For its Bible study, my church is going through John’s Gospel: Wisdom from Ephesus, with Michael Card. Yesterday, we were discussing the part of John 1 in which two of John the Baptist’s disciples follow Jesus. Jesus asked them what they sought, and they responded by inquiring of Jesus where he was dwelling. Jesus then said “Come and see”. And so the two disciples came to Jesus’ dwelling and they spent time with him until about the tenth hour, which Michael Card said was about 4:00 in the afternoon.
Michael Card was seeing something spiritual in this interaction. Jesus asked the disciples of John what they were seeking. One of the questions in our workbook asked us what we are seeking. Michael Card on the DVD said that he wanted Jesus, and some people in the group were agreeing with Michael Card’s answer. I’m all for giving pious answers, as long as I sincerely feel them. I did not, however. My answer was, “Lots of money, so I can be financially secure without having to appease people, and so I can pay off my student loans.” Someone in the group responded, “You should ask Solomon about that!” He was referring to the Book of Ecclesiastes, where the author says that he had lots of wealth, but it all was vanity. I’ll admit that lots of wealth—-and the pleasures that come with that—-might get boring after a while. But I’d still be a spiritual person if I won the lottery, I promise! (Or I hope!)
I was thinking some about John the Baptist’s Christology in the Gospel of John. John the Baptist says in John 1:15, 30 that Jesus was before him. The Greek literally says “first of me”. Was John the Baptist acknowledging Jesus’ pre-existence here? A number of Christian interpreters say yes, while there are some interpreters who say that John was simply saying that Jesus was superior to him, not that Jesus pre-existed. Some of the Christian commentaries online, such as that of John Gill, explicitly try to refute the latter position. Perhaps the latter position was a common Socinian argument against Christ’s pre-existence.
And then I learned about the Mandaeans. The pastor said that he read online about a sect that still followed John the Baptist. Someone in the group searched on his phone and said that the sect was called the Mandaeans, and that it regarded Jesus as an impostor. The group sounded familiar to me, but I couldn’t place where I had heard of them. It turns out that I read the name on the blog of scholar James McGrath, who has written a number of posts about them (see here).