Of all of Aslan’s reconstructions of the biblical narrative about Jesus, perhaps his most curious is the account he offers of the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus. For some strange reason Aslan is determined to assert the priority of John over Jesus, a conviction which requires Alsan to completely dismiss the Gospel accounts. But Aslan is undaunted and affirms,

John the Baptist’s historical importance and his role in launching Jesus’s ministry created a difficult dilemma for the gospel writers. John was a popular, well-respected, and almost universally acknowledged priest and prophet. His fame was too great to ignore, his baptism of Jesus too well known to conceal. The story had to be told. But it also had to be massaged and made safe. The two men’s roles had to be reversed: Jesus had to be made superior, John inferior. Hence the steady regression of John’s character from the first gospel, Mark – wherein he is presented as a prophet and mentor to Jesus – to the last gospel, John, in which the Baptist serves no purpose at all except to acknowledge Jesus’s divinity. 86

To support his curious thesis, Aslan quotes Mark’s Gospel in which John the Baptist is reported to have described his relationship to Jesus saying,

‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’ (Mark 1:7,8)

How this demonstrates John the Baptist’s superiority to Jesus, exceeds the powers of my imagination. But Aslan is a creative writing professor and clearly has more imagination than I can muster. So, Aslan goes on to theorize further about the reasons the Gospel writers chose to diminish John in relationship to Jesus. Aslan writes,

This frantic attempt to reduce John’s significance, to make him inferior to Jesus – to make him little more than Jesus’s herald – betrays an urgent need on the part of the early Christian community to counteract what the historical evidence clearly (my emphasis) suggests: whoever the Baptist was, wherever he came from, and however he intended his baptismal ritual, Jesus very likely began his ministry as just another of his disciples. 88

You know you are in trouble when the word “clearly” appears in the same sentence as “very likely…” It is hard to understand why Aslan is so determined that the early Christian community recreated the story of John the Baptist and his relationship to Jesus, unless he is trying to diminish the role that Jesus plays in the Gospel accounts.       When Aslan lacks evidence for his position, he simply makes it up. So he tells his version of the story of Jesus going out into the wilderness following his baptism.

The gospels make it clear (there’s that favourite Aslan word again) that rather than returning to Galilee after his baptism, he went “out into the wilderness” of Judea; that is, Jesus went directly into the place whence John had just emerged. And he stayed in the wilderness for a while, not to be “tempted by Satan,” as the evangelists imagine it, but to learn from John and to commune with his followers. 88,89          

Of course, for Aslan, there could only be one “wilderness” into which Jesus went after his baptism and it must be the same wilderness occupied solely by John the Baptist because this all proves that Jesus was a disciple of John. All Aslan has successfully proved by this argument is that he has no interest in what the Gospel records actually say relating to John. He will demonstrate equal lack of interest in the Gospel accounts as they actually appear when he proposals his imagined reconstruction of the life and ministry of Jesus.

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