Reading Barth Backwards: IV/4, Baptism with Water, #2

Further fuel to add to the parallels between Barth’s reading of Jesus’ baptism and N.T. Wright’s argument for Jesus as a new Israel, formed around himself rather than around ethnic identification with the descendants of Abraham:

In one of the famous small-type passages, Barth writes the following regarding the significance of John the Baptist’s “baptism for repentance” as a way to say that Christian baptism must be at least what John’s baptism was.

“It may be added that the relation of John’s baptism to Jewish proselyte baptism was solidly polemical – a strange connection! – inasmuch as those who according to the Gospels were baptized by John in the Jordan were admonished to submit to the judgment which threatened them as the people of Abraham, and to put their hope solely in the forgiveness of sins which is to be expected as grace from the One who comes to Judge and baptizes with the Spirit. The distinction between New Testament baptism and pre-Christian Jewish baptism is thus as indisputable as their interrelation.” (46).

Thinking about Jesus, then, one could say that Jesus submitted to John’s baptism as a way to submit himself to the judgment that Israel herself had earned so as to ultimately vindicate her.


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