John 1:24
And they which were sent were of the Pharisees.
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(24) They which were sent.—The best MSS. omit the relative, and the verse thus becomes, “And they had been sent from the Pharisees.” (For account of the Pharisees, see Note on Matthew 3:7.) The statement is made to explain the question which follows, but it should be observed that in this Gospel, where the Sadducees are nowhere mentioned, the term “Pharisees” seems to be used almost in the sense of “Sanhedrin.” (Comp. John 4:1; John 8:3; John 11:46; John 11:57.)

John 1:24-28. They which were sent were of the Pharisees — Who were peculiarly tenacious of old customs, and jealous of any innovations, (except those brought in by their own scribes,) unless the innovator had unquestionable proofs of divine authority. Add to this, the decisions of the Pharisees were held by the common people as infallible. And, as their sect had declared that only proselytes were to be baptized, on this account also they found fault with John for baptizing; saying, Why baptizest thou then — Without any commission from the sanhedrim; and not only heathen, (who were always baptized before they were admitted to circumcision,) but Jews also? if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, &c. — The Jews, it seems, had conceived an opinion that they were all to be baptized when the Messiah came, either by himself, or by some of his retinue, because it was said, (Zechariah 13:1,) In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David, &c., for sin and for uncleanness. They thought that John’s altering, in this manner, their institutions, was an exercise of authority which, by his own confession, did not belong to him. John answered, I baptize you with water — To prepare you for the Messiah; I call you to repentance and amendment of life, and admit the penitent to my baptism, to represent to you that reformation of conduct and purity of heart which are requisite, in order to the reception of him. Hereby also John showed, that Jews as well as Gentiles must be proselytes to Christ; and that the former, as well as the latter, stood in need of being washed from their sins. I baptize you: but observe, it is with water only, which cannot cleanse you from your sins, as the washing predicted by Zechariah will do. But there standeth one among you, &c. — That more efficacious baptism will be dispensed unto you by the Messiah, who is at present among you, though you do not know him, because he has not manifested himself. He coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoes, &c. — Besides, in dignity the Messiah is infinitely my superior, for I am not worthy to be his servant, or to do him the meanest offices. These things were done in Bethabara, where John was baptizing — Consequently, in the presence of a great multitude of people. The word, Bethabara, signifies, the house of passage. It lay near that part of the river which was miraculously dried up, that the Israelites, under the command of Joshua, might pass over into Canaan. See Joshua 3:6, and Jdg 12:6.

1:19-28 John disowns himself to be the Christ, who was now expected and waited for. He came in the spirit and power of Elias, but he was not the person of Elias. John was not that Prophet whom Moses said the Lord would raise up to them of their brethren, like unto him. He was not such a prophet as they expected, who would rescue them from the Romans. He gave such an account of himself, as might excite and awaken them to hearken to him. He baptized the people with water as a profession of repentance, and as an outward sign of the spiritual blessings to be conferred on them by the Messiah, who was in the midst of them, though they knew him not, and to whom he was unworthy to render the meanest service.Were of the Pharisees - For an account of this sect, see the notes at Matthew 3:7. Why they are particularly mentioned is not certainly known. Many of the "Sadducees" came to his baptism Matthew 3:7, but it seems that they did not join in sending to him to know what was the design of John. This circumstance is one of those incidental and delicate allusions which would occur to no impostor in forging a book, and which show that the writers of the New Testament were honest men and knew what they affirmed. Because:

1. The Pharisees composed a great part of the Sanhedrin, Acts 23:6. It is probable that a deputation from the Sanhedrin would be of that party.

2. The Pharisees were very tenacious of rites and customs, of traditions and ceremonies. They observed many. They believed that they were lawful, Mark 7:3-4. Of course, they believed that those rites might be increased, but they did not suppose that it could be done except by the authority of a prophet or of the Messiah. When, therefore, John came "baptizing" - adding a rite to be observed by his followers - baptizing not only Gentiles, but also Jews - the question was whether he had authority to institute a new rite; whether it was to be received among the ceremonies of religion. In this question the Sadducees felt no interest, for they rejected all such rites at once; but the Pharisees thought it was worth inquiry, and it was a question on which they felt themselves specially called on to act as the guardians of the ceremonies of religion.

21. Elias—in His own proper person.

that prophet—announced in De 18:15, &c., about whom they seem not to have been agreed whether he were the same with the Messiah or no.

Who these Pharisees were hath been before explained in our notes on Matthew 3:7. They were of the strictest sect of the Jewish religion, Acts 26:5. The greatest part of their councils was made up of those of this sect, as may be learned from Acts 23:1-10. They were the men most zealous for and tenacious of the Jewish rites; and would allow nothing to be added to the Jewish worship to what they had received concerning it, either from the law of God, or the traditions of the elders.

And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. Who were the straitest sect of religion among the Jews; were very zealous of the traditions of the elders, and professed an expectation of the Messiah; and were famous in the nation for their knowledge and learning, as well as for their devotion and sanctity: and many of them were in the sanhedrim, as appears from John 3:1; see Gill on Matthew 3:7. {12} And they which were sent were of the Pharisees.

(12) Christ is the author of baptism, and not John: and therefore the authority of this does not come from John, who is the minister, but wholly from Christ the Lord.

John 1:24 ff. The inquiry, which proceeds still further, finds a pragmatic issue in pharisaic style (for the Sanhedrim had chosen their deputies from this learned, orthodox, and crafty party). From their strict scholastic standing-point, they could allow (οὖν) so thoroughly reformatory an innovation as that of baptism (see on Matthew 3:5), considering its connection with Messiah’s kingdom, only to the definite personalities of the Messiah, Elias, or the promised prophet, and not to a man with so vague a call as that which the Baptist from Isaiah 40:3 ascribed to himself,—a passage which the Pharisees had not thought of explaining in a Messianic sense, and were not accustomed so to apply it in their schools. Hence the parenthetical remark just here inserted: “And they that were sent belonged to the Pharisees,”—a statement, therefore, which points forwards, and does not serve as a supplementary explanation of the hostile spirit of the question (Euthymius Zigabenus, Lücke, and most others).

The reply corresponds to what the Baptist had said of himself in John 1:23, that he was appointed to prepare the way for the Messiah. His baptism, consequently, was not the baptism of the Spirit, which was reserved for the Messiah (John 1:33), but a baptism of water, yet without the elementum coeleste; there was already standing, however, in their midst the far greater One, to whom this preparatory baptism pointed. The first clause of the verse, ἐγὼ βαπτ. ἐν ὕδατι, implies, therefore, that by his baptism he does not lay claim to anything that belongs to the Messiah (the baptism of the Spirit); and this portion refers to the εἰ σὺ οὐκ εἶ ὁ Χριστός of John 1:25. The second clause, however, μέσος, etc., implies that this preliminary baptism of his had now the justification, owing to his relation to the Messiah, of a divinely ordained necessity (John 1:23); since the Messiah, unknown indeed to them, already stood in their midst, and consequently what they allowed to Elias, or the prophet, dare not be left unperformed on his part; and this part of his answer refers to the οὐδὲ Ἠλίας οὐδὲ ὁ προφήτης in John 1:25. Thus the question τί οὖν βαπτίζεις is answered by a twofold reason. There is much that is inappropriate in the remarks of expositors, who have not sufficiently attended to the connection: e.g., De Wette overlooks the appropriateness of the answer to the Elias question; Tholuck contents himself with an appeal to the “laconic-comma style” of the Baptist; and Brückner thinks that “John wished to give no definite answer, but yet to indicate his relation to the Messiah, and the fact of his pointing to Him;” while Bäumlein holds that the antithetical clause, ὃς βαπτίσει ἐν πνεύμ. ἁγ., which was already intended to be here inserted, was forgotten, owing to the intervening sentences; and finally, Hilgenfeld, after comparing together Matthew and Luke, deduces the unhistorical character of the narrative. Heracleon already was even of opinion that John did not answer according to the question asked of him, but as he αὐτὸς ἐβούλετο. In answer to him, Origen.

ἐγώ] has the emphasis of an antithesis to the higher Baptizer (μέσος δὲ, etc.), not to ὑμεῖς (Godet). Next to this, the stress lies on ἐν ὕδατι. This is the element (see on Matthew 3:11) in which his baptism was performed. This otherwise superfluous addition has a limiting force, and hence is important.

μέσος without the spurious δὲ is all the more emphatic; see on John 1:17. The emphasizing of the antithesis, however, has brought this μέσος] to the front, because it was the manifestation of the Messiah, already taking place in the very midst of the Jews, which justified John in baptizing. Had the Messiah been still far off, that baptism would have lacked its divine necessity; He was, however, standing in their midst, i.e. ἀναμεμιγμένος τότε τῷ λαῷ (Euthymius Zigabenus).

ὃν ὑμεῖς οὐκ οἴδατε] reveals the reason why they could question as they had done in John 1:25. The emphasis is on ὑμεῖς, as always (against Tholuck); here in contrast with the knowledge which he himself had (see on John 1:28, note) of the manifested Messiah: you on your part, you people, have the Messiah among you, and know Him not (that is, as the Messiah). In John 1:27, after rejecting the words αὐτός ἐστιν and ὃς ἔμπροσ. μου γέγονεν (see the critical notes), there remains only ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος (John 1:15), and that in fact as the subject of μέσος ἕστηκεν, which subject then receives the designation of its superiority over the Baptist in the οὗ ἐγὼ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἄξιος, κ.τ.λ. Concerning this designation, see on Matthew 3:11.

ἐγώ] I for my part.

ἄξιος ἵνα] worthy that I should loose; ἵνα introduces the purpose of the ἀξιότης. Comp. ἱκανὸς ἵνα, Matthew 8:8, Luke 7:6.

αὐτοῦ] placed first for emphasis, and corresponding to the ἐγώ. On αὐτοῦ after οὗ, see Winer, p. 140 [E. T. p. 184]. Τούτου would have been still more emphatic.

John 1:24. καὶ ἀπεσταλμένοι ἦσαν ἐκ τῶν Φαρισαίων. This gives us the meaning “And they had been sent from,” which is not so congruous with the context as “And they who were sent were of the Pharisees”; because apparently this clause was inserted to explain the following question (John 1:25): τί οὖν βαπτίζειςὁ προφήτης; Founding on Zechariah 13:1, “In that day there shall be a fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness,” and on Ezekiel 36:25, “then will I sprinkle clean water upon you,” they expected a general purification before the coming of the Messiah. Hence their question. If John was not the Messiah, nor the prophet, nor Elias in close connection with the Messiah, why did he baptise? Lightfoot (Hor. Heb., p. 965) quotes from Kiddushin “Elias venit ad immundos distinguendum et ad purificandum”. See also Ammonius and Beza quoted in Lampe. In reply to this objection of the Pharisees (John 1:26) John says: ἐγὼ βαπτίζωτοῦ ὑποδήματος, “I for my part baptise with water”; the emphatic “I” leading us to expect mention of another with whom a contrast is drawn. This contrast is further signified by the mention of the element of the baptism, ἐν ὕδατι; a merely symbolic element, but also the element by baptism in which preparation for the Messiah was to be made. And John’s administration of this precursory baptism is justified by the fact he immediately states, μέσος ὑμῶν στήκει ὃν ὑμεῖς οὐκ οἴδατε. Had they been aware of this presence (ὑμεῖς emphatic) as John was aware of it, they could not have challenged the baptism of John, because it was the divinely appointed preparation for the Messiah’s advent. This scarcely amounts to what Lampe calls it, “nova exprobratio ignorantiae Pharisaeorum” (Isaiah 42:19; Isaiah 29:14), because as yet they had had no opportunity of knowing the Christ.—μέσος ὑμῶν. There is no reason why the words should not be taken strictly. So Euthymius, ἦν γὰρ ὁ Χριστὸς ἀναμεμιγμένος τότε τῷ λαῷ.—ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος, denoting the immediate arrival of the Messiah and John’s close connection with Him. He is further described relatively to John as inconceivably exalted above him, οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶὑποδήματος. The grammatical form admitting both the relative and pers. pronoun is Hebraistic. ἄξιος ἵνα also stands instead of the classical construction with the infinitive. Talmudists quote the saying: “Every service which a servant will perform for his master, a disciple will do for his Rabbi, except loosing his sandal thong”.

24. And they which, &c.] Perhaps the better reading is, and there had been sent some of the Pharisees. S. John mentions neither Sadducees nor Herodians; only the Pharisees, the sect most opposed to Christ, is remembered by the Evangelist who had gone furthest from Judaism.

John 1:24. Ἐκ τῶν φαρισαίων, of the Pharisees) who made a great point of Jewish baptism; and acknowledged the baptism of John to be a thing of great moment, not to be administered except by one having a Divine mission. The evangelist is wont to set down certain, as it were, parentheses, as to causes, as to place, as to occasions, as to ends, as to effects, as to hindrances, of things, actions and speeches, and similar decisions, by means of which the subjects, which are in hand, may the more clearly be understood, John 1:28; John 1:45; John 3:24; John 4:8; John 6:4; John 7:5; John 7:39; John 8:20; John 8:27; John 9:14; John 9:22; John 10:22-23; John 11:13; John 11:30; John 12:33.

Verse 24. - And they had been sent from the Pharisees, which amounts to the same thing as "they which were sent were of the Pharisees," and it is after the manner of John to introduce explanatory, retrospective comment, which may throw light on what follows (vers. 41, 45; John 4:30; John 11:5). The οϋν of the following verse shows that we have still to do with the same deputation. The Pharisees were accustomed to lustral rites, but had legal points to make as to the authority of any man who dared to impose them upon the sacred nation, and especially on their own section, which made its special boast of ceremonial exactitude and purity. They might justify an old prophet, or the Elijah of Malachi, and still more the Christ himself, should he call men to baptismal cleansing. But the dim mysterious "voice in the wilderness," even if John could prove his words, had no such prescriptive claim. The Pharisaic priests and Levites would take strong views on the baptismal question, and even exalt it into a more eminent place in their thoughts than the fundamental question, "Art thou the very Christ?" The same confusion of essential and accidental elements of religious truth and life was not confined to old Pharisees. John 1:24They which were sent were (εὐθύνατε τὴν ὁδον)

Literally, those having been sent were. But the best texts omit the article, so that the remaining words form the pluperfect passive: "they had been sent from the Pharisees." This addition of an explanatory circumstance is characteristic of John. Compare John 1:41, John 1:45; John 9:14; John 11:5, John 11:18; John 13:23.

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