Robertson's Word Pictures in the NT - Greek NT


1-18. Compare Matt. iii. 1-12; Mark i. 1-8.

vers 1.
Pontius Pilate. Wyc., Pilat of Pounce. Tetrarch. See on Matt. xiv. 1.

vers 2.
Came (egeneto). Lit., arose, or came to pass. John. The Synoptists intrduce him under different titles. Here, the son of Zacharias; Matthew, the Baptist; Mark, the Baptizer.

vers 3.
The country about Jordan. Which both Matthew and Mark call the wilderness. See on Matt. iii. 1.

Baptism of repentance. Wyc., penaunce.

For (eiv). Better as Rev., unto, denoting the destination of the rite. Remission (afesin). See on Jas. v. 15. The word occurs in Luke more frequently than in all other New Testament writers combined. Used in medical language of the relaxation of disease. Both Luke and John use the kindred verb ajfihmi, in the same sense. Luke iv. 39; John iv. 52.

vers 4.
Isaiah. In this prophetic citation Mark adds to Isaiah Mal. iii. 1, which does not appear in either Matthew or Luke. Luke adds vv. 4, 5 of Isaiah 40, which do not appear in the others.

Paths (tribouv). From tribw, to rub or wear. Hence beaten tracks.

vers 5.
Valley (faragx). Strictly, of a chasm or ravine in a mountain side. Shall be filled - brought low. In allusion to the practice of Eastern monarchs. On occasions of their progress, heralds were sent out to call on the people to clear and improve the old roads or to make new ones. "When Ibrahim Pacha proposed to visit certain places in Lebanon, the emirs and sheiks sent forth a general proclamation, somewhat in the style of Isaiah's exhortation, to all the inhabitants to assemble along the proposed route and prepare the way before him. The same was done in 1845, on a grand scale, when the Sultan visited Brusa. The stones were gathered out, the crooked places straightened, and rough ones made level and smooth. I had the benefit of these labors a few days after his majesty's visit. The exhortation 'to gather out the stones' (Isa. lxii. 10) is peculiarly appropriate. These farmers do the exact reverse - gather up the stones from their fields and cast them into the highway; and it is this barbarous custom which, in many places, renders the paths uncomfortable and even dangerous" (Thomson, "Land and Book").

vers 7.
He said (elegen) to the multitudes that came forth (ekporeuomenoiv). The use of the tenses is graphic. He said, the imperfect, and came forth, the present participle; both denoting action in progress, or customary action; so that the sense is, he kept saying, or he used to say to those who were coming out, to the crowds of people which kept pouring out successively. Compare ejxeporeueto, went out, also imperfect, Matt. iii. 5. Luke gives the substance of the Baptist's preaching summarily.

Generation (gennhmata). Lit., births. Rev., better, offspring. It has been observed that John's figurative language is altogether the language of the desert. Notice the succession of images: Brood of vipers; fruits (of repentance) the axe at the root of the tree; the slave boy loosing or bearing the sandals; the baptism of fire; the winnowing fan, the threshing floor, the garner, and the burning of the chaff.

Warned (upedeixen). From upo, under, and deiknumi, to shew. Hence, literally, to shew secretly. The word implies a private or confidential hint or reminder. Compare chapter xii. 5; Acts ix. 16; xx. 35.

vers 8.
Fruits (karpouv). Matthew has the singular number, karpon, friut. Repentance (thv metanoiav). Note the article: the repentance which you profess in coming to my baptism. Rev., in margin, "your repentance." See on Matt. iii. 2.

Begin. With the first accusing of your conscience. "He anticipates even attempt at excuse" (Bengel). Matthew has think not, indicating a delusive fancy.

Father. The word stands first in the sentence, "We have Abraham to our father," and is therefore emphatic, and with reason; for it was on their descent that the answer of these Jews to John's rebuke turned: "Our father is Abraham.

These stones. See on Matt. iii. 9.

vers 9.
See on Matt. iii. 10.

vers 10.
Asked (ephrwtwn). Imperfect tense, indicating the frequent repetition of these questions.

Coats (citwnav). See on Matt. v. 40.

vers 12.
Publicans (telwnai). From telov, a tax, and wjneomai, to buy. The collectors of Roman imposts. The Romans farmed out the direct taxes and customs duties to capitalists, on their payment of a certain sum in publicum, into the public treasury, whence they were called publicani, publicans. Sometimes this sum, being greater than any one person could pay, was paid by a company. Under these were the submagistri, living in the provinces; and under these again the portitores, or actual custom house officers, who are referred to by the term telwnai in the New Testament. They were often chosen from the dregs of the people, and wee so notorious for their extortions that they were habitually included in the same category with harlots and sinners. "If a Jew could scarcely persuade himself that it was right to pay taxes, how much more heinous a crime must it have been in his eyes to become the questionably honest instrument for collecting them. If a publican was hated, how still more intense must have been the disgust entertained against a publican who was also a Jew" (Farrar, "Life of Christ"). The word "publican," as a popular term of reproach, was used even by our Lord (Matt. xviii. 17). Even the Gentiles despised them. Farrar cites a Greek saying, "All publicans are robbers."

vers 13.
Exact (prassete). The change of the Rev., to exhort is unfortunate. The word is used of the exaction of legal tribute, and excessive exaction is expressed by the following words: John would hardly have commanded them to extort in any case.

vers 14.
Soldiers (strateuomenoi). Strictly, soldiers on service: hence the participle, seving as soldiers, instead of the more comprehensive term stratiwtai, soldiers by profession. Some explain it of soldiers engaged in police inspection in connection with the customs, and hence naturally associated with the publicans.

What shall we do? The we in the Greek is emphatic, closing the question.

Hence Rev., very aptly, and we, what must we do?

Do violence (diaseishte). Only here in New Testament. Lit., to shake violently; hence to agitate or terrify; and so to extort money from one by terrifying him. The corresponding Latin word concutere is used by later writers in the same sense. Xenophon says of Socrates: "I know of his once having heard from Crito that life at Athens was a hard thing for a man who desired to mind his own business. 'For,' said he, 'they bring actions against me, not because they are wronged by me, but because they think I would rather pay money than have any trouble'" ("Memorabilia," ii. 9, 1). For this process of blackmail, seiw, to shake, was used. Thus Aristophanes ("Knights," 840):

"Thou shalt make much money by falsely accusing and frightening" (seiwn te kai tarattwn).

And again ("Peace," 639):

"And of their allies they falsely accused (eseion) the substantial and rich" The word in this passage of Luke has the later, secondary meaning,to extort; and therefore the American Revisers rightly insist on, extort from no man by violence. It is used by medical writers, as, for instance, by Hippocrates, of shaking the palsied or benumbed limbs of a patient; or of a shaking by which the liver was relieved of an obstruction. Luke also uses two other compounds of the verb seiw: kataseiw, to beckon, Acts xii. 17 (peculiar to Luke); and ajnaseiw, to stir up, which occurs also in Mark xv. 11. Both these are also used by medical writers.

Accuse any falsely (sukofanthshte). The common explanation of this word is based on the derivation from sukon, a fig, and fainw, to make known; hence of informing against persons who exported figs from Attica, contrary to the law, or who plundered sacred fig trees. As informers were tempted to accuse innocent persons by the reward paid for pointing out violators of the law, the verb acquired the meaning to accuse falsely. Such is the old explanation, which is now rejected by scholars, though the real explanation is merely conjectural. The fig tree was the pride of Attica, ranking with honey and olives as one of the principal products, and there is no authority for the statement that there was a time when figs were scarce, and required legal protection against export. Neither is it proven that there was a sacred kind of fig..Rettig, in an interesting paper in the "Studien und Kritiken" (1838), explains that, as tribute in Attica was paid in kind as well as in money, and as figs represented a great deal of property, there was a temptation to make false returns of the amount of figs to the assessors; and that thus a class of informers arose who detected and reported these false returns, and received a percentage of the fine which was imposed. These were known as fig-shewers. Another writer has suggested that the reference is to one who brings figs to light by shaking the tree; and so, metaphorically, to one who makes rich men yield up the fruits of their labor or rascality by false accusation. Whatever explanation we may accept, it is evident that the word had some original connection with figs, and that it came to mean to slander or accuse falsely. From it comes our word sycophant. The sycophants as a class were encouraged at Athens, and their services were rewarded. Socrates is said by Xenophon to have advised Crito to take a sycophant into his pay, in order to thwart another who was annoying him; and this person, says Xenophon, "quickly dicovered on the part of Crito's accusers many illegal acts, and many persons who were enemies to those accusers; one of whom he summoned to a public trial, in which it would be settled what he should suffer or pay, and he would not let him off until he ceased to molest Crito and paid a sum of money besides." Demosthenes thus describes one: "He glides about the market like a scorpion, with his venomous sting all ready, spying out whom he may suprise with misfortune and ruin, and from whom he can most easily extort money, by threatening him with an action dangerous in its consequences....

It is the bane of our city that it protects and cherishes this poisonous brood, and uses them as informers, so that even the honest man must flatter and court them, in order to be safe from their machinations." The word occurs only here and chapters 19;8, of Zacchaeus, the publican. The American Revisers hold to the A.V., and render neither accuse any one wrongfully, extortion being described by the previous word. Wyc., neither make ye false challenge. In the Sept. it is used in the sense of to oppress or deceive.

Wages (oywnioiv). From oyon, cooked meat, and later, generally, provisions. At Athens, especially, fish. Compare ojyarion, fish, John xxi. 9, 10, 13. Hence ojywnion is primarily provision money, and so used of supplies and pay for an army. With this understanding the use of the word at Rom. vi. 23, "the wages of sin," becomes highly suggestive.

vers 15.
Mused (dialogizomenwn). Better as Rev., reasoned. Compare chapter i. 29; and see on Jas. ii. 4.

vers 16.
One mightier (o iscuroterov). The definite article points to an expected personage. Hence better as Rev., he that is mightier.

Unloose (lusai). So also Mark; but Matthew bastasai, to bear. See on Matt. iii. 11.

vers 17.
Fan - floor - purge. See on Matt. iii. 12.

vers 18.
Other (etera). Rather, various, different.

Preached (euhggelizeto). Rev., preserves the fuller meaning of the word according to its etymology: preached good tidings. See on Gospel, Superscription of Matthew.

19, 20. Compare Matt. xiv. 3-5; Mark vi. 17-20.

vers 19.
Being reproved (elegcomenov). See on Jas ii. 9.

Evils (ponhrwn). Of several words in the New Testament denoting evil, this emphasizes evil in its activity. Hence Satan is oJ ponhrov, the evil one. An evil eye (Mark vii. 22) is a mischief working eye. See on Mark vii. 22. Added (proseqhken). Used by Luke twice as often as in all the rest of the New Testament. A very common medical word, used of the application of remedies to the body, as our apply, administer. So Hippocrates, "apply wet sponges to the head;" and Galen, "apply a decoction of acorns," etc.

In prison. See on Matt. xiv. 3.

21-23. Compare Matt. iii. 13-17; Mark i. 9-11.

vers 21.
Was opened (anewcqhnai). So Matthew, but Mark scizomenouv, rent.

vers 22.
The Holy Ghost. Better, Spirit. Matthew has the Spirit of God: Mark, the Spirit.

In a bodily shape. Peculiar to Luke.

Thou art my beloved son. Lit., Thou art my son, the beloved. So Mark. But Matthew, This is my son, the beloved.

vers 23.
Began to be about thirty years of age (hn arcomenov wsei etwn triakonta). Peculiar to Luke. A.V. is wrong. It should be as Rev., when he began (to teach) was about thirty years of age.

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