Last week I was comparing Matthew 3.1-12, Mark 1.2-8, Luke 3.1-18, and John 1.19-28 wherein John the Baptist is the focus. He speaks of himself in Isaianic terminology as the “voice crying in the wilderness”. In Matthew and Luke he says a bit about God creating children of Abraham from ‘these rocks’ (some consider this a Q source though I’m skeptical). John’s baptism is juxtaposed with the coming Messiah’s–one of water and one of spirit. What caught my eye was the Johannine account.
In John 1.25 the priests and Levites respond to John’s denial that he is Messiah, Elijah, or ‘the Prophet’ with the question: “Then why are you baptizing?”
This question fascinates me. What was it about being either Messiah, the returned Elijah, or the Deuteronomic Prophet that qualified one for baptizing and why did they think John’s baptism was odd considering he did not have these qualifications? Any thoughts?
I’m not convinced they bid think it was odd. I think John has portrayed it in this way because he is working really hard to subordinate John to Jesus and therefore wants to make clear John’s baptism is not in fact a sign of John’s status.
@Doug: Even then we must ask why the author felt like including such a “speech” from the opponents. It is apparent that he does not struggle with John baptizing, though I agree he is subordinating John to Jesus. Do you think he invented such a question out of the blue and that there was not some sort of presupposition that informed it regarding who has the authority to baptize? Even if John’s opponents never said these actual words, why did the author think it worth putting in their mouths?
This was in the BC era.
You had prophets and you had Levitical priests and you had kings and other than that, in Israel, you lacked authority to be about spiritually authoritative activity.
Since Baptist denied being 1) Elijah( according to Qumran documents this most likely was Elijah-Phineas of their imaginations,not the prophet Elijah they were quizing Baptist over ) and 2) Messiah and 3)”The Prophet” of Deut 18, it seems to me this is a very natural question to ask for a 30 AD unbelieving Jew.
They were expecting all 3 avidly and individually according to Qumran documents and here this guy says he’s none of them, yet he is causing a spiritual sensation enough that Josephus wrote of him. The questioning seems very natural to me.
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