Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Jesus and Baptism: John 3:22, 4:1-2

Last night our Bible study leader said something I thought was so ridiculous that it stunned me into silence. I didn't know whether to actually say what came to mind or just keep quiet. By the time I decided we were already onto the next passage. This is what blogs are for.

The passage in question is John 3:22. Here it is:

After these things Jesus and his disciples came into the land of Judea: and there he abode with them, and baptized. (DR)

He mentioned that this passage was problematic because we are taught that Jesus did not baptize himself. Now here I am with Chapter 4 sitting right in front of me on the same page, wondering why this would be problematic. He discussed it some and then said: (paraphrasing!)

Scholars don't really know what to make of the fact that in John 4:1-2 the Gospel writer says that Jesus himself did not baptize.

Excuse me? Wait...what? "Can they not read ahead," I thought. They are supposed to be scholars. This is that passage:

1 When Jesus therefore understood that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus maketh more disciples, and baptizeth more than John, 2 (Though Jesus himself did not baptize, but his disciples,) (DR)

So he went on:

Some scholars think that after writing the fact that Jesus did baptize, the writer realized he made a mistake and thought "Hey I'd better correct that!" and then mentioned that Jesus himself did not baptize. Jesus' baptizing was part of the tradition so the writer thought it was important enough to put in.

This is absolutely absurd. It strikes me, plainly, that by this admission the "scholars" are either complete idiots or they have chosen to ignore the (infallible) Tradition of the Church for a type of sola scriptura only a fundamentalist could love. Both of the Bibles I carried with me last night (NKJV wide-margin, Douay-Rheims) had a cross reference to 4:1.

But the NAB footnote says:

"Jesus is depicted baptizing. (22); contrast 4:2"

It is NOT a contrast. It is accurate. If I feed my family Thanksgiving Dinner, that doesn't mean I "airplaned" the food into their mouth. I may cook but my sister may serve. Perhaps I only paid for the food. Nevertheless it is accurate to say that I fed my family Thanksgiving Dinner. See, it is easy to understand. It is 2nd grade reading comprehension level easy.

The Navarre Commentary say:

A little later on (Jn4:2) the Evangelist makes it clear that it was not Jesus himself who baptized, but his disciples.

and from St. John Chrysostum (in the Navarre as well):

"both baptisms, that of John's and that of our Lord's disciples [...] had a single purpose...."

Our leader seems to be a very faithful Catholic and I don't know if he buys what the "scholars" believe either. I have always been doubtful of the sort of modern scholarship found in the NAB and other places. But their theory of why this one passage seems to contradict the other is straight out of the "Bible contradicts itself" atheistic play-book.

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"The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice." - G.K. Chesterton