John 1:28
These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(28) Bethabara beyond Jordan should be, Bethany beyond Jordan. Origen found “Bethany” in “almost all the copies,” but not being able to find the place, he came to the conclusion that it must be Bethabara which he heard of, with a local tradition that John had baptised there; and in this he is followed by the Fathers generally. In support of this the etymology of Bethabara (= “ford-house”) is compared with a possible meaning of Bethany (= “ship-house”), and the two are regarded as popular names of some well-known ford, one of which gradually ceased to be known as the name of this place, because it became appropriated as a name of the Bethany made prominent in the closing scenes of our Lord’s life. On the other hand, it is believed that this argument from etymology is at least precarious; that ignorance of the place after three hundred years—and these years of war and unsettlement—is not unnatural; that the tradition in favour of Bethabara, which was then a favourite place for baptism, is one likely to have grown with this fact; and that we are not justified in adopting the critical decision of Origen, who rejected the almost unanimous evidence of MSS. in favour of this tradition at second hand. We are, moreover, ignorant of the site of Bethabara, and the identification with either Beth-barah (Judges 7:24), or Beth-nimrah (Numbers 32:36; Joshua 13:27), which in some readings of the LXX. had taken the forms Bethabra and Betharaba, gives a position much too far to the south, for the writer is clearly speaking of a place within easy approach of Galilee (John 1:43 and John 2:1), and he is careful to note the succession of days and even hours. It is not inconsistent with this that the narrative in Matthew 3:5 and Mark 1:5 seems to require a place of easy access from Jerusalem, for the positions are not necessarily the same, and the account there is of a general impression, while here we have the minute details of an eye-witness. Himself a disciple of John, he remembers the place where he was then dwelling and baptising, and he knows that this Bethany is “beyond Jordan,” just as he knows that the other is “the town of Mary and her sister Martha” (John 11:1), and that it “was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off (John 11:18). Dr. Caspari believes that a “Bethany” answering the demands of the context is to be found in the village Tellanîje or Tellanihje, which is in the Iolan to the north of the Sea of Galilee (comp. John 10:40). It is near a ford of the Jordan, with several brooks intervening. The identity of name depends upon the frequent substitution by the Arabs of “Tell” (= “hill”) for “Beth” (=“house”), so that the present word represents Beth-anîje, or Bethany. Dr. Caspari’s statement is now accessible to the English reader. Few, perhaps, will fully accept the author’s opinion, “With regard to the accuracy of our conclusion respecting the site, there can, therefore, be no doubt” (Chron. and Geogr., Introd., p. 93), but it is based upon a reading of which there can be no doubt, and is, at least, a probable interpretation.

We have in these verses also a note of time. John now knows the Messiah, though others do not. This inquiry of the legates from Jerusalem was, therefore,, after the baptism of our Lord (John 1:31; John 1:33), and if so, after the Temptation also. (See Note on Matthew 4:1.)

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.In Bethabara - Almost all the ancient manuscripts and versions, instead of "Bethabara" here, have "Bethany," and this is doubtless the true reading. There was a Bethany about 2 miles east of Jerusalem, but there is said also to have been another in the tribe of Reuben, on the east side of the river Jordan, and in this place, probably, John was baptizing. It is about 12 miles above Jericho. The word "Bethabara" means "house or place of a ford." The reading "Bethabara," instead of "Bethany," seems to have arisen from the conjecture of Origen, who found in his day no such place as "Bethany," but saw a town called "Bethabara," where John was said to have baptized, and therefore took the liberty of changing the former reading - Robinson, Lexicon.

Beyond Jordan - On the east side of the Jordan River.

28. Bethabara—Rather, "Bethany" (according to nearly all the best and most ancient manuscripts); not the Bethany of Lazarus, but another of the same name, and distinguished from it as lying "beyond Jordan," on the east. The evangelist had before told us what was done, these words tell us where. Some ancient writers will have the place to have been Bethany; but they seem not to have so well considered John 11:18, where Bethany is said to have been but fifteen furlongs from Jerusalem, and consequently on this side Jordan; whereas the evangelist saith, that this place was peran,

beyond Jordan, in the tribe of Reuben, in the country of Peraea, where John at this time was baptizing, and probably had been so for some time.

These things were done in Bethabara,.... That is, this testimony was bore by John; and this discourse passed between him and the Pharisees, at the place here mentioned; which was a passage over Jordan, where much people walked to go on the other side,

beyond Jordan; and

where also John was baptizing; which brought a great concourse of people together: so that this witness was bore in a very public manner, and before a large number; and it is to this that Christ refers, in John 1:33 for this was so well known, that there was no hiding or denying it: the place where this conversation passed, is in the Vulgate Latin, and all the eastern versions; and in the Alexandrian copy, and many other copies, and so in Nonnus, called Bethany; but as De Dieu observes, Bethany was not beyond Jordan, nor in the wilderness of Judea, but near to Jerusalem, about two miles distant from it; nor was it situated by waters convenient for baptizing, unless they went to the brook Kidron, which indeed was not far from it; but it is clear from the history, that John was not so near Jerusalem; nor did that brook which might be forded over, continues the same learned author, seem fit and proper enough, `"mergendis baptizandorum corporibus", for plunging the bodies of those that were to be baptized'; wherefore he rightly concludes, that either this reading is an error, or there was another Bethany near Jordan: Bethabara signifies "the house of passage", and is thought to be the place where the Israelites passed over Jordan, to go into the land of Canaan, Joshua 3:16. And which, as it must be a very convenient place for the administration of baptism by immersion, used by John, so it was very significant of the use of this ordinance; which is, as it were, the passage, or entrance, into the Gospel church state; for persons ought first to be baptized, and then be admitted into a Gospel church, according to the example of the primitive Christians, Acts 2:41 but whether there was a place of this name, where the Israelites went over Jordan, is not certain; and if there was, it does not seem so likely to be the place here designed, since that was right over against Jericho; whereas this seems to be rather further off, and over against Galilee: there were several passages of Jordan, Judges 12:5. There was a bridge over it, between the lake of Samochon and Gennesaret, now called Jacob's bridge, where Jacob is supposed to have wrestled with the angel, and to have met with his brother Esau; and there was another over it at Chainmath, near Tiberias, and in other places: and it might be at one of these passages, by which they went over into Galilee, that John pitched upon to continue preaching and baptizing at; partly because of the number of people that went over, to whom he had the opportunity of preaching; and partly, for the sake of baptizing those who became proper subjects of that ordinance through his ministry. Some have thought, that this place is the same with Bethbarah, in Judges 7:24, which was either in the tribe of Ephraim or of Manasseh, and not far from the parts where this place must be, but was on this side Jordan; and so Beza says the words should be rendered; and those who came to John at Jordan, are not said to pass over that river: others are of opinion, that Bethabara is the same with Betharabah, Joshua 15:6, since this is called Bethabara by the Septuagint, in Joshua 18:22. However, be it what place soever, and wheresoever, it was no doubt very proper for John's purpose; and therefore he chose it, and for a while continued at it: and here, says Jerom (a).

"to this day many of the brethren, that is, of the number of believers, desiring there to be born again, are baptized in the vital stream;

such veneration had they for the place where John first baptized: Origen says (b), that in his time it was said, that Bethabara was showed by the banks of Jordan, where they report John baptized,

(a) De Locis Hebraicis, fol. 89. L. (b) Comment in Joannemo, Tom. 8. p. 131.

These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
John 1:28. On account of the importance of His public appearance, a definite statement of its locality is again given.

A place so exactly described by John himself (John 11:18), according to its situation, as Bethany on the Mount of Olives, cannot be meant here; there must also have been another Bethany situated in Peraea, probably only a village, of which nothing further is known from history. Origen, investigating both the locality and the text, did not find indeed any Bethany, but a Bethabara instead[114] (comp. Jdg 7:24?), which the legends of his day described as the place of baptism; the legend, however, misled him. For Bethany in Peraea could not have been situated at all in the same latitude with Jericho, as the tradition represents, but must have lain much farther north; for Jesus occupied about three days in travelling thence to the Judaean Bethany for the raising of Lazarus (see on John 11:17). Yet Paulus (following Bolten) understood the place to be Bethany on the Mount of Olives, and puts a period after ἐγένετο, in spite of the facts that τῇ ἐπαύριον (comp. John 1:35) must begin the new narration, and that ὅπου ἦν Ἰωάνν. βαπτ. must clearly refer to John 1:25 ff. Baur, however, makes the name, which according to Schenkel must be attributed to an error of a non-Jewish author, to have been invented, in order to represent Jesus (?) as beginning His public ministry at a Bethany, seeing that He came out of a Bethany at its close. Against the objection still taken to this name even by Weizsäcker (a name which a third person was certainly least of all likely to venture to insert, seeing that Bethany on the Mount of Olives was so well known), see Ewald, Jahrb. XII. p. 214 ff. As to the historic truth of the whole account in John 1:19-28, which, especially by the reality of the situation, by the idiosyncrasy of the questions and answers, and their appropriateness in relation to the characters and circumstances of the time, as well as by their connection with the reckoning of the day in the following verses, reveals the recollections and interest of an eye-witness, see Schweizer, p. 100 ff.; Bleek, Beitr. p. 256.

ὍΠΟΥ ἮΝ ἸΩΆΝΝ. ΒΑΠΤ.] where John was employed in baptizing.

[114] To suppose, with Possinus, Spicil. Evang. p. 32 (in the Catena in Marc. p. 382 f.), that both names have the same signification (בֵּית עֲבָרָה, domus transitus, ford-house; בֵּית אֲנִיָה, domus navis, ferry-house),—a view to which even Lange inclines, L. J. II. 461,—is all the more untenable, seeing that this etymology is not at all appropriate to the position of Bethany on the Mount of Olives. Origen himself explains the name Bethabara with an evident intention to allegorize: οἷχος χατασχευῆς (ברא). The derivation of the name Bethany (Lightfoot: בֵּית הינֵי, house of dates; Simon: בֵּית עֲנִיָּה, locus depressionis; others: בֵּיח עֲנִיָה domus miseri) is doubtful.

Note.—(1.) Seeing that, according to John 1:26-27 (comp. especially ὃν ὑμεῖς οὐκ οἴδατε, which implies his own personal acquaintance), the Baptist already knows the Messiah, while according to John 1:31-33 he first learned to recognise Him at His baptism by means of a divine σημεῖον, it certainly follows that the occurrences related in John 1:19-28 took place after the baptism of Jesus; and consequently this baptism could not have occurred on the same or the following day (Hengstenberg), nor in the time between John 1:31-32 (Ewald). Wieseler, Ebrard, Luthardt, Godet, and most expositors, as already Lücke, Tholuck, De Wette, following the older expositors, rightly regard the events of John 1:19 ff. as subsequent to the baptism. It is futile to appeal, as against this (Brückner), to the “indefiniteness” of the words ὃν ὑμεῖς οὐκ οἴδατε, for there is really no indefiniteness in them; while to refer them to a merely preliminary knowledge, in opposition to the definite acquaintance which began at the baptism, is (against Hengstenberg) a mere subterfuge. That even after the baptism, which had already taken place, John could say, “Ye know Him not,” is sufficiently conceivable, if we adhere to the purely historical account of the baptism, as given in John 1:31-34. See on Matt. p. 111 ff. (2.) Although, according to Matthew 3:14, John already knows Jesus as the Messiah when He came to be baptized of him, there is in this only an apparent discrepancy between the two evangelists, see on John 1:31. (3.) Mark 1:7-8, and Luke 3:16 ff., are not at variance with John; for those passages only speak of the Messiah as being in Himself near at hand, and do not already presuppose any personal acquaintance with Jesus as the Messiah. (4.) The testimonies borne by the Baptist, as recorded in the Synoptics, are, both as to time (before the baptism) and occasion, very different from that recorded in John 1:19 ff., which was given before a deputation from the high court; and therefore the historic truth of both accounts is to be retained side by side,[115] though in details John (against Weisse, who attributes the narrative in John to another hand; so Baur and others) must be taken as the standard. (5.) To deny any reference in John 1:19 ff. to the baptism of Jesus (Baur), is quite irreconcilable with John 1:31; John 1:33; for the evangelist could not but take it for granted that the baptism of Jesus (which indeed Weisse, upon the whole, questions) was a well-known fact. (6.) Definite as is the reference to the baptism of Jesus, there is not to be found any allusion whatever in John’s account to the history of the temptation with its forty days, which can be brought in only before John 1:19, and even then involving a contradiction with the Synoptics. The total absence of any mention of this—important as it would have been in connection with the baptism, and with John’s design generally in view of his idea of the Logos (against B. Crusius)—does not certainly favour the reality of its historic truth as an actual and outward event. Comp. Schleiermacher, L. J. p. 154. If the baptism of Jesus be placed between tbe two testimonies of John 1:19 ff. and John 1:29 ff. (so Hilgenfeld and Brückner, following Olshausen, B. Crusius, and others), which would oblige us still to place it on the day of the first testimony (see Brückner), though Baumlein (in the Stud. u. Krit. 1846, p. 389) would leave this uncertain; then the history of the temptation is as good as expressly excluded by John, because it must find its place (Mark 1:12; Matthew 4:1; Luke 4:1) immediately after the baptism. In opposition to this view, Hengstenberg puts it in the period after John 3:22, which is only an unavailing makeshift.

[115] Keim, Gesch. J. I. p. 522, sees in John’s account not so much an historical narrative, as rather (?) a “very significant literary introduction to the Baptist, who to a certain extent (?) is officially declaring himself. According to Scholten, the Baptist, during his ministry, did not at all recognise Jesus as Messiah, and Matthew 3:14-15 is said to be an addition to the text of Mark;” while the fourth Gospel does not relate the baptism of Jesus, but only mentions the revelation from heaven then made, because to narrate the former would not be appropriate to the Gnosis of the Logos.

John 1:28. ταῦτα ἐν Βηθανίᾳβαπτίζων. The place is mentioned on account of the importance of the testimony thus borne to Jesus, and because the evangelist himself in all probability was present and it was natural to him to name it. But where was it? There is no doubt that the reading Βηθανίᾳ is to be preferred. The addition πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου confirms this reading; as the existence of Bethany near Jerusalem rendered the distinguishing designation necessary. Bethany = בֵּת אֲנִיָּה meaning “boat-house,” and Bethabara having the same meaning [עֲבָרָה a ferry boat] is it not possible that the same place may have been called by both names indifferently? Henderson (Palestine, p. 154) suggests that possibly the explanation of the doubtful reading is that the place referred to is Bethabara which led over into Bethania, that is, Bashan. Similarly Conder (Handbook, p. 320) says Bethania beyond Jordan is evidently the province of Batanea, and the ford Abârah now discovered leads into Batanea. At this place “John was, baptising,” rather than “John was baptizing”.

28. Bethabara] The true reading is Bethany, which was changed to Bethabara owing to the powerful influence of Origen, who could find no Bethany beyond Jordan known in his day. But in 200 years the very name of an obscure place might easily perish. Origen found ‘Bethany’ in almost all the MSS. The site of Bethabara or Bethany is lost now, but it must have been near Galilee: comp. John 1:29 with John 1:43, and see on the ‘four days,’ John 11:17. It is possible to reconcile the two readings. Bethabara has been identified with ’Abârah, one of the main Jordan fords about 14 miles south of the sea of Galilee: and ‘Bethania beyond Jordan’ has been identified with Bashan; Bethania or Batanea being the Aramaic form of the Hebrew Bashan, meaning ‘soft level ground.’ Thus Bethabara is the village or ford; Bethania, the district on the east side of the ford. See Conder, Handbook of the Bible, pp. 315, 320. But see Appendix D.

John 1:28. Ἐν βηθαβαρᾶ, in Bethabara) Therefore they had come a long way, John 1:19.—πέραν) beyond, in relation to Jerusalem.—ὁποῦ, where) Where he was wont to baptize. [Βηθανίᾳ is the reading of the mass of authorities, [31][32][33]*[34][35][36]. Βηθαβαρᾶ was a conjecture of Orige[37]. The Bethany here was one beyond Jordan, which had ceased to exist before Orige[38]’s time.]

[31] the Alexandrine MS.: in Brit. Museum: fifth century: publ. by Woide, 1786–1819: O. and N. Test. defective.

[32] the Vatican MS., 1209: in Vat. Iibr., Rome: fourth cent.: O. and N. Test. def.

[33] Ephræmi Rescriptus: Royal libr., Paris: fifth or sixth cent.: publ. by Tisch. 1843: O. and N. T. def.

[34] Cod. Reg., Paris, of the Gospels: the text akin to that of B: edited by Tisch.

[35] Cod. Monacensis, fragments of the Gospels.

[36] San Gallensis: in the libr. of St. Gall: the Greek and Latin of the four Gospels. It and G. Boernerianus of Paul’s Epp. are severed parts of the same book.

[37] rigen (born about 186 A.D., died 253 A.D., a Greek father: two-thirds of the N. Test. are quoted in his writings). Ed. Vinc. Delarue, Paris. 1733, 1740, 1759.

[38] rigen (born about 186 A.D., died 253 A.D., a Greek father: two-thirds of the N. Test. are quoted in his writings). Ed. Vinc. Delarue, Paris. 1733, 1740, 1759.

Verse 28. - These things were done in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. The fact that John the Baptist, in the previous verses, recognizes the Messiah, and that in vers. 31-33 he declares that knowledge to have followed the baptism and the sign then given to him, makes it obvious that the baptism and the forty days of the temptation are now in the past. Every day is clearly marked from the day on which the deputation from the Sanhedrin approached him, till we find Jesus at Cana, on his way to Jerusalem. Consequently, the baptism of Christ, which was the occasion of the higher knowledge that John acquired concerning him, as well as the temptation, had been consummated. Of this last it would seem highly probable John had received, in subsequent conversation with the Lord, a full report. The Lord had passed through the fiery ordeal. He had accepted the position of the Servant of the Lord, who, in the way of privation, suffering, fierce antagonism from world, flesh, and devil, would win the crown of victory and prove himself to be the Life and Light of the world. This chronological hint appears to me to explain the sudden and surprising utterance of the next verse. John 1:28Bethabara (βηθαναρᾷ)

The correct reading is βηθανία, Bethany. Not the Bethany of John 11:18, but an unknown village. It was not uncommon for two places to have the same name, as the two Bethsaidas, the one on the eastern shore of the Lake of Gennesaret (Mark 6:32, Mark 6:45), and the other on the western shore (John 1:44); the two Caesareas, on the Mediterranean (Acts 8:40), and in Gaulonitis, at the foot of Lebanon, Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13).

Was baptizing (ἦν βαπτίζων)

The participle with the substantive verb indicating continued action; was engaged in baptizing.

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