What to Do With an Errant John the Baptist?

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  • Oh for Pete's sake. Rublev is right. I am right. A number of really good New Testament scholars are right. You CAN gain some degree of insight into what is historical and what is not.

    Searching for the historical John the Baptist is done the same way searching for the historical Jesus is done. You simply start with the oldest sources.

    Paul's letters are our earliest written sources, but they do not help us with the Baptizer, for he is never mentioned there.

    So we turn to the information found in the oldest gospel material, the parallel passages found in Matthew and Luke (Q), in this case, the 3 chapters of Luke and Matthew and the 7th and 11th chapters of Matthew, which are for the most part word for word the same. You look at that, and then you move on and compare what you have seen there with what is in Mark.

    Notice that the parallel passages make it especially clear that the message of the Baptizer emphasized fire. The word is mentioned three times. Firey wrath is about to fall on everyone. Repent and be baptized before it is too late! And many people responded, even the tax collectors and prostitutes and other sinners, but not the Pharisees and Sadducees, as Jesus later pointed out.

    And so we turn and compare that with the Baptizer's message as it appears in Mark. Notice that the word fire is entirely missing there. Even when the Baptizer says that "one more powerful than me is coming after me" who "will baptize you not with water but with the Holy Spirit and with fire," Mark removes "and with fire." Why is that?
  • Oh for Pete's sake. Rublev is right. I am right.

    :flushed:

    You may think that, but can you prove it?

  • That is what it is all about. Doing careful scholarship gives us the ability to discern what is most likely historical and what is not. That does not mean absolute certainty about the historical facts, but it can lead to a glad acceptance of what is demonstrably more likely.

    I tire of this emphasis that you and others seem to have. You seem to want to delight and wallow in saying, "We can know nothing."

    Or, conversely, "It is all just faith and fancy."
  • "Some degree of insight" is not too excessive a claim.
  • So why is "fire" missing in Mark's account of the Baptizer's message? (Mark chapter 1.)
  • That is what it is all about. Doing careful scholarship gives us the ability to discern what is most likely historical and what is not. That does not mean absolute certainty about the historical facts, but it can lead to a glad acceptance of what is demonstrably more likely.

    I tire of this emphasis that you and others seem to have. You seem to want to delight and wallow in saying, "We can know nothing."

    Or, conversely, "It is all just faith and fancy."

    O dear. I'm sorry that you are tiring of our admitting that we know nothing. Simply saying 'I am right' doesn't help, and personal attacks don't help, either.

    It comes down, in the end, I think, to 'simple trust'.

  • Fine. Have your simple trust. But meanwhile do not engage in the personal attack of constant cynicism toward those of us who think doing careful, thoughtful scholarship can help.

    And have the courage and decency to engage rather than ignore.

    So why is "fire" missing in Mark's account?
  • So why is "fire" missing in Mark's account of the Baptizer's message? (Mark chapter 1.)

    Maybe because Luke has twice as many words devoted to John the baptist's ministry than Mark has.
  • Please see my post on the 'other thread'.

    I am tired of your personal attacks. Please stop.
  • Please see my post on the other thread as well.

    And again, I ask, Why is "fire" missing? Anna Baptist has contributed to the discussion.
    Is that not what it really should be all about?
  • I don't know why Mark omitted it from John's preaching. It can't be because of a contradiction with Jesus' preaching, because seemed quite taken with the fire motif in Mark 9-43-49.

    Everyone will be salted with fire.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Oh for Pete's sake. Rublev is right. I am right. A number of really good New Testament scholars are right. You CAN gain some degree of insight into what is historical and what is not.

    Searching for the historical John the Baptist is done the same way searching for the historical Jesus is done. You simply start with the oldest sources.

    Paul's letters are our earliest written sources, but they do not help us with the Baptizer, for he is never mentioned there.

    So we turn to the information found in the oldest gospel material, the parallel passages found in Matthew and Luke (Q), in this case, the 3 chapters of Luke and Matthew and the 7th and 11th chapters of Matthew, which are for the most part word for word the same. You look at that, and then you move on and compare what you have seen there with what is in Mark.

    Notice that the parallel passages make it especially clear that the message of the Baptizer emphasized fire. The word is mentioned three times. Firey wrath is about to fall on everyone. Repent and be baptized before it is too late! And many people responded, even the tax collectors and prostitutes and other sinners, but not the Pharisees and Sadducees, as Jesus later pointed out.

    And so we turn and compare that with the Baptizer's message as it appears in Mark. Notice that the word fire is entirely missing there. Even when the Baptizer says that "one more powerful than me is coming after me" who "will baptize you not with water but with the Holy Spirit and with fire," Mark removes "and with fire." Why is that?

    What happened to Jerusalem within their children's lifetimes and some of theirs, ending then? What happened at the fulfilment of Pentecost within four years?
  • Good. We are on subject. I will wait a while for other contributions (including I hope perhaps something from @Rublev) and later give you my own opoinions.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    Host hat on
    It’s six and two threes whether I post on this thread or its cousin, both are in danger of beginning to generate more heat than light. Please can all refresh their memories about the Purgatory guidelines including
    … Disagree with the view, not the person…. Expect to be disagreed with… Remember you have a large and diverse audience looking in
    and from the Ten Commandments
    5. Don’t easily offend, don’t be easily offended.

    We welcome robust debate, but excessive heat prevents quality discussion.

    If you really need to get personal… well, that’s why the Ship has Hell.

    Host hat off
    BroJames Purgatory Host
  • We're back on subject and I would like to keep it that way. There are some interesting things yet to be said.
  • @Anna_Baptist
    Your first comment above may have been somewhat tongue in cheek, but I think you are right, in that one reason fire is not mentioned is simply because Mark was writing a brief description of the Baptizer's ministry and wanted to get quickly to Jesus' baptism. (Also, we have no reason to think that Mark had access to the Luk-Mat parallels, for even when there is similarity of language, the parallels agree against Mark's wording arrangements.)

    However Mark may also have omitted "and with fire" from "he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" from John's message because in the intervening years the church had experienced Jesus' repeated pouring out of the Holy Spirit but no baptisms in fiery wrath.

    I think your second comment is entirely correct. We cannot claim that Jesus did not speak of fire. Of fire, and of Gehenna. Repeatedly. Any attempts to distance the historical Jesus from all forms of judgmental language run counter to some of the oldest gospel material we have (see Mark!), and I have often confessed that one of the most difficult things for me to try to understand is this: I cannot pretend to see how Jesus' mind could have encompassed both belief in a coming judgment and Gehenna on the one hand, and on the other hand the seemingly limitless unconditional love of God seen, for example in the Sermon on the Mount.
  • I will add this to the above: "Perhaps Jesus' sense of the efficacy of his death* had something to do with that. Or perhaps it didn't. Either way, I deeply love the person who spoke the breathtaking love of God as seen in the Sermon on the Mount/Sermon on the Plain.
    ________
    *In other words, that Jesus' judgmental teachings were primarily intended as warnings of love, yet he may have thought that the efficacy of his death might open the possibility that hell could be robbed of all its captives!

    Dale C. Allison has said that he agrees with the idea that Jesus was not into transcendent vengeance (i.e., divine vengeance) but-- "I'd argue, not that Jesus himself didn't believe in judgment, but that he preached it out of concern for those he thought off track, and further that his characteristic teaching about nonviolence and love of enemy deconstructs the conventional hell of Christian tradition." The Apocalyptic Jesus: A Debate, p. 4.
  • p. 104.
  • Link, please?
  • None available. Some good reviews of the book, however.
  • Revival of this thread:

    Let us now go "Searching for the Historical [and Errant?] John the Baptist" with the understanding that it is much easier to search historically for John than for Jesus, because we have far less gospel text to deal with* -- and besides, the same method used to search for the historical Baptizer can also be used to search for the historical Jesus: Namely, simply compare the earliest sources, Q and Mark, to the later sources, M, L, and the Gospel of John.

    (In the case of Jesus, the earliest sources would also include Paul's letters as as the very earliest source, but the Baptizer is not mentioned in those letters.)
    ________
    *Only about five gospel chapters deal with John, while nearly a hundred deal with Jesus.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    The search for the historical J the B also sheds light on how the gospels present the historical Jesus in their theology. I'd agree that Mark's gospel is the best place to start. But how do you envisage defining source Q?
  • Revival of this thread:

    Let us now go "Searching for the Historical [and Errant?] John the Baptist" with the understanding that it is much easier to search historically for John than for Jesus, because we have far less gospel text to deal with* -- and besides, the same method used to search for the historical Baptizer can also be used to search for the historical Jesus: Namely, simply compare the earliest sources, Q and Mark, to the later sources, M, L, and the Gospel of John.

    (In the case of Jesus, the earliest sources would also include Paul's letters as as the very earliest source, but the Baptizer is not mentioned in those letters.)
    ________
    *Only about five gospel chapters deal with John, while nearly a hundred deal with Jesus.

    Thanks, but no thanks.

    Who cares? And what does it matter?

  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    The gospel writers thought it mattered. So that is interesting. Perhaps it was their way of connecting the story of Jesus to the OT prophetic tradition.
  • Maybe. But that was 2000 years ago. What does it matter today ?
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    Christianity is a historically revealed faith. And it is a story which both has and has not yet ended. What could be more intriguing?
  • Intriguing, perhaps, but what does it matter to the man on the street, who may not be able to afford food for his family?
  • ECraigRECraigR Shipmate
    Intriguing, perhaps, but what does it matter to the man on the street, who may not be able to afford food for his family?

    Although I agree with you, because I dislike historical criticism generally, I don’t think the poor person on the street should be our standard for what matters. Certainly care for the poor and concern with poverty should be a key aspect of Christian social thought, but if the average poverty stricken person is regarded as the metric for what matters, then most intellectual activities won’t make the cut. I’m not sure the poverty stricken care about historical John the Baptist, Aquinas, or philosophy of truth.

  • If you don't care, @Bishops Finger, perhaps you could simply stay away and let those who do care seriously discuss it. :neutral: (Gentle suggestion.)
    ____________

    Let us begin, not with Q, but with Mark.
    Read carefully what little the Gospel of Mark says about John in chapter one, and focus in on what he says John's message was.

    According to Mark, John’s message was that people should repent and be baptized because––
    “After me someone is coming who is mightier than I am! I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!”

    and then compare that with Q's even earlier version, noting the use of "wrath" and "fire":
    “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance, and do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 

    Even now the ax is at the root of the trees. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire!

    I baptize you with water for repentance, but after me one who is mightier than I is coming.
    I am not worthy to untie his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire!
    His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”


    Any conclusions? Any observations? 

  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited August 28
    Perhaps you, @James Boswell II, might be gracious enough to consider the views of others, however unpalatable you might find them.

    @ECraigR, yes, fair points. It's just that I minister in a very deprived parish, where the poor, and marginalised, form a major demographic.

    I agree that they probably don't care very much about John the Baptist, historical or otherwise (or about Jesus, for that matter).
  • I do not find your view unpalatable. I am just wondering if we could discuss the subject at hand,
  • We are.

    I am asking why you (and others) consider the question of an 'errant' John the Baptist important, given the difficulties, and problems, facing the Christian church in many parts of the world today.
  • That would be a very good subject for a thread. Why not start one exactly like that, and allow those who wish to discuss this subject here to do so?
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    For me, it serves the cause of truth. The gospels present us with four theological portraits of Jesus Christ. But I would like to identify their respective theologies and understand the significance of the historical Jesus and John the Baptist for myself.
  • Exactly. Please continue.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    BTW poverty is not inevitably a barrier to intellectual thought. Although it might become so if the closure of libraries in the UK continues at the current rate.
  • So. Any conclusions or observations about the comparison of Mark and Q above?
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited August 28
    That would be a very good subject for a thread. Why not start one exactly like that, and allow those who wish to discuss this subject here to do so?

    Why not answer my question? It seems a perfectly reasonable thing to ask, as this thread's title mentions an 'errant' John the Baptist.

    Rublev says she's interested in it for herself, which is a fair enough answer. Why do you think the subject is so important?
  • The answer will come better if we do the scholarly work. But I can say ahead of time that John was expecting the fiery wrath of God soon to fall, in that time, in the lifetime of his generation, and in that sense he was mistaken or errant.
  • I agree with Rublev in thinking that this is an interesting topic for exploration, for it may also shed light on how the gospels present Jesus in their theology.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    What is your rationale for saying Q is earlier than Mark?
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited August 28
    OK, putative source Q is part of the common material found in Matthew and Luke but not found in Mark. It is considered to represent a hypothetical collection of sayings of Jesus.

    I agree it is interesting how little Mark says about John the Baptist in his gospel. I think it is because they only met once when Jesus was baptised by John. And it suggests that Mark was more of a modern historian than Luke since he simply presents Jesus as the Messiah in his gospel.

    I think that Mark's (and Matthew's) baptism with the Holy Spirit is a retrospective understanding of the Pentecost event. Jesus didn't baptise with the Holy Spirit in His lifetime. Only the Risen Christ does this when He breathes on the disciples (John 20: 22).
  • ECraigRECraigR Shipmate
    Rublev wrote: »
    BTW poverty is not inevitably a barrier to intellectual thought. Although it might become so if the closure of libraries in the UK continues at the current rate.

    I was by no means suggesting that poverty is a barrier to intellectual exploration, merely that in the hierarchy of needs Aquinas’ view of the trinity or John the Baptist’s possible historical nature rank below bread and shelter.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    I know what Q is, but that doesn’t answer my question as to why we should regard it as being earlier than Mark.
  • BroJames wrote: »
    What is your rationale for saying Q is earlier than Mark?
    The excellent scholarship of John P. Meier and others.
    But just one simple example: Q quotes John as saying, "[The one who is coming] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."

    Mark has, "will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

    It is easier to see why a later source would have omitted "and with fire" than to see why a later source would have added it. By the time Mark was written, the church had experienced repeated outpourings (baptisms) of the Holy Spirit from Jesus, but no outpourings of fiery wrath.

  • ECraigR wrote: »
    Rublev wrote: »
    BTW poverty is not inevitably a barrier to intellectual thought. Although it might become so if the closure of libraries in the UK continues at the current rate.

    I was by no means suggesting that poverty is a barrier to intellectual exploration, merely that in the hierarchy of needs Aquinas’ view of the trinity or John the Baptist’s possible historical nature rank below bread and shelter.

    My point exactly.

  • I hate to be a stickler, but would it be possible to keep this simple for a while and just try to draw some conclusions from the comparison of Q and Mark, regardless of when respectively they were written?
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    Given the general concision of Mark’s treatment of John the Baptist, it is easy to see other reasons why he might have omitted known material of that kind.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    Not necessarily. A lot of great thinkers, artists and scholars have lived in abject poverty. The Desert Fathers and Mothers lived very ascetic lives in the pursuit of spiritual wisdom.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    Mark treats John the Baptist very concisely in keeping with his declared purpose in Mark 1.1, and has no particular interest in the broader content of the Baptist’s preaching.
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