21
Aug
10

Gospel of Matthew 3

And here we go again. A whole chapter this time! Well, it’s a short chapter, but the Bible is inconsistent about these things.

This time we leave Jesus for a bit to meet John the Baptist, a holy man very like Jesus who lived a little earlier, and whom early Christians coopted as a prophet of the coming of Jesus in order to take his followers into the fold. He is most famous for dunking people in water (βαπτίζω: to baptize; from βάπτω: to dip) in the process of confessing of sins (ἐξομολογέομαι τάς ἁμαρτίας), quite possibly related to the Jewish tradition of throwing one’s sins into the water on Yom Kippur. As part of the (frankly, weird to anyone who knows anything about Judea in the early Roman Empire) New Testament theme of Pharisee and Sadducee bashing, some of the aforementioned show up and, rather than thinking that maybe they want to be better people, John calls them names and tells them that someone is coming who will baptize them in fire (ouch!) In order to be sure everyone knows Jesus is better than John, Jesus goes for a baptism, and John says he should be the one getting baptized (see, in those days, only messianic figures could baptize someone), and of course there’s that reference to baptism in fire. Coincidentally, very John (The Divine. That’s a Revelation reference. Of St. John the Divine.)

There’s some other interesting things here. For one, verse 16 has a very odd construction (I’d translate it literally as “Jesus being baptized immediately, he came up from the water,” which is fine as it goes, but very odd in context, especially temporally). Also, “ἡ τροφὴ ἦν αὐτοῦ ἀκρίδες καὶ μέλι ἄγριον” (emphasis mine): “his food was locusts and wild honey.” That the author felt the need to specify suggests that there may have been domestic honey, harvested not by foresters but beekeepers. I’m sure there’s literature on that somewhere, but not having quick access to it at the moment I’m just going to say that I think that’s pretty cool, beekeepers in the days before bee suits and epinephrine.

There’s also a quote from Isaiah. There’s a lot of Old Testament quotes in the New Testament to “prove” that Jesus is the messiah (a lot of them merely force his life into a timeline that cannot be possible, of course). This one is meant to show that John is a prophet who will pave the way (see what I did there?) for Jesus.

Translation followed by original text (still using A Reader’s Greek New Testament: 2nd Edition, footnotes excised and numerals changed to Greek by me) below the cut.

The Gospel According to St. Matthew, chapter 3

1In those days John the Baptist was wandering about preaching among the destitute of Judea 2[and] saying, “All of you, repent; for the kingdom of heaven approaches. 3For so it was spoken by the prophet Isaiah who said,

‘A voice cries out in the wilderness:

“Prepare the road of the Lord,

Make it a level highway.1“‘”

4John wore clothing made of camel hair and a leather girdle2 about his waist, his food was locusts and wild honey3. 5Then Jerusalemites and all Judea and the surrounding districts of the Jordan went out to him 6and they were baptized in the River Jordan by him while confessing their sins.

7But seeing many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Children of serpents, who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?4 8Bear fruit worthy of repetance5, 9and do not think to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor.” For, I say to you that God is able to raise up from these stones children for Abraham. 10Even now the axe lies at the root of the trees; thus every tree not bearing fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire. 11I baptize you in water for repetence, but after me is coming one greater than myself6 whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you in the holy spirit and in fire. 12Whose winnowing shovel in his hand cleans his threshing floor and he lets the wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn in an unquenchable fire.”

13Then Jesus came to that area from Galilee to the Jordan, to John to be baptized by him. 14But John stopped him saying, “I must be baptized by you,” and “will you come to me?”7 15But, replying, Jesus said to him, “Leave off now, for it is fitting thus for us to fulfill all that is meant to be.” Then he left off. 16Jesus being baptized straightaway, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens opened and he saw the spirit of God† descended as a pigeon8 [and] came to him. 17And behold, there was a voice from the heavens saying, “This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.”

 

 

NOTES:

  1. This is my “see what I did there.” Usually translated as “make it a straight road,” but the use of τρίβος instead of the more common ὁδὀν makes me think a special kind of road is intended, and “highway” is one of the LSJ’s alternate translations. I also felt that “level” was a better way to translate εὐθείος than “straight” because we’re talking about a road here. The idea is that it will be easier for people to walk on, thus a wide (implied in “highway”), level road.
  2. The word usually translated as “belt” here is ζώνη, but it’s a word more often used to refer to a woman’s lower girdle; the proper word for a man’s belt is ζωστήρ (LSJ). This is actually probably just a difficulty in translating the styles of the Levant into Greek, but I’m trying to be accurate to the words here.
  3. As mentioned above in my entry introduction.
  4. ὀργή: wrath, temper, anger, whim, impulse; for your amusement and edification, the root of the word “orgy.”
  5. I feel uncomfortable with such an idiomatic translation, besides which the genetive used with ἄξιος just screams “genitive of comparison,” but it flows well into the metaphor in the next verse. Also, seriously, they came to see if there’s anything to this baptism and repetence thing, and he just goes nuts on them. So much for love thy neighbor.
  6. Literally “greater than me,” but English requires an anaphor here where Greek does not.
  7. My Bible includes the “and” in the quotes, but this sounds more naturally conversational.
  8. You may be used to the Holy Spirit descending as a dove. A dove is just a white pigeon (no, seriously, same species by all definitions of the word), and Greek has no word to separate the two. If I don’t see λευκός (“white”) next to περιστερά (“pigeon”), you’re not getting a dove.

 

 

 

Κατὰ Μαθθαίων ‘Γ

‘ΑἘν δὲ ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις παραγίνεται Ἰωάννης ὁ βαπτιστὴς κηρύσσων ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ τῆς Ἰουδαίας ‘Β[καὶ] λέγων, Μετανοεῖτε‧ ἤγγικεν γὰρ ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν. ‘Γοὗτος γάρ ἐστιν ὁ ῥηθεὶς διὰ Ἠσαΐου τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος,

Φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ‧

Ἑτοιμάσατε τὴν ὁδὸν κθρίου,

εὐθείας ποιεῖτε τὰς τρίβους αὐτοῦ.

‘ΔΑὐτὸς δὲ ὁ Ἰςάννης εἶχεν τὸ ἔνδθμα αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τριχῶν καμήλου καὶ ζώνην δερματίνην περὶ τὴν ὀσφὺν αὐτοῦ, ἡ δὲ τροφὴ ἦν αὐτοῦ ἀκρίδες καὶ μέλι ἄγριον.‘Ετότε ἐξεπορεύετο πρὸς αὐτὸν Ἱεροσόλυμα καὶ πᾶσα ἡ Ἰουδαία καὶ πᾶσα ἡ περίχωρος τοῦ Ἰορδάνου, ‘Ϝκαὶ ἐβαπτίζοντο ἐν τῷ Ἰορδάνῃ ποταμῷ ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ ἐξομολογούμενοι τὰς ἁμαρτίας αὐτῶν.

‘ΖἸδὼν δὲ πολλοὺς τῶν Φαρισαίων καὶ Σαδδουκαίων ἐρχομένους ἐπὶ τὸ βάπτισμα αὐτοῦ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Γεννήματα ἐχιδνῶν, τἰς ὑπέδειξεν ὑμῖν φθγεῖν ἀπὸ τῆς μελλούσησ ὀργῆς; ‘Ηποιήσατε οὖν καρπὸν ἄξιον τῆς μετανοίας ‘Θκαὶ μὴ δόξητε λέγειν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς, Πατέρα ἔχομεν τὸν Ἀβραάμ. Λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν ὅτι δύνατι ὁ θεὸς ἐκ τῶν λίθων τούτων ἐγεῖραι τέκνα τῷ Ἀβραάμ. ‘Ιἤδη δὲ ἡ ἀξίνη πρὸς τὴν ῥίζαν τῶν δένδρων κεῖται‧ πᾶν οὖν δένδρον μὴ ποιοῦν καρπὸν καλὸν ἐκκόπτεται καὶ εἰς πῦρ βάλλεται. ‘ΙΑἐγὼ μὲν ὑμᾶς βαπτίζς ἐν ὕδατι εἰς μετάνοιαν, ὁ δὲ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος ἰσχυρότερός μού ἐστιν, οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς τὰ ὑποδήματα βαστάσαι‧ αὐτὸς ὑμᾶς βαπτίσει ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ καὶ πυρί‧ ‘ΙΒοὗ τὸ πτύον ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ διακαθαριεῖ τὴν ἅλωνα αὐτοῦ καὶ σθνάξει τὸν σῖτον αὐτοῦ εἰς τὴν ἀποθήκην, τὸ δὲ ἄχυρον κατακαύσει πυρὶ ἀσβέστῳ.

‘ΙΓΤότε παραγίνεται ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰορτάνην πρὸς τὸν Ἰωάννην τοῦ βαπτισθῆναι ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ. ‘ΙΔὁ δὲ Ἰωάννης διεκώλυεν αὐτὸν λέγων, Ἐγὼ χρείαν ἔχς ὑπὸ σοῦ βαπτισθῆναι, καὶ σὺ ἔρχῃ πρός με; ‘ΙΕἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτόν, Ἄφες ἄρτι, οὕτως γὰρ πρέπον ἐστὶν ἡμῖν πληρῶσαι πᾶσαν δικαιοσύνην. Τότε ἀφίησιν αὐτόν. ‘ΙϜβαπτισθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εὐθὺς ἀνέβη ἀπὸ τοῦ ὕδατος‧ καὶ ἰδοὺ ἠνεῴχθησαν οἱ οὐρανοί, καὶ εἶδεν πνεῦμα θεοῦ† καταβαῖνον ὡσεὶ περιστερὰν [καὶ] ἐρχόμενον ἐπ’ αὐτόν‧ ‘ΙΖκαὶ ἰδοὺ φωνὴ ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν λέγουσα, Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός, ἐν ᾧ εὐδόκησα.

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