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.
14,5-9.49-52; 16,4.24; Num 8,7; 19,7-9.17; Ezek 36,25; Zech 13,1; 1QS 3,4-9; 4,21), and occasionally bapti/zw is used in the LXX to denote this concept (2 Kgs 5,14; Sir 34,25; cf. Jdt 12,7-9)19. In the Fourth Gospel, however, John the Baptist is portrayed as an explicit witness to Jesus as the Messiah (1,6-8.15.19-37; 3,26-30), and even John’s baptizing ministry has been subordinated to function merely as the means by which Jesus is revealed to John and, consequently, to Israel (1,29-34). Hence, the purpose of the Baptist’s baptism, according to the Evangelist, is to reveal the identity of the Messiah/Spirit-Baptizer to Israel (1,31.33), and that through the Baptist’s witness people may come to believe (that Jesus is the Messiah) (1,7). Mutatis mutandis, the purpose of Jesus’ Spirit-baptism may be to reveal God (cf. 1,18) in order that people may believe, i.e., accept this revelation, and thus find life/salvation (1,12; 3,14-16.34-36; cf. 20,31). Nevertheless, although for the Evangelist the primary purpose of the Baptist’s baptism is revelation, its aspect of cleansing, which is naturally evoked by bapti/zw, has never completely disappeared: Jesus (or in fact his disciples, as 4,2 clarifies) baptized more disciples than the Baptist, which gave rise to a dispute about cleansing/purification (kaqarismo/j) (3,22-26)20. Moreover, water is a prominent symbol for cleansing/purification throughout the Fourth Gospel (2,6; 3,5; 4,10-14; 5,7; 7,38; 13,5-10; 19,34)21. Similarly, we may expect that Jesus’ Spirit-baptism also contains a cleansing dimension. Consequently, we suggest that bapti/zw e)n pneu/mati a(gi/w| refers to revelation and cleansing.
At the start of this section we suggested that bapti/zw e)n pneu/mati a(gi/w| most likely refers to the effect on Israel of the coming of the Spirit-endowed Messiah rather than the Messiah bestowing the Spirit on Israel. In other words, rather than interpreting pneu=ma as a gift, it seems more preferable to understand pneu=ma as the means by which the Messiah will act towards Israel22. In this case, e)n should be taken