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9763Re: [Synoptic-L] Jesus' Baptism

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  • Stuart Waugh
    Jun 1, 2004



      Here is my two cents, more or less off the top of my head:


      The answer is to be found in the polemic debates of the second century. The usurping of the Baptist movement was part of the early foundation of Christianity. The event depicted is looking backwards. John is passing the torch as it were to Jesus. His non-understanding of the event is really the non-understanding of his followers at the time of the story writing.


      Consider that Jesus' baptism occurs after Herod shuts John up in prison in the Gospel of Luke. If you accept Bart Ehrman's claim, as I believe may be the case, that the original reading of Luke 3:22 was "Thou art my beloved son, today I have begotten thee," we see a parallel with other Adoptionist verses 9:35 and 4:18-21. The formula is coherent. Luke ties Jesus to John in the Mary and Elizabeth nativity stories.


      Whatever the message of John, Luke has no knowledge of John baptizing Jesus. He has left the scene before Jesus even enters the stage. This I think is the earliest tradition we have of the story in the Gospel's.


      Mark's account is less tampered than Matthew's. Mark's source develops upon the concept of Jesus´┐Ż baptism and usurping of the Baptist movement by having John baptize Jesus and thus pass the torch. The Adoptionist formula is gone from Mark 1:11, with a confirmation of Jesus' divine status. (Note: this is basically why Erhman thinks the same reading is an orthodox corruption of Luke.)  There is no record in either Luke or Mark of any reaction of those around to the voice from the heavens - it is perhaps personal or symbolic.


      Matthew's now version develops from the version we see in Mark, and in 3:13-15 we are told that


      a) Jesus specifically sought out John to be baptized by him

      b) that John announces his lower status, asking to be baptized by Jesus

      c) Jesus explains that is something that has to be done "to fulfill all righteousness"


      While all three of these items show the intrusion of orthodox creed, which will be fully developed in John 1:29-34 (in fact it is developed from John 1:1ff), they seem to betray knowledge two probable sources. The first is to counter readings of Romans 10:4 that take the meaning to be Christ nullifies (the Torah), but instead the Pauline writing is to be taken to mean that Christ's coming fulfills. Secondly my bible refers to Isaiah 42:1 for 3:17, where the words following Matthew's LXX quote are 'I have put my spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice (or 'righteousness') to the nations.' This could be an explanation for the words from the Spirit of God. I think this latter reason is more likely the real one.


      In short Matthew's account of the baptism story shows an orthodox theological development upon Mark's account, which itself is a development upon Luke's.


      Note: a partial counter argument is that Luke's account attempts to diminish John, and so removes him from the scene. But I find this unsatisfactory because of the build up Luke gives John going all the way back to infancy, to show the growth of the spirit in him (see 1:80).




      - Stuart Waugh

      Jim West <jwest@...> wrote:

      I've read the commentaries, thought about the possible reasons for it's
      inclusion in the tradition, and still cannot find a satisfactory explanation
      as to why the early Church thought it necessary to relate the story of Jesus
      baptism. Matt 3:13ff has the account. John the Baptist himself cannot
      understand the "whyness" of the event. And what the heck does Jesus mean
      when he says "it fulfills all righteousness..." Huh????? How does baptism
      fulfill all rightousness?

      Anyway, the text is really bothersome. Bultmann gives what is the typical
      answer. So if any of you out there; you learned hordes, have some good idea
      as to the "whyness" I would love to hear it! (and please, please, please,
      don't point me to some commentary. I would rather hear what YOU think).



      Dr Jim West
      Pastor, Petros Baptist Church
      http://web.infoave.net/~jwest Biblical Studies Resources
      http://biblical-studies.blogpspot.com Biblical Theology Weblog

      Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
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