3:7 But when he saw many Pharisees 1 and Sadducees 2 coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You offspring of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 3:8 Therefore produce fruit 3 that proves your 4 repentance, 3:9 and don’t think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that God can raise up children for Abraham from these stones! 3:10 Even now the ax is laid at 5 the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
3:12 His winnowing fork 6 is in his hand, and he will clean out his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the storehouse, 7 but the chaff he will burn up with inextinguishable fire.” 8
1 sn Pharisees were members of one of the most important and influential religious and political parties of Judaism in the time of Jesus. There were more Pharisees than Sadducees (according to Josephus, Ant. 17.2.4 [17.42] there were more than 6,000 Pharisees at about this time). Pharisees differed with Sadducees on certain doctrines and patterns of behavior. The Pharisees were strict and zealous adherents to the laws of the OT and to numerous additional traditions such as angels and bodily resurrection.
2 sn The Sadducees controlled the official political structures of Judaism at this time, being the majority members of the Sanhedrin. They were known as extremely strict on law and order issues (Josephus, J. W. 2.8.2 [2.119], 2.8.14 [2.164-166]; Ant. 13.5.9 [13.171-173], 13.10.6 [13.293-298], 18.1.2 [18.11], 18.1.4 [18.16-17], 20.9.1 [20.199]; Life 2 [10-11]). See also Matt 16:1-12; 22:23-34; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-38; Acts 5:17; 23:6-8.
3 sn Fruit worthy of repentance refers to the deeds that indicate a change of attitude (heart) on the part of John’s hearers.
4 tn Grk “fruit worthy of.”
5 sn Laid at the root. That is, placed and aimed, ready to begin cutting.
6 sn A winnowing fork was a pitchfork-like tool used to toss threshed grain in the air so that the wind blew away the chaff, leaving the grain to fall to the ground. The note of purging is highlighted by the use of imagery involving sifting though threshed grain for the useful kernels.
7 tn Or “granary,” “barn” (referring to a building used to store a farm’s produce rather than a building to house livestock).