C. M. makes this insightful comment with questions:
In the first chapter of the Gospel of John, the apostle tells us that John the Baptist declares twice “I did not know Him,” referring to Jesus. In verse 26, he also states that John the Baptist told the priests and Levites that there stood one among them “whom you do not know.” To me, the most straightforward reading of this passage is that John the Baptist did not recognize Jesus, by sight, until God had revealed Him to him. Verse 34 reinforces this view, as John then testifies that he has seen the Son of God.
If this assumption is true, my question is this: Why was it so important for both Johns to emphasize that Jesus was unknown to the Baptist, as well as to the Pharisees? I have done some [limited] research on this passage, but no one seems to place much significance on the repetition of this declaration. However, to me it seems conscious and, therefore, important.
If my view is incorrect altogether, then please set me straight.
Also, if time permits, why does John omit the baptism of Jesus from his narrative? As a disciple of John the Baptist, would he not have likely witnessed the event?
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Talk about tough questions!
I do not think that JB was saying that he had never met Jesus before. After all, they were cousins. Most likely they had met. I think what he meant is that he did not know that Jesus is the Messiah until Jesus came to him to be baptized and he saw the Spirit descend upon Him like a dove. Likewise, some of the Pharisees might have known Jesus by name, but very few if any of them believed He is the Messiah before the start of His public ministry.
So, why mention this lack of knowledge that Jesus is the Messiah? I think it fits well with John’s evangelistic purpose (John 20:30-31). In John 1 he tells of a number of people who come to believe that Jesus is the Christ. That is what he wants the unbelieving readers to come to believe as well. JB is the greatest human witness to Jesus (1:19-36; 3:22-36).
Did John report on the baptism of Jesus by JB in John 1? I think the perceptive reader can infer that JB baptized Jesus from what John reports in John 1:25-28, 29-34. True, John does not explicitly say JB baptized Jesus. But even without reading the reports in the Synoptic Gospels, John’s readers can see that JB was baptizing (John 1:28) and that the very next day, presumably while he was still baptizing, he saw “Jesus coming toward him.” Verse 31 implies that JB baptized Jesus: “I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore, I came baptizing with water.”
A Wikipedia article (see here) says, “In the Gospel of John…Jesus’s baptism is implied but not depicted.” So, too, Robert Webb at Bible.org writes, “What may be observed in the Evangelist’s account is that the baptism is assumed to have occurred (v. 31), and John bears witness to the Spirit’s descending like a dove” (see here).
I agree that John the apostle was most likely a disciple of JB and that he writes about himself as one of the two disciples of JB going over to Jesus in John 1:35-42. So, yes, John would have witnessed JB baptizing Jesus.
Keep in mind that John’s Gospel is radically different from the Synoptic Gospels and that it includes many incidents they do not include and omits many incidents they do include. The reason is because John’s Gospel is evangelistic, and the other Gospels are not.
One of the keys to interpreting the Bible correctly is to ask good questions and then seek the answers from the context. C. M. asked good questions that showed careful observation of the text and meditating upon it. That is what we should all do.
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