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in Matthew 21:25 we see priests and elders reasoning within themselves:

The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?

My question here is how did they not believe him? What exactly did they do that showed that they did not believe him? What things exactly (of what John the baptist was saying) did they not believe? Was it something like they had refused to be baptized from John?

(Answers supported by the verses from the Gospel of Matthew are most preferable)

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2 Answers 2

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Well, in the preceding verses, they were questioning Jesus about his authority. Jesus answered by asking them about John the Baptist's authority, to draw an analogy. So the obvious answer would be that they didn't believe John's testimony of Jesus:

John 1:19-34

19 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?

20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.

21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.

22 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?

23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.

24 And they which were sent were of the Pharisees.

25 And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?

26 John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not;

27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose.

28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.

29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

30 This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.

31 And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.

32 And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.

33 And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.

34 And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.

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Thanks for your answer, but I would rather prefer to have something from gospel of Matthew to have a more consistent answer within the context of one book. From the Gospel of Matthew (3:7) we see that Pharisees and Sadducees were rebuked by John the baptist. Your passage also deals specifically with Pharisees (1:24). However, the passage that I quote in my question is not specifically about Pharisees and Sadducees, but about priests and elders. –  brilliant Jun 3 '12 at 15:03
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Priests and Elders = Sadducees and Pharisees, roughly. Similarly, lawyers and scribes are somewhat interchangeable... recall that the Sadducees were the temple caste, so the priests would have likely been Sadducees, and the elders - or 'rulers' of the synagogues would have been Pharisees. –  RiverC Jun 4 '12 at 18:22
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I think the question Jesus asked them was about the source of John's baptism. Was it from heaven (God-given) or simply by human authority (from men). Obviously, the Pharisees did not believe that John's baptism came from God and therefore they did not believe him when he said that they needed to repent and be baptized. They might have simply shown up for baptism (Matthew 3:7) to gain some favor with the people who believed he was a prophet (Matthew 21:26), but there wasn't any real repentance. John knew their hearts and warned them about "bearing fruits that befit repentance" (Matthew 3:8).

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