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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2012 5:07 pm 
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All kinds of explanations have been proposed for the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. The orthodox Christian explanation--that it was about John passing the apostolic torch to Jesus and about God announcing his own son to the world--is only one of many. Another explanation holds that it was an allusion to the Ark of the Covenant crossing the Jordan river. Another explanation is that John serves to be as an Elijah-like figure, where Jesus is Elisha (Earl Doherty, The Jesus Puzzle, p. 59). Another explanation is that the baptism of Jesus borrowed from the Zoroastrian myth of Zoroaster wading into a river and being met by an archangel (Robert M. Price, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man, p. 125). And another explanation holds that the baptism myth exists in the gospels because the gospels borrow from many other myths of other ancient figures who were also baptized (Acharya S, The Christ Conspiracy, pp. 105-125).

The best explanation for the baptism accounts in the gospels deals heavily with the details of the baptism accounts in the gospels. The best explanation explains those details with both strong explanatory power and plausibility, meaning that the details are strongly expected from the explanation, and the explanation is roughly what we may expect from the historical context. I believe that the standard critical scholarly explanation achieves this. The standard critical scholarly explanation for the baptism accounts in the gospels is that Jesus really was baptized by John the Baptist, being a follower of John, Christians became rivals with the followers of John the Baptist (Baptists), and they spun the accounts in their own favor.

Keep in mind that it is about explaining the evidence (the early Christian beliefs reflected in the gospels). It is not about trusting the evidence. In this case, we can actually make the best sense of the gospels if we conclude that they contain outright lies.

A critical reader of the Christian gospels should wonder: why was Jesus baptized? Baptism, according the gospels, was for repentance and the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3), presumably rooted in the Jewish association of bodily uncleanliness with sins (see Josephus on John the Baptist). Jesus was supposedly sinless (2 Peter 2:21-22), so why would he be baptized?

The basic conclusion among critical historians has been that the synoptic gospels record that Jesus was baptized primarily because the historical Jesus really was baptized by John the Baptist (e.g. The Silence of Jesus: The Authentic Voice of the Historical Man, by James Breech, pp. 22-24), and the doctrine that Jesus was sinless was only a later development that didn't exactly jive with the well-known fact that Jesus was baptized.

It is not just a curious modern problem. It is a problem that very much shows up in the gospels themselves. The gospel of Matthew was written for Jewish Christians who would be best acquainted with the purpose of the ritual, and the apologetic problem would be greatest, so Matthew quotes Jesus for an explanation:

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfil all righteousness.’ (Matthew 3:13-14)

Seems like Jesus had a flimsy explanation, right? Does Jesus really need to be baptized to "fulfil all righteousness"? Is there even a logical connection? It was a flimsy explanation, but it was the best that Matthew could do.

The gospel authors seem to be haunted by the baptism of Jesus, and the problem of washing the sins from a sinless man was not even their biggest concern. There was an even bigger problem: Christianity in the first century competed strongly with the cult of John the Baptist for adherents. The cult of John the Baptist in the first century was possibly more popular than Christianity, at least among the Jews. Josephus spent twice as much ink writing about John the Baptist than he did writing about Jesus, and he writes about a nuanced difference about the purpose of baptism that the Baptist sect would have had with the Christian sect, reflecting their ongoing divisions. And the gospels themselves acknowledge the popularity and doctrinal overlap with the Christian religion (Mark 8:28, Luke 9:19, Acts 18:25, Acts 19:3-4). Given that the two cults existed alongside each other and competed for the same adherents, then, plausibly, the followers of John the Baptist would remind Christians every day that "Jesus was baptized by John, so who is truly sinless?"

Christians, therefore, made the very best of this otherwise embarrassing reality in their own accounts, and they spun the baptism accounts in their own favor. Each of the four gospels were initially separate from the other gospels, and they each had their own way of dealing with it.

  1. In all of the Christian gospels John the Baptist is consistently presented as the most reverent and humble character with respect to Jesus, showering Jesus with praise at his own expense. He is quoted as saying, for example, "I am not worthy to carry his sandals" (Matthew 3:11).
  2. In the gospels of Matthew and Mark, after Jesus is baptized, the Spirit of God alights on Jesus (not John), and God himself speaks from the heavens, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased," in the presence of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:17).
  3. In the gospel of Luke, John is sent to prison, and only after that is the baptism of Jesus mentioned (the baptizer being someone anonymous).
  4. In the gospel of John (the latest canonical gospel), John the Baptist has a prominent role, John the Baptist is quoted as attesting to the revelation from God, but the account of the baptism itself is completely omitted!

If the actual-human Jesus really was baptized by John the Baptist, that still leaves the question: Why? Well, the most plausible explanation is that Jesus started out as a follower of John the Baptist. Almost every talented religious sage had a talented mentor. Jesus adopted the doctrines and practices of John the Baptist, including at least the apocalypticism, the emphasis on the poor, and the practice of baptism for the cleansing of sin. And, that is what critical scholars tend to believe.

There are, as I said, many other possible alternative explanations for this same evidence. Some of the explanations presume ancient evidences that are seemingly no more than modern myths told among modern authors. So, if your explanation presumes ancient evidence, then please cite and quote a translation of the ancient evidence, not a modern book or website. After that, the next step is to show how your explanation wins in terms of explanatory power and plausibility. Thanks.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2012 5:45 pm 
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First of all, the Gospel of Luke makes it categorically clear that John the Baptist and Jesus are cousins born 6 months apart. Still, there exists no credible evidence for the existence of any of them. Shouldn't there be a genealogy tree somewhere that connects John the Baptist and Jesus' families straight through to this very day? Where are these families today?

John the Baptist and Jesus' Birthdays

Did John Really Baptize Jesus?

Secondly, even the Catholic Encyclopedia admits against its own interests that baptism was not original to Christianity:

Quote:
"How natural and expressive the symbolism of exterior washing to indicate interior purification was recognized to be, is plain from the practice also of the heathen systems of religion. The use of lustral water is found among the Babylonians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Hindus, and others. A closer resemblance to Christian baptism is found in a form of Jewish baptism, to be bestowed on proselytes, given in the Babylonian Talmud (Döllinger, First Age of the Church). "

- Catholic Encyclopedia, Baptism

Christ in Egypt has a 30 page chapter on the Baptism subject alone starting on page 233. There's too much info to just pluck out a couple quotes which don't do Acharya's work on this subject justice. Earl Doherty does have a lengthy article addressing Pauline Baptism and the Pagan Mysteries.

Third, regarding the Wiki link to Josephus on John the Baptist we need to keep in mind:

Quote:
"As with other passages in Josephus relating to Christian themes concern remains over whether the passage was part of Josephus's original text or instead a later addition - it can be dated back no further than the early 3rd century when it is quoted by Origen in Contra Celsum."

Long story short, at the end of the day, I see no credible reason to believe this episode took place in history as a real event.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2012 5:55 pm 
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Freethinkuluva, as the family connection between Jesus and John exists only in the gospel of Luke, I am with you on that point that it isn't historically reliable. I also agree with the Catholic Encyclopedia on the point that baptism preceded Christianity. I don't think that you and I disagree so much.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2012 6:23 pm 
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Turning over a new leaf...

Very nice and fair of you to say Abe. So how does Luke's assertion of Jesus born six months after John apply to the theory you're trying to lay out? In our case we're seeing that it points to an astrotheological allegory about the summer and winter solstices which are six months apart of course. John says 'He must increase and I must decrease.' In this sense of the solstices the sun increases at one while it decreases at the other. Even if you feel that an historical Jesus is somewhere to found at the base of all of this mythology, you do recognize that writers intentionally spun some astrotheological allegories in these tales don't you?

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2012 6:41 pm 
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Oh that's right, Tat. I almost forgot about this video/DVD:

Was John the Baptist an Egyptian myth?



The Gospel of John 3:30 "He must increase, but I must decrease."

Summer solstice to winter solstice the sun could be said to "decrease" in strength while from the winter solstice to the summer solstice, it would be increasing in strength. Both Jesus and John are personifications of the SUN like Osiris and Horus etc.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2012 6:56 pm 
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Tat Tvam Asi wrote:
Turning over a new leaf...

Very nice and fair of you to say Abe. So how does Luke's assertion of Jesus born six months after John apply to the theory you're trying to lay out? In our case we're seeing that it points to an astrotheological allegory about the summer and winter solstices which are six months apart of course. John says 'He must increase and I must decrease.' In this sense of the solstices the sun increases at one while it decreases at the other. Even if you feel that an historical Jesus is somewhere to found at the base of all of this mythology, you do recognize that writers intentionally spun some astrotheological allegories in these tales don't you?

Luke is a gospel that took special pains to argue for the superiority of Jesus over John. In Luke 1, we have this passage:

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’

Even as an unborn child, John was supposedly sending a sign that Jesus was the Son of God. That can happen only late in the pregnancy, which I suppose is why six months was chosen. Maybe it is like an astrotheological allegory, but almost anything can be an allegory, and it makes sufficient sense when we take it literally, in my opinion.

John, likewise, took special pains to argue for the superiority of Jesus over John. In John 3, we have:

Now a discussion about purification arose between John’s disciples and a Jew. They came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing, and all are going to him.’ John answered, ‘No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, “I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.” He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.’

This directly reflects the religious competition and conflict that was going on between the Christians and Baptists. Christians are quoting John himself as disclaiming the role of Messiah in favor of Jesus.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2012 8:09 pm 
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The "discussion about purification" alluded to in John 3 would probably correspond to the same religious difference alluded to the passage about John the Baptist in Josephus' Antiquities, written at about the same time as the gospel of John. The passage in Josephus is as follows (my emphasis):

    Antiquities 18.5.2 116-119

    Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now when [many] others came in crowds about him, for they were very greatly moved [or pleased] by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise,) thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it would be too late. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod's suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death. Now the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and a mark of God's displeasure to him.

Christians believed that baptism was for the cleansing of the soul, but Baptists apparently believed that it was for the cleansing of the body.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2012 8:56 pm 
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Abe, I'm not so sure that Josephus can be considered a credible source on these issues:

Quote:
"As with other passages in Josephus relating to Christian themes concern remains over whether the passage was part of Josephus's original text or instead a later addition - it can be dated back no further than the early 3rd century when it is quoted by Origen in Contra Celsum."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_the_Baptist#Josephus

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2012 9:05 pm 
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Freethinkaluva22 wrote:
Abe, I'm not so sure that Josephus can be considered a credible source on these issues:

Quote:
"As with other passages in Josephus relating to Christian themes concern remains over whether the passage was part of Josephus's original text or instead a later addition - it can be dated back no further than the early 3rd century when it is quoted by Origen in Contra Celsum."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_the_Baptist#Josephus

The main reason I would take this passage to be authentically Josephan is that the statement I put in bold above is a strikingly non-Christian doctrine that all known Christians would NOT be interested in placing in the mouth of Josephus. Christians wanted to believe that John baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), NOT for the purification of the body. Nevertheless, in the unlikely case that it is a redaction, it still reflects a historical division between the Baptists and the Christians, which sheds light on the baptism accounts in the gospels.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2012 9:33 pm 
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I've only glanced over this thread, so forgive if I am speaking in haste here, I'll read it more thoroughly later(after Animation Domination :wink: ).

Abe, you agree that Paul's letters predate the gospels?

I can't recall off the top of my head if Paul ever mentions the baptism of Jesus, but I don't think so. I do remember for a fact that Paul NOWHERE mentions John the Baptist.
Paul does touch upon baptism, but he uses it as a metaphor for death, burial, & resurrection, That's very interesting as burying the corpse in water is a recurring theme among some of these dying-rising pre-xian pagan characters. Osiris was killed by Seth and then buried in the Nile, one version of Tammuz has Ishtar disposing of his remains out at sea, Dionysus was torn apart by the Titans and the remains dumped into the waters of Apollo's tripod, etc.
Anyway, I think part of the reason why a baptism of Jesus was added to the story was because that was a commonplace motif.
As for why it was done by John the Baptist specifically, perhaps there really was a John who baptized people around that time, and served as a happy coincidence to use as a fulfillment of this motif. Much like the Roman cross. I don't think the Romans invented the cross in order to try and mimic something in pagan mythology. But the god hung on a tree was a common place motif and since the Roman cross was already there for the gospel writers, it served as the perfect fulfillment already available. Hence why in the Talmudic tales of Jesus Ben Panthera, even though Jesus was stoned, they still hung his corpse on a tree sometime around Passover. That makes it seem to me like as though no matter what the method of death, at some point between death & resurrection, the character must end up on a tree.
I don't contend with the hypothesis that xianity sprang out of the John the Baptist cult, I just don't see how or why that would point to a historical Jesus.


"A critical reader of the Christian gospels should wonder: why was Jesus baptized?"

I suppose in short, my answer is I don't know.

But the same question could be applied to a number of other myths, for example, a critical reader of the Egyptian texts should wonder: why was Osiris thrown into the Nile by Seth?

Even though there are a number of proposed explanations for this, just as there are for the baptism of Jesus, I would have to say that in short, my answer for this is likewise- I don't know.
Nevertheless, I have never concluded that Osiris or Seth were historical people or that Osiris in the Nile was a historical event.
Do you suspect that they are? If not, I would ask why is it that you DO suspect as much of Jesus & John & the baptism.
If yes, then I would ask what is your evidence of such?


Now as for the Josephus thing, if we consider him a reliable source for info on John, that creates problems when trying to reconcile it with events as laid out by the Gospels. Josephus' details would place John's death in around 36 CE, and Pilate's suspension and summons to Rome in 36 CE. So if Jesus began his ministry 6 months after the arrest & death of John, and lasted for another 3+ years, then was crucified under Pilate, well, needless to say, this can't be reconciled with Josephus. Either Josephus is unreliable on this matter, or the gospels are unreliable on this matter, or both are unreliable.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2012 9:46 pm 
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The allegory is laid out pretty clear Abe. Six months is a very direct reference to the time between solstices. Increasing and decreasing is too. If John represents the summer solstice, which, is obviously where the church put John's feast day giving the whole thing away, then we simply find the summer solstice personification leaping with joy about the winter solstice coming ahead. That's completely consistent with the fact that the sun light is decreasing away from the summer solstice, but then the salvation of solar light occurs directly following the winter solstice when light is increasing thereafter.

Now you have to figure that even if these guys did exist and did have two cults, by the time these gospels appear into history there was already clear signs of making this ordeal into a solar allegory format. If a man called John the Baptist did exist, and did loose ground to another man called Jesus, then it would make for an ideal layout where the chosen party could be associated with the winter solstice and increasing sun light bringing back life for another season. That's the very hub a salvation figure who represents the renewal and resurrection of life. The question is really how in the hell could these writers not have worked astrotheological solar allegories into their myth making efforts? That's the angle that gives power to the mythology and draws in the crowds.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2012 12:25 pm 
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Tat Tvam Asi wrote:
The allegory is laid out pretty clear Abe. Six months is a very direct reference to the time between solstices. Increasing and decreasing is too. If John represents the summer solstice, which, is obviously where the church put John's feast day giving the whole thing away, then we simply find the summer solstice personification leaping with joy about the winter solstice coming ahead. That's completely consistent with the fact that the sun light is decreasing away from the summer solstice, but then the salvation of solar light occurs directly following the winter solstice when light is increasing thereafter.

Now you have to figure that even if these guys did exist and did have two cults, by the time these gospels appear into history there was already clear signs of making this ordeal into a solar allegory format. If a man called John the Baptist did exist, and did loose ground to another man called Jesus, then it would make for an ideal layout where the chosen party could be associated with the winter solstice and increasing sun light bringing back life for another season. That's the very hub a salvation figure who represents the renewal and resurrection of life. The question is really how in the hell could these writers not have worked astrotheological solar allegories into their myth making efforts? That's the angle that gives power to the mythology and draws in the crowds.

I think almost everyone who reads and studies the Bible (or any other religious scripture) has a habit of finding themes or corroboration for theories that they already accept. Even the most intelligent readers do this, because the Bible is long, diverse, spiritually themed, diversely interpreted, and ideologically important to all parties. In this case, the canonical set of passages concerning John the Baptist is long and diverse, the theory of astrotheology is likewise large and varied, and it should be no surprise that you can draw connections between those two sets of ideas where none existed either on the surface or in the minds of the authors. If, by chance, there was astrotheological significance to the period of time of five months instead of six months, then you would be equally capable of drawing a metaphorical connection, because that period of time is given in the same narrative of Luke: "After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion" (Luke 1:24).

This brings up an additional problem with your hypothesis. The time period between the two solstices is exactly six months, as you said. But, if you read the text carefully, Luke is not talking about an exact six-month period of time. Per Luke 1:26: "In the sixth month..."--it is at a point in time after the completion of five months (Luke 1:24) and before the completion of six months (i.e. 5.2 months), just as "in the second month" would be at a point in time between one and two months.

Luke could just as easily have stated an exact period of time instead of a range of time, and this would help make the astrotheological allegory clear, if there was one. But he didn't, because he needed only the range of time from five to six months. It was for a different purpose, and Luke makes that purpose explicit (Luke 1:39-45). The sixth month is when pregnant mothers most clearly feel the physical activity of their unborn children.

    http://www.livestrong.com/article/26359 ... z1iyjFzBFq

    The Frequency of a Baby Kicking in the Womb at Six Months

    Time Frame

    The sixth month is set apart from the months around it. The fifth month of your pregnancy is the time you will most likely really start to feel the kicking of your baby. At this point, however, your baby is still small, so you might not be able to feel the kicking very often. However, What to Expect advises to go to your physician if you have not felt any kicking at this point. They say not to worry right away; you might have just been given the wrong due date. When you get to your seventh month of pregnancy, you will probably experience more and stronger kicking, as your baby is getting larger and gaining strength at this time.

This prenatal phenomenon was common knowledge in the ancient times, just as it is common knowledge today. Given this explicit interest by the author, the given period of time is expected. If we can strongly expect one part the narrative from an adjacent part of the same narrative, then I think it is trouble to introduce an explanation that isn't seen on the face of any part of the narrative, because the hypothesis that is most expected by the evidence is generally better.

That isn't to say that an underlying allegory is perfectly hopeless as an explanation. Sometimes, we simply can not make good sense of a passage if we were to take it literally, but we can make more powerful sense of it if we were to use a metaphorical interpretation. It helps if the metaphorical connections are specific on both ends, and if many details are explained rather than just a few. It also helps if we have strong clues of such themes elsewhere in the texts by the same author or an author in the same community. The solution is to always choose theories that relate most strongly to the evidence. The theory of John the Baptist that is popular among critical scholars is designed to explain a maximum amount of details in the narratives with maximum plausibility and predictive power, and I believe this is achieved. The literary theme of Jesus' religious superiority over John the Baptist is an explicitly strong and consistent theme in all narratives pertaining to John the Baptist. That is the explanation that consistently jumps out of the text, and the authors didn't seem to try to keep it a secret.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2012 12:27 pm 
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GA, I will analyze your points when you are ready to present them thoroughly, or I can just go with the points that you have already made--either way is fine by me.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2012 4:00 pm 
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Abe, you should've read the whole chapter of Luke 1 instead of quoting Luke 1:24 out of context because all it's really saying in 24 is that once Elizabeth conceived John she hid herself for 5 months. That 5 months had nothing to do with Mary or her conception of Jesus. The bible does not give a specific date of birth for John or Jesus however, Luke is categorically, unmistakeably clear that John the Baptist and Jesus are definitely born 6 months apart.

In Luke 1:26, just two verses later, it says it was "in the 6th month" that the angel Gabriel met Mary to give Mary the announcement of her conception of Jesus. How could you have missed that?

Luke 1:
Quote:
24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,

25 Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.

26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.

31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.

34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.

Luke 1:36 confirms that Mary conceived Jesus while her cousin Elisabeth had started her sixth month of pregnancy with John the Baptist. So, this completely throws out your 5 month conception theory for sure simply by reading all of Luke 1.

ApostateAbe wrote:
The sixth month is when pregnant mothers most clearly feel the physical activity of their unborn children.

That may be true but, I just don't see that argument as valid here because Luke 1:39-41 makes it clear that JtB "leaped in her womb" at some point later after Mary went to Juda. That could've been anywhere from a couple days to whenever and has no specific bearing on a precise date so, it's completely irrelevant and doesn't confirm anything from where I stand. Plus, nothing says that a baby in the womb must get physical precisely on the 1st day of the 6th month of pregnancy. It could happen at 6 months and 3 days or 6 months and 3 weeks or even 5 months 3 weeks and 6 days. That is simply a very, very weak argument. The only point that is confirmed here is that John the Baptist and Jesus were conceived / born 6 months apart - not 5 not 7 or anything else.

Quote:
"The Nativity of St John the Baptist is one of the oldest festivals of the Christian church...

"The Nativity of St John the Baptist on June 24 comes three months after the celebration on March 25 of the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel told Our Lady that her cousin Elizabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy, and six months before the Christmas celebration of the birth of Jesus."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nativity_o ... he_Baptist

Quote:
"The Gospel suggests that the Precursor was born about six months before Christ; but the year of Christ's nativity has not so far been ascertained. Nor is there anything certain about the season of Christ's birth, for it is well known that the assignment of the feast of Christmas to the twenty-fifth of December is not grounded on historical evidence, but is possibly suggested by merely astronomical considerations, also, perhaps, inferred from astronomico-theological reasonings."

"...The commemoration of his Nativity is one of the oldest feasts, if not the oldest feast, introduced into both the Greek and Latin liturgies to honour a saint. But why is the feast proper, as it were, of St. John on the day of his nativity, whereas with other saints it is the day of their death? Because it was meant that the birth of him who, unlike the rest, was "filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother's womb", should be signalized as a day of triumph. The celebration of the Decollation of John the Baptist, on 29 August, enjoys almost the same antiquity. We find also in the oldest martyrologies mention of a feast of the Conception of the Precursor on 24 September."

- Catholic Encyclopedia: St. John the Baptist

"Astronomico-theological" is another way of saying astrotheological. So here we have the Catholic Encyclopedia admitting against its own interest that astrotheology probably played an important role here on the issue of John the Baptist demonstrating the fact that we, Acharya S and others did not just make it up. But wait, there's more. The celebration of the Decollation of John the Baptist brings up another blatantly obvious astrotheological motif:

Quote:
"Like his popular predecessor the Babylonian water and fish god Oannes, over the centuries the biblical figure of John the Baptist has been associated repeatedly with the zodiacal sign and constellation of Aquarius, the Water Bearer, who “pours down the water on the heads of the people.” As Dr. Herbert J. Hardwicke relates of John:

"His nativity is fixed by the Catholic church at June 24th, at the first moment of which day Aquarius rose above the horizon, to pursue his course along the ecliptic; and thus is accounted for the passage “he must increase, but I must decrease,” which means that John’s days become shorter from June 24th to Dec. 25th, when Jesus is born; after which the days grow longer. At midnight on Aug. 28th and 29th Aquarius was seen at Alexandria above the southern horizon, travelling along the ecliptic with his head above the equator, as though it had been cut off. (Matt. xiv. 10). On that very day the Church keeps the anniversary of John’s death. In the fourth gospel we find the same personification of Aquarius depicted..."

"As we can see, the story of John the Baptist’s beheading is written in the stars, like so much else of the gospel story, casting doubt once more on his place in “history.”

"...in the gospel story John the Baptist is decapitated, while, as noted, at different times the constellation of Aquarius also appears to have lost its head."

- Christ in Egypt pages 253/4

Christ in Egypt includes a 30 page chapter on the baptism issue including the influence of Egypt on to Christianity and John the Baptist.
Here's an image from the Harmonia Macrocosmica of Andreas Cellarius, plate 27. It shows the sky from the southern hemisphere, depicting a beheaded Aquarius. This image may also be found in the 2010 Astrotheology Calendar.

Image

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2012 6:20 pm 
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Well Abe, I see that FTL got to this one before I could. But in anycase I can see that you must not have confronted this issue yet, or else you probably wouldn't have tried to take the route you've taken in your last post. There's a running theme where Jesus and John are associated with astrotheology. It's wide spread and consistent throughout the gospel tales.

That's why taking something like the beheading of John the Baptist, for instance, as a possible historical lead doesn't amount to much in the end. That's the way that a lot of supposed historical clues in the mythology end. The birth and beheading of John the Baptist are just plain astrotheological through and through. From there it becomes necessary to present John as important, but not as important as Jesus because the summer solstice is a decline period and the winter solstice represents the beginning or rebirth and renewel ahead. So John is portrayed as being humble towards Jesus in keeping with the theme of their personification roles.

Was this allegory based on two real prophet types where one advanced ahead of the other? It's really impossible to say for sure. It could go either way. But Josephus as evidence for the historicity of John the Baptist is questionable, just as it is for Jesus or James the Brother of Jesus for that matter. Because Josephus was tampered with way too much over the years and is just plain tainted as it stands. And there's really no way of using the gospels to provide credible historical evidence either. What's seems more plausible than anything else is that these gospel tales were written in the fashion popular for mythology in antiquity, which is a strongly astrotheological fashion.

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