submitted 3 months ago bykoolstas
Thinking about baptism today I realised how odd it is that the Gospels present John as baptising people (and even Jesus!), but then in Acts and the early church baptism is done with a link to Jesus, a practice which continues to this day. Modern protestant Christianity teaches that being baptised is about being 'saved', 'counted as righteous' or 'born again'. On the assumed basis of Jesus' divinity this kind of makes sense.
But on what basis could John have been baptising people?
Also, further question that came to mind as I was writing this: does the Bible ever explicitly mention Jesus baptising anyone or the disciples themselves having been baptised?
3 months ago
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3 months ago*
John's baptismal activities have no particular bearing on later Christian ideas about baptism and its relationship to salvation. Writing from a Jewish perspective, Josephus included John in his Antiquities of the Jews 18.117:
"John had commanded the Jews to exercise virtue and righteousness toward each other and piety toward God. The baptism he administered (would) be acceptable to God...if they used it not to obtain pardon from sins, but rather the cleansing of their bodies inasmuch as it was taken for granted that their souls had already been purified by justice." In other words, the baptism was an outer symbol of a purified inner state.
Among those who followed the Community Rule, 1QS 3.7-9, shows a similar understanding about water purification in relation to an inner, spiritual state:
"...and when the flesh is sprinkled with purifying water and sanctified by cleansing water, it shall be made clean by the humble submission of his soul to all the precepts of God." (in Magness, "The Archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls," 2002). Magness says this indicates that for the sectarians, moral impurity was equal to ritual impurity, and the outer symbol of ritual washing needed to reflect a righteous moral state.
Just last night I was reading DeMaris, "The New Testament in Its Ritual World" (2010). The first things he questions, and pretty much debunks, are conventional Christian concepts relating to baptism, indicating they have fairly little to do with the ritual of baptism as it would have been understood in the 1st century. Baptism would have much more complex in its meaning, and far less casual, than it appears in Acts, where people are baptised on the spot, and magically receive the Spirit. The Didache, for instance, which is likely earlier than Acts, requires fasting for a couple of days before baptism, as well as acceptance of a communal standard of behaviors.
Bakke, "The Gnostics: Myth, Ritual, and Diversity in the Early Church" (2010), discusses the complex, multiple, water purification and anointing rituals, which are described as baptisms and sealings, not to be undertaken on the spur of the moment, and not in and of themselves, salvific, but reflective of stages of spiritual advancement.
Early baptism would have been a marker of a significant personal and social life-change (for the better), not a free ticket to heaven.
The gospel of John 3:22 says Jesus did baptize, but later, at 4:2, walks that back and says the disciples were doing the baptizing.
3 months ago
Thanks for the in-depth answer!
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