Generally, biblical scholars agree there was a lost document “Q” that we detect as the material common to Matthew and Luke that didn’t come from Mark. One of the stars of this document was John the Baptist. I wanted to highlight this because previously on this blog I’ve critiqued the idea that Jesus knew John the Baptist, but for some reason I was thinking all the source information was coming from Mark and I forgot about Q. Here is a helpful outline from James Tabor.
In November, James McGrath will be presenting on this topic at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. Here is his abstract:
John the Baptist and Narrative in Q as Clues about its Composition History
- John the Baptist is the, or at least a, major focus of the material in the first part of the Q source. This Baptist-focused content takes the form of narrative and dialogue rather than a collection of sayings of Jesus. Rather than representing awkward problems to explain away, this paper will treat these aspects of the Q material as important clues about the order in which its layers were brought together and what may have motivated those responsible for doing so. The evidence of other early Christian texts which begin with the Baptist and focus on Jesus’ relationship to him provide helpful guideposts in the effort to determine when and where a work like Q might have been assembled and what might have motivated giving it the shape we now discern behind Matthew and Luke.
Here McGrath discusses the Q source with a minority position scholar who thinks Q doesn’t exist: Mark Goodacre
There are a few problems I have with the historicity of the John the Baptist material. One is that the Gospel of Mark is painting John and Jesus in the colour of Elijah and Elisha, Elijah giving Elisha a double portion of his power, making Elisha Elijah’s successor and superior. Second, John the Baptist’s humiliating death seems to be a invented literary foreshadowing to Jesus’s supremely humiliating death, especially since Josephus has a different account of the death of the Baptizer. Luke does the same and has Jesus’ forgiving death in the gospel anticipate the forgiving death of Stephen in Acts.