Did John the Baptist doubt Jesus?

The mothers of Jesus and John the Baptist both had some remarkable events happen at the time when they conceived. Both were visited by angels and told the details of their soon to come offspring, even down to what to name them. One of them was to come into the world magically.

I understand that John and Jesus may not of been around each other while growing up. Of course…there is no record of these cousins being together until the day Jesus went to John to be baptized. Though John didn’t greet him as a family member, but as someone who’s sandals John was unworthy to carry.

According to Matthew 3:14 (But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”) it is very clear that John knows who Jesus is. At least the god like nature that Jesus was supposed to be. Johns whole purpose was to “prepare the way” for Jesus’ coming. What a day it must have been when Jesus finally did show up on the scene. And even came to John to be baptized.

So there are a couple of passages that I recently read that are a bit puzzling.

Matthew 11:2 When John heard in prison what christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”

Luke 7:19 he sent them to the lord to ask, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”

When I read this, I picture John sitting in prison saying, “Damn…I wonder if all this crazy magic stuff is true after all. Why hasn’t Jesus broke me out of here yet?!” I wonder if during Johns time in prison, he began to doubt if there was a god or began to doubt Jesus.

Reading further in the texts, I found no resolve to Johns questions or possible doubts. I found no passages where Johns disciples reported back Jesus’ response. Only that John is beheaded later.

Now then, I can already hear possible believers response to all of this. Things like, “John knew he was going to die, and wanted his own disciples to start following Jesus.” or “John wanted his disciples to be re-assured from Jesus himself.” But where does it say that? The bible never says that. Conclusions like this can only be made up. Christians can make up whatever they want in these gaps to make it all fit together. Regardless of wether the text actually says it or not. I can only conclude what the text itself says and it reads to me like John began to doubt the divinity of Jesus.

This is a perfect example of how the bible can be contradictory, confusing and an incomplete, fragmented text. If our very souls are dependent on what is written in it, why make it so difficult to understand. Just another reason to not believe it is the inerrant word of a god.

So, did John the Baptist doubt Jesus?

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If anything….

My wife and I met at church 15 years ago. We married 11 years ago. Early on in our marriage I began to have doubts about the existence of a god. However, I was not brave enough to talk to my wife about it. Well, that’s not entirely true. I did try one time, but I don’t think I communicated very well how deep my doubts were. I was actually kind of scared to admit it. I knew it would change things dramatically for us. So I just kind of brushed it off and rolled with trying to remain a christian.

I remember through the years trying to read the bible by myself and with her. It was painful every time. We didn’t read much together and I would usually fall asleep very quickly trying on my own. I know now it was because of my doubts that it was so difficult to read and believe.

Then we started having kids. My wife is the most honest and self searching person that I know. I’m sure she could give a better account of her experience, but I will do my best. She began to have doubts of her own as she read the bible. One day she was reading to our boy while our niece was over. After she read one of the stories, our niece asked my wife, “do you believe that?” A switch went off in my wifes head. She wasn’t sure. The process began, because she knew she couldn’t teach our kids the bible if she didn’t believe it herself.

I remember my wife and I being at our weekly bible study group and she announced she was having doubts that god was there. Most of the people in the group told her she can’t figure it out with her thinking, logic and mind. That the “holy spirit” would reveal all things to her. So we prayed for just that very thing to happen right then and there in the group. I wanted so bad for it to be true myself and for god to show something to her. Of course nothing happened.

I have never seen some one so desperate in their search. Some one so open and really wanting to hear from god as my wife during this time. She cried many times to hear, feel or see anything from the god that (according to the bible) wants to reveal himself to us. I couldn’t understand how god could not do anything for someone that wanted something, anything to show he was real. My wife didn’t believe anymore.

Fast forward the story now to the point where I did my own searching and research to find I don’t believe anymore either. My wife and I have been on an amazing road that is open to truth.

The purpose of this post is to talk about a meeting my wife had yesterday with a family member. This family member is a lifelong christian that of course is very worried about our eternal souls and the souls of our children. I’m sure it is quite disturbing that we are taking the path that we are. I understand that, coming from a christian perspective.

The family member was trying to understand why my wife didn’t believe anymore, and also wanted to show my wife reasons why she does believe it. Their reasons for belief was the usual “prophecies fulfilled, personal experience, why did so many die martyrs for jesus, so many do believe it.” No actual proof for the existence of god. Just emotional plugs and no real truth.

The thing that finally upset my wife was when our family member said that god has spoken to said family member. My wife said, “so he can speak to you so clearly, but not me?” Our family member said something to the effect of, “well…maybe some aren’t as sincere about it.”

This is absolutely not true. IF ANYTHING…my wife was more sincere in trying to get a response from god, than anyone I’ve ever known. And now I have to say that we are both sincerely looking for what is really true. So far, we’ve found no truth in the bible or any god. If there is a god out there, we’re still open. I just think its a dead end.

My wife left the meeting feeling like she didn’t really get all her points across. Like she didn’t really make our family member understand why she doesn’t believe. But I told her that she knows inside herself why she can’t believe it. That’s all that matters. She doesn’t have to convince anyone else or gain any one else’s approval for her disbelief. As long as we can remain honest with ourselves. I am proud of her.

Skeptic Bible Study: The Four Gospels Part I

I’ve recently been listening to several podcasts that have been talking about the four gospels. It’s been interesting to learn about the differences and contradictions in these books of “good news”. I know that most skeptics and unbelievers have heard these contrasts several times over. I know I have. But it is always compelling to hear the facts as a refresher.

Scholars agree that Matthew, Mark and Luke are noticeably similar, and are thus known as the “Synoptic Gospels“, while John is quite different. Mathematical comparisons show that Matthew contains 91% of Mark’s gospel, whereas Luke contains 53% of Mark. So it is also highly agreed among scholars that Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source. However, Matthew and Luke contain identical stories that are not found in Mark. This leads many scholars to theorize that Matthew and Luke made use of an additional source called Quelle or “Q”. (All of this information is from my very own copy of the NIV study bible.)

So now that I have the basics set up for us, on to the discrepancies.

Well…the first thing I’ll mention isn’t a discrepancy so much, but the differences are interesting. Marks account begins with the baptism of Jesus. Matthew starts with the genealogy and birth story and Luke begins with even more detail in the birth narrative. Nothing to damning, its just interesting to note the progression of information from Mark to Matt to Luke. Luke lets us know in 1 verse 3, that he’s investigated “everything”, so it seems he has to have the best account.

1. Baptism Account: Let’s take a look at the accounts of Jesus’ baptism. Mark 1:10-11 As Jesus was coming up out of the water, HE saw heaven being torn open and the spirit descending like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “YOU are my son, with YOU I am well pleased.” (Emphasis added)

Notice how personal these two verses are. Its as if Jesus is the only one seeing and hearing god. God it would seem, is revealing himself only to Jesus in this account.

Matthew 3:17 “And a voice from heaven said, THIS is my son, whom I love; with HIM I am well pleased.”

Small differences in the use of words “you are my son/ this is my son” and “with You I am well pleased/ with Him I am well pleased?” Maybe so. I can see just looking at these two passages how a believer could interpret these and say the person who recorded them meant the same thing. But it could also be said that the passage in Matthew seems to be more of a public declaration. Words from god that everyone around could hear.

There is a reason I start this study out with the wording differences in the baptism narrative. With the interpretations of one account being private and the other more public. This actually sets up one of the themes of differences in the gospels. On one hand there is a pattern coming from Mark called the “messianic secret.” We will see that people don’t seem to understand who Jesus is (not even his own disciples) and that Jesus tends to want to keep his identity and “godliness” a secret. The Jesus in Mark is more human and suffers in his humanity much more.

On the other hand coming from Matthew and Luke, Jesus is more of a bad ass that wants everyone to know who he is. Everyone does tend to know who he is. This leaves the Jews, (who have him crucified) much more accountable for their actions. Jesus also seems to suffer far less while being crucified.

In a future blog, I will go into more detail concerning the “messianic secret” vs. Jesus, the popular kick ass messiah.