All differences set aside, all three sects governing all the important aspects of Jewish religious and secular living had at least one activity in common, that of the Mikveh, the daily ritual of cleansing immersion in a flowing body of water, living water, such as rivers and streams, or any rain catchment area that has garnered such attention the remix of events that is Matthew. Mikveh baths have been found as far out as Masada.
As every Jew in those days, each of the Temple priests followed one of the six hundred and thirteen commandments written in the Torah, the important mitzvah intended to cleanse the body by immersion in Mikveh water. Thus, they had to immerse themselves before serving in the Temple. Archaeological digs of villas, such as the one named the Burnt House that can be experienced behind glass through an underground museum in the Jewish Quarters of Jerusalem have revealed them to contain many rooms for different purposes – even a separate room for the Mikveh.
For the water to retain its spiritual properties of purity, it could not be ‘drawn’, brought in or installed on the sites and the canalisation needed to distribute water to these bath rooms, was made possible by the Hasmonean viaduct, unearthed in 1985. It is estimated that its construction preceded the reign of King Herod.
While the priests purified themselves in private surrounds, the rest of the population made do with communal Mikvehs and, as has already been discussed, in streams and rivers. This is the point where this narrative returns the one the afore-mentioned In Matthew’s gospel, the moment when Yohanan hailed Yeshua enjoining him to come in flowing waters of the Jordan. How ironic that it should be such an innocuous moment of a mundane daily Judaic ritual that has been recast and enshrined in the gospel as the Baptism of Jesus!
In that particular scene, Yohanan is the central character cast as John the Baptist, a man with a penchant for the cilice (the scratchy goat-hair shirt of the penitent worn as undergarment) and a fondness for honey and locusts, the short-horned grasshoppers that are still culinary treats in various modern-day exotic cuisine.
As occurs so many times throughout the pages of the gospels, an ancestral Jewish rite is claimed by the writers of Christianity and passed off as an established Christian rite, notwithstanding the reality that back in the days of Yeshua and Yohana, Christianity did not exist, not even in anyone’s thoughts, least of all in Yeshua’s.