John Done Saw that Number
DESCRIPTION: "John done saw that number, Way in the middle of the air." John the Baptist's preaching is summarized, and his baptism of Jesus described. The descent of the spirit on Jesus concludes the song.
EARLIEST DATE: 1928 (recording, Rev. Moses Mason)
KEYWORDS: religious Bible Jesus
FOUND IN: US
REFERENCES (3 citations):
Lomax-Singing, pp. 16-21, "John Done Saw That Number" (1 text, 1 tune)
Courlander-NFM, pp. 61-64, (no title) (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Harold Courlander, _A Treasury of Afro-American Folklore_, Crown Publishers, 1976, pp. 327-329, "(no title)" (2 texts)
Rev. Moses Mason, "John the Baptist" (Paramount 12702A, 1928; on AAFM2)
cf. "Ezekiel Saw the Wheel"
cf. "John Saw the Holy Number" (floating lyrics)
cf. "Wasn't That a Wonder" (some shared themes)
NOTES [239 words]: The feel of this is much like "Ezekiel Saw the Wheel," but the plot is purely New Testament (and the form argues that it is not the same as "John Saw the Holy Number," despite the similarity in first lines). The allusions include (where possible, I quote the text of Mark as the most primitive):
"John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance..." Mark 1:4; compare Matt. 3:1, Luke 3:2
"As it is written in the prophet Isaiah ["Esaias" in the song and the King James Bible]...
'The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
"Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight."'" - Mark 1:2-3; cf. Matt. 3:3, Luke 3:4, John 1:23
"Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather girdle about his waist." - Mark 1:6; cf. Matt. 3:4
"In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan." - Mark 1:9; cf. Matt. 3:13, (Luke 3:21)
"John would have prevented him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me? But Jesus answered him, 'Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.'" - Matt. 3:14-15
"And just as [Jesus] was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn open and the Spirit descending like a dove on him." - Mark 1:10; cf. Matt. 3:16, Luke 3:22, (John 1:32)
"The Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the Wilderness... [the Temptation]" - Matt. 4:1-11; cf. (Mark 1:12-13), Luke 4:1-13. - RBW
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