Is there a secret tradition that believes that John and not Jesus was the Messiah? Are the secret wars that lurk between the lines in the historical record the result of an age-old power struggle? Who was John the Baptist and who were his followers? More importantly, does his following exist to this day? Let's dig in and see if the truth isn't hiding in plain sight...
The Gospel of Mark- generally believed to be the earliest of the four gospels in the New Testament- begins, not with Jesus, but with John, son of Zechariah and Elisabeth, better known as ‘John the Baptist’ :
Even as it is written in Isaiah the prophet, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, Who shall prepare thy way. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make ye ready the way of the Lord, Make his paths straight;Despite what some Christians may believe, the author known as Mark was not a journalist, he was a propagandist in the truest sense of the word. He was seeking to propagate the Jesus cult. Not only was Mark competing with the multitude of Jewish, Pagan and Solar cults, he was competing with other Jesus factions.
John came, who baptized in the wilderness and preached the baptism of repentance unto remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the country of Judaea, and all they of Jerusalem; And they were baptized of him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. And John was clothed with camel's hair, and had a leathern girdle about his loins, and did eat locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, There cometh after me he that is mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I baptized you in water; But he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit.- Mark 1:2-8 ASV
The problem Mark faced is that in their own time John the Baptist was a much more popular figure in Palestine than Jesus. So after John baptizes Jesus, he is dispensed with by Mark (and by his follower Matthew), until he is executed.
On the other hand, the Gospel writer Luke seems to be aware that he is writing for a people that believed that John, and not Jesus, was the Messiah. Some believed that Luke was writing before the fall of Jerusalem and before the death of the Apostle Paul, and that a first draft might have been produced circa 64 AD. Therefore the first chapter of Luke acknowledges the supremacy of John in his audience’s mind by telling his story first.
Luke 1:5-25 tells the miraculous story of John’s birth to the Temple priest Zechariah and his barren wife, Elisabeth. The angelic announcement of the John’s activity is identical to Jesus’:
“And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.Luke then has Mary visit Elisabeth in order that the well-known figure of Elisabeth can bestow her blessings on the lesser-known Mary. Of course, Elisabeth is clearly subservient to Mary in Luke’s telling. Humorously, John’s subservience to Jesus apparently is prenatal:
Luke 1:11-14 (ASV)
And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. Luke 1:43-44 (ASV)The first chapter ends with John’s birth and with Zechariah’s song of praise for the miraculous nativity, and John’s subservient role in relationship to the coming messiah. Somehow overlooked by the so-called “Biblical Literalists” is that Zechariah’s view of the coming messiah (whom he does not name) is unmistakably and unambiguously Solar:
And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;Luke takes up the story of John the Baptist again in chapter 3, after establishing Jesus’ bona fides in chapter 2. Here, Luke must remind his audience of John’s messianic prophecy using John’s own words:
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
Luke 1: 76-79 (NIV)
And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. Then came also publicans (tax collectors) to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you.Luke’s account here ends with John being imprisoned (Luke 3:20). The last we hear of John in the Gospel of Luke is an offhand remark by Herod, referring to John’s execution. (Luke 9:7-8)
And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages. And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not;
John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable. - Luke 3: 7-17 ASV
Three vitally important facts come to light in the story of John’s ministry in Luke.
- First, John’s communistic teachings are remarkably similar to Jesus’, leading many scholars to believe that Jesus was one of John’s disciples.
- Next again note, as with Zecharias that John’s view of the coming Christ is Solar- John baptizes with water, but the Christ does so with fire. This brings to mind the baptism by fire Isis performed with Queen Astarte’s son to grant him immortality, as chronicled by Plutarch: “They relate that Isis nursed the child by giving it her finger to suck instead of her breast, and in the night she would burn away the mortal portions of its body." - Plutarch , “Isis and Osiris”, Moralia, 357B
- Most importantly, note that John does not identify Jesus as the coming messiah in the Book of Luke. This is remarkable for a Gospel story, and is in direct contradiction to the accounts of Matthew and John. It’s also vitally important here to note that Luke makes reference to John’s ministry being in the spirit and power of Elijah. (Lk 1:16)
The fact that a Christian propagandist could resist the urge to insert Jesus’ name into Zechariah’s and John’s distinctly Solar prophecies is in itself evidence of a well-known corpus of Johannine literature in the First Century.
TO BE CONTINUED