Jesus’ baptism (Mt 3:16-3:16)

“When Jesus had been baptized,

Just as he came up

From the water,

Suddenly,

The heavens were opened

To him.

He saw

The Spirit of God

Descending

Like a dove,

Alighting on him.”

 

βαπτισθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εὐθὺς ἀνέβη ἀπὸ τοῦ ὕδατος· καὶ ἰδοὺ ἠνεῴχθησαν οἱ οὐρανοί, καὶ εἶδεν Πνεῦμα Θεοῦ καταβαῖνον ὡσεὶ περιστερὰν ἐρχόμενον ἐπ’ αὐτόν·

 

The four gospel stories show what happend to Jesus after he had been baptized (βαπτισθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς).  As Jesus immediately emerged from the water (εὐθὺς ἀνέβη ἀπὸ τοῦ ὕδατος), the heavens opened up or broke open to him (καὶ ἰδοὺ ἠνεῴχθησαν οἱ οὐρανοί), a theme found among the prophets Isaiah, chapter 63:19, and Ezekiel, chapter 1:1.  Thus, Matthew made another connection with the Hebrew prophets.  Jesus saw the Holy Spirit of God (καὶ εἶδεν Πνεῦμα Θεοῦ) descend on him (καταβαῖνον ἐρχόμενον ἐπ’ αὐτόν) like a dove (ὡσεὶ περιστερὰν).  As Jesus came up from the water, not during the baptism itself, the Holy Spirit, as a dove, came to stay on Jesus.  Just as the dove after the great flood in Genesis, chapter 8:8-12, heralded a new age, so too Jesus would preach the good news in this new age.  With his prophetic vocation, Jesus was anointed with power to begin his public ministry of healing and exorcising.  The later concept of the anointing of Jesus with the Spirit referred to this action of the dove, after his baptism in the Jordan.  There was a clear distinction between the baptism of Jesus himself, and the specific dove bestowal of the Spirit that followed.  Despite the fact that there was no indication of any real anointing in any of these baptismal accounts of Jesus, the coming of the Spirit, in the form of a dove, was considered a symbolic anointing of Jesus within the Judaic prophetic line.  This incident functioned as the basis for an understanding of Jesus’ metaphorical anointing as “the anointed one,” “Christ.”  This symbolic metaphorical anointing action gathered many of the Hebrew bible strands of a messianic king, a sacerdotal high priest, a servant, and a prophet into this one event.   Within this process, the messianic time began with a pre-figuration of what was going to take place at the later Pentecost event, when the fullness of the Spirit came to all the followers of Jesus.

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