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.
themselves cannot come to such belief-response and cannot "hear"/understand the words of Jesus/God because they do not know God and are not from God (1,18; 7,28; 8,220.127.116.11; 16,3; 17,3). People are frequently depicted as being dull, as misunderstanding Jesus, or as finding his teaching difficult or unable to understand (Nicodemus in 3,1-15; the Samaritan woman in 4,1-26; the disciples [14,5-9; 16,17-18; 20,9]; cf. 6,60; 10,6). Others blatantly reject Jesus because their eyes are blinded and their hearts are hardened, i.e., their minds are closed for true understanding (12,39-40; cf. 1,10-11). In short, people are not from God and unable of themselves to grasp the meaning and significance of Jesus’ life-giving teaching because they lack understanding.
The Spirit is, according to the Fourth Gospel, instrumental in the process of bringing people to understanding belief and hence salvation. First, those people who accept, i.e., believe in Jesus, are born from God (1,12-13). John 3,3.5 subsequently elucidates this birth from God as a birth from the Spirit, which alludes to the eschatological cleansing and transformation of Israel that God will bring about by means of his Spirit (Ezek 36,25-27; 37,1-14). This new birth is accomplished through looking in belief at the one lifted up on the cross (3,14-15). However, 3,9-13 points out that Nicodemus is not able to grasp Jesus’ revelation and to respond in belief, and implies that a birth of the Spirit is accomplished through some sort of understanding of Jesus’ revelation, especially that of the cross46. Second, the Spirit is actively reaching out to people through Jesus’ teaching. In John 4, Jesus is depicted as the source of "living water" (4,10.14), which is a metaphor for Jesus’ Spirit-imbued revelatory teaching that cleanses and purifies47, and which leads to eternal life/salvation if it is accepted (4,41-42). In John 6, Jesus states that his words are life-and-Spirit (6,63), i.e., the Spirit gives life (6,63a) precisely in and through Jesus’ life-giving words (6,63c). This coheres with the concept of the Spirit of truth in John 13-17. After Jesus’ departure, the Spirit will mediate or reveal to people the life-giving truth present in Jesus’ teaching (16,13), and, in fact, the disciples already "know", i.e., have experienced, this Spirit as such (u(mei=j ginw/skete au)to/ [pneu=ma th=j a)lhqei/aj] [14,17]).
In sum, the Spirit provides Jesus with revelatory wisdom and