3:15 While the people were filled with anticipation 1 and they all wondered 2 whether perhaps John 3 could be the Christ, 4 3:16 John answered them all, 5 “I baptize you with water, 6 but one more powerful than I am is coming – I am not worthy 7 to untie the strap 8 of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 9 3:17 His winnowing fork 10 is in his hand to clean out his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his storehouse, 11 but the chaff he will burn up with inextinguishable fire.” 12
1 tn Or “with expectation.” The participle προσδοκῶντος (prosdokwnto") is taken temporally.
sn The people were filled with anticipation because they were hoping God would send someone to deliver them.
2 tn Grk “pondered in their hearts.”
3 tn Grk “in their hearts concerning John, (whether) perhaps he might be the Christ.” The translation simplifies the style here.
4 tn Or “Messiah”; both “Christ” (Greek) and “Messiah” (Hebrew and Aramaic) mean “one who has been anointed.”
sn See the note on Christ in 2:11.
5 tn Grk “answered them all, saying.” The participle λέγων (legwn) is redundant and has not been translated.
6 tc A few
7 tn Grk “of whom I am not worthy.”
sn The humility of John is evident in the statement I am not worthy. This was considered one of the least worthy tasks of a slave, and John did not consider himself worthy to do even that for the one to come, despite the fact he himself was a prophet!
8 tn The term refers to the leather strap or thong used to bind a sandal. This is often viewed as a collective singular and translated as a plural, “the straps of his sandals,” but it may be more emphatic to retain the singular here.
9 sn With the Holy Spirit and fire. There are differing interpretations for this phrase regarding the number of baptisms and their nature. (1) Some see one baptism here, and this can be divided further into two options. (a) The baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire could refer to the cleansing, purifying work of the Spirit in the individual believer through salvation and sanctification, or (b) it could refer to two different results of Christ’s ministry: Some accept Christ and are baptized with the Holy Spirit, but some reject him and receive judgment. (2) Other interpreters see two baptisms here: The baptism of the Holy Spirit refers to the salvation Jesus brings at his first advent, in which believers receive the Holy Spirit, and the baptism of fire refers to the judgment Jesus will bring upon the world at his second coming. One must take into account both the image of fire and whether individual or corporate baptism is in view. A decision is not easy on either issue. The image of fire is used to refer to both eternal judgment (e.g., Matt 25:41) and the power of the Lord’s presence to purge and cleanse his people (e.g., Isa 4:4-5). The pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost, a fulfillment of this prophecy no matter which interpretation is taken, had both individual and corporate dimensions. It is possible that since Holy Spirit and fire are governed by a single preposition in Greek, the one-baptism view may be more likely, but this is not certain. Simply put, there is no consensus view in scholarship at this time on the best interpretation of this passage.
10 sn A winnowing fork is a pitchfork-like tool used to toss threshed grain in the air so that the wind blows 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.
11 tn Or “granary,” “barn” (referring to a building used to store a farm’s produce rather than a building for housing livestock).