C He Will Baptize in Spirit and Fire

There can be little doubt that the same tone of judgment is present in the other image which intervenes between the image of ruthless pruning and the image of the threshing floor — 'he will baptize in Spirit and fire' (Q 3.16). It combines three powerful images. (1) The river or flood as a metaphor for being overwhelmed by calamity.129 (2) The word-play behind pneuma (Hebrew/Aramaic ruah), 'wind/ spirit/Spirit', denoting judgment as well as blessing.130 (3) Fire was the most obviously judgmental image,131 as we can see from the way it was picked up at and in apocalyptic literature.132 Particularly striking is the triple reference to fire in three successive verses of Q — most clear now in Matt. 3.10-12.

More powerful still was the combination of the images: fire and water as the medium of purification (Num. 31.23), Spirit imaged with water metaphors,133 the spirit of burning as a means of cleansing,134 but especially the river of fire that burns and destroys, probably in dependence on the vision of Dan. 7.10.135 The most striking precedent combines all three images in a way which eerily foreshadows John's imagery and may even provide the source for it —

129.Pss. 18.4, 16; 32.6; 42.8; 69.2, 15; 88.7; 124.4-5; 144.7; Isa. 8.7-8; 43.2a; Jonah2.5.

130. Isa. 4.4; Jer. 4.11-12; lQ28b (lQSb) 5.24-25. The insertioiHjf'Holy' (Holy Spirit), in Q as well as Mark, presumably indicates the remembering of the Baptist's words within a Christian perspective. Webb, John theBaptizer 272-77, argues that 'Holy Spirit and fire' was original, but ignores the range of usage possible for ruah and the significance of the composite image of 'immerse in . . .'. Meier, Marginal Jew 2.35-39 argues that Mark 1.8 is original (no 'and fire'), but ignores the background and imagery indicated in the following paragraphs (above) and fails to note the relevance of Mark 10.38-39/Luke 12.50. Becker is confident in the 'broad agreement' that the original spoke only of a baptism in fire (no 'Holy Spirit and'), since reference to the Spirit 'makes immediate sense only as a Christian expression' (Jesus ofNaza-reth 45 and n. 14; similarly Catchpole, Quest 7-12; Reiser, Jesus and Judgment 169-70, 185)! Theissen and Merz point out the paradox that a purely destructive baptism in fire would be inferior (in salvific effect) to the baptism of John (Historical Jesus 204). For earlier discussion see J. D. G. Dunn, 'Spirit-and-Fire Baptism', NovT14 (1972) 81-92, reprinted in The Christ and the Spirit. Vol. 2: Pneumatology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998) 93-102.

131. Isa. 10.17; 29.6; 47.14; 66.15-16; Jer. 21.12; Ezek. 22.31; 30.16; Joel 2.3; Amos 7.4; Obad. 18;Nah. 1.6;Zeph. 3.8; Mai. 4.1; Pss. Sol. 15.4. See imtherReiser, Jesus and Judgment 172-73.

132. 1QS 4.13; 1QH 14(=6).18-19; 1 En. 90.24-28; 100.9; 102.1; Sib. Or. 3.542-44; 4.176-78; 2 Bar. 48.39, 43.

133. Isa. 32.15; 44.3; Ezek. 39.29; Joel 2.28-29; Jub. 1.23; 1QS 4.21.

135. 1QH ll(=3).29-33; 1 En. 14.19; 67.13; Sib. Or. 2.196-97, 203-205, 252-54; 3.54, 84-87; 4 Ezra 13.10-11.

As indicated in my 'John the Baptist's Use of Scripture', in C. A. Evans and R. Stegner, eds., The Gospels and the Scriptures oflsrael (JSNTS 104; Sheffield: Sheffield Aca-

Behold, the name of the Lord comes (erchetai) from far away, burning with his anger, and in thick rising smoke, and his lips are full of indignation (Greek different), and his tongue is like a devouring fire (kai he orge tou thymouhos pyr edetai);

his breath is like an overflowing stream that reaches to the neck;

to sift the nations with the sieve of destruction, and to place on the jaws of the people a bridle that leads astray.

Whether John had this particular passage in mind is impossible to say, although the heavy dependence of his message on language which was characteristic of Isaiah has been apparent throughout this section. At very least, however, we have to recognize that John placed himself in a tradition of prophetic and apocalyptic warning to Israel which drew on these powerful images.

Probably the most impressive feature at this point is the way John adapted this imagery in terms of the feature most distinctive of his mission as 'the Baptist'. The one to come would baptize in the river of God's fiery breath.

Here we need to remind ourselves of how the term 'baptize' was actually used before it became a technical term for the rite administered by the Baptist. In wider usage it meant simply 'dip, immerse, plunge, sink, drench or wash'.137 In the LXX baptizein is used three times to denote a ritual washing or immersion.138 And Josephus uses it characteristically of the sinking of a ship,139 or of someone drowning or being drowned,140 or of dipping something in water (Ant. 4.81).141 More interesting still, the imagery of immersion obviously lent itself to metaphorical usage. So already the LXX of uses the imagery of being overwhelmed by lawlessness (anomia me baptizei). Philo typically speaks of the river of the objects of sense 'drowning (baptizonta) the soul'.142 Josephus uses baptizein of the act of plunging a sword into a throat {War 2.476), of a flood of people into a city drowning it (War 4.137), and of one 'sunken (bebaptismenon) into unconsciousness and drunken sleep' (Ant. 10.169).143

demic, 1994) 42-54, reprinted in my Pneumatology W&-29 (here 126-27), I remain surprised that so few have picked up this background imagery in their attempts to expound the Baptist's message.

137. LSJ, baptizo.

138. 4 Kgdms. 5.14 (translating tabal in 2 Kgs. 5.14); Jdt. 12.7; Sir. 34.25.

139. War2.556; 3.368, 423, 525, 527; Ant. 9.212; Life 15.

141. See also Aquila's translation of Job 9.31 and Ps. 69.2.

142. Leg. 3.18; similarly Det. 176; Migr. 294; Prov. 2.67; cf. Contempt. 46.

143. Sib. Or. 5.478 speaks of the setting sun as 'plunged (baptistheie) in the waters of the ocean'.

John appears to have been doing something similar. He envisaged the one to come as immersing people into the river of God's fiery breath as it (probably) flowed from heaven. As the imagery implied, this could be a destructive event. But as the imagery also implied, it could also be a purificatory, purgative event, burning away all impurities (as in Mai. 3.2-3).144 According to Q, after all, he promised this further baptism not as a threat to those who refused his baptism, but as a prospect (promise?!) to those he himself baptized: 'I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you [the same 'you'!] with the Holy Spirit and fire' (Q 3.16). The parallel image was of wheat gathered into barns as well as of chaff burned (Q 3.17). And as noted earlier, Mark was not the only Evangelist to regard John as 'the beginning of the good news'.14 John, in other words, took the imagery provided by his own distinctive act and drew on its powerful symbolism to give a new variation to an older prophetic/apocalyptic expectation. Or perhaps he baptized because he had already appreciated the power of the symbolism which it expressed. At any rate, we can assume that John saw his own distinctive practice of immersing the repentant in Jordan as somehow foreshadowing a much more fearful immersion to come. Presumably he expected that those who so repented would find the imminent immersion in the river of God's fiery breath to be purifying and cleansing rather than consuming and destructive.

We can probably go a little further. John's image of being baptized in the river of fire descending from heaven may have been John's own way of envisaging the final period of tribulation which in apocalyptic thought came to be seen as the necessary or inevitable precursor of the new age to come. This expectation was probably rooted in Daniel's prophecy that 'there shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence' before the people are delivered and the resurrection takes place (Dan. 12.1-2). It would be natural to link this prospect with the earlier imagery in Daniel's vision of the little horn prevailing over the saints of the Most High (Dan. 7.21).146 Another powerful image was of a woman's labour pains ('birth-pangs') in giving birth, which was familiar from similar prophetic and evidently in current

144. Webb has some justification in criticising my 'Spirit-and-Fire Baptism' 84-86: to insist that the future event was envisaged as a 'single baptism' may press the language too strongly, particularly as I also accept that two outcomes are envisaged, destruction for the unrepentant, purification for the repentant (John the Baptizer289-92; similarly Taylor, Immerser 139-43; the view is common — Ernst, Johannes der Täufer 53-54). But it still makes better sense of the imagery (a river of ruah and fire, not two rivers) to think of one baptism with two distinct outcomes rather than of two distinct baptisms.

145. Becker, however, insists that John prophesied only judgment: 'Nothing even approaching a promise of salvation crosses his lips . . .' (Jesus of Nazareth 38-39)!

146. Dan. 12.1 is echoed in T. Mos. 8.1; CD 19.7-10.

147. Isa. 13.8; 26.17-18; 66.7-9; Jer. 6.24; 13.21; 22.23; Hos. 13.13; Mic. 4.9.

use.148 This is again properly described as 'eschatological'. But how 'final' was it? Resurrection and judgment on a cosmic scale sound final enough. But what lay beyond the purification and the birth pangs — both actually images of new beginnings? What was to happen to the trees that bore the fruit of repentance? What did the gathering of the wheat into the granary signify?

It is well that we pose such questions now, since they are a further reminder that the 'eschatological' character of John's preaching of judgment has been too much taken for granted without the meaning of 'eschatological' being adequately clarified. The matter is of prime importance for us, since the 'eschatological' character of Jesus' preaching has become so disputed of late, and since the question of influence from the Baptist at this point above all others cannot be escaped. Indicative of both the possibilities and the problems in this case is the fact that John's talk of one who would 'baptize in (Holy) Spirit and fire' was taken up in Christian tradition in an attenuated form ('baptize in Holy Spirit') and attributed to Jesus (Acts 1.5; 11.16)!

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