Sunday, December 10, 2017

Witness Under Fire

Below is a rough translation and a particular perspective on John 1: 6-8, 19-28, the Revised Common Lectionary gospel reading for the 3rd Sunday of Advent. The usual way of reading this text is that John the gospel writer is demonstrating that John the baptizer is subordinate to Jesus. While John the baptizer does indeed subordinate himself, and John the writer makes that clear enough in v.8, I think there is a stronger dynamic at play in verses 19-28. I see John as being interrogated by the temple representatives. Therefore, I will be choosing some of the more powerful options (like ‘interrogated’ over simply ‘questioned’) in order to explore whether that is a promising way to read this encounter. One certainly could argue otherwise and make the discussion merely a genuine inquiry, but my last comment (v.28 n.1) will show why I think this has bearing on the rest of the gospel.

6  Ἐγένετο ἄνθρωπος ἀπεσταλμένος παρὰ θεοῦ, ὄνομα αὐτῷ Ἰωάννης:
A man came into being who was sent from God, his name John;
ἐγένετο: AMI 3s, γίνομαι, 1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being  2) to become, i.e. to come to pass, happen 
ἀπεσταλμένος: PPPart nms, ἀποστέλλω, 1) to order (one) to go to a place appointed  
1. The verb γίνομαι is a challenge for translators. This is the word that the KJV often translates as “It came to pass” (not here, however.) It indicates something coming to be, so in v.3 it is translated “made” (NIV, ESV, KJV) or “happen” (YLT) or “came into being” (NRSV). In v.3, γίνομαι seems to point to the grandness of all created things. Here, γίνομαι  is used here to introduce an individual person, John the baptizer. Translators tone down γίνομαι into “there was” (KJV, NIV, ESV, NRSV), while YLT goes with “there came.” I am trying – in this rough stage of translation – to keep consistent language – using “came into being” – but it seems flourish-y here when applied to one person.
2. John gets the additional modifier, “who was sent from God.”

7οὗτος ἦλθεν εἰς μαρτυρίαν, ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ τοῦ φωτός, ἵνα πάντες 
πιστεύσωσιν δι' αὐτοῦ. 
This one came to a witness, in order that he might witness concerning the light, in order that all might believe through him. 
ἦλθεν  AAI 3s ἔρχομαι, 1) to come  1a) of persons  1a1) to come from one place to another, and used both of  persons arriving and of those returning 
μαρτυρήσῃ: AASubj 3s, μαρτυρέω, 1) to be a witness, to bear witness, i.e. to affirm that one has  seen or heard or experienced something, or that he knows it  because taught by divine revelation or inspiration
πιστεύσωσιν: AASubj 3p, πιστεύω, 1) to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place  confidence in
1. The related use of the noun μαρτυρίαν and the verb μαρτυρήσῃ is lost when translators use “witness” then “testify” as the translations. I think the English “witness” works best because it, too, functions as a noun and a verb.
2. The double use of ἵνα is interesting. I’ve always found that asking “to what end?” allows me to dig down below the surface to the root purpose of something. That is how I hear this succession moving.
3. “that all might believe” - Throughout John’s gospel, to “believe” is keenly significant, whether one thinks of the ever-popular John 3:16 or the “Doubting Thomas” story. Elaine Pagels, in Beyond Belief, argues that the selection of the Gospel of John as the companion gospel to the synoptics – as opposed to or as in addition to the Gospel of Thomas – was part of the church’s evolution from a charismatic movement to an orthodox religion. (I hope I said that well enough.) However one feels about Pagel’s argument, the point in this verse is that “believe” is the end game, which I would say is consistent throughout the gospel. The next question for me would be whether “believe” is a static adherence to a set of propositions or whether to “believe” in one – who is described as the Logos of creation, or the Resurrection and the Life, etc. – is a different kind of “believing.” 
4. Another question arises over who is the precedent implied by the pronoun of the last phrase δι' αὐτοῦ (“through him”). Is it John? Or, it is the light? Did God send John so that, through John, all might believe what John testifies about the light?  Or, did God send John in order to witness to the light, so that all might believe through the light?

8οὐκ ἦν ἐκεῖνος τὸ φῶς, ἀλλ' ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ τοῦ φωτός. 
He himself was not the light, but in order to witness concerning the light. 
μαρτυρήσῃ: AASubj 3s, μαρτυρέω, 1) to be a witness, to bear witness,
1. What is the point of this clarification?  The flow of the text itself does not seem to require it. The context of John’s audience might need the clarification, given the enormous popularity of John and implications elsewhere in the Scriptures that some thought perhaps John was the Coming One.

……………

19 Καὶ αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ μαρτυρία τοῦ Ἰωάννου, ὅτε ἀπέστειλαν [πρὸς αὐτὸν] οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι ἐξ Ἱεροσολύμων ἱερεῖς καὶ Λευίτας ἵνα ἐρωτήσωσιν αὐτόν, Σὺ τίς εἶ;
And this is the witness of John, when the Judeans out of Jerusalem sent [to him] priests and Levites in order that they may interrogate him, “Who are you?
ἐστὶν: PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
ἀπέστειλαν: AAI 3p, ἀποστέλλω, 1) to order (one) to go to a place appointed  2) to send away, dismiss 
ἐρωτήσωσιν: AASubj 3p, ἐρωτάω, 1) to question  2) to ask  2a) to request, entreat, beg, beseech
εἶ: PAI 2s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
1. I think the translation of ἐρωτάω as “ask” (NRSV, NIV, ESV, KJV) is too soft. This term is used often in times of despair or challenge. Since the term μαρτυρία (“witness” or “testimony”) evokes courtroom language, I think “interrogate” is the preferred interpretation for ἐρωτάω, to keep this a kind of ‘courtroom trial’ slant. In that sense, it might be worth comparing this story to the High Priest interrogating Jesus and the disciples in John 19:19, where the verb ἐρωτάω is used also. In my mind, “interrogate” has more of a feel for the dynamics of power, or the dynamics of assumed power, of who is in charge. See John 9 (vv. 2, 15, 19, 21, 23), in the aftermath of the man born blind, to see this dynamic in use. It describes both the initial question of the disciples (which is noteworthy in itself) and the prosecutorial questions of the religious leaders. 
My choice of this word will shape the way the next few verses play out. There is a huge difference in asking, sincerely and with hope, “Are you the Christ?” or “Are you Elijah?” It’s another thing to ask that question as a challenge, to put the witness on the defensive.

20 καὶ ὡμολόγησεν καὶ οὐκ ἠρνήσατο, καὶ ὡμολόγησεν ὅτι Ἐγὼ οὐκ εἰμὶ ὁ Χριστός.
And he confessed and did not deny, and confessed, “I am not the Christ.”
ὡμολόγησεν: AAI 3s, ὁμολογέω, 1) to say the same thing as another, i.e. to agree with, assent  2) to concede  2a) not to refuse, to promise  2b) not to deny  2b1) to confess 
ἠρνήσατο: AMI 3s, ἀρνέομαι, 1) to deny 
ὡμολόγησεν: AAI 3s, ὁμολογέω, 1) to say the same thing as another, i.e. to agree with, assent  2) to concede  2a) not to refuse, to promise  2b) not to deny  2b1) to confess 
εἰμὶ: PAI 1s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
1. The repetition of the verbs “confessed and did not deny and confessed” are not necessary to make the point of the sentence. Their repetition may imply the firmness of John’s answer to the persistence of the interrogators.
2. While ὡμολόγησεν can mean “to promise” (Acts 7:17) “to profess” (Acts 23:8) etc., I think here it is best to keep the interrogation language going. John’s uses of this term in 9:22 and 12:42 indicate that one’s status in the temple/community rides on how they might make a “confession.” I think that is a part of confessing the faith that is often lost when it becomes a liturgical practice. 

21 καὶ ἠρώτησαν αὐτόν, Τί οὖν; Σύ Ἠλίας εἶ; καὶ λέγει, Οὐκ εἰμί. Ὁ προφήτης εἶ σύ; καὶ ἀπεκρίθη, Οὔ.
And they interrogated him, “Who then? Are you Elijah?” and he says, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” and he answered, “No.”
ἠρώτησαν: AAI 3p, ἐρωτάω, 1) to question  2) to ask  2a) to request, entreat, beg, beseech
εἶ: PAI 2s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
λέγει: PAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
εἰμί: PAI 1s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
εἶ: PAI 2s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
ἀπεκρίθη: API 3s, ἀποκρίνομαι, 1) to give an answer to a question proposed, to answer 
1. I suspect they had John in a metal ladder-back chair with his hands tied behind his back and a strong light shining on his face. If only the “good cop, bad cop” routine had been invented back then, they might have broken him.
2. I’m not quite sure who “the prophet” is, if it is not Elijah. Maybe they are repeating the same question in different words.

22 εἶπαν οὖν αὐτῷ, Τίς εἶ; ἵνα ἀπόκρισιν δῶμεν τοῖς πέμψασιν ἡμᾶς: τί λέγεις περὶ σεαυτοῦ;
Then they said to him, “Who are you? In order that we may give an answer to the ones who sent us; What do you say about yourself?”
εἶπαν: AAI 3p, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
εἶ: PAI 2s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
δῶμεν: AASubj 1p, δίδωμι, 1) to give
πέμψασιν: AAPart dpm, πέμπω, 1) to send 
λέγεις: λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
1. It is a familiar tactic of interrogators to try to get the ‘witness’ to sympathize with their need to answer to their superiors.

23 ἔφη, Ἐγὼ φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ, Εὐθύνατε τὴν ὁδὸν κυρίου, καθὼς εἶπεν Ἠσαΐας ὁ προφήτης.
He was declaring “I a voice crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the lord,’ just as Isaiah the prophet said.”
ἔφη: IAI 3s, φημί, 1) to make known one's thoughts, to declare
βοῶντος: PAPart gsm, βοάω, 1) to raise a cry, of joy pain etc.  2) to cry, speak with a high, strong voice 3) to cry to one for help, to implore his aid 
Εὐθύνατε: εὐθύνω, 1) to make straight, level, plain
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
1. The verb for “declare” φημί is in the imperfect tense, not the aorist. That could imply that this was John’s repeated insistence, as opposed to a final answer that he got to after all of the other denials and confessions. If it were what John is saying repeatedly, then maybe it was not deemed sufficient by his interrogators.

24 Καὶ ἀπεσταλμένοι ἦσαν ἐκ τῶν Φαρισαίων.
And the ones having been sent were out of the Pharisees.
ἀπεσταλμένοι: PerfPPart npm, ἀποστέλλω, 1) to order (one) to go to a place appointed 
ἦσαν: IAI 3p, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
1. This statement clarifies who the Jews/Judeans are in the less specific opening statement of v.19.
2. I’m not entirely sure whether this means that the priests and Levites themselves were Pharisees or whether the sending agents were the Pharisees. The phrase “out of the Pharisees” seems to be able to imply either one.

25 καὶ ἠρώτησαν αὐτὸν καὶ εἶπαν αὐτῷ, Τί οὖν βαπτίζεις εἰ σὺ οὐκ εἶ ὁ Χριστὸς οὐδὲ Ἠλίας οὐδὲ ὁ προφήτης;
And they interrogated him and said to him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ nor Elijah nor the prophet?”
ἠρώτησαν: AAI 3p, ἐρωτάω, 1) to question  2) to ask  2a) to request, entreat, beg, beseech
εἶπαν: AAI 3p, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
βαπτίζεις: PAI 2s, βαπτίζω, 1) to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge
εἶ: PAI 2s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
1. Whenever I read about John’s baptism, I’m fairly sure I don’t understand the depth of what it meant to his time and place. It seems different than Paul’s description of baptism as ‘dying and rising with Christ,’ since John baptized even before Jesus’ ministry became public. This question implies that only the Christ, Elijah, the prophet, or perhaps only the Pharisees have any business baptizing. (I am not aware of any source that suggests that the Pharisees baptized). This question seems to make baptism more than people’s way of publicly professing their repentance and readiness to participate in the reign of God. The baptized seem to be making a public allegiance that is either opposed to or perceive as risky by the religious leadership. It also seems to imply that the baptizer has some standing – which can either be brought into line with the authority of the temple leadership in Jerusalem or which will be an alternative, perhaps even a threat to them.

26 ἀπεκρίθη αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰωάννης λέγων, Ἐγὼ βαπτίζω ἐν ὕδατι: μέσος ὑμῶν ἕστηκεν ὃν ὑμεῖς οὐκ οἴδατε,
John answered to them saying, “I baptize in water; among you has stood one whom you have not known,
ἀπεκρίθη: API 3s, ἀποκρίνομαι, 1) to give an answer to a question proposed, to answer 
λέγων: PAPart nsm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
βαπτίζω: PAI 1s, βαπτίζω, 1) to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge
ἕστηκεν: PerfAI 3s, ἵστημι, 1) to cause or make to stand, to place, put, set  1a) to bid to stand by, [set up]  1a1) in the presence of others
οἴδατε: PerfAI 2p, εἴδω/ἴδω, an obsolete form of the present tense, the place of which is supplied by ὁράω. The tenses come from εἴδω and are retained by usage from two families, of which one signifies to see, the other to know.

27 [ὁ] ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος, οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ [ἐγὼ] ἄξιος ἵνα λύσω αὐτοῦ τὸν ἱμάντα τοῦ ὑποδήματος.
who comes after me, for whom I [indeed] am not worthy in order to loosen for him the laces of the sandals.”
ἐρχόμενος: PMPart nsm, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come 
εἰμὶ: PAI 1s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
λύσω: AASubj 1s, λύω, 1) to loose any person (or thing) tied or fastened 
1. There is a slight textual variation of whether the ὁ begins this verse or not. That may account for why some translations are comfortable making v.27 a stand alone sentence (with ‘he’ as the subject) instead of a clause connected to v.26.
2. This answer from John is quite the response to the interrogation. I hear it as, “If you think I am a threat to your presumptions of power, think about this: There is someone among you whom you do not know who is far greater than I.”
3. This is the verse that the KJV (with which I grew up) says “unloose.” Then, as a young teenager I got an NIV that said “untie.” The cognitive dissonance between unloosing and untying kept me awake at nights.

28 Ταῦτα ἐν Βηθανίᾳ ἐγένετο πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου, ὅπου ἦν ὁ Ἰωάννης βαπτίζων.
These things happened in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
ἐγένετο: AMI 3s, γίνομαι, 1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being 
ἦν: IAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
βαπτίζων: PAPart nsm, βαπτίζω, 1) to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge
1. This may simply be a statement about location, but I think it serves to show that this interrogation happened off the grid. It was a conflict that started and was provoked by the temple leadership, far apart from Jerusalem, even before Jesus emerged on the scene. Why would this be significant? Because in c.2, Jesus goes to the temple and demonstrably expresses his zeal for it by overturning tables and challenging the practices there. Many commentators – and I felt this way before viewing our text as an interrogation – say that Jesus is the provocateur in John’s gospel, challenging the temple leadership right off the bat. If my “courtroom” perspective on this text is correct, then Jesus is not the provocateur. He is responding in defense of John and John’s ministry, as well as his own ministry to which John pointed. The provocation begins in c.1, not in c.2.


Monday, December 4, 2017

A Beginning of the Gospel

Below is a rough translation and some preliminary comments regarding Mark 1:1-8, the reading for the second Sunday of Advent in year B. This text seems to gave been worked over a good bit, but remains an excellent introduction to an excellent gospel. 

1 Ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ [υἱοῦ θεοῦ]. 
A beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ [son of God].
1. There is no verb in this verse, hence there is a subject, but no object. My sense is that it is meant to serve as a title, rather than a first verse, but that’s pure speculation.
2. There is no definite article for ‘beginning,’ so “a beginning,” not “the beginning.”
3. “son of God” seems to have been added later by a ‘fixing’ scribe. I am thinking of a document, noted by Bart Ehrman, where one scribe was weary of a previous scribe’s ‘helpful’ emendations and wrote in the column, “Fool and nave, stop trying to fix the text!”
4. As pointed out by Clayton N. Croy ("Where the Gospel Text Begins: A Non-Theological Interpretation of Mark 1:1," Novum Testamentum, 2001), T.W. Manson, followed 50 years later by John P. Meier, argue that there are a number of grammatical and syntactical problems with this pericope. It does seem that these few verses have been worked over pretty well by scribes and those who added period, capitals, and other indicators throughout the history of the text.

2 Καθὼς γέγραπται ἐν τῷ Ἠσαΐᾳ τῷ προφήτῃ, Ἰδοὺ ἀποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν 
μου πρὸ προσώπου σου, ὃς κατασκευάσει τὴν ὁδόν σου: 
Just as it has been written in the prophet Isaiah, “Behold I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way;
γέγραπται: PerfPI 3s, γράφω, 1) to write, with reference to the form of the letters 
Ἰδοὺ:  AMImpv εἶδον, a particle serving to call attention.
ἀποστέλλω: PAI 1s, ἀποστέλλω, 1) to order (one) to go to a place appointed
κατασκευάσει: FAI 3s, κατασκευάζω, 1) to furnish, equip, prepare, make ready, 1a) of one who makes anything ready for a person or thing
1. The particle Καθὼς (just as) makes this a dependent clause. Manson argues that there is no subsequent main clause, but that has been rectified by modern translations, such as the NRSV, by omitting the periods at the end of vv. 2 and 3 (per KJV), thereby making v.4’s “John came” the main verb of the sentence that begins in v.2. I don’t think the NIV handles this well at all by putting a period at the end of v.3 and starting v. 4 with “And so John the Baptist appeared ….” The whole point of the mashup of quotes, as I see it, is to explain how/why John appeared, which seems softened by “And so….” 
2. The first part of this quote is from Exodus 23:20, not Isaiah: καὶ ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου πρὸ προσώπου σου ἵνα φυλάξῃ σε ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ ὅπως εἰσαγάγῃσε εἰς τὴν γῆν ἣν ἡτοίμασά σοι (LXX), translated by the NRSV as “I am going to send an angel in front of you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared.” This text refers to the presence (filled with God’s name) that leads Israel into the Canaan. God also promises to send “terror” and “pestilence” before them, to drive out the residents so that Israel will not make covenants with them or serve their gods. The quote is also akin to Malachi 3:1: ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἐξαποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου, καὶ ἐπιβλέψεται ὁδὸν πρὸ προσώπου μου, καὶ ἐξαίφνης ἥξει εἰς τὸν ναὸν ἑαυτοῦ κύριος, ὃν ὑμεῖς ζητεῖτε, καὶ ὁ ἄγγελος τῆς διαθήκης, ὃν ὑμεῖς θέλετε· ἰδοὺ ἔρχεται, λέγει κύριος παντοκράτωρ, translated in the NRSV as “See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.” The messenger in Malachi will come like a refiner’s fire and fuller soap.

3 φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ, Ἑτοιμάσατε τὴν ὁδὸν κυρίου, εὐθείας ποιεῖτε 
τὰς τρίβους αὐτοῦ 
A voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the lord, make straight the path of him.’”
βοῶντος: PAPart gsm, βοάω, 1) to raise a cry, of joy pain etc.  2) to cry, speak with a high, strong voice  3) to cry to one for help, to implore his aid. 
Ἑτοιμάσατε: AAImpv 2p, ἑτοιμάζω, 1) to make ready, prepare 
ποιεῖτε: PAImpv 2p, ποιέω, 1) to make
1. Isaiah 40:3 (LXX) reads: φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ ἑτοιμάσατε τὴν ὁδὸν κυρίου εὐθείας ποιεῖτε τὰς τρίβους τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν, translated in the NRSV as “A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’” The NRSV is not translating the LXX, but the Hebrew text, where “In the wilderness” is part of what is cried out and so the location of where one is to prepare the way. Mark’s Greek text follows the LXX, which makes “in the wilderness” part of a participial phrase of the voice’s location. 
3. The first imperative, “prepare” is aorist while the second, “make” is present. In the imperative voice, tenses do not indicate time as much as aspect. I point this out because I typically think the second part of this sentence says essentially the same thing as the first, but perhaps there is more to it than that.

4 ἐγένετο Ἰωάννης [ὁ] βαπτίζων ἐν τῇἐρήμῳ καὶ κηρύσσων βάπτισμα 
μετανοίας εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν. 
John came, who was baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance to forgiveness of sins.
ἐγένετο: AMI 3s, γίνομαι, 1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being  2) to become, i.e. to come to pass, happen 
βαπτίζων: PAPart nms, βαπτίζω, 1) to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge
κηρύσσων: PAPart nms, κηρύσσω, 1) to be a herald, to officiate as a herald 
1. The [ὁ] is not in all of the ancient manuscripts. My guess is that it was added later, after John’s activity became commonly used as a title, ‘the baptizer.’
2. ‘Baptizing’ and ‘preaching’ are participles with identical case, number, gender, and tense. That is why I use them similarly, to modify “John” and each with a predicate.
3. If one puts this whole sentence (vv. 2-4) together, it flows like this: Just as it is written … John came. Then, what is written (a voice crying out, a messenger coming to prepare) is aligned with what John is doing (baptizing and preaching). Contra Manson, as one long sentence, I think these three verses hold together quite nicely.

5 καὶ ἐξεπορεύετο πρὸς αὐτὸν πᾶσα  Ἰουδαία χώρα καὶ οἱ Ἱεροσολυμῖται 
πάντες, καὶ ἐβαπτίζοντο ὑπ' αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ Ἰορδάνῃ ποταμῷ  ἐξομολογούμενοι τὰς ἁμαρτίας αὐτῶν. 
And all the Judean region and all the Jerusalemites were going out to him, and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River confessing their sins. 
ἐξεπορεύετο: IMI 3s, ἐκπορεύομαι, 1) to go forth, go out, depart  2) metaph.  2a) to come forth, to issue, to proceed 
ἐβαπτίζοντο: IPI 3p, βαπτίζω, 1) to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk)  2) to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean  with water, to wash one's self, bathe
ἐξομολογούμενοι: PMPart npm, ἐξομολογέω, 1) to confess  2) to profess 

6 καὶ ἦν  Ἰωάννης ἐνδεδυμένος τρίχας καμήλου καὶ ζώνην δερματίνην περὶ τὴν ὀσφὺν αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐσθίων ἀκρίδας καὶ μέλι ἄγριον. 
And John was clothing himself with hair of camel and skin belt around his hips, and eating locusts and wild honey. 
ἦν: IAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
ἐνδεδυμένος: PerfMPart nms, ἐνδύω, 1) to sink into (clothing), put on, clothe one's self 
ἐσθίων: PAPart nms, ἐσθίω, 1) to eat  2) to eat (consume) a thing  2a) to take food, eat a meal  3) metaph. to devour, consume
1. I’m not entirely sure how to honor the main verb, ἦν (‘was’, in the imperfect), since it seems to be serving as a linking verb to a perfect middle participle, making “was … having been clothing himself.”
2. See II Kings 1:8 where Elijah the Tishbite is described as “A hairy man, with a leather belt around his waist.” The use of the middle voice, John was “clothing himself” may indicate that John was very self-consciously dressing to fill the role of Elijah. Was John being somewhat theatrical in order to fulfill his role, or was he simply an ascetic, whose appearance was aligned with Elijah’s by others?

7 καὶ ἐκήρυσσεν λέγων, Ἔρχεται  ἰσχυρότερός μου ὀπίσω μου, οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ 
ἱκανὸς κύψας λῦσαι τὸν ἱμάντα τῶν ὑποδημάτων αὐτοῦ: 
And was preaching saying, “One greater than me comes after me, for whom I am not worthy to loosen the laces of his sandals.
ἐκήρυσσεν: IAI 3s, κηρύσσω, 1) to be a herald, to officiate as a herald  1a) to proclaim after the manner of a herald 
λέγων: PAPart nsm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
Ἔρχεται: PMI 3s, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come
εἰμὶ: PAI 1s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
λῦσαι: AAInf, λύω, 1) to loose any person (or thing) tied or fastened
1. These words of John the Baptizer are repeated in all four of the gospels, as well as in a sermon by Paul in Acts 13:25.

8 ἐγὼ ἐβάπτισα ὑμᾶς ὕδατι, αὐτὸς δὲ βαπτίσει ὑμᾶς ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ. 
I baptize you with water; but he will baptize you in a holy spirit.
ἐβάπτισα: AAI 1s, βαπτίζω, 1) to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge
βαπτίσει: FAI 3s, βαπτίζω, 1) to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge1.
1. The KJV and YLT begin this verse, “I indeed baptize …” because the ἐγὼ (ego: I) is not necessary, given that the verb is in the 1st person singular. Often, in that case, the ἐγὼ  seems to add stress and can be interpreted as “I indeed.” I suspect that it is not so much intended here to stress the “I” as much as to set up a parallel construction between “I …, but he …,” since the whole point of the verse is to subordinate John’s baptism to the baptism of the coming one.
2. The phrase πνεύματι ἁγίῳ is tricky. In this instance  both πνεύματι and ἁγίῳ are in the dative case, making it rightly ‘in a holy spirit.’ In many other instances in the NT the word for ‘spirit’ may be nominative/accusative while the word for ‘holy’ will be genitive, making it ‘spirit of holiness.’ Nonetheless, since “the Holy Spirit” has been made a point of dogma in the history of the church, translators often add a definite article, capitalize both words, and ignore any differences in case that might be in the text.

3. Here, for example, there is no definite article, so “a holy spirit” not “the Holy Spirit” (as in KJV, YLT, ESV, NIV, and NRSV). 

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