, “into”) Jesus (L34); 2) the fact that Isa. 63:11 refers to the crossing of the Red Sea, which is supposedly parallel to Jesus’ immersion in the Jordan; and 3) the fact that the LXX version (!) of Isa. 63:14 refers to the descent of God’s Spirit, whereas the Hebrew text does not. Only the first point offers any kind of proof that the author of Mark was influenced by the Hebrew, rather than the LXX, text of Isaiah 63, and Mark’s use of the preposition εἰς can be explained in ways other than appealing to בְּקִרְבּוֹ (beqirbō, “within him”) in Isa. 63:11. Since proof of Mark’s dependence on the Hebrew text of Isa. 63:19 is so tenuous,[72] and as the evidence for the author of Mark’s knowledge of Hebrew is otherwise so scant, we feel justified in searching for other reasons why the author of Mark might have changed ἠνεῴχθησαν (ēneōchthēsan, “they were opened”) to σχιζομένους (schizomenous, “being ripped”).

Observing the distribution of the instances of the verb σχίζειν in the Gospel of Mark might offer a more plausible explanation. The verb occurs twice, once near the beginning (Mark 1:10) in response to Jesus’ baptism, and once near the end (Mark 15:38) at the moment of Jesus’ death, when the curtain of the Temple is torn in two. It may be that the author of Mark wanted to create a parallelism between the ripping open of the heavens at Jesus’ baptism to declare God’s pleasure and the rending of the veil to express God’s grief at the death of his beloved son.[73]

ἠνεῴχθησαν οἱ οὐρανοί (GR). As we noted above, the Lukan-Matthean agreement to describe the opening of heaven with the verb ἀνοίγειν strongly suggests that this is the verb that occurred in Anth. Since Matthew’s aorist verb and his use of “heavens” in the plural is more Hebraic than Luke’s infinitive and singular “heaven,” we have accepted Matthew’s wording in L27 for GR.[74]

נִפְתְּחוּ הַשָּׁמַיִם (HR). In LXX most instances of ἀνοίγειν occur as the translation of the root פ-ת-ח in its various stems,[75] and likewise we find that the LXX translators rendered most verbal forms of פ-ת-ח with ἀνοίγειν.[76] Compare our reconstruction to the following examples:

בַּיּוֹם הַזֶּה נִבְקְעוּ כָּל־מַעְיְנֹת תְּהוֹם רַבָּה וַאֲרֻבֹּת הַשָּׁמַיִם נִפְתָּחוּ

On this day all the springs of the great deep were split and the windows of heaven were opened [נִפְתָּחוּ]. (Gen. 7:11)

τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ταύτῃ ἐρράγησαν πᾶσαι αἱ πηγαὶ τῆς ἀβύσσου, καὶ οἱ καταρράκται τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἠνεῴχθησαν

On this day all the springs of the abyss burst and the cataracts of heaven were opened [ἠνεῴχθησαν]. (Gen. 7:11)

נִפְתְּחוּ הַשָּׁמַיִם וָאֶרְאֶה מַרְאוֹת אֱלֹהִים

The heavens were opened [נִפְתְּחוּ] and I saw visions of God. (Ezek. 1:1)

καὶ ἠνοίχθησαν οἱ οὐρανοί, καὶ εἶδον ὁράσεις θεοῦ

…and the heavens were opened [ἠνοίχθησαν] and I saw visions of God. (Ezek. 1:1)

וְדַלְתֵי שָׁמַיִם פָּתָח

…and the doors of heaven he opened. (Ps. 78:23)

καὶ θύρας οὐρανοῦ ἀνέῳξεν

…and doors of heaven he opened. (Ps. 77:23)

L28 καὶ εἶδεν (Matt. 3:16). It is possible that the author of Matthew copied καὶ εἶδεν (kai eiden, “and he saw”) from Anth., and we do have a few examples of וְהִנֵּה…וַיַּרְא (“and behold…and he saw”) upon which καὶ ἰδοὺ…καὶ εἶδεν in Matt. 3:16 could theoretically be based (1 Kgs. 13:25; Ezek. 18:14). However, since nothing is lost by omitting καὶ εἶδεν/וַיַּרְא from GR/HR in L28, we think it is more likely that the author of Matthew inserted εἶδεν under the influence of Mark’s εἶδεν in L26. Gundry suggested that by moving “he saw” to its position in L28 after the words “the heavens were opened,” the author of Matthew attempted to make the description of Jesus’ vision conform to the wording of Ezek. 1:1 (καὶ ἠνοίχθησαν οἱ οὐρανοί, καὶ εἶδον ὁράσεις θεοῦ [“and the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God”]).[77]

καὶ (GR). All three Synoptic Gospels contain the conjunction καί (kai, “and”) in L28, and since a corresponding -וְ (ve, “and”) is required for HR (L30), we have retained the καί in GR.

L29 καταβῆναι (Luke 3:22). Luke’s infinitive “to descend” in L29 is un-Hebraic, as is his word order. Luke’s wording appears to be a paraphrase of Anth.

L30 πνεῦμα θεοῦ (GR). The Lukan-Matthean agreement to include a qualifier to the noun πνεῦμα (pnevma, “wind,” “spirit”) in L30 suggests that πνεῦμα had a qualifier in Anth.[78] Luke’s τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον (to pnevma to hagion, “the Holy Spirit”) can be reconstructed in Hebrew just as easily as Matthew’s πνεῦμα θεοῦ (pnevma theou, “Spirit of God”), but three considerations tip the balance in favor of Matthew’s reading:

  1. The author of Matthew presumably added a qualifier to “Spirit” because he saw one in Anth. If he was relying on Anth., then it is probable that the author of Matthew adopted Anth.’s actual wording (i.e., πνεῦμα θεοῦ), whereas throughout Yeshua’s Immersion the author of Luke paraphrased the wording of Anth.
  2. The absence of a definite article before πνεῦμα (“spirit”) or θεοῦ (theou, “of God”) closely resembles a Hebrew construct phrase, viz. רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים (rūaḥ ’elohim, “the Spirit of God”).
  3. As we noted above in Comment to L25, the reference to the Spirit in the context of immersion recalls the creation story, in which the Spirit hovered over the primeval waters. In Gen. 1:2 the Spirit is described as רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים (“the Spirit of God”), which the LXX translators rendered as πνεῦμα θεοῦ (“Spirit of God”), the very phrase that appears in Matthew’s version of Yeshua’s Immersion. Since Matthew’s wording best preserves the allusion to Gen. 1:2, we believe that his wording most accurately reflects Anth.

וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים (HR). On reconstructing πνεῦμα (pnevma, “wind,” “spirit”) with רוּחַ (rūaḥ, “wind,” “spirit”), see Return of the Twelve, Comment to L25. On reconstructing θεός (theos, “god”) with אֱלֹהִים (elohim, “God”), see Four Soils interpretation, Comment to L21. As we noted above, the phrase רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים was rendered πνεῦμα θεοῦ in Gen. 1:2; it was also rendered thus in Gen. 41:38; Num. 24:2; 1 Kgdms. 10:10; 19:20, 23; 2 Chr. 24:20; Ezek. 11:24.

What is signified by the Spirit of God’s coming upon Jesus at his baptism? The answer is surely multifaceted, encompassing the concepts of ritual purity, new creation, redemption and prophecy.

In the first place, the presence of the Spirit of God at Jesus’ immersion probably implied the completeness and perfection of his ritual purity. The Spirit of God may have come to be associated with ritual purity because of the fact that in the creation story the waters over which the Spirit hovered are said to be gathered into a mikveh, a term which came to be applied to ritual immersion pools:

וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יִקָּווּ הַמַּיִם מִתַּחַת הַשָּׁמַיִם אֶל מָקוֹם אֶחָד וְתֵרָאֶה הַיַּבָּשָׁה וַיְהִי כֵן וַיִּקְרָא אֱלֹהִים לַיַּבָּשָׁה אֶרֶץ וּלְמִקְוֵה הַמַּיִם קָרָא יַמִּים

And God said, “Let the water below the heavens be gathered to one place and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. And God called the dry ground “land” and the מִקְוֵה [miqvēh, “gathering”] of water he called “sea.” (Gen. 1:9-10)

The potential for a play on words between the gathering of waters (mikveh) in the creation story and the use of the term mikveh for an immersion pool was not lost on the rabbinic sages, who even cited this wordplay as the basis for their halachic ruling that seas were valid for ritual immersions (m. Par. 8:8; m. Mik. 5:4).

Be that as it may, the purifying work of the Spirit is a very ancient concept, occurring even in the Psalms of David:

לֵב טָהוֹר בְּרָא לִי אֱלֹהִים וְרוּחַ נָכוֹן חַדֵּשׁ בְּקִרְבִּי אַל תַּשְׁלִיכֵנִי מִלְּפָנֶיךָ וְרוּחַ קָדְשְׁךָ אַל תִּקַּח מִמֶּנִּי

Create for me a pure heart, O God, and make new a right spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. (Ps. 51:12-13)

In Psalm 51 we have themes of ritual purity, creation and the Holy Spirit in striking combination, and we find an apparent equation between the Spirit of God and the Holy Spirit. Similarly, in the book of Jubilees, in a passage with allusions to Psalm 51, we read of God’s promise to Moses that “I will create in them a holy spirit and I will purify them” (Jub. 1:23). Likewise, in an important passage from the Rule of the Community we read:

ואז יברר אל באמתו כול מעשי גבר וזקק לו מבני איש להתם כול רוח עולה מתכמי בשרו ולטהרו ברוח קודש מכול עלילות רשעה ויז עליו רוח אמת כמי נדה מכול תועבות שקר והתגולל ברוח נדה להבין ישרים בדעת עליון וחכמת בני שמים להשכיל תמימי דרך כיא בם בחר אל לברית עולמים ולהם כול כבוד אדם

And then God will purify by his truth all the works of man and will refine for himself some of the sons of man to cause every iniquitous spirit to cease from the filth of his flesh and to purify him by a spirit of holiness [בְּרוּחַ קוֹדֶשׁ] from all deeds of wickedness. And he will sprinkle upon him a spirit of truth like the waters of sprinkling [to purify him—DNB and JNT] from all abominations of falsehood and pollution by a spirit of impurity, in order to make him understand uprightness in the knowledge of the Most High and the wisdom of the sons of heaven, and to make him intelligent in the perfection of conduct. For God has chosen them for his eternal covenant and for them is all the glory of Adam. (1QS IV, 20-23)

According to this passage, the purification of God’s elect (i.e., the members of the sect) by means of a holy spirit is described in terms of purification with water, and once purified the elect will attain the pristine glory of Adam, thus linking the purifying work of the Spirit to the story of creation.

In another passage that occurs earlier in the same document purification by the Spirit is further elaborated:

ולוא יצדק במתיר שרירות לבו וחושך יביט לדרכי אור בעין תמימים לוא יתחשב לוא יזכה בכפורים ולוא יטהר במי נדה ולוא יתקדש בימים ונהרות ולוא יטהר בכול מי רחץ טמא טמא יהיה כול יומי מואסו במשפטי אל לבלתי התיסר ביחד עצתו כיא ברוח עצת אמת אל דרכי איש יכופרו כול עוונותו להביט באור החיים וברוח קדושה ליחד באמתו יטהר מכול עוונותו וברוח יושר וענוה תכופר חטתו ובענות נפשו לכול חוקי אל יטהר בשרו להזות במי נדה ולהתקדש במי דוכי

And he [i.e., anyone not belonging to the sect—DNB and JNT] will not be justified while he persists in the stubbornness of his heart. And he will regard the ways of light as darkness, but in the eye of the blameless he will not be taken into account. He will not make himself right by atonements, and he will not purify himself by waters of sprinkling, and not sanctify himself by seas or rivers, and will not purify himself by any waters of washing. Impure! Impure he will be all the days of his rejection of God’s judgments without the reproof of the Community of his counsel. For it is by the spirit of God’s true counsel that the ways of a man may be atoned from all his transgressions to see the light of life. And by the Community’s holy spirit and by his truth he will be purified from all his transgressions, and by an upright and humble spirit his sin will be atoned. And by the subjection of his soul to all the ordinances of God his flesh will be purified, to sprinkle with the waters of sprinkling and to be sanctified by waters of purification. (1QS III, 3-9)

In this passage the spirit of God’s true counsel [רוח עצת אמת אל] is equated with the Community’s holy spirit [רוח קדושה ליחד]. It is the spirit that God imparted to the Qumran covenanters that enabled them to become truly pure, for according to their sectarian doctrine a person could not become ritually pure so long as he or she remained contaminated by sin. In practical terms, this meant that only members of the sect, who were privy to the “secret things” that God had revealed only to themselves, were pure. The rest of Israel was trapped in impurity, no matter how many times they immersed themselves. As we have seen,[79] John’s baptism, too, was for purification from sin. Unlike the Essene sectarians, however, John did not attempt to preserve his personal purity by separating from sinful Israel. On the contrary, John the Baptist adopted the far more ambitious program of converting Israel from its state of sinfulness and impurity through repentance and baptism, so that the whole of Israel would be pure on the eschatological Day of Atonement, when the eschatological high priest would purify the threshing floor (i.e., the Temple) and carry out God’s judgment upon the wicked. Although it no longer appears in our sources, it is entirely probable that John the Baptist believed that when the participants in his immersion repented and entered the waters, God’s Holy Spirit was active within them to purify them from their sins.[80]

The association of the Spirit with ritual purity continued in Paul’s writings (“But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified…by the Spirit of our God”; 1 Cor. 6:11)[81] and in rabbinic sources.[82]

In light of the strong association between ritual purity and the Spirit of God (or the Holy Spirit), we may conclude that when the Spirit of God came upon Jesus at his baptism, Jesus was shown to be free from sin and ritually pure, and thus consecrated for God’s service.

Scholars who suggest that the presence of God’s Spirit at Jesus’ baptism signifies the dawning of the new creation[83] are on the right track if we bear in mind that the prophetic concept of a new heaven and a new earth is really an expression of the cosmic scope of the redemption of Israel.[84] The following rabbinic tradition may be illustrative in this regard:

ר′ שמעון בן לקיש פתר קרייה במלכיות, והארץ היתה תהו זו בבל…ובהו זה מדי…וחושך זו יוון…על פני תהום זו ממלכת הרשעה הזו…ורוח אלהים מרחפת זה רוחו שלמשיח מה דאת אמר ונחה עליו רוח י″י וגו′ באיזו זכות ממשמשת ובאה מרחפת על פני המים בזכות התשובה שנמשלה במים שפכי כמים לבך

Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish interpreted this passage as referring to the empires. And the land was formless [Gen. 1:2], this is Babylon…; and empty [Gen. 1:2], this is Media…; and darkness [Gen. 1:2], this is Greece…; on the face of the deep [Gen. 1:2], this is the present wicked [i.e., Roman] empire…; and the spirit of God hovered [Gen. 1:2], this is the spirit of the Messiah, of whom it is said, And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on him [Isa. 11:2]. And by what meritorious deed being performed will cause the One that hovered over the face of the waters to come? By the merit of repentance, which is compared to water: pour out your heart like water [Lam. 2:19]. (Gen. Rab. 2:4 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:16-17])

According to this midrash, Israel’s destiny—to be subjected to a series of world empires but ultimately to experience liberation in the final redemption—was built into the very fabric of creation.[85] The Spirit of God is identified as the Spirit of the Messiah because it is through the Messiah that God would redeem Israel from the last wicked empire to rule over them. According to this rabbinic midrash, repentance would pave the way for the messianic redemption. Repentance itself is likened to water, an image that once again ties the future hope of redemption to the creation story, in which the Spirit of God (i.e., the messianic spirit) hovers over the water. (Undertones of repentance as a type of purification made possible by the work of the Holy Spirit are probably also present.) Creation, redemption and new creation form a single complex of ideas. The similar patterns of thought represented in the rabbinic midrash and in the account of Jesus’ immersion are remarkable.[86] John the Baptist’s call to repentance and immersion led directly to Jesus’ endowment with the power and authority to inaugurate the redemption of Israel by the Spirit of God.

The tight bonds between the Spirit, the Messiah and redemption in Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish’s exposition of the creation story are anticipated in another scroll from Qumran. 11QMelchizedek describes, in terms similar to John the Baptist’s preaching, the cancellation of the indebtedness of sin in the eschatological Jubilee and the eschatological Day of Atonement, in which Melchizedek, the messianic high priest, will purify the Temple. In this sectarian work there are other messianic figures in addition to Melchizedek who play a role in Israel’s redemption:

הואה יום ה[שלום א]שר אמר[ — ביד ישע]יה הנביא אשר אמר[ מה ]נאוו על הרים רגל[י] מבש[ר מ]שמיע שלום מב[שר טוב משמיע ישוע]ה [א]ומר לציון [מלך ]אלוהיך פשרו ההרים[ המה] הנביאי[ם ]המה א[ — ]מ[] לכול [ — ] והמבשר הו[אה ]משיח הרו[ח] כאשר אמר דנ[יאל עליו עד משיח נגיד שבועים שבעה ומבשר] טוב משמי[ע ישועה ]הואה הכתוב עליו אשר [ — ] לנח[ם] ה[אבלים]

…it is the day of [peace, wh]ich he spoke of [through Isa]iah the prophet, who said, [How] beautiful on the hills are the fee[t] of the messen[ger who a]nnounces peace, the [good] mes[senger who announces salvatio]n, [s]aying to Zion, “Your God [reigns]!” [Isa. 52:7]. Its interpretation: the hills, [they are] the prophet[s] they…to all…. And the messenger, h[e is] the anointed of the Spiri[t] [מְשִׁיחַ הָרוּחַ], as Dan[iel] said [concerning him: until an anointed one, a leader—seven weeks (Dan. 9:25). And the] good [messenger] who announ[ces salvation], he is the one about whom it is written…to comfor[t] the [mourners] [Isa. 61:2]. (11QMelch [11Q13] II, 15-20)

According to this text, the function of מְשִׁיחַ הָרוּחַ (meshiaḥ hārūaḥ, “the anointed [or, Messiah] of the Spirit”) is to proclaim the reign of God, a reign that spells the redemption of Israel, for when God’s reign is established over Israel the rule of the foreign powers is at an end. It is the Spirit that empowers this messianic figure to fulfill the program set out for him in Isaiah 61—to proclaim good news to the meek and to comfort those who mourn.

The ideas found in 11QMelchizedek afford us a glimpse into Jesus’ messianic self-consciousness. Like the anointed of the Spirit in the Qumran document, Jesus proclaimed Israel’s redemption through the Kingdom of Heaven, God’s reign breaking onto the stage of human affairs. And like the Messiah of the Spirit in 11QMelchizedek, Jesus described his mission in terms of Isaiah 61—he had been commissioned to proclaim good news to the poor through the anointing of the Spirit (Luke 4:18-21).[87] Thus the presence of the Spirit at Jesus’ baptism signified that the messianic era of redemption had finally begun.

A final and related aspect of the presence of the Spirit at Jesus’ baptism is its designation of Jesus as a prophet. In the fragment from 11QMelchizedek we can observe that the Messiah of the Spirit stands in close relation to the prophets who came before him. Indeed, across a wide variety of ancient Jewish sources the Spirit is more strongly associated with prophecy than with purity or redemption.[88]

It is in regard to the Spirit’s connection to prophecy that we can most easily observe a linguistic shift that differentiated biblical writers from the authors of post-biblical sources.[89] Whereas in the Scriptures the prophets are said to have spoken by the Spirit of God[90] or by the Spirit of the LORD,[91] in post-biblical Jewish literature the prophets usually are said to have spoken by the Holy Spirit,[92] although there are some examples in post-biblical sources of persons who speak by the Spirit of God (cf., e.g., 1 Cor. 12:3). This linguistic shift regarding the divine origin of prophecy demonstrates that the Spirit of God and the Holy Spirit do not belong to separate conceptual categories. The Spirit of God and the Holy Spirit are two ways of speaking about the same thing. Luke’s substitution of πνεῦμα θεοῦ (“Spirit of God”) with τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον (“the Holy Spirit”), therefore, is entirely legitimate. He simply used vocabulary that was more meaningful to his readers.

The presence of the Spirit of God at Jesus’ baptism signifies that his task was essentially prophetic in nature. It was as a prophet of redemption that Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of Heaven to Israel.

L31 σωματικῷ εἴδει (Luke 3:22). The author of Luke described the Spirit as having a bodily form. Whereas the noun εἶδος (eidos, “form”) might be reconstructed as תֹּאַר (to’ar, “form”) or מַרְאֶה (mar’eh, “appearance”),[93] the adjective σωματικός (sōmatikos, “bodily”) has no good Hebrew equivalent.[94] Delitzsch’s translation of σωματικῷ εἴδει (sōmatikō eidei, “in bodily form”) as בִּדְמוּת גּוּף (bidmūt gūf, “in a likeness of a body”) has no parallels in MT, DSS, the Mishnah, tannaic or amoraic midrashim, or the Jerusalem or Babylonian Talmuds.[95] Luke’s word order, adjective→noun, is also un-Hebraic, and the lack of a parallel to Luke’s wording in L31 in either Mark or Matthew is also significant. The combined evidence suggests that the author of Luke added “in bodily form” to his source in order to explain the ambiguous simile “like a dove.” The author of Luke understood “like a dove” to imply that the Spirit had a visible form. In the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, on the other hand, “like a dove” may be a description not of the Spirit’s appearance but of its movement: the Spirit came or descended in the manner of a dove.[96] As we will discuss below, it is probably in this latter sense that the simile “like a dove” was intended in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua.

Since “in bodily form” appears to be a Lukan addition, we have omitted σωματικῷ εἴδει from GR.

A dove in flight photographed in Israel. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L32 ὡς περιστερὰν καταβαῖνον (Mark 1:10). Despite the triple attestation of the verb καταβαίνειν (katabainein, “to descend”) in Yeshua’s Immersion (L29 [Luke]; L32 [Matt., Mark]), we suspect that this verb did not occur in Anth. There are no references to the descent of God’s Spirit in MT, and it may be that Luke’s reference to the Spirit’s descent was a paraphrase of Anth.’s wording that was picked up by Mark and passed on to Matthew. Matthew’s Gospel has two verbs for the Spirit’s movement: καταβαίνειν in L32 and ἔρχεσθαι (erchesthai, “to come”) in L33. We believe the doubling of verbs in Matt. 3:16 is due to the author of Matthew’s weaving Mark’s wording together with Anth.’s, and therefore we have accepted Matthew’s second verb, ἔρχεσθαι, for GR in L33.

If we are wrong and καταβαίνειν (“to descend”) was the verb that occurred in Anth., then it could be reconstructed easily with יָרַד (yārad, “descend”).[97]

ὡς περιστερὰν (GR). For GR we have preferred the ὡς (hōs, “like,” “as”) found in Luke and Mark to Matthew’s ὡσεί (hōsei, “like,” “as”). There is hardly any difference between the two, but since the author of Luke was inclined to use ὡσεί much more frequently than the authors of Mark and Matthew, it seems unlikely that he would have rejected ὡσεί in L32 had it occurred in his source.[98] The author of Matthew used ὡσεί on only three occasions (Matt. 3:16; 9:36; 14:21). One of these is an agreement with Luke against Mark (Matt. 14:21 ∥ Luke 9:14; cf. Mark 6:44), indicating that ὡσεί probably did occur sometimes in Anth., but another instance appears in a verse taken from Mark (Matt. 9:36; Mark 6:34) that was unlikely to have been present in Anth., and therefore to be regarded as a Matthean improvement on Mark’s wording. In that verse the author of Matthew changed ὡς to ὡσεί, and we suspect that he did the same in Yeshua’s Immersion.

Whichever selection we made for GR, our Hebrew reconstruction would be the same. Both ὡσεὶ περιστερά (hōsei peristera, “like a dove”; Ps. 54[55]:7) and ὡς περιστερά (hōs peristera, “like a dove”; Song 5:12; Hos. 7:11; 11:11; Isa. 38:14; 59:11; 60:8; Jer. 31[48]:28) occur in LXX as the translation of -יוֹנָה + כְּ.

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

There is no difficulty in reconstructing περιστερά (peristera, “dove”) with יוֹנָה (yōnāh, “dove”), as nearly every instance of περιστερά in LXX occurs as the translation of יוֹנָה,[99] and the LXX translators almost always translated יוֹנָה as περιστερά when יוֹנָה was not being used as a personal name (i.e., Jonah).[100] The only remaining question in terms of reconstruction is whether the pointing ought to be כְּיוֹנָה (keyōnāh, “like a dove”) or כַּיּוֹנָה (kayōnāh, “like the dove”) since in similes such as this the noun can be either definite or indefinite in form while being indefinite in function. We have chosen כַּיּוֹנָה because we suspect that “like a dove” in L32 may be an allusion to Ps. 55:7, which is vocalized with the definite form.[101]

A more vexing question is what is meant by “like a dove” in Yeshua’s Immersion. Was the author of Luke correct that the Spirit had the appearance of a dove? Or was the Spirit’s movement compared to that of a dove? Scholars rightly point out that the dove was not an established symbol of the Holy Spirit in ancient Jewish sources,[102] which cautions us against interpreting “like a dove” as describing the Spirit’s appearance (and in any case, by definition, a spirit is invisible),[103] but already in Gen. 1:2 the movement of the Spirit is described as “hovering” (מְרַחֶפֶת [meraḥefet]) in a bird-like manner over the waters. The verb רִחֵף (riḥēf, “hover”) occurs in only one other verse in the Hebrew Bible, where it describes an eagle moving over its chicks (Deut. 32:11). If Yeshua’s Immersion alludes to the creation narrative, then we ought to expect that it was the Spirit’s movement that was compared to a dove’s rather than the Spirit’s appearance.

This impression finds strong confirmation in rabbinic literature. According to a baraita, Ben Zoma, who was something of a Jewish mystic, compared the Spirit’s movement over the waters of creation to that of a dove:

תנו רבנן מעשה ברבי יהושע בן חנניה שהיה עומד על גב מעלה בהר הבית וראהו בן זומא ולא עמד מלפניו אמר לו מאין ולאין בן זומא אמר לו צופה הייתי בין מים העליונים למים התחתונים ואין בין זה לזה אלא שלש אצבעות בלבד שנאמר ורוח אלהים מרחפת על פני המים כיונה שמרחפת על בניה ואינה נוגעת

Our rabbis taught [in a baraita]: An anecdote concerning Rabbi Yehoshua ben Hananyah, who was standing on the steps of the Temple Mount and Ben Zoma saw him, but he did not stand up before him. He said to him, “Whence and whither, Ben Zoma?” He said to him, “I was looking between the upper and the lower waters, and there is not more than three fingerbreadths between them, as it is said, And the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters [Gen. 1:2], like a dove [כיונה] that hovers over her chicks but does not touch them.”[104] (b. Hag. 16a)

Scholars have questioned the usefulness of this tradition for understanding the phrase “like a dove” in the account of Jesus’ immersion on three grounds: 1) the late date of the tradition;[105] 2) variant versions of the tradition that do not contain the phrase “like a dove”;[106] 3) there are anachronistic details in the Babylonian Talmud’s version of the tradition quoted above.[107] Let us examine these objections in order.

First, while it is true that the version of the Ben Zoma tradition we have cited comes from the Babylonian Talmud, a version of Ben Zoma’s mystical reflections on the Spirit of God in the creation account appears as early as the Tosefta (ca. 220 C.E.).[108] Ben Zoma himself was active in the period prior to the Bar Kochva revolt. His teacher, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Hananyah, a disciple of Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai, was a survivor of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. These dates place Ben Zoma well after the time of Jesus, but his connections also make it clear that Ben Zoma was in touch with Second Temple-period persons and ideas. So Ben Zoma’s likening of the Spirit’s hovering to that of a dove need not be regarded as his own innovation,[109] for he may have been drawing on ancient tradition. Nor does the fact that the only version of the baraita about Ben Zoma to preserve the comparison of the Spirit’s movement to that of a dove is also the latest prove that it is the least accurate or reliable. It sometimes happens that an early and authentic version of a tradition is preserved in a later source, while earlier sources may contain less reliable or corrupted versions of the tradition.

Dove with an olive branch on a stained-glass window of the Thomaston Baptist Church in Thomaston, Maine. Photograph courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.

As to the other versions of the Ben Zoma tradition, in the Tosefta and the Jerusalem Talmud the movement of the Spirit is compared to that of an eagle (כנשר) rather than to that of a dove (t. Hag. 2:6; y. Hag. 2:1 [9a]). A version of the Ben Zoma tradition preserved in Genesis Rabbah, meanwhile, simply compares the Spirit’s movement to that of a bird (כעוף; Gen. Rab. 2:4 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:17]). The comparison of the Spirit’s movement to an eagle is based on the two instances of רִחֵף in the Bible (Gen. 1:2 [Spirit of God]; Deut. 32:11 [eagle]). Abrahams argued that the comparison to an eagle in Ben Zoma’s saying is a secondary element in the tradition since it is difficult to explain how the comparison to a dove could have originated if “like an eagle,” with its Scriptural prooftext, had belonged to the tradition from the beginning.[110] A change in the opposite direction, on the other hand, easily could have happened. “Like a dove” has no Scriptural basis, and therefore replacing כיונה with כנשר could be regarded as an improvement. The variant “like a bird” in Genesis Rabbah demonstrates that Ben Zoma’s comparison did not depend on any particular bird species, but the type of movements birds typically make. But as with “like an eagle,” “like a bird” cannot explain how the version “like a dove” might have arisen. It is likely, therefore, that “like a dove” belonged to the original version of Ben Zoma’s saying, but even for Ben Zoma the comparison to a dove (as opposed to some other bird) was a remnant of a received tradition, which could therefore be abandoned for the more bland comparison to birds in general when the reason for specifying a dove had been forgotten.

Detail of the ceiling fresco created by Melchior Steidl in the former Banz Abbey. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

As to the supposed anachronism in the Babylonian Talmud’s version of the Ben Zoma baraita, it has been pointed out that the Temple had long since been destroyed by Ben Zoma’s time, whereas the Talmud sets the encounter between Rabbi Yehoshua ben Hananyah and Ben Zoma on the steps going up to the Temple Mount. It must be noted, however, that there are other traditions concerning Ben Zoma’s presence at the Temple Mount (t. Ber. 6:2), so the reference to the Temple Mount in b. Hag. 16a is not exceptional and should not be too readily dismissed as fictional or erroneous. Indeed, the apparent anachronism is easily resolved when we recall that although the Temple was destroyed in 70 C.E., the Temple Mount remained a holy site for pilgrimage[111] and even sacrifice.[112] Jerusalem may have been destroyed by the Romans, but Jews of the second century, such as Ben Zoma, had not abandoned it. Even after the Bar Kochva revolt, when a decree was issued banning Jews from entering Aelia Capitolina (formerly Jerusalem), some sages maintained a clandestine presence in the city.[113] Since the baraita in b. Hag. 16a merely claims that Ben Zoma met Rabbi Yehoshua ben Hananyah on the steps going up to the Temple Mount[114] —it does not say that they met in the courts of the Temple—and since portions of those steps remain intact to the present day, there are no grounds for impugning the baraita on the grounds of anachronism.

Thus we have in Ben Zoma’s speculation on Gen. 1:2 a tradition that may go back to the Second Temple period, in which the movement of God’s Spirit was compared to that of a dove. But why a dove precisely? Another rabbinic tradition asks this very question:

ואומר מי יתן לי אבר כיונה אעופה ואשכונה למה כיונה ר′ עזריה בשם ר′ יודן בר′ סימון לפי שכל העופות בשעה שיגיעים הן נחין על גבי סלע או על גבי אילן, אבל היונה בשעה שיגיעה היא קופצת אחד מאגפיה ופורחת באחד מאגפיה

And I said, “Who will give me wings like a dove [כַּיּוֹנָה]? I would fly and be at rest [Ps. 55:7]. Why does it say “like a dove [כַּיּוֹנָה]”? Rabbi Azariyah in the name of Rabbi Yudan ben Rabbi Simon said, “Because all other birds, when they grow weary, land on a rock or on a tree, but the dove, when it grows weary, closes one of its wings and spreads another of its wings.” (Gen. Rab. 39:8 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:371])

According to this tradition, doves are unique because by resting one wing while flying with the other they are able to maintain perpetual flight. Doves can simultaneously “fly and be at rest,” as Ps. 55:7 says.[115] This folkloric tradition concerning the dove’s ability to fly without ever having to land may account for the comparison of the Spirit’s hovering over the waters to the flight of a dove. For when the Spirit of God hovered over the waters there was no landing place, for dry ground had not yet been called forth. But like a dove, the Spirit of God had no need to land. The Spirit hovering over the water simultaneously maintained perpetual motion and constant rest.

The folkloric belief in a dove’s ability to fly continually may be what lies behind the references to a dove in Ben Zoma’s meditations on the creation story and in the account of Jesus’ baptism. The folkloric belief itself was not an active ingredient in either the Ben Zoma story or in Yeshua’s Immersion, but once the comparison of the Spirit’s hovering to that of a dove had been made, it stuck and became a stock phrase. Just as in English we say “laugh like a hyena” or “sleep like a baby” without really thinking about where the comparison comes from, so the Spirit’s moving “like a dove” simply became a standard image.[116]

L33 ἦλθεν (GR). As we noted in the previous Comment, we believe that Matthew’s use of the verb ἔρχεσθαι (erchesthai, “to come”) reflects the wording of Anth. It is understandable that when the author of Luke paraphrased Yeshua’s Immersion he would have wished to use a more descriptive verb than ἔρχεσθαι. The author of Luke’s choice of “descend” contributed to the author of Mark’s decision to rework the account of Jesus’ baptism so that it echoed Peter’s vision in Acts 10. We suspect the author of Matthew accepted καταβαῖνον (katabainon, “descending”) from Mark (L32), but also retained Anth.’s verb, ἔρχεσθαι, in L33. To do so, the author of Matthew changed what was probably an aorist verb (ἦλθεν [ēlthen, “it came”]) in Anth. into a participle (ἐρχόμενον [erchomenon, “coming”) in order to agree with the participle καταβαῖνον (“descending”) he had accepted from Mark. Note that an aorist for GR in L33 agrees with the aorist verb ἠνεῴχθησαν (ēneōchthēsan, “they were opened”), which we adopted for GR in L27.

צָלְחָה (HR). How best to reconstruct ἦλθεν (“it came”) in L33 is a puzzle. The most straightforward option is, of course, בָּאָה (bā’āh, “it came”), given the strong correlation between ἔρχεσθαι (erchesthai, “to come”) and בָּא (bā’, “come”) in LXX and MT.[117] But giving us pause in the present instance is the infrequent use of בָּא in conjunction with the Spirit’s empowering or resting upon or filling an individual.[118]

It is tempting to adopt the participle מְרַחֶפֶת (meraḥefet, “hovering”) for HR on account of the dependence of Yeshua’s Immersion on the creation story (Gen. 1:2). Moreover, in DSS we find a reference to the Spirit’s hovering over certain pious individuals:

ועל ענוים רוחו תרחף

…and over the meek his Spirit will hover. (4Q521 2 II, 6)

This reference to the Spirit’s hovering over the meek occurs in a text that describes the messianic redemption in terms closely related to Jesus’ account to John the Baptist’s disciples in Yohanan the Immerser’s Question. The verb רִחֵף (riḥēf, “hover”) was not translated with ἔρχεσθαι (erchesthai, “to come”) in LXX, but since there are only two instances of רִחֵף in the Hebrew Bible (Gen. 1:2; Deut. 32:11), this does not prove very much. Nevertheless, “come” and “hover” are not synonymous, so we have abandoned this option for HR.

Another option for reconstructing ἔρχεσθαι in L33 is צָלַח (tzālaḥ, “rush”), a verb which is used on several occasions for the Spirit’s empowering an individual. For instance:

וַתִּצְלַח עָלָיו רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים וַיִּתְנַבֵּא בְּתוֹכָם

And the Spirit of God rushed [וַתִּצְלַח] upon him [i.e., Saul—DNB and JNT], and he prophesied among them. (1 Sam. 10:10)[119]

Reconstructing with צָלַח is particularly attractive because of its role in the scene of David’s anointing as king:

וַיִּקַּח שְׁמוּאֵל אֶת־קֶרֶן הַשֶּׁמֶן וַיִּמְשַׁח אֹתוֹ בְּקֶרֶב אֶחָיו וַתִּצְלַח רוּחַ־יְהוָה אֶל־דָּוִד מֵהַיּוֹם הַהוּא

And Samuel took the horn of oil and he anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the LORD has rushed [וַתִּצְלַח] toward David from that day forward. (1 Sam. 16:13)

Since Jesus’ baptism has also been understood to be the moment of his anointing as the Messiah (Acts 10:38)[120] —an interpretation that is verified by the voice that spoke from heaven at Jesus’ baptism—the verb צָלַח is entirely fitting for describing the Spirit of God’s coming upon Jesus. The LXX translators never rendered צָלַח with ἔρχεσθαι, but “rush upon” and “come upon” are not so different as to make such a translation inconceivable. While reconstructing ἦλθεν (ēlthen, “it came”) with בָּאָה would be safer, reconstructing with צָלְחָה (tzāleḥāh, “it rushed”) is not only more interesting and thought-provoking, but a better fit for the context of Yeshua’s Immersion.

L34 ἐπ᾿ αὐτόν (GR). The Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark to write ἐπ᾿ αὐτόν (ep avton, “upon him”) instead of Mark’s εἰς αὐτόν (eis avton, “into him”) is a strong indication that ἐπ᾿ αὐτόν was the reading of Anth.[121] The author of Mark’s preference for the preposition εἰς (eis, “into”) may simply reflect the trend in Koine Greek in which εἰς was taking over the function of ἐν (en, “in”) and ἐπί (epi, “upon”).[122] On the other hand, the author of Mark may have been inspired to change the preposition from “upon” to “into” on account of Luke’s statement that following the baptism Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:1). Being filled with the Holy Spirit implies that the Spirit had not merely come upon Jesus, but actually entered him.

עָלָיו (HR). On reconstructing ἐπί (epi, “upon”) with עַל (‘al, “upon”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L11. Reconstructing ἐπ᾿ αὐτόν (ep avton, “upon him”) with עָלָיו (‘ālāv, “upon him”) agrees with our adoption of צָלַח (tzālaḥ, “rush”) for HR in L33 since צָלַח was usually accompanied by עַל when the Spirit was said to “rush upon” an individual (Judg. 14:6, 19; 15:14; 1 Sam. 10:6, 10; 11:6). Reconstructing with the preposition עַל also allows for resonances with Gen. 1:2 (וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים מְרַחֶפֶת עַל פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם [“and the Spirit of God hovered upon the face of the waters”]) and Isa. 42:1 (נָתַתִּי רוּחִי עָלָיו [“I have set my Spirit upon him”]), which is alluded to by the heavenly voice.

L35 καὶ ἰδοὺ (GR). We have accepted Matthew’s Hebraic καὶ ἰδού (kai idou, “and behold”) in L35, just as we did in L26. The author of Luke likely omitted this Hebraism when he paraphrased Yeshua’s Immersion and inserted stylistically better γενέσθαι (genesthai, “to be”) in L39 by way of compensation.

וְהִנֵּה (HR). On reconstructing ἰδού (idou, “behold”) with הִנֵּה (hinēh, “behold”), see Comment to L26.

L36 φωνὴ (GR). All three Synoptic Gospels have φωνή (fōnē, “voice,” “sound”) in L36, leaving no doubt as to GR.

Light shafts shining between the columns in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Photographed in 1920. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

בַּת קוֹל (HR). In LXX the noun φωνή usually occurs as the translation of קוֹל (qōl, “voice,” “sound”), and the LXX translators usually rendered קוֹל as φωνή.[123] It might, therefore, seem that we should adopt קוֹל for HR without further ado. However, the phenomenon of a disembodied voice speaking for God is well known in rabbinic literature, and there the term for the heavenly voice is בַּת קוֹל (bat qōl). On account of this parallel phenomenon in rabbinic literature and Yeshua’s Immersion, some scholars have identified the heavenly voice at Jesus’ baptism as a bat kol.[124] Other scholars have, on theological grounds, vigorously argued against this identification, claiming that the bat kol was a second-rate form of revelation, a mere echo of a voice, whereas at Jesus’ baptism we are privileged to hear the unmediated voice of God.[125]

A closer examination of the rabbinic concept of the bat kol reveals that the theological objections raised by these scholars are based on a fundamental misapprehension of the term and of the sources in which it appears. In the first place, the term בַּת קוֹל does not mean “echo,” as can be seen from its earliest known occurrence:

‏[ ע]יניו בין שחורות וב[ין] הגמריות וזקנו ממ[ ]והיאה תרגל ובת קולו עניה ושניו דקות ויושבות על סרכמה והואה לוא ארוך ולוא קצר

His [e]yes are between dark and striped [?] and his beard…and it curls, and the sound of his voice [בַּת קוֹלוֹ] is mild and his teeth are fine and arranged in their order. And he is neither tall nor short. (4Q186 2 I, 1-4)

This text describes a man’s physical appearance and observable characteristics. In such a context interpreting בַּת קוֹל as “echo” is untenable. The Hebrew idiom בַּת קוֹל refers to the sound of a voice. When a person is said to be addressed by a bat kol it does not mean that they have heard an echo, it means that the speaker is unseen but his voice is heard.[126] A bat kol is no more “mediated” than any other voice carried by sound waves through the air.

Scholars who regard the bat kol as a debased form of revelation generally cite the following rabbinic tradition in support of their reasoning:

משמתו נביאים הראשונים חגי זכריה ומלאכי פסקה רוח הקודש מישראל ואע″פ כן היו משמיעין להן על בת קול

Ever since the final prophets[127] Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi died, the Holy Spirit has ceased from Israel. Nevertheless, things have been proclaimed to them by a bat kol. (t. Sot. 13:3; Vienna MS)[128]

Scholars who misconstrue this tradition suppose that it means that God used to speak via the Holy Spirit to individuals, but now he only speaks to them via a bat kol. What these scholars fail to grasp is that in this tradition רוּחַ הַקּוֹדֶשׁ (rūaḥ haqōdesh, “the spirit of holiness”) is functioning as a synonym for prophecy. That “Holy Spirit” and “prophecy” were considered to be synonymous is explicitly stated in the following rabbinic source:

עשרה שמות נקרא רוח הקודש אלו הן משל מליצה חידה דיבור אמירה תפארת ציווי משא נבואה חזיון

By ten names is the Holy Spirit called, and these are they: parable, metaphor, riddle, discourse, saying, beauty, command, burden, prophecy, vision. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 34:8 [ed. Schechter, 102])

In a parallel recension of this tradition “Holy Spirit” is tellingly replaced by “prophecy”:

עשרה שמות נקראת נבואה משא משל מליצה חידה הטיפה צווי דיבור אמירה חזון נבואה

By ten names is prophecy called: burden, parable, metaphor, riddle, preaching, command, discourse, saying, vision, prophecy. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version B, §37 [ed. Schechter, 95])

That “Holy Spirit” in t. Sot. 13:3 is synonymous with “prophecy” can also be seen from a tradition that is parallel to the one preserved in the Tosefta:

עַד כַּאן הָיוּ הַנְּבִיאִים מִתְנַבְּאִים בְּרוּחַ הַקּוֹדֶשׁ

Until this point the prophets were prophesying by the Holy Spirit…. (Seder Olam §30 [ed. Guggenheimer, 259])

This variant version of the tradition shows that the Holy Spirit had neither ceased to exist nor even ceased to be active after the last of the prophets died. Rather, prophecy by the Holy Spirit ceased after the deaths of the final prophets.

Finally, the greater context in which the tradition about the cessation of the Holy Spirit appears also confirms that in t. Sot. 13:3 “Holy Spirit” is equivalent to “prophecy.” Earlier in the same tractate the sages stated:

עד שלא נגנז אליהו היתה רוח הקודש מרובה בישראל

Before Elijah was hidden the Holy Spirit was common in Israel. (t. Sot. 12:5)

What this means is that before the time of Elijah there were many prophets in Israel, but after his time their numbers waned. This statement is followed up by the statement in t. Sot. 13:3, which should be understood as “Since the last of the prophets died, prophecy has ceased within Israel. Nevertheless, God continues to communicate with Israel by the sound of his voice.” The emphasis on continuity is important, for according to the rabbinic conception, the bat kol did not originate with the cessation of prophecy. God had been speaking to Israel with an audible voice at least since the time of Moses:

ויקח משה חצי הדם, מהיכן היה משה יודע חצי הדם, ר′ יהודה בר′ אילעאי אמ′ הדם נחלק מאליו. ר′ נתן אמ′ מעשה ניסים נעשו בו, נעשה חציו שחור וחציו אדום. ר′ יצחק אמ′ בת קול יוצאת מהר חורב ואמרה לו למשה עד כאן חצי הדם.

And Moses took half the blood [Exod. 24:6]. How did Moses identify half the blood? Rabbi Yehudah said in the name of Rabbi Ilai, “The blood divided itself.” Rabbi Natan said, “A miracle was performed in it; half of it was made black and half red.” Rabbi Yitzhak said, “The sound of a voice went out from Mount Horeb and said to Moses, ‘Up to here is half the blood.’” (Lev. Rab. 6:5 [ed. Margulies, 1:138])

רבי אליעזר אומר בת קול יוצאת מתוך המחנה שנים עשר מיל על שנים עשר מיל והיתה מכרזת ואומרת מת משה

Rabbi Eliezer [ben Hyrcanus, a tradent of Second Temple-period traditions—DNB and JNT] says, “The sound of a voice went out from the midst of the camp twelve miles in each direction and it was announcing and saying, ‘Moses has died!’” (Sifre Deut. §357 [ed. Finkelstein, 427-428])

From these facts it emerges that it is actually the bat kol that is the unmediated form of revelation. Prophecy by the Holy Spirit, on the other hand, was by definition mediated to Israel via the prophet.

For the purposes of reconstruction, either קוֹל or בַּת קוֹל would be acceptable in L36. The idiom בַּת קוֹל for “the sound of a voice” does not occur in MT, and we usually prefer to reconstruct narrative in a biblicizing style of Hebrew. Nevertheless, as we see in other Second Temple sources composed in biblicizing Hebrew, contemporaneous idioms sometimes crept in despite the author’s best efforts.[129] In light of this phenomenon, we have accepted בַּת קוֹל for HR.

L37 ἐγένετο (Mark 1:11). We suspect that Mark’s ἐγένετο (egeneto, “it was”) is a reflection of Luke’s γενέσθαι (genesthai, “to be”; L39) rather than the wording of Anth. Note that Mark’s word order, καὶ φωνὴ ἐγένετο (“and a voice was”), is un-Hebraic. We would have expected καὶ ἐγένετο φωνή (“and was a voice”) from a Hebraic-Greek source such as Anth.

L38 ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν (GR). In comparison with ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν (ek tōn ouranōn, “out of the heavens”) in Matthew and Mark, Luke’s ἐξ οὐρανοῦ (ex ouranou, “out of heaven”) represents a stylistic improvement. The plural form of “heavens” in Matthew and Mark looks like a Hebraism, and we have accordingly adopted their wording in L38 for GR.

מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם (HR). On reconstructing οὐρανός (ouranos, “sky,” “heaven”) with שָׁמַיִם (shāmayim, “sky,” “heaven”), see Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple, Comment to L39. The phrase בַּת קוֹל מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם (bat qōl min hashāmayim, “the sound of a voice from heaven”) occurs in rabbinic sources (cf., e.g., b. Hag. 14b; b. Sot. 48b; b. Sanh. 11a), but it does not occur in the earliest stratum of rabbinic literature.[130] This fact may challenge our reconstruction with בַּת קוֹל in L36, or the absence of examples of a bat kol emanating from heaven in tannaic sources may simply be a meaningless fluke.

The baptism of Jesus as depicted in a catacomb painting from Rome. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L39 γενέσθαι (Luke 3:22). Luke’s infinitive γενέσθαι (genesthai, “to be”) in L39 is the last in a series of three infinitives (L27, L29, L39) with which he constructed his paraphrase of Yeshua’s Immersion in a single complex sentence. It is unlikely that Luke’s infinitive reflects the wording of Anth., and we have omitted it from GR.

L40 λέγουσα (Matt. 3:17). Matthew’s participle λέγουσα (legousa, “saying”) reverts easily to Hebrew (see below), and since some kind of verbal form is required in HR, we have accepted Matthew’s wording in L40 for GR.

אוֹמֶרֶת (HR). Our two main choices for reconstructing λέγουσα (“saying”) are לֵאמוֹר (lē’mōr, “to say”)[131] and אוֹמֶרֶת (’ōmeret, “saying”). Since in BH it was not uncommon in vav-consecutive contexts for clauses introduced with וְהִנֵּה (vehinēh, “and behold”) to be followed by subject + participle,[132] we are inclined to reconstruct with אוֹמֶרֶת.

Examples in rabbinic sources of אוֹמֶרֶת + בַּת קוֹל include:

רבי אליעזר אומר בת קול יוצאת מתוך המחנה שנים עשר מיל על שנים עשר מיל והיתה מכרזת ואומרת מת משה

Rabbi Eliezer says, “The sound of a voice [בַּת קוֹל] went out from the midst of the camp twelve miles in each direction and it was announcing and saying [וְאוֹמֶרֶת], ‘Moses has died!’” (Sifre Deut. §357 [ed. Finkelstein, 427-428])

אָמַר רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן לֵוִי בְּכָל יוֹם וָיוֹם בַּת קוֹל יוֹצֵאת מֵהַר חוֹרֵב וּמַכְרֶזֶת וְאוֹמֶרֶת אוֹי לָהֶם לַבְּרִיּוֹת מֵעֶלְבּוֹנָהּ שֶׁל תּוֹרָה

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said, “Each and every day the sound of a voice [בַּת קוֹל] goes out from Mount Horeb and announces and says [וְאוֹמֶרֶת], ‘Woe to the [human] creatures on account of their neglect of the Torah!’” (m. Avot 6:2 [ed. Blackman, 4:540])

L41-44 We encounter a textual problem in L41-44 of Luke’s version of Yeshua’s Immersion. According to all but one ancient Greek NT manuscript, the voice from heaven proclaims, “You are my beloved son; in you I have delighted,” in exactly the same wording as Mark’s parallel. In Codex Bezae (fifth century C.E.), however, the heavenly voice declares, υἱός μου εἶ σὺ ἐγὼ σήμερον γεγέννηκά σε (“You are my son; today I have begotten you”), an exact quotation of Ps. 2:7 (LXX). This alternate version of the declaration made by the heavenly voice is attested as early as Justin Martyr (mid-second century C.E.):

καὶ φωνὴ ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν ἅμα ἐληλύθει, ἥτις καὶ διὰ Δαβὶδ λεγομένη…Υἱός μου εἶ σύ, ἐγὼ σήμερον γεγέννηκά σε

…and a voice from the heavens at once came, which also was spoken through David…You are my son; today I have begotten you [Ps. 2:7]. (Dial. §88 [ed. Trollope, 2:42]; cf. §103 [ed. Trollope, 2:69])

As for other early Christians, it was important for Justin to prove that everything that happened in Jesus’ lifetime and all the claims that the Christians made about him had been foretold in Scripture. So we see that Justin underscores that the heavenly voice at Jesus’ baptism proclaimed what David had already spoken in the Psalms. Indeed, the suspicion arises that the words of the heavenly voice were made to conform to the LXX version of Ps. 2:7 for apologetic or polemical purposes. Already in NT Christian writers had begun to claim that Ps. 2:7 was a prophecy about Jesus (Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5). Placing Ps. 2:7 on the lips, as it were, of the heavenly voice would bolster this claim by supplying it with divine confirmation. Since turning the voice’s allusion to Ps. 2:7 into an explicit quotation provided the early Christians with another prooftext in their arsenal of polemics against Jews who disputed their messianic claims, we ought to approach the variant reading of Codex Bezae with due caution. Rather than preserving the authentic text of Luke 3:22 (and thus also of “Q”), as some scholars have argued,[133] it is more likely that the version of Luke 3:22 in Codex Bezae represents a Christian adaptation of the words of the heavenly voice to Ps. 2:7 for apologetic or polemical purposes. This suspicion finds further support in the way the scribe who produced Codex Bezae changed Jesus’ genealogy in Luke 3:23-38 (the pericope immediately following Yeshua’s Immersion) in order to give Jesus a kingly pedigree.[134] Both the changes the Bezae scribe made to the genealogy and the change he made to the heavenly voice have the effect of underscoring Jesus’ messianic status; neither should be regarded as preserving the original text of Luke.[135]

If some scholars have regarded a direct quotation of Ps. 2:7 as the original words of the heavenly voice, other scholars have argued that originally the voice quoted only Isa. 42:1, in which God proclaims, “Behold my servant, I will uphold him, my chosen one my soul accepts. I have placed my spirit upon him….”[136] According to this view, the original words of the heavenly voice were not σὺ εἶ ὁ υἱός μου (sū ei ho huios mou, “you are my son”), but σὺ εἶ ὁ παῖς μου (sū ei ho pais mou, “you are my servant”). But since the Greek noun παῖς (pais) can mean “child” as well as “servant,” Greek-speaking Christians erroneously detected an allusion to Ps. 2:7 in the words of the heavenly voice, and by the time the words of the heavenly voice were written down in the Gospels, υἱός (huios, “son”) had taken the place of παῖς (“servant”).[137]

Against accepting the theory that originally the heavenly voice quoted only from Isa. 42:1, however, is the way the temptation narrative presupposes an identification of Jesus as the Son of God.[138] In the temptation narrative the tempter twice challenges Jesus to prove that he truly is the Son of God (Matt. 4:3, 6; Luke 4:3, 9). An allusion to Ps. 2:7 in the words of the heavenly voice declaring Jesus to be the Son of God would supply the grounds for these temptations, whereas a direct quotation of Isa. 42:1 cannot. The narrative flow from Yeshua’s Immersion to Yeshua’s Testing, therefore, strongly encourages readers to recognize an allusion to Ps. 2:7 in the words of the heavenly voice.

The prevailing opinion is that the words of the heavenly voice are a composite quotation of Ps. 2:7 and Isa. 42:1,[139] with a possible allusion to Gen. 22:2 (“Take your son, your only son, whom you love…”) as well.[140] In support of this opinion we note that the combining of Psalm 2 with Isa. 42:1 is attested in rabbinic sources,[141] which proves that a composite citation of the two verses in the words of the heavenly voice is neither un-Hebraic[142] nor un-Jewish, and an allusion to Gen. 22:2 (the Binding of Isaac) makes sense in view of Yeshua’s Testing, the next episode following Yeshua’s Immersion, which parallels Jewish traditions concerning the temptation of Abraham and Isaac on their journey to Mount Moriah.[143] Moreover, a sophisticated composite citation suits the Second Temple Jewish milieu in which the Hebrew Life of Yeshua was composed. As we will discuss below, the combination of verses cited by the heavenly voice articulates a vision of Jesus’ mission that reinterpreted what it would mean for him to be Son of God and Messiah.

The White Ram: A Story of Abraham and Isaac by Mordicai Gerstein is a retelling of the Binding of Isaac in light of Jewish midrash.

L41 οὗτός ἐστιν (Matt. 3:17). Whereas in Mark 1:11 and Luke 3:22 the heavenly voice addresses Jesus directly (“You are my son,” etc.), in Matt. 3:17 the heavenly voice speaks of Jesus in the third person (“This is my son,” etc.). It appears that the author of Matthew is responsible for making this change, which he did in order to make the words of the heavenly voice at Jesus’ baptism agree with the words of the heavenly voice at Jesus’ transfiguration, in which all three Gospels agree that the voice spoke of Jesus in the third person (Matt. 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35).[144] The author of Matthew’s alteration has the effect of causing the heavenly voice to address either witnesses of Jesus’ baptism[145] or, perhaps, the readers of his Gospel.[146]

σὺ εἶ (GR). At Jesus’ baptism the heavenly voice addressed Jesus directly. The particular understanding of sonship imparted to Jesus by the heavenly voice (on which, see below) would prove crucial for successfully resisting the temptations of the devil that were soon to follow.

L42 ὁ υἱός μου (GR). As all three versions of Yeshua’s Immersion agree as to the wording of L42, we have accepted their testimony for GR.

בְּנִי אַתָּה (HR). Just as in DSS we find that the Spirit was believed to hover over certain pious individuals (see above, Comment to L33), so in rabbinic sources we find that heavenly voices addressed certain pious individuals as “my son”:

אמר רב יהודה אמר רב בכל יום ויום בת קול יוצאת ואומרת כל העולם כולו ניזון בשביל חנינא בני וחנינא בני דיו בקב חרובים מערב שבת לערב שבת

Rav Yehudah said Rav said, “Each and every day the sound of a voice goes out and says, ‘The entire world is fed for the sake of Hanina, my son. But as for Hanina, my son, a kav [i.e., a small measure of volume—DNB and JNT] of carob is enough from one Sabbath eve to the next!’” (b. Taan. 24b; cf. b. Ber. 17b; b. Hul. 86a)

The Hanina whom the heavenly voice referred to as “my son” was Hanina ben Dosa, a Galilean Hasid who lived at the end of the first century C.E. and who shared many characteristics in common with Jesus.[147]

Despite the similarity between the heavenly voice concerning Hanina ben Dosa and the heavenly voice addressed to Jesus, there is a qualitative difference between the way “my son” is used as an epithet in the talmudic tradition and the way it is used in Yeshua’s Immersion. When applied to Hanina, “my son” is a term of endearment and an expression of intimacy. But when applied to Jesus, “my son” describes Jesus’ mission and destiny to be the one through whom God intended to achieve Israel’s redemption, because in Jesus’ case the heavenly voice quotes Ps. 2:7, which describes God’s relationship to the Messiah.[148]

There can be no question whether Psalm 2 was regarded as a messianic psalm in the Second Temple period[149] since the psalmist explicitly refers to the Messiah:

לָמָּה רָגְשׁוּ גוֹיִם וּלְאֻמִּים יֶהְגּוּ רִיק׃ יִתְיַצְּבוּ מַלְכֵי אֶרֶץ וְרוֹזְנִים נוֹסְדוּ יָחַד עַל יי וְעַל מְשִׁיחוֹ

Why do the Gentiles rage and the peoples plan a vain thing? The kings of the earth take a stand and the rulers conspire together against the LORD and against his anointed one [or: his Messiah]. (Ps. 2:1-2)

What is uncertain is how first-century Jews would have understood the term “messiah” in the context of Psalm 2. Did they view the LORD’s anointed as an eschatological figure or a figure of the past (i.e., King David)? If an eschatological figure, of what sort? A royal messiah? A priestly messiah? A prophetic messiah? Psalm 2 describes the LORD’s anointed as a king (Ps. 2:6) and depicts him as an emperor who will rule the Gentiles with an iron fist (Ps. 2:8-12). It is likely, therefore, that if Jews of the Second Temple period understood the messiah of Psalm 2 to be an eschatological redeemer figure, they would have imagined a Davidic or royal messiah. But this is not entirely certain. Some Second Temple Jewish interpreters may have understood Psalm 2 in light of Psalm 110, which describes a priestly figure, or perhaps someone who fulfilled both royal and priestly functions. In any case, an eschatological interpretation of Psalm 2 probably envisioned some kind of exalted redeemer figure who would liberate Israel from foreign rule and subdue the Gentiles.

L43 ὁ ἀγαπητός [μου] (GR). Although all three Gospels read ὁ ἀγαπητός (ho agapētos, “the beloved”) in L43, there are grounds for wondering whether Anth. read ὁ ἀγαπητός μου (ho agapētos mou, “my beloved”). In the first place, the inclusion of the possessive pronoun μου (mou, “my”) would be more Hebraic. In the second place, an alternate version of the words of the heavenly voice is recorded in 2 Pet. 1:17 and there μου is attached to ὁ ἀγαπητός. To be sure, 2 Pet. 1:17 purportedly reproduces the words of the heavenly voice at Jesus’ transfiguration rather than at his baptism (2 Pet. 1:18), but there is a certain amount of overlap in the pronouncements of these two heavenly voices, and this includes the designation of Jesus as ὁ ἀγαπητός or, as the author of 2 Peter would have it, ὁ ἀγαπητός μου. The relationship of 2 Peter to the Synoptic Gospels is uncertain,[150] but there is a possibility that either the author of 2 Peter represents an independent witness to the words of the heavenly voice or, even more intriguing for our purposes, 2 Peter may have been familiar with the wording of the heavenly voice as it appeared in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua.

If the possessive pronoun μου was found in Anth., then we must suppose that the author of Luke omitted it as redundant when he paraphrased Anth.’s version of Yeshua’s Immersion. The author of Mark then would have dropped μου under the influence of Luke and the author of Matthew would have omitted the pronoun under the influence of Mark. Such a scenario could happen, but the evidence that it did is admittedly thin. Due to our uncertainty, we have placed the pronoun μου within brackets in the GR column of the reconstruction document.

Not all scholars agree about the origin or significance of ὁ ἀγαπητός in the proclamation of the heavenly voice. Some regard ὁ ἀγαπητός (“the beloved”) as originating from targumic interpretations of Ps. 2:7.[151] Some believe ὁ ἀγαπητός stems from Isa. 42:1 as equivalent to, or a substitute for, “my chosen.”[152] Others regard ὁ ἀγαπητός as an allusion to Gen. 22:2, in which God commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his beloved son.[153]

In support of the view that the adjective ἀγαπητός (“beloved”) is related to Psalm 2 is the fact that the Aramaic Targum to the Psalms rendered בְּנִי אַתָּה (beni ’atāh, “you are my son”) as חֲבִיב כְּבַר לְאַבָּא לִי אַנְתְּ (aviv kevar le’abā’ li ’ant, “beloved like a son to a father you are to me”). The Targum of Ps. 2:7 is related to the interpretation of Ps. 2:7 in Midrash Tehillim, in which an anonymous opinion explains:

בני אתה אין אומר בן לי, אלא בני אתה, כעבד שרבו עושה לו קורת רוח, ואומר מחבב את לי כבני:

You are my son [Ps. 2:7]. It does not say, “I have a son,” but “You are my son,” like a servant whose master does him a favor and says, “You are beloved to me as though you were my son.” (Midrash Tehillim 2:9 [ed. Buber, 2:28])

In both the Psalms Targum and Midrash Tehillim we observe an attempt to combat (in their editors’ view) an overly literal interpretation of the declaration “You are my son” in Ps. 2:7. Since downplaying the father-son relationship between God and his messiah in Ps. 2:7 hardly matches the intention of the heavenly voice, it is difficult to accept that ἀγαπητός in L43 derives from these late rabbinic traditions.[154]

Scholars who view ἀγαπητός in L43 as reflecting “my chosen” in Isa. 42:1 argue either that ἀγαπητός (“beloved”) is an alternate translation of בָּחִיר (bāḥir, “chosen”)—LXX has ἐκλεκτός (eklektos, “chosen”)—or that “beloved” is synonymous with “chosen” because in other Isaiah passages the servant of the LORD is called “beloved” (Isa. 41:8; 44:2 [only in LXX]).[155] Neither of these explanations is truly satisfactory. The LXX translators never rendered בָּחִיר with ἀγαπητός,[156] and rightly so: ἀγαπητός (“beloved”) does not overlap in meaning with בָּחִיר (“chosen”). The only grounds for regarding ἀγαπητός as a translation of בָּחִיר is a version of Isa. 42:1 quoted in the Gospel of Matthew:

ἰδοὺ ὁ παῖς μου ὃν ᾑρέτισα, ὁ ἀγαπητός μου εἰς ὃν εὐδόκησεν ἡ ψυχή μου θήσω τὸ πνεῦμά μου ἐπ᾿ αὐτόν, καὶ κρίσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ἀπαγγελεῖ

Behold my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved [ὁ ἀγαπητός μου] in whom my soul delights. I will put my spirit upon him, and he will proclaim judgment to the Gentiles. (Matt. 12:18)

Compare Matthew’s version of Isa. 42:1 with the Hebrew text and the LXX translation:

הֵן עַבְדִּי אֶתְמָךְ־בּוֹ בְּחִירִי רָצְתָה נַפְשִׁי נָתַתִּי רוּחִי עָלָיו מִשְׁפָּט לַגּוֹיִם יוֹצִיא

Behold my servant, I will uphold him, my chosen one my soul accepts. I have put my spirit upon him, he will bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. (Isa. 42:1)

Ιακωβ ὁ παῖς μου, ἀντιλήμψομαι αὐτοῦ· Ισραηλ ὁ ἐκλεκτός μου, προσεδέξατο αὐτὸν ἡ ψυχή μου· ἔδωκα τὸ πνεῦμά μου ἐπ᾿ αὐτόν, κρίσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ἐξοίσει

Jacob is my servant, I will help him. Israel is my chosen, my soul has accepted him. I have put my spirit upon him, he will carry out judgment to the Gentiles. (Isa. 42:1)

Matthew’s version of Isa. 42:1 diverges from LXX, but it is not clear that it is a direct translation of the Hebrew text. Rather, it appears that we have in Matt. 12:18 a feedback loop, in which the author of Matthew, recognizing the allusion to Isa. 42:1 in the words of the heavenly voice, adapted his quotation of Isa. 42:1 by replacing ἐκλεκτός (“chosen”) with ἀγαπητός (“beloved”) in order to make his version of Isa. 42:1 echo the words of the heavenly voice at Jesus’ baptism.[157] If that is the case, then the version of Isa. 42:1 in Matt. 12:18 cannot offer us any insight into the origin of ἀγαπητός in the words of the heavenly voice.

Those scholars who maintain that ἀγαπητός is not an alternate translation of בָּחִיר but a substitute for “chosen”—in view of the way the servant of the LORD is called “beloved” in other passages of Isaiah—point to Isa. 41:8 and Isa. 44:2 to make their case. However, the adjective ἀγαπητός (“beloved”) does not occur in the LXX translation of either of these verses. In Isa. 41:8, moreover, it is not the servant of the LORD, but Abraham who is described as אֹהֲבִי (’ohavi, “my friend”), or in LXX as ὃν ἠγάπησα (hon ēgapēsa, “whom I have loved”). In Isa. 44:2 it is only in the LXX version that we find Israel described as ὁ ἠγαπημένος…ὃν ἐξελεξάμην (ho ēgapēmenos…hon exelexamēn, “the beloved one…whom I have chosen”). Thus the evidence cited in support of regarding ἀγαπητός (“beloved”) as synonymous with ἐκλεκτός/בָּחִיר (“chosen”) in Isaiah’s servant of the LORD passages is weak, especially if we suppose that the words of the heavenly voice were originally preserved in a Hebrew source, namely the Hebrew Life of Yeshua.

The likeliest explanation for ἀγαπητός in the words of the heavenly voice is to regard it as an allusion to the words spoken to Abraham when God commanded him to sacrifice Isaac:[158]

Heavenly Voice Gen. 22:2
σὺ εἶ ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός…. λαβὲ τὸν υἱόν σου τὸν ἀγαπητόν, ὃν ἠγάπησας, τὸν Ισαακ….
You are my son, the beloved one…. Take your son, the beloved one, whom you love, Isaac….

An allusion to the Binding of Isaac in the words of the heavenly voice at Jesus’ immersion is entirely probable in view of the temptation narrative that follows.[159] According to Jewish tradition, the Binding of Isaac was a trial not only for Abraham, it also tested Isaac’s faithfulness and obedience. Similarly, in the temptation narrative Jesus’ faithfulness and obedience are put to the test following his proclamation as God’s beloved son. Just as Jewish traditions report that Satan appeared to Isaac along the journey to the land of Moriah to dissuade him from submitting to his father Abraham’s intentions, so the devil appeared to Jesus in order to dissuade him from submitting to his heavenly father’s intentions. And just as Isaac was led up to Mount Moriah to be sacrificed, so the tempter led Jesus up to the Temple (which was built on Mount Moriah) and challenged him to throw himself from its highest pinnacle. In both the Binding of Isaac and Yeshua’s Testing it is the status of the protagonist as the beloved son of his father that made him the subject of trials.

The binding of Isaac as depicted in an eighteenth-century manuscript of prayers and liturgical poetry. Image courtesy of the Internet Archive.

יְדִידִי (HR). According to the Masoretic text, when God spoke to Abraham he designated Isaac as בִּנְךָ (binchā, “your son”), יְחִידְךָ (yeḥidechā, “your only one”), אֲשֶׁר אָהַבְתָּ (asher ’āhavtā, “[the one] whom you love”). However, in LXX, instead of “your only one,” as in MT, we find τὸν ἀγαπητόν (ton agapēton, “the beloved”). Since ἀγαπητός (agapētos, “beloved”) is not a literal translation of יָחִיד (yāḥid, “only”),[160] we must entertain the possibility that the LXX translators knew a text different from MT which read יְדִידְךָ (yedidechā, “your beloved one”) instead of יְחִידְךָ (yeḥidechā, “your only one”).[161] If that were the case, then the words of the heavenly voice at Jesus’ immersion would not have alluded to the LXX version of Gen. 22:2, but to a pre-Masoretic version of this verse.[162] Although we do not possess any Hebrew MSS with the reading יְדִידְךָ in Gen. 22:2,[163] the book of Jubilees may corroborate the LXX witness to a Hebrew vorlage that read יְדִידְךָ‎.[164] Jubilees was composed in Hebrew, a few fragments of which were preserved at Qumran. The complete work survives only in Latin and Ethiopic translation, and it is in these ancient translations of Jubilees that we find a version of Gen. 22:2 that reads, “take your beloved son, whom you love” (Jub. 18:2). According to VanderKam, although biblical quotations in Jubilees sometimes agree with LXX against MT, it is more likely that these quotations bear witness to a pre-Masoretic text known to the author of Jubilees than that the quotations were made to conform to LXX.[165] Had the translator(s) of Jubilees desired to make the biblical quotations conform to LXX, we would have expected them to have done so consistently. The lack of conformity to any known version of the Bible suggests that the author of Jubilees used a Hebrew text that in some respects resembled MT, in other respects resembled the Hebrew vorlage of LXX, and at other times went its own way.

Another clue that some ancient Hebrew versions of Gen. 22:2 read יְדִידְךָ instead of יְחִידְךָ may be found in an ancient blessing recited at the circumcision of eight-day-old boys. The blessing praises God, אשר קדש ידיד מבטן (“who sanctified the beloved from the womb”; t. Ber. 6:13 [Vienna MS]). While some authorities believe that the “beloved” referred to in this blessing is Abraham,[166] others maintain that the “beloved” should be identified as Isaac.[167] Of the two, only Isaac was ever referred to in Scripture by the epithet יָדִיד (yādid, “beloved”), if in fact this word occurred in Gen. 22:2. God called Abraham אֹהֲבִי (’ohavi, “my friend”; Isa. 41:8; cf. 2 Chr. 20:7), but never יְדִידִי (“my beloved”).[168]

Supposing the heavenly voice alluded to a version of Gen. 22:2 that had the adjective יָדִיד (“beloved”) instead of MT’s יָחִיד (“only”) resolves two difficulties in Yeshua’s Immersion in a satisfying manner. First, it enables us to proceed with the hypothesis that the words of the heavenly voice as recorded in the Synoptic Gospels reflect the wording of a Hebrew source independent of LXX. In other words, the adjective ἀγαπητός (“beloved”) in Matt. 3:17 ∥ Mark 1:11 ∥ Luke 3:22 is not a reflection of LXX, but, like “beloved” in Jub. 18:2, reflects a pre-Masoretic Hebrew text of Gen. 22:2. Second, if we suppose that the heavenly voice quoted a pre-Masoretic version of Gen. 22:2 with יָדִיד, then it becomes easier to understand how the allusion to Gen. 22:2 fits in with the allusions to Ps. 2:7 and Isa. 42:1. This is because, according to Jastrow, יָדִיד means “chosen” as well as “beloved.”[169] Thus, יְדִידִי (“my beloved”) is a synonym for בְּחִירִי (beḥiri, “my chosen”), the adjective that describes the servant in Isa. 42:1. Because the two terms were synonymous in Hebrew, it was possible to insert an allusion to a pre-Masoretic version of Gen. 22:2 into the composite quotation of Ps. 2:7 and Isa. 42:1.

An allusion to Gen. 22:2 in the words spoken by the heavenly voice at Jesus’ baptism has been recognized since ancient times. The earliest example may be the Gospel of John, according to which John the Baptist proclaims Jesus to be “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The Baptist’s proclamation may have been intended to be a paraphrase or interpretation of the words of the heavenly voice spoken at Jesus’ baptism, for John the Baptist makes this identification after having witnessed the Spirit descend on Jesus like a dove (John 1:32). As Vermes noted, “the lamb of God” may allude to the Binding of Isaac,[170] for in that story Isaac asks his father, “Where is the lamb for a whole burnt offering?” (Gen. 22:7). And Abraham replies, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a whole burnt offering” (Gen. 22:8). According to some retellings of the story, however, Abraham responds, “The lamb for the offering is my son.”[171] Even when Isaac is spared and another victim is sacrificed in his place, the animal is not described as a lamb, but as a ram (אַיִל [’ayil]; κριός [krios]; Gen. 22:13), a substitution that leaves the identification of Isaac as the lamb of God undisturbed. Isaac’s willingness to be the lamb of God came to be viewed in Jewish tradition as the basis for the entire sacrificial system. The Temple was believed to have been built on the spot where Abraham prepared to offer Isaac, and the sacrifices that were made on the altar were effective because they memorialized Isaac’s obedience unto death. By having John the Baptist declare Jesus to be the lamb of God, the author of John, or the source upon which John drew, gave a theological interpretation to the words of the heavenly voice that declared Jesus to be God’s beloved son, analogous to Isaac, the beloved son of Abraham.[172]

Another example of recognition of an allusion to Gen. 22:2 in the words of the heavenly voice is found in a section of the Testament of Levi which was either composed by a Christian interpolator or at least thoroughly rewritten by a Christian redactor. The pertinent passage reads:

οἱ οὐρανοὶ ἀνοιγήσονται, καὶ ἐκ τοῦ ναοῦ τῆς δόξης ἥξει ἐπ᾿ αὐτὸν ἁγίασμα μετὰ φωνῆς πατρικῆς ὡς ἀπὸ Ἀβραὰμ πατρὸς Ἰσαάκ. καὶ δόξα ὑψίστου ἐπ᾿ αὐτὸν ῥηθήσεται, καὶ πνεῦμα συνέσεως καὶ ἁγιασμοῦ καταπαύσει ἐπ᾿ αὐτὸν [ἐν τῷ ὕδατι].

The heavens will be opened, and from the Temple of glory sanctification will come out upon him with a fatherly voice, as from Abraham the father of Isaac. And the glory of the Most High over him will be spoken, and the spirit of understanding and sanctification will rest upon him [in the water]. (T. Levi 18:6-7)[173]

Undoubtedly, the reason the “fatherly voice” is compared to that of Abraham speaking to Isaac is that the author of T. Levi 18:6-7 recognized in the words of the heavenly voice (“You are my beloved son…”) an allusion to Gen. 22:2. It is probable that the description of the Spirit’s resting on the individual addressed by the “fatherly voice” reflects a recognition of the allusion to Isa. 42:1 in the words of the heavenly voice, which states, “I have put my spirit upon him.”

By adding a reference to Gen. 22:2 to the words of Ps. 2:7, the heavenly voice steered the possible connotations of addressing Jesus as “my son” away from an exalted figure—whether a Davidic messiah or a priest anointed for an eschatological battle—who would redeem Israel through conquest and subjugation, and toward a humble, obedient, self-sacrificing figure. God proclaimed Jesus to be his Isaac, a status that foreshadowed both sorrow and the promise of victory for the father as well as the son.

L44 ἐν σοὶ εὐδόκησα (GR). As in L41, where the author of Matthew changed the heavenly voice’s personal address to Jesus (“You are…”) into an impersonal address to the witnesses of Jesus’ baptism or the readers of his Gospel (“This is…”), so in L44 the author of Matthew changed ἐν σοί (en soi, “in you”) to ἐν ᾧ (en hō, “in whom”) for grammatical consistency.

The words ἐν σοὶ εὐδόκησα (en soi evdokēsa, “in you I delighted”) allude to, but do not quote, Isa. 42:1, whether in its original Hebrew form or in its LXX translation, both of which refer to God’s soul (נַפְשִׁי/ἡ ψυχή μου) accepting his servant. The LXX translation of Isa. 42:1 even has a different verb, προσδέχεσθαι (prosdechesthai, “to accept”), than that which appears in the words of the heavenly voice, ἐυδοκεῖν (evdokein, “to be pleased”). Nevertheless, scholars are surely correct in detecting an allusion to Isa. 42:1 in the words of the heavenly voice. First, the continuation of the verse (“I have set my spirit upon him”) makes Isa. 42:1 an appropriate text for the occasion of Jesus’ baptism.[174] Second, although ἐυδοκεῖν does not translate רָצָה (rātzāh, “accept,” “be pleased”) in Isa. 42:1, the LXX translators did render רָצָה with ἐυδοκεῖν elsewhere in the Scriptures,[175] which shows that ἐυδοκεῖν is a legitimate option for a Greek translator rendering רָצָה in whatever text lay before him. All we need suppose is that the Greek translator of the words of the heavenly voice chose not to rely on LXX when he translated the allusion to Isa. 42:1. Third, an allusion to Isa. 42:1 in the words of the heavenly voice has been recognized from a very early stage. As we saw above in Comment to L43, the adaptation in Matt. 12:18 of Isa. 42:1 to reflect the words of the heavenly voice shows that the author of Matthew recognized the allusion to this verse. Other ancient sources adapted the words of the heavenly voice by writing “my soul” in order to make them conform more closely to the wording of Isa. 42:1.[176]

בְּךָ רָצְתָה נַפְשִׁי (HR). The ἐν σοί (en soi, “in you”) of the Greek text of Mark 1:11 and Luke 3:22 suggests a reconstruction of בְּךָ (bechā, “in you,” “with you”), which is reasonable since the verb רָצָה (rātzāh, “accept,” “be pleased”) sometimes takes the preposition -בְּ (be, “in,” “with”). In Isa. 42:1 we find בּוֹ (, “in him”) connected to תָּמַךְ (tāmach, “hold,” “support”), but this same בּוֹ probably performs double service, acting as the preposition for רָצָה in Isa. 42:1 as well,[177] so it is understandable that -בְּ + pronominal suffix would be included in the heavenly voice’s allusion to Isa. 42:1.

The construction -רָצָה בְּ can mean “be pleased with” (Ps. 149:4), but it can also mean “accept,” as, for example, accepting a sacrifice (Mic. 6:7). If we are correct in identifying an allusion to the Binding of Isaac in the words of the heavenly voice, then this may put the allusion to Isa. 42:1 in a different light. It is not merely that God took pleasure in Jesus, but God had accepted Jesus as a sacrificial victim, just as he had accepted Isaac.[178] Such an interpretation of Isa. 42:1 in light of Isaac’s sacrifice accords well with the image of the suffering Servant of the LORD who was “like a lamb to the slaughter” (Isa. 53:7) and who “bore their iniquities” (Isa. 53:11).[179] Thus, the allusion to Isa. 42:1 in the words of the heavenly voice reinforces the message already hinted at by the allusion to Gen. 22:2, that Jesus would be a redeemer for Israel through suffering rather than through military victory.

The allusion to Isa. 42:1 also adds an aspect to the declaration of the heavenly voice that would not have been present had the imagery depended on Ps. 2:7 and Gen. 22:2 alone—the universal scope of the salvation Jesus’ redeeming work brings. By alluding to Isa. 42:1, the heavenly voice brought into the picture the entire complex of ideas associated with the Servant of the LORD, including the sublime vision of redemption through reconciliation rather than the wiping out of enemies. The Servant of the LORD would not snuff out the Gentiles and reduce them to ashes, he would be a light to the Gentiles (Isa. 42:6) and be God’s salvation to the ends of the earth (Isa. 49:6). The mission of redemption set forth for Jesus in the words of the heavenly voice was not limited to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Jesus’ messianic task was for the redemption of Israel, the salvation of the Gentiles, and the rescue of the entire creation from the forces of evil.

Jesus’ Immersion as depicted in a stained-glass window. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Redaction Analysis

The three synoptic versions of Yeshua’s Immersion have each been reshaped according to the needs and intentions of the evangelists. The author of Luke reformulated the account of Jesus’ baptism into a single complex sentence in which his primary motive may have been to avoid the impression that John’s baptism had the power to impart the Holy Spirit to its recipients. The author of Mark slightly modified the wording of his source in order to create resonances with Peter’s rooftop vision of the sheet coming down from heaven. The author of Matthew, troubled by the implication that Jesus, whom he esteemed more highly than the Baptist, submitted to John’s baptism of repentance, created an exchange between Jesus and the Baptist that was intended to show that, despite Jesus’ superiority to John and his lack of sin, the baptism of Jesus was still appropriate because in this way they could “fulfill all righteousness.”

Luke’s Version[180]

Yeshua’s Immersion
Luke Anthology
43 Total
52 [57]
to Anth.:
20 Total
Taken Over
in Luke:
to Anth.:
46.51 % of Anth.
in Luke:
36.36 [35.09]
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The declaration of the heavenly voice (L41-44) is the only point in Yeshua’s Immersion where the author of Luke faithfully reproduced the wording of his source (Anth.). Everything leading up to this point he paraphrased, although the Lukan-Matthean minor agreements in L2 (L10), L23, L27 and L34 show where traces of Anth. survived Lukan redaction.

Mark’s Version[181]

Yeshua’s Immersion
Mark Anthology
52 Total
52 [57]
to Anth.:
32 [36] Total
Taken Over
in Mark:
32 [36]
to Anth.:
61.54 [69.23] % of Anth.
in Mark:
61.54 [63.16]
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Mark’s version of Yeshua’s Immersion is a more accurate representation of Anth.’s account of Jesus’ baptism than that which is preserved in either Luke or Matthew.[182] That being said, the author of Mark did make a few noteworthy changes. For instance, Mark describes Jesus’ being baptized “into the Jordan” by John (L7-11), whereas Anth. probably described Jesus’ coming to John at the Jordan in order to be immersed. Likewise, Mark portrays the heavenly display at Jesus’ baptism as though it were a vision (L26), an idea that was probably inspired by Peter’s rooftop vision. The account of Peter’s vision in Acts 10 may also have been the source of Mark’s stereotypical use of εὐθύς (“immediately”; cf. Acts 10:16), which the author of Mark used for the first time in Yeshua’s Immersion (L24). The author of Mark’s decision to describe the heavens as “being ripped” appears to be a literary device intended to create resonances with a scene toward the end of his Gospel, when the Temple’s veil “is ripped” (Mark 15:38) and Jesus is again declared to be the “Son of God” (Mark 15:39). The few changes the author of Mark made to Yeshua’s Immersion, however, do not greatly affect our understanding of this pericope.

Matthew’s Version[183]

Yeshua’s Immersion
Matthew Anthology
93 Total
52 [57]
to Anth.:
39 [42] Total
Taken Over
in Matt.:
39 [42]
to Anth.:
41.94 [45.16] % of Anth.
in Matt.:
75.00 [73.68]
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The author of Matthew’s most substantial change to Yeshua’s Immersion was the insertion of a dialogue (L12-22) between John the Baptist and Jesus that attempts to explain away the difficulties he (or his audience) perceived in Jesus’ submission to a baptism of repentance. The vocabulary and style of the dialogue, as well as the solution proposed in the dialogue (“let’s go through with it for the sake of keeping up appearances”), are all characteristically Matthean. It is highly unlikely that any of this dialogue goes back to Anth.

The other important changes the author of Matthew made to Yeshua’s Immersion are at the beginning and end of the pericope. At the opening of his version of Yeshua’s Immersion the author of Matthew described Jesus’ arrival on the scene (τότε παραγείνεται ὁ Ἰησοῦς; L4-5) in terms that echoed John’s appearance earlier in his narrative (παραγείνεται Ἰωάννης; Matt. 3:1). At the conclusion of Yeshua’s Immersion the author of Matthew altered the words of the heavenly voice (L41, L44) to make them conform to the words spoken at Jesus’ transfiguration, with the result that the voice no longer addressed Jesus personally, but spoke to the witnesses at Jesus’ baptism, or to the readers of the Gospel of Matthew.

At a few points the author of Matthew rejected Mark’s wording in favor of Anth.’s. These are indisputable in the case of the minor agreements with Luke (L10 [L2], L23, L27, L34). The Hebraic quality of other departures from Mark’s wording, such as the use of καὶ ἰδού to introduce the divine manifestations (L26, L35), argues in favor of their derivation from Anth.

Results of This Research

1. Why did Jesus participate in an immersion of repentance for the forgiveness of sins? Theologians, pastors and scholars have struggled to explain why Jesus participated in a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. If Jesus had done no wrong, why did he need to repent? If Jesus was without sin, why did he need forgiveness? Perhaps it is our Western individualism that impedes our understanding of Jesus’ active participation in John’s baptism.[184] Second Temple Jewish sources are concerned not only with the sins of individuals, but also with sins for which the whole community is collectively responsible. The prayers of confession offered by Ezra (Ezra 9:6-15) and Daniel (Dan. 9:4-19) are two examples of the ancient Jewish understanding of collective responsibility. Neither Ezra nor Daniel had personally participated in the transgressions they confessed; nevertheless, as leaders of their community Ezra and Daniel assumed responsibility before God for the sins of the people. Personal guilt, according to their mindset, was not a prerequisite for responsibility, whether expressed in terms of confession or repentance.

When Ezra witnessed priests in his community marrying women he believed to be ineligible, he prayed, “O my God, I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift my face to you, O my God, for our sins tower above our heads and our guilt rises to the heavens…. Shall we once more break your commandments by intermarrying with these abominable peoples? …Behold, we are before you in our guilt, for none may stand before you on account of this” (Ezra 9:6, 14, 15). As a member of the community Ezra believed himself to be responsible for the sins of the community, and on account of the community’s sinfulness Ezra himself felt ashamed, unable to stand before God or even lift his face to him. And being responsible, Ezra also felt himself able to deal with the sins of the community. His confession of sin and his repentance for the priests’ behavior would be acceptable before God.

Daniel’s prayer of confession is similar. Throughout his life Daniel exhibited extraordinary faithfulness to God, risking his own life rather than forsaking the commandments. Nevertheless, when his people faced catastrophe he prayed, “Please Lord, great and terrible God, who keeps the covenant and who is benevolent to those who love him, to those who keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled and turned aside from your commandments and judgments, and we have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings and princes and fathers and to all the people of the land. …All Israel has violated your Torah and turned aside so as not to listen to your voice…” (Dan. 9:4-6, 11). Daniel did not exempt himself from the confession, but fully owned the responsibility for his people. Though innocent of the sins he confessed, before God he could only repent in solidarity with his people.

Ezra, Daniel and other leading figures of Second Temple Judaism made themselves responsible for the sins of the community in the sense that they believed their confession and repentance for the people’s transgressions would make a difference with God and would affect the community. Like Ezra and Daniel, Jesus, too, accepted responsibility for and felt accountable to his generation. He did not set himself above his fellow Israelites in judgment or distance himself from them in self-righteous seclusion. Jesus shouldered their burdens, shared in their joys and their sorrows, and accepted responsibility for their sins. To have done otherwise would have been an abdication of responsibility and a display of moral weakness. Persons of great character address problems, correct injustices, and combat evils they themselves did not create, knowing themselves to be capable of doing something about them, and therefore responsible to do something about them.

In light of the Second Temple Jewish consciousness of corporate responsibility, the more serious question is not “Why did Jesus participate in John’s repentance baptism?” but “Why do we feel justified in washing our hands of what we perceive to be other people’s problems and predicaments?” Why do we feel that “It’s not my fault!” and “I didn’t cause this mess!” are adequate excuses for refusing to take responsibility for the injustices and outrages that are committed in our own communities?

2. In what sense was the Spirit like a dove? In the Hebrew Life of Yeshua it was probably the Spirit’s movement, rather than its appearance, that was compared to a dove’s. When translated into Greek the phrase “like a dove” was ambiguous, and the author of Luke mistakenly supposed that it was the Spirit’s bodily form that resembled a dove. Luke’s error colored the reports of Mark and, via Mark, of Matthew, who described the heavenly manifestations at Jesus’ baptism in terms of a vision in which Jesus saw the Spirit descending like a dove.

The original reason for comparing the Spirit’s movement to a dove’s may have been due to a problem within the creation narrative in Genesis. There the Spirit’s movement over the waters is described as “hovering,” a verb usually reserved for the movement of birds (Gen. 1:2). However, most birds cannot hover indefinitely, whereas the Spirit of God moving over the waters had no place to land since, according to the creation account, dry ground had not yet appeared. Rabbinic sources refer to a folk tradition according to which doves were uniquely able to fly without landing because they could alternately rest one wing and fly with the other. This folk tradition may be what is behind the comparison of the Spirit’s movement to a dove’s. Referring to the Spirit’s dove-like movement in the story of Jesus’ immersion reinforced the connection between the baptism and creation narratives. It was a way of signaling that the redemption of Israel, which had been built into the fabric of creation since its inception, was finally being realized as the Spirit of God came upon the one who was at once Servant and Son and Messiah.

3. Was the voice from heaven that spoke at Jesus’ baptism something different from a bat kol known in rabbinic literature? In rabbinic literature people sometimes heard God speaking to them by a bat kol. The bat kol was an important means of divine communication with Israel, and it assumed even greater importance after another channel of communication, prophecy by the Holy Spirit, ceased. Prophecy was a form of mediated communication, which took place when the Holy Spirit inspired an individual to represent God to his people. Communication via a bat kol was an unmediated form of communication, in which God’s voice was heard directly speaking to the recipients of his message.

The term bat kol is a Hebrew idiom that is best translated “sound of a voice.” It was used particularly when the sound was distinguished from the speaker, either because the speaker could be heard but not seen, or because the quality of the speaker’s voice was the point of interest. If Jesus heard a voice speak to him from heaven at his baptism, then the sound of the voice was by definition a bat kol.

We cannot be certain that the Hebrew Life of Yeshua used the term bat kol to describe the heavenly voice, but that is not particularly relevant to the question of whether the voice that spoke at Jesus’ baptism was something other than a bat kol. Some Christian theologians, feeling a need to stress the superiority of Christianity over Judaism, have attempted to distinguish between the heavenly voice that spoke to Jesus and a bat kol, arguing that Jesus received a direct revelation whereas the bat kol was merely a faint and perhaps distorted echo of God’s voice. Such a distinction cannot be maintained on linguistic grounds and cannot be defended on the basis of the ancient sources.

4. What was the message the heavenly voice intended to convey? The words of the heavenly voice are certainly the most crucial aspect of the pericope. The heavenly voice sets out the program for Jesus’ entire mission. Embedded within the heavenly voice’s words are allusions to Ps. 2:7, Gen. 22:2 and Isa. 42:1. It is the confluence of the images from these verses that is definitive for Jesus’ mission; any one image taken in isolation from the others would distort the message of the heavenly voice. By alluding to Ps. 2:7 the heavenly voice conjured up images of a royal (or perhaps priestly) messiah who would be exalted to the position of divine sonship in order to rule over Israel and the Gentiles. The allusion to Gen. 22:2 offers a very different image of sonship, that of a son who in obedience to his father’s will offers his own life for the salvation of Israel. The imagery of Isa. 42:1 is that of a servant whose spirit-filled mission was to bring the whole of God’s creation, including the Gentiles as well as Israel, into harmony with the Creator. The picture that emerges from the words of the heavenly voice is a portrait of one who will gain victory for God and for Israel, not by lording his military prowess over the cowering Gentiles he defeats, like so many emperors had done to Israel, but by so loving God and his fellow human beings that he is able to bring them together through his own obedience unto death.

The conception of redemption as revealed in the words of the heavenly voice stands in stark contrast to the nationalist version of redemption espoused by militant Jewish radicals of the first century, whose religious zeal and thirst for vengeance fostered a violent concept of redemption which consisted in the slaughter of Israel’s enemies and the subjugation of the Gentiles. The heavenly voice’s conception of redemption also contrasted with that of John the Baptist, who predicted a coming wrath in which an eschatological high priest would purge the Temple of sin impurity and judge the sinners among God’s people. John’s vision of a refined and holy Israel did not even take the Gentiles into consideration.

The redemptive task set out for Jesus would be entirely different from that imagined either by John the Baptist or the militant nationalists. Whereas the militants envisioned bloody revenge, the heavenly voice described self-sacrifice. Whereas John the Baptist warned of coming wrath, the heavenly voice spoke of redeeming love.


Yeshua’s Immersion is an exceptional pericope in that Mark’s version is closest to the pre-synoptic account preserved in Anth. Luke’s version hurries past embarrassing aspects of Jesus’ baptism, while Matthew’s version lingers over them in an attempt to explain them away. Despite the changes each of the evangelists made to Yeshua’s Immersion, however, the most crucial aspect of the story, the message of the heavenly voice, remains intact. Jesus’ mission was to be a servant-king whose sonship was expressed not in exultation but in loving obedience to his very last breath.

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  • [1] For abbreviations and bibliographical references, see “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.’
  • [2] This translation is a dynamic rendition of our reconstruction of the conjectured Hebrew source that stands behind the Greek of the Synoptic Gospels. It is not a translation of the Greek text of a canonical source.
  • [3] See Yohanan the Immerser’s Execution, under the subheading “Story Placement.”
  • [4] See Burnett Hillman Streeter, “The Original Extent of Q,” in Studies in the Synoptic Problem (ed. W. Sanday; Oxford: Clarendon, 1911), 184-208, esp. 187; Meier, Marginal, 2:103; Luz, 1:140.
  • [5] See Harnack, 314; Streeter, 188; Creed, 55; Marshall, 150; Meier, Marginal, 2:103, 184 n. 9; Wolter, 1:175.
  • [6] Bultmann (251), on the other hand, remained unconvinced by these arguments. Cf. Knox, 2:4.
  • [7] Cadbury (Style, 132) compared Luke’s account of Jesus’ baptism with the near-Classical Greek style of the prologue to Luke’s Gospel (Luke 1:1-4), which the author of Luke obviously composed. Cf. Leander E. Keck, “The Spirit and the Dove,” New Testament Studies 17 (1970-71): 41-67, esp. 58-59.
  • [8] See A Voice Crying, under the subheading “Conjectured Stages of Transmission.”
  • [9] See Yohanan the Immerser Demands Repentance, under the subheading “Conjectured Stages of Transmission.”
  • [10] See Yohanan the Immerser’s Exhortations, under the subheading “Conjectured Stages of Transmission.”
  • [11] See Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse, under the subheading “Conjectured Stages of Transmission.”
  • [12] See Yohanan the Immerser’s Execution, under the subheading “Conjectured Stages of Transmission.”
  • [13] See LOY Excursus: Criteria for Distinguishing Type 1 from Type 2 Double Tradition Pericopae, where we found that 57% of Matthew’s wording of Yeshua’s Testing is identical to Luke’s, and 52% of Luke’s wording of Yeshua’s Testing is identical to Matthew’s. High levels of verbal identity are consistent with, but do not prove, both authors’ reliance on Anth. for a DT pericope.
  • [14] Cf. G. O. Williams, “The Baptism in Luke’s Gospel,” Journal of Theological Studies 45 (1944): 31-38, esp. 32, where he similarly concludes that the author of Luke was paraphrasing his source.
  • [15] Although καί is omitted in Codex Vaticanus, the coordinating conjunction is accepted in critical editions because of its solid support in other textual witnesses.
  • [16] On reconstructing ἐν τῷ + infinitive with -בְּ + qeṭilāh noun, see Four Soils parable, Comment to L27.
  • [17] The use of ἅπας (hapas, “all”) in Luke 3:21 also is probably indicative of Lukan redaction (cf. Plummer, Luke, 98). The adjective ἅπας occurs far more often in Luke (11xx: Luke 3:21; 4:6, 40; 5:26; 8:37; 9:15; 19:37, 48; 20:6; 21:15; 23:1) than in Matthew (3xx: Matt. 6:32; 24:39; 28:11) or Mark (4xx: Mark 1:27; 8:25; 11:32; [16:15]). Note, too, that in neither Matthew nor Mark do we find instances where ἅπας modifies the noun λαός, but in Luke this occurs 3xx (Luke 3:21; 19:48; 20:6). Matthew and Luke never agree on the use of ἅπας. See Lindsey, GCSG, 1:51-52.
  • [18] We cannot agree with Plummer, therefore, that Luke’s use of the aorist infinitive was intended to drive a wedge between the timing of Jesus’ baptism and that of the rest of the people. As Plummer (Luke, 98; cf. Marshall, 152) would have it, “After all the people had been baptized,” whereas we would say Luke’s intention was, “Back when all the people were immersed.”
  • [19] See Allen, Matt., 27; A Voice Crying, Comment to L15.
  • [20] In LXX ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις occurs as the translation of בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם in Gen. 6:4; Deut. 17:9; 19:17; 26:3; Judg. 17:6; 18:1 (2xx); 19:1; 20:27, 28; 21:25; 1 Kgdms. 3:1; 28:1; 4 Kgdms. 10:32; 15:37; 20:1; 2 Chr. 32:24; 2 Esd. 16:17; 23:23; Zech. 8:6; Jer. 27[50]:20; 38[31]:29; Ezek. 38:17; Dan. 10:2.
  • [21] See A. B. Bruce, 85; Bundy, 54 §6.
  • [22] See Allen, Matt., 27; John P. Meier, “John the Baptist in Matthew’s Gospel,” Journal of Biblical Literature 99.3 (1980): 383-405, esp. 391.
  • [23] On the author of Matthew’s use of narrative τότε, see Randall Buth, “Edayin/Tote—Anatomy of a Semitism in Jewish Greek,” Maarav 5-6 (1990): 33-48; idem, “Matthew’s Aramaic Glue”; idem, “Distinguishing Hebrew from Aramaic in Semitized Greek Texts, with an Application for the Gospels and Pseudepigrapha” (JS2, 247-319, esp. 296-302).
  • [24] On the author of Matthew’s use of historical presents, see LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style, under the subheading “Mark’s Freedom and Creativity.”
  • [25] On the author of Matthew’s redactional generation of parallels between John the Baptist and Jesus, see A Voice Crying, Comment to L37-38.
  • [26] In Hebrew personal names do not take the definite article.
  • [27] See Guelich, 31.
  • [28] In Mark 6:1 we read of Jesus’ experience in the synagogue of his “hometown” (πατρίς), but the author of Mark does not give the town’s name (Luke’s parallel identifies the town as Nazareth [Luke 4:16]). Four times in Mark the title Ναζαρηνός (Nazarēnos, “Nazarene”) is applied to Jesus (Mark 1:24; 10:47; 14:67; 16:6).
  • [29] The Gospel of Matthew has the spelling Ναζαρέτ once, in a pericope not taken from Anth. (Matt. 2:23). The spelling Ναζαρά occurs in Matt. 4:13, a verse composed by the author of Matthew. In Matt. 21:11 (Entering Yerushalayim) we find the spelling Ναζαρέθ, but this reference to Nazareth finds no support in the Gospels of Mark or Luke.
  • [30] Strange claimed that Ecclesiastes Rabbah 2:8 mentions Nazareth and its priestly character. See James F. Strange, “Nazareth,” ABD, 4:1050-1051. However, Strange’s claims go far beyond the evidence. Ecclesiastes Rabbah 2:8 §2 (ed. Hirshman, 138) tells the story of how Emperor Hadrian challenged the veracity of the verse that states that Israel is a land “in which you will not lack anything” (Deut. 8:9). To test this verse the emperor challenged Rabbi Yehoshua ben Hananyah to bring him three exotic delicacies from within the borders of Israel: peppers, pheasants and silk. Rabbi Yehoshua succeeded in doing so, with the peppers coming מן נצחנא (min nitzḥānā’, “from Nitzhana”). Since the locality Nitzhana is otherwise unknown, some scholars (Edersheim, 1:146 n. 1, cited Neubauer, La Géographie du Talmud, 190 n. 5, for this opinion) have supposed that this name is a corruption for Nazareth (נצרת), but this hypothesis has no textual support and is purely conjectural. There is nothing in Ecclesiastes Rabbah 2:8 §2 to suggest a priestly connection with Nazareth or, for that matter, with Nitzhana.
  • [31] On the Hebrew inscription, see Michael Avi-Yonah, “A List of Priestly Courses from Caesarea,” Israel Exploration Journal 12.2 (1962): 137-139; idem, “The Caesarea Inscription of the Twenty-Four Priestly Courses,” in The Teacher’s Yoke: Studies in Memory of Henry Trantham (ed. E. Jerry Vardman and James Leo Garrett; Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press, 1964), 46-57.
  • [32] See Gustaf Dalman, Sacred Sites and Ways: Studies in the Topography of the Gospels (trans. Paul P. Levertoff; New York: Macmillan, 1935), 59.
  • [33] See A Voice Crying, Comment to L30.
  • [34] On the possibility that John the Baptist’s ministry extended to the north of the Sea of Galilee, see A Voice Crying, Comment to L30.
  • [35] We have not been able to identify any examples of ט-ב-ל in the nif‘al stem in rabbinic literature, and neither does Jastrow (517) record ט-ב-ל in the nif‘al stem. There is one example of ט-ב-ל in the nif‘al stem in the Hebrew Bible (Josh. 3:15), but when rabbinic sources paraphrased this verse they put ט-ב-ל in the hif‘il stem (t. Sot. 8:3).
  • [36] See R. Steven Notley, “John’s Baptism of Repentance,” under the subheading “Styles of Immersion.”
  • [37] On the purity ramifications of John’s baptism, see A Voice Crying, Comment to L35.
  • [38] Since John the Baptist was probably closer to the Essenes than to any other first-century Jewish sect, it is likely that, like the Essenes, he adhered to a stricter standard of ritual purity than was commonly practiced in his day.
  • [39] On John the Baptist’s title, see Yohanan the Immerser’s Question, Comment to L21.
  • [40] On the eschatological premise of John the Baptist’s immersion, see A Voice Crying, Comment to L36.
  • [41] Matthew’s ὑπ᾿ αὐτοῦ in L11 looks like a concession to Mark’s ὑπὸ Ἰωάνου.
  • [42] Lindsey (LHNS, 11 §4) noted that the definite article in connection with John’s name is conspicuously absent in Luke 3, except in Luke 3:15-16, 20, verses the author of Luke edited.
  • [43] See Allen, Matt., 27-28; Bundy, 55 §6; Knox, 2:4; Beare, 41 §6.
  • [44] On Matthean terminology in Matt. 3:14-15, see Kilpatrick, 50; Davies-Allison, 1:323; Meier, Marginal, 2:102; Luz, 1:140 n. 1.
  • [45] Cf., e.g., the redactional reference to “the works of Christ” in Yohanan the Immerser’s Question, L7 (Matt. 11:2).
  • [46] On the subordination of John the Baptist to Jesus as a Matthean theme, see Meier, “John the Baptist in Matthew’s Gospel,” 391.
  • [47] See Allen, Matt., 28.
  • [48] See Bundy, 57 §6.
  • [49] See Fredriksen, From Jesus, 41.
  • [50] Note that Moule cited Matt. 17:24-27 as perhaps “the most striking instance of good Greek” in the Gospel of Matthew. See C. F. D. Moule, The Birth of the New Testament (New York: Harper & Row, 1962), 217.
  • [51] On John’s question as an expression of hope rather than doubt, see Yohanan the Immerser’s Question, Comment to L7.
  • [52] In LXX διακωλύειν occurs only in Jdt. 4:7; 12:7.
  • [53] On reconstructing ἀποκριθεὶς…εἶπεν with וַיַּעַן…וַיֹּאמֶר, see Call of Levi, Comment to L58.
  • [54] On Matt. 27:25 as the product of Matthean composition, see David Flusser, “Matthew’s ‘Verus Israel’” (JOC, 561-574, esp. 566 n. 12); idem, Jesus, 201 n. 21. See also R. Steven Notley, “Anti-Jewish Tendencies in the Synoptic Gospels,” under the subheading “A Matthean Malediction”; Tomson, If This Be, 283-284.
  • [55] See our discussion in The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing, Comment to L6.
  • [56] See the examples cited in LSJ, 1461. In LXX most instances of πρέπειν occur in books not contained in MT. See Hatch-Redpath, 2:1201. Of the three instance of πρέπειν that do occur in books included in MT (Ps. 32[33]:1; 64[65]:2; Ps. 92[93]:5), none occur as a neuter participle in combination with εἶναι.
  • [57] Note Matthew’s unique Scripture fulfillment formulae: τότε ἐπληρώθη τὸ ῥηθὲν διά + personal name + τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος (“then was fulfilled the thing spoken through + personal name + the prophet, saying”; Matt. 2:17; 27:9) and ἵνα/ὅπως πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν διά + personal name + τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος (“so that might be fulfilled the thing spoken through + personal name + the prophet, saying”; Matt. 4:14; 8:17; 12:17; cf. Matt. 2:23; 13:35; 21:4).
  • [58] On genitives absolute in the Gospel of Luke as indicative of redactional activity, see LOY Excursus: The Genitive Absolute in the Synoptic Gospels, under the subheading “The Genitive Absolute in Luke.”
  • [59] For this insight we are indebted to Richard E. DeMaris, “Possession, Good and Bad—Ritual, Effects and Side-Effects: The Baptism of Jesus and Mark 1.9-11 From a Cross-Cultural Perspective,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 80 (2000): 3-30, esp. 10. On the distinction the author of Luke maintained between immersion in water and the giving of the Holy Spirit, see Schuyler Brown, “‘Water-Baptism’ and ‘Spirit-Baptism’ in Luke-Acts,” Anglican Theological Review 59.2 (1977): 135-151, esp. 141-145.
  • [60] See A. B. Bruce, 484; Bundy, 54 §6; Wolter, 1:176.
  • [61] See the entry for Mark 1:10 in LOY Excursus: Catalog of Markan Stereotypes and Possible Markan Pick-ups.
  • [62] See the discussion in Robert L. Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “Sources of the Markan Stereotypes: Jesus’ Baptism.”
  • [63] Edwards (Luke, 118) has also noted the similarities between the stories of Peter’s vision and Jesus’ baptism.
  • [64] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:70-72.
  • [65] See Dos Santos, 155.
  • [66] See LHNS, 13 §6.
  • [67] See Moule, 71-72.
  • [68] See Allen, Matt., 29; Nigel Turner, Grammatical Insights into the New Testament (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1965), 29.
  • [69] Cf. Marshall, 152.
  • [70] See Ivor Buse, “The Markan Account of the Baptism of Jesus and Isaiah LXIII,” Journal of Theological Studies 7.1 (1956): 74-75; Robert Horton Gundry, The Use of the Old Testament in St. Matthew’s Gospel With Special Reference to the Messianic Hope (Leiden: Brill, 1967), 28-29; Joel Marcus, The Way of the Lord: Christological Exegesis of the Old Testament in the Gospel of Mark (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992), 49-50. Lindsey, too, entertained the possibility that the author of Mark referred to the Hebrew text of Isa. 63:19. See Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “Sources of the Markan Stereotypes: Jesus’ Baptism.”
  • [71] We do not know whether an Isaiah targum existed at the time the author of Mark wrote his Gospel, or, if it did, whether he was aware of its existence. The only extant targum of Isaiah, Yonatan, does not refer to the heavens’ opening, but to the heavens’ inclining toward Israel:

    We are Thy people that were of old: not unto the Gentiles hast Thou given the doctrine of Thy law, neither is Thy name invoked upon them; not unto them hast Thou inclined [אַרכֵינתָא] the heavens and revealed Thyself; the mountains quaked before Thee. (Targum Pseudo-Yonatan to Isa. 63:19)

    Translation according to C. W. H. Pauli, The Chaldee Paraphrase on the Prophet Isaiah (London: London Society’s House, 1871).

    It is possible, however, that the author of Mark was familiar with a different targumic tradition that translated Isa. 63:19 in a more literal fashion than that represented in Targum Yonatan.

  • [72] Note that the phrase ἐσχίσθη ὁ οὐρανὸς (“the heaven was ripped open”) occurs in Joseph and Asenath 14:3 with no apparent allusion to Isa. 63:19.
  • [73] See France, Mark, 74.
  • [74] Notice that the καὶ ἐγένετο/ἐγένετο δὲ (+/- time phrase) + infinitive as main verb construction is typical of the author of Luke’s writing style. See Randall Buth and Brian Kvasnica, “Critical Notes on the VTS” (JS1, 259-317, esp. 268-273). The Lukan καὶ ἐγένετο/ἐγένετο δὲ (+/- time phrase) + infinitive as main verb construction is to be distinguished from the Hebraic καὶ ἐγένετο/ἐγένετο δὲ + time phrase + finite verb construction, which is characteristic of translation Greek. See Buth, “Distinguishing Hebrew from Aramaic in Semitized Greek Texts,” 263-270, 310-314.
  • [75] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:105-106.
  • [76] See Dos Santos, 173.
  • [77] See Gundry, The Use of the Old Testament in St. Matthew’s Gospel, 29.
  • [78] Cf. Marshall, 152.
  • [79] See A Voice Crying, Comment to L35.
  • [80] See Flusser, Jesus, 40; Notley, “John’s Baptism of Repentance,” under the subheading “Outer Physical Purity and Inner Spiritual Purity.”
  • [81] Note the similarity between the terms Paul used—”washed,” “sanctified,” “justified”—and those in the passage we quoted from the Rule of the Community (1QS III, 3-9), on which, see David Flusser, “The Dead Sea Sect and Pre-Pauline Christianity” (JOC, 23-74, esp. 53). In 1 Cor. 12:3 Paul equates the Spirit of God with the Holy Spirit.
  • [82] An example of the Holy Spirit’s association with ritual purity is found in the following statement:

    ר′ פִינְחָס בֶּן יָאִיר או′ דרִיזוּת מְבִיאָה לִידי נְקִיּוּת נְקִיּוּת לִידֵי [פְרִישׁוּת פְּרִישׁוּת לִידֵי] טַהֲרָה טַהֲרָהּ לִידֵי קְדּוּשׁה וּקְדּוּשָׁה לִידֵי עֲנָוָוה עֲנָוָה לִידֵי יִרְאות חֵטְא [יִרְאוּת חֵטְא] חֲסִידוּת חֲסִידוּת לִידֵי רוּחַ הַקּוֹדֶשׁ רוּחַ הַקּוֹדֶשׁ לִידֵי תְחַיַּית הַמֵּיתִים תְּחַיַית מֵיתִים בָּאָה ליְדֵי אֵלִיָהוּ זָכוּר לָטוב

    Rabbi Pinhas ben Yair says, “Carefulness brings on innocence, innocence brings on abstinence, abstinence brings on purity, purity brings on holiness, holiness brings on humility, humility brings on fear of sin, fear of sin brings on piety, piety brings on the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit brings on the resurrection of the dead. The resurrection of the dead comes by Elijah of blessed memory.” (m. Sot. 9:15)

    Another example is found in the way the Holy Spirit is contrasted with ritual impurity in the following story:

    כי תועבת ה′ כל עושה אלה…כשהיה רבי אליעזר מגיע לפסוק זה היה אומר חבל עלינו ומה מי שמדבק בטומאה רוח טומאה שורה עליו המדבק בשכינה דין הוא שתשרה עליו רוח הקודש ומי גרם עונותיכם היו מבדילים ביניכם ובין אלהיכם

    For everyone who does these things [i.e., practicing magical arts—DNB and JNT] is an abomination to the LORD [Deut. 18:12]. …Whenever Rabbi Eliezer would come to this verse he would say, “Alas for us! For if one who clings to impurity has a spirit of impurity rest on him, then it is only right that one who clings to the divine presence should have the Holy Spirit rest on him. But what causes [it to be otherwise—DNB and JNT]? Your sins are causing a separation between you and your God [Isa. 59:2].” (Sifre Deut. §173 [ed. Finkelstein, 220])

  • [83] Cf., e.g., Dale C. Allison, “The Baptism of Jesus and a New Dead Sea Scroll,” Biblical Archaeology Review 18.2 (1992): 58-60; Marcus, 1:165; France, Matt., 122.
  • [84] See Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Prophets (2 vols.; New York: Harper & Row, 1962; repr. Peabody, Mass.: Prince, 1999), 1:158.
  • [85] On the concept of four world empires that would rule Israel prior to the final redemption, see Joseph Ward Swain, “The Theory of the Four Monarchies: Opposition History Under the Roman Empire,” Classical Philology 35.1 (1940): 1-21; David Flusser, “The Four Empires in the Fourth Sibyl and in the Book of Daniel” (JOC, 317-344).
  • [86] See Serge Ruzer, “The Programmatic Opening of Jesus’ Biography as a Reflection of Contemporaneous Jewish Messianic Ideas,” under the subheading “The Spirit’s Descent as a Dove at Jesus’ Baptism.”
  • [87] On Isaiah 61 as a central text for Jesus’ self-awareness, see Peter J. Tomson, “The Core of Jesus’ Evangel: ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΣΑΣΘΑΙ ΠΤΩΧΟΙΣ (Isa 61),” in The Scriptures in the Gospels (ed. C. M. Tuckett; Leuven: Peeters, 1997), 647-658; Yohanan the Immerser’s Question, Comment to L38-43.
  • [88] On the association of the Holy Spirit with prophecy, see Ludwig Blau, “Holy Spirit,” JE, 6:447-450, esp. 449; Aaron Singer, “Holy Spirit,” in Contemporary Jewish Religious Thought (ed. Arthur A. Cohen and Paul Mendes-Flohr; New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1987), 409-415, esp. 410.
  • [89] On the replacement of the terms “Spirit of God” and “Spirit of the LORD” with “Holy Spirit,” see Blau, “Holy Spirit,” 447, under the subheading “The Divine Spirit.”
  • [90] Prophets speak by the Spirit of God in Num. 24:2; 1 Sam. 10:10; 19:20, 23; 2 Chr. 15:1; 24:20.
  • [91] Prophets speak by the Spirit of the LORD in 1 Sam. 10:6; 2 Sam. 23:2; 1 Kgs. 22:24; Ezek. 11:5; Mic. 3:8; 2 Chr. 18:23; 20:14.
  • [92] Examples in which the prophets are said to have spoken by the Holy Spirit include 1QS VIII, 16; 2 Pet. 1:21; Sifre Deut. §176 (ed. Finkelstein, 221); Seder Olam §30 (ed. Guggenheimer, 259).
  • [93] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:375-376.
  • [94] The only instances of σωματικός in LXX occur in 4 Maccabees (4 Macc. 1:32; 3:1), which is a Greek composition.
  • [95] As Dalman (203 n. 1) noted, as a translator Delitzsch “had to copy the idiom of the [Greek—DNB and JNT] Synoptic texts…but in a professing Hebrew original they [i.e., obvious Grecisms—DNB and JNT] are intolerable.”
  • [96] See Jeremias, Theology, 52; Keck, “The Spirit and the Dove,” 63.
  • [97] In LXX most instances of καταβαίνειν occur as the translation of יָרַד (see Hatch-Redpath, 2:727-728), and the LXX translators rendered most instances of יָרַד with καταβαίνειν (see Dos Santos, 85).
  • [98] The table below shows each of the instances of ὡσεί in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke and their parallels (if any) in the other Synoptic Gospels:

    Matt. 3:16 TT (cf. Mark 1:10 [ὡς]; Luke 3:22 [ὡς])

    Matt. 9:36 Mk-Mt (cf. Mark 6:34 [ὡς])

    Matt. 14:21 TT = Luke 9:14 (cf. Mark 6:44 [–])

    Mark 9:26 TT (cf. Matt. 17:18 [–]; Luke 9:42 [–])

    Luke 3:23 U

    Luke 9:14 (first) TT = Matt. 14:21 (cf. Mark 6:44 [–])

    Luke 9:14 (second) TT (cf. Matt. 14:19 [–]; Mark 6:40 [–])

    Luke 9:28 TT (cf. Matt. 17:1 [–]; Mark 9:2 [–])

    Luke 22:41 TT (cf. Matt. 26:39 [–]; Mark 14:35 [–])

    Luke 22:44 TT (cf. Matt. 26:[–]; Mark 14:[–])

    Luke 22:59 TT (cf. Matt. 26:73 [–]; Mark 14:70 [–])

    Luke 23:44 TT (cf. Matt. 27:45 [–]; Mark 15:33 [–])

    Luke 24:11 TT (cf. Matt. 28:[–]; Mark 16:11 [–])

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

  • [99] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:1126-1127.
  • [100] See Dos Santos, 79.
  • [101] Our reasons for suspecting the presence of an allusion to Ps. 55:7 in Yeshua’s Immersion will become apparent as our discussion proceeds.
  • [102] See Plummer, Luke, 99; Jeremias, Theology, 52; Young, JJT, 20.
  • [103] Scholars who reject the possibility that “like a dove” in the baptism narrative originally referred to the Spirit’s movement often do so on the grounds that, according to Mark, Jesus “saw the heavens ripping and the Spirit coming down like a dove.” As Guelich (32) argued, “Jesus ‘sees’ (εἶδεν) the heavens and the Spirit, a construction implying a visual form of the Spirit. Jesus could hardly have ‘seen’ an invisible Spirit descending ‘as a dove.’” Therefore, Guelich reasoned, the Spirit must have been visible (cf. Davies-Allison, 1:333; France, Mark, 78; Nolland, Matt., 155). But is this really a cogent argument? First, Mark’s grammar does not require εἶδεν (“he saw”) to apply to the Spirit. Since the nominative and accusative forms of πνεῦμα (“spirit”) and καταβαῖνον (“coming down”) are identical, an equally valid translation of Mark 1:10 would be, “And immediately coming up from the water he saw the heavens ripping. And the Spirit was coming down into him like a dove.” (We concede, however, that in Matt. 3:16 and John 1:32, 33 πνεῦμα and καταβαῖνον are accusative.) Second, since spirits are invisible, speaking of any invisible spirit’s appearance is nonsensical. In any case, arguments based on εἶδεν (“he saw”) in Mark 1:10 carry little weight with us since we regard εἶδεν in Mark 1:10 as a Markan addition to the pre-synoptic tradition (see above, Comment to L26).
  • [104] Fitzmyer (1:484) was evidently unaware of this tradition when he claimed that “Gen 1:2 does not speak of a ‘dove,’ and no rabbinical literature ever interpreted it so.”
  • [105] See Edward P. Dixon, “Descending Spirit and Descending Gods: A ‘Greek’ Interpretation of the Spirit’s ‘Descent as a Dove’ in Mark 1:10,” Journal of Biblical Literature 128.4 (2009): 759-780, esp. 763.
  • [106] See Dixon, “Descending Spirit and Descending Gods,” 763.
  • [107] Abrahams (1:50) cited Wilhelm Bacher (Die Agada der Tanaiten [2 vols.; 2d ed.; Strassburg: K. J. Trübner, 1884-1890], 1:423) as holding the opinion that the baraita in b. Hag. 16a contains anachronistic details.
  • [108] On the different versions of Ben Zoma’s meditation on Gen. 1:2, see Deborah F. Middleton, “Whence the Feet?” Journal of Jewish Studies 36.1 (1985): 61-71.
  • [109] The innovation in Ben Zoma’s mystical speculation was not the use of avian imagery to describe the Spirit’s movement since this comparison was already inherent in Gen. 1:2. Ben Zoma’s innovation was rather his supposition that the space between the upper and lower waters was barely measurable.
  • [110] See Abrahams, 1:50. Middleton (“Whence the Feet?” 65-66) discussed two reasons why comparing the Spirit of God to an eagle might have been distasteful to Jewish interpreters of Scripture. First, the eagle is classed among the impure birds forbidden for Israelite consumption (Lev. 11:13; Deut. 14:12). The strong association of the Holy Spirit with purity might have made Jewish interpreters reluctant to compare God’s Spirit to impure foul. Second, the eagle was a symbol of the Roman Empire. Jewish interpreters might therefore have avoided comparing God’s Spirit to a symbol of Roman imperialism. Of these two reasons, the second is more convincing since purity concerns did not prevent biblical writers from using eagle imagery to describe God’s redemptive activity (Exod. 19:4; Deut. 32:10-11). Avoidance of eagle imagery due to the eagle’s association with the Roman Empire, on the other hand, is understandable, especially in times of political unrest, such as the last decades of the Second Temple period (when Jesus was active) or in the period leading up to the Bar Kochva revolt (when Ben Zoma was active). One need only recall the incident of the eagle that King Herod installed in the Temple (Jos., Ant. 17:151ff.) to realize how strongly the eagle was associated with Roman imperialism in the late Second Temple period.
  • [111] See Shmuel Safrai, “Pilgrimage to Jerusalem after the Destruction of the Second Temple,” in Chapters in the History of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period (ed. Aaron Oppenheimer et al.; Jerusalem: Yad Yitzhak ben Zvi, 1981), 376-393 (in Hebrew).
  • [112] On the evidence that, on a limited scale, sacrifices continued on the Temple Mount even after the destruction of the Temple, see Alexander Guttmann, “The End of the Jewish Sacrificial Cult,” Hebrew Union College Annual 38 (1967): 137-148.
  • [113] See Shmuel Safrai, “The Holy Congregation in Jerusalem,” Scripta Hierosolymitana 23 (1972): 62-78.
  • [114] On the term “Temple Mount,” see David Goldblatt, “The Temple Mount: The Afterlife of a Biblical Phrase,” in Le-David Maskil: A Birthday Tribute for David Noel Freedman (ed. Richard Elliott Friedman and William H. C. Propp; Winona Lake, Ind.; Eisenbrauns, 2004), 91-101.
  • [115] The folkloric concept that doves can fly continuously without needing to rest is probably based on the dove’s well-known endurance, on which, see H. B. Tristram, The Natural History of the Bible (9th ed.; London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1898), 215.
  • [116] Gero complained that “The common explanation that ὡς περιστερά refers to the Spirit’s mode of descent, i.e. that it has an adverbial rather than an adjectival force seems to skirt the issue and does not answer the basic question of why a dove, rather than some other bird, should be mentioned in the [baptism—DNB and JNT] narrative.” See Stephen Gero, “The Spirit as a Dove at the Baptism of Jesus,” Novum Testamentum 18.1 (1976): 17-35, esp. 17. Our solution avoids this pitfall.
  • [117] On reconstructing ἔρχεσθαι with בָּא, see Demands of Discipleship, Comment to L8.
  • [118] Examples of בָּא in conjunction with the Spirit’s (or a spirit’s) coming to a person are restricted to two examples in the Book of Ezekiel:

    וַתָּבֹא בִי רוּחַ כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר אֵלַי וַתַּעֲמִדֵנִי עַל־רַגְלָי וָאֶשְׁמַע אֵת מִדַּבֵּר אֵלָי

    And the Spirit [or, a spirit] came into me when he spoke to me, and it made me stand on my feet, and I heard what he was saying to me. (Ezek. 2:2)

    καὶ ἦλθεν ἐπ᾿ ἐμὲ πνεῦμα καὶ ἀνέλαβέν με καὶ ἐξῆρέν με καὶ ἔστησέν με ἐπὶ τοὺς πόδας μου, καὶ ἤκουον αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος πρός με

    And a spirit came upon me and took me up and removed me and stood me on my feet, and I was hearing him speaking to me. (Ezek. 2:2)

    וַתָּבֹא־בִי רוּחַ וַתַּעֲמִדֵנִי עַל־רַגְלָי וַיְדַבֵּר אֹתִי וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלַי בֹּא הִסָּגֵר בְּתוֹךְ בֵּיתֶךָ

    And the Spirit [or, a spirit] came into me and made me stand on my feet, and he spoke to me and he said to me, “Go in and shut yourself within your house.” (Ezek. 3:24)

    καὶ ἦλθεν ἐπ᾿ ἐμὲ πνεῦμα καὶ ἔστησέν με ἐπὶ πόδας μου, καὶ ἐλάλησεν πρός με καὶ εἶπέν μοι Εἴσελθε καὶ ἐγκλείσθητι ἐν μέσῳ τοῦ οἴκου σου

    And a spirit came upon me and stood me on my feet, and he spoke to me and said to me, “Enter and be shut within your house.” (Ezek. 3:24)

  • [119] Additional examples of צָלַח used for the Spirit’s rushing upon an individual are found in Judg. 14:6, 19; 15:14; 1 Sam. 10:6; 11:6; 16:13; 18:10.
  • [120] See Wolter, 1:177.
  • [121] Pace Davies-Allison (1:334), who describe the Lukan-Matthean agreement as coincidental.
  • [122] See Cadbury, Style, 204.
  • [123] See A Voice Crying, Comment to L41.
  • [124] See Ludwig Blau, “Bat Ḳol,” JE, 2:588-592, esp. 588; Abrahams, 1:47-50.
  • [125] See Edersheim, 1:285-286; Plummer, Luke, 100; Davies-Allison, 1:335-336; Guelich, 1:33; Hagner, 1:58; Bovon, 1:129. We commend Keck (“The Spirit and the Dove,” 61), Marshall (154) and Keener (133-134) for rejecting this false contrast between the voice of God and the bat kol, which, as Edersheim’s and Plummer’s comments amply prove, was born of anti-Jewish prejudice. Rovner rejects the identification of the heavenly voice with the bat kol in Yeshua’s Immersion on entirely different grounds. See Jay Rovner, “Hillel and the Bat Qol: A Toseftan Discourse on Prophecy in the Second Temple and Tannaitic Periods,” Oqimta: Studies in Talmudic and Rabbinic Literature 2 (2014): 165-205, esp. 165-166 n. 2.
  • [126] See Blau, “Bat Ḳol,” 588.
  • [127] Although the Vienna MS reads הראשונים (“the first ones”), other textual witnesses read האחרונים (“the last ones”), which is surely correct.
  • [128] On t. Sot. 13:3, see Rovner, “Hillel and the Bat Qol,” 165-205.
  • [129] A fine example of post-biblical Hebrew idioms creeping into a work attempting to imitate Biblical Hebrew is found in a baraita in b. Kid. 66a, on which, see “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction’ Addendum: Linguistic Features of the Baraita in b. Kid. 66a.”
  • [130] See Rovner, “Hillel and the Bat Qol,” 165 n. 2.
  • [131] On reconstructing participial forms of λέγειν with לֵאמֹר, see Return of the Twelve, Comment to L8.
  • [132] Examples of וְהִנֵּה + subject + participle in a vav-consecutive context include:

    וַיִּשָּׂא עֵינָיו וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה שְׁלֹשָׁה אֲנָשִׁים נִצָּבִים עָלָיו

    And he glanced up and saw, and behold, three men are standing over him. (Gen. 18:2)

    וַיְהִי הוּא טֶרֶם כִּלָּה לְדַבֵּר וְהִנֵּה רִבְקָה יֹצֵאת

    And he had not yet stopped speaking, and behold, Rebekah is coming out…. (Gen. 24:15)

    וַיִּשָּׂא עֵינָיו וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה גְמַלִּים בָּאִים

    And he glanced up and looked, and behold, camels are coming. (Gen. 24:63)

    וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה יִצְחָק מְצַחֵק אֵת רִבְקָה אִשְׁתּוֹ

    And he looked, and behold, Isaac is caressing Rebekah his wife. (Gen. 26:8)

    וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה בְאֵר בַּשָּׂדֶה וְהִנֵּה־שָׁם שְׁלֹשָׁה עֶדְרֵי־צֹאן רֹבְצִים עָלֶיהָ

    And he looked, and behold, a well in the field. And behold, there are three flocks of sheep there lying down next to it…. (Gen. 29:2)

    וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם הֲשָׁלוֹם לוֹ וַיֹּאמְרוּ שָׁלוֹם וְהִנֵּה רָחֵל בִּתּוֹ בָּאָה עִם הַצֹּאן

    And he said to them, “Is he well?” And they said, “He is well. And behold, Rachel his daughter is coming out with the flock!” (Gen. 29:6)

    Many additional examples could be adduced (e.g., Gen. 33:1; 37:25; 41:5-6; Exod. 2:6, 13; 3:2; 4:6; 14:10), but those we have cited above are sufficient to establish the point.

  • [133] See Harnack, 310-314; Streeter, 130, 143; Lindsey, JRL, 40; Young, JJT, 17-19.
  • [134] See George E. Rice, “Luke 3:22-38 in Codex Bezae: The Messianic King,” Andrews University Seminary Studies 17.2 (1979): 203-208.
  • [135] See Metzger, 136; Nolland, Luke, 1:162; Wolter, 1:177.
  • [136] See Walther Zimmerli and Joachim Jeremias, “παῖς θεοῦ,” TDNT, 5:654-717, esp. 701-702; Jeremias, Theology, 53-55; Flusser, Jesus, 40-41.
  • [137] See Zimmerli and Jeremias, “παῖς θεοῦ,” 701-702; Jeremias, Theology, 53-55. For a critique of this view, see I. Howard Marshall, “Son of God or Servant of Yahweh?—A Reconsideration of Mark 1. 11,” New Testament Studies 15 (1968-1969): 326-336.
  • [138] See Gundry, The Use of the Old Testament in St. Matthew’s Gospel, 30; Meier, Marginal, 103, 184 n. 9.
  • [139] See Gundry, The Use of the Old Testament in St. Matthew’s Gospel, 29; Bovon, 1:129; Collins, 150; Wolter, 1:177.
  • [140] See Taylor, 162; Mann, 201; Meier, Marginal, 106; Marcus, 1:165-166.
  • [141] In a single chapter of Avot de-Rabbi Natan we find Isa. 42:1 and Ps. 2:8 applied to the Messiah:

    משיח נקרא עבד שנאמר הן עבדי אתמך בו…משיח נקרא בחור שנאמר בחירי רצתה נפשי…משיח נאמר לו שאל שנאמר שאל ממני ואתנה גוים נחלתך

    The Messiah is called “servant,” as it is said, Behold my servant, whom I uphold [Isa. 42:1]…. The Messiah is called “chosen,” as it is said, my chosen in whom my soul is pleased [Isa. 42:1]…. To the Messiah it was said, “Ask!” as it is said, Ask of me and I will give you Gentiles as your inheritance [Ps. 2:8]. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version B, §43 [ed. Schechter, 121-122])

    Although Avot de-Rabbi Natan organizes the material differently, it is possible that it drew on an earlier source that collected verses that were understood to pertain to the Messiah. Even in its present arrangement, the citation of Ps. 2:8 and Isa. 42:1, each with a messianic interpretation, in the same chapter of Avot-de Rabbi Natan is significant. It indicates that Psalm 2 and Isaiah 42 were regarded as linked by a common messianic theme.

    A more explicit linking of Ps. 2:7 and Isa. 42:1 is found in the Midrash on Psalms:

    אספרה אל חק ה′ אמר אלי בני אתה. מסופרין הן בחוקה של תורה, ובחוקה של נביאים, ובחוקה של כתובים, כתוב בחוקה של תורה בני בכורי ישראל, וכתיב בחוקה של נביאים הנה ישכיל עבדי, וכתיב בתריה הן עבדי אתמך בו [בחירי רצתה נפשי], וכתיב בחוקה של כתובים נאם ה′ לאדוני שב לימיני, וכתיב ה′ אמר אלי בני אתה [וכתוב אחר אומר וארו עם ענני שמיא כבר אנש אתה הוא. ה′ אמר אלי בני אתה] אמר ר′ יודן כל הנחמות הללו בחוקו של מלך מלכי המלכים הן לעשותן למלך המשיח, וכל כך למה, לפי שהוא עוסק בתורה: דבר אחר בני אתה אין אומר בן לי, אלא בני אתה, כעבד שרבו עושה לו קורת רוח, ואומר מחבב את לי כבני:

    I will declare the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my son” [Ps. 2:7]. They are declared [to be sons—DNB and JNT] in an edict of the Torah, and in an edict of the Prophets, and in an edict of the Writings. It is written in an edict of the Torah: My firstborn son is Israel [Exod. 4:22]. And it is written in an edict of the Prophets: Behold, my servant will act wisely [Isa. 52:13]. And it is also written: Behold my servant, I will uphold him, my chosen one my soul accepts [Isa. 42:1]. And it is written in an edict of the Writings: The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand” [Ps. 110:1]. And it is written: The LORD said to me, “You are my son” [Ps. 2:7]. And another writing says, And behold! With the clouds of heaven one like a son of man came [Dan. 7:13].

    You are my son [Ps. 2:7]. Rabbi Yudan said, “All these consolations in the decree of the king of the kings of the kings will be done for the anointed king [i.e., the Messiah—DNB and JNT]. And why all this? Because he is occupied with Torah.”

    Another interpretation: You are my son [Ps. 2:7]. It does not say, “I have a son,” but “You are my son,” like a servant whose master does him a favor and says, “You are beloved to me like a son.” (Midrash Tehillim 2:9 [ed. Buber, 2:28])

    This midrash on Ps. 2:7 is complex and polemical in nature. The first section, which links Ps. 2:7 and Isa. 42:1 with other verses, actually challenges their standard messianic interpretation. The sages argue that while it might seem that the figure spoken of as a servant in Isaiah and described as God’s son in the Psalms is an individual, the figure is actually a corporate personality who represents all Israel. This point is made by bookending the “messianic” verses with verses that use corporate imagery. Exodus 4:22 refers to all Israel as God’s firstborn son. Daniel 7:13 uses the image of one “like a son of man” to represent the saints of Israel (Dan. 7:18, 27).

    How all the verses were understood to belong together is not stated explicitly, but there is a clear interplay between the concepts of “son of God” and “servant of God.” In Exod. 4:22 God tells Pharaoh that Israel is his firstborn son. In the next verse Israel’s sonship is the grounds for the demand that they be sent into the wilderness in order to serve him (וְיַעַבְדֵנִי [veya‘avdēni, “and he will serve me”]), the verb being formed from the same root as the noun עֶבֶד (‘eved, “servant”), which occurs in the verses from Isaiah.

    Isaiah 52:13 speaks of the exaltation and glorification of God’s servant, while Isa. 42:1 speaks of God’s pleasure in his servant and endowing his servant with his Spirit. These verses could be understood as describing a single individual, perhaps the Messiah, or, as this midrash contends, they could describe Israel as a whole.

    The connection between Psalm 110 and Psalm 2 is the fact that in all of Scripture only these two Psalms contain the term ילדתיך (Ps. 2:7; 110:3), which in both cases the sages interpret as meaning “I have begotten you” (the pointing of MT requires that ילדתיך in Ps. 110:3 be interpreted differently). A connection is then made between the figure described in Psalm 110 and Psalm 2 and the one “like a son of man” in the vision of Daniel 7. Like the figure described in the Psalms, who is enthroned and given sovereignty over the Gentiles, the son of man figure is invested with power and a kingdom over the nations. But whereas the figure in the Psalms might be understood to be an individual (i.e., the Messiah), the one like a son of man represents corporate Israel.

    In the second section Rabbi Yudan argues that the verses in Isaiah and the Psalms are messianic, but that the benefits that accrue to the Messiah do so only on the basis of his commitment to the Torah. His interpretation may be based on the commandment in Deuteronomy that the king must make his own copy of the Torah and study it (Deut. 17:18-19).

    In the third section the opinion is expressed that the declaration “You are my son” in Ps. 2:7 must not be taken literally. It is a term of endearment or affection, nothing more. Nevertheless, the interplay between “son” and “servant” dominates, as it did in the opening section.

    Although the combination of Ps. 2:7 with Isa. 42:1 in Midrash Tehillim is late, the polemical context in which it occurs suggests that the sages are dealing with a much older tradition that combined these verses with reference to the Messiah in a positive manner. Undoubtedly, this interpretation fell into disfavor when the sages began to encounter Christians who made messianic claims about Jesus, but this does not prove that the combination of Ps. 2:7 with Isa. 42:1 was of Christian origin. Both the early Christians and the rabbinic sages may have been drawing on a tradition with roots that reached deep into the Second Temple period.

  • [142] Dalman (276-280) argued that Ps. 2:7 and Isa. 42:1 could be joined together only because Greek-speaking Christians understood παῖς in Isa. 42:1 to mean “child” rather than “servant.” This misunderstanding allowed the Greek-speaking Christians to link Isa. 42:1 with Ps. 2:7, which speaks of God’s “son.” However, the rabbinic traditions that link Ps. 2:7 with Isa. 42:1 refute Dalman’s argument. The rabbinic sages were certainly not misled into drawing these two verses together by the Greek noun παῖς!
  • [143] On the similarity of Jesus’ temptation to aggadic retellings of the story of the testing of Abraham and Isaac, see David N. Bivin, “Abraham’s Temptation, Forerunner of Jesus’ Temptation.”
  • [144] See Gundry, The Use of the Old Testament in St. Matthew’s Gospel, 31; Meier, Marginal, 2:188 n. 25.
  • [145] See Allen, Matt., 29; Meier, Marginal, 2:188 n. 25.
  • [146] See Gundry, The Use of the Old Testament in St. Matthew’s Gospel, 31.
  • [147] On Hanina ben Dosa and his similarities to Jesus, see Geza Vermes, “Hanina ben Dosa” (Parts 1 and 2), Journal of Jewish Studies 23.1 (1972): 28-50 and 24.1 (1973): 51-64; Shmuel Safrai, “Jesus and the Hasidim.”
  • [148] As we have seen (see Comment to L41-44), the allusion to Ps. 2:7 in the words of the heavenly voice addressed to Jesus at his baptism was recognized by early Christians since at least the time of Justin Martyr (mid-second century C.E.).
  • [149] Pace Davies-Allison, 1:339.
  • [150] For a discussion on the relationship of 2 Peter’s version of the words of the heavenly voice to the heavenly voices recorded in the Synoptic Gospels, see Richard J. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter (WBC 50; Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996), 205-210.
  • [151] See Gundry, The Use of the Old Testament in St. Matthew’s Gospel, 30.
  • [152] See Allen, Matt., 29-30; Marcus, The Way of the Lord, 51-53; Collins, 150.
  • [153] See C. H. Turner, “A Textual Commentary on Mark I,” Journal of Theological Studies 28 (1927): 145-158, esp. 152; Taylor, 162; Geza Vermes, “Redemption and Genesis XXII: The Binding of Isaac and the Sacrifice of Jesus,” in his Scripture and Tradition in Judaism: Haggadic Studies (2d ed.; Leiden: Brill, 1973), 193-227, esp. 222.
  • [154] See Marshall, “Son of God or Servant of Yahweh?” 333-334; Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, 207-208. It must be acknowledged, however, that in some ancient Syriac and Arabic sources ἀγαπητός in the words of the heavenly voice is rendered ḥabībī (“my beloved”), cognate of חֲבִיב (aviv; Targum Ps. 2:7) and מְחַבֵּב (meḥabēv; Midrash Tehillim 2:9 [ed. Buber, 2:28]). On the ancient Syriac and Arabic versions of the words of the heavenly voice, see Shlomo Pines, “Gospel Quotations and Cognate Topics in ‘Abd Al-Jabbār’s Tathbīt in Relation to Early Christian and Judaeo-Christian Readings and Traditions,” in The Collected Works of Shlomo Pines (5 vols.; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1979-1997), 4:389-472, esp. 404-406.
  • [155] See Marcus, The Way of the Lord, 51-53; Collins, 150 n. 95.
  • [156] See Dos Santos, 24.
  • [157] See Krister Stendahl, The School of St. Matthew and its Use of the Old Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1968), 110; Gundry, The Use of the Old Testament in St. Matthew’s Gospel, 30; Marshall, “Son of God or Servant of Yahweh?” 333; Guelich, 1:34; Luz, 1:144.
  • [158] See Swete, 10; Taylor, 162; Turner, “A Textual Commentary on Mark I,” 152; Vermes, “Redemption and Genesis XXII,” 222.
  • [159] We regard the attempts to identify Akedah (Binding of Isaac) motifs other than the reference to Jesus as God’s beloved son in the account of Jesus’ baptism to be largely unsuccessful. For such attempts, see Robert J. Daly, “The Soteriological Significance of the Sacrifice of Isaac,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 39.1 (1977): 45-75, esp. 68-71; William R. Stenger, “The Baptism of Jesus and the Binding of Isaac: An Analysis of Mark 1:9-11,” in The Answers Lie Below: Essays in Honor of Lawrence Edmund Toombs (ed. Henry O. Thompson; Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1984), 331-347; idem, “The Baptism of Jesus: A Story Modeled on the Binding of Isaac,” Bible Review 1.3 (1985): 36-46.
  • [160] Despite frequent assertions to the contrary, ἀγαπητός never means “only” or “only child.” See John A. Lee, A History of New Testament Lexicography (New York: Peter Lang, 2003), 193-211.
  • [161] We must note, however, that Gen. 22:2 is not the only instance in which the LXX translators rendered יָחִיד (“only”) with ἀγαπητός. They did the same in Gen. 22:12, 16; Judg. 11:34; Jer. 6:26; Amos 8:10; Zech. 12:10. Meier (Marginal, 2:188 n. 26) observed that in each of these instances the verse describes a child that has recently died or is facing imminent death. Did this common trait have something to do with the LXX translators’ decision to render יָחִיד with ἀγαπητός? Elsewhere the LXX translators rendered יָחִיד more literally as μονογενής (monogenēs, “only”; Ps. 21[22]:21; 24[25]:16; 34[35]:17).
  • [162] Such a textual variant is easily understandable since it involves misreading a ד for a ח (or vice versa). The distinction between the two letters is a single downstroke of the pen. Moreover, both readings, יְחִידְךָ (“your only one”) and יְדִידְךָ (“your beloved one”), make sense, but are also somewhat awkward in the context of Gen. 22:2. “Only” is awkward because Abraham, in fact, had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. Nevertheless, “only” is justifiable because both Ishmael and Isaac were the only sons of their respective mothers. “Beloved” makes sense because Abraham did, of course, love Isaac. On the other hand, “your beloved son whom you love” is somewhat redundant, although less so in Hebrew than in Greek or English.
  • [163] No witnesses to Gen. 22:2 have survived among the biblical MSS from Qumran.
  • [164] See James C. VanderKam, Jubilees: A Commentary (2 vols.; Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2018), 1:568-569.
  • [165] See James C. VanderKam, Textual and Historical Studies in the Book of Jubilees (Missoula, Mont.: Scholars Press, 1977), 113-116; idem, The Aqedah, Jubilees, and PseudoJubilees,” in The Quest for Context and Meaning: Studies in Biblical Intertextuality in honor of James A. Sanders (ed. Craig A. Evans and Shemaryahu Talmon; Leiden: Brill, 1997), 241-261, esp. 256.
  • [166] Flusser and Safrai adduced arguments in favor of identifying the “beloved” who was sanctified from the womb as Abraham. See David Flusser and Shmuel Safrai, “Who Sanctified the Beloved in the Womb,” Immanuel (1980): 46-55, esp. 53-54.
  • [167] Rashi, commenting on b. Shab. 137b, identified the “beloved” who was sanctified from the womb as Isaac, citing Gen. 22:2 as a prooftext.
  • [168] In post-biblical Jewish sources, however, Abraham is called יָדִיד. See Ginzberg, 1:168 n. 4.
  • [169] See Jastrow, 564.
  • [170] See Vermes, “Redemption and Genesis XXII,” 223-224.
  • [171] See Gen. Rab. 56:4 (ed. Theodor-Albeck, 2:599).
  • [172] There is another connection between the words of the heavenly voice at Jesus’ baptism and the pronouncements of John the Baptist in the Fourth Gospel. Having identified Jesus as the “lamb of God” (John 1:29), and having described the dove-like descent of the Spirit upon Jesus (John 1:32), John the Baptist declares Jesus to be the “Son of God” or, according to some MSS, the “Chosen one of God” (John 1:34). Whichever variant is original, John’s declaration betrays further knowledge of the heavenly voice: “Son of God” would be an interpretation of “You are my son” and a recognition of the allusion to Ps. 2:7; “Chosen of God” would be a recognition of the allusion to Isa. 42:1. On the textual variants in John 1:34, see Brown, 1:57.
  • [173] Text according to R. H. Charles, ed., The Greek Versions of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (Oxford: Clarendon, 1908), 62-63. Charles placed the words ἐν τῷ ὕδατι (en tō hūdati, “in the water”) in brackets because he attributed them to a Christian redactor who alluded to the baptism of Jesus, but it is more likely that the entire passage was composed under the influence of the Gospel baptism accounts. See M. de Jonge, “Christian Influence in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs,” Novum Testamentum 4.3 (1960): 182-235, esp. 204, 207; Nolland, Luke, 1:160.
  • [174] See Flusser, Jesus, 41.
  • [175] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:569.
  • [176] See Shlomo Pines, The Jewish Christians of the Early Centuries of Christianity According to a New Source (Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1966), 63.
  • [177] See Franz Delitzsch, The Prophecies of Isaiah (2 vols.; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1890), 2:166.
  • [178] We should note in this context a Jewish tradition according to which a bat kol reassured Abraham that Isaac’s sacrifice had indeed been accepted:

    ויבא אברהם לספוד לשרה ולבכתה. ומהיכן בא, ר′ יהודה בר′ סימון אמ′ מהר המוריה בא. והיה אברהם מהרהר בלבו ואמ′ שמא חס ושלום נמצא בו פסול ולא נתקבל קרבני ממני, יצתה בת קול ואמרה לו לך אכול בשמחה לחמך

    And Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her [Gen. 23:2]. And where did Abraham come from? Rabbi Yehudah said in the name of Rabbi Simon, “He came from Mount Moriah. Abraham was having anxious thoughts in his heart and he said, ‘Perhaps—Heaven forbid!—a disqualifying blemish was found in him [i.e., Isaac—DNB and JNT] and my sacrifice has not been accepted from me.’ The sound of a voice went out and said to him, Go! Eat your bread in happiness [Eccl. 9:7].” (Lev. Rab. 20:1 [ed. Margulies, 1:449])

  • [179] On possible connections between Isaac and the Servant of the LORD in ancient Jewish sources, see Vermes, “Redemption and Genesis XXII,” 202-203.
  • [180]
    Yeshua’s Immersion
    Luke’s Version Anthology’s Wording (Reconstructed)
    ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ βαπτισθῆναι ἅπαντα τὸν λαὸν καὶ Ἰησοῦ βαπτισθέντος καὶ προσευχομένου ἀνεῳχθῆναι τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ καταβῆναι τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον σωματικῷ εἴδει ὡς περιστερὰν ἐπ᾿ αὐτόν καὶ φωνὴν ἐξ οὐρανοῦ γενέσθαι σὺ εἶ ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός ἐν σοὶ εὐδόκησα καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις ἦλθεν Ἰησοῦς [ἀπὸ Ναζαρὲτ τῆς Γαλιλαίας] ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰορδάνην πρὸς Ἰωάννην τοῦ βαπτισθῆναι βαπτισθεὶς δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἀνέβη ἐκ τοῦ ὕδατος καὶ ἰδοὺ ἠνεῴχθησαν οἱ οὐρανοί καὶ πνεῦμα θεοῦ ὡς περιστερὰν ἦλθεν ἐπ᾿ αὐτόν καὶ ἰδοὺ φωνὴ ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν λέγουσα σὺ εἶ ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός [μου] ἐν σοὶ εὐδόκησα
    Total Words: 43 Total Words: 52 [57]
    Total Words Identical to Anth.: 20 Total Words Taken Over in Luke: 20
    Percentage Identical to Anth.: 46.51% Percentage of Anth. Represented in Luke: 36.36 [35.09]%

  • [181]
    Yeshua’s Immersion
    Mark’s Version Anthology’s Wording (Reconstructed)
    ἐγένετο ἐν ἐκείναις ταῖς ἡμέραις ἦλθεν Ἰησοῦς ἀπὸ Ναζαρὲτ τῆς Γαλιλαίας καὶ ἐβαπτίσθη εἰς τὸν Ἰορδάνην ὑπὸ Ἰωάνου καὶ εὐθὺς ἀναβαίνων ἐκ τοῦ ὕδατος εἶδεν σχιζομένους τοὺς οὐρανοὺς καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα ὡς περιστερὰν καταβαῖνον εἰς αὐτόν καὶ φωνὴ ἐγένετο ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν σὺ εἶ ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός ἐν σοὶ εὐδόκησα καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις ἦλθεν Ἰησοῦς [ἀπὸ Ναζαρὲτ τῆς Γαλιλαίας] ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰορδάνην πρὸς Ἰωάννην τοῦ βαπτισθῆναι βαπτισθεὶς δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἀνέβη ἐκ τοῦ ὕδατος καὶ ἰδοὺ ἠνεῴχθησαν οἱ οὐρανοί καὶ πνεῦμα θεοῦ ὡς περιστερὰν ἦλθεν ἐπ᾿ αὐτόν καὶ ἰδοὺ φωνὴ ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν λέγουσα σὺ εἶ ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός [μου] ἐν σοὶ εὐδόκησα
    Total Words: 52 Total Words: 52 [57]
    Total Words Identical to Anth.: 32 [36] Total Words Taken Over in Mark: 32 [36]
    Percentage Identical to Anth.: 61.54 [69.23]% Percentage of Anth. Represented in Mark: 61.54 [63.16]%

  • [182] Cf. Marshall, 150, where he concludes that Mark’s account of Jesus’ baptism must have been remarkably similar to Q’s.
  • [183]
    Yeshua’s Immersion
    Matthew’s Version Anthology’s Wording (Reconstructed)
    τότε παραγείνεται ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλειλαίας ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰορδάνην πρὸς τὸν Ἰωάνην τοῦ βαπτισθῆναι ὑπ᾿ αὐτοῦ ὁ δὲ διεκώλυεν αὐτὸν λέγων ἐγὼ χρείαν ἔχω ὑπὸ σοῦ βαπτισθῆναι καὶ σὺ ἔρχῃ πρός με ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ ἄφες ἄρτι οὕτω γὰρ πρέπον ἐστὶν ἡμῖν πληρῶσαι πᾶσαν δικαιοσύνην τότε ἀφίησιν αὐτόν βαπτισθεὶς δὲἸησοῦς εὐθὺς ἀνέβη ἀπὸ τοῦ ὕδατος καὶ ἰδοὺ ἠνεῴχθησαν οἱ οὐρανοί καὶ εἶδεν πνεῦμα θεοῦ καταβαῖνον ὡσεὶ περιστερὰν ἐρχόμενον ἐπ᾿ αὐτόν καὶ ἰδοὺ φωνὴ ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν λέγουσα οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός ἐνεὐδόκησα καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις ἦλθεν Ἰησοῦς [ἀπὸ Ναζαρὲτ τῆς Γαλιλαίας] ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰορδάνην πρὸς Ἰωάννην τοῦ βαπτισθῆναι βαπτισθεὶς δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἀνέβη ἐκ τοῦ ὕδατος καὶ ἰδοὺ ἠνεῴχθησαν οἱ οὐρανοί καὶ πνεῦμα θεοῦ ὡς περιστερὰν ἦλθεν ἐπ᾿ αὐτόν καὶ ἰδοὺ φωνὴ ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν λέγουσα σὺ εἶ ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός [μου] ἐν σοὶ εὐδόκησα
    Total Words: 93 Total Words: 52 [57]
    Total Words Identical to Anth.: 39 [42] Total Words Taken Over in Matt: 39 [42]
    Percentage Identical to Anth.: 41.94 [45.16]% Percentage of Anth. Represented in Matt.: 75.00 [73.68]%

  • [184] See the discussion in Meier, Marginal, 2:113-115.
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    David N. Bivin

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