Mark 1:10

"And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove". [him/auton]. ESV. My emphasis.

When John baptised Jesus John may not have been submerged but if he entered the water then:-

A. When John came out of the water, immediately John saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on "him/Jesus" like a dove.

Or alternatively:-

B. When Jesus came out of the water, immediately Jesus saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on "himself/Jesus" like a dove.

  • 1
    The active antecedent is Jesus : and Jesus came from Nazareth ... and immediately he saw . . . . . Yes, all this could well be true of John also, but the grammar of the narrative focuses on Jesus. But grammar is famous for being manipulated by analysts, so this is a comment not a definitive answer. And up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 19:48
  • What question are you really asking? "Himself" in Greek is a different pronoun. Is the question really about the antecedent of "him"?
    – Dottard
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 21:42
  • @Dottard Why does the Greek not use "Himself" pronoun if that is the meaning? As the Greek does not use it, therefore is there another meaning? i.e. option "A".
    – C. Stroud
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 22:00
  • I do not understand how that would make any difference to the meaning.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 22:04

2 Answers 2


I will take this question to be asking about the antecedent of the last word in Mark 1:10, αὐτόν = "him".

Note the literary device of using two closely verbs meaning the opposite of each other.

  • ἀναβαίνων = ascending out of the water
  • καταβαῖνον = descending upon him

It was Jesus who descended into, and then, ascended/came out of the water and it was the Holy Spirit like a dove who descended upon Jesus.

This is confirmed by Matt 3:16 where we read (with the same pair of verbs):

Now, having been baptized, Jesus immediately ascended from the water; and behold the heavens were opened and He saw the spirit of God descending as a dove and alighting upon Him [ie, Jesus]. (My translation)


Did Jesus see the Spirit descending on "himself" or John see the Spirit descending on "him"?

from Mark 1:10

"the Spirit descending on him". auton/him.

A. Reflexive pronouns. Examples:

Matthew 16:24 "deny himself/heauton"

Luke 23:35 "save himself/heauton"

John 19:7 "he made himself/heauton"

These writers know about reflexive pronouns but Mark 1:10 auton is not a reflexive pronoun. It is a personal pronoun.

B. John 1:32-33

"And John bore witness: "I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him." [auton/him]

As John saw the Spirit descending from heaven he would have seen heaven opened as well as the Spirit descending on Jesus.

C. With regard to Mark 1:10 Gill's exposition says:

"he saw the heavens opened"...this may be understood, either of John, who was the spectator of all of this.."John saw" John 1:32, or of Jesus Christ himself". [My emphasis]

For Gill it could be A. or B.

My comment: If both Jesus and John entered the water, and both came up out, and both saw heaven opened and the Spirit descending then what may be said of Jesus can also be said of John. But,

one factor is that neither Matt 3:16, Mark 1:10 nor John 1:32 use a reflexive pronoun which surely they would do if they were describing Jesus seeing the Spirit descending upon himself.

Conclusion: In Mark 1:10 it is John who sees the Spirit descend on him/Jesus.

An idea about Matthew 3:16. John is not mentioned by name in this verse but John's presence is immediate in that "Jesus was baptised"[ by John]. If Matthew heard John's testimony- "I saw" John 1:32, then maybe Matthew is reporting what John said. "he saw" obviously John, John told us about what he saw.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.