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The social class of the Baptist: Dissident retainer or peasant millennialist?

DOI: 10.4102/hts.v60i1/2.506

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In this article the Baptist is compared with the upper-class/literate millennialists behind the Psalms of Solomon, the Testament of Moses, the Similitudes of 1 Enoch, and the Qumran scrolls on the one hand, and with the lower-class/illiterate millennialist movements in Josephus on the other hand. The argument is developed in constant dialogue with the analyses of John Dominic Crossan. After an initial statement of historical facts about the Baptist, these are compared with the named groups in terms of each one’s (1) criticism of the social-political and religious status quo, (2) depiction of the imagined mediator through whom God was expected to intervene, (3) portrayal of the violent/non-violent intervention of God and the group respectively, and (4) social ethics. It is concluded that John shows closer resemblance to the literate than illiterate millennialists, and should therefore rather be considered as a dissident retainer.


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