Questions & Answers

Christ's Baptismal Declaration

Dr. Gentry:

Hi , I was reading in the book of Matthew in chapter 3:17: "and suddenly a voice came from heaven saying , This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Then it says in Luke 3:22: "and a voice came from heaven which said, You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased."

I was thinking: Did God the Father say first to John the Baptist's audience that "This is My beloved Son" and then He said to Jesus: "You are My beloved Son"?

I'm confused . Could you give me a good explaination so if someone asks me why does it sound contradictory, then I could give them a good answer.

Sami K.

Dr. Gentry's response:

Thanks for your question. It shows a deep interest in God's word -- and defending it against those who question it.

It's possible that two statements were made by God, one for Jesus and the other for the audience gathered to witness his baptism. In fact, the Gospel of the Ebionites does record two statements. But this doesn't seem likely since each of the biblical Gospels suggest that only one statement was made. If one of the legitimate Gospels had a two-fold statement, your suggestion would be the best resolution to the "problem."

It seems to me that Mark and Luke recorded the original statement as it was actually heard: "You are My beloved Son." Notice that they both agree on this statement; Matthew is the one who disagrees slightly.

But when we come to Matthew we read: "This is My beloved Son." Apparently Matthew is presenting the situation in such as way as to "apply" it to those reading his Gospel. We must keep in mind that the Gospels were written to be read by a particular audience.

In Matthew's case he appears to change the original direct statement so that his audience to whom he writes will realize its significance. He applies it by pointing out that "this is My beloved Son." His audience needs to know that this very Jesus is indeed the Son of God.

His applying it in this way suggests that John the Baptist's original audience actually heard an audible voice making the statement ("You are My Beloved Son"). This was not some internal, psychological experience of Christ. But Matthew took the liberty to change one word (he changes "you" to "this") in order to let his readership know that this voice was actually heard by all those standing there when Christ was baptized, and also that God's voice objectively declared that Christ was indeed the Son of God. This is the main point of the matter.

Of course, we notice that the two statements do not contradict one another. In fact, they supplement one another in affirming the same truth: Christ is God's beloved Son.

In our daily contexts we can alter the actual statement of someone to make a point, without changing the meaning of the statement. For instance, someone might say to me: "I told you this would happen!" But when I report my interaction with that person to someone else (my audience) I might legitimately say: "He told me that this would happen." The meaning is preserved even though the actual words are altered for the audience.

It would be a much different story, of course, if Mark and Luke said: "This is NOT my beloved Son," and Matthew "slightly" altered this by dropping the single small word "not," to say: "This IS my beloved Son." But this is not the kind of thing that happens in the Gospel accounts. The same truth is affirmed, though slightly adapted for different audience purposes.