John 1:31
And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(31) And I knew him not.—Better, and I also knew Him not; so again in John 1:33. The reference is to “whom ye know not” of John 1:26, and the assertion is not, therefore, inconsistent with the fact that John did know Him on His approach to baptism (Matthew 3:13, see Note). In the sense that they did not know Him standing among them, he did not know Him, though with the incidents of His birth and earlier years and even features he must have been familiar. It cannot be that the Son of Mary was unknown to the son of Elizabeth, though One had dwelt in Nazareth and the other “was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel” (Luke 1:80; Luke 2:51). He knew not all, but there must have been many wondering thoughts of that wondrous life. Could it be the life that all looked for? but no; there was little of the Jewish idea of the Messiah in the carpenter of a country village (comp. Mark 6:3). What he did know was, that his own work as herald declared “that He should be made manifest to Israel,” and in that conviction he proclaimed the coming King, and began the Messianic baptism. The Person would be His own witness. Heaven would give its own sign to those who could spiritually read it. The Baptiser with the Spirit would Himself be so fully baptised with the Spirit coming upon and dwelling in Him, that to the spiritual eye it would take visual form and be seen “as a dove descending from heaven.”

Am I come.—Better, came.

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.I knew him not - John was not personally acquainted with Jesus. Though they were remotely related to each other, yet it seems that they had had heretofore no personal acquaintance. John had lived chiefly in the hill country of Judea. Jesus had been employed with Joseph at Nazareth. Until Jesus came to be baptized Matthew 3:13-14, it seems that John had no acquaintance with him. He understood that he was to announce that the Messiah was about to appear. He was sent to proclaim his coming, but he did not personally know Jesus, or that he was to be the Messiah. This proves that there could have been no collusion or agreement between them to impose on the people.

Should be made manifest - That the Messiah should be "exhibited," or made known. He came to prepare the way for the Messiah, and it now appeared that the Messiah was Jesus of Nazareth.

To Israel - To the Jews.

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." This verse is best expounded by John 1:33, where the same words are repeated, I knew him not; and it is added, but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, &c. Lest any should think that Christ and John had compacted together to give one another credit, or that there was some near relation between John and Christ, John saith, I knew him not; for Christ had spent his time at home, Luke 2:51, John had lived in desert places; the providence of God so ordering it, that John should not know Christ so much as by face, until that time came when Christ was to be made manifest to Israel. But that God might make his Song of Solomon manifest unto Israel, when God by an extraordinary mission sent John to baptize with water, he gave him this token, That he upon whom he should see the Spirit descending and remaining on him, as John 1:33, that was the Messiah, the Lamb of God, that should take away the sin of the world; he who should baptize with the Holy Ghost.

And therefore (saith John) am I come baptizing with water. I did not run without sending, nor introduce a new rite or sacrament without commission; but being thus sent of God, and that I might give Christ an opportunity of coming to me, that I might see the Spirit descending and remaining upon him. From whence we learn, that none but Christ can institute a sacrament. John baptized not, till he was sent to baptize with water. And I knew him not,.... "by sight", as Nonnus paraphrases it; personally he had never seen him, nor had had any conversation and familiarity with him; for though they were related to each other, yet lived at such a distance, as not to know one another, or have a correspondence with each other: John was in the deserts, until the day of his showing unto Israel; and Christ dwelt with his parents at Nazareth, in a very mean and obscure manner, till he came from thence to Jordan to John, to be baptized by him; and which was the first interview they had: and this was so ordered by providence, as also this is said by John, lest it should be thought, that the testimony he bore to Jesus, and the high commendation he gave of him, arose from the relation between them; or from a confederacy and compact they had entered into:

but that he should be made manifest to Israel; who had been for many years hid in Galilee, an obscure part of the world: and though he had been known to Joseph and Mary, and to Zacharias and Elisabeth, and to Simeon and Anna; yet he was not made manifest to the people of Israel in common; nor did they know that the Messiah was come: but that he might be known:

therefore am I come baptizing with water; or in water, as before: for by administering this new ordinance, the people were naturally put upon inquiry after the Messiah, whether come, and where he was, since such a new rite was introduced; and besides, John, when he baptized any, he exhorted them to believe on him, which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus; and moreover, by Christ's coming to his baptism, he came to have a personal knowledge of him himself, and so was capable of pointing him out, and making him manifest to others, as he did.

And {q} I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.

(q) I never knew him by face before.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
John 1:31. Κἀγώ] not I also, like all others, but and I, resuming and carrying forward the ἐγώ of John 1:30. Though the Baptist had borne witness in a general way concerning the Messiah, as John 1:30 affirms, Jesus was, at the time when he bare that witness, still unknown to him as in His own person the historic Messiah. John 1:34 shows that καὶ in κἀγώ is the simple and; for the thrice repeated κἀγώ, John 1:31-34, can only be arbitrarily interpreted in different senses. The emphasis of the ἐγώ, however (I on my part), consists in his ignorance of the special individuality, in the face of the divine revelation which he had received.

οὐκ ᾔδειν αὐτόν] that is, as the Messiah, see John 1:33; not “as the manifestation of a pre-existent personality” (Hilgenfeld); still not denying, in general, every kind of previous acquaintance with Jesus (Lücke, Godet), which the following ἵνα φανερωθῇ and ὃν ὑμεῖς οὐκ οἴδατε in John 1:26 forbid. This οὐκ ᾔδειν leaves it quite uncertain whether the Baptist had any personal acquaintance generally with Jesus (and this is by no means placed beyond doubt by the legendary prefatory history in Luke 1:36 ff., which is quite irreconcilable with the text before us). That Jesus was the Messiah became known to the Baptist only at the baptism itself, by the sign of the descending dove; and this sign was immediately preceded only by the prophetic presentiment of which Matthew 3:14 is the impress (see on that passage). Accordingly, we are not to assume any contradiction between our text and Matt. l.c. (Strauss, Baur, and most others), nor leave the οὐκ ᾔδειν with its meaning unexplained (Brückner); nor, again, are we to interpret it only comparatively as a denial of clear and certain knowledge (Neander, Maier, Riggenbach, Hengstenberg, Ewald).

ἀλλʼ ἵνα φανερωθῇ, κ.τ.λ.] occupying an emphatic position at the beginning of the clause, and stating the purpose of the Baptist’s manifestation as referring to Messiah, and as still applying notwithstanding the κἀγὼ οὐκ ᾔδειν, and being thus quite independent of his own intention and choice, and purely a matter of divine ordination.

ἵνα φανερωθῇ] This special purpose, in the expression of which, moreover, no reference can be traced to Isaiah 40:5 (against Hengstenberg), does not exclude the more generally and equally divine ordinance in John 1:23, but is included in it. Comp. the tradition in Justin, c. Tryph. 8, according to which the Messiah remained unknown to Himself and others, until Elias anointed Him and made Him manifest to all (φανερὸν πᾶσι ποιήσῃ).

ἐν τῷ ὕδατι βαπτίζων] a humble description of his own baptism as compared with that of Him who baptizes with the Spirit, John 1:33; comp. John 1:26. Hence also the ἐγώ, Ι on my part. For the rest, we must understand ἐν τ. ὕδ. βαπτ. of John’s call to baptize in general, in which was also included the conception of the baptizing of Jesus, to which John 1:32 refers.[119]

[119] For ἐν τῷ ὕδατι, Lachmann (now also Tischendorf), following B. C. G. L. P. Λ. א., cursives, and some of the Fathers, reads ἐν ὕδατι; but the article after ver. 26, comp. ver. 33, would be more easily omitted than inserted. It is demonstrative, for John as he speaks is standing by the Jordan.John 1:31. κἀγὼ οὐκ ἤδειν αὐτόν, i.e., I did not know Him to be the Messiah. Matthew 3:14 shows that John knew Jesus as a man. This meaning is also determined by the clause added: ἀλλʼ ἵναἐν ὕδατι βαπτίζων. The object of the Baptist’s mission was the manifestation of the Christ. It was the Baptist’s preaching and the religious movement it initiated which summoned Jesus into public life. He alone could satisfy the cravings quickened by the Baptist. And it was at the baptism of Jesus, undergone in sympathy with the sinful people and as one with them, that the Spirit of the Messiah was fully imparted to Him and He was recognised as the Messiah. How John himself became convinced that Jesus was the Messiah he explains to the people, John 1:32-34.31. And I knew him not] Or, I also knew Him not; I, like you, did not at first know Him to be the Messiah. There is no contradiction between this and Matthew 3:14. (1) ‘I knew Him not’ need not mean ‘I had no knowledge of Him whatever.’ (2) John’s professing that he needed to be baptized by Jesus does not prove that he had already recognised Jesus as the Messiah, but only as superior to himself.

that he should be made manifest] This was the Baptist’s second duty. He had (1) to prepare for the Messiah by preaching repentance; (2) to point out the Messiah. The word for ‘manifest’ is one of S. John’s favourite words (phaneroun); John 2:11, John 3:21, John 7:4, John 9:3, John 17:6, John 21:1; John 21:14; 1 John 1:2; 1 John 2:19; 1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:2; 1 John 3:5; 1 John 3:8-9; Revelation 3:18; Revelation 15:4.

therefore am I come] Better, for this cause (John 12:18; John 12:27) came I (comp. John 5:16; John 5:18, John 7:22, John 8:47).

baptizing with water] In humble contrast to Him Who baptizeth with the Holy Ghost’ (John 1:33). ‘With water’ is literally ‘in water’ here and John 1:26.John 1:31. Οὐκ ᾔδειν) I knew Him not by face, just as yourselves [knew Him not], John 1:26. “There standeth one among you, whom ye know not;” at the time that I said, There cometh after me: see Matthew 3:14, notes. This manifestly tends to prove that John was divinely instructed to testify as to Christ Jesus.—ἵνα, that) expresses not the sole end, but still the primary one, why he came baptizing with water; Acts 19:4 : “John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on Him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”—βαπτίζων, baptizing) The connecting link of [i.e. of the previous words with] the words of John the Baptist, after the parenthesis of the Evangelist, presently to be observed.Verses 31-34. -

(3) The purpose of John's own mission was to introduce to Israel the Baptizer with the Holy Ghost. Verse 31. - And I for my part knew him not. This is thought by some to be incompatible with the statement of Matthew 3:14, where the Baptist displayed sufficient knowledge of Jesus to have exclaimed, "I have need to be baptized of thee." Early commentators, e.g. Ammonius, quoted in 'Catena Patrum,' suggested that John's long residence in the wilderness had prevented his knowing his kinsman; Chrysostom, 'Hom. 16. in Joannem,' urged that he was not familiar with his person; Epiphanius, 'Adv. Haer.,' 30, and Justin Martyr, 'Dial.,' 100, 88, refer to a long passage in the 'Gospel of the Ebionites,' which, notwithstanding numerous perversions, yet suggests a method of conciliation of the two narratives, that the sign of the opening heavens and the voice occasioned the consternation of John, and explains his deprecation of the act which he had already performed (see my 'John the Baptist,' pp. 313, 314; Nicholson, 'Gospel according to the Hebrews,' pp. 38-40). Neander has suggested the true explanation: "In contradistinction to that which John now saw in the Divine light, all his previous knowledge appeared to be a non-knowledge." John knew of Jesus, as his kinsman; he knew him as One mightier than himself - One whose coming, as compared with his own, was as the coming of the Lord. When Jesus approached him for baptism, John therefore knew quite enough to make him hesitate to baptize the Christ. He knew more than enough to induce him to say, "I have need to be baptized of thee." Godet imagines that, since baptism was preceded by confession, John found that the confession made by Jesus was of such a lofty, saintly, God-like type of repudiation of sin, as that John himself had never attained to. This representation fails from attributing to John the function of a sacerdotal confessor of later days, and is out of harmony altogether with the meaning and potency of our Lord's confession of the sin of the whole of that human nature which he had taken upon himself. The knowledge which John had of Jesus was as nothing to the blaze of light which burst upon him when he realized the idea that Jesus was the Son of God. The "I knew him not" of this verse was a subsequent reflection of the Baptist when the sublime humility, the dovelike sweetness, and the spiritual might of Jesus were revealed to him. A blind man who had received his sight during the hours of darkness might imagine, when he saw the reflected glory of the moon or morning star in the eye of dawn, that he knew the nature and had felt the glory of light; but amidst the splendours of sunrise or of noon he might justly say, "I knew it not" (compare the language of Paul, Philippians 3:10, and of this same evangelist, Revelation 1:17. See Archdeacon Farrar's 'Life of Christ,' vol. 1:117; my 'John the Baptist,' p. 315). But that he should be manifested to Israel, for this cause I came baptizing in (with) water. It was traditionally expected that Elijah should anoint Messiah. John perceives now the transitional nature of his own mission. His baptism retires into the background. He sees that its whole meaning was the introduction of Messiah, the manifestation of the Son of God to Israel. It may be said that the ministry of the wilderness, with the vast impression it produced, is represented by the synoptists as of more essential importance in itself. John's own judgment, however, here recorded, is the true key to the whole representation. The synoptic narrative shows very clearly that, as a matter of fact, the Johannine ministry culminated at the baptism of Jesus, and lost itself in the dawn of the great day which it inaugurated and heralded. The Fourth Gospel does but give the rationale of such an arrangement, and refer the origin of the idea to John himself. If John did not intensify the sense of sin which Messiah was to soothe and take away; if John did not, by baptism with water, excite a desire for an infinitely nobler and more precious baptism; if John did not prepare a way for One of vastly more moment to mankind and to the kingdom of God than himself, - his whole work was a failure. In that John saw his own relation to the Christ - he saw his own place in the dispensations of Providence. And I((κἀγὼ)

Emphatic. "And I, though I predicted His coming (John 1:30), knew Him not."

Knew Him not

Officially, as the Messiah. There is no reference to personal acquaintance. It is inconceivable that, with the intimate relations between the two families, the Baptist should have been personally unacquainted with Jesus.

Israel

Always with the idea of the spiritual privilege of the race.

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