John the Baptist

Who 'authorized' John to baptize anybody?

They [Jesus and the Apostles] came to Jerusalem again, and as Jesus was walking in the Temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, and they said to him, 'What authority have you for acting like this? Or who gave you authority to act like this?'

Jesus said to them. 'And I will ask you a question, just one; answer me and I will tell you my authority for acting like this. John's baptism, what was its origin, heavenly or human? Answer me that.'

And they argued this way among themselves, 'If we say heavenly, he will say, "Then why did you refuse to believe him?" But dare we say human?' - they had the people to fear, for everyone held that John had been a real prophet. So their reply to Jesus was, 'We do not know.' And Jesus said to them, 'Nor will I tell you my authority for acting like this.' Mark 11:27-33

Neither question is answered here. So where does John's authority come from?

In Luke 1:5-25, 57-80 we are given the unlikely story that John was the son of a priest named Zechariah and that the angel Gabriel told his father all about him.

Did Jesus practice baptism?

This is the only place in the Gospels that says Jesus ever baptised anybody.

After this, Jesus went with his disciples into the Judaean countryside and stayed with them there and baptised. John also was baptising at Aenon near Salim where there was plenty of water, and people were going there and were being baptised. For John had not yet been put in prison. John 3:22

There is no direct reference to Jesus himself baptising anyone.

The differences in their baptisms

I [John] have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit. Mark 1:8

The differences in their messages

John's message seems to be 'the end is near - repent to avoid the coming retribution'.

Jesus' message seems to be 'the end is near - join with me on a march to Jerusalem and get in on the ground floor of the new kingdom'.

Return to "Origins of Christianity"

(c) 2005 Thomas F. Swezey All rights reserved.