Saturday, May 22, 2010

John the Baptist, The Secret Messiah: Part 2

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? Read part one of this series here.

There is also a curious juxtaposition of events in Luke concerning Jesus’ baptism: John is imprisoned before Jesus is baptized:
But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison.

Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased. Luke 3: 19-22 ASV
Luke never says who Jesus is baptized by, nor does he make reference to John’s response to such a momentous divine event. Jesus is simply another adherent among many others. Was it known then that Jesus was actually baptized by one of John’s disciples?

The chronology of John’s arrest and his conspicuous absence at Jesus’ Baptism is directly contradicted in Mark’s account, who has John imprisoned immediately following Jesus’ baptism:
And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And immediately the spirit driveth him into the wilderness. And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him. Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God. - Mark 1:9-14 KJV
Yet, notice here that Jesus himself- and not John- witnessed Jesus’ epiphany. If John had witnessed it, it might have been mentioned in the extant Johannine literature. Mark makes no mention of John’s obeisance to Jesus during Jesus’ baptism, nor does Mark name Jesus as John's coming messiah.

This omission is evidence that Mark and Luke were written earlier than Matthew and John, respectively, and were possibly circulated at a time when John’s teachings and reputation were still well known. It is believed early versions of Mark date from before the Fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE.

Many Biblical scholars date Matthew during the late first century and John in the early second century 3 , that is after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE and the dispersal of the great bulk of the Jews. It is not until the non-synoptical Gospel of John that the potentially compromising baptism narrative is rewritten to have John bear witness to the epiphany:
These things were done in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. On the morrow he seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man who is become before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not; but that he should be made manifest to Israel, for this cause came I baptizing in water.

And John bare witness, saying, I have beheld the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven; and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize in water, he said unto me, Upon whomsoever thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and abiding upon him, the same is he that baptizeth in the Holy Spirit. And I have seen, and have borne witness that this is the Son of God. - John 1:29-34 ASV
Why was none of this mentioned in Luke, who seems to be very familiar with the actual teachings of John? Might this be unwitting testimony that there was still lingering doubts as to John’s prophecy of this Jesus as the coming Christ?

It also directly contradicts a passage in Luke, where even after Jesus’ baptism, John seems of unsure of Jesus’ divinity and from his prison cell sends a messenger to inquire whether or not he is the Christ:
And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to the Lord, saying, Art thou he that cometh, or look we for another? And when the men were come unto him, they said, John the Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that cometh, or look we for another? - Luke 7: 18-20 ASV
Again, in the Gospel of John there is no such uncertainty. But if Luke was writing for an audience familiar with the teachings of the Baptist, this issue would need to be addressed. There may well have been an opinion amongst the Baptist’s still-extant following that the Nazarene was a false prophet in John’s eyes.

It is highly likely that much of the Johannine literature was destroyed-perhaps during the seige of Jerusalem. Matthew essentially rewrites Mark’s account, adding a few editorial flourishes, most notably John’s protest that Jesus ought to be baptizing him.

And the question remains, why would Jesus need to be baptized at all? He was, according to his disciples, without sin. John Dominic Crossan notes that Jesus’ propagandists were “clearly uneasy wth the idea of John baptizing Jesus’ because that seems to make John superior and Jesus sinful.” Hence Matthew and John would revert to what Crossan calls “theological damage control.”

The legendary Jewish historian Josephus makes clear that John’s reputation among the Jews was such that the Roman onslaught and the destruction of the Temple was retribution from God, not for the execution of Jesus, but, for the execution of John. Speaking here of John, Josephus writes:
And when others massed about him, for they were very greatly moved by his words, Herod, who feared that such strong influence over the people might carry to a revolt -- for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise -- believed it much better to move now than later have it raise a rebellion and engage him in actions he would regret.

And so John, out of Herod's suspiciousness, was sent in chains to Machaerus, the fort previously mentioned, and there put to death; but it was the opinion of the Jews that out of retribution for John God willed the destruction of the army so as to afflict Herod.
Josephus obviously finds John to be much more noteworthy than Jesus. Josephus’ only reference to Jesus is a single paragraph (Jewish Antiquities, 18.3.3 line 63), which most experts agree was embellished by an embarrassed Christian copyist.

Was John thought to be the Christ by the pre-Diaspora Jews?



  1. I have never read that Mark passage before, but while reading it, I felt like I was reading a description of a payote induced "spirit quest." Right after he is "baptized" he sees the sky open up and runs into the wilderness to meet angels and demons among the totemic animals. After testing himself and wrestling with his darkness, he comes back to tell the world that he's seen the kingdom of god.

    "And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And immediately the spirit driveth him into the wilderness. And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him. Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God."

    Was John so popular because he had a substance that actually could perform miracles? Were these guys purveyors of hallucinogens?

    I read the Book of Revelations a few years back (when they wanted me to do that 2012 "doomsday" book) and couldn't help but notice that Wormwood "drops" before things go a bit wacky, there are a rapid succession of visions, and the man has a "revelation."

    Here's the debate on the pyschoactivity of Wormwood from Erowid:

  2. Interesting series Chris. The questions you start with regarding the possibility of John being regarded as the true messiah and the resultant secret power struggle I've been considering for some time. I used to think that these counter-cultural currents we swim in in the realms of conspiracy theory (conspiratainment), occult fascination, synchromysticism, Fortean weirdness, and what some are attempting to christen the "Alternative Research Community," etc, etc, are the continuation in miniature, diminished in size and scope over time, of the ancient, bloody orthodoxy vs. heterodoxy battles of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance especially (though it has much deeper roots).
    I kind of viewed this fight as a last gasp holdover, an anachronism, an oddity only just kept alive with severely limited existential and ontological resources.
    It all seems to be straight up toe-to-toe between the orthodox Christian right conspiracy field and the Gnostic/Neo-Platonic liberal left reality tunnellers in many ways in our little subculture. It's kind of obvious, yeah, but I think there's something so real and vital about this battle that I'm quite mesmerized by it all.

    Then I thought after reading your two recent articles:

    "What if this is the front line of that war and the ostensible size of the factions in the fight are irrelevant to the true dimensions of the battle inside this "ARC Arena"? A bit like The Doctor's Tardis, it's bigger on the inside....

    the inside being the motherlode feeding the memestream."

    The massive battle that is raging right now in your US of A between the Right and the Left could be the shadow cast by this skirmish, or at least one is mirroring the other.

    Anyway, hope that makes sense. I've just read it back through and I think I kind of got my point across.

  3. Guys, when this series is over I want to do a massive post responding to all of the various points you guys are raising, probably on the Seminar. So keep them coming. I don't want to address some of these issues yet since they are coming up in later installments. But let it flow- this could be a very important discussion.

  4. very interesting series. I can't wait to find out what happens. I think John is going to end up with Mary Magdalene.

    Nice comment by the way, Justin Russel...

    "What if this is the front line of that war and the ostensible size of the factions in the fight are irrelevant to the true dimensions of the battle inside this "ARC Arena"?

  5. I have a an inherent distrust of all bible scripture. There is some shards of what is truth, most however is Roman Universal propaganda(one to bind them all). I sense that Jtb was of the authentic tradition. He was imprisoned for formenting an up-rising and denouncing Herods wife. Much to do about politics of the time. I am curious if Jtb used mushrooms of a magic nature to find enlightenment, if so, what can we all learn from that substance coursing through our hearts. John/oannes? Wormwood/wormhole? Is Jesus the anti-Christ? Dennis

  6. Robert Ryan, Charlton Heston, Andre Gregory, Richard E. Grant, David O'Hara, Eli Cohen and Michael York all portraid John the Babtist on film.

  7. Not sure how this fits into your thesis but what about John the Baptist, the Melchizedek Order/Priesthood and Joseph Smith?

    In 1829, Joseph Smith received the restored priesthood authority to organize Christ’s Church. John the Baptist appeared and conferred upon Joseph Smith and his associate Oliver Cowdery the Aaronic Priesthood, which includes the authority to perform the ordinance of baptism. Later, Peter, James, and John (three of Christ’s original Apostles) appeared and conferred the Melchizedek Priesthood upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, restoring the same authority given to Christ’s Apostles anciently. In 1830, with this priesthood authority, the same Church of Jesus Christ that existed centuries ago was organized and restored to the earth by Joseph Smith.

  8. A fascinating set of posts. One of my problems with the whole rigid Christian view and definition of "Sin", The Christian dogma implies that in order to be "free of sin", you essentially have to live your life in an ivory tower, and do nothing, but the contradiction is, how do you gain life experience? or gain wisdom? if you don't make the (hopefully) occasional mistake, or do something reckless, or get into a bad relationship that you shouldn't. There is of course, avoiding willfully harming others, but such a view dogmatic of life is just too rigid. Just a thought

  9. The introverted intuititive moralist crying in the wilderness is also one of the free masons patron saints! With rumors of them still having his head and worshipping it. Like the Russians supposedly still have his hand. Holla if you hear me

  10. I am with Alan Abbadessa and others who smeall strongly entheogenic fragrances in the olde tales

    Mythology makes no sense and is useless IF it is literal. Many Pagans knoew this, but Christians that made their story literal were ridiculed by pagans etc, and then we know how viscious Christians could be right--well the ones who had this literalization

    IF mythology IS about A literal story with real characters who deaded LONG time since, then all it is is old news! There is no sense of eternal--No creative interfused continuum of experience between the story and the reader. THAT is what matters

    We all sit now in the woods and take an entheogen and space and time take on different meaning, and we dance laugh and sing and are enthused with nature. THAT is real mythology. Living mythology

  11. Good articles, man. topic, but here's a read (I'm guessing) you might savour.


  12. Love this post. My 2 cents= Our almighty creator says He hates religion. He also says He is One. I just keep coming back to the fact that He created nature and also told us to learn from nature. Also not to make abominations of nature by mixing or etc. I have come to believe His ultimate laws put in place are the laws of nature. That's how I would know Him if I was a grizzly Adams type. So when He says be set apart... Maybe this is another way of saying learn from nature. If we are so caught up in mans life of movies n games n etc we are not even paying attention to His nature. Much less learning from it. I have been thru many religions and studies in 43yr and this is my conclusion. As far as Messiah.. I pray He reviles the truth to me to teach my children.

  13. I have intuited for a number of years that John the Baptist, not Jesus, was intended to be the Messiach. I am looking forward to the continuation of this discourse.
    I believe that was even greater evil intention toward John from Jesus, up to and including Jesus collaboration with Salome, and the ultimate beheading of John the Baptist.
    What greater evil could have fallen mankind, but that removal of the intended and righteous one? Jesus' intentions are wildly misunderstood, although his promise of strife and war have been fulfilled to the letter.
    May your words be a beacon to those who seek the light!

  14. My beliefs are that Jesus was a Disciple of John the Baptist and was probably a least ten years younger born in the Galilee! The myth of the 6 months is when Jesus and his disciples visited John before his Decapitation at the Fortress of Machareus and Jesus took on John's Destiny towards Crucifixion during the Jewish Passover,6 months later! Also,Jesus survived the Crucifixion and died 40 days later on Ascension! but what we believe is that of Paul the Super Apostle, who really never saw the Real Jesus but the Spirit on the Way to Damascus after he had committed an Atrocity towards his Christian Friend Stephen! by participating in Stoning him to Death! also, Saul or Paul was a Staunch Pharasee and could not believe in the Double Messiah Theory of the Brother of Jesus, James the Bishop of Jerusalem! Also, I believe also that Judaism is the Armana Heresy of Egypt, and Pharaoh Akhenaton is Abraham! Moses was is Grandson! and the Prophet Daniel wrote Genesis during the Babylonian Exile! Jean-Raymond Audet of Sudbury, Ont

    1. you are taking myth literally. In reality there is no actual historical evidence a Jesus of Nazareth ever existed.
      But understanding the myth in other ways it makes far more sense that those who followed a solar-phallic cosmology incorporated the story of Jesus and his disciples as meaning the movement of the sun and planets in the solar system.
      But also interpreting this cosmology to fit with their understanding of psychedelic fungi which they believed was 'spirit/God/Christ' manifest in the flesh (see The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, by John M. Allegro)