Tuesday, April 21, 2015

How Did John Baptist Know Messiah's Arrival Was Imminent, Preached It And Baptized Converts Before The Fact?

The word "baptize" is an English transliterated word from the Greek word "baptizeim" meaning to dip, immerse or bury".

Webster defines "baptism" as .... "To dip or immerse in water".

Wikipedia says of baptism "The usual form of baptism among the earliest Christians was for the candidate to be immersed...."

 John the Baptist distinguished his baptism in water from the Holy Spirit's baptism, or immersion, of repentant believers, into Christ and the body of Christ, His church. "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire." Matt.3:11. 

"The Apostle Paul declared to the Colossian Church that we are, "Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead." Col.2:12. He repeated that to the Roman Church in Rom.6:3-4 "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."

Jesus included water baptism as an ordinance His church could perform as a testimony every new Christian could give of his salvation and death, burial and resurrection with Christ. 

My question is, "How did John Baptist know about the soon coming of Messiah/Christ, the necessity of repentance followed by baptism? All this he knew before Christ's ministry ever began and before he baptized Jesus himself as an example for us to follow? How did he know?

My answer to the question is this ....

1. His father, Zacharias, was priest in Jerusalem and his mother, Elizabeth, was a godly woman. Both of whom knew the Old Testament prophecies and taught them to their son, John. Luke 1:67-80.

2. Their home country was in the desert wilderness east of Jerusalem near or maybe at Jericho or Qumran on the eastern shore at the northern end of the Dead Sea. Luke 1:80. When Zacharias' term as priest in Jerusalem was finished, he and Elizabeth, in their old age, moved back to their desert hill country home near Jericho and Qumran. Lk.1:23.  Elizabeth and Zacharias, like Sarai and Abraham, had been praying for a child for many years and God had miraculously heard their prayer and she was six months pregnant when the virgin Mary conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit. Mary, cousin to Elizabeth, traveled 60 miles from Nazareth to visit them at their home in the wilderness, and stayed the 3 months till John the Baptist was born.  Lk.1:39-40. John grew up in the desert wilderness and dry hills around Jericho Qumran, the southern end of the Jordan River at the northern end of the Dead Sea. It was there that He began his ministry as forerunner of Messiah/Christ, preaching repentance and baptizing converts where the Jordan runs into the Dead Sea, at it's nearest point to Jerusalem.  Lk.3:2-4.

3. Qumran is where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in cliff side caves overlooking Qumran. and the Dead Sea. Here is what Wikapedia says about Qumran and the Essenes who lived there.

"The remains at Qumran were left by a sectarian religious community. Using his excavations as well as textual sources, including the Dead Sea Scrolls and the historical accounts recorded by Pliny the ElderPhilo, and Flavius Josephus. De Vaux's conclusion was that the inhabitants of the site were a sect of highly ritualistic Jews called the Essenes.  This .... suggests that the original residents of the settlement were the Essenes, and that they established the site in the desert for religious purposesHe interpreted the room above locus 30 as a "scriptorium" because he discovered inkwells there. A plastered bench was also discovered in the remains of an upper story. De Vaux concluded that this was the area where the Essenes could have written some of the Dead Sea Scrolls. De Vaux also interpreted locus 77 as a "refectory", or a community dining hall, based on the discovery of numerous sets of bowls in the nearby "pantry" of locus 89. Additionally, de Vaux interpreted many of the numerous stepped cisterns as "miqva’ot", or Jewish ritual baths...."  Wikapedia.  

It is thought, by a few scholars, that at least one of these ritual pools was in fact a baptistry. Neither the Jews nor Wikapedia nor anyone else I have read associate John the Baptist with the Essenes but there is no doubt that John was at least aware of the Essenes in Qumran and may have been one of them. They were the Jewish Fundamentalists of the day, separated from the worldly cities and ways of life, majoring on the written word of God, making copies of it and preserving it on scrolls in sealed clay jars, baptizing believers and this ... Their primary message was of the soon coming of Messiah/Christ. John came preaching the exact same message ... and baptizing repentant believers, preparing the way for Jesus.

The Essenes in Qumran were about 6 miles from Jericho and 2 or 3 miles from where John the Baptizer began his ministry preaching "Prepare ye the way of the LORD", and baptizing converts in the fresh waters of the Jordan River where it enters into the northern end of the Dead Sea. Was he in fellowship with the Essenes at Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found? I cannot prove it but it seems very likely.  

During one of the Jewish uprisings against Rome, the Essenes were later driven out of Qumran by the Romans. At about the same time, a similar sized group of Jewish believers took over King Herod's summer retreat on the top of a high, steep mesa called Masada, overlooking the Dead Sea and very near Qumran. I have been there too and saw the ruins of Herod's quarters, a vast network of water collecting channels with filled caverns of mammoth capacity ... and a baptistry carved out of the rock by these renegade Jewish believers who were eventually rooted out and all executed by the Roman army. RB