The enlightenment teaching of the Essene was known as the WAY. The Way became the final interpretation of the Law and the Prophets, as revealed by Yeshua Messiah. The Way became the enlightened transitional teaching into the early church.
The following article covers John the Baptist’s birth and spiritual development.
Why did John’s prophetic ministry cause such a stir among the people? Why at this time did the people consider preparedness for Messiah so critical? Why is John so important to the teaching of the Way? The answers to these questions will allow us to delve much deeper into John’s ministry.
John the Baptist was raised a Nazarite, committed to this tradition before birth. At John’s birth his father, Zacharias, prophesied:
“Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,
For he has visited and redeemed his people,
And raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the house of his servant David,
As he spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets,
Who have been since the world began,
That we should be saved from our enemies
And from the hand of those who hate us,
To perform the mercy promised to our fathers
And to remember His holy covenant,
The oath which He swore to our father Abraham” (Lk. 1.61-73).
The Nazarite is specially consecrated to God, but it is only on two other occasions that consecration had been announced either before or at birth, and both are biblical luminaries, Samson and Samuel. Anna the prophetess may have been a Nazarite (Lk. 2. 36-38). Many believe Paul took Nazarite vows, in part due to his abstention from sex. The nature of Nazarite life lends itself toward the following: serving others, the study of scripture and knowing the Law, taking solitude, to lead a contemplative life and seek God, to receive wisdom and enlightenment into His spirit, impart the word God has witnessed. John seems to encompass all of the above-mentioned attributes, with his final act as imparting the Word and declaring the soon to arrive Messiah.
‘Men of Perfect Holiness’ would apply to John the Baptist, and is the descriptive name for Nazarites as mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls. John’s commitment within the Essene message also seems apparent, and many scholars, if not most, consider John to be a Qumran (Osseaen) Essene priest. The prophecy from verse Luke 1.77: “To give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins… (79) To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace,” describes a powerful priestly anointing. To become ‘set aside’ and thus to come into some measure of holiness, to remit from sinful thinking and not just sinful actions, the contrast of light and the shadow of death (spiritual death), and to guide each person into peace in the Lord reflect the highest of Essene tenants.
JOHN PREPARES the PEOPLE
Remission of sins’, ‘light’, and “darkness and the shadow of death” are very reminiscent of writings appearing in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and also reflect continuing themes of the Jesus ministry. John stands in the middle, pointing to both the past and the future.
He clearly does not replicate the message of his Essene brothers, for John’s water baptismal only requires confession. His message is given outdoors and so all may attend, it is not hidden in the synagogue. The trickling water across the forehead represents a clean start, intent and commitment to obtain a whole new framework for thinking, primarily that Messiah is near and all of us must become as prepared as possible. John’s water baptismal temporarily will take the place of the anointing with the Holy Spirit, which Messiah will later bring.
John and Jesus both referred primarily to sin which concerned the inner man, even unto a person’s thoughts, and seemed less concerned with the outer shell. Nor were they concerned with the cleanliness rituals performed by the Qumran Essene and the Pharisees. Unfolding from within becomes the mystic calling. Outward prescriptions for spirituality will no longer avail anything. The need for spiritual rebirth, these qualities most closely deal with the John and Jesus ministries and clearly reflect the teaching of the Way.
John speaks of the impending axe put to the root of trees which do not bear fruit, referring also to the “brood of vipers,” the Sadducees and Pharisees. John speaks of ‘preparing the way of the Lord’, and not to rely on the fact that you are a ‘child of Abraham’ for your salvation. ‘Child of Abraham’ becomes the message of the past. John tells us that being a Jew in and of itself will no longer be enough. Now each man and woman must choose individually. His message differs from the turgid lawyers in that he heralds change, that a new spiritual order and religious structure is about to begin. With the previous Children of the Exodus understood as a group, the choice now becomes person unto person, and as such breaks down group consciousness, group identity.
If the Jews, who have divided into as many as twenty different denominations, then felt split apart, confused, and perhaps abandoned by God, then the further separation by John and Jesus will draw the line as either for or against—Jew ye remain, else ye become Nazarene-Christian and step completely out. In Luke 1.17, John is presented to us as “…go out ahead of Adonai in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready for Adonai a people prepared.”* John must be accounted a prophet, he moves forward within his dedicated path “in the spirit and power of Elijah,” which provides the specific indication of John’s status.
*The Complete Jewish Study Bible
We can also see that the major calling of John the Baptist was similar to previous prophets, which is a calling to the return of righteousness. In John’s case, however, there are two differences. The first difference is the clash presented as he confronts the priestly hierarchy of that day. This is directed at the two predominant religious sects, Pharisee and Sadducee.* The scribes or lawyers he does not mention, both of which interact throughout Pharisee and Sadducee priesthoods. “And even now the ax is laid to the root of the tree” is typical of radical Essene language and imagery, and conveys a certain ‘outside looking in’ attitude, of which condition the Essene seek to rectify.
*Both major sects of Essene, Nazarenes (northern) and Osseaens (Qumran-southern), took issue with the corrupted and unrighteous Sadducaic control of the Temple. John disavowed the Pharisees if for no other reason than they had become dissolute.
“I will have mercy [speaking to the Pharisees as to their behavior], not sacrifice,” Mt. 9.13. In a similar manner, John tells the Jews to not rely on being the “children of Abraham” as the ticket into God’s grace or to receive the kind hand of God. In effect, this message will require a new order of events in the spiritual life of Israel, of which John is the opening salvo.
John does not call only for a return to penitent behavior within the Jewish tradition, but connects penitence to the advent of Messiah soon to come. The new message may be to repent, which of itself is not new, but his message more closely interprets as repentance from an old way of thinking. This repentance is specific, and oriented to the coming of Messiah, meaning to prepare for the mental/spiritual changes Messiah will bring. John seems clear that his repentance deals with heart and mind, not just outward actions and obedience to the law. Of a nature, John’s repentance sublimates the law, which is the outward display of holiness and therefore must question how the law is understood and applied. On both subjects, Jesus will later have much to say.
One tenet of the new thinking entails the replacement of the Sadducees as the Temple priests. All Essene believed the Sadducees were corrupt. Jesus denounced the Sadducees as well. The remnant of the righteous Zadokite priesthood, now known as the Essene, it is they who should be ensconced as the high priests or Temple Priests. In his denunciations, John also includes the Pharisees, who most commonly implement the law, and John tells the people that the coming Messiah will rectify the unjust application of the law. In rectifying the law the Messiah will of necessity provide the final interpretation on the Law and the Prophets, and will also give the final interpretation on the enlightenment teaching of the Way. Both teachings will merge to provide Jesus’s teaching on the enlightenment and pathway unto God.
The above factors separate John the Baptizer from all other prophets. None of the previous prophets functioned as the forerunner of such a messianic event, or their messaging as to Messiah was brief. Obviously, John is not brief, but expansive, and clearly states the time is now. This last is more along the lines of what the Jews of that day expected, a true Messiah-Savior, with the added benefit of ridding them of the Romans.
John offers a message unusual and disquieting, yet appealing at the same time. It embroils the people, attracting thousands, and attracts much attention from the Pharisees and Sadducees, the current religious hierarchy who will soon plot against the new message of spiritual renewal.
It is hoped this presentation concerning John the Baptist was helpful. Comment below or e-mail (Home).