Is John the Baptist THE most significant religious innovator in religion, ever?  Here James McGrath (  James F. McGrath – Wikipedia  ) continues with the second of his three controversial posts on John the Baptist: the first few sentence remind you of the basic claim and the books in which he develops it — the rest expands his views for us.  What do you think?


John the Baptist was probably the most significant religious innovator in the history of religion. We’ve failed to see this because of the extent that he has been overshadowed by his followers. This is perhaps the most important point made in my new books Christmaker: A Life of John the Baptist (Eerdmans, June 2024) and John of History, Baptist of Faith: The Quest for the Historical Baptizer (the latter due out in October). In this three-part series I offer an overview of John’s influence based on and incorporating some material from Christmaker so that readers of this blog can get a sense of what awaits them in these books, especially the biography which will be out very soon and which is aimed at a general audience.

Part 2: John’s Further Ripples

John’s influence on Christianity, Gnosticism, and Islam has been underplayed (as we saw in yesterday’s post about my research on John the Baptist, being published this year in my books Christmaker and John of History, Baptist of Faith). His impact on other strands of Jewish history has been overlooked almost entirely. Rabbinic sources mention “morning immersers” or “daily bathers” who sound like they had a practice like that which John promoted. Ancient Christian authors also mention “daily baptizers” as one of the Jewish sects, and the Pseudo-Clementine literature says John was associated with that movement. To this day, there are Jews in the Hasidic tradition who immerse themselves before prayers in keeping with that ancient tradition that may well reflect John’s impact. Whether the development was embracing what John promoted or reacting to it by offering an alternative doesn’t matter. Either way, John was a decisive influence.

The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus mentions not only John and Jesus but a series of other similar figures who came along later in the first century. Modern scholars have long made a habit of discussing them when trying to contextualize John and Jesus. They are frequently grouped together under the heading “sign prophets.” What needs to be recognized is that we need not only to compare these figures to John but to connect them to John. To return to some more recent historical figures that we mentioned, when Martin Luther King Jr. began utilizing in the United States the same methods that Mohandas Gandhi had put to such effective use in India, a historian who did not have evidence of deliberate emulation would still be justified in positing influence. In the same way, when figure after figure appears on the scene among the Jews and Samaritans doing things similar to John and Jesus, we must posit influence, deliberate emulation, or both.

"This is a creative, wide-ranging exploration that weaves together the Gospels and later writings to present a fresh view of John the Baptist. McGrath takes the reader on a journey to re-imagine a man who was not only the 'Christmaker' but also an influential prophet in his own right." - Joan Taylor, King's College, London

The earliest of the individuals mentioned by Josephus is a Samaritan who appeared in AD 36 (Jewish Antiquities 18.4.1) and led a group to Mount Gerizim, their place of worship, claiming that when they did so, sacred vessels hidden there by Moses would be revealed. Pontius Pilate sent troops and killed many of the group, including the leader. About a decade later, in AD 46, an individual called Theudas, whose name likely meant “flowing with water,” called people with him to the Jordan, saying he would divide it, as Elijah and then Elisha had done (Jewish Antiquities 20.5.1). The Roman procurator Fadus sent troops, killed many of the group, and after apprehending Theudas had him beheaded, just as John had been. Fast-forward another decade, and we find several individuals during the period while Felix was in charge, including one who led a group into the wilderness in expectation of signs, and another who came from Egypt, claimed to be a prophet, and led a group to the Mount of Olives saying that the walls of Jerusalem would fall at his command. A couple of others could be mentioned, but these will suffice as the figures about whom we are provided with the most details."Based on an impressive array of sources, including Mandaean texts, this fresh new volume quests for the historical Baptist, assiduously builing on prior work in a readable volume of modern scholarship." - Claire K. Rothschild, Lewis University

When we see how many similarities and points of connection with John (and Jesus, and Simon Magus) there are, only one conclusion is justified. These are not coincidentally similar expressions of some prevailing spirit of the age but figures associated with John’s movement who believed that they were destined to be the “stronger one” of whom John spoke. The earliest of them may have had a direct connection with John. Those who came later may have arisen from the next generation of the movement. After Jesus seemed for all intents and purposes to have failed to do the things expected of the coming one, others in John’s movement considered that perhaps they were the one to play that role. It is likely that, when the New Testament authors speak of many who will come saying “I am he” and of figures who say “he is in the wilderness,” they are warning about such figures, insisting that Jesus will be shown to be the one after all, and it is important to remain true to him (Mark 13:6; Matt. 24:26). Taken together, we get a sense of what the prediction of John most likely had in view, to have inspired these other figures.

This is why I titled my popular book Christmaker. John was an influence on Jesus, even if we have no evidence that he singled him out definitively as his successor. Either way, John inspired many others to believe they were “the one.” All of this led to the destruction of the temple in the year 70, which is perhaps fitting since it was while still part of John’s movement that Jesus predicted that he (whether meaning he himself, John, or God) would destroy the temple and build another to replace it. John’s offer of forgiveness through immersion challenged the temple. The ongoing impact of those he influenced brought about its destruction, even if not directly.

In light of all this we should think about John very differently than has become typical. In the final post in this series I’ll offer some suggestions on what a revised portrait of John ought to look like.

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2024-05-27T14:58:07-04:00May 29th, 2024|Public Forum|

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  1. Lev May 29, 2024 at 8:20 am

    “John’s offer of forgiveness through immersion challenged the temple.”

    I think this is a really important point – do you develop this further in your book?

    I note that the Qumran community believed they could immerse themselves for the atonement of sins. Do you see a connection between John and those at Qumran (as Joel Marcus does)?

    • ReligionProf May 29, 2024 at 9:04 am

      I do explore this in a lot of detail in the book(s)! The Qumran community viewed themselves as being a temple in a way that allowed them to cope with not being able to participate in the Jerusalem temple, where they felt that sacrifice and other things were not being carried out in the manner they need to be nor by priests of the appropriate lineage. That seems a rather different outlook than John’s free offer of forgiveness through repentance and immersion. There are interesting points of intersection with the Qumran scrolls but also significant differences, and so as much as I would have liked to be able to harness the Dead Sea Scrolls to inform my portrait of John in a more direct way, I think that the combination of similarities and differences suggest that John was not part of that group, although he may have been in conversation with the wider Essene movement and even shared some of their ideas.

      • Lev May 29, 2024 at 11:52 am

        Many thanks for your response, Prof McGrath. I look forward to reading your books.

        In Mark’s baptism scene, the Spirit is said to have descended into (εἰς) the body of Jesus. Perhaps this is behind Jesus’ belief his body served as a temple of God (Mk14:58, 15:29, cf: Jn2:21), as he believed God was now dwelling within his body?

        If that is correct, this appears to be another theological connection with Qumran, given that they, as you point out, believed God was dwelling within them (“sanctuary of men” 4Q174,1:6). If John wasn’t connected with Qumran, how remarkable is this coincidence? Do we see this belief, that human bodies could act as temples of God, elsewhere?

        • ReligionProf May 29, 2024 at 6:11 pm

          Keep in mind that the Essenes and Christians are the only groups that we have this sort of literature from in the first century. Being indwelt with God’s Spirit is very much a Jewish idea, with roots in their scriptural texts. The Pharisees’ emphasis on keeping temple purity in their meals (if Sanders and others are correct about that) may also indicate the treatment of the community as akin to a temple.

  2. jackaltwinky77 May 29, 2024 at 10:09 am

    I notice your usage of “The Baptizer,” which is what Dr James Tabor also calls John.
    Are you familiar with Dr Tabor’s excavation where he claims to have found the cave of John’s Baptism?
    And do you agree with his assessment?

    • ReligionProf May 29, 2024 at 6:13 pm

      That the Suba Cave on which Shimon Gibson and James Tabor have worked and published has some sort of connection with John the Baptist’s movement is plausible, but I have not seen evidence that it was connected with John himself. John’s movement splintered multiple times. Think of the Elchasaites, a Christian group yet one that stood closer to John’s precise practices in certain respects than what became the predominant form of Christianity.

  3. sberry May 29, 2024 at 3:23 pm

    Re: “All of this led to the destruction of the temple in the year 70, which is perhaps fitting since it was while still part of John’s movement that Jesus predicted that he (whether meaning he himself, John, or God) would destroy the temple and build another to replace it.”

    Does this conclusion presume that Jesus really predicted the temple’s destruction before his death around the year 30? Would this conclusion still be true if the author of Mark put those words in Jesus’s mouth after the destruction happened?

    • ReligionProf May 29, 2024 at 4:57 pm

      It seems unlikely that the accusation that he said “I will destroy this temple made with hands and in three days build another not made with hands” would have been invented by Mark, only to insist that even though two witnesses came forward and testified that Jesus said this, somehow even so their testimony did not agree. This saying was a liability in the period before the temple was destroyed, and there were efforts to deny Jesus said it, rework it, and/or reinterpret it throughout our sources, including the Gospel of Thomas.

  4. Em.Freedman May 29, 2024 at 6:07 pm

    Hi Dr Ehrman

    Do scholars of jurisprudence ever intersect into biblical scholarship?

    Thank you!

    • ReligionProf May 30, 2024 at 3:45 am

      I’m not sure that Dr. Ehrman will see your comment on this guest post, so you might want to ask your question on one that he wrote!

      • Em.Freedman May 30, 2024 at 7:31 am

        Thank you.

        Thank you also for the article. I found it so fascinating!

      • Em.Freedman May 30, 2024 at 7:31 am

        Thank you.

        Thank you also for the article. I found it so fascinating!

  5. apmorgan May 29, 2024 at 9:23 pm

    Calling John “the most significant religious innovator” is a bold claim, not least because the list of candidates must depend on one’s preconception of what constitutes religion and religious innovation. A full survey would need to consider figures from Pythagoras to Buddha.

    I also find it striking that you think John did, in fact, speak of a “stronger one”, when that sounds a lot like the kind of thing someone would make up.

    • ReligionProf May 30, 2024 at 3:44 am

      That John pointed to Jesus and predicted the Lamb of God seems like the kind of thing Christians would invent, and they did. The mismatch of Jesus to John’s language about the stronger one, on the other hand, was a problem for them.

  6. dankoh May 30, 2024 at 12:33 pm

    Judaism is not, with a few exceptions, an ascetic religion. One of those exceptions is the Essenes, and John the Baptist was associated with them for a while, though he never became an initiate. What is your thinking about the possibility, if any, that Essene asceticism influenced Christian asceticism (with the recognition that the Stoic influence on Paul may have been an major influence)? And if so, was John one of the ways through which this influence traveled?

    • ReligionProf May 30, 2024 at 3:08 pm

      You are assuming rather than demonstrating that John the Baptist was associated with the Essenes. That idea goes back to before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and primed those who studied them to notice connections. And there are indeed intersections, but no more so than between Jesus and the Pharisees, yet that doesn’t require Jesus to have been a Pharisee for a time.

      Locusts (meat) and honey (sweet) are not normally associated with asceticism. It seems more likely that the significance is God’s provision for him during a period in the wilderness.

      • dankoh May 31, 2024 at 1:42 pm

        Well, I took this idea from Charlesworth, who does offer some backing for the idea, though I also note that his evidence has been questioned. Even so, I don’t think locusts is so easily divorced from asceticism. It’s a cheap source of protein and not very filling. I also see a BYU article (2011) suggesting scholarly disagreement on whether John was ever involved with the Essenes (and/or Qumran specifically), as well as Baumgarten’s 2022 implication that this may have been possible.

        So while I don’t know that I can defend the idea, I still think it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.

        In the meantime, let me put it another way: Given that Essene views were known well enough for Josephus to comment on them decades later, can we find any possible relationship between their asceticism and Christian asceticism?

        • ReligionProf May 31, 2024 at 9:16 pm

          Oh, it is definitely not beyond the realm of possibility. If there is a strong similarity between the Essenes and Christianity I would say it is in the formation of what Christians came to call monastic communities, with rules to govern their life and routine. I can’t recall which book I listened to as an audiobook that really dug into this. It may have been Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls: Revealing the Jewish Roots of Christianity by John Bergsma.

          • dankoh May 31, 2024 at 9:37 pm

            That’s a connection I hadn’t considered, but I have a problem with it. The earliest records that I know of for monastic communities is around the 3rd century, but even if it’s 2nd century, that’s still long past the time the Essenes disappeared. Also, the Essenes were not quite monastic, in that only some of the community (the elders) were supposed to be celibate. I’ve heard some arguments that Qumran was male only, but there were a few (very few) female skeletons found buried there.

            For ordinary Essenes, sex was allowed, but only between a married couple and only until the woman was known to be pregnant. Sex during pregnancy or after menopause was grounds for expulsion. That sounds to me more like what early Church fathers were urging their secular flock to follow.

          • ReligionProf May 31, 2024 at 9:51 pm

            Indeed. Hence my emphasis that there are similarities yet also differences between Christians and Essenes and between John the Baptist and Essenes. They may have shared emphases in common but that is not necessarily a basis for concluding that there was direct overlap rather than a shared milieu or selective borrowing by outsiders.

  7. Serene May 31, 2024 at 2:40 am

    You are generous with responding to us, thank you Professor McGrath.

    The Qumran Essenes had honey (sweet) and chicken (meat); they lived so well some researchers thought they discovered a Roman Villa. in the First Century vegetarianism just meant no red meat.

    And I thiiink John the Baptizer/Jesus exalted running water, unlike mikvehs. Living Water. (This is before you could buy Alkaline Water.)

    That’s the centerpiece of the spiritual city of Petra, Jerusalem’s neighbor. They had a 144-foot long pool with hydraulics to keep it in circulation, for a big air quotes “Unknown Spiritual Ceremony”.

    With non-desert vegetation it fulfills Isaiah like the Temple of Onias did for Egypt. Their buildings were designed to capture the Winter Solstice, a feature of a Qumran wall, too.

    My Q today — What are your thoughts on the war that avenges John the Baptist?

    “Herod the tetrarch makes war with Aretas, the King of Arabia; and is beaten by him. As also concerning the death of John the Baptist.”

    It starts over the Arab Queen of Galilee fleeing husband/Edomite Herod Antipas. Noteworthy is that the Book of Isaiah, “The Fifth Gospel” does not like Edomites.

    What side would John the Baptist be on?

    • ReligionProf May 31, 2024 at 5:43 am

      Yes, one of the Mandaean emphases is baptism in living (flowing) water, and one of their major criticisms of Christianity is the practice of baptizing in cut-off water.

      When we put Josephus and the Gospel of Mark together, we get the clear sense that John criticized Herod Antipas for divorcing his first wife, Aretas’ daughter, treating her so badly that it sparked war between the two. One of the places that Aretas conquered was Antipas’ fortress at Machaerus, which is where Josephus says that John was executed. It would have been natural for people to think that this defeat involving the place where John had been executed was a sign that God was punishing Antipas.

  8. uberbeek May 31, 2024 at 7:27 am

    Thanks for the guest post! I’m wondering how your two recent books about John the Baptist are related. Perusing their descriptions, they appear to overlap considerably. Is one intended for a scholarly audience and the other for a popular audience? Are they actually about two distinct but related aspects of his life? I’m curious why there are two books instead of one big book, and I’m also trying to decide which one to read.

    • ReligionProf May 31, 2024 at 8:02 am

      Great question! I actually wrote something for Ancient Jew Review on that very topic. To put it succinctly, Christmaker is a biography of John the Baptist, seeking to tell his story for a general audience. John of History, Baptist of Faith doesn’t try to tell John’s story but digs into the key questions that underpin my telling of John’s story. There are chapters on topics like the usefulness of Mandaean sources in the quest for the historical John, prayers of John the Baptist in Christian (especially Syriac) and Mandaean sources, the Mandaean account of Jesus’ baptism, the origins of Gnosticism in light of Mandaean sources, and other details, with a lot of engagement with primary source material. So they are very different books. I have in the past tried to write accessible scholarly books and feel I tended to include more information than most general readers want while having the tone and amount of detail in the text not always be what scholars expect. I found writing two clearly distinct books to be better and if I have a similar sort of project I will likely do this again!

      My suggestion would be to get Christmaker and then you have plenty of time to decide whether you want to dig deeper into some of the details and if so whether to get the larger monograph or to ask your local library to get it. (I appreciate your recommending both books to your local public library either way!)

      I hope you enjoy reading Christmaker and that you’ll let me know what you think of it!

  9. sberry June 1, 2024 at 1:26 pm

    Thanks for the response to my question about Jesus’ prediction of the Temple destruction in Mark. Your response is that the prediction was a liability before the destruction happened. What evidence do we have that either: (1) the prediction was made before Mark wrote about it, or (2) any “liability” manifested?

    • ReligionProf June 1, 2024 at 1:56 pm

      When Mark mentions it, he attributes it to false witnesses (of whom there were two as required by law yet who nonetheless in some way allegedly disagreed). Matthew changes it to “I am able.” Luke drops it (although Stephen in Acts faces the same accusation). John acknowledges Jesus said it but rewords it and turns it into a prediction of the resurrection while acknowledging that no one who heard Jesus say those words in the temple would have understood him to be referring to “the temple of his body.” Every source that mentions it is doing damage control.

  10. petrejo June 1, 2024 at 8:06 pm

    Aha! You have included the idea that JBap was a threat to the Temple tradition of (expensive) animal sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins, because JBap offered simple (inexpensive) immersion for the same purpose.

    JBap was in direct competition with the Temple, according to this. Now I must read your book.

    In this vein, also, Jesus also took it upon himself to forgive sins. This was also in direct competition with the Temple’s animal sacrifice business. Perhaps Jesus was inspired by JBap in this activity.

  11. Serene June 1, 2024 at 8:07 pm

    I didn’t know that the Mandaeans discussed this difference! Thank you Professor McGrath.

    …”They have forsaken me,
    the fountain of living waters,
    and hewed out cisterns for themselves”… Jeremiah 2:17

    …”He will lead them to springs of living water”… Revelation 7:17

    So in The Age Before Pool Chlorine, stagnant water — especially where masses immerse together, like Roman baths and mikva‘ot — could have high parasite loads, but the *elite East* had germ theory by the 3rd millenium BCE.

    We all know germ theory is an opinion, right?

    I also did not know that Aretas conquered Machareus! Why do you think scholars never talk about this war happening during John and Jesus’ mission? Like, “Why was Herod Antipas anticipating a mass rebellion led by John the Baptist?”

    Using roles for proper names like the Gospels and DSS seems normal for a polemic.

    My hypothesis: Jesus’ dad is Aretas IV via Babylonian Talmud Ketubot 3b on Lords seeking *engaged Jewish virgins*. Aretass’ god is Obodas Theos, a King ancestor cult (father) . Du‘Shara would be “Of King” statuary, making it not an idol.
    (Maybe Book of Kings-related.)

    Epiphanius puts Nasoreans (pre-Mandaeans) in the Bashan, where troops flip to Aretas’ side.

  12. Robert June 1, 2024 at 8:10 pm

    James McGrath: “the Mandaean account of Jesus’ baptism”

    Please tells us more about the Mandaean account of Jesus’ baptism. I’ve followed your blog for many years and very much appreciate your approach and perspective, but don’t recall ever hearing about this.

    A second question if I may: I’ve heard that some Christian Baptists have implausibly tried to trace their historical origins back to John the Baptist/Baptizer. Does that resonate with your own religious affiliation in any way, even if only as part of a symbolic personal mythology? Apologies if that is too personal of a question!

    • ReligionProf June 1, 2024 at 8:15 pm

      I haven’t heard anyone in my church or denomination try to claim that John the Baptist is our founder or anything like that!

      As for the Mandaean account of John baptizing Jesus, start by taking a look at chapter 30 of the Mandaean Book of John and let me know what you think of it!

      • Robert June 15, 2024 at 7:59 am

        Wow, I have no idea what to make of that passage in the Mandaen Book of John, except a negative if somewhat ambiguous view of Jesus.

        As for some Baptists claiming descent from John the Baptist, see, eg, the entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica:

        “Some Baptists believe that there has been an unbroken succession of Baptist churches from the days of John the Baptist and the Apostles of Jesus Christ.”

  13. TimOBrien June 2, 2024 at 1:18 pm

    What is known about the life of the “Historical Baptizer” before his most history-making baptism — specifically WRT any prior connection he had with Jesus?

    The author of Luke devotes his entire first chapter to a detailed account of their direct kinship. But does any other, non-derivative, source corroborate this (frankly, implausible) claim, or is it unique to this gospel?

    If historical, what explains Luke’s curiously detached account — “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized…” (Lk 3.21) — of their adult reunion? Why does he make no mention of the blood relationship that he so extensively documented in his opening chapter?

    Do you, perhaps, share Prof. Ehrman’s view that Luke’s gospel originally began at what is now chapter 3 — making our first two chapters (1, establishing the bona fides of John the Baptist, and 2, Jesus’ birth to a virgin mother far from his hometown of Nazareth) a post hoc prologue that was inserted into the narrative, whether by this or a different author, sometime *after* the original composition was already in circulation?

    The other canonical accounts of the baptism of Jesus certainly don’t inspire confidence in Luke’s assertion about their having a familial relationship…

    • ReligionProf June 2, 2024 at 4:57 pm

      The family relationship is only in Luke and so historically uncertain. Luke clearly takes pains to distance Jesus’ baptism from the direct action of John to avoid the otherwise clear implication that Jesus joined John’s movement (which everyone nonetheless would have known to be the case). Whether the author or a later redactor was responsible, the first two chapters incorporate material from a source about John the Baptist and narrate similar things about Jesus in parallel so as to connect Jesus with him and make room for Jesus to become the focus of attention in what was originally John’s movement, as we also see happening at times in Acts.

  14. TimOBrien June 2, 2024 at 1:21 pm

    The fact that the ministry of Jesus began with his baptism (“for the forgiveness of sin” 😳), though manifestly embarrassing, was presumably too widely known to be ignored.

    But the other gospels mention *no* prior (much less, blood-) relationship between John and Jesus.

    Mark provides the unvarnished statement: “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.” (Mk 1:9)

    Matthew says: “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him” (Mt 3:13) — not only neglecting to mention of any previous connection, but actually adding a prefatory disclaimer in a mitigating (albeit incomprehensible) exchange between the two. (Mt 3:14-15)

    The Gospel of John directly contradicts this possibility by stating that the Baptist only recognized the long-awaited Messiah by divine revelation — quoting him as explicitly saying: “I myself did not know him…” (Jn 1:31)

    If the gospel authors were aware of a preexisting relationship between the Baptist and the Messiah, none of them even acknowledges it (including Luke BTW, whose own baptism account seems, at best, to be at cross purposes with his introduction.)

    Isn’t it more likely that these two, apocalyptic preachers had worked together for years before beginning separate ministries?

    • ReligionProf June 2, 2024 at 4:59 pm

      I’m not sure that Jesus had a separate ministry. After John was imprisoned, Jesus regrouped John’s disciples and attracted still others. It was those aligned with Jesus who eventually felt the need to emphasize that however great John may have been, Jesus was greater still.

    • Zhongqing Zhu June 17, 2024 at 10:15 am

      In some area of China, if a person starts producing a certain product and it sells well, his relatives and those around them will start learning and producing similar products, and soon this area will become the largest production area for this type of products.

      Similarly, it is evident that religious activities in Israel during the time of Jesus were very developed, for example, there were two religious teams, Jesus and John the Baptist, at a very close distance; Jesus was able to organize a team of more than ten people in a relatively short period of time and had high skills in playing tricks (which could only be achieved in highly commercialized society at that time).

      This indicates that people at that time were likely to view religious activities as a commercial form and organized teams to carry out religious activities to make money.

      That is to say, Jesus and John the Baptist were business partners, division of labor, and collaborators.

      It is possible that Jesus’ career was learning from John the Baptist, or it is also possible that their careers were all learning from other teams. There were many learning objects in a highly commercialized society.

  15. galah June 5, 2024 at 6:02 pm

    Professor McGrath

    You stated that the people “felt that sacrifice and other things were not being carried out in the manner they need to be nor by priests of the appropriate lineage.”
    Was it because they were hand picked by the Romans, and loyalty to them?

    • ReligionProf June 5, 2024 at 7:01 pm

      Even before that there was the jostling for the priesthood in the run up to the crisis under Antiochus Epiphanes, and then the assumption of the role by the Hasmoneans who were not of Zadokite lineage themselves.

  16. galah June 5, 2024 at 8:02 pm

    So isn’t it safe to say that the people bypassed the temple’s corrupt priests and turned to John in their search for a messiah who would liberate them from the Romans. Wasn’t that really their main interest?

    • ReligionProf June 5, 2024 at 9:03 pm

      We have no way of knowing how many people viewed the priests as corrupt or desired liberation from the Romans. The peoples of that region had always been vassals of larger empires. The brief independent Jewish entity created by the Hasmoneans showed some other possibilities yet in a form at odds with any Davidic messianism. John was not obviously anti-Roman, and his emphasis on socioeconomic justice would have resonated more deeply with ordinary people, I suspect.

  17. galah June 6, 2024 at 10:35 am

    Those large empires rose out of troubled waters.

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