What to Do With an Errant John the Baptist?

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  • Quite so.

    But, as @James Boswell II so perspicaciously remarks, the discussion is, indeed, idiotic.

    Hence my uproarious laughter - gods know, we need something to laugh about...
  • What I said stands for itself. I do not claim inerrancy. But I do call liberal malarkey liberal malarkey (though I am a liberal-progressive myself.)
  • @Rublev
    Sorry I've been away so long, but I hope now these others will allow us to communicate without undue interruptions.

    John had said that one "mightier than I" would come to separate the wheat from the chaff and burn the chaff in unquenchable fire.

    But I want to change the discussion between you and me and frame it in terms of my last post to you:

    Since we have no information about John the Baptizer from Paul, let us look at the next oldest source material concerning John, the primitive gospel traditions in the Mat=Luk parallels (called Q by scholars).
    (Here I give only the Lukan side of that. Matthew's wording is almost exactly the same.).

    Luke 3:7-9; 3:16-13

    Luke 7:18-20, 22-23 (verse 21 is not Q; it's only in Luke, a Luken editorial intrusion)
    Luke 7:24-28, 31-35 (verses 29-30* are not Q; another Lukan editorial intrusion, which, however, verifies my earlier statement that Pharisees did not go to Jesus for baptism.)

    Now, my question for you, @Rublev, is this: Carefully reading through all the boldfaced Lukan texts above, how much of is historical, and how much of it is not?

    Please read carefully and decide.
  • of it is
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited August 14
    @Rublev
    Sorry I've been away so long, but I hope now these others will allow us to communicate without undue interruptions.

    The sheer arrogance of that remark is breathtaking.


  • @Bishops Finger
    The sheer lack of substance in so much that you post is another form of breathtaking arrogance. You never really engage in the subject. Perhaps you cannot.

    Rublev can, and will. I am interested in having civil and intelligent discourse with her. Please allow us to do that.
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited August 14
    At the risk of incurring Hostly admonition, please remember that this is a public discussion board, and not some sort of private club for you to monopolise. The personal insults directed at those who cross you do not do you any favours.

    Apologies to any Hosts currently on board. I know I should invite @James Boswell II to engage with me in Hell, but I really don't feel well enough...
  • Please allow.
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited August 14
    By all means, but please read my previous post.
  • The sheer lack of substance in so much that you post is another form of breathtaking arrogance. You never really engage in the subject. Perhaps you cannot.
    You are really not in any position to be criticizing others for the arrogance of their posts or for not seriously engaging. You have yet to seriously engage with anyone who doesn’t say what you want to hear and approve of. Responses like “this is becoming idiotic” when someone doesn’t take what you say as gospel is not serious engagement. You can’t seriously engage if you’re completely unwilling to be challenged.

    Why I thought engaging with you was worth another shot I don’t know. It won’t happen again.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    @James Boswell II

    On the historicity of J the B in the gospels:

    (1) What is the story of J the B doing in the gospels? The Synoptics identify him as the forerunner of Jesus in fulfilment of the prophecies of Malachi and Isaiah (Mark 1: 2; Mal 3: 1; Is 40: 3). The gospel author John identifies him as a 'witness' (John 1: 8).

    (2) Why does J the B have a birth narrative in Luke’s gospel? Are the birth narratives of Luke and Matthew historical or theological constructs? Raymond Brown in his Infancy Narratives suggests that the Canticles of Luke may have originated as Maccabean victory hymns.

    (3) Is the story of J the B as the last OT prophet that we read in the gospels a revised narrative? Who was the historical John? A rival teacher, a would-be Messiah - or Jesus' rabbi and mentor?
  • ECraigRECraigR Shipmate
    @Rublev
    Sorry I've been away so long, but I hope now these others will allow us to communicate without undue interruptions.

    The sheer arrogance of that remark is breathtaking.


    Yes, quite. I guess we can only talk if it’s on his approved subjects. Anything contrary is idiotic. Quaint.

  • It was the accusation of insubstantiality in my posts that really got to me.
    :cry:

    Even though it may be true.
    :innocent:

    I had to immediately drink more ALE...
  • ECraigRECraigR Shipmate
    Hopefully the ALE makes you more ponderous of thought that you may engage more fruitfully!
  • @Rublev
    How much, if any, of the boldfaced textual material from Luke do you consider to be historical, and how much, if any of it, do you consider to be unhistorical (as you said, "a theological construct")?

    I will gladly give you my opinion, but first I would like to hear yours.



  • It was the accusation of insubstantiality in my posts that really got to me.
    :cry:

    Even though it may be true.
    :innocent:

    I had to immediately drink more ALE...

    Alas, no - but it eventually sends me to sleep quite peacefully.
    :sleeping:

  • @Rublev
    In other words, what I am asking you to do is comment first on the historicity (or lack of it) of what is generally agreed to be some of the earliest written gospel information we have about the Baptizer. Then, having done that, I will share with you what I think, and we can move on to consider mutually what is generally agreed to have been written later about John.
  • @James Boswell II

    Did you know that the Ship has a 'Private Message' facility, which you can use if you want to carry on a one-to-one conversation?

    Just sayin'...
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited August 14
    I think Luke's birth narratives are probably theological constructs. If they were historical then why are they so different from Matthew and why are they missing from Mark, John and Paul? The unique story of the Annunciation to Mary is surely too significant to ignore.

    Luke has particular interests and themes as a writer. He writes an 'orderly account' in his gospel which begins in the Temple of Jerusalem with the angel Gabriel's announcement of joy to Zechariah and ends in the Temple of Jerusalem with the disciples blessing God with great joy (Luke 1: 13-14; 24: 52-53). He emphasises salvation, joy and prayer in his gospel. Angels are quite common in both his gospel and Acts.

    Luke's infancy narratives are intertwined parallel stories which dramatically frame the significance of the birth of Christ. So Zechariah's lack of faith sets up a contrast with Mary's model example of faith. And the Canticle of the Magnificat complements the Benedictus.

    How historical are the adult stories? The four gospels agree that John and Jesus had a significant relationship. My question is what it actually was. And I think that Jesus was originally the disciple of John the Baptist, but He later developed His own separate ministry. They have some interesting similarities - as well as some significant differences.
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited August 14
    Rublev wrote: »
    The four gospels agree that John and Jesus had a significant relationship. My question is what it actually was. And I think that Jesus was originally the disciple of John the Baptist, but He later developed His own separate ministry. They have some interesting similarities - as well as some significant differences.

    The silent years between the birth narratives, and the arrival of Jesus at the Jordan (yes, I know about the trip to the Temple when Jesus was 12), do indeed breed speculation as to what sort of education, and training, Jesus might have received.

    But speculation is really all we have, isn't it? Though the idea of Jesus somehow being a disciple, or trainee, of John is intriguing - 'He must increase, and I must decrease' (if I've got that right).

  • @Rublev
    You keep giving me answers that are very good, indeed excellent. You know your stuff. But could we first look solely at the boldfaced material? I am not giving you any kind of a trick question here.

    But on the other hand, if you prefer, I will go ahead and first give you my opinion as to historicity of the Baptist material in Luke chapters 3 and 7.

    You have every right to "turn the tables" on me and ask.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    @Bishops Finger

    Since you have moved into Junior hosting this thread, I draw your attention to C3.
  • Rublev wrote: »
    @Bishops Finger

    Since you have moved into Junior hosting this thread, I draw your attention to C3.

    Thank you.

  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited August 14
    The historicity of Luke 3 and 7:

    - The quotation from Isaiah 40: 3-5 which names John as a voice in the wilderness is probably historical because it recurs in the other gospels.

    - That John baptised as a sign of repentance.

    -That John proclaimed a message of fiery wrath and the judgement of God.

    -That John was highly ascetic.

    -That he had a popular broad appeal to crowds of ordinary people (including Pharisees, Sadducees and non Jews).

    -That John was considered to be a potential Messiah.

    -That John proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah. But did he? Or has that part of the narrative been revised?

    Because Jesus was not actually the Messiah that John predicted. Jesus proclaims a gospel message of the good news of the favour of God. And why does John send his disciples to ask Jesus if He is the Messiah? (Luke 7: 18-23). Wouldn't we expect the forerunner to recognise the Messiah?
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    Host hat on
    Rublev wrote: »
    @Bishops Finger

    Since you have moved into Junior hosting this thread, I draw your attention to C3.

    As with all the other threads, this thread is being ‘hosted’.

    It will be good if everyone observes Commandment 3, and nobody hosts except for the hosts.

    (If the cap fits etc.)

    If you need to get personal then take it to hell. If you consider hosting is needed then PM a host - but don’t forget time zones, RL etc.

    Host hat off.
    BroJames Purgatory Host
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited August 14
    My apologies BroJames. I will do so in future

    Peace be with you, Bishop's Finger.
  • Thanks for the reminder, @BroJames.

    Duly noted!
  • ECraigR wrote: »
    why you seem to think we should all accept your inerrant judgment alludes me.

    Eludes (defies capture), not alludes (refers to indirectly).
  • ECraigRECraigR Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    ECraigR wrote: »
    why you seem to think we should all accept your inerrant judgment alludes me.

    Eludes (defies capture), not alludes (refers to indirectly).

    Seriously. Again, typo. Do you just read through whole threads looking for typos? Maybe take up gardening as a hobby?

  • Touchy.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    I think J the B was an historical figure who knew Jesus. But I think his role may have been rescripted by the gospel authors in order to better fit their narrative.

    The language surrounding J the B is loaded with anxiety concerning his status in regard to Jesus. The gospel author John particularly stresses his inferiority: 'I need to be baptised by you' (Matt 3: 14); 'He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light' (John 1: 8); 'He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me' (John 1: 15); 'I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals' (John 1: 29); `He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom`s voice' (John 3: 29); `He must increase but I must decrease' (John 3: 30).

    Their may have been a similar revision of the role of Pilate who is portrayed as being reluctant to crucify Jesus. He calls the charges against Jesus baseless (Luke 23: 14); He several times declares Jesus to be innocent and tries to release Him (Luke 23: 22; Matt 27: 20-21). Even his wife says that Jesus is an innocent man (Matt 27: 19). Pilate may have tried to dismiss the case as being outside his jurisdiction (as Gallio did with Paul), but was he really so concerned about Jesus' innocence? (Luke 23: 7; Acts 18: 12-17). This is the governor who mixed the blood of the Galileans with their sacrifices (Luke 13: 1).
  • Rublev wrote: »

    Peace be with you, Bishop's Finger.

    And also with you, @Rublev!

  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited August 15
    I am glad you raised the question of how the various gospel authors tell the story of J the B, James Boswell II. I hadn't really noticed the significant differences between them:

    Luke writes a parallel birth narrative with Jesus.

    John particularly stresses J the Bs inferior status in regard to Jesus.

    Mark and Matthew give us the story of his execution by Herod Antipas (Mark 6: 17-29; Matt 14: 3-12).

    This is confirmed by the historian Josephus who tells the same story of Herod falling in love with his sister in law Herodias (Jewish Antiquities 18: 110). Josephus adds that Herod sent John as a prisoner to the fortress of Macherus and executed him because he feared that John's influence over the masses might enable him to raise a rebellion (18: 118; 119).

    Josephus confirms that John was called the Baptist (18: 116) and he was a good man who commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, righteousness towards one another and piety towards God (18: 117). And many people came in crowds to him for they were greatly moved by his words (18: 118).

    The destruction of Herod's army on battle was seen as a divine judgement upon him for executing John and a mark of God's displeasure with him (18: 114; 116).

    This makes John look like an almost-Messiah who was co-opted by the gospel authors to be the chief witness of Jesus.
  • @Rublev
    Some wonderful commentary, Rublev. And I am glad that you are glad that I raised the question of how differently the gospels tell the story of the Baptizer.

    Now, keeping it very simple, I am quite convinced* that the parallel Mat-Luk passages represented by Luke chapter 3 and 7 can be regarded as pretty much bedrock historicity. The Baptizer is presented as an apocalyptic eschatological prophet who is announcing fiery wrath soon to come onto Israel and the world, and calling the people of Israel to repent before it is too late. He is presented as one who is utterly convinced that the time of wrath is near, and that a "mighty one" will soon arrive to bring both salvation and destruction, gathering the righteous into "his barn" while throwing the wicked into "unquenchable fire."

    The audacity of the man! Who authorized this wilderness upstart to proclaim a ritual more important than the rituals of the Temple? Obviously, he is convinced that his authority comes from God! And multitudes apparently "bought" his message and fearfully went streaming to him. (Among them was a carpenter from Nazareth.)

    Perhaps even more important for historicity is Luke chapter 7. More to come.
    __________
    *The extraordinary historical Jesus scholar John P. Meier in his seminal work, A Marginal Jew, volume 2, is also pretty much convinced.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    It's a very good point that John may have offered the sign of baptism to the people as an alternative to the sacrificial system of righteousness (Luke 3: 3). It became very popular and was probably seen as a deliberate challenge to the authority of the Temple priests which prompted the delegation from Jerusalem to investigate why John was baptising (John 1: 19-25).
  • Interesting that you apparently weigh so heavily John 1:19, f.. Fortunately, it is about the only Johannine information regarding the Baptizer that is indeed rather historical in that it echoes Markan material. But I would put far more weight on Mark 11:27,f.
  • @Rublev
    What, if anything, do you find historically impressive about Luke 7:18-35?
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    There is a common theme of the religious elite questioning the authority of John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter, John and Paul in the NT (John 1: 19; Mark 11: 27; Acts 4: 7; 22: 6). Jesus seems to quite enjoy confounding the Pharisees. And so does Paul when he splits the Sanhedrin over the question of the resurrection of the dead.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited August 15
    There are a lot of interesting points in Luke 7:

    - John and Jesus are equally criticised by their opponents as respectively too extreme and too lax in their moral living.

    - Jesus attests John as not merely a prophet but more than a prophet.

    -Jesus affirms John as the greatest human who has ever lived. But his righteousness is still insufficient to justify him for the kingdom of heaven.

    -Jesus attests the validity of the prophecy of Malachi 3:1 in reference to the roles of John and Himself rather than it being the gospel writers saying it about them (Mark 1: 1-3; Matt 3: 1-3).

    - It is curious that John sends his disciples to enquire if Jesus is really the Messiah. And Jesus doesn't give them a direct answer. He responds by referring them to the evidence of His miraculous signs and quoting the prophecy of Isaiah in relation to Himself (Is 29: 18-19; 35: 5-6; 42: 18; 61: 1).

    -What is historically most likely to be true and not a theological construct? I would say that the criticism levelled at them both by opponents of their popular ministry (Luke 7: 33-34). And the fact that John enquires into the identity of Jesus (Luke 7: 18-22). This portrays them as being contemporary rabbis who both attracted a considerable following.
  • You delight me, most of the time. (And of course when you do not delight me, it may be because you are right and I am wrong. So far, however, the little disagreements I might have with you are just that: little.)

    Regarding Luke 7:18-20, 22-28, 31-5: Although there are reputable scholars who regard this as a pastiche of joined together traditions, I think the entire thing is a cohesive unit. I even think that if a tape recording had been running there that day, it would render us in Aramaic pretty much what we have in Greek!

    The situation is this: John, in prison in the south, hears what is happening up in Galilee, what Jesus is doing up there, but does not know what to think about what he hears: Could this Jesus be the "mighty one" whom John had predicted? And yet Jesus is not, as John had predicted, separating the good people from the bad and saving the good while burning up the bad in unquenchable fire! So he sends to ask, "Are you the one who is to come [and do what I predicted!], or must we wait for someone else?"

    We can be sure the later church would never have invented words like those, for the church preferred to think that the Baptizer was a far more perfect, far less uncertain, far more understanding witness to Jesus than that!

    Do you agree?

    And do you see any other words in Luke 7 that the church would never have invented?
  • tape recorder
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited August 15
    Let us continue to glorify God by our theological discussions. It is very interesting to see whether it is possible to peel back the layers in a text to find the original historical basis if the story. And to reconstruct the additions and agendas of the different gospel authors, who used the material in their narratives.

    And so to John the Baptist:

    The Jewish historian Josephus has no Christian agenda at all. He attests that John was a religious teacher who was known as the Baptist. He had a high reputation for piety and teaching about righteousness. He had great popular appeal among the Jewish people. And he was executed by the secular authorities who feared that he might raise a rebellion. So he looks like a would-be Messiah who could have led hid followers into a rebellion like Theudas or Judas of Galilee (Acts 5: 35-37).

    These basic facts are confirmed by the Synoptics. Mark and Matthew attest his execution by Herod, but the story of the plot between Herodias and Salome is probably just dramatisation.

    I think John identified himself as the voice of the prophet Isaiah recalling Israel to repentance (Is 40: 3-5; Luke 3: 4-6). But I suspect that the Synoptic authors themselves cast John in the role of the forerunner and prophet of Jesus and attributed the prophecy of Malachi to him (Matt 3:1; Luke 7: 27). Luke cites these prophecies separately and not in combination like Mark (Mark 1: 2-3).

    J the B can't possibly be the forerunner of Jesus. Their theologies of salvation are significantly different. So is their moral lifestyle. They have no relationship with each other on the basis of the gospel narratives. Their only recorded conversation together is during the baptism of Jesus. And John does not know the identity of Jesus as the Messiah according to Luke 7: 18-23.

    This passage makes them look like contemporary rabbis and they may have had rival ministries since their disciples got into disputes together.

    The Synoptic authors probably revised John's ministry into being the forerunner of Jesus because he was chronologically earlier and was executed during the ministry of Jesus. Luke added the birth narrative of John to create dramatic parallelism to the birth of Jesus.

    John gives J the B an important theological role as the witness to the Light. And he repeatedly emphasises the inferiority of John towards Jesus in a way that protests far too much.

    On the question of what is original text in John 7: the critique of John and Jesus rings true. The enquiry from John's disciples. And Jesus applying the quotation from Isaiah to Himself.

    I think the passage where Jesus outlines the theological significance of J the B (including the quotation from Malachi) is Luke's literary construct intended to clarify their respective ministries. And John takes this further in his gospel narrative to downplay the importance of J the B in comparison with Jesus.
  • @Rublev said: 'J[ohn] the B[aptist] can't possibly be the forerunner of Jesus.'

    Fairly radical stuff, it sounds like, and certainly not in line with the orthodox (small 'o', but possibly large 'O', as well) teaching of My Yoof.

    Thoughts, other Shipmates?
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    You're welcome to make a counter argument Bishop's Finger.

    The C1st Jewish historian Josephus writes about the life and death of both Jesus and John the Baptist in his Jewish Antiquities - but unlike the gospel writers he doesn't connect them together (18: 63-64; 18: 110-118).

    John the Baptist and Jesus have separate ministries and different theologies in the gospel accounts. And John doesn't know that Jesus is the Messiah (Luke 7: 18-23).

    I think Jesus went to be baptised by John and that was their only encounter which the gospel authors later embroidered into a relationship between them.
  • Thank you for your kind invitation, but I'm really more interested in what others might say or think, in order to widen the scope of the discussion.

    I'm not concerned with a 'counter argument' (which seems like a form of point-scoring), but you make some very intriguing comments, which I haven't heard before - and, of course, you may well be right in what you say.
  • @ Rublev
    I am attempting to keep things simpler.

    Luke 7 reflects something probably written in the 40's or '50's or 60's -- thus, probably before the Gospel of Mark (ca. 67-72).

    Josephus wrote ca. 93-94!

    I much prefer dealing with the earlier source materials first and only later with the later source materials.

  • It is traditionally held, is it not, that St Luke knew Our Lord's Blessed Mother, Mary, and that much of his Gospel derives from her own recollections - presumably in the early days of the Church.

    Today, of course, is celebrated as The Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, taken body, and soul, into Heaven, so I think we can trust Her to be right in what she told the Blessed Evangelist.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    Yes, there is a chronological factor to consider in the sources. But there is also an agenda factor at play.

    The more you analyse the story of John the Baptist, the more interesting it gets. There are ruptures in the narrative, there is anxiety in the language and significant variation in the versions set out in Mark/Matthew (forerunner), Luke (parallel birth narrative), John (witness to the Light) and Josephus (teacher of righteousness). Paul doesn't mention John the Baptist at all.

    John the Baptist may have had a more popular ministry than Jesus. He was more in the accepted mould of an OT prophet. And he was never put on trial for blasphemy by the religious authorities which suggests that his theology was considered more orthodox (aside from the innovation of baptism).

    So who was the historical John the Baptist? I'm inclined to go with Josephus on this one.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    @Bishop's Finger

    What is the scriptural and theological basis for the assumption of Mary?

    Perhaps there should be another thread on the quest for the historical Mary. That would probably be even more fascinating than the historical J the B.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    Rublev: I think Jesus went to be baptised by John and that was their only encounter which the gospel authors later embroidered into a relationship between them.

    "Only encounter," despite their involvement in some sort of religious revival taking place around Galilee?
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