John 1:32
And John bore record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it stayed on him.
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(32, 33) In these verses the Evangelist again makes prominent the solemn witness of John, giving the process by which conviction had come to his own mind.

(32) I saw.—Better, I have seen, or beheld. The vision is in its result ever present, and is all-conclusive evidence. (Comp. the words in their historic setting, Matthew 3:16, Note.)

1:29-36 John saw Jesus coming to him, and pointed him out as the Lamb of God. The paschal lamb, in the shedding and sprinkling of its blood, the roasting and eating of its flesh, and all the other circumstances of the ordinance, represented the salvation of sinners by faith in Christ. And the lambs sacrificed every morning and evening, can only refer to Christ slain as a sacrifice to redeem us to God by his blood. John came as a preacher of repentance, yet he told his followers that they were to look for the pardon of their sins to Jesus only, and to his death. It agrees with God's glory to pardon all who depend on the atoning sacrifice of Christ. He takes away the sin of the world; purchases pardon for all that repent and believe the gospel. This encourages our faith; if Christ takes away the sin of the world, then why not my sin? He bore sin for us, and so bears it from us. God could have taken away sin, by taking away the sinner, as he took away the sin of the old world; but here is a way of doing away sin, yet sparing the sinner, by making his Son sin, that is, a sin-offering, for us. See Jesus taking away sin, and let that cause hatred of sin, and resolutions against it. Let us not hold that fast, which the Lamb of God came to take away. To confirm his testimony concerning Christ, John declares the appearance at his baptism, in which God himself bore witness to him. He saw and bare record that he is the Son of God. This is the end and object of John's testimony, that Jesus was the promised Messiah. John took every opportunity that offered to lead people to Christ.Bare record - Gave testimony.

I saw the Spirit ... - See the notes at Matthew 3:16-17.

31-34. knew him not—Living mostly apart, the one at Nazareth, the other in the Judean desert—to prevent all appearance of collusion, John only knew that at a definite time after his own call, his Master would show Himself. As He drew near for baptism one day, the last of all the crowd, the spirit of the Baptist heaving under a divine presentiment that the moment had at length arrived, and an air of unwonted serenity and dignity, not without traits, probably, of the family features, appearing in this Stranger, the Spirit said to him as to Samuel of his youthful type, "Arise, anoint Him, for this is He!" (1Sa 16:12). But the sign which he was told to expect was the visible descent of the Spirit upon Him as He emerged out of the baptismal water. Then, catching up the voice from heaven, "he saw and bare record that this is the Son of God." Saith John, According to the revelation which I had, when I received my extraordinary commission to baptize, so it fell out to me, I did see, when he was baptized, the heaven opening, and a representation of the Spirit of God (for no man can see God and live) descending. The form of the representation was like that of a dove. And it was not a mere transient sight, but it did for some time abide upon that person, in that sensible representation; by that token I knew that he was the Son of God. And John bare record,.... The same day that he said the above things, and at the same time:

saying, I saw the Spirit; that is, of God, as is said in Matthew 3:16 and which Nonnus here expresses; and the Ethiopic version reads, "the Holy Ghost",

descending from heaven like a dove; at the time of his baptism; see Gill on Matthew 3:16.

And it abode upon him; for some time; so long as that John had a full sight of it, and so was capable of giving a perfect account of it, and bearing a certain and distinct testimony to it.

{14} And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.

(14) Christ is proved to be the Son of God by the coming down of the Holy Spirit, by the Father's voice, and by John's testimony.

John 1:32. What John had said in John 1:31, viz. that though Jesus was unknown to him as the Messiah, yet his commission was to make Him known to the people, needed explanation; and that as to the way in which he himself had come to recognise Him as the Messiah. This was, indeed, a necessary condition before he could make the φανέρωσις to the people. This explanation he now gives in the following testimony (not first spoken upon another occasion, Ewald) concerning the divine σημεῖον, which he beheld. And the evangelist considers this testimony so weighty, that he does not simply continue the words of the Baptist, but solemnly and emphatically introduces the testimony as such: καὶ ἐμαρτύρησεν, κ.τ.λ., words which are not therefore parenthetical (Bengel, Lücke, and most), but from an impressive part of the record: “And a testimony did John bear, when he said.” The following ὅτι simply recitative.

τεθέαμαι] I have seen; Perfect, like ἑώρακα in John 1:34, which see. The phenomenon itself took place at the baptism, which is assumed as known through the Gospel tradition, and is referred to in John 1:33 by ὁ πέμψας με βαπτίζειν ἐν ὕδατι, which implies that the σημεῖον was to take place at the baptism of the person spoken of. This is in answer to Baur, p. 104 ff., according to whom there is no room here for the supposition that Jesus was baptized by John,—an assertion all the more groundless, because if we insert the baptism of Jesus before John 1:19, there is no place in the plan of this Gospel for the narration of a fact which is assumed as universally known.

The sight itself here spoken of was no mere production of the imagination, but a real sight; it indicates an actual event divinely brought about, which was traditionally worked up by the Synoptics into a visible occurrence more or less objective (most unhesitatingly by Luke), but which can be the subject of testimony only by virtue of a θεωρία νοητική (Origen). See on Matthew 3:17, note.

ὡς περιστεράν] i.e. shaped like a dove: ἀντίτυπον μίμημα πελειάδος, Nonnus. See on Matthew 3:16. According to Ewald, “the sudden downward flight of a bird, coming near to Him at the moment, confirmed the Baptist’s presentiment,” etc. Conjectures of this kind are additions quite alien to the prophetic mode of view.

καὶ ἔμεινεν ἐπʼ αὐτόν] The transition here to the finite verb is owing to the importance of the fact stated. Bernhardy, p. 473; Buttmann, N. T. Gk. p. 327 [E. T. p. 382]. ἐπʼ αὐτόν, however, is not synonymous with ἐπʼ αὐτοῦ (John 19:31); the idea is, “remained (‘fluttered not away,’ Luther) directed towards Him.” We are to suppose the appearance of a dove coming down, and poising itself for a considerable time over the head of the person. See on ἐπί with the accusative (John 3:36; 1 Peter 4:14), seemingly on the question “where?” Schaef. ad Long. p. 427; Matthiae, p. 1375; Kühner, ad Xen. Anab. i. 2. 2.John 1:32. τεθέαμαι τὸ πνεῦμαἐπʼ αὐτόν. “I have seen the Spirit coming down like a dove out of heaven, and it remained upon Him.” “I have seen, perfect, in reference to the sign divinely intimated to him, in the abiding fulfilment of which he now stood.” Alford. τεθέαμαι is used (as in John 1:14) in its sense of seeing with intelligence, with mental or spiritual observation and inference (cf. Aristoph., Clouds, 363, “Have you ever seen it rain without elouds?”). In what sense did the Baptist “see” the Spirit descending? Origen distinctly declared that these words οἰκονομὶας τρόπῳ γέγραπται οὐχ ἱστορικὴν διήγησιν ἔχοντα ἀλλὰ θεωρίαν νοητήν, ii. 239. The ὡς περιστερὰν ἐξ οὐρανοῦ does not necessarily involve that an actual dove was visible. It was not the dove which was to be the sign; but, as the Baptist affirms in John 1:33, the descent and abiding of the Spirit. John was scarcely the type of man who would be determined in an important course of action by the appearance of a bird. What he saw was the Spirit descending. This he can best have seen in the demeanour of Jesus, in His lowliness and sympathy and holiness, all of which came to their perfect bloom at and in His baptism. It was the possession of this spirit by Jesus that convinced John that He could baptise with the Holy Spirit. That this conviction came to him at the baptism of Christ with a clearness and firmness which authenticated it as divine is guaranteed by the words of this verse. It was as plain to him that Jesus was possessed by the Spirit as if he had seen the Spirit in a visible shape alighting upon Him. To a mind absorbed in this one idea it may have actually seemed as if he saw it with his bodily eyes. Ambrose, De Sacram., i., 5, “Spiritus autem sanctus non in veritate columbae, sed in specie columbae descendit de coelo”. The dove was in the East a sacred bird, and the brooding dove was symbolic of the quickening warmth of nature. In Jewish writings the Spirit hovering over the primeval waters is expressly compared to a dove: “Spiritus Dei ferebatur super aquas, sicut columba, quae fertur super pullos suos nec tangit illos”. Cf. also Noah’s dove as symbol of the new creation. (See Suicer, s.v., περιστερά, and Strauss, i., 362.) Such a symbol of the Spirit would scarcely have been imagined by the Baptist, who was all for stern and violent methods.32. bare record] Better, bare witness; comp. John 1:7-8; John 1:15; John 1:19; John 1:34.

I saw] Better, I have beheld, or contemplated (1 John 4:12; 1 John 4:14), the perfect of the verb used in John 1:14; John 1:38.

like a dove] This was perhaps visible to Christ and the Baptist alone. A real appearance is the natural meaning here and is insisted on by S. Luke (Luke 3:22). And if we admit the ‘bodily shape’ at all, there can be no sound reason for rejecting the dove. The marvel is that the Holy Spirit should be visible in any way (comp. ‘the tongues of fire,’ Acts 2:3), not that He should assume the form of a dove in particular. Of course this visible descent of the Spirit made no change in the nature of Christ. It served two purposes, (1) to make the Messiah known to the Baptist, and through him to the world; (2) to mark the official commencement of the ministry of the Messiah, like the anointing of a king. The whole incident is very parallel to the Transfiguration. In both Christ is miraculously glorified previous to setting out to suffer; in both a voice from heaven bears witness to Him; at both ‘the goodly fellowship of the Prophets’ is nobly represented.John 1:32. Ἐμαρτύρησεν, bare record) as concerning a fact seen by himself and not by the people. The words which follow [comp. John 1:34] were part of his record [testimony]: the words which are spoken, John 1:29, etc. [comp. John 1:15; John 1:27], were part of his demonstration [the clear proof of Jesus’ Messiahship, which John demonstrated] from the record. The Evangelist interposes this in the midst of the connected words of the Baptist, as a sort of parenthesis; ἐμαρτύρησενὅτι, John bare record, saying.—τεθέαμαι) I beheld.—ἐξούρανοῦ, from heaven) Construe this with καταβαῖνον, descending. The descent, at least in its last and lowest part, was equally determinate [in its direction] towards Jesus, as its abiding on Him.—ἔμεινεν, it abode) with a considerable stay [continuance].Verses 32, 33. - And John bore testimony, saying, I have seen (perfect) the Spirit descending like a dove out of heaven, and it (he) abode upon him. And I knew him not, but he that sent me to baptize with (in) water, he said to me, Upon whomsoever thou mayest see the Holy Spirit descending, and abiding on him, this (one) is he that baptizeth with (in) the Holy Spirit. The preparation by special teaching for a mysterious vision is the key to the vision itself, which John is here said to have described. There can be no reasonable doubt that the evangelist makes reference to the synoptic tradition of the baptism of Jesus by John, although it may suit some uncompromising opponents of the Fourth Gospel to say that the baptism is here omitted. The act of the rite is not totidem verbis described; but the chief accompaniment and real meaning of the baptism is specially portrayed. All the well known cycles of criticism make their special assault on the narratives at this point. Rationalism finds in a thunderstorm and the casual flight of a pigeon what John magnified into a supernatural portent; Straussianism sees the growth of a legend from prepared sources of Hebrew tradition, and endeavours to aggravate into irreconcilable discrepancy the various accounts; Baur and Hilgenfeld accentuate the objectively supernatural portent, so as the more easily to put it into the region of ignorant superstition; others find the hint or sign of Gnostic handling; and Keim suggests that it is the poetic colouring which a later age unconsciously attributed to the Baptist and the Christ. Let it be noticed:

(1) That the present Gospel does not augment, but diminishes, the miraculous element as compared with the synoptic narrative. The 'Gospel of the Hebrews ' added further embellishments still. Our Gospel compels us to believe that the mind of the Baptist was the chief region of the miracle.

(2) The author of this Gospel might, if he had chosen, have selected his own experience on the Mount of Transfiguration in vindication of a Divine attestation of the Sonship; but he preferred to fall back upon the testimony of his revered master. Peter, James, and John were unprepared for what they saw and heard on that occasion; and Peter knew not what he said, so great was the awful wonder that fell upon him then. Here, however, is recorded a vision for which the mind of the great forerunner was prepared. He expected to see the Spirit of God in some manner blend his energy with that of the individual who would prove to be the Baptizer with the Holy Ghost.

(3) John does not discriminate the methods of the two communications, and from this narrative all that could be inferred positively is that the mind of John, by objective or subjective process, of which we know nothing, received the communication and the sacred impression.

(4) The synoptic narrative, prima facie, differs from this representation. At all events Luke 3:21, 22 speaks of "opened heavens," "the Holy Spirit in bodily form as a dove," and a voice addressed to the Lord, "Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased." This account is taken by Strauss as the key to the other three, and he urges that they must all be interpreted in harmony with it. But from the time of Origen, the exegesis of Matthew's account no less emphatically states (i.e. if with De Wette, Bleck, Baur, and Keim, we take ὁ Ιωάννης as the subject of εϊδεν) that John saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove and coming upon (Christ) him, and that the voice was addressed to John, "This is my beloved Son," etc. In Mark's account the εϊδεν and αὐτόν are susceptible of the same interpretation. It should be observed that Luke's narrative clearly implies that our Lord's baptism took place at some unspecified opportunity, and simply gives the summing up of the impression produced upon the mind of John. It is more reasonable to interpret Luke in harmony with the main conception of Matthew and John than to press the latter into forced harmony with the former.

(5) The great difficulty is the expression, σωματικῷ εἴδει. But surely the prophetic mind was accustomed to dwell in the midst of similar visual shapes of spiritual things. There was σωματικὸν εἴδος enough in the cherubim, olive trees, horses, armies, vials, and cities of the Apocalypse, and there were "voices" heard by Ezekiel, Hosea, Elijah, and by John himself which could be, were, and even must be, described in terms of physical facts, which no interpreters have ever felt compelled to transfer into the region of phenomena. There are still intensely vivid intuitions of spiritual fact which transcend all sensible or logical proof. If John saw and heard these things so far as his own consciousness was concerned, there is enough to account for every peculiarity of the narrative. He saw the Shechinah glory hovering over the Lord Jesus, officially consecrating a human personality. The dovelike (ὡς περιστερὰν) form and motion taken by the heavenly light reminded him of the brooding of the Spirit of God upon the primaeval waters. He looked into the face of the Holy One of God - majesty and meekness, Divine glory, human gentleness, a sanctity as of the holy place, a freedom as of the birds of heaven, force like that of the steeds of the rising sun, inward peace like the calm of a brooding dove, transfigured the Lord. This dovelike splendour abode upon him, passed into him; and the voice (the invincible conviction, the resistless consciousness that often can find no other expression than "Thus saith the Lord") was heard, "This is my beloved Son," etc. We cannot say what John saw; we know what he said; and it covered the consciousness of the most stupendous reality yet enacted on the earth. That which John had been taught to predict as approaching was now seen to have actually come about, he who baptizeth with the Holy Ghost has commenced his wondrous mission.

(6) The whole question as to the relation of the Holy Spirit and the Logos - the relation between the statement of ver. 13 and vers. 31-33 - demands special consideration. A few words here may suffice. Baur, Eichhorn, and others have urged that either the Λόγος and Πνεῦμα are identical, and that that which John means (vers. 1-14) by the Logos he afterwards resolves into the pneuma, or that this scene and these words are incompatible with the prologue. It is true that Philo and Justin ('Apol.,' 1:33) do use the two terms as practically identical. But John has recorded our Lord's own words as to the antithesis of the πνεῦμα and σάρξ (ch. 3.), declaring in his prologue that the Logos is the Source of all the life and light of men, and that the Logos came into the world and became flesh. Now, if John did not abide firmly in this thought, he would have represented incarnate God as undergoing the process of regeneration at his baptism, than which nothing would be more abhorrent to his entire theory of the Christ. The relations of the Logos and the Pneuma to each other and to the Father, metaphysically considered, are profoundly intricate, but the relations of Father, Word, and Holy Spirit to the Person of the Lord Jesus have been several times asserted by the apostles, and cannot be interchanged (see my 'John the Baptist,' lect. 5; Lucke, 'Comm. uber d. Evang. Joh.,' vol. 1. pp. 433-443) Bare record (ἐμαρτύρησεν)

Better, bear witness, as Rev. See on John 1:7.

I saw (τεθέαμαι)

Rev., more correctly, gives the force of the perfect tense, I have beheld. Calmly and thoughtfully; see on John 1:14. The perfect indicates the abiding effect of the vision. Compare ἑώρακα, I have seen (John 1:34).

As a dove (ὡσεὶ περιστερὰν)

In the shape of a dove. See on Matthew 3:16.

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