Baptism of Jesus

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Baptism of Jesus
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The events of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist are recorded the Matthew 3. In Roman Catholicism the event is commemorated on January 1. In the story, Jesus comes to the Jordan River and is there baptised, and after the baptism occurs the heavens open and God pronounces that Jesus is his son. After this moment Jesus' ministry begins.

Location

John is placed by the passage in the wilderness of Judea, which is generally taken to refer to the region of Judea sloping down from the highlands to the Dead Sea, an arid area not well suited to habitation. The term normally translated as wilderness is occasionally translated as desert, although there was enough moisture to allow for pastoralism. According to Pliny this region was home to the Essenes. According to Guthrie, at this time wilderness was considered much closer to God than the more corrupt cities.

According to tradition, Jesus meets John at the Jordan River, five miles south of the Allenby Bridge, near Qasir al-Yahud on the West Bank. This location is today the site of an Eastern Orthodox monastery.

Interpretations

Matthew and Mark report that Jesus seeks out John to be baptised by him. Jesus' words in Matthew are the first words that Matthew records Jesus as speaking. Matthew has Jesus saying that John should baptise him to fulfil all righteousness.

Righteousness is an important concept in Matthew and it is usually considered that Matthew uses it to mean obedience to God; cf. Deuteronomy 6:25. Matthew, writing primarily to Jews, who were grounded in the Old Testament, often uses the word fulfill, usually using it to indicate that an Old Testament prophecy has been fulfilled by Jesus. Hence the phrase fulfill all righteousness can be interpreted as implying that Jesus fulfilled some aspect of the Old Testament Law. In the account of Jesus' baptism given in the Gospel of Luke, it is mentioned that Jesus was about 30 years old (Luke 3:23). This age requirement for priests and Levites was given in the Old Testament Law (Numbers 4:3,47). In addition a priest had to be called by God (Hebrews 5:4-10), and washed with water by an existing priest (Exodus 29:4, Leviticus 8:6). John the Baptist was a priest, inheriting the office from his father (Exodus 29:9, Numbers 25:13, Luke 1:4,13). This explains why Jesus, who is sinless, submitted to a ritual that signified repentance for sin.

After Jesus is baptised, the narrative describes the heavens as opening, the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and a voice announcing that Jesus is God's beloved Son and that God is well pleased with him. The opening heavens echo the beginning of the Book of Ezekiel. Some ancient manuscripts read opened up to him rather than just opened up, suggesting that this event is more private, and so explaining why the crowds that Luke argues were present apparently did not notice. This, together with the symbology of the dove, is seen as representing the Trinity.

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