Baptism by John
The four gospels each tell a story of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist (JtB), but each with their own unique spin. From earliest to latest:
- In the Gospel of Mark, JtB portrays himself as the predecessor to Jesus and as someone who is "not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals." JtB baptizes Jesus, and just then the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus, and a voice came from heaven saying, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."
- The same spin is contained in the Gospel of Matthew, but with something extra: JtB initially objects to baptizing Jesus, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" Jesus replies, "Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfil all righteousness."
- In the Gospel of Luke, the births of both JtB and Jesus are foretold by angels, the Archangel Gabriel for Jesus and a lesser angel for JtB. When the pregnant mother of Jesus visits the pregnant mother of JtB, JtB leaps in the womb, which is taken as a sign with the exclamation, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb." After the birth of JtB, the father prophesies that JtB "will go before the Lord to prepare his ways." In a remarkable shift of narrative, JtB does not actually seem to baptize Jesus in this gospel. JtB first goes to prison. Then Jesus is baptized. The miraculous events associated with the baptism per Mark is containted in Luke, but we have no idea who the baptizer was.
- The Gospel of John's account is strangest of all. John praises Jesus with all the humility found in the synoptic gospels, but the baptism is omitted! Instead, only the events closely associated with the baptism are related by JtB.
âI saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, "He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit." And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.â
How do mythicists explain this? The spin and embarrassment of the gospels (especially the later gospels) is much too plain to ignore, so they may grant at least the point that Christians were embarrassed by the belief in the baptism. It is still possible that it is a mere myth that somehow came about and it became embarrassing only later. It is not so often that mere myths become embarrassing to the cult, however. Rather, it is the rule for historical realities. No matter. Robert Price floats the idea that the character of JtB could have been inspired by the Semitic fish god Dagon (as does Arthur Drews), and possibly the baptism was inspired by Zoroaster immersing himself in water and being met by an archangel. The possibilities are endless, and Robert Price is indiscriminate with them.
Next thread: Abe's Case for the Historical Jesus (Part 4: Doomsday Prophecies)