Christian History Project. This site contains the text of 12 volumes on the history of mankind over the last 2,000 years written from a 'collectively-denominational' Christian perspective.

6. About Jesus / John the Baptist |
Madman or God?

This is a continuation of the fifth segment (King Herod) of Chapter One on Jesus of Nazareth entitled Madman or God?. It is from Volume One, The Veil is Torn, of the twelve-volume historical series: The Christians, Their First Two Thousand Years. This section of the chapter begins by putting forward rationales for King Herod’s infanticide in Bethlehem and then describes how Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, warned thousands from the shores of the Jordan River of the troubles to come.

Preaching of the earthly fire and brimstone to come, John the Baptist’s desert homilies captivate thousands, even key players in the King’s court

There was, it is true, at least one connective between Jesus and Herod. The former was born in or about the year that the latter died. In the tradition of Jesus’ followers there was another link. Herod, once made aware that the celestial occurrences which ostensibly attended the child’s birth, had set off rumors thatJesus was the expected Messiah, had reacted characteristically and butchered every infant in the vicinity.

Harsh perhaps, but then, which was worse? The liquidation of a few score infants, or yet another “religious” movement, which would rapidly become yet another Jewish independence crusade, occasioning yet another crackdown by Rome, resulting in yet another slaughter of thousands? Where possible, you nipped such weeds in the bud. That was Rome’s way, and under Herod the policy had one indisputable thing going for it. For the most part, it worked. It preserved peace.

In this instance, however, it didn’t quite work. In some way warned of what was coming—by an angel, in the view of his followers—Jesus’ father and mother took the child south through the Negev Desert into Egypt, returning later to take up residence at the town of Nazareth in Galilee.

Thereafter, and for the next twenty-seven or so years, little was heard of him. Far more was heard and known of his cousin John. Here was a prophet in the true ascetic tradition. A wild fellow who lived off the land in the semi-desert country east of Jerusalem, he would emerge and preach on the banks of the Jordan River. Great crowds would come from the countryside, even from Jerusalem itself, to hear him.

John’s message was straight to the point. People—and by this he meant all the Jewish people—were living sinfully. God was enduring this, but God wouldn’t do so much longer. The day of the Messiah was at hand, John said, and a great and terrible judgment was about to occur. Many believed him. What could they do? they asked. For this, he had two answers: repent and be baptized. Hundreds answered his call and were baptized in the waters of the Jordan River. Even the current Herod Antipas, son of the old tyrant and serving as tetrarch of Galilee, was said to have been strongly influenced by John.

One day this Jesus came from Nazareth and was himself baptized by John. There were reports of seemingly divine manifestations—of rumblings in the skies taken to be the voice of God, calling attention to this baptism. In any event, from that point on things began to change radically—for both Jesus and John.

To continue reading from The Christians, Their First Two Thousand Years, Volume One — The Veil is Torn, Chapter One on Jesus of Nazareth entitled Madman or God? and would like to proceed to the next section on Miracles of Jesus.