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Week 5: Matthew 3; Mark 1; Luke 3

For the sake of brevity, this is not a full verse by verse commentary. I take all three chapters and write about various important themes in each one.

Grigory Gaagarin, Baptism of Christ

Matthew 3

Verse 2: Thomas Wayment points out that as Matthew uses the term 'kingdom of heaven', it is probably more accurately translated as 'kingdom of heavens'. "Matthew almost always speaks of the kingdom of heavens with a singular verb. The concept of multiple heavens may be implied, but for Matthew the kingdom is singular." (NT:TFLDS, p. 7) Not sure what to make of this, other than ancient Christians and Jews had a much more complex understanding of heaven than conventional Christianity.

Verse 3: Esaias is Isaiah. It is a quote of Isaiah 40:3. The JST, though, adds 5 additional verses that do not appear in Isaiah 40. The JST verses point to Latter-Day fulfillment, but an interesting theme you will find in the New Testament is that the Christians and also the Jews had misplaced expectations about what Jesus was to do during his mortal ministry. LDS Scholars suggest Christ himself probably fell into this category. Read more here.

Verse 7: Pharisee means 'separatist' in Hebrew. McConkie gives this interesting commentary on them:

"The Pharisees were a zealous, devoted sect who accepted both the law of Moses and the traditions of the elders. They were pious and puritanical in conduct, glorying in frequent fasts and public prayers. Intensely patriotic and nationalistic, they believed in spirits, angels, revelation, immortality, eternal judgment, the resurrection from the dead, and rewards and punishments in the life to come." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Vol 1, digital copy, p. 61-61)

They were separatists in the sense that the saw themselves as campaigning against foreign and 'unpure' forms of Judaism.

As a contrast, the Sadducees were on the other side of the coin. They didn't believe in the resurrection, immortality, revelation, and so forth:

"They were a sect composed of skeptical, worldly, wealthy people a selfish group finding their most powerful adherents among the chief priests. Though the Sadducees professed belief in the law, they rejected the traditions of the elders, and made no pretensions of piety or devout worship." (DNTC: 1, digital copy, p. 62)

Interestingly, the Baptist calls both groups a 'generation of vipers'. McConkie further suggests this is the Baptist's way of saying that they have poisonous opinions and were destroying the religious health of the nation. It might be helpful for us, as we continue to study the New Testament, to examine if we fall onto either side of the Pharisee/Sadducee coin.

Verses 9-10: A possible reading of these verses is that the Lord will cut off the future blessing of what the scriptures call 'eternal lives'. This is suggested by speaking of raising children unto Abraham and then warning that the ax is laid at the root of the trees. Being cut off from the roots suggests no posterity for them and it also suggests being cut off from the covenant of Israel. Every tree that is cut down being thrown into the fire might connect with the sore curse that comes because the hearts of the fathers have not been turned to the children and vice-versa (see Malachi 4:5-6).

Verse 12: The imagery here is referring to instruments used in a threshing facility to separate the wheat from the chaff by tossing it into the air. Interestingly, Wayment comments that "King David purchased the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite as the site on which the temple would later be built (2 Chronicles 3:1)" (NT:TFLDS, p. 9) This is consistent imagery for the 'garner' being symbolism for the Holy Temple.

“Clearly, when we baptize, our eyes should gaze beyond the baptismal font to the holy temple. The great garner into which the sheaves should be gathered is the holy temple.” - Neal A. Maxwell (in John L. Hart, “Make Calling Focus of Your Mission,” Church News, Sept. 17, 1994, 4)

Verse 13: This verse might give greater insight into verse 5 of this same chapter. Jesus walked about 60 miles to be baptized of John. It appears that much of the surrounding area recognized the legitimate priesthood authority that John the Baptist held.

Verse 15: To fulfill all righteousness might be better explained by this statement from the Prophet Joseph Smith:

"If a man gets the fulness of God he has to get [it] in the same way that Jesus Christ obtained it and that was by keeping all the ordinances of the house of the Lord." (1)

Verse 16: The spirit descending like a dove has light intensive meaning. A look at figure 7 in facsimile 2 in The Book of Abraham shows "the sign of the Holy Ghost unto Abraham, in the form of a dove." In addition, Joseph Smith gives this commentary:

"The sign of the dove was instituted before the creation of the world, a witness for the Holy Ghost, and the devil cannot come in the sign of a dove. The Holy Ghost is a personage [a man], and is in the form of a personage [a man]. It does not confine itself to the form of the dove, but in sign [symbol or representation] of the dove. The Holy Ghost cannot be transformed into a dove; but the sign of a dove was given to John to signify the truth of the deed, as the dove is an emblem or token of truth and innocence." (TPJS, p. 276)

The sign of the dove is a token of how one can discern true revelation from false revelation. It is interesting, therefore, that facsimile 2 figure 7 has another meaning in addition to the sign of the dove. Joseph Smith explains it as "... God sitting upon his throne, revealing through the heavens the grand Key-words of the Priesthood" (note the hands and arms of the figures). The Baptist was given a sign to discern that he was in very deed the Messiah. It was a sign that mirrors other methods used to detect truth from error.

Verse 17: It is interesting to point out that similar things were said in Mark 9:7. In this verse, various LDS scholars and apostles suggest this is where Christ received His Endowment or, at least, where Peter, James, and John received theirs.

Mark 1

In an interesting bit of scholarship, Mark is the shortest gospel out of the four. Mark appears to be in a rush to get to the climactic event. Therefore, "some scholars now consider it possible that the entire Gospel was read in church services, perhaps even performed in dramatic voice for early Christians" (NT:TFLDS, p. 66). Scholars also point out that Mark suffers from pretty rampant grammar issues, various historical errors, and a choppy style. This might be helpful to us in that even one as unlearned as Mark can write and testify of the Savior.

The first 11 verses in Mark cover the same events found in Matthew 3. Therefore, they will be skipped over here.

Verse 12: Margaret Barker gives some light intensive commentary and speculation about this verse. She quotes Jerome's commentary on Isaiah 11 where he says the early Christians understood that the voice from Heaven at Jesus's baptism was Heavenly Mother (King of the Jews, 121). This makes the parallels to Jesus being driven into the wilderness striking when compared to the Women clothed with the sun who fled into the wilderness in Revelation 12:1-6. In the very beginning of the Book of Revelation, we learn that the Book of Revelation is a compilation of visions Jesus had and then revealed them to John. There are ancient temple traditions that suggest Jesus was wrapped in vision and saw the heavenly holy of holies at his baptism. With Satan coming to tempt him afterward mirrors what happens to Moses in Moses chapter 1.

Verse 13: According to Margaret Barker, the Hebrew word for 'wild beasts' is hayyôth. "This means both wild animals... but also the creatures of the cherub throne. Since the animals in the account of Jesus's desert experiences are linked to angels serving him, it is more likely that these were the creatures of the cherub throne than wild animals, and so being with the creatures and the angels meant a mystical experience. A distinct possibility is that Jesus received the throne vision in Revelation 4-5: the Lamb approached the throne, was given the scroll to open, and then the angels served before him. If he had received the vision of the Woman clothed with the sun at his baptism, the temptations in the desert would have been [the devil's] attempt to devour him (See Revelation 12)." (King of the Jews, p. 122)

Verse 34: Mark is the one gospel that puts heavy emphasis on what scholars call the Messianic Secret. This is pure speculation, but this might connect with President Kimball's simple suggestion (not an official prophetic declaration) as to why Peter denied the Savior three times. (2)

Luke 3

The first 18 verses of this chapter mirror the events of Matthew chapter 3. They will be skipped over here.

Verse 22: Thomas Wayment notes an interesting textual variant that exists concerning the Father's words from heaven: "You are my Son, and I have begotten you on this day" (NT:TFLDS, p. 116). It is this rendition that further compliments Margaret Barker's idea that this was the Heavenly Mother speaking from heaven.

Verses 23-38: The genealogy here differs from others. Luke's intent may be to trace Jesus's lineage not only through David but also all the way to Adam. It might be possible that this lineage comes right after Christ is 'begotten' at his baptism to highlight the parallels Adam has with Christ. Adam has his baptism (a term that might mean much more than the conventional ordinance of baptism) discussed in depth in Moses 6:64-68. In other words, this might be the priesthood lineage of those who also became Sons of God.

Further Reading


  1. I'd read Wayment's translation for these books but never even realized the connections to the Wisdom tradition. Fascinating stuff and very exciting! I need to read more of Barker's work.


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