New Defender's Study Bible Notes
1:25 why baptizeth thou. This question indicates that the baptism ritual was what concerned the Jewish leaders, rather than John’s preaching of repentance. They recognized baptism as indicating some kind of new beginning, of change of belief and life-style, and were fearful it might undermine their own authority and privileges. There is no indication of such a practice in the Old Testament, nor any firm evidence of so-called “proselyte baptism” in the inter-Testamental period. Indications suggest baptism as something entirely new, symbolizing somehow that the coming Messiah would begin a new kingdom with those who would follow Him, indicating their new life by submission to baptism. All John’s converts were “baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins” (Matthew 3:6). All of this, especially the fact that it was done “in Jordan,” together with the literal meaning of baptizo (i.e., to “dip” or “immerse”) favors the conclusion that this act, which so disturbed the Pharisees, was one of immersion, representing death to an old life and resurrection to a new life. This would acquire much greater significance later when they came to understand that it pictured the literal death, burial, and resurrection of the Coming One about whom John was preaching.