Matthew 3:16
And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
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(16) The heavens were opened.—The narrative implies (1) that our Lord and the Baptist were either alone, or that they alone saw what is recorded. “The heavens were opened to him” as they were to Stephen (Acts 7:56). The Baptist bears record that he too beheld the Spirit descending (John 1:33-34), but there is not the slightest ground for supposing that there was any manifestation to others. So in the vision near Damascus, St. Paul only heard the words and saw the form of Him who spake them (Acts 9:7; Acts 22:9). That which they did see served, as did the tongues of fire on the day of Pentecost, as an attestation to the consciousness of each, of the reality of the gift imparted, and of its essential character. That descent of the Spirit, “as it were a dove,” as St. Luke adds (Luke 3:22), “in bodily form,” taught the Baptist, as it teaches us, that the gift of supernatural power and wisdom brought with it also the perfection of the tenderness, the purity, the gentleness of which the dove was the acknowledged symbol. To be “harmless as doves” was the command the Lord gave to His disciples (Matthew 10:16), and when they read this record, they were taught as we are, “of what manner of spirit” they were meant to be.

Matthew 3:16. And Jesus, when he was baptized, &c. — Hereby he was, 1st, installed into his ministerial office, as the priests were by washing, Exodus 29:4; Leviticus 8:6; Leviticus 2 d, engaged solemnly in the same military work with us against sin and Satan; 3d, admitted a member of the gospel Church, as he was before of the Jewish, by circumcision; 4th, he was baptized as a public person, the Head of his Church, in whom, and by virtue of whose baptism, all his members are baptized spiritually, Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12. Went up straightway out of the water — Or, as the original, ανεβη απο του υδατος, rather signifies, ascended from the water, namely, went up from the banks of Jordan. The heavens were opened unto him — For his sake, appearing as if they had been rent asunder directly over his head. It is probable they might resemble that opening of the heavens which we often see in a time of great lightning, when the sky seems to divide, to make the fuller and clearer way for the lightning: although, doubtless, this was much more striking and glorious. And he saw — Christ himself saw, and also John the Baptist, as appears by John 1:33-34; and by this he was further confirmed that this was the very Christ: — the Spirit of God descending like a dove — Not only in a hovering, dove-like motion, but, it seems, with a bright flame, in the shape of a dove, for St. Luke says, Luke 3:22, σωματικω ειδει, ωσει περιστεραν, in a bodily shape, as a dove. See also John 1:32. The Holy Spirit descended upon him in this form to signify what Christ Isaiah , 1 st, in his own nature to them that come to him, meek and loving; 2d, in the execution of his office, reconciling us to the Father, and bringing us good tidings of peace and reconciliation, as the dove brought Noah tidings of the deluge being assuaged; 3d, in the operations of his Spirit upon his people, whereby they are made meek, lowly, and harmless as doves. And lighting upon him — As a visible token of a new degree of the Holy Ghost’s operation in Christ, now at his entrance upon his public employment, even of that Spirit by which, according to the intimations God had given in his word, he was anointed in a peculiar manner, and abundantly fitted for his public work. Psalm 45:7; Isaiah 61:1. And thus was Christ installed into his ministerial function, both by baptism and the unction of the Holy Ghost, as the priests of old were by washing and anointing.

3:13-17 Christ's gracious condescensions are so surprising, that even the strongest believers at first can hardly believe them; so deep and mysterious, that even those who know his mind well, are apt to start objections against the will of Christ. And those who have much of the Spirit of God while here, see that they need to apply to Christ for more. Christ does not deny that John had need to be baptized of him, yet declares he will now be baptized of John. Christ is now in a state of humiliation. Our Lord Jesus looked upon it as well becoming him to fulfil all righteousness, to own every Divine institution, and to show his readiness to comply with all God's righteous precepts. In and through Christ, the heavens are opened to the children of men. This descent of the Spirit upon Christ, showed that he was endued with his sacred influences without measure. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. At Christ's baptism there was a manifestation of the three Persons in the sacred Trinity. The Father confirming the Son to be Mediator; the Son solemnly entering upon the work; the Holy Spirit descending on him, to be through his mediation communicated to his people. In Him our spiritual sacrifices are acceptable, for He is the altar that sanctifies every gift, 1Pe 2:5. Out of Christ, God is a consuming fire, but in Christ, a reconciled Father. This is the sum of the gospel, which we must by faith cheerfully embrace.Out of the water - This shows that he had descended to the river. It literally means, "he went up directly from the water." The original does not imply that they had descended into the river, and it cannot be proved, therefore, from this passage, that his baptism was by immersion; nor can it be proved that even, if his baptism was by immersion, that therefore the same mode is binding on people now. In order to demonstrate from this passage that immersion is essential, it is necessary to demonstrate:

(a) that he went into the river;

(b) that, being there, he was wholly immersed;

(c) that the fact that he was immersed, if he was, proves that all others must be, in order that there could be a valid baptism.

Neither of these three things has ever been demonstrated from this passage, nor can they be.

The heavens were opened unto him - This was done while he was praying, Luke 3:21. The ordinances of religion will be commonly ineffectual without prayer. If in those ordinances we look to God, we may expect that he will bless us; the heavens will be opened, light will shine upon our path, and we shall meet with the approbation of God. The expression, "the heavens were opened," is one that commonly denotes the appearance of the clouds when it lightens. The heavens appear to open or give way. Something of this kind probably appeared to John at this time. The same appearance took place at Stephen's death, Acts 7:56. The expression means that he was permitted to see far into the heavens beyond what the natural vision would allow.

To him - Some have referred this to Jesus, others to John. It probably refers to John. See John 1:33. It was a testimony given to John that this was the Messiah.

He saw - John saw.

The Spirit of God - See Matthew 3:11. This was the third person of the Trinity, descending upon him in the form of a dove, Luke 3:22. The dove, among the Jews, was the symbol of purity of heart, harmlessness, and gentleness, Matthew 10:16; compare Psalm 55:6-7. The form chosen here was doubtless an emblem of the innocence, meekness, and tenderness of the Saviour. The gift of the Holy Spirit, in this manner, was the public approbation of Jesus John 1:33, and a sign of his being set apart to the office of the Messiah. We are not to suppose that there was any change done in the moral character of Jesus, but only that he was publicly set apart to his work, and solemnly approved by God in the office to which he was appointed.

16. And Jesus when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water—rather, "from the water." Mark has "out of the water" (Mr 1:10). "and"—adds Luke (Lu 3:21), "while He was praying"; a grand piece of information. Can there be a doubt about the burden of that prayer; a prayer sent up, probably, while yet in the water—His blessed head suffused with the baptismal element; a prayer continued likely as He stepped out of the stream, and again stood upon the dry ground; the work before Him, the needed and expected Spirit to rest upon Him for it, and the glory He would then put upon the Father that sent Him—would not these fill His breast, and find silent vent in such form as this?—"Lo, I come; I delight to do Thy will, O God. Father, glorify Thy name. Show Me a token for good. Let the Spirit of the Lord God come upon Me, and I will preach the Gospel to the poor, and heal the broken-hearted, and send forth judgment unto victory." While He was yet speaking—

lo, the heavens were opened—Mark says, sublimely, "He saw the heavens cleaving" (Mr 1:10).

and he saw the Spirit of God descending—that is, He only, with the exception of His honored servant, as he tells us himself (Joh 1:32-34); the by-standers apparently seeing nothing.

like a dove, and lighting upon him—Luke says, "in a bodily shape" (Lu 3:22); that is, the blessed Spirit, assuming the corporeal form of a dove, descended thus upon His sacred head. But why in this form? The Scripture use of this emblem will be our best guide here. "My dove, my undefiled is one," says the Song of Solomon (So 6:9). This is chaste purity. Again, "Be ye harmless as doves," says Christ Himself (Mt 10:16). This is the same thing, in the form of inoffensiveness towards men. "A conscience void of offense toward God and toward men" (Ac 24:16) expresses both. Further, when we read in the Song of Solomon (So 2:14), "O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rocks, in the secret places of the stairs (see Isa 60:8), let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely"—it is shrinking modesty, meekness, gentleness, that is thus charmingly depicted. In a word—not to allude to the historical emblem of the dove that flew back to the ark, bearing in its mouth the olive leaf of peace (Ge 8:11)—when we read (Ps 68:13), "Ye shall be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold," it is beauteousness that is thus held forth. And was not such that "holy, harmless, undefiled One," the "separate from sinners?" "Thou art fairer than the children of men; grace is poured into Thy lips; therefore God hath blessed Thee for ever!" But the fourth Gospel gives us one more piece of information here, on the authority of one who saw and testified of it: "John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and IT ABODE UPON Him." And lest we should think that this was an accidental thing, he adds that this last particular was expressly given him as part of the sign by which he was to recognize and identify Him as the Son of God: "And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending AND REMAINING ON Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw and bare record that this is the Son of God" (Joh 1:32-34). And when with this we compare the predicted descent of the Spirit upon Messiah (Isa 11:2), "And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him," we cannot doubt that it was this permanent and perfect resting of the Holy Ghost upon the Son of God—now and henceforward in His official capacity—that was here visibly manifested.

See Poole on "Matthew 3:17".

And Jesus, when he was baptized,.... Christ, when he was baptized by John in the river Jordan, the place where he was baptizing,

went up straightway out of the water. One would be at a loss at first sight for a reason why the Evangelist should relate this circumstance; for after the ordinance was administered, why should he stay in the water? what should he do there? Everyone would naturally and reasonably conclude, without the mention of such a circumstance, that as soon as his baptism was over, he would immediately come up out of the water. However, we learn this from it, that since it is said, that he came up out of the water, he must first have gone down into it; must have been in it, and was baptized in it; a circumstance strongly in favour of baptism by immersion: for that Christ should go down into the river, more or less deep, to the ankles, or up to the knees, in order that John should sprinkle water on his face, or pour it on his head, as is ridiculously represented in the prints, can hardly obtain any credit with persons of thought and sense. But the chief view of the Evangelist in relating this circumstance, is with respect to what follows; and to show, that as soon as Christ was baptized, and before he had well got out of the water,

lo the heavens were opened: and some indeed read the word "straightway", in connection with this phrase, and not with the words "went up": but there is no need of supposing such a trajection, for the whole may be rendered thus;

and Jesus, when he was baptized, was scarcely come up out of the water, but lo, immediately, directly, as soon as he was out, or rather before,

the heavens were opened to him; the airy heaven was materially and really opened, parted, rent, or cloven asunder, as in Mark 1:10 which made way for the visible descent of the Holy Ghost in a bodily shape. A difficulty arises here, whether the words, "to him", are to be referred to Christ, or to John; no doubt but the opening of the heavens was seen by them both: but to me it seems that John is particularly designed, since this vision was upon his account, and for his sake, and to him the following words belong; "and he", that is,

John, saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: for this is what was promised to John, as a sign, which should confirm his faith in Jesus, as the true Messiah, and which he himself says he saw, and upon which he based the record and testimony he bore to Christ, as the Son of God; see John 1:32 not but that the descent of the Holy Ghost in this manner might be seen by Christ, as well as John, according to Mark 1:10. The Spirit of God, here said to descend and light on Christ, is the same, which in the first creation moved upon the face of the waters; and now comes down on Christ, just as he was coming up out of the waters of Jordan, where he had been baptized; and which the Jews (r) so often call , "the Spirit of the king Messiah, and the spirit of the Messiah". The descent of him was in a "bodily shape", as Luke says in Luke 3:22 either in the shape of a dove, which is a very fit emblem of the Spirit of God who descended, and the fruits thereof, such as simplicity, meekness, love, &c. and also of the dove-like innocence, humility, and affection of Christ, on whom he lighted; or it was in some other visible form, not expressed, which pretty much resembled the hovering and lighting of a dove upon anything: for it does not necessarily follow from any of the accounts the Evangelists give of this matter, that the holy Spirit assumed, or appeared in, the form of a dove; only that his visible descent and lighting on Christ was , as a dove descends, hovers and lights; which does not necessarily design the form of the creature, but the manner of its motion. However, who can read this account without thinking of Noah's dove, which brought in its mouth the olive leaf, a token of peace and reconciliation, when the waters were abated from off the earth? Give me leave to transcribe a passage I have met with in the book of Zohar (s);

"a door shall be opened, and out of it shall come forth the dove which Noah sent out in the days of the flood, as it is written, "and he sent forth the dove", that famous dove; but the ancients speak not of it, for they knew not what it was, only from whence it came, and did its message; as it is written, "it returned not again unto him any more": no man knows whither it went, but it returned to its place, and was hid within this door; and it shall take a crown in its mouth, and put it upon the head of the king Messiah.''

And a little after, the dove is said to abide upon his head, and he to receive glory from it. Whether this is the remains of some ancient tradition, these men studiously conceal, concerning the opening of the heavens, and the descent of the Spirit of God, as a dove, upon the Messiah; or whether it is hammered out of the evangelic history, let the reader judge.

(r) Bereshit Rabba, fol. 2. 4. & 6. 3. Vajikra Rabba, fol. 156. 4. Zohar in Gen. fol. 107. 3. & 128. 3. Baal Hatturim in Gen. i. 2. Caphtor Uperah, fol. 113. 2.((s) In Num. fol. 68. 3, 4.

And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto {o} him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:

(o) To John.

Matthew 3:16. Εὐθύς] which cannot belong to ἀνεῴχθ. (Maldonatus, Grotius, B. Crusius), nor can it be referred to βαπτισθείς by supposing a hyperbaton (Fritzsche); see Kühner, II. 2, p. 642. Matthew would have written, καὶ εὐθὺς βαπτισθείς. It belongs to ἀνέβη, beside which it stands: after He was baptized, He went up straightway, etc. This straightway was understood at once as a matter of course, but does not belong, however, merely to the descriptive, but to the circumstantial style of the narrative, setting forth the rapid succession (of events).

ἀνεῴχθησαν αὐτῷ οἱ οὐρανοί] designates neither a clearing up of the heavens (Paulus), nor a thunderstorm quickly discharging itself (Kuinoel, Ammon), since the poetic descriptions, as in Sil. It. i. 535 ff., are quite foreign (see Drackenborch, ad Sil. It. iii. 136; Heyne, ad Virg. Aen. iii. 198) to our simple historical narrative; as, moreover, neither in the Gospel according to the Hebrews, nor in Epiphanius, Haer. xxx. 13, nor in Justin, c. Tryph. 88,[384] is a thunderstorm meant. Only an actual parting of the heavens, out of which opening the Spirit came down, can be intended. Ezekiel 1:1; John 1:51; Revelation 4:1; Acts 7:56; Isaiah 64:1.

αὐτῷ does not refer to the Baptist (Beza, Heumann, Bleek, Kern, Krabbe, de Wette, Baur), since Matthew 3:16 begins a new portion of the history, in which John is no longer the subject. It refers to Jesus, and is the dative of purpose. To Him the heavens open; for it was on Him that the Spirit was to descend. Comp. Vulgate.

εἶδε] Who? not John, but Jesus, without ἐπʼ αὐτόν standing for ἘΦʼ ΑὙΤΌΝ (Kuinoel); Kühner, II. 1, p. 489 f.; Bleek on the passage. The Gospel according to the Hebrews clearly referred ΕἾΔΕ to Jesus, with which Mark 1:10 also decidedly agrees.[385]

ὡσεὶ περιστεράν] The element of comparison is interpreted by modern writers not as referring to the shape of the visibly descending Spirit, but to the manner of descent, where partly the swiftness (Fritzsche), partly the soft, gentle movement (Bleek) and activity (Neander), and the like, have been imagined as referred to. But as all the four evangelists have precisely the same comparison (Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32), which, as a mere representation of the manner of the descent, would be just as unessential as it would be an indefinite and ambiguous comparison; as, farther, Luke expressly says the Spirit descended, σωματικῷ εἴδει ὡσεὶ περιστερά, where, by the latter words, the σωματ. εἴδει is defined more precisely (comp. the Gospel according to the Hebrews in Epiphanius, Haer. xxx. 13 : εἴδε, namely, Jesus, τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ τὸ ἅγιον ἐν εἴδει περιστερᾶς κατελθούσης; also Justin, c. Tr. 88),—so that interpretation appears as a groundless attempt to lessen the miraculous element, and only the old explanation (Origen and the Fathers in Suicer, Thes. s.v. περιστερά, Euth. Zigabenus, Erasmus, Luther), that the form of a dove actually appeared, can be received as the correct one. So also Paulus (who, however, thought of a real dove which accidentally appeared at the time!), de Wette, Kuhn (L. J. I. p. 319), Theile (zur Biogr. Jesu, p. 48), Keim, Hilgenfeld, who compares 4 Esdr. Matthew 5:26. The symbolic element of this divine σημεῖον (see remarks after Matthew 3:17) rests just in its appearance in the form of a dove, which descends.

[384] In the Gospel according to the Hebrews: περιέλαμψεν τὸν τόπον φῶς μέγα. Justin. κατελθόντος τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ἐπὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ πῦρ ἀνήφθη ἐν τῷ Ἰορδάνῃ.

[385] Schmidt in the Jahrb. f. D. Th. 1869, p. 655, erroneously says: If Jesus were the subject, ἐφʼ αὑτόν must necessarily have been put. See Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 97 f. [E. T. 111 f.].

Matthew 3:16-17. The preternatural accompaniments. These have been variously viewed as meant for the people, for the Baptist, and for Jesus. In my judgment they concern Jesus principally and in the first place, and are so viewed by the evangelist. And as we are now making the acquaintance of Jesus for the first time, and desiring to know the spirit, manner, and vocation of Him whose mysterious birth has occupied our attention, we may confine our comments to this aspect. Applying the principle that to all objective supernatural experiences there are subjective psychological experiences corresponding, we can learn from the dove-like vision and the voice from heaven the thoughts which had been passing through the mind of Jesus at this critical period. These thoughts it most concerns us to know; yet it is just these thoughts that both believers and naturalistic unbelievers are in danger of overlooking; the one through regarding the objective occurrences as alone important, the other because, denying the objective element in the experience, they rush to the conclusion that there was no experience at all. Whereas the truth is that, whatever is to be said as to the objective element, the subjective at all events is real: the thoughts reflected and symbolised in the vision and the voice.

Matthew 3:16. εὐθὺς may be connected with βαπτισθεὶς, with ἀνέβη, or with ἠνεῴχθησαν in the following clause by a hyperbaton (Grotius). It is commonly and correctly taken along with ἀνέβη. But why say straightway ascended? Euthy. gives an answer which may be quoted for its quaintness: “They say that John had the people under water up to the neck till they had confessed their sins, and that Jesus having none to confess tarried not in the river”. Fritzsche laughs at the good monk, but Schanz substantially adopts his view. There might be worse explanations.—καὶ ἰδοὺ ἠνεῴχθησαν, etc. When Jesus ascended out of the water the heavens opened and He (Jesus) saw the spirit of God descending as a dove coming upon Him. According to many interpreters, including many of the Fathers, the occurrence was of the nature of a vision, the appearance of a dove coming out of the heavens. ὁ εὐαγγελιστὴς οὐκ εἶπεν ὅτι ἐν φύσει περιστερᾶς, ἀλλʼ ἐν εἴδει περιστερᾶς—Chrys. Dove-like: what was the point of comparison? Swift movement, according to some; soft gentle movement as it sinks down on its place of rest, according to others. The Fathers insisted on the qualities of the dove. Euthy. sums up these thus: φιλάνθρωπον γάρ ἐστι καὶ ἀνεξίκακον· ἀποστερούμενον γὰρ τῶν νεοσσῶν ὑπομένει, καὶ οὐδὲν ἧττον τοὺς ἀποστεροῦντας προσίεται. Καὶ καθαρώτατόν ἐστι, καὶ τῇ εὐωδίᾳ χαίρει. Whether the dove possesses all these qualities—philanthropy, patient endurance of wrong, letting approach it those who have robbed it of its young, purity, delight in sweet smells—I know not; but I appreciate the insight into the spirit of Christ which specifying such particulars in the emblematic significance of the dove implies. What is the O. T. basis of the symbol? Probably Genesis 8:9-10. Grotius hints at this without altogether adopting the view. Thus we obtain a contrast between John’s conception of the spirit and that of Jesus as reflected in the vision. For John the emblem of the spirit was the stormy wind of judgment; for Jesus the dove with the olive leaf after the judgment by water was past.

Matthew 3:17. οὗτός ἐστιν: “this is,” as if addressed to the Baptist; in Mark 1:9, σὺ εἶ, as if addressed to Jesus.—ἐν ᾧ εὐδοκ.: a Hebraism,: הָפֵץ בְּ.—εὐδόκησα, aorist, either to express habitual satisfaction, after the manner of the Gnomic Aorist (vide Hermann’s Viger, p. 169), or to denote the inner event = my good pleasure decided itself once for all for Him. So Schanz; cf. Winer, § 40, 5, on the use of the aorist. εὐδοκεῖν, according to Sturz, De Dialecto Macedonica et Alexandrina, is not Attic but Hellenistic. The voice recalls and in some measure echoes Isaiah 42:1, “Behold My servant, I uphold Him; My chosen one, My soul delights in Him. I have put My spirit upon Him.” The title “Son” recalls Psalm 2:7. Taking the vision, the voice, and the baptism together as interpreting the consciousness of Jesus before and at this time, the following inferences are suggested. (1) The mind of Jesus had been exercised in thought upon the Messianic vocation in relation to His own future. (2) The chief Messianic charism appeared to Him to be sympathy, love. (3) His religious attitude towards God was that of a Son towards a Father. (4) It was through the sense of sonship and the intense love to men that was in His heart that He discovered His Messianic vocation. (5) Prophetic texts gave direction to and supplied means of expression for His religious meditations. His mind, like that of John, was full of prophetic utterances, but a different class of oracles had attractions for Him. The spirit of John revelled in images of awe and terror. The gentler spirit of Jesus delighted in words depicting the ideal servant of God as clothed with meekness, patience, wisdom, and love.

16. the heavens] A literal translation of the Hebrew word, which is a plural form.

he [Jesus] saw] We should infer from the text that the vision was to Jesus alone, but the Baptist also was a witness as we learn from John 1:32. “And John bare record, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.” This was to John the sign by which the Messiah should be recognised.

Matthew 3:16. Ἀνέβη εὐθύς, went up immediately) There was nothing to detain Him longer. Thus also He rose immediately from the dead.—ἰδοὺ, κ.τ.λ., lo, etc.) A novel and great occurrence.—Αὐτῷ, to Him) This implies far more than if the Evangelist had said “above Him.”—οἱ οὐρανοὶ, the heavens) in the plural number.

Verse 16. - And Jesus, when he was baptized. Combining the statements of the synoptists, we may conclude that Jesus went up from the water at once, praying as he went, and that, while he was going up and praying, the heavens opened. Out of; from '(Revised Version); ἀπό; for, as it seems, he had not gone fully out of the water. The heavens were opened unto him. So also the Revised Version, but the Revised Version margin, with Westcott and Herr, rightly omits "unto him." The words were inserted because it was thought that Jesus alone saw the manifestation, as indeed we should have supposed if we had had only the account of St. Mark, who reads, "he saw" before "the heavens being rent asunder" (but cf. John 1:32-34). To our Lord and to the Baptist the appearance was as though the sky really opened (cf. Ezekiel 1:1; Acts 7:56). The Spirit of God; recalling Genesis 1:2. "Messiah now enters on his public office, and for that receives, as true Man, the appropriate gifts. The Spirit by whom men are sub jectively united to God descends upon the Word made Flesh, by whom objectively God is revealed to men" (Bishop Westcott, on John 1:32). Like; as (Revised Version). The comparison is hardly to the gentleness of the descent of a dove, but to a visible appearance in bodily form, as a dove (see parallel passage in Luke). Not, of course, that the Holy Spirit was thus at all incarnate, but that either the appearance of a dove was seen by John's eyes only (cf. especially Theodore of Mopsuestia, in Meyer), or, as is not unlikely (even though the suggestion belongs ultimately to Paulus), a dove really flew down and lighted on the Lord (Luke), and that this, to outsiders merely a curious incident (cf. John 12:29), was to our Lord and the Baptist a sign of spiritual blessing. A dove (περιστερά); any member of the pigeon tribe; chosen because a symbol of deliverance (Genesis 8:8), of purity (Leviticus 5:7), of harmlessness (Matthew 10:16), and of endearment (Song of Solomon 6:9). There is no evidence (cf. Edersheim, 'Life,' 1:287) that the dove was at this period interpreted by Jews as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. The Targum on Song of Solomon 2:12 paraphrasing "the voice of the turtle-dove ' by "the voice of the Holy Spirit," dates in its present form from the eighth to the tenth century. The dove mentioned (though probably by interpolation) in the account of Polycarp's death, appears to be a symbol of the soul (cf. Bishop Lightfoot). Wichelhaus (as quoted by Kubel) says suggestively, "lamb and dove - no kingdom in the world has these emblems on its escutcheon." And; omit, with manuscripts. Lighting; coming (Revised Version), because it is needless to translate a common Greek (ἐρχόμενον) by a rare English word. Observe that it refers to the Holy Spirit, not to the dove as such. Upon him (so Luke and John 1:32, 33; Mark more vaguely, "unto him"). Matthew 3:16As a dove (ὡσεί περιστερὰν)

In the form of a dove, and not, as some interpret, referring merely to the manner of the descent - swiftly and gently as a dove (compare Luke 3:22 "In a bodily form, as a dove"). The dove was an ancient symbol of purity and innocence, adopted by our Lord in Matthew 10:16. It was the only bird allowed to be offered in sacrifice by the Levitical law. In Christian art it is the symbol of the Holy Spirit, and that in his Old Testament manifestations as well as in those of the New Testament. From a very early date the dove brooding over the waters was the type of the opening words of Genesis. An odd fresco on the choir-walls of the Cathedral of Monreale, near Palermo, represents a waste of waters, and Christ above, leaning forward from the circle of heaven with extended arms. From beneath him issues the divine ray along which the dove is descending upon the waters. So Milton:

"Thou from the first

Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread

Dove-like sat'st brooding on the vast abyss

And mad'st it pregnant."

In art, the double-headed dove is the peculiar attribute of the prophet Elisha. A window in Lincoln College, Oxford, represents him with the double-headed dove perched upon his shoulder. The symbol is explained by Elisha's prayer that a double portion of Elijah's spirit might rest upon him.

It has been asserted that, among the Jews, the Holy Spirit was presented under the symbol of a dove, and a passage is cited from the Talmud; "The Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters like a dove." Dr. Edersheim ("Life and Times of Jesus the Messia") vigorously contradicts this, and says that the passage treats of the supposed distance between the upper and the lower waters, which was only three finger-breadths. This is proved by Genesis 1:2, where the Spirit of God is said to brood over the face of the waters, "just as a dove broodeth over her young without touching them." "Thus the comparison is not between the Spirit and the dove, but between the closeness with which a dove broods over her young without touching them, and the supposed proximity of the Spirit to the lower waters without touching them." He goes on to say that the dove was not the symbol of the Holy Spirit, but of Israel. "If, therefore, rabbinic illustration of' the descent of the Holy Spirit with the visible appearance of a dove must be sought for, it would lie in the acknowledgment of Jesus as the ideal typical Israelite, the representative of his people."

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