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Title: John the Baptist in the context of contemporary religious movements within Judaism
Author: Hookey, Joseph Ralph
ISNI:       0000 0001 3581 3106
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1964
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PURPOSE: This thesis endeavors to study the figure of John the Baptist in the context of contemporary religious movements within Judaism. The justification for the thesis lies in two specific areas: firstly, the growing reappreciation of the Gospel of John in the light of the Qumran discoveries and of its value as a source of information for Christian beginnings; and, secondly, the recognition that several leading studies on John the Baptist fail to allow for sufficient variety and vitality within Judaism to provide the proper and sufficient background for understanding John the Baptist. METHOD: The writer examined the accounts of the life and message of John the Baptist in the New Testament and the writings of Flavius Josephus in order to discover a consistent portrait of John which would accurately reflect the data available. Particular attention was given to the question of the reliability of the Fourth Gospel as a source of information and the accuracy of the picture of John the Baptist found therein. The emphasis in contemporary Judaism on such points as repentance, judgment, and messianic expectations was studied and compared with that of John the Baptist. Possible sources of the origin of the rite of baptism were studied with particular emphasis on Essene lustrations and proselyte baptism. Finally the question of the possible continuation of John's movement was examined along with the account of John's death and its significance. CONCLUSIONS: John the Baptist stands solidly in the context of contemporary Judaism, but a Judaism which is vital and changing and in which a rigid and fixed structure of Hebrew thought was not to be found. His whole life, his message, and his rite of baptism were seen to have been centered around the reconstituting of the people of God and the anticipation of the coming Mightier One. The consistent thread which bound together the various accounts of John's life was the preparation for a new beginning of the Hebrew nation which by its sinfulness had become apostate. John's birth narrative reflected the heroic figures of early Hebrew history. His desert experience clearly was to be associated with the Exodus tradition and the entering into the Promised Land. The Fourth Gospel proved to be a trustworthy source concerning John the Baptist and provided both additional information and necessary correction to the Synoptic account. Pf*om the Fourth Gospel it becomes evident that Jesus had been associated with John the Baptist and had gradually withdrawn from that movement as a result of Jesus' inability to reform the old way. The rite of baptism having its roots in proselyte baptism was related to the remission of past sin, but also anticipated the new age of the Mightier One who was a national lessiah. In his relationship with Jesus John saw in him the national figure, but one who was not fulfilling this in the way John expected. With his death John the Baptist's movement dwindled and some of his followers were assimilated into the Christian movement as a natural outcome of their leader's message and mission. Though some of John's followers may have continued in an independent group no evidence was found which indicated that such a group posed a threat to the Christian movement or created a literature of its own in honor oi its martyred leader.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Religion of John the Baptist