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.
instrumentally, meaning "with" or "by means of"23. Hence, the Spirit is expected to be the means by which Jesus will cleanse people and reveal God.
As a résumé, the most likely referents of the metaphor bapti/zw e)n pneu/mati a(gi/w| are revelation and cleansing24. Jesus’ Spirit-baptism refers to some sort of cleansing and is also linked with the revelation of God to people, and Jesus accomplishes this by means of the Spirit. People who accept Jesus’ revelation and cleansing find life/salvation, and hence Jesus’ Spirit-baptism has soteriological consequences. The point of correspondence between the Baptist’s baptism with water and Jesus’ baptism with Holy Spirit then is not the mode or medium of baptism but their purpose, namely revelation and cleansing. Nevertheless, the two baptisms are contrasted by virtue of the two baptizers being contrasted: the Baptist denies being the expected eschatological figure and subordinates himself to the Coming One (1,25-27; 3,22-36); the Baptist points his disciples to Jesus (1,35-37); the Baptist functions as a witness to Jesus (1,6-8). The contrast or dissimilarity between the two baptisms lies particularly in their respective means and effects. The Baptist’s baptism is by means of water and Jesus’ baptism is by means of the Spirit, and although water-baptism effects cleansing it also points to the greater cleansing of Jesus’ Spirit-baptism. The implication of 3,22-36 is that if Jesus is greater than the Baptist then so are his baptism and ministry, which cleanses from sin (1,29; 13,10; 15,3)25. Moreover, Jesus also provides a greater revelation (namely of God) than the Baptist, who "merely" revealed the identity of the Messiah.
The question that still needs to be answered, however, is precisely how the two aspects of revelation and cleansing function within the metaphor bapti/zw e)n pneu/mati a(gi/w| and how the Spirit is related to this. However, before we will provide more substantial (exegetical) evidence from the Fourth Gospel itself in section III, we will first examine whether Judaism already "knew" this concept of Spirit-baptism.