Relationship of Jesus and John the Baptizer

edited December 1969 in Coptic Orthodox Church
I am taking a history course on early Christianity. The professor got into John the baptizer and Jesus today and made many, in my view, controversial statements.

Among them:

1. Jesus was a follower of John
2. John might have been an Essene
3. John baptized Jesus and this was a problem for many Christians and the later gospels (post Mark) try to downplay it
4. The gospel of John never actually mentions John baptizing Jesus
5. Jesus was influenced by John and his move away from ritual performance

Any answers to these claims? Any resources?



  • 1. John the Baptist said this in Mark 1:7.... "And he preached, saying, “There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose."
    so John the Baptist himself is saying he is lower than Christ and not even worthy to be a servant.
    2. whats an essene?
    3. Matthew 3:13 - Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.
      Luke 3:21 - When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened.
      Mark 1:9 - It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
    as you can see there are several references for Jesus' Baptism by John.
    Several accounts from other Gospels very firmly confirm the Baptism of Christ by John. St. Mark's Gospel was written first, but this account is also recorded in St. Matthew's and St. Luke's Gospels.
    4. The Gospel of St. John was written by St. John the Beloved, one of the 12 apostles. St. John the Baptist did not write the Gospel of St. John.
    5. huh??? lol

    so pretty much ur professor is bashing Christianity and the Divinity of Christ. You should not take what he says very seriously. He is lost... but that doesnt mean u shouldnt do well in the class. Stand up for what you believe in and dont let him make you write the wrong answer on an exam or anything because its what he believes in.

    God Bless
  • I am not that knowledgeable about the subject, so I posed the questions to yall.

    The Essenes - from what I understood - were a Jewish sect that lived in the wilderness and had an apocalyptic philosophy. Also they were more inclusive.

    Thanks for the response Marenhos Epchois. Any resources would be beneficial.
  • Where are the church historians??
  • 1. Some of John's disciples left to follow Jesus (John 1:35-42) Also see John 3:22-26

    2) I'm not sure why that would even matter.

    3) The Gospel of Mark dedicates 3 verses to the matter, because it is the shortest of the Gospels and was intended to be so. If anything the other Gospels give the full account rather than downplay it.

    4) The Gospel According to St. John is very unique and is not like the other Gospels which are all synoptic. It doesn't mention Christ's birth, but mentions other things that are not found in the other accounts. This is because it was written after all the rest, and was intended mainly to show that Christ was in fact God.
  • Hi.

    these look like common issues which emerge in modern "historical" criticism of the Gospels.
    Many, especially in the Protestant world tend to feel a need to equate our limited understanding of life in the Roman provence of palestine at this time with the biblical account.

    I have seen lots of TV specials on this, and heard far too many books being published about "the Historical jesus" for my liking. These views are not of concern to Orthodox Christians, as we have the interpretations and exegesis from the Church fathers to go by, and therefore have no need to look to what others 2000 years on have decided the bible means, especially if it is not with Church Tradition at its back.

    On these specific points:
    1. Many "biblical historians" these days see Jesus as possibly being a part of John the Baptists's "cult", and believe he was a seperatist, which they say would explain why he, knowing he would soon be arrested, made Jesus lead his followers later. If he had been preaching a coming messiah and had died before he came, it would make them loose faith. We as Orthodox Christian know that this was not the case, as John announced Christ himself, and did not do this through some panic, but through the prophecies of the Old Testament.

    2. For those that do not know what the Essenes are, they were a very devout, seperatist, messianic sect in Roman Judea, they were very puritain and cautious not to allow others to follow them without strict conditions, also the dead sea scrolls are of Essene origin. Historically, some of what John spoke of is the same as the writing of the essenes (the coming of the son of light, etc...) But again, he was very open in his faith. Many Messianic sects existed at the time, which we know through historians and even the letters of Paul, which warn of them. John was more likely another seperate Messianic speaker, but unlike the others, he was correct and prophetic, and not a false prophet.

    3. it was certainly not downlplayed, as thers have already pointed out, the baptism was a massive occasion. Even to "biblical historians" the Baptism is of significance for it leads John's followers to their new leader.

    4. There is no direct mention, but this is because the Gospel focusses on the ministry and revelation, unlike Luke who was a historian.

    5. This point seems to just be odd, and is wholey dependent on point 1 being true. John was divinely lead by the Lord in his move from the Mainstream Jewish presence, and therefore inspired by the coming of Christ, and Christ's mission began with this Baptism. So in a way he was lead from Joh onwards, but not directly by him, but by the path set through God.

    Again, these are all my opinions based on me being dragged through a course on biblical history and the approaches to it, but I hope it helped.
    For other resources, all I can think of on John the forerunner is the orthodoxwiki article:

    But, do not trust in groups like "the Jesus seminar" or Biblical historians who attempt to Equate archeology and modern historical views to the Gospels, it will always cause issues like these to emerge. In the end we hardly know anything about Judea from that time, except through the writings of Josephus, so most of it is guess work.
  • Church historians? What's that? The last Coptic historian was Iris Habib El-Masri. Good luck finding one.

    Let me see if I can help.

    You are correct in your definition of the Essense. We need to add a little to your definition. According to some Jewish historians, the Essenes were a group that descended from the Nazirites and Zadokites. The Zadokites were followers in the priestly lineage of Zadok the high priest from King David's time. Eventually, the Zadokites became priests who were zealots and required a higher righteousness by any means possible, taking their example from Phinehas (the grandson of Aaron who murdered a Jewish prince for listening to Balaam and propogating the Heresy of Peor against the Israelites. See Numbers 25, 31)  If righteousness can only be achieved with violence, then it was fine. This is what Judas and Simon Maccabees did to purge the Temple from sin. Eventually the Zadokites, which were priests, became the Sadducees. (Same root word zadek, meaning righteous).

    In the Qumran texts, the founder of the Qumran community is the "Teacher of Righteousness" who is identified as the priest Moreh Zedek. Again notice the same root word. He was supposedly a zealot. The Essenes are a monastic community (monastic as in living in the wilderness. Not monastic as in a gender exclusive community. They were a community of males, females and children). They embodied the Qumran philosophy seeking a higher righteousness and purging sin. In the Essenes' case, this was done by isolation from sin.

    It is believed that John the Baptist was indeed an Essene and a Nazirite. We know from the Bible that he was a Levite, the son of a priest. We also know that the Nazirites, like Samson, took a vow of purity and did acts of rigtheousness. In Samson's case, he was not to cut his hair as a vow of his devotion to God. The Nazirites strict asceticism soon became synonymous with priestly, Zadok-like rigtheousness. So the Nazirites were considered "mini-priests" because a Nazritie did not have to be a Levite, yet he lived and worshipped in the Temple with excessive asceticism and devotion to God. It was said that James the Lesser, the disciple and first bishop of Jerusalem was a Nazirite and due to his excessive worship, his knees became so callous and rough that it looked like goat skin. John the Baptist "wore" clothes made of camel's hair". To some Jewish scholars, this was a cryptic message to say John the Baptist was a Nazirite because his ascetisicm included subduing the body for worship and a zealot because he was a priest who preached a higher righteousness than the Pharisees (ie, a baptism of repentance. He even called the Pharisees "a brood of vipers").

    Zealots, like Zadok and Phinehas, were given authority from God directly because of their zeal to purify sin in the Temple. As such, the Jews saw them as "in charge", more than Pharisees who received their authority from political allegiance to Herod and Rome. Therefore, any disciple of John the Baptist, was seen as direct descendant of the zealots and they would be given more authority than followers of the Pharisees or any other sect. And the bible mentions many zealots who had followers (Acts 5:34-37). Since Jesus' disciples were former disciples of John the Baptist, a Nazirite and a zealot, Jesus in turn received his authority from John the Baptist (from a Jewish prespective)

    Regarding your third comment, it is related to the above. Historians would argue that if John the Baptist was the authority figure and Jesus took his authority from John, then how could Jesus claim authority in himself. This is a non-religious argument. Historians can't claim Jesus is the Son of God. That would be a religion course. If Jesus' authority doesn't come from Himself, and it comes from John the Baptist, how would Jews see Jesus? As a founder of a new sect, like all the other historical sects, who derived his authority from John and later claimed to be more than John. Remember, zealots publicly opposed the Roman appointed Pharisees and Rome itself. So Roman authorities would view the early Christians as followers of an anti-Roman regime. The only non-religious logical argument to be made is that early Christians had to downgrade Jesus' link to John the Baptist to survive and grow to the largest religion of that time.

    The 4th comment by your history teacher is foolish. He is trying to argue Jesus' baptism was covered up by the simple fact that this historical event is not recorded in the other gospels. This isn't sufficient proof of a cover-up conspiracy theory. The Gospel of John doesn't mention many historical facts found in the other gospels, like Jesus' birth. And John specifically says he omitted things Jesus did because all the books in the world could not contain his miracles and events.

    I can see what your professor was trying to say with the 5th comment. John's teaching is not typical of Zealots. Zealots wanted to purge sin against the Temple by violence and force. John the Baptist preached non-violence and love. Jesus expended the same philosophy on the Sermon on the Mount. Your teacher is implying that John taught Jesus this philosophy. From a purely historical, non-religious point of view, it makes sense since John preached before Jesus. But again, this is not sufficient proof to claim Jesus is a follower of John.

    I can try to find some resources. Most of this is coming from memory. So it will take a while.
  • Much appreciated, Remnkemi & DanieM!!

    As for the 4th point, in the gospel of Luke it has John being sent to prison and in passing it mentions Jesus was baptized. No mention of John being involved. I would the most accurate account to be found in Luke?

    Also, from my reading of the gospels it seems like Jesus came into contact with John when He was in His mother's womb and when He was baptized. Where they together in any other times of Jesus' life?

    Please do provide resources as well.

    Thanks again.
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