was successfully added to your cart.

Tag

Baptism of Jesus

Note of the Day – February 16 (Luke 9:28-36, etc)

By | Exegetical/Study Series, Note of the Day | No Comments

Today’s note follows up on the discussion yesterday, regarding the Transfiguration scene (Mk 9:2-13 par), and its parallels with the Baptism of Jesus. Here I will be focusing on the meaning and significance of the episode, especially as presented in the Gospel of Luke. This will include a comparison of the variant readings in Lk 9:35, compared with those in John 1:34.

Interpretation of the Transfiguration scene

As I mentioned in the prior note, the Transfiguration begins the second half of the Synoptic narrative, much as the Baptism scene begins the first. The Baptism of Jesus marks the start of his ministry (in Galilee), while the Transfiguration marks the beginning of his Passion (i.e. in Judea/Jerusalem) and precedes his journey to Jerusalem. The parallels between the Baptism and Transfiguration (cf. the list in yesterday’s note) have to be understood in terms of these differing contexts within the narrative. Consider the following points:

1. The connection with John the Baptist and questions regarding the identity of the Messiah

This has been a central theme in our study of the Baptism of Jesus in the Gospel tradition (discussed in detail in the prior notes). John the Baptist, of course, features prominently in the Baptism narrative, which opens with a description of John and his ministry, including the central association with the Isaiah 40:3ff prophecy (Mark 1:2-6 par). His presence in the Transfiguration scene is limited to the (separate?) tradition which appears at the end (Mk 9:11-13). It is generally assumed that Jesus is speaking of John in his reference to “Elijah” (cp. Matt 11:14), drawing a parallel between the Baptist’s mistreatment/arrest and his own (i.e. of the “Son of Man”, 8:31; 9:12, etc). Note the framing structure surrounding 8:27-9:13, forming an inclusio:

The question regarding the identity of “the Anointed One” (i.e. Messiah) is given more prominence and clarity in Luke’s account of the Baptism (3:15; cp. John 1:19-27).

2. The heavenly declaration corrects/clarifies the Messianic identification

This is implicit by the phenomena attending Jesus at his baptism, especially the descent of the Spirit upon him; Luke brings out the Messianic association more directly, in the subsequent scene at Nazareth, where Jesus identifies himself with the “Anointed” figure of Isa 61:1ff (Lk 4:17-21, cf. also 7:22). This makes clear in what sense Jesus is the Messiah (3:15) and the “one [who is] coming” (3:16; 7:19 par). The heavenly declaration at the Baptism adds to this by identifying Jesus as God’s Son (3:22 par), drawing upon the image of the king (i.e. the Davidic ruler) as “Son of God” (the variant reading in Lk quotes [the Messianic] Psalm 2:7). Similarly, prior to the Transfiguration, Peter declares Jesus to be “the Anointed One (Messiah) [of God]” (Mk 8:27 / Lk 9:2). The exchange between Peter and Jesus which follows (Mk 8:31-33 par, but omitted by Luke) suggests that Peter had in mind the Messianic figure-type of the Davidic ruler (cf. Parts 6-8 of the series “Yeshua the Anointed”), which would not have been compatible with the idea that Jesus must suffer and be put to death. It was Peter who also responds to the Transfiguration, without truly understanding the significance of what he sees (Mk 9:5-6 par, cf. below). Again, as at the Baptism, the heavenly voice declares Jesus to be the “Son of God”—but here, it would seem, not in the traditional Messianic sense, but hinting at something greater, tied to the death and resurrection of Jesus (Mk 8:31; 9:9, 12-13 par), which will lead to his exaltation to the right hand of God (Mk 14:62 par; Acts 2:32-35; 13:30-35 [citing Ps 2:7], etc).

3. The presence of Moses and Elijah—Jesus as a Prophet figure, specially chosen/anointed by God

That Jesus was seen as a Messiah of the Prophet figure-type seems clear enough from the Baptism scene, attested by different strands of tradition (Mk 1:7-8 par; Lk 3:15ff; 4:14-30; Jn 1:19-27), as well as the entirety of the period of his Galilean ministry, as recorded in the Synoptic narrative. Principally, he fulfilled the role of Spirit-endowed, miracle working Prophet (like Elijah), identified more specifically with the anointed herald of Isa 61:1ff. It has been popular to interpret the presence of Moses and Elijah in the Transfiguration scene as representing “the Law and the Prophets” which Jesus was fulfilling (Matt 5:17; Lk 16:16; 24:27, 44; Jn 1:45, etc). However, this does not seem to be correct. To begin with, Elijah is an odd choice to represent the Prophetic Scriptures (Isaiah would make more sense, cf. Jn 12:39-41). More importantly, Moses and Elijah each represent distinct Prophet-figures; and, in the original context of the Gospels, it is almost certain that Jesus, in the period of his Galilean ministry especially, was also seen as an Anointed Prophet. I would suggest that in the Transfiguration scene the significance of Moses and Elijah is two-fold:

  1. It identifies Jesus as a Messianic Prophet (like Moses and Elijah), marking the conclusion of his Galilean ministry in which this role was primarily being fulfilled, but also pointing to his eschatological role inaugurating a new era for the people of God. It is no coincidence that, in Jewish tradition by the time of Jesus, Moses and Elijah were seen as prophetic figures who would appear at the end-time, as a fulfillment of specific prophecies (Deut 18:15-20; Mal 3:1ff; 4:5-6).
  2. Moses and Elijah each experienced a theophany—manifestation of God’s presence—upon the holy mountain (Sinai/Horeb); similarly, Jesus (and his disciples) on this mountain experience the appearance of the cloud of God’s presence and the divine Voice from heaven. This theophany, in relation to Jesus, is of a different sort, reflecting his divine Sonship. For more on this, cf. below.
4. The Transfiguration scene prefigures the coming Passion—the death and resurrection of the Son of Man

This is clear from the position of the Transfiguration scene in the Synoptic narrative, as noted above. It marks the conclusion of Jesus’ Galilean ministry, and the beginning of his Passion—the upcoming journey to Jerusalem (Mk 10; Lk 9:5118:34), and the events which would take place there. Luke’s account of the Transfiguration brings out this aspect more clearly (cf. below).

The Transfiguration in Luke 9:28-36

Note the following details or characteristics of the Lukan version, and its place in the specific context of the Gospel narrative:

  • Luke has given special prominence to Jesus’ role as a Messianic, Spirit-endowed Prophet in the period of his Galilean ministry (4:149:22); this gives greater significance to the presence of Moses and Elijah in the Transfiguration scene (see above).
  • Peter’s confession in Luke (9:20) reads “You are the Anointed One of God” which is parallel to the unique form of the heavenly declaration in the Lukan version of the Transfiguration “This is the Son of God, the Elect/Chosen (One)“. On this, see below.
  • Luke’s version of the Transfiguration brings out more clearly the association with Moses and the Exodus—especially the traditions regarding the cloud of God’s presence (9:29, 31a, 34-35, cf. Exod 13:21-22; 19:9, 16ff; 24:15-16ff; 33:9-10; 34:5; 40:34-38). In particular, note v. 34 which alludes to Moses entering the cloud (Exod 24:18, cf. also 33:9).
  • This also enhances the idea of the Transfiguration as a theophany, in which Jesus and his disciples experience the presence of God and see his glory/splendor (vv. 31-32, cf. also v. 27). In this context, the altered appearance of Jesus (v. 29) probably is meant to echo the tradition regarding Moses changed appearance in Exod 34:29-35.
  • Luke ties the Transfiguration more directly to the coming death and resurrection of Jesus in Jerusalem, in two respects:
    (1) by the detail he includes in v. 31, using the word e&codo$ (exodos, “way out”, i.e. “exodus”), and
    (2) its relation to the journey to Jerusalem which follows, and which features so prominently in the structure of the Lukan narrative (9:51-18:34)

The textual question in Luke 9:35 and John 1:34

Finally, mention should be made again of the textual variants for the heavenly declaration in Luke 9:35. The majority text (including A C* W 33, etc) follows the version in Mark (9:7):

“This is my Son, the (one who is) loved”
ou!to/$ e)stin o( ui(o/$ mou o( a)gaphto/$

However, many of the earliest/best manuscripts (Ë45,75 a B L, etc) instead read:

“This is my Son, the (one) gathered out [i.e. elect/chosen]”
ou!to/$ e)stin o( ui(o/$ mou o( e)klelegme/no$

Most commentators prefer this as the original reading, considering it much more likely, considering scribal tendencies, that the passage would be harmonized with Mark than the other way around. As it happens, there is a similar textual variant related to the declaration of Jesus’ identity at the Baptism, in John 1:34. The Baptist’s statement, in the vast majority of manuscripts and witnesses (including Ë66) reads—

“…this is the Son of God”
ou!to/$ e)stin o( ui(o\$ tou= qeou=

which, of course, is quite similar to the voice at the Transfiguration in the Synoptic tradition (cf. also the Matthean version of the Baptism, Matt 3:17). However, in a number of witnesses (Ë5,106vid a* b e ff2* etc) the reading is:

“…this is the (One) gathered out [i.e. Elect/Chosen] of [i.e. by] God”
ou!to/$ e)stin o( e)klekto/$ tou= qeou=

A few MSS have the longer (conflate) reading “…the elect/chosen Son of God”, which is surprisingly close to the heavenly voice in the Lukan version of the Transfiguration (according to many of the best MSS, cf. above). The adjective e)klekto/$ is closely related to the participle e)klelegme/no$ (both from the verb e)kle/gomai, “gather out of/from”), and has essentially the same meaning (“selected, elect, chosen”, etc). The adjective normally refers (in the plural) to believers (as the elect/chosen ones) in the New Testament, but the singular is used of Jesus (also as a title) in Luke 23:35; a few manuscripts likewise read the adjective, instead of the participle, in Lk 9:35. In the two Lukan references, and in Jn 1:34 v.l., the title “Elect/Chosen One” almost certainly must be understood in a Messianic context. The Lukan usage in 9:35, if original, suggests a parallel with the adjective a)gaphto/$ (“[the one] loved [i.e by God]”)—the one chosen by God is loved by God, and vice versa. It also indicates that the title “Son of God” should not be understood here in terms of later orthodox Christology (nor even the developed Christology of the Fourth Gospel). The immediate narrative context of the Gospel has rather a different, two-fold emphasis:

  • Jesus is the Son of God in a Messianic sense, according to the interpretation of Psalm 2:7 etc in Jewish and early Christian tradition (cf. Lk 1:32, 35, etc), and
  • The declaration points to the death, resurrection (and exaltation) of Jesus, by which he is considered to be God’s Son (and Anointed One) in a very special sense (Acts 13:33, etc). The Johannine idea of Jesus’ Sonship—i.e. as the pre-existent, eternal Son of the Father, plays little (if any) role in the Synoptic narrative, and represents a somewhat later development in the Gospel tradition.
The title “Elect/Chosen One of God” (ah*l*a$ ryj!B=) is found in an Aramaic text from Qumran (4Q534). It survives only as a fragmentary piece, so it is nearly impossible to determine the precise context, but it appears to be related in some way to the ancient Enoch traditions, most familiar as expressed in the work known as 1 Enoch. Column 1 lines 10-11 reads: “in that [i.e. because] he is the chosen (one) of God, his being born [i.e. his birth] and the spirit [jwr] of his life-breath [<vn] {…} his thinking/reckoning [pl. i.e., plans] will be to the distant age (to come) [i.e. for ever]…”. It may perhaps be debated to what extent the title “Elect/Chosen One” is Messianic (cp. Isa 42:1; Ps 89:3; 106:23); however, in the so-called Similitudes of Enoch (chap. 37-71), often dated roughly to the time of Jesus (early-mid 1st cent. A.D.), we find a heavenly figure (much like Jesus) who is variously given the titles “Son of Man”, “Anointed One” and “Elect/Chosen One”. All three of these titles appear together, in the context of the Transfiguration scene, in Luke 9 (vv. 20, 22, 26, 35 v.l., 44).

Note of the Day – February 15 (Mark 9:2-13, etc)

By | Exegetical/Study Series, Note of the Day | No Comments

Mark 9:2-13; Matt 17:1-13; Luke 9:28-36

Today’s note represents the final part of the series of notes on the Baptism of Jesus in the Gospel Tradition. In it we will examine the parallel of the Transfiguration scene in the Synoptic Gospels, in comparison with the Baptism. I have already touched upon this in the Introduction to the larger series “Jesus and the Gospel Tradition”. The points to be discussed in this note are:

  1. The position and significance of the Baptism and Transfiguration in the structure of the Synoptic narrative as a whole
  2. Similar/parallel details between the Baptism and Transfiguration, and how they may differ or function in context, and
  3. The similarity of the heavenly declaration regarding Jesus’ identity

Study of the Transfiguration is much simpler than that of the Baptism, since it seems to be attested only in the primary Synoptic narrative. In the method I have been using in this series, this core narrative is represented by the Gospel of Mark, following the fundamental critical hypothesis that Matthew and Luke made use of Mark. There is always the possibility that all three Gospels are drawing (independently) upon a common “Synoptic” tradition; however, it must be affirmed that, if Matthew and Luke did not use Mark, they must have used a source very similar in content and structure. In Mark, the Transfiguration occurs at 9:2-13, with the Synoptic parallels being Matt 17:1-13 and Lk 9:28-36. It does not seem to have been part of the so-called “Q” material (common to Matthew and Luke), nor is any such tradition recorded in the Gospel of John. Commentators debate whether Matthew and Luke may have inherited traditions apart from the core Synoptic narrative (so-called “M” and “L” material), which they included, or whether they have simply adapted the basic narrative. A reference to the Transfiguration is also found in 2 Peter 1:17-18, but it is not clear whether the immediate source of this is historical memory (Peter, taking the text at face value), the Synoptic narrative, or an independent tradition.

1. The Structure of the Synoptic Narrative

The Synoptic narrative, as shared by all three Gospels, is divided into two main portions: (1) The Galilean ministry of Jesus, and (2) The time in Judea (Jerusalem). The Galilean period begins with the Baptism, and concludes, we may say, with Peter’s confession of Jesus. In the Gospel of Mark, this covers the span of 1:28:30; Matthew and Luke generally follow this same outline (Luke being closer to the Markan order), but both Gospels “fill out” the narrative with additional sayings and episodes, i.e. the so-called “Q” material, along with other traditions (“M” and “L” content). The Transfiguration is the major episode which begins the second half of the Gospel, much as the Baptism begins the first half; it follows the first (of three) announcements by Jesus of his upcoming Passion (Mk 8:31ff), and precedes the journey to Jerusalem. This journey is scarcely mentioned in Mark, serving as the setting for chapter 10 (vv. 1, 32, 46), but in Luke it is developed considerably as a prominent feature of the narrative, covering the entire collection of material from 9:51 to 18:34 (almost ten full chapters). Virtually all of Jesus’ activity in Judea is set in the second half of the narrative, giving the impression that the only journey Jesus made to Jerusalem was the one just before his death. By contrast, the Gospel of John records multiple visits to Jerusalem, coinciding with the major religious festivals, an arrangement which, in certain respects, one must assume more accurately reflects the historical situation.

2. Similarities between the Baptism and Transfiguration scenes

I begin with the narrative as represented by Mark, noting differences in the other Gospels along the way. There are a number basic elements which can be pointed to as parallels between the two scenes:

  • The isolated locale—the Judean desert/wilderness (1:4ff) vs. a high mountain [in Galilee?] (9:2)
  • Visual/visionary phenomena appear, in relation to Jesus (1:10; 9:2b-4)
  • These phenomena involve brightness/whiteness (1:10 [the dove image]; 9:3); for more on this, cf. “Did You Know?” below.
  • The phenomena may be said to have a Prophetic and/or Messianic context—”anointing” by the Spirit (Isa 61:1ff, cf. Lk 4:14-20, etc) and the presence of Moses/Elijah with Jesus (more on this in the next daily note).
  • A cloud/presence, i.e. from heaven (1:10-11; 9:7)
  • The declaration by a heavenly voice (cf. the next section below)
  • A reference to John the Baptist as “Elijah” (1:2, 6; 9:12-13)
  • The scenes are connected (in different ways) with Peter, James and John as disciples of Jesus (1:16-20; 9:2ff)
  • Following closely after, Jesus works a healing (exorcism) miracle (1:21-28; 9:14-29)

In Matthew’s version, the parallel is made more precise by the fact that the heavenly declaration in both scenes is identical (Matt 3:17; 17:5b). The primary difference between the Baptism and Transfiguration scenes is twofold: (a) the presence of Jesus’ disciples and their response to the visionary experience, and (b) the Transfiguration more fully reflects a theophany (divine appearance/manifestation), such as recorded in the Old Testament. Luke, in particular, has brought out more clearly a connection with the theophany at Sinai (9:30-31, 34; cp. Exod 19). Luke also adds the detail of Jesus being engaged in prayer in both scenes (3:21; 9:29a), which creates another parallel unique to that Gospel.

3. The declaration of the Heavenly Voice

In both scenes there is a heavenly Voice (i.e., that of God). Note the similarity of wording (in Mark):

“and there came to be [e)ge/neto] a voice out of [e)k] the heavens” (1:11a)
“and there came to be [e)ge/neto] a voice out of [e)k] the cloud (9:7a)

The main difference is one of closeness and intensity—the voice at the Transfiguration comes from a theophanous cloud [nefe/lh], indicating the presence of God (cf. the Exodus traditions, Exod 13:21-22; 19:9, 16ff; 24:15-16ff; 33:9-10; 34:5; 40:34-38), which overshadowed [lit. cast shade upon] Jesus and his disciples. Luke’s account enhances the detail of the cloud (Lk 9:34), drawing upon the image of Moses entering the cloud, to the place where God was present (Exod 24:18, cf. also 33:9). The declaration of the heavenly voice in both scenes is very similar; in Mark it is:

  • “You are my Son, the (one who is) loved—in you I have good regard” (1:11b)
    su\ ei@ o( ui(o/$ mou o( a)gaphto/$ e)n soi\ eu)do/khsa
  • “This is my Son, the (one who is) loved” (9:7b)
    ou!to$ e)stin o( ui(o/$ mou o( a)gaphto/$

Matthew, insofar as he is following the Synoptic/Markan version, seems to have combined the two statements, so that they read as identical in both episodes:

  • “This is my Son, the (one who is) loved—in whom I have good regard” (3:17; 17:5)
    ou!to$ e)stin o( ui(o/$ mou o( a)gaphto/$ e)n w!| eu)do/khsa

The situation in Luke is a bit more complicated, as there are significant variant readings for the declaration in both scenes. For the baptism (3:22b):

  • The Majority reading—identical with that in Mark (cf. above)
  • The minority “Western” reading—a quotation of Psalm 2:7 LXX:
    “You are my Son—today I have caused you to be (born)”
    ui(o/$ mou ei@ su/ e)gw\ sh/meron gege/nnhka/ se

On this textual variant, cf. my earlier discussion. For the transfiguration (9:35):

  • Reading of Ë45,75 a B L, etc:
    “This is my Son, the (one) gathered out [i.e. elect/chosen]”
    ou!to/$ e)stin o( ui(o/$ mou o( e)klelegme/no$
  • The majority reading (A C* W 33 et al): identical with that in Mark

Most critical commentators consider the first reading as more likely to be original, the latter being adapted/normalized to the Synoptic parallel in Mark/Matthew and the baptism scene. A few manuscripts read the related adjective e)klekto/$ instead of the participle e)klelegme/no$ (cf. Lk 23:35), but with essentially the same meaning. This textual question will be discussed in related to an interpretation of the Transfiguration scene, especially as it has been developed in the Gospel of Luke, in the next daily note.

Finally, to round out the comparison, we should mention the version of the heavenly declaration at the Transfiguration, from 2 Peter 1:17, which is similar to that in Matthew, but with a different formulation in Greek (giving priority to the reading of Ë72 B):

“This is my Son, the (one) loved (by) me—unto whom I have good regard”
o( ui(o/$ mou o( a)gaphto/$ mou ou!to/$ e)stin ei)$ o^n eu)do/khsa

One detail which entered the Gospel tradition regarding the Baptism of Jesus was a great light/fire which flashed in the water around him at the moment of his baptism, presumably associated with the presence of the Spirit. This tradition was relatively widespread, appearing in the Old Latin MS (a) and one Vulgate MS between Matthew 3:15 and 16, with similar references in Justin Martyr (Dialogue with Trypho 88), and Epiphanius (Panarion 30.13.7). It came to be immensely popular and influential in the Syrian Church, being described in the Gospel Harmony (Diatessaron) of Tatian (cf. the Commentaries of Ephrem [IV. §5] and Ish‘odad of Merv). In the Syrian baptismal tradition, a principal motif was that Jesus’ glory, ‘left behind’ in the water, is picked up by the believer when he/she “puts on” Christ—restoring the “robe of glory” originally lost by Adam & Eve. On this, cf. my earlier Epiphany note.

 

Note of the Day – February 14 (John 1:19-27, etc)

By | Exegetical/Study Series, Note of the Day | No Comments

Today’s note will examine what is perhaps the final stage of development regarding the Baptism of Jesus in the Gospel Tradition—the theme of Jesus’ identity as the Anointed One (and Son of God) in the Gospel of John. I have already discussed this to some extent in the earlier notes, but here I will be highlighting how this particular theme, or aspect, of the Tradition has been developed. To review the structure of the Gospel, chapter 1 is made up of five sections—(1) the Prologue (vv. 1-18), and (2) a sequence of four episodes, narrated as four “days”, during which the focus shifts from John the Baptist to Jesus (cf. Jn 3:30):

  • 1:19-28—The testimony of John the Baptist regarding his own identity
  • 1:29-34—The testimony of John regarding the identity of Jesus
  • 1:35-42—Disciples follow/encounter Jesus as the result of John’s witness
  • 1:43-51—Disciples follow/encounter Jesus as the result of his (and other disciples’) witness

I begin with the two references to John the Baptist in the Prologue:

Jn 1:6-9

Here in the Prologue the lo/go$ (Logos, “Word”) of God is referred to as the “true Light” (to\ fw=$ to\ a)lhqino/n, vv. 5, 9), which, in the context of the Fourth Gospel, clearly refers to the divine nature and origin of Jesus, and to the primary purpose of his appearance (incarnation) on earth (vv. 5, 12, 14, 18, etc)—to reveal (make known, “shine forth”) God the Father to humankind (the elect/believers). In vv. 6-8 the statement is made specifically that John (the Baptist) was not the Light, but only came to be a witness to the Light. It is sometimes thought by commentators that this reference, taken together with the remainder of the narrative in chapter 1, as well as the episode in 3:22-23ff, indicates that there were followers of the Baptist who believed strongly that he was the Messiah (cf. Lk 3:15).

Jn 1:15, 30

Here in verse 15 (and repeated in v. 30) we have the saying by the Baptist (cp. Mk 1:7 par [cf. the earlier note]), which, it would seem, has been given a unique Christological interpretation in its context in the Gospel of John. This interpretation is based on a distinctly Johannine use of the three verbs appearing in sequence—e)rxomai (“come”), gi/nomai (“come to be, become”), and ei)mi (vb. of being, “am/is/was”, etc). It clearly points to Jesus’ identity as the pre-existent Son of God (vv. 14, 18, 34). For a detailed exposition, cf. the discussion in my earlier note (previously referenced).

When we turn to the next four sections (or “days”), the first “day” is the most significant in terms of Jesus’ identity as the Anointed One (Messiah), in comparison with John.

Jn 1:19-27

The narrative structure of this episode consists of an exchange (dialogue form) between the Baptist and a deputation of religious leaders (Scribes, Levites, Pharisees), from Jerusalem, who have come to ask him “Who are you?” (v. 19). This question specifically relates to three eschatological/Messianic figures:

  • “The Anointed One” (o( xristo/$, v. 20)—It is worth noting that this is not asked of John, but, apparently, the statement comes from the Baptist’s initiative (perhaps anticipating the purpose of their question):
    “And he gave account as one [i.e. confessed], and did not deny (it)—indeed he gave account as one (saying) that ‘I am not the Anointed (One)’.”
  • “Elijah” (Eliyyah[û], Gk. Hli/a$, v. 21a)
  • “The Prophet” (o( profh/th$, v. 21b)—most likely a reference to the “Prophet like Moses” (Deut 18:15-20) who, in Jewish (eschatological) tradition, was expected to appear at/before the end-time.

John denies being each of these last two (Prophetic) figures, in response to the question, “What then? Are you…?” It is significant that John denies being “Elijah”, since this identification came to be so well-established among early Christians and, as we have seen, is attested in the Gospel (Synoptic) tradition. According to Mark 9:13 par (and Matt 11:14), it would seem that Jesus himself identified John as the “Elijah (who is) to come”. While, in the Fourth Gospel at least, John the Baptist denies being any of these Messianic figures, he does identify himself as the herald (the “voice”) of Isaiah 40:3ff, which, of course, is also the primary Scripture associated with him in the Gospel Tradition (Mk 1:3 par).

It is worth considering just what is meant here in this passage by o( xristo/$ (“the Anointed One”, i.e. Messiah). For many early Christians, at least at the time the Gospels were written (c. 60-90 A.D.), the primary association would be with the traditional figure of the coming Ruler, from the line of David, who would judge/subdue the nations and bring about the deliverance/restoration of Israel. Yet, it is hard to see how the Baptist could have been viewed in this light, if we accept the historical portrait of him in the Gospels (and Josephus). There are two other possibilities:

  1. The “Anointed One” here refers to a different Prophetic figure, possibly the one anointed by God in Isa 61:1ff, or the Messenger of the Lord in Mal 3:1ff. Both roles seem to have been applied to Jesus, either at the historical level (during his ministry), or in the earliest strands of Gospel tradition. In this case, there would still be three Messianic figures mentioned in the passage.
  2. It refers to a Messianic end-time (Prophet) figure more generally, whether the type of Elijah, Moses, or something else. According to this view, the figures of “Elijah” and “The Prophet” would only represent two specific Messianic figure types, while John denies being this Messiah in any sense.

If we accept the historicity of the scene, then it seems to me that the latter option is perhaps more likely; while, at the same time, the Gospel writer (and/or his readers) may have understood it as referring to three distinct figures, among which “the Anointed One” could have still meant the traditional Davidic Ruler type. It is also interesting that these Messianic figures are connected, in the mind of the questioners, with John’s baptizing ministry (v. 25). At first glance, this may appear somewhat strange, until we realize that John himself seems to have cast his ministry in eschatological and prophetic terms (as discussed in the prior notes). A version of the Baptist’s traditional sayings (cp. Mk 1:7-8 par) are included here, in the context of the narrative, at this point (vv. 26-27). One unique detail in the Johannine version should be pointed out—the following phrase from v. 26:

“…in your midst stands one whom you do not see [i.e. know]”

Here the historical tradition is given added significance from the standpoint of Johannine theology—that of people (believers) seeing/knowing Christ (as the [true] Light, etc).

Jn 1:29-51

The next three “days” each contain important declarations regarding Jesus’ identity, as well as a central narrative episode in which people encounter Jesus—the narrative being marked by a distinctive (Johannine) use of the verbs e&rxomai (“come”) and me/nw (“remain”), as well the motif of seeing/knowing:

Day 1 (1:29-34):

Declaration 1—”See! the Lamb of God…” (v. 29)

  • Jesus coming toward John (vv. 29-30)
  • John came to baptize (Jesus) (vv. 31, 33)

[The Baptism of Jesus, as described by John]

  • The Spirit stepping down (i.e. coming down) and remaining on Jesus (vv. 32-33)
  • Before this, John had not seen/known Jesus (i.e. recognized his identity) (vv. 31, 33)

Declaration 2—”This is the Son of God” (v. 34)
[Note: Some MSS read “this is the Elect/Chosen (One) of God”; on this, cf. the next daily note]

Day 2 (1:35-42):

Declaration 1—See! the Lamb of God!” (v. 36, repeating v. 29)

  • Jesus passing by—two of John’s disciples leave him to follow Jesus (v. 37)

[Disciples/Believers encountering Jesus]

  • Disciples ask Jesus: “Where do you remain/abide?” (v. 38)
  • Jesus responds to them: “Come and see” (v. 39)
    —They came and saw and remained with him

Declaration 2—”We have found the Messiah!” (v. 41)

Day 3 (1:43-51):

Declaration 1—”We have found the one of whom Moses and the Prophets wrote!” (v. 45, step-parallel with v. 41)

  • Disciples encourage others to follow Jesus (vv. 44-45), according to Jesus’ own example (v. 43)
  • Come and see” (v. 46)

[Disciples/Believers encountering Jesus]

  • Disciple asks Jesus: “From where do you know me?” (v. 48a)
  • Jesus responds to him: “I saw you…before he called you” (v. 48b)

Declaration 2—”You are the Son of God…the King of Israel!” (v. 49)

The declaration by Nathanael shows that, at the level of the early traditional material, we still find the identification of Jesus as the Anointed One or Messiah (“King of Israel”, i.e. the Davidic Ruler figure-type) and Son of God (in a Messianic sense). However, elsewhere in the narrative, it is clear that the identification has moved beyond this, to a deeper Christological interpretation—of Jesus as the One sent by God, of divine origin, even the pre-existent Son of God. This, of course, is the portrait we find in the Fourth Gospel, from the Prologue all the way to its very end (20:31).

Mention should also be made here of the concluding visionary statement (a declaration by Jesus) in verse 51: “You will see…”. I have discussed this verse at some length in an earlier study, but it is worth pointing out several clear parallels with the Baptism scene from Gospel tradition:

  • The heaven opening up [vb. a)noi/gw, compare Mk 1:10 par]
  • The descent of a heavenly/divine presence—Messengers (i.e. Angels) of God, vs. the (holy) Spirit of God (cf. verses 32-33 and the Synoptic par)
  • The use of the verb katabai/nw (“step down”, i.e. “come down”)
  • The Messengers/Spirit coming down upon [e)pi/] Jesus [Mk uses ei)$ “unto”]
  • Jesus is identified as a Messianic and/or Divine figure (“Son of God”)—these are effectively blended together in the figure “Son of Man”, as found in the sayings of Jesus throughout the Gospel tradition

 

Note of the Day – February 13 (Luke 3:15; 4:14-21ff)

By | Exegetical/Study Series, Note of the Day | No Comments

Today’s note continues the study of the Baptism of Jesus as developed in the Gospel Tradition, by looking at the theme of Jesus’ identity as the Anointed One (in comparison with John the Baptist), here within the Gospel of Luke.

There are three distinctive Lukan contributions to the Gospel tradition at this point:

  1. The addition of 3:15
  2. The specific emphasis on the Spirit and the heavenly voice in the Baptism narrative (3:21-22), and
  3. The episode with which the beginning of Jesus’ ministry is narrated (4:14-21ff)

Luke 3:15

The Lukan Baptism narrative (on the ministry of John the Baptist) contains the following information in verse 15:

“And (with) the people looking toward receiving (something) [i.e. being in expectation], and all (the people) gathering (it) through their hearts about th(is) Yohanan {John}—(if) not in some (way) [i.e. whether] he might be the Anointed One [o( xristo/$]…”

This leads into the Baptist’s sayings of vv. 16-17 (par Mark 1:7-8; Matt 3:11-12), which, in Luke’s version, are a direct response to the people’s reaction in v. 15. The detail in this verse is not found in the other Synoptic Gospels, but its general authenticity is perhaps confirmed by a comparison with Jn 1:19-27 (to be discussed in the next note). At any rate, it would not be at all surprising if such a unique, prophetic figure as John might be taken as an Anointed One of God (i.e. Messiah). However, it seems most unlikely that the traditional Messianic figure-type of the Davidic Ruler is in view here—it is hard to see how anyone would consider the Baptist in that light, based on the description of him and his ministry in the Gospels (however, cp. Jn 1:20ff). It is far more probable that the people thought he could be a Messianic Prophet figure—especially according to the type of Elijah, who would appear at the end-time before the Judgment. The main point to note is that John here deflects attention away from his Prophetic/Messianic role to that of the “one who is coming”, the one greater than he (i.e. Jesus).

Luke 3:21-22—The Baptism

I have already discussed the way that the Gospel writer has adapted the Synoptic narrative of Jesus’ baptism, in an earlier note. Today, I wish to look briefly at two specific points of emphasis which relate to the Lukan portrait of Jesus’ identity (as the Anointed One of God).

(1) The Descent of the Spirit (v. 22a)

Several details are worth noting. First, Luke’s description seems to give added emphasis to the descent of the Spirit as a concrete, visual event (note the words in italics):

“…and the holy Spirit stepping down [i.e. coming down] in bodily appearance as a dove upon him…”

Second, the word order joins the descent of the Spirit and the heavenly voice into an enclosed symmetry, connecting them in an artistic manner:

  • and stepping down
    —the Holy Spirit…upon him
    —and a voice out of heaven
  • coming to be

Third, after the baptism, the role of the Spirit and its relationship to Jesus is given much more prominence in the Lukan narrative (note the words in italics):

  • 4:1—”And Yeshua, full of the holy Spirit, turned back from the Yarden {Jordan} (river) and was led in the Spirit in(to) the desolate (land)” (cp. Mk 1:12; Matt 4:1)
  • 4:14—”And Yeshua turned back [i.e. returned from the desert] in the power of the Spirit into the Galîl {Galilee}”

Finally, the use of Isa 61:1ff (in 4:17ff, cf. below) indicates that Jesus has been, in some sense, anointed by the Spirit, which almost certainly should be understood as having taken place at the Baptism.

(2) The Voice from Heaven (v. 22b)

I have already mentioned (in a prior note) how the Lukan syntax of vv. 21-22 has the effect of making the declaration by the heavenly voice the climactic focal point of the scene, in a distinctive way. Two additional points should be mentioned here:

(a) The idea of Jesus as the Son of God—how this is developed in Luke-Acts. Consider:

  • It is introduced in the Infancy narrative, at the Angelic announcement of his birth to Mary (1:32, 35)
  • The idea is implied in the scene of the child Jesus in the Temple—God as his (true) Father, contrasted with Joseph as his (human/legal) father (2:48-49)
  • The genealogy of Jesus (3:23-38), which directly follows the baptism (and the declaration of the heavenly voice), is included as a creative (literary) device to emphasize Jesus’ true identity as the “Son of God” (i.e. rather than the human son of Joseph)
  • The title “Son of God” plays a key role in the Temptation scene which follows (4:3, 9)
  • His identity as Joseph’s (human/legal) son is brought up again in the subsequent scene at Nazareth (4:22)
  • He is declared “Son of God” by demons during the first miracles of his public ministry (4:41, cf. also v. 34)

(b) The variant reading of the heavenly declaration—in the Beza MS [D], as well as in certain Latin MSS and writings of the early Church Fathers, instead of the traditional Synoptic version (identical with Mk 1:11), the voice from heaven cites Psalm 2:7 [LXX]:

ui(o/$ mou ei@ su/ e)gw\ sh/meron gege/nnhka/ se
“You are my Son—today I have caused you to be (born)”

I have discussed this reading (which some scholars consider to be original) in an earlier note. It certainly makes a Messianic association with the title “Son of God” more definite (cf. Acts 4:25-27; 13:32-33ff; Heb 1:5; 5:5).

Luke 4:14-21—The Episode at Nazareth

I will be discussing this episode in more detail at a later point in this series (when studying the Galilean ministry of Jesus in the Gospel Tradition); here I will simply point out several details which relate back to the earlier chapters and the identity of Jesus as the Anointed One and Son of God:

  • The unique presence and power of the Spirit on/in Jesus as he begins his ministry (v. 14, cf. also v. 1)
  • The quotation from Isa 61:1, as read by Jesus in the narrative (vv. 17-19)—this refers to an anointing by God, and the presence of the Spirit upon this (prophetic) figure. Jesus’ comment in v. 21 would indicate that he is identifying himself with this Anointed One.
  • The crowd’s reaction in v. 22 plays on the idea of Jesus’ sonship—that he is the human/legal son of Joseph. In the Lukan context, this implies that the people have missed the essence of the Scripture and what Jesus has said. Rather than recognizing him as the Anointed One (and Son of God), they continue to see him in the ordinary sense as the son of Joseph and Mary. Luke has already introduced this contrast earlier in in chapters 2 and 3—the child Jesus in the Temple (esp. 2:48-49), and the genealogy of Jesus (esp. the framing verses 23 and 38).
  • In his response to the people’s reaction, Jesus identifies himself as a Prophet (v. 24, see also Mk 6:4 par).
  • The illustrations he gives in vv. 25-27 suggest that he may be specifically identifying himself as a Prophet in the manner of Elijah. The reference to working miracles (like Elijah and Elisha) is probably what is in view here, especially in light of the Isa 61:1 citation (cf. the parallel in Mk 6:5 and the reference in Lk 7:22-23).

These points of emphasis relate back to the Baptism narrative, in that they serve to identify Jesus as the Anointed One (Messiah), not of the Davidic ruler type, but as a Prophetic figure (i.e. “the one [who is] coming”), drawing upon two Messianic motifs: (1) Elijah, as a miracle-working Prophet, and (2) the one anointed by the Spirit of God in Isa 61:1ff. The connection here with Jesus as the Son of God is much less prominent, but I would argue that it still underlies the scene.

 

Note of the Day – February 12 (Matt 11:2ff, etc)

By | Exegetical/Study Series, Note of the Day | No Comments

Moving from the core Synoptic tradition (in Mark, cf. the previous note) to its development in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, there are several areas to consider:

  1. The development of the immediate Synoptic tradition—i.e. of the Baptism and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry
  2. The “Q” material in Matt 11:2-19 / Lk 7:18-35, and
  3. Details or traditions found only in Luke

We begin today with the first two areas, leaving the third to be discussed in the next daily note. Remember that we are now examining the specific theme, or component, in the Tradition of Jesus’ identity as the Anointed One.

Luke 3:21-4:1ff & Matt 3:16-4:1ff

Both Luke and Matthew, to the extent that they made use of Mark (or a similar Synoptic source), have independently—(1) adapted the basic narrative of the baptism, and (2) incorporated so-called “Q” material.

(1) Matt 3:13-17 and Luke 3:21-22

Matthew generally follows Mark closely in narrating the Baptism, with two main differences: (a) the description in Mk 1:9 (v. 13) has presumably been modified to allow for the insertion of the exchange between John and Jesus in vv. 14-15; and (b) the form of the declaration by the heavenly voice (v. 17) is different. Both of these changes seem to have, as a major (if not primary) purpose, a depiction of the baptism of Jesus as a sign to be observed by all the people (i.e. all Israel). The statement by Jesus in verse 15 indicates that, by submitting to baptism by John, he is fulfilling the religious forms and symbols, etc, of the Old Covenant (“all the righteousness [of God]”), stretching back through the Law and Prophets to the birth of the people Israel (cf. 11:13 par). The form of the heavenly declaration in v. 17 similarly functions as a public assertion regarding Jesus’ identity—”This is my Son…” It moves from a ‘simple’ record of events to include information about how people (believers) should understand them.

Luke has modified the Synoptic narrative somewhat differently, through arrangement and syntax. First, he has essentially ‘removed’ John from the scene (vv. 18-20), leaving Jesus on the stage alone. Secondly, the distinctive syntax of vv. 21-22 (a single sentence in Greek), drives the description forcefully ahead to make the heavenly declaration the definite focus of the narrative. The Lukan syntax here is quite difficult to translate literally, since it involves (an extreme) form of the construction e)ge/neto de/ (“and it came to be [that]”) + a sequence of infinitives (a construction used frequently in the Gospel). Here is a an approximation:

“And it came to be, in all of the people being dunked (by John), and Yeshua (also) being dunked and speaking out toward (God) [i.e. praying], and the holy Spirit’s stepping down [i.e. coming down] in bodily appearance as a dove, and (it was then that) a voice coming to be out heaven (said): ‘You are my Son, the (one) loved (by me)—in you I have good regard’.”

The three verbs in italics are all infinitives, which would typically be translated “to dunk”, “to step down”, and “to come to be”, but here have to be rendered differently, like participles or verbal nouns (gerunds), in order to make sense, and yet still capture the development of the sentence in its sequence, i.e.:

  • all the people (in their) being dunked
    • the Holy Spirit’s stepping/coming down
      • a voice out of heaven coming to be

The sequence builds, step by step, to the declaration by the heavenly voice, which emphasizes its significance and position in the Lukan narrative.

(2) Matt 4:1ff & Luke 4:1ff

Matthew and Luke each include so-called “Q” material following the Baptism account; this includes primarily the Temptation scene (Matt 4:1-11 / Lk 4:1-13), but also, as a way of transitioning to it from the Baptism, an expansion of the (Synoptic) narration in Mk 1:12, giving greater prominence to the role of the Spirit in relation to Jesus. Compare:

Mk 1:12—”And straightaway the Spirit casts him [i.e. Jesus] out into the desolate (land)…”
Matt 4:1—”Then Yeshua was led up into the desolate (land) under the Spirit…”
Luke 4:1—”And Yeshua, full of the holy Spirit, turned back…and was led in the Spirit in the desolate (land)”

Matt 11:2-19 / Lk 7:18-35 (“Q”)

This “Q” material, while unrelated to Jesus’ baptism as such, is important as another source for studying the relationship between John and Jesus. It is divided into three sections, each of which includes early traditional material, which has been joined together, based on common themes and language, to form a coherent whole. It may be outlined as follows:

  • John’s question to Jesus, with Jesus’ response (Matt 11:2-6)
  • Jesus’ testimony regarding John (vv. 7-15)
  • The (negative) reaction to John and Jesus, respectively (vv. 16-19)

For the purposes of this study, the first two sections have the greatest relevance, developing themes also found in the Baptism narrative.

Matt 11:2-6 (Lk 7:18-23)—The setting of the first section has John in prison, from whence he sends messengers (from among his disciples) to Jesus with an important question:

“Are you the one coming, or should we look toward receiving [i.e. expect] a different (person)?” (v. 3, Lk’s version [v. 19] is nearly identical)

As I discussed in the previous note, the use of the expression “the one coming” (o( e)rxo/meno$) makes it all but certain that John is asking if Jesus is the Chosen/Anointed One (i.e. Messiah), sent by God. However, he probably does not have in mind the Anointed Ruler from the line of David, but rather a Prophetic figure-type—perhaps “Elijah” or “the Prophet (like Moses)”, or even the Messenger of YHWH from Mal 3:1ff (which seems most likely). On this, cf. Parts 2 & 3 from the series “Yeshua the Anointed” and the note on “The One Coming“. The plain sense of this question would indicate that John, at that particular moment in time, harbored some doubt as to whether Jesus was indeed the Chosen/Anointed one (“the one coming”) he had declared in his preaching (Mk 1:7-8 par, etc). Some Christians may be bothered by this idea, but it is straightforward enough, and does not need to be explained away.

Jesus’ response (Matt 11:4-6 / Lk 7:22-23) is essentially a quotation of Isa 61:1, along with allusions to Isa 26:19 and 35:5. This is significant, since here Jesus identifies himself specifically with the Isaian herald—the prophetic figure anointed by God (by/with the Spirit). The signs of his anointing are the miracles he works and the “good news” he proclaims to the poor, things characteristic of Jesus’ ministry and central to it. The same association is established even more directly in Lk 4:17-21ff, which will be discussed in the next note.

Matt 11:7-15 (Lk 7:24-30)—This second section is less uniform than the first, and may involve a collection of related sayings. Here Jesus gives testimony regarding the person and role of John the Baptist, identifying him specifically with the “Messenger” of Malachi 3:1ff (cf. above). Jesus does this first by stating that John is a prophet (v. 9a) and, indeed, exceedingly (more) than a prophet (v. 9b)—that is, something greater than a prophet. This is explained by the citation from Mal 3:1 which follows in v. 10 par, the same Scripture which is applied to John in Mk 1:2. In Matthew’s version of this material, Jesus is even more precise, declaring John to be “Elijah, the one being about to come”. This is an interpretation of Mal 3:1 based on 4:5-6 [Hebr 3:23-24]. Luke does not have this in his corresponding material, but it is established (indirectly) elsewhere in the Synoptic tradition (Mk 9:12-13 par).

The logic of these “Q” sections, then, seems to be as follows:

  • John asks whether Jesus truly is the Anointed Prophet of the end-time (“the one coming”), i.e. probably the Messenger of Mal 3:1ff.
  • Jesus, in his response, redirects the question—(implying) that he is not this messenger, but is to be identified (instead) with the Messianic figure of Isa 61:1ff
  • In a separate tradition(?), Jesus turns the question around, identifying John as the Messenger of Mal 3:1ff, and, specifically, “Elijah”, the Prophet “who is coming”.

This will be discussed further in tomorrow’s note, when dealing with the traditions and details only found in the Gospel of Luke.

Note of the Day – February 11 (Mark 1:2-3, 10-11)

By | Exegetical/Study Series, Note of the Day | No Comments

We now come to the third area of study regarding the Baptism of Jesus in the Gospel Tradition:

  1. The Ministry of John
  2. The Relationship between John and Jesus
  3. Jesus as the Anointed One, in comparison with John

We might expect that this component would have undergone the most development in terms of early Christian interpretation. This is true to some extent, but, as we will see, much of the interpretive development stems directly from traditions established at a very early point. We begin, again, with the core Synoptic tradition, represented by the Gospel of Mark, bringing in as well one example from the early Gospel preaching recorded in the book of Acts. For a detailed study on the background of the title “Anointed One” (i.e. Messiah/Christ), please consult my earlier series “Yeshua the Anointed“.

Mark 1:2-3, 7-8, 10-11 (Acts 10:37-38)

The emphasis on Jesus’ identity (as the Anointed One) is found at three points in the Synoptic (Markan) narrative:

Mk 1:2-3—The citations of Mal 3:1 and Isa 40:3

The use of Isa 40:3 has been discussed in several of the prior notes, as it is the primary Scripture (and prophecy) associated with John the Baptist in the early Gospel tradition. According to Jn 1:23, John himself quotes it in response to questions regarding his own identity. Indeed, on objective grounds, it is possible that Isa 40:3 entered into the early tradition, at the historical level, through the very preaching of John. If so, then we may detect a decided shift in meaning. For John himself, as for the Community of the Qumran texts, it is likely Isaiah 40:3ff had eschatological, but necessarily Messianic, significance. John, through his preaching and baptizing, was fulfilling the role of the Isaiah herald (the “voice”) by preparing people for the coming (end-time) Judgment of God on humankind. This emphasis is clear enough in the Gospel tradition (Mk 1:4; Matt 3:7-10, 11b-12 pars). However, by the time the Gospel of Mark was written (c. 60 A.D.?), the association with Isa 40:3 had been tied more directly to John’s role as forerunner of the Messiah (Jesus, the “Lord” [ku/rio$]).

Malachi 3:1ff, on the other hand, had a more definite Messianic significance at the time of John and Jesus, largely due to the interpretation given to the oracle at the end of the book of Malachi itself (4:5-6 [Heb 3:23-24]), which draws upon traditions involving the prophet Elijah. As part of the growing eschatological worldview among Jews of the Intertestamental period, there was an expectation that Elijah (or a prophet like Elijah) would appear at the end-time, prior to the “day of the Lord”, the day of YHWH’s coming to bring Judgment. Sirach 48:10 expresses this belief, and the Qumran Community envisioned the coming of an Anointed (i.e. Messianic) Prophet figure, drawing upon Deut 18:18-19, as well as the Elijah traditions, and important passages from Isaiah (61:1ff, etc). The text 4Q521 (fragment 2) appears to blend Isa 61:1ff with Elijah traditions and Mal 4:5-6, specifically. On these Messianic figure-types, see Part 3 of the series “Yeshua the Anointed”, as well as my note discussing Mal 3:1ff (“the one coming”).

The Markan Gospel has joined Mal 3:1 to the (earlier) citation of Isa 40:3 in vv. 2-3, establishing the ministry (and identity) of John, in relationship to Jesus. John is the prophet (both “Elijah” and the Isaian herald) who prepares the way for the coming of the Lord’s Chosen/Anointed representative (i.e. the Messiah) at the end-time. This became the standard interpretation among Christians; however, the early Gospel tradition is actually much more complicated, as we shall see.

Mk 1:7-8—The Baptist’s sayings

These two sayings have also been discussed in the earlier notes of this series; however, it is worth emphasizing several points regarding each saying:

Verse 7—Mark’s version begins: e&rxetai o( i)sxuro/tero/$ mou o)pi/sw mou (“the one stronger than me comes behind me”). As already discussed, this is a well-established saying, attested in multiple strands of tradition. Luke’s version follows Mark in its opening words, but otherwise seems to reflect a separate “Q” version, shared by Matthew, and may involve a blending of the Markan and Q forms. Matthew (3:11) probably preserves the “Q” version as such—

o( o)pi/sw mou e)rxo/meno$ i)sxuro/tero/$ mou
the one coming behind me (is) stronger than me”

which is also the form preserved in Johannine tradition: o( o)pi/sw mou e)rxo/meno$ (“the one coming behind me…”). The parallel in Matt 11:3, also “Q” material (cf. Lk ), suggests that the Baptist is using an expression (“the one [who is] coming”) which has a specific eschatological and Messianic significance:

“Are you the one coming [o( erxo/meno$], or should we look toward receiving [i.e. expect] a different (person)?”

This will be discussed further in an upcoming note.

Verse 8—The comparison in this saying has already been examined: “I dunked you in water, but he will dunk you in the holy Spirit”. The “Q” version of this saying (Matt 3:11b / Lk 3:16b) emphasizes the association with the coming (end-time) Judgment, by adding “and (in) fire”, along with the saying that follows in Matt 3:12 par. In most of the Messianic thought of the period, the Anointed figure—whether of the Prophetic or Davidic-ruler type—functions as God’s representative who appears prior to, or at the time of, the great Judgment. In Jesus’ own eschatological sayings, it is the “Son of Man” figure (with whom Jesus identifies himself) who is associated especially with the coming Judgment. It is likely that John is also expressing a traditional (Messianic) association with the (Holy) Spirit of God, from passages such as Isa 11:1-9 and 61:1ff.

If we take these two sayings together, at both the historical and early Gospel level, John is prophesying the coming of an (eschatological) figure, anointed/chosen by God (i.e. Messianic), through whom God will exercise Judgment on humankind—saving the righteous ones (who repent), and destroying the wicked. John’s own ministry is preparing people for the coming of this greater/stronger figure.

Mk 1:10-11—The Baptism

The core Synoptic narrative of the baptism of Jesus itself is made up of three parts:

  • A summary description of Jesus coming to John for baptism (v. 9)
  • The descent of the Holy Spirit (as a dove) upon Jesus (v. 10)
  • The voice from heaven declaring Jesus to be God’s Son (v. 11)

The differences in the Matthean and Lukan versions have already been mentioned, in part, and will be discussed further in the upcoming notes. It is interesting that, although the account in the Gospel of John (1:29-34) takes a very different form (cf. the previous note), the basic components are the same:

  • Jesus coming toward John, among those being baptized, etc (vv. 29, 31, 33)
  • The visual/visionary descent of the Spirit (as a dove) upon Jesus (vv. 32-33)
  • A declaration by God concerning Jesus (v. 33) and a declaration (by John) that Jesus is the Son of God, and/or the Chosen One (v. 34)

This indicates that the details became established and fixed in the Gospel tradition at an early date. Let us consider the two elements which point to Jesus’ identity:

Verse 10—Mark’s version of the visual/visionary phenomena is as follows:

“and straightaway, (at his) stepping up out of the water, he saw the heavens tearing (open), and the Spirit as a dove stepping down [i.e. coming down] unto [ei)$] him

Matthew and Luke (Matt 3:16 / Lk 3:21b-22a) are quite close to Mark, with only slight differences in style and emphasis. What is the significance of this image in the Synoptic tradition? There are few references to the Spirit in Mark, but those proximate to verse 10 suggest the following points:

  • The coming of the Spirit should be understood in relation to the earlier saying of v. 8, that the “one coming” would ‘baptize’ people in the holy Spirit. This indicates a special relationship between the Messianic figure (Jesus) and the Spirit of God, which is marked by the descent of the Spirit at his baptism.
  • In verse 12, the Spirit thrusts Jesus out into the desert, where he confronts the Devil and is tested. The language in Mark’s version (cp. Matt/Lk) sounds harsh, but it vividly indicates both the power, and the overriding direction of the Spirit. This episode precedes the beginning of Jesus’ own ministry.
  • Upon his return, and the start of his ministry, Jesus has power/control over the Devil and all unclean spirits—i.e. spiritual power, with the power of the Spirit being implicit.

Admittedly, the specific Messianic association with the Spirit is fairly slight in Mark’s account, but it will become much more prominent in the Gospels of Luke and John.

Verse 11—The voice from heaven (“and there came to be a voice out of the heavens”) declares:

su\ ei@ o( ui(o/$ mou o( a)gaphto/$ e)n soi eu)do/khsa
“You are my Son, the (one) loved (by me)—
in you I have good regard [i.e. I think good/well of you]”

Luke’s version (3:22b) is identical, being a personal statement by God to Jesus; in Matthew (3:17), the formula is different, addressed to people generally (and presumably audible to them): “This is my Son…in whom I….” We are accustomed to thinking of Jesus as the Son of God in light of the Christology of a later period; but we should be extremely cautious about reading this into the Gospel account here without further ado. It is much more likely, in the earlier strands of Gospel tradition, and at the historical level, that the significance of this identification was Messianic. Some commentators would dispute this, but the parallel between the Baptism and Transfiguration scenes (to be discussed) would seem to confirm the Messianic significance of the heavenly declaration within the core Synoptic tradition. The idea of the Anointed One (Messiah) as God’s Son relates primarily, if not exclusively, to the Davidic ruler figure-type; for more on this, see Parts 6-8 of the series “Yeshua the Anointed” (cf. also Part 12). The Messianic aspect of this scene is developed in Matthew, and, especially, in the Gospel of Luke.

Acts 10:37-38

On the basic theory that the sermon-speeches in Acts genuinely record pieces of early Gospel preaching (cf. my earlier discussion on this point), consideration must be given to this material as preserving a separate line of tradition, from an early stage of transmission. There are several references to the Baptism of Jesus in Acts, but the one most relevant to our discussion here is found in 10:37-38, part of Peter’s sermon-speech in the house of Cornelius (cf. my earlier article on this speech):

“You have seen [i.e. known] the word (which) came to be down (through) the whole of Yehudah {Judea}, beginning from the Galîl {Galilee} with the dunking [i.e. baptism] which Yohanan proclaimed—(of) Yeshua the (one) from Nazaret, how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and (with) power, who came throughout (the land) working good and healing…(in) that God was with him.”

Here it is specifically stated that God anointed (e&xrisen) Jesus—that is, he was God’s Anointed One (xristo/$). This anointing is said to have been “with/in the Holy Spirit”, almost certainly an allusion to Isa 61:1ff, known as a Messianic passage at the time of Jesus. The only episode from the Gospels which suggests an anointing with the Spirit is the Baptism, and the immediate reference to baptism in v. 37 would seem to confirm this. We must be cautious in attributing this emphasis entirely to Peter (at the historical level), since it happens to be an important theme developed in the Gospel of Luke (as we shall see).

Note of the Day – February 10 (John 1; 3:22-30ff)

By | Exegetical/Study Series, Note of the Day | No Comments

The note today will explore the theme of John the Baptist’s relationship to Jesus, as developed in the Fourth Gospel. Yesterday’s note did the same for the Gospel of Luke. The way this theme is handled in the Gospel of John is extremely complex, and shows a highly advanced mode of adapting traditional material. This, indeed, is quite typical of the Fourth Gospel, where, as I have argued in detail elsewhere, sayings and teachings of Jesus have been shaped into highly precise (and complex) dialogue forms which evince a layer of interpretation added to the historical traditions. Much of this style and method of interpretation can be seen clearly in the ‘Prologue’ of the Gospel (1:1-18), where we begin.

Jesus and John in the Prologue (Jn 1:6-8, 15)

Many commentators consider that the references to the Baptist (“John”) in vv. 6-8 and 15 are authorial/editorial insertions into an otherwise self-contained hymn—one which the author may have adapted. Certainly vv. 6-8 and 15 seem to interrupt the flow of the poetry; note especially how verse 16 picks up right away from v. 14, and also, to a lesser extent, verse 9 from v. 5. This is easier to explain than it might appear at first. The essential Gospel tradition begins with the introduction of John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus (cf. Mark), and so here with verses 19ff. The hymnic Prologue has been added to this core, just like the Infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke. It makes sense that some effort to relate vv. 1-18 with 19ff would be made. But there is also a theological reason which underlies the insertions, and it relates to the way that the entire Baptist/Baptism tradition has been developed in the first chapter. This is essentially summarized in vv. 6-8:

“There came to be a man, se(n)t forth from alongside [i.e. by] God, (and) the name for him (was) Yohanan—this (man) came unto a witness, that he should witness about the light, (so) that all (people) might trust through him. That (man) was not the light, but (he came) that he might witness about the light.”

As I have already mentioned in an earlier note, this is a very different description of John’s role and purpose in ministry than we see in the Synoptic Gospels, where the emphasis is on preaching to bring people to repentance and the forgiveness of sin by God, in preparation for the coming Judgment. It is also more directly related to the person of Jesus, and to Jesus’ identity as the Son of God (cf. below).

If vv. 6-8 present a different introduction to John’s ministry (cp. Mark 1:2-6), the insertion in v. 15 would appear to give a very distinct interpretation to the saying of the Baptist in Mk 1:7 par (or something similar to it):

“John witnesses about him, and has cried (out) saying: ‘This was he of whom I said, “The one coming (in) back of me has come to be in front of me, (in) that he was first/foremost o(ver) me“‘.”

The importance of the words in italics, which certainly express powerfully the relationship between John and Jesus, is seen by the fact that it is stated again (almost verbatim) in the narrative which follows (v. 30).

The Johannine Baptism Narrative (Jn 1:19-51)

Of all the Gospel treatments of the Baptism of Jesus, that in the Gospel of John is by far the most complex. It also is highly instructive within the context of this study series, since, in my view, it both (a) preserves early historical tradition, and (b) gives to it a pronounced Christian (and Christological) interpretation beyond anything we see in the Synoptics. This is done both by creative (literary) arrangement of material and use of a distinct set of (Johannine) vocabulary and imagery. To begin with, note the structure of the narrative, which is divided into four parts:

  • 1:19-28—The testimony of John the Baptist regarding his own identity
  • 1:29-34—The testimony of John regarding the identity of Jesus
  • 1:35-42—Disciples follow/encounter Jesus as the result of John’s witness
  • 1:43-51—Disciples follow/encounter Jesus as the result of his (and other disciples’) witness

The way the author has deftly blended the Baptism narrative with traditions regarding the call of the first disciples is impressive indeed. This is done with considerable literary skill, as can be seen by the simple device of having each episode occur on a separate “day” (four in sequence). Following vv. 19-28, each of the three sections begins with the expression th=| e)pau/rion, something like “upon the morrow”, i.e. “the next morning”, “(on) the next day” (vv. 19, 35, 43). This repetition creates a strophic rhythm to the scenes which is most appealing (and effective). A glimpse at the outline above shows how, little by little, John disappears from the scene and Jesus takes center stage (cp. Jn 3:30). These episodes will be discussed in more detail in the next portion of our study (on Jesus’ identity as the Anointed One, cf. the upcoming daily notes), but it is worth pointing out several details and features here:

Section 1 (Jn 1:19-28)

The dialogue format of vv. 19-27 is unique to the Fourth Gospel, and doubtless is literary as much as historical; but there can be no doubt that authentic (historical) traditions are recorded here, including:

  • The citation of Isa 40:3, which is actually spoken by John himself in the context here (v. 23)
  • The sayings corresponding to Mk 1:7 (partial) and 1:8 in vv. 26-27 (cp. Acts 13:25)
  • The reference to John’s baptizing activity, otherwise of little significance to the narrative here, including the peculiar detail of the location “Bethany across the Jordan” (v. 28)

To this may be added the confrontation involving the religious leaders (Pharisees, etc, vv. 19, 24), which is attested in Matthew (3:7). More significant is the setting regarding John’s possible identity as the Messiah (vv. 20ff), which is also found in Luke 3:15, and likewise precedes the sayings corresponding to Mk 1:7-8.

Section 2 (Jn 1:29-34)

This section effectively narrates the Baptism of Jesus, but in an usual manner—indirectly, as described by John, in terms of his own experience. This emphasizes all the more vividly John’s relationship to Jesus, according to the theme in the Fourth Gospel—of John as one who acts as a witness to Jesus’ identity. The unique treatment of the Baptism in this section can be outlined as follows:

  • V. 29—John’s declaration upon seeing Jesus coming toward him: “See! the Lamb of God: the (one) taking (up) the sin of the world!” Unlike in the Synoptic tradition, here Jesus is not coming toward John (cf. Matt 3:13) in order to be baptized; the baptism presumably had already taken place some time before. The significance of Jesus’ coming (e)rxo/menon) is found in the saying/statement which follows in v. 30. This witness to Jesus as the one taking up/away sin replaces the Synoptic emphasis regarding the purpose of John’s baptizing (i.e., for the release/forgiveness of sins).
  • V. 30—the important saying, repeated from v. 15, is related in some way to the traditional saying which corresponds to Mark 1:7 par, marked by basic formula, using the verb e&rxomai (“come”) and the preposition o)pi/sw (“in back of, behind”). It was dealt with in detail as part of an earlier study, and will be discussed again in upcoming notes.
  • V. 31—John’s admission that he had not seen Jesus (that is, did not recognize who he truly was) prior to the Baptism. It is possible that this draws upon a tradition that John did not know Jesus at all before his baptism, but that is not what the Gospel is emphasizing.
  • This same verse records John stating the purpose for his baptizing ministry, as given to him by God—that this “one (who is) coming” should be revealed to Israel.
  • Vv. 32-33 have John narrating the Baptism scene, more or less as it is depicted in the Synoptic tradition. Verse 33 is unique in its repetition of the themes from v. 31. John witnessed the visual/visionary descent of the Spirit upon Jesus at his baptism, and thus knew (only then) that Jesus was the “one coming”. John states here that his entire baptizing ministry was for this one purpose—to see/know who this person was, and to make his identity known to the world.
  • V. 34—Here John essentially takes the place of the voice from heaven in the Synoptic tradition, by declaring that Jesus (“this [man]”) is the Son of God (some MSS read “Elect/Chosen One of God”).
Section 3 (Jn 1:35-42)

This episode begins just as the prior one did, with John seeing Jesus and declaring “See! the Lamb of God!” (v. 36). Only here his witness is not to people at large, but specifically to his own disciples, who hear him utter the statement. Two of these men (including Andrew, of the traditional Twelve), decide to follow Jesus. This detail establishes the important information, otherwise unattested in the Gospels, that at least two of Jesus’ followers had previously been disciples of John the Baptist. That they leave John to follow Jesus is an implicit affirmation of the latter’s superior status. This same motif appears in 3:22-23ff (cf. below). What is especially significant, in the context of the Johannine narrative, is that the men follow Jesus on the basis of the Baptist’s witness. This process continues as the disciples proceed to witness to others regarding Jesus’ identity (vv. 41, 45). Indeed, John serves as a type or figure for the purpose of the Fourth Gospel itself, as stated in 20:31.

John 3:22-36

Here again, this section, unrelated to the Baptism of Jesus, shows how the Fourth Gospel begins with historical tradition and develops it, expounding the details and fundamental points to form a rich and complex narrative. Note the structure:

  • The historical tradition regarding the disciples of John and Jesus, working almost side by side, with a similar baptizing ministry, but also with a sense of possible conflict or rivalry developing (3:22-26)
  • The testimony of John the Baptist regarding Jesus (3:27-30)
  • A Johannine statement/exposition regarding the identity of Jesus as the Son of God (3:31-36)

The thematic similarities with 1:19-42 are obvious. It is not clear whether vv. 31-36 here are meant to be taken as a continuation of the Baptist’s words, or a statement by the author (or by Jesus?). This very ambiguity is part of the artistic and spiritual power of the discourses in the Gospel of John. For the purposes of this study, it is the central testimony of John the Baptist in vv. 27-30 that is most relevant, as it clearly expresses his relationship with Jesus:

  • John’s words in v. 27 hint at the heavenly/divine nature of Jesus, especially in the immediate context of the Gospel (cf. vv. 13, 31ff)
  • He is not the Anointed One, but only the one sent (by God) to appear in front of (i.e. before, ahead of) him (v. 28)
  • A parable/illustration that John is not the “bridegroom”, but only the friend who attends to him and hears his voice (v. 29)
  • The climactic statement which summarizes the relationship (v. 30):
    “It is necessary for that (one) to grow (greater), but (for) me to become smaller”

That declaration has the ring of authenticity about it, and generally corresponds with the thought expressed in the better-established traditional sayings of Mark 1:7-8 par.

Note of the Day – February 9 (Luke 1-3)

By | Exegetical/Study Series, Note of the Day | No Comments

Today’s note will look at the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus, as developed in the Gospel of Luke. There are three areas where we can see this:

  • In the Lukan Infancy narrative of chapters 1-2
  • In the structure of the Baptism narrative in chapter 3, and
  • Specific details in the Lukan Baptism narrative

The Infancy Narrative (Luke 1-2)

I have discussed the Lukan Infancy narrative in some detail in earlier notes and articles, most recently in the Advent/Christmas series “And You Shall Call His Name…” There is good reason to believe that the Infancy narratives in Luke and Matthew each, independently, represent a somewhat later development within the Gospel Tradition. By all accounts, the core Gospel (and Synoptic) narrative effectively begins with the ministry of John and the baptism of Jesus, as we see in Mark (and also the Fourth Gospel). In Luke, the central figures from the baptism scene—John and Jesus—are kept together in the Infancy narrative which precede it. There is a clear parallelism that runs through the first two chapters, focusing on John and Jesus in turn; for each there is:

  • An announcement of his coming birth by a heavenly Messenger (Gabriel), following a similar pattern, including a declaration of the child’s name and his future destiny/role in God’s plan of salvation for his people (1:8-23, 26-38)
  • The mother is not able at the time to bear a child (for different reasons), the conception/birth being the result of God’s miraculous action (1:7, 27 & 34)
  • The parent who receives the heavenly announcement (Zechariah, Mary) utters a song/hymn of praise to God (1:46-55, 67-79)
  • The mothers (Elizabeth, Mary) meet together in a central scene, in the same house (1:39-56); each utters an inspired hymn or declaration (vv. 42-45, 46ff)
  • The special circumstances surrounding the child’s birth become known to people in the surrounding area, who react with wonder (1:58, 65-66; 2:8-20)
  • The circumcision and naming of the child is narrated (1:59ff; 2:21)
  • The parents are both described/depicted as devout and observant of the Law (Torah), which includes fulfilling their religious duties/obligations at the Temple in Jerusalem (1:6, 8-10, 23, 59; 2:21-24ff, 39, 41-42)
  • An aged, devout pair (male and female) is associated with the child, in different ways—Zechariah/Elizabeth and Simeon/Anna (1:5-6, etc; 2:25-38)
  • An aged, devout figure (Zechariah, Simeon) utters an oracle regarding the child’s future destiny (1:76-79; 2:29-35)
  • A summary notice of the child’s growth and development (1:80; 2:40 & 52)

More significantly, the relationship between John and Jesus, established in the Synoptic tradition at the baptism, is, in Luke, partially transferred to the Infancy narrative, where it is enhanced. Interestingly, this is done almost entirely in two places: (a) the Angelic annunciations, and (b) the oracles by Zechariah and Simeon.

(a) The Angelic Annunciation

The heavenly Messenger’s announcement to Zechariah (1:13-20) includes a declaration of the child John’s future destiny, in which it is said of him:

“and many of the sons of Yisrael he will turn (back) upon [i.e. to] the Lord their God, and he will go before [i.e. forward] in His sight, in (the) spirit and power of Eliyyah, to turn (the) hearts of fathers (back) upon [i.e. to] (their) offspring, and (the ones) unpersuaded (by the truth) in(to) the (way of) thinking of (the) right(eous)” (vv. 16-17)

This statement clearly draws upon Malachi 3:1ff, which, along with Isaiah 40:3, is the principal Scripture (and prophecy) associated with John the Baptist in the Gospel tradition. Keep in mind that the opening of Mark’s Gospel (Mk 1:2-3), introducing John and his ministry, combines Mal 3:1 and Isa 40:3. It is likely that this combination is secondary to the primary Synoptic tradition, since the overall citation refers only to Isa 40:3 (“even as it has been written in Yesha’yah the Foreteller [i.e. Isaiah the Prophet]”, v. 2). Matthew and Luke only include the Isaiah reference, Mal 3:1 being applied to John elsewhere in Gospel, in the “Q” material (Matt 11:10 / Lk 7:27). If Luke was following Mark in the main Synoptic narrative, then he (along with Matthew) has omitted any reference to Mal 3:1 in the introduction to John’s ministry. For Luke, there would have been less need to include it there, since he already established the association in the Infancy narrative. The reference to “Elijah” and the thought expressed in Lk 1:16-17 stems largely from the interpretation found at the end of Malachi (4:5-6 [Heb 3:23-24]). It is likely that this is a (secondary) explanation of the original oracle in 3:1ff, interpreting the Messenger of the passage in the light of certain traditions related to Elijah. Jewish tradition and eschatology generally followed the line of interpretation, which was picked up and utilized by early Christians as well.

The “Lord” (ku/rio$) of Mal 3:1 LXX, and here in Lk 1:16-17, is God the Father (YHWH, Yahweh); however, early Christian tradition, due to its use of ku/rio$ in reference to Jesus (as “Lord”), was able to apply the prophecy to the coming of Jesus. This relates to the second Annunciation scene, to Mary, regarding the conception and birth of Jesus (1:26-38). Here, in the parallel declaration of the child’s future destiny, it is said of him: “This (child) will be great, and will be called ‘Son of the Highest’…” (v. 32a). This passage is rich in Messianic associations and allusions, but the two phrases quoted here are especially important in terms of the relationship between John and Jesus:

  • “This (one) will be great” (ou!to$ e&stai me/ga$), which should be compared with what is said of John:
    “He will be great in the sight of the Lord” (v. 15)
    The unqualified use of me/ga$ for Jesus almost certainly indicates a superior position, and, indeed, a special divine status.
  • “He will be called Son of the Highest”, which is similar with what is prophecied of John in the song of Zechariah (cf. below):
    “You will be called Prophet of the Highest”

This implicit relationship is expressed in the following scene, of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth (1:39-56). The babe John, in the womb, is said to have “jumped” at the sound of Mary’s greeting (vv. 41, 44). The idea, expressed dramatically (and most creatively) in the narrative, is that John is, in a sense, recognizing Jesus. Elizabeth, too, in what is said to be an inspired utterance (v. 41b), calls Mary “the mother of my Lord [ku/rio$]” (v. 43). This plays on the same dual-meaning of ku/rio$ for early Christians (cf. above) and echoes the Mal 3:1 reference as applied to John.

(b) The Oracles

The relationship of John to Jesus is central to the oracle in the song of Zechariah (1:67-79, vv. 76-79), where the prophecies of Isa 40:3 and Mal 3:1 are implicit:

“And also (for) you, my little child—you will be called Foreteller [i.e. Prophet] of the Highest, for you will travel before in the sight of the Lord to make ready his ways…” (v. 76)

If the “Lord” (ku/rio$) in 1:16-17 was YHWH, here it should be understood primarily in reference to Jesus. That is certainly how the Gospel writer would have understood it, in light of early Christian tradition and interpretation of Isa 40:3/Mal 3:1. This relationship is further clarified through the language and imagery expressed in vv. 77-79, with the emphasis on salvation—”to give knowledge of salvation to his people…” (v. 77). This, too, is the emphasis in the song of Simeon in 2:29-32, which, like the song of Zechariah, is full of Messianic allusions, especially in its use of key passages from Isaiah (on this, cf. my earlier notes on the song). The Infancy narrative rather clearly expresses the idea which would become standard among early Christians—that Jesus was the Anointed One (Messiah) of God, in the sense of being the chosen Davidic ruler and “Son of God”, and that John was preparing the way for him (according to Isa 40:3 / Mal 3:1ff).

John and Jesus: A Unique detail

The main factual/historical detail presented in the narrative, unique to the Gospel of Luke, is that John and Jesus were apparently related—as cousins, presumably, of some degree. This can be inferred from 1:36 and use of the word suggenh/$—one who has “come to be [born] together with” another, often in the sense of family relations; it also fits the setting of the visitation scene which follows. Critical scholars are naturally skeptical of this datum, since it not attested (or even suggested) anywhere else in the New Testament. Be that as it may, it is clearly of significance for Luke, since it establishes a special relationship between John and Jesus which gives added meaning to the baptism scene which follows in chapter 3.

The Baptism Narrative (Luke 3)

Given the central importance of the theme in the Infancy Narrative—the relationship between John and Jesus—does not feature as prominently in the Baptism narrative itself. We can see something of the approach taken by the Gospel writer, in terms of adapting and developing the traditional material, by examining the structure of the narrative. Note the following outline:

  1. John’s ministry (vv. 1-20)
  2. The Baptism of Jesus (vv. 21-22)
  3. The Genealogy of Jesus—his (true) identity as Son of God (vv. 23-38)

It is important to notice how John’s ministry is kept separate from Jesus’ baptism, which the Gospel writer does through a careful reworking and (subtle) arrangement of material. In this regard, the Lukan portrait is quite distinct from the other Gospels. Here is an outline of verses 1-20, which demonstrates how it is, in many ways, an enclosed section:

  • Narrative (historical) introduction—the current rulers (Herods, etc) (vv. 1-2)
    —The ministry of John [Isaiah 40:3-5] (vv. 3-6)
    ——Preaching for repentance: eschatological emphasis—the Judgment (vv. 7-9)
    ——The “fruits of repentance”: ethical emphasis (vv. 10-14)
    —The ministry of John: Messianic emphasis—the Judgment (vv. 15-17)
  • Narrative summary—the current ruler (Herod) (vv. 18-20)

In terms of source criticism, the Lukan narrative here is complex:

(a) The narrative summaries in vv. 1-2, 18-20 are a Lukan refashioning of traditional (and Synoptic) material
(b) Vv. 3-6, 7-9, and 10-14 can be marked Synoptic [Mark], “Q”, and “L” material, respectively
(c) Vv. 15-17 would seem to combine Synoptic [Mark], “Q”, and “L” (?)

The strands of tradition, such as the author has inherited them, have been blended together with consummate (literary) skill to create a unified whole. It begins with a notice on the start of John’s ministry, and ends with a notice of his imprisonment. This effectively ‘removes’ John from the baptism scene. Of course, the author understood the historical tradition, that John baptized Jesus, but he does not emphasize this. For him, the baptism tradition serves a different purpose, which is two-fold, establishing two key themes regarding Jesus’ identity, which will carry on through the Gospel:

  1. The descent (i.e. anointing) of the Spirit—Jesus as the Chosen/Anointed of God
  2. Jesus as the Son of God

The latter theme is developed, most creatively, through the inclusion of the genealogy of Jesus in vv. 23ff. These points will be discussed further in the next main section of our study (on Jesus as the Anointed One).

Details in the Baptism Narrative

These have been mentioned, to some extent, above. However, there are several other special points which should be noted:

  • Lk 3:2b, a Lukan addition to the traditional (Synoptic) narrative, is a clear echo of the Infancy narrative and the (prophetic) role of John expressed there.
  • Luke is the one Gospel writer who extends the citation of Isaiah 40:3 to include vv. 4-5 (3:5-6). This is almost certainly an intentional adaptation so as to introduce the motif that “all flesh” will see “the salvation of God”, the reading of the Greek (LXX) version of v. 5. This connects back to the theme of salvation in the Song of Zechariah (1:77ff) and the Song of Simeon (cf. above), and, in turn, touches on John’s role (as the Messenger of Mal 3:1ff) in relation to Jesus (the Messiah and “Lord”).
  • Lk 3:15 is another Lukan addition, but one which almost certainly reflects early tradition (cf. Jn 1:19ff). It will be dealt with more fully in upcoming notes, but it is important to see how the author has included it ahead of the Baptist’s sayings in vv. 16-17, joining it with those well-established traditions. In Luke’s version, the sayings are in response to questions that John might be the Anointed One (Messiah). Much the same occurs in the Fourth Gospel (to be discussed in the next daily note).
  • In 3:16a the phrase o)pi/sw mou (“in back of, behind me”) has been omitted or is otherwise not included (cp. Mk 1:7, etc). It is possible that the expression was intentionally left out because of the implication that Jesus was a follower (disciple) of John, such as many commentators believe to be the case. The version in Acts 13:25, which may stem from a separate tradition, uses meta/ instead of o)pi/sw, and is more readily understood in a temporal/chronological sense (i.e. “after, later [than]”).
  • The Lukan addition in 3:18 emphasizes again John as one who speaks the word (v. 2b), and who proclaims the “good message”. This provides another allusion to the Infancy narrative (1:16ff, 68-69ff, 77; 2:10f).

Note of the Day – February 8 (Matt 3:11-15; Luke 3:16-17)

By | Exegetical/Study Series, Note of the Day | No Comments

In studying the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus in the Baptism narrative, as preserved in the Gospel tradition, we looked at the core Synoptic tradition in yesterday’s note; today we will examine how the aspect was developed in the so-called “Q” material and in the Gospel of Matthew.

Matt 3:11-12; Lk 3:16-17 (“Q”)

As I discussed in the earlier note, the saying(s) of John, corresponding with Mark 1:7-8, have a different form in Matthew and Luke (Matt 3:11 / Lk 3:16). In terms of critical source-analysis, it is likely that this derives from a source other than Mark (i.e., the so-called “Q” material), and also includes the saying in the following verse (Matt 3:12 / Lk 3:17), which is not found in Mark. The main addition to the Mk 1:8 saying are the words “and (in) fire” (kai\ puri/), which enhances the aspect of (the end-time) Judgment central to the saying which follows:

“the ‘spitting’-shovel is in his hand, and he will cleanse through(out) [i.e. thoroughly] his (place for) rolling [i.e. threshing] (grain), and he will bring together his grain into the place (where it is) set away [i.e. stored], but the husk(s) he will burn down [i.e. completely] with fire (that is) n(ever) quenched”

Luke’s version is nearly identical, the only real difference being in the form of the first two verbs, which are infinitives (expressing the purpose of the winnowing) rather than future forms. In both versions, this saying is joined to the previous ones by use of the relative pronoun ou! (“of whom”)—it refers back to “the one stronger than me” who is coming (Matt: “the one coming [i.e. who] is stronger than me”). Interestingly, there is some indication that the saying in Matt 3:12 par may have originally been separate from those in v. 11, and that the relative pronoun ou! is perhaps better explained in terms of the joining/collection of the saying in the early process of transmission. This is all the more likely given the fact that the saying(s) in v. 11 were preserved, independently (without the “Q” saying), in several strands of tradition (Mark [Synoptic], Acts [kerygma], and the Gospel of John).

Conceptually, the action in v. 12 seems to be that done by God in the end-time Judgment. However, by the time of John and Jesus, the idea was becoming reasonably well established in Jewish thought and writing that a chosen/anointed representative of God (whether human or angelic) would play a major role in the ushering in of this time of Judgment on humankind. This is expressed various ways in the Messianic thought of the period, as I have discussed in considerable detail in my series Yeshua the Anointed. It is thus easy to imagine John associated this role in the Judgment with a Messianic or Prophetic figure such as we find in Malachi 3:1ff. The original context of the Malachi passage probably referred to a heavenly Messenger, i.e. the “Messenger/Angel of YHWH” (but cp. Mal 4:4-5); on this, cf. my earlier note in the aforementioned series. In Jesus’ teaching as recorded in the (Synoptic) Gospels, this role in the end-time Judgment is filled by “the Son of Man”, a heavenly figure with whom Jesus identifies himself (see Part 10 of the series “Yeshua the Anointed”).

This saying (in Matthew/Luke) culminates the teaching/preaching of John as recorded in the Synoptics. The baptism of Jesus follows (directly, in Matthew).

Matthew 3:13-15 (“M”)

Scholars often refer to material in Matthew that is not found in the other Gospels, and is presumably inherited from a source other than Mark (or comparable Synoptic source) and “Q”, as “M” (i.e. Matthean) material. The only portion of the Baptism narrative in Matthew which qualifies as “M” material is the exchange between John and Jesus in 3:13-15. In order to include this material, the author, it would seem, has adapted the core Synoptic statement describing Jesus’ baptism:

Mk 1:9:
“And it came to be in those days (that) Yeshua came from Nazareth of the Galîl and was dunked into the Yarden (river) under [i.e. by] Yohanan”

Matt 3:13:
“Then Yeshua came to be along, from the Galîl, upon the Yarden (river), (coming) toward Yohanan to be dunked under [i.e. by] him”

It was necessary for the author to interrupt the reference to Jesus being baptized, narrating instead his purpose in coming to John. This allows the Baptist to react and respond to Jesus. The dialogue format is brief and simple, with a narrative frame enclosing the two declarations, in turn:

  • John “cuts off” [i.e. prevents/restrains] Jesus (completely), i.e. from submitting to baptism
    —John’s objection: “I hold (the) obligation [xrei/a] to be dunked by you…”
    —Jesus’ response: “…it is proper for us to fulfill all justice/righteousness”
  • John “releases” [i.e. allows] Jesus to undergo baptism

Critical commentators are skeptical as to the authenticity of this tradition, since it is not found in any other Gospel, and would seem to fit an obvious apologetic purpose for early Christians. I.e., if John’s baptizing was primarily meant to bring people to repentance, resulting in the forgiveness of sin, then why would Jesus (who was without sin) have undergone baptism? The tradition of Jesus’ baptism was so well-established—and, historically, a virtual certainty (on objective grounds)—that no Gospel writer could omit the episode, especially considering the important details of the Spirit’s descent and the voice from heaven, and their place in the Gospel narrative. Yet, as time went on, it would seem to require some explanation. The same question is handled, in a different way, in an extra-canonical work called the “Gospel of the Hebrews” (identified by some scholars as the “Gospel of the Nazoreans”), preserved only in quotations by the Church Fathers; note the following extract from Jerome (Against the Pelagians 3:2):

“Behold, the mother of the Lord and his brothers were saying to him, ‘John the Baptist is baptizing for the remission of sins. Let us go and be baptized by him’. But he replied to them, ‘What sin have I committed that I should go to be baptized by him?…'” (translation by B. Ehrman, Lost Scriptures [Oxford: 2003], p. 9)

This is a rather simplistic expansion of the Synoptic narrative, ‘filling in’ details in a manner common to the (later) extra-canonical Gospels (Infancy Gospels, etc). However, it does make clear (if somewhat crudely) the problem with the tradition for early Christians.

Returning to Matt 3:14-15, it is important to give proper consideration to what Jesus says in response to John, especially if we accept the tradition recorded here as authentic. John’s objection in v. 14 is, in some ways, the inverse of the saying in v. 11 (Mk 1:7 par):

  • The one coming behind me is greater than me
    I am not fit/worthy to handle his shoes
  • I have the obligation to be baptized by you
    —and yet you come toward me

In other words, John declares that the situation should be reversed—he should be submitting to Jesus (to be baptized under him, i.e. under his authority). The core of Jesus’ response is:

“it is distinguishing for us to fulfill all justice/righteousness”

It is difficult to determine precisely what Jesus (and/or the Gospel writer) meant by this statement; however, I would suggest three aspects which should be considered:

  • In being baptized, Jesus identifies himself with the (Israelite/Jewish) people, those coming to be baptized. The evidence for this is slight, but I believe it can be affirmed, at the very least, from the similarity of language in vv. 5 and 13:
    “Then [to/te] Jerusalem and all Judea…traveled out toward [pro/$] him”
    “Then [to/te] Yeshua from Galilee came along… toward [pro/$] John”
  • This is meant to be a sign that would stand out for everyone to see. The verb pre/pw is difficult to translate literally, and carries a fairly wide range of nuance, but fundamentally refers to something which can be seen or heard, etc, clearly; often in the sense of something which is excellent, distinguished, fitting for the (ceremonial) occasion, etc.
  • The purpose was to “fulfill the justice/righteousness [dikaiosu/nh] (i.e. of God)”. This broad concept, central to Jesus’ teaching, esp. in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:6, 10, 20; 6:1, 33), includes the fulfillment of a range of (religious) symbols and forms from the Old Testament (the Old Covenant)—the Law and Prophets, all the way down to John the Baptist (Matt 11:13 par). His baptizing ministry represents the end of the old, which Jesus fulfills, bringing about, in his own person and ministry, the beginning of a new era.

Matt 11:2-19 par (“Q”)

Mention should also be made of the material involving John the Baptist in Matt 11:2-19 and Luke 7:18-35, a “Q” section which almost certainly is to be regarded as a collection of related episodes and sayings. This material is not part of the Baptism of Jesus, and relates more properly to the next area we will be studying (Jesus’ identity as the Anointed One) in the Baptism narrative; however, it is worth noting the structure and organization of the traditions contained in the passage, in terms of the relationship between John and Jesus:

  • A question by John to Jesus regarding his identity as “the one (who is) coming”, along with Jesus’ response (vv. 2-6)
  • Jesus’ testimony regarding John (vv. 7-15)
  • The people’s (negative) reaction to Jesus and John, respectively (vv. 16-19)

Note of the Day – February 6 (Mark 1:3, 7-9, etc)

By | Exegetical/Study Series, Note of the Day | No Comments

We now proceed to the second main component, or theme, of the Baptism of Jesus in the Gospel Tradition:

  1. The Ministry of John
  2. The Relationship between John and Jesus
  3. Jesus as the Anointed One, in comparison with John

This component—the relationship between John and Jesus—is more closely related to the process of development which seems to have taken place, moving beyond the simple historical tradition(s), to an early Christian interpretation regarding them.

Mark 1:3, 7-9 (Acts 1:5, etc)

According to the approach and method of study I am using, we begin here with the Synoptic tradition, represented by the Gospel of Mark, but looking also at a separate strand of tradition—namely, the early Gospel preaching as recorded in the book of Acts. Many critical commentators would seriously question whether, or to what extent, Acts genuinely preserves such early tradition. The sermon-speeches in the book are often thought to be largely the work of the author (trad. Luke), perhaps reflecting the sort of preaching familiar to him at the time (c. 70-80 A.D.). However, as I have discussed elsewhere (cf. my series on the Speeches of Acts), there are many signs that early preaching (kerygma) has, in fact, been preserved, even if one grants a substantial reworking of the material by the author (and/or the traditions he has inherited) to form the speeches as they appear in the book. The pieces related to John the Baptist prove to be useful examples in this regard, as they do not appear to be simple reproductions from the Lukan Gospel (and the Synoptics), and may, in fact, stem from a separate line of tradition. Moreover, if this truly reflects the earliest Gospel preaching, in substance, then it may allow us to glimpse something of how the Synoptic tradition came to be formed. Three key components, related to John and the Baptism of Jesus, are preserved separately in Acts:

  • 1:5 (and 11:16)—the saying attributed to John in Mark 1:8 par
  • 10:37-38—the coordination of John’s ministry (baptizing) with the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (Mk 1:4, 9, 14 par)
  • 13:24-25—the ministry of John and the saying in Mark 1:7 par

If we add to this the citation of Isa 40:3, these pieces effectively make up the Synoptic narrative. In the Gospel of Mark, the relationship between John and Jesus is expressed at three points:

  1. The citation of Isa 40:3—Mk 1:3
  2. The saying(s) of the Baptist in Mk 1:7-8
  3. The actual Baptism of Jesus—Mk 1:9

1. Mark 1:3

The central citation from Isaiah 40:3ff has been discussed in prior notes, and will be dealt with again in the next section (on Jesus as the Anointed One).

2. Mark 1:7-8

The Synoptic parallels for the saying(s) of John are Matt 3:11 and Luke 3:16. Versions of them are also found in Acts 1:5 (11:16) + 13:25, and in John 1:26-27. It is possible that two separate sayings have been combined; this might account for some of the differences between the versions. I will discuss, in turn: (a) the variations between the versions of the saying(s), (b) the original meaning of the sayings, and (c) how the Gospel writers understood them.

(a) The Variations

The saying in Mark 1:7 is made up of two phrases:

(1) “one stronger than me comes behind [o)pi/sw] me”
(2) “I am not fit [i(kano$] to loose the strap of the (shoe)s bound under his (feet) [i.e. his shoes]”

(1) The Greek in Mark is: e&rxetai o( i)sxuro/tero/$ mou o)pi/sw mou. Here are the other versions and variations:

  • Acts 13:25b—”(one) comes after [meta/] me”
  • Luke 3:16—”one stronger than me comes” {omits “behind me”}
  • Matt 3:11—”the one coming behind me is stronger than me”
  • John 1:27a—”the one coming behind me…”

The versions in Acts and John are simpler, with no reference to the comparative i)sxuro/tero$ (“stronger”). Matthew and Luke both seem to have reworked the phrase in different ways.

(2) Mark’s version has added the participle ku/ya$ (“bending [down]), probably for dramatic emphasis: “I am not fit, (even) bending (down), to loose the strap…”. The other versions:

  • Acts 13:25b—”I am not worth(y enough) [a&cio$] to loose the (shoe) bound under (his) feet”
  • Luke 3:16—nearly identical to Mark
  • Matt 3:11—”I am not fit to pick up the (shoe)s bound under (his feet)”
  • John 1:27a—”I am not worthy(y enough) [a&cio$] that I should (even) loose the strap of his (shoe)s bound under (his feet)”

Interestingly, as with the first phrase (1), John’s version has a point in common with the saying in Acts—a mark, perhaps, of an early detail which was preserved in two strands of tradition. It is conceivable that the variant i(kano/$ vs. a%cio$ could be the result of different ways of translating an original Aramaic version of the saying (cf. M. Black, An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts, 3rd ed. [Oxford: 1967], pp. 144-6).

The saying in Mark 1:8, follows the second phrase of the saying in v. 7 by establishing a contrast between John and the “one coming”; here is the version in Mark:

“I dunked you in water, but he will dunk you in [e)n] the holy Spirit”
e)gw/ e)ba/ptisa u(ma=$ u%dati, au)to\$ de\ bapti/sei u(ma=$ e)n pneu/mati a(gi/w|

The other Synoptics (Matt 3:11 / Luke 3:16), are very close to the Markan saying, but share three key differences:

  • Both use a me\nde/ construction—i.e. “on the one hand…on the other…”
  • Each includes the saying corresponding to Mk 1:7 in the middle of the saying corr. to Mk 1:8—i.e. “I dunk you in water…, but the one coming… he will dunk you in the holy Spirit”
  • Each adds “and (in) fire”—”he will dunk you in the holy Spirit and (in) fire

For those commentators who hold that Matthew and Luke have each made use of Mark, these common differences suggest that here they depend on a different source (so-called “Q”). This is likely since the saying which follows (Matt 3:12 / Lk 3:17) is also “Q” material. Matthew has also included the words “unto repentance” (ei)$ meta/noian)—”I dunk you in water unto repentance [lit. change of mind], but he…”.

Interestingly, the version in Acts (1:5, par 11:16) represents a saying by Jesus, indicating something which Jesus had told his disciples about John:

“(On the one hand) John dunked in water, but (other other hand) you will be dunked in the holy Spirit” (1:5)

It uses the same me\nde/ comparative construction as the “Q” (Matt/Luke) version of the saying (cf. above). At the same time, the passive form of the second verb (baptisqh/sesqe, “you will be dunked”) is a bit surprising. Given the version in the Synoptics, we might have expected Jesus to say “I will dunk you…”. Instead, the passive verb suggests that a “divine passive” is meant—i.e. God as the assumed actor. With regard to the sending of the Spirit, early Christian tradition variously describes this as being both the work of God the Father and Jesus.

The version in John (Jn 1:26 & 33) shows a more substantial reworking of the tradition, which will be discussed further in the upcoming notes.

The numerous differences and variations in these sayings may seem strange—even troubling—to readers who expect more uniformity in the inspired writings of the New Testament. However, in many instances, as here, it is actually a strong indication of the authenticity and historical reliability of the traditions (on objective grounds). The differences may be seen, in large part, as a marker of very early traditions (Levels 1-3, cf. the Introduction) which have been independently transmitted, and preserved, in multiple strands of the wider Gospel Tradition.

(b) The original meaning of the sayings &
(c) How the Gospel writers understood the sayings

These points will be discussed in the next daily note.

3. Mark 1:9

Mk 1:9 narrates the Baptism of Jesus itself, which will be discussed in more detail in the upcoming notes. The event is summarized simply:

“And it came to be in those days (that) Yeshua came from Nazaret in the Galîl and was dunked into the Yarden (river) under [i.e. by] Yohanan”

We will see how the Gospel writers adapt this basic account, beginning with Matthew (in the following note). The Baptism of Jesus, as recorded in the Synoptic tradition, is comprised of three distinct statements:

  • Reference to the Baptism itself (v. 9)
  • The visual/visionary phenomena which took place upon Jesus’ being baptized (v. 10)
  • The voice from heaven declaring Jesus to be God’s son (v. 11)

The last two statements belong more properly to the third section of our study on the Baptism—Jesus as the Anointed One. Despite the theological (and Christological) aspects of these details, they are surprisingly consistent within the early Gospel tradition, and, in and of themselves, have undergone relatively little development. However, the Gospel writers have each handled them in distinctive ways, as we shall see.