What to Do With an Errant John the Baptist?

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  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    Mark's version has no conversation taking place. Matthew has added a dialogue. It's the only recorded conversation between John and Jesus. The words contradict the actions in the scene. It's an explanation for Matthew's readers. Actually, it is not a very convincing explanation. Why would it fulfil all righteousness when Jesus is righteousness personified?
  • Amen!

    @Kwesi
    Most of the better scholars recognize that there must have been written Greek behind the long passages in Matthew and Luke that are not found in Mark and are word for word the same or nearly so.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited August 31
    BroJames wrote: »
    Absolutely! But the words put into John's mouth were put there only by Matthew, a clearly non historical intrusion into the text of Mark <snip>

    With what evidence do you make this assertion?

    Hear, hear!
  • BroJames wrote: »
    Absolutely! But the words put into John's mouth were put there only by Matthew, a clearly non historical intrusion into the text of Mark <snip>

    With what evidence do you make this assertion?

    Simple logic, plus the fact that there was a strong tendency to portray the Baptizer as a witness to Jesus, seen even more extremely in the legendary Lukan birth stories and especially in the Gospel of John.

    Historically, Jesus gave glowing witness to the Baptizer ("a prophet and more than a prophet," "as great as any one ever born of woman" "the one sent to prepare the way" in the Matthew-Luke Q passages) but NOT John to Jesus.

    But there is at least one possibility that the Baptizer MAY have become a witness to Jesus, though it cannot be proven. Want to know what it is?

  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    Yes, now that you mention it they both attest to each other in the narrative. The gospels like to use parallel examples and contrasting examples for emphasis. So Elizabeth parallels Mary. But Zechariah contrasts with her.
  • If the Baptizer as in G of John chp. 1 really had called Jesus "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" before Jesus was even baptized or began his ministry, or had testified that God's own voice told him directly from heaven that Jesus was his Son, the Baptizer would have been the first Christian!
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    Are you saying that John wasn’t a witness to Jesus? Or merely that Matthew and Luke wanted to make it clear that he did.

    In either case why go for the ‘non-historical’ option out of the various possible ways of explaining the difference. Why do you need the material to be non-historical?

    It’s very difficult to assess, and therefore to engage with the merits of your proposition when there are so many unexplained or unexamined assertions in them.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    If the Baptizer as in G of John chp. 1 really had called Jesus "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" before Jesus was even baptized or began his ministry, or had testified that God's own voice told him directly from heaven that Jesus was his Son, the Baptizer would have been the first Christian!

    And?
  • BroJames wrote: »
    Are you saying that John wasn’t a witness to Jesus?.

    Historically, no. He was not. Any claim gainsaying that is legendary.
  • And if you want the most careful detailed examination of that, see the Catholic scholar John P. Meier's excellent A Marginal Jew Vol. II, The Historical Jesus: Mentor. Message, and Miracles.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited August 31
    Yes, I'd take the 'Lamb of God' of John 1: 29 as John's own theological theme rather than strictly historical. John underlines it in his Passion narrative by presenting Jesus as silent before Pilate like a sacrificial lamb. And dying on the same day as the Passover lambs. His legs are unbroken on the cross in accordance with the law of Leviticus regarding the Passover sacrifice. So it's an added layer of theological reflection in John's gospel. The theological meaning was more important to him than the historical chronology of Mark's version. Which is why he doesn't bother with the chronological Synoptic outline of events and uses his own theological framework instead.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    BroJames wrote: »
    Are you saying that John wasn’t a witness to Jesus?.

    Historically, no. He was not. Any claim gainsaying that is legendary.

    All claims about either of them are second order at best. None are by eye witnesses. None are corroborated. So what?
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    So Mark is the most reliable historical source among the gospel traditions. He has the least theological layering and construction in his text. He presents the life and death of Jesus the Messiah. His chronology of events becomes the template for Matthew and Luke.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    And if you want the most careful detailed examination of that, see the Catholic scholar John P. Meier's excellent A Marginal Jew Vol. II, The Historical Jesus: Mentor. Message, and Miracles.
    So is your argument (or Meier’s if you like) that the ‘after me… ’ statement, or something like it, paralleled across all four Gospels was not said by John, or that when he said it he was not referring to Jesus?
  • @Martin54
    Actually, the Matthew-Luke Q passage in which the Baptizer sends to question Jesus whether he is "the one who is to come" may have been written by an eyewitness, if the early church tradition is correct that the Apostle Matthew wrote an early collection of the logia of Jesus for use in the church he was leaving to go and preach elsewhere. That is not certain, but is it impossible.
  • BroJames wrote: »
    And if you want the most careful detailed examination of that, see the Catholic scholar John P. Meier's excellent A Marginal Jew Vol. II, The Historical Jesus: Mentor. Message, and Miracles.
    So is your argument (or Meier’s if you like) that the ‘after me… ’ statement, or something like it, paralleled across all four Gospels was not said by John, or that when he said it he was not referring to Jesus?

    Lord, no. John certainly spoke the "after me" statement, reflected in both Q and Mark. All the traditions see him as Jesus' forerunner. But when he was in prison east of the Dead Sea and began to hear about what Jesus was doing in Galilee, he sent disciples of his to ask Jesus, "Are you the one who is to come, or must we wait for someone else?" A Q passage! In other words, he was asking Jesus whether he might yet prove to be the "one more powerful than I" John had predicted, the one who would "separate the wheat from the chaff and gather the wheat into the barn and throw the chaff into unquenchable fire."
  • BroJames wrote: »
    or that when he said it he was not referring to Jesus?
    Correct.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    So the Gospels, although unanimous (albeit in different ways) that John was testifying to Jesus are all wrong?
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited August 31
    I would say that the historical Jesus went to be baptised by the historical J the B. And this is why it is recorded in all 4 gospels. He was baptised in a crowd of others. But there was no opportunity for conversation - which is why Mark doesn't record one. I don't tend to have them in the middle of my baptisms either. After the execution of John Herod hears of the ministry of Jesus and wonders if this is John risen from the dead. So the ministry of Jesus was historically later than that of John. It could well be that the baptism of Jesus was a spiritual awakening experience for Him which inspired Him to take up His similar ministry. The historical John is given a theological revision in the gospels later on to explain the significance of his baptism of Jesus. Only it's a bit of a difficult circle to square. And it shows up in the uneven gospel texts. But you could interpret the baptism of Jesus in terms of the 'witness' of John. I think this is exactly what the gospel writers are doing here.
  • Both early Q parallel passages contain nothing that suggests that John testified specifically to Jesus as the expected one . Indeed, in the second Q passaage, John even sends to ask Jesus whether if he is. And the Gospel of Mark contains nothing that suggests John knew or ever witnessed that specifically Jesus was the expected one.

    In both earliest sources, Jesus witnesses to John. but John does not witness to Jesus. (The witness to John in Mark is suggested by the fact that Jesus submitted to John for baptism, but also by Mark 11:27-33 where the implication of Jesus is that the same one who gave John authority to baptize also gave him (Jesus) authority to do what he is doing (riding a donkey into Jerusalem messianically, throwing the money changers out of the Temple, teaching in the Temple courts).
  • BroJames wrote: »
    So the Gospels, although unanimous (albeit in different ways) that John was testifying to Jesus are all wrong?

    The earliest gospel traditions simply do not testify that John said that "Jesus of Nazareth" was the expected one. The earliest tradition even has him sending to ask Jesus if he might possibly yet prove to be the one John predicted.
  • "Simple logic" is an oxymoron when doing biblical exegesis.
  • There is a lot more than "simple logic" in what is above.
  • There is a lot more than "simple logic" in what is above.

    Then why did you mention it?
  • Because simple logic is an important part of the argument.
  • BroJames wrote: »
    So the Gospels, although unanimous (albeit in different ways) that John was testifying to Jesus are all wrong?

    The earliest gospel traditions simply do not testify that John said that "Jesus of Nazareth" was the expected one. The earliest tradition even has him sending to ask Jesus if he might possibly yet prove to be the one John predicted.

    Well you would wouldn't you.
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
    edited September 1
    I have read the whole of this thread, and I wanted to clarify something - by ‘errant’ do you mean John is errant because:
    • He taught the world would end shortly after his/Jesus ministry
    • He had doubts about Jesus ministry toward the end of his life
    • He is not a perfect fit to his prophesied role as harbinger in some aspects
    • Some combination of the above
  • @Doublethink
    Thank you for your thoughtful question. Number one above only, dropping the word Jesus. John thought/taught that the wrath of God would soon fall on Israel and the world. Jesus was "errant" for thinking the same, but with more emphasis on the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God. Paul and all the early Christians were "errant" in that they expected Jesus' return and the coming of the Kingdom within a very short time.
  • Of course the end of the world always happens when you die. Arguably then John was right, until the .resurrection. And Jesus was always right.
  • JB2: "But there is at least one possibility that the Baptizer MAY have become a witness to Jesus, though it cannot be proven. Want to know what it is?"

    Mate, there's a healthy Hell thread complaining about your patronising tone. Do you think there's any evidence for those complaints?
  • Some of the early church fathers used that argument about the end comes to each of us when we die to try to explicate the difficulty in some of Jesus' words, for instance, "There are some standing here who will not experience death before the Kingdom of God comes with power (Mark)/before the Son of Man comes in his Kingdom" (Matthew). (Well actually, it doesn't work too well for that statement, does it...?)

    You say, Jesus was always right. That sounds like a faith statement. The evidence is strong, however, that Jesus was into imminent eschatological expectations, which is understandable, as his world view was largely based on Daniel chapters 2 and 7 and the expectations of the Hebrew prophets.

    Dale Allison is one of the best historical Jesus scholars now working and is totally convinced, as I am, that Jesus had imminent apocalyptic expectations. Yet Allison has written that "Jesus was mistaken but not wrong."
  • @Robert Armin
    If anyone wants to know, they need only say, Yes.
  • @Robert Armin
    If anyone wants to know, they need only say, Yes.

    You know nothing that isn't known here.
  • Nice one, @Martin54. Well said.
    :wink:
  • Actually, Martin, I may just have a little semi-important insight on that that hasn't occurred to you.
  • Would you care to enlighten the rest of us, and not just Martin54?

    Who knows? Whatever-it-is may not have occurred to us, as we are all fallible, imperfect, and groping in the darkness...
  • @Bishops Finger
    Last night and this morning I have had good experiences having real discussions with shipmates who wanted real discussion. You just hit three of my threads wanting only to be provocative. I'm not playing your game.
  • I repeat - I have asked you a civil question. The least you can do is to answer it, as simply as possible, please.

  • Actually, Martin, I may just have a little semi-important insight on that that hasn't occurred to you.

    No you haven't.
  • Well, but he might have - which is why I asked for clarification.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    As this thread seems to be heading in a similar direction, I am posting this here as well…

    Host hat on
    Some posts are getting rather personal, and a larger number are heading that way without furthering anything like serious discussion.

    Please can everyone (a) remember that a purely text based medium is not a good forum for reliably communicating jokiness and banter, (b) avoid getting personal, and (c) pay close attention to the handily placed Purgatory guidelines.

    Thank you. Normal discussion may resume.
    Host hat off
    BroJames Purgatory Host
  • BroJames wrote: »

    Host hat on
    Some posts are getting rather personal, and a larger number are heading that way without furthering anything like serious discussion.

    Please can everyone (a) remember that a purely text based medium is not a good forum for reliably communicating jokiness and banter, (b) avoid getting personal, and (c) pay close attention to the handily placed Purgatory guidelines.

    Thank you. Normal discussion may resume.
    Host hat off
    BroJames Purgatory Host

    Thank you, @BroJames

    Here I am, JB2, back from shore leave suspension, chastened but not cowed. :wink:

    You and I were having some interesting discussion on a couple or more threads, and I appreciate the way you yourself pursue such discussions as indicated in the boldfaced portion of what you said above. You push me for clarifications, making sure you've understood what I am saying whether you agree or not, and keep the discussion on a serious level. I wish we could have more of that.

    @Doublethink is helpful in doing the same, and of course @Rublev is always a pleasure to hear from.

    I will soon be replying to @Martin54 regarding my strong disagreement with the thesis (found in many conservative Bible commentaries) that Mark 9:1 can be seen as fulfilled six days later in the Transfiguration, and hope to do that in an objective manner. It's a bit complicated, and the examination of it can best be carried out without "jokiness and banter" as you said above. Also without the personal comments all too often appearing here.

    So, let's see now if I myself can live up to the ideal of discussion for the sake of (attempted) real objectivity in discussion.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    Welcome back JB2!

    If the kingdom of God coming with power in Mark 9: 1 is not a reference to the Transfiguration, then do you think it is a reference to Pentecost?
  • Short answer: In my opinion (and in the opinion of numerous excellent historical Jesus scholars): No.

    Much longer answer to follow.

    Meanwhile, I will point out that the author of Matthew's gospel surely didn't understand it that way: See Matthew 16:28.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited September 17
    According to my trusty study bible there are 6 possible interpretations of Matt 16: 28 and the Son of Man coming with His kingdom: the Transfiguration, the resurrection, Pentecost, the kerygma of the apostles, the destruction of the Temple (rather odd), or the Parousia.

    So which one are you?
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited September 17

    Much longer answer to follow.

    Are you serious ?



  • @Rublev
    The parousia, definitely the parousia ("the return of the Son of Man in clouds with great power and glory"), which the historical Jesus was expecting to take place -- along with the destruction of the temple (Mark 13:2) and the stars falling from heaven (Mark 13:24-26) -- before all those to whom he was speaking had died (Mark 9:1; 13:30).
  • Yes, I am serious, Bishop's Finger. There are some things that are too complicated to explain in a few simplistic words. Please cease with the banter.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    Yes, the Parousia is quite a knotty theological problem, isn't it? Even St Paul could not explain it. Peter comes up with the best explanation for the delayed arrival of the Day of the Lord (2 Pet 3: 9).
  • You don't really think Peter wrote 2 Peter do you?
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