Monday, October 26, 2020

Did Jesus know John the Baptist?

Did Jesus know John the Baptist before and after the baptism?

Jesus and John were relatives. Their mothers were cousins. Jesus was baptised at the Jordan River, where John had suddenly appeared dressed in a camel-hair garment. This was an event that brought people from far and wide, including the Jerusalem elite.

Did Jesus know John before this event? How much did they meet afterwards? Both suffered violent deaths.
What is the background to this relationship in the turbulent times of Israel?
Context is important. This includes religious history, dates and politics. 1. Dating So it is important, vital, to understand the priestly and political events of the time and also the dates of the writings. Luke’s gospel was clearly written during the period of the high-priesthood of Theophilus, son of Annas, son of Seth. He reigned from 37 to 41. Luke addresses him as ‘kratiste,’ Most Excellent, using the title applied to governors etc. Theophilus was then in office. As high priest recognized by Rome, Theophilus was the ethnarch, ruler of the people. When Luke wrote the book of Acts for him, he was no longer in office and therefore not called ‘Most Excellent’, as this would be a slur and even be seen as a treasonous act to the high priest then in office. Luke reminds Theophilus of the facts. John had a miraculous birth as his mother was ‘in old age’, beyond the age of normal childbirth. Miriam the mother of Jesus was ALSO post-menstrual, Luke 1:36. Furthermore Jesus rose from the dead and there were many witnesses of it including Romans, Luke 1:1. See Jesus, James, Joseph and the Temple on 2. Why the shock of John? John’s appearance on Jordan was a shock event for the priestly dynastic family of Annas. The Jerusalem elite came to the banks of the Jordan. It brought up the nightmare, earlier events of the past, of which they were clearly guilty. What was the scandal? John and Jesus were born at the end of Herod’s despotic life. Two political events are important here. First, two scholars made an attempt to purify the Temple in anticipation of the prophesied coming of the Messiah. They pulled down a pagan eagle at the entrance to the Temple. It glorified the goddess Victory and the Roman legions. Then came a broader revolt which ended in armed Roman intervention and the bloody War of Varus. Thousands of the faithful were crucified. Sepphoris, the reclaimed northern capital in Galilee, was burnt and its inhabitants sold into slavery. 3. Murder in the Temple The Seth dynasty of priests seized power and supplanted the Boethusean priesthood by force and bloodshed. John’s father, Zacharias, was probably killed then ‘between the altar and the Holy Place.’ A subservient high priesthood was set up in Jerusalem as the Roman controller to keep a lid on religious revolt. Then Annas and the other sons of Seth changed some of the festival calendar and introduced other foreign Temple customs. 4. What’s in a name? The mothers of John and Jesus knew each other. Their fathers too. Troubles began with a religious dispute, escalated to civil war then bloody Roman destruction. How were John and Jesus affected by this bloody war and what were religious backgrounds of John and Jesus? History shows they left Israel in two different directions. Why? Safety and to provide double security for continuing the priestly line. Both John and Jesus derived their priestly prominence because of their high Aaronic pedigree. The names of their mothers show it. They were cousins and both ‘daughters of Aaron’ Luke 1:5. John’s mother was named Elizabeth (Hebrew Elisheva, the same as the name of Aaron’s wife) and Jesus’s Mariam in NT Greek (Hebrew Miriam, the name of the prophetess and sister of Aaron and Moses). Names were not, as today, chosen at random. They recalled verified genealogy. The women were cousins descended directly from Aaron (Luke 1:5). When the son was named Jechoniah and not Zacharias like his father, it caused shock and surprise. 'Fear came on all that dwelt round about' Jerusalem and Judea, Lk 1:65. Why? because it reflected back to the genealogy of Elisheva’s line, recalling Onias, the high priest in Jerusalem who fled to Egypt for safety when Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated the Temple, Josephus War, bk 1. Onias built a duplicate of the Temple at Heliopolis and taught priests the rituals so they would not be lost. John’s birth and naming revealed many secrets and exposed the guilty.
5. Herod initially tried to control the priesthood Note that, when Herod took power, there was no true Aaronic priest in office. Initially Herod, an enthusiastic pagan, had put into priestly office those without genealogical right to the Holy Place, says Josephus. The male Aaronic line had been killed off. But a son of a ‘daughter of Aaron’ could claim office because the grandfather was an Aaronic priest. When the NT stresses that Elizabeth and Mariam were both ‘daughters of Aaron’ it casts a slur on the genuineness of the priests that had seized office (Joshua son of Seth and Annas of Seth). It also implies that all the authentic sons of Aaron had been killed or were in hiding. 6. What family, what person was the last true Aaronic priest? Go back further. Two decades before their birth, Caesar Augustus had agreed to a peace treaty with its main enemy, Parthia, which was ruled by the Hebrew-speaking Arsacid dynasty, favourable to Israel and the Jews. It insisted on religious restoration too, including that of the high-priest dynasty. That treaty reshaped the world, till then divided in two. Parthia had trading relations as far as China and controlled parts of India. Under this historic pact, Rome agreed on the reconstruction of the Temple under the legitimate Aaronic priesthood of Sim(e)on Boethus. Herod was forced to concur. Simon returned from Egyptian exile to the shock of the nation. Simon had authenticated Aaronic pedigree. He wasn’t rich but he became the lever that broke Herod’s grip on power. Herod had married into the previous priestly dynasty, the Hasmoneans, hoping this would ensure loyalty of the population. He had forced a marriage to the daughter of that previous priestly house, even though priestly daughters were forbidden to marry outside the tribes of Israel. The Hasmonean priestly line had died out. The last one, Aristobulus, was killed by Herod’s Gauls. Herod put in place people who had no genealogical right to the office. The contrast was stark. Now it was clear that these fraudulent priesthoods had nothing to show compared to Simon’s. It was also obvious that they had become corrupt and Hellenised. Herod divorced this wife, Mariamne I, the last daughter from the Hasmonean/ Maccabee dynasty. Herod forced a further marriage. The daughter of Simon became his queen, Mariamne II. Who were these legitimate Boethusean priests who had taken shelter in Egypt during the wars and syncretic paganisation of the Maccabees? John’s naming showed he was part of the family. 7. Simon Boethus Simon remained high priest and reconstructed the Temple until he was retired by Herod just before the birth of Jesus. Boethus is probably not a name but the crude Greek version of his dynastic claim. It was also useful for this not to be too obvious as the priests that got killed first were those with the most authentic genealogy. What does Boethus signify? It is probably the Greek for Beth Yesse. That would imply that the Simonian priesthood were intermarried with the Davidic line. David was the son of Yesse. 8. Where did the child, Jesus, go? Forty days after his birth Jesus was presented in the Temple where he was received by Sim(e)on. He is described as righteous, the term used often for the authentic high-priestly family. He prophesies. Simeon praises God for the coming deliverance of the country through this child as Savior. Simon met the family in the Temple at the time of their purification ceremony and no doubt recorded the genealogical details in the archives as we see it in Matt 1 (Greek and Hebrew). The beginning of Matthew’s gospel dates from this time. Having disclosed in Bethlehem that he was of the family of David and heir to his throne, Joseph could no longer stay in Israel. Herod was becoming more and more crazed with acute disease, conspiracies and killing potential rivals. Jesus was taken to the same place where Simon had found safety against persecution. His father and mother took him to Egypt when he was a toddler, paidion. 9. Where did John go? What happened to John? Luke tells us diplomatically that he went East and 'dwelt in the desert' Lk 1:80. Matthew is more specific. At thirty he returned from exile dressed in the costume of that country. He wore a camel-hair garment and Hebrew Matthew adds a black leather belt (Roman leather was brown). See Why did John wear a camel-hair garment and a black belt? Parthia, the super-power in the East, had vast resources of camels and horses. They often went into battle with multiple thousand camels, the general himself having a baggage train of a thousand, according to Plutarch: Crassus #21 in Rawlinson’s Parthia. John’s dress implies he came directly from Parthia. (Hebrew Matthew is more specific.) It is unlikely that he previously met Jesus though he would obviously know of his relatives, equally under death threat, especially on the important topic of priestly succession. Jesus clearly came from a senior branch of Aaronic priests, although he was younger. ‘It behoves him (Jesus) to increase, but me to decrease,’ Jn 3:30. It was a matter of precedence and prophecy. 10. Why did John’s appearance on the Jordan make such an impact? Firstly he came out of exile from Rome’s hereditary enemy. Secondly he denounced the pro-Roman Quisling priesthood that displaced by force and bloodshed that of Simon the righteous. Thirdly, his own father Zacharias was probably killed by this clique, Matt 23:35. Fourthly, he preached repentance not revenge. He led the people to baptism as a sign of their already changed lives to virtue: burial of the past in the waters. Josephus Antiq 18,5,2 (117). Baptism signifies burial and resurrection to a new spiritual life. This was like the mikva a personal process in front of witnesses, not a dunking by a preacher to wash away sins. It is possible therefore that this was the first meeting of Jesus with his cousin since infancy. Their parallel lives came to the same conclusions and similar actions, reinforcing that God’s covenant with Israel demanded virtue and obedience to his laws. 11. Only 2 Rabbis in NT. In the Hebrew Yosippon – which may reflect the Hebrew version that Josephus says he sent to Parthia and Scythia before writing the Greek ‘Jewish War’ – John is called ‘Rabbi John the Baptist High Priest’. Yes, high priest.
He had right to this office through Elizabeth/ Elisheva not his father Zacharias. John is also called ‘Rabbi’ in the NT but it did not mean leader of a synagogue in the first century. All the documents and epigraphical remains of the period call the leader of the synagogue an archisynagogos or archon, as does the NT. ‘Rabbi’ means ‘anointed’ in Aramaic. Jesus is the only other person called Rabbi in first century literature. He is referred to more than a dozen times as priest or high priest in the book of Hebrews. He is also called Great Priest, Faithful High Priest (= Chief Priest) and Teacher, that is, the despotes of the Temple. The teacher was the controller of the Temple and it was off limits to Romans and non-Israelites. The Teacher is teaching high priests. He catechized priests like Theophilus in the Temple, Luke 1:4 Gk, katechethes. After his resurrection, James / Jacob, his brother, was in control of the Temple rituals. All early writers, like Hegesippus, Eusebius, Jerome and others, confirm that James as Sagan or Teacher was permitted to enter the Holy Place and pray there for Israel on a daily basis. 12. John as Family Defender, Goel. When Herod the Tetrarch seduced the wife of Herod (Philip) the son of Mariamne II, John risked and lost his life to defend the honor of the family. This incident is described in Josephus Antiq 18.5 (109) and in the NT in Matt 14. It was the duty of the goel, or Redeemer, as head of the family to right the wrongs of relatives and if necessary buy back a relative from slavery. In this case, Herod imprisoned him. The wife is named Herodias and Josephus names the daughter who requested the head of John the Baptist on a charger as Salome. This incident shows that John was indeed a high priest and related to Mariamne II, the daughter of Simon Boethus. 13. Seniority Thus we have two high priests of the authentic Aaronic family, John and Jesus, who grew up separately. John was raised in Parthia. Jesus in Egypt where Simon Boethus retained the true faith. He was then in Nazareth – the genealogical center of northern Israel, the Yeshana of Sepphoris. Why did John cede to Jesus? Firstly Jesus was anointed possibly by Simon in the Temple after his birth when Simeon declared he was the Messiah, then by John at the baptism with the heavenly signs and divine voice, Hebrew: bat kol. Secondly, Jesus had both high priestly pedigree through his mother and his father, and also royal blood through Joseph as the genealogy of Matt 1 shows. A king has the right over a high priest, for example, to dismiss him. 14. The ‘Essene’ incident Did John and Jesus meet much after the baptism event? There is little to say they did. The incident of Mt 11 where John in prison sends two disciples to enquire whether Jesus was definitely the Messiah, ‘the one to come’, suggests that they did not meet previously to discuss this. Jesus replies that the sick were being healed; the blind were given back their sight; lepers are cleansed, deaf hear and the dead are raised. That seems an extraordinary list ending with the dead being raised. But it does not end there. Jesus adds what to materialists may seem incongruous: ‘the poor have the Gospel preached to them.’ This is clearly more important than all the rest. It speaks of the coming Kingdom of God. What is also remarkable is that this unusual order of events is repeated in what is considered an Essean document among the Dead Sea Scrolls, 4Q521 called ‘Redemption and Resurrection.’ It says ‘The Eternal shall do glorious things that have not been done, just as he said. For he shall heal the critically wounded. He shall revive the dead. He shall send good news to the afflicted.’ This implies that both were in communication through this group who represented the combined royal line and priestly line in Israel.

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