A Gateway to the Research of the Jesus Seminar

 [Home] [About Site] [Complete Gospels] [Data Base] [Historical Quest] [Westar Institute
[Profiles] [Publications] [Reaction] [ Search ] [What's New?] [Network]


Mahlon H Smith,
Rutgers University



Prophetic claims are explicitly made for John the Baptist only in Christian sources where his primary function is to introduce Jesus.  The canonical gospels report that John predicted a greater successor./1/  And Jesus appears to fulfill that prediction.  So a Christian audience would naturally view the Baptist as a prophet.  But whether that was his public reputation while alive--not to mention his self-perception--is debatable.  Neither Josephus nor Thomas calls John "a prophet."  And the fourth gospel has John expressly deny such a claim (John 1:21).  So this characterization of the Baptist is properly traced to synoptic tradition and might not antedate the strand of Q that introduced the question of Jesus' qualification to act as John's anticipated successor./2/

If John's reputation as a prophet was created by Christians just to show Jesus fulfilled prophecy, then most of the synoptic portrait of John--including his prediction of a greater successor--could be dismissed as fiction.  For John to be cast as a prophet he would need to have the appropriate set, clothes, behavior, and lines.  If actual recollection did not provide enough evidence to present John as a convincing prophet then more suitable details could be borrowed from lore about figures, like Moses or Elijah, who were recognized prophetic role models.  Thus, one could argue that only those details which (a) do not reflect a traditional prophetic mold or (b) are paralleled in a non-Christian report (Josephus) should be admitted as historically reliable information about John.

Such thorough methodological skepticism is warranted, however, only if it is true that Christian writers created a prophetic role to John ex nihilo.  A theory of pure (literary) fiction is problematic, however, in view of the following:

(a) Coherence of synoptic sources:

John is explicitly identified as "a prophet" in unrelated passages in Mark (11:32) and Q (Matt 11:9//Luke 7:26).  In both synoptic sources that image is obliquely reinforced by other information in separate contexts.  The only overlapping tradition is in the Markan and Q versions of John's forecast of a greater successor.  And that has the form of a prophetic oracle (particularly in Q).  Unless Q is the ultimate source of Mark's image of John (or vice versa), the impression that John was a prophet must be traced to earlier oral tradition.  And that impression must have been widely enough accepted for Q and Mark to have based independent complementary characterizations of John upon it.

 (b) Audience and motive:

John's prominence and popularity is well-attested outside synoptic tradition./3/ A scenario can be imagined in which followers of Jesus proclaimed John a prophet either to capitalize on his popularity (to attract supporters) or to relativize it (to subordinate him to Jesus).  In either case, it would have to be assumed that John was a well-known hero whom people would recognize as a prophet.  It would be pointless to paint John as a prophet if the audience had never heard of him and fruitless to cast him in such a role if they had no reason to think he fit the part.

Josephus, Mark and Q all indicate that John was a demagogue whose imprisonment by a "Jewish" ruler did not diminish his reputation among Jews as a special man of God.  John's own followers might have exaggerated and distorted his reputation.  But it is evident from all the gospels that Christians were not inclined to accord John greater social prominence than was politically useful.  Jewish Christians might well have exploited their compatriots' convictions by remolding Jesus to fit John's public image or message, but not vice versa./4/  An apologetic attempt to fabricate prophetic status for John is even less plausible as prospects for the Christian mission to Israel faded, as is clearly the case in both Q3 and Mark.

(c) Disjunction between John and Jesus:

Mark and Q (independently) cite Jewish cite Jewish scripture to characterize John as God's own messenger who lays out "the way" for another./5/  Presumably this means that the one who comes next is supposed to follow his example or instructions.  But this is not how Jesus is characterized in either Mark or Q.  In fact, both make a point of contrasting Jesus' lifestyle to John's./6/  And neither portrays Jesus as even attempting, much less completing, John's program for his successor./7/  If John's alleged reputation as a prophet was a Christian fabrication, one would expect him to anticipate Jesus' message or vindicate his behavior.  Instead, Q stresses the discontinuity between john's world and the order represented by Jesus (Matt 11:11-13//Luke 7:28 and16:16).  And Mark devotes even more space (6:14-9:13) to show that Jesus is wrongly confused with John or any prophet.  Thus, Mark and Q report, but do not promote, claims of continuity between John and Jesus.

Such considerations make it improbable that any Christian created a prophetic reputation for John.  The simplest way to explain the limitation of textual support for this claim is to take Mark (11:32d) and Q (Matt 11:9//Luke 7:26) at their word: many Jews saw John as a prophet, irrespective of Jesus.  Christians obviously advertised Jesus as John's successor, but not without trying to minimize John's role.  That is probably why Christian writers were concerned to have John characterize his own role as different from and grossly inferior to that of his successor (i.e., baptism with water versus spirit; disqualification to act as even the most menial servant in the new order)./8/  Jews generally regarded predecessors as paradigms; and role models are inevitably regarded as greater than imitators.  While Christians were prepared to concede John as "the greatest" prior to Jesus, the gospels all stress that this rank related to another era or social order./9/  Hence, the "Christian" description of John as a prophet--spokesman for God, that is--probably developed only as a concession, a censored copy of his reputation among pre-Christian Jews.  The fourth gospel declined to accept as much as the synoptics.  And Josephus, defending Jews against Roman suspicions, had even more cause not to call John "a prophet."/10/  But his parenthetical explanation of Antipas' reasons for separating John from the populace--"they seemed ready to do everything he advised" (Antiquities 18.118)--tacitly admits that, among Jews, this was his public reputation.



The presentation of John in all canonical sources takes it for granted that Jews recognized him as a prophet.  The historical question remains, however, whether characterization of John as the ultimate prophet is an exclusively Christian development. Here the evidence is more complex, since Q and Mark credit Jesus with assessments of John which give the impression of claims that were not prior public knowledge.

(a) Q: The reminder that the crowds went to John seeking a prophet (Matt 11:9a=Luke 7:26a) is intensified and clarified by magisterial formulae that indicate a singular teacher's point of view./11/  Whoever originally claimed John was "more than a prophet" and that no human was greater than he, Q clearly supports these opinions by appealing to Jesus' personal authority./12/  These statements--though reinforcing Jewish sentiment--are rightly regarded as "Christian" propaganda.  The same is true of Q's contrast between recent turmoil and the order of law and prophets in effect "until John" (Luke 16:16//Matt 11:12-13).  Together, these Q sayings portray John as the last and greatest of the prophets of the Mosaic order but, at the same time, distinguish John's world from Jesus and God's basileia.

(b) Mark introduces John with the sweeping generalization that his following included "everyone from the Judean countryside and all the residents of Jerusalem' (1:5ab).  Yet he calls him "a prophet" only in a later parenthesis (11:32c) to point out that the temple authorities did not share the opinion of the masses.  Otherwise, his only allusions to John's public reputation are indirect, as part of his campaign to discredit rumors about Jesus.  As Mark tells it (twice), after John's execution "some people" mistook Jesus for John or Elijah or a prophet./13/  Such confusion implicitly categorizes John as a prophetic type.    

By contrasting public rumor with Peter's identification of Jesus as "the Anointed" (8:29), Mark clearly intends to put Jesus in a different category than John.  But by immediately adding two scenes that discredit Peter's vision of Jesus, Mark also indicates that partisans of Jesus did not see the distinction.  Peter's denial of the possibility of Jesus' death (Mark 8:31) is usually attributed to Jewish belief in the immortality of a messianic king.  But such an opinion in this period is difficult to document. The immortality of Elijah, on the other hand, was attested by common scripture.  And Jewish speculation about him and other ancient figures who were close to God--notably, Moses and Enoch--is confirmed by apocrypha from this era.  Mark's version of the transfiguration is particularly critical of Peter for confusing Jesus with such types (9:5-6).  As he tells it, in spite of divine instructions to heed only Jesus (9:5-6), Peter and his associates were reluctant to abandon current scribal doctrine about Elijah's reappearance (9:11; Mal 3:23 [4:5]).

Mark resolves the problem by having Jesus act as a master scribe.  He affirms Elijah tradition, but points out that scripture requires "the Son of Man" to suffer rejection (9:12)./14/ By itself this verse seems to distinguish Jesus from Elijah.  But Mark goes on to have Jesus correct current opinion by claiming (a) Elijah has come, (b) has been mistreated and (c) scripture required the latter (9:13).  Mark does not explicitly identify John as Elijah.  Mark does not explicitly identify John as Elijah.  But he has framed his narrative to lead the reader to that conclusion. He accounted for the rumors confusing Jesus with John and Elijah by portraying the situation that led to John's arrest as similar to Elijah's confrontation with Ahab and Jezebel./15/  Elijah's persecution because of an Israelite ruler's wife is thus implicitly repeated in John's predicament.  Whether Jesus' disciples made this connection Mark neglects to say.  But since he does not mention confusion of Jesus with prophetic types again, he clearly assumes that having Jesus relegate Elijah's role with the past was enough to settle the issue.

Independent agendas

The estimates of John's status in Q and Mark are clearly quite independent with regard to surface detail and rhetorical tactics.  While Q heaps hyperbolic praise on John, Mark all but buries his reputation in incidental parallels and innuendo.  Mark, on the other hand, links John to a recognizable role, while Q leaves his place in history paradoxical and cryptic.

The only formula describing John that is approximately the same in both is a paraphrase of Exod 23:20./16/  And this just identifies him as God's personal messenger (ἄγγελός μου) who arranges things for another (πρὸ προσώπου σου).  Moreover, there are significant dramatic differences between Mark and Q's presentation of this OT citation.  Q has Jesus deliver the line to the Jewish crowd after John is in prison (Matt 11:10//Luke 7:27); Mark gives it to an anonymous announcer before either John or Jesus has appeared on stage (Mark 1:2).

This difference in speaker and setting has important hermeneutical consequences.  In Q's staging it is hard to take the second person singular pronoun as applying to Jesus.  In addressing others, speakers usually intend "you" to be understood as referring to their audience, which Q here identifies as Jews who responded to John.  Thus, within Q's dramatic framework, John is represented as God's ultimate messenger (ἄγγελός μου) to Israel as a unit (which is a correct midrash pesher on Exod 23:20). Taken in Q's context, this biblical citation is part of a campaign to exalt John, yet limit his sphere of influence.  John is no longer active; the way he prepared is a pre-via, belonging to another era and social context./17/

Mark also uses the Christian pesher of Exod 23:20 as a focalizer.  But he refocuses it to take the spotlight off John by:

(a) prefacing it with a notice (1:1) that the real subject of the message is Jesus;
(b) equating its reference to God's messenger (ἄγγελός μου) with the anonymous herald of the Lord (1:2) in Isa 40:3; and
(c) illustrating it by a scenario (1:4-11) in which John's sole role is to prepare for a successor (who turns out to be Jesus).

Mark accepts the application of Exod 23:20 to John; but he buries it in a context that insures that the reader understands that Jesus is the one who really represents God (1:11).

The fact that the only reference to John's extraordinary status that Mark and Q have in common is a paraphrase of scripture which is made to fit very different agendas justifies caution in judging the historical source of their information about John's reputation.  But several considerations make it difficult to pass off their respective characterization of John as complete fictions:

(1) Coherence of independent sources:

No single gospel account can be identified as the source of John's glorification.

(a) Mark and Q agree in applying Exod 23:20 to John, representing him--not Jesus--as God's personal messenger.  The differences in presentation make direct influence of one synoptic source upon the other improbable.

(b) John 1:6 (or more likely its source) also obliquely introduces God's special messenger by characterizing him as "a man sent from God's side" (ἄvθρωπος ἀπεσταλμέvος παρὰ θεοῦ).

(c) Thom 46:1 agrees with Q (Matt 11:11//Luke 7:28) in having Jesus characterize John as the greatest person who had a mother.  This is a Jewish was on saying only God and his heavenly host are greater than he.  According to Thom 99 and the canonical gospels, even Jesus had a mother.

(2) Qualification of John's status:

Every Christian source seeks to limit John's prominence in one way or another.

(a) Mark restricts John's role as God's messenger to announcing a greater successor and accusing Antipas of violating Mosaic marital regulations.  His equation with Elijah is implied only after his execution has been rehearsed in gory detail (precluding any thought that he ascended into heaven unscathed).

(b) Q closes Jesus' eulogy of John (Matt 11:7-11//Luke 7:24-28) with a paradoxical pronouncement that subordinates John to even the most insignificant person in God's realm (presumably Christians).  Thom 46 presents an even more condensed and qualified version of Jesus' eulogy, lest anyone conclude that Jesus thought John was greater than himself.

(c) The fourth gospel and its source restrict John's role to bystander and witness to Jesus' glory.  Particular stress is put on John's denial that he is the ultimate messenger of God (Messiah, Elijah or Prophet) or even comes "from above" (John 1:21, 3:31).

(3) Social context:

The role of the ultimate prophet belongs to Jewish rather than Christian speculation.  All sources represent John as a hero of such extraordinary significance to Jews. 

(a) Josephus' sole reason for introducing John is to explain "a theory of the Jews" (τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις δόξα) that Antipas' crushing defeat by the Arab armies of Aretas in 35 CE was God's  vengeance for John's execution (Antiquities 18.116-119). Jewish scripture predicted such a fatefor those who failed to heed the ultimate prophetic champion of Mosaic law./18/

(b) Q identifies John as the culmination of the law and the prophets (Luke 16:16//Matt 11:12-13) and has him warn "the sons of Abraham" that this is their last chance to escape destruction (Matt 3:7-10//Luke 3:7-9).

(c) Elijah was an Israelite national hero, who was celebrated for sparking a violent revolution to enforce observance of Mosaic law./19/  Reported to have ascended to heaven without dying, he was glorified beyond any mortal./20/ Observant Jews widely sought his return as national savior, restoring divine favor and the social solidarity of Israel./21/ Mark does not associate any of these traditional Elijah motifs with John, much less advocate them for Jesus.  So it is improbable that he invented such a reputation for either.

Thus, many independent sources report, but do not fully endorse, John's reputation as the ultimate man of God and champion of the Mosaic covenant--in short, the Prophet par excellence.  Many Jews identified such a role with Elijah.  Given the socio-political ramifications of this position, it is virtually certain that these claims for John did not originate with anyone in the Christian movement after Jesus.  So, John's glorification  as the last and greatest of God's messengers must have begun within a Jewish setting.



It is remotely possible, however, that Jesus was the Jew who introduced the hyperbolic estimate of John's status into Christian tradition. This possibility remains open because of multiple attestation and circumstantial factors

(a) Structural similarity in reports that are totally diverse on the surface.

Mark and Q independently credit Jesus with characterizing John as a prophet of eschatological proportions.  These parallels led Matthew to equate the two and insert the Markan characterization (Elijah) into Q's eulogy of John (Matt 11:25). 

(b) Thom 44 support's Q's identification of John as the greatest human being.

Both report the claim that there was "none greater born of woman," a claim which--left unqualified--portrays John as greater even than Jesus (who both sources admit had a mother). Jesus remains the most likely spokesman in Christian tradition to have made such an exaggerated claim. Thomas and Q agree in presenting this as a Jesus saying.

(c) Jesus submitted to baptism by John.

This synoptic report is almost certain since it implicitly places Jesus, at least temporarily, in an inferior relation to John, a perception which Christian authors take great pains to deny. To have sought or submitted to baptism by John, Jesus would have had to have a firm conviction of the importance of John's historic role.

However, other factors make it improbable that Jesus himself invented the characterization of John as the ultimate eschatological prophet. All Christian authors try to limit, correct or contradict exaggerated estimates of John's prophetic role. Mark and John associate John with the role of the eschatological prophet to disassociate Jesus from that role. It is difficult to correlate the evidence that Jesus' public behavior and reputation were not in line with John's with a personal conviction that John was the eschatological prophet. Jews who expected such a figure also believed that anyone who did not conform to his interpretation of the law would be destroyed by God.

While John lived, Jesus may have shared a widespread Jewish conviction that John was the final prophet and even (like others) drawn parallels between John and Elijah. But then, John's execution would have certainly led him to a radical reassessment of that view.  For Jews did not expect the ultimate prophet, whatever his name, to suffer such a fate.  It would have been virtually impossible for anyone, including Jesus, to create a reputation for John as Elijah after his execution, since this event was public knowledge among Jews (witness Josephus).

John's disqualification to act as eschatological prophet provides the simplest explanation for indications in the gospels that some people thought Jesus might play that part. Jesus may have tried to distance himself from such a characterization by claiming that it still fit John better than himself. But the parallels between Mark, Q and Thomas are not extensive enough to prove that he did.



If as argued above, the representation of John as an extraordinary prophet prophet is the product is not the product of Christian propaganda or a private conviction of Jesus, then it must be traced to anonymous Jewish rumors that began while John was still active.  The question remains: what would have sparked such a reputation? A definitive answer is not possible here given the fragmentary and refracted information in the sources. Neither the gospels nor Josephus show any inclination to explain why Jews would consider John an extraordinary messenger of God.  But they do provide some indirect clues.  By itself any of these fragments is uncertain and insufficient evidence.  It is the coherence of material in independent sources and unrelated contexts that makes their general Gestalt probable.

(a) Champion of Jewish law and social justice.

Observance of the Mosaic Torah and practice of social justice were principles of Hebrew prophets.

Josephus: "he called the Jews to cultivate virtue, with justice to each other and obedience to God" (Antiquities 18:117);

Q: "Law and prophets were until John" (Luke 16:16a//Matt 11:13);

Luke: [John to the masses]: "Haves, share with have-nots";
           [to toll-collectors]: "Collect no more than ordered" (3:10-13).

(b) Challenge to civil authority.

The reputation of Israelite prophets is direct proportion to their resistance to rulers who were a threat to observance of Israel's covenant with YHWH, with successful social reformers (Moses and Elijah) as chief paradigms.

Josephus: "Herod feared his persuasiveness might lead the people to some uprising" (Antiquities 18:118).

Mark: "Herod was afraid of John" (6:20a).

(c) Separation from current society in symbolic return to roots.

(1) Setting: retreat to wilderness. Compare Moses (Exod 4:27, 5:1-3, 7:16) & Elijah (19:4).

Mark: "John the Baptizer appeared in the wilderness" (4:1);

Q: "What did you go into the wilderness to see?" (Matt 11:7//Luke 7: 24; paralleled by Thom 78 but without reference to John);

John: "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness" (1:23).

Josephus locates John's imprisonment in the wilderness fortress of Machaerus, in southern Perea (Antiquities 18:119).

(2) Rustic dress: Rustic dress was traditionally associated with Hebrew prophets.  Elijah word a hair shirt and a leather belt (2 Kings 1:8). Mark's portrait is similar but not identical (the belt may be a later interpolation).

Mark: "John wore camel hair [with a leather belt]" (1:6).

Q: "What did you go out to see? a man dressed in fancy clothes?" (Matt 11:8//Luke 7:25).

(3) Simple diet: The Nazir vowed devotion to YHWH by abstaining from wine (Num 6:3) which was linked in the Hebrew mind to Canaanite culture (Amos 2:12).

Q: "John came not eating [bread] and not drinking [wine] (Matt 11:18//Luke 7:33);

Mark: "John...lived on locusts and wild honey" (1:6c).



What is the value of this evidence for getting a clear picture of the historical role played by John the Baptist? The following summary indicates which theses are historically reliable and which are not:

1. John acted as a Hebrew prophet.                                                         red [virtually certain]
    John's own opinion of himself is beyond historical proof.
    That some Jews regarded him as a prophet is certain.
    Christian authors minimize John's function as a prophet.
    If John did not act as a prophet it is impossible to account for his reputation.

2. John was seen by Jews as acting like Elijah.                                       pink [probable]
    John's own role models are beyond historical proof.
    Mark alludes to but restricts his role as Elijah. The fourth gospel denies it.
    Comparison of John with Elijah probably did not originate after his execution.
    John is not apt to have been confused with Elijah if he did nothing to create this opinion.

3. The Baptist's supporters cast him as Elijah.                                       red [virtually certain]
    Elijah was the major prophetic hero whose return most Jews expected.
    Christian sources minimize the importance of this role.

4. Jesus saw John as Elijah.                                                                      grey [uncertain]
    Explicit only in Matt 11:25 which is probably a gloss by a scribe influenced by Mark.
    Mark & Q hint but do not claim Jesus himself made this connection.

5. Jesus' disciples cast John in the role of Elijah.                                      black [improbable]
    Elijah was the major prophetic hero whose return most Jews expected.
    John's disciples might have transferred this role to Jesus but not vice versa.

6. Mark or Q was the first to cast John as Elijah.                                     black [improbable]
    Both link John's reputation to Jewish popular opinion.
    Mark stresses that Jesus was mistakenly cast as Elijah;
    only after reporting John death he just hints that John filled that role.
    Q does not explicitly mention Elijah but only that he was the last & greatest prophet.

7. John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness.                                        pink [probable]
    Linked to citation of Isa 40:3 in Mark and the fourth gospel but
    independently attested in all gospel sources as the sphere of John's activity.
    Circumstantially linked to John's baptizing activity near the Jordan and
    Josephus' report of his imprisonment at Machaerus.

8. John the Baptist was an ascetic.                                                             pink [probable]
    Q and Mark independently contrast his diet with Jesus' reputation for feasting.

9. John the Baptist wore camel hair.                                                          grey [possible]
    Only explicitly mentioned in Mark but Q claims John did not wear fine clothing.
    Camel hair garments are common among wilderness nomads.

10. John wore a leather belt.                                                                        grey [possible]
     A traditional prophetic trait particularly identified with Elijah.
     Mentioned only by Mark but without emphasis on a prophetic role.

11. John lived on locusts and wild honey.                                                   grey [possible]
    Wilderness fare, not particularly associated with any traditional archetype;
    but mentioned only in Mark.   


/1/ Mark 1:7-8, Matt 3:11-12//Luke 3:16-17, John 1:26, 30-33.

/2/ Matt 11:2-3//Luke 7:18-20 is followed by sayings exalting John.  Q's express identification of John as a prophet is not found in the Thomas version of the first of these (Thom 78).  While more than 60% of the Jesus Seminar though the core of this saying could be traced to Jesus, there was no consensus on whether Q added or Thomas dropped reference to the people's quest for a prophet.

/3/ Josephus Antiquities 18.116-119, Thom 46, John 1.

/4/ In the fourth gospel the Baptist's agenda (John 1:31-33) is paradigm for passages in which Jesus' message and activity are heavily editorialized (3:5-6, 22-26, 13:1-14, 14:15-26; 20:22 excepted).

/5/ Mark 1:2//Matt 11:10//Luke 7:27. Ἰδοὺ [ἐγὼ] ἀποστέλλω τὸν ἀγγελόν μου πρὸ πρσώπου σου is an exact quotation of the LXX version of Exod 23:20a.  The rest of the citation--ὃς κατασκευάσει τὴν ὁδόν σου [ἐμπροσθέν σου]--does not correspond to a standard translation of any OT text, though it is often (wrongly) linked to Mal 3:1.  The fact that Mark and Q present almost the same saying does not prove literary dependence.  Free paraphrase and confused quotation are commonplace in ancient Jewish and early Christian exegesis, with oral innovation made normative by frequent repetition (witness targummim, midrashim and "apostolic" works).  Here Mark and Q clearly depend on a common Greek source other than the LXX.  But it is more likely oral rather than written, since Q ascribes the quote to Jesus, while Mark gives it to an anonymous narrator (see below n16).

/6/ Q juxtaposes critical caricatures of John as a fanatic ascetic and Jesus as socially lax and self-indulgent (Matt 11:18-19//Luke 7:33-35). Mark 2:15-20 admits this divergence in trying to justify Jesus' behavior.

/7/ Mark 1:8 introduces a scene in which Jesus himself is baptized and receives the spirit; and thereafter Jesus is frequently portrayed as "cleansing" others verbally. But Mark does not identify Jesus' own activity as "baptizing with a holy spirit."  In Q, where John advertises one who purges with fire (Matt 3:11-12//Luke 3:16-17), the disjunction between prediction and Jesus' reputed performance (Matt 11:4-6//Luke 7:22) is even greater.  The wistful riddles in Luke 12:49-50 are Jesus' only echoes of the Baptist's motifs that can be credited to Q.  In contrast to synoptic sources, the fourth gospel often portrays Jesus validating John'soracle (see n4 above).

/8/ Mark 1:7-8, Matt 3:11//Luke 3:16,John 1:26-27, 33.

/9/ Matt 11:11//Luke 7:28//Thom 46; John 1:6-8, 15, 3:30-31.

/10/ E.g., John's execution by a long-time Roman ally and client; Pharisaic scruples against classifying a recent demagogue in a category associated with normative scripture.

/11/ "I tell you" (Matt 11:9b, 11a//Luke 7:26b, 28a) and "this is he" (Matt 11:10//Luke 7:27).

/12/ The Jesus Seminar treated Matt 11:9-10//Luke 7:26-27 as a unit with the majority (about 60%) voting black. Separation of the first verse from the second with its pesher on Exod 23:20 (a non-Jesus saying in Mark) might have altered the results a bit.  On the other hand, more than 50% thought that the next verse (Matt 11:11//Luke 7:28) began with a genuine Jesus saying.  Doubts about the ending left the weighted average gray. 

/13/ Mark 6:14-16, 8:27-28.

/14/ The last claim can be traced to Jewish scripture only if "son of man" is taken in a generic sense.  It is axiomatic in the OT that suffering and degradation is the human condition (e.g., Gen 3:16-19, Job 25:26, Eccl 3:18-21).

/15/ E.g., John accuses "the king" (Mark 6:14) of unlawfully taking what belongs to another (6:18; compare 1 Kings 21:17-19); Herodias vows to eliminate John (Mark 6:19; 1 Kings 19:2).

/16/ Matt 11:10=Luke 7:27//Mark 1:2 (see n5 above).

/17/ Matt 11:11-13//Luke 7:28 and 16:16.

/18/ Deut 18:17-19; Mal 3:19-24 [4:1-6 RSV].

/19/ 1 Kings 18:21-40, 19:15-17; Sir 48:6.

/20/ 2 Kings 2:2, 11; Sir 48:4, 9.

/21/ Mal 3:23-24 [4:5-6 RSV]; Sir 48:10-11.


copyright by author 1992-2017
all rights reserved

  • This paper was first presented in October 1992 to a session of the Deeds Conference of the Jesus Seminar in Phoenix, AZ and is published here for the first time.

  • Hypertext links to this web page are welcome. But the contents of this paper may not be reproduced or posted elsewhere without the express written consent of the author.

- last revised 25 November 2017 -

Website designed by Mahlon H. Smith
copyright 1997- 2017