I Knew Him Not;While, According to the Others, It is Found that He Did Already Know Him.
32. Again, the account of the dove given in the Gospel according to John does not mention the time at which the incident happened, but contains a statement of the words of John the Baptist as reporting what he saw. In this section, the question rises as to how it is said,
And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom you shall see the Spirit descending and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizes with the Holy Spirit. For if he came to know Him only at the time when he saw the dove descending upon Him, the inquiry is raised as to how he could have said to Him, as He came to be baptized,
I ought rather to be baptized by You. For the Baptist addressed Him thus before the dove descended. From this, however, it is evident that, although he did know Him [in a certain sense] before this time,— for he even leaped in his mother's womb when Mary visited Elisabeth, — there was yet something which was not known to him up to this time, and which he learned by the descending of the dove,— namely, the fact that He baptized in the Holy Spirit by a certain divine power proper to Himself; so that no man who received this baptism from God, even although he baptized some, should be able to say that that which he imparted was his own, or that the Holy Spirit was given by him.
Source. Translated by S.D.F. Salmond. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 6. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1602215.htm>.
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