Daily Archives: July 26, 2007

The Baptism of Jesus Christ: Syntax and Exegesis Matthew 3:13

Matthew 3:13

Grammatically the passage is introduced by the temporal adverb Τότε which serves to connect these events to the introduction of the then unknown Messiah which John delivers in Matthew 3:11-12. It also demonstrates that the current passage occurs not long after John's announcement. Of the eighty-nine times Matthew uses τότε, more than half of the time its use is to draw a close chronological connection or to point out a response to the prior section. As has already been noted1 Dr. Hoehner dates the coming of John the Baptist to the year 29AD and the resultant baptism of Jesus during the summer or fall of the same year.2
The appearance of Jesus is significant in this passage because it is his first autonomous activity. As far as Matthew's gospel is concerned we have only seen him as a secondary participant up to this point. His birth, move to Egypt and subsequent move to Nazareth have all been actions centered in his mother and Joseph. Now for the first time, Jesus becomes the central actor. By tying the introduction of Jesus then to the activity of John the Baptist, Matthew effectively demonstrates for his Jewish readers that Jesus is fulfilling the Messianic prophecies of scripture (Matthew 3:3, Isaiah 40:3).
The reader is drawn into the scene by the same historical present verb (παραγίνεται) which is used in the first verse of the chapter concerning John. So that as John came dramatically onto the scene with a distinctive purpose, so also does Jesus.