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.
Messiah will strike the wicked with the xwr of his mouth (1Q28b, 4Q161, 4Q534). The common denominator in this idea of judgement, then, appears to be what comes out of the mouth of the eschatological figure, whether a revelatory word or the powerful xwr. Acts of atonement/cleansing are occasionally mentioned and performed by a priestly messiah (4Q541; CD; cf. 11Q13). Messianic figures are also expected to bring revelation, either as a means of judgement or for teaching and/or interpreting the law to the people (4Q175; 4Q541; cf. 4Q174, CD). In fact, the Spirit’s providing the Messiah with revelatory wisdom (1Q28b, 4Q161) naturally also has a revelatory dimension40. In many of these texts the Spirit is instrumental in the Messiah’s eschatological activities of judgement and "salvation".
Many Jewish messianic texts we have elucidated draw on or allude to Isaiah 11 (esp. v. 4). The issue then is the nature of what exactly comes out of the Messiah’s mouth, indicated by wytp#& xwr in Isaiah 11,4. The word hp#& can mean "lip" but also "speech", and the semantic domain of xwr contains both "breath" and "Spirit", so that the expression wytp#& xwr may simply mean "the breath of his lips" but it can also refer to the Messiah’s Spirit-imbued word. There are good reasons to assume that we do not need to choose between these two references but that probably both are in view. First, the co-text of Isaiah 11,4 clearly mentions the Messiah’s endowment with the Spirit of wisdom, of knowledge and of might (v. 2). This suggests that the revelatory wisdom, understanding and knowledge provided by the Spirit are probably the basis for the Messiah’s Spirit-imbued speech described in v. 4. Moreover, the powerful effect of the Messiah’s words described in Isaiah 11,4 should probably also be attributed to this Spirit of might/power. Second, the LXX translation of Isaiah 11,4 explicitly states that words come out of the Messiah’s mouth (oi( lo/goi tou= sto/matoj au)tou=), and the intended parallelism with pneu=ma xeile/wn suggests that these words are Spirit-infused. Third, some Jewish texts we have elucidated also interpret Isaiah 11,4 in terms of a messiah’s judgement by his Spirit-imbued word (Psalms of Solomon, 1 Enoch, 4 Ezra, 1Q28b, 4Q161, 4Q534). Thus, the Messiah’s Spirit-imbued word is the primary and powerful means by which he executes judgement.