K. Backhaus: John the Baptist in Life-of-Jesus Research (a.k.a., the First Quest)

Toward the beginning of his essay "Echoes from the Wilderness: The Historical John the Baptist," Knut Backhaus summarizes the portrait of John the Baptist derived from the first quest, or the "Life-of-Jesus" research beginning with H.S. Reimarus (1694-1768), as having these results:

The liberal and philanthropic Life-of-Jesus research discovered a Baptist who was not too philanthropic and liberal, but formed the austere background against which Jesus’ liberalism and philanthropy would shine the lighter and brighter. If Jesus was the friendly figurehead of Cultural Protestantism, John was in some way its Jewish shadow man. With Wilhelm Bousett (1892) this dualistic view attained higher honors in the history-of-religions school. Biblical scholarship has never really abandoned this contrast, even when its roots in christology were overgrown with the seed of a more critical phrase.
— K. Backhaus, "Echoes from the Wilderness: The Historical John the Baptist," in Handbook for the Study of the Historical Jesus, V.2, edited by Tom Holéman and Stanley E. Porter, 1747-1786 (here, 1749)

The gospels do contrast John and Jesus, and Jesus is presented as superior, but Backhaus observes the real danger of antisemitism and antiJudaism that lurks when we compare the two figures. A Jesus who is so radically different from John that we make John almost an enemy of Jesus may reflect the need to reevaluate our understanding of John.