The mission of the Messiah, 1:5-9:50

2. Testimonies to the Messiah, 2:41-4:30

ii] The witness of John the Baptist


This passage records the testimony, or witness, of John the Baptist, with regard to the messianic credentials of Christ. Luke sets the stage, v1-2, records the nature of John's mission, v3-6, the substance of John's message, v7-14, John's relationship with the coming messiah, v15-18, and his imprisonment, v19-20.


Jesus is one "mightier" than even John the Baptist; he is God's beloved Son.


i] Context: See 2:41-52. The second unit of episodes in Luke's gospel, The Testimonies to the Messiah, 2:41-4:30, consists of six episodes which give witness to the coming messiah. This, the second episode, The witness of John the Baptist, tells us something more of Jesus' messianic character.


ii] Structure: The witness of John the Baptist:

The Baptist's ministry, v1-6:

Setting, v1-2;

The Baptist's message, v3;

Textual support, v4-6;

The Baptist's preaching, v7-14:

A call for repentance, v7-9;

A call for the fruit of repentance, v10-14;

John explains his ministry, v15-18;

The imprisonment of John, v19-20;


iii] Interpretation:

Luke presents John the Baptist as the one who fulfils the words of the prophet Isaiah; he is the "one calling in the wilderness, 'prepare the way of the Lord.'" John prepares the way of the coming messiah by his preaching ministry.

Unlike, say Matthew, who has John preaching the same message as Jesus, namely "the kingdom of heaven is at hand", Luke tells us that John preached a "baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins." There is little doubt that John's preaching is in the context of the coming kingdom and of the salvation soon to be realised through the ministry of Israel's promised messiah, the Anointed One. John states clearly that to join the messiah in the coming kingdom will require the forgiveness of sins, and the forgiveness of sins requires repentance. To meet the coming messiah, it is necessary to have a repentant spirit expressed outwardly in water baptism. The sign of repentance is just that, a sign. The significance of repentance entails a changed heart, not just an outward expression of washing. Repentance involves a dread recognition of one's sins and a willingness to live a renewed life of neighbourly love.

John's ministry points beyond itself to the coming messiah, to the one "mightier than" he, to the one who "will baptise with the Holy Spirit and fire." For Luke, John prepares the way for the coming of Christ, testifying to the coming mighty one.


iv] Synoptics:

In the age of the World Wide Web, the power of oral tradition is a distant memory, but even so, those in their 50's and above can still retell a fairy tale like Little Red Riding Hood with remarkable similarities, particularly when it comes to the pronouncements like "What great teeth you have - All the better to eat you with." In first century Palestine, knowledge was conveyed orally and learnt by rote. Written documents were rare and expensive, well beyond the buying power of the vast majority of individuals. So, following the resurrection of Jesus, we should not be surprised that his teachings and deeds take on a formal content and shape with their telling and retelling, guided and vetted, as they would be, by the apostles themselves.

Luke's gospel now reaches the kerygma, the apostolic gospel tradition, a tradition best represented by the gospel of Mark. If Papias is to be believed, Peter is a primary source for Mark's gospel. Time and again Mark evidences eyewitness contributions to the apostolic tradition, whereas Luke reflects a tradition stylised by its retelling. Most scholars assume that Luke works off the gospel of Mark, or a proto-Mark, although it is quite possible that a Semitic oral version of the kerygma is so firmly set in the tradition of the early church that Luke works of it, as does Mark and Matthew.

Both Luke and Matthew contain source material not found in Mark. It is generally felt that Luke has access to a source known as Q, containing material common to both Luke and Matthew, as well as source material acquired through his own research (the two document theory). Although Matthew presumably writes before Luke, it is generally argued that Luke does not use Matthew as a source (note the distinct birth narratives). None-the-less, time and again Luke agrees with Matthew over Mark; a conundrum to say the least.

The source known as Q is taken to be a document containing the sayings of Jesus, but given the differences evident in Matthew and Luke, it is more likely that it consists of "a pool of widely circulating traditions", Bock, written and/or oral. If this is the case, then material unique to Luke may also come from this source material. This would similarly be the case for Matthew. At times, the differences between Luke and Matthew's record of this material indicates that at least some of it is fringe tradition, not the core kerygma evident in Mark.

At the centre of Luke's account of the ministry of John the Baptist is tradition common to both Mark and Matthew. Unlike Mark and Matthew, Luke goes to great lengths to place the kerygma in its historical setting, v1-2. Although Luke agrees with Mark and Matthew on the Baptist's centre of ministry and lifestyle, he doesn't record his ascetic life in the desert, unlike both Mark and Matthew. The Baptist's call for repentance is also found in both Matthew and Mark, although Matthew adds the proclamation of the coming kingdom, reserved by Mark and Luke for Jesus, v3. Luke's Old Testament citations, found in Matthew, but not in Mark, are lengthened to emphasise the universal nature of salvation, v4-6. Luke, with Matthew, records the approach of the Pharisees and Sadducees, although Luke calls them "the crowds." Luke alone records those who come asking "what must I do", v10-14. All three accounts record John's words concerning the greater one who will baptise with the holy Spirit, with both Luke and Matthew adding "and with fire", v15-17. Luke brings forward the account of the Baptist's arrest, v19-20.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 3:1

The witness of the Baptist, v1-20: i] The Baptist's ministry, v1-6. a) Setting, v1-2. Luke, in the style of a Greek historian, dates the preaching ministry of John and the baptism of Jesus, by cross referencing significant personages of the time. His dating is around 27-29AD. Although the Romans removed Annas in 14AD, he continued to exercise power while his son-in-law, Caiaphas, was High Priest. The wilderness is where we meet God and so it is where John receives his call from God. By implication, Luke's dating of John's ministry also dates the commencement of Jesus' ministry.

Note the argument as to whether John is the final prophet of the age of promise, so Conzelmann, or the introductory prophet for the age of fulfilment, or a bridge between the two.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

en + dat. "in" - in. Temporal use of the preposition; "During the fifteenth year of the reign ...."

thV hJemoniaV (a) gen. "of the reign" - [fifteenth year] of the reign. The genitive is adverbial, reference / respect; "with respect to the reign ..."

Tiberiou KaisaroV gen. "of Tiberius Caesar" - of tiberius caesar. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, or verbal, subjective; "the rule exercised by Tiberius Caesar."

hJgemoneuontoV (hJgenomeuw) gen. pres. part. "when [Pontius Pilate] was governor" - [of pontius pilate] of governing. The genitive participle and its genitive subject "Pontius Pilate" forms a genitive absolute construction, temporal, as NIV.

thV IoudaiaV (a) gen. "of Judea" - of judea. As with the genitives "of Galilee", and "of Iturea and ......", the genitive is adjectival, attributive, idiomatic / subordination; "was governor over Judea."

tetraarcountoV (tetraarcew) gen. pres. part. "tetrarch" - [and herod] being tetrarch [of galilee]. The three uses of this genitive participle and their genitive subjects form genitive absolute constructions, temporal. Herod Antipas, 4 BC to AD 39, son of Herod the Great. The title "Tetrarch" was given to local rulers appointed by the Roman government to serve alongside a local Roman official, either a Procurator or Prefect.

tou adelfou (oV) gen. "[his] brother [Philip]" - [and philip,] the brother [of him]. Standing in apposition to "Philip". Philip the half-brother of Herod Antipas and son of Herod the Great, ruler of the northern Transjordan area.

thV ItouraiaV kai TracwnitidoV gen. "Iturea and Traconitis" - [being tetrarch of hill country, regions] of iturea and of trachontis, [and lysanias, tetrarch of abilene]. The genitives are adjectival, attributive, idiomatic / local, identification; "the regions known as Iturea and Traconitis." With respect to Lysanias, little is known of him.


epi + gen. "during" - upon. Temporal use of the preposition; "in the time of / during."

arcierewV (euV ewV) gen. sing. "the high priesthood" - high priest [anna and caiaphas]. Both Annas and Caiaphas are mentioned, but the priesthood is singular. Caiaphas is functioning as the formal high priest, but Annas still pulls the strings. The Roman authorities had removed Annas in AD14.

qeou (oV) gen. "[the word] of God" - [came the word] of god. The genitive is best treated as ablative, expressing source / origin; "word from God."

epi + acc. "to" - upon, on, over, to [john son of zechariah]. Spatial. Used in the LXX of divine inspiration; John's message is God's message. "God spoke to Zechariah's son John", CEV. Note that "son" stands in apposition to "John".

en + dat. "in [the desert]" - in [the desert, wilderness]. Local, expressing space / place. The desert is a place of reflection, retreat and revelation. Probably for John, the wilderness is the area north west of the Dead sea, leading into the Jordan valley.


b) The Baptist's message, v3. Only a Gentile convert to Judaism would be baptised (a sign of regeneration), but John demands that Abraham's children must also be baptised. It was as if Israel had reached the river Jordan and must again cross the river to enter the promised land. So, John preached a message of repentance, a repentance which had but one aim, the forgiveness of sins. Baptism, water washing, serves as the outward expression of this repentance, while at the same time illustrating the cleansing of forgiveness soon to be realised in the coming messiah.

eiV + acc. "into" - [and he came] to, into. Spatial, expressing the direction of the action and/or arrival at. John's ministry covered the whole of Jordan; "he went all over the Jordan valley", REB.

tou Iordanou (oV) gen. "around the jordan" - [the neighbouring region, surrounding region] of the jordan river. Genitive complement of the peri prefix adjective "neighbouring", which, when referring to a river, refers to the region around it, BDAG 808, Culy; "the districts adjoining the Jordan river."

khrusswn (khrussw) pres. part. "preaching" - communicating, proclaiming. The participle is adverbial, probably modal, expressing manner, how John came, ie. "he came preaching", but possibly final expressing purpose, "in order to preach", Fitzmyer. The present tense indicates ongoing action. The sense is of authoritative communication, heralding, proclaiming openly, and in the NT in particular, of proclaiming the gospel. Note, the following clause defines what John preached.

baptisma (a atoV) "a baptism" - an immersion. Accusative direct object of the verb "to preach." The word, "immersion", is used both figuratively and literally. The word is often used to describe water immersion, but also it can be used with the sense of overwhelmed, immersed in/by/with the Spirit, and also in the sense of tribulation, persecution ("immersed in fire"), and also in the sense of teaching ("immersed into the Name"). Here it is most likely that water immersion is intended. Presumably the stress is on the substance of the immersion, that which it represents, namely, repentance. So, John preached a message of = concerning repentance for the forgiveness of sins, which repentance was expressed outwardly in water immersion / baptism. John didn't preach baptism as such, but rather, he communicated the significance of the act of immersing people, namely, as a sign of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

It is argued that the sign of water baptism, as an outward expression of repentance, images cleansing. This does seem likely since Jesus' baptism with the Spirit for regenerative cleansing is prefigured in John's baptism with water.

metanoiaV (a) gen. "repentance" - of repentance. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, idiomatic, limiting "baptism", "a baptism which serves as an outward expression of repentance." The Hebrew origins of the word obviously dictate its meaning. It involves a turning back / returning to God, rather than a mere expression of sorrow. Obviously, good deeds, in the sense of the fruit of repentance, follow, but such deeds are not a necessary component of the inward act of repentance. Forgiveness does not rest on the deeds (fruit), but on a turning toward God, which turning taps into God's grace.

eiV "for" - into, to = for. A causal sense has been argued, as has result, but purpose / aim / goal seems best; "John preached a message of repentance, which repentance has as it purpose, the forgiveness of sins."

aJmartiwn (a) gen. " of sins" - [the forgiveness] of sins. The genitive is usually taken as adjectival, verbal, objective.


c) Textual support, v4-6: Luke now quotes Isaiah 40:3ff. John's task is to prepare the way for the coming messiah. The Exodus journey of the messiah, and his people, to the promised land is made clear and straight by John's call to repentance. Those who heed the call will gain the long-hoped-for messianic deliverance.

wJV "as [it is written]" - as [it has been written]. Comparative conjunction used to introduce an idiomatic formula quote from scripture, comparing John's ministry with the words of Isaiah 40:3-5.

en + dat. "in [the book]" - in [book]. Local, expressing space / place. Luke uses an unusual reference formula.

logwn (oV) gen. "of the words" - of words [of isaiah the prophet]. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / content; "the book which contains / containing the words of Isaiah the prophet." The genitive "of Isaiah", may be treated as ablative, source / origin "from Isaiah", or adjectival, verbal, subjective "the words written by Isaiah." "The prophet" stands in apposition to "Isaiah".

fwnh (h) "a voice" - a voice, sound. The NIV treats this noun as an independent / hanging nominative. Although without an article, it may be understood as definite due to its association with the genitive participle "calling." Following the MT, the verb to-be may be assumed; "a voice is crying." "Hark! someone is shouting", Phillips.

bowntoV (boaw) gen. pres. part. "of one calling" - crying calling [in desert, wilderness]. The participle serves as a substantive, while the genitive is adjectival, possessive.

thn oJdon (oV) "the way" - [prepare] the way. Luke sees John fulfilling Isaiah 40:3-5 as the one who prepares a roadway through the desert, an expressway ready for the journey of the messiah to Jerusalem.

kuriou (oV) gen. "for the Lord" - of lord [make straight the paths of him]. This genitive, as with autou, "of him", following, is adjectival, possibly possessive, "the Lord's way", Berkeley, or attributive, idiomatic, limiting "the way"; "prepare a roadway which will speed the coming Lord" / "a roadway for the Lord to travel."


Note the imagery of road building, of building an expressway to speed the coming of the Lord. The Assyrians and the Persians, as with the Romans in later years, were great road builders, enabling the rapid deployment of military forces and efficient commerce.

Although the future tense of this verse is usually treated as a statement, it seems more likely, given the imperative of v4, "make his paths straight", that the use of the future in this verse is imperatival:

Prepare a way for the Lord,

Prepare a straight road for him.

Every valley is to be bridged,

And every mountain and hill cut through,

And the winding road made straight,

And the rough road made smooth;

And then everyone will see the saving power of God.

plhrwqhsetai (plhrow) fut. pas. "shall be filled in" - [every velley] will be filled [and every mountain will be levelled off]. Taking the future tense here as an imperative, we get "fill up every valley", CEV.

ta skolia adj. "the crooked roads" - [and] the crooked, twisted ways. The attributive adjective modifies an assumed noun, "ways, roads"; "Straighten the crooked roads and smooth out the rough ones."

estai (eimi) fut. "shall become [straight]" - will be [made straight and the rough ways made into smooth ways]. Note the position of the verb to-be before the subject serving to emphasise the reality of what will be (taken as a statement or command???). Note also the Semitic construction of eiV + acc. noun producing a predicate modifier, cf., Wallace 47. Note also the usual singular verb for plural neuter subjects.


sarx (x koV) "mankind" - [and all] flesh. Nominative subject of the verb "to see." Used here for the Hebrew "living thing", meaning "humanity", NJB.

to swthrion (on) "salvation" - [will see] the salvation. Accusative direct object of the verb "to see." Note how Luke has replaced "glory" with "salvation" from the original. Of course, God's glory is manifested in his salvation of broken humanity.

tou qeou gen. "God's [salvation]" - of god. The genitive here is adjectival, possibly possessive, "God's saving power", or verbal, subjective, "the salvation achieved by God"; "all humanity will witness God's work of salvation."


ii] Luke doesn't give us a description of John's prophetic manner, his clothing etc., as does Mark, but moves on to give us an account of his call for repentance, v7-14. a) A call for repentance, v7-9: John sees the "multitude" coming toward him and questions their commitment. Matthew specifically identifies these "snakes" (children of the Devil) as the Pharisees and Sadducees - Israel's religious authorities. John suspects that this crowd, which seeks to escape the day of judgment through baptism, is responding to his preaching at a superficial level. For John, baptism is an outward manifestation of repentance - the symbolic expression of a genuine cry for mercy. Genuine repentance exhibits the response of neighbourly-love, and serves as the mark of the new Israel.

oun "-" - therefore. Here transitional and so best left untranslated, as NIV.

elegen (legw) imperf. "John said" - he was saying. The imperfect is possibly iterative, so Nolland, or inceptive, NASB, although often the imperfect in Luke is simply a literary device used to express a vivid ongoing scene, so Bock. "He would say", Nolland.

toiV ocloiV (oV) dat. "to the crowds" - to the crowds. Dative of indirect object. In Matthew John actually addresses the religious leaders, so it is interesting that these rather harsh words are addressed to the people in general.

ekporeuomenoiV (ekporeuomai) pres. part. "coming out" - going out, coming out. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "crowds"; "the crowds which were coming out."

baptisqhnai (baptizw) aor. pas. inf. "to be baptised" - to be immersed. The infinitive here is adverbial, final, expressing purpose; the crowds came out in order to be baptised by John.

uJp (uJpo) + gen. "by]" - by [him]. Here expressing agency.

gennhmata (a atoV) voc. "brood" - offspring, produce, children, sons. Vocative. Simply, "you snakes", CEV.

ecidnwn (a) gen. "of vipers" - of snakes, reptiles. The genitive is adjectival, relational; "you viper's brood." Possibly an allusion to the Devil. These Israelites, who should be sons of God, are sons of the Devil, ie., lost and facing judgment.

uJpedeixen (uJpodeiknumi) aor. "warned" - [who] showed, informed, pointed out, told [you]. With an infinitive, usually "warned", although the more general "informed" fits better. Although the sense is debatable, it seems likely that John is reacting to a superficial response to his preaching, so he indirectly questions the level of commitment of those seeking baptism, cf., v8. Where indeed did they get the idea that ritual immersion would enable them to escape the day of judgment? Note how Marshall unpacks what John elegen "said" to the crowds":

iwho has warned you to flee?

iwho has shown you how to flee?

iwho has given you the idea that you can flee merely by participating in ritual immersion?

"Do you really understand what my baptism is all about?" Bock.

fugein (feugw) aor. inf. "to flee" - to flee. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what they were warned to do, namely, to flee ....

thV melloushV "the coming" - [from] the coming [wrath]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, 1st. position, limiting "wrath"; "the wrath which is about to come." Referring to the day of judgment, obviously an important element in John's preaching.


As noted above, the fruit of repentance is not an integral element of repentance. Repentance entails a turning to God for mercy, which mercy prompts a renewed life-style. John rightly identifies continued societal evils as evidence that the crowd's repentance is not genuine.

oun "-" - therefore. Possibly just establishing a logical connection, as NIV, but a logical conclusion / inferential is also possible, "then", Nolland; "Now produce fruits that answer to your repentance", Moffatt.

poihsate (poiew) aor. imp. "produce" - make, do. A strange expression, possibly a Hebraism. Often taken in the sense of "produce" or "prove", but best "let your lives then prove your change of heart", Weymouth.

axiouV adj. "in keeping with" - [fruits] worthy [of repentance]. This adjective, with its genitive complement, thV meanoiaV, "of repentance", may by attributive, limiting "fruit", or as noted by Culy, serve as the complement of the object "fruit" standing in a double accusative construction and stating a face about the object "fruit".

mh arxhsqe (arcw) aor. subj. "do not begin" - [and] not may begin. The negated subjunctive expressing a prohibition, "don't let the thought enter your minds that"; "do not even begin to say", Williams.

legein (legw) pres. inf. "to say" - to say. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "begin".

en + dat. "to" - in [yourselves we have father abraham]. Local, expressing space / place, metaphorical; "within yourselves", Berkeley.

gar "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why they cannot claim status as a descendent of Abraham.

uJmin dat. "[I tell] you" - [i say] to you. Dative of indirect object.

oJti "-" - that. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what the Baptist tells them.

ek + gen. "from" - [god is able] from [these stones]. Expressing source / origin. The allusion is unclear. Possibly referring to Isaiah 51:1-2 where Abraham is identified as a rock from which God cuts the stones who seek him. John's point is that "placement into blessing is not a matter of election through mere biology", Bock.

tw/ Abraam dat. "for Abraham" - [to raise up children] to abraham. Dative of interest, advantage, as NIV.


hdh adv. "already" - now, already. Temporal adverb serving to emphasise the urgent nature of John's message due to impending judgment.

kai "-" - and = even [the axe]. Ascensive; "it is even the case that", Nolland.

proV + acc. "at" - toward [to the root]. Usually with the sense of movement toward, but with "laid" the sense implies movement having come to rest. So, the aiming stroke is indicated where the axe first touches the wood prior to the first stroke. An image of judgment.

twn dendrwn (on) gen. "of the trees" - of the trees [is laid]. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

oun "and" - so, therefore, consequently, accordingly, then, so then. Drawing a logical conclusion / inferential, possibly expressed as a result; "so that every tree that does not produce good fruit", Weymouth.

mh poioun (poiew) pres. part. "does not produce" - [every tree] not making [good fruit]. The present tense, as with "cut down", is gnomic, expressing a timeless fact. The negated participle may be treated adverbial, possibly forming a conditional clause; "if a tree does not produce good fruit, then it is cut down ...", but it may also be adjectival, attributive, limiting "tree", "every tree that is not producing good fruit", Moffatt. Note that the adjective "all, every" is usually translated "every", giving a distributive sense, ie., individual response is being emphasised.

ekkoptetai (ekkoptw) pres. "will be cut down" - is cut down [and into fire is thrown]. Futuristic present tense, as NIV; "will be felled and thrown into the fire", Berkeley.


b) A call for the fruit of repentance, v10-14: Heartfelt repentance accesses the mercy of God, which mercy prompts mercy - here, radical generosity. Even tax collectors are prompted to repent (the profession of tax collector is not sinful in itself, but in the Roman provinces it was often corrupt - a form of legalised extortion) as are soldiers (neither is serving in the armed forces a sinful profession, but is open to abuse). The solders referred to here are most likely Jews, members of Herod's local police.

oun "then" - therefore. Drawing a logical conclusion / inferential; "Given what you have just said, what should we do?"

ephrwtwn (ephrwtaw) imperf. "asked" - [the crowds] were questioning [him]. Possibly an inceptive imperfect, "they began to question him."

legonteV (legw) pres. part. "-" - saying [what should we do]? Attendant circumstance participle, redundant, expressing action accompanying the verb "were questioning", but it may also be classified as adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the crowd's asking; See legwn 1:63. The question is structured by the deliberative subjunctive poihswmen, "[what] should we do?" "What is the product that reflects true repentance?" Bock.


John has called for repentance, along with a willingness to bear its fruit. At the behest of "the crowd", John defines the fruit of repentance in the terms of personal radical generosity. He neither calls for the abandonment of free-enterprise for socialism, nor for revolution (political activism, etc.), rather, he calls for mercy (generosity, kindness) - such is the fruit of repentance.

apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) aor. pas. part. "[John] answered" - [and] having answered [he said to them]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "said"; see 1:19.

oJ exwn (ecw) pres. part. "the man with" - the one having [two coats, undergarments]. The participle serves as a substantive, subject of the imperative verb "to share with."

tw/ mh exonti (ecw) dat. pres. part. "the one who has none" - [let him share with] the one not having, [and the one having food, let him do likewise]. The participle serves as a substantive. The meta prefix verb "to share with someone" takes a dative of direct object, as here.


Luke now records the response of specific groups within "the crowd." Tax collectors were regarded as the scum of society, down there with adulterers, prostitutes, pimps, informers and the like. Again, the question asked by these outcasts it not "what must we do to be saved?", but, in response to John's "baptism of repentance", "What must we now do?"

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative, here to a change in subject.

kai "even" - and = also. Either ascensive, as NIV, or adjunctive, "also", ie. adverbial.

telwnai (hV ou) "tax collectors" - tax collectors. Nominative subject of the verb "to go, come." Local duty collectors in the service of the Roman Government. They often used their franchise, under the authority of the Roman government, to collect duties on the sale and transport of goods, over and above their stipulated commission.

baptisqhnai (baptizw) aor. pas. inf. "to be baptised" - [came] to be immersed. The infinitive is adverbial, expressing purpose.

poihswmen (poiew) aor. subj. "[what] should we do?" - [and they said to him, teacher, what] should we do. Deliberative subjunctive. "Master, what are we to do?" Phillips.


mhden .... prassete (prassw) pres. imp. "don't collect" - [and he said to them] do = collect. "Exact no more than the rate fixed", Barclay.

para + acc. "[any more] than" - [nothing more] than = beside. Comparative use of the preposition, "more than", taking the force of a comparative genitive.

to diatetagmenon (diatassw) perf. pas. part. "required" - the one having been assigned, arranged. The participle serves as a substantive; "fixed rate", Moffatt.


It is interesting that Luke identifies the next specific group as soldiers. Possibly Jewish mercenaries in Roman service, or members of Herod Antipas' guard; "Police", Nolland. Luke is positive in his treatment of Roman authority, so, these soldiers may well be Jewish Roman mercenaries.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, as v12.

kai "then" - and. Adjunctive; "also".

strateuomenoi (strateuw) pres. part. "some soldiers" - serving soldiers. The participle serves as a substantive, even though anarthrous.

legonteV (legw) pres. part. "asked" - [were asking, questioning him] saying [what and = also should we do]? See legonteV v10. The durative aspect of the imperfect verb "were questioning" may indicate repeated asking, iterative, or it may be inceptive, "began to ..", although the imperfect is often used of speech because of its durative nature.

autoiV dat. pro. "-" - [he said] to them. Dative of indirect object.

mhdena diaseishte (diaseiw) aor. subj. "[don't] extort money" - shake, shake down [no one]. Subjunctive of prohibition. "Don't extort / take money by violence / force."

mhde sukofanthshte (sukofantew) aor. subj. "don't accuse people falsely" - [nor] slander, cheat. Subjunctive of prohibition. Probably accuse people falsely for the purpose of extracting money, possibly, "don't seek bribes."

toiV oywnioiV (on) dat. "with [your] pay" - [and be satisfied with] the wages [of you]. When the verb arkew takes the sense "to be satisfied with something", it takes a dative of direct object, as here. Culy opts for a dative of reference, "with respect to your pay", and he notes that Robertson Gk. suggests that it is instrumental (really!) - Thomson wisely heads for the bush.


iii] Luke now emphasises the fact that John, the agent of eschatological judgment, is not the messiah, but is subordinate to another, v15-18. Messianic expectation is high and so many in the crowd wonder whether John is the messiah. John indicates that his role is preparatory; he performs water baptism as a sign of repentance in preparation for the coming messiah. The messiah, who is about to inaugurate the long-expected kingdom, will baptise (in the sense of immerse or overwhelm) with / in the Holy Spirit and fire. Those who follow the coming messiah will be washed clean with his regenerating Spirit, but will also face the fire of persecution, of tribulation. Luke goes on in v17 to remind us that the coming judgment is central to John's gospel message - the good news of a coming messiah has its bad-news side. Luke explains in v18 that the above is but a summary of John's gospel preaching.

prosdokwntoV (prosdokaw) gen. pres. part. "were waiting expectantly" - [and the people] being expectant. The genitive participle and it's genitive subject tou laou, "the people", forms a genitive absolute construction, temporal, "while the people were in suspense", Williams, but possibly causal, "because the people were ......." The sense is that the crowd (Nolland suggests that "the people" = "the people of Israel", not just "the crowd", although the present audience seems best), which has come out to John, is now filled with messianic fervour due to his preaching, and therefore needs instruction; "As all this aroused people's expectations", Goodspeed.

dialogizomenwn (dialogizomai) gen. pres. part. "were [all] wondering" - [and everyone] wondering, discussing, reasoning, questioning. Again, a genitive absolute construction, as above, temporal, or causal. "When they were all debating in their minds", Barclay.

en "in [their hearts]" - in [the hearts of them]. Local, space / place, metaphorical; "All were reflecting fully on the matter", Bock.

peri + gen. "if" - about [john]. Expressing reference / respect; "in their hearts concerning John."

mhpote "might" - perhaps, lest. Possibly expecting a negative conclusion, ie., the people knew that John was not the messiah. Yet, it seems more likely that here the conjunction expresses doubt, particularly with the optative of the verb to-be. "Whether perhaps he could be the messiah."

oJ cristoV (oV) "the Christ" - [he might be] the messiah. Predicate nominative. Properly rendered "the Messiah", Barclay.


legwn (legw) pres. part. "-" - [john answered] saying. Attendant circumstance participle, redundant / Semitic construction; "John answered and said." See legonteV v10.

pasin "them all" - to all. "All Israel", so Nolland, but surely, given the context, John is addressing all in the crowd being baptised. None-the-less, the words do apply to all Israel, as they do to all humanity.

men ...... de "....... but ....." - An adversative comparative construction; "on the one hand I baptise ...... but on the other hand, he who is mightier ....."

egw "I" - i [i a baptise you]. Emphatic by use and position. Present tense of the verb "to baptise" here may indicate durative action; "I am baptising with water", TH.

uJdati (wr atoV) dat. "with water" - in water. The dative is probably instrumental, expressing means, "by means of ....", but a locative "in" is possible. The position is emphatic, so, "only with water."

oJ iscuroteroV comp. adj. "one more powerful" - [but] the one stronger. And adjective serves as a substantive, subject of the verb "to come." "One mightier than I", NAB.

mou gen. pro. "than I" - of me [is coming]. The genitive is ablative, of comparison, as NIV.

ou| gen. pro. "-" - of whom [the strap]. Possessive, somewhat redundant with the later possessive genitive autou, "of him" - it's his strap and his sandals.

iJkanoV adj. "[I am not] worthy" - [i am not] a worthy person, significant, able, worthy, adequate, competent. The adjective serves as a substantive.

lusai (luw) aor. inf. "to untie" - to loose. The infinitive is epexegetic, explaining the adjective "worthy", ie., explaining what John is not worthy to do.

twn uJpodhmatwn (a atoV) gen. "of [whose] sandals" - of the sandals [of him]. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

autoV "he" - he. Emphatic.

en + dat. "with" - [he will baptise you] in, with, by. Probably instrumental, expressing means, "with", although locative, "in", is possible; "He will baptise you in the Holy Spirit and in fire", Williams.

pneumati aJgiw/ kai puri dat. "the Holy Spirit and [with] fire" - holy spirit and fire. The meaning of these words has prompted endless debate. A hendiadys is possible, eg., "the purging (cleansing) Spirit", "the fire of the Holy Spirit", Phillips, even possibly, although unlikely, "the holy fire of judgment." It is likely that the messiah "immerses / overwhelms" with both the Spirit (cleansing through regeneration) and fire (end-time troubles - tribulation for believers, judgment for unbelievers). This line of interpretation can be traced back to Origin, although it is not adopted by most modern commentators. Fitzmyer argues that the two-baptisms argument defies good grammar. See Bock for a good summary of all the arguments.


This verse may serve to explain what this baptism with fire means, but it more likely serves as a summary of John's prophetic preaching concerning the one who will baptise with the Spirit and fire, namely that he will usher in the day of judgment.

to ptuon (on) "[his] winnowing fork" - the winnowing fork [of whom is in the hand of him]. Nominative subject of an assumed verb to-be. An agricultural implement used to separate chaff from grain by casting both into the air on a windy day. Serving to image judgment - the separation of the saved from the lost.

diakaqarai (diakaqairw) aor. inf. "to clear" - to clean out, thoroughly clean [the threshing floor of him]. Infinitive expressing purpose, "in order to cleanse."

sunagagein (sunagw) aor. inf. "to gather" - [and] to gather, bring together, call together [the wheat into the barn of him]. The infinitive again expressing purpose, "in order to gather."

puri (r roV) dat. "with [unquenchable] fire" - [but the chaff he will burn up, consume] with fire [inextinguishable]. Instrumental dative, expressing means, as NIV. Meaning a fire that "cannot be extinguished rather than ... an endless fire which will never go out", Plummer (The notion of the ongoing punishment of the wicked remains a debatable issue). Alluding to the rubbish dump outside Jerusalem which was constantly burning and often used to image the horror of judgment, cf., Isa.34:10, 66:24, ..... "He will burn the chaff with fire that nothing can put out", Barclay.


Luke makes the point that v17 is only a summary of the message proclaimed by John. John's preaching, his communicating, his important news-report, his euaggelizw, is a last-days message - the Monopoly board of life is about to be folded up; the end is nigh; God's messiah is about to usher in the long-promised new age; the kingdom of God is at hand. As is often the case, this preaching is translated as "proclaimed the good news". Such a title is somewhat presumptuous - it's Good News for those who repent, but bad news for those who don't. A preacher doesn't parakalew, "exhort", such important news, but they do encourage people to repent in response to that news. So, the verse is probably somewhat elliptical; "So, in a variety of ways, while John encouraged the people to repent, he proclaimed the news of the coming day of judgment to them." John's message "breaks out in various patterns of expression as human beings are confronted with God's rescuing action", Danker.

oun "-" - therefore. Possibly drawing a logical conclusion / inferential, "so with many other exhortations ...", ESV, although it may well just establish a logical connection / transitional; "now", Bock.

kai "and" - and = also. Probably adjunctive; "also", Bock.

men .... de .... "-" - We are presented here with an adversative comparative construction covering this verse, and v19; "now on the one hand, in a variety of ways, ....... but on the other hand, he rebuked Herod .....". Yet, the construction here is somewhat more nuanced. As Thompson notes, discourse factors are at play here such that the construction "summaries the narrative so far and transitions to a new subject" (de, v19).

polla .... eJtera "many other words" - many others. The adjective "others" serves as a substantive, "other ways", limited by the adjective "many"; "in a variety of ways". It serves as the direct object of the verb "to preach, communicate", or possibly the participle "exhorting". The point is that the previous verses is but a summary of the many and various ways John announced the dawning of the messianic age.

parakalwn (parakalew) pres. part. "John exhorted" - exhorting, urging, admonishing. Nolland suggests "to admonish", reflecting John's stern message. The participle "exhorting" may be adverbial, possibly modal, expressing the manner of John's preaching to the people, or temporal, "while John encouraged the people to repent, he proclaimed the news of the coming day of judgment", or instrumental, expressing means, "with many other exhortations he proclaimed", Thompson. It may also be attendant circumstance expressing action accompanying the verb "to preach"; "he admonished them and preached to them"; "In many different ways John preached the good news to the people", CEV. Adverbial seems best.

euhggelizeto (euaggelizw) imperf. "preached the good news" - he was proclaiming. Originally of important news reported from a battle field, but in the NT a technical term referring to gospel preaching, communicating the important news concerning the coming kingdom, so often with the sense of "evangelising"; "he spoke his message to the people", Moffatt. As noted above, the important news of the coming kingdom is "good news" only if you believe it.

ton laon "to them" - to the people. Luke again ignores the use of a dative for an indirect object after a verb of saying. Usually with proV + acc., but here just an accusative. "These and many other things John said to the people as he exhorted them and announced the good news", Phillips.


iv] Luke now gives us a summary of John's encounter with Herod, v19-20. Luke reminds us that John prepares the way for Jesus in his suffering, as well as in his preaching.

de "but" - but. Here used in the adversative comparative construction commenced in v18; "but on the other hand .....".

elegcomenoV (elegcw) pres. pas. part. "when John rebuked" - [herod the tetrarch] being reproved, convicted, exposed, censured. Temporal participle, so NIV, but possibly causal; "But Herod the governor, because he was repeatedly reproved by John for (marrying / "for his relations with", NJB) Herodias his brother's wife, and for all the wicked deeds that Herod had done", Williams.

uJp (uJpo) + gen. "by" - by [him]. Ultimate agency.

peri + gen. "because of" - concerning, about [herodias]. Expressing reference / respect; "concerning Herodias." John's rebuke concerns two matters "about Herodias" and "about all the evil he did."

tou adelfou (oV) gen. "brother's" - [the wife] of the brother [of him]. The genitive is adjectival, relational. Herodias was initially married to Herod, son of Herod the Great and Mariamne, but then married his younger brother, Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great and his second wife, Malthake.

peri "-" - [and] concerning [all evil]. Expressing reference / respect. "And for all the other crimes he had committed, v20, added a further crime to all the rest by shutting John up in prison", NJB.

wJn gen. pro. "-" - which / that [herod did]. An example of the direct attraction of the relative pronoun into the case of its antecedent, here "all". The case is determined by its function in the clause, so accusative might have been expected, but through attraction it is genitive. "All the wicked deeds that he had done", Weymouth.


proseqhken (prostiqhmi) aor. "Herod added" - he added, put on [this and = also]. Herod's greatest crime (to date) was to silence the prophet. "Crowned them all by shutting John up in prison", REB.

epi + dat. "to [them all]" - upon, on top of [everything]. Spatial use of the preposition.

en + dat. "in" - [he locked up john] in [prison]. Expressing space / place.


Luke Introduction


Exegetical Commentaries


[Pumpkin Cottage]