John The Baptist Biography

(Jewish Prophet & Christian Saint)
John The Baptist
8

Born In: Herodian Tetrarchy, Roman Empire

John The Baptist was a Jewish prophet and Christian saint who preached the imminence of God’s Final Judgment. Also known as John the Forerunner in Christianity, he was active in the early 1st century AD in the area of the Jordan River. He is considered a prophet of God and revered not only in Christianity but also in Islam, the Druze Faith, the Baháʼí Faith, and Mandaeism. According to Christian traditions, both John’s mother and Jesus Christ’s mother were expecting babies at the same time, making John a contemporary of Jesus Christ. According to some sources, John and Jesus were relatives. Even though revered as a prophet, John anticipated the coming of a messianic figure greater than himself and prepared the citizens for Jesus' ministry. John hailed from a Jewish sect that practiced ritual baptism and used baptism as the central symbol or sacrament. It is even believed that John baptized Jesus. As a prophet, John was the one who had to “come first to restore all things.” He led an austere life and lived in the wilderness as an ascetic. He criticized King Herod Antipas as he didn’t approve of his divorce and subsequent unlawful marriage. Due to this, Herod put John to death.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Yaḥyā

Family:

father: Zechariah

mother: Elizabeth

Born Country: Israel

Saints Israeli Political Leaders

Died on: 30

place of death: Fortress of Machaerus, Jordan

Biography
According to the Gospel of Luke, John’s father was a priest named Zechariah who preached during the reign of King Herod. His mother, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly family of Aaron. Both his parents were devout and righteous before God.
Zechariah and Elizabeth had been childless for many years and were of advanced age. One day, while ministering at the altar of incense, Zechariah had a strange experience. An angel of the Lord manifested before him and proclaimed that his wife would give birth to a son, whom the couple was to call “John”. This son would be the forerunner of the Lord.
Since Zechariah and his wife were of advanced age, he was in disbelief. However, soon after, Elizabeth conceived.
When Elizabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy, her relative Mary, an unmarried virgin, conceived a child after being blessed by the Holy Spirit. The two expectant mothers met, and the child in Elizabeth’s womb leaped with joy as she too was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Elizabeth gave birth to a son. On the eighth day, when the boy was to be circumcised, it was expected that he would be named after his father. However, the couple chose to call their son “John.”
According to the Gospel of James, King Herod ordered that all male children under the age of two be killed during the “massacre of the innocents.” This was an attempt to stop the prophesied Messiah from coming to Israel. Zechariah hid John and refused to divulge his whereabouts, and was, therefore, killed by Herod’s soldiers.
In the ensuing years, John grew up to be strong in spirit and entered the ministry as a young man.
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Life & Works
John spent his formative years in the Judaean desert and was probably trained by hermits belonging to monastic communities. In the late 20s AD, he became a prominent religious figure himself.
It is believed that he was active in the lower Jordan valley region. He lived an extremely austere life, wearing robes made of camel’s hair and eating a diet comprised of locusts and wild honey. His lifestyle represented strict adherence to the ascetic conduct of a Nazirite.
He addressed people hailing from all ranks of Jewish society. The gist of the message he preached was that “God’s judgment on the world was imminent.” He wanted the citizens to be prepared for the judgment whenever it manifested.
He preached that in preparation for the judgment, people should repent their sins and be baptized. This, according to him, would bear “appropriate fruits of repentance.”
According to Christian traditions, John the Baptist’s message, “He who is coming after me is mightier than I” is open to interpretations. He could have referred to God himself, a transcendent divine being, or a human messiah.
John’s followers led a life as austere as John himself. They performed penitent fasting and participated in special prayers beyond the requirements of Jewish laws. John advocated for an “ethical call for justice and charity” and required his followers to be righteous.
Following in the traditions of earlier prophets, John had an inner circle of disciples who were supposed to undergo a rite of immersion in running water to symbolize repentance. The disciples were to strictly follow a righteous life.
Legend has it that John also baptized Jesus. According to some accounts, he recognized Jesus as the “coming leader” and called him “the Son of God.” Other sources don’t support this claim.
Shortly after baptizing Jesus, John earned the wrath of King Herod Antipas, who ruled over Galilee and central Transjordan. Herod had married Herodias, the former wife of his half-brother, after divorcing his first wife. This marriage was illegal in Jewish law. John the Baptist denounced Herod because of this act.
Death
In the Gospel of Mark, it is mentioned that John criticized Herod for marrying Herodias, the ex-wife of his brother. Enraged, Herodias demanded his execution. However, Herod was initially reluctant to kill John as he feared him and considered him a “righteous and holy man.”
Due to a later turn of events, Herod was forced to order John’s execution. John was beheaded, and his remains were buried by his disciples. In Christian tradition, the arrest and execution of John the Baptist are seen as a “conscious foreshadowing of the fate of Jesus.”

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