Cornelis Bennema, «Spirit-Baptism in the Fourth Gospel. A Messianic Reading of John 1,33», Vol. 84 (2003) 35-60
The various ways of understanding "baptism in the Holy Spirit" has caused much division in both academic scholarship and the church. Most theories have been based on the Synoptics and Acts, but the phrase o( bapti/zwn e)n pneu/mati a(gi/w| is also present in the Fourth Gospel (1,33). However, Johannine scholarship has hardly given attention to this concept. This paper will seek to establish that o( bapti/zwn e)n pneu/mati a(gi/w| is a programmatic statement for Jesus’ nexus of soteriological activities in relation to people by means of the Spirit. "To baptize with Holy Spirit" refers to Jesus’ programme of cleansing people through revelation by means of the Spirit. Moreover, this concept is rooted in Jewish messianic traditions, which were able to expect a messiah who would judge, restore and cleanse by means of his Spirit-imbued word.
being submerged in a river of Spirit, which would result in destruction for the unrepentant and salvation for the repentant13. However, an attempt to carry through the meaning of bapti/zw in John’s baptism into the Messiah’s baptism will run into difficulties: in our pre-Christian sources the Spirit is never represented as a river or pool in which a person might be metaphorically immersed14. Marshall argues that bapti/zw took on the metaphorical meaning of "to overwhelm with", "to drench in"15. Initially, Turner followed and developed Marshall’s idea, and preferring "to deluge with" for bapti/zw, he saw in the Spirit-baptism the concept of one single eschatological deluge of Spirit 16. However, Turner later found some problems with this view: (i) the Messiah pouring out God’s Spirit remains improbable; (ii) the transition from bapti/zw used in a literal sense of "immerse" to a metaphorical sense with the different sense of "deluge with" is highly improbable; (iii) the Aramaic equivalent for bapti/zw (lbt), which the Baptist probably had used, simply meant "to dip, bath, wash (by immersing)", which would exclude the sense of "deluge with"17. Thus, an investigation of the meaning of the verb bapti/zw in order to elucidate the concept of bapti/zw e)n pneu/mati a(gi/w| has turned out to be a cul-de-sac.
We suggest then that the intended point of comparison between John’s baptism and Jesus’ baptism is not the mode of bapti/zw, but the purpose for which the rite is performed18. For a first-century Jew, the Baptist’s water-baptism would naturally evoke the concept of cleansing/purification of defilement: the use of water in Judaism referring to cleansing is widespread (e.g., Exod 29,4; 30,18-21; Lev 8,6;