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The Gospel of John describes a scene where John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and he made the following statement:

“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one.” (John 1:29-34)

At first sight, it seems the writer was describing the actual baptism itself, as per Matthew’s account. However, the next few days finds Jesus choosing his disciples – not going into the wilderness as the Synoptics relate it. So, is this scene a ‘revisit’ so to speak? Is it Jesus coming out of the wilderness, walking past John, at about Passover season, some months following his actual baptism? If so, then the Gospel of John is not recording the baptism event directly, but is recording John B’s testimony of that event. In other words, John B. sees Jesus returning, and calls out, "This is the man I baptised several months ago! This is the man the dove descended upon!"

So, is the Gospel of John recording the actual baptism event, or is he recording an occasion when Jesus revisited the same place on his way back from the wilderness? The latter explanation may reconcile some of the perceived differences between John and the Synoptic Gospels.

  • I like how you call John the Baptist "John B." – A Child of God Apr 20 '17 at 15:03
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The scene definitely depicts Jesus returning from the wilderness to "Bethany, across the Jordan, where John was baptizing." As the question says, the Gospel of John is not recording the baptism event directly, but is recording John B’s testimony of that event.

We can draw the tightest possible timeline of events as:

  • Baptism, wilderness: 6 weeks (42 days);
  • Bethany, travel to Galilee, wedding in Cana: 1 week;
  • Stay in Capernaum (Jn 2:12): 1 week;
  • Travel to Jerusalem, Passover (Jn 2:13): 1 week.

Total time from Baptism to first Passover: 9 weeks

If Jesus' first Passover in his public life was that of 28 AD (30 March), then Jesus' baptism must have taken place no later than 9 weeks before 30 March 28 AD, i.e. no later than 28 January 28 AD.

This is in line with Jesus' baptism having been always celebrated in January, even before Christmas began to be celebrated.

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To my mind, Mark 1:13-14 and Matt 4:11-12 strongly imply that John was in prison when Jesus returned from the wilderness. If that is the case, then Jesus could not have made a second visit to John. I have thought that maybe Jesus spent a few days after his baptism, and just before his journey into the wilderness, selecting his disciples. The testimony from John, if I am right, would have occurred during this short time. Mark says that the spirit "immediately" led Jesus into the wilderness, but Mark says "immediately" and similar words alot, so we have to ask exactly what "immediately" means when he says it.

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From John passage on this in his First Epistle, I would say you are right. This was at a later date. 6) This is He that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is Truth. 7) For there are Three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these Three are One. 8) And there are three that bear witness in earth the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. 9) If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater, for this is the witness of God which He hath testified of His Son. 10) He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of Himself. I John 5:6-10

As you have noted the Apostle John gives no eyewitness account of the Baptism of Jesus in his Gospel. Yet he refers to John the Baptist in John 1:29-34 as giving record to Jesus as the Son of God, but John the Baptist stated he bare record that God bare record that Jesus was His Son, remember John stated:33) And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the Same said unto me, Upon Whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the Same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. 34) And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God. John 1:33-34 strong text The Baptist mention water so that we might know that Jesus water baptism, was God record to the World that our LORD Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit along with the Father are Three separate Person, yea United as One Godhead/Trinity. Yes I say God's record because all Three Members of the Godhead; the Father, and the Word (Who of course is the Son), and the Holy Spirit gave a heavenly witness because the Son was sent from heaven, the Holy Ghost descended from heaven as a Dove, and the Father's voice, came down from heaven.
While we continue to read I John 5 after verse 7, which many modern scholars question; we see the Apostle John state if we receive men's witness the witness of God is greater. Yet even Jesus tells us that many will not receive His witness--John 3:11; 32. So that we see that the record of the Trinity came at Jesus Water Baptism, hence Jesus came by water. We know that Cyprian in 250 AD, quoted the TR complete verse of I John 5:7 with the only difference being instead of the Word, he called Jesus the Son.

But what was the witness of men. We see in I John 5:6 that Jesus came by water but also water and blood. In John 19:30-37 we see the Apostle John bearing the witness of men. For in at the end of verse 30 John states that Jesus gave up the Ghost (Spirit). But we also see at our Savior physical death, that instead of breaking any bones in His body, they pierced Him with a spear and what came out, blood and water, John 19:32-34. So that the Apostle states that he bear record in verse 35, So that at Jesus death we see that the Spirit departed, which is a sign of death, and blood and water coming out of the side agree with this sign.

So I see John in his Gospel, in passing mentioning Jesus baptism, after it happen, but later in his first epistle, mentioning it again in I John 5:7 as the Heavenly Witness; for all Three Members of the Trinity were presence and this according to John the Baptist was the Father record. While at Jesus death we see John baring witness, to the Spirit departing and the blood and water coming out of His side.

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Although it's an important exercise to do, I think you're expecting too much trying to fit the gospels together and expect the results to be neat. They are memoirs by different people of amazing events that happened many decades before, and as such will have places where they remember things differently and can't be reconciled, such as this case.

Sometimes you can after painstaking effort do extraordinary gymnastics to reconcile things, but that's usually a sign the wrong solution is being adopted. Enjoy the memoirs, the gist is well-recorded, but don't expect every individual detail in them to be well-remembered/accurately depicted by the writers and their sources.

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According to the Diatessaron of Tatian - probably the earliest harmony of the Gospels, dating to the late 2nd century - and the Eusebian Canon (early 4th century) the sequence in the Gospels is as follows:

John's Initial Witness - Matt 3:1-12; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3:1-18; John 1:15-31
Baptism of Christ - Matt 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:32-34
Temptation in the Wilderness - Matt 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13
First Disciples Called - John 1:35-51

John 1:32-34 is, in fact, a recollection. This is clear in the text: And John bare record (ἐμαρτύρησεν) in verse 32. John is stating this recollection in the midst of Christ's calling the first disciples.

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Lord Jesus Christ came to be baptised by John B and only after the baptism did John B recognise our Lord. Next day again he came by and john exclaimed' Here comes the lamb of God'. The day after also our Lord came by and again John exclaimed 'Here comes the lamb of God'. This time around, Andrew and John, who were John B's disciples, started following our Lord. They go to see where he is staying and then they take our lord to Peter. There is a wedding at Cana and the first miracle. Our Lord heals Peter's mother in laws probably after a few days. Then he goes with Philip to meet Nathaniel. His journey to the wilderness, led by the spirit, to fast and pray would be after this. He was not led by the spirit to be tempted, even though it may sound like that, but at the end of 40 days of fasting, he hungered, and Satan waiting for an opportune moment strikes. After that he goes seeking his disciples again, and finds that some of them like Peter have gone back to fishing. Maybe his absence of 40 days prompted Peter's actions. He sits on a boat by the shore belonging to Peter facing the crowd sitting on the shore while Peter in another boat is fishing. Miraculous catch of fish ensues and then Peter comes into hois senses and exclaims in repentance 'Depart from me Lord, I am a sinful man'. our Lord re-instates Peter with these words, 'I will make you fishers of men'.

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