John the Baptist

John the Baptist
Jan van Eyck 037.jpg
Prophet
BornLate 1st century BC[1]
Herodian Judea, the Levant
Died28–36 AD[2][3][4][5][6]
Machaerus, Perea, the Levant
Venerated inChristianity
Islam
Mandaeism
CanonizedPre-Congregation
Major shrine
Feast24 June (Nativity),
29 August (Beheading),
7 January (Synaxis,
Eastern Orthodox),
2 Thout (Coptic Orthodox Church)
AttributesRed Martyr, Camel-skin robe, cross, lamb, scroll with words "Ecce Agnus Dei", platter with own head, pouring water from hands or scallop shell
Patronagesee #Commemoration

John the Baptist (Hebrew: יוחנן המטבילYokhanan HaMatbil, Ancient Greek: Ἰωάννης ὁ βαπτιστής, Iōánnēs ho baptistḗs or Ἰωάννης ὁ βαπτίζων, Iōánnēs ho baptízōn,[5][7][8][9][10] Coptic: ⲓⲱⲁⲛⲛⲏⲥ ⲡⲓⲡⲣⲟⲇⲣⲟⲙⲟⲥ or ⲓⲱ̅ⲁ ⲡⲓⲣϥϯⲱⲙⲥ,[11] Arabic: يوحنا المعمدان[12][13][14]; Late 1st century BC – 28–36 AD) was a Jewish itinerant preacher[15] in the early first century AD. John is revered as a major religious figure[16] in Christianity, Islam, the Bahá'í Faith,[17] and Mandaeism. He is called a prophet by all of these traditions, and is honored as a saint in many Christian traditions. Other titles for John include John the Forerunner in Eastern Christianity and "the prophet John" (Yaḥyā) in Islam. To clarify the meaning of "Baptist", he is sometimes alternatively called John the Baptizer.[18][19][20]

John used baptism as the central symbol or sacrament[21] of his messianic movement. Most scholars agree that John baptized Jesus.[22][23] Some scholars believe Jesus was a follower or disciple of John.[24][25][26] This idea is strongly controverted, however, by John the Baptist's own words in scripture, although several New Testament accounts report that some of Jesus' early followers had previously been followers of John.[27] John the Baptist is also mentioned by the Jewish historian Josephus.[28] Some scholars maintain that John was influenced by the semi-ascetic Essenes, who expected an apocalypse and practiced rituals corresponding strongly with baptism,[29] although no direct evidence substantiates this.[30]

According to the New Testament, John anticipated a messianic figure greater than himself.[31] Christians commonly refer to John as the precursor or forerunner of Jesus,[32] since John announces Jesus' coming. John is also identified as the spiritual successor of the prophet Elijah.[33] John was sentenced to death and subsequently beheaded by Herod Antipas sometime between 28 and 36 AD after John rebuked him for divorcing his wife, Phasaelis, and unlawfully taking Herodias, the wife of his brother Herod Philip I.

Gospel narratives

John the Baptist is mentioned in all four canonical Gospels and the non-canonical Gospel of the Nazarenes. The Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke) describe John baptising Jesus; in the John 1:32–1:34.

In Mark

The Preaching of St. John the Baptist by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

The Gospel of Mark introduces John as a fulfilment of a prophecy from the Book of Isaiah (in fact, a conflation of texts from Isaiah, Malachi and Exodus)[34] about a messenger being sent ahead, and a voice crying out in the wilderness. John is described as wearing clothes of camel's hair, living on locusts and wild honey. John proclaims baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin, and says another will come after him who will not baptize with water, but with the Holy Spirit.

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 1:1–8)

Later in the gospel there is an account of John's death. It is introduced by an incident where the Tetrarch Herod Antipas, hearing stories about Jesus, imagines that this is John the Baptist raised from the dead. It then explains that John had rebuked Herod for marrying Herodias, the ex-wife of his brother (named here as Philip). Herodias demands his execution, but Herod, who 'liked to listen' to John, is reluctant to do so because he fears him, knowing he is a 'righteous and holy man'.

The account then describes how Herod's daughter Herodias (Mark 6:17–29)

There are a number of difficulties with this passage. The Gospel wrongly identifies Antipas as 'King'[35] and the ex-husband of Herodias is named as Philip, but he is known to have been called Herod.[36] Although the wording clearly implies the girl was the daughter of Herodias, many texts describe her as "Herod's daughter, Herodias". Since these texts are early and significant and the reading is 'difficult', many scholars see this as the original version, corrected in later versions and in Matthew and Luke.[36][37][38] Josephus says that Herodias had a daughter by the name of Salome.

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.[39] There are a variety of opinions about how much actual historical material it contains, especially given the alleged factual errors.[40] Many scholars have seen the story of John arrested, executed, and buried in a tomb as a conscious foreshadowing of the fate of Jesus.[41]

John the Baptist in The Gospel of Mark
John and his baptism of Jesus (Mark 1)

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, "Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'"

John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, "After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased."

Death of John (Mark 6)

King Herod heard of it, for Jesus' name had become known. Some said, "John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him." But others said, "He is Elijah." And others said, "He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old." But when Herod heard of it, he said, "John, whom I beheaded, has been raised." For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because he had married her. For John had been saying to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.

But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. For when Herodias's daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, "Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you." And he vowed to her, "Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom." And she went out and said to her mother, "For what should I ask?" And she said, "The head of John the Baptist." And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, "I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter." And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John's head. He went and beheaded him in the prison and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

(English Standard Version)

In Matthew

St. John the Baptist Preaching, c. 1665, by Mattia Preti

The Gospel of Matthew account begins with the same modified quotation from Isaiah,[42] moving the Malachi and Exodus material to later in the text, where it is quoted by Jesus.[43] 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.[44] 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.[45]

John the Baptist in the Gospel of Matthew
John and his baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3)

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,

"The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.'"

Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father,' for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

"I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 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 thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."

John questions Jesus (Matthew 11)

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?" And Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me."

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written,

"'Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.'

Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

"But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,

"'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.'

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds."

Death of John (Matthew 14)

At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus, and he said to his servants, "This is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him." For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because John had been saying to him, "It is not lawful for you to have her." And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. But when Herod's birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, "Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter." And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given. He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus.

(English Standard Version)

In Luke and Acts

John the Baptist (right) with child Jesus, in the painting The Holy Children with a Shell by Bartolomé Esteban Perez Murillo

The Gospel of Luke adds an account of John's infancy, introducing him as the miraculous son of Zechariah, an old man, and his wife Elizabeth, who was past the menopause and therefore unable to have children.[46][47] According to this account, the birth of John was foretold by the angel Gabriel to Zechariah, while he was performing his functions as a priest in the temple of Jerusalem. Since he is described as a priest of the course of Abijah and Elizabeth as one of the daughters of Aaron,[48] this would make John a descendant of Aaron on both his father's and mother's side.[49] On the basis of this account, the Catholic as well as the Anglican and Lutheran liturgical calendars placed the feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist on June 24, six months before Christmas.[50]

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 Raymond E. Brown has described it as "of dubious historicity".[51] Géza Vermes has called it "artificial and undoubtedly Luke's creation".[52] The many similarities between the Gospel of Luke story of the birth of John and the Old Testament account of the birth of Samuel suggest that Luke's account of the annunciation and birth of Jesus are modeled on that of Samuel.[53]

Post-nativity

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 Acts 18:24–19:6 a development not reported by the gospels except for the early case of John 1:35–42

John the Baptist in the Gospel of Luke and Acts
Nativity of John (Luke 1)

In the reign of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the division called after Abijah. His wife, whose name was Elizabeth, was also a descendant of Aaron. They were both righteous people, who lived blameless lives, guiding their steps by all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord. But they had no child, Elizabeth being barren; and both of them were advanced in years.

One day, when Zechariah was officiating as priest before God, during the turn of his division, it fell to him by lot, in accordance with the practice among the priests, to go into the Temple of the Lord and burn incense; and, as it was the Hour of Incense, the people were all praying outside. And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right of the Altar of Incense. Zechariah was startled at the sight and was awe-struck. But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, whom you will call by the name John. He will be to you a joy and a delight; and many will rejoice over his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; he will not drink any wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit from the very hour of his birth, and will reconcile many of the Israelites to the Lord their God. He will go before him in the spirit and with the power of Elijah, 'to reconcile fathers to their children' and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, and so make ready for the Lord a people prepared for him."

"How can I be sure of this?" Zechariah asked the angel. "For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years."

"I am Gabriel," the angel answered, "who stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And now you will be silent and unable to speak until the day when this takes place, because you did not believe what I said, though my words will be fulfilled in due course."

Meanwhile, the people were watching for Zechariah, wondering at his remaining so long in the Temple. When he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they perceived that he had seen a vision there. But Zechariah kept making signs to them, and remained dumb. And, as soon as his term of service was finished, he returned home. After this his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and lived in seclusion for five months. "The Lord has done this for me," she said, "he has shown me kindness and taken away the public disgrace of childlessness under which I have been living."

Six months later the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a maiden there who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. Her name was Mary. Gabriel came into her presence and greeted her, saying: "You have been shown great favor – the Lord is with you."

Mary was much disturbed at his words, and was wondering to herself what such a greeting could mean, when the angel spoke again: "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will give him the name Jesus. The child will be great and will be called 'Son of the Most High,' and the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David, and he will reign over the descendants of Jacob for ever; And to his kingdom there will be no end."

"How can this be?" Mary asked the angel. "For I have no husband."

"The Holy Spirit will descend on you," answered the angel, "and the Power of the Most High will overshadow you; and therefore the child will be called 'holy,' and 'Son of God.' And Elizabeth, your cousin, is herself also expecting a son in her old age; and it is now the sixth month with her, though she is called barren; for no promise from God will fail to be fulfilled."

"I am the servant of the Lord," exclaimed Mary; "let it be with me as you have said." Then the angel left her.

Soon after this Mary set out, and made her way quickly into the hill-country, to a town in Judah; and there she went into Zechariah's house and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child moved within her, and Elizabeth herself was filled with the Holy Spirit, and cried aloud: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is your unborn child! But how have I this honor, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, as soon as your greeting reached my ears, the child moved within me with delight! Happy indeed is she who believed that the promise which she received from the Lord would be fulfilled."

And Mary said:

"My soul exalts the Lord, my spirit delights in God my Savior; for he has remembered his humble servant girl; And from this hour all ages will count me happy!

Great things has the Almighty done for me; And holy is his name. From age to age his mercy rests On those who honor him.

Mighty are the deeds of his arm; He scatters the proud with their own devices, he casts down princes from their thrones, and the humble he uplifts, the hungry he loads with gifts, and the rich he sends empty away.

He has stretched out his hand to his servant Israel, Ever mindful of his mercy (As he promised to our forefathers) For Abraham and his race for ever."

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months, and then returned to her home. When Elizabeth's time came, she gave birth to a son; and her neighbors and relations, hearing of the great goodness of the Lord to her, came to share her joy. A week later they met to circumcise the child, and were about to call him 'Zechariah' after his father, when his mother spoke up: "No, he is to be called John."

"You have no relation of that name!" they exclaimed; and they made signs to the child's father, to find out what he wished the child to be called. Asking for a writing-tablet, he wrote the words – 'His name is John.' Everyone was surprised; and immediately Zechariah recovered his voice and the use of his tongue, and began to bless God. All their neighbors were awe-struck at this; and throughout the hill-country of Judea the whole story was much talked about; and all who heard it kept it in mind, asking one another – "What can this child be destined to become?" For the Power of the Lord was with him.

Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit, and, speaking under inspiration, said:

"Blessed is the Lord, the God of Israel, Who has visited his people and wrought their deliverance, and has raised up for us the Strength of our salvation In the house of his servant David –

As he promised by the lips of his holy prophets of old – salvation from our enemies and from the hands of all who hate us, showing mercy to our forefathers, And mindful of his sacred covenant.

This was the oath which he swore to our forefather Abraham – That we should be rescued from the hands of our enemies, and should serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness, In his presence all our days.

And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, For you will go before the Lord to make ready his way, to give his people the knowledge of salvation In the forgiveness of their sins,

through the tender mercy of our God, Whereby the Dawn will break on us from heaven, to give light to those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, And guide our feet into the way of peace."

The child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the Wilds until the time came for his appearance before Israel.

John and his baptism of Jesus, Imprisonment of John (Luke 3)

In the fifteenth year of the reign of the Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was Governor of Judea, Herod Ruler of Galilee, his brother Philip Ruler of the territory comprising Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias Ruler of Abilene, and when Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, a command from God came to John, the son of Zechariah, while he was in the wilderness. And John went through the whole district of the Jordan, proclaiming baptism on repentance, for the forgiveness of sins. This was in fulfillment of what is said in the writings of the prophet Isaiah –

'The voice of one crying aloud in the wilderness: "Make ready the way of the Lord, Make his paths straight. Every chasm will be filled, Every mountain and hill will be leveled, The winding ways will be straightened, The rough roads made smooth, and everyone will see the salvation of God."'

And John said to the crowds that went to be baptized by him: "You children of snakes! Who has prompted you to seek refuge from the coming judgment? Let your lives, then, prove your repentance; and do not begin to say among yourselves 'Abraham is our ancestor,' for I tell you that out of these stones God is able to raise descendants for Abraham! Already, indeed, the axe is lying at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that fails to bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."

"What are we to do then?" the people asked. "Let anyone who has two coats," answered John, "share with the person who has none; and anyone who has food do the same."

Even tax-gatherers came to be baptized, and said to John: "Teacher, what are we to do?"

"Do not collect more than you have authority to demand," John answered. And when some soldiers on active service asked "And we – what are we to do?" he said: "Never use violence, or exact anything by false accusation; and be content with your pay."

Then, while the people were in suspense, and were all debating with themselves whether John could be the Christ, John, addressing them all, said: "I, indeed, baptize you with water; but there is coming one more powerful than I, and I am not fit even to unfasten his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing-fan is in his hand so that he may clear his threshing-floor, and store the grain in his barn, but the chaff he will burn with a fire that cannot be put out."

And so with many different appeals John told his good news to the people. But Prince Herod, being rebuked by John respecting Herodias, the wife of Herod's brother, and for all the evil things that he had done, crowned them all by shutting John up in prison. Now after the baptism of all the people, and when Jesus had been baptized and was still praying, the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit came down on him in the form of a dove, and from the heavens came a voice – "You are my dearly loved son; you bring me great joy."

John's disciples and fast (Luke 5
33)

"John's disciples," they said to Jesus, "Often fast and say prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, while yours are eating and drinking!"

John questions Jesus (Luke 7)

All these events were reported to John by his disciples. So he summoned two of them, and sent them to the Master to ask – "Are you 'the coming one,' or are we to look for some one else?"

When these men found Jesus, they said: "John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask – 'Are you 'the coming one,' or are we to look for somebody else?'" At that very time Jesus had cured many people of diseases, afflictions, and wicked spirits, and had given many blind people their sight. So his answer to the question was: "Go and report to John what you have witnessed and heard – the blind recover their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are made clean, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, the good news is told to the poor. And blessed is the person who finds no hindrance in me."

When John's messengers had left, Jesus, speaking to the crowds, began to say with reference to John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed waving in the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in rich clothing? Why, those who are accustomed to fine clothes and luxury live in royal palaces. What then did you go to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and far more than a prophet. This is the man of whom scripture says –

'I am sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will prepare your way before you.'

There is, I tell you, no one born of a woman who is greater than John; and yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he."

(All the people, when they heard this, and even the tax-gatherers, having accepted John's baptism, acknowledged the justice of God. But the Pharisees and the students of the law, having rejected John's baptism, frustrated God's purpose in regard to them.)

In the Gospel of John

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".[54] John clearly denies being the Christ or Elijah or 'the prophet', instead describing himself as the "voice of one crying in the wilderness".[55]

Upon literary analysis, it is clear that John is the "testifier and confessor par excellence", particularly when compared to figures like Nicodemus.[56]

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.[57] In this debate John argued that Jesus "must become greater," while he (John) "must become less"[58] (Latin illum oportet crescere me autem minui).

The Gospel of John then points out that Jesus' disciples were baptizing more people than John.[59] 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".[60]

John the Baptist in the Gospel of John
John 1

There appeared a man sent from God, whose name was John; he came as a witness – to bear witness to the light so that through him everyone might believe. He was not the light, but he came to bear witness to the light.

When the religious authorities in Jerusalem sent some Priests and Levites to ask John – "Who are you?", he told them clearly and simply: "I am not the Christ."

"What then?" they asked. "Are you Elijah?" "No," he said, "I am not." "Are you 'the prophet'?" He answered, "No." "Who then are you?" they continued; "tell us so that we have an answer to give to those who have sent us. What do you say about yourself?" "I," he answered, "am – 'The voice of one crying aloud in the wilderness – "make a straight road for the Lord"', as the prophet Isaiah said." These men had been sent from the Pharisees; and their next question was: "Why then do you baptize, if you are not the Christ or Elijah or 'the prophet'?" John's answer was – "I baptize with water, but among you stands one whom you do not know; he is coming after me, yet I am not worthy even to unfasten his sandal." This happened at Bethany, across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him, and exclaimed: "Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! I was taking about him when I said 'After me there is coming a man who ranks ahead of me, because before I was born he already was.' I did not know who he was, but I have come baptizing with water to make him known to Israel."

John also said: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven like a dove and rest on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water, he said to me 'He on whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him – he it is who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' This I have seen myself, and I have declared my belief that he is the Son of God." The next day, when John was standing with two of his disciples, he looked at Jesus as he passed and exclaimed: "There is the Lamb of God!" The two disciples heard him say this, and followed Jesus.

John 3

John, also, was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there were many streams there; and people were constantly coming and being baptized. (For John had not yet been imprisoned). Now a discussion arose between some of John's disciples and a fellow Jew on the subject of 'purification;' and the disciples came to John and said: "Rabbi, the man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan, and to whom you have yourself borne testimony – he, also, is baptizing, and everybody is going to him." John's answer was – "A person can gain nothing but what is given them from heaven. You are yourselves witnesses that I said 'I am not the Christ,' but 'I have been sent before him as a messenger.' It is the groom who has the bride; but the groom's friend, who stands by and listens to him, is filled with joy when he hears the groom's voice. This joy I have felt to the full. He must become greater, and I less."

He who comes from above is above all others; but a child of earth is earthly, and his teaching is earthly, too. He who comes from heaven is above all others. He states what he has seen and what he heard, and yet no one accepts his statement. They who did accept his statement confirm the fact that God is true. For he whom God sent as his messenger gives us God's own teaching, for God does not limit the gift of the Spirit. The Father loves his Son, and has put everything in his hands. The person who believes in the Son has eternal life, while a person who rejects the Son will not even see that life, but remains under 'God's displeasure.'

Comparative analysis

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'.[61]

The prophecy of Isaiah

Although Mark's Gospel implies that the arrival of John the Baptist is the fulfilment of a prophecy from the Book of Isaiah, the words quoted ("I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way – a voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'") are actually a composite of texts from Isaiah, Malachi and the Book of Exodus. (Matthew and Luke drop the first part of the reference.)[34]

Baptism of Jesus

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

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.

John and Elijah

The Gospels vary in their depiction of John's relationship to Elijah. Matthew and Mark describe John's attire in a way reminiscent of the description of Elijah in 2 Kings 1:8, who also wore a garment of hair and a leather belt. In Matthew, Jesus explicitly teaches that John is "Elijah who was to come" (Matt. 11:14 – see also Matt. 17:11–13); many Christian theologians have taken this to mean that John was Elijah's successor. In the Gospel of John, John the Baptist explicitly denies being Elijah.[62] In the annunciation narrative in Luke, an angel appears to Zechariah, John's father, and tells him that John "will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God," and that he will go forth "in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:16–17)."

Other Languages
asturianu: Xuan Bautista
azərbaycanca: Vəftizçi İohann
تۆرکجه: یحیی
беларуская: Іаан Прадцеча
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Ян Хрысьціцель
български: Йоан Кръстител
brezhoneg: Yann ar Badezour
català: Joan Baptista
čeština: Jan Křtitel
davvisámegiella: Gásttašeaddji Johanas
ދިވެހިބަސް: ޔަޙްޔާގެފާނު
فارسی: یحیی
français: Jean le Baptiste
Gaeilge: Eoin Baiste
Gàidhlig: Eòin Baistidh
ગુજરાતી: યોહાન
한국어: 세례자 요한
hornjoserbsce: Jan Křćenik
hrvatski: Ivan Krstitelj
Bahasa Indonesia: Yohanes Pembaptis
Kiswahili: Yohane Mbatizaji
lingála: Yoane Mobatisi
Bahasa Melayu: John Pembaptis
Mìng-dĕ̤ng-ngṳ̄: Siĕ-sā̤-lā̤ Iók-hâng
Nederlands: Johannes de Doper
norsk nynorsk: Døyparen Johannes
occitan: Joan Batista
پښتو: يحيی
português: João Batista
Runa Simi: Huwan Bawtista
Simple English: John the Baptist
slovenčina: Ján Krstiteľ
slovenščina: Janez Krstnik
Soomaaliga: Nabi Yaxye C.S.
کوردی: یەحیا
српски / srpski: Јован Крститељ
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Ivan Krstitelj
Türkçe: Yahya
українська: Іван Хреститель
ئۇيغۇرچە / Uyghurche: يەھيا ئەلەيھىسسالام
Tiếng Việt: Gioan Baotixita
粵語: 施洗約翰
Zazaki: Yahya
中文: 施洗約翰