A Baptism by John or Anointing with Spirit

It is hardly surprising that the episode in view is usually designated 'the baptism of Jesus by John'. But that is something of a misnomer. The fact is that in varying degrees the Evangelists all direct the hearer's/reader's attention beyond the baptism itself to what happened when Jesus emerged from the river — the descent of the Spirit and the heavenly voice.

Matt. 3.13-17

Mark 1.9-11

Luke 3.21-22

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. . . .

And when Jesus had been immediatelv he came up from the water; and suddenly the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and aliehtins on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, 'This

9 In those Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

10 And immediatelv as he was up out of the water, he saw the heavens split open and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven. 'You

21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven. 'You

is mv Son. the with

are mv Son. the Beloved; with

are mv Son. the Beloved; with

whom I am well pleased'.

Vou I am well pleased1.

vou I am well pleased'.

All three Evangelists indicate that the baptism, that is, immersion (baptisthenai) in the Jordan, had been completed before the next events took place. Mark links the baptism with its sequel by his regular euthys ('immediately') (Mark 1.10), by which he maintains the vigorous pace of his story-line elsewhere.163 And Matthew, in following Mark somewhat awkwardly (Matt. 3.16a), presumably understood that the sequence of events followed in very close succession.164 But Luke seems to be more concerned to link Jesus' baptism into the baptism of 'all the people'. Both baptisms precede the action which then takes place 'while Jesus

163. The baptism 'is quickly passed over and barely "narrated" in any real sense' (Meier, Marginal Jew 2.102). See also Ernst, Johannes der Täufer 17-19.

164. 'Matthew lays still less weight on the baptismal act than Mark' (Luz, Matthäus

was praying (Luke 3.21).165 And John, as we have already noted, does not even mention the event of Jesus' baptism but focuses attention (by repetition) on John's witness of the Spirit's descending and remaining on Jesus (John 1.32-33). Equally significant is the fact that the early sermon in Acts 10.37-38 recalls how Jesus' mission 'began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power'. In short, the story of Jesus' mission begins 'from the baptism of John' not so much because of Jesus' baptism by John, but because of what happened on that occasion.166

There were thus two key elements in the story as narrated in early Christian circles: the opening of the heavens as prelude to (1) the descent of the Spirit on (Mark says 'into') Jesus, and (2) the voice from heaven hailing Jesus as 'my son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased'. The fact that the Fourth Evangelist has the same double emphasis, albeit in his own terms (1.32-34 — the Spirit descends and remains on Jesus; John testifies, This is the Son of God'), confirms that this is where the primary emphasis lay in the early traditions about the beginning of Jesus' mission.

(1) As Acts 10.37-38 makes explicit, the descent of the Spirit was obviously understood in early Christian reflection as Jesus' anointing by God for his mission. This was how the first followers of Jesus understood the prophecy of Isa. 61.1 to have been fulfilled in him: 'the Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because he has anointed me . . .'. This 'anointing' {masah/echrisen — Isa. 61.1; Acts 10.38) was presumably what constituted Jesus as 'the anointed one', 'Mes-in their eyes.

165. On normal techniques for determining the content of Q it must be judged possible that Q contained an account of Jesus' baptism (the point being obscured by the primary dependence of Matthew and Luke on Mark's account) (so, e.g., Streeter, Four Gospels 291; Polag, Fragmenta Q 30; Catchpole, Quest 76; otherwise Kloppenborg, Q Parallels 16). The main reason for the conclusion is that the following Q account of Jesus' temptations (Matt. 4.1-11/Luke 4.1-13) seems to assume a report of Jesus being hailed as God's son (hence the temptation, 'If you are God's son ...' — Q 4.3, 9) (Meier, MarginalJew 2.103, with further bibliography n. 10). That would imply that the main focus in Q's account of the events at Jordan was on the heavenly voice hailing Jesus as God's son, though if the Q account also began with Jesus being led into the desert by the Spirit (Robinson/Hoffmann/Kloppenborg, Critical Edition of Q22-23), both Spirit and Son motifs would again be present as in the preceding episode and as in the core of the birth narratives.

166. The implications for Christian theology of baptism will have to be considered later, in vol. 2. For the moment, we may note that the subsequently popular idea that Jesus' baptism 'purified the water' for future Christian baptism first appears in Ignatius, (see further Luz, Matthäus 1.152). McDonnell and Montague simply repeat Ignatius: 'the Spirit... in some way effected a sanctifying of the baptismal water through' Jesus (Christian Initiation28). But in the NT itself Jesus' baptism is never presented as a model for Christian baptism (see further Dunn, Baptism 32-37). Equally unsatisfactory is it simply to identify Jesus' anointing as his baptism: 'his anointing was his baptism' (Harvey, Jesus 141).

(2) Equally as significant, the heavenly pronouncement was probably understood as a combination of Ps. 2.7 and Isa.

Ps. 2.7 'You are my son, today I have begotten you'.

Isa. 'Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights;

The Isaiah passage looks somewhat remote from the Gospel account of the heavenly voice, but the quotation of Isa. 42.1 in Matt. 12.18 indicates that there was a version of Isa. 42.1 current in Christian circles which closely matches the second part of the heavenly pronouncement at Jordan.168 Here is confirmation that the early story-tellers in the assemblies and churches of the Nazarene sect portrayed Jesus as the royal Messiah, son of God, in accordance with Ps. 2.7, and servant of Yahweh in accordance with Isa. 42.1. This was a status and function for Jesus which they saw to have been inaugurated by Jesus' anointing by the Spirit at Jordan.

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