3:8 Therefore produce 1 fruit 2 that proves your repentance, and don’t begin to say 3 to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ 4 For I tell you that God can raise up children for Abraham from these stones! 5 3:9 Even now the ax is laid at the root of the trees, 6 and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be 7 cut down and thrown into the fire.”
3:10 So 8 the crowds were asking 9 him, “What then should we do?” 3:11 John 10 answered them, 11 “The person who has two tunics 12 must share with the person who has none, and the person who has food must do likewise.” 3:12 Tax collectors 13 also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 3:13 He told them, “Collect no more 14 than you are required to.” 15 3:14 Then some soldiers 16 also asked him, “And as for us – what should we do?” 17 He told them, “Take money from no one by violence 18 or by false accusation, 19 and be content with your pay.”
2 tn Grk “fruits.” The plural Greek term καρπούς has been translated with the collective singular “fruit” (so NIV; cf. Matt 3:8 where the singular καρπός is found). Some other translations render the plural καρπούς as “fruits” (e.g., NRSV, NASB, NAB, NKJV).
3 tn In other words, “do not even begin to think this.”
4 sn We have Abraham as our father. John’s warning to the crowds really assumes two things: (1) A number of John’s listeners apparently believed that simply by their physical descent from Abraham, they were certain heirs of the promises made to the patriarch, and (2) God would never judge his covenant people lest he inadvertently place the fulfillment of his promises in jeopardy. In light of this, John tells these people two things: (1) they need to repent and produce fruit in keeping with repentance, for only that saves from the coming wrath, and (2) God will raise up “children for Abraham from these stones” if he wants to. Their disobedience will not threaten the realization of God’s sovereign purposes.
5 sn The point of the statement God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham is that ancestry or association with a tradition tied to the great founder of the Jewish nation is not an automatic source of salvation.
6 sn Even now the ax is laid at the root of the trees. The imagery of an “ax already laid at the root of the trees” is vivid, connoting sudden and catastrophic judgment for the unrepentant and unfruitful. The image of “fire” serves to further heighten the intensity of the judgment referred to. It is John’s way of summoning all people to return to God with all their heart and avoid his unquenchable wrath soon to be poured out. John’s language and imagery is probably ultimately drawn from the OT where Israel is referred to as a fruitless vine (Hos 10:1-2; Jer 2:21-22) and the image of an “ax” is used to indicate God’s judgment (Ps 74:5-6; Jer 46:22).
7 tn Grk “is”; the present tense (ἐκκόπτεται, ekkoptetai) has futuristic force here.
8 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so” to indicate the consequential nature of the people’s response.
9 tn Though this verb is imperfect, in this context it does not mean repeated, ongoing questions, but simply a presentation in vivid style as the following verbs in the other examples are aorist.
10 tn Grk “he”; the referent (John) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
11 tn Grk “Answering, he said to them.” This construction with passive participle and finite verb is pleonastic (redundant) and has been simplified in the translation to “answered them.”
12 tn Or “shirt” (a long garment worn under the cloak next to the skin). The name for this garment (χιτών, citwn) presents some difficulty in translation. Most modern readers would not understand what a ‘tunic’ was any more than they would be familiar with a ‘chiton.’ On the other hand, attempts to find a modern equivalent are also a problem: “Shirt” conveys the idea of a much shorter garment that covers only the upper body, and “undergarment” (given the styles of modern underwear) is more misleading still. “Tunic” was therefore employed, but with a note to explain its nature.
13 sn The tax collectors would bid to collect taxes for the Roman government and then add a surcharge, which they kept. Since tax collectors worked for Rome, they were viewed as traitors to their own people and were not well liked. Yet even they were moved by John’s call.
14 tn In the Greek text μηδὲν πλέον (mhden pleon, “no more”) is in an emphatic position.
sn By telling the tax collectors to collect no more than…required John was calling for honesty and integrity in a business that was known for greed and dishonesty.
15 tn Or “than you are ordered to.”
16 tn Grk “And soldiers.”
17 tn Grk “And what should we ourselves do?”
18 tn Or “Rob no one.” The term διασείσητε (diaseishte) here refers to “shaking someone.” In this context it refers to taking financial advantage of someone through violence, so it refers essentially to robbery. Soldiers are to perform their tasks faithfully. A changed person is to carry out his tasks in life faithfully and without grumbling.
19 tn The term translated “accusation” (συκοφαντήσητε, sukofanthshte) refers to a procedure by which someone could bring charges against an individual and be paid a part of the fine imposed by the court. Soldiers could do this to supplement their pay, and would thus be tempted to make false accusations.