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John the Baptist and Jesus – A report of the Jesus Seminar

Polebridge Press
RRP $28.95

What was the relationship of Jesus to John the Baptist? Was John a saint? Or even a Christian?

These and many other questions are examined in this report by the Jesus Seminar (a group of about 200 biblical scholars based in California and bent particularly on the quest for the historical Jesus). In this volume they turn their attention to the historical John the Baptist.

They are at pains to point out that, as none of the original texts exists, it behoves translators to make a painstaking study of all the available manuscripts and then decide what might have been in the original 1st Century documents.

To this end, the Jesus Seminar has devised a scheme whereby particular texts are rated A, B, C, or D to indicate their evaluation of the level of certainty about those texts.

A virtually certain
B some degree of doubt
C a considerable degree of doubt
D a very high degree of doubt

A sample of their findings is as follows: JB [John the Baptist] appeared in the wilderness and moved about in the region of the Jordan River is rated A; JB lived on locusts and wild honey is rated B; Herodias requested the execution of JB is rated C; and JB was the son of a priest named Zechariah is rated D.

Such findings are, of course, open to much debate.

This book, then, contains comments and ratings on all the scriptural references to JB, with cross-references to the Gospel of Thomas (and other gospels) and to the historian Josephus.

Seemingly every effort has been made to present a true picture of JB, but in spite of the Seminar’s supposed objectivity, one must wonder whether their conclusions were arrived at with not a little bias.

Interesting, if not convincing.

Reviewed by Warwick Church, a member of the Proserpine-Whitsunday Coast congregation.