The Pharisees and Sadducees (twn Parisaiwn kai Saddoukaiwn). These two rival parties do not often unite in common action, but do again in Matthew 16:1 . "Here a strong attraction, there a strong repulsion, made them for the moment forget their differences" (McNeile). John saw these rival ecclesiastics "coming for baptism" (ercomenou epi to baptisma). Alford speaks of "the Pharisees representing hypocritical superstition; the Sadducees carnal unbelief." One cannot properly understand the theological atmosphere of Palestine at this time without an adequate knowledge of both Pharisees and Sadducees. The books are numerous besides articles in the Bible dictionaries. I have pictured the Pharisees in my first (1916) Stone Lectures, The Pharisees and Jesus. John clearly grasped the significance of this movement on the part of the Pharisees and Sadducees who had followed the crowds to the Jordan. He had welcomed the multitudes, but right in the presence of the crowds he exposes the hypocrisy of the ecclesiastics. Ye offspring of vipers (gennhmata ecidnwn). Jesus ( Matthew 12:34 ; Matthew 23:33 ) will use the same language to the Pharisees. Broods of snakes were often seen by John in the rocks and when a fire broke out they would scurry (pugein) to their holes for safety. "The coming wrath" was not just for Gentiles as the Jews supposed, but for all who were not prepared for the kingdom of heaven ( 1 Thessalonians 1:10 ). No doubt the Pharisees and Sadducees winced under the sting of this powerful indictment.