Gary Greenberg's blog on biblical studies and related matters

John’s Baptism of Jesus

A while ago, I posted a piece titled Were Early Christians Embarrassed by John’s Baptism of Jesus? In it, I challenged the traditional view that this was an embarrassing event. A key issue was the contrast between the Jewish historian Josephus, who said John’s baptism was not about the remission of sin, and the Synoptic gospels, which argued that it was. While John did not include that claim in his gospel, I hadn’t thought much about why he omitted that explanation. I was recently reminded of the issue and I realized what happened. John’s theology holds that only Jesus can forgive sin (an authority later passed on to the Apostles.) Therefore, John specifically rejected the idea that John’s baptism was for the remission of sin. This aligns John’s gospel with Josephus against the synoptic gospels. What’s puzzling, however, in John’s gospel, the baptist first says that he baptized in order to reveal the one who was to come, but after he revealed that Jesus was the one, John says the baptist continued to baptize. Why? John doesn’t say.


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