- Nov 2016
No one knows what the original message was. Before the message was written down it was distorted by numerous additions so that now all we have is a heterogeneous message, but it is impossible to know what part of the message is surviving original material and what is a later addition.
wasn't John the Baptist baptizing prior to the ministry of Jesus? If so how can the people being baptized at that time be called Christians?
Jesus has ´officially´ two fathers: Joseph and the Christian God. The former is not a biological father, but only fulfills the social function of a father. According to the narrative, the latter is the ´true´ father, who allows Jesus to be miraculously procreated by the Holy Spirit through the fertilization of the virgin Mary (who is probably 12 years old in the narrative).
Both, however, are father figures who occupy the position of a father of Jesus only in a limited way - Joseph as a non-biological father does practically not count, while ´God´ in its invisibility exercises the father role more symbolic than concrete-descriptive, at least in the eyes of those target groups of early Christians who first had to be convinced of the truth of the Christian message (which was a partial function of the Gospels).
Both father figures were therefore not enough to satisfy the psychological need for a father of Jesus. A third father figure was needed -- and that was John the Baptist. He accomplishes this task primarily through water baptism. This ritual has two functions. One is to cleanse the baptized from their previous sins. The other, more essential, is baptism as rebirth, see Jn 3:5: "born of water and the Spirit".
So Jesus, whether historical or fictional, was born again through John's baptism. The Baptist thus symbolically fulfils a father function and unites in his person what is missing in the two other father figures, i.e. a spiritual fatherhood, which is missing in Joseph, and physical presence, which is missing in ´God´. He is the third father of Jesus and completes the ´trinity of paternity´ perfectly.
Of course one can object here that a birth by water baptism cannot symbolize a father function, since a father begets, but does not give birth. This is certainly true, but there is an unconscious shift from a maternal to a paternal birth, what can also be seen in Gen 1:2, where the ruach (the Christian Holy Spirit) of ´God´ is "hovering" above the deep water, which can also be translated as ´fluttering´ in the sense of a mother bird fluttering above her eggs. According to Talmud Chagigah 15a, the fluttering of a dove is alluded to here.
The implicit bird mother metaphor in Gen 1:2 can be traced back to the Ancient Near Eastern association of the dove with the mother goddess, the goddess of heaven and the goddess of love. Some examples are the Syrian goddesses Astarte and Asherah and the Mesopotamian Ishtar. The Genesis water motif stems from the ancient Near Eastern association of female fertility and water as a result of the observation that human life arises in amniotic fluid. The combination of both symbolisms is most clearly embodied by the Persian goddess of fertility and love, Anahita, who is closely associated with water and the dove.
It is not surprising that the Holy Spirit flies down from the sky in the shape of a dove as Jesus gets baptized out of the water. Both ´ruach´ (Christian: Holy Spirit) and water und dove have female connotations: As for the ruach and the dove, this is demonstrated by Gen 1:2; as for water, see above the Ancient Near Eastern association of water and amniotic fluid.
So there is an unconscious shift from female bearing to male bearing, both in Gen 1:2 (where ´God´ in the form of his ruach is fluttering in a maternal mode above the water) and in the case of the Baptist, who acts as the spiritual father of Jesus and thus fills the gaps that the other father figures, Joseph and ´God´, have left.
The Baptist was sent according to Jn 1:6 from ´God´ to testify to Jesus, which happens in 1:34. In addition, the Baptist has heard the voice from heaven, which is not mentioned in Mk. In theological language, baptism is an ´anabase´ (turning to God) and the subsequent theophany (dove, voice) is a ´catabase´ (coming from God). The saying from heaven is composed of the first sentence of Psalm 2:7 ("You are my son") and Isaiah 42:1 (“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations").
Of course, it is much more likely that the text amalgam in Mk 1:11 is a composition of Mk or comes from an oral tradition (source Q) than originally from the Baptist. Nevertheless, the Baptist has a paternal function in this situation. I cited the parallelism of Gen 1:2, where the ruach of ´God´ floats above the water in birth mode, with a shift from female to male bearing taking place here. I can now give further arguments. Isaiah 48:1 says:
"Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and who came from the waters of Judah, who swear by the name of the LORD and confess the God of Israel, but not in truth or right."
"Came out of the waters of Judah" can be interpreted in two ways: metaphorically for amniotic fluid or metaphorically for male sperm. Note that in Hebrew ´water´ was also an euphemism for ´sperm´. It is interesting that according to Aristotle ´water and spirit´ are the components of semen. Jn 3:5 says, as already quoted above, that according to Jesus someone who enters the kingdom of God is born from ´water and the Spirit´.
Theologian Hugo Odeberg ("The Fourth Gospel") is one of those who take this ´water´ as a metaphor for semen and place it in a metonymical relationship with ´flesh´ in the next sentence 3:6: "Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit". Water as a metaphor for semen is used also in Jewish tradition (e.g. Niddah 16b).
All this shows that the water baptism by the Baptist in the case of Jesus symbolizes an act of fatherly procreation. The fact that the spiritual sonship of Jesus thus achieved is confirmed by the voice from heaven rounds off the interpretation of the scene as a spiritual paternal procreation carried out by the Baptist.