WI: A Religion founded by John the Baptist?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Endymion, Jul 12, 2019.

  1. Endymion Byronic Hero

    Apr 8, 2008
    It's been a while since I posted here, but lately, I've been mulling over an idea for a TL: What if Jesus had never been born, and instead, an alternate Abrahamic faith had been founded by St John the Baptist, that ended up taking the place of OTL Christianity? What would such a faith look like?

    I was thinking of a *Johannine faith that is, like OTL Christianity, influenced by Hellenistic philosophy early in its development, with an emphasis on monotheism, theosis, and the remission of sin, with John the Baptist being seen as the "seal of the prophets". Likely, the eschatology would view him as the forerunner to an eventual Messiah in the distant future. This is, of course, only a rough idea, I'm certainly open to suggestions.

    Thoughts? Suggestions? Ideas?

    Note: The non-existence of Jesus in this TL is purely for the purposes of fiction and not meant to offend anyone's religious sensibilities (or lack thereof). Interestingly enough, as an aside, I'm actually an Anglo-Catholic who came up with the idea while reading the Church Fathers in preparation for possibly attending seminary to take Holy Orders.
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  2. Jürgen Well-Known Member

    Jul 16, 2016
    Historical Jesus likely simply took over the sect John had build, after he was executed, with John’s death Jesus as a close relative to John took over the sect or at least a splinter of it. The sect have likely been strong already with John being executed. But Jesus ended up much like John and Jesus brothers took over afterward, but something happened here, which made Jesus the permanent center of the sect, maybe it was the lack of a clear successor to Jesus, maybe Jesus was just better at preaching, so he left more to build the religion on, maybe it was that Jesus was divine.

    But I have a hard time seeing John really being as successful as Jesus, the Mandaeans claims Johns as their founder, they may be a another splinter of John’s cult, they may also be a early or later group who ret-conned their history to John being their founder.
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  3. Falecius Well-Known Member

    Oct 3, 2010
    As noted, a Abrahamitic sect that regards itself as founded by John and rejects Jesus exists IOTL, namely the Mandaeans.
    However, the real question is: what Paul does ITTL? Without Paul, Christianity would probably have remained a relatively small Jewish sect or little more. Whatever John would found might easily stay that way, perhaps impacting Jewish history but not necessarily the broader religious world.
    Although I admit that some version of "universalistic Judaism" was quite likely to emerge in Roman times.
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  4. Endymion Byronic Hero

    Apr 8, 2008
    What is the scholarly consensus exactly on the Mandaeans? From the (very cursory) reading I've done, it seems that they're a Gnostic sect which was either a breakaway from the original followers of John, or else considers John to be their spiritual, if not actual, founder?

    I was thinking in going in this direction (universalist and Hellenized Judaism). After all, given the popularity of Judaism in certain circles of the Greek world at the time, any version of it with claimed divine revelation and dispensation from the Mosaic law (especially sans circumcision) is going to be a hit.

    My idea was to have either OTL Paul, or else a Paul-like figure, take the movement and popularize it for Greeks and other gentiles. After all, you can go either way with it: ITTL, like OTL Paul, someone could have a mystical experience for whatever reason that he takes to be a divine call to spread the faith of John to the Gentiles; or, more cynically, an opportunist could come along and market the faith to the Greeks; or perhaps even something in between.
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  5. Jürgen Well-Known Member

    Jul 16, 2016
    I don’t necessary think that Paul is the sole reason for the spread of Christianity, Paul was sent to interact with the diaspora Christians, because the Church leaders didn’t trust him. But the diaspora Christianity already existed and non-Jews already showed interest in Christianity before him, and the rule he set up in cooperation with the early Church fathers for non-Jewish followers of Jesus was standard Noahide laws, the laws that Jews thought that all people should follows.
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  6. GauchoBadger Gang Weeder (in a society)

    Feb 28, 2016
    The question of "who laid the foundations for which religion" in itself is a theological debate that applies to all prophets except Muhammad -- did Jesus, back when he was alive, expect his creed to eventually develop into a hierarchal and influential state-within-a-state?
  7. Jürgen Well-Known Member

    Jul 16, 2016
    Including Mohammed.
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