The gospel preaching of John (Lk 3:18-3:18)

“Thus,

With many other exhortations,

John proclaimed

The good news gospel

To the people.”

 

Πολλὰ μὲν οὖν καὶ ἕτερα παρακαλῶν εὐηγγελίζετο τὸν λαόν·

 

Only Luke has this explanation that John the Baptist with many other exhortations (Πολλὰ μὲν οὖν καὶ ἕτερα παρακαλῶν), other than those recounted here, proclaimed the good news to the people (εὐηγγελίζετο τὸν λαόν).  Was this the same good news or gospel (εὐηγγελίζετο) that Jesus would later preach?  Luke was the only one among the other gospel writers who linked John and Jesus as relatives in chapter 1:36.  John’s mother, Elizabeth, and Jesus’ mother, Mary, were relatives of some sort, thus making their children relatives or cousins also.  They could be compared in some ways to Aaron and Moses or the later Peter and Paul.  One was superior to the other, but the other played an indispensable role.  John the Baptist was a Jewish itinerant preacher in the early first century CE.  He used baptism, some kind of dipping in water, as the central symbol or sacrament of his messianic movement.  Thus, he became known as the one who baptizes, the Baptizer, John the Baptist.  This John certainly had a relationship with Jesus, but the exact relationship between John and Jesus is also problematic.  They may have originally been co-workers.  However, they separated as Jesus went along a different route.  However, the shadow of John the Baptist appeared again and again in the biblical stories about Jesus and his apostles.  Some believe that Jesus may have been an early follower or disciple of John, but the textual indications are that John saw himself as clearly subservient to Jesus.  Some of Jesus’ early followers had previously been followers of John, such as the apostle Andrew, the brother of Simon, in John, chapter 1:40, and in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 19:2-6.  There may have been also some contact between John the Baptist and the Qumran-Essene community, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.  John might have been associated with them or part of their community for a while.  Thus, John the Baptist has been revered as a prophet and a Christian saint throughout the centuries.

John the Baptizer (Mk 1:4-1:4)

“John the Baptizer

Appeared

In the wilderness.

He was proclaiming

A baptism

Of repentance

For the forgiveness of sins.”

 

ἐγένετο Ἰωάνης ὁ βαπτίζων ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ κηρύσσων βάπτισμα μετανοίας εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν

 

There is something similar, but not quite the same in all 4 gospel stories.  Matthew, chapter 3:1-2, called John the Baptist (βαπτιστὴς) not the Baptizer (ὁ βαπτίζων), but John was in the wilderness, like here, calling for repentance.  In Matthew, John also warned the people that the kingdom of heaven was near.  Luke, chapter 3:2:3, is actually closer to Mark, since he used the exact same words about John in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  John, chapter l:19-29, had a long dialogue with John and the priests and Levites about what he was doing.  Mark has this simple statement that John the Baptizer, or the one baptizing, appeared (ἐγένετο Ἰωάνης ὁ βαπτίζων) in the wilderness or desert (ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ).  How and what he did before or after did not matter.  He was there proclaiming or preaching a baptism of repentance, a life change, or metanoia (κηρύσσων βάπτισμα μετανοίας) to have sins or faults forgiven or wiped away (ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν).  John tied this repentant change of life style baptism with the forgiving of sins or wiping away of past faults, since he was calling for repentance.  John and Jesus are linked in some ways like Aaron and Moses or the later Peter and Paul.  One is superior to the other but the other plays an indispensable role.

The tribe of Judah (Ezek 48:7-48:7)

“Adjoining the territory

Of Reuben,

From the east side

To the west side,

Judah was

One portion.”

Once again, in a very summary fashion of east to west, the territory of Judah was next to Reuben.  In Joshua, chapter 15, Judah got the largest portion of land. Here, it is treated like the other tribes, as if it were not superior to them.

The false pursuits (Bar 3:15-3:19)

“Who has found

Her place?

Who has entered

Her storehouses?

Where are the rulers

Of the nations?

Where are those

Who lorded it over

The animals on earth?

Where are those

Who have made sport

Of the birds of the air?

Where are those

Who hoarded up

Silver with gold

In which people trust ?

Where are those

With no end

To their getting?

Where are those

Who schemed

To get silver?

Where are those

Who are anxious?

There is no trace

Of their works.

They have vanished.

They have gone down

To Hades.

Others have arisen

In their place.”

Baruch talks about the vanity and uselessness of various life pursuits as in wisdom literature. What happens to people who store up treasures in a storehouse? Where are all the rulers of the various nations? Where are all the people who felt superior to animals. Where are the sportsmen who tried to shoot the birds in the air with their arrows? What happened to all those who hoarded up and put their trust in silver and gold? Where are all the people who never had enough? Where are those who schemed to get silver? Where are all the people who were so anxious? Baruch’s response is simple and clear. There is no trace of any of these people and their works. They have vanished and gone to hell, Hades, the Greek word for Sheol, the shadowy underworld that we often call hell. However, there are always others to take their place to do the same thing over and over again.

The taunt against Babylon (Jer 50:11-50:13)

“‘Though you rejoice,

Though you exult,

O plunderers of my heritage,

Though you frisk about

Like a heifer

On the grass,

Though you neigh

Like stallions,

Your mother

Shall be utterly shamed.

She who bore you

Shall be disgraced.

O!

She shall be

The last of the nations,

A wilderness,

A dry land,

A desert.

Because of the wrath

Of Yahweh,

She shall not be inhabited.

But she shall be

An utter desolation.

Everyone who passes

By Babylon

Shall be appalled.

They will hiss

Because of all her wounds.”

Then Yahweh via Jeremiah taunted Babylon, by indicating how they thought that they were superior with their plundering and rejoicing. They were like young heifers and stallions doing whatever they wanted to do. Now their mothers will be shamed and disgraced. They will become the last of the countries, as their land will become a wilderness, a dry land, like a desert. The wrath of Yahweh will not be held back. Babylon will be deserted and become an utter desolation. Everyone who passes by her will be appalled. They will hiss at all the wounds that they would see.

Creation of humans (Sir 17:1-17:7)

“The Lord created human beings

Out of the earth.

He makes them return to it again.

He gave them a fixed number of days.

He granted them authority

Over everything on the earth.

He endowed them with strength

Like his own.

He made them in his own image.

He put the fear of them

In all living beings.

He gave them dominion

Over beasts.

He gave them dominion

Over birds.

They obtained the use of

The five faculties of the Lord.

As sixth,

He distributed to them the gift of mind.

As seventh,

He gave them reason,

The interpreter of one’s faculties.

He gave them a tongue

He gave them eyes.

He gave them ears.

He gave them discretion to think.

He filled them with knowledge.

He filled them with understanding.

He showed them good and evil.”

Sirach used the first chapter of Genesis in his understanding of the created nature world before the creation of humans, who were superior to all creation. These humans came from the earth and would return to it just like all the other living creatures. These humans had a fixed number of days, but they had authority over everything on earth. Nature was for the use of humans. The Lord created them in his own image and with strength like his. Thus humans were a reflection of God. All living things feared humans, since they had dominion over animals and birds. Using the Stoic interpretation of man, he had 5 faculties, but the Lord added 2 more, the mind and reason that were not in other living things. These humans had tongues, eyes, and ears. They also were able to think. Thus they were filled with knowledge and understanding. The Lord showed them both good and evil. Clearly, Sirach believed that humans were the high point of creation.

The presence of wisdom (Wis 7:27-7:30)

“Although she is but one,

She can do all things.

While remaining in herself,

She renews all things.

In every generation

She passes into holy souls.

She makes them friends of God,

She makes them friends of prophets.

God loves nothing so much

As the person who lives with wisdom.

She is more beautiful

Than the sun.

She excels

Every constellation of the stars.

Compared with the light

She is found to be superior.

It is succeeded by the night.

But against wisdom

Evil does not prevail.”

Wisdom is one, but can do all things, while remaining in herself. She renews all things. In every generation, she makes holy souls become friends of God and prophets (φίλους Θεοῦ καὶ προφήτας). God loves (ἀγαπᾷ ὁ Θεὸς) the person who lives with wisdom (τὸν σοφίᾳ), since she is more beautiful than the sun. She excels every constellation of stars. She is superior to light. Evil will not prevail against wisdom. Once again, many of these same things have been said about the Christian Holy Spirit.