"Baptised in the Spirit and fire": single or double baptism?
The Synoptic Gospels as well as John's Gospel contain the words ascribed to John the Baptist, that one is coming who is greater than John who will baptise people "in the Holy Spirit." Matthew and uke add that the baptism will not only be in the Holy Spirit but also in/with fire (Q 3:16). This article discusses various interpretive options for the term "baptism in the Holy Spirit (and fire)." If it refers to a single baptism, there are four options: (1) John the Baptist originally said that the baptism would be with "fire," and "Holy Spirit" was added at a later stage. (2) Mark 1:8 with its reference to the baptism with the "Holy Spirit" is more primitive than Q 3:1 's baptism with the "Holy Spirit and fire." (3) "Spirit" refers to "breath" or "wind" and John proclaims a single baptism that would bring a breath or wind, of fiery judgment. (4) the single baptism consists of two elements: Spirit and fire and these are administered simultaneously to the one recipient. The other possibility is that the term refers to two baptisms: one with the Holy Spirit and another with fire. Then Q 3:16 is held as more primitive than Mark 1:8, usually with the argument that Mark and John omitted the reference to "fire" because they wanted to emphasise the salvific aspects of John's prophecy. Double baptism entails two different groups of baptisands: the righteous receiving a baptism in the Spirit, and the wicked undergoing a baptism of fire. The two baptisms do not necessarily take place for both groups at the same time. After evaluating the different arguments, this article concludes that it is not possible to arrive at one "correct" interpretation or understanding of John the Baptist's prophecy regarding the Messiah's baptism. Baptism in the Holy Spirit and/or fire can refer to a single baptism of one or two elements administered to the one recipient, with the ensuing effect depending on the state of the recipient, or to two baptisms: one salvific for the repentant (baptism in the Holy Spirit), and the other retributive for the disobedient (baptism with fire).
- Faculty of Theology