Cornelis Bennema, «Spirit-Baptism in the Fourth Gospel. A Messianic Reading of John 1,33», Vol. 84 (2003) 35-60
The various ways of understanding "baptism in the Holy Spirit" has caused much division in both academic scholarship and the church. Most theories have been based on the Synoptics and Acts, but the phrase o( bapti/zwn e)n pneu/mati a(gi/w| is also present in the Fourth Gospel (1,33). However, Johannine scholarship has hardly given attention to this concept. This paper will seek to establish that o( bapti/zwn e)n pneu/mati a(gi/w| is a programmatic statement for Jesus’ nexus of soteriological activities in relation to people by means of the Spirit. "To baptize with Holy Spirit" refers to Jesus’ programme of cleansing people through revelation by means of the Spirit. Moreover, this concept is rooted in Jewish messianic traditions, which were able to expect a messiah who would judge, restore and cleanse by means of his Spirit-imbued word.
II. A Conceptual Messianic Background of Jesus’ Spirit-Baptism
Although the Fourth Evangelist (and the Synoptic writers) coined a new phrase for the concept of Jesus’ role by means of the Spirit (the literal expression bapti/zw e)n pneu/mati a(gi/w| is not known in Judaism), the concept of revelation and cleansing by means of the Spirit is present in Judaism. God providing revelation through his Spirit was prevalent in Judaism (e.g., 2 Sam 23,2; Neh 9,30; Isa 48,16-17; 59,21; Ezek 8,3; 11,5.24-25; Zech 7,12; Sir 48,24; Hen(aeth) 91,1; 4 Es 14,22; Jub 31,12; PsPhilo 9,10; 28,6; 31,9; 1QS 8,16; CD 2,12; Josephus, Ant. 4,108; Philo, Jos. 117; Som. 2,252; Spec. Leg. 4,49; Mos. 2,265). Judaism also knew the concept of cleansing by or in relation to God’s Spirit (e.g., Ps 51,10-12; Isa 4,4; 32,15-18; 44,3-5; Ezek 36,25-27; Jub 1,23; 1QS 3,6-9; 4,20-22). Nonetheless, although Judaism clearly depicts God as providing revelation and (eschatological) cleansing by means of his Spirit, the question is whether Judaism could conceive of a messianic figure in such a role. The objective of this section, therefore, is to elucidate to what extent Judaism already envisaged or anticipated a messiah who would perform activities of cleansing and revelation in relation to the Spirit.
In the Fourth Gospel, Jesus is given the title of and confessed as (o() Xristo/j (1,17.41; 11,27; 17,3; 20,31), and Jesus also identifies himself as such (4,25-26). More particularly, the language of the Spirit descending on Jesus and "resting" or "remaining" on him (1,32-33) probably alludes to Isaiah 11,2, which presents the Davidic Messiah on whom the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, knowledge and power rests (Isa 42,1 may also be in view if we accept the more difficult reading of o( e)klekto/j in 1,34)26. This invites an investigation of the Jewish messianic traditions, especially of those texts that are rooted in Isaiah 11 (and 42).
Due to the plurality of messianic expectations in Judaism, we shall use "messianic" rather loosely, namely as referring to an anointed (eschatological) figure who would act as God’s agent (in the last days) to redeem/deliver Israel (and to rule over her in justice and peace)27.