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RedactionCriticism: Jesus’ Baptism

Thereare variations on how the synoptic gospels present the story of Jesusand other characters. This led to the emergence of redactioncriticisms of the texts presented in the gospel books in search ofthe most viable truth or/and discrediting the least sensible. Thispaper focuses on excerpts from the synoptic gospels concerning thebaptism of Jesus. The paper seeks to explain how the four differentauthors, John, Mathew, Luke and Mark, tell the story either tocomplement one another’s story or by telling a different story allthe same. There are key notable common events during the baptismwhile some others differ completely.

Thegospel by Mark seems as the common ground from which the otherauthors obtained the initial storyline and then modified it their ownway to suit their individual intentions. Mark provides the setting,being at the Jordan. He also gives the timing to the event by notingthat it was at the time when Jesus had returned from Nazareth inGalilee. Mark then goes ahead to give the occurrences the unfolded.He goes straight to the point saying that Jesus was baptized by Johnand when he got out of the water, he saw the heavens open and thespirit descended on him and a voice spoke to him. Matthew buys Marksexplanation but modifies it by adding such information as John firstrefused to baptize Jesus on grounds the he was inferior to him. However Jesus persuades him and he gets baptized by John. UnlikeMark, Matthew finds it important to include the time that Jesus tookunder the water immediately after he was baptized. Again accordingto Matthew, when the heavens opened and a dove descended on Jesus,the voice that came from heaven was either addressing John or thepeople who were around. In this way, the two authors could be said tobe telling the same story but in different ways.

Lukegives the same story but on a relatively blunt approach. He isadamant to giving a lot of details on the timing and geographicalsetting. However, he is keen to note that Jesus was baptized aftereveryone else was baptized. His intention would have been tosymbolize Jesus’ humble nature. He would also have wanted tomagnify the importance harbored by Jesus’ baptism and hence had tobe carried out last it would probably have taken more time. Justlike Mark, Luke claims that after the heavens had opened and the HolySpirit had descended in form of a dove, the voice that came fromheaven addressed Jesus and not anyone else.

Thegospel of John tells of the baptism of Jesus in a different mannerfrom the others. John sees Jesus coming to him and exclaims that heis the son of God, whom he had been preparing the way for. UnlikeMark, Luke and Matthew, the author of John explains that he is theone who saw the spirit of God descend on Jesus and a voice fromheaven guided him in identifying him as the one who would bebaptizing with the Holy Spirit. The fact that John saw a dove descendfrom heaven to Jesus complements Mark, Luke and Matthew’s storiesthat were unclear on whether there were other people who saw the doveapart from Jesus himself. However, John contradicts with the othersas he claims the John the Baptist is the one who heard the voice fromheaven while Mark and Luke made it look like the voice addressed onlyJesus.


BibleGateway. TheBaptism of Jesus.2014. Web.