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.
knowledge that is the basis for his revelatory teaching, which cleanses and gives life because it contains liberating and purifying truth/wisdom. People need to know God through an understanding and acceptance of Jesus’ teaching, and subsequently become from God through a new birth. The Spirit functions in this process as the facilitator of true understanding, in that the Spirit mediates to people the life-giving truth present in Jesus’ word so that people may come to true understanding and belief, and to a subsequent birth of the Spirit. Thus, Jesus performs activities of revelation and cleansing (through his teaching) by means of the Spirit48.
3. Jesus’ Spirit-Baptism
After having outlined the nature of Jesus’ ministry and the role of the Spirit in this, we are now able to see how this dovetails with a concept of "the baptism with Holy Spirit" as referring to a Spirit-endowed messiah who would reveal God and cleanse people. First, the metaphorical birth of water-and-Spirit denotes the cleansing and transformation of people by means of the Spirit, which is based on a Spirit-provided understanding of the significance of Jesus’ revelation (culminating on the cross). Second, the "living water" that Jesus offers denotes the cleansing and life-giving qualities of Jesus’ Spirit-imbued revelation. Third, according to John 3 and 6, Jesus’ revelatory word/teaching is (or becomes) life-giving if its significance is understood, which is possible because the Spirit is actively reaching out to people through Jesus’ teaching and revealing to people the significance of Jesus’ revelation, especially the event on the cross.
From our investigation thus far the following picture then seems to emerge. Jesus’ main activity in the Fourth Gospel is to provide Spirit-imbued revelatory teaching that cleanses and restores people, in that it brings life/salvation to those who accept Jesus and his revelation. To put it differently, Jesus cleanses and transforms people, and hence gives them eternal life, through his revelatory teaching by means of the Spirit, in that the Spirit empowers Jesus and is active in and through Jesus’ life-giving revelation. Jesus reveals God by means of his Spirit-imbued teaching, which, if accepted, cleanses the person and brings life/salvation, or, if rejected, brings judgement and condemnation. This concept could then be an expression or interpretation of Jesus’