And they came unto John
The Persic version reads, "he came unto John"; that disciple that had the controversy with the Jew about purifying, who not knowing well how to answer him, and which might be the case of more, applied to John: and said unto him, Rabbi;
or "master"; or, "our master"; as the Syriac and Persic versions read, which was a title of great respect, and reverence, and much in use in those times; (See Gill on Matthew 23:7) (See Gill on Matthew 23:8). The Arabic version joins this word to the following clause, and applies it to Christ, rendering it thus, "the master that was with thee beyond Jordan"; which is making them to speak more honourably of Christ than they intended; for though they speak very respectfully to John, yet with much disdain and neglect of Christ; not so much as mentioning his name, or using any term of honour or respect; only saying, he that was with thee beyond Jordan;
namely, at Bethabara; who came from Galilee to Jordan, unto John, to be baptized by him, and who was baptized by him; and for some little time continued with him, and attended on his ministry; and as they thought, was a disciple of John's: to whom thou bearest witness;
that he was before him, and to be preferred unto him; and that he was the Lamb of God, and even the Son of God; suggesting, that by this testimony of his, Christ had gained all the credit and reputation he had; and that therefore he had done a wrong thing in enlarging so much in the praise and commendation of him: behold the same baptizeth;
takes upon him to administer the ordinance of baptism; at least gives orders to administer it; which John's disciples thought was the proper, and peculiar business of their master; and therefore speak of this as an intrusion into his office, and an entering into his province; and an assuming that which only belonged to him: and what gave still more uneasiness, and increased the complaint, was, and all men come to him;
that is, "many", as the Syriac and Persic versions render it, even more than came to John; see ( John 4:1 ) . Large multitudes from all parts flocked to hear Christ preach, and great numbers were made disciples by him, and then baptized. That he should baptize, gave them great offence; and that he was so followed, raised their envy; and his being so near to John, might add to their uneasiness. It is a rule with the Jews, that
``it is not lawful for a disciple to teach the constitutions, or sentences of the law, before his master; but must be twelve miles distant from him, as the camp of Israel.''And they say, that
``a disciple that teaches before, or in the presence of his master, is guilty of death F18.''
F18 T. Hieros. Sheviith, fol. 37. 3.