Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Who Saw the Spirit of God Descending on Jesus?

Matthew 2:16-17
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.
I always thought it was John the Baptist who saw the Spirit of God descending onto Jesus, but apparently it was Jesus himself who saw it. Interesting.


5 comments:

Alan C said...

I'm not so sure. The Holman Bible capitalizes He in Matthew 3:16 "and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on Him" but the Amplified Bible definitely says it was John who saw it: "and he [John] saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him." Hmm.

Kent West said...
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Kent West said...
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Kent West said...

The commentaries I was able to cursorily peruse agree with the Amplified Bible, but this seems to be based more on presupposition than on textual analysis.

The verse speaks of Jesus, and how "he" came up out of the water, and how the Spirit came down on "him". The only way to make the middle-of-the-sentence phrase "he saw" apply to John is to ignore that John is not mentioned in this verse and to ignore that Jesus is mentioned both immediately prior to and immediately after this "he saw", with no indication whatsoever that the "he saw" refers to someone different than who is otherwise referenced in the verse.

Did Matthew intend the "he saw" to reference John the Baptist? It's possible. But if so, his writing gets sloppy at this point (who of us doesn't have sloppy writing skills at times?). To read the passage thus, we have to assume an exception to the "Last Antecedent Rule", which is acceptable if the context demands it, but it seems to me that we would do so, not because the context demands it, but because our preconceptions demand it.

Kent West said...

On the other hand, the context of John 9:6 strongly indicates that the "Last Antecedent Rule" is violated in that verse, when Jesus spreads mud on "his" eyes, with "his" referring to the blind man rather than to Jesus.

So we do have a good example of such "sloppy" writing on the part of the Gospel witnesses. If John can do it in John 9:6, why not Matthew in Matthew 3:16?