Wednesday, September 9, 2009

"No one has arisen greater..."

This is how Jesus describes John the Baptist in human terms in Matthew 11:11 (as well as its parallel in Luke 7:28). We just began a full blown discussion and exegesis of the Gospel according to Mark, and right out of the gates in Mark 1, John the Baptist enters the scene as no insignificant figure. I'm guilty of probably overlooking the significance of JB in most of my studies in the Gospels (i.e. 'just get to Jesus already!'-mentality). Some things I've read today:

"Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist; for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness toward one another, and piety toward God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body: supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now, when [many] others came in crowds about him, for they were very greatly moved [or pleased] by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do anything he should advise,) thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it would be too late. Accordingly he was sent as prisoner, out of Herod's suspicious temper, to Macherus, the citadel I before mentioned, and was there put to death. Now the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and a mark of God's displeasure to him."
Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18:116-19

"John the Baptist thus appears in these verses [i.e. vv. 2-8] as both of supreme significance, as the subject of some of the most stirring prophecies of the OT, the first embodiment of the age of eschatological fulfilment, and at the same time in the clearly subordinate role of the herald and footman, sent on ahead to prepare for the arrival of the sovereign."
R.T. France, The Gospel of Mark, NIGTC

"...this suggests that Mark's intention in using the Baptist material is not primarily to indicate that John bore witness to Jesus (as in the Johannine material) but rather as a foil to indicate who Jesus was not. This is accomplished in part by distinguishing Jesus' and John's activities and correcting the false impression of the outsiders about their identities, and in part by having Jesus in two key places (Mk 9 and 11) give testimony to who John really is, a testimony that balances that of John to Jesus in chapter one. This suggests that for Mark, John is the beginning of the gospel, not merely because he was seen to be Jesus' forerunner, an Elijah figure, but also because Jesus bore witness to John."
B. Witherington III, "John the Baptist" in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels

Let the unfolding of the gospel begin!


Anonymous said...

I like!!

Mike S. said...

Noona: Yeah, the Gospels class has been awesome!