Is the story of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist true or plausible?

Of John’s baptism Josephus writes in Antiquities 18 that John commanded the Jews to be holy to God and virtuous to each other and come to him for washing as long as it was not for the forgiveness of sins but for the purification of the body on the basis that the soul should have been purified beforehand with repentance and good works.

Josephus seemed to know more about John than the gospels.

He writes as if John was warning people that baptism did not forgive sins and was a public declaration of repentance.

If Jesus then was sinless then he was not baptised.  If he was baptised then he was a sinner and guilty of sacrilege to boot!

Let us look at what the gospels say.  The oldest gospel Mark; gospel of Matthew; gospel of Luke and the gospel of John the last one.

It is felt by many scholars that Jesus really was baptised by John in the river Jordan.  The rationale behind it is that it seems too embarrassing for the early Christians to make it up.  It makes John Jesus's mentor and the one who has to give him to God in baptism.   This seems to contradict the Bible doctrine that Jesus is Lord and was God's sinfree servant from conception.  Baptism was supposedly only for sinners and Jesus was sinless and that is the biggest problem. 

The trouble is embarrassment arguments are very subjective and it overlooks the fact that embarrassing tales might be put in on the basis: "Hmm that is strange. Must think about that sometime. There must be some reason for it."

The oldest account is from Mark, "In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”  This could describe a communal baptism for it is not actually said that John took each person and pushed them into the water.  And only Jesus is mentioned as having the vision.  So it may be suggesting that nobody else saw and heard.  Why would Jesus need to be told by God that he is his son with whom he is happy.  Why is God happy?  Because Jesus has got his sins forgiven by getting baptised to show he is sorry for them?

Mark's baptism story was plaigerised by Matthew and Luke so we only really have one record that Jesus was baptised.

The next oldest gospel Matthew goes, "Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”  Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.  As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Again nobody else is mentioned as seeing the vision or hearing the voice but the voice speaks as if it was not speaking to Jesus.  That is contradicting Mark.

Luke has, "When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”  This could imply a communal baptism and like Mark says that the voice spoke to Jesus only.  Luke differs from Mark who says that Jesus had the vision and heard the voice when he got out of the water.  Here it happens when he prays later.

No gospel claims there was any evidence or any witnesses that this baptism in fact took place.  A text that claims to be testified to is stronger than one that makes mere assertions.  The latter is as weak as hearsay.  It is a matter of opinion if the gospel of John thinks Jesus was baptised.  It never mentions John saying anything.

John goes, "These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.  The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.”  And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”  The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”

This account has the Spirit coming on Jesus.  But if Jesus were God and God is Father and Son and Holy Spirit the Spirit cannot really come to Jesus or on him for as the three are one they are always together.

John's gospels suffers from obvious insertions which mean that if the gospel is divinely inspired the insertions might not be even if they were John's work. 

In John 3:22 Jesus is said to enter Judea though the context is that he is ready in it!

It is a clue that the following is an insertion: “22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized. 24 (This was before John was put in prison.) 25 An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”  27 To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.”  31 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33 Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”

The poor writing and obvious signs of correction show this piece is not reliable.   The statement that John is not in prison yet is bizarre and random.  Some wonder if Jesus only appeared after John was imprisoned and the gospels are lying that there was a connection between them.

The gospels struggle with the data on John the Baptist.  So what else did they have a problem with?  The baptism maybe?  If it was then it didn't stop them putting it in!

Luke has John the Baptist appearing when Lysanias ruled which was fifteen years into reign of Tiberias. But Lysanias had been dead for about six decades then!!  It could be that Luke made a mistake and maybe John became a holy man at the time of Lysanias which would mean he was quite old.  Luke's claim that he was about Jesus' age could be a lie.

Josephus wrote that Herod married Herodias the wife of his brother also called Herod. Mark errs in saying the brother was Philip. That was why crafty Luke when writing Mark’s material left the reference to Philip out. See Luke 3:19. Mark gets the name of the girl who got the king to kill the Baptist wrong. He calls her Herodias but in fact her name was Salome.

Mark says that Herod Antipas had John murdered.

If the baptism by John was a lie then why did the Christians invent it?

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