We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Walking in the Footsteps of John the Baptist, Part 3

  


Walking in the Footsteps of John the Baptist, Part 3

James McGrath has recently traveled to Israel to walk in the footsteps of John the Baptist. I thought it might be of interest that we journey with James as well to discover the early days of Jesus' ministry through his cousin John. Enjoy.

R.E. Slater
August 25, 2022



In the Footsteps of John the Baptist Part 3:
Aenon near Salim

by James F. McGrath
July 19, 2022


In many ways the most interesting stop on my trip to the Holy Land focused on the life of John the Baptist was in the Jordan River valley in between Yardenit in Galilee and Jerusalem in Judaea. I stayed at Kibbutz Tirat Zvi, and am glad I did. It made for something of an adventure since this is not a kibbutz that has developed itself as a destination for foreign tourists.

“Reception” is only marked by a paper sign stuck on a door with no signposts anywhere else to direct one to it, and there is only someone in that office infrequently. The pool is only open irregularly and once again there is no schedule posted. The kibbutz store is also open only infrequently and at times that are not posted anywhere. The store also does not accept cash since the members of the kibbutz do not pay using currency.

Although not a fully traditional kibbutz, it is one that has kept more of the original collective communal ethos of the original kibbutzim in Israel than most others. However, once one manages to get past the discomfort of not being able to do things the way one might when arriving at a hotel, it is simply an amazing place to be.

There is a peacock on the premises, lots of wild parakeets, incredible fruit (pomegranates, lemons, oranges, and much more) growing everywhere. I also saw more than one mongoose (and I will return to what it is that attracts them there a little later). Roman mile markers were found on the site, indicating that a major Roman road ran through there.

This is a very isolated location today and that is one of the risks of interpreting ancient stories based merely on visiting the same places today. What is above ground and visible may not indicate the significance a place had, or its lack of significance, in the distant past. Today there are cities where millennia ago there was nothing, and there is nothing where in the past there were major settlements and roads. These milestones mentioning the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius made this point clear, as well as confirming that this was anything but a backwater in John’s time.


While staying there I had the privilege of visiting Tel Shalem with local archaeologist Achia Kohn-Tavor as my guide. I highly recommend him for anyone visiting this part of the world. Tel Shalem is almost certainly the site of the Salim mentioned in the Gospel of John. It is indicated on the Madaba map as a site of pilgrimage for ancient Christians (and the area is littered with roof tiles and bits of mosaic which indicate the presence of a church in antiquity). As you’ll see from the photo below, Tel Shalem looks like many tels or occupation mounds. This one is not developed as a tourist attraction, the location being very remote today. This obscures its ancient significance. Let me also include a photo of me and Achia on the road that runs along there:



Near Tel Shalem there is a site where Roman troops were stationed and an incredible bust of Hadrian was unearthed there. It is now in the Israel Museum, and I saw it there when I visited.


It was something that I saw on Kibbutz Tirat Zvi that was most significant for understanding the activity of John the Baptist here. Aenon near Salim most likely means “the springs near Salem.” Those springs feed a very large number of fish ponds created and maintained by the kibbutz today.


Danny Herman has a video about looking for springs in the area, not realizing when he set out that those water sources were being used for local farming today. The fish pools attract the mongooses that I saw while I was here.

If you know the reference in John 3:23 you’ll understand why my visit made such an impression:
“John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim because water was abundant there, and people kept coming and were being baptized.”
Hearing that there was “much water” doesn’t do justice to it. Seeing fish pools fed by the springs, stretching for almost a mile between the kibbutz and the Jordan River, and perpendicularly stretching for more than a mile between the kibbutz and Tel Shalem, made a more appropriate and more powerful impression.

Although later Melchizedek would come to be associated with Jerusalem, the city of Jerusalem was not called simply “Salem” at any point as far back as we can trace. This site is thus more likely to be the location that the author of Genesis had in mind.
Thinking about this got me wondering whether the idea of a priest according to the order of Melchizedek (which is mentioned in Psalm 110:4 and applied to Jesus in Hebrews 7:17) might in fact go back to John the Baptist. The possibility of connections between the Letter to the Hebrews and John the Baptist is a whole area of research that requires more attention than it has received.
Achia also took me to see the Mosaic of Rehob (sometimes called the Tel Rahov inscription). It is the oldest bit of Talmudic text in existence. It records a decision about the status of Beit She’an (Scythopolis, the capital of the Decapolis) and more specifically the produce and goods from there.
Beit She’an was another place I visited on this trip, and one of the things that visiting locations helps to bring home is that John and Jesus may not have focused their work on urban centers, but John being in the wilderness did not mean only the Judaean desert, nor did it mean places that were far from urban centers.
The Mount of Temptation where Jesus is supposed to have gone after being baptized by John is right near Jericho. The site has no basis in history, to be sure, but it reflects ancient perception of where things occurred. John the Baptist was active not too far from Jericho and the same can be said with respect to Beit She’an. John may have had the impact that he did because he was active at major crossroads rather than focusing on urban centers.


When I left Tirat Zvi I headed to Jerusalem, and that will be my next stop. I hope you enjoyed this glimpse of my recent trip.


Walking in the Footsteps of John the Baptist, Part 2

  


Walking in the Footsteps of John the Baptist, Part 2

James McGrath has recently traveled to Israel to walk in the footsteps of John the Baptist. I thought it might be of interest that we journey with James as well to discover the early days of Jesus' ministry through his cousin John. Enjoy.

R.E. Slater
August 25, 2022



In the Footsteps of John the Baptist Part 2:
Yardenit, Tiberias, and Bet Alfa

by James F. McGrath
July 11, 2022


I shared photos on Facebook during my brief visit to Tiberias on the shore of Lake Kinneret or Lake Tiberias (named by the Gospel of Mark the “Sea of Galilee” and now more commonly known by that name). When I did so I wrote that Herod Antipas built cities, buildings, monuments of various sorts. John the Baptist built a ritual with water. Today the ruins of Herod’s capital in Tiberias don’t have much left of them and no one goes out of their way to see them (apart from a handful of people like me who are interested in ancient history). People travel from all over the world, on the other hand, to visit places that have even the vaguest of association with John. There is surely something noteworthy in that.

When I referred to places that have only a vague association with John I was thinking of a great many of the sites I visited in the Holy Land which claim to be connected with John. Yardenit, however, was first and foremost in my mind. It is promoted as “the baptismal site on the Sea of Galilee” and it has everything that the more traditional site at Qasr al-Yahud has and more, including a much more elaborate gift shop (which one must pass through to get to the baptismal area). While the traditional site (which I also visited on this trip) has been a place of pilgrimage since ancient times (although whether it was precisely here that the Madaba map and other ancient sources were pointing to is another matter). Yardenit? It was created very recently in order to give Christian pilgrims a place to go when Qasr al-Yahud was closed due to the conflicts between Israel and Jordan. Although not of historical interest in that sense, it is perhaps even more fascinating as a result to consider why it is that pilgrims come here and find the experience meaningful.


Returning to Tiberias, or rather its vicinity, I also stopped at Hamat Tiberias. It is the remnants of a city that was once separate from Tiberias but is now incorporated within the limits of the modern city. It had a hot spring and a synagogue with mosaics of a sort very common in ancient times, featuring the zodiac whose twelve signs were associated with the 12 tribes of Israel.


A few days later, as I traveled south along the Jordan River valley towards the place I would stay next, I visited the synagogue at Bet Alfa which has a similar but much better preserved zodiac. These were clearly not at all unusual in the centuries after the time of John and Jesus. These interest me not only for general reasons of understanding ancient Judaism. In Mandaean texts there is also an identification of the Jewish God with Shemesh, the Sun. The seven (planets) and the twelve (constellations of stars) are malevolent forces which the Gnostic prepares through baptism to escape from when they die, and whose influence they resist in the present. The imagery in synagogues and Mandaean literature are part of a conversation about how to view the creator deity and the physical creation.


Although in no way associated with John the Baptist, I also want to mention Bet Yerah, a site near the hotel where I stayed. I found it by accident when walking along a path that runs beside Lake Kinneret. There are ruins there which are almost 5,000 years old. Anything of comparable age anywhere else in the world would be developed as a site worth visiting. In Israel it is simply par for the course, just like finding fragments of first-century pottery.

On my way southwards I also stopped at Belvoir Castle (Jordan Star National Park), mostly to enjoy the view it provides of the Jordan River valley. There is an impressive crusader fortification up a very winding road. (Winding roads were a recurring theme on the trip.) It does have a connection with John the Baptist, albeit the most distant perhaps of any of the connections explored on this trip. Belvoir Castle was built by Knights of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem. This famous military order associated with the crusades took John the Baptist for their name and patron.

More photos from my trip will follow. In the meantime, here is one last one. I often got up to watch the sun rise over Lake Kinneret/the Sea of Galilee…




Walking in the Footsteps of John the Baptist - The Samaritans

  


Walking in the Footsteps of John the Baptist - The Samaritans

James McGrath has recently traveled to Israel to walk in the footsteps of John the Baptist. I thought it might be of interest that we journey with James as well to discover the early days of Jesus' ministry through his cousin John. Enjoy.

R.E. Slater
August 25, 2022



The Samaritans: A Profile

by James F. McGrath
July 6, 2022

Reinhardt Pummer’s book The Samaritans: A Profile offers an extremely helpful overview of the history literature and archaeology of the Samaritans including some of scholars’ most significant debates and discussions about where they came from who they are and how we answer those questions.

While most academics who study ancient Judaism and/or early Christianity will know a little about the Samaritans, few of us know as much as we ought to. Among the important topics that Pummer covers is how we know Josephus is wrong about certain details related to the Samaritans, the Samaritan synagogues that have been excavated, and the texts and phrases that appear on Samaritan amulets.

For me in particular, the discussion of Dositheus and Simon Magus is especially interesting, since the Syriac author Theodore bar Koni identified the Mandaeans as “Dostheans.” Samaritan literature talks quite a bit about the Dustan sect which abolished feasts and blood sacrifice, expected the resurrection of the dead to happen soon, and prayed standing in water. That this might have something to do with John the Baptist’s movement is a very intriguing possibility. According to Samaritan sources, Dositheans persisted among them until the 9th century. Other subjects, such as Samaritan music and their history over the past millennium, are also things that I found profoundly interesting.


In 2012 the Israel Nature and Parks Authority began new works under the authority of the Civil Administration, and two weeks ago a newly restored, impressive Samaritan residential compound was open for visitors, enabling them to experience history by walking through the ancient rooms.

The compound, dated at around 200-300 BCE, is part of a large city from the Persian and Hellenistic periods which was built around a sacred precinct where once stood the Samaritan Temple, and where today stands the remains of a large Byzantine church built on top of the destroyed Temple, a heavy wall cutting right through the holy Samaritan site where Samaritan tradition holds the Tabernacle stood. During the Muslim period a military guard post was built over one of the church’s towers.

The archaeological remains go back about 2,400 years, said site director Netanel Elimelech, with the remains of the Samaritan Temple from the Persian era the oldest.


The blog Scribes of the Kingdom mentioned Simon Magus, a Samaritan who may help make a connection between John the Baptist and Gnosticism in general (as well as perhaps the Mandaeans more specifically):

John Squires wrote a couple of blog posts on Samaria in the Gospel of Luke:

Ian Paul discussed the passage in which Samaritans reject Jesus:

I will soon blog about my first visit to Samaria this summer. Stay tuned!


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Samaritans

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Samaritans
ࠔࠌࠓࠉࠌ
שומרונים
السامريون
Samaritans marking Passover on Mount Gerizim, West Bank - 20060418.jpg
Samaritans marking Passover on Mount Gerizim near Nablus
Total population
~840 (2021)[1]
Regions with significant populations
 Israel (Holon)460 (2021)Total [sic] in 2021 - 840 souls[1]
Total in 2018 – 810 souls[1]
Total number on 1.1.2017 - 796 persons, 381 souls on Mount Gerizim and 415 in the State of Israel, of the 414 males and 382 females.[1]
 State of Palestine[a] (Kiryat Luza)380 (2021)[1]
Languages
Modern spoken languages:
Israeli HebrewLevantine Arabic
Liturgical languages:
Samaritan HebrewSamaritan Aramaic
Religion
Samaritanism
Related ethnic groups
Jews; other Semitic-speaking peoples (Levantine ArabsMandaeans, etc.)

Samaritans (/səˈmærɪtənz/Samaritan Hebrewࠔࠠࠌࠝࠓࠩࠉࠌ‎,[3] romanized: Šā̊merīmtransl. Guardians/Keepers [of the Torah]; HebrewשומרוניםromanizedŠōmrōnīmArabicالسامريونromanizedas-Sāmiriyyūn) are an ethnoreligious group whose traditions affirm they descend from the ancient Israelites. They are native to the Levant and adhere to Samaritanism, an Abrahamic and ethnic religion.

Samaritan tradition states that they descend from the northern Israelite tribes who were not deported by the Neo-Assyrian Empire after the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel. They believe that Samaritanism is the true religion of the ancient Israelites, preserved by those who remained in Palestine during the Babylonian captivity;[4] this belief is held in opposition to Judaism, the ethnic religion of the Jewish people, which Samaritans see as a closely related but altered and amended religion brought back by Judeans returning from Babylonian captivity. Samaritans consider Mount Gerizim (near both Nablus and biblical Shechem), and not the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, to be the holiest place on Earth.[5][6]

Once a large community, the Samaritan population shrunk significantly in the wake of the bloody suppression of the Samaritan Revolts against the Byzantine Empire (mainly in 525 CE and 555 CE). Mass conversions to Christianity under the Byzantines, and later to Islam following the Arab conquest of the Levant, also reduced their numbers significantly.[7] In the 12th century, the Jewish traveler Benjamin of Tudela estimated that only around 1,900 Samaritans remained in the regions of Palestine and Syria.[8]

As of 2022, the total Samaritan population stands at less than 1,000 people. The Samaritan community is divided between Kiryat Luza on Mount Gerizim and the Samaritan compound in Holon.[b][10] The head of the community is the Samaritan High Priest. Samaritans in Holon primarily speak Israeli Hebrew, while those in Kiryat Luza speak Levantine Arabic; for the purposes of liturgy, the languages of Samaritan Hebrew and Samaritan Aramaic are used, written in the Samaritan script. There are also a small number of Samaritans living outside the Levant, in Brazil and in Catania (Sicily), Italy. [11]

Samaritans have a standalone religious status in Israel, and there are occasional conversions from Judaism to Samaritanism and vice-versa, largely due to interfaith marriages. While Israel's rabbinic authorities came to consider Samaritanism to be a sect of Judaism,[12] the Chief Rabbinate of Israel requires Samaritans to undergo a formal conversion to Judaism in order to be officially recognized as Halakhic JewsRabbinic literature rejected Samaritans unless they renounced Mount Gerizim as the historical Israelite holy site.[c] Samaritans possessing only Israeli citizenship in Holon are drafted into the Israel Defense Forces, while those holding dual Israeli and Palestinian citizenship in Kiryat Luza are exempted from mandatory military service.


This is an extensive article. The remainder of it may be found here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samaritans


Walking in the Footsteps of John the Baptist - Part 1

 


Walking in the Footsteps of John the Baptist, Part 1

James McGrath has recently traveled to Israel to walk in the footsteps of John the Baptist. I thought it might be of interest that we journey with James as well to discover the early days of Jesus' ministry through his cousin John. Enjoy.

R.E. Slater
August 25, 2022




In the Footsteps of John the Baptist Part 1:
From the Mediterranean Sea to the Sea of Galilee

by James F. McGrath
June 27, 2022


As I prepared for my recent trip to the Holy Land focused on John the Baptist, there were moments when I wondered whether it would accomplish what I hoped for. Would standing in the same places that John, his followers, and his critics stood lead to any new insights or raise new questions? The answer came as I made a quick visit to Joppa (Yafo), the ancient port city on the Mediterranean, since it is so close to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport. We aren’t told that John or early Christians ever baptized someone in the Mediterranean Sea. Why not, especially given that there are stories about the early Christian movement in the Book of Acts that take place in Joppa and in Caesarea Maritima? Even if John’s immersion ritual was focused on forgiveness rather than ritual purification, he shared the belief that flowing water (in Aramaic “living water”) was necessary for it to be valid. Whether there were baptisms in Lake Tiberias (more often called the “Sea of Galilee” even though it isn’t a sea) we are not told, but from the perspective of Jewish thought the lake was a natural mikveh or immersion pool, since it had water flowing into it as well as out of it. The Mandaeans still emphasize this, whereas ultimately Christianity abandoned the requirement that water not be “cut off” in order for it to be valid for baptism. Christian baptism is relevant but should not be the only lens through which scholars approach John’s baptism. Christianity took its symbolism as well as the practice itself in very different directions.

I will write more in subsequent posts about places that I stayed and visited during the trip. For now let me just get this series started with the above brief words, providing indication that the trip proved relevant to my research aims right from the first day, although subsequent days would seem far more revelatory in exciting ways. Let me also share some recent links to posts and articles elsewhere related to John the Baptist. Also, at the end there’s a photo from my trip that connects with another of the topics I blog about here frequently…



I see the relation of Jesus and John the Baptist as very important historically and theologically. You are of course right that some of John’s disciples became Jesus’ disciples, though I am not sure if their history with John would make them continue his baptizing work when they transferred to Jesus, if Jesus was not in favour of it! I take it that Jesus was a ‘baptist’ (John 3:25,4:1) even though the hands-on work of baptizing was done on his behalf by his disciples (as was probably also the case later with Paul and his team of companions). I think there is some reason to think that Jesus’ baptizing may have been embarrassing to early Christians, since it could be argued, and may well have been argued by some followers of John the Baptist, that the one who baptizes is greater than the one baptized; Jesus could have been seen as John’s disciple, as ‘he who comes after me’. John’s gospel clearly wants to refute that idea; see John 3:26-36, and I suspect that John 4:2 is the evangelist distancing Jesus from John in response to this discussion. We see not only John, but also Matthew responding to the same sort of question in 3:13-15.

In part five of the same interview he says that he views John as having at one point been part of the Qumran community, before charting his own course. On that subject also have a listen to this podcast featuring Sidnie White Crawford talking about the Dead Sea Scrolls. In part eleven of the Witherington-Wenham conversation they discuss why Jesus discussed his identity with his disciples at Caesarea Philippi. Has anyone suggested that it is because that place is a key source of the Jordan River, and thus the location was a perfect one to discuss whether Jesus was John the Baptist, and if not, who he was?



I have been giving a lot of thought to the question of whether John the Baptist was a nazirite, and what the implications are for how we understand various aspects of his life and teaching. The recent article by Richard Lederman about the nazir and their hair is relevant to this subject.

Let me also share this blog post from James Tabor in which he shared a video of a lecture about John the Baptist with particular focus on his ethical teaching:

Here is a direct link to the video:


Tracking John the Baptizer and His Followers - Including Jesus!
May 4, 2022

New textual and archaeological evidence on "Yochanan HaMatvil," or "John the Dipper," including the Suba cave west of Jerusalem.

I have uploaded a much shorter private camera version of this lecture before but this one has the slides--they are not the best quality but better than nothing. I am "resurrecting" some of these older lectures because they not only capture the times--but also cover materials that I have not touched upon in many years. This one was done in 2006. All the handouts and references are now found at https://jamestabor.com. Just do a search for "John the Baptist."

This lecture was part a Biblical Archaeology Society seminar, publishers of the premiere archaeology magazine, Biblical Archaeology Review. It is used with permission.

I encourage viewers to subscribe to the incredible BAS Library, with thousands of articles, books, and videos. There is nothing like this rich archive that covers
every major topic and discovery for more than 40 years. Unlimited access to the library is available for a small annual subscription price, see: https://www.baslibrary.org.


Finally, here I am at the place where the Jordan River starts (or more accurately resumes) at the southern end of Lake Tiberias. Note the Mandalorian shirt. The theme of the trip could perhaps have been “This is the Way (of John the Baptist).” The early Christian movement, according to Acts, was known as “the Way,” after all, and it might well be that that designation was taken over from John’s movement. It probably wasn’t the only one that Christianity inherited…




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John the Baptist

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John the Baptist
Titian - St John the Baptist in the Desert - WGA22807.jpg
Prophet
Bornc. 1st century BC[1]
Herodian TetrarchyRoman Empire
Diedc. AD 28–36[2][3][4][5][6]
Machaerus, Herodian Tetrarchy, Roman Empire
Venerated inChristianity (all denominations which venerate saints), IslamDruze Faith,[7] Baháʼí FaithMandaeism
CanonizedPre-Congregation
Major shrine
Feast
AttributesRed martyr, camel-skin robe, cross, lamb, scroll with words "Ecce Agnus Dei-", platter with own head, pouring water from hands or scallop shell
PatronageSee Commemoration

John the Baptist[note 1] (c. 1st century BC – c. AD 30) was a mission preacher active in the area of Jordan River in the early 1st century AD.[19][20] He is also known as John the Forerunner in ChristianityJohn the Immerser in some Baptist Christian traditions,[21] and Prophet Yahya in Islam. He is sometimes alternatively referred to as John the Baptizer.[22][23][24]

John is mentioned by the Roman Jewish historian Josephus[25] and he is revered as a major religious figure[26] in Christianity, Islam, the Baháʼí Faith,[27] the Druze Faith, and Mandaeism. He is considered to be a prophet of God by all of these faiths, and is honoured as a saint in many Christian denominations. According to the New Testament, John anticipated a messianic figure greater than himself,[28] and the Gospels portray John as the precursor or forerunner of Jesus.[29] Jesus himself identifies John as "Elijah who is to come",[30] which is a direct reference to the Book of Malachi (Malachi 4:5),[31] that has been confirmed by the angel who announced John's birth to his father, Zechariah.[32] According to the Gospel of Luke, John and Jesus were relatives.[33][34]

Some scholars maintain that John belonged to the Essenes, a semi-ascetic Jewish sect who expected a messiah and practiced ritual baptism.[35][36] John used baptism as the central symbol or sacrament[37] of his pre-messianic movement. Most Christian scholars agree that John baptized Jesus,[38][39] and several New Testament accounts report that some of Jesus' early followers had previously been followers of John.[40]

According to the New Testament, John was sentenced to death and subsequently beheaded by Herod Antipas around AD 30 after John rebuked him for divorcing his wife Phasaelis and then unlawfully wedding Herodias, the wife of his brother Herod Philip I. Josephus also mentions John in the Antiquities of the Jews and states that he was executed by order of Herod Antipas in the fortress at Machaerus.[41]

The Preaching of St. John the Baptist by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1566

Followers of John existed well into the 2nd century AD, and some proclaimed him to be the messiah.[42] In modern times, the followers of John the Baptist are the Mandaeans, an ancient ethnoreligious group who believe that he is their greatest and final prophet.[43][44]



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