Exegetical and Hermeneutical Commentary of John 1:25 – Bible Commentary

And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elijah, neither that prophet?

25. Why baptizest thou then? ]’What right do you have to treat Jews as if they were proselytes and make them submit to a rite which implies that they are impure?’ Had they forgotten Zech 13:1; Eze 36:25?

be not that Christ&c.]Better, art not the Christ, north yet Elijah, nor yet the Prophet. see on John 1:21.

Source: The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Why baptizest thou then … – Baptism on receiving a proselyte from paganism was common before the time of John, but it was not customary to baptize a Jew. John had changed the custom. He baptized all, and they were desirous of knowing by what authority he made such a change in the religious customs of the nation. They presumed, from the fact that he introduced that change, that he claimed to be a prophet or the Christ. They supposed that no one would attempt it without pretending, at least, authority from heaven. As he disclaimed the character of Christ and of the prophet Elijah, they asked when he derived his authority from him. As he had just before applied to himself a prediction that they all considered as belonging to the fore runner of Christ, they might have understood why he did it; but they were blind, and manifested, as all sinners do, a remarkable slowness in understanding the plainest truths in religion.

Source: Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible

Verse 25. Why baptizest thou then?]Baptism was a very common ceremony among the Jews, who never received a proselyte into the full enjoyment of a Jew’s privileges, till he was both baptized and circumcised. But such baptisms were never performed except by an ordinance of the Sanhedrin, or in the presence of three magistrates: besides, they never baptized any Jew or Jewess, nor even those who were the children of their proselytes; for, as all these were considered as born in the covenant, they had no need of baptism, which was used only as an introductory rite. Now, as John had, in this respect, altered the common custom so very essentially, admitting to his baptism the Jews in general, the Sanhedrin took it for granted that no man had authority to make such changes, unless especially commissioned from on high; and that only the prophet, or Elijah, or the Messiah himself; he could have authority to act as John did. See the observations at the conclusion of Mark.

Source: Adam Clarke’s Commentary and Critical Notes on the Bible

The Pharisees themselves would allow the Messiah, or Elias, or a prophet, to make any additions to or alterations in the worship of God, but none else: hence it is they ask, by what authority he baptized, if he were none of these ? From whence we may learn, that although they might have some umbrage of that baptismal washing which was under the gospel, to commence into a sacrament, or federal sign, in the washing of their proselytes, or of Jewish children when they were circumcised; yet Johns action was looked upon as new, who baptized adult Jews: now the care of the sanhedrim was to keep the worship of God incorrupt, and the Pharisees amongst them had a particular zeal in the case, especially so far as the traditions of the elders were concerned.

Source: English Annotations on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole

25. Why baptizest thou, if not,&c. Thinking he disclaimed any special connection with Messiah’s kingdom, they demand his right to gather disciples by baptism.

Source: Jamieson, Fausset and Brown’s Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

And they asked him, and said unto him,…. They put a question, by saying to him,

why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? since he denied that he was the Messiah, or Elias that was to come before the Messiah, according to the expectation of the Jews, or that prophet, or a prophet, they demand by what authority he introduced a new rite and ordinance among them, which they had never been used to; for though there were divers washings or baptisms among them, enjoined by the law of Moses in certain cases, and others which obtained by tradition, as the immersion of themselves after they had been at market, and of cups, pots, brazen vessels, and tables, yet nothing of this kind that John administered: and as for the baptism of proselytes, it seems to be of a later date than this, and had no manner of likeness to it. The ordinance John administered was such, as they apprehended that no one ought to practise, unless he was the Messiah, or his forerunner of him, or some eminent prophet; they insist upon it therefore, that since he denied he was either of these, that he would show his credentials from him, and what commission he had from God to baptize; or they suggest he was liable to be called to an account by their sanhedrim, and be condemned as a false prophet, or an innovator in religious affairs. From hence it appears, that the Jews expected that baptism would be administered in the times of the Messiah, and his forerunner of it; but from whence they had this notion, it is not easy to say, whether from Zech 13:1 as Grotius, or from Eze 36:25 as Lightfoot; nor do they speak contemptibly of it, but rather consider it as a very solemn affair, to be performed only by great personages: and this may teach modern ones to think and speak more respectfully of this ordinance than they do, who have given themselves great liberties, and have treated it with much contemplation and virulence; calling it by the names of uncleanness, abomination, filthy water, and a devoting of persons to Satan z: likewise, it is clear from hence, that they expected that this ordinance would be first administered by some person of very great note, either some very famous prophet, as Elias, whom they looked for before the coming of the Messiah, or else the Messiah himself, and not by a common teacher, or any ordinary person; wherefore this rite, as performed by John, could have no likeness with anything that was in common use among them: besides, it was expressly done in the name of the Messiah, Ac 19:5 therefore they conclude he, or his forerunner, must be come; and that John must be one, or other of them, otherwise, why did he administer it? and it is also evident from hence, that no such practice had been obtained before among them, or they would not have been alarmed at it, as they were; nor would they have troubled themselves to have sent after John, and inquire of him who he was, that they should practice in this manner.

z Vet. Nizzachon, p. 56, 62, 64, 70, 74, 77, 148, 191, 193.

Source: John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible

Why then baptizest thou? ( ;). In view of his repeated denials of him (three here mentioned).

If thou art not ( ). Condition of first class. They did not interpret his claim to be “the voice” to be important enough to justify the ordinance of baptism. Abrahams (Studies in Pharisaism and the Gospels) shows that proselyte baptism was probably practiced before John’s time, but its use by John was treating the Jews as if they were themselves Gentiles.

Source: Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament

1) “And they asked him and said unto him,” (kai erotesan auton kai eipan auto) “And inquiring they said to him,” a fourth time, John 1:19; John 1:21-22. Quien eres? They persisted with tautology; yet, he kept his message straight that he was the prophesied forerunner or fore-fixer for Jesus’ coming. 0 that men would yet be as steadfast in the Word and witnessing that Jesus has sent them to do, Act 1:8; 1Co 15:8; Gal 6:9.

two) “Why baptizest thou then,” (ti oun baptizeis ei) “Why then are you, or do you, baptize,” “Why do you immerse people?” Yes, the root word for baptize means to dip, submerge, or immerse, not to sprinkle or pour, see? And he required repentance of sin and faith and a fruit of repentance before he would baptize them as he had been Divinely mandated to do, John 1:6; John 1:33; Matt 3:1-8; Act 19:4.

3) “If thou be not,” (ei su ouk ei) “If you are not,” if you do not exist as, 4) “That Christ, nor Elias,” (ho Christos oude Elias) “The Christ (the Messiah) nor Elias,” the person of Elijah or that forerunner of the terrible day of the Lord, bad 4:5.

5) “Neither that prophet?” (oude ho prophetes) “Nor even the prophet,” of which Moses wrote? Deu 18:15-18. And for whom true believers like Simeon and Anna had long waited, Luke 2:25-38; Acts 3:22-23; John 7:40.

Source: Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

25. Why then dost thou baptize? By laying down those three degrees, they appear to form a very conclusive argument: if thou art not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor a prophet; for it does not belong to every man to institute the practice of baptism. The Messiah was to be one who possessed all authority. Of Elijah who was to come, they had formed this opinion, that he would commence the restoration both of the royal authority and of the Church. The prophets of God, they readily grant, have a right to discharge the office committed to them. They conclude, therefore, that for John to baptize is an unlawful novelty, since he has received from God no public station. But they are wrong in not acknowledging him to be that Elijah who is mentioned by bad 4:5; though he denies that he is that Elijah of whom they foolishly dreamed.

Source: Calvin’s Complete Commentary

(25) Why baptizest thou then?Baptism, which was certainly one of the initiatory rites of proselytes in the second or third century AD, was probably so before the work of the Baptist. It is not baptism, therefore, which is strange to the questioners, but the fact that he places Jews and even Pharisees (Matt. 3:7) in an analogous position to that of proselytes, and makes them to pass through a rite which marks them out as impure, and needing to be cleansed before they enter the kingdom of heaven. By what authority does he do these things? They had interpreted such passages as Eze. 36:25 ff. to mean that Baptism should be one of the marks of Messiahs work. None less than the Christ, or Elias, or the prophet could enact a rite like this. John is assuming their power from him, and yet he is not one of them.

Source: Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

‘And they asked him and said to him, “Why then are you baptising if you are not the Christ, or Elijah, or the prophet?”

They were puzzled by his baptism. They recognized that it must have some great religious significance but it was one they did not understand. Nor were they sure where he felt he had obtained the authority to perform such a baptism. If he did not see himself as the expected Messiah, or as Elijah, or as the great Prophet, why was he baptizing? They almost certainly saw his baptism of him as a special aspect of ceremonial washing, although recognizing that it was once for all, and wanted to know his credentials of him for introducing such an idea. To bring about such a new approach he had to be someone of outstanding importance.

Source: Commentary Series on the Bible by Peter Pett

John 1:25. Why baptizest thou then, The Jews, it seems, had conceived an opinion that they were all to be baptized, either by Messiah himself, or by some of his retinue; which they drew from Zech 13:1.though that prophecy is to be taken in a most spiritual sense. The decisions of the Pharisees were held by the common people as infallible; wherefore they are mentioned John 1:24.; and as this…

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