gmx wrote:So John "appeared" in the wilderness and began preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
If that statement appeared in a non-Christian jewish text of the same era (instead of Mark's gospel), would it have made sense? What would it have meant in a strictly jewish (messianic) context? Did the Jews have a concept of baptism that predated Christianity? Did they call it baptism? Where did the word come from?
John simply took it to the extreme, using river water that flowed freely, as a token of repentance that washed away ones previous sins.
With reference to Ezek. xxxvi. 25, "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean," R. Akiba, in the second century, made the utterance: "Blessed art thou, O Israel! Before whom dost thou cleanse thyself? and who cleanses thee? Thy Father in heaven!" (Yoma viii. 9). Accordingly, Baptism is not merely for the purpose of expiating a special transgression, as is the case chiefly in the violation of the so-called Levitical laws of purity; but it is to form a part of holy living and to prepare for the attainment of a closer communion with God. This thought is expressed in the well-known passage in Josephus in which he speaks of John the Baptist ("Ant." xviii. 5, § 2): "The washing would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away of some sins, but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness." John symbolized the call to repentance by Baptism in the Jordan (Matt. iii. 6 and parallel passages); and the same measure for attaining to holiness was employed by the Essenes, whose ways of life John also observed in all other respects. Josephus says of his instructor Banus, an Essene, that he "bathed himself in cold water frequently, both by night and by day" ("Vita," § 2), and that the same practise was observed by all the Essenes ("B. J." ii. 8, § 5).
The only conception of Baptism at variance with Jewish ideas is displayed in the declaration of John, that the one who would come after him would not baptize with water, but with the Holy Ghost (Mark i. 8; John i. 27). Yet a faint resemblance to the notion is displayed in the belief expressed in the Talmud that the Holy Spirit could be drawn upon as water is drawn from a well (based upon Isa. xii. 3; Yer. Suk. v. 1, 55a of Joshua b. Levi). And there is a somewhat Jewish tinge even to the prophecy of the evangelists Matthew (iii. 11) and Luke (iii. 16), who declare that Jesus will baptize with fire as well as with the Holy Ghost; for, according to Abbahu, true Baptism is performed with fire (Sanh. 39a). Both the statement of Abbahu and of the Evangelists must of course be taken metaphorically. The expression that the person baptized is illuminated (φωτισθείς, Justin, "Apologiæ," i. 65) has the same significance as is implied in telling a proselyte to Judaism, after his bath, that he now belongs to Israel, the people beloved of God (Yeb. 47a; Gerim i.).
John's title, "Baptist" (literally baptizer), comes from the Greek verb baptidzo, which carries the same meaning as the Hebrew root taval: to wash by dipping or plunging in water.
The Hebrew word tevilah (translated "immersion") is used in the benediction recited during the mikveh ritual. Certainly no one would dispute that mikveh is a Jewish ceremony. The ritual washings and cleansings commanded in Torah and the other writings formed the basis for the rabbinical mikveh laws. Our ancient sages who formulated these rules agreed and emphasized that the purpose of mikveh was spiritual rather than physical cleansing. They taught that as the mikveh cleanses the unclean, so does the Holy One cleanse Israel (My 8:9). The roots of baptism rest deeply and permanently in the soil of these Jewish scriptures and traditions. That is, both baptism and mikveh depict by an outward act the inward transaction of faith; and both declare that only the Holy One has the power to cleanse men's hearts and lives.
John2 wrote:This Jews for Jesus site also discusses baptism (with these excerpts):John's title, "Baptist" (literally baptizer), comes from the Greek verb baptidzo, which carries the same meaning as the Hebrew root taval: to wash by dipping or plunging in water.
The Hemerobaptists (Heb. Tovelei Shaḥarit; "Morning Bathers") were part of the baptist group for which the baptismal rite of initiation is the single most important feature. Significant of the Hemerobaptists is that this baptismal rite was repeated each day, rather than once and for all. The Hemerobaptists were probably a division of the Essenes who placed particular emphasis on bathing as a ritualistic cleansing before the hour of prayer each morning in order to be able to pronounce the Name of God with a clean body (Tosef., Yad., end). Samson of Sens translates a section of this Tosefta which refers to this cleansing: "The morning bathers said to the Pharisees: 'We charge you with doing wrong in pronouncing the Name without having taken a ritual bath.' Whereupon the Pharisees said: 'We charge you with wrongdoing in pronouncing the Name with a body impure within.'" The sect is also mentioned in the Talmud (Ber. 22a). Hemerobaptist baptism differed from proselyte or synagogal ablutions in that this baptism was both symbol and sacrament.
John the *Baptist was probably a Hemerobaptist, as is suggested in Clementine Homilies (2:23). His followers were eventually absorbed into the Christian Church, although a part may have gone to the sect of Mandeans in lower Mesopotamia. A remnant of this group was still active in the third century C.E. Several early Christian authors make mention of the Hemerobaptists. Hegesippus (See Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., iv, 22) refers to them as one of the Jewish sects or divisions opposed to Christians; Justin calls them "Baptizers." According to the Christian editor of the Didascalia ("Apostolic Constitutions," vi, 6), the Hemerobaptists do not make use of their beds, tables, and dishes until they have cleansed them. This is a misunderstanding of the true purpose of this sect, i.e., bodily cleansing. Another author, Epiphanius, asserts that the Hemerobaptists deny future salvation to persons who do not undergo daily baptism.
http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jso ... 17909.html