In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
   make his paths straight.” ’
Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
(Matthew 3:1-6)
Ἐν δὲ ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις παραγίνεται Ἰωάννης ὁ βαπτιστὴς κηρύσσων ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ τῆς Ἰουδαίας
καὶ λέγων, Μετανοεῖτε· ἤγγικεν γὰρ ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν
οὗτος γάρ ἐστιν ὁ ῥηθεὶς ὑπὸ Ἠσαΐου τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος Φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ· Ἑτοιμάσατε τὴν ὁδὸν κυρίου εὐθείας ποιεῖτε τὰς τρίβους αὐτοῦ
Αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ Ἰωάννης εἶχεν τὸ ἔνδυμα αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τριχῶν καμήλου καὶ ζώνην δερματίνην περὶ τὴν ὀσφὺν αὐτοῦ ἡ δὲ τροφὴ αὐτοῦ ἦν ἀκρίδες καὶ μέλι ἄγριον
τότε ἐξεπορεύετο πρὸς αὐτὸν Ἱεροσόλυμα καὶ πᾶσα ἡ Ἰουδαία καὶ πᾶσα ἡ περίχωρος τοῦ Ἰορδάνου
καὶ ἐβαπτίζοντο ἐν τῷ Ἰορδάνῃ ὑπ᾽ αὐτοῦ ἐξομολογούμενοι τὰς ἁμαρτίας αὐτῶν

As this year the Sunday Gospel readings’ focus is on St Matthew’s Gospel, I thought I’d continue some of my personal study and Lectio Divina with that Gospel. [NB. I am using ‘Matthew’ as a convenient term for the author of the first Gospel in the order of the Christian canon].

John is presented as a new Elijah. It is worth putting this text alongside Mark’s original:

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight” ’,
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.
Mark 1:1-6

Matthew says that: Isaiah spoke and said,
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
   make his paths straight.” ’

ACTUALLY, Matthew (and/or the Septuagint) is being playful with the text, because, in Hebrew, Isaiah says something quite different:

A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
   make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Isaiah 40:3

Yes, the Septuagint has this already altered from the Hebrew:

The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God.
Isaiah 40:3


Clothing and food link John to First Testament Samson, Samuel, and Elijah – revolutionaries and resistance leaders against injustice and for renewal.

Μετανοεῖτε “Repent” (3:2) This is present active imperative – repenting is an ongoing present-tense activity.

βαπτίζω Baptise (3:6) was not, of course, a spiritual word. Liddell-Scott has it meaning
I. trans. to dip in water
2. to dip in poison
3. to dip in dye, to dye
4. to draw water
II. intransitive the ship dipped, sank

This changes and adds to the images of what was going on: drawing water; a sinking ship…

The Jews had a proselyte baptism for Gentiles who wished to take on the Jewish faith. Is John saying that Jews require conversion as much as Gentiles do?

This is the twenty-fourth post in a series – you can begin here:
Matthew in Slow Motion 1
Matthew in Slow Motion 2
Matthew in Slow Motion 3
Matthew in Slow Motion 4
Matthew in Slow Motion 5
Matthew in Slow Motion 6
Matthew in Slow Motion 7
Matthew in Slow Motion 8
Matthew in Slow Motion 9
Matthew in Slow Motion 10
Matthew in Slow Motion 11
Matthew in Slow Motion 12
Matthew in Slow Motion 13
Matthew in Slow Motion 14
Matthew in Slow Motion 15
Matthew in Slow Motion 16
Matthew in Slow Motion 17
Matthew in Slow Motion 18
Matthew in Slow Motion 19
Matthew in Slow Motion 20
Matthew in Slow Motion 21
Matthew in Slow Motion 22
Matthew in Slow Motion 23

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