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.
repentant Israel with the Spirit of the contagion of sin, and that John the Baptist did not go further than the traditional expectation of the Messiah mightily endowed with the Spirit (based on Isa 11,1-4), and the arrival of the Messiah, effecting both judgement and salvation, would itself be sufficient to explain the metaphor "to baptize with Holy Spirit-and-fire" (cf. Isa 4,4)69.
How does such an interpretation relate to John’s understanding of "to baptize with the Holy Spirit"? We will first suggest why the Fourth Evangelist omitted the "and fire" from the original Q-saying. A possible reason for this omission is because according to the Fourth Gospel Jesus did not visibly introduce a judgement of fire as the Baptist anticipated70. Judgement in the Fourth Gospel is not depicted in apocalyptic end-of-the-world language, nor does John portray Jesus as bringing judgement in an active way (3,17; 8,15). Jesus is depicted as the locus of God’s revelation and salvation, and there is judgement for those who reject the revelation Jesus brings, i.e., judgement is dependent on one’s attitude towards the Spirit-Baptizer (3,17-21.36; 5,24; 9,1-41; 12,47-48). Jesus and his ministry have a kri/sij-effect: judgement is the inevitable and immediate consequence of those who reject Jesus and the revelation he brings in his teaching. Porsch neatly expresses it as follows:
Das vom Täufer bei Mt und Lk angekündigte Gericht ("mit Feuer") ist dadurch bei Joh ganz ins Innere verlegt, insofern die Begegnung mit der Offenbarung Jesu den Menschen in die Krisis stellt und ihn entweder >reinigt< oder nur noch mehr verhärtet71.
Hence, both John and the Synoptics have a similar understanding of the Baptist’s prophecy "to baptize with Holy Spirit(-and-fire)", in that Spirit-baptism has the purpose of cleansing and effects salvation or judgement. A possible explanation for this resemblance may be that the Fourth Evangelist knew (part of) Q or the Synoptic tradition, and utilized or shared the same Baptist tradition as the Synoptics but shaped it according to his own theological concerns/purposes72. Even those who challenge John’s