Friday, June 19, 2009

The Square Peg of Baptism

John the Baptist is an enigmatic character for Christianity to grasp. As we've seen, he offered a water baptism for the remission of sins, contradicting God's Plan of sin remission through both the Temple system and what was to come through Jesus. Furthermore, what he taught didn't really match the Old Testament prophesies or do much to prepare the way for Jesus' revolutionary system of Salvation.

In this study, we'll cover one of the most controversial episodes involving John the Baptist; the Baptism of Jesus.

The Square Peg of Baptism
You've likely heard the expression before: It's like trying to drive a square peg into a round hole. The only ways you can get a square peg to go into a round hole is to enlarge the hole or remove the squared edges of the peg. Metaphorically speaking, this puzzle accurately describes John the Baptist's baptism of Jesus.

According to the prophesies we covered last time, Jesus couldn't just magically show up on the earth to set things right. He needed a forerunner in the form of Elijah to prepare the way for Him. Who could that be? In the time in which Jesus reportedly lived, there was really only one possible, well-known candidate; John the Baptist.

Being outside of the Temple system's perpetuation of the status quo, John the Baptist seemed to be the only suitable man around who could have been considered a prophet of God at that time. There were false Messiah's of the time trying to lead rebellions, but there were no other men who could be seen as even remotely preparing the way for God to be in accordance with the scriptural prophesies. By necessity (and possibly in an attempt to garnish some of John the Baptist's popularity and credibility) John the Baptist played a part in the story of Jesus.

The problem was that if you include John the Baptist, his namesake, his baptism must somehow play an integral role. You may remember from the previous study that his baptism was for the repentance of sins. Enter; the square peg. That baptism would need to directly apply to Jesus, but Jesus is sinless. Enter; the round hole.

Three of the Gospels record that Jesus was baptized; Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, and Luke 3:21-22. Curiously, you'll see that Luke's account doesn't claim that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. Perhaps he was just using the preceding text to imply that John the Baptist was doing the baptism, or perhaps Luke is intensionally vague to alter this incongruency and make it theologically possible that the only baptism Jesus had was one from the Holy Spirit.

If Jesus was sinless, what was the point of His baptism? Matthew 3:13-15 is the only account which seems to regard this conundrum. We see that Jesus requests a baptism, but John the Baptist tries to refuse and instead suggests that Jesus baptize him. Jesus tells him to go on and baptize Him to “fulfill all righteousness”. This seems to appear as though Jesus needed to be baptized with water to fulfill some prophesy, but no such prophesy exists. Perhaps instead this was just to fulfill a necessary part of God's non-communicated Plan. The baptism of Jesus still confounds scholars and ossifies critics to this day.

Immediately following the baptism, the three accounts (Matthew 3:16-17, Mark 1:10-11, Luke 3:21-22) claim that Heaven was opened up and the dove-shaped Holy Spirit incarnate came out of that Heavenly hole. This is a rather interesting concept to grasp; not the Dove-Spirit (which is odd in itself to have part of God join with another part of God), but rather the hole in Heaven. That's quite a worm hole! This linguistic artifact preserves the antiquated belief of that time that God's Heaven was situated right above the earth, and that if you could peal back the canopy of the sky, you would see God.

After the dove comes down, God's voice comes from Heaven saying that He is happy with His Son Jesus. Whether or not anyone else heard God's voice at that time is left for speculation.

The Gospel of John isn't entirely left out of the picture here. While John 1:29-32 does not mention Jesus being baptized, it does say that John the Baptist saw the Holy Spirit come down and remain with Jesus. Because the only mention of this happening is when Jesus gets baptized according to the other Gospels, it seems logical to say that John's Gospel implies a baptism by John the Baptist as well. However, given that John the Baptist was somewhat shocked by getting to baptize Jesus per Matthew 3:13-17, it seems very strange that John's account of John the Baptist's testimony doesn't include such an unforgettable and momentous occasion as the baptism itself.

Perhaps the strangest part of John's account of John the Baptist's testimony is in the verse immediately preceding the anointing of the Holy Spirit. In John 1:31, John the Baptist claims that he did not know Jesus prior to His anointing of the Holy Spirit. It's too bad that John did not have a copy of Luke's Gospel handy. Luke 1:36 tells us that Mary (Jesus' mother) and Elizabeth (John the Baptist's mother) were related. Luke 1:39-45 goes on to say how the fetus of John the Baptist leaped in Elizabeth's womb when Mary spoke to her, and how Elizabeth knows that Mary is the mother of yet-to-be-born Jesus (as God). Then Luke 1:56 tells us that Mary stayed for three months with Elizabeth. Yet somehow the author of John expects us to believe that John the Baptist never met Jesus in the nearly 30 year timespan after that. While it is certainly possible, it seems implausible when you consider that Luke paints Elizabeth and Mary as having a tight relationship. After all, Elizabeth was the first person that Mary went to after finding out that she was going to have her holy child.

All of this contextual evidence supports the supposition of skeptics that at least parts of the story of Jesus were fabricated, if not the whole thing. The ill-fitting peg of John the Baptist's baptism was whittled down and glossed over in order to wedge it into the story of Jesus. The fact that the baptism story is similar in Matthew, Mark, and Luke suggests that they had early sources which they shared. The fact that John's Gospel skips the actual baptism and incongruently pieces together with Luke suggests that the story was evolving and developing in different locations which did not always have access to the same original sources.


  1. You are a fool, but not WISE.

  2. Hello Anonymous,

    It's unfortunate that you could provide no constructive feedback or defense to my claims. What is really sad is that you simply degraded yourself to name-calling.

    I'm not sure if you are Jewish or Christian, but if you are Christian, I should warn you that according to Matthew 5:22 you have just put yourself in peril of eternal damnation.

    Please feel free to contribute when you have some actual content. You don't have to agree, but you should at least state why you don't agree and defend it.