Saturday, April 30, 2011

Jesus Announcing that He Has a Baptism 'to Baptize In It' Immediately Preceding the Question of the Rich Youth (Mark 10:17 - 31)

We have already noted that the Question of the Rich Man necessarily appeared at the beginning of a new year. This is reflected in the Arabic Diatessaron as well as other sources. We surmised that the first part of the gospel narrative dealt which Jesus announcing and then once the narrative went into the 'second part' (i.e. the New Year) all the things 'prophesied' in 'part one' finally came to pass.

Now if someone were to question - what are the things that were prophesied in the 'first part' of the gospel which are finally revealed in the second, the obvious answer is the Passion of Christ (cf. Mark 8:31 - 33 etc.):

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!”

Yet it must be also recognized that in Ephrem's Diatessaron and other 'super gospel' narratives another act fulfilled in the new year was Jesus's baptism of the disciple he loved:

'I have a baptism, to baptize in it; and how shall I endure until it is accomplished?'

Of course the saying appears here in the Pistis Sophia in a slightly different form in the canonical gospel of Luke and again later in the canonical gospel of Mark.  As Mary explains it references Jesus as baptizer not baptized - "Thou wilt not remain in the world until the baptisms are accomplished and purify the perfect souls."

It is interesting to note that the equivalent of this saying is placed in the Arabic Diatessaron in section 27 - a mere ten short lines before the new section which we noted begins the new year:

I am come to cast fire on the earth. What will I that it burn?' I have a baptism, to baptize in it; and how shall I endure until it is accomplished?

Interestingly Ephrem interprets the two lines as a reference to a spiritual form of baptism, where 'fire' represents the Holy Spirit:

Two words again our Lord spake—which in one voice agree in unison:—He said, “I am come to send fire,”—and again, “I have a baptism to be baptized with.”—By the fire of Baptism is quenched the fire,—that which the Evil One had kindled:—and the water of Baptism has overcome—those waters of contention—by which he had made trial—of Joseph who conquered and was crowned [Hymn 7.7]

Yet the original saying - or at least an earlier variant of it - was that Jesus had come to baptize not 'be baptized with.'  As we have noted at length elsewhere there are persistent reports from the time of Irenaeus that a sect associated with Mark understood these sayings to point to another baptism beside that associated with John the Baptist (Irenaeus AH 1.21.2; Anonymous Treatise on Baptism 14,16)

I think the placement of this saying just before the Question of the Rich Youth cannot be coincidental (Diatessaron 28).  Indeed even more significant perhaps is the fact that while Irenaeus attempts to prove the error of the heresies by pointing to Mark 10:38's reference to the baptism as being yet unaccomplished:

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”

It is worth noting that in Ephrem's parallel reading in the original Syriac Diatessaron the saying concludes with 'Can you drink the cup I drink' or:

And Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink the cup that I am to drink? (section 30)

This must have been the reading of the Alexandrian 'mystic' gospel of Mark too which explains why Irenaeus identifies the 'redemption' baptism of the Marcosians as taking place in the same section of Mark chapter 10 (AH 1.21.2)

The point I want to stress again to my readers is the unrecognized 'dividing line' before and after the Question of the Rich Youth. All the events of Jesus's ministry before the Question of the Rich Youth represent the announcement of the 'year of favor.' All things that happened in 'Part Two' of the narrative take place in the Jubilee year.

More on that later ...

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