Monday, March 30, 2015

John The Baptist: From the Marcionite to the Canonical

John the Baptist, 6th Century Icon 
St. Catherine at Mt. Sinai

John the Baptist appears in every canonical gospel as well as the Marcionite gospel. He is a key character playing a prominent role in each gospel. But there are subtle differences in the portrayal of his role and how it fits or doesn't in each author's presentation. What these differences are and how they came about is what I hope to answer in this survey of each gospels presentation.

The Evolving Character of John the Baptist

The character of John the Baptist figures prominently in the Gospels. We are all familiar with the scene on the Jordan where John is Baptizing, and then when Jesus is Baptized the sky opens and a voice is heard. And we are familiar with the Malachi and Isaiah references that introduce John and his preaching. But this is information that can get in the way of understanding how the character came to be so prominent in the Gospels and understanding how his role started and evolved.

So for this presentation, I am going ask you to forget everything we think we know about John and start with a fresh reading, as if for the first time. Beginning the Marcionite Gospel, and analyzing only what we find in that Gospel to understand John within the context of that writing. From there we will expand into the other Gospels to see how the character developed.