At the end of the story of John the Baptist in Luke 1 the writer says that John was “in the deserted places until the day of his ‘public appearing’ or ‘commissioning’ (anadeixeōs) to Israel.” This is the only occurrence of this word in the New Testament. However, the cognate verb (anadeiknumi) is also used by Luke in 10:1 and Acts 1:24. The two occurrences in Luke’s Gospel are part of the author’s narrative framework. The use in Acts 1:24, however, is part of the church’s prayer for God’s guidance to select an apostle to replace Judas. All three contexts concern the discernment of a person for a specific role or the appointment of a person to a specific role.
The fundamental sense of the term is to lift up and show. We find an example of this usage in 2 Maccabees 6:8 where the story of Jonah is referenced and the author says that God “watched over and restored (anedeixas)” him to his family. This restoration involves rescuing Jonah who is “wasting away in the belly of a huge, sea-born monster.” God ‘lifts him up and displays him’, i.e. rescues him.
Within the Old Greek translation of the Jewish Scriptures, the Septuagint, this terminology occurs primarily in 1 Esdras, Habakkuk, Daniel and 2 and 3 Maccabees. In 1 Esdras (recounting episodes in 2 Kings 23:30-24:6 relating to the death of Josiah and the appointment of Joachaz and Joakim as kings of Israel after Josiah) the term describes the public appointment of a king. In 1 Esdras 1:34 (English text) the people of Israel made Joachaz king (anedeixan basilea (v.32 in Greek)). The Egyptian king (1:37) deposed him and “made his brother Jehoiakim king (anedeixen…basilea (35 in Greek) of Judea and Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, deposed Jehoiakim and (1:43) “his son Jehoiachin became king in his place: when he was made king (anedeichthē (1:41 in Greek)) he was eighteen years old.” When Jehoiachin proved disloyal, Nebuchadnezzar took him as prisoner to Babylon and (1:46) “made Zedekiah king (anedeixe…basilea (1:44 in Greek)) of Judah and Jerusalem.” The verb denotes the public appointment of Israelite kings by the people and also by foreigner rulers.
In 1 Esdras 8:3 Artaxerxes empowers Ezra “according to the wisdom of God to appoint (anadeixon) judges and justices.” In Daniel 1:11 the person who guards Daniel and his friends was appointed (anadeichthenti) by the palace master. Nebuchadnezzar appoints (anedeixen)  Daniel and his friends to be in charge of all his affairs (1:20 Greek text). In 2 Maccabees 9:23-25 Antiochus Epiphanes publicly appoints (anadedeicha) his son Antiochus as his successor.
In 1 Esdras 2:3 Cyrus, the Persian king, proclaims that “the Lord of Israel, the Lord Most High, has made me king (anedeixen basilea (2:2 in Greek)) of the world.” God is responsible for Cyrus’ coronation.
This verb’s use to describe a public appointment of an official is cognate with its more general sense ‘to make a proclamation’. In 2 Maccabees 9:14 Antiochus, experiencing a dreadful judgment from God, “declares (anadeixai) the holy city free.” The verb can also describe a place or object dedicated for holy use. In the prayer offered by the High Priest Simon when Ptolemy Philopater sought to enter the Holy of Holies in Jerusalem, Simon described the temple as “the holy place on earth dedicated (anadedeigmenon) to your glorious name” (2 Maccabees 2:14).
A different sense is found in Habakkuk 3:2. As the prophet acknowledges his awe at the works of the Lord, he prays that God will once again do these remarkable works. He declares that “you shall be publicly visible or revealed  (anadeichthēsēi) when the time is come.” This sense of public disclosure or revelation also occurs in 2 Maccabees 2:8. The writer reflects upon the actions of Jeremiah to preserve the tent and ark from destruction by hiding it in a cave, whose location is secret. At some point in the future “the Lord will disclose (anadeixei) these things….”
The noun only occurs once in the Greek Old Testament. Sirach 43:6 describes the moon as the body that “governs (anadeixin) the times, their everlasting sign.” The moon proclaims the times, perhaps with the sense of ‘instituting’ such seasons. In secular literature this noun describes the coronation of a ruler or the election of an official, as well.
These terms then describe the action that distinguishes or marks in some special way a person or place in a public manner. Sometimes this is a public appointment or a revelation or a dedication.
In the New Testament occurrences we discern two uses. In Acts 1:24 the people assembled in the upper room appeal to God to “show (anadeixon) us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, …” They expect God to publicly reveal his direction. The means used is the casting of lots. The sense seems to be to “reveal in a distinct manner.”
The other two occurrences have the sense of appointing or commissioning. In Luke 10:1 “the Lord appointed (anedeixen) seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town….” This usage parallels that found in 1 Esdras 8:3 where Artaxerxes empowers Ezra to appoint judges in Israel or the appointment of the guard over Daniel by the palace official (Daniel 1:11). With the appointment comes an authority and empowerment to fulfill it. As well, there is expectation of accountability. The one appointed will carry out the role to which he has been commissioned. Failure will have consequences. The appointment and removal of Jewish kings recounted in 1 Esdras 2 indicates these nuances.
This leads us to consider Luke’s usage of the noun in Luke 1:80. The writer tells us that John the Baptist “lived in the desert until he appeared publicly (anadeixeōs) to Israel.” The NIV uses the double expression “appeared publicly” to render this Greek noun. Petersen in The Message paraphrases this as “prophetic debut.” Older versions used the word “manifestation.” We should link this ‘public appearance’ with Luke’s note in 3:2-3 that “the word of God came to John…in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” His appearance had prophetic implications. Presumably God is the One Who triggered John’s prophetic inauguration.
There a sense of divine commissioning involved in John’s ‘public appearance’. Given the song of Zechariah that precedes and its heavy emphasis on the way God is fulfilling his promises within salvation history through John’s birth (cf. especially 1:76-79), the reader is disposed to see God’s hand at work in the ‘public appearance’ of John. His commissioning is implemented.
God does commission various people in public ways to carry forward specific aspects of his kingdom program. Jesus replicated this when he ‘commissioned’ seventy-two of his followers to take his kingdom message throughout Israel. In the case of John the Baptist and the seventy-two God took time to prepare them for their commissioned responsibility. When the time was right in his schedule, the public impact of this commission became apparent. Sometimes people must wait a long time before God deems them to be ready and the development of his kingdom plans has ripened for their moment of influence and impact. Moses had to wait eighty years. In the case of Paul fifteen or so years passed after his conversion before his role as an apostle matured and began to influence the church significantly. How long did John the Baptist live in the wilderness before God initiated his appointment publicly?
God continues to appoint people for service within his kingdom. But He does this after careful preparation and in accordance with his schedule. It is hard for us to be patient while God hones and shapes us for his appointment. Today it seems as if people expect a calling from God to have immediate and wide-ranging impact. Yet, the examples of John the Baptist and others in Scripture would suggest that God allows for an extensive period of maturing after a call to service, so that the person is fully ready for the specific role that God has for him or her to fulfill within his kingdom.
- Does God publicly commission every believer to service in his kingdom work? If so, when does this occur? Perhaps baptism becomes the focal point for this appointment.
- If God has appointed you to his kingdom service, are you in the stages of preparation or implementation? How content are you in the process that God has initiated? Being patient with God is part of our worship and submission to Him.
- If you are now implementing this public assignment God has given, how faithful are you in it?
- 1. In this case the verb is parallel with katestesen which means "to appoint, authorize, put in charge."
- 2. It is parallel in this passage with gnosthesei (you shall be known) and epignosthesei (you shall be acknowledged).