Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | November 28, 2007

Do these events happen before, during or after the Baptism of Jesus? (Lesson 4: Question 8 Answer)

8.  Do these events happen before, during or after the Baptism of Jesus?

In this question we will be considering the timing and relationship of this passage in comparison with accounts from other parts of Scripture.  In order to do this we will be considering the final verses of our text in this lesson as follows:

32And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

As we consider these verses we note that John is making references to the baptism that Jesus under went, which is recorded in the other synoptic Gospels (Luke 3:21-22, Mark 1:9-13, and Matthew 3:13-17).  The other Gospels all agree that the Spirit descended from heaven like a dove during this event, which is precisely what John is referring too.  In reviewing this text an interesting observation can be made in verse 33 about the claim that John makes.  He indicates that it was revealed to him previously by the One who sent him, namely God, that this sign would mark the Messiah.  In question 3 of this lesson we noted that there was no biblical data that would suggest that John the Baptist performed any signs and wonders.  However, in this text we learn that as a prophet of God he did receive direct revelation from God about a future event.  Also, in this text we find that the emphasis of John the Baptist’s message remains Christocentric as we concluded in the previous question of this lesson.  We will continue examining our text as we consider the different options posed in this particular question.  In examining these options we will attempt to consider all the relevant data and indicate the implications of each position.  Let us clarify what we mean by the options presented in this question.  We are considering whether the events in this section starting at verse 29 happened before, during or after the baptism of Jesus recorded in the other synoptic Gospels.

The first option we will be considering is whether these events occurred prior to Jesus’ baptism.  At the outset we must concede that this option is probably the least likely to be accurate.  This is evident from the text we are considering in this question, which is referring to a past event.  All of the present Greek verbs in this text are non-indicative (except one), which usually bear the tense of the other verbs.  The only present tense indicative verb is found in verse 34: καγω εωρακα και μεμαρτυρηκα οτι ουτος εστιν ο υιος του θεου (And I have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.) We can see that this verb is making a statement about Jesus and not negating the context of the rest of the passage.  Moreover, in this verse there are two perfect verbs (εωρακα και μεμαρτυρηκα) in the sentence that are categorized as extensive perfects, which emphasize a completed action.80  There is one difficulty, however in rejecting this view that revolves around John’s statement in verse 33, “I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’  If we take this statement literally, especially the underlined portion, it presents a difficulty for us with Matthew’s account.  In Matthew’s account John the Baptist tries to prevent Jesus from being baptized, presumably because he “knew him”.  Even if we accepted that these events occurred prior to Jesus’ baptism we would still have difficulty with this passage.  So, how do we resolve it?  Well, it is reasonable for us suggest that John did know Jesus who was a relative.  His mother probably even told him that he had jumped in her womb when he encountered the unborn Jesus.  It would be highly suspect for some to assert that these things were not known to John.  Thus, we could submit that John’s statement in verse 33 (and 30) should not be taken literally, but in some other way.  John most likely knew Jesus and was aware that He might be the one, however was not certain.  Moreover, God had spoken to John and indicated that a sign would be revealed to expel all doubt as to who was the Messiah.  Thus, we could state that John probably had selected Jesus as the most likely candidate, but reserved making public proclamation of this fact until God revealed the sign to Him.  And when Jesus approached John for baptism he would have been hesitant to concede that his most likely candidate would need to repent of sin and undergo baptism as a symbol of this repentance.  We can then conclude that all evidence points to this event not occurring prior to Jesus’ baptism.

The second option we will be considering is the possibility that the events described within our text occurred the same day as the event described in the other Gospels.  For this option to be viable we advocate that verse 29 began immediately after or within the same day of the Jesus’ baptism occurring.  When John proclaims “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” it is apparent that all doubt had been cast out that Jesus was the Messiah.  In order to be consistent with verse 33, explained above, then verse 29 would had to have occurred after Jesus’ baptism.  A problem with this view is that the text we are considering in this question seems to be referring to an event (Jesus’ baptism) as something that had occurred in the past.  Moreover, it doesn’t seem to be necessary for John to provide so much background information for an event that had just transpired.  This does not necessarily provide strong support against the option.  We should also consider that these objections can be reconciled by the fact that John was speaking about Jesus’ baptism that happened earlier in the day to a crowd later in the day that was not present at the event.  Furthermore, John could have been so ecstatic by the experience of the event he was restating them with reverence and awe.  The larger problem with this view is that in our next passage, the apostle John accounts for the next three days of Jesus with the calling of His first disciples (verse 35, 39 and 43). Then the apostle indicates that the next day after this Jesus and the disciples attend the wedding of Cana.  Thus, this option can only remain viable if the apostle John is not using the term “next day” literally.

The third and final option we will be considering is that the events described within our text happened sometime after Jesus’ baptism.  At first glance this seems to be the most viable option of the three, however upon closer examination it also has problems with it.  In Mark’s account we learn that immediately after Jesus’ baptism He was led by the Spirit into the desert for 40 days of temptation.  This creates an apparent problem with our text between verses 19-28 and 29-34.  In verses 19-28 based on the context of the entire passage that John was not yet certain that Jesus was the Messiah (John 1:26-27).  And the next day (John 1:29) John makes the statements we have been considering in the last few questions of this lesson that make it evident that he had a level certainty that Jesus was the Messiah.  If these are both literal, then this does not allow enough time for Jesus to complete His testing in the desert of 40 days and remain in harmony with our text here in John’s Gospel.  Now it is certainly possible that Mark who uses the term “immediately” stylistically in his Gospel account did not literally mean in the next moment after Jesus’ baptism.  It is reasonable to assume that “immediately” is being used stylistically and that Jesus did not “immediately” leave the Jordan for several days.  It is also possible that the apostle John’s term “next day” is not to be interpreted literally in verse 29. Regardless, of which, one of these texts cannot be taken literally in order for this option to remain viable.

Let us recap the options and conclude with our answer to this question.  The first option, that the events in our text happened before Jesus’ baptism, is by far the weakest of the three.  The second option, the events in our text happened during the same day as Jesus’ baptism also has some major problems.  The third option, the events in our text happened after Jesus’ baptism, has a potentially big problem.  Although, this problem is only apparent it brings some serious question into its viability.  Nonetheless, in light of the other two options it seems to be the most reasonable and conducive to the chronology of all the texts.  The other Gospels all place Jesus’ temptation after His baptism, but prior to His public ministry and the calling of disciples.  We should then allow the clearer texts, in the other Gospels, to help us interpret the apostle John’s term “next day” of verse 29 stylistically in lieu of literally.  Based on the examination made above we would conclude with option three as the best response to our question.  Now that we have clarified the timing of our text relative to Jesus’ baptism we will conclude this lesson with a look at a theological implication of our text.

80 Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, (Grand Rapids, MI; Zondervan, 1996) p 577

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Responses

  1. Interesting post. I need to go back to question 3 but I’m looking forward to how you conclude with the theological implication.

  2. This was a difficult one. I did alot of head scratching to make sure I wasn’t missing something.

    I never knew that this challenge existed within the text. The analogy of faith was the only solution that I could appeal too.


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