John the Baptist: A Witness against Pauline Dogma

· Religion

John baptizing Jesus, by Guido Reni

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

The more we know and learn about John the Baptist, more apparent it becomes that Pauline dogma regarding atonement and resurrection of Jesus, had nothing to do with the Jewish faith or faith of John the Baptist and even Jesus himself. So, this post is dedicated to collect all the historical, Quranic and Biblical information about John the Baptist.

One obvious dilemma created by the person of John the Baptist is that a person of higher religious standing baptizes a person, who is junior to him.  So, if John the Baptist baptized Jesus, in spiritual realm he had a status higher than Jesus?  If this be true it takes away from the theory of Jesus being literal son of God!  It is strange that according to St. Paul a new religion is being launched in Jesus dying for the sins of humanity, yet both Jesus and John the Baptist are living the lives of Jewish prophets and both are circumcised.

According to St. Paul a new Covenant is being signed between God and His people but through out the lifetime of Jesus, there is no mention of the new Covennant, he and his followers are practicing the old Jewish Covenenant every day of the week, even as Jesus prays passionately to God the Father for the bitter cup to be taken away from him.  He himself is circumcized and so is everyone of his followers and person who baptizes him, until St. Paul signs a new deal more than 20 years after crucifixion.  So, much for a new Covenant!  The external sign of the old Covenant is being practiced universally, until decades after crucifixion.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “All four Gospels recognize in John the start of the Christian Era, and each in its own way tries to reconcile John’s precedence in time and Jesus’ acceptance of his message and of a baptism of repentance from his hands (elements suggesting subordination to John), with the author’s belief in Jesus as Messiah and son of God.” [1]  The myth making of Gospel of Luke knows no bounds, even in his mother’s womb John recognizes Jesus—also still in his mother’s womb—as his Lord.  If one is ready to believe this he or she has fallen into a trap where faith trumps reason, no matter what!  John the Baptist is baptizing Jesus and not declaring his faith in son of God, who has come to die for sins of humanity, including those of John the Baptist’s, if any, and his followers.  He continues with his ministry rather than yielding to the alleged son of God!

Paul Johnson writes in his book, the History of Christianity:

We can be almost certain that John the Baptist was, or had been, an Essene monk. He was recruiting not so much for the monastery but for the broader movement of the elite within the elite, carrying the cleansing and purifying process into the world outside, and thus hastening the apocalyptic moment when the war against the Sons of Darkness would begin.
The Baptist is thus the link between the general reformist and nonconformist movement in Judaism and Jesus himself. Unfortunately, in terms of actual historical knowledge, he is a very weak link. In some ways he is a completely mysterious figure. His function, in the history of Christianity, was to attach elements of the Essene teaching to a consistent view of Jewish eschatology. John was an impatient man, as well as a wild-looking one: the Messiah was not merely coming—he was here! The apocalypse was rolling fast towards the people, so now was the time to repent and prepare. And then, in due course, Jesus appeared and was identified. This is the first glimpse, admittedly a vivid one, we get of John. There is one other glimpse, equally vivid, some years later, when he fell foul of Herod Antipas and lost his head. The rest is darkness. The second most important person in the history of Christianity remains enigmatic. Yet the synoptic gospels, and still more the Gospel according to John, emphasize the importance of the Baptist in the mission of Jesus, He is the operative agent who sets the whole thing in motion. The three synoptic writers, and the editor of John’s gospel, working within a different stream of knowledge, are clearly using very powerful oral traditions, or even written documents, dealing specifically with the Baptist’s work. Somewhere, behind our sources, or behind the sources of our sources, there was once the whole story of the Baptist as related by a follower or lieutenant. But the earliest Christian historians selected only what they regarded as strictly relevant to their purpose, and now the rest is irrecoverably lost. Our only non-Christian source, Josephus, shows that John was at one time an Essene. His account of John’s teaching, such as it is, accords closely with the Qumran Manual of Discipline; and of course his actual appearance is directly related to Essene prophecies, which it resembles in important details, as did his prophecies and sayings. But John was also moving away from Essene concepts, in the direction of what became Christianity. His baptism ceremony, unlike the repeated bathing-rites of the Essenes, is a once and for all affair (but he was not unique in this). Secondly, John thought God would intervene, admittedly in wrathful mood, without the assistance of the Essene army and its war-plan. John was not militaristic. Most important of all, he had broken away from the absolute exclusiveness of the Essenes, teaching that God’s special favours were to be offered to the entire Jewish people, not just to the sect. John was not yet a Universalist, but he was moving in that direction. He was, in short, a carrier, bringing certain key Essene doctrines out of their narrow, bellicose, racist and sectarian framework, and proclaiming them in a wider world.
The logic of this analysis, then, is that the Baptist was in a sense Jesus’s teacher, and that the pupil improved on, expanded and transformed his master’s ideas. But it is at this point that our evidence breaks down. If anything, it points in another direction. John did not claim to teach the Messiah, merely to identify him; indeed, he specifically rejected any master-pupil relationship. The fact that Jesus was baptized by John does not imply any inferiority, submission or acknowledgement of higher wisdom. The trouble is that we do not know precisely what John taught. We do not know his history or education. We do not even know whether he had a complete theology or cosmology of his own, whether his eschatology was limited to the crude Messianism reflected in the gospels, or, as seems more likely, was elaborate and sophisticated. We do not even know his concept of Jesus’s status: it was obviously high, but how high—the key question? And anyway, how close were their contacts? How well did they know each other? How much, if anything, did either teach each other? Why did the Baptist make secret inquiries about Jesus’s mission and receive mysterious replies? The exotic story of the Baptist’s end, shorn of its romantic details, places him in a highly political posture and it is interesting that Herod Antipas did not like Jesus either. Was there, then, a political connection between these two religious innovators?
Our ignorance of the Baptist inevitably clouds our view of the uniqueness of Jesus. Indeed, the historical problem of the Baptist, baffling as it is, serves merely as an introduction to the much greater problem of Jesus. There can, at least, be absolutely no doubt about his historical existence. Unfortunately, the Antiquities of Josephus (published about AD 93), so useful about other related topics, is virtually silent on the point. Josephus was a Hellenized Jew, a Romanophile, indeed a Roman general and historian whose work received imperial subsidies. The manuscript chain coming down to us inevitably passed through Christian control. Since Josephus was strongly opposed to Jewish irredentism, or any other sectarian movement which gave trouble to the authorities, he clearly adopted an anti-Christian posture. But this has been tampered with. Thus, he mentions the judicial murder of James by the high priest Ananias in AD 62, and calls James the brother ‘of Jesus, the so-called Christ’, in a way to suggest that he has already given an account of Jesus and his mission. But what has actually come down to us is a passage which describes Jesus as a wise man, a lover of truth, much beloved by his followers; it accepts his miracles and resurrection and hints strongly at his divinity. The passage is plainly a non-too-ingenious Christian invention and what Josephus actually wrote has gone. Attempts to reconstruct it have not so far won general acceptance.[2]

Mandaens: Surviving followers of John the Baptist

Mandaeism or Mandaeanism (Modern Mandaic: מנדעיותא‎ Mandaʻiūtā, Arabic: مندائية‎ Mandā’iyyah, Persian: مندائیان‎ Mandå’iyyån) is a gnostic religion[citation needed] (Aramaic manda means “knowledge”, as does Greek gnosis) with a strongly dualistic worldview.

Its adherents, the Mandaeans, revere Adam, Abel, Seth, Enosh, Noah, Shem, Aram and especially John the Baptist, but reject Jesus of Nazareth and are hostile to Christianity.[1][2] They are sometimes identified with mentions in the Quran of the Sabian religion, particularly in an Arabian context, but the Sabian religious community is extinct today.

According to most scholars, Mandaeans migrated from the Southern Levant to Mesopotamia in the first centuries CE and are certainly of pre-Arab and pre-Islamic origin. They are Semites and speak a dialect of Eastern Aramaic known as Mandaic. They may well be related to the “Nabateans of Iraq” who were pagan, Aramaic speaking indigenous pre-Arab and pre-Islamic inhabitants of southern Iraq.[3]

Mandaeans appear to have settled in northern Mesopotamia, but the religion has been practised primarily around the lower Karun, Euphrates and Tigris and the rivers that surround the Shatt-al-Arab waterway, part of southern Iraq and Khuzestan Province in Iran. There are thought to be between 60,000 and 70,000 Mandaeans worldwide,[4] and until the 2003 Iraq war, almost all of them lived in Iraq.[5] Many Mandaean Iraqis have since fled their country (as have many other Iraqis) because of religious persecution by the Muslim majority and turmoil created by the War on Terror.[6] By 2007, the population of Mandaeans in Iraq had fallen to approximately 5,000.[5] Most Mandaean Iraqis have sought refuge in Iran with the fellow Mandaeans there. Others have moved to northern Iraq. There has been a much smaller influx into Syria and Jordan, with smaller populations in Sweden, Australia, the United States, and other Western countries.

The Mandaeans have remained separate and intensely private—reports of them and of their religion have come primarily from outsiders, particularly from the Orientalist Julius Heinrich Petermann, Nicolas Siouffi a Yazidi (1880), and Lady Drower. An Anglican vicar, Rev. Peter Owen-Jones, included a short segment on a Mandaean group in Sydney, Australia, in his BBC series Around the World in 80 Faiths.


1.  “Saint John the Baptist.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 02 Feb. 2012. <>.

2.  Paul Johnson. The History of Christianity. 1979. Pages 25-28.

References for Mandaeism

  1. ^ Mandaeism – Page 15 Kurt Rudolph – 1978 This tradition can be explained by an anti-Christian concept, which is also found in Mandaeism, but, according to several scholars, it contains scarcely any traditions of historical events. Because of the strong dualism in Mandaeism …
  2. ^ The Light and the Dark: Dualism in ancient Iran, India, and China Petrus Franciscus Maria Fontaine – 1990 “Although it shows Jewish and Christian influences, Mandaeism was hostile to Judaism and Christianity. Mandaeans spoke an East-Aramaic language in which ‘manda’ means ‘knowledge’; this already is sufficient proof of the connection of .
  3. ^ Hämeen-Anttila, Jaakko (2006). The last pagans of Iraq : Ibn Wahshiyya and his Nabatean agriculture. BRILL. p. 11. ISBN 978-90-04-15010-2.
  4. ^ a b Iraqi minority group needs U.S. attention, Kai Thaler, Yale Daily News, March 9, 2007.
  5. ^ a b c “Save the Gnostics” by Nathaniel Deutsch, October 6, 2007, New York Times.
  6. ^ a b c Iraq’s Mandaeans ‘face extinction’, Angus Crawford, BBC, March 4, 2007.
  7. ^ Häberl 2009, p. 1
  8. ^ Etudes mithriaques 1978 p545 Jacques Duchesne-Guillemin “The conviction of the leading Mandaean scholars – E. S. Drower, Kurt Rudolph, Rudolph Macuch – that Mandaeanism had a pre-Christian origin rests largely upon the subjective evaluation of parallels between Mandaean texts and the Gospel of John.”
  9. ^ Khalil ‘ibn Ahmad (d. 786–787 AD), who was in Basra before his death, wrote: “The Sabians believe they belong to the prophet Noah, they read Zaboor (see also Book of Pslams), and their religion looks like Christianity.” He also states that “they worship the angels.”
  10. ^ Chwolsohn, Die Sabier, 1856, I, 112; II, 543, cited by Salmon.
  11. ^ “Extracts from E. S. Drower, ”Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran,””. Retrieved 2011-12-17.
  12. ^ “The Mandaeans: True descendents of ancient Babylonians”. Retrieved 2011-12-17.
  13. ^ Eric Segelberg “Maşbūtā. Studies in the Ritual of the Mandæan Baptism, Uppsala, Sweden, 1958”.
  14. ^ Drower, Ethel Stephana (1960). The secret Adam, a study of Nasoraean gnosis. London UK: Clarendon Press. p. xvi
  15. ^ “Ginzā, der Schatz [microform] oder das grosse Buch der Mandäer : Ginzā : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive”. 2001-03-10. Retrieved 2011-12-17.
  16. ^ “The Ginza Rba – Mandaean Scriptures – The Gnostic Society Library”. Retrieved 2011-12-17.
  17. ^ “Internet Archive Wayback Machine”. 2007-03-24. Retrieved 2011-12-17.
  18. ^ Lupieri (2002), pp. 38–41.
  19. ^ Lupieri (2002), pp. 39-40, n. 43.
  20. ^ Lupieri (2002), p. 248.
  21. ^ Macuch, Rudolf (1965). Handbook of Classical and Modern Mandaic. Berlin: De Gruyter & Co.. pp. 61 fn. 105.
  22. ^ Lupieri (2002), p. 116.
  23. ^ Eric Segelberg, “The Ordination of the Mandæan tarmida and its Relation to Jewish and Early Christian Ordination Rites”, (Studia patristica 10, 1970).
  24. ^ a b c d e f g Contrera, Russell. “Saving the people, killing the faith – Holland, MI”. The Holland Sentinel. Retrieved 2011-12-17.
  25. ^ Torgny Säve-Söderberg, Studies in the Coptic Manichaean Psalm-book, Uppsala, 1949
  26. ^ a b c d “Iran Mandaeans in exile following persecution”. 2011-12-06. Retrieved 2011-12-17.
  27. ^ Ekman, Ivar: An exodus to Sweden from Iraq for ethnic Mandaeans
  28. ^ a b The Mandaean Associations Union: Mandaean Human Rights Annual Report November 2009
  29. ^ Hinchey, Rebecca: MANDAENS, a unique culture
  30. ^ Crawford, Angus: Mandaeans – a threatened religion
  31. ^ a b Society for Threatened Peoples:Leader of the world’s Mandaeans asks for help
  32. ^ a b c d e Ekman, Ivar (April 9, 2007). “An exodus to Sweden from Iraq for ethnic Mandaeans”. The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2010.
  33. ^ a b c Newmarker, Chris (February 10, 2007). “Survival of Ancient Faith Threatened by Fighting in Iraq”. The Washington Post. Retrieved May 12, 2010.
  34. ^ Lupieri (2002), p. 91.
  35. ^ Genocide Watch: Mandaeans of Iraq[dead link]
  36. ^ Survival of Ancient Faith Threatened by Fighting in Iraq, Chris Newmarker, Associated Press. February 10, 2007.
  37. ^ The Plight of Iraq’s Mandeans, John Bolender., January 8/9, 2005.
  38. ^ An exodus to Sweden from Iraq for ethnic Mandaeans, Ivar Ekman. International Herald Tribune, April 9, 2007.
  39. ^ Mandaeans persecuted in Iraq. ABC Radio National (Australia), June 7, 2006.
  40. ^ Ekman, Ivar (April 9, 2007). “An exodus to Sweden from Iraq for ethnic Mandaeans”. The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2010.
  41. ^ Updated 33 minutes ago 12/17/2011 8:29:41 AM +00:00 (2009-01-07). “Ancient sect fights to stay alive in U.S. – US news – Faith –”. MSNBC. Retrieved 2011-12-17.
  42. ^ Ideological Screening (ROOZ :: English)
  43. ^ Annual Report for Iran, 2005, Amnesty International.
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