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Josephus’ Account of John the Baptist: A Christian Interpolation?

In: Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus
Author: Rivka Nir1
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This essay provides fresh insight into the possibility that the passage in Josephus about John the Baptist (Jewish Antiquities, 18.116-119) was not written by Josephus himself. In making the case for its interpolation or adaptation by the hand of a writer representing an early Christian or Jewish-Christian sect, the essay focuses on how the text describes John's baptism and its distinguishing characteristics as well as the similarities it shares with immersions common amid early Christian or Jewish-Christian sects. Of particular importance to uncovering the theological identity of this baptism is its description as an external physical purification, whose efficacy is preconditioned by inner spiritual purification. This essay shows that baptism of this nature did not exist amid mainstream Jewish circles of the Second Temple period. Such baptism appeared and developed within sectarian groups on the margins of Judaism, as at Qumran. It was then carried on and practised by early Christian or Jewish-Christian groups in the first centuries ce.

Abstract

This essay provides fresh insight into the possibility that the passage in Josephus about John the Baptist (Jewish Antiquities, 18.116-119) was not written by Josephus himself. In making the case for its interpolation or adaptation by the hand of a writer representing an early Christian or Jewish-Christian sect, the essay focuses on how the text describes John's baptism and its distinguishing characteristics as well as the similarities it shares with immersions common amid early Christian or Jewish-Christian sects. Of particular importance to uncovering the theological identity of this baptism is its description as an external physical purification, whose efficacy is preconditioned by inner spiritual purification. This essay shows that baptism of this nature did not exist amid mainstream Jewish circles of the Second Temple period. Such baptism appeared and developed within sectarian groups on the margins of Judaism, as at Qumran. It was then carried on and practised by early Christian or Jewish-Christian groups in the first centuries ce.

Introduction

Woven into Josephus’ Jewish Antiquities is a passage on Jesus (Ant. XVIII:63-64), a passage on James, the brother of Jesus (Ant. XX:200), and a testimony to John the Baptist (Ant. XVIII.116-119). That the three passages feature in one of our major historical sources on the land of Israel and history of the Jewish people, written by the foremost Jewish historian of the Second Temple period and a close contemporary of these key figures in Christianity, makes them invaluable to assessing the reliability of the Christian story. Whether or not they were actually written by Josephus is arguable. The debate on the authenticity of the Jesus passage, known in scholarship as the Testimonium Flavianum, remains unresolved. Whereas few scholars accept it in whole, most are either in pursuit of exposing its original nucleus or reject it altogether as a Christian interpolation.1 The testimony to John the Baptist (like the James passage), on the other hand, is today largely uncontested. Most scholars regard it as authentic evidence which, in its general features, lends credibility to John's description in the New Testament, his activity as a baptizer, and his death at the hands of Herod Antipas.2 Sustaining this position are three main arguments:

  1. 1.In view of dissimilarities or even contradictions between the Gospel and Josephus versions about John the Baptist, it is reasoned that had the passage been interpolated by a Christian, the interpolator would most likely have accommodated the account to its version in the Gospels.3
  2. 2.The passage's correspondence in vocabulary and style to Josephus’ Antiquities in general and books XVII–XIX in particular.4
  3. 3.The presence of the text in all the Josephus manuscripts and its mention by Origen in his Against Celsus (1.47), dated to 248 ce.

Yet, as of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, a number of scholars raised the possibility that this passage is a Christian interpolation, notably Heinrich Graetz, who called it ‘a brazen forgery’ (unverschämte Interpolation).5 Arguing against its authenticity, scholars questioned its integration into the text: it interrupts the sequence of events and flow of syntax, and could therefore be easily removed.6 They puzzled over its positive and supportive tone towards John which is inconsistent with Josephus, the fierce opponent of anyone seeking to challenge the legitimate government or promote change or rebellion of any sort.7 They were equally puzzled by the presence of βαπτιστής, which became the distinctive epithet for John the Baptist in Christian sources.8 That Josephus would use this most explicitly Christian term and leave it unexplained, especially in a work addressed to Greek and Roman readers, they found hard to believe.9 On this point, further incredulity is raised by the presence of βαπτισμός and βάπτισις, the two terms used in the passage for the immersion associated with John. Being quintessentially Christian terms that Christian tradition applied to Christian baptism,10 they occur in Josephus only within this passage, marking divergence from his usual usage of terms associated with the Jewish ritual of immersion—λούεσθαι, ἀπολούεσθαι, meaning to purify a person from external physical defilement.11

I will here attempt to provide a fresh insight into the possibility that this passage was not written by Josephus himself. In making my case for its interpolation or adaptation by the hand of a writer (or writers) representing an early Christian or Jewish-Christian sect, I will rely exclusively on how the text describes John's baptism. An analysis of the characteristics distinguishing John's baptism will form the first part of my essay. In so doing, I will also point out the similarities it shares with immersions common amid early Christian or Jewish-Christian sects.

Of particular importance to uncovering the theological identity of this baptism is its description as an external physical purification, whose efficacy is preconditioned by inner spiritual purification. I intend to show that baptism of this nature did not exist amid mainstream Jewish circles of the Second Temple period. Such baptism appeared and developed within sectarian groups on the margins of Judaism, as at Qumran. It was then carried on and practised by Jewish-Christian groups over the first centuries ce. In constructing this argument, the parallel to John's baptism in the Pseudo-Clementine writings, the Homilies and Recognitions, plays a significant role. There is common agreement that these writings, usually dated to the fourth century but integrating ample material from earlier sources, reflect the world of ideas and beliefs within Jewish-Christian circles of the first centuries ce.12 On the basis of this parallel and affinities with other early Christian writings, it would be safe to assume that the author or redactor of the Josephus passage was close to these early Christians or Jewish-Christian groups. Such authorial proximity to Jewish-Christian circles of the Pseudo-Clementine writings may well account for the polemical tenor of our passage. John's outspoken dismissal of baptism ‘to gain pardon from whatever sins’, before commending his own version, suggests, as I intend to prove, an underlying polemic against Christian orthodox baptism.

In recent years, ‘Jewish-Christianity’ has become a fiercely debated phenomenon in terms of its definition and place in the so-called ‘parting of the ways’.13 To enter into its complexities is beyond my present scope. What matters, for clarity's sake, is how I apply it here: it serves as an umbrella term for groups that developed on the margins of Christianity during the first centuries ce. They were Christians, Jews or Gentiles, who accepted belief in Jesus as messiah but continued partial observance of Jewish law and rituals. The practices of these groups, as well as their world of beliefs, are known through writings of the Church Fathers, who refuted them as heretics. They are equally known through Jewish-Christian literature, like the writings of the Pseudo-Clementine.14

I. Jewish Antiquities XVIII.116-119

It is Herod Antipas's defeat in 36 ce by Aretas IV, the Nabatean king, which provides the background for Josephus’ account, here produced in its English translation from the Greek.15

(116) But to some of the Jews the destruction of Herod's army seemed to be divine vengeance, and certainly a just vengeance, for his treatment of John, surnamed the Baptist. (117) For Herod had put him to death, though he was a good man and had exhorted the Jews who lead [ἐπασκοῦσιν] righteous lives and practice [χρωμένοις] justice [δικαιοσύνῃ] towards their fellows and piety [εὐσεβείᾳ] toward God16 to join in baptism [βαπτισμῷ συνιέναι]. In his view this was a necessary preliminary if baptism [βάπτισιν] was to be acceptable to God. They must not employ it to gain pardon for whatever sins they committed, but as a consecration of the body implying [or: on condition17] that the soul was already thoroughly cleansed by [righteousness—R.N.] [δικαιοσύνῃ]. (118) When others [18] too joined the crowds about him, because they were aroused [ἤρθησαν]19 to the highest degree by his sermons, Herod became alarmed. Eloquence that had so great an effect on mankind might lead to some form of sedition, for it looked as if they would be guided by John in everything that they did. Herod decided therefore that it would be much better to strike first and be rid of him before his work led to an uprising, than to wait for an upheaval, get involved in a difficult situation, and see his mistake. (119) Though John, because of Herod's suspicions, was brought in chains to Machaerus, the stronghold that we have previously mentioned, and there put to death, yet the verdict of the Jews was that the destruction visited upon Herod's army was a vindication of John, since God saw fit to inflict such a blow on Herod.

II. Early-Christian or Jewish-Christian Characteristics of John's Baptism

John's baptism, as described in this paragraph, reveals characteristics of an early- Christian or Jewish-Christian sectarian rite.

The exhortation attributed to John, ‘to be united by baptism’ or ‘to join in baptism’ (117), and the report that the masses heeded his call (118), suggest that in mind is a collective mass baptism, where large numbers of people assemble together to be baptized by one person orchestrating the procedure, and are thereby admitted into the company of a particular group. The Greek verb σύνειμι (βαπτισμῷ συνιέναι) means to come together, to assemble for a common purpose. Webb translates the dative βαπτισμῷ in an instrumental sense—‘by means of baptism’. Accordingly, he draws the conclusion that we are dealing with a new sectarian movement, united under John's leadership by means of baptism; that baptism served as a rite of initiation into the sect—an act transforming the person's status from ordinary Jew to member of an elect group—and that John thus established a sect for which baptism was a condition of initiation.20

That we are dealing with an elect group is equally evident in how the passage portrays John's addressees: ‘Jews who lead [ἐπασκοῦσιν] righteous lives…practice [χρωμένοις] justice towards their fellows and piety towards God’ (117). This description lends itself to two readings. Most read the two participial forms ἐπασκοῦσιν and χρωμένοις as attributives that are part of the exhortation itself. Accordingly, John urges the Jews to act virtuously, to practise righteousness towards their fellow persons and behave in a God-fearing way.21 If, however, the participial forms are taken as attributives qualifying τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις, they refer to Jews already leading righteous lives and practicing justice [δικαιοσύνη] towards their fellows and piety towards God.22 Reference, then, is to a select group, among whom ‘righteousness’, ‘justice’ and ‘piety’ occupy an important place, and John exhorts to undergo baptism as a sign or unifying mark of membership in this group.

Lending support for the latter reading are two details provided by the text itself. First, it may well account for the word ‘others’, by which the passage draws the distinction between two audiences John addresses on baptism. There are those who already act virtuously, practising righteousness towards one another and fearing God, and ‘others’—people of the broader community, Jews and Gentiles alike—who had previously not acted in this manner but, inspired by John's words, determined to follow him.23 Providing the second support is the term δικαιοσύνη (‘justice’ or ‘righteousness’). Used twice in this passage, it recurs in the description of the baptism preached by John. It is, most specifically, a baptism to purify the body on condition that the soul has previously been purified through righteousness: ἅτε δὴ καὶ τῆς ψυχῆς δικαιοσύνῃ προεκκεκαθαρμένης.

Significantly, then, we are dealing with a group of people whose conduct is distinguished by ‘justice’ or ‘righteousness’ towards one another and God, a quality that purifies their souls and serves as precondition for the efficacy of their physical immersion.

The term zedeq/zedaqah (right [=justice]/righteousness) plays a major role in several non-biblical texts from Qumran, where it is used to denote identification with the sect and membership in a select group having exclusive claim to a just way of life, as against its tannaitic use in the sense of generosity and kindness. A case in point is the Damascus Document (CD), which opens with the exhortation ‘And now, listen, all those who know justice (yodei tsedeq), and understand the actions of God’.24 According to B. Przybylski,25 the document is addressed to those who know tsedeq. Righteousness, in this particular context, is a term used to identify the community. Moreover, coming at the beginning of the scroll may be indicative of the significance attached to the concept of righteousness. Also revealing of the term's importance and sectarian meaning in the Damascus Document is the title Teacher of Righteousness (moreh tsedeq), who teaches huqqe ha-tsedeq, the precepts of righteousness (20.11), referring to the laws of the covenant made in the Land of Damascus, conceived as the New Covenant. Przybylski consequently suggests that ‘tsedeq refers not only to God's laws in general, but also specifically to the totality of the rules and regulations of the community to which the Damascus Document is directed’.26

As conveying sectarian identity, the term also occurs in 1 Enoch,27 and in Matthew's account of both the baptism practised by John the Baptist (Mt. 3.15; 21.32) and the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5.10-11), where the evangelist urges the adoption of a sectarian way of life characterized by ‘righteousness’. In other words, ‘justice’ or ‘righteousness’, as John Kampen suggests, marked the group's sectarian identity and played a role in preserving its boundaries.28 As in the Qumran texts, 1 Enoch and Matthew, ‘justice’, in our passage, comes to define the lifestyle of a select, sectarian group and demarcate the boundaries between the group and society at large.

All of the noted characteristics may be applied to baptisms practised amid early Christian or Jewish-Christian sects. Baptism in terms of initiation rite was not confined strictly to the Christian community as rendered in the New Testament.29 That it was likewise conceived within Jewish-Christian circles is evidenced by the Pseudo-Clementines, where baptism preconditioned admission into the community and its table fellowship. Group members, we are told, were not allowed to share meals with the non-baptized: ‘But this also we observe, not to have a common table with Gentiles, unless when they believe, and on the reception of the truth, are baptized, and consecrated by a certain threefold invocation of the blessed name; and then we eat with them. Otherwise, even if it were a father or a mother, or wife, or sons or brothers, we cannot have a common table with them.’30

Baptism, among both Christians and Jewish-Christian sects, was a collective mass act, as evident in Acts,31 and in the Pseudo-Clementines: Peter summons people to baptize on the day of the festival and, on its arrival, ‘upwards of ten thousand were baptized’.32 Within these sects, as within John's, baptism was a unifying mark for a group of people whose members already lived righteously. Thus, Peter addresses his audience: ‘Therefore approach, be ye righteous or unrighteous. For if you are righteous, baptism alone is lacking to salvation’ (Clem., Hom. 11.27).

Further linkage of John's baptism in our passage with early Christian and Jewish-Christian baptism is provided in its description as a rite which people are exhorted to undergo.33 The public call for immersion stood at the heart of the Christian mission. John is reported to have appeared ‘proclaiming a baptism of repentance’ [κηρύσσων βάπτισμα μετανοίας] (Mk 1.4; Lk. 3.3). Such proclamation is, in effect, a public pronouncement of the importance or value of baptism,34 and its central place in the Christian mission is spelled out in Jesus’ instructions to his disciples: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ (Mt. 28.18-19).35 Exhortation to baptism also characterized Jewish-Christians sects. In the Pseudo-Clementines, Peter calls the multitude gathered around him to ‘flee to the waters, for this alone can quench the violence of fires. He who will not now come to it still bears the spirit of strife, on account of which he will not approach the living water for his own salvation’ (Clem. Hom. 11.25).36

Another point of contact between John's baptism in Josephus and early Christian/Jewish-Christian baptism is that both were perceived as replacement for the sacrificial temple cult. In the Josephus passage, John says ‘this’, namely leading righteous lives and practising justice towards one's fellow humans and piety towards God, ‘was a necessary preliminary if baptism was to be acceptable to [him; that is] God [ἀποδεκτήν αὐτῷ].37 They must not employ it to gain pardon for whatever sins they committed, but as a consecration of the body.’

How are we to understand an immersion ‘acceptable to God’? Scripture uses this term for the sacrificial cult in the temple, to designate a sacrifice that is accepted by God.38 In the New Testament, it is in 1 Pet. (2.3-5) that the compound adjective ἀποδεκτός, meaning ‘acceptable’, appears in connection with sacrifices. But the adjectives εὐπρόσδεκτος and δεκτός (the non-compound form), which carry identical meanings and derive from the verb δέχομαι, appear twice in reference to sacrifices.39 Moreover, LXX uses the non-compound form δεκτός in relation to sacrifices; the text assumes that sacrifices said to be lirzono lifnei elohim (‘for acceptance in his behalf before the Lord’; δεκτὸν ἐναντίον κυρίου) are sincerely offered sacrifices and will be accepted by God (Lev. 1.3; 19.5; 22.19-29).40 Conversely, when Israel strays from the straight path, the prophet says ‘your burnt offerings are not acceptable’ (Jer. 6.20). Only when salvation comes and God's saving justice is manifest will their offerings and sacrifices be ‘acceptable [NJPS: welcome] on my altar’ (Isa. 56.7).

The author of our passage speaks of Johannine baptism in terms paralleling those used for expiation sacrifices in the temple cult, by means of which the person bringing the sacrifice asks God to accept it so that his sins may be forgiven.41

The notion that baptism was a substitute for the Jewish sacrificial cult is manifestly Christian: Jesus is the expiatory sacrifice in place of the temple sacrifices and his death atones for all the sins of the world.42 One who undergoes baptism thereby identifies with Jesus’ atoning sacrifice, becoming a sacrifice himself, and all his sins are forgiven (Rom. 6.2-6). But this idea was equally picked up by Jewish- Christian sects, notably the Ebionites and Elkasaites. Forsaking the traditional sacrificial cult in the temple, they practised immersion in its place—holy baptism replaced temple sacrifices as a means of expiating sins.43

From my discussion so far, John's baptism in Josephus is construed as an initiation rite into a selective and elect sect where baptism stands as its unifying mark. It is a collective mass baptism, supervised by one person who baptizes others and exhorts them to undertake it. It is a baptism which replaces the sacrificial cult in the temple as an expedient for the remission of sins. All these aspects are compatible with the early Christian baptism and with ideas current among Jewish-Christian sects in the first centuries ce. But, more than anything else, what clinches the Christian sectarian identity of Johannine baptism in this passage is its characterization as ‘a consecration of the body’ on condition that ‘the soul was already thoroughly cleansed by righteousness’.45 It is an immersion combining external physical purification with inner, moral, spiritual purification, where the latter is a prerequisite for the former.45 Baptism will bring about ritual purification of the body only if the soul has already been purified by righteousness; that is, only if baptism has been preceded by repentance on the part of the candidate.

What is the origin of this baptism? How does it fit in with Jewish immersions in the first century ce?

I will proceed to show that baptism connecting outer bodily purification with inner purification, perceiving the latter as precondition for the former, is inconsistent with immersions common amid the main currents of Judaism of the period. This sort of baptism was born within sects on the margins of Judaism, like the Qumran sect, and was carried on and practised by Jewish-Christian sects during the first centuries ce. John the Baptist's baptism should be seen in the light of immersions practised within these marginal sects.

III. John's Baptism and Jewish Immersions in the Second Temple Period

To situate John's baptism within the forms of immersions common in first-century ce Judaism, I must first define my meaning of ‘Judaism’ and the sources sustaining it. Compelling me are recent trends in research which deny the existence of one definite ‘Judaism’ in favour of a plurality of ‘Judaisms’—multiple groups without even one commonly-shared indispensable characteristic.46

Going against today's ascendant view, my research embarks from the following premise: it assumes the existence of a distinct first-century ce Jewish society highly conscious of its religious, ideological and ritual uniqueness. All its component groups and movements, with the Pharisees at the fore, shared fundamental principles, beliefs and ideas which, despite differences, formed the common ground marking the boundary between Judaism and what lay outside it. Reflecting the inner world of this Judaism—its faith, hopes of redemption, cult and religious commandments which dictated its way of life—are the clear-cut quintessential Jewish sources at our disposal: the Hebrew Bible, which provided the religious, ritual and cultural basis for Judaism of the Second Temple period; the Apocrypha;47 Josephus, Philo and early layers of Talmudic literature. Existing on the margins of this central Judaism were groups and sects, such as the Qumran sect and community which produced the apocalyptic works of the Pseudepigrapha. The affinities between these marginal groups and Christian theology indicate that our search for Christian origins and a nascent milieu should be conducted in their midst.

1. John's Baptism and Mainstream (Non-Sectarian) Jewish Immersions

Johannine baptism, as described in Josephus, differs from the ritual ablutions common within the central circles of Second Temple Jewish society as they appear in Josephus, Philo and tannaitic literature.

In general, all these immersions were based on the laws of impurity and purification rooted in the Hebrew Bible (primarily Lev. 11–19 and Num. 19), whose scope and severity were even enlarged in the Second Temple period.48 These were external ritual immersions that cleansed the body from various states of impurity that it had succumbed to naturally and unavoidably, such as through contact with a corpse (Num. 19.10-13); contraction of various skin afflictions (Lev. 13); or emissions of bodily fluids (Lev. 15; Deut. 21.1-9; 23.10).49 These immersions were not meant to cleanse the soul of sin, nor were they conditioned on inner moral repentance or prior spiritual purification, as in John's baptism in Josephus. In Second Temple Judaism, regret and repentance, expiation of sins and forgiveness for transgressions, all were tied to the sacrificial cult at the temple.50

In seeking a parallel for John's baptism, scholars suggest we should turn to Josephus’ account of the Essenes and Bannus, among whom they situate the historical John.51 I will point out the weakness of this suggestion by showing that the baptism by the Essenes and Bannus was completely in accord with Jewish ritual immersions.

Writing of the Essenes in Jewish War II.119-161,52 Josephus describes their practice of immersing in cold water (ἀπολούονται τὸ σῶμα ψυχροῖς ὕδασιν) for ‘purification’ (εἰς ἁγνείαν): they would immerse themselves before meals (129), following defecation (149), or contact with a Gentile or a person of lower status in the sect (150).53 In his Life of Josephus 1.2.10-12, he mentions three years spent in the company of Bannus, the ascetic hermit ‘who dwelt in the wilderness’ and performed ‘frequent ablutions of cold water, by day and night, for purity's sake [λουόμενον πρὸς ἁγνείαν]’.

Josephus renders both accounts in terms of personal immersions in cold water, undertaken by the individuals themselves and performed on a daily basis for physical purification. As such, they do not differ from the common Jewish immersions, which Bannus and the Essenes practised rigorously, being ritual immersions intended for external, bodily purification and based on the Torah's laws of purity and impurity. That the immersion practised by Bannus and the Essenes and by mainstream Judaism is one and the same, is further indicated by Josephus’ usage of the verb ἀπολούεσθαι or λούεσθαι, meaning ‘to immerse’ or ‘to wash’. Whereas John's baptism is identified by the nouns βαπτισμός, βάπτισις,54 this particular verb was regularly used to describe the sort of immersion that purifies from external bodily defilement. It had no connection whatsoever to any prior repentance or moral and spiritual purification; required no prior call to immerse; was not a collective act performed en masse; did not constitute an initiation rite into some elect group and did not amount to a substitute for the sacrificial cult.55

Building on the term εἰς ἁγνείαν (‘for the sake of purification’; Feldman: ‘as a consecration’), notably its recurrence in both Josephus’ account of the Essene and Bannus immersion and of John's baptism, some scholars set out to demonstrate their affinity.56 In furthering their case, they also noted that justice (δικαιοσύνη) and fear of God (εὐσέβεια) occupy a similar place in the Johannine and Essene immersion: for John, inner purification is attained through justice towards others and piety towards God; among the Essenes, no candidate was allowed to touch the shared bread before committing himself, on oath, first, to act piously towards God, and, second, to be punctilious in acting justly towards men (J.W. II.138).57

Yet, identical usage of the paired terms—εὐσέβεια and δικαιοσύνη—does not necessarily indicate a connection between the Johannine and Essene immersion. The association of justice or righteousness (zedaqah) and piety or kindness (hasidut) is grounded in Scripture,58 giving expression to two profoundly important values in Jewish tradition. Piety, fear of God, and justice towards one's fellow humans are central components of Philo's doctrine of justice.59 Similarly, the Letter of Aristeas (131) refers to justice (δικαιοσύνη) as one of the two principles ‘which our Lawgiver first of all laid down’, with fear of God being the second. That the concepts are frequently paired in Josephus is indebted to his characteristic vocabulary, most particularly when he describes moral responsibility within Judaism.60 Their frequency also applies to Christian sources. Love of God and love of one's fellow, Jesus taught, were the two commandments on which the entire law depended (Mt. 22.37-40).61

As for the identical usage of the phrase ‘for the sake of purification of the body’ (εἰς ἁγνείαν), I am inclined to accept that it indicates similarity between Johannine immersion, as depicted in Josephus, and the immersion of Bannus and the Essenes, but in one respect only—both are meant to attain bodily purification, as I shall show in the next section.

For yet another Jewish parallel to John's baptism in Josephus, scholars appeal to Philo. According to Klawans,62 Philo perceived ritual impurity as a physical analogue to moral impurity; the ritual impurity of the human body serves as a symbolic reminder of the moral sins that defile the soul. As a telling example, Klawans cites Philo's De Specialibus Legibus I, 256-261. Describing the regulations for sacrifices in the temple, on the priests that offer them Philo writes:

The law would have such a person pure in body and soul, the soul purged of its passions and distempers and infirmities and every viciousness of word and deed, the body of the defilements which commonly beset it. For each it devised the purification which befitted it. For the soul it used the animals which the worshipper is providing for sacrifice, for the body sprinklings and ablutions (Spec. Leg. I, 256-261, trans. F.H. Colson, LCL, VII, p. 249).

But, in this particular passage, Philo does not depart from the common Jewish notion of sin and atonement—that the moral impurity of the soul is cleansed by means of sacrifices, while bodily impurity is cleansed by sprinkling and immersion. The importance Philo assigns to spiritual purity and his privileging matters of the spirit over matters of the flesh, flow from his allegorical treatment of Scripture and the distinction between body and soul drawn by the Platonic philosophy which was central to his thinking.

Joan E. Taylor is another scholar who appeals to Philo,63 producing passages where, similar to John's baptism, the inner person must first be purified, in both thought and deed, to secure God's acceptability of the sacrifice. Philo, considering it absurd that someone who had cleansed the body could pray and sacrifice in the temple with his mind sullied by sin, insisted that only those who had resolved to forsake evil could approach the temple.64

That Philo and Josephus’ John are united on one point—the insistence on inner purity before performing a cultic ritual—is undeniable. Yet, counteracting this similarity is a fundamental difference: Philo refers to purity of mind in the cultic context of temple sacrifices; his demand is aligned with the traditional Jewish demand for sacrifices as a means for atonement.65 What he says has nothing to do with ritual immersions. John the Baptist, on the contrary, refers to inner purity as a precondition to the cult of baptism. Such a demand is a step in a completely new direction—at any rate, in comparison to the immersions witnessed within mainstream Judaism of the Second Temple period.

John's baptism, as described in Josephus, likewise differs from the ablutions which find their expression in tannaitic literature, namely the Mishnah, the Tosefta, the early rabbinic sources (baraithot) preserved in the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmudim, as well as the tannaitic Midrashim, composed in Hebrew in the Land of Israel and ascribed to sages who lived in the two first centuries ce. Behind these texts, as we have them, lies an earlier transmitted complex of oral tradition that might reflect the traditions current during the Second Temple period, especially when genuine pre-tannaitic parallels to that tradition can be identified in other ancient Jewish literature.66

The ablutions in tannaitic literature do not deviate from the general characteristics of those ascribed to the Essenes and Bannus in Josephus and the immersions in Philo. All came under the heading of purity and impurity laws based on the Hebrew Bible. According Jonathan Klawans,67 ‘in the tannaitic halakhah, ritual impurity retains an overall similarity to what is articulated in the Torah: ritual impurity is natural and unavoidable, generally not sinful, and typically impermanent’.68 He continues: ‘in contrast to the sectarian at Qumran, the tannaim chose to interpret Scripture in such a way as to keep ritual impurity and sin as distinct from each other as possible. As a result of this effort, the general characteristics of ritual impurity in tannaitic halakha remain very similar to those in the Hebrew Bible’.69 To exemplify this connection he invokes the first chapter of Mishnah tractate Kelim, which serves as a kind of introduction to the Order of Purities (Seder Toharot) and presents a prioritized list of the sources of ritual impurity like that of the Hebrew Bible (m. Kel. 1.1-4). In the tannaitic corpus, purification and atonement also remain conceptually distinct.70 The tannaitic compartmentalization of purification and atonement can be seen in the laws relating to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. What is striking about the Yom Kippur rituals in tannaitic sources is the complete absence of any purificatory rituals of atonement. There are, of course, purification rituals: the High Priest must immerse himself five times in the course of the day (m. Yoma 3.3). But these rituals are not purifications of atonement. Rather, they are standard rituals of purification that allow the priest to perform the sacrificial rituals of atonement in the temple.

In summary Klawans writes: ‘the tannaitic approach to ritual impurity and sin can be characterized as an effort at “compartmentalization”. The tannaim strive to separate the conception of ritual impurity from the conception of sin. Thus ritual impurity remains, as in Scripture, something that is natural, unavoidable, and not sinful. Sin does not produce ritual impurity, and ritual impurity does not render one sinful. Also ritual purification is not a part of the process of atonement’.71

2. John's Baptism and Sectarian Immersions in Judaism

Immersion that conditioned purity of the body on internal repentance was practised at Qumran. The sect, like John, required of its members ‘to convert [lashuv, to repent] from all evil’ (1QS 5.1),72 on the understanding that it was a prerequisite for bodily purification and removal of impurity. The notion of such repentance is made explicit at several points in the Community Rule:

For it is by the spirit of the true counsel of God that are atoned the paths of man, all his iniquities, so that he can look at the light of life. And it is by the holy spirit of the community, in its truth, that he is cleansed of all his iniquities. And by the spirit of uprightness and of humility his sin is atoned. And by the compliance of his soul with all the laws of God his flesh is cleansed by being sprinkled with cleansing waters and being made holy with the waters of repentance. May he, then, steady his steps in order to walk with perfection on all the paths of God, as he has decreed concerning the appointed times of his assemblies and not turn aside, either right or left, nor infringe even one of all his words. In this way he will be admitted by means of atonement pleasing to God, and for him it will be the covenant of an everlasting Community (1QS 3.6-12).73

The Qumran immersion, like the Johannine baptism in Josephus, maintained a link between ritual and moral purification, between purity of the body and purity of the soul, between ritual defilement and moral defilement. Within the Qumran sect, repentance from sin and purification from defilement became interdependent. Namely, ritual purification was ineffective without moral repentance. As aptly summarized by Flusser, both the Johannine baptism described in Josephus and the immersion practice at Qumran reflected absolute unity between the ritual and moral aspects of religion: bodily defilement and purification and spiritual defilement and purification were one and the same. Repentance was tied to the rules of purification and sin was ritually as well as morally defiling, rendering the body impure in the same manner as contact with an impure object. However, as water can remove only bodily impurity, immersion became effective only if preceded by repentance which expiated the sins of those who immersed. Repentance was therefore the necessary precondition to achieving ritual purification.74

Repentance at Qumran, like Johannine baptism, was interpreted as readiness to enter ‘the covenant of God’ and join the ‘assembly of the community’. If one was averse to entering ‘the covenant of God’ and acted wilfully, immersion in water would not purify his body: ‘Defiled, defiled shall he be all the days he spurns the decrees of God’ (1QS 3.5). It was only through ‘the spirit of the true counsel of God’ and ‘the compliance of his soul with all the laws of God’ that one could secure purification of the body; but there could be no repentance outside the bounds of the elect group.75 Justice (righteousness) at Qumran, as in Johannine baptism, was the means for attaining purification and expiation of sins: ‘For you atone iniquity and cleanse man of his guilt through your justice’ (1QHa 12.37).76 In both groups, as far as we can tell, immersion was one of the conditions for joining the community; it was collective and a substitute for the sacrificial cult.77

A somewhat similar immersion emerges in the Sibylline Oracles.78 The author of the Fourth Sibylline instructs people, once they have abandoned their sins, to purify their entire body in living water, beseech heaven to forgive their previous acts, and heal their evil transgressions through prayer. It is thereby that God will grant repentance and put an end to His anger.79 The text is far less clear than at Qumran on whether abandoning sins equals inner purification. Nor does its author state explicitly whether inner purity is a provision for the efficacy of bodily purification. Nonetheless, the Sibylline Oracle baptism still retains two elements distinguishing John's baptism in Josephus and in the same order: the inner and the outer (physical) purification. Moreover, in the Sibylline Oracles, as with John and at Qumran, the temple and sacrificial cult are dispensed with and replaced by immersion and repentance as the path to salvation.80

What are the origins of such a baptism? Commenting on the notion that one could be made clean in body only if one was pure in heart, Joan E. Taylor suggests it initially drew on an interpretation of the book of Isaiah, then current among several groups in Second Temple Judaism.81 If so, most notably on the passage (1.12-20) where God tells the people that nothing they do in terms of ritual is of any value without righteousness, justice and obedience to the Law, bringing incense is useless, festivals are loathsome, and prayer is ineffective as ‘your hands are full of blood’ (1.15). Only when people do the ‘true fast’ of loosing the bonds of injustice, releasing the oppressed, sharing bread with the hungry, covering the naked, visiting relatives, and honouring the Sabbath (58.13-14), then ‘You shall call and God will answer; you shall cry for help and he will say “Here I am” (58.9).82 It is from established biblical sentiments, such as in Isaiah, Taylor argues, that John and the 1QS group could easily extrapolate the uselessness of immersion without prior righteousness: no rites of piety are effective without prior acceptance by God.

In tracing the development of such baptisms as ascribed to John and the Qumran sect, it may well be that they were indebted to Isaiah and similar prophets for their source of inspiration. Yet, I consider it essential to underline their fundamental difference and departure from any possible similarities: nowhere in Judaism before Qumran, neither in biblical times nor in the Second Temple period, was the notion that one could be made clean in body only if one was pure in heart ever connected to the rite of immersion.83

IV. John's Baptism and Baptism in Early Christianity and Jewish-Christian Sects

Baptism which maintained bodily purification alongside prior inner repentance emerged not only in the Dead Sea Scrolls and <the?>Sibylline Oracle <s?> but also in some Jewish-Christian or early Christian texts, of which the earliest is in Hebrews.84 ‘Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water’ (Heb. 10.22). Like John's baptism in Josephus, it urges physical immersion in water alongside inner purification of the heart, with the latter preceding the former. According to Flusser,85 New Testament references to bodily purification through immersion, as exemplified in Hebrews, are remnants of the historical link between Christian baptism and its antecedent Jewish practice of immersion for bodily purification. To his mind, Christian baptism, in contrast to Johannine baptism in Josephus and immersion at Qumran, discarded any notion of purification from ritual bodily defilement, on the grounds that it had no place in a religion which could not accept Judaism's system of purity and impurity.

On the point of New Testament references to bodily purification through immersion, as in Hebrews, being remnants of the historical link between Christian baptism and its Jewish predecessor, I am inclined to accept Flusser's insightful contribution. Where I differ is on this point: immersions that preserved the physical aspect of Jewish immersion, along with inner moral purity as precondition to bodily purification, were not entirely discarded by Christianity. Rather, in the early phases of Christianity, such immersions persisted side by side with Christian sacramental baptism.

A case in point is the late fourth-century Constitutiones Apostolorum, where physical immersion requiring prior inner purification—precisely like Johannine baptism in Josephus—is expounded most explicitly:

And when it remains that the catechumen is to be baptized, let him learn what concerns the renunciation of the devil, and the joining himself with Christ; for it is fit that he should first abstain from things contrary, and then be admitted to the mysteries. He must beforehand purify his heart from all wickedness of disposition, from all spot and wrinkle, and then partake of the holy things; for as the skilfullest husbandman does first purge his ground of the thorns which are grown up therein, and does then sow his wheat, so ought you also to take away all impiety from them, and then to sow the seeds of piety in them, and vouchsafe them baptism.86

To similar effect are comments by St. Cyril of Jerusalem (ca. 313–386), based on Hebrews (10.22).87 But, above all else, it is the early Jewish-Christian volume of the Pseudo-Clementine writings that provides the most striking parallel to Johannine baptism and inspired my present research. Describing a form of immersion meant to purify the body, the work is most emphatic on its efficacy being conditioned on prior inner purification. The notion is formulated in a manner exactly reminiscent of John's immersion: ‘…purify your hearts from evil by heavenly reasoning, and wash your bodies in the bath. For purification according to the truth, is not that the purity of the body precedes purification after the heart, but that purity [of the body] follows goodness [of the heart]’.88

As in the Josephus passage, the desirable form of baptism conveys two elements—immersion of the body and inner repentance. Both sources emphasize the sequence of events—a purified heart must precede bodily cleansing. And both sources treat the matter somewhat polemically, distinguishing what is affirmed from what is rejected: ‘immersion is good not when … but only when…’ (That is, not when bodily cleansing precedes purity of the heart but only when cleansing [of the body] comes after goodness [of the heart]).

In view of the connections between Johannine baptism and the immersions depicted in the Qumran scrolls, Fourth Sibylline Oracle, Pseudo-Clementine writings, and Apostolic Constitutions, it is reasonable to infer that Johannine baptism, as described in Jewish Antiquities, had its origins in sectarian groups at the margins of Second Temple Judaism, such as the Qumran sect, and continued to exist within Judeo-Christian groups during the first centuries ce.89 It was a form of immersion that maintained a firm tie to Jewish ritual immersion meant to purify the body, but already incorporated an aspect of the inner repentance characterizing Christian immersion. In Johannine baptism and the immersion practised within these sects, repentance precedes immersion; the former is what brings about forgiveness of sins, and the immersion is perceived as a substitute for the sacrificial cult at the Temple.

On the authority of the Epiphanius accounts and writings of the Pseudo-Clementine, we know that at least some of these sects went beyond maintaining the mere physical aspect of Jewish immersion; they even practised repeated daily immersions to remove physical impurity, such as that resulting from contact with a foreigner or a woman, along with Christian baptism as an initiation rite.90 Johannine baptism, as described in Josephus, does not refer to two immersions—daily bodily immersion, and a one-time Christian immersion. Nevertheless, in light of its retained element of physical purification derived from Judaism, and of its proximity to the immersion practised in these Jewish-Christian sects, it is certainly possible that Johannine baptism was a daily ritual as well as a one-time initiation into the elect Christian sect. John, in fact, is mentioned in the Pseudo-Clementine writings as practising this sort of daily immersion.91

V. The Polemical Tone of John's Baptism Account

Shedding further light on the early Christian or Jewish-Christian aspects of John's baptism is the peculiar wording of the Josephus passage. John's call for baptism is remarkably odd in its formulation. Rather than issuing a straightforward call for a baptism acceptable to God, defined as ‘a consecration of the body’ and qualified by the precondition of a soul already cleansed by righteousness, John (or the author) opts to introduce his appeal by refuting baptism conceived in terms of obtaining pardon for sins. ‘…if baptism [βάπτισιν] was to be acceptable to God’, they must not employ it ‘to gain pardon for whatever sins they committed’.

Such phrasing suggests the possibility of an author engaged in polemic with a competing interpretation of baptism and raises the question: against whom was such polemic directed?92

In refuting baptism for remission of sins and commending baptism for purification of the body, on condition that the soul was already cleansed by righteousness, the author may actually be arguing against the sacramental orthodox Christian baptism. Conceived as ‘baptism for repentance’ and forgiveness of sins, it rejected any connection to physical purification.93 Moreover, cleansing of the soul was not always set as a prerequisite for the efficacy of baptism, but could be obtained in the process or in immediate consequence of the baptismal act.94

The Josephus account of John the Baptist may reflect an intra-Christian dispute concurrent with the formation of the Christian rite of baptism during the first centuries ce. The dispute centred on the following questions:

Should Christian baptism itself bring about forgiveness of sins, or is purification of the soul from its sins effected by the spiritual and moral purification that precedes baptism?

Should Christian baptism maintain the link to Jewish immersion and include purification of the body as one of its components?

Within the Jewish-Christian sects to which the writer of the passage apparently belonged, the connection with Jewish immersions persevered in the emphasis on use of baptism for bodily purification. However, along with this outer bodily purification these groups also assigned a role to inner purification, which found its expression in prior commitment to a righteous way of life as prerequisite for the efficacy of bodily immersion. Assuming the form of a collective mass baptism, it functioned as initiation rite into a select group and its unifying mark, and replaced the sacrificial temple cult as expedient to remission of sins. This sort of immersion, as I have pointed out, emerged amid groups at the margins of Second Temple Judaism, such as the Qumran sect. Significantly, then, it was these groups that provided the ritual model on which this type of Jewish-Christian immersion was developed.

Conclusion

Josephus, as is well known, remained a faithful Jew. He was neither initiated into one of the Jewish-Christian sects, nor did he convert to Christianity. Thus, the inevitable conclusion is that the description of John's baptism, as provided in the passage under review, was not written by Josephus, but was rather interpolated or adapted by a Christian or Jewish-Christian hand.

1) On diversity of scholarly opinions and bibliography see L.H. Feldman, Josephus and Modern Scholarship (1937–1980) (Berlin and New York: W. de Gruyter, 1984), pp. 679-703; G. Vermes, ‘The Jesus Notice of Josephus Re-Examined’, JJS 38 (1987), pp. 1-10 (1-2); J.P. Meier, ‘Jesus in Josephus: A Modest Proposal’, CBQ 52 (1990), pp. 76-103 (81-84); S. Mason, Josephus and the New Testament (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2003), pp. 225-36.

2) See, for example, L.H. Feldman, ‘Flavius Josephus Revisited: The Man, His Writings, and His Significance’, ANRW II/21.2 (1984), pp. 763-862 (821-22); P. Bilde, Flavius Josephus between Jerusalem and Rome: His Life, his Works and their Importance (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1988), p. 223; J. Ernst, Johannes der Täufer (Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 1989), p. 255; O. Betz, ‘Was John the Baptist an Essene?’ in H. Shanks (ed.), Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls: Reader from the Biblical Archaeology Review (New York: Random House, 1992), pp. 206, 207; S. Mason, ‘Fire, Water and Spirit: John the Baptist and the Tyranny of Canon’, Studies in Religion 21.2 (1992), pp. 163-80 (178-79); idem, Josephus and the New Testament, pp. 213-25; R.L. Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet: A Socio-Historical Study (JSNTSup 62; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991), pp. 40-41, 163-216; idem, ‘John the Baptist and his Relation to Jesus’, in B.C. Chilton and C.A. Evans (eds.), Studying the Historical Jesus: Evaluations of the State of Current Research (Leiden: Brill, 1994), pp. 179-229 (190, 191); Meier, ‘Jesus in Josephus’, pp. 76-103; idem, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, II (New York: Doubleday, 1994), pp. 19, 21-22, 56; J.E. Taylor, The Immerser: John the Baptist within Second Temple Judaism (Grand Rapids and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1997), p. 90; J. Tromp, ‘John the Baptist According to Flavius Josephus and his Incorporation in the Christian Tradition’, in A. Houtman, A. de Jong and M.W.M. van de Weg (eds.), Empichoi Logoi – Religious Innovations in Antiquity, Studies in honour of Pieter Willem van der Horst (Boston; Leiden: Brill, 2008), pp. 135-49.

3) See, for example, I. Abrahams, Studies in Pharisaism and the Gospels (New York: Ktav Pub. House, 1967; first published 1917), p. 31; H.L. Feldman, ‘Introduction’, in H.L. Feldman and G. Hata (eds.), Josephus, Judaism and Christianity (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1987), p. 56; Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet, p. 40.

4) H. St J. Thackeray, Josephus, the Man and the Historian (New York: Ktav Pub. House, 1967), pp. 110-12, 132, 136; W. Mizugaki, ‘Origen and Josephus’, in H.L. Feldman and G. Hata (eds.), Josephus, Judaism and Christianity (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1987), pp. 325-37 (335); E. Nodet, ‘Jesus et Jean Baptist selon Josephus’, RB 82 (1988), pp. 321-48 (324-26); Mason, ‘Fire, Water and Spirit’, p. 178; Meier, A Marginal Jew, II, p. 19.

5) H. Graetz, Geschichte der Juden, III (Leipzig: O. Leiner, 1893), p. 276 n. 3. See further S. Krauss, Das Leben Jesu nach jüdischen Quellen (Berlin: S. Calvary & Co, 1902), p. 257; E. Schürer, Geschichte des Jüdischen Volkes im Zeitalter Jesu Christi (Hildesheim: G. Olms, 1964; 4th edn 1886), I, p. 438, n. 24; G. Dalman, Sacred Sites and Ways: Studies in the Topography of the Gospels (London: SPCK, 1935; first published 1919), p. 98. See also J. Efron, Studies on the Hasmonean Period (Leiden: Brill, 1987), p. 334 n. 218, who claims the paragraph on James, the brother of Jesus, is likewise a Christian interpolation, pp. 334-36.

6) L. Herrmann, Chrestos. Témoignages paients et juifs sur le christianisme du premier siècle (Brussels: Latomus, Revue d’Etudes Latines, 1970), p. 99; idem, ‘Herodiade’, REJ 132 (1973), pp. 49-63 (51).

7) Schürer, Geschichte des Jüdischen Volkes, I, p. 438 n. 24; E. Schürer, The History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ (175 bc–ad 135), New English Version, revised and edited by G. Vermes and F. Millar (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1973), I, p. 346; M. Goguel, Au seuil l’évangile Jean Baptiste (Paris: Payot, 1928), p. 19; Meier, A Marginal Jew, II, p. 99.

8) This name appears in first-century ce Greek only in the synoptic Gospels: Mk 1.4—ὁ βαπτίζων; Mt. 3.1; 11.11-12; 14.2-8; 16.14; 17.13; Lk. 7.20-33; 9.19—ὁ βαπτιστὴς. F. W. Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2000), p. 165. See also Just. Dial. 50.2; G.W.H. Lampe, A Patristic Greek Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961), p. 288; A. Oepke, s.v. βάπτω, βαπτισμός, βαπτιστής, TDNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), I, pp. 545-46. The common reply to this argument is that use of the same name in the Gospels and Josephus is evidence that this was his known and unique nickname: e.g. Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet, pp. 34, 168. But, neither in Acts of the Apostles nor in the fourth Gospel is this nickname attached to John.

9) Graetz, Geschichte der Juden, p. 276, n. 3; Abrahams, Studies in Pharisaism and the Gospels, p. 33.

10) It is true that the passage does not use βάπτισμα, the most common term for Christian baptism. But the two terms— βάπτισις and βαπτισμός —likewise denote Christian baptism. On βάπτισις see Athanasius Alexandrinus, Quaestiones in Scripturas 41 (PG 28, col. 725); Sozomenus Salaminus, Historia ecclesiastica 2.34, I (PG 67, col. 1029); Lampe, A Patristic Greek Lexicon, p. 284; on βαπτισμός see Heb. 6.2; Chrys. Hom. Ad Heraeos 9.2 (PG 63, col. 78). And especially important for my thesis is its use of heretical ablutions. On frequent ritual washing of Ebionites: Epiph. Haer. 30.2 (PG 41, col. 408); on Marcionite repetition of baptism for remission of post-baptismal sins, see Epiph. Haer. 42.3 (PG 41, col. 700); on Sampsean baptism, see Epiph. Haer. 53.1 (PG 41, col. 960). See Lampe, A Patristic Greek Lexicon, p. 288.

11) See K.H. Rengstorf, A Complete Concordance to Flavius Josephus (Leiden: Brill, 2002), I, p. 290. Typically, this verb is used in reference to Bannus and to the Essenes, as I will show below.

12) Under the heading Pseudo-Clementines [κλημέντινα] are two main compositions: Homilies and Recognitions. The Homilies, commonly dated ca. 300–320 ce, survives in the original Greek which is probably of Syrian provenance. The Recognitions, commonly dated ca. 360–380 ce, although originally written in Greek survives only in the Rufinus Latin translation (407 ce). See A.Y. Reed, ‘Heresiology and the (Jewish-) Christian Novel’, in E. Incinschi and H.M. Zellentin (eds.), Heresy and Identity in Late Antiquity (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008), pp. 273-98 (273). There is broad consensus that the two compositions are themselves based on an earlier story about Clement, written around 260 ce but subsequently lost. On the Jewish-Christian origin of the Pseudo-Clementine writings see J. Thomas, Le mouvement Baptiste en Palestine et Syrie (150 a.v. J.C.-300 J.C.) (Gembloux: J. Duculot, 1935), pp. 174-81; M. Simon, ‘Réflexions sur le Judéo-Christianisme’, in J. Neusner (ed.), Christianity, Judaism and other Greco-Roman Cults (Leiden: Brill, 1975), pp. 53-76 (69-70); J.K. Elliott, The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), p. 431; J.L. Martyn, ‘Clementine Recognitions 1.33-71: Jewish Christianity and the Fourth Gospel’, in J. Jervell and W.A. Meeks (eds.), God's Christ and His People: Studies in Honour of Nils A. Dahl (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1977), pp. 265-95 (270-72); F.S. Jones, ‘The Pseudo-lementines: A History of Research’,Part II, SecCent 2 (1982), pp. 63-96 (86-91); G. Stanton, ‘Jewish Christian Elements in Pseudo-Clementine Writings’, in O. Skaraune (ed.), Jewish Believers in Jesus (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2007), pp. 305-324; A.Y. Reed, ‘“Jewish Christianity” after the “Parting of the Ways”: Approaches to Historiography and Self-Definition in the Pseudo-Clementines’, in A.H. Becker and A.Y. Reed (eds.), The Ways that Never Parted (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003), pp. 197-231.

13) A.Y. Reed, ‘“Jewish Christianity” after the “Parting of the Ways”’, pp. 197-231; idem, ‘Heresiology and the (Jewish-) Christian Novel’, pp. 273-98; idem, ‘“Jewish Christianity” as Counter-history? The apostolic past in Eusebius’ Ecclessiastical history and the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies’, in Antiquity in antiquity: Jewish and Christian pasts in the Greco-Roman World (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008), pp. 173-216; D. Boyarin, Dying for God: Martyrdom and the Making of Judaism and Christianity (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999); idem, Border Lines: The Partition of Judeo-Christianity (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004).

14) Reed, ‘“Jewish Christianity” as Counter-history?’, pp. 203-207; S.C. Mimouni, ‘Pour une définition nouvelle du Judéo-Christianisme ancien’, NTS 38 (1992), pp. 161-86 (184).

15) The English paragraphs are taken from the Loeb Classical Library edition, with several amendments of my own. The present passage appears in Josephus, English trans. by Louis H. Feldman, vol. 9 (Jewish Antiquities, Books XVIII-XX; Cambridge: Harvard University Press and London: William Heinemann, 1965), pp. 81-85.

16) I read the two participles ἐπασκοῦσιν and χρωμένοις as attributives describing ‘the Jews’ (τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις). See below section II.

17) ἅτε δὴ is a causal clause, but it has a conditional overtone.

18) This passage describes two audiences whom John addresses with regard to baptism: those already acting virtuously, ‘who lead [ἐπασκοῦσιν] righteous lives and practice [χρωμένοις] justice towards their fellows and piety toward God’ (117) and ‘others’ (118), who gathered around him after becoming aroused by listening to him. On identity of ‘others’, see below.

19) Or ‘uplifted’, see Feldman, LCL, vol. IX, p. 82. Some, following Eusebius, emend to read ἥσθησαν (‘they enjoyed’, ‘they took pleasure in’, ‘they delighted in’); thus B. Niese, Flavii Iosephi Opera, vol. IV, Antiquitatum Iudaicarum Libri XVI-XX et Vita (Berlin: Weidmannos, 1890), p. 162. Niese adopted Eusebius’ reading because he did not believe Josephus could have described one who incited the masses in such favourable terms.

20) Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet, pp. 37, 199-202; idem, ‘John the Baptist and his Relation to Jesus’, pp. 195-96. Similarly, see Goguel, Au seuil de l’évangile, p. 16; C.H. Kraeling, John the Baptist (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1951), p. 119; Thomas, Le mouvement Baptiste en Palestine et Syrie, p. 378; F.J. Foakes Jackson and K. Lake, The Beginning of Christianity, Part I, The Acts of the Apostles (London: Macmillan, 1920), pp. 102, 105. For counter-argument see G.H. Twelftree, ‘Jesus the Baptist’, JSHJ 7 (2009), pp. 103-125 (121), who disclaims John's baptism as mark of initiation into a new community. See also Chilton, ‘John the Baptist: His Immersion and his Death’, in S.E. Porter and A.R. Cross (eds.), Dimensions of Baptism, Biblical and Theological Studies (London: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002), pp. 25-44 (37).

21) For this reading, see Feldman, Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, IX, ad. loc. A. Schalit, Flavii Josephi Antiquitates Judaicae, Libri XI-XX (Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 1973), p. 292; Mason, Josephus and the New Testament, p. 214; M.S. Enslin, ‘John and Jesus’, Zeitschrift für die Neutestamentlische Wissenschaft und die Kunde der älteren Kirche 66 (1975), pp. 1-18 (4); Tromp, ‘John the Baptist’, p. 135.

22) On this reading see: J.P. Meier, ‘John the Baptist in Josephus: Philology and Exegesis’, JBL 111.2 (1992), pp. 225-37 (229-33); idem, A Marginal Jew, II, p. 58; E. Lupieri, ‘John the Baptist in New Testament Traditions and History’, ANRW 26.1 (Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 1993), pp. 430-61 (451).

23) It was the affiliation of these ‘others’ with John that gave rise to Herod Antipas’ concerns. Meier, A Marginal Jew, II, p. 59.

24 CD 1.1. Trans. F.G. Martinez and E.J.C. Tigchelaar, The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition (Leiden: Brill, 1997), II, p. 550.

25) B. Przybylski, Righteousness in Matthew and His World of Thought (SNTSMS 41; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), p. 20.

26) Przybylski, Righteousness, p. 21. See further CD 20.11; 6.10-11 ‘until there arise he who teaches justice at the end of days’; 1QS 3.20-22. For more examples see J. Kampen, ‘“Righteousness” in Matthew and the Legal Texts from Qumran’, in M. Bernstein, F. García Martinez and J. Kampen (eds.), Legal Texts and Legal Issues: Proceedings of the Second Meeting of the International Organization for Qumran Studies Cambridge 1995, Published in Honour of Joseph M. Baumgarten (Leiden: Brill, 1997), pp. 461-87.

27) 1 En. 1.1; 38.2, 3, 4; 39.6, 7; 48.1; 58.1, 2; 60.13; 63.12, 13, 15; 70.3; 91.11; 93.10.

28) Kampen, ‘“Righteousness” in Matthew and the Legal Texts from Qumran’, p. 486; W. Wink, John the Baptist in the Gospel Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), p. 36: ‘The word δικαιοσύνη does not spill out by accident; it is Matthew's peculiar way of designating the faith and life of Christians and of Christianity in general (cf. Matt 5:6, 10; 6:1ff).’

29) Mt. 28.19; Mk 16.16; Acts 2.38, 41; 8.16, 36-39; 16.15, 33; 19.5; Rom. 6.3.

30) Clem. Rec. 7.29; 2.72 (trans. ANF, vol. 8, p. 163; pp. 116-17).

31) Acts 2.38-41; 16.33; cf. Mk 1.5; Mt. 3.6; Lk. 3.21.

32) Clem. Rec. 3.67 (ANF, vol. 8, p. 132); 3.72 (ANF, vol. 8, p. 133); Hom. 13.4; 13.9 (ANF, vol. 8, pp. 300-301; p. 302).

33) Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet, p. 183; idem, ‘John the Baptist and his Relation to Jesus’, p. 187.

34) A. Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to St. Luke (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1922), p. 86.

35) See Acts 2.38; 22.16; 1 Cor. 1.17.

36) Clem. Rec. 6.9 (ANF, vol. 8, p. 155); Clem. Hom. 11.27 (ANF, vol. 8, p. 290).

37) Thus Feldman and others following him; see Feldman, Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, IX, p. 83; R. Schütz, Johannes der Täufer (Zurich and Stuttgart: Zwingli Verlag, 1967), p. 23. This is the only time the word ἀποδεκτήν appears in Josephus. Meier, A Marginal Jew, II, p. 97, n. 178; Lampe, A Patristic Greek Lexicon, p. 336.

38) Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet, pp. 166, 203.

39) Phil. 4.18; Rom. 15.16. W. Grundmann, s.v. δέχομαι, TDNT, II, p. 59; Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet, p. 166.

40) J. Milgrom, Leviticus 1–16 (New York: Doubleday, 1991), p. 149. The basic meaning of the form δεκτός as used in LXX is ‘“acceptable” or “pleasing” on the basis of a divine will’. Grundmann, s.v. δέχομαι, TDNT, II, p. 58.

41) Against Chilton, ‘John the Baptist: His Immersion and his Death’, pp. 34-35, who argues: ‘The notion that John somewhat opposed the cult in the Temple is weakly based’.

42) Eph. 5.2; Rom. 12.1.

43) Epiphan. Pan. 30.16.4-5; 19.3.6; Clem. Rec. 1.37; 1.39; 1.55 (ANF, vol. 8, pp. 87, 88, 92). Rejection of sacrifices: Hom. 3.26; 3.45; 3.56 (ANF, vol. 8, pp. 243, 247, 248). See Stanton, ‘Jewish Christian Elements in Pseudo-Clementine Writings’, pp. 320-21. That information on the sects provided by Epiphanius must be viewed cautiously is a consensus, yet the details I mention in this essay are equally confirmed by other sources. On reliability of Epiphanius see F. Williams, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis (Leiden: Brill, 1997), p. xviii; A.F.J. Klijn and G.J. Reinink, Patristic Evidence for Jewish-Christian Sects (Leiden: Brill, 1973), p. 72; J.E. Taylor, ‘The Phenomenon of Early Jewish-Christianity: Reality or Scholarly Invention?’, Vigilliae Christianae 44 (1990), pp. 313-34 (324-25); Thomas, Le mouvement Baptiste en Palestine et Syrie, pp. 55-56, 280-81; J.A.T. Robinson, ‘The Baptism of John and the Qumran Community’, HTR 50 (1957), pp. 175-92 (180); Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet, pp. 193, 203-205. Immersion in lieu of sacrifices was likewise practised in the Qumran sect; see further below.

44)Jewish Antiquities, XVIII, 117.

45) As noted, n. 17 above, the explanatory clause uses wording implying a condition. See Meier, ‘John the Baptist in Josephus’, p. 231; idem, A Marginal Jew, II, pp. 57-58.

46) D. Boyarin, Border Lines (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007), pp. 1-23.

47)Hasfarim Hahitzoniim, as distinct from the Pseudepigrapha, which in my view do not reflect mainstream Judaism: R. Nir, The Destruction of Jerusalem and the Idea of Redemption in the Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003).

48) The legislation of the Hebrew Bible takes up roughly half a dozen chapters: Leviticus 1–15 and Numbers 19. The tannaitic system, by contrast, is articulated in an order of Mishnah, an order of Tosefta, large portions of the tannaitic midrashim, as well as a number of Talmudic passages. See J. Klawans, Impurity and Sin in Ancient Judaism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 94.

49) Oepke, s.v. βάπτω, βαπτισμός, βαπτιστής, TDNT, I, p. 536.

50) A. Büchler, Studies in Sin and Atonement in the Rabbinic Literature of the First Century (London: Oxford University Press, 1928), pp. 369, 375-461; Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet, pp. 96-108; D.P. Write, The Disposal of Impurity: Elimination Rites in the Bible and in Hittite and Mesopotamian Literature (SBLDS 101; Atlanta: SBL, 1987), p. 85; Milgrom, Leviticus 1–16, p. 857; G.J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus (NICOT; Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1979), pp. 26-28. On the absolute separation tannaitic literature draws between the concepts of ritual purity and impurity and of sin and repentance, see J. Klawans, Impurity and Sin, pp. 92-117, 142.

51) B.D. Chilton, Judaic Approaches to the Gospels (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1994), pp. 26-28; H. Lichtenberger, ‘The Dead Sea Scrolls and John the Baptist: Reflections on Josephus’ Account of John the Baptist’, in D. Dimant and U. Rappaport (eds.), The Dead Sea Scrolls: Forty Years of Research (STDJ 10; Leiden: Brill, 1992), pp. 340-46 (344).

52) In this essay, I treat the Essenes as they are described in Josephus, and the Qumran sect as the group whose perspective and practices are reflected in the Qumran scrolls. As a matter of methodology, the two groups must be considered separately, in accord with the source providing us what we know of them.

53) See also J.W. 2.161.

54) In LXX, λούειν is the regular translation of to wash (rahatz) which denotes ritual purity. Josephus uses ἀπολούσασθαι for post-intercourse bath: Ag.Ap. 2.203. A. Oepke, λούω, ἀπολούω, λουτρόν, TDNT, VI, pp. 295-307 (300-302); Rengstorf, A Complete Concordance to Flavius Josephus, I, p. 198; II, p. 45.

55) That Essene immersion served as substitute for the sacrificial cult is a view based on an erroneous understanding of Josephus and forms part of the debate on the original text of the Jewish Antiquities. Ant. XVIII.19 reports that the Essenes ‘send votive offerings to the temple, but perform their sacrifices employing a different ritual of purification. For this reason, they are barred from those precincts of the temple that are frequented by all the people and perform their rites by themselves’. Some MSS (E. and Lat.) include a negative in the foregoing passage, implying the Essenes did not bring sacrifices. Following W. Whiston, The Life and Works of Flavius Josephus (Chicago: J.C. Winston, 1736), p. 531, many scholars took the sentence to mean that the Essenes did not sacrifice because they had ablutions of their own, which they considered a substitute for sacrifices. I privilege a reading without the negation. Thus, the passage should be understood as rendered by Feldman's above-quoted translation, to mean that the Essenes would send sacrifices to the temple and did not negate them; but they would not enter the Temple court owing to their greater stringency on matters of purity. For this understanding see J. Efron, Formation of the Primary Christian Church [Hebrew] (Tel-Aviv: Hakibbuz Hameuhad, 2006), p. 242; M. Black, The Scrolls and Christian Origins (New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1961), pp. 39-42; E.F. Sutcliffe, ‘Baptism and Baptismal Rites at Qumran’, Heythrop Journal 1 (1960), pp. 179-88 (186); T.S. Beall, Josephus’ Description of the Essenes Illustrated by the Dead Sea Scrolls (SNTSMS 58; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 118; Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet, p. 115.

56) J. Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth: His Life, Times and Teaching (London: G. Allen & Unwin, 1925), p. 245, emphasizes this verbal resemblance as an expression of the similarity between John and Bannus; Lichtenberger, ‘The Dead Sea Scrolls and John the Baptist’, pp. 344-45. Thomas (Le mouvement Baptiste en Palestine et Syrie, p. 83) suggests that Josephus may have used the same tradition as the Gospel writers.

57) Mason, ‘Fire, Water and Spirit’, p. 178; idem, Flavius Josephus on the Pharisees: Composition – Critical Study (Leiden: Brill, 1991), p. 87; idem, ‘What Josephus Says about the Essenes in his Judean War’, in S.G. Wilson and M. Desjardins (eds.), Text and Artifact in the Religions of Mediterranean Antiquity: Essays in Honour of Peter Richardson (Canada: Canadian Corporation for Studies in Religion/Corporation des Sciences Religieuses, 2000), pp. 423-55 (440-41); Lichtenberger, ‘The Dead Sea Scrolls and John the Baptist’, pp. 344-46; Black, The Scrolls and Christian Origins, p. 98.

58) Jer. 9.23; Prov. 21.21; Ps. 145.17.

59) H.A. Wolfson, Philo: Foundations of Religious Philosophy in Judaism, Christianity and Islam (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968), II, pp. 218-25.

60) This word pair, together with other concepts, appears in Josephus thirteen times: Ant. 6.160, 265; 8.121, 314; 9.16; 10.50; 12.56; 14.283; 15.375; 18.117; Ag.Ap. 2.146, 170, 291.

61) See also Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 23; 47, and especially 93. See also the pairing in the Qumran scrolls: ‘to walk in the ways of God, to act righteously’ (4Q421 II.12-13) and my discussion on the term tsedaqa above.

62) Klawans, Impurity and Sin, p. 140.

63) Taylor, The Immerser: John the Baptist, p. 86.

64) Philo, On the Unchangeableness of God 7-9; On Noah's Work as a Planter 164; On the Special Laws 1.191, 1.203-204, 1.275, 1.283-284; 2.35.

65) Isa. 1.13-17; Jer. 2.22; 4.14; Ezek. 36.25-27; Amos 5.13-27; Ps. 51.1-10.

66) Klawans, Impurity and Sin, p. 93; Efron, Studies on the Hasmonean Period, pp. 143-47.

67) Klawans, Impurity and Sin, pp. 95-97.

68) Klawans, Impurity and Sin, pp. 93, 94.

69) Klawans, Impurity and Sin, p. 95.

70) Klawans, Impurity and Sin, pp. 115-17.

71) Klawans, Impurity and Sin, p. 117.

72) This is why the covenant of the community is referred to in the Scrolls as ‘the covenant to revert’ (CD 15.9) and its members are referred to as ‘those who repent from sin’ (CD 2.5; 1QH 10.9; 1QS 10.20) or as ‘the converts [or: penitents] of Israel’ (CD 8.16).

73) 1QS 5.13-14.

74) D. Flusser, ‘Johannine Baptism and the Qumran Sect’ [Hebrew], in Yahadut u-meqorot ha-nazrut (Tel-Aviv: Syfriat Hapoalim, 1979), pp. 84-89; idem, Judaism and the Origins of Christianity (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1988), p. 51. To similar effect: W.H. Brownlee, ‘John the Baptist in the New Light of Ancient Scrolls’, Interpretation 9 (1955), pp. 71-90 (77-78); M. Newton, The Concept of Purity at Qumran and in the Letters of Paul (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 40-47; Sutcliffe, ‘Baptism and Baptismal Rites at Qumran’, p. 182; F. García Martínez and J.T. Barrera, The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Their Writings, Beliefs and Practices (Leiden: Brill, 1995), pp. 154-55; Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet, pp. 155, 158; J.M. Baumgarten, ‘The Purification Rituals in DJD 7’, in D. Dimant and U. Rappaport (eds.), The Dead Sea Scrolls: Forty Years of Research (Jerusalem and Leiden: Brill, 1992), pp. 199-209 (199); S.J. Pfann, ‘The Essene Yearly Renewal Ceremony and the Baptism of Repentance’, in Provo International Conference on the Dead Sea Scrolls (eds. D.W. Parry and E.C. Ulrich; Leiden: Brill, 1999), pp. 337-52 (338, 347); M. Himmelfarb, ‘Impurity and Sin in 4QD, 1QS and 4Q512’, DSD 8 (2001), pp. 9-37 (34); Klawans, Impurity and Sin, pp. 85-86; J. Strijdom, ‘The Social Class of the Baptist: Dissident Retainer or Peasant Millenarist?’, HTS 60 (2004), pp. 441-58 (447-48).

75) J.M. Baumgarten, ‘Sacrifice and Worship among the Jewish Sectarians of the Dead Sea (Qumrân) Scrolls’, HTR 46 (1953), pp. 141-59 (151); Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet, pp. 159-60.

76) So too 1QHa 19.31; for more on tsedaqa in Qumran see my discussion above.

77) J.M. Baumgarten, ‘The Purification Liturgies’, in P.W Flint and J.C. Vanderkam (eds.), The Dead Sea Scrolls After Fifty Years (Leiden: Brill, 1999), II, pp. 209, 211; Newton, The Concept of Purity at Qumran, pp. 32-33; Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet, pp. 208, 212.

78) Sib. Or. 4.162-170. The Fourth Sibylline Oracle is dated to ca. 80 ce. See Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet, p. 121; Taylor, The Immerser: John the Baptist, p. 91.

79) Scholars have noted that a form of baptism similar to the Johannine appears in the Latin Life of Adam and Eve 6–8. There, however, the understanding is that immersion, rather than the preceding repentance, is what brings about expiation of sins. Similarly, in the additions to the Testament of Levi in the Greek MS E, T. Levi 2.3 (=2.3B), repentance does not precede immersion. For the text, see M. De Jonge, The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs: A Critical Edition of the Greek Text (Leiden: Brill, 1978), pp. 458-60; Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet, pp. 116-20. For similar tradition, see Pirqei D’Rabbi Eliezer, chapter 20.

80) J.J. Collins, ‘The Place of the Fourth Sibyl in the Development of the Jewish Sibyllina’, JJS 25 (1974), pp. 365-80 (366-67, 378). According to Collins, baptism in the Fourth Sibylline is a one-time event, in contrast to the frequently repeated immersions practised by the Qumran sect. As I attempt to show, however, it is possible that in all these groups, one-time baptism existed side-by-side with daily immersions.

81) Taylor, The Immerser: John the Baptist, pp. 84-88.

82) See further Isa. 35.8.

83) Some biblical verses, to be sure, seem to imply that immersion in water is somehow connected to purification of the soul and withdrawal from sin: Isa. 1.16-17; Jer. 2.22; 4.14; Ezek. 36.25-27; Ps. 26.6; 51.1-10; 73.13. But in these texts, washing, or being sprinkled with water, is used only figuratively. They have nothing to do with a ritual of immersion in water, much less with immersion conditioned on spiritual purification. See G.B. Gray, The Book of Isaiah, I-XXVII (ICC; Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1912), p. 23; E.P. Gould, The Gospel According to St Mark (ICC; Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1996), p. 6; J. Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 1–39 (AB; New York: Doubleday, 2000), p. 185; Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet, pp. 104-105. Neusner calls it a ‘metaphor of morality’: J. Neusner, The Idea of Purity in Ancient Judaism (Leiden: Brill, 1973), pp. 11-13; Taylor, The Immerser: John the Baptist, p. 90.

84) The Epistle to the Hebrews is dated to the last quarter of the first century ce: J. Moffatt, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrew (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1979; first published 1924), pp. xiii-xv.

85) Flusser, ‘Johannine baptism and the Qumran sect’, pp. 104-111; idem, Judaism and the Origins of Christianity, p. 52.

86)Cons. Apostolorum 7, sec. 3.40 (ANF, vol. 7, pp. 476-77), the translation is mine. This is a compilation generally dated to 375–400. Its first six books are based on the Didascalia; the seventh begins with the Didache; the source of the eighth book is Apostolic Tradition attributed to Hippolytus. R.H. Connolly, Didascalia Apostolorum (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1929), p. xx.

87) Cyrilli Hierosol., Catechesis 3.4 (PG 33, col. 429).

88) Clem. Hom. 11.28 (trans. ANF, vol. 8, p. 290), bracketed inserts by the present author. See also B. Rehm, Die Pseudoklementinen. I. Homilien, 11.28 (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1969), p. 168; Rec. 6, 11, 12 (ANF, vol. 8, p. 155). Thomas (Le mouvement Baptiste en Palestine et Syrie, p. 178, n. 4) already commented on the resemblance between this passage and Johannine baptism as described in Josephus. An identical formulation of baptism also appears in Kerygmata Petrou, H 11.28.2-4 (E. Hennecke, New Testament Apocrypha, ed. W. Schneemelcher; London: SCM Press, 1975), II, p. 125. This work, dated to the first half of the second century ce, survives only in fragmentary form and is considered by some to be one of the sources for the Pseudo-Clementines; G. Strecker, ‘On the Problem of Jewish Christianity’, in W. Bauer and R.A. Kraft (eds.), Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971), pp. 241-85 (258); Elliott, The Apocryphal New Testament, p. 431.

89) According to J.A. Fitzmyer, ‘The Qumran Scrolls, the Ebionites and their Literature’, TS 16 (1955), pp. 335-72 (371): ‘the sect of Qumran influenced the Ebionites in many ways; Essene tenets and practices were undoubtedly adopted or adapted into the Ebionite way of life’. On the existence of Jewish-Christian groups in the first four centuries, defined as Christian Jews and their Gentile converts who maintained Jewish praxis, see Taylor, ‘The Phenomenon of Early Jewish-Christianity’, p. 327.

90) See Epiphanius's account of the Ebionites: Epiph. Pan. 30.2.4-5, 15, 21.1, 16.1. The Pseudo-Clementines also include a description of repeated daily immersion for bodily purification, practised side-by-side with Christian baptism. Peter immerses himself each morning upon awakening and each evening before the evening meal, and his disciples join him (Hom. 10.1; Rec. 5.1; Hom. 11.1; Rec. 6.1; Hom. 10.26; Rec. 5.36; Hom. 8.2, 9.23; Rec. 4.3, 37 etc.). But Christian baptism is mentioned along with this daily immersion (Hom. 7.5, 8.12, 11.35; Rec. 6.15; Hom. 14.1; Rec. 7.38; Hom. 20.23; Rec. 10.72). The writer is careful to use the verb λοῦεσθαι in describing daily immersion and the verb βαπτίζεσθαι in describing Christian baptism.

91)Hom. 2.23 (ANF, vol. 8, p. 233): ‘There was one John, a day Baptist’. Flusser (‘Johannine baptism and the Qumran sect’, p. 111) raises this possibility, as do Lupieri, ‘John the Baptist in New Testament Traditions and History’, p. 452; Pfann, ‘The Essene Yearly Renewal Ceremony and the Baptism of Repentance’, p. 345; Chilton, ‘John the Baptist: His Immersion and his Death’, p. 37. The argument that Johannine baptism was a one-time affair, not to be repeated, is based on New Testament description of John's baptism, not on the one in Josephus.

92) That the description of baptism is formulated in a polemical way has already been noted by Foakes and Lake, The Beginning of Christianity, I, p. 105. In their view, the distinction being drawn is between Johannine baptism and Jewish ritual immersion. A. von Schlatter (Johannes der Täufer [Basel: F. Reinhardt, 1956], pp. 62-63) raises the possibility that Josephus is here attacking the Christian understanding of Johannine baptism or baptism in general or that the passage echoes a preexisting dispute between Christians and Jews over immersion, a dispute that Josephus found in the source material for his information about John the Baptist. Flusser (‘Johannine baptism and the Qumran sect’) has raised the possibility that this is a polemic against Christianity. Likewise, Grant R. Shafer, ‘John the Baptist, Jesus, and Forgiveness of Sins’, Proceedings – Eastern Great Lakes and Midwest Biblical Societies, 26 (2006), pp. 51-67 (59), asks: ‘Does Josephus just refute a Christian tradition that John forgave sins?’

93) See 1 Pet. 3.21. Remarkably striking is that by this polemic John the Baptist in Josephus refutes his own ‘baptism of repentance for the remission of sins’ in the Gospels! See Mk 1.4; Lk. 3.3.

94) Acts 22.16; Barn. 11.11; Herm. Mand. 4.3.1; Justin Martyr, 1 Apo. 61.10. R. Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament (London: SCM Press, 1952), 39, p. 136; A.Y. Collins, ‘The Origin of Christian Baptism’, Studia Liturgica 19 (1989), pp. 28-46 (40); Flusser, ‘Johannine baptism and the Qumran sect’, pp. 105-108. Although, as Flusser notes (pp. 106, 108), this aspect was not completely abandoned by Christian baptism, but merely became weakened. See Acts 2.38; Heb. 10.22.That the polemic in John's baptism formulation is directed against orthodox Christian baptism may be confirmed by the parallel paragraph in the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies. According to Annette Yoshiko Reed, the Homilies shed light on the fourth-century reaction of Christians to the rise of orthodox Christian polemics against Judaizers and the so-called ‘Jewish-Christian’ sects, as well as to the increasingly more violent tenor of Christian anti-Judaism. She concludes that the ‘authors and redactors of the Homilies seek tacitly to counter…also those Christians whose supersessionist and anti-Jewish views are, precisely in the fourth century, just in the process of being ratified by their “desires for supremacy”’. See Reed, ‘Heresiology and the (Jewish-) Christian Novel’, p. 298; idem, ‘“Jewish Christianity” after the “Parting of the Ways”’, pp. 197-231.

  • 2)

     See, for example, L.H. Feldman, ‘Flavius Josephus Revisited: The Man, His Writings, and His Significance’, ANRW II/21.2 (1984), pp. 763-862 (821-22); P. Bilde, Flavius Josephus between Jerusalem and Rome: His Life, his Works and their Importance (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1988), p. 223; J. Ernst, Johannes der Täufer (Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 1989), p. 255; O. Betz, ‘Was John the Baptist an Essene?’ in H. Shanks (ed.), Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls: Reader from the Biblical Archaeology Review (New York: Random House, 1992), pp. 206, 207; S. Mason, ‘Fire, Water and Spirit: John the Baptist and the Tyranny of Canon’, Studies in Religion 21.2 (1992), pp. 163-80 (178-79); idem, Josephus and the New Testament, pp. 213-25; R.L. Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet: A Socio-Historical Study (JSNTSup 62; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991), pp. 40-41, 163-216; idem, ‘John the Baptist and his Relation to Jesus’, in B.C. Chilton and C.A. Evans (eds.), Studying the Historical Jesus: Evaluations of the State of Current Research (Leiden: Brill, 1994), pp. 179-229 (190, 191); Meier, ‘Jesus in Josephus’, pp. 76-103; idem, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, II (New York: Doubleday, 1994), pp. 19, 21-22, 56; J.E. Taylor, The Immerser: John the Baptist within Second Temple Judaism (Grand Rapids and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1997), p. 90; J. Tromp, ‘John the Baptist According to Flavius Josephus and his Incorporation in the Christian Tradition’, in A. Houtman, A. de Jong and M.W.M. van de Weg (eds.), Empichoi Logoi – Religious Innovations in Antiquity, Studies in honour of Pieter Willem van der Horst (Boston; Leiden: Brill, 2008), pp. 135-49.

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  • 4)

    H. St J. Thackeray, Josephus, the Man and the Historian (New York: Ktav Pub. House, 1967), pp. 110-12, 132, 136; W. Mizugaki, ‘Origen and Josephus’, in H.L. Feldman and G. Hata (eds.), Josephus, Judaism and Christianity (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1987), pp. 325-37 (335); E. Nodet, ‘Jesus et Jean Baptist selon Josephus’, RB 82 (1988), pp. 321-48 (324-26); Mason, ‘Fire, Water and Spirit’, p. 178; Meier, A Marginal Jew, II, p. 19.

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  • 6)

    L. Herrmann, Chrestos. Témoignages paients et juifs sur le christianisme du premier siècle (Brussels: Latomus, Revue d’Etudes Latines, 1970), p. 99; idem, ‘Herodiade’, REJ 132 (1973), pp. 49-63 (51).

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  • 9)

    Graetz, Geschichte der Juden, p. 276, n. 3; Abrahams, Studies in Pharisaism and the Gospels, p. 33.

  • 11)

     See K.H. Rengstorf, A Complete Concordance to Flavius Josephus (Leiden: Brill, 2002), I, p. 290. Typically, this verb is used in reference to Bannus and to the Essenes, as I will show below.

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  • 13)

    A.Y. Reed, ‘“Jewish Christianity” after the “Parting of the Ways”’, pp. 197-231; idem, ‘Heresiology and the (Jewish-) Christian Novel’, pp. 273-98; idem, ‘“Jewish Christianity” as Counter-history? The apostolic past in Eusebius’ Ecclessiastical history and the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies’, in Antiquity in antiquity: Jewish and Christian pasts in the Greco-Roman World (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008), pp. 173-216; D. Boyarin, Dying for God: Martyrdom and the Making of Judaism and Christianity (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999); idem, Border Lines: The Partition of Judeo-Christianity (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004).

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  • 14)

    Reed, ‘“Jewish Christianity” as Counter-history?’, pp. 203-207; S.C. Mimouni, ‘Pour une définition nouvelle du Judéo-Christianisme ancien’, NTS 38 (1992), pp. 161-86 (184).

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  • 20)

    Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet, pp. 37, 199-202; idem, ‘John the Baptist and his Relation to Jesus’, pp. 195-96. Similarly, see Goguel, Au seuil de l’évangile, p. 16; C.H. Kraeling, John the Baptist (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1951), p. 119; Thomas, Le mouvement Baptiste en Palestine et Syrie, p. 378; F.J. Foakes Jackson and K. Lake, The Beginning of Christianity, Part I, The Acts of the Apostles (London: Macmillan, 1920), pp. 102, 105. For counter-argument see G.H. Twelftree, ‘Jesus the Baptist’, JSHJ 7 (2009), pp. 103-125 (121), who disclaims John's baptism as mark of initiation into a new community. See also Chilton, ‘John the Baptist: His Immersion and his Death’, in S.E. Porter and A.R. Cross (eds.), Dimensions of Baptism, Biblical and Theological Studies (London: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002), pp. 25-44 (37).

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  • 22)

     On this reading see: J.P. Meier, ‘John the Baptist in Josephus: Philology and Exegesis’, JBL 111.2 (1992), pp. 225-37 (229-33); idem, A Marginal Jew, II, p. 58; E. Lupieri, ‘John the Baptist in New Testament Traditions and History’, ANRW 26.1 (Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 1993), pp. 430-61 (451).

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  • 25)

    B. Przybylski, Righteousness in Matthew and His World of Thought (SNTSMS 41; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), p. 20.

  • 26)

    Przybylski, Righteousness, p. 21. See further CD 20.11; 6.10-11 ‘until there arise he who teaches justice at the end of days’; 1QS 3.20-22. For more examples see J. Kampen, ‘“Righteousness” in Matthew and the Legal Texts from Qumran’, in M. Bernstein, F. García Martinez and J. Kampen (eds.), Legal Texts and Legal Issues: Proceedings of the Second Meeting of the International Organization for Qumran Studies Cambridge 1995, Published in Honour of Joseph M. Baumgarten (Leiden: Brill, 1997), pp. 461-87.

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  • 28)

    Kampen, ‘“Righteousness” in Matthew and the Legal Texts from Qumran’, p. 486; W. Wink, John the Baptist in the Gospel Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), p. 36: ‘The word δικαιοσύνη does not spill out by accident; it is Matthew's peculiar way of designating the faith and life of Christians and of Christianity in general (cf. Matt 5:6, 10; 6:1ff).’

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  • 33)

    Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet, p. 183; idem, ‘John the Baptist and his Relation to Jesus’, p. 187.

  • 34)

    A. Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to St. Luke (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1922), p. 86.

  • 38)

    Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet, pp. 166, 203.

  • 40)

    J. Milgrom, Leviticus 1–16 (New York: Doubleday, 1991), p. 149. The basic meaning of the form δεκτός as used in LXX is ‘“acceptable” or “pleasing” on the basis of a divine will’. Grundmann, s.v. δέχομαι, TDNT, II, p. 58.

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  • 41)

    Against Chilton, ‘John the Baptist: His Immersion and his Death’, pp. 34-35, who argues: ‘The notion that John somewhat opposed the cult in the Temple is weakly based’.

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  • 46)

    D. Boyarin, Border Lines (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007), pp. 1-23.

  • 50)

    A. Büchler, Studies in Sin and Atonement in the Rabbinic Literature of the First Century (London: Oxford University Press, 1928), pp. 369, 375-461; Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet, pp. 96-108; D.P. Write, The Disposal of Impurity: Elimination Rites in the Bible and in Hittite and Mesopotamian Literature (SBLDS 101; Atlanta: SBL, 1987), p. 85; Milgrom, Leviticus 1–16, p. 857; G.J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus (NICOT; Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1979), pp. 26-28. On the absolute separation tannaitic literature draws between the concepts of ritual purity and impurity and of sin and repentance, see J. Klawans, Impurity and Sin, pp. 92-117, 142.

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  • 51)

    B.D. Chilton, Judaic Approaches to the Gospels (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1994), pp. 26-28; H. Lichtenberger, ‘The Dead Sea Scrolls and John the Baptist: Reflections on Josephus’ Account of John the Baptist’, in D. Dimant and U. Rappaport (eds.), The Dead Sea Scrolls: Forty Years of Research (STDJ 10; Leiden: Brill, 1992), pp. 340-46 (344).

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  • 57)

    Mason, ‘Fire, Water and Spirit’, p. 178; idem, Flavius Josephus on the Pharisees: Composition – Critical Study (Leiden: Brill, 1991), p. 87; idem, ‘What Josephus Says about the Essenes in his Judean War’, in S.G. Wilson and M. Desjardins (eds.), Text and Artifact in the Religions of Mediterranean Antiquity: Essays in Honour of Peter Richardson (Canada: Canadian Corporation for Studies in Religion/Corporation des Sciences Religieuses, 2000), pp. 423-55 (440-41); Lichtenberger, ‘The Dead Sea Scrolls and John the Baptist’, pp. 344-46; Black, The Scrolls and Christian Origins, p. 98.

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  • 59)

    H.A. Wolfson, Philo: Foundations of Religious Philosophy in Judaism, Christianity and Islam (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968), II, pp. 218-25.

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  • 61)

     See also Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 23; 47, and especially 93. See also the pairing in the Qumran scrolls: ‘to walk in the ways of God, to act righteously’ (4Q421 II.12-13) and my discussion on the term tsedaqa above.

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  • 62)

    Klawans, Impurity and Sin, p. 140.

  • 63)

    Taylor, The Immerser: John the Baptist, p. 86.

  • 64)

    Philo, On the Unchangeableness of God 7-9; On Noah's Work as a Planter 164; On the Special Laws 1.191, 1.203-204, 1.275, 1.283-284; 2.35.

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  • 66)

    Klawans, Impurity and Sin, p. 93; Efron, Studies on the Hasmonean Period, pp. 143-47.

  • 67)

    Klawans, Impurity and Sin, pp. 95-97.

  • 68)

    Klawans, Impurity and Sin, pp. 93, 94.

  • 69)

    Klawans, Impurity and Sin, p. 95.

  • 70)

    Klawans, Impurity and Sin, pp. 115-17.

  • 71)

    Klawans, Impurity and Sin, p. 117.

  • 75)

    J.M. Baumgarten, ‘Sacrifice and Worship among the Jewish Sectarians of the Dead Sea (Qumrân) Scrolls’, HTR 46 (1953), pp. 141-59 (151); Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet, pp. 159-60.

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  • 80)

    J.J. Collins, ‘The Place of the Fourth Sibyl in the Development of the Jewish Sibyllina’, JJS 25 (1974), pp. 365-80 (366-67, 378). According to Collins, baptism in the Fourth Sibylline is a one-time event, in contrast to the frequently repeated immersions practised by the Qumran sect. As I attempt to show, however, it is possible that in all these groups, one-time baptism existed side-by-side with daily immersions.

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  • 81)

    Taylor, The Immerser: John the Baptist, pp. 84-88.

  • 85)

    Flusser, ‘Johannine baptism and the Qumran sect’, pp. 104-111; idem, Judaism and the Origins of Christianity, p. 52.

  • 87)

    Cyrilli Hierosol., Catechesis 3.4 (PG 33, col. 429).

  • 89)

    According to J.A. Fitzmyer, ‘The Qumran Scrolls, the Ebionites and their Literature’, TS 16 (1955), pp. 335-72 (371): ‘the sect of Qumran influenced the Ebionites in many ways; Essene tenets and practices were undoubtedly adopted or adapted into the Ebionite way of life’. On the existence of Jewish-Christian groups in the first four centuries, defined as Christian Jews and their Gentile converts who maintained Jewish praxis, see Taylor, ‘The Phenomenon of Early Jewish-Christianity’, p. 327.

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