John the Baptist
John the Baptist
St. John the Baptist Preaching in the Wilderness by
|Born||Late 1st century BC|
|24 June (|
29 August (Beheading),
7 January (
John the Baptist (
John the Baptist is mentioned by the Jewish historian
Some scholars maintain that John was influenced by the semi-
John the Baptist is mentioned in all four canonical
The Gospel of Mark introduces John as a fulfilment of a prophecy from the
Jesus comes to John, and is baptized by him in the river Jordan. The account describes how; as he emerges from the water, the heavens open and the Holy Spirit descends on him 'like a dove'. A voice from heaven then says, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." (Mark 1:11)
Later in the gospel there is an account of John's death. It is introduced by an incident where the Tetrarch
The account then describes how Herod's daughter Herodias (
There are a number of difficulties with this passage. The Gospel refers to Antipas as 'King' and the ex-husband of Herodias is named as Philip, but he is known to have been called
Scholars have speculated about the origins of the story. Since it shows signs of having been composed in Aramaic, which Mark apparently did not speak, he is likely to have got it from a Palestinian source. There are a variety of opinions about how much actual historical material it contains, especially given the alleged factual errors. Many scholars have seen the story of John arrested, executed, and buried in a tomb as a conscious foreshadowing of the fate of Jesus.
The Gospel of Matthew account begins with the same modified quotation from Isaiah, moving the Malachi and Exodus material to later in the text, where it is quoted by Jesus. The description of John is taken directly from Mark ("clothing of camel's hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey"), along with the proclamation that one was coming who would baptise with the Holy Spirit "and fire".(Matthew 3:1–12)
Unlike Mark, Matthew describes John as critical of Pharisees and Sadducees and as preaching "the kingdom of heaven is at hand" and a "coming judgment".
Matthew shortens the account of the beheading of John, and adds two elements: that Herod Antipas wants John dead, and that the death is reported to Jesus by his disciples. Matthew's approach is to shift the focus away from Herod and onto John as a prototype of Jesus. Where Mark has Herod killing John reluctantly and at Herodias' insistence, Matthew describes him as wanting John dead.
Elizabeth is described as a "relative" of Mary, the mother of Jesus in Luke 1:36. There is no mention of a family relationship between John and Jesus in the other Gospels, and
Unique to the Gospel of Luke, John the Baptist explicitly teaches charity, baptizes tax-collectors, and advises soldiers.
The text briefly mentions that John is imprisoned and later beheaded by Herod, but the Gospel of Luke lacks the story of a step-daughter dancing for Herod and requesting John's head.
The fourth gospel describes John the Baptist as "a man sent from God" who "was not the light", but "came as a witness, to bear witness to the light, so that through him everyone might believe". John clearly denies being the Christ or Elijah or 'the prophet', instead describing himself as the "voice of one crying in the wilderness".
Jesus's baptism is implied but not depicted. Unlike the other gospels, it is John himself who testifies to seeing "the Spirit come down from heaven like a dove and rest on him". John explicitly announces that Jesus is the one "who baptizes with the Holy Spirit" and John even professes a "belief that he is the Son of God" and "the Lamb of God".
The Gospel of John reports that Jesus' disciples were baptizing and that a debate broke out between some of the disciples of John and another Jew about purification. In this debate John argued that Jesus "must become greater," while he (John) "must become less" (
The Gospel of John then points out that Jesus' disciples were baptizing more people than John. Later, the Gospel relates that Jesus regarded John as "a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light".
Simon J. Joseph has argued that the Gospel demotes the historical John by painting him only as a prophetic forerunner to Jesus whereas his ministry actually complemented Jesus'.
Although Mark's Gospel implies that the arrival of John the Baptist is the fulfilment of a prophecy from the
The gospels differ on the details of the Baptism. In Mark and Luke, Jesus himself sees the heavens open and hears a voice address him personally, saying, "You are my dearly loved son; you bring me great joy". They do not clarify whether others saw and heard these things. Although other incidents where the "voice came out of heaven" are recorded in which, for the sake of the crowds, it was heard audibly, John did say in his witness that he did see the spirit coming down "out of heaven". John 12:28–30, John 1:32
In Matthew, the voice from heaven does not address Jesus personally, saying instead "This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased."
In the Gospel of John, John the Baptist himself sees the spirit descend as a dove, testifying about the experience as evidence of Jesus's status.
John's knowledge of Jesus varies across gospels. In the Gospel of Mark, John preaches of a coming leader, but shows no signs of recognizing that Jesus is this leader. In Matthew, however, John immediately recognizes Jesus and John questions his own worthiness to baptize Jesus. In both Matthew and Luke, John later dispatches disciples to question Jesus about his status, asking "Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?" In Luke, John is a familial relative of Jesus whose birth was foretold by Gabriel. In the Gospel of John, John the Baptist himself sees the spirit descend like a dove and he explicitly preaches that Jesus is the Son of God.
The Gospels vary in their depiction of John's relationship to