The discussion of the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus has focused in recent years almost completely on the conceptual agreement or disagreement between the two figures—that is, how their ideas or “theologies” were similar or different. As important as that question is, this article looks at Jesus’s relationship to John from a different angle, concentrating on actions and public perceptions. My argument is this: if we grant that Jesus’s career started in the shadow of John’s earlier and more popular ministry, that John did not point to Jesus publicly as the fulfillment or continuation of his work, and that Jesus’s itinerant ministry developed in a different social location, it is likely that Jesus had to construct for his hearers his relationship to John. This investigation leads to a striking conclusion: the kinds of questions about Jesus’s relationship to John that dominate current Jesus research were probably also around during the time of Jesus. The conclusion illuminates our understanding of the public identity of Jesus.

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