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.
Besides a revelatory aspect, Jesus’ teaching also has a cleansing dimension. Jesus declares to his disciples in 15,3 that they are already clean (kaqaroi/) by or because of his revelatory word (cf. Jesus’ statement in 13,10 that the disciples are clean [kaqaro/j]). In 17,17 we find the idea of God’s word, given by Jesus to the disciples (17,8.14), purifying (a(gia/zw) the disciples. Both kaqaro/j and a(gia/zw (as bapti/zw) evoke the imagery of cleansing43. More particularly, Jesus’ word can cleanse people because it contains truth, which will sanctify and set people free from sin (8,31-36; 17,17). Thus, the picture that emerges is that of Jesus cleansing people by means of his word/teaching because it contains life-giving, liberating, purifying truth. In sum, Jesus’ teaching contains both a revelatory and cleansing dimension, and gives life if accepted but results in judgement and death if rejected.
2. The Role of the Spirit in Jesus’ Ministry
Jesus’ revelatory teaching is essentially the communication of what he has seen and heard from the Father (3,12-13.31-34; 5,19-20; 8,26-28.38; 14,24; 15,15). Jesus can bring this revelation from and about God precisely because Jesus is endowed with the Spirit. As we have suggested in section II, 1,32-34 alludes to Isaiah 11,2 and signifies Jesus’ endowment with the Spirit of wisdom, knowledge and might. The implication is that the Spirit provides Jesus with revelatory wisdom and knowledge, which would naturally form the basis for revelatory teaching. This would nicely dovetail with 3,34 which indicates that Jesus can speak the words of God, i.e., bring God’s revelation, because God gives Jesus the Spirit without measure44. Thus, Jesus can be the Revealer of God, and as such provide revelatory teaching, precisely because he is endowed with the Spirit (of wisdom, knowledge and power)45.
The Spirit upon Jesus does not only empower Jesus for his mission but also has an effect on people. The "acceptance" of Jesus’ revelatory teaching in order to receive life/salvation is based on an adequate belief-response that recognizes and understands the true identity and work of the Father and Son, and their relationship. People, however, by