Tag Archives: winnowing fork

Between the Lines: Baptism of Jesus: January 13, 2013

Text: Luke 3: 15-17; 21-22

“He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”


Whirl-fire (Photo credit: Loving Earth)

The Q text not found in Mark but in Luke and Matthew adds “with fire” to the Mark verse “I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” [Mark 1:8]. Both Luke and Matthew go on to include in John the Baptist’s speech  fire, the winnowing fork, clearing his threshing floor, gathering the wheat into the granary but the chaff to burn with unquenchable fire.

One possibility is that this part of the text was originally in Mark but was later excised. This poses the question of why later editors would remove it. On the other hand, if it is, indeed, from Q one must ask whether the words were simply unknown to Mark’s community and might have been created in later years.

For us, the disparity poses two somewhat different portraits of Jesus. From what you know of Jesus throughout the gospels would you say he is a “fire, threshing floor and unquenchable fire” kind of prophet and person? If Jesus is, as many say, a reflection of God in the flesh, what is being said of your image of God? Do you believe in, worship and pray to a God who includes such fire? How are the decisions you make daily fashioned and influenced by Holy Spirit or Holy Spirit and fire? How do you choose your way through your days with or without a threat of the threshing floor and the unquenchable fire?

– Bill Dols

“Between the Lines” is excerpted from BibleWorkbench, a weekly resource for engaging the biblical story in a new way published by the Educational Center in Charlotte, NC.  For details and subscription information, see About BibleWorkbench.