John the Baptist

Scobie, Charles H. H (1961) John the Baptist. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

The chief sources for the study of John the Baptist are the New Testament, and one paragraph in the "Antiquities" of Josephus. Neither the Slavonic additions to Josephus, "Jewish War", nor the Mandsean literature are of any value, they are both later compilations, and do not draw upon any independent historical sources. John does not appear to have been associated with either the Sadducees or the Pharisees, and certainly not with the Zealots, since his message was not a political one, and he did not advocate violence. Rather, he is to be associated with the non-conformist, sectarian, baptist movement, made up of various, groups active, principally in the Jordan valley, from the 1st. Cent. B.C. onwards, and including the E$senes and the Qumran sect. The narrative of. John's birth and infancy in Luke 1 was originally compiled separately, and most probably in Hebrew, it is largely legendary in character. It is possible that John, as a youth, was adopted, by an Essene group, though this is incapable of proof. John's preaching was grounded in the prophets and in the: apocalyptic tradition. He proclaimed the imminent approach of the end of days: and of the judgement, when the wicked would be destroyed in a river of fire, while on the righteous would be poured out the blessings of God's holyspirit. The judgement would be executed by "the Coming One", a Messianic figure, in many ways akin to the Son of Man. In, face of the coming judgement, John demanded that men should repent and live righteous lives. His teaching was addressed to Jews, and did not go beyond the boundaries of Jewish ethics, John demanded that his hearers should submit to baptism, which he administered. Proselyte baptism arose rather late to have influenced John, and, in any case it differs from his baptism in several important respects. More helpful are the baptismal rites of sectarian Judaism, especially the Qumran baptism of, initiation, by which a person became a member of the eschatological community of the new covenant. John's baptism is to be understood in terms of such a rite, though there were also important differences. John regarded himself as the eschatological prophet, though probably not identifying himself definitely with either the Moses or the Elijah branch of this expectation. He attracted a group of disciples, who shared in his ministry, and in his practices of prayer and fasting. John's asceticism was not the result of expulsion from an Essene order, nor can he be regarded as a Nazirite, At was primarily an expression of repentance and humiliation before God. Jesus was originally a follower of, John, and submitted to his baptism, but, than he broke away to become an independent, preacher. John did not hail Jesus as Messiah at the Baptism, it was only when, he was in prison that this possibility dawned on him. John's hailing of Jesus as Son of God and Lamb of God cannot be regarded as historical, but it is true that Jesus held a very high opinion of John. During the period when the ministries -of John and Jesus overlapped, John went and ministered in Samaria. A survey of Samaritan sectarianism reveals how this was not an impossible or unlikely occurrence, and it can be shown how John's message would find many points of contact. On his return to Peraea, John was arrested by Herod fuitipas and imprisoned at Machaerus. John's message, though non-political, could have important political repercussions, and it was as a precaution rather than a punishment that he was put to death. After John's death a group of his disciples continued a separate existence, and they came to regard John as Messiah. The sect was never large nor important, and probably did not last beyond' the 3rd. Cent. A.D. There is no evidence that it contributed to the Mandaean synthesis. Though John's background was the baptist movement, he was' nevertheless; an independent and original figure. The chief features of his ministry were its prophetic. roots, its vigour and simplicity, and the primacy of preaching. Modern research uncovers a picture of John different la details from that found either in Josephus or in the New Testament. In some respects he was a more original and more independent figure than our sources allow but at the same time, on his own merits, he hardly deserved the fame that has been his lot because of his incorporation into the Christian tradition.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Biblical studies
Date of Award: 1961
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1961-73146
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2019 08:56
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2019 08:56
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/73146

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