An investigation into the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth : a socio-historical study
The aim of this thesis is to examine and critically evaluate the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth, with special reference to baptism and to the question of whether Jesus practised a baptising ministry in Galilee. This involves us taking a fresh look at the Gospel texts on John and Jesus and considering the possible relevance of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Part I provides a preliminary examination of our sources. Part II focuses on possible links between John, the Essenes and the early Church. We argue: (i) that after his birth into a priestly family, John was probably brought up by the Essenes at Qumran, whom he later left to conduct an independent prophetic and baptising ministry by the Jordan; (ii) that the Qumran immersions provide the matrix to John's baptismal rite; (iii) that the affinity between the Essenes and the early Church in ideology and praxis may be owing to the influence of the former upon the latter, with John as the mediator between the two. Against this background, John and Jesus are directly related to each other in Part III. We conclude: (i) that after his baptism by John, Jesus remained a follower of John for a time, and practised a baptising ministry concurrent with that of John in Judea (John 3.22-26; 4.1-2); (ii) that Jesus continued this ministry in Galilee; (iii) that the synoptists' silence about Jesus' baptising (e.g. Mk 6.7-13 and par; Matt 10.5-16; Q=Matt 9.37-38//Lk 10.1-12) may indicate that they took it for granted, or that they were embarrassed by it; (iv) that unlike fasting, sabbath observance, tithes and offerings, purity, etc, baptism was not among the contentious issues relating to Jewish law; (v) that the emphasis on baptism in the post-Easter context of the Church was necessitated by its redefinition in the name of Jesus (Acts 2.38; 19.1-7; Rom 6.3; Gal 3.27; cf. the Trinitarian formula in Matt 28.19 [cf. Mk 16.15-16]); and (vi) that perhaps the strongest argument for John as mediator between the Essenes, Jesus and the early Church is precisely the ambivalence of the New Testament writers' attitude toward him.