What to Do With an Errant John the Baptist?

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  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    @James Boswell II

    The reference to baptism with the Holy Spirit and with fire is surely a reference to the flames of fire on the Day of Pentecost rather than to the fiery wrath of God?
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    Could be. That would certainly make sense of its presence in Luke.
  • I agree that Mark was interested in getting on quickly to Jesus' baptism, the foremost important thing he has to present. But I repeat my last post.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    OK, to be more explicit. No particular conclusion is to be drawn. Mark’s omission of that material, assuming he knew of it, can most probably be explained by his desire not to be distracted, but to get on with his main purpose: the presentation of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.
  • @Rublev
    Rublev wrote: »
    @James Boswell II
    The reference to baptism with the Holy Spirit and with fire is surely a reference to the flames of fire on the Day of Pentecost rather than to the fiery wrath of God?

    I do not think so. Not in the context of Q's presentation of John's more original teaching.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    I think the fiery wrath of God is a reflection of the traditional prophetic theology of J the B. And it was hugely popular which is somewhat surprising. But it is the complete antithesis of the gospel message of Jesus which would have been obvious to the gospel writers. But they probably couldn't adapt it because it would have been well known to their readers. It indicates that John and Jesus were well known historical rabbis, but they preached different messages about God. And this is reflected in the gospels.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    @Rublev
    Rublev wrote: »
    @James Boswell II
    The reference to baptism with the Holy Spirit and with fire is surely a reference to the flames of fire on the Day of Pentecost rather than to the fiery wrath of God?

    I do not think so. Not in the context of Q's presentation of John's more original teaching.
    I repeat my question. What is the rationale for seeing that teaching as ‘more original’?

    Your previous answer
    The excellent scholarship of John P. Meier and others.
    just says ‘other people whom I respect have said so’, but it doesn’t answer the question about what the rationale is for that proposition.

    The conclusions we might draw will differ depending on whether we think that teaching is ‘more original’ or not.
  • @Rublev, regarding your "fiery wrath" statement above:

    Be careful about two things. The word rabbi in Jesus' time meant simply, Teacher. Only later did it connote a trained scribe or theologian. Jesus and John were neither of them rabbis in the later sense and imho the English term should be reserved for a later time.

    Also, there is considerable "wrath" in some of Jesus' teaching, both in Q and in Mark, including judgment pronouncements and warnings about Gehenna. I agree that John's message seems primarily to have stressed the danger of wrath, and Jesus' primarily stressed the good news of the imminent Kingdom, but there was considerable fire in some of his message.
  • ECraigRECraigR Shipmate
    Rublev wrote: »
    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.

    Right, most of my favorite poets lived in poverty. Again, I wasn’t suggesting that poverty means that you can’t be intellectual, but that for most people it’s a more pressing problem. Voluntarily living in poverty so that you have more time to pursue some subject you enjoy is different from being born into poverty, or being forced into.

  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    @JamesBoswellII

    There is no escaping from the theology of hell today. Matthew and Luke give a more theologised presentation of J the B than Mark. And I do think that Mark presents a more historical portrait of both J the B and Jesus. He invented the gospel genre and his theology is a biography of the life and death of Jesus the Messiah.
  • Q (any written portion of it) and Mark were both written before Matthew and Luke in their present forms were written, and both of the final authors or redactors of Matthew and Luke drew from Q and Mark. That's exciting, for it gives us two identifiable earlier sources in addition to the other "many" written accounts Luke mentions in his preface.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    I am baffled by this insistence that the poor cannot explore intellectual matters. Early Christianity was especially attractive to the poor and marginalised because it offered hope and equality to women, slaves and eunuchs who were not being included or valued by other contemporary religions.

  • 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? 
    Yes. I conclude that both of these passages from Q and from Mark concerning the Baptizer are basically historical, though Mark may have toned down the "fiery, wrathful" aspect of John's teaching for whatever reason.

    I also conclude that John was definitely into a fiery apocalyptic mode of thinking. Wrath was about to fall, he believed, and soon. He was not baptizing people for the sake of their children or grandchildren, but for their own sake, that they might receive forgiveness and not be subjected to the imminent wrath that, John believed, was soon torive.
  • to arrive.

    I further conclude that John was expecting a messianic figure to come––one who would be similar to the one predicted in Isaiah who would––“strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips slay the wicked”--and similar to the one predicted in a psalm who would––“break the nations with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s jar.”  

    Similar to that figure, the “mighty one” predicted by John would come with great power and destruction.

    Is all that historical? 

    I certainly think so, and next I suggest we look at the only other Q passage we have about John the Baptizer and see what conclusions we may draw from it.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    So why were the Jewish people so pleased to hear this apocalyptic message? Did they think that the fiery wrath of God was going to fall upon the Romans rather than on them?
  • ECraigRECraigR Shipmate
    Rublev wrote: »
    I am baffled by this insistence that the poor cannot explore intellectual matters. Early Christianity was especially attractive to the poor and marginalised because it offered hope and equality to women, slaves and eunuchs who were not being included or valued by other contemporary religions.

    I am literally not saying that the poor cannot explore intellectual matters. I’m equally baffled by your consistently misreading of what I’m saying. I’m saying that many poor have other primary concerns. That should be obvious. Having worked with poor and working class people all of my life, I can assure you that most of them don’t give a damn about intellectual matters. Some do. I at no point said the poor cannot explore intellectual matters.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    Christianity has always been a liberating message. It has offered hope to the marginalised and emphasised social responsibility to the wealthy. That is why it is meant to be salt and light. Under its influence the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie built free libraries to empower the disadvantaged. And this is why I am dismayed that they are now being shut down in our supposedly more advanced age.
  • @Rublev
    Rublev wrote: »
    So why were the Jewish people so pleased to hear this apocalyptic message? Did they think that the fiery wrath of God was going to fall upon the Romans rather than on them?

    Pleased? Did the great American Revival start because people were pleased by Jonathan Winter's fearful sermon? No, but because it frightened them into a great movement of repentance.

    Same with John. John scared these serpents, these snakes to seek baptism as a last resort, a last chance for forgiveness before the oncoming. Fear drove them into Jordan's water and the arms of the baptizer.
  • ECraigR wrote: »
    Rublev wrote: »
    I am baffled by this insistence that the poor cannot explore intellectual matters. Early Christianity was especially attractive to the poor and marginalised because it offered hope and equality to women, slaves and eunuchs who were not being included or valued by other contemporary religions.

    I am literally not saying that the poor cannot explore intellectual matters. I’m equally baffled by your consistently misreading of what I’m saying. I’m saying that many poor have other primary concerns. That should be obvious. Having worked with poor and working class people all of my life, I can assure you that most of them don’t give a damn about intellectual matters. Some do. I at no point said the poor cannot explore intellectual matters.

    FWIW, that's how I read your posts.


    Rublev wrote: »
    So why were the Jewish people so pleased to hear this apocalyptic message? Did they think that the fiery wrath of God was going to fall upon the Romans rather than on them?

    Well, many of them might indeed have been hoping for Something Awful to happen to their Roman overlords, so yes.
  • John scared them to seek baptism as a last resort, a last chance for forgiveness before the oncoming wrath. Fear drove them into Jordan's water and the arms of the baptizer.
  • Intriguing, perhaps, but what does it matter to the man on the street, who may not be able to afford food for his family?

    Well that's true of all theology isn't it? Yet I see you arguing theological points on other threads here. What's your real reason for not liking this thread?
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    @JamesBoswellII

    There is no mention of fear in the gospel accounts of J the Bs ministry. But you could well be right. Matthew's account of John's message of the wrath of God would have terrified me (Matt 3: 1-12).
  • After being called vipers fleeing from the wrath who were not sufficiently repentant, do you not think they would have felt fear-leading-to-greater repentance, and that sent them streaming into the river.

    As for hoping that the Romans would get their "comeuppance," that was also part of their expectation. See what is said above about the kind of messianic figure they were expecting--one who would “strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips slay the wicked”--one who would––“break the nations with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s jar.”

    But their main motivation was wanting to be among the saved, wanting not to be among the "chaff" thrown into "unquenchable fire." 
  • Gird up your loins, for tomorrow we will look at the only other Q passage we have about John the Baptizer, and see what conclusions we may draw from it.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    Jesus generally preaches differently from this which is interesting. He wasn't the Messiah that they (or John) were expecting - or the message that they were expecting. And perhaps Jesus was not as popular as John for that reason. We know that He spoke differently from other rabbis. He had an unusual method of revelatory parables. However, He does say that He specifically fulfils the prophecy of Isaiah. So you see that I am coming around to your view that He consciously saw Himself as the suffering servant of Isaiah 53.
  • My goodness!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited August 29
    mousethief wrote: »
    Intriguing, perhaps, but what does it matter to the man on the street, who may not be able to afford food for his family?

    Well that's true of all theology isn't it? Yet I see you arguing theological points on other threads here. What's your real reason for not liking this thread?

    Yes, you're right - but ISTM that theology needs to be worked out in practice, as it were, as (of course) it is in many churches.

    As for your second question, I'd rather not comment publicly.

  • So you have some kind of personal hang-up about this topic, so instead of engaging on it you're going to throw rocks at the very idea of discussing the topic?
  • ADDENDUM

    By the way, if you have Gospel Parallels: A Synopsis of the First Three Gospels, by Throckmorton, it is not rocket science to figure out what Q is.

    When you see three columns with Mark in the middle, that suggests that Matthew and Luke both drew from Mark, sometimes making alterations, especially Matthew.*

    If, however you see a blank in the middle, with parallel passages to the left in Matthean text, and to the right in Lukan text, that is almost always a Q passage)** drawn by both those gospels' authors from some earlier, mostly written, Greek source.

    When you see passages only from Matthew, such passages scholars label M, and could have been derived from any number of sources, early or not so early, or even might be free compositions of the author.
    When you see passages only from Luke, such passages scholars label L, and could have been derived from any number of sources, early or not so early, or even might be free compositions of the author.***

    And then there is the Gospel of John which is rather a thing unto itself, late and more concerned with allowing the Spirit deeply to interpret spiritual truths rather than in telling the story in concert with actual remembered sayings, or in fidelity to earlier chronology, though sometimes there are surprising moments of historicity.****
    _____________
    *Mark was definitely a written source. Almost never does Mark stand alone, because Matthew drew from about 90% of Mark and Luke drew from almost 2/3 of Mark. For that reason, Matthew almost always stands parallel to Mark, even when Luke does not. (The few instances when neither Matthew nor Luke drew from Mark may indicate that they found something they did not like in the Markan passage.)

    **Q was largely drawn from a written source, but perhaps with some shorter oral traditions. (One instance in which parallel passages are not Q is the genealogies. They are not Q because they contradict, even as to the grandfather, great grandfather, etc. of Jesus. And note that both do trace Jesus' ancestry through Joseph only, and not also through Mary, though conservatives try to claim that.)

    ***M designates passages found only in Matthew.
    L designates passages found only in Luke.
    M and L may have been drawn from any number of written or oral traditions (note Luke's preface which mentions "many" previously written accounts.

    **** "his brothers did not believe in him"; the disciples were startled to find Jesus "talking with a woman"; the account of Mary Magdalene alone at the tomb.

    [This is my own composition, my own attempt to elucidate how I see all this.]
  • We're now going to consider the only other Q passage we have about the Baptizer. 
    BACKGROUND. Later, John was arrested and imprisoned at Machaerus east of the Dead Sea by Herod Antipas who, according to Luke and the Jewish historian Josephus, feared John’s popularity as a prophet and/or was angered that John had criticized his marriage and, fearing John's popularity with the people, took the preemptive strike of arresting and imprioning him.

    In prison, John soon began to hear wonderful things about a certain Jesus of Nazareth–– things he was doing in Galilee, and John wondered if this Jesus might be the “mighty one” he had predicted.

    So, according to that other early Q passage, John sent two of his followers all the way to Galilee to ask Jesus. “Are you the one?” 

    HERE IS THE FIRST PART OF THE Q TEXT: The disciples of John reported [to him in prison] all these things [that Jesus was doing]. So John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to Jesus to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or must we wait for someone else?”

    COMMENT: “Are you the one who is to come?”
    That’s a strange way to phrase the question. Jesus is already there!
    What did John really mean?
    Well, he must have meant, “Jesus, I know that you’re not doing what I said the mighty one would do. You’re not separating the good people from the bad and gathering the good into safety while throwing the bad into unquenchable fire. You’re not doing that. But is it possible that you will yet prove to be that mighty one?”

    TEXT: When John’s disciples had come to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptizer has sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are must we wait for someone else?’”

    COMMENT: The crowds who were with Jesus would probably have noticed that two disciples of John had come to Jesus and would have been excited, for they considered John to be a genuine prophet, and many of them had been baptized by him. But the question was probably asked in private, because even as it was dangerous to be a prophet (John was in prison), so it would be dangerous to admit that you were “the mighty one” (the expected Messiah). So the question was probably addressed in private to Jesus and some of his closest followers:

    TEXT: “John sent us to ask you, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or must we wait for someone else?’”
    Jesus answered them, “Go back and tell John what you see and hear:  
    The blind are receiving sight, the lame are walking, the lepers are being cleansed, the deaf are hearing, the dead are being raised, the poor are having good news brought to them, and blessed is anyone who is not offended by me.”
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited August 29
    mousethief wrote: »
    So you have some kind of personal hang-up about this topic, so instead of engaging on it you're going to throw rocks at the very idea of discussing the topic?

    No, not about this topic, which is indeed an interesting one (we in the C of E observed (not literally, of course) The Beheading of John the Baptist, at Mass today - well, some of us did!).

    As regards a 'personal hang-up', you may think that. I couldn't possibly comment, except to say that my 'personal hang-ups' are really not worth pursuing...

  • COMMENT: Notice that Jesus does not say, Yes, I am that expected one, nor does he say, No, I am not. He says, Just look at what is happening! Already the wonders predictted by the prophet Isaiah are taking place! Already the wonderful messianic age Isaiah predicted is beginning to arrive! Already the poor and needy, the sick, the blind, the deaf, the lame – even the lepers and the dead – are being blessed!  
    Already! 

    And then Jesus adds, rather strangely,
    “And blessed is anyone who is not offended by me.” 

    Why did Jesus say that?

    Who could possibly be offended by those wonderful things?  
    And why did Jesus in particular stress that to John? 
  • I'm not sure - why do you think he did?

    Could Jesus have been referring to the religious authorities, who certainly were offended by him?

    After all, he didn't mince his words when referring to them, for example, as 'whited sepulchres'...
  • COMMENT: The crowds would have been excited to know that disciples of John were conferring with Jesus, no doubt wondering what was being said. So when they left to return to John, Jesus began talking to the crowd about John.

    TEXT: When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John:
    “What did you go out into the wastelands to see? A reed shaken by the wind?

    [The crowd would probably have laughed. John was no shaken reed!l 

    "What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes?
    [Again laughter. John wore rough camel's hair.l
    No, those who wear fine clothing and live in luxury are in royal palaces.
    So what did you go out to see?

    '[Someone may have called out, "A prophet!"l
    A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one of whom it is written,
    ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’
    I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John, yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.

  • And then Jesus continues:
    But to what will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like?
    They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,
    ‘We played the flute for you, [tried to play wedding]
    but you wouldn’t dance;
    we wailed, [tried to play funeral]
    and you wouldn’t weep.’
    For John the Baptizer has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon!’
    The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of [despised] tax collectors and sinners!’
    Yet wisdom is vindicated by its results."


    That ends the early Q passage. I think if a recorder had been running that day it would have caught in Aramaic almost exactly what we have above.

    So let's discuss all this. What conclusions can we draw from it? 
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited August 29
    It is surprising indeed how many people were offended by the wonderful things that Jesus did. In His hometown 'they took offense at Him...and He was not able to do many mighty works there because of their unbelief' (Matt 13: 57-58). When Jesus healed the man with a withered hand at the synagogue the reaction of the Pharisees is not delight but rage (Luke 6: 11). And when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead the religious authorities plotted to kill Him (John 11:53).

    As Jesus observed, there are some who would not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead (Luke 16: 31).
  • The Pharisees weren't exactly competent at joined-up thinking, were they?
    :wink:
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited August 29
    I do wonder if the tension between Jesus and the Pharisees is because theologically they should have been natural allies. Some Pharisees such as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea are secret believers in Jesus. And the Pharisees support Paul at his trial over the question of the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23: 6-9).
  • An interesting thought, and I guess it's quite wrong to tar all the Pharisees with the same brush!

    As you say, some, at least, were sympathetic, even if in secret.
  • Going back to the beginning, I think one of the first most important things to notice is the fact that John hears in prison what Jesus is doing in Galilee but does not know what to make of him! (Note that there is nothing in this or the other Q text to suggest that he even knows who Jesus is.)

    Anyway, going by what he hears, John thinks Jesus may, just may, be the one he predicted --or rather, that he might yet prove to be that one, if only he will start doing what John said he would do, by separating the wheat, the good people into safety, and throwing the chaff, the bad people, into "unquenchable fire." And so he sends to ask.

    I think that this is hard historical fact, and anything in the later sources that suggests that John knew who Jesus was is questionable.

    But at least John was intrigued enough by what he was hearing to question whether Jesus might yet prove to be the expected one, and so he sends to ask.
  • "Are you the one who is to come, or must we wait for someone else?"

    Jesus answers, neither by saying Yes, I am that one you are expecting, nor No, I am not that one you are expecting, but by rattling off a list of the wonderful things that are happening and telling John's disciples to return and tell John about all that.

    Why did Jesus answer by citing that list?
  • Jesus answered them,
    “Go back and tell John what you see and hear:  
    The blind are receiving sight,
    the lame are walking,
    the lepers are being cleansed,
    the deaf are hearing, the dead are being raised,
    the poor are having good news brought to them,
    and blessed is anyone who is not offended by me.”

  • DooneDoone Shipmate
    W
    An interesting thought, and I guess it's quite wrong to tar all the Pharisees with the same brush!

    As you say, some, at least, were sympathetic, even if in secret.

    Yes, I’ve read (sorry, can’t remember where) that what @Rublev says is the case and that the Pharisees have had a rather bad press, whilst acknowledging that Jesus was certainly very harsh with those who were hypocrites. I’ll try and find the book.
  • Actually, the Pharisees do come into this Q passage, though indirectly, as we shall see.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited August 29
    @JamesBoswellII

    I agree - and I think that the gospel writers attempt retrospectively to understand the ministry and martyrdom of J the B as the last OT prophet and the logical forerunner of Jesus. And I think that in the light of Pentecost they interpret John as being the baptiser in water and Jesus as the baptiser in the Holy Spirit and with fire.
  • DooneDoone Shipmate
    Doone wrote: »
    W
    An interesting thought, and I guess it's quite wrong to tar all the Pharisees with the same brush!

    As you say, some, at least, were sympathetic, even if in secret.

    Yes, I’ve read (sorry, can’t remember where) that what @Rublev says is the case and that the Pharisees have had a rather bad press, whilst acknowledging that Jesus was certainly very harsh with those who were hypocrites. I’ll try and find the book.

    Ah, found it! It’s called Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg. It suggests some Pharisees were in the ‘camp’ of Shimmai and others followed Hillel, the former being much more stringent in interpretations / policies.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    In what way was JtB errant as Jerusalem fell in 40 years?
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited August 29
    Thanks for the book recommendation. That is what I had read too - that the dispute between Jesus and the Pharisees reflected a wider theological debate between the rival schools of Hillel and Shimmai. Hillel had his own version of the Golden Rule: 'That which is hateful to you, do not do to others.'

    'Jesus the Pharisee: A New Look at the Jewishness of Jesus' by Harvey Falk (I think it was Enoch who recommended this book to me a few months ago).
  • Back to the Q passage:

    For goodness sake, hear the excitement in Jesus' answer! He does not say, Yes, I am that expected one, nor does he say, No I am not, but he says go back and tell John what is happening -- Already! Now! 
    Already the wonders predicted by the prophet Isaiah are taking place!
    Already the wonderful messianic age Isaiah predicted is beginning to arrive!
    Already the poor and needy, the sick, the blind, the deaf, the lame – even the lepers and the dead – are being blessed!  
    Already! 

    Jesus is in effect quoting from Isaiah 35:5ff. and 29:18f. and 61:1f:
    Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened,
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped,
    then shall the lame leap like a deer,
    and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy,
    for waters shall break forth in the wastelands,
    streams in the desert..
    .etc.

    In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book
    and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.
    The meek shall obtain fresh joy the the Lord
    and the poor shall exult in God.


    The anointed one will
    bring good news to the afflicted
    and bind up the broken-hearted
    and proclaim liberty to the captives
    ...etc.

    In other words, Jesus is sending John an only slightly coded message:
    The time of salvation is at hand, when there will be no more sorrow, no more crying and no more grief! It is an eschatological cry of joy from Jesus.

    In the words of Joachim Jeremias (NT Theo: The Proclamation of Jesus, p. 104-5) "Now help is extended to all those who are in the depths of despair, now those who were as good as dead are raised to life. The water of life flows, the time of the curse is at an end, paradise is opened. Even now, the consummation of the world is dawning.

    In other words, Jesus is saying,
    Yes! Yes, I am that expected one!
  • Martin54 wrote: »
    In what way was JtB errant as Jerusalem fell in 40 years?

    John was not merely predicting the fall of Jerusalem, nor was Jesus.
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