Original Research

The Matthean characterisation of Jesus by John the Baptist

Francois P. Viljoen
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 54, No 1 | a2659 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v54i1.2659 | © 2020 Francois P. Viljoen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 July 2020 | Published: 14 October 2020

About the author(s)

Francois P. Viljoen, Unit for Reformational Theology and the Development of the SA Society, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom,, South Africa


It goes without saying that Jesus is the protagonist, the main character, in the Gospel narratives. Much of this characterisation is achieved by presenting his speech and actions. As his speech and actions occur in relation to other major and minor characters in the narrative, much of the characterisation is achieved by presenting the interaction between Jesus and these other characters. Among humans, John the Baptist acts as Jesus’ main supporting character. He is portrayed as a reliable witness to Jesus’ life, of the one to come. This article focusses on the characterisation of Jesus in the First Gospel, based on examining his relation to and interaction with John. Passages in this Gospel narrating the relation and interaction between John and Jesus are explored to identify Jesus’ character traits. These are multi-faceted and relates to Messianic expectations described in Jewish writings. Yet, the Matthean narrator argues that Jesus surpasses these expectations – even those of John the Baptist himself.


characterisation; narrative criticism; Jesus; John the Baptist; witness; Messiah; Matthew; Gospel.


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