CBS: John the Baptist was at the Crucifixion

CBS: John the Baptist was at the Crucifixion April 4, 2013

In our discussions on the New York Timeswhopper of an error (and weird correction), some readers pointed out that the media outlet was not alone in making a major mistake that day:

CBS, clearly embarrassed to be No. 2 in Christian faith ignorance, ran a segment on CBS Sunday Morning in which Martha Teichner stated confidently that John THE BAPTIST stood at the foot of the cross with Mary. That should get some kind of honorable mention here.

Over at the site, viewers were calling out the report left and right:

  • I am an avid fan of CBS Sunday Morning; it is part of our Sunday ritual. I was amazed though this morning that Martha Teichner said that John the Baptist was at the foot of the cross with Mary. That was the disciple John, the brother of James- son of Zebedee.John the Baptist had been beheaded before Jesus was crucified. How did this get by? As a Catholic I object to this error. Love your show; just be careful.
  • You lost a viewer this morning for the poor journalism in this story. The reporter did not know her New Testament well enough to know that John the Baptist was killed and Mary could not have lived with him in Turkey, the person she lived with was the Apostle John. It was nice that you started with a Catholic congregation in NY but why not also talk to a Catholic or Orthodox theologian? I turned it off when you highlighted a fringe element. Is this the way you do journalism for other stories too. A shame, I had really enjoyed watching your show before I went to Mass.
  • Martha Teichner, usually a credible reporter. Big mistake not getting a Christian to edit your story. John the Baptist died early in Jesus ministry – perhaps 3 years before Christ’s death and resurrection. In the Gospel of John, “John the Apostle” refers to himself as the one Jesus loved, not John the Baptist. Poor form!
  • Beautiful photos but you botched a couple of things. The most glaring error was stating that the “beloved disciple” who witnessed the crucifixion along with Mary the mother of Jesus was perhaps John the Baptist. John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod long before this. The beloved disciple is thought to be John, who wrote the Gospel of John, three short letters near the end of the New Testament, and the last book in the Bible, the book of Revelation. Also, Mary is mentioned in Acts 1:14-15 (you said she is mentioned only in the four gospels), where we find her just after the ascension huddling with the disciples in a crowd of about 120 people in the upper room (a group that also included the brothers of Jesus, so the supposed “rift” mentioned by your expert was apparently mended and they had become believers). So she was clearly involved and in touch with the early church. But it was refreshing that a news outlet referenced the resurrection, even tangentially, on Easter Sunday. Most news organizations act as though this key event never occurred. Obviously, something happened, whether or not one believes in the resurrection. I do believe.
  • For Martha Teichner’s sake, I wish someone would have vetted this story before it aired. One error that is easily verifiable was that John the Beloved is NOT John the Baptist. John the Baptist, Mary’s cousin Elizabeth’s son, was killed (beheaded) during Jesus’ ministry – so he could not have been at the crucifixion. John the Beloved is the same John that authored the book of Revelation. Unfortunately, I was so distracted by this oversight, I couldn’t enjoy the rest of the story. I hope others were able to see what was trying to be shared and learn something. Thank you!

The report itself was very interesting and very well done. It was heavily biased toward New York City adherents and scholars and could have used more diversity among the quoted scholars. The John the Baptist error was the big doozie but I think readers might have trouble with a few more things in it as well.

Anyway, CBS has corrected the video and the print version of the story. And there’s a note at the end that says:

EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this story mis-identified the possible “beloved disciple” as John the Baptist.

What does that mean — “the possible ‘beloved disciple'”? I don’t understand why the word “possible” is used.

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Will

    Well, the Fourth Gospel never actually identifies “the disciple Jesus loved” as John.

    • Will, while it’s possible “the disciple…” could have been someone other than John (although almost all scholars would agree that it is the disciple John), it is not possible that it could have been John the Baptist.

  • Martha

    What does that mean — “the possible ‘beloved disciple’”?

    Perhaps they are simply au courant with the latest in Biblical scholarship, if this account of Bishop Spong’s Good Friday service is to be credited:

    (a) “Arguing that the Gospels were not historic accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, Spong sought to isolate the fourth gospel, insisting it was not authored by John the son of Zebedee.”

    (b) Never mind John the Baptist not being at the foot of the Cross, neither was Mary! “Spong also declared that the gospel’s portrayal of “the beloved disciple” was never intended by the author to be viewed as a person of history, rather to illustrate symbolism of one whose eyes have been opened.

    “The beloved disciple is simply the last in a series of literary characters created by the author to tell a story,” Spong announced, pairing it with Mary’s presence at the crucifixion, which he asserted was a late addition.”

    (c) “The bishop went further, declaring persons like the apostles Thomas and Nathaniel (Bartholomew) to be mythical characters who “may have no more reality than Jane Eyre or Harry Potter.”

    So there you have it – really quite simple as to why they should say “possible ‘beloved disciple'” because it is possible that the ‘beloved disciple’ never existed at all, or if he did, he (probably) wasn’t the same as John the Evangelist, who also (probably) wasn’t one of the Four Evangelists at all and maybe even didn’t exist, seeing as how at least two of the Twelve Apostles were (probably) made-up characters and not real.

    In other words, what most of Christendom has considered worthy of acceptance as part of Sacred Tradition for a good portion of its existence is not one bit reliable and you can bank on that because a bishop told you so 🙂

    • Tlak357

      It was JOHN, the same John, APOSTLE who penned the book, Revelation of Jesus Christ.”

    • Tlak357

      The Gospels are VERY historic, I suggest that one reads the famous book JOSEPHUS, a NON-Christian historian. Following the gospels, they were written in the SAME generation of the death of Christ, His resurrection, and notably seen by no less than 500 people, NOTED in history.
      Another one can read is by Tertullian, another historian of the day. Please take note, The extra measure to assure that all things written were fact, not one word would have written with out full investigation, it was a means for them and one that they thrived on, absolute fact. It was a truly different time.

  • Jerry

    When I saw this, I immediately mangled Psalm 8:4 into “What is a fact, that the media is not mindful of it.”

  • “Moruti” Lutz

    On the one hand it is obviously just a confusion, as it can happen when you have two people with the same name. So what’s the fuss about?
    But then, if you think about it: in the fourth Gospel there is no such thing as John the baptizer being executed…. (ok, of course one could hardly argue that “the disciple Jesus loved” was meant to be THAT John – if any John at all)

  • Was it Dan Rather instead of John the Baptist? Maybe Dan was there to cover the crucifixion? 🙂

  • FW Ken

    And no one screwed up my favorite conundrum:

    Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary [the wife] of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. John 19.25

    For anyone not in the loop, Jesus’ mother was named Mary. 🙂

  • Chris

    Phrase that comes to mind with correction:

    “Stop digging”

  • Micha Elyi

    What’s the fuss? CBS may have relied on Catholicism for Dummies (1st ed.) by Fr John Trigilio, Jr, PhD, ThD. It says so right in there.

  • I, for one, am completely amazed and in wonder by this error. I don’t know what to think or how it happened.

  • Bobbi Joseph

    This reminds me of Trekkies obsessing over minute details of Star Trek episodes. Really folks, unbunch your panties; it’s just a story. 🙂