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Lesson #4 Prelude and Preparation

(Matthew 3: 1 4: 11)

In Lesson #3 we analyzed the overall structure of Matthews Gospel and we saw that the opening genealogy linked the Gospel to the linear narrative of the Old Testament, completing and transforming it. We then explored Matthews Infancy Narrative, and learned that it draws heavily on Old Testament antecedents as well as on The Heros Journey archetype for its contextual form and content, positioning Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and declaring him to be God with us who will save his people.

In Lesson #4 Jesus readies himself for the epic task he is sent to perform: the redemption of humanity. He does so in a narrative sequence that continues The Heros Journey pattern:
1. 2. 3. 4.

Departure: Jesus supernatural birth (1: 182: 23) LESSON #3; Initiation: Jesus baptism by John (3: 1-17); First Trial: Jesus tempted by Satan (4: 1-11); Movement from the familiar: Jesus relocates to Capernaum (4: 12-17) LESSON #5; ****

Andrea del Verrocchio and Leonardo da Vinci. The Baptism of Christ (oil on panel), c. 1475. Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

The Jordan River as it exits the Sea of Galilee

Photography by Ana Maria Vargas

5 miles to Jordan River; 8 miles to Qumran

Jordan River

Qumran Dead Sea


Photography by Ana Maria Vargas

Qumran, most probably an Essene community, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1946/47. This is Cave #4.
Photography by Ana Maria Vargas

The Scriptorium of Qumran, where the Dead Sea scrolls were copied.
Photography by Ana Maria Vargas

The Essenes practiced ritual immersion in a Mikevh, or ritual bath. There were ten mikvaot at Qumran.
Photography by Ana Maria Vargas

This is a Mikevh at Masada, Israel.

Photography by Ana Maria Vargas

Cleansing ones self by ritual immersion dates back to the purification laws in Leviticus. Scripture presents many examples:
1. A man or woman with a bodily discharge must wait seven days and then cleanse him/her self by immersion in living water (Leviticus 15); In the David & Bathsheba story, when David see Bathsheba she had been purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness (2 Samuel 11); The prophet Elisha tells Naaman, the commander of Arams military, to dip himself seven times in the Jordan to cleanse himself of leprosy (2 Kings 5); Jesus tells the leper he cures to present himself to the priest and offer the gift prescribed, which includes ritual immersion. (Matthew 8).




Ritual immersion at Qumran, however, went considerably beyond the scriptural prescriptions. Ceremonial purification was an integral part of community life among the Essenes, as indicated by the Community Rule found in Cave 1 (Q1S). Ritual immersion was used for:

1. Initiation 2. Annual renewal 3. Daily purification

Dead Sea Scrolls, Community Rule, Qumran. Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

Photography by Ana Maria Vargas

Ritual immersion at Qumran was used for:

Initiation Annual renewal Daily purification

John the Baptist took ritual immersion even further than ritual purification. Johns baptism was an initiation rite, requiring a candidate:
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. to reflect upon the condition of his soul; to feel remorse for his sins; to confess his sins; to repent of his sins; to show the fruits of his repentance; to prepare for the coming of the Righteous One, Christ; and to be incorporated into the covenant community by being baptized, fully immersed in water (Greek, baptidzo = to dip).

Why was Jesus baptized?

Duccio di Buoninsegna. The Temptation of Christ (tempera on panel), 13081311. The Frick Collection, New York.

1. 2. 3. Good for food pleasing to the eye desirable for gaining wisdom

1. stones into bread 2. throw yourself down 3. kingdoms of the world

1. What character does John the Baptist recall in the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament)? Why him? 2. How does Johns baptism differ from ritual immersion among the Essenes? 3. If Jesus was sinless, why does he have to be baptized? 4. Why does the temptation occur immediately after Jesus baptism? 5. In the Roman Catholic Church we are only baptized once, usually as infants. How is our baptism similar to Jesus baptism? How is it different?

Copyright 2014 by William C. Creasy

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